Norman Douglas: South Wind, 1917

 

“I can’t help noticing that portrait over there. It’s a very pretty
thing.”

“The little pastel? It is a sketch of my daughter Matilda. I did it
myself when she was here last Christmas. Poor child, she can only come
for the holidays; there is no chance of a respectable education on this
island. But I can run over to see her every now and then. You will
observe I am not much of a colourist!”

“You have been parsimonious with the tints. It reminds me of some of
Lenbach’s work which I saw at Florence; it is in the same manner.”

“It appears you like art,” said the Count. “Why not devote yourself to
it? But perhaps your English social conditions are not propitious. Here
is a letter from a friend of mind which arrived this morning; you know
his name–I will not mention it! A well-known Academician, whose life is
typical of your attitude towards art. Such a good fellow. He likes
shooting and fishing; he is a favourite at Court, and quite an
authority on dress-reform. He now writes to ask me about some detail of
Greek costume which he requires for one of his lectures to a Ladies’
Guild. Art, to him, is not a jealous mistress; she is an indulgent
companion, who will amiably close an eye and permit a few wayside
flirtations to her lover–enthusiasms for quite other ideals, and for
the joys of good society in general. That is the way to live a happy
life. It is not the way to create masterpieces.

“I would take myself seriously, I think,” said Denis. “I would not
dissipate my energies.”

He meant it. To be an artist–it dawned upon him that this was his true
vocation. To renounce pleasure and discipline the mind; to live a life
of self-denial, submitting himself humbly to the inspiration of the
great masters…. To be serene, like this old man; to avoid that
facile, glib, composite note–those monkey-tricks of cleverness….

Then, after this vision had passed before his eyes like a flash, he
remembered his grief. The notion of becoming a world-famous artist lost
all meaning for him. Everything was blighted. There was not a grain of
solace to be found on earth.

Norman Douglas, 1868-1952. South Wind, 1917.   (Chapter XIII)

Image 1: Valenti Angelo, illustration for South Wind, 1929 (New York, Dodd, Mead & Company)

Image II Charles Caryl Coleman, Vintage Time Capri, 1923. 16 x 24 inches

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Author: jeh

Jeremy Hunt is Director of the AAJ Press (Art & Architecture Journal / Press) – a writer and consultant on art and public space

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