Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

thing foreign happens to jar with some favorite John Bullism, he waxes wroth; we do not think he has at all made out his case against the Milanese sculpture room, which he designates as a " sink of Art iniquity," and we think, that

, having made such sweeping charges and harsh condemnations, when fighting what he calls “the battle of British Art,” (a phrase which denotes a foregone conclusion) he was bound to support them by instances; he only gives one—The Fainting Ishmael ; and yet he describes it as "a truthful copy of attenuated nature, but painful the more so for its truth, being so literal as to convey the idea of its being a cast taken after death;" now this seems to us very like commendation; he adds that “ by representing the boy alone without the mother, M. Strazza has missed that which in Sculpture must always form the pathos of the story;" this may be true, but nevertheless, the artist has adhered to the text, which is thus

And she went, and sat her down over against him a good way off, as it were a bow shot: for she said, Let me not see the death of the child. And she sat over against him, and lift up her voice, and wept."

There are so many representations of Ishmael with the mother, that for very variety one without might be tolerated, and when correctly rendered, as this is, it appears to us, as fit a subject as many others we have heard praised, and that highly; from our recollection of it in the Great Exhibition, we think his remarks on the Milanese sculpture unnecessarily severe, although we do not parade our judgment with such a travesty of infallibility as the following :

" It would be mock modesty were we to admit the possibility of our being mistaken on this question, viewed generally, for had we not taken credit to ourselves for some power of judgment, as well as some experience in Art, it would have been the height of presumption to have attempted the writing of a general treatise on the subject.

The historical sketch of modern British art, up to the present time, contained in the second chapter is excellent, the critical remarks are most judicious, and it merits, and will repay, an attentive perusal. Also, the observations upon Public Statues are in the proper spirit, and show that Mr. Weekes is a sound thinker, and that, however captivated by the manifold excellenctes of ancient sculpture, he will not allow his

a

enthusiasm to outrun the dictates of common sense : rightly deeming that works of sculpture are intended, as much for the pleasure and instruction of future ages, as for our own times; he points out the absurdity of representing the statues of our great men, like Grecian or Roman heroes—or else in a nondescript envelope of drapery, that is like no costume ever worn by mankind.

“ This is called idealizing a statue, and idealizing it is, there is no doubt, in one way of speaking ; for but little of the individual character of the original enters into the composition. It is, however, a mistaken view of the question ; for the primary object in Portraiture, whether in Painting or Sculpture, must be to record, in a pleasing and appropriate manner, the personal resemblance of the original ; to hand down to posterity the bodily form, in which is contained those mental powers that make him admired or beloved ; to give to the eye permanently that which no history or biography will be able hereafter thoroughly to convey to the imagination. For the accomplishment of this, he must be represented surrounded by those circumstances that mark the time in which he lives, and the employ. ments in which he is engaged

By removing the peculiarity of the general form, and depriving the figure of its dress and customary accessories, the individuality of the face becomes more apparent and incongruous. The work, under this sort of treatment, amounts at the best but to a sort of bastard idealization."

Mr. Weekes does not, however, advocate a mere literal copying of costume, as if the statue was to commemorate the dress and not the man. He shows the necessity of selecting and arranging judiciously—that a great deal of modern costume, even to the every day street dress, presents excellent and graceful forms under skilful treatment, and we entirely concur in the remarks thrown out, that an artist of right feeling finds no great difficulty in this, though perhaps nothing serves so much to distinguish his works from that of inferior men, as due attention in this particular.” It reminds us of Sir Joshua Reynolds' remark, " that rules are fetters only to the man of no genius;" we have ever found the incapables ready to shelter themselves behind the difficulty of making anything effective out of the stiff modern costume.

The chapter descriptive of the materials and processes used in the Fine Arts will prove highly entertaining, as well as instructive, to many readers, because, unless amongst the artistic class, very little is known of the modus operandi.* It will also show how little change there has been or is likely to be,

See also a paper on Modern Water Color Painting in Irisu QUARTERLY Review, Vol. I., p. 318.

[ocr errors]

*

1

[ocr errors]

• In

in the procedure of Art-notwithstanding the extraordinary discoveries in physical science-experimental philosophy, and chymistry—Art remains unchanged-new discoveries having only for their object the multiplying of copies by a saving of time and labor, and a consequent cheapening of cost. a word,” as Mr. Weekes writes, “mechanism may increase Art imitations, but the only power from which Art itself can draw excellence, is that power of volition imparted through the nerves, at whose command the muscles of the hand depict the image that exists within the brain."

The lamentable deficiencies in the ornamental art of silver modelling and chasing are well pointed out, and also the reasons of the defects. We commend this chapter to the especial perusal of all silver-smiths, and of those who mean to employ them. The most expensive, as well as the most execrable, specimens of ornamental art we have ever seen, were of silver, and especially when of English workmanship; indeed, from Mr. Weekes' description of their procedure, it would be strange if it were otherwise. But we differ with him as to the reasons for the superiority of the foreigner. The true cause is the want of a general diffusion of the power of drawing, and by consequence, a want of taste in the mass of the public. And until drawing becomes a part of elemental education, and is as general as the ability to write (for it is little more difficult, at least to a moderate degree), matters will not be materially mended. The Schools of Design lately established will achieve nothing, at present they are not teaching design so much as teaching drawing. Mr. Weekes would appear to have somewhat similar ideas with ourselves on this subject. He observes :

“ Ornament, to be useful, must be simple, and be produced by means within the power of the many. A few costly articles, made to suit the luxurious habits and extravagant wants of an over-wealthy patronage, will not mark us as a nation possessing taste. To really deserve that title, the commonest thing which we use, the simplest object with which we are surrounded in our daily walks of life, must display it. Taste must find its way into the cottage as well as the palace, and show itself, as with the ancient Greeks, not the result of occasional efforts, but as if it had grown up with us until it had become part and parcel of ourselves, necessary for our enjoyment, and inseparable from our existence.”

Viewed altogether, the excellencies in Mr. Weeks' book much outnumber any deficiencies; and as we have not spared the latter, so the former are justly entitled to our highest commendation. The work appears very opportunely, and it gives us unfeigned pleasure to find that, originally intended for private circulation, it has excited so much interest, as to call for a more general publicity.

The critical chapter on the Sculpture in the Great Exbibition is not the best portion of the Essay. We are almost tempted to exclaim with Launce—“Oh I would that were out." He

appears over anxious to say kind things of his contemporaries in the arts, and abounds with odd and affected phraseology, such as—“The marble not only breathes but

the very heart palpitates within”—“ It is not so much the bodily likeness that is here given, as the outward visible sign of the inward soul and spirit of the original." "He carves out new thoughts on the marble, stamps it with new impressions--gives us, &c." “ With all its affectation of dress the head teems with thought.” There is also a passage which savors exceedingly of one of the Chadband discourses so admirably presented by Dickens :

“ How great, and yet how little, in Sculpture, are the distinctions between the work of genius and mere handicraft ; the material, the subject, the form, the treatment, the attitude, the combination of parts, the arrangement of lines, in both shall be all but alike; and yet the one shall express thought, feeling, impulse, emotion, passion, sentiment, life, action, power ; shall gain for itself admiration, love, sympathy; shall breathe, speak, persuade, inspire us, win us, lead us by its silent eloquence to new ideas, new associations, new pleasures, and obtain at last a permanent mastery over the soul, which we in vain resist, and are the gainers by acknowledging; while the other, with all the care bestowed upon it, with all its correctness, without even a fault, shall be incapable of moving us towards it, of gaining for itself either our respect or our affection; and why is this difference? It is dependent neither on the study, the experience, or the knowledge, of the artist ; it is simply a question of the sources from whence the work has sprung; of whether the stream has flowed from the hot-springs, or the ice-bergs of humanity.”

It is by no an easy task to write critiques on Art, and Mr. Weekes' Essay has set us considering many of the errors commonly prevalent in such. The approaching Irish Industrial Exhibition will, no doubt, evoke much artistic criticism-for the Managing Committee seem particularly anxious to collect pictures and statues.

The critiques on literature are far in advance of those on the Fine Arts. To do the Press justice, it is most anxious to repair the deficiency; but there is much

means

difficulty in finding writers competent to dischargeth is onerous duty, as it requires a considerable amount of artistic knowledge--we might even add, skill in Art-combined with literary power, to achieve it successfully; and this “happeneth rarely." The fact that literary men, as a class, are nonartistic, has been already observed upon; and this truth is singular, inasmuch as no two classes of mankind so nearly resemble in their tastes, feelings, and habits, as artists and authors. Many Painters have, however, been very tolerable writers, and the best dissertations upon Art are by them ; but, for obvious reasons, their pens are seldom critical.

Thackeray has occasionally written some papers upon Art which are admirable ; at one time, we believe, he practised as an artist, which sufficiently accounts for their excellence. He complains that "editors send their reporters, indifferently, to a police office or a picture-gallery, and expect them to describe Corregio, or an alarming fire, with equal fidelity.” For the most part this is true enough, but is often reluctantly submitted to from the difficulty of procuring better critics. We have known many instances where editors have taken infinite pains in this particular, and gone much out of their way to enlist efficient cooperation. The public, unquestionably, evince an increasing taste for Art, and a readiness to acquire just ideas of excellence, shown by a distrust of its own judgment, and a readiness to adopt opinions put forward by what it deems authority. It is, therefore, lamentable that public opinion should be in this particular mis-directed, of which there is but too much likelihood, from the multitude of false prophets teaching absurd doctrines. In many respects, it would be better that the public followed the dictates of its own common sense, in preference to the dicta of dilettante scribblers, who often do not themselves know their own meaning. A painter, in the true sense of the word, would infinitely prefer the unstudied criticism of a humble mechanic, to the would-be artistic lore of the half connoisseur. Algarotti, writing upon the importance of the public judgment for the guidance of artists, seems to have entertained some such opinions, for he instances it as the tribunal to which the most accomplished artists, ancient as well as modern, have alike submitted; a tribunal which, being free from partiality, and guided generally by a certain natural good sense, is enabled ultimately to arrive at a just estimate of the talents of artists : not but that, occasionally, through the novelty of a

« ZurückWeiter »