Page 18 - The Studio First Edition - April 1893
P. 18

The Growth of Recent Art

                    Since early Italian ideals died, the world has learnt   lead to the Phidian epoch of landscape and its
                    many new ways of seeing things, and notably many  allied art modern figure-painting. First, that of the
                    new arts of expressing our feelings about landscape  so-called classic formalists beginning in Claude
                    and the effect of figures in nature. When any style  and Poussin, and ending in Turner and the school
                    of expressing things has become a mere decorative   of David—an  impasse.   Secondly, that of the
                    formula it is deserted. First, those of vivid feelings   Realists, beginning with the Flemish and Dutch,,
                    about reality abandon it ; finally it stinks in the  and culminating in Constable, Crome, Gros,
                    nostrils of those whose sentiments are more purely   Gericault, Delacroix, Huet, and the early French-
                    decorative. So Lionardo represents the man of  men. These joined most conspicuously in Corot
                    acute observation and realistic feeling, turning from   and became the high road of the future —
                    decayed conventions to study truths of illumination   the road to impressionistic vision treated deco-
                    and the new facts of anatomy.               ratively.
                      The great decorative panel of Italy expired in a   Let us cast a rapid eye over the aims of recent
                    trick of piled-up limbs, wagging beards, flaunting  art with a quotation from Delacroix's letters as
                    drapery, and artificially balanced blocks of colour.  guide. " Ce fameux Beau . . . . ils se sont tous
                    Its decorative principle became a cheap receipt,   obstiné a ne le voir que dans les lignes. Je suis a
                    and real art fled from the pompous inflation of  ma fenêtre, et je vois le plus beau paysage : l'ideé
                    curly wiggery which ensued. Art reappeared in  d'une ligne ne me vient pas a l'esprit
                    three new strains, with Poussin and Claude, and   ne veulent voir proportion, harmonie qu'entre deux
                    the Franco-Italians; with Rubens, Bril, Rembrandt,   lignes : le reste pour eux est chaos, et le compas
                    Hals, Terburg, Hobbema, Ruysdael, &c., in the  seulement juge." To attain " le Beau " of natural
                    Low Countries, and with Velasquez and Ribera in  atmospheric tones and gradations was sought by
                    Spain. The taste of modern art can be detected in   the new schools in preference to eternally playing
                    these men, and, somewhat in the order in which I   with arbitrary schemes of colour and design after
                    quote them, they have operated directly upon the  the fashion of the surviving classics. The courage
                    aims of our century. To speak of England only,  of realists has been shown much less in the choice
                    how like Claude are Turner and Thomson ; while  of new and natural subjects than in a new and
                    the  Chateau de Stein  of Rubens, still proclaims  natural treatment of any subject. It is the manner
                    its power of begetting descendants when we see  of seeing and painting it, not the name of the thing
                    some of Constable's work or Cecil Lawson's  Min-  painted, that gives the quality of grandeur or of
                    ister's Garden.   Crome and Constable followed   littleness and worry to a picture, and Courbet's
                    Hobbema's embroidery of small foliage before they   Stone Breakers  is more " classic " than David's
                    reached the breadth of the " slate quarries," and   Horatii.   Soon, in the course of progress, an
                    the two great South Kensington sketches. But on  object was no longer expressed under all con-
                    the way from the seventeenth to the nineteenth  ditions by that pencil-point contour which real
                    century there are many notable side-paths. Men  light disdains to preserve. Men learnt to use the
                    of individuality wandered from the main routes  modesty of nature and to dare to reveal things with
                    following the same direction, but on tracks of their   the mystery of a true chiaroscuro. It became
                    own. They saw what their predecessors had seen,   necessary to note the values of light on planes at
                    but they saw it modified from their particular  various angles and at different distances, and on a
                    standpoints. Hence came the solid yet graceful  variety of colours ; to observe the relative force with
                    truth of Watteau, a cross of Italy with the Low  which masses relieved against the general tone ; to
                    Countries; that perpetually fruitful union, courted   complete the impression of a true aspect by regard-
                    by Jan Both no less than by Rubens, and after-  ing colours as related to the prevailing note of the
                    wards so prolific in Corot's marriage of Claude to  whole field of vision rather than to each other.
                    Constable ; hence too the sportive dexterity of  Then we have those researches into effects of focus
                    Tiepolo's fluid suggestive touch ; hence Chardin's  and definition by which we suit nature to the con-
                    classic simplicity; Wilson's rich juicy rendering of  ditions of a framed composition, by which we
                    Claude and Poussin, which sometimes hints at  obtain an effective scale of relative importances in
                    future Romanticism ; and hence the peculiarities  colour, tone, air and detail, and so secure our
                    of Hogarth, Canaletto, Ramsay, Reynolds, Gains-  fleeting impressions of grandeur, size, space, and
                    borough, Goya, Raeburn, Lawrence, and others.  mystery. Finally, handling became part of the
                    Nevertheless there are two main roads which we  imagination, and was made to underline construc-
                    can detect running through the maze of paths which   tion and express the sentiment of a broad view of
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