sábado, 30 de abril de 2011

578. APRIL LOVE. (A. Hughes(1))

The Royal Academy Exhibition 1856

Exquisite in every way; lovely in colour, most subtle in the quivering expression of the lips, and sweetness of the tender face, shaken, like a leaf by winds upon its dew, and hesitating back into peace. A second very disgraceful piece of bad placing(2) the thrusting this picture thus aside!

(1)[Mr. Arthur Hughes (b. 1830), though not an enrolled member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, was closely identified with them, and always worked in sympathy with their aims. He combined with Millais and Rossetti to illustrate William Allingham's Day and Night Songs, and he was one of the group by whom the frescoes in the Oxford Union were executed. "April Love" was bought from the painter by William Morris. It is now in the possession of Mr. H. Boddiugton. A reproduction of it, with an appreciation of the painter, may be found in P. H. Bate's English Pre-Raphaelite Painters.]

(2) [For the first, see above, p. 52.]

532. THE PROSPEROUS DAYS OF JOB. (William Thomas Charles Dobson.)

The Royal Academy Exhibition 1856

One of the earnest readings of Scripture which are the truest pride of modern art. How often has Job been painted with the look of a haggard, aged, and despairing mendicant how seldom, in this first era of his life, the refined Oriental lord; leading a life of mercy, and judgment, and truth. The despair indicated in the writhe of the lips and pressure of the knit hands on the head, in the fallen figure, is thoroughly grand; and the watching female figure above is very tender and lovely. All Mr. Dobson's Works are good (though this is the best),(1) as far as feeling is concerned ;but their colour, or rather want of colour, is deeply to be regretted. Does Mr. Dobson really see Nature as always white and buff or does he think Buff a specially sacred colour?(2) In my mind, it is associated chiefly with troopers' jerkins.

(1) [There was only one other picture by him in the exhibition of 1856 No. 310,
"The Parable of the Children in the Marketplace."]

(2)[See below, p. 114, and on the general subject of the sanctity of colour see Modern Painters, vol. iii. (Vol. V. pp. 281, 321), vol. iv. (Vol. VI. p. 68); and Vol. X. pp. 173, 457.]

viernes, 29 de abril de 2011

448. AUTUMN LEAVES.(1) (J. E. Millais, A.)

The Royal Academy Exhibition 1856

By much the most poetical work the painter has yet conceived ; and also, as far as I know, the first instance existing of a perfectly painted twilight. It is as easy, as it is common, to give obscurity to twilight, but to give the glow within its darkness is another matter ; and though Giorgione might have come near the glow, he never gave the valley mist. Note also the subtle difference between the purple of the long nearer range of hills, and the blue of the distant peak emerging beyond.

(1)[This picture, now in the Corporation Gallery at Manchester, shows four girls piling leaves for autumn burning. The landscape was painted at Annat Lodge, Perthshire, an old house with a cedared garden near Bowerswell, which Millais took after his marriage. The two taller girls were Millais's little sisters-in-law, afterwards Mrs. Stibbard and Mrs. Caird; the others were the gardener's children. The picture, it has been said, was the fount of inspiration of Mason and Fred Walker (Spielmann's Millais and his Works, p. 92).]

398. THE SCAPEGOAT (Lev. xvi.). (W. H. Hunt.(1))

This singular picture, though in many respects faultful, and in some wholly a failure, is yet the one of all in the gallery which should furnish us with most food for thought. First, consider it simply as an indication of the temper and aim of the rising artists of England. Until of late years, young painters have been mostly divided into two groups: one poor, hard-working, and suffering, compelled more or less, for immediate bread, to obey whatever call might be made upon them by patron or publisher; the other, of perhaps more manifest cleverness or power, able in some degree to command the market, and apt to make the pursuit of art somewhat complementary to that of pleasure, so that a successful artist's studio has not been in general a place where idle and gay people would have found themselves ill at ease, or at a loss for amusement. But here is a young painter, the slave neither of poverty nor pleasure, emancipated from the garret, despising the green room, and selecting for his studio a place where he is liable certainly to no agreeable forms of interruption. He travels, not merely to fill his portfolio with pretty sketches, but in as determined a temper as ever mediaeval pilgrim, to do a certain work in the Holy Land. Arrived there, with the cloud of Eastern War gathered to the north of him, and involving, for most men, according to their adventurous or timid temper, either an interest which would at once have attracted them to its immediate field, or a terror which would have driven them from work in its threatening neighbourhood, he pursues calmly his original purpose; and while the hills of the Crimea were white with tents of war, and the fiercest passions of the nations of Europe burned in high funeral flames over their innumerable dead, one peaceful English tent was pitched beside a shipless sea, and the whole strength of an English heart spent in painting a weary goat, dying upon its salt sand.

(1) [For Ruskin's earliest references to Holman Hunt, see the letters to the Times of 1851, reprinted in Vol. XII. pp. 323, 324. In Lectures on Architecture and Painting (ibid., pp. 160, 161) Ruskin again called attention to Hunt's work. To the Academy of 1854 the painter sent "The Light of the World" (now in Keble College, Oxford) and "The Awakening Conscience." Ruskin wrote letters to the Times (May 5, 25) in description and praise of the pictures (Vol. XII. pp. 328-335). In the third volume of Modern Painters (1856) Ruskin referred to Hunt's choice of noble subject; and to his "Light of the World" as "the most perfect instance of expressional purpose with technical power which the world has yet produced." He also defended that picture from the charge of plagiarism (Vol. V. pp. 52, 429). In vol. iv. (1856) Ruskin again referred to Hunt's careful truth to Nature (Vol. VI. p. 80). Ruskin's praise did not avail, however, to find Hunt ready purchasers (see Contemporary Review, June 1886) ; and in the fifth volume of Modern Painters (1860) Ruskin refers to him as "fighting his way through all neglect and obloquy to the painting of e ‘Christ in the Temple'"(pt. ix. ch. xii. 9). In his later writings Ruskin also occasionally referred to Hunt. In the Eagle's Nest (1872), the "Light of the World " is referred to "as the most true and useful piece of religious vision which realistic art has yet embodied" ( 115); see also Catalogue of the Educational Series, No. 2. In his lectures on The Art of England (1884), D. G. Rossetti and Holman Hunt were taken by Ruskin as masters of "Realistic Schools of Painting," where a further reference to "The Scapegoat" is made in 11. With the analysis of Hunt's work there given (with special reference to "The Triumph of the Innocents") should be compared a passage in "The Three Colours of Pre-Raphaelitism "(in On the Old Road, i. 247, reprinted in a later volume of this edition). Holman Hunt's account of the circumstances in which he painted the "Scapegoat," and of the adventures he went through, is given in the Contemporary Review, 1886, pp. 829, 830. See also "Descriptive Catalogue of the Pictures in the Holman Hunt Exhibition held at the Fine Art Society, 1886," p. 9. Rossetti wrote of Hunt's pictures in this year's Academy: "Hunt sends only 'Scapegoat' a grand thing, but not for the public and a few lovely landscape drawings." Madox Brown wrote in his diary : "Hunt's 'Scapegoat' requires to be seen to be believed in. Only then can it be understood how, by the might of genius, out of an old goat, and some saline incrustations, can be made one of the most tragic and impressive works in the annals of art." Gambart, the picture-dealer, was less enthusiastic. "I wanted," he said," a nice religious picture, and he painted me a great goat."]

And utmost strength of heart it needed. Though the tradition that a bird cannot fly over this sea is an exaggeration, the air in its neighbourhood is stagnant and pestiferous, polluted by the decaying vegetation brought down by the Jordan in its floods; the bones of the beasts of burden that have died by the "way of the sea,"(1)  lie like wrecks upon its edge, bared by the vultures and bleached by the salt ooze, which, though tideless, rises and falls irregularly, swollen or wasted. Swarms of flies, fed on the carcases, darken an atmosphere heavy at once with the poison of the marsh and the fever of the desert; and the Arabs themselves will not encamp for a night amidst the exhalations of the volcanic chasm.

(1) [Isaiah ix. 1; Matthew iv. 15.]

This place of study the young English painter chooses. He encamps a little way above it; sets his easel upon its actual shore ; pursues his work with patience through months of solitude; and paints, crag by crag, the purple mountains of Moab, and, grain by grain, the pale ashes of Gomorrah.

And I think his object was one worthy of such an effort. Of all the scenes in the Holy Land, there are none whose present aspect tends so distinctly to confirm the statements of Scripture as this condemned shore. It is therefore exactly the scene of which it might seem most desirable to give a perfect idea to those who cannot see it for themselves ; it is that also which fewest travelers are able to see; and which, I suppose, no one but Mr. Hunt himself would ever have dreamed of making the subject of a close pictorial study. The work was therefore worth his effort ; and he has connected it in a simple, but most touching way, with other subjects of reflection, by the figure of the animal upon its shore. This is, indeed, one of the instances in which the subject of a picture is wholly incapable of explaining itself; but, as we are too apt somewhat too hastily to accept at once a subject as intelligible and rightly painted, if we happen to know enough of the story to interest us in it, so we are apt, somewhat unkindly, to refuse a painter the little patience of inquiry or remembrance, which, once granted, would enable him to interest us all the more deeply, because the thoughts suggested were not entirely familiar. It is necessary, in this present instance, only to remember that the view taken by the Jews of the appointed sending forth of the scapegoat into the Wilderness was that it represented the carrying away of their sin into a place uninhabited and forgotten; and that the animal on whose head the sin was laid became accursed, so that, "though not commanded by the law, they used to maltreat the goat Azazel; to spit upon him, and to pluck off his hair."* The goat, thus tormented, and with a scarlet fillet bound about its brow, was driven by the multitude wildly out of the camp, and pursued into the Wilderness. The painter supposes it to have fled towards the Dead Sea, and to be just about to fall exhausted at sunset its hoofs entangled in the crust of salt upon the shore. The opposite mountains, seen in the fading light, are that chain of Abarim on which Moses died.(1)

* Sermon preached at Lothbury, by the Rev. H. Melvill. (Pulpit, Thursday, March 27, 1856.(2)

(1)[Deuteronomy xxxii. 49, 50.]

(2)[For Melvill, see Vol. I. p. 490 n. For the scapegoat, see Levitims xvi. 10.]

Now, we cannot, I think, esteem too highly, or receive too gratefully, the temper and the toil which have produced this picture for us. Consider for a little while the feelings involved in its conception, and the self-denial and resolve needed for its execution; and compare them with the modes of thought in which our former painters used to furnish us annually with their "Cattle pieces" or "Lake scenes," and I think we shall see cause to hold this picture as one more truly honourable to us, and more deep and sure in its promise of future greatness in our schools of painting, than all the works of "high art" that since the foundation of the Academy have ever taxed the wonder, or weariness, of the English public. But, at the same time, this picture indicates a danger to our students of a kind hitherto unknown in any school the danger of a too great intensity of feeling, making them forget the requirements of painting as an art. This picture regarded merely as a landscape, or as a composition, is a total failure. The mind of the painter has been so excited by the circumstances of the scene, that, like a youth expressing his earnest feeling by feeble verse (which seems to him good, because he means so much by it), Mr. Hunt has been blinded by his intense sentiment to the real weakness of the pictorial expression; and in his earnest desire to paint the Scapegoat, has forgotten to ask himself first, whether he could paint a goat at all.

I am not surprised that he should fail in painting the distant mountains; for the forms of large distant landscape are a quite new study to the Pre-Raphaelites, and they cannot be expected to conquer them at first : but it is a great disappointment to me to observe, even in the painting of the goat itself, and of the fillet on its brow, a nearly total want of all that effective manipulation which Mr. Hunt displayed in his earlier pictures. I do not say that there is absolute want of skill there may be difficulties encountered which I do not perceive but the difficulties, whatever they may have been, are not conquered: this maybe very faithful and very wonderful painting but it is not good painting; and much as I esteem feeling and thought in all works of art, still I repeat, again and again, a painter's business is first to paint. No one could sympathize more than I with the general feeling displayed in the "Light of the World"; but unless it had been accompanied with perfectly good nettle painting, and ivy painting, and jewel painting, I should never have praised it;(l) and though I acknowledge the good purpose of this picture, yet, inasmuch as there is no good hair painting, nor hoof painting in it,* I hold it to be good only as an omen, not as an achievement; and I have hardly ever seen a composition, left apparently almost to chance, come so unluckily: the insertion of the animal in the exact centre of the canvas making it look as if it were painted for a sign. I can only, therefore, in thanking Mr. Hunt heartily for his work pray him, for practice' sake, now to paint a few pictures with less feeling in them, and more handling.

                                                  The Light of the World, by Holmant Hunt.

* I believe, however, the painter was under worse difficulty in painting this goat than even with his sheep picture, (2) it being, of course, impossible to get the animal to stand still for a moment in an attitude indicating utter weariness. Observe also, that though heavily painted, yet being done every whit from Nature, the picture lights the room, far away, just as Turner's used to do (and compare the notes on Nos. 873 and 1002). Only Turner never makes a reflection in water brighter than the sky above it, which, unless the crystals of salt whiten the surface even of this glowing water, seems to be the case here. I suppose the water was painted at one season of the year and the sky at another both from nature, but, in result, discordant, and afterwards unalterable, as the complex hues of those farfollowed reflections do not admit of "toning down," but by separately repainting every one. Observe, finally, the picture should, if possible, be seen on a dark day, or in twilight, when its fullest effect is developed.

(1) [See Vol. XII. p. 331.]

(2) [" Strayed Sheep," exhibited at the Academy in 1853 sheep in a cliff landscape, studied near Hastings. Ruskin refers to the picture in the Art of England (§ 11) as marking an era in landscape painting. It is in the possession of Mr. George L. Craik, by whom it was lent to the Ruskin Exhibition at Manchester, 1904 (No. 195).]

jueves, 28 de abril de 2011

352. CHATTERTON. (H. Wallis.)

The Royal Acddemy 1856

Faultless and wonderful : a most noble example of the great school. Examine it well inch by inch: it is one of the pictures which intend, and accomplish, the entire placing before your eyes of an actual fact ―and that a solemn one. Give it much time. Mr. Wallis has another very wonderful effort, 516 but it is harder and less successful. I suppose the face of Marvell is a portrait, but he does not look to me like a person who would return a bribe.

[This picture, by Mr. Henry Wallis (b. 1830), is now in the Tate Gallery (No. 1685). Ruskin was equally enthusiastic about the painter's Academy pictures in the following years (see pp. 113, 153.]

miércoles, 27 de abril de 2011

312. MID-SPRING. (J. W. Inchbold.)

The Royal Academy Exhibition 1856

Though not a satisfactory picture, this is one of the most curious efforts of the Pre-Raphaelites this year. The place chosen has been a lovely spot, and the execution of the hyacinths and grass is as close and wonderful a piece of work as there is on the room walls. Take a magnifying glass and look at the squirrel and bird on the tree high up on the left, and the two other birds flying in the wood beyond, and give time to the whole, and it will please you. But Mr. Inchbold must choose subjects with more mass of shade in them; this was, in its essential nature, impracticable, the light being all too high for imitation. Hence the apparent hardness of result.

It is quite worth while, some day, to bring a small operaglass with you into the architectural room, to examine the exquisite painting of withered heather, and rock, in  Mr. Inchbold's other picture, 1187 ["The Burn, November: the Cucullen Hills"]


The Royal Academy Exhibition

One of the works still belonging wholly to the old school. There is a good deal of fair painting in it, but an extraordinary missing of the main mark throughout. See the second paragraph of the long quotation in the catalogue:

"Again the afternoon sun was shining over the great walnut-tree, full into the gallery. From this pleasant spot, filled with the fragrance of the garden and the murmur of the fountain, and bright with glimpses of the golden Vera, they carried him to the gloomy chamber of his sleepless nights, and laid him on the bed from which he was to rise no more."

[From Stirling-Maxwell's Cloister Life of the Emperor Charles V]

Naturally we expect the painter to take some pains (as he has given this quotation) in the expression of verdure, fragrance, and sunshine. But the walnut-tree is grey, not green; the air, judging by the look of it, cannot be perfumed by anything but paint ; and there is no sunshine anywhere, while the whitish light, which is given for it, shines not over the tree into the gallery, but from the back of the spectator. The exhibited pictures, by Titian (!), are greyer than all the rest. Charles must have bought them from an exceedingly dishonest dealer.

[Alfred Elmore (1815-1881) was elected R.A. in the year following this exhibition.
He continued to paint historical pictures.]

martes, 26 de abril de 2011

200. PEACE CONCLUDED, 1856. (J. E. Millais, A.)

The Royal Academy Exhibition 1856

I thought, some time ago, that this painter was likely to be headed by others of the school ; but Titian himself could hardly head him now. This picture is as brilliant in invention as consummate in executive power ; both this and "Autumn Leaves," 448, will rank in future among the world's best masterpieces ; and I see no limit to what the painter may hope in future to achieve. I am not sure whether he may not be destined to surpass all that has yet been done in figure-painting, as Turner did all past landscape.*

[For this picture (popularly known as "The Return from the Crimea") Colonel Malcolm sat for the wounded officer, and Lady Millais for the wife. It is now in the possession of Mr. T. H. Miller, of Preston.]

* Note the hint for bringing more of Nature into our common work, in the admirable modelling of the polar bear and lion, though merely children's toys.

147. SAVED ! (Sir E. Landseer, R.A.)

I wish this picture had not been put so high, for the bolder Landseer is in handling, the more interesting his work becomes, under close observance: nor does his peculiar system of clay-colouring gain at all in effect by distance. I never saw a child fall into water, nor a dog bring one out; but under such circumstances are not its clothes usually wet? and do not wet clothes cling to the limbs?

[For a summary of Ruskin's references to Landseer, see Vol. IV. p. 334 n.]


The Royal Academy Exhibition 1856

A taking picture, much, it seems to me, above Mr. Frith's former standard. Note the advancing Pre-Raphaelitism in the wreath of leaves round the child's head. One is only sorry to see any fair little child having too many and too kind friends, and in so great danger of being toasted, toyed, and wreathed into selfishness and misery.

[Frith does not seem to have been duly grateful for Ruskin's qualified praise. "Ruskin's works” he writes," bristle with errors ; one of his notable ones was his saying, on the discovery of a bit of what he took for Pre-Raphaelite work in one of the worst pictures I ever painted, that I was 'at last in the right way,' or words to that effect." My Autobiography, vol. iii. p. 6.]

domingo, 24 de abril de 2011


The Royal Academy Exhibition 1856

The superposition of this picture to " West Australian" is the first glaring piece of bad hanging I note in the Academy this year. Mr. Cooper's picture, whatever its merits may be, is executed so as to have been seen quite as well in the upper place ; while Mr. Lewis's cannot be seen in the least but on the line. It would take no trouble. any afternoon when the Academy closes, to change the places; and I am sure that Mr. Cooper would, in enforcing such an arrangement, be felt to have paid a just tribute to the talents of a great brother-artist, and to have done himself little injury and much honour. Of the style of Mr. Lewis's picture I need only say that it is like that of his work in general, and refer the reader to the note on the example of it in the rooms of the Water-Colour Society (p. 73). There is, however, a very curious and skilful circumstance in the composition here: the neck of the camel was too serpentine, and stopped too abruptly after suggesting this undulation of line. The white cloud beyond at once varies, and continues, this serpentine tendency, leading it away towards the upper edge of the picture, while the straight flakes of cloud, descending obliquely to the right, oppose the two upright peaks of the saddle. I may as well refer at once to Mr. Lewis's other work, 336 l (the Academy is rich in possessing two). How two such pictures have been executed, together with the drawing for the Water-Colour Society, all within the year, is to me wholly inconceivable ; there seems a year's work in 336 alone. Yet it is not a favourable example of the master the toil being too palpable and equal on the stones in the reflected light ; where also there is neither colour nor form of interest enough to justify it. The draperies and trelliswork are faultlessly marvellous.

35. HOME. (J. N. Paton.)

Royal Academy Exhibition 1856

A most pathetic and precious picture, easily understood, and entirely right as far as feeling is concerned. Mr. Paton must have had more pleasure in painting this picture than in those fairy assemblies of his; and though the cottage details here are not so attractive as those nightshade and woodbine convolutions of leaf scenery, they are in reality better painted, and serve to better use. Mr. Paton has, however, a good deal yet to learn in colour. He should for this spring paint nothing but opening flowers, and, in the autumn, nothing but apricots and peaches.

[Sir Joseph Noel Paton (1821-1902), appointed Her Majesty's Limner for Scotland in 1866. The pictures by which he first made his mark were of fairyland such as "The Quarrel of Oberon and Titania," "The Reconciliation of Oberon and Titania/' and "The Fairy Queen." He had made the acquaintance of Millais as a student at the Academy in 1843 ; and afterwards he was in sympathy with the Pre-Raphaelite group. The picture noticed above represented a soldier, mortally wounded, who has just reached home, and sinks down on a chair, tended by his mother and sweetheart. For Ruskin's acquaintance with Patou, see Vol. XII. p. xxvii. To the painter's "fairy assemblies " Ruskin again referred in The Art of England, ch. iv.]

sábado, 23 de abril de 2011

1295. ELGIVA. (Miss. J. M. Boyce)

The expression in this head is so subtle, and so tenderly wrought, that at first the picture might easily be passed as hard or cold; but it could only so be passed, as Elgiva herself might have been sometimes seen, by a stranger without penetration of her sorrow. As we watch the face for a little time, the slight arch of the lip seems to begin to quiver, and the eyes fill with ineffable sadness and on-look of despair. The dignity of all the treatment the beautiful imagination of faint but pure colour, place this picture, to my mind, among those of the very highest power and promise. Complete achievement there is not in it as yet, chiefly because the colours, quite exquisitely conceived and arranged, are not each in their own separate quality perfect, in the sense in which any given colour by Bonifazio or Giorgione is perfect ; but if this artist, looking always to Nature and her own thoughts for the thing to be expressed, will strive to express them, with some memory of the great Venetians in her treatment of each separate hue, it seems to me that she might entertain the hope of taking place in the very first rank of painters.

[This was the first exhibited work of Miss Joanna Mary Boyce (1831-1861), sister of G. P. Boyce, the painter (see note on p. 162). Two years later she married Mr. H. T. Wells, R. A. She continued to exhibit, but the high hopes which her talent inspired were cut off by early death. Several of her works were included in the Winter Exhibition in the Academy in 1901. She was a friend of Rossetti, who took a portrait of her as she lay in death (Letters and Memoirs of D. G. Rossetti, i. 212 ; Life and Writings of Anne Gilchrist, p. 94). Ruskin had a great regard for her, as is shown by the following passage from a letter to his father : "BOULOGNE, July 19 [1861]. Mrs. Wells's death is nearly as great a trouble (more of a shock to me) than Mrs. Browning's she was nearly a perfect creature in intellect and purpose, her work just beginning. You may remember her beautiful head of Elgiva in the Academy." Elgiva, the queen of Edwy (from whom she is said to have been separated by the machinations of the Church), was in favour with painters at this time. Her sad story was the subject of a picture by Millais in 1847.]

305. AT THE OPERA. (W. P. Frith, R.A.)

There is great cleverness and successful realization, up to a certain point, in this picture, the work being very thoroughly done, as far as the painter sees what is to be done, and all very skilfully handled, down to the utmost seam of the white kid gloves. It is not a kind of painting which will ever bring great fame, or deserve it ; but it is better than spurious "High Art."
[William Powell Frith (1819) began to exhibit at the Academy in 1840; was elected A.R. A. in 1844; and in 1852, R. A. His early pictures were of subjects from English literature. In 1854 he made his first great success, in subjects of modern life, with "Ramsgate Sands." For other references to Mr. Frith, see pp. 63, 161, 279, and Ariadne Florentina, 140.]

jueves, 21 de abril de 2011

594. ROME. (D. Roberts, R.A.)

The Royal Academy Exhibition 1855.
This is a large architectural diagram, with the outlines executed sharply in black, the upper half being then painted brick-red, and the lower green-grey. (Note the distinctness of the mannerism in the outlined statues and pillars of the chapel in shade upon the right.) I can hardly understand how any man, devoting his time to painting, ever comes to suppose that a picture can be right which is painted in two colours! or by what reasoning he persuades himself that, because seen under the red light of sunset, the purple trunk of a stone pine, the white stucco of house walls, the scarlet of tiles, and the green of foliage, may all be of the same colour! Imagine a painting of a beautiful blue-eyed female face, by sunset, which represented its blue eyes, its nose, its cheeks, and its lips, all of the same brick-red! Mr. Roberts was once in the habit of painting carefully finished cabinet pictures, which were well composed (in the common sense), and fairly executed in the details. Had he continued these, painting more and more, instead of less and less, from nature, he might by this time have been a serviceable painter. Is it altogether too late to warn him that he is fast becoming nothing more than an Academician?
[For David Roberts (1796-1864) see Vol. III. p. 223 n. Later on in these Notes (p. 35) Ruskin refers to his personal regard for the painter. In the Notes of 1859 he again contrasts Roberts's later work unfavourably with his earlier (p. 221). In the Tate Gallery, Roberts is represented by pictures painted in 1835 and 1848 respectively (Nos. 400, 401). In the Victoria and Albert (South Kensington) Museum there are several examples of his work both in oil and water-colour.]

lunes, 18 de abril de 2011


The Royal Academy 1855.
This is a very important and very beautiful picture. It has both sincerity and grace, and is painted on the purest principles of Venetian art that is to say, on the calm acceptance of the whole of nature, small and great, as, in its place, deserving of faithful rendering. The great secret of the Venetians was their simplicity. They were great colourists not because they had peculiar secrets about oil and colour, but because, when they saw a thing red, they painted it red ; and when they saw it blue, they painted it blue; and when they saw it distinctly, they painted it distinctly. In all Paul Veronese's pictures, the lace borders of the table-cloths or fringes of the dresses are painted with just as much care as the faces of the principal figures; and the reader may rest assured that in all great art it is so. Everything in it is done as well as it can be done. Thus, in the picture before us, in the background is the Church of San Miniato, strictly accurate in every detail; on the top of the wall are oleanders and pinks, as carefully painted as the church; the architecture of the shrine on the wall is well studied from thirteenth-century Gothic, and painted with as much care as the pink; the dresses of the figures, very beautifully designed, are painted with as much care as the architecture ; and the faces with as much care as the dresses that is to say, all things, throughout, with as much care as the painter could bestow. It necessarily follows, that what is most difficult (i.e., the faces) should be comparatively the worst done. But if they are done as well as the painter could do them, it is ail we have to ask; and modern artists are under a wonderful mistake in thinking that when they have painted faces ill, they make their picture more valuable by painting the dresses worse.
The painting before us has been objected to, because it seems broken up into bits. Precisely the same objection would hold, and in very nearly the same degree, against the best works of the Venetians. All faithful colourists' work, in figure-painting, has a look of sharp separation between part and part. I will not detain the reader by explaining why this is so, but he may convince himself of the fact by one walk through the Louvre, comparing the Venetian pictures in this respect with those of all other schools. Although, however, in common with all other works of its class, it is marked by these sharp divisions, there is no confusion in its arrangement. The principal figure is nobly principal, not by extraordinary light, but by its own pure whiteness; and both the master and the young Giotto attract full regard by distinction of form and face. The features of the boy are carefully studied, and are indeed what, from the existing portraits of him, we know those of Giotto must have been in his youth. The head of the young girl who wears the garland of blue flowers is also very sweetly conceived.
Such are the chief merits of the picture. Its defect is, that the equal care given to the whole of it, is not yet care enough. I am aware of no instance of a young painter, who was to be really great, who did not in his youth paint with intense effort and delicacy of finish. The handling here is much too broad; and the faces are, in many instances, out of drawing, and very opaque and feeble in colour. Nor have they, in general, the dignity of the countenance of the thirteenth century. The Dante especially is ill-conceived far too haughty, and in no wise noble or thoughtful. It seems to me probable that Mr. Leighton has greatness in him, but there is no absolute proof of it in this picture ; and if he does not, in succeeding years, paint far better, he will soon lose his power of painting so well.
 [Frederic, Lord Leighton (1830-1896), was at this time little known in art circles in London, for he studied and worked abroad. He had been introduced to Ruskin by Browning (see Vol. V. p. xlv.) It was not till 1864 that he was elected A.R.A.; he became R.A. in 1868, and President in 1879. The "Cimabue" was bought by Queen Victoria, and made Leighton famous: the picture now hangs in the visitors' corridor, private apartments, Buckingham Palace. Other contemporary criticisms by high authorities may be read in D. G. Rossetti's Letters to William Allingham, and in Madox Brown's Diary printed in W. M. Rossetti's Pre-Raphaelite Diaries and Letters, p. 183. For the subject of the picture, see Vol. III. p. 644 n.]

viernes, 15 de abril de 2011

282. THE RESCUE. (J. E. Millais, A)

It is the only great picture exhibited this year; but this is very great. The immortal element is in it to the full. It is easily understood, and the public very generally understand it. Various small cavils have been made at it, chiefly by conventionalists, who never ask how the thing is, but fancy for themselves how it ought to be. I have heard it said, for instance, that the fireman's arm should not have looked so black in the red light. If people would only try the experiment, they would find that near black, compared with other colours, is always black. Coals do not look red in a fire, but where they are red hot. In fact, the contrast between any dark colour and a light one, is always nearly the same, however high we raise the light that falls on both.1 Paul Veronese often paints local colour darker in the lights than in the shadow, generally equal in both. The glow that is mixed with the blackness is here intensely strong; but, justly, does not destroy the nature of the blackness. The execution of the picture is remarkably bold in some respects imperfect. I have heard it was hastily finished; but, except in the face of the child kissing the mother, it could not be much bettered. For there is a true sympathy between the impetuousness of execution and the haste of the action.
[The origin of this picture and the circumstances in which it was painted are fully described in The Life and Letters of Millais, vol. i. pp. 247-257. Millais had taken great pains with the preliminary studies, but was behind-hand with the picture itself. “On the last day but one he began to work as soon as it was daylight, and worked on all through the night and following day until the van arrived for the picture. His friend Charles Collins sat up with him and painted the fire-hose, whilst Millais worked at other parts ; and in the end a large piece of sheet-iron was placed on the floor, upon which a flaming brand was put and worked from amidst suffocating smoke." The picture is now in the collection of Mr. Holbrook Gaskell.]

244. " THE MOORLAND ": TENNYSON.* (J. W. Inchbold)

This is, as far as I have seen, the only thoroughly good landscape in the rooms of the Academy. It is more exquisite in its finish of lichenous rock painting than any work I have ever seen. Its colour, throughout, is as forcible as it is subtle and refined ; and although it appears as yet to display little power of invention, the appreciation of truth in it is so intense, that a single inch of it is well worth all the rest of the landscapes in the room. It may well be supposed that my knowledge of this picture was not obtained by study of it in its present position. Those who happen to be interested in the system of hanging now pursued in the Academy, will do well to verify my statement by an examination of the picture after the exhibition closes. There are two other works by this artist, in the outer rooms: 1075, ineffective, but yet full of excellent work and right feeling; and 1162, exceedingly beautiful.
[John William Inchbold (1830-1888) was one of the painters who carried the principles of Pre-Raphaelitism into the field of landscape. A picture of his in an earlier exhibition had attracted Ruskin's attention (see p. 38, below); lie sought out the young painter, gave him advice and encouragement, and introduced him to the work of Rossetti (see Ruskin, Rossetti, Pre-Raphaelitism, pp. 79, 96). Inch bold also made the acquaintance of Mr. Swinburne, who has published a memorial poem upon him. Coventry Patmore was another admirer; see his Life by B. Champneys, ii. 169. There is a picture by Inchbold in the Tate Gallery, No. 1477* which also is a moorland scene. In 1856 Inchbold was in Switzerland, and Ruskin saw something of him there.]

sábado, 9 de abril de 2011

90. AN ARMENIAN LADY : CAIRO. (J. F. Lewis*)

It is very instructive to pass immediately from Maclise's work to this. Both propose the complete rendering of details: but with Maclise all is inherently wrong ; here everything is exquisitely, ineffably right. I say ineffably for no words are strong enough to express the admirable skill and tenderness of pencilling and perception shown in this picture. It is one of the first that I have seen by this master in oil, and I am rejoiced to find it quite equal in precision and purity to his best work in water-colour, while it is in a safer medium. The delicacy of the drawing of the palm in the distance, of the undulating perspective of the zigzags on the dress, and of the deep and fanciful local colouring of the vase, are all equally admirable. The face infinitely laboured fails slightly. The flesh tint is too blue a fault into which the master has lately fallen from trying to reach impossible delicacy. It is only to be regretted that this costly labour should be spent on a subject devoid of interest.

2 [John Frederick Lewis (1805-1876) was elected A.R.A. in 1859 and R.A. in 1865. Two characteristic pictures by him are in the Tate Gallery, Nos. 1405 and 1688; and two drawings are reproduced in Vol. XII. pp. 362, 364. For other references to him see those passages, and the note at Vol. III. p.120. See also below, pp. 52, 73, 94, 130, 159, 218.]

martes, 5 de abril de 2011

78. THE WRESTLING IN " As You LIKE IT." (D. Maclise, R.A.*)

Very bad pictures may be divided into two principal classes -those which are weakly or passively bad, and which are to be pitied and passed by; and those which are energetically or actively bad, and which demand severe reprobation, as wilful transgressions of the laws of all good art. The picture before us is of the last class. Mr. Maclise has keen sight, a steady hand, good anatomical knowledge of the human form, and good experience of the ways of the world. If he draws ill, or imagines ungracefully, it is because he is resolved to do so. He has seen enough of society to know how a Duke generally sits -how a young lady generally looks at a strange youth who interests her; and it is by vulgar choice, not vulgar ignorance, that he makes the enthroned Duke straddle like a village actor, and the young lady express her interest by a cool, unrestrained, and steady stare. It is not worth while to analyze the picture thoroughly, but let us glance at the two opponent figures Charles and Orlando. The spectator can certainly see nothing in this " Charles " but a grim, sinister, sinewy monster, wholly devoid of all gentleness or humanity.  Was Shakespeare's Charles such an one? So far from it, that into his mouth is put the first description of the love of Rosalind and Celia "The Duke's daughter, her cousin, soloves her, being ever from their cradles bred together, that she would have followed her exile, or have died to stay behind her never two ladies loved as they do." So far from it, that he comes to Oliver especially to warn him against allowing his brother to wrestle with him. " Your brother is but young and tender; for your love, I would be loath to foil him." Then, on Oliver's execrable slander of Orlando, poor honest Charles is "heartily glad I came hither; if he come to-morrow, I'll give him his payment"; this being not in cruelty, but in honest indignation at Orlando's ascribed villain; nevertheless, when the trial comes, although flushed with victory, and haughty in his supposed strength, there is no bitterness in his question "Where is this young gallant?" Poor Charles is as much slandered here by the painter as Orlando was by his brother. Well, but what of Orlando himself? He folds his hands, and turns up his eyes like a lover in his last appeal to his lady's mercy. What was the actual fact ? Orlando had been but that instant called before the princesses; he had never seen them before in his life. He is a man of firm, calm, and gloomy character the sadness having been induced by injustice; he has no hope, no thought of Rosalind or her love, at this moment; he has challenged the wrestler in quiet resolve to try with him the strength of his youth little caring what comes of it. He answers the princesses with deep and grateful courtesy, but with a despairing carelessness of his fate "If I be foiled, there is but one shamed that was never gracious; if killed, but one dead that is willingto be so. I shall do my friends no wrong, for I have none to lament me; the world no injury, for in it I have nothing." Imagine the calmness and steady melancholy of the man who would speak thus, and then compare the sentimental grimace (as of a fashionable tenor in a favourite aria) of the Orlando in the picture.
Next to pass from imagination of character to realization of detail. Mr. Maclise is supposed to draw well and realize minute features accurately. Now, the fact is, that this work has every fault usually attributed to the Pre-Raphaelites, without one of their excellences. The details are all so sharp and hard that the patterns on the dresses force the eye away from the faces, and the leaves on the boughscall to us to count them. But not only are they all drawndistinctly, they are all drawn wrong.
Take a single instance in a simple thing. On the part of the hem of the Duke's robe which crosses his right leg are seven circular golden ornaments, and two halves, Mr. Maclise being evidently unable to draw them as turning away round the side of the dress. Now observe, wherever there is a depression or fold in the dress, those circles ought to contract into narrow upright ovals. There is such a depression at the first next the half one on the left, and that circle ought to have become narrowed. Instead of which it actually widens itself! The second is right. Then the third, reaching the turn to the shade, and all those beyond it, ought to have been in narrowed perspective but they all remain full circles! And so throughout the ornament. Imagine the errors which a draughtsman who could make such a childish mistake as this must commit in matters that really need refined drawing, turns of leaves, and so on!
But to pass from drawing to light and shade. Observe, the light falls from the left, on all the figures but that of the two on the extreme left. These two, for the sake of effect, are in "accidental shadow." 1 Good; but why then has Oliver, in the brown, a sharp light on the left side of his nose! and on his brown mantle? Reflected lights, says the apologist. From what? Not from the red Charles, who is five paces at least in advance of Oliver; and if from the golden dress of the courtier, how comes it that the nearer and brighter golden dress of the Duke casts no reflected light whatever on the yellow furs and red hose of the wrestler, infinitely more susceptible of such a reflex than the dress of Oliver? It would be perfectly easy to analyze the whole picture in this manner; but I pass to a pleasanter subject of examination.

[Daniel Maclise (1806-1870) was the popular artist of his time; his vogue may be gathered alike from the acres of canvas which he was commissioned to paint, and from the appreciation of contemporaries (see, e.g., Mr. Frith's Autobiography, vol. i. ch. xi.). He was elected A.R.A. in 1834 and R.A. in 1840 ; in 1865 he declined the Presidency. Ruskin was not among his admirers ;' 'nothing," he wrote in Modern Painters, "can more completely demonstrate the total ignorance of the public of all that is great or valuable in Shakespeare than their universal admiration of Maclise's 'Hamlet'" (Vol. III. p. 82 n. ; see also pp. 51 ., 619 n.). Maclise is represented in the Tate Gallery by Nos. 422 and 423 ; in the National Portrait Gallery by a portrait of Dickens; and by three pictures in the Victoria and Albert (South Kensington) Museum. For a notice of his work in the Houses of Parliament, see below,pp. 473, 488.]

domingo, 3 de abril de 2011

77. COLIN/ (J. C. Hook, A.)

There is a sweet feeling in this choice of landscape subject, as in most of the other works of this painter. The execution is flimsy and imperfect, and must be much bettered before his pictures can rank as works of any importance. He has, however, a very interesting figuresubject in the middle room, of which more in its place.
[A figure in a landscape, called in the catalogue" Colin thou kenst, the southerne shepheard's boye' (from Spenser's "Shepheards" Calender"). Of Mr. Hook's work in later years Ruskin wrote with increasing appreciation (see pp. 102, 228). In Modern Painters, he said that " the designs of J. C. Hook are, perhaps, the only works of the kind in existence which deserve to be mentioned in connection with the pastorals of Wordsworth and Tennyson" (vol. v. pt. ix. ch. vi. 23). In the Academy of 1871 he " found nothing deserving of notice otherwise [than in condemnation], except Mr. Hook's always pleasant sketches from fisher-life, and Mr. Pettie's graceful and powerful, though too slightly painted, study from Henry IV." (Aratru Pentelici, preface). See also Art of England, 209. Mr. Hook, born in 1819, was elected A.R.A. in 1851, R.A. in 1860. He is represented in the Tate Gallery by four pictures, Nos. 1512-1514 and 1598.]

35. AZALEAS. (Miss A. F. Mutrie)

There are two other works by this artist in the rooms, Nos. 304 ["Primula and Rhododendron"] and 306 ["Orchids"].It would be well to examine them at once in succession, lest they should afterwards be passed carelessly when the mind has been interested by pictures of higher aim; for all these flower paintings are remarkable for very lovely, pure, and yet unobtrusive colour perfectly tender, and yet luscious (note the purple rose leaves especially),and a richness of petal texture that seems absolutely scented. The arrangement is always graceful the backgrounds sometimes too faint. I wish this very accomplished artist would paint some banks of flowers in wild country, just as they grow, as she appears slightly in danger of falling into too artificial methods of grouping.
1 [Miss Annie Feray Mutrie (1826-1893) studied at the Manchester School of Design, then under the direction of George Wallis. She first exhibited at the Academy in 1851. She was younger sister of Miss M. D. Mutrie (see p. 54).

En castellano.
Hay otros dos trabajos de esta artista en las salas, nº. 304 ― Primula and Rhododendron― y nº. 306 ―Orchids―. Estaría bien examinarlos de una vez, en una sucesión, para que no pasen inadvertidos cuando la mente haya estado interesada por cuadros de mayor categoría; pues, todas estas flores pintadas llaman la atención por ser tan encantadoras, puras, y sin embargo con un discreto color perfectamente suave, exquisitas (note el rosa purpura de las hojas especialmente), y poseen una riqueza en la textura de los pétalos que parecen incluso desprender su fragancia. La disposición es siempre armoniosa, los fondos algunas veces demasiado débiles. Ojalá esta artista consumada pintara algunos bancos de flores tal como se encuentran en la naturaleza, como ellas crecen, pues parece que poco a poco está cayendo peligrosamente en métodos de agrupación demasiado artificiales.