George Fuller, by Sidney Dickinson, 1884, continued.
We must regard him thus if we would study him understandingly, and gain from our observation a correct estimate of his power. We think of our other painters as in the crowd, and amid the affairs of men, and detect in their art a certain uneasiness which the bustle about them necessarily caused. We perceive this most in Hunt, who was emphatically a man of the world, and in Stuart, who shows in some of his later work that his position as the court painter of America, while it aided his purse and reputation, harmed his repose; least in Allston, whose tastes were literary, whose love was in retirement, and who would have been a poet had not circumstances first placed a brush and palette in his hands. Aliston, however, enjoyed popularity, and was courted by the best society of his time, and was not permitted, although he doubtless longed for it, to indulge to its full extent his chaste and dreamy fancy. It may be said without disrespect to his undoubted powers, that he would have been less esteemed in his own day if his art had not been largely conventional, and thus easily understood by those who had studied the accepted masters of painting. He lacked positive force of idea, as his works clearly show, — that quality which was among the most characteristic traits of Fuller's method, and made him at once the greatest genius, and the man most misunderstood, among contemporary American painters.
Although men who have not had "advantages" in life are naturally prone to regret their deprivation, they frequently owe their success to this seeming bar against opportunity. We have often seen illustrated in our art the fact that favorable circumstances do not necessarily insure success, and now from the life of Fuller we gain the still more important truth, that power is never so well aroused as in the face of obstacles. Few men endured more for art than he; none have waited more uncomplainingly for a recognition that was sure to come by-and-by, or received with greater serenity the approbation which the dull world came at last to bestow. His history is most wholesome in its record of steadfast resting upon conviction, and teaches quite as strongly as his pictures do, the value of absorption in a lofty idea.
If the saying that those nations are the happiest that have no history is true of men, Mr. Fuller's life must be regarded as exceptionally fortunate. Considered by itself, it was quiet and uneventful, and had little to excite general interest; but when viewed in its relation to the practice of his art, it is found to be full of eloquent suggestions to all who, like him, have been appointed to win success through suffering. The narrative of his experience comprises two great periods — the preparation, which covered thirty-four years, and the achievement, to the enjoyment of which less than eight years were permitted. The first period is subdivided into two, of which one embraces eighteen years, from the time when, at the age of twenty, he entered upon the study of his art, to his retirement from the world to the exile of his Deerfield farm; the other including sixteen years of seclusion, until, at the age of fifty-four, he came forth again to proclaim a new revelation. The first part of his career may be dismissed without any extended consideration. Its record consists of an almost unrelieved account of struggle, indifferent success, and lack of appreciation and encouragement, in the cities of Boston
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