Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

provokes curiosity. Mr Burton, by Moses and the burning bush! in "Old Ironside, a highly-fin- He is now, at any rate, fairly landed ished study, shows his unrivalled in the region of miracle, where some power of drawing. Mr Jackson at least of the laws pertaining to humpaints, with his usual refinement bler nature are for a time suspended and more than accustomed de- in his favour. His visions of earth, tail, scenes from the open ocean, we must confess, are very agreeable with sheltered craft on our wave- to gaze on; and rhapsody in these bound coast; and Mr Branwhite plain days is certainly not a sin to still gives with unrelenting hand which too many of our artists are the rigour of our snow-white win- addicted. In short, Mr Palmer's ter. The two Callows, likewise, one "Sunset on the Mountains," we are upon the sea and the other with prepared to receive as a poem. his foot upon the land, have, in Moonlights, we have said, are falltheir respective domains of earth ing out of fashion, but a few still and water, reached their prescribed survive, casting fitfully their silvery pitch of excellence. Mr Riviere yet somewhat sicklied sentiment still makes himself at home in Irish across the walls of our Exhibitions. cabins; while Mr Oakley struggles Their monotone necessarily becomes to raise his art from humble life- a little monotonous. The chaste lines from Shelley serving him for Diana could not indeed be more inspiration, and "The Student" "The Student" devoid of passion. Yet, after the sitting as a subject. Of Mr Fre- fevered heat of day, cool fountains derick Taylor and Mr Topham, glistening in the soft eye of the much need not be said. Mr David- queen of night, and ruined temples, son in his landscapes is always stately porticoes, and broken colstudiously dotty. Mr Gastineau, umns standing against the dim dison the contrary, is washy, precisely tant horizon, at the hour when nato the same praiseworthy excess; ture is hushed in quiet sleep-this while Mr Harding, unsurpassed in is a peaceful poetry in which we are cleverness of hand, makes nature glad to find some men still venture herself complacently submit to the to indulge. Mr Finche's small drawobvious fitness of his pictorial ar- ings in this key, by their Clauderangements. like classicality, their symmetry of well-balanced composition, come as a strange protest against the spirit of the times. Mr Smallfield's lovelorn maiden in night-dress rising to read a letter at the open casement, is, we cannot but think, sentiment pushed beyond the sober limits of common-sense. The girl would seem to be stricken with the worst symptoms of moon-madness— a love-bewildered intellect. Judging from appearances, we cannot but fear that artists themselves are in some danger of falling into the same sad condition, should they continue to expose themselves to "moonlights" with this singleness of devotion.

Moonlights, we think, have had their day, except perhaps upon the stage, where a translucent round hole cut into lath and plaster, with a lantern hung behind, is too cheap a popularity wholly to be abandoned. But in that pictorial world of exhibitions, where transparencies have not yet been ventured on, the direct blaze of open noonday is certainly preferable. Since the glories of Turner blinded the eye by excess of light, many a picture, indeed, has been taught, as it were, to explode with the fury of a firework finale. Mr Samuel Palmer is one among the many artists who has become quite illustrious in this pyrotechnic school. For several consecutive years he seemed to have been studiously qualifying himself, through successive stages, for some great masterwork, suggested, one might imagine,

Before some few of the pictures in the Water-Colour Society we have made more detailed notes. Mr Hunt's studies of fruit, birds, and heads, always repay analysis. He is a great, we might add a scientific

colourist, for he apportions and balances colour upon a definite system. His greens, yellows, and reds are set one against the other, with cool greys as delicate transitions. Sometimes, indeed, he works directly with the three pure primary colours, stippling and hatching each over the other, securing blended harmony through immediate juxtaposition, and attaining brilliancy by keeping each tint in pristine purity. The contrast in texture of different substances is managed with equal skill. Take as an example the "Wood-Pigeon," and mark the softness of its plumage, as set against the rude material of the earthy background. In the dead "Chick" commissioned by Mr Ruskin for presentation to the Bradford School of Art, we see force obtained by the judicious use of "body colour," standing in absolute relief as stucco, painted in sometimes at once solid, in other parts glazed over with transparent tints. We direct attention to these technical excellences: they cannot be better studied than through the works of Mr Hunt. The drawings of Mr Birket Foster, marvels of the last few seasons, dexterous in handling, and skilled in treatment, will also repay minute examination. They are after the manner of vignettes-small episodes in nature, just cut out from the wider sweep of landscape, and rounded into the symmetry and cadence as of a sonnet. They bear the same relation to the world at large which a word or a line from Milton holds to his larger poem. There is nothing more pretty than these tiny peeps into nature's nooks and dells -the cottage by the wood, with curling smoke among the trees, the ducks toddling to the water, and the neatly-dressed children running down the flowery mead. The artist, too, seems to trip along playfully as he works; the aspen leaf falling from his pencil trembles in the breeze; a ripple plays upon the surface of the water; and the teardrop sparkles in the eye of the

opening flower. But the poetry of Mr Foster, miniature in proportion, is best presented to the public in the form of small pocket duodecimos-a large quarto edition requires more breadth of thought and a bolder handling. His "Wark's Burn, Northumberland," is frittered away in dotted detail; and his drawings, as a whole, are wanting in richness of colour; grey greens, oft repeated, become at length deadly monotonous. His works, in general deficient in profound purpose, are pretty, after the manner of fancy decoration. These are Mr Foster's defects; we need scarcely say that the excellences, upon which we have already insisted, are in their special line wholly unsurpassed.

The well-known scenic pictures of Mr Collingwood Smith come with marked contrast to the minute mosaics of Mr Foster. The bold hand of Mr Smith takes a broad sweep over lake, mountain, and meadow, scarcely halting in its impetuous career till it has covered an area of some dozen square miles. On whatever country or climate this versatile artist may alight, his cosmopolitan genius finds itself equally at home. His art is evidently specially acclimatised to Italy, and he paints the land of poetry as one to the manner born. Lago d'Orta," a paradise let down from heaven upon the earth, is truly a scene in which any painter might love to revel-blue skies and tranquil reflecting waters, and blue mountains with broad shoulders, round which the mists of morning still are fondly clinging as if loth to sever, and the eternal snows of winter crowning Monte Rosa's heights

66

and then upon the lake beneath, the little sail wending its silent way to Pella's shore, while every tree and leaf in the noonday heat reposes, and nature, hushed in dreamy sleep, sinks into the arms of beauty. Mr Richardson's "Castle of Ischia and Sea of Naples" is painted up to the same high pitch of Italian romance. Mr Newton still further swells the large number of

1861.] The Royal Academy and the Water-Colour Societies.

art.

southern landscapes by his remark-
able drawings taken from Mentone.
Last year he painted the Pass of
Glencoe, standing knee-deep in
a snow foreground. His present
pictures on the shores of the Medi-
terranean, treated somewhat in the
stern manner of the north, secure,
by a certain severe hardness, an
originality which in Italian sub-
jects, now so mercilessly hackney-
ed, was scarcely to be hoped for. Mr
Newton is one of the most uncom-
promising and unconventional of
artists he strikes at truth boldly,
he studies nature closely and
thoughtfully, and his works-no re-
petition of used-up ideas-are gene-
rally the records of mental enter-
prise and progress. We cannot but
admire the boldness with which he
attacks things yet unattempted in
the prose or the poetry of pictorial
In his "Winter Foliage, in
the Garden of the Prince of
Monaco," he essays to give us the
tented canopy of the broad stone
pine, the prickly pear with its fan-
tastic fingers, the orange in fruit
and flower, spring and autumn
meeting hand in hand, the grey
cobweb of the feathery olive, with
the deep blue of the Mediterranean
In another draw-
seen beneath.
ing, where twilight on the ocean
depths and sunlight upon the
mountain summits intermingle, we
mark a bold effect of which, in these
regions, we have long been fond
-the silvery flickering of lines of
light flashing out from the deep
Our
darkness of the purple sea.
artists have too servilely trodden
the same beaten path; we there-
fore rejoice when a bold man comes
forward determined to take a new
The old drawing-master
routine of tree-touch, one suited
for oak, another for elm, and a
third for chestnut, has now fortu-
Snowdon
nately grown obsolete.
and the districts of North Wales
are known stone for stone by every
painter and patron in the kingdom;
it is now time that our landscape
aspirants should seek out new
territories, if not fresh zones and

career.

hemispheres.

205

The enterprising Humboldt, whose comprehensive mind embraced every region open to science or to art, has eloquently descanted on the exuberant pictorial resources of the tropics. And the day will come when the jungle of India and the lakes of Central Africa shall hang on the walls of London Exhibitions, and the poetry of the whole earth, like the commerce of the entire world, find its centre in the metropolis of Britain.

The New Water-Colour Society, also taking its residence in Pall Mall, shares not unworthily the honours with its elder sister. We have, on previous occasions, remarked that this younger association still rejoices in that state of mental juvenility which indulges in dreamy romance and vague sentimentality pertaining to poetasters in the art of painting. Mr Tidey, in such works as the gigantic composition from Ossian, is visionary as the poem he essays to illustrate. His large, ambitious scale is in no way justified by any corresponding largeness of manner; and unless he betake himself to severer study of actual nature, he must infallibly fall into the ranks of those selfcrowned poets who complaisantly adore a certain impossible idea, dwelling somewhere in the limbo of their own fevered imagination. A man endowed with Mr Tidey's refined sense of beauty deserves a better fate. Mr Corbould has this year found fortunate subjects for three drawings, high in execution and not devoid of thought, in the two most popular publications of - Adam Bede, a previous season and Idylls of the King. "Dinah,' and "Hetty and Captain Donnithorne in Mrs Poyser's Dairy," painted by command of Her MajesElaine, the ty the Queen; and “ Lily Maid of Astolat," laid on a coverlit all cloth-of-gold, palled in blackest samite, though wanting in individual character, have certainly all the charm which smooth execution and elaborate finish can bestow.

[ocr errors]

Mr Bouvier also belongs to the same
high-wrought school of beauty, re-
joicing in generalised ideal forms
lying somewhere between classic
Venuses and London models. We
must confess, however, that "Olym-
pia" is refined in drawing, and re-
conciles, in a figure of much beauty,
the usually conflicting claims of
classic and romantic schools. Mr
Aaron Penley is still wedded to an
ancient manner pertaining to a
period now gone by. This year he
soars into the cloud-land of Scot-
land's mountains and mists, illu-
mined by effects known of old to
Turner. Mr Henry Warren, strange
to say, has for once proved himself
unfaithful to "Lalla Rookh," his
ardent love, and has exchanged
"the exhaustless East" for the cold
snows of the Wengern Alp, and the
humble features of the Swiss peas-
antry. Mr Warren's ideal romances
were known to be literally borrowed;
and now, on the other hand, we can
only hope that his present pictorial
facts are purely imaginary. The Pre-
sident is fortunate in having a son
of whom any father may be proud.
Mr Edmund Warren's "Rest in the
Cool and Shady Wood," is indeed
cool and dewy in the shade, yet in
the sunshine sparkling bright. For
careful study carried to infinitude
of detail, and in skilful management
of greens-a no small difficulty-it is
indeed a master-work. In the same
Exhibition, "The Artist's Studio,"
by Mr Louis Haghe, is highly com-
mendable. For precise drawing,
sharp execution, and pronounced
character, it is almost unrivalled in
its special department. Mr Ben-
net's well-known transcripts of na-
ture, Mr Carl Werner's "Alhambra"
and "
Bridge of Sighs," and Mr
Reed's "Valley of the Lledr," are,
one and all, admirable. Taken as a
whole, the present Exhibition of
this Society is the best we have
seen for some years.

ter-colour art, have long been de-
termined with precision. It is a
medium with which the artist can
play with facility, and sport at ease
in moods of lighter thought. For
skies and effects of atmosphere, it
is transparent and pure as the ele-
ments. In colour it attains a bril-
liancy, and is capable of a delicacy,
unknown to any other process. It
is, as we have said, in all respects
expressly suited to the exigencies
and capabilities of our English
school of art ;-small in scale, high
and smooth in finish, pleasing and re-
fined in sentiment. But these excel-
lences, it must be admitted, have, for
the most part, been pushed into mere
decorative beauty in the words of
Reynolds, they have too exclusively
been made mere matters of orna-
ment," not presuming for one instant
to arouse "the noblest faculties."
This result is to be ascribed to two
causes-first, that the public do not
require "high art;" and, secondly,
that the water-colour artists cannot
paint it. Water-colour painters, as
contrasted with the leading profes-
sors of oil, are deficient in artistic
training; they have not put them-
selves through the same severe course
of study. Anatomy, the human figure,
and the treatment of drapery, have
been carried just to the point of
"the rustic," and nothing more. The
want of this thorough training is
specially seen in the more ambitious
figure-subjects in the gallery of the
New Water-Colour Society. Among
the members of the elder associa-
tion, Mr Newton, in landscape, and
Mr Burton, in the drawing of the
figure, evince a systematic study
which should ultimately secure.for.
themselves distinction, and for their
art still further advancement.

The achievements of the two Water-Colour Societies just passed in review call for no special reflections. The rich resources, as likewise the comparatively narrow limits of wa

We will devote the remaining pages of our article to an analysis of the Royal Academy. The present Exhibition, like many of its immediate predecessors, has to deplore the absence of a large number of its most illustrious members. It is long since Sir Charles Eastlake has given to the world one of his refined compositions. A list of the

66

absent, indeed, looks ominous. Mr Herbert, one of the few disciples of high art; Mr Maclise, the consummate master of melodrama; Mr Mulready, of "Wedding Gown" repute; Mr Webster, of "The Playground" and "The Village School;" Mr Frith, of "The Derby Day;" Mr Egg, famed for lighter comedy; Mr Poole, of "The Plague of London;" and Mr Millais, the painter of The Order of Release" and "The Vale of Rest"-are, one and all, absent from the year's Academy; and the remembrance of their former works serves but to enhance the sense of the loss which we sustain. Some compensation, however, may be found in other directions. Mr Faed and Mr Ward come out with unwonted power. Mr Roberts has painted two large pictures in his best style; Mr Dyce sends one of his most elaborate and impressive works; Sir Edwin Landseer has recovered his former mastery; Mr Lee, upon the rock of Gibraltar, has gathered renewed force, for which even his admirers were hardly prepared; Mr Hook paints up to his accustomed truth and brilliancy; Mr Cooper recurs once more to the success of last year-"Sheep in a Snow-Fell;" Mr Lewis is again upon the Nile; Mr MacCallum pushes still further his former feats in the painting of tree-trunks and twigs; and Mr Wallis, in his "Burial of Elaine," has not been so fortunate in a subject since "The Death of Chatterton." Moreover, the present Exhibition reaps the advantage of very many works of merit from younger men, with whom lies the destiny of the future. Thus it will be seen that the Royal Academy for the present season, though chiefly remarkable for the absence of commanding creations, is yet interesting in the possession of many pleasing, and a few impressive, pictures, which will serve to save the year 1861 from oblivion in the annals of

art.

The Academy, to the eyes of the multitude, is poor in the absence of any great sensation-picture. The

rush to Faed's Cottage Deathbed, indeed, affords some parallel to the crush which in a past season was found round Frith's "Derby Day." But altogether the world of sightseers is this year unfortunate in the want of any sufficient pretext for its annual fit of ecstasy. There has of late been no great event which has moved the depths of society; no strong national emotion, which, sinking profoundly into the heart, rises again to the surface in some picture of tragic intensity. Many, indeed, of the most fertile of pictorial topics are worn threadbare. The Crimean and the Indian campaigns are past; and our late enemies the Chinese are not, in costume or physiognomy, precisely the specimens most favourable for serious, stately works on the walls of the Academy. It would be difficult, likewise, for any Pre-Raphaelite painter nowadays to revive, in full severity of symptoms, the thrilling sensation which passed through the eager crowd on beholding for the first time the astounding marvels of Pre-Raphaelite genius. We might safely challenge Mr Millais to induce for a second or a third time the cold shudder which once crept among spectators as they gazed on two hideous nuns digging in convent churchyard a comrade's grave. Such horrors lose their demon spell with that familiarity which, in their case at least, rightly breeds contempt. This indeed is the position in which the ultra-manifestation of the Pre-Raphaelite movement now finds itself. Studied ugliness, inveterate deformity, and all other aspects of the repulsive, having nothing but novelty in their favour, are necessarily worn out speedily; and thus painters are forced once more to betake themselves to the beautiful, which alone, amid the caprice of ignorant fashion, remains immortal. Hence can we now gladly record the dying-out of the Pre-Raphaelite heresy, as by the natural process of decay. The Royal Academy of the present year, we rejoice to say, is once more all but free from those enormities

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »