Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

emancipate himself, and after great difficulty and some rough treatment from his master, the man concluded to accept seventy pounds, and Gibson began sculpture with the Messrs. Francis. Here he worked, perfectly happy.

"After some months there came a tall magnificent-looking old gentleman to the workshop: his hair was white as snow; aquiline nose, thick brows; and his manner was most benevolent. It was William Roscoe. The object of his visit was to order a chimney-piece for his library at Allerton. My models and numerous drawings, were soon placed before him, and he said many encouraging thin to me. In a few day Mr. Roscoe returned, and settled with my master about the chimney-piece; then turning to me, he said he wished me to make a basso-relievo for the centre, not in marble, but in terra cotta, from a print which he brought with him. He added: ‘This print is of great value: it is by Marc Antonio, from Raphael.' It represented Alexander ordering Homer's Iliad to be placed in the casket taken from Darius. . . . . I executed the work, which gave satisfaction, and it is preserved at this time in the Liverpool Institution."

....

Mr. Roscoe continued to be his patron, and gave him wholesome advice about his studies. Now commences his course of patronage. He meets with Mr. and Mrs. d'Aguilar; with John Kemble, who sits to him for his bust; with Mrs. Siddons; and with Sir John Gladstone, father of the eminent statesman. He begins to have longings to go to Rome, and has a wonderful dream of flying there on the back of an eagle. In 1817 he leaves Liverpool for London, which had once been the goal of his ambition. Now, nothing but Rome will content him. He has letters to Lord Brougham and Mr. Christie, a man of classical learning and pure taste in art, who introduces him to Mr. Watson Taylor, then one of the most liberal patrons of art, who gives him commissions for busts of himself and Mrs. Taylor and Mr. Roscoe. He has also letters to Fuseli, Flaxman, Benjamin West, and others. This same year he goes to Rome, with letters to Canova, who takes him at once into his school, treats him encouragingly, and offers to help him pecuniarily. Gibson in his later days dwells with enthusiasm upon the qualities of his celebrated master :

"I need not say that this interview delighted me, while his gentle manners, his deep

sonorous voice, and his very finely formed features made an impression on me which time has never lessened. Dear, generous master! I see you before me now, I hear your soft Venetian dialect, and your kindly words inspiring my efforts and gently correcting my defects. Yes, my heart still swells with grateful recollection of you."

Thorwaldsen he also knew, and he gives some interesting reminiscences of this celebrated man.

In Canova's studio he studies the pure Greek style, encouraged in it by his master, and entirely bent that way by taste and principle. Here he models a sleeping shepherd, and a Mars and Cupid, for which latter group he receives a commission from the Duke of Devonshire, - his first commission in Rome. In 1822 Canova dies, beloved and regretted by his pupils and friends. In 1821 Gibson models a group of "Psyche and the Zephyrs." Sir George Beaumont (reputed to be one of the best judges of art in England) comes to Rome and is sent by Canova to Gibson's studio, and gives the young sculptor a commission for it. In 1819 he has a commission from Watson Taylor for a statue of Paris; and in 1824, from Sir George Cavendish, for the "Sleeping Shepherd Boy"; and in 1826 he has the patronage of Mr. Vernon and Sir Watkins Williams Wynn; and he is elected honorary member of the Pontifical Academy at Bologna, and subsequently member of the Academy of St. Luke, and of the Royal Academy in London; and in 1827 his "Psyche and the Zephyrs" exhibited at the Royal Academy.

But it is needless to trace step by step Gibson's prosperous career. It seems to have been uninterrupted. In art he believed in the Greeks and no others. He was enthusiastic, industrious, and happy. And he acquired fame and competence, without swerving at all from his principles in art.

Perhaps his most striking and original work was his "Hunter and Dog." This was executed in 1838. We have an impression that when in Rome, many years ago, we : saw the cast in Gibson's studio, where we went to see his famous tinted Venus. And perhaps we may be pardoned for here recording a characteristic sentence we heard from the sculptor's lips on that occasion. Something led to conversation on modern and ancient costume, when Gibson said: "If I had a wife, I would n't allow her to dress in crinoline; no, I should arrange her

dresses myself. The Greeks understood that thing." He loved the graceful contours and undulating lines of the antique. Michael Angelo never met his full sympathy: "He was a wonderful mortal; but celestial beauty and grace he never arrived at." Nor could he endure the realistic school of sculpture : "The human figure concealed under a frockcoat and trousers is not a fit subject for sculpture." And he persisted in representing Mr. Huskisson with a bare arm and shoulder. Determining to be as Greek as he could (for he used to say, "Whatever the Greeks did was right "), he ventured on giving a slight color to some of his statues. The first instance in which he tried it (and it seems rather bold, considering the subject) was in his statue of Queen Victoria. His tinted Venus we remember seeing and being very agreeably impressed with it. If any subject can bear color, we said, it is pre-eminently this. It is needless to say that the tinting was so faint, and the gold ornaments so tastefully touched, and so unobtrusive, that there was a harmony about the whole work which we were surprised at our enjoying so fully.

In character, Gibson was simple, guileless, warm in his friendships, upright and high-minded. Money was a secondary consideration with him. He lived a life of absorption in his art. The Roman revolution thunders past him. He sees a little of it, and gives us some pleasant pages thereupon; but he reverts to his dear studio and his friends. In his journeys, even in England, he makes odd mistakes in taking the wrong railway, and when he supposes he has arrived at Chichester and asks for the Cathedral, he finds he is in Portsmouth, "where there is no cathedral, no, none at all." On another occasion he says:

somewhere."" The man asks if he is a foreigner. Gibson tells him no, he is a sculptor; had been living at Rome all his life, and was only here on a visit. The man seemed struck, and said that his father had been a sculptor too, and had worked for Flaxman. "So then I found him changed in manner, no longer so sharp and laconic."

....

Miss Harriet Hosmer, his pupil, says: "Gibson is a god in his studio, but God help him out of it. . . . . On a tour in Switzerland, where Miss Hosmer formed one of the party, she extended her usual care of the master to his luggage as well. That consisted of three pieces, one of which was a hat-box. But Miss Hosmer soon observed that this box was never opened..... Returned to Rome, she ventured to ask what object had been served by giving the hatbox the tour, and herself the trouble of looking after it. Gibson calmly replied: 'The Greeks had a great respect for the number three, yes, the Greeks, for the number three,' and that was all the explanation she ever obtained."

Mr. Gibson died in Rome at the age of seventy-six. "On the 9th of January, 1866, when apparently in perfect health, he was seized with paralysis. He had shortly before received the tidings of the death of Sir Charles Eastlake, which, it is believed, expedited the fatal blow."

On the 27th of January he died, and was buried in the English cemetery at Rome.

In her life of this eminent sculptor, Lady Eastlake has given a valuable contribution to the biography of artists. She has allowed Mr. Gibson to tell his own story, wherever she could do so. Her own part is done with great ability, and with a modesty in which her ladyship leaves her personality entirely out, her only appearance being the allusion to the death of her husband, and Mr. Gibson's letter to her on the occasion, January, 1866. These were the last words he ever penned.

We cannot pretend here to pass judgment on Mr. Gibson's works; but they may serve to suggest a few thoughts on sculpture in general. There is no doubt a truth in Gibson's saying, that whatever the Greeks did (in sculpture) was right. That is, there is a certain form or style of sculpturesque art, embodying the ideal as well as the realistic, which the Greeks carried to perfection. We have never got beyond Phidias and the Elgin marbles. And those wonderful sculptors of the olden times must be

"The train stopped at a small station, and seeing some people get out, I also descended, when in a moment the train moved on, faster and faster, and left me standing on the platform. 'I wish to heaven,' thought I to myself, 'that I was on my way back to Rome, with a vetturino!' Then I observed a policeman darting his eyes upon me, as if he would look me through. Said I to the fellow, 'Where is that cursed train gone to? It's off with my luggage, and here am I !' The man asked me the name of the place where I took my ticket. 'I don't remember,' said I; 'how should I know the name of any these places, —it is as long as my arm? I have written it down

[ocr errors]

always our teachers. But let us not therefore make them our absolute masters. Sculptors have filled the galleries of art with more tame imitations of the Greek than nature and art can tolerate. They have made Sculpture a mere handmaiden to the Antique. But we do not believe that the Greeks absorbed all the beauty there is in form. Still less can we believe that the ideas and aspirations of the nineteenth century must necessarily be expressed in the forms of two or three thousand years ago. Whatever of grace and beauty and poetry the Greeks teach us let us joyfully accept. But if we stand upon a loftier eminence of ideas, and a large religion of humanity, let our artists endeavor to better their instruction.

The forms of art must be adapted to the time, the race, the climate, the customs, the religion of a people. The pure nude, or the slightly nude, our fashions and climate debar the sculptor from, unless it be in making studies of the Indian and negro. And here our admirable sculptor Mr. Ward has done nobly. But what can be said of Horatio Greenough's Washington? It is a fine piece of classicism merely, — suggesting one of the gods of Olympus, — and not by any means the well-clad and respectable father of his country.

But because the nude is out of place here, must our sculptors rush into the opposite extreme of representing man or woman in the strict fashion of the day, be that fashion what it may? This extreme would be just as contrary to the requirements of art as the other. There must be a middle ground, though sometimes difficult to attain, between excessive classicism and excessive realism. In portrait-statues the sculptor, to be sure, has little choice. He is at the mercy of the fashion of the day; and a cloak or a silk gown is often a godsend to him. Mr. Launt Thompson has made statues of Napoleon I. and of General Sedgwick. Both are in military costumes. Bonaparte is so familiar to the mind's eye, in the ungraceful coat and breeches of seventy years ago, that we almost forget the ugliness of the fashion. In the statue of Sedgwick (at West Point) the hero stands in his plain military frockcoat, which is at least infinitely better than many military costumes we have seen. Both statues are full of character and strength; but our time is fortunate in having a more natural fashion than that of the eighteenth century, and we have no doubt the sculptor fully appreciates the fact.

We have one very popular sculptor, Mr. John Rogers, who works at a class of subjects in the treatment of which he stands unrivalled, at least in this country. Mr. Rogers not merely gives us the extreme realistic treatment, in his little groups, as to costume, but ventures almost beyond the legitimate sculpturesque grouping; verging on the domain of picture. His object is to tell a story, and, so far as truth and expression and character go, he does it admirably. The only question is, Does he not sometimes pass beyond the bounds required in a sculptor? He has exhibited a bust in the New York Academy Exhibition, for this year, of a gentleman, with cravat and high standing collar, and he has aimed to express the iris of the eye. Nothing can be more literal and prosaic. Surely there is a medium between this and the bust with bare throat, breast, and shoulders,-between Greenough's Washington and Powers's Webster or Story's Everett."

On the whole, we conclude that though the sculptor of the nineteenth century has but little to do with the nude, and should avoid all hard literalism of costume and grouping, there is enough to occupy him in the great variety of beautiful forms that exist in nature. Let him cease to imitate the antique, only filling his soul with an idea for which he seeks a corresponding embodiment in nature, and the spirit of the antique will come to him, as it came to William Story when he made his Cleopatra and his Lybian Sybil.

The Andes and the Amazon; or Across the Continent of South America. By JAMES ORTON, M. A., Professor of Natural History in Vassar College, etc. With a Map of Equatorial America and numerous Illustrations. New York: Harper and Brothers.

PROFESSOR ORTON'S route across the South American Continent was from Guayaquil to Quito, thence across the Cordillera to the Napo River, down that river to the Amazon, down the Amazon to the Pará, and from the Pará to the sea. This vast journey has resulted in a book, which is finely emblematic of the fatigues of the expedition, and which we suspect is no bad representative of the natural superfluity and redundancy of that tropical region. The equator seems to affect travellers very oddly they are never able to leave any

thing out of their books, and present their readers with masses of detail which one ought to find very satisfying, but which nevertheless have little nourishment in them, and which leave one both oppressed and empty. One longs for something less of this intolerable abundance; for a little clearness of arrangement; for some preparation of the material for the ordinary digestion, which refuses those heaps of raw geographical and ethnographical facts. With half the information that Professor Orton gives,

and he is but one of many victims of equatorial prodigality, — presented in a more ordered and tangible shape, we feel that we should be much richer than with the elemental whole, for we have not looked through his book without being arrested by many curious things. One gets from it (without much direct help from the author, to be sure) an idea of the character of the people and the country, which, if not quite novel, is founded upon fresh observation and is interesting, and there are some pictures of humanity, mainly developed by the verbal magnificence and actual squalor of life in LatinAmerican countries which are amusing and also humorously meant. Such, for example, is this sketch of the domestic affairs of the honored chief magistrate of Papallacta, in Ecuador:

"We put up at the governor's. This edifice, the best in town, had sides of upright poles stuccoed with mud, a thatched roof, and ground floor, on which, between three stones, a fire was built for cookery and comfort. Three or four earthen kettles, and as many calabashes and wooden spoons, were the sum total of kitchen utensils. A large flat stone, with another smaller one to rub over it, was the mill for grinding corn; and we were astonished to see how quickly our hostess reduced the grains to an impalpable meal. The only thing that looked

like a bed was a stiff rawhide thrown over a series of round poles running lengthwise. This primitive couch, and likewise the whole house, the obsequious governor gave up to us, insisting upon sleeping with his wife and little ones outside, though the nights were cold and uncomfortable. Parents and children were of the earth earthy, — unwashed, uncombed, and disgustingly filthy."

Generally about Ecuador Professor Orton does not tell much that is new, and he is content to quote from Mr. Hassaurek and other recent authors. He did not find the

Quitonians a neat people; the only broom which they enjoy being a besom of split stick. Since his return, he has sent a Quitonian friend a package of broom-corn seed, and he hopes clean things from this; but we fear he is too sanguine.

When he gets into the Amazon country he is more instructive in his studies, and of course the chief value of his book throughout is in the scientific observations, to which ' a general and literary criticism of this sort ought not to apply. He has several chapters on the animal and vegetable life of the great river and its borders, and one of these, concerning the different populations of Brazil, is interesting even to the unscientific reader. Professor Orton believes that the Indian is destined to extinction in that region as in our own, for there Nature anticipates our Piegan massacres, or rather obviates their sad necessity, and the consequent letter of any Brazilian General Sherman, by making the race very unfruitful. He advances the opinion that the tropics are not the original habitat of the race; that the Indian lives there "as a stranger, far less fitted for its climate than the negro or Caucasian." He notices all the different aboriginal breeds, and generally the chapter is one of the best in the book. The information is thrown down here, as elsewhere, haphazard, and is often surprisingly abrupt and disjointed. It is not quite fair to give the passage as an example of Professor Orton's method, but it is not unfair either to let him say here as he does in his book: "The Purú-purús bury in the sandy beaches, go naked, and have one wife."

So Runs the World Away. By MRS. C. A. STEELE. New York: Harper and Broth

ers.

A NOVEL of the "Red as a Rose is She " sort; but entirely stupid, and without any of the redeeming originality of that book, if original sin may be considered a redeeming quality. The destroying military man rides his usual course through these pages, and breaks the heroine's heart; the baddish, beautiful woman flirts up to the brink of ruin, and tearfully retires upon the desola. tion of her husband. Of course there is the wonted allowance of hunting, dining and smoking, duelling and dying; and a more thoroughly disagreeable lot of people we never saw got together, no, not in a modern English novel by a female hand.

[graphic]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
« ZurückWeiter »