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THE SAME SUBJECT CONTINUED.
The first inquiry which runs through Sir Joshua Reynolds's Discourses is whether the student ought to look at nature with his own eyes or with the eyes of others, and on the whole, he apparently inclines to the latter. The second question is what is to be understood by nature; whether it is a general and abstract idea, or an aggregate of particulars ; and he strenuously maintains the former of these positions. Yet it is not easy always to determine how far or with what precise limitations he does so.
The first germ of his speculations on this subject is to be found in two papers in the Idler. In the last paragraph of the second of these, he says,
“ If it has been proved that the Painter, by attending to the invariable and general ideas of nature, produces beauty, he must, by regarding minute particularities and accidental
discriminations, deviate from the universal rule, and pollute his canvas with deformity.”—See Works, Vol. II. 242.
In answer to this, I would say that deformity is not the being varied in the particulars, in which all things differ (for on this principle all nature, which is made up of individuals, would be a heap of deformity) but in violating general rules, in which they all or almost all agree. Thus there are no two noses in the world exactly alike, or without a great variety of subordinate parts, which may still be handsome, but a face without any nose at all, or a nose (like that of a mask) without any particularity in the details, would be a great deformity in art or nature. Sir Joshua seems to have been led into his notions on this subject either by an ambiguity of terms, or by taking only one view of nature. grandeur, or the general effect of the whole, to consist in leaving out the particular details, because these details are sometimes found without any grandeur of effect, and he therefore conceives the two things to be irreconcileable and the alternatives of each other. This is very imperfect reasoning. If the mere leaving out the details constituted grandeur, any one could do this: the greatest dauber would at
that rate be the greatest artist. A house or sign-painter might instantly enter the lists with Michael Angelo, and might look down on the little, dry, hard manner of Raphael. But grandeur depends on a distinct principle of its own, not on a negation of the parts; and as it does not arise from their omission, so neither is it incompatible with their insertion or the highest finishing. In fact, an artist may give the minute particulars of any object one by one and with the utmost care, and totally neglect the proportions, arrangement and general masses, on which the effect of the whole more immediately depends; or he may give the latter, viz. the proportions and arrangement of the larger parts and the general masses of light and shade, and leave all the minuter parts of which those parts are composed a mere blotch, one general smear, like the first crude and hasty getting in of the ground-work of a picture : he may do either of these, or he may combine both, that is, finish the parts, but put them in their right places, and keep them in due subordination to the general effect and massing of the whole. If the exclusion of the parts were necessary to the grandeur of the whole composition, if the more entire this exclusion, if the more like a tabula rasa, a vague,