Frank William Boreham 1871-1959

Frank William Boreham 1871-1959
A photo F W Boreham took of himself in 1911

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Boreham on Being True to Yourself

John Constable’s name will always be held in honour on several grounds. His landscapes are admittedly incomparable. His cloud-effects and sky-effects have never been surpassed. The delicacy of his color-sense has been the admiration and the despair of all his disciples.

But the finest thing about him was his fidelity to his own ideal. He insisted on seeing every object through his own eyes and in depicting it as he himself saw it. As Sir Charles John Holmes says, ‘he hated painters who take their ideas from other painters instead of getting them direct from Nature’. It was the glory of Constable that he shattered, and shattered for ever, a particularly stubborn tradition. As the late E. V. Lucas said, ‘he brought the English people face to face with England—the delicious, fresh, rainy, blowy England that they could identify. Hitherto there had been landscape painters in abundance; but here was something else: here was weather!'

There is a famous story to the effect that Henry Fuseli, the historical painter, who, in Constable's time, was keeper of the Academy, was seen one day engrossed in the contemplation of one of Constable's paintings. It represented an English landscape in a drizzling rain. Lost to all the world, the old man became saturated in the spirit of the picture that he was so ardently admiring, and, to the astonishment of the onlookers, he suddenly put up his umbrella!

So triumphant a thing is truth! Let every person who is charged with the solemn responsibility of expressing his soul for the public good take notice! Let no painter paint in a certain way simply because he fancies that it is in that particular way that painters are expected to paint! Let no preacher preach in a certain way simply because he fancies that it is in that particular way that preachers are expected to preach!

I remember one evening standing at a street-corner listening to a chain of testimonies being given at an open-air meeting. They were all excellent; but—they were all exactly alike! I could see at once that each speaker was saying what he imagined that he was expected to say. Then there stepped into the ring a man whose lips were twitching with emotion: he said one or two things that sent a shudder down the spines of his hearers: but the force of his testimony was overwhelming. He had done, in his sphere, precisely what Constable did in his.

Let each painter, each preacher, each person whose duty it is to write a newspaper article or lead a Christian assembly to the Throne of Grace, realize that his view of God and of Humanity and of the Universe is essentially an individualistic view. He sees as nobody else sees. He must therefore paint or preach or pray or write as nobody else does. He must be himself: must see with his own eyes and utter that vision in the terms of his own personality. He must, as Rudyard Kipling would have said, paint the thing as he sees it for the God of things as they are. And, expressing his naked and transparent soul by means of his palette, his pulpit or his pen, he will find sooner or later—sooner rather than later—that truth, like wisdom, is justified of all her children.

F W Boreham, I Forgot To Say (London: The Epworth Press, 1939), 131-133.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: “The delicacy of John Constable’s color-sense has been the admiration and the despair of all his disciples."