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My Dear Critics: I address you as critics, such being the title under which is recognized that numerous tribe who write ‘paragraphs' and articles' for reviews and newspapers, wherein pictures are praised and condemned; artists judged, lauded, and abused. But though I call you critics, I do not consider all of you entitled to that bonorable distinction : my present object is, to point out, so far as I am able, the qualifications of the true, the respectable critic, and to mark the empiric. I am induced to take this task upon myself, not because I feel fully competent to criticize the criticizers - exalting myself as an arch-critic — but because a word of truth scattered here and there, may bring forth good fruit, even on stony ground. I am the more prompted to this, for the reason that the public ear has been much abused by many you.
Too often have you passed through our exhibition-rooms, ignorant and incapable, with interest and caprice for your only guides; condemning the beautiful, praising the low, and even stooping to the vulgarity of abusing the artist himself.
The critic occupies the same station in the field of taste, which the preacher does in that of religion. His business is to teach the truth, to denounce falsehood, to enkindle lofty sentiment, and glorious aspirations; to apply the standard of the immutable laws of nature to the productions of art. To occupy this exalted and honorable station, requires qualifications which inany of you do not possess; because there are few who, by the cultivation of their natural taste and capacity, have become worthy the office. He who would aim at being a veritable critic, must with true love study the works of nature, which are the Bible unto him; become well acquainted with works of art; not merely glancing at the surface of things, and judging them by hackneyed rules and conventional notions, but acquiring a knowledge of the principles and philosophy of art; the why and wherefore of accepted rules; and learn to free limself, as much as possible, from encumbering technicalities; in fine, to see in art the mirror of nature, and to clear from bis vision those films which ignorance and prejudice, and the imperfections of our individual nature, are continually casting before it. He will perceive that art is as various in its scope and object, as the desires and tastes of men are diverse; and he will not condemn this or that kind of picture, despising the landscape to prefer the historical painting; or look with contempt on the work of still-life, because there is nothing Raphaelesque in it. He will consider that art is universal; that all things are good of their kind. He will not fail, however, to acknowledge that some departments of art are more lofty than others : the epic, for instance, (where, as in the Last Judgment of Michael Angelo, is the embodiment of one sublime idea, in which all individuality is lost in the great whole,) may not be compared with the mere portrait of the huinan face; nor the dramatic, as the pictures of Raphael, wherein we
find thought, passion, intellect, expressed with almost supernatural power, classed with the picture of still-life.
Many pictures have little merit beside that of gratifying the eye by mere dexterous imitation; but a good thought, a beautiful sentiment, even though feebly expressed, is of far more worth than the most skilful display of execution without meaning; and the works which possess the highest value, are those in which human genius manifests its greatest powers: those creations of masterminds which, while they please by being true imitations of the beautiful of external nature, are the vehicles of noble sentiment, and poetical thought. It is of importance for the critic to feel that beauty does not dwell in one or two departments of the pictorial art alone, but may be found in all ; and it shows a contracted mind, and limited study, to say, as is frequently said: 'I dislike this kind of art or that; I care not for landscape; I detest portraiture. Each class of art, if executed with talent, has its charm, and strikes some chord of that many-stringed instrument, the human heart. There are those among you, who, in place of discriminating expression in your critical praises, abound in hackneyed terms, such as · bijou,' 'gem,' 'diamond of the first water,' etc. These terms express nothing; they are at best jewels of paste, of little worth; and the more profusely they are scattered, the more valueless they become. They are stolen, withal, from those caskets of unmeaning phrases called ' Annuals,' and betoken, in him that uses them, extreme poverty of thought and language.
I have also observed, with pain, that you frequently compare one living artist with another, to the disparagement of the one who is not your favorite. This, though easy for you, is often very injurious; and if you expect that any painter will be gratified by being lauded at the expense of his brother artist, I hope you are disappointed; for he must have a gross taste for praise, who is delighted by the incense which ascends from the altar on which his professional brother is sacrificed.
There is another practice with you, whose effects are exceedingly injurious to the artist and to the public. I mean that of giving undue praise to the young artist. No sooner does a young man come forward with a work of some promise, than he is immediately the subject of excessive praise ; he is an astonishing genius - a wonder. The older artists are thrown quite in the back-ground, to make way for this born-painter. This is injudicious, as well as unjust. It is injudicious, because no man is great before he is tried, and your praise too often unsettles the brain of the young artist; and instead of striving after perfection, with devoted study, he becomes satisfied with himself and his works. He has received his reward too soon, and sits down by the way-side, in the belief that he has reached the goal. It is unjust to older artists, for many of them are still toiling in pursuit of excellence, and they deserve better from you than to be set aside for every new-comer. This hot-bed system of yours, my dear critics, is little creditable to your judgment. You ought to know that life has been pronounced too short for art; that no man ever arrived at true excellence, without great natural capacity, and long and patient study. One would
imagine that the productions of the tyro in art rise to the level of your critical capacity; that you continue your admiration only until his genius takes a flight beyond the reach of your dull vision. But far be it from me to desire that you should discourage the young aspirant. Give him judicious praise; encourage him, and point onward ; but teach him to feel that excellence is not easy of attainment.
Many of you indulge too much in panegyric, and get into raptures and extacies. I have of late seen essays of blind admiration, at which, even when the subject is worthy of the highest praise, true taste revolts ; essays wherein the writer, smitten with a vain love of his own imaginings, sees far more in the picture than the artist ever dreamed of, and even seizes the defects of the work, and sets them up as idols to worship. Such blind devotion is unworthy the name of criticisın; and however pleasing it may be to the author, he may rest assured that the public are little benefitted by it, and the painter despises you in his heart.
There are those among you, too, who have the easy faculty of condemning the work of a poor artist, and at one stroke of the pen
devoting it to oblivion; forgetting, in your fancied omnipotence, that all things are comparative; that though the work be imperfect, the artist
may have toiled many days upon it, and that it is the rallyingpoint of many hopes to him. Few things are so bad, but there is some hope. in charity leave that hope; suggest, expose, reprove ; but condemn not with utter condemnation. And bear in mind that panegyric and condemnation are not synonymous with criticism.
You often talk very freely about 'chiaro-'scuro,''color,' etc.; as though pictures were diagrams, executed merely to exemplify this or that principle or mode of arrangement. Chiaro-'scuro, color, etc., are the means and not the end, which is expression; and as nature produces emotion by various modes of arrangement, pictorial means must follow her. The chiaro-'scuro and color of the tempest differ from those of the calm. The violent lights and shadows of Salvator, and the gentle gradations of Claude, are equally true, though expressive of different aspects and moods of nature. Do not fall in love with what are called striking effects, to the disparagement of the calm and the gentle. Love them all; they are all beautiful, when they are appropriate, and expressive of the scene or subject. Do not confound fine coloring with fine colors. The first is difficult to accomplish; the latter may be bad at the color-shop by any body.
I am afraid that old pictures, such as sell in New-York for old masters,' have an evil influence over some of you. These same old pictures' are in general the refuse of ages, which have been found in holes and corners of Rome and Florence, where they have been lying in merited obscurity. Bad painters have existed in all ages, and these pictures are the products of such, in past times. Adore them for their antiquity, if you please ; get into raptures with the dust that obscures their deformity, and call it ‘tone ;' but I beg of you not to criticize modern pictures with the same eyes with which you view these things; and keep ever in mind that the works of the old masters were fresh and clean when first painted; some of them are
even said to have been raw; and above all, that the works of nature are not besmeared with molasses and asphaltum.
I might enlarge on these subjects, and enter more particularly into the principles of criticism ; but I am unwilling to put your patience to too severe a test. A few more thoughts, and I will conclude. And here let me say, the art of painting is not merely a thing for amusement : it may amuse, as your criticisms may; but it has higher aims, as your critiques may also have. It is, in its higher departments, the imitation of the creative power. It forms, on the princiciples of eternal nature, a world of its own. Its influence on man, morally and intellectually, has been and is far more extensive than many of you have ever dreamed of. In ages past, it has made moral and religious impressions on the mind and character of nations, that are not yet effaced. It is an engine capable of great good, or great evil. It speaks a language intelligible to all nations, and to all ages. In the Historical productions of the art, the mind is impressed with all the power of reality; in the Imaginative, it is transported above the common sphere of humanity; in the Familiar, it illustrates a moral, or inculcates the affections ; in Still-life it may amuse the eye, and hold, for many seasons, the beauty which in nature perishes in an hour. It is capable of imparting knowledge, and awakening the soul to the refining influences of beauty and sublimity.
Such being the exalted character of the Art of Painting, we ought to approach it with reverence, and criticize it with that knowledge which is the result of patient study, and with a conscientious desire for the advancement of true taste. I remain, yours truly,
THE HAUNTED MERCHANT.
BY HARRY FRANCO
WILL BRING THE FIRST BOOK OF THIS HISTORY AND THE EXPEDITION TO WILLOW-MEAD TO A CLOSE.
It is impossible for those who have never experienced it, to have a just conception of the love of a father for his child. The love that seeks onlythe good of its object, must be felt to be understood. This is the love of a parent; all other love is selfish. Although Mr. Tremlett was not, as the reader knows, the natural father of our hero, yet so strong was his attachment to the lad, that perhaps he felt the loss of his society more acutely than if he had been; for he was not willing to forego the pleasure of his society, for the sake of the boy's eventual good. When, therefore, he returned to his house alone, after having parted with him, be reproached himself with having acted too hastily in sending the youngster away to a distant school. He missed him at his supper; and in the morning when he came down to his breakfast, he experienced a sensation of loneliness, that he had never known before, when he glanced at the vacant seat at table which the boy had occupied so long. Mrs. Swazey guessed at the thoughts that were running in the old gentleman's mind; and she ventured to wonder how far master John had got on his journey, and whether there was any danger of his not getting a good breakfast ; little dreaming, good woman, the real danger he was in, just at that moment, of not getting any. But Mr. Tremlett did not care that his house-keeper should know how much he really missed his adopted son, and he replied, coldly, that the boy would do very well where he was,
The day passed wearily, and at night the old gentleman found himself in the boy's little chamber, gazing at the vacant bed, without scarcely knowing how he got there. I am afraid I am getting old and childish,' he said to himself, as a tear trickled down his cheek: “after living all my life for myself alone, I now find I am unhappy, because I am separated from a child who has no possible claims upon my sympathy. I must get the better of this weakness. I will dismiss the boy from my thoughts, and attend to my business as usual. If he were a nephew, or even the son of an old friend, there would be some reason in it, but a nameless young rogue as he is I am glad that I have sent him to the country. I shall soon forget him, and that I may hear as little about him as possible, I shall pay a year's schooling in advance.'
Having made these brave resolutions, Mr. Tremlett wiped his eyes, coughed two or three times, to clear his throat of a choking sensation; and to harden his heart against all tender emotions, walked off to a ward-meeting, where his presence created a great sensation, it being the first time he had been seen in such a place for a good many years. He was forthwith voted by acclamation to preside over the meeting; and having taken his seat in a crazy arm-chair, placed on a platform of loose boards, he was greeted by such a stamping of
it is folly.