The Two Paths/Lecture II

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LECTURE II.

THE UNITY OF ART.

Part of an Address delivered at Manchester, 14th March, 1859.[1]

It is sometimes my pleasant duty to visit other cities, in the hope of being able to encourage their art students; but here it is my pleasanter privilege to come for encouragement myself. I do not know when I have received so much as from the report read this evening by Mr. Hammersley, bearing upon a subject which has caused me great anxiety. For I have always felt in my own pursuit of art, and in my endeavors to urge the pursuit of art on others, that while there are many advantages now that never existed before, there are certain grievous difficulties existing, just in the very cause that is giving the stimulus to art—in the immense spread of the manufactures of every country which is now attending vigorously to art. We find that manufacture and art are now going on always together; that where there is no manufacture there is no art. I know how much there is of pretended art where there is no manufacture: there is much in Italy, for instance; no country makes so bold pretence to the production of new art as Italy at this moment; yet no country produces so little. If you glance over the map of Europe, you will find that where the manufactures are strongest, there art also is strongest. And yet I always felt that there was an immense difficulty to be encountered by the students who were in these centres of modern movement. They had to avoid the notion that art and manufacture were in any respect one. Art may be healthily associated with manufacture, and probably in future will always be so; but the student must be strenuously warned against supposing that they can ever be one and the same thing, that art can ever be followed on the principles of manufacture. Each must be followed separately; the one must influence the other, but each must be kept distinctly separate from the other.

It would be well if all students would keep clearly in their mind the real distinction between those words which we use so often, "Manufacture," "Art," and "Fine Art." "MANUFACTURE" is, according to the etymology and right use of the word, "the making of anything by hands,"—directly or indirectly, with or without the help of instruments or machines. Anything proceeding from the hand of man is manufacture; but it must have proceeded from his hand only, acting mechanically, and uninfluenced at the moment by direct intelligence.

Then, secondly, ART is the operation of the hand and the intelligence of man together; there is an art of making machinery; there is an art of building ships; an art of making carriages; and so on. All these, properly called Arts, but not Fine Arts, are pursuits in which the hand of man and his head go together, working at the same instant.

Then FINE ART is that in which the hand, the head, and the heart of man go together.

Recollect this triple group; it will help you to solve many difficult problems. And remember that though the hand must be at the bottom of everything, it must also go to the top of everything; for Fine Art must be produced by the hand of man in a much greater and clearer sense than manufacture is. Fine Art must always be produced by the subtlest of all machines, which is the human hand. No machine yet contrived, or hereafter contrivable, will ever equal the fine machinery of the human fingers. Thoroughly perfect art is that which proceeds from the heart, which involves all the noble emotions;—associates with these the head, yet as inferior to the heart; and the hand, yet as inferior to the heart and head; and thus brings out the whole man.

Hence it follows that since Manufacture is simply the operation of the hand of man in producing that which is useful to him, it essentially separates itself from the emotions; when emotions interfere with machinery they spoil it: machinery must go evenly, without emotion. But the Fine Arts cannot go evenly; they always must have emotion ruling their mechanism, and until the pupil begins to feel, and until all he does associates itself with the current of his feeling, he is not an artist. But pupils in all the schools in this country are now exposed to all kinds of temptations which blunt their feelings. I constantly feel discouraged in addressing them because I know not how to tell them boldly what they ought to do, when I feel how practically difficult it is for them to do it. There are all sorts of demands made upon them in every direction, and money is to be made in every conceivable way but the right way. If you paint as you ought, and study as you ought, depend upon it the public will take no notice of you for a long while. If you study wrongly, and try to draw the attention of the public upon you,—supposing you to be clever students—you will get swift reward; but the reward does not come fast when it is sought wisely; it is always held aloof for a little while; the right roads of early life are very quiet ones, hedged in from nearly all help or praise. But the wrong roads are noisy,—vociferous everywhere with all kinds of demand upon you for art which is not properly art at all; and in the various meetings of modern interests, money is to be made in every way; but art is to be followed only in one way. That is what I want mainly to say to you, or if not to you yourselves (for, from what I have heard from your excellent master to-night, I know you are going on all rightly), you must let me say it through you to others. Our Schools of Art are confused by the various teaching and various interests that are now abroad among us. Everybody is talking about art, and writing about it, and more or less interested in it; everybody wants art, and there is not art for everybody, and few who talk know what they are talking about; thus students are led in all variable ways, while there is only one way in which they can make steady progress, for true art is always and will be always one. Whatever changes may be made in the customs of society, whatever new machines we may invent, whatever new manufactures we may supply, Fine Art must remain what it was two thousand years ago, in the days of Phidias; two thousand years hence, it will be, in all its principles, and in all its great effects upon the mind of man, just the same. Observe this that I say, please, carefully, for I mean it to the very utmost. There is but one right way of doing any given thing required of an artist; there may be a hundred wrong, deficient, or mannered ways, but there is only one complete and right way. Whenever two artists are trying to do the same thing with the same materials, and do it in different ways, one of them is wrong; he may be charmingly wrong, or impressively wrong—various circumstances in his temper may make his wrong pleasanter than any person's right; it may for him, under his given limitations of knowledge or temper, be better perhaps that he should err in his own way than try for anybody else's—but for all that his way is wrong, and it is essential for all masters of schools to know what the right way is, and what right art is, and to see how simple and how single all right art has been, since the beginning of it.

But farther, not only is there but one way of doing things rightly, but there is only one way of seeing them, and that is, seeing the whole of them, without any choice, or more intense perception of one point than another, owing to our special idiosyncrasies. Thus, when Titian or Tintoret look at a human being, they see at a glance the whole of its nature, outside and in; all that it has of form, of colour, of passion, or of thought; saintliness, and loveliness; fleshly body, and spiritual power; grace, or strength, or softness, or whatsoever other quality, those men will see to the full, and so paint, that, when narrower people come to look at what they have done, every one may, if he chooses, find his own special pleasure in the work. The sensualist will find sensuality in Titian; the thinker will find thought; the saint, sanctity; the colourist, colour; the anatomist, form; and yet the picture will never be a popular one in the full sense, for none of these narrower people will find their special taste so alone consulted, as that the qualities which would ensure their gratification shall be sifted or separated from others; they are checked by the presence of the other qualities which ensure the gratification of other men. Thus, Titian is not soft enough for the sensualist, Correggio suits him better; Titian is not defined enough for the formalist,—Leonardo suits him better; Titian is not pure enough for the religionist,—Raphael suits him better; Titian is not polite enough for the man of the world,—Vandyke suits him better; Titian is not forcible enough for the lovers of the picturesque,— Rembrandt suits him better. So Correggio is popular with a certain set, and Vandyke with a certain set, and Rembrandt with a certain set. All are great men, but of inferior stamp, and therefore Vandyke is popular, and Rembrandt is popular,[2] but nobody cares much at heart about Titian; only there is a strange under-current of everlasting murmur about his name, which means the deep consent of all great men that he is greater than they— the consent of those who, having sat long enough at his feet, have found in that restrained harmony of his strength there are indeed depths of each balanced power more wonderful than all those separate manifestations in inferior painters: that there is a softness more exquisite than Correggio's, a purity loftier than Leonardo's, a force mightier than Rembrandt's, a sanctity more solemn even than Raffaelle's.

Do not suppose that in saying this of Titian, I am returning to the old eclectic theories of Bologna; for all those eclectic theories, observe, were based, not upon an endeavour to unite the various characters of nature (which it is possible to do), but the various narrownesses of taste, which it is impossible to do. Rubens is not more vigorous than Titian, but less vigorous; but because he is so narrow-minded as to enjoy vigour only, he refuses to give the other qualities of nature, which would interfere with that vigour and with our perception of it. Again, Rembrandt is not a greater master of chiaroscuro than Titian;— he is a less master, but because he is so narrow-minded as to enjoy chiaroscuro only, he withdraws from you the splendour of hue which would interfere with this, and gives you only the shadow in which you can at once feel it.

Now all these specialties have their own charm in their own way: and there are times when the particular humour of each man is refreshing to us from its very distinctness; but the effort to add any other qualities to this refreshing one instantly takes away the distinctiveness, and therefore the exact character to be enjoyed in its appeal to a particular humour in us. Our enjoyment arose from a weakness meeting a weakness, from a partiality in the painter fitting to a partiality in us, and giving us sugar when we wanted sugar, and myrrh when we wanted myrrh; but sugar and myrrh are not meat: and when we want meat and bread, we must go to better men.

The eclectic schools endeavoured to unite these opposite partialities and weaknesses. They trained themselves under masters of exaggeration, and tried to unite opposite exaggerations. That was impossible. They did not see that the only possible eclecticism had been already accomplished;—the eclecticism of temperance, which, by the restraint of force, gains higher force; and by the self-denial of delight, gains higher delight. This you will find is ultimately the case with every true and right master; at first, while we are tyros in art, or before we have earnestly studied the man in question, we shall see little in him; or perhaps see, as we think, deficiencies; we shall fancy he is inferior to this man in that, and to the other man in the other; but as we go on studying him we shall find that he has got both that and the other; and both in a far higher sense than the man who seemed to possess those qualities in excess. Thus in Turner's lifetime, when people first looked at him, those who liked rainy, weather, said he was not equal to Copley Fielding; but those who looked at Turner long enough found that he could be much more wet than Copley Fielding, when he chose. The people who liked force, said that "Turner was not strong enough for them; he was effeminate; they liked De Wint,—nice strong tone;—or Cox—great, greeny, dark masses of colour—solemn feeling of the freshness and depth of nature;—they liked Cox—Turner was too hot for them." Had they looked long enough they would have found that he had far more force than De Wint, far more freshness than Cox when he chose,—only united with other elements; and that he didn't choose to be cool, if nature had appointed the weather to be hot. The people who liked Prout said "Turner had not firmness of hand—he did not know enough about architecture—he was not picturesque enough." Had they looked at his architecture long, they would have found that it contained subtle picturesquenesses, infinitely more picturesque than anything of Prout's. People who liked Callcott said that "Turner was not correct or pure enough—had no classical taste." Had they looked at Turner long enough they would have found him as severe, when he chose, as the greater Poussin;—Callcott, a mere vulgar imitator of other men's high breeding. And so throughout with all thoroughly great men, their strength is not seen at first, precisely because they unite, in due place and measure, every great quality.

Now the question is, whether, as students, we are to study only these mightiest men, who unite all greatness, or whether we are to study the works of inferior men, who present us with the greatness which we particularly like? That question often comes before me when I see a strong idiosyncrasy in a student, and he asks me what he should study. Shall I send him to a true master, who does not present the quality in a prominent way in which that student delights, or send him to a man with whom he has direct sympathy? It is a hard question. For very curious results have sometimes been brought out, especially in late years, not only by students following their own bent, but by their being withdrawn from teaching altogether. I have just named a very great man in his own field—Prout. We all know his drawings, and love them: they have a peculiar character which no other architectural drawings ever possessed, and which no others can possess, because all Prout's subjects are being knocked down or restored. (Prout did not like restored buildings any more than I do.) There will never be any more Prout drawings. Nor could he have been what he was, or expressed with that mysteriously effective touch that peculiar delight in broken and old buildings, unless he had been withdrawn from all high art influence. You know that Prout was born of poor parents—that he was educated down in Cornwall;—and that, for many years, all the art-teaching he had was his own, or the fishermen's. Under the keels of the fishing-boats, on the sands of our southern coasts, Prout learned all that he needed to learn about art. Entirely by himself, he felt his way to this particular style, and became the painter of pictures which I think we should all regret to lose. It becomes a very difficult question what that man would have been, had he been brought under some entirely wholesome artistic influence, He had immense gifts of composition. I do not know any man who had more power of invention than Prout, or who had a sublimer instinct in his treatment of things; but being entirely withdrawn from all artistical help, he blunders his way to that short-coming representation, which, by the very reason of its short-coming, has a certain charm we should all be sorry to lose. And therefore I feel embarrassed when a student comes to me, in whom I see a strong instinct of that kind: and cannot tell whether I ought to say to him, "Give up all your studies of old boats, and keep away from the sea-shore, and come up to the Royal Academy in London, and look at nothing but Titian." It is a difficult thing to make up one's mind to say that. However, I believe, on the whole, we may wisely leave such matters in the hands of Providence; that if we have the power of teaching the right to anybody, we should teach them the right; if we have the power of showing them the best thing, we should show them the best thing; there will always, I fear, be enough want of teaching, and enough bad teaching, to bring out very curious erratical results if we want them. So, if we are to teach at all, let us teach the right thing, and ever the right thing. There are many attractive qualities inconsistent with rightness;—do not let us teach them,—let us be content to waive them. There are attractive qualities in Burns, and attractive qualities in Dickens, which neither of those writers would have possessed if the one had been educated, and the other had been studying higher nature than that of cockney London; but those attractive qualities are not such as we should seek in a school of literature. If we want to teach young men a good manner of writing, we should teach it from Shakspeare,—not from Burns; from Walter Scott,— and not from Dickens. And I believe that our schools of painting are at present inefficient in their action, because they have not fixed on this high principle what are the painters to whom to point; nor boldly resolved to point to the best, if determinable. It is becoming a matter of stern necessity that they should give a simple direction to the attention of the student, and that they should say, "This is the mark you are to aim at; and you are not to go about to the print-shops, and peep in, to see how this engraver does that, and the other engraver does the other, and how a nice bit of character has been caught by a new man, and why this odd picture has caught the popular attention. You are to have nothing to do with all that; you are not to mind about popular attention just now; but here is a thing which is eternally right and good: you are to look at that, and see if you cannot do something eternally right and good too."

But suppose you accept this principle: and resolve to look to some great man, Titian, or Turner, or whomsoever it may be, as the model of perfection in art;—then the question is, since this great man pursued his art in Venice, or in the fields of England, under totally different conditions from those possible to us now—how are you to make your study of him effective here in Manchester? how bring it down into patterns, and all that you are called upon as operatives to produce? how make it the means of your livelihood, and associate inferior branches of art with this great art? That may become a serious doubt to you. You may think there is some other way of producing clever, and pretty, and saleable patterns than going to look at Titian, or any other great man. And that brings me to the question, perhaps the most vexed question of all amongst us just now, between conventional and perfect art. You know that among architects and artists there are, and have been almost always, since art became a subject of much discussion, two parties, one maintaining that nature should be always altered and modified, and that the artist is greater than nature; they do not maintain, indeed, in words, but they maintain in idea, that the artist is greater than the Divine Maker of these things, and can improve them; while the other party say that he cannot improve nature, and that nature on the whole should improve him. That is the real meaning of the two parties, the essence of them; the practical result of their several theories being that the Idealists are always producing more or less formal conditions of art, and the Realists striving to produce in all their art either some image of nature, or record of nature; these, observe, being quite different things, the image being a resemblance, and the record, something which will give information about nature, but not necessarily imitate it.[3]

***

You may separate these two groups of artists more distinctly in your mind as those who seek for the pleasure of art, in the relations of its colours and lines, without caring to convey any truth with it; and those who seek for the truth first, and then go down from the truth to the pleasure of colour and line. Marking those two bodies distinctly as separate, and thinking over them, you may come to some rather notable conclusions respecting the mental dispositions which are involved in each mode of study. You will find that large masses of the art of the world fall definitely under one or the other of these heads. Observe, pleasure first and truth afterwards, (or not at all,) as with the Arabians and Indians; or, truth first and pleasure afterwards, as with Angelico and all other great European painters. You will find that the art whose end is pleasure only is pre-eminently the gift of cruel and savage nations, cruel in temper, savage in habits and conception; but that the art which is especially dedicated to natural fact always indicates a peculiar gentleness and tenderness of mind, and that all great and successful work of that kind will assuredly be the production of thoughtful, sensitive, earnest, kind men, large in their views of life, and full of various intellectual power. And farther, when you examine the men in whom the gifts of art are variously mingled, or universally mingled, you will discern that the ornamental, or pleasurable power, though it may be possessed by good men, is not in itself an indication of their goodness, but is rather, unless balanced by other faculties, indicative of violence of temper, inclining to cruelty and to irreligion. On the other hand, so sure as you find any man endowed with a keen and separate faculty of representing natural fact, so surely you will find that man gentle and upright, full of nobleness and breadth of thought. I will give you two instances, the first peculiarly English, and another peculiarly interesting because it occurs among a nation not generally very kind or gentle.

I am inclined to think that, considering all the disadvantages of circumstances and education under which his genius was developed, there was perhaps hardly ever born a man with a more intense and innate gift of insight into nature than our own Sir Joshua Reynolds. Considered as a painter of individuality in the human form and mind, I think him, even as it is, the prince of portrait painters. Titian paints nobler pictures, and Vandyke had nobler subjects, but neither of them entered so subtly as Sir Joshua did into the minor varieties of human heart and temper; arid when you consider that, with a frightful conventionality of social habitude all around him, he yet conceived the simplest types of all feminine and childish loveliness;—that in a northern climate, and with gray, and white, and black, as the principal colours around him, he yet became a colourist who can be crushed by none, even of the Venetians;—and that with Dutch painting and Dresden china for the prevailing types of art in the saloons of his day, he threw himself at once at the feet of the great masters of Italy, and arose from their feet to share their throne—I know not that in the whole history of art you can produce another instance of so strong, so unaided, so unerring an instinct for all that was true, pure, and noble.

Now, do you recollect the evidence respecting the character of this man,—the two points of bright peculiar evidence given by the sayings of the two greatest literary men of his day, Johnson and Goldsmith? Johnson, who, as you know, was always Reynolds' attached friend, had but one complaint to make against him, that he hated nobody:— "Reynolds," he said, "you hate no one living; I like a good hater!" Still more significant is the little touch in Goldsmith's "Retaliation." You recollect how in that poem he describes the various persons who met at one of their dinners at St. James's Coffee-house, each person being described under the name of some appropriate dish. You will often hear the concluding lines about Reynolds Quoted—

"He shifted his trumpet," &c;—

less often, or at least less attentively, the preceding ones, far more important—

"Still born to improve us in every part—
His pencil our faces, his manners our heart;"

and never, the most characteristic touch of all, near the beginning:—

"Our dean shall be venison, just fresh from the plains;
Our Burke shall be tongue, with a garnish of brains.
To make out the dinner, full certain I am,
That Rich is anchovy, and Reynolds is lamb."

The other painter whom I would give you as an instance of this gentleness is a man of another nation, on the whole I suppose one of the most cruel civilized nations in the world—the Spaniards. They produced but one great painter, only one; but he among the very greatest of painters, Velasquez. You would not suppose, from looking at Velasquez' portraits generally, that he was an especially kind or good man; you perceive a peculiar sternness about them; for they were as true as steel, and the persons whom he had to paint being not generally kind or good people, they were stern in expression, and Velasquez gave the sternness; but he had precisely the same intense perception of truth, the same marvellous instinct for the rendering of all natural soul and all natural form that our Reynolds had. Let me, then, read you his character as it is given by Mr. Stirling, of Kier:—

"Certain charges, of what nature we are not informed, brought against him after his death, made it necessary for his executor, Fuensalida, to refute them at a private audience granted to him by the king for that purpose. After listening to the defence of his friend, Philip immediately made answer: 'I can believe all you say of the excellent disposition of Diego Velasquez.' Having lived for half his life in courts, he was yet capable both of gratitude and generosity, and in the misfortunes, he could remember the early kindness of Olivares. The friend of the exile of Loeches, it is just to believe that he was also the friend of the all-powerful favourite at Buenretiro. No mean jealousy ever influenced his conduct to his brother artists; he could afford not only to acknowledge the merits, but to forgive the malice, of his rivals. His character was of that rare and happy kind, in which high intellectual power is combined with indomitable strength of will, and a winning sweetness of temper, and which seldom fails to raise the possessor above his fellow-men, making his life a

'laurelled victory, and smooth success
Be strewed before his feet.'"

I am sometimes accused of trying to make art too moral; yet, observe, I do not say in the least that in order to be a good painter you must be a good man; but I do say that in order to be a good natural painter there must be strong elements of good in the mind, however warped by other parts of the character. There are hundreds of other gifts of painting which are not at all involved with moral conditions, but this one, the perception of nature, is never given but under certain moral conditions. Therefore, now you have it in your choice; here are your two paths for you: it is required of you to produce conventional ornament, and you may approach the task as the Hindoo does, and as the Arab did,—without nature at all, with the chance of approximating your disposition somewhat to that of the Hindoos and Arabs; or as Sir Joshua and Velasquez did, with, not the chance, but the certainty, of approximating your disposition, according to the sincerity of your effort—to the disposition of those great and good men.

And do you suppose you will lose anything by approaching your conventional art from this higher side? Not so. I called, with deliberate measurement of my expression, long ago, the decoration of the Alhambra "detestable," not merely because indicative of base conditions of moral being, but because merely as decorative work, however captivating in some respects, it is wholly wanting in the real, deep, and intense qualities of ornamental art. Noble conventional decoration belongs only to three periods. First, there is the conventional decoration of the Greeks, used in subordination to their sculpture. There are then the noble conventional decoration of the early Gothic schools, and the noble conventional arabesque of the great Italian schools. All these were reached from above, all reached by stooping from a knowledge of the human form. Depend upon it you will find, as you look more and more into the matter, that good subordinate ornament has ever been rooted in a higher knowledge; and if you are again to produce anything that is noble, you must have the higher knowledge first, and descend to all lower service; condescend as much as you like,—condescension never does any man any harm,—but get your noble standing first. So, then, without any scruple, whatever branch of art you may be inclined as a student here to follow,—whatever you are to make your bread by, I say, so far as you have time and power, make yourself first a noble and accomplished artist; understand at least what noble and accomplished art is, and then you will be able to apply your knowledge to all service whatsoever.

I am now going to ask your permission to name the masters whom I think it would be well if we could agree, in our Schools of Art in England, to consider our leaders. The first and chief I will not myself presume to name; he shall be distinguished for you by the authority of those two great painters of whom we have just been speaking—Reynolds and Velasquez. You may remember that in your Manchester Art Treasures Exhibition the most impressive things were the works of those two men— nothing told upon the eye so much; no other pictures retained it with such a persistent power. Now, I have the testimony, first of Reynolds to Velasquez, and then of Velasquez to the man whom I want you to take as the master of all your English schools. The testimony of Reynolds to Velasquez is very striking. I take it from some fragments which have just been published by Mr. William Cotton—precious fragments—of Reynolds' diaries, which I chanced upon luckily as I was coming down here: for I was going to take Velasquez' testimony alone, and then fell upon this testimony of Reynolds to Velasquez, written most fortunately in Reynolds' own hand-you may see the manuscript. "What we are all," said Reynolds, "attempting to do with great labor, Velasquez does at once." Just think what is implied when a man of the enormous power and facility that Reynolds had, says he was "trying to do with great labor" what Velasquez "did at once."

Having thus Reynolds' testimony to Velasquez, I will take Velasquez' testimony to somebody else. You know that Velasquez was sent by Philip of Spain to Italy, to buy pictures for him. He went all over Italy, saw the living artists there, and all their best pictures when freshly painted, so that he had every opportunity of judging; and never was a man so capable of judging. He went to Rome and ordered various works of living artists; and while there, he was one day asked by Salvator Rosa what he thought of Raphael. His reply, and the ensuing conversation, are thus reported by Boschini, in curious Italian verse, which, thus translated by Dr. Donaldson, is quoted in Mr. Stirling's Life of Velasquez:—

          "The master" [Velasquez] "stiffly bowed his figure tall
             And said, 'For Rafael, to speak the truth—
             I always was plain-spoken from my youth—
           I cannot say I like his works at all.'

          "'Well,' said the other" [Salvator], 'if you can run down
             So great a man, I really cannot see
             What you can find to like in Italy;
           To him we all agree to give the crown.'

          "Diego answered thus: 'I saw in Venice
             The true test of the good and beautiful;
             First in my judgment, ever stands that school,
           And Titian first of all Italian men is.'"

          "Tizian ze quel die porta la bandiera"

Learn that line by heart and act, at all events for some time to come, upon Velasquez' opinion in that matter. Titian is much the safest master for you. Raphael's power, such as it characters in his mind; it is "Raphaelesque," properly so called; but Titian's power is simply the power of doing right. Whatever came before Titian, he did wholly as it ought to be done. Do not suppose that now in recommending Titian to you so strongly, and speaking of nobody else to-night, I am retreating in anywise from what some of you may perhaps recollect in my works, the enthusiasm with which I have always spoken of another Venetian painter. There are three Venetians who are never separated in my mind—Titian, Veronese, and Tintoret. They all have their own unequalled gifts, and Tintoret especially has imagination and depth of soul which I think renders him indisputably the greatest man; but, equally indisputably, Titian is the greatest painter; and therefore the greatest painter who ever lived. You may be led wrong by Tintoret[4] in many respects, wrong by Raphael in more; all that you learn from Titian will be right. Then, with Titian, take Leonardo, Rembrandt, and Albert Dürer. I name those three masters for this reason: Leonardo has powers of subtle drawing which are peculiarly applicable in many ways to the drawing of fine ornament, and are very useful for all students. Rembrandt and Dürer are the only men whose actual work of hand you can have to look at; you can have Rembrandt's etchings, or Dürer's engravings actually hung in your schools; and it is a main point for the student to see the real thing, and avoid judging of masters at second-hand. As, however, in obeying this principle, you cannot often have opportunities of studying Venetian painting, it is desirable that you should have a useful standard of colour, and I think it is possible for you to obtain this. I cannot, indeed, without entering upon ground which might involve the hurting the feelings of living artists, state exactly what I believe to be the relative position of various painters in England at present with respect to power of colour. But I may say this, that in the peculiar gifts of colour which will be useful to you as students, there are only one or two of the pre-Raphaelites, and William Hunt, of the old Water Colour Society, who would be safe guides for you: and as quite a safe guide, there is nobody but William Hunt, because the pre-Raphaelites are all more or less affected by enthusiasm and by various morbid conditions of intellect and temper; but old William Hunt—I am sorry to say "old," but I say it in a loving way, for every year that has added to his life has added also to his skill—William Hunt is as right as the Venetians, as far as he goes, and what is more, nearly as inimitable as they. And I think if we manage to put in the principal schools of England a little bit of Hunt's work, and make that somewhat of a standard of colour, that we can apply his principles of colouring to subjects of all kinds. Until you have had a work of his long near you; nay, unless you have been labouring at it, and trying to copy it, you do not know the thoroughly grand qualities that are concentrated in it. Simplicity, and intensity, both of the highest character;— simplicity of aim, and intensity of power and success, are involved in that man's unpretending labour.

Finally, you cannot believe that I would omit my own favourite, Turner. I fear from the very number of his works left to the nation, that there is a disposition now rising to look upon his vast bequest with some contempt. I beg of you, if in nothing else, to believe me in this, that you cannot further the art of England in any way more distinctly than by giving attention to every fragment that has been left by that man. The time will come when his full power and right place will be acknowledged; that time will not be for many a day yet: nevertheless, be assured—as far as you are inclined to give the least faith to anything I may say to you, be assured—that you can act for the good of art in England in no better way than by using whatever influence any of you have in any direction to urge the reverent study and yet more reverent preservation of the works of Turner. I do not say "the exhibition" of his works, for we are not altogether ripe for it: they are still too far above us; uniting, as I was telling you, too many qualities for us yet to feel fully their range and their influence;— but let us only try to keep them safe from harm, and show thoroughly and conveniently what we show of them at all, and day by day their greatness will dawn upon us more and more, and be the root of a school of art in England, which I do not doubt may be as bright, as just, and as refined as even that of Venice herself. The dominion of the sea seems to have been associated, in past time, with dominion in the arts also: Athens had them together; Venice had them together; but by so much as our authority over the ocean is wider than theirs over the Ægean or Adriatic, let us strive to make our art more widely beneficent than theirs, though it cannot be more exalted; so working out the fulfilment, in their wakening as well as their warning sense, of those great words of the aged Tintoret:

"Sempre si fa il mare maggiore."


Footnotes[edit]

  1. I was prevented, by press of other engagements, from preparing this address with the care I wished; and forced to trust to such expression as I could give at the moment to the points of principal importance; reading, however, the close of the preceding lecture, which I thought contained some truths that would bear repetition. The whole was reported, better than it deserved, by Mr. Pitman, of the Manchester Courier, and published nearly verbatim. I have here extracted, from the published report, the facts which I wish especially to enforce; and have a little cleared their expression; its loose and colloquial character I cannot now help, unless by re-writing the whole, which it seems not worth while to do.
  2. And Murillo, of all true painters the narrowest, feeblest, and most superficial, for those reasons the most popular.
  3. The portion of the lecture here omitted was a recapitulation of that part of the previous one which opposed conventional art to natural art.
  4. See Appendix I.—"Right and Wrong."