IT remains for us now to follow the general course of painting in our own country outside the Pre-Raphaelite movement. We have isolated that movement, and endeavoured to grasp its by no means simple character, because it did so much during the half – century we have in review to free our art from the heavy weight of tradition. We have also compared it with the almost contemporary movement in France, by which there also art obtained greater freedom. Then we have left for a time the art of our own country and briefly surveyed the progress of painting in France and elsewhere, because towards the end of the century painting here was and still is power-fully affected by the developments taking place abroad.
English painting until quite recently has been little affected by contemporary art in other countries. It has been a vigorous national development, guided, where it has received guidance from without, by the study of the older European schools of painting. This is why it has been possible for M. de la Sizeranne to say that England is the only country outside France that possesses a distinctly national school of painting. He says that this is only true of our art in the last century, that in the eighteenth century our aesthetics were those of the rest of Europe, that Reynolds and Gainsborough were great masters, but that their work was merely eighteenth-century painting, not English painting. We may dispute this dictum, saying that nowhere else was there such subtlety both of colour and interpretation of character as in the work of the English portrait painters of that time. Turner and Constable, and our other landscape painters, he credits with striking a new and powerful note at the beginning of the nineteenth century, but he goes on to say that Turner no more belonged to one portion of the globe than a comet to one region of the sky, and that he could not be imitated either at home or abroad. Yet M. de la Sizeranne himself admits the influence of Turner on the French Impressionists, which, as we have seen, they themselves are also glad to recognise. Of Constable he says that his glory is rather to have initiated a new movement in Europe than his good fortune to have founded a national art in his native land. This is a very remarkable statement. We cannot permit ourselves thus to be robbed of our landscape painting. There was no need for Constable to found a national art, nor for Turner to be imitated if such an art were to exist; for, besides these two men, there were the Cromes, Vincent, Stark, Cotman, and the other Norwich painters, and then David Cox, De Wint, and others, who painted chiefly in water-colour. Here was surely abundant vitality of varied character, sufficient to constitute a national school, and capable, as we have seen and as M. de la Sizeranne admits, of profoundly modifying the art of France, and through France that of other countries.
The Pre-Raphaelite movement, in which an awakening from stagnation that must in any event have come was hastened by a few young painters who persistently shook the academic sleepers, also owed nothing to foreign influence. The simple creed of Holman Hunt and Millais was fidelity to facts, and in formulating their creed they owed nothing to Madox Brown and whatever impetus towards realism he may have received in the studio of Haron Wappers. Indeed, they showed him the way to the thorough-going realism that became the mark of one side of the Pre-Raphaelite movement. Nor did Rossetti and those who followed him owe anything to contemporary Romanticism abroad, unless we can say that, through Madox Brown, Rossetti came to some extent, at second-hand, under the influence of the German Nazarenes. Anyhow, the really potent influence under which he came was that of the Italian painters who preceded Raphael, and this was even truer still of Burne-Jones, who repeatedly studied their works in Italy itself, and expressed his growing admiration for them.
English painting, then, went its way, learning from the past, but comparatively heedless of what was being done elsewhere in the present. This attitude, however, has recently been changed, as we shall shortly see. But first we must turn to the work of the painters who have been little or at all influenced either by the Pre-Raphaelite movement or by the more recent developments of art abroad. In doing this we need do no more than refer to those painters who lived and worked during the latter half of the century, but did not break any fresh ground.
One painter, however, we may name, who actually died before the mid-century, William J. Müller, whose work, though he received his only art-training from J. B. Pyne, is much more closely allied to that of Constable than to that of his teacher. This may be because he soon forsook all tuition except that of nature. He is mentioned here because, several years before the Pre-Raphaelite movement was projected, he wrote : “I paint in oil on the spot ; in deed, I am more than ever convinced of the actual necessity of looking at Nature with a much more observant eye than the most of young artists do, and in particular at skies ; these are generally neglected.” This is interesting, as showing that the Pre-Raphaelites were not alone in their conviction of the need for a return to nature. Müller’s idea of the return was, however, different from theirs. He was no devotee of elaborate detail. I have already referred to the note on the back of his Eel-bucks at Goring, to the effect that it was left for some fool to finish and ruin.
Another painter, older than Miller, but who survived him living, indeed, until 1876 John Frederick Lewis, must be mentioned here because he, if anything, anticipated the realistic side of the Pre-Raphaelite movement. Ruskin said that he “worked with the sternest precision twenty years before Pre-Raphaelitism had ever been heard of ; pursued calmly the same principles, developed by himself for himself, through years of lonely labour in Syria.” He began to paint with very much more minuteness in detail just about the time that Holman Hunt and Millais were determining to adopt the same method; but as he was away in the East from 1843 for a period of eight years, there was no chance of his getting into touch with them. Perhaps because he came gradually to render detail more faith-fully, and also because he painted in the brilliant sunlight of an eastern clime, the detail is less obtrusive in his work than in that of the Pre-Raphaelites, there is more sense of light and atmosphere and more unity of design. What with the Pre-Raphaelites was revolution, a turning away from the methods they had previously adopted, was with Lewis an evolution, an addition of greater detail without essentially changing the character of his work, so that Redgrave, who calls the work of the Pre – Raphaelites laborious idling, can say of Lewis that ” there is not one touch too much or one thrown away in his work, and that the result is always very perfect, conveying an impression of power without too great a sense of labour.”
So much by way of showing that English art at the mid-century would not have wholly lost touch with nature but for the organised effort of the Pre-Raphaelite Brethren. We can now proceed to consider what other progress was made after the mid-century, or, in some respects, it might be said, how the art marked time. What, for example, to turn abruptly from Realism to Classicism, shall we account the life-work of Frederick, Lord Leighton, who was the most conspicuous representative of classical art in England during the latter half of the nineteenth century? Was it advance, halt, or retrogression ?
His first picture was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1855, and he died, President of the Academy and a peer of the realm, in 1896. He was born in 1830 at Scarborough, where his father practised as a doctor. He early showed inclination and capacity for art, and his father, acting on the advice of Hiram Powers, the American sculptor, decided that an artist the boy should be. He taught him Latin and Greek, and also anatomy. Being taken to live abroad at an early age on account of his mother’s health, he was thirty years of age before he returned to live in England. Before he entered on his teens he could speak French, Italian, and German; and subsequently he added Spanish to the list. He studied in Rome, Dresden, Berlin, Frankfort, and Brussels. He was thus a child of the academies and the galleries. He travelled also both in many countries in Europe and in the near East. In any event, he was probably unsuited by temperament to be either a pioneer or a revolutionary ; and the study of so many schools of art might well have sapped the energy of one gifted with much greater originative powers. As it was, Leighton did but develop an eclectic style devoid of intensity both in the treatment of the subject and in purely aesthetic qualities. He became highly accomplished in both painting and sculpture ; but it is the accomplishment that impresses us ; there is nothing deeper to make us forget it. This is even more true, perhaps, of his painting than of his sculpture ; and it is with the former we are concerned here.
He declared his artistic faith in the addresses that he delivered as President of the Royal Academy. He said that while the ethos of the painter was of the utmost importance for his work, art was in its nature wholly independent of morality, and that the loftiest moral purport could add no jot or tittle to the merits of a work of art as such. This we will say is true; it is even obvious; just as an ungrammatical sentence is such even if it enunciate a great truth. We may even say that a picture is less likely to be beautiful than otherwise it might be if the painter be seeking to give some rather dry, unemotional instruction. But what if he be moved by passionate enthusiasm for something nobly human? Such enthusiasm surely cannot fail to change, if it do not increase, the purely artistic merit of his work. There is a difference between passionate expression and emotionless expression. Are we to say that this relates to the ethos of the painter, and that moral purport is something different from this ? If so, Lord Leighton’s dictum covers very little ground, and leaves much more to be said. But there is moral purport that springs from deep emotion, that is the form such emotion takes, and this does certainly influence the aesthetic character of an artist’s work. Given, if it may be put thus, equal aesthetic gift in two artists, but a difference in enthusiasm with regard to the subjects of their art, there will be a more intense beauty in the work of the more enthusiastic artist than in that of the other. Thus Leighton himself said : “Believe me, whatever of dignity, whatever of strength we have within us will dignify and will make strong the work of our hands ; whatever littleness degrades our spirit will lessen them and drag them down. Whatever noble fire is in our hearts will burn also in our work ; whatever purity is ours will chasten and exalt it.”
Leighton’s own works look like those of a man who has somewhat coldly selected their subjects, not like those of one who has had to paint them, because while he mused the fire burned within him. Even when he has selected his subjects he does not seem to have been carried away by them. His works have the look of deliberate arrangement ; they are wholly lacking in spontaneity. We can hardly believe in the grief of his Hero, her attitude is so exactly what would be chosen for theatrical effect. Always Leighton seems to approach his subject from the outside, not from within. Does not the following passage in one of his Academy addresses suggest that this was so : “You will find that through the Association of Ideas, lines and forms and combinations of lines and forms, colours and combinations of colours, have acquired a distinct expressional significance, and, so to speak, have an ethos of their own, and will convey in the one province notions of strength, of repose, of solidity, of flowing motion, and of life ; in the other, sensations of joy or sadness, of heat or cold, of languor or of health ? ” There is an air of rule and recipe about this passage. It speaks of much study in the galleries and museums rather than of the creative imagination that makes its own rules. This kind of analysis is common in his addresses; and it has a marked bearing on his art, between which and nature and life comes ever a veil composed of conventions that he has gathered for himself out of the works of the great masters of the past. Leighton was a learned, an academic, an eclectic artist ; which means also that he was decorous and dull.
His first exhibited picture, Cimabue’s Madonna carried through Florence, might by the choice of subject have seemed to promise that the painter would not merely mark time in his art. In the picture Cimabue is seen leading by the hand Giotto, the pupil who was destined to escape from the Byzantine conventions and become a naturalist painter. No more rapid advance in art has surely ever been made than that which the works of Giotto show when compared with those of Cimabue. The subject of Leighton’s picture would almost have entitled him to be considered a Romantic painter, and it was pleasant in colour and piquant in incident. Rossetti thought the youth who painted it might do good things if only he could lose what was French in his work by coming to England. Leighton, however, went to Paris, and remained there for several years. This, let us recollect, was the Paris in which Ingres and Delacroix were still living; in which painters like Millet and Corot were held of little account, and in which the stirrings of Impressionism had not yet been felt. There was nothing here to inspire Leighton so that he would eventually return to England, if not to join the Pre-Raphaelites, yet at least to move forward alongside them on a way of his own. He remained an eclectic to the end of his days. Never again, I think, did he paint anything so delightfully, naturally human as his Cimabue and Giotto walking along hand in hand. Ever afterwards the stylist in him seemed to freeze up his emotions. His subject-pictures are excellent tableaux, but they are not the thing itself. Hercules in his picture is not wrestling with Death, he is only standing in the position of a wrestler ; and so it is all through Leighton’s work : there are lines and colours and combinations of them by which we know he has meant to represent human beings as doing certain things, or as being in certain states of feeling, but he has not been able to endue these forms with active, passionate life.
His colour is no more than a pleasant arrangement of various hues and shades ; it never fuses into a whole, and comes upon the eye like organ-music on the ear. The small sketches for his large pictures often have this latter quality. Always while looking at the Captive Andromache, in which the colour of the maidens’ dress is varied as a skilful draper’s assistant might vary colours in the window, I re-call a small oil-sketch for the picture, the rich glow of which has left an indelible impression on the brain.
What strikes one most in Leighton’s works is their decorative quality. Such pictures as The Daphnephoria and Captive Andromache would be better as panels enclosed in an architectural setting than as framed pictures. A hall decorated by Leighton would be exceedingly restful. The pictures would not excite us ; they would gently remind us of myths and legends, and set us quietly thinking. The South Kensington lunettes and the panel he did for the Royal Exchange, London, show how admirably his work was adapted for this purpose. The panels may not be the best of their kind, but Leighton’s art is best suited to that kind of picture. There was this quality in the collection of his life-work at Burlington House ; the rooms were restful. It was otherwise with the Millais exhibition, in which not only were there strong contrasts in the colour-schemes of different pictures, so that one had fresh sensations at nearly every step, but the greater spontaneity and more telling dramatic interest of the pictures constantly challenged alert attention. The strenuous rarely enters into Leighton’s pictures. His Greek girls play at ball in garments that must greatly impede their movements. And the smooth finish of his painting and the waxen complexions of the figures in the pictures add to the feeling of almost anaemic listlessness. Above all things no zeal, these people say to us. Their mission is to exist beautifully.
Hence when Leighton tried to represent vigorous action he failed, as in the Hercules wrestling with Death already referred to. He failed also in the region of imagination, as in The Spirit of the Peak, where, to apply a test already used, the picture would lose nothing if imitated in a tableau. Life has in all these pictures been subordinated to beauty, and the beauty itself is cold and superficial; there radiate no light and heat from inward fires. Refined, stylistic beauty is the note of Leighton’s art. In this kind of art his contribution was a very considerable one. It was not a new kind. He only produced a variation of the old.
With Lord Leighton we inevitably associate Sir Edward John Poynter, who succeeded him as President of the Royal Academy after Millais’ brief, intervening occupancy of the position. In 1853, when he was only seventeen years of age, he was working in Leighton’s studio in Rome, so that the association of the two men is first and last a close one. Three years later he was studying in Paris under Gleyre, everything in his student-days thus tending to prepare him to be the classical painter he actually became, although Du Maurier and Whistler were among his fellow-students in Paris, and they went widely different ways from him in art. Sir Edward is a Classicist through and through in his art and in his teaching. Subjects from Biblical or Classical sources requiring treatment of a classical nature that is to say, the introduction of nude or classically draped figures are what he says he has always given out to his students for practice, ” because I consider that practice in that form of art, demanding as it does the highest sense of beauty and involving the greatest difficulties in drawing and design, is the best preparation for any style which the student’s natural tendencies will lead him ultimately to adopt.” The educational mould cannot make the man. It must influence him, however, and it may help to mar him; and it may well be questioned whether one plan is good for all students. In the case of Sir Edward Poynter himself we find care-fully studied nude figures which only lack life ; and life is not an unimportant matter. Just as the Hercules in Leigh-ton’s picture is not wrestling, but is only in the attitude of wrestling, so the runner, Milanion, in Sir Edward’s Atalanta’s Race, is not running, but is only in the attitude of running. His subjects, no more than Leighton’s, are passionately felt and dramatically realised. His Visit to AEsculapius is generally regarded as his most successful work. It may well be so, for the subject makes no demand on the imagination, and on the power to express action and emotion. It is the kind of thing that can be coldly built up out of archaeological learning and painstaking study of the nude, Sir Laurens Alma Tadema is an importation into English art. He is Dutch both by parentage and birth, a native of the little village of Dronryp, near Leeuevarden, in Frisia, where he was born in 1836. His father was a notary, and lie himself was first trained for the law; but he was too strongly inclined towards art for the original intention to be carried out. He received his training at the Antwerp Academy under Baron Wappers and in the studio of Baron Leys. In 1863 he went to Rome, the city of which, in the days of its imperial splendour, he was to be the pictorial restorer. In 1869 he settled in London, and four years later became naturalised as a British subject. He was from the first an historical painter, but his earliest pictures dealt with the Merovingian period of history, whereas afterwards he went back to classical Rome. The essentials of his art had been determined when he came to this country. He owes nothing to its earlier art, though he may well have been confirmed in the choice he had made by the companionship in this country of Leighton and Poynter. Under Wappers and Leys he would receive an entirely adequate technical training, well adapted for the kind of work to which he afterwards devoted himself. Then he himself has added an immense apparatus of archaeologists learning. It has been said that his work is an accurate illustration of Smith’s Dictionary of Antiquities, and ought to delight the minds of archaeologists. This is true, but perhaps not quite the whole truth ; there is some life in his pictures ; they are not merely beautifully designed and coloured diagrams. This very point of the life in his figures has often been in dispute. They have been called puppets, not individually and psychologically interesting. Such interest is perhaps not necessary to the purpose of most of his pictures. He is not a genre painter, nor a painter of dramatic moments in history. He has for the most part sought only to realise the ordinary look of life in imperial Rome, and for this purpose close psychological study is not needed. The pictures surely do what the painter has set himself to do. It is not an achievement that appeals to the emotions, and therefore we are not moved. He has not on the artistic side made the beauty of the total result the first consideration, but its truth to fact as far as by searching and by imagination he could get at the fact; we are often, there-fore, left aesthetically cold. We are interested, we are instructed; we admire the skill with which all kinds of objects and materials are imitated and gathered not unharmoniously together. When we read Roman history we have a more vividly particular mental picture of the stage upon which the drama was enacted than we should have had without the painter’s help ; and we can believe that the picture is not widely distant from the truth.
The people in these pictures are certainly more living than those in the pictures of Leighton and Poynter. Is this recognised when these two are called classical painters and Alma Tadema an historical painter? And does the difference show the limitation of the classical point of view and the classical training? Madox Brown, a pupil like Alma Tadema of Wappers, painted historical subjects with great dramatic intensity. Alma Tadema, choosing to see his people under more ordinary conditions, still makes them live. The figures of the classical painters do not live. Rossetti, in a playfully or earnestly sarcastic rhyme, called one classical painter of well jointed dummies the jointer.” It is in this want of life that we find the weakness of classical art, and, as a rule, the drawing of the figure being put first, the colour is weak also.
In Albert Moore, brother of Henry Moore, the sea painter, who has been mentioned in connexion with the Pre-Raphaelites, we find again the influence of Japanese art. It has softened the dignity of the classical ideal into delicate grace and loveliness. He was born at York in 1841. His father was a painter, and three of his brothers, besides Henry, were painters. He was for a short time in the Academy Schools, and after this there came a most important preparation for the kind of art he was to produce, in his engagement by the architect, W. Eden Nesfield, to design mural and ceiling paintings. He visited Rome in 1862, tried his hand at a Biblical subject, but soon turned to the decorative art which was the chief, indeed almost the only work of his life.
We may sum up his art by saying that the form is the form of Greece, but the colour is the colour of Japan. The female figures of the Parthenon sculptures and the Venus of Milo have been clothed in garments of delicately harmonised colour, and bidden to do nothing but exist grace-fully. He was entirely of the opinion of Mr. George Moore, already quoted, that subject is out of place in art. It militates against decorative quality. That is to say, art should always be decorative, never expressive. Above all things there must be no zeal. Nobody must seem even so much as capable of dreaming that there might ever be anything to be done that would require energetic action. The utmost that the maidens in these pictures seem to be able to do is to stand ; and they take the first opportunity not merely of sitting, but of reclining on soft cushions. There is no suggestion that their idleness is merely temporary, that it is rest after toil. They are too weak in the back ever to do any work. They could not even join Leighton’s Greek girls in a game of ball. Of course this is a dream-land of the painter’s imagining. We may accept it as such, though it is a dreamland that is not very flattering to human nature. The male sex may congratulate itself upon having no representatives in this lazy company. One may doubt whether the attitudes the sprawling attitudes of some of the maidens are really beautiful. It does not follow that because activity may not always be graceful idleness always is so. Yet it may Ise said that one is dragging in subject here; that the artist is not concerned with attitudes, but with rhythm of lines and harmony of colour, and that the human figure is only introduced in order that it may be subordinated to the praise of decorative beauty which thereby receives honour almost divine. These maidens are indeed cloistered nuns, expressionless because emotionless, dedicated, it might almost be said sacrificed, not to the contemplative worship of God, but to the worship of merely sensuous beauty. Such art as this ought surely, in its intention at least, to please M. de la Sizeranne, who, in warning his fellow-countrymen against being led astray by English art with its insistence on the subject in painting, says : “Let us beware, above all, of theories which pretend to ennoble the mission of art by making it the mere interpreter of ideas and feelings, of affirmations or doubts, and which give the artist another function than the expression of the Beautiful, the Beautiful alone free from figures of speech, from purpose, from preaching ; as if there were anything in the world that could. deserve to have the Beautiful for its servant, its interpreter, or its herald. Let us beware of the error of believing that art can be widened by wandering, deepened by the overthrow of foundations, ennobled by servitude.” Albert Moore did not commit these alleged crimes against art or, to be really accurate, against beauty. The correction is necessary; for M. de la Sizeranne takes up a position which has the support neither of history nor of reason when he makes beauty the sole end of art. So does Mr. Swinburne when he says that “Mr. Albert Moore’s painting is to artists what the verse of Théophile Gautier is to poets : the faultless and secure expression of an exclusive worship of things formally beautiful. That contents them; they leave to others the labours and the joys of thought or passion.” Some artists and poets may have been content with the exclusive worship of things formally beautiful, but certainly the great majority have not unless, of course, we are to say that any one not so content is not artist or poet. M. de la Sizeranne thinks that it is the peculiar sin of English artists not exclusively to worship beauty. Were none but such worshippers among the painters of his own country accounted artists, the ranks would be sadly thinned out.
Albert Moore’s art is beautiful; but the painters who have cared for other things than beauty, even those who have put other things to the front, such men as Madox Brown and Watts, have in the course of their work produced splendid rhythm of line and form and rich harmony of colour in comparison with which his pictures are little more than prettiness. The same superiority is evident in the art of Rossetti who, as we have seen, would not accept art for art’s sake as a religion and Burne-Jones and many others. One has to think of beauty as having lower and higher degrees; and the highest degrees have not been reached only, if ever, by those who in their art have made beauty their one and only aim. Happily, therefore, for the sake of beauty itself, artists as a body show no sign of limiting themselves as Albert Moore limited himself, and according to the law that M. de la Sizeranne lays down. These matters are determined by temperament, not by rules imposed from without, and those who feel impelled to use the human form to other ends besides that of formal beauty will continue to do so, however loudly the idolaters of beauty may cry out against them. For idolaters do not rightly worship their own gods.
It is here, perhaps, immediately after commenting on the work of a painter who made beauty the exclusive end of his art, that we can with most advantage consider the work of G. F. Watts, who said that his own aim was rather to teach great truths than to paint pictures that would please the eye. It may be that the pictures please the eye despite the priority given by the artist himself to the teaching. I should maintain that even if this were not so, if beauty were sacrificed to the success of the teaching, the sacrifice would be justified if the teaching went home. There are those, of course, who -say that words are the proper media for teaching; that if painting attempts it there has only been an invasion of the province of oratory or literature. But if the teaching of a picture does get home, it is clear that painting is on its own ground.
Can it be said that Watts succeeds as a teacher I Happily I am not reduced to the statement that he succeeds for me. I can bring in M. de la Sizeranne as a witness. He tells us that he “held the conviction, common to many, that mythological painting was a false, decadent, common-place style ; that out of such impersonal figures as Death, Justice, Time, and Love, nothing more could nowadays be made than a spiritless decoration for the ceilings of a public building or of a confectioner’s shop,” but that Watts’s Love and Life and Love and Death convinced him to the contrary ; and of Watts’s pictures generally he says : ” And yet you linger, for whilst Watts’s colour distracts the eye, his ideas penetrate to the depths of the soul, and slowly arouse something that was sleeping there.”
I have said that Watts’s pictures may please the eye even though they chiefly aim to teach great truths. They do not please the eye of M. de la Sizeranne, who denies to Watts all picturesque feeling. Mr. George Clausen, on the other hand, who is not unacquainted with French painting, who has, indeed, been much influenced by it, says that although Watts did not primarily wish his pictures to have beauty, yet ” he was so fine an artist that he could not help himself in this.” A good deal of the French writer’s criticism of English painting suggests his having merely concluded that what was strange to him must be wrong. He says that Watts’s colours are out of tune and his pictures colour-discords. Mr. Clausen says that colour was certainly one of his strong points, and he mentions Watts’s landscapes, in connexion with the statement that ” he had the whole range of colour in nature, and what it means or suggests, at his command, and used it in his pictures as Turner did in his landscapes. . . treating his figures as if they were subject to all variations of light; and almost, at times, making the play of light and shadow on figures to suggest the play of light and shadow on a mountain side, so that one instinctively feels the figure to be of larger than ordinary human stature : something colossal.” The French writer boldly says that Watts painted no landscapes, because landscapes prove nothing; yet Watts actually painted landscapes not a few, and some of those who will have none of him as a teacher find his landscapes very beautiful. Are we to think, as some of these critics would have us, that his colour-sense availed him in his landscapes and failed him in his imaginative subject-pictures?
Born in London in 1817, Watts was by four years the senior of Madox Brown, who was so much older than Holman Hunt, Millais, and their companions of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood as almost, if not quite, to be disqualified by age alone from joining in a movement ‘originating in youthful enthusiasm. Watts was, in fact, ten years older than Holman Hunt; and when the Brotherhood was formed was nearly thirty-three years of age, and already a painter of some repute. He was sixteen years older than Manet ; and by the time the Impressionist movement was fully developed and was beginning to excite derision in Paris, he was between fifty and sixty years old. :But his life and his productivity were so prolonged he outlived Manet by over twenty years that one occasionally suspects writers of for-getting to what generation he really belonged, and of blaming him because when past middle life he did not throw himself into movements initiated by men who were children when he was maturing his art. Yet Watts was consciously an Impressionist consciously and avowedly. ” I must produce an effect,” he said, ” and so I must ignore something, and accentuate something else. Thus only can I make the representation.” He pointed out that though the photographer, in rendering material truth, could beat the greatest of artists, yet his object twenty yards away was not the same as his object close to. Watts did not, of course, go as far as the Impressionists in giving to his pictures an illusive appearance of reality ; he had other aims which had become fixed before such zeal for atmospheric effect had been aroused. Yet there is more even of this quality to be found in his later work than in that of many younger men who had not the excuse of age for their not learning the lesson taught by Monet and his companions in France. Watts, in fact, dried most of the oil out of the pigments he used, in order that the crumbly texture of the paint might give the effect of atmospheric vibration.
He began as a student of classical art. He tried the Academy Schools, but soon left them. The most fruitful part of his early training was the study of the Elgin marbles. He also used to watch the sculptor William Behnes at work; indeed, but for a physical infirmity that prevented him from working with the wet clay, it is as likely as not that he would have become a sculptor, instead of a painter who also did work in sculpture. His art owes much to the art of Pheidias. He made the Parthenon figures to live. Time, in his picture Time, Death, and Judgment, is the Theseus of the Parthenon, up and striding along, and there is a recollection at least of the same figure in others of his pictures. His Ariadne is sister to the seated female figures of the Parthenon. Yet although we are reminded again and again in his paintings of the masterpieces of the idealist school of Greek sculpture, his paintings are by no means sculpturesque.
In 1843, when he was twenty-six years of age, he obtained a prize for a cartoon, Caractacus led in triumph through the streets of Rome, which he had submitted in a competition for designs for the decoration of the Houses of Parliament. This enabled him to visit Italy, and through the kindness of Lord Holland, who was then British Minister at the Court of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, he was enabled to remain there for four years. The chief result of his stay was, perhaps, the admiration he acquired for the colour of the Venetian painters. He would never have become a classical painter, basing his design upon form. His earliest paintings show a strong sense of colour. Those that were painted before he went to Italy his Aurora, for example are strongly reminiscent of Etty. His study of the Venetian masters merely added to the resources of one who was already a colourist, and made it sure that each picture would have its complete colour-scheme, and not be a mere congeries of local colours. Would it be correct, then, to describe Watts as an imitator of Greek form and Venetian colour? I think not. He learned from them, but he did not become their slave and echo. His form was at need, and often at need, less severe than that of the Parthenon marbles ; his colour had a wider range than that of the Venetians. He was a debtor, but not a bondsman to the past.
While yet quite young he had set before himself a two-fold aim : to paint an epic of human life, and also to paint, and to give to the nation, the portraits of many of the most eminent men of his own time. Both these aims were realised, but the former not in the manner he had wished. Adequately to carry it out he required a building of which his epic pictures would be the decoration, and this was denied to him. We have seen that he proposed to the directors of the London and North-Western Railway Company that he should, at his own expense, paint his epic on the walls of the waiting-hall at Euston Station, and that the offer was refused. One opportunity for such work he sought and obtained : the painting of The School of Legislature or Justice : a Hemicycle of Law-givers, on the end wall of the Hall of Lincoln’s Inn. For the rest he had to be content with easel-pictures, and it is in this form, as little more than a fragment, that his epic now exists. Reference has already been made to the better fortune in this respect of such an artist as Puvis de Chavannes in France.
Watts was, of course, much older than even Leighton, the eldest of the four painters mentioned before him. He has been taken after them because thereby we are better able to bring out the richer content of his art. Albert Moore aimed at nothing more than decorative effect. He put the female figures of the Parthenon pediments to decorative use. It is easy, as we have said, to see the influence of those figures in Watts’s work. But whereas Albert Moore’s reclining maidens are merely idle, Watts’s Ariadne half lies upon the rock in the listlessness of despair. In form and feature she is sister to the others ; but whereas they merely exist, she is living. No trouble comes nigh them ; her heart is full of sorrow, which finds expression in her face and in the drooping body and limb ; she is like a plant that fades for want of water. In the paintings of Leighton and Poynter there is not the entire absence of subject that marks those of Albert Moore. But even here there is a wide difference from the work of Watts. It has been said already that they seem to approach their subject from the outside. And, beginning there, they do not penetrate to the heart of it. With them it seems only a means to an end. In Alma Tadema’s pictures the figures have, on the whole, more vitality. Watts’s figures are entirely vital. And the reason of this is not far to seek.
His aim, we have seen, as stated by himself, was to teach great truths. The phrase is not adequate. Perhaps no single, simple phrase could adequately describe his aim, but it would certainly be nearer the mark to say that he sought to express deep emotions. He was concerned not with science or philosophy, not with morals or political economy, but with Love. The subject that above all others engaged Watts’s thought, that almost engrossed his art, was the charity that is the greatest of all. His art was controlled not by thought, but by feeling. He only painted that which he deeply felt. He did not approach his subject from the outside. The man had reached the heart of it before the artist began to give forni to it. Hence, we may say, the form itself vibrates with emotion.
The reader may wonder why it should have been said above that Watts was not concerned with political economy. To speak paradoxically, this was said because, in the deepest sense, he was concerned with it : he felt deeply the lovelessness that makes possible, that makes inevitable, our existing competitive methods. We do not believe in love as a motive strong enough to ensure steady social activity in the ordinary work of the world. Hence we have a panic struggle to escape from poverty. We are always in a condition of panic, which at times becomes disastrously acute. Watts felt this, and painted the oak, the symbol of England, weighed down by a heavy, golden pall ; and the lurid hues of the picture prove it to be a work of emotion, not of cold analysis. This is true also of Peace and Goodwill, the out-cast mother and child. The former, wearied with much wandering, has sunk to the earth and is looking at a light on the horizon, wondering if it be a peaceful dawn or but a new conflagration of war. In Labour and Greed, the contrast between the stalwart, open-faced workman and the shrivelled-up miser grasping his money-bags may seem to many plain preaching merely ; but this can only be because they are emotionally dead where Watts was emotionally alive. So it is also with Mammon and with The Minotaur, those horrible personifications of evil. Another appeal to love against lovelessness is A Dedication, an angel weeping over birds’ feathers lying upon an altar : a lament over the heedless cruelty that sacrifices life to vanity. What I want at the moment to say about these pictures is independent of the question of the fitness of such subjects for treatment in painting, though even there the final question with me is, ” Do they strike home ? ” They are, perhaps, from the art for beauty’s sake standpoint, among the worst of Watts’s pictures, though they are far from wanting in aesthetic quality. Mr. Clausen, for example, says, with reference to Watts’s pictures generally, and in particular to the one showing England’s oak weighed down under a pall of gold : ” Every tone, every suggestion has its meaning ; take, for instance, the dark and threatening sky in the picture ‘Can these Bones live ?’ But these artifices are not at first apparent. They are used so splendidly that the pictures are in themselves beautiful as decorations, were there no meaning in them at all.” The pictures do not lack beauty ; only they insist so on our feeling other than merely sensuous emotions that those who will have nothing else from art inevitably grow angry with them. What, however, I want to lay stress upon at the moment is that such subjects as these were chosen by Watts not because he ” set himself up ” as a teacher, but because a deep sympathy with the oppressed and the suffering, pure love for his kind, must needs find expression in the only way possible to him.
Watts was a man of quick and generous feeling and of lofty imagination. He could dramatise the evolution of the human race, and yet keenly sympathise with the individual, and even play with the children; and the whole man is revealed in his art. Probably the work of no other painter has been a more complete self-revelation. What we can learn of him apart from his pictures adds nothing of essential importance.
Watts was singularly fortunate in that at no period of his life did he find himself under the necessity of painting to order. He was always able to paint what he liked as he liked. If any exception can be made to this statement it is that he won this independence by portrait painting, which could not therefore be entirely a matter of choice ; though even here, probably, the compulsion did not mean that he had to do anything that he would not otherwise have been glad to do. Apart from this, he was not limited by commissions ; we can never think of him, as we have to think of Millais, as falling below his best in order to please his public. There is much self-revelation in Millais’ works. We can learn from them much about his likes, and we can infer his dislikes. But Millais did not work as independently of his public as did Watts, who always could, or did, afford to please himself whether others were pleased or not; and others were pleased. He could have had his own price for paintings that he kept in order to give them to the nation. He gave pictures to public bodies whose offers to buy he had refused. He chose the men whose portraits he would paint, so that he might by gift enrich the national collection of portraits. We may put it that he had not to impose himself upon his contemporaries ; he was accepted on his own terms. That is why his art could be and was a self-revelation.
At one time or another, in one picture or another, he covered a wide range of subject. And always, just because he could be entirely true to his own self, could fearlessly set forth his thought and feeling, his work is always sincere in the strongest sense of the word ; it tells not merely nothing that is untrue, but it hides nothing of what he held to be true. The whole man, one repeats, is revealed in his work.
He took many subjects from Greek mythology. One of these was the story of Orpheus and Eurydice. M. de la Sizeranne objects to the figure of Orpheus, because the trunk turns whilst the legs remain stationary in their first position. This is an objection to truth. Orpheus, continuing to walk, has turned his body and head to assure himself that Eurydice is following him. Because of this disobedience to the god’s command, she fades from his sight, and he seeks to grasp her. The awkward action of Orpheus is exactly true to what would happen, and in no other way could Watts have so vividly conveyed to us a sense of his sudden agony. The action is similar to that of Romeo in Madox Brown’s Romeo and Juliet, where one leg is already astride the balcony, for the dawn has broken and he must depart. His outstretched arm also seems to say that he must be gone. But he has turned for a last kiss, and the momentary position tells of the lover’s agony : he fain would stay, but he knows it is death to linger.
In expressiveness of this kind Watts comes close to the Pre-Raphaelites. Mr. Holman Hunt thought that, at the time of the movement, he could see it of influence on Watts’s work ; that there was evidence in its closer attention to detail. Certainly Watts never became a Pre-Raphaelite in this sense, whether or not his practice was modified for a time to a minor extent. But if he had a story to tell, he told it as dramatically as possible; and his story-telling was none the worse because he never brought in irrelevant detail. The staging of the piece never distracts our attention from the action, and yet it is never bald; it is simple but sufficient. This follows from what has been said before : that the man had got to the heart of the subject before the painter gave form to it. How true this is of Love and Death. He had actually been the sorrowing witness of love vainly striving to keep death away from the house of life. He had seen a young nobleman of great promise, whose portrait he was painting, gradually fail, despite all that could be done for him, until the end came. The picture represents the reaction of Watts’s spirit against the crushing sense of irreparable loss. It shows Love to be wrong one hesitates to say foolish in looking upon Death as an enemy. That grand, grey figure with the bowed head does but hide the light for a moment, that the splendour of its shining may be the more intensely realised. This the picture says with the utmost impressiveness ; and precisely because, still to refer to it in terms of speech, not a word is wasted in the telling. It is exactly the same with the picture reproduced here, Love and Life. At once, as soon as he has seen her plight, Love has sped down to where dim-sighted Life is straying near the perilous edge of the precipice, and he is now gently leading her from darkness and danger up to safety and the light. Here also there is nothing too little and nothing too much, that either way the story should fail of its desired effect upon us.
Of course, Watts was not always at his best. Some of the subjects he treated were less easily than others to be dealt with by pictorial art. Even in respect to the purely artistic side of his work he was not always at the same level of accomplishment. He ventured too much for that. His life-work as a whole leaves us with a feeling of inequality, of incompleteness, much more so than does the work of many who have never gained the heights that he did. His reach exceeded his grasp. He would not limit himself to that which he could say with perfect utterance. The man shows himself in his work to have been greater than his work.
To follow him in detail through his work is impossible here ; and besides, I have attempted it elsewhere. The burden of his pictures, it has already been said, is Love, and the few that have been mentioned testify to this. He has shown us much of healthy and beautiful life. He was not blind to the splendour of the universe in which we live, nor to the beauty of the world in which one scene in the drama of our life is being played. He faced the great twin-tragedy of sin and death, and proclaimed that only against lovelessness could Time and Death and Judgment prevail ; while Love would spring up triumphant when they were for ever laid low. There is nothing sensational, nothing abstruse, nothing even esoteric or mystical in this “teaching” of Watts’s. There is merely the variously but always intensely felt and uttered belief, that, to vary only slightly the words of his friend Tennyson;
God is love indeed, And love Creation’s final law.
Thus he accomplished one of the tasks he set himself : the painting of a human epic. It is not to be found on the walls of a great building erected for its reception; for he conceived his epic when even less than now was there much chance of one who had a gift for mural painting getting facilities for the exercise of his gift. Much of his epic, however, is, through his generosity, in one of the rooms of the National Gallery. In the National Portrait Gallery we can see how he accomplished the other task he set himself : that of painting the portraits of the most eminent of his contemporaries. Here, again, is nothing but what is necessary for the achievement of his aim, which was to find and subtly render the expression that most revealed the spirit within. Whatever may be said about some or many of his subject-pictures, there are few to say that he did not almost, if not wholly without exception, give a profound interpretation of those whose portraits he painted. If at times there is over-statement with regard to certain characteristics of his subject, it is never more than emphasis of the qualities for which he is chiefly known or remembered. We must not particularise; but the future will be Watts debtor for such portraits as those of Stuart Mill, Manning, Tennyson, Matthew Arnold, Rossetti, William Morris, and many another. It will be known how these men looked to one who desired to paint, and did paint, their portraits, because of his great admiration for them and the work they did.
After mentioning Mrs. Swynnerton as an imaginative painter we may well link the men just discussed with the Pre-Raphaelite leaders. Watts was the oldest of them all. Then came Madox Brown. Holman Hunt, Millais, and Rossetti were a few years younger again. Poynter, Alma Tadema, and Burne-Jones were almost a generation later still. Together they show us what we have seen in other countries, Classicism, Romanticism, and Realism flourishing side by side ; and we have the Realists going now to history and now to contemporary life for their subjects.
Watts, Holman Hunt, Millais, Rossetti, and Burne-Jones owed nothing to contemporary art abroad. Madox Brown owed to his Flemish teachers rather the technique than the spirit of his art. Foreign influence, doubtless, accounted for much in the art of Leighton ; and Poynter was the pupil of Gleyre. Albert Moore took his form from the Greeks and his colour from the Japanese. Alma Tadema brought over from Holland an art to which our own art was already akin. Rossetti was more an Italian than an Englishman. Burne-Jones learned from him, and was greatly influenced by the work of the earlier Italian masters. Watts, we have just seen, was a child of Greece and of Venice. Holman Hunt and Millais seem the only two among them all who were anything approaching a purely English breed in art ; and while Millais was early an admirer of Etty, the admirer in his turn of the Venetians, we should, of course, find other foreign influences at work if we pushed our inquiry further back in the history of English art.
Sir Hubert Herkomer said once that his school at Bushey, which was founded in 1883, was intended to keep students from rushing abroad, ” only perhaps to lose their English feeling, without being able to grasp the foreign style and thought in art.” But he who said this was a German, who learned the art of painting in this country. Notwithstanding the foundation of his school, English students have rushed, or at least have gone abroad; and, as we shall see later, one of the most vigorous of our unofficial art institutions, the New English Art Club, was founded in 1886 as a rallying-ground for those artists who had received their training in Paris, and who felt that their work did not receive adequate recognition in official quarters. We may not be able to agree with Whistler that there is no such thing as nationality in art; but what we have just seen with respect to some of the chief English painters who reached their maturity during the earlier part of the last half-century, proves that the art of our own nation at that time was largely indebted to the influence of foreign art, contemporary or of earlier date. Only the extreme Pre-Raphaelite literalism of Holman Hunt and Millais was a purely indigenous growth; and this was rather a matter of scientific record than of art.
Of the painters who, coming later than those just mentioned, have also drawn their inspiration from myth and legend, Mr. J. W. Waterhouse should perhaps be mentioned first. His work at once invites comparison with that of Burne-Jones, because he chose much the same kind of subjects, such as the Greek myths and the Arthurian legend. There is a marked difference, however, in the spirit in which the two men have approached such subjects. With Burne-Jones we are clearly in dreamland ; Mr. Water-house takes us among flesh-and-blood realities. If he were painting scenes from contemporary life he could hardly make them more realistic. The people who believed the mythical and legendary stories must, we think, have thought of them in this way. The figures are realistic, and so are their surroundings. The landscape of his Hylas and the Nymphs has been studied on the spot, and is realised with only less than Pre-Raphaelite literalness. Hylas, and the nymphs who are casting their spell over him, are equally real. The story is being enacted before our eyes. It is so with his Lady of Shalott, both where the curse comes upon her and where she is drifting down the river in her boat, and, indeed, with all his pictures. Leighton’s formal compositions, with their decorative colour, and Burne-Jones’s elaborate designs, the figures in which are intended only to be types, keep us far away from naturalism. In Mr. Waterhouse’s work there is less formality in the design, and though the same face may appear again and again to play many different parts, the expression is always varied to suit the parts. Mr. Waterhouse is the son of a painter. He was born in Rome in 1849, and though he was brought to England when only five years old, he was an impressionable child, and the early years spent in the land of romance were probably not the least important in determining his career and the particular direction his art-work would take. That he could look back to treasuring a bit of Pompeian fresco when he was hardly beyond infancy, must have helped to draw him towards the old-time stories he has retold with a naturalism that might almost be called simple.
Sir William B. Richmond was closely allied to the Rossetti and Burne-Jones group in his early days; but after-wards he turned more towards Classicism, and has painted pictures of classical subjects more animated than those of Leighton and Poynter, but lacking both in design and colour. His brush-work also is smooth and uninteresting. He has painted numerous portraits which show the same technical limitations.
Mr. Frank Dicksee comes of a family of painters. Born in 1853, he studied in the Academy Schools, and his picture Harmony, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1877, created little less than a sensation in academic circles, and was purchased for the nation under the terms of the Chantrey Bequest. His style might perhaps be most fitly described, taking a hint from Gothic architecture, as the decorated academic; and the quality suggested by the first adjective is even more prominent in his later than in his early work. Some of his canvases are an almost barbaric display of gorgeous stuffs and jewels; but all the splendour does not result in really fine colour, while the interpretation of his subjects is quite commonplace.
Mr. Arthur Hacker belongs to this group. He was a student in the Academy Schools, and then studied in Paris under Bonnat, the French influence being evident in his leaning towards tone rather than colour. He was one of the first members of the New English Art Club, but his membership soon terminated, as did that of others who had joined it at the commencement, when its standpoint became something more definite than that of a rallying -ground for painters who had been trained in France. Mr. Hacker has painted the nude without offence, except to those who place upon it an absolute ban; and as one thinks of him there come to mind a Syrinx, a charming picture, but hardly an interpretation of a Greek myth, an Annunciation that betrays no sign of spiritual imagination, a knight almost but not quite overcome by a temptress, and similar pictures, each of them a capable academic exercise. Still later we have passed from the forties, through the fifties to the sixties in point of birth we come to Mr. Herbert Draper, an Academy-trained painter who has taken Lord Leighton for his model. He retells the Greek myths and legends without freshness of interpretation; once more they prove good material for academic picture-making. There is some-what more animation in his pictures than in those of Leighton; in fact, they may be said to halt between two opinions : they fall short of the dignity and reserve of the purely classical, and they are not sufficiently realistic to make the story-telling anything like convincing. In another direction, he is completely outside Burne-Jones’s dreamland.
We go back a little in mentioning Mr. T. C. Gotch, whose romantic pictures of childhood are most fittingly referred to here. The chief scenes of his art training were Antwerp and Paris ; for a time he was a pupil of Laurens ; and afterwards he visited Italy. The Flemish and Italian influences are the most obvious ones in his work. In virtue of having been in Paris he joined the New English Art Club, but he was at home neither there nor, afterwards, with the Newlyn Realists. He has made an idealised childhood in a romantic world his theme ; and before his pictures we cannot but think of the charming processional scenes of the Florentine masters. Such a picture as Alleluia, in the Tate Gallery, is surely what Mr. Berenson calls, with reference to the work of Fra Lippo Lippi, religious genre. Sometimes we find ourselves vaguely wishing that all children, even elementary school-children, could be as nice and as nicely dressed and in such a beautiful world as are Mr. Gotch’s children ; and then disillusionment conies, for we cannot, in our aesthetically unregenerate condition, think of such children as being not tainted with priggish self-consciousness. Fancy children marching to judgment a culprit who has broken a costly china bowl !
Mr. C. H. Shannon and Mr. Maurice Greiffenhagen should also be mentioned here. Mr. Shannon may remind us of Watts, Rossetti, and Burne-Jones, but the fact that we can mention three names in this manner and, doubtless, they might be added to suggests that he has individuality of his own; for it is not successively that we dimly think of these other painters, of one of them before one of his pictures, and of another before another picture, but they all flit before us when we look at any one of his works. But his design, sometimes too obviously worked out, and his colour are his own despite what they may recall. And so is his treatment of mythical and legendary subjects. We do not think of primitive man in connexion with the paintings of the three older artists ; but it is to a time when man was naked and not ashamed that Mr. Shannon takes us back. He idealises the Stone Age shall we say ? Or, perhaps, this is too definite, it is the far-off Golden Age which he does not idealise, but merely realises, and precisely because it never was real. Once, at least, Watts did go back to primitive man when he painted the picture of that great leap in the dark, the first eating of an oyster ! But his gods and goddesses and his nymphs are usually civilised people for all their unclothedness. Mr. Shannon, even when he finds his way into the full civilisation of the Renaissance, does not get far away from the elemental and so often uncontrolled passions of mankind. Mr. Greiffenhagen’s The Sons of God looked upon the Daughters of Men is so powerful that the sonorousness of the Biblical language, and its mystic significance, seem to have been merely transposed from sound into colour. Here it is impossible not to think of Watts, but by no means as if there had been mere imitation or plagiarism. His Idyl in the Liverpool Art Gallery, strong in colour and fine in draughtsmanship, is as elemental is an as simply profound interpretation of the passionate love of youth and maiden as Madox Brown’s Romeo and Juliet. We have got far away now from the cold Classicism of Leighton and Poynter, further still from the merely decorative loveliness of Albert Moore ; and there is warmer blood here than that which courses along the veins of Mr. Waterhouse’s people.
We must now puss to the historical and genre painters who, if many of them are academic, are yet not, like Alma Tadema, classical painters, and who have taken their subjects, like the Romanticists, from comparatively recent history or modern times.
That the average Englishman likes a picture to tell a story has become a commonplace. He thinks none the worse of the story if it have a moral. The print-seller knows well the kind of picture that will keep a crowd in front of his window. Just before writing these lines I have seen a crowd before a window in which was displayed Mr. Frith’s Hogarth arrested as a Spy and taken before the Governor of Calais. The painter of this picture is a link between the present and the Pre-Raphaelite past; for he was born in 1819, and was elected A.R.A. in 1844. He passed into full membership in 1852, taking the place made vacant by the death of Turner. He had thus reached the height of the ambition of many an artist, while Holman Hunt and Millais were in the throes of their struggle for a realism such as Frith himself had never attempted. With-out comparing the two as artists, we can still say that Frith is, in his subjects such as The Derby Day, The Railway Station, The Road to Ruin, and The Race for Wealth, a lineal descendant of Hogarth.
But it is only as a link in the chain that he is mentioned here. Along with him we think, of course, of Maclise, C. R. Leslie, E. M. Ward, Mulready, T. Webster, J. C. Horsley, P. F. Poole, and others, men who, if they lived on into the second half of the century, merely brought over with them an earlier tradition. One thing the Pre-Raphaelites set themselves to do was to get to a higher level of historical and genre painting than these men had reached, to put more thought and passion into their work. What a wide difference there is in this respect between a Shakespeare picture even by Maclise and one by Holman Hunt or Madox Brown !
But a younger race of historical and genre pictures has followed the earlier one, and that quite outside the ranks of the Pre-Raphaelites and their successors. Their name is almost legion, and one hardly knows where to begin, how to continue, and where to end. Their very number shows how popular is the kind of work they do. Was not the picture of pictures, from this standpoint, at the last Academy Exhibition, one showing how the Devil, disguised as a troubadour, and having been hospitably entertained by some nuns, in gratitude sang to them a song of love ? And is not the painter of this picture now an Associate of the Academy? It is so. The people will have it so; and the Academy lets it be so. If they be wrong, they are only wrong at one extreme ; while the people who will have the painter only paint beautiful things that don’t matter merely for the sake of painting them beautifully, are wrong at the other extreme. Let us bravely push our way into the crowd of historical and genre painters.
Here, to begin with, is Mr. Yeames, who has painted Arthur and Hubert, The Death of Amy Robsart, and When did you last see your father ? that pathetic picture of the young Royalist being questioned by the Parliamentarians in his father’s house. The painter, beyond the skill of his craftsmanship, has invested such subjects as these with human interest. And the time is far off, if ever it is to come, when painters as well as writers will not wish to picture the past.
But before Mr. Yeames if we had not been pushing our way into a crowd ought to have come the Scotch painter, John Pettie, with respect to whom there is more to be said. One of the strong influences at the back of some of the Scotch painting of our time was the colourist John Phillip ; another was Robert Scott Lauder, who became teacher at the Royal Scottish Academy in 1850. He had travelled abroad, and had studied the Italian painters, Velasquez, and Rubens. In Paris he had seen the work of Delacroix. Among his pupils at Edinburgh were Pettie, Mr. Orchard-son, and Mr. Peter Graham. He trained his pupils to see to see the model or the subject as a whole, in all its relations of colour and light and shade and form. He had seen that there was pictorial unity in the works of the great masters. Pettie learned the lesson well. His pictures impress us by their fulness of tone, and. by the fine colour-sense they reveal. The blue ribbon of the garter or a crimson flower or handkerchief will be used to give value to sober yet rich browns, and to complete the colour-harmony. Indeed, Whistler’s phraseology might be applied to Pettie’s pictures, and we might not only speak of their harmony, but of them as harmonies. Though he painted historical pictures with dramatic subjects, he was always the artist the word being taken to mean one who knows how to get a fine sensuous effect out of his pigments. There is atmospheric unity also in his pictures. His figures never become mere puppets, and to take but two or three examples, his James II spurning the grovelling Monmouth, and his Prince Charles, are both good studies of character; and if the bearer of the challenge of Laertes to Hamlet were such a gaily-apparelled and fatuous-looking dandy as we see in Pettie’s Waterfly, Hamlet could certainly have chosen no better nickname for him.
Mr. Seymour Lucas received his training in the Royal Academy schools. He saw and was attracted by Sir Richard Wallace’s Meissoniers, so familiar now to visitors to the Hertford House collections, and he was also greatly impressed by the work of Pettie. He shows himself a clever academic painter of historical incident in The Armada in Sight, After Culloden, Rebel Hunting, The Surrender of Don Pedro de Valdez to Drake on Board the Revenge, and other pictures; and he has also painted subjects that are on the borderland ‘between history and genre. This is the province of Mr. Dendy Sadler also, in such pictures as Thursday and A Good Story in the Tate Gallery, and In the Camp of the Amalekites, now at Manchester. Historical, principally military, subjects have occupied Mr. Eyre Crowe, Mr. A. C. Gow, and Mr. Ernest Crofts, the work of Mr. Gow being often reminiscent of that of Meissonier. The battle pictures of Lady Butler should also be mentioned here. Mr. F. D. Millet, an American by birth, and trained in Antwerp, has painted subjects in historical genre, of which the best known is the picture in the Tate Gallery, Between Two Fires, where a Puritan is being raked fore and aft by the merry wit of two pretty serving-maids.
Mr. E. A. Abbey is another American painter, but by accepting membership in the Royal Academy he has definitely attached himself to the English school of painting, and has strongly influenced some of our younger painters. He began as an illustrator, and it was to find material for illustrations to Herrick’s poems that he first came to England.. There is much affinity between his oil paintings and the mural painting of the Flemish masters, and he often calls to mind Madox Brown and the realistic side of pre-Raphaelitism. He is a daring colourist, or, it might be better to say, he uses colour daringly, in masses that stand out separately from each other, so that if we had to seek for a parallel in the sister art of music it would not be of harmony or sympathy that we should think, as with his fellow-countryman Whistler, but, say, of a fanfare of trumpets. Such use of colour is quite in keeping with the subjects of his pictures, which are, for the most part, intensely dramatic scenes from history in the days when costume was nothing less than brilliant. Such are Richard III and Lady Anne, The Penance of Eleanor, Duchess of Gloucester, The Trial of Queen Katherine, The Crusaders, and Columbus in the New World. He is a vivid story-teller; and if his art be at times bizarre, it is art none the less.
These, with some of the artists already referred to as belonging to the pre-Raphaelite succession, and, above all, Ford Madox Brown, are the chief historical painters of our period. Whatever differences there may be between them they are united in one respect, quite characteristic of the time, namely, carefulness with regard to accuracy in details. Architecture, furniture, dress, weapons, etc., are studied with the zest of an antiquary. Art must now go hand-inhand with science, and need not cease to be art in so doing. These painters are the immediate successors of Dyce, Maclise, Goodall, Frith, Sir John Gilbert, and others ; successors, even though some of the older men have out-lived some of the younger ones. Mr. Frith should strictly, perhaps, be placed among the genre painters, to whom we now come, the successors of such painters as Sir David Wilkie, Mulready, the elder Leslie, and Thomas Webster.
First among these we will take George Mason and Frederick Walker, who were close kinsmen in art. It is difficult, indeed, not to think of them as being just about the same age ; yet the former was born in 1818, and the latter in 1840; they died, however, within three years of each other, Mason in 1872 and Walker in 1875. Neither of them was robust, and this may largely account for the almost pathetically idyllic character of their art, They both treated the same kind of subject, and in much the same way : they read their own feelings into the life of the common folk.
Mason was greatly influenced by Leighton. He was a native of Wetley, in Staffordshire, and was intended for the medical profession, in preparation for which he walked the hospitals at Birmingham. He was in Italy, having decided to leave medicine for art, when he heard that his father had lost all his money, and he at once began to work hard at painting. He was now twenty-seven years old. Thrown upon his own resources he suffered great privations which told on his health. A Staffordshire friend whom he met in Italy bought pictures from him, and he was also much encouraged by Leighton, whom he met in Rome. In 1855 he returned to England, married, and went to live at the old house of the family, Wetley Abbey. Once more he had a hard struggle ; he was almost in poverty, and there was a family to keep. Leighton came to his help again, by visiting him, and. pointing out to him the beauty and pictorial possibilities of his immediate surroundings. The results of this influence are often evident in his pictures, in which the figures at times look as if they had stepped from Leighton’s classical scenes into an English countryside. Leighton also helped him with commissions, some for himself, and others that he had obtained from friends, and on account of which he managed to persuade Mason to accept money in advance.
Thus helped, both in the practice of his art and financially, Mason set to work courageously. The landscape in his pictures shows how successful Leighton had been as an interpreter. The country about Wetley has no special beauty, but there are wide vistas on the higher lands, there are commons and pools and scanty woods with gnarled and twisted trees, and there are the sun and the moon, and the sweet mystery, touched always with sadness, of the twilight. When Mason saw and felt all this, and painted the labouring folk and the children amidst it, and gave them a grace and refinement they did not actually possess, he was not cheaply idealising, he was only expressing his sense of the beauty of human life lived face to face with nature.
And, of course, the beauty is there. Mason’s idealism is only an impassioned statement of the truth. At times there is no exaggeration, as in The Cast Shoe and The End of the Day. The maidens in The Evening Hymn may be too idyllic; and yet that hymn, when deeply felt, almost seems to transform both face and figure. The exaltation of the moment is expressed by the grace of the maidens singing as they cross the common. Perhaps we are a little too much reminded of Greek heroes and the most graceful Tanagra figures in The Harvest Moon. Yet, doubtless, many, like the writer, having Mr. Macbeth’s etching of the picture, and nature, with its changing seasons, always near them, have felt the truth, the beautiful truth, of the picture utterly to outweigh any difficulty occasioned by the ideal character of the harvesters.
The colour in Mason’s pictures is beautifully modulated and harmonised, and has nature’s glow and vibration in it. The Harvest Moon is perhaps less satisfying in this respect than most, if not all, of the others.
In 1868 he was elected A.R.A. ; but the struggle of earlier years had undermined his constitution, and four years later he died of heart disease.
Frederick Walker first exhibited a picture at the Academy in 1867, the year before Mason was elected to an associate-ship. It was The Bathers; and it is impossible not to see in the figures of these boys upon the river-bank the result of his study of the Greek marbles in the British Museum. It is as if the youths of the Parthenon frieze had escaped and gone to bathe in an English river. Before this time he had been making drawings for wood-engraving. After The Bathers came The Vagrants; and again there is something too much of the heroic in the figures. In The Plough the ploughman is a lithe, graceful athlete, striding out vigorously, as if he were helping the horses in their work as well as doing his own work of guidance. Probably by this time all who care for Walker’s art have agreed to accept this overstatement which appears in all his work. It may not correspond with the facts, but it did correspond with his feeling. It is far removed from the mere shepherd’s crook pastoral. Life has been felt, if not literally seen, like this ; and the departure from the literal truth is not a wide one. We come to the same conclusion about him as about George Mason.
His best-known picture is, of course, The Harbour of Refuge. It is an idyll of the close of life contrasted with life in its strength, and the man who is mowing the grass of the almshouse court may well have been intended as a symbol. Ruskin had little that was good to say of Walker’s art. He disliked his grey skies. He would make no excuse for the idealised figures, which he described as “got up for the stage,” and this particular mower he called ridiculous, and “galvanised Elgin marble in his attitude, and the sweep of the scythe utterly out of drawing by the way.” As already said, Walker died in 1875 a victim to consumption. He was only thirty-five years of age.
The work of these two painters still retains its hold upon us. In one sense Millet and Josef Israels may have been more true. They are at least more literal. But there is a deeper than the literal truth. What is artificial, borrowed, in the idealism of Mason and Walker, is a weakness, and there is perhaps more of this in the art of the latter than in that of the former. But what is the outcome of feeling is a strength, and this far outweighs the other.
Such art as that of Mason and Walker, beautiful as art, and gently playing on the minor chords of feeling, was bound to influence other painters; and it is not only the work itself that lives in general esteem, but its influence continues in our art.
George H. Boughton has been called a follower of Frederick Walker ; and with many differences there is this general resemblance between them that they gave an idyllic account of ordinary life. Born in 1834, he was an English-man who, as his parents took him to America when he was only three years old, and as his early training was received there, is sometimes regarded as an American artist. He had little regular teaching. The sale of a picture to the Albany Art Union enabled him to visit England when he was only seventeen, and a little later he went to Paris. There he got help from various painters, particularly Edouard Frère, and, after working for a time in Normandy and Brittany, he migrated to London, where he spent the rest of his life. Mr. Isham, in the book already quoted, says that although Boughton was born in England, and returned here while young, he belonged more to America than mere dates suggest. He exhibited in American exhibitions, found patrons there, the spirit of his art was formed there, many of his subjects were taken from the life of the early colonists.
“Even his Holland pictures, when they came,” says Mr. Isham, ” seemed to be a reversion to the old Dutch traditions of Albany and knickerbocker New York. It is a pity that a still stronger plea for his Americanism cannot be made, for Boughton’s art is of a sort so sweet and whole-some that one would willingly annex it if one could.” The impossibility of such annexation can only be cause for rejoicing on this side of the Atlantic, for there was great charm in Boughton’s work, both in his landscape and in his figure-subjects. It was the personal note in it that allied him to Mason and Walker; yet it was not, as with them, a pathetic note, but one of delicacy and daintiness. There was distinction in his cool colour-harmonies, and in his composition and draughtsmanship. As the bee extracts the sweetness from the flower, so he gathered from nature and from life every suggestion they gave him of tender beauty and grace.
Mr. Marcus Stone, born in 1840, belongs to this generation. He received his instruction in art from his father, Frank Stone, the subject painter. After painting historical pictures for a time, he turned to the particular form of genre that he has made his own. He has been called the painter of sweethearts. Lovers’ joys and lovers’ hopes and fears and sorrows and little quarrels are the chief subject of his pictures, the scene of which is almost invariably laid in old-fashioned gardens, while the lovers are dressed in what now look to us quaint costumes. These expedients aid the sentimental effect. The colour of the pictures also is dainty ; there are plenty of green garden seats and pink flowers in vases. Everything looks as if the requirements of the most elementary taste, and the necessities of reproduction in colour, had never been overlooked. He is superficial where Boughton was subtle.
Mr. William Quiller Orchardson must be counted amongst the genre painters ; though one of his best-known works, Napoleon on Board the Bellerophon, is a fine example of imaginative historical painting; and he has also distinguished himself as a portrait painter. Born in Edinburgh in 1835, he was a fellow-student of John Pettie and Mr. Peter Graham under Robert Scott Lauder at the Trustees’ Academy. The character of Lauder’s teaching, his insistence upon seeing a subject as a whole, has already been alluded to; and its influence is obvious in the breadth of treatment, the unity of tone and harmony of colour, that mark all Mr. Orchardson’s work. He settled in London in 1862, he and Pettie living together for a time; and his pictures have for all these years been regularly-expected items in the Royal Academy exhibitions.
A picture by him is recognised in an exhibition almost before it is seen ; its pervading golden tone tells us it is there before we have actually reached and looked at it. Because of the broad treatment of colour to which they lend themselves, he has chosen for many of his subject-pictures the dress, furniture, and decoration of the period of the French Directoire; and even when his subject belongs to another time, and also in his portraiture, he has only modified, not changed, his general colour-scheme.
In his choice of subjects he has limited himself almost entirely to the spoiled children of civilisation. Elegantly dressed people, amid luxurious surroundings, are the staple of his art. Of such is the young girl timorously essaying her first dance, under the eyes of friends, and perhaps rivals, who are following her every movement with interest. Under the archway of unsheathed weapons the queen of swords walks with due stateliness, the other ladies following in her train. The young duke hears with self-complacent smile the noisy applause of his guests as they drink to his health. The ruined card-player pauses at the door, as if he would fain reverse his fate, while the winners almost wear the air of culprits as they watch his departure. Voltaire returning to the dinner-table of the Duc de Sully, after being thrashed by the lackeys of the Duc de Rohan, who thus took vengeance for Voltaire’s bitter sarcasms, is the subject of another picture ; and in another we see Madame Récamier doing the honours of her salon. The Mariage de Convenance, The First Cloud, and Alone are refined, up-to-date versions of Hogarth. Her Mother’s Voice is an elegant, after-dinner account of the widower’s dream which Longfellow tells of the village blacksmith; for the deepest joys, and the tenderest regrets and hopes, are confined to no one class of society, but are the human endowment of rich and poor alike. And this thought makes it possible to regret that Mr. Orchardson should have taken no cognisance of any world but one into which the blacksmith could only come, cap in hand, and after very carefully wiping his boots on the mat. He comes perilously near to a confusion of taste and refinement with mere expensiveness. The upholsterer, the tailor, and the dressmaker are too much in evidence ; and this is not without bearing on his art, which achieves success within very narrow limits of light and colour. He ventures nothing, but remains content with a formula that we are inclined to call a recipe.
Now, perhaps, we should come to Frank Holl and Sir Luke Fildes, both of whom have also been portrait painters, the former almost challenging comparison with the best in his fine characterisation of such men as Gladstone, Earl Spencer, Lord Dufferin, Samuel Cousins the engraver, and others. His genre pictures are quite of the popularly pathetic kind, to which Millais said he had not stooped. The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the Name of the Lord shows a family, from whom the mother has been taken, seated or kneeling at the table, while the clergyman stands and prays. No News from the Sea, Hush, and Hushed, in the Tate Gallery, Leaving Home and Ordered to the Front, as their titles will suggest to those who have seen neither the originals nor reproductions of them, are of the same kind. They are competently painted pathetic incidents.
Holl, who was born in 1845, died at the early age of forty-three. Sir Luke Fildes, who was born in 1844 they were both trained in the Academy Schools has struck the same note as Holl in his well-known picture The Doctor. In other pictures, such as An al fresco Toilet, Venetians, and The Village Wedding, he is in a lighter vein. Mr. George Moore pours scorn on Manchester for purchasing Venetians, when it had managed to do so well as to acquire Cecil Lawson’s landscape The Minister’s Garden, and describes The Doctor as ” bald illustration.” Others have seen in the picture intense realism and yet high imagination, and have regarded it as ” a symbol of the struggle between Science and Death.” Mr. Moore calls Rossetti’s Dante’s Dream imaginative interpretation but he will have nothing to do with a plain representation of a doctor intently watching a sick child just at the crisis of its illness, while the mother buries her head in her arms, and the father, standing with one hand laid affectionately on her shoulder, looks anxiously towards the doctor and the child. “Rossetti is a painter we admire,” says Mr. Moore, ” and we place him above Mr. Fildes, because his interpretations are more imaginative.”
The Doctor was not intended to be bald illustration ; the artist’s idea was, quoting his own words, ” to put on record the status of the doctor of our own time,” than whom “no more noble figure could be imagined the grave anxiety, supported by calm assurance in his own knowledge and skill, not put forward in any self-sufficient way, but with dignity and patience, following out the course his experience tells him is correct ; the implicit faith of the parents, who, although deeply moved and almost overcome with terrible dread, stand in the background trusting the doctor even while their hearts fail.”
We are intended to think, so the painter has also said, that the child is going to recover, that the doctor’s skill will triumph. But the picture itself does not suggest this; there is in it only the anguish of uncertainty for we know that often the doctor’s skill is unavailing. That is to say, we know that this doctor may have to tell the father and mother that the child cannot recover. The real subject of the picture, that which moves us in it, is the pathos of love face to face with death. It is to the man and his wife in the background, not to the doctor in the foreground, that our thought and sympathy go. The painter says that no more noble figure can be imagined than the doctor of our time. We need not discuss this statement. It is sufficient to note that, in the picture, the doctor and his skill, and the nobility that attaches to them, have to compete for our interest with the love of a father and a mother for their child, and utterly fail to hold their own against it. Technically the picture is a competent piece of matter-of-fact realism, making no appeal to the sense of beauty, and leaving nothing to the imagination.
Mr. Frank Bramley is a much younger painter than Sir Luke Fildes, and than others we shall have to mention, but his Tate Gallery picture, A Hopeless Dawn, is called to mind by the things we have just been discussing. Here, again, we have what may be styled a bald illustration, a realistic picture of the cottage to which the fisherman for whom the supper has been prepared, and for whose help the light has been put in the window, will never return; while the aged mother seeks to console the young wife, and the Bible lies open in the window-seat. The picture is a direct appeal to the simplest yet most profound emotions, and the skill with which the appeal is made could hardly be bettered. Consolation is suggested, and of the kind such people will seek and find. There is the open Bible; on the wall is a print of Raphael’s cartoon of Christ delivering His charge to St. Peter. This picture had a literary origin. The subject, its title, and the print on the wall were all suggested by one of Ruskin’s eloquent passages in the Harbours of England, in which he turns from the joy and beauty of the beach and the fishing-boats, to storm, and suspense, and death; “and still at the helm of every lonely boat, through starless night and hopeless dawn, His hand, who spread the fisher’s net over the dust of the Sidonian palaces, and gave into the fisher’s hand the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven.” In later years Mr. Brumley has chosen less sorrowful themes.
By this time we ought to be finding Sir Hubert Herkomer in the crowd. He has already been mentioned as a German who learned his art in this country. He was born in 1849 at Waal, near Landsberg, in Bavaria, where his father was a master-joiner. He was only two years old when the family migrated to America ; six years later they came to England, making their home at Southampton. The father had intended his son to be an artist ; but it was only by the most rigid economy that he could achieve his purpose. After a visit to Bavaria, in connexion with some wood-carving the father was commissioned to do, the family returned to England, made their home at Wandsworth, and the youth studied art in the South Kensington schools. He only managed to get along by selling drawings to the Graphic and Fun, and by stencilling a frieze in the South Kensington Museum for a wage of ninepence an hour. Gradually he began to sell his water-colour drawings, and, in 1873, his oil painting, After the Toil of the. Day, was hung on the line at the Academy and found a purchaser at £500. Success was now assured. In the following year he exhibited The Last Muster, which received an ovation from the Hanging Committee at the Academy, and was a great popular success. The old pensioners are at service in their chapel. One of them is suddenly taken ill. A comrade touches him on the arm and looks anxiously at him. The anxiety is well-founded. The veteran has joined his comrades for the last time.
Not for once only, in this picture, has Sir Herkomer struck the pathetic note. Again and again he has done so, taking sickness, poverty, or old age as the subject-matter of his pictures. We have sickness in the Convalescent, poverty in Hard Times, old age in Charterhouse Chapel, Der Bittgang, and other pictures. There is pathos even in The Guards’ Cheer. In this he shows the influence of Fred Walker, which was particularly marked in his earlier work. Subsequently, when his canvases have become more fully occupied with figures, which, though playing their part in a drama, have assumed the character and importance of portraiture, the resemblance in the work of the two artists has diminished; while from portraiture in subject-pictures, as notably in Charterhouse Chapel, Sir Herkomer has easily passed, to portraiture pure and simple. His versatile accomplishment, which has led to excursions into many arts and crafts, needs no more than mention here. In painting, with which alone we are concerned here, he is an able craftsman, who has placed considerable gifts of design, colour, and characterisation at the service of realistic interpretation of life.
It must suffice merely to mention here the refined charm of the art of Mr. G. D. Leslie and the Venetian studies of Mr. Henry Woods ; while Mr. G. A. Storey should not go unnamed. The Hon. John Collier’s genre pictures, drawn from different periods, their dramatic interest not seldom bordering on the sensational, while their academic accomplishment is always to be relied upon, also are too familiar to require more than mention. Mr. J. R. Reid, born in Edinburgh in 1851, has mingled landscape and figure in his pictures of open-air life, chiefly by the sea. He is a vigorous painter, who bravely faces the problems of brilliant light and strong colour. Mr. E. J. Gregory, born in 1850, is a fastidious craftsman, who has applied remarkable powers of realistic painting largely to boating scenes on the Thames, with, in the end, it must be said, a somewhat commonplace result. It is not possible to be interested in his holiday makers, and his treatment of landscape is without imagination.
A few years later comes Mr. Stanhope Forbes, a prominent member of the little company of artists who settled at Newlyn in Cornwall, there to work in the open air. Born in Dublin in 1857, Mr. Forbes studied at Dulwich, in the Lambeth School of Art and the Academy Schools, and subsequently under Bonnat in Paris. 11e joined the Newlyn painters in 1884, Mr. Walter Langley being the first of those who had preceded him there. It is not possible to suggest a regret, as in the case of Mr. Orchard son, that Mr. Forbes has limited himself to a social sphere in which the black-smith would not feel at home; for it is chiefly into the company of people in whose society the blacksmith would be quite comfortable that Mr. Forbes takes us. It is distinctly a prose version of their life that he gives, whether he paints fishermen, village musicians, a village wedding, an auction-sale, or what else. His colour also is usually very sober, not to say dull. The equable grey climate of Corn-wall, allowing the study of the model in diffused daylight, is said to have been one thing that attracted the painters to Newlyn. There is an excess of equable greyness in Mr. Forbes’s pictures. The open air has become a roofless studio, but it is still a studio.
Mr. H. S. Tuke is also one of the Newlyn group ; though he has painted much at Falmouth, and no charge of greyness can be brought against his bright pictures of yachting and bathing scenes. He was born at York in 1858, and studied at the Slade School, and subsequently under Laurens in Paris. He was one of the founders of the New English Art Club, of which more will be said hereafter. While Mr. Frank Bramley, who also went to Newlyn, and Mr. Forbes, have taken the work-a-day world for their subject, Mr. Tuke has, in the main, shown us English youth making holiday on and by the sea.
We return to the work-a-day world with Mr. George Clausen and Mr. H. H. La Thangue. They have both often been compared to Bastien-Lepage ; and the comparison is certainly a fair one, particularly with regard to their earlier work, such as Mr. Clausen’s The Girl at the Gate, and Mr. La Thangue’s The Man with the Scythe, both of which are in the Tate Gallery.
Mr. Clausen, who is of Danish descent, was born in London in 1852, and, during the time that he was working as a draughtsman and designer for a firm of builders and decorators, he attended evening classes at South Kensington. One thinks with difficulty of his having worked in the studio of Edwin Long. He was one of the first members of the New English Art Club, the promoters of which were much encouraged by his support. A strong opponent at one time of the Royal Academy, he is now one of its associates, and has held the position of Professor of Painting. Until quite recently he has lived in the country, at Widdington, in Essex, amid the agriculturists, who, and whose work and surroundings, have been the subject of his pictures.
If his early work reminds us of Bastien-Lepage, in his later work he is like a Millet possessed with the Impressionist zeal for light and atmosphere. Like Millet he has been content to portray the peasantry amid whom he has lived, engaged in their ordinary work, apart from any special incident. Digging, ploughing, sowing, reaping, binding the corn into sheaves, building the stack, threshing in short, all the varied work of the farm as it is carried on through the seasons of the year has been his subject; and occasionally he has painted the portraits of those whose lives are passed in the performance of these fundamental human tasks. He has not idealised the work of the fields. Some of it is laborious, monotonous, mechanical, and he has shown it thus. In one picture of harvesters at work in an upland field, under a blazing sun, one of the men, after binding up a sheaf, is moving forward to gather the corn for another one. He is staring vacantly before him, his thoughts evidently far from his work; but already his arms and hands are instinctively bent, as they need to be, to gather the corn for the next sheaf. But farm-work is by no means all like this ; it is more varied than much town-work, and has the interest of dealing with plant- and animal life, so that the mere representation of it without idealism or the fevered townsman’s exaggeration of its ” slowness ” is a worthy task for art.
Taking a cheerier view of such life than Millet did, Mr. Clausen has also added the interest of keen enjoyment of the beauty of light and atmospheric effect. Indeed, these have counted for so much in his art as to bring him at least close to the border-line that divides genre from landscape. Many things are suggested in these days to make the life of the agriculturist more interesting, and so to reduce the exodus from the country to the town. Better housing, small holdings, reading-rooms, and billiard tables : some of us have urged these things, perhaps helped to provide them. Have we ventured the attempt to get the agriculturist to see himself and his surroundings as the artist sees them? It is a task from which even the brave may shrink. Would the ploughman be a happier, a nobler being, if, when he paused for a moment at the headland, he could see that his fellow-ploughman in the next field made, with his surroundings, under certain conditions of light and shade, a beautiful picture? We cannot answer such a question in the negative without giving the lie to our own experience. We cannot answer it in the affirmative without making our own experience more authentic. One hopes that some of the people among whom Mr. Clausen lived for years are now enjoying life more because they have learned, through him, to see themselves and their surroundings as he saw them. The point is, of course, that Mr. Clausen’s pictures do not tell a story like Sir Luke Fildes’s Doctor and Village Wedding; they only reveal the beauty of ordinary scenes, the harmonies of light and colour and form, the visible music, which the mere facts present, or to which they at least approximate. Sunlight peeping through the chinks in a barn, suffusing the misty morning air when the hoar frost glistens on the earth and the trees, blazing behind the rick and its builders, or down on the harvesters while a dull heat-haze lies on the horizon; the warm after-glow in the wintry sky with the snow lying, cold grey in hue, in the shady places : such are the quite ordinary, yet beautiful effects which to those who have learned to see them convert the most common-place countryside into a beautiful paradise. These are the things that Mr. Clausen has seen and interpreted; and, seeing them, what need has he had of more in the way of story-telling than that of the great story of human toil ?
Mr, La Thangue, born in 1860, studied art at South Kensington, the Lambeth School of Art, and later in the Academy Schools. Subsequently he worked for three years in Paris in the studio of Gérôme, and painted for a time in France. Devoting himself, like Mr. Clausen, to the painting of workers in the country, he has found his subjects abroad as well as at home. His methods approximate to those of the Impressionists, light and atmospheric vibration being chief considerations with him;; yet, on the whole, not as much so as with Mr. Clausen ; and his figures occupy a larger part of the canvas, are more individualised, and the landscape becomes a mere setting for them. Like Mr. Clausen he is generally content with ordinary doings and happenings, with the tending of cattle, the driving home of the plough-horses, the feeding of poultry, the gathering of fruit, the working of the cider-press. So far as he can he realises such things in the full strength of nature’s light and colour. Not as imaginative as that of Mr. Clausen, his work is still a revelation of beauty.
Here must end for the present our account of the genre painters ; though something more will have to be said of them in the next chapter. But this is a convenient place to look at their work from a particular point of view. To what extent has the work of our genre painters of the latter half of the nineteenth century been a chronicle of their time? Have they been comprehensive in their seeing and recording, or have they merely picked and chosen here and there? The answer seems to be that they have shrunk from the recording of a large part of modern life ; much more so than have many of their foreign brethren. The French painters, as we have seen, have found material for their art in the ordinary scenes of town and country alike. Some of the Belgians have made the record of such scenes a part of social propaganda. The life that the majority of us live in Britain has been almost passed over in the serious art of our time. The art galleries of London do not interpret London. The last thing we expect to find in any city is the pictorial representation of its contemporary life. The toilers of Lancashire and Yorkshire, the factory and mine workers, the Staffordshire potters, the metal workers of Birmingham, the men of the railways and the ship-yards, at their work and their play, and in their homes, have hardly attracted attention ; nor have the modern shop, warehouse, and office. Yet they all afford the finest material for art; for it is surely too late in the day to need to say that the artist can use to artistic ends that which is not in itself, in its entirety, beautiful. And beyond beauty there is life, always significant for the living.
Glasgow, indeed, in its municipal buildings, has ventured on the representation of its great shipbuilding industry. In the London Royal Exchange we are taken into the past. Manchester, in its Town Hall, let Madox Brown bring its history to the time of John Dalton ; and, hitherto, has stopped short there. G. F. Watts, in his huge picture of the brewer’s drayman with his horses, gave a pretty broad hint of what art might do in the way of a record of ordinary contemporary life. In Work which is in Manchester, but surely ought to have been in London Madox Brown crowded into one picture enough of town-incident to serve for a dozen. Frith’s Derby Day and Railway Station might have suggested to later artists the treatment of similar subjects in their own way. There is inexhaustible material. Of course it has been used, but casually; the work of the town has not been as systematically dealt with as the work of the country and the sea.
If it be argued that the kind of life most people live today does not provide good material for art, it must be said in reply that this is a terrible criticism of our civilisation; and, indeed, a candid pictorial statement as to a large part of our life would be its condemnation. There would be some misgivings surely, on the private view day at the Royal Academy, if the pictures on the walls set forth the conditions of life of vast numbers of people in this country. As it is, there is little but elegant trifling and sentiment. What criticisms of the wrongs and inequalities of life there may be too often takes the form of a sensationalism that defeats its own ends. Our genre painters have yet to see life steadily and to see it whole. Perhaps the people for whom chiefly they have to work do not want them to do this. Anyhow, it is not done.
In his inaugural lecture as Slade Professor at Oxford, Ruskin, when enumerating the directions of effort in which he thought English artists were liable to failure, and those in which he thought that past experience had shown them to be sure of success, said : ” Our first great gift is in the portraiture of living people a power already so accomplished in both Reynolds and Gainsborough, that nothing is left for future masters but to add the calm of perfect workmanship to their vigour and felicity of perception.” Whether or not portrait painting in the latter half of the nineteenth century has followed the course thus marked cut for it by Ruskin, it is certain that both in intention and accomplishment our portrait painters, during that time, have been worthy of a great tradition. To name only some of the chief among them Watts, Millais, Holl, Orchardson, Herkomer, Ouless, Sir George Reid, and, among painters to be mentioned in the next chapter, such men as Whistler, Sargent, Lavery, and Sir James Guthrie, will have left a record of many of the most notable people of their own time that the future will value as we value the records of the past.
In the same lecture, after claiming for us intense power of invention and expression in domestic drama, Ruskin went on to say : ” In connection with our simplicity and good humour, and partly with that very love of the grotesque which de-bases our ideal, we have a sympathy with the lower animals which is peculiarly our own ; and which, though it has already found some exquisite expression in the works of Bewick and Landseer, is yet quite undeveloped.” Redgrave had already associated the demand for pictures of horses with the love of hunting and racing, as a preliminary to writing of such early animal painters as Wootton, Stubbs, Sawrey Gilpin and Morland. He does not forget Bewick, and also James Ward; and, coming to artists of a later period, he mentions Richard Ansdell along with Landseer. Prominent among the animal painters of our time are Mr. Briton Riviere, J. T. Nettleship, and J. M. Swan; but animal life has been sympathetically rendered, and none the less so because incidentally, by many of our subject painters. Millais’ affection for animals is evinced over and over again in his works. Even Mr. Holman Hunt has given us the sheep of The Hireling Shepherd and Strayed Sheep. Sidney Cooper has had successors not a few whose work at times we hardly know whether to describe as cattle and landscape or landscape and cattle.
Turning to the two painters singled out above, we find some difficulty in placing Mr. Briton Riviere. He is above all things an animal painter, but a painter of animals in association with man, and in this respect he has been both an historical and a genre painter. We have historical painting in his pictures of Daniel in the lions’ den, of lions prowling among the ruins of Persepolis, of the herd of swine running down the steep place into the sea, of the Christian knight holding up his cross-hilted sword as he rides into the forest gloom from which horse and hounds shrink back in fear, of the dog that, at the cost of its life, has sought to protect the Royalist home against the enemy. We have genre painting when he shows us navvies playing with a puppy, a navvy asleep with his dog beside him, the poacher and his dog, the terrier sympathising with his little mistress in her disgrace. He takes us completely into the animal world when he paints the lion followed by a troop of jackals. Mr. Riviere cannot be charged with a fault that was too often evident in Landseer’s work : he does not endow his animals with a nature higher than their own ; he does not read human nature into them. Nor had Nettleship and Swan Landseer’s fault ; they were the less likely to make the mistake because they painted almost exclusively, not the animals that man has tamed for use and companionship, but the wild denizens of the forest.
The last class of painters to whom we have to refer, the landscape painters, are perhaps not the least important; certainly they are not the least numerous. It is surely not lack of modesty that makes us think well of our landscape painting. We have seen that twice, in the cases of Con-stable and the Barbizon painters, and of Turner and the Impressionists, our landscape painters have greatly influenced the art of France, and through France that of other countries. Our painters have been the pioneers of modern landscape art. We think that the great variety of scenery within the narrow limits of our islands, and the variability of our climate, producing within short spaces of time great differences of effect in the same scene, have had much to do with this. These variations helped to quicken the sensibility of Monet and Pissarro to atmospheric effects when they were in this country in 1871. The air is more visible here, counts for more in the general look of things than it does in drier climates.
In writing of recent English art, M. de la Sizeranne says little about our landscape painters, on the ground that there is no longer an English school of landscape, but only con-temporary landscape painting ! On his own showing we have gone far to teach Europe the art, and therefore, he argues, we have no longer a school of our own ! We might almost imitate M. de la Sizeranne’s patriotism, and claim all contemporary landscape painting as a province of English art. French Impressionism is perhaps the chief obstacle to our doing so; and even Impressionism has been undergoing changes that bring it nearer to our own art, while not a few of our younger painters have learned from the Impressionists without sacrificing their own individuality. Our landscape painting is rich enough to be able to rely mainly on its own resources, and yet not to be afraid wisely to borrow.
It is not within our scope to attempt a statement of the various sources of interest in landscape. Beauty of light, colour, tone, form; movement and life; appearances and effects that awaken within us feelings sometimes joyous and sometimes pensive such are, at any rate, among the chief of such sources, and they are infinite in variety and in the ways in which they combine with each other. And our landscape painting has been and still is marked by a wide use of the material that nature has placed at the disposal of art.
‘We have seen the great importance that was attached by one side of the Pre-Raphaelite movement to presentment of the detailed truth of nature, and that quite a succession of painters has subsequently done the same thing. Millais, as we have seen, abandoned this method, substituting the suggestion of detail for its actual rendering ; and many of our later landscape painters have treated landscape in this way; but many if not most of the landscapes of the latter half of the century have been more realistic, have made us feel more as if nature were before us, than did most of the landscapes, particularly the oil paintings, of the immediately preceding period. More recently, classical and decorative landscape, neither of which depends for its interest on illusion of reality, have asserted themselves again.
We need not concern ourselves with the painters who merely lasted on into our period. One of them, however, may be mentioned, as much of his best work was done on our side of the half-century. This is John Linnell, who was born in London in 1792, and lived to the advanced age of eighty-nine years. Though it is by his landscapes that he is best known, he worked also as a portrait painter and engraver, and himself would speak of Biblical study as the serious work of his life, and of landscape painting as a recreation. He was the friend of William Blake, whose line -
In England’s green and pleasant land,
shows him to have seen his own country as the landscape painter sees it. Linnell’s pictures of English scenery are strongly painted, with much truth of de bail and local colour, and he was also observant of effects of light. There was an epic feeling in his art; he would paint the blackness of the coming storm, hiding the sun in the heavens, as if the prophet Micah’s description of one were in his mind. His work has a more modern look than that of many of his younger contemporaries. His sons, J. T. and William Linnell, whose art bears considerable resemblance to his, belonging wholly, in their work, to the latter half of the century.
To most people J. C. Hook is known as having been a painter of the sea and fisher-folk. Some may also know him to have been in earlier days a painter of pastoral subjects. Going further back again we find him commencing as a painter of figure-subjects. He was born in 1819, and his early love for art was encouraged by no less a master than Constable, and, like so many other English painters, he carefully studied the Elgin marbles. Then he became a pupil in the Academy Schools, and it was with a picture, The Finding of the Body of Harold, that he won the gold medal of the Academy, and with Rizpah Watching the Dead Sons of Saul that he won the travelling studentship. He went to Italy, and on his return to this country painted Venetian figure-subjects. One of these, a representation of the trial scene in ” The Merchant of Venice,” with which the writer has long been familiar, is, in its colour, closely allied to the work of Carpaccio, the Italian master by whom the young English artist was particularly attracted.
It was love of outdoor life that drew him away from the painting of figure-subjects, and led him to become a painter first of pastoral subjects, and then of the sea. His pictures of rural England, which he began to paint just about the time that Holman Hunt and Millais were fighting for realism, were intimate enough to win the enthusiastic praise of Ruskin, as also were his sea-pieces. The youth who had been encouraged by Constable might be cited as another proof that more than the Pre-Raphaelite Brethren stood in the way of the fulfilment of Constable’s prediction of the decay of English art. It is curious to note that the house he had built for himself on Campden Hill, and which he left to go and live in Surrey, was afterwards occupied by Holman Hunt and A. W. Hunt. Something of Constable’s spirit might have entered into him, for freshness, the sense of atmosphere, sea-breeze and salt spray is in his work ; and his colour is strong and true. He was himself full of vigour, could farm with the farmer, work with the farm-labourer, sail and fish with the fisherman; he did not merely see, but lived and worked amongst the scenes and the people that he painted, and his interpretation of nature and life has the brightness that comes of health and good spirits.
Mr. B. W. Leader is one of the most conspicuous examples of the artist who, having made a reputation for a particular kind of work, finds himself able to repeat it year after year, even though manner becomes mannerism, and art, artificiality. He was born at Worcester in 1831, and received his art teaching in the School of Design there and in the Royal Academy Schools. His pleasantly composed and agreeably coloured landscapes have long made him one of the most popular of our landscape painters. He is a dexterously rapid worker, with an eye for the picturesque view. There is no sign in his works of a deep love of nature. He records something of her superficial beauty, but interprets little or nothing of her innermost spirit. His earlier work was much more subtle than his later work has been, and it was stronger in colour and fuller in tone.
About eleven years the junior of Mr. Leader is Mr. J. W. North, whose landscapes have just the sympathetic, intimate interpretation of the truth and beauty of nature that is lacking in those of the older painter. He was the fellow-student of Fred Walker and the friend of Richard Jefferies. The former owed not a little to Mr. North, who, in his intimate love of nature, comes close to the latter. It is not for the painter to attempt to rival the writer in minute description of nature, though Mr. Holman Hunt, and Millais in his early time, may almost be said to have done this. Mr. North has endeavoured to suggest nature’s infinity of detail without losing breadth; for, having lived with nature, mere general statements about her life and beauty could not content him. To achieve his end he has spent much time on his work, so that his output has been comparatively small as to mere number of pictures. One of his works, with which the writer happens to be very familiar, bears the title The Flower and the Leaf, and the painter’s effort, and successful effort, has been to portray the effect of palpitating, summer sunlight playing upon the infinite intricacy of detail in a luxuriant Devonshire or Somersetshire coomb. If he paints the winter woodland, he will lovingly trace the slender gracefulness of the young tree-shoots, the more distant ones becoming faint in the misty air. The freshness of spring and the ripeness of autumn cider orchards with the grass beneath the trees strewn with apples he has recorded also, for, like a true nature lover, he will miss nothing of the whole cycle of the changing year. If now and again his colour be somewhat crude, it is because of his desire to keep as far from mere conventionality as possible ; and time may be trusted to mellow the harshness that now and again, but only now and again, we feel. Many of our landscape painters have entirely or almost confined themselves to one locality, and Mr. North has strayed but little from the two counties named above.
Mr. Peter Graham has already been mentioned as a fellow-student of Pettie and Mr. Orchardson at the Trustees’ Academy, Edinburgh, under Robert Scott Lauder; but whereas they began and ended as painters of figure-subjects, he abandoned that side of art for landscape. His vigorous, realistic pictures of the moors and glens of the Scottish Highlands, and the shaggy cattle that inhabit them, and of the haunts of the wild fowl on the rock-bound northern coasts, have become very familiar, even to the man in the street, through the reproductions so often exhibited in the print-sellers windows, Grey misty skies with perhaps fitful gleams of sunlight breaking through the clouds, and lighting up the otherwise cold green grass, grey rock, or grey-green sea, have been painted by him with minor variations year after year until we have been ready to take them as looked at.
George Vicat Cole, born at Portsmouth in 1833, might almost be described, with regard to his art, as having one foot on land and one foot on sea. At least he loved to paint both English pastoral scenes and the River Thames, from its upper reaches down to where, as it merges in the sea, the great ships pass along it. Speaking of him at the Academy Banquet after his death, Leighton said : “English landscape painting has lost in Vicat Cole one of its most honoured names. Typically English were the scenes on which he loved to dwell the coppice, the glade, the rolling pasture fading from green to distant blue, summer slumbering on brown-tipped corn. But most of all our English Thames had won his heart and occupied his hands. He had followed its stream with faithful brush throughout its length, from where its first sweet gurgle is heard within the grass, to where, far away, salt and sullied, it rocks on turbid tide the carriers of the commerce of the world.”
Vicat Cole may well lead up to two of the most conspicuous painters in our time of the sea and seafaring folk, the late Colin Hunter and Mr. C. Napier Hemy, who were born in the same year, 1841. Both of them were originally intended for careers other than that which they eventually adopted. Colin Hunter was the son of a Glasgow book-seller, was for several years a commercial clerk, and did not take seriously to painting until he was twenty years of age. He may be said to have been self-taught, for sketching expeditions with an old landscape painter, and a few weeks in the studio of Bonnat in Paris, were all that he received in the way of regular teaching. After a few years of varied work he settled down to sea-painting, and his fresh and vigorous renderings of the neighbourhood of the Scottish sea-lochs and islands were regularly seen in our exhibitions for many years, and some of them have found places in our public collections.
Mr. Homy, who was born at Newcastle-on-Tyne, had experience in the Australian gold-fields, and in helping to work the ship in which he returned to England, before he became an art student. After this he had intervals of travel and monastic life. The reading of Ruskin’s Modern Painters led to his adoption for a time of Pre-Raphaelite methods, and he afterwards studied figure-painting at Antwerp under Baron Leys. Like Hook and Colin Hunter, he only finally devoted himself to sea-painting after working for a time at other subjects. He has covered a much wider range of scene and subject than Hunter ; he has gone out upon the ocean as well as the narrow seas ; he has visited the ports of other countries besides our own ; craft of many kinds, including the modern man-of-war, appear in his pictures, which by no means shrink from the incident that ensures a certain popularity.
Ten years later than the two painters last-named comes Mr. W. L. Wyllie, and he and his brother, Mr. C. W. Wyllie, have carried on the English tradition of the painting of sea and river-estuary and the shipping that enlivens them. To the number of these painters, whose work is so proper to an island country, may be added Mr. W. H. Bartlett and H. H. Maccallum. Mr. H. S. Tuke, whom we have placed among the genre painters, might almost as well have been included here. These and other painters are the successors of Turner and of somewhat later time Clarkson Stanfield, and E. W. Cooke.
Two Scottish painters of the same name, but not of the same family, David Farquharson and Joseph Farquharson, should be mentioned here. The former was born at Perth in 1843, and received his education in art in the classes of the Edinburgh Royal Institution. The latter was born in Edinburgh in 1846, and studied under Mr. Peter Graham, and also at the Edinburgh School of Art ; while, afterwards, he worked in the studio of Carolus Duran in Paris. Both of them close observers of nature, and realists in their treatment of landscape, there is something more of self-revelation, of the expression of mood and feeling, in the work of David than in that of Joseph, who often gives what is little more than a vivid transcript of nature, without a clue as to his own feeling about it, except that he has been arrested by the scene, and thought it worth recording.
Few landscape painters are more in evidence in our exhibition galleries than Mr. David Murray, who was born in 1849, and began life in a Glasgow business-house. While thus engaged, however, he found time for the pursuit of art, and eventually devoted himself to it. His work has been done chiefly in English pastoral country, or in the southern Highlands of Scotland ; and he has recorded the varying beauty, at different seasons of the year, and under many conditions of light and shade, of the lowlands, with their level landscape broken by lofty and wide-spreading trees, and of the country where hill and dale abound.
Sir Ernest A. Waterlow is another painter of our more softly beautiful scenery. He was born in 1850, and, after studying at Carey’s school and travelling in Germany and Switzerland, he became a student in the schools of the Royal Academy. He is now President of the Royal Society of Painters in Water-Colours. He chooses places picturesque in themselves, or made so by some temporary condition of light, and treats them in a realistic spirit, though with much feeling for atmospheric effect. Mr. R. Thorne Waite comes to mind here, for he and Sir Ernest Waterlow have painted the same scenes together. Often, inevitably, our later painters remind us of some of the earlier ones. With many differences, of course, Mr. David Murray at times makes us think of Constable ; Sir Ernest Waterlow also reminds us of him, and of David Cox as well; and perhaps more than to any other painter Mr. Thorne Waite takes us back to De Wint. Breadth and freshness are conspicuous qualities in his work.
Another realistic landscape painter who may be named in this company is Mr. Alfred Parsons, a native of Somersetshire, where he was born in 1847. While occupied in the General Post Office, London, he gave his evenings to the study of art, at South Kensington and elsewhere. In many of his pictures he comes near to the Pre-Raphaelitism of Holman Hunt, so close is his observation, and so careful his rendering, of nature’s wealth of intricate detail.
To this generation, and, generally, to this type of landscape painters, belong two Scottish artists, Mr. Leslie Thomson, born in Aberdeen in 1881, and Mr. Robert W. Allan, born in Glasgow in 1852. Mr. Thomson has an especial affection for luminous skies over wide-spreading landscapes ; while prior to, and ever since, recent travels in foreign lands, both near and far, we have chiefly associated Mr. Allan with the rock-bound Scottish coasts, and the harbours of their fishing villages, which he has painted with vigour and broad truthfulness.
The landscape painters mentioned hitherto may be classed together as realists. What strikes us first and often last in their work, is resemblance to the fact as we have seen it. There is never, of course, mero transcript without selection and composition ; the artist is always more or less in evidence; but the external fact is more in evidence. We may put it that the artist says to us, ” This is what I have seen ; how does it appeal to you ? ” rather than, ” This is how I myself have felt.” Yet many of the pictures do also say this to us, especially in the case of some of the painters, and that they have all been grouped together by no means implies that they do not differ considerably in this respect.
The list might, of course, be extended. Mr. Arnesby Brown, for example, would bring us nearly a generation later than the youngest of the painters already considered. One more name must be mentioned, that of Mr. Alfred East. Born at Kettering in 1849, he studied at the Glasgow School of Art, and in Paris under Bouguereau and Tony Fleury. Afterwards he painted at Barbizon, and enlarged his experience subsequently by visiting Japan. He was one of the first members of the New English Art Club, but retired from it within two or three years. Though there has always been a strong element of realism in his work, yet picture-making, in the sense of formal composition and design, has also always been present ; and, under Japanese influence, there has been a marked decorative element as well. His work, indeed, has often seemed to halt between various opinions. We have not known quite what chiefly we were intended to enjoy. Latterly, however, he has declared himself more plainly. He has elected to put design, formal design, upon the plane of the canvas, in the forefront of his art, so that, in principle, his work now approximates closely to the point of view of Claude. He has become a classicist, and his erstwhile membership of the New English Art Club must seem to him now one of the strange things that happen in the whirligig of time. But both he and the club have changed. In his case the change is interesting as illustrating what has already been said, namely, that because much has been added in recent years to the resources of art, and new pleasures have been provided for us, it is not necessary to renounce the older pleasures because they are not new.
We turn now to a number of landscape painters in whose work there is more self-revelation than in that of the painters already considered.
In this connexion it is interesting to note how slight has been the following of Turner in his own country. He did more than merely modify the natural world in his art ; he transformed it into a world of his own imagining. Re-semblance to the fact is not what strikes us first in his pictures, but rather the subtle departures from resemblance that convert the whole into something new and strange. Nature is the starting-point, not the goal of his art. Among English landscape painters one only thinks of such men as Mr. Clarence Whaite, the veteran painter of the Welsh mountains, Mr. Albert Goodwin, and, in a measure, Mr. A. W. Hunt, as having thus subordinated nature to the ends of art. There is no question here, of course, of comparison in detail, but only as to general principle. Some of the Scottish painters, to be mentioned in the next chapter, have also ventured to create a world of their own. Turner’s influence on the French Impressionists also was only in one particular; they were impressed by his successful quest of light. The creative element in his art did not appeal to them.
First among the painters who, more than the majority, reveal their own temperament and moods to us, we may take Cecil Lawson, the story of whose life is that of a career of great promise all too early closed. e was born in 1851 and died in 1882, at the age of thirty-one. He received his training in art from his father, William Lawson, an Edinburgh portrait painter. He drew in black and white for magazine illustrations before devoting himself to landscape painting. His best known works are The August Moon, in the Tate Gallery, and The Minister’s Garden, in the Manchester City Art Gallery, which also possesses a smaller landscape ‘Twixt Sun and Moon, a subtle rendering of the time that is neither night nor day, when the waning light of the sun and the growing light of the moon are con-tending for mastery, and, as the cattle go homewards across the water-meadows, a thin veil of mist begins to obscure the distance.
The August Moon shows the ruler of the night at full strength, and yet but partially defeating the darkness which lurks like an ambushed foe behind each and every hiding place. The painter told a friend that he should try in this picture to do what had not yet been done : to show how much colour there was in a moonlighted landscape. In both this picture and The Minister’s Garden there is something of the abundantly satisfying strength of Rubens. The latter picture is simply the vista, from a little garden on a low hillside, over a wide stretch of fertile country. The title lends a touch of poetry to a scene already poetic. It was suggested by Goldsmith’s “Deserted Village,” and it is pleasant to think of a good-hearted, earnest man as being the gardener here, and, as he gardens, pondering over the needs of the parishioners, some of whom we can see in the little valley below. But the thought is not necessary to the enjoyment of the picture, and could easily be banished by any one who would prefer to be without it. To the left of the picture are the stem and the lower branches of a Scots pine, under which are the beehives, with trailing nasturtiums on the ground before them, and a fine group of holly-hocks on the farther side of them. To the right are roses, growing over a low fence; and the kitchen-garden is beyond again on the slope of the hill. There is no lack of detail, but it is subordinated to the general impression, and the foreground, the wide-reaching distance, and the narrow space of sky seen above it, are combined into singular richness of colour and depth of tone.
We may perhaps also bring Mr. James Aumonier among the more imaginative painters, for although there is a strong element of realism in his art, the fact is largely impregnated with feeling. Indeed, the objects in the picture seem often the mere occasion for tones of light and colour that appeal to our emotions. He is a native of London, was self-taught in art, which, in his youth, he pursued in the leisure he could obtain from the work of designing for printed calicoes.
Thomas Hope McLachlan, born at Darlington in 1845, is a painter who deserves to be mentioned here, though he did but little work, and his reputation is chiefly among his fellow-artists. He was educated at Cambridge, and became, and practised as, a barrister, but eventually devoted himself entirely to painting. He died suddenly in 1897. His landscapes are full of tender, mysterious charm. A shepherdess, silhouetted against the evening sky, while the sheep fed about her, would be sufficient subject for him. He stayed his hand when he had expressed the feeling nature had awakened in him, so that all his pictures have a personal note. They communicate what he had felt; they are very far from recording everything that he might have seen had he examined the landscape carefully bit by bit. To say that his work recalls that of Millet, and, in a measure, that of George Mason and Fred Walker, is not to accuse him of lack of originality, for his expression is unmistakably his own, but is to affirm the true poetic quality of his work.
M. Ridley Corbet, a pupil of Signor Costa, was a true poet-painter, sensitive to subtle qualities of light and colour; and his landscapes make that appeal to the emotions which seems to come to us mysteriously from the painter himself. We are brought into touch with a human personality. As his two pictures in the Tate Gallery show, nature anywhere could arouse his feeling. The Severn Valley would suffice as well as Val d’Arno. The poetic landscapes of George Mason he and Fred Walker should both be remembered here were painted, as we saw, in Staffordshire. The sun, the moon, and the stars, and the earth they lighten, brightly or dimly or leave dark, under and upon which the countless generations of men have lived, are anywhere commonplace only to those who are devoid of feeling.
Edward Stott is the poet-painter of the twilight. To say this is to state a limitation. One would be glad if, now and again, Mr. Stott showed that he could feel and express the poetry of other times of day. But his one main theme has many variations, and these he has rendered with rare subtlety. William Stott, who called himself ‘ of Oldham,’ to distinguish himself from his namesake who is of Rochdale, was, to the present writer at least, above all else the poet-painter of the Alps, whose vast massiveness, appalling precipices, high-towering pinnacles and wide fields of snow he transformed into visions of majesty, splendour, and solemnity. There is in many of his paintings, even in his pastel studies, a wonderful sense of the vast solitudes upon which man enters at his peril. We seem to be where first the gods might step when they come to visit the earth. Stott was a master of subtle tones, which gave fine quality to all his landscapes. As a figure painter, with myths and idylls for subjects, he did not reach the same distinction.
Mr. Adrian Stokes and Mr. Moffat Lindner, both of whom have been members of the New English Art Club, as well as of the Newlyn group of painters, should also be mentioned here, together with Mr. Julius Olsson. Mr. Adrian Stokes has found true lyric poetry in bright light and colour ; nature is glad and gay in his pictures. Mr. Moffat Lindner is moved by the intense colour that often invests great spaces of water beneath the infinite vastness of the sky. Mr. Olsson loves the delicate harmonies played by the moonlight air.
Other landscape painters will be mentioned in the next chapter, in which we shall discuss the art of Whistler and certain Scottish painters, and of Sargent and the painters who perhaps best represent the chief aims of the New English Art Club. The landscape painters already mentioned have, for the most part, either always belonged to, or found their way into, the orthodox ranks. They have been welcome at the Royal Academy. We must not forget that many painters who have been included in other categories have also made important contributions to landscape painting. Mr. Clausen and Mr. La Thangue may be instanced.
George Mason and Fred Walker have already been mentioned in the same sense.
In this chapter the endeavour has been made to give the main features of painting in Great Britain during the last half-century, apart from the work of a number of painters reserved for separate discussion. When this also has been done, our task will be completed.