Rossetti Archive Textual Transcription

Document Title: The Critic: The London Literary Journal, Volume 9
Author: John Crockford (publisher)
Date of publication: 1850
Publisher: John Crockford
Printer: John Crockford
Volume: 9

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No. 129, Sympathy, Frank Stone. Whether the

sympathy of the gazer with the painter, or of the painter

with his subject, or, indeed, of the young lady in faded

yellow with the young lady in washed-out red, or vice

, be the sympathy here symbolized there is no pre–

cise clue to determine. But a conjecture may be

hazarded that the distress of the fair ones is occasioned

by a “distress” for rent; since, under no other circum–

stances, could we expect to meet with a blue satin sofa

in a place which, from its utter nakedness, can be in–

tended for no part of a modern dwelling-house except

the passage leading to the street. These premises,

however, are merely, as we have said, conjectural—

knocked up at random on the appearance of the premises

represented. All we can know for certain from the picture

is, that on some occasion or other, somewhere, a mild young

lady threw her arms (with as much of abandon as a

lay-figure may permit itself,) round another sorrowful

but very mild young lady; that the faces of these young

ladies were made of wax, their hair of Berlin wool, and

their hands of scented soap. There is one other piece

of knowledge distinctly communicated, viz., that such

pictures as this will not sustain Mr. Stone's reputation.
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No. 317, The Departure of the Chevalier Bayard from

, “As he quitted his chamber to take horse, the

two fair damsels met him, each bearing a little offering

which she had worked during his sickness.” J. C. Hook.

The general arrangement of colour in this picture is

very brilliant and delightful, and its first aspect will be

highly satisfactory; as, indeed, it could scarcely fail to

be when the work of a very accomplished young artist,

as Mr. Hook incontestably is, is surrounded by the in–

competence which predominates among the figure-pieces

here. But we question whether it would not be wise to

carry away the first impression of pleasure, without

endangering it by any stricter examination. There is

a flimsy holiday-look about the picture, when con–

sidered, at variance not only with the simplicity of the

subject, but also with truth to nature. One figure,

however,—that of the foremost lady—is of exquisite

grace and beauty; the head and bosom perfectly

charming. As for the good Bayard himself, we sus–

pect that, could he have had any preknowledge of the

carpet-knight (with something, too, of the dashing out–

law) Mr. Hook was to make of him, he would not at

that moment have been altogether sans peur ; and that,

could he now look at the picture and speak his mind of

it, the artist would not find him to be, in an active sense,

sans reproche. The present work, though not of the

same dimensions, may be considered, in subject, as a

companion to one which Mr. Hook had last year at the

Royal Academy.
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No. 282, The Rival's Wedding. This picture, the

only one contributed by Mr. Anthony, needs but a

little more of finish to have secured to it that promi–

nent position on the walls to which its merits, even as it

is, undoubtedly entitled it. The subject, as indicated

in the catalogue, is not, perhaps, very clearly developed;

but such pictures as this are independent of any cata–

logue. To some, the first aspect of the work will be

more singular than engaging; indeed, it is perhaps

necessary that the eye should gaze long enough to be

isolated from all the surrounding canvasses, before the

mind can be fully impressed by the secret beauty of

this picture. Every object and every part of the colour

contribute to the feeling: there is something strangely

impressive even in the curious dog, who is looking up

at that sad, slow-footed mysterious couple in the shadow;

there is something mournful, that he has to do with, in

the sunlight upon the grass behind him. After con–

templating the picture for some while, it will gradually

produce that indefinable sense of rest and wonder,

which, when childhood is once gone, poetry alone can

recal. And assuredly, before he knew that colour was

laid on with brushes, or that oil-painting was done upon

canvass, this painter was a poet.
But perhaps the most admirable work in any class

upon these walls is Mr. Branwhite's Environs of an

Ancient Garden
(No. 296), before alluded to, grand,

and full of melancholy silence. It calls to mind

Hood's Haunted House, and may, we fancy, have been

suggested by that poem; or Mrs. Browning's readers

may think of her wondrous Deserted Garden. But

here the work of desolation has been more complete.

Many years must have passed before it became thus;

and since then it has scarcely changed for many years.

All that could quite go is gone; and now, for a long

long while, it shall stand on into the years as it is. The

water possesses the scene within its depths, as calm as

a picture; the white statue almost appears to listen;

there is a peacock still about the place, to stalk and

hush out his plumage when the sun lies there at noon;

the pines conceal the rocky mountains till at a great

height, and the mountains shut the horizon out. The

encroachmont of moss and grass and green mildew is

everywhere; the growths of the garden cling together

on all hands.
  • Long years ago it might befall,
  • When all the garden flowers were trim,
  • The grave old gardener prided him
  • On these the most of all.
  • And lady, stately overmuch,
  • Who moved with a silken noise,
  • Blushed near them, dreaming of the voice
  • That likened her to such.
Editorial Note: quotation of E.B. Browning's The Deserted Garden, lines 25-32
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There can now no longer remain a doubt that Mr. C.

Lucy is one of the elect of art destined to contribute to

his epoch. In no painter whose works we can re–

member is there to be found more of resolute truth,

while in none is it accompanied by less of the mere

parade of truthfulness.
The increased solidity of thought and manner in

Mr. Lucy's pictures of last year is confirmed in this

exhibition; it is evidently a permanent advance in

power. His present subject, The Parting of Charles I.

from his two youngest Children the day previous to his

(No. 571), is one of those hitherto left for

second or third rate artists to work their will upon.

Truly none such has here been at work. The arrange–

ment adopted by Mr. Lucy is simple and suggestive.

Bishop Juxon, holding the young prince's hand, leads

him out into the antechamber where the sentry is

posted, and where Vandyck's portrait of the king has

been left hanging; the princess, now on the threshold,

looks back at her father for once more; while the quiet

head and pattering shoes of the little boy, who is

evidently trying to walk faster than he is able, and the

delicate manner in which he is being led by the good

bishop, are peculiarly happy in their sympathetic appeal

Charles, standing, raises one hand to his brow; his

face is bewildered with anguish. He is turning un–

consciously against the window, and the hand which

has just held those of his children for the last time, is

quivering helpless to his side. At first, the action of

the figure strikes, however, as incomplete; and indeed,

perhaps, something better might have been done with the

limbs; but the feeling in the head and in the children,

assisted by the quietness of the room into which they

pass, is not the less real for being perfectly unob–

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Mr. F. R. Pickersgill's nymphs differ from Mr.

Frost's by something of the same space as might exist

between a doll which, having put on humanity[,] has

grown to the size of a woman, and a high-art wax-work.

The latter are more firm and consistent; the former

retain the pulpiness of infancy, and stare with the glass

eyes of their primitive status. We may refer, for con–

firmation, to Mr. Pickersgill's Pluto carrying away

Proserpine, opposed by the Nymph Cyane
(No. 264), as

compared with the Andromeda just mentioned; observ–

ing further that, whereas Mr. Frost brings his pictures

up to the point he is capable of desiring them to reach,

in Mr. Pickersgill, when on his present tack, there is

more of wilful imbecility, clearly conceived, boldly aimed

at, and worked out with an uncompromising contempt

for his real self. Last week we likened this gentleman

to an amalgam of the Venetian colourists, Mr. Etty, and

Mr. Frost; in the work now under review we are struck

by the resemblance in Pluto and Cupid to the late Mr.

Howard; while the plagiarism from the artist of the

Mr. Skelt, dear to our childish days, is too evident in

the horses to escape detection. As regards Mr. Pick–

ersgill's third picture, A Scene during the Invasion of

Italy by Charles
VIII. (No. 552), it is painful to be

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compelled in truth to say that the artist, who was

originally Mr. Hook's model of style, is here some–

thing very like an imitator of that same Mr. Hook.

We turn with a degree of pleasure to Mr. Pickers–

gill's watercolour Sketches from the Story of Imelda

(No. 1043.) If these are recent works, the artist is

evidently still capable of his own style, still retains

some feeling for purity of form and sentiment. The

story is told in three compartments. The first is not

in any way remarkable
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the second, where Imelda sees

her lover's blood trickling through from under the closed

door, is vividly imagined; there is poetry in the last.

Imelda is dead in her efforts to suck the poison from the

wounds of her lover, and the two lie together: a thin

leafless tree in the shadow of the wall bends outside

into the moonlight which makes the stone steps deathly

Mr. C. H. Lear has this year taken the subject of

his single small picture (No. 172) from Keats:
  • “Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
  • Are sweeter: therefore, ye soft pipes, play on;
  • Not to the sensual ear, but, more endeared,
  • Pipe to the spirit-ditties of no tone:”—
Note: quotation of John Keats's Ode on a Grecian Urn, lines 11-14
Or rather, he, working from his own poetical resources,

has found a sympathetic echo in the words of a brother

poet. The “heard melody” is indeed “sweet,” so sweet

that the “unheard” may scarcely exceed it: but the

parallel is unnecessary; they are like voice and instru–

ment. This picture should hang in the room of a poet:

we will dare to say that Keats himself might have

lain dreaming before it, and found it minister to his

inspiration. Here we will not stand to discuss trivial

shortcomings in execution; believing that, when Mr.

Lear undertakes—as we hope he will not long defer

doing—a subject combining varied character, and whose

poetry shall be of the real as well as the abstract, he

will see the necessity of not denying to his wonderful

sentiment, which has already more than once accom–

plished so much by itself, the toilsome but indispensable

adjunct of a rigid completeness.
While we are still within the magic circle of the

poetic—the truly and irresponsibly pleasurable in art,

let us turn to Mr. Kennedy's L'Allegro (438.) Mr.

Kennedy lounges (no less than Mr. Frost picks his

way) in his own footsteps year after year; and his

pictures have much less to do with nature than with his

own nature. Mr. Frost is self-conscious—timorously

so; Mr. Kennedy is less alive to his identity than to

his ideal, but lazy enough in all things. His picture of

this year, like those of former years, does not seem to

deal in any way with critical requirements: it simply

affords great delight. The landscapes we have all

known in our dreams; only Mr. Kennedy remembers

his, and can paint them. The figures are of that elect

order which Boccaccio fashioned in his own likeness:

they will play out the rest of the sunlight, no doubt, in

that garden: in the evening their wine will be brought

them, and the music will be played less sluggishly in

the cool air, and those white-throated ladies will not be

too languid to sing. Surely they are magic creatures;

they shall stay all night there, surely it shall be high

noon when they wake, there shall be no soil on their

silks and velvets, and their hair shall not need the

comb, and the love-making shall go on again in the

shadow that lies again green and distinct; and all shall

be as no doubt it has been in that Florentine sanctuary

(if we could only find the place) any ten days these

four-hundred years. From time to time, however, a

poet or a painter has caught the music, and strayed in

through the close stems: the spell is on his hand and

his lips like the sleep of the Lotos-eaters, and his

record shall be vague and fitful; yet will we be in

waiting, and open our eyes and our ears, for the broken

song has snatches of an enchanted harmony, and the

glimpses are glimpses of Eden.

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Mr. Landseer's chief work of the present year is

(No. 189), A Dialogue at Waterloo. This is, in the

truest sense of the word, a historical picture;—not

merely an embodiment of conceptions, however acute

and valuable, founded on the records left us from past

ages: this, on the contrary, is itself a record, a part

of the time, to remain chronicled; an emphatic per–

sonal testimony. It belongs to a class of art but too

little followed in our day, which leaves its own annals,

for the most part, to the caricaturist and the newspaper

draughtsman; a class which is more “historical” than

Mr. Cross's picture, or than Mr. Lucy's, or than

M. Delaroche's, as not being painted from history,

but itself history painted. Let us consider Mr.Land–

seer's work. It is now thirty-five years since the day

of Waterloo, and Europe is another Europe since then

because of that day: and here, in the picture, we have

that day's Master riding in peace after these many

years over the field whose name is now less the name

of a field than of a battle which he fought. A woman

of his house is with him; and to her he is recounting

those matters as one who was there and of them. Since

then, his labour has been his country's no less than on

that day; but it has been wrought out in the compa–

rative calm and silence of a peace which, but for him,

she might not have enjoyed; and now, how must his

memories crowd upon him as he recalls those events

in which he was not an actor only, but the mind

and master-spirit of action! Nothing about him but

what has felt his influence;—the peasantry, whose

native soil has become famous and prospered because of

his deeds; the very soil itself, which the blood of his

battle has fertilized and increased yearly to a plentiful

harvest. All this is here, and much more, both pre–

sentment and suggestion. On the execution of the

picture, its truthfulness in colour and daylight, we have

left ourselves no room to dwell; we may mention,

however, that the action of the Duke is, we believe,

one habitual to him, and here admirably appropriate.

Still less can we devote space to the discussion, in how

far a subject of this class is available to the tendencies

of the age. The painter's highest duty is to record, in

a manner sufficiently complete for after deduction: and

surely here, if any where, thus much is accomplished.
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The subject of Mr. Cope's principal picture is from

the 4th Act of King Lear:
  • “Oh! my dear father! Restoration, hang
  • Thy medicine on my lips: and may this kiss
  • Repair those violent harms that my two sisters
  • Have in thy reverence made!”
Note: quotation of Shakespeare's King Lear, Act 4. sc.7
Nearly identical, it may be remembered, was the

theme of Mr. F. M. Brown's work of last year, the

most remarkable contribution to the then “Free Exhi–

bition;” and a comparison of the two renderings

may help us to some conclusions. Firstly, Mr. Cope

has assigned a more prominent place to the music, and

has attempted more of physical beauty and of differences

of age and position in his singers, the chief of whom,

we submit, is man or woman, at option of the spec–

tator: the other picture had a background of music;

but its subject was emphatically the filial love. There
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lay the potential influence; and to this the resources

appealing to sense were but a ministration. Yet the

subordination of the persons doing did not detract from

the full presentment of the thing done, to which the

ostensible action was referred by the waiting and lis–

tening heads of Kent and of the Fool,—a character not

introduced by Mr. Cope. The latter, in keeping

strictly to the text,—“In the heaviness of sleep we put

fresh garments on him,”—has, we think, acted well,

though the result is necessarily a less obvious and im–

mediate realization: but, in all that relates to the

characters of Lear and Cordelia, considered as either

individual or Shaksperian, Mr. Brown shows a far

higher apprehension; nor must his adherence to appro–

priateness (as far as possible) in costume and accessory

be overlooked, as contrasted with the unknown chro–

nology of Mr. Cope. The colour of both is strong.

Mr. Cope's, however, while specially noticeable for

modelling and relief, has a degree of inkiness, as though

a tone of colour naturally hot had been reduced by

means of corresponding violence.
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The name of Baron Marocchetti, well known, we

believe, in Italian art, is here represented by a small

statue of Sappho (No. 1297), of exquisite though pecu–

liar character. The first impression of excentricity will

not be favourable: but manage to look beyond this, and

there is a grace and charm in the work which will

arrest not the eye merely, but the mind. Sappho sits

in abject languor, her feet hanging over the rock, her

hands left in her lap, where her harp has sunk; its

strings have made music assuredly for the last time.

The poetry of the figure is like a pang of life in the

stone: the sea is in her ears, and that desolate look in

her eyes is upon the sea; and her countenance has

fallen. The style of the work is of an equally high

class with its sentiment—pure and chaste, yet indi–

vidualized. This is especially noticeable in the drapery,

which is no unmeaning sheet tossed anyhow for effect,

but a real piece of antique costume, full of beauty and

character. We may venture to suggest, however, that

the extreme tension of the skirt across the knees gives

a certain appearance of formality to the lower portion

of the figure.
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The principal claim to support made by the promoters

of this new winter exhibition, rests on its being entirely

free of expense to the artists exhibiting, even in the

event of sale; no charge being made for space, as at the

Portland Gallery, nor any per centage levied on pur–

chases, as at all other exhibitions with the exception of

the Royal Academy. Its principal object appears to

be, to place before the public a collection of drawings

and sketches (several of them the first studies for pic–

tures already well known), a class of productions not

of very frequent occurrence in our annual picture shows.

Its principal exhibitors, are of course the same whose

works fill the other galleries, and among them may be

especially noticed a considerable sprinkling of associates

from the Royal Academy. Of late years, the Associ–

ateship has come to present a somewhat anomalous

aspect, viewed as a position in art. Originally insti–

tuted as a preliminary step to the highest honours, it

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now musters a body of young artists so much resem–

bling each other in style, in choice of subjects, and even

in the minutiæ of execution, that it is difficult to sup–

pose, at each new accession to their number, that the

young man so elevated is any nearer than before to the

full membership of the Academy; since all can scarcely

be at any time received into the Forty, nor is selection

among them an easy matter. The Associateship has

thus grown to be looked upon almost as a limit of

achievement, at least by a certain class of artists;

some of whom would, we suspect, be actually scared,

could they contemplate, when signing their names as

aspirants for the minor grade, that they were ever

to be called on to discharge the duties of a Professor–

ship, for which neither nature nor study has fitted

them; utterly lacking, as do certain among them,—

education, in the first place,—and, in the second place, the

capacity to educate themselves. Thus it happens that

year after year, the corner-places and outposts of the

“line” at the Academy, are occupied, in a great mea–

sure, by pictures so closely resembling each other

(though from different hands) as hardly to establish a

separate recollection. Meanwhile, year after year, the

works of other young artists continue to be ill placed

and comparatively unnoticed; one or other of whom,

however, in some year or other, finds himself at last on

the line, in a little while to be an Associate, and in yet

a little while an Academician. Then it is that the ques–

tion comes to be asked, why he, now suddenly found

worthy to take the head of the board, should so long

have sat beneath so many over whom he is now at once

advanced. And the answer, whether spoken or not, is,

that this man was marked by the Academy for an

Academician, and not as these, for Associates; and that

verily they have their reward.
These preliminary remarks will not be considered out

of place when we see how many of the young men in

this exhibition are evidently striving to do exactly the

same thing which others, also exhibitors here, have

done,—making use of exactly the same means as those

who have gone before them, in hope of the same result

and no more.
We have said that the collection consists principally

of sketches, and indeed rests its chief claim on bring–

ing together for the first time any considerable gather–

ing of such productions. We will not dispute the plea as

a matter of fact, although our memory presents to us

certain feet of wall in Trafalgar-square which have

been covered annually for the most part, from time

immemorial, with works little differing from these

sketches except in size. Let us, however, allow that

we are here for the first time presented with sketches

by British artists; and still we must needs confess a

degree of obtuseness as to the benefit, and a certain

reluctance of gratitude. It has long been cause of

complaint that our organs of veneration are called upon

to be influenced by the I. O. U.'s and washing-bills

of great men. But has it come to this now—that even

mediocrity shall not have its dressing-room? For our

part, we have ventured to suspect that the slightest and

most trifling productions of some British artists—say

Mr. Hollins or Mr. Brooks—might, for any public

demand, as well have been held sacred to that moderate

enthusiasm which may be supposed to have given them

birth. Nay, it has been suggested to us by an unguarded

acquaintance, that even Mr. Frith, Mr. Goodall, or Mr.

Frank Stone, may be conjectured at some time, in mo–

ments of unusual languor, to have produced works

(say of the size of three half-crowns) which might

almost be regarded as inconsiderable, and the like of

which Heaven permits the average Briton to execute,

so he be only supplied with a given quantity of hogs-

hair and pigment.
Having said thus much in the way of introduction,

called for no less by the recent establishment than by

the character of the exhibition, we shall proceed in our

next to an examination of the several performances.
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