Monday, September 2, 2013

A father's letter to his son, advising him to reform his Art School occupation

Dear boy:

By your past letter and the picture enclosed therein I find that you are a tolerably good Pop Artist, as such an occupation is called, and can present several arch, colorful impressions of supermarket dairy isles to the curious. Your mother delights in your series of rows of industrial yogurts and puddings.  For my part, I am very glad on’t, as it is a proof of some attention towards your craft---and a certain bringing forth of fruit in our lavish investment in your Art School education.

But I hope you will be as good a Portrait Painter, which is a much more noble occupation, than that of a Pop Artist. By portraits, you will easily judge, that I do not mean the mere outlines and the coloring of the human figure---as one might do with a pudding container---but the inside of the heart and mind of man. This art requires more Attention, Observation, and Penetration, than the other. Search, therefore, with the greatest care, into the characters of those whom you converse with. And through the perspective of a Portrait Painter, endeavor to discover their predominant passions, their prevailing weaknesses, their vanities, their follies, and their humors, with all the right and wrong, wise and silly springs of human actions, which makes such inconsistent and whimsical beings of us supposed rational creatures----and learn to represent this upon the canvas through the person’s natural likeness or a satiric construction thereof.

You will find that being a Portrait Painter will enable you to reach a deeper understanding of your fellow human creatures and ultimately your own self. To achieve this end, you are not to shrink from any physical blemishes, nor make too many allowances for people’s moral shortcomings.  Pray, do not forget that the final purpose of Higher Education is to deepen one’s knowledge of Human Nature. I must therefore urge you to devote more of your hours in studying the human face instead of yogurt and pudding containers.  Endeavor by all means, to acquire this talent, for it is a very great one.

To learn to become an excellent Portrait Painter you are advised to study the works of Mr. Francis Cotes, Mr. Joseph Highmore, Sir Joshua Reynolds, and for the satiric modes of representation Mr. William Hogarth. Unless you submit to this transformation, my boy, you will continue to give anxious thoughts to

Your loving, affectionate father,

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