His life and works
An article on this subject by Charles Allen Du Val appeared in four numbered parts I to IV in The Art Treasures Examiner published in 1857 in connection with the 1857 Art Treasures Exhibition held at Old Trafford in Manchester.
No. I appears on page 61 of that volume, No. II on pages 81 to 82, No. III on page 100, and No. IV on pages 115 to 116.
SOME THOUGHTS UPON THE SPIRITUAL IN ART.
BY C. A. DUVAL.
It seems to me that the first condition to the existence of matter is life and intelligence. The Indian myth, which placed the world upon the back of a tortoise in a symbolical way, only affirmed this - that life preceded, and is the foundation of all. I don't mean that the matter of which this world is composed was in its first state living matter, although, even for such a supposition, extraordinary as it may seem, there is some ground, when we remember that the immense strata which girdle it are the remains of creatures so minute that it would require millions to fill up a square inch ; but I mean that the first element or condition to the being or existence of matter is life, and the first condition to the existence of life is intelligence or spirit: that intelligence or spirit stamps itself upon life and matter : that they bear its image or impress with more or less of resemblance, and that the infinite variety in the development of matter and of life is in a small way emblematical of the infinite intelligence ; - in other words, that the Divine Spirit, according to the limit of our capacities, is to be seen and known with absolute certainty in His works, that we ourselves and all that we see, all that lives and moves, and is, from the atom and the insect, visible only under the microscope, to the sun of some distant system, with all the gradations and links binding each to all included in the universe, are the forms of the thoughts and speech which declare that the spiritual is the real, and that without the spiritual there would be nothing. To put it in another wav. The existence of matter necessitates the perception of matter, because matter and its perception make up one idea, and cannot be separated. This idea does not belong exclusively to man, for, if it did, then the existence of matter would depend upon his existence. Now we know that it preceded all animal existence whatsoever - all vegetable, mineral existence, and even chaos ; it is, therefore, an idea of the eternal and infinite mind in which man and other animals are permitted to share.
Now, the illustration of this all-important fact. that the spiritual exists in nature, is or ought to be the aim of art, for art is itself the operation. of the spiritual in man, through and upon the material in nature ; it is the faint and distant echo of creation sounding through him ; and by whatever recombination of correspondences he seeks to represent one thing by another, - however he may work, with earth, with iron, or with stone, by forms or colours, words or sounds, - by whatever means he endeavours to express his affinity and sympathy with the infinite around him - in all that he produces, the original law which presided over his own formation stamps itself upon his work: the light which shines through him is, more or less, impinged with the hues of his own character; and that work (whatever it may represent besides), in all its analogies, is, and must be, in his own image. To him it is also both objective and subjective ; and the same, in varied degrees, may be said of all who hear or see it. The importance, then, of selecting for the purposes of art whatever manifests most clearly the spiritual in nature is obvious. Mere material imitation gives us the pleasure of surprise ; but the contemplation of the meaning of the soul creates reverence, and reverence leads to worship, and worship is the highest expression of life.
Art, then, in its occult sense, is worship, homage, adoration, sometimes prayer.
Music (of which as a science I know too little to be able to follow through its beautiful order and its precise laws) seems to be the least imitative of the arts, or, I should rather say, it shows more clearly than any other the small value of imitation by itself, and considered merely as imitation ; but it is full of correspondences, and herein is its great power. This lifts it into poetry, and makes it worship.
Correspondences are not similes, or likenesses, or analogies merely : as I shall have to use this word very often, it would be as well to define what is meant by it, but affinities or representatives. Music is full of these. The answer of the blind man when asked what he conceived the colour of scarlet to be like, is an apt illustration. He replied, " The sound of a trumpet." This is not only an analogy, but a correspondence, an affinity or representative. The blare of the sound and the glare of the colour equally startle the ear and the eye, equally dominate other sounds and colours, and have their correspondence, spiritually, in energetic passion - wrath. “In the last day the trumpet shall sound, and the sun be turned into blood." In many pictures that I have seen of the Last Judgment, the angel blowing the trumpet has been painted in robes of intense red. The correspondences of sound and colour are so close and intimate, that many pieces of music might be painted, and many pictures sung. The correspondences of sound and form, though numerous, are more hidden; but a few are obvious enough. A sudden shrill sound corresponds with a sharp point; a monotonous, continuous sound, with a straight line; a full, round tone, with a globe or circle ; discords, with the irregular and angular. All these, in a still more hidden way, have correspondences in our own feelings and emotions. A high, shrill sound and a point represent sudden excitement; a line and a prolonged tone, indifference ; a full, round tone and a globe or circle, satisfaction or contentment : and so on.
These ideas may be thought fanciful. If we knew more, it might be possible to show that they, and much more also, were true; it is enough here to indicate them as something not dreamt of in "your philosophy, Horatio," and as the means by which music has its expression. It is thus that it is able to tell us when “jocund day stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops," - steeps us in the fragrance of dew and violets, and opening roses, -brings hope to our minds, and touches our hearts with pity, purity, and love. There is scarcely a hue or form in material nature, a passion or sentiment in the soul of man, that has not its corresponding sound, and yet not by imitation. The sounds of the early farm-yard, or even the singing of the lark, would be but a clumsy way of telling us of the "jocund morn": and though "wearied nature's best restorer, balmy sleep" might he hinted by a well-executed snore, it would remind us more of toasted cheese and porter, than of that interval between light and darkness, life and death - that solemn hour when night reposes, covered with the glittering dust and star-sweat of the day.
Like every other work of art, a piece of music is subjective ; there are many people who cannot find anything in it except noise - Mozart's Requiem and the “ jig polthogue"' are the same to them, except that one is slow and the other quick. But when you come to the imitation of familiar sounds, it is quite another affair, - the bagpipes executed on the violin, or the cackling of geese, the braying of an ass, or the squealing of a pig, excite their sympathies to admiration. These are the people who believe a looking-glass to be the best definition of a picture. By possibility they may understand the post-horn of M. Jullien, or the clattering of horses' hoofs done with a rolling-pin on the floor of the orchestra ; but as to one of Beethoven’s pastorals, or his divine opera "Fidelio," the meaning is as completely hidden as fire is in water. But of all ideas, that of darkness, one would be inclined to say, was the most difficult to convey in sound ; yet in Handel's “Israel in Egypt." this and the plague of hail are so wonderfully given as to make the storm felt and the "darkness visible." With this marvellous power of representing external nature, there is that also of laying bare the hidden springs of our own thoughts and feelings, and soothing or exciting them to action. Love strains, battle marches, hymns of triumph or of prayer, lullabies and dirges - music drawing its inspiration from the spiritual meets us at the very entrance of life, accompanies us through its joys and sorrows and its cares, - and leaves us only on the threshold of that realm of harmony from whence it came.
SOME THOUGHTS UPON THE SPIRITUAL IN ART.
BY C. A. DUVAL.
Architecture, Sculpture, and Painting may almost be classed, in a consideration of this kind, under the same head, for though each has its own individuality, all express themselves by correspondences of form and colour. I am inclined to believe that architecture is the immediate link between music and the other arts. Like music, its correspondences are extremely occult - what people call far-fetched, symbolical. If we glance over the manner of building amongst different nations, and in different periods, we cannot help being impressed even to a sense of awe with its fulness of meaning. Geology has been aptly named the stone book in which is writ the history of the earth's creation. Architecture has its books also of many sorts, and amongst them stone, in which we have largely and minutely stated that most momentous history of all, how from the original dust the mind of man, storey by storey, generation after generation, has been building itself up towards heaven. The savage, the rudiment of humanity, whose mind is but a seed, and who sympathetically burrows in the earth, or makes a nest amongst the trees, and the child of Nature, as he is called, (forgetful that the highest development is the best and truest nature), who pitches his tent in the desert, or makes his wigwam in the forest, laid the foundation of our mightiest temples.
As water dripping through rocks for countless ages, carries with it portions of the secret riches through which it has flowed, and therewith of some dark and naked cavern makes a grotto gorgeous and starry, so that the continual penetrating of the spiritual through nature into the human mind has, with symbols, types, and correspondences, filled it with images of beauty and of truth. Ages of darkness have passed since the first stalactite of thought was formed that now glitters “the corner stone of the temple.” The progress, the aspiration of the human soul towards the Divine, which in itself is a correspondence of its ultimate destiny, may be traced step by step; and although each step, so far as we know, may not invariably and in accordance with time have been upward, yet, taking the whole history of architecture, from the mounds of earth common to all quarters of the globe, and heaps of stone, and what seems the first attempt at arrangement, cromlechs, to the simple pyramids of Central America and Egypt, the massive structures of India, the wild and imaginative Moorish, the pure and exact Grecian, and our own Gothic, more full of intelligence and fervour than all put together, we have clearly and distinctly an ascent.
The analogies and correspondences in architecture, as I remarked before, are very much hidden; there are a few in that order originated, or, at all events, perfected by Christianity - the Gothic - which are sufficiently plain to everybody. The round arch represents the rainbow, and spiritually, Hope ; now the point in the Gothic arch changes the character of this from passive to active, for a point corresponds with excitement, emotion, the power or act of willing. The point, then, in the Gothic arch makes Hope active, and symbols Faith and trust. But the spire is the distinguishing characteristic of Christian architecture : columns and towers are altogether different things. Its first type was the mound, and then the pyramid. But look at the relative proportions - the pyramid, heaping material on material, can scarcely find a base broad enough on which to raise itself; while the spire, corresponding with its name, aspiration, representing your own hands, with the palms pressed together in prayer, ending with a point, springs from earth, and pierces the air like a cry.
In sculpture and painting the correspondences are much plainer than in music or architecture, but they are more limited in the one than in the other. Sculpture is the link between architecture and painting. Colour, so all-important in painting, is not essential in architecture, although it may be used with advantage in making its meaning clearer ; but in sculpture it is wholly out of place, for it reduces it at once from allusion to gross imitation. It is difficult to believe, although proved beyond the possibility of doubt, that the Greeks often painted their statues, led to by the same sort of superstition which paints, and decorates with silken robes and gems the images of saints and martyrs and still more divine persons in our own day – a practice, to the true artist, suggestive chiefly of the idols of Polynesia.
Go through any wax-work exhibition - that in Baker-street, London, for instance - where the figures are got up with a fidelity of imitation infinitely surpassing anything to be found in the Belgian churches; - and in some of these you have not only the form but the colour and the actual clothes, - they are so deceptive that at the first glance you believe them to be alive. What is the result? Disgust. And why? Because deception is not the aim of art, and least of all that of the sculptor, for in sculpture there is more of purity and of the exclusively spiritual than in either painting or architecture; first, because its object is man, who is himself the most perfect manifestation of the spiritual; and secondly, because of the absence of colour. White corresponds with purity. The statue is the material apotheosis of man and of his passions – man purified; but this is true only of marble, not bronze, for there is an affinity between this metal and violence – force – which mars its effect spiritually. Imagine the “Venus” in bronze, or Baily’s “Eve at the Fountain,” or John Gilman’s “Psyche borne by Zephyrs;” yet a marble zephyr is rather heavier then bronze. It is the colour which gives individual character to both. Make the zephyr white and semi-transparent – make it marble, and it will once more float. Bronze is a lower type – it represents the earthy. Hercules, the Titans, Fawns, Satyrs, and Bacchantes, and that disreputable individual, Jupiter, though chief of the gods, may with propriety be made of bronze; but Apollo – no – for he was the god of song; nor the Muses, for they are his chorus; nor the Graces, for they impersonate amiability ; nor should our heroic men (except warriors) be otherwise than marble, for they are heroic not because of the earth but of the spirit.
All the efforts of sculpture are concentrated in the correspondences of form, as exhibited by animal life. This is its boundary. The vegetable and mineral kingdoms belong to architecture ; but here sculpture stops - if it attempts more it becomes a hybrid, barren decoration. It is to this very concentration, probably, that it owes its wonderful power. What comes within its reach it grasps completely, and imprisons in the stone.
SOME THOUGHTS UPON THE SPIRITUAL IN ART.
BY C. A. DUVAL.
In painting, to which sculpture immediately leads us, there is a wide field for the exercise of the intellect - the widest, in fact, with the exception of that manner of conveying ideas by words, usually called poetry. All that the eye sees, and more, are included in the record it may make. With materials more plastic than the sculptor's - as flexible, and with a range of combination as boundless as the musician's - more essentially representative than the poet's - all nature is spread cut before the painter where to choose. Every tint between the two opposite poles of colour - light and darkness, or black and white, with their mysterious correspondences - all varieties of form, from that impressed upon the grossest matter to "such stuff as dreams are made of," and what we imagine of the disembodied spirit "so wan and transparent of hue that you might see the moon shine through" - nay, the very form and pressure, the body and texture of the atmosphere itself, with all its wondrous affinities, are his. Earth, ocean, air, yield all their treasures ; even time and space are compressed within his wish. His worlds have not to be created out of the “formless and void;” the elements are all assorted to his hand. How then is it that, with such materials, he has not done more? But do we understand what he has done? A picture is essentially subjective as well as objective ; to draw forth all its meaning we must be in correspondency with it - the flower has honey only for the bee.
That miserable idea "that art is the imitation of nature according to certain principles of taste" has misled too many. Few know anything about "certain" or uncertain principles of taste, but all know something of imitation; hence, the commonest definition of a picture is a looking-glass. It must be "true to nature ;" but all do not see nature with the same eyes. Extreme and servile fidelity in copying the outside - the surface - is enough for those who see no farther than the surface; but others wish to find in this exterior the hidden meaning, the spiritual use, the inner life, which the form ought to indicate, and with which it should correspond. If art be a mirror, let it be a magic one, and reflect the invisible: this is its highest office. But for one who believes this, fifty believe it is mere imitation, and, therefore, the majority of our painters are mere imitators, and no more. Artists, like other men, cannot exist in the solitude of the unknown ; they must have recognition – appreciation - without which there is no companionship ; and if we cannot see from the elevation on which they stand, they place their horizontal line lower, and descend to accommodate the shortness of our vision.
Imitation, no doubt, is necessary in painting, hut only as words, as language - the language with which all are familiar. But mere imitation is no more art than mere words, whether in prose or verse, however accurately descriptive, are poetry ; it is no more art than the cries of the farmyard on the violin are music, or the wax figure in a barber's shop is a piece of sculpture. It is in the judicious application and use of the mysterious analogies and correspondences that are to be found by those who seek them in light, shade, form, colour - analogies and correspondences that point out the representative nature of the material or figurative world, and its connection with, and dependence on, the spiritual or real - that the true artist is to be distinguished from the pretender; and, unless he has an insight into these, unless he feels and understands that "the flesh is but the clothing of the spirit," and unless he can make those similarly gifted with himself feel and understand it also, whatever may be his merely executive power, however cleverly he may handle and imitate textures, unless he can do this, he is not an artist, but an upholsterer in paint.
And yet painting might be the shallowest and most superficial of arts, if we were to draw our conclusions from the number of competent judges of it; in fact, it would almost seem that the only necessary qualification is, to be born. An acquaintance once told me that the best picture he saw at Chatsworth was the representation of a violin, which appeared as if hanging from a nail in a door by a piece of string. It was the most wonderful thing ; so natural; it looked as if you could put your fingers under the strings and scrape the resin dust from the sounding-board. This man represented the great majority of art-judges, and, it must be confessed, the great majority of art-manufacturers also, for the true taste either to originate or discern a great picture is equally rare. The true taste or discernment is to be acquired only after long and painful study, and diligent seeking and inquiring into the way and manner divine intelligence operates through matter. That we have great pictures there is no doubt; still less that they are little understood, Amongst thousands of descriptions of pictures by tourists, artists, poets, philosophers, and newspaper critics, is there anything like a real history of the meaning of any one picture? Let us take Correggio's well-known picture in the Dresden Gallery, the "Nativity." We have all heard and read of the raptures with which its carnations and pearly tints have fired the imaginations of those learned in "tints" and "carnations." We know, too, and deplore, that shortly before Wilkie saw it, it was skinned - that is to say, the upper coating or glaze of paint rubbed off - by some ignorant picture-cleaner. We have all, too, heard that the light in the picture comes from the child - how few know why !
The picture represents a newly-born child lying in its mother's lap, and around stand and kneel many people, who seem to take a great interest in it. The scene is a stable, indicated by the introduction of an animal's head – a cow or a horse, I forget which - and a manger; but about these things I am not sure, and only know that it is a stable, which is sufficient to point out the lowly condition and poverty of the parents. This, you will say, is a Dutch picture. Not exactly. If it were, the animal would have been a facsimile of hair; the fodder would have been discriminated as hay or straw, or clover ; and the textures and folds of the clothes would have exactly represented linen, woollen, or silk. Instead of this, I have only a general idea that the colouring was pure, and, before it was spoiled, harmonious ; at present it is too cold properly to represent the subject. I know also that all the forms are full of grace ; and amidst the poverty and lowliness there is nothing vulgar or mean. But why are the people shading their eyes as they look upon that infant? Why do all the shadows, emblems of falsehood and error, fall from him? How is it that whoever is turned towards him is lighted up as by a sun? In features and proportions he is a lovely human child ; no halo circles, no ray of glory crowns his head and marks him as a prodigy and a marvel : he is, simply, the only source of light in that picture : and the meaning seems to me to be this – light corresponds with truth. "In him was life, and the life was the light of men ; and the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not." It is this idea which makes it one of the most perfect examples of the spiritual in art that the world has yet seen.
SOME THOUGHTS UPON THE SPIRITUAL IN ART.
C. A. DUVAL.
One reason why we have not more great pictures, besides that they are rarely understood or appreciated, is, that the union of qualities required in the great artist is rare. He must have an eye to see, an imagination to conceive, a judgment to discriminate - to adopt or reject - and a hand to execute; that is, he must have the perception of the naturalist, the fervour and enthusiasm of the poet, with the patience and perseverance of the analyser, the manipulative nice-ness of the mechanic, and an instinct for colour. There are, it is true, great artists who are not colourists. Retzch, the illustrator of "Faust," "The Song of the Bell," &c., is an instance, and therefore, it is said, rarely paints. Some may think Ary Scheffer is another, but there are early works of his that glow with richness; the cold and neutral tints he delights in now are purposely chosen, because they suit the supernatural nature of his subjects and his sculpturesque mode of treating them, and preserve their homogeneity.
Some of the analogies of colour seem to me very plain, viz., red, yellow, and blue, the three primitive colours, correspond with the three primitive elements of man, the animal, the moral, and the intellectual, - with passion, affection, and judgment. In the "Transfiguration," Christ rising to heaven is clothed in blue and yellow; no particle of the animal clings to him. Purple, which is a mixture of red and blue, is appropriately regal, for it represents knowledge and power, or force, and corresponds with pride and isolation; its contrast is yellow, affection, the opposite of isolation. Orange - red and yellow - represents force and affection, and corresponds with ambition and desire of power; it harmonises with purple (pride), and contrasts with knowledge (blue). Green - blue and yellow - (intelligence and affection or friendship) corresponds with advice and persuasion; it harmonises with every colour; its contrast is red (force). Pink is the colour of love, for it is made up of purity and intelligence (white and blue), with a dash of the animal (red). Black is the garb of mourning, for it represents loss and annihilation; grey, humility, also indifference. These I suppose to be the generic meanings of the colours, but they are modified by their various gradations.
The idea or sentiment, to be properly conveyed by a picture, must be borne out by its tone - the tone and the idea should answer to each other ; as "the sound is the echo of the sense," the colour ought to be the reflection of the thought.
One of the most successful realisations of this is Hunt's "Scape-goat." There is a great difference of opinion, even amongst artists, about the character of this work, some regarding it as sublime, others as ridiculous. My attention was directed to it when exhibited at the Royal Academy by one who assured me it was most absurd, and would afford a good laugh ; but I found that I could not laugh in such a presence. The first impression, that it was strikingly original and odd, that it was not a pleasant picture, was soon changed into wonder and admiration at its greatness. I will endeavour, although with not much faith in the possibility of conveying adequately in words the representation of a picture, to give to those of your readers who have not seen it some notion of it.
A goat, by no means a pretty goat, but one spent, starved, exhausted, weighted with misery, has staggered in search of water into the incrustations of the Dead Sea, where there is no water for him, but only bitterness and death. The beams of the sun - setting behind the spectator – made lurid by the mists of the earth, stream high above the wretched animal, and splash with crimson the distant rocky mountain ridge at the other side of the lake, while he is lit up by reflected light from that strange shore - a shore whitened with salt as with snow - and through which protrude the skeletons of former scape-goats. No sign of life, animate or inanimate, is there except himself. A scarlet fillet, emblem of the sins of a people, burns like "coals of fire" on his head, and from his mouth seems to be escaping a last faint cry. With wan and pitying face looks down the moon upon that scene of utter desolation. The effect to me was solemn - almost dreadful - symbolising the wrath of God.
Another picture in which the tone is a perfect reflection of the idea, is Wallis' "Death of Chatterton," in the present Exhibition.
Morning is breaking, cold and grey, over the busy haunts of struggling life; the wreaths of filmy mist that glided, ghost-like, in the darkness, are vanishing with the crowing of the cock; and with them you may fancy glides the spirit of the lifeless form that lies upon a pallet in that sordid garret. What a story of blighted ambition, withered hope, isolation, and contempt of life! The colour which forces itself upon your observation - purple - is the only colour appropriate. It represents the intellectual and the animal; the moral element of the man was small. See how all the yellows, that correspond to or represent that, sink into greyness! Mark, too, the rose-leaves, fallen almost in the bud. The puff of smoke, the last exhalation of the candle that lighted up the deed and the agony of death, drifts into space; and beside him, torn into fragments, are heaped up the sibylline leaves - the fatal gifts of his genius and his destiny. Compare this picture with Correggio's "Magdalene," the woman inappropriately clothed in blue, in the other gallery - well drawn and beautifully painted; but which of them tells of that toil of thought people call the "inspiration of genius?"
" Murillo's "Virgin" (641)is another instance ; her drapery is blue and white, emblems of the intellectual and the pure. She is not ascending into a sky - a sky is not what the painter meant ; that golden flush around her symbolises the glory of the Eternal.
I do not believe that even the greatest masters, particularly when at work, go deeply or analytically into the colours they use ; it is a matter of instinct. And I hope it will not be supposed that I believe I have got the key of the riddle, when I mean only to pick the lock. These ideas are thrown out, not for the pleasure of dogmatising, a prevailing method of art-criticism now-a-days ; not with the intention of elevating art into a religion, or grafting it upon religion, which has been done to affectation, as in No. 325, amongst the modern works - and to sterility, as may be seen in any number of Nos. at the other side of the gallery; but to show that it is a craft and mystery, in which lies far more than meets the eye. I do not mean to imply that people should not criticise pictures unless they are fully initiated; everyone has a right to express an honest opinion; but inasmuch as opinion has a personal as well as an intrinsic value, it would be well if criticisms were bold - not anonymous. Wearing the mask is in itself a temptation to use the dagger, "How oft the means to do ill deeds makes ill deeds done."
It is more especially incumbent upon the professional man, when he has to speak of the works of his brethren, not to hide under the impersonal we. He may be Jupiter or he may be Jeames - he may wield live thunder or only rattle tinfoil. Let him stand forth, at all events, that we may see whether he is a real strong man, or only a mythical one, slaying with the jawbone of an ass.
I have spoken of Hunt's "Scape-goat" as a great picture ; there is another in this Exhibition about which there is much diversity of opinion - "The Awakened Conscience." Some people quarrel with the subject, and others with its execution. If it deters one human being from folly and crime, the subject has not been badly chosen. It is a very readable and thoughtful picture. There is no sympathy sought for the wrongdoer ; he is evidently not a man of strong passions, but of weak resistance; he doesn't interest you. Unlike that immortal work of Ary Scheffer, the Rimini Picture - where you lose, in profound pity for that undying, fatal love, the recollection of its guilt - you turn from this in disgust. What it wants in poetic beauty it gains in moral force. It is not a poem, but a sermon. Everything is sought to be made sternly realistic; but exactly where it should culminate, it fails - it sinks; the woman is an ugly woman, and a dirty. There was no necessity to indicate the stain upon her character by dirt upon her face and hands. All the marvellous truth in the delineation of the furniture, the glimpse of garden in the looking-glass, the cat and the dead bird - because of this – remind us more of a doll-house for a doll than of a room where there is a living woman with a living soul. Her expression is right well conceived, but her skin is only dirty paint; it is not flesh, as seen in reflected lights - nor flesh in any light.
There are two pictures, "The Tribute-money," (No. 536), by Rubens, and "Christ Teaching Humility," (No. 680), by Ary Scheffer, which, by their contrast, show how necessary it is that the colour should be the reflection of the thought. In "The Tribute-money" Christ is clothed in red, and is thereby vulgarised and animalised ; in the other He is in white. Look at these two - go from one to the other, and say if colour has no character or meaning.
And now one word with respect to Turner. Let us be honest and fearless. No man has painted better, and no man has painted worse pictures. Those who remember his "Napoleon at St. Helena, the Rock Limpet," and many of his illustrations of (I presume his own poem) " The Fallacies of Hope," will, I think, bear me out when I say that many of them were below criticism. There are some fine works of his in oil here, and some by no means fine; but his real greatness is seen in his water-colour drawings. They strike me as very wonderful - not for their little, but for their great truths - not for their fidelity to the visible, but to the spiritual truth that underlies all nature. There are in them constant violations of actual fact - Mr. Ruskin notwithstanding - such as making the light shine upon objects when it is behind them, and yellowing the face of the country until there is not as much green to be found in forty miles of it as would colour one of Moses' green spectacles. But the space losing itself in the distant blue, the mirror-like effect in the water, its liquidness, the haze, the sunlight and the storm-shadow, and the multiform and gorgeous phantasm of the skies, make them dream-pictures, or pictures of the earth as the disembodied spirit might see it. But I cannot shut my eyes to the fact, that he drew the figure vilely, which he himself has acknowledged, by cutting out a print of a dog and pasting it upon the canvas, and then painting over it, in that beautiful picture, "The Thames, at Barnes Surrey." He was a great generaliser because of his immense knowledge of detail, although he had not the power - and wouldn't take the trouble of acquiring it - of delineating animal forms. In this he was wide as the poles from the pre-Raphaelites, who do, at all events, conscientiously draw what they see, or try to do so often successfully. Nevertheless, with all his faults, exaggerations, and mistakes, he was great amongst the greatest. There are spots even on the sun.