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natural painter. The great vice of the present day is bravura — an attempt to do something beyond the truth.” Harvest-men were to him more charming than peers; and the rustle of foliage sweeter than the hum of conversaziones.
In the foreground of a picture of a cathedral, described by Leslie, “he introduced a circumstance familiar to all who are in the habit of noticing cattle. With cows there is generally, if not always, one which is called, not very accurately, the master cow, and there is scarcely anything the rest of the herd will venture to do until the master has taken the lead. On the left of the picture this individual is drinking, and turns with surprise and jealousy to another cow approaching the canal lower down for the same purpose. They are of the Suffolk breed, without horns ; and it is a curious mark of Constable's fondness for everything connected with his native county, that scarcely an instance can be found of a cow in any of his pictures, be the scene where it may, with horns."
“Still life,” says his friend Fisher, on the receipt of one of his pictures, “is always dull, as there are no associations with it ; this is so deliciously fresh, that I could not resist it.” These epithets reveal the secret of Constable's effects. What truly interests us, derives, from the very enthusiasm with which it is regarded, a vital charm, which gives relish and impressiveness even to description in words, and far more so in lines and colors. The “cool tint of English daylight” refreshes
. the eye
in his best attempts; “bright, not gaudy, but deep and clear.” It is curious that the term “healthy” has been appliod to Constable's coloring - the very idea we instinctively associate with the real landscape of his country.
A newspaper, describing an exhibition of the Royal Academy, thus speaks of one of his pictures, and it gives, as far as words can, a just notion of his style of art: “A scene without any prominent features of the grand and beautiful, but with a rich, broken foreground sweetly pencilled, and a very pleasing and natural tone of color throughout the wild, green distance. " The inimitable Jack Bannister said of another, that "from it he could feel the wind blowing on his face.” Constable was delighted with the pertinacity of a little boy, who, in repeating his catechism, would not say otherwise than, “and walk in the same fiells all the days of my life;" he declared, “Our ideas of happiness are the same.” He also recorded his earnest assent to the remark of a friend, that “the whole object and difficulty of the art is to unite imagination with nature." In one of his letters, he says: “I can hardly write for looking at the silvery clouds.” Speaking of one of his own landscapes, he indulges in a remark, the complacency of which may be readily forgiven: “I have preserved God Almighty's daylight, which is enjoyed by all mankind, excepting only the lovers of old dirty canvas, perished pictures at a thousand guineas each, cart-grease, tar, and snuff of candle.”
It is thus obvious that he pursued his art in a spirit of independence, and with a manly directness of purpose, which neither fashion nor interest for an instant modified. The sentiment which impelled him was the love of nature, and this, like the other love referred to by Shakspeare, “lends a precious seeing to the eye.” It was not a vague emotion, but a definite attachment; and he possessed the rare moral courage to act it out. This the biography of artists convinces us is true wisdom. It would have been only the folly of a perverse ambition for Constable to have emulated the old Italian masters, and produced saints, madonnas, and martyrs. The scenery of his native country was not more familiar to his eye than endeared to his heart; and so attentively and fondly had he explored it that he used to declare he never saw an ugly thing, whose intrinsic homeliness was not relieved by some effect of light, shade, or perspective. His delight in nature was, indeed, inexhaustible. He has been quaintly said to have known the language of a windmill; and the most common forms of architecture, the most familiar toils of the husbandhnan, and the ordinary habits of animals, wore significance to his eye, because of the vast and intimate beauty amid which they are visible, and with which they are associated. Simplicity was his great characteristic, giving birth to that truth to himself which involves and secures truth to nature, both in art and in literature. His taste was permanently opposed to the factitious and the conventional, and never swerved in its allegiance to the primal and enduring
Landscape painting, in its best significance, is a representation
not only of the form and aspects, but of the sentiment of nature. If we regard it in its broad relations, it may be said to have a scientific and national value, as the authentic image of the features of the universe, modified by climate, vegetation, and history, eminently illustrative to the naturalist and the statesman. There are few departments of art more suggestive. The camel group and palm-tree of Eastern scenery, the snowy peaks of Alpine mountains, the luxuriant foliage of the tropics, and the ruined arch, shrine, and aloe, of southern Europe, each, in turn, convey to the mind of the spectator hints that imagination easily expands into entire countries. To the patriotic sympathies its appeal is inevitable; and the portfolios of travellers often contain the most satisfactory memorials of their pilgrimage. Few, except artists, however, realize the variety of meaning and the characteristic in scenery; and the number who recognize the minor and shifting language of the external world is still more limited. Yet even the insensible and unobservant, during a voyage, and when confined to a particular spot and isolated from society, will sometimes note attentively many successive sunsets, or the effect of the seasons upon a familiar prospect, and thus gradually awaken to that world of vision through which, when more preoccupied, they move almost unconscious of its ever-changing expression.
The cloquent work of Ruskin on the modern painters, whether its theories are accepted or not, ably unfolds the extent of interest derivable from this subject; but there is one common instinct to the gratification of which it ministers more than any branch of art — that of local association. A good picture of a birthplace, the scene of early life, of historical incident or poctical association, is invaluable; and this feeling has been greatly deepened by the transition of the art from graphic imitation to a picturesque reflection of the sentiment of a landscape. Herein lies its poetry. It is this soulful beauty that gives an undying charm to the sunsets of Claude, and has created an epoch in art by the glorious effects of Turner. Indeed, the ideality of the English mind has nowhere asserted itself more successfully than in her school of modern landscape. .Morland and Gainsborough set an example of truth and feeling, which has been carried onward by such painters as Wilson and Constable. Genuine simplicity, – that
manly Anglo-Saxon freedom from extravagance, and repose upon nature, - in such works is as clearly revealed as in the nobler literature and wholesome habits of the nation.
There is a beautiful harmony between the character and pursuit of Constable. His time was given only to art and domestic life, the routine of which knew no variation, except an occasional visit to Sir George Beaumont or Fisher. His capacity to inspire lasting attachment-a quality which seems to be the birthright of genius — is delightfully apparent in his correspondence with the latter friend. "Dear Constable," he writes, when the artist was in trouble, “you want a staff just now; lean hard on me.” The integrity of true affection is also manifest in his intercourse with the object of his early and latest love. The patience, selfrespect, and gentleness, with which they endured the long and unreasonable opposition to their marriage, — the unfailing comfort imparted by their mutual regard, the blending of good sense, principle, and sentiment, in their relation to each other, from first to last, - are results only obtainable where generous, affectionate, and intelligent natures coalesce. The painter's love of children, humorous mention of his cat, constant kindness to a poor organist and unfortunate paint-grinder — his longings for home when absent — his delight there in the intervals of his toil - his charities, friendliness, and geniality, accord with the sweetness of his taste.
" Whenever I find a man,” says Milton, “despising the false estimates of the vulgar, and daring to aspire in sentiment, language, and conduct, to what the highest wisdom in every age has taught us as most excellent, to him I unite myself by a sort of necessary attachment.” By such a process Constable mainly rose in art, and kept the even tenor of his life. The appreciation of his artistic merits was very slow, as is obvious from the number of pictures in his studio at the time of his decease. Contemporary artists criticized oftener than they commended him. His ideas of his art, as expressed in conversation and in his lectures, were " caviare to the general." His election as an academician was a deserved honor, but somewhat grudgingly bestowed. His finances were often at the lowest ebb, his domestic cares unceasing; illness frequently weighed down his spirits, and bereavements caused his heart to bleed again and again, especially when his wife followed his parents to the land of shadows. But, through all, he lived in his affections and his art, with rare fidelity and singleness of heart; and his friends, and the beauty of his pictures, will long reflect his genial, serene, and consistent nature.