« AnteriorContinuar »
not even feel that anything interrupts your sight, so excessively slight is their effect. If, on the other hand, you make up your mind to look for the leaves of the duckweed, you will perceive an instantaneous change in the effort of the eye, by which it becomes adapted to receive near rays—those which have only come from the surface of the pond. You will then see the delicate leaves of the duckweed with perfect clearness, and in vivid green; but while you do so, you will be able to perceive nothing of the reflections in the very water on which they float— nothing but a vague flashing and melting of light and dark hues, without form or meaning, which, to investigate, or find out what they mean or are, you must quit your hold of the duckweed, and plunge down.
Hence it appears, that whenever we see plain reflections of
comparatively distant objects, in near water, we cannot possibly
see the surface, and vice versa; so that when in a painting we
give the reflections with the same clearness with
$8. Morbid clear- 6 . . .
nesa occasioned which they are visible in nature, we presuppose the !°r by"di'"tinctnesi effort of the eye to look under the surface, and,
of reflection*. - , ,, . j - j .
of course, destroy the surface, and induce an effect of clearness which, perhaps, the artist has not particularly wished to attain, but which he has found himself forced into, by his reflections, in spite of himself. And the reason of this effect of clearness appearing preternatural is, that people are not in the habit of looking at water with the distant focus adapted to the reflections, unless by particular effort. We invariably, under ordinary circumstances, use the surface focus ; and, in consequence, receive nothing more than a vague and confused impression of the reflected colors and lines, however clearly, calmly, and vigorously all may be defined underneath, if we choose to look for them. We do not look for them, but glide along over the surface, catching only playing light and capricious color for evidence of reflection, except where we come to images of objects close to the surface, which the surface focus is of course adapted to receive ; and these we see clearly, as of the weeds on the shore, or of sticks rising out of the water, etc. Hence, the ordinary effect of water is only to be rendered by giving the reflections of the margin clear and distinct (so clear they usually are in nature, that it is impossible to tell where the water begins ;) but the moment we touch the reflection of distant objects, as of high trees or clouds, that instant we must become vague and uncertain in drawing, and, though vivid in color and light as the object itself, quite indistinct in form and 14. How avoided feature. If we take such a piece of water as that &y Tomer. in the foreground of Turner,s Chateau of Prince
Albert, the first impression from it is,—" What a wide surface /" We glide over it a quarter of a mile into the picture before we know where we are, and yet the water is as calm and crystalline as a mirror; but we are not allowed to tumble into it, and gasp for breath as we go down,—we are kept upon the surface, though that surface is flashing and radiant with every hue of cloud, and sun, and sky, and foliage. But the secret is in the drawing of these reflections.* We cannot tell when we look at them and for them, what they mean. They have all character, and are evidently reflections of something definite and determined; but yet they are all uncertain and inexplicable; playing color and palpitating shade, which, though we recognize in an instant for images of something, and feel that the water is bright, and lovely, and calm, we cannot penetrate nor interpret: we are not allowed to go down to them, and we repose, as we should in nature, upon the lustre of the level surface. It is in this power of saying everything, and yet saying nothing too plainly, that the perfection of art here, as in all other cases, consists. But
as it was before shown in Sect. II. Chap. III. that on' distant water the focus of the eye required little alteration after
the first half mile of distance, it is evident that on the distant surface of water, all reflections will be seen plainly;
* Not altogether. I believe here, as in a former case, I have attributed far too much influence to this change of focus. In Turner's earlier works the principle is not found. In the rivers of the Yorkshire drawings, every reflection is given clearly, even to the farthest depth, and yet the surface is not lost, and it would deprive the painter of much power if he were not sometimes so to represent them, especially when his object is repose; it being, of course, as lawful for him to choose one adaptation of the sight as another. I have, however, left the above paragraphs as first written, because they are true, although I think they make too much of an unimportant matter. The reader may attribute to them such weight as he thinks fit. He is referred to § 11 of this chapter, and to § 4 of the first chapter of this section.
for tho same focus adapted to a moderate distance of surface will receive with distinctness rays coming from the sky, or from any other distance, however great. Thus we always see the reflection of Mont Blanc on the Lake of Geneva, whether we take pains to look for it or not, because the water upon which it is cast is itself a mile off; but if we would see the reflection of Mont Blanc in the Lac de Chede, which is close to us, we must take some trouble about the matter, leave the green snakes swimming upon the surface, and plunge for it. Hence reflections, if viewed collectively, are always clear in proportion to the distance of the water on which they are cast. And now look at Turner,s Ulleswater, or any of his distant lake expanses, and you will find every crag and line of the hills rendered in them with absolute fidelity, while the near surface shows nothing but a vague confusion of exquisite and lustrous tint. The reflections even of the clouds will be given far off, while those of near boats and figures will be confused and mixed among each other, except just at the water-line.
And now we see what Vandevelde ought to have done with the shadow of his ship spoken of in the first chapter of this section. In such a calm, we should in nature, if we had looked «6. The error of f°r tne reflection, have seen it clear from the Vandevelde. water-line to the flag on the mainmast; but in so doing, we should have appeared to ourselves to be looking under the water, and should have lost all feeling of surface. When we looked at the surface of the sea,—as we naturally should,—we should have seen the image of the hull absolutely clear and perfect, because that image is cast on distant water; but we should have seen the image of the masts and sails gradually more confused as they descended, and the water close to us would have borne only upon its surface a maze of flashing color and indefinite hue. Had Vandevelde, therefore, given the perfect image of his ship, he would have represented a truth dependent on a particular effort of the eye, and destroyed his surface. But his business was to give, not a distinct reflection, but the colors of the reflection in mystery and disorder upon his near water, all perfectly vivid, but none intelligible ; and had he done so, the eye would not have troubled itself to search them out; it would not have cared whence or how the colors came, but it would have felt them to be true and right, and rested satisfied upon the polished surface of the clear sea. Of the perfect truth, the best examples I can give are Turner,s Saltash and Castle Upnor. Be it next observed that the reflection of all near objects is, by our fifth rule, not an exact copy of the parts of them which we see above the water, but a totally different view and arrangement of them, that which we should get if we were anWement of looking at them from beneath. Hence we see the
parts between the -,,--.* i . • ....
reflected object dark sides of leaves hanging over a stream, in their reflection, though we see the light sides above, and all objects and groups of objects are thus seen in the reflection under different lights, and in different positions with respect to each other from those which they assume above; some which we see on the bank being entirely lost in their reflection, and others which we cannot see on the bank brought into view. Hence nature contrives never to repeat herself, and the surface of water is not a mockery, but a new view of what is above it. And this difference in what is represented, as well as the obscurity of the representation, is one of the chief sources by which the sensation of surface is kept up in the reality. The reflection is not so remarkable, it does not attract the eye in the same degree when it is entirely different from the images above, as when it mocks them and repeats them, and we feel that the space and surface have color and character of their own, and that the bank is one thing and the water another. It is by not making this change manifest, and giving underneath a mere duplicate of what is seen above, that artists are apt to destroy the essence and substance of water, and to drop us through it.
Now one instance will be sufficient to show the exquisite care of Turner in this respect. On the left-hand side of his Nottingham, the water (a smooth canal) is terminated by a bank fenced up with wood, on which, just at the edge of the from theUaworks water, stands a white sign-post. A quarter of a mile back, the hill on which Nottingham Castle stands rises steeply nearly to the top of the picture. The upper part of this hill is in bright golden light, and the lower in very deep gray shadow, against which the white board of the sign-post is seen entirely in light relief, though, being turned from the light, it is itself in delicate middle tint, illumined only oh the edge. But the image of all this in the canal is very different. First, we have the reflection of the piles of the bank, sharp and clear, but under this we have not what we see above it, the dark base of the hill, (for this being a quarter of a mile back, we could not see over the fence if we were looking from below,) but the golden summit of the hill, the shadow of the under part having no record nor place in the reflection. But this summit, being very distant, cannot be seen clearly by the eye while its focus is adapted to the surface of the water, and accordingly its reflection is entirely vague and confused ; you cannot tell what it is meant for, it is mere playing golden light. But the sign-post, being on the bank close to us, will be reflected clearly, and accordingly its distinct image is seen in the midst of this confusion. But it now is relieved, not against the dark base, but against the illumined summit of the hill, and it appears, therefore, instead of a white space thrown out from blue- shade, a dark gray space thrown out from golden light. I do not know that any more magnificent example could be given of concentrated knowledge, or of the daring j9 The boldness statement of most difficult truth. For who but this Ihown inn?nenoK consummate artist would have had courage, even servanceor it. if lie lja^ perceived the laws which required it, to undertake in a single small space of water, the painting of an entirely new picture, with all its tones and arrangements altered, —what was made above bright by opposition to blue, being underneath made cool and dark by opposition to gold ;—or would have dared to contradict so boldly the ordinary expectation of the uncultivated eye, to find in the reflection a mockery for the reality? But the reward is immediate, for not only is the change most grateful to the eye, and most exquisite as composition, but the surface of the water in consequence of it is felt to be as spacious as it is clear, and the eye rests not on the inverted image of the material objects, but on the element which receives them. And we have a farther instance in this passage of the close study which is required to enjoy the works of Turner, for another artist might have altered the reflection or confused it, but he would not have reasoned upon it so as to find out what the exact alteration must be; and if we had tried to account for the reflection, we should have found it false or inaccurate. But