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Woe is Me!.....

Here's a rather disappointing account of the high artistic outlook...

"Artists' memories of the time spent in these studios are contradictory. There are those who appear to have experienced a serene, studious atmosphere surrounded by youthful geniuses who thought only of their ideals. Others, on the contrary, stress the futile conversations and the coarse manners

"Willette goes so far as to describe his fellow students at Cabanel's studio round 1875 as riff-raff of the worst type, bullying their younger comrades and raiding the masse to pay for their drinking.

"Raffaelli, who studied at Gerome's studio a little later in the century, has left this grim description of it: 'Not once in this gathering of men called to be artists did I hear art discussed or any serious ideas. Nothing but crude and stupid joking all the time, nothing but filth'."

(From "Daily Life of French Artist's in the 19th Century",Jaques Lefevre,Allen & Unwin,London,1972)

still life painter at work

lippi snippi

Fra Filippo Lippi (1406-69)

"It is said that Fra Filippo was so lustful that he would give anything to enjoy a woman he wanted if he thought he could have his way; and if he couldn't buy what he wanted, then he would cool his passion by painting her portrait and reason- ing with himself. His lust was so violent that when it took hold of him he could never concentrate on his work. And because of this, one time or other when he was doing something for Cosimo de' Medici in Cosimo's house, Cosimo had him locked in so that he wouldn't wander away and waste time.

After he had been confined for a few days, Fra Filippo's amorous or rather his animal desires drove him one night to seize a pair of scissors, make a rope from his bed-sheets and escape through a window to pursue his own pleasures for days on end. When Cosimo discovered that he was gone,he searched for him and eventually got him back to work. And after that he always allowed him to come and go as he liked, having regretted the way he had shut him up before and realizing how dangerous it was for such a madman to be confined.

Cosimo determined for the future to keep a hold on him by affection and kindness and, being served all the more readily, he used to say that artists of genius were to be treated with,respect, not used as hacks." (Quite right ,too.From Vasari's 'Lives of the Artists')

John Everett Millais.

"But the spot he finally chose was near Ewell in Surrey, where his friends the Lempriere family lived, on the Hogsmill River. He had begun work on the background by 2 July 1851, when he wrote to Mrs Thomas Combe from lodgings he had taken with Holman Hunt a couple of miles away on Surbiton Hill:

'I sit tailor-fashion under an umbrella throwing a shadow scarcely larger than a halfpenny for eleven hours, with a child's mug within reach to satisfy my thirst from the running stream beside me. I am threatened with a notice to appear before a magistrate for trespassing in a fleld and destroying the hay; likewise by the admission of a bull in the same field after the said hay be cut; am also in danger of being blown by the wind into the water, and becoming intimate with the feelings of Ophelia when that Lady sank to muddy death, together with the (less likely) total disappearance, through the voracity of the flies.

There are two swans who not a little add to my misery by persisting in watching me from the exact spot I wish to paint, occasionally destroying every water-weed within their reach.

My sudden perilous evolutions on the extreme bank, to persuade them to evacuate their position, have the effect of entirely deranging my temper, my picture, brushes, and palette; but, on the other hand, they cause those birds to look most benignly upon me with an expression that seems to advocate greater patience.

Certainly the painting of a picture under such circumstances would be a greater punishment to a murderer than hanging'" (J.G. Millais,Biography of his Father)

The picture that resulted is adjacent...Legend has it that it was once used as the basis for a botany lesson,by a teacher who couldn't get his class out into the country. Nowadays "Ophelia" is getting rather blue ,not out of misery,but because Millais used a green comprising Prussian Blue and Chrome Yellow.(It's in the Tate Gallery,here in London) The yellow is slowly fading....

millais: ophelia

fantin latour: lost still life


Benjamin Haydon

(Haydon had entered some works into a competition to provide murals for the Houses of Parliament..)

It took Haydon several days to summon up courage to break the bitter news to his wife, Mary. On 1 July he wrote in his Journal:

" A day of great misery. I said to my dear love, 'I am not included.'Her expression was a study. She said, 'We shall be ruined.' I looked up my lectures, papers and journals, and sent them to my dear Jesculus Barrett,' with two jars of oil twenty-seven years old. I burnt loads of private letters, and prepared for executions . . .Seven pounds was raised on my daughter's and Mary's dresses." Then in the spring of 1846 he staked all he had-and quite a lot that he did not have-to hire the Egyptian Hall in Piccadilly m which to display his two latest masterpieces, 'The Burning of Rome by Nero' and 'The Banishment of Aristides'. The magnificence of the conception of the former had so overwhelmed the artist that he bad 'fluttered, trembled, and perspired like a woman, and nearly collapsed on a chair', while blocking it in.

When the exhibition opened, the critics were surprisingly gener- ous with their praise, that of the Herald urging 'every Briton who has pluck in his bosom., and a shilling in his pocket" to 'crowd his works during the Easter week. Alas! they did not; for in an adjacent room was an irresistible rival attraction: the famous American midget, Tom Thumb.(Charles Sherwood Stratton (1838-83), known as 'General Tom Thumb'. At the age of eight he was twenty-five inches tall.)>

'April 21st-Tom Thumb had 12,000 people last week. B. R. Haydon 133 and a half. (the half a little girl). Exquisite taste of the English people!" A month later Haydon 'marched out before General Tom Thumb, a beaten but not conquered exhibitor.' He had lost all £111 8s. l0d. by this rash venture, and there were other formidable debts outstanding.

In fact, this time the defeat was final, the war lost. On the morning of 22 June he made, with a trembling hand, the last entry in his journal:

"God forgive me. Amen.



B. R. Haydon

'Stretch me no longer on this rough [sic] world'">Lear

A quarter of an hour later he (Haydon) attempted to cut his throat with a razor, and then shot himself.

(From Englands Michelangelo,Blunt,Hamish Hamilton,London,1975)

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