Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

a

lie in the rise of any transcendent Armitage, in the picture of “Ahab power, or in the display of creative and Jezebel,' attains heroic propororiginality by the artists themselves. tion, and with size comes commenThe impetus to progression, on the surate dignity. King Ahab, a figure contrary, comes, as we have seen, seven and a half feet high, reclines from without; the painter is merely on a couch : his wife, the infamous the child of the age in which he Jezebel, stands at his head with the lives, the mirror that reflects the fury of a tigress and the appetite of form and fashion of bis time and a vulture, uttering the upbraiding country. Thus it is that our Eng- words, “ Dost thou now govern the lish school is emphatically English, kingdom of Israel? Arise, eat bread, and that our annual Exhibitions and let thine heart be merry; I will serve as pictorial chronicles to the give thee the vineyard of Naboth the day and generation in which our Jezreelite.” But the king lies sad lot is cast. This is, indeed, high and sick, and the grapes and the commendation-yet, after all, not wine are put aside untasted. Mr the highest; for there is an injunc- Armitage has sought, and not withtion which Schiller lays upon the out success, to reconcile the broad artist that we would here repeat by generic treatment of the older hisway, if not of censure, at least of toric style with the literal detail caution. “Live,” says this poet- which is now dominant in our mophilosopher, " with your century, dern school. Rich regal robes and but be not its creature; bestow sumptuous palatial decorations are upon your contemporaries not what studiously transcribed from the they praise, but what they need. works of Mr Layard, or taken diThough you may regard them as rect from the Assyrian remains in they are if you are tempted to work the British Museum. It is also infor them, imagine them as they teresting to mark how the artist should be if you are to influence has given to his picture the manner and raise them.” Our Exhibitions, of an ancient bas-relief, how he has it must be admitted, show little in- brought the liberty allowed to the dication that painters are striving one art under subjection to the for this command over the intellect severity imposed by the other. of their age. Content to follow, What we mean will be better unfew desire to lead. For the most derstood by an appeal to the depart, they paint in order to win the signs on Greek vases, the purest wherewithal to live, and, thus living and best examples of which illusfor the present, few, it may be feared, trate the transformation through will survive the century which has which sculpture emerged into paintwitnessed the beginning and will ing; or, in other words, these monosee the close of their labours. chrome pictures of the Greeks re

Armitage, Watts, and in some veal sculpture as the elder and the measure Leighton, have a right to parent art. Mr Armitage deserves rank among those disciples of high praise for the courage required in art who, fulfilling the behest of the adoption of this self-denying Schiller, work less for present times manner, for experience proves that than for posterity. Forsaking forms a facile pictorial treatment is in the positive and individual, they seek present day the surest road to poputruths generic and absolute; they lar applause. We are sorry, howmake the accident of nature sub- ever, to see that in one vital point mit to the proportions prescribed he submits to a compromise. Reby æsthetic law; they require rude pose and equanimity, Winckelreality to bend to ideal beauty; and mann tells us, the Greeks deemed thus they ascend to the sphere of inseparable from the noblest art; historic or philosophic art, a lofty and our own Reynolds offers some region which only a few ventur- apology, or at least explanation, for ous spirits dare to tread. Edward the violence of passion which the

[ocr errors]

a

[ocr errors]

sculptor has thrown into the agon- essayed the most arduous of subised features of the Laocoon. Now jects, this artist has for some time we should be sorry to bind a paint- attracted to his works a wondering er down to strict compliance with gaze. It always becomes a curious conditions which may prove a question, as it long was and still bondage even to the sculptor; but is with a brother artist, the painter as Mr Armitage of his own free of “The Vale of Rest,' and of 'St will puts himself under the law, Agnes' Eve,' What astounding work we need have less scruple in saying Mr Leighton may do next? Will that the ordinance imposed as a he show us a harem, will he introcanon of high art—which is, after duce us to houris, will he conduct us all, not artificial, but essential—he to Hades, or will he bid us take a has transgressed, and that much to walk on Parnassus ? Certain it is the loss of dignity and quiet power. that whoever presumes to follow in The figure of Jezebel, especially in the eccentric flight of this artist will the passionate spasm of the hand, do well to provide himself with is melodramatic. Mr Watts, in his wings. As for the ordinary faculties design, 'Time and Oblivion,' also of humanity, plain sober eyesight, challenges severe criticism. The clear common-sense, and the like, very explanation which he gives of they may be dispensed with altohis intent, that this personification gether, and the adventurer through of ‘Time and Oblivion’ is “a de- space or across the broad field of sign for sculpture," " to be executed history need only take to himself in divers materials after the man- a copious supply of transcendental ner of Phidias,” alone suggests reason and gaseous imagination. comparisons which it is difficult for As in other aeronautic expeditions, any work to sustain. Yet may we the chief danger lies in the apat least accord to this perilous at- proach to, and the coming in contempt somewhat of the largeness in tact with, mother earth. But whatmasses and the grandeur of manner ever lawlessness may have marked which are peculiar characteristics of Mr Leighton's past career, we are the Phidian era. Only we must be bound to concede that the courses permitted to object that the artist on which he has now entered claim has essayed a Herculean labour from the critic respectful homage. considerably beyond his powers. The powers which have hitherto The figures are not ill conceived, been scattered are at length conthe idea is not inaptly expressed ; centrated, so that in the latest of but the drawing is certainly want- Mr Leighton's works, "Dante in ing in mastery, and the difficult Exile, the vapourings of genius passages in the composition appear now shine as true visions. The slurred rather than solved. The artist here reverts with maturer aspirations of Mr Watts, as seen in power to the country and the epoch the fresco executed in the dining- chosen in his earliest and hitherto hall of Lincoln's Inn, are ever lofty; most successful picture, 'The Probut technical power, which would cession of Cimabue.' Italy of the give to his noble ideas adequate middle ages, crowded with illustripictorial development, seems lack- ous characters, poets, painters, paing. A small head by this artist, triots—a country whose very stones called 'Choosing,' is altogether are eloquent in undying memories lovely, and especially to be com- „such are the scenes congenial to mended for harmony of colour. the genius of this painter. The

The genius of Mr Leighton has theme he has here selected is ardufor years lain in chaos, or broken ous, the style to which he aspires out only in rebellion. Possessed ambitious. Imagination has inof more than ordinary erudition, vested Dante in no ordinary digniimpelled by an ambition which ty; a historic halo shadows and yet soared to the highest style, and shines upon that brow awful in

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

grandeur; and the artist who at- which unsophisticated nature might tempts to realise the image which with advantage occupy. By his fineevery cultured mind has already drawn subtleties he delights and painted in his fancy, does indeed cheats the senses which in surfeit essay a task of peculiar difficulty. would gladly turn to a repast more Mr Leighton, we think, has come simply dressed and decked. The through this ordeal with honour. taint which often mars the creations The moment chosen discovers of this artist, eats, in another of his Dante, an exile from his native city, works, as a cancer into the fair in the palace of his patron, Can' forms of ' Eurydice and Orpheus, Grande della Scala, Prince of Ver- a picture, nevertheless, which ona. This master of the Lombard contains passages which no critirepublic reigned with a splendour cism can rob of their beauty-giving which no other of the princes in charm. The transcendentalism, Italy had equalled. At his court however, into which this painter is were congregated the poets, paint- betrayed, is not only excessive in ers, and sculptors who cast upon degree, but wrong in kind. Michael the opening years of the fourteenth Angelo, Raphael, and all truly century unaccustomed lustre. But great painters, indeed, have reached we are told that the pride of Dante loftiest heights, and yet they walkcould ill brook patronage ; that his ed, even when on the topmost sumhigh spirit rebelled against gilded mits, hand in hand with nature. dependence; and so, by the rough- Sibyls, apostles, prophets, muses, ness of his manner and the haughti- they painted; yet was humanity, ness of his bearing, he lost the fav- however glorified, never made to our of a friend who had given him wander from paths of simplicity, or an asylum. This story may be read permitted to wanton in debilitating word for word in the picture be- luxury. Let Mr Leighton rememfore us. The lines quoted declare, ber, then, that the best nature and in terms not to be mistaken, the the truest art preserve a stamina poet's mind :

vigorous and healthful. “Thou shalt prove

Our English school, while comHow salt the savour is of others' bread; paratively barren in products of How hard the passage to descend, and high, heroic, or sacred art, is proli

climb By others

' stairs. But what shall gall fic in works which lie on the fronthee more

tiers of history. Our native painWill be the worthless and vile company ters seldom narrate the annals of With whom thou must be thrown while in

their country on a large folio scale ; these straits.”

they are content, for the most part, The painter is literal to the poet's to put their facts within the limits text. Dante, careworn and pain- of an octavo or duodecimo edition, stricken, descends the palace-stairs. and thus they seldom addict themThe motley crew of courtiers, the selves to the grand march of nations, paid jester, and ladies who, by en- but choose rather the by-ways of a ticing beauty, might have charmed people's progress, and delight in the the melancholy heart stricken with episodes wherewith families or inthe love of Beatrice,—all fall back dividuals have rendered a province at the approach of the prophet-poet, or a generation memorable. The who as an avenging god walks the artists who each year betake themearth. Mr Leighton, we have said, selves to this pleasing and prolific has accomplished the task here set style are not only increasing in more than creditably. The know- numbers, but advancing in profiledge he brings, the academic train- ciency. Calderon, Crowe, Yeames, ing he displays, no one can ques- Pettie, Storey, Hayllar, and Mrs tion. His learning, in fact, is al- Ward, have one and all enriched most in excess ; his artistic tact and the Academy with works which decontrivance, indeed, usurp the place serve explicit commendation. Mrs

[ocr errors]

Ward's 'Princes in the Tower' is well-considered intent, can put toa picture of tender pathos, painted gether an episode just as it might with rare skill and care, and ad- have happened in the side-scenes of mirable for an even moderation, our national drama. 'La Reine Malwhich bespeaks calm strength and heureuse' represents the devoted balanced judgment. J. Hayllar's queen of Charles I. a victim to the 'Queen's Highway in the Sixteenth Parliament wars. She had just reCentury,' a road then deemed mar- turned from Holland, whither she vellously good, but which we should had been seeking supplies, and was now hold as villanously bad, the scarcely landed when five ships Queen's coach being by the country entered Burlington Bay and com“hinds and folk of a base sort lifted” menced an active cannonade. The with poles out of the mire, is a cle- Queen and her companions take ver composition, spiced with satire. shelter in a ditch, yet in this humiIn the same room, not far distant, liation is no safety : "the cannon is G. Storey's ' Meeting of William bullets," writes Henrietta Maria in a Seymour and the Lady Arabella letter to the King, “fell thick about Stuart at the Court of James I.' us, and a servant was killed within We are told that “the nearness of seventy paces of me.” Mr Yeames the Lady Arabella to the English contributed a noteworthy picture throne seems to have inspired James to the Academy of last year; his with an unworthy jealousy, and to present work evinces steady adhave caused him to form the reso- vance: we shall expect of this artist lution of keeping her single.” How- good fruit in coming seasons.

E. ever, here at the Court she meets Crowe has also been quietly winning with a friend of her childhood, Mr his way to renown, and must now William Seymour; they converse, rank among the expectants upon they fall in love, they are secretly. whom the Academy will at no dismarried, then separated and im- tant period confer well-won honour. prisoned, and five years after the His chief picture of the year, Lady Arabella dies in the Tower a ‘Luther posting his Theses on the pitiable lunatic! Mr Storey has Church-door of Wittenberg,' is contold the incident of the meeting at scientious and literal even to the the Court with point and perspicu- portraits well known in the land of ity, but the execution of the paint- the Reformation. Mr Crowe is a ing is so sketchy as barely to little hard in his execution, and escape being slovenly. J. Pettie's rather forbidding and unalluring in picture of George Fox refusing to his treatment, as specially seen in take the Oath at Houlker Hall' a smaller composition, 'Dean Swift belongs to that class of works in looking at a Lock of Stella's Hair,' a which biography widens into his- picture callous and devoid of emotory, wherein an act in the life of tion as the Dean of St Patrick's an individual is made to stand for a himself. Lastly, among our rising principle, and to operate as a public artists who give themselves to the protest. This picture, like the last, pages of history, we must mention would have been better for more P. H. Calderon, this year, repreelaborate detail : canvasses on this sented by a powerful and impresmoderate scale have no right to sive work The Burial of John indulge in a large dashing hand. Hampden.' The sun has gone Ranging as they do between the down among the hills and woods of wide region of history and the nar- the Chilterns just as the bier which row confines of domestic incident, carries the patriot's corpse is borne they ought to reconcile a certain by his devoted followers to its largeness of manner with somewhat last resting-place. His comrades in of the finish which was bestowed arms, sturdy fellows of bold hands on a Dutch interior. W. F. Yeames and brave hearts, are bowed down is another of our artists who, with in sorrow.

Their heads are un

[ocr errors]

a

6

[ocr errors]

a

6

covered, their drums muffled, their respect. Thus, Mr Elmore's “Exensigns furled, and as they march, celsior' is altogether a different the ninetieth psalm is chanted: sort of thing from what we have the colour, which sinks into sombre, been accustomed to see done on has been kept in consonance with music-covers. This, indeed, is a the solemnity of the scene.

figure which redeems once more Painting, when it passed, some to our admiration lines which have two centuries ago, from the sacred been sadly massacred and mouthed. to the secular sphere, ran the dan- A youth bears, ger of becoming coarse or common

" 'Mid snow and ice, place, as witness the schools of A banner with the strange device, Caravaggio in Italy and of Teniers

Excelsior!” in Holland. An escape from the The spectral glaciers shine, and dark lower world of everyday life was the tempest lowers, yet onward, by for a season sought in the regions an upward impulse borne, towers of Greek and Roman mythology. the brave head, and climbs the firm But of late years gods and god- foot to the mountain-height around desses have fallen to a discount, which the eagle floats. Mr Elmore and so the painter is once again has eschewed all grandiloquence brought down to the level and of manner, and by an unadorned reality of earth. To soar upwards, simplicity escapes the dangers of however, is the instinct of imagina- a subject fatal to a hand' less firm. tion, to spurn the ground is the Contemplation,' by C. W. Cope, impulse of winged genius; and ac- is another figure which calls for cordingly our painters essay pretty commendation --less vigorous, inpoetic flights, just as fledglings deed, than the brave mountaineer venturing from their mother's nest we have just left; for Contemplamay be seen with a hop and a chirption is of the valley, serene and to launch into air. Royal Aca- lovely, her eyes gazing heavenwards demician, however, or even an As- in rapt devotion, her bodily frame sociate, is generally a bird of full and the gentleness of her spirit not growth, and so when he flies let fitted to wrestle in the warfare of no ignoble groundling croak. Mr the world. This is a head which Richmond, a venerable name, in- might have been painted by Carlo dulges in " a light fantastic round” Dolce, who loved a liquid eye, from ‘Comus'

tearful, and yet beaming as with Break off, break off! I feel the different pensive starlight. pace

Undoubtedly the picture of the Of some chaste footing near about this year pre-eminent for power and

ground: Run to your shrouds, within these brakes display is. 'La Gloria, a Spanish and trees ;

Wake, painted by J. Phillip, who Our numbers may affright; some virgin seldom indeed has been seen in

such force. The subject is well Benighted in these woods!”

chosen, and the scene skilfully laid. Another of our Associates, Mr Pat- The shadow of death on the one ten, who, we think, might by this hand is thrown in contrast to the time have known better, attempts sunshine of the dance on the other. semi-nudity—a sansculottism which Woe has bowed down the head of a obtained more favour with the gods bereaved mother, couched nigh to of Greece than in our modern eyes. her little child, lying ready for the 'The Youthful Apollo,' by Jove, burial. But the eye passes by this what a genius! Look at him, and group, given to mourning, to feast love him if you can, as he prepares on the beauty and delight in the to show his power “in a musical joy which fills to overflowing the contest with Paris"! Some pic- remainder of the canvass. Here tures, nevertheless, there are, which, does the painter exult in the reinstinct with noble aspiration, merit velry of the Spanish dance, mad

sure

« ПредишнаНапред »