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LITERARY MISCELL ANY.
ON THE DESCRIPTIVE CATALOGUE
BEMARKS ON MR WEST'S PICTURE OF exaggerated pretensions. Self-praise, DEATH ON THE PALE HORSE, AND it is said, is no praise : but it is worse
than this. It either shows great weakWHICH ACCOMPANIES IT.
ness and vanity for an artist to talk
(or to get another to talk) of his own MR WEST's name stands deserved- work, which was produced yesterday, ly high in the annals of art in this and may be forgotten to-morrow, with country-too high for him to con- the same lofty, emphatic, solemn tone, descend to be his own puffer, even at as if it were already stamped with the second-hand. He comes forward, in voice of ages, and had become sacred the present instance, as the painter to the imagination of the beholder ; and the showman of the piece ; as the or else the doing so is a deliberate atcandidate for public applause, and the tempt to encroach on the right of prijudge who awards himself the prize ; vate judgment and public opinion, as the idol on the altar, and the priest which those who are not its dupes who offers up the grateful incense of will resent accordingly, and endeapraise. He places himself, as it were, vour to repel by acts of precaution or before his own performance, with a hostility. “An unsuccessful effort to Catalogue Ruisonné in his hand, and, extort admiration is sure to involve before the spectator can form a judg- its own punishment. ment on the work itself, dazzles him We should not have made these rewith an account of the prodigies of marks, if the “ Description of the art which are there conceived and exe- Picture of Death" had been a solitary cuted. This is not quite fair. It is instance of the kind; but it is one of a proceeding which, though “it sets a series of descriptions of the same on a quantity of barren spectators to sort—it is a part of a system of selfadmire, cannot but make the judi- adulation which cannot be too much cious grieve.” Mr West, by thus discouraged. Perhaps Mr West may taking to himself unlimited credit for say, that the Descriptive Catalogue is
the high endeavour and the glad not his ; that he has nothing to do success,” by proclaiming aloud that with its composition or absurdities. he has aimed at the highest sublimi. But it must be written with his conties of his art, and as loudly, with a sent and approbation ; and this is a singular mixture of pomposity and sanction which it ought not to rephlegm, that he has fully accomplish- ceive. We presume the artist would ed all that his most ardent hopes had have it in his option to put a negative anticipated,-must, we should think, on any undue censure or flagrant aobtain a great deal of spurious, catch- buse of his picture; it must be equalpenny reputation, and lose a greatly in his power, and it is equally indeal of that genuine tribute of appro- cumbent upon him, to reject, with bation to which he is otherwise en- dignified modesty, the gross and paltitled, by turning the attention of the pable flatteries which it contains, diwell-informed and unprejudiced part of rect or by implication. the community from his real and un- The first notice we received of this doubted merits to his groundless and picture was by an advertisement in a morning paper, (the editor of which manner. We cannot tell whether this is not apt to hazard extravagant opi- account will be considered as satisfacnions without a prompter,) purport- tory. But Mr West, or his commening, that, “in consequence of the Pre- tator, should tread cautiously on this sident's having devoted a year and a ground. He may otherwise commit half to its completion, and of its hav- himself, not only in a comparison with ing for its subject the Terrible Sub- the epic poet, but with the inspired lime, it would place Great Britain in writer, who only uses words. It will the same conspicuous relation to the hardly be contended, for instance, that rest of Europe in arts that the battle the account of Death on the Pale of Waterloo had done in arms!” We Horse in the book of Revelations, shall not stay to decide between the never produced its due effect of the battle and the picture; but the writer terrible sublime, till the deficiencies of follows up the same idea of the Ter- the pen were supplied by the pencil
. rible Sublime in the Catalogue, the Neither do we see how the endowing first paragraph of which is conceived a physical form with superhuman in the following terms :
strength, has any necessary connec“ The general effect proposed to be tion with the moral impression of the excited by this picture is the terrible visionary Deuth of Milton. There sublime, and its various inodifications, seems to be here some radical mistake until lost in the opposite extremes of in Mr West's theory. The moral atpity and horror, a sentiment which tributes of Death are powers and ef, painting has so seldom attempted to fects of an infinitely wide and general awaken, that a particular description description, which no individual or of the subject will probably be accept- physical form can possibly represent, able to the public.
but by courtesy of speech or by a dis“ So shall my anticipation prevent tant analogy. The moral impression your discovery.' Mr West here, like of Death is essentially visionary ; its Bayes in the Rehearsal, insinuates the reality is in the mind's eye. Words plot very profoundly. He has, it are here the only things; and things, seems, opened a new walk in art with physical forms, the mere mockeries of its alternate ramifications into the op- the understanding. The less definite posite regions of horror and pity, and the conception, the less bodily, the kindly takes the reader by ilie hand, more vast, unformed, and unsubstanto show him how triumphantly he tial, the nearer does it approach to has arrived at the end of his journey. some resemblance of that omnipre
“ In poetry," continues the writer, sent, lasting, universal, irresistible “the same effect is produced by a principle, which everywhere, and at few abrupt and rapid gleams of de- some time or other, exerts its power scription, touching, as it were, with over all things. Death is a mighty fire, the features and edges of a gene- abstraction, like Night, or Space, or ral mass of awful obscurity ; but in Time. He is an ugly customer, who painting, such indistinctness would be will not be invited to supper, or to sit a defect, and imply, that the artist for his picture. He is with us and wanted the
power to pourtray the con- about us, but we do not see him. He . ceptions of his fancy. Mr West was stalks on before us, and we do not of opinion that to delineate a physi- mind him ; he follows us behind, and cal form, which in its moral impres- we do not look back at him. We do not sion would approximate to that of the see him making faces at us in our lifevisionary Death of Milton, it was ne- time! we do not feel him tickling our cessary to endow it, if possible, with bare ribs afterwards, nor look at him the appearance of superhuman strength through the empty grating of our holand energy. He has, therefore, ex- low eyes! Does Mr West really sup- . erted the utmost force and perspicuity, pose that he has put the very image of his pencil on the central figure.' of Death upon his canvas; that he This is
spoken with authority, and has taken the fear of him out of our not as the scribes." Poetry, accord- hearts; that he has circumscribed his ing to the definition here introdu- power with a pair of compasses ; that ced of it, resembles a candle-light he has measured the length of his arm picture, which g ves merely the rim with a two-foot rule ; that he has susand outlines of things in a vivid and pended the stroke of his dart with a dazzling, but confused and imperfect stroke of his pencil; that he has laid
hands on the universal principle of de- as a disguise for the King of Terrors. struction, and hemined him in with We have no idea of such a swaggering lines and lineaments, and made a gaz- and blustering Death as this of Mr ing-stock and a show of hin, “ under West's. He has not invoked a ghastthe patronage of the Prince Regent,” !y spectre from the tomh, but has (as that illustrious person has taken, called up an old squalid ruffian from and confined, and made a show of ano- a night cellar, and crowned him “mother enemy of the humun race)-so narch of the universal world." The that the work of decay and dissolution horse on which he rides is not“ pale," is no longer going on in nature; that but white. There is no gusto, no all we have heard or telt of death is imagination in Mr West's colouring. but a fable compared with this dis- As to his figure, the description gives tinct, living, and warranted likeness an accurate idea of it enough. " His of him? Oh no! There is no power horse rushes forward with the univerin the pencil actually to embody an sal wildness of a tempestuous element, abstraction, to impound the imaginac breathing livid pestilence, and rearing tion, to circumvent the powers of the and trampling with the vehemence of soul, which hold communion with the unbridled fury.” The style of the universe. The painter cannot make figure corresponds to the style of the the general particular, the infinite and description. It is over-loaded and imaginary defined and palpable, that top-heavy. The chest of the animal which is only believed and dreaded, is a great deal too long for the legs. an object of sight.
The painter has made amends for As Mr West appears to have wrong this splashing figure of the Pale Horse, notions of the powers of his art, so by those of the White and Red Horse. he seems not to put in practice all They are like a couple of rockingthat it is capable of. The only way horses, and go as easy. Mr West's in which the painter of genius can vicarious egotism obtrudes itself again represent the force of moral truth, offensively in speaking of the Rider on is by translating it into an artificial the White Horse.
** As he is suplanguage of his own,-by substi- posed,” says the Catalogue, tuting hieroglyphics for words, and present the Gospel, it was requisite presenting the closest and most strik- that he should be invested with those ing affinities his fancy and observa- exterior indications of purity, exceltion can suggest between the general lence, and dignity, which are associaidea and the visible illustration of it. ted in our minds with the name and Here we think Mr West has failed. offices of the Messiah. But it was The artist has represented Death rid- not the Saviour healing and coming over his prostrate victims in all forting the afflicted, or the meek and the rage of impotent despair. He is lowly Jesus, bearing with resignain a great splutter, and seems making tion the scorn and hatred of the scofa last effort to frighten his foes by an fing multitude, that was to be repreexplosion of red-hot thunder bolts, sented ;-it was the King of Kings and a pompous display of his allegorical going forth, conquering and to conparapharnalia. He has not the calm, quer. He is therefore painted with a still, majestic form of Death, killing solemn countenance, expressive of a by a look,-withering by a touch. His mind filled with the thoughts of a presence does not make the still air cold. great enterprise ; and he advances onHis flesh is not stony or cadaverous, ward in his sublime career with that but is crusted over with a yellow glu- serene Majesty,” &c. Now this is tinous paste, as if it had been baked surely an unwarrantable assumption in a pye. Milton makes Death“ grin of public opinion in a matter of taste. horrible a ghastly sinile,” with an evi- Christ is not represented in this picdent allusion to the common Death's ture as he was in Mr West's two forhead; but in the picture he seems mer pictures; but in all three he grinning for a wager, with a full row gives you to understand that he has of loose, rotten teeth ; and his terri- reflected the true countenance and dible form is covered with a long black vine character of the Messiah. Muldrapery, which would cut a figure tum abludit imago. The Christs in in an undertaker's shop, and which each picture have a different characcuts a figure where it is (for it is ter indeed, but they only present a finely painted), but which serves only variety of meanness and insipidity:
But the unwary spectator, who looks his muscular manly courage, has a at the catalogue to know what he is fine rustic look of health and strength to think of the picture, and reads all about him ; but we think the other these there fores of sublimity, serenity, figure, with a scowling swarthy face, purity, &c. considers them as so many striking at an animal, is superior in infallibie inferences and demonstra- force of character and expression. tions of the painter's skill.
In the back figure of the man holding Mr West has been tolerably suc- his hand to his head, (with no yery cessful in the delineation of the neu- dignified action,) the artist has well tral character of the Man on the Black imitated the baul colouring, and stiff Horse ; but “the two wretched ema- inanimate drawing of Poussin. The ciated figures” of a man and woman remaining figures are not of much imbefore him, “ absorbed in the feelings portance, or are striking only from of their own particular misery,” are their defects. Mr West, however, not likely to excite any sympathy in omits no opportunity of discreetly the beholders. They exhibit the sounding his own praise. “ The lowest stage of mental and physical story of this group," it is said, “ would imbecility, that could never by any have been incomplete, had the lions possibility come to any good. In the not been shown conquerors to a cerdomestic groupe in the foreground, tain extent, by the two wounded
the painter has attempted to excitemen,” &c. As it is, it is perfect ! the strongest degree of pity which his Arlmirable critic ! Again we are subject adınitter, and to contrast the told, ". The pyramidal form of this surrounding objects with images of large division is perfected by a furious tenderness and beauty;" and it is bull,” &c. Nay, indeed, the forin of here that he has principally failed. the pyramid is even preserved in the T'he Dying Mother appears to have title-page of the catalogue. The pretheen in her lifetime a plaster-cast from tiest incident in the picture is the the antique, stained with a little pur- dove lamenting over its mate, just ple and yellow, to innitate the life. killed by the serpent. We do not deThe “Lovely Infant” that is falling ny Mr West the praise of invention. from her breast, is a hideous little Upon the whole, we think this the creature, with glazed eyes, and livid best coloured and most picturesque of aspect, borrowed from the infant who all Mr West's productions; and in is falling out of his mother's lap over all that relates to composition, and the bridge, in Hogarth's Print of Gin- the introduction of the adjuncts of hisLanc. The Husband's features, who torical design, it shows, like his other is placed in so pathetic an attitude, works, the hand of a master. In the are cut out of the hardest wood, and same room is the picture of Christ of the deepest dye; and the surviving Rejected. Alas! how changed, and Daughter, who is stated “ to be selle in how short a time! The colours are sible only to the loss she has sustain scarcely dry, and it already looks dined by the death of so kind a parent,"
gy, flat, and faded.
W. H. is neither better nor worse than the figures we meet with in the elegant ON THE frontispieces to history-books, or fa
GIERS, THE EFFECTS OF THE REmily stories, intended as Christmas
CENT ENGLISH EXPEDITION, AND presents to good little boys and girls. The foreshortening of the lower ex
GARD TO THE BARBARY STATES ; tremities, both of the Mother and Child, is wretchedly defective, either
LIAN GENTLEMAN, RECENTLY REin drawing or colouring.
In describing “ the anarchy of the combats of men with beasts,” Mr · West has attained that sort of excel distinguished foreigner, will, we trust, be
[The following article, written by a lence which always arises from a know- found equally interesting from its subject ledge of the rules of composition. His and execution. We have the satisfaction lion, however, looks as if his face and to state, that it was communicated to us by velvet paws were covered with a calf's Professor Playfair, who, on his late tour skin, or leather gloves pulled careful- on the Continent, received it from the auly over them. So little is the appear- thor.] ance of hair given ! The youth in this In the state of universal suffering mour, whom Mr West celebrates for which Europe experiences from a want
POLITICAL STATE OF AL
THE BEST LINE OF POLICY IN RE
WITH OBSERVATIONS BY AN ITA
TURNED FROM CAPTIVITY IN THAT