Sleep Fictions: A Digital Companion

III.7 Hudson

Everything Roderick encounters in Rome is a stimulant to his imagination and feeds his restlessness: “Things he saw in the streets, in the country, things he heard and read, effects he saw just missed or half expressed in the works of others, acted upon his mind as a kind of challenge, and he was terribly uneasy until in some form or other he had taken up the glove and set his lance in rest." Where as Gloriani’s art derives from the “indefatigable exercise” of talent, Roderick’s stems from the “indefatigable fancy” of genius. Rowland hopes that Roderick’s quirkiness and impetuousness belies natural genius. However, Roderick’s impulsive behavior also derives from his being “a strident young Virginian.” When Rowland throws a dinner party to celebrates Roderick’s completion of his Adam and Eve sculptures, Roderick reveals his artistic aspirations and an egotistical intolerance of other points of view. Rowland’s guests are comprised, primarily, of American artists. One of which is a sculptor, Gloriani, who embodies a possible future for Roderick. In his youth, Gloriani behaved “recklessly” and “scandalously” and “at twenty-six found himself obliged to make capital of his talent." After years of “indefatigable exercise," Gloriani had perfected his “very pretty trade in sculpture of the ornamental and fantastic sort." 

Rowland considers his guests’ skills to be various expressions of refined talent, something very different from what he envisions as Roderick’s unique genius. Rowland’s perspective echoes Hedge’s differentiation between “talent” from “genius”: Artists who are merely “talented” are left to create products for mass consumption, while those of genius create for aesthetic enlightenment of the refined class. Rowland sees the artworks of Singleton and Miss Blanchard as products for mass consumption and notes that Gloriani’s work is “quite the latest fruit of the time,” in which “the artist’s opinion [was] that there is no essential difference between beauty and ugliness; that they overlap and intermingle in a quite inextricable manner."

Sam Singleton, is a painter of small, water-color landscapes that Rowland first noticed in a “shop window." In Singleton’s youth, “he painted worthless daubs and gave no promise of talent. Improvement had come however hand in hand with patient industry." The third artist, Miss Blanchard, was a woman of a “small fortune, but she was not above selling her pictures.” Although “a little weak in faces,” her flower paintings were “chiefly bought by the English.” Rowland takes notes of how each of the three artists ply their trade—Gloriani’s “ornamental” trade, Singleton’s “shop window” displays, and Miss Blanchard’s British customers—and highlights the labor component of their artistry.

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