Vigor (noun) – strength, energy, or determination
This has never been a field for the weak or the timid. This is neither the time nor the place to hesitate. Fill your brush with strength, energy, and determination.
The greatest names have always held strong to our hearts. Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Rodin. All inspire something, some great feeling. The names as words possess an energy unto themselves. Just the mere mention straightens the spine and quickens the pulse. As greatness should.
On a recent visit to the Dallas Museum of Art, my soul was nourished and I was reminded of vigor.
Legend has it that Narcisse Díaz (1807–1876) lost his leg in his youth and walked with a wooden stump. He revered Theodore Rousseau (1812-1867) and followed him into the woods, in the hope that Rousseau would teach him. Moved by his admiration and determination, Rousseau did just that.
Narcisse Díaz, Forest of Fontainebleau, 1868
The painting Forest of Fontainebleau, 1868, by Diaz, is a spectacular failure, in that it fails by our contemporary technical standards but is spectacular in the attempt to capture the idea. There is no hesitation from Diaz and he is not timid. This is a man who would limp miles through the forest to see his vision through.
Theodore Rousseau, The Charcoal Burner’s Hut, c. 1850
Again we see this vigor in The Charcoal Burner’s Hut, c. 1850. Rousseau lays on the paint as energy. There is every bit of his struggle to capture what he felt about the world. His thought process exposed and revealed to all. There is no wispy brushstroke here. Only heart and soul bound to a great mind.
“I could hear the voices of the trees . . . their unexpected movements, their various shapes, even their particular attraction toward the light, which had suddenly revealed the language of the forest to me . . . I wanted to converse with them and be able to tell myself that I had touched on the secret of their greatness through the language of painting.”
– Theodore Rousseau
Antoine-Louis Barye, Tiger Surprising an Antelope, 1857
In Tiger Surprising an Antelope, 1857, Antoine-Louis Barye (1796-1875) vigorously captures the animal nature. This moment is strength and energy in a mass of bronze. Each muscle is bound in the moment. The bones rigid with determination. A primordial mass of life. The tiger does not hesitate nor does Barye.
Cecilia Beaux, At the Piano, c. 1890
Cecilia Beaux (1855-1942), at age 32, gave up the only life she knew to further her artistic education in France. Friends and family objected, and a scandal it was, but her determination endured. In At the Piano, c. 1890, that determination is manifest as paint.
A sketch perhaps, dashed off in a short time possibly, but no less noble or inspiring. Again, on a technical level, there are many faults, but the vigor of the idea overcomes all. This painting is not a sum of its mistakes. It is a woman’s strength, energy, and determination.