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What, then, is the painter's craft, the craft of a painter who wants, simply and in all sincerity, to achieve through painting his own self-realisation and to communicate this reality to those who, participating in the nature of Man, resemble him.

1.  Knowledge of the materials

First of all it involves the recognition and knowledge of the material aspect of the craft - what causes it to be itself and nothing else.  It may seem childish to want to draw attention to this, it seems so obvious.  But, thinking it over, I am of the opinion that, obvious as it may seem, it has been much neglected - that, for many painters, it does not seem to be very obvious at all.  Otherwise, we would never see anyone, wanting to engage in the practice of painting, use materials which are contrary to its nature.  But this is not the case.  Too many aberrations of this sort have appeared without exciting the legitimate protest that they deserve, if only with regard to the proper use of words.  Let me be clearly understood.  I am not opposed to each and everyone's individual fantasies.  If they are put together, using anything you like, but with talent, then I am broad-minded enough to be able to appreciate them.  But don't trick them out in a language that doesn't belong to them - a cat is a cat, and not a box of cigars.  That we should find new words for a new fantasy, that is all I ask.  We should have enough initiative and imagination to be able to do that.  This seems to me to be elementary, and will avoid all sorts of useless confusion.  

If, then, we are talking strictly about painting, we have to take account of the material means.  And we have to resolve to use those materials and nothing else if we want to be a painter.  In the past, when the young apprentice entered a workshop while he was still almost a child, he picked up, almost unthinkingly, a knowledge of the materials that were proper to his craft.  They became familiar to him merely through daily contact.  It is true that he played an important role in their preparation - all the substances used in the work of drawing and painting - fabrication of the brushes, of tracing paper, of glues, oils, siccatives, colours etc.  These weren't things of no importance, whose quality could safely be entrusted to the hands of persons unknown.  The apprentice learned what they were worth for his own work, in the future, the work on which his own livelihood would depend.  So, he never forgot it and, above all, he kept it in mind when he himself became a master.

It is certainly not in the academies, the state academies or the independent academies -  or otherwise, that these indispensable bases of painting can be learned these days.  The men in charge of them are 'Masters of Arts'.  They are not master craftsmen.  They never think of giving a lesson on crayons, on charcoal, on how to prepare a canvas or a wall, on the chemistry of colours; all that is terribly small beer, isn't it?  Can you, then, be surprised if the young painters come out of the academies full of scorn for everything that touches on the foundations of their craft?  No-one has ever talked to them about it.  The aim was to make artists out of them, and it has been successful.  And that is why, possessing none of the elements of their art, they can only think about their sensibility, their personality, their genius, and, in order that these may be properly expressed, of expedients and gimmicks.  A little talent, which is to say, know-how, plenty of trickery, and the thing is done.  It must be admitted that certain of their elders - talented painters, of value in many ways, but lacking in professional conscience or in knowledge of their craft, have encouraged them in their error.  But a little critical sense would have been sufficient to save them.  Any old canvas, bought anywhere, unsized, the paint peeling off after several years, the colours blackening through improper mixing ...  These are heartbreaking, eloquent witnesses arguing in favour of an honest craftsmanlike approach which would at least assure the work a normal course of life.  Does anyone pay any attention?  Alas! I don't think so.  In the past, and, at the time, with better reason, the painter took care that his work should be presented properly.  The person who appreciated painting knew something about the art and demanded good workmanship, fine craftsmanship, and that was still the distinguishing characteristic of a work of art.  Neither the one nor the other could be fooled. And this did not inhibit the expression of personal feelings, of sensibility, personality, or genius.  It is from those days that we have the saying: 'Genius is a long patience'.  

The decline in the quality of craftsmanship which marks that sort of production which we style, pretentiously, 'the fine arts' coincides with the meteoric rise of industry.  The proliferation of machines provoked a proliferation of theorists whose role it was to boast of their merits under the cover of 'progress', which was destined to liberate man from the servitude of work.  The nineteenth century gave itself up to this kind of psychosis, and to a state of enchantment with a series of ever more amazing mechanical applications.  Peasants and craftsmen abandoned their fields and their workshops for factories which, with a very few rare exceptions, did not require anything in the way of a specialist expertise.  The long apprenticeships which had been required by the crafts in general became memories of times of ignorance and of the servitude of the people.  Mechanical science was destined to free the slaves and to fill their heads with knowledge.  And the manoeuvres performed on the production line would be as numerous as the products that emerged from them, without, to the slightest degree, engaging the consciousness of the worker.  Why should artists remain independent of this state of mind?  Why should they have persisted in wanting to learn their craft?  Why should they have wanted to remain reactionary, refusing to profit from the emancipation brought about by progress?  They did not hesitate.  They went with the tide, and, though factories have not been built for them yet, they have, all the same, joined with the general mood. In the name of defending their individual liberty.  They have renounced everything to do with their craft.  

They do 'art', exclusively, without learning the necessary preconditions.  Materials, and how they should be used, do not interest them.  And that is why a painting hardly has any longer a life than any industrial product.