The peculiar characteristics of this master, who next to Ruisdael, is confessedly at the head of landscape painters of the Dutch School, will be best appreciated by comparing him with his rival. In two most important qualities—fertility of inventive genius, and poetry of feeling—he is decidedly inferior: the range of his subjects being far narrower. His most frequent scenes are villages surrounded by trees, such as are frequently met with in the districts of Guelderland, with winding pathways leading from house to house. A water-mill occasionally forms a prominent feature. Often, too, he represents a slightly uneven country, diversified by groups or rows of trees, wheat-fields, meadows, and small pools. Occasionally he gives us a view of part of a town, with its gates, canals with sluices, and quays with houses; more rarely, the ruins of an old castle, with an extensive view of a flat country, or some stately residence. In the composition of all these pictures, however, we do not find that elevated and picturesque taste which characterises Ruisdael; on the contrary they have a thoroughly portrait-like appearance, decidedly prosaic, but always surprizingly truthful. The greater number of Hobbema's pictures are as much characterized by a warm and golden tone as those of Ruisdael by the reverse; his greens being yellowish in the lights and brownish in the shadows—both of singular transparency. In pictures of this kind the influence of Rembrandt is perhaps perceptible, and they are superior in brilliancy to any work by Ruisdael. While these works chiefly present us with the season of harvest and sunset-light, there are others in a cool, silvery, morning lighting, and with the bright green of spring, that surpass Ruisdael's in clearness. His woods also, owing to the various lights that fall on them, are of greater transparency.
As almost all the galleries on the Continent were formed at a period when the works of Hobbema were little prized (Ticcozzi's Dictionary, in 1818, does not include his name), they either possess no specimens, or some of an inferior class, so that no adequate idea can be formed of him. The most characteristic example to be met with on the Continent is a landscape in the Berlin Museum, No. 886, an oak wood, with scattered lights, a calm piece of water in the foreground, and a sun-lit village in the distance. Of the eight pictures in the National Gallery from his hand, most are good, and one world-famous—The Avenue, Middelharnis, which may be called his masterpiece. This was painted in 1689, when he had reached the age of fifty. His diploma picture, painted in 1663, is at Hertford House, together with four other interesting examples, all of which repay careful study.
The origins of the German Schools of painting are obscure, but it is fairly certain that Cologne was the first place in which the art was soonest established to any considerable extent. Here, as in the Netherlands, we cannot find any traces of immediate Italian influences. The first painter who can be identified with any certainty is WILHELM VON HERLE, called MEISTER WILHELM, whose activity is not traceable earlier than about 1358. Most of the pictures formerly attributed to him have, however, been assigned to his pupil HERMANN WYNRICH VON WESEL, who on the death of his master in 1378 married his widow and continued his practice, until his death somewhere about 1414. His most important works were six panels of the High Altar of the Cathedral, the so-called Madonna of the Pea Blossoms and two Crucifixions at Cologne, and the S. Veronica at Munich, dated 1410.
More important was STEPHEN LOCHNER, who died at Cologne in 1451. His influence was widespread and his school apparently numerous, until, in 1450, Roger van der Weyden, returning from Italy, stopped at Cologne and painted his large triptych, which eclipsed Lochner. From this time onwards the school of Cologne is represented by painters whose names are not known, and who are accordingly distinguished by the subjects of their works; such as The Master of the Glorification of the Virgin, The Master of S. Bartholomew, etc., until we come to Bartel Bruyn (c. 1493-1553), a portrait painter who is represented at Berlin, and by a picture of Dr Fuchsius bequeathed to the National Gallery by George Salting.
In other parts of Germany, particularly in Nuremberg, Ulm, Augsburg, and Basle, various names of painters of the latter half of the fourteenth century have survived, but their works are of little interest except to the connoisseur as showing the influence under which the two great artists of the sixteenth century, Albert Duerer and Hans Holbein, and one or two lesser lights like Lucas Cranach, Albert Altdorfer, and Adam Elsheimer, were formed.
In Germany the taste for the fantastic in art peculiar to the Middle Ages, though it engendered clever and spirited works such as those of Quentin Massys and Lucas van Leyden, was still unfavourable to the cultivation of pure beauty, scenes from the Apocalypse, Dances of Death, etc., being among the favourite subjects for art. On the other hand, the pictorial treatment of antique literature, a world so suggestive of beautiful forms, was so little comprehended by the German mind that they only sought to express it through the medium of those fantastic ideas with very childish and even tasteless results. We must also remember that that average education of the various classes of society which the fine arts require for their protection stood on a very low footing in Germany. In Italy the favour with which works of art was regarded was far more widely extended. This again gave rise to a more elevated personal position on the part of the artist, which in Italy was not only one of more consideration, but of incomparably greater independence. In this latter respect Germany was so
deficient that the genius of Albert Duerer and Holbein was miserably cramped and hindered in development by the poverty and littleness of surrounding circumstances. It is known that of all the German princes no one but the Elector Frederick the Wise ever gave Albert Duerer a commission for pictures, while a writing addressed by the great painter to the magistracy of Nuremberg tells us that his native city never gave him employment even to the value of 500 florins. At the same time his pictures were so meanly paid, that for the means of subsistence, as he says himself, he was compelled to devote himself to engraving. How far more such a man as Duerer would have been appreciated in Italy or in the Netherlands is further evidenced in the above-mentioned writing, where he states that he was offered 200 ducats a year in Venice and 300 Philips-gulden in Antwerp, if he would settle in either of those cities. And Holbein fared still worse: there is no evidence whatever that any German prince ever troubled himself at all about the great painter while at Basle, and his art was so little cared for that necessity compelled him to go to England, where a genius fitted for the highest undertakings of historical painting was limited to the sphere of portraiture. The crowning impediments finally, which hindered the progress of German art, and perverted it from its true aim, were the Reformation, which narrowed the sphere of ecclesiastical works, and the pernicious imitation of the great Italian masters which ensued.
LUCAS CRANACH, born in 1472, received his first instructions in art from his father, his later teaching probably from Matthew Grunewald. In some instances he attained to the expression of dignity, earnestness and feeling, but generally his characteristics are a naive and childlike cheerfulness and a gentle and almost timid grace. The impression produced by his style of representation reminds one of the "Volksbuecher" and "Volkslieder." Many of his church pictures have a very peculiar significance: in these he stands forth properly speaking as the painter of the Reformation. Intimate both with Luther and Melanchthon, he seizes on the central aim of their doctrine, viz., the insufficiency of good works and the sole efficacy of faith. His mythological subjects appeal directly to the eye like real portraits; and sometimes also by means of a certain grace and naivete of motive. We may cite as an instance the Diana seated on a stag in a small picture at Berlin, No. 564. The Fountain of Youth, also at Berlin, No. 593, is a picture of peculiar character; a large basin surrounded by steps and with a richly adorned fountain forms the centre. On one side, where the country is stony and barren, a multitude of old women are dragged forward on horses, waggons or carriages, and with much trouble are got into the water. On the other side of the fountain they appear as young maidens splashing about and amusing themselves with all kinds of playful mischief; close by is a large pavilion into which a herald courteously invites them to enter and where they are arrayed in costly apparel. A feast is prepared in a smiling meadow, which seems to be followed by a dance; the gay crowd loses itself in a neighbouring grove. The men unfortunately have not become young, and retain their grey beards. The picture is of the year 1546, the seventy-fourth of Cranach's age.
ALBERT ALTDORFER was born 1488 at Altdorf, near Landshuth, in Bavaria, and settled at Ratisbon, where he died 1528. He invested the fantastic tendency of the time with a poetic feeling—especially in landscape—and he developed it so as to attain a perfection in this sort of romantic painting that no other artist had reached. In his later period he was strongly influenced by Italian art. Altdorfer's principal work is in the Munich Gallery, and is thus described by Schlegel:—
"It represents the Victory of Alexander the Great over Darius; the costume is that of the artist's own day, as it would be treated in the chivalrous poems of the middle ages—man and horse are sheathed in plate and mail, with surcoats of gold or embroidery; the chamfrons upon the heads of the horses, the glittering lances and stirrups, and the variety of the weapons, form altogether a scene of indescribable splendour and richness.... It is, in truth, a little world on a few square feet of canvas; the hosts of combatants who advance on all sides against each other are innumerable, and the view into the background appears interminable. In the distance is the ocean, with high rocks and a rugged island between them; ships of war appear in the offing and a whole fleet of vessels—on the left the moon is setting—on the right the sun rising—both shining through the opening clouds—a clear and striking image of the events represented. The armies are arranged in rank and column without the strange attitudes, contrasts, and distortions generally exhibited in so-called battle-pieces. How indeed would this have been possible with such a vast multitude of figures? The whole is in the plain and severe, or it may be the stiff manner of the old style. At the same time the character and execution of these little figures is most masterly and profound. And what variety, what expression there is, not merely in the character of the single warriors and knights, but in the hosts themselves! Here crowds of black archers rush down troop after troop from the mountain with the rage of a foaming torrent; on the other side high upon the rocks in the far distance a scattered crowd of flying men are turning round in a defile. The point of the greatest interest stands out brilliantly from the centre of the whole—Alexander and Darius both in armour of burnished gold; Alexander on Bucephalus with his lance in rest advances before his men and presses on the flying Darius, whose charioteer has already fallen on his white horses, and who looks back upon his conqueror with all the despair of a vanquished monarch."
ALBERT DUeRER (1471-1528), by his overpowering genius, may be called the sole representative of German art of his period. He was gifted with a power of conception which traced nature through all her finest shades, and with a lively sense, as well for the solemn and the sublime, as for simple grace and tenderness; above all, he had an earnest and truthful feeling in art united with a capacity for the most earnest study. These qualities were sufficient to place him by the side of the greatest artists whom the world has ever seen.
One of the earliest portraits by Albert Duerer known to us is that of his father, Albert Duerer, the goldsmith, dated 1497, in our National Gallery. In the year 1644, another version of this picture, which was engraved by Hollar, was in the collection of the Earl of Arundel, and is now in that of the Duke of Northumberland, at Syon House. Of about the same time—that is to say, before 1500—are the portraits of Oswald Krell, at Munich, of Frederick the Wise, at Berlin, and of himself, at the Prado.
Several of Albert Duerer's pictures of the year 1500 are known to us. The first and most important is his own portrait in the Munich Gallery, which represents him full face with his hand laid on the fur trimming of his robe.
His finest picture of the year 1504 is an Adoration of the Kings, originally painted for Frederick the Wise, Elector of Saxony, subsequently presented by the Elector Christian II. to the Emperor Rudolph II., and finally, on the occasion of an exchange of pictures, transferred from Vienna to Florence, where it now hangs in the Tribune of the Uffizi. The heads are of thoroughly realistic treatment; the Virgin a portrait from some model of no attractive character; the second King a portrait of the painter himself. The landscape background exactly resembles that in the well-known engraving of S. Eustace, the period of which is thus pretty nearly defined. It is carefully painted in a fine body of colour.
In 1505 Duerer made a second journey into Upper Italy, and remained a considerable time at Venice. Of his occupations in this city the letters written to his friend Wilibald Pirckheimer which have come down to us give many interesting particulars. He there executed for the German Company a picture known as The Feast of Rose Garlands, which brought him great fame, and by its brilliant colouring silenced the assertion of his envious adversaries "that he was a good engraver, but knew not how to deal with colours." In the centre of a landscape is the Virgin seated with the Child and crowned by two angels; on her right is a Pope with priests kneeling; on her left the Emperor Maximilian I. with knights; various members of the German Company are also kneeling; all are being crowned with garlands of roses by the Virgin, the Child, S. Dominick—who stands behind the Virgin—and by angels. The painter and his friend Pirckheimer are seen standing in the background on the right; the painter holds a tablet with the inscription, "Albertus Duerer Germanus, MDVI." This picture, which is one of his largest and finest, was purchased from the church at a high price by the Emperor Rudolph II. for his gallery at Prague, where it remained until sold in 1782 by the Emperor Joseph II. It then became the property of the Praemonstratensian monastery of Stratow at Prague, where it still exists, though in very injured condition and greatly over-painted. In the Imperial Gallery at Vienna may be seen an old copy which conveys a better idea of the picture than the original.
With these productions begins the zenith of this master's fame, in which a great number of works follow one another within a short period. Of these we first notice a picture of 1508, in the Imperial Gallery at Vienna, painted for Duke Frederick of Saxony, and which afterwards adorned the gallery of the Emperor Rudolph II. It represents The Martyrdom of the Ten Thousand Saints. In the centre of the picture stand the master and his friend Pirckheimer as spectators, both in black dresses. Duerer has a mantle thrown over his shoulder in the Italian fashion, and stands in a firm attitude. He folds his hands and holds a small flag, on which is inscribed, "Iste faciebat anno domini 1508 Albertus Duerer Alemanus." There are a multitude of single groups exhibiting every species of martyrdom, but there is a want of general connection of the whole. The scenes in the background, where the Christians are led naked up the rocks, and are precipitated down from the top, are particularly excellent. The whole is very minute and miniature-like; the colouring is beautifully brilliant, and it is painted (the accessories particularly) with extraordinary care.
To 1511 belongs also one of his most celebrated pictures, The Adoration of the Trinity, which is also at Vienna, painted for the chapel of the Landauer Bruederhaus in Nuremberg. Above in the centre of the picture are seen the First Person, who holds the Saviour in his arms, while the Holy Spirit is seen above; some angels spread out the priestly mantle of the Almighty, whilst others hover near with the instruments of Christ's passion. On the left hand a little lower down is a choir of females with the Virgin at their head; on the right are the male saints with St John the Baptist. Below all these kneel a host of the blessed of all ranks and nations extending over the whole of this part of the picture. Underneath the whole is a beautiful landscape, and in a corner of the picture the artist himself richly clothed in a fur mantle, with a tablet next him with the words, "Albertus Duerer Noricus faciebat anno a Virginis partu, 1511." It may be assumed beyond doubt that he held in particular esteem those pictures into which he introduced his own portrait.
In the Vienna Gallery is also a picture of the year 1512, the Virgin holding the naked Child in her arms. She has a veil over her head and blue drapery. Her face is of the form usual with Albert Duerer, but of a soft and maidenly character; the Child is beautiful—the countenance particularly so. It is painted with exceeding delicacy of finish.
Two altar-pieces of his earliest period must be mentioned. One is in the Dresden Gallery, consisting of three pictures painted in tempera on canvas, representing the Virgin, S. Anthony, and S. Sebastian respectively. Although this is probably one of his very earliest works, it is remarkable for the novelty of its treatment and its independence of tradition.
The other, a little later, is in the Munich Gallery (Nos. 240-3), painted at the request of the Paumgartner family, for S. Catherine's Church at Nuremberg, was brought to Munich in 1612 by Maximilian I. The subject of the middle picture is the Nativity; the Child is in the centre, surrounded by little angels, whilst the Virgin and Joseph kneel at the side. The wings contain portraits of the two donors under the form of S. George and S. Eustace represented as knights in steel armour, each with his standard, and the former holding the slain dragon.
The year 1526 was distinguished by the two pictures of the four Apostles: John and Peter, Mark and Paul; the figures are the size of life. These, which are the master's grandest work, and the last of importance executed by him, are now in the Munich Gallery. We know with certainty that they were presented by Albert Duerer himself to the council of his native city in remembrance of his career as an artist, and at the same time as conveying to his fellow-citizens an earnest and lasting exhortation suited to that stormy period. In the year 1627, however, the pictures were allowed to pass into the hands of the Elector Maximilian I. of Bavaria. The inscriptions selected by the painter himself might have given offence to a Catholic prince, and were therefore cut off and joined to the copies by John Fischer, which were intended to indemnify the city of Nuremberg for the loss of the originals. These copies are still in the collection of the Landauer Bruederhaus at Nuremberg.
These pictures are the fruit of the deepest thought which then stirred the mind of Albert Duerer, and are executed with overpowering force. Finished as they are, they form the first complete work of art produced by Protestantism. As the inscription taken from the Gospels and Epistles of the Apostles contains pressing warnings not to swerve from the word of God, nor to believe in the doctrines of false prophets, so the figures themselves represent the steadfast and faithful guardians of that holy Scripture which they bear in their hands. There is also an old tradition, handed down from the master's own times, that these figures represent the four temperaments. This is confirmed by the pictures themselves; and though at first sight it may appear to rest on a mere accidental combination, it serves to carry out more completely the artist's thought, and gives to the figures greater individuality. It shows how every quality of the human mind may be called into the service of the Divine Word. Thus in the first picture, we see the whole force of the mind absorbed in contemplation, and we are taught that true watchfulness in behalf of the Scripture must begin by devotion to its study.
S. John stands in front, the open book in his hand; his high forehead and his whole countenance bear the impress of earnest and deep thought. This is the melancholic temperament, which does not shrink from the most profound inquiry. Behind him S. Peter bends over the book, and gazes earnestly at its contents—a hoary head, full of meditative repose. This figure represents the phlegmatic temperament, which reviews its own thoughts in tranquil reflection. The second picture shows the outward operation of the conviction thus attained and its relation to daily life. S. Mark in the background is the man of sanguine temperament; he looks boldly round, and appears to speak to his hearers with animation, earnestly urging them to share those advantages which he has himself derived from the Holy Scriptures. S. Paul, on the contrary, in the foreground, holds the book and sword in his hands; he looks angrily and severely over his shoulder, ready to defend the Word, and to annihilate the blasphemer with the sword of God's power. He is the representative of the choleric temperament.
We know of no important work of a later date than that just described. His portrait in a woodcut of the year 1527 represents him earnest and serious in demeanour, as would naturally follow from his advancing age and the pressure of eventful times. His head is no longer adorned with those richly flowing locks, on which in his earlier days he had set so high a value, as we learn from his pictures and from jests still recorded of him. With the departure of Hans Holbein to England in 1528 and the death of Albert Duerer in the same year, that excellence to which they had raised German art passed away, and centuries saw no sign of its revival.
Of HANS HOLBEIN, born at Augsburg in 1498, we shall have more to say in a later chapter, when considering the origins of English portraiture. But as in the case of Van Dyck, and in fact of every great portrait painter, his excellence in this particular branch of his art was but one result of his being a born artist and first exercising his talents in a much wider field. In Holbein the realistic tendency of the German School attained its highest development, and he may, next to Duerer, be pronounced the greatest master in it. While Duerer's art exhibits a close affinity with the religious ideas of the Middle Ages, Holbein appears to have been imbued with more modern and more material sentiments, and accordingly we find him excelling Duerer in closeness and delicacy of observation in the delineation of nature. A proof of this is afforded by the evidence of Erasmus, who said that as regards the portraits painted of him by both these artists, that by Holbein was the most like. In feeling for beauty of form, also in grace of movement, in colouring, and in the actual art of painting—in which his father had thoroughly instructed him—Holbein is to be placed above Duerer. That he did not rival the great Italians of his time in "historical" painting can only be ascribed to the circumstances of his life in Germany, where such subjects were not in fashion.
Of his pictures executed before he left his native country the greater number are at Basle and Augsburg, and are therefore less familiar to the general public than his later works. A notable exception is the famous Meyer Madonna, the original of which is at Darmstadt, but a version now relegated, somewhat harshly, to the "copyist" is in the Dresden Gallery, and certainly exhibits as much of the spirit of the master as will serve for an example of his powers. It represents the Virgin as Queen of Heaven, standing in a niche, with the Child in her arms, and with the family of the Burgomaster Jacob Meyer of Basle kneeling on either side of her. With the utmost life and truth to nature, which brings these kneeling figures actually into our presence, says Kugler, there is combined in a most exquisite degree an expression of great earnestness, as if the mind were fixed on some lofty object. This is shown not merely by the introduction of divine beings into the circle of human sympathies, but particularly in the relation so skilfully indicated between the Holy Virgin and her worshippers, and in her manifest desire to communicate to those who are around her the sacred peace and tranquillity expressed in her own countenance and attitude, and implied in the infantine grace of the Saviour. In the direct union of the divine with the human, and in their reciprocal harmony, there is involved a devout and earnest purity of feeling such as only the older masters were capable of representing.
Another of his most beautiful pictures painted in Germany is the portrait of Erasmus, dated 1523. This was sent by Erasmus to Sir Thomas More, at Chelsea, with a letter recommending Holbein to his care, and as it is still in this country—in the collection of the Earl of Radnor at Longford Castle—it is not perhaps too much to hope that it may one of these days find its way into the National Gallery—perhaps when the alterations to the front entrance are completed. This picture has for a very long time been regarded as one of Holbein's very finest portraits. Mr W. Barclay Squire, in the sumptuous catalogue of the Radnor collection compiled by him, quotes the opinion of Sir William Musgrave, written in 1785, "I am not sure whether it is not the finest I have seen"; and that of Dr Waagen, "Alone worth a pilgrimage to Longford. Seldom has a painter so fully succeeded in bringing to view the whole character of so original a mind as in this instance. In the mouth and small eyes may be seen the unspeakable studies of a long life ... the face also expresses the sagacity and knowledge of a life gained by long experience ... the masterly and careful execution extends to every portion ... yet the face surpasses everything else in delicacy of modelling."
Cruel, indeed, was England to have transplanted the one artist who might have saved Germany from the artistic destitution from which she has suffered ever since!
THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY
When we consider the peculiar beauty of the architecture and ecclesiastical sculpture in France during the Middle Ages and the period of the renaissance, and of the enamels, ivories, and other small works of art, it is wrong to regret that painting was not also practised by the French as assiduously as it was in Italy. For there can be no doubt that in being confined to one channel the artistic impulses of a people cut deeper than if dissipated in various directions. We may suppose, indeed, that if those of the French had found their outlet in painting alone, we should have pictures of wonderful beauty, of a beauty moreover of a markedly different kind from that of the Italian or Spanish or Netherlandish pictures. But on the other hand we should have perhaps lost the amazing fascination of Chartres, and the delights of Limoges enamel and ivories.
As it happens, the earliest mention to be made of painting in France is the arrival of Leonardo da Vinci at Amboise in 1516, whither he had come from Milan in the train of the young king Francois I. Unfortunately he was by this time sixty-four years old, and in less than three years he died. At about the same time there was a court painter in the employment of Francois—under the official designation of varlet de chambre—named JEHAN CLOUET, who is supposed to have been of Flemish extraction. Nothing very definite is known about him or his work, but he had a son FRANCOIS CLOUET, who seems to have been born at about the time of Leonardo's arrival, and who succeeded to his father's office. At the funeral of Francois I. in 1547 he was ordered to make an effige du dict feu roy, and he continued to be the official court painter to Henri II. (whose posthumous portrait he was also ordered to paint), Francois II., and Charles IX. He died in 1572. Every portrait of this period is attributed to him, just as was the case with Holbein in England. Neither of the two examples at the National Gallery can be safely ascribed to him. The little head of the Emperor Charles V., king of Spain, at Hereford House, is identical in style and in dimensions with that of Francis I., king of France, in the Museum at Lyons, which is attributed to Jean Clouet. Both may have been painted when Charles V. passed through Paris in 1539, but whether by Jean or one of his disciples cannot be said with certainty.
Not until the very end of the sixteenth century were born Claude Gellee and Nicholas Poussin, the only two Frenchmen who were painters of considerable importance before the close of the seventeenth. Nor did either of these two contribute anything to the glory of their country by practice or by precept within its confines, both of them passing most of their lives and painting their best works in Italy and under Italian influence.
NICHOLAS POUSSIN was born at Villiers near Les Andelys on the banks of the Seine, in 1594, where he studied for some time under Quentin Varin till he was eighteen. After this he was in Paris, but in 1624 he went to Rome where he lived with Du Quesnoy. His first success was obtained by the execution of two historical pieces which were commissioned by Cardinal Barberini on his return from an Embassy to France. These were The Death of Germanicus and The Capture of Jerusalem. His next works were The Martyrdom of S. Erasmus, The Plague at Ashdod, of which a replica is in the National Gallery, and The Seven Sacraments now at Belvoir Castle. By these he acquired such fame that on his return to Paris in 1640, Louis XIII. appointed him royal painter, and in order to keep him at home provided him with apartments in the Tuileries and a salary of L120 a year. Within two years, however, Poussin was back in Rome, and after twenty-three years' unbroken success died there in 1665 in his seventy-second year.
Poussin was a most conscientious painter, devoting himself seriously in his earlier years to the study both of the antique and of practical anatomy. Besides being the intimate friend of Du Quesnoy, he was a devout pupil of Domenichino, for whom he had the greatest reverence. It is not surprising therefore to find in his earlier works, such as the Plague at Ashdod, a certain academic dulness and lack of spontaneity. He was not the forerunner of a new epoch, but one of the last upholders of the old. He was trying to arrest decay, to infuse a healthier spirit into a declining art, so that he errs on the side of correctness. The influence of Titian, however, was too strong for him to remain long within the narrowest limits, as may be seen in the Bacchanalian Dance, No. 62 in the National Gallery, which was probably one of a series painted for Cardinal Richelieu during the short time that Poussin was in Paris in 1641. In this and in No. 42, the Bacchanalian Festival as well as in The Shepherds in Arcadia, in the Louvre, we get a surprisingly strong reminiscence of Titian, more especially in the brown tones of the flesh and the deep blue of the sky.
As the result of conscientious study of the human body the figures in these pictures are full of life—for correctness of drawing is the first requisite of lively painting without which all the others are useless. The fact that over two hundred prints have been engraved after his pictures is a proof of his popularity at one time or another, and though at the present time his reputation is not as widely recognised as in former years, it is certainly as high among those whose judgment is independent of passing fashions. As evidence of the soundness of his principles, the following is perhaps worth quoting:—
"There are nine things in painting," Poussin wrote in a letter to M. de Chambrai, the author of a treatise on painting, "which can never be taught and which are essential to that art. To begin with, the subject of it should be noble, and receive no quality from the person who treats it; and to give opportunity to the painter to show his talents and his industry it must be chosen as capable of receiving the most excellent form. A painter should begin with disposition (or as we should say, composition), the ornament should follow, their agreement of the parts, beauty, grace, spirit, costume, regard to nature and probability; and above all, judgment. This last must be in the painter himself and cannot be taught. It is the golden bough of Virgil that no one can either find or pluck unless his lucky star conducts him to it."
GASPAR POUSSIN, whose name was really Gaspard Dughet, was brother-in-law of Nicholas, and acquired his name from being his pupil. He was nineteen years his junior, and survived him by ten years. He was born in Rome of French parents, and died there in 1675, and though he travelled a good deal in Italy he never appears to have visited France. His Italian landscapes are very beautiful, and we are fortunate in the possession of one which is considered his best, No. 31 in the National Gallery, Landscape with Figures, Abraham and Isaac. Scarcely less fine is the Calling of Abraham, No. 1159, especially in the middle and far distance. The sacred figures, it may as well be said, are of little concern in the compositions, though useful for purposes of identifying the pictures.
CLAUDE GELLEE, nowadays usually spoken of as Claude, was born at Chamagne in Lorraine in 1600. Accordingly he has been styled Claude Lorraine, le Lorraine, de Lorrain, Lorrain, or Claudio Lorrenese with wonderful persistency through the ages, though there was no mystery about his surname and it would have served just as well. He was brought up in his father's profession of pastrycook, and in that capacity he went to Rome seeking for employment. As it happened he found it in the house of a landscape painter, Agostino Tassi, who had been a pupil of Paul Bril, and he not only cooked for him but mixed his colours as well, and soon became his pupil. Later he was studying under a German painter, Gottfried Wals, at Naples. A more important influence on him, however, was that of Joachim Sandrart, one of the best of the later German painters, whom he met in Rome.
Claude's earliest pictures of any importance were two which were painted for Pope Urban VII. in 1639, when he was just upon forty years old. These are the Village Dance and the Seaport, now in the Louvre. The Seaport at Sunset and Narcissus and Echo in the National Gallery (Nos. 5 and 19) are dated 1644—the former on the canvas and the latter on the sketch for it in the Liber Veritatis, where it is stated that it was painted for an English patron.
The Liber Veritatis, it should be observed, is the title given to a portfolio of over two hundred drawings in pen and bistre, or Indian ink, which is now in the possession of the Duke of Devonshire. Most of these were made from pictures which had been painted, not as sketches or designs preparatory to painting them, and in some instances there are notes on the back of them giving the date, purchaser, and other particulars relating to them. So great was the vogue for Claude's landscapes in England during the eighteenth century that as early as 1730 or 1740 a good many of his drawings, which had been collected by Jonathan Richardson, Dr. Mead and others, were engraved by Arthur Pond and John Knapton; and in 1777 a series of about two hundred of the Duke of Devonshire's drawings was published by Alderman Boydell, which had been etched and mezzotinted by Richard Earlom, under the title of Liber Veritatis. This was the model on which Turner founded the publication of his own sketches under the title of Liber Studiorum. Thus, if Claude exerted little influence on the art of his own country, it can hardly be said that he exerted none elsewhere, for Turner was by no means the first Englishman to fall under his spell. Richard Wilson, the first English landscape painter, was undoubtedly influenced by him, both from an acquaintance with his drawings in English collections and from the study of his works when in Rome.
In this connection we may consider the two landscapes, numbered 12 and 14 in the National Gallery Catalogue, as our most important examples by this master, for Turner bequeathed to the nation his two most important pictures The Sun Rising Through a Vapour and Dido Building Carthage, on condition that they should be hung between these two by Claude. The Court of Chancery could annul the condition, but they could not nullify the effect of Claude's influence on Turner or alter the judgment of posterity with regard to the relations of the two painters to each other and to art in general, and the Director has wisely observed the wishes of Turner in still hanging the four pictures together, the Court of Chancery notwithstanding. Both of Claude's are inscribed, besides being signed and dated, as follows:
No. 12. Mariage d'Isaac avec Rebeca, Claudio Gil. inv. Romae 1648.
No. 14. La Reine de Saba va trover Salomon. Clavde Gil. inv. faict pour son altesse le duc de Buillon a Roma 1648.
Both pictures are familiar in various engravings of them, and though the present fashion leads many people in other directions, there can be no doubt that the appreciation of Claude in this country is never likely to die out, and is only waiting for a turn of the wheel to revive with increased vigour.
Meantime, however, France was not entirely destitute of painters, and though without Claude, Poussin or Dughet, who preferred to exercise their art in Rome, she anticipated England by over a century in that most important step, the foundation of an Academy of Painting. Not many of the names of its original members ever became famous—as may be said in our own country—but among them was SEBASTIEN BOURDON (1616-1671), whose work was so much admired by Sir Joshua Reynolds. Bourdon, also, wandered away from France; within four years after the foundation of the Academy, namely, in 1652, he went to Stockholm, and was appointed principal painter to Queen Christina. On her abdication, however, in 1663, he returned to Paris, and enjoyed a great success in painting landscapes, and historical subjects. The Return of the Ark from Captivity, No. 64 in the National Gallery Catalogue, was presented by that distinguished patron of the arts, Sir George Beaumont, to whom it was bequeathed by Sir Joshua Reynolds, as being one of his most treasured possessions. "I cannot quit this subject," he writes in the fourteenth Discourse, alluding to poetry in landscape, "without mentioning two examples, which occur to me at present, in which the poetical style of landscape may be seen happily executed; the one is Jacob's Dream, by Salvator Rosa, and the other, The Return of the Ark from Captivity, by Sebastian Bourdon. With whatever dignity those histories are presented to us in the language of scripture, this style of painting possesses the same power of inspiring sentiments of grandeur and sublimity, and is able to communicate them to subjects which appear by no means adapted to receive them. A ladder against the sky has no very promising appearance of possessing a capacity to excite any heroic ideas, and the Ark in the hands of a second-rate master would have little more effect than a common waggon on the highway; yet those subjects are so poetically treated throughout, the parts have such a correspondence with each other, and the whole and every part of the scene is so visionary, that it is impossible to look at them without feeling in some measure the enthusiasm which seems to have inspired the painters."
EUSTACHE LE SUEUR, born in the same year as Sebastien Bourdon (1616), was another of the original members of the Academy, and was employed by the King at the Louvre. His most famous work was the decorations of the cloister at the monastery of La Chartreuse (now in the Louvre) of which Horace Walpole speaks so ecstatically in the preface to the last volume of the Anecdotes of Painting. "The last scene of S. Bruno expiring" (he writes) "in which are expressed all the stages of devotion from the youngest mind impressed with fear to the composed resignation of the Prior, is perhaps inferior to no single picture of the greatest master. If Raphael died young, so did Le Sueur; the former had seen the antique, the latter only prints from Raphael; yet in the Chartreuse, what airs of heads! What harmony of colouring! What aerial perspective! How Grecian the simplicity of architecture and drapery! How diversified a single quadrangle though the life of a hermit be the only subject, and devotion the only pathetic!"
PHILIPPE DE CHAMPAIGNE was another of the original members. He was born at Brussels in 1602, and did not come to Paris till 1621, where he was soon afterwards employed in the decoration of the Luxembourg Palace. But he was chiefly a portrait painter, his principal works being the fine full-length of Cardinal Richelieu, and another of his daughter as a nun of Port Royal, both of which are in the Louvre. There are four in the Wallace Collection, but perhaps the most familiar to the English public is the canvas at the National Gallery (No. 798), painted for the Roman sculptor Mocchi, to make a bust from, with a full face and two profiles of Richelieu. As a portrait this is exceedingly interesting, the more so from having an inscription over one of the heads, "de ces deux profiles cecy est le meilleur." The full length of the Cardinal presented by Mr. Charles Butler in 1895 (No. 1449), is a good example, which cannot however but suffer by juxtaposition with more accomplished works.
But it was not until the close of the seventeenth century that portrait painting in France became anything like a fine art, and even then it did not get beyond being formal and magnificent. The two principal exponents were HYACINTHE RIGAUD and NICOLAS LARGILLIERE, both of whose works have a sort of grandeur but little subtlety or charm.
Rigaud was born in 1659, at Perpignan in the extreme south of France, and studied at Montpelier in his youth, then at Lyons on his way to Paris—much as a Scottish artist might have studied first at Glasgow, then at Birmingham on his way to London. On the advice of Lebrun he devoted himself specially to portrait painting, which he did with such success that in 1700 he was elected a member of the Academy. He painted Louis XIV. more often than Largilliere or any other painter, and in his later years (he lived till 1743) Louis XV. his great-grandson. He is said to have shared with Kneller the distinction, such as it may be, of having painted at least five monarchs.
Rigaud is best known in these days by the fine prints after his portraits by the French engravers. Of his brushwork we are only able to judge by the two doubtful versions at the National Gallery and the Wallace Collection respectively, of the fine portrait at Versailles of Cardinal Fleury. The group of Lulli and the Musicians of the French Court, which was purchased for the National Gallery in 1906 is not by him, and it is difficult to understand why the public money should have been wasted on it, or at least on the inscription attributing it to him.
Nicolas de Largilliere was three years older than Rigaud and survived him by another three. He was born in Paris in 1656 and died six months before completing his ninetieth year. Early in life he went as a pupil to Antwerp, under Antoine Goubeau, and he is said to have worked in England as an assistant to Sir Peter Lely during the later years of that master. On his return to France he was received into the Royal Academy—in 1686.
In the Wallace Collection is an interesting example of his work, the large group of the French Royal Family, in which four living generations are portrayed and the bronze effigies of two more. Henri IV. and Louis XIII., the grandfather and father of the reigning monarch, Louis XIV., the Dauphin his son, the Duc de Bourgogne his grandson, and the Duc d'Anjou, his great-grandson—afterwards Louis XV., are all included in this formal group, which is a useful lesson in history as well as in painting.
THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY
ANTOINE WATTEAU was born at Valenciennes in 1684, and died near there about thirty-seven years later of consumption. Valenciennes really belonged to Flanders, and had only lately been annexed to France, so that Watteau owed something of his art to Flemish rather than to French sources. At the same time it cannot be said that his development would have been the same if he had gone to Brussels or Antwerp instead of to Paris to study, for though the works of Rubens and Van Dyck were from his earliest years his chief attraction, the influence of the French artist Claude Gillot, as well as that of Audran, the keeper of the Luxembourg Palace, without doubt exerted a very decided help in determining the future course of his work.
When living with Audran, Watteau had every opportunity for studying the works of the older masters, especially those of Rubens, whose decorations, executed for Marie de Medici, had not at that time been removed to the Louvre. Besides copying from these older pictures, Watteau was employed by Audran in the execution of designs for wall decorations, etc.
Watteau's two earliest pictures still in existence are supposed to be the Depart de Troupe and the Halte d'Armee, which were the first of a series of military pictures on a small scale. To an early period also belong the Accordee de Village, at the Soane Museum in Lincoln's Inn Fields, the Mariee de Village at Potsdam, and the Wedding Festivities in the Dublin National Gallery.
In 1712 other influences began to work upon him. In this year he came into contact with Crozat, the famous collector, in whose house he became familiar with a fresh batch of the Flemish and Italian masterpieces. It was at this time that he was approved by the Royal Academy, though he took five years over his Diploma picture, "Embarquement pour l'Ile de Cythere," which is now in the Louvre. Meantime the influence of Rubens and the Italian masters—especially the Venetians, had greatly widened and deepened his art, and these influences, acting on his peculiarly sensitive temperament and poetical spirit, had a magical effect, transforming the actual scenes of Paris and Versailles, which he painted into enchanted places in
fairyland, as he transformed the formal actual painting of the period of Louis XIV. into the romantic school of the eighteenth century in France. The setting of the famous pictures in the Wallace Collection, catalogued as The Music-Party or Les Charnes de la Vie (No. 410), is a view of the Champs Elysees taken from the gallery of the Tuileries. Who would have thought it? And what does it matter, except to show how entirely Watteau revolutionized the pompous and prosaic methods of his time by investing the actual with poetry and romance.
Two other pictures at Hertford House, Nos. 389 and 391, were painted in the Champs Elysees, and the figures are, for the most part, the same in both, all three of these pictures are fine examples of the artist's power of broad and spirited treatment, combined with extreme delicacy and refinement of conception.
Three other pictures at Hertford House are equally delightful examples of another class of subject, namely groups of figures dressed in the parts of actors in Italian comedy. From a note in the Catalogue we learn that a company of Italian comedians were in Paris in the sixteenth century, but were banished by Louis Quatorze in 1697 for a supposed affront to Madame de Maintenon. In 1716, however, they were recalled by the Regent, the Duc d'Orleans, and became once more the delight of Paris. Several of the figures in the Italian comedy had already passed into French popular drama, and in Watteau's time there seems to have been a fluctuating company, according as one actor or actress or another developed a part, and to Pantalone, Arlecchino, Dottore and Columbina were now added Pierrot—or Gilles—Mezetin, a sort of double of Pierrot, Scaramouche and Scapin. The vague web of courtship, dalliance, intrigue and jealousy called up by these characters attracted Watteau to employ them in his compositions, and to make them also the medium of the more sincere sentiments of conjugal love and friendship,—as in The Music Lesson, Gilles and his Family and Harlequin and Columbine, at Hertford House. All of these three were engraved in Watteau's life-time or shortly after his death, and the verses sub-joined to the engravings are a charming rendering of the sentiment underlying the pictures.
In The Music Lesson we see the half length figures of a lady, seated, reading a music book, and of a man playing a lute opposite to her. Another man looks at the book over the lady's shoulder, and two little children's faces appear at her knee. The verses are as follows:—
Pour nous prouver que cette belle Trouve l'hymen un noeud fort doux Le peintre nous la peint fidelle A suivre le ton d'un Epoux.
Les enfants qui sont autour d'elle Sont les fruits de son tendre amour Dont ce beau joueur de prunelle Pouvait bien gouter quelque jour.
In Gilles and his Family we have a three-quarter length full-face portrait of le Sieur de Sirois, a friend of Watteau, with these verses under the engraving:—
Sous un habit de mezzetin Ce gros brun au riant visage Sur la guitarre avec sa main Fait un aimable badinage.
Par les doux accords de sa voix Enfants d'une bouche vermeille Du beau sexe tant a la fois Il charme les yeux et l'oreille.
In the little Lady at her Toilet (No. 439) we see the influence of Paul Veronese, though it is probable that this was not painted until he visited London in the later part of his short life. For there is a similar piece called La Toilette du Matin which was engraved by a French artist who had settled in England, Philip Mercier, and on whose work the influence of Watteau is very noticeable.
Le Rendez-vous de Chasse (No. 416), which is of the same size, and in character similar to Les Amusements Champetres (No. 391), is the last by Watteau of which we have any certain knowledge. It was painted in 1720, the year before his death, when his health prevented him from making any sustained effort. It is said to have been a commission from his friends M. and Mme. de Julienne, in whose shooting-box at Saint Maur, between the woods of Vincennes and the river, he went to repose from time to time.
NICHOLAS LANCRET was only by six years Watteau's junior, so that he can hardly be considered as a pupil or even a disciple, but only as an imitator of Watteau. He was the pupil of Claude Gillot, and afterwards his assistant, and it was not unnatural that a close friendship should have been formed between Lancret and Watteau, or that it should have been dissolved by the deliberate imitation by the former of the latter's style—seeing how successful the imitation was. Two of the pictures by Lancret at Hertford House, Nos. 422, Conversation Galante and 440, Fete in a Wood, are fair examples of how close, at one period of his career, the imitation became. The latter is the Bal dans un Bois which was exhibited at the Place Dauphine, and was complained of by Watteau on account of its close resemblance to his own work.
Another in the Wallace Collection belongs to the same early period of Watteau's influence. The Italian Comedians by a Fountain (No. 465), being attributed to Watteau in the sale, in 1853, at which it was bought for Lord Hertford. His lordship was particularly anxious to secure this picture, "Between you and I," he writes, with the quaint regardlessness of grammar peculiar to the Victorian nobility, "(and to no other person but you should I make this confidence), I must have the Lancret called Watteau in the Standish Collection. So I depend upon you for getting it for me. I need not beg you not to mention a word about this to anybody, either before or after the sale." And again, "I depend upon your getting the Lancret (Watteau in the Catalogue) for me. I have no doubt it will sell for a good sum, most likely more than it is worth, but we must have it ... I leave it to you, but I must have it, unless by some unheard of chance it was to go beyond 3000 guineas." He was fortunate indeed in getting it for L735.
Mademoiselle Camargo Dancing (No. 393), and La Belle Grecque (No. 450), in the Wallace Collection, are good examples of the Comedian motive treated with more actuality, yet with no less grace. The four little allegorical pieces in the National Gallery, The Four Ages of Man, are more lively if less romantic, being composed more for the characters illustrating the subject than for poetical setting.
JEAN BAPTISE JOSEPH PATER was actually a pupil of Watteau. He was ten years his junior, but was equally unhappy on account of his health, and died at forty. Like Lancret, he incurred Watteau's displeasure for a similar reason, though in his case it was rather the fear of what he would do than what he did that was the cause of Watteau's displeasure. At the same time, the names of both Lancret and Pater are inseparable from that of Watteau in the history of painting, and, both in their choice of subject and their treatment of it, they are hardly distinguishable to the casual observer. Watteau, it need hardly be said, was far above the other two, but it was fortunate indeed that his romantic genius had two such gifted imitators as Lancret and Pater—or to put it the other way, that they had such a master to imitate, without whom neither their work nor their influence would have been nearly as great as it was.
FRANCOIS BOUCHER, though doubtless influenced by Watteau, more especially at the outset of his brilliant career, was nevertheless independent of him in carrying forward the art painting in his country, choosing rather to revert to the patronage of the Court like his predecessors Le Brun, Rigaud, and Largilliere than to devote himself to the expression of his own ideas and feelings. Being a pupil of Francois Le Moine, whose principal work was the decoration of Versailles, it is not unnatural that Boucher should have succumbed to the influence of Royalty, especially when exerted in his favour by as charming and as powerful an agent as Madame de Pompadour. Another early influence which shaped his artistic tendencies as well as his fortunes was that of Carle van Loo, in whose honour his countrymen coined the verb vanlotiser—to frivol agreeably—- on account of the popularity which he achieved as a painter of elegant trifles. There is a picture by Carle van Loo in the Wallace Collection entitled The Grand Turk giving a Concert to his Mistress (No. 451), painted in 1737, which is a fair example of his proficiency in this direction, and there are one or two portraits scattered about the country which he painted when over here for a few months towards the end of his life. He died in Paris on the 15th July 1765, and Boucher was immediately appointed his successor as principal painter to Louis XV.
Madame de Pompadour was more than a patron to him, she was a matron! She made an intimate friend and adviser of him, and it is to her that he owed most of his advancement at Court, which continued after her death. The full-length portrait of her at Hertford House (No. 418) was commissioned by her in 1759, and remained in her possession till her death in 1764. It was purchased by Lord Hertford in 1868 for 28,000 francs. In the Jones Collection at the South Kensington Museum is another portrait of her, and a third in the National Gallery at Edinburgh, not to mention those in private collections. The two magnificent cartoons on the staircase at Hertford House, called the Rising and Setting of the Sun, she begged from the king. These were ordered in 1748 as designs to be executed in tapestry at the Manufacture Royale des Gobelins, by Cozette and Audran, according to the catalogue of the Salon in 1753 when they were exhibited. They are characterised by the brothers de Goncourt as le plus grand effort du peintre, les deux grandes machines de son oeuvre; and the writer of the catalogue of Madame de Pompadour's pictures when they were sold in 1766 testifies thus to the artist's own opinion of them: "J'ai entendu plusieurs fois dire par l'auteur qu'ils etaient du nombre de ceux dont il etait le plus satisfait." They were then sold for 9800 livres, and Lord Hertford paid 20,200 francs for them in 1855.
Even without these chefs d'oeuvre the Wallace Collection is richer than any other gallery in the works of Boucher, with twenty-four examples (in all), of which few if any are of inferior quality. But it must be confessed that the abundance of Boucher's work does not enhance its artistic value, and we have to think of him, in comparison with Watteau and his school, rather as a great decorator than a great painter. With all his skill and charm, that is to say, there is not one of his canvases that we could place beside a picture by Watteau on anything like equal terms. Superficially it may be equally or possibly more attractive, but inwardly there is no comparison. Let us hear what Sir Joshua Reynolds has to say of him:—
"Our neighbours, the French, are much in this practice of extempore invention, and their dexterity is such as even to excite admiration, if not envy; but how rarely can this praise be given to their finished pictures! The late Director of their Academy, Boucher, was eminent in this way. When I visited him some years since in France, I found him at work on a very large picture without drawings or models of any kind. On my remarking this particular circumstance, he said, when he was young, studying his art, he found it necessary to use models, but he had left them off for many years.... However, in justice, I cannot quit this painter without adding that in the former part of his life, when he was in the habit of having recourse to nature, he was not without a considerable degree of merit—enough to make half the painters of his country his imitators: he had often grace and beauty, and good skill in composition, but I think all under the influence of a bad taste; his imitators are, indeed, abominable."
Twenty-one years elapsed between the birth of Boucher and the next painter of anything like his ability, namely, JEAN BAPTISTE GREUZE. He was a native of Tournous, near Macon, and lived to see the century out, dying in 1805, at the age of seventy-eight. His popularity is nowadays due chiefly to his heads of young girls, which he painted in his later life with admirable skill, but with a sentimentality that almost repels. The famous example in the National Gallery is more free from the sickly sweetness that spoils most of them, and reminds us that he could paint more serious works, and paint them exceedingly well. He first came into notice by pictures like La Lecture du Bible, La Malediction Paternelle, or Le Fils Puni, which are now to be seen—though generally passed by—at the Louvre, and his style was imitated in later years in England by Wheatley and others of that school with more or less success. It was a great blow to him, and one which seriously affected his career when the Academy censured his Diploma picture, The Emperor Severus reproaching Caracalla. But for this we might have had more than these sentimental young ladies from a hand that was undoubtedly worthy of better things. However, as Lord Hertford admired them sufficiently to include no less than twenty-one of them in his collection, we ought not to be severe in criticising them, and we may quote the description of The Souvenir (No. 398) given by John Smith, in his Catalogue Raisonne in 1837, as showing the esteem in which it was held.
"The Souvenir. An interesting female, about fifteen years of age, pressing fondly to her bosom a little red and white spaniel dog; the pet animal appears to remind her of some favourite object, for whose safety and return she is breathing an earnest wish; her fair oval countenance and melting eyes are directed upwards, and her ruby lips are slightly open; her light hair falls negligently on her shoulder, and is tastefully braided
with a crimson riband and pearls. She is attired in a morning dress, consisting of a loose gown and a brownish scarf, the latter of which hangs across her arm. Upon a tree behind her is inscribed the name of the painter. This beautiful production of art abounds in every attractive charm which gives interest to the master's works."
Very different, and far superior to Greuze, was JEAN HONORE FRAGONARD, born at Grasse, in the Alpes Maritimes, in 1732. In England his name was almost unknown until within quite recent years, and the National Gallery has only one picture by him, which was bequeathed by George Salting in 1910. Fortunately he is well represented in the Wallace Collection, three at least of the nine examples being in his most brilliant manner.
Fragonard's father was a glover. In 1750 the family moved to Paris, and the boy was put into a notary's office. The usual signs of disinclination for office work and a passion for art having duly appeared, he was sent to Boucher, who advised him to go and study under Chardin. This he did for a short time, but finding it dull—for Chardin was not as great a teacher as he was a painter—he went back to Boucher as an assistant. In 1752 he won the Prix de Rome, although he had never attended the Academy Schools, and in 1756 started for Italy.
Reynolds had just returned from Rome at the date of Fragonard's capture of the opportunity of going there, and we know from the Discourses how he spent his time there and what direction his studies took. Fragonard pursued an exactly opposite course, being advised thereto by Boucher, who said to him, "If you take Michelangelo and Raphael seriously, you are lost." Feeling that the advice was suitable to himself, if not sound on general principles, Fragonard devoted himself to the lighter and more sparkling works of Tiepolo and others of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. He also made a tour in South Italy and Sicily with Hubert Robert, the landscape painter, and the Abbe Saint Non, the latter of whom published a number of etchings he made after Fragonard's drawings, under the title of Voyages de Naples et de Sicile.
On returning to Paris in 1761 his first success was the large composition of Callirhoe and Coresus, which was exhibited at the Salon in 1765, and is now in the Louvre. But he soon abandoned the grand style, chiefly, it is probable, owing to the patronage of the idle or industrious rich who showered commissions upon him, for smaller and more sociable pictures with which to adorn and enliven their houses. The beautiful, but exceedingly improper picture at Hertford House, called The Swing—or in French, Les Hazards heureux de l'Escarpolette, appears to have been commissioned by the Baron de St. Julien, within the next year or two, for in the memoirs of Cotte a conversation is recorded which shows that the Baron had asked another painter, Doyen, to paint it. "Who would have believed," says the indignant Doyen, "that within a few days of my picture of Ste. Genevieve being exhibited at the Salon, a nobleman would have sent for me to order a picture on a subject like this." He then goes on to relate how the Baron explained to him exactly what he required. We cannot entirely acquit Fragonard of all blame in accepting such a commission, but he was a young man, just starting as a professional artist, with the example of Boucher before him, and it would hardly have seemed wise to begin his career by offending a noble patron. The whole incident throws a glaring light on the conditions under which the art of France flourished in the Louis Quinze period, when Boucher was everybody and Chardin nobody.
For the real Fragonard we may turn to Le Chiffre d'Amour, or the "Lady carving an initial," as the prosaic diction of the Wallace Collection has it (No. 382). In this the equal delicacy of the sentiment and of the painting combine to effect a little masterpiece of Louis Quinze art. It is simple and natural, and entirely free from the besetting sins of so slight a picture triviality, affectation, empty prettiness, or simply silliness. In its way it is perfect, and for that perfection is for ever reserved the popularity which we find temporarily accorded to pictures like Frith's Dolly Varden or Millais' Bubbles.
Another of the Hertford House examples, the portrait of a Boy as Pierrot, is equally entitled to be popular for all time, and like Reynolds's Strawberry Girl, might well be called "one of the half-dozen original things" which no artist ever exceeded in his life's work. A comparison between the two pictures, which were probably painted within a few years of each other, will serve to show the difference between the English and French Schools at this period. On the one hand—to put it very shortly indeed—we see Fragonard influenced by Tiepolo, France, and Louis XV.; on the other, Sir Joshua, influenced by Michelangelo and Raphael, England, and George III.
The mention of JEAN BAPTISTE SIMEON CHARDIN among this brilliant and frivolous galaxy seems almost out of place. "He is not so much an eighteenth-century French artist," Lady Dilke says of him, "as a French artist of pure race and type. Though he treated subjects of the humblest and most unpretentious class, he brought to their rendering not only deep feeling and a penetration which divined the innermost truths of the simplest forms of life, but a perfection of workmanship by which everything he handled was clothed with beauty." That the Wallace Collection includes no work from his hand is perhaps regrettable, but truly Chardin was someone apart from all the magnificence that dazzles us there. His was the treasure of the humble.
The effects of the Revolution upon French painting were as surprising as they were great. That the gay and frivolous art of Boucher and Fragonard should have suddenly ceased might have been considered inevitable; but whereas in Holland, when the Spanish yoke had been thrown off, and a Republic proclaimed, a vigorous democratic school arose under Frans Hals; and in England during the Commonwealth the artistic influence which was beginning to be spread by Charles I. and Buckingham utterly ceased; in France an artistic Dictator arose, as we may well call him, in the person of JACQUES LOUIS DAVID, who not only made painting a part of the revolutionary propaganda, but succeeded under the Emperor Napoleon also in maintaining his position as painter to the Government, and thereby imposing on his country a style of art which had a great influence on the whole course of French painting for many years to come. But the most remarkable thing was that it was to the classics that this revolutioniser went for inspiration. The explanation is to be found in the fact that he was bitterly aggrieved by the attitude of the Academy to him as a young man, and in the accident of his famous picture of Brutus synchronising with the events of 1789. He was at once hailed as a deliverer, and made, as it were, painter to the Revolution.
But what was even more important in the influence he exerted at this time was his actual appointment as President of the Convention, which gave him the power to revenge himself upon the Academy, which he did by extinguishing it in 1793, and to remove any inconvenient rivals by indicting them as aristocrats. Of the older painters, Fragonard and Greuze were the only important ones left, and as they could not under the altered circumstances be considered as rivals to the classical David, they both saw the century out. Fragonard simply ceased painting for want of patrons, and David was good enough to procure him a post in the Museum des Arts, or he would have starved. Unfortunately he attempted to adapt himself to the new style, and was promptly ejected from his post—ostensibly on his previous connection with royalty—and was wise enough to fly to his native town in the south.
During the first quarter of the nineteenth century the dictatorship of David was supreme. How it was finally overthrown we shall see in another chapter.
THE ENGLISH SCHOOL
THE EARLY PORTRAIT PAINTERS
In the preface to the Anecdotes of Painting written in 1762, Horace Walpole observes that this country had not a single volume to show on the works of its painters. "In truth," he continues, "it has very rarely given birth to a genius in that profession. Flanders and Holland have sent us the greatest men that we can boast. This very circumstance may with reason prejudice the reader against a work, the chief business of which must be to celebrate the art of a country which has produced so few good artists. This objection is so striking, that instead of calling it The Lives of English Painters, I have simply given it the title of Anecdotes of Painting in England."
As Walpole's work was merely a compilation from the voluminous notes of George Vertue, a painstaking antiquary who had collected every scrap of information he could acquire in the early years of the eighteenth century, his conclusions can hardly be questioned, and the foundation of the English school of painting is therefore generally assumed to have been effected by Reynolds. But as Wren's Cathedral replaced an older one which was destroyed by the fire of London, and as that was reared on the foundation of a Roman temple, so we find that the art of painting in England was certainly practised in earlier times, and but for certain circumstances much more of it would have survived than is now to be found.
In other countries, as we have seen, the Church was in earlier times the greatest if not the only patron of the arts, and there is plenty of evidence to show that in England, too, from the reign of Henry III. onwards till the Reformation, our churches were decorated with frescoes. This evidence is of two kinds; first, entries in royal and other accounts, directing payment for specified work; and secondly, the remains of fresco painting in our cathedrals and churches. The former is of little interest except to the antiquary. The latter has suffered so much from neglect or actual destruction as to be considered unworthy of the attention of either the artist in search of inspiration or the critic in pursuit of anything to criticise; but when every inconsiderable production in the little world of English art has had its bulky quarto written upon it, it is curious that no one has yet discovered what a splendid harvest awaits the investigation of these old frescoes all over the country.
As it is, we have only to note that as religion was so important an influence on painting in other countries so was it in England, only unfortunately as a destroying and not a cherishing influence. Granting the probability that there were few, if any, of our English frescoes which would be comparable in artistic interest with those in Italy, where the art was so sedulously cultivated, it must nevertheless be remembered that only a fragment remains here and there out of all the work which must have been produced, and that after the Reformation even those works which did survive were treated with positive as well as negative obloquy, so that where they have been preserved at all it is only by having been whitewashed over or otherwise hidden and damaged.
Even worse than the Reformation in 1530, was the Puritan outburst a century later, which not only destroyed works of art, but extinguished all hope of their being created. Is it to be wondered at, then, that the foundation of the English School of painting should have been postponed for a century more?
At the same time it is interesting to note that the little painting which did creep into England in the sixteenth century, was of the very kind that formed the chief feature of the English School when it was finally established, namely portraiture. Here again we see the influence of religion; for to the reformed church, at least as interpreted by the English temperament, the second commandment was and is still second only in number, not in importance. To Protestant or Puritan the idea of a picture in a church was anathema. As late as 1766, when Benjamin West offered to decorate St. Paul's Cathedral with a painting of Moses receiving the tables of the law on Mount Sinai, the Bishop exclaimed, "I have heard of the proposition, and as I am head of the Cathedral of the Metropolis, I will not suffer the doors to be opened to introduce popery."
The painting of a portrait, however, was a very different matter, and from the earliest times appears to have appealed with peculiar strength to the vanity of Britons. Loudly as they protested against the iniquity of bowing down to and worshipping the likeness of anything in heaven above or in the earth beneath or in the waters under the earth, they were never averse to giving others an opportunity of bowing down to and worshipping the likenesses of themselves; and while religion fostered the arts in other countries, self-importance kept them alive in this. The portrait of Richard II. in Westminster Abbey, if not actually an instance of this, certainly happens to seem like one.
With the exception of Jan de Mabuse, who is said to have been in England for a short time during the reign of Henry VII., the first painter of any importance in this country was Hans Holbein. Hearing that money was to be made by painting portraits at the English Court, he forsook his native town, his religious art, and his wife, and came to stay with Sir Thomas More at Chelsea, with an introduction from Erasmus. Arriving in 1527, he started business by making a sketch in pen and ink of More's entire family, with which marvellous work, still preserved in the Museum at Basle, the history of modern English painting may fairly be said to have begun; for though it was long before a native of England was forthcoming who was of sufficient force to carry on the tradition, the seed was sown, and in due course the plant appeared, and after many vicissitudes, at last flourished.
The immediate effect may be noted by mentioning here the names of GUILLIM STREETES, who was possibly English born, and JOHN BETTES who certainly was. To the former is attributed the large whole-length portrait at Hampton Court of Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey, in a suit of bright red. Another portrait of Howard belongs to the Duke of Norfolk, having been presented to his ancestor by Sir Robert Walpole. Both were exhibited at the Tudor Exhibition in 1892. Streetes was painter to King Edward VI., and according to Stype he was paid fifty marks, in 1551, "for recompense of three great tables whereof two were the pictures of his Highness sent to Sir Thomas Hoby and Sir John Mason (ambassadors abroad), the third a picture of the late Earl of Surrey attainted, and by the Councils' commandment fetched from the said Guillim's house." Horace Walpole was under the impression that this was the Duke of Norfolk's picture, but the Hampton Court Catalogue claims the other one as the work of Streetes.
In the National Gallery is a bust portrait of Edmund Butts, physician to Henry VIII., which is inscribed faict par Johan Bettes Anglois, and with the date 1545. In this the influence of Holbein is certainly discernible, though not all pervading. There were two brothers, THOMAS and JOHN BETTES who are mentioned by Meres with several other English painters in Palladis Tamia, published in 1598—"As Greece had moreover their painters, so in England we have also these, William and Francis Segar, brethren, Thomas and John Bettes, Lockie, Lyne, Peake, Peter Cole, Arnolde, Marcus (Mark Garrard)," etc. Walpole, quoting this, adds, "I quote this passage to prove to those who learn one or two names by rote that every old picture you see is not by Holbein." At the same time it must be admitted that until some considerable fund of information concerning these early days of painting is brought to light, there is very little to be said about any one except Holbein till almost the end of the sixteenth century.
That Holbein was "a wonderful artist," as More wrote to Erasmus, is not to be denied. But in placing him among the very greatest, we must not forget that his range was somewhat limited. We might nowadays call him a specialist, for in England he painted nothing but portraits, and very few of his pictures contained anything besides the single figure, or head, of the subject. The famous exception is the large picture called The Ambassadors, which was purchased at an enormous price from the Longford Castle collection, and is now in the National Gallery. Important and interesting as this is as showing us how Holbein could fill a large canvas, there is no doubt that he is far happier in simple portraiture, and that the L60,000 expended on Christina Duchess of Milan was, relatively, a better investment for the nation. In the famous half-lengths like the George Gisze at Berlin (which was painted in London) and the Man with the Hawk, where the portrait is surrounded by accessories, Holbein is perhaps at his very best; but it is as a painter of heads, simply, that he influenced the English School, and set an example which, alas! has never been attainable since.
For one thing, which is apart altogether from talent or genius, Holbein's method was never followed in later times, namely, the practice of making carefully finished drawings in crayon before painting a portrait in oils. He was a wonderful draughtsman, and in the series of over eighty drawings at Windsor we have even more life-like images of the persons represented than their finished portraits. I am not aware that any portrait drawings exists of Holbein's contemporaries or successors in England earlier than one or two by Van Dyck. There are a good many belonging to the seventeenth century, but with one or two exceptions they are little more than sketches. And though sketches have only survived by accident, as it were, not being intended for anything more than the artist's own purposes, finished drawings would have been kept, like Holbein's, with much greater care.
In a word, then, Holbein's first and chief business was in rendering the likeness of the sitter. Being a
born genius, he accomplished far more than this; but it is important in tracing the development of the English School of painting to remember that its origin was not in the idealization of religious sentiment, but in the realization of the human features. From the time of the first great genius to that of the next, exactly a century later, there is hardly a portrait in existence that is valued for anything but its historic or personal interest. Between Holbein and Van Dyck is a great gap, in which the only names of Englishmen are those of the miniaturists, Hilliard and Oliver, who were veritably of the seed of Holbein, but only in little.
Van Dyck struck deeper into the English soil, and loosened it sufficiently for the growth of larger stuff, if still somewhat coarse, like the work of William Dobson and Robert Walker. To Van Dyck succeeded Peter Lely, who boldly and worthily assumed the mantle of Van Dyck, and kept English portraiture alive throughout the dismal period of the Commonwealth. After the Restoration he was still in power, and under him flourished one or two painters of English birth, like Greenhill and Riley, who in turn gave way to others under Kneller without ceding the monopoly to foreigners. From these came Jervas, Richardson, and, most important, Hudson, who was Reynolds's master, and so we arrive at the beginning of what is now generally known as the English School.
Another source, however, must here be mentioned as joining the main stream, and contributing a solid body of water to it, chiefly below the surface, namely the art of WILLIAM HOGARTH. Being essentially English, and without any artistic forefathers, it is not surprising that he left less perceptible impressions on his immediate successors than the more accomplished and educated Reynolds; but the solid force of his character, as exemplified in his career and his works, is hardly a less important factor in the development of the English School, while from his outspoken opinions on the state of the arts in his time he is one of the most valuable sources of its history.
WILLIAM HOGARTH occupies a curious position in the history of English painting. There was nothing ever quite like him in any country—except Greuze in France; for though a comparison between two such opposites, seems at first sight absurd, it must be remembered that French and English painting in the middle of the eighteenth century were no less far apart. Both Greuze and Hogarth, in their own fashion, tried to preach moral lessons in paint, the one in the over-refined atmosphere of French surroundings, the other in the coarse language of England in his time.
Hogarth's chief characteristic was his blunt, honest, bull-dog Englishness, which at the particular moment of his appearance on the artistic stage was a quality which was eminently serviceable to English painting. Though of humble parents, his honest and forceful character won for him the daughter of Sir James Thornhill in marriage (by elopement) and his sturdy talent in painting secured for him his father-in-law's forgiveness and encouragement. Thornhill came of a good, old Wiltshire family, and had been knighted by George I. for his sterling merits as much as for his skill in painting and decorating the royal palaces and the houses of noblemen. His place among English artists is not a very high one, but he deserves the credit of having stood out against the monopoly that was being established by foreigners in this country in every department of artistic work, and in this sense he is a still earlier forerunner of the great English painters, than his more forcible son-in-law.
If Hogarth had been content to follow the beaten track of portraiture as his main pursuit, and let the country's morals take care of themselves, he would in all probability have attained much greater heights as a painter. But his nature would not allow him to do this. His character was too strong and his originality too uncontrollable. There is enough evidence among the works which have survived him, especially in those which were never finished, to show that his accomplishments in oil painting were of a very high order indeed. I need only refer to the famous head in the National Gallery known as The Shrimp Girl to explain what I mean. In this surprisingly vivacious and charming sketch we see something that is not inferior to Hals, in its broad truth and its quick seizure of the essentials of what had to be rendered. In another unfinished piece, which is now in the South London Art Gallery at Camberwell, we see the same powerful qualities differently exhibited, for it is not a single head this time, but a sketch of a ballroom where everybody is dancing, except one gentleman who is even more vivid than the rest, in the act of mopping his head at the open window. There is nothing grotesque in this picture, but it is all perfectly life-like and wonderfully sketched in.
In his finished pictures Hogarth does not appear to such great advantage—I mean as a painter; but it must be remembered that in his day there was little example for him to follow in the higher departments of his art. Nor had he ever been out of England to see fine pictures on the Continent. Not only this, but as his work was intended especially to appeal to ordinary people, it is hardly to be expected that he would express himself in terms other than might most quickly appeal to them. His most famous works, indeed, were executed as well as designed for the engraver, namely The Harlot's Progress, The Rake's Progress, Marriage a la Mode, and The Election, each of which consisted of a series of several minutely finished pictures. In portraiture he showed finer qualities, it is true; but even in these he was thinking more of getting the most out of his model, according to his forcible character, than of any technical refinements for which he might be handed down to posterity as a great painter.
It was easy enough for Reynolds to sneer at Hogarth for his vulgarity, when he was trying to impress upon his pupils the importance of painting in the grand style. "As for the various departments of painting," he says in his third Discourse, "which do not presume to make such high pretensions, they are many. None of them are without their merit, though none enter into competition with this universal presiding idea of the art. The painters who have applied themselves more particularly to low and vulgar characters, and who express with precision the various shades of passion as they are exhibited by vulgar minds (such as we see in the works of Hogarth), deserve great praise; but as their genius has been employed on low and confined subjects, the praise which we must give must be as limited as its object." And yet it was in following an example set by Hogarth in portrait painting that Reynolds gained his
first success in that art. I mean the full-length portrait of Captain Keppel, painted in 1752. This originality and boldness in disregarding the tame but universal convention in posing the sitter was peculiarly Hogarth's own. With him it amounted almost to perverseness. He would not let anybody "sit" to him, if he could help it. When he did, as in the portraits of Quinn, the actor, and Hoadly, Bishop of Winchester, in the National Gallery, the result is not the happiest; for, with all their force, these portraits lack the grace that a conventional pose requires to render it acceptable in the terms of its convention. If a man must put on the accepted evening dress of his time, he must see that it conforms in the spirit as well as in the letter of the fashion, or he will only look like a dressed-up greengrocer. Hogarth was too sturdy and too wilful to put on court clothes. If he had to, he struggled with them.
Hogarth's father was a man of literary tastes, and a scholar. He had written a supplement to Littleton's Latin Dictionary, but was unable to get it published. "I saw the difficulties," writes the artist, "under which my father laboured; the many inconveniences he endured from his dependence, living chiefly on his pen, and the cruel treatment he met with from booksellers and printers. I had before my eyes the precarious situation of men of classical education; it was therefore conformable to my wishes that I was taken from school and served a long apprenticeship to a silver-plate engraver." This is printed in Allan Cunningham's Life of Hogarth, together with many more extracts from autobiographical memoranda, from which we may learn at first hand a great deal of information bearing on the state of painting at this period, and the circumstances under which it received such a stimulus from Hogarth, before the sun had fully risen (in the person of Reynolds) to illumine the whole period of British art.
"As I had naturally a good eye and fondness for drawing," Hogarth continues, "shows of all sorts gave me uncommon pleasure when young, and mimicry, common to all children, was remarkable in me. An early access to a neighbouring painter drew my attention from play, and I was at every possible opportunity engaged in making drawings.... My exercises at school were more remarkable for the ornaments which adorned them than for the exercise itself. In the former I soon found that blockheads with better memories would soon surpass me, but for the latter I was particularly distinguished.
"The painting of St. Paul's and Greenwich Hospital, which were at that time going on, ran in my head, and I determined that silver-plate engraving should be followed no longer than necessity obliged me to it. Engraving on copper was, at twenty years of age, my utmost ambition. To attain that it was necessary that I should learn to draw objects something like nature, instead of the monsters of heraldry, and the common methods of study were much too tedious for one who loved his pleasure and came so late to it.... This led me to consider whether a shorter road than that usually travelled was not to be found.... I had learned by practice to copy with tolerable correctness in the ordinary way, but it occurred to me that there were many disadvantages attending this method of study, as having faulty originals, etc.; and even when the prints or pictures to be imitated were by the best masters, it was little more than pouring water out of one vessel into another. Many reasons led me to wish that I could find a shorter path—fix forms and characters in my mind—and, instead of copying the lines, try to read the language, and if possible find the grammar of the art, by bringing into one focus the various observations I had made, and then trying by my power on the canvas how far my plan enabled me to combine and apply them to practice....
"I had one material advantage over my competitors, viz., the early habit I acquired of retaining in my mind's eye, without coldly copying on the spot, whatever I intended to imitate.... Instead of burdening the memory with musty rules, or tiring the eye with copying dry or damaged pictures, I have ever found studying from nature the shortest and safest way of obtaining knowledge in my art...."
"I entertained some thoughts," he writes again, "of succeeding in what the puffers in books call the great style of history painting, so that, without having had a stroke of this grand business before, I quitted small portraits and familiar conversations, and with a smile at my own temerity commenced history painter, and on a great staircase at St. Bartholomew's Hospital painted two Scripture stories, The Pool of Bethesda and The Good Samaritan, with figures seven feet high. These I presented to the charity, and thought that they might serve as a specimen to show that, were there an inclination in England for encouraging historical pictures, such a first essay might prove the painting them more easily attainable than is generally imagined. But as Religion, the great promoter of this style in other countries, rejected it in England, and I was unwilling to sink into a portrait-manufacturer—and still ambitious of being singular, I soon dropped all expectations of advantage from that source, and returned to the pursuit of my former dealings with the public at large."
Few seemed disposed to recognise, in any of Hogarth's works, a higher aim than that of raising a laugh. Somerville, the poet, dedicated his Rural Games to Hogarth in these words—"Permit me, Sir, to make choice of you for my patron, being the greatest master in the burlesque way. Your province is the town—leave me a small outride in the country, and I shall be content." Fielding had a different opinion of his merits: "He who would call the ingenious Hogarth a burlesque painter would in my opinion do him very little honour, for sure it is much easier, much less the subject of admiration, to paint a man with a nose, or any other feature of a preposterous size, or to expose him in some absurd or monstrous attitude, than to express the affections of man on canvas. It hath been thought a vast commendation of a painter to say his figures seem to breathe, but surely it is a much greater and nobler applause that they appear to think."
In answer to criticism of his Analysis of Beauty, Hogarth writes: "Among other crimes of which I am accused, it is asserted that I have abused the 'Great Masters'; this is far from being just. So far from attempting to lower the ancients, I have always thought, and it is universally admitted, that they knew some fundamental principles in nature which enabled them to produce works that have been the admiration of succeeding ages; but I have not allowed this merit to those leaden-headed imitators, who, having no consciousness of either symmetry or propriety, have attempted to mend nature, and in their truly ideal figures, gave similar proportions to a Mercury and a Hercules."