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since, by delineating outward demonstrations, it is enabled to convey the ideas of internal affections and mental actions. It will necessarily follow that those subjects are the most immediately within the province of our art, whose essential qualities are as it were contained in the visible parts of things, or most capable of being expressed by objects of sight; and this, though a truism, we have thought it necessary to state, as experience every day shews, that it is not sufficiently attended to. By the essential qualities of a subject, we must be understood to mean those which give it its interest.
The only means by which the painter can communicate his ideas to the spectator, or, in other words, tell his story, are combinations of figures and other visible objects, the representation of gesture, and the expression of countenance.
As the powers of writing, in the way of narrative, are such as to enable it to convey to the reader a just idea of a succession of transactions or events; whereas it cannot by the most laboured description give us any other than a confused or erroneous notion of the situation of a building, the windings of a river, the forms of a mountain, or the beauty and expression of a countenance ; so painting, inasmuch as it is incompetent to relate the conspiracy, or record the oration, is proportionably rich in its means of description. As description is the most arduous task of language, so narration is the great difficulty of painting; a difficulty however not always insurmountable to the artist, who, to a competent knowledge and practice in the several compoment parts of his art, adds that of judgment in the choice of his subject, as will presently appear.
In a picture, the artist must necessarily choose one point of time for his representation; but the usual doctrine, that a picture can absolutely express no more than this one moment of the story, requires some illustration, as otherwise the inconsiderate might naturally be led to underrate the powers of communication given to our art. The truth we believe is, that though a picture must represent one moment of time only, yet in that representation, the memorial, as it were, of past moments may be recorded, and the idea of future ones clearly anticipated; and though this doctrine may, upon first sight, appear opposed to generally established opinion, a little reflection
will, we are assured, convince any one of its truth. It will require very little argument to shew, that many of the bodily actions of men do indicate, and, under particular circumstances, demonstrate certain other actions to have taken place previously; which is certainly expressing the past in the present; nor will it be more difficult to find instances of a present action denoting some future one; that is, expressing the future in the present. A figure walking, or running, denotes a past, a present, and a future action. The sword of the soldier drawn and lifted up over the neck of the beautiful St. Catharine, denotes a future act or event; that of her head being severed from her body; the hardened executioner forcing his sword into the scabbard, after having performed his office, as clearly shews what has gone before. Two things should concur to render a story eminently eligible for painting. First, the incident or act to be represented should be of an unequivocal nature; such as, when represented, can leave no doubt on the mind of the observer as to its meaning ; and secondly, either the cause of the act, or its probable consequence, or result, should be such as is capable of being expressed by objects in the picture; but when both the cause or the end proposed in the act represented, and the consequence of that act, can be made evident to us in a picture, such a picture is a narration, becomes truly a dumb poesy, and creates a most lively interest in our minds, possessing, as it does, those properties which, as Aristotle observes, are necessary to the perfection of a drama: a beginning, a middle, and an end. When we behold a representation of the Corinthian maid tracing the shadow of her favoured youth on the wall, love, the cause of the action, is rendered apparent by the endearments attending it; the consequence, which we are told was the invention of painting, is not evident to one uninformed of the tradition. Not so in Mr. Fuseli's pathetic composition of Paolo and Francesca, from Dante. Here we are at a loss as to no one of these particulars, the picture in every respect explaining itself with as much force, and as unequivocally, as the poem. Love urges the stolen kiss and guilty, dalliance, and the consequence is as evidently the destruction of the lovers by the avenging and uplifted hand of the insulted husband. N
Invention, in painting, consists prin
cipally in three things : first, the choice
of a subject properly within the scope of the art; secondly, the seizure of the most striking and energetic moment of time for representation ; and lastly, the discovery and selection of such objects, and such probable incidental circumstances, as, combined together, may best tend to develope the story, or augment the interest of the piece. The cartoons of Rafaele, at Hampton Court, furnish us with an example of genius and sagacity in this part of the art, too much to our present purpose to be omitted. We
shall describe it in the words of Mr. Webbe. “When the inhabitants of Lystra are about to offer sacrifice to Paul and Barnabas, it was necessary to let us into the cause of all the motion and hurry before us; accordingly, the cripple, whom they had miraculously healed, appears in the crowd; observe the means which the painter has used to distinguish this object, and of course to open the subject of his piece. His crutches, now useless, are thrown to the ground; his attitude is that of one accustomed to such a support, and still doubtful of his limbs; the eagerness, the impetuosity, with which he solicits his benefactors to accept the honours destined for them, point out his gratitude, and the occasion of it: during the time that he is thus busied, an elderly citizen, of some consequence, by his appearance, draws near, and lifting up the corner of his vest, surveys with astonishment the limb newly restored; whilst a man of middle age, and a youth, looking over the shoulder of the cripple, are intent on the same object. The wit of man could not devise means more certain of the end proposed; such a chain of circumstances is equal to a narration ; and I cannot but think, that the whole would have been an example of invention and conduct, even in the happiest age of antiquity.” The works of the first restorers of painting may be likewise studied with great profit, so far as relates to invention, composition, and expression. In the executive parts of the art they seldom approach even me. diocrity: , less able therefore to gratify the eye, the artist applied himself exclusively to interest the mind of the spectator. Amongst the frescoes of Giotto, in the church of St. Francis, at Assisi, is one, which, from the ingenuity of its invention, seems particularly to claim a place here. The subject is that of a wounded man, who, given over by his physician, is mira
culously healed in a vision by St. Francis. The chief group of the picture represents the sick man, who, extended on his bed, is looking up with a stedfast countenance at the saint, who is laying his hand upon the wound. Two angels accompany St. Francis, one of whom holds a box of ointment. In another part of the picture the physician is represented about to go out of the room door, followed by a woman, evidently a sister or near relative of the wounded man, who, with a taper in her hand, has been collducting him to the bed-side. She is earnestly attentive to what the physician is saying to the father, who has been waiting for them at the outside of the door, and who shews by his gestures, which the tears of the young woman corroborate, that no hopes are given of his son's recovery. In the two pictures last mentioned, the different figures admitted were essential to the perfect explanation of the story. Sometimes, however, a group, or figure, which, although not necessary, shall ne: vertheless appear naturally, as it were, to grow out of the subject, may be introduc. ed with great augmentation of the expres: sion and effect of the piece. Such was the pathetic episode of Aristides, so repeatedly imitated in modern times by Poussin, and other painters. A town taken by storm was the subject of this picture, in one part of which an infant was introduced creeping to the breast of its mother, who, though expiring from her wounds, yet expressed the stronges: apprehension and fear, lest, the course of her milk being stopped, the child should suck her blood. The judicious disposal of the material, furnished by the imagination, or inves: tion, in such a manner as best to contro bute to the beauty, the expression, and the effect of the picture, constitutes who is termed composition in painting. An here we must observe, that the different parts of the art, before mentioned, are * intimately connected with, and so dePoo. dent on each other, that the separate discussion of them must ever be attendo' with great difficulty, and necessarily. casion a frequent recurrence to sis” arguments and principles. Compos"." is more especially inseparable from the rest, as not only the necessary expres' sion of the subject and the forms and . tribution of the groups, but likewis. the consequent lights and shades results; from such forms and distribution, * contrast and variety of the charao”
is s n *
sieven the principal masses of colour, all in a certain degree, come under the consideration of the artist, even when making his first sketch. It were in vain to prescribe any other §eneral rule for the distribution of the figures in a picture, except such as is dictied by the peculiar circumstances and §aracter of the story to be represented. Much has been ...? of the pyramidical Śroup, the serpentine line, the artificial 90ntrast, and, upon doctrines like these, Lanfranco, Cortona, Giordano, Maratti, *nd many others, their predecessors, as Well as followers, formed a style better olated to amuse the eye than to satis. § the judgment: an inordinate but ill rected thirst of variety is the basis of *artificial system; contrast is succeed. :*y contrast, opposition by opposition; "As this principle pervades all their Yorks, the result is no variety at all, and *it conduct may be compared to that of the voluptuary, who, grasping at every oment which presents itself, acquires *Winstead of pleasure. Each subject, "Weyer different its character, is com. *in a manner so similar to the other, that the spectator may view a gallery of * Pictures, seldom discovering the *jects they are intended to represent, * Without being afterwards enabled to *** mind one orominent feature distin. $"ishing the one from the other. * Rosaele can be said to have regulated his $ompositions by any particular rule .**im, it was that of making each as * the other as possible, consistent . Propriety of expression. Thus, in .*rtoon of Christ giving the keys to . the Apostles, all crowding toge. * to be witnesses of the action, oc*}...the principal part of the picture, i. form a group in profile, the Saviour, i ough in the corner of the picture, be: "#"overtheless rendered evidently the o figure, by the insulated situation Syen to him, as well as by the acWa o the Apostles, who all press for...waslohim, as to the centre of atedb * This cartoon is finely contrast. s the magnificent composition repre"g the death of Ananias, where the * form a group in the centre, and ii. |. in front. That of Peter and o ong the cripple at the beautiful o: *he temple is again strikingly dif: .." from either of its companions, Raf. ong there, with a boldness, of ** any but a sublime genius would *been incapable, intersécted his com.
position by the columns of the portico. But though divided, it is true, into separate and almost equal parts, neither the unity of action, nor the expression of the picture, is impaired, whilst the effect produced is at once novel and beautiful. In the process of painting, design may properly be said to follow next after comosition; for although this part of the art is, in a certain degree, requisite, even in making the first rough sketch, it is not until afterwards that the artist exerts his utmost powers to give that exact proportion, that beauty of contour, and that grace and dignity of action and deportment to his figures, which constitute the perfection of design: that which was first only hinted at is now to be defined: a few rude and careless lines were sufficient in the sketch to indicate the general attitude and expression of the figure; now the utmost precision is required, not only in the outline of the naked parts, but even in the delineation of the most complicated windings of a lock of hair, or the intricate folds of a drapery. A very high degree of excellence in design, is perhaps justly considered the greatest difficulty of painting. Many of the works of Raf. faele, and his school, leave nothing to be desired on the score of composition and expression. Colouring was carried to its highest pitch by Giorgione and Titian ; chiaro-scuro by Coreggio, Rubens, Rembrant, and others of the Dutch school; but any thing approaching to perfection of design, if we except some of the figures of the great Michael Angelo, is rarely to be witnessed in the productions of modern art. The noble works of Grecian sculpture still remaining, sufficiently declare the decided superiority of the ancients in this particular; a superiority indeed which the most enlightened judges have never ventured to dispute. The light clothing of the Grecian youth, which only half concealed the forms it covered, whilst it allowed full scope to the action and growth of the limbs; their ceremonies, their athletic games and dances, frequently performed naked ; the great respect in which the arts of design were held amongst them, insomuch that the most beautiful of both sexes aspired to become the models of the painter or the sculptor; all these advantages, independently perhaps of some others which might be named, the artists of antiquity exclusively enjoyed, and we cannot there fore be surprised that their minds were better stored with the ideas of fine form, and that they were better enabled to discriminate between the different degrees of beauty, and the varieties of character in the human frame, than is the lot of modern artists, unaided as they are by such opportunities of study. The most perfect knowledge of form, however, only constitutes a part of that branch of painting which we term design : the art of fore-shortening, by which a limb, or a figure, although only occupying a diminished space on the canvass, is rendered, in appearance, of its full length and magnitude, is an equally indispensable object of the artist’s attainment. The sculptor, when he has chiselled or modelled the form of his figure or group, with its just proportions, has completed his work, which is rather the simple transcript than the imitation of the image previously formed in his mind; his art is undisguised and without illusion; it presents as well to our touch as to our sight, the bodies and shapes of things, without the colour. The distinguishing prerogative of painting, on the other hand, and that from which arises its decided advantage over every other artificial mode of representation, is its power to give upon a limited plane the appearance of boundless space. An insight to the science of perspective, and the doctrines of lights and shadows, is indispensable, ere'the student can hope to acquire the art of fore-shortening his figures with correctness; an art in which the great Michael Angelo has evinced such consummate skill in his frescoes in the Sestine Chapel at Rome, that they can never be sufficiently contemplated. The works of Coreggio, and in particular his two cupolas at Parma, may likewise be studied with advantage, and sufficiently prove, that even the boldest fore-shortenings may on many occasions be resorted to, without detriment to the beauty, the grace, or expression of the figures. In the execution of these, and most of his chief works, however, he was greatly assisted by his friend Antonio Begarelli, a celebrated Modenese sculptor, who modelled for him in clay all the figures, so that Coreggio, by placing and grouping them together as they were to be represented, was enabled to delineate, with the greatest correctness, every foreshortening, and at the same time to acuire a truth, and boldness of light and shade unattainable by other means. And here it may be well to observe, that the trouble of preparing such models in the first instance, is amply repaid by the great facility, or rather certainty, which
it gives the artist in the execution of his work. Moreover, the painter, having his modelled figures before him, and being enabled, by varying the situation of his eye, to view them in every direction, will frequently discover beautiful combinations which he never dreamed of, at the same time that he is rendered less liable to the error of too often repeating the
same view of a figure, or the same action,
and is taught to avoid a common-place
mode of composition.
We have styled expression one of the component parts of painting, although, as it is wholly the result of the powers which the artist possesses of embodying his feelings by means of lines, lights and shades, and colours, it cannot truly be said to have a separate existence. But be this as it may, a thorough knowledge of the passions, and the power of representing justly their various effects on the actions and countenances of men, requires the most consummate skill of the painter. The more violent emotions of the soul, having naturally an instantaneous effect on the action, as well as on the countenance of the person affected, can be, with the greater facility, effectually and unequivocally expressed in painting. To delineate the nicer discriminations of gentle affections, of thought, sentiment, and character, is a far more arduous task, and indeed not always crowned with success, even in the attempts of the greatest masters; this alone would be sufficient to convince us that subjects admitting of action, and strong decided expression, are more especially within the province of our art. The proper expression of the subject is, as we have before stated, the end proposed by the artist, even in the invention and composition of his piece. In the style of design, in the chiaroscuro and colouring of the picture, the same object should be stedfastly kept in view.
Clair obscure, or chiaro-scuro, is the art of distributing the lights and darks in a picture, in such a manner as to give at once proper relief to the figures, the best effect to the whole composition, and the greatest delight to the eye. We have said the lights and dark in a picture, because the word chairo-scuro, properly speaking, denotes not only light and shade, but light and dark, of what kind soever, and in this sense it is nearly al. lied to colouring, if not indeed inseparable from it. A thorough conception and knowledge of the chiaro-scuro is of the
greatest importance to a painter, as it is very chiefly by the proper application of this branch of the art, that he is enabled to make the various objects in his picture appear to project or recede, according to their relative situations or distances; and thus far, indeed, the principles of it are necessary to the artist, ere he can hope to render his imitation just or intelligible. But it is required in works of fine art, not only that truth should be told, or that beauty should be represented, but likewise that the one and the other should be made appear to every possible advantage ; , it has, therefore, ever been the study of great painters, not only to give the due appearance of roundness or projection to the objects in their pictures, by proper lights and shadows; but likewise to unite or contrast the masses of light and dark in such a manner, as to give at once the most forcible impression to the imagination, and the most pleasing effect to the eye. I.eonardo da Vinci was the first artist of modern times who treated the subject of chiaro-scuro scientifically; but although he gave great force and softness to his pictures, yet the system which he recommended, and generally adopted, of relieving the dark side of his figures by a light back ground, and the light parts by a dark one, prevented that expansion and breadth of effect, which Coreggio soon after discovered could only be attained by a contrary mode of conduct, that of relieving one shadow by another still darker, and of uniting several light objects into one great mass. The figures, as well as the other objects in the pictures of Coreggio, are at all times so disposed, as naturally to receive the light exactly in those parts, where it is most wanted, and best suits the effect of the whole ; and yet this is done so skilfully, that neither propriety nor ce of action seems in any respect to e sacrificed in the astonishing combination. The principal painters of the Venetian school, Giorgione, Titian, Bassan, Tintorit, and Paulo Veronese, were masters of effect; but with them this effect is more frequently the result of accordance, or opposition of the local colours of the different objects composing their pictures, than of any very studied or skilful disposition of the masses of light and shadow. Rubens, the great genius of the Flemish school, united the wide expansive effect of Coreggio, the richly con
trasted tints of the Venetians, and the force of Caravaggio, and has only left us to regret that his magnificent and bold inventions were not designed with the purity of Raffaele, or the correctness of Buonaroti. From the scanty introduction of light in the works of Rembrant, we might be led to suppose that this surprising artist considered the illumined arts of his pictures as gems, acquiring increased lustre from their rarity; whilst the striking effects he has thereby produced happily teach us, how vain the attempt to limit or restrain by rules the workings of genius in the human mind. From an attentive study of the works of these great masters, the student will derive the true principles of chiaro-scuro, and be the better qualified to seize and avail himself of those transient, but beautiful effects, which nature, the great master of all, every day presents to his eyes. It remains for us to say a few words on colouring. Colouring is the art of giving to every object in a picture its true and proper hue, as it appears under all the various circumstances or combinations of light, middletint, and shadow; and of so blending and contrasting the colours, as to make each appear with the greatest advantage and beauty, at the same time that it contributes to the richness, the brilliancy, and the harmony of the , whole. “Should the most able master in design,” says Mr. Webbe, “attempt, by that alone, a rose, or grape, we should have but a faint and imperfect image; let him add to each its proper colours, we no longer doubt, we smell the rose, we touch the grape.” Colouring, like chiaro-scuro, (and the same observation applies to the other parts of the art) may be divided into two kinds; that which is necessary for rendering the imitation just and intelligible, and that which is expedient or ornamental, as contributing to render the work more impressive to the imagination, and more harmonious and delightful to the eye. In the first kind truth in the local tints is alone required; the second demands choice in their selection and distribution. The Bellini’s, of Venice, towards the close of the fifteenth century, first began to discover the beautiful effects resulting from a skilful combination, or opposition, of colours, at the same time that they attained a richness and truth in their local tints, far exceeding any thing hitherto practised. In both these qualities, how