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grace, of nature; nor from my present knowledge can I name any work on canvas in which he has carried out the dignity of his etched conceptions, or exhibited any perceptiveness of new truths.
Not so Rubens, who perhaps furnishes us with the first instances of complete unconventional unaffected landscape. His treatment is healthy, manly, and rational, not very affectionate, yet often condescending to minute and multitudinous detail; always as far as it goes pure, forcible, and refreshing, consummate in composition, and marvellous in color. In the Pitti palace, the best of its two Rubens landscapes has been placed near a characteristic and highly-finished Titian, the marriage of St. Catherine. But for the grandeur of line and solemn feeling in the flock of sheep, and the figures of the latter work, I doubt if all its glow and depth of tone could support its overcharged green and blue against the open breezy sunshine of the Fleming. I do not mean to rank the art of Rubens with that of Titian, but it is always to be remembered that Titian hardly ever paints sunshine, but a certain opalescent twilight which has as much of human emotion as of imitative truth in it,—
"The clouds that gather round the setting sun
and that art of this kind must always be liable to some appearance of failure when compared with a less pathetic statement of facts.
It is to be noted, however, that the licenses taken by Rubens in particular instances are as bold as his general statements are sincere. In the landscape just instanced the horizon is an oblique line ; in the Sunset of our own gallery many of the shadows fall at right angles to the light; and in a picture in the Dulwieh gallery a rainbow is seen by the spectator at the side of the sun.
These bold and frank licenses are not to be considered as detracting from the rank of the painter; they are usually characteristic of those minds whose grasp of nature is so certain and extensive as to enable them fearlessly to sacrifice a truth of actuality to a truth of feeling. Yet the young artist must keep in miud that the painter's greatness consists not in his taking, but in his atoning for them.
Mo The lower Among the professed laudscapists of the Dutch
Dutch schools, school, we find much dexterous imitation of certain kinds of nature, remarkable usually for its persevering rejection of -whatever is great, valuable, or affecting in the object studied. Where, however, they show real desire to paint what they saw as far as they saw it, there is of course much in them that is instructive, as in Cuyp and in the etching., of Waterloo, which have even very sweet and genuine feeling; and so in some of their architectural painters. But the object of the great body of them is merely to display manual dexterities of one kind or another, and their effect on the public mind is so totally for evil, that though I do not deny the advantage an artist of real judgment may derive from the study of some of them, I conceive the best patronage that any monarch could possibly bestow upon the arts, would be to collect the whole body of them into a grand gallery and burn it to the ground.
Passing to the English school, we find a conschool, Wilson necting link between them and the Italians form
'""" ""°n8 'ed by Richard Wilson. Had this artist studied under favorable circumstances, there is evidence of his having possessed power enough to produce an original picture; but, corrupted by study of the Poussins, and gathering his materials chiefly in their field, the district about Rome—a district especially unfavorable, as exhibiting no pure or healthy nature, but a diseased and overgrown Flora among half-developed volcanic rocks, loose calcareous concretions, and mouldering wrecks of buildings—and whose spirit. I conceive, to he especially opposed to the natural tone of the English mind, his originality was altogether overpowered, and, though he paints in a manly way and occasionally reaches exquisite tones of color, as in the small and very precious picture belonging to Mr. Rogers, and sometimes manifests some freshness of feeling, as in the Villa of Maecenas of our National Gallery, yet his pictures are in general mere diluted adaptations from Poussin and Salvator, without the dignity of the one or the fire of the other.
Not so Gainsborough, a great name his whether of the English or an)" other school. The greatest colorist since Rubens, and the last, I think, of legitimate colorists; that is to say, of those who were fully acquainted with the power of their material ; pure in his English feeling, profound in his seriousness, graceful in his gayety, there are nevertheless certain deductions to be made from his worthiness which yet I dread to make, because my knowledge of his landscape works is not extensive enough to justify me in speaking of them decisively ;. but this is to be noted of all that I know, that they are rather motives of feeling and color than earnest studies; that their execution is in some degree mannered, and always hasty; that they are altogether wanting in the affectionate detail of which I have already spoken; and that their color is in some measure dependent on a bituminous brown and conventional green which have more of science than of truth in them. These faults may be sufficiently noted in the magnificent picture presented by him to the Royal Academy, and tested by a comparison of it with the Turner (Llanberis,) in the same room. Nothing can be more attractively luminous or aerial than the distance of the Gainsborough, nothing more bold or inventive than the forms of its crags and the diffusion of the broad distant light upon them, where a vulgar artist would have thrown them into dark contrast. But it will be found that the light of the distance is brought out b)' a violent exaggeration of the gloom in the valley; that the forms of the green trees which bear the chief light are careless and ineffective ; that the markings of the crags are equally hasty; and that no object in the foreground has realization enough to enable the eye to rest upon it. The Turner, a much feebler picture in its first impression, and altogether inferior in the quality and value of its individual hues, will yet be found in the end more forcible, because unexaggerated; its gloom is moderate and aerial, its light deep in tone, its color entirely unconventional, and the forms of its rocks studied with the most devoted care. With Gainsborough terminates the series of painters connected with the elder schools. By whom, among those yet living or lately lost, the impulse was first given to modern landscape, I attempt not to decide. Such questions are rather invidious than interesting; the particular tone or direction of any school seems to me always to have resulted rather from certain phases of national character, limited to particular periods, than from individual teaching ; and, especially among moderns, what has been good in each master has been commonly original.
jiS constable, I nave already alluded to the simplicity and
Caicott. earnestness of the mind of Constable ; to its vig
orous rupture with school laws, and to its unfortunate error on the opposite side. Unteachablcness seems to have been a main feature of his character, and there is corresponding want of veneration in the way he approaches nature herself. His early education and associations were also against him; they induced in him a morbid preference of subjects of a low order. I have never seen any work of his in which there were any signs of his being able to draw, and hence even the most necessary details are painted by him inefficiently. His works arc also eminently wanting both in rest and refinement, and Fuseli,s jesting compliment is too true; for the showery weather in which the artist delights, misses alike the majesty of storm and the loveliness of calm weather : it is great-coat weather, and nothing more. There is strange want of depth in the mind which has no pleasure in sunbeams but when piercing painfully through clouds, nor in foliage but when shaken by the wind, nor in light itself but when flickering, glistening, restless, and feeble. Yet, with all these deductions, his works are to be deeply respected as thoroughly original, thoroughly honest, free from affectation, manly in manner, frequently successful in cool color, and especially realizing certain motives of English scenery with perhaps as much affection as such scenery, unless when regarded through media of feeling derived from higher sources, is calculated to inspire.
On the works of Caicott, high as his reputation stands, I should look with far less respect; I see not any preference or affection in the artist; there is no tendency in him with which we can sympathize, nor does there appear any sign of aspiration, effort, or enjoyment in any one of his works. He appears to have completed them methodically, to have been content with them when completed, to have thought them good, legitimate, regular pictures ; perhaps in some respects better than nature. He painted everything tolerably, and nothing excellently; he has given us no gift, struck for us no light, and though he has produced one or two valuable works, of which the finest I know is the Marine in the possession of Sir J. Swinburne, they will, I believe, in future have no place among those considered representative of the English school.
Throughout the range of elder art it will be tendency of re remembered we have found no instance of the faithful painting of mountain scenery, except in a faded background of Masaccio,s : nothing more than rocky eminences, undulating hills, or fantastic crags, and even these treated altogether under typical forms. The more specific study of mountains seems to have, coincided with the most dexterous practice of water-color; but it admits of doubt whether the choice of subject has been directed by the vehicle, or whether, as I rather think, the tendency of national feeling has been followed in the use of the most appropriate means. Something is to be attributed to the increased demand for slighter works of art, and much to the sense of the quality of objects now called picturesque, which appears to be exclusively of modern origin. From what feeling the character of middle-age architecture and costume arose, or with what kind of affection their forms were regarded by the inventors, I am utterly unable to guess; but of this I think we may be assured, that the natural instinct and child-like wisdom of those days were altogether different from the modern feeling, which appears to have taken its origin in the absence of such objects, and to be based rather on the strangeness of their occurrence than on any real affection for them; and which is certainly so shallow and ineffective as to be instantly and always sacrificed by the majority to fashion, comfort, or economy. Yet I trust that there is a healthy though feeble love of nature mingled with it, nature pure, separate, felicitous, which is also peculiar to the moderns; and as signs of this feeling, or ministers to it, I look with veneration upon many works which, in a technical point of view, are of minor importance.
I have been myself indebted for much teaching:
590. G. Robson, D. , , .. ,f , ,, . ,, , , _ _ , 6
cox. False use of and more delight to those of the late G. Robson.
sye. ^-ejiljjjesses there are in them manifold, much bad
drawing, much forced color, much over finish, little of what