By Elbert Hubbard
It was at the Café de L’Horloge in Paris. Mr. Whistler sat leaning on his cane, looking off into space, dreamily and wearily.
He aroused enough to answer the question:
“Doré – Gustave Doré – an artist? Why, the name sounds familiar! Oh, yes, an illustrator. Ah, now I understand; but there is a difference between an artist and an illustrator, you know, my boy. Doré – yes, I knew him – he had bats in his belfry!”
And Mr. Whistler dismissed the subject by calling for a match, and then smoked his cigarette in grim silence, blowing the smoke through his nose.
Not liking a man, it is easy to shelve him by a joke, or to waive his work with a shrug and toss of the head, but not always will the ghost down at our bidding.
In the realm of art nothing is more strange than this: genius does not recognize genius. Still, the word is much abused, and the man who is a genius to some is never to others. In defining a genius it is easiest to work by the rule of elimination and show what he is not.
For instance, neither Reynolds, Landseer, nor Meissonier was a genius. These men were strong, sane, well poised – filled with energy and life. They were receptive and quick to grasp a suggestion or hint that could be turned to their advantage – to further the immediate plans they had in hand. They had ambition and the ability to concentrate on a thing and do it. Just what they focused their attention upon was largely a matter of accident. They had in them the capacity for success – they could have succeeded at anything they undertook, and they were too sensible to undertake a thing at which they could not succeed. They always saw light through at the other end.
“I have success tied to the leg of my easel by a blue ribbon,” said Meissonier. They succeeded by mathematical calculation, and the fame, name, and gold they won was through a conscious laying hold upon the laws that bring these things to pass.
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