« 上一页继续 »
Alas, celestial Poesy 1
Thy spirit may indwelling be!
Where images fantastic dwell—
Where Sense and Reason, thro' some spell, To Tain Idolatry their powers resign: They are themselves the slaves that bow to forms—
The grovelling insects of life's little hour; While from the chrysalis that keeps them worms, Such as have felt thy liberating power—
Which into life and light the spirit brings—
Rise on Imagination's wings
0, Poesy, transforming Poesy 1
Spiritual alehymist—'tis thine
To Immaterial essences divine:
Thy laboratory is the mind,
In which corporeal elements refined Thro' the pure reason, are by thee infused
Into the rarer elements of soul, To be again by Thought-ercative used
In some harmonious work of art,
Where every fitting part
Thy voice ventriloquous I hear
Its music sings to the accordant ear,
The poet holds, thro' thee, a royal claim
Ye, who fields of affluence show,
Who boast your blooming landscapes—know,
Drinks in their effluent beauties, which his soul
Alone, thro' life's brief lease your hands control:
Whereon are shadows of your greatness thrown; He sees Truth's harmony, that thro' them beams—
That by affinity elective is his own!
But when thy spirit o'er the deep
Of mental darkness moves,
Far brighter worlds than this,
Through war's destructive storms;
Embodied rise in breathing forms.
0, wondrous trinity-
Even as my soul into the holier name
Who form one Godhead, whence thine essence came 1
Of spirit, and of fire—
As bards of olden time
In me that power renew:
LINES IN HONOUR OF THE TWENTY-SEVENTH CONGRESS OF THE UNITED STATES,
Which expired at midnight, March 3d, 1843. [Never before published.]
AmJCTkD mourner 1 streams thy tear, Because thy country's gallant band, Columbia's chieftains, gathered here, No more shall rule thy native land?
Cease to lament their hapless doom;
As the dramatic art in England was indebted to John Kcmble for introducing to the stage a costume appropriate to the character and time represented, so does historic pictorial art in like manner owe to the great American painter its rescue from the absurd practice that up to his time prevailed. Garrick played King Lear and Richard the Third in a style of dress but little removed from that in which his successors acted Sir Peter Teazle; while Desdemona's graceful form was outwardly distorted by a hideous framework of wicker baskets over her hips (called hoops), to set out the gown; and the structure of whalebone, etc., erected amidst her well-powdered hair, required almost the skill of an architect to construct.
The same people who saw nothing in all this monstrosity that did violence to good taste, would, at the same time, have had West paint the subject of the death of General Wolfe, under the walls of Quebec, in America, with the figures clad in the costume of Greeks and Romans! But the good sense of our artist sufficed him to break the shackles of a stupid custom, and he succeeded, in his own way, in producing from that subject what is acknowledged to be one of the very finest historical pictures in England. So powerful is the force of habit, that even the sagacious and philosophic Reynolds, when West began this picture, declared that the attempt to paint modern heroes in modern dress would be a failure. After the work was completed he called to see it, and having sat silently before it for perhaps half an hour, arose, saying, "West has conquered; he has treated the subject as it ought to be treated; I retract my objection; I foresee that this picture will not only become one of the most popular, but will occasion a revolution in art." "I wish," said the King, "that I had known all this before, for the objection has been the means of Lord Grosveuor's getting the picture. But you shall make a copy for me."
Whether the copy was ever made does not clearly appear, but he continued to paint for his friendly employer not only numerous historical pictures, many of which are well known in this country by the fine engravings that were made from them by William Sharp
and others, but he planned, and in great part executed, a magnificent series of pictures on the progress of revealed religion, which he divided into four classes,—the antediluvian, the patriarchal, the mosaical, and the prophetical, in all thirty-six subjects, an equal number being taken from the Old and New Testament. Eight only remained to be painted of this surprising work, when the derangement of his patron's mind arrested his pencil. He was informed by the new authority that the pictures painting for the royal chapel must be suspended, and he found that the customary quarterly instalments in which he had received his thousand pounds a year on account of the works in progress, had also been stopped. It was evident that the Prince Regent, afterwards George the Fourth, was unfavourably disposed towards West and his pictures. After he became king, and was amusing himself with alterations in Windsor Castle, he was about to consign to the lumber-room all the pictures by West, with which one of the apartments was entirely filled. But the courtly artist, Sir Thomas Lawrenco, ventured to remonstrate, stating it as his opinion, that there was not a painter then living equal to the task of supplying their place with works of equal merit; so they were allowed to remain.
On the King's recovery the painter was again directed to proceed with his labours, but with the relapse came also a second suspension of the works, which this time was final. It was now that our artist began those great pictures, a part of which have been extensively exhibited in his native country. "Death on the Pale Horse," purchased a few years since by the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia for ten thousand dollars, is still in one of the galleries of that institution, and is a wonderfully fine work. It measures twentyfive feet by fifteen, and was produced when its author had nearly attained the age of eighty years. When it first arrived in Philadelphia it was exhibited to the public in the Hall of Independence, the use of which the city authorities had granted for the purpose. It covered the entire east wall from side to side; and vast numbers thronged to see it. In the same gallery of the Academy is another fine work by him of "Paul and Silas," which formerly belonged to the City of Philadelphia, but is now also the property of the Academy. In one of the western rooms of the same building is the famous picture of "Christ Healing the Sick in the Temple," presented by the painter to the Pennsylvania Hospital. "Christ Rejected" has also been extensively exhibited in the United States, where it probably still remains. It is, perhaps, nearly as large as " Death on the Pale Horse," at least it so appeared as I remember it in West's Gallery, in Newman's Street, London, where these two remarkable pictures were hung opposite each other; they looked extramely well from the skilful management of the light. The light was of course admitted through the roof, and immediately beneath it was a canopy of dark-coloured material, supported on slender pillars. Thus, the effect of the pictures was much more luminous, owing to the partial obscurity in which the spectator stood. These and a number of others, the product of the last years of his life, are all of the largest dimensions.
Many of these works remained to be sold after his death, and the total product of the three days' sale appears to have been a little over twenty-five thousand pounds. He received from the King a trifle over thirty-four thousand pounds, and for other works, from different individuals, about six thousand. This forty thousand pounds obtained during his life, was by no means an adequate compensation for such skill and labour, assiduously exerted for nearly sixty years. A curious calculation has shown, that were all his works collected together, it would require a gallery eight hundred feet long, fifty feet broad, and twenty feet high, to contain them.
The interruption and subsequent stop which the King's loss of reason occasioned to the ardent painter's great work was a misfortune, not to its author merely, but proved a real loss to art. No artist had ever attempted so vast and comprehensive a series, and it is lamentable to contemplate the disappointment he must have suffered. The immediate cause of the sovereign's illness was not generally known, bat certain articles written by or at the instance of the profligate and notorious Captain Garth, appearing in the London newspapers a little over twenty years since, throw some light upon the matter; and as the event produced the great and serious trouble of West's life, a slight notice of it may not be regarded as out of place here.
This man, as it appeared, had his support from the government funds, but finding the allowance inadequate to the wants of a life such as his, he became importunate for more; this being refused, he soon found means of'
bringing Sir Herbert Taylor to terms. By what means the documents which he commenced publishing came into his possession did not appear, but the affair was very speedily hushed up, and the further publication of the papers suppressed. They contained evidence of his own paternity, and exposed the atrocious dissoluteness of a portion of the royal family. The date of the marriage of the Princess his mother, to General Garth, leads naturally to the inference that this domestic family trouble was what overthrew the intellect of the King. The connexion of the then Duke of Cumberland (now King of Hanover) with this business would, from his known character, create no surprise whatever. That General Garth should have lent himself as convenient means of suppressing the scandal, is less remarkable than that on another occasion, the jury of twelve men should have been furnished with consciences so elastic as to acquit the Duke of the murder of his valet, in defiance of the evidence before them. The son was worthy of the sire, except in the degree of atrocity of his crimes.
As the formation of the Royal Academy of Arts in England is intimately connected with the personal history of West himself, it can hardly be considered out of place here to take a rapid glance at that celebrated institution, which is by no means deserving of the admiration bestowed upon it by superficial observers. It began in fraud and trickery, and has been, for the most part, continued with a mixture of meanness and arrogance, by no means characteristic of the individual members, apart from their corporate capacity. The idea generally received of matters of this kind is such as interested persons dress up for the press; a decorous drama is played off before the public with set speeches written and conned by heart, and with due emblazoning of royal munificence, &c.; the whole intended to be seen but from one point of view. But only pass in behind the scenes, and look upon the wire-pullings and intrigues, and the affair assumes quite another aspect.
The custom, now universally prevalent where a sufficient number of artists reside, of holding annual exhibitions of pictures, is an admirable means of diffusing a love of art throughout the community, and in England began just ninety years ago. In 1750 the artists began seriously to agitate the project, from finding how great an attraction to the public the few pictures became, which they had presented to the Foundling Hospital in London. They had an academy of art supported by contributions amongst themselves, and the frequent discussions on the subject at these meetings finally led to successful action. Dr. Samuel Johnson wrote the introduction to the first catalogue, and in 1761 he writes thus to Baretti. "The artists have established a yearly exhibition of pictures and statues, in imitation I am told, of foreign academies. This year is the second exhibition. They please themselves much with the multitude of spectators." "This exhibition has filled the heads of the artists and lovers of art," &o.
The exhibitions continued to prosper, producing a clear average income of about thirtyfive hundred dollars, till the institution had accumulated about fifteen thousand dollars, when they determined on establishing a public Academy of Arts.
The treasurer of this Artist's Society it was before stated was the same Dalton, the King's librarian, who lately returned from his Italian expedition, victorious over Robert Strange. He had entered into a print speculation, had purchased some auction rooms which he altered into galleries, and over the door he inscribed the words "Print Warehouse." But the business turned out a failure, and its projector becoming involved, the King was called on for help, and his mode of affording it was to "patronise" the Society of Artists and give them a royal charter. A scheme was concocted by which Dalton's rooms were taken off his hands by the Society, and the institution was honoured with the title of "Royal Academy." These words were painted over the door in place of "Print Warehouse* obliterated, and the rooms, when not otherwise occupied, were wholly or in part rented out for Mr. Dalton's private emolument, for the use of dancingschools, auctions, &c. But the royal institution not only charged its shilling at the door, but begged subscriptions for its support. Disgust and bad feeling arose amongst the members, and another plan was matured by West, Chambers, and two other artists under the eye of the King, (who himself wrote some of the by-laws,) which resulted in the present Royal Academy of London.
West arrived from Italy in 1763, and soon became a director, and it is the association just described that he alludes to when writing as follows to Charles Wilson Peale. "Those exhibitions became an object of attraction to men of taste in the fine arts; the young sovereign was interested in their prosperity, and the artists were by his royal charter raised into the dignity, the independence, and, as it were, the municipal permanency of a body corporate; and in this body I found myself a member and director," &c. The charter, here referred to so reverentially, was granted the 26th of January, 1765, up to which time the Society was highly prosperous, but after the royal interference it hobbled on
a little more than two years, when another establishment was secretly organized and the casts and other materials of art, which grew out of the collected earnings of the whole body of artists were by a majority vote removed to the New Royal Academy, thus depriving a highly respectable minority of the very materials their own money had paid for.
Joshua Reynolds kept aloof, but the King succeeded in drawing him over by conferring the title of knighthood upon him, to assist in giving consequence and dignity to the post of President of the Academy, to which the artists had elected him. But the King's favour stopped here, for he never employed him in the exercise of his profession, unrivalled as he was in the field of portraiture.
After the death of Reynolds, West was chosen to succeed him as the head of the institution, and the same title was offered to the Pennsylvania Quaker; but West declined the knighthood as an empty honour. He continued to fill this eminent station of President (with but slight interruption) till his death in 1820, at the age of 82. The position was one he was fully entitled to, and in accepting it he rather conferred than received honour.
West's style of composition was noble and dignified. Some of his works are so well-disposed in every respect, that it is difficult to imagine how they could be improved, and his facility in planning the general structure of a picture is surprising, whilo the drawing of the parts is equally just and true. What they want is intensity; they command admiration, but they never thrill you as Allston's or Haydon's sometimes do. They never violate the supposed proprieties of art; are full of learned lines, and graceful or happy thoughts, but mostly fail to rouse the glow of enthusiasm, or stir the passions, except in the very gentlest manner. His facility in composition was somewhat hurtful, for it helped him to pass rapidly from one great work to another before he had made all he could of the last Hence the thin painting observable in the large pictures in the Pennsylvania Academy and elsewhere, which were executed at the later period of his life. The colour always has a tendency to sink into the ground on which it is painted, and therefore should be laid on, in large pictures, with considerable body, especially in the lights. The want of sufficiently solid painting has caused the original ink outline, drawn on the canvass with the reed, to appear distinctly through the thin paint; in every part of the pictures we see this black boundary line obtruding on the attention, and the consequence is, the slighted look, without the energy and fiery spirit of a sketch. Those pictures that he painted at an earlier period of his life, are not equally liable to this objection. The "Paul and Silas" is for the most part firm and bold, and the "King Lear in the Tempest," which belongs to the Boston Athenteum, is painted in a very vigorous style, loaded with colour, and in the masses of light thickly imparted. Washington Allston, who was no less competent to judge than he was just and impartial, said of him, that of late years he had been placed by the public as much below his
true merit, as in the earlier part of his career he was esteemed above it.
The engraving in the last number of this Magazine of "Christ Blessing Little Children," the original picture of which is in the collection of the Foundling Hospital at London, before referred to, will, to those who are unacquainted with the character of his style in art, convey a tolerable idea of it. This picture may be safely pronounced the best of the subject that has been produced by any master.
HENRY THE EIGHTH AND HERNE THE HUNTER.
BY MBS. MABY S. W H I T A K K B.
SCENE—WINDSOR CASTLE', TIME—MIDNIGHT.
Loud roars the rattling thunder through the sky,
And down to latest time, thy baleful mind
They bind thy form
Where is the frown
Hal silent grown
The purple pall
0. pomp of power!
Bloodstained and grim,
The Iron-hearted monarch, moveless still,