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We should, however, on the other hand, have anticipated, that in proportion to the strength of character required for the effort, and to the absence of distracting sentiments, whether respect for precedent, or affection for ideal beauty, would be the energy exhibited in the pursuit of the special objects which the youths proposed to themselves, and their success in attain. ing them.
All this has actually been the case, but in a degree which it would have been impossible to anticipate. That two youths, of the respective ages of eighteen and twenty, shonld have conceived for themselves a totally independent and sincere method of study, and enthusiastically persevered in it against every kind of dissuasion and opposition, is strange enough; that in the third or fourth year of their efforts they should have produced works in many parts not inferior to the best of Albert Durer, this is perhaps not less strange. But the loudness and universality of the howl which the common critics of the press have raised against them, the utter absence of all generous help or cncouragement from those who can both measure their toil and appreciate their success, and the shrill, shallow laughter of those who can do neither the one nor the other,—these are strangest of all-unimaginable unless they had been experienced.
And as if these were not enough, private malice is at work against them, in its own small, slimy way. The very day after I had written my second letter to the Times in the defence of the Pre-Raphaelites, I reccived an anonymous letter respecting one of them, from some person apparently hardly capable of spelling, and about as vile a specimen of petty malignity as erer blotted paper. I think it well that the public should know this, and so get some insight into the sources of the spirit which is at work against these men-how first roused it is difficult to say, for one would hardly have thought that mere cocentricity in young artists could have excited an hos
tility so determined and so cruel ;-hostility which hesitated at do assertion, however impudent. That of the “ absence of perspective” was one of the most curious pieces of the hue and cry which began with the Times, and died away in feeble maundering in the Art Union; I contradicted it in the Times—I here contradict it directly for the second time. There was not a single error in perspective in three out of the four pictures in question. But if otherwise, would it have been any thing remarkable in them? I doubt, if with the exception of the pictures of David Roberts, there were one architectural drawing in perspective on the walls of the Academy; I never met but with two men in my life who knew enough of perspective to draw a Gothic arch in a retiring
plane, so that its lateral dimensions and curvatures might bo •calculated to scale from the drawing. Our architects certainly
do not, and it was but the other day that, talking to one of the most distinguished among them, the author of several most valuable works, I found he actually did not know how to draw a circle in perspective. And in this state of general science our writers for the press take it upon them to tell us, that the forest trees in Mr. Hunt's Sylvia, and the bunches of lilies in Mr. Collins's Convent Thoughts, are out of perspective.*
It might not, I think, in such circumstances, have been ungraceful or unwise in the Academicians themselves to have defended their young pupils, at least by the contradiction of statements directly false respecting them, * and the direction of the mind and sight of the public to such real merit as they possess. If Sir Charles Eastlake, Mulready, Edwin and Charles Landscer, Cope, and Dyce would each of them simply
* It was not a little curious, that in the very number of the Art Union which repeated this direct falsehood about the Pre-Raphaelite rejection of " linear perspective" (by-the-bye, the next time J. B. takes upon him to speak of any one connocted with the Univorsities, ho may as well first ascertain the difference between a Graduate and an Under-Graduate), the second plate given should have been of a picture of Bonington's,-a professional landscape painter, observe, -for the want of aerial perspective in which tho Art Union itself was obliged to apologise, and in which the artist has committed nearly as many blunders in linear perspective as there are lines in tho picture.
* These false statements may be reduced to throe principai heads, and directly contradicted in succession.
The first, the current fallacy of society as woll as of the press, was, that the Pro-Raphaclites imitated the errors of early painters,
A falsehood of this kind could not havo obtained credenco any where but in England, few Englislı people, comparatively, having ever seen a picturo of carly Italian Masterg. If they had, they would have known that the ProRaphaelite pictures are just as superior to the early Italian in skill of manipulation, power of drawing, and knowledge of elect, as inferior to them in grace of design ; and that in a word, there is not a shadow of resemblanco between the two styles. The Pre-Raphaelites imitato no pictures: they paint from nature only. But they have opposed themselves as a body, to that kind of teaching above described, which only began alter Raphael's timo: and they have opposed themselves as sternly to the entire feeling of the Renaissance schools; a feeling compounded of indolence, infidelity, sensuality, and : shallow pride. Therefore they bave callod themselves Pre-Rapbaelite. If they adhere to their principles, and paint nature as it is around them, with the help of modern science, with the earnestness of the men of the thirteenth and fourtoenth centuries, thoy will, as I gnid, found a now and noble school in England. If their sympathies with the early artists, lead them into mediævalism or Romanism, they will of course como to nothing. But I believe tlicre is no danger of this, at least for the strongest among them. There may bo somno wenk ones, whom the Tractarian beresies may touch; but if so, they will drop of liko decayed branches from a strong storn. I hope all things from the school.
The second falsehood was, that the Pre-Raphaelites did not draw well. This was asserted, and could have been asserted only by porsons who had never looked at the pictures. .
The third falseliood was, that they had no system of light and shade. TO which it may be simply replied that their system of light and shade is exactly the same as the Sun's; which is, I believe, likely to outlast that of the Renais sance, however brilliant.
state their own private opinion respecting their paintings, sign it, and publish it, I believe the act would be of more service to English art than any thing the Academy has done since it was founded. But as I cannot hope for this, I can only ask the public to give their pictures careful examination, and look at them at once with the indulgence and the respect which I have endeavored to show they deserve.
Yet let me not be misunderstood. I have adduced them only as examples of the kind of study which I would desire to see substituted for that of our modern schools, and of singular success in certain characters, finish of detail, and brilliancy of color. What faculties, higher than imitative, may be in these men, I do not yet venture to say ; but I do say, that if they exist, such faculties will manifest themselves in duc time all the more forcibly because they have received training so severe.
For it is always to be remembered that no one mind is like another, either in its powers or perceptions; and while the main principles of training must be the same for all, the result in each will be as various as the kinds of truth which each will apprehend ; therefore, also, the modes of effort, even in men whose inner principles and final aims are exactly the same. Suppose, for instance, two men, equally honest, equally indus. trions, equally impressed with a humble desire to render some part of what they saw in nature faithfully; and, otherwise, trained in convictions such as I have above endeavored to induce. But one of them is quiet in temperament, has a feeble memory, no invention, and excessively keen sight. The other is impatient in temperament, has a memory which nothing escapes, an invention which never rests, and is comparatively Dear-sighted.
Set them both free in the same field in a mountain valley. One sees everything, small and large, with almost the same clearncas; mountains and grasshoppers alike; the leaves on
the branches, the veins in the pebbles, the bubbles in the stream: but he can remember nothing, and invent nothing. Patiently he sets himself to his mighty task; abandoning at once all thoughts of seizing transient effects, or giving general impressions of that which his eyes present to bim in microscopical dissection, he chooses some small portion ont of the. infinite scene, and calculates with courage the number of weeks which must elapse before he can do justice to the intensity of his perceptions, or the fulness of matter in his subject.
Meantime, the other has been watching the change of the clouds, and the march of the light along the mountain sides; he beholds the entire scene in broad, soft masses of true gradation, and the very feebleness of his sight is in some sort an advantage to bin, in making him more sensible of the acrial mystery of distance, and hiding from him the multitudes of circumstances which it would have been impossible for him to represent. But there is not one change in the casting of the jagged shadows along the hollows of the hills, but it is fixed on his mind for ever; not a flake of spray has broken from the sea of cloud about their bases, but he has watched it as it melts away, and could recall it to its lost place in heaven by the slightest effort of his thoughts. Not only so, but thousands and thousands of such images, of older scenes, remain congregated in his mind, each mingling in new associations with those now visibly passing before him, and these again confused with other images of his own ceaseless, sleepless imagination, flashing by in sudden troops. Fancy how his paper will be covered with stray symbols and blots, and undecipherable short-hand:-as for his sitting down to "draw from Nature," there was not one of the things which he wished to represent that stayed for so much as five seconds together: but none of them escaped, for all that: they are sealed up in that strange storehouse of his; he may take one of them out,