Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

a

has appeared. It is very difficult to sat- form of his head, in his general appearisfy the craving desire to know more of ance, and in his earnest and religious the personal life and character of him character. He always cherished a warm who bas been a household friend so long. affection for his native land. Yet it is rather the privilege of succeed- Many distinguished artists have been ing generations, than of contemporaries, the sons of painters or designers of suto draw aside the veil from the sanctuary, perior note. Raffaello, Albert Dürer, and to behold the works of a man in his Alonzo Cano, Vandyck, Luca Giordano greatest art,—the art of life. But the are familiar instances. It seems as if the cold waters of the Atlantic, like the river accumulation of two generations of talof Death, make the person of a European ent were necessary to produce the fine artist sacred to us; and it is hard for us flower of genius. The father of Ary to realize that those whom we have sur- Scheffer was an artist of considerable rounded with a halo of classic reverence ability, and promised to become an emiwere partakers of the daily jar and tur- nent painter, when he was cut off by an moil of our busy age,— that the good phy- early death. He left a widow, many sician who tended our sick children so unfinished pictures, and three sons, yet faithfully bad lived in familiar inter

very young. The character of the mothcourse with Goethe, and might have lis- er we infer only from her influence on tened to the first performance of those her son, from the devoted affection be symphonies of Beethoven which seem to bore to her, and from the wisdom with us as eternal as the mountains. Losing which she guided his early education ; the effluence of his personal presence, but these show her to have been a true which his neighbors and countrymen en- woman,- brave, loving, and always loyal joyed, we demand the privilege of pos- to the highest. The three sons all lived terity to hear and tell all that can be told to middle age, and all became distinof him. We can wait fifty years more guished men. Ary, the eldest, very earfor a biography of Allston, because some- ly gave unequivocal signs of his future thing of his gracious presence yet lingers destiny. His countrymen still rememamong us; but we can touch Scheffer only ber a large picture painted by him at with the burin or the pen. So we shall Amsterdam when only twelve years old, throw in our mite to fill up this chasm. indicating extraordinary talent, even at A few gleanings from current French

that early age.

His mother did not, literature, a few anecdotes familiarly told however, overrate this boyish success, as of the great artist, and the vivid recol- stamping him a prodigy, but regarded it lection of one short interview are all the only as a motive for giving him a thoraids we can summon to enable our read- ough artistic education. He went, acers to call up in their own minds a living cordingly, to Paris, and entered the ateimage which will answer to the name lier of Guérin, the teacher then most in that has so long been familiar to our lips vogue. and dear to our hearts.

It was in the latter days of the EmAry Scheffer was born about the year pire that Ary Scheffer commenced his 1795, in the town of Dordrecht, in Hol- studies,- a period of great stagnation in land; but, as at that period Holland be- Art. The whole force of the popular longed to the French Empire, the child mind had for many years been turned was entitled by birth to those privileges to politics and war; and if French Art of a French citizen which opened to him had striven to emancipate itself from important advantages in his artistic career. slavish dependence on the Greek, it French by this accident of birth, and still clung to the Roman models, which still more so by his education and long are far less inspiring. " The autocrat residence at Paris, he yet always retain- David, with his correct, but soulless comed traces of his Teutonic origin in the positions, was more absolute than his

a

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

master, the Emperor.” Only in the Sa- he rejoices in its happy consummation, loon of 1819 did the Revolution, which nor in the hour of utter despair, but had already affected every other de- when doubt still tempers hope,- so does partment of thought and life, reach the artist labor with prophetic zeal to exthe ateliers. It commenced in that of press those sentiments of humanity and Guérin. The very weakness of the brotherhood which are not yet organized master, who himself halted between two into institutions. A careless eye might opinions, left the pupils in freedom to have perceived little departure from the pursue their own course. Scheffer did old models in these pictures, but a keener not esteem this a fortunate circumstance one would have already discovered that for himself. His own nature was too Scheffer and his friends worked with a strong and living to be crushed by a different aim from that of their predecessevere master or exact study, and he sors. Not merely to paint a well-composed felt the want of that thorough early picture on a classical theme, but to give training which would have saved him expression to thought and feeling, was much struggle in after life. He used now the object. • The Wreck of the to speak of Ingres as such a teacher as Medusa" of Géricault is full of earnest, he would have chosen for himself. From struggling life. Delacroix has followed the pupil of David, the admirer of Mi- his own bent with such independent zeal chel Angelo, the conservator of the sa- as has made him the object of intense cred traditions of Art, the student might admiration to some, of bitter hatred to learn all the treasured wisdom of anti- others. But Ary Scheffer has taken his quity,— while the influences around him, rank at the head of the Spiritualist and his own genius, would impel him school, and has awakened a wider love towards prophesying the hope of the fu- and obtained a fuller appreciation than ture.

His favorite companions of the either of them. The spirit which found atelier at this time were Eugène Dela- in them its first expression is continually croix and Géricault. Delacroix ranks increasing in power, and developing into among the greatest living French artists; richer life. The living artists of France and if death early closed the brilliant ca- are the exponents of her genuine Chrisreer of Géricault, it has not yet shrouded tian democracy. his name in oblivion. The trio made their “ The entire collection of Rosa Bonfirst appearance together in the Saloon heur's works,” says a French writer, of 1819. Géricault sent his “ Wreck of * might be called the Hymn to Labor. the Medusa,” Delacroix “ The Barque Here she shows us the ploughing, there of Dante," and Ary Scheffer “ The Citi- the reaping, farther on the gathering in zens of Calais." *

of the hay, then of the harvests, elseThe works of these friends may be where the vintage - always and everyconsidered as the commencement of the where labor.” Edouard Frère, in his modern French school of Art, still so lit- scenes from humble life, which the skiltle known, and so ill appreciated by us, ful lithographer places within the means but which is really an expression of the of all, represents the incidents of domesnew ideas of Art and Humanity which tic existence among the poor.

46 The have agitated France to its centre for Prayer at the Mother's Knee,"

" The half a century. Their hour of triumph Woman at her Ironing Table,” “ The has not yet come; but as the poet sings Child shelling Peas,” The Walk to most touchingly of his love, neither when School amid Rain and Sleet," are all

charming idyls of every-lay life. With * This picture is now in the Louvre. It is

yet greater skill and deeper pathos does a composition of great dramatic power. Mrs. Stowe gives a graphic description of the effect

the peasant Millet tell the story of his it produced upon her, in her “ Sunny Memo- neighbors. The washerwomen, as the ries of Sunny Lands."

sun sets upon their labors, and they go wearily homeward ; the digger, at his a directness and truth of feeling which lonely task, who can pause but an in- made his art the perfection of natural exstant to wipe the sweat from his brow; pression. A very charming little engravthe sewing-women bending over their ing, entitled “ The Lost Children,” which work, while every nerve and muscle are appeared in * The Token" for 1830, is strained by the unremitting toil; the girl probably from a picture of this period. tending her geese; the woman her cows: A little boy and girl are lost in a wood. -- such are the subjects of his masterly Wearied with their fruitless attempts to pencil. Do not all these facts point to find a path, the boy bas at length sunk the realization of Christian democracy? down upon a log and buried his face in If the king is now but the servant of the bis hands; while the little girl, still papeople, so the artist who is royal in the tient, still hopeful, stands, with folded kingdom of the mind finds his true glory hands, looking earnestly into the wood, in serving humanity. What a change with a sweet, sad look of anxiety, but from the classic subjects or monkish le- not of despair. The contrast in the exgends which occupied the pencils of pression of the two figures is very touchDavid and his greater predecessors, Le ing and very true to Nature ;— the boy Sueur and Poussin !

was hopeful so long as his own exertions And yet those students of the antique offered a chance of escape, but the courhave Jone French Art good service; they age of the girl appears when earthly hope have furnished it with admirable tools, is most dim and faint. The sweet unso that to them we are indebted for the consciousness of this early picture has thorough drawing, the masterly knowl- hardly been surpassed by any subsequent edge, which render Paris the great school work. “ Naturalness and the charm of for all beginners in Art.

Such men as

composition,” says a French critie, "are we have named do not scorn the past, the secrets of Scheffer's success in these but use it in the service of the present. early pictures, to which may be added While Scheffer always subordinated the a third, - the distinction of the type of material part of Art to its expression, he his faces, and especially of his female was never afraid of knowing too much, heads,- a kind of suave and melancholy but often regretted the loss of valuable ideal, which gave so new a stamp to his time in youth from incompetent instruc- works." tion.

These small pictures were very sucEncouraged by the success of his first cessful in winning popular favor; but this essay, Scheffer continued to paint a se- success, far from intoxicating the young ries of small pictures, representing sim- artist, only opened his eyes to his own ple and affecting scenes from common faults. lle applied himself diligently to life, some of which are familiar to all. repairing the deficiencies which he rec“ The Soldier's Widow,” “ The Con- ognized in his work, by severe studies script's Return,"

,” “ The Orphans at their and labors. lle knew the danger of Mother's Tomb,” “ The Sister of Char- working too long on small-sized pictures, ity,"

," " The Fishermen before a Storm,” in which faults may be so easily hidden. “ The Burning of the Farm,” and “ The About the year 1826 he turned resolutely Scene of the Invasion in 1814," are titles from his "pretty jewels," as he called which give an idea of the range of his them, and commenced his “ Femmes Susubjects and the tenor of his thoughts at Tiotes," on a large canvas, with figures the this time. The French have long ex- size of life. M. Vitet describes the apcelled in the art of composition. It is pearance of the canvas when Scheffer this quality which gives the greatest value had already spent eight days " in the fire to the works of Le Sueur and Pous- of his first thought.” It seemed to him sin. Scheffer possessed this power in a rather like a vision than a picture, as he remarkable degree, but it was united to saw the dim outlines of those heroic women, who cast themselves from the rock to devoted to poetic subjects; and the last, escape slavery by death. He confesses or distinctively religious period. These that the finished picture never moved divisions cannot, of course, be very sharphim as did the sketch. Three years ly drawn, but may help us to understand earlier Scheffer had sent to the Saloon the progress of his mind; and “Les of 1824, in company with three or four Femmes Suliotes” will mark the transismall pictures, a large picture of Gas- tion from the first to the second period. ton de Foix after the Battle of Ravenna. Turning from the simple scenes of doIt was a sombre picture, painted with mestic sorrow, he now sought inspiration that lavish use of pigment and that unre- in literature. The vigorous and hearty strained freedom which distinguished the Northern Muse especially won his favor; innovators of that day. The new school yet the greatest Italian poet was also his were in raptures, and claimed Scheffer earnest study. Goethe, Schiller, Byron, as belonging to them. The public judged Dante, all furnished subjects for his penless favorably; "they adınired the noble cil. The story of Faust and Margaret head of Gaston de Foix, but, uninterest- took such bold of his imagination that ed in the remainder of the picture, they it pursued him for nearly thirty years. turned off to look at • The Soldier's Wid- Their forms appeared before him in new ow.'” Scheffer did not listen to his flat- attitudes and situations almost to his last terers; but, remembering Michel Ange- hour, so that, in the midst of his labors on lo's words to the young sculptor, “ The religious pictures, he seized his pencils to light of the public square will test its paint yet another Faust, another Margavalue," he believed in the verdict of the ret. Nor can we wonder at this absorbpeople, and never again painted in the ing interest, when we reflect on the prosame manner. It was ne of his peculiar found significance and touching pathos of merits, that, although open to conviction, this theme, which may wear a hundred and ready to try a new path which seem- faces, and touch every chord of the hued to offer itselt, he was also ready to man heart. It is intellect and passion, turn from it when he found it leading in contrast with innocence and faith; it

* Les Femmes Suliotes" did is natural and spontaneous love, thwarted not seem to have been designed by the by convention and circunstance; it, is same hand or with the same pencil as the condemnation before men, and forgive* Gaston de Foix." The first sketch was ness before God; it is the ideal and the particularly pleasing,— alreadly clear and worldly; it is an epitome of human life,harmonious color, although rather low love, joy, sorrow, sin, - birth, life, death, in tone. Many counselled him to leare and the sure hope of resurrection. How the picture thus.“ No,” said Scheffer, “ I pregnant with expression was it to a mind did not take a large canvas merely to in- like Scheffer's, where the intellectual, crease the size of my figures and to paint the affectional, and the spiritual natures large in water-colors, but to give greater were so nicely blended! He first painttruth and thoroughness to my forms.” In ed “ Margaret at her Wheel," in 1831,1827 this picture was exhibited with am- accompanied by a “Faust tormented by ple success, and the critics were forced to Doubt." These were two simple heads, acknowledge the great improvement in each by itself, like a portrait, but with his style, although he had not entirely all the fine perception of character which escaped from the influence of his com- constitutes an ideal work. Next he paintpanions, and some violent contrasts of ed - Margaret at Church.” Here other color mar the general effect. The pic- figures fill up the canvas; but the touchture is now in the Luxembourg Gallery. ing expression of the young girl, whose

M. Vitet divides Scheffer's artistic life soul is just beginning to be torn by the into three portions : that in which he yet new joy of her love and the bitter painted subjects from simple life; that consciousness of her lost innocence, fills

him astray.

55

næum.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

66

the mind of the spectator. This is the this period, is peculiarly interesting to us most inspired and the most touching of as our first acquaintance among Schefall the pictures; it strikes the key-note fer's works. An excellent copy or duof the whole story; it is the meeting of plicate of it belongs to the Boston Athethe young girl's own ideal world of pure

The original is in the Luxemthought with the outward world. The bourg at Paris. The subject is taken sense of guilt comes from the reflection from Schiller's ballad of " Count Eberin the thoughts of those about her; and hard.” After the victory in which his where all before was peace and love, now son has fallen, though the old Count has come discord and agony ; — she has eaten said to those who would have paused to of the tree of knowledge of good and mourn his death, “ My son is like another evil, and is already cast out of her para- man; on, comrades, to the foe!"- yet now dise. “Margaret on the Sabbath,' Mar- he sits alone in his tent and looks upon garet going out of Church,” and “Mar- the dead body of his child. The silent garet walking in the Garden,” are all grief of the stern old man is very

touchcharming idyls, but have less expression. ing. This sorrow, so contrary to Nature, The last picture, painted just before when old age stands by the grave of Scheffer's death, and soon to be engrav- youth, always moves the deepest feeling; ed, represents " Margaret at the Foun- and Scheffer, in the noble old man and tain.” “ It is full of expression, and paints the brave and beautiful boy before him, the joy and pain of love still struggling has given it its simplest and most apin the young girl's heart, while con- propriate expression. This picture was science begins to make its chiding voice painted in 1834. At that period Schefheard.”

fer was engaged in some experiments in The “Mignons” are the best known of color, and this sad subject lead him to emall Scheffer's works of this period. The ploy the dark tints of Rembrandt. In youngest one, “ Mignon regrettant sa Pa- 1850 he painted a duplicate of it, lighter trie,” is the most satisfactory in its simple, and more agreeable in tone.

Hle paintunconscious expression. The wonderful The Giaour” and “Medora,” from child stands in the most natural attitude, Byron, wbich pictures we have never absorbed in her own thought, and strug- The wayward and morbid Muse gling to recall those dim memories, float- of the English Lord does not seem to us ing in beauty before her mind, which a fit inspiration for the pure pencil of seem almost to belong to a previous state Ssheffer. of existence. There is less of the weird The well-known composition of " Franand fantastic than Goethe has given to cesca da Rimini” may well conclude her, -- but the central, deep nature is our brief notice of the pictures of this beautifully reproduced. " Mignon aspi- second epoch. M. Vitet regaris it as

“ rant au Ciel," although full of spiritual the most harmonious and complete of beauty, is a little more constrained; the all his works; but we think it has taken longing after her heavenly home is less less hold on the popular heart than the naturally expressed than her childish re- Mignons” and “ Margaret." Yet it is

pose

is a little mannered; and a work of great skill and beauty. The the feeling is more conscious, but less difficult theme is managed with that moddeep. “Mignon with the Old Harper" is eration and good taste which recognize far less interesting; the old man's head the true limits of the art. The crowd does not express that mixture of inspira- of spirits which Dante so powerfully detion and insanity, the result of a life of scribes as driven by the wind without love, misery, and wrong, which Goethe rest are only dimly seen in the backhas portrayed in this strange charac- ground. The horrors of hell are shown ter.

only in the anguish of those faces, in the A very different picture, painted at despairing languor of the attitude, which

ed "

seen.

[ocr errors]

66

gret; the

« AnteriorContinua »