Letter from Alfred Parsons to William Robinson

Scope and Content

Written from The Swan Inn, Thatcham, Berkshire. Manuscript

It is raining and while he smokes a cigarette he is moved to write about the motive of art; the artist may pose as a preacher and do great things with a moral purpose to convert others to his belief; however the greatest artistic work is produced by an intense desire to express beauty, seen or imagined; this desire can only arise when the artist feels some truth or underlying principle which causes that beauty to impress him more than others; in this way all art is religious; but his object is not to teach that truth or principle but to make others feel the emotion that he feels; feeling is intensified when it is shared by many people, and the artist is more the expression of his time than of an individual mind; over the ages artists have made representations of what was felt deeply by the people; the writer of the extract that Robinson sent him has mixed these things up considerably and not differentiated between a religious impression and a didactic purpose; Parsons paints flowers in the foreground because they add to the sentiment of the place, not to teach the flora of the district; he also takes issue with the suggestions in the extract that pleasure ‘merely to give pleasure’ is inferior or bad; he wants to write an article on the poetic mind and motive – ‘the artist’s mind seems to me to be like a rain gauge which collects all the little driblets of sentiment and enables us to measure the feelings of his time’; he has had a sore throat; he had a cup of Robinson’s tea last night and sat up till 2 o’clock with comfort; Robinson will see him in town if this weather continues

Dated ‘Tuesday morning’ [?Oct 1880; Parsons sketched at Thatcham in Oct 1880. See PhD thesis ‘Landscape-Painter as Landscape-Gardener: The Case of Alfred Parsons RA’ / by Nicole Milette]