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 themselves.

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 matter.

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 of thought.

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 rapidly.

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 is certain.

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 Albany.