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more costly description, at the rate of forty shillings the squareyard.
We find it difficult to assign a satisfactory reason for this long-continued absence of even respectable proficiency. National inaptitude would be the sweeping reason which might have been plausibly offered a century ago; but we cannot admit that reason now, and we have no other to supply its place. There was no want of encouragement and demand. Mr Cunningham says, that artists never stood lower in the estimation of mankind, than on the accession of Henry VIII. They were numbered ' with the common menials of the court; they had their livery 'suit, their yearly dole, and their weekly wages.' True: but similar, at a later period, was the condition of players; yet these found among their ranks a Ben Jonson, and a Shakspeare. Besides, Henry VIII. honoured and encouraged painting. He first formed the nucleus of the Royal Collection, which was augmented by succeeding monarchs, but which contained at his death no less than 150 pictures. He patronised Holbein, employed him, and admired him; and told a petulant courtier, who complained of the painter, that of seven peasants he 'could make seven lords, but he could not make one Hans.' There is no evidence, as Walpole tells us, that Elizabeth had much love of painting; and there is evidence that she did not understand it; for she once ordered her portrait to be painted 'with the light coming neither from the right nor from the left, 'without shadows, in an open garden light.' But it was not absolutely necessary for the encouragement of painting that the sovereign should be a judge of art. Elizabeth loved to be painted, and to tax the skill of the artist in ingenious flattery. This was sufficient, if not to circulate a correct taste, at least to set a fashion favourable to artists, and to disseminate a love of portraitpainting among the more opulent portion of her subjects. In the reign of Charles I. there was positive encouragement given to art, and of a kind which ought to have elicited pictorial talent if the germs of it had anywhere existed. Charles understood and valued painting. He collected munificently and judiciously, thereby raising the standard of the public taste, and making his people familiar with the contemplation of excellence. The cartoons of Raphael, and the splendid gallery of the Duke of Mantua, were brought to England during his reign; and the royal collection at Whitehall was augmented to 460 pictures; among which were nine by Raphael, eleven by Correggio, sixteen by Julio Romano, and twenty-eight by Titian. Not only by the display of beautiful pictures, but also by the presence of distinguished artists, might the national taste have been stimulated; for Eng
land was within a short period visited by Rubens and Vandyke. During sixteen years of the reign of Charles, the arts of peace might be securely cultivated; but no great artist was called into notice by all the encouragement and example with which that period had been more than usually replete. No native talent appears to have been elicited, which, struggling through the storms of civil war, and suppressed for a while by the discouraging frown of sectarian austerity, was ready to revive under the countenance of Cromwell (of Cromwell, who sat to Lely, and was chiefly solicitous that he might not be flattered, but that all the warts on his face should be accurately painted), and would have burst forth with elastic vigour in the joyous reign of Charles II., when all that the austerity of the puritan had discountenanced, was lauded and followed with prodigal excess. no such Englishman appeared. Only one distinguished artist was alike favoured by the Protector and the King, and he was a foreigner, Sir Peter Lely. And who succeeded some say supplanted him? Another foreigner, Sir Godfrey Kneller. To four distinguished foreign artists, Holbein, Vandyke, Lely, and Kneller, we had thus been almost entirely indebted for portraits of the most eminent persons who had appeared in England during a century and a half. Scarcely any Englishman was found to follow, even at a humble distance, in the pursuit of so popular an art. We may lament the circumstance, but we cannot explain it. To say that the English of that period were of a nature too coarse and rugged to excel in an art requiring such delicacy and refinement of taste, is to advance a reason which facts will not support. We could certainly compete in refinement with Flanders; and there was in. the dress, manners, and amusements of those times, much that was more akin to, and conducive to painting, than is to be found in the more sobered habits of the present day. Men who spent half an income in adorning their persons, were likely to desire that some memorials of their splendour might be handed down to posterity through that most appropriate channel-a portrait. Men who sought pleasures which addressed themselves to the eye, and planned and exhibited splendid pageants, were likely to desire to see them painted. We cannot, in a word, discover any specific cause of the fact in question; and must content ourselves with saying, that it fortuitously happened that England did not during that period produce any persons in whom the love of art, and the disposition to adopt it as a profession, so concurred, as to produce a great painter. Portrait-painting was throughout this period the style most cherished. Only one other kind enjoyed much vogue. It was introduced during the reign of the Stuarts, and might be called the architectural,
It professed,' says Mr Cunningham, to be the handmaid of architecture; when the mason, and carpenter, and plasterer, had done their work, its professors made their appearance, and covered walls and ceilings with mobs of the old divinities-nymphs who represented citiescrowned beldames for nations-and figures, ready ticketed and labelled, answering to the names of virtues. The national love of subjecting all works to a measure-and-value price, which had been disused while art followed nature and dealt in sentiment, was again revived, that these cold mechanical productions might be paid for in the spirit which conceived them.
The chief apostles of this dark faith were two foreigners and one Englishman-Verrio, La Guerre, and Sir James Thornhill. Rubens, indeed, and others, had deviated from nature into this desert track-only to return again to human feelings with a heartier relish. But Thornhill and his companions never deviated into nature. The Shepherdesses of Sir Peter Lely were loose in their attire, loose in their looks, and trailed their embroidered robes among the thorns and brambles of their pastoral scenes, in a way which made the staid dames of the puritans blush and look aside. But the mystic nymphs of Thornhill or La Guerre, though evidently spreading out all their beauties and making the most of their charms, could never move the nerves of a stoic. It is in vain that a goddess tumbles naked through a whole quarter of the sky. It is astonishing how much and how long these works were admired, and with what ardour men of education and talent praised them.'
The first native spark of what could deserve to be called genius, appeared in the person of Hogarth. Genius it certainly was, and of a very remarkable description, and one which has never yet found a successful imitator; but it did not afford us, what we still wanted—a great painter. We do not quite go the same length as the Royal Academician quoted by Mr Cunningham, who said that Hogarth was 'no painter;' and that Sir Joshua, who never mentioned him, might as well be censured for not naming Richardson and Fielding. But we concur with him to a considerable extent; and we feel that the merits of Hogarth were those of the moral satirist rather than of the artist. He was at any rate a designer rather than a painter. His fame rests upon his designs ;his being a painter was a circumstance of which that fame holds little cognizance. If Hogarth had never touched a brush-if he had been merely an engraver-nay, if his Marriage-à-la-Mode, and other admirable satires, had come from his hand merely in the simple form of drawings, from which engravings had been made by others, the fame of Hogarth would scarcely have been less, or of a different kind from that which his name enjoys at present. Yet Mr Cunningham devotes half a page to a most superfluous contention with Horace Walpole's very intelligible distinction, that as a painter Hogarth has slender merit.' claim,' says Mr Cunningham very emphatically, a significa
tion as wide for the word painter as for the word poet.' When Mr Cunningham sets up a dictionary of his own, he may of course claim his own signification for that or any other word at his own will and pleasure; but, in this case, it would have been more profitable to consider, first, what Walpole meant by the word 'painter,' and, next, what is commonly meant by the public at large. Our first great painter was undoubtedly Reynolds. He was,' in the words of Burke, the first Englishman who added the 'praise of the elegant arts to the other glories of his country.' No man has ever raised art from such low estate to the height at which he left it. At the commencement of his career, Thornhill, Jervas, and Hudson, were the best representatives of English art. He died the brightest star among a thick galaxy of great names. He was the imitator of none. He formed a style which was all his own. To portrait he communicated,' says Burke, a variety, a fancy, and a dignity, derived from the higher 'branches, which even those who possessed them in a superior 'manner, did not always perceive when they delineated individual 6 nature. His portraits remind the spectator of the invention and the amenity of landscape. In painting portraits, he ap'peared not to be raised upon that platform, but to descend upon it from a higher sphere. His influence,' says Mr Cunningham, on the taste and elegance of the island was great, and will be lasting. The grace and ease of his compositions were a 'lesson for the living to study, while the simplicity of his dresses admonished the giddy and the gay against the hideousness of 'fashion. He sought to restore nature in the looks of his sitters, and he waged a thirty years' war against the fopperies of dress. His works diffused a love of elegance, and united with poetry in softening the asperities of nature, in extending our views, and in connecting us with the spirits of the time. His cold stateliness of character, and his honourable pride of art, gave dignity to his profession: the rich and the far-descended were pleased to be painted by a gentleman as well as a genius.'
Since the death of Reynolds, we can scarcely speak with correctness of the progress of British art. Its condition is certainly as good as it was then-perhaps at some intervening periods it has been better; but it cannot be said that from that time there has been any progressive advancement. Neither in landscape, in portrait, nor in historical composition, can we now boast of better artists than flourished in the days of Reynolds. Yet we do not doubt that the average is raised; and we can certainly point to one branch of art which in his time scarcely existed, but in which British artists have now attained an excellence unrivalled in any other country. We mean the art of painting in water-colours,—
an art of rapid growth, and which, for the representation of some subjects, is, in our opinion, superior to painting in oil.
The dewy freshness of a spring morning-the joyous brightness of a summer's day-the passing shower-the half-dispelled mist the gay partial gleam of April sunshine-the rainbowthe threatening storm-the smiles and frowns of our changeful sky, or their infinite effects upon the character of the landscape -the unsubstantial brightness of the grey horizon-and the fresh vivid colouring of the broken foreground-all these features in the ever-varying face of Nature can be represented by the painter in water-colours, with a grace, a vividness, a freedom, a fidelity, a soft, yet day-like brightness and truth, which we will not say cannot be produced in oil-painting, but which we at least have never yet witnessed. There is a look of daylight in a watercolour painting, which oil-painting has never yet so successfully expressed. Nature, in the former, is represented as we really see it—in the latter, as it appears reflected in a blackened glass. The effect of daylight has, it is true, sometimes been tried in oil-paintings, and with some success; but too much of the truth, force, and richness of colouring, has invariably been sacrificed in the attempt. There is a chalkiness in the colouring which prevented them from being entirely successful. They cannot, while clear, bright, and day-like, combine softness, richness, and vividness, so well as is possible in water-colour painting. Many able approaches towards a successful representation of daylight landscape have been made by painters in oil, ancient and modern. Rubens made a few coarse, but brilliant experiments, and attained brightness without being chalky. But still he did not succeed. His landscapes are not nature-they want softness, delicacy, and truth. They overshoot the mark. They are only dim and somewhat eccentric hints at what ought to be the true effect,failures, but still the failures of a man of genius, and perhaps as useful for the consideration of artists as the more successful performances of inferior men. Teniers is bright and clear; but we have always a feeling as if his landscapes were painted, not on wood or canvass, but on tin, and the cold hue of the metal shone through, and mingled itself with his painting. Hobbima is sometimes day-like; but there is apt to be a blackness in the shadows, and a rawness in the lights of his fresh-coloured landscapes, which is to our eyes neither true nor agreeable. Cuyp has perhaps united softness and richness of tint with daylight brilliancy as skilfully as any artist; but he effects this combination chiefly by means of that golden haze which he sheds so beautifully over all his landscapes. Even in the clearest and brightest, there is always a haze. Perhaps from consciousness that he would fail