Imágenes de página

may be stimulated to exert themselves, by perceiving how much they have yet to do, before they attain to the highest excellencies of their art.

In comparing the works of modern artists with the great masters of antiquity, one thing which must strike even the most careless observer is the superiority of the latter, in the pains and labour which the artists have bestowed. The portraits of Vandyke and Titian are finished in every part, and down to the minutest particulars, with the same care as the countenance. They have been in consequence admired as models of art, long after the value of the painting, as a portrait of real life, has ceased to exist. The details in the pictures of Domenichino and Guido are made out with the most scrupulous accuracy; and the draperies, the background, and architecture, which they have introduced, are not less the subject of admiration, than the vigour of drawing and delicacy of colouring in the figures themselves. Whoever has examined the landscapes of Poussin or Claude, knows the pains they bestowed on every part of the picture; and even in those parts of it which are in the deepest shade, the eye beholds with delight the same richness of foliage and luxuriance of vegetation which adorn the most prominent objects. But we will look in vain for this minute attention to detail, and this laborious industry in the greater part of modern paintings. The countenance is often brilliantly coloured, and the likeness happily caught, by our portrait painters, but the remainder of the picture is by no means in unison with this portion of it, and the spectator is obliged to fix his attention on a small part only of the composition, if he would preserve any degree of admiration for the work. In the details of the modern landscape, a similar poverty of conception, or negligence in execution, is frequently too conspicuous. The foregrounds, instead of being adorned with the richness of vegetation, which is always observable in nature, and which the ancient masters so happily imitated, is cominonly barren and feeble, or enriched only with a few weeds, which seem to have exhausted the whole imagination of the artist. The prevailing opinion seems to be, that general effect, or, in the language of

art, breadth is to be attained by neglecting these subordinate details; forgetting that nature throws her ge neral effect over an infinity of minute particulars, and that the light which harmonizes a whole landscape, conceals none of the objects of which it is composed.

Another peculiarity of the ancient, compared with the modern, school of painting, is to be found in the supe rior vigour of drawing, and richness of colouring, by which it is distinguished. Whoever will compare the oaks of Hobbemer with the imitations of the same style which have appeared in this exhibition,-or the rocks of Salvator with the feeble attempts at savage magnificence which it displayed, or the colouring of Claude with the efforts, beautiful as they undoubtedly are, of Mr Wilson to imitate the glow of an Italian sky, will admit the truth of this observation. In portrait painting the same distinction is observable. Great as is the merit of many of the portraits of the present day, they can bear no comparison with those of Titian, Vandyke, Velasquez, or Raphael. The colouring of these great masters seems composed of different materials from those which are at present employed; their light and shadows fall with a brilliancy of which succeeding ages seem to have lost the conception; and their figures are drawn with a boldness and truth, to which no works of modern artists will bear a comparison. We are not insensible, we trust, to the great merits of many of the pictures in this exhibition, and we will do full justice in the sequel to the genius of the artists who have contributed to it; but, in comparing their productions with those of ancient times, it is in vain to conceal that much is yet to be done before an equality is attained; and it is just because we are confident that British genius is capable of passing it, that we make no attempt to conceal the distance which at present separates them.

A third peculiarity of the ancient school of painting is to be found in the unity of effect, by which its productions are distinguished. In the landscapes of Claude Lorrain, this excellence is particularly conspicuous; and to it, more than any other circumstance, the matchless beauty of his compositions is to be ascribed. In

the arrangement of his materials he is frequently extremely defective, and a large portion of his canvas is generally covered with uninteresting objects; but these and all other defects are forgotten in the captivating charm of his general effect. The masterpieces of Raphael and Domenichino exhibit the same peculiarity, and the spectator never leaves the study of their productions without feeling his mind impressed with some one emotion which the painting, upon the whole, produces, and to which all its subordinate parts are subservient. It is this combination, indeed, of extreme minuteness of execution and accuracy of drawing, with perfect generality of effect, which forms the great characteristic of the Italian school, and may be considered as the best criterion of excellence in the art in every country where it has been cultivated. But the pictures of modern times too often exhibit an ignorance or forgetfulness of this capital rule in composition. The artists seem often to have selected their subjects by accident rather than design, and without any attention to the qualities of which they were expressive; the different parts are finished separately, without any reference to the effect produced by the whole taken together, and not unfrequently a variety of colours are introduced, seemingly with no better view than that of exhibiting the numbers with which the artist's pallet is covered. To these observations, however, we must observe the paintings of Mr Wilson in this exhibition furnish a remarkable exception; and it is impossible to find in the whole range of painting a more beautiful general effect than he has thrown over the distance in his representation of sunset on an Italian shore. Although, however, the works which our British artists have as yet produced will not admit of a comparison with the great masters of antiquity, they yet exhibit striking marks of original and truly poetical genius, and promise fair to raise this island, ultimately, to the same celebrity in the arts which it has already attained in poetry and philosophy. In the present exhibition, the symptoms of expanding talent are very conspicuous. Mr Raeburn maintains his wonted ascendancy in portrait painting; and his picture of Lord Hopetoun, as well

as of the Gamekeeper to Lord Kinnoul, may justly be ranked among the first works of the kind which this island has produced. To this distinguished gentleman, indeed, the arts are indebted for the first rapid advance which painting made in this country; and if his works are compared with those of any of the artists who preceded him, the step made is, indeed, immense. It is probably owing, therefore, to the vast accumulation of business with which he has so long been overloaded, that there are so many symptoms of haste and imperfect finishing in his compositions; and that the spectator, whose admiration has been awakened by the vigour and life which his countenances exhibit, is compelled to acknowledge, with regret, that the remainder of the picture seems to have been completed by a very inferior hand. That he himself should finish all parts of his pictures with the same care as the countenance, is, indeed, impossible; but we can conceive no reason why he and all other celebrated artists should not, like Vandyke and Titian, employ young men to assist them in their works, who would both imbibe, early in life, the excellencies of their manner, and enable them, by directing their individual attention to the principal objects, to produce much more perfect compositions than the single efforts of any individual could accomplish.

Among the portraits of distinguished merit in this collection, we must not omit to mention that of the late Mr Oswald by Mr Geddes. The countenance of this amiable and accomplished gentleman was uncommonly expressive, though tinged by an air of melancholy; and the artist has not only caught, with great felicity, the benevolent and thoughtful cast of his expression, but adorned the painting with a richness and brilliancy of colouring, to which we can recollect no parallel in the portraits which this city has produced. Indeed, we have little hesitation in considering this as the finest portrait in this exhibition; and in congratulating the country upon having given birth to an artist, who promises, if his improvement continues to be as rapid as it has hitherto been, to rival Lawrence himself in the power and beauty of his countenances. We would

earnestly recommend him to cultivate the rich vein which he has opened, with assiduous care; to abate nothing in the diligence with which every part of his pictures are finished-and to exert himself in every composition, whether historical or portrait, as if on that single painting his fame and success in life depended.

The head of Mr Allan, by Nicholson of London, is an excellent painting; the colours are bright, the likeness forcible, and the drawing good. A head of a boy with skins, also, by Mr George Simpson, is a most admirable picture; and the freshness of colouring, as well as ease of attitude, which it exhibits, induce us to hope that this artist will rise to great distinction in his profession.

There are several pictures also of great promise by a young artist of the name of Wright. His representation of an Ancient Procession, in particular, exhibits not only an excellent composition, but very great power of drawing. Nor must we omit to mention the scenes from Don Quixote, which he has also pourtrayed, all of which display the same skill and ability, as well as humour, by which his larger work is characterized. The Drawings in Chalk, by Mr Geikie, are most able sketches; and if the observation of Leonardo da Vinci be true, that the real merits of an artist are to be discovered before he abandons the crayon pencil, this young man promises to rise in future to great eminence in his profession. The pictures by the same artist display the game power of drawing, and very consider able talents for the delineation of character and the composition of figures; but his colouring is too cold and uniform, and not sufficiently enlivened by those last touches, on which so much of the animation of a picture depends. These errors, however, we doubt not that he will soon correct; and as he has overcome the greatest difficulty of his art, by having become a perfect proficient in drawing, we anticipate great eminence from his future exertions.

The landscapes in this Exhibition are upon the whole superior in merit to the paintings of figures. We have already noticed the representation of Evening in an Italian Harbour, by Mr Wilson, a picture of much beauty, and


which proves that he is imbued with the true spirit of his art. Even in this beautiful composition, however, some considerable faults may be discerned. The tree on the left hand side is both too stiff and too meagre for the warmth of climate and luxu riance of vegetation which the distance exhibits, and is very unlike those magnificent masses of foliage with which Claude enlivens the brilliancy of his evening skies. Nothing can exceed the beauty of the glow which is thrown over the water and the wooded slope on the right; but that enchanting light is not sufficiently contrasted by the shade in the foreground. Whatever may be the case in nature, it is certain that art can represent brilliancy of light only by contrasting it with large and deep shadows; and since no colours can imitate the light of the sun, the defect must be supplied by magnifying and deepening the shadows which it throws. Whoever studies the paintings of Claude will discover, that this is the secret by which he represents with such success the light of the sun; and while the vulgar frequently complain that his paintings are darker than nature, they forget that it is by the prevalence of these shadows that the unrivalled excellence of his sunlight is produced. In Mr Wilson's picture, however, the shade in the foreground, instead of being deeper, is actually lighter than nature, and the consequence of this is, that the picture has a look of feebleness which does not properly belong to it, and is postponed by many good judges to works of far inferior merit, and in which the standard of ideal beauty has not been by any means so nearly approached.

Many small landscapes by the same artist adorned this collection, exhibiting for the most part little sequestered wood scenes, or particular gleams of light which the artist with happy skill has transferred to paper. That nature can never be sufficiently studied, and that the forms and objects which she exhibits can never be too faithfully drawn, is, indeed, certain. It may be doubted, however, whether the object of the art is attained by seizing particular lights, and delineating them as they actually appeared to the eye of the artist. It is the SF

general effects, not the individual appearances of nature, which he should particularly study, because his compositions are addressed to persons by whom the general effects of nature are alone known, and to whom the peculiarities of particular moments spcak no intelligible language. It is morning in general, not any particular morning, which Claude delineated; and whoever studies his pictures finds in them not the casual marks of particular days or accidental lights, but those general appearances which characterize nature in all parts of the world, and speak to the heart of man through every succeeding age.

The Ruins of Warwick Castle, by one of the Nasmyths, is a most admirable composition. The deep brown tone of the colouring is well adapted to the soléinn and melancholy expression of the picture, and the bushes and stones are touched with a spirit and life which is the true characteristic of skill in the art. The paintings of Glenco and of the Pass of the Cows, by Mr Nasmyth, are excellent specimens of his particular style, and possess many beauties. Notwithstanding our respect, however, for this eminent artist, to whom the country has so long been indebted, we must observe, that there is a great degree of mannerism in all his productions; and that whoever has seen one of his good pictures, has seen all the merit which his school of painting possesses. His trees, like those of Perelle, are all of one family; his rocks are parts of the same mountain; his foregrounds for every scene are nearly the same. The great defect of his painting is the want of a characteristic touch for the different objects which he represents. The spectator should be able to say at once, from the appearance of a tree, whether it is a birch, an oak, or a sycamore; and of a rock, whether it is granite, sandstone, or whin; and the touch in all these different objects should be different from what it is in the others. But it would puzzle the most experienced observer to say to what family one of Mr Nasmyth's trees belongs, or even in what part of the world his scene is laid. In justice to this eminent artist, however, we must observe, that his colouring is extremely beautiful, and that no living artist better understands the art of representing the light of the sun,

falling on a broken mass of woods, rocks, and buildings, or the charm which distance lends to such varied objects. His water, too, is often liquid and transparent, and his skies, though generally like each other, are always coloured with taste and delicacy.

Mr Peter Nasmyth, of London, while he has adopted the manner and touch of his father, so far as drawing and shading goes, has chosen a totally different style of colouring. His works resemble those of Hobbeina and Ruysdael; and, like them, he selects chiefly forest scenes, or little spots in which the detail of the execution is the principal charm. We wish, however, that, as he has successfully imitated the coldness and greenness of their colouring, he would endeavour to imitate also the truth of their drawing, and the admirable vigour of their touch. Whoever will compare the oaks by Hobbema, in Lord Elgin's collection, which appeared in the Exhibition two years ago, with those by Mr P. Nasmyth in this Exhibition, will perceive the truth of these observations. Notwithstanding the stiffness of his style, however, and the want of an accurate acquaintance with nature in his drawing, this artist possesses great merits. One little piece in particular, representing a road, with a few trees on its margin, and a distant piece of water seen through their stems, is a perfect gem, worthy of the best days of the art.

Mr P. Gibson has formed his style on a very different model. The imitation of Poussin is apparent in all his productions. His partiality for this master has led him to copy not only his excellencies, but also his defects; and, accordingly, the peculiar faults by which he was distinguished, appear in the most conspicuous manner in Mr Gibson's paintings. This gentleman, nevertheless, possesses very considerable merits as a landscape painter; and in one of his pictures in particular, in which the effect of evening is pourtrayed, the colouring, as well as composition, is truly admirable. The capacity which he has exhibited in many of his performances, makes us regret that such talents should be devoted to no higher purpose than the copying of any master, however celebrated; and we would earnestly recommend it to him to aban

don the buildings and foliage of Pous'sin, and apply his powers to the imitation of nature as she appears in his own country. He should study nature more closely also in his foregrounds and his trees, and endeavour to animate his pictures by a greater number of those dark touches which relieve the uniformity of shade and colour.

able increase in the taste for this noble branch of art. Two works of transcendant merit adorned the collection, from the hand of the celebrated Chantry, one a head of the late distinguished Judge, Lord Meadowbank, and one of Mr Home of Paxton. The latter is characterized by an appearance of life, and a faithfulness of imitation which entitles it to the highest praise; of the former, we cannot say less than that it is one of the greatest efforts of art which modern times has produced. In that noble head, the stiffness of the material on which the artist had to work, seems to have been entirely overcome

Several small sea pieces, by John Wilson of London, possess very great merit. The colouring of these pictures resembles the sea pieces of Vandervelde, while the delicacy and silvery aspect of the skies bears a nearer resemblance to the works of Wouverman. We have great pleasure in recording our humble tribute of ap--and so spiritual is the expression of plause to the taste and skill of these beautiful pieces; and we hope the artist will continue to advance in the career upon which he has entered with such succes.

The Castle of Heidelberg, by J. F. Williams, is a picture of considerable pretensions, and in some respects worthy of approbation. Few scenes in Europe are more picturesque, and the hand of the artist is well habituated to the delineation of the most striking objects in nature. But the grand defect of this picture is the confusion which prevails in its parts. No general light is thrown over the scene; no one effect is sought to be attained; the colours are thrown together without either harmony or beauty. If this artist would fix in his mind, before he begins a composition, what emotion he wishes to produce, and endeavour to make all the parts of his piece subservient to this one end, he would succeed infinitely better, than by aiming at producing in one picture all the varied effects which he has endeavoured to represent in this landscape.

We cannot conclude this slight sketch, without mentioning the striking marks of early talent which are shewn in the works of Mr C. Stanfield. His view of the Castle of Edinburgh from the Greyfriars' Churchyard, is one of the best representations of the scenery of this city which has ever come under our observation. The colouring is bold in the foreground and delicate in the distance, and the drawing of the buildings both correct and masterly.

The exhibition of SCULPTURE, upon the whole, indicates a consider

the countenance, that one is almost led for a moment to believe that the ardent mind which animated the original had breathed its inspiration into the marble of the statuary. Mr Chantry has been less fortunate in the delineation of the delicate features of another individual of the same family; though even that distinguished artist may be excused for failing to transfer to marble the life and grace of that beautiful original.

With the exception, however, of the works of this great artist, the remainder of the busts did not exhibit any great excellence. The heads by Mr Joseph are most striking likenesses, and demonstrate that this young artist possesses the eye which is destined to give him eminence in his profession. But either his hand is as yet unskilled in all the details of his art, or he has not given himself sufficient time to finish his works. The consequence is, that the spectator seldom forgets, when viewing his productions, that he is looking at clay or stone, and that his heads resemble rather blocks on which half the labour of the artist is yet to be bestowed, than finished productions on which he is willing to peril his reputation. We would entreat this gentleman, who evidently possesses talents of no ordinary description, and who is recommended by Chantry as his most promising pupil, to study with assiduous care the great models of antiquity, to endeavour to imitate all the varieties of surface, how minute soever on the human form, and whatever diminution it may make on his present profits, to bestow at least double the time he is in the habit of

« AnteriorContinuar »