Vital Signs

Sacred Encounters

R.H. Ives Gammell and Francis Thompson

"Time," R.H. Ives Gammell wrote in The Twilight of Painting, "is a ruthless appraiser of art and, by and large, a very just one." Gammell addressed his book "to readers disposed to consider the complete deterioration of the older forms of painting a disaster to civilization." When he published The Twilight in 1946, Gammell's purpose was not to attack any method or school of painting then in vogue; he believed, however, that a large number of art lovers felt uneasy about the kind of painting "encouraged by our art museums and fostered in our art schools."

"As a matter of record," Gammell wrote in the conclusion to The Twilight, "I will state here that all the trained painters I have known, several of whom were considered leaders in their profession a short quarter of a century ago, have been unanimous in their estimate of critical opinions emanating from theorists, amateurs, and incompetent artists." Theory, Gammell believed, was outstripping performance, and the traditional art of painting with long established standards had fallen to a level that has had no parallel in the civilized world for several centuries. No one "ever envisaged a criticism at once as ignorant and as self-assured as that dispensed by the art writers attached to our newspapers and periodicals." For great art is not acquired intuitively nor do fine pictures just...

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