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.]