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VI. The White Blot Henry van Dyke

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"But you mistake me," said he; "I am not thinking of any creature comforts for you. I am prescribing for your mind. There is a picture that I want you to see; not a coloured photograph, nor an exercise in anatomical drawing; but a real picture that will rest the eyes of your heart. Come away with me to Morgenstern's gallery, and be healed."

As we turned into the lower end of Fifth Avenue, it seemed as if I were being gently floated along between the modest apartment-houses and old-fashioned dwellings, and prim, respectable churches, on the smooth current of Pierrepont's talk about his new-found picture. How often a man has cause to return thanks for the enthusiasms of his friends! They are the little fountains that run down from the hills to refresh the mental desert of the despondent.

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"You remember Falconer," continued Pierrepont, "Temple Falconer, that modest, quiet, proud fellow who came out of the South a couple of years ago and carried off the landscape prize at the Academy last year, and then disappeared? He had no intimate friends here, and no one knew what had become of him. But now this picture appears, to show what he has been doing. It is an evening scene, a revelation of the beauty of sadness, an idea expressed in colours--or rather, a real impression of Nature that awakens an ideal feeling in the heart. It does not define everything and say nothing, like so many paintings. It tells no story, but I know it fits into one. There is not a figure in it, and yet it is alive with sentiment; it suggests thoughts which cannot be put into words. Don't you love the pictures that have that power of suggestion--quiet and strong, like Homer Martin's 'Light-house' up at the Century, with its sheltered bay heaving softly under the pallid greenish sky of evening, and the calm, steadfast glow of the lantern brightening into readiness for all the perils of night and coming storm? How much more powerful that is than all the conventional pictures of light-houses on inaccessible cliffs, with white foam streaming from them like the ends of a schoolboy's comforter in a gale of wind! I tell you the real painters are the fellows who love pure nature because it is so human. They don't need to exaggerate, and they don't dare to be affected. They are not afraid of the reality, and they are not ashamed of the sentiment. They don't paint everything that they see, but they see everything that they paint. And this picture makes me sure that Falconer is one of them."

By this time we had arrived at the door of the house where Morgenstern lives and moves and makes his profits, and were admitted to the shrine of the Commercial Apollo and the Muses in Trade.

It has often seemed to me as if that little house were a silent epitome of modern art criticism, an automatic indicator, or perhaps regulator, of the aesthetic taste of New York. On the first floor, surrounded by all the newest fashions in antiquities and BRIC-A- BRAC, you will see the art of to-day--the works of painters who are precisely in the focus of advertisement, and whose names call out an instant round of applause in the auction-room. On the floors above, in degrees of obscurity deepening toward the attic, you will find the art of yesterday--the pictures which have passed out of the glare of popularity without yet arriving at the mellow radiance of old masters. In the basement, concealed in huge packing-cases, and marked "PARIS--FRAGILE,"--you will find the art of to-morrow; the paintings of the men in regard to whose names, styles, and personal traits, the foreign correspondents and prophetic critics in the newspapers, are now diffusing in the public mind that twilight of familiarity and ignorance which precedes the sunrise of marketable fame.

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The Ruling Passion
Henry van Dyke

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