THE title of this chapter must be taken to mean painting in other countries than France and England. The painting of our own country, apart from that of the Pre-Raphaelites and their following, which has already been considered, will occupy us later. As I have said before, this book being written primarily for English readers, emphasis is laid in it upon our own art, and the more material we have for comparison before completing our survey of it, the more useful that survey will be.
In the opening of his book, English Contemporary Painting, M. de la Sizeranne says : ” There is an English school of painting. This is what first strikes a visitor to any International Exhibition of Fine Arts, in whatever country it may be held. Passing through the galleries set apart for Germany, Austria, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Holland, even for the United States or for Scandinavia, you might imagine yourself still to be in France, and you are, as a fact, always among artists who live in Paris, or who have studied in Paris, or who follow, at least from afar off, either the discipline of her school or the revolutionary movement of Parisian art circles. A great many labels are required to convince you that the Atlantic rolls between Mr. Sargent and the studio of M. Carolus Duran, or that the Baltic has been crossed to reach M. Werenskiöld and that M. Roll did not cross it. But on reaching the English pictures you feel, on the contrary, that you are no longer amongst fellow-countrymen, and it is doubtful even whether they may be your contemporaries.” M. de la Sizeranne says further that all countries except Britain would be coloured like France on an aesthetic map, “as if they were colonies of French art.”
We may perhaps be allowed to assume that this is an exaggeration, although the great influence exerted by French art upon the art of other countries is undoubted. To such influence the space given to French art in this book is a tribute. But there has been action and re-action. If much has gone out from Paris, much has also gone into it. Did not Delacroix alter his own work after seeing Constable’s Hay Wain? The Barbizon school owed much to Constable ; the Impressionists owed much to Turner. This is not an attempt to claim France as an aesthetic colony of England, but only a reference to admitted facts which show that something of not the least importance in modern French art has not come merely by native genius or talent improving on the past. M. de la Sizeranne himself says that it is the glory of Constable to have initiated a new movement in Europe. Still, it is true that during the nineteenth century French art influenced that of other countries, with the exception of England, more than it was itself influenced in return. Not that the influence was by any means always a good one. We shall soon find painters returning to their own country, there to unlearn much that they had been taught in Paris.
It might be a question to which country we should go first after leaving France, were it not that our own art had been so often and so greatly influenced by the art of the Netherlands that gratitude alone might well lead us to turn our steps thitherward ; so we will go a b once to Holland.
After the great time of the seventeenth century, Dutch painting fell very low in the eighteenth, In the former half of the nineteenth century it feebly echoed the Classicism and Romanticism of France. We gain nothing by even merely naming the painters of this time. But the old spirit was only dormant, not dead; and it awoke again just at the beginning of the period that has been marked off for consideration in this book.
The awakening began with Josef Israels, who was born at Groningen, in the north of Holland, in the year 1824. He was of Jewish parentage, and his father was a banker. In early days he wished to become a rabbi, and studied earnestly with this in view. However, when school days were over, it was to his father’s business that he went. But he was to be neither rabbi nor banker, but painter, and he went first to the studio of Jan Kruseman, an academic painter at Amsterdam, and then to Paris, where he studied under Picot, a pupil of David. That is to say, this young Dutchman, with the original works of the old masters of his own country around him, painters who were the pioneers, if not the founders of modern art, must needs turn his back upon them and go to a foreign city to become an imitator of imitations. Such for a time he became. From Picot he passed to Delaroche, and returned to Amsterdam in 1848, having been about three years in Paris. He at once set himself to paint historical pictures of the approved pattern, taking his subjects from the Old Testament, Shakespeare, the history of his own country, and similar sources. These pictures are regarded now much as are repented sins after conversion : as things to be forgotten and not repeated.
The whole character of his art was changed, however, by a compulsory return to nature, which, like that of the Barbizon painters, was much more thorough than the return of Holman Hunt and Millais. Israels had been delighted with the picturesqueness of the narrow streets of the Jewish quarter of Amsterdam, and yet he had become an academic painter. The change came when illness compelled him to leave the town, and he went to Zaandvoort, the village on the coast near Haarlem, which is now a household word amongst artists. Here, away from galleries and studios, he discovered the sea and the sky and the lives and surroundings of simple folk to be both intensely interesting in themselves, and also the very best of material for art.
Israels, then, did not learn these things from Millet; he learned them direct from life and nature. His plot in the esthetic map of art has not to be marked with the French colour. In fact, he washed the French colour off it. He had gone to Paris to learn what afterwards he unlearned. Millet had only just left the studio of Delaroche when Israels entered it. In 1857 he exhibited at the Paris Salon two pictures having the seashore for subject. In 1859 Millet’s Death and the Woodcutter was rejected at the Salon.
Israels is often called the Dutch Millet, and the comparison is perhaps inevitable. He is not, however, a mere echo, or even a mere variation of Millet, either in the subject-matter or the method of his art. Millet painted an epic of labour. Israels has painted lyrics ; subdued or sad, mainly, but still intimate, bringing us into sympathy with this and that individual man and woman and their children ; whereas we think of Millet’s people chiefly as representatives of many more, a great army of toilers for whom we feel a strong but not individual sympathy.
Israels, also, was more intimate than Millet in his painting of the surroundings of the people in his pictures. This almost follows from his attitude towards the people them-selves. Individualising them, he of necessity treated their surroundings in the same manner. This is not to say that he entered minutely into detail. Both in his portraits for this is what essentially the figures in these pictures are and in the accessories it is the essential only that he gives. He will let us know how the simple dwelling is furnished, what the chairs and tables are like, and the bedstead and the crockery, and so forth, because all this is necessary if we are to have the sense of intimacy with these people. But these necessary details are not minutely described. They do not assert themselves. They are there, and we know they are there ; that is all. We need not try to apply Ruskin’s ” inch by inch ” criticism to these pictures.
Tone and the play of light amid shade and shadow are what we find in his work rather than truth of local colour. He lived and painted, we must remember, where Rembrandt had lived and painted, and where were many of his great predecessor’s finest works. Greys and browns, with only absolutely indispensable relief from other colours, answer all his purposes. The breadth of his treatment and the subtlety of the light and shade give that sense of reality, of life, that we have marked as one of the chief gains of art in the last half-century. We are with these sailors toiling on and by the sea, and these children playing on the shore ; we are with these women working, nursing children, attending to the sick, weeping by the dead. These pictures, because of the human sympathy of the painter and his knowledge and consummate art, do not seem to us to come short of life itself. And it is not the mere externals of life that they set before us ; they take us right to its feeling, loving heart.
The awakening of Israels was not to be a solitary one in Holland. Christoffel Bisschop, only a few years younger, also turned from what he learned in Paris, and painted the homely life of his native Friesland, filling his interiors with sun-lighted air. We have already had to refer to the work of another Dutch painter, Jongkind, who was older than Israels, and also found his way to nature, becoming a fore-runner of Impressionism. He, except by birth, belongs rather to France than to Holland. But we soon have to add to the names of Israels and Bisschop, as painters who belong essentially to their own country; such now familiar names as Mauve, Mesdag, Maris, and others. A quite distinct school of art arose in Holland, faithfully interpreting, as had the old Dutch masters before them, the land and its people. If they borrowed from outside, it was only to assimilate their borrowings to native gifts which altogether exceeded them. When we look at Dutch paintings we do not think ourselves in France pace M. de la Sizerannewe think ourselves in Holland ; and we think of the old Dutch masters, with a difference that is by no means wholly to the disadvantage of the modern painters.
All these painters have the modern feeling for light and air; they convey the impression of reality and life. Anton Mauve is a painter of landscapes, not chosen, however, for any special beauty. The most ordinary waste or cultivated land will serve. For are there not the sun, the mist and the rain to create everywhere beauty that is now brilliant, now tender and tinged with melancholy, now passing into power and awe ? It is the delicate, tranquil beauty of nature to which Mauve responds, and he paints it either alone, or with men and women, natural as nature itself, busy with their simple tasks.
The brothers Maris form an interestingly varied group of painters, apart from the rarity of three brothers devoting themselves to the same art. There seems to have been nothing in their ancestry to account for the gift which each was to put to good use. They were not of pure Dutch descent; their paternal grandfather, in fact, was a Bohemian who settled in Holland. James, the eldest brother, was born in 1837, Matthew, two years, and William, six years, later. Their father was a printer at the Hague, and the first evidence we have of the practice of art in the family is his encouraging the children to draw. James and Matthew both went to the Art School at the Hague, and later into the studio of Van Hove, at Antwerp. James was after-wards a pupil of Hébert in Paris, and Matthew joined him there. They were to depart widely, however, from any-thing that could be learned from the pupil of Delaroche. William Maris, the youngest brother, received his teaching mainly from his brothers. James, who died in 1892, was mainly a landscape painter, as is also William. The former took for his subject the typical scenes of Holland, the wide stretches of country, the canals, the towns, red-bricked and red-roofed, the sea and the heavily-built fishing-boats. Of course, on land there are windmills everywhere, and, above all, the sky, which in Holland, as in our eastern counties, will not let itself be overlooked, in fact, is more there than elsewhere, an all-important factor in the landscape. All this he painted strongly, yet at need delicately, with a quick response to changes of mood and effect. William has gone amongst the meadows and the trees and painted them, and the pools among them, reflecting from myriads of points the brilliance of the sun ; and amid all the splendour the cattle feed, or wander, or seek shade under the trees, or cool themselves in the water. Matthew, the second brother, has gone a wholly different way in art. Is he more than his brothers of the race of his grand-father? Certainly neither the wide landscape nor the pastures and cattle of Holland have sufficed for him. His brush is guided by an inward vision. His “Lausanne” is like a dream of the Middle Ages ; and, indeed, he has sought, for his art, more beautiful things than those about him. Israels found his poetry in the actual life of his poor neighbours ; Matthew Maris paints a young prince and princess young lovers, as it seems in old-time costume; The King’s Children is a drawing that takes us into legend or fairy-tale ; and The Christening, The Flower, He is Coming, and The Spinner, are pictures of irresistible charm, something at least of which they owe to the dress and architecture of other days. Another picture, A Fantasy, where a maiden is seated disconsolately by the fire while a youth is stealing up behind her, might well be taken as symbolical of the painter’s own art, seeking to surprise beauty. His maidens and children would be delightful in any garb ; but the quaint beauty in which he has dressed them removes them into that imaginary land the sight of which sets the spirit longing, not in vain it may be, for the world, as man shapes it to his use, to become more beautiful than it is now. When the painter of these idylls has turned to landscape, it has been not to portray it or merely to interpret its moods, but to use it as a means for the expression of his own emotion.
H. W. Mesdag paints, with great fidelity and power, the sea the sea that sailors know, grey under a grey sky, or over which the storm-clouds hang. Albert Neuhuys painted genre scenes more brightly, with less insistence on the shadows of life, than Israels.
Around these and other older painters has grown up a younger generation, which has received abundant help and encouragement from such men as Israels and Mesdag ; and, particularly in landscape, genre, and portraiture, Dutch painting shows itself full of life ; and, although it has not been unaffected by French Impressionism, it has had and maintains a markedly individual character.
From Holland we naturally turn to Belgium, for our own art has owed hardly, if any, less to the southern than to the northern Netherlands.
Belgium, like Holland, has a great tradition of painting that goes back to earlier times even than those of the Van Eycks and Memling. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries Flemish painters made up in this country for the lack of native talent. Having had in earlier days such painters as those named above, and others of hardly less note, in the seventeenth century the country could boast of Rubens, Vandyck, and Jordaens ; and they had successors of merit. In the first half of the nineteenth century there came the almost inevitable Classical and Romantic periods. François Navez was the pupil of David, and painted, among other portraits, a fine one of his master. His subject-pictures, Hagar in the Desert, and so forth, were entirely orthodox. But after the revolution of 1830, which established the independence of Belgium, there rose up against the David of Belgium a Delacroix in the person of Gustave Wappers, under whom, we recollect, Madox Brown received a great part of his training. Wappers Episode of the Belgian Revolution cast to the winds all the rules of Classicism, and went boldly_ for expression, movement, and colour. Nicaise de Keyser, Van Eycken, and many others enthusiastically followed the new leader. Wappers was at Antwerp. At Brussels, Louis Gallait, a pupil of Delaroche and an historical painter of mediocre gifts, also gathered pupils about him. Henri Leys, at the Hôtel de Ville at Antwerp and elsewhere, became the painter of events of the sixteenth century.
This is all a familiar kind of story. So is it to read that soon after Courbet’s Stonebreakers was exhibited at Brussels in 1851, though at the time it was received with derision, Realism found its protagonist in Charles De Groux, who took his subjects from among the poorest and most miser-able of the poor, and earned for himself the title of “the painter of social inequalities.” Again, the mid-century justifies itself as a significant date in the history of modern painting. Constantin Meunier, who became known chiefly as a sculptor, but who was also a painter, and to whom reference has already been made in connexion with Millet, was the true successor of De Groux. He went to live in the coal and iron district of Belgium, near Mons, and painted the miners, the iron – workers, and the factory operatives at their toil. Both his pictures and his sculpture are a terrible indictment of the conditions under which some of the most laborious and monotonous work that falls to lot of only too many people to-day is carried on. Nothing that is gained by the degradation of men to some-thing that almost sinks below the human is worth the awful cost. Meunier has set the degradation before us with tremendous power; and if it be alleged against him that he has told the worst as if the whole were equally bad, it can be replied that the whole is so bad that passionately indignant overstatement is entirely pardonable, and, it may be, has its own especial use.
Realism, then, has found its place we may say its mission in Belgium. But all life is not such as De Groux and Meunier pictured, and Henri de Braekeleer was a Realist who, with the example of the old Dutch masters before him, found his subjects among the working-folk whose toil brought them enough with which to live comfort-able, if simple and uneventful lives, Louis Dubois, Jan Stobbaerts, and others became, under the Courbet influence, vigorous painters of the contemporary life of the people. Alfred Stevens, on the other hand, after beginning with similar work, became the painter of the women for whose pleasure and luxury the masses toil. He completes the painting of social inequalities. He was born in Brussels ; his father was a connoisseur of art. His older brother, Joseph, became a painter of animals ; a younger brother, Arthur, became a critic and dealer. Art was well-nigh as strong in the Stevens as in the Maris family. Alfred went with Roqueplan to Paris, and there lived and died. His art is the reflection of the life he lived : luxurious life in the great city. The women he paints could not, if they would, toil or spin. They are the highly cultivated flowers for which the men and women whom De Groux and Meunier painted are the hotbed. Some day such flowers will not be produced, at least not quite like these, nor at such terrible cost. Meanwhile there such women are, there they were in Stevens’ day, very beautiful, very beautifully dressed, with surroundings in the best of taste, receiving presents of strange Japanese idols, because the art of Japan was then all the rage in Paris. How thoroughly Stevens understood these women, how exquisitely he painted them their beautiful hair and features, their delicate complexions, their ease, their grace, their dress, so elegant ; how wonderfully he painted the satins, the silks, the transparent muslins and laces, showing the softly veiled flesh-tints beneath, with the mild, warm sunlight making subtle play about it all ! How lovely are these flowers if we can forget the cost which Meunier so grimly counted !
Stevens had an exquisite sense of colour than which nothing could be more suited to the subjects he painted. In the reproduction that serves to illustrate his work here we can realise the subtle light of the original, and we can almost imagine its colour, play of gold and blue against the warm background, delicate pink of the flesh, and forcing notes of red in the ear, nostril, and mouth of ” the present.” And what of the woman’s face, and the look fixed upon the grotesque little monster before her? What is she thinking? And is there any kinship between her and the spirit that the cunning Eastern craftsman has sought to embody in the fawning, cat-like creature he has made ? It is a strangely fascinating picture, whether it states a human problem or not.
De Jonghe and other painters played a similar rôle to that of Stevens; and, lest the reader should think that I have put social contrasts too much to the front in writing of these painters, suggesting what was far from their thoughts though this cannot be maintained with regard to Meunier let me mention the picture by which Charles Hermans, another Belgian painter, is best known, The Dawn, now in the Gallery of Modern Paintings at Brussels, In the early morning revellers in evening dress are leaving a restaurant ; two women are clinging to a man who is so nearly reeling-drunk as to make it likely that the trio one of the women, at least, being also drunk will soon be following the dropped bouquets into the gutter. In the street are men going to their work. The wife of one of them, as she holds his arm, casts a saddened glance at the sorry spectacle at the restaurant door. A fur-coated, silk-hatted man within the doorway looks as if the sight of the working-folk were awakening in him some sense of shame. Here is a picture with a purpose, a Hogarthian picture, as it has inevitably been called. I neither condemn it nor defend it, but only instance it. I may add, however, that it is an excellent piece of realistic work. Still other painters came, who in their pictures of the people were almost carrying on a socialist propaganda. On the other hand, Emile Wauters turned to history painting, to Eastern subjects, and to portraiture. His best-known picture is The Madness of Hugo van der Goes, now in the Brussels Gallery ; it shows the choristers singing to calm the painter’s overwrought nerves and brain, and the pathetic scene is powerfully rendered, with fine, sympathetic feeling, and yet with dignity and restraint.
We have had the Classical, the Romantic, and the Realistic, and now passing the horrible imaginings of the etchings of Félicien Rops we come to a kindred spirit of Gustave Moreau in the painter Fernand Khnopff, who has sought to make outward forms reveal the innermost realities, in various pictures in which the Sphinx appears, The Secret, and other enigmatic works. The Secret is a double picture; there is a masked woman looking at a masked head ; and there is the beautiful little Gothic annexe of the Hospital of St. Jean at Bruges reflected in the still water of the canal. What does it all mean : masked face searching masked face, the outside of the building hiding the inside, the reflection in the water hiding the depths of the water ? There is an unknown reality behind phenomena is this picture a strangely beautiful affirmation of the agnosticism of Herbert Spencer? Others of Khnopff’s pictures touch deep chords of feeling, whether they convey any clear meaning or not ; we seem to be deep down with the subliminal self.
We have hitherto followed the subject painters of Belgium. There has been no lack of landscape painters. Passing with only this general reference the painters who, before and about 1850, produced- mere studio compositions, we find Alfred de Knyff doing what Constable taught the Barbizon painters to do, and what he himself learned from them : painting nature green when he saw it green. This was too much for the Belgian critics, as Constable’s truth had been for Sir George Beaumont and his like, and that of the Barbizon painters for the critics of Paris ; for they had all been brought up on brown. Hippolyte Boulenger, who was born in 1838 and died in 1874, painted from nature, and became a devotee of light and air. On his initiative a number of artists, in 1868, formed the Société Libre des Beaux Arts; its first exhibition was held in 1870, and in 1871 it began to issue a publication, Art Libre, in which the members of the society set forth their views. Even if there be new things under the sun, this is not new ; it is the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood of Belgium, with its journal corresponding to The Germ. Not that the kind of art practised and advocated by the Belgian Society was the same as that for which the Pre-Raphaelites fought. In this respect it may be compared rather to the New English Art Club. Not detail, or the brilliance of nature’s colouring, were what the Belgian painters sought in breaking away from convention and claiming the right to paint nature as they saw it. Truth of tone, not of detail harmony, not brilliance of colour, were the aims they set before themselves. Baron, Heymans, and others carried on the movement, though the painting of detail did not go wholly without support. Clays, Bouvier, and others were marine painters.
We hurry on quickly, with the general features of this art in view, to come to those painters who have been influenced by the Impressionists; and when we have reached them and look back, we find that painting in Belgium has run a course almost identical with that run by French art during the same period, and this because Belgian art, the close relations of the two countries explaining it, was largely modelled upon the art of France. Emile Claus is one of the painters who followed the Impressionists in seizing fugitive beauties of light and colour and painting them in all their brilliance. Born in 1849, the son of poor parents, it was only with great difficulty that he obtained a much-desired training in art. After some years of portrait painting and subject painting in Spain and Morocco he turned to landscape and became the recorder of the beauty with which the sun can invest the homely landscape and farm-buildings of Flanders. There is no watching for the spectacular effects which only come at rare intervals, but keen enjoyment of the beauty which nature gives as a daily, nay, far oftener than a daily portion, and the interpretation of it in terms of art. In him, and not in him alone, Belgian art shows itself sensitive to the new freshness and intimacy of touch with nature, and fulfils the promise that was born with Jongkind.
Like Holland and Belgium, Germany had a long tradition of art before the modern period began. Then, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, there came, in part under the influence of France, a time when classical art reigned supreme. Later in the eighteenth century, Chodowiecki and others gave to the art a more realistic bent. Then, later still, the classical fetters were riveted on again. Much was written for and against the contention that Greek art had created forms that were binding for all time; and, as in France, pedantic Classicism, protest notwithstanding, held the free spirit of art enchained for many years. Anton Rafael Mengs the Christian names chosen for him by his father are a sign of the times, and a particular prophecy with regard to himself and Carstens were the leaders of this reactionary movement. With whatever intelligence and sympathy they might interpret Greek thought in the forms bequeathed by Greek art, they were not expressing emotions native to their own time, and were leaving untouched what was of paramount importance, the interpretation of the life and the nature about them. We may dream of the past ; we may rightly, in a measure, live in it ; because the past had often what the present lacks, and not to forget it is to enrich the present and ensure a better future ; the mistake is to live wholly in the past, and this is what these artists of the Classical period sought to do.
German art made the great step towards deliverance by a change of bondage. To enthusiasm for the pre-Christian art of Greece, followed enthusiasm for the Christian art of the early Renaissance. This was a more plausible attitude, at least ; for though no one any longer believed in Zeus, most people did believe in Christ. The Classical period was followed, we may say, by a Gothic period; just as, in this country, there was also a Gothic revival which had a powerful influence on the romantic side of our Pre-Raphaelite movement. It was enthusiasm, as we have seen, for the Gothic buildings of Oxford and northern France that determined Burne-Jones and Morris to devote themselves to art. The mediaeval picturesqueness of Nuremberg inspired in the writer Wackenroder, just before the close of the eighteenth century, enthusiasm for the Middle Ages. Who that has wandered until weary, if not footsore, through the streets and into the churches and mediaeval public buildings of Nuremberg, and revelled in the wonderful sky-lines produced everywhere by the infinitely varied beauty of the high-pitched roofs, with a love of Gothic art already awakened at home, or, perhaps, in France, cannot understand the joy with which such art came to a German as a revelation of an era of creative, national art in his country’s past? Wackenroder’s story of the joys of an art-loving friar was the beginning of a German Pre-Raphaelite movement. Frederick Schlegel anticipated by nearly half a century Holman Hunt’s conclusion that corruption entered into art in and after the time of Raphael and Michael Angelo ; and he sought to turn the painters back to the earlier Italian artists, and even to the primitive Germans.
Art was indeed caught up in the new enthusiasm ; not Classical Rome, but Christian Rome, was the shrine at which, in the first quarter of the nineteenth century, such painters as Overbeck, Cornelius, Schnorr, Fuhrich, and Steinle went to worship. Of course there was war between these enthusiasts for things mediaeval and the enthusiasts for things Greek, and the latter took up as a contemptuous epithet for the former the old term of derision Nazarenes. Today we are inclined to cry a plague on both their houses. Pale imitations of the forms in which the Greeks imagined their gods, and equally pale imitations of the Italian picturing of the Biblical records, have little interest for us, though, as we have seen, Madox Brown was much impressed by Overbeck and Cornelius and their work; and in this way, they are linked with the history of our own art, in addition to having a distinct place in the history of German painting. Into detail respecting their work we must not go. It must suffice to say that with Munich as a centre, there developed an art based on that of the earlier Italian painters.
Away in the north, on the other hand, with Düsseldorf as a centre, there sprang up a Romantic school, which had no contempt for the later Italian masters, and went freely to myth, legend, the Bible, and the history and literature of any period for its subjects. The painters furnished pictorial illustration to the literature that was then in vogue. To this race belong such painters as Hildebrandt, Steinbruck, and Stilke. Then came Alfred Rethel who, born in 1816 and dying in 1859, belongs to the period just preceding the one selected for study in this book. In his designs for frescoes in the Kaisersaal at Aix la Chapelle he told the story of the deeds of Charlemagne. His art was essentially German, an art of vigorous expression, not of beauty, as was that of Albert Dürer. Its character has become familiar to many who have never seen or heard of his larger work, through reproductions of the two small designs, Death the Assassin and Death the Friend, the former representing Death dancing and fiddling on bones, as the dancers at the Parisian masked-ball lie plague-stricken on the floor and the terrified musicians steal away; and the other, Death tolling the bell for the old sexton who sits dead in his chair in his room in the church-tower, lighted by the rays of the setting sun half-sunk below the horizon. Moritz Schwind, born in Vienna in 1804 and dying in 1871, held as his artistic creed that an artist should devote himself to that which he himself deeply felt, to that which took hold of him, whatever it might be. He particularly inveighed against imitation of the Italian masters in language that reminds us of Holman Hunt’s, urging that such imitation divided a man from his own personality. But Schwind did not, like our realistic Pre-Raphaelites and the French Realists and Impressionists, go straight to nature and to life for inspiration ; he lived in the past, in myth and legend and the picturesqueness of earlier days.
Schwind asserted that foreign influence was disastrous to a nation’s art, The generation of German painters that succeeded him came to the exactly opposite conclusion and looked to the influence of French and Belgian art for the salvation of that of their own country. They were right. There is nationality in art, despite Whistler’s saying to the contrary ; but this does not mean that a nation is never to learn anything from the art of other nations. In the former half of the nineteenth century German painters learned little or nothing from their contemporaries abroad, who, however, had much to teach them. At the mid-century the Germans found their way to Paris, to Antwerp, and to Brussels; they became acquainted with the works of Delacroix, Delaroche, Couture, Wappers, and Gallait, and many another. There was nothing here, of course, completely to revolutionise their art, but there were differences in design and colour, there was a struggling towards a more vigorous and realistic treatment of the same themes as those the Germans had been accustomed to treat, that greatly modified their work. Karl Piloty based his art on colour. Feuerbach, who was genuinely inspired by the old mythologies, remained, for the most part, a classical painter, as, coming rather later, Hans Makart treated classical subjects in a scenic manner. Victor Muller, like Delacroix, by whom he was greatly influenced, added one more to the number of illustrators of Shakespeare, of whom there have been so many, of very various merit, in the poet’s own country. History painting on the big scale, as we see it now in the Louvre, was taken from France to Germany by Richter, Schrader, and others. In fact, one influence of French and Belgian art on that of Germany during the latter half of the nineteenth century is seen in the long succession of history painters, even the names alone of whom we must not chronicle here.
Genre painting had its place in Germany in the earlier part of the century alongside an art engaging the mind in higher things, or at least in things more highly esteemed. It was here, almost inevitably, that painting came nearest to life, except in portraiture ; and in our own time Germany has had its counterparts of our own Wilkie, Mulready, Webster, and others, in its Knaus, Defregger, Vautier, and the rest. In all works of this kind there is much detail and incident ; the pictures are prosy stories of the life of the people. If they awaken emotion it is not by any subtlety in the art, but because there are things the plainest recital of which can move us.
So, also, with landscape painting during the former half of the century it is a matter of little more than picturesque views and scenic effects. The great majority of the painters of those years, and, indeed, many of those painters who have lived on until our own time, were men in whose opinion only the exceptional could be of real and lasting importance. There was little quiet, immediate intercourse with nature and life ; the relation of the artists to their surroundings may be compared to that of strangers who, when they are introduced, must keep up a conversation. Friends can be together and need no important or sensational topics indeed, little or no talk at all ; silence does not mean awkwardness ; they have a sympathy that needs not to be constantly put to proof. Intimacy between art and the subjects of art did not exist fifty years ago as it exists today.
This coldness was broken through in the region of history by Adolf Menzel. He was born in Breslau in 1815, spent his life in Berlin, where he was a very familiar figure, and died there in 1905, the whole city lamenting his loss. His achievement was to realise that history was being made in his own time, and to raise the painting of contemporary events to the dignity of historical painting. We and those who shall follow us may or may not be interested in scenes from the life of Christ painted by an Overbeck or a Cornelius, or in an epic of Charlemagne designed by a Rethel ; all will depend upon their imaginative gift, without which their work will be mere tableau; but we must be interested when Menzel paints King William setting out to join the Army, or in the sphere of industry, The Iron Foundry. Why should the war of Troy be matter for an epic and not the war of Germany and. France, or Vulcan in his smithy be fine material for art and not the indubitable actual Vulcan of today! The question has been answered by showing that there is no good reason for such things to be.
Those who saw the exhibition of Menzel’s life-work at Berlin in the spring of 1905, know how keenly observant and unwearyingly industrious he was. At the same time it was evident that he was hardly more than a chronicler of facts ; there is little imagination in his work. His realism has not the dramatic intensity that informs the art of Madox Brown ; nor has it the subtle, sensuous charm and personal intimacy of that of the French Impressionists. He gives only a plain, prose record. He went so far into the past as to make the life of Frederick the Great the subject of many pictures ; but contemporary life, from State ceremonials to Sunday crowds in the Tuileries Gardens, scenes in Alpine health-resorts, a crush in the Piazza d’Erbe at Verona, and the exhausting toil of the ironworker, were the chief material of his painstaking art. He was a German version of our English Frith.
While Menzel was recording contemporary scenes and events, Franz Lenbach was painting a series of powerful and finely interpretative portraits ; doing for Germany that which Watts more than any other of our painters did for England during the same time. Little more than the head is of moment in Lenbach’s portraits, and, in the head, chiefly the eyes, through the startlingly vivid expression of which the very soul seems to become visible. His Emperor William I, in the decline of his life ; Bismarck, the man of iron plainly seen as such, with an intensity of expression that makes the face seem almost visibly to quiver; his Moltke, Strossmayer, Döllinger, and many other portraits, will make more vivid the reading of history for the people of the future, as indeed they already begin to do for us. They cast aside all accessories ; a wizard might have called forth the naked spirit.
Passing even unnamed other exponents of realism, we s have to note that Germany has also had its representatives in the same field of imaginative art as that in which Moreau and Chavannes, Watts, Rossetti, and Burn-Jones, and, in Belgium, Khnopff, have worked. These men differ from the Classicists and Romanticists of earlier generations, in that mythology has not been approached from the outside, as something lending itself peculiarly to the ends of art by giving occasion for use of the forms created by the Greeks, and held to be of paramount aesthetic value, but as a means for the expression of genuine emotion. Wordsworth, who, as we have already had occasion to call to mind, “walked with Nature,” and felt always that he was communing with the great spirit that informed nature, could none the less in a moment of depression almost long for the gods of Greece to return, so that he could:
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea ; Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.
Though the gods of Greece be dead, we cannot yet dispense with them as aids to the expression of thoughts and emotions identical with or akin to those that called them forth. In Germany, Feuerbach, we may say, lived in the very atmosphere of the old myths ; Arnold Boecklin, his friend and almost his exact contemporary, older by only about a year, used them to express his own emotions when face to face with nature. He was an imaginative landscape painter ; he felt that in nature there was a life akin to his own, though vastly exceeding it in power. He painted A Villa by the Sea, and the bitter wind that bows the stately heads of the cypresses becomes a symbol of the grief of the woman who stands with bowed head by the waves, and a prelude to his Island of the Dead. Silence in the forest haunts his imagination and takes the form of a strange wild-eyed monster passing amid the pines. The sight of a boisterous sea raises the vision of mermen and mermaids disporting themselves in it. When rocks fall headlong down the mountain-side, what is it but Pan frightening the shepherd ? And there must needs be terrific monsters dwelling in a gorge like that of the Via Mala, the name of which is evidence of the prevalence of such a feeling, as is the legend, not confined only to one Swiss pass, that there are wild chasms over which no bridge could have been built without the Devil’s aid. Himself a man of powerful physique, it was the power of nature that most laid hold of him; he looked as if he would answer the lightning with a flashing eye and the thunder with a shout. His colour answers to his own exuberant strenuousness ; so intense, so uncompromising, refusing each of them to abate one tittle of its utmost power, are his reds and blues and greens, that to eyes unused to them they are little less than intolerable. Yet softly blended and harmonised colours would have been little to the purpose for the expression of such exuberant vitality. We may compare his feeling towards nature with Madox Brown’s penetrative sympathy with his fellow-men. It is as if the spirit of nature had gripped the one and the spirit of humanity the other, and resistlessly forced the hand to express, not the mere form, but the very essence of nature and of humanity. For there is a sense in which the art of Boecklin is as realistic as that of Madox Brown. His gods, mermen, mermaids, and nymphs are no ghosts; they are real with a flesh-and-blood reality. There is no question of both the power and the spontaneity of his art.
Hans Thoma is a landscape painter who in many of his pictures bids forth again the gods of old; while Max Klinger can perhaps only be likened to Gustave Moreau in the fecundity of an imagination that uses everything, Pagan and Christian alike, to body forth the unseen. Before his pictures we feel as if a spiritualist medium were clothing revelations in the forms of art. Franz Stuck, born in 1863, and therefore wholly of our own time, has, like Boecklin, made the gods and satyrs and nymphs of Greece live again ; but though he treats these with a certain dramatic power, he seems to lack the qualities spiritual, we must call them that are needed for anything that can be accounted an adequate setting-forth of themes drawn from Christianity. Michael Munkacsy’s pictures, Christ before Pilate, “Not this man, but Barabbas I ” and The Crucifixion have been seen in this country. They are attempts, melodramatic in character, at a realistic portrayal and perhaps a naturalistic interpretation of events described in the Bible.
Fritz von Udhe has learned what the French have had to teach of the realism that fills the picture with light and air, and having painted many pictures with familiar scenes of contemporary life for subject, he has ventured upon the doubtful path of giving to the narratives of the Gospels a wholly modern setting. Yet the sincerity and the spirituality of the treatment of these themes are beyond question. It is in a modern schoolroom that Christ gathers the little children round him ; to such peasants as we see in field and village today he delivers the sublime teaching of the Sermon on the Mount; in a farm-kitchen such peasants invite the Lord Jesus to be their guest ; the Last Supper is eaten with Christ by men of our own time ; and whether or not we think that religion needs or is really helped by such an expedient as this, we can find no fault with the way in which the painter, having determined it to be right, has carried it out. The doubt to many it will be more than a doubt of its value to religion we need not here seek to resolve.
It is not possible here, it is not needful to our purpose, to give anything approaching a complete survey of the art of Germany to-day. So varied is the work of its exponents, so numerous are they, that not a few pages, but volumes would be required had this to be done. We need only to see, with help of a few conspicuous instances, that German artists, like those of other countries, ,have passed from a narrow conception of their mission, imposed upon those who preceded them by too great reverence for tradition, to a catholic understanding of what it is both lawful and expedient for them to do. One more painter only need be named, Max Liebermann, who has adopted, in painting scenes of modern life, the general aims of the French Impressionists, and has in this given a lead to many younger painters. He was born in Berlin in 1847. An early desire to be an artist was opposed by his father, a merchant who had other wishes for his son. But the bent towards art was too strong to be resisted, and it was with his father’s consent that the youth eventually had his way. After studying at Weimar he went to Paris, from there to Holland, and again to Paris, studied the works of the Barbizon painters, visited Millet at Barbizon, and came under the influence of the Impressionist group. It was not, however, until after other wanderings, and the painting of pictures of religious subjects, that he found his vocation in the painting of scenes from everyday life treated in an Impressionist manner. An Asylum for Old Men, painted in Amsterdam, whither he had gone because his religious pictures had given offence in Munich, obtained a medal of the third class at the Paris Salon of 1881 ; and now, reputation having thus been made, he returned to live in his own country. He has also spent much time at Zaandvoort, the Dutch village already mentioned in connexion with Josef Israels, whom he met there during his stay in Holland. The subject of Liebermann’s art is simply life being lived in a world that has an atmosphere and in which the sun shines. His pictures are purely pictorial; they tell no story and seek to enforce no moral. The people he has painted are the working poor, but he has taken no gloomy view of their lot. They toil, but they seem healthy and happy in their toil, and they are always in the sunshine. It dapples everything as it shines through the trees in the Amsterdam asylum picture ; it floods the rooms in which are working the cobbler and his boy, the sempstress, and the flax-spinners. His pictures of women and girls out in the open, mending nets, or as in our illustration tending sheep or goats, remind us strongly of the work of Millet only these people are happier than those of Millet. It takes all sorts, we say, to make a world. It takes many artists of very various temperaments to interpret even a little corner of our world ; and, even then, how much is left untold !
Here must end our brief survey of German art. Did it profess to be a record of all painters of considerable merit, much would have to be added. As a survey to aid in forming a general estimate of the art of our own country in relation to that of others, it may suffice.
The countries whose art we have already considered France, Holland, Belgium, and Germany are the most important for the purpose of enabling as to understand the general progress of painting during the period we have under review. To them we must add America or, strictly, the United States of America, whose artists we can hardly say, as we shall see hereafter, whose art have had a marked influence on the art of our own country. First, however, we must say what seems needful about the art of other European countries, to which I purpose to refer in only the most general terms. Russia may be left out of account altogether; not because painting in Russia lacks interest and importance, but because it is not in close relation to the art-movements that have influenced and still influence the art of the rest of Europe and America and our own country. Of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden but little need be said. They are among the provinces of European art, taking from the great centres much more than they have to give. Their painters treat historical, religious, genre, and landscape subjects with only local differences interesting, however, to note from the way in which they are treated elsewhere. Without the aid of illustrations, however, what could be said here would only be in the way of record of things much less familiar than are the works of the French, Dutch, Belgian, and German painters already discussed; and a comprehensive record for the purposes of reference is not what this book professes to give. Occasionally an artist from one of these countries becomes as familiar to us as are our own painters. Such an one was the Norwegian painter Fritz Thaulow, whose works for years past have been regularly seen in our own exhibitions. He was the master-painter of snow and of reflections in running water, where the curves due to movement add beauty of form to exquisitely lovely variations of colour. The Swedish painter Anders Zorn, who has so brilliantly rendered effects of light and colour, has also become well known outside his own country. To say more than this, without saying very much more, about those whom we may call our kinsfolk in the north, would be to do them an injustice.
Turning south, we find Spain, after a long period of stagnation, producing in the latter half of the eighteenth century a revolutionary artist of extraordinary power in the person of Francisco Goya a necromancer he might well be styled. Then came a period of Classicism and Romance, such as we have seen in other countries even those northern ones we have just glanced at did not escape it. In 1838 was born Mariano Fortuny, who, after studying art in Rome, spent several months in Morocco, a visit that led to his painting a number of pictures of Eastern life. Then he won applause for the works with which his name is now almost exclusively associated, the marvellously executed pictures, with their wealth of glittering detail, of high-life in Spain in the previous century.
Fortuny, who died in 1876, had many imitators in his own country and abroad. There was ready appreciation of such dexterous and superficially brilliant work. His methods were applied in Spain itself not merely to the recreating of the past, but to the delineating of the present. Rico, Madrazo, Domingo, and Pradilla are among those who have done work of this kind ; while other painters, and some of those also who painted in Fortuny’s manner, have executed large historical pictures in the manner of the French Romanticists, Of such are Casado’s The Bells of Huesca, Pradilla’s Surrender of Granada, 1492, and many others. Such work as this has lasted over from an earlier time and may yet continue ; but it is not new. Other painters, such as Ignacio Zuloaga, La Gandara, Hermen Anglada, and Sorolla y Bastida, have been caught up in the modern movement. Such men disport themselves at times, as if with the joy of children bathing in a sunlit sea, in light and colour, without concerning themselves with subject, with doings and happenings whether important or trivial. Indeed, we have sometimes mere play of brilliant colour, out of which it is with the utmost difficulty that we make anything in the way of representation. There is the spirit of Goya in the picture by Zuloaga here reproduced, but the manner of its painting belongs to the latest phase of the art.
Italy has very little to offer that is to our purpose. The modern movements in art have originated and progressed to the north of the Alps and the Pyrenees alike. The stamp of Fortuny has been deeply impressed on Italian painting, particularly in the south, where climate, surroundings, and temperament all alike invite towards colour, verve, and vivacity. Italy, of course, has had and has her painters, many painters, of religious, historical, and genre subjects and of landscape. This goes without saying. But Italian art has given to Europe little that is originative or inspiring, while it has given much that is trivial or sensational. The names of Morelli, the Neapolitan painter of religious subjects, and of Segantini, an imaginative painter of the landscape of the mountains, who is well known outside his own country, stand out prominently. Into his pictures Segantini knows how to bring a Dantesque element, as in The Punishment of Luxury, now in the Liverpool Art Gallery, where those who, like Dives, once had their good things, now float in the clear, cold, biting air above the frozen snows.
An Italian who has made his reputation outside his own country is Giovanni Boldini, who was born at Ferrara. When quite a young man he left Italy for London, and afterwards settled in Paris. With extraordinary and varied skill, and a rapid choice of what is essential to his purpose, which is like an artistic shorthand, he has painted portraits of fashionable women, and of children and scenes of life in the open air.
Spain and Italy, we find, then, do not detain us long. It is an abrupt change at once to cross the Atlantic. But there is advantage in considering the art of the United States immediately before completing our account of that of our own country.
Painting in America only, came to have any importance towards the end of the eighteenth century, after John Singleton Copley and Benjamin West, both of whom were Americans, had settled in England, and the American pupils of the latter had begun to return to their own country. It was only to be expected that colonial art would come under the influence of that of the old country; but we shall find that after the English influence declined, the art of France and Germany became and has continued to be of paramount importance for America down to the present day ; indeed, one of the difficulties in writing of American painting is to know how to deal with men who, having received their training in Germany or in France, have settled in France or in this country, and, when they have settled here, have become members of our official and unofficial art institutions. English influence on American art gradually declined after the political severance of the colonies from the mother country ; American artists gradually began to seek instruction elsewhere than in England, as at Düsseldorf, Rome, and Paris; and the art of America is now in the greater part a branch of European art, with the influence of France largely preponderating.
Glancing briefly at the earlier history of American art, we find Copley painting portraits and subject-pictures of no little merit, among the best of the latter being The Death of Chatham and The Death of Major Pierson. West also painted historical pictures, and created a revolution in such art by representing the soldiers in his Death of Wolfe in the military costume of the time, not in that of the Greeks or the Romans. He became President of the Royal Academy, and numbers of young Americans studied painting under him. Of these, C. R. Leslie, who, though born in England, was of American parentage, and G. S. Newton, became virtually English painters. Stuart, the painter of the well-known portrait of Washington, spent five years in Ireland after leaving London, and then returned to America. John Trumbull, who was also one of West’s pupils, painted portraits, and also historical pictures after the manner of those of West, including The Battle of Bunker’s Hill and The Death of General Montgomery. He also executed in the Capitol at Washington a series of paintings commemorating the establishment of American Independence.
Of the painters in the United States after the decline of the English influence, Chester Harding, who had prepared to go to England to study, was persuaded, for family reasons, not to do so, and settled in Boston, but he eventually carried out his intention, and for some time successfully practised his art in England; but prosperity declined, and he returned to America, where he continued to work as a portrait painter. Charles W. Peale, Neagle, and Inman were other artists of merit in the second quarter of the century. Landscape painting was pursued by Doughty, Durand, and Thomas Cole. They, and others who shortly followed them, were close literalists. A little later George Inness studied in Germany, Paris, and Rome, and sought to get beyond the merely imitative stage in landscape painting. He worked out and stated his own philosophy of art. ” The purpose of the painter,” he said, ” is simply to reproduce in other minds the impression which a scene has made upon him. A work of art does not appeal to the intellect. It does not appeal to the moral sense. Its aim is not to instruct, not to edify, but to awaken our emotion.” A work of art, he said further, should awaken only a single emotion, upon the beauty of which the beauty of the work would depend, and its greatness on the quality and force of the emotion. Detail should be elaborated only so far as is necessary to reproduce the artist’s impression. To make thought clear and to maintain unity of impression are the artist’s aims. Meissonier’s detail made his thought clear. To some minds Corot lacked objective force, but Corot’s art was higher than Meissonier’s. This was the substance of the American landscape painter’s philosophy of art; and it is a very good philosophy except, the present writer must say, when he opposes the awakening of an emotion to appeal to the intellect and the moral sense. These water-tight compartments need to be carefully used. The emotions are reached through the intellect, and morals are not wholly unemotional. In his art Inness passed from laborious detail to fulness of tone and breadth of handling, and later to greater freedom of touch. WTyant and Martin were contemporaries of Inness. Portrait painting was continued by Charles Loring Elliott, Healy, Huntingdon, and others. Among the subject-painters, Emanuel Leutze, the painter of Washington Crossing the Delaware, and other incidents in American history, was born in Wurtemberg, but his family emigrated to the United States while he was an infant. For twenty years of his life he lived at Düsseldorf and painted some of his principal pictures there, so that he was, if anything, more a German than an American. Such was the condition of painting in the United States before and about the middle of the nineteenth century.
After the Civil War, young Americans desirous of studying art abroad went to Paris rather than to Germany or England. As to England, the painters began to come here not to learn their art, but to practise it and to profit by it. Several artists, however, among whom was the imaginative painter Elihu Vedder, found their inspiration in Italy. Vedder, indeed, has spent the greater part of his life in Rome. He has painted such subjects as The Questioner of the Sphinx, The Cumcean Sibyl, and Marsyas, and executed illustrations to the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyám. Among the artists who went to Paris were Edward Harrison May and William Morris Hunt, the former being English by birth, but American by residence from the age of ten years. They were both pupils of Couture. May was an academic painter of subject-pictures. Mr. Samuel Isham, in his book on American painting, can only say of him that he “should probably be considered an American artist, but from his work he might have been a Frenchman, or even a German.” Hunt found his way from Couture to Millet, spending two or three years at Barbizon, and then returned to America and painted portraits, subject-pictures, and landscapes. Another young American by birth, though not by parentage John La Fargo, was under Couture, though only for a short time. He also studied the old masters in Munich and Dresden, and in England made acquaintance with the works of the Pre-Raphaelites. After his return to America he began to study law, for art had not been thought of as a profession. Hunt, however, persuaded him to devote himself entirely to art. He executed mural paintings for Trinity Church, Boston, and the Church of the Ascension, New York, as well as many designs for stained glass ; and he also painted easel-pictures. He was a fine colourist, and his religious subjects are treated with dignity and considerable depth of feeling. Along with La Farge should be mentioned Francis Lathrop, who, after studying at Dresden, went to London, where Whistler introduced him to Madox Brown, with whom he worked. This brought him into contact with the Burne-Jones and Morris group, and their influence is to be seen in his art. He assisted La Farge in his decorative work ; and the Pre-Raphaelite associations of the two American artists are an interesting exception to the general lack of English influence.
Winslow Homer is a versatile painter of subject-pictures and landscapes, whose distinct merit in realistic works is the more interesting as he received no foreign training.
It would be time now to say something about Whistler and his art were it not that, after mere recognition here of his having been an American, I purpose to consider his life and work in the next chapter, which will deal with English painting. For, although an American, he was wholly trained in Paris, and did his most important work in England ; and it was here that his influence was most strongly exercised, here that he made his friends and his enemies. In the same way such artists as F. D. Millet, E. A. Abbey, and even Sargent, though Americans by birth, can no more be separated from English art than West or Copley; but while this has to be said, the fact that they are Americans has not merely to be admitted, but proclaimed. And it may be pointed out also, that to take them along with our own painters is not to say that they have learned their work here, but, on the contrary, that they have so influenced our own art as to make a knowledge of their connexion with it indispensable to its understanding.
Many American artists have also settled in Paris. They are not distinctively or even largely American as respects their art, in which they have been trained in Europe. We have already seen that Miss Mary Cassatt, the American pupil of Degas, has made Paris her home ; and that only the sentiment of her pictures, and the people who have sat for them, not her technique, suggest that she is not a French-woman. The salons are open to artists of all nationalities, and foreigners find that they can as successfully practise their art in Paris as in their own countries. Americans obtain a clientele in Paris, and then fear to take the risk of starting anew either at home or in London, although they would then be among their own kin. Thus, many Americans by birth are in art the children of Manet, Monet, Bastien-Lepage, Carolus Duran, or as, in art, the child may have many parents of more than one French painter, and they are also resident in France though they may not become French by residence. At the same time, it must not be forgotten that many American painters have learned their art in Munich or Düsseldorf or elsewhere, if also they owe something to Paris.
Julius L. Stewart is one of the painters who has made Paris his home. After being under Zamacois, one of Fortuny’s pupils, he went to Gérôme. In The Hunt Ball and other pictures he shows himself to be French in technique and American, or Anglo-Saxon, or Scotch, or whatever may be the race or blend of races, in the characterisation of the dancers. William L. Dannatt first went to Munich and then to Munkacsy in Paris. He has painted Spanish subjects with great vigour and vivacity, owing much to Manet and Degas, as well as to his actual teachers. Julian Story, Walter McEwen, J. Ridgeway Knight, and Walter Gay should also be mentioned. . McEwen and George Hitchcock and Gari Melchers have painted in Holland. Alexander Harrison, a pupil of Gérôme, but owing more to Bastien-Lepage and the Impressionists, became a painter of the sea, and in his work the realisation of light, air, and movement does not mean the neglect of form. Frederick A. Bridgman and Edwin Lord Weeks are devotees of the splendour of the East.
Such are some of the American artists who have made Paris their home, or at least their head-quarters. Once more, let it be said, comprehensive list-making is not our task.
Of the American painters who studied at Munich, F. Duveneck and William M. Chase are the most prominent; the latter, departing from the heavy painting of the Munich school, under the influence of the work of Velasquez and the direct influence of Whistler, has taken a high place among American artists, painting in various mediums, and with great variety of treatment; and he has also covered a wide range of subjects. It might almost be said, indeed, that he has painted everything ; and always his colour is luminous, and in later years his work has become remarkably fine also in tone.
Wyatt Eaton studied under Leutze in Dusseldorf, then under Gérôme ; lastly, he came under the influence of Millet and Bastien-Lepage, and his pictures of country life have often called up the name of the Barbizon master. Other pupils of Gérôme were J. Alden Weir and Will H. Low. They also, like Eaton, admired Millet. Weir, however, adopted methods akin to those of the Impressionists, and applied them to portraiture and landscape, while Low, after painting portraits in the manner of Carolus Duran, returned to America to paint figure-pictures in the Impressionist manner, and then to betake himself to classical subjects.
American figure-painting has become exceedingly varied, both in subject and treatment. The Classical ideal and the Romantic ideal have both been pursued. In real life, the elegant society lady, mother and child, children of all ages and degrees, and genre subjects have all been treated by numerous painters.
Bryson Burroughs has used the powers of an admirable draughtsman and true colourist to re-tell the myths of the classical and the northern lands, as well as for subjects drawn from real life; while A. B. Davies has created a romantic world of his own. Kenyon Cox, a pupil of Gérôme and Carolus Duran, has painted the nude and the draped figure and put them to the service of allegory. He also is a notable colourist. Thomas W. Dewing is the painter of elegant women, who are splendid creatures, graceful in movement or repose, beautifully dressed, surrounded with every luxury, in the best of taste. Dewing has set them before us with delicate, illusive art, in which he has added much to what he learned in Paris under Boulanger and Lefèbvre. To subtle play of light and atmosphere is due no small part of the beauty of his pictures. Other painters have singled out the charms of maidenhood ; of such are Thayer, Benson, Reid, and others. The family groups, mothers and their children, of G. De Forest Brush, may perhaps be best described as Madonnas of daily life. They have the best purity that of the home. Horatio Walker and Robert Blum stand high among the genre painters, of whom there are many, and by whom the preference has been given, perhaps, to foreign subjects, though American life has not been neglected. It is said, however, that the American city-dweller does not care for genre pictures dealing with familiar scenes.
The greatest living American portrait painter, Sargent, whose work we are to consider later, has practically separated himself from his country, and foreign painters who have gone over to America have interfered with the growth of native portrait painting, beyond which, of course, the travelling American can choose from the widest possible area who shall paint himself and his wife and his daughters. Many of the painters already noticed have, of course, painted portraits. Among those whose names are more closely associated with this branch of art is J. W. Alexander, who by skilfully calculated breadth of treatment in all but the face rivets the attention on a subtle interpretation of personality. Irving R. Wiles allows his canvas to be more generally interesting, yet the face is still the centre of interest. Wilton Lockwood’s portraits are close studies of character, with a convincing air of reality, due to subtle modelling and suggestion of atmosphere.
Numerous American painters have devoted themselves to the landscape of their own country, a country which is half a continent, and is correspondingly varied in climate and in scene. To enumerate any considerable number of them would be impossible. Some general characteristics of recent American landscape painting may, however, be mentioned, and a few names cited to illustrate them.
These painters have not gone to nature as novices to learn on the spot a brand-new language of interpretation. The earlier painters, many of them, had done little more than this. But the later ones know all about their predecessors in the art. They have only to adapt a language to their own need, not to create one. They know all about the German and Dutch painters, about the Barbizon group and the Impressionists ; and they have not failed to use their knowledge. Mr. Charles H. Caffin, in American Masters of Painting, says that the work of some of the marine and landscape painters is what is most distinctively American in his country’s art, and that the foreigner “would be least likely in these to detect the influence of Europe.” These painters, he says, “like most other true students of nature, have found, each for himself, their own necessary language of expression.” This may well be true, and yet the language be an American version of some other tongue. It is at the beginning of an appreciation of the landscape painter Dwight W. Tryon that Mr. Caffin thus writes of the originality of his fellow-countrymen’s work; and Tryon was a pupil of Daubigny, and was not uninfluenced by the Impressionists. Yet it is true that Tryon does speak his own language. He expresses, in his own way, his own emotion, not that of Daubigny or Monet, or a mere compound of both. H. W. Ranger, however, has evidently seen nature through the eyes of Corot; and we can tell at a glance that Childe Hassam could not have painted his street scenes, his interiors, and his landscapes as he has done had not Monet painted before him. Mr. Isham, in his book already referred to, mentions the tonal quality in much American landscape, and attributes it to study of the works of Barbizon masters and other foreign painters. At the same time he insists, like Mr. Caffin, that the American painters express their own emotions. Only a slight acquaintance with American landscape painting is needed to induce acceptance of the judgment of these writers, with abundant opportunity for studying the art on the spot, that a really living school of landscape painting is developing in America. It has borrowed, but borrowing that is assimilation of what, when once discovered, is valid everywhere and for all, is true originality. The scenery of the United States one would rather say nature in the United States is being interpreted by men of true feeling, who in this, as men do in all things, profit by the experience of those who have done the same thing before them. At this we must leave an interesting side of American art. What more could be said, with profit to the reader, would both go beyond our limits of space and be but statement at second-hand of a perhaps not legitimate kind.
One interesting feature of painting in America is the growing encouragement of mural painting, and the bringing into relation with architecture of all the other arts and crafts. This encouragement has been given both by public bodies and by private individuals, and already has become quite considerable in amount. Such work has the greatest value in itself ; and it has the indirect effect of doing much towards the formation of a national school of painting.
It is perhaps too early yet to say that there is such a school in America. It seems more correct to speak of painting by Americans than of American painting. Yet this is not said as a reproach, but as a prophecy. The painting by Americans is so good, as even those who have only seen it in Europe know well: so good in purely artistic quality, and so clear and sympathetic in its interpretation of life and nature, that a school, or more than one school, of painting must surely be developed to give expression, in their own land, to the emotions of the people of America. As yet, for the most part, individual Americans are merely giving expression to their individual emotions, and many of them are content or find it pays better to do this abroad rather than at home. This is but a temporary condition. Even now one hesitates not to use the expression American painting it has been used here, indeed, repeatedly. And the cosmopolitan nature of the American population cannot in the end prevent those who are united by political ties and by living in the same, though a wide, land, from having an art which shall be truly national.
With these brief notes about America ends our survey of the progress of painting in countries other than our own. To our own country we must now return.