« ElőzőTovább »
tion of F. H. Bale, Esq., there is a small drawing of Llanthony
Some thirty ycars afterwards, with all his powers in their strongest training, and after the total change in his feelings and principles which I have endeavored to describe, he undertook the series of “ England and Wales,” and in that series introduced the subject of Llanthony Abbey. And behold, he went back to his boy's sketch, and boy's thought. He kept the very bushes in their places, but brought the fisherman to the other side of the river, and put him, in somewhat less courtly dress, under their shelter, instead of himself. And then he set all his gained strength and now knowledge at work on the well-remenbered shower of rain, thnt had fallen thirty years before, to do it better. The resultant drawing* is one of the very noblest of his second period.
Another of the drawings of the England series, Ulleswater, is the repetition of one in Mr. Fawkes's collection, which, by the method of its execution, I should conjecture to have been executed about the year 1808, or 1810: at all events, it is a very quiet drawing of the first period. The lake is quite calm; the western hills in grey shadow, the eastern massed in
• Vide Modern Painters, Part II. Sect. UIL Chap. IV. & 14
light. Helvellyn rising like a mist between them, all being mirrored in the calm water. Some thin and slightly evanescent cows are standing in the shallow water in front; a boat floats motionless about a hundred yards from the shore: the foreground is of broken rocks, with lovely pieces of copse on the right and left.
This was evidently Turner's record of a quiet evening by the shore of Ulleswater, but it was a feeble one. He could not at that time render the sunset colors: he went back to it therefore in the England series, and painted it again with his new power. The same hills are there, the same shadows, the same cows,—they had stood in his mind, on the same spot, for twenty years,—the same boat, the same rocks, only the copse is cut away—it interfered with the masses of his color: some figures are introduced bathing, and what was grey, and feeble gold in the first drawing, becomes purple, and burning rosecolor in the last.
But perhaps one of the most curious examples is in the series of subjects from Winchelsca. That in the Liber Studiorum, “Winchelsea, Sussex,” bears date 1812, and its figures consist of a soldier speaking to a woman, who is resting on the bank heside the road. There is another small subject, with Winchelsea in the distance, of which the engraving bears dato 1817. It has troo women with bundles, and troo soldiers toiling along the embankment in the plain, and a baggage waggon in the distance. Neither of these seems to have satisfied him, and at last he did another for the England serios, of which the engraving bears dato 1830. There is now a regiment on the march; the baggage waggon is there, having got no farther on in the thirteen years, but one of the women is tired, and has fainted on the bank; another is supporting her against her bundle, and giving her drink; a third sympathetic woman is added, and the two soldiers have stopped, and one is drinking from his canteen
Nor is it merely of entire scenes, or of particular incidents, that Turner's memory is thus tenacious. The slightest pas sages of color or arrangement that have pleased him—the fork of a bough, the casting of a shadow, the fracture of a stone-will be taken up again and again, and strangely worked into new relations with other thoughts. There is a single sketch from nature in one of the portfolios at Farnley, of a common wood-walk on the estate, which has furnished passages to no fewer than three of the most elaborate compositions in the Liber Studiorum.
I am thus tedious in dwelling on Turner's powers of me--mory, because I wish it to be thoroughly seen how all his greatness, all his infinite luxuriance of invention, depends on his taking possession of everything that he sces,-on his grasping all, and losing hold of nothing,-on his forgetting himself, and forgetting nothing else. I wish it to be understood how every great man paints what he sees or did sec, his greatness being indeed little else than his intense sense of fact. And thus Pre-Raphaclitism and Raphaclitism, and Turnerism, are all one and the same, so far as education can influence them. They are different in their choice, different in their faculties, but all the same in this, that Raphael himself, 80 far as he was great, and all who preceded or followed him . who ever were great, became so by painting the truths around
them as they appeared to each man's own mind, not as he had been taught to see them, except by the God who made both him and them.
There is, however, one more characteristic of Turner's second period, on which I have still to dwell, especially with reference to what has been above advanced respecting the fallacy of overtoil; namely, the magnificent ease with which all is done when it is successfully done. For there are one or two drawings of this time which are not dono cnsily. Tarner had in these set himself to do a fine thing to exhibit
his powers; in the common phrase, to excel himself; 80 sure as he does this, the work is a failure. The worst drawings that have ever come from his hands are some of this second period, on which he has spent much time and laborious thought; drawings filled with incident from one side to the other, with skies stippled into morbid bluc, and warm lights set against them in violent contrast; one of Bamborough Castle, a large water-color, may be named as an example. But the truly noble works are those in which, without effort, he has expressed his thoughts as they came, and forgotten himself; and in these the outpouring of invention is not less miraculous than the swiftness and obedience of the mighty hand that expresses it. Any one who examines the drawings may see the evidence of this facility, in the strange freshness and sharpness of every touch of color; but when the multitude of delicate touches, with which all the aerial tones are worked, is taken into consideration, it would still appear impossible that the drawing could have been completed with ease, unless we had direct evidence in the matter : fortunately, it is not wanting. There is a drawing in Mr. Fawkes's collection of a man-of-war taking in stores: it is of the usual size of those of the England series, about sixteen inches by eleven : it does not appear one of the most highly finished, but is still farther removed from slightness. The hull of a first-rate occupies nearly one-half of the picture on the right, her bows towards the spectator, seen in sharp perspective from stem to stern, with all her portholes, guns, anchors, and lower rigging elaborately detailed; there are two other ships of the line in the middle distance, drawn with equal precision; a noble breezy sea dancing against their broad bows, full of delicate drawing in its waves ; a store-ship beneath the bull of the larger vessel, and soveral other boats, and a complicatod cloudy sky. It might appear no small exortion of mind to draw the detail of all this shipping down to the smallest ropes, from memory, in the drawing-room of a mansion in the middle of Yorkshire, even if considerable time had been given for the effort. But Mr. Fawkes sat beside the painter from the first stroke to the last. Turner took a piece of blank paper one morning after breakfast, outlined his ships, finished the drawing in three hours, and went out to shoot.
Let this single fact be quietly meditated upon by our ordi. nary painters, and they will see the truth of what was above asserted,—that if a great thing can be done at all, it can be done easily; and let them not torment themselves with twisting of compositions this way and that, and repeating, and experimenting, and scene-shifting. If a man can compose at all, he can compose at once, or rather he must compose in spite of himself. And this is the reason of that silence which I have kept in most of my works, on the subject of Composition. Many critics, especially the architects, have found fault with me for not “teaching peoplo how to arrange masses ;" for not "attributing sufficient importance to composition.” Alas! I attributo far moro importance to it than they do ;—80 much importance, that I should just as soon think of sitting down to teach a man how to write a Divina Commedia, or King Lear, as how to “compose,” in the true sense, a single building or picture. The marvellons stupidity of this age of lecturers is, that they do not see that what they call “principles of composition,” are mere principles of common sense in everything, as well as in pictures and buildings; -A picture is to have a principal light? Yes; and so a dinner is to bave a principal dish, and an oration a principal point, and an air of music a principal note, and every man a principal object. A picture is to have harmony of relation among its parts? Yes; and so is a speech well uttered, and an action well ordered, and a company well chosen, and a ragout well mixed. Composition ! As if a man were not composing every moment of his life, well or ill, and would