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which Watteau invented, and his pupils prolonged —
a workl in which dainty refreshments are served to
chosen conjj)anics under serene skies — and, still in the
full middle of the Eighteenth Century, we arc face to
face with the one gi'eut artist of that age whom Watteau
never affected. Cliardin was the ])ainter of the hour-
m'oi.H'ic. \Vith a persistence just as niarkcd as that
of the most honicly Dutchmen, but with a refinement

of feeling to which they were generally strangers and

177 M


which gave distinction to his treatment of his theme,
he devoted himself to the chronicle of prosaic virtues.
In his Art, no trace of the selected garden, of the
elegant gallantries, of the excitement of Love in
the gay or luscious weather. The honest townspeople
know hardly a break in their measured sobriety. They
are mothers of families ; the cares of the menage press
on them ; house-work has to be got through ; children
taught, admonished, corrected. Never before or since
have these scenes of the kitchen, the schoolroom, or
the middle-class parlour, been painted with such dignity,
such truth, such intimacy, and such permissible and
fortunate reserve. AVc see them to perfection in Char-
din's })rints — in the prints, I mean, that were made
after him, for he himself engraved never. There are
two other sides of his Art which the contemporary line-
engravings do not show. One of them is his mastery
of still-life — his great and exceptional nobility in the
treatment of it. There is just a hint of that, it is
true, in the delicate engi-aving of VCEconome^ and the
broader, richer engraving of La Pourvoyeuse ; but for
any real indication of it, and even that is but a partial
one, we must come to Jules de Goncourt's etching of
the Guhelet d' Argent, which suggests the luminousness,
the characteristic reflets, and the touchc grasse of the
master. The other side of Chardin's talent which
the engi-avings do not represent, is his later skill in
professed portraiture, and especially in portraiture
in pastel, to which the fashionable but well-merited

triumphs of Latour directed him in his old age. But



the deliberate limitations of the Eighteenth Century
prints do not in any way invalidate the excellence, the
completeness even, of their performance. The collector
should address himself to their study. A little dili-
gence, a little patience, and a hundred pounds, and it
would not be impossible to form a collection in which
nothing should be wanting. I remember that I gave
M. Lacroix or M. Rapilly, in Paris, not more than
seventy-five francs an impression for pieces in extraor-
dinarily fine condition, and with margins almost intact.
Chard in went on working till he was eighty years
old. He enjoyed popularity, and he outlived it.
From 1738 to 1757, there were issued, in close suc-
cession, the engravings, about fifty in number, which,
with all their differences, and with all sorts of interest-
ing notes about them, M. Emanuel Rocher has con-
scientiously and lovingly catalogued. They were
published at a couple of francs or so apiece ; their
appearance was wont to be welcomed in little notices
in the Mercure de France, just as the Standard or the
Times to-day might applaud a new Whistler or a new
Frank Short ; and they hung everywhere on bourffcoi.s
walls. The canvases which they translated were owned,
some by a King of France, and some by a foreign
Sovereign. Little in the work of the whole century
h-ul greater right to popularity than the Jen dr r(h/(\
with its eX(juisitc and honiely grace — Sunigue has
perfectly engraved it — L' Etude da Dcs.sciti, austere and
masterly (I>e Bas has rendereii well the figure's attitude

of ai)sorption), fj- Jivnvdkitf, with the unaffected piety,



the simple contentment of the naiTow home, and La
Gouvcrnantc; with the youn^ woman's friendly cama-
raderie and yet solicitude for the boy who is her

At last Fashion shifted. Chardin was in the shade.
Even Diderot got tired of him ; though it was only the
distaste of a contemporary for an excellence too con-
stantly repeated — and the artist betook himself, with
vanished popularity, to changed labours. But the
vogue had lasted long enough for his method to be
imitated. Jeaurat tried to look at common life through
Chardin's glasses. But Jeaurat did not catch the senti-
ment of Chardin as successfully as Lancret and Pater
had caught the sentiment of Watteau. And along
with a little humour, of which the print of the Citrons
de Javotte affords a trace, he had some coarseness of
his own which assorted ill with Chardin's homely
but unalloyed refinement. Chardin was profound ;
Jeaurat, comparatively shallow. You look not with-
out interest at the productions of the one ; you enter
thoroughly into the world of the other. The creation
of Chardin — which his engravers pass on to us — has a
sense of peace, of permanence, a curious reality.

Reality is that which to us of the present day seems

above all things lacking to the laboured and obvious

moralities of Greuze, who was voluptuous when he

posed to be innocent, and was least convincing when

he sought to be moral. Yet Greuze, when he was not

the painter of the too seductive damsel, but of family

piety and family afflictions, must have spoken to his



owTi time with seeming sincerity. Even a liberal
philosophy — the philosophy of Diderot — patted him
gently on the back, and invited him to reiterate his
commendable and salutary lessons. But the philosophy
was a little sentimental, or it would scarcely have con-
tinued to Greuze the encouragement it had withdrawn
from Chardin. The Greuze pictures chiefly engraved
in his own time were his obtinisive moralities. They
now find little favour. But Levasseurs print of La
Laitiere and Massard's of La Crudie cassce — elaborate,
highly wTought, and suggesting that ivory flesh texture
which the master obtained when he was most dex-
terously luxurious — these will fascinate the Sybarite,
legitimately, during still many generations.

Befox'c the first successes of the painter of that
Laitiere and that CrucJie cassee, there was flourishing
at Court, under the Pompadour s patronage, the " rose-
water Raphael,''' the " bastard of Rubens.*" This was
Eran(|Ois Boucher. The region of his art lay as far
indeed from reality as did Watteau's "enchanted isle,"
and it had none of the rightful magnetism of that
country of poetic dream. It was not, like Watteau's
land, that of a privileged and fortunate humanity,
but of

" False Gods, and Muses misbej^ot."

Where Boucher tried to be refined, he was insincere ;

and where he was veracious, he was but picturesquely

gross. His notion of Olympus was that of a mounUiiii

on which ample human forms might be undraj)ed with



impunity. That Olympus of a limited imagination he
frequented with industry. But, as a decorative painter,
there is no need to undervalue his fertility and skill,
his apparently inexhaustible though trivial impulse;
and if few of his larger compositions have deserved
those honours which they have obtained, of translation
into elaborate line-engraving, hosts of the chalk studies
which are so characteristic of his facile talent were
appropriately reproduced in fac-simile by the ingenious
inventions of Demarteau. These fac-similes were very
cheap indeed not many years ago, nor are they to-day
expensive. Of Bouchers more considered work, en-
graved in line, La Naissance de Venus, by Duflos, and
Jupiter et Leda, by Ryland, are important and agree-
able, and, as times go, by no means costly instances.

Fragonard, besides being a nobler colourist than
Boucher — as the silvery pinks and creamy whites of the
Chemise en levee, at the Louvre, would alone be enough
to indicate — was at once a master of more chastened
taste and of less impotent passion. He was of the
succession of the Venetians. Fragonard came to Paris
from the South — from amidst the olives and the flowei"s
of Grasse — and he retained to the end a measure of the
warmth and sunshine of Provence. The artistic eager-
ness, the huiTied excitement, of some of his work, is
much in accord with his often fiery themes; but in
V Heureuse FecondiU; Lcs Bng^iiets, and La Bonne
Mere (all of them engraved by De Launay) the col-
lector can possess himself of compositions in which

Fragonard depicted domestic life in his own lively way.



That is only one side of his mind, and, like his love of
dignified and ordered artificial Landscape, it is little
known. Elsewhere he showed himself a skilled and an
appreciative observer of wholly secular character, and
he embodied upon many a canvas his conception of
Love — it was not to him the constant devotion of a
^life, but the unhesitating tribute of an hour. Le Verre
(VEau and Le Pot au Lait are good gay prints, but not
for every one. In Le Chijfre cV Amour, Affection, which
with Fragonard is rarely inelegant, becomes for a moment

Contemporary with Fragonard were a group of
artists who, more than Fragonard, left Allegory aside,
and exercised their imagination only in a reaiTange-
ment of the real. These were the French Little
Masters : amongst them, Lavreince, the Saint- Aubins,
Raudouin, Eisen, Moreau le jeune. They had seen
the life of Paris — Raudouin, the debased side of it ;
but even Raudouin had some feeling for elegance
and comedy. iMsen was above all an illustrator.
Augustin de Saint- Aubin, a man of various talents,
<lisplayf(l ill little things, is studied most agreeably in
those two pretty and well-disposed interiors, Le Concert
and Ix Bid pari: They are his most j)rized pieces ;
and {)rettiness having often more money value than
greatness, they are worth more than any Watteaus —
they are worth full twenty |)()mii(1s the pair. And that
is all I can aflord to say of Augustin de Saint-Aiibin.
Lavreince and Moreau must be spoken of a little more




Nicliolas Lavreince was by birth a Swede, but,
educated in Paris and ])ractising his art there, he was
more French than the French. Edniond and Jules de
Goncourt, the best historians of the Painting of the
time, do not much appreciate him : at least in compari-
son with Baudouin. They say that Baudouin's method
was larger and more artistic than Lavreince''s, whose
way was generally the way of somewhat painful finish.
I have seen by Lavreince one agi'eeable water-colour
which has all the impulse of the first intention, and, so
far, belies the De Goncourts' judgment. But the judg-
ment is doubtless true in the main. That does not
make Lavi-eince a jot less desirable for the collectors of
prints. Both he and Baudouin wrought to be engraved,
but Lavreince''s work was done with a much larger
measure of reference to that subsequent interpretation.
The true gouaches of Lavreince are of extraordinary
rarity ; and if their method is in some respects less
excellent than that of the companion-works of Bau-
douin, their themes are more presentable. Lavreince,
in his brilliant portrayal of a luxurious, free-living
Society, sometimes allowed himself a liberty our cen-
tury might resent ; but liaudouin's license — save in such
an exquisite subject as that of La Toilette^ which de-
picts the slimmest and most graceful of his models —
was on a par with that of lletif de la Bretonne. A
proof before all letters of the delightful Toilette —
engraved so delicately by Ponce — is worth, when it
appears, ten or twelve pounds : a more ordinary, a less

rare impression, is worth perhaps three or four.



Baudouin — in too much of his Avork — was the por-
trayer of coarse intrigue in humble life and high :
La^Teince and Moreau, masters of polite Genre, with
subjects wider and more varied, the chroniclers of con-
versations not inevitably tete-a-tete. For vividness and
intellectual delicacy of expression in the individual
, heads, one must give the palm to Moreau. The De
Goncourts claim for him also pre-eminence in com-
position; but in one piece at least — in the AsscmhUe
au Coneert, engraved by Dequevauviller — Lavreince
runs Moreau hard. And Lavreince, I can''t help
thinking, has an invention scarcely less refined. What
can be gentler, yet what if gentle can be more abun-
dant comedy than his, in the Directeur des Toilettes?
— the scene in which a prosperous Abbe, an arbiter of
Taste in women's dress, dictates the choice to his de-
lightful friend, or busily preserves her from the chances
of error. And very noteworthy is Lavreince's way of
availing himself of all the opportunities for beautiful
design — beautiful line, at all events — which were af-
forded him by the noble interiors in which there passed
the action of his drama. Those interiors are of the
days of Louis Sei/e, and are a little more severe, a
little less intricate, than the interiors of Louis Quin/e.
Musical instruments, often l)eautiful of form — harp,
harpsichord, and violoncello — pl'vy their j)art in these
pictorial compositions. Prints from Lavreince, like
prints from Moreau, are too gay and loo agieeable
not to l)C always valued. iMiglaiid and America will

surely take to them, as France has done long ago.



It has been claimed for jNIorcau — Moreau " le jeune,"
to distiiiguisli liini from his less eminent brother — that
he is yet more exact than Lavreince is, in his record
of the fashions of his period in furniture and dress.
And sometimes, on this very account, his effect is more
prosaic — ^just as at the contemporary theatre the acces-
sories are apt to dominate or dwarf the persons of the
drama. Yet Moreau's people have generally some in-
terest of individuality and liveliness, and these charac-
teristics are nowhere better seen than in the two series
which he designed to show the life of a great lady from
the moment of motherhood and the daily existence of
a man of fashion. These prints — such as Oest un Fils,
Monsieur ; La Sortie de TOpera ; La Grande Toilette —
should be possessed, let me tell the collector, with the
" A. P. D. Q." still upon them : not in a later state.
Moreau, besides being a charming and observant
draughtsman, was himself a delicate engraver ; but he
left to others (Romanet, Baquoy, and Malbeste amongst
them) the business of reproducing his story of the ruling
classes — of the leaders of Society — and it was suffi-
ciently popularised. Having regard to what it was —
a story, to some people, of in-itating even though of
elegant triviality — perhaps it was as well for those
ruling classes of the ancien regime that it did not go
further — that it was not actually broadcast. Of Beau-
maixhais's pungent comedy the saying has since passed
round, that it was the Revolution "e-w action.''^ So
envy or contempt might surely have been fostered

by the wide- spread perusal of Moreau 's exquisite,



unvarnished record, and the Revolution have been
advanced by a day.

With Moreau's art, the Eighteenth Century closes.
There is an end of its luxury and its amenity — an end
of the lover who insists and the lady who but lightly
forbids. There followed after it the boneless, nerveless,
still eminently graceful pseudo-classicism of Prud'hon,
and the sterner pseudo-classicism of David, which re-
called the ideal of men to a more strenuous life. But
that life was not of the Eighteenth Century. The in-
flexible David, like the dreamy Prud'hon, was an artist
for another age. The graceful, graceless Eighteenth
Century — with its own faults, and no less with its own
virtues — had said its last word. Familiar and luxu-
rious, tolerant and engaging, it had expressed through
Art the last of its so easily supported soitows and its
so easily forgotten loves.



The range of Turner Prints — His earlier Engravers
— His " Liher ISludiurimi " — Its etchings, proofs,
completed mezzotints — Its money value — " Liber "
Collectors — The "Southern Coast" Series — The
"England and Wales" — The " Richmondshire" Prints
— "Ports" and "Rivers of Ejigland" — The Turner
Prints secure the Master s fame.

Turner prints constitute a class apart. The prints

which others made after Turner's drawings and pictures,

the prints he executed to some extent or wholly himself,

the engravings in line and the engravings in mezzotint,

are all of them wont to be collected not so much as

part of the representation of a particular method of

work, but rather as the representation of an individual

genius and of a whole school of the most highly

skilled craftsmen.

The Turner prints range in period from a year at

least as early as 1794 to a year at least as late as 1856 —

for though Turner was then dead, one or two of the finest

engravers whom he had employed were at that date still

labouring in the pojjularisation of his pieces. They

range in size from the dainty vignette a couple of inches

high, to the extensive plate — a wonder of executive

skill, yet often, too, a wonder of misplaced ingenuity —



which mav be three feet long. Between them come
the very masterpieces of the landscape engraving of our
century — line-engravings like the "Southern Coast";
mezzotint supported by etching, like the " Liber Stu-
diorum." They range in value between a couple of
shillings or so — the price, when you can get the print,
of a specimen of the early publications in the " Copper-
plate Magazine " — to, say, well shall we say to d£'50 ?
— the price of an exceptional proof of a fine, rare
subject in "Liber." In point of number, those of
which account may reasonably be taken by the student
of our greatest Landscape artist through the charming
medium of his prints — or if you will by the student of
Engraving who finds in pieces after Turner alone a
sufficient range of method in the illustration of Land-
scape — in point of number those which there need be
no desire to ignore or forget, reach, roundly speaking,
to four or five hundred. It is possible to make the
study and ac(juisition of them the main business of
the life of an intelligent collector.

Mr. W. G. Itawlinson is perhaps amongst existing
connoisseurs the one whose knowledge of the engravings
by Turner, and after him, is the widest and most exact.
Mr. lUiwlinson has greatly extended the sum of his
own knowledge since he penned that catalogue rai-
sonne of the " Liber Studiorum " which remains his
only published contribution to the history of the
prints of 'i'urner. The book is ol' miicli value; but
though, broadly considered, it nnnains an ade(|uate

and serviceai)le guide, there must bv this lime be a



good many corrections in the matter of " States " —
rarely is it that the issue of a First Edition of a de-
scriptive catalogue of engraved work does not elicit,
from one source or another, some information, the
existence of which the author had had no reason to
surmise. And, moreover, it may be hoped that Mr.
Rawlinson's more extended studies in the field of his
particular intjuiry will bear fruit some day in the
])roduction of another volume, devoted this time to
the tale of the great series of Line-Engravings and
the less numerous productions in pure Mezzotint.
"Liber," remember — the master-work, which is thus
far the only one to have been elaborately discussed or
chronicled by any ci'itic — is the result of a combination
of Mezzotint with Etching. But we will go back a
little, and will take the prints — or such of them as
there is cause to mention — in due order.

I recollect Mr. Rawlinson saying to me, not many
months ago — in speaking of the little publications of
the " Copper-plate Magazine " and of such-like small
and early work — that Turner was never properly en-
graved till he was engraved by James Basire; and I
think, upon the whole, that this is true. At a later
period. Turner himself protested that he was never
properly, at all events never quite perfectly, engraved,
till he was engraved by John Pye — but then that
was for a quite different order of work from that which
occupied him in the first years of his skilled and accom-
])lished practice. What Mr. Rawlinson meant was,

that whereas the engraver — tasteful and in a measure



delicate, yet slight and wanting wholly in subtlety of
realisation and treatment — who did the little prints
in the " Copper-plate Magazine," such as the Carlisle
and the WaKrJield, failed to translate into his art all
the really translatable qualities of the immature yet
interesting work to which he addressed himself, Basire,
in the brilliant and solid prints which served as
head-pieces to the " Oxford Almanacks,'"' from 1799 to
1811, did the most thorough justice to their mainly
architectural themes. It was in the year in which
Basire finished — and Turner's art, by this time, had,
of course, greatly changed — that there was executed
by John Pye the very work {Pope's Villa) which ex-
torted from Turner what it may be was his first warm
tribute of admiration to anybody who translated him.
But four years before this. Turner, with Charles Turner,
the engraver in mezzotint, had begun the publication
of the immoi-tal series of " Liber Studiorum."

The set of prints which Turner issued as his " Liber
Studiorum " — with an allusion, tolerably evident, to the
"Liber Veritatis" of Claude — is but one series of
several with which the English master of Landscape
occupied himself during the fifty years, or more, of his
working life. But it is the first series that was conceived
by him ; and it is, in the best sense, the most ambi-
tioas ; and it remains the noblest and the most repre-
sentative. In its actual execution Turner had a greater
hand — an inc()nij)arably greater hand — than in that
of any of its successors; and its scheme j)ennitted a

variety, an effective suddenness of transition, denied to



the artist when, in later years, he was depicting that
portion of the county of Yorks which is known as
Richniondshire, or the " Southern Coast," or the
"Rivers of France," or the "Ports of England," or
even all the places which it pleased him to choose for
one of the most elaborate of his publications, " The
Picturesque Views in England and Wales." A long-
tether was allowed him, unquestionably, in some of
these sets; but in the "Liber" — as it is called, briefly
and affectionately, by collector and student — there was
no question of tether at all. In it, a subject from
Classical Mythology might stand side by side with a
subject drawn from English barton and hedgerow — I
am, as it were, naming Procris and Ccphalus, ^sacus
and Hcsperie, the ex(juisite though homely Straw Yard,
the entirely prosaic Farm Yard with a CocJc. The
interior of a London church, with its Georgian altar
and its pews cosily curtained for the most respectable
of bourgeois, might be presented in near neighbour-
hood to some study which Turner had recorded of the
eternal hills, or of a great storm that gathered, rolled
over, and passed away from Solway Moss.

I have used the word " study," since it is Tumer''s
own. But each plate in " Liber Studiorum " is much
more than a study. It is a finished composition. Turner
spared neither time nor pains — though in this case, as
in others, he was careful, where that was possible, to
spare money — in making his work all that the wisest
lover of his genius might expect it to be. Whatever

rivalry there was with the " Liber Veritatis " of Claude, —



— the later portions of which were issuing from the
house of Boydell at the very moment that Turner
was planning the "Liber"" — the rivalry was conducted
upon no equal terms. I say nothing in depreciation of
Claude's " Liber Veritatis." In it, one of the greatest
practitioners of mezzotint engraving — Richard Earlom
,;r— reproduced, with learned simplicity, Claude's mas-
terly memoranda — the sometimes slender yet always
stately drawings in the preparation of which Nature
had counted for something, and Ai't had counted for
more, Claude's bistre sketches, by their dignity and
style — even the hurried visitor to Chatsworth may
know that — are akin to the landscapes of Rembrandt,
to the studies of Titian. But the artist of the " Liber
Veritatis "" worked in haste, worked purposely in slight-

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Online LibraryFrederick WedmoreFine prints → online text (page 12 of 16)