I prefer painting people’s eyes to cathedrals, for there is something in the eyes that is not in the cathedral, however solemn and imposing the latter may be — a human soul, be it that of a poor beggar or of a street walker, is more interesting to me.
The work of the French naturalists — Zola, Flaubert, Guy de Maupassant, de Congourt — is magnificent. Is the Bible enough for us: In these days, I believe Jesus himself would say to those who sit down in a state of melancholy, “It is not here, get up and go forth. Why do you seek the living among the dead?” If the spoken or written word is to remain the light of the world, then it is our right and our duty to acknowledge that we are living in a period when it should be spoken and written in such a way that, in order to find something equally great, and equally good, and equally original, and equally powerful to revolutionize the whole of society, we may compare it with a clear conscience to the old revolution of the Christians. I myself am always glad that I have read the Bible more thoroughly than many people nowadays, because it eases my mind somewhat to know that there were once such lofty ideas.
It is a great mortification to the vanity of man, that his utmost art and industry can never equal the meanest of nature’s productions, either for beauty or value. Art is only the under-workman, and is employed to give a few strokes of embellishment to those pieces, which come from the hand of the master. … Art may make a suit of clothes; but nature must produce a man. … All sentiment is right; because sentiment has a reference to nothing beyond itself, and is always real, wherever a man is conscious of it. But all determinations of the understanding are not right; because they have a reference to something beyond themselves, to wit, real matter of fact; and are not always conformable to that standard. … Beauty is no quality in things themselves: It exists merely in the mind which contemplates them; and each mind perceives a different beauty. One person may even perceive deformity, where another is sensible of beauty; and every individual ought to acquiesce in his own sentiment, without pretending to regulate those of others.