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Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, Volume 54, No. 334, August 1843 online

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picture, "The Heroine of Saragossa." She is most unheroic certainly,
stretching across the centre of the picture with a most uncomfortable
stride, with what a foot! and a toe that looks for amputation - a torch
suspended out of her hand, held by nothing - not like "another Helen," to
"fire another Troy," but purposing to fire off a huge cannon, without a
chance of success; for not only do not her fingers hold the torch, but
her face is averted from the piece of ordnance, and her feet are taking
her away from it. She is splendidly dressed in red, and without shoes or
stockings - a great mistake, for such a foot might have been well hid.
She is the very worst historical figure we have ever seen in a picture
of any pretensions; there is another figure that only attempts to hold a
pistol. The whole is a most unfortunate display of the vulgar
historical. The unfortunate woman has two heads of hair, and both look
borrowed for the occasion. How very strange it is that an artist who
could paint the very respectable picture of the "Raising of Lazarus,"
now at the Pantheon, should not himself be sensible of the glaring
faults of such a picture as this; and we may add, the large one
exhibited last year. Mr Haydon understands art, lectures upon it, and
is, we believe, enthusiastic in his profession. Does he bring his own
works to the test of the principles he lays down? The misconception of
men of talent with regard to their own works is an unexplained
phenomenon.

Edwin Landseer, R. A., exhibits but two pictures, both excellent. Of the
two, we prefer the smaller, "Two horses drinking" - nature itself. Lord
Kames, in his Elements of Criticism, remarks, that the fore-horse of a
team always has his ears forward, on the alert, while the rest mostly,
throw theirs back. This watchfulness Landseer has observed in the eye of
the animal; the eye of the one, protected by the horse nearest to the
spectator, has a quiet, unobserving look; the eye of the other is
evidently on the watch. A cunning magpie is looking into a bone. The
picture is beautifully coloured.

Mr Redgrave's three pictures are exquisitely beautiful, and in his own
truly English style. "The Fortune Hunter,"

"Neglects a love on pure affection built,
For vain indifference if but double-gilt."

A screen separates the deserted one from the courting pair. The contrast
in expression of the two fair ones is as good as can be. The "vain
indifference" is not as many, treating this subject, have made her,
deformed, old, and ugly, for that would have removed our pity from the
suffering one, showing the man to be altogether worthless, and the loss
an escape; on the contrary she is of a face and person to be admired;
but she looks vain and void of affection. We like not so well his "Going
to Service;" but his "Poor Teacher," is most charming; it is a most
pathetic tale, though it be one figure only, but that how sweet! A
lovely girl in mourning is sitting in deep thought waiting for her
scholars; on the table is her humble fare, and of that she takes little
heed. She is thinking of her bereavement, perhaps a father, a mother, a
sister - perhaps she is altogether a bereaved one - a tear is on her
cheek. These are the subjects, when so well painted; that make us love
innocence and tenderness, the loveliness of duty, and, therefore, they
make us better. The habitual sight might rob a villain of his evil
thoughts - such human loveliness is the nearest to angelic - indeed it is
more, for we must not forget the exceeding greatness, loveliness, of
which human nature is capable. Divine love has given it a power to be
far above every other nature, and that divine love has touched the
heart, and speaks in the countenance of the "Poor Teacher."

Mr Creswick has this year rectified the fault of the last. His greens
were thought somewhat too crude and too monotonous. "In culpam ducet
culpæ fuga" - the old foot-road is scarcely green enough. All Mr
Creswick's pictures have in them a sentiment - nature with him is
sentient and suggestive. The very stillness - the silence, the quiet of
the old foot-road is the contemplative of many a little history of them
whose feet have trod it: such is the character of "The Terrace." But the
most strikingly beautiful is "Welsh Glen" -

"The meeting cliffs each deep-sunk glen divides,
The woods wild scatter'd clothe their ample sides."

What sketcher has not frequently come upon a scene like this, and, with
a delight not unmixed with awe, hoped to realize it - and how many have
failed! How often have we looked down upon the quiet and not shapeless
rocky ledges just rising above and out of the dark still water; while
beyond them, and low in the transparent pool, are stones rich of hue,
and dimly seen, and beyond them the dark deep water spreads, reflecting
partially the hues of the cliffs above - and watched the slender boughs,
how they shoot out from rocky crevices, and above them branches from
many a tree-top high up, hanging over; while we look up under the green
arched boughs, and their fan-spreading leafage - every tree, every leaf
communing, and all bending down to one object, worshipping as it were
the deep pool's mystery! Here is the natural Gothic of Pan's temple - and
out from the deep pass, golden and like a painted window of the sylvan
aisle, glows the sun-touched wood, illuminated in all its wondrous
tracery. In such a scene - where "Contemplation has her fill" - the
perfect truth of this highly finished picture is sure to renew the
feeling first enjoyed - enjoyed in solitude: it should have no figure but
ourselves, for we are in it - and it has none. The colouring and
execution are most true to nature; if we would wish any thing altered,
it would be the sky, which is a little too light for the deep solemnity
of all below it. Exquisitely beautiful as are these scenes from Mr
Creswick's pencil, we doubt if he has reached or knows his own power. He
has yet to add to this style the largeness of nature. We should venture
to recommend to his reading, again and again, those parts of Sir
Joshua's Discourses which treat of the large generality of nature.

Stanfield is, as usual, remarkably clear, more characteristic of
himself, his manner, than of the places of his subjects - ever the same
coloured lights and shadows. His compositions are well made up, there is
seldom a line to offend. In "Mazorbo and Torcello, Gulf of Venice,"
however, the right-hand corner is extra-parochial to the scene - is
unbalanced, and injures the composition. The scenes, as views, are very
sweet, and have more repose than he usually throws into his pieces. This
sameness of colouring, and scenical arrangement and effect, are no less
conspicuous in the works of Mr Roberts, most of which are, however, very
beautiful. Very striking is the view of "Ruins on the Island of Philoe,
Nubia." It is not the worse for the absence of the general polish. We
seem to be on the spot - the effect is so simple, the art is unobserved.
We have to wonder at departed glory, at hidden history, and we do
wonder. Why is it that Mr Danby, whose pictures of the "Sixth Seal," and
the "Deluge," none that have seen them can forget, exhibits but one
piece, and that, though very beautiful, not from the boldness of his
genius? It is a quiet evening scene - the sun setting red towards the
horizon, the sky having much of nature's green tints, her most peaceful
hues, some cattle are standing in the river - the left is filled up with
trees, which, beautiful in form, want transparency. There is a heaviness
in that part too powerful; it attracts, and therefore disturbs the
repose. Mr Lee has not very much varied his subjects or manner this
year. His scenes are evidently from nature - great parts appear to have
been painted out of doors, being fresh and true. Not altogether liking
some of his subjects, we cannot but admire the skill in their treatment,
the warm glow in the colouring, and true character of some of his woods
running off in perspective are most pleasing. He does not aim at
sentiment. He often reminds us of Gainsborough's best manner; but he is
superior to him always, in subject, in composition, and in variety. He
has great skill in the transparency and clearness of his tones. We think
his pictures would be vastly improved if painted in a lower key. His
"Scenery near Crediton, Devonshire," is remarkably good; perhaps the sky
and distance is a little out of harmony with the rest. There are three
pictures by Mr Müller, two very effective - "Prayers in the Desert" - but
we are more struck with his "Arabs seeking a Treasure." The sepulchral
interior is solemnly deep; the dim obscure, through which are yet seen
the gigantic sculptured heads that seem the presiding guardians; the
light and shade is very fine, as is the colour; the blue sky, seen from
within, wonderfully assists the colour of the interior. There is great
grandeur in the scene, and it is finely treated. His other picture, No.
1 in the Exhibition, is so very badly placed over the door, that we do
not pretend to judge of it, because, Mr Müller being a good colourist,
we do not recognise him in what we can see of this "Mill Scene on the
Dolgarley."

Mr Collins has improved greatly upon his last year's exhibition. "A
Sultry Day," though at Naples, and a "Windy Day," in Sussex are not the
most pleasant things to feel or to think of. Mr Collins has succeeded in
conveying the disagreeableness of the "windy day," and it is the more
disagreeable for reminding us of Morland: luckily he has not succeeded
in conveying the sultriness. On the contrary, to us, No. 217 breathes of
freshness and coolness. It is a very sweet picture; water, boats, and
shore, beautifully painted. It is well that Mr Kennedy has but one
picture - "Italy" - for he paints by the acre. It is a great mistake - and,
while so many pictures of merit are rejected for want of room, some
injustice in his doing so. Nor does his subject, which is meagre enough,
gain any thing by its size. There is merit in the grouping - not a little
affectation in the poor colouring and general effect. Surely he might
have made a much prettier small picture of a subject that has no
pretensions to be large. Were "Italy" like that, we should totally
differ with him, and not subscribe to his quotation -

"I must say
That Italy's a pleasant place to me."

There is a very good picture by J. R. Herbert, A., if it were not for
its too great or too common naturalness. The subject is the interview
with the woman of Samaria. There is good expression, simplicity of
design, but violence of colour. The subject demands a simplicity of
colouring. Surely in such a scriptural subject, the annunciation, "I
that speak unto thee am He," should alone be in the mind; but here the
accessories are as conspicuous as the figures. Yet it is a picture of
great merit.

There are two pictures of historical subjects, (not in the artistical
sense so treated,) which attract great attention. "The Queen receiving
the Sacrament," by Leslie; and "Waterloo," by Sir W. Allan, R.A. We are
aware of the great value of this manner of pageant painting; it is
perhaps worth while to sacrifice much of art to portraiture in this
case. Viewing the necessity and the difficulty, we cannot but
congratulate Mr Leslie - notwithstanding the peculiarity of the dresses,
and the quantity of white to be introduced, this is by no means an
unpleasantly coloured picture. There is much richness, in fact; and the
artist has, with very great skill, avoided a gaudy effect. So the Battle
of Waterloo must derive its great value from the truth of the portraits.
It is any thing, however, but an heroic representation of a battle.
Perhaps the object of the painter was confined to the facts of a
military description, of positions of brigades and battalions - to our
unmilitary eyes, there is wanting the vivid action, the energy, the
mighty conflict - possibly only the ideal of a battle - -which may, after
all, be in appearance a much more tame sort of thing than we imagine.
There is a necessity, for historical value, to see too much. There is Mr
Ward's "Fight of the Bulls:" the whole earth echoes the boundary and the
conflict; it is one great scene of energy. But the great fight of men
conveys none of this feeling. It is not imposing in effect - it looks
indeed rather dingy, the sky and distance cold, and not remarkably well
painted - a battle should have more vigorous handling, something of the
fury of the fight. If, however, it be matter-of-fact truth; that in such
a subject is all important, and should be painted. A battle, any battle,
may be another thing. - "Sir Joshua Reynolds and his Friends" is an
excellent subject, if all the portraits are from authentic pictures; at
a future day it will be of great value, although it is not very
agreeable as a picture.

Either the portraits have less effect than they usually have, or there
are fewer of them this year. We must give the palm to Mr Grant. He
combines many excellences - perfect truth, unaffected simplicity, and
most judicious and ever-harmonious colouring. It may not perhaps be far
wrong to say, that he is the very best portrait-painter this country has
known since Vandyck; certainly he appreciates, and has often deeply
studied, that great painter. We have long considered Mr Grant's female
portraits by far the best - the present exhibition raises him as a
general portrait-painter. The perfect unaffected ease of his attitudes
is a very great thing. Here are three pictures in a line, portraits, the
_sitters_ all _seated_ - and yet how striking it is, that there is only
one that sits - Mr Grant's "Lord Wharncliffe." How sweet and natural, how
beautiful as a picture, are "The Sisters!" The conventional style of
portrait is undoubtedly good, and founded on good sense - but genius will
seize an opportunity, and be original - such is the character of Mr
Grant's portrait of "Lord Charles Scott, youngest son of the Duke and
Duchess of Buccleuch." The boy stands like a boy, every limb belongs to
him; he is all life - the flesh tints in the face are as perfect as can
be. The attitude, the dress, so admirably managed. It has all the
breadth, and power, too, of Velasquez, with all modern clearness. And
what a charmingly coloured picture is the portrait of "Lady Margaret
Littleton!" And close at hand, right glad were we to see the noble
portrait of the "Professor of Moral Philosophy, Edinburgh," the [Greek:
autos echeinos], by R. S. Lauder, an artist whose works we think have
not always been done justice to in the Academy - yet how seldom do we see
pictures of such power as his "Trial," from the "Heart of Mid-Lothian,"
and his "Ravensworth!" There is another portrait painter that is very
original - Linnell; and such is he, in the "Portraits of the Three eldest
Children of Robert Clutterbuck, Esq." There are so many smooth and soft
pictures at the exhibitions which we must look at very near, that the
habit is acquired of seeing all in that manner. To those who should so
see this of Mr Linnell, it will appear odd, sketchy, unfinished - recede,
and it is of very great power, and comes out wonderfully with all the
truth of nature. It is an out-of-door scene. The children in most
natural positions, and separate from the background, which is quite true
in effect, with surprising force. It is very well coloured, and the
manner, though not so at first, at length pleases. We like to see much
done with little effort, as soon as the eye has recovered from the
examination of laboured work. - How many works of great merit that we
should wish to mention! and perhaps we ought to notice some of demerit;
but we must forbear; the bad and the good must repose together - if there
_can_ be repose in an exhibition room. Why has not Mr Uwins painted
another "Fioretta," worth all the crude, blue, red and yellow
processions he ever painted? And why - but we will ask no questions but
of the "Hanging Committee:" why do they offend the eyes of spectators,
and vex the hearts of exhibitors, by hanging little pictures out of
sight? It is insulting to the public and the artists. Surely, if the
works be not fit to be seen, boldly and honestly reject them. It is an
injury to misplace them. Many of the pictures so placed, are evidently
intended to be seen near the eye. You do not want to _furnish_ the walls
with pictures. If so, do advertise that you will sacrifice some of your
own to that purpose. You may find a sufficient number of "Amateurs"
ready to immolate their reputation for art, of little value; but you
should consider with what an aching heart the poor painter sees the
labour of many a day, and many a cherished hope, as soon as the Academy
opens, raised to its position of noted contempt. Nor should you have a
"Condemned Cell" - such is the octagon-room termed. You render men
unhappy - and superciliously seem to think, you pay them by a privilege
of admission. Admission to what? - to see your well-placed merits, and
their own disgraced position. We are happy to see an appeal to you on
this subject in the _Artist's Magazine_, and eloquently written - and
with good sense, as are all the notices in that work. That or some other
should be enlarged to meet the requirements of art. Now we are indeed
making hotbeds for the growth of artists. They will be thick as peas,
and not so palatable - youths of large hope and little promise - some
aiming beyond their reach, others striving and straining at a low
Art-Union prize. Patronage can never keep pace with this "painting for
the million system." The world will be inundated with mediocrity. This
fever of art will terminate in a painting-plague. What is to become of
the artists? Where will you colonize?

Now let us purpose a plan. Let the members of the Academy come to this
resolution that instead of exhibiting some 1300 pictures annually, they
will not admit into their rooms more than the 300 - and so cut off the
1000 - that the said 300 shall all have good places, and shall be the
choicest works of British talent. Let them signify to the public that
they will show no favour, and that they will be responsible for the
merit of the works they mean to invite the public to see. They need not
doubt the effect. Great will be the benefit to art, artists, and to
patrons of art.


SUFFOLK STREET GALLERY - SOCIETY OF BRITISH ARTISTS.

This twentieth exhibition opens, according to the catalogue, under the
auspices of Marcus Tullius Cicero; but why or wherefore the world who
read the quotation mottoes of catalogues, must ever be at a loss to
discover. "I think," said the wordy Roman, "that no one will ever become
a highly distinguished orator, unless he shall have obtained a knowledge
of all great things and arts." Therefore, you, the British public, are
requested to walk in and see the show. We wish this motto affectation
were put an end to - the Royal Academy are sadly puzzled year after year
to hit upon a piece of Latin that will do, and their labour in that line
is often in vain. And certainly this intimation from Suffolk Street,
which might be very useful to a young barrister preparing for the
circuit, is now to the "matter in hand" _nihil ad rem_. But have not we
heard that motto before? We believe it was the last year's, and is we
suppose to become an annual repetition _in secula seculorum_. The
exhibition is, however, very respectable; we fear it is not so well
attended as it deserves to be. The fact is, that the Academy, with its
innumerable works, becomes, before it is half gone through, a very
tiresome affair. What with straining at raw crude colours, and pictures
out of sight, the public, who feel they must go there, have had enough
of work for weary eyes; and imagining the other gallery to be inferior,
go not to it. Yet, after a little rest, they would, we are sure, feel
gratified in Suffolk Street. If there are but half-a-dozen good
pictures, they are worth going to see, and certainly this exhibition has
its very fair proportion of works of merit, and interest. Nor is there
any lack of variety. We have only to make remarks upon a very few, not
at all wishing to have it believed that we have selected either the best
or the worst. There is novelty in some of Mr Woolmer's pictures. He
seems, however, undetermined as to style; for his pictures are here very
unequal. In one or two he is imitating Turner, but it is to have
"confusion worse confounded." And singularly enough, in such imitations,
his subjects are of repose. "A Scene in the Middle Ages, suggested by a
visit to Haddon Hall," is very pleasing. The style here is suggestive,
and judiciously so; he generalizes, and we are pleased to imagine. We
see elegant figures walking under shade of trees, clear refreshing green
shade; the composition is graceful, and fit for the speculative or
enamoured loiterers. Perhaps the foreground is too ambitious - too much
worked to effect. If this be done for the sake of contrast, it is a
mistake of the proper effect of, and proper place for, contrast. In such
a scene of ease and gentleness, all contrast is far better avoided; it
always has a tendency to make active; and is to be applied in proportion
to the degree of life and activity that may be desirable. His "Castle of
Indolence" is much in imitation of Turner. The poet uses a singular
expression,

"O'er which were _shadowy_ cast _Elysian gleams_."

What meaneth Thomson? He further calls the hue, "a roseate smile," and
is reminded of Titian's pencil. By all which hints and expressions we
conclude that the poet saw this "pleasing land of Drowsyhead" as
through a coloured glass, subduing all the exciting colours of nature to
a mellow dreaminess. No strong, no vivid colours are here - all is the
quiescent modesty, the unobtruding magic of half-tones. What shall we
say of such a Domain of Indolence being painted without shade or
shelter; with violent contrasts of dark and light, and of positive
forcing colouring? All repose is destroyed. Then again we see too much;
there are too many parts, too many figures, too many occupations:
indication that the territory was peopled would have been enough; this
is more like a _fête champêtre_. Besides, the scene itself is not one to
give delight to contemplate; it is not suggestive of pleasant dream, but
looks out on an ugly, swampy, fog-infected country. The only "Indolence"
we see has been devoted to the execution, for it is slovenly to a
degree. We find the same fault, though not to the same extent, with his
"Scene from Boccaccio." It sadly wants repose, and affects colouring
which is neither good for itself, nor suitable to the subject. His
"Subject from Chaucer" has the same defects. Mr Woolmer is decidedly a
man of ability; but we think he has strange misconceptions with respect
to colours, their sentimental effect and power.

There is a "Scene from the Arabian Nights," by Mr Jacobi, which, though
it is an attempt, and by no means an unsuccessful one, at an accidental
effect of nature, which is generally to be avoided, is extremely
pleasing. It is a portrait of great loveliness, grace, and beauty - we
look till we are in the illusion of the Arabian tale - the foot of the
Beauty is not good in colour or form; and the distance is a little out
of harmony. There is considerable power; such peculiar light and shade,
and colouring, offered great difficulty to keep, up the effect
evenly - and the difficulty has been overcome. Mr Herring greatly keeps
up the character of this exhibition in his peculiar line. His "Interior
of a Country Stable" is capitally painted, even to the ducks. The old
horse has been evidently "a good 'un;" goats, ducks, and white horse
behind, all good, and should complete the scene - we may have "too much
for our money." The cows and occupation going on within, in an inner
stall, are too conspicuous and a picture within a picture, and therefore
would be better out. His black and roan, in the "Country Bait Stable,"
are perfect nature. A picture by Mr H. Johnston, "The Empress Theophane,
begging her husband Leo V. to delay the execution of Michael the
Physician," is well designed; has a great deal of beauty of design, of
expression, and of general colour, but not colour of flesh - nor is the
purple blue of the background good.

We take it for granted that artists are often at a loss for a subject,
and that they often choose badly we all know; but a worse than that
chosen by Mr G. Scott, we do not remember ever to have met with. It is
entitled "Morbid Sympathy," forming two pictures. In the one the
murderer is coming from the house where he has just committed the
diabolical act; in the other he is visited. The man is an uninteresting


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Online LibraryVariousBlackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, Volume 54, No. 334, August 1843 → online text (page 10 of 23)