Page images
PDF
EPUB

It

ton of "a large fin-whale," measuring sixty-seven feet in length-a creature which, two years ago, was cast ashore in Pevensey Bay. might have been judged impossible to bring a bony structure so intractable under pictorial treatment. Mr Cooke, however, seems to have thought that, after all, there could not, in point of art, be much difference between the ribs of a ship and the ribs of a whale and so went to work accordingly. The composition is saved by a poetic sky: the skeleton may feast the hungry intellect of science; the glory of the heavens is the delight of imagination. Recurring to sea-pieces, it will be found that storms, as usual, are brewing in the rooms of the Academy. It is, indeed, quite fearful to see how tempests rage, especially above the horizon of the line. Vicat Cole has evidently encountered rough weather since he left Wales and put to sea. The painter's art-faculties certainly preserve better equilibrium beside a quiet trout-stream than when in danger of shipwreck in a tempest. Mr Gill is another artist who lashes Neptune to fury. Nothing will satisfy some painters short of a tempest so terrible that not a survivor would be left to tell the tale, much less to paint the picture. Mr Brett depicts a storm very differently-that is, he paints with knowledge, and is content to set down facts simply as he saw them. This young artist has long been recognised as a trustworthy student. With enterprise he pushes his way through nature, and brings home, if not always a good or agreeable picture, at any rate a transcript valuable because faithful. It seems that when sailing in lat. 53° 15′ N., long 5° 10′ W., Mr Brett witnessed an effect on sea and in sky well worthy of record. The dark sha dow of the storm passes grandly across ocean, heaving in crested waves. A silver tracery of foam is cast, as a delicately woven net, on the surface of the wavelets,

The distressed ship, which we suppose contains the artist himself, had better have been sunk. It breaks the grand solitude of waters. The portentous sweep of the stormdriven sea, the balanced curve of the waves, the sharp crisp ripple of the wavelets, the tempest-black sky illumined by rainbow gleam, have been delineated with a truth wholly beautiful. Long will the little picture dwell in the memory. It is yet one more proof that nature never repeats herself; that she never pauses in the work of making new pictures; that she never forsakes the mind that loves her truly and serves her faithfully.

While we write, the sad news of the death of England's greatest marine painter reaches us. Clarkson Stanfield had long been in suffering health, and his pictures of late gave signs of coming dissolution. Yet The Skirmish off Heligoland,' now in the Academy, has the dash, the spirit, the windy sky, and the rolling wave, which we have so long learnt to prize in the pictures of Stanfield. The history of the painter is not a little remarkable. He followed the calling of his father, that of a sailor; he served in the same ship with Douglas Jerrold, and was promoted by Captain Marryat; while yet at sea he taught himself painting; an accident to his foot made him a landsman, and an artist by profession. As a scenepainter he became famous; we remember well the lovely pictures with which he illustrated Handel's Acis and Galatea,' produced at Drury Lane while under the management of Macready. Stanfield's friendship for David Roberts, which dated from an early period in their London career, was intimate and warm to the last. The lives of the two artists ran in parallel lines. Both were equally busy in the painting of scenes which became the talk of the town; both left the service of the stage, entered the Academy, and were from first to last seldom absent from its Exhibitions, to the

"

success of which, in fact, they materially contributed. Both, too, often met at the Garrick Club; the smoking-room in the old house was decorated by the hands of the brother artists. The two painters were equally self-made; by native talent they reached the summit of their profession; the gap they leave on the walls of the Academy cannot be filled. Of David Roberts a pleasing and characteristic memorial has lately been published in a handsome volume by his friend Ballantine.*

It is also our painful duty to record the death of another distinguished Academician. John Phillip, like Clarkson Stanfield, appears for the last time in the Exhibition: he died, as it were, brush in hand: he was seized by paralysis in the full vigour of life. John Phillip is one of the many artists of whom Scotland may be justly proud. He was born in Aberdeen, and, like many other sons of genius, especially in the north countrie, his parentage had been humble. In common with the two painters of whom we have just spoken, he was a self-made man. Indeed, it is not a little singular that David Roberts and John Phillip in boyhood alike served under house-painters. It is related that the talent of young Phillip first obtained recognition when, as an apprentice to a painter and glazier in Aberdeen, he was sent to the house of Major Gordon to put in a pane of glass. From that moment the future artist received kind patronage; he visited London, and became a student in the Royal Academy; but no great success attended his early efforts. Happily he went to Spain, partly in search of health; and the glorious works he painted under the influence of Velasquez and Murillo, gained for him the soubriquet of Spanish Phillip." Seldom, in fact, has our Academy shown a more noble pic

66

ture than that of 'Murillo in the Market-place, Seville.' 'La Gloria,' now in Paris, has also amazing brilliancy and power. John Phillip was snatched away just as he had entered on new fields: in a recent tour to Italy he had collected rich materials for many works. The career of Phillip was brilliant, but comparatively short. At an age not quite fifty, it might have been hoped that many of the pictures for which he had already made preliminary sketches and studies, would have yet adorned the Academy. The artist's closing contributions, now in the Exhibition, display his usual truth, breadth, and vigour.

99

A rapid glance at the French Gallery and the Water-Colour Exhibitions must close our review. As small space remains, it is fortunate that little need be said. It may, however, be worthy of record that "the Institute has adopted a course often urged on the Academy. This, the younger of the two old societies of water-colour painters, initiates honorary membership in favour of distinguished foreign artists. The scheme could scarcely have had a better beginning than in the election of Rosa Bonheur, Henriette Browne, and L. Gallait. The gem of the whole gallery is indeed the exquisite drawing by Rosa Bonheur, a remembrance of Scotland. This Highland Lake' bears on its translucent waves a boat - load of sheep. The same scene painted in oils makes one of ten pictures contributed by the artist to the Paris Exhibition. The water-colour drawing is the better work. It is indeed interesting to see how perfect a mastery the painter has obtained over a material which we had almost supposed was a specialty of the English school. The best qualities of water-colour art are gained: the colour is pure, liquid, transparent, brilliant. Gallait, who produced a sensation in

*The Life of David Roberts, R. A.' sources. By James Ballantine. Edinburgh: A. & C. Black. 1866.

Compiled from his Journals and other

1862, we are glad to welcome again to London. He manages to preserve a certain historic largeness in two small water-colour replicas of well-known works. Henriette Browne, who in Paris is extending a reputation hitherto grounded chiefly on an oft-seen work, makes her presence pleasantly known in Pall Mall. The recognised position of foreign artists in London exhibitions, for which we have more than once contended, cannot fail of benefit to our English school. Our native art has hitherto been insular, not to say exclusive. The idea that one Englishman could beat three Frenchmen enters even into our picture-galleries.

Of the Old Water-Colour Society we have space only to say that it is at its very best; so strong, perhaps, that it scorns to seek foreign aid. On more than one occasion, indeed, it has succeeded in gaining over oil painters, who might with advantage have been numbered in the ranks of the Royal Academy. J. D. Harding in the later years of his life was driven from Trafalgar Square; and now likewise Tom Danby, under hope deferred, has taken quiet refuge in Pall Mall. This gallery, all but perfect after its kind, may be counted the distinguishing glory of the English school. The world cannot see its like elsewhere. What a pity that at this moment the building with its contents cannot be carried across Channel and pitched in the Champ de Mars! The project, indeed, as regards the drawings, is not unworthy of consideration, when in the course of three weeks the gallery will close. English art has been so shamefully snubbed and ill-treated in Paris that some effort should be made to redeem our national honour. Foreigners would certainly open their eyes for admiration, could they but see what the island barbarians yearly produce in the Old Water-Colour Gallery.

VOL CII.-NO. DCXXI.

The prolific power of production in water-colour art is attested by the establishment of a third exhibition, which has attained in the Dudley Gallery a third year of success. The need for this further addition to the already numerous collections which scarcely leave the critic a week's rest throughout the year, is indicated by the high excellence of works which otherwise could hardly have made their merits known. Within the walls of the Dudley, young artists may practise rehearsals, and the wings of halffledged genius can there take experimental flight. Altogether the enterprise is praiseworthy, and the quality of the works, moreover, is found to improve from year to year, so that the trial and discipline implied in a public appeal are evidently salutary to the artists concerned. By happy chance, too, a really mature work may seek in this general and tolerant gallery the fair-play not so readily accorded where old vested interests preside. Such a work is Mr Madox Brown's remarkable and disagreeable drawing, 'Cordelia's Portion.' The year has not yielded a more astounding production. The picture is strangely original, and strongly mannered; it is loud in stage rant, after the Kean school. Its merits lie in its intense realism: properties were never painted with greater force; characters not often clenched with so firm a hand, or wrested from tranquillity and beauty by the fury of so much passion. It may be well imagined that the result is rather peculiar than pleasing. As a bold manifesto of the much-esteemed mannerism of Mr Madox Brown, the achievement deserves to be marvelled at.

We cannot close without paying once more tribute to the excellent service done by the French Gallery in London. This choice collection contains as usual an epitome of French and Flemish schools. A replica of Gerome's well-known Louis XIV. and Molière,' gives to the most popular artist of the

G

[ocr errors]

moment the place of honour. Landell's "Fellah" is also a work which has already made a reputation in Paris. The quietism of Frère-not, by the way, a state of mind much affected in France-is always congenial to our people, who in art love quietude and gentleness. Plassan, too, is another artist who has become equally a favourite in London as in Paris. His brilliant little pictures sparkle like gems. Duverger exhibits his masterpiece, 'The First Communion;' De Jonghe was never seen to greater advantage than in an eminently artistic picture, 'Antecedent to Confession;' Alma Tadema of the Dutch school, and Coomans and Bouguereau of the French, are known for a novel class of subjects, to which we have already referred in our criticism on Mr Moore. These painters reanimate the life of the old Romans. 'Tibullus's Visit to Delia,' by Tadema, is a restoration such as might be made by an antiquary among the ruins and spoils of Pompeii. Coomans and Bouguereau, true to the proclivities of Frenchmen, tend to decoration, romance, and voluptuousness. The Morning Kiss,' and 'The Signal' are sportive in fancy; such pretty conceits are feasts to a beauty-loving eye. The Dutch side of the Flemish school is represented by characteristic works of Alfred Stevens, Baugniet, Madou, and Ten Kate; its Van Eyck revival may be witnessed in pictures by Leys and Koller; its French or Delaroche phase makes but a poor appearance in a minor work by Gallait. Among the illustrious dead, Troyon, the famous cattle-painter of France, is seen by his last work-a little feeble; and the eccentric Decamps, by one of his clever eccentricities. Of the charms of Rosa Bonheur it were superfluous to speak. Of Lambinet's grey, cool, and showery skies,

6

it is impossible to have too much, especially under the hot sun of summer. Rousseau's landscape will be looked upon with curiosity, not to say envy and jealousy. It is, of course, powerful; yet will English painters scarcely recognise that rare genius which has gained from an International Jury the highest honour the assembled world of art could award. Surely Rousseau is not, as pronounced in Paris, the first landscape painter in Europe. England and Germany produce greater.

Vast changes are impending over the future of British art. At length it is finally decided that the National Gallery shall retain possession of Trafalgar Square, and the Royal Academy betake itself to Burlington House. Many are the mutations consequent upon these altered conditions. The Academy, it is to be hoped, will be able, among other things, to extend and improve its annual Exhibition; and with the promised augmentation of area, there can be no longer excuse for injustice to outsiders. Much of the obloquy attaching to the Academy would at once be removed could a fairly good place be found for every picture accepted on its merits. But reform must not stop with half measures. The vested rights, too long usurped by genius in decay, should be surrendered. The dead may be safely left to bury their dead, and the living must be allowed to live and reap just reward. The Academy, we are glad to say, under the spirited leadership of Sir Francis Grant, has shown laudable desire to move onwards with the times. Much remains yet to be done. We must, however, be content to wait for the new building in Burlington Gardens, which, whether Gothic or Italian, will, we trust, contain space enough for the developing of whatever liberal views the Academy may entertain.

CORNELIUS O'DOW D.

A HANDFUL OF SOVEREIGNS.

THE Emperor of the French is giving at this moment to Europe what Victor Hugo, when speaking of the first Napoleon, called the "sublime spectacle of a parterre des rois." Now, whether it be that my monarchical instincts have latterly received some cruel shocks, or that the occasion which has brought these exalted personages together would appear ludicrously unworthy of their dignity; but I own to feel less impressed by the "sublime spectacle" than I had anticipated, and am free even to confess that in the monster show itself there are many things, I think, as well worth seeing as the monarchs themselves.

[ocr errors]

That they will "draw," however -that they are now drawing" largely there is no doubt, and no visitor can be said to have conscientiously "done" the Exhibition who has not scored off his Czar and his King of Prussia, as well as his monster mortar, his steel hammer, and his Chinese kitchen.

If there was a grim drollery in assembling these royalties as national products, and showing the world what Japan, what Spain, what Turkey, and what Dahomey accepts as the "culminating unit,' so that in examining the exhibit one might arrive at some sure guess of the nature of the people which had thus, as it were, sent us its most finished article-if, I say, this was the spirit that suggested the gathering, I must admit it was a wonderful concession to the genius of our age; and though, perhaps, it would be asking too much, one would have liked to have seen the machinery of monarchy at work, just as we see the die-foundry, the loom, and the printing-press; and it

would have added unspeakably to the realistic charm of this mighty show if the Emperor of Russia would have knouted a real Pole, and the Japanese Ambassador have finished the ceremony of presenting his credentials by the "happy despatch."

As we see the whizzing wheels and the heaving cylinders in the machinery department, we ought to see how his African Majesty does his "sword trick." If practice, as our old copy-books taught us, make perfect, there must be an amount of dexterity in his performance quite remarkable.

If, however, it be that these Royalties have not come as exhibits, but as mere sight-seers, like thousands of meaner mortals, eager to learn the relative advances of different peoples in the various careers of industry, what valuable hints, what store of useful notions, will they be enabled to carry home with them!

It is but a few days back that the newspapers gave us a most graphic and edifying description of a vast establishment - I really believe it was in Ireland-where pigs were slaughtered by steam, and where hundreds of these interesting animals had their throats cut with such rapidity that they were actually on the way to be pickled and packed before they had fully recognised decapitation. Imagine the delight with which his African Majesty must have witnessed the display of this ingenious machine, and the promptitude with which he ordered a supply of them for his national festivals! Who is to tell us, after this, that these Exhibitions do not extend the advantages of modern inventiveness, and

.

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »