Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB
[graphic][merged small][merged small]

CONSTABLE'S PALETTE.

For Constable, see 1235, p. 459. This palette was presented to the Gallery in 1887 by Miss Isabel Constable. 1242. STIRLING CASTLE.

Alexander Nasmyth (1758–1840). There are few cases on record of such evenly dispersed hereditary gifts as the Nasmyth family presents. Alexander Nasmyth was originally a pupil of Allan Ramsay. Then after several years' study at Rome, he settled at Edinburgh as a portrait painter. The only authentic portrait of Burns is by him, and the poet was often his companion on country rambles. For Nasmyth was an ardent lover of nature ; and (like Gainsborough) if he painted portraits for money, he painted landscapes for love. He was also a scene painter, and in that capacity came across Roberts and Stanfield. The former said that he founded his style on Nasmyth's scenery for the Glasgow theatre ; and the latter recorded Nasmyth's advice to him as follows : “there's but one style an artist should imitate, and that is the style of nature.But Nasmyth had other occupations still. He was the son of an architect and builder, and both inherited and transmitted a taste for mechanics. Not only did his son Patrick inherit much of his father's artistic talent, but all his five daughters were artists of genuine ability. Their brother James, of steam-hammer fame, has a greater renown than any of them, but his genius too was inherited. He is himself a most accomplished draughtsman in pen and ink, while his father, Alexander Nasmyth, was hardly less famous in his day as an architect and an engineer than as a painter. He is responsible for most of the New Town of Edinburgh, and was also the inventor of the “ Bow-andString” Bridge. It is interesting to recall before this picture of Stirling Castle-a picture which justifies Wilkie's praise of the artist as the “founder of the landscape school of Scotland, and the first to enrich his native land with the representation of her romantic scenery”-that the same hand also contrived the mechanism by which the arch of Charing Cross railway station was constructed ! Fine art and mechanical art are not always divorced, it seems. One more point of interest may, in conclusion, be noted before this picture of Stirling. James Nasmyth, in his autobiography, records “a most delightful journey” which he made with his father in 1823. They went to Stirling, as his father had received a commission to paint a view of the Castle. In order to ensure greater accuracy, James Nasmyth (who was then fifteen) was told off to make detailed sketches of architectural “elevations" and so forth. Is this the picture which thus links the fame of father and son ?

There is a simplicity of treatment which gives much impressiveness to this picture of —

The bulwark of the North,

Gray Stirling with her towers. It is ordinarily said that Patrick Nasmyth, the son, “greatly improved on the style of his father," but this is certainly not the verdict which will suggest itself to visitors, who now have the means of comparing on the same walls the work of the father and son. Alike in the greater dignity of his subject and in the broader manner of his treatment, the father decidedly bears off the palm. 1030. THE INSIDE OF A STABLE.

George Morland (1763-1804). Said to be the stable of the “ White Lion” at Paddington, an hostelry which was opposite the house where Morland lived for some time, and in which the ne'er-do-weel artist spent many of his days. He came of an artistic family, and it was the absurd way in which his father exploited the boy's precocious talents—alternately confining him closely to work, and indulging him with luxurious living-that sowed the seeds of his future dissipation. During the period of his residence at Paddington “he was visited by the popular pugilists of the day, by the most eminent horse-dealers, and by his never-failing companions, the picture merchants. He was a lover of guinea-pigs, dogs, rabbits, and squirrels ; he extended his affection also to asses. At one time he was the owner of eight saddle horses, which were kept at the White Lion’; and that the place might be worthy of an artist's stud he painted the sign where they stood at livery with his own hand” (Allan Cunningham, ii. 227). Accounts of his queer tastes and low manner of life may be read in several biographies, which came out soon after his death to meet the curiosity for scandals about the artist. He had married a daughter of the artist, J. Ward, but she separated from him ; and after a life of dissipation, duns, and debts, he died in a spunging-house in Coldbath Fields. Morland is one of several cases in the history of art in which a sordid life is combined with lovely work. This picture is sometimes called the painter's masterpiece; but besides mere pictures of animals, he painted many charming domestic scenes, "little idyls of rustic life, which pointed so many of his personally unpractised morals, and adorned so many of his unheeded tales." (For an estimate of Morland on his better side, the reader is referred to Mr. G. H. Boughton's notice in English Art in the Public Galleries and Mr. Wedmore's Studies in English Art.) 374 VENICE: THE PILLARS OF THE PIAZZETTA.

R. P. Bonington (1801-1828). “I have never known in my own time," wrote Sir Thomas Lawrence, “an early death of talent so promising, and so rapidly and obviously improving." Richard Parkes Bonington, of whom this was said, died of consumption when his fame in England was only beginning. In France, however, he already enjoyed a high reputation, having obtained a gold medal for his picture in the Salon of 1824– the year in which Constable won a like honour. Bonington had indeed received his artistic education in Paris, where he had resided since he was fifteen. It was in 1824 that he travelled in Italy, and stayed for some time in Venice, making sketches for this and other pictures which he afterwards exhibited at the British Institution. When the first of them appeared there, Allan Cunningham relates how a critic and connoisseur came up to him in a sort of ecstasy and said, “ Come this way sir, and I will show you such a thing - a grand Canaletti sort of picture, sir, as beautiful as sunshine and as real as Whitehall."

To the right is the Dogana (or custom-house); between the pillars are seen the domes of the church of Sta. Maria della Salute; and to the left is the corner of the library. The Piazzetta, the open space on which the pillars stand, is so called to distinguish it from the Piazza - the larger open space in front of the church of St. Mark. Of the two granite pillars, the one is surmounted by the bronze lion of St. Mark, the other by the statue of St. Theodore, the Protector of the Republic. “ They are to Venice, in fact, what the Nelson column would be to London if, instead of a statue of Nelson and a coil of rope on the top of it, we had put one of the four evangelists and a saint, for the praise of the Gospel and of Holiness—trusting the memory of Nelson to our own souls” (St. Mark's Rest, ch, i. ii.) The pillars were brought by the Doge Domenico Michael as spoils from his victories in the East, early in the twelfth century, and were erected in their present position in 1180. The statue of St. Theodore was placed on the column in 1329; the lion of St. Mark, a work of later date, was carried to Paris in 1797, but restored to its original position in 1816. 380. A COTTAGE, FORMERLY IN HYDE PARK.

Patrick Nasmyth (1786–1831). Patrick, the son of Alexander Nasmyth, was born in Edinburgh, but when about twenty settled in London, and for the most part “painted by preference the footpaths, hedges, common pasture-grounds, and dwarf oaks of the outskirts of London." He exhibited at the Academy, and was one of the original members of the Society of British Artists. His life was one of solitude and suffering, from which he sought refuge in strong drink as well as in the beauties of nature. He became deaf from an illness in his boyhood, and having lost the use of his right hand from an accident, painted with his left. He caught his death of a cold contracted when out sketching; and when he lay dying in his lodgings at Lambeth, his last request, we are told, was that he might be raised in his bed to see a passing thunder-storm. Nasmyth, when he came up to London, was a close student of the Dutch landscape painters, and the name that has been given him of “the English Hobbema," or the “ English Ruysdael” (see for instance 1177, p. 483), sufficiently characterises his art. 1182. A SCENE FROM MILTON'S “COMUS."

C. R. Leslie, R.A. (1794-1859).

See under XX. 403, p. 514. Comus, son of Circe and Bacchus, was master of all the arts of sorcery and all the excesses of wanton revel. And he enchanted all travellers who passed through the wood wherein he dwelt, with his mother's and his father's wiles. One day it chanced that a lady was travelling in the wood with her two brothers, and while they stepped aside to fetch berries for her, Comus in the guise of a shepherd offered her shelter in his cottage, and conducted her to his palace of sorcery. Here we see her seated in the Enchanted Chair, while Comus-holding his magic wand and garlanded “with rosy twine” —offers her wine in a crystal glass, which will turn those who drink of it into monsters. The lady shrinks from his advances and refuses the fatal cup

Comus. Nay, Lady, sit; if I but wave this wand,
Your nerves are all chain'd up in alabaster,
And you a statue, or, as Daphne was,
Root-bound, that fled Apollo.

Lady. Fool, do not boast ;
Thou canst not touch the freedom of my mind
With all thy charms, although this corporal rind

Thou hast immanacled, while Heaven sees good. The picture is a study for (or from) Leslie's fresco in the Buckingham Palace summer-house, for which Landseer did another scene from Comus (see XXI.605, p. 548). “I have been very busy," writes Leslie in July 1843, “painting a fresco, a first attempt, in a little pavilion in the gardens of Buckingham Palace. I was asked to do this by the Prince, and there are seven other artists engaged in the same way, Maclise, Landseer, Sir Charles Ross, Stanfield, Uwins, Etty, and Eastlake. Two or three of us are generally there together, and the Queen and Prince visit us daily, and sometimes twice a day, and take a great interest in what is going on. The subjects are all from Comus, and mine is Comus offering the cup to the lady." 1066. ON BARNES COMMON.

J. Constable, R.A. (1776-1837). See under next picture. 1235. THE HOUSE IN WHICH THE ARTIST

WAS BORN.

John Constable, R.A. (1776-1837). Constable, who was a boy of nine when Gainsborough died, and, like him, a native of Suffolk, carried on Gainsborough's work of portraying the common aspects of “English cultivated scenery, leaving untouched its mountains and lakes.” One sees in Constable's pictures exactly what the poets have sung as characteristic of lowland England-of Tennyson's “English homes," with “ dewy pastures, dewy trees." He was born at East Bergholt, on the Stour-the son of a miller who had two wind-mills and two water-mills (one of which may be seen in his pictures, XX. 327 and 1207), and it was in Suffolk villages that he learned first to love, and then to paint, what he saw around him. He has himself described the scenes of his boyhood, which he was fond of saying made him a painter : “gentle declivities, luxuriant meadow. flats sprinkled with flocks and herds, well cultivated uplands, with numerous scattered villages and churches, with farms and picturesque cottages.” “I love every stile,” he says in another letter, "and stump, and lane in the village ; as long as I am able to hold a brush, I shall never cease to paint them.” There are many other passages in his writings which show in what affectionate and reverent spirit he

« ZurückWeiter »