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"If I might compare Hogarth with Swift, in his biting satire, with which he contemplates mankind only on the dark side, and takes special delight in representing them in a state of the most profound corruption, of the most frightful misery, I find in Wilkie a close affinity with his celebrated countryman, Sir Walter Scott. Both have in common that genuine refined delineation of character which extends to the minutest particulars. In the soul of both there is more love than contempt of man; both afford us the most soothing views of the quiet, genial happiness which is sometimes found in the narrow circle of domestic life, and understand how, with masterly skill, by the mixture of delicate traits of good-natured humour, to heighten the charm of such scenes; and if, as poets should be able to do both in language and colours, they show us man in his manifold weaknesses, errors, afflictions, and distresses, yet their humour is of such a kind that it never revolts our feelings. Wilkie is especially to be commended, that in such scenes as the Distress for Rent, he never falls into caricature, as has often happened to Hogarth, but with all the energy of expression remains within the bounds of truth. It is affirmed that the deeply impressive and touching character of this picture caused an extraordinary sensation in England when it first appeared. Here we first learn duly to prize another feature of his pictures, namely, their genuine national character. They are in all their parts the most spirited, animated, and faithful representations of the peculiarities and modes of life of the English. In many other respects, Wilkie reminds me of the great Dutch painters of common life of the seventeenth century, and likewise in the choice of many subjects—for instance, the Blind Man's Buff, but particularly by the careful and complete makingout of the details, in which he is one of the rare exceptions among his countrymen. If he does not go so far in this respect as Douw and Franz Mieris, he is nearly on an equality with the more carefully-executed paintings of Teniers and Jan Steen. His touch, too, often approaches the former in spirit and freedom, especially in his earlier pictures.'
The predominance in this country of portraits, the Director holds to be a proof that the real value of the art is not properly understood; for that is not love of art, but merely love of self or of near relations is thereby manifested ; and upon the whole he appears to think that the English school of painting is on the decline. He has still a lower idea of our sculpture. To Chantrey he accords the character of possessing " eminent talents in the natural style, so that all those who require nothing more of sculpture than that it shall represent every object precisely as it appears in nature, must often be highly gratified by his works.” The higher requisites of an art, where owing to the peculiar qualities of the material to be worked into effect, modifications not necessary in the case where colours are employed must be adopted, he refuses to our most celebrated sculptor. Let us see what it is that the Doctor would have as explained, when enumerating the things which he considers to be the causes most inimical to the art in question in this country. These causes, he says, are to be looked for, partly in the public, and partly in the artists themselves.
“ It requires a much more retined and elevated taste to enjoy a work of sculpture than of painting, and hence we find a taste for painting much more diffused also among the other civilized nations of Europe. In most of them, too, the want of opulence contributes to render the execution of inportant works of sculpture now rare, as they are always very expensive. In England, where the great mass of extraordinary wealth would very well admit of it, the execution is impeded by another cause. Sculpture, whose business is with the form, can attain a high degree of perfection only where frequent opportunities are granted it of representing the forms of the human body in unveiled beauty, as they come from the creative hand of divine nature. But the majority of the English, from a mistaken prudery, are decidedly averse from every representation of the naked figure, by which the sphere in which the artist moves, is very greatly narrowed. I must call that feeling mistaken, because the pure and voble spirit in which the genuine artist views natural forms, and employs them for the higher objects of art, for the representation of that beauty which proclaims its origin from the hand of the Deity, for the expression of intellectual relations, wholly excludes all reference to the difference of sex, and does not suffer them to occur to unprejudiced spectators, who are truly impressed with the real purport of a work of art. It is this hallowing of the naked form which properly constitutes the sublime innocence of art. Goëthe expresses himself to the same effect in his admirable Essay, • Der Sammler, und die Scinigen.' Under these circumstances, we must not wonder that perhaps nine-tenths of the sculpture executed in England, consist of busts and portrait statues. But it is certainly the fault of the artists themselves that even these, to say nothing of the works of freer art, do not, for the
most part, answer the higher demands of a cultivated taste for the arts. The want of feeling for beauty of form and leading lines with which I have already charged the English painters, has here a much more prejudicial effect, because these are the qualities on which the sculptor chiefly depends, whereas painting has besides a great and advantageous resource in colour. It is equally fatal in its consequences, that the relation between sculpture and its prototype nature is seldom rightly understood. Some sculptors are fettered by considering these subjects too much in the light of portraits, like scenes of familiar life, so that they imitate all the fortuitous details of the dress ; another aims at an empty and false ideal, and degenerates into an indefinite and swollen softness.'
The “ much more refined and elevated taste" indicated, is more likely to find disciples amongst the mystics of Germany than in this country of shopkeepers and prosaic decencies. But to proceed ;Westmacott, the Director says, is the most eminent sculptor in England, being a "great admirer and thorough judge of the antique.' But E. H. Baily, a much less known artist, “ is, however, distin. guished above them, (Chantrey and Westmacott,) in his later works, by a more correct feeling for arrangement and graceful outline."
Having thus glanced at our author's opinions concerning the English schools of art in the departments of painting and sculpture, we shall, before accompanying him on his tour to the seats of some of our nobility and gentry, afford our readers a treat by quoting some passages of a comprehensive nature ; first on the Drawings of the Ancient Masters, and secondly on the general decline of art in modern times.
" The drawings of the great masters have a peculiar charm. By them, more than by works of any other kind, you are introduced into the secret laboratory of art, so that you may follow a painting from the first germs, through its rarious stages and changes, till it attains its perfect form. Mr. von Rumohr, with his usual refined sense of art, directs our attention to the sure mechanical taste with which these old masters always employed, in their drawings, the material which was best adapted to the object they had in view. If they wanted to sketch upon the paper a first thought just as it arose in the fancy, they usually chose the red Italian chalk, with which sketching is so easy, or the soft Italian black chalk. The breadth and soft. ness of the strokes immediately give to such a first sketch something picturesque and massy; and, at the same time, the material allowed of further finishing, in a high degree, if it were desired. But if they wished to arrest a rapidly passing effect in nature, as it was fresh in their fancy, to seize an accidental, happy, quickly changing cast of drapery, or to mark, sharply and distinctly, the main features of some character, they preferred the pen, which allowed them to unite the easy flowing line with the sure and distinct indication of the forms. If they desired in the portrait, in a study, in the composition, to express the most delicate movement of the form, the fine play of the surfaces lying within the outlines, they generally took a rounded silver pencil. On paper covered with a mixture of white-lend and pale yellow ochre, verdigris, or some red, such a pencil marks but lightly and softly, and therefore allows of changing and improving ad infinitum, and by leaning harder, at length to mark decidedly, among all the others, the design in favour of which the artist has determined. If they wished to decide on the main distribution of light and shade, the full camel's hair pencil dipped in sepia or Indian ink, with its elastic point, its bold fulness, led the most rapidly and surely to their object. In such drawings, the outlines of the forms are often not marked, but result only from the limits of the shadows : when it was required, at the same time, to mark the form, the use of the pen was added. Lastly, for a more detailed marking of light and shade, coloured paper afforded them a middle tint, by the help of which they produced, with black chalk in the shadows, and wbite in the lights, a very delicate gradation, and a great relief of the parts. On account of these many advantages, this mode of drawing has been very commonly used. It is not till after having seen, from a great number of such drawings, in how many sides a picture has been conscientiously prepared, that we can understand the great perfection and extraordinary composition of so many pic. tures of the times of Raphael ; and it is not till we have learnt to consider such pictures as the final result of a long series of studies of the most highly gifted minds that we are penetrated with a due sense of their great value.'
When on the subject of Drawings by the Great Masters, we may with propriety refer to the Lawrence Collection, which has lately been
dispersed, many of the most valuable specimens, we regret, having passed into foreign hands, the Prince of Orange alone having selected pieces at the first picking for which he paid 12,0001., while our Government in the exercise of a mistaken economy offered no more for the whole collection. The Prince's choice fell chiefly upon the Sketches and Drawings of Raphael, Michael Angelo, Corregio, Leonardo da Vinci, and Andrea del Sarto. There is still, however, a considerable number of the vast and precious store remaining in this country, and specimens by Rubens and Vandyke are at the moment we write exposed to sale. But although the whole collection might have been kept together and preserved for the benefit of the public, had Government shown the wisdom and taste of advancing 25,0001., the complete dispersion of the treasure, whether finding its way into foreign hands or those of private individuals at home, must for ever render it in a great measure valueless to the students of Art. We regard the loss as being the more provoking, seeing that it was during Sir Robert Peel's administration that the whole might have been secured to the nation, and seeing that he in the capacity of a collector has not scrupled to expend upwards of a thousand pounds in the purchase of the Drawings of one of the Masters alone whose works formed a portion of the mass. But it is some consolation to learn that fac-similes of a selection of Raphaels have been taken for publication, we believe under the patronage of the Queen.
Dr. Waagen's opinions with regard to the decline of Art, a fact that has been attempted by various hypotheses to be accounted for, are striking and in some measure original. It has been a very usual thing to charge the Reformation as the principal cause of falling off; but as he thinks very unjustly. He says,
** If, in the countries where the Reformation was generally received, the demand for pictures must naturally have much declined, this was by no means the case, where, as in Italy, it had little or no success; at least, it might be difficult to show, up to the year 1550, any considerable influence of the Reformation on the religious feelings of the people and artists in Italy. And yet the decline of the art from 1530 to 1550 is more striking there than anywhere else. Nor did this decline by any means extend to the religious treatment of subjects only, but to the conception, and the scientific and mechanical parts of painting in general. The main ground of this charge may, therefore, be rather sought in the total and general alteration of the mode of thinking, which took place from that time among the nations of Europe, in consequence of the more general diffusion of the art of printing. Greek Antiquity agrees in this with the middle ages, that intellectual education and instruction were diffused in the larger circles, chiefly through the medium of the senses, by works of art; and which also, on account of the expense and trouble of multiplying them by copies, had a very great influence on the proportionably small number of persons to whom books were accessible as a means of acquiring knowledge. This situation of art gave artists the calm and elevating consciousness of their necessity in human society, since it was their part to provide for the gratification of so important and universal an intellectual want. Precisely because art was necessary to education and instruction, the artists had at the same time the correct feeling that they were to satisfy it, by the greatest possible perspicuity and beauty, in the treatment of the subject they had in hand, since otherwise the object would have been missed. Through this happy circumstance, art among the Greeks, as in the middle ages, rose to so extraordinary a height, and preserved for so long a time its vitality and its purity, But when, from the beginning of the sixteenth century the imparting of knowledge by books became so infinitely easy and general, by the great diffusion of the art of printing, books soon became the principal means of all intellectual education, in the room of the arts. Hitherto the picture, as the organ of contemplation, had exercised, by means of the fancy and the sense of beauty, an indirect influence upon the understanding; henceforward language, as the organ of comprehension, acted directly upon the understanding. This kind of influence is far more sharp, decided, and extensive, but likewise more partial. With the unlimited dominion which it gradually acquired, the want of intellectual instruction by means of the senses by degrees disappeared, and the consequence was that, in the end, even the faculty of rightly understanding a work of art was also lost. But after historical painting had thus lost the position which that elevated intellectual importance had given it, it lost likewise its ancient simplicity; nay, degenerated into the rank of a handmaid of all the oblique intellectual tendencies of the times, and thus gradually became an ordinary article of luxury, a flat, unmeaning parade, with a certain boldness in its scientific and mechanical part.”
There is a great deal in this mode of accounting for the decline of art since the middle ages which, was carried to its highest pitch by Raphael, but which has never since his time been able to maintain the elevation, for it has gradually been sinking. Neither is it probable that any great revival will ever take place. The time has filed when minds of the highest order can find any strong temptation to devote themselves to the arts of design. The universal use of the invention of printing, and the universal taste for literature, as well as the easy access to all its finest stores, not only are circumstances which have produced new modes of thinking, but have made the study of legislation, of jurisprudence, of ecclesiastical history and divinity, of science, and even of mechanics, together with the admired accessories and handmaidens of these engrossing and important pursuits, viz. scholarship and oratory, the surest roads to fame, emolument, and rank. But in the days of Leo the Tenth and down to the beginning of the sixteenth century, the machinery of government was simple, jurisprudence had no forum for the orator's display, the church was neither the school of eloquence nor controversy which it afterwards became, the sciences did not engage men of first-rate genius, or the industrial arts the most active of our race ; and, in fact, the highest favour of courts as well as the acclaim of popular applause were then lavished on successful Painters. Raphael was