Excerpt from The Dial, 1889
Puvis de Chavannes' greatest claim is the positive establishing, I may almost say, conscious discovery, of man's position relatively to his natural surroundings. With the Renaissance, man and human interest filled the given frame, and decorative space was divided to that end. The middle Venetian school has to a great extent been bound to religious portraiture, and its frequently low and false perspective is due to the works, as altar pieces, being literally looked up to. This mistake has clung to all subsequent art. The ponderous schools of historic painting, full of crammed nothingness, inﬂuenced garrulous genre. Increased space was utilised for introduction of more figures, and all largeness and dignity was lost. Art became smaller, more incidental, stupidly prolix; and complying strictly with venerable mistakes, was utterly void of that personality one finds in the largest decoration, or the smallest portrait, by an old master. The decorative blot belonging to the early simple works was lost the clamorous crew of landscape artists made its rediscovery seem impossible yet with one earnest, almost in articulate artist, himself little more than a landscape painter, lingered the possible germ. Looking naively on what he saw, man seemed a silhouette bathed in space, pathetic by his very humbleness. I refer to Jean Francois Millet.
Courbet, with his powerful hand and clear - seeing eye, painted on a canvas till he came to the edges. (this extreme was also of use.)
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