The Mark Twain Papers & Project - Exhibit - Mark Twain Takes on Art - "An Impressionist Picture"


"An Impressionist Picture"

Mark Twain spoofed his own crude artistic efforts as well as the language of art criticism in a two-part article, "Instructions in Art," published in New Metropolitan magazine in April and May 1903. The article featured ten sketches by the author, including the figure study, Joy. In his description of that work, Mark Twain made a rare reference to the artistic movement that dominated the last quarter of the nineteenth century, Impressionism:

The present example is an impressionist picture, done in distemper, with a chiaroscuro motif modified by monochromatic technique, so as to secure tenderness of feeling & spirituality of expression. At a first glance it would seem to be a Botticelli, but it is not that, it is only a humble imitation of that great master of longness & slimness & limbfulness. . . . That thing in the right hand is not a skillet, it is a tambourine.
The 23-page manuscript of "Instructions in Art" (minus the author's sketches, which apparently were not returned by the printer) is in the Mark Twain Papers.
Mark Twain's drawing of Joy

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