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subject or the tricks of those who exhibit it, mistakes are committed. Still, he goes on to say-without knowing anything of contrast, light and shade, richness of coloring, ideal form, or, in short, how this or that particular effect is produced, the public judge, and from its judgment there is no appeal. It was this, that encouraged Titian to follow the paths of Giorgione and nature; that solemnly belied, and turned to their shame, the judgment which certain Canons, assembled in Chapter, had pronounced concerning a work of Vandyke; that placed the Communion of St. Jerome on a footing with the Transfiguration of Raphael, in spite of the clamor which was at first raised by the rivals of Domenichino against that magnificent performance ;-that multitude who, properly speaking, are the first masters of a painter, as well as his sovereign judges. Had Algarotti lived in our times, he would certainly have advocated the Money Prize System for Art Unions, instead of the Committee of Selection and Taste.
It were well if the critics of the Press would also act more on their own judgment; they do, too often, what Algarotti describes painters as prone to-judge of Art according to Paolo or Guercino, as writers do according to Boccaccio and Davanzati, rather than according to nature and to truth. This, the besetting sin of newspaper critics, has been so excellently described by Thackeray, that we cannot resist quoting it, especially as the article appeared several years back :
"You will observe that such a critic has ordinarily his one or two idols that he worships; the one or two painters, namely, into whose studios he has free acces, and from whose opinions he forms his own. There is Dash, for instance, of the Star newspaper; now and anon you hear him discourse of the fine arts, and you may take your affidavit that he has just issued from Blank's atelier all Blank's opinions he utters-utters and garbles, of course; all his likings are founded on Blank's dicta, and all his dislikings: 'tis probable that Blank has a rival, one Asterisk, living over the way. In Dash's eye Asterisk is the lowest of creatures. At every fresh exhibition you hear how Mr. Blank has transcended his already transcendent reputation;' "Billions have been trampled to death while rushing to examine his grand portrait of Lady Smigsmag.' His picture of Sir Claude Calipach is a gorgeous representation of aldermanic dignity, and high chivalric grace.' As for Asterisk, you are told, Mr. Asterisk has two or three pictures--pretty, but weak, repetitions of his old faces and subjects in his old namby-pamby style. The committee, we hear, rejected most of his pictures: the committee are very compassionate. How dared they reject Mr. Blank's stupendous historical picture of So-and-So?"
Another ill effect of this kind of partiality is, that where the artist favored by the critic happens to possess inferior abilities-the whole tone of the critique, however excellent in other respects, becomes injured: as there is no weight attached to the praise which is equally apportioned to some execrable daub. Nothing ought to induce the critic of the Press to fall into this weakness of favoritism: he is discharging a duty to the public; and to praise or censure unjustly is a most woful dereliction. As to censure, severity is not a desirable procedure, although infinitely easier than to praise with discrimination. Much pretension, or affectation, unaccompanied by any ability, demands exposure-it earns the lash, and has an indubitable right to its wages; but in most cases it would be the better course to pass mediocrity by in silence-it is keener punishment than is imagined; and if there be latent ability, it is not a discouragement to buding effort, but rather an incentive. Dr. Wolcot, in his Lyric Odes to Painters, describes
"What rage for fame attends both great and small,
The philosophic and transcendental style of criticism is in great favor with some writers, and is, perhaps, about the most fulsome of all; "High Art," and "the Ideal," are their favorite themes; they commonly use the pedantic term æsthetic, and discourse very learnedly indeed, to all appearance. A little learning in Art is a most dangerous thing-better far have none. With them the painter is a species of high priest whose sacred mission is to regenerate mankind, he speaks to the holier instincts of our nature, &c. &c. Such writers see beauties in pictures which those who painted them never dreamt of, and discover wants that Art never can, never did-never will supply. Such rhapsodies convey about the same amount of information as Burke's essay on the Sublime and Beautiful; or Ruskin's chapters upon The Ideal. Every body knows that there is vulgar and refined Art. It is the property of genius to refine all it approaches. Nothing, howsoever homely, that it will not invest with a charm. There is not so much in the choice of a subject as in its treatment. In poetry and painting, all subjects, from the lowliest to the most exalted, have alike, by their delicacy of expression, gained the admiration and applause of mankind. Genius seems possessed of an instinct
that enables it to grasp that which is excellent, and reject the unsuitable; and, like other instincts, it defies definition-he who has it, is mostly unaware of his possession; nor can he impart to another, that, which to him seems so easy of acquirement; thus, all attempts to embody it in rules, or prescribe its line of action, is labor misdirected. The province of Art is to select appropriately and with judgment, but not to create; when it attempts the latter it fails miserably-the clumsy, leaden effort is of the earth, earthy: it seems a glorious thing to soar above the clouds; but when man makes his coup d'essai and falls meanly prostrate like fabled Icarus, no feeling save of the ridiculous occurs to the spectator of his abortive effort. The very greatest intellects have not been free from this striving after the impossible-often endeavouring to convey in Painting and Sculpture what is incapable of representation. Michael Angelo, in his great statue of Moses, attempts to represent the resplendent glory which the Israelites besought him to veil, by-Oh ye gods !—a pair of bull's horns! and there are not wanting men of superior endowments to tell us that it is a sublime rendering of the attribute of Divinity. Poetry, too, abounds with similar absurdities, but the poet can often explain his language as merely figurative; the Painter, however, converts the Eastern imagery of a trumpet blast into a brazen reality. There is an immensity of conventional tradition encumbering Art, that has been increased by succeeding ages. Many of the untutored and half savage ideas of mankind, in his early efforts at civilization, form, at this moment, revered canons in Painting and Sculpture, and from use, long habit, and early association, their incongruities do not strike us. Thus, to most people, the representation of a winged figure blowing a trumpet, is a classic and ideal representation of Fame, but if the orthodox trumpet was converted into a cornet-a-piston or ophicleide, every body would laugh, and yet one is not less ridiculous than the other. All these are gross and sensual ideas-strange it is that those who are the greatest advocates for such symbolizing, lay claim to most intellectuality and etherialism. In mediæval times, mankind were pleased, even awe struck, by what are now deemed barbarous representations; those in our own times who are gratified by what they call High Art, have a right to their enjoyment, but they have no presumptive right to indoctrinate us with their halucinations-endeavouring to divert public taste
towards objects foreign to its sympathies, creating a pseudo classic taste, instead of the national tone and feeling for Art in unison with our habits, institutions, and climate.
All styles of Art have something good in them: and that species which flourished during various ages in different climes, was better suited to the genius of the people amongst which each succeding style was gradually developed, than that of any other which preceded it-climate and race have their influence on Art, and although it unquestionably has a spontaneous origin amongst mankind, and is as universal as the religious feeling, yet it also derives something from the past age. Indian art, supposed to be the most ancient, appears again in the Egyptian; the remains of Sculpture in Nineveh, show a great improvement upon that of Egypt,-although behind Greek Art, from which again the Romans derived much; still each of these epochs had distinctive characters of their own, indissolubly connected with the genius of each people thus also, the Art which gradually gained vitality, as Europe emerged from the barbarism which overwhelmed the Roman Empire, had distinctive features utterly dissimilar from any that went before, and yet powerfully strengthened and stimulated by ancient examples. It is, however, unfortunate, that when a critic acquires a fancy for any particular style, he can see no excellencies in any other; and hence most opposite opinions and dicta are vehemently propounded, to the utter consternation, alike of those who do, and those who do not, know any thing of Art.
A distinguished writer* gives his opinion of Greek art thus:
"The contemplation of such specimens of it as we possess hath always, to tell the truth, left us in a state of unpleasant wonderment and perplexity. It carries corporal beauty to a pitch of painful perfection and deifies the body and bones truly, but, by dint of sheer beauty, it leaves humanity altogether inhuman-quite heartless and passionless. Look at Apollo the divine: there is no blood in his marble veins, no warmth in his bosom, no fire or speculation in his dull awful eyes. Laocoon writhes and twists in an anguish that never can, in the breast of any spectator create the smallest degree of pity. Such monsters of beauty are quite out of the reach of human sympathy: they were purposely (by the poor benighted heathens who followed this error and strove to make their error as
• W. M. Thackeray.
grand as possible) placed beyond it. They seemed to think that human joy and sorrow, passion and love, were mean and contemptible in themselves. Their gods were to be calm, and share in no such feelings. How much grander is the character of the Christian school, which teaches that love is the most beautiful of all things, and the first and highest ornament of beauty in art!"
At utter variance with this we have the following, from the Rise and Progress of the Fine Arts, by Allan Cunningham :
"That the sculpture of Greece surpasses the art of all other nations, can be proved by all who choose to assert it. We need only point to some half dozen groups and statues, and ask what productions of our latter days can be compared to them. A divine spirit seemed to have entered into the loveliest of all created shapes, the beholder felt a lifting up as he gazed; the statues of the gods were the poetry of a land charmed into marble. The actions which the gods performed were done with a divine ease which cost the body no exertion. The actions of men demanded muscular effort, and were accomplished with labour and difficulty. Apollo and Bacchus were celestial conquerors, yet look at their smooth and elegant forms; men with such bodies could not have prevailed in the strife as they did. Apollo slays the Pythian serpent with the ease of a god and seems unconscious of doing anything uncommon."
In Mr. Weekes' Essay he tells us that-" the Apollo Belvidere is like nothing that we have ever seen or met with in nature, it is only so far like him that it in no way affords a physical impossibility."
When Benjamin West, afterwards President of the Royal Academy, visited Italy, there was much anxiety felt to witness his emotions at beholding some of the Greek masterpieces of Art, and with some little form the statue of the Apollo Belvidere, was suddenly revealed to the gaze of the young Americanbut the group which surrounded him were horrified by his sudden exclamation, of "Oh! a young Mohawk." He afterwards explained in some degree the unfavorable impression which his involuntary crticism had caused, by describing the native dignity and grace of a young Indian warrior. But his description was excellent, and no doubt the statue was imagined from similar types of humanity. The achievements of Homer's heroes are the doings of a tribe of Blackfoot Indians, very little poetized; for the every day life of such people is infinitely more poetical, than a more advanced stage of civilization, and affords much better scope both for artist and poet. Contrast an English soldier in heavy marching order, having the semblance of a flower pot on his head, and a box on his back,