Anna karenina, p.136
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       Anna Karenina, p.136

           graf Leo Tolstoy

  Chapter 12

  Anna and Vronsky had long been exchanging glances, regretting theirfriend's flow of cleverness. At last Vronsky, without waiting for theartist, walked away to another small picture.

  "Oh, how exquisite! What a lovely thing! A gem! How exquisite!" theycried with one voice.

  "What is it they're so pleased with?" thought Mihailov. He hadpositively forgotten that picture he had painted three years ago. He hadforgotten all the agonies and the ecstasies he had lived through withthat picture when for several months it had been the one thoughthaunting him day and night. He had forgotten, as he always forgot, thepictures he had finished. He did not even like to look at it, and hadonly brought it out because he was expecting an Englishman who wanted tobuy it.

  "Oh, that's only an old study," he said.

  "How fine!" said Golenishtchev, he too, with unmistakable sincerity,falling under the spell of the picture.

  Two boys were angling in the shade of a willow-tree. The elder had justdropped in the hook, and was carefully pulling the float from behind abush, entirely absorbed in what he was doing. The other, a littleyounger, was lying in the grass leaning on his elbows, with his tangled,flaxen head in his hands, staring at the water with his dreamy blueeyes. What was he thinking of?

  The enthusiasm over this picture stirred some of the old feeling for itin Mihailov, but he feared and disliked this waste of feeling for thingspast, and so, even though this praise was grateful to him, he tried todraw his visitors away to a third picture.

  But Vronsky asked whether the picture was for sale. To Mihailov at thatmoment, excited by visitors, it was extremely distasteful to speak ofmoney matters.

  "It is put up there to be sold," he answered, scowling gloomily.

  When the visitors had gone, Mihailov sat down opposite the picture ofPilate and Christ, and in his mind went over what had been said, andwhat, though not said, had been implied by those visitors. And, strangeto say, what had had such weight with him, while they were there andwhile he mentally put himself at their point of view, suddenly lost allimportance for him. He began to look at his picture with all his ownfull artist vision, and was soon in that mood of conviction of theperfectibility, and so of the significance, of his picture--a convictionessential to the most intense fervor, excluding all other interests--inwhich alone he could work.

  Christ's foreshortened leg was not right, though. He took his paletteand began to work. As he corrected the leg he looked continually at thefigure of John in the background, which his visitors had not evennoticed, but which he knew was beyond perfection. When he had finishedthe leg he wanted to touch that figure, but he felt too much excited forit. He was equally unable to work when he was cold and when he was toomuch affected and saw everything too much. There was only one stage inthe transition from coldness to inspiration, at which work was possible.Today he was too much agitated. He would have covered the picture, buthe stopped, holding the cloth in his hand, and, smiling blissfully,gazed a long while at the figure of John. At last, as it wereregretfully tearing himself away, he dropped the cloth, and, exhaustedbut happy, went home.

  Vronsky, Anna, and Golenishtchev, on their way home, were particularlylively and cheerful. They talked of Mihailov and his pictures. The word_talent_, by which they meant an inborn, almost physical, aptitude apartfrom brain and heart, and in which they tried to find an expression forall the artist had gained from life, recurred particularly often intheir talk, as though it were necessary for them to sum up what they hadno conception of, though they wanted to talk of it. They said that therewas no denying his talent, but that his talent could not develop forwant of education--the common defect of our Russian artists. But thepicture of the boys had imprinted itself on their memories, and theywere continually coming back to it. "What an exquisite thing! How he hassucceeded in it, and how simply! He doesn't even comprehend how good itis. Yes, I mustn't let it slip; I must buy it," said Vronsky.

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