jueves, 30 de junio de 2011

167. "JUST AS THE TWIG IS BENT, THE TREE'S INCLINED." (William Mulready, R.A.)

The Royal Academy Exhibition 1859

I see that this picture has been depreciatingly spoken of in several of the journals. I think unjustly so. It is as good as Mr. Mulready's work usually is. I had occasion last year1 to point out the general defect of that work―namely, that the painter is evidently thinking only of himself and his drawing―never caring the least about what he has to draw; of which, therefore, he misses precisely the most valuable characters, and succeeds in using more skill in painting Nothing than any painter ever spent before on that subject.

If the trees in the background are supposed to be typical of education, they ought to have been better grown. Mr. Mulready's trees are often supposed by artists to be well drawn, merely because they are well rounded. But they are, nevertheless, mannered in execution, and false in tree anatomy.

(1)[In 1857, not 1858: see above, p. 101.]

165. MARY MAGDALENE.1(John Rogers Herbert, R.A.)

The Royal Academy Exhibition 1859

Very beautiful, and an interesting example of the noble tendency of modern religious art to conceive scenes as they really in probability occurred ; not in merely artistic modification or adaptation.
The picture tells its story sufficiently, and needs no comment. It is not of high artistic merit, but a sincere and gentle conception, adequately, and therefore very touchingly, expressed.
(1)[Study for part of a picture of the holy women passing at daybreak over the place of crucifixion.]

martes, 28 de junio de 2011


The Royal Academy Exhibition 1859

My dear Mr. Roberts, is this like a church built of white Carrara marble? La Salute is verily as white as snow in some places; black-spotted or ochre-spotted in others; but delicate and lovely everywhere. And then the gondoliers! still always where they couldn't possibly row! It would be very comfortable for gondoliers if they might stand in the middle of the boat close by the canop; but to their sorrow, sometimes to their misfortune, they must stand far back, poised on the point of the giddy stern. I say "sometimes to their misfortune"; for, as if specially to illustrate Mr. Leslie's* declaration, in defence of Canaletti against some fault-finding of mine, that the water," as it approached the houses, was sheltered from the breeze," my strongest gondolier was blown off his perch into the canal at my own door one day, just opposite this very church, and had nearly been brained against the doorstep.1

I much regret Mr. Roberta's abandonment of his old picturesque subjects for these severe ones. He had a great gift of expressing the ins and outs of Spanish balconies and roofs, and the hollow work of complex tracery; and all his skill of this kind is now passing away into formal architectural drawing in brown and grey. His old painting of the spires of Burgos Cathedral3―of its turreted chapterhouse―the tombs of Ferdinand and Isabella―the towers and courts of the Alhambra, etc., involved points of interest and displays of skill which none of his subjects at present either contain or admit; while their generally smaller size prevented the painter's wearying at his work, and enabled us to have five or six subjects each year instead of two.

* Handbook for Young Painters, p. 269.2

(1)[Ruskin refers again to this incident in a letter to Professor Charles Eliot Norton: see Vol. IX. p. xxviii.]

(2)[Compare p. 168, above. Leslie's reference was to Modern Painters, vol. i. pt. ii sec. v. ch. i. § 18 see Vol. III. p. 513, where, in a note added to this edition, the passage in the Handbook is cited.]

(3)[See in the national collection the picture of "The Cathedral at Burgos" (No. 400 in the Tate Gallery), painted in 1835.]

domingo, 26 de junio de 2011


 The Royal Academy Exhibition 1859

Well, of course, it is very nice. Housings and camels―palm trees―clouds, and sheikh. But waiting for a ferry-boat is dull work; and are we never to get out of Egypt any more? nor to perceive the existence of any living creatures but Arabs and camels ? Is there nothing paintable in England, nor Spain, nor Italy?1 Or, in the East, if we must live in the East, is no landscape ever visible but a dead level of mud raised two feet above a slow stream? I have heard of lovely hills and convents at Athos―of green trees and flowing waters at Damascus―of mighty rocks at Petra and Mount Hor―of wonderful turrets and enamelled walls at Cairo: surely the mosaic of a marble turret is as pretty a thing to paint as a camel-housing; and it would take no more trouble to draw the ridges of an Arabian mountain than the folds of that everlasting sheik's cloak! We go to this melancholy Egypt through plague, and mosquitoes, and misery of every sort―and all we see for our pains is a camel with a fine carpet on his back. Cannot we see that any day at the Zoological Gardens? But the Sphinx, and the temples, and the hieroglyphics, and the mirage, and simoom, and everything that we want to know about, and that one would be so thankful to have painted properly―shall we never have any of these? It is too unkind of you, Mr. Lewis; and it serves you quite right to be put up there, where nobody can see a bit of your good work, but only your dull subject. But what is this we have got put underneath you, which looks like a tobacconist's sign? a valuable work, it is to be hoped―let us see.

(1)[Ruskin particularly regretted that Lewis did not devote himself to Venice. "I would give anything," he wrote to his father from Venice (September 16, 1851), "if John Lewis would come; he is the only man who could draw it, and he would do it perfectly." Compare another letter already given above, p. 167]

miércoles, 22 de junio de 2011

40. THE NIGHT BEFORE NASEBY. (August Leopold Egg, A.)

The Royal Academy Exhibition 1859

An interesting contribution to the store of hints for better understanding of English history which painters and poets are now continually throwing out for us. This scene is, however, hardly strange enough to have the look of reality:  it is what we should, or could, all imagine about Cromwell; while most likely, if we had really been able to look into his tent the night before Naseby, the look of him would have been something different from what we should have imagined. A picture which is not at first a little wonderful to us, can hardly at last be true to us.

(Extraña conexión entre verdad y “maravilla”, es como si dijera que no tiene, o no suele haber, correspondencia entre lo imaginado o pensado según tópicos, lo que esperaríamos en la realidad, y lo que realmente sucede, que resultaría más chocante si pudieramos verlo. Lo inesperado o sorpredente, o maravilloso, sería una pista de la verdad, y no lo acostumbrado, lo esperado.)

15. THE VALE OF REST.1 (J. E. Millais, A.)

The Royal Academy Exhibition 1859

I have no doubt the beholder is considerably offended at first sight of this picture―justifiably so, considering what might once have been hoped for from its painter; but unjustifiably, if the offence taken prevents his staying by it, for it deserves his study. "We are offended by it." Granted. Perhaps the painter did not mean us to be pleased. It may be that he supposed we should have been offended if we had seen the real nun digging her real grave;* that she and it might have appeared to us not altogether pathetic, romantic, or sublime, but only strange or horrible; and that he chooses to fasten this sensation upon us rather than any other.

* I believe, in point of fact, nuns neither dig their own graves nor erect tombstones; but we will take the picture on its own terms.

(1)["Where the weary find repose" (see Job iii. 17) was added in the catalogue as a motto. This picture is now in the Tate Gallery (No. 1507). The Athenaeum (April 30, 1859) had referred to the unpleasantness of "the red skull of a face and staring coarse black eyes" in the nun. "Year Mr. Millais gave forth those terrible nuns in the graveyard"― thus did Punch characterise 1859. In 1862 Millais repainted the head of the seated nun. For various particulars about the picture, see E. T. Cook's Popular Handbook to the National Gallery (British schools).]

It is a temper into which many a good painter has fallen before now. You would not find it a pleasant thing to be left at twilight in the church of the Madonna of the Garden at Venice, with the last light falling on the skeletons―half alive, dreamy, stammering skeletons―shaking the dust off their ribs, in Tintoret's " Last Judgment."1 Perhaps even you might not be at your ease before one or two pale crucifixes which I remember of Giotto's and other not mean men, where the dark red runlets twine and trickle from the feet down to the skull at the root of the cross.2 Many an ugly spectre and ghastly face has been painted by the gloomier German workmen before now, and been in some sort approved by us; nay, there is more horror by far, of a certain kind, in modern French works―Vernet's Eylau and Plague,3 and such like which we do not hear any one declaim against; nay, which seem to meet a large division of public taste―than in this picture which so many people call "frightful.

"Why so frightful? Is it not because it is so nearly beautiful?― Because the dark green field, and windless trees, and purple sky might be so lovely to persons unconcerned about their graves?

Or is it that the faces are so ugly? You would have liked them better to be fair faces, such as would grace a drawing-room; and the grave to be dug in prettier ground―under a rose-bush or willow, and in turf set with violets―nothing like a bone visible as one threw the mould out. So, it would have been a sweet piece of convent sentiment.

I am afraid that it is a good deal more like real convent sentiment as it is. Death―confessed for king before his time―asserts, so far as I have seen, some authority over such places; either unperceived, and then the worst, in drowsy unquickening of the soul; or felt and terrible, pouring out his white ashes upon the heart―ashes that burn with cold. If you think what the kind of persons who have strength of conviction enough to give up the world might have done for the world had they not given it up; and how the King of Terror must rejoice when he wins for himself another soul that might have gone forth

(1) [This is the picture described in Modern Painters, vol. ii. (Vol. IV. pp. 274-277).]

(2)[The MS. shows that Raskin first wrote "foot" of the cross, altering the word afterwards to "root."]

(3)[For Horace Vernet, see Vol. V. pp. 124 n., 126. Many of his battle pictures are at Versailles, but the editors have been unable to trace the Eylau and Plague.]

to calm the earth, and folds his wide white wings over it for ever (He also gathering his children together);1 and how those white sarcophagi, towered and belfried, each with his companies of living dead, gleam still so multitudinous among the mountain pyramids of the fairest countries of the earth―places of silence for their sweet voices; places of binding for their faithfullest hands; places of fading for their mightiest intelligences;―you may, perhaps, feel also that so great wrong cannot be lovely in the near aspect of it; and that if this very day, at evening, we were allowed to see what the last clouds of twilight glow upon in some convent garden of the Apennines, we might leave the place with some such horror as this picture will leave upon us; not all of it noble horror, but in some sort repulsive and ignoble.

It is, for these reasons, to me, a great work. Nevertheless, part of its power is not to the painter's praise. The crude painting is here in a kind of harmony with the expression of discord which was needed. But it is crude―not in momentary compliance with the mood which prompted this wild design, but in apparent consistency of decline from the artist's earlier ways of labour.

Pass to his other picture―the "Spring"2―and we find the colour not less abrupt, though more vivid. And when we look at this fierce and rigid orchard―this angry blooming (petals, as it were, of japanned brass); and remember the lovely wild roses and flowers scattered on the stream in the "Ophelia";3 there is, I regret to say, no ground for any diminution of the doubt which I expressed two years since 4 respecting the future career of a painter who can fall thus strangely beneath himself.

(1)[See Matthew xxiii. 37.]

(2)[No. 298. This picture, better known under the title "Apple Blossoms," is now in the possession of Mr. Clarke. The central figure was painted from Miss Georgiana Moncrieff (afterwards Countess of Dudley). The history of the picture "the most unfortunate of Millais's pictures/' Lady Millais called it is given in his Life and Letters, i. 323.]

(3)[Exhibited at the Academy in 1852. For other references to it, see above, p. 107, and below, p. 496 .]

(4)[See above, p. 107.]

The power has not yet left him. With all its faults, and they are grievous, this is still mighty painting: nothing else is as strong, or approximately as strong, within these walls. But it is a phenomenon, so far as I know, unparalleled hitherto in art history, that any workman capable of so much should rest content with so little. All former art, by men of any intellect, has been wrought, under whatever limitations of time, as well as the painter could do it; evidently with an effort to reach something beyond what was actually done: if a sketch, the sketch showed a straining towards completion; if a picture, it showed a straining to a higher perfection. But here, we have a careless and insolent indication of things that might be; not the splendid promise of a grand impatience, but the scrabbled remnant of a scornfully abandoned aim.

And this wildness of execution is strangely associated with the distortion of feature which more or less has been sought for by this painter from his earliest youth; just as it was by Martin Schöngauer1 and Mantegna. In the first picture (from Keats's "Isabella") which attracted public attention, the figure in the foreground writhed in violence of constrained rage; in the picture of the "Holy Family at Nazareth" the Virgin's features were contorted in sorrow over a wounded hand; violent ugliness of feature spoiled a beautiful arrangement of colour in the "Return of the Dove," and disturbed a powerful piece of dramatic effect in the "Escape from the Inquisition." And in this present picture, the unsightliness of some of the faces, and the preternatural grimness of others, with the fierce colour and angular masses of the flowers above, force upon me a strange impression, which I cannot shake off that this is an illustration of the song of some modern Dante, who, at the first entrance of an Inferno for English society, had found, carpeted with ghostly grass, a field of penance for young ladies, where girl-blossoms, who had been vainly gay, or treacherously amiable, were condemned to recline in reprobation under red-hot apple blossom, and sip scalding milk out of a poisoned porringer.

(1)[See Vol. VI. p. 400.]

(2)["Lorenzo and Isabella" (1848) is now in the Corporation Gallery at Liverpool. For the "Holy Family at Nazareth," otherwise known as "Christ in the House of His Parents" (1849) and "The Return of the Dove to the Ark" (1851), see Vol. XII. pp. 920, 323. For "The Escape of a Heretic"(1857), see above, p. 110. Ruskin had called attention to the point noticed above in his second letter to the Times on "The Pre-Raphaelite Brethren," Vol. XII. p. 325.]

domingo, 19 de junio de 2011

13. A BOY IN FLORENTINE COSTUME. (Mrs. Jane Benham Hay.)

                                           England and Italy. Painted in the Val d'Arno, 1859

The Royal Academy Exhibition 1859

Very masterly and complete in effect, and like the Val d'Arno; so also its companion, No. 173.1 But the intention of this latter is mistaken. An English boy, however luxuriously bred, has usually twenty times the firmness in his face that an Italian one has. Italian boys are beautiful full of vitality and roguery; lazy, and, on the whole, well fed, wherever I have seen them. There is more misery of an outward and physical kind in a couple of London backstreets than in a whole Italian town. Mental degradation, not physical suffering, constitutes the slavery of Italy; both constitute that of England. Italian slavery is infinitely grander than ours. The souls of Italy at least need iron bars to bind them; ours need only the threads of purses.

(1)["England and Italy. Painted in the Val d'Arno, 1859." In a note in the catalogue the artist explains her intention: "Two boys, one of English type, the other an Italian boy of the people. In one I have endeavoured to express the pure happiness of our children ; in the other, the obstination (sic) of the oppressed and suffering poor of Italy."]

miércoles, 15 de junio de 2011

126. IN THE SABINE HILLS. (Carl Haag1)

Old water-colour society 1858 

Very beautiful and right up― to the point sought. I have perhaps never before seen a piece of the Italian limestone, scorched dry in the sun, so thoroughly realized, whether in the lie of the oblique beds under the shrine, or in the mass on this side of the path spotted with black lichen. The distant mountain is very soft and lovely in colour, and quite as true as lovely. The reflected light in the roof of the shrine is rightly cast and richly glowing. What can possibly be the matter with this picture―making it not a great one―for a great one assuredly it is not?

I believe the same things are the matter with it, only in a far less painful degree, which destroys so much of the value of Carl Haag's figure pieces; namely, a delight in texture rather than in forms or undulations of surface―or (in rougher words) in the skin rather than the make of things; further, a delight in violent contrasts of colour rather than in finely invented harmonies of it (the same thing as the endeavour of a composer to get effect by passages of flute and harp after drum and trumpet, instead of by real invention of successions in chords); and lastly and chiefly, a tendency to stage sentiment rather than life sentiment, making him insist always more on costume than expression―nay, in fact, always see costume first. And, observe, this error is not merely the common one of which the Pre-Raphaelites are so often accused (for the most part falsely), of painting accessories better than principalities, when the principalities are nevertheless seen and tried for. For in Carl Haag's work the principal things are not seen. A peasant offers herself to his eyes as a kind of book of patterns: the main phenomena of her are her cap and bodice; he cannot recover from the sensation of astonishment at her dress so as to discern that there is a human being within it. A man is, in his eyes, mainly different from a chamois in wearing leggings: if Cadmus had sown hobnails instead of teeth, one might have expected a crop of such men as these. I verily believe that the best thing the painter could do would be to go to the Tyrol, and himself wear green breeches and a conical hat till he got quite used to them, and perceived that there was really nothing so awful nor wonderful in either, but that he might paint without being overpowered by their presence.

He is, however, doing better every year. This landscape seems to me a great step in advance, and I hope we shall have more of the kind. Carl Haag's forte, as it has been in worsted among men, will evidently be in lichens among rocks; but that is no reason why these respectable and long-lived vegetables should not have their painters. By the way, they and the fungi have all fortune's favour this year; for William Hunt's beautiful little picture (244)2 is the first, so far as I know, painted entirely in honour of the little ephemeral beauties, as Carl Haag's is the first which has entirely expressed the character of the black stains of mountain life which hardly change their shapes in a thousand years.

(1)[Carl Haag (b. 1820)―afterwards known chiefly for his Eastern drawings―a native of Bavaria, settled in England in 1847, and became an Associate of the Water-Colour Society in 1850. For an interesting notice of him, see the History of that Society, ii. 341-352.]

(2)[See below, pp. 203, 205.]

martes, 14 de junio de 2011


Old society of painters of water-colours 1858

Though Mr. Cox's work is every year broader in handling, and therefore further, as mere work, from the completeness I would generally advocate, it becomes always more majestic or more interesting in conception. I have deeper sympathy with some of his this year's drawings than with any I ever yet saw from his hand. This is a rich and beautiful one; but the bits please me most which no one but he would have thought of painting, and which are made pictures of by a little thing in the right place, as 178 ["Going to Market"] is by the black and white dog. The bank above, and distance, are wonderful pieces of grey colour.

(1)[David Cox died in the year following this Exhibition, aged seventy-six. Ruskin's eulogy of him in the first edition of the first volume of Modern Painters (1843) had been as follows: "David Cox, whose pencil never falls but in dew simple―minded as a child, gentle, and loving all things that are pure and lowly, content to be quiet among the rustling leaves, and sparkling grass, and purple-cushioned heather, only to watch the soft white clouds melting with their own motion, and the dewy blue dropping through them like rain, so that he may but cast from him as pollution all that is proud, and artificial, and unquiet, and worldly, and possess his soul in humility and peace." Cox's handling became broader in his later period, as mentioned by Ruskin in these Notes, and he defended the "loose and blotted handling" as appropriate to his object (Modern Painters, vol. i., Vol. III. pp. 193-195). For a later and less favourable notice, see Lectures on Landscape, 80. See the references in Vol. III. p. 46 n.]

domingo, 12 de junio de 2011

454. THE WIFE'S REMONSTRANCE. (James Campbell, jun.)

Society of British painters 1858

By far the best picture in the Suffolk Street rooms this year; full of pathos, and true painting. But I fear Mr. Campbell is unredeemably under the fatal influence which shortens the power of so many of the Pre-Raphaelites the fate of loving ugly things better than beautiful ones. In his "Visit to the Old Sailor" (800), he has painted the rugged face well, but quite spoiled the child's. He ought to repaint the child's face; the rest of the drawing is worth any pains he could spend on it.

139. MARGUERITE AT THE FOUNTAIN. (Ary Scheffer(1))

The French Exhibition 1858

As this picture is designed on the assumption that the universe generally is vulgar, and that the noblest ideal of colour is to be found in dust, it of course puts itself beyond criticism. But it suggests a curious question. It may be I―believe it is―a just view of the depth and purity of Marguerite's character, which assumes that the first whispers of her companions would not flush her face but turn it pale. But, supposing the painter should ever wish to paint a woman "glowing all over noble shame,"(9) how will he reconcile the human crimson with the dusty insensibilities of his background?

(1)[Ary Scheffer (1795-1858) was by birth Dutch, by residence and training French. His well-known picture of "St. Augustine and St. Monica" is in the Tate Gallery (No. 1170). For another reference to him, see above, p. 114. In a letter, written to E. S. Dallas about 1860, Ruskin somewhat mitigates his judgment on Ary Scheffer. "Though one of the heads of the Mud sentiment school, he does draw and feel very beautifully and deeply "(Letters on Art and Literature, p. 38, privately issued 1894, and reprinted in a later volume of this edition).]

(2)[Ida in Tennyson's Princess (vii.). Ruskin again uses the quotation in his address on "The Value of Drawing" to the St. Martin's School of Art (see Vol. XVI.).]

viernes, 10 de junio de 2011

7. THE PLOUGH. (Mdlle. Rosa Bonheur.(1))

The French Exhibition 1858

This lady gains in power every year, but there is one stern fact concerning art which she will do well to consider, if she means her power to reach full development. No painter of animals ever yet was entirely great who shrank from painting the human face; and Mdlle. Bonheur clearly does shrink from it. Of course, a ploughman ploughing westward at evening slouches his hat and stoops his head; but the back of him, in this action, with a foreshortened yoke of oxen, and three of the awkwardest haystacks in France, do not altogether constitute a subject for a picture. In the "Horse Fair" the human faces were nearly all dexterously, but disagreeably, hidden, and the one chiefly shown had not the slightest character. Mdlle. Bonheur may rely upon this, that if she cannot paint a man's face, she can neither paint a horse's, a dog's, nor a bull's. There is in every animal's eye a dim image and gleam of humanity, a flash of strange light through which their life looks out and up to our great mystery of command over them, and claims the fellowship of the creature, if not of the soul. I assure Mdlle. Bonheur, strange as the words may sound to her, after what she has been told by huntsmen and racers, she has never painted a horse yet. She has only painted trotting bodies of horses.(2)

(1)[Rosa Bonheur (1822-1899). The "Horse Fair" was exhibited at the Salon in 1853, and afterwards in London. A repetition of it, now in the National Gallery (No. 621), was the first work by a living foreign artist to be admitted there. Ruskin made Rosa Bonheur's acquaintance when she was in England in 1856, staying with Gambart, the dealer. Frederick Goodall, who was present on one occasion when Ruskin was dining with her, thus records the conversation. "After he had seen most of her studies of Highland cattle, he asked, 'Why don't you work in water-colours, for if you did you could, with a very fine sable brush, put in every hair in your studies.' Her answer was, 'I do not paint in water-colour, and I could not; it would be impossible to put in every hair; even a photo could not do it.' 'If you come and dine with me some day,' he retorted, 'I will show you a water-colour drawing―made in Scotland―in which I put in every leaf of a tree in the foreground.' By and by, when she spoke of the Old Masters, of Titian, and especially of the Entombment of Christ, he only remarked, 'How wonderful the little flowers in the foreground are painted!' I felt at the moment that she took the larger view of art. Mr. Ruskin continued, 'I do not see that you use purple in your shades.' 'But,' she said, 'I never see shade two days alike, and I never see it purple.' 'I always see it purple,' and he emphasised it, 'yes: red and blue.' After Mr. Ruskin took his leave, Gambart asked her opinion about him. (He is a gentleman,' she said, 'an educated gentleman; but he is a theorist. He sees nature with a little eye― tout a fait comme un oiseau"' (Reminiscences of Frederick Goodall, 1902, p. 130).]

(2)[Ruskin reverts to this criticism in a letter to his father, written after reading a book on Horse Taming:―"TURIN, August 19 [1858].―Among the many things which pleased me (I shall forget to say this if I don't say it at once) was the testimony it bore to that peculiar fineness of make, and subtlety of spirit in the horse which I think Lewis has expressed so exquisitely and Rosa Bonheur missed so Ignorantly―' a single harsh word will raise a nervous horse's pulse ten beats a minute.'"]

                                           Horse Fair

1089. STONEBREAKER.(1) (John Brett.)

The Royal Academy Exhibition 1858

This, after John Lewis's, is simply the most perfect piece of painting with respect to touch in the Academy this year; in some points of precision it goes beyond anything the Pre-Raphaelites have done yet. I know no such thistledown, no such chalk hills, and elm-trees, no such natural pieces of far-away cloud, in any of their works. The composition is palpably crude and wrong in many ways, especially in the awkward white cloud at the top; and the tone of the whole a little too much as if some of the chalk of the flints had been mixed with all the colours. For all that, it is a marvellous picture, and may be examined inch by inch with delight; though nearly the last stone I should ever have thought of any one's sitting down to paint would have been a chalk flint. If he can make so much of that, what will Mr. Brett not make of mica slate and gneiss! If he can paint so lovely a distance from the Surrey downs and railway-traversed vales, what would he not make of the chestnut groves of the Val d'Aosta! I heartily wish him good-speed and long exile.(2)

(1)[This picture, now in the possession of James Barrow, Esq., is reproduced in Mr. P. H. Bate's English Pre-Raphaelite Painters. It was bought during the exhibition. "I am exceedingly glad," wrote Ruskin to his father (Bellinzona, June 22, 1858), " Brett has sold his picture, for he is a fine fellow as well as a good painter. I hope he will do some beautiful things at Sallenches." John Brett (1832-1902), who first made his mark, by the pictures noticed here and below (p. 234), as a painter of landscape on Pre-Raphaelite principles (see below, p. 434), afterwards became better known as a sea-painter. His "Britannia's Realm" is in the Tate Gallery (No. 1617). To a catalogue of an exhibition of works by him in 1886 he prefixed some account of his methods and of his careful "finish." He was elected A.R.A. in 1881. Ruskin refers to him as "one of my keenest-minded friends" in Modern Painters, vol. v. pt. ix. ch. vii. 24. See also The Art of England, 8.]

(2)[Brett went to the Val d'Aosta in the summer of this year (1858). Ruskin was at Turin at the time, and discussed with the painter the picture he was engaged upon (see below, p. 238 n.). Ruskin's visit has a memorial in his description of the Alps from Turin ("Inaugural Lecture at Cambridge," Oct. 1858, reprinted in Vol. XVI. The result of Brett's visit was exhibited in the next year's Academy.]

martes, 7 de junio de 2011

562. "THOU WERT OUR CONSCRIPT." (1)(Henry Wallis.)

The Royal Academy Exhibition 1858

On the whole, to my mind, the picture of the year; and but narrowly missing being a first-rate of any year. It is entirely pathetic and beautiful in purpose and colour; its only fault being a somewhat too heavy laying of the body of paint, more especially in the distant sky, which has no joy nor clearness when it is looked close into, and in the blue of the hills that rise against it, which is also too uniform and dead. All perfect painting is light painting- light at some point of the touch at all events; no half inch of a good picture but tells, when it is looked at, "None but my master could have laid me so."

The ivy, ferns, etc., seem to me somewhat hastily painted; but they are lovely in colour, and may pass blameless, as I think it would have been in false taste to elaborate this subject further. The death quietness given by the action of the startled weasel is very striking.
(1)[The reference is to the chapter on the dignity of labour in Sartor Resartus (bk. iii. ch. iv.) : ―
"Hardly entreated brother! For us was thy back so bent, for us were thy straight limbs and fingers so deformed; thou wert our conscript, on whom the lot fell, and fighting our battles wert so marred. For in thee too lay a God-created form, but it was not to be unfolded; encrusted must it stand with the thick adhesions and defacements of labour; and thy body, like thy soul, was not to know freedom.”]

350. FLOWER GIRLS―TOWN AND COUNTRY. (John Callcott Horsley, A.)

The Royal Academy Exhibition 1858

The boldest effort we have yet seen from Mr. Horsley's hand, and I think a very telling one. It is another example of the moralizing tendency of the art of the day; but if Mr. Horsley makes his ladies going to masquerades look so charming in their gay dresses, I fear they will continue to wear them, in spite of poor flower-girls leaning against the gate-pillars, or innocent examples of life in the country.

lunes, 6 de junio de 2011

300. WEARY LIFE. (R. Carrick.)

The Royal Academy Exhibition 1858

A notable picture; very great in many respects, but with grievous faults. The two principal figures are quite rightmore especially the child; nothing can be more beautiful than the way it lies, nothing much better than the painting of it; and the thought of the whole singularly pathetic. But that thought is only half developed. I am amazed that a painter of Mr. Carrick's sincerity should allow himself in the conventionalisms of this design. What light is this that is cast on the two sleeping figures― morning?― evening?― noon? All suppositions are alike negatived by those trees in the background, which are in the deepest twilight; the rick under which the figures rest is also in darkness; and thus, for a mere effect of stage illumination on his foreground, the painter has lost all the pathos which there would have been in the calm of long, low sunshine on the solemn fields; or in the dew of the morning upon their peace―after the theatre's fantastic nocturns. The whole value of the background, as a space for informing incident, is also lost. No story is told by the dull trees. I will not take away Mr. Carrick's freedom and pleasure in invention by offering any suggestion as to the incidents that might occupy that background, but assuredly it ought not to be empty. Besides all this, the wonder of the peasant woman is vulgarly told―her gesture at this moment is highly improbable. She could not have approached so near the figures without seeing them before; unless we suppose her to have walked backwards, which indeed she might have done in raking: but the gesture has an unnatural and theatrical look for all that; and her face is utterly without expression. When there are only three figures in a picture, we must not make a nonentity of the nearest.

And lastly, the painting is throughout too hard; the straw especially is far too much defined. Has Mr. Carrick never looked carefully at the straw in the first picture which showed the beauty of it the "Dove Returning to the Ark"(1)― in which not a single stem was entirely defined, and yet all was real. It needs to be constantly kept in mind by all painters, that good painting must be reserved as well as expressive―it withholds always as much as it reveals. All mystery, or all clearness, is equally wrong, though clearness is the noblest error. Nature is simple, and therefore intelligible; but she is also infinite, and therefore mysterious. Whenever you can make a bit of painting quite out, that bit of it is wrong. There is no exception to this rule.
The picture is, however, so beautiful, in spite of all these defects, that it becomes almost the duty of the painter to perfect it.(2)
(1)[The picture by Millais exhibited in 1851 ; one of those bequeathed by Mr. Combe to the University Gallery at Oxford. Ruskin had noticed the picture in his letters to the Times in 1851 : see Vol. XII. pp. 323, 325.]

(2)[Which the painter accordingly did; see the anecdote told above, Introduction, p. xxv.]

 (P. xxv)[Of another criticism of Ruskin's― that in the Notes of 1858 on Carrick's "Weary Life 11 (p. 164)― a fine and touching incident is recorded. Ruskin was abroad at the time:―
"Vokins wished me to name to you," wrote his father (June 3, 1858), " that Carrick, when he read your criticism on Weary Life, came to him with the cheque Vokins had given, and said your remarks were all right, and that he could not take the price paid by Vokins, the buyer; he would alter the picture. Vokins took back the money, only agreeing to see the picture when it was done."
Ruskin's comment on the incident is contained in the following reply:
"BELLINZONA, June 13.― I'm sorry, and yet glad, that Carrick behaved so nobly about his picture. I don't see that he need have given back his cheque, as I conceive a dealer's price is always intended to take the risk on either side, and that an artist, as he has no right to complain if the dealer doubles profit, so neither need he make restitution if the chance turns the other way. However, if artists always acted as Carrick has done, dealers would soon come to allow them a share in rise of price, which would be the just way for all parties."]

                                                          Millais, Dove Returning to the Ark

(Crítica interesante para ver la relación entre la transmisión de un pensamiento y la composición o ejecución del cuadro)

sábado, 4 de junio de 2011

218. THE DERBY DAY(1) (William Powell Frith, R.A.)

The Royal Academy Exhibition 1858

I am not sure how much power is involved in the production of such a picture as this; great ability there is assuredly long and careful study considerable humour untiring industry, all of them qualities entitled to high praise, which I doubt not they will receive from the delighted public. It is also quite proper and desirable that this English carnival should be painted; and of the entirely popular manner of painting, which, however, we must remember, is necessarily, because popular, stooping and restricted, I have never seen an abler example. The drawing of the distant figures seems to me especially dexterous and admirable; but it is very difficult to characterize the picture in accurate general terms. It is a kind of cross between John Leech and Wilkie, with a dash of daguerreotype here and there, and some pretty seasoning with Dickens's sentiment.

(1)[Now in the Tate Gallery, No. 615. For various particulars about the picture, see E. T. Cook's Popular Handbook to the National Gallery (British School). For other references to it by Ruskin, see his letter of Feb. 2, 1880, "On the Purchase of Pictures," in Arrows of the Chace, 1880, i. p. 82 ; and the letter of June 10, 1880, on " A Museum or Picture Gallery," in On the Old Road, 1885, i. §501 ; both reprinted in a later volume of this edition.]


The Royal Academy Exhibition 1858

Very good in much of its expression, and thoroughly careful, but too much elaborated in the studio, and not quite enough on the beach. It is got up too primly, as the principal figure is in her fishwife's dress. Sorrow, and salt water, after six hours' stand on the shingle, don't leave a woman's dress quite so tidy.

200. THE MAID OF DERWENT. (Henry Hetherington Emmerson)

The Royal Academy Exhibition 1858

A promising average example of the kind of study from Nature which fills the rooms, and of which it is impossible to mark the other instances specially. This is better balanced in effect than most, and looks as if good work would come of it.

viernes, 3 de junio de 2011

119. SUNDAY EVENING. (T. Webster, E.A.(1))

The Royal Academy Exhibition 1858

Mr. Webster is quite delightful both in this picture and 334 [" Grace before Meat"]. I never remember seeing the expression of a child, at once full of affection and mischief, so delicately and perfectly touched as in this little disturber: one sees so well that the house never can be quiet for her, except when she is asleep; and holds no other joy so dear as that disquiet.

(1)[Thomas Webster (1800-1886) was constant, during a long artistic career, to the same style of domestic genre. For another reference to him, see Modern Painters, vol. iii. (Vol.V.p.49). His work is well represented in the Tate Gallery and South Kensington Museum.]