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I do not remember a single joke in Wilkie's, except one very bad one of the boy in the Blind Fiddler,' scraping the grid-iron, or fire-shovel, I forget which it is.* In looking at Hogarth, you are ready to burst your sides with laughing at the unaccounta ble jumble of odd things which are brought together; you look at Wilkie's pictures with a mingled feeling of curiosity and admiration at the accuracy of the representation. For instance, there is a most admirable head of a man coughing in the ‘Rent Day; the action, the keeping, the choked sensation, are inimitable; but there is nothing to laugh at in a man coughing. What strikes the mind is the difficulty of a man's being painted coughing, which here certainly is a masterpiece of art. But turn to the blackguard cobbler in the Election Dinner,' who has been smutting his neighbour's face over, and who is lolling out his tongue at the joke, with a most surprising obliquity of vision, and immediately "your lungs begin to crow like chanticleer." Again, there is the little boy crying in the 'Cut Finger,' who only gives you the idea of a cross, disagreeable, obstinate child in pain; whereas the same face in Hogarth's 'Noon,' from the ridiculous perplexity it is in, and its extravagant, noisy, unfelt distress, at the accident of having let fall the pye-dish, is quite irresistible. Mr. Wilkie, in his picture of the Ale-house Door,' I believe, painted Mr. Liston as one of the figures without any great effect. Hogarth would have given any price for such a subject, and would have made it worth any money. I have never seen anything in the expression of comic humour equal to Hogarth's pictures but Liston's face!
Mr. Wilkie paints interiors, but still you generally connect them with the country. Hogarth, even when he paints people in the open air, represents them either as coming from London, as in the polling for votes at Brentford, or as returning to it, as the dyer and his wife at Bagnigge Wells. In this last picture he has contrived to convert a common rural image into a type and emblem of city honours. In fact, I know no one who had a less pastoral imagination than Hogarth. He delights in the
* The waiter drawing the cork, in the 'Rent-day,' is another exception, and quite Hogarthian.
thick of St. Giles's or St. James's. His pictures breathe a certain close, greasy, tavern air. The fare he serves up to us consists of high-seasoned dishes, ragouts, and olla podridas, like the supper in 'Gil Blas,' which it requires a strong stomach to digest. Mr. Wilkie presents us with a sort of lenten fare, very good and wholesome, but rather insipid than overpowering! Mr. Wilkie's pictures are, in general, much better painted than Hogarth's; but the Marriage-a-la-Mode' is superior both in colour and execution to any of Wilkie's. I may add here, without any disparagement, that, as an artist, Mr. Wilkie is hardly to be mentioned with Teniers. Neither in truth and brilliant clearness of colouring, nor in facility of execution, is there any comparison. Teniers was a perfect master in all these respects, and our own countryman is positively defective, notwithstanding the very laudable care with which he finishes every part of his pictures. There is an evident smear and dragging of the paint, which is also of a bad purple or puttyish tone, and which never appears in the pictures of the Flemish artist, any more than in a looking-glass. Teniers, probably from his facility of execution, succeeded in giving a more local and momentary expression to his figures. They seem each going on with his particular amusement or occupation; Wilkie's have, in general, more a look of sitting for their pictures. Their compositions are very different also; and in this respect, I believe, Mr. Wilkie has the advantage. Teniers's boors are usually amusing themselves at skittles, or dancing, or drinking, or smoking, or doing what they like, in a careless, desultory way; and so the composition is loose and irregular. Wilkie's figures are all drawn up in a regular order, and engaged in one principal action, with occasional episodes. The story of the 'Blind Fiddler' is the most interesting and the best told. The two children standing before. the musician are delightful. The Card-players' is the best coloured of his pictures, if I am not mistaken. The Village Politicians,' though excellent as to character and composition, is inferior as a picture to those which Mr. Wilkie has since painted. His latest pictures, however, do not appear to me to be his best. There is something of manner and affectation in the grouping of the figures, and a pink and rosy colour spread
over them, which is out of place. The hues of Rubens and Sir Joshua do not agree with Mr. Wilkie's subjects. One of his last pictures, that of 'Duncan Gray,' is equally remarkable for sweetness and simplicity in colour, composition, and expression. I must here conclude this very general account; for to point out the particular beauties of every one of his pictures in detail, would require an Essay by itself.
I have promised to say something in this Lecture on the dif ference between the grand and familiar style of painting; and I shall throw out what imperfect hints I have been able to collect on this subject, so often attempted and never yet succeeded in, taking the examples and illustrations from Hogarth, that is, from what he possessed or wanted in each kind.
And first, the difference is not that between imitation and invention; for there is as much of this last quality in Hogarth as in any painter or poet whatever. As for example, to take two of his pictures only, I mean the 'Enraged Musician' and the 'Gin Lane;' in one of which every conceivable variety of disagreeable and discordant sound-the razor-grinder turning his wheel; the boy with his drum, and the girl with her rattle momentarily suspended; the pursuivant blowing his horn; the shrill milk-woman; the inexorable ballad-singers with her squalling infant; the pewterer's shop close by; the fish-wonen; the chimney-sweepers at the top of a chimney, and the two cats in melodious concert on the ridge of the tiles; with the bells ringing in the distance, as we see by the flags flying;-und in the other, the complicated forms and signs of death and ruinous decay-the woman on the stairs of the bridge asleep, letting her child fall over; her ghastly companion opposite, next to death's door, with hollow, famished cheeks and staring ribs; the dog fighting with the man for the bare shin-bone; the man hanging himself in a garret; the female corpse put into a collin by the parish beadle; the men marching after a funeral, seen through a broken wall in the back ground; and the very houses reeling as if drunk and tumbling about the ears of the infatuated victims below, the pawnbroker's being the only one that stands firm and unimpaired-enforce the moral meant to be conveyed by each of these pieces with a richness and re
search of combination and artful contrast not easily paralleled in any production of the pencil or the pen. The clock pointing to four in the morning, in Modern Midnight Conversation,' just as the immoveable Parson Ford is filling out another glass from a brimming punch-bowl, while most of his companions, with the exception of the sly lawyer, are falling around him "like leaves in October;" and again, the extraordinary mistake of the man leaning against the post, in the Lord Mayor's Procession'show a mind capable of seizing the most rare and transient coincidences of things, of imagining what either never happened at all, or of instantly fixing on and applying to its purpose what never happened but once. So far, the invention shown in the great style of painting is poor in the comparison. Indeed, grandeur is supposed (whether rightly or not, I shall not here inquire) to imply a simplicity inconsistent with this inexhaustible. variety of incident and circumstantial detail.
Secondly, the difference between the ideal and familiar style is not to be explained by the difference between the genteel and vulgar; for it is evident that Hogarth was almost as much at home in the genteel comedy as in the broad farce of his pictures. He excelled not only in exhibiting the coarse humours and disgusting incidents of the lowest life, but in exhibiting the vices, the follies, and the frivolity of the fashionable manners of his time: his fine ladies do not yield the palm of ridicule to his waiting-maids, and his lords and his footmen are on a very respectable footing of equality. There is no want, for example, in the Marriage-a-la-Mode,' or in Taste in High Life,' of affectation verging into idiocy, or of languid sensibility that might
"Die of a rose in aromatic pain."
Many of Hogarth's characters would form admirable illustrations of Pope's Satires, who was contemporary with him. In short, Hogarth was a painter, not of low but of real life; and the ridiculous and prominent features of high or low life, "of the great vulgar or the small," lay equally open to him. The country girl, in the first plate of the 'Harlot's Progress,' coming out of the wagon, is not more simple and ungainly than the
same figure, in the second, is thoroughly initiated into the mys teries of her art, and suddenly accomplished in all the airs and graces of affectation, ease, and impudence. The affected languor and imbecility of the same girl afterwards, when put to beat hemp in Bridewell, is exactly in keeping with the character she has been taught to assume. Sir Joshua could do nothing like it in his line of portrait, which differed chiefly in the back ground. The fine gentleman at his levee, in the Rake's Progress,' is also a complete model of a person of rank and fortune, surrounded by needy and worthless adventurers, fiddlers, poetasters and virtuosi, as was the custom in those days. Lord Chesterfield himself would not have been disgraced by sitting for it. I might multiply examples to show that Hogarth was not characteristically deficient in that kind of elegance which arises from an habitual attention to external appearance and deportment. I will only add as instances, among his women, the two elegantes in the 'Bedlam Scene,' who are dressed (allowing for the difference of not quite a century) "in the manner of Ackerman's fashions for May;" and among the men, the lawyer in Modern Midnight Conversation,' whose gracious significant leer and sleek lubricated countenance exhibit all the happy finesse of his profession, when a silk gown has been added, or is likely to be added to it; and several figures in the Cockpit, who are evidently, at the first glance, gentlemen of the old school, and where the mixture of the blacklegs with the higher character is a still further test of the discriminating skill of the painter.
Again, Hogarth had not only a perception of fashion, but a sense of natural beauty. There are as many pleasing faces in his pictures as in Sir Joshua. Witness the girl picking the rake's pocket in the 'Bagnio' scene, whom we might suppose to be "the charming Betsy Careless;" the poet's wife, handsomer than falls to the lot of most poets, who are generally more intent upon the idea in their own minds than on the image before them, and are glad to take up with dulcineas of their own creating; the theatrical heroine in the 'Southwark Fair,' who would be an accession to either of our play-houses; the girl asleep ogled by the clerk in church-time, and the sweetheart of