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

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