Page:The letters of William Blake (1906).djvu/69

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15
THE LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE

Fuseli was expected to paint his Witches with the carnations of Flora and Venus, and the author of the cavern depths of the Sistine Chapel is deemed unworthy to hold the palette or to use the brush. Because Fuseli coloured a witch like a witch, and Michael Angelo coloured a prophet like a prophet, these men are called no colourists. That the greatest men should colour worst is an enigma perfectly inexplicable; but after apologising for the digression, if the reader should want any more light upon this obscure subject, he must ask the picture dealers or their fry: it will of them be learnt that nobody can colour well but those that can draw ill, in an equivalent ratio. Blake painted on panel or canvas covered with three or four layers of whitening and carpenter's glue, as he said the nature of gum was to crack; for as he used several layers of colour to produce his depths, the coats necessarily in the deepest parts became so thick that they were likely to peel off. Washing his pictures over with glue, in the manner of a varnish, he fixed the colours, and at last varnished with a white hard varnish of his own making. It must, however, be confessed that his pictures mostly are not very deep, but they have an unrivalled tender brilliancy. He took infinite pains with them, coloured them very highly, and certainly, without prejudice, either for or against, has pro-