jueves, 14 de julio de 2011

609. THE KING'S ORCHARD.(1)(A. Hughes.)

The Royal Academy Exhibition 1859

Mr. Hughes's exquisite sense of colour and delicacy of design are seen to less advantage than usual. He has been allowing himself to go astray by indulging too much in his chief delight of colour; and this picture, which was quite lovely when I saw it last year incomplete, is now throughout too gay, and wanting in sweetness of shade, but most accomplished and delicious in detached passages; and the apple-blossom, among all its ruddy rivals on the walls this year, is tenderly, but triumphantly, victorious― it is the only blossom which is soft enough in texture, or round enough in bud. There is the making of a magnificent painter in Mr. Hughes; but he must for some time yet stoop to conquer―be content with cottagers' instead of kings' orchards, and bow to the perhaps distressing but assured fact, that a picture can be no more wholly splendid than it can be wholly white.

* For the sake of simplicity of conception, Velasquez must be classed with the Venetians, to whom he belongs in right of his style, and Vandyck with the English; in fact, he, with Sir Joshua and Gainsborough, constitute the whole school.

(1)[The picture was suggested by Pippa Passes:―"And peasants sing how once a certain page Pined for the grace of her so far above His power of doing good to, 'Kate the Queen―'She never could be wronged, be poor,' he sighed, 'Need him to help her!'" In the Academy Catalogue, Browning's lines were unkindly printed as prose.]

viernes, 8 de julio de 2011


 The Royal Academy Exhibition 1859
A well-conceived and interesting scene:1 the face of the knight successful; that of the wife is a little beyond the painter's strength. It is a fair representation of the class of pictures now produced in numbers by the advancing school, which, with considerable merit, have the general demerit of making us feel in an instant that they would never have been painted had not others shown how; and the greater demerit of slightly blunting the enjoyment of the work of original men. Nevertheless, in every school these engrafted pictures must exist; and it is a cause for sincere congratulation when the habit, which is becoming derivatively universal, is to read human nature and history with sympathy for nobleness and desire for truth.

(1)[A.D. 1347. "Then the kinge sayde ... let syxe of the chiefe burgesses of the towne come out bareheaded, barefooted, barelegged, and in their shirtes, with halters about their neckes, with the kayes of the towne and castell in their handes, and let them syxe yelde themselfe purely to my wyll, and the residue I will take to mercye." Froissart's Chronicles.]

lunes, 4 de julio de 2011


The Royal Academy Exhibition 1859

This is a great advance beyond all Mr. Goodall's former work. It is entirely higher in aim, and deeper in rendering of character; the subject interesting; the faces, for the most part, evidently portraits, and good portraits (especially those dark ones of the men in the background); the colour, in some separate portions, rich and good, showing qualities which never before appeared to be in the least sought for, much less reached, by the painter. In fact, Mr. Goodall has been looking at Titian instead of Wilkie, and that makes a large difference in what will be got by looking.

(1)[Frederick Goodall (1822-1904) first exhibited at the Academy in 1839. He was elected A.R.A. in 1853 and R.A. in 1863. For earlier references to him, see Vol. III. p. 326 n. In later years he was best known for his Eastern landscapes, of which a characteristic specimen is in the Tate Gallery (No. 1562). The subject of the picture noticed above was taken from the artist's own observation.  “Felice Ballarin," he wrote, "was the name of the reciter. He was a native of Chioggia, but above the peasant class. It was a constant feast to me to watch the earnest expressions of the people who listened to his recitations. I always had my sketching1 pocket-book at hand to put down their attitudes and expressions." (Editor's note in Ruskin on Pictures.)] XIV P

Stray Sheep, H. Hunt
Nevertheless the picture is far from right yet; and its failure involves an important principle, which it may be of use to state generally, at a time when nearly all our younger painters are making those vigorous efforts in new directions. It is wholly impossible to paint an effect of sunlight truly. It never has been done, and never will be. Sunshine is brighter than any mortal can paint, and all resemblances to it must be obtained by sacrifice. In order to obtain a popularly effective sunlight, colour must be sacrificed. De Hoogh, Cuyp, Claude, Both, Richard Wilson, and all other masters of sunshine, invariably reach their most telling effects by harmonies of gold with grey, giving up the blues, rubies, and freshest greens. Turner did the same in his earlier work. Modern Pre-Raphaelites, and Turner in his later work, reached magnificent effects of sunshine colour, but of a kind necessarily unintelligible to the ordinary observer (as true sunshine colour will always be, since it is impossible to paint it of the pitch of light which has true relation to its shadows). And thus the “Sun of Venice," and the "Slave Ship," with Hunt's "Two Gentlemen of Verona," "Stray Sheep," and such others, failed of almost all their due effect on the popular mind.1                                                       Slaver. Turner

(1)[For the "Sun of Venice” No. 535 in the National Gallery, see Vol. XIII. p.163. For references to the "Slaver," once in Ruskin's collection, see Vol. III. p. 571. To the "splendour of colour" in Holman Hunt's "Two Gentlemen of Verona” Ruskin had called attention in his letter to the Times of May 30, 1851, Vol. XII. p. 324. For "The Strayed Sheep” see above, p. 65.]

In landscape, nevertheless, to which sunshine is often necessary as part of its expression, the sacrifice must be made ; and the public will, in time, understand it. But in figures, sunshine is rarely a necessary part of the expression; and all figure pictures in which it is introduced must be, to a certain extent, offensive. The obstinate endeavours of the Pre-Raphaelites to get vermilion transparencies and purple shadows into flesh, have been one of the principal and most justifiable grounds of the long opposition to them. And all great work whatsoever, of the highest school, refuse  sunlight; and admits only a kind of glowing twilight, like that of Italy a quarter of an hour after sunset.

Under these circumstances, choice must be made firmly and completely. Give up your sunlight, and you may get Titian's twilight. Give up your Titianesque depth, and you may, by thorough study from Nature, get some approximation to noonday flame. But you cannot have both. Mr. Goodall has attempted both, and, of course, missed both―chiefly his sunshine, from mere inattention to its effects. For instance, the woman sitting on the right, with the green petticoat, has her lap in sunshine, her head in shade. Whatever light touches the head would be reflected light, and it would be reflected from the ground, shining strongly under her brows and on the lower part of her face; instead of which there is a shadow under the brow, exactly as if she were sitting in a room with ordinary daylight entering from above through a window. The picture is full of grammatical error of the same kind―the kind of error which in these days of earnest effort and accurate science, artists should get quit of with their long-clothes and spelling-books; whereas now, to the middle or even the close of life, they remain encumbered among petty misunderstandings, and wondering why they cannot make their art beautiful, when they have never taken the pains to make it right. There are, of course, just three simple stages of study to be gone through by every student. He has first to learn to draw a solid body in perfect light and shade, without sunlight. Then to paint it, also without sunlight; taking subjects that will give no trouble about their expression or sentiment. Then to put it into sunshine, and paint it there also, until he knows precisely the kind of difference in treatment required for it. And then―not till then―he may be able partially to colour the human face.

All this is just as simple and rational in method of procedure as practising scales in music before we try to play sonatas. But we always try to learn our painting upside down.

domingo, 3 de julio de 2011

310. SUNDAY IN THE BACKWOODS.1 (Thomas Faed.)

The Royal Academy Exhibition 1859

This will of course be a very popular picture, and deserves to be so, having every claim to our observance which kindly feeling and steady average painting can give it. It does not possess any first-rate qualities; but has no serious faults, and much gentle pathos. The figure of the healthy sister, looking up, seems to me the best.

(1)[In the catalogue an explanatory "Extract from a letter from Canada" was given: "We have no church here but our loghouse, or the wide forest; and a grand kirk the forest makes―not even the auld cathedral has such pillars, space, nor so high a roof; so we e'en take turns about on Sunday in reading the Bible. We are all well except Jeannie, and as happy as can be, considering the country and ties we have left. Poor Jeannie is sadly changed; her only song now is, 'Why left I my hame?' But for her illness, our lot ought not to be an unhappy one."]

211. JEANIE DEANS AND QUEEN CAROLINE. (Charles Robert Leslie, R.A.)

The Royal Academy Exhibition 1859

The more I learn of art, the more respect I feel for Mr. Leslie's painting, as such; and for the way it brings out the expressional result he requires. Given a certain quantity of oil colour to be laid with one touch of pencil, so as to produce at once the subtlest and largest expressional result possible, and there is no man now living who seems to me to come at all near Mr. Leslie, his work being, in places, equal to Hogarth1 for decision, and here and there a little lighter and more graceful (Hogarth always laying his colour somewhat in daubs and spots). But I am obliged to write above, "the result he (Mr. Leslie) requires," as being very completely distinguished from the result that other people might possibly require. So long, indeed, as Mr. Leslie is dealing only with delicate, lady-like, or gentleman-like expression, he is a consummately faithful artist. I cannot help referring once more2 to his exquisite Belinda and her lover, in his "Rape of the Lock," as types of all that can be asked in such painting; and in this picture before us, the Queen, and still more the dark-robed Lady Suffolk, are quite beautiful; as also in No. 152,3 Lady Percy. But Jeanie here! and Harry there!! Alas, the day! Examine the two pictures well: they are among the most instructive that ever yet appeared on the Academy walls, in showing the possibility of entering completely into the spirit of the gracefulnesses of society, without the power of conceiving Heroism. To a certain extent, the mind of Reynolds was of this stamp. He could conceive a most refined lord or lady, but not a saint or Madonna; and his best hero, Lord Heathfield,4 is but an obstinate old English gentleman after all.

Gainsborough takes very nearly the same view of us.5 Hogarth laughs at or condemns us. Leslie, accustomed to high English life, supposes that this was Harry Percy's way of wearing his spurs. Is it not a rather strange matter that our seers, or painters, contemplating the English nation, cannot, all of them put together, paint an English hero? Nothing more than an English gentleman in an obstinate state of mind about keys; with an expression which I can conceive so exceedingly stout a gentleman of that age as occasionally putting on, even respecting the keys of the cellaret. Pray, consider of it a little, good visitors to the Royal Academy in the afternoon, whether it is altogether the painter's fault, or anybody else's!

(1) [For Ruskin's references to Hogarth, see Vol. XII. p. 495.]

(2) [See above, p. 38.]

(3) ["Hotspur and Lady Percy." First Part of Henry IV., Act ii. sc. 3.]

(4) [No. 1ll in the National Gallery. For Reynolds's limitations in the sense here indicated, see the paper on "Sir Joshua and Holbein" (On the Old Road, 1885, vol. i §§.152-153), reprinted in a later volume of this edition. On the modern types of Madonnas, see the ironical reference in Mornings in Florence, § 34.]

(5)[For other references to Gainsborough in this connexion, see Ariadne Florentina,      § 48, and " Sir Joshua and Holbein/' 153.]