In 1848 the art teacher Horace Lecoq de Boisbaudran wrote a treatise called L’Education de la mémoire pittoresque for his students. That treatise was revised and republished in 1862. Later, he wrote two other small texts for his students which were published in 1876 and 1879, respectively. Many notable 19th century artists passed through his atelier: Fantin-Latour, Legros, Rodin, Lepère, Lhermitte among others. Subsequently through Legros, many other artists, like George Innes and James MacNeill Whistler were influenced by his ideas.

Although the mainstream current of twentieth century art has moved away from imitative or realistic interpretations of the world around us, the role of personally significant memory has never been greater. It is with that in mind that I have finally located, downloaded and printed out this text. The translation, which was done approximately one hundred years ago, appears to be a fine one, well researched among the still extant students of LeCoq at that time.

I’m posting this link as information for anyone else who may be interested in exploring Lecoq’s work. The Training of the Memory in Art and the Education of the Artist, Translated by L. D. Luard. Et l’original en français: L’éducation de la mémoire pittoresque, de Horace Lecoq de Boisbaudran. Yesterday, for 14 Euros and an hour of my time, I located the link, downloaded the file, burned a CD, took it to a local print shop, for the which I received a simple, black and white, plastic coated, spiral bound edition. I now have a copy of a book that I have searched twenty years for. Hooray for the internet!!!

An excerpt from the book:  Painting in reference to the raw materials and the role of technique in the creation of art by Nicolas Wacker.  Published by Editions Allia, Paris, France.  Translated by Ellen Trezevant.

“All spiritual creation is dependent on its material. Without it, no transmission would be possible. The mystery of art lies in this collaboration between the material with the spiritual. For it is through that, and that alone that communication can be passed. How and at what moment does matter become spirit?

In the creation of art it will always be the material and that alone which stands guard over the precious message of a work of art.  It is through a thorough knowledge of the materials which one wishes to use, applying them at will, and adapting them to each case, that one comes to know the effect that finally can be achieved.”

These words of Wacker resonate so well with my own temperament that I hesitate to add anything of my own.  Yet since they were originally spoken about fifty years ago, the sentiment bears a fresh look.  The contemporary art world now seems to function in a no-holds-barred vacuum.  All forms of expression can be called “art” if they are somehow art: realism, superrealism, photorealism, abstraction, expressionism, naieve, primitive, conceptual, assemblage, installation, video, etc…  What is it that makes the world pronounce the word: ART?

Although the question is rhetorical and cannot be answered in words, for the artist, the magic really happens when the materials they cherish, investigate and use finally resonate to their own inner vibratory truth – whatever that truth may be.  And the closer each individual artist’s truth is to that of the inner truth of humanity – well the greater the chances are that someone, somewhere will call it ART.  Otherwise, there are fads and fashions that will go in and out of style.  My two cents.