Page:Nollekens and His Times, Volume 2.djvu/489

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477
BLAKE.

The landscape has a deep-toned brightness that accords most admirably with the figures; and the painter has ingeniously contrived to give a value to a common scene and very ordinary forms, that would hardly be found, by unlearned eyes, in the natural objects. He has expressed too, with great vivacity and truth, the freshness of morning, at that season when Nature herself is most fresh and blooming—the Spring; and it requires no great stretch of fancy to imagine we perceive the influence of it on the cheeks of the Fair Wife of Bathy and her rosy companions, the Monk and Friar.

"In respect of the execution of the various parts of this pleasing design, it is not too much praise to say, that it is wholly free from that vice which painters term manner; and it has this peculiarity beside, which I do not remember to have seen in any picture, ancient or modem, namely, that it bears no mark of the period in which it was painted, but might very well pass for the work of some able artist of the time of Chaucer. This effect is not, I believe, the result of any association of ideas connected with the costume, but appears in primitive simplicity, and the total absence of all affectation, either of colour or pencilling.

"Having attempted to describe a few of the beauties of this captivating performance, it remains only for me to mention one great defect. The picture is, notwithstanding appearances, a modern one. But if you can divest yourself of the general prejudice that exists against contemporary talents, you will see a work that would have done honour to any school, at any period."[1]

In 1810, Stothard, to his great surprise, found that Blake had engraved and published a plate

  1. See the "Artist," by Prince Hoare, Esq. No. 13, Vol. I. page 13.