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Article on Emil Carlsen from International Studio (June 1917):
Emil Carlsen
By Duncan Phillips
      The inspiration of the craftsmen of medieval Europe whose devotion to good workmanship proclaimed the spirit of art before art itself was free, lives on to-day in the work of those artists who, taking full advantage of modern knowledge, work painstakingly, lingeringly, lovingly over the subjects which make to them a special appeal, striving to attain perfection of their modern mediums. emil Carlsen is an artist of this type. His range is a modest one; indeed his capacity is distinctly limited. Yet his devotion to his ideal of art is beautiful to see, and to approach its realization he labours faithfully and learns from nature many a lesson. He would not know how to cultivate his ego nor how to advertise his soul. It never occurs to him that out of idleness an artist can create a new heaven and a new earth. The old familiar world is good enough for Carlsen, and especially the world where congenial work is its own reward. He loves the past and its relics. Yet, if he copies Gothic saints in stone and terra cotta, and dabbles in tempura like the Florentines, it is not for the joy of antiquarian research but just to make out of old effects some new sensations. He has found that the world is full of sights good to look upon. He has discovered that certain inanimate objects and certain aspects of nature give him paticular pleasure. By means of experiments and constant studies he has come to realize the peculiar characteristics of his own observations and has devised and gradually perfected methoda for recreating the pleasures of his original impressions.

     Sensible self-appraisement to ascertain where and why one is strong and where and why one is weak is as necessary to artisrts as it is to other men. Carlsen knows that he has the patience, the exact science, the subtle skill of the born technician, and so in skilful craftsmanship he exults. Yet he does not believe that he is an artist because of his skill as a draftsman or because he has a distinguished method of laying on the paint. Art is his goal. Craftsmanship is only the road he must travel. He is a craftsman because he believes that before a man can paint a good picture he must be able to do a good job. Believing that practice makes perfect he neither rests on his laurels nor attempts to try the work of other men. Like Chardin, the master who has most inspired him, he keeps on rendering his own selected themes, hoping each year to add new knowledge and a surer competency to his handling. Because he relies upon his labour alone, because he has no new theory to demonstrate but only his own personal taste to express, because he seems to care very little whether people notice him or not, the art of Emil Carlsen seems to me to offer to this age of forced originalities and of false pretensions, genuine novelty and a wholesome example.

In spite of the fact that Carlsen is a constant student of nature and a laborious and devout technician, and that his pictures are outwardly faithful representations of things as they are without any insane befuddlement of abstractization, yet I shall endeavour to point out a certain quality of classic abstraction in his work which gives to his art an unintentional symbolism more significant than the obvious algebra of the theoretical abstractionist. In the work of Carlsen we are privileged to share the intimacies of a rather unique sensibility which is all the more self-revealing for being genuinely unselfconscious. The cry of modernism in the studio is that art should not make representations of nature but abstractions to symbolize its meanings. Pursuant of this idea the solemn radicals are claiming that their wilfully wild hieroglyphics contain profound symbolism. They have only themselves to blame