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by [?]

It was about the year Eighteen Hundred Thirty-two that Constable gave an exhibition of his work in Paris–a somewhat daring thing for an Englishman to do. Paris had then, and has yet, about the same estimate of English art that the English have now of ours–although it is quite in order to explain in parentheses that three Americans, Whistler, Sargent and Abbey, have recently called a halt on English ribaldry as applied to American artists.

But John Constable’s exhibit in Paris met with favor–the work was singularly like the work of Claude Lorraine, the critics said. And it was, for Constable had copied Claude conscientiously. Corot saw the Englishman’s pictures, realized that they were just such pictures as he would like to paint, and so fell down and worshiped them. For a year he dropped Claude and painted just like Constable.

There was a time when Turner and Constable painted just alike, for they had the same master; but there came a day when Turner shoved out from shore, and no man since has been able to follow him.

And no one can copy Corot. The work that he did after he attained freedom and swung away from Claude and Constable has an illusive, intangible, subtle and spiritual quality that no imitator can ever catch on his canvas. Corot could not even copy his own pictures–his work is born of the spirit. His effects are something beyond skill of hand, something beyond mere knowledge of technique. You can copy a Claude and you can copy a Constable, for the pictures have well- defined outline and the forms are tangible. Claude was the first painter who showed the shimmering sunlight on the leaves, the upturned foliage of the silver poplar, the yellow willows bending beneath the breeze, the sweep of the clouds across the sky, the play of the waves across the seashore, the glistening dewdrops on the grass, the soft stealing mists of twilight.

Constable did all this, too, and he did it as well as Claude, but no better. He never got beyond the stage of microscopic portrayal; if he painted a dewdrop he painted it, and his blades of grass, swaying lily-stems, and spider-webs are the genuine articles.

Corot painted in this minute way for many years, but gradually he evolved a daring quality and gave us the effect of dewdrops, the spider-threads, the foliage, the tall lilies, without painting them at all–he gives you the feeling, that is all, stirs the imagination until the beholder, if his heart be in tune, sees things that only the spiritual eye beholds.

The pale, silvery tones of Corot, the shadowy boundaries that separate the visible from the invisible, can never be imitated without the Master’s penetration into the heart of Nature. He knew things he could never explain, and he held secrets he could not impart. Before his pictures we can only stand silent–he disarms criticism and strikes the quibbler dumb. Before a Corot you had better give way, and let its beauty caress your soul. His colors are thin and very simple–there is no challenge in his work, as there is in the work of Turner. Greens and grays predominate, and the plain drab tones are blithe, airy, gracious, graceful and piquant as a beautiful young Quaker woman clothed in the garb of simplicity and humility–but a woman still. Corot coquettes with color–with pale lilac, silver gray, and diaphanous green. He poetizes everything he touches–quiet ponds, clumps of bushes, whitewashed cottages, simple swards, yellow cows, blowsy peasants, woodland openings, stretching meadows and winding streams–they are all full of divine suggestion and joyous expectancy. Something is just going to happen–somebody is coming, some one we love–you can almost detect a faint perfume, long remembered, never to be forgotten. A Corot is a tryst with all that you most admire and love best–it speaks of youth, joyous, hopeful, expectant youth. The flavor is Grecian, and if the Greeks had left us any paintings they would all have been just like Corot’s.