George Fuller, by Sidney Dickinson, 1884, continued.
unwearied searching, and constant trial and correction, the complete idea was expressed at last.
When a painter produces works in this strange fashion, an involved and confused manner of technical treatment becomes inevitable. The schools, which glorify manual skill and the swift and exhilarating production of effects, cannot appreciate it, for all their teaching is opposed to the principle that makes technique subordinate to idea, and they cannot look with favor upon a man who boldly reverses everything. The perfect art undoubtedly rests upon a combination of sublime thought and entire command of resources, but while we wait for this we shall not make mistake if we consider the effective, even if unlicensed, expression of idea superior to a facility that has become cheap from hundreds mastering it yearly. We cannot close our eyes to Fuller's technical faults and weaknesses, but his pictures would undeniably be a less precious heritage to American art than they now are, if he had not been great enough to perceive that academic skill becomes weak by just so much as it is magnified, and is strong only when viewed in its just relation, as the means to an end. We perplex and confuse ourselves in studying his work, and are naturally a little irritated that he keeps his secret of power so well; yet we cannot help feeling that his style is wonderfully adapted to the end in view, and perhaps the only appropriate medium for the expression of a habit of thought that is as peculiar as itself. Schools will insist, and with reason, upon working by rule; yet in art, as in other discipline of teaching, genius does not develop itself until it escapes from its instructors.
Mr. Fuller's life was constantly swayed by circumstances, and through it all he was impelled to steps which he might never have taken of his own accord. He was drawn by influences that he could not control into his fruitful course of study and experience at Deerfield, where his farm gave him support, and permitted him to indulge in an unembarrassed practice of his art; then, when his time was ripe, he was driven by the sharp lash of financial embarrassment into the world again. Eight years ago he reappeared in Boston, with about a dozen paintings of landscapes, ideal heads, and small figures, which were exhibited and promptly sold amid every expression of interest and favor. Confirmed and strengthened in his belief by this success, he again established his studio here, and began that series of remarkable works which have given him a place among the greatest of American painters. The touch of popular favor quickened him into a lofty and quiet enthusiasm, and stimulated both his imagination and his descriptive powers. During all his experience at Deerfield a certain lack of self-confidence seems to have prevented him from making any large endeavor, but with his convictions endorsed by the public, he attempted at once to labor on a more ambitious scale. He broadened his canvases, and increased the size of his figures and landscapes, and where he was before sweet and inviting, became strong and impressive, yet still holding all his former qualities. The first year of his new residence in Boston saw the production of The Dandelion Girl, a light-hearted, careless creature, full of a life that had no touch of responsibility, and descriptive of a joyous and ephemeral mood. A long step forward was taken in The Romany Girl, which immediately fol-
-- Page 8 --