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perhaps more so than heretofore. The spirit of the great artist shines through a sympathetic if tentative language, singularly pure and moving. Within the boundaries of the periods marked by those three works, we find an infinite variety of effort and achievement, ranging from that marvel of atmosphere and light, painted without artifice or trick, the little seascape, The Island of Cos, to the near-athand, highly abstract allegorical canvas entitled Progress.
We may systematically differentiate the Abstract from the Real, the Remote from the Romantic, the Lyric from the Epic. In Watts's portraiture the Ideal reigns, but at no expense of the Real. In the abstract designs the material is there, clothing the spirit; Hebrew in intensity of vigour, Æschylean in its force and mystery, Watts's design is never ambiguous. However occult may be the conception, it is translated into an articulate language by the logical use of painter's materials, pigments and pencils. The thought is crystallised, anthropomorphised as ancient myths became to be as they passed from the region of instinctive and vague symbols into the atmosphere of significance and history; the end being an embodiment of an idea, consistent and within the limits of adaptation peculiar to the implements of a painter.
We are carried directly to the conception of the artist, whose pigments are for him not the final object, but indispensable adjuncts to be used rationally but not obtrusively within the limits of their capacity to interpret intelligibly. The technique adopted by Watts was not facile, flowing, artificial or dextrous ; it was but little open to chance, it is thorough and elaborately constructed ; thus it is in harmony with the subjects it is called upon to inform, contrary to present fashion, but in agreement with this statement of Titian : 'L'improvisatore non fa mai la bella poesia.'
As an interpreter of a romantic dream of some of Nature's most calm and enchanting moods, Watts is unique. Pathetic and simple are the rolling waves of the deserted ocean, green, even muddy in colour, symbolising all that has been lost, and how, for the moment, light and energy have vanished ; one, and one only, accent of created life, The Dove that Returned in the Evening, a picture that cannot fail to move the most insensitive spectator. In a design as unpretentious and impressive as a Japanese artist might have adopted, queer even as arrangement of line, the story of The Dove that Returned Not is told as only a great poet could have depicted it. The shivering little bird, weary of flight, is finishing its course in the arms of an ancient tree overgrown with ivy. A remarkable instance is this of the painter's decorative feeling, for while the impression of entity is maintained, every exquisite detail has received the loving care of a true artist, who knew how to combine breadth of aspect with complicated elaboration. Patient Life and Unrequited Toil is another instance, and there are many such, of the deep poetry seen by the painter in
episodes which might have been rendered 'banal' and commonplace. After the message of this pathetic episode has been delivered to the spectator, there still remains an endless field for enjoyment to be obtained by the faithful and sincere rendering of every herb and plant which in no wise detracts from, but rather enhances, the pathos of approaching death surrounded by growing life.
It would be unreasonable to demand of an artist more than he has given us—perhaps our appetites are insatiable; so while we are grateful for these and other visions in which inanimate Nature plays a distinguished part, we may regret that he did not give us more. But traceable in the majority of symbolic pictures is a deep love of Nature. Flowers, leafage, tangle, boles of trees, sea, luminous clouds are hardly treated as accessories by the master, but rather as the chorus is used in an Athenian drama; they are, as it were, notes of Nature's ever-recurrent resurrection and fertility, scattered with reserve and felicity in the very pathways of imaginative symbolism. The most abstract allegory, the portrayals of Destiny, of Love, of Death, of Life, are brought within the sphere of the moment by allusions to the voices of Nature vibrating and palpitating in a manner common to the sympathies of everybody. A human note is struck in the very centre of an epic abstraction.
It is possible that the scientific observation of a botanist might not be satisfied with Watts's rendering of flowers and leafage; scientific deficiencies may be evident, but the essence, the mystery, colour, and texture are illimitably suggested, and complicated reflections of light and colour are rendered by magical touches. In his drawing and handling of leafage, for nobility of impression combined with reserve of insignificant details, Watts found the narrow way lying between the efficient and the unprofitable, given only to the sincerest artists to discover and hold, implying a mind and eye in concert, accustomed to discern the thin line dividing capacity from inefficacy, to main. tain spontaneity and reserve, retention and surrender.
Doubtless it is that the Pre-Raphaelite movement influenced the painter, and its example fostered his attention to the manifold structure and minute design of animate as well as inanimate Nature, but in no wise did an intimacy of observation withdraw his instinct from broader issues. While the Impressionist school might claim Watts, it could do so only under reservation, because a desirable surface and abhorrence of 'tricks' formed a not inconsiderable place in his creed. The essence of every object is its life; but not only that; it must be well and delightfully transmitted, pleasurably and sincerely obtained by a mental operation of selection. Hence, while details are not evaded or 'smirched,' they are delightfully presented, but in no wise impertinently obtrusive; they serve as aids, either pictorial or poetical, to a dominant design. All ornament in Watts's work grows out of his design, and bears relation to its main structure, Just as real Greek and real Gothic ornament is controlled under the laws of structural fitness, so Ornament was treated by Watts in no elemental fashion, but as an important growth out of a still more important stem. Probably this balance was adjusted unconsciously; it was the result of an artistic instinct at once comprehensive and logical.
The portraiture of the master presents the idiosyncrasies of physiognomy, typical or moulded by temperament or occupation. The man is there seen at his best-not a passing social best, but under the permanent influence of his life of study, action, or emotion. Every furrow tells its story, and is related to wear and tear of effort, intellectual or emotional, while in some instances they are combined. No one would doubt but that the portrait of the celebrated oculist, Sir William Bowman, represented a keen and minute observer in whom strength and sensibilities were in union. The eyes of a man, teeming with intelligence, have never been registered for ever with greater subtilty by any painter, ancient or modern.
The portrait of Sir John Hawkshaw is among the most resolute and intimate delineations of a man of thought and action ever painted. The whole character is there, strong, almost inflexible ; and while the breadth of view is entirely unmolested as in any Titian portrait, Holbein even never executed finer or more delicate details. Here is indeed true impression, parts plus the whole !
The portrait of John Stuart Mill is a study of character different, of course, but quite equal to the Sir John Hawkshaw. It gives the very essence of a thoughtful and sensitive man, cold, perhaps, and highly introspective. Sensitiveness lurks about the mouth and nostril, which slightly contradict each other. The former is compressed, contracted; the latter explains a contrast by an ardent expansion. Watts discovered a sympathy with his most abstract designs in the great political economist—that kind of sympathy related afterwards in the autobiography of Mill.
The portrait of Burne-Jones is simply “the man,' nervous, retiring, almost timid, and, of course, highly imaginative; but under those gentle and far-reaching grey eyes there lies a latent fire which Aashed with indignation at times with unexpected force. The portrait of Lord Lawrence is instinct of patient activity, strong selfreliance, daring, resolute, but gentle. Watts has not neglected the scar of a sabre-cut upon the cheek of the great warrior. Dean Liddell is represented as he was, an aristocratic Greek scholar whose kindness could be as sustained and gentle as his irony could be piercing.
We see the masculine and refined nature of Leighton, his intellect and strength, his good heart and generosity, in a portrait which, for purely pictorial qualities, ranks among Watts's greatest achievements. The Millais is perhaps less satisfactory, the delicate cutting of whose features has been a little blunted by the painter's handling. But the
Calderon is superb--alert, clever, ironical, a real creature of the South.
We must not omit the portrait of Dr. Joachim, painted, we believe, by gaslight. Sensitive and strong, the king of violinists caresses his instrument with that sustained emotion which has given to his interpretation of the symphonic epics of Beethoven such dignity and profound feeling. Among the portraits of living men there is none finer than that of Walter Crane. The friends of that delightful artist, who has given pure and true pleasure not only to children but to men and women, must rejoice that his refined personality is handed down in a sympathetic rendering by a brother artist.
If there were no name affixed, could the portrait of Tennyson painted in 1859 be other than that of a great poet? Here poet meets poet on common ground, only the implements of design are different, the pen and the brush. Tennyson somewhere remarks in substance : ‘The only art that lives is highly wrought and absolutely finished.' Watts has put this aphorism into practice on the portrait of our great poet, who rivalled Virgil and Horace in his masterly and elegant verse.
There are many more male portraits by Watts which merit prolonged study, in the Academy and elsewhere, of equal merit with those alluded to. The limited space necessarily accorded to a single article prevents further comments.
This seems to be the right moment to example the influence of Tennyson's verse upon the romantic side of Watts's temperament. The very heart of the noble poem, Sir Galahad, is written in colour on canvas in a picture which surely was inspired by the same 'genius' that evoked the poem by Tennyson. More than an illustration of the creation of another mind, it is a translation into another language, an embodiment of a mysterious ideal, a very portrait of the blameless knight; so vivid the impression, it is as if the knight had sat for it. It is a vision realised ! For sheer beauty and manly vigour of the most refined and ardent type, the art of the painter can mount no higher, nor has a blameless life ever received a finer tribute. For freshness of colour, subdued yet brilliant tone, for the painting of flashing armour, sunlit sky, woodland and bramble, where is to be found the superior of this lovely picture, even among the masterpieces of ancient art ?
In some of the portraits of women an analogous poetry underlies & verisimilitude. From these we single out three whole-lengths The Hon. Mrs. Percy Wyndham, Miss Nassau Senior, and Lady Margaret Beaumont with her Child. These three pictures, for dignity of design, strength as well as delicacy of execution, and by reason of the luminous quality of their colour, are rare masterpieces. For certain qualities, we know of no portrait of a woman more distinguished upon all accounts, design and execution, than the Mrs. Percy
Wyndham. One might compare it with the finest work of the best time of Venetian art, but only by generalities. Yet it has more kinship there than with the English school of portraiture. It is different from either. The design, the pose, environment, treatment, and handling are all Watts at his best, inspired by a very noble subject. This is historical portrait-painting, epic in its beauty and calm, which could only have been achieved by a man whose mind was inspired by the highest ideals of design and execution, who had sat at the feet of great masters. Nothing that is momentary or suggestive of change or caprice mars the serene dignity of this monumental masterpiece. Surrounded by objects of unobtrusive beauty, but dominating them, the lady, the summit of enduring nobility, reigns. The most impressive and therefore the most enduring portraiture is restrained as to gesture, and presents the person ' rather than a passing mood or moment. As the sculpture of Phidias remains the greatest because of its big resemblance to a type, so the greatest portraits, those which will stand the test of time, are monumental in their severity as well as delightful in their enrichments. Among these the portrait of Mrs. Percy Wyndham ranks.
More elaborate, and in a lighter mood, is the portrait of Miss Nassau Senior, painted in 1858, where one may trace some influence from the work of a great colourist, Gabriel Rossetti ; but indirect only, for the picture is remarkable for its daringly unaffected originality of design. With all the distinguished daintiness of details, and extraordinary variety of coloured planes, the head maintains conquest, being the climax concentration of broad light, diffused over a multitude of interests. Yet the effect is not forced : Nature has not been roughly handled, but treated without trick or affectation. Watts
realised' his backgrounds, he did not hint them; he overcame each difficulty as it arose, giving to every portion of his work his equal affection, which would be presently reasonably adjusted and placed within its proper plane by elimination of intrusions.
In quite another vein is the portrait of Lady Margaret Beaumont with her Child. Maybe that one is reminded of Gainsborough, but there is no plagiarism, only that Watts was in a Gainsborough mood when he painted it, for it is Watts all over. As the Mrs. Percy Wyndham and the Miss Nassau Senior, so was this picture a long timeyears, we believe—upon the easel. This fact shows that, however different the three pictures are, each was started with a motive which was not weakened in its force by the elaborate, even laborious, pains taken in the progress of achievement. Good painting is often slow painting. One might venture to hope, however groundlessly, that the three noble portraits should arrest the flight of many an honest but ill-directed student into nebulous regions, from which extrication is difficult, where Vanity and Notoriety have, for the moment seized the thrones of Industry and Sincerity !