« ZurückWeiter »
course the first persons to be consulted on the merit of a picture are those for whom the artist painted it : with those in after generations who have sympathy with them; one does not ask a Roundhead or a Republican his opinion of the Vandyke at Wilton, nor a Presbyterian minister his impressions of the Sistine Chapel :—but from any one honestly taking pleasure in any sort of painting, it is always worth while to hear the grounds of his admiration, if he can himself analyse them. From those who take no pleasure in painting, or who are offended by its inevitable faults, any form of criticism is insolent. Opinion is only valuable when it
gilds with various rays
When I last lingered in the Gallery before my old favourites, I thought them more wonderful than ever before; but as I draw towards the close of life, I feel that the real world is more wonderful yet : that Painting has not yet fulfilled half her mission, she has told us only of the heroism of men and the happiness of angels: she may perhaps record in future the beauty of a world whose mortal inhabitants are happy, and which angels may be glad to visit.
J. RUSKIN. April 1888.
THERE are so many points of view from which a collection of pictures may be approached, that it is necessary, in order to save the reader from the chance of disappointment and myself from the charge of presumption, to explain, at the outset, the scope and limits of this Popular Handbook. This explanation can best be given by a statement of the circumstances out of which the book arose. For several years I had been permitted to edit a Catalogue for the annual Loan Exhibition of Pictures organised by Mr. Barnett at St. Jude's Schools, Whitechapel. The aim of that Catalogue was to point out in simple words the meaning or sentiment of the pictures, and to tell the salient facts about different schools of painting and different painters' characteristics. The aim was very imperfectly realised; but the little Catalogue, incomplete and meagre as it was, appeared to add to the enjoyment and appreciation of the Exhibition. It was suggested by friendly critics that a Handbook, with the same popular scope, but on a more ambitious scale, would be of interest to the daily
increasing numbers of the general public who visit the National Gallery. It is this suggestion that I have endeavoured in the following pages to carry out. It will be seen at once that a Handbook, with such an end in view, has two principal limitations. The historical details about the several pictures—admirably stated in the (unabridged) Official Catalogue-would obviously be out of place in a book designed for popular use. Nor, secondly, would any elaborate technical criticism have been in keeping-even had it been in my power to offer it—with a guide intended for unprofessional readers. It is only one side of the pictures in the National Gallery that I have even attempted to touch. C. R. Leslie, the father of the present academician, tells how he “spoke one day to Stothard of his touching picture of a sailor taking leave of his wife or sweetheart. 'I am glad you like it, sir,' said Stothard; it was painted with japanner's gold size.'” A Handbook to the National Gallery by an artist for artists remains to be written, and would, I imagine, be of great interest and value. But this guide is written by a layman for laymen. I have been mainly concerned, therefore, with the sentiment of the pictures, and have for the most part left the “japanner's gold size" alone.
To some extent, however, technical criticisms have been admitted to the following pages. This is the result of the second circumstance which led to my undertaking the task. It had often occurred to me, as a student of Mr. Ruskin's writings, that a collection of his scattered notes upon painters and pictures now in the National Gallery would be of great value. I applied to Mr. Ruskin in the matter, and he readily permitted me to make what use I liked of any, or all, of his writings. The generosity of this permission, supplemented as it has been by constant encouragement and counsel, makes me the more anxious to explain clearly
the limits of his responsibility for the book. He has not attempted to revise, or correct, either my gleanings from his own books, or the notes added by myself from other sources. Beyond his general permission to me to reprint his past writings, Mr. Ruskin has, therefore, no responsibility for this compilation whatever. I should more particularly state that the chapters upon the Turner Gallery were not even glanced at by him. The criticisms from his books collected in those chapters represent, therefore, solely his attitude to Turner at the time they were severally written. But, subject to this deduction, the passages from Mr. Ruskin arranged throughout the following pages will, I hope, enable the Handbook to serve a second purpose. Any student who goes through the Gallery under Mr. Ruskin's guidance,-even at second-hand,—can hardly fail to obtain some insight into the system of art-teaching embodied in his works. The full exposition of that system must still be studied in the original text-books, but here the reader may find a series of examples and illustrations which will perhaps make the study more vivid and actual.
“For the purposes of the general student, the National Gallery is now," says Mr. Ruskin, “without question the most important collection of paintings in Europe.” Forty years ago Mr. Ruskin said of the same Gallery that it was "an European jest.” The growth of the Gallery from jest to glory may be traced in the final index to this book, where the pictures are enumerated in the order of their acquisition. Many incidents connected with the acquisition of particular pictures will also be found chronicled in the Catalogue ;? but it may here be interesting to summarise
I See, for instance, I. 790 (p. 15 n.), 1131 (p. 33); VI. 1171 (p. III); IX, 10 (p. 203) ; X. 757 (p. 246), 896 (p. 252); XI. 195 (p. 261); XIII, 193 (p. 324); XIV. 479 and 498 (p. 338), 61 (p. 358); and the Turner Gallery (p. 583).