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happens to these great masters of grace and elegance. They often boldly drive on to the very verge of ridicule; the spectator is alarmed, but at the same time admires their vigor and intrepidity :
Strange graces still, and stranger flights they had,
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The errors of genius, however, are pardonable, and none even of the more exalted painters are wholly free from them; but they have taught us, by the rectitude of their general practice, to correct their own affected or accidental deviation. The very first have not been always upon their guard, and perhaps there is not a fault, but what may take shelter under the most venerable authorities; yet that style only is perfect, in which the noblest principles are uniformly pursued; and those masters only are entitled to the first rank in our estimation, who have enlarged the boundaries of their art, and have raised it to its highest dignity, by exhibiting the general ideas of nature.
On the whole, it seems to me that there is but one presiding principle, which regulates, and gives stability to every art. The works, whether of poets, painters, moralists, or historians, which are built upon general nature, live for ever; while those which depend for their existence on particular customs and habits, a partial view of nature, or the fluctuation of fashion, can only be coeval with that which first raised them from obscurity. Present time and future may be considered as rivals, and he who solicits the one must expect to be discountenanced by the other.
DELIVERED TO THE STUDENTS OF
THE ROYAL ACADEMY,
DISTRIBUTION OF THE PRIZES,
DECEMBER 10, 1772.
Circumspection required in endeavouring to unite
contrary excellencies.--The expression of a mixed passion not to be attempted.--Examples of those who excelled in the great style.—Raffaelle, Michael Angelo, those two extraordinary men compared with each other.--The Characteristical style.Salvator Rosa mentioned as an example of that style ; and opposed to Carlo Maratti.-Sketch of the characters of Poussin and Rubens.---These two Painters entirely dissimilar, but consistent with themselves.--This consistency required in all parts of the art.
I PURPOSE to carry on in this Discourse the subject which I began in my last. It was my wish upon that occasion to incite you to pursue the higher excellencies of the art. But I fear that in this particular I have been misunderstood. Some are ready to imagine, when any of their favourite acquirements in the art are properly classed, that they are utterly disgraced. This is a very