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Title: Modern Painters Volume I (of V)
Author: Ruskin, John, 1819-1900
Language: English
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                            Library Edition

                          THE COMPLETE WORKS


                             JOHN RUSKIN

                        POETRY OF ARCHITECTURE
                             SEVEN LAMPS
                           MODERN PAINTERS
                              VOLUME I

                     NEW YORK             CHICAGO

                          THE COMPLETE WORKS


                             JOHN RUSKIN

                              VOLUME II

                           MODERN PAINTERS

                              VOLUME I

                           MODERN PAINTERS.


                         A GRADUATE OF OXFORD.

                                VOL. I.

                             PART I--II.



                             This Work

                      IS RESPECTFULLY DEDICATED

                      BY THEIR SINCERE ADMIRER,

                                          _THE AUTHOR_

                    PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION.

The work now laid before the public originated in indignation at the
shallow and false criticism of the periodicals of the day on the works
of the great living artist to whom it principally refers. It was
intended to be a short pamphlet, reprobating the matter and style of
those critiques, and pointing out their perilous tendency, as guides of
public feeling. But, as point after point presented itself for
demonstration, I found myself compelled to amplify what was at first a
letter to the Editor of a Review, into something very like a treatise on
art, to which I was obliged to give the more consistency and
completeness, because it advocated opinions which, to the ordinary
connoisseur, will sound heretical. I now scarcely know whether I should
announce it is an Essay on Landscape Painting, and apologize for its
frequent reference to the works of a particular master; or, announcing
it as a critique on particular works, apologize for its lengthy
discussion of general principles. But of whatever character the work may
be considered, the motives which led me to undertake it must not be
mistaken. No zeal for the reputation of any individual, no personal
feeling of any kind, has the slightest weight or influence with me. The
reputation of the great artist to whose works I have chiefly referred,
is established on too legitimate grounds among all whose admiration is
honorable, to be in any way affected by the ignorant sarcasms of
pretension and affectation. But when _public_ taste seems plunging
deeper and deeper into degradation day by day, and when the press
universally exerts such power as it possesses to direct the feeling of
the nation more completely to all that is theatrical, affected, and
false in art; while it vents its ribald buffooneries on the most exalted
truth, and the highest ideal of landscape, that this or any other age
has ever witnessed, it becomes the imperative duty of all who have any
perception or knowledge of what is really great in art, and any desire
for its advancement in England, to come fearlessly forward, regardless
of such individual interests as are likely to be injured by the
knowledge of what is good and right, to declare and demonstrate,
wherever they exist, the essence and the authority of the Beautiful and
the True.

Whatever may seem invidious or partial in the execution of my task is
dependent not so much on the tenor of the work, as on its
incompleteness. I have not entered into systematic criticism of all the
painters of the present day; but I have illustrated each particular
excellence and truth of art by the works in which it exists in the
highest degree, resting satisfied that if it be once rightly felt and
enjoyed in these, it will be discovered and appreciated wherever it
exists in others. And although I have never suppressed any conviction of
the superiority of one artist over another, which I believed to be
grounded on truth, and necessary to the understanding of truth, I have
been cautious never to undermine positive rank, while I disputed
relative rank. My uniform desire and aim have been, not that the present
favorite should be admired less, but that the neglected master should be
admired more. And I know that an increased perception and sense of truth
and beauty, though it may interfere with our estimate of the comparative
rank of painters, will invariably tend to increase our admiration of all
who are really great; and he who now places Stanfield and Callcott above
Turner, will admire Stanfield and Callcott more than he does now, when
he has learned to place Turner far above them both.

In three instances only have I spoken in direct depreciation of the
works of living artists, and these are all cases in which the reputation
is so firm and extended, as to suffer little injury from the opinion of
an individual, and where the blame has been warranted and deserved by
the desecration of the highest powers.

Of the old masters I have spoken with far greater freedom; but let it be
remembered that only a portion of the work is now presented to the
public, and it must not be supposed, because in that particular portion,
and with reference to particular excellencies, I have spoken in constant
depreciation, that I have no feeling of other excellencies of which
cognizance can only be taken in future parts of the work. Let me not be
understood to mean more than I have said, nor be made responsible for
conclusions when I have only stated facts. I have said that the old
masters did not give the truth of Nature; if the reader chooses, thence,
to infer that they were not masters at all, it is his conclusion, not

Whatever I have asserted throughout the work, I have endeavored to
ground altogether on demonstrations which must stand or fall by their
own strength, and which ought to involve no more reference to authority
or character than a demonstration in Euclid. Yet it is proper for the
public to know, that the writer is no mere theorist, but has been
devoted from his youth to the laborious study of practical art.

Whatever has been generally affirmed of the old schools of
landscape-painting is founded on familiar acquaintance with every
important work of art, from Antwerp to Naples. But it would be useless,
where close and immediate comparison with works in our own Academy is
desirable, to refer to the details of pictures at Rome or Munich; and it
would be impossible to speak at once with just feeling, as regarded the
possessor, and just freedom, as regarded the public, of pictures in
private galleries. Whatever particular references have been made for
illustration, have been therefore confined, as far as was in my power,
to works in the National and Dulwich Galleries.

Finally, I have to apologize for the imperfection of a work which I
could have wished not to have executed, but with years of reflection and
revisal. It is owing to my sense of the necessity of such revisal, that
only a portion of the work is now presented to the public; but that
portion is both complete in itself, and is more peculiarly directed
against the crying evil which called for instant remedy. Whether I ever
completely fulfil my intention, will partly depend upon the spirit in
which the present volume is received. If it be attributed to an
invidious spirit, or a desire for the advancement of individual
interests, I could hope to effect little good by farther effort. If, on
the contrary, its real feeling and intention be understood, I shall
shrink from no labor in the execution of a task which may tend, however
feebly, to the advancement of the cause of real art in England, and to
the honor of those great living Masters whom we now neglect or malign,
to pour our flattery into the ear of Death, and exalt, with vain
acclamation, the names of those who neither demand our praise, nor
regard our gratitude.

                                                             THE AUTHOR.

                     PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION.

It is allowed by the most able writers on naval and military tactics,
that although the attack by successive divisions absolutely requires in
the attacking party such an inherent superiority in quality of force,
and such consciousness of that superiority, as may enable his front
columns, or his leading ships, to support themselves for a considerable
period against overwhelming numbers; it yet insures, if maintained with
constancy, the most total ruin of the opposing force. Convinced of the
truth, and therefore assured of the ultimate prevalence and victory of
the principles which I have advocated, and equally confident that the
strength of the cause must give weight to the strokes of even the
weakest of its defenders, I permitted myself to yield to a somewhat
hasty and hot-headed desire of being, at whatever risk, in the thick of
the fire, and began the contest with a part, and that the weakest and
least considerable part, of the forces at my disposal. And I now find
the volume thus boldly laid before the public in a position much
resembling that of the Royal Sovereign at Trafalgar, receiving,
unsupported, the broadsides of half the enemy's fleet, while unforeseen
circumstances have hitherto prevented, and must yet for a time prevent,
my heavier ships of the line from taking any part in the action. I
watched the first moments of the struggle with some anxiety for the
solitary vessel,--an anxiety which I have now ceased to feel,--for the
flag of truth waves brightly through the smoke of the battle, and my
antagonists, wholly intent on the destruction of the leading ship, have
lost their position, and exposed themselves in defenceless disorder to
the attack of the following columns.

If, however, I have had no reason to regret my hasty advance, as far as
regards the ultimate issue of the struggle, I have yet found it to
occasion much misconception of the character, and some diminution of
the influence, of the present essay. For though the work has been
received as only in sanguine moments I had ventured to hope, though I
have had the pleasure of knowing that in many instances its principles
have carried with them a strength of conviction amounting to a
demonstration of their truth, and that, even where it has had no other
influence, it has excited interest, suggested inquiry, and prompted to a
just and frank comparison of Art with Nature; yet this effect would have
been greater still, had not the work been supposed, as it seems to have
been by many readers, a completed treatise, containing a systematized
statement of the whole of my views on the subject of modern art.
Considered as such, it surprises me that the book should have received
the slightest attention. For what respect could be due to a writer who
pretended to criticise and classify the works of the great painters of
landscape, without developing, or even alluding to, one single principle
of the beautiful or sublime? So far from being a completed essay, it is
little more than the introduction to the mass of evidence and
illustration which I have yet to bring forward; it treats of nothing but
the initiatory steps of art, states nothing but the elementary rules of
criticism, touches only on merits attainable by accuracy of eye and
fidelity of hand, and leaves for future consideration every one of the
eclectic qualities of pictures, all of good that is prompted by feeling,
and of great that is guided by judgment; and its function and scope
should the less have been mistaken, because I have not only most
carefully arranged the subject in its commencement, but have given
frequent references throughout to the essays by which it is intended to
be succeeded, in which I shall endeavor to point out the signification
and the value of those phenomena of external nature which I have been
hitherto compelled to describe without reference either to their
inherent beauty, or to the lessons which may be derived from them.

Yet, to prevent such misconception in future, I may perhaps be excused
for occupying the reader's time with a fuller statement of the feelings
with which the work was undertaken, of its general plan, and of the
conclusions and positions which I hope to be able finally to deduce and

Nothing, perhaps, bears on the face of it more appearance of folly,
ignorance, and impertinence, than any attempt to diminish the honor of
those to whom the assent of many generations has assigned a throne; for
the truly great of later times have, almost without exception, fostered
in others the veneration of departed power which they felt themselves,
satisfied in all humility to take their seat at the feet of those whose
honor is brightened by the hoariness of time, and to wait for the period
when the lustre of many departed days may accumulate on their own heads,
in the radiance which culminates as it recedes. The envious and
incompetent have usually been the leaders of attack, content if, like
the foulness of the earth, they may attract to themselves notice by
their noisomeness, or, like its insects, exalt themselves by virulence
into visibility. While, however, the envy of the vicious, and the
insolence of the ignorant, are occasionally shown in their nakedness by
_futile_ efforts to degrade the dead, it is worthy of consideration
whether they may not more frequently escape detection in _successful_
efforts to degrade the living,--whether the very same malice may not be
gratified, the very same incompetence demonstrated in the unjust
lowering of present greatness, and the unjust exaltation of a perished
power, as, if exerted and manifested in a less safe direction, would
have classed the critic with Nero and Caligula, with Zoilus and
Perrault. Be it remembered, that the spirit of detraction is detected
only when unsuccessful, and receives least punishment where it effects
the greatest injury; and it cannot but be felt that there is as much
danger that the rising of new stars should be concealed by the mists
which are unseen, as that those throned in heaven should be darkened by
the clouds which are visible.

There is, I fear, so much malice in the hearts of most men, that they
are chiefly jealous of that praise which can give the greatest pleasure,
and are then most liberal of eulogium when it can no longer be enjoyed.
They grudge not the whiteness of the sepulchre, because by no honor they
can bestow upon it can the senseless corpse be rendered an object of
envy; but they are niggardly of the reputation which contributes to
happiness, or advances to fortune. They are glad to obtain credit for
generosity and humility by exalting those who are beyond the reach of
praise, and thus to escape the more painful necessity of doing homage to
a living rival. They are rejoiced to set up a standard of imaginary
excellence, which may enable them, by insisting on the inferiority of a
contemporary work to the things that have been, to withdraw the
attention from its superiority to the things that are. The same
undercurrent of jealousy operates in our reception of animadversion. Men
have commonly more pleasure in the criticism which hurts than in that
which is innocuous, and are more tolerant of the severity which breaks
hearts and ruins fortunes, than of that which falls impotently on the

And thus well says the good and deep-minded Richard Hooker: "To the best
and wisest, while they live, the world is continually a froward
opposite; and a curious observer of their defects and imperfections,
their virtues afterwards it as much admireth. And for this cause, many
times that which deserveth admiration would hardly be able to find
favor, if they which propose it were not content to profess themselves
therein scholars and followers of the ancient. For the world will not
endure to hear that we are wiser than any have been which went
before."--Book v. ch. vii. 3. He therefore who would maintain the cause
of contemporary excellence against that of elder time, must have almost
every class of men arrayed against him. The generous, because they would
not find matter of accusation against established dignities; the
envious, because they like not the sound of a living man's praise; the
wise, because they prefer the opinion of centuries to that of days; and
the foolish, because they are incapable of forming an opinion of their
own. Obloquy so universal is not lightly to be risked, and the few who
make an effort to stem the torrent, as it is made commonly in favor of
their own works, deserve the contempt which is their only reward. Nor is
this to be regretted, in its influence on the progress and preservation
of things technical and communicable. Respect for the ancients is the
salvation of art, though it sometimes blinds us to its _ends_. It
increases the power of the painter, though it diminishes his liberty;
and if it be sometimes an incumbrance to the essays of invention, it is
oftener a protection from the consequences of audacity. The whole system
and discipline of art, the collected results of the experience of ages,
might, but for the fixed authority of antiquity, be swept away by the
rage of fashion, or lost in the glare of novelty; and the knowledge
which it had taken centuries to accumulate, the principles which mighty
minds had arrived at only in dying, might be overthrown by the frenzy of
a faction, and abandoned in the insolence of an hour.

Neither, in its general application, is the persuasion of the
superiority of former works less just than useful. The greater number
of them are, and must be, immeasurably nobler than any of the results of
present effort, because that which is best of the productions of four
thousand years must necessarily be in its accumulation, beyond all
rivalry from the works of any given generation; but it should always be
remembered that it is improbable that many, and impossible that all, of
such works, though the greatest yet produced, should approach abstract
perfection; that there is certainly something left for us to carry
farther, or complete; that any given generation has just the same chance
of producing some individual mind of first-rate calibre, as any of its
predecessors; and that if such a mind _should_ arise, the chances are,
that with the assistance of experience and example, it would, in its
particular and chosen path, do greater things than had been before done.

We must therefore be cautious not to lose sight of the real use of what
has been left us by antiquity, nor to take that for a model of
perfection which is, in many cases, only a guide to it. The picture
which is looked to for an interpretation of nature is invaluable, but
the picture which is taken as a substitute for nature, had better be
burned; and the young artist, while he should shrink with horror from
the iconoclast who would tear from him every landmark and light which
has been bequeathed him by the ancients, and leave him in a liberated
childhood, may be equally certain of being betrayed by those who would
give him the power and the knowledge of past time, and then fetter his
strength from all advance, and bend his eyes backward on a beaten
path--who would thrust canvas between him and the sky, and tradition
between him and God.

And such conventional teaching is the more to be dreaded, because all
that is highest in art, all that is creative and imaginative, is formed
and created by every great master for himself, and cannot be repeated or
imitated by others. We judge of the excellence of a rising writer, not
so much by the resemblance of his works to what has been done before, as
by their difference from it; and while we advise him, in his first
trials of strength, to set certain models before him with respect to
inferior points,--one for versification, another for arrangement,
another for treatment,--we yet admit not his greatness until he has
broken away from all his models, and struck forth versification,
arrangement, and treatment of his own.

Three points, therefore, I would especially insist upon as necessary to
be kept in mind in all criticism of modern art. First, that there are
few, very few of even the best productions of antiquity, which are not
visibly and palpably imperfect in some kind or way, and conceivably
improvable by farther study; that every nation, perhaps every generation,
has in all probability some peculiar gift, some particular character of
mind, enabling it to do something different from, or something in some
sort better than what has been before done; and that therefore, unless
art be a trick, or a manufacture, of which the secrets are lost, the
greatest minds of existing nations, if exerted with the same industry,
passion, and honest aim as those of past time, have a chance in their
particular walk of doing something as great, or, taking the advantage of
former example into account, even greater and better. It is difficult to
conceive by what laws of logic some of the reviewers of the following
Essay have construed its first sentence into a denial of this
principle,--a denial such as their own conventional and shallow criticism
of modern works invariably implies. I have said that "nothing has been
for centuries consecrated by public admiration without possessing in a
_high_ degree _some_ species of sterling excellence." Does it thence
follow that it possesses in the _highest_ degree _every_ species of
sterling excellence? "Yet thus," says the sapient reviewer, "he admits
the fact against which he mainly argues,--namely, the superiority of
these time-honored productions." As if the possession of an abstract
excellence of some kind necessarily implied the possession of an
incomparable excellence of every kind! There are few works of man so
perfect as to admit of no conception of their being excelled,[A]--there
are thousands which have been for centuries, and will be for centuries
more, consecrated by public admiration, which are yet imperfect in many
respects, and have been excelled, and may be excelled again. Do my
opponents mean to assert that nothing good can ever be bettered, and that
what is best of past time is necessarily best of all time? Perugino, I
suppose, possessed some species of sterling excellence, but Perugino was
excelled by Raffaelle; and so Claude possesses some species of sterling
excellence, but it follows not that he may not be excelled by Turner.

The second point on which I would insist is that if a mind _were_ to
arise of such power as to be capable of equalling or excelling some of
the greatest works of past ages, the productions of such a mind would,
in all probability, be totally different in manner and matter from all
former productions; for the more powerful the intellect, the less will
its works resemble those of other men, whether predecessors or
contemporaries. Instead of reasoning, therefore, as we commonly do, in
matters of art, that because such and such a work does not resemble that
which has hitherto been a canon, therefore it _must_ be inferior and
wrong in principle; let us rather admit that there is in its very
dissimilarity an increased chance of its being itself a new, and
perhaps, a higher canon. If any production of modern art can be shown to
have the authority of nature on its side, and to be based on eternal
truths, it is all so much more in its favor, so much farther proof of
its power, that it is totally different from all that have been before

The third point on which I would insist, is that if such a mind were to
arise, it would necessarily divide the world of criticism into two
factions; the one, necessarily the largest and loudest, composed of men
incapable of judging except by precedent, ignorant of general truth, and
acquainted only with such particular truths as may have been illustrated
or pointed out to them by former works, which class would of course be
violent in vituperation, and increase in animosity as the master
departed farther from their particular and preconceived canons of
right,--thus wounding their vanity by impugning their judgment; the
other, necessarily narrow of number, composed of men of general
knowledge and unbiassed habits of thought, who would recognize in the
work of the daring innovator a record and illustration of facts before
unseized, who would justly and candidly estimate the value of the truths
so rendered, and would increase in fervor of admiration as the master
strode farther and deeper, and more daringly into dominions before
unsearched or unknown; yet diminishing in multitude as they increased in
enthusiasm: for by how much their leader became more impatient in his
step--more impetuous in his success--more exalted in his research, by so
much must the number capable of following him become narrower, until at
last, supposing him never to pause in his advance, he might be left in
the very culminating moment of his consummate achievement, with but a
faithful few by his side, his former disciples fallen away, his former
enemies doubled in numbers and virulence, and the evidence of his
supremacy only to be wrought out by the devotion of men's lives to the
earnest study of the new truths he had discovered and recorded.

Such a mind has arisen in our days. It has gone on from strength to
strength, laying open fields of conquest peculiar to itself. It has
occasioned such schism in the schools of criticism as was beforehand to
be expected, and it is now at the zenith of its power, and,
_consequently_, in the last phase of declining popularity.

This I know, and can prove. No man, says Southey, was ever yet convinced
of any momentous truth without feeling in himself the power, as well as
the desire of communicating it. In asserting and demonstrating the
supremacy of this great master, I shall both do immediate service to the
cause of right art, and shall be able to illustrate many principles of
landscape painting which are of general application, and have hitherto
been unacknowledged.

For anything like immediate effect on the public mind, I do not hope.
"We mistake men's diseases," says Richard Baxter, "when we think there
needeth nothing to cure them of their errors but the evidence of truth.
Alas! there are many distempers of mind to be removed before they
receive that evidence." Nevertheless, when it is fully laid before them,
my duty will be done. Conviction will follow in due time. I do not
consider myself as in any way addressing, or having to do with, the
ordinary critics of the press. Their writings are not the guide, but the
expression, of public opinion. A writer for a newspaper naturally and
necessarily endeavors to meet, as nearly as he can, the feelings of the
majority of his readers; his bread depends on his doing so. Precluded by
the nature of his occupations from gaining any knowledge of art, he is
sure that he can gain credit for it by expressing the opinions of his
readers. He mocks the picture which the public pass, and bespatters with
praise the canvas which a crowd concealed from him.

Writers like the present critic of Blackwood's Magazine[C] deserve more
respect--the respect due to honest, hopeless, helpless imbecility. There
is something exalted in the innocence of their feeblemindedness: one
cannot suspect them of partiality, for it implies feeling; nor of
prejudice, for it implies some previous acquaintance with their subject.
I do not know that even in this age of charlatanry, I could point to a
more barefaced instance of imposture on the simplicity of the public,
than the insertion of these pieces of criticism in a respectable
periodical. We are not insulted with opinions on music from persons
ignorant of its notes; nor with treatises on philology by persons
unacquainted with the alphabet; but here is page after page of
criticism, which one may read from end to end, looking for something
which the writer knows, and finding nothing. Not his own language, for
he has to look in his dictionary, by his own confession, for a word[D]
occurring in one of the most important chapters of his Bible; not the
commonest traditions of the schools, for he does not know why Poussin
was called "learned;"[E] not the most simple canons of art, for he
prefers Lee to Gainsborough;[F] not the most ordinary facts of nature,
for we find him puzzled by the epithet "silver," as applied to the
orange blossom,--evidently never having seen anything silvery about an
orange in his life, except a spoon. Nay, he leaves us not to conjecture
his calibre from internal evidence; he candidly tells us (Oct. 1842)
that he has been studying trees only for the last week, and bases his
critical remarks chiefly on his practical experience of birch. More
disinterested than our friend Sancho, he would disenchant the public
from the magic of Turner by virtue of his own flagellation;
Xanthias-like, he would rob his master of immortality by his own powers
of endurance. What is Christopher North about? Does he receive his
critiques from Eaton or Harrow--based on the experience of a week's
birds'-nesting and its consequences? How low must art and its interests
sink, when the public mind is inadequate to the detection of this
effrontery of incapacity! In all kindness to Maga, we warn her, that,
though the nature of this work precludes us from devoting space to the
exposure, there may come a time when the public shall be themselves able
to distinguish ribaldry from reasoning, and may require some better and
higher qualifications in their critics of art, than the experience of a
school-boy, and the capacities of a buffoon.

It is not, however, merely to vindicate the reputation of those whom
writers like these defame, which would but be to anticipate by a few
years the natural and inevitable reaction of the public mind, that I am
devoting years of labor to the development of the principles on which
the great productions of recent art are based. I have a higher end in
view--one which may, I think, justify me, not only in the sacrifice of
my own time, but in calling on my readers to follow me through an
investigation far more laborious than could be adequately rewarded by
mere insight into the merits of a particular master, or the spirit of a
particular age.

It is a question which, in spite of the claims of Painting to be
called the Sister of Poetry, appears to me to admit of considerable
doubt, whether art has ever, except in its earliest and rudest stages,
possessed anything like efficient moral influence on mankind. Better the
state of Rome when "magnorum artificum frangebat pocula miles, ut
phaleris gauderet equus," than when her walls flashed with the marble
and the gold, "nec cessabat luxuria id agere, ut quam plurimum incendiis
perdat." Better the state of religion in Italy, before Giotto had broken
on one barbarism of the Byzantine schools, than when the painter of the
Last Judgment, and the sculptor of the Perseus, sat revelling side by
side. It appears to me that a rude symbol is oftener more efficient than
a refined one in touching the heart, and that as pictures rise in rank
as works of art, they are regarded with less devotion and more

But, however this may be, and whatever influence we may be disposed to
admit in the great works of sacred art, no doubt can, I think, be
reasonably entertained as to the utter inutility of all that has been
hitherto accomplished by the painters of landscape. No moral end has
been answered, no permanent good effected, by any of their works. They
may have amused the intellect, or exercised the ingenuity, but they
never have spoken to the heart. Landscape art has never taught us one
deep or holy lesson; it has not recorded that which is fleeting, nor
penetrated that which was hidden, nor interpreted that which was
obscure; it has never made us feel the wonder, nor the power, nor the
glory, of the universe; it has not prompted to devotion, nor touched
with awe; its power to move and exalt the heart has been fatally abused,
and perished in the abusing. That which ought to have been a witness to
the omnipotence of God, has become an exhibition of the dexterity of
man, and that which should have lifted our thoughts to the throne of the
Deity, has encumbered them with the inventions of his creatures.

If we stand for a little time before any of the more celebrated works of
landscape, listening to the comments of the passers-by, we shall hear
numberless expressions relating to the skill of the artist, but very few
relating to the perfection of nature. Hundreds will be voluble in
admiration, for one who will be silent in delight. Multitudes will laud
the composition, and depart with the praise of Claude on their
lips,--not one will feel as if it were _no_ composition, and depart
with the praise of God in his heart.

These are the signs of a debased, mistaken, and false school of
painting. The skill of the artist, and the perfection of his art, are
never proved until both are forgotten. The artist has done nothing till
he has concealed himself,--the art is imperfect which is visible,--the
feelings are but feebly touched, if they permit us to reason on the
methods of their excitement. In the reading of a great poem, in the
hearing of a noble oration, it is the subject of the writer, and not his
skill,--his passion, not his power, on which our minds are fixed. We see
as he sees, but we see not him. We become part of him, feel with him,
judge, behold with him; but we think _of_ him as little as of ourselves.
Do we think of Æschylus while we wait on the silence of Cassandra,[G] or
of Shakspeare, while we listen to the wailing of Lear? Not so. The power
of the masters is shown by their self-annihilation. It is commensurate
with the degree in which they themselves appear not in their work. The
harp of the minstrel is untruly touched, if his own glory is all that it
records. Every great writer may be at once known by his guiding the mind
far from himself, to the beauty which is not of his creation, and the
knowledge which is past his finding out.

And must it ever be otherwise with painting, for otherwise it has ever
been. Her subjects have been regarded as mere themes on which the
artist's power is to be displayed; and that power, be it of imitation,
composition, idealization, or of whatever other kind, is the chief
object of the spectator's observation. It is man and his fancies, man
and his trickeries, man and his inventions,--poor, paltry, weak,
self-sighted man,--which the connoisseur forever seeks and worships.
Among potsherds and dunghills, among drunken boors and withered
beldames, through every scene of debauchery and degradation, we follow
the erring artist, not to receive one wholesome lesson, not to be
touched with pity, nor moved with indignation, but to watch the
dexterity of the pencil, and gloat over the glittering of the hue.

I speak not only of the works of the Flemish School--I wage no war with
their admirers; they may be left in peace to count the spiculæ of
haystacks and the hairs of donkeys--it is also of works of real mind
that I speak,--works in which there are evidences of genius and workings
of power,--works which have been held up as containing all of the
beautiful that art can reach or man conceive. And I assert with sorrow,
that all hitherto done in landscape, by those commonly conceived its
masters, has never prompted one holy thought in the minds of nations. It
has begun and ended in exhibiting the dexterities of individuals, and
conventionalities of systems. Filling the world with the honor of Claude
and Salvator, it has never once tended to the honor of God.

Does the reader start in reading these last words, as if they were those
of wild enthusiasm,--as if I were lowering the dignity of religion by
supposing that its cause could be advanced by such means? His surprise
proves my position. It _does_ sound like wild, like absurd enthusiasm,
to expect any definite moral agency in the painters of landscape; but
ought it so to sound? Are the gorgeousness of the visible hue, the glory
of the realized form, instruments in the artist's hand so ineffective,
that they can answer no nobler purpose than the amusement of curiosity,
or the engagement of idleness? Must it not be owing to gross neglect or
misapplication of the means at his command, that while words and tones
(means of representing nature surely less powerful than lines and
colors) can kindle and purify the very inmost souls of men, the painter
can only hope to entertain by his efforts at expression, and must remain
forever brooding over his incommunicable thoughts?

The cause of the evil lies, I believe, deep-seated in the system of
ancient landscape art; it consists, in a word, in the painter's taking
upon him to modify God's works at his pleasure, casting the shadow of
himself on all he sees, constituting himself arbiter where it is honor
to be a disciple, and exhibiting his ingenuity by the attainment of
combinations whose highest praise is that they are impossible. We shall
not pass through a single gallery of old art, without hearing this topic
of praise confidently advanced. The sense of artificialness, the
absence of all appearance of reality, the clumsiness of combination by
which the meddling of man is made evident, and the feebleness of his
hand branded on the inorganization of his monstrous creature, is
advanced as a proof of inventive power, as an evidence of abstracted
conception;--nay, the violation of specific form, the utter abandonment
of all organic and individual character of object, (numberless examples
of which from the works of the old masters are given in the following
pages,) is constantly held up by the unthinking critic as the foundation
of the grand or historical style, and the first step to the attainment
of a pure ideal. Now, there is but one grand style, in the treatment of
all subjects whatsoever, and that style is based on the _perfect_
knowledge, and consists in the simple, unencumbered rendering, of the
specific characters of the given object, be it man, beast, or flower.
Every change, caricature, or abandonment of such specific character, is
as destructive of grandeur as it is of truth, of beauty as of propriety.
Every alteration of the features of nature has its origin either in
powerless indolence or blind audacity, in the folly which forgets, or
the insolence which desecrates, works which it is the pride of angels to
know, and their privilege to love.

We sometimes hear such infringement of universal laws justified on the
plea, that the frequent introduction of mythological abstractions into
ancient landscape requires an imaginary character of form in the
material objects with which they are associated. Something of this kind
is hinted in Reynolds's 14th Discourse; but nothing can be more false
than such reasoning. If there be any truth or beauty in the original
conception of the spiritual being so introduced, there must be a true
and real connection between that abstract idea[H] and the features of
nature as she was and is. The woods and waters which were peopled by the
Greek with typical life were not different from those which now wave and
murmur by the ruins of his shrines. With their visible and actual forms
was his imagination filled, and the beauty of its incarnate creatures
can only be understood among the pure realities which originally
modelled their conception. If divinity be stamped upon the features, or
apparent in the form of the spiritual creature, the mind will not be
shocked by its appearing to ride upon the whirlwind, and trample on the
storm; but if mortality, no violation of the characters of the earth
will forge one single link to bind it to the heaven.

Is there then no such thing as elevated ideal character of landscape?
Undoubtedly; and Sir Joshua, with the great master of this character,
Nicolo Poussin, present to his thoughts, ought to have arrived at more
true conclusions respecting its essence than, as we shall presently see,
are deducible from his works. The true ideal of landscape is precisely
the same as that of the human form; it is the expression of the
specific--not the individual, but the specific--characters of every
object, in their perfection; there is an ideal form of every herb,
flower, and tree: it is that form to which every individual of the
species has a tendency to arrive, freed from the influence of accident
or disease. Every landscape painter should know the specific characters
of every object he has to represent, rock, flower, or cloud; and in his
highest ideal works, all their distinctions will be perfectly expressed,
broadly or delicately, slightly or completely, according to the nature
of the subject, and the degree of attention which is to be drawn to the
particular object by the part it plays in the composition. Where the
sublime is aimed at, such distinctions will be indicated with severe
simplicity, as the muscular markings in a colossal statue; where beauty
is the object, they must be expressed with the utmost refinement of
which the hand is capable.

This may sound like a contradiction of principles advanced by the
highest authorities; but it is only a contradiction of a particular and
most mistaken application of them. Much evil has been done to art by
the remarks of historical painters on landscape. Accustomed themselves
to treat their backgrounds slightly and boldly, and feeling (though, as
I shall presently show, only in consequence of their own deficient
powers) that any approach to completeness of detail therein, injures
their picture by interfering with its principal subject, they naturally
lose sight of the peculiar and intrinsic beauties of things which to
them are injurious, unless subordinate. Hence the frequent advice given
by Reynolds and others, to neglect _specific_ form in landscape, and
treat its materials in large masses, aiming only at general truths,--the
flexibility of foliage, but not its kind; the rigidity of rock, but not
its mineral character. In the passage more especially bearing on this
subject (in the eleventh lecture of Sir J. Reynolds), we are told that
"the landscape painter works not for the virtuoso or the naturalist, but
for the general observer of life and nature." This is true, in precisely
the same sense that the sculptor does not work for the anatomist, but
for the common observer of life and nature. Yet the sculptor is not, for
this reason, permitted to be wanting either in knowledge or expression
of anatomical detail; and the more refined that expression can be
rendered, the more perfect is his work. That which, to the anatomist, is
the end,--is, to the sculptor, the means. The former desires details,
for their own sake; the latter, that by means of them, he may kindle his
work with life, and stamp it with beauty. And so in landscape;--botanical
or geological details are not to be given as matter of curiosity or
subject of search, but as the ultimate elements of every species of
expression and order of loveliness.

In his observations on the foreground of the St. Pietro Martire, Sir
Joshua advances, as matter of praise, that the plants are discriminated
"just as much as was necessary for variety, and no more." Had this
foreground been occupied by a group of animals, we should have been
surprised to be told that the lion, the serpent, and the dove, or
whatever other creatures might have been introduced, were distinguished
from each other just as much as was necessary for variety, and no more.
Yet is it to be supposed that the distinctions of the vegetable world
are less complete, less essential, or less divine in origin, than those
of the animal? If the distinctive forms of animal life are meant for our
reverent observance, is it likely that those of vegetable life are made
merely to be swept away? The latter are indeed less obvious and less
obtrusive; for which very reason there is less excuse for omitting them,
because there is less danger of their disturbing the attention or
engaging the fancy.

But Sir Joshua is as inaccurate in fact, as false in principle. He
himself furnishes a most singular instance of the very error of which he
accuses Vaseni,--the seeing what he expects; or, rather, in the present
case, not seeing what he does not expect. The great masters of Italy,
almost without exception, and Titian perhaps more than any, (for he had
the highest knowledge of landscape,) are in the constant habit of
rendering every detail of their foregrounds with the most laborious
botanical fidelity: witness the "Bacchus and Ariadne," in which the
foreground is occupied by the common blue iris, the aquilegia, and the
wild rose; _every stamen_ of which latter is given, while the blossoms
and leaves of the columbine (a difficult flower to draw) have been
studied with the most exquisite accuracy. The foregrounds of Raffaelle's
two cartoons,--"The Miraculous Draught of Fishes" and "The Charge to
Peter,"--are covered with plants of the common sea colewort, (_crambe
maritima_,) of which the sinuated leaves and clustered blossoms would
have exhausted the patience of any other artist; but have appeared
worthy of prolonged and thoughtful labor to the great mind of Raffaelle.

It appears then, not only from natural principles, but from the highest
of all authority, that thorough knowledge of the lowest details is
necessary and full expression of them right, even in the highest class
of historical painting; that it will not take away from, nor interfere
with, the interest of the figures; but, rightly managed, must add to and
elucidate it; and, if further proof be wanting, I would desire the
reader to compare the background of Sir Joshua's "Holy Family," in the
National Gallery, with that of Nicolo Poussin's "Nursing of Jupiter," in
the Dulwich Gallery. The first, owing to the utter neglect of all
botanical detail, has lost every atom of ideal character, and reminds us
of nothing but an English fashionable flower garden;--the formal
pedestal adding considerably to the effect. Poussin's, in which every
vine leaf is drawn with consummate skill and untiring diligence,
produces not only a tree group of the most perfect grace and beauty, but
one which, in its pure and simple truth, belongs to every age of nature,
and adapts itself to the history of all time. If, then, such entire
rendering of specific character be necessary to the historical painter,
in cases where these lower details are entirely subordinate to his human
subject, how much more must it be necessary in landscape, where they
themselves constitute the subject, and where the undivided attention is
to be drawn to them.

There is a singular sense in which the child may peculiarly be said to
be father of the man. In many arts and attainments, the first and last
stages of progress--the infancy and the consummation--have many features
in common; while the intermediate stages are wholly unlike either, and
are farthest from the right. Thus it is in the progress of a painter's
handling. We see the perfect child,--the absolute beginner, using of
necessity a broken, imperfect, inadequate line, which, as he advances,
becomes gradually firm, severe, and decided. Yet before he becomes a
perfect artist, this severity and decision will again be exchanged for a
light and careless stroke, which in many points will far more resemble
that of his childhood than of his middle age--differing from it only by
the consummate effect wrought out by the apparently inadequate means. So
it is in many matters of opinion. Our first and last coincide, though on
different grounds; it is the middle stage which is farthest from the
truth. Childhood often holds a truth with its feeble fingers, which the
grasp of manhood cannot retain,--which it is the pride of utmost age to

Perhaps this is in no instance more remarkable than in the opinion we
form upon the subject of detail in works of art. Infants in judgment, we
look for specific character, and complete finish--we delight in the
faithful plumage of the well-known bird--in the finely drawn leafage of
the discriminated flower. As we advance in judgment, we scorn such
detail altogether; we look for impetuosity of execution, and breadth of
effect. But, perfected in judgment, we return in a great measure to our
early feelings, and thank Raffaelle for the shells upon his sacred
beach, and for the delicate stamens of the herbage beside his inspired
St. Catherine.[I]

Of those who take interest in art, nay, even of artists themselves,
there are an hundred in the middle stage of judgment, for one who is in
the last; and this not because they are destitute of the power to
discover, or the sensibility to enjoy the truth, but because the truth
bears so much semblance of error--the last stage of the journey to the
first,--that every feeling which guides to it is checked in its origin.
The rapid and powerful artist necessarily looks with such contempt on
those who seek minutiæ of detail _rather_ than grandeur of impression,
that it is almost impossible for him to conceive of the great last step
in art, by which both become compatible. He has so often to dash the
delicacy out of the pupil's work, and to blot the details from his
encumbered canvas; so frequently to lament the loss of breadth and
unity, and so seldom to reprehend the imperfection of minutiæ, that he
necessarily looks upon complete _parts_ as the very sign of error,
weakness, and ignorance. Thus, frequently to the latest period of his
life, he separates, like Sir Joshua, as chief enemies, the details and
the whole, which an artist cannot be great unless he reconciles; and
because details alone, and unreferred to a final purpose, are the sign
of a tyro's work, he loses sight of the remoter truth, that details
perfect in unity, and, contributing to a final purpose, are the sign of
the production of a consummate master.

It is not, therefore, detail sought for its own sake,--not the
calculable bricks of the Dutch house-painters, nor the numbered hairs
and mapped wrinkles of Denner, which constitute great art,--they are the
lowest and most contemptible art; but it is detail referred to a great
end,--sought for the sake of the inestimable beauty which exists in the
slightest and least of God's works, and treated in a manly, broad, and
impressive manner. There may be as much greatness of mind, as much
nobility of manner in a master's treatment of the smallest features, as
in his management of the most vast; and this greatness of manner chiefly
consists in seizing the specific character of the object, together with
all the great qualities of beauty which it has in common with higher
orders of existence,[J] while he utterly rejects the meaner beauties
which are accidentally peculiar to the object, and yet not specifically
characteristic of it. I cannot give a better instance than the painting
of the flowers in Titian's picture above mentioned. While every stamen
of the rose is given, because this was necessary to mark the flower, and
while the curves and large characters of the leaves are rendered with
exquisite fidelity, there is no vestige of particular texture, of moss,
bloom, moisture, or any other accident--no dew-drops, nor flies, nor
trickeries of any kind; nothing beyond the simple forms and hues of the
flowers,--even those hues themselves being simplified and broadly
rendered. The varieties of aquilegia have, in reality, a grayish and
uncertain tone of color; and, I believe, never attain the intense purity
of blue with which Titian has gifted his flower. But the master does not
aim at the particular color of individual blossoms; he seizes the type
of all, and gives it with the utmost purity and simplicity of which
color is capable.

These laws being observed, it will not only be in the power, it will be
the duty,--the imperative duty,--of the landscape painter, to descend to
the lowest details with undiminished attention. Every herb and flower of
the field has its specific, distinct, and perfect beauty; it has its
peculiar habitation, expression, and function. The highest art is that
which seizes this specific character, which develops and illustrates it,
which assigns to it its proper position in the landscape, and which, by
means of it, enhances and enforces the great impression which the
picture is intended to convey. Nor is it of herbs and flowers alone that
such scientific representation is required. Every class of rock, every
kind of earth, every form of cloud, must be studied with equal industry,
and rendered with equal precision. And thus we find ourselves
unavoidably led to a conclusion directly opposed to that constantly
enunciated dogma of the parrot-critic, that the features of nature must
be "generalized,"--a dogma whose inherent and broad absurdity would long
ago have been detected, if it had not contained in its convenient
falsehood an apology for indolence, and a disguise for incapacity.
Generalized! As if it were possible to generalize things generically
different. Of such common cant of criticism I extract a characteristic
passage from one of the reviews of this work, that in this year's
Athenæum for February 10th: "He (the author) would have geological
landscape painters, dendrologic, meteorologic, and doubtless
entomologic, ichthyologic, every kind of physiologic painter united in
the same person; yet, alas, for true poetic art among all these learned
Thebans! No; landscape painting must not be reduced to mere portraiture
of inanimate substances, Denner-like portraiture of the earth's face.
*  *  *  *  *  Ancient landscapists took a broader, deeper, higher view
of their art; they neglected particular traits, and gave only general
features. Thus they attained mass and force, harmonious union and simple
effect, the elements of grandeur and beauty."

To all such criticism as this (and I notice it only because it expresses
the feelings into which many sensible and thoughtful minds have been
fashioned by infection) the answer is simple and straightforward. It is
just as impossible to generalize granite and slate, as it is to
generalize a man and a cow. An animal must be either one animal or
another animal; it cannot be a general animal, or it is no animal; and
so a rock must be either one rock or another rock; it cannot be a
general rock, or it is no rock. If there were a creature in the
foreground of a picture, of which he could not decide whether it were a
pony or a pig, the Athenæum critic would perhaps affirm it to be a
generalization of pony and pig, and consequently a high example of
"harmonious union and simple effect." But _I_ should call it simple bad
drawing. And so when there are things in the foreground of Salvator of
which I cannot pronounce whether they be granite or slate, or tufa, I
affirm that there is in them neither harmonious union nor simple effect,
but simple monstrosity. There is no grandeur, no beauty of any sort or
kind; nothing but destruction, disorganization, and ruin, to be obtained
by the violation of natural distinctions. The elements of brutes can
only mix in corruption, the elements of inorganic nature only in
annihilation. We may, if we choose, put together centaur monsters; but
they must still be half man, half horse; they cannot be both man and
horse, nor either man or horse. And so, if landscape painters choose,
they may give us rocks which shall be half granite and half slate; but
they cannot give us rocks which shall be either granite or slate, nor
which shall be both granite and slate. Every attempt to produce that
which shall be _any_ rock, ends in the production of that which is _no_

It is true that the distinctions of rocks and plants and clouds are less
conspicuous, and less constantly subjects of observation than those of
the animal creation; but the difficulty of observing them proves not
the merit of overlooking them. It only accounts for the singular fact,
that the world has never yet seen anything like a perfect school of
landscape. For just as the highest historical painting is based on
perfect knowledge of the workings of the human form, and human mind, so
must the highest landscape painting be based on perfect cognizance of
the form, functions, and system of every organic or definitely
structured existence which it has to represent. This proposition is
self-evident to every thinking mind; and every principle which appears
to contradict it is either misstated or misunderstood. For instance, the
Athenæum critic calls the right statement of generic difference
"_Denner_-like portraiture." If he can find anything like Denner in what
I have advanced as the utmost perfection of landscape art--the recent
works of Turner--he is welcome to his discovery and his theory. No;
Denner-like portraiture would be the endeavor to paint the separate
crystals of quartz and felspar in the granite, and the separate flakes
of mica in the mica slate,--an attempt just as far removed from what I
assert to be great art, (the bold rendering of the generic characters of
form in both rocks,) as modern sculpture of lace and button-holes is
from the Elgin marbles. Martin has attempted this Denner-like
portraiture of sea-foam with the assistance of an acre of canvas--with
what success, I believe the critics of his last year's Canute had, for
once, sense enough to decide.

Again, it does not follow that because such accurate knowledge is
_necessary_ to the painter that it should constitute the painter, nor
that such knowledge is valuable in itself, and without reference to high
ends. Every kind of knowledge may be sought from ignoble motives, and
for ignoble ends; and in those who so possess it, it is ignoble
knowledge; while the very same knowledge is in another mind an
attainment of the highest dignity, and conveying the greatest blessing.
This is the difference between the mere botanist's knowledge of plants,
and the great poet's or painter's knowledge of them. The one notes their
distinctions for the sake of swelling his herbarium, the other, that he
may render them vehicles of expression and emotion. The one counts the
stamens, and affixes a name, and is content; the other observes every
character of the plant's color and form; considering each of its
attributes as an element of expression, he seizes on its lines of grace
or energy, rigidity or repose; notes the feebleness or the vigor, the
serenity or tremulousness of its hues; observes its local habits, its
love or fear of peculiar places, its nourishment or destruction by
particular influences; he associates it in his mind with all the
features of the situations it inhabits, and the ministering agencies
necessary to its support. Thenceforward the flower is to him a living
creature, with histories written on its leaves, and passions breathing
in its motion. Its occurrence in his picture is no mere point of color,
no meaningless spark of light. It is a voice rising from the earth,--a
new chord of the mind's music,--a necessary note in the harmony of his
picture, contributing alike to its tenderness and its dignity, nor less
to its loveliness than its truth.

The particularization of flowers by Shakspeare and Shelley affords us
the most frequent examples of the exalted use of these inferior details.
It is true that the painter has not the same power of expressing the
thoughts with which his symbols are connected; he is dependent in some
degree on the knowledge and feeling of the spectator; but, by the
destruction of such details, his foreground is not rendered more
intelligible to the ignorant, although it ceases to have interest for
the informed. It is no excuse for illegible writing that there are
persons who could not have read it had it been plain.

I repeat then, generalization, as the word is commonly understood, is
the act of a vulgar, incapable, and unthinking mind. To see in all
mountains nothing but similar heaps of earth; in all rocks, nothing but
similar concretions of solid matter; in all trees, nothing but similar
accumulations of leaves, is no sign of high feeling or extended thought.
The more we know, and the more we feel, the more we separate; we
separate to obtain a more perfect unity. Stones, in the thoughts of the
peasant, lie as they do on his field, one is like another, and there is
no connection between any of them. The geologist distinguishes, and in
distinguishing connects them. Each becomes different from its fellow,
but in differing from, assumes a relation to its fellow; they are no
more each the repetition of the other,--they are parts of a system, and
each implies and is connected with the existence of the rest. That
generalization then is right, true, and noble, which is based on the
knowledge of the distinctions and observance of the relations of
individual kinds. That generalization is wrong, false, and contemptible,
which is based on ignorance of the one, and disturbance of the other.
It is indeed no generalization, but confusion and chaos; it is the
generalization of a defeated army into indistinguishable impotence--the
generalization of the elements of a dead carcass into dust.

Let us, then, without farther notice of the dogmata of the schools of
art, follow forth those conclusions to which we are led by observance of
the laws of nature.

I have just said that every class of rock, earth and cloud, must be
known by the painter, with geologic and meteorologic accuracy.[K] Nor is
this merely for the sake of obtaining the character of these minor
features themselves, but more especially for the sake of reaching that
simple, earnest, and consistent character which is visible in the
_whole_ effect of every natural landscape. Every geological formation
has features entirely peculiar to itself; definite lines of fracture,
giving rise to fixed resultant forms of rock and earth; peculiar
vegetable products, among which still farther distinctions are wrought
out by variations of climate and elevation. From such modifying
circumstances arise the infinite varieties of the orders of landscape,
of which each one shows perfect harmony among its several features, and
possesses an ideal beauty of its own; a beauty not distinguished merely
by such peculiarities as are wrought on the human form by change of
climate, but by generic differences the most marked and essential; so
that its classes cannot be generalized or amalgamated by any expedients
whatsoever. The level marshes and rich meadows of the tertiary, the
rounded swells and short pastures of the chalk, the square-built cliffs
and cloven dells of the lower limestone, the soaring peaks and ridgy
precipices of the primaries, having nothing in common among
them--nothing which is not distinctive and incommunicable. Their very
atmospheres are different--their clouds are different--their humors of
storm and sunshine are different--their flowers, animals and forests are
different. By each order of landscape--and its orders, I repeat, are
infinite in number, corresponding not only to the several species of
rock, but to the particular circumstances of the rocks' deposition or
after treatment, and to the incalculable varieties of climate, aspect,
and human interference:--by each order of landscape, I say, peculiar
lessons are intended to be taught, and distinct pleasures to be
conveyed; and it is as utterly futile to talk of generalizing their
impressions into an ideal landscape, as to talk of amalgamating all
nourishment into one ideal food, gathering all music into one ideal
movement, or confounding all thought into one ideal idea.

There is, however, such a thing as composition of different orders of
landscape, though there can be no generalization of them. Nature herself
perpetually brings together elements of various expression. Her barren
rocks stoop through wooded promontories to the plain; and the wreaths of
the vine show through their green shadows the wan light of unperishing

The painter, therefore, has the choice of either working out the
isolated character of some one distinct class of scene, or of bringing
together a multitude of different elements, which may adorn each other
by contrast.

I believe that the simple and uncombined landscape, if wrought out with
due attention to the ideal beauty of the features it includes, will
always be the most powerful in its appeal to the heart. Contrast
increases the splendor of beauty, but it disturbs its influence; it adds
to its attractiveness, but diminishes its power. On this subject I shall
have much to say hereafter; at present I merely wish to suggest the
possibility, that the single-minded painter, who is working out on broad
and simple principles, a piece of unbroken, harmonious landscape
character, may be reaching an end in art quite as high as the more
ambitious student who is always "within five minutes' walk of
everywhere," making the ends of the earth contribute to his pictorial
guazzetto;[L] and the certainty, that unless the composition of the
latter be regulated by severe judgment, and its members connected by
natural links, it must become more contemptible in its motley, than an
honest study of roadside weeds.

Let me, at the risk of tediously repeating what is universally known,
refer to the common principles of historical composition, in order that
I may show their application to that of landscape. The merest tyro in
art knows that every figure which is unnecessary to his picture, is an
encumbrance to it, and that every figure which does not sympathize with
the action, interrupts it. He that gathereth not with me,
scattereth,--is, or ought to be, the ruling principle of his plan: and
the power and grandeur of his result will be exactly proportioned to the
unity of feeling manifested in its several parts, and to the propriety
and simplicity of the relations in which they stand to each other.

All this is equally applicable to the materials of inanimate nature.
Impressiveness is destroyed by a multitude of contradictory facts, and
the accumulation, which is not harmonious, is discordant. He who
endeavors to unite simplicity with magnificence, to guide from solitude
to festivity, and to contrast melancholy with mirth, must end by the
production of confused inanity. There is a peculiar spirit; possessed by
every kind of scene; and although a point of contrast may sometimes
enhance and exhibit this particular feeling more intensely, it must be
only a point, not an equalized opposition. Every introduction of new and
different feeling weakens the force of what has already been impressed,
and the mingling of all emotions must conclude in apathy, as the
mingling of all colors in white.

Let us test by these simple rules one of the "ideal" landscape
compositions of Claude, that known to the Italians as "Il Mulino."

The foreground is a piece of very lovely and perfect forest scenery,
with a dance of peasants by a brookside; quite enough subject to form,
in the hands of a master, an impressive and complete picture. On the
other side of the brook, however, we have a piece of pastoral life, a
man with some bulls and goats tumbling headforemost into the water,
owing to some sudden paralytic affection of all their legs. Even this
group is one too many; the shepherd had no business to drive his flock
so near the dancers, and the dancers will certainly frighten the cattle.
But when we look farther into the picture, our feelings receive a
sudden and violent shock, by the unexpected appearance, amidst things
pastoral and musical, of the military: a number of Roman soldiers riding
in on hobby-horses, with a leader on foot, apparently encouraging them
to make an immediate and decisive charge on the musicians. Beyond the
soldiers is a circular temple, in exceedingly bad repair, and close
beside it, built against its very walls, a neat water-mill in full work.
By the mill flows a large river, with a weir all across it. The weir has
not been made for the mill, (for that receives its water from the hills
by a trough carried over the temple,) but it is particularly ugly and
monotonous in its line of fall, and the water below forms a dead-looking
pond, on which some people are fishing in punts. The banks of this river
resemble in contour the later geological formations around London,
constituted chiefly of broken pots and oyster-shells. At an inconvenient
distance from the water-side stands a city, composed of twenty-five
round towers and a pyramid. Beyond the city is a handsome bridge; beyond
the bridge, part of the Campagna, with fragments of aqueducts; beyond
the Campagna, the chain of the Alps; on the left, the cascades of

This is, I believe, a fair example of what is commonly called an "ideal
landscape," _i.e._, a group of the artist's studies from nature,
individually spoiled, selected with such opposition of character as may
insure their neutralizing each other's effect, and united with
sufficient unnaturalness and violence of association to insure their
producing a general sensation of the impossible. Let us analyze the
separate subjects a little in this ideal work of Claude's.

Perhaps there is no more impressive scene on earth than the solitary
extent of the Campagna of Rome under evening light. Let the reader
imagine himself for a moment withdrawn from the sounds and motion of the
living world, and sent forth alone into this wild and wasted plain. The
earth yields and crumbles beneath his foot, tread he never so lightly,
for its substance is white, hollow, and carious, like the dusty wreck of
the bones of men.[M] The long knotted grass waves and tosses feebly in
the evening wind, and the shadows of its motion shake feverishly along
the banks of ruin that lift themselves to the sunlight. Hillocks of
mouldering earth heave around him, as if the dead beneath were
struggling in their sleep; scattered blocks of black stone, four-square,
remnants of mighty edifices, not one left upon another, lie upon them to
keep them down. A dull purple, poisonous haze stretches level along the
desert, veiling its spectral wrecks of massy ruins, on whose rents the
red light rests like dying fire on defiled altars. The blue ridge of the
Alban mount lifts itself against a solemn space of green, clear, quiet
sky. Watch-towers of dark clouds stand steadfastly along the
promontories, of the Apennines. From the plain to the mountains, the
shattered aqueducts, pier beyond pier, melt into the darkness, like
shadowy and countless troops of funeral mourners, passing from a
nation's grave.

Let us, with Claude, make a few "ideal" alterations in this landscape.
First, we will reduce the multitudinous precipices of the Apennines to
four sugar-loaves. Secondly, we will remove the Alban mount, and put a
large dust-heap in its stead. Next, we will knock down the greater part
of the aqueducts, and leave only an arch or two, that their infinity of
length may no longer be painful from its monotony. For the purple mist
and declining sun, we will substitute a bright blue sky, with round
white clouds. Finally, we will get rid of the unpleasant ruins in the
foreground; we will plant some handsome trees therein, we will send for
some fiddlers, and get up a dance, and a picnic party.

It will be found, throughout the picture, that the same species of
improvement is made on the materials which Claude had ready to his hand.
The descending slopes of the city of Rome, towards the pyramid of Caius
Cestius, supply not only lines of the most exquisite variety and beauty,
but matter for contemplation and reflection in every fragment of their
buildings. This passage has been idealized by Claude into a set of
similar round towers, respecting which no idea can be formed but that
they are uninhabitable, and to which no interest can be attached, beyond
the difficulty of conjecturing what they could have been built for. The
ruins of the temple are rendered unimpressive by the juxtaposition of
the water-mill, and inexplicable by the introduction of the Roman
soldiers. The glide of the muddy streams of the melancholy Tiber and
Anio through the Campagna, is impressive in itself, but altogether
ceases to be so, when we disturb their stillness of motion by a weir,
adorn their neglected flow with a handsome bridge, and cover their
solitary surface with punts, nets, and fishermen.

It cannot, I think, be expected, that landscapes like this should have
any effect on the human heart, except to harden or to degrade it; to
lead it from the love of what is simple, earnest and pure, to what is as
sophisticated and corrupt in arrangement, as erring and imperfect in
detail. So long as such works are held up for imitation, landscape
painting must be a manufacture, its productions must be toys, and its
patrons must be children.

My purpose then, in the present work, is to demonstrate the utter
falseness both of the facts and principles; the imperfection of
material, and error of arrangement, on which works such as these are
based; and to insist on the necessity, as well as the dignity, of an
earnest, faithful, loving, study of nature as she is, rejecting with
abhorrence all that man has done to alter and modify her. And the praise
which, in this first portion of the work, is given to many English
artists, would be justifiable on this ground only, that although
frequently with little power and desultory effort, they have yet, in an
honest and good heart, received the word of God from clouds, and leaves,
and waves, and kept it,[N] and endeavored in humility to render to the
world that purity of impression which can alone render the result of
art an instrument of good, or its labor deserving of gratitude.

If, however, I shall have frequent occasion to insist on the necessity
of this heartfelt love of, and unqualified submission to, the teaching
of nature, it will be no less incumbent upon me to reprobate the
careless rendering of casual impression, and the mechanical copyism of
unimportant subject, which are too frequently visible in our modern
school.[O] Their lightness and desultoriness of intention, their
meaningless multiplication of unstudied composition, and their want of
definiteness and loftiness of aim, bring discredit on their whole system
of study, and encourage in the critic the unhappy prejudice that the
field and the hill-side are less fit places of study than the gallery
and the garret. Not every casual idea caught from the flight of a shower
or the fall of a sunbeam, not every glowing fragment of harvest light,
nor every flickering dream of copsewood coolness, is to be given to the
world as it came, unconsidered, incomplete, and forgotten by the artist
as soon as it has left his easel. That only should be considered a
picture, in which the spirit, (not the materials, observe,) but the
animating emotion of many such studies is concentrated, and exhibited by
the aid of long-studied, painfully-chosen forms; idealized in the right
sense of the word, not by audacious liberty of that faculty of degrading
God's works which man calls his "imagination," but by perfect assertion
of entire knowledge of every part and character and function of the
object, and in which the details are completed to the last line
compatible with the dignity and simplicity of the whole, wrought out
with that noblest industry which concentrates profusion into point, and
transforms accumulation into structure; neither must this labor be
bestowed on every subject which appears to afford a capability of good,
but on chosen subjects in which nature has prepared to the artist's hand
the purest sources of the impression he would convey. These may be
humble in their order, but they must be perfect of their kind. There is
a perfection of the hedgerow and cottage, as well as of the forest and
the palace, and more ideality in a great artist's selection and
treatment of roadside weeds and brook-worn pebbles, than in all the
struggling caricature of the meaner mind which heaps its foreground with
colossal columns, and heaves impossible mountains into the encumbered
sky. Finally, these chosen subjects must not be in any way repetitions
of one another, but each founded on a new idea, and developing a totally
distinct train of thought; so that the work of the artist's life should
form a consistent series of essays, rising through the scale of creation
from the humblest scenery to the most exalted; each picture being a
necessary link in the chain, based on what preceded, introducing to what
is to follow, and all, in their lovely system, exhibiting and drawing
closer the bonds of nature to the human heart. Since, then, I shall
have to reprobate the absence of study in the moderns nearly as much as
its false direction in the ancients, my task will naturally divide
itself into three portions. In the first, I shall endeavor to
investigate and arrange the facts of nature with scientific accuracy;
showing as I proceed, by what total neglect of the very first base and
groundwork of their art the idealities of some among the old masters are
produced. This foundation once securely laid, I shall proceed, in the
second portion of the work, to analyze and demonstrate the nature of the
emotions of the Beautiful and Sublime; to examine the particular
characters of every kind of scenery, and to bring to light, as far as
may be in my power, that faultless, ceaseless, inconceivable,
inexhaustible loveliness, which God has stamped upon all things, if man
will only receive them as He gives them. Finally, I shall endeavor to
trace the operation of all this on the hearts and minds of men; to
exhibit the moral function and end of art, to prove the share which it
ought to have in the thoughts, and influence on the lives of all of us;
to attach to the artist the responsibility of a preacher, and to kindle
in the general mind that regard which such an office must demand.

It must be evident that the first portion of this task, which is all
that I have yet been enabled to offer to the reader, cannot but be the
least interesting and the most laborious, especially because it is
necessary that it should be executed without reference to any principles
of beauty or influences of emotion. It is the hard, straightforward
classification of material things, not the study of thought or passion;
and therefore let me not be accused of the feelings which I choose to
repress. The consideration of the high qualities of art must not be
interrupted by the work of the hammer and the eudiometer.

Again, I would request that the frequent passages of reference to the
great masters of the Italian school may not be looked upon as mere modes
of conventional expression. I think there is enough in the following
pages to prove that I am not likely to be carried away by the celebrity
of a name; and therefore that the devoted love which I profess for the
works of the great historical and sacred painters is sincere and
well-grounded. And indeed every principle of art which I may advocate, I
shall be able to illustrate by reference to the works of men universally
allowed to be the masters of masters; and the public, so long as my
teaching leads them to higher understanding and love of the works of
Buonaroti, Leonardo, Raffaelle, Titian, and Cagliari, may surely concede
to me without fear, the right of striking such blows as I may deem
necessary to the establishment of my principles, at Gasper Poussin, or

Indeed, I believe there is nearly as much occasion, at the present day,
for advocacy of Michael Angelo against the pettiness of the moderns, as
there is for support of Turner against the conventionalities of the
ancients. For, though the names of the fathers of sacred art are on all
our lips, our faith in them is much like that of the great world in its
religion--nominal, but dead. In vain our lecturers sound the name of
Raffaelle in the ears of their pupils, while their own works are visibly
at variance with every principle deducible from his. In vain is the
young student compelled to produce a certain number of school copies of
Michael Angelo, when his bread must depend on the number of gewgaws he
can crowd into his canvas. And I could with as much zeal exert myself
against the modern system of English historical art, as I have in favor
of our school of landscape, but that it is an ungrateful and painful
task to attack the works of living painters, struggling with adverse
circumstances of every kind, and especially with the false taste of a
nation which regards matters of art either with the ticklishness of an
infant, or the stolidity of a Megatherium.

I have been accused, in the execution of this first portion of my work,
of irreverent and scurrile expression towards the works which I have
depreciated. Possibly I may have been in some degree infected by reading
those criticisms of our periodicals, which consist of nothing else; but
I believe in general that my words will be found to have sufficient
truth in them to excuse their familiarity; and that no other weapons
could have been used to pierce the superstitious prejudice with which
the works of certain painters are shielded from the attacks of reason.
My answer is that given long ago to a similar complaint, uttered under
the same circumstances by the foiled sophist:--"[Greek: (Hos d'estin ho
anthrôpos; hôs apaideutos tis, os ouiô phaula onomata onomazein tolma en
semnô pragmati.) Toioutos tis, ô Hippia, ouden allo phrontizôn ê to

It is with more surprise that I have heard myself accused of thoughtless
severity with respect to the works of contemporary painters, for I fully
believe that whenever I attack them, I give myself far more pain than I
can possibly inflict; and, in many instances, I have withheld
reprobation which I considered necessary to the full understanding of my
work, in the fear of grieving or injuring men of whose feelings and
circumstances I was ignorant. Indeed, the apparently false and
exaggerated bias of the whole book in favor of modern art, is in great
degree dependent on my withholding the animadversions which would have
given it balance, and keeping silence where I cannot praise. But I had
rather be a year or two longer in effecting my purposes, than reach them
by trampling on men's hearts and hearths; and I have permitted myself to
express unfavorable opinions only where the popularity and favor of the
artist are so great as to render the opinion of an individual a matter
of indifference to him.

And now--but one word more. For many a year we have heard nothing with
respect to the works of Turner but accusations of their want of _truth_.
To every observation on their power, sublimity, or beauty, there has
been but one reply: They are not like nature. I therefore took my
opponents on their own ground, and demonstrated, by thorough
investigation of actual facts, that Turner _is_ like nature, and paints
more of nature than any man who ever lived. I expected this proposition
(the foundation of all my future efforts) would have been disputed with
desperate struggles, and that I should have had to fight my way to my
position inch by inch. Not at all. My opponents yield me the field at
once. One (the writer for the Athenæum) has no other resource than the
assertion, that "he disapproves the natural style in painting. If people
want to see _nature_, let them go and look at herself. Why should they
see her at second-hand on a piece of canvas?" The other, (Blackwood,)
still more utterly discomfited, is reduced to a still more remarkable
line of defence. "It is not," he says, "what things in all respects
really are, but how they are convertible by the mind into what they are
_not_, that we have to consider." (October, 1843, p. 485.) I leave
therefore the reader to choose whether, with Blackwood and his fellows,
he will proceed to consider how things are convertible by the mind into
what they are _not_, or whether, with me, he will undergo the harder,
but perhaps on the whole more useful, labor of ascertaining--What they


  [A] One or two fragments of Greek sculpture, the works of Michael
    Angelo, considered with reference to their general conception and
    power, and the Madonna di St. Sisto, are all that I should myself
    put into such a category, not that even these are without defect,
    but their defects are such as mortality could never hope to rectify.

  [B] This principle is dangerous, but not the less true, and
    necessary to be kept in mind. There is scarcely any truth which does
    not admit of being wrested to purposes of evil, and we must not deny
    the desirableness of originality, because men may err in seeking for
    it, or because a pretence to it may be made, by presumption, a cloak
    for its incompetence. Nevertheless, originality is never to be
    sought for its own sake--otherwise it will be mere aberration--it
    should arise naturally out of hard, independent study of nature; and
    it should be remembered that in many things technical, it is
    impossible to alter without being inferior, for therein, as says
    Spencer, "Truth is one, and right is ever one;" but wrongs are
    various and multitudinous. "Vice," says Byron, in Marino Faliero,
    "must have variety; but Virtue stands like the sun, and all which
    rolls around drinks life from her aspect."

  [C] It is with regret that, in a work of this nature, I take notice
    of criticisms, which, after all, are merely intended to amuse the
    careless reader, and be forgotten as soon as read; but I do so in
    compliance with wishes expressed to me since the publication of this
    work, by persons who have the interests of art deeply at heart, and
    who, I find, attach more importance to the matter than I should have
    been disposed to do. I have, therefore, marked two or three passages
    which _may_ enable the public to judge for themselves of the quality
    of these critiques; and this I think a matter of justice to those
    who might otherwise have been led astray by them--more than this I
    cannot consent to do. I should have but a hound's office if I had to
    tear the tabard from every Rouge Sanglier of the arts--with bell and
    bauble to back him.

  [D] Chrysoprase, (Vide No. for October, 1843, p. 502.)

  [E] Every school-boy knows that this epithet was given to Poussin in
    allusion to the profound classical knowledge of the painter. The
    reviewer, however, (September, 1841,) informs us that the expression
    refers to his skill in "Composition."

  [F] Critique on Royal Academy, 1842. "He" (Mr. Lee) "often reminds
    us of Gainsborough's best manner; but he is _superior_ to him always
    in subject, composition, and variety."--Shade of
    Gainsborough!--deep-thoughted, solemn Gainsborough,--forgive us for
    re-writing this sentence; we do so to gibbet its perpetrator
    forever,--and leave him swinging in the winds of the Fool's
    Paradise. It is with great pain that I ever speak with severity of
    the works of living masters, especially when, like Mr. Lee's, they
    are well-intentioned, simple, free from affectation or imitation,
    and evidently painted with constant reference to nature. But I
    believe that these qualities will always secure him that admiration
    which he deserves--that there will be many unsophisticated and
    honest minds always ready to follow his guidance, and answer his
    efforts with delight; and therefore, that I need not fear to point
    out in him the want of those technical qualities which are more
    especially the object of an artist's admiration. Gainsborough's
    power of color (it is mentioned by Sir Joshua as his peculiar gift)
    is capable of taking rank beside that of Rubens; he is the purest
    colorist--Sir Joshua himself not excepted--of the whole English
    school; with him, in fact, the art of painting did in great part
    die, and exists not now in Europe. Evidence enough will be seen in
    the following pages of my devoted admiration of Turner; but I
    hesitate not to say, that in management and quality of single and
    particular tint, in the purely technical part of painting, Turner is
    a child of Gainsborough. Now, Mr. Lee never aims at color; he does
    not make it his object in the slightest degree--the spring green of
    vegetation is all that he desires; and it would be about as rational
    to compare his works with studied pieces of coloring, as the
    modulation of the Calabrian pipe to the harmony of a full orchestra.
    Gainsborough's hand is as light as the sweep of a cloud--as swift as
    the flash of a sunbeam; Lee's execution is feeble and spotty.
    Gainsborough's masses are as broad as the first division in heaven
    of light from darkness; Lee's (perhaps necessarily, considering the
    effects of flickering sunlight at which he aims) are as fragmentary
    as his leaves, and as numerous. Gainsborough's forms are grand,
    simple, and ideal; Lee's are small, confused, and unselected.
    Gainsborough never loses sight of his picture as a whole; Lee is but
    too apt to be shackled by its parts. In a word, Gainsborough is an
    immortal painter; and Lee, though on the right road, is yet in the
    early stages of his art; and the man who could imagine any
    resemblance or point of comparison between them, is not only a
    novice in art, but has not capacity ever to be anything more. He may
    be pardoned for not comprehending Turner, for long preparation and
    discipline are necessary before the abstract and profound philosophy
    of that artist can be met; but Gainsborough's excellence is based on
    principles of art long acknowledged, and facts of nature universally
    apparent; and I insist more particularly on the reviewer's want of
    feeling for his works, because it proves a truth of which the public
    ought especially to be assured that those who lavish abuse on the
    great men of modern times, are equally incapable of perceiving the
    real excellence of established canons, are ignorant of the commonest
    and most acknowledged principia of the art, blind to the most
    palpable and comprehensible of its beauties, incapable of
    distinguishing, if left to themselves, a master's work from the
    vilest school copy, and founding their applause of those great works
    which they praise, either in pure hypocrisy, or in admiration of
    their defects.

  [G] There is a fine touch in the Frogs in Aristophanes, alluding
    probably to this part of the Agamemnon. "[Greek: Ego d' hechairon tê
    siôpê kai me tout' heterpeu ouk hêttou ê nun hoi lalountes]." The
    same remark might be well applied to the seemingly vacant or
    incomprehensible portions of Turner's canvas. In their mysterious,
    and intense fire, there is much correspondence between the mind of
    Æschylus and that of our great painter. They share at least one
    thing in common--unpopularity. [Greek: 'Ho dêmos aneboa krisin
    poiein, XA. o tôn panourgôn; Ai. nê Di, ouranion g' hoson. XA. met'
    Aischylou ho ouk êsan heteroi symmachoi; AI. oligon to chrêston

  [H] I do not know any passage in ancient literature in which this
    connection is more exquisitely illustrated than in the lines,
    burlesque though they be, descriptive of the approach of the chorus
    in the Clouds of Aristophanes,--a writer, by the way, who, I
    believe, knew and felt more of the noble landscape character of his
    country than any whose works have come down to us except Homer. The
    individuality and distinctness of conception--the visible cloud
    character which every word of this particular passage brings out
    into more dewy and bright existence, are to me as refreshing as the
    real breathing of mountain winds. The line "[Greek: dia tôn koilôn
    kai tôn daseôn, plagiai]," could have been written by none but an
    ardent lover of hill scenery--one who had watched, hour after hour,
    the peculiar oblique, sidelong action of descending clouds, as they
    form along the hollows and ravines of the hills. There are no
    lumpish solidities--no pillowy protuberances here. All is melting,
    drifting, evanescent,--full of air, and light, and dew.

  [I] Let not this principle be confused with Fuseli's, "love for what
    is called deception in painting marks either the infancy or
    decrepitude of a nation's taste." Realization to the mind
    necessitates not deception of the eye.

  [J] I shall show, in a future portion of the work, that there are
    principles of universal beauty common to all the creatures of God;
    and that it is by the greater or less share of these that one form
    becomes nobler or meaner than another.

  [K] Is not this--it may be asked--demanding more from him than life
    can accomplish? Not one whit. Nothing more than knowledge of
    external characteristics is absolutely required; and even if, which
    were more desirable, thorough scientific knowledge had to be
    attained, the time which our artists spend in multiplying crude
    sketches, or finishing their unintelligent embryos of the study,
    would render them masters of every science that modern
    investigations have organized, and familiar with every form that
    Nature manifests. Martin, if the time which he must have spent on
    the abortive bubbles of his Canute had been passed in working on the
    seashore, might have learned enough to enable him to produce, with a
    few strokes, a picture which would have smote like the sound of the
    sea, upon men's hearts forever.

  [L]         "A green field is a sight which makes us pardon
               The absence of that more sublime construction
               Which mixes up vines, olive, precipices,
               Glaciers, volcanoes, oranges, and ices."

                                                  _Don Juan._

  [M] The vegetable soil of the Campagna is chiefly formed by
    decomposed lavas, and under it lies a bed of white pumice, exactly
    resembling remnants of bones.

  [N] The feelings of Constable with respect to his art might be
    almost a model for the young student, were it not that they err a
    little on the other side, and are perhaps in need of chastening and
    guiding from the works of his fellow-men. We should use pictures not
    as authorities, but as comments on nature, just as we use divines,
    not as authorities, but as comments on the Bible. Constable, in his
    dread of saint-worship, excommunicates himself from all benefit of
    the Church, and deprives himself of much instruction from the
    Scripture to which he holds, because he will not accept aid in the
    reading of it from the learning of other men. Sir George Beaumont,
    on the contrary, furnishes, in the anecdotes given of him in
    Constable's life, a melancholy instance of the degradation into
    which the human mind may fall, when it suffers human works to
    interfere between it and its Master. The recommending the color of
    an old Cremona fiddle for the prevailing tone of everything, and the
    vapid inquiry of the conventionalist, "Where do you put your brown
    tree?" show a prostration of intellect so laughable and lamentable,
    that they are at once, on all, and to all, students of the gallery,
    a satire and a warning. Art so followed is the most servile
    indolence in which life can be wasted. There are then two dangerous
    extremes to be shunned,--forgetfulness of the Scripture, and scorn
    of the divine--slavery on the one hand, free-thinking on the other.
    The mean is nearly as difficult to determine or keep in art as in
    religion, but the great danger is on the side of superstition. He
    who walks humbly with Nature will seldom be in danger of losing
    sight of Art. He will commonly find in all that is truly great of
    man's works, something of their original, for which he will regard
    them with gratitude, and sometimes follow them with respect; while
    he who takes Art for his authority may entirely lose sight of all
    that it interprets, and sink at once into the sin of an idolater,
    and the degradation of a slave.

  [O] I should have insisted more on this fault (for it is a fatal
    one) in the following Essay, but the cause of it rests rather with
    the public than with the artist, and in the necessities of the
    public as much as in their will. Such pictures as artists themselves
    would wish to paint, could not be executed under very high prices;
    and it must always be easier, in the present state of society, to
    find ten purchasers of ten-guinea sketches, than one purchaser for a
    hundred-guinea picture. Still, I have been often both surprised and
    grieved to see that any effort on the part of our artists to rise
    above manufacture--any struggle to something like completed
    conception--was left by the public to be its own reward. In the
    water-color exhibition of last year there was a noble work of David
    Cox's, ideal in the right sense--a forest hollow with a few sheep
    crushing down through its deep fern, and a solemn opening of evening
    sky above its dark masses of distance. It was worth all his little
    bits on the walls put together. Yet the public picked up all the
    little bits--blots and splashes, ducks, chickweed, ears of corn--all
    that was clever and petite; and the real picture--the full
    development of the artist's mind--was left on his hands. How can I,
    or any one else, with a conscience, advise him after this to aim at
    anything more than may be struck out by the cleverness of a quarter
    of an hour. Cattermole, I believe, is earthed and shackled in the
    same manner. He began his career with finished and studied pictures,
    which, I believe, never paid him--he now prostitutes his fine talent
    to the superficialness of public taste, and blots his way to
    emolument and oblivion. There is commonly, however, fault on both
    sides; in the artist for exhibiting his dexterity by mountebank
    tricks of the brush, until chaste finish, requiring ten times the
    knowledge and labor, appears insipid to the diseased taste which he
    has himself formed in his patrons, as the roaring and ranting of a
    common actor will oftentimes render apparently vapid the finished
    touches of perfect nature; and in the public, for taking less real
    pains to become acquainted with, and discriminate, the various
    powers of a great artist, than they would to estimate the excellence
    of a cook or develop the dexterity of a dancer.

                       PREFACE TO THE THIRD EDITION.

It is with much regret, and partly against my own judgment, that I
republish the following chapters in their present form. The particular
circumstances (stated in the first preface) under which they were
originally written, have rendered them so unfit for the position they
now hold as introductory to a serious examination of the general
functions of art, that I should have wished first to complete the
succeeding portions of the essay, and then to write another introduction
of more fitting character. But as it may be long before I am able to do
this, and as I believe what I have already written may still be of some
limited and partial service, I have suffered it to reappear, trusting to
the kindness of the reader to look to its intention rather than its
temper, and forgive its inconsideration in its earnestness.

Thinking it of too little substance to bear mending, wherever I have
found a passage which I thought required modification or explanation, I
have cut it out; what I have left, however imperfect, cannot I think be
dangerously misunderstood: something I have added, not under the idea of
rendering the work in any wise systematic or complete, but to supply
gross omissions, answer inevitable objections, and give some substance
to passages of mere declamation.

Whatever inadequacy or error there may be, throughout, in materials or
modes of demonstration, I have no doubt of the truth and necessity of
the main result; and though the reader may, perhaps, find me frequently
hereafter showing other and better grounds for what is here affirmed,
yet the point and bearing of the book, its determined depreciation of
Claude, Salvator, Gaspar, and Canaletto, and its equally determined
support of Turner as the greatest of all landscape painters, and of
Turner's recent works as his finest, are good and right; and if the
prevalence throughout of attack and eulogium be found irksome or
offensive, let it be remembered that my object thus far has not been
either the establishment or the teaching of any principles of art, but
the vindication, most necessary to the prosperity of our present
schools, of the uncomprehended rank of their greatest artist, and the
diminution, equally necessary as I think to the prosperity of our
schools, of the unadvised admiration of the landscape of the seventeenth
century. For I believe it to be almost impossible to state in terms
sufficiently serious and severe the depth and extent of the evil which
has resulted (and that not in art alone, but in all other matters with
which the contemplative faculties are concerned) from the works of those
elder men. On the continent all landscape art has been utterly
annihilated by them, and with it all sense of the power of nature. We in
England have only done better because our artists have had strength of
mind enough to form a school withdrawn from their influence.

These points are somewhat farther developed in the general sketch of
ancient and modern landscape, which I have added to the first section of
the second part. Some important additions have also been made to the
chapters on the painting of sea. Throughout the rest of the text, though
something is withdrawn, little is changed; and the reader may rest
assured that if I were now to bestow on this feeble essay the careful
revision which it much needs, but little deserves, it would not be to
alter its tendencies, or modify its conclusions, but to prevent
indignation from appearing virulence on the one side, and enthusiasm
partisanship on the other.

                 PREFACE TO NEW EDITION (1873).

I have been lately so often asked by friends on whose judgment I can
rely, to permit the publication of another edition of "Modern Painters"
in its original form, that I have at last yielded, though with some
violence to my own feelings; for many parts of the first and second
volumes are written in a narrow enthusiasm, and the substance of their
metaphysical and religious speculation is only justifiable on the ground
of its absolute honesty. Of the third, fourth, and fifth volumes I
indeed mean eventually to rearrange what I think of permanent interest,
for the complete edition of my works, but with fewer and less elaborate
illustrations: nor have I any serious grounds for refusing to allow the
book once more to appear in the irregular form which it took as it was
written, since of the art-teaching and landscape description it contains
I have little to retrench, and nothing to retract.

This final edition must, however, be limited to a thousand copies, for
some of the more delicate plates are already worn, that of the Mill
Stream in the fifth volume, and of the Loire Side very injuriously;
while that of the Shores of Wharfe had to be retouched by an engraver
after the removal of the mezzotint for reprinting. But Mr. Armytage's,
Mr. Cousen's, and Mr. Cuff's magnificent plates are still in good state,
and my own etchings, though injured, are still good enough to answer
their purpose.

                      SYNOPSIS OF CONTENTS.

                            PART I.

                   OF GENERAL PRINCIPLES.

                           SECTION I.


CHAPTER I.--Introductory.
  §  1. Public opinion no criterion of excellence, except after long
          periods of time.                                               1
  §  2. And therefore obstinate when once formed.                        4
  §  3. The author's reasons for opposing it in particular instances.    5
  §  4. But only on points capable of demonstration.                     5
  §  5. The author's partiality to modern works excusable.               6

CHAPTER II.--Definition of Greatness in Art.

  §  1. Distinction between the painter's intellectual power and
          technical knowledge.                                           8
  §  2. Painting, as such, is nothing more than language.                8
  §  3. "Painter," a term corresponding to "versifier."                  9
  §  4. Example in a painting of E. Landseer's.                          9
  §  5. Difficulty of fixing an exact limit between language and
          thought.                                                       9
  §  6. Distinction between decorative and expressive language.         10
  §  7. Instance in the Dutch and early Italian schools.                10
  §  8. Yet there are certain ideas belonging to language itself.       11
  §  9. The definition.                                                 12

CHAPTER III.--Of Ideas of Power.

  §  1. What classes of ideas are conveyable by art.                    13
  §  2. Ideas of power vary much in relative dignity.                   13
  §  3. But are received from whatever has been the subject of
          power. The meaning of the word "excellence."                  14
  §  4. What is necessary to the distinguishing of excellence.          15
  §  5. The pleasure attendant on conquering difficulties is right.     16

CHAPTER IV.--Of Ideas of Imitation.

  §  1. False use of the term "imitation" by many writers on art.       17
  §  2. Real meaning of the term.                                       18
  §  3. What is requisite to the sense of imitation.                    18
  §  4. The pleasure resulting from imitation the most contemptible
          that can be derived from art.                                 19
  §  5. Imitation is only of contemptible subjects.                     19
  §  6. Imitation is contemptible because it is easy.                   20
  §  7. Recapitulation.                                                 20

CHAPTER V.--Of Ideas of Truth.

  §  1. Meaning of the word "truth" as applied to art.                  21
  §  2. First difference between truth and imitation.                   21
  §  3. Second difference.                                              21
  §  4. Third difference.                                               22
  §  5. No accurate truths necessary to imitation.                      22
  §  6. Ideas of truth are inconsistent with ideas of imitation.        24

CHAPTER VI.--Of Ideas of Beauty.

  §  1. Definition of the term "beautiful."                             26
  §  2. Definition of the term "taste."                                 26
  §  3. Distinction between taste and judgment.                         27
  §  4. How far beauty may become intellectual.                         27
  §  5. The high rank and function of ideas of beauty.                  28
  §  6. Meaning of the term "ideal beauty."                             28

CHAPTER VII.--Of Ideas of Relation.

  §  1. General meaning of the term.                                    29
  §  2. What ideas are to be comprehended under it.                     29
  §  3. The exceeding nobility of these ideas.                          30
  §  4. Why no subdivision of so extensive a class is necessary.        31

                                 SECTION II.

                                  OF POWER.

CHAPTER I.--General Principles respecting Ideas of Power.

  §  1. No necessity for detailed study of ideas of imitation.          32
  §  2. Nor for separate study of ideas of power.                       32
  §  3. Except under one particular form.                               33
  §  4. There are two modes of receiving ideas of power, commonly
          inconsistent.                                                 33
  §  5. First reason of the inconsistency.                              33
  §  6. Second reason for the inconsistency.                            34
  §  7. The sensation of power ought not to be sought in imperfect art. 34
  §  8. Instances in pictures of modern artists.                        35
  §  9. Connection between ideas of power and modes of execution.       35

CHAPTER II.--Of Ideas of Power, as they are dependent upon Execution.

  §  1. Meaning of the term "execution."                                36
  §  2. The first quality of execution is truth.                        36
  §  3. The second, simplicity.                                         36
  §  4. The third, mystery.                                             37
  §  5. The fourth, inadequacy; and the fifth, decision.                37
  §  6. The sixth, velocity.                                            37
  §  7. Strangeness an illegitimate source of pleasure in execution.    37
  §  8. Yet even the legitimate sources of pleasure in execution are
          inconsistent with each other.                                 38
  §  9. And fondness for ideas of power leads to the adoption of the
          lowest.                                                       39
  § 10. Therefore perilous.                                             40
  § 11. Recapitulation.                                                 40

CHAPTER III.--Of the Sublime.

  §  1. Sublimity is the effect upon the mind of anything above it.     41
  §  2. Burke's theory of the nature of the sublime incorrect, and why. 41
  §  3. Danger is sublime, but not the fear of it.                      42
  §  4. The highest beauty is sublime.                                  42
  §  5. And generally whatever elevates the mind.                       42
  §  6. The former division of the subject is therefore sufficient.     42

                                 PART II.

                                OF TRUTH.

                                SECTION I.


CHAPTER I.--Of Ideas of Truth in their connection with those of
            Beauty and Relation.

  §  1. The two great ends of landscape painting are the representation
          of facts and thoughts.                                        44
  §  2. They induce a different choice of material subjects.            45
  §  3. The first mode of selection apt to produce sameness and
          repetition.                                                   45
  §  4. The second necessitating variety.                               45
  §  5. Yet the first is delightful to all.                             46
  §  6. The second only to a few.                                       46
  §  7. The first necessary to the second.                              47
  §  8. The exceeding importance of truth.                              48
  §  9. Coldness or want of beauty no sign of truth.                    48
  § 10. How truth may be considered a just criterion of all art.        48

CHAPTER II.--That the Truth of Nature is not to be discerned by the
            Uneducated Senses.

  §  1. The common self-deception of men with respect to their
          power of discerning truth.                                    50
  §  2. Men usually see little of what is before their eyes.            51
  §  3. But more or less in proportion to their natural sensibility to
          what is beautiful.                                            52
  §  4. Connected with a perfect state of moral feeling.                52
  §  5. And of the intellectual powers.                                 53
  §  6. How sight depends upon previous knowledge.                      54
  §  7. The difficulty increased by the variety of truths in nature.    55
  §  8. We recognize objects by their least important attributes.
          Compare Part I. Sect. I. Chap. 4.                             55

CHAPTER III.--Of the Relative Importance of Truths:--First, that
            Particular Truths are more important than General Ones.

  §  1. Necessity of determining the relative importance of truths.     58
  §  2. Misapplication of the aphorism: "General truths are more
          important than particular ones."                              58
  §  3. Falseness of this maxim, taken without explanation.             59
  §  4. Generality important in the subject, particularity in the
          predicate.                                                    59
  §  5. The importance of truths of species is not owing to their
          generality.                                                   60
  §  6. All truths valuable as they are characteristic.                 61
  §  7. Otherwise truths of species are valuable, because beautiful.    61
  §  8. And many truths, valuable if separate, may be objectionable
          in connection with others.                                    62
  §  9. Recapitulation.                                                 63

CHAPTER IV.--Of the Relative Importance of Truths:--Secondly, that
            Rare Truths are more important than Frequent Ones.

  §  1. No accidental violation of nature's principles should be
          represented.                                                  64
  §  2. But the cases in which those principles have been strikingly
          exemplified.                                                  65
  §  3. Which are comparatively rare.                                   65
  §  4. All repetition is blamable.                                     65
  §  5. The duty of the painter is the same as that of a preacher.      66

CHAPTER V.--Of the Relative Importance of Truths:--Thirdly, that
            Truths of Color are the least important of all Truths.

  §  1. Difference between primary and secondary qualities in bodies.   67
  §  2. The first are fully characteristic, the second imperfectly so.  67
  §  3. Color is a secondary quality, therefore less important than
          form.                                                         68
  §  4. Color no distinction between objects of the same species.       68
  §  5. And different in association from what it is alone.             69
  §  6. It is not certain whether any two people see the same colors
          in things.                                                    69
  §  7. Form, considered as an element of landscape, includes light
          and shade.                                                    69
  §  8. Importance of light and shade in expressing the character of
          bodies, and unimportance of color.                            70
  §  9. Recapitulation.                                                 71

CHAPTER VI.--Recapitulation.

  §  1. The importance of historical truths.                            72
  §  2. Form, as explained by light and shade, the first of all truths.
        Tone, light, and color, are secondary.                          72
  §  3. And deceptive chiaroscuro the lowest of all.                    73

CHAPTER VII.--General Application of the Foregoing Principles.

  §  1. The different selection of facts consequent on the several aims
          at imitation or at truth.                                     74
  §  2. The old masters, as a body, aim only at imitation.              74
  §  3. What truths they gave.                                          75
  §  4. The principles of selection adopted by modern artists.          76
  §  5. General feeling of Claude, Salvator, and G. Poussin, contrasted
          with the freedom and vastness of nature.                      77
  §  6. Inadequacy of the landscape of Titian and Tintoret.             78
  §  7. Causes of its want of influence on subsequent schools.          79
  §  8. The value of inferior works of art, how to be estimated.        80
  §  9. Religious landscape of Italy. The admirableness of its
          completion.                                                   81
  § 10. Finish, and the want of it, how right--and how wrong.           82
  § 11. The open skies of the religious schools, how valuable. Mountain
          drawing of Masaccio. Landscape of the Bellinis and Giorgione. 84
  § 12. Landscape of Titian and Tintoret.                               86
  § 13. Schools of Florence, Milan, and Bologna.                        88
  § 14. Claude, Salvator, and the Poussins.                             89
  § 15. German and Flemish landscape.                                   90
  § 16. The lower Dutch schools.                                        92
  § 17. English school, Wilson and Gainsborough.                        93
  § 18. Constable, Callcott.                                            94
  § 19. Peculiar tendency of recent landscape.                          95
  § 20. G. Robson, D. Cox. False use of the term "style."               95
  § 21. Copley Fielding. Phenomena of distant color.                    97
  § 22. Beauty of mountain foreground.                                  99
  § 23. De Wint.                                                       101
  § 24. Influence of Engraving. J. D. Harding.                         101
  § 25. Samuel Prout. Early painting of architecture, how deficient.   103
  § 26. Effects of age upon buildings, how far desirable.              104
  § 27. Effects of light, how necessary to the understanding of
          detail.                                                      106
  § 28. Architectural painting of Gentile Bellini and Vittor
          Carpaccio.                                                   107
  § 29. And of the Venetians generally.                                109
  § 30. Fresco painting of the Venetian exteriors. Canaletto.          110
  § 31. Expression of the effects of age on Architecture by S. Prout.  112
  § 32. His excellent composition and color.                           114
  § 33. Modern architectural painting generally. G. Cattermole.        115
  § 34. The evil in an archæological point of view of misapplied
          invention, in architectural subject.                         117
  § 35. Works of David Roberts: their fidelity and grace.              118
  § 36. Clarkson Stanfield.                                            121
  § 37. J. M. W. Turner. Force of national feeling in all great
          painters.                                                    123
  § 38. Influence of this feeling on the choice of Landscape subject.  125
  § 39. Its peculiar manifestation in Turner.                          125
  § 40. The domestic subjects of the Liber Studiorum.                  127
  § 41. Turner's painting of French and Swiss landscape. The latter
          deficient.                                                   129
  § 42. His rendering of Italian character still less successful. His
          large compositions how failing                               130
  § 43. His views of Italy destroyed by brilliancy and redundant
          quantity.                                                    133
  § 44. Changes introduced by him in the received system of art.       133
  § 45. Difficulties of his later manner. Resultant deficiencies.      134
  § 46. Reflection of his very recent works.                           137
  § 47. Difficulty of demonstration in such subjects.                  139

                                 SECTION II.

                             OF GENERAL TRUTHS.

CHAPTER I.--Of Truth of Tone.

  §  1. Meanings of the word "tone:"--First, the right relation of
          objects in shadow to the principal light.                    140
  §  2. Secondly, the quality of color by which it is felt to owe part
          of its brightness to the hue of light upon it.               140
  §  3. Difference between tone in its first sense and aerial
          perspective.                                                 141
  §  4. The pictures of the old masters perfect in relation of middle
          tints to light.                                              141
  §  5. And consequently totally false in relation of middle tints to
          darkness.                                                    141
  §  6. General falsehood of such a system.                            143
  §  7. The principle of Turner in this respect.                       143
  §  8. Comparison of N. Poussin's "Phocion."                          144
  §  9. With Turner's "Mercury and Argus."                             145
  § 10. And with the "Datur Hora Quieti."                              145
  § 11. The second sense of the word "tone."                           146
  § 12. Remarkable difference in this respect between the paintings
          and drawings of Turner.                                      146
  § 13. Not owing to want of power over the material                   146
  § 14. The two distinct qualities of light to be considered           147
  § 15. Falsehoods by which Titian attains the appearance of quality
          in light.                                                    148
  § 16. Turner will not use such means.                                148
  § 17. But gains in essential truth by the sacrifice.                 148
  § 18. The second quality of light.                                   148
  § 19. The perfection of Cuyp in this respect interfered with by
          numerous solecisms.                                          150
  § 20. Turner is not so perfect in parts--far more so in the whole.   151
  § 21. The power in Turner of uniting a number of tones.              152
  § 22. Recapitulation.                                                153

CHAPTER II.--Of Truth of Color.

  §  1. Observations on the color of G. Poussin's La Riccia.           155
  §  2. As compared with the actual scene.                             155
  §  3. Turner himself is inferior in brilliancy to nature.            157
  §  4. Impossible colors of Salvator, Titian.                         157
  §  5. Poussin, and Claude.                                           158
  §  6. Turner's translation of colors.                                160
  §  7. Notice of effects in which no brilliancy of art can even
          approach that of reality.                                    161
  §  8. Reasons for the usual incredulity of the observer with respect
          to their representation                                      162
  §  9. Color of the Napoleon.                                         163
  § 10. Necessary discrepancy between the attainable brilliancy of
          color and light.                                             164
  § 11. This discrepancy less in Turner than in other colorists.       165
  § 12. Its great extent in a landscape attributed to Rubens.          165
  § 13. Turner scarcely ever uses pure or vivid color.                 166
  § 14. The basis of gray, under all his vivid hues.                   167
  § 15. The variety and fulness even of his most simple tones.         168
  § 16. Following the infinite and unapproachable variety of nature.   168
  § 17. His dislike of purple, and fondness for the opposition of
          yellow and black. The principles of nature in this respect.  169
  § 18. His early works are false in color.                            170
  § 19. His drawings invariably perfect.                               171
  § 20. The subjection of his system of color to that of chiaroscuro.  171

CHAPTER III.--Of Truth of Chiaroscuro.

  §  1. We are not at present to examine particular effects of light.  174
  §  2. And therefore the distinctness of shadows is the chief means
          of expressing vividness of light.                            175
  §  3. Total absence of such distinctness in the works of the Italian
          school.                                                      175
  §  4. And partial absence in the Dutch.                              176
  §  5. The perfection of Turner's works in this respect.              177
  §  6. The effect of his shadows upon the light.                      178
  §  7. The distinction holds good between almost all the works of the
          ancient and modern schools.                                  179
  §  8. Second great principle of chiaroscuro. Both high light and
          deep shadow are used in equal quantity, and only in points.  180
  §  9. Neglect or contradiction of this principle by writers on art.  180
  § 10. And consequent misguiding of the student.                      181
  § 11. The great value of a simple chiaroscuro.                       182
  § 12. The sharp separation of nature's lights from her middle tint.  182
  § 13. The truth of Turner.                                           183

CHAPTER IV.--Of Truth of Space:--First, as Dependent on the Focus of
             the Eye.

  §  1. Space is more clearly indicated by the drawing of objects than
          by their hue.                                                185
  §  2. It is impossible to see objects at unequal distances
          distinctly at one moment.                                    186
  §  3. Especially such as are both comparatively near.                186
  §  4. In painting, therefore, either the foreground or distance must
          be partially sacrificed.                                     187
  §  5. Which not being done by the old masters, they could not
          express space.                                               187
  §  6. But modern artists have succeeded in fully carrying out this
          principle.                                                   188
  §  7. Especially of Turner.                                          189
  §  8. Justification of the want of drawing in Turner's figures.      189

CHAPTER V.--Of Truth of Space:--Secondly, as its Appearance is
            dependent on the Power of the Eye.

  §  1. The peculiar indistinctness dependent on the retirement of
          objects from the eye.                                        191
  §  2. Causes confusion, but not annihilation of details.             191
  §  3. Instances in various objects.                                  192
  §  4. Two great resultant truths; that nature is never distinct,
          and never vacant.                                            193
  §  5. Complete violation of both these principles by the old
          masters. They are either distinct or vacant.                 193
  §  6. Instances from Nicholas Poussin.                               194
  §  7. From Claude.                                                   194
  §  8. And G. Poussin.                                                195
  §  9. The imperative necessity, in landscape painting, of fulness
          and finish.                                                  196
  § 10. Breadth is not vacancy.                                        197
  § 11. The fulness and mystery of Turner's distances.                 198
  § 12. Farther illustrations in architectural drawing.                199
  § 13. In near objects as well as distances.                          199
  § 14. Vacancy and falsehood of Canaletto.                            200
  § 15. Still greater fulness and finish in landscape foregrounds.     200
  § 16. Space and size are destroyed alike by distinctness and by
          vacancy.                                                     202
  § 17. Swift execution best secures perfection of details.            202
  § 18. Finish is far more necessary in landscape than in historical
          subjects.                                                    202
  § 19. Recapitulation of the section.                                 203

                                  SECTION III.

                               OF TRUTH OF SKIES.

CHAPTER I.--Of the Open Sky.

  §  1. The peculiar adaptation of the sky to the pleasing and
          teaching of man.                                             204
  §  2. The carelessness with which its lessons are received.          205
  §  3. The most essential of these lessons are the gentlest.          205
  §  4. Many of our ideas of sky altogether conventional.              205
  §  5. Nature, and essential qualities of the open blue.              206
  §  6. Its connection with clouds.                                    207
  §  7. Its exceeding depth.                                           207
  §  8. These qualities are especially given by modern masters.        207
  §  9. And by Claude.                                                 208
  § 10. Total absence of them in Poussin. Physical errors in his
          general treatment of open sky.                               208
  § 11. Errors of Cuyp in graduation of color.                         209
  § 12. The exceeding value of the skies of the early Italian and
          Dutch schools. Their qualities are unattainable in modern
          times.                                                       210
  § 13. Phenomena of visible sunbeams. Their nature and cause.         211
  § 14. They are only illuminated mist, and cannot appear when the sky
          is free from vapor, nor when it is without clouds.           211
  § 15. Erroneous tendency in the representation of such phenomena by
          the old masters.                                             212
  § 16. The ray which appears in the dazzled eye should not be
          represented.                                                 213
  § 17. The practice of Turner. His keen perception of the more
          delicate phenomena of rays.                                  213
  § 18. The total absence of any evidence of such perception in the
          works of the old masters.                                    213
  § 19. Truth of the skies of modern drawings.                         214
  § 20. Recapitulation. The best skies of the ancients are, in
          _quality_, inimitable, but in rendering of various truth,
          childish.                                                    215

CHAPTER II.--Of Truth of Clouds:--First, of the Region of the Cirrus.

  §  1. Difficulty of ascertaining wherein the truth of clouds
          consists.                                                    216
  §  2. Variation of their character at different elevations. The
          three regions to which they may conveniently be considered
          as belonging.                                                216
  §  3. Extent of the upper region.                                    217
  §  4. The symmetrical arrangement of its clouds.                     217
  §  5. Their exceeding delicacy.                                      218
  §  6. Their number.                                                  218
  §  7. Causes of their peculiarly delicate coloring.                  219
  §  8. Their variety of form.                                         219
  §  9. Total absence of even the slightest effort at their
          representation, in ancient landscape.                        220
  § 10. The intense and constant study of them by Turner.              221
  § 11. His vignette, Sunrise on the Sea.                              222
  § 12. His use of the cirrus in expressing mist.                      223
  § 13. His consistency in every minor feature.                        224
  § 14. The color of the upper clouds.                                 224
  § 15. Recapitulation.                                                225

CHAPTER III.--Of  Truth of Clouds:--Secondly, of the Central Cloud

  §  1. Extent and typical character of the central cloud region.      226
  §  2. Its characteristic clouds, requiring no attention nor thought
          for their representation, are therefore favorite subjects
          with the old masters.                                        226
  §  3. The clouds of Salvator and Poussin.                            227
  §  4. Their essential characters.                                    227
  §  5. Their angular forms and general decision of outline.           228
  §  6. The composition of their minor curves.                         229
  §  7. Their characters, as given by S. Rosa.                         230
  §  8. Monotony and falsehood of the clouds of the Italian school
          generally.                                                   230
  §  9. Vast size of congregated masses of cloud.                      231
  § 10. Demonstrable by comparison with mountain ranges.               231
  § 11. And consequent divisions and varieties of feature.             232
  § 12. Not lightly to be omitted.                                     232
  § 13. Imperfect conceptions of this size and extent in ancient
          landscape.                                                   233
  § 14. Total want of transparency and evanescence in the clouds of
          ancient landscape.                                           234
  § 15. Farther proof of their deficiency in space.                    235
  § 16. Instance of perfect truth in the sky of Turner's Babylon.      236
  § 17. And in his Pools of Solomon.                                   237
  § 18. Truths of outline and character in his Como.                   237
  § 19. Association of the cirrostratus with the cumulus.              238
  § 20. The deep-based knowledge of the Alps in Turner's Lake of
          Geneva.                                                      238
  § 21. Farther principles of cloud form exemplified in his Amalfi.    239
  § 22. Reasons for insisting on the _infinity_ of Turner's works.
          Infinity is almost an unerring test of _all_ truth.          239
  § 23. Instances of the total want of it in the works of Salvator.    240
  § 24. And of the universal presence of it in those of Turner. The
          conclusions which may be arrived at from it.                 240
  § 25. The multiplication of objects, or increase of their size, will
          not give the impression of infinity, but is the resource of
          novices.                                                     241
  § 26. Farther instances of infinity in the gray skies of Turner.     242
  § 27. The excellence of the cloud-drawing of Stanfield.              242
  § 28. The average standing of the English school.                    243

CHAPTER IV.--Of Truth of Clouds:--Thirdly, of the Region of the

  §  1. The apparent difference in character between the lower and
          central clouds is dependent chiefly on proximity.            244
  §  2. Their marked differences in color.                             244
  §  3. And in definiteness of form.                                   245
  §  4. They are subject to precisely the same great laws.             245
  §  5. Value, to the painter, of the rain-cloud.                      246
  §  6. The old masters have not left a single instance of the
          painting of the rain-cloud, and very few efforts at it.
          Gaspar Poussin's storms.                                     247
  §  7. The great power of the moderns in this respect.                248
  §  8. Works of Copley Fielding.                                      248
  §  9. His peculiar truth.                                            248
  § 10. His weakness, and its probable cause.                          249
  § 11. Impossibility of reasoning on the rain-clouds of Turner from
          engravings.                                                  250
  § 12. His rendering of Fielding's particular moment in the Jumieges. 250
  § 13. Illustration of the nature of clouds in the opposed forms of
          smoke and steam.                                             250
  § 14. Moment of retiring rain in the Llanthony.                      251
  § 15. And of commencing, chosen with peculiar meaning for Loch
          Coriskin.                                                    252
  § 16. The drawing of transparent vapor in the Land's End.            253
  § 17. The individual character of its parts.                         253
  § 18. Deep-studied form of swift rain-cloud in the Coventry.         254
  § 19. Compared with forms given by Salvator.                         254
  § 20. Entire expression of tempest by minute touches and
          circumstances in the Coventry.                               255
  § 21. Especially by contrast with a passage of extreme repose.       255
  § 22. The truth of this particular passage. Perfectly pure blue sky
          only seen after rain, and how seen.                          256
  § 23. Absence of this effect in the works of the old masters.        256
  § 24. Success of our water-color artists in its rendering. Use of it
          by Turner.                                                   257
  § 25. Expression of near rain-cloud in the Gosport, and other works. 257
  § 26. Contrasted with Gaspar Poussin's rain-cloud in the Dido and
          Æneas.                                                       258
  § 27. Turner's power of rendering mist.                              258
  § 28. His effects of mist so perfect, that if not at once
          understood, they can no more be explained or reasoned on
          than nature herself.                                         259
  § 29. Various instances.                                             259
  § 30. Turner's more violent effects of tempest are never rendered
          by engravers.                                                260
  § 31. General system of landscape engraving.                         260
  § 32. The storm in the Stonehenge.                                   260
  § 33. General character of such effects as given by Turner. His
          expression of falling rain.                                  261
  § 34. Recapitulation of the section.                                 261
  § 35. Sketch of a few of the skies of nature, taken as a whole,
          compared with the works of Turner and of the old masters.
          Morning on the plains.                                       262
  § 36. Noon with gathering storms.                                    263
  § 37. Sunset in tempest. Serene midnight.                            264
  § 38. And sunrise on the Alps.                                       264

CHAPTER V.--Effects of Light rendered by Modern Art.

  §  1. Reasons for merely, at present, naming, without examining the
          particular effects of light rendered by Turner.              266
  §  2. Hopes of the author for assistance in the future investigation
          of them.                                                     266

                                   SECTION IV.

                               OF TRUTH OF EARTH.

CHAPTER I.--Of General Structure.

  §  1. First laws of the organization of the earth, and their
          importance in art.                                           270
  §  2. The slight attention ordinarily paid to them. Their careful
          study by modern artists.                                     271
  §  3. General structure of the earth. The hills are its action, the
          plains its rest.                                             271
  §  4. Mountains come out from underneath the plains, and are their
          support.                                                     272
  §  5. Structure of the plains themselves. Their perfect level, when
          deposited by quiet water.                                    273
  §  6. Illustrated by Turner's Marengo.                               273
  §  7. General divisions of formation resulting from this
          arrangement. Plan of investigation.                          274

CHAPTER II.--Of the Central Mountains.

  §  1. Similar character of the central peaks in all parts of the
          world.                                                       275
  §  2. Their arrangements in pyramids or wedges, divided by vertical
          fissures.                                                    275
  §  3. Causing groups of rock resembling an artichoke or rose.        276
  §  4. The faithful statement of these facts by Turner in his Alps
          at Daybreak.                                                 276
  §  5. Vignette of the Andes and others.                              277
  §  6. Necessary distance, and consequent aerial effect on all such
          mountains.                                                   277
  §  7. Total want of any rendering of their phenomena in ancient art. 278
  §  8. Character of the representations of Alps in the distances of
          Claude.                                                      278
  §  9. Their total want of magnitude and aerial distance.             279
  § 10. And violation of specific form.                                280
  § 11. Even in his best works.                                        280
  § 12. Farther illustration of the distant character of mountain
          chains.                                                      281
  § 13. Their excessive appearance of transparency.                    281
  § 14. Illustrated from the works of Turner and Stanfield. The
          Borromean Islands of the latter.                             282
  § 15. Turner's Arona.                                                283
  § 16. Extreme distance of large objects always characterized by
          very sharp outline.                                          283
  § 17. Want of this decision in Claude.                               284
  § 18. The perpetual rendering of it by Turner.                       285
  § 19. Effects of snow, how imperfectly studied.                      285
  § 20. General principles of its forms on the Alps.                   287
  § 21. Average paintings of Switzerland. Its real spirit has
          scarcely yet been caught.                                    289

CHAPTER III.--Of the Inferior Mountains.

  §  1. The inferior mountains are distinguished from the central, by
          being divided into beds.                                     290
  §  2. Farther division of these beds by joints.                      290
  §  3. And by lines of lamination.                                    291
  §  4. Variety and seeming uncertainty under which these laws are
          manifested.                                                  291
  §  5. The perfect expression of them in Turner's Loch Coriskin.      292
  §  6. Glencoe and other works.                                       293
  §  7. Especially the Mount Lebanon.                                  293
  §  8. Compared with the work of Salvator.                            294
  §  9. And of Poussin.                                                295
  § 10. Effects of external influence on mountain form.                296
  § 11. The gentle convexity caused by aqueous erosion.                297
  § 12. And the effect of the action of torrents.                      297
  § 13. The exceeding simplicity of contour caused by these
          influences.                                                  298
  § 14. And multiplicity of feature.                                   299
  § 15. Both utterly neglected in ancient art.                         299
  § 16. The fidelity of treatment in Turner's Daphne and Leucippus.    300
  § 17. And in the Avalanche and Inundation.                           300
  § 18. The rarity among secondary hills of steep slopes or high
          precipices.                                                  301
  § 19. And consequent expression of horizontal distance in their
          ascent.                                                      302
  § 20. Full statement of all these facts in various works of
          Turner.--Caudebec, etc.                                      302
  § 21. The use of considering geological truths.                      303
  § 22. Expression of retiring surface by Turner contrasted with the
          work of Claude.                                              304
  § 23. The same moderation of slope in the contours of his higher
          hills.                                                       304
  § 24. The peculiar difficulty of investigating the more essential
          truths of hill outline.                                      305
  § 25. Works of other modern artists.--Clarkson Stanfield.            305
  § 26. Importance of particular and individual truth in hill drawing. 306
  § 27. Works of Copley Fielding. His high feeling.                    307
  § 28. Works of J. D. Harding and others.                             308

CHAPTER IV.--Of the Foreground.

  §  1. What rocks were the chief components of ancient landscape
          foreground.                                                  309
  §  2. Salvator's limestones. The real characters of the rock. Its
          fractures, and obtuseness of angles.                         309
  §  3. Salvator's acute angles caused by the meeting of concave
          curves.                                                      310
  §  4. Peculiar distinctness of light and shade in the rocks of
          nature.                                                      311
  §  5. Peculiar confusion of both in the rocks of Salvator.           311
  §  6. And total want of any expression of hardness or brittleness.   311
  §  7. Instances in particular pictures.                              312
  §  8. Compared with the works of Stanfield.                          312
  §  9. Their absolute opposition in every particular.                 313
  § 10. The rocks of J. D. Harding.                                    313
  § 11. Characters of loose earth and soil.                            314
  § 12. Its exceeding grace and fulness of feature.                    315
  § 13. The ground of Teniers.                                         315
  § 14. Importance of these minor parts and points.                    316
  § 15. The observance of them is the real distinction between the
          master and the novice.                                       316
  § 16. Ground of Cuyp.                                                317
  § 17. And of Claude.                                                 317
  § 18. The entire weakness and childishness of the latter.            318
  § 19. Compared with the work of Turner.                              318
  § 20. General features of Turner's foreground.                       319
  § 21. Geological structure of his rocks in the Fall of the Tees.     319
  § 22. Their convex surfaces and fractured edges.                     319
  § 23. And perfect unity.                                             320
  § 24. Various parts whose history is told us by the details of the
          drawing.                                                     321
  § 25. Beautiful instance of an exception to general rules in the
          Llanthony.                                                   321
  § 26. Turner's drawing of detached blocks of weathered stone.        322
  § 27. And of complicated foreground.                                 323
  § 28. And of loose soil.                                             323
  § 29. The unison of all in the ideal foregrounds of the Academy
          pictures.                                                    324
  § 30. And the great lesson to be received from all.                  324

                                 SECTION V.

                             OF TRUTH OF WATER.

CHAPTER I.--Of Water, as Painted by the Ancients.

  §  1. Sketch of the functions and infinite agency of water.          325
  §  2. The ease with which a common representation of it may be
          given. The impossibility of a faithful one.                  325
  §  3. Difficulty of properly dividing the subject.                   326
  §  4. Inaccuracy of study of water-effect among all painters.        326
  §  5. Difficulty of treating this part of the subject.               328
  §  6. General laws which regulate the phenomena of water. First, The
          imperfection of its reflective surface.                      329
  §  7. The inherent hue of water modifies dark reflections, and does
          not affect right ones.                                       330
  §  8. Water takes no shadow.                                         331
  §  9. Modification of dark reflections by shadow.                    332
  § 10. Examples on the waters of the Rhone.                           333
  § 11. Effect of ripple on distant water.                             335
  § 12. Elongation of reflections by moving water.                     335
  § 13. Effect of rippled water on horizontal and inclined images.     336
  § 14. To what extent reflection is visible from above.               336
  § 15. Deflection of images on agitated water.                        337
  § 16. Necessity of watchfulness as well as of science. Licenses, how
          taken by great men.                                          337
  § 17. Various licenses or errors in water painting of Claude, Cuyp,
          Vandevelde.                                                  339
  § 18. And Canaletto.                                                 341
  § 19. Why unpardonable.                                              342
  § 20. The Dutch painters of sea.                                     343
  § 21. Ruysdael, Claude, and Salvator.                                344
  § 22. Nicolo Poussin.                                                345
  § 23. Venetians and Florentines. Conclusion.                         346

CHAPTER II.--Of Water, as Painted by the Moderns.

  §  1. General power of the moderns in painting quiet water. The
          lakes of Fielding.                                           348
  §  2. The calm rivers of De Wint, J. Holland, &c.                    348
  §  3. The character of bright and violent falling water.             349
  §  4. As given by Nesfield.                                          349
  §  5. The admirable water-drawing of J. D. Harding.                  350
  §  6. His color; and painting of sea.                                350
  §  7. The sea of Copley Fielding. Its exceeding grace and rapidity.  351
  §  8. Its high aim at character.                                     351
  §  9. But deficiency in the requisite quality of grays.              352
  § 10. Variety of the grays of nature.                                352
  § 11. Works of Stanfield. His perfect knowledge and power.           353
  § 12. But want of feeling. General sum of truth presented by modern
          art.                                                         353

CHAPTER III.--Of Water, as Painted by Turner.

  §  1. The difficulty of giving surface to smooth water.              355
  §  2. Is dependent on the structure of the eye, and the focus by
          which the reflected rays are perceived.                      355
  §  3. Morbid clearness occasioned in painting of water by
          distinctness of reflections.                                 356
  §  4. How avoided by Turner.                                         357
  §  5. All reflections on distant water are distinct.                 357
  §  6. The error of Vandevelde.                                       358
  §  7. Difference in arrangement of parts between the reflected
          object and its image.                                        359
  §  8. Illustrated from the works of Turner.                          359
  §  9. The boldness and judgment shown in the observance of it.       360
  § 10. The _texture_ of surface in Turner's painting of calm water.   361
  § 11. Its united qualities.                                          361
  § 12. Relation of various circumstances of past agitation, &c., by
          the most trifling incidents, as in the Cowes.                363
  § 13. In scenes on the Loire and Seine.                              363
  § 14. Expression of contrary waves caused by recoil from shore.      364
  § 15. Various other instances.                                       364
  § 16. Turner's painting of distant expanses of water.--Calm,
          interrupted by ripple.                                       365
  § 17. And rippled, crossed by sunshine.                              365
  § 18. His drawing of distant rivers.                                 366
  § 19. And of surface associated with mist.                           367
  § 20. His drawing of falling water, with peculiar expression of
          weight.                                                      367
  § 21. The abandonment and plunge of great cataracts. How given by
          him.                                                         368
  § 22. Difference in the action of water, when continuous and when
          interrupted. The interrupted stream fills the hollows of
          its bed.                                                     369
  § 23. But the continuous stream takes the shape of its bed.          370
  § 24. Its exquisite curved lines.                                    370
  § 25. Turner's careful choice of the historical truth.               370
  § 26. His exquisite drawing of the continuous torrent in the
          Llanthony Abbey.                                             371
  § 27. And of the interrupted torrent in the Mercury and Argus.       372
  § 28. Various cases.                                                 372
  § 29. Sea painting. Impossibility of truly representing foam.        373
  § 30. Character of shore-breakers, also inexpressible.               374
  § 31. Their effect how injured when seen from the shore.             375
  § 32. Turner's expression of heavy rolling sea.                      376
  § 33. With peculiar expression of weight.                            376
  § 34. Peculiar action of recoiling waves.                            377
  § 35. And of the stroke of a breaker on the shore.                   377
  § 36. General character of sea on a rocky coast given by Turner in
          the Land's End.                                              378
  § 37. Open seas of Turner's earlier time.                            379
  § 38. Effect of sea after prolonged storm.                           380
  § 39. Turner's noblest work, the painting of the deep open sea in
          the Slave Ship.                                              382
  § 40. Its united excellences and perfection as a whole.              383

                                SECTION VI.


CHAPTER I.--Of Truth of Vegetation.

  §  1. Frequent occurrence of foliage in the works of the old
          masters.                                                     384
  §  2. Laws common to all forest trees. Their branches do not taper,
          but only divide.                                             385
  §  3. Appearance of tapering caused by frequent buds.                385
  §  4. And care of nature to conceal the parallelism.                 386
  §  5. The degree of tapering which may be represented as continuous. 386
  §  6. The trees of Gaspar Poussin.                                   386
  §  7. And of the Italian school generally, defy this law.            387
  §  8. The truth, as it is given by J. D. Harding.                    387
  §  9. Boughs, in consequence of this law, _must_ diminish where they
          divide. Those of the old masters often do not.               388
  § 10. Boughs must multiply as they diminish. Those of the old
          masters do not.                                              389
  § 11. Bough-drawing of Salvator.                                     390
  § 12. All these errors especially shown in Claude's sketches, and
          concentrated in a work of G. Poussin's.                      391
  § 13. Impossibility of the angles of boughs being taken out of them
          by wind.                                                     392
  § 14. Bough-drawing of Titian.                                       392
  § 15. Bough-drawing of Turner.                                       394
  § 16. Leafage. Its variety and symmetry.                             394
  § 17. Perfect regularity of Poussin.                                 395
  § 18. Exceeding intricacy of nature's foliage.                       396
  § 19. How contradicted by the tree-patterns of G. Poussin.           396
  § 20. How followed by Creswick.                                      397
  § 21. Perfect unity in nature's foliage.                             398
  § 22. Total want of it in Both and Hobbima.                          398
  § 23. How rendered by Turner.                                        399
  § 24. The near leafage of Claude. His middle distances are good.     399
  § 25. Universal termination of trees in symmetrical curves.          400
  § 26. Altogether unobserved by the old masters. Always given by
          Turner.                                                      401
  § 27. Foliage painting on the Continent.                             401
  § 28. Foliage of J. D. Harding. Its deficiencies.                    402
  § 29. His brilliancy of execution too manifest.                      403
  § 30. His bough-drawing, and choice of form.                         404
  § 31. Local color, how far expressible in black and white, and with
          what advantage.                                              404
  § 32. Opposition between great manner and great knowledge.           406
  § 33. Foliage of Cox, Fielding, and Cattermole.                      406
  § 34. Hunt and Creswick. Green, how to be rendered expressive of
          light, and offensive if otherwise.                           407
  § 35. Conclusion. Works of J. Linnel and S. Palmer.                  407

CHAPTER II.--General remarks respecting the Truth of Turner.

  §  1. No necessity of entering into discussion of architectural
          truth.                                                       409
  §  2. Extreme difficulty of illustrating or explaining the highest
          truth.                                                       410
  §  3. The _positive_ rank of Turner is in no degree shown in the
          foregoing pages, but only his relative rank.                 410
  §  4. The exceeding refinement of his truth.                         411
  §  5. There is nothing in his works which can be enjoyed without
          knowledge.                                                   411
  §  6. And nothing which knowledge will not enable us to enjoy.       412
  §  7. His former rank and progress.                                  412
  §  8. Standing of his present works. Their mystery is the
          consequence of their fulness.                                413

CHAPTER III.--Conclusion.--Modern Art and Modern Criticism.

  §  1. The entire prominence hitherto given to the works of one
          artist caused only by our not being able to take
          cognizance of _character_.                                   414
  §  2. The feelings of different artists are incapable of full
          comparison.                                                  415
  §  3. But the fidelity and truth of each are capable of real
          comparison.                                                  415
  §  4. Especially because they are equally manifested in the
          treatment of all subjects.                                   415
  §  5. No man draws one thing well, if he can draw nothing else.      416
  §  6. General conclusions to be derived from our past investigation. 417
  §  7. Truth, a standard of all excellence.                           417
  §  8. Modern criticism. Changefulness of public taste.               418
  §  9. Yet associated with a certain degree of judgment.              418
  § 10. Duty of the press.                                             418
  § 11. Qualifications necessary for discharging it.                   418
  § 12. General incapability of modern critics.                        419
  § 13. And inconsistency with themselves.                             419
  § 14. How the press may really advance the cause of art.             420
  § 15. Morbid fondness at the present day for unfinished works.       420
  § 16. By which the public defraud themselves.                        421
  § 17. And in pandering to which, artists ruin themselves.            421
  § 18. Necessity of finishing works of art perfectly.                 421
  § 19. _Sketches_ not sufficiently encouraged.                        422
  § 20. Brilliancy of execution or efforts at invention not to be
          tolerated in young artists.                                  422
  § 21. The duty and after privileges of all students.                 423
  § 22. Necessity among our greater artists of more singleness of aim. 423
  § 23. What should be their general aim.                              425
  § 24. Duty of the press with respect to the works of Turner.         427

                       LIST OF PLATES TO VOLUME I.


  Casa Contarini Fasan, Venice                                         110
                       From a drawing by Ruskin.

  The Dogana, and Santa Maria della Salute, Venice                     136
                       From a painting by Turner.

  Okehampton Castle                                                    258
                       From a painting by Turner.

  Port Ruysdael                                                        376
                       From a painting by Turner.

                             MODERN PAINTERS.

                                 PART I

                         OF GENERAL PRINCIPLES.

                               SECTION I.


                               CHAPTER I.


§ 1. Public opinion no criterion of excellence, except after long
       periods of time.

If it be true, and it can scarcely be disputed, that nothing has been
for centuries consecrated by public admiration, without possessing in a
high degree some kind of sterling excellence, it is not because the
average intellect and feeling of the majority of the public are
competent in any way to distinguish what is really excellent, but
because all erroneous opinion is inconsistent, and all ungrounded
opinion transitory; so that while the fancies and feelings which deny
deserved honor and award what is undue have neither root nor strength
sufficient to maintain consistent testimony for a length of time, the
opinions formed on right grounds by those few who are in reality
competent judges, being necessarily stable, communicate themselves
gradually from mind to mind, descending lower as they extend wider,
until they leaven the whole lump, and rule by absolute authority, even
where the grounds and reasons for them cannot be understood. On this
gradual victory of what is consistent over what is vacillating, depends
the reputation of all that is highest in art and literature. For It is
an insult to what is really great in either, to suppose that it in any
way addresses itself to mean or uncultivated faculties. It is a matter
of the simplest demonstration, that no man can be really appreciated but
by his equal or superior. His inferior may over-estimate him in
enthusiasm; or, as is more commonly the case, degrade him, in ignorance;
but he cannot form a grounded and just estimate. Without proving this,
however--which it would take more space to do than I can spare--it is
sufficiently evident that there is no process of amalgamation by which
opinions, wrong individually, can become right merely by their
multitude.[1] If I stand by a picture in the Academy, and hear twenty
persons in succession admiring some paltry piece of mechanism or
imitation in the lining of a cloak, or the satin of a slipper, it is
absurd to tell me that they reprobate collectively what they admire
individually: or, if they pass with apathy by a piece of the most noble
conception or most perfect truth, because it has in it no tricks of the
brush nor grimace of expression, it is absurd to tell me that they
collectively respect what they separately scorn, or that the feelings
and knowledge of such judges, by any length of time or comparison of
ideas, could come to any right conclusion with respect to what is really
high in art. The question is not decided by them, but for them;--decided
at first by few: by fewer in proportion as the merits of the work are of
a higher order. From these few the decision is communicated to the
number next below them in rank of mind, and by these again to a wider
and lower circle; each rank being so far cognizant of the superiority of
that above it, as to receive its decision with respect; until, in
process of time, the right and consistent opinion is communicated to
all, and held by all as a matter of faith, the more positively in
proportion as the grounds of it are less perceived.[2]

§ 2. And therefore obstinate when once formed.

§ 3. The author's reasons for opposing it in particular instances.

§ 4. But only on points capable of demonstration.

But when this process has taken place, and the work has become sanctified
by time in the minds of men, it is impossible that any new work of equal
merit can be impartially compared with it, except by minds not only
educated and generally capable of appreciating merit, but strong enough
to shake off the weight of prejudice and association, which invariably
incline them to the older favorite. It is much easier, says Barry, to
repeat the character recorded of Phidias, than to investigate the merits
of Agasias. And when, as peculiarly in the case of painting, much
knowledge of what is technical and practical is necessary to a right
judgment, so that those alone are competent to pronounce a true verdict
who are themselves the persons to be judged, and who therefore can give
no opinion, centuries may elapse before fair comparison can be made
between two artists of different ages; while the patriarchal excellence
exercises during the interval a tyrannical--perhaps, even a blighting,
influence over the minds, both of the public and of those to whom,
properly understood, it should serve for a guide and example. In no city
of Europe where art is a subject of attention, are its prospects so
hopeless, or its pursuits so resultless, as in Rome; because there, among
all students, the authority of their predecessors in art is supreme and
without appeal, and the mindless copyist studies Raffaelle, but not what
Raffaelle studied. It thus becomes the duty of every one capable of
demonstrating any definite points of superiority in modern art, and who
is in a position in which his doing so will not be ungraceful, to
encounter without hesitation whatever opprobrium may fall upon him from
the necessary prejudice even of the most candid minds, and from the far
more virulent opposition of those who have no hope of maintaining their
own reputation for discernment but in the support of that kind of
consecrated merit which may be applauded without an inconvenient
necessity for reasons. It is my purpose, therefore, believing that there
are certain points of superiority in modern artists, and especially in
one or two of their number, which have not yet been fully understood,
except by those who are scarcely in a position admitting the declaration
of their conviction, to institute a close comparison between the great
works of ancient and modern landscape art, to raise, as far as possible,
the deceptive veil of imaginary light through which we are accustomed to
gaze upon the patriarchal work, and to show the real relations, whether
favorable or otherwise, subsisting between it and our own. I am fully
aware that this is not to be done lightly or rashly; that it is the part
of every one proposing to undertake such a task strictly to examine, with
prolonged doubt and severe trial, every opinion in any way contrary to
the sacred verdict of time, and to advance nothing which does not, at
least in his own conviction, rest on surer ground than mere feeling or
taste. I have accordingly advanced nothing in the following pages but
with accompanying demonstration, which may indeed be true or
false--complete or conditional, but which can only be met on its own
grounds, and can in no way be borne down or affected by mere authority of
great names. Yet even thus I should scarcely have ventured to speak so
decidedly as I have, but for my full conviction that we ought not to
class the historical painters of the fifteenth, and landscape painters of
the seventeenth, centuries, together, under the general title of "old
masters," as if they possessed anything like corresponding rank in their
respective walks of art. I feel assured that the principles on which they
worked are totally opposed, and that the landscape painters have been
honored only because they exhibited in mechanical and technical qualities
some semblance of the manner of the nobler historical painters, whose
principles of conception and composition they entirely reversed. The
course of study which has led me reverently to the feet of Michael Angelo
and Da Vinci, has alienated me gradually from Claude and Gaspar--I cannot
at the same time do homage to power and pettiness--to the truth of
consummate science, and the mannerism of undisciplined imagination. And
let it be understood that whenever hereafter I speak depreciatingly of
the old masters as a body, I refer to none of the historical painters,
for whom I entertain a veneration, which though I hope reasonable in its
grounds, is almost superstitious in degree. Neither, unless he be
particularly mentioned, do I intend to include Nicholas Poussin, whose
landscapes have a separate and elevated character, which renders it
necessary to consider them apart from all others. Speaking generally of
the older masters, I refer only to Claude, Gaspar Poussin, Salvator Rosa,
Cuyp, Berghem, Both, Ruysdael, Hobbima, Teniers, (in his landscapes,) P.
Potter, Canaletti, and the various Van somethings, and Back somethings,
more especially and malignantly those who have libelled the sea.

It will of course be necessary for me in the commencement of the work to
state briefly those principles on which I conceive all right judgment of
art must be founded. These introductory chapters I should wish to be
read carefully, because all criticism must be useless when the terms or
grounds of it are in any degree ambiguous; and the ordinary language of
connoisseurs and critics, granting that they understand it themselves,
is usually mere jargon to others, from their custom of using technical
terms, by which everything is meant, and nothing is expressed.

§ 5. The author's partiality to modern works excusable.

And if, in the application of these principles, in spite of my endeavor
to render it impartial, the feeling and fondness which I have for some
works of modern art escape me sometimes where it should not, let it be
pardoned as little more than a fair counterbalance to that peculiar
veneration with which the work of the older master, associated as it has
ever been in our ears with the expression of whatever is great or
perfect, must be usually regarded by the reader. I do not say that this
veneration is wrong, nor that we should be less attentive to the
repeated words of time: but let us not forget, that if honor be for the
dead, gratitude can only be for the living. He who has once stood beside
the grave, to look back upon the companionship which has been forever
closed, feeling how impotent _there_ are the wild love, or the keen
sorrow, to give one instant's pleasure to the pulseless heart, or atone
in the lowest measure to the departed spirit for the hour of unkindness,
will scarcely for the future incur that debt to the heart, which can
only be discharged to the dust. But the lesson which men receive as
individuals, they do not learn as nations. Again and again they have
seen their noblest descend into the grave, and have thought it enough to
garland the tombstone when they had not crowned the brow, and to pay the
honor to the ashes, which they had denied to the spirit. Let it not
displease them that they are bidden, amidst the tumult and the dazzle of
their busy life, to listen for the few voices, and watch for the few
lamps, which God has toned and lighted to charm and to guide them, that
they may not learn their sweetness by their silence, nor their light by
their decay.


  [1] The opinion of a majority is right only when it is more probable
    with each individual that he should be right than that he should be
    wrong, as in the case of a jury. Where it is more probable, with
    respect to each individual, that he should be wrong than right, the
    opinion of the minority is the true one. Thus it is in art.

  [2] There are, however, a thousand modifying circumstances which
    render this process sometimes unnecessary,--sometimes rapid and
    certain--sometimes impossible. It is unnecessary in rhetoric and the
    drama, because the multitude is the only proper judge of those arts
    whose end is to move the multitude (though more is necessary to a
    fine play than is essentially dramatic, and it is only of the
    dramatic part that the multitude are cognizant). It is unnecessary,
    when, united with the higher qualities of a work, there are appeals
    to universal passion, to all the faculties and feelings which are
    general in man as an animal. The popularity is then as sudden as it
    is well grounded,--it is hearty and honest in every mind, but it is
    based in every mind on a different species of excellence. Such will
    often be the case with the noblest works of literature. Take Don
    Quixote for example. The lowest mind would find in it perpetual and
    brutal amusement in the misfortunes of the knight, and perpetual
    pleasure in sympathy with the squire. A mind of average feeling
    would perceive the satirical meaning and force of the book, would
    appreciate its wit, its elegance, and its truth. But only elevated
    and peculiar minds discover, in addition to all this, the full moral
    beauty of the love and truth which are the constant associates of
    all that is even most weak and erring in the character of its hero,
    and pass over the rude adventure and scurrile jest in haste--perhaps
    in pain, to penetrate beneath the rusty corselet, and catch from the
    wandering glance the evidence and expression of fortitude,
    self-devotion, and universal love. So, again, with the works of
    Scott and Byron; popularity was as instant as it was deserved,
    because there is in them an appeal to those passions which are
    universal in all men, as well as an expression of such thoughts as
    can be received only by the few. But they are admired by the
    majority of their advocates for the weakest parts of their works, as
    a popular preacher by the majority of his congregation for the worst
    part of his sermon.

    The process is rapid and certain, when, though there may be little
    to catch the multitude at once, there is much which they can enjoy
    when their attention is authoritatively directed to it. So rests the
    reputation of Shakspeare. No ordinary mind can comprehend wherein
    his undisputed superiority consists, but there is yet quite as much
    to amuse, thrill, or excite,--quite as much of what is, in the
    strict sense of the word, dramatic, in his works as in any one
    else's. They were received, therefore, when first written, with
    average approval, as works of common merit: but when the high
    decision was made, and the circle spread, the public took up the hue
    and cry conscientiously enough. Let them have daggers, ghosts,
    clowns, and kings, and with such real and definite sources of
    enjoyment, they will take the additional trouble to learn half a
    dozen quotations, without understanding them, and admit the
    superiority of Shakspeare without further demur. Nothing, perhaps,
    can more completely demonstrate the total ignorance of the public of
    all that is great or valuable in Shakspeare than their universal
    admiration of Maclise's Hamlet.

    The process is impossible when there is in the work nothing to
    attract and something to disgust the vulgar mind. Neither their
    intrinsic excellence, nor the authority of those who can judge of
    it, will ever make the poems of Wordsworth or George Herbert
    popular, in the sense in which Scott and Byron are popular, because
    it is to the vulgar a labor instead of a pleasure to read them; and
    there are parts in them which to such judges cannot but be vapid or
    ridiculous. Most works of the highest art,--those of Raffaelle, M.
    Angelo, or Da Vinci,--stand as Shakspeare does,--that which is
    commonplace and feeble in their excellence being taken for its
    essence by the uneducated, imagination assisting the impression,
    (for we readily fancy that we feel, when feeling is a matter of
    pride or conscience,) and affectation and pretension increasing the
    noise of the rapture, if not its degree. Giotto, Orgagna, Angelico,
    Perugino, stand, like George Herbert, only with the few. Wilkie
    becomes popular, like Scott, because he touches passions which all
    feel, and expresses truths which all can recognize.

                                 CHAPTER II.

                       DEFINITION OF GREATNESS IN ART.

§ 1. Distinction between the painter's intellectual power and technical

In the 15th Lecture of Sir Joshua Reynolds, incidental notice is taken
of the distinction between those excellences in the painter which belong
to him _as such_, and those which belong to him in common with all men
of intellect, the general and exalted powers of which art is the
evidence and expression, not the subject. But the distinction is not
there dwelt upon as it should be, for it is owing to the slight
attention ordinarily paid to it, that criticism is open to every form of
coxcombry, and liable to every phase of error. It is a distinction on
which depend all sound judgment of the rank of the artist, and all just
appreciation of the dignity of art.

§ 2. Painting, as such, is nothing more than language.

Painting, or art generally, as such, with all its technicalities,
difficulties, and particular ends, is nothing but a noble and expressive
language, invaluable as the vehicle of thought, but by itself nothing.
He who has learned what is commonly considered the whole art of
painting, that is, the art of representing any natural object
faithfully, has as yet only learned the language by which his thoughts
are to be expressed. He has done just as much towards being that which
we ought to respect as a great painter, as a man who has learned how to
express himself grammatically and melodiously has towards being a great
poet. The language is, indeed, more difficult of acquirement in the one
case than in the other, and possesses more power of delighting the
sense, while it speaks to the intellect, but it is, nevertheless,
nothing more than language, and all those excellences which are peculiar
to the painter as such, are merely what rhythm, melody, precision and
force are in the words of the orator and the poet, necessary to their
greatness, but not the tests of their greatness. It is not by the mode
of representing and saying, but by what is represented and said, that
the respective greatness either of the painter or the writer is to be
finally determined.

§ 3. "Painter," a term corresponding to "versifier."

Speaking with strict propriety, therefore, we should call a man a great
painter only as he excelled in precision and force in the language of
lines, and a great versifier, as he excelled in precision or force in
the language of words. A great poet would then be a term strictly, and
in precisely the same sense applicable to both, if warranted by the
character of the images or thoughts which each in their respective
languages convey.

§ 4. Example in a painting of E. Landseer's.

Take, for instance, one of the most perfect poems or pictures (I use the
words as synonymous) which modern times have seen:--the "Old Shepherd's
Chief-mourner." Here the exquisite execution of the glossy and crisp
hair of the dog, the bright sharp touching of the green bough beside it,
the clear painting of the wood of the coffin and the folds of the
blanket, are language--language clear and expressive in the highest
degree. But the close pressure of the dog's breast against the wood, the
convulsive clinging of the paws, which has dragged the blanket off the
trestle, the total powerlessness of the head laid, close and motionless,
upon its folds, the fixed and tearful fall of the eye in its utter
hopelessness, the rigidity of repose which marks that there has been no
motion nor change in the trance of agony since the last blow was struck
on the coffin-lid, the quietness and gloom of the chamber, the
spectacles marking the place where the Bible was last closed, indicating
how lonely has been the life--how unwatched the departure of him who is
now laid solitary in his sleep;--these are all thoughts--thoughts by
which the picture is separated at once from hundreds of equal merit, as
far as mere painting goes, by which it ranks as a work of high art, and
stamps its author, not as the neat imitator of the texture of a skin, or
the fold of a drapery, but as the Man of Mind.

§ 5. Difficulty of fixing an exact limit between language and thought.

It is not, however, always easy, either in painting or literature, to
determine where the influence of language stops, and where that of
thought begins. Many thoughts are so dependent upon the language in
which they are clothed, that they would lose half their beauty if
otherwise expressed. But the highest thoughts are those which are least
dependent on language, and the dignity of any composition and praise to
which it is entitled, are in exact proportion to its independency of
language or expression. A composition is indeed usually most perfect,
when to such intrinsic dignity is added all that expression can do to
attract and adorn; but in every case of supreme excellence this all
becomes as nothing. We are more gratified by the simplest lines or words
which can suggest the idea in its own naked beauty, than by the robe or
the gem which conceal while they decorate; we are better pleased to feel
by their absence how little they would bestow, than by their presence
how much they can destroy.

§ 6. Distinction between decorative and expressive language.

There is therefore a distinction to be made between what is ornamental
in language and what is expressive. That part of it which is necessary
to the embodying and conveying the thought is worthy of respect and
attention as necessary to excellence, though not the test of it. But
that part of it which is decorative has little more to do with the
intrinsic excellence of the picture than the frame or the varnishing of
it. And this caution in distinguishing between the ornamental and the
expressive is peculiarly necessary in painting; for in the language of
words it is nearly impossible for that which is not expressive to be
beautiful, except by mere rhythm or melody, any sacrifice to which is
immediately stigmatized as error. But the beauty of mere language in
painting is not only very attractive and entertaining to the spectator,
but requires for its attainment no small exertion of mind and devotion
of time by the artist. Hence, in art, men have frequently fancied that
they were becoming rhetoricians and poets when they were only learning
to speak melodiously, and the judge has over and over again advanced to
the honor of authors those who were never more than ornamental

§ 7. Instance in the Dutch and early Italian schools.

Most pictures of the Dutch school, for instance, and excepting always
those of Rubens, Vandyke, and Rembrandt, are ostentatious exhibitions of
the artist's power of speech, the clear and vigorous elocution of
useless and senseless words: while the early efforts of Cimabue and
Giotto are the burning messages of prophecy, delivered by the
stammering lips of infants. It is not by ranking the former as more than
mechanics, or the latter as less than artists, that the taste of the
multitude, always awake to the lowest pleasures which art can bestow,
and blunt to the highest, is to be formed or elevated. It must be the
part of the judicious critic carefully to distinguish what is language,
and what is thought, and to rank and praise pictures chiefly for the
latter, considering the former as a totally inferior excellence, and one
which cannot be compared with nor weighed against thought in any way nor
in any degree whatsoever. The picture which has the nobler and more
numerous ideas, however awkwardly expressed, is a greater and a better
picture than that which has the less noble and less numerous ideas,
however beautifully expressed. No weight, nor mass, nor beauty of
execution can outweigh one grain or fragment of thought. Three
penstrokes of Raffaelle are a greater and a better picture than the most
finished work that ever Carlo Dolci polished into inanity. A finished
work of a great artist is only better than its sketch, if the sources of
pleasure belonging to color and realization--valuable in
themselves,--are so employed as to increase the impressiveness of the
thought. But if one atom of thought has vanished, all color, all finish,
all execution, all ornament, are too dearly bought. Nothing but thought
can pay for thought, and the instant that the increasing refinement or
finish of the picture begins to be paid for by the loss of the faintest
shadow of an idea, that instant all refinement or finish is an
excrescence, and a deformity.

§ 8. Yet there are certain ideas belonging to language itself.

§ 9. The definition.

Yet although in all our speculations on art, language is thus to be
distinguished from, and held subordinate to, that which it conveys, we
must still remember that there are certain ideas inherent in language
itself, and that strictly speaking, every pleasure connected with art
has in it some reference to the intellect. The mere sensual pleasure of
the eye, received from the most brilliant piece of coloring, is as
nothing to that which it receives from a crystal prism, except as it
depends on our perception of a certain meaning and intended arrangement
of color, which has been the subject of intellect. Nay, the term idea,
according to Locke's definition of it, will extend even to the sensual
impressions themselves as far as they are "things which the mind
occupies itself about in thinking," that is, not as they are felt by the
eye only, but as they are received by the mind through the eye. So that,
if I say that the greatest picture is that which conveys to the mind of
the spectator the greatest number of the greatest ideas, I have a
definition which will include as subjects of comparison every pleasure
which art is capable of conveying. If I were to say, on the contrary,
that the best picture was that which most closely imitated nature, I
should assume that art could only please by imitating nature, and I
should cast out of the pale of criticism those parts of works of art
which are not imitative, that is to say, intrinsic beauties of color and
form, and those works of art wholly, which, like the arabesques of
Raffaelle in the Loggias, are not imitative at all. Now I want a
definition of art wide enough to include all its varieties of aim: I do
not say therefore that the art is greatest which gives most pleasure,
because perhaps there is some art whose end is to teach, and not to
please. I do not say that the art is greatest which teaches us most,
because perhaps there is some art whose end is to please, and not to
teach. I do not say that the art is greatest which imitates best,
because perhaps there is some art whose end is to create, and not to
imitate. But I say that the art is greatest, which conveys to the mind
of the spectator, by any means whatsoever, the greatest number of the
greatest ideas, and I call an idea great in proportion as it is received
by a higher faculty of the mind, and as it more fully occupies, and in
occupying, exercises and exalts, the faculty by which it is received.

If this then be the definition of great art, that of a great artist
naturally follows. He is the greatest artist who has embodied, in the
sum of his works, the greatest number of the greatest ideas.

                            CHAPTER III.

                        OF IDEAS OF POWER.

The definition of art which I have just given, requires me to determine
what kinds of ideas can be received from works of art, and which of
these are the greatest, before proceeding to any practical application
of the test.

§ 1. What classes of ideas are conveyable by art.

I think that all the sources of pleasure, or any other good, to be
derived from works of art, may be referred to five distinct heads.

    I. Ideas of Power.--The perception or conception of the mental or
         bodily powers by which the work has been produced.

   II. Ideas of Imitation.--The perception that the thing produced
         resembles something else.

  III. Ideas of Truth.--The perception of faithfulness in a statement
         of facts by the thing produced.

   IV. Ideas of Beauty.--The perception of beauty, either in the thing
         produced, or in what it suggests or resembles.

    V. Ideas of Relation.--The perception of intellectual relations, in
         the thing produced, or in what it suggests or resembles.

I shall briefly distinguish the nature and effects of each of these
classes of ideas.

§ 2. Ideas of power vary much in relative dignity.

I. Ideas of Power.--These are the simple perception of the mental or
bodily powers exerted in the production of any work of art. According to
the dignity and degree of the power perceived is the dignity of the
idea; but the whole class of ideas is received by the intellect, and
they excite the best of the moral feelings, veneration, and the desire
of exertion. As a species, therefore, they are one of the noblest
connected with art; but the differences in degree of dignity among
themselves are infinite, being correspondent with every order of
power,--from that of the fingers to that of the most exalted intellect.
Thus, when we see an Indian's paddle carved from the handle to the
blade, we have a conception of prolonged manual labor, and are gratified
in proportion to the supposed expenditure of time and exertion. These
are, indeed, powers of a low order, yet the pleasure arising from the
conception of them enters very largely indeed into our admiration of all
elaborate ornament, architectural decoration, etc. The delight with
which we look on the fretted front of Rouen Cathedral depends in no
small degree on the simple perception of time employed and labor
expended in its production. But it is a right, that is, an ennobling
pleasure, even in this its lowest phase; and even the pleasure felt by
those persons who praise a drawing for its "finish," or its "work,"
which is one precisely of the same kind, would be right, if it did not
imply a want of perception of the higher powers which render work
unnecessary. If to the evidence of labor be added that of strength or
dexterity, the sensation of power is yet increased; if to strength and
dexterity be added that of ingenuity and judgment, it is multiplied
tenfold, and so on, through all the subjects of action of body or mind,
we receive the more exalted pleasure from the more exalted power.

§ 3. But are received from whatever has been the subject of power. The
       meaning of the word "excellence."

So far the nature and effects of ideas of power cannot but be admitted
by all. But the circumstance which I wish especially to insist upon,
with respect to them, is one which may not, perhaps, be so readily
allowed, namely, that they are independent of the nature or worthiness
of the object from which they are received, and that whatever has been
the subject of a great power, whether there be intrinsic and apparent
worthiness in itself or not, bears with it the evidence of having been
so, and is capable of giving the ideas of power, and the consequent
pleasures, in their full degree. For observe, that a thing is not
properly said to have been the result of a great power, on which only
some part of that power has been expended. A nut may be cracked by a
steam-engine, but it has not, in being so, been the subject of the power
of the engine. And thus it is falsely said of great men, that they waste
their lofty powers on unworthy objects: the object may be dangerous or
useless, but, as far as the phrase has reference to difficulty of
performance, it cannot be unworthy of the power which it brings into
exertion, because nothing can become a subject of action to a greater
power which can be accomplished by a less, any more than bodily strength
can be exerted where there is nothing to resist it.

So then, men may let their great powers lie dormant, while they employ
their mean and petty powers on mean and petty objects; but it is
physically impossible to employ a great power, except on a great object.
Consequently, wherever power of any kind or degree has been exerted, the
marks and evidence of it are stamped upon its results: it is impossible
that it should be lost or wasted, or without record, even in the
"estimation of a hair:" and therefore, whatever has been the subject of
a great power bears about with it the image of that which created it,
and is what is commonly called "excellent." And this is the true meaning
of the word excellent, as distinguished from the terms, "beautiful,"
"useful," "good," etc.; and we shall always, in future, use the word
excellent, as signifying that the thing to which it is applied required
a great power for its production.[3]

§ 4. What is necessary to the distinguishing of excellence.

The faculty of perceiving what powers are required for the production of
a thing, is the faculty of perceiving excellence. It is this faculty in
which men, even of the most cultivated taste, must always be wanting,
unless they have added practice to reflection; because none can estimate
the power manifested in victory, unless they have personally measured
the strength to be overcome. Though, therefore, it is possible, by the
cultivation of sensibility and judgment, to become capable of
distinguishing what is beautiful, it is totally impossible, without
practice and knowledge, to distinguish or feel what is excellent. The
beauty or the truth of Titian's flesh-tint may be appreciated by all;
but it is only to the artist, whose multiplied hours of toil have not
reached the slightest resemblance of one of its tones, that its
_excellence_ is manifest.

§ 5. The pleasure attendant on conquering difficulties is right.

Wherever, then, difficulty has been overcome, there is excellence: and
therefore, in order to prove excellent, we have only to prove the
difficulty of its production: whether it be useful or beautiful is
another question; its excellence depends on its difficulty alone. For is
it a false or diseased taste which looks for the overcoming of
difficulties, and has pleasure in it, even without any view to resultant
good. It has been made part of our moral nature that we should have a
pleasure in encountering and conquering opposition, for the sake of the
struggle and the victory, not for the sake of any after result; and not
only our own victory, but the perception of that of another, is in all
cases the source of pure and ennobling pleasure. And if we often hear it
said, and truly said, that an artist has erred by seeking rather to show
his skill in overcoming technical difficulties, than to reach a great
end, be it observed that he is only blamed because he has sought to
conquer an inferior difficulty rather than a great one; for it is much
easier to overcome technical difficulties than to reach a great end.
Whenever the visible victory over difficulties is found painful or in
false taste, it is owing to the preference of an inferior to a great
difficulty, or to the false estimate of what is difficult and what is
not. It is far more difficult to be simple than to be complicated; far
more difficult to sacrifice skill and cease exertion in the proper
place, than to expend both indiscriminately. We shall find, in the
course of our investigation, that beauty and difficulty go together; and
that they are only mean and paltry difficulties which it is wrong or
contemptible to wrestle with. Be it remembered then--Power is never
wasted. Whatever power has been employed, produces excellence in
proportion to its own dignity and exertion; and the faculty of
perceiving this exertion, and appreciating this dignity, is the faculty
of perceiving excellence.


  [3] Of course the word "excellent" is primarily a mere synonym with
    "surpassing," and when applied to persons, has the general meaning
    given by Johnson--"the state of abounding in any good quality." But
    when applied to things it has always reference to the power by which
    they are produced. We talk of excellent music or poetry, because it
    is difficult to compose or write such, but never of excellent
    flowers, because all flowers being the result of the same power,
    must be equally excellent. We distinguish them only as beautiful or
    useful, and therefore, as there is no other one word to signify that
    quality of a thing produced by which it pleases us merely as the
    result of power, and as the term "excellent" is more frequently used
    in this sense than in any other, I choose to limit it at once to
    this sense, and I wish it, when I use it in future, to be so

                                 CHAPTER IV.

                           OF IDEAS OF IMITATION.

§ 1. False use of the term "imitation" by many writers of art.

Fuseli, in his lectures, and many other persons of equally just and
accurate habits of thought, (among others, S. T. Coleridge,) make a
distinction between imitation and copying, representing the first as the
legitimate function of art--the latter as its corruption; but as such a
distinction is by no means warranted, or explained by the common meaning
of the words themselves, it is not easy to comprehend exactly in what
sense they are used by those writers. And though, reasoning from the
context, I can understand what ideas those words stand for in their
minds, I cannot allow the terms to be properly used as symbols of those
ideas, which (especially in the case of the word Imitation) are
exceedingly complex, and totally different from what most people would
understand by the term. And by men of less accurate thought, the word is
used still more vaguely or falsely. For instance, Burke (Treatise on the
Sublime, part i. sect. 16) says, "When the object represented in poetry
or painting is such as we could have no desire of seeing in the reality,
then we may be sure that its power in poetry or painting is owing to the
power of _imitation_." In which case the real pleasure may be in what we
have been just speaking of, the dexterity of the artist's hand; or it
may be in a beautiful or singular arrangement of colors, or a thoughtful
chiaroscuro, or in the pure beauty of certain forms which art forces on
our notice, though we should not have observed them in the reality; and
I conceive that none of these sources of pleasure are in any way
expressed or intimated by the term "imitation."

But there is one source of pleasure in works of art totally different
from all these, which I conceive to be properly and accurately expressed
by the word "imitation:" one which, though constantly confused in
reasoning, because it is always associated in fact, with other means of
pleasure, is totally separated from them in its nature, and is the real
basis of whatever complicated or various meaning may be afterwards
attached to the word in the minds of men.

§ 2. Real meaning of the term.

§ 3. What is requisite to the sense of imitation.

I wish to point out this distinct source of pleasure clearly at once,
and only to use the word "imitation" in reference to it. Whenever
anything looks like what it is not, the resemblance being so great as
_nearly_ to deceive, we feel a kind of pleasurable surprise, an
agreeable excitement of mind, exactly the same in its nature as that
which we receive from juggling. Whenever we perceive this in something
produced by art, that is to say, whenever the work is seen to resemble
something which we know it is not, we receive what I call an idea of
imitation. _Why_ such ideas are pleasing, it would be out of our present
purpose to inquire; we only know that there is no man who does not feel
pleasure in his animal nature from gentle surprise, and that such
surprise can be excited in no more distinct manner than by the evidence
that a thing is not what it appears to be.[4] Now two things are
requisite to our complete and more pleasurable perception of this:
first, that the resemblance be so perfect as to amount to a deception;
secondly, that there be some means of proving at the same moment that it
_is_ a deception. The most perfect ideas and pleasures of imitation are,
therefore, when one sense is contradicted by another, both bearing as
positive evidence on the subject as each is capable of alone; as when
the eye says a thing is round, and the finger says it is flat; they are,
therefore, never felt in so high a degree as in painting, where
appearance of projection, roughness, hair, velvet, etc., are given with
a smooth surface, or in wax-work, where the first evidence of the senses
is perpetually contradicted by their experience; but the moment we come
to marble, our definition checks us, for a marble figure does not look
like what it is not: it looks like marble, and like the form of a man,
but then it _is_ marble, and it _is_ the form of a man. It does not look
like a man, which it is not, but like the form of a man, which it is.
Form is form, _bona fide_ and actual, whether in marble or in
flesh--not an imitation or resemblance of form, but real form. The chalk
outline of the bough of a tree on paper, is not an imitation; it looks
like chalk and paper--not like wood, and that which it suggests to the
mind is not properly said to be _like_ the form of a bough, it _is_ the
form of a bough. Now, then, we see the limits of an idea of imitation;
it extends only to the sensation of trickery and deception occasioned by
a thing's intentionally seeming different from what it is; and the
degree of the pleasure depends on the degree of difference and the
perfection of the resemblance, not on the nature of the thing resembled.
The simple pleasure in the imitation would be precisely of the same
degree, (if the accuracy could be equal,) whether the subject of it were
the hero or his horse. There are other collateral sources of pleasure,
which are necessarily associated with this, but that part of the
pleasure which depends on the imitation is the same in both.

§ 4. The pleasure resulting from imitation the most contemptible that
       can be derived from art.

Ideas of imitation, then, act by producing the simple pleasure of
surprise, and that not of surprise in its higher sense and function, but
of the mean and paltry surprise which is felt in jugglery. These ideas
and pleasures are the most contemptible which can be received from art;
first, because it is necessary to their enjoyment that the mind should
reject the impression and address of the thing represented, and fix
itself only upon the reflection that it is not what it seems to be. All
high or noble emotion or thought are thus rendered physically
impossible, while the mind exults in what is very like a strictly
sensual pleasure. We may consider tears as a result of agony or of art,
whichever we please, but not of both at the same moment. If we are
surprised by them as an attainment of the one, it is impossible we can
be moved by them as a sign of the other.

§ 5. Imitation is only of contemptible subjects.

Ideas of imitation are contemptible in the second place, because not
only do they preclude the spectator from enjoying inherent beauty in the
subject, but they can only be received from mean and paltry subjects,
because it is impossible to imitate anything really great. We can "paint
a cat or a fiddle, so that they look as if we could take them up;" but
we cannot imitate the ocean, or the Alps. We can imitate fruit, but not
a tree; flowers, but not a pasture; cut-glass, but not the rainbow. All
pictures in which deceptive powers of imitation are displayed are
therefore either of contemptible subjects, or have the imitation shown
in contemptible parts of them, bits of dress, jewels, furniture, etc.

§ 6. Imitation is contemptible because it is easy.

Thirdly, these ideas are contemptible, because no ideas of power are
associated with them; to the ignorant, imitation, indeed, seems
difficult, and its success praiseworthy, but even they can by no
possibility see more in the artist than they do in a juggler, who
arrives at a strange end by means with which they are unacquainted. To
the instructed, the juggler is by far the more respectable artist of the
two, for they know sleight of hand to be an art of immensely more
difficult acquirement, and to imply more ingenuity in the artist than a
power of deceptive imitation in painting, which requires nothing more
for its attainment than a true eye, a steady hand, and moderate
industry--qualities which in no degree separate the imitative artist
from a watch-maker, pin-maker, or any other neat-handed artificer. These
remarks do not apply to the art of the Diorama, or the stage, where the
pleasure is not dependent on the imitation, but is the same which we
should receive from nature herself, only far inferior in degree. It is a
noble pleasure; but we shall see in the course of our investigation,
both that it is inferior to that which we receive when there is no
deception at all, and why it is so.

§ 7. Recapitulation.

Whenever then in future, I speak of ideas of imitation, I wish to be
understood to mean the immediate and present perception that something
produced by art is not what it seems to be. I prefer saying "that it is
not what it seems to be," to saying "that it seems to be what it is
not," because we perceive at once what it seems to be, and the idea of
imitation, and the consequent pleasure, result from the subsequent
perception of its being something else--flat, for instance, when we
thought it was round.


  [4] [Greek: syllogismos ettig, hoti touto ekeino].--Arist. Rhet. 1,
    11, 23.

                                 CHAPTER V.

                             OF IDEAS OF TRUTH.

The word truth, as applied to art, signifies the faithful statement,
either to the mind or senses, of any fact of nature.

§ 1. Meaning of the word "truth" as applied to art.

We receive an idea of truth, then, when we perceive the faithfulness of
such a statement.

The difference between ideas of truth and of imitation lies chiefly in
the following points.

§ 2. First difference between truth and imitation.

First,--Imitation can only be of something material, but truth has
reference to statements both of the qualities of material things, and of
emotions, impressions, and thoughts. There is a moral as well as
material truth,--a truth of impression as well as of form,--of thought
as well as of matter; and the truth of impression and thought is a
thousand times the more important of the two. Hence, truth is a term of
universal application, but imitation is limited to that narrow field of
art which takes cognizance only of material things.

§ 3. Second difference.

Secondly,--Truth may be stated by any signs or symbols which have a
definite signification in the minds of those to whom they are addressed,
although such signs be themselves no image nor likeness of anything.
Whatever can excite in the mind the conception of certain facts, can
give ideas of truth, though it be in no degree the imitation or
resemblance of those facts. If there be--we do not say there is--but if
there be in painting anything which operates, as words do, not by
resembling anything, but by being taken as a symbol and substitute for
it, and thus inducing the effect of it, then this channel of
communication can convey uncorrupted truth, though it do not in any
degree resemble the facts whose conception it induces. But ideas of
imitation, of course, require the likeness of the object. They speak to
the perceptive faculties only: truth to the conceptive.

§ 4. Third difference.

Thirdly,--And in consequence of what is above stated, an idea of truth
exists in the statement of _one_ attribute of anything, but an idea of
imitation requires the resemblance of as many attributes as we are
usually cognizant of in its real presence. A pencil outline of the bough
of a tree on white paper is a statement of a certain number of facts of
form. It does not yet amount to the imitation of anything. The idea of
that form is not given in nature by lines at all, still less by black
lines with a white space between them. But those lines convey to the
mind a distinct impression of a certain number of facts, which it
recognizes as agreeable with its previous impressions of the bough of a
tree; and it receives, therefore, an idea of truth. If, instead of two
lines, we give a dark form with the brush, we convey information of a
certain relation of shade between the bough and sky, recognizable for
another idea of truth; but we have still no imitation, for the white
paper is not the least like air, nor the black shadow like wood. It is
not until after a certain number of ideas of truth have been collected
together, that we arrive at an idea of imitation.

§ 5. No accurate truths necessary to imitation.

Hence it might at first sight appear, that an idea of imitation,
inasmuch as several ideas of truth were united in it, was nobler than a
simple idea of truth. And if it were necessary that the ideas of truth
should be perfect, or should be subjects of contemplation _as such_, it
would be so. But, observe, we require to produce the effect of imitation
only so many and such ideas of truth as the _senses_ are usually
cognizant of. Now the senses are not usually, nor unless they be
especially devoted to the service, cognizant, with accuracy, of any
truths but those of space and projection. It requires long study and
attention before they give certain evidence of even the simplest truths
of form. For instance, the quay on which the figure is sitting, with his
hand at his eyes, in Claude's seaport, No. 14, in the National Gallery,
is egregiously out of perspective. The eye of this artist, with all his
study, had thus not acquired the power of taking cognizance of the
apparent form even of a simple parallelopiped. How much less of the
complicated forms of boughs, leaves, or limbs? Although, therefore,
something resembling the real form is necessary to deception, this
something is not to be called a _truth_ of form; for, strictly speaking,
there are no degrees of truth, there are only degrees of approach to it;
and an approach to it, whose feebleness and imperfection would instantly
offend and give pain to a mind really capable of distinguishing truth,
is yet quite sufficient for all the purposes of deceptive imagination.
It is the same with regard to color. If we were to paint a tree
sky-blue, or a dog rose-pink, the discernment of the public would be
keen enough to discover the falsehood; but, so that there be just so
much approach to truth of color as may come up to the common idea of it
in men's minds, that is to say, if the trees be all bright green, and
flesh unbroken buff, and ground unbroken brown, though all the real and
refined truths of color be wholly omitted, or rather defied and
contradicted, there is yet quite enough for all purposes of imitation.
The only facts then, which we are usually and certainly cognizant of,
are those of distance and projection, and if these be tolerably given,
with something like truth of form and color to assist them, the idea of
imitation is complete. I would undertake to paint an arm, with every
muscle out of its place, and every bone of false form and dislocated
articulation, and yet to observe certain coarse and broad resemblances
of true outline, which, with careful shading, would induce deception,
and draw down the praise and delight of the discerning public. The other
day at Bruges, while I was endeavoring to set down in my note-book
something of the ineffable expression of the Madonna in the cathedral, a
French amateur came up to me, to inquire if I had seen the modern French
pictures in a neighboring church. I had not, but felt little inclined to
leave my marble for all the canvas that ever suffered from French
brushes. My apathy was attacked with gradually increasing energy of
praise. Rubens never executed--Titian never colored anything like them.
I thought this highly probable, and still sat quiet. The voice continued
at my ear. "Parbleu, Monsieur, Michel Ange n'a rien produit de plus
beau!" "De plus _beau_?" repeated I, wishing to know what particular
excellences of Michael Angelo were to be intimated by this expression.
"Monsieur, on ne pent plus--c'est un tableau admirable--inconcevable:
Monsieur," said the Frenchman, lifting up his hands to heaven, as he
concentrated in one conclusive and overwhelming proposition the qualities
which were to outshine Rubens and overpower Buonaroti--"Monsieur, IL

This gentleman could only perceive two truths--flesh color and
projection. These constituted his notion of the perfection of painting;
because they unite all that is necessary for deception. He was not
therefore cognizant of many ideas of truth, though perfectly cognizant
of ideas of imitation.

§ 6. Ideas of truth are inconsistent with ideas of imitation.

We shall see, in the course of our investigation of ideas of truth, that
ideas of imitation not only do not imply their presence, but even are
inconsistent with it; and that pictures which imitate so as to deceive,
are never true. But this is not the place for the proof of this; at
present we have only to insist on the last and greatest distinction
between ideas of truth and of imitation--that the mind, in receiving one
of the former, dwells upon its own conception of the fact, or form, or
feeling stated, and is occupied only with the qualities and character of
that fact or form, considering it as real and existing, being all the
while totally regardless of the signs or symbols by which the notion of
it has been conveyed. These signs have no pretence, nor hypocrisy, nor
legerdemain about them;--there is nothing to be found out, or sifted, or
surprised in them;--they bear their message simply and clearly, and it
is that message which the mind takes from them and dwells upon,
regardless of the language in which it is delivered. But the mind, in
receiving an idea of imitation, is wholly occupied in finding out that
what has been suggested to it is not what it appears to be: it does not
dwell on the suggestion, but on the perception that it is a false
suggestion: it derives its pleasure, not from the contemplation of a
truth, but from the discovery of a falsehood. So that the moment ideas
of truth are grouped together, so as to give rise to an idea of
imitation, they change their very nature--lose their essence as ideas of
truth--and are corrupted and degraded, so as to share in the treachery
of what they have produced. Hence, finally, ideas of truth are the
foundation, and ideas of imitation the destruction, of all art. We shall
be better able to appreciate their relative dignity after the
investigation which we propose of the functions of the former; but we
may as well now express the conclusion to which we shall then be
led--that no picture can be good which deceives by its imitation, for
the very reason that nothing can be beautiful which is not true.

                                 CHAPTER VI.

                             OF IDEAS OF BEAUTY.

§ 1. Definition of the term "beautiful."

Any material object which can give us pleasure in the simple
contemplation of its outward qualities without any direct and definite
exertion of the intellect, I call in some way, or in some degree,
beautiful. Why we receive pleasure from some forms and colors, and not
from others, is no more to be asked or answered than why we like sugar
and dislike wormwood. The utmost subtilty of investigation will only
lead us to ultimate instincts and principles of human nature, for which
no farther reason can be given than the simple will of the Deity that we
should be so created. We may, indeed, perceive, as far as we are
acquainted with His nature, that we have been so constructed as, when in
a healthy and cultivated state of mind, to derive pleasure from whatever
things are illustrative of that nature; but we do not receive pleasure
from them _because_ they are illustrative of it, nor from any perception
that they are illustrative of it, but instinctively and necessarily, as
we derive sensual pleasure from the scent of a rose. On these primary
principles of our nature, education and accident operate to an unlimited
extent; they may be cultivated or checked, directed or diverted, gifted
by right guidance with the most acute and faultless sense, or subjected
by neglect to every phase of error and disease. He who has followed up
these natural laws of aversion and desire, rendering them more and more
authoritative by constant obedience, so as to derive pleasure always
from that which God originally intended should give him pleasure, and
who derives the greatest possible sum of pleasure from any given object,
is a man of taste.

§ 2. Definition of the term "taste."

This, then, is the real meaning of this disputed word. Perfect taste is
the faculty of receiving the greatest possible pleasure from those
material sources which are attractive to our moral nature in its purity
and perfection. He who receives little pleasure from these sources,
wants taste; he who receives pleasure from any other sources, has false
or bad taste.

§ 3. Distinction between taste and judgment.

And it is thus that the term "taste" is to be distinguished from that of
"judgment," with which it is constantly confounded. Judgment is a
general term, expressing definite action of the intellect, and
applicable to every kind of subject which can be submitted to it. There
may be judgment of congruity, judgment of truth, judgment of justice,
and judgment of difficulty and excellence. But all these exertions of
the intellect are totally distinct from taste, properly so called, which
is the instinctive and instant preferring of one material object to
another without any obvious reason, except that it is proper to human
nature in its perfection so to do.

§ 4. How far beauty may become intellectual.

Observe, however, I do not mean by excluding direct exertion of the
intellect from ideas of beauty, to assert that beauty has no effect upon
nor connection with the intellect. All our moral feelings are so
in-woven with our intellectual powers, that we cannot affect the one
without in some degree addressing the other; and in all high ideas of
beauty, it is more than probable that much of the pleasure depends on
delicate and untraceable perceptions of fitness, propriety, and
relation, which are purely intellectual, and through which we arrive at
our noblest ideas of what is commonly and rightly called "intellectual
beauty." But there is yet no immediate _exertion_ of the intellect; that
is to say, if a person receiving even the noblest ideas of simple beauty
be asked _why_ he likes the object exciting them, he will not be able to
give any distinct reason, nor to trace in his mind any formed thought,
to which he can appeal as a source of pleasure. He will say that the
thing gratifies, fills, hallows, exalts his mind, but he will not be
able to say why, or how. If he can, and if he can show that he perceives
in the object any expression of distinct thought, he has received more
than an idea of beauty--it is an idea of relation.

§ 5. The high rank and function of ideas of beauty.

Ideas of beauty are among the noblest which can be presented to the
human mind, invariably exalting and purifying it according to their
degree; and it would appear that we are intended by the Deity to be
constantly under their influence, because there is not one single object
in nature which is not capable of conveying them, and which, to the
rightly perceiving mind, does not present an incalculably greater number
of beautiful than of deformed parts; there being in fact scarcely
anything, in pure, undiseased nature, like positive deformity, but only
degrees of beauty, or such slight and rare points of permitted contrast
as may render all around them more valuable by their opposition, spots
of blackness in creation, to make its colors felt.

§ 6. Meaning of the term "ideal beauty."

But although everything in nature is more or less beautiful, every
species of object has its own kind and degree of beauty; some being in
their own nature more beautiful than others, and few, if any,
individuals possessing the utmost degree of beauty of which the species
is capable. This utmost degree of specific beauty, necessarily
coexistent with the utmost perfection of the object in other respects,
is the ideal of the object.

Ideas of beauty, then, be it remembered, are the subjects of moral, but
not of intellectual perception. By the investigation of them we shall be
led to the knowledge of the ideal subjects of art.

                                 CHAPTER VII.

                            OF IDEAS OF RELATION.

§ 1. General meaning of the term.

I use this term rather as one of convenience than as adequately
expressive of the vast class of ideas which I wish to be comprehended
under it, namely, all those conveyable by art, which are the subjects of
distinct intellectual perception and action, and which are therefore
worthy of the name of thoughts. But as every thought, or definite
exertion of intellect, implies two subjects, and some connection or
relation inferred between them, the term "ideas of relation" is not
incorrect, though it is inexpressive.

§ 2. What ideas are to be comprehended under it.

Under this head must be arranged everything productive of expression,
sentiment, and character, whether in figures or landscapes, (for there
may be as much definite expression and marked carrying out of particular
thoughts in the treatment of inanimate as of animate nature,) everything
relating to the conception of the subject and to the congruity and
relation of its parts; not as they enhance each other's beauty by known
and constant laws of composition, but as they give each other expression
and meaning, by particular application, requiring distinct thought to
discover or to enjoy: the choice, for instance, of a particular lurid or
appalling light, to illustrate an incident in itself terrible, or of a
particular tone of pure color to prepare the mind for the expression of
refined and delicate feeling; and, in a still higher sense, the
invention of such incidents and thoughts as can be expressed in words as
well as on canvas, and are totally independent of any means of art but
such as may serve for the bare suggestion of them. The principal object
in the foreground of Turner's "Building of Carthage" is a group of
children sailing toy boats. The exquisite choice of this incident, as
expressive of the ruling passion, which was to be the source of future
greatness, in preference to the tumult of busy stone-masons or arming
soldiers, is quite as appreciable when it is told as when it is
seen,--it has nothing to do with the technicalities of painting; a
scratch of the pen would have conveyed the idea and spoken to the
intellect as much as the elaborate realizations of color. Such a thought
as this is something far above all art; it is epic poetry of the highest
order. Claude, in subjects of the same kind, commonly introduces people
carrying red trunks with iron locks about, and dwells, with infantine
delight, on the lustre of the leather and the ornaments of the iron. The
intellect can have no occupation here; we must look to the imitation or
to nothing. Consequently, Turner rises above Claude in the very first
instant of the conception of his picture, and acquires an intellectual
superiority which no powers of the draughtsman or the artist (supposing
that such existed in his antagonist) could ever wrest from him.

§ 3. The exceeding nobility of these ideas.

Such are the function and force of ideas of relation. They are what I
have asserted in the second chapter of this section to be the noblest
subjects of art. Dependent upon it only for expression, they cause all
the rest of its complicated sources of pleasure to take, in comparison
with them, the place of mere language or decoration; nay, even the
noblest ideas of beauty sink at once beside these into subordination and
subjection. It would add little to the influence of Landseer's picture
above instanced, Chap. II., § 4, that the form of the dog should be
conceived with every perfection of curve and color which its nature was
capable of, and that the ideal lines should be carried out with the
science of a Praxiteles; nay, the instant that the beauty so obtained
interfered with the impression of agony and desolation, and drew the
mind away from the feeling of the animal to its outward form, that
instant would the picture become monstrous and degraded. The utmost
glory of the human body is a mean subject of contemplation, compared to
the emotion, exertion and character of that which animates it; the
lustre of the limbs of the Aphrodite is faint beside that of the brow of
the Madonna; and the divine form of the Greek god, except as it is the
incarnation and expression of divine mind, is degraded beside the
passion and the prophecy of the vaults of the Sistine.

§ 4. Why no subdivision of so extensive a class is necessary.

Ideas of relation are of course, with respect to art generally, the most
extensive as the most important source of pleasure; and if we proposed
entering upon the criticism of historical works, it would be absurd to
attempt to do so without further subdivision and arrangement. But the
old landscape painters got over so much canvas without either exercise
of, or appeal to, the intellect, that we shall be little troubled with
the subject as far as they are concerned; and whatever subdivision we
may adopt, as it will therefore have particular reference to the works
of modern artists, will be better understood when we have obtained some
knowledge of them in less important points.

By the term "ideas of relation," then, I mean in future to express all
those sources of pleasure, which involve and require, at the instant of
their perception, active exertion of the intellectual powers.

                                 SECTION II.

                                  OF POWER.

                                 CHAPTER I.


§ 1. No necessity for detailed study of ideas of imitation.

We have seen in the last section, what classes of ideas may be conveyed
by art, and we have been able so far to appreciate their relative worth
as to see, that from the list, as it is to be applied to the purposes of
legitimate criticism, we may at once throw out the ideas of imitation;
first, because, as we have shown, they are unworthy the pursuit of the
artist; and secondly, because they are nothing more than the result of a
particular association of ideas of truth. In examining the truth of art,
therefore, we shall be compelled to take notice of those particular
truths, whose association gives rise to the ideas of imitation. We shall
then see more clearly the meanness of those truths, and we shall find
ourselves able to use them as tests of vice in art, saying of a
picture,--"It deceives, therefore it must be bad."

§ 2. Nor for separate study of ideas of power.

Ideas of power, in the same way, cannot be completely viewed as a
separate class; not because they are mean or unimportant, but because
they are almost always associated with, or dependent upon, some of the
higher ideas of truth, beauty, or relation, rendered with decision or
velocity. That power which delights us in the chalk sketch of a great
painter is not one of the fingers, not like that of the writing-master,
mere dexterity of hand. It is the accuracy and certainty of the
knowledge, rendered evident by its rapid and fearless expression, which
is the real source of pleasure; and so upon each difficulty of art,
whether it be to know, or to relate, or to invent, the sensation of
power is attendant, when we see that difficulty totally and swiftly
vanquished. Hence, as we determine what is otherwise desirable in art,
we shall gradually develop the sources of the ideas of power; and if
there be anything difficult which is not otherwise desirable, it must be
afterwards considered separately.

§ 3. Except under one particular form.

But it will be necessary at present to notice a particular form of the
ideas of power, which is partially independent of knowledge of truth, or
difficulty, and which is apt to corrupt the judgment of the critic, and
debase the work of the artist. It is evident that the conception of
power which we receive from a calculation of unseen difficulty, and an
estimate of unseen strength, can never be so impressive as that which we
receive from the present sensation or sight of the one resisting, and
the other overwhelming. In the one case the power is imagined, and in
the other felt.

§ 4. There are two modes of receiving ideas of power, commonly

There are thus two modes in which we receive the conception of power;
one, the most just, when by a perfect knowledge of the difficulty to be
overcome, and the means employed, we form a right estimate of the
faculties exerted; the other, when without possessing such intimate and
accurate knowledge, we are impressed by a sensation of power in visible
action. If these two modes of receiving the impression agree in the
result, and if the sensation be equal to the estimate, we receive the
utmost possible idea of power. But this is the case perhaps with the
works of only one man out of the whole circle of the fathers of art, of
him to whom we have just referred, Michael Angelo. In others, the
estimate and the sensation are constantly unequal, and often

§ 5. First reason of the inconsistency.

The first reason of this inconsistency is, that in order to receive a
_sensation_ of power, we must see it in operation. Its victory,
therefore, must not be achieved, but achieving, and therefore imperfect.
Thus we receive a greater sensation of power from the half-hewn limbs of
the Twilight to the Day of the Cappella de' Medici, than even from the
divine inebriety of the Bacchus in the gallery--greater from the life
dashed out along the Friezes of the Parthenon, than from the polished
limbs of the Apollo,--greater from the ink sketch of the head of
Raffaelle's St. Catherine, than from the perfection of its realization.

§ 6. Second reason for the inconsistency.

Another reason of the inconsistency is, that the sensation of power is
in proportion to the apparent inadequacy of the means to the end; so
that the impression is much greater from a partial success attained with
slight effort, than from perfect success attained with greater
proportional effort. Now, in all art, every touch or effort does
individually less in proportion as the work approaches perfection. The
first five chalk touches bring a head into existence out of nothing. No
five touches in the whole course of the work will ever do so much as
these, and the difference made by each touch is more and more
imperceptible as the work approaches completion. Consequently, the ratio
between the means employed and the effect produced is constantly
decreasing, and therefore the least sensation of power is received from
the most perfect work.

§ 7. The sensation of power ought not to be sought in imperfect art.

It is thus evident that there are sensations of power about imperfect
art, so that it be right art as far as it goes, which must always be
wanting in its perfection; and that there are sources of pleasure in the
hasty sketch and rough hewn block, which are partially wanting in the
tinted canvas and the polished marble. But it is nevertheless wrong to
prefer the sensation of power to the intellectual perception of it.
There is in reality greater power in the completion than in the
commencement; and though it be not so manifest to the senses, it ought
to have higher influence on the mind; and therefore in praising pictures
for the ideas of power they convey, we must not look to the keenest
sensation, but to the highest estimate, accompanied with as much of the
sensation as is compatible with it; and thus we shall consider those
pictures as conveying the highest ideas of power which attain the most
_perfect_ end with the slightest possible means; not, observe, those in
which, though much has been done with little, all has not been done, but
from the picture, in which _all_ has been done, and yet not a touch
thrown away. The quantity of work in the sketch is necessarily less in
proportion to the effect obtained than in the picture; but yet the
picture involves the greater power, if out of all the additional labor
bestowed on it, not a touch has been lost.

§ 8. Instances in pictures of modern artists.

For instance, there are few drawings of the present day that involve
greater sensations of power than those of Frederick Tayler. Every dash
tells, and the quantity of effect obtained is enormous, in proportion to
the apparent means. But the effect obtained is not complete. Brilliant,
beautiful, and right, as a sketch, the work is still far from
perfection, as a drawing. On the contrary, there are few drawings of the
present day that bear evidence of more labor bestowed, or more
complicated means employed, than those of John Lewis. The result does
not, at first, so much convey an impression of inherent power as of
prolonged exertion; but the result is complete. Water-color drawing can
be carried no farther; nothing has been left unfinished or untold. And
on examination of the means employed, it is found and felt that not one
touch out of the thousands employed has been thrown away;--that not one
dot nor dash could be spared without loss of effect;--and that the
exertion has been as swift as it has been prolonged--as bold as it has
been persevering. The power involved in such a picture is of the highest
order, and the enduring pleasure following on the estimate of it pure.

§ 9. Connection between ideas of power and modes of execution.

But there is still farther ground for caution in pursuing the sensation
of power, connected with the particular characters and modes of
execution. This we shall be better able to understand by briefly
reviewing the various excellences which may belong to execution, and
give pleasure in it; though the full determination of what is desirable
in it, and the critical examination of the execution of different
artists, must be deferred, as will be immediately seen, until we are
more fully acquainted with the principles of truth.

                                 CHAPTER II.


§ 1. Meaning of the term "execution."

By the term "execution," I understand the right mechanical use of the
means of art to produce a given end.

§ 2. The first quality of execution is truth.

All qualities of execution, properly so called, are influenced by, and
in a great degree dependent on, a far higher power than that of mere
execution,--knowledge of truth. For exactly in proportion as an artist
is certain of his end, will he be swift and simple in his means; and, as
he is accurate and deep in his knowledge, will he be refined and precise
in his touch. The first merit of manipulation, then, is that delicate
and ceaseless expression of refined truth which is carried out to the
last touch, and shadow of a touch, and which makes every hairsbreadth of
importance, and every gradation full of meaning. It is not, properly
speaking, execution; but it is the only source of difference between the
execution of a commonplace and of a perfect artist. The lowest
draughtsman, if he have spent the same time in handling the brush, may
be equal to the highest in the other qualities of execution (in
swiftness, simplicity, and decision;) but not in truth. It is in the
perfection and precision of the instantaneous line that the claim to
immortality is laid. And if this truth of truths be present, all the
other qualities of execution may well be spared; and to those artists
who wish to excuse their ignorance and inaccuracy by a species of
execution which is a perpetual proclamation, "qu'ils n'ont demeuré qu'un
quart d'heure a le faire," we may reply with the truthful Alceste,
"Monsieur, le temps ne fait rien a l'affaire."

§ 3. The second, simplicity.

The second quality of execution is simplicity. The more unpretending,
quiet, and retiring the means, the more impressive their effect. Any
ostentation, brilliancy, or pretension of touch,--any exhibition of
power or quickness, merely as such, above all, any attempt to render
lines attractive at the expense of their meaning, is vice.

§ 4. The third mystery.

The third is mystery. Nature is always mysterious and secret in the use
of her means; and art is always likest her when it is most inexplicable.
That execution which is the most incomprehensible, and which therefore
defies imitation, (other qualities being supposed alike,) is the best.

§ 5. The fourth, inadequacy; and the fifth, decision.

The fourth is inadequacy. The less sufficient the means appear to the
end, the greater (as has been already noticed) will be the sensation of

The fifth is decision: the appearance, that is, that whatever is done,
has been done fearlessly and at once; because this gives us the
impression that both the fact to be represented, and the means necessary
to its representation, were perfectly known.

§ 6. The sixth, velocity.

The sixth is velocity. Not only is velocity, or the appearance of it,
agreeable as decision is, because it gives ideas of power and knowledge;
but of two touches, as nearly as possible the same in other respects,
the quickest will invariably be the best. Truth being supposed equally
present in the shape and direction of both, there will be more evenness,
grace and variety, in the quick one than in the slow one. It will be
more agreeable to the eye as a touch or line, and will possess more of
the qualities of the lines of nature--gradation, uncertainty, and unity.

§ 7. Strangeness an illegitimate source of pleasure in execution.

These six qualities are the only perfectly legitimate sources of
pleasure in execution; but I might have added a seventh--strangeness,
which in many cases is productive of a pleasure not altogether mean or
degrading, though scarcely right. Supposing the other higher qualities
first secured, it adds in no small degree to our impression of the
artist's knowledge, if the means used be such as we should never have
thought of, or should have thought adapted to a contrary effect. Let us,
for instance, compare the execution of the bull's head in the left hand
lowest corner of the Adoration of the Magi, in the Museum at Antwerp,
with that in Berghem's landscape, No. 132 in the Dulwich Gallery. Rubens
first scratches horizontally over his canvas a thin grayish brown,
transparent and even, very much the color of light wainscot; the
horizontal strokes of the bristles being left so evident, that the whole
might be taken for an imitation of wood, were it not for its
transparency. On this ground the eye, nostril, and outline of the cheek
are given with two or three rude, brown touches, (about three or four
minutes' work in all,) though the head is colossal. The background is
then laid in with thick, solid, warm white, actually projecting all
round the head, leaving it in dark intaglio. Finally, five thin and
scratchy strokes of very cold bluish white are struck for the high light
on the forehead and nose, and the head is complete. Seen within a yard
of the canvas, it looks actually transparent--a flimsy, meaningless,
distant shadow; while the background looks solid, projecting and near.
From the right distance, (ten or twelve yards off, whence alone the
whole of the picture can be seen,) it is a complete, rich, substantial,
and living realization of the projecting head of the animal; while the
background falls far behind. Now there is no slight nor mean pleasure in
perceiving such a result attained by means so strange. By Berghem, on
the other hand, a dark background is first laid in with exquisite
delicacy and transparency, and on this the cow's head is actually
modelled in luminous white, the separate locks of hair projecting from
the canvas. No surprise, nor much pleasure of any kind, would be
attendant on this execution, even were the result equally successful;
and what little pleasure we had in it, vanishes, when on retiring from
the picture, we find the head shining like a distant lantern, instead of
substantial or near. Yet strangeness is not to be considered as a
legitimate source of pleasure. That means which is most conducive to the
end, should always be the most pleasurable; and that which is most
conducive to the end, can be strange only to the ignorance of the
spectator. This kind of pleasure is illegitimate, therefore, because it
implies and requires, in those who feel it, ignorance of art.

§ 8. Yet even the legitimate sources of pleasure in execution are
       inconsistent with each other.

§ 9. And fondness for ideas of power leads to the adoption of the

§ 10. Therefore perilous.

The legitimate sources of pleasure in execution are therefore truth,
simplicity, mystery, inadequacy, decision, and velocity. But of these,
be it observed, some are so far inconsistent with others, that they
cannot be united in high degrees. Mystery with inadequacy, for
instance; since to see that the means are inadequate, we must see what
they are. Now the first three are the great qualities of execution, and
the last three are the attractive ones, because on them are chiefly
attendant the ideas of power. By the first three the attention is
withdrawn from the means and fixed on the result: by the last three,
withdrawn from the result and fixed on the means. To see that execution
is swift or that it is decided, we must look away from its creation to
observe it in the act of creating; we must think more of the pallet than
of the picture, but simplicity and mystery compel the mind to leave the
means and fix itself on the conception. Hence the danger of too great
fondness for those sensations of power which are associated with the
three last qualities of execution; for although it is most desirable
that these should be present as far as they are consistent with the
others, and though their visible absence is always painful and wrong,
yet the moment the higher qualities are sacrificed to them in the least
degree, we have a brilliant vice. Berghem and Salvator Rosa are good
instances of vicious execution dependent on too great fondness for
sensations of power, vicious because intrusive and attractive in itself,
instead of being subordinate to its results and forgotten in them. There
is perhaps no greater stumbling-block in the artist's way, than the
tendency to sacrifice truth and simplicity to decision and velocity,[5]
captivating qualities, easy of attainment, and sure to attract attention
and praise, while the delicate degree of truth which is at first
sacrificed to them is so totally unappreciable by the majority of
spectators, so difficult of attainment to the artist, that it is no
wonder that efforts so arduous and unrewarded should be abandoned. But
if the temptation be once yielded to, its consequences are fatal; there
is no pause in the fall. I could name a celebrated modern artist--once a
man of the highest power and promise, who is a glaring instance of the
peril of such a course. Misled by the undue popularity of his swift
execution, he has sacrificed to it, first precision, and then truth, and
her associate, beauty. What was first neglect of nature, has become
contradiction of her; what was once imperfection, is now falsehood; and
all that was meritorious in his manner, is becoming the worst, because
the most attractive of vices; decision without a foundation, and
swiftness without an end.

§ 11. Recapitulation.

Such are the principal modes in which the ideas of power may become a
dangerous attraction to the artist--a false test to the critic. But in
all cases where they lead us astray it will be found that the error is
caused by our preferring victory over a small _apparent_ difficulty to
victory over a great, but concealed one; and so that we keep this
distinction constantly in view, (whether with reference to execution or
to any other quality of art,) between the sensation and the intellectual
estimate of power, we shall always find the ideas of power a just and
high source of pleasure in every kind and grade of art.


  [5] I have here noticed only noble vices, the sacrifices of one
    excellence to another legitimate but inferior one. There are, on the
    other hand, qualities of execution which are often sought for and
    praised, though scarcely by the class of persons for whom I am
    writing, in which everything is sacrificed to illegitimate and
    contemptible sources of pleasure, and these are vice throughout, and
    have no redeeming quality nor excusing aim. Such is that which is
    often thought so desirable in the Drawing-master, under the title of
    boldness, meaning that no touch is ever to be made less than the
    tenth of an inch broad; such, on the other hand, the softness and
    smoothness which are the great attraction of Carlo Dolci, and such
    the exhibition of particular powers and tricks of the hand and
    fingers, in total forgetfulness of any end whatsoever to be attained
    thereby, which is especially characteristic of modern engraving.
    Compare Sect. II. Chap. II. § 21. Note.

                                 CHAPTER III.

                               OF THE SUBLIME.

It may perhaps be wondered that in the division we have made of our
subject, we have taken no notice of the sublime in art, and that in our
explanation of that division we have not once used the word.

§ 1. Sublimity is the effect upon the mind of anything above it.

The fact is, that sublimity is not a specific term,--not a term
descriptive of the effect of a particular class of ideas. Anything which
elevates the mind is sublime, and elevation of mind is produced by the
contemplation of greatness of any kind; but chiefly, of course, by the
greatness of the noblest things. Sublimity is, therefore, only another
word for the effect of greatness upon the feelings. Greatness of matter,
space, power, virtue, or beauty, are thus all sublime; and there is
perhaps no desirable quality of a work of art, which in its perfection
is not, in some way or degree, sublime.

§ 2. Burke's theory of the nature of the sublime incorrect, and why.

§ 3. Danger is sublime, but not the fear of it.

§ 4. The highest beauty is sublime.

§ 5. And generally whatever elevates the mind.

I am fully prepared to allow of much ingenuity in Burke's theory of the
sublime, as connected with self-preservation. There are few things so
great as death; and there is perhaps nothing which banishes all
littleness of thought and feeling in an equal degree with its
contemplation. Everything, therefore, which in any way points to it,
and, therefore, most dangers and powers over which we have little
control, are in some degree sublime. But it is not the fear, observe,
but the contemplation of death; not the instinctive shudder and struggle
of self-preservation, but the deliberate measurement of the doom, which
are really great or sublime in feeling. It is not while we shrink, but
while we defy, that we receive or convey the highest conceptions of the
fate. There is no sublimity in the agony of terror. Whether do we trace
it most in the cry to the mountains, "fall on us," and to the hills,
"cover us," or in the calmness of the prophecy--"And though after my
skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh I shall see God?" A little
reflection will easily convince any one, that so far from the feelings
of self-preservation being necessary to the sublime, their greatest
action is totally destructive of it; and that there are few feelings
less capable of its perception than those of a coward. But the simple
conception or idea of greatness of suffering or extent of destruction is
sublime, whether there be any connection of that idea with ourselves or
not. If we were placed beyond the reach of all peril or pain, the
perception of these agencies in their influence on others would not be
less sublime, not because peril or pain are sublime in their own nature,
but because their contemplation, exciting compassion or fortitude,
elevates the mind, and renders meanness of thought impossible. Beauty is
not so often felt to be sublime; because, in many kinds of purely
material beauty there is some truth in Burke's assertion, that
"littleness" is one of its elements. But he who has not felt that there
may be beauty without littleness, and that such beauty is a source of
the sublime, is yet ignorant of the meaning of the ideal in art. I do
not mean, in tracing the source of the sublime to greatness, to hamper
myself with any fine-spun theory. I take the widest possible ground of
investigation, that sublimity is found wherever anything elevates the
mind; that is, wherever it contemplates anything above itself, and
perceives it to be so. This is the simple philological signification of
the word derived from _sublimis_; and will serve us much more easily,
and be a far clearer and more evident ground of argument, than any mere
metaphysical or more limited definition, while the proof of its justness
will be naturally developed by its application to the different branches
of art.

§ 6. The former division of the subject is therefore sufficient.

As, therefore, the sublime is not distinct from what is beautiful, nor
from other sources of pleasure in art, but is only a particular mode and
manifestation of them, my subject will divide itself into the
investigation of ideas of truth, beauty, and relation; and to each of
these classes of ideas I destine a separate part of the work. The
investigation of ideas of truth will enable us to determine the
relative rank of artists as followers and historians of nature.

That of ideas of beauty will lead us to compare them in their
attainment, first of what is agreeable in technical matters, then in
color and composition, finally and chiefly, in the purity of their
conceptions of the ideal.

And that of ideas of relation will lead us to compare them as
originators of just thought.

                                  PART II.

                                 OF TRUTH.

                                 SECTION I.


                                 CHAPTER I.


§ 1. The two great ends of landscape painting are the representation of
       facts and thoughts.

It cannot but be evident from the above division of the ideas conveyable
by art, that the landscape painter must always have two great and
distinct ends; the first, to induce in the spectator's mind the faithful
conception of any natural objects whatsoever; the second, to guide the
spectator's mind to those objects most worthy of its contemplation, and
to inform him of the thoughts and feelings with which these were
regarded by the artist himself.

In attaining the first end, the painter only places the spectator where
he stands himself; he sets him before the landscape and leaves him. The
spectator is alone. He may follow out his own thoughts as he would in
the natural solitude, or he may remain untouched, unreflecting and
regardless, as his disposition may incline him. But he has nothing of
thought given to him, no new ideas, no unknown feelings, forced on his
attention or his heart. The artist is his conveyance, not his
companion,--his horse, not his friend. But in attaining the second end,
the artist not only _places_ the spectator, but _talks_ to him; makes
him a sharer in his own strong feelings and quick thoughts; hurries him
away in his own enthusiasm; guides him to all that is beautiful;
snatches him from all that is base, and leaves him more than
delighted,--ennobled and instructed, under the sense of having not only
beheld a new scene, but of having held communion with a new mind, and
having been endowed for a time with the keen perception and the
impetuous emotion of a nobler and more penetrating intelligence.

§ 2. They induce a different choice of material subjects.

Each of these different aims of art will necessitate a different system
of choice of objects to be represented. The first does not indeed imply
choice at all, but it is usually united with the selection of such
objects as may be naturally and constantly pleasing to all men, at all
times; and this selection, when perfect and careful, leads to the
attainment of the pure ideal. But the artist aiming at the second end,
selects his objects for their meaning and character, rather than for
their beauty; and uses them rather to throw light upon the particular
thought he wishes to convey, than as in themselves objects of
unconnected admiration.

§ 3. The first mode of selection apt to produce sameness and repetition.

Now, although the first mode of selection, when guided by deep
reflection, may rise to the production of works possessing a noble and
ceaseless influence on the human mind, it is likely to degenerate into,
or rather, in nine cases out of ten, it never goes beyond, a mere appeal
to such parts of our animal nature as are constant and common--shared by
all, and perpetual in all; such, for instance, as the pleasure of the
eye in the opposition of a cold and warm color, or of a massy form with
a delicate one. It also tends to induce constant repetition of the same
ideas, and reference to the same principles; it gives rise to those
_rules_ of art which properly excited Reynolds's indignation when
applied to its higher efforts; it is the source of, and the apology for,
that host of technicalities and absurdities which in all ages have been
the curse of art and the crown of the connoisseur.

§ 4. The second necessitating variety.

But art, in its second and highest aim, is not an appeal to constant
animal feelings, but an expression and awakening of individual thought:
it is therefore as various and as extended in its efforts as the
compass and grasp of the directing mind; and we feel, in each of its
results, that we are looking, not at a specimen of a tradesman's wares,
of which he is ready to make us a dozen to match, but at one coruscation
of a perpetually active mind, like which there has not been, and will
not be another.

§ 5. Yet the first is delightful to all.

§ 6. The second only to a few.

Hence, although there can be no doubt which of these branches of art is
the highest, it is equally evident that the first will be the most
generally felt and appreciated. For the simple statement of the truths
of nature must in itself be pleasing to every order of mind; because
every truth of nature is more or less beautiful; and if there be just
and right selection of the more important of these truths--based, as
above explained, on feelings and desires common to all mankind--the
facts so selected must, in some degree, be delightful to all, and their
value appreciable by all: more or less, indeed, as their senses and
instinct have been rendered more or less acute and accurate by use and
study; but in some degree by all, and in the same way by all. But the
highest art, being based on sensations of peculiar minds, sensations
occurring to _them_ only at particular times, and to a plurality of
mankind perhaps never, and being expressive of thoughts which could only
rise out of a mass of the most extended knowledge, and of dispositions
modified in a thousand ways by peculiarity of intellect--can only be met
and understood by persons having some sort of sympathy with the high and
solitary minds which produced it--sympathy only to be felt by minds in
some degree high and solitary themselves. He alone can appreciate the
art, who could comprehend the conversation of the painter, and share in
his emotion, in moments of his most fiery passion and most original
thought. And whereas the true meaning and end of his art must thus be
sealed to thousands, or misunderstood by them; so also, as he is
sometimes obliged, in working out his own peculiar end, to set at
defiance those constant laws which have arisen out of our lower and
changeless desires, that whose purpose is unseen, is frequently in its
means and parts displeasing.

§ 7. The first necessary to the second.

§ 8. The exceeding importance of truth.

But this want of extended influence in high art, be it especially
observed, proceeds from no want of truth in the art itself, but from a
want of sympathy in the spectator with those feelings in the artist
which prompt him to the utterance of one truth rather than of another.
For (and this is what I wish at present especially to insist upon)
although it is possible to reach what I have stated to be the first end
of art, the representation of facts, without reaching the second, the
representation of thoughts, yet it is altogether impossible to reach the
second without having previously reached the first. I do not say that a
man cannot think, having false basis and material for thought; but that
a false thought is worse than the want of thought, and therefore is not
art. And this is the reason why, though I consider the second as the
real and only important end of all art, I call the representation of
facts the first end; because it is necessary to the other, and must be
attained before it. It is the foundation of all art; like real
foundations it may be little thought of when a brilliant fabric is
raised on it; but it must be there: and as few buildings are beautiful
unless every line and column of their mass have reference to their
foundation, and are suggestive of its existence and strength, so nothing
can be beautiful in art which does not in all its parts suggest and
guide to the foundation, even where no undecorated portion of it is
visible; while the noblest edifices of art are built of such pure and
fine crystal that the foundation may all be seen through them; and then
many, while they do not see what is built upon that first story, yet
much admire the solidity of its brickwork; thinking they understand all
that is to be understood of the matter; while others stand beside them,
looking not at the low story, but up into the heaven at that building of
crystal in which the builder's spirit is dwelling. And thus, though we
want the thoughts and feelings of the artist as well as the truth, yet
they must be thoughts arising out of the knowledge of truth, and
feelings raising out of the contemplation of truth. We do not want his
mind to be as badly blown glass, that distorts what we see through it;
but like a glass of sweet and strange color, that gives new tones to
what we see through it; and a glass of rare strength and clearness too,
to let us see more than we could ourselves, and bring nature up to us
and near to us. Nothing can atone for the want of truth, not the most
brilliant imagination, the most playful fancy, the most pure feeling,
(supposing that feeling _could_ be pure and false at the same time;) not
the most exalted conception, nor the most comprehensive grasp of
intellect, can make amends for the want of truth, and that for two
reasons; first, because falsehood is in itself revolting and degrading;
and secondly, because nature is so immeasurably superior to all that the
human mind can conceive, that every departure from her is a fall beneath
her, so that there can be no such thing as an ornamental falsehood. All
falsehood must be a blot as well as a sin, an injury as well as a

§ 9. Coldness or want of beauty no sign of truth.

We shall, in consequence, find that no artist can be graceful,
imaginative, or original, unless he be truthful; and that the pursuit of
beauty, instead of leading us away from truth, increases the desire for
it and the necessity of it tenfold; so that those artists who are really
great in imaginative power, will be found to have based their boldness
of conception on a mass of knowledge far exceeding that possessed by
those who pride themselves on its accumulation without regarding its
use. Coldness and want of passion in a picture, are not signs of the
accuracy, but of the paucity of its statements; true vigor and
brilliancy are not signs of audacity, but of knowledge.

§ 10. How truth may be considered a just criterion of all art.

Hence it follows that it is in the power of all, with care and time, to
form something like a just judgment of the relative merits of artists;
for although with respect to the feeling and passion of pictures, it is
often as impossible to criticise as to appreciate, except to such as are
in some degree equal in powers of mind, and in some respects the same in
modes of mind, with those whose works they judge; yet, with respect to
the representation of facts, it is possible for all, by attention, to
form a right judgment of the respective powers and attainments of every
artist. Truth is a bar of comparison at which they may all be examined,
and according to the rank they take in this examination, will almost
invariably be that which, if capable of appreciating them in every
respect, we should be just in assigning them; so strict is the
connection, so constant the relation between the sum of knowledge and
the extent of thought, between accuracy of perception and vividness of

I shall endeavor, therefore, in the present portion of the work, to
enter with care and impartiality into the investigation of the claims of
the schools of ancient and modern landscape to faithfulness in
representing nature. I shall pay no regard whatsoever to what may be
thought beautiful, or sublime, or imaginative. I shall look only for
truth; bare, clear, downright statement of facts; showing in each
particular, as far as I am able, what the truth of nature is, and then
seeking for the plain expression of it, and for that alone. And I shall
thus endeavor, totally regardless of fervor of imagination or brilliancy
of effect, or any other of their more captivating qualities, to examine
and to judge the works of the great living painter, who is, I believe,
imagined by the majority of the public to paint more falsehood and less
fact than any other known master. We shall see with what reason.

                                 CHAPTER II.


§ 1. The common self-deception of men with respect to their power of
       discerning truth.

It may be here inquired by the reader, with much appearance of reason,
why I think it necessary to devote a separate portion of the work to the
showing of what is truthful in art. "Cannot we," say the public, "see
what nature is with our own eyes, and find out for ourselves what is
like her?" It will be as well to determine this question before we go
farther, because if this were possible, there would be little need of
criticism or teaching with respect to art.

Now I have just said that it is possible for all men, by care and
attention, to form a just judgment of the fidelity of artists to nature.
To do this, no peculiar powers of mind are required, no sympathy with
particular feelings, nothing which every man of ordinary intellect does
not in some degree possess,--powers, namely, of observation and
intelligence, which by cultivation may be brought to a high degree of
perfection and acuteness. But until this cultivation has been bestowed,
and until the instrument thereby perfected has been employed in a
consistent series of careful observation, it is as absurd as it is
audacious to pretend to form any judgment whatsoever respecting the
truth of art: and my first business, before going a step farther, must
be to combat the nearly universal error of belief among the thoughtless
and unreflecting, that they know either what nature is, or what is like
her, that they can discover truth by instinct, and that their minds are
such pure Venice glass as to be shocked by all treachery. I have to
prove to them that there are more things in heaven and earth than are
dreamed of in their philosophy, and that the truth of nature is a part
of the truth of God; to him who does not search it out, darkness, as it
is to him who does, infinity.

§ 2. Men usually see little of what is before their eyes.

The first great mistake that people make in the matter, is the
supposition that they must _see_ a thing if it be before their eyes.
They forget the great truth told them by Locke, Book ii. chap. 9, §
3:--"This is certain, that whatever alterations are made in the body, if
they reach not the mind, whatever impressions are made on the outward
parts, if they are not taken notice of within, there is no perception.
Fire may burn our bodies, with no other effect than it does a billet,
unless the motion be continued to the brain, and there the sense of heat
or idea of pain be produced in the mind, wherein consists actual
perception. How often may a man observe in himself, that while his mind
is intently employed in the contemplation of some subjects and curiously
surveying some ideas that are there, it takes no notice of impressions
of sounding bodies, made upon the organ of hearing, with the same
attention that uses to be for the producing the ideas of sound! A
sufficient impulse there may be on the organ, but it not reaching the
observation of the mind, there follows no perception, and though the
motion that uses to produce the idea of sound be made in the ear, yet no
sound is heard." And what is here said, which all must feel by their own
experience to be true, is more remarkably and necessarily the case with
sight than with any other of the senses, for this reason, that the ear
is not accustomed to exercise constantly its functions of hearing; it is
accustomed to stillness, and the occurrence of a sound of any kind
whatsoever is apt to awake attention, and be followed with perception,
in proportion to the degree of sound; but the eye, during our waking
hours, exercises constantly its function of seeing; it is its constant
habit; we always, as far as the _bodily_ organ is concerned, see
something, and we always see in the same degree, so that the occurrence
of sight, as such, to the eye, is only the continuance of its necessary
state of action, and awakes no attention whatsoever, except by the
particular nature and quality of the sight. And thus, unless the minds
of men are particularly directed to the impressions of sight, objects
pass perpetually before the eyes without conveying any impression to the
brain at all; and so pass actually unseen, not merely unnoticed, but in
the full, clear sense of the word, unseen. And numbers of men being
pre-occupied with business or care of some description, totally
unconnected with the impressions of sight, such is actually the case
with them, they receiving from nature only the inevitable sensations of
blueness, redness, darkness, light, etc., and except at particular and
rare moments, no more whatsoever.

§ 3. But more or less in proportion to their natural sensibility to what
       is beautiful.

§ 4. Connected with a perfect state of moral feeling.

The degree of ignorance of external nature in which men may thus remain,
depends, therefore, partly on the number and character of the subjects
with which their minds may be otherwise occupied, and partly on a
natural want of sensibility to the power of beauty of form, and the
other attributes of external objects. I do not think that there is ever
such absolute incapacity in the eye for distinguishing and receiving
pleasure from certain forms and colors, as there is in persons who are
technically said to have no ear, for distinguishing notes, but there is
naturally every degree of bluntness and acuteness, both for perceiving
the truth of form, and for receiving pleasure from it when perceived.
And although I believe even the lowest degree of these faculties can be
expanded almost unlimitedly by cultivation, the pleasure received
rewards not the labor necessary, and the pursuit is abandoned. So that
while in those whose sensations are naturally acute and vivid, the call
of external nature is so strong that it must be obeyed, and is ever
heard louder as the approach to her is nearer,--in those whose
sensations are naturally blunt, the call is overpowered at once by other
thoughts, and their faculties of perception, weak originally, die of
disuse. With this kind of bodily sensibility to color and form is
intimately connected that higher sensibility which we revere as one of
the chief attributes of all noble minds, and as the chief spring of real
poetry. I believe this kind of sensibility may be entirely resolved into
the acuteness of bodily sense of which I have been speaking, associated
with love, love I mean in its infinite and holy functions, as it
embraces divine and human and brutal intelligences, and hallows the
physical perception of external objects by association, gratitude,
veneration, and other pure feelings of our moral nature. And although
the discovery of truth is in itself altogether intellectual, and
dependent merely on our powers of physical perception and abstract
intellect, wholly independent of our moral nature, yet these
instruments (perception and judgment) are so sharpened and brightened,
and so far more swiftly and effectively used, when they have the energy
and passion of our moral nature to bring them into action--perception is
so quickened by love, and judgment so tempered by veneration, that,
practically, a man of deadened moral sensation is always dull in his
perception of truth, and thousands of the highest and most divine truths
of nature are wholly concealed from him, however constant and
indefatigable may be his intellectual search. Thus, then, the farther we
look, the more we are limited in the number of those to whom we should
choose to appeal as judges of truth, and the more we perceive how great
a number of mankind may be partially incapacitated from either
discovering or feeling it.

§ 5. And of the intellectual powers.

§ 6. How sight depends upon previous knowledge.

Next to sensibility, which is necessary for the perception of facts,
come reflection and memory, which are necessary for the retention of
them, and recognition of their resemblances. For a man may receive
impression after impression, and that vividly and with delight, and yet,
if he take no care to reason upon those impressions and trace them to
their sources, he may remain totally ignorant of the facts that produced
them; nay, may attribute them to facts with which they have no
connection, or may coin causes for them that have no existence at all.
And the more sensibility and imagination a man possesses, the more
likely will he be to fall into error; for then he will see whatever he
expects, and admire and judge with his heart, and not with his eyes. How
many people are misled, by what has been said and sung of the serenity
of Italian skies, to suppose they must be more _blue_ than the skies of
the north, and think that they see them so; whereas, the sky of Italy is
far more dull and gray in color than the skies of the north, and is
distinguished only by its intense repose of light. And this is confirmed
by Benvenuto Cellini, who, I remember, on his first entering France, is
especially struck with the clearness of the sky, as contrasted with the
_mist_ of Italy. And what is more strange still, when people see in a
painting what they suppose to have been the source of their impressions,
they will affirm it to be truthful, though they feel no such impression
resulting from it. Thus, though day after day they may have been
impressed by the tone and warmth of an Italian sky, yet not having
traced the feeling to its source, and supposing themselves impressed by
its _blueness_, they will affirm a blue sky in a painting to be
truthful, and reject the most faithful rendering of all the real
attributes of Italy as cold or dull. And this influence of the
imagination over the senses, is peculiarly observable in the perpetual
disposition of mankind to suppose that they _see_ what they _know_, and
_vice versa_ in their not seeing what they do not know. Thus, if a child
be asked to draw the corner of a house, he will lay down something in
the form of the letter T. He has no conception that the two lines of the
roof, which he knows to be level, produce on his eye the impression of a
slope. It requires repeated and close attention before he detects this
fact, or can be made to feel that the lines on his paper are false. And
the Chinese, children in all things, suppose a good perspective drawing
to be as false as we feel their plate patterns to be, or wonder at the
strange buildings which come to a point at the end. And all the early
works, whether of nations or of men, show, by their want of _shade_, how
little the eye, without knowledge, is to be depended upon to discover
truth. The eye of a Red Indian, keen enough to find the trace of his
enemy or his prey, even in the unnatural turn of a trodden leaf, is yet
so blunt to the impressions of shade, that Mr. Catlin mentions his once
having been in great danger from having painted a portrait with the face
in half-light, which the untutored observers imagined and affirmed to be
the painting of half a face. Barry, in his sixth lecture, takes notice
of the same want of actual _sight_ in the early painters of Italy. "The
imitations," he says, "of early art are like those of children--nothing
is seen in the spectacle before us, unless it be previously known and
sought for; and numberless observable differences between the age of
ignorance and that of knowledge, show how much the contraction or
extension of our sphere of vision depends upon other considerations than
the mere returns of our natural optics." And the deception which takes
place so broadly in cases like these, has infinitely greater influence
over our judgment of the more intricate and less tangible truths of
nature. We are constantly supposing that we see what experience only
has shown us, or can show us, to have existence, constantly missing the
sight of what we do not know beforehand to be visible: and painters, to
the last hour of their lives, are apt to fall in some degree into the
error of painting what exists, rather than what they can see. I shall
prove the extent of this error more completely hereafter.

§ 7. The difficulty increased by the variety of truths in nature.

Be it also observed, that all these difficulties would lie in the way,
even if the truths of nature were always the same, constantly repeated
and brought before us. But the truths of nature are one eternal
change--one infinite variety. There is no bush on the face of the globe
exactly like another bush;--there are no two trees in the forest whose
boughs bend into the same network, nor two leaves on the same tree which
could not be told one from the other, nor two waves in the sea exactly
alike. And out of this mass of various, yet agreeing beauty, it is by
long attention only that the conception of the constant character--the
ideal form--hinted at by all, yet assumed by none, is fixed upon the
imagination for its standard of truth.

It is not singular, therefore, nor in any way disgraceful, that the
majority of spectators are totally incapable of appreciating the truth
of nature, when fully set before them; but it is both singular and
disgraceful that it is so difficult to convince them of their own
incapability. Ask the connoisseur, who has scampered over all Europe,
the shape of the leaf of an elm, and the chances are ninety to one that
he cannot tell you; and yet he will be voluble of criticism on every
painted landscape from Dresden to Madrid, and pretend to tell you
whether they are like nature or not. Ask an enthusiastic chatterer in
the Sistine Chapel how many ribs he has, and you get no answer; but it
is odds that you do not get out of the door without his informing you
that he considers such and such a figure badly drawn!

§ 8. We recognize objects by their least important attributes. Compare
       Part I., Sect. I., Chap. 4.

A few such interrogations as these might indeed convict, if not convince
the mass of spectators of incapability, were it not for the universal
reply, that they can recognize what they cannot describe, and feel what
is truthful, though they do not know what is truth. And this is, to a
certain degree, true: a man may recognize the portrait of his friend,
though he cannot, if you ask him apart, tell you the shape of his nose
or the height of his forehead; and every one could tell nature herself
from an imitation; why not then, it will be asked, what is like her from
what is not? For this simple reason, that we constantly recognize things
by their least important attributes, and by help of very few of those,
and if these attributes exist not in the imitation, though there may be
thousands of others far higher and more valuable, yet if those be
wanting, or imperfectly rendered, by which we are accustomed to
recognize the object, we deny the likeness; while if these be given,
though all the great and valuable and important attributes may be
wanting, we affirm the likeness. Recognition is no proof of real and
intrinsic resemblance. We recognize our books by their bindings, though
the true and essential characteristics lie inside. A man is known to his
dog by the smell--to his tailor by the coat--to his friend by the smile:
each of these know him, but how little, or how much, depends on the
dignity of the intelligence. That which is truly and indeed
characteristic of the man, is known only to God. One portrait of a man
may possess exact accuracy of feature, and no atom of expression; it may
be, to use the ordinary terms of admiration bestowed on such portraits
by those whom they please, "as like as it can stare." Everybody, down to
his cat, would know this. Another portrait may have neglected or
misrepresented the features, but may have given the flash of the eye,
and the peculiar radiance of the lip, seen on him only in his hours of
highest mental excitement. None but his friends would know this. Another
may have given none of his ordinary expressions, but one which he wore
in the most excited instant of his life, when all his secret passions
and all his highest powers were brought into play at once. None but
those who had then seen him might recognize _this_ as like. But which
would be the most truthful portrait of the _man_? The first gives the
accidents of body--the sport of climate, and food, and time--which
corruption inhabits, and the worm waits for. The second gives the stamp
of the soul upon the flesh; but it is the soul seen in the emotions
which it shares with many--which may not be characteristic of its
essence--the results of habit, and education, and accident--a gloze,
whether purposely worn or unconsciously assumed, perhaps totally
contrary to all that is rooted and real in the mind that it conceals.
The third has caught the trace of all that was most hidden and most
mighty, when all hypocrisy, and all habit, and all petty and passing
emotion--the ice, and the bank, and the foam of the immortal river--were
shivered, and broken, and swallowed up in the awakening of its inward
strength; when the call and claim of some divine motive had brought into
visible being those latent forces and feelings which the spirit's own
volition could not summon, nor its consciousness comprehend; which God
only knew, and God only could awaken, the depth and the mystery of its
peculiar and separating attributes. And so it is with external Nature:
she has a body and a soul like man; but her soul is the Deity. It is
possible to represent the body without the spirit; and this shall be
like to those whose senses are only cognizant of body. It is possible to
represent the spirit in its ordinary and inferior manifestations; and
this shall be like to those who have not watched for its moments of
power. It is possible to represent the spirit in its secret and high
operations; and this shall be like only to those to whose watching they
have been revealed. All these are truth; but according to the dignity of
the truths he can represent or feel, is the power of the painter,--the
justice of the judge.

                                 CHAPTER III.


§ 1. Necessity of determining the relative importance of truths.

I have in the last chapter affirmed that we usually recognize objects by
their least essential characteristics. This very naturally excites the
inquiry what I consider their important characteristics, and why I call
one truth more important than another. And this question must be
immediately determined, because it is evident, that in judging of the
truth of painters, we shall have to consider not only the accuracy with
which individual truths are given, but the relative importance of the
truths themselves; for as it constantly happens that the powers of art
are unable to render _all_ truths, that artist must be considered the
most truthful who has preserved the most important at the expense of the
most trifling.

§ 2. Misapplication of the aphorism: "General truths are more important
       than particular ones."

§ 3. Falseness of this maxim taken without explanation.

§ 4. Generality important in the subject, particularity in the

Now if we are to begin our investigation in Aristotle's way, and look at
the [Greek: phainomena] of the subject, we shall immediately stumble
over a maxim which is in everybody's mouth, and which, as it is
understood in practice, is true and useful, as it is usually applied in
argument, false and misleading. "General truths are more important than
particular ones." Often, when in conversation, I have been praising
Turner for his perpetual variety, and for giving so particular and
separate a character to each of his compositions, that the mind of the
painter can only be estimated by seeing all that he has ever done, and
that nothing can be prophesied of a picture coming into existence on his
easel, but that it will be totally different in idea from all that he
has ever done before; and when I have opposed this inexhaustible
knowledge or imagination, whichever it may be, to the perpetual
repetition of some half-dozen conceptions by Claude and Poussin, I have
been met by the formidable objection, enunciated with much dignity and
self-satisfaction on the part of my antagonist--"That is not painting
general truths, that is painting particular truths." Now there must be
something wrong in that application of a principle which would make the
variety and abundance which we look for as the greatest sign of
intellect in the writer, the greatest sign of error in the painter; and
we shall accordingly see, by an application of it to other matters,
that, taken without limitation, the whole proposition is utterly false.
For instance, Mrs. Jameson somewhere mentions the exclamation of a lady
of her acquaintance, more desirous to fill a pause in conversation than
abundant in sources of observation: "What an excellent book the Bible
is!" This was a very general truth indeed, a truth predicable of the
Bible in common with many other books, but it certainly is neither
striking nor important. Had the lady exclaimed--"How evidently is the
Bible a divine revelation!" she would have expressed a particular truth,
one predicable of the Bible only; but certainly far more interesting and
important. Had she, on the contrary, informed us that the Bible was a
book, she would have been still more general, and still less
entertaining. If I ask any one who somebody else is, and receive for
answer that he is a man, I get little satisfaction for my pains; but if
I am told that he is Sir Isaac Newton, I immediately thank my neighbor
for his information. The fact is, and the above instances may serve at
once to prove it if it be not self-evident, that generality gives
importance to the _subject_, and limitation or particularity to the
_predicate_. If I say that such and such a man in China is an
opium-eater, I say nothing very interesting, because my subject (such a
man) is particular. If I say that all men in China are opium-eaters, I
say something interesting, because my subject (all men) is general. If I
say that all men in China eat, I say nothing interesting, because my
predicate (eat) is general. If I say that all men in China eat opium, I
say something interesting, because my predicate (eat opium) is

Now almost everything which (with reference to a given subject) a
painter has to ask himself whether he shall represent or not, is a
predicate. Hence in art, particular truths are usually more important
than general ones.

How is it then that anything so plain as this should be contradicted by
one of the most universally received aphorisms respecting art? A little
reflection will show us under what limitations this maxim may be true in

§ 5. The importance of truths of species is not owing to their

§ 6. All truths valuable as they are characteristic.

It is self-evident that when we are painting or describing anything,
those truths must be the most important which are most characteristic of
what is to be told or represented. Now that which is first and most
broadly characteristic of a thing, is that which distinguishes its
genus, or which makes it what it is. For instance, that which makes
drapery _be_ drapery, is not its being made of silk or worsted or flax,
for things are made of all these which are not drapery, but the ideas
peculiar to drapery; the properties which, when inherent in a thing,
make it drapery, are extension, non-elastic flexibility, unity and
comparative thinness. Everything which has these properties, a
waterfall, for instance, if united and extended, or a net of weeds over
a wall, is drapery, as much as silk or woollen stuff is. So that these
ideas separate drapery in our minds from everything else; they are
peculiarly characteristic of it, and therefore are the most important
group of ideas connected with it; and so with everything else, that
which makes the thing what it is, is the most important idea, or group
of ideas connected with the thing. But as this idea must necessarily be
common to all individuals of the species it belongs to, it is a general
idea with respect to that species; while other ideas, which are not
characteristic of the species, and are therefore in reality general, (as
black or white are terms applicable to more things than drapery,) are
yet particular with respect to that species, being predicable only of
certain individuals of it. Hence it is carelessly and falsely said, that
general ideas are more important than particular ones; carelessly and
falsely, I say, because the so-called general idea is important, not
because it is common to all the individuals of that species, but because
it separates that species from everything else. It is the
distinctiveness, not the universality of the truth, which renders it
important. And the so-called particular idea is unimportant, not
because it is not predicable of the whole species, but because it _is_
predicable of things out of that species. It is not its individuality,
but its generality which renders it unimportant. So, then, truths are
important just in proportion as they are characteristic, and are
valuable, primarily, as they separate the species from all other created
things secondarily, as they separate the individuals of that species
from one another: thus "silken" or "woollen" are unimportant ideas with
respect to drapery, because they neither separate the species from other
things, nor even the individuals of that species from one another,
since, though not common to the whole of it, they are common to
indefinite numbers of it; but the particular folds into which any piece
of drapery may happen to fall, being different in many particulars from
those into which any other piece of drapery will fall, are expressive
not only of the characters of the species, flexibility, (non-elasticity,
etc.,) but of individuality and definite character in the case
immediately observed, and are consequently most important and necessary
ideas. So in a man, to be short-legged or long-nosed or anything else of
accidental quality, does not distinguish him from other short-legged or
long-nosed animals; but the important truths respecting a man are,
first, the marked development of that distinctive organization which
separates him as man from other animals, and secondly, that group of
qualities which distinguish the individual from all other men, which
make him Paul or Judas, Newton or Shakspeare.

§ 7. Otherwise truths of species are valuable because beautiful.

Such are the real sources of importance in truths as far as they are
considered with reference merely to their being general, or particular;
but there are other sources of importance which give farther weight to
the ordinary opinion of the greater value of those which are general,
and which render this opinion right in practice; I mean the intrinsic
beauty of the truths themselves, a quality which it is not here the
place to investigate, but which must just be noticed, as invariably
adding value to truths of species rather than to those of individuality.
The qualities and properties which characterize man or any other animal
as a species, are the perfection of his or its form of mind, almost all
individual differences arising from imperfections; hence a truth of
species is the more valuable to art, because it must always be a beauty,
while a truth of individuals is commonly, in some sort or way, a defect.

§ 8. And many truths, valuable if separate, may be objectionable in
       connection with others.

Again, a truth which may be of great interest, when an object is viewed
by itself, may be objectionable when it is viewed in relation to other
objects. Thus if we were painting a piece of drapery as our whole
subject, it would be proper to give in it every source of entertainment,
which particular truths could supply, to give it varied color and
delicate texture; but if we paint this same piece of drapery, as part of
the dress of a Madonna, all these ideas of richness or texture become
thoroughly contemptible, and unfit to occupy the mind at the same moment
with the idea of the Virgin. The conception of drapery is then to be
suggested by the simplest and slightest means possible, and all notions
of texture and detail are to be rejected with utter reprobation; but
this, observe, is not because they are particular or general or anything
else, with respect to the drapery itself, but because they draw the
attention to the dress instead of the saint, and disturb and degrade the
imagination and the feelings; hence we ought to give the conception of
the drapery in the most unobtrusive way possible, by rendering those
essential qualities distinctly, which are necessary to the very
existence of drapery, and not one more.

With these last two sources of the importance of truths, we have nothing
to do at present, as they are dependent upon ideas of beauty and
relation: I merely allude to them now, to show that all that is alleged
by Sir J. Reynolds and other scientific writers respecting the kind of
truths proper to be represented by the painter or sculptor is perfectly
just and right; while yet the principle on which they base their
selection (that general truths are more important than particular ones)
is altogether false. Canova's Perseus in the Vatican is entirely spoiled
by an unlucky _tassel_ in the folds of the mantle (which the next
admirer of Canova who passes would do well to knock off;) but it is
spoiled not because this is a particular truth, but because it is a
contemptible, unnecessary, and ugly truth. The button which fastens the
vest of the Sistine Daniel is as much a particular truth as this, but
it is a necessary one, and the idea of it is given by the simplest
possible means; hence it is right and beautiful.

§ 9. Recapitulation.

Finally, then, it is to be remembered that all truths as far as their
being particular or general affects their value at all, are valuable in
proportion as they are particular, and valueless in proportion as they
are general; or to express the proposition in simpler terms, every truth
is valuable in proportion as it is characteristic of the thing of which
it is affirmed.

                                 CHAPTER IV.


§ 1. No accidental violation of nature's principles should be

It will be necessary next for us to determine how far frequency or
rarity can affect the importance of truths, and whether the artist is to
be considered the most truthful who paints what is common or what is
unusual in nature.

Now the whole determination of this question depends upon whether the
unusual fact be a violation of nature's general principles, or the
application of some of those principles in a peculiar and striking way.
Nature sometimes, though very rarely, violates her own principles; it is
her principle to make everything beautiful, but now and then, for an
instant, she permits what, compared with the rest of her works, might be
called ugly; it is true that even these rare blemishes are permitted, as
I have above said, for a good purpose, (Part I. Sec. I. Chap. 5,) they
are valuable in nature, and used as she uses them, are equally valuable
(as instantaneous discords) in art; but the artist who should seek after
these exclusively, and paint nothing else, though he might be able to
point to something in nature as the original of every one of his
uglinesses, would yet be, in the strict sense of the word, false,--false
to nature, and disobedient to her laws. For instance, it is the practice
of nature to give character to the outlines of her clouds, by perpetual
angles and right lines. Perhaps once in a month, by diligent watching,
we might be able to see a cloud altogether rounded and made up of
curves; but the artist who paints nothing but curved clouds must yet be
considered thoroughly and inexcusably false.

§ 2. But the cases in which those principles have been strikingly

§ 3. Which are comparatively rare.

§ 4. All repetition is blamable.

§ 5. The duty of the painter is the same as that of a preacher.

But the case is widely different, when instead of a principle violated,
we have one extraordinarily carried out or manifested under unusual
circumstances. Though nature is constantly beautiful, she does not
exhibit her highest powers of beauty constantly, for then they would
satiate us and pall upon our senses. It is necessary to their
appreciation that they should be rarely shown. Her finest touches are
things which must be watched for; her most perfect passages of beauty
are the most evanescent. She is constantly doing something beautiful for
us, but it is something which she has not done before and will not do
again; some exhibition of her general powers in particular circumstances
which, if we do not catch at the instant it is passing, will not be
repeated for us. Now they are these evanescent passages of perfected
beauty, these perpetually varied examples of utmost power, which the
artist ought to seek for and arrest. No supposition can be more absurd
than that effects or truths frequently exhibited are more characteristic
of nature than those which are equally necessary by her laws, though
rarer in occurrence. Both the frequent and the rare are parts of the
same great system; to give either exclusively is imperfect truth, and to
repeat the same effect or thought in two pictures is wasted life. What
should we think of a poet who should keep all his life repeating the
same thought in different words? and why should we be more lenient to
the parrot-painter who has learned one lesson from the page of nature,
and keeps stammering it out with eternal repetition without turning the
leaf? Is it less tautology to describe a thing over and over again with
lines, than it is with words? The teaching of nature is as varied and
infinite as it is constant; and the duty of the painter is to watch for
every one of her lessons, and to give (for human life will admit of
nothing more) those in which she has manifested each of her principles
in the most peculiar and striking way. The deeper his research and the
rarer the phenomena he has noted, the more valuable will his works be;
to repeat himself, even in a single instance, is treachery to nature,
for a thousand human lives would not be enough to give one instance of
the perfect manifestation of each of her powers; and as for combining or
classifying them, as well might a preacher expect in one sermon to
express and explain every divine truth which can be gathered out of
God's revelation, as a painter expect in one composition to express and
illustrate every lesson which can be received from God's creation. Both
are commentators on infinity, and the duty of both is to take for each
discourse one essential truth, seeking particularly and insisting
especially on those which are less palpable to ordinary observation, and
more likely to escape an indolent research; and to impress that, and
that alone, upon those whom they address, with every illustration that
can be furnished by their knowledge, and every adornment attainable by
their power. And the real truthfulness of the painter is in proportion
to the number and variety of the facts he has so illustrated; those
facts being always, as above observed, the realization, not the
violation of a general principle. The quantity of truth is in proportion
to the number of such facts, and its value and instructiveness in
proportion to their rarity. All really great pictures, therefore,
exhibit the general habits of nature, manifested in some peculiar, rare,
and beautiful way.

                                 CHAPTER V.


§ 1. Difference between primary and secondary qualities in bodies.

In the two last chapters, we have pointed out general tests of the
importance of all truths, which will be sufficient at once to
distinguish certain classes of properties in bodies, as more necessary
to be told than others, because more characteristic, either of the
particular thing to be represented, or of the principles of nature.

According to Locke, Book ii. chap. 8, there are three sorts of qualities
in bodies: first, the "bulk, figure, number, situation, and motion or
rest of their solid parts: those that are in them, whether we perceive
them or not." These he calls primary qualities. Secondly, "the power
that is in any body to operate after a peculiar manner on any of our
senses," (sensible qualities.) And thirdly, "the power that is in any
body to make such a change in another body as that it shall operate on
our senses differently from what it did before: these last being usually
called _powers_."

§ 2. The first are fully characteristic, the second imperfectly so.

Hence he proceeds to prove that those which he calls primary qualities
are indeed part of the essence of the body, and characteristic of it;
but that the two other kinds of qualities which together he calls
secondary, are neither of them more than _powers_ of producing on other
objects, or in us, certain effects and sensations. Now a power of
influence is always equally characteristic of two objects--the active
and passive; for it is as much necessary that there should be a power in
the object suffering to receive the impression, as in the object acting
to give the impression. (Compare Locke, Book ii. chap. 21, sect. 2.) For
supposing two people, as is frequently the case, perceive different
scents in the same flower, it is evident that the power in the flower
to give this or that depends on the nature of their nerves, as well as
on that of its own particles; and that we are as correct in saying it is
a power in us to perceive, as in the object to impress. Every power,
therefore, being characteristic of the nature of two bodies, is
imperfectly and incompletely characteristic of either separately; but
the primary qualities, being characteristic only of the body in which
they are inherent, are the most important truths connected with it. For
the question, what the thing _is_, must precede, and be of more
importance than the question, what can it do.

§ 3. Color is a secondary quality, therefore less important than form.

Now by Locke's definition above given, only bulk, figure, situation, and
motion or rest of solid parts, are primary qualities. Hence all truths
of color sink at once into the second rank. He, therefore, who has
neglected a truth of form for a truth of color, has neglected a greater
truth for a less one.

§ 4. Color no distinction between objects of the same species.

And that color is indeed a most unimportant characteristic of objects,
will be farther evident on the slightest consideration. The color of
plants is constantly changing with the season, and of everything with
the quality of light falling on it; but the nature and essence of the
thing are independent of these changes. An oak is an oak, whether green
with spring or red with winter; a dahlia is a dahlia, whether it be
yellow or crimson; and if some monster-hunting botanist should ever
frighten the flower blue, still it will be a dahlia; but let one curve
of the petals--one groove of the stamens be wanting, and the flower
ceases to be the same. Let the roughness of the bark and the angles of
the boughs be smoothed or diminished, and the oak ceases to be an oak;
but let it retain its inward structure and outward form, and though its
leaves grew white, or pink, or blue, or tri-color, it would be a white
oak, or a pink oak, or a republican oak, but an oak still. Again, color
is hardly ever even a _possible_ distinction between two objects of the
same species. Two trees, of the same kind, at the same season, and of
the same age, are of absolutely the same color; but they are not of the
same form, nor anything like it. There can be no difference in the color
of two pieces of rock broken from the same place; but it is impossible
they should be of the same form. So that form is not only the chief
characteristic of species, but the only characteristic of individuals of
a species.

§ 5. And different in association from what it is alone.

Again, a color, in association with other colors, is different from the
same color seen by itself. It has a distinct and peculiar power upon the
retina dependent on its association. Consequently, the color of any
object is not more dependent upon the nature of the object itself, and
the eye beholding it, than on the color of the objects near it; in this
respect also, therefore, it is no characteristic.

§ 6. It is not certain whether any two people see the same color in

And so great is the uncertainty with respect to those qualities or
powers which depend as much on the nature of the object suffering as of
the object acting, that it is totally impossible to prove that one man
sees in the same thing the same color that another does though he may
use the same name for it. One man may see yellow where another sees
blue, but as the effect is constant, they agree in the term to be used
for it, and both call it blue, or both yellow, having yet totally
different ideas attached to the term. And yet neither can be said to see
falsely, because the color is not in the thing, but in the thing and
them together. But if they see forms differently, one must see falsely,
because the form is positive in the object. My friend may see boars blue
for anything I know, but it is impossible he should see them with paws
instead of hoofs, unless his eyes or brain are diseased. (Compare Locke,
Book ii. chap. xxxii. § 15.) But I do not speak of this uncertainty as
capable of having any effect on art, because, though perhaps Landseer
sees dogs of the color which I should call blue, yet the color he puts
on the canvas, being in the same way blue to him, will still be brown or
dog-color to me; and so we may argue on points of color just as if all
men saw alike, as indeed in all probability they do; but I merely
mention this uncertainty to show farther the vagueness and unimportance
of color as a characteristic of bodies.

§ 7. Form considered as an element of landscape, includes light and

§ 8. Importance of light and shade in expressing the character of bodies
       and unimportance of color.

Before going farther, however, I must explain the sense in which I have
used the word "form," because painters have a most inaccurate and
careless habit of confining the term to the _outline_ of bodies, whereas
it necessarily implies light and shade. It is true that the outline and
the chiaroscuro must be separate subjects of investigation with the
student; but no form whatsoever can be known to the eye in the slightest
degree without its chiaroscuro; and, therefore, in speaking of form
generally as an element of landscape, I mean that perfect and harmonious
unity of outline with light and shade, by which all the parts and
projections and proportions of a body are fully explained to the eye,
being nevertheless perfectly independent of sight or power in other
objects, the presence of light upon a body being a positive existence,
whether we are aware of it or not, and in no degree dependent upon our
senses. This being understood, the most convincing proof of the
unimportance of color lies in the accurate observation of the way in
which any material object impresses itself on the mind. If we look at
nature carefully, we shall find that her colors are in a state of
perpetual confusion and indistinctness, while her forms, as told by
light and shade, are invariably clear, distinct, and speaking. The
stones and gravel of the bank catch green reflections from the boughs
above; the bushes receive grays and yellows from the ground; every
hairbreadth of polished surface gives a little bit of the blue of the
sky or the gold of the sun, like a star upon the local color; this local
color, changeful and uncertain in itself, is again disguised and
modified by the hue of the light, or quenched in the gray of the shadow;
and the confusion and blending of tint is altogether so great, that were
we left to find out what objects were by their colors only, we would
scarcely in places distinguish the boughs of a tree from the air beyond
them, or the ground beneath them. I know that people unpractised in art
will not believe this at first; but if they have accurate powers of
observation, they may soon ascertain it for themselves; they will find
that, while they can scarcely ever determine the _exact_ hue of
anything, except when it occurs in large masses, as in a green field or
the blue sky, the form, as told by light and shade, is always decided
and evident, and the source of the chief character of every object.
Light and shade indeed so completely conquer the distinctions of local
color, that the difference in hue between the illumined parts of a white
and black object is not so great as the difference (in sunshine) between
the illumined and dark side of either separately.

§ 9. Recapitulation.

We shall see hereafter, in considering ideas of beauty, that color, even
as a source of pleasure, is feeble compared to form; but this we cannot
insist upon at present; we have only to do with simple truth, and the
observations we have made are sufficient to prove that the artist who
sacrifices or forgets a truth of form in the pursuit of a truth of
color, sacrifices what is definite to what is uncertain, and what is
essential to what is accidental.

                                 CHAPTER VI.


§ 1. The importance of historical truths.

It ought farther to be observed respecting truths in general, that those
are always most valuable which are most historical, that is, which tell
us most about the past and future states of the object to which they
belong. In a tree, for instance, it is more important to give the
appearance of energy and elasticity in the limbs which is indicative of
growth and life, than any particular character of leaf, or texture of
bough. It is more important that we should feel that the uppermost
sprays are creeping higher and higher into the sky, and be impressed
with the current of life and motion which is animating every fibre, than
that we should know the exact pitch of relief with which those fibres
are thrown out against the sky. For the first truths tell us tales about
the tree, about what it has been, and will be, while the last are
characteristic of it only in its present state, and are in no way
talkative about themselves. Talkative facts are always more interesting
and more important than silent ones. So again the lines in a crag which
mark its stratification, and how it has been washed and rounded by
water, or twisted and drawn out in fire, are more important, because
they tell more than the stains of the lichens which change year by year,
and the accidental fissures of frost or decomposition; not but that both
of these are historical, but historical in a less distinct manner, and
for shorter periods.

§ 2. Form, as explained by light and shade, the first of all truths.
       Tone, light and color are secondary.

Hence in general the truths of specific form are the first and most
important of all; and next to them, those truths of chiaroscuro which
are necessary to make us understand every quality and part of forms, and
the relative distances of objects among each other, and in consequence
their relative bulks. Altogether lower than these, as truths, though
often most important as beauties, stand all effects of chiaroscuro which
are productive merely of imitations of light and tone, and all effects
of color. To make us understand the _space_ of the sky, is an end worthy
of the artist's highest powers; to hit its particular blue or gold is an
end to be thought of when we have accomplished the first, and not till

§ 3. And deceptive chiaroscuro the lowest of all.

Finally, far below all these come those particular accuraciesor tricks
of chiaroscuro which cause objects to look projecting from the canvas,
not worthy of the name of truths, because they require for their
attainment the sacrifice of all others; for not having at our disposal
the same intensity of light by which nature illustrates her objects, we
are obliged, if we would have perfect deception in one, to destroy its
relation to the rest. (Compare Sect. II. chap. V.) And thus he who
throws one object out of his picture, never lets the spectator into it.
Michael Angelo bids you follow his phantoms into the abyss of heaven,
but a modern French painter drops his hero out of the picture frame.

This solidity or projection then, is the very lowest truth that art can
give; it is the painting of mere matter, giving that as food for the eye
which is properly only the subject of touch; it can neither instruct nor
exalt, nor please except as jugglery; it addresses no sense of beauty
nor of power; and wherever it characterizes the general aim of a
picture, it is the sign and the evidence of the vilest and lowest
mechanism which art can be insulted by giving name to.

                                 CHAPTER VII.


§ 1. The different selection of facts consequent on the several aims at
       imitation or at truth.

We have seen, in the preceding chapters, some proof of what was before
asserted, that the truths necessary for deceptive imitation are not only
few, but of the very lowest order. We thus find painters ranging
themselves into two great classes; one aiming at the development of the
exquisite truths of specific form, refined color, and ethereal space,
and content with the clear and impressive suggestion of any of these, by
whatsoever means obtained; and the other casting all these aside, to
attain those particular truths of tone and chiaroscuro, which may trick
the spectator into a belief of reality. The first class, if they have to
paint a tree, are intent upon giving the exquisite designs of
intersecting undulation in its boughs, the grace of its leafage, the
intricacy of its organization, and all those qualities which make it
lovely or affecting of its kind. The second endeavor only to make you
believe that you are looking at wood. They are totally regardless of
truths or beauties of form; a stump is as good as a trunk for all their
purposes, so that they can only deceive the eye into the supposition
that it _is_ a stump and not canvas.

§ 2. The old masters, as a body, aim only at imitation.

§ 3. What truths they gave.

To which of these classes the great body of the old landscape painters
belonged, may be partly gathered from the kind of praise which is
bestowed upon them by those who admire them most, which either refers to
technical matters, dexterity of touch, clever oppositions of color,
etc., or is bestowed on the power of the painter to _deceive_. M. de
Marmontel, going into a connoisseur's gallery, pretends to mistake a
fine Berghem for a window. This, he says, was affirmed by its possessor
to be the greatest praise the picture had ever received. Such is indeed
the notion of art which is at the bottom of the veneration usually felt
for the old landscape painters; it is of course the palpable, first idea
of ignorance; it is the only notion which people unacquainted with art
can by any possibility have of its ends; the only test by which people
unacquainted with nature can pretend to form anything like judgment of
art. It is strange that, with the great historical painters of Italy
before them, who had broken so boldly and indignantly from the trammels
of this notion, and shaken the very dust of it from their feet, the
succeeding landscape painters should have wasted their lives in
jugglery: but so it is, and so it will be felt, the more we look into
their works, that the deception of the senses was the great and first
end of all their art. To attain this they paid deep and serious
attention to effects of light and tone, and to the exact degree of
relief which material objects take against light and atmosphere; and
sacrificing every other truth to these, not necessarily, but because
they required no others for deception, they succeeded in rendering these
particular facts with a fidelity and force which, in the pictures that
have come down to us uninjured, are as yet unequalled, and never can be
surpassed. They painted their foregrounds with laborious industry,
covering them with details so as to render them deceptive to the
ordinary eye, regardless of beauty or truth in the details themselves;
they painted their trees with careful attention to their pitch of shade
against the sky, utterly regardless of all that is beautiful or
essential in the anatomy of their foliage and boughs: they painted their
distances with exquisite use of transparent color and aerial tone,
totally neglectful of all facts and forms which nature uses such color
and tone to relieve and adorn. They had neither love of nature, nor
feeling of her beauty; they looked for her coldest and most commonplace
effects, because they were easiest to imitate; and for her most vulgar
forms, because they were most easily to be recognized by the untaught
eyes of those whom alone they could hope to please; they did it, like
the Pharisee of old, to be seen of men, and they had their reward. They
do deceive and delight the unpractised eye; they will to all ages, as
long as their colors endure, be the standards of excellence with all,
who, ignorant of nature, claim to be thought learned in art. And they
will to all ages be, to those who have thorough love and knowledge of
the creation which they libel, instructive proofs of the limited number
and low character of the truths which are necessary, and the accumulated
multitude of pure, broad, bold falsehoods which are admissible in
pictures meant only to deceive.

There is of course more or less accuracy of knowledge and execution
combined with this aim at effect, according to the industry and
precision of eye possessed by the master, and more or less of beauty in
the forms selected, according to his natural taste; but both the beauty
and truth are sacrificed unhesitatingly where they interfere with the
great effort at deception. Claude had, if it had been cultivated, a fine
feeling for beauty of form, and is seldom ungraceful in his foliage; but
his picture, when examined with reference to essential truth, is one
mass of error from beginning to end. Cuyp, on the other hand, could
paint close truth of everything, except ground and water, with decision
and success, but he has no sense of beauty. Gaspar Poussin, more
ignorant of truth than Claude, and almost as dead to beauty as Cuyp, has
yet a perception of the feeling and moral truth of nature which often
redeems the picture; but yet in all of them, everything that they can do
is done for deception, and nothing for the sake or love of what they are

§ 4. The principles of selection adopted by modern artists.

Modern landscape painters have looked at nature with totally different
eyes, seeking not for what is easiest to imitate, but for what is most
important to tell. Rejecting at once all idea of _bona fide_ imitation,
they think only of conveying the impression of nature into the mind of
the spectator. And there is, in consequence, a greater sum of valuable,
essential, and impressive truth in the works of two or three of our
leading modern landscape painters, than in those of all the old masters
put together, and of truth too, nearly unmixed with definite or
avoidable falsehood; while the unimportant and feeble truths of the old
masters are choked with a mass of perpetual defiance of the most
authoritative laws of nature.

§ 5. General feeling of Claude, Salvator, and G. Poussin, contrasted
       with the freedom and vastness of nature.

I do not expect this assertion to be believed at present; it must rest
for demonstration on the examination we are about to enter upon; yet,
even without reference to any intricate or deep-laid truths, it appears
strange to me, that any one familiar with nature, and fond of her,
should not grow weary and sick at heart among the melancholy and
monotonous transcripts of her which alone can be received from the old
school of art. A man accustomed to the broad, wild seashore, with its
bright breakers, and free winds, and sounding rocks, and eternal
sensation of tameless power, can scarcely but be angered when Claude
bids him stand still on some paltry, chipped and chiselled quay with
porters and wheelbarrows running against him, to watch a weak, rippling
bound and barriered water, that has not strength enough in one of its
waves to upset the flower-pots on the wall, or even to fling one jet of
spray over the confining stone. A man accustomed to the strength and
glory of God's mountains, with their soaring and radiant pinnacles, and
surging sweeps of measureless distance, kingdoms in their valleys, and
climates upon their crests, can scarcely but be angered when Salvator
bids him stand still under some contemptible fragment of splintery crag,
which an Alpine snow-wreath would smother in its first swell, with a
stunted bush or two growing out of it, and a volume of manufactory smoke
for a sky. A man accustomed to the grace and infinity of nature's
foliage, with every vista a cathedral, and every bough a revelation, can
scarcely but be angered when Poussin mocks him with a black round mass
of impenetrable paint, diverging into feathers instead of leaves, and
supported on a stick instead of a trunk. The fact is, there is one thing
wanting in all the doing of these men, and that is the very virtue by
which the work of human mind chiefly rises above that of the
Daguerreotype or Calotype, or any other mechanical means that ever have
been or may be invented, Love: There is no evidence of their ever having
gone to nature with any thirst, or received from her such emotion as
could make them, even for an instant, lose sight of themselves; there is
in them neither earnestness nor humility; there is no simple or honest
record of any single truth; none of the plain words nor straight efforts
that men speak and make when they once feel.

§ 6. Inadequacy of the landscape of Titian and Tintoret.

Nor is it only by the professed landscape painters that the great
verities of the material world are betrayed: Grand as are the motives
of landscape in the works of the earlier and mightier men, there is yet
in them nothing approaching to a general view nor complete rendering of
natural phenomena; not that they are to be blamed for this; for they
took out of nature that which was fit for their purpose, and their
mission was to do no more; but we must be cautious to distinguish that
imaginative abstraction of landscape which alone we find in them, from
the entire statement of truth which has been attempted by the moderns. I
have said in the chapter on symmetry in the second volume, that all
landscape grandeur vanishes before that of Titian and Tintoret; and this
is true of whatever these two giants touched;--but they touched little.
A few level flakes of chestnut foliage; a blue abstraction of hill forms
from Cadore or the Euganeans; a grand mass or two of glowing ground and
mighty herbage, and a few burning fields of quiet cloud were all they
needed; there is evidence of Tintoret's having felt more than this, but
it occurs only in secondary fragments of rock, cloud, or pine, hardly
noticed among the accumulated interest of his human subject. From the
window of Titian's house at Venice, the chain of the Tyrolese Alps is
seen lifted in spectral power above the tufted plain of Treviso; every
dawn that reddens the towers of Murano lights also a line of pyramidal
fires along that colossal ridge; but there is, so far as I know, no
evidence in any of the master's works of his ever having beheld, much
less felt, the majesty of their burning. The dark firmament and saddened
twilight of Tintoret are sufficient for their end; but the sun never
plunges behind San Giorgio in Aliga without such retinue of radiant
cloud, such rest of zoned light on the green lagoon, as never received
image from his hand. More than this, of that which they loved and
rendered much is rendered conventionally; by noble conventionalities
indeed, but such nevertheless as would be inexcusable if the landscape
became the principal subject instead of an accompaniment. I will
instance only the San Pietro Martire, which, if not the most perfect, is
at least the most popular of Titian's landscapes; in which, to obtain
light on the flesh of the near figures the sky is made as dark as deep
sea, the mountains are laid in with violent and impossible blue, except
one of them on the left, which, to connect the distant light with the
foreground, is thrown into light relief, unexplained by its materials,
unlikely in its position, and in its degree impossible under any

§ 7. Causes of its want of influence on subsequent schools.

I do not instance these as faults in the picture: there are no works of
very powerful color which are free from conventionality concentrated or
diffused, daring or disguised; but as the conventionality of this whole
picture is mainly thrown into the landscape, it is necessary, while we
acknowledge the virtue of this distance as a part of the great
composition, to be on our guard against the license it assumes and the
attractiveness of its overcharged color. Fragments of far purer truth
occur in the works of Tintoret; and in the drawing of foliage, whether
rapid or elaborate, of masses or details, the Venetian painters, taken
as a body, may be considered almost faultless models. But the whole
field of what they have done is so narrow, and therein is so much of
what is only relatively right, and in itself false or imperfect, that
the young and inexperienced painter could run no greater risk than the
too early taking them for teachers; and to the general spectator their
landscape is valuable rather as a means of peculiar and solemn emotion
than as ministering to, or inspiring the universal love of nature. Hence
while men of serious mind, especially those whose pursuits have brought
them into continued relations with the peopled rather than the lonely
world, will always look to the Venetian painters as having touched those
simple chords of landscape harmony which are most in unison with earnest
and melancholy feeling; those whose philosophy is more cheerful and more
extended, as having been trained and colored among simple and solitary
nature, will seek for a wider and more systematic circle of teaching:
they may grant that the barred horizontal gloom of the Titian sky, and
the massy leaves of the Titian forest are among the most sublime of the
conceivable forms of material things; but they know that the virtue of
these very forms is to be learned only by right comparison of them with
the cheerfulness, fulness and comparative inquietness of other hours and
scenes; that they are not intended for the continual food, but the
occasional soothing of the human heart; that there is a lesson of not
less value in its place, though of less concluding and sealing
authority, in every one of the more humble phases of material things:
and that there are some lessons of equal or greater authority which
these masters neither taught nor received. And until the school of
modern landscape arose Art had never noted the links of this mighty
chain; it mattered not that a fragment lay here and there, no heavenly
lightning could descend by it; the landscape of the Venetians was
without effect on any contemporary in subsequent schools; it still
remains on the continent as useless as if it had never existed; and at
this moment German and Italian landscapes, of which no words are
scornful enough to befit the utter degradation, hang in the Venetian
Academy in the next room to the Desert of Titian and the Paradise of

§ 8. The value of inferior works of art how to be estimated.

That then which I would have the reader inquire respecting every work of
art of undetermined merit submitted to his judgment, is not whether it
be a work of especial grandeur, importance, or power; but whether it
have _any_ virtue or substance as a link in this chain of truth, whether
it have recorded or interpreted anything before unknown, whether it have
added one single stone to our heaven-pointing pyramid, cut away one dark
bough, or levelled one rugged hillock in our path. This, if it be an
honest work of art, it must have done, for no man ever yet worked
honestly without giving some such help to his race. God appoints to
every one of his creatures a separate mission, and if they discharge it
honorably, if they quit themselves like men and faithfully follow that
light which is in them, withdrawing from it all cold and quenching
influence, there will assuredly come of it such burning as, in its
appointed mode and measure, shall shine before men, and be of service
constant and holy. Degrees infinite of lustre there must always be, but
the weakest among us has a gift, however seemingly trivial, which is
peculiar to him, and which worthily used will be a gift also to his
race forever--

"Fool not," says George Herbert,

                                   "For all may have,
       If they dare choose, a glorious life or grave."

If, on the contrary, there be nothing of this freshness achieved, if
there be neither purpose nor fidelity in what is done, if it be an
envious or powerless imitation of other men's labors, if it be a display
of mere manual dexterity or curious manufacture, or if in any other mode
it show itself as having its origin in vanity,--Cast it out. It matters
not what powers of mind may have been concerned or corrupted in it, all
have lost their savor, it is worse than worthless;--perilous--Cast it

Works of art are indeed always of mixed kind, their honesty being more
or less corrupted by the various weaknesses of the painter, by his
vanity, his idleness, or his cowardice; (the fear of doing right has far
more influence on art than is commonly thought,) that only is altogether
to be rejected which is altogether vain, idle, and cowardly. Of the rest
the rank is to be estimated rather by the purity of their metal than the
coined value of it.

§ 9. Religious landscape of Italy. The admirableness of its completion.

Keeping these principles in view, let us endeavor to obtain something
like a general view of the assistance which has been rendered to our
study of nature by the various occurrences of landscape in elder art,
and by the more exclusively directed labors of modern schools.

To the ideal landscape of the early religious painters of Italy I have
alluded in the concluding chapter of the second volume. It is absolutely
right and beautiful in its peculiar application; but its grasp of nature
is narrow and its treatment in most respects too severe and conventional
to form a profitable example when the landscape is to be alone the
subject of thought. The great virtue of it is its entire, exquisite, and
humble realization of those objects it selects; in this respect
differing from such German imitations of it as I have met with, that
there is no effort of any fanciful or ornamental modifications, but
loving fidelity to the thing studied. The foreground plants are usually
neither exaggerated nor stiffened; they do not form arches or frames or
borders; their grace is unconfined, their simplicity undestroyed. Cima
da Conegliano, in his picture in the church of the Madonna dell' Orto at
Venice, has given us the oak, the fig, the beautiful "Erba della
Madonna" on the wall, precisely such a bunch of it as may be seen
growing at this day on the marble steps of that very church; ivy and
other creepers, and a strawberry plant in the foreground, with a blossom
and a berry just set, and one half ripe and one ripe, all patiently and
innocently painted from the real thing, and therefore most divine. Fra
Angelico's use of the oxalis acetosella is as faithful in representation
as touching in feeling.[7] The ferns that grow on the walls of Fiesole
may be seen in their simple verity on the architecture of Ghirlandajo.
The rose, the myrtle, and the lily, the olive and orange, pomegranate
and vine, have received their fairest portraiture where they bear a
sacred character; even the common plantains and mallows of the waysides
are touched with deep reverence by Raffaelle; and indeed for the perfect
treatment of details of this kind, treatment as delicate and
affectionate as it is elevated and manly, it is to the works of these
schools alone that we can refer. And on this their peculiar excellence I
should the more earnestly insist, because it is of a kind altogether
neglected by the English school, and with most unfortunate result, many
of our best painters missing their deserved rank solely from the want of
it, as Gainsborough; and all being more or less checked in their
progress or vulgarized in their aim.

§ 10. Finish, and the want of it, how right and how wrong.

It is a misfortune for all honest critics, that hardly any quality of
art is independently to be praised, and without reference to the motive
from which it resulted, and the place in which it appears; so that no
principle can be simply enforced but it shall seem to countenance a
vice; while the work of qualification and explanation both weakens the
force of what is said, and is not perhaps always likely to be with
patience received: so also those who desire to misunderstand or to
oppose have it always in their power to become obtuse listeners or
specious opponents. Thus I hardly dare insist upon the virtue of
completion, lest I should be supposed a defender of Wouvermans or Gerard
Dow; neither can I adequately praise the power of Tintoret, without
fearing to be thought adverse to Holbein or Perugino. The fact is, that
both finish and impetuosity, specific minuteness, or large abstraction,
may be the signs of passion, or of its reverse; may result from
affection or indifference, intellect or dulness. Some men finish from
intense love of the beautiful in the smallest parts of what they do;
others in pure incapability of comprehending anything but parts; others
to show their dexterity with the brush, and prove expenditure of time.
Some are impetuous and bold in their handling, from having great
thoughts to express which are independent of detail; others because they
have bad taste or have been badly taught; others from vanity, and others
from indolence. (Compare Vol. II. Chap. IX. § 8.) Now both the finish
and incompletion are right where they are the signs of passion or of
thought, and both are wrong, and I think the finish the more
contemptible of the two, when they cease to be so. The modern Italians
will paint every leaf of a laurel or rose-bush without the slightest
feeling of their beauty or character; and without showing one spark of
intellect or affection from beginning to end. Anything is better than
this; and yet the very highest schools _do_ the same thing, or nearly
so, but with totally different motives and perceptions, and the result
is divine. On the whole, I conceive that the extremes of good and evil
lie with the finishers, and that whatever glorious power we may admit in
men like Tintoret, whatever attractiveness of method to Rubens,
Rembrandt, or, though in far less degree, our own Reynolds, still the
thoroughly great men are those who have done everything thoroughly, and
who, in a word, have never despised anything, however small, of God's
making. And this is the chief fault of our English landscapists, that
they have not the intense all-observing penetration of well-balanced
mind; they have not, except in one or two instances, anything of that
feeling which Wordsworth shows in the following lines:--

           "So fair, so sweet, withal so sensitive;--
            Would that the little flowers were born to live
            Conscious of half the pleasure which they give.
            That to this mountain daisy's self were known
            _The beauty of its star-shaped shadow, thrown
            On the smooth surface of this naked stone._"

That is a little bit of good, downright, foreground painting--no mistake
about it; daisy, and shadow, and stone texture and all. Our painters
must come to this before they have done their duty; and yet, on the
other hand, let them beware of finishing, for the sake of finish, all
over their picture. The ground is not to be all over daisies, nor is
every daisy to have its star-shaped shadow; there is as much finish in
the right concealment of things as in the right exhibition of them; and
while I demand this amount of specific character where nature shows it,
I demand equal fidelity to her where she conceals it. To paint mist
rightly, space rightly, and light rightly, it may be often necessary to
paint nothing else rightly, but the rule is simple for all that; if the
artist is painting something that he knows and loves, as he knows it
because he loves it, whether it be the fair strawberry of Cima, or the
clear sky of Francia, or the blazing incomprehensible mist of Turner, he
is all right; but the moment he does anything as he thinks it ought to
be, because he does not care about it, he is all wrong. He has only to
ask himself whether he cares for anything except himself; so far as he
does he will make a good picture; so far as he thinks of himself a vile
one. This is the root of the viciousness of the whole French school.
Industry they have, learning they have, power they have, feeling they
have, yet not so much feeling as ever to force them to forget themselves
even for a moment; the ruling motive is invariably vanity, and the
picture therefore an abortion.

§ 11. The open skies of the religious schools, how valuable. Mountain
        drawing of Masaccio. Landscape of the Bellinis and Giorgione.

Returning to the pictures of the religious schools, we find that their
open skies are also of the highest value. Their preciousness is such
that no subsequent schools can by comparison be said to have painted sky
at all, but only clouds, or mist, or blue canopies. The golden sky of
Marco Basaiti in the Academy of Venice altogether overpowers and renders
valueless that of Titian beside it. Those of Francia in the gallery of
Bologna are even more wonderful, because cooler in tone and behind
figures in full light. The touches of white light in the horizon of
Angelico's Last Judgment are felt and wrought with equal truth. The
dignified and simple forms of cloud in repose are often by these
painters sublimely expressed, but of changeful cloud form they show no
examples. The architecture, mountains, and water of these distances are
commonly conventional; motives are to be found in them of the highest
beauty, and especially remarkable for quantity and meaning of incident;
but they can only be studied or accepted in the particular feeling that
produced them. It may generally be observed that whatever has been the
result of strong emotion is ill seen unless through the medium of such
emotion, and will lead to conclusions utterly false and perilous, if it
be made a subject of cold-hearted observance, or an object of systematic
imitation. One piece of genuine mountain drawing, however, occurs in the
landscape of Masaccio's Tribute Money. It is impossible to say what
strange results might have taken place in this particular field of art,
or how suddenly a great school of landscape might have arisen, had the
life of this great painter been prolonged. Of this particular fresco I
shall have much to say hereafter. The two brothers Bellini gave a marked
and vigorous impulse to the landscape of Venice, of Gentile's
architecture I shall speak presently. Giovanni's, though in style less
interesting and in place less prominent, occurring chiefly as a kind of
frame to his pictures, connecting them with the architecture of the
churches for which they were intended, is in refinement of realization,
I suppose, quite unrivalled, especially in passages requiring pure
gradation, as the hollows of vaultings. That of Veronese would look
ghostly beside it; that of Titian lightless. His landscape is
occasionally quaint and strange like Giorgione's, and as fine in color,
as that behind the Madonna in the Brera gallery at Milan; but a more
truthful fragment occurs in the picture in San Francesco della Vigna at
Venice; and in the picture of St. Jerome in the church of San
Grisostomo, the landscape is as perfect and beautiful as any background
may legitimately be, and finer, as far as it goes, than anything of
Titian's. It is remarkable for the absolute truth of its sky, whose
blue, clear as crystal, and though deep in tone bright as the open air,
is gradated to the horizon with a cautiousness and finish almost
inconceivable; and to obtain light at the horizon without contradicting
the system of chiaroscuro adopted in the figures which are lighted from
the right hand, it is barred across with some glowing white cirri which,
in their turn, are opposed by a single dark horizontal line of lower
cloud; and to throw the whole farther back, there is a wreath of rain
cloud of warmer color floating above the mountains, lighted on its under
edge, whose faithfulness to nature, both in hue and in its light and
shattering form, is altogether exemplary; the wandering of the light
among the hills is equally studied, and the whole is crowned by the
grand realization of the leaves of the fig-tree alluded to (Vol. II.
Part III. Chap. 5,) as well as of the herbage upon the rocks.
Considering that with all this care and completeness in the background,
there is nothing that is not of meaning and necessity in reference to
the figures, and that in the figures themselves the dignity and
heavenliness of the highest religious painters are combined with a force
and purity of color, greater I think than Titian's, it is a work which
may be set before the young artist as in every respect a nearly
faultless guide. Giorgione's landscape is inventive and solemn, but
owing to the rarity even of his nominal works I dare not speak of it in
general terms. It is certainly conventional, and is rather, I imagine,
to be studied for its color and its motives than its details.

§ 12. Landscape of Titian and Tintoret.

Of Titian and Tintoret I have spoken already. The latter is every way
the greater master, never indulging in the exaggerated color of Titian,
and attaining far more perfect light; his grasp of nature is more
extensive, and his view of her more imaginative, (incidental notices of
his landscape will be found in the chapter on Imagination penetrative,
of the second volume,) but he is usually too impatient to carry his
thoughts as far out, or to realize with as much substantiality as
Titian. In the St. Jerome of the latter in the gallery of the Brera,
there is a superb example of the modes in which the objects of landscape
may be either suggested or elaborated according to their place and
claim. The larger features of the ground, foliage, and drapery, as well
as the lion in the lower angle, are executed with a slightness which
admits not of close examination, and which, if not in shade, would be
offensive to the generality of observers. But on the rock above the
lion, where it turns towards the light, and where the eye is intended to
dwell, there is a wreath of ivy of which every leaf is separately drawn
with the greatest accuracy and care, and beside it a lizard, studied
with equal earnestness, yet always with that right grandeur of manner to
which I have alluded in the preface. Tintoret seldom reaches or attempts
the elaboration in substance and color of these objects, but he is even
more truth-telling and certain in his rendering of all the great
characters of specific form, and as the painter of Space he stands
altogether alone among dead masters; being the first who introduced the
slightness and confusion of touch which are expressive of the effects of
luminous objects seen through large spaces of air, and the principles of
aerial color which have been since carried out in other fields by
Turner. I conceive him to be the most powerful painter whom the world
has seen, and that he was prevented from being also the most perfect,
partly by untoward circumstances in his position and education, partly
by the very fulness and impetuosity of his own mind, partly by the want
of religious feeling and its accompanying perception of beauty; for his
noble treatment of religious subject, of which I have given several
examples in the third part, appears to be the result only of that grasp
which a great and well-toned intellect necessarily takes of any subject
submitted to it, and is wanting in the signs of the more withdrawn and
sacred sympathies.

But whatever advances were made by Tintoret in modes of artistical
treatment, he cannot be considered as having enlarged the sphere of
landscape conception. He took no cognizance even of the materials and
motives, so singularly rich in color, which were forever around him in
his own Venice. All portions of Venetian scenery introduced by him are
treated conventionally and carelessly; the architectural characters lost
altogether, the sea distinguished from the sky only by a darker green,
while of the sky itself only those forms were employed by him which had
been repeated again and again for centuries, though in less tangibility
and completion. Of mountain scenery he has left, I believe, no example
so far carried as that of John Bellini above instanced.

§ 13. Schools of Florence, Milan, and Bologna.

The Florentine and Ambrian schools supply us with no examples of
landscape, except that introduced by their earliest masters, gradually
overwhelmed under renaissance architecture.

Leonardo's landscape has been of unfortunate effect on art, so far as it
has had effect at all. In realization of detail he verges on the
ornamental, in his rock outlines he has all the deficiencies and little
of the feeling of the earlier men. Behind the "Sacrifice for the
Friends" of Giotto at Pisa, there is a sweet piece of rock incident, a
little fountain breaking out at the mountain foot, and trickling away,
its course marked by branches of reeds, the latter formal enough
certainly, and always in triplets, but still with a sense of nature
pervading the whole which is utterly wanting to the rocks of Leonardo in
the Holy Family in the Louvre. The latter are grotesque without being
ideal, and extraordinary without being impressive. The sketch in the
Uffizii of Florence has some fine foliage, and there is of course a
certain virtue in all the work of a man like Leonardo which I would not
depreciate, but our admiration of it in this particular field must be
qualified, and our following cautious.

No advances were made in landscape, so far as I know, after the time of
Tintoret; the power of art ebbed gradually away from the derivative
schools; various degrees of cleverness or feeling being manifested in
more or less brilliant conventionalism. I once supposed there was some
life in the landscape of Domenichino, but in this I must have been
wrong. The man who painted the Madonna del Rosario and Martyrdom of St.
Agnes in the gallery of Bologna, is palpably incapable of doing anything
good, great, or right in any field, way, or kind, whatsoever.[8]

§ 14. Claude, Salvator, and the Poussins.

Though, however, at this period the general grasp of the schools was
perpetually contracting, a gift was given to the world by Claude, for
which we are perhaps hardly enough grateful, owing to the very frequency
of our after enjoyment of it. He set the sun in heaven, and was, I
suppose, the first who attempted anything like the realization of actual
sunshine in misty air. He gives the first example of the study of nature
for her own sake, and allowing for the unfortunate circumstances of his
education, and for his evident inferiority of intellect, more could
hardly have been expected from him. His false taste, forced composition,
and ignorant rendering of detail have perhaps been of more detriment to
art than the gift he gave was of advantage. The character of his own
mind is singular; I know of no other instance of a man's working from
nature continually with the desire of being true, and never attaining
the power of drawing so much as a bough of a tree rightly. Salvator, a
man originally endowed with far higher power of mind than Claude, was
altogether unfaithful to his mission, and has left us, I believe, no
gift. Everything that he did is evidently for the sake of exhibiting his
own dexterity; there is no love of any kind for anything; his choice of
landscape features is dictated by no delight in the sublime, but by mere
animal restlessness or ferocity, guided by an imaginative power of which
he could not altogether deprive himself. He has done nothing which
others have not done better, or which it would not have been better not
to have done; in nature, he mistakes distortion for energy, and
savageness for sublimity; in man, mendicity for sanctity, and conspiracy
for heroism.

The landscape of Nicolo Poussin shows much power, and is usually
composed and elaborated on right principles, (compare preface to second
edition,) but I am aware of nothing that it has attained of new or
peculiar excellence; it is a graceful mixture of qualities to be found
in other masters in higher degrees. In finish it is inferior to
Leonardo's, in invention to Giorgione's, in truth to Titian's, in grace
to Raffaelle's. The landscapes of Gaspar have serious feeling and often
valuable and solemn color; virtueless otherwise, they are full of the
most degraded mannerism, and I believe the admiration of them to have
been productive of extensive evil among recent schools.

§ 15. German and Flemish landscape.

The development of landscape north of the Alps, presents us with the
same general phases under modifications dependent partly on less
intensity of feeling, partly on diminished availableness of landscape
material. That of the religious painters is treated with the same
affectionate completion; but exuberance of fancy sometimes diminishes
the influence of the imagination, and the absence of the Italian force
of passion admits of more patient and somewhat less intellectual
elaboration. A morbid habit of mind is evident in many, seeming to lose
sight of the balance and relations of things, so as to become intense in
trifles, gloomily minute, as in Albert Durer; and this mingled with a
feverish operation of the fancy, which appears to result from certain
habitual conditions of bodily health rather than of mental culture, (and
of which the sickness without the power is eminently characteristic of
the modern Germans;) but with all this there are virtues of the very
highest order in those schools, and I regret that my knowledge is
insufficient to admit of my giving any detailed account of them.

In the landscape of Rembrandt and Rubens, we have the northern parallel
to the power of the Venetians. Among the etchings and drawings of
Rembrandt, landscape thoughts may be found not unworthy of Titian, and
studies from nature of sublime fidelity; but his system of chiaroscuro
was inconsistent with the gladness, and his peculiar modes of feeling
with the grace, of nature; nor from my present knowledge can I name any
work on canvas in which he has carried out the dignity of his etched
conceptions, or exhibited any perceptiveness of new truths.

Not so Rubens, who perhaps furnishes us with the first instances of
complete unconventional unaffected landscape. His treatment is healthy,
manly, and rational, not very affectionate, yet often condescending to
minute and multitudinous detail; always as far as it goes pure,
forcible, and refreshing, consummate in composition, and marvellous in
color. In the Pitti palace, the best of its two Rubens landscapes has
been placed near a characteristic and highly-finished Titian, the
marriage of St. Catherine. But for the grandeur of line and solemn
feeling in the flock of sheep, and the figures of the latter work, I
doubt if all its glow and depth of tone could support its overcharged
green and blue against the open breezy sunshine of the Fleming. I do not
mean to rank the art of Rubens with that of Titian, but it is always to
be remembered that Titian hardly ever paints sunshine, but a certain
opalescent twilight which has as much of human emotion as of imitative
truth in it,--

         "The clouds that gather round the setting sun
          Do take a sober coloring from an eye
          That hath kept watch o'er man's mortality:"

and that art of this kind must always be liable to some appearance of
failure when compared with a less pathetic statement of facts.

It is to be noted, however, that the licenses taken by Rubens in
particular instances are as bold as his general statements are sincere.
In the landscape just instanced the horizon is an oblique line; in the
Sunset of our own gallery many of the shadows fall at right angles to
the light; and in a picture in the Dulwich gallery a rainbow is seen by
the spectator at the side of the sun.

These bold and frank licenses are not to be considered as detracting
from the rank of the painter; they are usually characteristic of those
minds whose grasp of nature is so certain and extensive as to enable
them fearlessly to sacrifice a truth of actuality to a truth of feeling.
Yet the young artist must keep in mind that the painter's greatness
consists not in his taking, but in his atoning for them.

§ 16. The lower Dutch schools.

Among the professed landscapists of the Dutch school, we find much
dexterous imitation of certain kinds of nature, remarkable usually for
its persevering rejection of whatever is great, valuable, or affecting
in the object studied. Where, however, they show real desire to paint
what they saw as far as they saw it, there is of course much in them
that is instructive, as in Cuyp and in the etchings of Waterloo, which
have even very sweet and genuine feeling; and so in some of their
architectural painters. But the object of the great body of them is
merely to display manual dexterities of one kind or another, and their
effect on the public mind is so totally for evil, that though I do not
deny the advantage an artist of real judgment may derive from the study
of some of them, I conceive the best patronage that any monarch could
possibly bestow upon the arts, would be to collect the whole body of
them into a grand gallery and burn it to the ground.

§ 17. English school, Wilson and Gainsborough.

Passing to the English school, we find a connecting link between them
and the Italians formed by Richard Wilson. Had this artist studied under
favorable circumstances, there is evidence of his having possessed power
enough to produce an original picture; but, corrupted by study of the
Poussins, and gathering his materials chiefly in their field, the
district about Rome--a district especially unfavorable, as exhibiting no
pure or healthy nature, but a diseased and overgrown Flora among
half-developed volcanic rocks, loose calcareous concretions, and
mouldering wrecks of buildings--and whose spirit, I conceive, to be
especially opposed to the natural tone of the English mind, his
originality was altogether overpowered, and, though he paints in a manly
way and occasionally reaches exquisite tones of color, as in the small
and very precious picture belonging to Mr. Rogers, and sometimes
manifests some freshness of feeling, as in the Villa of Mæcenas of our
National Gallery, yet his pictures are in general mere diluted
adaptations from Poussin and Salvator, without the dignity of the one or
the fire of the other.

Not so Gainsborough, a great name his whether of the English or any
other school. The greatest colorist since Rubens, and the last, I think,
of legitimate colorists; that is to say, of those who were fully
acquainted with the power of their material; pure in his English
feeling, profound in his seriousness, graceful in his gayety, there are
nevertheless certain deductions to be made from his worthiness which yet
I dread to make, because my knowledge of his landscape works is not
extensive enough to justify me in speaking of them decisively; but this
is to be noted of all that I know, that they are rather motives of
feeling and color than earnest studies; that their execution is in some
degree mannered, and always hasty; that they are altogether wanting in
the affectionate detail of which I have already spoken; and that their
color is in some measure dependent on a bituminous brown and
conventional green which have more of science than of truth in them.
These faults may be sufficiently noted in the magnificent picture
presented by him to the Royal Academy, and tested by a comparison of it
with the Turner (Llanberis,) in the same room. Nothing can be more
attractively luminous or aerial than the distance of the Gainsborough,
nothing more bold or inventive than the forms of its crags and the
diffusion of the broad distant light upon them, where a vulgar artist
would have thrown them into dark contrast. But it will be found that the
light of the distance is brought out by a violent exaggeration of the
gloom in the valley; that the forms of the green trees which bear the
chief light are careless and ineffective; that the markings of the crags
are equally hasty; and that no object in the foreground has realization
enough to enable the eye to rest upon it. The Turner, a much feebler
picture in its first impression, and altogether inferior in the quality
and value of its individual hues, will yet be found to the end more
forcible, because unexaggerated; its gloom is moderate and aerial, its
light deep in tone, its color entirely unconventional, and the forms of
its rocks studied with the most devoted care. With Gainsborough
terminates the series of painters connected with the elder schools. By
whom, among those yet living or lately lost, the impulse was first given
to modern landscape, I attempt not to decide. Such questions are rather
invidious than interesting; the particular tone or direction of any
school seems to me always to have resulted rather from certain phases
of national character, limited to particular periods, than from
individual teaching; and, especially among moderns, what has been good
in each master has been commonly original.

§ 18. Constable, Calcott.

I have already alluded to the simplicity and earnestness of the mind of
Constable; to its vigorous rupture with school laws, and to its
unfortunate error on the opposite side. Unteachableness seems to have
been a main feature of his character, and there is corresponding want of
veneration in the way he approaches nature herself. His early education
and associations were also against him; they induced in him a morbid
preference of subjects of a low order. I have never seen any work of his
in which there were any signs of his being able to draw, and hence even
the most necessary details are painted by him inefficiently. His works
are also eminently wanting both in rest and refinement, and Fuseli's
jesting compliment is too true; for the showery weather in which the
artist delights, misses alike the majesty of storm and the loveliness of
calm weather: it is great-coat weather, and nothing more. There is
strange want of depth in the mind which has no pleasure in sunbeams but
when piercing painfully through clouds, nor in foliage but when shaken
by the wind, nor in light itself but when flickering, glistening,
restless, and feeble. Yet, with all these deductions, his works are to
be deeply respected as thoroughly original, thoroughly honest, free from
affectation, manly in manner, frequently successful in cool color, and
especially realizing certain motives of English scenery with perhaps as
much affection as such scenery, unless when regarded through media of
feeling derived from higher sources, is calculated to inspire.

On the works of Calcott, high as his reputation stands, I should look
with far less respect; I see not any preference or affection in the
artist; there is no tendency in him with which we can sympathize, nor
does there appear any sign of aspiration, effort, or enjoyment in any
one of his works. He appears to have completed them methodically, to
have been content with them when completed, to have thought them good,
legitimate, regular pictures; perhaps in some respects better than
nature. He painted everything tolerably, and nothing excellently; he
has given us no gift, struck for us no light, and though he has
produced one or two valuable works, of which the finest I know is the
Marine in the possession of Sir J. Swinburne, they will, I believe, in
future have no place among those considered representative of the
English school.

§ 19. Peculiar tendency of recent landscape.

Throughout the range of elder art it will be remembered we have found no
instance of the faithful painting of mountain scenery, except in a faded
background of Masaccio's: nothing more than rocky eminences, undulating
hills, or fantastic crags, and even these treated altogether under
typical forms. The more specific study of mountains seems to have
coincided with the most dexterous practice of water-color; but it admits
of doubt whether the choice of subject has been directed by the vehicle,
or whether, as I rather think, the tendency of national feeling has been
followed in the use of the most appropriate means. Something is to be
attributed to the increased demand for slighter works of art, and much
to the sense of the quality of objects now called picturesque, which
appears to be exclusively of modern origin. From what feeling the
character of middle-age architecture and costume arose, or with what
kind of affection their forms were regarded by the inventors, I am
utterly unable to guess; but of this I think we may be assured, that the
natural instinct and child-like wisdom of those days were altogether
different from the modern feeling, which appears to have taken its
origin in the absence of such objects, and to be based rather on the
strangeness of their occurrence than on any real affection for them; and
which is certainly so shallow and ineffective as to be instantly and
always sacrificed by the majority to fashion, comfort, or economy. Yet I
trust that there is a healthy though feeble love of nature mingled with
it, nature pure, separate, felicitous, which is also peculiar to the
moderns; and as signs of this feeling, or ministers to it, I look with
veneration upon many works which, in a technical point of view, are of
minor importance.

§ 20. G. Robson, D. Cox. False use of the term "style."

I have been myself indebted for much teaching and more delight to those
of the late G. Robson. Weaknesses there are in them manifold, much bad
drawing, much forced color, much over finish, little of what artists
call composition; but there is thorough affection for the thing drawn;
they are serious and quiet in the highest degree, certain qualities of
atmosphere and texture in them have never been excelled, and certain
facts of mountain scenery never but by them expressed, as, for instance,
the stillness and depth of the mountain tarns, with the reversed imagery
of their darkness signed across by the soft lines of faintly touching
winds; the solemn flush of the brown fern and glowing heath under
evening light; the purple mass of mountains far removed, seen against
clear still twilight. With equal gratitude I look to the drawings of
David Cox, which, in spite of their loose and seemingly careless
execution, are not less serious in their meaning, nor less important in
their truth. I must, however, in reviewing those modern works in which
certain modes of execution are particularly manifested, insist
especially on this general principle, applicable to all times of art;
that what is usually called the style or manner of an artist is, in all
good art, nothing but the best means of getting at the particular truth
which the artist wanted; it is not a mode peculiar to himself of getting
at the same truths as other men, but the _only_ mode of getting the
particular facts he desires, and which mode, if others had desired to
express those facts, they also must have adopted. All habits of
execution persisted in under no such necessity, but because the artist
has invented them, or desires to show his dexterity in them, are utterly
base; for every good painter finds so much difficulty in reaching the
end he sees and desires, that he has no time nor power left for playing
tricks on the road to it; he catches at the easiest and best means he
can get; it is possible that such means may be singular, and then it
will be said that his _style_ is strange; but it is not a style at all,
it is the saying of a particular thing in the only way in which it
possibly can be said. Thus the reed pen outline and peculiar touch of
Prout, which are frequently considered as mere manner, are in fact the
only means of expressing the crumbling character of stone which the
artist loves and desires. That character never has been expressed except
by him, nor will it ever be expressed except by his means. And it is of
the greatest importance to distinguish this kind of necessary and
virtuous manner from the conventional manners very frequent in
derivative schools, and always utterly to be contemned, wherein an
artist, desiring nothing and feeling nothing, executes everything in his
own particular mode, and teaches emulous scholars how to do with
difficulty what might have been done with ease. It is true that there
are sometimes instances in which great masters have employed different
means of getting at the same end, but in these cases their choice has
been always of those which to them appeared the shortest and most
complete; their practice has never been prescribed by affectation or
continued from habit, except so far as must be expected from such
weakness as is common to all men; from hands that necessarily do most
readily what they are most accustomed to do, and minds always liable to
prescribe to the hands that which they can do most readily.

The recollection of this will keep us from being offended with the loose
and blotted handling of David Cox. There is no other means by which his
object could be attained. The looseness, coolness, and moisture of his
herbage; the rustling crumpled freshness of his broad-leaved weeds; the
play of pleasant light across his deep heathered moor or plashing sand;
the melting of fragments of white mist into the dropping blue above; all
this has not been fully recorded except by him, and what there is of
accidental in his mode of reaching it, answers gracefully to the
accidental part of nature herself. Yet he is capable of more than this,
and if he suffers himself uniformly to paint beneath his capability,
that which began in feeling must necessarily end in manner. He paints
too many small pictures, and perhaps has of late permitted his peculiar
execution to be more manifest than is necessary. Of this, he is himself
the best judge. For almost all faults of this kind the public are
answerable, not the painter. I have alluded to one of his grander
works--such as I should wish always to see him paint--in the preface;
another, I think still finer, a red sunset on distant hills, almost
unequalled for truth and power of color, was painted by him several
years ago, and remains, I believe, in his own possession.

§ 21. Copley Fielding. Phenomena of distant color.

The deserved popularity of Copley Fielding has rendered it less
necessary for me to allude frequently to his works in the following
pages than it would otherwise have been, more especially as my own
sympathies and enjoyments are so entirely directed in the channel which
his art has taken, that I am afraid of trusting them too far. Yet I
may, perhaps, be permitted to speak of myself so far as I suppose my own
feelings to be representative of those of a class; and I suppose that
there are many who, like myself, at some period of their life have
derived more intense and healthy pleasure from the works of this painter
than of any other whatsoever; healthy, because always based on his
faithful and simple rendering of nature, and that of very lovely and
impressive nature, altogether freed from coarseness, violence, or
vulgarity. Various references to that which he has attained will be
found subsequently: what I am now about to say respecting what he has
_not_ attained, is not in depreciation of what he has accomplished, but
in regret at his suffering powers of a high order to remain in any
measure dormant.

He indulges himself too much in the use of crude color. Pure cobalt,
violent rose, and purple, are of frequent occurrence in his distances;
pure siennas and other browns in his foregrounds, and that not as
expressive of lighted but of local color. The reader will find in the
following chapters that I am no advocate for subdued coloring; but crude
color is not bright color, and there was never a noble or brilliant work
of color yet produced, whose real form did not depend on the subduing of
its tints rather than the elevation of them.

It is perhaps one of the most difficult lessons to learn in art, that
the warm colors of distance, even the most glowing, are subdued by the
air so as in no wise to resemble the same color seen on a foreground
object; so that the rose of sunset on clouds or mountains has a gray in
it which distinguishes it from the rose color of the leaf of a flower;
and the mingling of this gray of distance, without in the slightest
degree taking away the expression of the intense and perfect purity of
the color in and by itself, is perhaps the last attainment of the great
landscape colorist. In the same way the blue of distance, however
intense, is not the blue of a bright blue flower, and it is not
distinguished from it by different texture merely, but by a certain
intermixture and under current of warm color, which is altogether
wanting in many of the blues of Fielding's distances; and so of every
bright distant color; while in foreground where colors may be, and ought
to be, pure, yet that any of them are expressive of light is only to be
felt where there is the accurate fitting of them to their relative
shadows which we find in the works of Giorgione, Titian, Tintoret,
Veronese, Turner, and all other great colorists in proportion as they
are so. Of this fitting of light to shadow Fielding is altogether
regardless, so that his foregrounds are constantly assuming the aspect
of overcharged local color instead of sunshine, and his figures and
cattle look transparent.

§ 22. Beauty of mountain foreground.

Again, the finishing of Fielding's foregrounds, as regards their
drawing, is minute without accuracy, multitudinous without thought, and
confused without mystery. Where execution is seen to be in measure
accidental, as in Cox, it may be received as representative of what is
accidental in nature; but there is no part of Fielding's foreground that
is accidental; it is evidently worked and reworked, dotted, rubbed, and
finished with great labor, and where the virtue, playfulness, and
freedom of accident are thus removed, one of two virtues must be
substituted for them. Either we must have the deeply studied and
imaginative foreground, of which every part is necessary to every other,
and whose every spark of light is essential to the well-being of the
whole, of which the foregrounds of Turner in the Liber Studiorum are the
most eminent examples I know, or else we must have in some measure the
botanical faithfulness and realization of the early masters. Neither of
these virtues is to be found in Fielding's. Its features, though grouped
with feeling, are yet scattered and inessential. Any one of them might
be altered in many ways without doing harm; there is no proportioned,
necessary, unalterable relation among them; no evidence of invention or
of careful thought, while on the other hand there is no botanical or
geological accuracy, nor any point on which the eye may rest with
thorough contentment in its realization.

It seems strange that to an artist of so quick feeling the details of a
mountain foreground should not prove irresistibly attractive, and entice
him to greater accuracy of study. There is not a fragment of its living
rock, nor a tuft of its heathery herbage, that has not adorable
manifestations of God's working thereupon. The harmonies of color among
the native lichens are better than Titian's; the interwoven bells of
campanula and heather are better than all the arabesques of the Vatican;
they need no improvement, arrangement, nor alteration, nothing but love,
and every combination of them is different from every other, so that a
painter need never repeat himself if he will only be true; yet all these
sources of power have been of late entirely neglected by Fielding; there
is evidence through all his foregrounds of their being mere home
inventions, and like all home inventions they exhibit perpetual
resemblances and repetitions; the painter is evidently embarrassed
without his rutted road in the middle, and his boggy pool at the side,
which pool he has of late painted in hard lines of violent blue: there
is not a stone, even of the nearest and most important, which has its
real lichens upon it, or a studied form or anything more to occupy the
mind than certain variations of dark and light browns. The same faults
must be found with his present painting of foliage, neither the stems
nor leafage being ever studied from nature; and this is the more to be
regretted, because in the earlier works of the artist there was much
admirable drawing, and even yet his power is occasionally developed in
his larger works, as in a Bolton Abbey on canvas, which was,--I cannot
say, exhibited,--but was in the rooms of the Royal Academy in 1843.[9] I
should have made the preceding remarks with more hesitation and
diffidence, but that, from a comparison of works of this kind with the
slighter ornaments of the water-color rooms, it seems evident that the
painter is not unaware of the deficiencies of these latter, and concedes
something of what he would himself desire to what he has found to be the
feeling of a majority of his admirers. This is a dangerous modesty, and
especially so in these days when the judgment of the many is palpably as
artificial as their feeling is cold.

§ 23. De Wint.

There is much that is instructive and deserving of high praise in the
sketches of De Wint. Yet it is to be remembered that even the pursuit of
truth, however determined, will have results limited and imperfect when
its chief motive is the pride of being true; and I fear that these
works, sublime as many of them have unquestionably been, testify more
accuracy of eye and experience of color than exercise of thought. Their
truth of effect is often purchased at too great an expense by the loss
of all beauty of form, and of the higher refinements of color;
deficiencies, however, on which I shall not insist, since the value of
the sketches, as far as they go, is great; they have done good service
and set good example, and whatever their failings may be, there is
evidence in them that the painter has always done what he believed to be

§ 24. Influence of Engraving. J. D. Harding.

The influence of the masters of whom we have hitherto spoken is confined
to those who have access to their actual works, since the particular
qualities in which they excel, are in no wise to be rendered by the
engraver. Those of whom we have next to speak are known to the public in
a great measure by the help of the engraver; and while their influence
is thus very far extended, their modes of working are perhaps, in some
degree modified by the habitual reference to the future translation into
light and shade; reference which is indeed beneficial in the care it
induces respecting the arrangement of the chiaroscuro and the
explanation of the forms, but which is harmful, so far as it involves a
dependence rather on quantity of picturesque material than on
substantial color or simple treatment, and as it admits of indolent
diminution of size and slightness of execution.

We should not be just to the present works of J. D. Harding unless we
took this influence into account. Some years back none of our artists
realized more laboriously, nor obtained more substantial color and
texture; a large drawing in the possession of B. G. Windus, Esq., of
Tottenham, is of great value as an example of his manner at the period;
a manner not only careful, but earnest, and free from any kind of
affectation. Partly from the habit of making slight and small drawings
for engravers, and partly also, I imagine, from an overstrained seeking
after appearances of dexterity in execution, his drawings have of late
years become both less solid and less complete; not, however, without
attaining certain brilliant qualities in exchange which are very
valuable in the treatment of some of the looser portions of subject. Of
the extended knowledge and various powers of this painter, frequent
instances are noted in the following pages. Neither, perhaps, are
rightly estimated among artists, owing to a certain coldness of
sentiment in his choice of subject, and a continual preference of the
picturesque to the impressive; proved perhaps in nothing so distinctly
as in the little interest usually attached to his skies, which, if
aerial and expressive of space and movement, content him, though
destitute of story, power, or character: an exception must be made in
favor of the very grand sunrise on the Swiss Alps, exhibited in 1844,
wherein the artist's real power was in some measure displayed, though I
am convinced he is still capable of doing far greater things. So in his
foliage he is apt to sacrifice the dignity of his trees to their
wildness, and lose the forest in the copse, neither is he at all
accurate enough in his expression of species or realization of near
portions. These are deficiencies, be it observed, of sentiment, not of
perception, as there are few who equal him in rapidity of seizure of
material truth.

§ 25. Samuel Prout. Early painting of architecture, how deficient.

Very extensive influence in modern art must be attributed to the works
of Samuel Prout; and as there are some circumstances belonging to his
treatment of architectural subject which it does not come within the
sphere of the following chapters to examine, I shall endeavor to note
the more important of them here.

Let us glance back for a moment to the architectural drawing of earlier
times. Before the time of the Bellinis at Venice, and of Ghirlandajo at
Florence, I believe there are no examples of anything beyond
conventional representation of architecture, often rich, quaint, and
full of interest, as Memmi's abstract of the Duomo at Florence at S^ta.
Maria Novella; but not to be classed with any genuine efforts at
representation. It is much to be regretted that the power and custom of
introducing well-drawn architecture should have taken place only when
architectural taste had been itself corrupted, and that the architecture
introduced by Bellini, Ghirlandajo, Francia, and the other patient and
powerful workmen of the fifteenth century, is exclusively of the
renaissance styles; while their drawing of it furnishes little that is
of much interest to the architectural draughtsman as such, being always
governed by a reference to its subordinate position, so that all
forceful shadow and play of color are (most justly) surrendered for
quiet and uniform hues of gray and chiaroscuro of extreme simplicity.
Whatever they chose to do they did with consummate grandeur, (note
especially the chiaroscuro of the square window of Ghirlandajo's which
so much delighted Vasari in S^ta. Maria Novella; and the daring
management of a piece of the perspective in the Salutation, opposite
where he has painted a flight of stairs descending in front, though the
picture is twelve feet above the eye); and yet this grandeur, in all
these men, results rather from the general power obtained in their
drawing of the figure than from any definite knowledge respecting the
things introduced in these accessory parts; so that while in some points
it is impossible for any painter to equal these accessories, unless he
were in all respects as great as Ghirlandajo or Bellini, in others it is
possible for him, with far inferior powers, to attain a representation
both more accurate and more interesting.

In order to arrive at the knowledge of these, we must briefly take note
of a few of the modes in which architecture itself is agreeable to the
mind, especially of the influence upon the character of the building
which is to be attributed to the signs of age.

§ 26. Effects of age upon buildings, how far desirable.

It is evident, first, that if the design of the building be originally
bad, the only virtue it can ever possess will be in signs of antiquity.
All that in this world enlarges the sphere of affection or imagination
is to be reverenced, and all those circumstances enlarge it which
strengthen our memory or quicken our conception of the dead; hence it is
no light sin to destroy anything that is old, more especially because,
even with the aid of all obtainable records of the past, we, the living,
occupy a space of too large importance and interest in our own eyes; we
look upon the world too much as our own, too much as if we had possessed
it and should possess it forever, and forget that it is a mere hostelry,
of which we occupy the apartments for a time, which others better than
we have sojourned in before, who are now where we should desire to be
with them. Fortunately for mankind, as some counterbalance to that
wretched love of novelty which originates in selfishness, shallowness,
and conceit, and which especially characterizes all vulgar minds, there
is set in the deeper places of the heart such affection for the signs of
age that the eye is delighted even by injuries which are the work of
time; not but that there is also real and absolute beauty in the forms
and colors so obtained, for which the original lines of the
architecture, unless they have been very grand indeed, are well
exchanged, so that there is hardly any building so ugly but that it may
be made an agreeable object by such appearances. It would not be easy,
for instance, to find a less pleasing piece of architecture than the
portion of the front of Queen's College, Oxford, which has just been
restored; yet I believe that few persons could have looked with total
indifference on the mouldering and peeled surface of the oolite
limestone previous to its restoration. If, however, the character of the
building consist in minute detail or multitudinous lines, the evil or
good effect of age upon it must depend in great measure on the kind of
art, the material, and the climate. The Parthenon, for instance, would
be injured by any markings which interfered with the contours of its
sculptures; and any lines of extreme purity, or colors of original
harmony and perfection are liable to injury, and are ill exchanged for
mouldering edges or brown weatherstains.

But as all architecture is, or ought to be, meant to be durable, and to
derive part of its glory from its antiquity, all art that is liable to
mortal injury from effects of time is therein out of place, and this is
another reason for the principle I have asserted in the second part,
page 204. I do not at this instant recollect a single instance of any
very fine building which is not improved up to a certain period by all
its signs of age, after which period, like all other human works, it
necessarily declines, its decline being in almost all ages and countries
accelerated by neglect and abuse in its time of beauty, and alteration
or restoration in its time of age.

Thus I conceive that all buildings dependent on color, whether of mosaic
or painting, have their effect improved by the richness of the
subsequent tones of age; for there are few arrangements of color so
perfect but that they are capable of improvement by some softening and
blending of this kind: with mosaic, the improvement may be considered as
proceeding almost so long as the design can be distinctly seen; with
painting, so long as the colors do not change or chip off.

Again, upon all forms of sculptural ornament, the effect of time is
such, that if the design be poor, it will enrich it; if overcharged,
simplify it; if harsh and violent, soften it; if smooth and obscure,
exhibit it; whatever faults it may have are rapidly disguised, whatever
virtue it has still shines and steals out in the mellow light; and this
to such an extent, that the artist is always liable to be tempted to the
drawing of details in old buildings as of extreme beauty, which look
cold and hard in their architectural lines; and I have never yet seen
any restoration or cleaned portion of a building whose effect was not
inferior to the weathered parts, even to those of which the design had
in some parts almost disappeared. On the front of the church of San
Michele at Lucca, the mosaics have fallen out of half the columns, and
lie in weedy ruin beneath; in many, the frost has torn large masses of
the entire coating away, leaving a scarred unsightly surface. Two of the
shafts of the upper star window are eaten entirely away by the sea wind,
the rest have lost their proportions, the edges of the arches are hacked
into deep hollows, and cast indented shadows on the weed-grown wall.
The process has gone too far, and yet I doubt not but that this building
is seen to greater advantage now than when first built, always with
exception of one circumstance, that the French shattered the lower wheel
window, and set up in front of it an escutcheon with "Libertas" upon it,
which abomination of desolation, the Lucchese have not yet had
human-heartedness enough to pull down.

Putting therefore the application of architecture as an accessory out of
the question, and supposing our object to be the exhibition of the most
impressive qualities of the building itself, it is evidently the duty of
the draughtsman to represent it under those conditions, and with that
amount of age-mark upon it which may best exalt and harmonize the
sources of its beauty: this is no pursuit of mere picturesqueness, it is
true following out of the ideal character of the building; nay, far
greater dilapidation than this may in portions be exhibited, for there
are beauties of other kinds, not otherwise attainable, brought out by
advanced dilapidation; but when the artist suffers the mere love of
ruinousness to interfere with his perception of the _art_ of the
building, and substitutes rude fractures and blotting stains for all its
fine chiselling and determined color, he has lost the end of his own

§ 27. Effects of light, how necessary to the understanding of detail.

So far of aging; next of effects of light and color. It is, I believe,
hardly enough observed among architects that the same decorations are of
totally different effect according to their position and the time of
day. A moulding which is of value on a building facing south, where it
takes deep shadows from steep sun, may be utterly ineffective if placed
west or east; and a moulding which is chaste and intelligible in shade
on a north side, may be grotesque, vulgar, or confused when it takes
black shadows on the south. Farther, there is a time of day in which
every architectural decoration is seen to best advantage, and certain
times in which its peculiar force and character are best explained; of
these niceties the architect takes little cognizance, as he must in some
sort calculate on the effect of ornament at all times; but to the artist
they are of infinite importance, and especially for this reason, that
there is always much detail on buildings which cannot be drawn as such,
which is too far off, or too minute, and which must consequently be set
down in short-hand of some kind or another; and, as it were, an
abstract, more or less philosophical, made of its general heads. Of the
style of this abstract, of the lightness, confusion, and mystery
necessary in it, I have spoken elsewhere; at present I insist only on
the arrangement and matter of it. All good ornament and all good
architecture are capable of being put into short-hand; that is, each has
a perfect system of parts, principal and subordinate, of which, even
when the complemental details vanish in distance, the system and anatomy
yet remain visible so long as anything is visible; so that the divisions
of a beautiful spire shall be known as beautiful even till their last
line vanishes in blue mist, and the effect of a well-designed moulding
shall be visibly disciplined, harmonious, and inventive, as long as it
is seen to be a moulding at all. Now the power of the artist of marking
this character depends not on his complete knowledge of the design, but
on his experimental knowledge of its salient and bearing parts, and of
the effects of light and shadow, by which their saliency is best told.
He must therefore be prepared, according to his subject, to use light,
steep or level, intense or feeble, and out of the resulting chiaroscuro
select those peculiar and hinging points on which the rest are based,
and by which all else that is essential may be explained.

The thoughtful command of all these circumstances constitutes the real
architectural draughtsman; the habits of executing everything either
under one kind of effect or in one manner, or of using unintelligible
and meaningless abstracts of beautiful designs, are those which must
commonly take the place of it and are the most extensively esteemed.[10]

§ 28. Architectural painting of Gentile Bellini and Vittor Carpaccio;

Let us now proceed with our review of those artists who have devoted
themselves more peculiarly to architectural subject.

Foremost among them stand Gentile Bellini and Vittor Carpaccio, to whom
we are indebted for the only existing faithful statements of the
architecture of Old Venice, and who are the only authorities to whom we
can trust in conjecturing the former beauty of those few desecrated
fragments, the last of which are now being rapidly swept away by the
idiocy of modern Venetians.

Nothing can be more careful, nothing more delicately finished, or more
dignified in feeling than the works of both these men; and as
architectural evidence they are the best we could have had, all the
gilded parts being gilt in the picture, so that there can be no mistake
or confusion of them with yellow color or light, and all the frescoes or
mosaics given with the most absolute precision and fidelity. At the same
time they are by no means examples of perfect architectural drawing;
there is little light and shade in them of any kind, and none whatever
of the thoughtful observance of temporary effect of which we have just
been speaking; so that, in rendering the character of the relieved
parts, their solidity, depth, or gloom, the representation fails
altogether, and it is moreover lifeless from its very completion, both
the signs of age and the effects of use and habitation being utterly
rejected; rightly so, indeed, in these instances, (all the architecture
of these painters being in background to religious subject,) but wrongly
so, if we look to the architecture alone. Neither is there anything like
aerial perspective attempted; the employment of actual gold in the
decoration of all the distances, and the entire realization of their
details, as far as is possible on the scale compelled by perspective,
being alone sufficient to prevent this, except in the hands of painters
far more practised in effect than either Gentile or Carpaccio. But with
all these discrepancies, Gentile Bellini's church of St. Mark's is the
best church of St. Mark's that has ever been painted, so far as I know;
and I believe the reconciliation of true aerial perspective and
chiaroscuro with the splendor and dignity obtained by the real gilding
and elaborate detail, is a problem yet to be accomplished. With the help
of the Daguerreotype, and the lessons of color given by the later
Venetians, we ought now to be able to accomplish it, more especially as
the right use of gold has been shown us by the greatest master of effect
whom Venice herself produced, Tintoret, who has employed it with
infinite grace on the steps ascended by the young Madonna, in his large
picture in the church of the Madonna dell' Orto. Perugino uses it also
with singular grace, often employing it for golden light on distant
trees, and continually on the high light of hair, and that without
losing relative distances.

§ 29. And of the Venetians generally.

The great group of Venetian painters who brought landscape art, for that
time, to its culminating point, have left, as we have already seen,
little that is instructive in architectural painting. The causes of this
I cannot comprehend, for neither Titian nor Tintoret appears to despise
anything that affords them either variety of form or of color, the
latter especially condescending to very trivial details,--as in the
magnificent carpet painting of the Doge Mocenigo; so that it might have
been expected that in the rich colors of St. Mark's, and the magnificent
and fantastic masses of the Byzantine palaces, they would have found
where-upon to dwell with delighted elaboration. This is, however, never
the case, and although frequently compelled to introduce portions of
Venetian locality in their backgrounds, such portions are always treated
in a most hasty and faithless manner, missing frequently all character
of the building, and never advanced to realization. In Titian's picture
of Faith, the view of Venice below is laid in so rapidly and slightly,
the houses all leaning this way and that, and of no color, the sea a
dead gray green, and the ship-sails mere dashes of the brush, that the
most obscure of Turner's Venices would look substantial beside it; while
in the very picture of Tintoret in which he has dwelt so elaborately on
the carpet, he has substituted a piece of ordinary renaissance
composition for St. Mark's, and in the background has chosen the
Sansovino side of the Piazzetta, treating even that so carelessly as to
lose all the proportion and beauty of its design, and so flimsily that
the line of the distant sea which has been first laid in, is seen
through all the columns. Evidences of magnificent power of course exist
in whatever he touches, but his full power is never turned in this
direction. More space is allowed to his architecture by Paul Veronese,
but it is still entirely suggestive, and would be utterly false except
as a frame or background for figures. The same may be said with respect
to Raffaelle and the Roman school.

§ 30. Fresco painting of the Venetian exteriors. Canaletto.

If, however, these men laid architecture little under contribution to
their own art, they made their own art a glorious gift to architecture,
and the walls of Venice, which before, I believe, had received color
only in arabesque patterns, were lighted with human life by Giorgione,
Titian, Tintoret, and Veronese. Of the works of Tintoret and Titian,
nothing now, I believe, remains; two figures of Giorgione's are still
traceable on the Fondaco de' Tedeschi, one of which, singularly
uninjured, is seen from far above and below the Rialto, flaming like the
reflection of a sunset. Two figures of Veronese were also traceable till
lately, the head and arms of one still remain, and some glorious
olive-branches which were beside the other; the figure having been
entirely effaced by an inscription in large black letters on a whitewash
tablet which we owe to the somewhat inopportunely expressed enthusiasm
of the inhabitants of the district in favor of their new pastor.[11]
Judging, however, from the rate at which destruction is at present
advancing, and seeing that, in about seven or eight years more, Venice
will have utterly lost every external claim to interest, except that
which attaches to the group of buildings immediately around St. Mark's
place, and to the larger churches, it may be conjectured that the
greater part of her present degradation has taken place, at any rate,
within the last forty years. Let the reader with such scraps of evidence
as may still be gleaned from under the stucco and paint of the Italian
committees of taste, and from among the drawing-room innovations of
English and German residents restore Venice in his imagination to
some resemblance of what she must have been before her fall. Let him,
looking from Lido or Fusina, replace in the forest of towers those of
the hundred and sixty-six churches which the French threw down; let him
sheet her walls with purple and scarlet, overlay her minarets with
gold,[12] cleanse from their pollution those choked canals which are now
the drains of hovels, where they were once vestibules of palaces, and
fill them with gilded barges and bannered ships; finally, let him
withdraw from this scene, already so brilliant, such sadness and stain
as had been set upon it by the declining energies of more than half a
century, and he will see Venice as it was seen by Canaletto; whose
miserable, virtueless, heartless mechanism, accepted as the
representation of such various glory, is, both in its existence and
acceptance, among the most striking signs of the lost sensation and
deadened intellect of the nation at that time; a numbness and darkness
more without hope than that of the grave itself, holding and wearing yet
the sceptre and the crown like the corpses of the Etruscan kings, ready
to sink into ashes at the first unbarring of the door of the sepulchre.

                 From a drawing by Ruskin.]

The mannerism of Canaletto is the most degraded that I know in the whole
range of art. Professing the most servile and mindless imitation, it
imitates nothing but the blackness of the shadows; it gives no one
single architectural ornament, however near, so much form as might
enable us even to guess at its actual one; and this I say not rashly,
for I shall prove it by placing portions of detail accurately copied
from Canaletto side by side with engravings from the Daguerreotype; it
gives the buildings neither their architectural beauty nor their
ancestral dignity, for there is no texture of stone nor character of age
in Canaletto's touch; which is invariably a violent, black, sharp, ruled
penmanlike line, as far removed from the grace of nature as from her
faintness and transparency; and for his truth of color, let the single
fact of his having omitted _all record, whatsoever, of the frescoes_
whose wrecks are still to be found at least on one half of the
unrestored palaces, and, with still less excusableness, all record of
the magnificent colored marbles of many whose greens and purples are
still undimmed upon the Casa Dario, Casa Bianca Capello, and multitudes
besides, speak for him in this respect.

Let it be observed that I find no fault with Canaletto, for his want of
poetry, of feeling, of artistical thoughtfulness in treatment, or of the
various other virtues which he does not so much as profess. He professes
nothing but colored Daguerreotypeism. Let us have it: most precious and
to be revered it would be: let us have fresco where fresco was, and that
copied faithfully; let us have carving where carving is, and that
architecturally true. I have seen Daguerreotypes in which every figure
and rosette, and crack and stain, and fissure are given on a scale of an
inch to Canaletto's three feet. What excuse is there to be offered for
his omitting, on that scale, as I shall hereafter show, all statement of
such ornament whatever? Among the Flemish schools, exquisite imitations
of architecture are found constantly, and that not with Canaletto's
vulgar, black exaggeration of shadow, but in the most pure and silvery
and luminous grays. I have little pleasure in such pictures; but I blame
not those who have more; they are what they profess to be, and they are
wonderful and instructive, and often graceful, and even affecting, but
Canaletto possesses no virtue except that of dexterous imitation of
commonplace light and shade, and perhaps, with the exception of
Salvator, no artist has ever fettered his unfortunate admirers more
securely from all healthy or vigorous perception of truth, or been of
more general detriment to all subsequent schools.

§ 31. Expression of the effects of age on architecture by S. Prout.

Neither, however, by the Flemings, nor by any other of the elder
schools, was the effect of age or of human life upon architecture ever
adequately expressed. What ruins they drew looked as if broken down on
purpose, what weeds they put on seemed put on for ornament. Their
domestic buildings had never any domesticity, the people looked out of
their windows evidently to be drawn, or came into the street only to
stand there forever. A peculiar studiousness infected all accident;
bricks fell out methodically, windows opened and shut by rule; stones
were chipped at regular intervals; everything that happened seemed to
have been expected before; and above all, the street had been washed and
the houses dusted expressly to be painted in their best. We owe to
Prout, I believe, the first perception, and certainly the only existing
expression of precisely the characters which were wanting to old art, of
that feeling which results from the influence among the noble lines of
architecture, of the rent and the rust, the fissure, the lichen, and the
weed, and from the writing upon the pages of ancient walls of the
confused hieroglyphics of human history. I suppose, from the deserved
popularity of the artist, that the strange pleasure which I find myself
in the deciphering of these is common to many; the feeling has been
rashly and thoughtlessly contemned as mere love of the picturesque;
there is, as I have above shown, a deeper moral in it, and we owe much,
I am not prepared to say how much, to the artist by whom pre-eminently
it has been excited. For, numerous as have been his imitators, extended
as his influence, and simple as his means and manner, there has yet
appeared nothing at all to equal him; there is _no_ stone drawing, _no_
vitality of architecture like Prout's. I say not this rashly, I have
Mackenzie in my eye and many other capital imitators; and I have
carefully reviewed the Architectural work of the Academicians, often
most accurate and elaborate. I repeat, there is nothing but the work of
Prout which is true, living, or right in its general impression, and
nothing, therefore, so inexhaustibly agreeable. Faults he has, manifold,
easily detected, and much declaimed against by second-rate artists; but
his excellence no one has ever touched, and his lithographic work,
(Sketches in Flanders and Germany,) which was, I believe, the first of
the kind, still remains the most valuable of all, numerous and elaborate
as its various successors have been. The second series (in Italy and
Switzerland) was of less value, the drawings seemed more laborious, and
had less of the life of the original sketches, being also for the most
part of subjects less adapted for the development of the artist's
peculiar powers; but both are fine, and the Brussels, Louvain, Cologne,
and Nuremberg, subjects of the one, together with the Tours, Amboise,
Geneva, and Sion of the other, exhibit substantial qualities of stone
and wood drawing, together with an ideal appreciation of the present
active vital being of the cities, such as nothing else has ever
approached. Their value is much increased by the circumstance of their
being drawn by the artist's own hand upon the stone, and by the
consequent manly recklessness of subordinate parts, (in works of this
kind, be it remembered, much _is_ subordinate,) which is of all
characters of execution the most refreshing. Note the scrawled middle
tint of the wall behind the Gothic well at Ratisbonne, and compare this
manly piece of work with the wretched smoothness of recent lithography.
Let it not be thought that there is any inconsistency between what I say
here and what I have said respecting finish. This piece of dead wall is
as much finished in relation to its _function_ as a wall of
Ghirlandajo's or Leonardo's in relation to theirs, and the refreshing
quality is the same in both, and manifest in _all_ great masters,
without exception, that of the utter regardlessness of the means so that
their end be reached. The same kind of scrawling occurs often in the
shade of Raffaelle.

§ 32. His excellent composition and color.

It is not only, however, by his peculiar stone touch nor perception of
human character that he is distinguished. He is the most dexterous of
all our artists in a certain kind of composition. No one can place
figures like him, except Turner. It is one thing to know where a piece
of blue or white is wanted, and another to make the wearer of the blue
apron or white cap come there, and not look as if it were against her
will. Prout's streets are the only streets that are accidentally
crowded, his markets are the only markets where one feels inclined to
get out of the way. With others we feel the figures so right where they
are, that we have no expectation of their going anywhere else, and
approve of the position of the man with the wheelbarrow, without the
slightest fear of his running against our legs. One other merit he has,
far less generally acknowledged than it should be: he is among our most
sunny and substantial colorists. Much conventional color occurs in his
inferior pictures (for he is very unequal) and some in all; but portions
are always to be found of quality so luminous and pure that I have found
these works the only ones capable of bearing juxtaposition with Turner
and Hunt, who invariably destroy everything else that comes within
range of them. His most beautiful tones occur in those drawings in which
there is prevalent and powerful warm gray, his most failing ones in
those of sandy red. On his deficiencies I shall not insist, because I am
not prepared to say how far it is possible for him to avoid them. We
have never seen the reconciliation of the peculiar characters he has
obtained with the accurate following out of architectural detail. With
his present modes of execution, farther fidelity is impossible, nor has
any other mode of execution yet obtained the same results; and though
much is unaccomplished by him in certain subjects, and something of
over-mannerism may be traced in his treatment of others, as especially
in his mode of expressing the decorative parts of Greek or Roman
architecture, yet in his own peculiar Gothic territory, where the spirit
of the subject itself is somewhat rude and grotesque, his abstract of
decoration has more of the spirit of the reality than far more laborious
imitation. The spirit of the Flemish Hotel de Ville and decorated street
architecture has never been even in the slightest degree felt or
conveyed except by him, and by him, to my mind, faultlessly and
absolutely; and though his interpretation of architecture that contains
more refined art in its details is far less satisfactory, still it is
impossible, while walking on his favorite angle of the Piazzetta at
Venice, either to think of any other artist than Prout or _not_ to think
of _him_.

§ 33. Modern architectural painting generally. G. Cattermole.

Many other dexterous and agreeable architectural artists we have of
various degrees of merit, but of all of whom, it may be generally said,
that they draw hats, faces, cloaks, and caps much better than Prout, but
figures not so well; that they draw walls and windows but not cities,
mouldings and buttresses but not cathedrals. Joseph Nash's work on the
architecture of the middle ages is, however, valuable, and I suppose
that Haghe's works may be depended on for fidelity. But it appears very
strange that a workman capable of producing the clever drawings he has,
from time to time, sent to the New Society of Painters in Water Colors,
should publish lithographs so conventional, forced, and lifeless.

It is not without hesitation, that I mention a name respecting which
the reader may already have been surprised at my silence, that of G.
Cattermole. There are signs in his works of very peculiar gifts, and
perhaps also of powerful genius; their deficiencies I should willingly
attribute to the advice of ill-judging friends, and to the applause of a
public satisfied with shallow efforts, if brilliant; yet I cannot but
think it one necessary characteristic of all true genius to be misled by
no such false fires. The Antiquarian feeling of Cattermole is pure,
earnest, and natural; and I think his imagination originally vigorous,
certainly his fancy, his grasp of momentary passion considerable, his
sense of action in the human body vivid and ready. But no original
talent, however brilliant, can sustain its energy when the demands upon
it are constant, and all legitimate support and food withdrawn. I do not
recollect in any, even of the most important of Cattermole's works, so
much as a fold of drapery studied out from nature. Violent
conventionalism of light and shade, sketchy forms continually less and
less developed, the walls and the faces drawn with the same stucco
color, alike opaque, and all the shades on flesh, dress, or stone, laid
in with the same arbitrary brown, forever tell the same tale of a mind
wasting its strength and substance in the production of emptiness, and
seeking, by more and more blindly hazarded handling, to conceal the
weakness which the attempt at finish would betray.

This tendency of late, has been painfully visible in his architecture.
Some drawings made several years ago for an annual illustrative of
Scott's works were for the most part pure and finely felt--(though
irrelevant to our present subject, a fall of the Clyde should be
noticed, admirable for breadth and grace of foliage, and for the bold
sweeping of the water, and another subject of which I regret that I can
only judge by the engraving; Glendearg at twilight--the monk Eustace
chased by Christie of the Clint hill--which I think must have been one
of the sweetest pieces of simple Border hill feeling ever painted)--and
about that time his architecture, though always conventionally brown in
the shadows, was generally well drawn, and always powerfully conceived.

Since then, he has been tending gradually through exaggeration to
caricature, and vainly endeavoring to attain by inordinate bulk of
decorated parts, that dignity which is only to be reached by purity of
proportion and majesty of line.

§ 34. The evil in an archæological point of view of misapplied invention
        in architectural subject.

It has pained me deeply, to see an artist of so great original power
indulging in childish fantasticism and exaggeration, and substituting
for the serious and subdued work of legitimate imagination, monstre
machicolations and colossal cusps and crockets. While there is so much
beautiful architecture daily in process of destruction around us, I
cannot but think it treason to _imagine_ anything; at least, if we must
have composition, let the design of the artist be such as the architect
would applaud. But it is surely very grievous, that while our idle
artists are helping their vain inventions by the fall of sponges on
soiled paper, glorious buildings with the whole intellect and history of
centuries concentrated in them, are suffered to fall into unrecorded
ruin. A day does not now pass in Italy without the destruction of some
mighty monument; the streets of all her cities echo to the hammer, half
of her fair buildings lie in separate stones about the places of their
foundation; would not time be better spent in telling us the truth about
these perishing remnants of majestic thought, than in perpetuating the
ill-digested fancies of idle hours? It is, I repeat, treason to the
cause of art for any man to invent, unless he invents something better
than has been invented before, or something differing in kind. There is
room enough for invention in the pictorial treatment of what exists.
There is no more honorable exhibition of imaginative power, than in the
selection of such place, choice of such treatment, introduction of such
incident, as may produce a noble picture without deviation from one line
of the actual truth; and such I believe to be, indeed, in the end the
most advantageous, as well as the most modest direction of the
invention, for I recollect no single instance of architectural
composition by any men except such as Leonardo or Veronese, who could
design their architecture thoroughly before they painted it, which has
not a look of inanity and absurdity. The best landscapes and the best
architectural studies have been views; and I would have the artist take
shame to himself in the exact degree in which he finds himself obliged
in the production of his picture to lose any, even of the smallest parts
or most trivial hues which bear a part in the great impression made by
the reality. The difference between the drawing of the architect and
artist[13] ought never to be, as it now commonly is, the difference
between lifeless formality and witless license; it ought to be between
giving the mere lines and measures of a building, and giving those lines
and measures with the impression and soul of it besides. All artists
should be ashamed of themselves when they find they have not the power
of being true; the right wit of drawing is like the right wit of
conversation, not hyperbole, not violence, not frivolity, only well
expressed, laconic truth.

§ 35. Works of David Roberts: their fidelity and grace.

Among the members of the Academy, we have at present only one
professedly architectural draughtsman of note, David Roberts, whose
reputation is probably farther extended on the continent than that of
any other of our artists, except Landseer. I am not certain, however,
that I have any reason to congratulate either of my countrymen upon this
their European estimation; for I think it exceedingly probable that in
both instances it is exclusively based on their defects; and in the case
of Mr. Roberts, in particular, there has of late appeared more ground
for it than is altogether desirable in a smoothness and over-finish of
texture which bears dangerous fellowship with the work of our Gallic

The fidelity of intention and honesty of system of Roberts have,
however, always been meritorious; his drawing of architecture is
dependent on no unintelligible lines, or blots, or substituted types:
the main lines of the real design are always there, and its hollowness
and undercuttings given with exquisite feeling; his sense of solidity of
form is very peculiar, leading him to dwell with great delight on the
roundings of edges and angles; his execution is dexterous and delicate,
singularly so in oil, and his sense of chiaroscuro refined. But he has
never done himself justice, and suffers his pictures to fall below the
rank they should assume, by the presence of several marring characters,
which I shall name, because it is perfectly in his power to avoid them.
In looking over the valuable series of drawing of the Holy Land, which
we owe to Mr. Roberts, we cannot but be amazed to find how frequently
it has happened that there was something very white immediately in the
foreground, and something very black exactly behind it. The same thing
happens perpetually with Mr. Roberts's pictures; a white column is
always coming out of a blue mist, or a white stone out of a green pool,
or a white monument out of a brown recess, and the artifice is not
always concealed with dexterity. This is unworthy of so skilful a
composer, and it has destroyed the impressiveness as well as the color
of some of his finest works. It shows a poverty of conception, which
appears to me to arise from a deficient habit of study. It will be
remembered that of the sketches for this work, several times exhibited
in London, every one was executed in the same manner, and with about the
same degree of completion: being all of them accurate records of the
main architectural lines, the shapes of the shadows, and the remnants of
artificial color, obtained, by means of the same grays, throughout, and
of the same yellow (a singularly false and cold though convenient color)
touched upon the lights. As far as they went, nothing could be more
valuable than these sketches, and the public, glancing rapidly at their
general and graceful effects, could hardly form anything like an
estimate of the endurance and determination which must have been
necessary in such a climate to obtain records so patient, entire, and
clear, of details so multitudinous as (especially) the hieroglyphics of
the Egyptian temples; an endurance which perhaps only artists can
estimate, and for which we owe a debt of gratitude to Mr. Roberts most
difficult to discharge. But if these sketches were all that the artist
brought home, whatever value is to be attached to them as statements of
fact, they are altogether insufficient for the producing of pictures. I
saw among them no single instance of a downright study; of a study in
which the real hues and shades of sky and earth had been honestly
realized or attempted; nor were there, on the other hand, any of those
invaluable-blotted-five-minutes works which record the unity of some
single and magnificent impressions. Hence the pictures which have been
painted from these sketches have been as much alike in their want of
impressiveness as the sketches themselves, and have never borne the
living aspect of the Egyptian light; it has always been impossible to
say whether the red in them (not a pleasant one) was meant for hot
sunshine or for red sandstone--their power has been farther destroyed by
the necessity the artist seems to feel himself under of eking out their
effect by points of bright foreground color, and thus we have been
encumbered with caftans, pipes, scymetars, and black hair, when all that
we wanted was a lizard, or an ibis. It is perhaps owing to this want of
earnestness in study rather than to deficiency of perception, that the
coloring of this artist is commonly untrue. Some time ago when he was
painting Spanish subjects, his habit was to bring out his whites in
relief from transparent bituminous browns, which though not exactly
right in color, were at any rate warm and agreeable; but of late his
color has become cold, waxy, and opaque, and in his deep shades he
sometimes permits himself the use of a violent black which is altogether
unjustifiable. A picture of Roslin Chapel exhibited in 1844, showed this
defect in the recess to which the stairs descend, in an extravagant
degree; and another exhibited in the British Institution, instead of
showing the exquisite crumbling and lichenous texture of the Roslin
stone, was polished to as vapid smoothness as every French historical
picture. The general feebleness of the effect is increased by the
insertion of the figures as violent pieces of local color unaffected by
the light and unblended with the hues around them, and bearing evidence
of having been painted from models or draperies in the dead light of a
room instead of sunshine. On these deficiencies I should not have
remarked, but that by honest and determined painting from and of nature,
it is perfectly in the power of the artist to supply them; and it is
bitterly to be regretted that the accuracy and elegance of his work
should not be aided by that genuineness of hue and effect which can only
be given by the uncompromising effort to paint not a fine picture but an
impressive and known _verity_.

The two artists whose works it remains for us to review, are men who
have presented us with examples of the treatment of every kind of
subject, and among the rest with portions of architecture which the best
of our exclusively architectural draughtsmen could not excel.

§ 36. Clarkson Stanfield.

The frequent references made to the works of Clarkson Stanfield
throughout the subsequent pages render it less necessary for me to
speak of him here at any length. He is the leader of the English
Realists, and perhaps among the more remarkable of his characteristics
is the look of common-sense and rationality which his compositions will
always bear when opposed to any kind of affectation. He appears to think
of no other artist. What he has learned, has been from his own
acquaintance with and affection for the steep hills and the deep sea;
and his modes of treatment are alike removed from sketchiness or
incompletion, and from exaggeration or effort. The somewhat over-prosaic
tone of his subjects is rather a condescension to what he supposes to be
public feeling, than a sign of want of feeling in himself; for in some
of his sketches from nature or from fancy, I have seen powers and
perceptions manifested of a far higher order than any that are traceable
in his Academy works, powers which I think him much to be blamed for
checking. The portion of his pictures usually most defective in this
respect is the sky, which is apt to be cold and uninventive, always well
drawn, but with a kind of hesitation in the clouds whether it is to be
fair or foul weather; they having neither the joyfulness of rest, nor
the majesty of storm. Their color is apt also to verge on a morbid
purple, as was eminently the case in the large picture of the wreck on
the coast of Holland exhibited in 1844, a work in which both his powers
and faults were prominently manifested, the picture being full of good
painting, but wanting in its entire appeal. There was no feeling of
wreck about it; and, but for the damage about her bowsprit, it would
have been impossible for a landsman to say whether the hull was meant
for a wreck or a guardship. Nevertheless, it is always to be
recollected, that in subjects of this kind it is probable that much
escapes us in consequence of our want of knowledge, and that to the eye
of the seaman much may be of interest and value which to us appears
cold. At all events, this healthy and rational regard of things is
incomparably preferable to the dramatic absurdities which weaker artists
commit in matters marine; and from copper-colored sunsets on green waves
sixty feet high, with cauliflower breakers, and ninepin rocks; from
drowning on planks, and starving on rafts, and lying naked on beaches,
it is really refreshing to turn to a surge of Stanfield's true salt,
serviceable, unsentimental sea. It would be well, however, if he would
sometimes take a higher flight. The castle of Ischia gave him a grand
subject, and a little more invention in the sky, a little less muddiness
in the rocks, and a little more savageness in the sea, would have made
it an impressive picture; it just misses the sublime, yet is a fine
work, and better engraved than usual by the Art Union.

One fault we cannot but venture to find, even in our own extreme
ignorance, with Mr. Stanfield's boats; they never look weather-beaten.
There is something peculiarly precious in the rusty, dusty,
tar-trickled, fishy, phosphorescent brown of an old boat, and when this
has just dipped under a wave and rises to the sunshine it is enough to
drive Giorgione to despair. I have never seen any effort at this by
Stanfield; his boats always look new painted and clean; witness
especially the one before the ship in the wreck picture above noticed;
and there is some such absence of a right sense of color in other
portions of his subject; even his fishermen have always clean jackets
and unsoiled caps, and his very rocks are lichenless. And, by the way,
this ought to be noted respecting modern painters in general, that they
have not a proper sense of the value of dirt; cottage children never
appear but in fresh got-up caps and aprons, and white-handed beggars
excite compassion in unexceptionable rags. In reality, almost all the
colors of things associated with human life derive something of their
expression and value from the tones of impurity, and so enhance the
value of the entirely pure tints of nature herself. Of Stanfield's rock
and mountain drawing enough will be said hereafter. His foliage is
inferior; his architecture admirably drawn, but commonly wanting in
color. His picture of the Doge's palace at Venice was quite clay-cold
and untrue. Of late he has shown a marvellous predilection for the
realization, even to actually relieved texture, of old worm-eaten wood;
we trust he will not allow such fancies to carry him too far.

§ 37. J. M. W. Turner. Force of national feeling in all great painters.

The name I have last to mention is that of J. M. W. Turner. I do not
intend to speak of this artist at present in general terms, because my
constant practice throughout this work is to say, when I speak of an
artist at all, the very truth of what I believe and feel respecting him;
and the truth of what I believe and feel respecting Turner would appear
in this place, unsupported by any proof, mere rhapsody. I shall
therefore here confine myself to a rapid glance at the relations of his
past and present works, and to some notice of what he has failed of
accomplishing: the greater part of the subsequent chapters will be
exclusively devoted to the examination of the new fields over which he
has extended the range of landscape art.

It is a fact more universally acknowledged than enforced or acted upon,
that all great painters, of whatever school, have been great only in
their rendering of what they had seen and felt from early childhood; and
that the greatest among them have been the most frank in acknowledging
this their inability to treat anything successfully but that with which
they had been familiar. The Madonna of Raffaelle was born on the Urbino
mountains, Ghirlandajo's is a Florentine, Bellini's a Venetian; there is
not the slightest effort on the part of any one of these great men to
paint her as a Jewess. It is not the place here to insist farther on a
point so simple and so universally demonstrable. Expression, character,
types of countenance, costume, color, and accessories are with all great
painters whatsoever those of their native land, and that frankly and
entirely, without the slightest attempt at modification; and I assert
fearlessly that it is impossible that it should ever be otherwise, and
that no man ever painted or ever will paint well anything but what he
has early and long seen, early and long felt, and early and long loved.
How far it is possible for the mind of one nation or generation to be
healthily modified and taught by the work of another, I presume not to
determine; but it depends upon whether the energy of the mind which
receives the instruction be sufficient, while it takes out of what it
feeds upon that which is universal and common to all nature, to resist
all warping from national or temporary peculiarities. Nino Pisano got
nothing but good, the modern French nothing but evil, from the study of
the antique; but Nino Pisano had a God and a character. All artists who
have attempted to assume, or in their weakness have been affected by,
the national peculiarities of other times and countries, have instantly,
whatever their original power, fallen to third-rate rank, or fallen
altogether, and have invariably lost their birthright and blessing,
lost their power over the human heart, lost all capability of teaching
or benefiting others. Compare the hybrid classification of Wilson with
the rich English purity of Gainsborough; compare the recent exhibition
of middle-age cartoons for the Houses of Parliament with the works of
Hogarth; compare the sickly modern German imitations of the great
Italians with Albert Durer and Holbein; compare the vile classicality of
Canova and the modern Italians with Mino da Fiesole, Luca della Robbia,
and Andrea del Verrocchio. The manner of Nicolo Poussin is said to be
Greek--it may be so; this only I know, that it is heartless and
profitless. The severity of the rule, however, extends not in full force
to the nationality, but only to the visibility of things; for it is very
possible for an artist of powerful mind to throw himself well into the
feeling of foreign nations of his own time. Thus John Lewis has been
eminently successful in his seizing of Spanish character. Yet it may be
doubted if the seizure be such as Spaniards themselves would
acknowledge; it is probably of the habits of the people more than their
hearts; continued efforts of this kind, especially if their subjects be
varied, assuredly end in failure; Lewis, who seemed so eminently
penetrative in Spain, sent nothing from Italy but complexions and
costumes, and I expect no good from his stay in Egypt. English artists
are usually entirely ruined by residence in Italy, but for this there
are collateral causes which it is not here the place to examine. Be this
as it may, and whatever success may be attained in pictures of slight
and unpretending aim, of genre, as they are called, in the rendering of
foreign character, of this I am certain, that whatever is to be truly
great and affecting must have on it the strong stamp of the native land;
not a law this, but a necessity, from the intense hold on their country
of the affections of all truly great men; all classicality, all
middle-age patent reviving, is utterly vain and absurd; if we are now to
do anything great, good, awful, religious, it must be got out of our own
little island, and out of this year 1846, railroads and all: if a
British painter, I say this in earnest seriousness, cannot make
historical characters out of the British House of Peers, he cannot paint
history; and if he cannot make a Madonna of a British girl of the
nineteenth century, he cannot paint one at all.

§ 38. Influence of this feeling on the choice of Landscape subject.

The rule, of course, holds in landscape; yet so far less
authoritatively, that the material nature of all countries and times is
in many points actually, and in all, in principle, the same; so that
feelings educated in Cumberland, may find their food in Switzerland, and
impressions first received among the rocks of Cornwall, be recalled upon
the precipices of Genoa. Add to this actual sameness, the power of every
great mind to possess itself of the spirit of things once presented to
it, and it is evident, that little limitation can be set to the
landscape painter as to the choice of his field; and that the law of
nationality will hold with him only so far as a certain joyfulness and
completion will be by preference found in those parts of his subject
which remind him of his own land. But if he attempt to impress on his
landscapes any other spirit than that he has felt, and to make them
landscapes of other times, it is all over with him, at least, in the
degree in which such reflected moonshine takes place of the genuine
light of the present day.

The reader will at once perceive how much trouble this simple principle
will save both the painter and the critic; it at once sets aside the
whole school of common composition, and exonerates us from the labor of
minutely examining any landscape which has nymphs or philosophers in it.

It is hardly necessary for us to illustrate this principle by any
reference to the works of early landscape painters, as I suppose it is
universally acknowledged with respect to them; Titian being the most
remarkable instance of the influence of the native air on a strong mind,
and Claude, of that of the classical poison on a weak one; but it is
very necessary to keep it in mind in reviewing the works of our great
modern landscape painter.

§ 39. Its peculiar manifestation in Turner.

I do not know in what district of England Turner first or longest
studied, but the scenery whose influence I can trace most definitely
throughout his works, varied as they are, is that of Yorkshire. Of all
his drawings, I think, those of the Yorkshire series have the most heart
in them, the most affectionate, simple, unwearied, serious finishing of
truth. There is in them little seeking after effect, but a strong love
of place, little exhibition of the artist's own powers or peculiarities,
but intense appreciation of the smallest local minutiæ. These drawings
have unfortunately changed hands frequently, and have been abused and
ill treated by picture dealers and cleaners; the greater number of them,
are now mere wrecks. I name them not as instances, but as proofs of the
artist's study in this district; for the affection to which they owe
their excellence, must have been grounded long years before. It is to be
traced, not only in these drawings of the places themselves, but in the
peculiar love of the painter for rounded forms of hills; not but that he
is right in this on general principles, for I doubt not, that, with his
peculiar feeling for beauty of line, his hills would have been rounded
still, even if he had studied first among the peaks of Cadore; but
rounded to the same extent and with the same delight in their roundness,
they would not have been. It is, I believe, to those broad wooded steeps
and swells of the Yorkshire downs that we in part owe the singular
massiveness that prevails in Turner's mountain drawing, and gives it one
of its chief elements of grandeur. Let the reader open the Liber
Studiorum, and compare the painter's enjoyment of the lines in the Ben
Arthur, with his comparative uncomfortableness among those of the
aiguilles about the Mer de Glace. Great as he is, those peaks would have
been touched very differently by a Savoyard as great as he.

I am in the habit of looking to the Yorkshire drawings, as indicating
one of the culminating points in Turner's career. In these he attained
the highest degree of what he had up to that time attempted, namely,
finish and quantity of form united with expression of atmosphere, and
light without color. His early drawings are singularly instructive in
this definiteness and simplicity of aim. No complicated or brilliant
color is ever thought of in them; they are little more than exquisite
studies in light and shade, very green blues being used for the shadows,
and golden browns for the lights. The difficulty and treachery of color
being thus avoided, the artist was able to bend his whole mind upon the
drawing, and thus to attain such decision, delicacy, and completeness as
have never in any wise been equalled, and as might serve him for a
secure foundation in all after experiments. Of the quantity and
precision of his details, the drawings made for Hakewill's Italy, are
singular examples. The most perfect gem in execution is a little bit on
the Rhine, with reeds in the foreground, in the possession of B. G.
Windus, Esq., of Tottenham; but the Yorkshire drawings seem to be on the
whole the most noble representatives of his art at this period.

About the time of their production, the artist seems to have felt that
he had done either all that could be done, or all that was necessary, in
that manner, and began to reach after something beyond it. The element
of color begins to mingle with his work, and in the first efforts to
reconcile his intense feeling for it with his careful form, several
anomalies begin to be visible, and some unfortunate or uninteresting
works necessarily belong to the period. The England drawings, which are
very characteristic of it, are exceedingly unequal,--some, as the
Oakhampton, Kilgarren, Alnwick, and Llanthony, being among his finest
works; others, as the Windsor from Eton, the Eton College, and the
Bedford, showing coarseness and conventionality.

§ 40. The domestic subjects of the Liber Studiorum.

I do not know at what time the painter first went abroad, but among the
earliest of the series of the Liber Studiorum (dates 1808, 1809,) occur
the magnificent Mont St. Gothard, and little Devil's Bridge. Now it is
remarkable that after his acquaintance with this scenery, so congenial
in almost all respects with the energy of his mind, and supplying him
with materials of which in these two subjects, and in the Chartreuse,
and several others afterwards, he showed both his entire appreciation
and command, the proportion of English to foreign subjects should in the
rest of the work be more than two to one; and that those English
subjects should be--many of them--of a kind peculiarly simple, and of
every-day occurrence, such as the Pembury Mill, the Farm Yard
Composition with the White Horse, that with the Cocks and Pigs, Hedging
and Ditching, Watercress Gatherers (scene at Twickenham,) and the
beautiful and solemn rustic subject called a Watermill; and that the
architectural subjects instead of being taken, as might have been
expected of an artist so fond of treating effects of extended space,
from some of the enormous continental masses are almost exclusively
British; Rivaulx, Holy Island, Dumblain, Dunstanborough, Chepstow, St.
Catherine's, Greenwich Hospital, an English Parish Church, a Saxon Ruin,
and an exquisite Reminiscence of the English Lowland Castle in the
pastoral, with the brook, wooden bridge, and wild duck, to all of which
we have nothing foreign to oppose but three slight, ill-considered, and
unsatisfactory subjects, from Basle, Lauffenbourg, and another Swiss
village; and, further, not only is the preponderance of subject British,
but of affection also; for it is strange with what fulness and
completion the home subjects are treated in comparison with the greater
part of the foreign ones. Compare the figures and sheep in the Hedging
and Ditching, and the East Gate Winchelsea, together with the near
leafage, with the puzzled foreground and inappropriate figures of the
Lake of Thun; or the cattle and road of the St. Catherine's Hill, with
the foreground of the Bonneville; or the exquisite figure with the sheaf
of corn, in the Watermill, with the vintages of the Grenoble subject.

In his foliage the same predilections are remarkable. Reminiscences of
English willows by the brooks, and English forest glades mingle even
with the heroic foliage of the Æsacus and Hesperie, and the Cephalus;
into the pine, whether of Switzerland or the glorious Stone, he cannot
enter, or enters at his peril, like Ariel. Those of the Valley of
Chamounix are fine masses, better pines than other people's, but not a
bit like pines for all that; he feels his weakness, and tears them off
the distant mountains with the mercilessness of an avalanche. The Stone
pines of the two Italian compositions are fine in their arrangement, but
they are very pitiful pines; the glory of the Alpine rose he never
touches; he munches chestnuts with no relish; never has learned to like
olives; and, by the vine, we find him in the foreground of the Grenoble
Alps laid utterly and incontrovertibly on his back.

I adduce these evidences of Turner's nationality (and innumerable others
might be given if need were) not as proofs of weakness but of power; not
so much as testifying want of perception in foreign lands, as strong
hold on his own will; for I am sure that no artist who has not this hold
upon his own will ever get good out of any other. Keeping this principle
in mind, it is instructive to observe the depth and solemnity which
Turner's feeling received from the scenery of the continent, the keen
appreciation up to a certain point of all that is locally
characteristic, and the ready seizure for future use of all valuable

§ 41. Turner's painting of French and Swiss landscape. The latter

Of all foreign countries he has most entirely entered into the spirit of
France; partly because here he found more fellowship of scene with his
own England, partly because an amount of thought which will miss of
Italy or Switzerland, will fathom France; partly because there is in the
French foliage and forms of ground, much that is especially congenial
with his own peculiar choice of form. To what cause it is owing I cannot
tell, nor is it generally allowed or felt; but of the fact I am certain,
that for grace of stem and perfection of form in their transparent
foliage, the French trees are altogether unmatched; and their modes of
grouping and massing are so perfectly and constantly beautiful that I
think of all countries for educating an artist to the perception of
grace, France bears the bell; and that not romantic nor mountainous
France, not the Vosges, nor Auvergne, nor Provence, but lowland France,
Picardy and Normandy, the valleys of the Loire and Seine, and even the
district, so thoughtlessly and mindlessly abused by English travellers,
as uninteresting, traversed between Calais and Dijon; of which there is
not a single valley but is full of the most lovely pictures, nor a mile
from which the artist may not receive instruction; the district
immediately about Sens being perhaps the most valuable from the grandeur
of its lines of poplars and the unimaginable finish and beauty of the
tree forms in the two great avenues without the walls. Of this kind of
beauty Turner was the first to take cognizance, and he still remains the
only, but in himself the sufficient painter of French landscape. One of
the most beautiful examples is the drawing of trees engraved for the
Keepsake, now in the possession of B. G. Windus, Esq.; the drawings made
to illustrate the scenery of the Rivers of France supply instances of
the most varied character.

The artist appears, until very lately, rather to have taken from
Switzerland thoughts and general conceptions of size and of grand form
and effect to be used in his after compositions, than to have attempted
the seizing of its actual character. This was beforehand to be expected
from the utter physical impossibility of rendering certain effects of
Swiss scenery, and the monotony and unmanageableness of others. The
Valley of Chamounix in the collection of Walter Fawkes, Esq., I have
never seen; it has a high reputation; the Hannibal passing the Alps in
its present state exhibits nothing but a heavy shower and a crowd of
people getting wet; another picture in the artist's gallery of a
land-fall is most masterly and interesting, but more daring than
agreeable. The Snowstorm, avalanche, and inundation, is one of his
mightiest works, but the amount of mountain drawing in it is less than
of cloud and effect; the subjects in the Liber Studiorum are on the
whole the most intensely felt, and next to them the vignettes to
Rogers's Poems and Italy. Of some recent drawings of Swiss subject I
shall speak presently.

§ 42. His rendering of Italian character still less successful. His
        large compositions how failing.

The effect of Italy upon his mind is very puzzling. On the one hand, it
gave him the solemnity and power which are manifested in the historical
compositions of the Liber Studiorum, more especially the Rizpah, the
Cephalus, the scene from the Fairy Queen, and the Æsacus and Hesperie:
on the other, he seems never to have entered thoroughly into the spirit
of Italy, and the materials he obtained there were afterwards but
awkwardly introduced in his large compositions.

Of these there are very few at all worthy of him; none but the Liber
Studiorum subjects are thoroughly great, and these are great because
there is in them the seriousness without the materials of other
countries and times. There is nothing particularly indicative of
Palestine in the Barley Harvest of the Rizpah, nor in those round and
awful trees; only the solemnity of the south in the lifting of the near
burning moon. The rocks of the Jason may be seen in any quarry of
Warwickshire sandstone. Jason himself has not a bit of Greek about
him--he is a simple warrior of no period in particular, nay, I think
there is something of the nineteenth century about his legs. When local
character of this classical kind is attempted, the painter is visibly
cramped: awkward resemblances to Claude testify the want of his usual
forceful originality: in the tenth Plague of Egypt, he makes us think of
Belzoni rather than of Moses; the fifth is a total failure, the pyramids
look like brick-kilns, and the fire running along the ground bears
brotherly resemblance to the burning of manure. The realization of the
tenth plague now in his gallery is finer than the study, but still
uninteresting; and of the large compositions which have much of Italy in
them, the greater part are overwhelmed with quantity and deficient in
emotion. The Crossing the Brook is one of the best of these hybrid
pictures; incomparable in its tree drawing, it yet leaves us doubtful
where we are to look and what we are to feel; it is northern in its
color, southern in its foliage, Italy in its details, and England in its
sensations, without the grandeur of the one, or the healthiness of the

The two Carthages are mere rationalizations of Claude, one of them
excessively bad in color, the other a grand thought, and yet one of the
kind which does no one any good, because everything in it is
reciprocally sacrificed; the foliage is sacrificed to the architecture,
the architecture to the water, the water is neither sea, nor river, nor
lake, nor brook, nor canal, and savors of Regent's Park; the foreground
is uncomfortable ground,--let on building leases. So the Caligula's
Bridge, Temple of Jupiter, Departure of Regulus, Ancient Italy, Cicero's
Villa, and such others, come they from whose hand they may, I class
under the general head of "nonsense pictures." There never can be any
wholesome feeling developed in these preposterous accumulations, and
where the artist's feeling fails, his art follows; so that the worst
possible examples of Turner's color are found in pictures of this class;
in one or two instances he has broken through the conventional rules,
and then is always fine, as in the Hero and Leander; but in general the
picture rises in value as it approaches to a view, as the Fountain of
Fallacy, a piece of rich northern Italy, with some fairy waterworks;
this picture was unrivalled in color once, but is now a mere wreck. So
the Rape of Proserpine, though it is singular that in his Academy
pictures even his simplicity fails of reaching ideality; in this picture
of Proserpine the nature is not the grand nature of all time, it is
indubitably modern,[14] and we are perfectly electrified at anybody's
being carried away in the corner except by people with spiky hats and
carabines. This is traceable to several causes; partly to the want of
any grand specific form, partly to the too evident middle-age character
of the ruins crowning the hills, and to a multiplicity of minor causes
which we cannot at present enter into.

§ 43. His views of Italy destroyed by brilliancy and redundant quantity.

Neither in his actual views of Italy has Turner ever caught her true
spirit, except in the little vignettes to Rogers's Poems. The Villa of
Galileo, the nameless composition with stone pines, the several villa
moonlights, and the convent compositions in the Voyage of Columbus, are
altogether exquisite; but this is owing chiefly to their simplicity and
perhaps in some measure to their smallness of size. None of his large
pictures at all equal them; the Bay of Baiæ is encumbered with
material, it contains ten times as much as is necessary to a good
picture, and yet is so crude in color as to look unfinished. The
Palestrina is fall of raw white, and has a look of Hampton Court about
its long avenue; the modern Italy is purely English in its near foliage;
it is composed from Tivoli material enriched and arranged most
dexterously, but it has the look of a rich arrangement, and not the
virtue of the real thing. The early Tivoli, a large drawing taken from
below the falls, was as little true, and still less fortunate, the trees
there being altogether affected and artificial. The Florence engraved in
the Keepsake is a glorious drawing, as far as regards the passage with
the bridge and sunlight on the Arno, the Cascine foliage, and distant
plain, and the towers of the fortress on the left; but the details of
the duomo and the city are entirely missed, and with them the majesty of
the whole scene. The vines and melons of the foreground are disorderly,
and its cypresses conventional; in fact, I recollect no instance of
Turner's drawing a cypress except in general terms.

The chief reason of these failures I imagine to be the effort of the
artist to put joyousness and brilliancy of effect upon scenes eminently
pensive, to substitute radiance for serenity of light, and to force the
freedom and breadth of line which he learned to love on English downs
and Highland moors, out of a country dotted by campaniles and square
convents, bristled with cypresses, partitioned by walls, and gone up and
down by steps.

In one of the cities of Italy he had no such difficulties to encounter.
At Venice he found freedom of space, brilliancy of light, variety of
color, massy simplicity of general form; and to Venice we owe many of
the motives in which his highest powers of color have been displayed
after that change in his system of which we must now take note.

§ 44. Changes introduced by him in the received system of art.

Among the earlier paintings of Turner, the culminating period, marked by
the Yorkshire series in his drawings, is distinguished by great
solemnity and simplicity of subject, prevalent gloom in light and shade,
and brown in the hue, the drawing manly but careful, the minutiæ
sometimes exquisitely delicate. All the finest works of this period are,
I believe, without exception, views, or quiet single thoughts. The
Calder Bridge, belonging to E. Bicknell, Esq., is a most pure and
beautiful example. The Ivy Bridge I imagine to be later, but its rock
foreground is altogether unrivalled and remarkable for its delicacy of
detail; a butterfly is seen settled on one of the large brown stones in
the midst of the torrent. Two paintings of Bonneville, in Savoy, one in
the possession of Abel Allnutt, Esq., the other, and, I think, the
finest, in a collection at Birmingham, show more variety of color than
is usual with him at the period, and are in every respect magnificent
examples. Pictures of this class are of peculiar value, for the larger
compositions of the same period are all poor in color, and most of them
much damaged, but the smaller works have been far finer originally, and
their color seems secure. There is nothing in the range of landscape art
equal to them in their way, but the full character and capacity of the
painter is not in them. Grand as they are in their sobriety, they still
leave much to be desired; there is great heaviness in their shadows, the
material is never thoroughly vanquished, (though this partly for a very
noble reason, that the painter is always thinking of and referring to
nature, and indulges in no artistical conventionalities,) and sometimes
the handling appears feeble. In warmth, lightness, and transparency they
have no chance against Gainsborough; in clear skies and air tone they
are alike unfortunate when they provoke comparison with Claude; and in
force and solemnity they can in no wise stand with the landscape of the

The painter evidently felt that he had farther powers, and pressed
forward into the field where alone they could be brought into play. It
was impossible for him, with all his keen and long-disciplined
perceptions, not to feel that the real color of nature had never been
attempted by any school; and that though conventional representations
had been given by the Venetians of sunlight and twilight, by invariably
rendering the whites golden and the blues green, yet of the actual,
joyous, pure, roseate hues of the external world no record had ever been
given. He saw also that the finish and specific grandeur of nature had
been given, but her fulness, space, and mystery never; and he saw that
the great landscape painters had always sunk the lower middle tints of
nature in extreme shade, bringing the entire melody of color as many
degrees down as their possible light was inferior to nature's; and that
in so doing a gloomy principle had influenced them even in their choice
of subject.

For the conventional color he substituted a pure straightforward
rendering of fact, as far as was in his power; and that not of such fact
as had been before even suggested, but of all that is _most_ brilliant,
beautiful, and inimitable; he went to the cataract for its iris, to the
conflagration for its flames, asked of the sea its intensest azure, of
the sky its clearest gold. For the limited space and defined forms of
elder landscape, he substituted the quantity and the mystery of the
vastest scenes of earth; and for the subdued chiaroscuro he substituted
first a balanced diminution of oppositions throughout the scale, and
afterwards, in one or two instances, attempted the reverse of the old
principle, taking the lowest portion of the scale truly, and merging the
upper part in high light.

§ 45. Difficulties of his later manner. Resultant deficiencies.

Innovations so daring and so various could not be introduced without
corresponding peril: the difficulties that lay in his way were more than
any human intellect could altogether surmount. In his time there has
been no one system of color generally approved; every artist has his own
method and his own vehicle; how to do what Gainsborough did, we know
not; much less what Titian; to invent a new system of color can hardly
be expected of those who cannot recover the old. To obtain perfectly
satisfactory results in color under the new conditions introduced by
Turner, would at least have required the exertion of all his energies in
that sole direction. But color has always been only his second object.
The effects of space and form, in which he delights, often require the
employment of means and method totally at variance with those necessary
for the obtaining of pure color. It is physically impossible, for
instance, rightly to draw certain forms of the upper clouds with the
brush; nothing will do it but the pallet knife with loaded white after
the blue ground is prepared. Now it is impossible that a cloud so drawn,
however glazed afterwards, should have the virtue of a thin warm tint of
Titian's, showing the canvas throughout. So it happens continually. Add
to these difficulties, those of the peculiar subjects attempted, and to
these again, all that belong to the altered system of chiaroscuro, and
it is evident that we must not be surprised at finding many deficiencies
or faults in such works, especially in the earlier of them, nor even
suffer ourselves to be withdrawn by the pursuit of what seems censurable
from our devotion to what is mighty.

Notwithstanding, in some chosen examples of pictures of this kind, I
will name three: Juliet and her Nurse; the Old Temeraire, and the Slave
Ship: I do not admit that there are at the time of their first appearing
on the walls of the Royal Academy, any demonstrably avoidable faults. I
do not deny that there may be, nay, that it is likely there are; but
there is no living artist in Europe whose judgment might safely be taken
on the subject, or who could without arrogance affirm of any part of
such a picture, that it was _wrong_; I am perfectly willing to allow,
that the lemon yellow is not properly representative of the yellow of
the sky, that the loading of the color is in many places disagreeable,
that many of the details are drawn with a kind of imperfection different
from what they would have in nature, and that many of the parts fail of
imitation, especially to an uneducated eye. But no living authority is
of weight enough to prove that the virtues of the picture could have
been obtained at a less sacrifice, or that they are not worth the
sacrifice; and though it is perfectly possible that such may be the
case, and that what Turner has done may hereafter in some respects be
done better, I believe myself that these works are at the time of their
first appearing as perfect as those of Phidias or Leonardo; that is to
say, incapable in their way, of any improvement conceivable by human

Also, it is only by comparison with such that we are authorized to
affirm definite faults in any of his others, for we should have been
bound to speak, at least for the present, with the same modesty
respecting even his worst pictures of this class, had not his more noble
efforts given us canons of criticism.

But, as was beforehand to be expected from the difficulties he grappled
with, Turner is exceedingly unequal; he appears always as a champion in
the thick of fight, sometimes with his foot on his enemies' necks,
sometimes staggered or struck to his knee; once or twice altogether
down. He has failed most frequently, as before noticed, in elaborate
compositions, from redundant quantity; sometimes, like most other men,
from over-care, as very signally in a large and most labored drawing of
Bamborough; sometimes, unaccountably, his eye for color seeming to fail
him for a time, as in a large painting of Rome from the Forum, and in
the Cicero's Villa, Building of Carthage, and the picture of this year
in the British Institution; and sometimes I am sorry to say, criminally,
from taking licenses which he must know to be illegitimate, or indulging
in conventionalities which he does not require.

                 From a painting by Turner.]

§ 46. Reflection of his very recent works.

On such instances I shall not insist, for the finding fault with Turner
is not, I think, either decorous in myself or like to be beneficial to
the reader.[15] The greater number of failures took place in the
transition period, when the artist was feeling for the new qualities,
and endeavoring to reconcile them with more careful elaboration of form
than was properly consistent with them. Gradually his hand became more
free, his perception and grasp of the new truths more certain, and his
choice of subject more adapted to the exhibition of them. But his powers
did not attain their highest results till towards the year 1840, about
which period they did so suddenly, and with a vigor and concentration
which rendered his pictures at that time almost incomparable with those
which had preceded them. The drawings of Nemi, and Oberwesel, in the
possession of B. G. Windus, Esq., were among the first evidences of this
sudden advance; only the foliage in both of these is inferior; and it is
remarkable that in this phase of his art, Turner has drawn little
foliage, and that little badly--the great characteristic of it being
its power, beauty, and majesty of color, and its abandonment of all
littleness and division of thought to a single impression. In the year
1842, he made some drawings from recent sketches in Switzerland; these,
with some produced in the following years, all of Swiss subject, I
consider to be, on the whole, the most characteristic and perfect works
he has ever produced. The Academy pictures were far inferior to them;
but among these examples of the same power were not wanting, more
especially in the smaller pictures of Venice. The Sun of Venice, going
to sea; the San Benedetto, looking towards Fusina; and a view of Murano,
with the Cemetery, were all faultless: another of Venice, seen from near
Fusina, with sunlight and moonlight mixed (1844) was, I think, when I
first saw it, (and it still remains little injured,) the most perfectly
_beautiful_ piece of color of all that I have seen produced by human
hands, by any means, or at any period. Of the exhibition of 1845, I have
only seen a small Venice, (still I believe in the artist's possession,)
and the two whaling subjects. The Venice is a second-rate work, and the
two others altogether unworthy of him.

In conclusion of our present sketch of the course of landscape art, it
may be generally stated that Turner is the only painter, so far as I
know, who has ever drawn the sky, (not the clear sky, which we before
saw belonged exclusively to the religious schools, but the various forms
and phenomena of the cloudy heavens,) all previous artists having only
represented it typically or partially; but he absolutely and
universally: he is the only painter who has ever drawn a mountain, or a
stone; no other man ever having learned their organization, or possessed
himself of their spirit, except in part and obscurely, (the one or two
stones noted of Tintoret's, (Vol. II., Part III. Ch. 3,) are perhaps
hardly enough on which to found an exception in his favor.) He is the
only painter who ever drew the stem of a tree, Titian having come the
nearest before him, and excelling him in the muscular development of the
larger trunks, (though sometimes losing the woody strength in a
serpent-like flaccidity,) but missing the grace and character of the
ramifications. He is the only painter who has ever represented the
surface of calm, or the force of agitated water; who has represented the
effects of space on distant objects, or who has rendered the abstract
beauty of natural color. These assertions I make deliberately, after
careful weighing and consideration, in no spirit of dispute, or
momentary zeal; but from strong and convinced feeling, and with the
consciousness of being able to prove them.

§ 47. Difficulty of demonstration in such subjects.

This proof is only partially and incidentally attempted in the present
portion of this work, which was originally written, as before explained,
for a temporary purpose, and which, therefore, I should have gladly
cancelled, but that, relating as it does only to simple matters of fact
and not to those of feeling, it may still, perhaps, be of service to
some readers who would be unwilling to enter into the more speculative
fields with which the succeeding sections are concerned. I leave,
therefore, nearly as it was originally written, the following
examination of the relative truthfulness of elder and of recent art;
always requesting the reader to remember, as some excuse for the
inadequate execution, even of what I have here attempted, how difficult
it is to express or explain, by language only, those delicate qualities
of the object of sense, on the seizing of which all refined truth of
representation depends. Try, for instance, to explain in language the
exact qualities of the lines on which depend the whole truth and beauty
of expression about the half-opened lips of Raffaelle's St. Catherine.
There is, indeed, nothing in landscape so ineffable as this; but there
is no part nor portion of God's works in which the delicacy appreciable
by a cultivated eye, and necessary to be rendered in art, is not beyond
all expression and explanation; I cannot tell it you, if you do not see
it. And thus I have been entirely unable, in the following pages, to
demonstrate clearly anything of really deep and perfect truth; nothing
but what is coarse and commonplace, in matters to be judged of by the
senses, is within the reach of argument. How much or how little I have
done must be judged of by the reader: how much it is impossible to do I
have more fully shown in the concluding section.

I shall first take into consideration those general truths, common to
all the objects of nature, which are productive of what is usually
called "effect," that is to say, truths of tone, general color, space,
and light. I shall then investigate the truths of specific form and
color, in the four great component parts of landscape--sky, earth,
water, and vegetation.


  [6] Not the large Paradise, but the Fall of Adam, a small picture
    chiefly in brown and gray, near Titian's Assumption. Its companion,
    the Death of Abel, is remarkable as containing a group of trees
    which Turner, I believe accidentally, has repeated nearly mass for
    mass in the "Marly." Both are among the most noble works of this or
    any other master, whether for preciousness of color or energy of

  [7] The triple leaf of this plant, and white flower, stained purple,
    probably gave it strange typical interest among the Christian
    painters. Angelico, in using its leaves mixed with daisies in the
    foreground of his Crucifixion had, I imagine, a view also to its
    chemical property.

  [8] This is no rash method of judgment, sweeping and hasty as it may
    appear. From the weaknesses of an artist, or failures, however
    numerous, we have no right to conjecture his total inability; a time
    may come when he may rise into sudden strength, or an instance occur
    when his efforts shall be successful. But there are some pictures
    which rank not under the head of failures, but of perpetrations or
    commissions; some things which a man cannot do nor say without
    sealing forever his character and capacity. The angel holding the
    cross with his finger in his eye, the roaring red-faced children
    about the crown of thorns, the blasphemous (I speak deliberately and
    determinedly) head of Christ upon the handkerchief, and the mode in
    which the martyrdom of the saint is exhibited (I do not choose to
    use the expressions which alone could characterize it) are perfect,
    sufficient, incontrovertible proofs that whatever appears good in
    any of the doings of such a painter must be deceptive, and that we
    may be assured that our taste is corrupted and false whenever we
    feel disposed to admire him. I am prepared to support this position,
    however uncharitable it may seem; a man may be tempted into a gross
    sin by passion, and forgiven; and yet there are some kinds of sins
    into which only men of a certain kind can be tempted, and which
    cannot be forgiven. It should be added, however, that the artistical
    qualities of these pictures are in every way worthy of the
    conceptions they realize; I do not recollect any instances of color
    or execution so coarse and feelingless.

  [9] It appears not to be sufficiently understood by those artists
    who complain acrimoniously of their positions on the Academy walls,
    that the Academicians have in their own rooms a right to the line
    and the best places near it; in their taking this position there is
    no abuse nor injustice; but the Academicians should remember that
    with their rights they have their duties, and their duty is to
    determine among the works of artists not belonging to their body
    those which are most likely to advance public knowledge and
    judgment, and to give these the best places next their own; neither
    would it detract from their dignity if they occasionally ceded a
    square even of their own territory, as they did gracefully and
    rightly, and, I am sorry to add, disinterestedly, to the picture of
    Paul de la Roche in 1844. Now the Academicians know perfectly well
    that the mass of portrait which encumbers their walls at half height
    is worse than useless, seriously harmful to the public taste, and it
    was highly criminal (I use the word advisedly) that the valuable and
    interesting work of Fielding, of which I have above spoken, should
    have been placed where it was, above three rows of eye-glasses and
    waistcoats. A very beautiful work of Harding's was treated either in
    the same or the following exhibition with still greater injustice.
    Fielding's was merely put out of sight; Harding's where its faults
    were conspicuous and its virtues lost. It was an Alpine scene, of
    which the foreground, rocks, and torrents were painted with
    unrivalled fidelity and precision; the foliage was dexterous, the
    aerial gradations of the mountains tender and multitudinous, their
    forms carefully studied and very grand. The blemish of the picture
    was a buff-colored tower with a red roof; singularly meagre in
    detail, and conventionally relieved from a mass of gloom. The
    picture was placed where nothing but this tower could be seen.

  [10] I have not given any examples in this place, because it is
    difficult to explain such circumstances of effect without diagrams:
    I purpose entering into fuller discussion of the subject with the
    aid of illustration.

  [11] The inscription is to the following effect,--a pleasant thing
    to see upon the walls, were it but more innocently placed:--

                        CAMPO. DI. S. MAURIZIO

                                D I O
                            CONSERVI A NOI.
                       LO ZELANTIS. E. REVERENDIS
                           D. LUIGI. PICCINI.
                     N O V E L L O  P I E V A N O.

                       G L I  E S U L T A N T.

  [12] The quantity of gold with which the decorations of Venice were
    once covered could not now be traced or credited without reference
    to the authority of Gentile Bellini. The greater part of the marble
    mouldings have been touched with it in lines and points, the
    minarets of St. Mark's, and all the florid carving of the arches
    entirely sheeted. The Casa d'Oro retained it on its lions until the
    recent commencement of its Restoration.

  [13] Indeed there should be no such difference at all. Every
    architect ought to be an artist; every very great artist is
    necessarily an architect.

  [14] This passage seems at variance with what has been said of the
    necessity of painting present times and objects. It is not so. A
    great painter makes out of that which he finds before him something
    which is independent of _all_ time. He can only do this out of the
    materials ready to his hand, but that which he builds has the
    dignity of dateless age. A little painter is annihilated by an
    anachronism, and is conventionally antique, and involuntarily

  [15] One point, however, it is incumbent upon me to notice, being no
    question of art but of material. The reader will have observed that
    I strictly limited the perfection of Turner's works to the time of
    their first appearing on the walls of the Royal Academy. It bitterly
    grieves me to have to do this, but the fact is indeed so. No
    _picture_ of Turner's is seen in perfection a month after it is
    painted. The Walhalla cracked before it had been eight days in the
    Academy rooms; the vermilions frequently lose lustre long before the
    exhibition is over; and when all the colors begin to get hard a year
    or two after the picture is painted, a painful deadness and opacity
    comes over them, the whites especially becoming lifeless, and many
    of the warmer passages settling into a hard valueless brown, even if
    the paint remains perfectly firm, which is far from being always the
    case. I believe that in some measure these results are unavoidable,
    the colors being so peculiarly blended and mingled in Turner's
    present manner as almost to necessitate their irregular drying; but
    that they are not necessary to the extent in which they sometimes
    take place, is proved by the comparative safety of some even of the
    more brilliant works. Thus the Old Temeraire is nearly safe in
    color, and quite firm; while the Juliet and her Nurse is now the
    ghost of what it was; the Slaver shows no cracks, though it is
    chilled in some of the darker passages, while the Walhalla and
    several of the recent Venices cracked in the Royal Academy. It is
    true that the damage makes no further progress after the first year
    or two, and that even in its altered state the picture is always
    valuable and records its intention; but it is bitterly to be
    regretted that so great a painter should not leave a single work by
    which in succeeding ages he might be estimated. The fact of his
    using means so imperfect, together with that of his utter neglect of
    the pictures in his own gallery, are a phenomenon in human mind
    which appears to me utterly inexplicable; and both are without
    excuse. If the effects he desires cannot be to their full extent
    produced except by these treacherous means, one picture only should
    be painted each year as an exhibition of immediate power, and the
    rest should be carried out, whatever the expense of labor and time
    in safe materials, even at the risk of some deterioration of
    immediate effect. That which is greatest in him is entirely
    independent of means; much of what he now accomplishes
    illegitimately might without doubt be attained in securer
    modes--what cannot should without hesitation be abandoned.
    Fortunately the drawings appear subject to no such deterioration.
    Many of them are now almost destroyed, but this has been I think
    always through ill treatment, or has been the case only with very
    early works. I have myself known no instance of a drawing properly
    protected, and not rashly exposed to light suffering the slightest
    change. The great foes of Turner, as of all other great colorists
    especially, are the picture cleaner and the mounter.

                                 SECTION II.

                             OF GENERAL TRUTHS.

                                 CHAPTER I.

                             OF TRUTH OF TONE.

§ 1. Meaning of the word "tone:" First, the right relation of objects in
       shadow to the principal light.

As I have already allowed, that in effects of tone, the old masters have
never yet been equalled; and as this is the first, and nearly the last,
concession I shall have to make to them, I wish it at once to be
thoroughly understood how far it extends.

§ 2. Secondly, the quality of color by which it is felt to owe part of
       its brightness to the hue of light upon it.

I understand two things by the word "tone:"--first, the exact relief and
relation of objects against and to each other in substance and darkness,
as they are nearer or more distant, and the perfect relation of the
shades of all of them to the chief light of the picture, whether that be
sky, water, or anything else. Secondly, the exact relation of the colors
to the shadows to the colors of the lights, so that they may be at once
felt to be merely different degrees of the same light; and the accurate
relation among the illuminated parts themselves, with respect to the
degree in which they are influenced by the color of the light itself,
whether warm or cold; so that the whole of the picture (or, where
several tones are united, those parts of it which are under each,) may
be felt to be in one climate, under one kind of light, and in one kind
of atmosphere; this being chiefly dependent on that peculiar and
inexplicable quality of each color laid on, which makes the eye feel
both what is the actual color of the object represented, and that it is
raised to its apparent pitch by illumination. A very bright brown, for
instance, out of sunshine, may be precisely of the same shade of color
as a very dead or cold brown in sunshine, but it will be totally
different in _quality_; and that quality by which the illuminated dead
color would be felt in nature different from the unilluminated bright
one, is what artists are perpetually aiming at, and connoisseurs talking
nonsense about, under the name of "tone." The want of tone in pictures
is caused by objects looking bright in their own positive hue, and not
by illumination, and by the consequent want of sensation of the raising
of their hues by light.

§ 3. Difference between tone in its first sense and aerial perspective.

The first of these meanings of the word "tone" is liable to be
confounded with what is commonly called "aerial perspective." But aerial
perspective is the expression of space, by any means whatsoever,
sharpness of edge, vividness of color, etc., assisted by greater pitch
of shadow, and requires only that objects should be detached from each
other, by degrees of intensity in _proportion_ to their distance,
without requiring that the difference between the farthest and nearest
should be in positive quantity the same that nature has put. But what I
have called "tone" requires that there should be the same sum of
difference, as well as the same division of differences.

§ 4. The pictures of the old masters perfect in relation of middle tints
       to light.

Now the finely toned pictures of the old masters are, in this respect,
some of the notes of nature played two or three octaves below her key;
the dark objects in the middle distance having precisely the same
relation to the light of the sky which they have in nature, but the
light being necessarily infinitely lowered, and the mass of the shadow
deepened in the same degree. I have often been struck, when looking at a
camera-obscuro on a dark day, with the exact resemblance the image bore
to one of the finest pictures of the old masters; all the foliage coming
dark against the sky, and nothing being seen in its mass but here and
there the isolated light of a silvery stem or an unusually illumined
cluster of leafage.

§ 5. And consequently totally false in relation of middle tints to

Now if this could be done consistently, and all the notes of nature
given in this way an octave or two down, it would be right and necessary
so to do: but be it observed, not only does nature surpass us in power
of obtaining light as much as the sun surpasses white paper, but she
also infinitely surpasses us in her power of shade. Her deepest shades
are void spaces from which no light whatever is reflected to the eye;
ours are black surfaces from which, paint as black as we may, a great
deal of light is still reflected, and which, placed against one of
nature's deep bits of gloom, would tell as distinct light. Here we are
then, with white paper for our highest light, and visible illumined
surface for our deepest shadow, set to run the gauntlet against nature,
with the sun for her light, and vacuity for her gloom. It is evident
that _she_ can well afford to throw her material objects dark against
the brilliant aerial tone of her sky, and yet give in those objects
themselves a thousand intermediate distances and tones before she comes
to black, or to anything like it--all the illumined surfaces of her
objects being as distinctly and vividly brighter than her nearest and
darkest shadows, as the sky is brighter than those illumined surfaces.
But if we, against our poor, dull obscurity of yellow paint, instead of
sky, insist on having the same relation of shade in material objects, we
go down to the bottom of our scale at once; and what in the world are we
to do then? Where are all our intermediate distances to come from?--how
are we to express the aerial relations among the parts themselves, for
instance, of foliage, whose most distant boughs are already almost
black?--how are we to come up from this to the foreground, and when we
have done so, how are we to express the distinction between its solid
parts, already as dark as we can make them, and its vacant hollows,
which nature has marked sharp and clear and black, among its lighted
surfaces? It cannot but be evident at a glance, that if to any one of
the steps from one distance to another, we give the same quantity of
difference in pitch of shade which nature does, we must pay for this
expenditure of our means by totally missing half a dozen distances, not
a whit less important or marked, and so sacrifice a multitude of truths,
to obtain one. And this, accordingly was the means by which the old
masters obtained their (truth?) of tone. They chose those steps of
distance which are the most conspicuous and noticeable--that for
instance from sky to foliage, or from clouds to hills--and they gave
these their precise pitch of difference in shade with exquisite accuracy
of imitation. Their means were then exhausted, and they were obliged to
leave their trees flat masses of mere filled-up outline, and to omit
the truths of space in every individual part of their picture by the
thousand. But this they did not care for; it saved them trouble; they
reached their grand end, imitative effect; they thrust home just at the
places where the common and careless eye looks for imitation, and they
attained the broadest and most faithful appearance of truth of tone
which art can exhibit.

§ 6. General falsehood of such a system.

But they are prodigals, and foolish prodigals, in art; they lavish their
whole means to get one truth, and leave themselves powerless when they
should seize a thousand. And is it indeed worthy of being called a
truth, when we have a vast history given us to relate, to the fulness of
which neither our limits nor our language are adequate, instead of
giving all its parts abridged in the order of their importance, to omit
or deny the greater part of them, that we may dwell with verbal fidelity
on two or three? Nay, the very truth to which the rest are sacrificed is
rendered falsehood by their absence, the relation of the tree to the sky
is marked as an impossibility by the want of relation of its parts to
each other.

§ 7. The principle of Turner in this respect.

Turner starts from the beginning with a totally different principle. He
boldly takes pure white (and justly, for it is the sign of the most
intense sunbeams) for his highest light, and lampblack for his deepest
shade; and between these he makes every degree of shade indicative of
separate degree of distance,[16] giving each step of approach, not the
exact difference in pitch which it would have in nature, but a
difference bearing the same proportion to that which his sum of possible
shade bears to the sum of nature's shade; so that an object half way
between his horizon and his foreground, will be exactly in half tint of
force, and every minute division of intermediate space will have just
its proportionate share of the lesser sum, and no more. Hence where the
old masters expressed one distance, he expresses a hundred; and where
they said furlongs, he says leagues. Which of these modes of procedure
be most agreeable with truth, I think I may safely leave the reader to
decide for himself. He will see in this very first instance, one proof
of what we above asserted, that the deceptive imitation of nature is
inconsistent with real truth; for the very means by which the old
masters attained the apparent accuracy of tone which is so satisfying to
the eye, compelled them to give up all idea of real relations of
retirement, and to represent a few successive and marked stages of
distance, like the scenes of a theatre, instead of the imperceptible,
multitudinous, symmetrical retirement of nature, who is not more careful
to separate her nearest bush from her farthest one, than to separate the
nearest bough of that bush from the one next to it.

§ 8. Comparison of N. Poussin's "Phocion,"

Take for instance, one of the finest landscapes that ancient art has
produced--the work of a really great and intellectual mind, the quiet
Nicholas Poussin, in our own National Gallery, with the traveller
washing his feet. The first idea we receive from this picture is, that
it is evening, and all the light coming from the horizon. Not so. It is
full moon, the light coming steep from the left, as is shown by the
shadow of the stick on the right-hand pedestal,--(for if the sun were
not very high, that shadow could not lose itself half way down, and if
it were not lateral, the shadow would slope, instead of being vertical.)
Now, ask yourself, and answer candidly, if those black masses of
foliage, in which scarcely any form is seen but the outline, be a true
representation of trees under noonday sunlight, sloping from the left,
bringing out, as it necessarily would do, their masses into golden
green, and marking every leaf and bough with sharp shadow and sparkling
light. The only truth in the picture is the exact pitch of relief
against the sky of both trees and hills, and to this the organization of
the hills, the intricacy of the foliage, and everything indicative
either of the nature of the light, or the character of the objects, are
unhesitatingly sacrificed. So much falsehood does it cost to obtain two
apparent truths of tone. Or take, as a still more glaring instance, No.
260 in the Dulwich Gallery, where the trunks of the trees, even of those
farthest off, on the left, are as black as paint can make them, and
there is not, and cannot be, the slightest increase of force, or any
marking whatsoever of distance by color, or any other means, between
them and the foreground.

§ 9. With Turner's "Mercury and Argus."

Compare with these, Turner's treatment of his materials in the Mercury
and Argus. He has here his light actually coming from the distance, the
sun being nearly in the centre of the picture, and a violent relief of
objects against it would be far more justifiable than in Poussin's case.
But this dark relief is used in its full force only with the nearest
_leaves_ of the nearest group of foliage overhanging the foreground
from the left; and between these and the more distant members of the
same group, though only three or four yards separate, distinct aerial
perspective and intervening mist and light are shown; while the large
tree in the centre, though very dark, as being very near, compared with
all the distance, is much diminished in intensity of shade from this
nearest group of leaves, and is faint compared with all the foreground.
It is true that this tree has not, in consequence, the actual pitch of
shade against the sky which it would have in nature; but it has
precisely as much as it possibly can have, to leave it the same
proportionate relation to the objects near at hand. And it cannot but be
evident to the thoughtful reader, that whatever trickery or deception
may be the result of a contrary mode of treatment, this is the only
scientific or essentially truthful system, and that what it loses in
tone it gains in aerial perspective.

§ 10. And with the "Datur Hora Quieti."

Compare again the last vignette in Rogers's Poems, the "Datur Hora
Quieti," where everything, even the darkest parts of the trees, is kept
pale and full of graduation; even the bridge where it crosses the
descending stream of sunshine, rather lost in the light than relieved
against it, until we come up to the foreground, and then the vigorous
local black of the plough throws the whole picture into distance and
sunshine. I do not know anything in art which can for a moment be set
beside this drawing for united intensity of light and repose.

Observe, I am not at present speaking of the beauty or desirableness of
the system of the old masters; it may be sublime, and affecting, and
ideal, and intellectual, and a great deal more; but all I am concerned
with at present is, that it is not _true_; while Turner's is the
closest and most studied approach to truth of which the materials of art

§ 11. The second sense of the word "tone."

§ 12. Remarkable difference in this respect between the paintings and
        drawings of Turner.

§ 13. Not owing to want of power over the material.

It was not, therefore, with reference to this division of the subject
that I admitted inferiority in our great modern master to Claude or
Poussin, but with reference to the second and more usual meaning of the
word "tone"--the exact relation and fitness of shadow and light, and of
the hues of all objects under them; and more especially that precious
quality of each color laid on, which makes it appear a quiet color
illuminated, not a bright color in shade. But I allow this inferiority
only with respect to the paintings of Turner, not to his drawings. I
could select from among the works named in Chap. VI. of this section,
pieces of tone absolutely faultless and perfect, from the coolest grays
of wintry dawn to the intense fire of summer noon. And the difference
between the prevailing character of these and that of nearly all the
paintings, (for the early oil pictures of Turner are far less perfect in
tone than the most recent,) it is difficult to account for, but on the
supposition that there is something in the material which modern artists
in general are incapable of mastering, and which compels Turner himself
to think less of tone in oil color, than of other and more important
qualities. The total failures of Callcott, whose struggles after tone
ended so invariably in shivering winter or brown paint, the misfortune
of Landseer with his evening sky in 1842, the frigidity of Stanfield,
and the earthiness and opacity which all the magnificent power and
admirable science of Etty are unable entirely to conquer, are too fatal
and convincing proofs of the want of knowledge of means, rather than of
the absence of aim, in modern artists as a body. Yet, with respect to
Turner, however much the want of tone in his early paintings (the Fall
of Carthage, for instance, and others painted at a time when he was
producing the most exquisite hues of light in water-color) might seem to
favor such a supposition, there are passages in his recent works (such,
for instance, as the sunlight along the sea, in the Slaver) which
directly contradict it, and which prove to us that where he now errs in
tone, (as in the Cicero's Villa,) it is less owing to want of power to
reach it, than to the pursuit of some different and nobler end. I shall
therefore glance at the particular modes in which Turner manages his
tone in his present Academy pictures; the early ones must be given up at
once. Place a genuine untouched Claude beside the Crossing the Brook,
and the difference in value and tenderness of tone will be felt in an
instant, and felt the more painfully because all the cool and
transparent qualities of Claude would have been here desirable, and in
their place, and appear to have been aimed at. The foreground of the
Building of Carthage, and the greater part of the architecture of the
Fall, are equally heavy and evidently paint, if we compare them with
genuine passages of Claude's sunshine. There is a very grand and simple
piece of tone in the possession of J. Allnutt, Esq., a sunset behind
willows, but even this is wanting in refinement of shadow, and is crude
in its extreme distance. Not so with the recent Academy pictures; many
of their passages are absolutely faultless; all are refined and
marvellous, and with the exception of the Cicero's Villa, we shall find
few pictures painted within the last ten years which do not either
present us with perfect tone, or with some higher beauty, to which it is
necessarily sacrificed. If we glance at the requirements of nature, and
her superiority of means to ours, we shall see why and how it is

§ 14. The two distinct qualities of light to be considered.

Light, with reference to the tone it induces on objects, is either to be
considered as neutral and white, bringing out local colors with
fidelity; or colored, and consequently modifying these local tints, with
its own. But the power of pure white light to exhibit local color is
strangely variable. The morning light of about nine or ten is usually
very pure; but the difference of its effect on different days,
independently of mere brilliancy, is as inconceivable as inexplicable.
Every one knows how capriciously the colors of a fine opal vary from day
to day, and how rare the lights are which bring them fully out. Now the
expression of the strange, penetrating, deep, neutral light, which,
while it _alters_ no color, brings every color up to the highest
possible pitch and key of pure, harmonious intensity, is the chief
attribute of finely-toned pictures by the great _colorists_ as opposed
to pictures of equally high tone, by masters who, careless of color, are
content, like Cuyp, to lose local tints in the golden blaze of absorbing

§ 15. Falsehoods by which Titian attains the appearance of quality in

Falsehood, in this neutral tone, if it may be so called, is a matter far
more of feeling than of proof, for any color is _possible_ under such
lights; it is meagreness and feebleness only which are to be avoided;
and these are rather matters of sensation than of reasoning. But it is
yet easy enough to prove by what exaggerated and false means the
pictures most celebrated for this quality are endowed with their
richness and solemnity of color. In the Bacchus and Ariadne of Titian,
it is difficult to imagine anything more magnificently impossible than
the blue of the distant landscape;--impossible, not from its vividness,
but because it is not faint and aerial enough to account for its purity
of color; it is too dark and blue at the same time; and there is indeed
so total a want of atmosphere in it, that, but for the difference of
form, it would be impossible to tell the mountains (intended to be ten
miles off) from the robe of Ariadne close to the spectator. Yet make
this blue faint, aerial, and distant--make it in the slightest degree to
resemble the truth of nature's color--and all the tone of the picture,
all its intensity and splendor, will vanish on the instant. So again, in
the exquisite and inimitable little bit of color, the Europa in the
Dulwich Gallery; the blue of the dark promontory on the left is
thoroughly absurd and impossible, and the warm tones of the clouds
equally so, unless it were sunset; but the blue especially, because it
is nearer than several points of land which are equally in shadow, and
yet are rendered in warm gray. But the whole value and tone of the
picture would be destroyed if this blue were altered.

§ 16. Turner will not use such means.

§ 17. But gains in essential truth by the sacrifice.

§ 18. The second quality of light.

Now, as much of this kind of richness of tone is always given by Turner
as is compatible with truth of aerial effect; but he will not sacrifice
the higher truths of his landscape to mere pitch of color as Titian
does. He infinitely prefers having the power of giving extension of
space, and fulness of form, to that of giving deep melodies of tone; he
feels too much the incapacity of art, with its feeble means of light, to
give the abundance of nature's gradations; and therefore it is, that
taking pure white for his highest expression of light, that even pure
yellow may give him one more step in the scale of shade, he becomes
necessarily inferior in richness of effect to the old masters of tone,
(who always used a golden highest light,) but gains by the sacrifice a
thousand more essential truths. For, though we all know how much more
like light, in the abstract, a finely-toned warm hue will be to the
feelings than white, yet it is utterly impossible to mark the same
number of gradations between such a sobered high light and the deepest
shadow, which we can between this and white; and as these gradations are
absolutely necessary to give the facts of form and distance, which, as
we have above shown, are more important than any truths of tone,[17]
Turner sacrifices the richness of his picture to its completeness--the
manner of the statement to its matter. And not only is he right in doing
this for the sake of space, but he is right also in the abstract
question of color; for as we observed above (Sect. 14,) it is only the
white light--the perfect unmodified group of rays--which will bring out
local color perfectly; and if the picture, therefore, is to be complete
in its system of color, that is, if it is to have each of the three
primitives in their purity, it _must_ have white for its highest light,
otherwise the purity of one of them at least will be impossible. And
this leads us to notice the second and more frequent quality of light,
(which is assumed if we make our highest representation of it yellow,)
the positive hue, namely, which it may itself possess, of course
modifying whatever local tints it exhibits, and thereby rendering
certain colors necessary, and certain colors impossible. Under the
direct yellow light of a descending sun, for instance, pure white and
pure blue are both impossible; because the purest whites and blues that
nature could produce would be turned in some degree into gold or green
by it; and when the sun is within half a degree of the horizon, if the
sky be clear, a rose light supersedes the golden one, still more
overwhelming in its effect on local color. I have seen the pale fresh
green of spring vegetation in the gardens of Venice, on the Lido side,
turned pure russet, or between that and crimson, by a vivid sunset of
this kind, every particle of green color being absolutely annihilated.
And so under all colored lights, (and there are few, from dawn to
twilight, which are not slightly tinted by some accident of
atmosphere,) there is a change of local color, which, when in a picture
it is so exactly proportioned that we feel at once both what the local
colors are in themselves, and what is the color and strength of the
light upon them, gives us truth of tone.

§ 19. The perfection of Cuyp in this respect interfered with by numerous

For expression of effects of yellow sunlight, parts might be chosen out
of the good pictures of Cuyp, which have never been equalled in art. But
I much doubt if there be a single _bright_ Cuyp in the world, which,
taken as a whole, does not present many glaring solecisms in tone. I
have not seen many fine pictures of his, which were not utterly spoiled
by the vermilion dress of some principal figure, a vermilion totally
unaffected and unwarmed by the golden hue of the rest of the picture;
and, what is worse, with little distinction, between its own illumined
and shaded parts, so that it appears altogether out of sunshine, the
color of a bright vermilion in dead, cold daylight. It is possible that
the original color may have gone down in all cases, or that these parts
may have been villanously repainted: but I am the rather disposed to
believe them genuine, because even throughout the best of his pictures
there are evident recurrences of the same kind of solecism in other
colors--greens for instance--as in the steep bank on the right of the
largest picture in the Dulwich Gallery; and browns, as in the lying cow
in the same picture, which is in most visible and painful contrast with
the one standing beside it, the flank of the standing one being bathed
in breathing sunshine, and the reposing one laid in with as dead,
opaque, and lifeless brown as ever came raw from a novice's pallet. And
again, in that marked 83, while the figures on the right are walking in
the most precious light, and those just beyond them in the distance
leave a furlong or two of pure visible sunbeams between us and them, the
cows in the centre are entirely deprived, poor things, of both light and
air. And these failing parts, though they often escape the eye when we
are near the picture and able to dwell upon what is beautiful in it, yet
so injure its whole effect that I question if there be many Cuyps in
which vivid colors occur, which will not lose their effect, and become
cold and flat at a distance of ten or twelve paces, retaining their
influence only when the eye is close enough to rest on the right parts
without including the whole. Take, for instance, the large one in our
National Gallery, seen from the opposite door, where the black cow
appears a great deal nearer than the dogs, and the golden tones of the
distance look like a sepia drawing rather than like sunshine, owing
chiefly to the utter want of aerial grays indicated through them.

§ 20. Turner is not so perfect in parts--far more so in the whole.

Now, there is no instance in the works of Turner of anything so faithful
and imitative of sunshine as the best parts of Cuyp; but at the same
time, there is not a single vestige of the same kind of solecism. It is
true, that in his fondness for color, Turner is in the habit of allowing
excessively cold fragments in big warmest pictures; but these are never,
observe, warm colors with no light upon them, useless as contrasts while
they are discords in the tone; but they are bits of the very coolest
tints, partially removed from the general influence, and exquisitely
valuable as color, though, with all deference be it spoken, I think them
sometimes slightly destructive of what would otherwise be perfect tone.
For instance, the two blue and white stripes on the drifting flag of the
Slave Ship, are, I think, the least degree too purely cool. I think both
the blue and white would be impossible under such a light; and in the
same way the white parts of the dress of the Napoleon interfered by
their coolness with the perfectly managed warmth of all the rest of the
picture. But both these lights are reflexes, and it is nearly impossible
to say what tones may be assumed even by the warmest light reflected
from a cool surface; so that we cannot actually convict these parts of
falsehood, and though we should have liked the _tone_ of the picture
better had they been slightly warmer, we cannot but like the _color_ of
the picture better with them as they are; while Cuyp's failing portions
are not only evidently and demonstrably false, being in direct light,
but are as disagreeable in color as false in tone, and injurious to
everything near them. And the best proof of the grammatical accuracy of
the tones of Turner is in the perfect and unchanging influence of all
his pictures at any distance. We approach only to follow the sunshine
into every cranny of the leafage, and retire only to feel it diffused
over the scene, the whole picture glowing like a sun or star at
whatever distance we stand, and lighting the air between us and it;
while many even of the best pictures of Claude must be looked close into
to be felt, and lose light every foot that we retire. The smallest of
the three seaports in the National Gallery is valuable and right in tone
when we are close to it; but ten yards off, it is all brick-dust,
offensively and evidently false in its whole hue.

§ 21. The power in Turner of uniting a number of tones.

The comparison of Turner with Cuyp and Claude may sound strange in most
ears; but this is chiefly because we are not in the habit of analyzing
and dwelling upon those difficult and daring passages of the modern
master which do not at first appeal to our ordinary notions of truth,
owing to his habit of uniting two, three, or even more separate tones in
the same composition. In this also he strictly follows nature, for
wherever climate changes, tone changes, and the climate changes with
every 200 feet of elevation, so that the upper clouds are always
different in tone from the lower ones, these from the rest of the
landscape, and in all probability, some part of the horizon from the
rest. And when nature allows this in a high degree, as in her most
gorgeous effects she always will, she does not herself impress at once
with intensity of tone, as in the deep and quiet yellows of a July
evening, but rather with the magnificence and variety of associated
color, in which, if we give time and attention to it, we shall gradually
find the solemnity and the depth of twenty tones instead of one. Now in
Turner's power of associating cold with warm light, no one has ever
approached, or even ventured into the same field with him. The old
masters, content with one simple tone, sacrificed to its unity all the
exquisite gradations and varied touches of relief and change by which
nature unites her hours with each other. They gave the warmth of the
sinking sun, overwhelming all things in its gold; but they did not give
those gray passages about the horizon where, seen through its dying
light, the cool and the gloom of night gather themselves for their
victory. Whether it was in them impotence or judgment, it is not for me
to decide. I have only to point to the daring of Turner in this respect,
as something to which art affords no matter of comparison, as that in
which the mere attempt is, in itself, superiority. Take the evening
effect with the Temeraire. That picture will not, at the first glance,
deceive as a piece of actual sunlight; but this is because there is in
it more than sunlight, because under the blazing veil of vaulted fire
which lights the vessel on her last path, there is a blue, deep,
desolate hollow of darkness, out of which you can hear the voice of the
night wind, and the dull boom of the disturbed sea; because the cold,
deadly shadows of the twilight are gathering through every sunbeam, and
moment by moment as you look, you will fancy some new film and faintness
of the night has risen over the vastness of the departing form.

§ 22. Recapitulation.

And if, in effects of this kind, time be taken to dwell upon the
individual tones, and to study the laws of their reconcilement, there
will be found in the recent Academy pictures of this great artist a mass
of various truth to which nothing can be brought for comparison, which
stands not only unrivalled, but uncontended with, and which, when in
carrying out it may be inferior to some of the picked passages of the
old masters, is so through deliberate choice rather to suggest a
multitude of truths than to imitate one, and through a strife with
difficulties of effect of which art can afford no parallel example. Nay,
in the next chapter, respecting color, we shall see farther reason for
doubting the truth of Claude, Cuyp, and Poussin, in tone,--reason so
palpable that if these were all that were to be contended with, I should
scarcely have allowed any inferiority in Turner whatsoever;[18] but I
allow it, not so much with reference to the deceptive imitations of
sunlight, wrought out with desperate exaggerations of shade, of the
professed landscape painters, as with reference to the glory of Rubens,
the glow of Titian, the silver tenderness of Cagliari, and perhaps more
than all to the precious and pure passages of intense feeling and
heavenly light, holy and undefiled, and glorious with the changeless
passion of eternity, which sanctify with their shadeless peace the deep
and noble conceptions of the early school of Italy,--of Fra Bartolomeo,
Perugino, and the early mind of Raffaelle.


  [16] Of course I am not speaking here of treatment of chiaroscuro,
    but of that quantity of depth of shade by which, _coeteris
    paribus_, a near object will exceed a distant one. For the truth of
    the systems of Turner and the old masters, as regards chiaroscuro,
    vide Chapter III. of this Section, § 8.

  [17] More important, observe, _as matters of truth or fact_. It may
    often chance that, as a matter of feeling, the tone is the more
    important of the two; but with this we have here no concern.

  [18] We must not leave the subject of tone without alluding to the
    works of the late George Barrett, which afford glorious and exalted
    passages of light; and John Varley, who, though less truthful in his
    aim, was frequently deep in his feeling. Some of the sketches of De
    Wint are also admirable in this respect. As for our oil pictures,
    the less that is said about them the better. Callcott has the truest
    aim; but not having any eye for color, it is impossible for him to
    succeed in tone.

                                 CHAPTER II.

                             OF TRUTH OF COLOR.

§ 1. Observations on the color of G. Poussin's La Riccia.

There is, in the first room of the National Gallery, a landscape
attributed to Gaspar Poussin, called sometimes Aricia, sometimes Le or
La Riccia, according to the fancy of catalogue printers. Whether it can
be supposed to resemble the ancient Aricia, now La Riccia, close to
Albano, I will not take upon me to determine, seeing that most of the
towns of these old masters are quite as like one place as another; but,
at any rate, it is a town on a hill, wooded with two-and-thirty bushes,
of very uniform size, and possessing about the same number of leaves
each. These bushes are all painted in with one dull opaque brown,
becoming very slightly greenish towards the lights, and discover in one
place a bit of rock, which of course would in nature have been cool and
gray beside the lustrous hues of foliage, and which, therefore, being
moreover completely in shade, is consistently and scientifically painted
of a very clear, pretty, and positive brick-red, the only thing like
color in the picture. The foreground is a piece of road, which in order
to make allowance for its greater nearness, for its being completely in
light, and, it may be presumed, for the quantity of vegetation usually
present on carriage-roads, is given in a very cool green gray, and the
truth of the picture is completed by a number of dots in the sky on the
right, with a stalk to them, of a sober and similar brown.

§ 2. As compared with the actual scene.

Not long ago, I was slowly descending this very bit of carriage-road,
the first turn after you leave Albano, not a little impeded by the
worthy successors of the ancient prototypes of Veiento.[19] It had been
wild weather when I left Rome, and all across the Campagna the clouds
were sweeping in sulphurous blue, with a clap of thunder or two, and
breaking gleams of sun along the Claudian aqueduct lighting up the
infinity of its arches like the bridge of chaos. But as I climbed the
long slope of the Alban mount, the storm swept finally to the north, and
the noble outline of the domes of Albano and graceful darkness of its
ilex grove rose against pure streaks of alternate blue and amber, the
upper sky gradually flushing through the last fragments of rain-cloud in
deep, palpitating azure, half ether and half dew. The noonday sun came
slanting down the rocky slopes of La Riccia, and its masses of entangled
and tall foliage, whose autumnal tints were mixed with the wet verdure
of a thousand evergreens, were penetrated with it as with rain. I cannot
call it color, it was conflagration. Purple, and crimson, and scarlet,
like the curtains of God's tabernacle, the rejoicing trees sank into the
valley in showers of light, every separate leaf quivering with buoyant
and burning life; each, as it turned to reflect or to transmit the
sunbeam, first a torch and then an emerald. Far up into the recesses of
the valley, the green vistas arched like the hollows of mighty waves of
some crystalline sea, with the arbutus flowers dashed along their flanks
for foam, and silver flakes of orange spray tossed into the air around
them, breaking over the gray walls of rock into a thousand separate
stars, fading and kindling alternately as the weak wind lifted and let
them fall. Every glade of grass burned like the golden floor of heaven,
opening in sudden gleams as the foliage broke and closed above it, as
sheet-lightning opens in a cloud at sunset; the motionless masses of
dark rock--dark though flushed with scarlet lichen,--casting their quiet
shadows across its restless radiance, the fountain underneath them
filling its marble hollow with blue mist and fitful sound, and over
all--the multitudinous bars of amber and rose, the sacred clouds that
have no darkness, and only exist to illumine, were seen in fathomless
intervals between the solemn and orbed repose of the stone pines,
passing to lose themselves in the last, white, blinding lustre of the
measureless line where the Campagna melted into the blaze of the sea.

§ 3. Turner himself is inferior in brilliancy to nature.

Tell me who is likest this, Poussin or Turner? Not in his most daring
and dazzling efforts could Turner himself come near it; but you could
not at the time have thought or remembered the work of any other man as
having the remotest hue or resemblance of what you saw. Nor am I
speaking of what is uncommon or unnatural; there is no climate, no
place, and scarcely an hour, in which nature does not exhibit color
which no mortal effort can imitate or approach. For all our artificial
pigments are, even when seen under the same circumstances, dead and
lightless beside her living color; the green of a growing leaf, the
scarlet of a fresh flower, no art nor expedient can reach; but in
addition to this, nature exhibits her hues under an intensity of
sunlight which trebles their brilliancy, while the painter, deprived of
this splendid aid, works still with what is actually a gray shadow
compared to the force of nature's color. Take a blade of grass and a
scarlet flower, and place them so as to receive sunlight beside the
brightest canvas that ever left Turner's easel, and the picture will be
extinguished. So far from out-facing nature, he does not, as far as mere
vividness of color goes, one-half reach her;--but does he use this
brilliancy of color on objects to which it does not properly belong? Let
us compare his works in this respect with a few instances from the old

§ 4. Impossible colors of Salvator, Titian;

There is, on the left hand side of Salvator's Mercury and the Woodman in
our National Gallery, something, without doubt intended for a rocky
mountain, in the middle distance, near enough for all its fissures and
crags to be distinctly visible, or, rather, for a great many awkward
scratches of the brush over it to be visible, which, though not
particularly representative either of one thing or another, are without
doubt intended to be symbolical of rocks. Now no mountain in full light,
and near enough for its details of crag to be seen, is without great
variety of delicate color. Salvator has painted it throughout without
one instant of variation; but this, I suppose, is simplicity and
generalization;--let it pass: but what is the color? _Pure sky blue_,
without one grain of gray, or any modifying hue whatsoever;--the same
brush which had just given the bluest parts of the sky, has been more
loaded at the same part of the pallet, and the whole mountain thrown in
with unmitigated ultramarine. Now mountains only can become pure blue
when there is so much air between us and them that they become mere
flat, dark shades, every detail being totally lost: they become blue
when they become air, and not till then. Consequently this part of
Salvator's painting, being of hills perfectly clear and near, with all
their details visible, is, as far as color is concerned, broad, bold
falsehood--the direct assertion of direct impossibility.

In the whole range of Turner's works, recent or of old date, you will
not find an instance of anything near enough to have details visible,
painted in sky blue. Wherever Turner gives blue, there he gives
atmosphere; it is air, not object. Blue he gives to his sea; so does
nature;--blue he gives, sapphire-deep, to his extreme distance; so does
nature;--blue he gives to the misty shadows and hollows of his hills; so
does nature: but blue he gives _not_, where detail and illumined surface
are visible; as he comes into light and character, so he breaks into
warmth and varied hue; nor is there in one of his works, and I speak of
the Academy pictures especially, one touch of cold color which is not to
be accounted for, and proved right and full of meaning.

I do not say that Salvator's distance is not artist-like; both in that,
and in the yet more glaringly false distances of Titian above alluded
to, and in hundreds of others of equal boldness of exaggeration, I can
take delight, and perhaps should be sorry to see them other than they
are; but it is somewhat singular to hear people talking of Turner's
exquisite care and watchfulness in color as false, while they receive
such cases of preposterous and audacious fiction with the most generous
and simple credulity.

§ 5. Poussin, and Claude.

Again, in the upper sky of the picture of Nicolas Poussin, before
noticed, the clouds are of a very fine clear olive-green, about the same
tint as the brightest parts of the trees beneath them. They cannot have
altered, (or else the trees must have been painted in gray,) for the hue
is harmonious and well united with the rest of the picture, and the blue
and white in the centre of the sky are still fresh and pure. Now a green
sky in open and illumined distance is very frequent, and very beautiful;
but rich olive-green clouds, as far as I am acquainted with nature, are
a piece of color in which she is not apt to indulge. You will be
puzzled to show me such a thing in the recent works of Turner.[20]
Again, take any important group of trees, I do not care whose--Claude's,
Salvator's, or Poussin's--with lateral light (that in the Marriage of
Isaac and Rebecca, or Gaspar's sacrifice of Isaac, for instance:) Can it
be seriously supposed that those murky browns and melancholy greens are
representative of the tints of leaves under full noonday sun? I know
that you cannot help looking upon all these pictures as pieces of dark
relief against a light wholly proceeding from the distances; but they
are nothing of the kind--they are noon and morning effects with full
lateral light. Be so kind as to match the color of a leaf in the sun
(the darkest you like) as nearly as you can, and bring your matched
color and set it beside one of these groups of trees, and take a blade
of common grass, and set it beside any part of the fullest light of
their foregrounds, and then talk about the truth of color of the old

And let not arguments respecting the sublimity or fidelity of
_impression_ be brought forward here. I have nothing whatever to do with
this at present. I am not talking about what is sublime, but about what
is true. People attack Turner on this ground;--they never speak of
beauty or sublimity with respect to him, but of nature and truth, and
let them support their own favorite masters on the same grounds. Perhaps
I may have the very deepest veneration for the _feeling_ of the old
masters, but I must not let it influence me now--my business is to match
colors, not to talk sentiment. Neither let it be said that I am going
too much into details, and that general truths may be obtained by local
falsehood. Truth is only to be measured by close comparison of actual
facts; we may talk forever about it in generals, and prove nothing. We
cannot tell what effect falsehood may produce on this or that person,
but we can very well tell what is false and what is not, and if it
produce on our senses the effect of truth, that only demonstrates their
imperfection and inaccuracy, and need of cultivation. Turner's color is
glaring to one person's sensations, and beautiful to another's. This
proves nothing. Poussin's color is right to one, soot to another. This
proves nothing. There is no means of arriving at any conclusion but
close comparison of both with the known and demonstrable hues of nature,
and this comparison will invariably turn Claude or Poussin into
blackness, and even Turner into gray.

Whatever depth of gloom may seem to invest the objects of a real
landscape, yet a window with that landscape seen through it, will
invariably appear a broad space of light as compared with the shade of
the room walls; and this single circumstance may prove to us both the
intensity and the diffusion of daylight in open air, and the necessity,
if a picture is to be truthful in effect of color, that it should tell
as a broad space of graduated illumination--not, as do those of the old
masters, as a patch-work of black shades. Their works are nature in
mourning weeds,--[Greek: oud hen hêliô katharô tethrammenoi, all hypo
symmigei skia].

§ 6. Turner's translation of colors.

It is true that there are, here and there, in the Academy pictures,
passages in which Turner has translated the unattainable intensity of
one tone of color, into the attainable pitch of a higher one: the golden
green for instance, of intense sunshine on verdure, into pure yellow,
because he knows it to be impossible, with any mixture of blue
whatsoever, to give faithfully its relative intensity of light, and
Turner always will have his light and shade right, whatever it costs him
in color. But he does this in rare cases, and even then over very small
spaces; and I should be obliged to his critics if they would go out to
some warm, mossy green bank in full summer sunshine, and try to reach
its tone; and when they find, as find they will, Indian yellow and
chrome look dark beside it, let them tell me candidly which is nearest
truth, the gold of Turner, or the mourning and murky olive browns and
verdigris greens in which Claude, with the industry and intelligence of
a Sevres china painter, drags the laborious bramble leaves over his
childish foreground.

§ 7. Notice of effects in which no brilliancy of art can even approach
       that of reality.

§ 8. Reasons for the usual incredulity of the observer with respect to
       their representation.

§ 9. Color of the Napoleon.

But it is singular enough that the chief attacks on Turner for
overcharged brilliancy, are made, not when there could by any
possibility be any chance of his outstepping nature, but when he has
taken subjects which no colors of earth could ever vie with or reach,
such, for instance, as his sunsets among the high clouds. When I come to
speak of skies, I shall point out what divisions, proportioned to their
elevation, exist in the character of clouds. It is the highest
region,--that exclusively characterized by white, filmy, multitudinous,
and quiet clouds, arranged in bars, or streaks, or flakes, of which I
speak at present, a region which no landscape painters have ever made
one effort to represent, except Rubens and Turner--the latter taking it
for his most favorite and frequent study. Now we have been speaking
hitherto of what is constant and necessary in nature, of the ordinary
effects of daylight on ordinary colors, and we repeat again, that no
gorgeousness of the pallet can reach even these. But it is a widely
different thing when nature herself takes a coloring fit, and does
something extraordinary, something really to exhibit her power. She has
a thousand ways and means of rising above herself, but incomparably the
noblest manifestations of her capability of color are in these sunsets
among the high clouds. I speak especially of the moment before the sun
sinks, when his light turns pure rose-color, and when this light falls
upon a zenith covered with countless cloud-forms of inconceivable
delicacy, threads and flakes of vapor, which would in common daylight be
pure snow white, and which give therefore fair field to the tone of
light. There is then no limit to the multitude, and no check to the
intensity of the hues assumed. The whole sky from the zenith to the
horizon becomes one molten, mantling sea of color and fire; every black
bar turns into massy gold, every ripple and wave into unsullied,
shadowless, crimson, and purple, and scarlet, and colors for which there
are no words in language, and no ideas in the mind,--things which can
only be conceived while they are visible,--the intense hollow blue of
the upper sky melting through it all,--showing here deep, and pure, and
lightless, there, modulated by the filmy, formless body of the
transparent vapor, till it is lost imperceptibly in its crimson and
gold. Now there is no connection, no one link of association or
resemblance, between those skies and the work of any mortal hand but
Turner's. He alone has followed nature in these her highest efforts; he
follows her faithfully, but far behind; follows at such a distance below
her intensity that the Napoleon of last year's exhibition, and the
Temeraire of the year before, would look colorless and cold if the eye
came upon them after one of nature's sunsets among the high clouds. But
there are a thousand reasons why this should not be believed. The
concurrence of circumstances necessary to produce the sunsets of which I
speak does not take place above five or six times in the summer, and
then only for a space of from five to ten minutes, just as the sun
reaches the horizon. Considering how seldom people think of looking for
sunset at all, and how seldom, if they do, they are in a position from
which it can be fully seen, the chances that their attention should be
awake, and their position favorable, during these few flying instants of
the year, is almost as nothing. What can the citizen, who can see only
the red light on the canvas of the wagon at the end of the street, and
the crimson color of the bricks of his neighbor's chimney, know of the
flood of fire which deluges the sky from the horizon to the zenith? What
can even the quiet inhabitant of the English lowlands, whose scene for
the manifestation of the fire of heaven is limited to the tops of
hayricks, and the rooks' nests in the old elm-trees, know of the mighty
passages of splendor which are tossed from Alp to Alp over the azure of
a thousand miles of champaign? Even granting the constant vigor of
observation, and supposing the possession of such impossible knowledge,
it needs but a moment's reflection to prove how incapable the memory is
of retaining for any time the distinct image of the sources even of its
most vivid impressions. What recollection have we of the sunsets which
delighted us last year? We may know that they were magnificent, or
glowing, but no distinct image of color or form is retained--nothing of
whose _degree_ (for the great difficulty with the memory is to retain,
not facts, but _degrees_ of fact) we could be so certain as to say of
anything now presented to us, that it is like it. If we did say so, we
should be wrong; for we may be quite certain that the energy of an
impression fades from the memory, and becomes more and more indistinct
every day; and thus we compare a faded and indistinct image with the
decision and certainty of one present to the senses. How constantly do
we affirm that the thunder-storm of last week was the most terrible one
we ever saw in our lives, because we compare it, not with the
thunder-storm of last year, but with the faded and feeble recollection
of it. And so, when we enter an exhibition, as we have no definite
standard of truth before us, our feelings are toned down and subdued to
the quietness of color which is all that human power can ordinarily
attain to; and when we turn to a piece of higher and closer truth,
approaching the pitch of the color of nature, but to which we are not
guided, as we should be in nature, by corresponding gradations of light
everywhere around us, but which is isolated and cut off suddenly by a
frame and a wall, and surrounded by darkness and coldness, what can we
expect but that it should surprise and shock the feelings? Suppose,
where the Napoleon hung in the Academy last year, there could have been
left, instead, an opening in the wall, and through that opening, in the
midst of the obscurity of the dim room and the smoke-laden atmosphere,
there could suddenly have been poured the full glory of a tropical
sunset, reverberated from the sea: How would you have shrunk, blinded,
from its scarlet and intolerable lightnings! What picture in the room
would not have been blackness after it? And why then do you blame Turner
because he dazzles you? Does not the falsehood rest with those who do
_not_? There was not one hue in this whole picture which was not far
below what nature would have used in the same circumstances, nor was
there one inharmonious or at variance with the rest;--the stormy
blood-red of the horizon, the scarlet of the breaking sunlight, the rich
crimson browns of the wet and illumined sea-weed; the pure gold and
purple of the upper sky, and, shed through it all, the deep passage of
solemn blue, where the cold moonlight fell on one pensive spot of the
limitless shore--all were given with harmony as perfect as their color
was intense; and if, instead of passing, as I doubt not you did, in the
hurry of your unreflecting prejudice, you had paused but so much as one
quarter of an hour before the picture, you would have found the sense of
air and space blended with every line, and breathing in every cloud, and
every color instinct and radiant with visible, glowing, absorbing light.

§ 10. Necessary discrepancy between the attainable brilliancy of color
        and light.

It is to be observed, however, in general, that wherever in brilliant
effects of this kind, we approach to anything like a true statement of
nature's color, there must yet be a distinct difference in the
impression we convey, because we cannot approach her _light_. All such
hues are usually given by her with an accompanying intensity of sunbeams
which dazzles and overpowers the eye, so that it cannot rest on the
actual colors, nor understand what they are; and hence in art, in
rendering all effects of this kind, there must be a want of the ideas of
_imitation_, which are the great source of enjoyment to the ordinary
observer; because we can only give one series of truths, those of color,
and are unable to give the accompanying truths of light, so that the
more true we are in color, the greater, ordinarily, will be the
discrepancy felt between the intensity of hue and the feebleness of
light. But the painter who really loves nature will not, on this
account, give you a faded and feeble image, which indeed may appear to
you to be right, because your feelings can detect no discrepancy in its
parts, but which he knows to derive its apparent truth from a
systematized falsehood. No; he will make you understand and feel that
art _cannot_ imitate nature--that where it appears to do so, it must
malign her, and mock her. He will give you, or state to you, such truths
as are in his power, completely and perfectly; and those which he cannot
give, he will leave to your imagination. If you are acquainted with
nature, you will know all he has given to be true, and you will supply
from your memory and from your heart that light which he cannot give. If
you are unacquainted with nature, seek elsewhere for whatever may happen
to satisfy your feelings; but do not ask for the truth which you would
not acknowledge and could not enjoy.

§ 11. This discrepancy less in Turner than in other colorists.

§ 12. Its great extent in a landscape attributed to Rubens.

Nevertheless the aim and struggle of the artist must always be to do
away with this discrepancy as far as the powers of art admit, not by
lowering his color, but by increasing his light. And it is indeed by
this that the works of Turner are peculiarly distinguished from those of
all other colorists, by the dazzling intensity, namely, of the light
which he sheds through every hue, and which, far more than their
brilliant color, is the real source of their overpowering effect upon
the eye, an effect so _reasonably_ made the subject of perpetual
animadversion, as if the sun which they represent were quite a quiet,
and subdued, and gentle, and manageable luminary, and never dazzled
anybody, under any circumstances whatsoever. I am fond of standing by a
bright Turner in the Academy, to listen to the unintentional compliments
of the crowd--"What a glaring thing!" "I declare I can't look at it!"
"Don't it hurt your eyes?"--expressed as if they were in the constant
habit of looking the sun full in the face, with the most perfect comfort
and entire facility of vision. It is curious after hearing people malign
some of Turner's noble passages of light, to pass to some really
ungrammatical and false picture of the old masters, in which we have
color given _without_ light. Take, for instance, the landscape
attributed to Rubens, No. 175, in the Dulwich Gallery. I never have
spoken, and I never will speak of Rubens but with the most reverential
feeling; and whatever imperfections in his art may have resulted from
his unfortunate want of seriousness and incapability of true passion,
his calibre of mind was originally such that I believe the world may see
another Titian and another Raffaelle, before it sees another Rubens. But
I have before alluded to the violent license he occasionally assumes;
and there is an instance of it in this picture apposite to the immediate
question. The sudden streak and circle of yellow and crimson in the
middle of the sky of that picture, being the occurrence of a fragment of
a sunset color in pure daylight, and in perfect isolation, while at the
same time it is rather darker, when translated into light and shade,
than brighter than the rest of the sky, is a case of such bold
absurdity, come from whose pencil it may, that if every error which
Turner has fallen into in the whole course of his life were concentrated
into one, that one would not equal it; and as our connoisseurs gaze upon
this with never-ending approbation, we must not be surprised that the
accurate perceptions which thus take delight in pure fiction, should
consistently be disgusted by Turner's fidelity and truth.

§ 13. Turner scarcely ever uses pure or vivid color.

Hitherto, however, we have been speaking of vividness of pure color, and
showing that it is used by Turner only where nature uses it, and in no
less degree. But we have hitherto, therefore, been speaking of a most
limited and uncharacteristic portion of his works; for Turner, like all
great colorists, is distinguished not more for his power of dazzling and
overwhelming the eye with intensity of effect, than for his power of
doing so by the use of subdued and gentle means. There is no man living
more cautious and sparing in the use of pure color than Turner. To say
that he never perpetrates anything like the blue excrescences of
foreground, or hills _shot_ like a housekeeper's best silk gown, with
blue and red, which certain of our celebrated artists consider the
essence of the sublime, would be but a poor compliment. I might as well
praise the portraits of Titian because they have not the grimace and
paint of a clown in a pantomime; but I do say, and say with confidence,
that there is scarcely a landscape artist of the present day, however
sober and lightless their effects may look, who does not employ more
pure and raw color than Turner; and that the ordinary tinsel and trash,
or rather vicious and perilous stuff, according to the power of the mind
producing it, with which the walls of our Academy are half covered,
disgracing, in weak hands, or in more powerful, degrading and corrupting
our whole school of art, is based on a system of color beside which
Turner's is as Vesta to Cotytto--the chastity of fire to the foulness of
earth. Every picture of this great colorist has, in one or two parts of
it, (key-notes of the whole,) points where the system of each individual
color is concentrated by a single stroke, as pure as it can come from
the pallet; but throughout the great space and extent of even the most
brilliant of his works, there will not be found a raw color; that is to
say, there is no warmth which has not gray in it, and no blue which has
not warmth in it; and the tints in which he most excels and distances
all other men, the most cherished and inimitable portions of his color,
are, as with all perfect colorists they must be, his grays.

It is instructive in this respect, to compare the sky of the Mercury
and Argus with the various illustrations of the serenity, space, and
sublimity naturally inherent in blue and pink, of which every year's
exhibition brings forward enough and to spare. In the Mercury and Argus,
the pale and vaporous blue of the heated sky is broken with gray and
pearly white, the gold color of the light warming it more or less as it
approaches or retires from the sun; but throughout, there is not a grain
of pure blue; all is subdued and warmed at the same time by the mingling
gray and gold, up to the very zenith, where, breaking through the flaky
mist, the transparent and deep azure of the sky is expressed with a
single crumbling touch; the key-note of the whole is given, and every
part of it passes at once far into glowing and aerial space. The reader
can scarcely fail to remember at once sundry works in contradistinction
to this, with great names attached to them, in which the sky is a sheer
piece of plumber's and glazier's work, and should be valued per yard,
with heavy extra charge for ultramarine.

§ 14. The basis of gray, under all his vivid hues.

Throughout the works of Turner, the same truthful principle of delicate
and subdued color is carried out with a care and labor of which it is
difficult to form a conception. He gives a dash of pure white for his
highest light; but all the other whites of his picture are pearled down
with gray or gold. He gives a fold of pure crimson to the drapery of his
nearest figure; but all his other crimsons will be deepened with black,
or warmed with yellow. In one deep reflection of his distant sea, we
catch a trace of the purest blue; but all the rest is palpitating with a
varied and delicate gradation of harmonized tint, which indeed looks
vivid blue as a mass, but is only so by opposition. It is the most
difficult, the most rare thing, to find in his works a definite space,
however small, of unconnected color; that is, either of a blue which has
nothing to connect it with the warmth, or of a warm color which has
nothing to connect it with the grays of the whole; and the result is,
that there is a general system and undercurrent of gray pervading the
whole of his color, out of which his highest lights, and those local
touches of pure color, which are, as I said before, the key-notes of the
picture, flash with the peculiar brilliancy and intensity in which he
stands alone.

§ 15. The variety and fulness even of his most simple tones.

§ 16. Following the infinite and unapproachable variety of nature.

Intimately associated with this toning down and connection of the colors
actually used, is his inimitable power of varying and blending them, so
as never to give a quarter of an inch of canvas without a change in it,
a melody as well as a harmony of one kind or another. Observe, I am not
at present speaking of this as artistical or desirable in itself, not as
a characteristic of the great colorist, but as the aim of the simple
follower of nature. For it is strange to see how marvellously nature
varies the most general and simple of her tones. A mass of mountain seen
against the light, may, at first, appear all of one blue; and so it is,
blue as a whole, by comparison with other parts of the landscape. But
look how that blue is made up. There are black shadows in it under the
crags, there are green shadows along the turf, there are gray
half-lights upon the rocks, there are faint touches of stealthy warmth
and cautious light along their edges; every bush, every stone, every
tuft of moss has its voice in the matter, and joins with individual
character in the universal will. Who is there who can do this as Turner
will? The old masters would have settled the matter at once with a
transparent, agreeable, but monotonous gray. Many among the moderns
would probably be equally monotonous with absurd and false colors.
Turner only would give the uncertainty--the palpitating, perpetual
change--the subjection of all to a great influence, without one part or
portion being lost or merged in it--the unity of action with infinity of
agent. And I wish to insist on this the more particularly, because it is
one of the eternal principles of nature, that she will not have one line
nor color, nor one portion nor atom of space without a change in it.
There is not one of her shadows, tints, or lines that is not in a state
of perpetual variation: I do not mean in time, but in space. There is
not a leaf in the world which has the _same color_ visible over its
whole surface; it has a white high light somewhere; and in proportion as
it curves to or from that focus, the color is brighter or grayer. Pick
up a common flint from the roadside, and count, if you can, its changes
and hues of color. Every bit of bare ground under your feet has in it a
thousand such--the gray pebbles, the warm ochre, the green of incipient
vegetation, the grays and blacks of its reflexes and shadows, might
keep a painter at work for a month, if he were obliged to follow them
touch for touch: how much more, when the same infinity of change is
carried out with vastness of object and space. The extreme of distance
may appear at first monotonous; but the least examination will show it
to be full of every kind of change--that its outlines are perpetually
melting and appearing again--sharp here, vague there--now lost
altogether, now just hinted and still confused among each other--and so
forever in a state and necessity of change. Hence, wherever in a
painting we have unvaried color extended even over a small space, there
is falsehood. Nothing can be natural which is monotonous; nothing true
which only tells one story. The brown foreground and rocks of Claude's
Sinon before Priam are as false as color can be: first, because there
never was such a brown under sunlight, for even the sand and cinders
(volcanic tufa) about Naples, granting that he had studied from these
ugliest of all formations, are, where they are fresh fractured, golden
and lustrous in full light compared to these ideals of crag, and become,
like all other rocks, quiet and gray when weathered; and secondly,
because no rock that ever nature stained is without its countless
breaking tints of varied vegetation. And even Stanfield, master as he is
of rock form, is apt in the same way to give us here and there a little
bit of mud, instead of stone.

§ 17. His dislike of purple and fondness for the opposition of yellow and
        black. The principles of nature in this respect.

What I am next about to say with respect to Turner's color, I should
wish to be received with caution, as it admits of dispute. I think that
the first approach to viciousness of color in any master is commonly
indicated chiefly by a prevalence of purple, and an absence of yellow. I
think nature mixes yellow with almost every one of her hues, never, or
very rarely, using red without it, but frequently using yellow with
scarcely any red; and I believe it will be in consequence found that her
favorite opposition, that which generally characterizes and gives tone
to her color, is yellow and black, passing, as it retires, into white
and blue. It is beyond dispute that the great fundamental opposition of
Rubens is yellow and black; and that on this, concentrated in one part
of the picture, and modified in various grays throughout, chiefly depend
the tones of all his finest works. And in Titian, though there is a far
greater tendency to the purple than in Rubens, I believe no red is ever
mixed with the pure blue, or glazed over it, which has not in it a
modifying quantity of yellow. At all events, I am nearly certain that
whatever rich and pure purples are introduced locally, by the great
colorists, nothing is so destructive of all fine color as the slightest
tendency to purple in general tone; and I am equally certain that Turner
is distinguished from all the vicious colorists of the present day, by
the foundation of all his tones being black, yellow, and the
intermediate grays, while the tendency of our common glare-seekers is
invariably to pure, cold, impossible purples. So fond indeed is Turner
of black and yellow, that he has given us more than one composition,
both drawings and paintings, based on these two colors alone, of which
the magnificent Quilleboeuf, which I consider one of the most perfect
pieces of simple color existing, is a most striking example; and I think
that where, as in some of the late Venices, there has been something
like a marked appearance of purple tones, even though exquisitely
corrected by vivid orange and warm green in the foreground, the general
color has not been so perfect or truthful: my own feelings would always
guide me rather to the warm grays of such pictures as the Snow Storm, or
the glowing scarlet and gold of the Napoleon and Slave Ship. But I do
not insist at present on this part of the subject, as being perhaps more
proper for future examination, when we are considering the ideal of

§ 18. His early works are false in color.

The above remarks have been made entirely with reference to the recent
Academy pictures, which have been chiefly attacked for their color. I by
no means intend them to apply to the early works of Turner, those which
the enlightened newspaper critics are perpetually talking about as
characteristic of a time when Turner was "really great." He is, and was,
really great, from the time when he first could hold a brush, but he
never was so great as he is now. The Crossing the Brook, glorious as it
is as a composition, and perfect in all that is most desirable and most
ennobling in art, is scarcely to be looked upon as a piece of color; it
is an agreeable, cool, gray rendering of space and form, but it is not
color; if it be regarded as such, it is thoroughly false and vapid, and
very far inferior to the tones of the same kind given by Claude. The
reddish brown in the foreground of the Fall of Carthage, with all
diffidence be it spoken, is, as far as my feelings are competent to
judge, crude, sunless, and in every way wrong; and both this picture and
the Building of Carthage, though this latter is far the finer of the
two, are quite unworthy of Turner as a colorist.

§ 19. His drawings invariably perfect.

Not so with the drawings; these, countless as they are, from the
earliest to the latest, though presenting an unbroken chain of
increasing difficulty overcome, and truth illustrated, are all,
according to their aim, equally faultless as to color. Whatever we have
hitherto said, applies to them in its fullest extent; though each, being
generally the realization of some effect actually seen, and realized but
once, requires almost a separate essay. As a class, they are far quieter
and chaster than the Academy pictures, and, were they better known,
might enable our connoisseurs to form a somewhat more accurate judgment
of the intense study of nature on which all Turner's color is based.

§ 20. The subjection of his system of color to that of chiaroscuro.

One point only remains to be noted respecting his system of color
generally--its entire subordination to light and shade, a subordination
which there is no need to prove here, as every engraving from his
works--and few are unengraved--is sufficient demonstration of it. I have
before shown the inferiority and unimportance in nature of color, as a
truth, compared with light and shade. That inferiority is maintained and
asserted by all really great works of color; but most by Turner's as
their color is most intense. Whatever brilliancy he may choose to
assume, is subjected to an inviolable law of chiaroscuro, from which
there is no appeal. No richness nor depth of tint is considered of value
enough to atone for the loss of one particle of arranged light. No
brilliancy of hue is permitted to interfere with the depth of a
determined shadow. And hence it is, that while engravings from works far
less splendid in color are often vapid and cold, because the little
color employed has not been rightly based on light and shade, an
engraving from Turner is always beautiful and forcible in proportion as
the color of the original has been intense, and never in a single
instance has failed to express the picture as a perfect
composition.[21] Powerful and captivating and faithful as his color is,
it is the least important of all his excellences, because it is the
least important feature of nature. He paints in color, but he thinks in
light and shade; and were it necessary, rather than lose one line of his
forms, or one ray of his sunshine, would, I apprehend, be content to
paint in black and white to the end of his life. It is by mistaking the
shadow for the substance, and aiming at the brilliancy and the fire,
without perceiving of what deep-studied shade and inimitable form
it is at once the result and the illustration, that the host of his
imitators sink into deserved disgrace. With him, as with all the
greatest painters, and in Turner's more than all, the hue is a beautiful
auxiliary in working out the great impression to be conveyed, but is not
the source nor the essence of that impression; it is little more than a
visible melody, given to raise and assist the mind in the reception of
nobler ideas--as sacred passages of sweet sound, to prepare the feelings
for the reading of the mysteries of God.


  [19]             "Cæcus adulator--
                    Dignus Aricinos qui mendicaret ad axes,
                    Blandaque devexæ iactaret basia rhedæ."

  [20] There is perhaps nothing more characteristic of a great
    colorist than his power of using greens in strange places without
    their being felt as such, or at least than a constant preference of
    green gray to purple gray. And this hue of Poussin's clouds would
    have been perfectly agreeable and allowable, had there been gold or
    crimson enough in the rest of the picture to have thrown it into
    gray. It is only because the lower clouds are pure white and blue,
    and because the trees are of the same color as the clouds, that the
    cloud color becomes false. There is a fine instance of a sky, green
    in itself, but turned gray by the opposition of warm color, in
    Turner's Devonport with the Dockyards.

  [21] This is saying too much; for it not unfrequently happens that
    the light and shade of the original is lost in the engraving, the
    effect of which is afterwards partially recovered, with the aid of
    the artist himself, by introductions of new features. Sometimes,
    when a drawing depends chiefly on color, the engraver gets
    unavoidably embarrassed, and must be assisted by some change or
    exaggeration of the effect; but the more frequent case is, that the
    engraver's difficulties result merely from his inattention to, or
    wilful deviations from his original; and that the artist is obliged
    to assist him by such expedients as the error itself suggests.

    Not unfrequently in reviewing a plate, as very constantly in
    reviewing a picture after some time has elapsed since its
    completion, even the painter is liable to make unnecessary or
    hurtful changes. In the plate of the Old Temeraire, lately published
    in Finden's gallery, I do not know whether it was Turner or the
    engraver who broke up the water into sparkling ripple, but it was a
    grievous mistake, and has destroyed the whole dignity and value of
    the conception. The flash of lightning in the Winchelsea of the
    England series does not exist in the original; it is put in to
    withdraw the attention of the spectator from the sky which the
    engraver destroyed.

    There is an unfortunate persuasion among modern engravers that color
    can be expressed by particular characters of line; and in the
    endeavor to distinguish by different lines, different colors of
    equal depth, they frequently lose the whole system of light and
    shade. It will hardly be credited that the piece of foreground on
    the left of Turner's Modern Italy, represented in the Art-Union
    engraving as nearly coal black, is in the original of a pale warm
    gray, hardly darker than the sky. All attempt to record color in
    engraving, is heraldry out of its place: the engraver has no power
    beyond that of expressing transparency or opacity by greater or less
    openness of line, (for the same depth of tint is producible by lines
    with very different intervals.)

    Texture of surface is only in a measure in the power of the steel,
    and ought not to be laboriously sought after; nature's surfaces are
    distinguished more by form than texture; a stone is often smoother
    than a leaf; but if texture is to be given, let the engraver at
    least be sure that he knows what the texture of the object actually
    is, and how to represent it. The leaves in the foreground of the
    engraved Mercury and Argus have all of them three or four black
    lines across them. What sort of leaf texture is supposed to be
    represented by these? The stones in the foreground of Turner's
    Llanthony received from the artist the powdery texture of sandstone;
    the engraver covered them with contorted lines and turned them into
    old timber.

    A still more fatal cause of failure is the practice of making out or
    finishing what the artist left incomplete. In the England plate of
    Dudley, there are two offensive blank windows in the large building
    with the chimney on the left. These _are_ engraver's improvements;
    in the original they are barely traceable, their lines being
    excessively faint and tremulous as with the movement of heated air
    between them and the spectator: their vulgarity is thus taken away,
    and the whole building left in one grand unbroken mass. It is almost
    impossible to break engravers of this unfortunate habit. I have even
    heard of their taking journeys of some distance in order to obtain
    knowledge of the details which the artist intentionally omitted; and
    the evil will necessarily continue until they receive something like
    legitimate artistical education. In one or two instances, however,
    especially in small plates, they have shown great feeling; the
    plates of Miller (especially those of the Turner illustrations to
    Scott) are in most instances perfect and beautiful interpretations
    of the originals; so those of Goodall in Rogers's works, and
    Cousens's in the Rivers of France; those of the Yorkshire series are
    also very valuable, though singularly inferior to the drawings. But
    none even of these men appear capable of producing a large plate.
    They have no knowledge of the means of rendering their lines vital
    or valuable; cross-hatching stands for everything; and inexcusably,
    for though we cannot expect every engraver to etch like Rembrandt or
    Albert Durer, or every wood-cutter to draw like Titian, at least
    something of the system and power of the grand works of those men
    might be preserved, and some mind and meaning stolen into the
    reticulation of the restless modern lines.

                                 CHAPTER III.

                          OF TRUTH OF CHIAROSCURO.

§ 1. We are not at present to examine particular effects of light.

It is not my intention to enter, in the present portion of the work,
upon any examination of Turner's particular effects of light. We must
know something about what is beautiful before we speak of these.

At present I wish only to insist upon two great principles of
chiaroscuro, which are observed throughout the works of the great modern
master, and set at defiance by the ancients--great general laws, which
may, or may not, be sources of beauty, but whose observance is
indisputably necessary to truth.

Go out some bright sunny day in winter, and look for a tree with a broad
trunk, having rather delicate boughs hanging down on the sunny side,
near the trunk. Stand four or five yards from it, with your back to the
sun. You will find that the boughs between you and the trunk of the tree
are very indistinct, that you confound them in places with the trunk
itself, and cannot possibly trace one of them from its insertion to its
extremity. But the shadows which they cast upon the trunk, you will find
clear, dark, and distinct, perfectly traceable through their whole
course, except when they are interrupted by the crossing boughs. And if
you retire backwards, you will come to a point where you cannot see the
intervening boughs at all, or only a fragment of them here and there,
but can still see their shadows perfectly plain. Now, this may serve to
show you the immense prominence and importance of shadows where there is
anything like bright light. They are, in fact, commonly far more
conspicuous than the thing which casts them, for being as large as the
casting object, and altogether made up of a blackness deeper than the
darkest part of the casting object, (while that object is also broken up
with positive and reflected lights,) their large, broad, unbroken
spaces, tell strongly on the eye, especially as all form is rendered
partially, often totally invisible within them, and as they are suddenly
terminated by the sharpest lines which nature ever shows. For no outline
of objects whatsoever is so sharp as the edge of a close shadow. Put
your finger over a piece of white paper in the sun, and observe the
difference between the softness of the outline of the finger itself and
the decision of the edge of the shadow. And note also the excessive
gloom of the latter. A piece of black cloth, laid in the light, will not
attain one-fourth of the blackness of the paper under the shadow.

§ 2. And therefore the distinctness of shadows is the chief means of
       expressing vividness of light.

§ 3. Total absence of such distinctness in the works of the Italian

§ 4. And partial absence in the Dutch.

Hence shadows are in reality, when the sun is shining, the most
conspicuous thing in a landscape, next to the highest lights. All forms
are understood and explained chiefly by their agency: the roughness of
the bark of a tree, for instance, is not seen in the light, nor in the
shade: it is only seen between the two, where the shadows of the ridges
explain it. And hence, if we have to express vivid light, our very first
aim must be to get the shadows sharp and visible; and this is not to be
done by blackness, (though indeed chalk on white paper is the only thing
which comes up to the intensity of real shadows,) but by keeping them
perfectly flat, keen, and even. A very pale shadow, if it be quite
flat--if it conceal the details of the objects it crosses--if it be gray
and cold compared to their color, and very sharp edged, will be far more
conspicuous, and make everything out of it look a great deal more like
sunlight, than a shadow ten times its depth, shaded off at the edge, and
confounded with the color of the objects on which it falls. Now the old
masters of the Italian school, in almost all of their works, directly
reverse this principle: they blacken their shadows till the picture
becomes quite appalling, and everything in it invisible; but they make a
point of losing their edges, and carrying them off by gradation; in
consequence utterly destroying every appearance of sunlight. All their
shadows are the faint, secondary darknesses of mere _daylight_; the sun
has nothing whatever to do with them. The shadow between the pages of
the book which you hold in your hand is distinct and visible enough,
(though you are, I suppose, reading it by the ordinary daylight of your
room,) out of the sun; and this weak and secondary shadow is all that we
ever find in the Italian masters, as indicative of sunshine. Even Cuyp
and Berghem, though they know thoroughly well what they are about in
their foregrounds, forget the principle in their distances; and though
in Claude's seaports, where he has plain architecture to deal with, he
gives us something like real shadows along the stones, the moment we
come to ground and foliage with lateral light, away go the shadows and
the sun together. In the Marriage of Isaac and Rebecca, in our own
gallery, the trunks of the trees between the water-wheel and the white
figure in the middle distance, are dark and visible; but their shadows
are scarcely discernible on the ground, and are quite vague and lost in
the building. In nature, every bit of the shadow would have been darker
than the darkest part of the trunks, and both on the ground and building
would have been defined and conspicuous; while the trunks themselves
would have been faint, confused, and indistinguishable, in their
illumined parts, from the grass or distance. So in Poussin's Phocion,
the shadow of the stick on the stone in the right-hand corner, is shaded
off and lost, while you see the stick plain all the way. In nature's
sunlight it would have been the direct reverse--you would have seen the
shadow black and sharp all the way down, but you would have had to look
for the stick, which in all probability would in several places have
been confused with the stone behind it.

And so throughout the works of Claude, Poussin, and Salvator, we shall
find, especially in their conventional foliage, and unarticulated
barbarisms of rock, that their whole sum and substance of chiaroscuro is
merely the gradation and variation which nature gives in the _body_ of
her shadows, and that all which they do to express sunshine, she does to
vary shade. They take only one step, while she always takes two;
marking, in the first place, with violent decision, the great transition
from sun to shade, and then varying the shade itself with a thousand
gentle gradations and double shadows, in themselves equivalent, and more
than equivalent, to all that the old masters did for their entire

§ 5. The perfection of Turner's works in this respect.

Now if there be one principle, or secret more than another, on which
Turner depends for attaining brilliancy of light, it is his clear and
exquisite drawing of the _shadows_. Whatever is obscure, misty, or
undefined in his objects or his atmosphere, he takes care that the
shadows be sharp and clear--and then he knows that the light will take
care of itself, and he makes them clear, not by blackness, but by
excessive evenness, unity, and sharpness of edge. He will keep them
clear and distinct, and make them felt as shadows, though they are so
faint, that, but for their decisive forms, we should not have observed
them for darkness at all. He will throw them one after another like
transparent veils, along the earth and upon the air, till the whole
picture palpitates with them, and yet the darkest of them will be a
faint gray, imbued and penetrated with light. The pavement on the left
of the Hero and Leander, is about the most thorough piece of this kind
of sorcery that I remember in art; but of the general principle, not one
of his works is without constant evidence. Take the vignette of the
garden opposite the title-page of Rogers's Poems, and note the drawing
of the nearest balustrade on the right. The balusters themselves are
faint and misty, and the light through them feeble; but the shadows of
them are sharp and dark, and the intervening light as intense as it can
be left. And see how much more distinct the shadow of the running figure
is on the pavement, than the checkers of the pavement itself. Observe
the shadows on the trunk of the tree at page 91, how they conquer all
the details of the trunk itself, and become darker and more conspicuous
than any part of the boughs or limbs, and so in the vignette to
Campbell's Beechtree's Petition. Take the beautiful concentration of all
that is most characteristic of Italy as she is, at page 168 of Rogers's
Italy, where we have the long shadows of the trunks made by far the most
conspicuous thing in the whole foreground, and hear how Wordsworth, the
keenest-eyed of all modern poets for what is deep and essential in
nature, illustrates Turner here, as we shall find him doing in all other

                                          "At the root
           Of that tall pine, the shadow of whose bare
           And slender stem, while here I sit at eve,
           Oft stretches tow'rds me, like a long straight path,
           Traced faintly in the greensward."

                                              EXCURSION, Book VI

§ 6. The effect of his shadows upon the light.

So again in the Rhymer's Glen, (Illustrations to Scott,) note the
intertwining of the shadows across the path, and the checkering of the
trunks by them; and again on the bridge in the Armstrong's Tower; and
yet more in the long avenue of Brienne, where we have a length of two or
three miles expressed by the playing shadows alone, and the whole
picture filled with sunshine by the long lines of darkness cast by the
figures on the snow. The Hampton Court in the England series, is another
very striking instance. In fact, the general system of execution
observable in all Turner's drawings, is to work his grounds richly and
fully, sometimes stippling, and giving infinity of delicate, mysterious,
and ceaseless detail; and on the ground so prepared to cast his shadows
with one dash of the brush, leaving an excessively sharp edge of watery
color. Such at least is commonly the case in such coarse and broad
instances as those I have above given. Words are not accurate enough,
nor delicate enough to express or trace the constant, all-pervading
influence of the finer and vaguer shadows throughout his works, that
thrilling influence which gives to the light they leave, its passion and
its power. There is not a stone, not a leaf, not a cloud, over which
light is not felt to be actually passing and palpitating before our
eyes. There is the motion, the actual wave and radiation of the darted
beam--not the dull universal daylight, which falls on the landscape
without life, or direction, or speculation, equal on all things and dead
on all things; but the breathing, animated, exulting light, which feels,
and receives, and rejoices, and acts--which chooses one thing and
rejects another--which seeks, and finds, and loses again--leaping from
rock to rock, from leaf to leaf, from wave to wave,--glowing, or
flashing, or scintillating, according to what it strikes, or in its
holier moods, absorbing and enfolding all things in the deep fulness of
its repose, and then again losing itself in bewilderment, and doubt, and
dimness; or perishing and passing away, entangled in drifting mist, or
melted into melancholy air, but still,--kindling, or declining,
sparkling or still, it is the living light, which breathes in its
deepest, most entranced rest, which sleeps, but never dies.

§ 7. The distinction holds good between almost all the works of the
       ancient and modern schools.

I need scarcely insist farther on the marked distinction between the works
of the old masters and those of the great modern landscape-painters in
this respect. It is one which the reader can perfectly well work out for
himself, by the slightest systematic attention,--one which he will find
existing, not merely between this work and that, but throughout the whole
body of their productions, and down to every leaf and line. And a little
careful watching of nature, especially in her foliage and foregrounds,
and comparison of her with Claude, Gaspar Poussin, and Salvator, will
soon show him that those artists worked entirely on conventional
principles, not representing what they saw, but what they thought would
make a handsome picture; and even when they went to nature, which I
believe to have been a very much rarer practice with them than their
biographers would have us suppose, they copied her like children, drawing
what they knew to be there, but not what they saw there.[22] I believe
you may search the foregrounds of Claude, from one end of Europe to
another, and you will not find the shadow of one leaf cast upon another.
You will find leaf after leaf painted more or less boldly or brightly out
of the black ground, and you will find dark leaves defined in perfect
form upon the light; but you will not find the form of a single leaf
disguised or interrupted by the shadow of another. And Poussin and
Salvator are still farther from anything like genuine truth. There is
nothing in their pictures which might not be manufactured in their
painting-room, with a branch or two of brambles and a bunch or two of
weeds before them, to give them the form of the leaves. And it is
refreshing to turn from their ignorant and impotent repetitions of
childish conception, to the clear, close, genuine studies of modern
artists; for it is not Turner only, (though here, as in all other points,
the first,) who is remarkable for fine and expressive decision of
chiaroscuro. Some passages by J. D. Harding are thoroughly admirable in
this respect, though this master is getting a little too much into a
habit of general keen execution, which prevents the parts which ought to
be especially decisive from being felt as such, and which makes his
pictures, especially the large ones, look a little thin. But some of his
later passages of rock foreground have, taken in the abstract, been
beyond all praise, owing to the exquisite forms and firm expressiveness
of their shadows. And the chiaroscuro of Stanfield is equally deserving
of the most attentive study.

§ 8. Second great principle of chiaroscuro. Both high light and deep
       shadow are used in equal quantity and only in points.

The second point to which I wish at present to direct attention has
reference to the _arrangement_ of light and shade. It is the constant
habit of nature to use both her highest lights and deepest shadows in
exceedingly small quantity; always in points, never in masses. She will
give a large mass of tender light in sky or water, impressive by its
quantity, and a large mass of tender shadow relieved against it, in
foliage, or hill, or building; but the light is always subdued if it be
extensive--the shadow always feeble if it be broad. She will then fill
up all the rest of her picture with middle tints and pale grays of some
sort or another, and on this quiet and harmonious whole, she will touch
her high lights in spots--the foam of an isolated wave--the sail of a
solitary vessel--the flash of the sun from a wet roof--the gleam of a
single whitewashed cottage--or some such sources of local brilliancy,
she will use so vividly and delicately as to throw everything else into
definite shade by comparison. And then taking up the gloom, she will use
the black hollows of some overhanging bank, or the black dress of some
shaded figure, or the depth of some sunless chink of wall or window, so
sharply as to throw everything else into definite light by comparison;
thus reducing the whole mass of her picture to a delicate middle tint,
approaching, of course, here to light, and there to gloom; but yet
sharply separated from the utmost degrees either of the one or the

§ 9. Neglect or contradiction of this principle by writers on art.

§ 10. And consequent misguiding of the student.

Now it is a curious thing that none of our writers on art seem to have
noticed the great principle of nature in this respect. They all talk of
deep shadow as a thing that may be given in quantity,--one fourth of the
picture, or, in certain effects, much more. Barry, for instance, says
that the practice of the great painters, who "best understood the
effects of chiaroscuro," was, for the most part, to make the mass of
middle tint larger than the light, and the mass of dark larger than the
masses of light and middle tint together, _i.e._, occupying more than
one-half of the picture. Now I do not know what we are to suppose is
meant by "understanding chiaroscuro." If it means being able to
manufacture agreeable patterns in the shape of pyramids, and crosses,
and zigzags, into which arms and legs are to be persuaded, and passion
and motion arranged, for the promotion and encouragement of the cant of
criticism, such a principle may be productive of the most advantageous
results. But if it means, being acquainted with the deep, perpetual,
systematic, unintrusive simplicity and unwearied variety of nature's
chiaroscuro--if it means the perception that blackness and sublimity are
not synonymous, and that space and light may possibly be
coadjutors--then no man, who ever advocated or dreamed of such a
principle, is anything more than a novice, blunderer and trickster in
chiaroscuro. And my firm belief is, that though color is inveighed
against by all artists, as the great Circe of art--the great transformer
of mind into sensuality--no fondness for it, no study of it, is half so
great a peril and stumbling-block to the young student, as the
admiration he hears bestowed on such artificial, false, and juggling
chiaroscuro, and the instruction he receives, based on such principles
as that given us by Fuseli--that "mere natural light and shade, however
separately or individually true, is not always legitimate chiaroscuro in
art." It may not always be _agreeable_ to a sophisticated, unfeeling,
and perverted mind; but the student had better throw up his art at once,
than proceed on the conviction that any other can ever be _legitimate_.
I believe I shall be perfectly well able to prove, in following parts of
the work, that "mere natural light and shade" is the only fit and
faithful attendant of the highest art; and that all tricks--all visible,
intended arrangement--all extended shadows and narrow lights--everything
in fact, in the least degree artificial, or tending to make the mind
dwell upon light and shade as such, is an injury, instead of an aid, to
conceptions of high ideal dignity. I believe I shall be able also to
show, that nature manages her chiaroscuro a great deal more neatly and
cleverly than people fancy;--that "mere natural light and shade" is a
very much finer thing than most artists can put together, and that none
think they can improve upon it but those who never understood it.

§ 11. The great value of a simple chiaroscuro.

But however this may be, it is beyond dispute that every permission
given to the student to amuse himself with painting one figure all
black, and the next all white, and throwing them out with a background
of nothing--every permission given to him to spoil his pocketbook with
sixths of sunshine and sevenths of shade, and other such fractional
sublimities, is so much more difficulty laid in the way of his ever
becoming a master; and that none are in the right road to real
excellence, but those who are struggling to render the simplicity,
purity, and inexhaustible variety of nature's own chiaroscuro in open,
cloudless daylight, giving the expanse of harmonious light--the
speaking, decisive shadow--and the exquisite grace, tenderness, and
grandeur of aerial opposition of local color and equally illuminated
lines. No chiaroscuro is so difficult as this; and none so noble,
chaste, or impressive. On this part of the subject, however, I must not
enlarge at present. I wish now only to speak of those great principles
of chiaroscuro, which nature observes, even when she is most working for
effect--when she is playing with thunder-clouds and sunbeams, and
throwing one thing out and obscuring another, with the most marked
artistical feeling and intention;--even then, she never forgets her
great rule, to give precisely the same quantity of deepest shade which
she does of highest light, and no more; points of the one answering to
points of the other, and both vividly conspicuous and separated from all
the rest of the landscape.

§ 12. The sharp separation of nature's lights from her middle tint.

And it is most singular that this separation, which is the great source
of brilliancy in nature, should not only be unobserved, but absolutely
forbidden by our great writers on art, who are always talking about
connecting the light with the shade by _imperceptible gradations_. Now
so surely as this is done, all sunshine is lost, for imperceptible
gradation from light to dark is the characteristic of objects seen out
of sunshine, in what is, in landscape, shadow. Nature's principle of
getting light is the direct reverse. She will cover her whole landscape
with middle tint, in which she will have as many gradations as you
please, and a great many more than you can paint; but on this middle
tint she touches her extreme lights, and extreme darks, isolated and
sharp, so that the eye goes to them directly, and feels them to be
key-notes of the whole composition. And although the dark touches are
less attractive than the light ones, it is not because they are less
distinct, but because they exhibit nothing; while the bright touches are
in parts where everything is seen, and where in consequence the eye goes
to rest. But yet the high lights do not exhibit anything in themselves,
they are too bright and dazzle the eye; and having no shadows in them,
cannot exhibit form, for form can only be seen by shadow of some kind or
another. Hence the highest lights and deepest darks agree in this, that
nothing is seen in either of them; that both are in exceedingly small
quantity, and both are marked and distinct from the middle tones of the
landscape--the one by their brilliancy, the other by their sharp edges,
even though many of the more energetic middle tints may approach their
intensity very closely.

§ 13. The truth of Turner.

I need scarcely do more than tell you to glance at any one of the works
of Turner, and you will perceive in a moment the exquisite observation
of all these principles; the sharpness, decision, conspicuousness, and
excessively small quantity, both of extreme light and extreme shade, all
the mass of the picture being graduated and delicate middle tint. Take
up the Rivers of France, for instance, and turn over a few of the plates
in succession.

  1. Chateau Gaillard (vignette.)--Black figures and boats, points of
shade; sun-touches on castle, and wake of boat, of light. See how the
eye rests on both, and observe how sharp and separate all the lights
are, falling in spots, edged by shadow, but not melting off into it.

  2. Orleans.--The crowded figures supply both points of shade and light.
Observe the delicate middle tint of both in the whole mass of buildings,
and compare this with the blackness of Canaletto's shadows, against
which neither figures nor anything else can ever tell, as points of

  3. Blois.--White figures in boats, buttresses of bridge, dome of church
on the right, for light; woman on horseback, heads of boats, for shadow.
Note especially the isolation of the light on the church dome.

  4. Chateau de Blois.--Torches and white figures for light, roof of
chapel and monks' dresses for shade.

  5. Beaugency.--Sails and spire opposed to buoy and boats. An exquisite
instance of brilliant, sparkling, isolated touches of morning light.

  6. Amboise.--White sail and clouds; cypresses under castle.

  7. Chateau of Amboise.--The boat in the centre, with its reflections,
needs no comment. Note the glancing lights under the bridge. This is a
very glorious and perfect instance.

  8. St. Julien, Tours.--Especially remarkable for its preservation of
deep points of gloom, because the whole picture is one of extended

I need scarcely go on. The above instances are taken as they happen to
come, without selection. The reader can proceed for himself. I may,
however, name a few cases of chiaroscuro more especially deserving of
his study. Scene between Quilleboeuf and Villequier,--Honfleur,--Light
Towers of the Héve,--On the Seine between Mantes and Vernon,--The
Lantern at St. Cloud,--Confluence of Seine and Marne,--Troyes,--the
first and last vignette, and those at pages 36, 63, 95, 184, 192, 203,
of Rogers's poems; the first and second in Campbell, St. Maurice in the
Italy, where note the black stork; Brienne, Skiddaw, Mayburgh, Melrose,
Jedburgh, in the illustrations to Scott, and the vignettes to Milton,
not because these are one whit superior to others of his works, but
because the laws of which we have been speaking are more strikingly
developed in them, and because they have been well engraved. It is
impossible to reason from the larger plates, in which half the
chiaroscuro is totally destroyed by the haggling, blackening, and
"making out" of the engravers.


  [22] Compare Sect. II. Chap. II. § 6.

                                 CHAPTER IV.


§ 1. Space is more clearly indicated by the drawing of objects than by
       their hue.

In the first chapter of this section I noticed the distinction between
real aerial perspective, and that overcharged contrast of light and
shade by which the old masters obtained their deceptive effect; and I
showed that, though inferior to them in the precise quality or tone of
aerial color, our great modern master is altogether more truthful in the
expression of the proportionate relation of all his distances to one
another. I am now about to examine those modes of expressing space, both
in nature and art by far the most important, which are dependent, not on
the relative hues of objects, but on the _drawing_ of them: by far the
most important, I say, because the most constant and certain; for nature
herself is not always aerial. Local effects are frequent which interrupt
and violate the laws of aerial tone, and induce strange deception in our
ideas of distance. I have often seen the summit of a snowy mountain look
nearer than its base, owing to the perfect clearness of the upper air.
But the _drawing_ of objects, that is to say, the degree in which their
details and parts are distinct or confused, is an unfailing and certain
criterion of their distance; and if this be rightly rendered in a
painting, we shall have genuine truth of space, in spite of many errors
in aerial tone; while, if this be neglected, all space will be
destroyed, whatever dexterity of tint may be employed to conceal the
defective drawing.

§ 2. It is impossible to see objects at unequal distances distinctly at
       one moment.

First, then, it is to be noticed, that the eye, like any other lens,
must have its focus altered, in order to convey a distinct image of
objects at different distances; so that it is totally impossible to see
distinctly, at the same moment, two objects, one of which is much
farther off than another. Of this, any one may convince himself in an
instant. Look at the bars of your window-frame, so as to get a clear
image of their lines and form, and you cannot, while your eye is fixed
on them, perceive anything but the most indistinct and shadowy images of
whatever objects may be visible beyond. But fix your eyes on those
objects, so as to see them clearly, and though they are just beyond and
apparently beside the window-frame, that frame will only be felt or seen
as a vague, flitting, obscure interruption to whatever is perceived
beyond it. A little attention directed to this fact will convince every
one of its universality, and prove beyond dispute that objects at
unequal distances cannot be seen together, not from the intervention of
air or mist, but from the impossibility of the rays proceeding from
both, converging to the same focus, so that the whole impression, either
of one or the other, must necessarily be confused, indistinct, and

§ 3. Especially such as are both comparatively near.

But, be it observed (and I have only to request that whatever I say may
be tested by immediate experiment,) the difference of focus necessary is
greatest within the first five hundred yards, and therefore, though it
is totally impossible to see an object ten yards from the eye, and one a
quarter of a mile beyond it, at the same moment, it is perfectly
possible to see one a quarter of a mile off, and one five miles beyond
it, at the same moment. The consequence of this is, practically, that in
a real landscape, we can see the whole of what would be called the
middle distance and distance together, with facility and clearness; but
while we do so we can see nothing in the foreground beyond a vague and
indistinct arrangement of lines and colors; and that if, on the
contrary, we look at any foreground object, so as to receive a distinct
impression of it, the distance and middle distance become all disorder
and mystery.

§ 4. In painting, therefore, either the foreground or distance must be
       partially sacrificed.

And therefore, if in a painting our foreground is anything, our distance
must be nothing, and _vice versa_; for if we represent our near and
distant objects as giving both at once that distinct image to the eye,
which we receive in nature from each, when we look at them
separately;[24] and if we distinguish them from each other only by the
air-tone; and indistinctness dependent on positive distance, we violate
one of the most essential principles of nature; we represent that as
seen at once which can only be seen by two separate acts of seeing, and
tell a falsehood as gross as if we had represented four sides of a cubic
object visible together.

§ 5. Which not being done by the old masters, they could not express

§ 6. But modern artists have succeeded in fully carrying out this

§ 7. Especially of Turner.

Now, to this fact and principle, no landscape painter of the old school,
as far as I remember, ever paid the slightest attention. Finishing their
foregrounds clearly and sharply, and with vigorous impression on the
eye, giving even the leaves of their bushes and grass with perfect edge
and shape, they proceeded into the distance with equal attention to what
they could see of its details--they gave all that the eye can perceive
in a distance, when it is fully and entirely devoted to it, and
therefore, though masters of aerial tone, though employing every
expedient that art could supply to conceal the intersection of lines,
though caricaturing the force and shadow of near objects to throw them
close upon the eye, they _never_ succeeded in truly representing space.
Turner introduced a new era in landscape art, by showing that the
foreground might be sunk for the distance, and that it was possible to
express immediate proximity to the spectator, without giving anything
like completeness to the forms of the near objects. This is not done by
slurred or soft lines, observe, (always the sign of vice in art,) but by
a decisive imperfection, a firm, but partial assertion of form, which
the eye feels indeed to be close home to it, and yet cannot rest upon,
or cling to, nor entirely understand, and from which it is driven away
of necessity, to those parts of distance on which it is intended to
repose. And this principle, originated by Turner, though fully carried
out by him only, has yet been acted on with judgment and success by
several less powerful artists of the English school. Some six years ago,
the brown moorland foregrounds of Copley Fielding were very instructive
in this respect. Not a line in them was made out, not a single object
clearly distinguishable. Wet broad sweeps of the brush, sparkling,
careless, and accidental as nature herself, always truthful as far as
they went, implying knowledge, though not expressing it, suggested
everything, while they represented nothing. But far off into the
mountain distance came the sharp edge and the delicate form; the whole
intention and execution of the picture being guided and exerted where
the great impression of space and size was to be given. The spectator
was compelled to go forward into the waste of hills--there, where the
sun broke wide upon the moor, he must walk and wander--he could not
stumble and hesitate over the near rocks, nor stop to botanize on the
first inches of his path.[25] And the impression of these pictures was
always great and enduring, as it was simple and truthful. I do not know
anything in art which has expressed more completely the force and
feeling of nature in these particular scenes. And it is a farther
illustration[26] of the principle we are insisting upon, that where, as
in some of his later works, he has bestowed more labor on the
foreground, the picture has lost both in space and sublimity. And among
artists in general, who are either not aware of the principle, or fear
to act upon it, (for it requires no small courage, as well as skill, to
treat a foreground with that indistinctness and mystery which they have
been accustomed to consider as characteristic of distance,) the
foreground is not only felt, as every landscape painter will confess, to
be the most embarrassing and unmanageable part of the picture, but, in
ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, will go near to destroy the effect
of the rest of the composition. Thus Callcott's Trent is severely
injured by the harsh group of foreground figures; and Stanfield very
rarely gets through an Academy picture without destroying much of its
space, by too much determination of near form; while Harding constantly
sacrifices his distance, and compels the spectator to dwell on the
foreground altogether, though indeed, with such foregrounds as he gives
us, we are most happy so to do. But it is in Turner only that we see a
bold and decisive choice of the distance and middle distance, as his
great object of attention; and by him only that the foreground is united
and adapted to it, not by any want of drawing, or coarseness, or
carelessness of execution, but by the most precise and beautiful
indication or suggestion of just so much of even the minutest forms as
the eye can see when its focus is not adapted to them. And herein is
another reason for the vigor and wholeness of the effect of Turner's
works at any distance; while those of almost all other artists are sure
to lose space as soon as we lose sight of the details.

§ 8. Justification of the want of drawing in Turner's figures.

And now we see the reason for the singular, and to the ignorant in art,
the offensive execution of Turner's figures. I do not mean to assert
that there is any reason whatsoever, for _bad_ drawing, (though in
landscape it matters exceedingly little;) but that there is both reason
and necessity for that _want_ of drawing which gives even the nearest
figures round balls with four pink spots in them instead of faces, and
four dashes of the brush instead of hands and feet; for it is totally
impossible that if the eye be adapted to receive the rays proceeding
from the utmost distance, and some partial impression from all the
distances, it should be capable of perceiving more of the forms and
features of near figures than Turner gives. And how absolutely necessary
to the faithful representation of space this indecision really is, might
be proved with the utmost ease by any one who had veneration enough for
the artist to sacrifice one of his pictures to his fame; who would take
some one of his works in which the figures were most incomplete, and
have them painted in by any of our delicate and first-rate
figure-painters, absolutely preserving every color and shade of Turner's
group, so as not to lose one atom of the composition, but giving eyes
for the pink spots, and feet for the white ones. Let the picture be so
exhibited in the Academy, and even novices in art would feel at a glance
that its truth of space was gone, that every one of its beauties and
harmonies had undergone decomposition, that it was now a grammatical
solecism, a painting of impossibilities, a thing to torture the eye, and
offend the mind.


  [23] I have left this chapter in its original place, because I am
    more than ever convinced of the truth of the position advanced in
    the 8th paragraph; nor can I at present assign any other cause, than
    that here given, for what is there asserted; and yet I cannot but
    think that I have allowed far too much influence to a change so
    slight as that which we insensibly make in the focus of the eye; and
    that the real justification of Turner's practice, with respect to
    some of his foregrounds, is to be elsewhere sought. I leave the
    subject, therefore, to the reader's consideration.

  [24] This incapacity of the eye must not be confounded with its
    incapability to comprehend a large portion of _lateral_ space at
    once. We indeed can see, at any one moment, little more than one
    point, the objects beside it being confused and indistinct; but we
    need pay no attention to this in art, because we can see just as
    little of the picture as we can of the landscape without turning the
    eye, and hence any slurring or confusing of one part of it,
    laterally, more than another, is not founded on any truth of nature,
    but is an expedient of the artist--and often an excellent and
    desirable one--to make the eye rest where he wishes it. But as the
    touch expressive of a distant object is as near upon the canvas as
    that expressive of a near one, both are seen distinctly and with the
    same focus of the eye, and hence an immediate contradiction of
    nature results, unless one or other be given with an artificial and
    increased indistinctness, expressive of the appearance peculiar to
    the unadapted focus. On the other hand, it must be noted that the
    greater part of the effect above described is consequent not on
    variation of focus, but on the different angle at which near objects
    are seen by each of the two eyes, when both are directed towards the

  [25] There is no inconsistency, observe, between this passage and
    what was before asserted respecting the necessity of botanical
    fidelity--where the foreground is the object of attention. Compare
    Part II. Sect. I. Chap. VII. § 10:--"To paint mist rightly, space
    rightly, and light rightly, it may be often necessary to paint
    _nothing else_ rightly."

  [26] Hardly. It would have been so only had the recently finished
    foregrounds been as accurate in detail as they are abundant: they
    are painful, I believe, not from their finish, but their falseness.

                                 CHAPTER V.

                            THE POWER OF THE EYE.

§ 1. The peculiar indistinctness dependent on the retirement of objects
       from the eye.

In the last chapter, we have seen how indistinctness of individual
distances becomes necessary in order to express the adaptation of the
eye to one or other of them; we have now to examine that kind of
indistinctness which is dependent on real retirement of the object even
when the focus of the eye is fully concentrated upon it. The first kind
of indecision is that which belongs to all objects which the eye is not
adapted to, whether near or far off: the second is that consequent upon
the want of power in the eye to receive a clear image of objects at a
great distance from it, however attentively it may regard them.

Draw on a piece of white paper, a square and a circle, each about a
twelfth or eighth of an inch in diameter, and blacken them so that their
forms may be very distinct; place your paper against the wall at the end
of the room, and retire from it a greater or less distance according as
you have drawn the figures larger or smaller. You will come to a point
where, though you can see both the spots with perfect plainness, you
cannot tell which is the square and which the circle.

§ 2. Causes confusion, but not annihilation of details.

Now this takes place of course with every object in a landscape, in
proportion to its distance and size. The definite forms of the leaves of
a tree, however sharply and separately they may appear to come against
the sky, are quite indistinguishable at fifty yards off, and the form of
everything becomes confused before we finally lose sight of it. Now if
the character of an object, say the front of a house, be explained by a
variety of forms in it, as the shadows in the tops of the windows, the
lines of the architraves, the seams of the masonry, etc.; these lesser
details, as the object falls into distance, become confused and
undecided, each of them losing their definite forms, but all being
perfectly visible as something, a white or a dark spot or stroke, not
lost sight of, observe, but yet so seen that we cannot tell what they
are. As the distance increases, the confusion becomes greater, until at
last the whole front of the house becomes merely a flat, pale space, in
which, however, there is still observable a kind of richness and
checkering, caused by the details in it, which, though totally merged
and lost in the mass, have still an influence on the texture of that
mass; until at last the whole house itself becomes a mere light or dark
spot which we can plainly see, but cannot tell what it is, nor
distinguish it from a stone or any other object.

§ 3. Instances in various objects.

Now what I particularly wish to insist upon, is the state of vision in
which all the details of an object are seen, and yet seen in such
confusion and disorder that we cannot in the least tell what they are,
or what they mean. It is not mist between us and the object, still less
is it shade, still less is it want of character; it is a confusion, a
mystery, an interfering of undecided lines with each other, not a
diminution of their number; window and door, architrave and frieze, all
are there: it is no cold and vacant mass, it is full and rich and
abundant, and yet you cannot see a single form so as to know what it is.
Observe your friend's face as he is coming up to you; first it is
nothing more than a white spot; now it is a face, but you cannot see the
two eyes, nor the mouth, even as spots; you see a confusion of lines, a
something which you know from experience to be indicative of a face, and
yet you cannot tell how it is so. Now he is nearer, and you can see the
spots for the eyes and mouth, but they are not blank spots neither;
there is detail in them; you cannot see the lips, nor the teeth, nor the
brows, and yet you see more than mere spots; it is a mouth and an eye,
and there is light and sparkle and expression in them, but nothing
distinct. Now he is nearer still, and you can see that he is like your
friend, but you cannot tell whether he is or not; there is a vagueness
and indecision of line still. Now you are sure, but even yet there are a
thousand things in his face which have their effect in inducing the
recognition, but which you cannot see so as to know what they are.

§ 4. Two great resultant truths; that nature is never distinct, and
       never vacant.

Changes like these, and states of vision corresponding to them, take
place with each and all of the objects of nature, and two great
principles of truth are deducible from their observation. First, place
an object as close to the eye as you like, there is always something in
it which you _cannot_ see, except in the hinted and mysterious manner
above described. You can see the texture of a piece of dress, but you
cannot see the individual threads which compose it, though they are all
felt, and have each of them influence on the eye. Secondly, place an
object as far from the eye as you like, and until it becomes itself a
mere spot, there is always something in it which you _can_ see, though
only in the hinted manner above described. Its shadows and lines and
local colors are not lost sight of as it retires; they get mixed and
indistinguishable, but they are still there, and there is a difference
always perceivable between an object possessing such details and a flat
or vacant space. The grass blades of a meadow a mile off, are so far
discernible that there will be a marked difference between its
appearance and that of a piece of wood painted green. And thus nature is
never distinct and never vacant, she is always mysterious, but always
abundant; you always see something, but you never see all.

And thus arise that exquisite finish and fulness which God has appointed
to be the perpetual source of fresh pleasure to the cultivated and
observant eye,--a finish which no distance can render invisible, and no
nearness comprehensible; which in every stone, every bough, every cloud,
and every wave is multiplied around us, forever presented, and forever
exhaustless. And hence in art, every space or touch in which we can see
everything, or in which we can see nothing, is false. Nothing can be
true which is either complete or vacant; every touch is false which does
not suggest more than it represents, and every space is false which
represents nothing.

§ 5. Complete violation of both these principles by the old masters.
       They are either distinct or vacant.

Now, I would not wish for any more illustrative or marked examples of
the total contradiction of these two great principles, than the
landscape works of the old masters, taken as a body:--the Dutch masters
furnishing the cases of seeing everything, and the Italians of seeing
nothing. The rule with both is indeed the same, differently applied.
"You shall see the bricks in the wall, and be able to count them, or you
shall see nothing but a dead flat;" but the Dutch give you the bricks,
and the Italians the flat. Nature's rule being the precise reverse--"You
shall never be able to count the bricks, but you shall never see a dead

§ 6. Instances from Nicholas Poussin.

Take, for instance, the street in the centre of the really great
landscape of Poussin (great in feeling at least) marked 260 in the
Dulwich Gallery. The houses are dead square masses with a light side and
a dark side, and black touches for windows. There is no suggestion of
anything in any of the spaces, the light wall is dead gray, the dark
wall dead gray, and the windows dead black. How differently would nature
have treated us. She would have let us see the Indian corn hanging on
the walls, and the image of the Virgin at the angles, and the sharp,
broken, broad shadows of the tiled eaves, and the deep ribbed tiles with
the doves upon them, and the carved Roman capital built into the wall,
and the white and blue stripes of the mattresses stuffed out of the
windows, and the flapping corners of the mat blinds. All would have been
there; not as such, not like the corn, nor blinds, nor tiles, not to be
comprehended nor understood, but a confusion of yellow and black spots
and strokes, carried far too fine for the eye to follow, microscopic in
its minuteness, and filling every atom and part of space with mystery,
out of which would have arranged itself the general impression of truth
and life.

§ 7. From Claude.

Again, take the distant city on the right bank of the river in Claude's
Marriage of Isaac and Rebecca, in the National Gallery. I have seen many
cities in my life, and drawn not a few; and I have seen many
fortifications, fancy ones included, which frequently supply us with
very new ideas indeed, especially in matters of proportion; but I do not
remember ever having met with either a city or a fortress _entirely_
composed of round towers of various heights and sizes, all facsimiles of
each other, and absolutely agreeing in the number of battlements. I
have, indeed, some faint recollection of having delineated such an one
in the first page of a spelling-book when I was four years old; but,
somehow or other, the dignity and perfection of the ideal were not
appreciated, and the volume was not considered to be increased in value
by the frontispiece. Without, however, venturing to doubt the entire
sublimity of the same ideal as it occurs in Claude, let us consider how
nature, if she had been fortunate enough to originate so perfect a
conception, would have managed it in its details. Claude has permitted
us to see every battlement, and the first impulse we feel upon looking
at the picture is to count how many there are. Nature would have given
us a peculiar confused roughness of the upper lines, a multitude of
intersections and spots, which we should have known from experience was
indicative of battlements, but which we might as well have thought of
creating as of counting. Claude has given you the walls below in one
dead void of uniform gray. There is nothing to be seen, nor felt, nor
guessed at in it; it is gray paint or gray shade, whichever you may
choose to call it, but it is nothing more. Nature would have let you
see, nay, would have compelled you to see, thousands of spots and lines,
not one to be absolutely understood or accounted for, but yet all
characteristic and different from each other; breaking lights on
shattered stones, vague shadows from waving vegetation, irregular stains
of time and weather, mouldering hollows, sparkling casements--all would
have been there--none, indeed, seen as such, none comprehensible or like
themselves, but all visible; little shadows, and sparkles, and
scratches, making that whole space of color a transparent, palpitating,
various infinity.

§ 8. And G. Poussin.

Or take one of Poussin's extreme distances, such as that in the
Sacrifice of Isaac. It is luminous, retiring, delicate and perfect in
tone, and is quite complete enough to deceive and delight the careless
eye to which all distances are alike; nay, it is perfect and masterly,
and absolutely right if we consider it as a sketch,--as a first plan of
a distance, afterwards to be carried out in detail. But we must remember
that all these alternate spaces of gray and gold are not the landscape
itself, but the treatment of it--not its substance, but its light and
shade. They are just what nature would cast over it, and write upon it
with every cloud, but which she would cast in play, and without
carefulness, as matters of the very smallest possible importance. All
her work and her attention would be given to bring out from underneath
this, and through this, the forms and the material character which this
can only be valuable to illustrate, not to conceal. Every one of those
broad spaces she would linger over in protracted delight, teaching you
fresh lessons in every hairsbreadth of it, and pouring her fulness of
invention into it, until the mind lost itself in following her,--now
fringing the dark edge of the shadow with a tufted line of level
forest--now losing it for an instant in a breath of mist--then breaking
it with the white gleaming angle of a narrow brook--then dwelling upon
it again in a gentle, mounded, melting undulation, over the other side
of which she would carry you down into a dusty space of soft, crowded
light, with the hedges, and the paths, and the sprinkled cottages and
scattered trees mixed up and mingled together in one beautiful,
delicate, impenetrable mystery--sparkling and melting, and passing away
into the sky, without one line of distinctness, or one instant of

§ 9. The imperative necessity, in landscape painting, of fulness and

Now it is, indeed, impossible for the painter to follow all this--he
cannot come up to the same degree and order of infinity--but he can give
us a lesser kind of infinity. He has not one-thousandth part of the
space to occupy which nature has; but he can, at least, leave no part of
that space vacant and unprofitable. If nature carries out her minutiæ
over miles, he has no excuse for generalizing in inches. And if he will
only give us all he can, if he will give us a fulness as complete and as
mysterious as nature's, we will pardon him for its being the fulness of
a cup instead of an ocean. But we will not pardon him, if, because he
has not the mile to occupy, he will not occupy the inch, and because he
has fewer means at his command, will leave half of those in his power
unexerted. Still less will we pardon him for mistaking the sport of
nature for her labor, and for following her only in her hour of rest,
without observing how she has worked for it. After spending centuries in
raising the forest, and guiding the river, and modelling the mountain,
she exults over her work in buoyancy of spirit, with playful sunbeam and
flying cloud; but the painter must go through the same labor, or he must
not have the same recreation. Let him chisel his rock faithfully, and
tuft his forest delicately, and then we will allow him his freaks of
light and shade, and thank him for them; but we will not be put off with
the play before the lesson--with the adjunct instead of the
essence--with the illustration instead of the fact.

§ 10. Breadth is not vacancy.

I am somewhat anticipating my subject here, because I can scarcely help
answering the objections which I know must arise in the minds of most
readers, especially of those who are _partially_ artistical, respecting
"generalization," "breadth," "effect," etc. It were to be wished that
our writers on art would not dwell so frequently on the necessity of
breadth, without explaining what it means; and that we had more constant
reference made to the principle which I can only remember having seen
once clearly explained and insisted on,--that breadth is not vacancy.
Generalization is unity, not destruction of parts; and composition is
not annihilation, but arrangement of materials. The breadth which unites
the truths of nature with her harmonies, is meritorious and beautiful;
but the breadth which annihilates those truths by the million, is not
painting nature, but painting over her. And so the masses which result
from right concords and relations of details, are sublime and
impressive; but the masses which result from the eclipse of details are
contemptible and painful.[27] And we shall show, in following parts of
the work, that distances like those of Poussin are mere meaningless
tricks of clever execution, which, when once discovered, the artist may
repeat over and over again, with mechanical contentment and perfect
satisfaction, both to himself and to his superficial admirers, with no
more exertion of intellect nor awakening of feeling than any tradesman
has in multiplying some ornamental pattern of furniture. Be this as it
may, however, (for we cannot enter upon the discussion of the question
here,) the falsity and imperfection of such distances admit of no
dispute. Beautiful and ideal they may be; true they are not: and in the
same way we might go through every part and portion of the works of the
old masters, showing throughout, either that you have every leaf and
blade of grass staring defiance to the mystery of nature, or that you
have dead spaces of absolute vacuity, equally determined in their
denial of her fulness. And even if we ever find (as here and there, in
their better pictures, we do) changeful passages of agreeable playing
color, or mellow and transparent modulations of mysterious atmosphere,
even here the touches, though satisfactory to the eye, are suggestive of
nothing,--they are characterless,--they have none of the peculiar
expressiveness and meaning by which nature maintains the variety and
interest even of what she most conceals. She always tells a story,
however hintedly and vaguely; each of her touches is different from all
the others; and we feel with every one, that though we cannot tell what
it is, it cannot be _anything_; while even the most dexterous distances
of the old masters pretend to secrecy without having anything to
conceal, and are ambiguous, not from the concentration of meaning, but
from the want of it.

§ 11. The fulness and mystery of Turner's distances.

And now, take up one of Turner's distances, it matters not which, or of
what kind,--drawing or painting, small or great, done thirty years ago,
or for last year's Academy, as you like; say that of the Mercury and
Argus, and look if every fact which I have just been pointing out in
nature be not carried out in it. Abundant, beyond the power of the eye
to embrace or follow, vast and various, beyond the power of the mind to
comprehend, there is yet not one atom in its whole extent and mass which
does not suggest more than it represents; nor does it suggest vaguely,
but in such a manner as to prove that the conception of each individual
inch of that distance is absolutely clear and complete in the master's
mind, a separate picture fully worked out: but yet, clearly and fully as
the idea is formed, just so much of it is given, and no more, as nature
would have allowed us to feel or see; just so much as would enable a
spectator of experience and knowledge to understand almost every minute
fragment of separate detail, but appears, to the unpractised and
careless eye, just what a distance of nature's own would appear, an
unintelligible mass. Not one line out of the millions there is without
meaning, yet there is not one which is not affected and disguised by the
dazzle and indecision of distance. No form is made out, and yet no form
is unknown.

§ 12. Farther illustrations in architectural drawing.

Perhaps the truth of this system of drawing is better to be understood
by observing the distant character of rich architecture, than of any
other object. Go to the top of Highgate Hill on a clear summer morning
at five o'clock, and look at Westminster Abbey. You will receive an
impression of a building enriched with multitudinous vertical lines. Try
to distinguish one of those lines all the way down from the one next to
it: You cannot. Try to count them: You cannot. Try to make out the
beginning or end of any one of them: You cannot. Look at it generally,
and it is all symmetry and arrangement. Look at in its parts, and it is
all inextricable confusion. Am not I, at this moment, describing a piece
of Turner's drawing, with the same words by which I describe nature? And
what would one of the old masters have done with such a building as this
in his distance? Either he would only have given the shadows of the
buttresses, and the light and dark sides of the two towers, and two dots
for the windows; or if more ignorant and more ambitious, he had
attempted to render some of the detail, it would have been done by
distinct lines,--would have been broad caricature of the delicate
building, felt at once to be false, ridiculous, and offensive. His most
successful effort would only have given us, through his carefully toned
atmosphere, the effect of a colossal parish church, without one line of
carving on its economic sides. Turner, and Turner only, would follow and
render on the canvas that mystery of decided line,--that distinct,
sharp, visible, but unintelligible and inextricable richness, which,
examined part by part, is to the eye nothing but confusion and defeat,
which, taken as a whole, is all unity, symmetry, and truth.[28]

§ 13. In near objects as well as distances.

§ 14. Vacancy and falsehood of Canaletto.

Nor is this mode of representation true only with respect to distances.
Every object, however near the eye, has something about it which you
cannot see, and which brings the mystery of distance even into every
part and portion of what we suppose ourselves to see most distinctly.
Stand in the Piazza di St. Marco at Venice, as close to the church as
you can, without losing sight of the top of it. Look at the capitals of
the columns on the second story. You see that they are exquisitely rich,
carved all over. Tell me their patterns: You cannot. Tell me the
direction of a single line in them: You cannot. Yet you see a multitude
of lines, and you have so much feeling of a certain tendency and
arrangement in those lines, that you are quite sure the capitals are
beautiful, and that they are all different from each other. But I defy
you to make out one single line in any one of them. Now go to
Canaletto's painting of this church, in the Palazzo Manfrini, taken from
the very spot on which you stood. How much has he represented of all
this? A black dot under each capital for the shadow, and a yellow one
above it for the light. There is not a vestige nor indication of carving
or decoration of any sort or kind.

Very different from this, but erring on the other side, is the ordinary
drawing of the architect, who gives the principal lines of the design
with delicate clearness and precision, but with no uncertainty or
mystery about them; which mystery being removed, all space and size are
destroyed with it, and we have a drawing of a model, not of a building.
But in the capital lying on the foreground in Turner's Daphne hunting
with Leucippus, we have the perfect truth. Not one jag of the acanthus
leaves is absolutely visible, the lines are all disorder, but you feel
in an instant that all are there. And so it will invariably be found
through every portion of detail in his late and most perfect works.

§ 15. Still greater fulness and finish in landscape foregrounds.

But if there be this mystery and inexhaustible finish merely in the more
delicate instances of architectural decoration, how much more in the
ceaseless and incomparable decoration of nature. The detail of a single
weedy bank laughs the carving of ages to scorn. Every leaf and stalk has
a design and tracery upon it,--every knot of grass an intricacy of shade
which the labor of years could never imitate, and which, if such labor
could follow it out even to the last fibres of the leaflets, would yet
be falsely represented, for, as in all other cases brought forward, it
is not clearly seen, but confusedly and mysteriously. That which is
nearness for the bank, is distance for its details; and however near it
may be, the greater part of those details are still a beautiful

§ 16. Space and size are destroyed alike by distinctness and by

Hence, throughout the picture, the expression of space and size is
dependent upon obscurity, united with, or rather resultant from,
exceeding fulness. We destroy both space and size, either by the
vacancy, which affords us no measure of space, or by the distinctness,
which gives us a false one. The distance of Poussin, having no
indication of trees, nor of meadows, nor of character of any kind, may
be fifty miles off, or may be five; we cannot tell--we have no measure,
and in consequence, no vivid impression. But a middle distance of
Hobbima's involves a contradiction in terms; it states a distance by
perspective, which it contradicts by distinctness of detail.

§ 17. Swift execution best secures perfection of details.

§ 18. Finish is far more necessary in landscape than in historical

A single dusty roll of Turner's brush is more truly expressive of the
infinity of foliage, than the niggling of Hobbima could have rendered
his canvas, if he had worked on it till doomsday. What Sir J. Reynolds
says of the misplaced labor of his Roman acquaintance on separate leaves
of foliage, and the certainty he expresses that a man who attended to
general character would in five minutes produce a more faithful
representation of a tree, than the unfortunate mechanist in as many
years, is thus perfectly true and well founded; but this is not because
details are undesirable, but because they are best given by swift
execution, and because, individually, they cannot be given at all. But
it should be observed (though we shall be better able to insist upon
this point in future) that much of harm and error has arisen from the
supposition and assertions of swift and brilliant historical painters,
that the same principles of execution are entirely applicable to
landscape, which are right for the figure. The artist who falls into
extreme detail in drawing the human form, is apt to become disgusting
rather than pleasing. It is more agreeable that the general outline and
soft hues of flesh should alone be given, than its hairs, and veins, and
lines of intersection. And even the most rapid and generalizing
expression of the human body, if directed by perfect knowledge, and
rigidly faithful in drawing, will commonly omit very little of what is
agreeable or impressive. But the exclusively generalizing landscape
painter omits the whole of what is valuable in his subject,--omits
thoughts, designs, and beauties by the million, everything, indeed,
which can furnish him with variety or expression. A distance in
Lincolnshire, or in Lombardy, might both be generalized into such blue
and yellow stripes as we see in Poussin; but whatever there is of beauty
or character in either, depends altogether on our understanding the
details, and feeling the difference between the morasses and ditches of
the one, and the rolling sea of mulberry trees of the other. And so in
every part of the subject. I have no hesitation in asserting that it is
_impossible_ to go too fine, or think too much about details in
landscape, so that they be rightly arranged and rightly massed; but that
it is equally impossible to render anything like the fulness or the
space of nature, except by that mystery and obscurity of execution which
she herself uses, and in which Turner only has followed her.

§ 19. Recapitulation of the section.

We have now rapidly glanced at such general truths of nature as can be
investigated without much knowledge of what is beautiful. Questions of
arrangement, massing, and generalization, I prefer leaving untouched,
until we know something about details, and something about what is
beautiful. All that is desirable, even in these mere technical and
artificial points, is based upon truths and habits of nature; but we
cannot understand those truths until we are acquainted with the specific
forms and minor details which they affect, or out of which they arise. I
shall, therefore, proceed to examine the invaluable and essential truths
of specific character and form--briefly and imperfectly, indeed, as
needs must be, but yet at length sufficient to enable the reader to
pursue, if he will, the subject for himself.


  [27] Of course much depends upon the kind of detail so lost. An
    artist may generalize the trunk of a tree, where he only loses lines
    of bark, and do us a kindness; but he must not generalize the
    details of a champaign, in which there is a history of creation. The
    full discussion of the subject belongs to a future part of our

  [28] Vide, for illustration, Fontainebleau, in the Illustrations to
    Scott; Vignette at opening of Human Life, in Rogers's Poems; Venice,
    in the Italy; Chateau de Blois; the Rouen, and Pont Neuf, Paris, in
    the Rivers of France. The distances of all the Academy pictures of
    Venice, especially the Shylock, are most instructive.

  [29] It is to be remembered, however, that these truths present
    themselves in all probability under very different phases to
    individuals of different powers of vision. Many artists who appear
    to generalize rudely or rashly are perhaps faithfully endeavoring to
    render the appearance which nature bears to sight of limited range.
    Others may be led by their singular keenness of sight into
    inexpedient detail. Works which are painted for effect at a certain
    distance must be always seen at disadvantage by those whose sight is
    of different range from the painter's. Another circumstance to which
    I ought above to have alluded is the scale of the picture; for there
    are different degrees of generalization, and different necessities
    of symbolism, belonging to every scale: the stipple of the miniature
    painter would be offensive on features of the life size, and the
    leaves with Tintoret may articulate on a canvas of sixty feet by
    twenty-five, must be generalized by Turner on one of four by three.
    Another circumstance of some importance is the assumed distance of
    the foreground; many landscape painters seem to think their nearest
    foreground is always equally near, whereas its distance from the
    spectator varies not a little, being always at least its own
    calculable breadth from side to side as estimated by figures or any
    other object of known size at the nearest part of it. With Claude
    almost always; with Turner often, as in the Daphne and Leucippus,
    this breadth is forty or fifty yards; and as the nearest foreground
    object _must_ then be at least that distance removed, and _may_ be
    much more, it is evident that no completion of close detail is in
    such cases allowable, (see here another proof of Claude's erroneous
    practice;) with Titian and Tintoret, on the contrary, the foreground
    is rarely more than five or six yards broad, and its objects
    therefore being only five or six yards distant are entirely

    None of these circumstances, however, in any wise affect the great
    principle, the confusion of detail taking place sooner or later in
    all cases. I ought to have noted, however, that many of the pictures
    of Turner in which the confused drawing has been least understood,
    have been luminous _twilights_; and that the uncertainty of twilight
    is therefore added to that of general distance. In the evenings of
    the south it not unfrequently happens that objects touched with the
    reflected light of the western sky, continue even for the space of
    half an hour after sunset, glowing, ruddy, and intense in color, and
    almost as bright as if they were still beneath actual sunshine, even
    till the moon begins to cast a shadow: but in spite of this
    brilliancy of color all the details become ghostly and ill-defined.
    This is a favorite moment of Turner's, and he invariably
    characterizes it, not by gloom, but by uncertainty of detail. I have
    never seen the effect of clear twilight thoroughly rendered by art;
    that effect in which all details are lost, while intense clearness
    and light are still felt in the atmosphere, in which nothing is
    distinctly seen, and yet it is not darkness, far less mist, that is
    the cause of concealment. Turner's efforts at rendering this effect
    (as the Wilderness of Engedi, Assos, Chateau de Blois,
    Caerlaverock, and others innumerable,) have always some slight
    appearance of mistiness, owing to the indistinctness of details; but
    it remains to be shown that any closer approximation to the effect
    is possible.

                                SECTION III.

                              OF TRUTH OF SKIES.

                                 CHAPTER I.

                              OF THE OPEN SKY.

§ 1. The peculiar adaptation of the sky to the pleasing and teaching of

§ 2. The carelessness with which its lessons are received.

§ 3. The most essential of these lessons are the gentlest.

§ 4. Many of our ideas of sky altogether conventional.

It is a strange thing how little in general people know about the sky.
It is the part of creation in which nature has done more for the sake of
pleasing man, more for the sole and evident purpose of talking to him
and teaching him, than in any other of her works, and it is just the
part in which we least attend to her. There are not many of her other
works in which some more material or essential purpose than the mere
pleasing of man is not answered by every part of their organization; but
every essential purpose of the sky might, so far as we know, be
answered, if once in three days, or thereabouts, a great ugly black rain
cloud were brought up over the blue, and everything well watered, and so
all left blue again till next time, with perhaps a film of morning and
evening mist for dew. And instead of this, there is not a moment of any
day of our lives, when nature is not producing scene after scene,
picture after picture, glory after glory, and working still upon such
exquisite and constant principles of the most perfect beauty, that it is
quite certain it is all done for us, and intended for our perpetual
pleasure. And every man, wherever placed, however far from other sources
of interest or of beauty, has this doing for him constantly. The noblest
scenes of the earth can be seen and known but by few; it is not intended
that man should live always in the midst of them, he injures them by his
presence, he ceases to feel them if he be always with them; but the sky
is for all; bright as it is, it is not "too bright, nor good, for human
nature's daily food;" it is fitted in all its functions for the
perpetual comfort and exalting of the heart, for the soothing it and
purifying it from its dross and dust. Sometimes gentle, sometimes
capricious, sometimes awful, never the same for two moments together;
almost human in its passions, almost spiritual in its tenderness, almost
divine in its infinity, its appeal to what is immortal in us, is as
distinct, as its ministry of chastisement or of blessing to what is
mortal is essential. And yet we never attend to it, we never make it a
subject of thought, but as it has to do with our animal sensations; we
look upon all by which it speaks to us more clearly than to brutes, upon
all which bears witness to the intention of the Supreme, that we are to
receive more from the covering vault than the light and the dew which we
share with the weed and the worm, only as a succession of meaningless
and monotonous accident, too common and too vain to be worthy of a
moment of watchfulness, or a glance of admiration. If in our moments of
utter idleness and insipidity, we turn to the sky as a last resource,
which of its phenomena do we speak of? One says it has been wet, and
another it has been windy, and another it has been warm. Who, among the
whole chattering crowd, can tell me of the forms and the precipices of
the chain of tall white mountains that girded the horizon at noon
yesterday? Who saw the narrow sunbeam that came out of the south, and
smote upon their summits until they melted and mouldered away in a dust
of blue rain? Who saw the dance of the dead clouds when the sunlight
left them last night, and the west wind blew them before it like
withered leaves? All has passed, unregretted as unseen; or if the apathy
be ever shaken off, even for an instant, it is only by what is gross, or
what is extraordinary; and yet it is not in the broad and fierce
manifestations of the elemental energies, not in the clash of the hail,
nor the drift of the whirlwind, that the highest characters of the
sublime are developed. God is not in the earthquake, nor in the fire,
but in the still small voice. They are but the blunt and the low
faculties of our nature, which can only be addressed through lampblack
and lightning. It is in quiet and subdued passages of unobtrusive
majesty, the deep, and the calm, and the perpetual,--that which must be
sought ere it is seen, and loved ere it is understood,--things which
the angels work out for us daily, and yet vary eternally, which are
never wanting, and never repeated, which are to be found always yet each
found but once; it is through these that the lesson of devotion is
chiefly taught, and the blessing of beauty given. These are what the
artist of highest aim must study; it is these, by the combination of
which his ideal is to be created; these, of which so little notice is
ordinarily taken by common observers, that I fully believe, little as
people in general are concerned with art, more of their ideas of sky are
derived from pictures than from reality, and that if we could examine
the conception formed in the minds of most educated persons when we talk
of clouds, it would frequently be found composed of fragments of blue
and white reminiscences of the old masters.

I shall enter upon the examination of what is true in sky at greater
length, because it is the only part of a picture of which all, if they
will, may be competent judges. What I may have to assert respecting the
rocks of Salvator, or the boughs of Claude, I can scarcely prove, except
to those whom I can immure for a month or two in the fastnesses of the
Apennines, or guide in their summer walks again and again through the
ravines of Sorrento. But what I say of the sky can be brought to an
immediate test by all, and I write the more decisively, in the hope that
it may be so.

§ 5. Nature and essential qualities of the open blue.

§ 6. Its connection with clouds.

§ 7. Its exceeding depth.

§ 8. These qualities are especially given by modern masters.

§ 9. And by Claude.

§ 10. Total absence of them in Poussin. Physical errors in his general
        treatment of open sky.

§ 11. Errors of Cuyp in graduation of color.

Let us begin then with the simple open blue of the sky. This is of
course the color of the pure atmospheric air, not the aqueous vapor, but
the pure azote and oxygen, and it is the total color of the whole mass
of that air between us and the void of space. It is modified by the
varying quantity of aqueous vapor suspended in it, whose color, in its
most imperfect, and therefore most visible, state of solution, is pure
white, (as in steam,) which receives, like any other white, the warm
hues of the rays of the sun, and, according to its quantity and
imperfect solution, makes the sky paler, and at the same time more or
less gray, by mixing warm tones with its blue. This gray aqueous vapor,
when very decided, becomes mist, and when local, cloud. Hence the sky is
to be considered as a transparent blue liquid, in which, at various
elevations, clouds are suspended, those clouds being themselves only
particular visible spaces of a substance with which the whole mass of
this liquid is more or less impregnated. Now, we all know this perfectly
well, and yet we so far forget it in practice, that we little notice the
constant connection kept up by nature between her blue and her clouds,
and we are not offended by the constant habit of the old masters, of
considering the blue sky as totally distinct in its nature, and far
separated from the vapors which float in it. With them, cloud is cloud,
and blue is blue, and no kind of connection between them is ever hinted
at. The sky is thought of as a clear, high material dome, the clouds as
separate bodies, suspended beneath it, and in consequence, however
delicate and exquisitely removed in tone their skies may be, you always
look _at_ them, not _through_ them. Now, if there be one characteristic
of the sky more valuable or necessary to be rendered than another, it is
that which Wordsworth has given in the second book of the Excursion:--

                     "The chasm of sky above my head
           Is Heaven's profoundest azure. No domain
           For fickle, short-lived clouds, to occupy,
           Or to pass through;--but rather an _abyss_
           In which the everlasting stars abide,
           And whose soft gloom, and boundless depth, might tempt
           The curious eye to look for them by day."

And, in his American Notes, I remember Dickens notices the same truth,
describing himself as lying drowsily on the barge deck, looking not at,
but _through_ the sky. And if you look intensely at the pure blue of a
serene sky, you will see that there is a variety and fulness in its very
repose. It is not flat dead color, but a deep, quivering, transparent
body of penetrable air, in which you trace or imagine short, falling
spots of deceiving light, and dim shades, faint, veiled vestiges of dark
vapor; and it is this trembling transparency which our great modern
master has especially aimed at and given. His blue is never laid on in
smooth coats, but in breaking, mingling, melting hues, a quarter of an
inch of which, cut off from all the rest of the picture, is still
_spacious_, still infinite and immeasurable in depth. It is a painting
of the air, something into which you can see, through the parts which
are near you into those which are far off; something which has no
surface, and through which we can plunge far and farther, and without
stay or end, into the profundity of space;--whereas, with all the old
landscape painters, except Claude, you may indeed go a long way before
you come to the sky, but you will strike hard against it at last. A
perfectly genuine and untouched sky of Claude is indeed most perfect,
and beyond praise, in all qualities of air; though even with him, I
often feel rather that there is a great deal of pleasant air between me
and the firmament, than that the firmament itself is only air. I do not
mean, however, to say a word against such skies as that of the Enchanted
Castle, or that marked 30 in the National Gallery, or one or two which I
remember at Rome; but how little and by how few these fine passages of
Claude are appreciated, is sufficiently proved by the sufferance of such
villainous and unpalliated copies as we meet with all over Europe, like
the Marriage of Isaac, in our own Gallery, to remain under his name. In
fact, I do not remember above ten pictures of Claude's, in which the
skies, whether repainted or altogether copies, or perhaps from Claude's
hand, but carelessly laid in, like that marked 241, Dulwich Gallery,
were not fully as feelingless and false as those of other masters;
while, with the Poussins, there are no favorable exceptions. Their skies
are systematically wrong; take, for instance, the sky of the Sacrifice
of Isaac. It is here high noon, as is shown by the shadow of the
figures; and what sort of color is the sky at the top of the picture? Is
it pale and gray with heat, full of sunshine, and unfathomable in depth?
On the contrary, it is of a pitch of darkness which, except on the Mont
Blanc or Chimborazo, is as purely impossible as color can be. He might
as well have painted it coal black; and it is laid on with a dead coat
of flat paint, having no one quality or resemblance of sky about it. It
cannot have altered, because the land horizon is as delicate and tender
in tone as possible, and is evidently unchanged; and to complete the
absurdity of the whole thing, this color holds its own, without
graduation or alteration, to within three or four degrees of the
horizon, where it suddenly becomes bold and unmixed yellow. Now the
horizon at noon may be yellow when the whole sky is covered with dark
clouds, and only _one_ open streak of light left in the distance from
which the whole light proceeds; but with a clear, open sky, and opposite
the sun, at noon, such a yellow horizon as this is physically
impossible. Even supposing that the upper part of the sky were pale and
warm, and that the transition from the one hue to the other were
effected imperceptibly and gradually, as is invariably the case in
reality, instead of taking place within a space of two or three
degrees;--even then, this gold yellow would be altogether absurd; but as
it is, we have in this sky (and it is a fine picture--one of the best of
Gaspar's that I know,) a notable example of the truth of the old
masters--two impossible colors impossibly united! Find such a color in
Turner's noonday zenith as the blue at the top, or such a color at a
noonday horizon as the yellow at the bottom, or such a connection of any
colors whatsoever as that in the centre, and then you may talk about his
being false to nature if you will. Nor is this a solitary instance; it
is Gaspar Poussin's favorite and characteristic effect. I remember
twenty such, most of them worse than this, in the downright surface and
opacity of blue. Again, look at the large Cuyp in the Dulwich Gallery,
which Mr. Hazlitt considers the "finest in the world," and of which he
very complimentarily says, "The tender green of the valleys, the
gleaming lake, the purple light of the hills, have an effect like the
_down_ on an unripe nectarine!" I ought to have apologized before now,
for not having studied sufficiently in Covent Garden to be provided with
terms of correct and classical criticism. One of my friends begged me to
observe, the other day, that Claude was "pulpy;" another added the yet
more gratifying information that he was "juicy;" and it is now happily
discovered that Cuyp is "downy." Now I dare say that the sky of this
first-rate Cuyp is very like an unripe nectarine: all that I have to say
about it is, that it is exceedingly unlike a sky. The blue remains
unchanged and ungraduated over three-fourths of it, down to the horizon;
while the sun, in the left-hand corner, is surrounded with a halo, first
of yellow, and then of crude pink, both being separated from each other,
and the last from the blue, as sharply as the belts of a rainbow, and
both together not ascending ten degrees in the sky. Now it is difficult
to conceive how any man calling himself a painter could impose such a
thing on the public, and still more how the public can receive it, as a
representation of that sunset purple which invariably extends its
influence to the zenith, so that there is no pure blue anywhere, but a
purple increasing in purity gradually down to its point of greatest
intensity, (about forty-five degrees from the horizon,) and then melting
imperceptibly into the gold, the three colors extending their influence
over the whole sky; so that throughout the whole sweep of the heaven,
there is no one spot where the color is not in an equal state of
transition--passing from gold into orange, from that into rose, from
that into purple, from that into blue, with absolute equality of change,
so that in no place can it be said, "here it changes," and in no place,
"here it is unchanging." This is invariably the case. There is no such
thing--there never was, and never will be such a thing, while God's
heaven remains as it is made--as a serene, sunset sky, with its purple
and rose in _belts_ about the sun.

§ 12. The exceeding value of the skies of the early Italian and Dutch
        schools. Their qualities are unattainable in modern times.

Such bold, broad examples of ignorance as these would soon set aside all
the claims of the professed landscape painters to truth, with whatever
delicacy of color or manipulation they may be disguised. But there are
some skies, of the Dutch school, in which clearness and coolness have
been aimed at, instead of depth; and some introduced merely as
backgrounds to the historical subjects of the older Italians, which
there is no matching in modern times; one would think angels had painted
them, for all is now clay and oil in comparison. It seems as if we had
totally lost the art, for surely otherwise, however little our painters
might aim at it or feel it, they would touch the chord sometimes by
accident; but they never do, and the mechanical incapacity is still more
strongly evidenced by the muddy struggles of the unhappy Germans, who
have the feeling, partially strained, artificial, and diseased, indeed,
but still genuine enough to bring out the tone, if they had the
mechanical means and technical knowledge. But, however they were
obtained, the clear tones of this kind of the older Italians are
glorious and enviable in the highest degree; and we shall show, when we
come to speak of the beautiful, that they are one of the most just
grounds of the fame of the old masters.

§ 13. Phenomena of visible sunbeams. Their nature and cause.

But there is a series of phenomena connected with the open blue of the
sky, which we must take especial notice of, as it is of constant
occurrence in the works of Turner and Claude, the effects, namely, of
visible sunbeams. It will be necessary for us thoroughly to understand
the circumstances under which such effects take place.

Aqueous vapor or mist, suspended in the atmosphere, becomes visible
exactly as dust does in the air of a room. In the shadows you not only
cannot see the dust itself, because unillumined, but you can see other
objects through the dust without obscurity, the air being thus actually
rendered more transparent by a deprivation of light. Where a sunbeam
enters, every particle of dust becomes visible, and a palpable
interruption to the sight, so that a transverse sunbeam is a real
obstacle to the vision, you cannot see things clearly through it.

In the same way, wherever vapor is illuminated by transverse rays, there
it becomes visible as a whiteness more or less affecting the purity of
the blue, and destroying it exactly in proportion to the degree of
illumination. But where vapor is in shade, it has very little effect on
the sky, perhaps making it a little deeper and grayer than it otherwise
would be, but not itself, unless very dense, distinguishable or felt as

§ 14. They are only illuminated mist, and cannot appear when the sky is
        free from vapor, nor when it is without clouds.

The appearance of mist or whiteness in the blue of the sky, is thus a
circumstance which more or less accompanies sunshine, and which,
supposing the quantity of vapor constant, is greatest in the brightest
sunlight. When there are no clouds in the sky, the whiteness, as it
affects the whole sky equally, is not particularly noticeable. But when
there are clouds between us and the sun, the sun being low, those clouds
cast shadows along and through the mass of suspended vapor. Within the
space of these shadows, the vapor, as above stated, becomes transparent
and invisible, and the sky appears of a pure blue. But where the
sunbeams strike, the vapor becomes visible in the form of the beams,
occasioning those radiating shafts of light which are one of the most
valuable and constant accompaniments of a low sun. The denser the mist,
the more distinct and sharp-edged will these rays be; when the air is
very clear, they are mere vague, flushing, gradated passages of light;
when it is very thick, they are keen-edged and decisive in a high

We see then, first, that a quantity of mist dispersed through the whole
space of the sky, is necessary to this phenomenon; and secondly, that
what we usually think of as beams of greater brightness than the rest of
the sky, are in reality only a part of that sky in its natural state of
illumination, cut off and rendered brilliant by the shadows from the
clouds,--that these shadows are in reality the source of the appearance
of beams,--that, therefore, no part of the sky can present such an
appearance, except when there are broken clouds between it and the sun;
and lastly, that the shadows cast from such clouds are not necessarily
gray or dark, but very nearly of the natural pure blue of a sky
destitute of vapor.

§ 15. Erroneous tendency in the representation of such phenomena by the
        old masters.

§ 16. The ray which appears in the dazzled eye should not be

§ 17. The practice of Turner. His keen perception of the more delicate
        phenomena of rays.

§ 18. The total absence of any evidence of such perception in the works
        of the old masters.

Now, as it has been proved that the appearance of beams can only take
place in a part of the sky which has clouds between it and the sun, it
is evident that no appearance of beams can ever begin from the orb
itself, except when there is a cloud or solid body of some kind between
us and it; but that such appearances will almost invariably begin on the
dark side of some of the clouds around it, the orb itself remaining the
centre of a broad blaze of united light. Wordsworth has given us in two
lines, the only circumstances under which rays can ever appear to have
origin in the orb itself:--

                                     "But rays of light,
             Now _suddenly_ diverging from the orb,
             _Retired behind the mountain tops, or veiled
             By the dense air_, shot upwards."

                                           EXCURSION, Book IX.

And Turner has given us the effect magnificently in the Dartmouth of the
River Scenery. It is frequent among the old masters, and constant in
Claude; though the latter, from drawing his beams too fine, represents
the effect upon the dazzled eye rather than the light which actually
exists, and approximates very closely to the ideal which we see in the
sign of the Rising Sun; nay, I am nearly sure that I remember cases in
which he has given us the diverging beam, without any cloud or hill
interfering with the orb. It may, perhaps, be somewhat difficult to say
how far it is allowable to represent that kind of ray which is seen by
the dazzled eye. It is very certain that we never look towards a bright
sun without seeing glancing rays issue from it; but it is equally
certain that those rays are no more real existences than the red and
blue circles which we see after having been so dazzled, and that if we
are to represent the rays we ought also to cover our sky with pink and
blue circles. I should on the whole consider it utterly false in
principle to represent the visionary beam, and that we ought only to
show that which has actual existence. Such we find to be the constant
practice of Turner. Even where, owing to interposed clouds, he has beams
appearing to issue from the orb itself, they are broad bursts of light,
not spiky rays; and his more usual practice is to keep all near the sun
in one simple blaze of intense light, and from the first clouds to throw
beams to the zenith, though he often does not permit any appearance of
rays until close to the zenith itself. Open at the 80th page of the
Illustrated edition of Rogers's poems. You have there a sky blazing with
sunbeams; but they all begin a long way from the sun, and they are
accounted for by a mass of dense clouds surrounding the orb itself. Turn
to the 7th page. Behind the old oak, where the sun is supposed to be,
you have only a blaze of undistinguished light; but up on the left, over
the edge of the cloud, on its dark side, the sunbeam. Turn to page
192,--blazing rays again, but all beginning where the clouds do, not one
can you trace to the sun; and observe how carefully the long shadow on
the mountain is accounted for by the dim dark promontory projecting out
near the sun. I need not multiply examples; you will find various
modifications and uses of these effects throughout his works. But you
will not find a single trace of them in the old masters. They give you
the rays issuing from behind black clouds, and because they are a coarse
and common effect which could not possibly escape their observation, and
because they are easily imitated. They give you the spiky shafts
issuing from the orb itself, because these are partially symbolical of
light, and assist a tardy imagination, as two or three rays scratched
round the sun with a pen would, though they would be rays of darkness
instead of light.[30] But of the most beautiful phenomenon of all, the
appearance of the delicate ray far in the sky, threading its way among
the thin, transparent clouds, while all around the sun is unshadowed
fire, there is no record nor example whatsoever in their works. It was
too delicate and spiritual for them; probably their blunt and
feelingless eyes never perceived it in nature, and their untaught
imaginations were not likely to originate it in the study.

§ 19. Truth of the skies of modern drawings.

Little is to be said of the skies of our other landscape artists. In
paintings, they are commonly toneless, crude, and wanting in depth and
transparency; but in drawings, some very perfect and delicate examples
have been produced by various members of the old water color Society,
and one or two others; but with respect to the qualities of which we are
at present speaking, it is not right to compare drawings with paintings,
as the wash or spunging, or other artifices peculiar to water color, are
capable of producing an appearance of quality which it needs much higher
art to produce in oils.

§ 20. Recapitulation. The best skies of the ancients are, in quality,
        inimitable, but in rendering of various truth, childish.

Taken generally, the open skies of the moderns are inferior in quality
to picked and untouched skies of the greatest of the ancients, but far
superior to the average class of pictures which we have every day
fathered upon their reputation. Nine or ten skies of Claude might be
named which are not to be contended with, in their way, and as many of
Cuyp. Teniers has given some very wonderful passages, and the clearness
of the early Italian and Dutch schools is beyond all imitation. But the
common blue daubing which we hear every day in our best galleries
attributed to Claude and Cuyp, and the genuine skies of Salvator, and of
both the Poussins, are not to be compared for an instant with the best
works of modern times, even in quality and transparency; while in all
matters requiring delicate observation or accurate science,--in all
which was not attainable by technicalities of art, and which depended
upon the artist's knowledge and understanding of nature, all the works
of the ancients are alike the productions of mere children, sometimes
manifesting great sensibility, but proving at the same time, feebly
developed intelligence and ill-regulated observation.


  [30] I have left this passage as it stood originally, because it is
    right as far as it goes; yet it speaks with too little respect of
    symbolism, which is often of the highest use in religious art, and
    in some measure is allowable in all art. In the works of almost all
    the greatest masters there are portions which are explanatory rather
    than representative, and typical rather than imitative; nor could
    these be parted with but at infinite loss. Note, with respect to the
    present question, the daring black sunbeams of Titian, in his
    woodcut of St. Francis receiving the stigmata, and compare here Part
    III. Sect. II. Chap. IV. § 18; Chap. V. § 13. And though I believe
    that I am right in considering all such symbolism as out of place in
    pure landscape, and in attributing that of Claude to ignorance or
    inability, and not to feeling, yet I praise Turner not so much for
    his absolute refusal to represent the spiky ray about the sun, as
    for his perceiving and rendering that which Claude never perceived,
    the multitudinous presence of radiating light in the upper sky and
    on all its countless ranks of subtile cloud.

                                 CHAPTER II.


§ 1. Difficulty of ascertaining wherein the truth of clouds consists.

Our next subject of investigation must be the specific character of
clouds, a species of truth which is especially neglected by artists;
first, because as it is within the limits of possibility that a cloud
may assume almost any form, it is difficult to point out and not always
easy to feel, where in error consists; and secondly, because it is
totally impossible to study the forms of clouds from nature with care
and accuracy, as a change in the subject takes place between every touch
of the following pencil, and parts of an outline sketched at different
instants cannot harmonize, nature never having intended them to come
together. Still if artists were more in the habit of sketching clouds
rapidly, and as accurately as possible in the outline, from nature,
instead of daubing down what they call "effects" with the brush, they
would soon find there is more beauty about their forms than can be
arrived at by any random felicity of invention, however brilliant, and
more essential character than can be violated without incurring the
charge of falsehood,--falsehood as direct and definite, though not as
traceable as error in the less varied features of organic form.

§ 2. Variation of their character at different elevations. The three
       regions to which they may conveniently be considered as

The first and most important character of clouds, is dependent on the
different altitudes at which they are formed. The atmosphere may be
conveniently considered as divided into three spaces, each inhabited by
clouds of specific character altogether different, though, in reality
there is no distinct limit fixed between them by nature, clouds being
formed at _every_ altitude, and partaking according to their altitude,
more or less of the characters of the upper or lower regions. The
scenery of the sky is thus formed of an infinitely graduated series of
systematic forms of cloud, each of which has its own region in which
alone it is formed, and each of which has specific characters which can
only be properly determined by comparing them as they are found clearly
distinguished by intervals of considerable space. I shall therefore
consider the sky as divided into three regions--the upper region, or
region of the cirrus; the central region, or region of the stratus; the
lower region, or the region of the rain-cloud.

§ 3. Extent of the upper region.

§ 4. The symmetrical arrangement of its clouds.

The clouds which I wish to consider as included in the upper region,
never touch even the highest mountains of Europe, and may therefore be
looked upon as never formed below an of at least 15,000 feet; they are
the motionless multitudinous lines of delicate vapor with which the blue
of the open sky is commonly streaked or speckled after several days of
fine weather. I must be pardoned for giving a detailed description of
their specific characters as they are of constant occurrence in the
works of modern artists, and I shall have occasion to speak frequently
of them in future parts of the work. Their chief characters are--first,
Symmetry: They are nearly always arranged in some definite and evident
order, commonly in long ranks reaching sometimes from the zenith to the
horizon, each rank composed of an infinite number of transverse bars of
about the same length, each bar thickest in the middle, and terminating
in a traceless vaporous point at each side; the ranks are in the
direction of the wind, and the bars of course at right angles to it;
these latter are commonly slightly bent in the middle. Frequently two
systems of this kind, indicative of two currents of wind, at different
altitudes intersect one another, forming a network. Another frequent
arrangement is in groups of excessively fine, silky, parallel fibres,
commonly radiating, or having a tendency to radiate, from one of their
extremities, and terminating in a plumy sweep at the other:--these are
vulgarly known as "mares' tails." The plumy and expanded extremity of
these is often bent upwards, sometimes back and up again, giving an
appearance of great flexibility and unity at the same time, as if the
clouds were tough, and would hold together however bent. The narrow
extremity is invariably turned to the wind, and the fibres are parallel
with its direction. The upper clouds always fall into some modification
of one or other of these arrangements. They thus differ from all other
clouds, in having a plan and system; whereas other clouds, though there
are certain laws which they cannot break, have yet perfect freedom from
anything like a relative and general system of government. The upper
clouds are to the lower, what soldiers on parade are to a mixed
multitude; no men walk on their heads or their hands, and so there are
certain laws which no clouds violate; but there is nothing except in the
upper clouds resembling symmetrical discipline.

§ 5. Their exceeding delicacy.

Secondly, Sharpness of Edge: The edges of the bars of the upper clouds
which are turned to the wind, are often the sharpest which the sky
shows; no outline whatever of any other kind of cloud, however marked
and energetic, ever approaches the delicate decision of these edges. The
outline of a black thunder-cloud is striking, from the great energy of
the color or shade of the general mass; but as a line, it is soft and
indistinct, compared with the edge of the cirrus, in a clear sky with a
brisk breeze. On the other hand, the edge of the bar turned away from
the wind is always soft, often imperceptible, melting into the blue
interstice between it and its next neighbor. Commonly the sharper one
edge is, the softer is the other, and the clouds look flat, and as if
they slipped over each other like the scales of a fish. When both edges
are soft, as is always the case when the sky is clear and windless, the
cloud looks solid, round, and fleecy.

§ 6. Their number.

Thirdly, Multitude: The delicacy of these vapors is sometimes carried
into such an infinity of division, that no other sensation of number
that the earth or heaven can give is so impressive. Number is always
most felt when it is symmetrical, (vide Burke on "Sublime," Part ii.
sect. 8,) and, therefore, no sea-waves nor fresh leaves make their
number so evident or so impressive as these vapors. Nor is nature
content with an infinity of bars or lines alone--each bar is in its turn
severed into a number of small undulatory masses, more or less connected
according to the violence of the wind. When this division is merely
effected by undulation, the cloud exactly resembles sea-sand ribbed by
the tide; but when the division amounts to real separation we have the
mottled or mackerel skies. Commonly, the greater the division of its
bars, the broader and more shapeless is the rank or field, so that in
the mottled sky it is lost altogether, and we have large irregular
fields of equal size, masses like flocks of sheep; such clouds are three
or four thousand feet below the legitimate cirrus. I have seen them cast
a shadow on the Mont Blanc at sunset, so that they must descend nearly
to within fifteen thousand feet of the earth.

§ 7. Causes of their peculiarly delicate coloring.

Fourthly, Purity of Color: The nearest of these clouds--those over the
observer's head, being at least three miles above him, and nearly all
entering the ordinary sphere of vision, farther from him still,--their
dark sides are much grayer and cooler than those of other clouds, owing
to their distance. They are composed of the purest aqueous vapor, free
from all foulness of earthy gases, and of this in the lightest and most
ethereal state in which it can be, to be visible. Farther, they receive
the light of the sun in a state of far greater intensity than lower
objects, the beams being transmitted to them through atmospheric air far
less dense, and wholly unaffected by mist, smoke, or any other impurity.
Hence their colors are more pure and vivid, and their white less sullied
than those of any other clouds.

§ 8. Their variety of form.

Lastly, Variety: Variety is never so conspicuous, as when it is united
with symmetry. The perpetual change of form in other clouds, is
monotonous in its very dissimilarity, nor is difference striking where
no connection is implied; but if through a range of barred clouds,
crossing half the heaven, all governed by the same forces and falling
into one general form, there be yet a marked and evident dissimilarity
between each member of the great mass--one more finely drawn, the next
more delicately moulded, the next more gracefully bent--each broken into
differently modelled and variously numbered groups, the variety is
doubly striking, because contrasted with the perfect symmetry of which
it forms a part. Hence, the importance of the truth, that nature never
lets one of the members of even her most disciplined groups of cloud be
like another; but though each is adapted for the same function, and in
its great features resembles all the others, not one, out of the
millions with which the sky is checkered, is without a separate beauty
and character, appearing to have had distinct thought occupied in
its conception, and distinct forces in its production; and in addition
to this perpetual invention, visible in each member of each system, we
find systems of separate cloud intersecting one another, the sweeping
lines mingled and interwoven with the rigid bars, these in their turn
melting into banks of sand-like ripple and flakes of drifted and
irregular foam; under all, perhaps the massy outline of some lower cloud
moves heavily across the motionless buoyancy of the upper lines, and
indicates at once their elevation and their repose.

§ 9. Total absence of even the slightest effort at their representation,
       in ancient landscape.

Such are the great attributes of the upper cloud region; whether they
are beautiful, valuable, or impressive, it is not our present business
to decide, nor to endeavor to discover the reason of the somewhat
remarkable fact, that the whole field of ancient landscape art affords,
as far as we remember, but one instance of any effort whatever to
represent the character of this cloud region. That one instance is the
landscape of Rubens in our own gallery, in which the mottled or fleecy
sky is given with perfect truth and exquisite beauty. To this should
perhaps be added, some of the backgrounds of the historical painters,
where horizontal lines were required, and a few level bars of white or
warm color cross the serenity of the blue. These, as far as they go, are
often very perfect, and the elevation and repose of their effect might,
we should have thought, have pointed out to the landscape painters that
there was something (I do not say much, but certainly something) to be
made out of the high clouds. Not one of them, however, took the hint. To
whom, among them all, can we look for the slightest realization of the
fine and faithful descriptive passage of the "Excursion," already
alluded to:--

                           "But rays of light,
          Now suddenly diverging from the orb,
          Retired behind the mountain tops, or veiled
          By the dense air, shot upwards to the crown
          Of the blue firmament--aloft--and wide:
          And multitudes of little floating clouds,
          Ere we, who saw, of change were conscious, pierced
          Through their ethereal texture, had become
          Vivid as fire,--Clouds separately poised,
          Innumerable multitude of forms
          Scattered through half the circle of the sky;
          And giving back, and shedding each on each,
          With prodigal communion, the bright hues
          Which from the unapparent fount of glory
          They had imbibed, and ceased not to receive.
          That which the heavens displayed the liquid deep
          Repeated, but with unity sublime."

§ 10. The intense and constant study of them by Turner.

There is but one master whose works we can think of while we read this;
one alone has taken notice of the neglected upper sky; it is his
peculiar and favorite field; he has watched its every modification, and
given its every phase and feature; at all hours, in all seasons, he has
followed its passions and its changes, and has brought down and laid
open to the world another apocalypse of heaven.

There is scarcely a painting of Turner's, in which serenity of sky and
intensity of light are aimed at together, in which these clouds are not
used, though there are not two cases in which they are used altogether
alike. Sometimes they are crowded together in masses of mingling light,
as in the Shylock; every part and atom sympathizing in that continuous
expression of slow movement which Shelley has so beautifully touched:--

                    "Underneath the young gray dawn
        A multitude of dense, white fleecy clouds,
        Were wandering in thick flocks along the mountains,
        _Shepherded by the slow, unwilling wind_."

At other times they are blended with the sky itself, felt only here and
there by a ray of light calling them into existence out of its misty
shade, as in the Mercury and Argus; sometimes, where great repose is to
be given, they appear in a few detached, equal, rounded flakes, which
seem to hang motionless, each like the shadow of the other, in the deep
blue of the zenith, as in the Acro-Corinth; sometimes they are scattered
in fiery flying fragments, each burning with separate energy, as in the
Temeraire; sometimes woven together with fine threads of intermediate
darkness, melting into the blue as in the Napoleon. But in all cases the
exquisite manipulation of the master gives to each atom of the multitude
its own character and expression. Though they be countless as leaves,
each has its portion of light, its shadow, its reflex, its peculiar and
separating form.

§ 11. His vignette, Sunrise on the Sea.

Take for instance the illustrated edition of Rogers's Poems,[31] and
open it at the 80th page, and observe how every attribute which I have
pointed out in the upper sky, is there rendered with the faithfulness of
a mirror; the long lines of parallel bars, the delicate curvature from
the wind, which the inclination of the sail shows you to be from the
west; the excessive sharpness of every edge which is turned to the wind,
the faintness of every opposite one, the breaking up of each bar into
rounded masses, and finally, the inconceivable variety with which
individual form has been given to every member of the multitude, and not
only individual form, but roundness and substance even where there is
scarcely a hairbreadth of cloud to express it in. Observe, above
everything, the varying indication of space and depth in the whole, so
that you may look through and through from one cloud to another, feeling
not merely how they retire to the horizon, but how they melt back into
the recesses of the sky; every interval being filled with absolute air,
and all its spaces so melting and fluctuating, and fraught with change
as with repose, that as you look, you will fancy that the rays shoot
higher and higher into the vault of light, and that the pale streak of
horizontal vapor is melting away from the cloud that it crosses. Now
watch for the next barred sunrise, and take this vignette to the window,
and test it by nature's own clouds, among which you will find forms and
passages, I do not say merely _like_, but apparently the actual
originals of parts of this very drawing. And with whom will you do this,
except with Turner? Will you do it with Claude, and set that blank
square yard of blue, with its round, white, flat fixtures of similar
cloud, beside the purple infinity of nature, with her countless
multitude of shadowy lines, and flaky waves, and folded veils of
variable mist? Will you do it with Poussin, and set those massy steps of
unyielding solidity, with the chariot-and-four driving up them, by the
side of the delicate forms which terminate in threads too fine for the
eye to follow them, and of texture so thin woven that the earliest stars
shine through them? Will you do it with Salvator, and set that volume of
violent and restless manufactory smoke beside those calm and quiet bars,
which pause in the heaven as if they would never leave it more?

§ 12. His use of the cirrus in expressing mist.

Now we have just seen how Turner uses the sharp-edged cirri when he aims
at giving great transparency of air. But it was shown in the preceding
chapter that sunbeams, or the appearance of them, are always sharper in
their edge in proportion as the air is more misty, as they are most
defined in a room where there is most dust flying about in it.
Consequently, in the vignette we have been just noticing, where
transparency is to be given, though there is a blaze of light, its beams
are never edged; a tendency to rays is visible, but you cannot in any
part find a single marked edge of a rising sunbeam, the sky is merely
more flushed in one place than another. Now let us see what Turner does
when he wants mist. Turn to the Alps at Daybreak, page 193, in the same
book. Here we have the cirri used again, but now they have no sharp
edges, they are all fleecy and mingling with each other, though every
one of them has the most exquisite indication of individual form, and
they melt back, not till they are lost in exceeding light, as in the
other plate, but into a mysterious, fluctuating, shadowy sky, of which,
though the light penetrates through it all, you perceive every part to
be charged with vapor. Notice particularly the half-indicated forms even
where it is most serene, behind the snowy mountains. And now, how are
the sunbeams drawn? no longer indecisive, flushing, palpitating, every
one is sharp and clear, and terminated by definite shadow; note
especially the marked lines on the upper cloud; finally, observe the
difference in the mode of indicating the figures, which are here misty
and indistinguishable, telling only as shadows, though they are near and
large, while those in the former vignette came clear upon the eye,
though they were so far off as to appear mere points.

§ 13. His consistency in every minor feature.

Now is this perpetual consistency in all points, this concentration of
every fact which can possibly bear upon what we are to be told, this
watchfulness of the entire meaning and system of nature, which fills
every part and space of the picture with coincidences of witness, which
come out upon us, as they would from the reality, more fully and deeply
in proportion to the knowledge we possess and the attention we give,
admirable or not? I could go on writing page after page on every sky of
Turner's, and pointing out fresh truths in every one. In the Havre, for
instance, of the Rivers of France we have a new fact pointed out to us
with respect to these cirri, namely, their being so faint and
transparent as not to be distinguishable from the blue of the sky, (a
frequent case,) except in the course of a sunbeam, which, however, does
not illumine their edges, they being not solid enough to reflect light,
but penetrates their whole substance, and renders them flat, luminous
forms in its path, instantly and totally lost at its edge. And thus a
separate essay would be required by every picture, to make fully
understood the new phenomena which it treated and illustrated. But after
once showing what are the prevailing characteristics of these clouds, we
can only leave it to the reader to trace them wherever they occur. There
are some fine and characteristic passages of this kind of cloud given by
Stanfield, though he dares not use them in multitude, and is wanting in
those refined qualities of form which it is totally impossible to
explain in words, but which, perhaps, by simple outlines, on a large
scale, selected from the cloud forms of various artists, I may in
following portions of the work illustrate with the pencil.

§ 14. The color of the upper clouds.

Of the colors of these clouds I have spoken before, (Sec. I. Chap. II.;)
but though I then alluded to their purity and vividness, I scarcely took
proper notice of their variety; there is indeed in nature variety in all
things, and it would be absurd to insist on it in each case, yet the
colors of these clouds are so marvellous in their changefulness, that
they require particular notice. If you watch for the next sunset, when
there are a considerable number of these cirri in the sky, you will see,
especially at the zenith, that the sky does not remain of the same color
for two inches together; one cloud has a dark side of cold blue, and a
fringe of milky white; another, above it, has a dark side of purple and
an edge of red; another, nearer the sun, has an under-side of orange
and an edge of gold; these you will find mingled with, and passing into
the blue of the sky, which in places you will not be able to distinguish
from the cool gray of the darker clouds, and which will be itself full
of gradation, now pure and deep, now faint and feeble; and all this is
done, not in large pieces, nor on a large scale, but over and over again
in every square yard, so that there is no single part nor portion of the
whole sky which has not in itself variety of color enough for a separate
picture, and yet no single part which is like another, or which has not
some peculiar source of beauty, and some peculiar arrangement of color
of its own. Now, instead of this, you get in the old masters--Cuyp, or
Claude, or whoever they may be--a field of blue, delicately,
beautifully, and uniformly shaded down to the yellow sun, with a certain
number of similar clouds, each with a dark side of the same gray, and an
edge of the same yellow. I do not say that nature never does anything
like this, but I say that her _principle_ is to do a great deal more,
and that what she does more than this,--what I have above described, and
what you may see in nine sunsets out of ten,--has been observed,
attempted, and rendered by Turner only, and by him with a fidelity and
force which presents us with more essential truth, and more clear
expression and illustration of natural laws, in every wreath of vapor,
than composed the whole stock of heavenly information, which lasted Cuyp
and Claude their lives.

§ 15. Recapitulation.

We close then our present consideration of the upper clouds, to return
to them when we know what is beautiful; we have at present only to
remember that of these clouds, and the truths connected with them, none
before Turner had taken any notice whatsoever; that had they therefore
been even feebly and imperfectly represented by him, they would yet have
given him a claim to be considered more extended and universal in his
statement of truths than any of his predecessors; how much more when we
find that deep fidelity in his studied and perfect skies which opens new
sources of delight to every advancement of our knowledge, and to every
added moment of our contemplation.


  [31] I use this work frequently for illustration, because it is the
    only one I know in which the engraver has worked with delicacy
    enough to give the real forms and touches of Turner. I can reason
    from these plates, (in questions of form only,) nearly as well as I
    could from the drawings.

                                 CHAPTER III.


§ 1. Extent and typical character of the central cloud region.

We have next to investigate the character of the Central Cloud Region,
which I consider as including all clouds which are the usual
characteristic of ordinary serene weather, and which touch and envelop
the mountains of Switzerland, but never affect those of our own island;
they may therefore be considered as occupying a space of air ten
thousand feet in height, extending from five to fifteen thousand feet
above the sea.

§ 2. Its characteristic clouds, requiring no attention nor thought for
       their representation, are therefore favorite subjects with the
       old masters.

These clouds, according to their elevation, appear with great variety of
form, often partaking of the streaked or mottled character of the higher
region, and as often, when the precursors of storm, manifesting forms
closely connected with the lowest rain clouds; but the species
especially characteristic of the central region is a white, ragged,
irregular, and scattered vapor, which has little form and less color,
and of which a good example may be seen in the largest landscape of
Cuyp, in the Dulwich Gallery. When this vapor collects into masses, it
is partially rounded, clumsy, and ponderous, as if it would tumble out
of the sky, shaded with a dull gray, and totally devoid of any
appearance of energy or motion. Even in nature, these clouds are
comparatively uninteresting, scarcely worth raising our heads to look
at; and on canvas, valuable only as a means of introducing light, and
breaking the monotony of blue; yet they are, perhaps, beyond all others
the favorite clouds of the Dutch masters. Whether they had any motive
for the adoption of such materials, beyond the extreme facility with
which acres of canvas might thus be covered without any troublesome
exertion of thought; or any temptation to such selections beyond the
impossibility of error where nature shows no form, and the
impossibility of deficiency where she shows no beauty, it is not here
the place to determine. Such skies are happily beyond the reach of
criticism, for he who tells you nothing cannot tell you a falsehood. A
little flake-white, glazed with a light brush over the carefully toned
blue, permitted to fall into whatever forms chance might determine, with
the single precaution that their edges should be tolerably irregular,
supplied, in hundreds of instances, a sky quite good enough for all
ordinary purposes--quite good enough for cattle to graze, or boors to
play at nine-pins under--and equally devoid of all that could gratify,
inform, or offend.

§ 3. The clouds of Salvator and Poussin.

But although this kind of cloud is, as I have said, typical of the
central region, it is not one which nature is fond of. She scarcely ever
lets an hour pass without some manifestation of finer forms, sometimes
approaching the upper cirri, sometimes the lower cumulus. And then in
the lower outlines, we have the nearest approximation which nature ever
presents to the clouds of Claude, Salvator, and Poussin, to the
characters of which I must request especial attention, as it is here
only that we shall have a fair opportunity of comparing their skies with
those of the modern school. I shall, as before, glance rapidly at the
great laws of specific form, and so put it in the power of the reader to
judge for himself of the truth of representation.

§ 4. Their essential characters.

§ 5. Their angular forms and general decision of outline.

Clouds, it is to be remembered, are not so much local vapor, as vapor
rendered locally visible by a fall of temperature. Thus a cloud, whose
parts are in constant motion, will hover on a snowy mountain, pursuing
constantly the same track upon its flanks, and yet remaining of the same
size, the same form, and in the same place, for half a day together. No
matter how violent or how capricious the wind may be, the instant it
approaches the spot where the chilly influence of the snow extends, the
moisture it carries becomes visible, and then and there the cloud forms
on the instant, apparently maintaining its form against the wind, though
the careful and keen eye can see all its parts in the most rapid motion
across the mountain. The outlines of such a cloud are of course not
determined by the irregular impulses of the wind, but by the fixed lines
of radiant heat which regulate the temperature of the atmosphere of the
mountain. It is terminated, therefore, not by changing curves, but by
steady right lines of more or less decision, often exactly correspondent
with the outline of the mountain on which it is formed, and falling
therefore into grotesque peaks and precipices. I have seen the marked
and angular outline of the Grandes Jorasses, at Chamounix, mimicked in
its every jag by a line of clouds above it. Another resultant phenomenon
is the formation of cloud in the calm air to leeward of a steep summit;
cloud whose edges are in rapid motion, where they are affected by the
current of the wind above, and stream from the peak like the smoke of a
volcano, yet always vanish at a certain distance from it as steam
issuing from a chimney. When wet weather of some duration is
approaching, a small white spot of cloud will sometimes appear low on
the hill flanks; it will not move, but will increase gradually for some
little time, then diminish, still without moving; disappear altogether,
reappear ten minutes afterwards, exactly in the same spot; increase to a
greater extent than before, again disappear, again return, and at last
permanently; other similar spots of cloud forming simultaneously, with
various fluctuations, each in its own spot, and at the same level on the
hill-side, until all expand, join together, and form an unbroken veil of
threatening gray, which darkens gradually into storm. What in such cases
takes place palpably and remarkably, is more or less a law of formation
in all clouds whatsoever; they being bounded rather by lines expressive
of changes of temperature in the atmosphere, than by the impulses of the
currents of wind in which those changes take place. Even when in rapid
and visible motion across the sky, the variations which take place in
their outlines are not so much alterations of position and arrangement
of parts, as they are the alternate formation and disappearance of
parts. There is, therefore, usually a parallelism and consistency in
their great outlines, which give system to the smaller curves of which
they are composed; and if these great lines be taken, rejecting the
minutiæ of variation, the resultant form will almost always be angular,
and full of character and decision. In the flock-like fields of equal
masses, each individual mass has the effect, not of an ellipse or
circle, but of a rhomboid; the sky is crossed and checkered, not
honeycombed; in the lower cumuli, even though the most rounded of all
clouds, the groups are not like balloons or bubbles, but like towers or
mountains. And the result of this arrangement in masses more or less
angular, varied with, and chiefly constructed of, curves of the utmost
freedom and beauty, is that appearance of exhaustless and fantastic
energy which gives every cloud a marked character of its own, suggesting
resemblances to the specific outlines of organic objects. I do not say
that such accidental resemblances are a character to be imitated; but
merely that they bear witness to the originality and vigor of separate
conception in cloud forms, which give to the scenery of the sky a force
and variety no less delightful than that of the changes of mountain
outline in a hill district of great elevation; and that there is added
to this a spirit-like feeling, a capricious, mocking imagery of passion
and life, totally different from any effects of inanimate form that the
earth can show.

§ 6. The composition of their minor curves.

The minor contours, out of which the larger outlines are composed, are
indeed beautifully curvilinear; but they are never monotonous in their
curves. First comes a concave line, then a convex one, then an angular
jag, breaking off into spray, then a downright straight line, then a
curve again, then a deep gap, and a place where all is lost and melted
away, and so on; displaying in every inch of the form renewed and
ceaseless invention, setting off grace with rigidity, and relieving
flexibility with force, in a manner scarcely less admirable, and far
more changeful than even in the muscular forms of the human frame. Nay,
such is the exquisite composition of all this, that you may take any
single fragment of any cloud in the sky, and you will find it put
together as if there had been a year's thought over the plan of it,
arranged with the most studied inequality--with the most delicate
symmetry--with the most elaborate contrast, a picture in itself. You may
try every other piece of cloud in the heaven, and you will find them
every one as perfect, and yet not one in the least like another.

§ 7. Their characters, as given by S. Rosa.

Now it may perhaps, for anything we know, or have yet proved, be highly
expedient and proper, in art, that this variety, individuality, and
angular character should be changed into a mass of convex curves, each
precisely like its neighbor in all respects, and unbroken from beginning
to end;--it may be highly original, masterly, bold, whatever you choose
to call it; but it is _false_. I do not take upon me to assert that the
clouds which in ancient Germany were more especially and peculiarly
devoted to the business of catching princesses off desert islands, and
carrying them to enchanted castles, might not have possessed something
of the pillowy organization which we may suppose best adapted for
functions of such delicacy and dispatch. But I do mean to say that the
clouds which God sends upon his earth as the ministers of dew, and rain,
and shade, and with which he adorns his heaven, setting them in its
vault for the thrones of his spirits, have not in one instant or atom of
their existence, one feature in common with such conceptions and
creations. And there are, beyond dispute, more direct and unmitigated
falsehoods told, and more laws of nature set at open defiance in _one_
of the "rolling" skies of Salvator, such as that marked 159 in the
Dulwich Gallery, than were ever attributed, even by the ignorant and
unfeeling, to all the wildest flights of Turner put together.

§ 8. Monotony and falsehood of the clouds of the Italian School

And it is not as if the error were only occasional. It is systematic and
constant in all the Italian masters of the seventeenth century, and in
most of the Dutch. They looked at clouds as at everything else which did
not particularly help them in their great end of deception, with utter
carelessness and bluntness of feeling,--saw that there were a great many
rounded passages in them,--found it much easier to sweep circles than to
design beauties, and sat down in their studies, contented with perpetual
repetitions of the same spherical conceptions, having about the same
relation to the clouds of nature, that a child's carving of a turnip has
to the head of the Apollo. Look at the round things about the sun in the
bricky Claude, the smallest of the three Seaports in the National
Gallery. They are a great deal more like half-crowns than clouds. Take
the ropy, tough-looking wreath in the Sacrifice of Isaac, and find one
part of it, if you can, which is not the repetition of every other part
of it, all together being as round and vapid as the brush could draw
them; or take the two cauliflower-like protuberances in No. 220 of the
Dulwich Gallery, and admire the studied similarity between them; you
cannot tell which is which; or take the so-called Nicholas Poussin, No.
212, Dulwich Gallery, in which, from the brown trees to the right-hand
side of the picture, there is not one line which is not physically

§ 9. Vast size of congregated masses of cloud.

§ 10. Demonstrable by comparison with mountain ranges.

But it is not the outline only which is thus systematically false. The
drawing of the solid form is worse still, for it is to be remembered
that although clouds of course arrange themselves more or less into
broad masses, with a light side and dark side, both their light and
shade are invariably composed of a series of divided masses, each of
which has in its outline as much variety and character as the great
outline of the cloud; presenting, therefore, a thousand times repeated,
all that I have described as characteristic of the general form. Nor are
these multitudinous divisions a truth of slight importance in the
character of sky, for they are dependent on, and illustrative of, a
quality which is usually in a great degree overlooked,--the enormous
retiring spaces of solid clouds. Between the illumined edge of a heaped
cloud, and that part of its body which turns into shadow, there will
generally be a clear distance of several miles, more or less of course,
according to the general size of the cloud, but in such large masses as
in Poussin and others of the old masters, occupy the fourth or fifth of
the visible sky; the clear illumined breadth of vapor, from the edge to
the shadow, involves at least a distance of five or six miles. We are
little apt, in watching the changes of a mountainous range of cloud, to
reflect that the masses of vapor which compose it, are huger and higher
than any mountain range of the earth; and the distances between mass and
mass are not yards of air traversed in an instant by the flying form,
but valleys of changing atmosphere leagues over; that the slow motion of
ascending curves, which we can scarcely trace, is a boiling energy of
exulting vapor rushing into the heaven a thousand feet in a minute; and
that the toppling angle whose sharp edge almost escapes notice in the
multitudinous forms around it, is a nodding precipice of storms, 3000
feet from base to summit. It is not until we have actually compared the
forms of the sky with the hill ranges of the earth, and seen the soaring
Alp overtopped and buried in one surge of the sky, that we begin to
conceive or appreciate the colossal scale of the phenomena of the
latter. But of this there can be no doubt in the mind of any one
accustomed to trace the forms of clouds among hill ranges--as it is
there a demonstrable and evident fact, that the space of vapor visibly
extended over an ordinarily cloudy sky, is not less, from the point
nearest to the observer to the horizon, than twenty leagues; that the
size of every mass of separate form, if it be at all largely divided, is
to be expressed in terms of _miles_; and that every boiling heap of
illuminated mist in the nearer sky, is an enormous mountain, fifteen or
twenty thousand feet in height, six or seven miles over an illuminated
surface, furrowed by a thousand colossal ravines, torn by local tempests
into peaks and promontories, and changing its features with the majestic
velocity of the volcano.

§ 11. And consequent divisions and varieties of feature.

To those who have once convinced themselves of these proportions of the
heaven, it will be immediately evident, that though we might, without
much violation of truth, omit the minor divisions of a cloud four yards
over, it is the veriest audacity of falsehood to omit those of masses
where for yards we have to read miles; first, because it is physically
impossible that such a space should be without many and vast divisions;
secondly, because divisions at such distances must be sharply and
forcibly marked by aerial perspective, so that not only they must be
there, but they must be visible and evident to the eye; and thirdly,
because these multitudinous divisions are absolutely necessary, in order
to express this space and distance, which cannot but be fully and
imperfectly felt, even with every aid and evidence that art can give of

§ 12. Not lightly to be omitted.

Now if an artist taking for his subject a chain of vast mountains,
several leagues long, were to unite all their varieties of ravine, crag,
chasm, and precipice, into one solid, unbroken mass, with one light side
and one dark side, looking like a white ball or parallelopiped two yards
broad, the words "breadth," "boldness," or, "generalization," would
scarcely be received as a sufficient apology for a proceeding so
glaringly false, and so painfully degrading. But when, instead of the
really large and simple forms of mountains, united, as they commonly
are, by some great principle of common organization, and so closely
resembling each other as often to correspond in line, and join in
effect; when instead of this, we have to do with spaces of cloud twice
as vast, broken up into a multiplicity of forms necessary to, and
characteristic of, their very nature--those forms subject to a thousand
local changes, having no association with each other, and rendered
visible in a thousand places by their own transparency or cavities,
where the mountain forms would be lost in shade,--that this far greater
space, and this far more complicated arrangement, should be all summed
up into one round mass, with one swell of white, and one flat side of
unbroken gray, is considered an evidence of the sublimest powers in the
artist of generalization and breadth. Now it may be broad, it may be
grand, it may be beautiful, artistical, and in every way desirable. I
don't say it is not--I merely say it is a concentration of every kind of
falsehood: it is depriving heaven of its space, clouds of their
buoyancy, winds of their motion, and distance of its blue.

§ 13. Imperfect conceptions of this size and extent in ancient

This is done, more or less, by all the old masters, without an
exception.[32] Their idea of clouds was altogether similar; more or less
perfectly carried out, according to their power of hand and accuracy of
eye, but universally the same in conception. It was the idea of a
comparatively small, round, puffed-up white body, irregularly associated
with other round and puffed-up white bodies, each with a white light
side, and a gray dark side, and a soft reflected light, floating a great
way below a blue dome. Such is the idea of a cloud formed by most
people; it is the first, general, uncultivated notion of what we see
every day. People think of the clouds as about as large as they
look--forty yards over, perhaps; they see generally that they are solid
bodies subject to the same laws as other solid bodies, roundish,
whitish, and apparently suspended a great way under a high blue
concavity. So that these ideas be tolerably given with smooth paint,
they are content, and call it nature. How different it is from anything
that nature ever did, or ever will do, I have endeavored to show; but I
cannot, and do not, expect the contrast to be fully felt, unless the
reader will actually go out on days when, either before or after rain,
the clouds arrange themselves into vigorous masses, and after arriving
at something like a conception of their distance and size, from the mode
in which they retire over the horizon, will for himself trace and watch
their varieties of form and outline, as mass rises over mass in their
illuminated bodies. Let him climb from step to step over their craggy
and broken slopes, let him plunge into the long vistas of immeasurable
perspective, that guide back to the blue sky; and when he finds his
imagination lost in their immensity, and his senses confused with their
multitude, let him go to Claude, to Salvator, or to Poussin, and ask
them for a like space, or like infinity.

§ 14. Total want of transparency and evanescence in the clouds of
        ancient landscape.

But perhaps the most grievous fault of all, in the clouds of these
painters, is the utter want of transparency. Not in her most ponderous
and lightless masses will nature ever leave us without some evidence of
transmitted sunshine; and she perpetually gives us passages in which the
vapor becomes visible only by the sunshine which it arrests and holds
within itself, not caught on its surface, but entangled in its
mass--floating fleeces, precious with the gold of heaven; and this
translucency is especially indicated on the dark sides even of her
heaviest wreaths, which possess opalescent and delicate hues of partial
illumination, far more dependent upon the beams which pass through them
than on those which are reflected upon them. Nothing, on the contrary,
can be more painfully and ponderously opaque than the clouds of the old
masters universally. However far removed in aerial distance, and however
brilliant in light, they never appear filmy or evanescent, and their
light is always on them, not in them. And this effect is much increased
by the positive and persevering determination on the part of their
outlines not to be broken in upon, nor interfered with in the slightest
degree, by any presumptuous blue, or impertinent winds. There is no
inequality, no variation, no losing or disguising of line, no melting
into nothingness, nor shattering into spray; edge succeeds edge with
imperturbable equanimity, and nothing short of the most decided
interference on the part of tree-tops, or the edge of the picture,
prevents us from being able to follow them all the way round, like the
coast of an island.

§ 15. Farther proof of their deficiency in space.

§ 16. Instance of perfect truth in the sky of Turner's Babylon.

And be it remembered that all these faults and deficiencies are to be
found in their drawing merely of the separate masses of the solid
cumulus, the easiest drawn of all clouds. But nature scarcely ever
confines herself to such masses; they form but the thousandth part of
her variety of effect. She builds up a pyramid of their boiling volumes,
bars this across like a mountain with the gray cirrus, envelops it in
black, ragged, drifting vapor, covers the open part of the sky with
mottled horizontal fields, breaks through these with sudden and long
sunbeams, tears up their edges with local winds, scatters over the gaps
of blue the infinity of multitude of the high cirri, and melts even the
unoccupied azure into palpitating shades. And all this is done over and
over again in every quarter of a mile. Where Poussin or Claude have
three similar masses, nature has fifty pictures, made up each of
millions of minor thoughts--fifty aisles penetrating through angelic
chapels to the Shechinah of the blue--fifty hollow ways among bewildered
hills--each with their own nodding rocks, and cloven precipices, and
radiant summits, and robing vapors, but all unlike each other, except in
beauty, all bearing witness to the unwearied, exhaustless operation of
the Infinite Mind. Now, in cases like these especially, as we observed
before of general nature, though it is altogether hopeless to follow out
in the space of any one picture this incalculable and inconceivable
glory, yet the painter can at least see that the space he has at his
command, narrow and confined as it is, is made complete use of, and that
no part of it shall be without entertainment and food for thought. If he
could subdivide it by millionths of inches, he could not reach the
multitudinous majesty of nature; but it is at least incumbent upon him
to make the most of what he has, and not, by exaggerating the
proportions, banishing the variety and repeating the forms of his
clouds, to set at defiance the eternal principles of the
heavens--fitfulness and infinity. And now let us, keeping in memory what
we have seen of Poussin and Salvator, take up one of Turner's skies,
and see whether _he_ is as narrow in his conception, or as niggardly in
his space. It does not matter which we take, his sublime Babylon[33] is
a fair example for our present purpose. Ten miles away, down the
Euphrates, where it gleams last along the plain, he gives us a drift of
dark elongated vapor, melting beneath into a dim haze which embraces the
hills on the horizon. It is exhausted with its own motion, and broken up
by the wind in its own body into numberless groups of billowy and
tossing fragments, which, beaten by the weight of storm down to the
earth, are just lifting themselves again on wearied wings, and perishing
in the effort. Above these, and far beyond them, the eye goes back to a
broad sea of white, illuminated mist, or rather cloud melted into rain,
and absorbed again before that rain has fallen, but penetrated
throughout, whether it be vapor or whether it be dew, with soft
sunshine, turning it as white as snow. Gradually as it rises, the rainy
fusion ceases, you cannot tell where the film of blue on the left
begins--but it is deepening, deepening still,--and the cloud, with its
edge first invisible, then all but imaginary, then just felt when the
eye is _not_ fixed on it, and lost when it is, at last rises, keen from
excessive distance, but soft and mantling in its body, as a swan's bosom
fretted by faint wind, heaving fitfully against the delicate deep blue,
with white waves, whose forms are traced by the pale lines of opalescent
shadow, shade only because the light is within it, and not upon it, and
which break with their own swiftness into a driven line of level spray,
winnowed into threads by the wind, and flung before the following vapor
like those swift shafts of arrowy water which a great cataract shoots
into the air beside it, trying to find the earth. Beyond these, again,
rises a colossal mountain of gray cumulus, through whose shadowed sides
the sunbeams penetrate in dim, sloping, rain-like shafts; and over which
they fall in a broad burst of streaming light, sinking to the earth, and
showing through their own visible radiance the three successive ranges
of hills which connect its desolate plain with space. Above, the edgy
summit of the cumulus, broken into fragments, recedes into the sky,
which is peopled in its serenity with quiet multitudes of the white,
soft, silent cirrus; and under these again, drift near the zenith,
disturbed and impatient shadows of a darker spirit, seeking rest and
finding none.

§ 17. And in his Pools of Solomon.

Now this is nature! It is the exhaustless living energy with which the
universe is filled; and what will you set beside it of the works of
other men? Show me a single picture, in the whole compass of ancient
art, in which I can pass from cloud to cloud, from region to region,
from first to second and third heaven, as I can here, and you may talk
of Turner's want of truth. Turn to the Pools of Solomon, and walk
through the passages of mist as they melt on the one hand into those
stormy fragments of fiery cloud, or, on the other, into the cold
solitary shadows that compass the sweeping hill, and when you find an
inch without air and transparency, and a hairbreadth without
changefulness and thought; and when you can count the torn waves of
tossing radiance that gush from the sun, as you can count the fixed,
white, insipidities of Claude; or when you can measure the modulation
and the depth of that hollow mist, as you can the flourishes of the
brush upon the canvas of Salvator, talk of Turner's want of truth!

But let us take up simpler and less elaborate works, for there is too
much in these to admit of being analyzed.

§ 18. Truths of outline and character in his Como.

In the vignette of the Lake of Como, in Rogers's Italy, the space is so
small that the details have been partially lost by the engraver; but
enough remain to illustrate the great principles of cloud from which we
have endeavored to explain. Observe first the general angular outline of
the volumes on the left of the sun. If you mark the points where the
direction of their outline changes, and connect those points by right
lines, the cloud will touch, but will not cut, those lines throughout.
Yet its contour is as graceful as it is full of character--toppling,
ready to change--fragile as enormous--evanescent as colossal. Observe
how, where it crosses the line of the sun, it becomes luminous,
illustrating what has been observed of the visibility of mist in
sunlight. Observe, above all, the multiplicity of its solid form, the
depth of its shadows in perpetual transition: it is not round and
swelled, half light and half dark, but full of breaking irregular
shadow and transparency--variable as the wind, and melting
imperceptibly above into the haziness of the sunlighted atmosphere,
contrasted in all its vast forms with the delicacy and the multitude of
the brightly touched cirri. Nothing can surpass the truth of this; the
cloud is as gigantic in its simplicity as the Alp which it opposes; but
how various, how transparent, how infinite in its organization!

§ 19. Association of the cirrostratus with the cumulus.

I would draw especial attention, both here and in all other works of
Turner, to the beautiful use of the low horizontal bars or fields of
cloud, (cirrostratus,) which associate themselves so frequently--more
especially before storms--with the true cumulus, floating on its flanks,
or capping it, as if it were a mountain, and seldom mingling with its
substance, unless in the very formation of rain. They supply us with one
of those beautiful instances of natural composition, by which the artist
is superseded and excelled--for, by the occurrence of these horizontal
flakes, the rolling form of the cumulus is both opposed in its principal
lines, and gifted with an apparent solidity and vastness, which no other
expedient could have exhibited, and which far exceed in awfulness the
impression of the noblest mountains of the earth. I have seen in the
evening light of Italy, the Alps themselves out-towered by ranges of
these mighty clouds, alternately white in the starlight, and inhabited
by fire.

§ 20. The deep-based knowledge of the Alps in Turner's Lake of Geneva.

Turn back to the first vignette in the Italy. The angular outlines and
variety of modulation in the clouds above the sail, and the delicate
atmosphere of morning into which they are dissolved about the breathing
hills, require no comment; but one part of this vignette demands
especial notice; it is the repetition of the outline of the snowy
mountain by the light cloud above it. The cause of this I have already
explained (vide page 228,) and its occurrence here is especially
valuable as bearing witness to the thorough and scientific knowledge
thrown by Turner into his slightest works. The thing cannot be seen once
in six months; it would not have been noticed, much less introduced by
an ordinary artist, and to the public it is a dead letter, or an
offence. Ninety-nine persons in a hundred would not have observed this
pale wreath of parallel cloud above the hill, and the hundredth in all
probability says it is unnatural. It requires the most intimate and
accurate knowledge of the Alps before such a piece of refined truth can
be understood.

§ 21. Further principles of cloud form exemplified in his Amalfi.

At the 216th page we have another and a new case, in which clouds in
perfect repose, unaffected by wind, or any influence but that of their
own elastic force, boil, rise, and melt in the heaven with more approach
to globular form than under any other circumstances is possible. I name
this vignette, not only because it is most remarkable for the buoyancy
and elasticity of inward energy, indicated through the most ponderous
forms, and affords us a beautiful instance of the junction of the
cirrostratus with the cumulus, of which we have just been speaking (§
19,) but because it is a characteristic example of Turner's use of one
of the facts of nature not hitherto noticed, that the edge of a
partially transparent body is often darker than its central surface,
because at the edge the light penetrates and passes through, which from
the centre is reflected to the eye. The sharp, cutting edge of a wave,
if not broken into foam, frequently appears for an instant almost black;
and the outlines of these massy clouds, where their projecting forms
rise in relief against the light of their bodies, are almost always
marked clearly and firmly by very dark edges. Hence we have frequently,
if not constantly, multitudinous forms indicated only by outline, giving
character and solidity to the great masses of light, without taking away
from their breadth. And Turner avails himself of these boldly and
constantly,--outlining forms with the brush of which no other indication
is given. All the grace and solidity of the white cloud on the
right-hand side of the vignette before us, depends upon such outlines.

§ 22. Reasons for insisting on the _infinity_ of Turner's works.
        Infinity is almost an unerring test of _all_ truth.

As I before observed of mere execution, that one of the best tests of
its excellence was the expression of _infinity_; so it may be noticed
with respect to the painting of details generally, that more difference
lies between one artist and another, in the attainment of this quality,
than in any other of the efforts of art; and that if we wish, without
reference to beauty of composition, or any other interfering
circumstances, to form a judgment of the truth of painting, perhaps the
very first thing we should look for, whether in one thing or
another--foliage, or clouds, or waves--should be the expression of
_infinity_ always and everywhere, in all parts and divisions of parts.
For we may be quite sure that what is not infinite, cannot be true; it
does not, indeed, follow that what is infinite, always is true, but it
cannot be altogether false, for this simple reason; that it is
impossible for mortal mind to compose an infinity of any kind for
itself, or to form an idea of perpetual variation, and to avoid all
repetition, merely by its own combining resources. The moment that we
trust to ourselves, we repeat ourselves, and therefore the moment we see
in a work of any kind whatsoever, the expression of infinity, we may be
certain that the workman has gone to nature for it; while, on the other
hand, the moment we see repetition, or want of infinity, we may be
certain that the workman has _not_ gone to nature for it.

§ 23. Instances of the total want of it in the works of Salvator.

§ 24. And of the universal presence of it in those of Turner. The
        conclusions which may be arrived at from it.

§ 25. The multiplication of objects, or increase of their size, will not
        give the impression of infinity, but is the resource of novices.

For instance, in the picture of Salvator before noticed, No. 220 in the
Dulwich Gallery, as we see at once that the two masses of cloud
absolutely repeat each other in every one of their forms, and that each
is composed of about twelve white sweeps of the brush, all forming the
same curve, and all of the same length; and as we can count these, and
measure their common diameter, and by stating the same to anybody else,
convey to him a full and perfect idea and knowledge of that sky in all
its parts and proportions,--as we can do this, we may be absolutely
certain, without reference to the real sky, or to any other part of
nature, without even knowing what the white things were intended for, we
may be certain that they cannot possibly resemble _anything_; that
whatever they were meant for, they can be nothing but a violent
contradiction of all nature's principles and forms. When, on the other
hand, we take up such a sky as that of Turner's Rouen, seen from St.
Catherine's Hill, in the Rivers of France, and find, in the first place,
that he has given us a distance over the hills in the horizon, into
which, when we are tired of penetrating, we must turn and come back
again, there being not the remotest chance of getting to the end of it;
and when we see that from this measureless distance up to the zenith,
the whole sky is one ocean of alternate waves of cloud and light, so
blended together that the eye cannot rest on any one without being
guided to the next, and so to a hundred more, till it is lost over and
over again in every wreath--that if it divides the sky into quarters of
inches, and tries to count or comprehend the component parts of any
single one of those divisions, it is still as utterly defied and
defeated by the part as by the whole--that there is not one line out of
the millions there which repeats another, not one which is unconnected
with another, not one which does not in itself convey histories of
distance and space, and suggest new and changeful form; then we may be
all but certain, though these forms are too mysterious and too delicate
for us to analyze--though all is so crowded and so connected that it is
impossible to test any single part by particular laws--yet without any
such tests, we may be sure that this infinity can only be based on
truth--that it _must_ be nature, because man could not have originated
it, and that every form must be faithful, because none is like another.
And therefore it is that I insist so constantly on this great quality of
landscape painting, as it appears in Turner; because it is not merely a
constant and most important truth in itself, but it almost amounts to a
demonstration of every other truth. And it will be found a far rarer
attainment in the works of other men than is commonly supposed, and the
sign, wherever it is really found, of the very highest art. For we are
apt to forget that the greatest _number_ is no nearer infinity than the
least, if it be definite number; and the vastest bulk is no nearer
infinity than the most minute, if it be definite bulk; so that a man may
multiply his objects forever and ever, and be no nearer infinity than he
had reached with one, if he do not vary them and confuse them; and a man
may reach infinity in every touch and line, and part, and unit, if in
these he be truthfully various and obscure. And we shall find, the more
we examine the works of the old masters, that always, and in all parts,
they are totally wanting in every feeling of infinity, and therefore in
_all_ truth: and even in the works of the moderns, though the aim is far
more just, we shall frequently perceive an erroneous choice of means,
and a substitution of mere number or bulk for real infinity.

§ 26. Farther instances of infinity in the gray skies of Turner.

And therefore, in concluding our notice of the central cloud region, I
should wish to dwell particularly on those skies of Turner's, in which
we have the whole space of the heaven covered with the delicate dim
flakes of gathering vapor, which are the intermediate link between the
central region and that of the rain-cloud, and which assemble and grow
out of the air; shutting up the heaven with a gray interwoven veil,
before the approach of storm, faint, but universal, letting the light of
the upper sky pass pallidly through their body, but never rending a
passage for the ray. We have the first approach and gathering of this
kind of sky most gloriously given in the vignette at page 115 of
Rogers's Italy, which is one of the most perfect pieces of feeling (if I
may transgress my usual rules for an instant) extant in art, owing to
the extreme grandeur and stern simplicity of the strange and ominous
forms of level cloud behind the building. In that at page 223, there are
passages of the same kind, of exceeding perfection. The sky through
which the dawn is breaking in the Voyage of Columbus, and that with the
Moonlight under the Rialto, in Rogers's Poems, the skies of the
Bethlehem, and the Pyramids in Finden's Bible series, and among the
Academy pictures, that of the Hero and Leander, and Flight into Egypt,
are characteristic and noble examples, as far as any individual works
can be characteristic of the universality of this mighty mind. I ought
not to forget the magnificent solemnity and fulness of the wreaths of
gathering darkness in the Folkestone.

§ 27. The excellence of the cloud-drawing of Stanfield.

§ 28. The average standing of the English school.

We must not pass from the consideration of the central cloud region
without noticing the general high quality of the cloud-drawing of
Stanfield. He is limited in his range, and is apt in extensive
compositions to repeat himself, neither is he ever very refined; but his
cloud-form is firmly and fearlessly chiselled, with perfect knowledge,
though usually with some want of feeling. As far as it goes, it is very
grand and very tasteful, beautifully developed in the space of its solid
parts and full of action. Next to Turner, he is incomparably the noblest
master of cloud-form of all our artists; in fact, he is the only one
among them who really can _draw_ a cloud. For it is a very different
thing to rub out an irregular white space neatly with the handkerchief,
or to leave a bright little bit of paper in the middle of a wash, and
to give the real anatomy of cloud-form with perfect articulation of
chiaroscuro. We have multitudes of painters who can throw a light bit of
straggling vapor across their sky, or leave in it delicate and tender
passages of breaking light; but this is a very different thing from
taking up each of those bits or passages, and giving it structure, and
parts, and solidity. The eye is satisfied with exceedingly little, as an
indication of cloud, and a few clever sweeps of the brush on wet paper
may give all that it requires; but this is not _drawing_ clouds, nor
will it ever appeal fully and deeply to the mind, except when it occurs
only as a part of a higher system. And there is not one of our modern
artists, except Stanfield, who can do much more than this. As soon as
they attempt to lay detail upon their clouds, they appear to get
bewildered, forget that they are dealing with forms regulated by
precisely the same simple laws of light and shade as more substantial
matter, overcharge their color, confuse their shadows and dark sides,
and end in mere ragged confusion. I believe the evil arises from their
never attempting to render clouds except with the brush; other objects,
at some period of study, they take up with the chalk or lead, and so
learn something of their form; but they appear to consider clouds as
altogether dependent on cobalt and camel's hair, and so never understand
anything of their real anatomy. But whatever the cause, I cannot point
to any central clouds of the moderns, except those of Turner and
Stanfield, as really showing much knowledge of, or feeling for, nature,
though _all_ are superior to the conventional and narrow conceptions of
the ancients. We are all right as far as we go, our work may be
incomplete, but it is not false; and it is far better, far less
injurious to the mind, that we should be little attracted to the sky,
and taught to be satisfied with a light suggestion of truthful form,
than that we should be drawn to it by violently pronounced outline and
intense color, to find in its finished falsehood everything to displease
or to mislead--to hurt our feelings, if we have foundation for them, and
corrupt them, if we have none.


  [32] Here I include even the great ones--even Titian and
    Veronese,--excepting only Tintoret and the religious schools.

  [33] Engraved in Findel's Bible Illustrations.

                                 CHAPTER IV.


§ 1. The apparent difference in character between the lower and central
       clouds is dependent chiefly on proximity.

The clouds which I wish to consider as characteristic of the lower, or
rainy region, differ not so much in their real nature from those of the
central and uppermost regions, as in appearance, owing to their greater
nearness. For the central clouds, and perhaps even the high cirri,
deposit moisture, if not distinctly rain, as is sufficiently proved by
the existence of snow on the highest peaks of the Himaleh; and when, on
any such mountains, we are brought into close contact with the central
clouds,[34] we find them little differing from the ordinary rain-cloud
of the plains, except by being slightly less dense and dark. But the
apparent differences, dependent on proximity, are most marked and

§ 2. Their marked difference in color.

In the first place, the clouds of the central region have, as has been
before observed, pure and aerial grays for their dark sides, owing to
their necessary distance from the observer; and as this distance permits
a multitude of local phenomena capable of influencing color, such as
accidental sunbeams, refractions, transparencies, or local mists and
showers, to be collected into a space comparatively small, the colors of
these clouds are always changeful and palpitating; and whatever degree
of gray or of gloom may be mixed with them is invariably pure and
aerial. But the nearness of the rain-cloud rendering it impossible for a
number of phenomena to be at once visible, makes its hue of gray
monotonous, and (by losing the blue of distance) warm and brown compared
to that of the upper clouds. This is especially remarkable on any part
of it which may happen to be illumined, which is of a brown, bricky,
ochreous tone, never bright, always coming in dark outline on the lights
of the central clouds. But it is seldom that this takes place, and when
it does, never over large spaces, little being usually seen of the
rain-cloud but its under and dark side. This, when the cloud above is
dense, becomes of an inky and cold gray, and sulphureous and lurid if
there be thunder in the air.

§ 3. And in definiteness of form.

§ 4. They are subject to precisely the same great laws.

With these striking differences in color, it presents no fewer nor less
important in form, chiefly from losing almost all definiteness of
character and outline. It is sometimes nothing more than a thin mist,
whose outline cannot be traced, rendering the landscape locally
indistinct or dark; if its outline be visible, it is ragged and torn;
rather a spray of cloud, taken off its edge and sifted by the wind, than
an edge of the cloud itself. In fact, it rather partakes of the nature,
and assumes the appearance, of real water in the state of spray, than of
elastic vapor. This appearance is enhanced by the usual presence of
formed rain, carried along with it in a columnar form, ordinarily, of
course, reaching the ground like a veil, but very often suspended with
the cloud, and hanging from it like a jagged fringe, or over it in
light, rain being always lighter than the cloud it falls from. These
columns, or fringes, of rain are often waved and bent by the wind, or
twisted, sometimes even swept upwards from the cloud. The velocity of
these vapors, though not necessarily in reality greater than that of the
central clouds, appears greater, owing to their proximity, and, of
course, also to the usual presence of a more violent wind. They are also
apparently much more in the power of the wind, having less elastic force
in themselves; but they are precisely subject to the same great laws of
form which regulate the upper clouds. They are not solid bodies borne
about with the wind, but they carry the wind with them, and cause it.
Every one knows, who has ever been out in a storm, that the time when it
rains heaviest is precisely the time when he cannot hold up his
umbrella; that the wind is carried with the cloud, and lulls when it has
passed. Every one who has ever seen rain in a hill country, knows that
a rain-cloud, like any other, may have all its parts in rapid motion,
and yet, as a whole, remain in one spot. I remember once, when in
crossing the Tête Noire, I had turned up the valley towards Trient, I
noticed a rain-cloud forming on the Glacier de Trient. With a west wind,
it proceeded towards the Col de Balme, being followed by a prolonged
wreath of vapor, always forming exactly at the same spot over the
glacier. This long, serpent-like line of cloud went on at a great rate
till it reached the valley leading down from the Col de Balme, under the
slate rocks of the Croix de Fer. There it turned sharp round, and came
down this valley, at right angles to its former progress, and finally
directly contrary to it, till it came down within five hundred feet of
the village, where it disappeared; the line behind always advancing, and
always disappearing, at the same spot. This continued for half an hour,
the long line describing the curve of a horseshoe; always coming into
existence, and always vanishing at exactly the same places; traversing
the space between with enormous swiftness. This cloud, ten miles off,
would have looked like a perfectly motionless wreath, in the form of a
horseshoe, hanging over the hills.

§ 5. Value, to the painter, of the rain-cloud.

§ 6. The old masters have not left a single instance of the painting of
       the rain-cloud, and very few efforts at it. Gaspar Poussin's

To the region of the rain-cloud belong also all those phenomena of
drifted smoke, heat-haze, local mists in the morning or evening; in
valleys, or over water, mirage, white steaming vapor rising in
evaporation from moist and open surfaces, and everything which visibly
affects the condition of the atmosphere without actually assuming the
form of cloud. These phenomena are as perpetual in all countries as they
are beautiful, and afford by far the most effective and valuable means
which the painter possesses, for modification of the forms of fixed
objects. The upper clouds are distinct and comparatively opaque, they do
not modify, but conceal; but through the rain-cloud, and its accessory
phenomena, all that is beautiful may be made manifest, and all that is
hurtful concealed; what is paltry may be made to look vast, and what is
ponderous, aerial; mystery may be obtained without obscurity, and
decoration without disguise. And, accordingly, nature herself uses it
constantly, as one of her chief means of most perfect effect; not in one
country, nor another, but everywhere--everywhere; at least, where there
is anything worth calling landscape. I cannot answer for the desert of
the Sahara, but I know that there can be no greater mistake, than
supposing that delicate and variable effects of mist and rain-cloud are
peculiar to northern climates. I have never seen in any place or country
effects of mist more perfect than in the Campagna of Rome, and among the
hills of Sorrento. It is therefore matter of no little marvel to me, and
I conceive that it can scarcely be otherwise to any reflecting person,
that throughout the whole range of ancient landscape art, there occurs
no instance of the painting of a real rain-cloud, still less of any of
the more delicate phenomena characteristic of the region. "Storms"
indeed, as the innocent public persist in calling such abuses of nature
and abortions of art as the two windy Gaspars in our National Gallery,
are common enough; massive concretions of ink and indigo, wrung and
twisted very hard, apparently in a vain effort to get some moisture out
of them; bearing up courageously and successfully against a wind, whose
effects on the trees in the foreground can be accounted for only on the
supposition that they are all of the India-rubber species. Enough of
this in all conscience, we have, and to spare; but for the legitimate
rain-cloud, with its ragged and spray-like edge, its veilly
transparency, and its columnar burden of blessing, neither it, nor
anything like it, or approaching it, occurs in any painting of the old
masters that I have ever seen; and I have seen enough to warrant my
affirming that if it occur anywhere, it must be through accident rather
than intention. Nor is there stronger evidence of any perception, on the
part of these much respected artists, that there were such things in the
world as mists or vapors. If a cloud under their direction ever touches
a mountain, it does it effectually and as if it meant to do it. There is
no mystifying the matter; here is a cloud, and there is a hill; if it is
to come on at all, it comes on to some purpose, and there is no hope of
its ever going off again. We have, therefore, little to say of the
efforts of the old masters, in any scenes which might naturally have
been connected with the clouds of the lowest region, except that the
faults of form specified in considering the central clouds, are, by way
of being energetic or sublime, more glaringly and audaciously committed
in their "storms;" and that what is a wrong form among clouds possessing
form, is there given with increased generosity of fiction to clouds
which have no form at all.

§ 7. The great power of the moderns in this respect.

§ 8. Works of Copley Fielding.

§ 9. His peculiar truth.

§ 10. His weakness and its probable cause.

Supposing that we had nothing to show in modern art, of the region of
the rain-cloud, but the dash of Cox, the blot of de Wint, or even the
ordinary stormy skies of the body of our inferior water-color painters,
we might yet laugh all efforts of the old masters to utter scorn. But
one among our water-color artists, deserves especial notice--before we
ascend the steps of the solitary throne--as having done in his peculiar
walk, what for faithful and pure truth, truth indeed of a limited range
and unstudied application, but yet most faithful and most pure, will
remain unsurpassed if not unrivalled,--Copley Fielding. We are well
aware how much of what he has done depends in a great degree upon
particular tricks of execution, or on a labor somewhat too mechanical to
be meritorious; that it is rather the _texture_ than the _plan_ of his
sky which is to be admired, and that the greater part of what is
pleasurable in it will fall rather under the head of dexterous imitation
than of definite thought. But whatever detractions from his merit we may
be compelled to make on these grounds, in considering art as the
embodying of beauty, or the channel of mind, it is impossible, when we
are speaking of truth only, to pass by his down scenes and moorland
showers, of some years ago, in which he produced some of the most
perfect and faultless passages of mist and rain-cloud which art has ever
seen. Wet, transparent, formless, full of motion, felt rather by their
shadows on the hills than by their presence in the sky, becoming dark
only through increased depth of space, most translucent where most
sombre, and light only through increased buoyancy of motion, letting the
blue through their interstices, and the sunlight through their chasms,
with the irregular playfulness and traceless gradation of nature
herself, his skies will remain, as long as their colors stand, among the
most simple, unadulterated, and complete transcripts of a particular
nature which art can point to. Had he painted five instead of five
hundred such, and gone on to other sources of beauty, he might, there
can be little doubt, have been one of our greatest artists. But it often
grieves us to see how his power is limited to a particular moment, to
that easiest moment for imitation, when knowledge of form may be
superseded by management of the brush, and the judgment of the colorist
by the manufacture of a color; the moment when all form is melted down
and drifted away in the descending veil of rain, and when the variable
and fitful colors of the heaven are lost in the monotonous gray of its
storm tones.[35] We can only account for this by supposing that there is
something radically wrong in his method of study; for a man of his
evident depth of feeling and pure love of truth ought not to be, cannot
be, except from some strange error in his mode of out-of-door practice,
thus limited in his range, and liable to decline of power. We have
little doubt that almost all such failures arise from the artist's
neglecting the use of the chalk, and supposing that either the power of
drawing forms, or the sense of their beauty, can be maintained
unweakened or unblunted, without constant and laborious studies in
simple light and shade, of form only. The brush is at once the artist's
greatest aid and enemy; it enables him to make his power available, but
at the same time, it undermines his power, and unless it be constantly
rejected for the pencil, never can be rightly used. But whatever the
obstacle be, we do not doubt that it is one which, once seen, may be
overcome or removed; and we are in the constant hope of seeing this
finely-minded artist shake off his lethargy, break the shackles of
habit, seek in extended and right study the sources of real power, and
become, what we have full faith in his capability of being, one of the
leading artists of his time.

§ 11. Impossibility of reasoning on the rain-clouds of Turner from

In passing to the works of our greatest modern master, it must be
premised that the qualities which constitute a most essential part of
the truth of the rain-cloud, are in no degree to be rendered by
engraving. Its indefiniteness of torn and transparent form is far beyond
the power of even our best engravers: I do not say beyond their
_possible_ power, if they would make themselves artists as well as
workmen, but far beyond the power they actually possess; while the depth
and delicacy of the grays which Turner employs or produces, as well as
the refinement of his execution, are, in the nature of things, utterly
beyond all imitation by the opaque and lifeless darkness of the steel.
What we say of his works, therefore, must be understood as referring
only to the original drawings; though we may name one or two instances
in which the engraver has, to a certain degree, succeeded in distantly
following the intention of the master.

§ 12. His rendering of Fielding's particular moment in the Jumieges.

§ 13. Illustration of the nature of clouds in the opposed forms of smoke
        and steam.

Jumieges, in the Rivers of France, ought perhaps, after what we have
said of Fielding, to be our first object of attention, because it is a
rendering by Turner of Fielding's particular moment, and the only one
existing, for Turner never repeats himself. One picture is allotted to
one truth; the statement is perfectly and gloriously made, and he passes
on to speak of a fresh portion of God's revelation.[36] The haze of
sunlit rain of this most magnificent picture, the gradual retirement of
the dark wood into its depth, and the sparkling and evanescent light
which sends its variable flashes on the abbey, figures, foliage, and
foam, require no comment--they speak home at once. But there is added to
this noble composition an incident which may serve us at once for a
farther illustration of the nature and forms of cloud, and for a final
proof how deeply and philosophically Turner has studied them.

We have on the right of the picture, the steam and the smoke of a
passing steamboat. Now steam is nothing but an artificial cloud in the
process of dissipation; it is as much a cloud as those of the sky
itself, that is, a quantity of moisture rendered visible in the air by
imperfect solution. Accordingly, observe how exquisitely irregular and
broken are its forms, how sharp and spray-like; but with all the facts
observed which were pointed out in Chap. II. of this Section, the convex
side to the wind, the sharp edge on that side, the other soft and lost.
Smoke, on the contrary, is an actual substance existing independently in
the air, a solid opaque body, subject to no absorption nor dissipation
but that of tenuity. Observe its volumes; there is no breaking up nor
disappearing here; the wind carries its elastic globes before it, but
does not dissolve nor break them.[37] Equally convex and void of angles
on all sides, they are the exact representatives of the clouds of the
old masters, and serve at once to show the ignorance and falsehood of
these latter, and the accuracy of study which has guided Turner to the

§ 14. Moment of retiring rain in the Llanthony.

From this picture we should pass to the Llanthony,[38] which is the
rendering of the moment immediately following that given in the
Jumieges. The shower is here half exhausted, half passed by, the last
drops are rattling faintly through the glimmering hazel boughs, the
white torrent, swelled by the sudden storm, flings up its hasty jets of
springing spray to meet the returning light; and these, as if the heaven
regretted what it had given, and were taking it back, pass, as they
leap, into vapor, and fall not again, but vanish in the shafts of the
sunlight[39]--hurrying, fitful, wind-woven sunlight--which glides
through the thick leaves, and paces along the pale rocks like rain;
half conquering, half quenched by the very mists which it summons itself
from the lighted pastures as it passes, and gathers out of the drooping
herbage and from the streaming crags; sending them with messages of
peace to the far summits of the yet unveiled mountains whose silence is
still broken by the sound of the rushing rain.

§ 15. And of commencing, chosen with peculiar meaning for Loch Coriskin.

With this noble work we should compare one of which we can better judge
by the engraving--the Loch Coriskin, in the illustrations to Scott,
because it introduces us to another and a most remarkable instance of
the artist's vast and varied knowledge. When rain falls on a mountain
composed chiefly of barren rocks, their surfaces, being violently heated
by the sun, whose most intense warmth always precedes rain, occasion
sudden and violent evaporation, actually converting the first shower
into steam. Consequently, upon all such hills, on the commencement of
rain, white volumes of vapor are instantaneously and universally formed,
which rise, are absorbed by the atmosphere, and again descend in rain,
to rise in fresh volumes until the surfaces of the hills are cooled.
Where there is grass or vegetation, this effect is diminished; where
there is foliage it scarcely takes place at all. Now this effect has
evidently been especially chosen by Turner for Loch Coriskin, not only
because it enabled him to relieve its jagged forms with veiling vapor,
but to tell the tale which no pencilling could, the story of its utter
absolute barrenness of unlichened, dead, desolated rock:--

            "The wildest glen, but this, can show
             Some touch of nature's genial glow,
             On high Benmore green mosses grow,
             And heath-bells bud in deep Glencoe.
             And copse on Cruchan Ben;
             But here, above, around, below,
             On mountain, or in glen,
             Nor tree, nor plant, nor shrub, nor flower,
             Nor aught of vegetative power,
             The wearied eye may ken;
             But all its rocks at random thrown,
             Black waves, bare crags, and banks of stone."

                                       LORD OF THE ISLES, Canto III

Here, again, we see the absolute necessity of scientific and entire
acquaintance with nature, before this great artist can be understood.
That which, to the ignorant, is little more than an unnatural and
meaningless confusion of steam-like vapor, is to the experienced such a
full and perfect expression of the character of the spot, as no means of
art could have otherwise given.

§ 16. The drawing of transparent vapor in the Land's End.

§ 17. The individual character of its parts.

In the Long Ships Lighthouse, Land's End, we have clouds without
rain--at twilight--enveloping the cliffs of the coast, but concealing
nothing, every outline being visible through their gloom; and not only
the outline--for it is easy to do this--but the _surface_. The bank of
rocky coast approaches the spectator inch by inch, felt clearer and
clearer as it withdraws from the garment of cloud--not by edges more and
more defined, but by a surface more and more unveiled. We have thus the
painting, not of a mere transparent veil, but of a solid body of cloud,
every inch of whose increasing distance is marked and felt. But the
great wonder of the picture is the intensity of gloom which is attained
in pure warm gray, without either blackness or blueness. It is a gloom,
dependent rather on the enormous space and depth indicated, than on
actual pitch of color, distant by real drawing, without a grain of blue,
dark by real substance, without a stroke of blackness; and with all
this, it is not formless, but full of indications of character, wild,
irregular, shattered, and indefinite--full of the energy of storm, fiery
in haste, and yet flinging back out of its motion the fitful swirls of
bounding drift, of tortured vapor tossed up like men's hands, as in
defiance of the tempest, the jets of resulting whirlwind, hurled back
from the rocks into the face of the coming darkness; which, beyond all
other characters, mark the raised passion of the elements. It is this
untraceable, unconnected, yet perpetual form--this fulness of character
absorbed in the universal energy--which distinguish nature and Turner
from all their imitators. To roll a volume of smoke before the wind, to
indicate motion or violence by monotonous similarity of line and
direction, is for the multitude; but to mark the independent passion,
the tumultuous separate existence of every wreath of writhing vapor, yet
swept away and overpowered by one omnipotence of storm, and thus to bid

               "Be as a Presence or a motion--one
                Among the many there----while the mists
                Flying, and rainy vapors, call out shapes
                And phantoms from the crags and solid earth,
                As fast as a musician scatters sounds
                Out of an instrument,"--

this belongs only to nature and to him.

§ 18. Deep studied form of swift rain-cloud in the Coventry.

§ 19. Compared with forms given by Salvator.

The drawing of Coventry may be particularized as a farther example of
this fine suggestion of irregularity and fitfulness, through very
constant parallelism of direction, both in rain and clouds. The great
mass of cloud, which traverses the whole picture, is characterized
throughout by severe right lines, nearly parallel with each other, into
which every one of its wreaths has a tendency to range itself; but no
one of these right lines is actually and entirely parallel to any other,
though all have a certain tendency, more or less defined in each, which
impresses the mind with the most distinct _idea_ of parallelism. Neither
are any of the lines actually straight and unbroken; on the contrary,
they are all made up of the most exquisite and varied curves, and it is
the imagined line which joins the apices of these--a tangent to them
all, which is in reality straight.[40] They are suggested, not
represented, right lines; but the whole volume of cloud is visibly and
totally bounded by them; and, in consequence, its whole body is felt to
be dragged out and elongated by the force of the tempest which it
carries with it, and every one of its wreaths to be (as was before
explained) not so much something borne _before_ or _by_ the wind, as the
visible form and presence of the wind itself. We could not possibly
point out a more magnificent piece of drawing as a contrast to such
works of Salvator as that before alluded to (159 Dulwich Gallery). Both
are rolling masses of connected cloud; but in Turner's, there is not one
curve that repeats another, nor one curve in itself monotonous, nor
without character, and yet every part and portion of the cloud is
rigidly subjected to the same forward, fierce, inevitable influence of
storm. In Salvator's, every curve repeats its neighbor, every curve is
monotonous in itself, and yet the whole cloud is curling about hither
and thither, evidently without the slightest notion where it is going
to, and unregulated by any general influence whatsoever. I could not
bring together two finer or more instructive examples, the one of
everything that is perfect, the other of everything that is childish or
abominable, in the representation of the same facts.

§ 20. Entire expression of tempest by minute touches and circumstances
        in the Coventry.

But there is yet more to be noticed in this noble sky of Turner's. Not
only are the lines of the rolling cloud thus irregular in their
parallelism, but those of the falling rain are equally varied in their
direction, indicating the gusty changefulness of the wind, and yet kept
so straight and stern in their individual descent, that we are not
suffered to forget its strength. This impression is still farther
enhanced by the drawing of the smoke, which blows every way at once, yet
turning perpetually in each of its swirls back in the direction of the
wind, but so suddenly and violently, as almost to assume the angular
lines of lightning. Farther, to complete the impression, be it observed
that all the cattle, both upon the near and distant hill-side, have left
off grazing, and are standing stock still and stiff, with their heads
down and their backs to the wind; and finally, that we may be told not
only what the storm is, but what it has been, the gutter at the side of
the road is gushing in a complete torrent, and particular attention is
directed to it by the full burst of light in the sky being brought just
above it, so that all its waves are bright with the reflection.

§ 21. Especially by contrast with a passage of extreme repose.

But I have not quite done with this noble picture yet. Impetuous clouds,
twisted rain, flickering sunshine, fleeting shadow, gushing water, and
oppressed cattle, all speak the same story of tumult, fitfulness, power,
and velocity. Only one thing is wanted, a passage of repose to contrast
with it all, and it is given. High and far above the dark volumes of the
swift rain-cloud, are seen on the left, through their opening, the
quiet, horizontal, silent flakes of the highest cirrus, resting in the
repose of the deep sky. Of all else that we have noticed in this
drawing, some faint idea can be formed from the engraving: but not the
slightest of the delicate and soft forms of these pausing vapors, and
still less of the exquisite depth and palpitating tenderness of the blue
with which they are islanded. Engravers, indeed, invariably lose the
effect of all passages of cold color, under the mistaken idea that it is
to be kept _pale_ in order to indicate distance; whereas it ought
commonly to be darker than the rest of the sky.

§ 22. The truth of this particular passage. Perfectly pure blue sky only
        seen after rain, and how seen.

§ 23. Absence of this effect in the works of the old masters.

To appreciate the full truth of this passage, we must understand another
effect peculiar to the rain-cloud, that its openings exhibit the purest
blue which the sky ever shows. For, as we saw in the first chapter of
this section, that aqueous vapor always turns the sky more or less gray,
it follows that we never can see the azure so intense as when the
greater part of this vapor has just fallen in rain. Then, and then only,
pure blue sky becomes visible in the first openings, distinguished
especially by the manner in which the clouds melt into it; their edges
passing off in faint white threads and fringes, through which the blue
shines more and more intensely, till the last trace of vapor is lost in
its perfect color. It is only the upper white clouds, however, which do
this, or the last fragments of rain-clouds, becoming white as they
disappear, so that the blue is never _corrupted_ by the cloud, but only
paled and broken with pure white, the purest white which the sky ever
shows. Thus we have a melting and palpitating color, never the same for
two inches together, deepening and broadening here and there into
intensity of perfect azure, then drifted and dying away through every
tone of pure pale sky, into the snow white of the filmy cloud. Over this
roll the determined edges of the rain-clouds, throwing it all far back,
as a retired scene, into the upper sky. Of this effect the old masters,
as far as I remember, have taken no cognizance whatsoever; all with them
is, as we partially noticed before, either white cloud or pure blue:
they have no notion of any double-dealing or middle measures. They bore
a hole in the sky, and let you up into a pool of deep, stagnant blue,
marked off by the clear round edges of imperturbable, impenetrable cloud
on all sides--beautiful in positive color, but totally destitute of that
exquisite gradation and change, that fleeting, panting, hesitating
effort, with which the first glance of the natural sky is shed through
the turbulence of the earth-storm.

§ 24. Success of our water-color artists in its rendering. Use of it by

They have some excuse, however, for not attempting this, in the nature
of their material, as one accidental dash of the brush with water-color
on a piece of wet or damp paper, will come nearer the truth and
transparency of this rain-blue than the labor of a day in oils; and the
purity and felicity of some of the careless, melting water-color skies
of Cox and Tayler may well make us fastidious in all effects of this
kind. It is, however, only in the drawings of Turner that we have this
perfect transparency and variation of blue, given in association with
the perfection of considered form. In Tayler and Cox the forms are
always partially accidental and unconsidered, often essentially bad, and
always incomplete; in Turner the dash of the brush is as completely
under the rule of thought and feeling as its slowest line; all that it
does is perfect, and could not be altered, even in a hairbreadth,
without injury; in addition to this, peculiar management and execution
are used in obtaining quality in the color itself, totally different
from the manipulation of any other artist; and none, who have ever spent
so much as one hour of their lives over his drawing, can forget those
dim passages of dreamy blue, barred and severed with a thousand delicate
and soft and snowy forms, which, gleaming in their patience of hope
between the troubled rushing of the racked earth-cloud, melt farther and
farther back into the height of heaven, until the eye is bewildered and
the heart lost in the intensity of their peace. I do not say that this
is beautiful--I do not say it is ideal, nor refined--I only ask you to
watch for the first opening of the clouds after the next south rain, and
tell me if it be not _true_?

§ 25. Expression of near rain-cloud in the Gosport, and other works.

§ 26. Contrasted with Gaspar Poussin's rain-cloud in the Dido and Æneas.

The Gosport affords us an instance more exquisite even than the passage
above named in the Coventry, of the use of this melting and dewy blue,
accompanied by two distances of rain-cloud, one towering over the
horizon, seen blue with excessive distance through crystal atmosphere;
the other breaking overhead in the warm, sulphurous fragments of spray,
whose loose and shattering transparency, being the most essential
characteristic of the near rain-cloud, is precisely that which the old
masters are sure to contradict. Look, for instance, at the wreaths of
_cloud_? in the Dido and Æneas of Gaspar Poussin, with their unpleasant
edges cut as hard and solid and opaque and smooth as thick black paint
can make them, rolled up over one another like a dirty sail badly
reefed; or look at the agreeable transparency and variety of the
cloud-edge where it cuts the Mountain in N. Poussin's Phocion, and
compare this with the wreaths which float across the precipice in the
second vignette in Campbell, or which gather around the Ben Lomond, the
white rain gleaming beneath their dark transparent shadows; or which
drift up along the flanks of the wooded hills, called from the river by
the morning light, in the Oakhampton; or which island the crags of
Snowdon in the Llanberis, or melt along the Cumberland hills, while
Turner leads us across the sands of Morecambe Bay. This last drawing
deserves especial notice; it is of an evening in spring, when the south
rain has ceased at sunset, and through the lulled and golden air, the
confused and fantastic mists float up along the hollows of the
mountains, white and pure, the resurrection in spirit of the new-fallen
rain, catching shadows from the precipices, and mocking the dark peaks
with their own mountain-like but melting forms till the solid mountains
seem in motion like those waves of cloud, emerging and vanishing as the
weak wind passes by their summits; while the blue, level night advances
along the sea, and the surging breakers leap up to catch the last light
from the path of the sunset.

                 From a painting by Turner.]

§ 27. Turner's power of rendering mist.

§ 28. His effects of mist so perfect, that if not at once understood,
        they can no more be explained or reasoned on than nature

I need not, however, insist upon Turner's peculiar power of rendering
_mist_, and all those passages of intermediate mystery, between earth
and air, when the mountain is melting into the cloud, or the horizon
into the twilight; because his supremacy in these points is altogether
undisputed, except by persons to whom it would be impossible to prove
anything which did not fall under the form of a Rule of Three. Nothing
is more natural than that the studied form and color of this great
artist should be little understood, because they require for the full
perception of their meaning and truth, such knowledge and such time as
not one in a thousand possesses, or can bestow; but yet the truth of
them for that very reason is capable of demonstration, and there is hope
of our being able to make it in some degree felt and comprehended even
by those to whom it is now a dead letter, or an offence. But the
aerial and misty effects of landscape, being matters of which the eye
should be simply cognizant, and without effort of thought, as it is of
light, must, where they are exquisitely rendered, either be felt at
once, or prove that degree of blindness and bluntness in the feelings of
the observer which there is little hope of ever conquering. Of course
for persons who have never seen in their lives a cloud vanishing on a
mountain-side, and whose conceptions of mist or vapor are limited to
ambiguous outlines of spectral hackney-coaches and bodiless lamp-posts,
discern through a brown combination of sulphur, soot, and gaslight,
there is yet some hope; we cannot, indeed, tell them what the morning
mist is like in mountain air, but far be it from us to tell them that
they are incapable of feeling its beauty if they will seek it for
themselves. But if you have ever in your life had one opportunity with
your eyes and heart open, of seeing the dew rise from a hill-pasture, or
the storm gather on a sea-cliff, and if you have yet no feeling for the
glorious passages of mingled earth and heaven which Turner calls up
before you into breathing, tangible being, there is indeed no hope for
your apathy--art will never touch you, nor nature inform.

§ 29. Various instances.

It would be utterly absurd, among the innumerable passages of this kind
given throughout his works, to point to one as more characteristic or
more perfect than another. The Simmer Lake, near Askrig, for expression
of mist pervaded with sunlight,--the Lake Lucerne, a recent and
unengraved drawing, for the recession of near mountain form, not into
dark, but into _luminous_ cloud, the most difficult thing to do in
art,--the Harlech, for expression of the same phenomena, shown over vast
spaces in distant ranges of hills, the Ehrenbreitstein, a recent
drawing, for expression of mist, rising from the surface of water at
sunset,--and, finally, the glorious Oberwesel and Nemi,[41] for passages
of all united, may, however, be named, as noble instances, though in
naming five works I insult five hundred.

§ 30. Turner's more violent effects of tempest are never rendered by

§ 31. General system of landscape engraving.

§ 32. The storm in the Stonehenge.

One word respecting Turner's more violent storms, for we have hitherto
been speaking only of the softer rain-clouds, associated with gusty
tempest, but not of the thunder-cloud and the whirlwind. If there be any
one point in which engravers disgrace themselves more than in another,
it is in their rendering of dark and furious storm. It appears to be
utterly impossible to force it into their heads, that an artist does
_not_ leave his color with a sharp edge and an angular form by accident,
or that they may have the pleasure of altering it and improving upon it;
and equally impossible to persuade them that energy and gloom may in
_some_ circumstances be arrived at without any extraordinary expenditure
of ink. I am aware of no engraver of the present day whose ideas of a
storm-cloud are not comprised under two heads, roundness and blackness;
and, indeed, their general principles of translation (as may be
distinctly gathered from their larger works) are the following: 1. Where
the drawing is gray, make the paper black. 2. Where the drawing is
white, cover the page with zigzag lines. 3. Where the drawing has
particularly tender tones, cross-hatch them. 4. Where any outline is
particularly angular, make it round. 5. Where there are vertical
reflections in water, express them with very distinct horizontal lines.
6. Where there is a passage of particular simplicity, treat it in
sections. 7. Where there is anything intentionally concealed, make it
out. Yet, in spite of the necessity which all engravers impose upon
themselves, of rigidly observing this code of general laws, it is
difficult to conceive how such pieces of work, as the plates of
Stonehenge and Winchelsea, can ever have been presented to the public,
as in any way resembling, or possessing even the most fanciful relation
to the Turner drawings of the same subjects. The original of the
Stonehenge is perhaps the standard of storm-drawing, both for the
overwhelming power and gigantic proportions and spaces of its
cloud-forms, and for the tremendous qualities of lurid and sulphurous
colors which are gained in them. All its forms are marked with violent
angles, as if the whole muscular energy--so to speak--of the cloud, were
writhing in every fold, and their fantastic and fiery volumes have a
peculiar horror--an awful life--shadowed out in their strange, swift,
fearful outlines, which oppress the mind more than even the threatening
of their gigantic gloom. The white lightning, not as it is drawn by less
observant or less capable painters, in zigzag fortifications, but in its
own dreadful irregularity of streaming fire, is brought down, not merely
over the dark clouds, but through the full light of an illumined opening
to the blue, which yet cannot abate the brilliancy of its white line;
and the track of the last flash along the ground is fearfully marked by
the dog howling over the fallen shepherd, and the ewe pressing her head
upon the body of her dead lamb.

§ 33. General character of such effects given by Turner. His expression
        of falling rain.

I have not space, however, to enter into examination of Turner's
storm-drawing; I can only warn the public against supposing that its
effect is ever rendered by engravers. The great principles of Turner are
angular outline, vastness and energy of form, infinity of gradation, and
depth without blackness. The great principles of the engravers (_vide_
Pæstum, in Rogers's Italy, and the Stonehenge, above alluded to) are
rounded outline, no edges, want of character, equality of strength, and
blackness without depth.

§ 34. Recapitulation of the section.

I have scarcely, I see, on referring to what I have written,
sufficiently insisted on Turner's rendering of the rainy _fringe_,
whether in distances, admitting or concealing more or less of the
extended plain, as in the Waterloo, and Richmond (with the girl and dog
in the foreground,) or as in the Dunstaffnage, Glencoe, St. Michael's
Mount, and Slave Ship, not reaching the earth, but suspended in waving
and twisted lines from the darkness of the zenith. But I have no time
for farther development of particular points; I must defer discussion of
them until we take up each picture to be viewed as a whole; for the
division of the sky which I have been obliged to make, in order to
render fully understood the peculiarities of character in the separate
cloud regions, prevents my speaking of any one work with justice to its
concentration of various truth. Be it always remembered that we pretend
not, at present, to give any account or idea of the sum of the works of
any painter, much less of the universality of Turner's; but only to
explain in what real truth, as far as it is explicable, consists, and to
illustrate it by those pictures in which it most distinctly occurs, or
from which it is most visibly absent. And it will only be in the full
and separate discussion of individual works, when we are acquainted also
with what is beautiful, that we shall be completely able to prove or
disprove the presence of the truth of nature.

The conclusion, then, to which we are led by our present examination of
the truth of clouds, is, that the old masters attempted the
representation of only one among the thousands of their systems of
scenery, and were altogether false in the little they attempted; while
we can find records in modern art of every form or phenomenon of the
heavens, from the highest film that glorifies the ether to the wildest
vapor that darkens the dust, and in all these records we find the most
clear language and close thought, firm words, and true message,
unstinted fulness and unfailing faith.

§ 35. Sketch of a few of the skies of nature, taken as a whole, compared
        with the works of Turner and of the old masters. Morning on the

§ 36. Noon with gathering storms.

§ 37. Sunset in tempest. Serene midnight.

§ 38. And sunrise on the Alps.

And indeed it is difficult for us to conceive how, even without such
laborious investigation as we have gone through, any person can go to
nature for a single day or hour, when she is really at work in any of
her nobler spheres of action, and yet retain respect for the old
masters; finding, as find he will, that every scene which rises, rests,
or departs before him, bears with it a thousand glories of which there
is not one shadow, one image, one trace or line, in any of their works;
but which will illustrate to him, at every new instant, some passage
which he had not before understood in the high works of modern art.
Stand upon the peak of some isolated mountain at daybreak, when the
night mists first rise from off the plains, and watch their white and
lake-like fields as they float in level bays and winding gulfs about the
islanded summits of the lower hills, untouched yet by more than dawn,
colder and more quiet than a windless sea under the moon of midnight;
watch when the first sunbeam is sent upon the silver channels, how the
foam of their undulating surface parts and passes away; and down under
their depths, the glittering city and green pasture lie like Atlantis,
between the white paths of winding rivers; the flakes of light falling
every moment faster and broader among the starry spires, as the wreathed
surges break and vanish above them, and the confused crests and ridges
of the dark hills shorten their gray shadows upon the plain. Has Claude
given this? Wait a little longer, and you shall see those scattered
mists rallying in the ravines, and floating up towards you, along the
winding valleys, till they couch in quiet masses, iridescent with the
morning light,[42] upon the broad breasts of the higher hills, whose
leagues of massy undulation will melt back and back into that robe of
material light, until they fade away, lost in its lustre, to appear
again above, in the serene heaven, like a wild, bright, impossible
dream, foundationless and inaccessible, their very bases vanishing in
the unsubstantial and mocking blue of the deep lake below.[43] Has
Claude given this? Wait yet a little longer, and you shall see those
mists gather themselves into white towers, and stand like fortresses
along the promontories, massy and motionless, only piled with every
instant higher and higher into the sky,[44] and casting longer shadows
athwart the rocks; and out of the pale blue of the horizon you will see
forming and advancing a troop of narrow, dark, pointed vapors,[45] which
will cover the sky, inch by inch, with their gray network, and take the
light off the landscape with an eclipse which will stop the singing of
the birds and the motion of the leaves together; and then you will see
horizontal bars of black shadow forming under them, and lurid wreaths
create themselves, you know not how, along the shoulders of the hills;
you never see them form, but when you look back to a place which was
clear an instant ago, there is a cloud on it, hanging by the precipices,
as a hawk pauses over his prey.[46] Has Claude given this? And then you
will hear the sudden rush of the awakened wind, and you will see those
watch-towers of vapor swept away from their foundations, and waving
curtains of opaque rain let down to the valleys, swinging from the
burdened clouds in black, bending fringes,[47] or pacing in pale columns
along the lake level, grazing its surface into foam as they go. And
then, as the sun sinks, you shall see the storm drift for an instant
from on the hills, leaving their broad sides smoking, and loaded yet
with snow-white torn, steam-like rags of capricious vapor, now gone, now
gathered again;[48] while the smouldering sun, seeming not far away, but
burning like a red-hot ball beside you, and as if you could reach it,
plunges through the rushing wind and rolling cloud with headlong fall,
as if it meant to rise no more, dyeing all the air about it with
blood.[49] Has Claude given this? And then you shall hear the fainting
tempest die in the hollow of the night, and you shall see a green halo
kindling on the summit of the eastern hills,[50] brighter--brighter yet,
till the large white circle of the slow moon is lifted up among the
barred clouds,[51] step by step, line by line; star after star she
quenches with her kindling light, setting in their stead an army of
pale, penetrable, fleecy wreaths in the heaven, to give light upon the
earth, which move together, hand in hand, company by company, troop by
troop, so measured in their unity of motion, that the whole heaven seems
to roll with them, and the earth to reel under them. Ask Claude, or his
brethren, for that. And then wait yet for one hour until the east again
becomes purple,[52] and the heaving mountains, rolling against it in
darkness, like waves of a wild sea, are drowned one by one in the glory
of its burning; watch the white glaciers blaze in their winding paths
about the mountains, like mighty serpents with scales of fire; watch the
columnar peaks of solitary snow, kindling downwards, chasm by chasm,
each in itself a new morning; their long avalanches cast down in keen
streams brighter than the lightning, sending each his tribute of driven
snow, like altar-smoke, up to the heaven; the rose-light of their silent
domes flushing that heaven about them and above them, piercing with
purer light through its purple lines of lifted cloud, casting a new
glory on every wreath as it passes by, until the whole heaven--one
scarlet canopy,--is interwoven with a roof of waving flame, and tossing,
vault beyond vault, as with the drifted wings of many companies of
angels; and then, when you can look no more for gladness, and when you
are bowed down with fear and love of the Maker and Doer of this, tell me
who has best delivered this His message unto men!


  [34] I am unable to say to what height the real rain-cloud may
    extend; perhaps there are no mountains which rise altogether above
    storm. I have never been in a violent storm at a greater height than
    between 8000 and 9000 feet above the level of the sea. There the
    rain-cloud is exceedingly light, compared to the ponderous darkness
    of the lower air.

  [35] I ought here, however, to have noted another effect of the
    rain-cloud, which, so far as I know, has been rendered only by
    Copley Fielding. It is seen chiefly in clouds gathering for rain,
    when the sky is entirely covered with a gray veil rippled or waved
    with pendent swells of soft texture, but excessively hard and liny
    in their edges. I am not sure that this is an agreeable or
    impressive form of the rain-cloud, but it is a frequent one, and it
    is often most faithfully given by Fielding; only in some cases the
    edges becoming a little doubled and harsh have given a look of
    failure or misadventure to some even of the best studied passages;
    and something of the same hardness of line is occasionally visible
    in his drawing of clouds by whose nature it is not warranted.

  [36] Compare Sect. I. Chap. IV. § 5.

  [37] It does not do so until the volumes lose their density by
    inequality of motion, and by the expansion of the warm air which
    conveys them. They are then, of course, broken into forms resembling
    those of clouds.

  [38] No conception can be formed of this picture from the engraving.
    It is perhaps the most marvellous piece of execution and of gray
    color existing, except perhaps the drawing presently to be noticed,
    Land's End. Nothing else can be set beside it, even of Turner's own
    works--much less of any other man's.

    [39] I know no effect more strikingly characteristic of the
    departure of a storm than the _smoking_ of the mountain torrents.
    The exhausted air is so thirsty of moisture, that every jet of spray
    is seized upon by it, and converted into vapor as it springs; and
    this vapor rises so densely from the surface of the stream as to
    give it the exact appearance of boiling water. I have seen the whole
    course of the Arve at Chamonix one line of dense cloud, dissipating
    as soon as it had risen ten or twelve feet from the surface, but
    entirely concealing the water from an observer placed above it.

  [40] Note especially the dark uppermost outline of the mass.

  [41] In the possession of B. G. Windus, Esq. of Tottenham.

  [42] I have often seen the white thin, morning cloud, edged with the
    seven colors of the prism. I am not aware of the cause of this
    phenomenon, for it takes place not when we stand with our backs to
    the sun, but in clouds near the sun itself, irregularly and over
    indefinite spaces, sometimes taking place in the body of the cloud.
    The colors are distinct and vivid, but have a kind of metallic
    lustre upon them.

  [43] Lake Lucerne.

  [44] St. Maurice (Rogers's Italy).

  [45] Vignette, the Great St. Bernard.

  [46] Vignette of the Andes.

  [47] St. Michael's Mount--England series.

  [48] Illustration to the Antiquary. Goldeau, a recent drawing of the
    highest order.

  [49] Vignette to Campbell's Last Man.

  [50] Caerlaverock.

  [51] St. Denis.

  [52] Alps at Daybreak (Rogers's Poems:) Delphi, and various

                                 CHAPTER V.


§ 1. Reasons for merely at present naming, without examining the
       particular effects of light rendered by Turner.

§ 2. Hopes of the author for assistance in the future investigation of

I have before given my reasons (Sect. II. Chap. III.) for not wishing at
present to enter upon the discussion of particular effects of light. Not
only are we incapable of rightly viewing them, or reasoning upon them,
until we are acquainted with the principles of the beautiful; but, as I
distinctly limited myself, in the present portion of the work, to the
examination of _general_ truths, it would be out of place to take
cognizance of the particular phases of light, even if it were possible
to do so, before we have some more definite knowledge of the material
objects which they illustrate. I shall therefore, at present, merely set
down a rough catalogue of the effects of light at different hours of the
day, which Turner has represented: naming a picture or two, as an
example of each, which we will hereafter take up one by one, and
consider the physical science and the feeling together. And I do this,
in the hope that, in the mean time, some admirer of the old masters will
be kind enough to select from the works of any one of them, a series of
examples of the same effects, and to give me a reference to the
pictures, so that I may be able to compare each with each; for, as my
limited knowledge of the works of Claude or Poussin does not supply me
with the requisite variety of effect, I shall be grateful for

The following list, of course, does not name the hundredth part of the
effects of light given by Turner; it only names those which are
distinctly and markedly separate from each other, and representative
each of an entire class. Ten or twelve examples, often many more, might
be given of each; every one of which would display the effects of the
same hour and light, modified by different circumstances of weather,
situation, and character of objects subjected to them, and especially by
the management of the sky; but it will be generally sufficient for our
purposes to examine thoroughly one good example of each.

The prefixed letters express the direction of the light. F. front light
(the sun in the centre, or near the top of the picture;) L. lateral
light, the sun out of the picture on the right or left of the spectator;
L. F. the light partly lateral, partly fronting the spectator, as when
he is looking south, with the sun in the south-west; L. B. light partly
lateral, partly behind the spectator, as when he is looking north, with
the sun in the south-west.


                       EFFECTS.                        NAMES OF PICTURES.

  L.   An hour before sunrise in winter. Violent    | Lowestoffe, Suffolk.
         storm, with rain, on the sea. Light-houses |
         seen through it.                           |
  F.   An hour before sunrise. Serene sky, with     | Vignette to Voyage
         light clouds. Dawn in the distance.        |   of Columbus.
  L.   Ten minutes before sunrise. Violent          | Fowey Harbor.
         storm. Torchlight.                         |
  F.   Sunrise. Sun only half above the horizon.    | Vignette to Human
         Clear sky, with light cirri.               |   Life.
  F.   Sun just disengaged from horizon. Misty,     | Alps at Daybreak.
         with light cirri.                          |
  F.   Sun a quarter of an hour risen. Sky covered  | Castle Upnor.
         with scarlet clouds.                       |
  L.F. Serene sky. Sun emerging from a bank         | Orford, Suffolk.
         of cloud on horizon, a quarter of an hour  |
         risen.                                     |
  L.F. Same hour. Light mists in flakes on          | Skiddaw.
          hill-sides. Clear air.                    |
  L.F. Light flying rain-clouds gathering in        | Oakhampton.
          valleys. Same hour.                       |
  L.B. Same hour. A night storm rising off the      | Lake of Geneva.
         mountains. Dead calm.                      |
  L.   Sun half an hour risen. Cloudless sky.       | Beaugency.
  L.   Same hour. Light mists lying in the valleys. | Kirby Lonsdale.
  F.   Same hour. Bright cirri. Sun dimly seen      | Hohenlinden.
         through battle smoke, with conflagration.  |
  L.   Sun an hour risen. Cloudless and clear.      | Buckfastleigh.

                              NOON AND AFTERNOON.

                       EFFECTS.                       NAMES OF PICTURES.

  L.B. Midday. Dead calm, with heat. Cloudless.     | Corinth.
  L.   Same hour. Serene and bright, with           | Lantern at
         streaky clouds.                            |   St. Cloud.
  L.   Same hour. Serene, with multitudes of        | Shylock, and other
         the high cirrus.                           |   Venices.
  L.   Bright sun, with light wind and clouds.      | Richmond, Middlesex.
  F.   Two o'clock. Clouds gathering for rain, with | Warwick. Blenheim.
         heat.                                      |
  F.   Rain beginning, with light clouds and wind.  | Piacenza.
  L.   Soft rain, with heat.                        | Caldron Snout Fall.
  L.F. Great heat. Thunder gathering.               | Malvern.
  L.   Thunder breaking down, after intense heat,   | Winchelsea.
         with furious wind.                         |
  L.   Violent rain and wind, but cool.             | Llamberis, Coventry,
                                                    |    &c.
  L.F. Furious storm, with thunder.                 | Stonehenge, Pæstum,
                                                    |   &c.
  L.B. Thunder retiring, with rainbow. Dead calm,   | Nottingham.
         with heat.                                 |
  L.   About three o'clock, summer. Air very        | Bingen.
         cool and clear. Exhausted thunder-clouds   |
         low on hills.                              |
  F.   Descending sunbeams through soft clouds,     | Carew Castle.
         after rain.                                |
  L.   Afternoon, very clear, after rain. A few     | Saltash.
         clouds still on horizon. Dead calm.        |
  F.   Afternoon of cloudless day, with heat.       | Mercury and Argus.
                                                    |   Oberwesel. Nemi.


                       EFFECTS.                       NAMES OF PICTURES.

  L.   An hour before sunset. Cloudless.            | Trematon Castle.
  F.   Half an hour before sunset. Light clouds.    | Lake Albano.
         Misty air.                                 |   Florence.
  F.   Within a quarter of an hour of sunset.       | Dater Hora Quieti.
         Mists rising. Light cirri.                 |
  L.F. Ten minutes before sunset. Quite cloudless.  | Durham.
  F.   Same hour. Tumultuous spray of illumined     | Solomon's Pools.
         rain-cloud.                                |   Slave ship.
  F.   Five minutes before sunset. Sky covered      | Temeraire. Napoleon.
         with illumined cirri.                      |   Various vignettes.
  L.B. Same hour. Serene sky. Full moon rising.     | Kenilworth.
  F.   Sun setting. Detached light cirri and clear  | Amboise.
         air.                                       |
  L.   Same hour. Cloudless. New moon.              | Troyes.
  L.F. Same hour. Heavy storm clouds. Moonrise.     | First vignette.
                                                    |   Pleasures of
                                                    |   Memory.
  L.B. Sun just set. Sky covered with clouds. New   | Caudebec.
         moon setting.                              |
  L.B. Sun five minutes set. Strong twilight,       | Wilderness of Engedi.
         with storm clouds. Full moonrise.          |   Assos.
  L.B. Same hour. Serene, with light clouds.        | Montjan.
  L.B. Same hour. Serene. New moon.                 | Pyramid of Caius
                                                    |   Cestius.
  L.B. Sun a quarter of an hour set. Cloudless.     | Chateau de Blois.
  L.F. Sun half an hour set. Light cirri.           | Clairmont.
  F.   Same hour. Dead calm at sea. New moon and    | Cowes.
         evening star.                              |
  F.   Sun three quarters of an hour set. Moon      | Folkestone.
         struggling through storm clouds, over      |
         heavy sea.                                 |


                       EFFECTS.                       NAMES OF PICTURES.

  F.   An hour after sunset. No moon. Torchlight.   | St. Julien. Tours.
  F.   Same hour. Moon rising. Fire from furnaces.  | Dudley.
  L.F. Same hour, with storm clouds. Moon           | Nantes.
         rising.                                    |
  L.   Same hour, with light of rockets and fire.   | Juliet and her Nurse.
  F.   Midnight. Moonless, with light-houses.       | Calais.
         Same hour, with fire-light.                | Burning of
                                                    |   Parliament Houses.
  F.   Ditto. Full moon. Clear air, with delicate   | Towers of the Hevé.
         clouds. Light-houses.                      |
  F.   Ditto, with conflagration, battle smoke, and | Waterloo.
         storm.                                     |
  F.   Ditto. Moonlight through mist. Buildings     | Vignette. St.
         illuminated in interior.                   |    Herbert's Isle.
  F.   Ditto. Full moon with halo. Light            | St. Denis.
         rain-clouds.                               |
  F.   Full moon. Perfectly serene. Sky covered     | Alnwick. Vignette of
         with white cirri.                          |   Rialto, and Bridge.
                                                    |   of Sighs

                                 SECTION IV.

                              OF TRUTH OF EARTH.

                                 CHAPTER I.

                           OF GENERAL STRUCTURE.

§ 1. First laws of the organization of the earth, and their importance
       in art.

By truth of earth, we mean the faithful representation of the facts and
forms of the bare ground, considered as entirely divested of vegetation,
through whatever disguise, or under whatever modification the clothing
of the landscape may occasion. Ground is to the landscape painter what
the naked human body is to the historical. The growth of vegetation, the
action of water, and even of clouds upon it and around it, are so far
subject and subordinate to its forms, as the folds of the dress and the
fall of the hair are to the modulation of the animal anatomy. Nor is
this anatomy always so concealed, but in all sublime compositions,
whether of nature or art, it must be seen in its naked purity. The laws
of the organization of the earth are distinct and fixed as those of the
animal frame, simpler and broader, but equally authoritative and
inviolable. Their results may be arrived at without knowledge of the
interior mechanism; but for that very reason ignorance of them is the
more disgraceful, and violation of them more unpardonable. They are in
the landscape the foundation of all other truths--the most necessary,
therefore, even if they were not in themselves attractive; but they are
as beautiful as they are essential, and every abandonment of them by the
artist must end in deformity as it begins in falsehood.

§ 2. The slight attention ordinarily paid to them. Their careful study
       by modern artists.

That such abandonment is constant and total in the works of the old
masters, has escaped detection, only because of persons generally
cognizant of art, few have spent time enough in hill countries to
perceive the certainty of the laws of hill anatomy; and because few,
even of those who possess such opportunities, ever think of the common
earth beneath their feet, as anything possessing specific form, or
governed by steadfast principles. That such abandonment should have
taken place cannot be surprising, after what we have seen of their
fidelity to skies. Those artists who, day after day, could so falsely
represent what was forever before their eyes, when it was to be one of
the most important and attractive parts of their picture, can scarcely
be expected to give with truth what they could see only partially and at
intervals, and what was only to be in their picture a blue line in the
horizon, or a bright spot under the feet of their figures.

That such should be all the space allotted by the old landscape painters
to the most magnificent phenomena of nature; that the only traces of
those Apennines, which in Claude's walks along the brow of the Pincian,
forever bounded his horizon with their azure wall, should, in his
pictures, be a cold white outline in the extreme of his tame distance;
and that Salvator's sojourns among their fastnesses should only have
taught him to shelter his banditti with such paltry morsels of crag as
an Alpine stream would toss down before it like a foam-globe; though it
may indeed excite our surprise, will, perhaps, when we have seen how
these slight passages are executed, be rather a subject of
congratulation than of regret. It might, indeed, have shortened our
labor in the investigation of mountain truth, had not modern artists
been so vast, comprehensive, and multitudinous in their mountain
drawings, as to compel us, in order to form the slightest estimate of
their knowledge, to enter into some examination of every variety of hill
scenery. We shall first gain some general notion of the broad
organization of large masses, and then take those masses to pieces,
until we come down to the crumbling soil of the foreground.

§ 3. General structure of the earth. The hills are its action, the
       plains its rest.

Mountains are, to the rest of the body of the earth, what violent
muscular action is to the body of man. The muscles and tendons of its
anatomy are, in the mountain, brought out with fierce and convulsive
energy, full of expression, passion, and strength; the plains and the
lower hills are the repose and the effortless motion of the frame, when
its muscles lie dormant and concealed beneath the lines of its beauty,
yet ruling those lines in their every undulation. This, then, is the
first grand principle of the truth of the earth. The spirit of the hills
is action; that of the lowlands, repose; and between these there is to
be found every variety of motion and of rest; from the inactive plain,
sleeping like the firmament, with cities for stars, to the fiery peaks,
which, with heaving bosoms and exulting limbs, with the clouds drifting
like hair from their bright foreheads, lift up their Titan hands to
Heaven, saying, "I live forever!"

§ 4. Mountains come out from underneath the plains, and are their

But there is this difference between the action of the earth, and that
of a living creature, that while the exerted limb marks its bones and
tendons through the flesh, the excited earth casts off the flesh
altogether, and its bones come out from beneath. Mountains are the bones
of the earth, their highest peaks are invariably those parts of its
anatomy which in the plains lie buried under five and twenty thousand
feet of solid thickness of superincumbent soil, and which spring up in
the mountain ranges in vast pyramids or wedges, flinging their garment
of earth away from them on each side. The masses of the lower hills are
laid over and against their sides, like the masses of lateral masonry
against the skeleton arch of an unfinished bridge, except that they
slope up to and lean against the central ridge: and, finally, upon the
slopes of these lower hills are strewed the level beds of sprinkled
gravel, sand, and clay, which form the extent of the champaign. Here
then is another grand principle of the truth of earth, that the
mountains must come from under all, and be the support of all; and that
everything else must be laid in their arms, heap above heap, the plains
being the uppermost. Opposed to this truth is every appearance of the
hills being laid upon the plains, or built upon them. Nor is this a
truth only of the earth on a large scale, for every minor rock (in
position) comes out from the soil about it as an island out of the sea,
lifting the earth near it like waves beating on its sides.

§ 5. Structure of the plains themselves. Their perfect level, when
       deposited by quiet water.

Such being the structure of the framework of the earth, it is next to be
remembered that all soil whatsoever, wherever it is accumulated in
greater quantity than is sufficient to nourish the moss of the
wallflower, has been so, either by the direct transporting agency of
water, or under the guiding influence and power of water. All plains
capable of cultivation are deposits from some kind of water--some from
swift and tremendous currents, leaving their soil in sweeping banks and
furrowed ridges--others, and this is in mountain districts almost
invariably the case, by slow deposit from a quiet lake in the mountain
hollow, which has been gradually filled by the soil carried into it by
streams, which soil is of course finally left spread at the exact level
of the surface of the former lake, as level as the quiet water itself.
Hence we constantly meet with plains in hill districts, which fill the
hollows of the hills with as perfect and faultless a level as water, and
out of which the steep rocks rise at the edge with as little previous
disturbance, or indication of their forms beneath, as they do from the
margin of a quiet lake. Every delta--and there is one at the head of
every lake in every hill-district--supplies an instance of this. The
rocks at Altorf plunge beneath the plain, which the lake has left, at as
sharp an angle as they do into the lake itself beside the chapel of
Tell. The plain of the Arve, at Sallenche, is terminated so sharply by
the hills to the south-east, that I have seen a man sleeping with his
back supported against the mountain, and his legs stretched on the
plain; the slope which supported his back rising 5000 feet above him,
and the couch of his legs stretched for five miles before him. In
distant effect these champaigns lie like deep, blue, undisturbed water,
while the mighty hills around them burst out from beneath, raging and
tossing like a tumultuous sea. The valleys of Meyringen, Interlachen,
Altorf, Sallenche, St. Jean de Maurienne; the great plain of Lombardy
itself, as seen from Milan or Padua, under the Alps, the Euganeans, and
the Apennines; and the Campo Felice under Vesuvius, are a few, out of
the thousand instances, which must occur at once to the mind of every

§ 6. Illustrated by Turner's Marengo.

Let the reader now open Rogers's Italy, at the seventeenth page, and
look at the vignette which heads it of the battle of Marengo. It needs
no comment. It cannot but carry with it, after what has been said, the
instant conviction that Turner is as much of a geologist as he is of a
painter. It is a summary of all we have been saying, and a summary so
distinct and clear, that without any such explanation it must have
forced upon the mind the impression of such facts--of the plunging of
the hills underneath the plain--of the perfect level and repose of this
latter laid in their arms, and of the tumultuous action of the emergent

§ 7. General divisions of formation resulting from this arrangement.
       Plan of investigation.

We find, according to this its internal structure, which, I believe,
with the assistance of Turner, can scarcely now be misunderstood, that
the earth may be considered as divided into three great classes of
formation, which geology has already named for us. Primary--the rocks,
which, though in position lower than all others, rise to form the
central peaks, or interior nuclei of all mountain ranges. Secondary--the
rocks which are laid in beds above these, and which form the greater
proportion of all hill scenery. Tertiary--the light beds of sand,
gravel, and clay, which are strewed upon the surface of all, forming
plains and habitable territory for man. We shall find it convenient, in
examining the truth of art, to adopt, with a little modification, the
geological arrangement, considering first, the formation and character
of the highest or central peaks; then the general structure of the lower
mountains, including in this division those composed of the various
slates which a geologist would call primary; and, lastly, the minutiæ
and most delicate characters of the beds of these hills, when they are
so near as to become foreground objects, and the structure of the common
soil which usually forms the greater space of an artist's foreground.
Hence our task will arrange itself into three divisions--the
investigation of the central mountains, of the interior mountains, and
of the foreground.

                                 CHAPTER II.

                          OF THE CENTRAL MOUNTAINS.

§ 1. Similar character of the central peaks in all parts of the world.

It does not always follow, because a mountain is the highest of its
group, that it is in reality one of the central range. The Jungfrau is
only surpassed in elevation, in the chain of which it is a member, by
the Schreckhorn and Finster-Aarhorn; but it is entirely a secondary
mountain. But the central peaks are usually the highest, and may be
considered as the chief components of all mountain scenery in the snowy
regions. Being composed of the same rocks in all countries, their
external character is the same everywhere. Its chief essential points
are the following.

§ 2. Their arrangements in pyramids or wedges, divided by vertical

Their summits are almost invariably either pyramids or wedges. Domes may
be formed by superincumbent snow, or appear to be formed by the
continuous outline of a sharp ridge seen transversely, with its
precipice to the spectator; but wherever a rock appears, the uppermost
termination of that rock will be a steep edgy ridge, or a sharp point,
very rarely presenting even a gentle slope on any of its sides, but
usually inaccessible unless encumbered with snow.

These pyramids and wedges split vertically, or nearly so, giving smooth
faces of rock, either perpendicular or very steeply inclined, which
appear to be laid against the central wedge or peak, like planks upright
against a wall. The surfaces of these show close parallelism; their
fissures are vertical, and cut them smoothly, like the edges of shaped
planks. Often groups of these planks, if I may so call them, rise higher
than those between them and the central ridge, forming detached ridges
inclining towards the central one. The planks are cut transversely,
sometimes by graceful curvilinear fissures; sometimes by straight
fissures, which are commonly parallel to the slope of one of the sides
of the peak, while the main direction of the planks or leaves is
parallel to that of its other side, or points directly to its summit.
But the _universal_ law of fracture is--first, that it is clean and
sharp, having a perfectly smooth surface, and a perfectly sharp edge to
all the fissures; secondly, that every fissure is steeply inclined, and
that a horizontal line, or one approaching to it, is an impossibility,
except in some turn of a curve.

§ 3. Causing groups of rock resembling an artichoke or rose.

Hence, however the light may fall, these peaks are seen marked with
sharp and defined shadows, indicating the square edges of the planks of
which they are made up, which shadows sometimes are vertical, pointing
to the summit; but are oftener parallel to one of the sides of the peak,
and intersected by a second series, parallel to the other side. Where
there has been much disintegration, the peak is often surrounded with
groups of lower ridges or peaks, like the leaves of an artichoke or a
rose, all evidently part and parcel of the great peak; but falling back
from it, as if it were a budding flower, expanding its leaves one by

§ 4. The faithful statement of these facts by Turner in his Alps at

Now, if I were giving a lecture on geology, and were searching for some
means of giving the most faithful idea possible of the external
appearance caused by this structure of the primary hills, I should throw
my geological outlines aside, and take up Turner's vignette of the Alps
at Daybreak. After what has been said, a single glance at it will be
enough. Observe the exquisite decision with which the edge of the
uppermost plank of the great peak is indicated by its clear dark side
and sharp shadow; then the rise of the second low ridge on its side,
only to descend again precisely in the same line; the two fissures of
this peak, one pointing to its summit, the other rigidly parallel to the
great slope which descends towards the sun; then the sharp white
_aiguille_ on the right, with the great fissure from its summit, rigidly
and severely square, as marked below, where another edge of rock is laid
upon it. But this is not all; the black rock in the foreground is
equally a member of the mass, its chief slope parallel with that of the
mountain, and all its fissures and lines inclined in the same direction;
and, to complete the mass of evidence more forcibly still, we have the
dark mass on the left articulated with absolute right lines, as parallel
as if they had been drawn with a ruler, indicating the tops of two of
these huge plates or planks, pointing, with the universal tendency, to
the great ridge, and intersected by fissures parallel to it. Throughout
the extent of mountain, not one horizontal line, nor an approach to it,
is discernible. This cannot be chance--it cannot be composition--it may
not be beautiful--perhaps nature is very wrong to be so parallel, and
very disagreeable in being so straight;--but this _is_ nature, whether
we admire it or not.

§ 5. Vignette of the Andes and others.

In the vignette illustration to Jacqueline, we have another series of
peaks, whose structure is less developed, owing to their distance, but
equally clear and faithful in all points, as far as it is given. But the
vignette of Aosta, in Italy, is perhaps more striking than any that
could be named for its rendering of the perfect parallelism of the lower
and smaller peaks with the great lines of the mass they compose; and
that of the Andes, the second in Campbell, for its indication of the
multitudes of the vertical and plank-like beds arranged almost like the
leaves of a flower. This last especially, one of the very noblest, most
faithful, most scientific statements of mountain form which even Turner
has ever made, can leave little more to be said or doubted.

§ 6. Necessary distance, and consequent aerial effect on all such

Now, whenever these vast peaks, rising from 12,000 to 24,000 feet above
the sea, form part of anything like a landscape, that is to say,
whenever the spectator beholds them from the region of vegetation, or
even from any distance at which it is possible to get something like a
view of their whole mass, they must be at so great a distance from him
as to become aerial and faint in all their details. Their summits, and
all those higher masses of whose character we have been speaking, can by
no possibility be nearer to him than twelve or fifteen miles; to
approach them nearer he must climb--must leave the region of vegetation,
and must confine his view to a part, and that a very limited one, of the
mountain he is ascending. Whenever, therefore, these mountains are seen
over anything like vegetation, or are seen in mass, they _must_ be in
the far distance. Most artists would treat an horizon fifteen miles off
very much as if it were mere air; and though the greater clearness of
the upper air permits the high summits to be seen with extraordinary
distinctness, yet they never can by any possibility have dark or deep
shadows, or intense dark relief against a light. Clear they may be, but
faint they must be, and their great and prevailing characteristic, as
distinguished from other mountains, is want of apparent solidity. They
rise in the morning light rather like sharp shades, cast up into the
sky, than solid earth. Their lights are pure, roseate, and
cloud-like--their shadows transparent, pale, and opalescent, and often
indistinguishable from the air around them, so that the mountain-top is
seen in the heaven only by its flakes of motionless fire.

§ 7. Total want of any rendering of their phenomena in ancient art.

Now, let me once more ask, though I am sufficiently tired of asking,
what record have we of anything like this in the works of the old
masters? There is no vestige in any existing picture of the slightest
effort to represent the high hill ranges; and as for such drawing of
their forms as we have found in Turner, we might as well look for them
among the Chinese. Very possibly it may be all quite right,--very
probably these men showed the most cultivated taste, the most unerring
judgment, in filling their pictures with mole-hills and sand-heaps. Very
probably the withered and poisonous banks of Avernus, and the sand and
cinders of the Campagna, are much more sublime things than the Alps; but
still what limited truth it is, if truth it be, when through the last
fifty pages we have been pointing out fact after fact, scene after
scene, in clouds and hills, (and not individual facts nor scenes, but
great and important classes of them,) and still we have nothing to say
when we come to the old masters; but, "they are not here." Yet this is
what we hear so constantly called painting "general" nature.

§ 8. Character of the representations of Alps in the distances of

§ 9. Their total want of magnitude and aerial distance.

Although, however, there is no vestige among the old masters of any
effort to represent the attributes of the higher mountains seen in
comparative proximity, we are not altogether left without evidence of
their having thought of them as sources of light in the extreme
distance, as for example, in that of the reputed Claude in our National
Gallery, called the Marriage of Isaac and Rebecca. I have not the
slightest doubt of its being a most execrable copy; for there is not one
touch nor line of even decent painting in the whole picture; but as
connoisseurs have considered it a Claude, as it has been put in our
Gallery for a Claude, and as people admire it every day for a Claude, I
may at least presume it has those qualities of Claude in it which are
wont to excite the public admiration, though it possesses none of those
which sometimes give him claim to it; and I have so reasoned, and shall
continue to reason upon it, especially with respect to facts of form,
which cannot have been much altered by the copyist. In the distance of
that picture (as well as in that of the Sinon before Priam, which I have
little doubt is at least partially original, and whose central group of
trees is a very noble piece of painting) is something white, which I
believe must be intended for a snowy mountain, because I do not see that
it can well be intended for anything else. Now no mountain of elevation
sufficient to be so sheeted with perpetual snow, can by any possibility
sink so low on the horizon as this something of Claude's, unless it be
at a distance of from fifty to seventy miles. At such distances, though
the outline is invariably sharp and edgy to an excess, yet all the
circumstances of aerial perspective, faintness of shadow, and isolation
of light, which I have described as characteristic of the Alps fifteen
miles off, take place, of course, in a threefold degree; the mountains
rise from the horizon like transparent films, only distinguishable from
mist by their excessively keen edges, and their brilliant flashes of
sudden light; they are as unsubstantial as the air itself, and impress
their enormous size by means of this aerialness, in a far greater degree
at these vast distances, than even when towering above the spectator's
head. Now, I ask of the candid observer, if there be the smallest
vestige of an effort to attain--if there be the most miserable, the most
contemptible shadow of attainment of such an effect by Claude? Does that
white thing on the horizon look seventy miles off? Is it faint, or
fading, or to be looked for by the eye before it can be found out? Does
it look high? does it look large? does it look impressive? You cannot
but feel that there is not a vestige of any kind or species of truth in
that horizon; and that, however artistical it may be, as giving
brilliancy to the distance, (though, as far as I have any feeling in the
matter, it only gives coldness,) it is, in the very branch of art on
which Claude's reputation chiefly rests, aerial perspective, hurling
defiance to nature in her very teeth.

§ 10. And violation of specific form.

But there are worse failures yet in this unlucky distance. Aerial
perspective is not a matter of paramount importance, because nature
infringes its laws herself and boldly too, though never in a case like
this before us; but there are some laws which nature never violates--her
laws of form. No mountain was ever raised to the level of perpetual
snow, without an infinite multiplicity of form. Its foundation is built
of a hundred minor mountains, and, from these, great buttresses run in
converging ridges to the central peak. There is no exception to this
rule; no mountain 15,000 feet high is ever raised without such
preparation and variety of outwork. Consequently, in distant effect,
when chains of such peaks are visible at once, the multiplicity of form
is absolutely oceanic; and though it is possible in near scenes to find
vast and simple masses composed of lines which run unbroken for a
thousand feet, or more, it is physically impossible when these masses
are thrown seventy miles back, to have simple outlines, for then these
large features become mere jags, and hillocks, and are heaped and
huddled together with endless confusion. To get a simple form, seventy
miles away, mountain lines would be required unbroken for leagues; and
this, I repeat, is physically impossible. Hence these mountains of
Claude, having no indication of the steep vertical summits which we have
shown to be the characteristic of the central ridges, having soft edges
instead of decisive ones, simple forms (one line to the plain on each
side) instead of varied and broken ones, and being painted with a crude
raw white, having no transparency, nor filminess, nor air in it, instead
of rising in the opalescent mystery which invariably characterizes the
distant snows, have the forms and the colors of heaps of chalk in a
lime-kiln, not of Alps. They are destitute of energy, of height, of
distance, of splendor, and of variety, and are the work of a man,
whether Claude or not, who had neither feeling for nature, nor knowledge
of art.

§ 11. Even in his best works.

I should not, however, insist upon the faults of this picture, believing
it to be a copy, if I had ever seen, even in his most genuine works, an
extreme distance of Claude with any of the essential characters of
nature. But although in his better pictures we have always beautiful
drawing of the _air_, which in the copy before us is entirely wanting,
the real features of the extreme mountain distance are equally neglected
or maligned in all. There is, indeed, air between us and it; but ten
miles, not seventy miles, of space. Let us observe a little more closely
the practice of nature in such cases.

§ 12. Farther illustration of the distant character of mountain chains.

§ 13. Their excessive appearance of transparency.

The multiplicity of form which I have shown to be necessary in the
outline, is not less felt in the body of the mass. For, in all extensive
hill ranges, there are five or six lateral chains separated by deep
valleys, which rise between the spectator and the central ridge, showing
their tops one over another, wave beyond wave, until the eye is carried
back to the faintest and highest forms of the principal chain. These
successive ridges, and I speak now not merely of the Alps, but of
mountains generally, even as low as 3000 feet above the sea, show
themselves in extreme distance merely as vertical shades, with very
sharp outlines, detached from one another by greater intensity,
according to their nearness. It is with the utmost difficulty that the
eye can discern any solidity or roundness in them; the lights and shades
of solid form are both equally lost in the blue of the atmosphere, and
the mountain tells only as a flat, sharp-edged film, of which multitudes
intersect and overtop one another, separated by the greater faintness of
the retiring masses. This is the most simple and easily imitated
arrangement possible, and yet, both in nature and art, it expresses
distance and size in a way otherwise quite unattainable. For thus, the
whole mass of one mountain being of one shade only, the smallest
possible difference in shade will serve completely to detach it from
another, and thus ten or twelve distances may be made evident, when the
darkest and nearest is an aerial gray as faint as the sky; and the
beauty of such arrangements carried out as nature carries them, to their
highest degree, is, perhaps, the most striking feature connected with
hill scenery: you will never, by any chance, perceive in extreme
distance, anything like solid form or projection of the hills. Each is a
dead, flat, perpendicular film or shade, with a sharp edge darkest at
the summit, and lost as it descends, and about equally dark whether
turned towards the light or from it; and of these successive films of
mountain you will probably have half a dozen, one behind another, all
showing with perfect clearness their every chasm and peak in the
outline, and not one of them showing the slightest vestige of solidity,
but on the contrary, looking so thoroughly transparent, that if it so
happens, as I have seen frequently, that a conical near hill meets with
its summit the separation of two distant ones, so that the right-hand
slope of the nearer hill forms an apparent continuation of the
right-hand slope of the left-hand farther hill, and _vice versa_, it is
impossible to get rid of the impression that one or the more distant
peaks is seen _through_ the other.

§ 14. Illustrated from the works of Turner and Stanfield. The Borromean
        Islands of the latter.

I may point out in illustration of these facts, the engravings of two
drawings of precisely the same chain of distant hills,--Stanfield's
Borromean Islands, with the St. Gothard in the distance, and Turner's
Arona, also with the St. Gothard in the distance. Far be it from me to
indicate the former of these plates as in any way exemplifying the power
of Stanfield, or affecting his reputation; it is an unlucky drawing,
murdered by the engraver, and as far from being characteristic of
Stanfield as it is from being like nature, but it is just what I want,
to illustrate the particular error of which I speak; and I prefer
showing this error where it accidentally exists in the works of a really
great artist, standing there alone, to point it out where it is confused
with other faults and falsehoods in the works of inferior hands. The
former of these plates is an example of everything which a hill distance
is not, and the latter of everything which it is. In the former, we have
the mountains covered with patchy lights, which being of equal intensity
whether near or distant, confuse all the distances together; while the
eye, perceiving that the light falls so as to give details of solid
form, yet finding nothing but insipid and formless spaces displayed by
it, is compelled to suppose that the whole body of the hill is equally
monotonous and devoid of character; and the effect upon it is not one
whit more impressive and agreeable than might be received from a group
of sand-heaps, washed into uniformity by recent rain.

§ 15. Turner's Arona.

Compare with this the distance of Turner in Arona. It is totally
impossible here to say which way the light falls on the distant hills,
except by the slightly increased decision of their edges turned towards
it, but the greatest attention is paid to get these edges decisive, yet
full of gradation, and perfectly true in character of form. All the rest
of the mountain is then indistinguishable haze, and by the bringing of
these edges more and more decisively over one another, Turner has given
us between the right-hand side of the picture and the snow, fifteen
distinct distances, yet every one of these distances in itself
palpitating, changeful, and suggesting subdivision into countless
multitude. Something of this is traceable even in the engraving, and all
the essential characters are perfectly well marked. I think even the
least experienced eye can scarcely but feel the truth of this distance
as compared with Stanfield's. In the latter, the eye gets something of
the form, and therefore wonders it sees no more; the impression on it,
therefore, is of hills within distinctly visible distance, indiscernible
through want of light or dim atmosphere; and the effect is, of course,
smallness of space, with obscurity of light and thickness of air. In
Turner's the eye gets nothing of the substance, and wonders it sees so
much of the outline; the impression is, therefore, of mountains too far
off to be ever distinctly seen, rendered clear by brilliancy of light
and purity of atmosphere; and the effect, consequently, vastness of
space, with intensity of light and crystalline transparency of air.

§ 16. Extreme distance of large objects always characterized by very
        sharp outline.

These truths are invariably given in every one of Turner's distances,
that is to say, we have always in them two principal facts forced on our
notice; transparency, or filminess of mass, and excessive sharpness of
edge. And I wish particularly to insist upon this sharpness of edge,
because it is not a casual or changeful habit of nature; it is the
unfailing characteristic of all very great distances. It is quite a
mistake to suppose that slurred or melting lines are characteristic of
distant _large_ objects; they may be so, as before observed, (Sec. II.
Chap. IV. § 4,) when the focus of the eye is not adapted to them; but,
when the eye is really directed to the distance, melting lines are
characteristic only of thick mist and vapor between us and the object,
not of the removal of the object. If a thing has character upon its
outline, as a tree for instance, or a mossy stone, the farther it is
removed from us, the sharper the outline of the whole mass will become,
though in doing so, the particular details which make up the character
will become confused in the manner described in the same chapter. A tree
fifty yards from us, taken as a mass, has a soft outline, because the
leaves and interstices have some effect on the eye. But put it ten miles
off against the sky, and its outline will be so sharp that you cannot
tell it from a rock. There are three trees on the Mont Saleve, about
five miles from Geneva, which from the city, as they stand on the ridge
of the hill, are seen defined against the sky. The keenest eye in the
world could not tell them from stones. So in a mountain five or six
miles off, bushes, and heather, and roughnesses of knotty ground and
rock, have still some effect on the eye, and by becoming confused and
mingled as before described, soften the outline. But let the mountain be
thirty miles off, and its edge will be as sharp as a knife. Let it, as
in the case of the Alps, be seventy or eighty miles off, and though it
has become so faint that the morning mist is not so transparent, its
outline will be beyond all imitation for excessive sharpness. Thus,
then, the character of extreme distance is always excessive keenness of
edge. If you soften your outline, you either put mist between you and
the object, and in doing so diminish, your distance, for it is
impossible you should see so far through mist as through clear air; or,
if you keep an impression of clear air, you bring the object close to
the observer, diminish its size in proportion, and if the aerial colors,
excessive blues, etc., be retained, represent an impossibility.

§ 17. Want of this decision in Claude.

Take Claude's distance (in No. 244, Dulwich Gallery,)[53] on the right
of the picture. It is as pure blue as ever came from the pallet, laid on
thick; you cannot see through it, there is not the slightest vestige of
transparency or filminess about it, and its edge is soft and blunt.
Hence, if it be meant for near hills, the blue is impossible, and the
want of details impossible, in the clear atmosphere indicated through
the whole picture. If it be meant for extreme distance, the blunt edge
is impossible, and the opacity is impossible. I do not know a single
distance of the Italian school to which the same observation is not
entirely applicable, except, perhaps, one or two of Nicholas Poussin's.
They always involve, under any supposition whatsoever, at least two

§ 18. The perpetual rendering of it by Turner.

I need scarcely mention in particular any more of the works of Turner,
because there is not one of his mountain distances in which these facts
are not fully exemplified. Look at the last vignette--the Farewell, in
Rogers's Italy; observe the excessive sharpness of all the edges, almost
amounting to lines, in the distance, while there is scarcely one
decisive edge in the foreground. Look at the hills of the distance in
the Dunstaffnage, Glencoe, and Loch Achray, (illustrations to Scott,) in
the latter of which the left-hand side of the Benvenue is actually
marked with a dark line. In fact, Turner's usual mode of executing these
passages is perfectly evident in all his drawings; it is not often that
we meet with a very broad dash of wet color in his finished works, but
in these distances, as we before saw of his shadows, all the effect has
been evidently given by a dash of very moist pale color, probably
turning the paper upside down, so that a very firm edge may be left at
the top of the mountain as the color dries. And in the Battle of Marengo
we find the principle carried so far as to give nothing more than actual
outline for the representation of the extreme distance, while all the
other hills in the picture are distinctly darkest at the edge. This
plate, though coarsely executed, is yet one of the noblest illustrations
of mountain character and magnitude existing.

§ 19. Effects of snow, how imperfectly studied.

Such, then, are the chief characteristics of the highest peaks and
extreme distances of all hills, as far as the forms of the rocks
themselves, and the aerial appearances especially belonging to them, are
alone concerned. There is, however, yet another point to be
considered--the modification of their form caused by incumbent snow.

Pictures of winter scenery are nearly as common as moonlights, and are
usually executed by the same order of artists, that is to say, the most
incapable; it being remarkably easy to represent the moon as a white
wafer on a black ground, or to scratch out white branches on a cloudy
sky. Nevertheless, among Flemish paintings several valuable
representations of winter are to be found, and some clever pieces of
effect among the moderns, as Hunt's, for instance, and De Wint's. But
all such efforts end in effect alone, nor have I ever in any single
instance seen a snow _wreath_, I do not say thoroughly, but even
decently, drawn.

In the range of inorganic nature, I doubt if any object can be found
more perfectly beautiful than a fresh, deep snow-drift, seen under warm
light.[54] Its curves are of inconceivable perfection and changefulness,
its surface and transparency alike exquisite, its light and shade of
inexhaustible variety and inimitable finish, the shadows sharp, pale,
and of heavenly color, the reflected lights intense and multitudinous,
and mingled with the sweet occurrences of transmitted light. No mortal
hand can approach the majesty or loveliness of it, yet it is possible by
care and skill at least to suggest the preciousness of its forms and
intimate the nature of its light and shade; but this has never been
attempted; it could not be done except by artists of a rank exceedingly
high, and there is something about the feeling of snow in ordinary
scenery which such men do not like. But when the same qualities are
exhibited on a magnificent Alpine scale and in a position where they
interfere with no feeling of life, I see not why they should be
neglected, as they have hitherto been, unless that the difficulty of
reconciling the brilliancy of snow with a picturesque light and shade,
is so great that most good artists disguise or avoid the greater part of
upper Alpine scenery, and hint at the glacier so slightly, that they do
not feel the necessity of careful study of its forms. Habits of
exaggeration increase the evil: I have seen a sketch from nature, by one
of the most able of our landscape painters, in which a cloud had been
mistaken for a snowy summit, and the hint thus taken exaggerated, as was
likely, into an enormous mass of impossible height, and unintelligent
form, when the mountain itself, for which the cloud had been mistaken,
though subtending an angle of about eighteen or twenty degrees, instead
of the fifty attributed to it, was of a form so exquisite that it might
have been a profitable lesson truly studied to Phidias. Nothing but
failure can result from such methods of sketching, nor have I ever seen
a single instance of an earnest study of snowy mountains by any one.
Hence, wherever they are introduced, their drawing is utterly
unintelligent, the forms being those of white rocks, or of rocks lightly
powdered with snow, showing sufficiently that not only the painters have
never studied the mountain carefully from below, but that they have
never climbed into the snowy region. Harding's rendering of the high
Alps (_vide_ the engraving of Chamonix, and of the Wengern Alp, in the
illustrations to Byron) is best; but even he shows no perception of the
real anatomy. Stanfield paints only white rocks instead of snow. Turner
invariably avoids the difficulty, though he has shown himself capable of
grappling with it in the ice of the Liber Studiorum, (Mer de Glace,)
which is very cold and slippery and very like ice; but of the crusts and
wreaths of the higher snow he has taken no cognizance. Even the
vignettes to Rogers's Poems fail in this respect. It would be vain to
attempt in this place to give any detailed account of the phenomena of
the upper snows; but it may be well to note those general principles
which every artist ought to keep in mind when he has to paint an Alp.

§ 20. General principles of its forms on the Alps.

Snow is modified by the under forms of the hill in some sort, as dress
is by the anatomy of the human frame. And as no dress can be well laid
on without conceiving the body beneath, so no Alp can be drawn unless
its under form is conceived first, and its snow laid on afterwards.

Every high Alp has as much snow upon it as it can hold or carry. It is
not, observe, a mere coating of snow of given depth throughout, but it
is snow loaded on until the rocks can hold no more. The surplus does not
fall in the winter, because, fastened by continual frost, the quantity
of snow which an Alp can carry is greater than each single winter can
bestow; it falls in the first mild days of spring in enormous
avalanches. Afterwards the melting continues, gradually removing from
all the steep rocks the small quantity of snow which was all they could
hold, and leaving them black and bare among the accumulated fields of
unknown depth, which occupy the capacious valleys and less inclined
superfices of the mountain.

Hence it follows that the deepest snow does not take nor indicate the
actual forms of the rocks on which it lies, but it hangs from peak to
peak in unbroken and sweeping festoons, or covers whole groups of peaks,
which afford it sufficient hold, with vast and unbroken domes: these
festoons and domes being guided in their curves, and modified in size,
by the violence and prevalent direction of the winter winds.

We have, therefore, every variety of indication of the under mountain
form; first, the mere coating, which is soon to be withdrawn, and which
shows as a mere sprinkling or powdering after a storm on the higher
peaks; then the shallow incrustation on the steep sides glazed by the
running down of its frequent meltings, frozen again in the night; then
the deep snow more or less cramped or modified by sudden eminences of
emergent rock, or hanging in fractured festoons and huge blue irregular
cliffs on the mountain flanks, and over the edges and summits of their
precipices in nodding drifts, far overhanging, like a cornice, (perilous
things to approach the edge of from above;) finally, the pure
accumulation of overwhelming depth, smooth, sweeping, and almost
cleftless, and modified only by its lines of drifting. Countless
phenomena of exquisite beauty belong to each of these conditions, not to
speak of the transition of the snow into ice at lower levels; but all on
which I shall at present insist is that the artist should not think of
his Alp merely as a white mountain, but conceive it as a group of peaks
loaded with an accumulation of snow, and that especially he should avail
himself of the exquisite curvatures, never failing, by which the snow
unites and opposes the harsh and broken lines of the rock. I shall enter
into farther detail on this subject hereafter; at present it is useless
to do so, as I have no examples to refer to, either in ancient or modern
art. No statement of these facts has hitherto been made, nor any
evidence given even of their observation, except by the most inferior

§ 21. Average paintings of Switzerland. Its real spirit has scarcely yet
        been caught.

Various works in green and white appear from time to time on the walls
of the Academy, _like_ the Alps indeed, but so frightfully like, that we
shudder and sicken at the sight of them, as we do when our best friend
shows us into his dining-room, to see a portrait of himself, which
"everybody thinks very like." We should be glad to see fewer of these,
for Switzerland is quite beyond the power of any but first-rate men, and
is exceedingly bad practice for a rising artist; but, let us express a
hope that Alpine scenery will not continue to be neglected as it has
been, by those who alone are capable of treating it. We love Italy, but
we have had rather a surfeit of it lately;--too many peaked caps and
flat-headed pines. We should be very grateful to Harding and Stanfield
if they would refresh us a little among the snow, and give us, what we
believe them to be capable of giving us, a faithful expression of Alpine
ideal. We are well aware of the pain inflicted on an artist's mind by
the preponderance of black, and white, and green, over more available
colors; but there is nevertheless in generic Alpine scenery, a fountain
of feeling yet unopened--a chord of harmony yet untouched by art. It
will be struck by the first man who can separate what is national, in
Switzerland, from what is ideal. We do not want chalets and three-legged
stools, cow-bells and buttermilk. We want the pure and holy hills,
treated as a link between heaven and earth.


  [53] One of the most genuine Claudes I know.

  [54] Compare Part III. Sect. I. Chap. 9, § 5.

  [55] I hear of some study of Alpine scenery among the professors at
    Geneva; but all foreign landscape that I have ever met with has been
    so utterly ignorant that I hope for nothing except from our own

                                 CHAPTER III.

                          OF THE INFERIOR MOUNTAINS.

§ 1. The inferior mountains are distinguished from the central by being
       divided into beds.

We have next to investigate the character of those intermediate masses
which constitute the greater part of all hill scenery, forming the
outworks of the high ranges, and being almost the sole constituents of
such lower groups as those of Cumberland, Scotland, or South Italy.

All mountains whatsoever, not composed of the granite or gneiss rocks
described in the preceding chapter, nor volcanic, (these latter being
comparatively rare,) are composed of _beds_, not of homogeneous, heaped
materials, but of accumulated layers, whether of rock or soil. It may be
slate, sandstone, limestone, gravel, or clay; but whatever the
substance, it is laid in layers, not in a mass. These layers are
scarcely ever horizontal, and may slope to any degree, often occurring
vertical, the boldness of the hill outline commonly depending in a great
degree on their inclination. In consequence of this division into beds,
every mountain will have two great sets of lines more or less prevailing
in its contours--one indicative of the surfaces of the beds, where they
come out from under each other--and the other indicative of the
extremities or edges of the beds, where their continuity has been
interrupted. And these two great sets of lines will commonly be at right
angles with each other, or nearly so. If the surface of the bed approach
a horizontal line, its termination will approach the vertical, and this
is the most usual and ordinary way in which a precipice is produced.

§ 2. Farther division of these beds by joints.

Farther, in almost all rocks there is a third division of substance,
which gives to their beds a tendency to split transversely in some
directions rather than others, giving rise to what geologists call
"joints," and throwing the whole rock into blocks more or less
rhomboidal; so that the beds are not terminated by torn or ragged edges,
but by faces comparatively smooth and even, usually inclined to each
other at some definite angle. The whole arrangement may be tolerably
represented by the bricks of a wall, whose tiers may be considered as
strata, and whose sides and extremities will represent the joints by
which those strata are divided, varying, however, their direction in
different rocks, and in the same rock under differing circumstances.

§ 3. And by lines of lamination.

Finally, in the slates, grauwackes, and some calcareous beds, in the
greater number, indeed, of _mountain_ rocks, we find another most
conspicuous feature of general structure--the lines of lamination, which
divide the whole rock into an infinite number of delicate plates or
layers, sometimes parallel to the direction or "strike" of the strata,
oftener obliquely crossing it, and sometimes, apparently, altogether
independent of it, maintaining a consistent and unvarying slope through
a series of beds contorted and undulating in every conceivable
direction. These lines of lamination extend their influence to the
smallest fragment, causing it (as, for example, common roofing slate) to
break smooth in one direction, and with a ragged edge in another, and
marking the faces of the beds and joints with distinct and numberless
lines, commonly far more conspicuous in a near view than the larger and
more important divisions.

§ 4. Variety and seeming uncertainty under which these laws are

Now, it cannot be too carefully held in mind, in examining the
principles of mountain structure, that nearly all the laws of nature
with respect to external form are rather universal tendencies, evidenced
by a plurality of instances, than imperative necessities complied with
by all. For instance, it may be said to be a universal law with respect
to the boughs of all trees that they incline their extremities more to
the ground in proportion as they are lower on the trunk, and that the
higher their point of insertion is, the more they share in the upward
tendency of the trunk itself. But yet there is not a single group of
boughs in any one tree which does not show exceptions to the rule, and
present boughs lower in insertion, and yet steeper in inclination, than
their neighbors. Nor is this defect or deformity, but the result of the
constant habit of nature to carry variety into her very principles, and
make the symmetry and beauty of her laws the more felt by the grace and
accidentalism with which they are carried out. No one familiar with
foliage could doubt for an instant of the necessity of giving evidence
of this downward tendency in the boughs; but it would be nearly as great
an offence against truth to make the law hold good with every individual
branch, as not to exhibit its influence on the majority. Now, though the
laws of mountain form are more rigid and constant than those of
vegetation, they are subject to the same species of exception in
carrying out. Though every mountain has these great tendencies in its
lines, not one in a thousand of those lines is absolutely consistent
with and obedient to this universal tendency. There are lines in every
direction, and of almost every kind, but the sum and aggregate of those
lines will invariably indicate the _universal_ force and influence to
which they are all subjected; and of these lines there will, I repeat,
be two principal sets or classes, pretty nearly at right angles with
each other. When both are inclined, they give rise to peaks or ridges;
when one is nearly horizontal and the other vertical, to table-lands and

This then is the broad organization of all hills, modified afterwards by
time and weather, concealed by superincumbent soil and vegetation, and
ramified into minor and more delicate details in a way presently to be
considered, but nevertheless universal in its great first influence, and
giving to all mountains a particular cast and inclination; like the
exertion of voluntary power in a definite direction, an internal spirit,
manifesting itself in every crag, and breathing in every slope, flinging
and forcing the mighty mass towards the heaven with an expression and an
energy like that of life.

§ 5. The perfect expression of them in Turner's Loch Coriskin.

Now, as in the case of the structure of the central peaks described
above, so also here, if I had to give a clear idea of this organization
of the lower hills, where it is seen in its greatest perfection, with a
mere view to geological truth, I should not refer to any geological
drawings, but I should take the Loch Coriskin of Turner. It has luckily
been admirably engraved, and for all purposes of reasoning or form, is
nearly as effective in the print as in the drawing. Looking at any group
of the multitudinous lines which make up this mass of mountain, they
appear to be running anywhere and everywhere; there are none parallel to
each other, none resembling each other for a moment; yet the whole mass
is felt at once to be composed with the most rigid parallelism, the
surfaces of the beds towards the left, their edges or escarpments
towards the right. In the centre, near the top of the ridge, the edge of
a bed is beautifully defined, casting its shadow on the surface of the
one beneath it; this shadow marking by three jags the chasms caused in
the inferior one by three of its parallel joints. Every peak in the
distance is evidently subject to the same great influence, and the
evidence is completed by the flatness and evenness of the steep surfaces
of the beds which rise out of the lake on the extreme right, parallel
with those in the centre.

§ 6. Glencoe and other works.

§ 7. Especially the Mount Lebanon.

Turn to Glencoe, in the same series (the Illustrations to Scott). We
have in the mass of mountain on the left, the most beautiful indication
of vertical beds of a finely laminated rock, terminated by even joints
towards the precipice; while the whole sweep of the landscape, as far as
the most distant peaks, is evidently governed by one great and simple
tendency upwards to the left, those most distant peaks themselves lying
over one another in the same direction. In the Daphne hunting with
Leucippus, the mountains on the left descend in two precipices to the
plain, each of which is formed by a vast escarpment of the beds whose
upper surfaces are shown between the two cliffs, sinking with an even
slope from the summit of the lowest to the base of the highest, under
which they evidently descend, being exposed in this manner for a length
of five or six miles. The same structure is shown, though with more
complicated development, on the left of the Loch Katrine. But perhaps
the finest instance, or at least the most marked of all, will be found
in the exquisite Mount Lebanon, with the convent of St. Antonio,
engraved in Finden's Bible. There is not one shade nor touch on the rock
which is not indicative of the lines of stratification; and every
fracture is marked with a straightforward simplicity which makes you
feel that the artist has nothing in his heart but a keen love of the
pure unmodified truth; there is no effort to disguise the repetition of
forms, no apparent aim at artificial arrangement or scientific grouping;
the rocks are laid one above another with unhesitating decision; every
shade is understood in a moment, felt as a dark side, or a shadow, or a
fissure, and you may step from one block or bed to another until you
reach the mountain summit. And yet, though there seems no effort to
disguise the repetition of forms, see how it _is_ disguised, just as
nature would have done it, by the perpetual play and changefulness of
the very lines which appear so parallel; now bending a little up, or
down, or losing themselves, or running into each other, the old story
over and over again,--infinity. For here is still the great distinction
between Turner's work and that of a common artist. Hundreds could have
given the parallelism of blocks, but none but himself could have done so
without the actual repetition of a single line or feature.

§ 8. Compared with the work of Salvator;

Now compare with this the second mountain from the left in the picture
of Salvator, No. 220 in the Dulwich Gallery. The whole is first laid in
with a very delicate and masterly gray, right in tone, agreeable in
color, quite unobjectionable for a beginning. But how is this made into
rock? On the light side Salvator gives us a multitude of touches, all
exactly like one another, and therefore, it is to be hoped, quite
patterns of perfection in rock-drawing, since they are too good to be
even varied. Every touch is a dash of the brush, as nearly as possible
in the shape of a comma, round and bright at the top, convex on its
right side, concave on its left, and melting off at the bottom into the
gray. These are laid in confusion one above another, some paler, some
brighter, some scarcely discernible, but all alike in shape. Now, I am
not aware myself of any particular object, either in earth or heaven,
which these said touches do at all resemble or portray. I do not,
however, assert that they may not resemble something--feathers, perhaps;
but I do say, and say with perfect confidence, that they may be Chinese
for rocks, or Sanscrit for rocks, or symbolical of rocks in some
mysterious and undeveloped character; but that they are no more _like_
rocks than the brush that made them. The dark sides appear to embrace
and overhang the lights; they cast no shadows, are broken by no
fissures, and furnish, as food for contemplation, nothing but a series
of concave curves.

§ 9. And of Poussin.

Yet if we go on to No. 269, we shall find something a great deal worse.
I can believe Gaspar Poussin capable of committing as much sin against
nature as most people; but I certainly do not suspect him of having had
any hand in this thing, at least after he was ten years old.
Nevertheless, it shows what he is supposed capable of by his admirers,
and will serve for a broad illustration of all those absurdities which
he himself in a less degree, and with feeling and thought to atone for
them, perpetually commits. Take the white bit of rock on the opposite
side of the river, just above the right arm of the Niobe, and tell me of
what the square green daubs of the brush at its base can be conjectured
to be typical. Rocks with pale-brown light sides, and rich green dark
sides, are a phenomenon perhaps occurring in some of the improved
passages of nature among our Cumberland lakes; where I remember once
having seen a bed of roses, of peculiar magnificence, tastefully and
artistically assisted in effect by the rocks above it being painted pink
to match; but I do not think that they are a kind of thing which the
clumsiness and false taste of nature can be supposed frequently to
produce; even granting that these same sweeps of the brush could, by any
exercise of the imagination, be conceived representative of a dark, or
any other side, which is far more than I am inclined to grant; seeing
that there is no east shadow, no appearance of reflected light, of
substance, or of character on the edge; nothing, in short, but pure,
staring green paint, scratched heavily on a white ground. Nor is there a
touch in the picture more expressive. All are the mere dragging of the
brush here and there and everywhere, without meaning or intention;
winding, twisting, zigzagging, doing anything in fact which may serve to
break up the light and destroy its breadth, without bestowing in return
one hint or shadow of anything like form. This picture is, indeed, an
extraordinary case, but the Salvator above mentioned is a characteristic
and exceedingly favorable example of the usual mode of mountain drawing
among the old landscape painters.[56] Their admirers may be challenged
to bring forward a single instance of their expressing, or even
appearing to have noted, the great laws of structure above explained.
Their hills are, without exception, irregular earthy heaps, without
energy or direction of any kind, marked with shapeless shadows and
meaningless lines; sometimes, indeed, where great sublimity has been
aimed at, approximating to the pure and exalted ideal of rocks, which,
in the most artistical specimens of China cups and plates, we see
suspended from aerial pagodas, or balanced upon peacocks' tails, but
never warranting even the wildest theorist in the conjecture that their
perpetrators had ever seen a mountain in their lives. Let us, however,
look farther into the modifications of character by which nature
conceals the regularity of her first plan; for although all mountains
are organized as we have seen, their organization is always modified,
and often nearly concealed, by changes wrought upon them by external

§ 10. Effects of external influence on mountain form.

We ought, when speaking of their stratification, to have noticed another
great law, which must, however, be understood with greater latitude of
application than any of the others, as very far from imperative or
constant in particular cases, though universal in its influence on the
aggregate of all. It is that the lines by which rocks are terminated,
are always steeper and more inclined to the vertical as we approach the
summit of the mountain. Thousands of cases are to be found in every
group, of rocks and lines horizontal at the top of the mountain and
vertical at the bottom; but they are still the exceptions, and the
average out of a given number of lines in any rock formation whatsoever,
will be found increasing in perpendicularity as they rise. Consequently
the great skeleton lines of rock outline are always concave; that is to
say, all distant ranges of rocky mountain approximate more or less to a
series of concave curves, meeting in peaks, like a range of posts with
chains hanging between. I do not say that convex forms will not
perpetually occur, but that the tendency of the majority will always be
to assume the form of sweeping, curved valleys, with angular peaks; not
of rounded convex summits, with angular valleys. This structure is
admirably exemplified in the second vignette in Rogers's Italy, and in

§ 11. The gentle convexity caused by aqueous erosion.

But although this is the primary form of all hills, and that which will
always cut against the sky in every distant range, there are two great
influences whose tendency is directly the reverse, and which modify, to
a great degree, both the evidences of stratification and this external
form. These are aqueous erosion and disintegration. The latter only is
to be taken into consideration when we have to do with minor features of
crag; but the former is a force in constant action--of the very utmost
importance--a force to which one-half of the great outlines of all
mountains is entirely owing, and which has much influence upon every one
of their details.

Now the tendency of aqueous action over a large elevated surface is
_always_ to make that surface symmetrically and evenly convex and
dome-like, sloping gradually more and more as it descends, until it
reaches an inclination of about 40°, at which slope it will descend
perfectly straight to the valley; for at that slope the soil washed from
above will accumulate upon the hill-side, as it cannot lie in steeper
beds. This influence, then, is exercised more or less on all mountains,
with greater or less effect in proportion as the rock is harder or
softer, more or less liable to decomposition, more or less recent in
date of elevation, and more or less characteristic in its original
forms; but it universally induces, in the lower parts of mountains, a
series of the most exquisitely symmetrical convex curves, terminating,
as they descend to the valley, in uniform and uninterrupted slopes; this
symmetrical structure being perpetually interrupted by cliffs and
projecting masses, which give evidence of the interior parallelism of
the mountain anatomy, but which interrupt the convex forms more
frequently by rising out of them, than by indentation.

§ 12. And the effect of the action of torrents.

There remains but one fact more to be noticed. All mountains, in some
degree, but especially those which are composed of soft or decomposing
substance, are delicately and symmetrically furrowed by the descent of
streams. The traces of their action commence at the very summits, fine
threads, and multitudinous, like the uppermost branches of a delicate
tree. They unite in groups as they descend, concentrating gradually into
dark undulating ravines, into which the body of the mountain descends on
each side, at first in a convex curve, but at the bottom with the same
uniform slope on each side which it assumes in its final descent to the
plain, unless the rock be very hard, when the stream will cut itself a
vertical chasm at the bottom of the curves, and there will be no even
slope.[57] If, on the other hand, the rock be very soft, the slopes will
increase rapidly in height and depth from day to day; washed away at the
bottom and crumbling at the top, until, by their reaching the summit of
the masses of rock which separate the active torrents, the whole
mountain is divided into a series of penthouse-like ridges, all guiding
to its summit, and becoming steeper and narrower as they ascend; these
in their turn being divided by similar, but smaller ravines--caused in
the same manner--into the same kind of ridges; and these again by
another series, the arrangement being carried finer and farther
according to the softness of the rock. The south side of Saddleback, in
Cumberland, is a characteristic example; and the Montagne du Tacondy, in
Chamonix, a noble instance of one of these ridges or buttresses, with
all its subdivisions, on a colossal scale.

§ 13. The exceeding simplicity of contour caused by these influences.

§ 14. And multiplicity of feature.

Now we wish to draw especial attention to the broad and bold simplicity
of mass, and the excessive complication of details, which influences
like these, acting on an enormous scale, must inevitably produce in all
mountain groups; because each individual part and promontory, being
compelled to assume the same symmetrical curves as its neighbors, and to
descend at precisely the same slope to the valley, falls in with their
prevailing lines, and becomes a part of a great and harmonious whole,
instead of an unconnected and discordant individual. It is true that
each of these members has its own touches of specific character, its own
projecting crags and peculiar hollows; but by far the greater portion of
its lines will be such as unite with, though they do not repeat, those
of its neighbors, and carry out the evidence of one great influence and
spirit to the limits of the scene. This effort is farther aided by the
original unity and connection of the rocks themselves, which though it
often may be violently interrupted, is never without evidence of
existence; for the very interruption itself forces the eye to feel that
there is something to be interrupted, a sympathy and similarity of
lines and fractures, which, however full of variety and change of
direction, never lose the appearance of symmetry of one kind or another.
But, on the other hand, it is to be remembered that these great
sympathizing masses are not one mountain, but a thousand mountains; that
they are originally composed of a multitude of separate eminences, hewn
and chiselled indeed into associating form, but each retaining still its
marked points and features of character,--that each of these individual
members has, by the very process which assimilated it to the rest, been
divided and subdivided into equally multitudinous groups of minor
mountains; finally, that the whole complicated system is interrupted
forever and ever by daring manifestations of the inward mountain
will--by the precipice which has submitted to no modulation of the
torrent, and the peak which has bowed itself to no terror of the storm.
Hence we see that the same imperative laws which require perfect
simplicity of mass, require infinite and termless complication of
detail,--that there will not be an inch nor a hairbreadth of the
gigantic heap which has not its touch of separate character, its own
peculiar curve, stealing out for an instant and then melting into the
common line; felt for a moment by the blue mist of the hollow beyond,
then lost when it crosses the enlightened slope,--that all this
multiplicity will be grouped into larger divisions, each felt by their
increasing aerial perspective, and their instants of individual form,
these into larger, and these into larger still, until all are merged in
the great impression and prevailing energy of the two or three vast
dynasties which divide the kingdom of the scene.

§ 15. Both utterly neglected in ancient art.

There is no vestige nor shadow of approach to such treatment as this in
the whole compass of ancient art. Whoever the master, his hills,
wherever he has attempted them, have not the slightest trace of
association or connection; they are separate, conflicting, confused,
petty and paltry heaps of earth; there is no marking of distances or
divisions in their body; they may have holes in them, but no
valleys,--protuberances and excrescences, but no parts; and in
consequence are invariably diminutive and contemptible in their whole
appearance and impression.

§ 16. The fidelity of treatment in Turner's Daphne and Leucippas.

But look at the mass of mountain on the right in Turner's Daphne hunting
with Leucippus. It is simple, broad, and united as one surge of a
swelling sea; it rises in an unbroken line along the valley, and lifts
its promontories with an equal slope. But it contains in its body ten
thousand hills. There is not a quarter of an inch of its surface without
its suggestion of increasing distance and individual form. First, on the
right, you have a range of tower-like precipices, the clinging wood
climbing along their ledges and cresting their summits, white waterfalls
gleaming through its leaves; not, as in Claude's scientific ideals,
poured in vast torrents over the top, and carefully keeping all the way
down on the most projecting parts of the sides; but stealing down,
traced from point to point, through shadow after shadow, by their
evanescent foam and flashing light,--here a wreath, and there a
ray,--through the deep chasms and hollow ravines, out of which rise the
soft rounded slopes of mightier mountain, surge beyond surge, immense
and numberless, of delicate and gradual curve, accumulating in the sky
until their garment of forest is exchanged for the shadowy fold of
slumbrous morning cloud, above which the utmost silver peak shines
islanded and alone. Put what mountain painting you will beside this, of
any other artist, and its heights will look like mole-hills in
comparison, because it will not have the unity nor the multiplicity
which are in nature, and with Turner, the signs of size.

§ 17. And in the Avalanche and Inundation.

Again, in the Avalanche and Inundation, we have for the whole subject
nothing but one vast bank of united mountain, and one stretch of
uninterrupted valley. Though the bank is broken into promontory beyond
promontory, peak above peak, each the abode of a new tempest, the
arbiter of a separate desolation, divided from each other by the rushing
of the snow, by the motion of the storm, by the thunder of the torrent;
the mighty unison of their dark and lofty line, the brotherhood of ages,
is preserved unbroken; and the broad valley at their feet, though
measured league after league away by a thousand passages of sun and
darkness, and marked with fate beyond fate of hamlet and of inhabitant,
lies yet but as a straight and narrow channel, a filling furrow before
the flood. Whose work will you compare with this? Salvator's gray heaps
of earth, seven yards high, covered with bunchy brambles, that we may be
under no mistake about the size, thrown about at random in a little
plain, beside a zigzagging river, just wide enough to admit of the
possibility of there being fish in it, and with banks just broad enough
to allow the respectable angler or hermit to sit upon them conveniently
in the foreground? Is there more of nature in such paltriness, think
you, than in the valley and the mountain which bend to each other like
the trough of the sea; with the flank of the one swept in one surge into
the height of heaven, until the pine forests lie on its immensity like
the shadows of narrow clouds, and the hollow of the other laid league by
league into the blue of the air, until its white villages flash in the
distance only like the fall of a sunbeam?

§ 18. The rarity among secondary hills of steep slopes or high

But let us examine by what management of the details themselves this
wholeness and vastness of effect are given. We have just seen (§ 11)
that it is impossible for the slope of a mountain, not actually a
precipice of rock, to exceed 35° or among secondary 40°, and that by far
the greater part of all hill-surface is composed of graceful curves of
much less degree than this, reaching 40° only as their ultimate and
utmost inclination. It must be farther observed that the interruptions
to such curves, by precipices or steps, are always small in proportion
to the slopes themselves. Precipices rising vertically more than 100
feet are very rare among the secondary hills of which we are speaking. I
am not aware of any cliff in England or Wales where a plumb-line can
swing clear for 200 feet; and even although sometimes, with intervals,
breaks, and steps, we get perhaps 800 feet of a slope of 60° or 70°, yet
not only are these cases very rare, but even these have little influence
on the great contours of a mountain 4000 or 5000 feet in elevation,
being commonly balanced by intervals of ascent not exceeding 6° or 8°.
The result of which is, first, that the peaks and precipices of a
mountain appear as little more than jags or steps emerging from its
great curves; and, secondly, that the bases of all hills are enormously
extensive as compared with their elevation, so that there must be always
a horizontal distance between the observer and the summit five or six
times exceeding the perpendicular one.

§ 19. And consequent expression of horizontal distance in their ascent.

Now it is evident, that whatever the actual angle of elevation of the
mountain may be, every exhibition of this horizontal distance between us
and the summit is an addition to its height, and of course to its
impressiveness; while every endeavor to exhibit its slope as steep and
sudden, is diminution at once of its distance and elevation. In
consequence nature is constantly endeavoring to impress upon us this
horizontal distance, which, even in spite of all her means of
manifesting it, we are apt to forget or underestimate; and all her
noblest effects depend on the full measurement and feeling of it. And it
is to the abundant and marvellous expression of it by Turner, that I
would direct especial attention, as being that which is in itself
demonstrative of the highest knowledge and power--knowledge, in the
constant use of lines of subdued slope in preference to steep or violent
ascents, and in the perfect subjection of all such features, when they
necessarily occur, to the larger masses; and power, in the inimitable
statements of retiring space by mere painting of surface details,
without the aid of crossing shadows, divided forms, or any other

§ 20. Full statement of all these facts in various works of Turner,
        Caudebec, etc.

The Caudebec, in the Rivers of France, is a fine instance of almost
every fact which we have been pointing out. We have in it, first, the
clear expression of what takes place constantly among hills,--that the
river, as it passes through the valley, will fall backwards and forwards
from side to side, lying first, if I may so speak, with all its weight
against the hills on the one side, and then against those on the other;
so that, as here it is exquisitely told, in each of its circular sweeps
the whole force of its current is brought deep and close to the bases of
the hills, while the water on the side next the plain is shallow,
deepening gradually. In consequence of this, the hills are cut away at
their bases by the current, so that their slopes are interrupted by
precipices mouldering to the water. Observe first, how nobly Turner has
given us the perfect unity of the whole mass of hill, making us
understand that every ravine in it has been cut gradually by streams.
The first eminence, beyond the city, is not disjointed from, or
independent of, the one succeeding, but evidently part of the same
whole, originally united, separated only by the action of the stream
between. The association of the second and third is still more clearly
told, for we see that there has been a little longitudinal valley
running along the brow of their former united mass, which, after the
ravine had been cut between, formed the two jags which Turner has given
us at the same point in each of their curves. This great triple group
has, however, been originally distinct from those beyond it; for we see
that these latter are only the termination of the enormous even slope,
which appears again on the extreme right, having been interrupted by the
rise of the near hills. Observe how the descent of the whole series is
kept gentle and subdued, never suffered to become steep except where it
has been cut away by the river, the sudden precipice caused by which is
exquisitely marked in the last two promontories, where they are defined
against the bright horizon; and, finally, observe how, in the ascent of
the nearest eminence beyond the city, without one cast shadow or any
division of distances, every yard of surface is felt to be retiring by
the mere painting of its details,--how we are permitted to walk up it,
and along its top, and are carried, before we are half way up, a league
or two forward into the picture. The difficulty of doing this, however,
can scarcely be appreciated except by an artist.

§ 21. The use of considering geological truths.

I do not mean to assert that this great painter is acquainted with the
geological laws and facts he has thus illustrated; I am not aware
whether he be or not; I merely wish to demonstrate, in points admitting
of demonstration, that intense observation of, and strict adherence to
truth, which it is impossible to demonstrate in its less tangible and
more delicate manifestations. However I may _feel_ the truth of every
touch and line, I cannot _prove_ truth, except in large and general
features; and I leave it to the arbitration of every man's reason,
whether it be not likely that the painter who is thus so rigidly
faithful in great things that every one of his pictures might be the
illustration of a lecture on the physical sciences, is not likely to be
faithful also in small.

§ 22. Expression of retiring surface by Turner contrasted with the work
        of Claude.

Honfleur, and the scene between Clairmont and Mauves, supply us with
farther instances of the same grand simplicity of treatment; and the
latter is especially remarkable for its expression of the furrowing of
the hills by descending water, in the complete roundness and symmetry
of their curves, and in the delicate and sharp shadows which are cast in
the undulating ravines. It is interesting to compare with either of
these noble works such hills as those of Claude, on the left of the
picture marked 260 in the Dulwich Gallery. There is no detail nor
surface in one of them; not an inch of ground for us to stand upon; we
must either sit astride upon the edge, or fall to the bottom. I could
not point to a more complete instance of mountain calumniation; nor can
I oppose it more completely, in every circumstance, than with the
Honfleur of Turner, already mentioned; in which there is not one edge
nor division admitted, and yet we are permitted to climb up the hill
from the town, and pass far into the mist along its top, and so descend
mile after mile along the ridge to seaward, until, without one break in
the magnificent unity of progress, we are carried down to the utmost
horizon. And contrast the brown paint of Claude, which you can only
guess to be meant for rock or soil because it _is_ brown, with Turner's
profuse, pauseless richness of feature, carried through all the enormous
space--the unmeasured wealth of exquisite detail, over which the mind
can dwell, and walk, and wander, and feast forever, without finding
either one break in its vast simplicity, or one vacuity in its
exhaustless splendor.

§ 23. The same moderation of slope in the contours of his higher hills.

But these, and hundreds of others which it is sin not to dwell
upon--wooded hills and undulating moors of North England--rolling surges
of park and forest of the South--soft and vine-clad ranges of French
coteaux, casting their oblique shadows on silver leagues of glancing
rivers,--and olive-whitened promontories of Alp and Apennine, are only
instances of Turner's management of the lower and softer hills. In the
bolder examples of his powers, where he is dealing with lifted masses of
enormous mountain, we shall still find him as cautious in his use of
violent slopes or vertical lines, and still as studied in his expression
of retiring surface. We never get to the top of one of his hills without
being tired with our walk; not by the steepness, observe, but by the
stretch; for we are carried up towards the heaven by such delicate
gradation of line, that we scarcely feel that we have left the earth
before we find ourselves among the clouds. The Skiddaw, in the
illustrations to Scott, is a noble instance of this majestic moderation.
The mountain lies in the morning light, like a level vapor; its gentle
lines of ascent are scarcely felt by the eye; it rises without effort or
exertion, by the mightiness of its mass; every slope is full of slumber;
and we know not how it has been exalted, until we find it laid as a
floor for the walking of the eastern clouds. So again in the Fort
Augustus, where the whole elevation of the hills depends on the soft
lines of swelling surface which undulate back through leagues of mist
carrying us unawares higher and higher above the diminished lake, until,
when we are all but exhausted with the endless distance, the mountains
make their last spring, and bear us, in that instant of exertion, half
way to heaven.

§ 24. The peculiar difficulty of investigating the more essential truths
        of hill outline.

I ought perhaps rather to have selected, as instances of mountain form,
such elaborate works as the Oberwesel or Lake of Uri, but I have before
expressed my dislike of speaking of such magnificent pictures as these
by parts. And indeed all proper consideration of the hill drawing of
Turner must be deferred until we are capable of testing it by the
principles of beauty; for, after all, the most essential qualities of
line,--those on which all right delineation of mountain character must
depend, are those which are only to be explained or illustrated by
appeals to our feeling of what is beautiful. There is an expression and
a feeling about all the hill lines of nature, which I think I shall be
able, hereafter, to explain; but it is not to be reduced to line and
rule--not to be measured by angles or described by compasses--not to be
chipped out by the geologist, or equated by the mathematician. It is
intangible, incalculable--a thing to be felt, not understood--to be
loved, not comprehended--a music of the eyes, a melody of the heart,
whose truth is known only by its sweetness.

§ 25. Works of other modern artists. Clarkson Stanfield.

§ 26. Importance of particular and individual truth in hill drawing.

I can scarcely, without repeating myself to tediousness, enter at
present into proper consideration of the mountain drawing of other
modern painters. We have, fortunately, several by whom the noble truths
which we have seen so fully exemplified by Turner are also deeply felt
and faithfully rendered; though there is a necessity, for the perfect
statement of them, of such an unison of freedom of thought with perfect
mastery over the greatest mechanical difficulties, as we can scarcely
hope to see attained by more than one man in our age. Very nearly the
same words which we used in reference to Stanfield's drawings of the
central clouds, might be applied to his rendering of mountain truth. He
occupies exactly the same position with respect to other artists in
earth as in cloud. None can be said really to _draw_ the mountain as he
will, to have so perfect a mastery over its organic development; but
there is, nevertheless, in all his works, some want of feeling and
individuality. He has studied and mastered his subject to the bottom,
but he trusts too much to that past study, and rather invents his hills
from his possessed stores of knowledge, than expresses in them the fresh
ideas received from nature. Hence, in all that he does, we feel a little
too much that the hills are his own. We cannot swear to their being the
particular crags and individual promontories which break the cone of
Ischia, or shadow the waves of Maggiore. We are nearly sure, on the
contrary, that nothing but the outline is local, and that all the
filling up has been done in the study. Now, we have already shown (Sect.
I. Chap. III.) that particular truths are more important than general
ones, and this is just one of the cases in which that rule especially
applies. Nothing is so great a sign of truth and beauty in mountain
drawing as the appearance of individuality--nothing is so great a proof
of real imagination and invention, as the appearance that nothing has
been imagined or invented. We ought to feel of every inch of mountain,
that it _must_ have existence in reality, that if we had lived near the
place we should have known every crag of it, and that there must be
people to whom every crevice and shadow of the picture is fraught with
recollections, and colored with associations. The moment the artist can
make us feel this--the moment he can make us think that _he_ has done
nothing, that nature has done all--that moment he becomes ennobled, he
proves himself great. As long as we remember him, we cannot respect him.
We honor him most when we most forget him. He becomes great when he
becomes invisible. And we may, perhaps, be permitted to express our hope
that Mr. Stanfield will--our conviction that he must--if he would
advance in his rank as an artist, attend more to local character, and
give us generally less of the Stanfield limestone. He ought to study
with greater attention the rocks which afford finer divisions and more
delicate parts (slates and gneiss;) and he ought to observe more fondly
and faithfully those beautiful laws and lines of swell and curvature, by
intervals of which nature sets off and relieves the energy of her peaked
outlines. He is at present apt to be too rugged, and, in consequence, to
lose size. Of his best manner of drawing hills, I believe I can scarcely
give a better example than the rocks of Suli, engraved in Finden's
illustrations to Byron. It is very grand and perfect in all parts and

§ 27. Works of Copley Fielding. His hill feeling.

Copley Fielding is peculiarly graceful and affectionate in his drawing
of the inferior mountains. But as with his clouds so with his hills; as
long as he keeps to silvery films of misty outline, or purple shadows
mingled with the evening light, he is true and beautiful; but the moment
he withdraws the mass out of its veiling mystery, he is lost. His worst
drawings, therefore, are those on which he has spent most time; for he
is sure to show weakness wherever he gives detail. We believe that all
his errors proceed, as we observed before, from his not working with the
chalk or pencil; and that if he would paint half the number of pictures
in the year which he usually produces, and spend his spare time in hard
dry study of forms, the half he painted would be soon worth double the
present value of all. For he really has deep and genuine feeling of hill
character--a far higher perception of space, elevation, incorporeal
color, and all those qualities which are the poetry of mountains, than
any other of our water-color painters; and it is an infinite pity that
he should not give to these delicate feelings the power of realization,
which might be attained by a little labor. A few thorough studies of his
favorite mountains, Ben-Venue or Ben-Cruachan, in clear, strong, front
chiaroscuro, allowing himself neither color nor mist, nor any means of
getting over the ground but downright drawing, would, we think, open his
eyes to sources of beauty of which he now takes no cognizance. He ought
not, however, to repeat the same subjects so frequently, as the casting
about of the mind for means of varying them blunts the feelings to
truth. And he should remember that an artist, who is not making
progress, is nearly certain to be retrograding; and that progress is not
to be made by working in the study, or by mere labor bestowed on the
repetition of unchanging conceptions.

§ 28. Works of J. D. Harding and others.

J. D. Harding would paint mountains very nobly, if he made them of more
importance in his compositions, but they are usually little more than
backgrounds for his foliage or buildings; and it is his present system
to make his backgrounds very slight. His color is very beautiful:
indeed, both his and Fielding's are far more refined than Stanfield's.
We wish he would oftener take up some wild subject dependent for
interest on its mountain forms alone, as we should anticipate the
highest results from his perfect drawing; and we think that such an
exercise, occasionally gone completely through, would counteract a
tendency which we perceive in his present distances, to become a little
thin and cutting, if not incomplete.

The late G. Robson was a man most thoroughly acquainted with all the
characteristics of our own island hills; and some of the outlines of
John Varley showed very grand feeling of energy of form.


  [56] I have above exhausted all terms of vituperation, and probably
    disgusted the reader; and yet I have not spoken with enough
    severity: I know not any terms of blame that are bitter enough to
    chastise justly the mountain drawings of Salvator in the pictures of
    the Pitti Palace.

  [57] Some terrific cuts and chasms of this kind occur on the north
    side of the Valais, from Sion to Briey. The torrent from the great
    Aletsch glacier descends through one of them. Elsewhere chasms may
    be found as narrow, but few so narrow and deep.

                                 CHAPTER IV.

                             OF THE FOREGROUND.

We have now only to observe the close characteristics of the rocks and
soils to which the large masses of which we have been speaking, owe
their ultimate characters.

§ 1. What rocks were the chief components of ancient landscape

We have already seen that there exists a marked distinction between
those stratified rocks whose beds are amorphous and without subdivision,
as many limestones and sandstones, and those which are divided by lines
of lamination, as all slates. The last kind of rock is the more frequent
in nature, and forms the greater part of all hill scenery; it has,
however, been successfully grappled with by few, even of the moderns,
except Turner; while there is no single example of any aim at it or
thought of it among the ancients, whose foregrounds, as far as it is
possible to guess at their intention through their concentrated errors,
are chosen from among the tufa and travertin of the lower Apennines,
(the ugliest as well as the least characteristic rocks of nature,) and
whose larger features of rock scenery, if we look at them with a
predetermination to find in them a resemblance of _something_, may be
pronounced at least liker the mountain limestone than anything else. I
shall glance, therefore, at the general characters of these materials
first, in order that we may be able to appreciate the fidelity of
rock-drawing on which Salvator's reputation has been built.

§ 2. Salvator's limestones. The real characters of the rock. Its
       fractures and obtuseness of angles.

The massive limestones separate generally into irregular blocks, tending
to the form of cubes or parallelopipeds, and terminated by tolerably
smooth planes. The weather, acting on the edges of these blocks, rounds
them off; but the frost, which, while it cannot penetrate nor split the
body of the stone, acts energetically on the angles, splits off the
rounded fragments, and supplies sharp, fresh, and complicated edges.
Hence the angles of such blocks are usually marked by a series of steps
and fractures, in which the peculiar character of the rock is most
distinctly seen; the effect being increased in many limestones by the
interposition of two or three thinner beds between the large strata of
which the block has been a part; these thin laminæ breaking easily, and
supplying a number of fissures and lines at the edge of the detached
mass. Thus, as a general principle, if a rock have character anywhere,
it will be on the angle, and however even and smooth its great planes
may be, it will usually break into variety where it turns a corner. In
one of the most exquisite pieces of rock truth ever put on canvas, the
foreground of the Napoleon in the Academy, 1842, this principle was
beautifully exemplified in the complicated fractures of the upper angle
just where it turned from the light, while the planes of the rock were
varied only by the modulation they owed to the waves. It follows from
this structure that the edges of all rock being partially truncated,
first by large fractures, and then by the rounding of the fine edges of
these by the weather, perpetually present _convex_ transitions from the
light to the dark side, the planes of the rock almost always swelling a
little _from_ the angle.

§ 3. Salvator's acute angles caused by the meeting of concave curves.

Now it will be found throughout the works of Salvator, that his most
usual practice was to give a _concave_ sweep of the brush for his first
expression of the dark side, leaving the paint darkest towards the
light; by which daring and original method of procedure he has succeeded
in covering his foregrounds with forms which approximate to those of
drapery, of ribbons, of crushed cocked hats, of locks of hair, of waves,
leaves, or anything, in short, flexible or tough, but which of course
are not only unlike, but directly contrary to the forms which nature has
impressed on rocks.[58]

§ 4. Peculiar distinctness of light and shade in the rocks of nature.

§ 5. Peculiar confusion of both in the rocks of Salvator.

And the circular and sweeping strokes or stains which are dashed at
random over their surfaces, only fail of destroying all resemblance
whatever to rock structure from their frequent want of any meaning at
all, and from the impossibility of our supposing any of them to be
representative of shade. Now, if there be any part of landscape in which
nature develops her principles of light and shade more clearly than
another, it is rock; for the dark sides of fractured stone receive
brilliant reflexes from the lighted surfaces, on which the shadows are
marked with the most exquisite precision, especially because, owing to
the parallelism of cleavage, the surfaces lie usually in directions
nearly parallel. Hence every crack and fissure has its shadow and
reflected light separated with the most delicious distinctness, and the
organization and solid form of all parts are told with a decision of
language, which, to be followed with anything like fidelity, requires
the most transparent color, and the most delicate and scientific
drawing. So far are the works of the old landscape-painters from
rendering this, that it is exceedingly rare to find a single passage in
which the shadow can even be distinguished from the dark side--they
scarcely seem to know the one to be darker than the other; and the
strokes of the brush are not used to explain or express a form known or
conceived, but are dashed and daubed about without any aim beyond the
covering of the canvas. "A rock," the old masters appear to say to
themselves, "is a great irregular, formless, characterless lump; but it
must have shade upon it, and any gray marks will do for that shade."

§ 6. And total want of any expression of hardness or brittleness.

§ 7. Instances in particular pictures.

Finally, while few, if any, of the rocks of nature are untraversed by
delicate and slender fissures, whose black sharp lines are the only
means by which the peculiar quality in which rocks most differ from the
other objects of the landscape, brittleness, can be effectually
suggested, we look in vain among the blots and stains with which the
rocks of ancient art are loaded, for any vestige or appearance of
fissure or splintering. Toughness and malleability appear to be the
qualities whose expression is most aimed at; sometimes sponginess,
softness, flexibility, tenuity, and occasionally transparency. Take, for
instance, the foreground of Salvator, in No. 220 of the Dulwich Gallery.
There is, on the right-hand side of it, an object, which I never walk
through the room without contemplating for a minute or two with renewed
solicitude and anxiety of mind, indulging in a series of very wild and
imaginative conjectures as to its probable or possible meaning. I think
there is reason to suppose that the artist intended it either for a very
large stone, or for the trunk of a tree; but any decision as to its
being either one or the other of these must, I conceive, be the extreme
of rashness. It melts into the ground on one side, and might reasonably
be conjectured to form a part of it, having no trace of woody structure
or color; but on the other side it presents a series of concave curves,
interrupted by cogs like those of a water-wheel, which the boldest
theorist would certainly not feel himself warranted in supposing
symbolical of rock. The forms which this substance, whatever it be,
assumes, will be found repeated, though in a less degree, in the
foreground of No. 159, where they are evidently meant for rock.

§ 8. Compared with the works of Stanfield.

§ 9. Their absolute opposition in every particular.

Let us contrast with this system of rock-drawing, the faithful,
scientific, and dexterous studies of nature which we find in the works
of Clarkson Stanfield. He is a man especially to be opposed to the old
masters, because he usually confines himself to the same rock subjects
as they--the mouldering and furrowed crags of the secondary formation
which arrange themselves more or less into broad and simple masses; and
in the rendering of these it is impossible to go beyond him. Nothing can
surpass his care, his firmness, or his success, in marking the distinct
and sharp light and shade by which the form is explained, never
confusing it with local color, however richly his surface-texture may be
given; while the wonderful play of line with which he will vary, and
through which he will indicate, the regularity of stratification, is
almost as instructive as that of nature herself. I cannot point to any
of his works as better or more characteristic than others; but his
Ischia, in the present British Institution, may be taken as a fair
average example. The Botallack Mine, Cornwall, engraved in the Coast
Scenery, gives us a very finished and generic representation of rock,
whose primal organization has been violently affected by external
influences. We have the stratification and cleavage indicated at its
base, every fissure being sharp, angular, and decisive, disguised
gradually as it rises by the rounding of the surface and the successive
furrows caused by the descent of streams. But the exquisite drawing of
the foreground is especially worthy of notice. No huge concave sweeps of
the brush, no daubing or splashing here. Every inch of it is brittle and
splintery, and the fissures are explained to the eye by the most
perfect, speaking light and shade,--we can stumble over the edges of
them. The East Cliff, Hastings, is another very fine example, from the
exquisite irregularity with which its squareness of general structure is
varied and disguised. Observe how totally contrary every one of its
lines is to the absurdities of Salvator. Stanfield's are all angular and
straight, every apparent curve made up of right lines, while Salvator's
are all sweeping and flourishing like so much penmanship. Stanfield's
lines pass away into delicate splintery fissures. Salvator's are broad
daubs throughout. Not one of Stanfield's lines is like another. Every
one of Salvator's mocks all the rest. All Stanfield's curves, where his
universal angular character is massed, as on the left-hand side, into
large sweeping forms, are convex. Salvator's are every one concave.

§ 10. The rocks of J. D. Harding.

The foregrounds of J. D. Harding and rocks of his middle distances are
also thoroughly admirable. He is not quite so various and undulating in
his line as Stanfield, and sometimes, in his middle distances, is
wanting in solidity, owing to a little confusion of the dark side and
shadow with each other, or with the local color. But his work, in near
passages of fresh-broken, sharp-edged rock, is absolute perfection,
excelling Stanfield in the perfect freedom and facility with which his
fragments are splintered and scattered; true in every line without the
least apparent effort. Stanfield's best works are laborious, but
Harding's rocks fall from under his hand as if they had just crashed
down the hill-side, flying on the instant into lovely form. In color
also he incomparably surpasses Stanfield, who is apt to verge upon mud,
or be cold in his gray. The rich, lichenous, and changeful warmth, and
delicate weathered grays of Harding's rock, illustrated as they are by
the most fearless, firm, and unerring drawing, render his wild pieces of
torrent shore the finest things, next to the work of Turner, in English
foreground art.

J. B. Pyne has very accurate knowledge of limestone rock, and expresses
it clearly and forcibly; but it is much to be regretted that this clever
artist appears to be losing all sense of color and is getting more and
more mannered in execution, evidently never studying from nature except
with the previous determination to Pynize everything.[59]

§ 11. Characters of loose earth and soil.

§ 12. Its exceeding grace and fulness of feature.

Before passing to Turner, let us take one more glance at the foregrounds
of the old masters, with reference, not to their management of rock,
which is comparatively a rare component part of their foregrounds, but
to the common soil which they were obliged to paint constantly, and
whose forms and appearances are the same all over the world. A steep
bank of loose earth of any kind, that has been at all exposed to the
weather, contains in it, though it may not be three feet high, features
capable of giving high gratification to a careful observer. It is almost
a fac-simile of a mountain slope of soft and decomposing rock; it
possesses nearly as much variety of character, and is governed by laws
of organization no less rigid. It is furrowed in the first place by
undulating lines, by the descent of the rain, little ravines, which are
cut precisely at the same slope as those of the mountain, and leave
ridges scarcely less graceful in their contour, and beautifully sharp in
their chiselling. Where a harder knot of ground or a stone occurs, the
earth is washed from beneath it, and accumulates above it, and there we
have a little precipice connected by a sweeping curve at its summit with
the great slope, and casting a sharp dark shadow; where the soil has
been soft, it will probably be washed away underneath until it gives
way, and leaves a jagged, hanging, irregular line of fracture; and all
these circumstances are explained to the eye in sunshine with the most
delicious clearness; every touch of shadow being expressive of some
particular truth of structure, and bearing witness to the symmetry into
which the whole mass has been reduced. Where this operation has gone on
long, and vegetation has assisted in softening the outlines, we have our
ground brought into graceful and irregular curves, of infinite variety,
but yet always so connected with each other, and guiding to each other,
that the eye never feels them as _separate_ things, nor feels inclined
to count them, nor perceives a likeness in one to the other; they are
not repetitions of each other, but are different parts of one system.
Each would be imperfect without the one next to it.

§ 13. The ground of Teniers.

Now it is all but impossible to express distinctly the particulars
wherein this fine character of curve consists, and to show in definite
examples, what it is which makes one representation right, and another
wrong. The ground of Teniers for instance, in No. 139 in the Dulwich
Gallery, is an example of all that is wrong. It is a representation of
the forms of shaken and disturbed soil, such as we should see here and
there after an earthquake, or over the ruins of fallen buildings. It has
not one contour nor character of the soil of nature, and yet I can
scarcely tell you why, except that the curves repeat one another, and
are monotonous in their flow, and are unbroken by the delicate angle
and momentary pause with which the feeling of nature would have touched
them, and are disunited; so that the eye leaps from this to that, and
does not pass from one to the other without being able to stop, drawn on
by the continuity of line; neither is there any undulation or furrowing
of watermark, nor in one spot or atom of the whole surface, is there
distinct explanation of form to the eye by means of a determined shadow.
All is mere sweeping of the brush over the surface with various ground
colors, without a single indication of character by means of real shade.

§ 14. Importance of these minor parts and points.

§ 15. The observance of them is the real distinction between the master
        and the novice.

Let not these points be deemed unimportant; the truths of form in common
ground are quite as valuable, (let me anticipate myself for a moment,)
quite as beautiful, as any others which nature presents, and in lowland
landscape they present us with a species of line which it is quite
impossible to obtain in any other way,--the alternately flowing and
broken line of mountain scenery, which, however small its scale, is
always of inestimable value, contrasted with the repetitions of organic
form which we are compelled to give in vegetation. A really great artist
dwells on every inch of exposed soil with care and delight, and renders
it one of the most essential, speaking and pleasurable parts of his
composition. And be it remembered, that the man who, in the most
conspicuous part of his foreground, will violate truth with every stroke
of the pencil, is not likely to be more careful in other parts of it;
and that in the little bits which I fix upon for animadversion, I am not
pointing out solitary faults, but only the most characteristic examples
of the falsehood which is everywhere, and which renders the whole
foreground one mass of contradictions and absurdities. Nor do I myself
see wherein the great difference lies between a master and a novice,
except in the rendering of the finer truths, of which I am at present
speaking. To handle the brush freely, and to paint grass and weeds with
accuracy enough to satisfy the eye, are accomplishments which a year or
two's practice will give any man; but to trace among the grass and weeds
those mysteries of invention and combination, by which nature appeals to
the intellect--to render the delicate fissure, and descending curve, and
undulating shadow of the mouldering soil, with gentle and fine finger,
like the touch of the rain itself--to find even in all that appears most
trifling or contemptible, fresh evidence of the constant working of the
Divine power "for glory and for beauty," and to teach it and proclaim it
to the unthinking and the unregardless--this, as it is the peculiar
province and faculty of the master-mind, so it is the peculiar duty
which is demanded of it by the Deity.

§ 16. The ground of Cuyp.

§ 17. And of Claude.

§ 18. The entire weakness and childishness of the latter.

§ 19. Compared with the work of Turner.

It would take me no reasonable nor endurable time, if I were to point
out one half of the various kinds and classes of falsehood which the
inventive faculties of the old masters succeeded in originating, in the
drawing of foregrounds. It is not this man, nor that man, nor one school
nor another; all agree in entire repudiation of everything resembling
facts, and in the high degree of absurdity of what they substitute for
them. Even Cuyp, who evidently saw and studied _near_ nature, as an
artist should do--not fishing for idealities, but taking what nature
gave him, and thanking her for it--even he appears to have supposed that
the drawing of the earth might be trusted to chance or imagination, and,
in consequence, strews his banks with lumps of dough, instead of stones.
Perhaps, however, the "beautiful foregrounds" of Claude afford the most
remarkable instances of childishness and incompetence of all. That of
his morning landscape, with the large group of trees and high
single-arched bridge, in the National Gallery, is a pretty fair example
of the kind of error which he constantly falls into. I will not say
anything of the agreeable composition of the three banks, rising one
behind another from the water. I merely affirm that it amounts to a
demonstration that all three were painted in the artist's study, without
any reference to nature whatever. In fact, there is quite enough
intrinsic evidence in each of them to prove this, seeing that what
appears to be meant for vegetation upon them, amounts to nothing more
than a green stain on their surfaces, the more evidently false because
the leaves of the trees twenty yards farther off are all perfectly
visible and distinct; and that the sharp lines with which each cuts
against that beyond it, are not only such as crumbling earth could never
show or assume, but are maintained through their whole progress
ungraduated, unchanging, and unaffected by any of the circumstances of
varying shade to which every one of nature's lines is inevitably
subjected. In fact, the whole arrangement is the impotent struggle of a
tyro to express, by successive edges, that approach of earth which he
finds himself incapable of expressing by the drawing of the surface.
Claude wished to make you understand that the edge of his pond came
nearer and nearer: he had probably often tried to do this with an
unbroken bank, or a bank only varied by the delicate and harmonized
anatomy of nature; and he had found that owing to his total ignorance of
the laws of perspective, such efforts on his part invariably ended in
his reducing his pond to the form of a round O, and making it look
perpendicular. Much comfort and solace of mind, in such unpleasant
circumstances, may be derived from instantly dividing the obnoxious bank
into a number of successive promontories, and developing their edges
with completeness and intensity. Every school-girl's drawing, as soon as
her mind has arrived at so great a degree of enlightenment as to
perceive that perpendicular water is objectionable, will supply us with
edifying instances of this unfailing resource; and this foreground of
Claude's is only one out of the thousand cases in which he has been
reduced to it. And if it be asked, how the proceeding differs from that
of nature, I have only to point to nature herself, as she is drawn in
the foreground of Turner's Mercury and Argus, a case precisely similar
to Claude's, of earthy crumbling banks cut away by water. It will be
found in this picture (and I am now describing nature's work and
Turner's with the same words) that the whole distance is given by
retirement of solid surface; and that if ever an edge is expressed, it
is only felt for an instant, and then lost again; so that the eye cannot
stop at it and prepare for a long jump to another like it, but is guided
over it, and round it, into the hollow beyond; and thus the whole
receding mass of ground, going back for more than a quarter of a mile,
is made completely _one_--no part of it is separated from the rest for
an instant--it is all united, and its modulations are _members_, not
_divisions_ of its mass. But those modulations are countless--heaving
here, sinking there--now swelling, now mouldering, now blending, now
breaking--giving, in fact, to the foreground of this universal master,
precisely the same qualities which we have before seen in his hills, as
Claude gave to his foreground precisely the same qualities which we had
before found in _his_ hills,--infinite unity in the one case, finite
division in the other.

§ 20. General features of Turner's foreground.

Let us, then, having now obtained some insight into the principles of
the old masters in foreground drawing, contrast them throughout with
those of our great modern master. The investigation of the excellence of
Turner's drawing becomes shorter and easier as we proceed, because the
great distinctions between his work and that of other painters are the
same, whatever the object or subject may be; and after once showing the
general characters of the particular specific forms under consideration,
we have only to point, in the works of Turner, to the same principles of
infinity and variety in carrying them out, which we have before insisted
upon with reference to other subjects.

§ 21. Geological structure of his rocks in the Fall of the Tees.

§ 22. Their convex surfaces and fractured edges.

§ 23. And perfect unity.

§ 24. Various parts whose history is told us by the details of the

The Upper Fall of the Tees, Yorkshire, engraved in the England series,
may be given as a standard example of rock-drawing to be opposed to the
work of Salvator. We have, in the great face of rock which divides the
two streams, horizontal lines which indicate the real direction of the
strata, and these same lines are given in ascending perspective all
along the precipice on the right. But we see also on the central
precipice fissures absolutely vertical, which inform us of one series of
joints dividing these horizontal strata; and the exceeding smoothness
and evenness of the precipice itself inform us that it has been caused
by a great separation of substance in the direction of another more
important line of joints, running in a direction across the river.
Accordingly, we see on the left that the whole summit of the precipice
is divided again and again by this great series of joints into vertical
beds, which lie against each other with their sides towards us, and are
traversed downwards by the same vertical lines traceable on the face of
the central cliff. Now, let me direct especial attention to the way in
which Turner has marked over this general and grand unity of structure,
the modifying effects of the weather and the torrent. Observe how the
whole surface of the hill above the precipice on the left[60] is
brought into one smooth, unbroken curvature of gentle convexity, until
it comes to the edge of the precipice, and then, just on the angle,
(compare § 2,) breaks into the multiplicity of fissure which marks its
geological structure. Observe how every one of the separate blocks, into
which it divides, is rounded and convex in its salient edges turned to
the weather, and how every one of their inward angles is marked clear
and sharp by the determined shadow and transparent reflex. Observe how
exquisitely graceful are all the curves of the convex surfaces,
indicating that every one of them has been modelled by the winding and
undulating of running water; and how gradually they become steeper as
they descend, until they are torn down into the face of the precipice.
Finally, observe the exquisite variety of all the touches which express
fissure or shade; every one in varying directions and with new forms,
and yet throughout indicating that perfect parallelism which at once
explained to us the geology of the rock, and falling into one grand
mass, treated with the same simplicity of light and shade which a great
portrait painter adopts in treating the features of the human face;
which, though each has its own separate chiaroscuro, never disturb the
wholeness and grandeur of the head, considered as one ball or mass. So
here, one deep and marked piece of shadow indicates the greatest
proximity of the rounded mass; and from this every shade becomes fainter
and fainter, until all are lost in the obscurity and dimness of the
hanging precipice and the shattering fall. Again, see how the same
fractures just upon the edge take place with the central cliff above the
right-hand fall, and how the force of the water is told us by the
confusion of débris accumulated in its channel. In fact, the great
quality about Turner's drawings which more especially proves their
transcendent truth, is the capability they afford us of reasoning on
past and future phenomena, just as if we had the actual rocks before us;
for this indicates not that one truth is given, nor another, not that a
pretty or interesting morsel has been selected here and there, but that
the whole truth has been given, with all the relations of its parts; so
that we can pick and choose our points of pleasure or of thought for
ourselves, and reason upon the whole with the same certainty which we
should after having climbed and hammered over the rocks bit by bit. With
this drawing before him, a geologist could give a lecture upon the whole
system of aqueous erosion, and speculate as safely upon the past and
future states of this very spot, as if he were standing and getting wet
with the spray. He would tell you, at once, that the waterfall was in a
state of rapid recession; that it had once formed a wide cataract just
at the spot where the figure is sitting on the heap of débris; and that
when it was there, part of it came down by the channel on the left, its
bed being still marked by the delicately chiselled lines of fissure. He
would tell you that the foreground had also once been the top of the
fall, and that the vertical fissures on the right of it were evidently
then the channel of a side stream. He would tell you that the fall was
then much lower than it is now, and that being lower, it had less force,
and cut itself a narrower bed; and that the spot where it reached the
higher precipice is marked by the expansion of the wide basin which its
increased violence has excavated, and by the gradually increasing
concavity of the rocks below, which we see have been hollowed into a
complete vault by the elastic bound of the water. But neither he nor I
could tell you with what exquisite and finished marking of every
fragment and particle of soil or rock, both in its own structure and the
evidence it bears of these great influences, the whole of this is
confirmed and carried out.

§ 25. Beautiful instance of an exception to general rules in the

With this inimitable drawing we may compare the rocks in the foreground
of the Llanthony. These latter are not divided by joints, but into thin
horizontal and united beds, which the torrent in its times of flood has
chiselled away, leaving one exposed under another, with the sweeping
marks of its eddies upon their edges. And here we have an instance of an
exception to a general rule, occasioned by particular and local action.
We have seen that the action of water over any surface _universally_,
whether falling, as in rain, or sweeping, as a torrent, induces
convexity of form. But when we have rocks _in situ_, as here, exposed at
their edges to the violent action of an eddy, that eddy will cut a vault
or circular space for itself, (as we saw on a large scale with the high
waterfall,) and we have a concave curve interrupting the general
contours of the rock. And thus Turner (while every edge of his masses is
rounded, and, the moment we rise above the level of the water, all is
convex) has interrupted the great contours of his strata with concave
curves, precisely where the last waves of the torrent have swept against
the exposed edges of the beds. Nothing could more strikingly prove the
depth of that knowledge by which every touch of this consummate artist
is regulated, that universal command of subject which never acts for a
moment on anything conventional or habitual, but fills every corner and
space with new evidence of knowledge, and fresh manifestation of

§ 26. Turner's drawing of detached blocks of weathered stone.

The Lower Fall of the Tees, with the chain-bridge, might serve us for an
illustration of all the properties and forms of vertical beds of rock,
as the upper fall has of horizontal; but we pass rather to observe, in
detached pieces of foreground, the particular modulation of parts which
cannot be investigated in the grand combinations of general mass.

The blocks of stone which form the foreground of the Ulleswater are, I
believe, the finest example in the world of the finished drawing of
rocks which have been subjected to violent aqueous action. Their
surfaces seem to palpitate from the fine touch of the waves, and every
part of them is rising or falling in soft swell or gentle depression,
though the eye can scarcely trace the fine shadows on which this
chiselling of the surface depends. And with all this, every block of
them has individual character, dependent on the expression of the
angular lines of which its contours were first formed, and which is
retained and felt through all the modulation and melting of the
water-worn surface. And what is done here in the most important part of
the picture, to be especially attractive to the eye, is often done by
Turner with lavish and overwhelming power, in the accumulated débris of
a wide foreground, strewed with the ruin of ages, as, for instance, in
the Junction of the Greta and Tees, where he has choked the torrent bed
with a mass of shattered rock, thrown down with the profusion and
carelessness of nature herself; and yet every separate block is a study,
(and has evidently been drawn from nature,) chiselled and varied in its
parts, as if it were to be the chief member of a separate subject; yet
without ever losing, in a single instance, its subordinate position, or
occasioning, throughout the whole accumulated multitude, the repetition
of a single line.

§ 27. And of complicated foreground.

I consider cases like these, of perfect finish and new conception,
applied and exerted in the drawing of every member of a confused and
almost countlessly-divided system, about the most wonderful, as well as
the most characteristic passages of Turner's foregrounds. It is done not
less marvellously, though less distinctly, in the individual parts of
all his broken ground, as in examples like these of separate blocks. The
articulation of such a passage as the nearest bank, in the picture we
have already spoken of at so great length, the Upper Fall of the Tees,
might serve us for a day's study, if we were to go into it part by part;
but it is impossible to do this, except with the pencil; we can only
repeat the same general observations, about eternal change and unbroken
unity, and tell you to observe how the eye is kept throughout on solid
and retiring surfaces, instead of being thrown, as by Claude, on flat
and equal edges. You cannot find a single edge in Turner's work; you are
everywhere kept upon round surfaces, and you go back on these you cannot
tell how--never taking a leap, but progressing imperceptibly along the
unbroken bank, till you find yourself a quarter of a mile into the
picture, beside the figure at the bottom of the waterfall.

§ 28. And of loose soil.

Finally, the bank of earth on the right of the grand drawing of Penmaen
Mawr, may be taken as the standard of the representation of soft soil
modelled by descending rain; and may serve to show us how exquisite in
character are the resultant lines, and how full of every species of
attractive and even sublime quality, if we only are wise enough not to
scorn the study of them. The higher the mind, it may be taken as a
universal rule, the less it will scorn that which appears to be small or
unimportant; and the rank of a painter may always be determined by
observing how he uses, and with what respect he views the minutiæ of
nature. Greatness of mind is not shown by admitting small things, but by
making small things great under its influence. He who can take no
interest in what is small, will take false interest in what is great;
he who cannot make a bank sublime, will make a mountain ridiculous.

§ 29. The unison of all in the ideal foregrounds of the Academy

§ 30. And the great lesson to be received from all.

It is not until we have made ourselves acquainted with these simple
facts of form, as they are illustrated by the slighter works of Turner,
that we can become at all competent to enjoy the combination of all, in
such works as the Mercury and Argus, or Bay of Baiæ, in which the mind
is at first bewildered by the abundant outpouring of the master's
knowledge. Often as I have paused before these noble works, I never felt
on returning to them as if I had ever seen them before; for their
abundance is so deep and various that the mind, according to its own
temper at the time of seeing, perceives some new series of truths
rendered in them, just as it would on revisiting a natural scene; and
detects new relations and associations of these truths which set the
whole picture in a different light at every return to it. And this
effect is especially caused by the management of the foreground; for the
more marked objects of the picture may be taken one by one, and thus
examined and known; but the foregrounds of Turner are so united in all
their parts that the eye cannot take them by divisions, but is guided
from stone to stone, and bank to bank, discovering truths totally
different in aspect, according to the direction in which it approaches
them, and approaching them in a different direction, and viewing them as
a part of a new system, every time that it begins its course at a new
point. One lesson, however, we are invariably taught by all, however
approached or viewed,--that the work of the Great Spirit of nature is as
deep and unapproachable in the lowest as in the noblest objects,--that
the Divine mind is as visible in its full energy of operation on every
lowly bank and mouldering stone, as in the lifting of the pillars of
heaven, and settling the foundation of the earth; and that to the
rightly perceiving mind, there is the same infinity, the same majesty,
the same power, the same unity, and the same perfection, manifest in the
casting of the clay as in the scattering of the cloud, in the mouldering
of the dust as in the kindling of the day-star.


  [58] I have cut out a passage in this place which insisted on the
    _angular_ character of rocks,--not because it was false, but because
    it was incomplete, and I cannot explain it nor complete it without
    example. It is not the absence of curves, but the suggestion of
    _hardness through_ curves, and of the under tendencies of the inward
    structure, which form the true characteristics of rock form; and
    Salvator, whom neither here nor elsewhere I have abused enough, is
    not wrong because he paints curved rocks, but because his curves are
    the curves of ribbons and not of rocks; and the difference between
    rock curvature and other curvature I cannot explain verbally, but I
    hope to do it hereafter by illustration; and, at present, let the
    reader study the rock-drawing of the Mont St. Gothard subject, in
    the Liber Studiorum, and compare it with any examples of Salvator to
    which he may happen to have access. All the account of rocks here
    given is altogether inadequate, and I only do not alter it because I
    first wish to give longer study to the subject.

  [59] A passage which I happened to see in an Essay of Mr. Pyne's, in
    the Art-Union, about nature's "foisting rubbish" upon the artist,
    sufficiently explains the cause of this decline. If Mr. Pyne will go
    to nature, as all great men have done, and as all men who mean to be
    great must do, that is not merely to be _helped_, but to be _taught_
    by her; and will once or twice take her gifts, without looking them
    in the mouth, he will most assuredly find--and I say this in no
    unkind or depreciatory feeling, for I should say the same of all
    artists who are in the habit of only sketching nature, and not
    studying her--that _her_ worst is better than _his_ best. I am quite
    sure that if Mr. Pyne, or any other painter who has hitherto been
    very careful in his choice of subject, will go into the next
    turnpike-road, and taking the first four trees that he comes to in
    the hedge, give them a day each, drawing them leaf for leaf, as far
    as may be, and even their smallest boughs with as much care as if
    they were rivers, or an important map of a newly-surveyed country,
    he will find, when he has brought them all home, that at least three
    out of the four are better than the best he ever invented. Compare
    Part III. Sect. I. Chap. III. § 12, 13, (the reference in the note
    ought to be to Chap. XV. § 7.)

  [60] In the light between the waterfall and the large dark mass on
    the extreme right.

                                 SECTION V.

                             OF TRUTH OF WATER.

                                 CHAPTER I.


§ 1. Sketch of the functions and infinite agency of water.

Of all inorganic substances, acting in their own proper nature, and
without assistance or combination, water is the most wonderful. If we
think of it as the source of all the changefulness and beauty which we
have seen in clouds; then as the instrument by which the earth we have
contemplated was modelled into symmetry, and its crags chiselled into
grace; then as, in the form of snow, it robes the mountains it has made,
with that transcendent light which we could not have conceived if we had
not seen; then as it exists in the form of the torrent--in the iris
which spans it, in the morning mist which rises from it, in the deep
crystalline pools which mirror its hanging shore, in the broad lake and
glancing river; finally, in that which is to all human minds the best
emblem of unwearied, unconquerable power, the wild, various, fantastic,
tameless unity of the sea; what shall we compare to this mighty, this
universal element for glory and for beauty? or how shall we follow its
eternal changefulness of feeling? It is like trying to paint a soul.

§ 2. The ease with which a common representation of it may be given. The
       impossibility of a faithful one.

To suggest the ordinary appearance of calm water--to lay on canvas as
much evidence of surface and reflection as may make us understand that
water is meant--is, perhaps, the easiest task of art; and even ordinary
running or falling water may be sufficiently rendered, by observing
careful curves of projection with a dark ground, and breaking a little
white over it, as we see done with judgment and truth by Ruysdael. But
to paint the actual play of hue on the reflective surface, or to give
the forms and fury of water when it begins to show itself--to give the
flashing and rocket-like velocity of a noble cataract, or the precision
and grace of the sea waves, so exquisitely modelled, though so mockingly
transient--so mountainous in its form, yet so cloud-like in its
motion--with its variety and delicacy of color, when every ripple and
wreath has some peculiar passage of reflection upon itself alone, and
the radiating and scintillating sunbeams are mixed with the dim hues of
transparent depth and dark rock below;--to do this perfectly, is beyond
the power of man; to do it even partially, has been granted to but one
or two, even of those few who have dared to attempt it.

§ 3. Difficulty of properly dividing the subject.

As the general laws which govern the appearances of water have equal
effect on all its forms, it would be injudicious to treat the subject in
divisions; for the same forces which govern the waves and foam of the
torrent, are equally influential on those of the sea; and it will be
more convenient to glance generally at the system of water-painting of
each school and artist, than to devote separate chapters to the
examination of the lake, river, or sea-painting of all. We shall,
therefore, vary our usual plan, and look first at the water-painting of
the ancients; then at that of the moderns generally; lastly, at that of

§ 4. Inaccuracy of study of water-effect among all painters.

It is necessary in the outset to state briefly one or two of the optical
conditions by which the appearance of the surface of water is affected;
to describe them all would require a separate essay, even if I possessed
the requisite knowledge, which I do not. The accidental modifications
under which general laws come into play are innumerable, and often, in
their extreme complexity, inexplicable, I suppose, even by men of the
most extended optical knowledge. What I shall here state are a few only
of the broadest laws verifiable by the reader's immediate observation,
but of which nevertheless, I have found artists frequently ignorant;
owing to their habit of sketching from nature without thinking or
reasoning, and especially of finishing at home. It is not often, I
believe, that an artist draws the reflections in water as he sees them;
over large spaces, and in weather that is not very calm, it is nearly
impossible to do so; when it is possible, sometimes in haste, and
sometimes in idleness, and sometimes under the idea of improving nature,
they are slurred or misrepresented; it is so easy to give something like
a suggestive resemblance of calm water, that, even when the landscape is
finished from nature, the water is merely indicated as something that
may be done at any time, and then, in the home work, come the cold
leaden grays with some, and the violent blues and greens with others,
and the horizontal lines with the feeble, and the bright touches and
sparkles with the dexterous, and everything that is shallow and
commonplace with all. Now, the fact is, that there is hardly a roadside
pond or pool which has not as much landscape _in_ it as above it. It is
not the brown, muddy, dull thing we suppose it to be; it has a heart
like ourselves, and in the bottom of that there are the boughs of the
tall trees, and the blades of the shaking-grass, and all manner of hues,
of variable, pleasant light out of the sky; nay, the ugly gutter, that
stagnates over the drain bars, in the heart of the foul city, is not
altogether base; down in that, if you will look deep enough, you may see
the dark, serious blue of far-off sky, and the passing of pure clouds.
It is at your own will that you see in that despised stream, either the
refuse of the street, or the image of the sky--so it is with almost all
other things that we unkindly despise. Now, this farseeing is just the
difference between the great and the vulgar painter; the common man
_knows_ the roadside pool is muddy, and draws its mud; the great painter
sees beneath and behind the brown surface what will take him a day's
work to follow, but he follows it, cost what it will. And if painters
would only go out to the nearest common and take the nearest dirty pond
among the furze, and draw that thoroughly, not considering that it is
water that they are drawing, and that water must be done in a certain
way; but drawing determinedly what they _see_, that is to say, all the
trees, and their shaking leaves, and all the hazy passages of disturbing
sunshine; and the bottom seen in the clearer little bits at the edge,
and the stones of it, and all the sky, and the clouds far down in the
middle, drawn as completely, and more delicately they must be, than the
real clouds above, they would come home with such a notion of
water-painting as might save me and every one else all trouble of
writing more about the matter; but now they do nothing of the kind, but
take the ugly, round, yellow surface for granted, or else improve it,
and, instead of giving that refined, complex, delicate, but saddened and
gloomy reflection in the polluted water, they clear it up with coarse
flashes of yellow, and green, and blue, and spoil their own eyes, and
hurt ours; failing, of course, still more hopelessly in touching the
pure, inimitable light of waves thrown loose; and so Canaletto is still
thought to have painted canals, and Vandevelde and Backhuysen to have
painted sea, and the uninterpreted streams and maligned sea hiss shame
upon us from all their rocky beds and hollow shores.

§ 5. Difficulty of treating this part of the subject.

I approach this part of my subject with more despondency than any other,
and that for several reasons; first, the water painting of all the elder
landscape painters, excepting a few of the better passages of Claude and
Ruysdael, is so execrable, so beyond all expression and explanation bad;
Claude's and Ruysdael's best so cold and valueless, that I do not know
how to address those who like such painting; I do not know what their
sensations are respecting sea. I can perceive nothing in Vandevelde or
Backhuysen of the lowest redeeming merit; no power, no presence of
intellect--or evidence of perception--of any sort or kind; no
resemblance--even the feeblest--of anything natural; no invention--even
the most sluggish--of anything agreeable. Had they given us staring
green seas with hatchet edges, such as we see Her Majesty's ships
so-and-so fixed into by the heads or sterns in the first room of the
Royal Academy, the admiration of them would have been comprehensible;
there being a natural predilection in the mind of men for green waves
with curling tops, but not for clay and wool; so that though I can
understand, in some sort, why people admire everything else in old art,
why they admire Salvator's rocks, and Claude's foregrounds, and
Hobbima's trees, and Paul Potter's cattle, and Jan Steen's pans; and
while I can perceive in all these likings a root which seems right and
legitimate, and to be appealed to; yet when I find they can even
_endure_ the _sight_ of a Backhuysen on their room walls (I speak
seriously) it makes me hopeless at once. I may be wrong, or they may be
wrong, but at least I can conceive of no principle or opinion common
between us, which either can address or understand in the other; and yet
I am wrong in this want of conception, for I know that Turner once
liked Vandevelde, and I can trace the evil influence of Vandevelde on
most of his early sea painting, but Turner certainly could not have
liked Vandevelde without _some_ legitimate cause. Another discouraging
point is that I cannot catch a wave, nor Daguerreotype it, and so there
is no coming to pure demonstration; but the forms and hues of water must
always be in some measure a matter of dispute and feeling, and the more
so because there is no perfect or even tolerably perfect sea painting to
refer to: the sea never has been, and I fancy never will be nor can be
painted; it is only suggested by means of more or less spiritual and
intelligent conventionalism; and though Turner has done enough to
suggest the sea mightily and gloriously, after all it is by
conventionalism still, and there remains so much that is unlike nature,
that it is always possible for those who do not feel his power to
justify their dislike, on very sufficient and reasonable grounds; and to
maintain themselves obstinately unreceptant of the good, by insisting on
the deficiency which no mortal hand can supply, and which commonly is
most manifest on the one hand, where most has been achieved on the

With calm water the case is different. Facts are ascertainable and
demonstrable there, and by the notice of one or two of the simplest, we
may obtain some notion of the little success and intelligence of the
elder painters in this easier field, and so prove their probable failure
in contending with greater difficulties.

§ 6. General laws which regulate the phenomena of water. First, the
       imperfection of its reflective surface.

First: Water, of course, owing to its transparency, possesses not a
perfectly reflective surface, like that of speculum metal, but a surface
whose reflective power is dependent on the angle at which the rays to be
reflected fall. The smaller this angle, the greater are the number of
rays reflected. Now, according to the number of rays reflected is the
force of the image of objects above, and according to the number of rays
transmitted is the perceptibility of objects below the water. Hence the
visible transparency and reflective power of water are in inverse ratio.
In looking down into it from above, we receive transmitted rays which
exhibit either the bottom, or the objects floating in the water; or else
if the water be deep and clear, we receive very few rays, and the water
looks black. In looking along water we receive reflected rays, and
therefore the image of objects above it. Hence, in shallow water on a
level shore the bottom is seen at our feet, clearly; it becomes more and
more obscure as it retires, even though the water do not increase in
depth, and at a distance of twelve or twenty yards--more or less
according to our height above the water--becomes entirely invisible,
lost in the lustre of the reflected surface.

§ 7. The inherent hue of water modifies dark reflections, and does not
       affect bright ones.

Second: The brighter the objects reflected, the larger the angle at
which reflection is visible; it is always to be remembered that,
strictly speaking, only light objects are reflected, and that the darker
ones are seen only in proportion to the number of rays of light that
they can send; so that a dark object comparatively loses its power to
affect the surface of water, and the water in the space of a dark
reflection is seen partially with the image of the object, and partially
transparent. It will be found on observation that under a bank--suppose
with dark trees above showing spaces of bright sky, the bright sky is
reflected distinctly, and the bottom of the water is in those spaces not
seen; but in the dark spaces of reflection we see the bottom of the
water, and the color of that bottom and of the water itself mingles with
and modifies that of the color of the trees casting the dark reflection.

This is one of the most beautiful circumstances connected with water
surface, for by these means a variety of color and a grace and
evanescence are introduced in the reflection otherwise impossible. Of
course at great distances even the darkest objects cast distinct images,
and the hue of the water cannot be seen, but in near water the
occurrence of its own color modifying the dark reflections, while it
leaves light ones unaffected, is of infinite value.

Take, by way of example, an extract from my own diary at Venice.

"May 17th, 4 P.M. Looking east the water is calm, and reflects the sky
and vessels, with this peculiarity; the sky, which is pale blue, is in
its reflection of the same kind of blue, only a little deeper; but the
_vessels' hulls, which are black, are reflected in pale sea green_,
_i.e._, the natural color of the water under sunlight; while the _orange
masts_ of the vessels, wet with a recent shower, are reflected _without
change of color_, only not quite so bright as above. One ship has a
white, another a red stripe," (I ought to have said horizontal along the
gunwales,) '_of these the water takes no notice_.'

"What is curious, a boat passes across with white and dark figures, the
water reflects the dark ones in green, and misses out all the white;
this is chiefly owing to the dark images being opposed to the bright
reflected sky."

I have left the passage about the white and red stripe, because it will
be useful to us presently; all that I wish to insist upon here is the
showing of the local color (pea green) of the water in the spaces which
were occupied by dark reflections, and the unaltered color of the bright

§ 8. Water takes no shadow.

Third: Clear water takes no shadow, and that for two reasons; A perfect
surface of speculum metal takes no shadow, (this the reader may
instantly demonstrate for himself,) and a perfectly transparent body as
air takes no shadow; hence water, whether transparent or reflective,
takes no shadow.

But shadows, or the forms of them, appear on water frequently and
sharply: it is necessary carefully to explain the causes of these, as
they are one of the most eminent sources of error in water painting.

First: Water in shade is much more reflective than water in sunlight.
Under sunlight the local color of the water is commonly vigorous and
active, and forcibly affects, as we have seen, all the dark reflections,
commonly diminishing their depth. Under shade, the reflective power is
in a high degree increased,[61] and it will be found most frequently
that the forms of shadows are expressed on the surface of water, not by
actual shade, but by more genuine reflection of objects above. This is
another most important and valuable circumstance, and we owe to it some
phenomena of the highest beauty.

A very muddy river, as the Arno for instance at Florence, is seen during
sunshine of its own yellow color, rendering all reflections discolored
and feeble. At twilight it recovers its reflective power to the fullest
extent, and the mountains of Carrara are seen reflected in it as clearly
as if it were a crystalline lake. The Mediterranean, whose determined
blue yields to hardly any modifying color in daytime, receives at
evening the image of its rocky shores. On our own seas, seeming shadows
are seen constantly cast in purple and blue, upon pale green. These are
no shadows, but the pure reflection of dark or blue sky above, seen in
the shadowed space, refused by the local color of the sea in the
sunlighted spaces, and turned more or less purple by the opposition of
the vivid green.

§ 9. Modification of dark reflections by shadow.

We have seen, however, above, that the local color of water, while it
comparatively refuses dark reflections, accepts bright ones without
deadening them. Hence when a shadow is thrown across a space of water of
strong local color, receiving, alternately, light and dark reflections,
it has no power of increasing the reflectiveness of the water in the
bright spaces, still less of diminishing it; hence, on all the dark
reflections it is seen more or less distinctly, on all the light ones it
vanishes altogether.

Let us take an instance of the exquisite complexity of effect induced by
these various circumstances in co-operation.

Suppose a space of clear water showing the bottom under a group of
trees, showing sky through their branches, casting shadows on the
surface of the water, which we will suppose also to possess some color
of its own. Close to us, we shall see the bottom, with the shadows of
the trees clearly thrown upon it, and the color of the water seen in its
genuineness by transmitted light. Farther off, the bottom will be
gradually lost sight of, but it will be seen in the dark reflections
much farther than in the light ones. At last it ceases to affect even
the former, and the pure surface effect takes place. The blue bright sky
is reflected truly, but the dark trees are reflected imperfectly, and
the color of the water is seen instead. Where the shadow falls on these
dark reflections a darkness is seen plainly, which is found to be
composed of the pure clear reflection of the dark trees; when it crosses
the reflection of the sky, the shadow of course, being thus fictitious,

Farther, of course on whatever dust and other foulness may be present in
water, real shadow falls clear and dark in proportion to the quantity
of solid substance present. On very muddy rivers, real shadow falls in
sunlight nearly as sharply as on land; on our own sea, the apparent
shadow caused by increased reflection, is much increased in depth by the
chalkiness and impurity of the water.

Farther, when surface is rippled, every ripple, up to a certain variable
distance on each side of the spectator, and at a certain angle between
him and the sun, varying with the size and shape of the ripples,
reflects to him a small image of the sun. Hence those dazzling fields of
expanding light so often seen upon the sea.

Any object that comes between the sun and these ripples, takes from them
the power of reflecting the sun, and in consequence, all their light;
hence any intervening objects cast apparent shadows upon such spaces of
intense force, and of the exact shape, and in the exact place of real
shadows, and yet which are no more real shadows than the withdrawal of
an image of a piece of white paper from a mirror is a shadow on the
mirror. Farther, in all shallow water, more or less in proportion to its
shallowness, but in some measure, I suppose, up to depths of forty or
fifty fathoms, and perhaps more, the local color of the water depends in
great measure on light reflected from the bottom. This, however, is
especially manifest in clear rivers like the Rhone, where the absence of
the light reflected from below forms an apparent shadow, often visibly
detached some distance from the floating object which casts it.

§ 10. Examples on the water of the Rhone.

The following extract from my own diary at Geneva, with the subsequent
one, which is a continuation of that already given in part at Venice,
will illustrate both this and the other points we have been stating.

                                    "GENEVA, _21st April, Morning._

"The sunlight falls from the cypresses of Rousseau's island straight
towards the bridge. The shadows of the bridge and of the trees fall on
the water in leaden purple, opposed to its general hue of aquamarine
green. This green color is caused by the light being reflected from the
bottom, though the bottom is not seen; as is evident by its becoming
paler towards the middle of the river, where the water shoals, on which
pale part the purple shadow of the small bridge falls most forcibly,
which shadow, however, is still only apparent, being the absence of this
reflected light, associated with the increased reflective power of the
water, which in those spaces reflects blue sky above. A boat swings in
the shoal water; its reflection is cast in a transparent pea-green,
which is considerably darker than the pale aquamarine of the surface at
the spot. Its shadow is detached from it just about half the depth of
the reflection; which, therefore, forms a bright green light between the
keel of the boat and its shadow; where the shadow cuts the reflection,
the reflection is darkest and something like the true color of the boat;
where the shadow falls out of the reflection, it is of a leaden purple,
pale. The boat is at an angle of about 20° below. Another boat nearer,
in deeper water, shows no shadow, whatsoever, and the reflection is
marked by its transparent green, while the surrounding water takes a
lightish blue reflection from the sky."

The above notes, after what has been said, require no comment; but one
more case must be stated belonging to rough water. Every large wave of
the sea is in ordinary circumstances divided into, or rather covered by,
innumerable smaller waves, each of which, in all probability, from some
of its edges or surfaces reflects the sunbeams; and hence result a
glitter, polish, and vigorous light over the whole flank of the wave,
which are, of course, instantly withdrawn within the space of a cast
shadow, whose form, therefore, though it does not affect the great body
or ground of the water in the least, is sufficiently traceable by the
withdrawal of the high lights; also every string and wreath of foam
above or within the wave takes real shadow, and thus adds to the

I have not stated one-half of the circumstances which produce or
influence effects of shadow on water; but lest I should confuse or weary
the reader, I leave him to pursue the subject for himself; enough having
been stated to establish this general principle, that whenever shadow is
seen on clear water, and, in a measure, even on foul water, it is not,
as on land, a dark shade subduing where it falls the sunny general hue
to a lower tone; but it is a space of an entirely different color,
subject itself, by its susceptibility of reflection, to infinite
varieties of depth and hue, and liable, under certain circumstances, to
disappear altogether; and that, therefore, whenever we have to paint
such shadows, it is not only the hue of the water itself that we have to
consider, but all the circumstances by which in the position attributed
to them such shaded spaces could be affected.

§ 11. Effect of ripple on distant water.

Fourth: If water be rippled, the side of every ripple next to us
reflects a piece of the sky, and the side of every ripple farthest from
us reflects a piece of the opposite shore, or of whatever objects may be
beyond the ripple. But as we soon lose sight of the farther sides of the
ripples on the retiring surface, the whole rippled space will then be
reflective of the sky only. Thus, where calm distant water receives
reflections of high shores, every extent of rippled surface appears as a
bright line interrupting that reflection with the color of the sky.

§ 12. Elongation of reflections by moving water.

Fifth: When a ripple or swell is seen at such an angle as to afford a
view of its farther side, it carries the reflection of objects farther
down than calm water would. Therefore all motion in water elongates
reflections, and throws them into confused vertical lines. The real
amount of this elongation is not distinctly visible, except in the case
of very bright objects, and especially of lights, as of the sun, moon,
or lamps by a river shore, whose reflections are hardly ever seen as
circles or points, which of course they are on perfectly calm water, but
as long streams of tremulous light.

But it is strange that while we are constantly in the habit of seeing
the reflection of the sun, which ought to be a mere circle, elongated
into a stream of light extending from the horizon to the shore, the
elongation of the reflection of a sail or other object to one-half of
this extent is received, if represented in a picture, with incredulity
by the greater number of spectators. In one of Turner's Venices the
image of the white lateen-sails of the principal boat is about twice as
long as the sails themselves. I have heard the truth of this simple
effect disputed over and over again by intelligent persons, and yet on
any water so exposed as the lagoons of Venice, the periods are few and
short when there is so little motion as that the reflection of sails a
mile off shall not affect the swell within six feet of the spectator.

There is, however, a strange arbitrariness about this elongation of
reflection, which prevents it from being truly felt. If we see on an
extent of lightly swelling water surface the image of a bank of white
clouds, with masses of higher accumulation at intervals, the water will
not usually reflect the whole bank in an elongated form, but it will
commonly take the eminent parts, and reflect them in long straight
columns of defined breadth, and miss the intermediate lower parts
altogether; and even in doing this it will be capricious, for it will
take one eminence, and miss another, with no apparent reason; and often
when the sky is covered with white clouds, some of those clouds will
cast long tower-like reflections, and others none, so arbitrarily that
the spectator is often puzzled to find out which are the accepted and
which the refused.

In many cases of this kind it will be found rather that the eye is, from
want of use and care, insensible to the reflection than that the
reflection is not there; and a little thought and careful observation
will show us that what we commonly suppose to be a surface of uniform
color is, indeed, affected more or less by an infinite variety of hues,
prolonged, like the sun image, from a great distance, and that our
apprehension of its lustre, purity, and even of its surface, is in no
small degree dependent on our feeling of these multitudinous hues, which
the continual motion of that surface prevents us from analyzing or
understanding for what they are.

§ 13. Effect of rippled water on horizontal and inclined images.

Sixth: Rippled water, of which we can see the farther side of the waves,
will reflect a perpendicular line clearly, a bit of its length being
given on the side of each wave, and easily joined by the eye. But if the
line slope, its reflection will be excessively confused and disjointed;
and if horizontal, nearly invisible. It was this circumstance which
prevented the red and white stripe of the ships at Venice, noticed
above, from being visible.

§ 14. To what extent reflection is visible from above.

Seventh: Every reflection is the image in reverse of just so much of the
objects beside the water, as we could see if we were placed as much
under the level of the water as we are actually above it. If an object
be so far back from the bank, that if we were five feet under the water
level we could not see it over the bank, then, standing five feet above
the water, we shall not be able to see its image under the reflected
bank. Hence the reflection of all objects that have any slope back from
the water is shortened, and at last disappears as we rise above it.
Lakes seen from a great height appear like plates of metal set in the
landscape, reflecting the sky but none of their shores.

§ 15. Deflection of images on agitated water.

Eighth: Any given point of the object above the water is reflected, if
reflected at all, at some spot in a vertical line beneath it, so long as
the plane of the water is horizontal. On rippled water a slight
deflection sometimes takes place, and the image of a vertical tower will
slope a little away from the wind, owing to the casting of the image on
the sloping sides of the ripples. On the sloping sides of large waves
the deflection is in proportion to the slope. For rough practice, after
the slope of the wave is determined, let the artist turn his paper until
it becomes horizontal, and then paint the reflections of any object upon
it as on level water, and he will be right.

§ 16. Necessity of watchfulness as well as of science.
      Licenses, how taken by great men.

Such are the most common and general optical laws which are to be taken
into consideration in the painting of water. Yet, in the application of
them, as tests of good or bad water painting, we must be cautious in the
extreme. An artist may know all these laws, and comply with them, and
yet paint water execrably; and he may be ignorant of every one of them,
and, in their turn, and in certain places, violate every one of them,
and yet paint water gloriously. Thousands of exquisite effects take
place in nature, utterly inexplicable, and which can be believed only
while they are seen; the combinations and applications of the above laws
are so varied and complicated that no knowledge or labor could, if
applied analytically, keep pace with them. Constant and eager
watchfulness, and portfolios filled with actual statements of
water-effect, drawn on the spot and on the instant, are worth more to
the painter than the most extended optical knowledge; without these all
his knowledge will end in a pedantic falsehood. With these it does not
matter how gross or how daring here and there may be his violations of
this or that law; his very transgressions will be admirable.

It may be said, that this is a dangerous principle to advance in these
days of idleness. I cannot help it; it is true, and must be affirmed.
Of all contemptible criticism, the most to be contemned is that which
punishes great works of art when they fight without armor, and refuses
to feel or acknowledge the great spiritual refracted sun of their truth,
because it has risen at a false angle, and burst upon them before its
appointed time. And yet, on the other hand, let it be observed that it
is not feeling, nor fancy, nor imagination, so called, that I have put
before science, but watchfulness, experience, affection and trust in
nature; and farther let it be observed, that there is a difference
between the license taken by one man and another, which makes one
license admirable, and the other punishable; and that this difference is
of a kind sufficiently discernible by every earnest person, though it is
not so explicable as that we can beforehand say where and when, or even
to whom, the license is to be forgiven. In the Paradise of Tintoret, in
the Academy of Venice, the Angel is seen in the distance driving Adam
and Eve out of the garden. Not, for Tintoret, the leading to the gate
with consolation or counsel; his strange ardor of conception is seen
here as everywhere. Full speed they fly, the angel and the human
creatures; the angel wrapt in an orb of light floats on, stooped forward
in his fierce flight, and does not touch the ground; the chastised
creatures rush before him in abandoned terror. All this might have been
invented by another, though in other hands it would assuredly have been
offensive; but one circumstance which completes the story could have
been thought of or dared by none but Tintoret. The Angel casts a SHADOW
before him towards Adam and Eve.

Now that a globe of light should cast a shadow is a license, as far as
mere optical matters are concerned, of the most audacious kind. But how
beautiful is the circumstance in its application here, showing that the
angel, who is light to all else around him, is darkness to those whom he
is commissioned to banish forever.

I have before noticed the license of Rubens in making his horizon an
oblique line. His object is to carry the eye to a given point in the
distance. The road winds to it, the clouds fly at it, the trees nod to
it, a flock of sheep scamper towards it, a carter points his whip at it,
his horses pull for it, the figures push for it, and the horizon slopes
to it. If the horizon had been horizontal, it would have embarrassed
everything and everybody.

In Turner's Pas de Calais there is a buoy poised on the ridge of a near
wave. It casts its reflection vertically down the flank of the wave,
which slopes steeply. I cannot tell whether this is a license or a
mistake; I suspect the latter, for the same thing occurs not
unfrequently in Turner's seas; but I am almost certain that it would
have been done wilfully in this case, even had the mistake been pointed
out, for the vertical line is necessary to the picture, and the eye is
so little accustomed to catch the real bearing of the reflections on the
slopes of waves that it does not feel the fault.

§ 17. Various licenses or errors in water painting of Claude, Cuyp,

In one of the smaller rooms of the Uffizii at Florence, off the Tribune,
there are two so-called Claudes; one a pretty wooded landscape, I think
a copy, the other a marine with architecture, very sweet and genuine.
The sun is setting at the side of the picture, it casts a long stream of
light upon the water. This stream of light is oblique, and comes from
the horizon, where it is under the sun, to a point near the centre of
the picture. If this had been done as a license, it would be an instance
of most absurd and unjustifiable license, as the fault is detected by
the eye in a moment, and there is no occasion nor excuse for it. But I
imagine it to be an instance rather of the harm of imperfect science.
Taking his impression instinctively from nature, Claude usually did what
is right and put his reflection vertically under the sun; probably,
however, he had read in some treatise on optics that every point in this
reflection was in a vertical plane between the sun and spectator; or he
might have noticed walking on the shore that the reflection came
straight from the sun to his feet, and intending to indicate the
position of the spectator, drew in his next picture the reflection
sloping to the supposed point, the error being excusable enough, and
plausible enough to have been lately revived and systematized.[62]

In the picture of Cuyp, No. 83 in the Dulwich Gallery, the post at the
end of the bank casts three or four radiating reflections. This is
visibly neither license nor half science, but pure ignorance. Again, in
the picture attributed to Paul Potter, No. 176, Dulwich Gallery, I
believe most people must feel, the moment they look at it, that there is
something wrong with the water, that it looks odd, and hard, and like
ice or lead; and though they may not be able to tell the reason of the
impression--for when they go near they will find it smooth and lustrous,
and prettily painted--yet they will not be able to shake off the
unpleasant sense of its being like a plate of bad mirror set in a model
landscape among moss, rather than like a pond. The reason is, that while
this water receives clear reflections from the fence and hedge on the
left, and is everywhere smooth and evidently capable of giving true
images, it yet reflects none of the cows.

In the Vandevelde (113) there is not a line of ripple or swell in any
part of the sea; it is absolutely windless, and the near boat casts its
image with great fidelity, which being unprolonged downwards informs us
that the calm is perfect, (Rule V.,) and being unshortened informs us
that we are on a level with the water, or nearly so. (Rule VII.) Yet
underneath the vessel on the right, the gray shade which stands for
reflection breaks off immediately, descending like smoke a little way
below the hull, then leaving the masts and sails entirely unrecorded.
This I imagine to be not ignorance, but unjustifiable license.
Vandevelde evidently desired to give an impression of great extent of
surface, and thought that if he gave the reflection more faithfully, as
the tops of the masts would come down to the nearest part of the
surface, they would destroy the evidence of distance, and appear to set
the ship above the boat instead of beyond it. I doubt not in such
awkward hands that such would indeed have been the case, but he is not
on that account to be excused for painting his surface with gray
horizontal lines, as is done by nautically-disposed children; for no
destruction of distance in the ocean is so serious a loss as that of its
liquidity. It is better to feel a want of extent in the sea, than an
extent which we might walk upon or play at billiards upon.

§ 18. And Canaletto.

Among all the pictures of Canaletto, which I have ever seen, and they
are not a few, I remember but one or two where there is any variation
from one method of treatment of the water. He almost always covers the
whole space of it with one monotonous ripple, composed of a coat of
well-chosen, but perfectly opaque and smooth sea-green, covered with a
certain number, I cannot state the exact average, but it varies from
three hundred and fifty to four hundred and upwards, according to the
extent of canvas to be covered, of white concave touches, which are very
properly symbolical of ripple.

And, as the canal retires back from the eye, he very geometrically
diminishes the size of his ripples, until he arrives at an even field of
apparently smooth water. By our sixth rule, this rippling water as it
retires should show more and more of the reflection of the sky above it,
and less and less of that of objects beyond it, until, at two or three
hundred yards down the canal, the whole field of water should be one
even gray or blue, the color of the sky receiving no reflections
whatever of other objects. What does Canaletto do? Exactly in proportion
as he retires, he displays _more_ and _more_ of the reflection of
objects, and less and less of the sky, until, three hundred yards away,
all the houses are reflected as clear and sharp as in a quiet lake.

This, again, is wilful and inexcusable violation of truth, of which the
reason, as in the last case, is the painter's consciousness of weakness.
It is one of the most difficult things in the world to express the light
reflection of the blue sky on a distant ripple, and to make the eye
understand the cause of the color, and the motion of the apparently
smooth water, especially where there are buildings above to be
reflected, for the eye never understands the want of the reflection. But
it is the easiest and most agreeable thing in the world to give the
inverted image: it occupies a vast space of otherwise troublesome
distance in the simplest way possible, and is understood by the eye at
once. Hence Canaletto is glad, as any other inferior workman would be,
not to say obliged, to give the reflections in the distance. But when he
comes up close to the spectator, he finds the smooth surface just as
troublesome near, as the ripple would have been far off. It is a very
nervous thing for an ignorant artist to have a great space of vacant
smooth water to deal with, close to him, too far down to take
reflections from buildings, and yet which must be made to look flat and
retiring and transparent. Canaletto, with his sea-green, did not at all
feel himself equal to anything of this kind, and had therefore no
resource but in the white touches above described, which occupy the
alarming space without any troublesome necessity for knowledge or
invention, and supply by their gradual diminution some means of
expressing retirement of surface. It is easily understood, therefore,
why he should adopt this system, which is just what any awkward workman
would naturally cling to, trusting to the inaccuracy of observation of
the public to secure him from detection.

§ 19. Why unpardonable.

Now in all these cases it is not the mistake or the license itself, it
is not the infringement of this or that law which condemns the picture,
but it is the spirit and habit of mind in which the license is taken,
the cowardice or bluntness of feeling, which infects every part alike,
and deprives the whole picture of vitality. Canaletto, had he been a
great painter, might have cast his reflections wherever he chose, and
rippled the water wherever he chose, and painted his sea sloping if he
chose, and neither I nor any one else should have dared to say a word
against him; but he is a little and a bad painter, and so continues
everywhere multiplying and magnifying mistakes, and adding apathy to
error, until nothing can any more be pardoned in him. If it be but
remembered that every one of the surfaces of those multitudinous ripples
is in nature a mirror which catches, according to its position, either
the image of the sky or of the silver beaks of the gondolas, or of their
black bodies and scarlet draperies, or of the white marble, or the green
sea-weed on the low stones, it cannot but be felt that those waves would
have something more of color upon them than that opaque dead green.
Green they are by their own nature, but it is a transparent and emerald
hue, mixing itself with the thousand reflected tints without
overpowering the weakest of them; and thus, in every one of those
individual waves, the truths of color are contradicted by Canaletto by
the thousand.

Venice is sad and silent now, to what she was in his time; the canals
are choked gradually one by one, and the foul water laps more and more
sluggishly against the rent foundations; but even yet, could I but place
the reader at the early morning on the quay below the Rialto, when the
market boats, full laden, float into groups of golden color, and let him
watch the dashing of the water about their glittering steely heads, and
under the shadows of the vine leaves, and show him the purple of the
grapes and the figs, and the glowing of the scarlet gourds carried away
in long streams upon the waves, and among them, the crimson fish
baskets, plashing and sparkling, and flaming as the morning sun falls on
their wet tawny sides, and above, the painted sails of the fishing
boats, orange and white, scarlet and blue, and better than all such
florid color, the naked, bronzed, burning limbs of the seamen, the last
of the old Venetian race, who yet keep the right Giorgione color on
their brows and bosoms, in strange contrast with the sallow sensual
degradation of the creatures that live in the cafés of the Piazza, he
would not be merciful to Canaletto any more.

§ 20. The Dutch painters of sea.

Yet even Canaletto, in relation to the truths he had to paint, is
spiritual, faithful, powerful, compared to the Dutch painters of sea. It
is easily understood why his green paint and concave touches should be
thought expressive of the water on which the real colors are not to be
discerned but by attention, which is never given; but it is not so
easily understood, considering how many there are who love the sea, and
look at it, that Vandevelde and such others should be tolerated. As I
before said, I feel utterly hopeless in addressing the admirers of these
men, because I do not know what it is in their works which is supposed
to be like nature. Foam appears to me to curdle and cream on the wave
sides and to fly, flashing from their crests, and not to be set astride
upon them like a peruke; and waves appear to me to fall, and plunge, and
toss, and nod, and crash over, and not to curl up like shavings; and
water appears to me, when it is gray, to have the gray of stormy air
mixed with its own deep, heavy, thunderous, threatening blue, and not
the gray of the first coat of cheap paint on a deal door; and many other
such things appear to me which, as far as I can conjecture by what is
admired of marine painting, appear to no one else; yet I shall have
something more to say about these men presently, with respect to the
effect they have had upon Turner; and something more, I hope, hereafter,
with the help of illustration.

§ 21. Ruysdael, Claude, and Salvator.

There is a sea-piece of Ruysdael's in the Louvre[63] which, though
nothing very remarkable in any quality of art, is at least forceful,
agreeable, and, as far as it goes, natural; the waves have much freedom
of action, and power of color; the wind blows hard over the shore, and
the whole picture may be studied with profit as a proof that the
deficiency of color and everything else in Backhuysen's works, is no
fault of the Dutch sea. There is sublimity and power in every field of
nature from the pole to the line; and though the painters of one country
are often better and greater, universally, than those of another, this
is less because the subjects of art are wanting anywhere, than because
one country or one age breeds mighty and thinking men, and another none.

Ruysdael's painting of falling water and brook scenery is also generally
agreeable--more than agreeable it can hardly be considered. There
appears no exertion of mind in any of his works; nor are they calculated
to produce either harm or good by their feeble influence. They are good
furniture pictures, unworthy of praise, and undeserving of blame.

The seas of Claude are the finest pieces of water-painting in ancient
art. I do not say that I like them, because they appear to me selections
of the particular moment when the sea is most insipid and characterless;
but I think that they are exceedingly true to the forms and time
selected, or at least that the fine instances of them are so, of which
there are exceedingly few.

On the right hand of one of the marines of Salvator, in the Pitti
palace, there is a passage of sea reflecting the sunrise, which is
thoroughly good, and very like Turner; the rest of the picture, as the
one opposite to it, utterly virtueless. I have not seen any other
instance of Salvator's painting water with any care, it is usually as
conventional as the rest of his work, yet conventionalism is perhaps
more tolerable in water-painting than elsewhere; and if his trees and
rocks had been good, the rivers might have been generally accepted
without objection.

§ 22. Nicholas Poussin.

The merits of Poussin as a sea or water painter may, I think, be
sufficiently determined by the Deluge in the Louvre, where the breaking
up of the fountains of the deep is typified by the capsizing of a wherry
over a weir.

In the outer porch of St. Mark's at Venice, among the mosaics on the
roof, there is a representation of the deluge. The ground is dark blue;
the rain is represented in bright white undulating parallel stripes;
between these stripes is seen the massy outline of the ark, a bit
between each stripe, very dark and hardly distinguishable from the sky;
but it has a square window with a bright golden border, which glitters
out conspicuously, and leads the eye to the rest--the sea below is
almost concealed with dead bodies.

On the font of the church of San Frediano at Lucca, there is a
representation of--possibly--the Israelites and Egyptians in the Red
Sea. The sea is typified by undulating bands of stone, each band
composed of three plies (almost the same type is to be seen in the
glass-painting of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, as especially at
Chartres). These bands would perhaps be hardly felt as very aqueous, but
for the fish which are interwoven with them in a complicated manner,
their heads appearing at one side of every band, and their tails at the

Both of these representatives of deluge, archaic and rude as they are, I
consider better, more suggestive, more inventive, and more natural,
than Poussin's. Indeed, this is not saying anything very depreciatory,
as regards the St. Mark's one, for the glittering of the golden window
through the rain is wonderfully well conceived, and almost deceptive,
looking as if it had just caught a gleam of sunlight on its panes, and
there is something very sublime in the gleam of this light above the
floating corpses. But the other instance is sufficiently grotesque and
imperfect, and yet, I speak with perfect seriousness, it is, I think,
very far preferable to Poussin's.

On the other hand, there is a just medium between the meanness and
apathy of such a conception as his, and the extravagance, still more
contemptible, with which the subject has been treated in modern
days.[64] I am not aware that I can refer to any instructive example of
this intermediate course, for I fear the reader is by this time wearied
of hearing of Turner, and the plate of Turner's picture of the deluge is
so rare that it is of no use to refer to it.

§ 23. Venetians and Florentines. Conclusion.

It seems exceedingly strange that the great Venetian painters should
have left us no instance, as far as I know, of any marine effects
carefully studied. As already noted, whatever passages of sea occur in
their backgrounds are merely broad extents of blue or green surface,
fine in color, and coming dark usually against the horizon, well enough
to be understood as sea, (yet even that not always without the help of a
ship,) but utterly unregarded in all questions of completion and detail.
The water even in Titian's landscape is almost always violently though
grandly conventional, and seldom forms an important feature. Among the
religious schools very sweet motives occur, but nothing which for a
moment can be considered as real water-painting. Perugino's sea is
usually very beautifully felt; his river in the fresco of S^ta.
Maddalena at Florence is freely indicated, and looks level and clear;
the reflections of the trees given with a rapid zigzag stroke of the
brush. On the whole, I suppose that the best imitations of level water
surface to be found in ancient art are in the clear Flemish landscapes.
Cuyp's are usually very satisfactory, but even the best of these attain
nothing more than the agreeable suggestion of calm pond or river. Of any
tolerable representation of water in agitation, or under any
circumstances that bring out its power and character, I know no
instance; and the more capable of noble treatment the subject happens to
be, the more manifest invariably is the painter's want of feeling in
every effort, and of knowledge in every line.


  [61] I state this merely as a fact: I am unable satisfactorily to
    account for it on optical principles, and were it otherwise, the
    investigation would be of little interest to the general reader, and
    little value to the artist.

  [62] Parsey's "Convergence of Perpendiculars." I have not space here
    to enter into any lengthy exposure of this mistake, but reasoning is
    fortunately unnecessary, the appeal to experiment being easy. Every
    picture is the representation, as before stated, of a vertical plate
    of glass, with what might be seen through it, drawn on its surface.
    Let a vertical plate of glass be taken, and wherever it be placed,
    whether the sun be at its side or at its centre, the reflection will
    always be found in a vertical line under the sun, parallel with the
    side of the glass. The pane of any window looking to sea is all the
    apparatus necessary for this experiment, and yet it is not long
    since this very principle was disputed with me by a man of much
    taste and information, who supposed Turner to be wrong in drawing
    the reflection straight down at the side of his picture, as in his
    Lancaster Sands, and innumerable other instances.

  [63] In the last edition of this work was the following passage:--"I
    wish Ruysdael had painted one or two rough seas. I believe if he had
    he might have saved the unhappy public from much grievous
    victimizing, both in mind and pocket, for he would have shown that
    Vandevelde and Backhuysen were not quite sea-deities." The writer
    has to thank the editor of Murray's Handbook of Painting in Italy
    for pointing out the oversight. He had passed many days in the
    Louvre before the above passage was written, but had not been in the
    habit of pausing long anywhere except in the last two rooms,
    containing the pictures of the Italian school. The conjecture,
    however, shows that he had not ill-estimated the power of Ruysdael;
    nor does he consider it as in anywise unfitting him for the task he
    has undertaken, that for every hour passed in galleries he has
    passed days on the seashore.

  [64] I am here, of course, speaking of the treatment of the subject
    as a landscape only; many mighty examples of its conception occur
    where the sea, and all other adjuncts, are entirely subservient to
    the figures, as with Raffaelle and M. Angelo.

                                 CHAPTER II.

                     OF WATER, AS PAINTED BY THE MODERNS.

§ 1. General power of the moderns in painting quiet water. The lakes of

There are few men among modern landscape painters, who cannot paint
quiet water at least suggestively, if not faithfully. Those who are
incapable of doing this, would scarcely be considered artists at all;
and anything like the ripples of Canaletto, or the black shadows of
Vandevelde, would be looked upon as most unpromising, even in the work
of a novice. Among those who most fully appreciate and render the
qualities of space and surface in calm water, perhaps Copley Fielding
stands first. His expanses of windless lake are among the most perfect
passages of his works; for he can give surface as well as depth, and
make his lake look not only clear, but, which is far more difficult,
lustrous. He is less dependent than most of our artists upon
reflections; and can give substance, transparency, and extent, where
another painter would be reduced to paper; and he is exquisitely refined
in his expression of distant breadth, by the delicate line of ripple
interrupting the reflection, and by aerial qualities of color. Nothing,
indeed, can be purer or more refined than his general feeling of lake
sentiment, were it not for a want of simplicity--a fondness for pretty,
rather than impressive color, and a consequent want of some of the
higher expression of repose.

§ 2. The calm rivers of De Wint, J. Holland, etc.

§ 3. The character of bright and violent falling water.

§ 4. As given by Nesfield.

Hundreds of men might be named, whose works are highly instructive in
the management of calm water. De Wint is singularly powerful and
certain, exquisitely bright and vigorous in color. The late John Varley
produced some noble passages. I have seen, some seven years ago, works
by J. Holland, which were, I think, as near perfection as water-color
can be carried--for _bona fide_ truth, refined and finished to the
highest degree. But the power of modern artists is not brought out until
they have greater difficulties to struggle with. Stand for half an hour
beside the fall of Schaffhausen, on the north side where the rapids are
long, and watch how the vault of water first bends, unbroken, in pure,
polished velocity, over the arching rocks at the brow of the cataract,
covering them with a dome of crystal twenty feet thick--so swift that
its motion is unseen except when a foam globe from above darts over it
like a falling star; and how the trees are lighted above it under all
their leaves, at the instant that it breaks into foam; and how all the
hollows of that foam burn with green fire like so much shattering
chrysoprase; and how, ever and anon, startling you with its white flash,
a jet of spray leaps hissing out of the fall like a rocket, bursting in
the wind and driven away in dust, filling the air with light; and how,
through the curdling wreaths of the restless, crashing abyss below, the
blue of the water, paled by the foam in its body, shows purer than the
sky through white rain-cloud; while the shuddering iris stoops in
tremulous stillness over all, fading and flushing alternately through
the choking spray and shattered sunshine, hiding itself at last among
the thick golden leaves which toss to and fro in sympathy with the wild
water; their dripping masses lifted at intervals, like sheaves of loaded
corn, by some stronger gush from the cataract, and bowed again upon the
mossy rocks as its roar dies away; the dew gushing from their thick
branches through drooping clusters of emerald herbage, and sparkling in
white threads along the dark rocks of the shore, feeding the lichens
which chase and checker them with purple and silver. I believe, when you
have stood by this for half an hour, you will have discovered that there
is something more in nature than has been given by Ruysdael. Probably
you will not be much disposed to think of any mortal work at the time;
but when you look back to what you have seen, and are inclined to
compare it with art, you will remember--or ought to remember--Nesfield.
He is a man of extraordinary feeling, both for the color and the
spirituality of a great waterfall; exquisitely delicate in his
management of the changeful veil of spray or mist; just in his curves
and contours; and unequalled in color except by Turner. None of our
water-color painters can approach him in the management of the variable
hues of clear water over weeded rocks; but his feeling for it often
leads him a little too far, and, like Copley Fielding, he loses sight of
simplicity and dignity for the sake of delicacy or prettiness. His
waterfalls are, however, unequalled in their way; and, if he would
remember, that in all such scenes there is much gloom as well as much
splendor, and relieve the lustre of his attractive passages of color
with more definite and prevalent grays, and give a little more substance
to parts of his picture unaffected by spray, his work would be nearly
perfect. His seas are also most instructive; a little confused in
chiaroscuro, but refined in form and admirable in color.

§ 5. The admirable water-drawing of J. D. Harding.

§ 6. His color; and painting of sea.

J. D. Harding is, I think, nearly unequalled in the _drawing_ of running
water. I do not know what Stanfield would do; I have never seen an
important piece of torrent drawn by him; but I believe even he could
scarcely contend with the magnificent _abandon_ of Harding's brush.
There is perhaps nothing which tells more in the drawing of water than
decisive and swift execution; for, in a rapid touch the hand naturally
falls into the very curve of projection which is the absolute truth;
while in slow finish, all precision of curve and character is certain to
be lost, except under the hand of an unusually powerful master. But
Harding has both knowledge and velocity, and the fall of his torrents is
beyond praise; impatient, chafing, substantial, shattering, crystalline,
and capricious; full of various form, yet all apparently instantaneous
and accidental, nothing conventional, nothing dependent upon parallel
lines or radiating curves; all broken up and dashed to pieces over the
irregular rock, and yet all in unity of motion. The color also of his
_falling_ and bright water is very perfect; but in the dark and level
parts of his torrents he has taken up a bad gray, which has hurt some of
his best pictures. His gray in shadows under rocks or dark reflections
is admirable; but it is when the stream is in full light, and unaffected
by reflections in distance, that he gets wrong. We believe that the
fault is in a want of expression of darkness in the color, making it
appear like a positive hue of the water, for which it is much too dead
and cold.

Harding seldom paints sea, and it is well for Stanfield that he does
not, or the latter would have to look to his crown. All that we have
seen from his hand is, as coast sea, quite faultless; we only wish he
would paint it more frequently; always, however, with a veto upon French
fishing-boats. In the Exhibition of 1842, he spoiled one of the most
superb pieces of seashore and sunset which modern art has produced, with
the pestilent square sail of one of these clumsy craft, which the eye
could not escape from.

§ 7. The sea of Copley Fielding. Its exceeding grace and rapidity.

Before passing to our great sea painter, we must again refer to the
works of Copley Fielding. It is with his sea as with his sky, he can
only paint one, and that an easy one, but it is, for all that, an
impressive and a true one. No man has ever given, with the same flashing
freedom, the race of a running tide under a stiff breeze, nor caught,
with the same grace and precision, the curvature of the breaking wave,
arrested or accelerated by the wind. The forward fling of his foam, and
the impatient run of his surges, whose quick, redoubling dash we can
almost hear, as they break in their haste upon their own bosoms, are
nature itself, and his sea gray or green was, nine years ago, very
right, as color; always a little wanting in transparency, but never cold
or toneless. Since that time, he seems to have lost the sense of
greenness in water, and has verged more and more on the purple and
black, with unhappy results. His sea was always dependent for effect on
its light or dark relief against the sky, even when it possessed color;
but it now has lost all local color and transparency together, and is
little more than a study of chiaroscuro in an exceedingly ill-chosen
gray. Besides, the perpetual repetition of the same idea is singularly
weakening to the mind. Fielding, in all his life, can only be considered
as having produced _one_ sea picture. The others are duplicates. He
ought to go to some sea of perfect clearness and brilliant color, as
that on the coast of Cornwall, or of the Gulf of Genoa, and study it
sternly in broad daylight, with no black clouds nor drifting rain to
help him out of his difficulties. He would then both learn his strength
and add to it.

§ 8. Its high aim at character.

§ 9. But deficiency in the requisite quality of grays.

§ 10. Variety of the grays of nature.

But there is one point in all his seas deserving especial praise--a
marked aim at _character_. He desires, especially in his latter works,
not so much to produce an agreeable picture, a scientific piece of
arrangement, or delightful melody of color, as to make us feel the
utter desolation, the cold, withering, frozen hopelessness of the
continuous storm and merciless sea. And this is peculiarly remarkable in
his denying himself all color, just in the little bits which an artist
of inferior mind would paint in sienna and cobalt. If a piece of broken
wreck is allowed to rise for an instant through the boiling foam, though
the blue stripe of a sailor's jacket, or a red rag of a flag would do
all our hearts good, we are not allowed to have it; it would make us too
comfortable, and prevent us from shivering and shrinking as we look, and
the artist, with admirable intention, and most meritorious self-denial,
expresses his piece of wreck with a dark, cold brown. Now we think this
aim and effort worthy of the highest praise, and we only wish the lesson
were taken up and acted on by our other artists; but Mr. Fielding should
remember that nothing of this kind can be done with success unless by
the most studied management of the general tones of the picture; for the
eye, deprived of all means of enjoying the gray hues, merely as a
contrast to bright points, becomes painfully fastidious in the quality
of the hues themselves, and demands for its satisfaction such melodies
and richness of gray as may in some degree atone to it for the loss of
points of stimulus. That gray which would be taken frankly and freely
for an expression of gloom, if it came behind a yellow sail or a red
cap, is examined with invidious and merciless intentness when there is
nothing to relieve it, and, if not able to bear the investigation, if
neither agreeable nor variable in its hue, renders the picture weak
instead of impressive, and unpleasant instead of awful. And indeed the
management of nature might teach him this; for though, when using
violent contrasts, she frequently makes her gloom somewhat monotonous,
the moment she gives up her vivid color, and depends upon her
desolation, that moment she begins to steal the greens into her
sea-gray, and the browns and yellows into her cloud-gray, and the
expression of variously tinted light through all. Nor is Mr. Fielding
without a model in art, for the Land's End, and Lowestoffe, and
Snowstorm, (in the Academy, 1842,) of Turner, are nothing more than
passages of the most hopeless, desolate, uncontrasted grays, and yet are
three of the very finest pieces of color that have come from his hand.
And we sincerely hope that Mr. Fielding will gradually feel the
necessity of such studied melodies of quiet color, and will neither fall
back into the old tricks of contrast, nor continue to paint with purple
and ink. If he will only make a few careful studies of gray from the
mixed atmosphere of spray, rain, and mist of a gale that has been three
days hard at work, not of a rainy squall, but of a persevering and
powerful storm, and not where the sea is turned into milk and magnesia
by a chalk coast, but where it breaks pure and green on gray slate or
white granite, as along the cliffs of Cornwall, we think his pictures
would present some of the finest examples of high intention and feeling
to be found in modern art.

§ 11. Works of Stanfield. His perfect knowledge and power.

§ 12. But want of feeling. General sum of truth presented by modern art.

The works of Stanfield evidently, and at all times, proceed from the
hand of a man who has both thorough knowledge of his subject, and
thorough acquaintance with all the means and principles of art. We never
criticise them, because we feel, the moment we look carefully at the
drawing of any single wave, that the knowledge possessed by the master
is much greater than our own, and therefore believe that if anything
offends us in any part of the work, it is nearly certain to be our
fault, and not the painter's. The local color of Stanfield's sea is
singularly true and powerful, and entirely independent of any tricks of
chiaroscuro. He will carry a mighty wave up against the sky, and make
its whole body dark and substantial against the distant light, using all
the while nothing more than chaste and unexaggerated local color to gain
the relief. His surface is at once lustrous, transparent, and accurate
to a hairbreadth in every curve; and he is entirely independent of dark
skies, deep blues, driving spray, or any other means of concealing want
of form, or atoning for it. He fears no difficulty, desires no
assistance, takes his sea in open daylight, under general sunshine, and
paints the _element_ in its pure color and complete forms. But we wish
that he were less powerful, and more interesting; or that he were a
little less Diogenes-like, and did not scorn all that he does not want.
Now that he has shown us what he can do without such aids, we wish he
would show us what he can do with them. He is, as we have already said,
wanting in what we have just been praising in Fielding--impressiveness.
We should like him to be less clever, and more affecting--less
wonderful, and more terrible; and as the very first step towards such an
end, to learn how to conceal. We are, however, trenching upon matters
with which we have at present nothing to do; our concern is now only
with truth, and one work of Stanfield alone presents us with as much
concentrated knowledge of sea and sky, as, diluted, would have lasted
any one of the old masters his life. And let it be especially observed,
how extensive and how varied is the truth of our modern masters--how it
comprises a complete history of that nature of which, from the ancients,
you only here and there can catch a stammering descriptive syllable--how
Fielding has given us every character of the quiet lake, Robson[65] of
the mountain tarn, De Wint of the lowland river, Nesfield of the radiant
cataract, Harding of the roaring torrent, Fielding of the desolate sea,
Stanfield of the blue, open, boundless ocean. Arrange all this in your
mind, observe the perfect truth of it in all its parts, compare it with
the fragmentary falsities of the ancients, and then, come with me to


  [65] I ought before to have alluded to the works of the late G.
    Robson. They are a little disagreeable in execution, but there is a
    feeling of the character of _deep_ calm water in them quite
    unequalled, and different from the works and thoughts of all other

                                 CHAPTER III.

                       OF WATER, AS PAINTED BY TURNER.

§ 1. The difficulty of giving surface to smooth water.

§ 2. Is dependent on the structure of the eye, and the focus by which
       the reflected rays are perceived.

I believe it is a result of the experience of all artists, that it is
the easiest thing in the world to give a certain degree of depth and
transparency to water; but that it is next thing to impossible, to give
a full impression of surface. If no reflection be given--a ripple being
supposed--the water looks like lead: if reflection be given, it in nine
cases out of ten looks _morbidly_ clear and deep, so that we always go
down _into_ it, even when the artist most wishes us to glide _over_ it.
Now, this difficulty arises from the very same circumstance which
occasions the frequent failure in effect of the best drawn foregrounds,
noticed in Section II. Chapter III., the change, namely, of focus
necessary in the eye in order to receive rays of light coming from
different distances. Go to the edge of a pond, in a perfectly calm day,
at some place where there is duckweed floating on the surface,--not
thick, but a leaf here and there. Now, you may either see in the water
the reflection of the sky, or you may see the duckweed; but you cannot,
by any effort, see both together. If you look for the reflection, you
will be sensible of a sudden change or effort in the eye, by which it
adapts itself to the reception of the rays which have come all the way
from the clouds, have struck on the water, and so been sent up again to
the eye. The focus you adopt is one fit for great distance; and,
accordingly, you will feel that you are looking down a great way under
the water, while the leaves of the duckweed, though they lie upon the
water at the very spot on which you are gazing so intently, are felt
only as a vague, uncertain interruption, causing a little confusion in
the image below, but entirely indistinguishable as leaves,--and even
their color unknown and unperceived. Unless you think of them, you will
not even feel that anything interrupts your sight, so excessively
slight is their effect. If, on the other hand, you make up your mind to
look for the leaves of the duckweed, you will perceive an instantaneous
change in the effort of the eye, by which it becomes adapted to receive
near rays--those which have only come from the surface of the pond. You
will then see the delicate leaves of the duckweed with perfect
clearness, and in vivid green; but while you do so, you will be able to
perceive nothing of the reflections in the very water on which they
float--nothing but a vague flashing and melting of light and dark hues,
without form or meaning, which, to investigate, or find out what they
mean or are, you must quit your hold of the duckweed, and plunge down.

§ 3. Morbid clearness occasioned in painting of water by distinctness of

§ 4. How avoided by Turner.

§ 5. All reflections on distant water are distinct.

Hence it appears, that whenever we see plain reflections of
comparatively distant objects, in near water, we cannot possibly see the
surface, and _vice versa_; so that when in a painting we give the
reflections with the same clearness with which they are visible in
nature, we presuppose the effort of the eye to look under the surface,
and, of course, destroy the surface, and induce an effect of clearness
which, perhaps, the artist has not particularly wished to attain, but
which he has found himself forced into, by his reflections, in spite of
himself. And the reason of this effect of clearness appearing
preternatural is, that people are not in the habit of looking at water
with the distant focus adapted to the reflections, unless by particular
effort. We invariably, under ordinary circumstances, use the surface
focus; and, in consequence, receive nothing more than a vague and
confused impression of the reflected colors and lines, however clearly,
calmly, and vigorously all may be defined underneath, if we choose to
look for them. We do not look for them, but glide along over the
surface, catching only playing light and capricious color for evidence
of reflection, except where we come to images of objects close to the
surface, which the surface focus is of course adapted to receive; and
these we see clearly, as of the weeds on the shore, or of sticks rising
out of the water, etc. Hence, the ordinary effect of water is only to be
rendered by giving the reflections of the _margin_ clear and distinct
(so clear they usually are in nature, that it is impossible to tell
where the water begins;) but the moment we touch the reflection of
distant objects, as of high trees or clouds, that instant we must become
vague and uncertain in drawing, and, though vivid in color and light as
the object itself, quite indistinct in form and feature. If we take such
a piece of water as that in the foreground of Turner's Chateau of Prince
Albert, the first impression from it is,--"What a wide _surface_!" We
glide over it a quarter of a mile into the picture before we know where
we are, and yet the water is as calm and crystalline as a mirror; but we
are not allowed to tumble into it, and gasp for breath as we go
down,--we are kept upon the surface, though that surface is flashing and
radiant with every hue of cloud, and sun, and sky, and foliage. But the
secret is in the drawing of these reflections.[66] We cannot tell when
we look _at_ them and _for_ them, what they mean. They have all
character, and are evidently reflections of something definite and
determined; but yet they are all uncertain and inexplicable; playing
color and palpitating shade, which, though we recognize in an instant
for images of something, and feel that the water is bright, and lovely,
and calm, we cannot penetrate nor interpret: we are not allowed to go
down to them, and we repose, as we should in nature, upon the lustre of
the level surface. It is in this power of saying everything, and yet
saying nothing too plainly, that the perfection of art here, as in all
other cases, consists. But as it was before shown in Sect. II. Chap.
III. that the focus of the eye required little alteration after the
first half mile of distance, it is evident that on the _distant_ surface
of water, _all_ reflections will be seen plainly; for the same focus
adapted to a moderate distance of surface will receive with distinctness
rays coming from the sky, or from any other distance, however great.
Thus we always see the reflection of Mont Blanc on the Lake of Geneva,
whether we take pains to look for it or not, because the water upon
which it is cast is itself a mile off; but if we would see the
reflection of Mont Blanc in the Lac de Chede, which is close to us, we
must take some trouble about the matter, leave the green snakes swimming
upon the surface, and plunge for it. Hence reflections, if viewed
collectively, are always clear in proportion to the distance of the
water on which they are cast. And now look at Turner's Ulleswater, or
any of his distant lake expanses, and you will find every crag and line
of the hills rendered in them with absolute fidelity, while the near
surface shows nothing but a vague confusion of exquisite and lustrous
tint. The reflections even of the clouds will be given far off, while
those of near boats and figures will be confused and mixed among each
other, except just at the water-line.

§ 6. The error of Vandevelde.

And now we see what Vandevelde _ought_ to have done with the shadow of
his ship spoken of in the first chapter of this section. In such a calm,
we should in nature, if we had looked for the reflection, have seen it
clear from the water-line to the flag on the mainmast; but in so doing,
we should have appeared to ourselves to be looking under the water, and
should have lost all feeling of surface. When we looked at the surface
of the sea,--as we naturally should,--we should have seen the image of
the hull absolutely clear and perfect, because that image is cast on
distant water; but we should have seen the image of the masts and sails
gradually more confused as they descended, and the water close to us
would have borne only upon its surface a maze of flashing color and
indefinite hue. Had Vandevelde, therefore, given the perfect image of
his ship, he would have represented a truth dependent on a particular
effort of the eye, and destroyed his surface. But his business was to
give, not a distinct reflection, but the colors of the reflection in
mystery and disorder upon his near water, all perfectly vivid, but none
intelligible; and had he done so, the eye would not have troubled itself
to search them out; it would not have cared whence or how the colors
came, but it would have felt them to be true and right, and rested
satisfied upon the polished surface of the clear sea. Of the perfect
truth, the best examples I can give are Turner's Saltash and Castle

§ 7. Difference in arrangement of parts between the reflected object and
       its image.

Be it next observed that the reflection of all near objects is, by our
fifth rule, not an exact copy of the parts of them which we see above
the water, but a totally different view and arrangement of them, that
which we should get if we were looking at them from beneath. Hence we
see the dark sides of leaves hanging over a stream, in their reflection,
though we see the light sides above, and all objects and groups of
objects are thus seen in the reflection under different lights, and in
different positions with respect to each other from those which they
assume above; some which we see on the bank being entirely lost in their
reflection, and others which we cannot see on the bank brought into
view. Hence nature contrives never to repeat herself, and the surface of
water is not a mockery, but a new view of what is above it. And this
difference in what is represented, as well as the obscurity of the
representation, is one of the chief sources by which the sensation of
surface is kept up in the reality. The reflection is not so remarkable,
it does not attract the eye in the same degree when it is entirely
different from the images above, as when it mocks them and repeats them,
and we feel that the space and surface have color and character of their
own, and that the bank is one thing and the water another. It is by not
making this change manifest, and giving underneath a mere duplicate of
what is seen above, that artists are apt to destroy the essence and
substance of water, and to drop us through it.

§ 8. Illustrated from the works of Turner.

§ 9. The boldness and judgment shown in the observance of it.

Now one instance will be sufficient to show the exquisite care of Turner
in this respect. On the left-hand side of his Nottingham, the water (a
smooth canal) is terminated by a bank fenced up with wood, on which,
just at the edge of the water, stands a white sign-post. A quarter of a
mile back, the hill on which Nottingham Castle stands rises steeply
nearly to the top of the picture. The upper part of this hill is in
bright golden light, and the lower in very deep gray shadow, against
which the white board of the sign-post is seen entirely in light relief,
though, being turned from the light, it is itself in delicate middle
tint, illumined only on the edge. But the image of all this in the
canal is very different. First, we have the reflection of the piles of
the bank, sharp and clear, but under this we have not what we see above
it, the dark _base_ of the hill, (for this being a quarter of a mile
back, we could not see over the fence if we were looking from below,)
but the golden summit of the hill, the shadow of the under part having
no record nor place in the reflection. But this summit, being very
distant, cannot be seen clearly by the eye while its focus is adapted to
the surface of the water, and accordingly its reflection is entirely
vague and confused; you cannot tell what it is meant for, it is mere
playing golden light. But the sign-post, being on the bank close to us,
will be reflected clearly, and accordingly its distinct image is seen in
the midst of this confusion. But it now is relieved, not against the
dark base, but against the illumined summit of the hill, and it appears,
therefore, instead of a white space thrown out from blue shade, a dark
gray space thrown out from golden light. I do not know that any more
magnificent example could be given of concentrated knowledge, or of the
daring statement of most difficult truth. For who but this consummate
artist would have had courage, even if he had perceived the laws which
required it, to undertake in a single small space of water, the painting
of an entirely new picture, with all its tones and arrangements
altered,--what was made above bright by opposition to blue, being
underneath made cool and dark by opposition to gold;--or would have
dared to contradict so boldly the ordinary expectation of the
uncultivated eye, to find in the reflection a mockery for the reality?
But the reward is immediate, for not only is the change most grateful to
the eye, and most exquisite as composition, but the surface of the water
in consequence of it is felt to be as spacious as it is clear, and the
eye rests not on the inverted image of the material objects, but on the
element which receives them. And we have a farther instance in this
passage of the close study which is required to enjoy the works of
Turner, for another artist might have altered the reflection or confused
it, but he would not have reasoned upon it so as to find out _what the
exact alteration must be_; and if we had tried to account for the
reflection, we should have found it false or inaccurate. But the master
mind of Turner, without effort, showers its knowledge into every touch,
and we have only to trace out even his slightest passages, part by part,
to find in them the universal working of the deepest thought, that
consistency of every minor truth which admits of and invites the same
ceaseless study as the work of nature herself.

§ 10. The _texture_ of surface in Turner's painting of calm water.

There is, however, yet another peculiarity in Turner's painting of
smooth water, which, though less deserving of admiration, as being
merely a mechanical excellence, is not less wonderful than its other
qualities, nor less unique--a peculiar texture, namely, given to the
most delicate tints of the surface, when there is little reflection from
anything except sky or atmosphere, and which, just at the points where
other painters are reduced to paper, gives to the surface of Turner the
greatest appearance of substantial liquidity. It is impossible to say
how it is produced; it looks like some modification of body color; but
it certainly is not body color used as by other men, for I have seen
this expedient tried over and over again without success; and it is
often accompanied by crumbling touches of a dry brush, which never could
have been put upon body color, and which could not have shown through
underneath it. As a piece of mechanical excellence, it is one of the
most remarkable things in the works of the master; and it brings the
truth of his water-painting up to the last degree of perfection, often
rendering those passages of it the most attractive and delightful, which
from their delicacy and paleness of tint, would have been weak and
papery in the hands of any other man. The best instance of it I can
give, is, I think, the distance of the Devonport with the Dockyards.

§ 11. Its united qualities.

After all, however, there is more in Turner's painting of water surface
than any philosophy of reflection, or any peculiarity of means, can
account for or accomplish; there is a might and wonder about it which
will not admit of our whys and hows. Take, for instance, the picture of
the Sun of Venice going to Sea, of 1843, respecting which, however,
there are one or two circumstances which may as well be noted besides
its water-painting. The reader, if he has not been at Venice, ought to
be made aware that the Venetian fishing-boats, almost without exception,
carry canvas painted with bright colors, the favorite design for the
centre being either a cross or a large sun with many rays, the favorite
colors being red, orange, and black, blue occurring occasionally. The
radiance of these sails and of the bright and grotesque vanes at the
mast-heads under sunlight is beyond all painting, but it is strange
that, of constant occurrence as these boats are on all the lagoons,
Turner alone should have availed himself of them. Nothing could be more
faithful than the boat which was the principal object in this picture,
in the cut of the sail, the filling of it, the exact height of the boom
above the deck, the quartering of it with color, finally and especially,
the hanging of the fish-baskets about the bows. All these, however, are
comparatively minor merits, (though not the blaze of color which the
artist elicited from the right use of these circumstances,) but the
peculiar power of the picture was the painting of the sea surface, where
there were no reflections to assist it. A stream of splendid color fell
from the boat, but that occupied the centre only; in the distance, the
city and crowded boats threw down some playing lines, but these still
left on each side of the boat a large space of water reflecting nothing
but the morning sky. This was divided by an eddying swell, on whose
continuous sides the local color of the water was seen, pure aquamarine,
(a beautiful occurrence of closely-observed truth,) but still there
remained a large blank space of pale water to be treated, the sky above
had no distinct details and was pure faint gray, with broken white
vestiges of cloud: it gave no help therefore. But there the water lay,
no dead gray flat paint, but downright clear, playing, palpable surface,
full of indefinite hue, and retiring as regularly and visibly back and
far away, as if there had been objects all over it to tell the story by
perspective. Now it is the doing of this which tries the painter, and it
is his having done this which made me say above that "no man had ever
painted the surface of calm water but Turner." The San Benedetto,
looking towards Fusina, contained a similar passage, equally fine; in
one of the Canale della Guidecca the specific green color of the water
is seen in front, with the shadows of the boats thrown on it in purple;
all, as it retires, passing into the pure reflective blue.

§ 12. Relation of various circumstances of past agitation, etc., by the
        most trifling incidents, as in the Cowes.

But Turner is not satisfied with this. He is never altogether content
unless he can, at the same time that he takes advantage of all the
placidity of repose, tell us something either about the past commotion
of the water, or of some present stirring of tide or current which its
stillness does not show, or give us something or other to think about
and reason upon, as well as to look at. Take a few instances. His Cowes,
Isle of Wight, is a summer twilight about half an hour, or more, after
sunset. Intensity of repose is the great aim throughout, and the unity
of tone of the picture is one of the finest things that Turner has ever
done. But there is not only quietness, there is the very deepest
solemnity in the whole of the light, as well as in the stillness of the
vessels; and Turner wishes to enhance this feeling by representing not
only repose, but _power_ in repose, the emblem, in the sea, of the quiet
ships of war. Accordingly, he takes the greatest possible pains to get
his surface polished, calm, and smooth, but he indicates the reflection
of a buoy, floating a full quarter of a mile off, by three black strokes
with wide intervals between them, the last of which touches the water
within twenty yards of the spectator. Now these three reflections can
only indicate the farther sides of three rises of an enormous swell, and
give by their intervals of separation, a space of from twelve to twenty
yards for the breadth of each wave, including the sweep between them,
and this swell is farther indicated by the reflection of the new moon
falling, in a wide zigzag line. The exceeding majesty which this single
circumstance gives to the whole picture, the sublime sensation of power
and knowledge of former exertion which we instantly receive from it, if
we have but acquaintance with nature enough to understand its language,
render this work not only a piece of the most refined truth, (as which I
have at present named it,) but to my mind, one of the highest pieces of
intellectual art existing.

§ 13. In scenes on the Loire and Seine.

Again, in the scene on the Loire, with the square precipice and fiery
sunset, in the Rivers of France, repose has been aimed at in the same
way, and most thoroughly given; but the immense width of the river at
this spot makes it look like a lake or sea, and it was therefore
necessary that we should be made thoroughly to understand and feel that
this is not the calm of still water, but the tranquillity of a majestic
current. Accordingly, a boat swings at anchor on the right; and the
stream, dividing at its bow, flows towards us in two long, dark waves,
especial attention to which is enforced by the one on the left being
brought across the reflected stream of sunshine, which it separates, and
which is broken in the nearer water by the general undulation and
agitation caused by the boat's wake; a wake caused by the waters passing
it, not by _its_ going through the water.

§ 14. Expression of contrary waves caused by recoil from shore.

§ 15. Various other instances.

Again, in the Confluence of the Seine and Marne, we have the repose of
the wide river stirred by the paddles of the steamboat, (whose plashing
we can almost hear, for we are especially compelled to look at them by
their being made the central note of the composition--the blackest
object in it, opposed to the strongest light,) and this disturbance is
not merely caused by the two lines of surge from the boat's wake, for
any other painter must have given these, but Turner never rests
satisfied till he has told you _all_ in his power; and he has not only
given the receding surges, but these have gone on to the shore, have
struck upon it, and been beaten back from it in another line of weaker
contrary surges, whose point of intersection with those of the wake
itself is marked by the sudden subdivision and disorder of the waves of
the wake on the extreme left, and whose reverted direction is
exquisitely given where their lines cross the calm water, close to the
spectator, and marked also by the sudden vertical spring of the spray
just where they intersect the swell from the boat; and in order that we
may fully be able to account for these reverted waves, we are allowed,
just at the extreme right-hand limit of the picture, to see the point
where the swell from the boat meets the shore. In the Chaise de
Gargantua we have the still water lulled by the dead calm which usually
precedes the most violent storms, suddenly broken upon by a tremendous
burst of wind from the gathered thunder-clouds, scattering the boats,
and raising the water into rage, except where it is sheltered by the
hills. In the Jumieges and Vernon we have farther instances of local
agitation, caused, in the one instance, by a steamer, in the other, by
the large water-wheels under the bridge, not, observe, a mere splashing
about the wheel itself, this is too far off to be noticeable, so that we
should not have even known that the objects beneath the bridge were
water-wheels, but for the agitation recorded a quarter of a mile down
the river, where its current crosses the sunlight. And thus there will
scarcely ever be found a piece of quiet water by Turner, without some
story in it of one kind or another; sometimes a slight, but beautiful
incident--oftener, as in the Cowes, something on which the whole
sentiment and intention of the picture in a great degree depends; but
invariably presenting some new instance of varied knowledge and
observation, some fresh appeal to the highest faculties of the mind.

§ 16. Turner's painting of distant expanses of water. Calm, interrupted
        by ripple.

§ 17. And ripple, crossed by sunshine.

Of extended surfaces of water, as rendered by Turner, the Loch Katrine
and Derwent-water, of the Illustrations to Scott, and the Loch Lomond,
vignette in Rogers's Poems, are characteristic instances. The first of
these gives us the most distant part of the lake entirely under the
influence of a light breeze, and therefore entirely without reflections
of the objects on its borders; but the whole near half is untouched by
the wind, and on that is cast the image of the upper part of Ben-Venue
and of the islands. The second gives us the surface, with just so much
motion upon it as to prolong, but not to destroy, the reflections of the
dark woods,--reflections only interrupted by the ripple of the boat's
wake. And the third gives us an example of the whole surface so much
affected by ripple as to bring into exercise all those laws which we
have seen so grossly violated by Canaletto. We see in the nearest boat
that though the lines of the gunwale are much blacker and more
conspicuous than that of the cutwater, yet the gunwale lines, being
nearly horizontal, have no reflection whatsoever; while the line of the
cutwater, being vertical, has a distinct reflection of three times its
own length. But even these tremulous reflections are only visible as far
as the islands; beyond them, as the lake retires into distance, we find
it receives only the reflection of the gray light from the clouds, and
runs in one flat white field up between the hills; and besides all this,
we have another phenomenon, quite new, given to us,--the brilliant gleam
of light along the centre of the lake. This is not caused by ripple,
for it is cast on a surface rippled all over; but it is what we could
not have without ripple,--the light of a passage of sunshine. I have
already (Chap. I., § 9) explained the cause of this phenomenon, which
never can by any possibility take place on calm water, being the
multitudinous reflection of the sun from the sides of the ripples,
causing an appearance of local light and shadow; and being dependent,
like real light and shadow, on the passage of the clouds, though the
dark parts of the water are the reflections of the clouds, not the
shadows of them; and the bright parts are the reflections of the sun,
and not the light of it. This little vignette, then, will entirely
complete the system of Turner's universal truth in quiet water. We have
seen every phenomenon given by him,--the clear reflection, the prolonged
reflection, the reflection broken by ripple, and finally the ripple
broken by light and shade; and it is especially to be observed how
careful he is, in this last case, when he uses the apparent light and
shade, to account for it by showing us in the whiteness of the lake
beyond, its universal subjection to ripple.

§ 18. His drawing of distant rivers.

§ 19. And of surface associated with mist.

We have not spoken of Turner's magnificent drawing of distant rivers,
which, however, is dependent only on more complicated application of the
same laws, with exquisite perspective. The sweeps of river in the
Dryburgh, (Illustrations to Scott,) and Melrose, are bold and
characteristic examples, as well as the Rouen from St. Catherine's Hill,
and the Caudebec, in the Rivers of France. The only thing which in these
works requires particular attention, is the care with which the height
of the observer above the river is indicated by the loss of the
reflections of its banks. This is, perhaps, shown most clearly in the
Caudebec. If we had been on a level with the river, its whole surface
would have been darkened by the reflection of the steep and high banks;
but being far above it, we can see no more of the image than we could of
the hill itself, if it were actually reversed under the water; and
therefore we see that Turner gives us only a narrow line of dark water,
immediately under the precipice, the broad surface reflecting only the
sky. This is also finely shown on the left-hand side of the Dryburgh.

But all these early works of the artist have been eclipsed by some
recent drawings of Switzerland. These latter are not to be described by
any words, but they must be noted here not only as presenting records of
lake effect on grander scale, and of more imaginative character than any
other of his works, but as combining effects of the surface of mist with
the surface of water. Two or three of the Lake of Lucerne, seen from
above, give the melting of the mountain promontories beneath into the
clear depth, and above into the clouds; one of Constance shows the vast
lake at evening, seen not as water, but its surface covered with low
white mist, lying league beyond league in the twilight like a fallen
space of moony cloud; one of Goldau shows the Lake of Zug appearing
through the chasm of a thunder-cloud under sunset, its whole surface one
blaze of fire, and the promontories of the hills thrown out against it,
like spectres; another of Zurich gives the playing of the green waves of
the river among white streams of moonlight: two purple sunsets on the
Lake of Zug are distinguished for the glow obtained without positive
color, the rose and purple tints being in great measure brought by
opposition out of browns: finally, a drawing executed in 1845 of the
town of Lucerne from the lake is unique for its expression of water
surface reflecting the clear green hue of sky at twilight.

§ 20. His drawing of falling water, with peculiar expression of weight.

§ 21. The abandonment and plunge of great cataracts. How given by him.

It will be remembered that it was said above, that Turner was the only
painter who had ever represented the surface of calm or the _force_ of
agitated water. He obtains this expression of force in falling or
running water by fearless and full rendering of its forms. He never
loses himself and his subject in the splash of the fall--his presence of
mind never fails as he goes down; he does not blind us with the spray,
or veil the countenance of his fall with its own drapery. A little
crumbling white, or lightly rubbed paper, will soon give the effect of
indiscriminate foam; but nature gives more than foam--she shows beneath
it, and through it, a peculiar character of exquisitely studied form
bestowed on every wave and line of fall; and it is this variety of
definite character which Turner always aims at, rejecting, as much as
possible, everything that conceals or overwhelms it. Thus, in the Upper
Fall of the Tees, though the whole basin of the fall is blue and dim
with the rising vapor, yet the whole attention of the spectator is
directed to that which it was peculiarly difficult to render, the
concentric zones and delicate curves of the falling water itself; and it
is impossible to express with what exquisite accuracy these are given.
They are the characteristic of a powerful stream descending without
impediment or break, but from a narrow channel, so as to expand as it
falls. They are the constant form which such a stream assumes as it
descends; and yet I think it would be difficult to point to another
instance of their being rendered in art. You will find nothing in the
waterfalls even of our best painters, but springing lines of parabolic
descent, and splashing, shapeless foam; and, in consequence, though they
may make you understand the swiftness of the water, they never let you
feel the weight of it; the stream in their hands looks _active_, not
_supine_, as if it leaped, not as if it fell. Now water will leap a
little way, it will leap down a weir or over a stone, but it _tumbles_
over a high fall like this; and it is when we have lost the parabolic
line, and arrived at the catenary,--when we have lost the _spring_ of
the fall, and arrived at the _plunge_ of it, that we begin really to
feel its weight and wildness. Where water takes its first leap from the
top, it is cool, and collected, and uninteresting, and mathematical, but
it is when it finds that it has got into a scrape, and has farther to go
than it thought for, that its character comes out; it is then that it
begins to writhe, and twist, and sweep out zone after zone in wilder
stretching as it falls, and to send down the rocket-like, lance-pointed,
whizzing shafts at its sides, sounding for the bottom. And it is this
prostration, this hopeless abandonment of its ponderous power to the
air, which is always peculiarly expressed by Turner, and especially in
the case before us; while our other artists, keeping to the parabolic
line, where they do not lose themselves in smoke and foam, make their
cataract look muscular and wiry, and may consider themselves fortunate
if they can keep it from stopping. I believe the majesty of motion which
Turner has given by these concentric catenary lines must be felt even by
those who have never seen a high waterfall, and therefore cannot
appreciate their exquisite fidelity to nature.

In the Chain Bridge over the Tees, this passiveness and swinging of the
water to and fro are yet more remarkable; while we have another
characteristic of a great waterfall given to us, that the wind, in this
instance coming up the valley against the current, takes the spray up
off the edges, and carries it back in little torn, reverted rags and
threads, seen in delicate form against the darkness on the left. But we
must understand a little more about the nature of running water before
we can appreciate the drawing either of this, or any other of Turner's

§ 22. Difference in the action of water, when continuous and when
        interrupted. The interrupted stream fills the hollows of its bed.

§ 23. But the continuous stream takes the shape of its bed.

§ 24. Its exquisite curved lines.

When water, not in very great body, runs in a rocky bed much interrupted
by hollows, so that it can rest every now and then in a pool as it goes
along, it does not acquire a continuous velocity of motion. It pauses
after every leap, and curdles about, and rests a little, and then goes
on again; and if in this comparatively tranquil and rational state of
mind it meets with an obstacle, as a rock or stone, it parts on each
side of it with a little bubbling foam, and goes round; if it comes to a
step in its bed, it leaps it lightly, and then after a little plashing
at the bottom, stops again to take breath. But if its bed be on a
continuous slope, not much interrupted by hollows, so that it cannot
rest, or if its own mass be so increased by flood that its usual
resting-places are not sufficient for it, but that it is perpetually
pushed out of them by the following current, before it has had time to
tranquillize itself, it of course gains velocity with every yard that it
runs; the impetus got at one leap is carried to the credit of the next,
until the whole stream becomes one mass of unchecked, accelerating
motion. Now when water in this state comes to an obstacle, it does not
part at it, but clears it, like a racehorse; and when it comes to a
hollow, it does not fill it up and run out leisurely at the other side,
but it rushes down into it and comes up again on the other side,