George Fuller, by Sidney Dickinson, 1884, continued.
one with a sympathy whose keenness is even bitter, and excite a deep respect and love for the man who could paint with so much simplicity and power. It is not strange that when the news of his death became known, many who had never seen him, but had studied the pictures in his latest exhibition, should have come, with tears in their eyes, to the studios which neighbored his, to learn something of his history.
Such works are not struck out in a heat, but grow and develop like human lives, and it will not surprise many to know that most of them were labored on for years. With Fuller, a picture was never completed. His idea was constantly in advance of his work, and persisted in new suggestions, so that the Winifred Dysart was two years in the painting, the Arethusa five, and The Gatherer of Simples and the Witch, after an even longer course of labor, were held by him at his death as not yet satisfactory. The figures in the two works last mentioned have suffered almost no change since first put upon the canvas, but they have from time to time appeared in at least a dozen different landscapes, and would doubtless have been placed in as many more before he had satisfied his fastidious and exacting taste.
The artist found as much difficulty in naming his pictures when they were done as he did in painting them. It is a prevalent, but quite erroneous, impression that his habit was to select a subject from some literary work, and then attempt to paint it in the light of the author's ideas. His practice exactly reversed this method: he painted his picture first, and then tried to evolve or find a name that would fit it. The name Winifred Dysart, which is without literary origin or meaning, and yet in some strange way seems the only proper title for the work to which it is attached, came out of the artist's own mind. His Priscilla was started as an Elsie Venner, but he found it impossible to work upon the lines another had laid down without too much cramping his own fancy; when half done he thought of calling it Lady Wentworth, and at last gave it its present name by chance of having taken up The Blithedale Romance, and noting with pleased surprise how closely Hawthorne's account of his heroine fitted his own creation. The Nydia was started with the idea of presenting the helplessness of blindness, with a hint of the exaltation of the other senses that is consequent upon the loss of sight, and showed at first merely a girl groping along a wall in search of a door; and the Arethusa was the outgrowth of a general inspiration caused by a reading of Spenser's Faeirie Queen, and did not receive its present very appropriate name until its exhibition made some designation necessary.
I have devoted this study on of Mr. Fuller to his quality as an artist rather than to his character as a man, but shall have written in vain if some hint has not been given of the loveliness of his disposition, the modesty of his spirit, the chaste force of his mind. A man inevitably paints as he himself is, and shows his nature in his works: Fuller's pictures are founded upon purity of thought, and painted with dignity and single-heartedness, and the grace of his life dwells in them.
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