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to make the thought clear and to preserve the unity of impression. Meissonier always makes his thought clear; he is most painstaking with details; but he sometimes loses in sentiment. Corot, on the contrary, is to some minds lacking in objective force. He tried for years to get more objective force, but he found that what
he gained in that respect he lost in sentiment."
This is Inness's own statement of the case, and if we apply it we shall understand why many of his later canvases were vague, suggestive, indefinite, often vapory. He was seeking to give a sentiment or feeling rather than topographical facts. When
the canvas looked too weak, he tried to strengthen it here and there by bringing out lines and tones a little sharper, and with the result of making it look hard and cold. After several passings back and forth from strength to weakness, from sentiment to fact, the canvas began to show a kneaded and thumbed appearance. Its freshness was gone and its surface tortured. Inness was hardly ever free from this balancing of motives. It is a plague that bothers all painters, and no doubt many of them would agree with Inness in saying: "If a painter could unite Meissonier's careful reproduction of details with Corot's inspirational power, he would be the very god of art."
But Inness was more allied to Corot than to Meissonier. He never was the "perfect master of the brush" that we have heard him called, though he was an acceptable and often a very satisfactory technician. In his early days there were no art instructors in this country, and he was virtually self-taught. He had some instruction in engraving, and a few lessons from Gignoux in New York, but they amounted to little. In 1851 he went to Italy and spent several years, and there he first saw real pictures. He improved greatly by foreign study; and later on, when he came to know the work of the Fontainebleau-Barbizon men, he found himself in complete sympathy with it. Rousseau improved his technique, and Corot taught him the law of sacrifice; but he never became what one might call a perfect technician. He was frequently a little lame in drawing, and his pictures were often perplexing in their planes and lights. Nor was he always satisfactory in his textures and surfaces. Color was undoubtedly his strongest feature. He saw his landscapes as related masses of color rather than in linear extensions; and as he received the impression so he tried to place it upon canvas, holding the color patches together with air and illuminating the whole mass by light and shadow.
It was with color, light, and air that Inness scored his greatest successes. Almost all of his pictures will be found to hinge upon these primary features. He was very fond of moisture-laden air, rain effects, clouds clearing after rain, rainbows, mists, vapors, fogs, smokes, hazes— all phases of the atmosphere. In the same
way he fancied dawns, dusks, twilights, moonlights, sunbursts, flying shadows, clouded lights—all phases of illumination. And again he loved sunset colors, cloud colors, sky colors, autumn tints, winter blues, spring grays, summer greens—all phases of color. And these not for themselves alone, but for the impression or effect that they produced. Did he paint a moonlight, it was with a great spread of silvery radiance, with a hushed effect, a still air, and the mystery of things half seen; did he paint an early spring morning, it was with vapor rising from the ground, dampness in the air, voyaging clouds and a warming blue in the sky; was it an Indian summer afternoon, there was a drowsy hum of Nature lost in dreamland, and with the indefinable regret of things passing away. His "Rainy Day, Montclair " has the bend and droop of foliage heavy with rain, the sense of saturation in earth and air, the suggestion of the very smell of rain; his " Delaware WaterGap " shows the drive of a storm down the valley, with the sweep of the wind felt in the clouds, the trees, and the water; his "Niagara" is not topographical in any sense, but rather an impression of the clouds of mist and vapor boiling up from the great caldron, and struck into colorsplendor by the sunlight.
Every feature of landscape had its peculiar sentiment for Inness. He said so often enough and with no uncertain voice. Here is one of his utterances about it: "Rivers, streams, the rippling brook, the hillside, the sky, clouds—all things that we see—can convey that sentiment if we are in the love of God and the desire of truth. Some persons suppose that landscape has no power of conveying human sentiment. But this is a great mistake. The civilized landscape peculiarly can; and therefore I love it more and think it more worthy of reproduction than that which is savage and untamed. It is more significant."
That last passage about the "civilized landscape " is well worth noting, because this was exactly the landscape that Inness painted. His subjects are related to human life, and possibly our interest in his pictures is due to the fact that he shows thoughts, emotions, and sensations comprehensible of humanity. He tells things that every one may have thought but no