The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 33
Painting and Painters
Painting and Painters.
It will easily be understood that all the details of so large a subject as that of painting and painters cannot be brought within the limits of a single lecture. I shall not attempt more than the sketching a series of outlines, which those who are disposed to do so may fill up at their leisure, with more or less finish, from the abundant materials for such a work which may be found within the walls of the institution of which this lecture-room forms a part.
Painting does not rise to the dignity of art until employed in the production of what we all call a picture. In this form it is accepted as the symbol of art itself. All who practise an art are entitled to be ranked as artists, but we do not give this designation in its general sense to any but painters; the followers of other arts must have the art particularised with which they are specially associated in order to fix their position in the artist world. Millions derive enjoyment in a higher or lower degree from the results of pictorial skill, who would be insensible to the charms of art exhibited under any other form; and we cannot but recognise the fact that painting has contributed to the mental gratification of the human race, through the medium of the senses, in a much larger degree than any other art which has been practised by mankind.
Before entering upon the main subject of my lecture, I will occupy a few moments in giving a short description of the principal kinds of painting with which we are acquainted, or of which we have any record. The earliest method of painting known to have been practised was in use long before the Christian era, and is still resorted to as being, under certain page 104 special conditions, the most effective that can be employed. It is called "fresco," the term fresco—a word which signifies "fresh"—having been applied to it in Italy, where the art of painting in fresco has long been, and still is, very extensively exercised. It is a kind of painting that can only be successfully executed by very skilful artists, as the work must be carried on with great rapidity, and will not admit of correction while in progress. The groundwork of the picture is plaster, prepared with the utmost care, and with the greatest attention to the selection of the ingredients employed in its composition, and this plaster is kept in a moist or damp condition until the picture is painted into it with water-colours. The effect, under skilful treatment, is satisfactory in the highest degree. The colours, when the material is well prepared and the picture is properly protected, preserve their first freshness and brilliancy for an almost indefinite period; and the surface being perfectly free from gloss, the painting can be seen advantageously from any point of view. Fresco painting is applied principally to mural embellishment. It is only recently that its value for such a purpose has been fully understood in England, where fresco painting fifty years ago was scarcely ever practised. The finest English specimens of fresco painting are in the Parliament Houses, and the largest in the new hall of Lincoln's Inn, the picture covering an area of 1700 square feet. Splendid specimens of fresco painting may be seen in all parts of Italy, the most exquisite being those at the Vatican, the productions of Raffaelle and Michael Angelo.
The most durable pictures are produced by a process which can only be applied to works of art intended to remain permanently in the place first assigned to them; it is called "mosaic." The picture is formed of very small pieces of coloured glass or stones, so fitted together as to present the appearance of an ordinary painting. Mosaic painting is of the very highest antiquity. Pliny describes, with some minuteness, a picture in mosaic which appears to have had great attractions, and some exquisite specimens of mosaic pictures have been discovered in the remains of Pompeii. This curious art is largely practised at Venice, where it has been in use for many centuries. The pictures that ornament the front of St. Mark's are executed in mosaic, as are almost the whole of those in the interior. The altar-pieces in the various side chapels in St. Peter's, at Rome, are copies in mosaic of celebrated pictures, and are so exquisitely wrought that it would page 105 be quite impossible at the distance from which they are seen to perceive that they are not hand-paintings. It is said that every one of these mosaic pictures cost six thousand pounds.
The mode of painting generally practised by the ancients in the production of easel or movable pictures was called "encaustic," from a Greek word signifying "burning in." The colours used were mixed with wax, and when applied to the pictures, were blended into each other by heat. It was practised from the time of Alexander the Great, until about the fourteenth century, when it was superseded by oil painting as now practised. Oil painting was introduced in the year 1410, by one John Van Eyck, a Belgian, and appears to have created an immense sensation among the followers of art, equal, as it is said by some writer, to the discovery of gunpowder about a century earlier. Painting in "distemper" is painting with colour mixed with size or white of an egg instead of oil, and is employed in painting pictures which are to occupy very large surfaces, and which it is necessary for the production of their desired effect should be free from gloss. It can be laid on canvas or other material with very great rapidity, and is always used in scene painting. Painting in water-colours I need not describe.
The preparation of colours has now become a separate calling, and has immensely facilitated the work of the artist, who, not many years ago, had to devote an enormous amount of time to this kind of labour, which was entirely unconnected with artistic skill, but without which no artistic skill, however great, could be made available. You will be able to judge of the extent of this drudgery by the following extract from Cennini's treatise on painting, written in the fourteenth century. In treating upon the manner in which the art of painting pictures should be acquired, he writes thus:—"Know that you cannot learn to paint in less time than that which I shall name to you. In the first place you must study drawing for at least one year; then you must remain with a master at the workshop for the space of six years at least, that you may learn all the parts and members of the art, to grind colours, to boil down glues, to grind plaster, to acquire the practice of laying grounds in pictures, to work in relief, and to smooth the surface, and to gild; afterwards to practise colouring, to adorn with mordants, paint cloth of gold and paint on walls for six more years, drawing without intermission on holy-days and work-days, and by this means you will acquire great experience. If you do otherwise, you will never attain perfection."page 106
In no period of the world's history has pictorial art been more cultivated, more generally practised, or better patronised and rewarded, than at the present day, and it is difficult to imagine that there ever could have been a period of time in past ages, during which the art of painting was unknown, or its efforts unappreciated. It is, however, impossible to ascertain the degree of estimation in which painting was held in the earliest times, and difficult to judge of the degree of perfection to which it had attained at a very distant era.
It is remarkable that there is not a single passage in the Bible to justify the belief that painting, as an imitative art, was followed or esteemed by the Jews. They certainly had a great appreciation of the beauty of colours, and used them freely for the purpose of ornamentation, in their costumes and in their dwellings. Tapestry work seems to have attained to great perfection, and to have been highly valued, if we may hold, in testimony thereof, the song of Deborah, wherein she describes the mother of Sisera as watching impatiently for his return from battle, and saying within herself, "Have they not divided the prey—to Sisera a prey of divers colours, a prey of divers colours of needlework on both sides, meet for the necks of them that take the spoil." There are several passages in the prophetical books showing that painting, with the view to the production of a pleasing effect, was commonly practised, but of notice of any painting, corresponding to pictures such as those that are now regarded as works of art, there is not a trace. The Jewish people may have considered such a picture a "creation" which would have been an infringement of the letter of the second commandment, and this may have prevented their practising painting as an amusement, or countenancing it as an occupation, although they disobeyed the spirit, as well as the letter of the commandment, in its grosser form of image worship. I am the more inclined to the opinion that they considered imitative painting a breach of the divine injunction, from the fact that in the early ages of Christianity the converted Jews looked upon painting in this light, and destroyed, therefore, many splendid works of art. A letter is preserved, written in the fourth century by the Bishop of Salamis to the Bishop of Jerusalem, in which this passage occurs:—"On my journey through Anablata, a village in Palestine, I found a curtain at the door of the church, on which was painted a figure of Christ or some saint—I forget which. As I saw that it was the image of a man, which is against the command of Scripture, page 107 I tore it down and gave it to the church authorities, with the advice to use it as a winding-sheet for the next poor person who might have occasion for one, and bury it."
Although, however, there seems reason to believe that painting was not practised by the Jews, there is no doubt whatever that more than 2000 years ago it had attained a degree of excellence, certainly not much below, and probably equal to, that which exists at the present day. This is proved by the evidence of the historian, by the remains of paintings that have been discovered, and by other works of art which have been preserved to the present time, and which show a correctness of form and a beauty of design and expression which constitute them even now models of grace and beauty, which it is the highest aspiration of the artists of the present day to follow, and if possible surpass.
The highest and best authority we have on the subject of ancient art is Pliny the elder. He was born in the year of our Lord 23, in the reign of Tiberius. Among other works he wrote one on Natural History, in thirty-seven books, which are now extant. In the thirty-fifth of these he wrote largely upon Painting, and he gives an account of art and artists from the earliest period of man's history up to his own time. It is from this book the greater part of the information extant on the subject of ancient art has been obtained. Pliny tells us that in his day the Egyptians asserted that they had been masters of painting for 6000 years, and describes this as "evidently a vain boast." When the Exodus took place, about 1500 years before Christ, the Egyptians were, no doubt, the most civilised people in the world, and Moses, it is said, was "learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians;" but we find no allusion whatever in the sacred record to the skill of the Egyptians as painters. That they understood colouring there can be no doubt; but although the remains of their paintings, of which we have many in almost every museum, show great brilliancy of colour, they are grossly deficient in imitative power. It was more a kind of picture-writing than painting that the Egyptians practised, as we can perceive by their mummy cases; they had some knowledge of proportion, as is shown by the gigantic figures which are still extant, and which, notwithstanding the vastness of their size, appear to have been executed under a thorough perception of the proportion that the different parts should bear to each other. It is said that the Egyptians did not judge of the proportion of a statue by the eye alone, but that they made a small page 108 model which was divided into a number of parts, from which, in the same number of parts in any given proportion, worked by different hands, they executed their colossal statues.
Three classes of paintings have been discovered in Egypt—some on walls, some on mummy-cloths, and some on papyrus rolls. The search for Egyptian antiquities has been a favourite one with explorers. Numerous works, profusely illustrated, have been published as the result. Those which are considered the best are a French work, published by the "Institut du Caire," and one by Rossellini, called Monumenti dell' Egitto e della Nubia. In many of the Egyptian tombs and temples, of which the ruins still exist, may be seen wall-paintings, the colours of which appear quite fresh, and form excellent illustrations of the manners and customs of the people. Several of these have been transported to the British Museum, together with mummy cases, and many other relics indicative of the very barbarous state of painting as an imitative art among the Egyptians. There are also in the British Museum, and in several other museums, the brushes, together with the colour boxes and palettes and other implements, used by the Egyptian painters. It is supposed that many of the Nineveh sculptures in the British Museum were the work of Egyptians, introduced by Cambyses into Persia, who formed there an Egyptian colony.
It was in Greece that painting in its highest form appears to have arisen and flourished. It is supposed that the art was there introduced by communication with Egypt, where painting was known long before there is any evidence of the existence of the Greeks as a people. It was not until about 600 years before Christ that a period can be distinctly fixed at which art in Greece began to flourish, and the period of about five centuries before the Christian era may be said to constitute the first age of art. The earliest painter whose name has been recorded is one Bularchus, who painted a picture of a battle about 716 years before Christ, which was so highly appreciated by Candaules, King of Lydia, that he paid for it as much gold coin as was required to cover it. It is evident that 600 years before Christ paintings were numerous, as Herodotus mentions that when Harpagus besieged the town of Phocea, 544 years before Christ, the inhabitants, having collected all their valuables, except paintings and other works which could not easily be removed, fled with them to the island of Chios. It is clear by this that these paintings were very large, probably fresco paintings, forming mural decorations, which could not be carried away.page 109
The first painter whose name has been handed down to posterity as a master of his art is Polygnotus, who flourished about 450 years before Christ, and is spoken of in very high terms by Aristotle. Several of his pictures are specially alluded to by contemporary writers, and show that he had vivid imagination and great power of expression. It was said of him, that as Homer was the founder of epic poetry, so was Polygnotus the founder of historic painting. I pass over the names of many artists who appear to have followed in the steps of Polygnotus, to dwell a little on the well-known name of Zeuxis, who appears to have advanced into the regions of art greatly beyond the limits reached by Polygnotus. Lucian gives a most interesting description of a splendid picture he had himself seen from the pencil of Zeuxis, which I cannot venture to transcribe, knowing how much I have to compress within the limits of this lecture. Like some of the pictures by the popular artists of the present day, one of the pictures of Zeuxis was publicly exhibited, and brought the artist a large sum of money, people flocking to see it from distant parts. Zeuxis was succeeded by a line of artists of very high reputation, whose works are dwelt upon at considerable length by writers who had seen their productions, and from the description given of them, many of these must have been wonderful conceptions, worked out with great ability. Some of them appear to have been sold for enormous prices. A sum equal to £4000 of our money is stated to have been given to a painter named Aristides for a battle-piece, which was afterwards resold for a sum equal to £6000. We could imagine ourselves reading an account of the pictures of our own time, when perusing the description given of the pictures of very ancient days; and the incidents connected with the picture-dealing that evidently went on in the time of Pliny bear a great resemblance to those of the present period. We are told of a picture of this Aristides, which had been taken to Rome, being utterly destroyed by a picture-restorer; a fate that has befallen many of the finest works of the more modern artists, under the hands of the so-called picture-restorers of our own time.
You have all heard of Apelles. His name is accepted as the representative of art of the very highest character. His world-wide reputation is due very much to Pliny, who appears to have placed him above all other painters, though his claim to the pre-eminence is not acknowledged by contemporaneous writers. He flourished in the time of Alexander the Great, page 110 by whom he was largely patronised, a circumstance which may have contributed somewhat to the impressing his name so deeply as it now appears in the records of fame. He painted the Emperor's portrait several times, and for a large picture, in which the Emperor was very prominently introduced, he was paid twenty talents of gold, equal to more than £50,000 of our money. At the time of Apelles there was an artist at Rhodes of the name of Protogenes, who had attained a very high reputation. Apelles went to Rhodes to visit his renowned rival, and examine his work. When he arrived at Rhodes he went to Protogenes' studio, but found no one there but an old woman. The good dame inquired of Apelles the visitor's name, in order that she might give it to her master on his return, upon which Apelles took a pencil, and drew, upon a large panel which he found upon an easel prepared for painting, a very delicate and beautifully-formed line; this he left on the easel as "his card," and went his way. On Protogenes' return he was told what had happened, and looking on the panel, he exclaimed, "Ah! Apelles has been here; no other hand could do that!" He then, it is said, took a pencil and drew upon the line of Apelles, and within it, a still more beautiful line, and leaving his home, told the old woman to show what he had done to Apelles when he called again. Apelles called accordingly, was shown the line within his own, and thereupon drew a third line within that of Protogenes, and said, with an air of quiet exultation, to the old woman, "Show your master that." It is said that Protogenes, upon this, gave up the contest, and owned himself beaten.
Pliny states that this panel was handed down as a wonder to posterity, and was preserved in a gallery, where it was more valued than many of the most finished paintings by which it was surrounded. It was destroyed by fire before the time of Pliny, and great doubt has been thrown upon the interpretation to be given to the term linea, or line, as applied to this contest of skill. Some think that the lines were really sketches or outlines of what might be regarded by the artist who designed it as the most graceful that could be imagined. Hogarth considered that he had made a discovery of a curve traceable in every beautiful form. This curve he called the true line of beauty, and took great pains to establish his supposed discovery, and Apelles and Protogenes may have had their ideal lines, which they indicated in the trial of skill I have described. What these lines really were has been very much discussed, and as I don't think I shall throw much page 111 additional light upon the discussion, I will go on to another line of my lecture.
Apelles is stated to have tenaciously adhered to a determination never to pass a day without tracing some outline, a practice which gave rise, as Pliny informs us, to the proverb still in use among us, "Nulla dies sine lineâ." Pliny also ascribes to him the origin of another proverb with which we are equally familiar, "Ne sutor ultra crepulam"—or, as freely translated, "let the cobbler stick to his last." The incident which gave rise to it I shall shortly narrate. It was the practice with the Greek painters, as indeed it would appear to have been the practice with eminent painters in Pliny's day, to expose their pictures to public criticism, they themselves being concealed behind their work. Under these circumstances, it is said, Apelles was censured by a shoemaker for having represented a sandal with a string short, a fault Apelles corrected; the cobbler the next day observing this, and being very proud of his discernment, began to criticise the leg, upon which Apelles rushed out upon him and uttered the words which gave rise to the proverb I have quoted.
A much more emphatic correction of a painter's little mistake was made about 1800 years after this by Mahomet II., with reference to the work of one Bellini, who was sent for from Venice to paint the portrait of that sultan. As a specimen of his talents, the painter presented Mahomet with a picture of the head of John the Baptist in a charger. The sultan, who was a man of large experience in such matters, saw at once that the appearance of the severed head was not true to the life, or rather to the death; and to show the artist the real thing, sent for a slave and had him decapitated then and there—a piece of criticism, the sharpness of which so frightened Bellini that he availed himself of the very earliest opportunity he could find to quit Constantinople, to which he took very good care never to return.
Apelles was the contemporary of many artists who stand high in the roll of fame, and he and they were followed for some time by others who obtained a high reputation, but art in Greece may be said from the time of Apelles to have begun to decline. After the death of Alexander great political convulsions took place, which had a most disastrous effect upon the fortunes of Greece, and the intelligent and wealthy classes had their attention drawn to more absorbing matters than the promotion of art. The public buildings were then full to overflowing with works of art, which were transferred to other page 112 countries. Rome, when it subjugated Greece, stopped there the progress of art, and plundered it of many of its most splendid works, while pictures in large numbers were transported thither for the purpose of sale. The Grecian artists also went to Rome in considerable numbers, and found there employment and profit. Rome, in fact, became the emporium of art. The taste for art that was created by the acquisition of the art treasures of Greece, and the presence of Grecian artists, does not seem to have called out much Italian talent, for there is no record of the existence of any great Roman painter when art was the most liberally patronised at Rome. Suetonius speaks of large sums expended by the emperors in pictures by the old masters, but the artists of the day seem to have been but little prized.
Pliny tells us that in his day the art of painting had greatly declined. He speaks of it as an art which had been formerly illustrious, held in high esteem both by kings and peoples, and ennobling those whom it deigned to transmit to posterity; but as an art that was banished "in favour of marble, and even gold," describing the marble as carved out "so as to represent objects and animals of various kinds"—this being evidently the mosaic work I have before referred to. After giving a very elaborate description of the component parts of a great number of colours, he says that, with all these advantages as to colour, there was then no such thing as a picture of high quality produced. Everything, he says, was superior when the resources of art were fewer, observing that the materials, and not the efforts of genius, were in his time the object of research.
You may be curious to know whether any of these wonderful pictures that have been so eulogised in times past, and so minutely described, are still extant. There is not one remaining. Byzantium, on which was founded by Constantine the present Constantinople, became, after it received that name, more rich in works of art than Rome itself. Immense art treasures were concentrated there, and became the subjects of plunder and destruction. Immense collections appear to have been destroyed by fire. Rome also was mercilessly plundered in 410 by Alaric, and afterwards by Genseric, King of the Vandals, who ruthlessly destroyed the most splendid productions of genius, creating so strong a feeling of indignation, and leaving so deep an impression on mankind, that to this day any gross outrage upon taste, or insensibility to artistic or poetic feeling, is called a vandalism. A large list is given of page 113 terrible destructions of collections by fire, but the productions of ancient art suffered, it may be said, complete annihilation during that period of time known as the dark ages, when there arose a fanatical class called Iconoclasts, or image-breakers, who, under the influence of a blinded religious zeal, destroyed all the images and pictures they could discover—an example that was followed, in a limited degree, by the Puritans, in the time of the Commonwealth.
Notwithstanding this complete destruction of the Greek paintings of a movable character, we have a vast number of specimens of ancient painting of another description, by which we can judge pretty accurately of the artistic power of the ancients, and satisfy ourselves that it was of a very high order. Herculaneum and Pompeii were two cities buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in the year 79, and all traces of them were lost until the year 1711, when their remains were brought to light. Pompeii was, as you probably all know, buried by showers of ashes; over them had formed a surface which was cultivated, and a labourer, in ploughing, turned up a bronze figure of great beauty. This excited much attention, and it was found that the whole soil for miles around was formed of the ashes covering the buried city. The labour of clearing it away proved to be very small, and the city is being gradually brought again to light. About one-third of it has already been exhumed, the greatest care being taken to preserve the relics that are found, which are deposited at the Museum at Naples. I visited the place in the year 1865, when I was informed about two-thirds of the city had still to be explored. A day or two before my visit, a fountain, beautifully decorated with mosaic work, had been discovered; and also the skeleton of a person who had probably been suffocated while asleep, as there was a great indication of repose in the position of the limbs, which the explorers had not in the least disturbed. Herculaneum was destroyed by lava, and can only be explored by excavations, it being much below the buildings erected upon its site. The art treasures obtained from the exploration of these two ancient cities threw great light upon the state of art at the time of their destruction. A large number of beautiful statues in bronze and marble, painted vases, and mural embellishments, have been discovered; besides a large picture in mosaic, representing a battle, which was discovered in the remains of a dwelling in the year 1831—a picture which shows great power of composition and perfect knowledge of perspective and foreshortening. The vases and wall-paintings would bear about page 114 the same sort of testimony to the state of painting at that time as our painted porcelain productions and the decorations of our highest-classed houses in England would bear to the pictorial skill of our present day. Pliny, in writing of the house decorations at Pompeii, speaks of them contemptuously, but Sir Joshua Reynolds formed from them a very high opinion of the painting of that day. Most of the paintings are executed in distemper, and many of the walls are coloured in fresco. Engravings have been made of all the pictures worthy of note discovered in the remains of these cities, and some of them show a grace of outline and a beauty of composition unsurpassed by any figure-drawing to be met with in the present age. The principal works (and they are very numerous) written on Herculaneum and Pompeii, and most of which are profusely illustrated, may be seen at the Public Library. The most beautiful series of ancient decorative paintings known is one illustrative of the story of Adonis, discovered in the year 1668 in some ruins near the Coliseum, and these were engraved and published in Rome in the year 1704; they are said to be worthy of any age of art, though very simple in composition.
For some centuries after the commencement of the Christian era, the practice of painting was denounced by the Christians, most of whom were then Jewish converts, who held extreme opinions as to the sin of creating objects which might become the subject of adoration or idolatry. It is stated by Origen that the Jews would not allow an artist to enter the Jewish community. In course of time the Gentile Christians exceeded the number of the Jewish, and so great was the dread of their introducing pictures into the churches, that an artist was not allowed to be baptised until he had foresworn his art, and he was excommunicated if he returned to it. The decoration of churches, however, was never totally suppressed, some of the popes and bishops encouraging the practice. In the eighth century the representations of our Saviour in the churches, which had become objects of worship, were declared by a general council of the church to be spurious.
I will pause a little in the rapid sketch I am giving of the history of painting, to consider a question of great interest—viz.: whether there ever was in existence a genuine portrait of our Saviour. The earliest known portrait is a picture discovered in the seventeenth century, which was found in some catacombs under the Church of St. Sebastian in the Via Appia, and which must have been painted about the year 220. page 115 The portrait answers very well to the following description of our Saviour, given in a letter said to have been written by one Lentulus from personal observation, and which letter appears in the writings of Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury, in the eleventh century. The description runs thus:—"A man of stately figure, dignified in appearance, with a countenance inspiring veneration, and which those who look upon it may love as well as fear. His hair, rather dark and glossy, falls down in curls below His shoulders, and is parted in the middle after the manner of the Nazarenes; the forehead is smooth and remarkably serene; the face without line or spot and agreeably ruddy; the nose and mouth are faultless; the beard is thick and reddish, of the colour of the hair, not long but divided; the eyes bright and of a varied colour."
There is in the Church of San Silvestro in Rome a cloth called the Sancta Veronica, on which it is said there is an image of our Saviour miraculously imprinted by Himself. The legend states that one Agbarus, King of Edessa, suffering from sickness, sent a messenger to our Saviour to come and heal him; the messenger being one Ananias, a painter, who was ordered, if he would not induce Christ to come to him, to bring His portrait. Ananias, it is said, delivered the king's letter, retired from the crowd, and then attempted to draw the sacred portrait. This, however, he found it impossible to do on account of the refulgence of the countenance; whereupon our Saviour, having washed his face, wiped it with a cloth which he gave to Ananias, with an answer to Agbarus, who found the portrait upon the cloth, and was healed by the touch of it. It is said this cloth was an object of universal adoration at Edessa, until it was removed to Rome. There are other very old legends having reference to these sacred portraits, which are curious, but which I must not dwell upon.
The period between the fourth and fifth and the thirteenth centuries is described as "the dark ages." During all this time we have no record of the progress of art, if, indeed, it progressed at all. The only trace we have of the continuance of the practice of art is in illuminated manuscripts or missals, and a series of portraits of the popes in the old Basilica of St. Paul, commencing in the fifth century and carried down for a long period, including the portraits of no less than 253 popes. These interesting pictures were nearly all destroyed by fire in the year 1823. With reference to the illuminations, they abound throughout the whole of Europe. They were the work of the monks, and show great delicacy of execution page 116 and knowledge of colour, varying much in the degree of skil displayed. Many of these are preserved in the British Museum. They improve in character as they draw nearer to our own times, and some of the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth centuries show an advanced period in art. We have copies of one or two specimens of the work of this period in our Gallery. One of the fifteenth century was purchased by Sir John Tobin, of Liverpool, at a sale in the year 1833, for the sum of £1100. The Anglo-Saxons were considered the best illuminators. These illuminations of books ceased in England at the time of the Reformation.
I now come to the thirteenth century, known as the Renaissance, or revival period, when the arts revived all over Europe, in a sudden and surprising manner. In the year 1240 a great painter was born, of the name of Cimabue, who is mentioned in the work by Vasari (which is considered the great text-book for the history of Italian art) as the painter who commenced the revival, although several artists of high character had preceded him by some years. One of the oldest paintings extant, entitled to a place in a national collection, is to be found in the National Gallery in London. It is a picture by Magaritone, and is a comparatively recent acquisition by our country; this painter died in the year 1313. Cimabue had a pupil of the name of Giotto, who as much surpassed his master as his master had surpassed others. Unfortunately, most of his paintings were destroyed by a fire which took place in Florence in the year 1771, but there are some of his frescoes in a church at Assassi, which have been engraved, and also at Padua, in a chapel which was ornamented entirely by his hand, and is called Giotto's chapel. I visited this, chapel, and must confess that the paintings did not answer my expectations, attributable, no doubt, to my want of discernment of the subtleties of art. They were, most of them, injured by damp; but an excellent idea of the appearance the chapel presented when the decorations were fresh can be obtained from a coloured drawing of it in our Gallery, where it will be found in the small room at the west end of the long corridor, where also may be seen coloured copies of the work of several artists of eminence, who flourished at or about his (Giotto's) period. He painted some portraits in fresco in the chapel of the Palazza del Podesta, among which was a portrait of Dante. Some years after their execution, the political enemies of Dante covered them with whitewash and plaster; but their existence being known, many attempts were made, but with- page 117 out success, to discover these pictures. In the year 1840 they were brought to light by Mons. Audrey Bassi, who succeeded in removing the covering, and found the pictures in comparatively good preservation. A copy of the portrait of Dante will be found in the small room to which I have already called attention.
Art continued to progress after the death of Giotto by vast and rapid strides until it reached its golden days, constituting the era of Leonardo da Vinci, Michael Angelo, and Raffaelle, all of whom flourished in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The biography of any one of these celebrated men would yield materials for two or three interesting lectures, but I am compelled on the present occasion to limit myself to a few words in referring to them. Leonardo da Vinci was a Florentine born in the year 1452, and seems to have been what is called a universal genius. There is a most interesting letter of his preserved in the Ambrosia Library, at Milan, addressed to the Duke of Milan when Leonardo was about thirty years old, in which he offers his services to the Duke, and gives a statement of what he considers he can accomplish. In that letter, which I wish I had time to read to you at length, Leonardo, who seems to have had a very versatile turn of mind, professes his ability "to make portable bridges, for facilitating running after or running away from an enemy—to burn and destroy the bridges of an opposing army—to draw away water from a beleaguered city—to destroy any fortress not built of stone—to work his way underground anywhere—to make cannon of beautiful form and quite out of the common method—to make vessels bomb-proof;" and after enumerating other feats, which he states very confidently he can accomplish, in carrying on warfare, he states:—"In time of peace, I think I can as well as any other make designs for buildings. I will also undertake any work in sculpture, in marble, in bronze, or in terra-cotta." Adding, as though that were something that it might be worth while to mention, although not of much importance—"Likewise, in painting I can do what can be done as well as any other, be he whom he may." It appears that the Duke took Leonardo into his service, and that Leonardo thought more of schemes connected with engineering than of painting, and to have had a particular fancy for constructing water supplies, which he was exceedingly disgusted at not being able to get carried out. In this respect a remarkable painter of our own day, Martin, resembled him, for Martin, when he was exhibiting his picture of "Belshazzar's page 118 Feast," was boring the public with a scheme to supply London with pure water, effectively illustrating his invention with drawings which strangely contrasted with the work he was exhibiting. Leonardo da Vinci is universally known by his remarkable picture of the "Last Supper," engravings of which may be found in every part of the civilised world. That wonderful production was painted by him for the refectory of a convent at Milan, and was, it is said, the first picture he painted in oil; and a pretty mess he made of it, for the picture about the middle of the sixteenth century began to perish, in consequence of some defect of his making up of this then new medium, or vehicle, as it is called. The picture, however, had been previously so much admired that several copies had been made of it; and it is from these copies that the engravings, with which we are so familiar, have been executed. One of the best of these copies was painted in the year 1510 for another convent, and was finished when the original, which is now almost totally decayed, was in a perfect state. This copy was purchased by Sir Thomas Lawrence, and is in the Royal Academy. It is a much better criterion of what the original was than the original itself, which has been repaired, as it is called, by inferior artists, who, it has been said, have left nothing of the picture but the heads of three of the apostles, and these are now very indistinct. I have myself seen the picture, which is at the end of a dull-looking, gloomy hall, and can only be very imperfectly seen, the custodian of the chamber furnishing you, for a small gratuity, with "aids for development" of the work, in the shape of binoculars, which are greatly needed. A very amusing description of the picture, and of the circumstances under which it is exhibited, will be found in that most humorous work, the Innocents Abroad, and I can vouch for the accuracy of the representation there given of the picture and its surroundings.
Michael Angelo was a contemporary of Leonardo, and there seems to have been a considerable jealousy felt by the latter of the former. They were each employed to paint a picture for the council-hall in a Florentine palace. The pictures were to have been in fresco, one at each end of the hall, and it is said that although Leonardo composed the cartoon, or "sketch on paper," from which his picture was to be painted, he was so jealous of Michael Angelo, then a much younger artist, that he would not go on with the work. Vasari pronounces the two cartoons prepared for these intended pictures as being page 119 sufficient to form a school of art for the world. Unfortunately, they were both destroyed a few years after they were produced. Leonardo, who seems to have been very sensitive, easily offended, and capricious, died, after a somewhat adventurous life, in the year 1519, when he was 67 years old, leaving a large number of works which distinguish him as one of the finest artists the world has produced. Michael Angelo's renown is as great, if not greater, than that of Leonardo. Michael Angelo first distinguished himself as a sculptor, and was remarkable for his great anatomical knowledge, which he was particularly fond of displaying in his sculpture and in his painting, leading him often into violations of good taste and into gross exaggerations. The work by which Michael Angelo has established a fame that seems likely to endure to the end of time, is his series of fresco paintings in the Sistine Chapel, in Rome, executed by the command of Pope Julius II. Michael Angelo was very diffident of his abilities as a painter, and tried to evade the execution of the Pope's command, strongly urging him to employ Raffaelle, as better qualified; but Julius would not be put off, and insisted on Michael Angelo setting to work. It is said that these were the first frescoes he had ever executed, and so timid was he in proceeding that, after drawing the cartoons, or paper sketches, he sought the aid of some of his fellow artists to execute the frescoes; they, however, so bungled the work that Michael smashed up all they had done, and executed the whole of the frescoes with his own hand, a work he accomplished with wondrous rapidity. In twenty months the whole of the ceiling frescoes were finished. The Sistine Chapel is an oblong building, 133 feet in length, 43 feet in width, and 58 feet in height, and is reserved especially for the use of the popes. The ceiling frescoes, and the great fresco painting of the "Last Judgment" subsequently painted by Michael Angelo on the altar wall of the chapel, are regarded with the deepest reverence. They are the subject of earnest contemplation by art students, and many a visit has been made to Rome for the sole purpose of contemplating these frescoes, and those of Raffaelle in another part of the Vatican, with which the Sistine Chapel is connected. Raffaelle was born in 1483, a few years after Michael Angelo, and died at the early age of 37. He covered with painting, in fresco, four apartments in the Vatican, which are called at the present day by his name, and have been and are visited by artists and lovers of art from every part of the world. Many works have been published giving full page 120 descriptions, accompanied by engravings, of these celebrated frescoes. Raffaelle, however, is better known to our countrymen by what are called "the cartoons," of which engravings numberless have been produced. The history of these cartoons is so remarkable that I cannot pass it over. A cartoon is a large outline on paper, with a very slight amount of shading, painted in monochrome, or one colour, from which a picture is to be afterwards painted in fresco, or worked in tapestry. Certain tapestries were required for the wall of a portion of the Sistine Chapel, reserved for the special use of the cardinals. Raffaelle was employed to design these tapestries, ten in number. Ten cartoons were drawn, and the tapestries worked from them are now in the Vatican; but the cartoons from which they were worked seemed to have been altogether neglected and uninquired after for many years. Seven of them were afterwards found by the celebrated Rubens, at Arras, where great tapestry works were fabricated, and he induced our Charles I., a patron of his, to purchase them. After the decapitation of Charles, they were, at the suggestion of Cromwell, purchased for the nation at the price of £300, and ultimately found their way to Hampton Court Palace, from whence they have now been transferred to the Kensington Museum. The best means of judging of these cartoons are to be found in a series of large photographs, of which copies are in this building; they are facsimiles of the original, showing the rough treatment they received since they left the artist's hand, as well as the true spirit of the artist's conception, which no hand-engraving could adequately convey.
From this period, which is called the Renaissance, art became disseminated and established all over Europe, and the different countries produced leading artists, each of whom had many followers. The works of these artists and their followers constituted what are called, in art parlance, "schools."
It is unnecessary for me to describe at great length these schools, since every particular relating to them, and the names, principal works, and characteristics of their followers, are to be found tabulated on the walls of our Gallery on charts, which contain in themselves a condensed history of painting. We are indebted for these charts to the energetic and enthusiastic President of this institution (Sir Redmond Barry), who will hereafter be acknowledged in the history of our colony as the man who the most earnestly promoted its creation, and who watched over its progress, from the laying its first stone, with an interest and devotion to which was entirely owing its early prosperity.page 121
Correggio and Parmegiano were the representatives of the school of Lombardy; of the Venetian school—Titian, Giorgione, Tintoretto, and Paul Veronese. Tintoretto painted the largest oil picture in the world, which is to be seen at Venice, being 74 feet in length by a height of 30 feet. Paul Veronese painted one 30 feet wide and 20 feet high, which is in the gallery of the Louvre, where I have seen it with a crowd of artists before it copying, some the whole (of course on a small scale), and some merely portions of it; and very much interested I was, although they did a little obstruct the view of the pictures, in watching them as they seemed to be devouring it with their eyes, some perched up upon scaffolding formed by a plank placed upon the steps of two double ladders, without the assistance of which they could not examine the beauties of the higher portions of the picture. Van Eyck is considered the leading artist of the Flemish school. Quentin Matsys belongs to it, who, it is said, was a blacksmith, and became a painter to propitiate a painter, with whose daughter he fell desperately in love, and whom he afterwards married. Although called a blacksmith, he was really a designer of ornamental ironwork, and was as much an artist in that particular kind of work as the celebrated Benvenuto Cellini, whose works have now an almost priceless value. As immediately introductory and leading into the English school—or what I choose to call the English school, for I believe English art has not yet had this distinctive appellation authoritatively given to it—I will say a few words upon the school of the Netherlands, to which belonged Rubens, Rembrandt and Vandyk. Rubens was born in 1577. His works are so celebrated and so well known that it is scarcely necessary to speak of his artistic power. One of the longest galleries in the Louvre is covered with his works, and our National Gallery is rich in specimens of his skill; but his greatest work is at Antwerp, where he studied painting and lived the greatest part of his life. It is in the cathedral there; the subject, the "Descent from the Cross;" and the picture is copied by almost every student who visits the Continent for improvement in his profession. Rubens visited England and was largely patronised by Charles I., as also was Vandyk, who painted the portrait of that monarch. Vandyk, the pupil of Rubens, in the opinion of many, and I am one of the number, surpassed his master, although his principal pursuit was portrait painting. There is a very large number of his works in England, and two or three fine specimens in the National Gallery. Rubens and Vandyk were followed by Rembrandt, page 122 who certainly surpassed both of them, and introduced a completely new style of painting constituting the "School of Rembrandt." Of Rembrandt's work we have some magnificent specimens in the National Gallery. Rembrandt never visited England, but his works found their way there. The celebrated Gerard Dow, Meiris, Metzu, Linglebach, Teniers, Wouvermans, Ostade, Paul Potter, Vandervelde, Rusydael, Berghem, Both, and Carl Du Jardin, all belonged to that school, and we have fine specimens of the works of all these artists in our national collections.
To the production of the artist school of the Netherlands may be traced, as I think, distinctly, the creation of a love of art in our own country, and, as its consequence, the progress of art among ourselves. There is so little evidence of our having taken any interest in art before the time of Henry VIII., that up to the time of that monarch it may be said that we had no art history. The first painter of eminence who came among us was Hans Holbein, a native of Switzerland. He came to England in the year 1526, and remained until his death, which took place in the year 1554. He was little more than a portrait painter, and was largely patronised by Henry VIII., of whom he painted several portraits. A large number of his pictures may be seen at Hampton Court, and as portraits of eminent persons of the day some of them are exceedingly interesting, though their accuracy as portraits can scarcely be trusted to. Of painting, it is said by Aristotle, imitations must be either superior, inferior, or equal to the model; and he praises Polygnotus, because he painted men (and I presume women) better than they were. On this principle, I presume he would have been delighted with Holbein, who seems to have been a flatterer in his portraits, and a pretty deal of mischief this flattering occasioned. Holbein was sent to paint a portrait of Anne of Cleves, that Henry might be able to judge whether he should like her as a wife. Holbein drew so flattering a portrait, that Henry made up his mind she "would do," and had her brought over to England, when he found her not at all equal to sample; but was, nevertheless, obliged to complete the contract. Henry, who was horribly disgusted, visited his indignation, not upon Holbein, but upon his minister (Cromwell), who had recommended this portrait-taking arrangement; and who ultimately lost his own head because Holbein had not correctly copied that of Anne of Cleves, a head which, upon canvas, might have been regarded as a portrait of Venus, but which Henry declared to be in reality like that of a Flanders mare.page 123
Our First Charles was also the first real English patron of art. He caused not only Rubens and Vandyk, but other artists, to visit England. At Rubens's suggestion, he purchased the cartoons. He formed a very valuable collection of pictures, all of which were afterwards sold or dispersed. The Puritan Parliament gave directions that all pictures in which there was a representation of the Saviour, or the Virgin Mary, should be burnt. After the restoration, many of the pictures were returned to the royal collection in the Palace of Whitehall, where they were destroyed in the great fire, which consumed the whole of the palace, except the banqueting chamber, which still fronts Parliament-street, nearly opposite the Horse Guards.
Notwithstanding the taste that was created for art at that time in England, its immediate effect with us, like the creation of a taste for art in Italy by the introduction of Grecian painting and Grecian painters, was not at first to bring out native talent, but to gratify itself by the acquisition of foreign works. There is also a curious parallel between the progress of art in our own country and in Italy. Soon after the feeling for it was created there, the Iconoclasts sprung up, who repressed its progress for a time with us. After Charles I. gave it birth in England the Puritans came into power, and in the most ruthless and bigoted spirit, struck down, as far as they could, everything that was its offspring. Charles II. was a lover of learning, fancied himself perhaps a lover of art, and professed to encourage artists; but his taste was very effeminate and frivolous, and he encouraged the production of most ingenious absurdities in the decoration of ceilings, staircases, &c., which were covered with what was called classical productions from the pencil of one Verrio, whose works are still to be seen in many of the old mansions. Dickens, in Bleak, House, describes one of these ceilings in a mansion in Lincoln's Inn Fields, occupied as chambers by Tulkinghorn, the lawyer, and which he makes the scene of the lawyer's murder, describing the figure of a Roman introduced in the painting as pointing down from the ceiling on his lifeless corpse. Sir Peter Lely, however, appeared in England about this time, and is thought by some to have approached nearly to his immediate predecessor, Vandyk. Most of the mansions of our old families have some portrait from his easel; and he is well known as the great painter of what were called King Charles's beauties. He was followed by Sir Godfrey Kneller, who practised his profession in the reign of page 124 Charles II., and during the reign of the five succeeding monarchs. The first true historical painter of our own country was Sir James Thornhill, who was employed in the decoration of the dome of St. Paul's and of Greenwich Hospital; but was paid in a very undignified manner—viz., at the rate of 40s. per square yard. After his death art seemed to retrograde for a time rather than progress, although there was a painter of the name of Richardson, who wrote a work upon art, showing the highest feeling for it, and laying down principles which have authority at the present time. He himself, however, had not skill sufficient to demonstrate their value, and it is said by Sir Horace Walpole, at the commencement of the reign of George I., art in England had fallen to its lowest ebb.
Richardson died in the year 1745, leaving behind him an artist of some celebrity in the person of his son-in-law, one Hudson, whose celebrity, however, as an artist is completely merged in that of his pupil, the illustrious Sir Joshua Reynolds, who may be said to head the list of the names which will hereafter give England a position in art little lower than that which she has taken, and which we trust will ever occupy, in science and in all those mental achievements which constitute the true glory of a people.
Cotemporaneously with the appearance of Reynolds, there shone forth a genius of another character, that of Hogarth, who was originally apprenticed to an engraver, but raised himself to the rank of one of the first painters in a style which he originated, but which has never been followed or since entered upon. He married the daughter of Sir James Thornhill, who was at first deeply wounded at what he considered the degradation of the alliance. It took some years to reconcile him to the match, and the first step towards the reconciliation was effected by Lady Thornhill procuriug one of Hogarth's pictures, and placing it secretly in Sir James's dining-room. "Whose painting is this? " he exclaimed, with delight. "Hogarth's," replied his wife. He rose up much agitated. "Very well, very well," said he; "the man who can paint like this can maintain a wife without a portion." A perfect reconciliation, however, very soon followed. Hogarth's life is one of the most interesting in the biography of art; but I must take leave of Hogarth to return to Sir J. Reynolds, who was about thirty years Hogarth's junior. He was born in the year 1723, three months before the death of Sir Godfrey Kneller. His father was a clergyman, who was page 125 by no means gratified at the taste his son showed for drawing, and marked his sense of his son's genius by writing on one of his early productions, "Done by Joshua out of pure idleness." His strong love for art, however, could not be repressed, and ultimately he was placed under Hudson as a pupil, and soon progressed so rapidly that Hudson became jealous of and got rid of him. He had, however, attracted the notice of Captain, afterwards Lord Keppel, who took him with him on an expedition which enabled him to visit many places in Europe, where he saw works of art of the highest character, and procured him so much patronage that he was enabled to gratify the earnest desire of his heart—viz., to visit the Sistine Chapel. To his amazement, when he came into the presence of these glorious frescoes, of which he had heard and read so much, and by which he expected to be entranced with admiration, he found himself perfectly unmoved. In one of his letters he thus refers to this moment of his life :—"It has frequently happened, as I was informed by the keeper of the Vatican, that many of those whom he had conducted through the various apartments of that edifice, when about to be dismissed have asked for the works of Raffaelle, and would not believe that they had already passed through the rooms where they are preserved, so little impression had these performances made on them. I remember very well my own disappointment when I first visited the Vatican, but on confessing my feelings to a brother student, of whose ingenuousness I had a high opinion, he acknowledged that the works of Raffaelle had the same effect on him, or rather that they did not produce the effect which he expected. This was a great relief to my mind, and on inquiring farther of other students, I found that those persons only who from natural imbecility appeared to be incapable of ever relishing these divine performances made pretensions to instantaneous raptures on first beholding them. I did not for a moment conceive or suppose that the name of Raffaelle, and those admirable paintings, in particular, owed their reputation to the ignorance and the prejudice of mankind; on the contrary, my not relishing them, as I was conscious I ought to have done, was one of the most humiliating things that ever happened to me. I found myself in the midst of works executed upon principles with which I was unacquainted. I felt my ignorance, and stood abashed."
Reynolds remained in Italy three years, and on his return to England found himself subjected to a criticism and a page 126 jealousy which for a time gave him considerable pain. His old master, Hudson, when he looked at his pictures, exclaimed, with an oath, "You don't paint so well as when you left England." But the contest with his fellow-artists was of short continuance. His fame soon spread far and wide, and brought him into association with Dr. Johnson, who formed a strong friendship for him, which continued until the close of life. This is the more remarkable, as Johnson evidently considered artists a rather inferior class of persons; nor did he greatly admire actors, although Garrick was one of his associates. Sir Joshua painted a portrait of Johnson, in which he represented him as reading with the paper close to his eyes, showing he was near-sighted, at which he was very angry. "Sir," said he, "it is not friendly to hand down to posterity the imperfections of any man." Mrs. Thrale tried to pacify him by telling him he would be known to posterity by his talents, not by his defects; and remarked that Reynolds, in painting his own portrait for her, had introduced his ear-trumpet, showing he was deaf. "Madam," said Johnson, "he may paint himself as deaf as he chooses, but I will not be painted as 'blinking Sam.'" The great event in Sir J. Reynolds' life, and which is now exercising, and always will exercise, an immense influence upon art in our country, and, indeed, throughout the world, was the establishment of the Royal Academy. In the year 1760 the first public exhibition of works of modern painters, sculptors, and architects took place in London, and has been truly described as one of the most memorable events in the annals of modern art. Its success was immense, and led to a second exhibition the following year. Johnson described it as "an exhibition by which the artists please themselves with the multitude of spectators, and by imagining that the English school will rise much in reputation." He says, "Surely life, if it be not long, is tedious, since we are forced to call in the assistance of so many trifles to rid us of our time—of that time which can never return." Johnson, however, though he thus contemptuously alludes to the exhibition, wrote a preface to the catalogue of the third exhibition, at which a charge of one shilling was made to every person for admission, in order to check the thronging of the exhibition with crowds, who prevented any from examining the works exhibited with comfort to themselves. Reynolds contributed to these exhibitions, which ultimately became merged in, or rather gave rise to, the present Royal Academy in the year 1768, of which Reynolds accepted the presidency, at the page 127 express request of George III., who bad previously conferred upon him the honour of knighthood.
It was in the year 1780 that the yearly exhibitions first began at Somerset House. Between the year 1768 and that year the exhibition had produced about £1500 yearly; in 1780 the receipts reached £3000, and they may be said to have gone on increasing up to the present time, the exhibition now, as I suppose you all know, taking place on the first of May in every year, in a gallery lately specially erected at Burlington House, Piccadilly—the National Gallery, Trafalgar-square, having been found, in many respects, unequal to the requirements of our yearly national exhibition.
The influence of the Royal Academy upon art, and the immense benefit it has conferred upon its professors, it would be difficult for me to do justice to, even were I to devote a whole evening to the subject. I have not time now even to describe generally all its objects. It is an association consisting of forty academicians, being painters, sculptors, or architects; A second order, called associates, being twenty in number, from which the vacancies in the academicians are supplied. The academicians elect the members of their own body, but their election must be ratified by the Crown. There are also six associate engravers, elected by the academicians from those exhibitors of engravings who declare themselves candidates. There are several other officers and professors, all of whom are either nominated by the Crown, or elected by the academicians, and approved by the Crown; and these professors have to deliver lectures to the students. There are schools for study from casts, from living models, and a painting school. All painters, sculptors, and architects are admissible as students upon showing reasonable indication of talent, the specimens of their works being received anonymously; and all are allowed to exhibit their works at the annual exhibition, if their works are sufficiently artistic not to excite ridicule, and there be room for their reception—many works being now unable to obtain a place, in consequence of the large number sent for admission. If any artist evinces great talent, he is chosen as an associate, as vacancies occur, and ultimately becomes an academician, or R. A., as it is called—an addition to an artist's name which is a sure guarantee of considerable ability. The arrangement of the pictures at the annual exhibition is settled by a committee called a hanging committee, and every year there are as many discontented artists as would suffice to hang up every member of the committee himself in page 128 propriâ personâ, which would probably be done were not the dissentients restrained by the terrors of the law or the precepts of Christianity.
Of this academy Reynolds was chosen president, and continued in office for 21 years. During that time he delivered his celebrated discourses, 15 in number, which constitute one of the text-books of modern art.
The history of painting in England, from the formation of the Royal Academy, may be traced in the catalogues of the yearly exhibitions, all of which, from the first to last published, are to be found on the shelves of our Public Library. The first catalogue shows only 136 works, and the only artists of note that exhibited were Angelica Kaufman, West, Zucarelli, Bartolozzi, Wilson, Gainsborough, Bacon, the sculptor, and Sir Joshua Reynolds. Some of the exhibits seem to have been very unimportant affairs. One Michael Angelo Rooker contributes two works of art, which he describes as "stained drawings." Wilson sends three pictures described as "landskeps," with the old form of spelling, whilst Gainsborough adopts the more modern word landscape. The number of exhibits increased from year to year very rapidly, soon occupying the whole of the available space at Somerset House; and from that time the number of pictures sent for exhibition has always been largely in excess of the powers of representation. This has led to a great number of subsidiary yearly exhibitions by persons associated together under different titles, such as the Society of British Artists of Painters in Water-colours, and others.
The history of painting in England, from the formation of the Royal Academy, may be traced in the catalogues of its yearly exhibitions. Cotemporaneous with Reynolds were, in addition to the artists I have mentioned, Barry, Opie, and Fuseli, all of whom delivered a series of lectures at the academy. Since Reynolds's time there has appeared so vast an array of artists, whose works will live to all time, that I will not mention any, lest I should appear to consider those mentioned as superior to a large number quite equal to them in talent, but to whom time will not allow me to refer.
Before closing my lecture, I will make a few remarks upon what may be regarded as our own art prospects. That we have a great deal of talent, trained and untrained, was evidenced by the exhibition of colonial artists that took place last year, not far from this lecture-room. Many of the page 129 pictures would have graced the walls of the galleries of the Royal Academy, while some would most undoubtedly have never been permitted to appear upon them—some showing what genius can produce when carefully trained, others what vagaries it can indulge in when it works without guidance.*
Without going so far as Cennini, whose course of study, spreading over about 13 years, I have brought under your notice in a former part of this lecture, it is quite certain that no one can advance surely in the path of art who does not move on slowly, considering well the effect of every step, and ever keeping in his mind the highest examples of art that he has been privileged to look upon. We have here in our galleries some specimens of painting which a friend, whose judgment is worth having, and who has lately returned from England, assures me will compare favourably with any pictures to be found in the yearly exhibitions in London. That in our gallery to which we have given the name of the "Dancing Girl" has been reproduced by the artist, and is exhibited this year in the Royal Academy Exhibition, under the title of "A Question of Propriety," with a reference, not to a passage in Longfellow's poem of the "Spanish Student," of which we have assumed it to be an illustration, but to "Annals of the Inquisition in Seville, 1627." This repliqua is not an improvement on our picture, still it excites in England as much admiration as that we bestow upon our own. This picture and several others, including those of Von Guerard, Buvelot, and Chevalier, are sufficient to create a standard of art of a very high description; and without such a standard before them, our art-students would be injured rather than benefited by admission to the gallery for the purpose of study. We have, in addition, excellent casts of the most beautiful works of sculpture that are to be found in Europe, and the efforts of our art-students to emulate these examples of painting and sculpture are guided by skilful instructors, Messrs. Von Guerard and Clark, themselves artists of great ability. Of the talent of our students we have unmistakable proofs in the result of their page 130 labours, showing that the average ability of the small band of students to be seen at work in our gallery is not below the European standard. I have watched copyists in the galleries of Europe copying with a fidelity which would have made it difficult to distinguish the copy from the original; yet I say that there is a lady student in our gallery who would have no reason to shrink from a trial of skill with any copyist I have ever seen at an easel.
I believe that in future years Australia will resemble Italy in its art characteristics as closely as it now resembles it in its climate. I believe, moreover, that, when we have a larger and a more leisure population, art will be as warmly patronised here as it has ever been in countries where wealth has been combined with leisure for its enjoyment, and taste and education have guided its expenditure.
I must now bring my present lecture to a close. I have endeavoured to give a general outline of the history of painting, tracing it from its first appearance as an art down to our own days. It is an art which has always attracted to it the highest minds, and has always taken a deep hold upon the feelings and sympathies of mankind. It constitutes a language, which all can interpret, for communicating ideas of the noblest character—a universal language grander than that of poetry itself. It presents nature in her most attractive garb, and under her most sublime aspect, and brings before the eye and stamps upon the heart scenes, events, and feelings which arouse within us emotions which may leave their influence upon us for good while life endures.
* Since this lecture was delivered there has been a second exhibition, so vast an improvement upon the first as to justify the belief that our Australian pictures will in a very few years compare as favourably with those produced by the artists of the mother country as do our fruits and flowers with their counterparts in our native land.