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who was not a Puritan. Such names remind us of the less authentic but hardly more ludicrous account of a child named Rachel-weeping-for-her-children-and-refusing-to-be-comfortedbecause-they-were-not Smith.
All who have read English history will remember the famous Barebone's Parliament, named from its leader, PraiseGod Barebone. But not all are aware that this same PraiseGod Barebone had two brothers, one of whom was named Christ-came-into-the-world-to-save Barebone, and the other, IfChrist-had-not-died-for-thee-thou-hadst-been-damned Barebone. The latter was not inappropriately nicknamed Damned Barebone.
That names could grow to such absurd forms and proportions shows the religious monstrosity of the age. Like all other unnatural developments, it soon subsided and the stream of popular names returned to its proper channel, retaining only the best elements of the recent growth. Such names as Grace, Mercy, Faith, and Patience will never die.
As we approach the more modern period of English history, we pause in dismay. The view is kaleidoscopic in variety, and unlimited in extent. Wait till the age becomes historic, and then let some bold adventurer see what he can make out of its nomenclature. We have already gone far enough for our purpose. The Saxon conquest, the introduction of Christianity, the Norman conquest, the fusion of Saxons and Normans, and the Puritan movement in religion, have all been stamped on the names of the different periods as legibly as the names of the Roman emperors on ancient coins.
It is impossible in a few pages to treat such a subject with fulness. We can but hint at lines of thought and investigation that might be followed to a great distance. We can only illustrate, and that in merest outline, without approaching the dignity of proof. Yet we may plainly see, even in so hasty a glance, that names have a real historic value and significance. Whether they are given with a knowledge of their meaning, or from mere association, makes little difference. In any case they will betray many secrets concerning the family and the nation to which they belong. Given the names of a people, and we can surely tell much of that people's character and history.
How to JUDGE OF A PICTURE.*—It is safe to say that the vast majority of people not only do not know how “to judge of a picture," but most of them are very ready to confess their ignorance. Books without number have been written to instruct those who wish to learn, but those who have written them differ so much among themselves that the “uncritical lovers of art” are usually discouraged. The author of this book has already gained reputation by what he has contributed to the abundant literature of the subject. In this new volume he has been especially successful. He has avoided those subjects on which artists and connoisseurs disagree, and has presented in a condensed form-in a little 16mo. of about one hundred and fifty pages—the most important principles which are accepted by all. What he says will not confuse the reader who is without technical knowledge, and those who know something about the technique of art will be charmed with the clearness and freshness with which he writes.
A large part of the book is devoted to those explanations which will teach the tyro how to judge of the mechanical part of an artist's work; and, it must be confessed, in the case of inost pictures, this is about the only thing that will repay much study. The skill which any practical workman shows in his special craft is a thing which always gives delight to a fellow-craftsman, or to any person who can appreciate his work. So it is in Art. In judging of a picture, one must understand something of the nature and character of the mechanical skill displayed by the artist. This cannot be passed by without notice, though there are other things which are really of much more importance in forming an estimate of the best pictures. Still the technique of art is of great importance, and there is no royal road to learning how to judge of it. Very valuable suggestions may be made which will be of assistance, but long continued observation and study are needed before a person can judge intelligently.
* How to Judge of a Picture. Familiar talks in the gallery with the uncritical lovers of art. By John C. VAN DYKE. Chautauqua Press. New York: Phillips & Hunt. 16mo., pp. 168.
This part of the subject is therefore first discussed by Mr. Van Dyke in eight chapters, viz: I. Color and Harmony.-II. Tone and Gradation.—III. Light and Shade.-IV. Perspective and Atmosphere.—V. Values.—VI. Textures and Qualities.VII. Drawing and Form.-VIII. Composition.
Now, many persons advance as far as to get some knowledge of the technique of art, and go no further. But it is to be remembered that while it is important that an artist should con form in his technique to the principles laid down in these eight chapters, yet there is something far more important. Artists claim that painting is a language. It is a means of expressing thought; and of course the thought is greater than the means used in expressing it. So the idea which the painter has had in mind is the great thing to be looked for and considered.
But in the great majority of pictures in any gallery, what evidence is there of any special thought in the artist ? or of any idea which the painter has sought to express ? A large proportion of them are simply attempts to reproduce in color some pretty bit of scenery, or some amusing or characteristic group of people. Now, the artist who limits himself to such work may make something which will give a momentary feeling of pleasure to the spectator, but he is only an imitator, and mere imitation never made anything of enduring value. Mr. Van Dyke says: “The painter detailing nature upon canvass, line upon line, with no hope, object, or ambition but that of rendering nature as she is, is but unsuccessfully rivaling the photograph camera." ... "Such pictures are good reminders of the places we have visited, like the photograph we buy along the line of travel, but they scarcely add to the world of art.” He insists that the “object of painting is not to deceive, and make one think he stands in the presence of real life. Art is not the delineation of peanuts and postage-stamps in such a realistic manner that you stretch out your hand to pick them up.” Neither, it may be added, is it art of the bighest kind to paint mere representations of what is beautiful, even though the artist in doing this shows knowledge of technique, and possesses marked ability, and individuality, and enthusiasm, and feeling. In the highest art there is something more.
The most perfect beauty is not to be found in things. Mr. Van Dyke says: “ Trees, sky, air, water, men, cities, streets, buildings, are but the symbols of ideas which play their part in the conception.” The highest beauty is to be found in the conceptions of the human
mind. To the artist, therefore, who conceives an idea, and uses the forms of nature as the means of expressing that idea, is to be accorded the highest place.
We will quote an illustration or two from Mr. Van Dyke:
Take the “Sower” of Millet, and what is it that we admire about it? A hundred living artists could excel the drawing, a hundred could excel the rendering of texture and light. The figure is of little consequence. In any street in Paris might have been found a physical man of more perfect make-up. It is the thought, the conception of heroism in humble life, that is strikingly beautiful. You may remember seeing in Rome the statue of " Moses” by Michael Angelo. As a piece of mechanical work it is not wonderful. I doubt not that Canova could have equaled, if not excelled, Michael Angelo as a carver and polisher. But there is something in the Moses” that is worth all the marbles Canova ever cut. It is the conception of tremendous power, the conceived ability of Moses to overawe, crush, destroy all things before him. In the Prophets and Sybils of the Sistine some of the same power is apparent, combined with solemnity, mystery, wierdness, even the spirit of that prophecy which characterized the originals. The conceptions are lofty to sublimity, nor are the forms at all unworthy of the ideas they embody; but they are not so great as the latter. Bouguereau could have drawn them as well; Delacroix could have given them a more harmonious coloring; Alfred Stevens or Carolus-Duran could have painted their garments much better; but all of them together could not have created that idea of mystery and power which attaches to them.
Still another instance of art excellent by the predominance of idea may be taken from the work of an American artist-Mr. Albert Ryder. You have doubtless seen a small sea-piece of his, often exhibited in New York, called “A Waste of Waters is Their Field.” It is little larger than your two hands, and represents a fisher-boat tossed by the waves of mid ocean. The light is dull, the figures and boat mere suggestions, and the waves scarcely distinguishable, as I remember them; yet there is an indefinable something about the picture that draws us to it. It is not the painting of it, for that is hardly up to the average. I can scarcely describe what it is except by saying that the picture conveys to one the idea of the loneliness, the weirdness, the wildness of a continued existence at sea amid storms and tempests and dangers innumerable. The craft with her dusky crew, as she pitches and rolls in the sea, her black sails blown full of heavy air and the light dimly seen through storm-clouds, looks like a wraith, a phantom boat, an exile hunted of men. We forget the material parts of the picture after a time, yet the idea haunts us. It keeps galloping through our brain like that dashing falconer of Fromentin. The painter holds us by his thought, his conception, precisely as the novelist makes us remember Lady Dedlock, Jean Valjean, or Harvey Birch, though we may hardly be able to recall a word they said or a thing they did.
Mr. Ruskin tells you that he [Turner) is great because he knew about the cleavages of rocks, spears of grass, sticks, stones, and trees, and that he was a great painter for one reason-because he painted these objects “true to nature;" but, with all respect for Mr. Ruskin, I beg of you not to believe any such thing. It would not be less erroneous to say that Shakespeare was great because he made a pronoun agree with its noun in gender, number, and person, or that Milton was sublime because he knew how to beat out the accent of an heroic line. People are not great by reason of small accomplishments, but because of great conceptions and revelations; and this is the case with Turner.
WILLIAM L. KINGSLEY.
THE MAGAZINE OF ART.*_Those who are interested in the subject which is treated in the book of Mr. Van Dyke, just noticed, will find it well worth while to examine carefully the magazine which is published monthly by Messrs. Cassell & Co., of New York. We have often, in this Review, commended it, and called attention to the fact that each of its numbers, besides many beautiful illustrations, contains one or two full page etchings of the best paintings of contemporaneous art in the different countries of Europe. We mention the magazine again at this time, for the reason that these etchings, though without the accompaniment of color, furnish those who cannot visit the European art collections an opportunity of studying the methods of the best living artists abroad, and the way they apply the principles which are laid down by Mr. Van Dyke.
The August NUMBER contains a very characteristic etching of of Meissoniér's “Vedette.” It is a picture of a French mounted vedette or scout, completely armed, who has spurred ahead of the body of troops who are to be seen in the dim distance. The “Vedette” is riding a splendid looking horse, and has stopped to scrutinize carefully the country before him. An American will probably admire this picture only for its technique. The admirable drawing for which Meissoniér is so famed is certainly here very conspicious. Every detail is perfect. The erect head of the horse is particularly noticeable. It stands out from the page so as to seem almost to breathe. Nothing too extravagant can be said of the drawing of the horse and his rider. The picture too shows all the peculiarities of Meissoniér's style, and even what are sometimes supposed to be his defects. There is the glare of light over the whole scene which is so common in his work.
Magazine of Art. Cassell & Company (Limited). Yearly subscription $3.50. Single numbers 35 cents.