Holman Hunt MASTERPIECES IN COLOURby MARY COLERIDGE
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The portrait was such a good likeness that the employer laughed aloud when he saw it; the fame of the thing spread fast. One night his father told him of this remarkable picture, adding that he certainly ought to see it; but no sooner had he discovered the artist than he threatened to take him away altogether if stricter discipline were not observed. Hunt was now sixteen; he had borne with the city for four years; if he waited until he came of age it would be too late to think of art as a profession. He took his life into his own hands, and declared that he meant to become a student at the Royal Academy, that he must be allowed to draw at the British Museum that he might qualify himself to pass the entrance examination.
He just contrived to make both ends meet by copy and portrait work three days out of the six. He learnt more from fellow-students than from masters. The first real instruction came from a pupil of Wilkie�s, who told him, as he sat copying �The Blind Fiddler,� that Wilkie painted without dead colour underneath, and finished each bit in turn like a fresco-painter. After this he found out for himself that quattrocentist work was very beautiful, and that the beauty of it was due to the early training of the artists in fresco. He was by nature hasty and impatient, and the city portrait-painter had encouraged rather than checked a tendency to handle his tools with loose bravura. He set himself to unlearn these lessons, to work with accurate and humble patience.
The hardest part of the endeavour had yet to come. Twice over he failed to find his name upon the list of those accepted as probationers for the Academy. Another precious year gone! His father appealed to him to give it up. �You are wasting time and energy. You can paint well enough to make friends admire you; but you cannot compete with others, who have genius to begin with, who have received an excellent education. Are you not yourself convinced?� The sense of discouragement was bitter. Six months more he asked for one other trial; if, for the third time, he failed, he would go back to business.
One day, as he stood at work in the Museum, a boy dressed in a velvet tunic, and belt, his bright brown hair curling over a turned-down white collar, darted aside as he went by, gazed attentively at the drawing for a minute or two, and was off again. He knew the boy, for he had seen him take the Gold Medal at the Academy over the head of all the older students. He returned the visit on his way through the Elgin room, where young Millais was at work on the Ulysses. Quickly the younger artist turned round.
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