Not long ago I was talking about pictures with a painter, a very great painter, to my thinking; one whose pieces give me the same feeling I have from reading poetry; and I was excusing myself to him with respect to art, and perhaps putting on a little more modesty than I felt. I said that I could enjoy pictures only on the literary side, and could get no answer from my soul to those excellences of handling and execution which seemed chiefly to interest painters. He replied that it was a confession of weakness in a painter if he appealed merely or mainly to technical knowledge in the spectator; that he narrowed his field and dwarfed his work by it; and that if he painted for painters merely, or for the connoisseurs of painting, he was denying his office, which was to say something clear and appreciable to all sorts of men in the terms of art. He even insisted that a picture ought to tell a story.
Friday, February 17, 2012
Howells on Pyle on Art
This little exchange between W. D. Howells and his (unnamed) friend Howard Pyle appeared in Howells’ “Life and Letters” column in Harper’s Weekly for March 21, 1896, and was reprinted with the title “The What and the How in Art” in Howells’ book Literature and Life (Harper & Brothers, 1902):