Painting in Spirit Life, by Chas. L. Elliott
My friends know that I was not much given to writing or speaking, and I
reluctantly answer the call that has been made for me to give my views on
art in the spirit existence.
The old masters whom we have worshipped from boyhood, Raphael, Titian,
Michael Angelo, Da Vinci, and all the illustrious names of the Bolognese
and Venetian schools of art, have passed away from this sphere of spirit
life, and no longer walk the streets of these wonderful cities which they
have adorned with their works.
Reynolds, however, is with us still, and most of the army of painters who
have been born on earth since his day, here live in bodily shape; and I
have had the pleasure of meeting many admirable geniuses of the French,
German, and English schools, and have seen some of their extraordinary
works, which, for diversity of subject and majesty of conception, seem to
rival omnipotence itself!
The great majority of American artists are secretly spiritualistic in
their faith, and believe that they can be inspired by departed painters.
Innes, Page, Church, and Powers, have each felt and acknowledged the
inspiration of the spirit of some great master in art.
I must confess that these masters are not existing in the sphere occupied
by spirits who visit earth, and will explain the manner in which they
impress persons congenial and partaking of like sympathies with
I am informed that it is not material to what sublimated sphere they may
have ascended; it is merely a mesmeric influence which they exert over
their disciples, and this influence can penetrate through all degrees of
The reason why all artists are not alike inspired by the great masters is
that they are not all subject to mesmeric influence, or on the same plane
Every disciple of high art, I have no doubt, has observed the magnetic
quality which seems to pour forth from the canvas of any great master.
This arises from the brain effluvia which they have left upon the canvas,
which is more powerful in its quality than a grain of musk, which will
impart its odor for a hundred years.
The colors which the artists here use are formed upon the same model as
those they have been in the habit of using on earth. They are more
brilliant pigments, but color has always the same origin. Some paint with
the brush and some paint with their fingers.
I had heard it remarked that the spirit had only to breathe on the
canvas, and his thought would be represented, painted, and shaded in a
second of time.
The substance of this statement is correct, but there is a slight
misapplication of the facts.
'Tis true we have the power which we had on earth to a modified degree,
of projecting the desired form upon the canvas. I remember always, after
looking at my sitter, I could trace in imagination on the canvas the
outline and expression of his countenance. This is what we do: the power
of execution is so rapid that the time required for painting a picture
might with you pass for a moment; but it is only a trained artist whose
thoughts and comprehension are skilful enough to produce an effect so
Those who have not learned to give form and shape to their ideas while on
earth have to pursue a more painful and laborious process.
The modern school of color differs widely from the Venetian, being crude,
cold, and sharp in comparison; and, in accounting for this difference, I
can simply state that one can only represent what one sees.
The poetic, dreamy age, when men saw nature as through a veil, is past;
the matter-of-fact, investigating mind has lifted that veil, and now sees
objects as if in mid-day; but, as no condition is stationary, I am told
that the mind is gradually moving on in the world of art to a point where
it will again see nature in a more subdued and generalized light, as
under the declining sun.
The past represented the morning, the present exhibits the noonday, and
the future will indicate the evening.
Such is the constant revolution of mind, and its revolution though slow
In our works of art, sentiment is the prevailing characteristic.
Portraits are in great demand.
Spirits send portrait-painters to earth to obtain likenesses of their
friends; and those spirit-artists who have the power of seeing the
lineaments of these friends and portraying them are constantly engaged.
Leutze has been employed by Lincoln and others to represent scenes in the
American rebellion; and Colonel Trumbull, also, has executed some
magnificent pictures of the battles of Seven Pines, Fair Oaks, and a
skirmish at Hampton Roads.
Stuart has completed a splendid portrait of General Grant, and is now
engaged by John Jacob Astor on a likeness of a beautiful lady dwelling on
earth. I have received a commission from Mr. James Harper to paint a
portrait of his daughter, who occupied the carriage with him when he lost
his life. I am at present engaged on a likeness of a lady residing at