miércoles, 1 de junio de 2011

29. THE BLUIDY TRYSTE.(1) (J. N. Paton.)

The Royal Academy Exhibition 1858

(1)[The subject was explained in the catalogue by the following passage:― "Alack, proude Ladie, quoth the Knycht, I spake bot in jeste; and thou hast slone the trewest lover that ever lovit woman; for never so ―God me help― loved I none other but thee. And so he died. . . . Sche streikit him straught in the rath blumis, ever making him heavy dole; and alaick, quoth sche, living I livit bot for thee, and ded I will for thee die. And so she departed thence; and towards eventyde came to our Ladie's Priory, and there made sche confeesioun, and was straight assoylit, and mekely receivit her Saviour. And, whenas complinis was sung, her heavy hert brast in sondir, so that al weipit to see. . . . And they layed their bodies in one graff." The Harte and the Hynde, boke xii.]

I regret the prevailing gloom which at present characterizes this artist's work; art may face horror, but should not dwell with it. The greatest painters habitually have chosen cheerful or serene subjects; and if Mr. Paton will paint them more frequently, he would feel the real power of a frightful one more, when there is need for him to paint it. There was, I believe, such need in the case of his other picture, "In Memoriam,"(1) it having been designed at the time of the fit of miserable public weakness which had like to have checked the doing of judgment and justice on the Indian murderers;(2) but there was no need, as far as I can see, or feel, for the defilement of this sweet dell with guilt; at least, unless it had been done more solemnly. The dead body is far too well dressed; no one can be sorry that there is an end of the coxcomb ; he might have been far more gallantly dressed for his tryst without being so fine. Then Nature ought to have had more observance of him―the sun ought to have fallen here and there upon his face―eyes, and upon his blood; and the hue of the leafage round him should have had, it seems to me, the deep sympathy through all its innocent life which is felt in those words of Keats―

Saying, moreover, "Isabel, my sweet,
Red whortle-berries droop above my head,
And a large flint stone weighs upon my feet;
Around me beeches and high chestnuts shed
Their leaves and prickly nuts ; a sheepfold bleat
Comes from beyond the river to my bed."(3)

(1)[471. A scene from the Indian Mutiny―the interior of a dungeon, where captive white women and children are confined, expecting the nameless horrors of a cruel death, when they are released by the Highlanders, who burst into their prison. In the picture, as originally exhibited, the place occupied by the Highlanders was filled with Sepoys. For a criticism of this modification, and on Sir Noel Paton's work generally, see pp. 206-212 of The English School of Painting, by E. Chesneau, whose criticism (says Ruskin) “my pupils may accept as my own” (Art of England, Lecture iv.).]

(2)[The reference is to the Governor-General's Proclamation of July 1857, which gained for him the name of "Clemency Canning," and met with as much favour in some quarters as hostility in others (see Greville's Memoirs, 1852-1860, ii. 127). In December 1857 Sepoy rebels were blown from the guns. Ruskin in such cases favoured strong measures, as, for example, in the case of Governor Eyre : see Time and Tide, 116.]

(3)[Isabella, xxxviii.]

Many readers thought it a mere piece of flippancy when I said, respecting Mr. Paton's beautiful picture of the "Home," that he ought to paint nothing for some time to come but apricots and peaches.(1) It was, on the contrary, a quiet statement of a true necessity. Mr. Paton will not learn what is wanting to his mode of painting until he practises colour from simple objects, in the realization of which emotion can have no share. This foreground is, of course, painted with intensest care and perfect draughtsmanship; there is more natural history in it than in most others in the rooms; the little pinguicula alpina on the left, the oxalis leaves in the middle, the red ferns, and small red viper on the right, are all exquisitely articulated as far as form goes; but they are painted without enough mystery or change of colour. It will be necessary for this painter to make colour his main object for some months, and to paint the leaves thoroughly well on a large scale before he reduces them to foreground magnitude; but the way he has executed the girdles of the two figures, the piece of bank above the knight's head, and that just under his breast, between it and the bugle, proves him to be capable of all perfection.

(1)[See above, p. 60. Ruskin's remark there had especially enraged the critic of the Guardian, who wrote: "There is a lovely picture by Mr. Paton, called Home, which we have gazed at with heart and eyes fuller than we should care to confess, except anonymously, in print. Mr. Ruskin has a single sentence of general praise for it, and then proceeds’―Mr. Paton has, however, a good deal yet to learn in colour . . .apricots and peaches.’ If any man can go and look at Mr. Paton's picture, and then think of this sentence without a feeling of indignant contempt, all we can say is, he is very differently constituted from ourselves."]

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