Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

The first part professes to give a slight and general view of the nature of perspective; and this appears to us the worst executed portion of the book. There should have been more or less ; either half-a-dozen simple practical formula clearly laid down, or something of a connected system. The diagrams, too, are confused by an injudicious economy of space : they should, by all means, have been completely detached from each other. Still, there is much that is important even here, and the incidental observations, as well as the occasional suggestions in alleviation of difficulties, are full of instruction.

The section on Light and Shadow is extremely valuable, and the examples are judiciously selected.

• There must,' observes Mr. N., be a principal light in some part of the picture, to which every other must be subordinate, either in brightness or in quantity ; this principal mass may be in the sky, or on the objects in the landscape, it being sufficient that it is principal. If the design will admit, it should be thrown on such objects as will receive it so as to produce a pleasing form of the mass. All geometrical shapes are to be avoided. If the principal light be in the sky, the various shapes and combinations of the clouds being subject to the discretion of the artist, he has the opportunity of forming it there to the best of his judgement. The part of the pic. ture where this and the subordinate lights can be placed with the best effect, must depend in some measure on the arrangement and combination of the various objects. It is desirable to have it rather towards the middle than the extremities, but this, not being always practicable, must depend on such circumstances as the presence of objects, ground, &c. capable of receiving it; and as great liberty may be taken in the composition of the fore-ground, objects may be, and often are, introduced there for the purpose of receiving it and increasing the breadth.

• The secondary lights should not be fewer than two; and if they are nearly equal in brightness to the principal mass, but inferior in magnitude, the harmony and effect will be better than when they are below it in both respects ; in that case, the principal light will appear as a spot, more or less according to the degree of its predominance. Lesser lights may be admitted in various parts of the picture, but they ought to be placed so as not to injure the effect of the principal light, by catching the eye and drawing the attention of the spectator from it; neither should they be allowed to cut or divide the principal breadths of shadow.

• The disposition of shadow is governed by the same general rule ; it ought to have, in like manner, its principal breadths, which should not be broken or disturbed by the admission of portions of light to separate them into smaller parts. In nature, the forms of objects are distinctly made out, principally in the lights, which are supported by the shadow floating in breadth, but with less decided form.

ܪ

This is sound and sensible instruction ; though we question the expediency of admitting, as a general practice, two secondary lights of equal brilliancy with the primary and characteristic mass. We are aware that such is the rule ; but we prefer the principle of gradation and relief, unbroken by scattered brightness. We cannot see but that the law which prevails in the pictures of Correggio, strong lights melting away by demi-tints into strong shadows, is as applicable to landscape as to figure. In portrait-painting, we have often been annoyed beyond measure by the regular introduction of some staring patch of raw light in the lower part of the picture, for the purpose of counterbalancing the effect of the head. A silver ink-stand with full-plumed pen, a white pocket handkerchief, or white lining to the dress, is often most harshly contrasted with dark drapery, in villanous aping of the fine effects of Titian, who has apparently adopted the same plan in some of his portraits; that for instance of Aretin, so admirably rendered by the expressive graver of Van Dalen; and in the fine picture of a Venetian nobleman with his dog and falcon. Let us have the glow of Titian's colouring diffosed over the whole surface, communicating its deep and rich harmony to every part, instead of a coarse imitation of particular portions, without reference to the general feeling and effect.

We are happy to find Mr. Nicholson lending the sanction of his knowledge and practical experience to our often repeated recommendation, that the principles of light and shade--we would add, a fortiori, those of composition-should be studied in the prints, which are in every one's hands, from the old masters. The landscapes of Rubens are full of the finest instruction ; and we would recommend the thorough analysis and repeated transcription of the noble scenery of Nicholas Poussin, even in preference to that of Gaspar. The lover of beautiful nature will find it to perfection in the works of Claude. He who is in search of rich and romantic combinations needs o no further than Gaspar Poussin. They whose taste leads them to prefer the wild and savage, may take Salvador as their master. But those who can feel the pervading influence of classic grandeur and intellectual power, combined with a close observance even of the minutiæ of nature, will give their days to the study of the elder Poussin. No artist ever peopled a landscape like that great painter: the adaptation of figure to scenery is complete throughout. Where the latter is merely accessary, it is made so happily subordinate as to add to the interest of the main subject, without distracting the eye. But when it takes the lead and occupies its allotted space with its fine contrasts, harmonies, and gradations, its inhabitants are

not thrown in, as is too commonly the case, without a meaning or an object, excepting such as may relate to colour and effect: they have a specific business on the spot; they are identified with the scene ; and you cannot separate either from the other without positive mutilation. It may not be unacceptable to our readers, if we illustrate these statements by a specific reference to three or four of the large prints engraved from this master by Etienne Baudet. The first that occurs is a fine Italian view :—the original, if we recollect rightly, is at Dulwich. A chaussée, probably part of the Appian way, runs up in perspective, through the centre of the picture, with a slight inclination to the left, forming the limit of a lagoon on the right, and leading to a town and fortress in the distance. The foreground is formed by ruins of simple but impressive character, which, aided by the umbrageous foliage of the trees, with thwart gleams of glowing sunshine, gives a fine effect of light and shade. Three figures occupy this part of the picture; a man in an attitude admirably expressive of repose after fatigue, seated on the ground, leans back against a block of stone, on which lie a piece of drapery and a basket of fruit, evidently designed for a pastoral banquet; a female sits near him. These are towards the right. On the opposite side, their companion draws water in a pitcher from a deep stone reservoir, communicating with its fount, or discharging its superfluous water through a dark arch.

In the middle ground are trees, water, and a church, with its campanile. The remote distance is closed by mountains and the sea. The keeping of this subject is admirable. The figures belong to the scene; the very materials of their rustic repast have been obtained from a tree of beautiful foliage, loaded with fruit, that sets off in strong sunlight against the dark masonry which shades the cool, dark spring that sleeps at its base. Bushes and broken ground are advantageously interspersed. The second print presents a wilder scene; the Sicilian haunts of Polypheme, who seems here to assume his milder character, and rather to act as the guardian of the tranquil region, than to give terrcr to its inhabitants. In the immediate front is a shallow spring, lying like a lucid mirror in its gravelly basin, fringed with weeds and low foliage. Three nymphs of the fount are grouped by its side, in attitudes of alarni at the discovery of two satyrs lurking amid the bushes, close at hand. A river-god reclining on his urn is not far off. The middle ground is adorned with various groupes of trees, and eplivened by peasants engaged in various departments of rustic labour. This scene is bounded by precipitous rocks, on the crest of one of which the gigantic Cyclops reclines, playing on his unequal reeds.' This figure has been objected to, but Vol. XXV. N.S.

2F

[ocr errors]

The next en

we cannot perceive the force of the objection : it is perfectly in
accordance with the poetic character of the picture, and it is so
managed as not to glare upon the eye in offensive distinction
from the general effect. In an assemblage of naiads, satyrs,
and river-gods, Polyphemus cannot fairly be considered as an
intruder. A partial opening on the right carries the eye for-
ward to a bay, a city, and distant mountains.
graving has in the immediate foreground, a spring-head issuing
from a bank crowned with trees and enriched with beautifully
varied foliage. The lights playing on the water, catching on
the weeds and branches, the pebbles lying at the bottom and
on the brink, and the other accompaniments of this spot, give
it exquisite beauty. On the right, where a road passes the
bank, a young man, a heated traveller, stoops and drinks
out of the hollow of his hand. Diogenes, who had approached
the brook for the same purpose, surprised at this simple pro-
cess, throws away his superfluous cup. At a short distance is
seen a reclining groupe, apparently companions of the philoso-
pher. Higher up, a river or winding lake occupies the centre;
on its left bank stand trees and buildings, crowned with a
showy piece of ornamental architecture; the ground on the
right and in the distance rises to a considerable height, broken
with rocks and knolls, and enriched with trees and buildings.
Figures in different positions and occupations are seen on the
verge of the water. The fourth is a singular and most interes-
ting picture. On the left, in the foreground, from a low cavern
in a rocky bank crowned by the tall stems of two trees, and
beautifully fringed with weeds and shrubs, gushes a stream
which forms, at the mouth of the cave, a low cascade. Across
the broken ridge over which the water pours, there lies, in all
the relaxation of death, a corpse, from which an enormous ser-
pent is just unfolding his destructive coil, and raising his head
in menace of another object which has just excited his

anger. This is a man who, while walking along a path which skirts the stream on the right, has just caught sight of the fearful spectacle, and is hastening from the place with every demonstration of extreme terror. Higher up, in the centre, beside a basket which she has apparently set down from weariness, sits a female, so situated as not to see the reptile and his prey, from which she is not more than a few yards distant. The terrified traveller has, however, just attracted her attention, and her mingled fear and curiosity are well portrayed both in attitude and expression. A little further on, are three men lying in the shade, and one of them is roused by the exclamation which the female seems to be in the act of making, There is something extremely piquant in this scene. The man, who sees and feels

the full extent of his danger, the woman, whose terror is partly sympathy and partly apprehension, and both mixed with uncertainty,--the other individual, whose wonder only induces him to raise his head without shifting his lounging posture,-are all excellently conceived and contrasted both in character and relative position. The rest of the picture is made up of interesting details well combined: a beautiful groupe of trees on the right; a lake with fishermen and bathers in the centre; on the left, a bank with wood and water-fall, crested with towers and battlement; a distance of buildings and mountains.

There are four others of the same class; but these will be sufficient for our purpose, which has been, at once, to direct those of our readers who may need such intimations, to the highest sources of instruction, and to illustrate the most effective methods of combining landscape with characteristic embellishment. We could fill our Number with instances of blundering in this way. Waterloo, if we may trust our recollection, has introduced a hurdled inclosure into his etching of the death of Adonis ; and Sir Joshua Reynolds rightly censured Wilson for blending common-place scenery with a mythological subject.

Mr. Nicholson's instructions for colouring are good, especially as far as the first process is concerned. Had he stopped here, and contented himself with adding such incidental hints as might have led the way to subsequent improvement, he would, we think, have done better than by describing, not very distinctly, other methods to which there is no graphic illustration. The plate of successive stages is good, but the colouring might have been more carefully attended to. The remaining sections are filled with miscellaneous matter, a great part of which will be found useful to the student.

A series of ten lithographic subjects, for practice - in sketching, closes the volume : they are well selected and beautifully executed.

Art. V. Recollections of Foreign Travel, on Life, Literature, and

Self-Knowledge. By Sir Egerton Bridges, Bart. 2 Vols. post 8vo.
Price 188. London. 1825.
E have found some difficulty in coming to a satisfactory

decision with regard to the genuineness and real object of these volumes. We had not read far before the suspicion was awakened, that an unwarrantable use had been made of Sir Egerton's name, by some tale-writer of the day, for the purpose of dressing out two volumes of light reading. Not having the

« PoprzedniaDalej »