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of professional intriguers in this country. If the Academy had anyhand, directly or indirectly, in this unprincipled cutrage upon taste and decency, they ought to be disfranchised (like Grampound) to-morrow, as utterly unworthy of the trust reposed in them.
The alarm indeed (in one sense) was not unfounded: for many persons who had long been dazzled, not illumined, by the glare of the most modern and fashionable productions, began to open their eyes to the beauties and loveliness of painting, and to see reflected there as in a mirror those hues, those expressions, those transient and heavenly glances of nature, which had often charmed their own minds, but of which they could find the traces nowhere else, and became true worshippers at the shrine of genuine art. Whether this taste will spread beyond the immediate gratification of the moment, or stimulate the rising generation to new efforts, and to the adoption of a new and purer style, is another question; with regard to which, for reasons above explained, we are not very sanguine.
We have a great respect for high art, and an anxiety for its advancement and cultivation; but we have a greater still for the advancement and encouragement of true art. That is the first, and the last step. The knowledge of what is contained in nature is the only foundation of legitimate art; and the perception of beauty and power, in whatever objects or in whatever degree they subsist, is the test of real genius. The principle is the same in painting an arch-angel's or a butterfly's wing; and the very finest picture in the finest collection may be one of a very common subject. We speak and think of Rembrandt as Rembrandt, of Raphael as Raphael, not of the one as a portrait, of the other as a history painter. Portrait may become history, or history portrait, as the one or the other gives the soul or the mask of the face. "That is true history,' said an eminent critic, on seeing Titian's picture of Pope Julius II. and his two nephews. He who should set down Claude as a mere landscape painter, must know nothing of what Claude was in himself; and those who class Hogarth as a painter of low life, only show their ignorance of human nature. High art does not consist in high or epic subjects, but in the manner of treating those subjects; and that manner among us, as far as we have proceeded, has we think been false and exceptionable. We appeal from the common cant on this subject to the Elgin marbles. They are high art, confessedly: But they are also true art, in our sense of the word. They do not deviate from truth and nature in order to arrive at a fancied superiority to truth and nature. They do not represent a vapid abstraction, but the entire, undoubted, concrete object they profess to imitate,
They are like casts of the finest living forms in the world, taken in momentary action. They are nothing more: and therefore certain great critics who had been educated in the ideal school of art, think nothing of them. They do not conform to a vague, unmeaning standard, made out of the fastidious likings or dislikings of the artist; they are carved out of the living, imperishable forms of nature, as the marble of which they are composed was hewn from its native rock. They contain the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. We cannot say so much of the general style of history-painting in this country, which has proceeded, as a first principle, on the determined and deliberate dereliction of living nature, both as means and end. Grandeur was made to depend on leaving out the details. Ideal grace and beauty were made to consist in neutral forms, and character and expression. The first could produce nothing but slovenliness; the second nothing but insipidity. The Elgin marbles have proved, by ocular demonstration, that the utmost freedom and grandeur of style is compatible with the minutest details, -the variety of the subordinate parts not destroying the masses in the productions of art more than in those of nature. Grandeur without softness and precision, is only another name for grossness. These invaluable. fragments of antiquity have also proved, beyond dispute, that ideal beauty and historic truth do not consist in middle or average forms, &c. but in harmonious outlines, in unity of action, and in the utmost refinement of character and expression. We there see art following close in the footsteps of nature, and exalted, raised, refined with it to the utmost extent that either was capable of. With us, all this has been reversed; and we have discarded nature at first, only to flounder about, and be lost in a Limbo of Vanity. With them invention rose from the ground of imitation: with us, the boldness of the invention was acknowledged in proportion as no traces of imitation were discoverable. Our greatest and most successful candidates in the epic walk of art, have been those who founded their pretensions to be history-painters on their not being portrait-painters. They could not paint that which they had seen, and therefore they must be qualified to paint that which they had not seen. There was not any one part of any one of their pictures good for any thing; and therefore the whole was grand, and an example of lofty art! There was not, in all probability, a single head in an acre of canvas, that, taken by itself, was more than a worthless daub, scarcely fit to be hung up as a sign at an alehouse door: But a hundred of these bad portraits or wretched caricatures, made, by numerical addition, an admirable histori
cal picture! The faces, hands, eyes, feet, had neither beauty Hor expression, nor drawing, nor colouring; and yet the composition and arrangement of these abortive and crude materials, which might as well or better have been left blanks, displayed the mind of the great master. Not one tone, one line, one look for the eye to dwell upon with pure and intense delight, in all this endless scope of subject and field of canvas.
We cannot say that we in general like very large pictures; for this reason, that, like overgrown men, they are apt to be bullies and cowards. They profess a great deal, and perform little. They are often a contrivance not to display magnificent conceptions to the greatest advantage, but to throw the spectator to a distance, where it is impossible to distinguish either gross faults or real beauties.
The late Mr West's pictures were admirable for the composition and grouping. In these respects they could not be better; as we see in the print of the death of General Wolfe: but for the rest, he might as well have set up a parcel of figures in wood, and painted them over with a sign-post brush, and then copied what he saw, and it would have been just as good. His skill in drawing was confined to a knowledge of mechanical proportions and measurements, and was not guided in the line of beauty, or employed to give force to expression. He, however, laboured long and diligently to advance the interests of art in this his adopted country; and if he did not do more, it was the fault of the coldness and formality of his genius, not of the man.—Barry was another instance of those who scorn nature, and are scorned by her. He could not make a likeness of any one object in the universe: when he attempted it, he was like a drunken man on horseback; his eye reeled, his hand refused its office,-and accordingly he set up for an example of the great style in art, which, like charity, covers all other defects. It would be unfair at the same time to deny, that some of the figures and groupes in his picture of the Olympic Games in the Adelphi, are beautiful designs after the antique, as far as outline is concerned. In colour and expression they are like wild Indians. The other pictures of his there, are not worthy of notice; except as warnings to the misguided student who would scale the high and abstracted steep of art, without following the path of nature. Yet Barry was a man of genius, and an enthusiastic lover of his art. But he unfortunately mistook his ardent aspiration after excellence for the power to achieve it; assumed the capacity to execute the greatest works instead of acquiring it; supposed that the bodiless creations of his brain' were to start out from the walls of the Adelphi like a dream or a fairy tale ;-and the result has been, that all the splendid illu
like the baseless fabric His name is not a light
sions of his undigested ambition have, ❝ of a vision, left not a wreck behind. or beacon, but a by-word and an ill omen in art. What he has left behind him in writing on the subject, contains much real feeling and interesting thought.-Mr Fuseli is another distinguished artist who complains that nature puts him out. But his distortions and vagaries are German, and not English: they lie like a night-mare on the breast of our native art. They are too recondite, obscure, and extravagant for us: we only want to get over the ground with large, clumsy strides, as fast as we can; and do not go out of our way in search of absurdity. We cannot consider his genius as naturalized among us, after the lapse of more than half a century: and if in saying this we do not pay him a compliment, we certainly do not intend it as a very severe censure. Mr Fuseli has wit and words at will; and, though he had never touched a pencil, would be a man of extraordinary pretensions and talents.
Mr Haydon is a young artist of great promise, and much ardour and energy; and has lately painted a picture which has carried away universal admiration. Without wishing to detract from that tribute of deserved applause, we may be allowed to suggest (and with no unfriendly voice) that he has there, in our judgment, laid in the groundwork, and raised the scaffolding, of a noble picture; but no more. There is spirit, conception, force, and effect: but all this is done by the first going over of the canvas. It is the foundation, not the superstructure of a first-rate work of art. It is a rude outline, a striking and masterly sketch.
Milton has given us a description of the growth of a plant-
Springs lighter the green stalk; from thence the leaves
And we think this image might be transferred to the slow and perfect growth of works of imagination. We have in the present instance the rough materials, the solid substance and the glowing spirit of art; and only want the last finishing and patient working up. Does Mr Haydon think this too much to bestow on works designed to breathe the air of immortality, and to shed the fragrance of thought on a distant age? Does he regard it as beneath him to do what Raphael has done? We repeat it, here are bold contrasts, distinct grouping, a vigorous hand and striking conceptions. What remains then, but that he should add to bold contrasts fine gradations,-to masculine drawing nice inflections, to vigorous pencilling those softened and trembling hues which hover like air on the canvas,-to massy and prominent grouping the exquisite finish
ing of every face and figure, nerve and artery, so as to have each part instinct with life and thought and sentiment, and to produce an impression in the spectator not only that he can touch the actual substance, but that it would shrink from the touch? In a word, Mr Haydon has strength: we would wish him to add to it refinement. Till he does this, he will not remove the common stigma on British art. Nor do we ask impossibilities of him: we only ask him to make that a leading principle in his pictures, which he has followed so happily in parts. Let him take his own Penitent Girl as a model,-paint up to this standard through all the rest of the figures, and we shall be satisfied. His Christ in the present picture we do not like, though in this we have no less an authority against us than Mrs Siddons. Mr Haydon has gone at much length into a description of his idea of this figure in the Catalogue, which is a practice we disapprove for it deceives the artist himself, and may mislead the public. In the idea he conveys to us from the canvas, there can be no deception. Mr Haydon is a devoted admirer of the Elgin marbles; and he has taken advantage of their breadth and size and masses. We would urge him to follow them also into their details, their involved graces, the texture of the skin, the indication of a vein or muscle, the waving line of beauty, their calm and motionless expression; into all in which they follow nature. But to do this, he must go to nature and study her more and more, in the greatest and the smallest things. In short, we wish to see this artist paint a picture (he has now every motive to exertion and improvement) which shall not only have a striking and imposing effect in the aggregate, but where the impression of the whole shall be the joint and irresistible effect of the value of every part. This is our notion of fine art, which we offer to him, not by way of disparagement or discouragement, but to do our best to promote the cause of truth and the emulation of the highest excellence.
We had quite forgotten the chief object of Mr Farington's book, Sir Joshua's dispute with the Academy about Mr Bonomi's election; and it is too late to return to it now. We think, however, that Sir Joshua was in the right, and the Academy in the wrong; but we must refer those who require our reasons to Mr Farington's account; who, though he differs from us in his conclusion, has given the facts too fairly to justify any other opinion. He has also some excellent observations on the increasing respectability of artists in society, from which, and from various other passages of his work, we are inclined to infer that, on subjects not relating to the Academy, he would be a sensible, ingenious, and liberal writer.