ARE you one of those who seize their joys avidly the instant they offer themselves, or do you deliberately defer them in order to linger over the hors-d’oeuvre of anticipation ? It is a point on which travelling companions should be agreed. Not knowing your views on this question I suppose I am at liberty to go my own sweet way, and mine is the procrastinating way. It doesn’t really matter much in this case, for either way there is joy, whether we stop in the Goya ante-room or whether we first take a preliminary saunter down the corridor.
To walk down that corridor is to run the gauntlet of the Renaissance. It is a crisis in a man’s life. His spirit must indeed be inaccessible to the impressions of sense if it has not suffered a change, and a lasting change, by the time he has reached the far end of the gallery. He gains a newer and more splendid vision of the world and of the world’s master, man.
Had Keats walked down this gallery I am sure he would have gone straight back to his hotel and written a sonnet ” On first looking at Titian’s ` Bacchanal.’ ” If Homer gave a picture of the radiant dawn of the world, this is an illustration of its noble noon, the moment when the flower of life hung full-blown, brooding on its own perfection. Here in a friendly conjunction of sun and sea and sky (the last brutally repainted it is true), the breasted earth, cool shade, wine, and the white and berry-coloured bodies of men and women, supple yet sculpturesque, the hand of man has for once expressed all that his heart has dreamt of an earthly paradise. It is the challenge of the senses to the soul. Then, turning from the maturity of manhood, the wise-eyed painter envisages infancy, painting little children in the ” Garden of the Loves ” as they have never been painted before or since, with all the qualities they have borrowed both from bees and flowers, swarming riotously in busy play. Next Charles the Fifth on the Field of Mühlberg,” something more than emperor, a man, with an imperial soul. A step or two farther and we have stepped over the edge of the world, into the mystic Beyond of El Greco’s visionary gaze. The familiar human form puts on a strange flame-like quality, it has already lost the touch of earth. It repels and fascinates. Come awaythis is limbo!
But there, on the left, a door opens into a cool and airy room. How fresh it looks ! It must be better ventilated in there. Yes, it was ventilated some hundreds of years ago by a man who ventilated the whole palace of art, one Diego Velasquez. He opened one of its windows and the fresh air that he let in will keep it sweet till it crumbles into dust. Did you think you knew Velasquez, having seen the ” Venus ” of Trafalgar Square and the ” Infanta Margarita ” of the Louvre ? You were mistaken. He bides at home. Other masters may travel abroad for all the world to see, but the world must come to see Velasquez in Madrid. ” Las Lanzas,” ” Las- Meninas,” ” Las Hilanderas “who knows not these knows not Velasquez. But we must not enter that room now, for if we did I think we should stay there until the custodians clapped their hands at dusk. And now the magnificent Rubens in his high-handed way appropriates the walls of the long gallery, just condescending to leave a little space for his clever pupil, Van Dyck. One cannot but applaud himas one applauds the large splendour of a handsome woman, con-tent that another should enjoy her intimacy. But here Rubens is for once in his lyric rather than in his epic mood. The Three Graces ” was assuredly painted for his own delight, not for the delight of princes. And here is his ” Adoration,” a subject after his own royal heart, kings doing homage to the King of kingsby no means a masterpiece, somewhat of an improvisation, a square yard or two of canvas covered as easily as a lesser man would throw off a sketch, but a picture before which, by your leave, we will pause a while until our blood runs quicker.
Murillohe too has a room all to himself at the end of the gallery, rather a hot and stuffy room, I think, and don’t you almost fancy that you detect a whiff of incense ? If you choose to go in I will wait for you outside. Oh yes, he was a painter, but in there I am always reminded of those waxwork figures in the Jueves Santo procession at Barcelona. I have an idea that it was he who introduced sentimentalism into the Catholic Church.
And now let us go along the passage that runs round the apse behind the long gallery and pass into the roomor, to use the more sumptuous language of Baedeker, the saloonof Ribera.
” But how dark it is in here ! ”
Yes, we are in Spain.
” But surelyI don’t quite understand.”
Then let me explain. No, I am afraid I can’t explain altogetherI can only give you an illustration of what I mean.
A few days before I left England I went one afternoon to the National Gallery, with the object of discovering whether, from a cursory glance at the pictures in the Spanish room, I could distinguish any characteristic which broadly differentiated the Spanish school from the other schools of European painting. The afternoon was dull, it was growing late there was but half-an-hour before the gallery closed. I passed through the Dutch rooms, noticing how like the atmosphere of the actual day that I had just left outside were those moist, grey, chill spaces of air spread above the watery landscapes. No mistaking the nationality of these painters. This portrait that they had left of that reclaimed foreshore which served them for a fatherland was no less faithful than those that they painted of their contemporaries and friends. Omitting the Venetians, for I was pressed for time, I walked through the rooms where the rest of the Italians were hung ! What clarity ! What transparency ! What a crystalline quality of light. True, they did not appear to have been pre-occupied with the problem of light as were the Impressionists. They did not paint objects solely for the sake of clothing them with atmosphere or diapering them with the play of sun and shade. Their interest was centred upon the figure of a woman, or a group of angels, or the columns of a baldachino, focussed intensely upon form. The light which shone upon these objects and all round them seemed to have been rather of the nature of an accidentit just happened, without deliberation or forethought. They seemed to have been aware of it subconsciously. They painted the clear air as they breathed it, instinctively, in both processes regarding it as a means rather than an end in itself, accepting it casually as a common fact. For them it was in literal truth ” the common light of day.”
Then I passed abruptly into the Spanish room.
What had happened ? Had the leisurely twilight of the English afternoon prematurely hurried into night ? Had a fog or a thundercloud made away with the precious leavings of the sun ? The pictures were opaque, cloudy, glum. I found it to be true, as a discerning critic 1 has remarked, that ” in a gallery of seventeenth-century pictures of different schools a Spanish picture produces the contrast of a man in mourning amid a carnival crowd.”
Supposing, I reflected, I had not known where any of the pictures I had just seen had been painted, what should I have guessed about the countries of their origin ? The Dutch pictures I should have said must have been painted in a climate where the sun was a niggard, hiding itself behind vapoury films, a land of faint, grey, uniform light, and I should have guessed rightly. I should have declared that the Italian pictures had been produced in a country where light was lavish, constant, of a dry diamond-like brilliance, and, although I might have underestimated the variety of its effects, I should have again guessed in the main rightly. And the Spanish picturesthese I should have supposed were painted in a land of perpetual shadow, a region of polar night, or beneath the pall of an eternal thundercloud. And how wrongly I should have guessed everyone who has been to Spain well knows. For the light of Spain is not essentially different, so far as I am aware, from the light of Italy. Whence comes then this blindness of the Spaniard to a truth which the Italian cannot help but confess on every inch of his canvas and fresco ?
But was there no light at all in these dim pictures ? I stood in the midst of the twilit room and let my gaze sweep in a hurried circuit round the walls to see if it would be arrested by any sudden gleam of light. Yes, here a pale ghostly face shone outPhilip IV. ; here was a shimmering luminous bodyVenus ; here a phosphorescent glow in the supernatural halo round the head of the Christ at the Column. That was all that I noted in this rapid circular survey. You see it was Velasquez who supplied the illumination. And it is to be observed that whatever light there was came from the human face and form. I know that the pictures in the Spanish room at the National Gallery are far from being representative of Spanish painting, but there is my illustration, for what it is worth. And what I saw in the Prado confirmed the inference I had drawn in Trafalgar Square. (I except Velasquez. But then, in spite of his Spanish gravity, I always have a difficulty in reconciling him with Spain.)
Yes, it is dark in the saloon of Ribera. The light on the canvases is not the healthful glow of day, but a fitful, lurid glare, striking the objects sideways, giving them a preposterous relief and glooming, grotesque shadows like those which a single candle in a room throws upon the walls. Relief, facial relief, that is what the painter has sought most eagerly. The even play of equable daylight on all the planes of the face suppresses relief ; the horizontal glare, limelight and candle-light, gives it emphasis. And why this search for relief ? Because relief allies itself with the dramatic element. Not the colour of the face, not the tones, not the texture, but the architecture of bone, the moulding of brow and nose and jaw, betokens character. And character has always been the pre-occupation of the Spaniard, even when he has been an artist. His heart was never in æstheticsagain making exception of that great parenthesis, Velasquezunless he could in some sort subordinate æsthetics to drama, to the interplay of character. Thus we may almost say that he discovered light somewhat accidentally in his search for character. We do not find him delighting in it for its own sake. Above all, its radiant, serene, clarifying quality he seems to have ignored, or to have been unaware of. He liked it best vivid, lurid, sensational. He seized upon it as a means to help him to emphasise and dramatise the one subject that absorbed him, the soul of man.
I don’t for a moment pretend to have solved the problem of the joylessness, lurking like a, worm in the bud, of much of Spanish paintingfor absence of light is absence of joy. There are some who will point significantly to the domination of the Church and whisper darkly of the Inquisition. Like most easy and superficial explanations it will not bear testing. Why should the Church have blotted out the light in Spain and bathed in it in Italy ? And if it is really conceivable that the ecclesiastics in Spain should have instituted an Index Expurgatorius of colours and scrutinised the painter’s palette for the hue of heresy, it was not because they were churchmen but Spanish churchmenwhich leaves us as far from a solution as we were before. But if anything can be safely predicated of the æsthetic sense of the Church it is her rather childlike fondness for gay colours, in missals, in glass, in vestments, in cardinals’ robes, in all her processional splendours. Another and more plausible explanation will be supplied by the art historian. He will remind me that this obsession of gloom, of intense shadow fitfully lit by lightning flashes, was not peculiar to Spain but was the vogue of the hour, a consequence of the inevitable twilight that crept over European art after the glorious sun of the Renaissance had set. It gave its name to the fashionable school of the day, the Tenebrosi, the lovers of darkness. It had its seat not in Spain but in Naples, and its great exponent, Caravaggio, was the master on whom Ribera modelled himself. In art, Spain has always been a great borrower of fashions, now French, now Flemish, now Italian, and I am ready to admit that she took the hint of the Tenebrose fashion from Naples. But I cannot rest in this solution. Of all the various attires that Spain tried on, this one alone suited her. It was what, wittingly or unwittingly, she had been waiting for. It was congenial to her temper. Italy discarded it, for her it was an unnatural aberration, but the habit of darkness clung to Spaineven the lucid Velasquez could not alter the mode. And it is to be observed that the preoccupation of Velasquez himself was not so much with light pure and undefiled, light absolute, as with light muffled, furtive and in shadow, imprisoned in the vast gloomy chambers of the Alcazar, lurking unsuspected in the folds of sombre velvet cloaks and the reticulation of black brocade.
The tradition persisted into modern times. Goya well, we shall come to him later. You can recognise it in Diaz by his inky, thundery skies and the deep gloom of his forests, a gloom intensified by unreal theatrical gleams. Even the sun-worshipping Impressionists, to whom Spain with all the rest of the world paid the compliment of imitation, could not finally slay it. The canvases of Zuloaga, perhaps the most characteristic Spanish painter of to-day, might be said to be illumined, if the expression were not a misnomer, by a light that never was on land or sea, a light that is neither that of night nor day, an ashen reflection from a sky in which the sun has never risen.
Certainly this preference for shadows, for sombre colouring, lightless, or broken by harsh unequal light, was something more than the temporary fashion of a school. Nor was it merely an artistic preference. If a black shadow fell across Spanish art, it was thrown there by life itself. The Spaniard was already clad in black before the rest of Europe had forsaken the gay colours of the Renaissance, and when he dominated the sister peninsula in the sixteenth century he even imposed for a time his sombre costume on the colour-loving Italians, as you may see in the portraits of Moretto and Moroni in the National Gallery. I am convinced that it is not in the dominance of the Church or in any passing influence that the explanation of this dark Plutonian habit will be found but in the character of the people itself. Does it derive from some sombre strain of African blood in the race ? Or has it affinities with the keen Iberian sense of tragedy, the Iberian recurrent despair and denial of life ? Or is it merely a secular weariness of the sun ?
Let us linger a moment or two longer in this room, for although Ribera lived all his life in Italy, and is perhaps best known by his Italian nickname of Lo Spagnoletto, he is in many respects the most significant of Spanish painters. We have noticed the sombreness of the pictures. Look for a moment at the subjectswhat do you find ? Remember these are the works of a man who had sunned himself in Italy, who, it might be supposed, had thrown off the oppression of the Spanish mind, escaped, if you will, from the shadow of the Church into the bright air of paganism. Do you therefore expect to find beautiful light women artlessly disguised as Madonnas; classical heroes rejoicing in the pride of life ; nymphs, satyrs, love-gods, all the paraphernalia of the Renaissance joie de vivre ? You will find instead old men, decrepit, cadaverous, their skins tanned and corrugated, ingrained with dirt, scarified with sores, their bodies displaying with a painful obtrusiveness all the stigmata of old age. There are tortures, executions, martyr-doms, here Ixion bound to his fiery wheel, there a colossal Prometheus with the vulture plucking at his entrails. Significant as illustrating the peculiarly Spanish relish of pain, and the deliberate realism demanded in the representation of it. It is the intrusion into art of the temper which delights in bull-fights, or, more justly perhaps, of the temper which finds a certain sad exhilaration in the spectacle of tragedy.
But there is one picture which I insist on your enjoying, although it is a torture scene, ” The Martyrdom of St Bartholomew.” As the director of the gallery has thoughtfully furnished the saloon with a luxurious settee, you can contemplate the work in comfort. The saint, a naked man in the prime of life, is seen in a sinking posture, his arms outstretched and his hands bound to the two extremities of a wooden beam that is suspended by a rope from an upright pole or mast. The rope passes through a pulley and is grasped at the other end by two ruffians who are hoisting the saint to a more elevated position in order to facilitate the operation of flaying him. On either side a little group of soldiers and spectators calmly watches the preparation for the martyrdom. The object of the picture, presumably, is to arouse our compassion for the sufferings of the saint and our admiration of his fortitude, and yet it defeats its purpose by its very beauty. Me, at any rate, it filled with sheer delight. The design is intensely exhilarating ; the colours are subdued but glow with a kind of suppressed splendour. For once Ribera has rolled back his thunder-curtain, leaving the face of heaven barea great cavity of blue, filled with shining cloud and rushing wind. The tug of the brawny arms upon the rope, the back-ward pull of the bodies, communicated such an agreeable thrill of healthy muscular strain that I am afraid my sympathies were all with the executioners. Regardless of the unhappy plight of the saint, I was glad to know that they would go on tugging till the end of time, displaying their fine play of muscle and strong vitality for the delight of innumerable generations of spectators. And yet the delight is not wholly contained in the attitude of those two villains. The picture is one of those the exhilarating effect of which is not obviously accountable. I suppose it must spring out of some secret of design, some magic in the thrust of lines and the balance of masses, which I am not able, and do not greatly care, to analyse. I am only too glad when the inquisitive mind goes to sleep and the senses, which never stay to ask a question, rush out unabashed and take their greedy fill of pleasure.
The directors of the Prado have been wise in collecting together the portrait pictures in the Sala de Retratos. Of course there is an obvious inconvenience in having to go from room to room when you wish to study the works of a single painter instead of being able to confront his total achievement in one place ; but for this inconvenience there is more than compensation in the impression produced by the full assemblage of the men and women who have helped to build up a nation, the collective portrait of the race.
I think that portraits acquire a special significance when you are alone in a strange town. Your solitude throws you more upon the society of those whose home is in the public picture gallery. If you count no friend among the. living citizens you are all the more at leisure to cultivate the friendship of those dead but immortal inhabitants who are always ready to welcome you whenever you choose to visit them in their quiet rooms. Their appointments never fail. And the friendships you strike up with them are full of incident. They have their periods of growth and decline, their romances and caprices, their sudden inexplicable lapses into in-difference and dislike. (I well remember the day of my fatal quarrel with Mrs SiddonsLawrence’s Mrs Siddons, I mean, who was the darling of my adolescence. We are still unreconciled, and when I go past her now I always feel that there are reproaches in those appealing eyes, moist with tearstears that I don’t believe in.) And there emerge too, from these chance acquaintances, those enduring sworn friendships, tested and approved in hours of heaviness and despair, when wise and candid eyes looked into yours and under-stood all that your living fellows had misunderstood, solaced and heartened youthe only friend-ships perhaps that are perfectly secure from the hazards of change and time and death. Happy is the man who has these staunch friends posted up and down, like accredited ambassadors, in the cities of Europe. More powerful than ambassadors are they, for they can help him when the embassies of his native country shall fail. No more can he suffer the dire solitude of great citiesif he travel from Paris to St Petersburg, from Milan to Madrid, he smiles to himself knowing that at the end of his journey he shall find a brother.
I am glad that I have some of these friends in the Prado. I do not know their names. They are portraits of unknown men, hombres desconocidos, but known to me. El Greco painted them. Gravely and sadly they look at you over the rigid ruffles that hang like millstones round their necks. These are spiritual portraits, portraits of the ‘inner rather than the outer man. If these were typical Spaniards of the age of the Armada, and I believe they were, then I think the history of Spain needs to be re-written. No haughty grandees, they, nor heretic-burning bigots, nor truculent buccaneers. Their pallid, thought-worn faces seem to betoken an inner life that burnt with so intense a flame as well-nigh to consume their bodily forces. They are mystics, yet with the shrewd practical judgment which is not unusually the complement of a sane mysticism. Their eyes are troubled and perplexed, as if they had grown tired with long contemplation of the high mysteries of life and death. They have that look of disillusion which comes, perhaps, to all who expect from life more than life can afford. Certainty and the confidence that comes with certainty they never conquered ; at most they attained a kind of serenity that is more than half resignation. As we gazed at one another I could not help but recall those portraits of their con-temporaries and foemen, the rebel Protestant burgomasters of Haarlem. How much at ease in the world are these prosperous men of business, how comforted by the sufficing boon of food and drink, how confident of themselves and of their world, how unvisited by doubts of the fundamental rightness of things ! No need to go to the historians to learn whether in the contest they or their Spanish foes were successful. They are the men who are born for success, or what is called success by men, the spoilt children of Fortune. These others are plainly predestined to failurethe enfants perdus of the world, they for whom the blanks are reserved in the lottery of life. These I delight to count my friends. And when I grow to hate this hard, glittering Madrid, so eager now to achieve that kind of success of which the Dutch burgomasters possessed the key, I am glad that I can go and converse with these forlorn ones who drank the tears of disaster, and Iearn of their wisdom, which is the foolishness of the world.
Another friend I have in the Sala de Retratos, an old friend, Blessed Thomas More. As it is the worldly-minded Rubens who has painted him one is not surprised to find that his blessedness is some-what in abeyancebut that is not altogether Rubens’ fault, for the martyrdom of course preceded the beatification. The impression the painter has left of him is just that of a shrewd, intellectual, humorous, delightful, lovable man, a lover of this worldno doubt of the other also, but emphatically of this. His face is a trifle flushed and his eyes moistI fancied he has just dined, wisely and well, as all wise men do. A smile lurks about the corners of the mobile mouth and in the puckered eyes, whimsical and ironical, as of a man who discerned the touch of humour in the gravity of things and saw in tragedy itself the great jest of Fate. He knows the times are out of joint, but he does not, curse the providence that calls on him to help to set them right, though he may marvel at the unfitness of the choice. He cheerfully sets out on that road which well he knew must end abruptly on Tower Hill. But that need not hinder a man from dining well !
Not far away sits another figure whose fame, if not whose character, is well known to history, Mary of England, wife of Philip of Spain. I was glad to meet her too, for she has been sorely mishandled by the historians and I felt that Antonio Mor would tell me the truth about her at last. I cannot pretend that I was greatly drawn to the ladyafter all, one does not look for the pattern of womanhood in the daughters of Henry the Eighth. She is a forbidding person, though most transparently well-meaning. She sits stiffly up-right in her chair, square-shouldered, angular, awkward. She is holding a rose in her hand, a peculiarly inappropriate action. I am sure it was not her own idea to hold itperhaps the painter wanted a touch of colour, or perhaps she was so awkward with her hands that he thought this was the best way of disposing of one of them at any rate. All her nature is revealed in the way that she holds that rose. She doesn’t hold it, she nips it as though it were a nettle and would sting her if she didn’t nip it hard. She neither looks at it nor smells it : she has no use for flowers. She looks out of the rather oblique eyes that so often go with narrow minds, upon a world which she only half under stands and of which she more than half disapproves. A slight frown marks her disapprobation and also her possession of a fixed idea. Her large brow and firm mouth indicate a certain practical ability. If only she had had to keep a dame’s school instead of a kingdom, what a success she would have made of it !
A portrait of the Spanish race you will find in the Sala de Retratos, but where in the whole of the Prado will you find the portrait of Spain ? There is a special delight to the traveller in discovering in a nation’s picture galleries a map and mirror of the country he has been travelling through, in seeing it over again not with the eyes of a foreigner but through the eyes of its own sons. The stranger need go no farther than Trafalgar Square to find the woodland heart of England, its shining rivers and windy coasts ; the grey seas and skies and flat rich pastures of Holland are all contained in The Hague and Amsterdam ; and in the local galleries of Italy what a delightful auxiliary pleasure comes from recognising in the little sparkling landscapes behind the figures of saints glimpses of familiar hills and valleys, the very view perhaps that you look out upon from your hotel window. If in the Prado you expect a new and perfected vision of the snowy sierras and sunburnt uplands of Spain, you will be disappointed. For the Spanish painters Spain might as well never have existed. Velasquez, again proving his exceptional quality, of course took account of itis it not unfolded in splendid horizons behind the equestrian portrait of Philip IV.? In his ” St Antony visiting St Paul ” it is not accessory but principal. But apart from Velasquez and until we arrive at Goya, the only Spanish landscapes in the Prado that I can recollect are those of Velasquez’s pupil, Mazo. The quiet majesty of the gardens of Aranjuez, which are less gardens than woods, he painted with unmistakable affection in cool silver tones, but his true native country is that exciting No Man’s Land of romance, destined to become the favourite holiday resort of the eighteenth century, where the rocks are more intimidating, the water-falls more gushing, the shadows more bituminous than in any other country under heaven, and where there is no hill-top that lacks its classical temple falling into romantic disrepair.
I am again without a ready explanation to offer for this indifference of the Spanish painter to the landscape of his own country. It cannot be charged to lack of patriotism, for that passionate, narrow, regional patriotism which scarcely anywhere else will you find so deeply rooted as in Spain, is precisely the kind which as a rule expresses itself most intensely in the arts. Did not Goya himself rank his love of his native place with his art as the two master passions of his life ? ” En acordarme de Zaragoza y pintura me quemo vivo” (I burn when I think of Zaragoza and painting). Nor yet is it due to lack of intimate knowledge, for a remarkable fact in the history of Spanish painting is the large number of painters who sprang from the soil. It has been stated that the cause lay not in the apathy of the artists but in the nature of the commissions given by those they worked for” portraiture and religious subjects were the only work demanded of them.” Apart from the fact that these conditions were by no means peculiar to Spain at the time, the theory obliges us to credit the Spaniard with a quality of submissiveness in which he is strikingly deficient. If his heart had been really in the business, he could very well have served up a landscape disguised as a portrait, which would have satisfied at the same time the vanity of his patron and his own desire to express his love of nature. Just such a picture is Velasquez’s equestrian portrait of Philip IV., which might be classed with equal justification either as portraiture or landscape. And did not Giovanni Bellini, when commissioned to paint ” The Death of St Peter Martyr,” produce one of the most exquisite landscapes of the world ?
The love of natural scenery for its own sake is admittedly a flower of slow growth in art, and usually only blooms when civilisation has reached a certain degree of complexity. Even in England as late as the eighteenth century it was not uncommon for our very mild English hills to be described by such unflattering epithets as ” bald ” and ” horrid.” Nature is first loved in its somewhat utilitarian aspect of fertility, for the sake of its green pastures and still waters.
Our English landscapists delighted in cornfields and hayfields, thick woods, cattle browsing in the meadows, the tamed grandeur of parks, all the accessories of the prosperous farm. They preferred the agricultural opulence of the home counties to the uncultivated tracts of the north and west. The ragged barrenness of Crome’s ” Slate Quarries ” was an adventurous experiment, and perhaps has not even yet received its rightful meed of estimation. For the appreciation of nature in its wilder moods a touch of the romantic temper is required.
In its general character Spain is harsh, barren, savage, African. The oases of vegetation are sparse and precious in the midst of its burning table-lands. Its waste solitudes are oppressive, monotonous, sparing in half-lights and gradations of colour. It does not recreate the spirit or easily awaken sensations of joy and repose. . . . But is it not ” romantic ” ? Nature is never romantic-man is, or at any rate has been ever since the Romantics discovered Romance. For the Spaniard the romance of his rocks and sierras was a vein as undiscovered and unexploited as that of the precious metals buried within them. He viewed them realistically, with the realistic peasant mind, knowing well what physical hardships they imposed upon him, with what sweat of labour he must subdue them to his will, how grudgingly they yielded him his corn and oil and wine. He felt instinctively that nature was hostile to him.
I think that even from the window of a railway carriage you may divine something of his attitude towards nature in his way of settling himself upon the countryside. In England and France the labourer lives close to Nature, in the midst of her, on equal terms, free, friendly and fearless ; his scattered cottages and farms are embraced by the fields ; he seems almost to prefer her company to that of his fellows, or if he gathers with his kind in towns and hamlets, these are not abruptly isolated from the country, but spill themselves upon it, are edged with loose and indefinite fringes. In Spain the peasants appear to shun the open country, crowd together with a kind of fear in large villages, compact and sharp-edged, which crouch beneath the sentinel tower of a fortress-like church. Every morning a little after dawn the labourers sally forth in a great band, like men making a sortie from a beleaguered city, and return at nightfall weary with the day-long contest in the fields. Is it not natural that the Spanish painters who were of peasant blood should never have been quite able to detach themselves from the peasant point of view ? They viewed nature not through the softening haze of romance but clouded with an inherited sinister apprehension.
Today of course it is otherwise. The old mistrust of the naked earth is gone. The prison life of cities has bred a nostalgia for the airy, untenanted spaces. As soon as the spring is signalled on the hills the Spanish artist quits his studioit is usually situated in Parisno less eagerly than his cosmopolitan brothers, and hastens to the purifying solitudes of nature as to the charities of his mother’s breast. Yet even still he hangs back a little, I think, from that inexorable, inhospitable heart of central Spain. He prefers the sparkle and fresh breezes of the coast, the languors of the Moorish south, the places where the sleeping voluptuous animal is more at ease. You will find Sorolla on the sunny beach of San Sebastian, Rusiñol in the scented gardens of the Alhambra. But the doors of the Prado have not yet opened to receive the quiet reveries of Rusinol or the bright and vivid snapshots of Sorolla.