Modern French Masters

Modern French Masters

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Excerpt from Modern French Masters: A Series of Biographical and Critical Reviews

The painters' contention that no one but a painter is a competent judge of a picture is not a new one. It was the Greek painter Apelles who advised the cobbler to stick to his last. "Keep to the shop, friend, and do not attempt to criticize what you do not understand." The rebuke was possibly deserved, but it might be used by almost any one in defense of his particular craft or trade. Had Apelles complained to the cobbler that his shoes did not fit him and were not well made, the cobbler could have retorted in kind: " Keep to your palette, friend; you know nothing about shoes." In the same way it might be said that one who eats a dinner is not to criticize it because he is not a cook, and that the only competent judges of the poem and the novel are the poet and the novelist. The reductio ad absnrdum of the principle might lead us to think that only brother craftsmen are to say that there are too few latchets to the goloshes, or that the sauce or the poem is too sweet.

Yet the contention is not so absurd as might at first appear. The painter asserts a half-truth, if not more. He has mastered his craft, and he certainly knows more about it than one who has not mastered it. He knows the limits of materials and methods, he knows what can be done, and lie knows after it is done whether it has been well done. In comparison with him the outsider is a mere tyro. The painter is undoubtedly the better critic of the technical features of painting. Few artists of rank at the present day will claim more than this.

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