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Published On
2014
Language
English
Read Time
This short story is part of the Scenes of Paris Life section of Honore de Balzac's epic masterpiece The Human Comedy. Pierre Grassou is an artist who has many of the attributes necessary for success -- but lacks that spark of creativity. Rather than painting original works, he begins painting copie ...more

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Whenever you have gone to take a serious look at the exhibition of works of sculpture and painting, such as it has been since the revolution of 1830, have you not been seized by a sense of uneasiness, weariness, sadness, at the sight of those long and over-crowded galleries? Since 1830, the true Salon no longer exists. The Louvre has again been taken by assault,—this time by a populace of artists who have maintained themselves in it.
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In 1832, Fougeres lived in the rue de Navarin, on the fourth floor of one of those tall, narrow houses which resemble the obelisk of Luxor, and possess an alley, a dark little stairway with dangerous turnings, three windows only on each floor, and, within the building, a courtyard, or, to speak more correctly, a square pit or well. Above the three or four rooms occupied by Grassou of Fougeres was his studio, looking over to Montmartre. This studio was painted in brick-color, for a background; the floor was tinted brown and well frotted; each chair was furnished with a bit of carpet bound round the edges; the sofa, simple enough, was clean as that in the bedroom of some worthy bourgeoise. All these things denoted the tidy ways of a small mind and the thrift of a poor man. A bureau was there, in which to put away the studio implements, a table for breakfast, a sideboard, a secretary; in short, all the articles necessary to a painter, neatly arranged and very clean. The stove participated in this Dutch cleanliness, which was all the more visible because the pure and little changing light from the north flooded with its cold clear beams the vast apartment. Fougeres, being merely a genre painter, does not need the immense machinery and outfit which ruin historical painters; he has never recognized within himself sufficient faculty to attempt high-art, and he therefore clings to easel painting.
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