Art in the Age of Queen Victoria
THE moment when these words are written there has just been opened at Manchester an exhibition which tell far better than any written pages the history of the art the Queen's reign. There have been brought together two thousand paintings, drawings, architectural designs, works of sculpture which cover the whole period from days when Turner was painting his 'Old Temeraire' down to the days of the last Academy. The story told by the Manchester Exhibition is a story, we will not say of wonderful progress, for progress in art is a matter on which it is extremely difficult to pronounce dogmatically, but of wonderful and increasing activity. England has in this department shared to the full the remarkable movement which has been witnessed all over Europe and America during the last fifty years. The growth of wealth, the increase of the leisured class, the subtle influence exercised upon life by the general widening of ideas, the more direct influence of the writings of various men of genius, with Mr. Ruskin at their head, have combined to increase enormously the demand for works of art; and with this positive encouragement to the artists there have come all the increased facilities afforded by organisation, by improved opportunities for study, and so vast a change in the social position of artists that, whereas fifty years ago a young man of talent was commonly dissuaded by his friends from embracing the profession, the danger is now that he should be too much encouraged to enter it.
In the year of the Queen's accession 1837, of the multitudinous Art and societies which now annually exhibit in London four were fairly flourishing, while the provincial societies hardly existed, and even Edinburgh had to wait till the next year before the Royal Scottish Academy was incorporated by royal charter. In London the Academy was holding its sixty-ninth exhibition. The Water-colour Society had been in existence for thirty-three years, and six years before the New Society of Painters in Water-Colours, afterwards to be called the Institute, had broken away from it. The Society of British Artists was beginning to prosper in Suffolk Street; it had been founded fourteen years, and ten years later was to receive a charter of incorporation.
If we ask who were the artists exhibiting and what were the the pictures of the year, we find a number of honoured names and a number of names whom time, le seul classificateur impeccable, has deposed from their pride of place. Sir Martin Shee was President of the Academy; the keeper was William Hilton, a man of lofty aims unrealised; and Turner, then sixty-two years of age, was not only assiduously painting visions of beauty which were yearly becoming more and more unearthly, but, strange as it may sound, held the post of Professor of Perspective and more curious still, did we not know how businesslike this dreamer was the post of Auditor. Among their colleagues were Sir William Beechey, the last depositary of the traditions of Sir Joshua Augustus Callcott and Clarkson Stanfield, whom the public seemed disposed to prefer to Turner; William Collins, one of the soundest and most graceful artists of his day; and Charles Eastlake, more of a scholar than a painter, and soon destined to serve his country more successfully as Director of the National Gallery than as a creative artist. [William] Mulready had been for twenty years an Academician and was at the height of his popularity, and, though most of his best works had been painted, he had not yet given to the world the two charming pictures 'First Love' and 'The Sonnet,' which now hang at South Kensington. Charles Robert Leslie was in his prime; three years before he had returned from his brief sojourn in America and had flung himself with energy into the task of wedding literature and art in his pictures illustrating Shakespeare and Cervantes. Two great men of the older generation, Wilkie and James Ward, were still working; with what power and artistic knowledge the great Scotch artist still handled his brush is admitted by everyone who saw his 'commanded' picture of 'The Queen's First Council' when it hung at Burlington House last winter.
Edwin Landseer, who had been elected an Associate in 1826 and an Academician in 1831, when he was but twenty-nine years of age, was doing his best work; for this was the year of 'The Shepherd's Grave,' and of the still more famous picture 'The Shepherd's Chief Mourner.' These are the most eminent of the Academicians of the day, and of the Associates it is worth while to mention the names on two excellent artists who never were very popular, George Arnald and J. J. Chalon, and of two who were perhaps more popular than they deserved, Daniel Maclise and F. R. Lee. In the next year the list was to be increased by the names of David Roberts and Richard Westmacott (the younger); and in 1840 by those of Thomas Webster, whose death at a ripe old age took place but a year or two ago, and of Sir Charles Barry, already famous as the architect of the new palace at Westminster. Chantrey , Gibson , and the elder Westmacott (Sir Richard Westmacott RA (15 July 1775 - 1 September 1856) British sculptor) were the leading sculptors of the day; while among the Associate engravers we find the names of Charles Turner, who had worked for Alderman Boydell, and of Samuel Cousins , who died, full of years and honours, but yesterday.
Though these were the men who may be taken as the more or less official representatives of English art at the time of the Queen's accession, the survey would still be very incomplete if it rested here. Much of the oil-painting of the; day, even that done by 'eminent hands,' was undoubtedly and deplorably bad; was such as to give a cruelly apt handle to the severe criticisms of any trained Frenchman who might have the enterprise and the patience to walk through an English gallery; but in another branch of art we were then without a rival in Europe. Our great school of water-colour was flourishing and supreme.
A critic of water-authority, Mr. Walter Armstrong (British art historian and author), in a survey that he has 1837 recently written of the painting of the reign , has taken the trouble to collect the names of the principal artists who were working in water-colour at the time of the Queen's accession, with the dates of their birth and death, and from this list we may be allowed to borrow a few names. Turner had still fourteen years of life before him, and while in oil-colour his hand or his eye seemed to have lost something of its mastery, or his judgment to have begun to mislead him as to the limits of what painting could do, in water-colour he was just as true as ever, and almost more magical. On a screen in the Manchester Exhibition there hang no less than fifteen of his drawings, all admirable, and many of them supreme, and of these none was executed before the year 1837. They include the three Righis the 'Red Righi,' the 'Blue Righi,' and another a fine 'Whitehaven' and a superb 'Land's End,' the beautiful 'Lowestoft,' which was engraved in the England and Wales series, and the 'Chain Bridge over the Tees,' which was reproduced in Whitaker's 'History of Richmondshire.' These were the drawings to which Turner was giving his leisure, and if time and the sunlight spare them they will continue to do as much for his fame as any of his pictures can do. But beyond and besides Turner there were working a group of men who, it has been truly said, 'but for the modesty of their work, would by this time be famous over Europe.' To what shall we attribute it that they not, while everybody who cares for modern art, whether dwells in Berlin or in Florence, in Vienna or Amsterdam, is familiar with Corot and Decamps. To the fact, as M. Charles Blanc says, that the English are always asserting themselves, and that France 'is the only people in the world which holds itself cheap?'
David Cox was fifty-four years old at the Queen's accession, and was doing his very best work, unless indeed his best work was painted later still; George Barret, the date of whose birth is not known, can hardly have been the junior of Cox, since he exhibited at the Academy in the year 1800; and Peter de Wint, who alone perhaps ill worthy to be ranked with those two as a water-colour painter, was of just the same age, and had twelve more years to live. Copley Fielding was fifty; the veteran John Glover, whose best days were long over, was seventy; J. D. Harding, to whose instructions two generations of water-colour painters owe a heavy debt, was not forty, and was to paint for twenty-five years more; James Holland was thirty-seven, and for another thirty-three years was to exhibit, in water-colour and in oil, Venetian subjects, English landscapes, and flower-pieces, which, moderately appreciated in his own day, are now earning for him high posthumous fame; William Hunt, the poet of fruit and flowers, the masterly delineator of rustic childhood and old age, was forty-seven, and was for another twenty-five years to remain one of the glories of the old Water-Colour Society.
John Frederick Lewis, equally at home in water-colour and in oil, was but thirty-two, and stood at the beginning of a career in which he was to show himself a master of colour, and, if we may quote without adopting Mr. Ruskin's panegyric, 'was doing work which surpassed in execution everything extant since Carpaccio';  William Müller , a colourist also, and at some moments a rival of the great [John] Constable, was but twenty-five, and was to close a short life of promise only eight years later; Samuel Prout , the contemporary of Cox, was 'according to his strength doing true things with a loving mind'; and John Varley, five years older, and not equalling at this late date the rich, expressive work of his earlier years, was still exhibiting.
Two painters, whom many of their contemporaries Haydon believed to be great, were nearing the close of their career. One was Benjamin Robert Haydon , the friend of Keats and of many another poet and man of letters, and himself an artist who, if he had lived in a society where the discipline of sound tradition and of a trained opinion was more easily to be obtained than in London, might have done great work. Thirty years before he had been one of the first to recognise the beauty of the Elgin marbles, and, inspired by them with a love for the ideal and the grand, he produced many a picture from classical history or from the religious history of Christendom. But his portion was to alternate unprofitable fame with the debtor's prison. In 1822, in 1830, and in 1835 he was in gaol, and, by way of a crowning disappointment, he was not chosen to aid in that great scheme which was expected to do so much for art in England, the decoration of the new House of Commons. From his diary, the work of a disappointed [Notes on the Pictures in the Royal Academy, 1875.] man of genius, we see how heavily these continued discouragements weighed upon his mind; and after frequently giving expression to his pain in language as strong as Barry's without Barry's bitterness, he failed any longer to continue the fight. On June 26, 1846, he wrote in his diary, 'God forgive me! Amen. Finis. "Stretch me no longer on the rack of this rough world" Lear', and then committed suicide. Recently for some years his large picture of 'The Raising of Lazarus' was hung on the staircase of the National Gallery; but it only needed a comparison between this picture, bold in conception but conventional in its types, and in its execution totally without distinction, and the great rendering of the same subject by Sebastiano del Piombo , to see how entirely beyond the scope of the English school of that day was any composition in the Grand Style. The other painter to whom we are referring was William Etty a man who, having passed through a youth of struggle scarcely less painful than that of Haydon, had at last attained both fortune and fame. He was born at York in 1787; his first picture was hung in 1811, and ten years later he was celebrated, and his picture of Cleopatra was sold at what then seemed to be the considerable price of two hundred guineas. Both before and after this latter date he travelled in Italy, steeping himself in the colour of Veronese and Titian, and giving to the city of Venice the 'second place in his heart' after his dear native city of York. At forty he became an Academician, and from this time forward his pictures were regarded by the educated opinion of his time as among the greatest of modern works of genius. A paragraph in a newspaper of the year 1847, two years before his death, records that Messrs. Colls and Wass [Jonah Was?] have bought (on speculation) Etty's picture of "Joan of Arc" for two thousand five hundred guineas,' a fact which should be borne in mind when it is said that the painters of that day never obtained high prices. The beauties indeed of Etty's work were manifest; their defects were not likely to be harshly judged or perhaps perceived by a generation accustomed to the slipshod execution, incorrect drawing, and theatrical composition which then passed muster in England. People saw with perfect truth that Etty in his best work was a master of flesh-painting such as the world, and not the English school alone, had very seldom seen before; they admired with a justifiable admiration the lovely colour of his 'Bathers' and of his dancing girls; they saw that at his best the texture of flesh in Etty's pictures would hold its own beside the similar work of Rubens. They cared but little that his compositions were forced and his drawing often detestable, that his faces were without expression and his heads joined to their bodies by impossible necks. Etty's fame during the early portion of the Queen's reign is a very interesting phenomenon, and none the less because it contributed not a little to the pre-Raphaelite revolt. His current paintings, writes Mr. Holman Hunt, of the period of about 1844, 'were cloysome in their richness and sweetness, and his forms were muddled and even indelicate in the evidence they bore of being servilely copied from stripped models who had been distorted by the modiste's art'. 'He was painting classic subjects with the taste of a Parisian paperhanger', adds the same stern critic; and it must be owned that even if Etty himself scarcely deserves this severe judgment, the evil effects of his example are pretty evident in the Books of Beauty of the day. Men were taught to look for beauty 'at the expense of truth and manliness;' but the teaching was bringing about a natural reaction.
It was about ten or eleven years after the beginning of the reign that the vague spirit of unrest which was then abroad in almost every department of life throughout Europe began to make itself felt in English art. Eighteen years before, the Revolution of July had overturned the Legitimate monarchy in France, and the popular uprising; had been accompanied by a literary and artistic movement of immense significance. Victor Hugo and George Sand on the one side, and on the other, first Delacroix and then the landscape painters Corot,
Rousseau, and their fellow-workers, had given varied expression to the modern revolt against conventionality and stereotyped forms. We in England had had our literary revolt a generation earlier in the poetry of Wordsworth and Coleridge, of Shelley and Keats. But in art we moved more slowly, and it was not till the early years of the present reign that old traditions and academical dullness received the necessary shock which was the prelude to new life in art. So much has been written of late years of the pre-Raphaelite movement, foil the benefit of those who do not remember its early days, and with the older generation the recollection of its struggles and controversies is so vivid, that any minute account of it here would be superfluous. The outcome of it is written at full length in the works of Mr. Ruskin, and the details of it, as embodied in the artistic biography of one of the foremost actors, has lately been told by Mr. Holman Hunt. Moreover, the present generation has had an unrivalled opportunity of tracing its history, and of observing its influence as it was afterwards developed and affected by other influences, in the exhibition which was held last year of the works of Sir John Millais. Mr. Holman Hunt has described how the definite formation of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood arose in 1848, and may be dated from the meeting of three young and struggling artists -- [1 'The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood; a Fight for Art,' Contemporary Review, 1886.] himself, Millais, and Dante Gabriel Rossetti at Millais's house, where there happened to be a book of engravings of the frescoes in the Campo Santo at Pisa. 'Millais, Rossetti, and myself,' he writes, 'were all seeking for some sure ground, some starting point, for our art which would be secure, if it were ever so humble. As we searched through this book of engravings we found in them, or thought we found, that freedom from corruption, pride, and disease for which we sought. Here there was at last no trace of decline, no conventionality, no arrogance. Whatever the imperfection, the whole spirit of the art was simple and sincere was, as Ruskin afterwards said, "eternally and unalterably true."
Think what a revelation it was to find such work at such a moment, and to recognise it with the triple enthusiasm of our three spirits!' The three young Brethren who then and there determined to associate themselves in a new effort were all of them remarkable men.
Mr. Hunt describes himself as a steady and even enthusiastic worker; patient determination has always been the note of his character, and at that date it carried him through more than the proverbial difficulties which are wont to beset a young and ambitious artist in his days of struggle.
What Millais was and is we know a man endowed, to use Mr. Millais. Hunt's words, with 'a rare combination of extraordinary artistic faculty with an amount of sterling English common sense,' and possessed moreover, at the time, by a spirit of generous enthusiasm that formed that moral basis of his genius. But the most original of the three, the man of the quickest and most independent insight, and of the greatest initiating force, was undoubtedly Rossetti.
The son of an English mother and of the well-known Italian professor and commentator upon Dante, this youth went about our nineteenth-century London with the thoughts and feelings of a Florentine of the later middle age. So much has been said and written about him since in 1870 he was induced to publish his poems, and since after his death the Royal Academy collected and displayed the pictures which he would never consent to exhibit in his lifetime, that we may be excused from dwelling on him at any length; on the marvellous memory which enabled him to declaim to his favoured little audiences page after page of poetry poetry gathered from the Italians of the thirteenth century or by hundreds of lines from 'Bordello' and 'Paracelsus' on his scorn for little social conventions, on his belief in the power of art to awake a soul in the English millionaire. But here is Mr. Hunt's analysis of what may be called the central position in Rossetti's philosophy; and this it is well worth while to quote, for it tends to explain the special form which pre-Raphaelite art took in England: 'The studying of poetic schools had never led him to profess any respect for natural science or to evince any regard for the remote stages of creative development or the lower steps of human progress. He regarded such studies as altogether foreign to poetry. The language used in early times to describe the appearances of nature he accepted as the exclusive and ever-sufficient formulae. The modern discoveries of science therefore had no charms for him; neither had the changed condition of the people who were to be touched by art any claim for special consideration. They had no right to be different from the people of Dante's time, if I may use my own words to epitomise his meaning.'
Each of the three young painters had done a good deal of work before 1849, but it is from the May of that year that we may date the beginning of pre-Raphaelitism viewed as an influence upon English art. In that year Rossetti exhibited 'The Girlhood of Mary Virgin' at the Hyde Park Gallery, Holman Hunt 'Rienzi' at the Academy, and Millais, as a pendant to this latter, the now famous picture of 'Lorenzo and Isabella,' surely one of the most marvellous works ever achieved by a lad under twenty years of age. This last has lately been thought worthy of purchase at a high price by the Corporation of Liverpool for their public gallery; for since 1849 we have at least developed an historical sense in matters of art, and, whether we agree with the theory of a picture or not, we know when it has fine qualities, and we know when it represents an epoch in art-history. But to the men who held the position of professed critics at that time the first law of criticism as we now understand it was unknown. They never cared to get at the artist's point of view. They were content to dispose of the 'Lorenzo' as 'affected' and the 'Christ in the House of His Parents,' which followed in the next year, as 'revolting.'
Among the pre-Raphaelite Brethren were presently enrolled three more artists and one writer James Collinson, F. G. Stephens , Thomas Woolner, and William Michael Rossetti while outside there gradually arose a little band of sympathisers. Mr. Ford Madox-Brown , an older man than any of the group, held aloof from actual membership, but his work exercised no little influence upon the Brethren.
A few months after the exhibition of the pictures we have named it was determined to found a literary organ for the Brotherhood, and the result was that little magazine which is now so much prized by collectors, 'The Germ: Thoughts towards Nature in Poetry, Literature, and Art.' A short preface announced that 'the endeavour held in view throughout the writings on art will be to encourage and enforce an entire adherence to the simplicity of nature, and also to direct attention as an auxiliary medium to the comparatively few works which art has yet produced in this spirit.' The Germ, though it contained such poetry as Rossetti's 'Blessed Damozel,' only lived through four numbers. It was one thing to influence a few artists, who in their turn and in their time should spread the new principles widely among those who cared for art, and quite another to command instantaneously a large literary audience.
But though the public could not appreciate The Germ, they could not fail to be touched and deeply moved by another literary influence which preceded, accompanied, and followed the pre-Raphaelite movement. In another chapter something has been said of the general literary qualities and value of the work of Mr. Ruskin, but his special effect upon art is so important that a few words upon it become imperative. The 'Graduate of Oxford' still lives, and from his beautiful home on the banks of Coniston he writes from time to time what is read as widely as the first copies of 'Modern Painters' were read, though mainly by a different class. But not again can the glow of emotion be felt with which the receptive minds of forty years ago welcomed the volume, afterwards developed into five, in which the 'young man eloquent' described the ideal of the painter, and showed how Claude had missed and Turner realised it. It is difficult to summarise a great book in a sentence, or in a page, but Mr. Ruskin's teaching is perhaps less difficult to describe than that of many other critics and philosophers. The foundation of it is moral, and is identical with Carlyle's, for Carlyle, whom Mr. Ruskin has often called 'my master,' had a powerful influence upon him. To speak and do the truth; to walk humbly in the presence of nature, to reverence everything except claptrap and convention, this was the basis of Mr. Ruskin's doctrine, as of Carlyle's.
What gave it its special application was more or less an accident. The young man, whom nature had endowed with keen artistic sensibility, had been brought across Turner, and his father, a wealthy man, had been induced by him to buy Turner's drawings. Thus he had been led to study Turner, both his character and his art, with unusual care, and, deeming that the great artist was not rightly valued by his contemporaries, especially by the writers in the newspapers, he wrote what was meant to be a pamphlet, but what became first one volume and then five, in Turner's defence. What began with the criticism of one man grew into a philosophy of art. A keen though wayward intelligence, a genuine delight in Turner's work and in that of many of his contemporaries, and a gift of eloquence unrivalled among English prose-writers of that or perhaps of any age, combined to give Mr. Ruskin a position of great influence. Thousands of readers, when they rose from his volumes, began to look on Nature with new eyes. They may, in many cases, have fancied they saw in her what there is not; but they were at least taught to look and to reverence. The unquestionable truth that Mr. Ruskin's influence on the artists themselves has been but partial and passing suggests that something was fundamentally wrong in his artistic theories; but it does not alter the fact that his writings, by their stimulating quality, by the manner in which he seemed to probe nature and art to the bottom, have been of immeasurable service to his generation. As regards the pre-Raphaelites, Mr. Ruskin did much to secure them a fair hearing. He wrote two letters to the Times in 1851 in defence of their pictures in the Academy exhibition; and the professed critics had henceforth to justify their attacks on the new manner. In the same year he wrote a pamphlet which he called 'Pre-Raphaelitism,' and in which, with much that was not very relevant, he showed the essential Tightness of the method in which the young Millais and Holman Hunt were approaching art. He had long since advised young artists, he said, 'that they should go to Nature in all singleness of heart, and walk with her laboriously and trustingly, having no other thought but to: penetrate her meaning, rejecting nothing, selecting nothing, and scorning nothing.' How an artist is to avoid selection the writer did not explain, but he saw his advice taken, to the best of human ability, in the 'Two Gentlemen of Verona' and in the 'Ophelia.' But he gave up the cause of the extreme pre-Raphaelites a few pages farther on, where he warned the painters that 'there are certain qualities in drawing which they miss from over-carefulness' -- the qualities, that is to say, of boldness, mastery, and breadth. They, or at least the chief of them, soon came to see this as clearly as the critic; and the work of Millais after 1860 showed that the lesson had been learnt.
The work of Raphaelite movement has in the main been accomplished, and the influences now chiefly acting upon art are of an opposite tendency. But it has left its mark upon many of the greatest artists of our day. It is responsible for much of the exquisite art of Mr. Burne-Jones , and Mr. Mr. W. B. Richmond's early pictures are full of it. Mr. Watts, the noblest ideal painter that England has ever seen, would scarcely have done the work that he has done had it not been for the serious severity that was introduced into English art by the Brotherhood. Even in the supremely scholarly work of Sir Frederick Leighton we may see a development of pre-Raphaelitism; and, in another field, we may say that without it English decorative art would hardly have witnessed the revival brought about by Mr. William Morris.
The next great influence upon English art came from without, and has had its effect not so much upon schools of painting or upon the works of individual painters as upon the general artistic education of the country. In a country like England, the Court, though it may set the tone in certain departments of life, has naturally much less influence upon a matter so widespread as the national arts than is the case in most foreign countries. But in the twenty years that followed 1840 a new condition, more important than many people were aware, was introduced into England. A man of fine intelligence, great practical tact, extraordinary power of work, and remarkable strength of will came to occupy the position next the throne. We are accustomed to find the character and influence of the Prince Consort misunderstood through courtier-like exaggeration on the one side, and through the survival of an old jealousy on the other; and this misunderstanding, though principally to be found in the estimates of his political position, is also commonly extended to estimates of his influence upon the arts. It may be admitted that upon painting he had no direct influence, and indeed it could hardly be expected that one whose taste approved Cornelius and Winterhalter should awake much response among English artists or amateurs. But on the development of industrial art, and on the contemporary extension of a love for beautiful things as such throughout the whole educated classes of the country, his influence was very great indeed. He gave the push that was wanted. The Great Exhibition of 1851 was his doing, and though we may shudder at the recollection of what that exhibition revealed as to the state of English design and decoration at the time, it was no light achievement to bring together such conclusive evidence of our weakness as well as of our strength.
Several events of the next decade bore remarkable evidence to this new development of a national interest in art. Among them may be mentioned the reorganisation of the National Gallery, the establishment of the Science and Art Department, with its headquarters in the newly founded and rapidly growing museum at South Kensington, and the National Exhibition of Art Treasures held at Manchester in 1857.
The The National Gallery, although founded some thirteen years before the Queen came to the throne, can only be said to have assumed any very great importance during her reign, It was on April 9, 1838, that the building in Trafalgar Square was opened to the public, the pictures which belonged to the nation having till then been exhibited at the house in Pall Mall where Mr. Angerstein, whose collection forms the nucleus of the Gallery, had lived. Every year saw some remarkable additions; in 1837 we note the acquisition of Murillo's 'Holy Family' and of Constable's 'Cornfield,' the latter a gift from a group of Constable's admirers; in the next year Lord Farnborough's bequest on Dutch pictures; in the next the purchase of Raphael's 'St Catharine.' At short intervals came Sir Joshua's 'Angels Heads,' a gift from Lady William Gordon, Rembrandt's 'Jewish Rabbi' and Bellini's 'Doge Loredano' (1844), and in 1847 the great bequest of Mr. Vernon, consisting of no less than a hundred and fifty-five pictures of the British school. Unfortunately, far too many of these last pictures exemplify the least excellent side of the English art of the epoch. How invaluable might that bequest have been had Mr. Vernon been more moderate in his admiration for Leslie and Maclise, and have substituted for the greater number of their pictures a few fine Sir Joshuas and a collection really representative of the noble Norwich school of landscape! In 1855, on the report of a School Committee of the House of Commons, the administration of the Gallery was reorganised none too soon and Sir Charles Eastlake, a painter of great taste and well acquainted with Italian art, was appointed Director. From that time additions of immense value have been annually made to the Gallery; in 1876, after Eastlake's death, the multitude of its possessions made it necessary to enlarge the building, and a number of new rooms were added from the designs of Mr. E. M. Barry. Still the increase went on, and at the moment when these words are written the public is waiting with some impatience for the opening of yet more rooms which will relieve the principal gallery from the necessity under which it has long laboured of being cumbered with screens. When these buildings are completed and their completion is now a question of months or even weeks it will be seen even more readily than it is seen at present that little by little we have, during the past thirty years, raised our Gallery from one of the second or third order to one that will compare with any of the galleries of Europe. The purchase of the late Sir Robert Peel's collection enriched the nation with some seventy Dutch and Flemish pictures of the first importance. The Italian rooms have grown in wealth from year to year until there is now no great Italian name unrepresented, while such a purchase as that of Raphael's 'Ansidei Madonna' from Blenheim for the gigantic sum of £70,OOO. (almost exactly the price paid for the whole Peel collection) has shown the determination of Parliament to pay even unprecedented prices for the possession of real masterpieces. It is unfortunate that this grant should have been made subject to the condition that the ordinary annual grant was to be suspended for a time a piece of ill-judged economy which deprives Sir Frederick Burton of the opportunity of securing many a bargain for the nation, and that too at a moment when the fall in agricultural prices is compelling many of the old English families to sell their artistic possessions. It is unfortunate also that the development of the English side of the Gallery has not quite kept pace with that of the foreign side. We have had, indeed, such bequests as those of Mr. Vernon, Mr. Jacob Bell, and of Turner, but to depend on bequests is to depend on chance, and the representation of the English school in an English National Gallery cannot be said to be adequate, so long as the Gallery contains no first-rate lady's portrait by Reynolds, and no first-rate work of Crome, Cotman, Vincent, Holland, Cox, or William Müller.
The Manchester Art Treasures Exhibition, held in 1857, was an even of great importance in the history of art in sures England. Organised in part with the view that it would lead to the establishment of a museum of industrial art in the industrial capital, it rapidly developed into a display oil the most priceless treasures, and was to the art world of Europe the first revelation of the wonderful artistic wealth of the private collections of England. If the local patriotism of Lancashire helped in one way to assure the success of such an exhibition which then was an entire novelty, it was largely seconded by the patriotism of wealthy owners throughout the country. The great houses seemed compete for pre-eminence in art, and the newer collectors entered into rivalry with them, with the result, to use the words of a French critic by no means too favourable England, that 'you might have imagined a palace of glass in which were gathered together the great gallery of the Louvre, the Cluny Museum, the Cabinet of Medals, and hidden stores of the Cabinet of Engravings', and with these such a collection of armour, of Etruscan vases, of miniatur and enamels, of historical portraits, and of the artistic products of the East as it would be impossible to find else where in the world. No school of painting was unrepr sented by its greatest masters: Italian, German, Flemish, Dutch, French, Spanish, English, ail might here be judged more thoroughly and enjoyed more fully than in any European gallery, except perhaps the Louvre; while in all the other departments of fine art the collection was of an importance which no one had foreseen, and which amazed every connoisseur who visited it. Nowadays we are overdone with exhibitions, but thirty years ago displays of this kind were new. The effect of the Manchester Exhibition was great and far-reaching. On the artists themselves it may have had but little direct influence, for artists are only affected by the works of great masters when they live among them and spend a long time in studying or copying them; but it spread the regard for art into many quarters where it had not been entertained before. It sent up the price of pictures. It taught multitudes of working men what fine things had been done in the world by human hands. It set a fashion for art exhibitions which has gone on increasing to the present time. It gave a powerful stimulus to the growth of the South Kensington Museum
and its branches throughout the country.
The beginnings of that great organisation now called The Science and Art Department are to be found a little and Art earlier than the Queen's accession. In 1835 a Select Committee of the House of Commons was appointed 'to inquire into the best means of extending a knowledge of the arts and principles of design among the people (especially the manufacturing population) of the country'; and as a result there was constituted in 1837 what was called a Council of the Government School of Design, with its headquarters in Somerset House. The movement grew; in 1842 a Director was appointed, who had under his supervision certain provincial schools as well as the central school in London, and the original grant of £1,500. a year had expanded to £16,OOO. Nine years later the great Exhibition of 1851 was held, and when it was over the Prince Consort took up with energy the question of developing, on the one hand, the art teaching of the country, and, on the other, the formation of the central museum, which was to contain examples of everything that was best and finest in human handiwork. In 1852 the Department of Practical Art was established, with Mr. Henry Cole as its head, and next this was transformed and enlarged into the Science and Department, which, after being for three years under the control of the Board of Trade, passed in 1856 under that the Lord-President and the Vice-President of the Council. At the same time Parliament voted £10,OOO. for transferring the Department from Marlborough House to South Kensington, where were soon installed the possessions which had as yet been bought or given, including what the Government had bought at the sale of the Bernal Collection (1853) prices which may drive the modern collector to despair. Gifts poured in, beginning with that of the Sheepshan Collection of English pictures and drawings, a gift which was followed by those of Mrs. Ellison in 1860, of Mr. Towndsend in 1868, of the Dyce Collection in 1869, of Mr William Smith's water-colours in 1871 and 1876, of Mr. John Forster's library in the same year, and, four years later, by the immensely valuable bequest of French furniture, porcelain, etc., by Mr. John Jones. With these are to be reckoned the purchases that have been largely made in all departments of industrial art, and the formation of the large and very complete art library, at a total cost of nearly £500,OOO sterling. Not all the possessions of the Museum are kept at South Kensington; a great number of them are lent to the branch museums, which have a more or less direct dependence upon the Department, at Bethnal Green and at Nottingham and several other towns.
It must not, however, be supposed that the work of the Department is confined to the organisation of one or many museums. On the contrary, it organises the teaching of elementary art, and in many cases of art that is not elementary, throughout the country, besides doing similar work in respect of natural science. It has its own 'National Art Training School,' at South Kensington, for the training of teachers for schools of art. It directs the teaching of drawing in every elementary school, and it has established a wide system of examination. Over 800,000 children in the public elementary schools learn drawing under its auspices; in 200 schools of art there were, in the year 1885, 36,960 students, and in 488 art classes 23,410 students; the work of the Department, including science as well as art, costing the country about 400,OOOl. a year.
From the work of the Science and Art Department the transition is easy to the general system of art teaching, in its higher branches, which obtains in England. The great difference between this country and France in the matter of art training is to be found in the fact that here the atelier system has never really taken root. Everybody remembers the training that Clive Newcome went through under the eminent Mr. Gandish, of Soho, and what Clive did then has been done by many another young artist, down to the time when Frederick Walker attended the evening classes in Leigh's school, in Newman Street, after he had spent his day in copying Greek marbles in the British Museum. But in England these ateliers have generally been conducted by masters who, whatever else they were, were not great artists. In France it is almost as incumbent upon a great man to have a studio full of pupils as to paint pictures; and in a catalogue of the Salon every artist's name is given as élève de Gérôme de Bonnat, de J-P. Laurens, or what not. Whatever the good and evil of such a system, it does not prevail here, and it is only lately that one single artist of the first rank, Mr. Herkomer, has ventured to introduce the Continental system, and to set up a school of his own at Bushey. The plan which is followed here is, generally speaking, that of schools attached to the great art institutions of the country, especially to the Royal Academy. The Royal Academy Schools, which have existed since the beginning of the institution, and which among other uses have given occasion to many admirable Presidential addresses from the days of Sir Joshua downwards, now afford instruction to a large number of pupils, male and female, who may there study all the higher branches of art painting, sculpture, and architecture.
But though permanent assistant teachers are provided the schools have this peculiarity: that they are directed in turn by the various Academicians, who each for his week or month takes the supervision of the classes. Whether this is the best method of instruction is a question which is being warmly debated, and upon which it would be presumptuous for any but an artist to give an opinion. The artists themselves take different views, and while some declare strongly for the French system, others of great authority regard the English method as the best, and as affording to the student not only abundant facilities for work but a sufficiently methodical training. It may be stated, however, that of late years a choice of methods has been afforded to students, for while on the one hand the Water-colour Institute has established schools of water-colour painting on the model of those of the Academy, the Slade School, founded by the munificence of the late Mr. Felix Slade, has afforded during the last fifteen years the opportunity of working on a different plan to many hundreds of students. At one time the Director of the school was Mr. Poynter; it is now the distinguished French artist M. Legros, who appears to have relinquished the practice of his art in favour of teaching.
We have thus been led into what may seem a digression from the story of the English school of painting. Returning to it, and to the point at which we left it, we find three significant events taking place within two years which may be taken as in their different ways landmarks in the history of English art.
In 1853 Millais, then just four-and-twenty years of age, was elected Associate of the Royal Academy; in 1855 Copley Fielding died; and in that year a number of English pictures appeared at the Paris Exhibition and made a sensation. The first event marked at once the official recognition of the leading pre-Raphaelite painter, and to a certain extent the modification on his part of his earlier manner. The second marked practically the end of that great period of English water-colour art when the school was led by what Mr. Ruskin has called 'the great primary masters of the trade.' The third event marked the first conscious attempt of the English school of painting to take its place with the schools of the Continent, and at the same time may be said to have first opened the door to that French influence upon English art which is now so manifest in every exhibition. Millais had in 1850 horrified the critics, and tried the faith even of those who saw promise in the new school, by his 'Christ in the House of His Parents'; in 1851 he had been as archaic as ever, but more brilliant, in 'The Return of the Dove to the Ark' in 1852 he had painted the first of his popular pictures, the famous 'Huguenot,' with its magnificent execution and its subject of which the pathos touched every heart. Opposition, which wavered in the presence of this picture, broke down before the work of the next year, that Millais 'Order of Release' which soon, in the engraving, disputed the palm of popularity with the most favourite works of Landseer. The election of the brilliant youth was thought quite natural after such a success, and from this time it ceased to be uncommon for young painters to send works to the Academy which showed some traces of that conscientious handling of detail, that preference for exactf imitation over facile generalisation, which had been taught by the painter of 'The Christian Missionary' and by the writers in The Germ. But in the work of the painter who had succeeded in winning this triumph for his principles a subtle change was beginning to be visible, and from the date of 'The Order of Release' there might year after year be traced some slight departure from the old method, until! his pictures gradually assumed the breadth and freedom which have been their dominant qualities for the last eighteen or twenty years. 'Truth of external fact,' which had been the aim of the young pre-Raphaelites, gave way to 'truth of impression;' the artist came to see that as all art must of necessity imply selection, and as it is hopeless for the painter to attempt to rival the multitudinous variety of nature, his work may be as true when it is done with the broad sweep and dashing execution of Velasquez as when done with the patient minuteness of Van Eyck.
The death of Copley Fielding, President of the old melding Water-colour Society, marks, as we have said, another epoch. Turner had preceded him to the grave by four years, Peter de Wint by six years, while David Cox survived him, and died in 1859; and all these were greater men than he. But Fielding was by his official position the most prominent representative of water-colour art, and his method was perhaps more definitely characteristic of the English school than that of any of the three artists we have named. Turner was above and beyond all school; Cox and De Wint might both of them have made a great name in France, but Fielding in his strength and weakness was purely English. Without the force of genius or either the power or the wish to strike out new lines for himself, he carried on with exquisite skill the methods that he had learnt in his youth, until in his hands the very light of noonday was transferred to the paper, and the English landscape shone under a transparent sky. By him and, to a less extent, by his fellow-workers, if we may quote the words of one of Mr. Ruskin's later Oxford lectures, 'the skill of laying a perfectly even and smooth tint with absolute precision of complex outline was attained to a degree which no amateur draughtsman can have the least conception of.. Then further on such basis of well-laid primary tint the old water-colour men were wont to attain their effects of atmosphere by the most delicate washes of transparent colour, reaching subtleties of gradation in misty light which were wholly unthought of before their time. In this kind the depth of far distant brightness, freshness, and mystery of morning air with which Copley Fielding used to invest the ridges of the South Downs, as they rose out of the blue Sussex champaign, remains, and I believe must remain, insuperable, while his sense of beauty in the cloud-forms associated with the higher mountains enabled him to invest the comparatively modest scenery of our own island out of which he never travelled with a charm seldom attained by the most ambitious painters of Alp or Apennine.'
For all this Fielding and his colleagues were never in the old proper sense of the term appreciated in their lifetime, and colour their drawings sold for prices which would now be scornfully refused by third-rate members of insignificant societies. David Cox in 1845 sold his large drawings for nineteen guineas apiece, and his famous oil-picture called 'The Skylark' was bought from the Birmingham Exhibition of 1849 for 40£. Ten years later, in the year of Cox's death, this picture was resold to Mr. Mayou for 50l, and in Mr. Mayou's possession it remained till 1872, when he sold it to Mr. Nettlefold, its present owner, for 2300£. Similar stories are told of most of the best work of that group of artists by old collectors; and it is common enough for drawings by De Wint now to bring eight or nine hundred guineas which in his lifetime he sold as a regular thing for fifty or sixty. It is not, then, surprising that artists found it difficult to live by the practice of their art alone; and to men like these three it was commonly a necessity to seek their main support through teaching. The amenities of social life were not for them; if they saw anything of the cultured class, the class of gentlemen, it was on a footing of anything but equality. Occasionally a man of fashion or family would invite them, but it was, as in De Wint's case, only in the way of business to set them some task, to get them to draw scenes in the neighbourhood, and meanwhile to treat them with just that kindness that a well-bred aristocrat shows to a dependent. To decide whether it was a bad thing, this severance of classes, which made the artists associate almost exclusively with each other, which made David Cox 'old farmer Cox' as his friends called him remain to the end of his days as rustic as his pictures, and De Wint alternate between roughness to his equals and deference to the great, is a question which will be answered according as we regard the great social changes of the past fifty years to have brought good or evil in their train. At all events, things are different now. The fashionable portrait-painters have indeed been always men of fashion; Landseer moved as an equal among the men for whom he painted the animals that they fondled and the animals that they shot; but Landseer and the portrait-painters held an exceptional position. Now, with the growth of wealth, the rise of prices, and the competition that has existed for the last thirty years among the buyers of pictures, the artist's position has changed, and the danger for a man of talent is not that he should starve, but that rapid prosperity should lead him to forsake or to debase his art.
The second event of the year 1855 was, as we have stated, English the appearance of a number of English pictures on the walls in Paris, of the Paris Exhibition. They made a considerable impression, though not so deep as was made by those which were shown twelve years later in the Exhibition of 1867, and again in 1878. Moreover, the impression was mutual, for the English painters followed their pictures to Paris, and were able to compare them on the spot with the works of their French brethren. From this moment we may date the beginnings of that French influence on English art which is now one of the striking features of the time, and which in fact may be set down as one of the three formative influences that have made English contemporary art what it is, the other two being the pre-Raphaelite movement and the example of Frederick Walker and George Mason.
In one of the rooms at the Manchester Exhibition there are now gathered together a score of the rare works of these two men, both of them cut off in their early prime 1 -- 'The Harvest Moon' of the one and 'The Ploughers,' 'The Vagrants,' 'The Lost Path,' and 'The Sunny Thames' of the other. All these have been made widely known of late through Mr. Macbeth's beautiful etchings, but it is necessary to see the pictures themselves if one would estimate the influence which the two idyllic painters have had upon the subsequent art of England. [1 G. H. Mason, A.E.A. died 1872; Frederick Walker, A.R.A., and G. J. Pinwelll died 1875, which year was also the date of the death of Alfred Stevens.]
Both had technical faults in abundance; neither was perfect as a draughtsman, and Mason's drawing was often unquestionably bad; but both had a sense of the inner realities of rural nature for which we look in vain in the pictures of any of their predecessors. It has been said that Walker had 'a special power of drawing from reality some secret of beauty that escapes common observation;'1 it may be added that he had a knowledge of peasant character in which Millet alone surpassed him, while he saw in rustic life an element of happiness and grace which Millet never admitted, and that he was ever recognising that good gigantic smile o' the brown old earth' which seems hardly to have existed for the Norman peasant-painter.
Under these, and a number of influences too subtle for analysis, has been formed the very various but still remarkable school of painters whose names are now so familiar. Because they are familiar, we need not dwell upon them. Any competent notice in a newspaper and every newspaper now strives to have competent notices of the exhibitions will say what there is to say of the work of these men, and will point to the choice and varied work of Leighton and Poynter, to the portraits of Millais, Holl, and Ouless, to the classical scenes of Alma Tadema, to the brilliantly painted dramatic scenes, historical or domestic, of Orchardson, to the animal-painting of Briton Riviere, to the landscapes and cattle-pieces of Davis, to the landscapes of Alfred Hunt and Alfred Parsons; and, in another scale and key, to the noble ideal pictures of Watts, to the exquisite archaisms of Burne-Jones, and to the portraits of the younger Richmond. These painters have now established themselves beyond cavil or question; as have such workers in water-colours as North and Albert Goodwin, as Mrs. Allingham and Sir James Linton. What is not yet so established, though it is a sign of the times that is full of interest, is the growth that may be observed of a school of younger men on whom the Parisian atelier and the landscape-painting of Corot and Rousseau have cast a powerful spell. The exhibitions of the transformed 'Society of British Artists' and of the 'New English Art Club' are as yet the special homes of this influence; but no exhibition of the Academy, or even of the Grosvenor Gallery which after its opening in 1870 was for many years devoted to the cause of Mr. Burne-Jones and his followers is now without striking examples of it. How far it will go, and what will be its permanent effect upon English art, none can say. As yet it shows itself chiefly in three things: in the cultivation of extreme technical dexterity, in an avoidance of 'prettiness' which threatens sometimes to develop into a horror of beauty, and in a preference of the whole to the parts of the total 'impression' to truth of detail.
Of all forms of art that which was in the most deplorable condition at the time of the Queen's accession was sculpture. Two or three men of talent were working: Sir Francis Chantrey had five years to live; Edward Hodges Baily, a pupil of Flaxman, was fifty years of age; and John Gibson, if we are to claim any credit for a man who lived more than half his life at Rome, was producing graceful groups and figures in the manner of Canova. Besides these there was scarcely a man who either in theory or practice showed the least understanding of the capacities of what is perhaps the noblest of the arts. It would be to go beyond the permissible limits of this chapter if we were to enter upon a discussion of the cause of that hopeless state into which English sculpture had fallen, or, to state the matter with perhaps more accuracy, of the reasons why sculpture had never risen in this country above a condition for which mediocrity would be too good a name. For great works of sculpture there can indeed never be a demand in England. Rain, fog, and coal-smoke are a sentence of ruin to out-of-door sculpture in London, and city where out-of-door sculpture cannot be favourably seen and judged offers a fair field to this difficult and delicate art. But we have our limited opportunities, and that even these are enough to develop a healthy and a fairly flourishing school, assuming the existence of training for the artists and a moderate amount of educated intelligencein the public, is proved by the state of sculpture now compared with what it was fifty years ago.
When the history of Victorian art comes to be written at length, a large space will have to be assigned to the work of John Henry Foley. He was born in Dublin in 1818, but was of English race; his training was received first at schools of the Royal Dublin Society, and then at those the Royal Academy. In 1840 he exhibited the group, 'Ino and Bacchus,' which attracted much attention and brought him commissions; also his portrait busts and statues, which that of Hampden was the first, revealed an intelligent of the sculptor's art which until then had been unknown in England. Foley seemed to be able to throw off instinctively the shackles of convention, and, while retaining a true artist feeling for the ideal elements in character, he succeeded in coming close to life. His greatest works are the equestrian statue of Sir James Outram at Calcutta the very model of what such a statue should be and Sidney Herbert, in front of the War Office, one of the few London statues which will stand comparison with the great works with which the sculptors of France have adorned the streets of their capital. Foley had, as was natural, very considerable influence. He did not die till 1874, and long before that time a generation had arisen capable of appreciating him and of providing him with worthy pupils and followers.
Another, and perhaps a greater, man whose name will be Alfred identified with the sculpture of the Queen's reign was Alfred Stevens, the maker of that magnificent Wellington memorial which, after a lamentable official history, is now hidden away in a side chapel of St. Paul's. Stevens was a profound student of the Italian sculptors of the Renaissance, but he interpreted their work with a modernness of spirit and with an intelligence of the conditions of modern life which entitles him to be regarded as their equal and not their imitator. The story of his great work is discreditable to the nation; he was worried, hindered, and starved by officials who neither knew how great a man he was nor how difficult and, of necessity, costly such a work should be. Fortunately, however, it was practically finished before the sculptor died; and, though it is placed in the position which says little for the artistic feeling of those in authority, there it is, the greatest work of architectural sculpture that this country has ever produced, and perhaps the greatest that has been produced in Europe since the sixteenth century.
Of the sculptors who are now working in England, at least eight or ten are men of high distinction. Of the older generation we have Mr. Boehm, justly the most popular sculptor of the day, whose statue of Carlyle (now on the Chelsea Embankment) is worthy of its subject; we have Mr. Woolner, who began life as one of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, and who has always retained that combination of dignified poetical feeling with refined manipulation which marked his early work; we have Mr. Armstead, learned and accomplished; and we have the President of the Royal Academy, who is sculptor as well as painter. Younger than these are Mr. Brock, a pupil of Foley's, and a whole group of men, the product of the combined influence of the sculpture of the Renaissance and of modern Paris. Of these Mr. Hamo Thornycroft has been longest before the world; his classical statues, the marble 'Artemis' and the bronze 'Teucer' first won him public and official recognition, and he has repeated those successes in a different field in the pair of life-sized statues, 'The Mower' and 'The Sower,' which represent types of English rural life with the veracity, and with more than the grace, of Millet. An artist whose success is still more recent is Mr. Alfred Gilbert, the last elected Associate of the Academy. Unlike most of the young sculptors of the day, he worked for several years in Rome; but the influences that formed him were very different from those which had formed Gibson and the men of his generation. Mr. Gilbert is far removed indeed from the prettiness of Canova: he is a true child of the Renaissance; he deals with classic story, with Northern fairy tale, or with modern reality in the spirit, and with something of the strength of Michael Angelo. (sic) Mr. Onslow Ford, Mr. Stirling Lee, Mr. Havard Thomas, and some other men rapidly corning to the front, have been more affected by French influence; and the youngest of all, Mr. Harry Bates, has, under the teaching of our own Academy Schools, fostered a love for the best Greek types in a manner full of promise for his future.
No branch of art has shown greater activity during the reign of Queen Victoria than architecture, and none, it may be added, displays more unquestionable improvement. We cannot indeed say even now that England possesses a national architectural style, but she is coming nearer to it than has been the case for many generations. We have had in this country great architectural periods: in church building the periods from the thirteenth century to the days of the triumph of the so-called Perpendicular style; in domestic architecture the Tudor period; in the architecture of great public buildings in the days when Inigo Jones and Christopher Wren produced their works of genius; and again in the region of domestic architecture during the period when the influence of Wren was crossed by the influence of Holland and Flanders and produced those houses which are now vulgarly known by the name of Queen Anne. But at the time of the accession of Queen Victoria the national architecture was a chaos. The models that had come down to us from the Renaissance had been degraded and abused; Gothic architecture was misunderstood, and the imitation of Greek architecture, which had been in vogue for some short time, had been found to be monotonous and not easily adaptable to the daily uses of life.
The early period of the Queen's reign was the period par excellence of the Gothic revival. The two Pugins by revival, their practical achievements, and Rickman and others by; their writings, brought about the first indispensable condition of such a revival; they showed people what Gothic architecture really was, and that it was something very different from what Horace Walpole had imagined it to be. The younger Pugin, says a distinguished modern architect, must be regarded as the real reviver of Gothic, and 'his best work, notably St. Augustine's at Ramsgate, possesses more of the essential elements of Gothic than much that has been based on larger experience and fuller knowledge.'1 The seed sown by Pugin fell upon ground that had been 'well prepared; or, to change the metaphor, his work was but one symptom of the general revolutionary fever through which the most active and eager minds were passing at the moment. As has been said a thousand times, we have to regard the Tractarian movement, the Romantic movement in literature, and the Gothic movement in architecture as so many branches of the same tree, as the common results of a discontent with stagnation, convention, and corruption, and of a general desire to find in the history of a purer and a simpler time a remedy for the evils and imperfections of the present. With the wider aspects of that movement we are not here concerned. Let it suffice to say that in architecture it had the plain and simple result of sending a number of intelligent students back to the original authorities, of leading men to travel, to draw, and to investigate, and, as a consequence, to substitute for the strange jumble which passed for Gothic in the early years of the century the learned and careful reproductions of Street and Gilbert Scott.
Even during the first half of the reign, however, Gothic architecture did not have it all its own way. The leading! architect of the day, if we may give that title to Sir Charles Barry, produced indeed his chief building, the new Housef of Parliament, in a late and highly decorated Gothic style but his real genius lay much more in the direction of Italian architecture. In 1832 he had built the Travellers' Club in Pall Mall, which internally at least impressed both learned and unlearned as an admirable and a beautiful building. He repeated this success on various later occasions, his masterpiece in this style being Bridgewater House. But though the Renaissance thus held its ground for public and private palaces, no one after Pugin ventured to build a church that did not express one or other type of Gothic. It is scarcely necessary even to indicate the mass of work of this kind that has marked the Queen's reign, a period which has had no rival in modern times for its activity in church building, and in which the various religious bodies have seemed to strive against one another for this end.
The best known name in the architecture of the reign is that of Sir Gilbert Scott, who, both as a builder of churches and as the official restorer of cathedrals, has left his mark more widely than any other man. He was a learned student of Gothic forms, but accuracy in him overpowered originality. His original work has too much the air of a copy of some type bequeathed by a far-off century, and in his restorations he was deficient in that sense of historical development which no man who has authority over an ancient building ought to be without.
The second great Gothic architect of the reign was Mr. G. E. Street, street, the designer of a multitude of churches and of those Law Courts which are more satisfactory to lovers of the picturesque than to the lawyers and suitors who have to use them. Mr. Street, however, was a man of far more versatile mind than Sir Gilbert Scott, and, as his books show, his real interest lay rather with the Italian and Spanish forms of Gothic than with the Northern forms; while Mr. Burges, one of the most inventive of modern architects and designers, was as strongly influenced by the forms of French Gothic. Among the distinguished architects with Gothic predilections who are still working amongst us, it may suffice to mention Mr. J. L. Pearson, the architect of Truro Cathedral and of several churches in London and elsewhere; Mr. Alfred Waterhouse, the architect of the Manchester Town Hall, of the Natural History Museum, and of a very large number of other public buildings; Mr. Bodley, who has built the exquisite church at Hoarcross, the new buildings at Magdalen College, Oxford, and several other buildings of the highest excellence; Mr. Butterfield, the architect of Keble College, and of All Saints, Margaret Street; and if late Jacobean is to be included, Mr. T. G. Jackson, the builder of the new Examination Schools at Oxford.
Even in church architecture Gothic has thus by no means remained at the point where Sir Gilbert Scott left it. He and his immediate predecessors did an indispensable work; they showed what were the principles on which the old architects had proceeded. But if Gothic was to be naturalised again in this country, it was equally indispensable that it should not rest in the condition of a mere echo or repetition of the past. The men whom we have just named are among the chiefs of those who have shown that Gothic architecture, at least in ecclesiastics and collegiate buildings, is capable of being developed and adapted to the uses of modern England.
Still more remarkable has been the development which recent years have witnessed in domestic architecture. Here, too, the Gothic revival had a powerful effect, and for many years and in many parts of the country, architects trained in the school of Pugin, or of Mr. Ruskin, did their best to house nineteenth-century English families in dwellings where windows and the gables were suggested by Chartres, Nuremberg, or Venice. The result was hardly satisfactory and it is as much to the inconvenience of ultra-Gothic modern houses as to any other cause that we have attribute the despairing dulness of the ordinary domestic town architecture of thirty and twenty years ago. People saw that it was impracticable to build modern streets after the fashion of the thirteenth century, and they took refuge in the sombre stupidity which is embodied in the streets South Kensington. It is said to have been Mr. Philip Webb who first showed what might be made out of combination of some Gothic elements with what has been called the vernacular style of the early eighteenth century. 'He boldly adopted,' says Mr. Basil Champneys, 'the mode of fenestration of this style, which he endeavoured to combine with Gothic construction and with a free and picturesque character of gable and chimney.' Mr. Webb is less known to the general public than another architect of very original talent, Mr. Norman Shaw, who has done so much to make this admirable new architecture popular. Of Mr. Shaw's work it is enough to mention several of the houses on the Chelsea Embankment, the Albert Hall Mansions, and the offices of the Alliance Insurance Company at the bottom of St. James's Street. With his name and Mr. Webb's may be grouped those of Mr. Champneys, Mr. J. J. Stevenson, the author of a well-known treatise on domestic architecture, and Mr. Ernest George, who in different ways, and each with his own individuality of manner, have combined to form a school of domestic architecture interesting, convenient, and beautiful.
A volume would scarcely suffice to tell the story of the Black artists who have worked in what is called black and white during these fifty years, whether as designers or as engravers and etchers, or as both. Sir John Millais, in a recent speech to the students of an art school, pointed to the excellence and abundance of book illustration as one of the artistic features of our day; and he might fairly have extended his observation to the works in black and white that are produced not for books, but for the decoration of the house. Never has there been such an abundance of good work done in those directions as is being done at the present moment in England, in America, and in France. This is not the same thing as saying that our best men in all these departments are equal to the best men of the past. We have admirable mezzotint engravers, but none of them has yet quite equalled the masterpieces of Dickinson and John Raphael Smith; we have no longer the brilliant school of line engraving which existed when Brandard and Willmore rendered the pictures of Turner with such unrivalled delicacy of hand; we have etchers without number, but hardly a Rembrandt or a Hollar. In this, as in many other departments of art, what distinguishes this age above all others is the combination of good workmanship and abundant quantity. Everybody seems to want some kind of art work, and the supply is at hand for everybody.
The list of distinguished artists who have illustrated books during the reign, or who have worked for that which so much distinguishes our time, the illustrated press, is a long one, and we must be content to mention but a few of the names it contains. For some years after the Queen's accession Turner continued to do occasional work for the publishers; such as his beautiful illustrations to Whitaker's 'History of Richmondshire,' for example. Where he led others followed, and for a dozen years after 1837 it was the fashion for publishers to illustrate 'Landscape Annuals' and other works with steel engravings after artists good and indifferent. But the book illustrations most worthy of notice at this period are of a different kind; they are the illustrations which showed English art in an aspect for which it has ever since Hogarth's day been celebrated. Humorous design, passing sometimes into tragedy and sometimes into farce, found its exponents in a whole series of artists, George Cruikshank, Richard Doyle, Hablot Browne, John Leech, Thackeray, and many more, down to the men who continue to delight us week after week and Christmas after Christmas.
Cruikshank was forty-five years of age in 1837, and had been indefatigably working since his boyhood. To an earlier generation he had been known as one of the most effective defenders of Queen Caroline; to the generation then living he was to become still better known as the illustrator of 'Sketches by Boz, 'Oliver Twist,' of the ' Miser's Daughter,' and 'Old St. Paul's.' Cruikshank has now taken his place, it would seem permanently, among the British illustrators of books whose work is prized for its own sake, and 'Cruikshankiana' have become a recognised department of the collector's activity. His independence of mind, his wealth of quaint fancy, his power of realising the grim and terrible, have secured this place for him, though his career was so long and his work so superabundant that a distinction has to be drawn between what he did in his prime and what he did before and after.
Hablot Browne, who worked under the name of 'Phiz,' was 'Phiz.' at one time Cruikshank's rival in popularity; but though we owe to him the illustrations of a great number of the works of Dickens, including all but the early chapters of 'Pickwick,' regard for the creator of the types of Sam Weller and Mrs. Gamp must not induce us to place 'Phiz' as an artist higher than the second or third rank.
A higher place is claimed by the charming talent of Richard Doyle, 'Court Richard Painter to the Queen of the Fairies,' as he has been called. He it was that designed the cover of Punch; and in fanciful illustration of the sort, filled with the floating or dancing forms of fairyland, his talent continued to the end to find its happiest exercise. But during the first ten years of Mr. Punch's career Doyle worked assiduously in another direction, employing his ever-varying humour and his quick pencil in delineating in his own charming fashion the 'Manners and Customs of ye Englyshe,' whether in the series of drawings so entitled or in other ways. Sometimes he consented to illustrate other people's books Thackeray's 'Newcomes,' for example, and Ruskin's 'King of the Golden River'; while, as we were reminded when his works came to be sold after his death, his hand was at other times busy with exuberant inventions of his own, illustrating either the world of men or the world of fairies.
John Leech was a few years older than Doyle, and for a considerable time was his colleague on the staff of Punch. There for twenty-three years, from 1841 to the time of his death in 1864, he produced week after week those delightful sketches of contemporary life, humorous, full of character, and based upon the minutest observation, but always genial, kindly, and pure, which gave him a place not only in the art history of the time, but in the affections of his contemporaries. Of other artists who have passed away it is only necessary to mention under this heading the names of Frederick Walker, G. J. Pinwell, and Randolph Caldecott.
Of the general work and influence of Walker we have already spoken, but Caldecott, who died at an early age in 1886, worked almost entirely for the engraver, though the great improvement recently made in colour-printing enabled him to publish his charming designs in the colours in which he drew them. His especial talent lay in restoring for us the quainter elements of the England of our great-grandfathers, especially of rural England, with its humours of the hall and the hunting-field. These and cognate subjects Caldecott drew with the eye and hand of a thorough artist, and with a genial sympathy with which no one was so richly endowed as he.
The activity of living artists in the illustration of books and periodicals is unbounded. Sir John Millais, indeed, has now ceased to draw for the engraver, but twenty-five or thirty years ago he produced many drawings for Once a Week, Good Words, some of the novels of Trollope, etc., which, with the work of Frederick Walker, contributed not a little to the general improvement of book illustration. Punch continues to delight us weekly with the nobly drawn cartoons of Tenniel; with the admirable, if sometimes too elaborate, scenes from the pencils of Du Maurier, who has established a unique position as the chronicler of the foibles of 'society'; with the strong and masterly sketches of Charles Keene, with the brilliantly fanciful vagaries of Linley Sambourne, and with the rollicking fun of Harry Furniss. In other illustrated papers a whole school of artists are at work, among whom two of the most vigorous are Mr. Caton Woodville and Mr. Frederick Barnard. Men like Mr. Edwin Abbey, a young American settled among us show by their monthly contributions to the magazines what a wealth of artistic ability is now lavished upon illustration; and as Christmas comes round, the children, not only of the United Kingdom, but of the Continent and of America, are constantly delighted with the entrancing quaintnesses of Miss Kate Greenaway and the classico-medifleval fancies of Mr. Walter Crane.
If this is the state of the case with regard to the draughtsmen and designers, much might also be said on the subject of the engravers, and of the history of the various methods of reproduction which have found favour with the public during our time. While every kind of legitimate engraving, using the word which includes etching, has nourished at different periods of the Queen's reign, that reign has been marked off from all previous ages by the invention and development of the new art of photography. To this we may return presently, but meantime a word must be said about engraving in the more lawful sense of the term. Fifty years ago the mode that was most in favour was line engraving, as it was understood by the great school of landscape engravers that had grown up gravers, around Turner.
Men like Pye, the two Brandards [John], [Robert Brandard], Goodall, Cousen, and Willmore many of whom, strange to say, learnt their exquisite art in the smoky atmosphere of Birmingham had brought the manipulation of the burin and the steel plate to a degree of perfection which had never been witnessed before and which probably will never be witnessed again. They worked under Turner's eye in the reproduction of his 'Elvers of France,' his 'England and Wales,' his drawings which illustrated Scott and Rogers, and the rest; and in translating his water-colours, or his oil-pictures in the case of the larger plates, they rivalled the delicacy and the subtlety of the master himself. But it was impossible, unfortunately, that such work should long compete with broader and cheaper methods, and with the death of Turner it may be said that the line engraving of landscape almost disappeared. A few engravers, however, continued to work in line in the reproduction of subject pictures, especially George Doo, who lately died at a great age, and Lumb Stocks, his fellow-Academician, who still lives among us. Few of the works of this last class can be said to rival the productions of foreign engravers, such as Raphael Morghen and Desnoyers; but an Englishman expects better things when he turns to his countrymen's productions in mezzotint.
Unfortunately, during the greater part of the reign, and in fact until within the last year or two, much of what has passed under this name has not been legitimate mezzotint at all, but a composite kind; and the rest, being printed from stoel and not from copper, has been without the beautiful softness which characterises the works of the great English masters of the last century.
The most distinguished Samuel worker in this field, the veteran Samuel Cousins, only died the other day at the great age of eighty-six, having continued almost to the date of his death a career of active work which began when he was a boy of thirteen. Cousins's finest plates date from long before the Queen's accession, but there is still a great demand for proofs of his many works after Landseer, and of those interesting productions of his old age which, beginning with 'The Strawberry Girl,' did so much to foster the revived passion for the works of Sir Joshua. Very recently a few young men have risen among us with the power and the will to work the old mezzotint method exactly in the manner in which it was worked a century ago.
They have found here and there a publisher who does not shrink before the prospect of limiting the issue of a plate, and by working on the copper according to the plan of the Watsons [James Watson (c. 1739-1790), Thomas Watson (1750-1781)] and Valentine Green (1739-1813), they are beginning to produce engravings which will bear comparison with those of the old engravers.
But the most remarkable feature of the time with regard to the development of what are commonly called the etching graphic arts is undoubtedly the recent revival of etching. Even thirty years ago this beautiful art can hardly be said to have existed in England. Now the print-shops are full of its productions; there is a whole flourishing society of painter-etchers that is to say, of etchers who invent their own subjects; while of the men who use the etching-needle to reproduce the compositions of others, the name is legion. The causes of this change are manifold, but a few may be specially mentioned. The publications of the Etching Club from 1844 onwards interested only a small class, and cannot be said to have contributed much to the popularity of etching. It was in France that the revival had its origin, expressing itself first in the admiration felt by artists for the genius of Charles Méryon. The etchers who may be said to have first transplanted the newly revived art in its most admirable form to English ground were Mr. Seymour Haden and Mr. Whistler, the former of whom issued a series of plates in 1866; and then came Mr. Hamerton's book 'Etching and Etchers,' and the founding of the periodical called The Portfolio. These two publications did much to introduce to the notice of English amateurs the works of the new school of French aquafortistes, and to stimulate the efforts of English artists in the same direction. In a short time the names of Rajon, Bracquemond, and Waltner, of Chauvel and Brunet-Debaines, took in the estimation of English collectors the place of Toschi and Desnoyers; and all the young English artists began to etch.
For original work we have nothing that has surpasssed the achievements of the two men named above; but in the department of etching, which is occupied with the translation of pictures into black and white, the primacy, as far as this country is concerned, seems to have been secured by Mr. R. W. Macbeth. His large plates after the works of Frederick Walker, Mason, and Pinwell have met with very great success, and have had the indirect effect of renewing and perpetuating the influence exercised by that interesting group of painters.
It remains to say something about the effect of photography upon art. There are indeed other aspects in which the bearings of the new discovery have been of the greatest importance; for on the social side photography has done much to preserve the sense of kinship among the scattered members of English families all over the world; and on the scientific side it has done much, and is annually doing more, in the way of recording phenomena that are sometimes invisible to the human eye. It has had, moreover, a special bearing upon art. At first, when in the year 1839 Daguerre introduced the daguerrotype, and Fox Talbot the chloride of silver process, the modern developments of photography were as little suspected as those infant processes themselves had been expected twenty years before. Now by successive improvements the methods of photography itself have reached the most marvellous perfection; and, as one consequence, miniature painting is almost a lost art among us. But what is most interesting to us at the present moment is the series of adaptations of photography that have lately been made for the purpose of reproducing works of art. It would require a technical treatise to explain the various methods in which photography is now pressed into this service methods the very names of which are a terror to all who value some kind of purity in language. Albertype, heliotype, collotype, photoglpytic, stannotype these are various titles under which some of the processes for combining photography with engraving are now known, while autotype is a term now appropriated to the system of carbon-printing, which in the hands of the Autotype Company has become so popular. The others may be generally described as methods by which a gelatine plate with the picture photographed upon it is made to take the place of an ordinary lithographic plate; and from this mere description it may be guessed how greatly the work of reproducing pictures is cheapened by such a method. More difficult and costly is the process known as photogravure, cheaper forms of which are now coming into use under the names of klicotype, photo-aquatint, etc. Photogravure is a process partly mechanical; but in it, after the photographer has done his work, the aid of the skilled engraver has to be called in, and the plate to be worked upon by a careful hand. It is after this last process has been gone through that those wonderful photogravures are produced which have of late years been so seriously threatening the existence of the mezzotint engraver.
At the beginning of this chapter we hesitated to say general whether the record of the art of fifty years was a record of advance, progress or not. It can hardly, however, be seriously doubted that the advance has been a real one; that the popular understanding of art is at least somewhat greater than it was; that our artists know more and do better than their fathers before them. Each senior Academician will confess that work which in his youth would have won a medal at the Academy Schools will not now do much more than secure admission for a student. Each of the public exhibitions which, not only in the month of May but all the year through, abound in London, displays a quantity of work which at least shows that those who have produced it have learnt their grammar; and the foreigner who now enters an English gallery is not perpetually shocked by those solecisms in drawing and composition which made him wonder a generation or two ago whether art could ever exist in England outside the works of one or two men of genius. Our portrait-painters are the equals of any in Europe; nay, it would be difficult to find, even among the great portraits of the past, any that have for vigour and veracity surpassed the best works of Millais and Holl. For the rest, we cultivate as is our national wont a score of styles; we decline to be bound by one set of traditions, or to be moved by any single influence, and the same gallery which contains the dramas of Orchardson and the brilliant technique of Alma Tadema contains also the noble visions of Watts, and those shining illustrations of a world that is not ours by which Mr. Burne-Jones has conquered the admiration of his age. We have never had sculptors so many or so good as now. We have never shown such a combination of originality and learning in architecture. In the lesser arts of life though these, in proportion as they depend on the favour of the many, are especially liable to the national vice of vulgarity the progress that the last half-century has seen has been simply astonishing, and the mode of house-decoration which twenty years ago would have marked a man out as affected and eccentric is now recognised, by the public that claims to be educated, as the expression of a rational taste. In a word, art has kept pace with the growth of knowledge. Upon the literature of art in all its forms immense research has been expended, and, by means of exhibitions and the popular press, what was formerly only known to a few experts or not known at all is now so accessible 'that he may run that readeth.' If art ever had a chance in the history of the world, it has it now. We cannot call genius into existence, but at least it may be said that, whenever artistic genius chances to arise in modern England, it will find its fit environment.
Reign of Queen Victoria, Vol. II. A Survey of fifty years of progress; edited by Thomas Humphry Ward, M.A., late Fellow of Brasenose College, Oxford.
Contents taken from original text; contains OCR errors.
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