the slavish copying of Nature by this new school of French designers, let us now take a good look at the other side of the shield, which is indeed a bright one.
By returning to Nature from the fixed conventions by which their ideas had been for so long " cribbed, cabined, and confined," the founders of the "New Art" selected a field in which their individuality would have the fullest opportunity to assert itself, and such creative genius as they possessed would enjoy the advantage of comparative freedom. For long, as we have seen, they had become accustomed to the " vain repetition " of old and familiar details, whose rendering again and again simply called for the ordinary skill of the mere copyist ; and, throughout this time, their own light had been, metaphorically speaking, kept completely hidden under a bushel, the density of whose weaving increased as years rolled by. On the one hand, the details which they had been content to " serve up " with such unbroken monotony were, in reality, even if none were omitted, comparatively few and easily mastered, so that it was not easy to go very far astray in dealing with them. On the other hand, what a difference existed under the new régime.
At their absolute command, and for the mere asking, they had all the illimitable wealth of Nature's ever-varying forms, every one containing a lesson of some kind or another. The whole of these, or, at least, of such as are known to us, have never been, and never will be, grasped by any one man, or, for the matter of that, by any one group of men ; and who will venture to estimate what untold legions of rarely beautiful structures, never yet seen by mortal eye, or dreamed of by mortal brain, are awaiting discovery ? Here was wealth of inspiration indeed ; and there is small cause for wonder that what may be described as its re-discovery by men endowed with undoubted genius, and of the highest artistic attainments, led to most notable results, for which we can
Reference in Text. See page 306
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