Puslapio vaizdai
PDF
„ePub“

those works where the artist had shown a clear putrefying body, in order to set the example to interpretative and illustrative intention; the for- his knights, of giving burial to the dead soldiers mer where he had striven to arrive at the very who lie about in the foreground of the picture. heart of things, and had painted what we should The King's knights are grouped behind him piccommonly call an ideal picture. Below these, turesquely enough: two enormous horses, the again, would come the two correlative schools of king's and his standard-bearer's, form an imprespure realism and unessential idealism—the one sive dark mass in the center of the picture, and where the artist had simply copied nature as well give the pyramidal form to the composition which as possible ; the other where he had chiefly im- is considered necessary, and the cliffs on either pressed some passing sentiment of his own upon side slope down toward the center of the picture, the scene. From these we should descend again in the most orthodox manner. The work, howto records of picturesque incidents and pictu- ever, is uninteresting in the highest degree; there resque places, treated in a more or less pictorial is no sign that the artist has understood the manner, and to scenes from history or social life spirit of the scene, or cared anything about it. treated after academic principles, which latter The one little bit of naturalism in the whole may be briefly defined as the attempt to do by composition is in one of the crusaders' figures rule what can only be done by intense feeling and on the extreme left, and he is—holding his nose. perfect knowledge. Then we should have pic- Now, it is worth while to dwell a little on this tures of pretty dresses, or old books, or ginger picture, as it exemplifies another of the French pots, or any other artificial productions which errors in painting, besides that of supplanting happened to give a good opportunity for placing feeling by arrangement. This is their liking for pretty colors or agreeable forms in juxtaposition. choosing repulsive subjects, and not only liking And, lastly, we should have pictures which were to paint them, but painting them in the most ornot even beautiful or pleasing, but simply at- dinary matter-of-fact way, as if they would, of tempts to exhibit the master's skill, and to sur- course, be beautiful to the spectator, if treated prise the spectator into admiration.

according to the artistic laws. Pictures such as Enough has, I think, now been said to show this, and “La Tentation" by Jules Garnier, and the point of view from which this criticism is “ La Femme de Putiphar” by Schutzenberger, written, and without further delay I will now and “Mort d'Orphée" by Gustave Doré, are all speak briefly of the main points of difference repulsive subjects, treated in an unpleasant manbetween the works of the two schools, and give ner. Let me not be misunderstood. I do not a few examples from this year's exhibitions in assert that art is only concerned with pleasing Paris and London.

things, but that it is no part of an artist's busiOn first entering the picture-galleries of the ness to deal with what is in itself coarse, horrible, Salon, we notice that we are in a different atmos- loathsome, unless he does it with a clearly evident phere altogether from that of an English exhi- purpose. Now, in the pictures we have menbition, and the first impression is to most people tioned, and in dozens if not hundreds of others by no means a pleasant one. On every side we in this gallery, it is quite evident that the artist see large, even gigantic pictures, any one of which has had no such purpose—nay, that in the picwould be considered as a landmark in our Acad- ture of “The Temptation " he has actually revemy if only from its size and the importance of eled in the coarseness of his conception. The its subject. But most of these works are more reason for these pictures is curiously enough condaring in conception than they are beautiful or nected with the reasons which give French art interesting. The amount of labor bestowed up- a certain supremacy over that of our own and on them is enormous; but it is rarely equally or other countries-namely, the fact that painting, wisely distributed, and the painting, the mere when it is truly alive, reflects the opinions and brush-work of the pictures and their coloring, is practices of the people among whom it flourishes. almost invariably deficient in delicacy. Size ap- Given true feeling for art throughout France, pears to be sought for its own sake, and often at given also the life of a certain considerable numthe expense of other qualities of greater impor- ber of Parisians, and pictures of the sort we have tance, and the artist appears to have been more mentioned follow as the night the day. intent upon astonishing the spectator, than de- And we should have them in our own counlighting him. The composition, too, of the pic- try were it not for two causes: the first that the tures is apt to be of a kind which is more skill- majority of our artists only paint subjects which ful than it is inter ting, being based upon strict are pleasing in themselves; and, second, that art academic principles. Thus one of the largest has never as yet really grown up in England and pictures in the exhibition is one by Debat Pon- become a power, but is allowed only to work unsan, entitled “ The Piety of St. Louis toward the der certain restrictions, and is even then jealously Dead,” in which the King is raising in his arms a watched. A coarse man in France will paint coarse subjects coarsely, because such subjects sky. In the center of all stands Venus, on a rosy please him. A coarse painter in England, de- shell, in an attitude of languorous exhaustion, pendent entirely upon public favor, will, as a both arms raised to the rich masses of her chestgeneral rule, be afraid of public censure, and nut hair. The whole is painted with a smooth will paint subjects alien to his nature. The re- perfection of finish that no English painter can sult of this is a very curious one; for it follows rival, unless it be Sir F. Leighton in his best mothat while in France one sees the coarse subject, ments, and the execution throughout is unfalterand the reverse, side by side, in England we seeing and thorough. The first moment's glance is subjects of one kind only, that approved by pub- almost necessarily one of extreme admiration. lic opinion, which shakes Falstaff, Hamlet, and The picture seems so perfect in its subtilty of Hotspur all into the same little mold.

composition and refined grace that one is temptWith regard to the historical pictures in the ed to ask whether it can be possible to excel Salon which are not concerned with subjects un- such work. If, however, we reflect that it is an pleasing in themselves, there are many that im- almost invariable quality of great art that it does press us with their ability, but few that please us not reveal its worth at the first hurried glance, as pictures. Flameng's large work of “ L'Appel and so fall to examining this work in detail, it des Girondins ” suffers intensely from that dreary grows momentarily less attractive. After all, classicalism which is the bane of the more seri- have we not seen this, or much the same thing, ous French artists, and the color can hardly be though not perhaps in such perfect treatment, criticised as that of an oil-painting. It is simple, from our youth upward ? In what do these hard, and cold, and resembles more a gigantic Cupids and Tritons differ from those that we recartoon for a fresco than a finished picture. The member in half a hundred pictures? In what is figures and faces of the Girondins are well drawn, this round-limbed beauty more of a Venus than and not without character ; but when the com- any other fair woman? If there is nothing very position and the grandeur of the conception have new in the forms or the arrangement of the figbeen admired, there is nothing left to say for the ures, is there anything in the coloring ? Still work. It is a great solution of difficulties, but less is this the case; there is little if any positive not a great picture. Very much the same may color in the picture, and the brilliance of the be justly said of Lecomte du Nouy's enormous whole is not the brilliance of sunlight. Where work, “ Saint Vincent de Paul secourt les Alsa- the light falls upon the bodies of the nymphs it ciens et les Lorrains après leur réunion à la whitens them with a cold radiance of which we France.” Here the color is of a less ghastly hue know nothing in nature, and in the shadows than in the work of Flameng, but it still appears there is no warmth, only a pale, chill gray. to be seen under some cold electric light which Again, the light and shade of the picture are renders all tints of the same effect. There is hardly to be accounted for, except by attributing much more action and variety of sentiment than them to the painter's caprice, and the effective in the former work, and there are difficulties of relief gained thereby is gained at the expense of drawing and composition attempted which are truth, and adds to the artificial impression pronot to be met with in the former picture; but, duced by the whole picture. The composition on the whole, it suffers from the same faults. throughout is of an intensely academical characThe flesh is cold-gray in the shadows; the ar- ter, carried out with a skill to which we have, as rangement of the picture is elaborate, but hardly far as I know, no parallel in England; but the productive of a natural effect; and, above all, effect of this arrangement is rather to draw the the dreary allegorical figures of Alsace and Lor- attention of the spectator to itself than to heightraine, at the top of the picture, take us back to en the interest of the picture. Directly one nowhat Mr. Wilkie Collins, in one of his novels, callstices it, it becomes apparent that the subject was “ Art Mystic,"and defines as always producing a chosen to afford the painter an opportunity of great depression upon the mind of the beholder. displaying his skill, rather than because he want

Let us take another example, and this time it ed to tell us something fresh, or because he was shall be one of the works of the greatest French possessed with the beauty of the incident. The religious painter, M. Bouguereau. His chief work feeling of the scene has not been grasped, and in this year's Salon is a classical, or rather mytho- the best proof of this is that it is with extreme logical subject, entitled “La Naissance de Vé- difficulty that we can turn our eyes from the nus.” The subject is treated in the usual style. beauty of the painting to the consideration of In the front of the picture, rising out of and the subject. We keep returning, in spite of ourswimming on the waves, are Cupids on dolphins, selves, to the artist's ability, to the beautiful balnymphs and Tritons blowing conch-shell horns; ance of parts, to the exquisite arrangements of in the background rises a train of Loves, leading line, to the manner in which every detail leads the eye from the groups of nymphs far into the the eye to the principal figure.

a

If we turn to our English Academy, we may French art, their battle-pictures, and see where find some points of comparison between this they differ from those of our own country. It is work and that of “ Elijah in the Wilderness,” by almost unnecessary to mention that they are ten Sir Frederick Leighton, though we must premise times as numerous, for we have never cared in that there is in the work of our president a depth England for pictorial records of our fighting. of color far superior to that of M. Bouguereau. The truth is, that we are not at heart, whatever This picture of Elijah is probably well known to may be said by Lord Beaconsfield, or sung by our readers, and I need only remind them of the Mr. Macdermott, a fighting nation. We do it main details of its composition : Elijah on the thoroughly, when we are about it, in the cool, right of the picture, half reclining upon a mass business-like way in which we conduct our other of rock, and on the left the angel bringing him concerns, but we have no national equivalent for the heavenly food, a landscape representing a the La Gloire of France; and, when the fighting rocky desert and a sky of deep blue, and heavy, is over, we like to forget all about it as soon as white, cumulus clouds. Whatever praise is due possible, carrying the forgetfulness sometimes so to this picture—and, in truth, it is not a favorable far as to postpone paying the bill for the little exspecimen of the President's work—is due to the penses we have incurred. But there are other solution of the problems of drawing the naked very notable differences between the battle-picfigure in such a very difficult attitude, and ar- tures of the Salon and the Academy than the ranging it so as to give a fine combination of greater number and size of the former; for we lines. There is no success, probably no desire find, on looking at the French pictures, that they of success, in depicting the spirit of the scene, represent war as it is for the nation, and that the or inspiring the beholder with any emotion in English represent it as it is for the individual. regard to it. The prophet is not a famished He- To the Frenchman, a picture of Waterloo means brew, but an athlete rather out of condition; the confusion and carnage of an army with the and the angel, so far from showing in her face thousand details of conflict, suffering, pursuit, any of the divine love or pity which one might and retreat; to an English painter, it means the suppose to be appropriate to the occasion, is feelings of a group of young recruits as they smiling cynically. In so far as sentiment and await the attack of a handful of the French cavfeeling go, the picture is a tabula rasa ; in so alry. I have taken this instance from the Acadfar as skillful drawing and composition are emy of two years since, when Philippoteaux's sought for, it is a work of great merit. Think “Waterloo " and Miss Thompson's “ Quatre for a moment of the “ Atalanta's Race," by Bras" hung almost side by side; but it might Mr. Poynter, in last year's Academy, and you be equally well shown by any other example. I will find exactly the same merits and drawbacks. think this different way of painting battles comes There Milanion's figure was simply a study of from the feeling which I have already described the nude, and Atalanta's an attempt to depict as prevalent in France—that of looking at the arrested motion, and a difficult piece of fore- abstract rather than the personal side of a quesshortening. None of the intense emotion of the tion. They can bear in their pictures, and even man who was running for his life and his bride, glory in, details of wounds and suffering, lookor of the woman whose fate hung upon the re- ing beyond them to the victory gained thereby; sult of her exertions, was attempted to be shown. whereas the Englishman, with a more sluggish It is to be noted that the French are much more imagination but a more feeling heart, forgets the consistent in this academic rendering of a sub- gross result of victory or defeat, but lingers lovject than are the English, for, as a rule in these ingly over the elements of terror, humor, or pathos large pictures of theirs, they never attempt to which he can find in the individual soldiers, and represent the glow of actual life. The tints throws a veil of oblivion over the horrors of used are broad and simple, the shadows usually which he could hardly endure the representation. gray, and the effort is frankly one to gain dignity Here there is no question of superiority of paintof composition and grandeur of outline at the ing, but merely one of feeling. Is it better that expense of a surrender of the more vital human we should enjoy, as do the French, the idea at emotions and interests. English painters, how- the expense of the individual, or minimize our ever, can rarely bring themselves to treat subjects records of great victories till we produce only a thoroughly in this manner, and the consequence few pathetic incidents, such as “The Roll-call” is that they select scenes like these of Atalanta and “The Remnants of an Army," instead of and Elijah, where the human element is, or rather representations of the war itself? I must conshould be, distinctly the great thing in the com- fess that to me the latter is the preferable method. position, and then reduce it to a nullity by the The range of painting is so enormously wide that style of their work.

it may well omit from the pages of its record one Let us look at another great department of phase of pain and sorrow; and I do not believe

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

that all the battle-pictures with which Horace to the want of feeling in these pictures is where Vernet has lined the walls of Versailles ever the emotion suggested is one of sorrow or pain strengthened one of his countrymen in endur- in humble life. It is a most extraordinary fact ance, or roused him to compassion.

that, if we wish to discover pictures in which a It is, however, well to recognize how limited true note of sympathy is struck with the poorer is the scope of our battle-paintings, and that classes, we can not find it in English painters, but really such pictures as those of Mrs. Butler (Miss shall constantly find it in France. We must not Thompson) stand in the same relation to those dwell upon this, as space is already failing us, but of such artists as Philippoteaux, Dumaresque, would suggest that it may in some measure arise Regnart, Regnier, etc., as the pattering of the from the truer light in which poverty is regarded summer rain does to the torrent of Niagara. on the Continent than in the United Kingdom.

Having spoken, though very inadequately, of Here it is a disgrace, there only a misfortune; the two great departments of French art—the and the intense snobbery of the English nation historical and the warlike—and having shown with respect to the class it belongs to, every one that in both of these we must confess to some wishing to appear as if he or she belonged to the share of inferiority, if it only be an inferiority by next rank above them, is almost entirely unknown choice, we now come to the romantic or idyllic in France. Whatever be the reason to which the school, one which, perhaps, is larger than all the fact is due, it is certainly true that an English rest put together, for we must include under this picture of the lives of the poor is almost invarihead the great mass of the figure-paintings here ably a false one; while the French painters are which do not belong to either of the above classes. not afraid to grasp, or ashamed to paint truly, the Illustrations of social life, illustrations of sayings, hard lives of the laboring classes. There is a illustrations of poetry, novels, and the drama, and picture here by Raffaelli, called “ La Rentrée des so on, all come under this heading. Throughout Chiffonniers,” which is quite perfect in its simple the whole of this class there runs one damning truth of feeling; and of such kind, too, though {ault which goes far to utterly nullify all the touched with a far more elevated meaning, are cleverness and originality of conception which the works of Jules Breton and Israels, though it we find here. This fault is the one which we is not fair to quote the latter as belonging to the have spoken of before as want, or perhaps rather French school. artificiality, of feeling. There are dozens of pic- Before passing to the consideration of the tures here of home scenes-parents lecturing landscapes, I must say a few words about the sons, mothers instructing their daughters, old portraiture of the Salon. If we take it throughship-captains smoking their pipes with their chil- out, it possesses a degree of excellence to which dren on their knees, young lovers strolling through we can not even approach; for one good portraitthe woods or sitting in sunshine, barges being painter that we have, there are in Paris at least a towed up the river by slow horses, grandfathers score. If we look at the highest developments bringing presents to the youngsters, and so on, of the art, I think we need not fear comparison. through infinite varieties of simple incident. Now, Marvelous as is the power of Bonnat and Caroin all of these, in my opinion, the French art lus Duran, in neither of them do I find the strength fails, and falls far short of our English work. of penetrative insight, or the sympathy with their Such a picture, for instance, as that one of Mr. subject, which is to be found in all the finer porG. D. Leslie's in the Academy this year, of the traits by Mr. Watts. They are superior to anytwo sisters in the fruit-garden, would be impos- thing that Watts has done if regarded from one sible to find in the Salon: the atmosphere of point of view. The presentation of a great man, peace and rest and simple kindliness is foreign to with his greatness legibly written on his countethe French mind. Two exceptions, however, nance, is, I think, better done by Bonnat than it must be made to this statement. The first is has ever been done before, and this is where he where the artist, in painting one of these simple excels Mr. Watts. Mr. Watts never makes scenes, has been able to connect it in his mind one start back from his picture with the mental with some more or less abstract sentiment, and exclamation of “What a wonderfully lifelike porso make the incident the vehicle for conveying trait of Victor Hugo !” No; the unique power a wider meaning; as, for instance, where Lobri- of Mr. Watts's portraiture consists in this, that chon, in his picture of a mother taking her child one looks at his picture and says: Is that Soto the bath, has expressed very tenderly and and-so? I never thought he had all that in his beautifully the sentiment of maternal love; or, face.” In a man's face there are two series of where Bastien Lepage, in the little idyl called the facts. One shows what he is on the outside, “ Season of October,” has managed to combine perhaps even what his ruling desires and pasthe labors of the poor with the sentiment of his sions are, and that series every one can read. landscape very perfectly. The second exception The second shows the man's inner nature; it re

veals to you what the man is in his finer moments, execution, however, is somewhat slighter, and
when he is less crushed by antagonism and less there is not that delicacy of invention in the ar-
thwarted by circumstance—not only what he is, rangement of transparent drapery which is always
but also what he might be. This is to be read the most attractive portion of Mr. Moore's work.
by only one or two men in a generation, and this The enormous painting of M. Laugée, of “The
it is the painter's final triumph to see and inter- Triumph of Flora,” may be mentioned as an-
pret. It is in this way that Mr. Watts stands other style of work of which we have none in our
above all living painters of portraits. If we had own country—a style where there can hardly be
to seek for the nearest approach to Mr. Millais said to be any distinct pictorial motive, save to
among the painters of the Salon, we should prob- introduce as many Cupids and nymphs as pos-
ably be right in selecting M. Bastien Lepage, who, sible into the picture, and arrange them in the
although he paints in a very much slighter key most picturesque manner,
of color than our English artist, has yet very In Mrs. Barrett Browning's “ Aurora Leigh,"
much of his power of delineating brilliant flesh- there is a passage where Aurora says:
tints, and is as subtile and delicate in his arrange-

“ The English paint a thistle and an ass, ments of color as his rival is powerful. The

Because they love it and they find it so." portraits of Tripet, Saintin, and especially the portrait of Gérôme by Glaise, are all first rate of this really gives the key to the great gulf which their kind, and painted throughout with a care is fixed between the landscape of the two counand a simplicity very rare in similar work in Eng- tries; there is in the Gaul none of the peculiar land; their chief fault is a certain hardness of love for nature, qua nature, which exists in Engflesh-painting.

land. A Gallic painter will paint a brilliant effect We must pass over with slight mention the of sunshine, or a grand effect of storm, and paint various decorative works of the Salon, for their it well; he will even paint quiet scenes of nature, discussion would lead us into quite a new field, if they are such that he can arouse in himself decoration in France being understood in a far any specific feeling, dramatic or contemplative, wider sense than it is in England, and embracing by them; but in no French picture with which the most dissimilar schemes of color and modes we are acquainted has the painter sat down to of treatment. In this, as in most other branches quiet, deliberate reproduction of nature unmoved of painting, the French aim at perfection, and that by any specific emotion or conception, and only on the grandest scale ; designs for decoration in desirous to reproduce to the utmost of his power pure bright colors and of a gigantic size, such as the facts before him. He will carry the study of the composition of the Genius of Industry (or details as far as he thinks is required to help his Peace, or the Republic, we forget which) inaugu- design, but he will never carry it as far as he rating the Exposition Universelle from the tower possibly can for the sake of getting out of each of the Trocadéro, having no parallel in our Acade- separate detail all the beauty possible. To a my, or any other English exhibition. The style of nation that habitually views everything in the dusty coloring, and arrangement of beautiful forms light of some broad idea, which is accustomed to in pale, delicate hues of color, in which Mr. Albert leave no fact ungeneralized even for a moment, Moore * is such a proficient, has a parallel in the there is a distinct barrier to landscape-painting Salon in the two large decorative designs of on what may be called the English system. I “Nymphs on the Seashore,” and “The Prodi- call it the English system; for though it is, pergal Son.” It is to be noted that M. Pavis de haps, not followed by the majority of English Chavannes, the painter of these works, is per- painters, yet it is the one which is gaining ground fectly aware of their limitations, and indeed de- day by day, and is, besides, distinctively English, scribes his picture of “The Prodigal Son" as a being followed out at present by no nation but design for a decorative panel; while, in the work our own. I have shown elsewhere, and have no of Mr. Moore, the decorative tendency of the space to repeat here, how this style of landscape pictures is not frankly acknowledged, but there arose in England; how it was that we came to is somewhat of an attempt to give them the paint things with the utmost fidelity we could qualities of deliberate oil-painting-an error which master, instead of continuing to treat them in a only draws attention to the artist's shortcomings. more or less superficial manner. The extraorIn the delicacy of his arrangements in gray, pink, dinary artistic movement which is known as preand palest buff, M. de Chavannes ranks as highly Raphaelite, if it has done nothing else, has taught as Mr. Moore, and there is, besides, an amount us one fact of the most vital ortance to art; of subject and thought in his pictures which is and that is, that it is only by following Nature decidedly greater than that of our artist. The that we can ultimately conquer her—that it is

hopeless to try and paint an ideal picture before * See his works at the Grosvenor Gallery. you can paint a real one.

1

« AnkstesnisTęsti »