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and Blake (p. 467). Hence the inconsistency of aim which led Wilkie to waste the second period of his life in giving the lie to the work of the first (p. 490). And hence, too, the strange deficiencies in a man of great gift like Maclise (p. 520).
Such are some of the principal characteristics which the visitor may note, in going round the English rooms, as results of the absence of any English School in the strict sense of the term. But in another sense there certainly is an English School. Not only do the separate manifestations of English art form a considerable and noteworthy whole; but considered broadly, they reflect many aspects of the national mind. In the first place that seriousness of purpose, that predominance of the moral element, which has been said to distinguish the English character, is very conspicuous in English art. “The only great painters in our schools of painting in England have been either of portrait-Reynolds and Gainsborough; of the philosophy of social lifeHogarth; or of the facts of nature in landscape-Wilson and Turner. In all these cases . . . the success of the painter depended on his desire to convey a truth, rather than to produce a merely beautiful picture; that is to say, to get a likeness of a man, or of a place; to get some moral principle rightly stated, or some historical character rightly described, rather than merely to give pleasure to the eyes. Compare the feeling with which a Moorish architect decorated an arch of the Alhambra, with that of Hogarth painting the ‘Marriage à la Mode,' . .. and you will at once feel the difference between art pursued for pleasure only, and for the sake of some useful principle or impression” (Inaugural Address at the Cambridge School of Art, p. 23). But this seriousness of purpose is not confined to the great men enumerated by Mr. Ruskin. Note, in going round the English rooms, the historical pictures—those, that is, that seek to revive past history for us (such, for instance, as E. M. Ward's); the historical pictures in another sense—that of marking contemporary incident or domestic drama (such as Wilkie's and Mulready's and Frith's); the literary pictures, which illustrate famous English authors (such as
Leslie's and Maclise's); the landscapes and seascapes; the portraits—note all these, and then see how very few are left over! Landseer's pictures of animals, too, are not only studies in natural history, but are most of them made moreover to point a moral or adorn a tale. And even that “painter's painter,” Etty, whose works might seem to aim solely at sensuous beauty, strove in all things, he tells us, “to paint some great moral on the heart.” In the present day, foreign influences have to some extent introduced other ideals. But both decorative and sensuous forms of art are in England exotics, and there is nothing as yet to show that the movement in such directions is not a backwater, rather than a progressive stream. Whilst on the other hand the one indisputably efficacious and permanent influence in this generation—that, namely, which was exerted by the Pre-Raphaelites—tended in the old direction, founded as it was on seriousness in aim and sincerity in conception. And not only does the general ideal of English art reflect the seriousness of the English character, but its limitation of range and its specialities of subject are also thoroughly national. Thus we have shown little excellence in purely decorative design. This is partly the result of our being such a “practical ” people, and partly due to the absence of any hereditary art discipline. Again, the English School is conspicuously deficient in the highest fields of ideal or theological art. Such deficiency is natural in a nation “the vast majority of whose readers have probably never succeeded in getting quite through the only two great epic poems in their language,” and which moreover has always had a keen delight in the burlesque a condition fatal to excellence in ideal art. “But we need not feel any discomfort in these limitations of our capacity. We can do much that others cannot. Our first great gift is the portraiture of living people," of which there are so many splendid examples in this room. Our second gist is "an intense power of invention and expression in domestic drama." The large number of English artists who have devoted their best talents to the illustration of English authors is a striking instance of the national character of our art. “ Thirdly, in connection with our simplicity and goodhumour, and partly with that very love of the grotesque which debases our ideal, we have a sympathy with the lower animals which is peculiarly our own." Landseer, for instance, may almost be said to have revealed the dog as a subject for art. Fourthly, English art has a quite special skill and interest in landscape. And lastly, no other school has shown the same felicity and fidelity as ours in the painting of the sea and the ships, that are the elements of England's greatness (Oxford Lectures on Art, S 13-17; and cf. Harbours of England, p. 6).
To this description of the characteristics of the English School, it remains to add some general outline of its historical development. So far as the pictures in the National Gallery go, the English School begins in the middle of the last century, with the already accomplished work of Hogarth in domestic drama, Wilson in landscape, Reynolds in portraiture, and Gainsborough in both. But English art did not of course spring up full-grown in the reign of George III., like Athena from the head of Zeus. For the real first-fruits of the artistic gifts of our race, the student must go to the Gothic cathedrals, or the paintings on the walls of the Chapter House at Westminster. These and other such paintings were done in the thirteenth century, and are at least equal to any done by contemporary artists in Italy. Much beautiful early English work is to be seen, too, in missals, miniatures, and glass painting. But with the next century there comes a complete pause of English pictorial art, until its revival under George III. Mr. Ruskin suggests as one reason for this pause, 2 “that the flat scenery and severer climate, fostering less enthusiasm and urging to more exertion, brought about a practical and rational temperament, progressive in policy, science, and literature, but wholly retrograde in art.” Other and historical reasons may be found first in the poverty and anarchy brought about by the French wars and the wars of the Roses; and then, when
1 With the exception of a portrait by Dobson recently purchased, XVII. 1249, p. 441.
. See Modern Painters, vol. iv. pt. v. ch. xx. for a discussion of the subject.
wealth and artistic interests began to revive, in the importation of foreign painters. Just as a Venetian doge took pride in bringing eastern workers and eastern pillars to Venice, so the English kings took pride in alluring foreign artists to their court. And so, as the Italians dwarfed early Spanish and French painting, the Dutch and Germans dwarfed our native talent. Thus Mabuse was one of the glories of Henry VII.'s reign ; Holbein, of Henry VIII.'s; Sir A. More, of Mary's; and Rubens and Van Dyck, of Charles I.'s. In Charles II.'s reign Lely and the two Vandeveldes were the chief painters. All along there had indeed been native artists as well—some of them “painters to the king,” such as were Nicholas Hilliard (1547-1619) and Isaac Oliver (1555-1617), the celebrated miniature painters; George Jamesone (1586-1644), called by Walpole the “Scottish Van Dyck;" William Dobson (1619-1646), called by Charles his “ English Tintoret;" Robert Walker, Cromwell's painter; and Richard Gibson (1615-1690), the dwarf. But it was only when the kings and nobles began to employ exclusively English painters that native art had any chance of full and free development. The foundation in this sense of the modern English School dates from the reign of Queen Anne, when Sir James Thornhill was commissioned to paint the dome of St. Paul's. The Italian, Sebastian Ricci (see Addenda, 851, p. 661), who had hoped for the commission, left the country in disgust, and the English School began to hold the field. From what has been already said of the individual character of English painters, the reader will see that its subsequent history hardly admits of the general treatment followed in the case of the other schools, it is the history rather of the succession of separate painters than of general tendencies. But a few generalisations may be attempted as suggestions towards a connected view of the English rooms. (1) Sir James Thornhill was Hogarth's father-in-law, and Hogarth is the Giotto of the English School. English art begins under him, as the art of every nation begins, with reflecting the life of the times. The turn of his mind was dramatic and satirical, and he took therefore to drawing, for the delight of society, its deformities and weaknesses. (2) Reynolds was a courtier, and his artistic gift took the one form which, in a Protestant country which had abjured the religion that gave motives to early art elsewhere, it could take-namely, contemporary portraiture. Down to the end of the century, this is the line along which the main current of English art went. Reynolds formed no school; but Gainsborough, Romney, Lawrence, Hoppner, Jackson, Raeburn, and Opie were all his rivals or successors in the portraiture of the English nobility and gentry. These artists were all dead by 1830. (3) To them succeed two different sets of painters—the one continuing, in a fresh field, the traditions of Hogarth; the other endeavouring to carry forward those of Reynolds. Of the former class, Wilkie may be taken as the central example. It was a true piece of criticism which made Sir George Beaumont designate him as Hogarth's successor (see p. 490). Wilkie and the other genre painters of the period had not Hogarth's spirit of satire ; but they had the same dramatic instinct as he, the same fondness for everyday life. As for the manner of this group, it was a direct heritage from the Dutch. It will be seen in the notices of the several painters how many of them studied from Dutch models, “and it requires little proficiency in criticism,” says Mr. Hodgson, R.A.,' “ to detect the influence of Ostade in Wilkie or of Metsu in Mulready.” Many of the painters in this group lived on after 1850, but that may roughly be taken as the terminal date. (4) Contemporaneous with them were the “historical " painters. Reynolds himself had tried historical and ideal painting, for which portraiture is the proper preparation. He had failed, and those who succeeded him failed worse. Many of the pictures under this head have now been removed from the Gallery Copley remains, but West, Barry, and Haydon have gone. (5) With the year 1850 begins a new era in English art. The International Exhibition of 1851 gave it a great impetus, and the PreRaphaelite movement a fresh direction. Of strictly Pre