Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/165

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MORE WORK FOR RUSKIN

about the exhibition than I can. I saw him on Monday week; and he told me that he saw from all I had done that I had the power to become all he wanted of me, namely a thoroughly good copyist. He wants me to learn to copy in water-colours the great Venetian masters. He asked me if I could be quite happy to do this, and told me he could be quite happy to spend his life thus, if he were in circumstances to do it. He then said to me that he had thought of setting me this summer to copy things for Mod. Paint.; but that, as that would not teach me much, it would be better for him, if I could be happy not to do any work which was to be used by him at once; to get a greater power. "In the one case," he said, "at the end of six or eight months I should have several useful drawings, but you would be of little more use than now; whereas, in the other, you would have attained considerable power." …

I believe it will be a real comfort to Ruskin, to feel that I am going to copy the pictures that he feels to be so precious, and that are being so destroyed. You see no one is taught to be humble enough to give up setting down their own fancies, that they may set down facts; and they deify these fancies and notions and imaginations of their own hearts, till they really think it a mean thing to represent nature, or other men's works simply and faithfully: people hate copying because they do not copy simply, I believe. One tells me that when she copies, she is striving to appropriate the excellence of the picture; another that she is not wanting to copy the picture, but to sketch nature; she therefore will go so far off that she cannot see it clearly. … One lady assures me she should despise a person who paints exactly from nature, as she should a person who copies pictures: that Art has a higher

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