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.