The Journal of Eugene Delacroix

Socrates say we must fight love with flight.

But when a thing bores you, do not do it. Do not pursue a fruitless perfection. There are certain faults ( faults, that is, to the vulgar) which often impart life.

I made bitter reflections on the profession of the artist; this isolation, this sacrifice of almost all the feelings which animate the generality of men.

And it is sufficient to have a few touches of modified white to heighten the light passages.

Had a last look at the portrait of Josephine by Prud’hon. Ravishing, ravishing genius! That breast with its incorrectnesses, those arms, that head, that dress sown with little flecks of gold, the whole thing is divine. The grisaille is very apparent and reappears almost everywhere.

…behind the figure, and of the ground and also the depth of the forest, after I had glazed it with yellow lacquer and with malachite green, etc., on a preparation of white…

In the old Flemish pictures done on panels and therefore with a kind of glaze, the rusty colour is very apparent. The difficulty then, consists in finding a proper compensation of grey, to balance the yellowing and the hotness of the tints.

Mozart said,’ Violent passions should never be expressed to the point where they arouse disgust; even in situations of horror, music should never offend the ear and cease to be music.’ (Revue des Deux Mondes, Mardi 15, 1849, pg. 892).

Painters who are not colourists produce illumination and not painting. All painting is worthy of the name, unless one is talking about black-and-white, must include the idea of colour as one of its necessary supports, in the same way that it includes chiaroscuro and proportion and perspective. Proportion applies to sculpture as to painting; perspective determines the contour; chiaroscuro gives relief through the disposition of lights and shadows in their relationship with the background; colour gives the appearance of life, etc.

The sculptor does not begin his work with a contour; with his material, he builds up an appearance of the object which, rough at first, immediately presents the chief characteristic of sculpture – actual relief and solidity. The colourists, the men who unite all the phases of painting, have to establish, at once and from the beginning, everything that is proper and essential to their art. They have to mass things in with colour, even as the sculptor does with clay, marble or stone; their sketch, like that of the sculptor, must also render proportion, perspective, effect and colour.

The contour is much a thing of idea and convention in painting as it is in sculpture; it should result naturally from the right placing of the essential parts. The combined preparation of the effect (including perspective) and of colour will approach more or less closely to its definitive appearance, according to the ability of the artist; but in this point of departure, there will be an unmistakable beginning of what is to come later on.

Mediocre people have an answer for everything and are astonished at nothing. They always want to have an air of knowing better than you what you are going to tell them; when, in their turn, they begin to speak, they repeat to you with the greatest confidence, as if dealing with their own property, the things that they have heard you say yourself at some other place.

As a matter of course also, the mediocrities I am speaking of are well provided with the kind of knowledge which everybody can obtain. The greater or less degree of good sense or of natural wit which they may have is the only thing that prevents their making perfect fools of themselves. The multitude of examples which occur to my memory all confirm me as to this ridiculous trait of all too many people. The only difference among them is, as I have said, in the degree of their foolishness. A capable and superior look is the natural accompaniment of this type of character.

Remember the enemy of all painting is the grey: a painting will almost always appear greyer than it is, on account of its oblique position under the light. The portraits of Rubens, those women at the Museum – with the chain, etc., where the panel shows through everywhere; Van Eyck, etc.

In the theatre I noticed, from observing some satin, how much the tone of the object itself is to be found only just alongside of the glossy part; the same is true of the hide of a horse.

Is memory so fugitive that one cannot establish relationships amongst the different parts of a piece of music unless the principal idea is affirmed almost to satiety by continual repetition?

On silence and the silent arts. Silence is always imposing: even fools might often borrow from it a respectable look. In business, in every kind of relationship, men wise enough to keep silent at the right time owe a great deal to that. Nothing is more difficult than such restraint for those who are swayed by their imagination, for men of subtle mind who easily see all aspects of things, so that it is hard for them to forbear expressing what takes place in them: they utter rash propositions, imprudent promises without reflection, stinging words hazarded as to personages who are more or less dangerous and to be feared, confidences into which they are swept while in a state of enthusiasm and that they frequently speak out to the first person  who happens along; it would be a long list of that one might draw up of the difficulties and dangers which result from all sorts of indiscretions. By listening, on the contrary, you can only gain. You know the thing that you wanted to say to the other person, you are full of it; what he has to say to you is something of which you are doubtlessly ignorant: either he will teach you something that is new to you, or he will recall to you something that you have forgotten.

But how can one resist giving a favourable idea of one’s mind to a man who is surprised and charmed, in appearance, at what one is saying? Fools are much more easily carried along by the vain pleasure of hearing themselves talk to others; incapable of profiting by an instructive and substantial conversation, they think less about informing their hearer than of dazzling him; it is with self-satisfaction that they come forth from conversation in which they all have earned, as payment for the boredom they have caused, is the contempt of sensible men. Taciturnity in a fool would already be the sign of a mind.

I confess my predilection for the silent arts, for those mute things of which Poussin made profession, as he said. Words are indiscreet; they break in on your tranquillity, solicit your attention and arouse discussion. Painting and sculpture appear more serious: it is you who must seek them out. The book, on the contrary, is importunate; it follows you, you find it everywhere. You have to turn the pages, follow the reasoning of the author, and go to the end of the work in order to judge it. How often has one not regretted the attention one has had to give a mediocre book for the small number of ideas scattered here and there in its pages, ideas one extracted with difficulty! The reading of a book not wholly frivolous is work: it causes a certain fatigue at least; the man who writes seems to be trying his strength with the critic. He discusses and one can discuss with him.

We talked about the rules of composition. I told him that an absolute truth can give an impression contrary to the truth, at least contrary to that relative truth with which art deals; and when you stop to consider this thoroughly, there is logic in the exaggeration which causes the important parts, the ones which must create the impression, to project at the right moment; the question is one of guiding the mind in the right direction.

Dust. The tone of dust is the most universal half-tint. As a matter of fact it is a composite of all the tones. The tones of the palette mixed together always give a dust-tone of a greater or less intensity.

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