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TAE ROYAL ACADEMY AND THE WATER-COLOUR SOCIETIES.
“ The value and rank of every art is in proportion to the mental labour employed on it, or the mental pleasure produced by it."--REYNOLDS, iv. Discourse.
THESE words would seem to have once again to revert to fundamental been adopted for a motto by the principles. Practices may vacillate, compilers of the Academy catalogue, but essential laws remain unchangboth as implied reproof and direct ed; and in the canons of criticism instruction : reproof towards that at least, it may be safely asserted well-known class of artists who that there can come nothing new have so long persisted in making under the sun. On the 10th Detheir pictures a mere feat of physi- cember 1771, Sir Joshua Reynolds cal endurance and drudgery; and addressed the students of the Royal instruction and encouragement to Academy in these words. Our those right-minded men who have readers will find his remarks equally striven to render their works a re- fitted to the month of August 1861. cord of sober thought and intellec- “Gentlemen," he said, “the value tual progress. It cannot be con- and rank of every art is in proporcealed that our English school, both tion to the mental labour employed for evil and for good, has been pass- on it, or the mental pleasure proing through a period of revolution. duced by it. As this principle is Ahackneyed conventionalism, hand- observed or neglected, our profesed down from generation to genera- sion becomes either a liberal art, or tion, at length worn out, naturally a mechanical trade. In the hands provoked reaction and revolt. The of one man it makes the highest Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood arose, pretensions, as it is addressed to and for a time bade defiance to all the noblest faculties ; in those of established authority. The apostles another, it is reduced to a mere of this new gospel, not wholly un- matter of ornament, and the painter like the grand literary rebel, Thomas has but the humble province of furCarlyle, gloried in the most startling nishing our apartments with eleeccentricities. Their art was a Sar- gance." This surely is a text upon tor Resartus, and their creed the doc- which we might found our present trine that "pleasure" is ignoble, and analysis of London Exhibitions. that in “work" alone consists the We might show that elaborate canend of life and the duty of man. vasses, marvellous for manual inThe world stood aghast as, year by dustry and dexterity, are yet low year, propriety of taste was subject in rank, wanting the elevation of ed to some fresh outrage. Could “mental labour.” We could take it be, after all, that to really gifted up other works, and show that pleavision nature loved to show herself sure, excited by mere novel eccenin guise grotesque and repulsive? tricity, is one of the most superficial Was it come to this, that in art as means of attracting public attention. in the province of law, the paradox We could manifest, as a contrast was indeed a principle—the greater to certain works of studied and grothe truth the greater the libel? But it tesque ugliness, the essential and might be asked, Was this really art, immutable worth of intellectual and was this indeed actual nature, beauty, the pure joy with whichi or was it not possibly the clumsy she fills the mind, the heavenly aswork of nature's journeymen imi- pect she gives to earthly pleasures. tating humanity abominably? We could go through the galleries
After the utter confusion which of the year, and, in no tone of cencame upon English art-for seve- sure, and yet with feelings not ral years growing still more con- free from regret, review with faint founded - it is some consolation praise whole catalogues of painters content in the “humble” yet pro- of fruits and flowers true to their fitable“ province of furnishing our season; and thus the gallery in Pall apartments with elegance.” And Mall, not unlike the horticultural then, finally, passing in silence a tents at Chiswick or Regent's Park, multitude of merest mediocrity, we is ever gay, crowded, and fashion, would select a few choice works, able—a show and a promenade of the result of “ mental labour," the brightest and the fairest. ministering to “ mental pleasure," It becomes in the present year arousing our “noblest faculties," more than usually difficult to deand fitted to raise the profession of signate an Exhibition which, in the the painter from “ a mechanical absence of conspicuous works, is trade" into " a liberal art.”
chiefly noticeable for its even and “ The province of furnishing our unbroken average. As critics, we apartments with elegance” could seem doomed, on this occasion, to not possibly be occupied with bet- the repetition of all that has been ter taste than by the two Water- said a thousand times before. Mr Colour Societies. The art of water- Jenkins in his “ Watteau," hung at colour painting is perhaps most the post of honour, paints a Bocsuccessful when least ambitious. caccio terraced garden, with youths Our English school of pretty land- and maidens given to sketching scapes in smiling array of pleasing and the romance of song; a work brightness, of simple peasants tend- which, like others proceeding from ing their flocks or standing at cot- the same elegant hand, seems as tage door, of small historic or social if expressly composed for a popuincidents appealing to partial sym- lar engraving. Other artists, as pathies, finds, it would appear, its we have said, are likewise seen in fitting field within the compass of their usual manner. Mr Gilbert, a sheet of paper. Large canvasses in his “Roman Bagpiper," blots in wholly transcend the dainty senti- vigorous Rembrandt effects; and, ments of the boudoir. They are in “The Return of the Expedition," too extended, alike for the thoughts gives us a pen-and-ink medley with at the artist's command and of the the scratchy hand of an etcher. A space at the patron's disposal. The small composition, “ The Arrest of drawings in the present exhibition Hastings,” in subtle relations of of the elder society in Pall Mall— broken tertiary colour, for pointed pure liquid gems, sparkling with character and precision of drawing, light and colour - subjects taken is a consummate artistic study, from flood and field and fond showing the rare power which Mr domestic story - are just within Gilbert commands when he chooses those narrow unambitious limits, to put his genius fairly forth. Mr and precisely of that finished re- Alfred Fripp exhibits, in a pleasing finement and beauty which best subject, “ Passing the Cross at Ave conform to the propriety of Eng. Maria," his habitual refinement of lish tastes and the proportions of sentiment and his subtle delicacy English patronage. Our leading in colour. Mr George Fripp, in the water - colour painters have long “Pass of Nant Frangon," a carecomfortably settled themselves into ful drawing, is once more on his prescribed and well-known excel- favourite sketching-ground in North lences, from which even self-interest Wales. Mr Carl Haag, in the “Acroforbids them widely to depart, and polis of Athens" and other admireach has for years been in the pos- able works, gives a sequel to his session of a well-considered style Eastern reminiscences. Mr Joseph which has won in its praise all the Nash, in a series of small composuperlatives of criticism. Works sitions set in one large frame, from these well - tried favourites has succeeded in illustrating the come forth year by year with the Pilgrim's Progress with a circumfertility and the periodic profusion stantial detail which at any rate
provokes curiosity. Mr Burton, by Moses and the burning' bush ! in "Old Ironside,” a highly-fin- He is now, at any rate, fairly landed ished study, shows his unrivalled in the region of miracle, where somo power of drawing. Mr Jackson at least of the laws pertaining to humpaints, with his usual refinement bler nature are for a time suspended and more than accustomed de- in his favour. His visions of earth, tail, scenes from the open ocean, we must confess, are very agreeable with sheltered craft on our wave- to gaze on; and rhapsody in these bound coast; and Mr Branwhite plain days is certainly not a sin to still gives with unrelenting hand which too many of our artists are the rigour of our snow-white win- addicted. In short, Mr Palmer's ter. The two Callows, likewise, one “Sunset on the Mountains," we are upon the sea and the other with prepared to receive as a poem. his foot upon the land, have, in Moonlights, we have said, are falltheir respective domains of earth ing out of fashion, but a few still and water, reached their prescribed survive, casting fitfully their silvery pitch of excellence. Mr Riviere yet somewhat sicklied sentiment still makes himself at home in Irish across the walls of our Exhibitions. cabins; while Mr Oakley struggles Their monotone necessarily becomes to raise his art from humble life- a little monotonous. The chaste lines from Shelley serving him for Diana could not indeed be more inspiration, and “The Student” devoid of passion. Yet, after the sitting as a subject. Of Mr Fre- fevered heat of day, cool fountains derick Taylor and Mr Topham, glistening in the soft eye of the much need not be said. Mr David- queen of night, and ruined temples, son in his landscapes is always stately porticoes, and broken colstudiously dotty. Mr Gastineau, umns standing against the dim dison the contrary, is washy, precisely tant horizon, at the hour when nato the same praiseworthy excess; ture is hushed in quiet sleep—this while Mr Harding, unsurpassed in is a peaceful poetry in which we are cleverness of hand, makes nature glad to find some men still venture herself complacently submit to the to indulge. Mr Finche's small drawobvious fitness of his pictorial ar- ings in this key, by their Clauderangements.
like classicality, their symmetry of Moonlights, we think, have had well-balanced composition, come as their day, except perhaps upon the a strange protest against the spirit stage, where a translucent round hole of the times. Mr Smallfield's lovecut into lath and plaster, with a lan- lorn maiden in night-dress rising tern hung behind, is too cheap a to read a letter at the open casepopularity wholly to be abandoned. ment, is, we cannot but think, senBut in that pictorial world of exhibi- timent pushed beyond the sober tions, where transparencies have not limits of common sense. The girl yet been ventured on, the direct would seem to be stricken with the blaze of open noonday is certainly worst symptoms of moon-madnesspreferable. Since the glories of a love-bewildered intellect. Judging Turner blinded the eye by excess of from appearances, we cannot but fear light, many a picture, indeed, has that artists themselves are in some been taught, as it were, to explode danger of falling into the same sad with the fury of a firework finale. Mr condition, should they continue to Samuel Palmer is one among the expose themselves to "moonlights” many artists who has become quite with this singleness of devotion. illustrious in this pyrotechnicschool. Before some few of the pictures For several consecutive years he in the Water - Colour Society we seemed to have been studiously have made more detailed notes. Mr qualifying himself, through succes- Hunt's studies of fruit, birds, and sive stages, for some great master- heads, always repay analysis. He work, suggested, one might imagine, is a great, we might add a scientific
colourist, for he apportions and opening flower. But the poetry of balances colour upon a definite Mr Foster, miniature in proportion, system. His greens, yellows, and is best presented to the public in reds are set one against the other, the form of sinall pocket duodeciwith cool greys as delicate transi- mos—a large quarto edition requires tions. Sometimes, indeed, he works more breadth of thought and a directly with the three pure primary bolder handling. His “Wark's colours, stippling and hatching each Burn, Northumberland,” is frittered over the other, securing blended away in dotted detail; and his harmony through immediate juxta- drawings, as a whole, are wanting position, and attaining brilliancy in richness of colour; grey greens, by keeping each tint in pristine oft repeated, become at length deadpurity. The contrast in texture ly monotonous. His works, in genof different substances is managed eral deficient in profound purpose, with equal skill. Take as an ex- are pretty, after the manner of fancy ample the “Wood-Pigeon," and decoration. These are Mr Foster's mark the softness of its plumage, defects; we need scarcely say that as set against the rude material the excellences, upon which we have of the earthy background. In the already insisted, are in their special dead “ Chick” commissioned by line wholly unsurpassed. Mr Ruskin for presentation to the The well-known scenic pictures Bradford School of Art, we see of Mr Collingwood Smith come force obtained by the judicious use with marked contrast to the minute of “body colour," standing in abso- mosaics of Mr Foster. The bold lute relief as stucco, painted in hand of Mr Smith takes a broad sometimes at once solid, in other sweep over lake, mountain, and parts glazed over with transparent meadow, scarcely halting in its imtints. We direct attention to these petuous career till it has covered an technical excellences: they cannot area of some dozen square miles. be better studied than through the On whatever country or climate this works of Mr Hunt. The draw. versatile artist may alight, his cosings of Mr Birket Foster, marvels mopolitan genius finds itself equalof the last few seasons, dexter- ly at home. His art is evidently ous in handling, and skilled in treat specially acclimatised to Italy, and ment, will also repay minute exam- he paints the land of poetry as ination. They are after the man- one to the manner born. “Lago ner of vignettes - small episodes d'Orta," a paradise let down from in nature, just cut out from the heaven upon the earth, is truly a wider sweep of landscape, and scene in which any painter might rounded into the symmetry and ca- love to revel-blue skies and trandence as of a sonnet. They bear the quil reflecting waters, and blue same relation to the world at large mountains with broad shoulders, which a word or a line from Milton round which the mists of morning holds to his larger poem. There is still are fondly clinging as if loth to nothing more pretty than these tiny sever, and the eternal snows of winpeeps into nature's nooks and dells ter crowning Monte Rosa's heights
-the cottage by the wood, with and then upon the lake beneath, curling smoke among the trees, the the little sail wending its silent ducks toddling to the water, and way to Pella's shore, while every the neatly-dressed children running tree and leaf in the noonday heat down the flowery mead. The artist, reposes, and nature, hushed in too, seems to trip along playfully as dreamy sleep, sinks into the arms he works ; the aspen leaf falling of beauty. Mr Richardson's "Castle from his pencil trembles in the of Ischia and Sea of Naples" is breeze; a ripple plays upon the painted up to the same high pitch of surface of the water ; and the tear- Italian romance. Mr Newton still drop sparkles in the eye of the further swells the large number of southern landscapes by his remark- hemispheres. The enterprising able drawings taken from Mentone. Humboldt, whose comprehensive Last year he painted the Pass of mind embraced every region open Glencoe, standing knee - deep in to science or to art, has eloa snow foreground. His present quently descanted on the exuberant pictures on the shores of the Medi- pictorial resources of the tropics. terranean, treated somewhat in the And the day will come when the stern manner of the north, secure, jungle of India and the lakes of by a certain severe hardness, an Central Africa shall hang on the originality which in Italian sub- walls of London Exhibitions, and jects, now so mercilessly hackney- the poetry of the whole earth, like ed, was scarcely to be hoped for. Mr the commerce of the entire world, Newton is one of the most uncom- find its centre in the metropolis of promising and unconventional of Britain. artists: he strikes at truth boldly, The New Water-Colour Society, he studies nature closely and also taking its residence in Pall thoughtfully, and his works- no re- Mall, shares not unworthily the petition of used-up ideas-are gene- honours with its elder sister. We rally the records of mental enter- have, on previous occasions, reprise and progress. We cannot but marked that this younger associaadmire the boldness with which he tion still rejoices in that state of attacks things yet unattempted in mental juvenility which indulges the prose or the poetry of pictorial in dreamy romance and vague senart. In his “Winter Foliage, in timentality pertaining to poetasters the Garden of the Prince of in the art of painting. Mr Tidey, Monaco," he essays to give us the in such works as the gigantic comtented canopy of the broad stone position from Ossian, is visionary pine, the prickly pear with its fan- as the poem he essays to illustrate. tastic fingers, the orange in fruit His large, ambitious scale is in no and flower, spring and autumn way justified by any corresponding meeting hand in hand, the grey largeness of manner; and unless he cobweb of the feathery olive, with betake himself to severer study of the deep blue of the Mediterranean actual nature, he must infallibly seen beneath. In another draw- fall into the ranks of those selfing, where twilight on the ocean crowned poets who complaisantly depths and sunlight upon the adore a certain impossible idea, mountain summits intermingle, we dwelling somewhere in the limbo mark a bold effect of which, in these of their own fevered imagination. regions, we have long been fond A man endowed with Mr Tidey's -the silvery flickering of lines of refined sense of beauty deserves a light flashing out from the deep better fate. Mr Corbould has this darkness of the purple sea. Our year found fortunate subjects for artists have too servilely trodden three drawings, high in execution the same beaten path; we there- and not devoid of thought, in the fore rejoice when a bold man comes two most popular publications of forward determined to take a new a previous season - Adam Bede, career. The old drawing - master and Idylls of the King. “Dinah,” routine of tree-touch, one suited and “Hetty and Captain Donnifor oak, another for elm, and a thorne in Mrs Poyser's Dairy," third for chestnut, has now fortu- painted by command of Her Majesnately grown obsolete. Snowdon ty the Queen; and “Elaine, the and the districts of North Wales Lily Maid of Astolat,” laid on a are known stone for stone by every coverlit all cloth-of-gold, palled in painter and patron in the kingdom; blackest samite, though yanting in it is now time that our landscape individual character, have certainly aspirants should seek out new all the charm which smooth executerritories, if not fresh zones and tion and elaborate finish can bestow.