Raising the book a little to hide his face, he let them fall and shook his head from side to side and forgot himself completely…forgot his own bothers and failures completely in poor Steenie's drowning and Mucklebackit's sorrow…and the astonishing delight and feeling of vigor that it gave him.
This passage appears in Chapter XIX of The Window, while Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay quietly read together peacefully. As Mr. Ramsay reads Walter Scott’s The Antiquary, he loses sight of his insecurities and fears and instead feels for the characters in the novel. Contrary to his early thoughts about Shakespeare’s ultimate insignificance, art in this context has the power to transport people outside of themselves, to communicate emotions across centuries. The tension between these two perspectives on art never quite resolves, affirming both can be true.
Certainly she was losing consciousness of outer things. And as she lost consciousness of outer things…her mind kept throwing up from its depths, scenes, and names, and sayings, and memories and ideas, like a fountain spurting over that glaring, hideously difficult white space, while she modeled it with greens and blues.
This description of Lily Briscoe painting occurs in Chapter IV of The Lighthouse. Similar to how Mr. Ramsay finds himself transported by reading Scott, Lily finds the act of painting takes her away from her current state. However, this is an internal journey, closer to her own subconscious. Painting in this state allows Lily to focus on what she is trying to communicate with her painting without disruption from outside opinions. Art for Lily is something deeply personal, requiring a strong sense of self untainted by the view of others.
There it was—her picture. Yes, with all its greens and blues, its lines running up and across, its attempt at something. It would be hung in the attics, she thought; it would be destroyed. But what did that matter?...It was done; it was finished. Yes, she thought, laying down her brush in extreme fatigue, I have had my vision.
This powerful passage at the very end of the novel shows Lily’s satisfaction and exhaustion upon finally finishing her painting. For all the characters’ concern with art and futurity, Lily here appears to have reached a space where she can simply create without allowing the world to dictate its success. The possibility of the painting ending up in an attic or even being destroyed cannot dim the triumph she feels at having captured what she meant to capture, and she finds meaning in the creation itself regardless of its public reception.