Artifice, besides, seemed to Des Esseintes the final distinctive mark
of man's genius.
Nature had had her day, as he put it. By the disgusting sameness of
her landscapes and skies, she had once for all wearied the considerate
patience of aesthetes. Really, what dullness! the dullness of the
specialist confined to his narrow work. What manners! the manners of
the tradesman offering one particular ware to the exclusion of all
others. What a monotonous storehouse of fields and trees! What a banal
agency of mountains and seas!
There is not one of her inventions, no matter how subtle or imposing
it may be, which human genius cannot create; no Fontainebleau forest,
no moonlight which a scenic setting flooded with electricity cannot
produce; no waterfall which hydraulics cannot imitate to perfection;
no rock which pasteboard cannot be made to resemble; no flower which
taffetas and delicately painted papers cannot simulate.
There can be no doubt about it: this eternal, driveling, old woman is
no longer admired by true artists, and the moment has come to replace
her by artifice.
Closely observe that work of hers which is considered the most
exquisite, that creation of hers whose beauty is everywhere conceded
the most perfect and original--woman. Has not man made, for his own
use, an animated and artificial being which easily equals woman, from
the point of view of plastic beauty? Is there a woman, whose form is
more dazzling, more splendid than the two locomotives that pass over
the Northern Railroad lines?