Imatges de pÓgina

has appeared. It is very difficult to satisfy the craving desire to know more of the personal life and character of him who has been a household friend so long. Yet it is rather the privilege of succeeding generations, than of contemporaries, to draw aside the veil from the sanctuary, and to behold the works of a man in his greatest art, the art of life. But the cold waters of the Atlantic, like the river of Death, make the person of a European artist sacred to us; and it is hard for us to realize that those whom we have surrounded with a halo of classic reverence were partakers of the daily jar and turmoil of our busy age,- that the good physician who tended our sick children so faithfully had lived in familiar intercourse with Goethe, and might have listened to the first performance of those symphonies of Beethoven which seem to us as eternal as the mountains. Losing the effluence of his personal presence, which his neighbors and countrymen enjoyed, we demand the privilege of posterity to hear and tell all that can be told of him. We can wait fifty years more for a biography of Allston, because something of his gracious presence yet lingers among us; but we can touch Scheffer only with the burin or the pen. So we shall throw in our mite to fill up this chasm. A few gleanings from current French literature, a few anecdotes familiarly told of the great artist, and the vivid recollection of one short interview are all the aids we can summon to enable our readers to call up in their own minds a living image which will answer to the name that has so long been familiar to our lips and dear to our hearts.

Ary Scheffer was born about the year 1795, in the town of Dordrecht, in Holland; but, as at that period Holland belonged to the French Empire, the child was entitled by birth to those privileges of a French citizen which opened to him important advantages in his artistic career. French by this accident of birth, and still more so by his education and long residence at Paris, he yet always retained traces of his Teutonic origin in the

form of his head, in his general appearance, and in his earnest and religious character. He always cherished a warm affection for his native land.

Many distinguished artists have been the sons of painters or designers of superior note. Raffaello, Albert Dürer, Alonzo Cano, Vandyck, Luca Giordano are familiar instances. It seems as if the accumulation of two generations of talent were necessary to produce the fine flower of genius. The father of Ary Scheffer was an artist of considerable ability, and promised to become an eminent painter, when he was cut off by an early death. He left a widow, many unfinished pictures, and three sons, yet very young. The character of the mother we infer only from her influence on her son, from the devoted affection he bore to her, and from the wisdom with which she guided his early education; but these show her to have been a true woman,-brave, loving, and always loyal to the highest. The three sons all lived to middle age, and all became distinguished men. Ary, the eldest, very early gave unequivocal signs of his future destiny. His countrymen still remember a large picture painted by him at Amsterdam when only twelve years old, indicating extraordinary talent, even at that early age. His mother did not, however, overrate this boyish success, as stamping him a prodigy, but regarded it only as a motive for giving him a thorough artistic education. He went, accordingly, to Paris, and entered the atelier of Guérin, the teacher then most in vogue.

It was in the latter days of the Empire that Ary Scheffer commenced his studies,- a period of great stagnation in Art. The whole force of the popular mind had for many years been turned to politics and war; and if French Art had striven to emancipate itself from slavish dependence on the Greek, it still clung to the Roman models, which are far less inspiring. "The autocrat David, with his correct, but soulless compositions, was more absolute than his

master, the Emperor." Only in the Saloon of 1819 did the Revolution, which had already affected every other department of thought and life, reach the ateliers. It commenced in that of Guérin. The very weakness of the master, who himself halted between two opinions, left the pupils in freedom to pursue their own course. Scheffer did not esteem this a fortunate circumstance for himself. His own nature was too strong and living to be crushed by a severe master or exact study, and he felt the want of that thorough early training which would have saved him much struggle in after life. He used to speak of Ingres as such a teacher as he would have chosen for himself. From the pupil of David, the admirer of Michel Angelo, the conservator of the sacred traditions of Art, the student might learn all the treasured wisdom of antiquity, while the influences around him, and his own genius, would impel him towards prophesying the hope of the future. His favorite companions of the atelier at this time were Eugène Delacroix and Géricault. Delacroix ranks among the greatest living French artists; and if death early closed the brilliant career of Géricault, it has not yet shrouded his name in oblivion. The trio made their first appearance together in the Saloon of 1819. Géricault sent his "Wreck of the Medusa," Delacroix "The Barque of Dante," and Ary Scheffer "The Citizens of Calais."*

The works of these friends may be considered as the commencement of the modern French school of Art, still so little known, and so ill appreciated by us, but which is really an expression of the new ideas of Art and Humanity which have agitated France to its centre for half a century. Their hour of triumph has not yet come; but as the poet sings most touchingly of his love, neither when

*This picture is now in the Louvre. It is a composition of great dramatic power. Mrs. Stowe gives a graphic description of the effect it produced upon her, in her " Sunny Memories of Sunny Lands."

he rejoices in its happy consummation, nor in the hour of utter despair, but when doubt still tempers hope,-so does the artist labor with prophetic zeal to express those sentiments of humanity and brotherhood which are not yet organized into institutions. A careless eye might have perceived little departure from the old models in these pictures, but a keener one would have already discovered that Scheffer and his friends worked with a different aim from that of their predecessors. Not merely to paint a well-composed picture on a classical theme, but to give expression to thought and feeling, was now the object. The Wreck of the Medusa" of Géricault is full of earnest, struggling life. Delacroix has followed his own bent with such independent zeal as has made him the object of intense admiration to some, of bitter hatred to others. But Ary Scheffer has taken his rank at the head of the Spiritualist school, and has awakened a wider love and obtained a fuller appreciation than either of them. The spirit which found in them its first expression is continually increasing in power, and developing into richer life. The living artists of France are the exponents of her genuine Christian democracy.

"The entire collection of Rosa Bonheur's works," says a French writer, "might be called the Hymn to Labor. Here she shows us the ploughing, there the reaping, farther on the gathering in of the hay, then of the harvests, elsewhere the vintage,- always and everywhere labor." Edouard Frère, in his scenes from humble life, which the skilful lithographer places within the means of all, represents the incidents of domestic existence among the poor. "The Prayer at the Mother's Knee," "The Woman at her Ironing Table,” “The Child shelling Peas,' "The Walk to School amid Rain and Sleet," are all charming idyls of every-day life. With yet greater skill and deeper pathos does the peasant Millet tell the story of his The washerwomen, as the neighbors. sun sets upon their labors, and they go

wearily homeward; the digger, at his lonely task, who can pause but an instant to wipe the sweat from his brow; the sewing-women bending over their work, while every nerve and muscle are strained by the unremitting toil; the girl tending her geese; the woman her cows: -such are the subjects of his masterly pencil. Do not all these facts point to the realization of Christian democracy? If the king is now but the servant of the people, so the artist who is royal in the kingdom of the mind finds his true glory in serving humanity. What a change, from the classic subjects or monkish legends which occupied the pencils of David and his greater predecessors, Le Sueur and Poussin!

And yet those students of the antique have done French Art good service; they have furnished it with admirable tools, so that to them we are indebted for the thorough drawing, the masterly knowledge, which render Paris the great school for all beginners in Art. Such men as we have named do not scorn the past, but use it in the service of the present. While Scheffer always subordinated the material part of Art to its expression, he was never afraid of knowing too much, but often regretted the loss of valuable time in youth from incompetent instruc


Encouraged by the success of his first essay, Scheffer continued to paint a series of small pictures, representing simple and affecting scenes from common life, some of which are familiar to all. "The Soldier's Widow," "The Conscript's Return," "The Orphans at their Mother's Tomb," "The Sister of Charity,"

," "The Fishermen before a Storm," "The Burning of the Farm," and "The Scene of the Invasion in 1814," are titles which give an idea of the range of his subjects and the tenor of his thoughts at this time. The French have long excelled in the art of composition. It is this quality which gives the greatest value to the works of Le Sueur and Poussin. Scheffer possessed this power in a remarkable degree, but it was united to

a directness and truth of feeling which made his art the perfection of natural expression. A very charming little engraving, entitled "The Lost Children," which appeared in "The Token" for 1830, is probably from a picture of this period. A little boy and girl are lost in a wood. Wearied with their fruitless attempts to find a path, the boy has at length sunk down upon a log and buried his face in his hands; while the little girl, still patient, still hopeful, stands, with folded hands, looking earnestly into the wood, with a sweet, sad look of anxiety, but not of despair. The contrast in the expression of the two figures is very touching and very true to Nature;- the boy was hopeful so long as his own exertions offered a chance of escape, but the courage of the girl appears when earthly hope is most dim and faint. The sweet unconsciousness of this early picture has hardly been surpassed by any subsequent work. "Naturalness and the charm of composition," says a French critic, "are the secrets of Scheffer's success in these early pictures, to which may be added a third, the distinction of the type of his faces, and especially of his female heads,- a kind of suave and melancholy ideal, which gave so new a stamp to his works."

These small pictures were very successful in winning popular favor; but this success, far from intoxicating the young artist, only opened his eyes to his own faults. He applied himself diligently to repairing the deficiencies which he recognized in his work, by severe studies and labors. He knew the danger of working too long on small-sized pictures, in which faults may be so easily hidden. About the year 1826 he turned resolutely from his "pretty jewels," as he called them, and commenced his "Femmes Suliotes," on a large canvas, with figures the size of life. M. Vitet describes the appearance of the canvas when Scheffer had already spent eight days "in the fire of his first thought." It seemed to him rather like a vision than a picture, as he saw the dim outlines of those heroic wom

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en, who cast themselves from the rock to escape slavery by death. He confesses that the finished picture never moved him as did the sketch. Three years earlier Scheffer had sent to the Saloon of 1824, in company with three or four small pictures, a large picture of Gaston de Foix after the Battle of Ravenna. It was a sombre picture, painted with that lavish use of pigment and that unrestrained freedom which distinguished the innovators of that day. The new school were in raptures, and claimed Scheffer as belonging to them. The public judged less favorably; "they admired the noble head of Gaston de Foix, but, uninterested in the remainder of the picture, they turned off to look at The Soldier's Widow.'" Scheffer did not listen to his flatterers; but, remembering Michel Angelo's words to the young sculptor, "The light of the public square will test its value," he believed in the verdict of the people, and never again painted in the same manner. It was one of his peculiar merits, that, although open to conviction, and ready to try a new path which seemed to offer itself, he was also ready to turn from it when he found it leading him astray. "Les Femmes Suliotes" did not seem to have been designed by the same hand or with the same pencil as the "Gaston de Foix." The first sketch was particularly pleasing,—already clear and harmonious in color, although rather low in tone. Many counselled him to leave the picture thus. "No," said Scheffer, "I did not take a large canvas merely to increase the size of my figures and to paint large in water-colors, but to give greater truth and thoroughness to my forms." In 1827 this picture was exhibited with ample success, and the critics were forced to acknowledge the great improvement in his style, although he had not entirely escaped from the influence of his companions, and some violent contrasts of color mar the general effect. The picture is now in the Luxembourg Gallery.

M. Vitet divides Scheffer's artistic life into three portions that in which he painted subjects from simple life; that

devoted to poetic subjects; and the last, or distinctively religious period. These divisions cannot, of course, be very sharply drawn, but may help us to understandthe progress of his mind; and "Les Femmes Suliotes" will mark the transition from the first to the second period. Turning from the simple scenes of domestic sorrow, he now sought inspiration in literature. The vigorous and hearty Northern Muse especially won his favor; yet the greatest Italian poet was also his earnest study. Goethe, Schiller, Byron, Dante, all furnished subjects for his pencil. The story of Faust and Margaret took such hold of his imagination that it pursued him for nearly thirty years. Their forms appeared before him in new attitudes and situations almost to his last hour, so that, in the midst of his labors on religious pictures, he seized his pencils to paint yet another Faust, another Marga


Nor can we wonder at this absorbing interest, when we reflect on the profound significance and touching pathos of this theme, which may wear a hundred faces, and touch every chord of the human heart. It is intellect and passion, in contrast with innocence and faith; it is natural and spontaneous love, thwarted by convention and circumstance; it is condemnation before men, and forgiveness before God; it is the ideal and the worldly; it is an epitome of human life,— love, joy, sorrow, sin,—birth, life, death, and the sure hope of resurrection. How pregnant with expression was it to a mind like Scheffer's, where the intellectual, the affectional, and the spiritual natures were so nicely blended! He first painted "Margaret at her Wheel," in 1831,accompanied by a "Faust tormented by Doubt." These were two simple heads, each by itself, like a portrait, but with all the fine perception of character which constitutes an ideal work. Next he painted" Margaret at Church." Here other figures fill up the canvas; but the touching expression of the young girl, whose soul is just beginning to be torn by the yet new joy of her love and the bitter consciousness of her lost innocence, fills

the mind of the spectator. This is the most inspired and the most touching of all the pictures; it strikes the key-note of the whole story; it is the meeting of the young girl's own ideal world of pure thought with the outward world. The sense of guilt comes from the reflection in the thoughts of those about her; and where all before was peace and love, now come discord and agony;-she has eaten of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and is already cast out of her paradise. "Margaret on the Sabbath," "Margaret going out of Church," and "Margaret walking in the Garden," are all charming idyls, but have less expression. The last picture, painted just before Scheffer's death, and soon to be engraved, represents "Margaret at the Fountain." "It is full of expression, and paints the joy and pain of love still struggling in the young girl's heart, while conscience begins to make its chiding voice heard."

The "Mignons" are the best known of all Scheffer's works of this period. The youngest one, “Mignon regrettant sa Patrie," is the most satisfactory in its simple, unconscious expression. The wonderful child stands in the most natural attitude, absorbed in her own thought, and struggling to recall those dim memories, floating in beauty before her mind, which seem almost to belong to a previous state of existence. There is less of the weird and fantastic than Goethe has given to her, but the central, deep nature is beautifully reproduced. "Mignon aspirant au Ciel," although full of spiritual beauty, is a little more constrained; the longing after her heavenly home is less naturally expressed than her childish regret; the pose is a little mannered; and the feeling is more conscious, but less deep. "Mignon with the Old Harper" is far less interesting; the old man's head does not express that mixture of inspiration and insanity, the result of a life of love, misery, and wrong, which Goethe has portrayed in this strange charac


this period, is peculiarly interesting to us
as our first acquaintance among Schef-
fer's works. An excellent copy or du-
plicate of it belongs to the Boston Athe-
næum. The original is in the Luxem-
bourg at Paris. The subject is taken
from Schiller's ballad of "Count Eber-
hard." After the victory in which his
son has fallen, though the old Count has
said to those who would have paused to
mourn his death, "My son is like another
man; on, comrades, to the foe!"- yet now
he sits alone in his tent and looks upon
the dead body of his child. The silent
grief of the stern old man is very touch-
ing. This sorrow, so contrary to Nature,
when old age stands by the grave of
youth, always moves the deepest feeling;
and Scheffer, in the noble old man and
the brave and beautiful boy before him,
has given it its simplest and most ap-
propriate expression. This picture was
painted in 1834. At that period Schef-
fer was engaged in some experiments in
color, and this sad subject led him to em-
ploy the dark tints of Rembrandt. In
1850 he painted a duplicate of it, lighter
and more agreeable in tone.
He paint-
ed "The Giaour" and "Medora," from
Byron, which pictures we have never
seen. The wayward and morbid Muse
of the English Lord does not seem to us
a fit inspiration for the pure pencil of

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The well-known composition of "Francesca da Rimini" may well conclude our brief notice of the pictures of this second epoch. M. Vitet regards it as the most harmonious and complete of all his works; but we think it has taken less hold on the popular heart than the "Mignons" and "Margaret.' Yet it is a work of great skill and beauty. The difficult theme is managed with that moderation and good taste which recognize the true limits of the art. The crowd of spirits which Dante so powerfully describes as driven by the wind without rest are only dimly seen in the background. The horrors of hell are shown only in the anguish of those faces, in the A very different picture, painted at despairing languor of the attitude, which

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