|Woodcut by EKS|
In Jacob’s Room the trio of natural flowers is contrasted with paper flowers which open in water: “Roses, lilies, carnations in particular, looked over the rims of vases and surveyed the bright lives and swift dooms of their artificial relations” (85). Although it is acknowledged that the living flowers also fade, carnations are singled out as the most economical bargain: “carnations pay best”(JR 85). The essay “Pictures” (1925) evokes the same flower triad in the specific context of painting. Launching another attack on superficial realism, Woolf maintains that a “bad writer” is one whose writing “appeals mainly to the eye” (E4 243). Such a writer in delineating “say, a meeting in a garden” will describe “roses, lilies, carnations, and shadows on the grass, so that we can see them” but will not use his medium for clarifying “ideas, motives, impulses and emotions”(E4 243). Chosen apparently at random, the example of the garden scene corresponds exactly to Sargent’s masterwork, which might very well have been on Woolf’s mind given the fact that Sargent died on April 14, 1925 and the essay was published ten days later on April 25 (E4 246, n.1).
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