Not only are words not the painter’s medium, but the very nature of his medium, and of the kind of life, and the kind of preoccupation that his medium imposes on him, renders him, of all men, the least apt at expression in words. Cumulative and silent observation, what the Germans call ablauschen, a manner of breathless listening, as it were, with the eyes, a listening extending over a long series of years, make of him, in so far as he is a painter, rather a silent than a resonant being. The game he pursues must not be startled, must even, as much as possible, be kept unaware of his presence. Insomuch as he is a painter he tends to be the opposite of “the observed of all observers.” He has rather to be the “observer of all the observed.” “Don’t speak,” is what he generally says or wishes to say. “Do not disturb the spell.” A stillness like the sleeping of a top may describe, as near as words can describe it, the operations of a painter’s activity. “Do not ruffle me. Do not ruffle me disagreeably. Still less ruffle me agreeably. Ignore me. Suppose me not present.”
Scheuch nicht den holden Traum.
The painter is consumed with envy of the racecourse thief and the welsher. If he could organise it he would carry with him the “minder,” who keeps watch for him. He would carry with him, if he could, all exes paid, his band of “wraughters” or “rorters” (there are two opinions about the spelling of this word), whose duty it is to jostle the “mug,” if the “mug” is only a “mug.” (If the “mug” should be a “tradesman” as well, the course of procedure is different, and somewhat outside the scope of this article.) He would carry with him the “jollier,” whose duty it is to keep the “mug” amused, and rouse him to acts of folly. All these he would carry with him so that he, the “worker,” or the “tool,” might have his mind and his hands freed for the masterstroke. Luxury would be carried to its highest point if the “fence” could be not too far away, to advance him a professional proportion of the value of his haul. The “fence” is the dealer or receiver.
© Estate of Walter R. Sickert