« AnteriorContinua »
of association, till it refines into absolute mysticism, or that of the harsh passion for personal independence, till it resolves into what is termed an individual moral avarice; and we shall see all the results of egotism, wandering, perhaps with equal strides, to the same distance from sound reason, and the strict line of human duties. In like manner, it may be proved, that the personifications of the exclusive socialist, as well as those of the exclusive individualist, each rigidly working out his own principles, will, at least frequently, in their remote consequences, present a character, the strict negative of their own identities.”
Editor. But, Count-
Count Pepoli. I dwell not on this : I merely state that history will guide us with the torch of philosophy, to a just appreciation of the whole literature of Italy; for, without philosophy, history is but an empty name. What indeed could be the definition of history, apart from philosophy? It is a sound, lost in extreme distance; it is a cry in the desert; an utterance which may be either adoration or blasphemy, according to the spirit of the man from whom it proceeds. Such is history without philosophy. Furthermore, the pages of history, descending through successive generations, escape not the destructive influence of time; the corrosion of which, first effaces minor occurrences, then great events, and lastly, the very names of nations themselves; and oblivion spreads her dark mantle over the grand events which once convulsed the earth.
Editor. And this history is sometimes completely cancelled, and the secret of remote ages is lost with their departed generations ?
Count Pepoli. But if time has an arm powerful thus to destroy recollections entrusted to writing, nations have still the means of preserving their names on obelisks, on pyramids, arches, monuments. Centuries have passed, no page of history remains ; but the deeds of Sesostris, and the renown of Egypt, live in a history constructed by millions of arms !
Editor. A people of artists raises its monuments of granite, and defies the power of time.
Count Pepoli. Monuments are the seal of history. We should investigate not only history written—but history painted, history sculptured ! Painting, architecture, sculpture,- these are history; these are poetry; these the highest literature! We cannot become priests of literature; we cannot be even adepts, without a capacity to feel the Beautiful in all its forms-in all the streams which art has poured forth in paintings, in marbles, and the harmonies of sounds.
Editor. These are fine flights, Count.
Count Pepoli. Do not our hearts thrill equally at the descriptions of the disasters of Francesca, of the misfortunes of Ugolino, in Dante, as at the sight of the Slaughter of the Innocents, by Guido ? The painting of the Transfiguration by the hand of Sanzio, and the thoughts expressed by the Bard of Vaucluse, seize us with equal force, and with like rapture transport us to heaven. I will add, that among our sculptors, painters, and poets, there is so strong a spirit of fraternity, that their souls seem often transfused into each other. The poem of Dante, and the Last Judgement of Michael Angelo, appear to be the conception of the same mind. The charms of Laura, described by Petrarca, are exhibited in all the female figures painted by Raffaelle. The imagination of Ariosto, appears the same with that of Paul Veronese and Tintorello. In force of
description, richness of imagery, simplicity, and elevation of style, Tasso has been called the rival of Homer and Virgil. Voltaire has even asserted, that he surpasses them in the perfect unity of his poem, and in the philosophy of his characters. Leonardo da Vinci, in his painting of the Last Supper, resembles the genius of Tasso.
Editor. The essential principles of art and literature being similar, their results are analogous.
Count Pepoli. Yes! Michael Angelo said that it was in the study of Dante he acquired the art of painting, sculpture, and architecture; Galileo affirmed, that through painting he became enamoured of astronomy. So skilled, indeed, was he in painting, perspective and music, that be was consulted by the most eminent artists, by Empoli, Bronzino, and Papige nano,and Cigoli said, it was from Galileo that he learned all he knew of painting ; Alfieri states that his tragic genius was first awakened and aroused by music, which he heard at Turin ; Leonardo da Vinci said, that music and song inspired him with the love of philosophy and painting. The peculiar character of the fabulous muse of antiquity, had its origin in the analogy of these elements.
Editor. Sing thou, Count, the praises of Italy; England shall be our theme. Mr. Sarsfield Taylor derives much hope from the fact of our country being a commercial one. The arts have loved commercial states. Witness the people of Rhodes, who, though deeply engaged in merchandise, yet made astonishing progress in sculpture; nor small in other arts; -the Æginetans, likewise, who were alike commercial and elegant. The beautiful marbles, some of which we now possess, that have been taken from the ruins of their temples, prove the fine taste of those islanders, and the high degree of improvement to which they had attained in sculpture and architecture. Argos, Athens, Sicyon, and Corinth, the seat of transcendent good taste, were more or less commercial; as were, in fact, all the cities of the Ægean sea, and of the Cyclades. Shall Pisa, Florence, and Lucca be mentioned, or the other greater commercial states of Italy, Venice and Genoa, or Holland and Flanders, to remind us of the unfading glory which commerce has derived from its munificent protection of the arts, that adorn civilized society, that mend the manners, and improve the heart?
But the Count has gone! Vanished like an apparition ! Such he was-we soliloquize.
The Royal Academy in Trafalgar Square, though not what it ought to be, is yet better adapted for exhibiting pictures, than were the Somerset house apartments. It is almost impossible to hang a picture in a bad light. This is something; nay, much.
There is not so large a proportion of Portraits this year, as on former occasions. John Wilson Croker said in the House of Commons, that Portrait painting was the true historical. Perhaps he was right. The so called historical, is properly the epical; for in such a picture, the poetical is always involved, and it should never be called by a name which does not imply the association. But we are a matter of fact people, and prefer the historical ; hence, the patronage bestowed on portraiture, in testimony whereof, the Venerable President of the Royal Academy, SIR MARTIN ARCHBR Shee is a Portrait painter.
We still soliloquize ; but not as Editor. For now we are neither
Count Pepoli, nor Mr. Heraud-but mere contributing critic to the pages of the Monthly. “ Such tricks has strong imagination !" .
We think that we were speaking of portrait painting ? Good! And of the president's portraits? Better! Know then, that in the place usually occupied by Royalty, is the portrait of Lady Codrington, a graceful, and elegant portrait, which well sustains Sir Martin's reputation. But his best picture is the portrait of her husband, a half length of great force, brilliance, and vivacity—it is one of the finest specimens of his skill. The portraits of the Earl of Aberdeen, K. T- Miss Reid, and Sir Harry Inglis, Bart., are of uniform merit; the last boasting much of Rubens' richness.
The late Sir William Beechey's portrait of Miss Owen as Psyche, though not possessing the vigour of his early works, is yet distinguished by much harmony and grace. As the work of a man more than eighty years of age, it is a remarkable production.
Phillips has several portraits. His Dr. Arnold, head master of Rugby school, is a fine likeness , --in the first class of portrait-painting, pervaded with a quiet dignity. Then, too, there is Dr. George Shepherd, painted for the honourable society of Grays' Inn; thoughtful and characteristic; an order of production in which this artist best succeeds; for the sterner graces love him most. Nevertheless, his Flora Mc. Ivor is a picture of much delicacy, softness and sentiment.
We willingly pass by Briggs' portraits, which have an ordinary common-place air, unattoned for by veracity of resemblance; that we máy dwell on those of Pickersgill. There is a semi-equestrian portrait-an Officer of the second regiment of Life Guards, leaning beside his steedin which Pickersgill has succeeded in eliciting from very ordinary materials, an effective picture. Its masses are boldly distributed, and there is a quiet gentlemanly demeanor in the subject; his Lord Lyndhurst is a fair attempt—no more.
George Patten is an artist who is already as celebrated for his classical subjects as for his portraits. There are no pictures so carefully drawn, coloured, and finished as his, in this year's exhibition. For more than one season, previous to his being made an Associate, he stood alone in the exhibition, as an epic painter. Yes! when all was discouragement, following in the wake of Etty, did George Patten step forward to occupy the neglected ground. Nor in vain. His productions are always signally distinguished by a desire for the most excellent, the abstract and the ideal. We have not yet forgotten his Cymon and Iphigenia, his Venus caressing her favourite dove,-his Bacchus und Ino-his Wood-nymph
-his Passions. No-for they stand alone. This season, he has consulted his profit in the production of the very best portraits of the season. He has two capital and prominent full lengths in the middle room, one of the Rev. James Slade, and the other of Dr. Andrew Reed, which will, we hope, procure him golden opinions. The former gentleman is painted in his surplice, at the altar of the parish church of Bolton le Moor, of which he is Vicar. How calm and impressive the dignity of the figure! The costume, also, usually considered very difficult, is managed with striking skill and effect. The latter portrait will, doubtless, be a treasure to the London Orphan Asylum, for which it has been painted. We repeat, that more faithful likenesses, more masterly portraits, grace not the walls of the Academy. It would be indelicate for a critic in the Monthly Magazine, to say much concerning this artist's portrait of the author of the Judyement of the Flood; yet may we modestly testify to its accuracy as a likeness of Mr. Heraud, and its great merits as a picture. It is indeed, an admirable portrait, highly wrought, touching, intellectual-almost speaking. This rising artist has also several other portraits. The great power that he possesses in delineating female beauty, is remarkable, and his Sapphó this season is a perfect gem. Look too at his Three Graces! Is it not a charming cabinet picture? It is indeed a production of extraordinary elegance light, gay, yet signally chaste, in style and execution !
We begin to warm in our work, as we approach the better parts of the exhibition. We glow with admiration for Edwin Landseer. His animals are superb-those lions with Van Amburgh are magnificent. Yet we wish that he had not painted the picture, and that Her Majesty had not ordered its execution. His portraits are meritorious. The Princess Mary of Cambridge, and Miss Eliza Peel with Fido, a dog, and the children of Colonel Seymour Bathurst, are exquisite.
We are already weary with gazing, and with passing again and again from one room to another, to gather in clusters the works of specific artists. Let us sit, and reflect awhile. Ha! there is a picture obvious to all spectators. We must look at it. St. Dunstan separating Edwin and Elvina. It is by Dyce. Is it not somewhat German in its treatment? Yes; it is. Those Germans entertain high doctrines concerning art. Art and religion, with them, are synonymous terms. Be it so: it is the true Catholic faith concerning both. Dyce's picture impresses us with a sense of moral grandeur. Look at the energy of the monk : is it not magnificent ? The astonishment of the king : is it not marvellous ? And the solicitude of the royal wife. But, perhaps, there is a ghastliness in the queen that is outré. Abounding in the ornamental, yet severe witbal, we commend the composition as a work of genius.
Discoursing of the German style, we recollect that Von Holst has a portrait of Bettina Brentano. O Plato! O Göthe!
.“ Tell me where is fancy bred,
In the heart or in the head ?" Fancy means love; starry and contemplative. We care not for the picture as a work of art; but the theme interests us.
The Germans deem highly of art : so do we. What glorious things might be written on the Art of Painting! What things, still more glorious, on Art itself! Look at the gorgeous tints of the evening sky in summer!
“Who can paint Like nature ? Can Imagination boast
Amid her gay creation hues like these ?" Yes ! if the mind of the spectator choose to apprehend in the work of the artist that which he designs. Nay; if it be the work of the true artist, he will apprehend more than nature ever shews; for the true artist seeks to soar, and does soar, beyond the merely natural. The artist himself is not a natural, but a supernatural, being. He enacts with dead matter what he pleases ; he selects—he combines--he moulds; re-shapes
and shapes even what he will; and there is no power that checks him but the limits of his own genius, and the amount of his own acquirements.
The true artist copies not; the least he does is to imitate the most, to creute. It is probable that the vulgar appreciate most the copyistthe better instructed, the imitator. Nevertheless, the public mind doubt it not !—is capable of whatever is excellent. Be it understood that whatever is dry and interesting is for the pedant; or, at any rate, should be confined to the private memoranda of the student. Only the result, exhibited in the most graceful and elegant forms, should be given to the public. This is true, both in literature and art; for, it should be remembered, that there is such a thing as Taste as well as Genius; and that it is the most subtle of all essences, as it were—the finest of all attributes : so fine, as to be almost, if not altogether, indefinable. Indefinable it is in words : it may be felt, not described ; it is, indeed, a charm. Every one recognises it ; none can tell what it is. All acknowledge its presence; all deplore its absence. Whether it be a poem, a picture, or a critical essay, the case is the same.
Listen to what the celebrated Schiller says of the artist–our friend and lover, Thomas Carlyle, supplies us at once with a bold translation of the passage :-" The Artist is the son of his age ; but pity for him if he is its pupil, or even its favourite! Let some beneficent divinity snatch him, when a suckling, from the breast of his mother, and nurse him with the milk of a better time, that he may ripen to his full stature beneath a. distant Grecian sky. And having grown to manhood, let him return, a foreign shape, into his country; not, however, to delight it by his presence; but dreadful, like the son of Agamemnon, to purify it. The matter of his works, he will take from the present ; but their form ke will derive from a nobler time; nay, from beyond all time-from the absolute, unchanging unity of his own nature. Here, from the pure ether of his spiritual essence, flows down the fountain of beauty, uncontaminated by the pollution of ages and generations, which roll to and fro in their turbid vortex, far beneath it. His matter, caprice can dishonour, as she has ennobled it ; but the chaste form is withdrawn from her mutations. The Roman of the first century had long bent the knee before his Cæsars, when the statues of Rome were still standing erect; the temples continued holy to the eye when their gods had long been a laughing-stock ; and the abominations of a Nero and a Commodus were silently rebuked by the style of the edifice which lent its concealment. Man has lost his dignity; but Art has saved it, and preserved it for him in expressive marbles. Truth still lives in fiction; and, from the copy, the original will be restored.
“But how," continues Schiller, " is the artist to guard himself against the corruptions of his time, which, on every side, assail him? By despising its decisions. Let him look upwards to his dignity and the law, not downwards to his happiness and his wants. Free alike from the vain activity that longs to impress its traces on the fleeting instant, and from the querulous spirit of enthusiasm that measures by the scale of perfection the meanest products of reality ; let him leave to mere understanding, which is here at home, the province of the actual ; while he strives, by uniting the possible with the necessary, to produce the ideal. This let him imprint and express in fiction and truth; imprint it in the N. S.-VOL. I.