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Since, then, I shall have to reprobate the absence of study in the moderns nearly as much as its false direction in the ancients, my task will naturally divide itself into three portions. In the first, I shall endeavor to investigate and arrange the facts of nature with scientific accuracy; showing as I proceed, by what total neglect of the very first base and groundwork of their art the idealities of some among the old masters are produced. This foundation once securely laid, I shall proceed, in the second portion of the work, to analyze and demonstrate the nature of the emotions of the Beautiful and Sublime; to examine the particular characters of every kind of scenery, and to bring to light, as far as may be in my power, that faultless, ceaseless, inconceivable, inexhaustible loveliness, which God has stamped upon all things, if man will only receive them as He gives them. Finally, I shall endeavor to trace the operation of all this on the hearts and minds of men ; to exhibit the moral function and end of art, to prove the share which it""6uglit RTiiffve 7n The tnTJugiits/and influence on the lives of all of us; to attach to the artist the responsibility of a preacher, and to kindle in the general mind that regard which such an office must demand.
It must be evident that the first portion of this task, which is all that I have yet been enabled to offer to the reader, cannot but be the least interesting and the most laborious, especially because it is necessary that it should be executed without reference to any principles of beauty or influences of emotion. It is the hard, straightforward classification of material things, not the study of thought or passion; and therefore let me not be accused of the feelings which I choose to repress. The consideration of the high qualities of art must not be interrupted by the work of the hammer and the eudiometer.
Again, I would request that the frequent passages of reference to the great masters of the Italian school may not be looked upon as mere modes of conventional expression. I think there is enough in the following pages to prove that I am not likely to be carried away by the celebrity of a name; and therefore that the devoted love which I profess for the works of the great historical and sacred painters is sincere and well-grounded. And indeed every principle of art which I may advocate, I shall be able to illustrate by reference to the works of men universally allowed to be the masters of masters; and the public, so long as my teaching leads them to higher understanding and love of the works of Buonaroti, Leonardo, Raffaelle, Titian, and Cagliari, may surely concede to me without fear, the right of striking such blows as I may deem necessary to the establishment of my principles, at Gasper Poussin, or Vandevelde.
Indeed, I believe there is nearly as much occasion, at the present day, for advocacy of Michael Angelo against the pettiness of the moderns, as there is for support of Turner against the conventionalities of the ancients. For, though the names of the fathers of sacred art are on all our lips, our faith in them is much like that of the great world in its religion—nominal, but dead. In vain our lecturers sound the name of Raffaelle in the ears of their pupils, while their own works are visibly at variance with every principle deducible from his. In vain is the young student compelled to produce a certain number of school copies of Michael Angelo, when his bread must depend on the number of gewgaws he can crowd into his canvas. And I could with as much zeal exert myself against the modern system of English historical art, as I have in favor of our school of land scape, but that it is an ungrateful and painful task to attack the works of living painters, struggling with adverse circumstances of every kind, and especially with the false taste of a nation which regards matters of art either with the ticklishness of an infant, or the stolidity of a Megatherium.
I have been accused, in the execution of this first portion of my work, of irreverent and scurrile expression towards the works which I have depreciated. Possibly I may have been in some degree infected by reading those criticisms of our periodicals, which consist of nothing else; but I believe in general that my words will be found to have sufficient truth in them to excuse their familiarity; and that no other weapons could have been used to pierce the superstitious prejudice with which the works of certain painters are shielded from the attacks of reason. My answer is that given long ago to a similar complaint, uttered under the same circumstances by the foiled sophist:— (" f2s 6 i'ariv o avOpuTro?,- o5s anotiSevtoS ns, OS ovioo <pav\a ovo/Actta ovofJux£,nv roX/id iv asfivoa npayfxari.) Toiovtos rii, oo Imtia, ovdev aWo (ppovrl^oov Tj To oAtjdis."
It is with more surprise that I have heard myself accused of thoughtless severity with respect to the works of contemporary painters, for I fully believe that whenever I attack them, I give myself far more pain than I can possibly inflict; and, in many instances, I have withheld reprobation which I considered necessary to the full understanding of my work, in the fear of grieving or injuring men of whose feelings and circumstances I was ignorant. Indeed, the apparently false and exaggerated bias of the whole book in favor of modern art, is in great degree dependent on my withholding the animadversions which would have given it balance, and keeping silence where I cannot praise. But I had rather be a year or two longer in effecting my purposes, than reach them by trampling on men,s hearts and hearths ; and I have permitted myself to express unfavorable opinions only where the popularity and favor of the artist are so great as to render the opinion of an individual a matter of indifference to him.
And now—but one word more. For many a year we have heard nothing with respect to the works of Turner but accusations of their want of truth. To every observation on their power, sublimity, or beauty, there has been but one reply: They are not like nature. I therefore took my opponents on their own ground, and demonstrated, by thorough investigation of actual facts, that Turner is like nature, and paints more of nature than any man who ever lived. I expected this proposition (the foundation of all my future efforts) would have been disputed with desperate struggles, and that I should have had to fight my way to my position inch by inch. Not at all. My opponents yield me the field at once. One (the writer for the Athenaeum) has no other resource than the assertion, that " he disapproves the natural style in painting. If people want to see nature, let them go and look at herself. Why should they see her at second-hand on a piece of canvas?" The other, (Blackwood,) still more utterly discomfited, is reduced to a still more remarkable line of defence. "It is not," he says, "what things in all respects really are, but how they are convertible by the mind into what they are not, that we have to consider." (October, 1843, p. 485.) I leave therefore the reader to choose whether, with Blackwood and his fellows, he will proceed to consider how things are convertible by the mind into what they are not, or whether, with me, he will undergo the harder, but perhaps on the whole more useful, labor of ascertaining—What they are.
PREFACE TO THE THIRD EDITION.
It is with much regret, and partly against my own judgment, that I republish the following chapters in their present form. The particular circumstances (stated in the first preface) under which they were originally written, have rendered them so unfit for the position they now hold as introductory to a serious examination of the general functions of art, that I should have wished first to complete the succeeding portions of the essay, and then to write another introduction of more fitting character. But as it may be long before I am able to do this, and as I believe what I have already written may still be of some limited and partial service, I have suffered it to reappear, trusting to the kindness of the reader to look to its intention rather than its temper, and forgive its inconsideration in its earnestness.
Thinking it of too little substance to bear mending, wherever I have found a passage which I thought required modification or explanation, I have cut it out; what I have left, however imperfect, cannot I think be dangerously misunderstood: something I have added, not under the idea of rendering the work in any wise systematic or complete, but to supply gross omissions, answer inevitable objections, and give some substance to passages of mere declamation.
Whatever inadequacy or error there may be, throughout, in materials or modes of demonstration, I have no doubt of the truth and necessity of the main result; and though the reader may, perhaps, find me frequently hereafter showing other and better grounds for what is here affirmed, yet the point and bearing of the book, its determined depreciation of Claude, Salvator, Gaspar, and Canaletto, and its equally determined support of Turner as the greatest of all landscape painters, and of Turner,s