HAVING now briefly studied, and grasped, as I hope, the leading principles and characteristics of English Pre-Raphaelitism and French Impressionism, as we find them in the works and in the avowed opinions of those who were in the forefront of the two movements, we ought to have at our disposal resources of comparison and contrast sufficient to enable us to assess, in the works of those who have been influenced by them, the value of the contribution made by each of the movements to artistic expression and the interpretation of natnre and life.
With regard to Pre-Raphaelitism, we have yet to consider the greater part of the life-work of its three chief original exponents, Holman Hunt, Millais, and Rossetti, as well as of their ally, Ford Madox Brown; for we have so far only carried the story of the movement to the point at which some measure of recognition of the value of their innovations had been won, and when, owing to growingly obvious differences between the members of the Brother-hood with regard to important principles of art, particularly with regard to its relation to nature, the continuance of the formal Brotherhood became no longer possible. For what-ever differences of opinion there may be as to which side of the movement most deserves the name Pre-Raphaelite, there is no difference as to its having had two sides, the one represented by Holman Hunt and Millais, the other by Rossetti. In one respect both sides were alike : they went to history and literature for their subjects. This is equally true of Madox Brown. In this respect, as we have seen, the English movement differs from the almost contemporary French movement. The Impressionists broke away not only from certain traditions of art, but also from history and literature, and went to nature and contemporary life for their subjects. Some will say that in so doing they were led by a surer artistic instinct. This is at least doubtful ; but is a matter for subsequent discussion. All we need do at the moment is to note the fact that Holman Hunt and Millais went to nature only to find a setting for subjects taken from the Bible, from Italian and English history, from the poetry of Shakespeare and Keats. The only two pictures exhibited by Rossetti as a member of the Brother-hood had the life of the Virgin Mary for subject; but the treatment was not so realistic as that adopted by the other two for their works. This difference between his work and theirs was the parting of the ways ; it helped to make the continuance of the Brotherhood impossible. Millais had accepted Holman Hunt’s view of the relation of art to nature. The latter admits that no teaching of his could produce the same effect on Rossetti and his work.
The Brotherhood had no formal constitution, and was therefore never formally dissolved; it merely lapsed. Mr. Holman Hunt says : “When after a year or so we, the active members, saw that the majority of the seven only talked indeed, often in misconception of the objects of our Brotherhood all that could be done by us was to discontinue keeping up an outward show of combination by ceasing to convene or attend official meetings.” It is somewhat strange that only the minority of the Brotherhood should rightly understand its aims ; but, passing this with the mere remark, it is clear from Mr. Hunt’s statement that the Brotherhood never was really united in aim, and that soon each party went its own way. Each exercised a distinct influence and had a distinct following. There was the Realistic school on the one hand, led by Hunt and Millais, and the Romantic school on the other hand, led by Rossetti. We have to follow the fortunes of both, and will begin with the realists, taking first the life-work of Holman Hunt and Millais. Then we must take up Madox Brown again, his work being closely allied with theirs. Afterwards we shall turn to the painters whose aims were mainly determined by the work of these older men.
Much has already been said about Holman Hunt’s work as a whole. We have seen that his faithful rendering of detail, almost to minuteness, adopted as a principle, and made more emphatic by the unusual keenness of his eye-sight, has brought many, if not most, of his pictures near at least to disintegration in design and colour. Even he did not fully adhere to the truthfulness with which he set out. There is by no means the same accurate rendering of textures in his later as in his early work. There is a wide difference in this respect between such pictures as The Two Gentlemen of Verona and The Hireling Shepherd on the one hand, and any of his pictures painted after his first visit to the Holy Land on the other. In all his later pictures almost everything, no matter what the material, looks as if it had been smoothed down and oiled. In other respects he has maintained all through the patient record of detail.
The subjects of most of his earlier pictures were taken, as we have seen, from history and poetry ; his later work was devoted mainly to the person and work of Christ. Even The Hireling Shepherd and The Strayed Sheep have an obvious or latent ethical purpose, The Awakened Conscience, with all its careful study of a mid-Victorian interior, was intended to be a companion picture to The Light of the World. In The Ship, which has now found a home in the National Gallery of British Art, he does not in intention depart from literature, for the picture was suggested by Tennyson’s “In Memoriam.” Being a night-scene, the detail is not so insistent as in other pictures, and he achieves unity of impression; but there is also more detail than any one but Holman Holt would have observed and recorded; more than can be seen without careful examination. Two water-colour drawings of night-effects Halt for the Night, Zahle, and The Ponte Vecchio at Florence are interesting in the same way. They are impressions. None of the details seems to ask, more than others, for our attention, almost to clamour for it, as in many of the other pictures, details that we should not see at the place itself without the most careful scrutiny.
He painted several pictures, notably Amaryllis, Il Dolce Far Niente, and Bianca, to show that he was not absolutely dependent on a subject of dramatic character. It cannot be said that in these and similar pictures he met with much success. They emphasise the limitations of his art. The solid, painstaking craftsmanship, the earnestness with which all detail is so faithfully rendered, do not, in one sense, seem out of keeping with subjects of religious or ethical character. There is a strenuous moral quality in the subjects themselves with which the workmanship is in keeping. But when such subjects as a woman enjoying an idle hour, or a maiden with a lute, or a boy making a tracing against a window, receive just the same elaboration of detail, the obvious labour expended by the artist makes the idleness or pleasure represented seem almost like a task.
The differences between the work of Mr. Holman Hunt and that of almost any other, if not every other modern painter, are obvious. They have not been with him a mere matter of choice; they have not been the mere result of theory. They were imposed upon him from within. The key-note of his character is devotion, and devotion tends towards a narrow intensity. Once the thought of truth to nature possessed him, his whole nature demanded that he should give it a rigid interpretation. Facts must be recorded to the least detail. Of transient effect there is no record. The thing itself, with a steady light on it, showing it as clearly as it can be shown, is what we are to have. Wonderful beauty there is of this and that object, in a way often, it may be said, beauty throughout the picture, but not the beauty that comes where detail is subordinated to the whole.
Devotion is also the word that best sums up the subject-matter of his pictures. Devotion to love and truth, or betrayal of them, is the theme of nearly all his most important works. The contrast between Valentine and Proteus ; the anguish with which Isabella discovers the baseness of Claudio; the lapse from duty of the hireling shepherd; the tragic travesty of love in The Awakened Conscience; the devotion of Christ to His self-imposed mission of redemption ; the failure, depicted in his last completed picture completed, indeed, by another hand, because his own marvellous power of sight had failed of the Lady of Shalott to accomplish her appointed task : the aim of all these purposeful works of his has been to say that he that endureth to the end shall both save and be saved. Criticism may have to point out limitations in his art; it may have much it must have something to wish otherwise. But when all critical detractions are made, Mr. Holman Hunt’s work remains as a painter, almost a lifelong friend of his, wrote to me recently a precious heritage.
In Pre-Raphaelitism and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Mr. Holman Hunt gives us clearly to understand it was on his persuasion that Millais, at the beginning of his career, determined to adopt a more literal rendering of detail than was then customary. After recounting a long conversation they had about the necessity for getting nearer to nature, a conversation that seems to have consisted in a stream of talk from the older youth, with occasional interjections by the younger one, Mr. Hunt says : “In the midst of my talk Millais continually expressed eagerness to get away altogether from the conventions denounced, declaring that often he had wondered whether something very interesting could not be done in defiance of them.” This statement of the matter seems to fit in well with the after course of events. It is at least probable that the artist who throughout his life has kept to the methods with which the two set out, should have been the one to suggest them rather than he who abandoned them before many years had elapsed. And Millais was a so much more rapid worker than Holman Hunt he was the most brilliant Academy student of his own or perhaps any other day, and this at an unusually early age that it seems likely he would not, uninfluenced, have submitted himself to the severe discipline upon which the two decided. In his earlier work he had been much influenced by Etty, who, Sir J. G. Millais says in his biography of his father, was the only man of the old school whom he really admired. This influence is evident in his Cymon and Iphigenia, which was painted in 1847, when Holman Hunt and he were discussing together the problems of art. His next picture was Lorenzo and Isabella, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1849, his first work after the formation of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. There is a world of difference between the two. In the former, the drawing of the figures and the treatment of the drapery and of the landscape are in accordance with a suave academic convention; the grouping of the figures and the arrangement of light and shade are also in accordance with well-established rule. In the latter picture the rules are disregarded. Not to produce a conventional work of art, but to represent a scene as it actually would appear, was now the painter’s aim ; and though there is design in the picture, it is not as obvious or as formal as in the earlier one. The light and the grouping are not so arranged as to concentrate the interest near the centre of the canvas. Portraits of Millais’ relatives and friends serve for the persons represented ; truth is here again the note. And in feature and gesture it is not conventional beauty and grace that are sought, but expressiveness.
The pictures that Millais exhibited in the eventful years 1850 and 1851 have already been mentioned. They are the same in general treatment as the Lorenzo and Isabella, but are more concentrated in design and stronger in colour. These are the pictures for which, in his own phrase, he was so ” dreadfully bullied.” What had been regarded in the picture of 1849 as the result of youthful inexperience, was now known to be the outcome of set purpose ; and bitter, as we have seen, was the resentment occasioned in orthodox quarters.
Holman Hunt and Millais held on, however, with the help of Ruskin; and so speedily came the reversal of judgment in Millais’ case that, in 1853, he was elected an associate of the Royal Academy.
In 1852 he had exhibited Ophelia and The Huguenot. No change in his art immediately succeeded his entrance to the Academy. The Order of Release, The Proscribed Royalist, The Rescue, Peace Concluded, Autumn Leaves, and The Blind Girl, were his most important pictures of the next four years. It was in 1857 that there were signs of change. Ruskin discovered them in his principal picture of that year, Sir Isumbras at the Ford. There was not the same careful observation and record of fact as in his previous work. The critic said that the change was not fall merely, but catastrophe. The Vale of Rest, exhibited in 1859, was also adversely criticised by Ruskin. Millais himself admitted that there had been a change in his work; for in a letter of this year he says of Ruskin : “He does not understand my work, which is now too broad for him to appreciate, and I think his eye is only fit to judge the portraits of insects. But then, I think he has lost all real influence as a critic.” Influence with whom ? Presumably with the dealers and the purchasing public; for it was on the verdict of these critics that Millais was now relying. Adverse criticisms from Ruskin and others were in his estimation infamous attempts to destroy him. They aroused indignation. When purchasers held back he was depressed. When they came forward again he recovered his good spirits. ” So much,” he writes, “for the brutal criticisms ! The fact is, I shall have my own way after all. If dealers give my prices they must make twenty per cent on them.”
It was not only the critics that saw a falling-off. His old comrade Holman Hunt saw it ; but he excuses Millais on the ground that he could not be expected to go on producing good work when the country did not support him. Even men of the purest genius, he says, cannot do this. A man of genius, he maintains, has a right to marry when he has made for himself a commanding position, and then he must support his family. This is how, according to Mr. Holman Hunt, Millais put the case himself : the public and private patrons went like a flock of sheep after any silly bell-wether who clinked before them ; they would not have what he knew to be best for them; he must live, so they should have what they wanted. They got it ; he sold his pictures, could support his family; and in 1860 he took a shooting in the Highlands. Nearly twenty years later he advised Holman Hunt to set to work to meet the taste of the day, and not the supposed taste of the future, and he would soon get out of his difficulties ; adding that he himself had just sold a picture done in two weeks that would pay the expenses of all his family, his own shooting and fishing included, for their whole time in Scotland. The problem of supporting the family had been adequately solved !
It is not a little disquieting to find the painter of The Shadow of Death and The Light of the World saying that a man of genius cannot continue to do his best unless he can get general applause and abundant pay. Madox Brown, who had perhaps some claim to be regarded as a genius, managed to do it. We need not blame either Holman Hunt or Millais overmuch. Perhaps the average English-man could not afford to throw stones at them. Is this one of the things they do better in France ? So much was hinted in the last chapter. Burne-Jones said once of French painters : ” The skill and daring of their work, and singleness of purpose and esprit de corps, their indifference to comfort, and even necessary food, proves them to be a set of splendid gentlemen, whom it would be difficult to match in this country, which I do think is spoiled and sullied by wealth.”
It would be wrong, however, to think that the change from Millais’ earlier to his later manner was only or mainly an instance of ” just for a handful of silver he left us.” As already suggested, he was not born to Holman Hunt’s painstaking manner. It was probably as foreign to him as it was natural to his friend. Nor was he a poet like Rossetti. The later Millais was the real Millais. His son and biographer resents the often expressed opinion that his finest, his most intense work was done under Rossetti’s inspiration; and mentions particular pictures that were completed before Rossetti ever saw them. But this is to take a very narrow view of the way in which one man may influence another. This is certain: that the difference between Millais’ earlier and his later work is not only in the greater breadth of the latter, in the substitution of suggestion for detailed realisation of fact, but that there is in it less intensity, less imagination. His early work had been done to please himself and his companions, in pursuit of an ideal they had enthusiastically set before themselves. He was supported by the patient laboriousness of Holman Hunt, and inspired, by the poet-painter and painter-poet whose influence on all who came near him was magnetic. When the Brotherhood was dissolved, each member was comparatively left to himself. Hunt and Rossetti continued and ended as they had begun. Millais, who had taken an impress from them, now took an impress from, or, at least, readily responded to, his new surroundings. Not long after the time when the removal of his pictures from the walls of the Academy had been demanded he had become a privileged exhibitor. The public began to take pleasure in his works, and he was pecuniarily successful. When he was told that the critics were severe on him, he only said, ” The wickedness and envy at the bottom of all this are so apparent to me that I disregard all the reviews (I have not read one), but I shall certainly have this kind of treatment all my life. The public crowd round my pictures more than ever, and this, I think, must be the main cause of animosity.” It is perhaps not always wise to accept as consolation for the hostility of educated opinion the approval of the uneducated. Critics who have no cause of animosity still lament a falling-off in Millais’ later work. But he had his reward : he became a popular painter.
For this kind of success he had just the right qualifications. He was a rapid worker. In the days of the Brotherhood he used to exhibit two or three pictures to Holman Hunt’s one. He was also versatile. He could paint, with equal success, man, woman, child, animal, landscape anything, one might say. He was not handicapped by excess of imagination. He was not a visionary. He had no particular quarrel with the world as he found it; so he did not dwell in dreamland, like Rossetti and Burne-Jones, and perplex the public with pictorial puzzles. The quality of his imagination may be gauged by a story that he wrote for the Pre-Raphaelite organ, The Germ. It never appeared, since the number for which it was intended did not appear. An outline of the story is given by his son in the Biography ; we may, therefore, be sure that less than justice has not been done to it. It told of a knight who loved the daughter of a king. The king lived in a moated castle, and, though the lady returned the knight’s affection, the king forbade him to see her under pain of death. The knight waited until winter, and then, when the moat was frozen over, attempted to carry off the lady ; but the ice broke as they were crossing the moat ; they were both drowned ; and the king was inconsolable. Years afterwards, when the moat was drained, the skeletons of the lovers were found, the lady’s dress still clinging to the points of the knight’s armour. Doubtless Millais told the story as he would have painted it picturesquely; but as a story, as a plot, it would not have been particularly creditable to a child of ten. It will be recollected that Millais painted not a few pictures of pairs of lovers. M. de la Sizeranne complains of their monotony : “Whenever he paints a lovers’ duet, he places his heroes standing, exactly in the same position, face to face.” In Pre-Raphaelitism and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Mr. Holman Hunt gives an instructive account of the Beginning and growth of Millais’ picture, The Huguenot. It was at first intended to illustrate a line in Tennyson’s poem “Circumstance ”
Two lovers whispering by a garden wall.
So Mr. Hunt quotes the line. The version I have says “orchard wall.” Mr. Hunt told him he did not think much of the subject ; that he did not think lovers ought to be pryed upon ; that a poet might describe a meeting of lovers as part of a story ; but that a painting of such a meeting had neither prelude nor sequel. Millais agreed ; but he had designed the picture, and the background of it was advanced. Hostile critics of Pre-Raphaelitism have surely made merry over this painting first the ivied wall, the obtrusiveness of which has given so much offence ! Millais happened to see a sketch by Holman Hunt for a picture of a Lancastrian lady and a Yorkist knight, with castle parapet, rope-ladder, etc. Millais at once jumped at the idea of the rival roses for his lovers. Hunt objected that this would require a castle, not an ivied wall. Then Millais turned to Cavalier and Puritan he got them in later but Hunt urged that they had been worked to death. Then recollection of the opera suggested the Huguenot, and he said he would send his mother to the British Museum to find what kind of badge the Catholics wore. Did Millais get other such lifts out of the obvious in the Brotherhood days ? The story intended for The Germ suggests that he might need them. Anyhow, it was the obvious in which, in later years, he chiefly dealt. His rapidity in work, his versatility, his instinct for painting prettily what nearly everybody had seen or would like to see, were guarantees of popularity. This does not mean that he deliberately played to the gallery. It does not necessarily mean more than that what pleased him pleased also the majority of those who thronged the exhibition rooms at Burlington House. What was it he said when he heard of the accusation that he had of set purpose chosen trivial, popular subjects? Was it not to the effect that had he done this, he would have painted, for example, an old woman who had been reading the Bible, and the tears that had come had dimmed her spectacles, and she had taken them off to dry them ? This, he said, would have been a popular picture. Really, many things he painted were not much, if at all, above this level.
It is not made a complaint against him here that he abandoned the elaboration of detail which marked his work in the Brotherhood days. Even Mr. Holman Hunt finds no fault with this; for, though he himself has kept to the detail, he says that it was only intended as a discipline, not as a method necessarily to be continued in after years. Millais valued it as a discipline. ” This looks easy, does it not i” he remarked to one who was watching him paint one of his later landscapes ; ” but I could not do it had I not first painted Autumn Leaves.” What is to be regretted is that with greater breadth there came less intensity. I recollect the chief custodian of one of our national collections instancing The Vale of Rest to show that Millais had never painted with Pre-Raphaelite detail ; but he was abandoning the detail when he painted this picture. And there is nothing like the marvellous rendering of twilight in it that there is in Autumn Leaves.
Nor, as time went on, did Millais interpret child-character as he did in that great work. Mr. Andrew Lang has said of it : “The spiritual note of the picture lies in the contrast between the carelessness of the young girls, who are heaping the fire for the fun of it, and ‘the serious whisper of the twilight,’ as Poe fancied he could hear the stealing of the darkness over the horizon.” But the girl who is actually heaping up the leaves is doing so with the gesture and expression of one offering sacrifice on an altar. She feels the pathos of both twilight and autumn. The younger ones do not feel it; so there is contrast between one girl and the others, not merely between them all and the solemnity of the hour and the season. And there is further contrast, finely rendered, between the children of the family and the gardener’s children. The picture is compact of beauty and emotion, of sight and insight. So, also, and hardly, if at all, in less degree, is The Blind Girl.
In Sir Isumbras at the Ford, the children epitomise childish fear and wonder. One would not part with these children of the earlier pictures for a wilderness of such as those in Cherry Ripe, Cinderella, Pomona, Bubbles, and others of the later pictures, where there is little more than mere prettiness and fancy costumes. These might all be admirably copied as tableaux for a children’s party. They would lose nothing in the process. But how much would the children in the earlier pictures lose ! Cinderella is obviously a pretty girl playing a part, or, rather, dressed for the part, and not playing it well. I think of Renoir’s sleeping girl with the cat on her knee, a Cinderella of real life, the very thing itself ; and the contrast serves to show that there may be loss to art through popular success. Millais’ painting of children, after being of the best, became superficial, trivial. The child in A Souvenir of Velasquez was a pretty little girl he happened to see in church ; and in the picture she is merely a pretty, a very pretty, little girl, fancifully dressed, and looking as if she were rather bored at having to sit so still. Charming as the picture is, it is the charm of representation, not of interpretation.
The casting round for a subject, of which Mr. Holman Hunt gives an example, as already mentioned, was characteristic of Millais all through. His subject-pictures have no unity of intention. They do not variously illustrate, as, for example, do the paintings of Jean Francois Millet, a particular phase of life and work. Millais was not a visionary. Nor did the strenuous life of his own time take such a hold upon his imagination that he must set himself to interpret it. He only made pictorial excursions in many directions. He saw something at an opera ; he read something in a book ; a thought flashed upon him ; he met with an incident in real life; he could make a realistic picture of it, and, in due time, the picture appeared. There was more than a touch of melodrama, something sentimental or sensational, in many of these pictures. The “lovers’ duets” have already been mentioned. The Escape of a Heretic, Mercy, St. Bartholomew’s Day, and Speak, Speak border, at least, on the sensational. He is at a much higher level of story-telling in The NorthWest Passage. But, if we take his work as a whole, that is, from not long after the Brotherhood period, it unmistakably suggests that what he gave to the world was not drawn from what was deepest in his own nature. There was loss as well as gain in his marvellous facility. There was nothing in his work that was not pure, lovely, and of good report; but had he been one of the poor gentlemen whom Burne-Jones recognised amid the artists of France, the good qualities of his work might have been intensified.
When we turn to his landscape painting we find ourselves thinking what the man who painted Autumn Leaves and the Blind Girl might have done. Only then he could not have been the portrait painter he was, must we say? We ought perhaps to accept his landscapes as part of his recreation, or as holiday tasks. If so, they are uncommonly good, so good that we cannot but wish they had been better. Of his love of nature there can be no doubt. He had more capacity for it than he found occasion to exercise. His chief work lay in the town ; it was when he laid it aside that he could get into touch with nature ; and, even then, much of his time went in physical exercise in the form of shooting and fishing. We may say that he chanced upon rather than sought the subjects of his landscapes. They were, therefore, limited in range ; nor did he interpret more than a few of nature’s many moods. He painted realistic views of places for which associations quite unconnected with art had won his affection; and he was content to represent them under quite ordinary atmospheric conditions. His love for plants and flowers amounted almost to a passion. The flowers in Kensington Gardens were a Godsend to him when he could not leave London. In this connexion may be mentioned also his love of animals, which is evidenced by the sympathetic rendering of them, so true to their animal nature, in several of his works. Millais was really a typical English gentleman, of the old school we may say, fond of the pleasures of both town and country, keenly observant of the people and things about him, interested also, in an unpretentious way, in history and poetry, and, beyond all this, possessed of a wonderful gift of painting.
His portraits are intelligent appreciations of some of the most distinguished people of his time. He marks off in them varieties of character, temperament, and intellect. And yet, though we feel sure that these are good likenesses, that he has seen these people as he painted them, and that the expression he has given them is true and characteristic, yet the portraits have not the quality of the very greatest, in which there are, not merely one, though it be a characteristic expression, but lights and shades that almost come and go, so that the face seems to change as we look at it. Such portraits seem to take their subjects unawares, while they are dwelling with their own thoughts and feelings, memories and hopes, and are absolutely without suspicion that any one is looking at them ; or, if they do know that some one else is there, it is they who look, not who are looked at, and the look is a revelation of character.
Millais painted many portraits of women, at times, as with those of children, resorting to costume and fancy title, so that, for example, the Hon. Caroline Roche becomes Diana Vernon ; and there are, of course, many portraits of women, as of men, in his subject-pictures. He could unfailingly render beauty, charm, and sprightliness, the self-possession of the woman in ” society,” and the grace, naturalness, and gentleness of what we account most womanly.
It is not unsignificant, when we are trying to assess the value of Millais’ gift to us and from first to last, with all failings admitted, we must admit its high value that he does not seem to have craved for any other sphere of work, for any other access to the public, than such as was afforded him by the Royal Academy exhibitions. He had no desire to paint an epic on the walls of some great building. His imagination would not have sustained him through such an endeavour. His work was episodical.. We may take a literary parallel and say that his subject-pictures are only so many short poems or stories. Holman Hunt has painted nothing but easel-pictures. Yet his devotion, in the main, to one theme, and the lofty seriousness that informs almost the whole of this work only occasionally has he relaxed the tension gives it an epic character. Millais rarely, if ever, struck a deeper note than the pathetic. Has he ever, for example, sounded the depths of human nature as did Holman Hunt in Claudio and Isabella? I have not trusted to memory, but have looked through a full list of his works, and can find nothing that is the same in kind. We get no tragedy from him; nor do we get any humour. From another painter of whom something has already been said, and to whom we were to return, Ford Madox Brown we get the whole range of the drama, even to the full extent of the enumeration of its phases by Polonius.
We left Madox Brown at the time when he was painting such pictures as Chaucer at the Court of Edward III and Wycliffe reading his Translation of the Bible to John of Gaunt. We saw that these works were inspired by those of the ItalianactuallyPre-Raphaelite painters. They had not, therefore, either the independence of tradition, or the close realism, at which Holman Hunt aimed. But they had an earnestness and expressiveness, and an approximation to realism, very different from most contemporary English work. The Chaucer, begun in 1846, was completed in 1851 ; the Wycliffe, begun in 1847, was exhibited in 1848. The works exhibited by Holman Hunt and Millais in 1849 were certainly less dependent on tradition and more realistic than these of Madox Brown’s. At this time they were ahead of him in these respects. The first two pictures of his that rivalled the work of the other two on their own ground were Work and The Last of England, both begun in 1852the former completed in 1855, the latter not until 1863. Madox Brown was the first to move in the direction of realism ; Holman Hunt and Millais then started and outstripped him. He caught up with them again.
The two pictures just named were painted laboriously in the open air, and with great elaboration of detail. They were marked by an intensity of feeling and a dramatic realisation of character to which the work of the Pre-Raphaelite brethren did not attain ; and they were in advance also in this respect, that their subjects were taken from contemporary life, not from history or poetry; they were wrung from the painter by the struggle through which he and his friends had to pass to secure even a bare livelihood. In both these pictures the aim of the artist was not to produce a sensuously beautiful result. He sought to express the thought and emotion aroused in him by contemporary life. Manet, painting a crowd in the gardens of the Tuileries, had finished when he had given the general impression upon the sight of form and movement, of play of light and colour, that could be seen if the crowd and its surroundings were looked at as a whole. It is true that some of the people in the crowd are recognisable; but that is all. We need not examine them more closely for characteristic action, gesture, or expression. In Madox Brown’s Work, Thomas Carlyle and Frederick Denison Maurice are talking together. Maurice looks troubled, presumably at some pessimistic utterance by Carlyle, whose sardonic grin is made still more sardonic by a visible gap in his upper row of teeth. The picture can be examined most minutely, and every examination will disclose some hitherto unseen characteristic detail. One of the figures is a powerfully-built, bull-necked, gaudily-dressed beer- and pipe-seller, a scar on whose cheek proclaims fighting propensities for which his muscular arm clearly demands respect. Examine him more closely, and you will find that his shirt-front is decorated with little figures of pirouetting ballet-girls. The picture is a painted parable of the work or the idleness of all sorts and conditions of men and women from the philosopher, the divine, the Member of Parliament, and. the lady tract-distributor, to the navvy, the Irish reaper, the orange-seller, the tatterdemalion flower-seller, and the ragged children of the street. The contrasts are even carried into the animal world, the lady’s flannel jacketed spaniel it is a blazing-hot day being in the act, to the horror of his mistress, of chumming with the navvies’ terrier and bull-pup. The whole picture is a marvellous piece of craftsmanship, brilliantly glowing in colour. Does it overstep the limits of painting ? Is it a literary trespasser in the field of art ? It may have been suggested by Carlyle’s ” Past and Present,” says the artist’s grandson, Mr. Ford M. Hueffer. Madox Brown read, and, it seems probable, reread Carlyle’s book, and it would be with him as it has been with many of us : life, such life as we see in the streets, life anywhere, would seen different to him ever after. It would have in one way a more intense significance for him than for us. Madox Brown was a painter. He could set down in form and colour what he saw. But he was not content to record only the play of form and movement, light and colour, on his optic nerve. He painted the reaction of what he saw upon his whole nature. And, for my part, I can only say that I should be sorry if such pictures were never painted ; if it could be said to the painter, “Thou shalt not in thy art show thyself as more than a being responsive to sensuous beauty.”
The Last of England has the same qualities ; but it is more concise. There are only two principal figures, an emigrant and his wife, looking sadly at the receding shores of their native land. The picture is an epic of emigration ; a chapter in the long and infinitely varied history of the struggle for existence which is the common lot of all living things. The man and woman sit hand in hand. The woman’s left hand clasps that of a baby sheltered beneath her shawl. Behind the principal figures are others, such as a man who defiantly shakes his fist at the land he is leaving.
There are dramatic energy and keen, sympathetic insight into human character and experience in all Madox Brown’s works. He is the Browning of English painting. We need not expect from him softly modulated form and colour.
They would suit his subjects about as well as the metre and rhythm of ” The Idylls of the King” would suit the subject-matter of ” The Ring and the Book.” Tennyson admitted the dramatic power of Browning’s poetry, but complained of the lack of music. “I cannot help thinking,” he said, ” that there ought to be some melody in poetry ; it should not be all thought.” I once took one of the younger Academicians to see Madox Brown’s paintings in the Manchester Town Hall, and his comment on my enthusiastic admiration of their wealth of dramatic incident was, “Yes, that is all very interesting ; but what has it to do with art ? ” Yet in general effect these mural paintings are remarkably decorative, both in colour and design. There is no lack of art in Madox Brown’s work ; only it is art that is in harmony with the dramatic intention. If we take the subject along with the art; if we enter into the feeling that led him to paint The Last of England, or Cordelia’s Portion, or Cromwell, Protector of the Vaudois, or Jesus Washeth Peter’s Feet, we shall find that the art does suit the subject. Browning’s poetry is not artless, much less inartistic ; nor are Madox Brown’s paintings. Only the art is not smooth and conventional ; nor can it always be detached from the subject and enjoyed apart. But to ask this is to beg the whole question : to say that painting is wholly a matter of colour and light, of tones and values, and that no expressiveness must interfere with harmonious sweep and curve of line. Carried to its logical extreme this would mean that a portrait painter ought never to paint any but a conventionally handsome man or beautiful woman. Painting would have to forswear facts altogether, or emasculate them. Which is precisely what some people seem to be intensely anxious that it should do.
Work and The Last of England were the only pictures of importance by Madox Brown of which the subjects were taken from contemporary life. Hogarth, when he determined to be something more than a mere imitator of the old masters, found in the life about him material for almost all his pictures. The reformers of the mid-nineteenth century treated their own time with comparative neglect. In this, as we have seen, the movement differed from the realistic movement in France. There are those who consider the attempt to picture times gone by little more than waste of energy; who say that in the future people will not care to know what a painter in the nineteenth or twentieth century thought about the appearance of people and things in this, that, or the other century before or after Christ. I will content myself by saying that it seems to me this is quite likely not to be the ease. If it be so, it will probably be because they will take more interest in what the painters of their own time think the past was like. Why should we interest ourselves in a modern historian’s estimate of those long dead ; and not interest ourselves in what a painter one to whom a poem or an historical narrative inevitably calls up a picture thinks those of whom he has read would be like in features, if there be record or description of their features, and in expression and gesture ?
Of course, all depends on the insight and imagination of the painter. If he have not these gifts we shall get mere tableaux; which also, however, may have their value. Madox Brown, with whose work we are immediately concerned, was possessed both of insight and imagination; and his pictures of historical events and personages are so vivid and powerful as to be, to me at least, absolutely exciting. There are many such pictures that only awaken a languid interest. His almost transport us amongst living people and actually occurring events. We wonder and rejoice with the widowed mother as the prophet brings to her the son who has been restored to life. We are with the Master and His disciples when St. Peter can hardly bring himself to submit to the washing of his feet. The face and form of Jesus declare His gentleness and meekness ; St. Peter is all impulsiveness ; and how well the painter has understood and shown the effect that this incident must have had on the other disciples ! Judas has no scruples about having his feet washed by the Master. St. John joyfully recognises the significance of this humility; the others, amongst whom are those who wished to have the foremost places in the kingdom that was to be established, look on with only half-comprehending amazement which, in the case of some of them, amounts to consternation. No other painter has given such a penetrating interpretation of this scene, the full significance of which the Christian Church is even now so far from having learned.
Cordelia’s Portion makes vividly clear to us the flaw from which all the tragic events of “King Lear” came as a necessary consequence. ” He hath ever but slenderly known himself,” said his daughter Regan. This was why he had to be stretched upon the rack of this rough world and involve others in his fate. Where other painters have made Romeo and Juliet but conventional lovers, Madox Brown, true to Shakespeare and to Italy, declares the elemental passionateness of their love, and more than hints at its inevitably tragic end by the gesture of Romeo, whose foot, seeking for the ladder, and whose stiffly outstretched arm, show him to be only too well aware of the danger he runs in staying longer, though Juliet, regardless of all but the happiness of the moment, still clasps him in her arms while he kisses her.
To see the picture Cromwell on his Farm is to understand better to understand fully why, when the Huntingdon-shire farmer took the field, the fate of King Charles was sealed. Here is a man amid a very pandemonium of noise the lowing of cattle, the grunting and squealing of pigs, the crackling of flames, the shouting of a serving-maid, the quacking of a duck she nearly strangles we almost hear the horrid din ; yet he, amongst it, is oblivious of it all. He has been reading in the Bible in his hand, ” Lord, how long ? Wilt thou hide Thyself for ever ? ” ” And shall Thy wrath burn like fire ? ” The fire at his horse’s feet burns the words in upon him, and he thinks only of what he has read, and of the problems and the tasks that confront him ; he has neither eye nor ear for the things immediately around him ; he will soon be up and away, leading armies in the field, and ill will it be for those who have to contend against the force that here we see accumulating. The power and fierce determination of the man are seen again in Cromwell, Protector of the Vaudois, and the better seen by contrast with the calmness of Milton, who measures so carefully the words of the dispatch that is to go to the French king as to make Andrew Marvell almost impatient, while Cromwell trembles with ill-suppressed rage.
There is inexhaustible dramatic interest in the paintings in the Manchester Town Hall, and the most widely different natures are truthfully interpreted. The haughtiness of the Roman officer and his wife, the fervent thankfulness of Edwin’s queen for the conversion of her husband, the fear-less humility of Wickliffe when on his trial, the rash defiance of the powerful ecclesiastics by John of Gaunt these remain vividly in the memory; but even finer than these seem to me the figures of Crabtree, the amateur astronomer, watching the transit of Venus, and John Dalton, collectiug marsh-gas. They rank in painting with Browning’s Grammarian and Abt Vogler in poetry.
These men are enthusiastic devotees of knowledge. Crab-tree, in the room above his draper’s shop, has waited through the morning, on into the afternoon, hoping that the clouds would break and let the sun shine through ; at last they have broken, and his instrument shows him the planet crossing the sun’s disc. His pipe has fallen to the ground, and lies broken there, the smoke curling up from the smouldering ash, while his rapt gaze is fixed on the sight he has so eagerly anticipated ; and he presses his hands to his side as if to quieten the tumultuous beating of his heart. His wife, who, though she cannot share to the full her husband’s delight at this first observation of a natural phenomenon, yet knows what it means to him, and stops her boy from playing lest he should disturb his father. The younger child in her arms reeks nothing of the great event. This group serves to emphasise the ecstasy of the astronomer.
John Dalton is not discovered at such a highly dramatic moment; he has but gone out from the town to a field-pond to collect marsh-gas. A boy, lying at full length on a plank laid across the pond, catches in an inverted bottle the bubbles of gas that rise to the surface as Dalton stirs up the mud with a pole. To the boy it is mere amusement to catch the bubbles. Dalton is keenly interested in the operation; simple though it be in itself, it is to provide him with the means of carrying on scientific experiments; for he, now but a humble schoolmaster, is to become famous as the discoverer of a great natural law. As a foil to his eagerness there is not only the mere amusement of the boy who is helping him. By the side of the pond is a group of four children. One of them, a boy, is much interested in the gas-collecting. A girl touches his shoulder, telling him that Mr. Dalton is catching ” Jack o’ Lanterns.” She carries a younger child, who, half fearfully, wants the boy to turn round and startle her. The fourth member of the group is offering cherries to a little goat. The children are a delightful little picture in themselves ; and, like the group in the Crabtree picture, they emphasise by contrast, as already suggested, the earnestness of the student of science. Dalton himself is finely portrayed ; it is as if life had been breathed into Chantrey’s statue of him which is in the same building as the picture.
In almost all these pictures of Madox Brown’s there is some touch of humour, kindly or grim. Around the central subject he gathers a wealth of subordinate detail that is never irrelevant or perfunctory, but links it up with the ordinary life which always surrounds and is in relation to even the greatest events. In the Manchester painting, Philippa of Hainault examining the Work of Flemish Weavers, a boy refuses to kneel with other children in the roadway, having found a point of vantage, from which to see the queen, at the top of the steps of the market-cross. In the same picture a weaver’s apprentice looks adoringly at his master’s daughter, who takes no notice of him, but teases a kitten. Here is a parable. The maiden he loves is more to the youth than is the queen, in whose visit to the town he betrays not the slightest interest. So we might go through all Madox Brown’s works, enjoying the evidence of his many-sided interpretation of human nature.
It has already been said that the dramatic realism of his work implies no abandonment of art, but only its accommodation to his main purpose. His master, Baron Wappers, was a pupil of David, and though he broke with the classical tradition, he did not forget all he had learned from David; and his own pupil, Madox Brown, acquired in his school a faculty for design which showed itself not only in his easel and mural paintings, but also in cartoons for stained-glass windows. There is a monumental quality in his work that distinguishes it from that of both Holman Hunt and Millais. At its best, also, his colour can be called great ; it is strong, broad in general effect, and harmonious. In the mural painting, The Romans building Manchester, for example, he harmonises various shades of red in the most masterly manner, contrasting them with the grey of the sky and the brown and blue of the autumn woods across the river. He was a powerful draughtsman, though he developed manner-isms and showed curious defects, as in the drawing of limbs and the foreshortening of upturned faces. It is hardly apart from our purpose to note that, beyond practising various forms of pictorial art and making designs for stained glass, he even designed furniture, anticipating in part the work of William Morris and the Arts and Crafts Society.
His work did not become popular in his lifetime, nor has it yet done so. There are some in whom it inspires intense admiration; in others it arouses equally intense dislike. Perhaps we may regard both these attitudes as tributes to his originality and power. The Browning Societies have not yet popularised Browning, his counterpart in poetry.
Madox Brown, outside the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Holman Hunt and Millais within it, were the realists of the mid-century movement ; and they have not been without their following. The most obvious influence has been that of Millais. His versatility, showing itself in a wide range of subjects, in each of which he achieved noteworthy success, rendered this inevitable. Holman Hunt has so severely limited himself both in subject and treatment, Madox Brown’s strong individuality so impressed itself on his art, imparting to it a peculiar character, an intense strenuousness in line, colour, and expression, that neither of them could possibly attract imitators and emulators as did Millais. One rarely sees a picture that might almost be a Madox Brown or a Holman Hunt ; one often sees a picture that might almost be a Millais.
Of the immediate followers, the friends of the early days, not the least interesting, though he early abandoned art for literature, was Charles Allston Collins, the brother of Wilkie Collins. Two of his pictures, accessible to the public, Convent Thoughts in the University Galleries, Oxford, and The Pedlar in the Manchester City Art Gallery, have all the painstaking insistence on detail demanded by Holman Hunt’s theory of what was good for the young painter at least. Despite its stiffness there is great charm in the former picture, and there is dramatic power in The Pedlar, though the painting is painfully hard. It was the sense of his technical deficiencies that led him to abandon painting. He was much with Holman Hunt and Millais in the Brother-hood days, and afterwards he stood as Millais’ model for The Huguenot and The Black Brunswicker.
One can see the influence of both Holman Hunt and Millais in the work of Collins ; the influence of Millais alone is to be seen in that of W. S. Burton. His picture, The Wounded Cavalier, hung next to Holman Hunt’s Scapegoat in the Royal Academy Exhibition of 1856, could never have been painted, one thinks, but for Millais’ Proscribed Royalist. It is the same theme differently treated a Puritan maiden succouring a Cavalier; only, in Burton’s picture, it is obvious that the help is given out of pure humanity. While the lady seeks to staunch the wound of the Cavalier, a Puritan youth is standing by. They have found the unfortunate man lying in the woodland, and, apparently, near to death. There may be already, or there may be soon, a personal attachment between Millais’ Puritan maiden and the Cavalier to whom she is bringing food. Burton’s picture strikes the deeper note. The painting of detail is marvellous. The composition, with respect to the figures at least, is conventional. They are arranged pyramidally, and a broken wall and some trailing under-growth are placed so as to complete this conventional design. Yet, through all the subject-interest of the picture being concentrated to the left of a birch-stem that divides the picture into two not very unequal parts; the humanly untenanted space to the right of the stem gives an effect of unconsidered naturalness to the scene. This tree-stem has clearly played an important part in the fight between the Cavalier and the victorious enemy who has gone his way. The fight has taken place around it. A sword-cut, intended for the Puritan, has been intercepted by the tree, and the broken blade is still fixed in it. This mischance left the Cavalier at the mercy of his foe. Thus something of the course of the fight, its end, and the help that has come, perhaps too late, to the wounded man, are all either suggested or shown to us. It is interesting to note that a butterfly has alighted on the broken sword-blade. In Millais’ picture, The Blind Girl, shown in the same exhibition, a butterfly has similarly alighted on the girl’s shawl. There is a difference of motive in their introduction, but the coincidence, if such it be, is interesting, and illustrative of the close observation of detail that characterised the Pre-Raphaelite movement.
Burton has not fulfilled, at any rate in the amount of his work, the promise of this picture. His picture of the following year, A London Magdalen, was rejected at the Academy; and ill-health, nonrecognition, and trouble unconnected with his work, have combined to prevent him from putting his unmistakable powers to fullest exercise. Depth of feeling, sincerity, dignity, and excellent workman-ship mark all his work. Of about the same age as Burton he was born in 1830 is Arthur Hughes. His work is always delicate, delightful in colour, simple and pure in sentiment. Perhaps it is because Millais has over-shadowed him that his work is not better known. He has nothing of the obvious effectiveness of Millais. No picture of his has been sufficiently strong and assertive to command attention and make for him a name. It is easy to pass him by as an echo of the stronger voice. Yet what he has to say is his own, not another’s, and it is delightfully said. The Eve of St. Agnes, April Love, Silver and Gold, Home from the Sea, and many other pictures are too good to be overlooked merely because he was not chief among the prophets.
In 1856 W. L. Windus, a Liverpool painter, exhibited at the Royal Academy a picture illustrating the old Scotch ballad ” Burd Helen.” The lady, whose lover has been faithless to her, follows him, dressed as a page. They come to the river’s brink, and he, mounted on a powerful horse, makes no offer to take her upon it, but leaves her to swim across. As Ruskin said, the cruelty is almost incredible. He noted, as robbing the picture of some look of truth, the erectness of the horse’s head. Although one foot already splashes in the water, the horse exhibits no sign of fear or surprise. All the details of sky and moorland are painted with great literalness ; how closely so, a passage in Ruskin’s criticism of the picture would reveal to one who had never seen the picture itself or any reproduction of it, After the remark about the horse, he says : ” I have some doubt also, whether, unless the spectator himself were supposed to be wading the ford, so as to bring the eye almost on a level with the water surface, the reflection of the sky could so entirely prevent the appearance of the pebbles through the water. They are rightly shown through the dark reflection at the horse’s foot, and rightly effaced, in a great degree, by that of the sky ; but I think they should not have been entirely so.” This is a most exacting kind of criticism. We recollect that, three years later, Millais said that Ruskin’s eye was only fit to judge the portraits of insects. The minute examination of Windus’ picture makes Millais’ later exasperation quite intelligible, when we recollect that he was then deliberately abandoning the minute insistence on detail that Windus had learned from him.
The cruelty of the lover in the picture just referred to is unflinchingly shown. So is the tragic result that may come of faithlessness or neglect shown in another picture by Windus, Too Late. Here, again, the landscape, open fields seen over a garden-hedge, is Pre-Raphaelite in treatment; and the painter does not shrink from contemporary costume. But he is far from being content with a merely pictorial motive. We are not simply to take pleasure in his rendering of the visible aspect of persons and things as he represents or interprets it. A child brings to a lady who is dying of consumption a lover who has been long away. She looks at him as if in half-uncomprehending wonder. A sister clasps her in her arms, and leans her face against the wasted cheek. The man hides his face, while the child looks up at him wonderingly. The picture was too tragically sad for Ruskin, who said : “Something wrong here : either this painter has been ill, or his picture has been sent to the Academy in a hurry, or he has sickened his temper and dimmed his sight by reading melancholy ballads.” This is really an eloquent tribute to the tragic power of the picture, which probes one of the sorrows of life to its very depths. It is impossible to get away from the face of the dying woman. Madox Brown said of it : ” The expression of the dying face is quite sufficient no other explanation is needed.” Against this picture in the catalogue of the Academy Exhibition it was shown in 1859 were Tennyson’s lines :
If it were thine error or thy crime I care no longer, being all unblest ; Wed whom thou wilt ; but I am sick of time, And I desire to rest.
This is what the painter had been reading. It may be said, Ruskin said as much, that such an extremely painful subject should not be painted. All I care to say here is that, whether or not it ought to be painted, it has been painted, in this picture, in a way that makes Tennyson’s words, that would make any words, seem feebleness itself in comparison. After the two pictures just discussed, Windus did but little work of importance.
Frederick Smallfield, Matthew James Lawless, Robert Martineau, and W. J. Webbe are other painters who came under the influence of Holman Hunt or Millais. Lambs at Play, by the last named, was obviously suggested by Holman Hunt’s Strayed Sheep. Mr. H. W. B. Davis similarly painted sheep near the cliff-edges, evidently with this picture in mind. Robert Martineau’s The Last Day in the Old House is now in the National Gallery of British Art. It is Hogarthian in subject : a wastrel who is utterly indifferent to the sorrow his wanton extravagance has brought on his wife and his aged mother, and the moral ruin into which he is dragging his son. In fact, his callousness is almost incredible. The picture is painted with great elaboration of detail. Henry Wallis was another painter who adopted the Pre-Raphaelite method. His best-known picture is Chatterton, the scene being the poet’s death. It was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1856. Ruskin’s appreciation was : “Faultless and wonderful; a most noble example of the great school. Examine it well inch by inch ; it is one of the pictures which intend, and accomplish, the entire placing before your eyes of an actual fact and that a solemn one.” It may be admitted that to stand the test of at least an approximation to inch by inch examination is a merit in such a picture. The details of the garret and its scanty furniture, the glimpse of the outside world that we get in the morning light, neither the world nor the light of it having any more meaning for him whose lifeless body lies stretched beneath the window, the torn papers, the phial of poison all this is material to the story to be told. It is not mere statement of fact for the sake of the statement; it has emotional value. Ruskin’s criticism is concise, but accurate and sufficient. An entire fact, a central fact and its necessary accessories, is placed before us ; and it is a solemn fact, one that appeals to deep emotions : the tragic ending of a life of promise.
In The English Pre-Raphaelite Painters, Mr. Percy Bate has given a comprehensive survey of those painters, English and Scottish, whose art was either temporarily or permanently affected by the realistic movement. He rightly, I think, sees rather the influence of Madox Brown than of Rossetti in the historical paintings of William Bell Scott. Valentine Prinsep, although he joined in the decoration of the Oxford Union, to be referred to hereafter, was on the realistic side. J. F. Lewis, who was much older than the members of the Brotherhood, to a considerable extent anticipated the movement. I shall have to refer to him again. G. D. Leslie, G. A. Storey, and P. H. Calderon may certainly be cited among those who owed much to the Pre-Raphaelite movement. We see at times the influence of Holman Hunt and Millais, at times that of Rossetti ; sometimes we can trace both influences in one picture.
Before we turn to the romantic side of the movement, we ought briefly to consider the work of some of the landscape painters who heard and obeyed the call to return to nature.
Mr. H. W. B. Davis, who has already been mentioned, clearly came very near to Holman Hunt in his earlier work, and has never, in his pictures of cattle and landscape, departed further from the strict letter of Pre-Raphaelite realism than did Millais in his later work. The same may be said of John Brett. His picture The Stonebreaker, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1858, aroused Ruskin’s enthusiasm, as going in some points of precision past any-thing the Pre-Raphaelites had yet done. After pointing out the almost inevitable minor faults, he said: “For all that, it is a marvellous picture, and may be examined inch by inch with delight.” Ruskin wondered what, if the painter could make so much of flints and a view from the Surrey downs, he would make of the Val d’Aosta.
Thither the painter went, the same summer, and executed what was little more than a marvellous transcript of a scene in the famous valley. Of this picture Ruskin said : “For the first time in history we have, by help of art, the power of visiting a place, reasoning about it, and knowing it, just as if we were there, except only that we cannot stir from our place nor look behind us.” But he found the picture wholly emotionless. ” I cannot find from it,” he said, “that the painter loved, or feared, anything in all that wonderful piece of the world.” There were “keenness of eye and fineness of hand, as much as you choose; but of emotion, or of intention, nothing traceable.” Is not this really a plea for selection, indeed for impressionism? Brett painted every detail of the scene, so far as he could, without emphasising any particular. Cannot we say that this was his intention ; and that he felt the beauty of each detail? Ruskin would not have it so. ” I never saw the mirror so held up to nature,” he said ; ” but it is mirror’s work, not man’s.” Brett, however, was but following the instruction of Modern Painters to go to nature in all humility, selecting nothing and rejecting nothing. Or ought he, being now twenty-eight years of age, to have passed this elementary stage ? Ruskin said further that it was historical, meteorological landscape, but ” poetical by no means.” I have just called to mind a passage in which he praised art of a very different kind. Of David Cox’s foliage he said : “It is altogether exquisite in colour, and in its impressions of coolness, shade and mass ; of its drawing I cannot say anything, but that I should be sorry to see it better.” Here is actually the much dreaded word ” Impression ! ” I have already quoted Ruskin as forbidding us to be offended with ” the loose and blotted handling ” of Cox, and as saying that there is no other means by which his object could be attained, and further that what is accidental in Cox’s mode of reaching his object, “answers gracefully to the accidental part of nature herself.” This looks as if Pre-Raphaelitism were not the one and only sound gospel of art, even according to Ruskin. To the end of his life Brett painted in the spirit, and almost in the letter, of this early work. His coast-scenes and seascapes are like so many vistas through open windows. He recorded the facts, and left the spectator to think or feel about them as he might. In his Royal Academy Notes for 1875, Ruskin said of Brett’s picture of that year, Spires and Steeples of the Channel Islands : “Mr. Brett, in his coast-scene above noticed, gives us things without thoughts”; and, in the same place, he states the principle : “Landscape painting shows the relation between nature and man ; and, in fine work, a particular tone of thought in the painter’s mind respecting what lie represents.” Clearly, detail should be a means, not an end; it should be kept in close relation to the thought or emotion to be expressed. It may be much or little, and yet the picture may be good art, true to what the artist lias felt, not merely to the external facts, from which he has to select only such as will serve his artistic end.
Mention of the work of Brett inevitably brings to my mind that of Henry Moore, for I have been accustomed for years to see the Northern Archipelago of the former, and the Mount’s Bay of the latter, facing each other in one of the rooms of the Manchester Art Gallery. Henry Moore began as a painter of Pre-Raphaelite landscapes and cattle-subjects. Ruskin praised his Swiss Meadow in June, exhibited in 1857. In the following year he exhibited his first seascape, and to the sea he afterwards remained faithful. His work is not open to the complaint that Ruskin lodges against that of Brett. He invariably recorded some effect of nature that he had enjoyed, or some mood of nature to which he had responded. His later work was far from being detailed in its realism; but it expressed a sincere, unaffected and poetical love of nature. The waves, the clouds, and light breaking through the clouds and gleaming on the waves, were the staple of his subjects; it was a moving world that he sought to interpret; and the extreme of detail, such as the instantaneous photograph gives, would have been fatal to any suggestion, any illusion, of motion. As it is, when one stands before a seascape by him, the waves seem actually to be moving, racing after each other as if in eager chase ; and, in the sky above, the clouds advance in their own more measured manner. His pictures, though so natural in effect, were none the less subtly designed. If he had a fault it was that his colour, particularly his blue, was sometimes monotonous, almost unvaried over so large a space that the picture as a whole lost the feeling of nature’s infinite variety and of atmospheric vibration. He sought to record impressions, and somewhat more of impressionist methods would at times have been useful to him. J. W. Inchbold also came under the influence of the Pre-Raphaelites, and his landscapes combine realism with true poetic feeling; and there were others, also, who need not be individually mentioned here. To still more recent evidences of the influence of Holman Hunt and Millais realism I shall have to refer later on.
We have now to follow the fortunes of the romantic side of the Pre-Raphaelite movement, that side of it to which Mr. Holman Hunt would deny the right to be included in it. We recollect that he regards himself and Millais as having been at any time the only true Pre-Raphaelites; and Rossetti as having been from the first so steeped in Madox Brown’s medievalism that no tuition could rid him of it. Certainly laborious painting of natural detail, not necessarily relevant to the main subject of the picture, was not to his mind. Close observation of the minutiae of natural light, colour, and so forth, was quite apart from his purpose. Beauty was to his purpose, especially beauty of colour, which he held, and rightly held, to be chief among the essentials of the painter’s art. In this he showed himself a Romanticist. The Classical school, as we have learned, put drawing in the first place.
We have seen Rossetti wearying of the drudgery of painting jars and bottles to which Madox Brown set him, going to Holman Hunt for instruction, joining in the formation of the Brotherhood, and painting and exhibiting The Girlhood of Mary Virgin and Ecce Ancilla Domini. Then he withdrew from the contest with the critics, leaving Holman Hunt and Millais to carry it on alone. Already his work was different from theirs, in both method and aim. There was to be a still greater divergence. We may put it that whereas Holman Hunt and Millais told any story they took for a subject in the way they thought it must have happened, or would have happened had it been a true one, Rossetti told his stories in what he thought would have been a beautiful way for them to have happened. This does not mean that the beauty was foremost in his thought. We have already objected to Mr. Holman Hunt’s saying that “Rossetti treated the Gospel history simply as a storehouse of interesting situations and beautiful personages for the artist’s pencil.” He found the Gospel history to be this, but not this only or mainly ; any more than this was all that Dante’s poetry meant to him. He once, indeed, wrote to Madox Brown : ” I am writing a long ballad about a magic mirror. . . . I have painted the better part of a little picture besides, but don’t know who is to buy it. I can’t be bothered to stick idle names : a head is a head, and fools won’t buy heads on that footing.” This sounds like contempt for the subject in painting; yet many, perhaps most, of Rossetti’s works have a quite definite subject : frequently they are pictorial versions of his own poems, or of Dante’s poems, or other literary works ; and when Mr. William Sharp asked him how he would reply to the asseveration that he was the head of the “Art for Art’s sake” school, his response was to the effect that “the principle of the phrase was two-thirds absolutely correct, and one-third so essentially wrong that it negatived the value of the whole as an aphorism.”
Rossetti stands alone in having expressed himself with great, and not greatly unequal, ease and power in both poetry and painting. William Morris, also, was both poet and artist ; but while continuing his poetical work, he early abandoned pictorial for decorative art. Rossetti has been called literary in his painting and pictorial in his poems ; which, in the extent to which it is true, only means that his thought and emotion formed themselves into concrete images ; which is true of all of us in degree, and of some amongst us in exceptional degree. When. a youth desirous of being a painter came to Rossetti, he was asked if he had any thoughts that could be expressed in design. This explains the saying about art for art’s sake. Painting must have art, must have design ; but it only does its final work when the design clothes a thought. He was not himself a really well-trained craftsman he had been too indolent. To have to do a thing was enough to turn him against it. Technically his painting was inferior to his poetry. He once expressed his regret that a painting could not, like a poem, be teased into shape.
His art, his design, it has been already said, was based on colour. “I believe colour,” he said, “to be a quite indispensable quality in the highest art, and that no picture ever belonged to the highest order without it; while many by possessing it as the works of Titian are raised certainly into the highest class, though not to the very highest grade of that class, in spite of the limited degree of their other great qualities. Perhaps the only exception which I should be inclined to admit exists in the works of Hogarth, to which I should never dare to assign any but the very highest place, though their colour is certainly not a prominent feature in them. I must add, however, that Hogarth’s colour is seldom other than pleasing to myself, and that, for my own part, I should almost call him a colourist, though not aiming at colour. On the other hand, there are men who, merely on account of bad colour, prevent nie from thoroughly enjoying their works, though full of other qualities. For instance, Wilkie, or Delaroche (in nearly all his works, though the Hémicycle is fine in colour). From Wilkie I would at any time prefer a thoroughly good engraving though of course he is in no respect even within hail of Hogarth. Colour is the physiognomy of a picture ; and, like the shape of the human forehead, it cannot be perfectly beautiful without proving goodness and greatness. Other qualities are its life exercised, but this is the body of its life, by which we know and love it at first sight.”
This passage is instructive in various ways. It is interesting to find Rossetti appreciating Hogarth’s colour. Recognition of his colour as harmonious, though not brilliant, and as being carried through his design, is more common now than it used to be. Colour there must be colour alone will make a picture great, but not of the greatest; colour is the beautiful body of a picture : other qualities are its life exercised. Such was the thoroughly sane creed of Rossetti.
He had very distinct preferences in colour ; he could place his favourite hues in order of merit : first, pure, light, warm green; second, deep gold colour; third, certain tints of grey; fourth, shadowy or steel blue; fifth, brown with crimson tinge; sixth, scarlet. These he liked, each for its own sake, separately, apart from any others. Then, for the rest, he said that other colours, comparatively, were only lovable according to the relations in which they were placed. His own pictures and drawings are conspicuous for their rich, glowing colour. The works of the great Venetians hardly lose more by translation into monochrome than do Rossetti s, so thoroughly did his own practice embody his theory.
It is hardly an exaggeration to say that Rossetti existed in the present but lived in the past. He was a devotee of beauty, which was denied almost all its rights in the time and the place in which he had to spend his days on earth. No joyous picture, only, indeed, the saddest of all his pictures, had modern London for its scene. Another drawing gets as near to our own time as Dr. Johnson’s day ; for the rest, we are taken back to the Middle Ages, or to some dateless time the time, that is, when beauty holds sway in life. The one drawing that does set us down in the mid-nineteenth century shows a drover who, just as, in the early morning, with a calf fastened in his cart, he is about to cross one of the bridges that lead into London, sees in handsome but disordered dress the girl whom he has loved, but who has long been lost to him and to her village home. As she shrinks away from him, falling to the ground and turning her pain-stricken face to the wall, he seizes her by her hands and seeks to raise her up again, his face instinct with love and tender sorrow. The calf, taken into the town to be slaughtered, is symbolic of her fate. Whether for her there is any redemption on this side of the grave we are left in doubt. In the sonnet written to accompany the picture she is made to say,
” Leave meI do not know yougo away !”
This was Rossetti’s solitary attempt to express his emotion through the medium of such an incident as might be met with in a London street. After this there was no more realism ; there was no care even about antiquarian accuracy; he merely used any material that was available to create a beautiful world in which the men and women of his imagination might live and move.
One ought rather to have said women and men ; for woman, her love and her beauty, and man’s love for her, was almost exclusively the subject of Rossetti’s art. A cynic might almost sum up the romantic side of the Pre-Raphaelite movement as a cult of woman’s beauty. Robert Buchanan’s attack on ” the fleshly school of poetry,” which had special reference to Rossetti, was unjust; but the sensuous and the sensual are much in evidence in both his poetry and his painting, far more so than was customary at the time. To what extent this cult was an obsession, how far Rossetti was morbid, we need not inquire here. He has often been subjected to pathological study. Certain it is that, especially in his painting, the one subject almost exclusively engrossed him. If he read the New Testament, it was the girlhood of Mary Virgin, the Annunciation, Mary Magdalene at the house of Simon the Pharisee, that attracted him as subjects for pictures. From Dante he took the love of Dante for Beatrice, and the fatal love of Paolo and Francesca da Rimini. From the Arthurian legend he took Tristram and Iseult and Launcelot in Guenevere’s chamber. If he turned to Shakespeare’s ” Ham [et ” it was to find Ophelia there. From Browning he got the suggestion of The Laboratory, where a woman is seeking for poison with which to kill off a rival. From Florentine story he chooses the Borgia family. Creating his own subjects we get such as the Found, already described, Hesterna Rosa, a picture of satiated sensuality, and all the long list of subjects such as How They Met Themselves two lo vers faced by their own apparitions Mona Rosa, The Loving Cup, Mariana, Veronica Veronese, Fiammetta, Lilith, and many others. The Blessed Damozel, both in the poem and in the picture, carries the love that is but personal attachment l’égoisme a deux personnes, in the French phrase beyond the grave ; Astarte Syriaca recreates the goddess who, in old-time belief, delighted in such love. Rarely does he appeal to anything higher than the sensuous emotion. It intrudes even when Joan of Arc is kissing the sword of deliverance. Of the love that endures in higher love that is wholly disinterested, has no return on self he rarely gives a hint. Such a sweetly simple picture as Joli Coeur seems almost out of place amongst so many in which not kind-heartedness, but the love that does little more than seek self in another, gazes out upon us from a world of luxurious beauty. Rossetti, in his pictures, has interpreted, almost exclusively, one phase of love, and that not the highest ; so that, had we him alone for guide, we might take this fragment for the whole. The generous emotions for which we use such words as devotion, charity in the large sense unselfishness, are not suggested by his pictures. Though there is no dallying with evil, yet the word purity never comes to our lips, as it inevitably does when we look at Holman Hunt’s Isabella, while we are before any but his earliest works; nor do we find ourselves thinking of character and strength. Soul does not stand before us clear from, or nobly dominating sense. If the faces of the vast majority of living women did not say things that the faces in Rossetti’s pictures rarely, if ever, say, it would go ill with mankind.
The picture here reproduced, Beata Beatrix, though an imaginative work of great power and beauty it was the witness of his art to his love for the wife he had lost does not reveal love ennobled by death, but only claims continuance, despite of death, for personal attachment, as also does The Blessed Damozel. It is a beautiful, deeply passionate assertion that what men call death is but a swooning into another life.
Notwithstanding his imperfect technical equipment, Rossetti’s art became an exceedingly beautiful and subtly appropriate language for the emotions he sought to express. He was full of enthusiasm, and could infect others with his own zeal witness his carrying off to Oxford, despite their protests, a number of young painters, Val Prinsep, Burne-Jones, William Morris, Spencer Stanhope, and others, who had no previous experience in mural painting, to decorate with pictures the still damp walls of the new Union building there. In his intercourse with his friends and fellow-artists he was, when in health of mind and body, conspicuously generous. There is little wonder that the man, his poetry and his art, have had an influence that still is strong.
One evening, in the year 1856, a young Oxford under-graduate found his way to the Working Men’s College in Great Ormond Street. He had gone with a definite object, to set eyes, if he could, on Dante Rossetti, who, as he had learned, taught in the art school of the college. He wished to see Rossetti because he had read ” The Blessed Damozel,” and had seen his water-colour of Dante, while drawing the head of Beatrice, being disturbed by people of importance, and his illustration to William Allingham’s ” Maids of Elfenmere,” and because the creator of these works of literature and art had become to him a hero. This hero-worshipping undergraduate was Edward Burne-Jones, himself to become little, if anything, less than a hero to others. He had no thought of speaking to Rossetti ; the genuine hero-worshipper never aims so high. It would be enough if he could see him. His purpose was accomplished, for Rossetti came to the college that evening. More than this, a few nights later Burne-Jones was actually introduced to his hero, had a ” first fearful talk ” with him, and was invited to go to his studio on the following day. He went, and so a lifelong friendship was begun. Rossetti’s advice confirmed Burne-Jones in an already formed resolution to devote his life to art, and he left Oxford without taking his degree.
Of his earlier life it is not necessary to say much here. He was born in 1834 in Birmingham, where his father was in business as picture-framer. He was educated at the King Edward’s School there, and when he went up to Oxford it was with the intention of eventually entering into holy orders. Difficulties that do not concern us here, and counter-attractions at which we have briefly glanced, led, as we have seen, to a complete change of purpose. This happened also to his closest college friend at Oxford, William Morris, who can have but brief mention in this book, be-cause he early gave up the practice of painting to pursue, along with poetry and other literary production, the arts that ally themselves to use.
It was Rossetti’s recorded first impression of Burne-Jones that he was ” one of the nicest young fellows in Dreamland.” It was a true impression. It was in dreamland that Burne-Jones spent his artistic life. He was a Celt, and whether or not all Celts are dreamers, Burne-Jones was one. In the world where men contend for wealth and power he felt himself a stranger. He was at home only in the ideal world where love and beauty alone have sway. He was not a misanthrope. He was full of kindness. Merriment and mischief were never put away as childish things. But he could take no pleasure in the things for which most men live. One or two brief sayings of his own will show better than much writing about him why he spent his working life in dreamland. “A pity it is I was not born in the Middle Ages. People would then have known how to use me now they don’t know what on earth to do with me.” Again, ” I have learned to know beauty when I see it, and that’s the best thing.” And again, ” This is rather sad talk, and sounds as if I had an impossible ideal and I have, and a bit of it shall come.”
The old buildings of Oxford, the cathedrals and churches of northern France, had told Burne-Jones and Morris that civilisation had once been more beautiful than it was in their day, and had inspired them with faith that some day it would be beautiful again. Morris, in after years, actively joined in Socialist propaganda; not in vain, perhaps. Quite recently a Socialist Member of Parliament has said : ” The present aim of Socialists is to find work for the unemployed, food for the hungry, and clothes for the naked. After that it will make the conquest of the intellectual and artistic world. The foundation has been laid for the most beautiful edifice which has ever been constructed.” As this was said in a public speech, we may pardon the orator for talking of a building as being already constructed for which only the foundation had been laid, and at once go on to say that the Socialist member’s hope was exactly the hope of William Morris yes, and of Ruskin also. It was also Burne-Jones’s hope ; but he shrank from such work as that to which Morris set himself though on more than one occasion he uttered a protest against the tyranny of selfishness and sought rather to draw his fellows to better things by translating into picture the lovely tales of long ago ; and it may be that he, no less than Morris and Ruskin, has done something to hasten the coming of a better day.
For a time his art was little more than an echo of that of Rossetti, whose pupil he became, in the sense of watching the older painter engaged upon works which, to the end of his life, filled him with admiration. Then his own individuality, steadily asserting itself, gave to his own art an independent character. He sought by unremitting work, persisted in despite frequent ill-health, to make up for the lack of early training, for he was already twenty-two years old when he turned of set purpose to art; and he so far succeeded that, although he never attained to that consummate mastery of the brush which marks the greatest craftsmen, he executed a large number of works of singular and refined beauty. He was greatly influenced by the Italian masters, particularly the Florentines ; that is to say, his art was Pre-Raphaelite in the sense in which that of Holman Hunt and Millais was not, and against which Holman Hunt has so strongly inveighed. After a visit to Italy in 1872 he said that the masters he cared for most were Michael Angelo, Luca Signorelli, Mantegna, Giotto, Botticelli, Andrea del Sarto, Paolo Uccello, and Piero della Francesca; and he further said that, on this visit, artistic excellence alone had little charm for him, so that he never wanted even to look at Titian, and saw the Raphaels at Rome for the first time as unaffected by them as he could see the cartoons in London. All of which means that Burne-Jones was far from eschewing the subject in painting, and that, in his own art, colour would be subordinate to drawing. His colour was never brilliantly glowing, like that of Rossetti; indeed, it is at times open to the charge of harshness, and is best when most restrained. His sense of line, also, does not always carry him all through his picture, but stops short in the individual figures and in the detail; so that among his best works are those containing only one or two figures.
Objection has often been made to the repetition of the same face, and its almost invariable lack of expression. His defence of this peculiarity was that his faces were not portraits of people in paroxysms of terror, hatred, benevolence, desire, avarice, veneration, etc. It was but a variation of this defence, or, perhaps we should say, explanation, when he said, in effect, that his figures were not individuals, but types. So Ruskin, in his Oxford lecture entitled “Mythic Schools of Painting,” distinguishes between Rossetti as representing persons and Burne-Jones as being content with personification, so that ” had both Rossetti and he been set to illustrate the first chapter of Genesis, Rossetti would have painted either Adam or Eve but Edward Burne-Jones, a Day of Creation.” Dramatic or personal, Ruskin calls the one school of painting, mythic or personifying the other. The names matter little ; the things matter much. Holman Hunt and Millais were more emphatically dramatic painters in this sense than was Rossetti. We may almost divide the landscape painters also into the two orders, dramatic and mythic, the former dwelling on detailed life and beauty, the latter generalising until it seems not so much the visible world that we see as the invisible power that lives and operates in it. The landscape in not a few of Burne-Jones’s pictures The Mirror of Venus and Love and the Pilgrim, for instance is of the latter kind.
Burne-Jones, in his art, virtually withdrew himself from his own age, to dwell upon things he believed to be true and beautiful for every age. This is how, on one occasion, he described his life-work to me. He did not withdraw himself from sympathy with his own age, he was moved by its sorrows and pained by its hideousness ; but he stood apart from its activities, and he would not portray it. It would not be well for every one to do this ; but it was well for him ; and nothing can be more mistaken than to regard such an attitude as morbid. To gather truth and beauty from the past, and, by setting them forth, to enforce their claim on the present and the future, is a sane and noble endeavour. When a lady wrote to Burne-Jones contrasting the ignoble faces she had seen in Regent Street with the divine hush of the New Gallery, and talked of artists withdrawing themselves from this wretched world like the gods of old, he begged a friend to tell him that he had not wasted his whole life in running after things no man would ever be the better for !
His life-work is summed up in the opening lines of Keats’ “Endymion.” To him a thing of beauty was indeed a joy for ever, and he sought to create shapes of beauty that would move away the pall from dark spirits, amid dearth of noble natures, days of gloom, unhealthy and o’er darkened ways. It is ill paraphrasing poetry; let me quote the poet, who almost describes Burne-Jones’s work when he includes in such shapes of beauty;
The grandeur of the dooms We have imagined for the mighty dead ; All lovely tales that we have heard or read An endless fountain of immortal drink, Pouring unto us from the heaven’s brink.
It is thus one understands Burne-Jones’s pictures. This is not the place to enumerate and describe them, even could one’s halting prose keep pace with their swift-winged poetry. He lived in the myths and legends of Greece ; the book of Genesis drew from him a visible psalm in praise of the mystery of creation; the adoration of the Magi, the death on the Cross, Christ in the Day of Judgment these things, for painting or for window, he chose from the Christian Belief. One of the loveliest of his pictures has for its subject the figure of Christ stooping from a cross at a wayside shrine to kiss a merciful knight who has forgiven his enemy. It is needless, almost, to say how much the Arthurian legend meant to him, a Celt; or, again, how he delighted to turn into picture the story-telling of Chaucer. In such a painting as The Golden Stairs he creates his own allegory. What did he mean by this company of maidens, each with her instrument of music, descending from a higher to a lower room ? Do they tell us of a music coming from above into human life, quenching its discords and making ever richer its harmonies ? So we might wander on among these things of beauty, which the unresting though unhasting artist designed through many years, until, while yet there were unfinished works upon his easels, and many a contemplated work was not begun, the brush was for the last time laid aside.
Madox Brown, as we have seen, got the opportunity at Manchester of painting pictures for places in a public building where they were permanently to remain. Such was the kind of work that Burne-Jones wished to do. He disliked miscellaneous exhibitions, and regarded easel-pictures as but a poor substitute for those designed for particular places and actually painted on the spot. He would have liked to paint only big things in vast spaces, and that the common people should wonder at them. Little opportunity, however, came to him for work of this kind, except in the form of executing designs for stained-glass windows, of which he did many for churches in various parts of the country. The one chance he got, apart from the window-designs, was that of designs for mosaics in the American church at Rome ; and he did not see the completed work. It was a part of his dream that art should not be a mere luxury for the few, but the heritage, both in practice and enjoyment, of the many. Designs of his were executed in tapestry on Morris’s looms ; he also, of course, designed illustrations for books that Morris printed and published. His view of the place that art ought to occupy in life was large and generous, and he did what he could to make it prevail. These wider questions of art will arise again when we consider the work of other painters, such as G. F. Watts and Leighton in England, and Puvis de Chavannes in France.
The year following that in which Burne-Jones first became acquainted with Rossetti another young painter sought and obtained both his acquaintance and his friendship. This was Frederic Sandys, who, born in 1832, the son of a Norwich painter, had already made considerable advance in art, much in the Pre-Raphaelite manner of laborious truth-fulness. Early in his career he executed many drawings for woodcuts ; then he produced several oil-paintings ; and lastly, his work mostly took the form of chalk drawing. His oil-paintings are strongly reminiscent of Rossetti’s work, but with inevitable differences. He was a far abler crafts-man than Rossetti, especially in his draughtsmanship ; there is more dramatic intensity in his works than in those of Rossetti ; it is as if the women whom Rossetti has shown to us quite tranquil, and prone we cannot always tell whether more to good or to evil, had been aroused to passionate action. Cassandra and Helen, Medea preparing poison in a brazier, Morgan le Fay looking at the shirt which she has woven for her brother King Arthur, and which will bring death to the wearer, she hating him for his purity and the love and loyalty it has won for him : these he paints, and the beautiful Vivien, not actively engaged in evil, but looking, it may be, from a window or balcony at King Arthur and his knights, contemptuous of their devotion to the good, and thinking by what means she can overcome it with evil. All these works are beautiful alike in draughtsmanship, design, and colour, and powerfully imaginative. The beauty of those who are so intent on evil helps to realise that depth of evil which is the corruption of the best.
Spencer Stanhope was one of the Rossetti-Burne-Jones group. He was enlisted to execute one of the pictures at the Oxford Union. Many of his paintings, such as The Temptation of Eve and The Waters of Lethe, in the Manchester Art Gallery, are in tempera, and, being also decorative in design, are more suited for an architectural setting than for exhibition as easel-pictures ; indeed, much of his work has been done as church decoration. It at once declares its kinship with, particularly, the work of Burne-Jones, though there is more expression in the faces and vigour in the action. J. M. Strudwick, after passing through the Academy Schools, became the pupil of Burne-Jones, of whom he is often regarded as little more than an echo. It is kinder, and more just, to regard him as a kindred spirit, for alike in sentiment, in decorative quality, in colour and in technique there are marked differences between his work and that of Burne-Jones. His world is one where every-thing is beautiful, and all or most of those who dwell in it seem as if the storms of evil had ceased to trouble them and had left them for ever calm ; there is need no longer for strenuous virtue. Walter Crane is another artist who came under the influence of the Pre-Raphaelites. When only a boy he was attracted by the work of Millais. His own work has been chiefly decorative, and purely pictorial art has been the least successful part of his achievement. He has produced many pictures, however, his subjects being chiefly drawn from myth and legend, and he must be counted in the Pre-Raphaelite succession. Frederic Shields, again, after working at the lithographic bench, and later executing delightful drawings of child-life, came under the influence of Rossetti, to whose work his pictures at one time showed their indebtedness both in choice of subject and in treatment. Always a religious enthusiast, he has for a long while now been able to devote his art to what he holds to be the highest service. He has done work for the private chapels of Sir William Houldsworth at Kilmarnock and the Duke of Westminster at Eaton Hall ; while, more recently, the late Mrs. Russell Gurney entrusted to him the task of painting a series of pictures in the chapel known as the Chapel of the Ascension, which she caused to be built for the purpose in the Bayswater Road. This work, which is steadily approaching completion, is one of the most thoughtful and loftily conceived examples of its kind executed in our time. Fra Angelico cannot have brought more devotion to his work than has Mr. Shields ; and even those who find great limitations in his art, particularly in his colour, who feel that his subjects are overweighted with symbolism, and that the action and gestures of his figures are often over-strained, can hardly fail, even if also they do not think as he thinks about the lofty themes of which he treats, to be impressed by the many noble qualities of his work and the deeply spiritual purpose that informs it.
There is an interesting and highly creditable incident in the career of Frederic Shields that deserves to be recorded here. He spent many years of his earlier life in Manchester; and this connection with the city led to the arrangement that he should share with Madox Brown the decoration of the large room in the Town Hall there. Each of them was to execute six mural paintings, and Madox Brown was to complete his quota first. When Mr. Shields saw his friend’s work, he was convinced that the whole series should be done by the one hand, and he absolutely refused to do his share of the work, with the result that all the twelve paintings were done by Madox Brown. There can be no doubt that it was better thus ; but the act of self-denial none the less deserves its meed of praise, and it is satisfactory to think that, at the Chapel of the Ascension, Shields has found work for which he was better fitted than the illustration of the history of Manchester, and at which he could continue with unabated ardour through many years.
T. M. Rooke is another artist of merit, who worked at one time with Burne-Jones, and has painted subject-pictures of much power and beauty, taking his subjects mainly from the Bible and the old myths. In later years his water-colour drawings of mediaeval buildings and towns, records of beauty that is fast disappearing, have been interesting features in many an exhibition.
In his book already mentioned, Mr. Percy Bate instances Sir Noel Paton as having come under the influence of Millais. His works, and the laborious detail in them, are too well known to need more than mention here. He was very prolific, finding his themes in history, legend, poetry, and the Biblical narratives. His work was always accomplished; but he failed as a colourist, and his treatment of some of the highest themes bordered at least on the sensational. Mr. Bate notes also the influence of the Pre-Raphaelites on several Scottish painters, but they need not detain us here. Mrs. Stillman and Mrs. de Morgan clearly belong to the romantic side of the movement.
Of the original members of the Brotherhood only Holman Hunt, Millais, and Rossetti take their place among the chief painters of their time. James Collinson was the only other member who did any considerable amount of painting, but his work was not of conspicuous merit. He became a Roman Catholic, left the Brotherhood, and his place was taken by Walter Howell Deverell, who, however, died in 1851 at the age of twenty-six, before his powers were fully matured. Madox Brown, of course, takes his place along with the three painters who led the organised movement; and when to these four we have added Burne-Jones, we have the five men who, by the quality and the amount of their work, stand out as the chief exponents of the two sides of the Pre-Raphaelite movement. Among those we have mentioned to whom minor place only is accorded, there is not one who has not done work of at least very considerable merit ; and the whole group, leaders and followers, would leave English art grievously the poorer were it possible to remove their names from its roll. They form a numerous as well as a strong company of artists, and their work has been marked by sincerity both in craftsmanship and in thought and feeling. Millais is, perhaps, the only one of them all of whom we are at all inclined to think as being in any measure spoiled by success many of them met with only too little success and Millais’ work, even when he was most below his best, was still so wholesome and so good as art that one can hardly think of it without regretting anything said in the way of adverse criticism. How delightful, within its limits, in design and in colour and in expression of the human interest of its subject, is even such a picture as The Boyhood of Raleigh here reproduced ! Yet it is not of his best, and many of the lesser painters of the school have done far greater work than this.
The effect of the movement upon our art is by no means exhausted, nor is it likely to be. It insisted on things that are permanently, if not exclusively, valuable. Even those who could not closely follow the teachings of the school have learned from it the meaning of sincerity and high endeavour; and our exhibitions today show that the letter as well as the spirit of the movement still has power. Only an example or two must be given. Mr. Byam Shaw almost startles us with a picture, The Boer War, 1900, that comes close in its rendering of detail of flower and leaf to Millais’ Ophelia. There is good reason for the detail in each case. Ophelia is passing to her death, oblivious now of the leaves and flowers and birds she has individually loved, and their closely recorded loveliness adds to the pathos of the scene. The lady in Mr. Shaw’s picture has grown familiar with every plant and bush by the stream-side. She has often been amongst them ; but one who has been there with her can now be with her no more ; and, in her grief, the old familiar things about her, so well known in every least particular, have lost for her their beauty. In other pictures Mr. Shaw shows his indebtedness to the romantic side of the movement. Miss Eleanor F. Brickdale and Mr. Cayley Robinson owe much, though in very different ways, to the Pre-Raphaelites. These are conspicuous instances; and there are many other painters now contributing to our exhibitions whose work must have been very different but for the Pre-Raphaelite example.
Have we sufficiently made clear to ourselves its characteristics? The reader may turn now with advantage to an earlier page (42), where is given Mr. William Rossetti’s statement of the points upon which all the members of the Brotherhood were agreed. M. de la Sizeranne sums up the movement thus : ” Looked at as a whole from Madox Brown to Millais, from Watts to Rossetti, from the Westminster cartoons to The Last of England, from Isabella to The Huguenot, as from The Annunciation to Dante’s Dream, the movement of 1850 was this : new men longing for a new art, substituting strange, novel, individual gesture for commonplace generalisations; and fresh, dry, pure colour, brilliant by its juxtapositions, for sunken, overlaid colour; in one word, they exchanged the line of expression for the line of decoration, and clear tones for warm tones. In its simplicity this was Pre-Raphaelitism. ” Similarly, Herr Muther says that the programme of the school was truth, strict and keen study of nature ; ” even at the expense of total effect, every picture was to be carried out in minutest detail,” the painters abandoned abstract beauty of form for the ” characteristic, energetic, angular ; but their figures painted faithfully from nature are the vehicles of a meta-physical idea.” This is how the Pre-Raphaelite movement appears to two foreign critics of our art. The subject-pictures generally tell a story, be the theme great or simple. In the great majority of cases our ability to understand the subject depends upon our knowledge of literature. The figures in the pictures do not explain themselves, and why they look happy or sad, mild or fierce, or what else ; as the people we meet in daily life explain themselves to us. There are exceptions, of course, but they prove the rule. Then, what these people are doing has to be done naturally ; gesture and expression must fit emotion, not the requirements of “abstract beauty of form.” This characteristic is, of course, most in evidence in the work of the realists, and pre-eminently so in that of Madox Brown. Lastly, there is the insistence upon detail, in every part of the picture, in what is of chief importance to the subject, and what is of least or no importance, detail such as the eye could not see were the scene itself before us, except by long examination of it, bit by bit. Both the general effect of the scene, such as the Impressionists give, and fluid colour, are inevitably lost by this method ; one kind of truth is obtained at the cost of another, and beauty is imperilled if not sacrificed.
It is not only in the work of a Holman Hunt that we find this insistence on detail, or in the work of those who were especially influenced by him and by the earlier work of Millais; we find it in the paintings of Burne-Jones, Strudwick, and others on the romantic side of the movement, though, with them, the decorative, as distinguished from the realistic purpose of their art they never give us the least chance of thinking that, with a little more success on the part of the artist, nature itself would seem to be before us enables them to put the detail to more artistic use.
The strength of Pre-Raphaelitism lies in expression of thought and the higher emotions. To those who think that such things should be left to literature, this is its weakness, for it means that sensuous beauty is not the sole or even the paramount consideration. Herbert Spencer entered the lists to combat Holman Hunt’s theory of art. [n an essay, ” The Purpose of Art,” included in Facts and Comments, he wrote : “Artists seek to magnify their office on the ground that art is useful for intellectual culture : that reason being the only one assigned. Years ago my attention was drawn to this mistaken conception by a disquisition with which Mr. Holman Hunt accompanied an exhibited picture ‘ Christ in the Workshop,’ it may have been. The educational value of art was the theme of his proem. By implication it appeared that it was not enough for a picture to gratify the aesthetic perceptions or raise a pleasurable emotion. It must teach something. The yielding of satisfaction to certain feelings is not regarded as an aim to be put in the foreground, but the primary aim must be instruction.” Perhaps certainly, I think this is too crudely stated. No artist would assign intellectual culture as the only claim of his art to be useful. The utmost the Pre-Raphaelites would say is that art may teach something, may appeal to thought and the higher emotions, need not be restricted to gratifying aesthetic perceptions or raising a pleasurable emotion ; and that, in thus taking other than the sensuous ground, it does not necessarily trespass on the domain of literature ; that, indeed, it has means of interpreting ethical and spiritual things that are denied to words. And it is not the Pre-Raphaelites alone, nor only a few artists here and there in this and that country, who hold this view of the functions of art. Hitherto it has been general. Those who think otherwise are a minority, probably among artists, certainly among those for whom the artist works. Whether or not the future will more rigidly define the boundaries of literature and art we may leave the writer of the future to say.