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seurs, real'and pretended, who have no other knowledge but of the fine arts, and use that knowledge but for the most sordid ends ; they possess the Corinthian capital, but without the base or shaft of the column. The time, we hope, is fast approaching, when no person, of liberal education or good standing in society, shall say without a blush, “ I have no taste for sculpture or painting.”
Our academy, and that of Philadelphia, have produced already a powerful and precious effect upon the arts of architecture, engraving, sculpture, and painting—more particularly upon the last. The public taste is in some measure improved from this source of information, and our artists are, beyond measure, advanced in their progress towards that ideal perfection, which every true lover of the fine arts aspires to.
One remark more before closing these prefatory lines. From the nature of our government and political institutions, which we sincerely believe to be the best the world ever knew, our leading men must owe their influence either to wealth or talents. Every political society must have its aristocracy; in this country, we think it will be more and more an aristocracy of mind. Without hereditary distinctions, every ambitious man must cultivate the powers God has given him, and if he means to be distinguished in the mass of knowledge which our republican spirit must create, he will find it necessary to be conversant with literature and the fine arts. The paltry distinctions of old and new families, or old and new men, must sink into contempt, and the term,“ best society," will only mean the most accomplished and best informed.
Perhaps we have been too long in coming to No. 1 of the catalogue. We shall begin at the beginning, and reserve our remarks upon “Death on the Pale Horse" for the closing article of our review.
No. 1. King Lear in the hovel, attended by the faithful Kent, the fool, and Edgar, as mad Tom. Gloster entering with a torch, which illuminates the composition, striking first on the breast of the principal figure, who is indeed "every inch a king.” This fine picture has been so long before the public, and has been so often noticed with high praise, that we might perhaps be allowed to pass it over with a few commendatory phrases; but, as our intention is, as far as our abilities extend, to direct the taste and inform the minds of those whose opportunities have not allowed them to see, compare, and form decided opinions on the merits of pictures and painters, we cannot permit ourselves slightly to touch upon what we consider one of the proud triumphs of the art. This has been said to be the
finest work that America possesses of this master. It is too much, perhaps, to go so far, when we remember the great picture in the Pennsylvania Hospital; but we are decidedly of opinion that it is the most perfect in all its parts. “Christ healing in the Temple,” has parts that are extremely beautiful, and the composition is eminently skilful; but it has parts that are comparatively bad, while the “ Lear” is throughout equally good. The painter has taken a flight as high and bold as the poet, and has sustained it with as strong a wing.
Let us look first at the figure of Lear. The form, attitude, expression-how truly noble! How full of energy and fire, without the smallest approach to the extravagant. It is madness; but it is the madness of a father and a king. How different from the stage representations of this character! where sometimes a sturdy, “ robustious” fellow, “ tears the passion to rags,” and sometimes a diminutive figure, even though possessing judgment, takes from it all that is picturesque. The whole picture is a model of keeping, and this figure in particular, has a gradation of light and colour that forms an invaluable lesson to students. The drawing is in every part firm, bold, and true to nature. The hand of Gloster, which approaches Lear, is as fine as can be—but it is unnecessary to particularize where such genius and skill pervade the whole.
No. 2. Orlando and Oliver. This picture is painted by Mr. R. West, (the oldest son of the great artist,) who has here shown that if he had applied himself to the study of the art with the perseverance of his father, and under favouring circumstances, he would have attained high excellence. The drawing of these figures is masterly.
No. 3. Ophelia's madness. We, in this picture, possess another specimen of the elevated powers of our great countryman, West. We need only look at the arms, hands, and feet of Ophelia, to be convinced of the skill of the master, yet in the conception of the subject, expression of the characters, or effect of the whole composition, this is very inferior to the Lear.
No. 4. Hall of the House of Representatives, Washington City, preparing for an evening session. S. F. B. Morse. We have here, from the pencil of Mr. Morse, an accurate representation of the most magnificent hall, to the best of our knowledge, ever appropriated to a legislative assembly. The painter has, with indefatigable labour and consummate skill, given all the architectural proportions and various decorations of this splendid apartment. He has likewise preserved portraits of the members of Congress, and many other distinguished men, VOL. II.
all painted carefully from the life, and distributed through his composition with a skill worthy of his talents and high opportunities of studying his profession. This picture will, in time to come, be invaluable; it has not yet produced that effect upon the public which it ought to do. Artists and connoisseurs appreciate it very highly, and may study it for their improvement.
No. 5. The Bearing of the Cross. Old Master. . the catalogue. We notice this little picture, that we may take the opportunity of dismissing the entire tribe of similar productions which disgrace our public exhibitions. Upon inquiry, we find that this picture, by an
66 old master,
" is one of an importation or shipment from Spain, intended for sale in this city. The speculators have not managed according to the most approved method. The true and only mode is, to employ an auctioneer, who must employ a picture-dealer, who must be a foreigner, and, if possible, one who can speak no language so as to be intelligible. A catalogue must be made out, and every No. must have a great name affixed to it. The auctioneer must read the title, praise the picture, and appeal to the foreign connoisseur, who stands ready to say “dat ish fine" _“dat ish original”—“ dat ish superb”--for all which he is liberally paid, and the pictures are knocked down at prices, which would be contemptible if they really possessed merit or originality, but which give an ample profit to the dealer, after paying all concerned. It is thus, that avarice, ignorance and impudence combine to crush the growing taste of the country, and oppose the efforts of those who would cherish the liberal arts.
No. 6. Lent by Count Survilliers. Salvator Rosa. This is a fine picture, much injured by some ignorant picture cleaner and repairer. We will not say that it was not originally painted by Salvator Rosa ; but that the face now presented to view is not all from Salvator's pencil, we freely assert.
The painter has added interest to his landscape by introducing the Saviour and his forerunner the Baptist. John is in the foreground pointing to Jesus, who is followed by some disciples. The figures are worthy of any master. The Baptist is beautifully and anatomically drawn; the expression energetic and true. The figure of the Saviour, although in distance, is majestically characteristic. The most glaring fault is the black foliage of a tree, more like a three-cornered hat than any thing in nature, and which the painter of the picture was incapable of making.
No. 12. Which, the Catalogue says, is “ The Conceptionaccompanied by the Eternal Father.". We suppose the subject to be from Revelations, chapter xii. although it is difficult to understand the words 6 clothed with the sun, » unless it be
that light which pervades the picture, and surrounds the female. The other part of the description is borne out by the picture ; the woman stands on the moon, and is crowned by stars.The scene is certainly meant to represent Heaven; and, therefore, the presence of God, though, as usual by the old Roman Catholic painters, absurdly depicted as an old man, is accounted for. We need not, to our readers, expose the impropriety of attempting to depict the infinite and incomprehensible Giver of all good. This picture is attributed to Lucca Geordano, and is worthy of his fame. We pass to
No. 17. Satan addressing the Sun. J. Irvine. Mr. Irvine on being elected an honorary member of the American Academy, presented this picture as a specimen of his knowledge of the art. This gentleman has been long established at Rome, as a dealer in pictures. It would be happy for the arts, if none but artists were picture dealers; men of taste would not then be pestered by the disgusting pretensions of practising impudence; and those who wish to encourage artists would be freed from the impositions of unprincipled quackery.
No. 19. Portrait of a Gentleman. W. Parisen. Mr. Parisen is an American artist, of much merit, and greater promise.
No. 20. Portrait of the late Robert Fulton, by B. West. When look
the portrait of such a man, by such a man, we, as 'Americans, can scarcely be supposed competent to cool criticism. It is somewhat like seeing a portrait of Washington by Stewart. We do not know on which to fix our admiration. We love and are grateful to them all as shedding lustre on our country : but as critics, we must say, that the portrait painting of West is as inferior to that of Stewart, as the gratitude we owe Fulton is to that we owe Washington.
No. 21. Portrait of Elkanah Watson, Esq. J. S. Copely. Here we are left to admire the artist. Mr. Copely was long one of the most distinguished portrait painters of London. He is remarkable for having attained great perfection in his art be. fore he left his native country; so much so, that it has been almost doubted whether his pictures painted in England are better than some painted here before he had communion with any man so great as himself. The picture before us is a fair specimen of his manner in 1783. He gained fame by his “Death of Major Pierson," and " Lord Chatham in the House of Lords,” and is deservedly esteemed as one who did honour to his country as an artist and a man.
No. 25. Portrait of the Emperor Napoleon. Lent by his brother Count Survilliers. When we look at this picture, we can never think of any of the great qualities of the person re
presented. It is a picture of gold and jewels, silks and embroidery. As such, it is admirably painted. The only portraits of Bonaparte which give an idea of his character, are David's and Girard's in the crossing of the Alps and the battle of Austerlitz. These are, so to speak, historical portraits. Lawrence's portrait of West is historical as it respects the arts, and Stewart's Washington in respect to our political institutions. Would it not be a good distinction to say “ Historical Portraits,” « Biographical Portraits,” and “ Portraits”? The end of mere portrait painting is to give a likeness of an individual to those who revere, esteem, or love him ; and the purpose is praiseworthy. The picture before us does not answer any one end of portrait painting.
Several portraits by Trumbull, Jarvis, Morse, Inman, Ingham and Peale, having been removed, we cannot on this occasion pay that tribute of respectful criticism to their merits which we might wish. We are rich in portrait painters.
No. 37. Diana and Actæon. Lent by J. W. Paterson, Esq. A beautiful and highly finished production of the French school.
No. 38. Christ crowned with thorns. Copy from Titian by J. Vanderlyn. This picture was painted by Mr. Vanderlyn, when a student. The maturity of this eminent artist has given us a Marius and an Ariadne.
No. 39. St. John the Evangelist. Polanco. A fine head.
No. 40. Lion in a Trap. Lent by Count Survilliers. Rubens. Here we have a specimen from the pencil of one of the greatest painters Europe has produced. In No. 42, the
groupe of children shows how the same master painted flesh. These pictures, although they serve as lessons to our artists, serve another purpose-they correct the extravagant ideas of those who place all excellence in the times that are past. Few can attain to the skill displayed in these pictures, particularly in
but they are not at such an imméasurable distance from modern art, as to induce despair.
No. 43. Stag Hunt. Lent by Count Survilliers. Snyders. This is a picture so perfect as to be unequalled by any thing of the kind we have ever seen. Its simplicity in appearance, yet consummate art; its display of perfect knowledge of the animals ; its drawing so faultless ; its colouring so true and clear; and its masterly touch, all render it unrivalled as a specimen of animal painting.
No. 44. The entombing of Christ. The Catalogue says, copy from M. Angelo. This is an error ; it is a copy by Mr. Vanderlyn, when a student, from Carravaggio, whose given name was Michelangelo.
of boys ;