Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

presentation of the Commons, and exciting the claims of Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Sheffield, and Glasgow. The consistent and judicious parliamentary exertions of Mr. Tennyson, aided by Lord John Russell, have eminently contributed to this great and paramount political end, and the country at large is correspondingly indebted for services most laborious and disinterested.

The state of parties, immediately caused by the Catholic and East Retford Questions, is singular and anomalous. A mariner in the billows of the Bay of Biscay, is not more perplexed to divine to-morrow's will of the wind and waves, than is the English politician to foresee the current of politics and personal power. The charm of Toryism, broken by the sudden dissolution of the Eldon administration, never can return. The scales of the patient's eyes have been removed; the people, we may say, the King, Lords, and Commons, are emancipated from the thraldom of the Ultra Tory witchcraft. The Commonwealth has other friends than those who so long and successfully arrogated and secured for themselves the good things of “ Church and State.” Watch words have lost their effect on the public mind. The country now seeks to be governed not by the Walpole, Pelham, Pitt, or Liverpool families, but by principles. This radical change in the opinions of the nation is daily becoming more confirmed, and, consequently, more active in its operation ; its remote and approaching effects cannot be prognosticated. The schoolmaster is abroad, and wheresoever he walketh the light will break in. Resistance is vain ; education is the steam power of the political element, and its application has no assignable limit.

The politics of Great Britain are at this moment remarkably dependent on natural casualities, on the life and death of individuals. What confusion might not the death of the king involve among parties ? and what that of the Duke of Wellington ? What would be the effect and influence of a Regency, an event not unlikely, perhaps not far off? And what coalition will take place immediately on the prorogation of Parliament ? There are three great parties in the Legislature-the Ministers, the Opposition, the Ultra Anti-Catholics, or ministerial malcontents. The personal talents and votes of the administration are not the most powerful. In men of business the present administration is singularly deficient: Mr. Huskisson and his adherents have a jealous eye to this vacuity. The “Opposition,” in all its discordant and various divisions, is more formidable in numerical, aristocratical, and intellectual weight than at any previous period : it has, however, no head, or common principle of action ; and, perhaps, its political tenets are now slightly distinguishable from the principles of the Duke of Wellington's cabinet. In the majority of ministerial questions the Opposition, for consistency's sake, necessarily supports the government; this gives strength to the present cabinet. Still their numerical force when against administration, added to the sulky neutrality of the Ultra Tory malcontents, must ever endanger and weaken the ministry. A coalition, or a re-union, therefore, must immediately take place. We hoped that the removal of Catholic disabilities would have allied to the government many friends of liberal principles and party; but we know that intrigues have been going on, and are still in active operation, to restore the penitent Ultras to their patrimonial claims. Whether in or out, all must see in the past, the present, and the future, the truth of Hume's remark, in his essay on the coalition of parties" All human institutions, and none more than government, are in continual fluctuation.”

THE EXHIBITION OF THE ROYAL ACADEMY. An injudicious pedagogue is he who metes the encouragement he gives to his pupils by the strict measure of the merit of their performances. Would he have them improve, he must watch the disposition to do better: he must even seek for excuses to allow a muscle or two of his magisterial visage to relax from its awe-inspiring rigidity; occasionally must he even affect a satisfaction which he cannot feel; he must applaud where he is more than half disposed to chastise, and bestow rewards which he deems, at best, but barely merited. Even with such indulgence will we regard the labours of the Royal Academy: we will follow the multitude in crying well done to our artists; we will commend the Exhibition as a good one, because it excels that of last season: nor will we examine how far the fulfilment of our anxious and longing desire to behold the establishment of a school worthy of the intellect and eminence of the country, is still distant. If we cannot indulge in hopes, at least will we suppress our fears, while we examine the contents of this display of national talent, not by what we wish that it bad been, nor by what it might and ought to be, but by what similar exhibitions have been before it. With such a comparison in view, we fear not to commit an error—we can be guilty of no partiality, in pronouncing the Exhibition a good one. In the first place, our best Academicians in each of the three classes of art have contributed to the collection, works at least worthy of their previous reputation, and of companionship with their former productions. Wilkie re-appears on the scene laden with rich fruits, exotic, perhaps, but not the less luxuriant and savory on that account. Etty soars boldly, but on far surer wings than the Nephew of Dædalus—Turner is romantic, but he romances with taste and in the poet's spirit-Callcott is natural, but his nature is pure, refined, and beautiful--Constable is vigorous-Collins is brilliant-Daniell invests his Indian scenery with more than accustomed brightnessHilton interests, to say the least of his effort, in handling the pencil of Raphael-Howard displays his grace-Lawrence his ton and elegance-Pickersgill his spirit-Jackson his judgment. If Beechey, Phillips, and Shee, be tame, they are not more so than usual. Does Reinagle stand conspicuous in vulgar gentility-when was he otherwise? Or was Westall ever free from mawkish affectation ? Soane is as splendid as ever, but not more absurd (could he be so ?) than heretofore.. Sir Jeffrey Wyatville in more than one display shows himself worthy of his architectural knighthood. If Chantrey never before exhibited a work so unworthy of himself as his bas-reliefs in the present exhibition ; yet can it not be denied that his heads of Sir Edward East and Lord Stafford 'may compete with the best of his busts. Westmacott's Brahmin and Mussulman Moulah unite the qualities of correctness and feeling in a degree not often observable in the model academy.

The Royal Academicians then, let us be indulgent and own it, have done their duty; and truly those who have half honours only to boast, and those who have not even a single honorary Capital to decorate their self-created name have not been wanting in theirs. Gibson, for instance, has a delicious figure which seems an antique placed by mistake on its arrival from Rome among the modern works in the model academy, instead of being sent to add to the sculptured treasures of the collection in Great Russell Street. Briggs and Landseer, and Chalon and Clint, and Eastlake and Newton, all Associates, have done themselves credit, while even other uninitiated youths as well as Gibson, tyros not admitted even to the firsť mysteries, Williams and Lee, and Simpson and Wright and Knight—but hold, enough of generalising—we must descend to details. Should, however, want of space or other accident prevent our signalizing the pictures of all the artists we have named (or of others whom we would mention, but for the apprehension of making a catalogue of our notes), let it be concluded at least, from the hints we have given, that there are works of theirs for which we should have something favourable to say, did the opportunity present itself.

Out upon those who estimate a thing not by what it is, but by what it is called, and by whence it came! Out upon those equally who admire nothing that is foreign-who tolerate only what is good old English! Out upon those we say, who complain that Wilkie has changed his style.' We maintain that Wilkie is Wilkie still—although he has not painted Italians and Spaniards with Saxon complexions, nor thrown the characters and manners of northern nations into his southern groups; but he has caught the spirit of the people among whom he has wandered, he has exchanged the domesticity and homely good humour of British yeomanry for the wilder and loftier bearing of the Spanish guerilla and the Italian devotee. The sun that in southern regions excites the blood to a more constant simmering, and elevates the spirit, has communicated its warmth to his pencil and his colours. And his paintings, consequently, merely as such, present to the eye more agreeable richness than heretofore; they are the works of a man who in his diet, as well as in the objects of his observation, has exchanged the milk and fruits, all delicate, and rosy, and nourishing, of Britain, for the wine and grape, sparkling, purple, and elevating, of Spain and Italy.

The Defence of Saragossa," No.128, is the most important of Wilkie's pictures both in subject and size. The composition is beautiful and learned; it tells the story admirably; breathes an earnestness which carries along with it the spirit of the observer. What serious energy in the figure and action of the heroine Augustina! What fanatic eagerness in Father Consolacion, directing with his crucifix the pointing of the cannon! How pleasingly contrasted is the activity of another kind, and the coolness of Palafox! How delightful in their repose is the group in the other corner of the picture, awaiting the conclusion of the dea spatch! Our artist, however, has made some sacrifices of truth to effect, in representing his gunner half-naked : whatever may be the custom on

[ocr errors]

board British men-of-war, to labour san chemise would be quite inconsistent with Spanish ideas, and would be considered degrading and indecorous. Wilkie's other works are equally clever. His Spanish Scenes,' the Posada,' 56; and the 'Guerilla's Departure, 403 ; are even more truly Spanish than the · Defence of Saragossa.' In the former, the student and the Posadera, except that the latter has no occasion for the mantilla, while at home engaged in the duties of her hostelerie, are highly characteristie. The Guerilla borrowing a light for his segar from the monk, is equally illustrative of Spanish manners. For sentiment, composition, and painting together, however, perhaps, the Cardinals, Priests, and Roman Citizens washing the Pilgrims'. feet,' No, 110, must be pronounced the capo d' opera of Mr. Wilkie's productions.

Bravo, bravissimo, Mr. Etty! Who but will admire the spirit of this artist, even should they be insensible to the merit of the painting. Henceforth let us hear no wailings from our limners, that for want of encouragement they cannot paint history. If men love Art, they will devote themselves to her, and not to the vanities of life ; and if they have it within them to be artists—but “ there's the rub”-they will do as Mr. Etty does, and be independent of patrons and self-loving sitters for portraits. But for the Benaiah,' No. 16. It is a magnificent attempt: and more, it is a truly grand picture. What power, and vigour, and eagerness, in the principal figure ! What effect and expression in the athletic form beaten down! How calm in death lies the robust figure of the foe already slain, and how masterly the colouring ! how clear! What a glorious distance and sky, and with what effect they throw out the figures! We might find a cavil for the disproportion of—but we abstain—the few defects are as nothing compared with the merits of this picture, and the hardihood of the attempt deserves every encouragement. But for the cruelty of amputating the legs of his · Leander' “just below the knee,' we would give unqualified praise to Mr. Etty's other work, Hero and Leander, No. 31. It is a most masterly painting.

Another R. A. next claims attention-Mr. Callcott. "The Fountain -Morning,' No. 10. What a delightful composition! How pure, how simple, how true, yet how classical, and how highly beautiful! It calls to mind Poussin and Claude together, yet not to the shame of their emulator. The Dutch Ferry,' No. 66, is a painting of an opposite description, but scarcely inferior in merit to its companion. A Flemish landscape with all its deadness and flatness, without an attempt to exalt or to caricature, is rendered interesting! Certainly to the art of the painter must our satisfaction be ascribed, -be his then the glory!

*Landscape,' 9.-J. Constable. What a contrast to Callcott! and yet, but for that accursed bespotting with blanc d'argent, or white-wash splashing, as Mr. Turner will have it, how excellent! Mr. Constable persists in his manner-yet as he goes on, somehow or other, he contrives to improve-his effects are even more vigorous and masterly than ever, and perfectly easy, and, 'excepting as before excepted,' natural. His . Hadleigh Castle,' in the School of Painting, No. 320, is one of the most delightful paintings in the exhibition, when seen at a due distance. It represents the mouth of the Thames—morning after

[ocr errors]

a stormy night-ruined towers in the fore-ground-with a general effect, full of power, and truth, and freshness.

Mr. Constable's works present no stronger contrast with Mr. Cal-: cott's, than they do with Mr. Turner's productions. The first is all: truth, the last all poetry: the one is silver, the other gold-there is this further difference, however-Mr. Constable's silvery effect is a manner ; Mr. Turner's gold is a style. We shall never derive perfect satisfaction from Mr. Constable's works, until his silvery effect be abandoned : were Mr. Turner to lower one shade of his . Ulysses deriding Polyphemus', we should regret the change. The painting is gorgeous -unnatural if you will--but the whole is so poetical—the effects are wrought in such a bold and masterly manner, and with such apparent ease; the whole combination, as regarded with reference to itself alone, is so pleasing, so elevating, that it convinces us, that whatever Mount. Gibel may be now; however its rocks, its coasts, and its seas, may resemble actual, every-day mountains, and shores, and waves, all this was not so formerly. We are persuaded that in olden time, ere nature had invented her steam-engine, and applied mechanical apparatus to her daily purposes; before the dull earth revolved by machinery around the bright body that enlightens it; when Phoebus in his car, used to be whirled up the steep arch of heaven, four-in-hand, by winged steeds; when the winds were confined in sacks; and the towing of the galleys of heroes, was the concern of tritons and nařads ; when the fires of Ætna were the forge of a smithy deity; when the cattle of the god of day fattened on its pastures, and its caverns enpalaced the Cyclopes—the very morning, in short, on which Ulysses avowed himself the king of Ithaca, after so dextrously rewarding by anticipation his savage host, for the hospitality intended him—then, most certain are we, the aspect of Ætna, and of the elements which surround the mighty volcano, must have been, as Mr. Turner has represented them in the picture before us.

Descend we from the heights of Helicon to take a quiet stroll at its base. “Sir Roger de Coverley and the Gipsies,' No. 134, C. R. Leslie-a delightful scene; it is balm to the heart to participate in the good humour, the kindly feeling, which such a picture as this represents and imparts, and which consecrates and gives a charm to the most outrageous of costumes. Mr. Leslie carries us back a century most effectually. His painting, too, is very skilfully managed-the group in the right hand corner of the picture is an exquisite piece of colouring

• Milton's Reconciliation with his Wife,' No. 207, W. Boxall, is a charming specimen of feeling and sentiment, produced with most laudable simplicity,

• The Taje Mahl al Agra,' a mausoleum erected for the Emperor Shah Jehan for his favourite queen Mumtaza Izemani, No. 210, W. Daniell, is well worthy of “ the most exalted of the age.” The architecture is picturesque and magnificent, and Mr. Daniell in his painting has treated it with great brilliancy and effect. The drawing is excellent.

We must not quit this room without a glance at the portraits. Sir Thomas Lawrence as usual does justice to D'Egville and Madame

« ForrigeFortsæt »