A wonderful country. Jean-Louis-Ernest Meissonier
Vasily Vasilyevich Vereshchagin a famous Russian battle painter couldn’t but visit his art colleague Jean-Louis-Ernest Meissonier while he visited Paris. The French artist was just finishing his picture “Napoleon in 1814” and Vereshchagin, having studied the work in details, congratulated him upon indubitable success. After that, Vasily Vasilyevich examined other paintings of the artist and found them adorable. Gladly receiving compliments from such a venerable and famous master, Meissonier ask him:
- Have you, Mister Vereshchagin, noticed the exactness in the painted elements of the battle landscape?
- Of course! – nodded Vasily Vasilyevich. – They are beyond praise! It is evident that you spent much time working on location.
- On the contrary! – smiled Meissonier. – I created most of my paintings without going out of my studio.
- How can it be? – wondered Vereshchagin. – You painted this road perfectly and the dirt and snow could hardly be made like that without natural surroundings..
- No. mister, that is just so easy!
And after that Meissonier wheeled a cart with boarded flooring to the center of the room. There, on the flooring, approximately on the square of two yards, was a miniature landscape, made with clay and stones, with a tiny cannon on it, certainly a toy one.
- Here it is! – The artist pointed at the landscape. – Here’s everything I need! You can make any kind of road, a part of a fortress, everything you can imagine. Have a look. Can you see the tiny trace of horse shoe on the road? I specially asked a famous jeweler to make the small stamps, which I used to make the traces. – explained Meissonier. – now you can see how I can make any battle landscape with all the details here in my studio.
- That’s interesting.. – murmured Vereshchagin.
- That’s more than just interesting! – The French artist interrupted him. – In case I need snow, I can always dust the landscape with flour and a pinch of salt.
- Oh my God! – claimed Vereshchagin. – Why would you need salt?
- I need this. – said the artists profoundly. – To imitate the natural spark of the snow. This is the way I create a landscape and then paint it.
Vereshchagin examined the subtle model thoughtfully when Meissonier suddenly asked him:
- Don’t you ever use such models for your paintings, Mister Vereshchagin?
- You know what, mister Meissonier.. – Vereshchagin grinned and pointed at the model. – We don’t need such kind of things in Russia. You can just make a hundred steps along any road and you can find such a picture. If you can’t you simply ask a peasant to drive his cart over a puddle. So, you immediately get a digged impassable road, the traces of horse shoes and everything else can be made with no salt! So my method is just to walk out somewhere near my house and make the sketches I need – all the roads we have look like just after a battle..
Meissonier gazed at Vereshchagin and then claimed with envious admiration:
- Dear God! What a wonderful country you live in, Mister Vereshchagin!