Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

perhaps, this day twenty years, and paint it in luis dark room, far away. Now, observe, you may tell both of these men, when they are young, that they are to be honest, that they hare an important function, and that they are not to care what Raphael did. This you may wholesomely impress on them both. But fancy the exquisite absurdity of expecting either of them to possess any of the qualities of the other.

I have supposed the feebleness of sight in the last, and of invention in the first painter, that the contrast between them might be more striking; but, with very slight modification, both the characters are real. Grant to the first considerablo.. inventive power, with exquisite sense of color; and give to • the second, in addition to all his other faculties, the eye of an eagle; and the first is John Everett Millais, the second Joseph Mallard William Turner.

They are among the few men who have defied all false teaching, and have, therefore, in great measure, done justice to the gifts with which they were intrusted. They stand at opposite poles, marking culminating points of art in both directions; between them, or in various relations to them, wo may class five or six more living artists who, in like manner, have done justice to their powers. I trust that I may be pardoned for naming them, in order that the reader may know how the strong innate genius in each has been invariably accompanied with the same humility, earnestness, aud industry in study.

It is hardly necessary to point out the earnestness or humi. lity in the works of William IIunt; but it may be so to sug. gest the high value they possess as records of English rural life, and still life. Who is there who for a moment could contend with him in the unaffected, yet humorous truth with which he has painted our peasant children ? Who is thero who does not sympathize with him in the simple love with which he dwells on the brightness and bloom of our summer

fruit and flowers? And yet there is something to be regretted concerning him: why should he be allowed continually to paint the same bunches of hot-house grapes, and supply to the Water Color Society a succession of pineapples with the regularity of a Covent Garden fruiterer? He has of late discovered that primrose banks are lovely; but there are other things grow wild besides primroscs: what undreamt-of loveliness might he not bring back to us, if he would loso himself for a summer in Ilighland foregrounds ; if he would paint the heather as it grows, and the foxglove and the harebell as they nestle in the clefts of the rocks, and the mosses and bright lichens of the rocks themselves. And then, cross to the Jura, and bring back a piece of Jura pasture in spring; with the gentians in their earlicst blue, and a soldanelle beside the fading snow! And return again, and paint a gray wall of alpine crag, with budding roses crowning it like a wreath of rubies. That is what he was meant to do in this world; not to paint bouquets in china vases.

I have in various other places expressed my sincere respect for the works of Samuel Prout : his shortness of sight has necessarily prevented their possessing delicacy of fiuish or fulness of minor detail; but I think that those of no other living artist furnish an example so striking of innate and special instinct, sent to do a particular work at the exact and only period when it was possible. At the instant when peace had been established all over Europe, but when neither pational character nor national architecture had as yet been scriously changed by promiscuous intercourse or modern “ improvement ;" when, however, nearly every ancient and beautiful building had been long left in a state of compara. tive neglect, so that its aspect of partial ruinousness, and of separation from recent active life, gave to every edifice a peculiar interest-half sorrowful, half sublime ;-at that mo ment Prout was trained among the rough rocks and simple

cottages of Cornwall, until his eye was accustomed to follow with delight the rents and breaks, and irregularities which,

to another man, would have been offensive ; and then, gifted , with infinite readiness in composition, but also with infinite affection for the kind of subjects he had to portray, he was sent to preserve, in an almost innumerable scries of drawings, every one made on the spot, the aspect borne, at the beginning of the nineteenth century, by cities which, in a few years more, re-kindled wars, or unexpected prosperities, were to ravage, or renovate, into nothingness.

It seems strange to pass from Prout to John Lewis; but there is this fellowship between them, that both seem to have been intended to appreciate the characters of foreign countries more than of their own-nay, to have been born in England chiefly that the excitement of strangeness might enhance to them the interest of the scenes they had to represent. I believe Jobn Lewis to bave done more entire justice to all his powers (and they are magnificent ones) than any other man amongst us. His mission was evidently to portray the comparatively animal life of the southern and eastern families of mankind. For this he was prepared in a somewhat singular way—by being led to study, and endowed with altogether peculiar apprehension of, the most sublime characters of animals themselves. Rubens, Rembrandt, Snyders, Tintoret, and Titian, have all, in various ways, drawn wild beasts magnificently; but they have in some sort humanized or demonized them, making them either ravenous fiends or educated beasts, that would draw cars, and had respect for hermits. The sullen isolation of the brutal nature; the dignity and quietness of the mighty limbs ; the shaggy mountainous power, mingled with grace, as of a flowing stream ; the stealthy restraint of strength and wrath in every soundless moțion of the gigantic frame; all this seems never to have been seen, much less drawn, until Lewis drew and himself

engraved a series of animal subjects, now many years ago. Since then, he has devoted himself to the portraiture of those European and Asiatic races, among whom the refinements of civilization exist without its laws or its energies, and in whom the fierceness, indolence, and subtlety of animal nature aro associated with brilliant imagination and strong affections, To this task he has brought not only intense perception of the kind of character, but powers of artistical composition like those of the great Venetians, displaying, at the same time, a refinement of drawing almost miraculous, and appreciable only, as the minutia of nature itself are appreciable, by the help of the microscope. The value, therefore, of his works, as records of the aspect of the scenery and inhabitants of the south of Spain and of the East, in the earlier part of the nineteenth century, is quite above all estimate.

I hardly know how to speak of Mulready: in delicacy and completion of drawing, and splendor of color, he takes place beside - John Lewis and the pre-Raphaclites ; but he has, throughout his career, displayed no definiteness in choice of subject. He must be named among the painters who have

doing so; but having obtained a consummate method of execution, he has thrown it away on subjects cither altogether uninteresting, or above his powers, or unfit for pic. torial representation. “The Cherry Woman,” exhibited in 1850, may be named as an example of the first kind; thu “Burchell and Sophia” of the second (the character of Sir William Thornbill being utterly missed); the “Seven Ages" of the third; for this subject cannot be painted. In thu written passage, the thoughts are progressive and connected; in the picture they must be co-existent, and yet separate; nor can all the characters of the ages be rendered in painting at all. One may represent the soldier at the cnnnon's month, seeks. Mulready, therefore, while he has always produced exquisite pieces of painting, has failed in doing anything which can be of true or extensive use. He has, indeed, understood how to discipline his genius, but never how to direct it.

Edwin Landseer is the last painter but one whom I shall name: I need not point ont to any one acquainted with his earlier works, the labor, or watchfulness of nature which they involve, nor necd I do more than allude to the peculiar faculties of his mind. It will at once be granted that the highest merits of his pictures are throughout found in those parts of them which are least like what had before been accomplished; and that it was not by the study of Raphael that he attained bis eminent success, but by a healthy love of Scotch terriers.

None of these painters, however, it will be answered, afford examples of the rise of the highest imaginative power out of close study of matters of fact. Be it remembered, however, that the imaginative power, in its magnificence, is not to be found every day. Lewis has it in no mean degree; but we. cannot hope to find it at its highest more than once in an age. We have had it once, and must be content.

Towards the close of the last century, among the various drawings executed, according to the quiet manner of the time, in greyish blue, with brown foregrounds, some began to be noticed as exhibiting rather more than ordinary dili. gence and delicacy, signed W. Turner." There was nothing, however, in them at all indicative of genius, or even of more than ordinary talent, unless in some of the subjects a large perception of space, and excessive clearness and decision in the arrangement of masses. Gradually and cautiously the blues became mingled with delicate green, and then with

• He did not use his ful signature, J. M. W., until about the year 1800.

« ElőzőTovább »