THE COMPLETE WORKS
|TIME AND TIDE|
|QUEEN OF THE AIR|
|LECTURES ON ART AND LANDSCAPE|
|NATIONAL LIBRARY ASSOCIATION|
IN HILARY TERM, 1870.
|THE RELATION OF ART TO RELIGION||24|
|THE RELATION OF ART TO MORALS||46|
|THE RELATION OF ART TO USE||66|
The following lectures were the most important piece of my literary work done with unabated power, best motive, and happiest concurrence of circumstance. They were written and delivered while my mother yet lived, and had vividest sympathy in all I was attempting;—while also my friends put unbroken trust in me, and the course of study I had followed seemed to fit me for the acceptance of noble tasks and graver responsibilities than those only of a curious traveler, or casual teacher.
Men of the present world may smile at the sanguine utterances of the first four lectures: but it has not been wholly my own fault that they have remained unfulfilled; nor do I retract one word of hope for the success of other masters, nor a single promise made to the sincerity of the student's labor, on the lines here indicated. It would have been necessary to my success, that I should have accepted permanent residence in Oxford, and scattered none of my energy in other tasks. But I chose to spend half my time at Coniston Waterhead; and to use half my force in attempts to form a new social organization,—the St. George's Guild,—which made all my Oxford colleagues distrustful of me, and many of my Oxford hearers contemptuous. My mother's death in 1871, and that of a dear friend in 1875, took away the personal joy I had in anything I wrote or designed: and in 1876, feeling unable for Oxford duty, I obtained a year's leave of rest, and, by the kind and wise counsel of Prince Leopold, went to Venice, to reconsider the form into which I had cast her history in the abstract of it given in the "Stones of Venice."
The more true and close view of that history, begun in "St. Mark's Rest," and the fresh architectural drawings made under the stimulus of it, led me forward into new fields of thought, inconsistent with the daily attendance needed by my Oxford classes; and in my discontent with the state I saw them in, and my inability to return to their guidance without abandonment of all my designs of Venetian and Italian history, began the series of vexations which ended in the very nearly mortal illness of 1878.
Since, therefore, the period of my effective action in Oxford was only from 1870 to 1875, it can scarcely be matter of surprise or reproof that I could not in that time obtain general trust in a system of teaching which, though founded on that of Da Vinci and Reynolds, was at variance with the practice of all recent European academy schools; nor establish—on the unassisted resources of the Slade Professorship—the schools of Sculpture, Architecture, Metal-work, and manuscript Illumination, of which the design is confidently traced in the four inaugural lectures.
In revising the book, I have indicated as in the last edition of the "Seven Lamps," passages which the student will find generally applicable, and in all their bearings useful, as distinguished from those regarding only their immediate subject. The relative importance of these broader statements, I again indicate by the use of capitals or italics; and if the reader will index the sentences he finds useful for his own work, in the blank pages left for that purpose at the close of the volume, he will certainly get more good of them than if they had been grouped for him according to the author's notion of their contents.
Sandgate, 10th January, 1888.
1. The duty which is to-day laid on me, of introducing, among the elements of education appointed in this great University, one not only new, but such as to involve in its possible results some modification of the rest, is, as you well feel, so grave, that no man could undertake it without laying himself open to the imputation of a kind of insolence; and no man could undertake it rightly, without being in danger of having his hands shortened by dread of his task, and mistrust of himself.
And it has chanced to me, of late, to be so little acquainted either with pride or hope, that I can scarcely recover so much as I now need, of the one for strength, and of the other for foresight, except by remembering that noble persons, and friends of the high temper that judges most clearly where it loves best, have desired that this trust should be given me: and by resting also in the conviction that the goodly tree whose roots, by God's help, we set in earth to-day, will not fail of its height because the planting of it is under poor auspices, or the first shoots of it enfeebled by ill gardening.
2. The munificence of the English gentleman to whom we owe the founding of this Professorship at once in our three great Universities, has accomplished the first great group of a series of changes now taking gradual effect in our system of public education, which, as you well know, are[Pg 2] the sign of a vital change in the national mind, respecting both the principles on which that education should be conducted, and the ranks of society to which it should extend. For, whereas it was formerly thought that the discipline necessary to form the character of youth was best given in the study of abstract branches of literature and philosophy, it is now thought that the same, or a better, discipline may be given by informing men in early years of the things it will be of chief practical advantage to them afterwards to know; and by permitting to them the choice of any field of study which they may feel to be best adapted to their personal dispositions. I have always used what poor influence I possessed in advancing this change; nor can any one rejoice more than I in its practical results. But the completion—I will not venture to say, correction—of a system established by the highest wisdom of noble ancestors, cannot be too reverently undertaken: and it is necessary for the English people, who are sometimes violent in change in proportion to the reluctance with which they admit its necessity, to be now, oftener than at other times, reminded that the object of instruction here is not primarily attainment, but discipline; and that a youth is sent to our Universities, not (hitherto at least) to be apprenticed to a trade, nor even always to be advanced in a profession; but, always, to be made a gentleman and a scholar.
3. To be made these,—if there is in him the making of either. The populaces of civilised countries have lately been under a feverish impression that it is possible for all men to be both; and that having once become, by passing through certain mechanical processes of instruction, gentle and learned, they are sure to attain in the sequel the consummate beatitude of being rich.
Rich, in the way and measure in which it is well for them to be so, they may, without doubt, all become. There is indeed a land of Havilah open to them, of which the wonderful sentence is literally true—"The gold of that land is good." But they must first understand, that education, in its deepest[Pg 3] sense, is not the equaliser, but the discerner, of men; and that, so far from being instruments for the collection of riches, the first lesson of wisdom is to disdain them, and of gentleness, to diffuse.
It is not therefore, as far as we can judge, yet possible for all men to be gentlemen and scholars. Even under the best training some will remain too selfish to refuse wealth, and some too dull to desire leisure. But many more might be so than are now; nay, perhaps all men in England might one day be so, if England truly desired her supremacy among the nations to be in kindness and in learning. To which good end, it will indeed contribute that we add some practice of the lower arts to our scheme of University education; but the thing which is vitally necessary is, that we should extend the spirit of University education to the practice of the lower arts.
4. And, above all, it is needful that we do this by redeeming them from their present pain of self-contempt, and by giving them rest. It has been too long boasted as the pride of England, that out of a vast multitude of men, confessed to be in evil case, it was possible for individuals, by strenuous effort, and rare good fortune, occasionally to emerge into the light, and look back with self-gratulatory scorn upon the occupations of their parents, and the circumstances of their infancy. Ought we not rather to aim at an ideal of national life, when, of the employments of Englishmen, though each shall be distinct, none shall be unhappy or ignoble; when mechanical operations, acknowledged to be debasing in their tendency, shall be deputed to less fortunate and more covetous races; when advance from rank to rank, though possible to all men, may be rather shunned than desired by the[Pg 4] best; and the chief object in the mind of every citizen may not be extrication from a condition admitted to be disgraceful, but fulfilment of a duty which shall be also a birthright?
5. And then, the training of all these distinct classes will not be by Universities of general knowledge, but by distinct schools of such knowledge as shall be most useful for every class: in which, first the principles of their special business may be perfectly taught, and whatever higher learning, and cultivation of the faculties for receiving and giving pleasure, may be properly joined with that labour, taught in connection with it. Thus, I do not despair of seeing a School of Agriculture, with its fully-endowed institutes of zoology, botany, and chemistry; and a School of Mercantile Seamanship, with its institutes of astronomy, meteorology, and natural history of the sea: and, to name only one of the finer, I do not say higher, arts, we shall, I hope, in a little time, have a perfect school of Metal-work, at the head of which will be, not the ironmasters, but the goldsmiths: and therein, I believe, that artists, being taught how to deal wisely with the most precious of metals, will take into due government the uses of all others.
But I must not permit myself to fail in the estimate of my immediate duty, while I debate what that duty may hereafter become in the hands of others; and I will therefore now, so far as I am able, lay before you a brief general view of the existing state of the arts in England, and of the influence which her Universities, through these newly-founded lectureships, may, I hope, bring to bear upon it for good.
6. We have first to consider the impulse which has been given to the practice of all the arts by the extension of our commerce, and enlarged means of intercourse with foreign nations, by which we now become more familiarly acquainted with their works in past and in present times. The immediate result of these new opportunities, I regret to say, has been to make us more jealous of the genius of others, than conscious of the limitations of our own; and to make us rather[Pg 5] desire to enlarge our wealth by the sale of art, than to elevate our enjoyments by its acquisition.
Now, whatever efforts we make, with a true desire to produce, and possess, things that are intrinsically beautiful, have in them at least one of the essential elements of success. But efforts having origin only in the hope of enriching ourselves by the sale of our productions, are assuredly condemned to dishonourable failure; not because, ultimately, a well-trained nation is forbidden to profit by the exercise of its peculiar art-skill; but because that peculiar art-skill can never be developed with a view to profit. The right fulfilment of national power in art depends always on the direction of its aim by the experience of ages. Self-knowledge is not less difficult, nor less necessary for the direction of its genius, to a people than to an individual; and it is neither to be acquired by the eagerness of unpractised pride, nor during the anxieties of improvident distress. No nation ever had, or will have, the power of suddenly developing, under the pressure of necessity, faculties it had neglected when it was at ease; nor of teaching itself in poverty, the skill to produce, what it has never, in opulence, had the sense to admire.
7. Connected also with some of the worst parts of our social system, but capable of being directed to better result than this commercial endeavour, we see lately a most powerful impulse given to the production of costly works of art, by the various causes which promote the sudden accumulation of wealth in the hands of private persons. We have thus a vast and new patronage, which, in its present agency, is injurious to our schools; but which is nevertheless in a great degree earnest and conscientious, and far from being influenced chiefly by motives of ostentation. Most of our rich men would be glad to promote the true interests of art in this country: and even those who buy for vanity, found their vanity on the possession of what they suppose to be best.
It is therefore in a great measure the fault of artists[Pg 6] themselves if they suffer from this partly unintelligent, but thoroughly well-intended, patronage. If they seek to attract it by eccentricity, to deceive it by superficial qualities, or take advantage of it by thoughtless and facile production, they necessarily degrade themselves and it together, and have no right to complain afterwards that it will not acknowledge better-grounded claims. But if every painter of real power would do only what he knew to be worthy of himself, and refuse to be involved in the contention for undeserved or accidental success, there is indeed, whatever may have been thought or said to the contrary, true instinct enough in the public mind to follow such firm guidance. It is one of the facts which the experience of thirty years enables me to assert without qualification, that a really good picture is ultimately always approved and bought, unless it is wilfully rendered offensive to the public by faults which the artist has been either too proud to abandon or too weak to correct.
8. The development of whatever is healthful and serviceable in the two modes of impulse which we have been considering, depends however, ultimately, on the direction taken by the true interest in art which has lately been aroused by the great and active genius of many of our living, or but lately lost, painters, sculptors, and architects. It may perhaps surprise, but I think it will please you to hear me, or (if you will forgive me, in my own Oxford, the presumption of fancying that some may recognise me by an old name) to hear the author of "Modern Painters" say, that his chief error in earlier days was not in over estimating, but in too slightly acknowledging the merit of living men. The great painter whose power, while he was yet among us, I was able to perceive, was the first to reprove me for my disregard of the skill of his fellow-artists; and, with this inauguration of the study of the art of all time,—a study which can only by true modesty end in wise admiration,—it is surely well that I connect the record of these words of his, spoken then too truly to myself, and true always more or less for all who[Pg 7] are untrained in that toil,—"You don't know how difficult it is."
You will not expect me, within the compass of this lecture, to give you any analysis of the many kinds of excellent art (in all the three great divisions) which the complex demands of modern life, and yet more varied instincts of modern genius, have developed for pleasure or service. It must be my endeavour, in conjunction with my colleagues in the other Universities, hereafter to enable you to appreciate these worthily; in the hope that also the members of the Royal Academy, and those of the Institute of British Architects, may be induced to assist, and guide, the efforts of the Universities, by organising such a system of art-education for their own students, as shall in future prevent the waste of genius in any mistaken endeavours; especially removing doubt as to the proper substance and use of materials; and requiring compliance with certain elementary principles of right, in every picture and design exhibited with their sanction. It is not indeed possible for talent so varied as that of English artists to be compelled into the formalities of a determined school; but it must certainly be the function of every academical body to see that their younger students are guarded from what must in every school be error; and that they are practised in the best methods of work hitherto known, before their ingenuity is directed to the invention of others.
9. I need scarcely refer, except for the sake of completeness in my statement, to one form of demand for art which is wholly unenlightened, and powerful only for evil;—namely, the demand of the classes occupied solely in the pursuit of pleasure, for objects and modes of art that can amuse indolence or excite passion. There is no need for any discussion of these requirements, or of their forms of influence, though they are very deadly at present in their operation on sculpture, and on jewellers' work. They cannot be checked by blame, nor guided by instruction; they are merely the necessary result of whatever defects exist in the[Pg 8] temper and principles of a luxurious society; and it is only by moral changes, not by art-criticism, that their action can be modified.
10. Lastly, there is a continually increasing demand for popular art, multipliable by the printing-press, illustrative of daily events, of general literature, and of natural science. Admirable skill, and some of the best talent of modern times, are occupied in supplying this want; and there is no limit to the good which may be effected by rightly taking advantage of the powers we now possess of placing good and lovely art within the reach of the poorest classes. Much has been already accomplished; but great harm has been done also,—first, by forms of art definitely addressed to depraved tastes; and, secondly, in a more subtle way, by really beautiful and useful engravings which are yet not good enough to retain their influence on the public mind;—which weary it by redundant quantity of monotonous average excellence, and diminish or destroy its power of accurate attention to work of a higher order.
Especially this is to be regretted in the effect produced on the schools of line engraving, which had reached in England an executive skill of a kind before unexampled, and which of late have lost much of their more sterling and legitimate methods. Still, I have seen plates produced quite recently, more beautiful, I think, in some qualities than anything ever before attained by the burin: and I have not the slightest fear that photography, or any other adverse or competitive operation, will in the least ultimately diminish,—I believe they will, on the contrary, stimulate and exalt—the grand old powers of the wood and the steel.
11. Such are, I think, briefly the present conditions of art with which we have to deal; and I conceive it to be the function of this Professorship, with respect to them, to establish both a practical and critical school of fine art for English gentlemen: practical, so that if they draw at all, they may draw rightly; and critical, so that being first directed to such works of existing art as will best reward their study,[Pg 9] they may afterwards make their patronage of living artists delightful to themselves in their consciousness of its justice, and, to the utmost, beneficial to their country, by being given to the men who deserve it; in the early period of their lives, when they both need it most, and can be influenced by it to the best advantage.
12. And especially with reference to this function of patronage, I believe myself justified in taking into account future probabilities as to the character and range of art in England: and I shall endeavour at once to organise with you a system of study calculated to develop chiefly the knowledge of those branches in which the English schools have shown, and are likely to show, peculiar excellence.
Now, in asking your sanction both for the nature of the general plans I wish to adopt, and for what I conceive to be necessary limitations of them, I wish you to be fully aware of my reasons for both: and I will therefore risk the burdening of your patience while I state the directions of effort in which I think English artists are liable to failure, and those also in which past experience has shown they are secure of success.
13. I referred, but now, to the effort we are making to improve the designs of our manufactures. Within certain limits I believe this improvement may indeed take effect: so that we may no more humour momentary fashions by ugly results of chance instead of design; and may produce both good tissues, of harmonious colours, and good forms and substance of pottery and glass. But we shall never excel in decorative design. Such design is usually produced by people of great natural powers of mind, who have no variety of subjects to employ themselves on, no oppressive anxieties, and are in circumstances either of natural scenery or of daily life, which cause pleasurable excitement. We cannot design, because we have too much to think of, and we think of it too anxiously. It has long been observed how little real anxiety exists in the minds of the partly savage races which excel in decorative art; and we must not suppose that[Pg 10] the temper of the Middle Ages was a troubled one, because every day brought its danger or its change. The very eventfulness of the life rendered it careless, as generally is still the case with soldiers and sailors. Now, when there are great powers of thought, and little to think of, all the waste energy and fancy are thrown into the manual work, and you have so much intellect as would direct the affairs of a large mercantile concern for a day, spent all at once, quite unconsciously, in drawing an ingenious spiral.
Also, powers of doing fine ornamental work are only to be reached by a perpetual discipline of the hand as well as of the fancy; discipline as attentive and painful as that which a juggler has to put himself through, to overcome the more palpable difficulties of his profession. The execution of the best artists is always a splendid tour-de-force; and much that in painting is supposed to be dependent on material is indeed only a lovely and quite inimitable legerdemain. Now, when powers of fancy, stimulated by this triumphant precision of manual dexterity, descend uninterruptedly from generation to generation, you have at last, what is not so much a trained artist, as a new species of animal, with whose instinctive gifts you have no chance of contending. And thus all our imitations of other people's work are futile. We must learn first to make honest English wares, and afterwards to decorate them as may please the then approving Graces.
14. Secondly—and this is an incapacity of a graver kind, yet having its own good in it also—we shall never be successful in the highest fields of ideal or theological art.
For there is one strange, but quite essential, character in us: ever since the Conquest, if not earlier:—a delight in the forms of burlesque which are connected in some degree with the foulness of evil. I think the most perfect type of a true English mind in its best possible temper, is that of Chaucer; and you will find that, while it is for the most part full of thoughts of beauty, pure and wild like that of an April morning, there are even in the midst of this, sometimes momentarily jesting passages which stoop to play with evil—while[Pg 11] the power of listening to and enjoying the jesting of entirely gross persons, whatever the feeling may be which permits it, afterwards degenerates into forms of humour which render some of quite the greatest, wisest, and most moral of English writers now almost useless for our youth. And yet you will find that whenever Englishmen are wholly without this instinct, their genius is comparatively weak and restricted.
15. Now, the first necessity for the doing of any great work in ideal art, is the looking upon all foulness with horror, as a contemptible though dreadful enemy. You may easily understand what I mean, by comparing the feelings with which Dante regards any form of obscenity or of base jest, with the temper in which the same things are regarded by Shakespeare. And this strange earthly instinct of ours, coupled as it is, in our good men, with great simplicity and common sense, renders them shrewd and perfect observers and delineators of actual nature, low or high; but precludes them from that specialty of art which is properly called sublime. If ever we try anything in the manner of Michael Angelo or of Dante, we catch a fall, even in literature, as Milton in the battle of the angels, spoiled from Hesiod; while in art, every attempt in this style has hitherto been the sign either of the presumptuous egotism of persons who had never really learned to be workmen, or it has been connected with very tragic forms of the contemplation of death,—it has always been partly insane, and never once wholly successful.
But we need not feel any discomfort in these limitations of our capacity. We can do much that others cannot, and more than we have ever yet ourselves completely done. Our first great gift is in the portraiture of living people—a power already so accomplished in both Reynolds and Gainsborough that nothing is left for future masters but to add the calm of perfect workmanship to their vigour and felicity of perception. And of what value a true school of portraiture may become in the future, when worthy men will desire only to be known, and others will not fear to know[Pg 12] them, for what they truly were, we cannot from any past records of art influence yet conceive. But in my next address it will be partly my endeavour to show you how much more useful, because more humble, the labour of great masters might have been, had they been content to bear record of the souls that were dwelling with them on earth, instead of striving to give a deceptive glory to those they dreamed of in heaven.
16. Secondly, we have an intense power of invention and expression in domestic drama; (King Lear and Hamlet being essentially domestic in their strongest motives of interest). There is a tendency at this moment towards a noble development of our art in this direction, checked by many adverse conditions, which may be summed in one,—the insufficiency of generous civic or patriotic passion in the heart of the English people; a fault which makes its domestic affection selfish, contracted, and, therefore, frivolous.
17. Thirdly, in connection with our simplicity and good-humour, 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; and which, though it has already found some exquisite expression in the works of Bewick and Landseer, is yet quite undeveloped. This sympathy, with the aid of our now authoritative science of physiology, and in association with our British love of adventure, will, I hope, enable us to give to the future inhabitants of the globe an almost perfect record of the present forms of animal life upon it, of which many are on the point of being extinguished.
Lastly, but not as the least important of our special powers, I have to note our skill in landscape, of which I will presently speak more particularly.
18. Such I conceive to be the directions in which, principally, we have the power to excel; and you must at once see how the consideration of them must modify the advisable methods of our art study. For if our professional painters were likely to produce pieces of art loftily ideal in their[Pg 13] character, it would be desirable to form the taste of the students here by setting before them only the purest examples of Greek, and the mightiest of Italian, art. But I do not think you will yet find a single instance of a school directed exclusively to these higher branches of study in England, which has strongly, or even definitely, made impression on its younger scholars. While, therefore, I shall endeavour to point out clearly the characters to be looked for and admired in the great masters of imaginative design, I shall make no special effort to stimulate the imitation of them; and above all things, I shall try to probe in you, and to prevent, the affectation into which it is easy to fall, even through modesty,—of either endeavouring to admire a grandeur with which we have no natural sympathy, or losing the pleasure we might take in the study of familiar things, by considering it a sign of refinement to look for what is of higher class, or rarer occurrence.
19. Again, if our artisans were likely to attain any distinguished skill in ornamental design, it would be incumbent upon me to make my class here accurately acquainted with the principles of earth and metal work, and to accustom them to take pleasure in conventional arrangements of colour and form. I hope, indeed, to do this, so far as to enable them to discern the real merit of many styles of art which are at present neglected; and, above all, to read the minds of semi-barbaric nations in the only language by which their feelings were capable of expression; and those members of my class whose temper inclines them to take pleasure in the interpretation of mythic symbols, will not probably be induced to quit the profound fields of investigation which early art, examined carefully, will open to them, and which belong to it alone: for this is a general law, that supposing the intellect of the workman the same, the more imitatively complete his art, the less he will mean by it; and the ruder the symbol, the deeper is its intention. Nevertheless, when I have once sufficiently pointed out the nature and value of this conventional work, and vindicated it from the contempt[Pg 14] with which it is too generally regarded, I shall leave the student to his own pleasure in its pursuit; and even, so far as I may, discourage all admiration founded on quaintness or peculiarity of style; and repress any other modes of feeling which are likely to lead rather to fastidious collection of curiosities, than to the intelligent appreciation of work which, being executed in compliance with constant laws of right, cannot be singular, and must be distinguished only by excellence in what is always desirable.
20. While, therefore, in these and such other directions, I shall endeavour to put every adequate means of advance within reach of the members of my class, I shall use my own best energy to show them what is consummately beautiful and well done, by men who have passed through the symbolic or suggestive stage of design, and have enabled themselves to comply, by truth of representation, with the strictest or most eager demands of accurate science, and of disciplined passion. I shall therefore direct your observation, during the greater part of the time you may spare to me, to what is indisputably best, both in painting and sculpture; trusting that you will afterwards recognise the nascent and partial skill of former days both with greater interest and greater respect, when you know the full difficulty of what it attempted, and the complete range of what it foretold.
21. And with this view, I shall at once endeavour to do what has for many years been in my thoughts, and now, with the advice and assistance of the curators of the University Galleries, I do not doubt may be accomplished here in Oxford, just where it will be preëminently useful—namely, to arrange an educational series of examples of excellent art, standards to which you may at once refer on any questionable point, and by the study of which you may gradually attain an instinctive sense of right, which will afterwards be liable to no serious error. Such a collection may be formed, both more perfectly, and more easily, than would commonly be supposed. For the real utility of the series will depend on its restricted extent,—on the severe exclusion of all second[Pg 15]-rate, superfluous, or even attractively varied examples,—and On the confining the students' attention to a few types of what is insuperably good. More progress in power of judgment may be made in a limited time by the examination of one work, than by the review of many; and a certain degree of vitality is given to the impressiveness of every characteristic, by its being exhibited in clear contrast, and without repetition.
The greater number of the examples I shall choose will be only engravings or photographs: they shall be arranged so as to be easily accessible, and I will prepare a catalogue, pointing out my purpose in the selection of each. But in process of time, I have good hope that assistance will be given me by the English public in making the series here no less splendid than serviceable; and in placing minor collections, arranged on a similar principle, at the command also of the students in our public schools.
22. In the second place, I shall endeavour to prevail upon all the younger members of the University who wish to attend the art lectures, to give at least so much time to manual practice as may enable them to understand the nature and difficulty of executive skill. The time so spent will not be lost, even as regards their other studies at the University, for I will prepare the practical exercises in a double series, one illustrative of history, the other of natural science. And whether you are drawing a piece of Greek armour, or a hawk's beak, or a lion's paw, you will find that the mere necessity of using the hand compels attention to circumstances which would otherwise have escaped notice, and fastens them in the memory without farther effort. But were it even otherwise, and this practical training did really involve some sacrifice of your time, I do not fear but that it will be justified to you by its felt results: and I think that general public feeling is also tending to the admission that accomplished education must include, not only full command of expression by language, but command of true musical sound by the voice, and of true form by the hand.[Pg 16]
23. While I myself hold this professorship, I shall direct you in these exercises very definitely to natural history, and to landscape; not only because in these two branches I am probably able to show you truths which might be despised by my successors: but because I think the vital and joyful study of natural history quite the principal element requiring introduction, not only into University, but into national, education, from highest to lowest; and I even will risk incurring your ridicule by confessing one of my fondest dreams, that I may succeed in making some of you English youths like better to look at a bird than to shoot it; and even desire to make wild creatures tame, instead of tame creatures wild. And for the study of landscape, it is, I think, now calculated to be of use in deeper, if not more important modes, than that of natural science, for reasons which I will ask you to let me state at some length.
24. Observe first;—no race of men which is entirely bred in wild country, far from cities, ever enjoys landscape. They may enjoy the beauty of animals, but scarcely even that: a true peasant cannot see the beauty of cattle; but only qualities expressive of their serviceableness. I waive discussion of this to-day; permit my assertion of it, under my confident guarantee of future proof. Landscape can only be enjoyed by cultivated persons; and it is only by music, literature, and painting, that cultivation can be given. Also, the faculties which are thus received are hereditary; so that the child of an educated race has an innate instinct for beauty, derived from arts practised hundreds of years before its birth. Now farther note this, one of the loveliest things in human nature. In the children of noble races, trained by surrounding art, and at the same time in the practice of great deeds, there is an intense delight in the landscape of their country as memorial; a sense not taught to them, nor teachable to any others; but, in them, innate; and the seal and reward of persistence in great national life;—the obedience and the peace of ages having extended gradually the glory of the revered ancestors also to the ancestral land;[Pg 17] until the Motherhood of the dust, the mystery of the Demeter from whose bosom we came, and to whose bosom we return, surrounds and inspires, everywhere, the local awe of field and fountain; the sacredness of landmark that none may remove, and of wave that none may pollute; while records of proud days, and of dear persons, make every rock monumental with ghostly inscription, and every path lovely with noble desolateness.
25. Now, however checked by lightness of temperament, the instinctive love of landscape in us has this deep root, which, in your minds, I will pray you to disencumber from whatever may oppress or mortify it, and to strive to feel with all the strength of your youth that a nation is only worthy of the soil and the scenes that it has inherited, when, by all its acts and arts, it is making them more lovely for its children.
And now, I trust, you will feel that it is not in mere yielding to my own fancies that I have chosen, for the first three subjects in your educational series, landscape scenes;—two in England, and one in France,—the association of these being not without purpose:—and for the fourth Albert Dürer's dream of the Spirit of Labour. And of the landscape subjects, I must tell you this much. The first is an engraving only; the original drawing by Turner was destroyed by fire twenty years ago. For which loss I wish you to be sorry, and to remember, in connection with this first example, that whatever remains to us of possession in the arts is, compared to what we might have had if we had cared for them, just what that engraving is to the lost drawing. You will find also that its subject has meaning in it which will not be harmful to you. The second example is a real drawing by Turner, in the same series, and very nearly of the same place; the two scenes are within a quarter of a mile of each other. It will show you the character of the work that was destroyed. It will show you, in process of time, much more; but chiefly, and this is my main reason for choosing both, it will be a permanent expression to you of[Pg 18] what English landscape was once;—and must, if we are to remain a nation, be again.
I think it farther right to tell you, for otherwise you might hardly pay regard enough to work apparently so simple, that by a chance which is not altogether displeasing to me, this drawing, which it has become, for these reasons, necessary for me to give you, is—not indeed the best I have, (I have several as good, though none better)—but, of all I have, the one I had least mind to part with.
The third example is also a Turner drawing—a scene on the Loire—never engraved. It is an introduction to the series of the Loire, which you have already; it has in its present place a due concurrence with the expressional purpose of its companions; and though small, it is very precious, being a faultless, and, I believe, unsurpassable example of water-colour painting.
Chiefly, however, remember the object of these three first examples is to give you an index to your truest feelings about European, and especially about your native landscape, as it is pensive and historical; and so far as you yourselves make any effort at its representation, to give you a motive for fidelity in handwork more animating than any connected with mere success in the art itself.
26. With respect to actual methods of practice, I will not incur the responsibility of determining them for you. We will take Lionardo's treatise on painting for our first text-book; and I think you need not fear being misled by me if I ask you to do only what Lionardo bids, or what will be necessary to enable you to do his bidding. But you need not possess the book, nor read it through. I will translate the pieces to the authority of which I shall appeal; and, in process of time, by analysis of this fragmentary treatise, show you some characters not usually understood of the simplicity as well as subtlety common to most great workmen of that age. Afterwards we will collect the instructions of other undisputed masters, till we have obtained a code of laws clearly resting on the consent of antiquity.[Pg 19]
While, however, I thus in some measure limit for the present the methods of your practice, I shall endeavour to make the courses of my University lectures as wide in their range as my knowledge will permit. The range so conceded will be narrow enough; but I believe that my proper function is not to acquaint you with the general history, but with the essential principles of art; and with its history only when it has been both great and good, or where some special excellence of it requires examination of the causes to which it must be ascribed.
27. But if either our work, or our enquiries, are to be indeed successful in their own field, they must be connected with others of a sterner character. Now listen to me, if I have in these past details lost or burdened your attention; for this is what I have chiefly to say to you. The art of any country is the exponent of its social and political virtues. I will show you that it is so in some detail, in the second of my subsequent course of lectures; meantime accept this as one of the things, and the most important of all things, I can positively declare to you. The art, or general productive and formative energy, of any country, is an exact exponent of its ethical life. You can have noble art only from noble persons, associated under laws fitted to their time and circumstances. And the best skill that any teacher of art could spend here in your help, would not end in enabling you even so much as rightly to draw the water-lilies in the Cherwell (and though it did, the work when done would not be worth the lilies themselves) unless both he and you were seeking, as I trust we shall together seek, in the laws which regulate the finest industries, the clue to the laws which regulate all industries, and in better obedience to which we shall actually have henceforward to live: not merely in compliance with our own sense of what is right, but under the weight of quite literal necessity. For the trades by which the British people has believed it to be the highest of destinies to maintain itself, cannot now long remain undisputed in its hands; its unemployed poor are[Pg 20] daily becoming more violently criminal; and a certain distress in the middle classes, arising, partly from their vanity in living always up to their incomes, and partly from their folly in imagining that they can subsist in idleness upon usury, will at last compel the sons and daughters of English families to acquaint themselves with the principles of providential economy; and to learn that food can only be got out of the ground, and competence only secured by frugality; and that although it is not possible for all to be occupied in the highest arts, nor for any, guiltlessly, to pass their days in a succession of pleasures, the most perfect mental culture possible to men is founded on their useful energies, and their best arts and brightest happiness are consistent, and consistent only, with their virtue.
28. This, I repeat, gentlemen, will soon become manifest to those among us, and there are yet many, who are honest-hearted. And the future fate of England depends upon the position they then take, and on their courage in maintaining it.
There is a destiny now possible to us—the highest ever set before a nation to be accepted or refused. We are still undegenerate in race; a race mingled of the best northern blood. We are not yet dissolute in temper, but still have the firmness to govern, and the grace to obey. We have been taught a religion of pure mercy, which we must either now betray, or learn to defend by fulfilling. And we are rich in an inheritance of honour, bequeathed to us through a thousand years of noble history, which it should be our daily thirst to increase with splendid avarice, so that Englishmen, if it be a sin to covet honour, should be the most offending souls alive. Within the last few years we have had the laws of natural science opened to us with a rapidity which has been blinding by its brightness; and means of transit and communication given to us, which have made but one kingdom of the habitable globe. One kingdom;—but who is to be its king? Is there to be no king in it, think you, and every man to do that which is right in his own eyes? Or[Pg 21] only kings of terror, and the obscene empires of Mammon and Belial? Or will you, youths of England, make your country again a royal throne of kings; a sceptred isle, for all the world a source of light, a centre of peace; mistress of Learning and of the Arts;—faithful guardian of great memories in the midst of irreverent and ephemeral visions;—faithful servant of time-tried principles, under temptation from fond experiments and licentious desires; and amidst the cruel and clamorous jealousies of the nations, worshipped in her strange valour of goodwill towards men?
29. "Vexilla regis prodeunt." Yes, but of which king? There are the two oriflammes; which shall we plant on the farthest islands,—the one that floats in heavenly fire, or that hangs heavy with foul tissue of terrestrial gold? There is indeed a course of beneficent glory open to us, such as never was yet offered to any poor group of mortal souls. But it must be—it is with us, now, "Reign or Die." And if it shall be said of this country, "Fece per viltate, il gran rifiuto;" that refusal of the crown will be, of all yet recorded in history, the shamefullest and most untimely.
And this is what she must either do, or perish: she must found colonies as fast and as far as she is able, formed of her most energetic and worthiest men;—seizing every piece of fruitful waste ground she can set her foot on, and there teaching these her colonists that their chief virtue is to be fidelity to their country, and that their first aim is to be to advance the power of England by land and sea: and that, though they live on a distant plot of ground, they are no more to consider themselves therefore disfranchised from their native land, than the sailors of her fleets do, because they float on distant waves. So that literally, these colonies must be fastened fleets; and every man of them must be under authority of captains and officers, whose better command is to be over fields and streets instead of ships of the line; and England, in these her motionless navies (or, in the true and mightiest sense, motionless churches, ruled by pilots on the Galilean lake of all the world), is to "expect every man to do his[Pg 22] duty;" recognising that duty is indeed possible no less in peace than war; and that if we can get men, for little pay, to cast themselves against cannon-mouths for love of England, we may find men also who will plough and sow for her, who will behave kindly and righteously for her, who will bring up their children to love her, and who will gladden themselves in the brightness of her glory, more than in all the light of tropic skies.
But that they may be able to do this, she must make her own majesty stainless; she must give them thoughts of their home of which they can be proud. The England who is to be mistress of half the earth, cannot remain herself a heap of cinders, trampled by contending and miserable crowds; she must yet again become the England she was once, and in all beautiful ways,—more: so happy, so secluded, and so pure, that in her sky—polluted by no unholy clouds—she may be able to spell rightly of every star that heaven doth show; and in her fields, ordered and wide and fair, of every herb that sips the dew; and under the green avenues of her enchanted garden, a sacred Circe, true Daughter of the Sun, she must guide the human arts, and gather the divine knowledge, of distant nations, transformed from savageness to manhood, and redeemed from despairing into peace.
30. You think that an impossible ideal. Be it so; refuse to accept it if you will; but see that you form your own in its stead. All that I ask of you is to have a fixed purpose of some kind for your country and yourselves; no matter how restricted, so that it be fixed and unselfish. I know what stout hearts are in you, to answer acknowledged need: but it is the fatallest form of error in English youths to hide their hardihood till it fades for lack of sunshine, and to act in disdain of purpose, till all purpose is vain. It is not by deliberate, but by careless selfishness; not by compromise with evil, but by dull following of good, that the weight of national evil increases upon us daily. Break through at least this pretence of existence; determine what you will be, and what you would win. You will not decide wrongly if you[Pg 23] will resolve to decide at all. Were even the choice between lawless pleasure and loyal suffering, you would not, I believe, choose basely. But your trial is not so sharp. It is between drifting in confused wreck among the castaways of Fortune, who condemns to assured ruin those who know not either how to resist her, or obey; between this, I say, and the taking of your appointed part in the heroism of Rest; the resolving to share in the victory which is to the weak rather than the strong; and the binding yourselves by that law, which, thought on through lingering night and labouring day, makes a man's life to be as a tree planted by the water-side, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season;—
"ET FOLIUM EJUS NON DEFLUET,
ET OMNIA, QUÆCUNQUE FACIET, PROSPERABUNTUR."
31. It was stated, and I trust partly with your acceptance, in my opening lecture, that the study on which we are about to enter cannot be rightly undertaken except in furtherance of the grave purposes of life with respect to which the rest of the scheme of your education here is designed. But you can scarcely have at once felt all that I intended in saying so;—you cannot but be still partly under the impression that the so-called fine arts are merely modes of graceful recreation, and a new resource for your times of rest. Let me ask you, forthwith, so far as you can trust me, to change your thoughts in this matter. All the great arts have for their object either the support or exaltation of human life,—usually both; and their dignity, and ultimately their very existence, depend on their being "μετὰ λόγου ἀληθοῦς," hat is to say, apprehending, with right reason, the nature of the materials they work with, of the things they relate or represent, and of the faculties to which they are addressed. And farther, they form one united system from which it is impossible to remove any part without harm to the rest. They are founded first in mastery, by strength of arm, of the earth and sea, in agriculture and seamanship; then their inventive power begins, with the clay in the hand of the potter, whose art is the humblest but truest type of the forming of the human body and spirit; and in the carpenter's work, which probably was the early employment of the Founder of our religion. And until men have perfectly learned the laws of art in clay and wood, they can consummately know no others. Nor is it without the strange significance which you will find in what at first seems chance,[Pg 25] in all noble histories, as soon as you can read them rightly,—that the statue of Athena Polias was of olive-wood, and that the Greek temple and Gothic spire are both merely the permanent representations of useful wooden structures. On these two first arts follow building in stone,—sculpture,—metal work,—and painting; every art being properly called "fine" which demands the exercise of the full faculties of heart and intellect. For though the fine arts are not necessarily imitative or representative, for their essence is in being περὶ περὶ γένεσιν —occupied in the actual production of beautiful form or colour,—still, the highest of them are appointed also to relate to us the utmost ascertainable truth respecting visible things and moral feelings: and this pursuit of fact is the vital element of the art power;—that in which alone it can develop itself to its utmost. And I will anticipate by an assertion which you will at present think too bold, but which I am willing that you should think so, in order that you may well remember it,—the highest thing that art can do is to set before you the true image of the presence of a noble human being. it has never done more than this, and it ought not to do less.
32. The great arts—forming thus one perfect scheme of human skill, of which it is not right to call one division more honourable, though it may be more subtle, than another—have had, and can have, but three principal directions of purpose:—first, that of enforcing the religion of men; secondly, that of perfecting their ethical state; thirdly, that of doing them material service.
33. I do not doubt but that you are surprised at my saying the arts can in their second function only be directed to the perfecting of ethical state, it being our usual impression that they are often destructive of morality. But it is impossible to direct fine art to an immoral end, except by giving it characters unconnected with its fineness, or by addressing it to persons who cannot perceive it to be fine. Whosoever recognises it is exalted by it. On the other hand, it has been commonly thought that art was a most fitting means[Pg 26] for the enforcement of religious doctrines and emotions; whereas there is, as I must presently try to show you, room for grave doubt whether it has not in this function hitherto done evil rather than good.
34. In this and the two next following lectures, I shall endeavour therefore to show you the grave relations of human art, in these three functions, to human life. I can do this but roughly, as you may well suppose—since each of these subjects would require for its right treatment years instead of hours. Only, remember, I have already given years, not a few, to each of them; and what I try to tell you now will be only so much as is absolutely necessary to set our work on a clear foundation. You may not, at present, see the necessity for any foundation, and may think that I ought to put pencil and paper in your hands at once. On that point I must simply answer, "Trust me a little while," asking you however also to remember, that—irrespectively of any consideration of last or first—my true function here is not that of your master in painting, or sculpture, or pottery; but to show you what it is that makes any of these arts fine, or the contrary of fine: essentially good, or essentially base. You need not fear my not being practical enough for you; all the industry you choose to give me, I will take; but far the better part of what you may gain by such industry would be lost, if I did not first lead you to see what every form of art-industry intends, and why some of it is justly called right, and some wrong.
35. It would be well if you were to look over, with respect to this matter, the end of the second, and what interests you of the third, book of Plato's Republic; noting therein these two principal things, of which I have to speak in this and my next lecture: first, the power which Plato so frankly, and quite justly, attributes to art, of falsifying our conceptions of Deity: which power he by fatal error partly implies may be used wisely for good, and that the feigning is only wrong when it is of evil, "ἐάν τις μὴ καλῶς ψεύδηται;" and you may trace through all that follows the beginning of the[Pg 27] change of Greek ideal art into a beautiful expediency, instead of what it was in the days of Pindar, the statement of what "could not be otherwise than so." But, in the second place, you will find in those books of the Polity, stated with far greater accuracy of expression than our English language admits, the essential relations of art to morality; the sum of these being given in one lovely sentence, which, considering that we have to-day grace done us by fair companionship, you will pardon me for translating. "Must it be then only with our poets that we insist they shall either create for us the image of a noble morality, or among us create none? or shall we not also keep guard over all other workers for the people, and forbid them to make what is ill-customed, and unrestrained, and ungentle, and without order or shape, either in likeness of living things, or in buildings, or in any other thing whatsoever that is made for the people? and shall we not rather seek for workers who can track the inner nature of all that may be sweetly schemed; so that the young men, as living in a wholesome place, may be profited by everything that, in work fairly wrought, may touch them through hearing or sight—as if it were a breeze bringing health to them from places strong for life?"
36. And now—but one word, before we enter on our task, as to the way you must understand what I may endeavour to tell you.
Let me beg you—now and always—not to think that I mean more than I say. In all probability, I mean just what I say, and only that. At all events I do fully mean that; and if there is anything reserved in my mind, it will be probably different from what you would guess. You are perfectly welcome to know all that I think, as soon as I have put before you all my grounds for thinking it; but by the time I have done so, you will be able to form an opinion of your own; and mine will then be of no consequence to you.
37. I use then to-day, as I shall in future use, the word[Pg 28] "Religion" as signifying the feelings of love, reverence, or dread with which the human mind is affected by its conceptions of spiritual being; and you know well how necessary it is, both to the rightness of our own life, and to the understanding the lives of others, that we should always keep clearly distinguished our ideas of Religion, as thus defined, and of Morality, as the law of rightness in human conduct. For there are many religions, but there is only one morality. There are moral and immoral religions, which differ as much in precept as in emotion; but there is only one morality, which has been, is, and must be for ever, an instinct in the hearts of all civilised men, as certain and unalterable as their outward bodily form, and which receives from religion neither law, nor place; but only hope, and felicity.
38. The pure forms or states of religion hitherto known, are those in which a healthy humanity, finding in itself many foibles and sins, has imagined, or been made conscious of, the existence of higher spiritual personality, liable to no such fault or stain; and has been assisted in effort, and consoled in pain, by reference to the will or sympathy of such purer spirits, whether imagined or real. I am compelled to use these painful latitudes of expression, because no analysis has hitherto sufficed to distinguish accurately, in historical narrative, the difference between impressions resulting from the imagination of the worshipper, and those made, if any, by the actually local and temporary presence of another spirit. For instance, take the vision, which of all others has been since made most frequently the subject of physical representation—the appearance to Ezekiel and St. John of the four living creatures, which throughout Christendom have been used to symbolise the Evangelists. Supposing such interpretation just, one of those figures was either the mere symbol to St. John of himself, or it was the power which inspired him, manifesting itself in an independent form. Which of these it was, or whether neither of these, but a vision[Pg 29] of other powers, or a dream, of which neither the prophet himself knew, nor can any other person yet know, the interpretation,—I suppose no modestly-minded and accurate thinker would now take upon himself to decide. Nor is it therefore anywise necessary for you to decide on that, or any other such question; but it is necessary that you should be bold enough to look every opposing question steadily in its face; and modest enough, having done so, to know when it is too hard for you. But above all things, see that you be modest in your thoughts, for of this one thing we may be absolutely sure, that all our thoughts are but degrees of darkness. And in these days you have to guard against the fatallest darkness of the two opposite Prides;—the Pride of Faith, which imagines that the nature of the Deity can be defined by its convictions; and the Pride of Science, which imagines that the energy of Deity can be explained by its analysis.
39. Of these, the first, the Pride of Faith, is now, as it has been always, the most deadly, because the most complacent and subtle;—because it invests every evil passion of our nature with the aspect of an angel of light, and enables the self-love, which might otherwise have been put to wholesome shame, and the cruel carelessness of the ruin of our fellow-men, which might otherwise have been warmed into human love, or at least checked by human intelligence, to congeal themselves into the mortal intellectual disease of imagining that myriads of the inhabitants of the world for four thousand years have been left to wander and perish, many of them everlastingly, in order that, in fulness of time, divine truth might be preached sufficiently to ourselves: with this farther ineffable mischief for direct result, that multitudes of kindly-disposed, gentle, and submissive persons, who might else by their true patience have alloyed the hardness of the common crowd, and by their activity for good balanced its misdoing, are withdrawn from all such true services of man, that they may pass the best part of their lives in what they are told is the service of God; namely, desiring what[Pg 30] they cannot obtain, lamenting what they cannot avoid, and reflecting on what they cannot understand.
40. This, I repeat, is the deadliest, but for you, under existing circumstances, it is becoming daily, almost hourly, the least probable form of Pride. That which you have chiefly to guard against consists in the overvaluing of minute though correct discovery; the groundless denial of all that seems to you to have been groundlessly affirmed; and the interesting yourselves too curiously in the progress of some scientific minds, which in their judgment of the universe can be compared to nothing so accurately as to the woodworms in the panel of a picture by some great painter, if we may conceive them as tasting with discrimination of the wood, and with repugnance of the colour, and declaring that even this unlooked-for and undesirable combination is a normal result of the action of molecular Forces.
41. Now, I must very earnestly warn you, in the beginning of my work with you here, against allowing either of these forms of egotism to interfere with your judgment or practice of art. On the one hand, you must not allow the expression of your own favourite religious feelings by any particular form of art to modify your judgment of its absolute merit; nor allow the art itself to become an illegitimate means of deepening and confirming your convictions, by realising to your eyes what you dimly conceive with the brain; as if the greater clearness of the image were a stronger proof of its truth. On the other hand, you must not allow your scientific habit of trusting nothing but what you have ascertained, to prevent you from appreciating, or at least endeavouring to qualify yourselves to appreciate, the work of the highest faculty of the human mind,—its imagination,—when it is toiling in the presence of things that cannot be dealt with by any other power.
42. These are both vital conditions of your healthy progress. On the one hand, observe that you do not wilfully[Pg 31] use the realistic power of art to convince yourselves of historical or theological statements which you cannot otherwise prove; and which you wish to prove:—on the other hand, that you do not check your imagination and conscience while seizing the truths of which they alone are cognizant, because you value too highly the scientific interest which attaches to the investigation of second causes.
For instance, it may be quite possible to show the conditions in water and electricity which necessarily produce the craggy outline, the apparently self-contained silvery light, and the sulphurous blue shadow of a thunder-cloud, and which separate these from the depth of the golden peace in the dawn of a summer morning. Similarly, it may be possible to show the necessities of structure which groove the fangs and depress the brow of the asp, and which distinguish the character of its head from that of the face of a young girl. But it is the function of the rightly-trained imagination to recognise, in these, and such other relative aspects, the unity of teaching which impresses, alike on our senses and our conscience, the eternal difference between good and evil: and the rule, over the clouds of heaven and over the creatures in the earth, of the same Spirit which teaches to our own hearts the bitterness of death, and strength of love.
43. Now, therefore, approaching our subject in this balanced temper, which will neither resolve to see only what it would desire, nor expect to see only what it can explain, we shall find our enquiry into the relation of Art to Religion is distinctly threefold: first, we have to ask how far art may have been literally directed by spiritual powers; secondly, how far, if not inspired, it may have been exalted by them; lastly, how far, in any of its agencies, it has advanced the cause of the creeds it has been used to recommend.
44. First: What ground have we for thinking that art has ever been inspired as a message or revelation? What internal evidence is there in the work of great artists of their having been under the authoritative guidance of supernatural powers?[Pg 32]
It is true that the answer to so mysterious a question cannot rest alone upon internal evidence; but it is well that you should know what might, from that evidence alone, be concluded. And the more impartially you examine the phenomena of imagination, the more firmly you will be led to conclude that they are the result of the influence of the common and vital, but not, therefore, less Divine, spirit, of which some portion is given to all living creatures in such manner as may be adapted to their rank in creation; and that everything which men rightly accomplish is indeed done by Divine help, but under a consistent law which is never departed from.
The strength of this spiritual life within us may be increased or lessened by our own conduct; it varies from time to time, as physical strength varies; it is summoned on different occasions by our will, and dejected by our distress, or our sin; but it is always equally human, and equally Divine. We are men, and not mere animals, because a special form of it is with us always; we are nobler and baser men, as it is with us more or less; but it is never given to us in any degree which can make us more than men.
45. Observe:—I give you this general statement doubtfully, and only as that towards which an impartial reasoner will, I think, be inclined by existing data. But I shall be able to show you, without any doubt, in the course of our studies, that the achievements of art which have been usually looked upon as the results of peculiar inspiration have been arrived at only through long courses of wisely directed labour, and under the influence of feelings which are common to all humanity.
But of these feelings and powers which in different degrees are common to humanity, you are to note that there are three principal divisions: first, the instincts of construction or melody, which we share with lower animals, and which are in us as native as the instinct of the bee or nightingale; secondly, the faculty of vision, or of dreaming, whether in sleep or in conscious trance, or by voluntarily[Pg 33] exerted fancy; and lastly, the power of rational inference and collection, of both the laws and forms of beauty.
46. Now the faculty of vision, being closely associated with the innermost spiritual nature, is the one which has by most reasoners been held for the peculiar channel of Divine teaching: and it is a fact that great part of purely didactic art has been the record, whether in language, or by linear representation, of actual vision involuntarily received at the moment, though cast on a mental retina blanched by the past course of faithful life. But it is also true that these visions, where most distinctly received, are always—I speak deliberately—always, the sign of some mental limitation or derangement; and that the persons who most clearly recognise their value, exaggeratedly estimate it, choosing what they find to be useful, and calling that "inspired," and disregarding what they perceive to be useless, though presented to the visionary by an equal authority.
47. Thus it is probable that no work of art has been more widely didactic than Albert Dürer's engraving, known as the "Knight and Death." But that is only one of a series of works representing similarly vivid dreams, of which some are uninteresting, except for the manner of their representation, as the "St. Hubert," and others are unintelligible; some, frightful, and wholly unprofitable; so that we find the visionary faculty in that great painter, when accurately examined, to be a morbid influence, abasing his skill more frequently than encouraging it, and sacrificing the greater part of his energies upon vain subjects, two only being produced, in the course of a long life, which are of high didactic value, and both of these capable only of giving sad courage. Whatever the value of these two, it bears more the aspect of a treasure obtained at great cost of suffering, than of a directly granted gift from heaven.
48. On the contrary, not only the highest, but the most[Pg 34] consistent results have been attained in art by men in whom the faculty of vision, however strong, was subordinate to that of deliberative design, and tranquillised by a measured, continual, not feverish, but affectionate, observance of the quite unvisionary facts of the surrounding world.
And so far as we can trace the connection of their powers with the moral character of their lives, we shall find that the best art is the work of good, but of not distinctively religious men, who, at least, are conscious of no inspiration, and often so unconscious of their superiority to others, that one of the greatest of them, Reynolds, deceived by his modesty, has asserted that "all things are possible to well-directed labour."
49. The second question, namely, how far art, if not inspired, has yet been ennobled by religion, I shall not touch upon to-day; for it both requires technical criticism, and would divert you too long from the main question of all,—How far religion has been helped by art?
You will find that the operation of formative art—(I will not speak to-day of music)—the operation of formative art on religious creed is essentially twofold; the realisation, to the eyes, of imagined spiritual persons; and the limitation of their imagined presence to certain places. We will examine these two functions of it successively.
50. And first, consider accurately what the agency of art is, in realising, to the sight, our conceptions of spiritual persons.
For instance. Assume that we believe that the Madonna is always present to hear and answer our prayers. Assume also that this is true. I think that persons in a perfectly honest, faithful, and humble temper, would in that case desire only to feel so much of the Divine presence as the spiritual Power herself chose to make felt; and, above all things, not to think they saw, or knew, anything except what might be truly perceived or known.
But a mind imperfectly faithful, and impatient in its distress, or craving in its dulness for a more distinct and convincing sense of the Divinity, would endeavour to complete,[Pg 35] or perhaps we should rather say to contract, its conception, into the definite figure of a woman wearing a blue or crimson dress, and having fair features, dark eyes, and gracefully arranged hair.
Suppose, after forming such a conception, that we have the power to realise and preserve it, this image of a beautiful figure with a pleasant expression cannot but have the tendency of afterwards leading us to think of the Virgin as present, when she is not actually present; or as pleased with us, when she is not actually pleased; or if we resolutely prevent ourselves from such imagination, nevertheless the existence of the image beside us will often turn our thoughts towards subjects of religion, when otherwise they would have been differently occupied; and, in the midst of other occupations, will familiarise more or less, and even mechanically associate with common or faultful states of mind, the appearance of the supposed Divine person.
51. There are thus two distinct operations upon our mind: first, the art makes us believe what we would not otherwise have believed; and secondly, it makes us think of subjects we should not otherwise have thought of, intruding them amidst our ordinary thoughts in a confusing and familiar manner. We cannot with any certainty affirm the advantage or the harm of such accidental pieties, for their effect will be very different on different characters: but, without any question, the art, which makes us believe what we would not have otherwise believed, is misapplied, and in most instances very dangerously so. Our duty is to believe in the existence of Divine, or any other, persons, only upon rational proofs of their existence; and not because we have seen pictures of them.
52. But now observe, it is here necessary to draw a distinction, so subtle that in dealing with facts it is continually[Pg 36] impossible to mark it with precision, yet so vital, that not only your understanding of the power of art, but the working of your minds in matters of primal moment to you, depends on the effort you make to affirm this distinction strongly. The art which realises a creature of the imagination is only mischievous when that realisation is conceived to imply, or does practically induce a belief in, the real existence of the imagined personage, contrary to, or unjustified by the other evidence of its existence. But if the art only represents the personage on the understanding that its form is imaginary, then the effort at realisation is healthful and beneficial.
For instance, the Greek design of Apollo crossing the sea to Delphi, which is one of the most interesting of Le Normant's series, so far as it is only an expression, under the symbol of a human form, of what may be rightly imagined respecting the solar power, is right and ennobling; but so far as it conveyed to the Greek the idea of there being a real Apollo, it was mischievous, whether there be, or be not, a real Apollo. If there is no real Apollo, then the art was mischievous because it deceived; but if there is a real Apollo, then it was still more mischievous, for it not only began the degradation of the image of that true god into a decoration for niches, and a device for seals; but prevented any true witness being borne to his existence. For if the Greeks, instead of multiplying representations of what they imagined to be the figure of the god, had given us accurate drawings of the heroes and battles of Marathon and Salamis, and had simply told us in plain Greek what evidence they had of the power of Apollo, either through his oracles, his help or chastisement, or by immediate vision, they would have served their religion more truly than by all the vase-paintings and fine statues that ever were buried or adored.
53. Now in this particular instance, and in many other[Pg 37] examples of fine Greek art, the two conditions of thought, symbolic and realistic, are mingled; and the art is helpful, as I will hereafter show you, in one function, and in the other so deadly, that I think no degradation of conception of Deity has ever been quite so base as that implied by the designs of Greek vases in the period of decline, say about 250 b. c.
But though among the Greeks it is thus nearly always difficult to say what is symbolic and what realistic, in the range of Christian art the distinction is clear. In that, a vast division of imaginative work is occupied in the symbolism of virtues, vices, or natural powers or passions; and in the representation of personages who, though nominally real, become in conception symbolic. In the greater part of this work there is no intention of implying the existence of the represented creature; Dürer's Melencolia and Giotto's Justice are accurately characteristic examples. Now all such art is wholly good and useful when it is the work of good men.
54. Again, there is another division of Christian work in which the persons represented, though nominally real, are treated as dramatis-personæ of a poem, and so presented confessedly as subjects of imagination. All this poetic art is also good when it is the work of good men.
55. There remains only therefore to be considered, as truly religious, the work which definitely implies and modifies the conception of the existence of a real person. There is hardly any great art which entirely belongs to this class; but Raphael's Madonna della Seggiola is as accurate a type of it as I can give you; Holbein's Madonna at Dresden, the Madonna di San Sisto, and the Madonna of Titian's Assumption, all belong mainly to this class, but are removed somewhat from it (as, I repeat, nearly all great art is) into the poetical one. It is only the bloody crucifixes and gilded virgins and other such lower forms of imagery (by which, to the honour of the English Church, it has been truly claimed for her, that "she has never appealed to the madness[Pg 38] or dulness of her people,") which belong to the realistic class in strict limitation, and which properly constitute the type of it.
There is indeed an important school of sculpture in Spain, directed to the same objects, but not demanding at present any special attention. And finally, there is the vigorous and most interesting realistic school of our own, in modern times, mainly known to the public by Holman Hunt's picture of the Light of the World, though, I believe, deriving its first origin from the genius of the painter to whom you owe also the revival of interest, first here in Oxford, and then universally, in the cycle of early English legend,—Dante Rossetti.
56. The effect of this realistic art on the religious mind of Europe varies in scope more than any other art power; for in its higher branches it touches the most sincere religious minds, affecting an earnest class of persons who cannot be reached by merely poetical design; while, in its lowest, it addresses itself not only to the most vulgar desires for religious excitement, but to the mere thirst for sensation of horror which characterises the uneducated orders of partially civilised countries; nor merely to the thirst for horror, but to the strange love of death, as such, which has sometimes in Catholic countries showed itself peculiarly by the endeavour to paint the images in the chapels of the Sepulchre so as to look deceptively like corpses. The same morbid instinct has also affected the minds of many among the more imaginative and powerful artists with a feverish gloom which distorts their finest work; and lastly—and this is the worst of all its effects—it has occupied the sensibility of Christian women, universally, in lamenting the sufferings of Christ, instead of preventing those of His people.
57. When any of you next go abroad, observe, and consider the meaning of, the sculptures and paintings, which of every rank in art, and in every chapel and cathedral, and by every mountain path, recall the hours, and represent the agonies, of the Passion of Christ: and try to form some esti[Pg 39]mate of the efforts that have been made by the four arts of eloquence, music, painting, and sculpture, since the twelfth century, to wring out of the hearts of women the last drops of pity that could be excited for this merely physical agony: for the art nearly always dwells on the physical wounds or exhaustion chiefly, and degrades, far more than it animates, the conception of pain.
Then try to conceive the quantity of time, and of excited and thrilling emotion, which have been wasted by the tender and delicate women of Christendom during these last six hundred years, in thus picturing to themselves, under the influence of such imagery, the bodily pain, long since passed, of One Person:—which, so far as they indeed conceived it to be sustained by a Divine Nature, could not for that reason have been less endurable than the agonies of any simple human death by torture: and then try to estimate what might have been the better result, for the righteousness and felicity of mankind, if these same women had been taught the deep meaning of the last words that were ever spoken by their Master to those who had ministered to Him of their substance: "Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children." If they had but been taught to measure with their pitiful thoughts the tortures of battle-fields—the slowly consuming plagues of death in the starving children, and wasted age, of the innumerable desolate those battles left;—nay, in our own life of peace, the agony of unnurtured, untaught, unhelped creatures, awaking at the grave's edge to know how they should have lived; and the worse pain of those whose existence, not the ceasing of it, is death; those to whom the cradle was a curse, and for whom the words they cannot hear, "ashes to ashes," are all that they have ever received of benediction. These,—you who would fain have wept at His feet, or stood by His cross,—these you have always with you! Him, you have not always.
58. The wretched in death you have always with you. Yes, and the brave and good in life you have always;—these[Pg 40] also needing help, though you supposed they had only to help others; these also claiming to be thought for, and remembered. And you will find, if you look into history with this clue, that one of quite the chief reasons for the continual misery of mankind is that they are always divided in their worship between angels or saints, who are out of their sight, and need no help, and proud and evil-minded men, who are too definitely in their sight, and ought not to have their help. And consider how the arts have thus followed the worship of the crowd. You have paintings of saints and angels, innumerable;—of petty courtiers, and contemptible or cruel kings, innumerable. Few, how few you have, (but these, observe, almost always by great painters) of the best men, or of their actions. But think for yourselves,—I have no time now to enter upon the mighty field, nor imagination enough to guide me beyond the threshold of it,—think, what history might have been to us now;—nay, what a different history that of all Europe might have become, if it had but been the object both of the people to discern, and of their arts to honour and bear record of, the great deeds of their worthiest men. And if, instead of living, as they have always hitherto done, in a hellish cloud of contention and revenge, lighted by fantastic dreams of cloudy sanctities, they had sought to reward and punish justly, wherever reward and punishment were due, but chiefly to reward; and at least rather to bear testimony to the human acts which deserved God's anger or His blessing, than only, in presumptuous imagination, to display the secrets of Judgment, or the beatitudes of Eternity.
59. Such I conceive generally, though indeed with good arising out of it, for every great evil brings some good in its backward eddies—such I conceive to have been the deadly function of art in its ministry to what, whether in heathen or Christian lands, and whether in the pageantry of words, or colours, or fair forms, is truly, and in the deep sense, to be called (idolatry)—the serving with the best of our hearts and minds, some dear or sad fantasy which[Pg 41] we have made for ourselves, while we disobey the present call of the Master, who is not dead, and who is not now fainting under His cross, but requiring us to take up ours.
60. I pass to the second great function of religious art, the limitation of the idea of Divine presence to particular localities. It is of course impossible within my present limits to touch upon this power of art, as employed on the temples of the gods of various religions; we will examine that on future occasions. To-day, I want only to map out main ideas, and I can do this best by speaking exclusively of this localising influence as it affects our own faith.
Observe first, that the localisation is almost entirely dependent upon human art. You must at least take a stone and set it up for a pillar, if you are to mark the place, so as to know it again, where a vision appeared. A persecuted people, needing to conceal their places of worship, may perform every religious ceremony first under one crag of the hill-side, and then under another, without invalidating the sacredness of the rites or sacraments thus administered. It is, therefore, we all acknowledge, inessential, that a particular spot should be surrounded with a ring of stones, or enclosed within walls of a certain style of architecture, and so set apart as the only place where such ceremonies may be properly performed; and it is thus less by any direct appeal to experience or to reason, but in consequence of the effect upon our senses produced by the architecture, that we receive the first strong impressions of what we afterwards contend for as absolute truth. I particularly wish you to notice how it is always by help of human art that such a result is attained, because, remember always, I am neither disputing nor asserting the truth of any theological doctrine;—that is not my province;—I am only questioning the expediency of enforcing that doctrine by the help of architecture. Put a rough stone for an altar under the hawthorn on a village green;—separate a portion of the green itself with an ordinary paling from the rest;—then consecrate, with whatever form you choose, the space of grass you have[Pg 42] enclosed, and meet within the wooden fence as often as you desire to pray or preach; yet you will not easily fasten an impression in the minds of the villagers, that God inhabits the space of grass inside the fence, and does not extend His presence to the common beyond it: and that the daisies and violets on one side of the railing are holy,—on the other, profane. But, instead of a wooden fence, build a wall, pave the interior space; roof it over, so as to make it comparatively dark;—and you may persuade the villagers with ease that you have built a house which Deity inhabits, or that you have become, in the old French phrase, a "logeur du Bon Dieu."
61. And farther, though I have no desire to introduce any question as to the truth of what we thus architecturally teach, I would desire you most strictly to determine what is intended to be taught.
Do not think I underrate—I am among the last men living who would underrate,—the importance of the sentiments connected with their church to the population of a pastoral village. I admit, in its fullest extent, the moral value of the scene, which is almost always one of perfect purity and peace; and of the sense of supernatural love and protection, which fills and surrounds the low aisles and homely porch. But the question I desire earnestly to leave with you is, whether all the earth ought not to be peaceful and pure, and the acknowledgment of the Divine protection, as universal as its reality? That in a mysterious way the presence of Deity is vouchsafed where it is sought, and withdrawn where it is forgotten, must of course be granted as the first postulate in the enquiry: but the point for our decision is just this, whether it ought always to be sought in one place only, and forgotten in every other.
It may be replied, that since it is impossible to consecrate the entire space of the earth, it is better thus to secure a portion of it than none: but surely, if so, we ought to make some effort to enlarge the favoured ground, and even look forward to a time when in English villages there may be a[Pg 43] God's acre tenanted by the living, not the dead; and when we shall rather look with aversion and fear to the remnant of ground that is set apart as profane, than with reverence to a narrow portion of it enclosed as holy.
62. But now, farther. Suppose it be admitted that by enclosing ground with walls, and performing certain ceremonies there habitually, some kind of sanctity is indeed secured within that space,—still the question remains open whether it be advisable for religious purposes to decorate the enclosure. For separation the mere walls would be enough. What is the purpose of your decoration?
Let us take an instance—the most noble with which I am acquainted, the Cathedral of Chartres. You have there the most splendid coloured glass, and the richest sculpture, and the grandest proportions of building, united to produce a sensation of pleasure and awe. We profess that this is to honour the Deity; or, in other words, that it is pleasing to Him that we should delight our eyes with blue and golden colours, and solemnise our spirits by the sight of large stones laid one on another, and ingeniously carved.
63. I do not think it can be doubted that it is pleasing to Him when we do this; for He has Himself prepared for us, nearly every morning and evening, windows painted with Divine art, in blue and gold and vermilion: windows lighted from within by the lustre of that heaven which we may assume, at least with more certainty than any consecrated ground, to be one of His dwelling-places. Again, in every mountain side, and cliff of rude sea shore, He has heaped stones one upon another of greater magnitude than those of Chartres Cathedral, and sculptured them with floral ornament,—surely not less sacred because living?
64. Must it not then be only because we love our own work better than His, that we respect the lucent glass, but not the lucent clouds; that we weave embroidered robes with ingenious fingers, and make bright the gilded vaults we have beautifully ordained—while yet we have not considered the heavens, the work of His fingers, nor the stars of the[Pg 44] strange vault which He has ordained? And do we dream that by carving fonts and lifting pillars in His honour, who cuts the way of the rivers among the rocks, and at whose reproof the pillars of the earth are astonished, we shall obtain pardon for the dishonour done to the hills and streams by which He has appointed our dwelling-place;—for the infection of their sweet air with poison;—for the burning up of their tender grass and flowers with fire, and for spreading such a shame of mixed luxury and misery over our native land, as if we laboured only that, at least here in England, we might be able to give the lie to the song, whether of the Cherubim above, or Church beneath—"Holy, holy, Lord God of all creatures; Heaven—and Earth—are full of Thy glory"?
65. And how much more there is that I long to say to you; and how much, I hope, that you would like to answer to me, or to question me of! But I can say no more to-day. We are not, I trust, at the end of our talks or thoughts together; but, if it were so, and I never spoke to you more, this that I have said to you I should have been glad to have been permitted to say; and this, farther, which is the sum of it,—That we may have splendour of art again, and with that, we may truly praise and honour our Maker, and with that set forth the beauty and holiness of all that He has made: but only after we have striven with our whole hearts first to sanctify the temple of the body and spirit of every child that has no roof to cover its head from the cold, and no walls to guard its soul from corruption, in this our English land.
One word more.
What I have suggested hitherto, respecting the relations of Art to Religion, you must receive throughout as merely motive of thought; though you must have well seen that my own convictions were established finally on some of the points in question. But I must, in conclusion, tell you something that I know;—which, if you truly labour, you will one day know also; and which I trust some of you will believe, now.[Pg 45]
During the minutes in which you have been listening to me, I suppose that almost at every other sentence those whose habit of mind has been one of veneration for established forms and faiths, must have been in dread that I was about to say, or in pang of regret at my having said, what seemed to them an irreverent or reckless word touching vitally important things.
So far from this being the fact, it is just because the feelings that I most desire to cultivate in your minds are those of reverence and admiration, that I am so earnest to prevent you from being moved to either by trivial or false semblances. This is the thing which I know—and which, if you labour faithfully, you shall know also,—that in Reverence is the chief joy and power of life;—Reverence, for what is pure and bright in your own youth; for what is true and tried in the age of others; for all that is gracious among the living,—great among the dead,—and marvellous, in the Powers that cannot die.[Pg 46]
66. You probably recollect that, in the beginning of my last lecture, it was stated that fine art had, and could have, but three functions: the enforcing of the religious sentiments of men, the perfecting their ethical state, and the doing them material service. We have to-day to examine, the mode of its action in the second power—that of perfecting the morality, or ethical state, of men.
Perfecting, observe—not producing.
You must have the right moral state first, or you cannot have the art. But when the art is once obtained, its reflected action enhances and completes the moral state out of which it arose, and, above all, communicates the exultation to other minds which are already morally capable of the like.
67. For instance, take the art of singing, and the simplest perfect master of it (up to the limits of his nature) whom you can find;—a skylark. From him you may learn what it is to "sing for joy." You must get the moral state first, the pure gladness, then give it finished expression; and it is perfected in itself, and made communicable to other creatures capable of such joy. But it is incommunicable to those who are not prepared to receive it.
Now, all right human song is, similarly, the finished expression, by art, of the joy or grief of noble persons, for right causes. And accurately in proportion to the rightness of the cause, and purity of the emotion, is the possibility of the fine art. A maiden may sing of her lost love, but a miser cannot sing of his lost money. And with absolute precision, from highest to lowest, the fineness of the possible art is an index of the moral purity and majesty of the[Pg 47] emotion it expresses. You may test it practically at any instant. Question with yourselves respecting any feeling that has taken strong possession of your mind, "Could this be sung by a master, and sung nobly, with a true melody and art?" Then it is a right feeling. Could it not be sung at all, or only sung ludicrously? It is a base one. And that is so in all the arts; so that with mathematical precision, subject to no error or exception, the art of a nation, so far as it exists, is an exponent of its ethical state.
68. An exponent, observe, and exalting influence; but not the root or cause. You cannot paint or sing yourselves into being good men; you must be good men before you can either paint or sing, and then the colour and sound will complete in you all that is best.
And this it was that I called upon you to hear, saying, "listen to me at least now," in the first lecture, namely, that no art-teaching could be of use to you, but would rather be harmful, unless it was grafted on something deeper than all art. For indeed not only with this, of which it is my function to show you the laws, but much more with the art of all men, which you came here chiefly to learn, that of language, the chief vices of education have arisen from the one great fallacy of supposing that noble language is a communicable trick of grammar and accent, instead of simply the careful expression of right thought. All the virtues of language are, in their roots, moral; it becomes accurate if the speaker desires to be true; clear, if he speaks with sympathy and a desire to be intelligible; powerful, if he has earnestness; pleasant, if he has sense of rhythm and order. There are no other virtues of language producible by art than these: but let me mark more deeply for an instant the significance of one of them. Language, I said, is only clear when it is sympathetic. You can, in truth, understand a man's word only by understanding his temper. Your own word is also as of an unknown tongue to him unless he understands yours. And it is this which makes the art of language, if any one is to be chosen separately from the rest, that which is fittest[Pg 48] for the instrument of a gentleman's education. To teach the meaning of a word thoroughly, is to teach the nature of the spirit that coined it; the secret of language is the secret of sympathy, and its full charm is possible only to the gentle. And thus the principles of beautiful speech have all been fixed by sincere and kindly speech. On the laws which have been determined by sincerity, false speech, apparently beautiful, may afterwards be constructed; but all such utterance, whether in oration or poetry, is not only without permanent power, but it is destructive of the principles it has usurped. So long as no words are uttered but in faithfulness, so long the art of language goes on exalting itself; but the moment it is shaped and chiselled on external principles, it falls into frivolity, and perishes. And this truth would have been long ago manifest, had it not been that in periods of advanced academical science there is always a tendency to deny the sincerity of the first masters of language. Once learn to write gracefully in the manner of an ancient author, and we are apt to think that he also wrote in the manner of some one else. But no noble nor right style was ever yet founded but out of a sincere heart.
No man is worth reading to form your style, who does not mean what he says; nor was any great style ever invented but by some man who meant what he said. Find out the beginner of a great manner of writing, and you have also found the declarer of some true facts or sincere passions: and your whole method of reading will thus be quickened, for, being sure that your author really meant what he said, you will be much more careful to ascertain what it is that he means.
69. And of yet greater importance is it deeply to know that every beauty possessed by the language of a nation is significant of the innermost laws of its being. Keep the temper of the people stern and manly; make their associations grave, courteous, and for worthy objects; occupy them in just deeds; and their tongue must needs be a grand one. Nor is it possible, therefore—observe the necessary reflected action—that any tongue should be a noble one, of which the[Pg 49] words are not so many trumpet-calls to action. All great languages invariably utter great things, and command them; they cannot be mimicked but by obedience; the breath of them is inspiration because it is not only vocal, but vital; and you can only learn to speak as these men spoke, by becoming what these men were.
70. Now for direct confirmation of this, I want you to think over the relation of expression to character in two great masters of the absolute art of language, Virgil and Pope. You are perhaps surprised at the last name; and indeed you have in English much higher grasp and melody of language from more passionate minds, but you have nothing else, in its range, so perfect. I name, therefore, these two men, because they are the two most accomplished Artists, merely as such, whom I know in literature; and because I think you will be afterwards interested in investigating how the infinite grace in the words of the one, and the severity in those of the other, and the precision in those of both, arise wholly out of the moral elements of their minds:—out of the deep tenderness in Virgil which enabled him to write the stories of Nisus and Lausus; and the serene and just benevolence which placed Pope, in his theology, two centuries in advance of his time, and enabled him to sum the law of noble life in two lines which, so far as I know, are the most complete, the most concise, and the most lofty expression of moral temper existing in English words:—
I wish you also to remember these lines of Pope, and to make yourselves entirely masters of his system of ethics; because, putting Shakespeare aside as rather the world's than ours, I hold Pope to be the most perfect representative we have, since Chaucer, of the true English mind; and I think the Dunciad is the most absolutely chiselled and monumental work "exacted" in our country. You will find, as you study[Pg 50] Pope, that he has expressed for you, in the strictest language and within the briefest limits, every law of art, of criticism, of economy, of policy, and, finally, of a benevolence, humble, rational, and resigned, contented with its allotted share of life, and trusting the problem of its salvation to Him in whose hand lies that of the universe.
71. And now I pass to the arts with which I have special concern, in which, though the facts are exactly the same, I shall have more difficulty in proving my assertion, because very few of us are as cognizant of the merit of painting as we are of that of language; and I can only show you whence that merit springs, after having thoroughly shown you in what it consists. But, in the meantime, I have simply to tell you, that the manual arts are as accurate exponents of ethical state, as other modes of expression; first, with absolute precision, of that of the workman; and then with precision, disguised by many distorting influences, of that of the nation to which it belongs.
And, first, they are a perfect exponent of the mind of the workman: but, being so, remember, if the mind be great or complex, the art is not an easy book to read; for we must ourselves possess all the mental characters of which we are to read the signs. No man can read the evidence of labour who is not himself laborious, for he does not know what the work cost: nor can he read the evidence of true passion if he is not passionate; nor of gentleness if he is not gentle: and the most subtle signs of fault and weakness of character he can only judge by having had the same faults to fight with. I myself, for instance, know impatient work, and tired work, better than most critics, because I am myself always impatient, and often tired:—so also, the patient and indefatigable touch of a mighty master becomes more wonderful to me than to others. Yet, wonderful in no mean measure it will be to you all, when I make it manifest,—and as soon as we begin our real work, and you have learned what it is to draw a true line, I shall be able to make manifest to you,—and indisputably so,—that the day's work of a man like Mantegna or[Pg 51] Paul Veronese consists of an unfaltering, uninterrupted succession of movements of the hand more precise than those of the finest fencer: the pencil leaving one point and arriving at another, not only with unerring precision at the extremity of the line, but with an unerring and yet varied course—sometimes over spaces a foot or more in extent—yet a course so determined everywhere, that either of these men could, and Veronese often does, draw a finished profile, or any other portion of the contour of the face, with one line, not afterwards changed. Try, first, to realise to yourselves the muscular precision of that action, and the intellectual strain of it; for the movement of a fencer is perfect in practised monotony; but the movement of the hand of a great painter is at every instant governed by a direct and new intention. Then imagine that muscular firmness and subtlety, and the instantaneously selective and ordinant energy of the brain, sustained all day long, not only without fatigue, but with a visible joy in the exertion, like that which an eagle seems to take in the wave of his wings; and this all life long, and through long life, not only without failure of power, but with visible increase of it, until the actually organic changes of old age. And then consider, so far as you know anything of physiology, what sort of an ethical state of body and mind that means! ethic through ages past! what fineness of race there must be to get it, what exquisite balance and symmetry of the vital powers! And then, finally, determine for yourselves whether a manhood like that is consistent with any viciousness of soul, with any mean anxiety, any gnawing lust, any wretchedness of spite or remorse, any consciousness of rebellion against law of God or man, or any actual, though unconscious violation of even the least law to which obedience is essential for the glory of life and the pleasing of its Giver.
72. It is, of course, true that many of the strong masters had deep faults of character, but their faults always show in their work. It is true that some could not govern their passions; if so, they died young, or they painted ill when old. But the greater part of our misapprehension in the whole[Pg 52] matter is from our not having well known who the great painters were, and taking delight in the petty skill that was bred in the fumes of the taverns of the North, instead of theirs who breathed empyreal air, sons of the morning, under the woods of Assisi and the crags of Cadore.
73. It is true however also, as I have pointed out long ago, that the strong masters fall into two great divisions, one leading simple and natural lives, the other restrained in a Puritanism of the worship of beauty; and these two manners of life you may recognise in a moment by their work. Generally the naturalists are the strongest; but there are two of the Puritans, whose work if I can succeed in making clearly understandable to you during my three years here, it is all I need care to do. But of these two Puritans one I cannot name to you, and the other I at present will not. One I cannot, for no one knows his name, except the baptismal one, Bernard, or "dear little Bernard"—Bernardino, called from his birthplace, (Luino, on the Lago Maggiore,) Bernard of Luino. The other is a Venetian, of whom many of you probably have never heard, and of whom, through me, you shall not hear, until I have tried to get some picture by him over to England.
74. Observe then, this Puritanism in the worship of beauty, though sometimes weak, is always honourable and amiable, and the exact reverse of the false Puritanism, which consists in the dread or disdain of beauty. And in order to treat my subject rightly, I ought to proceed from the skill of art to the choice of its subject, and show you how the moral temper of the workman is shown by his seeking lovely forms and thoughts to express, as well as by the force of his hand in expression. But I need not now urge this part of the proof on you, because you are already, I believe, sufficiently conscious of the truth in this matter, and also I have already said enough of it in my writings; whereas I have not at all said enough of the infallibleness of fine technical work as a proof of every other good power. And indeed it was long before I myself understood the true meaning of the[Pg 53] pride of the greatest men in their mere execution, shown for a permanent lesson to us, in the stories which, whether true or not, indicate with absolute accuracy the general conviction of great artists;—the stories of the contest of Apelles and Protogenes in a line only, (of which I can promise you, you shall know the meaning to some purpose in a little while),—the story of the circle of Giotto, and especially, which you may perhaps not have observed, the expression of Dürer in his inscription on the drawings sent him by Raphael. These figures, he says, "Raphael drew and sent to Albert Dürer in Nürnberg, to show him"—What? Not his invention, nor his beauty of expression, but "sein Hand zu weisen," "To show him his hand." And you will find, as you examine farther, that all inferior artists are continually trying to escape from the necessity of sound work, and either indulging themselves in their delights in subject, or pluming themselves on their noble motives for attempting what they cannot perform; (and observe, by the way, that a great deal of what is mistaken for conscientious motive is nothing but a very pestilent, because very subtle, condition of vanity); whereas the great men always understand at once that the first morality of a painter, as of everybody else, is to know his business; and so earnest are they in this, that many, whose lives you would think, by the results of their work, had been passed in strong emotion, have in reality subdued themselves, though capable of the very strongest passions, into a calm as absolute as that of a deeply sheltered mountain lake, which reflects every agitation of the clouds in the sky, and every change of the shadows on the hills, but is itself motionless.
75. Finally, you must remember that great obscurity has been brought upon the truth in this matter by the want of integrity and simplicity in our modern life. I mean integrity in the Latin sense, wholeness. Everything is broken up, and mingled in confusion, both in our habits and thoughts; besides being in great part imitative: so that you not only cannot tell what a man is, but sometimes you cannot tell[Pg 54] whether he is, at all!—whether you have indeed to do with a spirit, or only with an echo. And thus the same inconsistencies appear now, between the work of artists of merit and their personal characters, as those which you find continually disappointing expectation in the lives of men of modern literary power; the same conditions of society having obscured or misdirected the best qualities of the imagination, both in our literature and art. Thus there is no serious question with any of us as to the personal character of Dante and Giotto, of Shakespeare and Holbein; but we pause timidly in the attempt to analyse the moral laws of the art skill in recent poets, novelists, and painters.
76. Let me assure you once for all, that as you grow older, if you enable yourselves to distinguish, by the truth of your own lives, what is true in those of other men, you will gradually perceive that all good has its origin in good, never in evil; that the fact of either literature or painting being truly fine of their kind, whatever their mistaken aim, or partial error, is proof of their noble origin: and that, if there is indeed sterling value in the thing done, it has come of a sterling worth in the soul that did it, however alloyed or defiled by conditions of sin which are sometimes more appalling or more strange than those which all may detect in their own hearts, because they are part of a personality altogether larger than ours, and as far beyond our judgment in its darkness as beyond our following in its light. And it is sufficient warning against what some might dread as the probable effect of such a conviction on your own minds, namely, that you might permit yourselves in the weaknesses which you imagined to be allied to genius, when they took the form of personal temptations;—it is surely, I say, sufficient warning against so mean a folly, to discern, as you may with little pains, that, of all human existences, the lives of men of that distorted and tainted nobility of intellect are probably the most miserable.
77. I pass to the second, and for us the more practically important question, What is the effect of noble art upon[Pg 55] other men; what has it done for national morality in time past: and what effect is the extended knowledge or possession of it likely to have upon us now? And here we are at once met by the facts, which are as gloomy as indisputable, that, while many peasant populations, among whom scarcely the rudest practice of art has ever been attempted, have lived in comparative innocence, honour and happiness, the worst foulness and cruelty of savage tribes have been frequently associated with fine ingenuities of decorative design; also, that no people has ever attained the higher stages of art skill, except at a period of its civilisation which was sullied by frequent, violent and even monstrous crime; and, lastly, that the attaining of perfection in art power has been hitherto, in every nation, the accurate signal of the beginning of its ruin.
78. Respecting which phenomena, observe first, that although good never springs out of evil, it is developed to its highest by contention with evil. There are some groups of peasantry, in far-away nooks of Christian countries, who are nearly as innocent as lambs; but the morality which gives power to art is the morality of men, not of cattle.
Secondly, the virtues of the inhabitants of many country districts are apparent, not real; their lives are indeed artless, but not innocent; and it is only the monotony of circumstances, and the absence of temptation, which prevent the exhibition of evil passions not less real because often dormant, nor less foul because shown only in petty faults, or inactive malignities.
79. But you will observe also that absolute artlessness, to men in any kind of moral health, is impossible; they have always, at least, the art by which they live—agriculture or seamanship; and in these industries, skilfully practised, you will find the law of their moral training; while, whatever the adversity of circumstances, every rightly-minded peasantry, such as that of Sweden, Denmark, Bavaria, or Switzerland, has associated with its needful industry a quite studied school of pleasurable art in dress; and generally also in song, and simple domestic architecture.[Pg 56]
80. Again, I need not repeat to you here what I endeavoured to explain in the first lecture in the book I called "The Two Paths," respecting the arts of savage races: but I may now note briefly that such arts are the result of an intellectual activity which has found no room to expand, and which the tyranny of nature or of man has condemned to disease through arrested growth. And where neither Christianity, nor any other religion conveying some moral help, has reached, the animal energy of such races necessarily flames into ghastly conditions of evil, and the grotesque or frightful forms assumed by their art are precisely indicative of their distorted moral nature.
81. But the truly great nations nearly always begin from a race possessing this imaginative power; and for some time their progress is very slow, and their state not one of innocence, but of feverish and faultful animal energy. This is gradually subdued and exalted into bright human life; the art instinct purifying itself with the rest of the nature, until social perfectness is nearly reached; and then comes the period when conscience and intellect are so highly developed, that new forms of error begin in the inability to fulfil the demands of the one, or to answer the doubts of the other. Then the wholeness of the people is lost; all kinds of hypocrisies and oppositions of science develop themselves; their faith is questioned on one side, and compromised with on the other; wealth commonly increases at the same period to a destructive extent; luxury follows; and the ruin of the nation is then certain: while the arts, all this time, are simply, as I said at first, the exponents of each phase of its moral state, and no more control it in its political career than the gleam of the firefly guides its oscillation. It is true that their most splendid results are usually obtained in the swiftness of the power which is hurrying to the precipice; but to lay the charge of the catastrophe to the art by which it is illumined, is to find a cause for the cataract in the hues of its iris. It is true that the colossal vices belonging to periods of great national wealth (for wealth, you will find, is the real root of all evil)[Pg 57] can turn every good gift and skill of nature or of man to evil purpose. If, in such times, fair pictures have been misused, how much more fair realities? And if Miranda is immoral to Caliban, is that Miranda's fault?
82. And I could easily go on to trace for you what at the moment I speak, is signified, in our own national character, by the forms of art, and unhappily also by the forms of what is not art, but ἀτεχνία, that exist among us. But the more important question is, What will be signified by them; what is there in us now of worth and strength, which under our new and partly accidental impulse towards formative labour, may be by that expressed, and by that fortified?
Would it not be well to know this? Nay, irrespective of all future work, is it not the first thing we should want to know, what stuff we are made of—how far we are ἀγαθοὶ or κακοὶ—good, or good for nothing? We may all know that, each of ourselves, easily enough, if we like to put one grave question well home.
83. Supposing it were told any of you by a physician whose word you could not but trust, that you had not more than seven days to live. And suppose also that, by the manner of your education it had happened to you, as it has happened to many, never to have heard of any future state, or not to have credited what you heard; and therefore that you had to face this fact of the approach of death in its simplicity: fearing no punishment for any sin that you might have before committed, or in the coming days might determine to commit; and having similarly no hope of reward for past, or yet possible, virtue; nor even of any consciousness whatever to be left to you, after the seventh day had ended, either of the results of your acts to those whom you loved, or of the feelings of any survivors towards you. Then the manner in which you would spend the seven days is an exact measure of the morality of your nature.
84. I know that some of you, and I believe the greater number of you, would, in such a case, spend the granted days entirely as you ought. Neither in numbering the[Pg 58] errors, or deploring the pleasures of the past; nor in grasping at vile good in the present, nor vainly lamenting the darkness of the future; but in an instant and earnest execution of whatever it might be possible for you to accomplish in the time, in setting your affairs in order, and in providing for the future comfort, and—so far as you might by any message or record of yourself,—for the consolation, of those whom you loved, and by whom you desired to be remembered, not for your good, but for theirs. How far you might fail through human weakness, in shame for the past, despair at the little that could in the remnant of life be accomplished, or the intolerable pain of broken affection, would depend wholly on the degree in which your nature had been depressed or fortified by the manner of your past life. But I think there are few of you who would not spend those last days better than all that had preceded them.
85. If you look accurately through the records of the lives that have been most useful to humanity, you will find that all that has been done best, has been done so;—that to the clearest intellects and highest souls,—to the true children of the Father, with whom a thousand years are as one day, their poor seventy years are but as seven days. The removal of the shadow of death from them to an uncertain, but always narrow, distance, never takes away from them their intuition of its approach; the extending to them of a few hours more or less of light abates not their acknowledgment of the infinitude that must remain to be known beyond their knowledge,—done beyond their deeds: the unprofitableness of their momentary service is wrought in a magnificent despair, and their very honour is bequeathed by them for the joy of others, as they lie down to their rest, regarding for themselves the voice of men no more.
86. The best things, I repeat to you, have been done thus, and therefore, sorrowfully. But the greatest part of the good work of the world is done either in pure and unvexed instinct of duty, "I have stubbed Thornaby waste," or else, and better, it is cheerful and helpful doing of what the hand[Pg 59] finds to do, in surety that at evening time, whatsoever is right the Master will give. And that it be worthily done, depends wholly on that ultimate quantity of worth which you can measure, each in himself, by the test I have just given you. For that test, observe, will mark to you the precise force, first of your absolute courage, and then of the energy in you for the right ordering of things, and the kindly dealing with persons. You have cut away from these two instincts every selfish or common motive, and left nothing but the energies of Order and of Love.
87. Now, where those two roots are set, all the other powers and desires find right nourishment, and become to their own utmost, helpful to others and pleasurable to ourselves. And so far as those two springs of action are not in us, all other powers become corrupt or dead; even the love of truth, apart from these, hardens into an insolent and cold avarice of knowledge, which unused, is more vain than unused gold.
88. These, then, are the two essential instincts of humanity: the love of Order and the love of Kindness. By the love of order the moral energy is to deal with the earth, and to dress it, and keep it; and with all rebellious and dissolute forces in lower creatures, or in ourselves. By the love of doing kindness it is to deal rightly with all surrounding life. And then, grafted on these, we are to make every other passion perfect; so that they may every one have full strength and yet be absolutely under control.
89. Every one must be strong, every one perfect, every one obedient as a war horse. And it is among the most beautiful pieces of mysticism to which eternal truth is attached, that the chariot race, which Plato uses as an image of moral government, and which is indeed the most perfect type of it in any visible skill of men, should have been made by the Greeks the continual subject of their best poetry and best art. Nevertheless Plato's use of it is not altogether true. There is no black horse in the chariot of the soul. One of the driver's worst faults is in starving his horses; an[Pg 60]other, in not breaking them early enough; but they are all good. Take, for example, one usually thought of as wholly evil—that of Anger, leading to vengeance. I believe it to be quite one of the crowning wickednesses of this age that we have starved and chilled our faculty of indignation, and neither desire nor dare to punish crimes justly. We have taken up the benevolent idea, forsooth, that justice is to be preventive instead of vindictive; and we imagine that we are to punish, not in anger, but in expediency; not that we may give deserved pain to the person in fault, but that we may frighten other people from committing the same fault. The beautiful theory of this non-vindictive justice is, that having convicted a man of a crime worthy of death, we entirely pardon the criminal, restore him to his place in our affection and esteem, and then hang him, not as a malefactor, but as a scarecrow. That is the theory. And the practice is, that we send a child to prison for a month for stealing a handful of walnuts, for fear that other children should come to steal more of our walnuts. And we do not punish a swindler for ruining a thousand families, because we think swindling is a wholesome excitement to trade.
90. But all true justice is vindictive to vice, as it is rewarding to virtue. Only—and herein it is distinguished from personal revenge—it is vindictive of the wrong done;—not of the wrong done to us. It is the national expression of deliberate anger, as of deliberate gratitude; it is not exemplary, or even corrective, but essentially retributive; it is the absolute art of measured recompense, giving honour where honour is due, and shame where shame is due, and joy where joy is due, and pain where pain is due. It is neither educational, for men are to be educated by wholesome habit, not by rewards and punishments; nor is it preventive, for it is to be executed without regard to any consequences; but only for righteousness' sake, a righteous nation does judgment and justice. But in this, as in all other instances, the rightness of the secondary passion depends on its being grafted on those two primary instincts, the love of order and[Pg 61] of kindness, so that indignation itself is against the wounding of love. Do you think the μῆνις Ἀχιλῆος came of a hard heart in Achilles, or the "Pallas te hoc vulnere, Pallas," of a hard heart in Anchises' son?
91. And now, if with this clue through the labyrinth of them, you remember the course of the arts of great nations, you will perceive that whatever has prospered, and become lovely, had its beginning—for no other was possible—in the love of order in material things associated with true δικαιοσύνη: and the desire of beauty in material things, which is associated with true affection, charitas, and with the innumerable conditions of gentleness expressed by the different uses of the words χάρις and gratia. You will find that this love of beauty is an essential part of all healthy human nature, and though it can long co-exist with states of life in many other respects unvirtuous, it is itself wholly good;—the direct adversary of envy, avarice, mean worldly care, and especially of cruelty. It entirely perishes when these are wilfully indulged; and the men in whom it has been most strong have always been compassionate, and lovers of justice, and the earliest discerners and declarers of things conducive to the happiness of mankind.
92. Nearly every important truth respecting the love of beauty in its familiar relations to human life was mythically expressed by the Greeks in their various accounts of the parentage and offices of the Graces. But one fact, the most vital of all, they could not in its fulness perceive, namely, that the intensity of other perceptions of beauty is exactly commensurate with the imaginative purity of the passion of love, and with the singleness of its devotion. They were not fully conscious of, and could not therefore either mythically or philosophically express, the deep relation within themselves between their power of perceiving beauty, and the honour of domestic affection which found their sternest themes of tragedy in the infringement of its laws;—which made the rape of Helen the chief subject of their epic poetry, and which fastened their clearest sym[Pg 62]bolism of resurrection on the story of Alcestis. Unhappily, the subordinate position of their most revered women, and the partial corruption of feeling towards them by the presence of certain other singular states of inferior passion which it is as difficult as grievous to analyse, arrested the ethical as well as the formative progress of the Greek mind; and it was not until after an interval of nearly two thousand years of various error and pain, that, partly as the true reward of Christian warfare nobly sustained through centuries of trial, and partly as the visionary culmination of the faith which saw in a maiden's purity the link between God and her race, the highest and holiest strength of mortal love was reached; and, together with it, in the song of Dante, and the painting of Bernard of Luino and his fellows, the perception, and embodiment for ever of whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report;—that, if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, men might think on those things.
93. You probably observed the expression I used a moment ago, the imaginative purity of the passion of love. I have not yet spoken, nor is it possible for me to-day, to speak adequately, of the moral power of the imagination: but you may for yourselves enough discern its nature merely by comparing the dignity of the relations between the sexes, from their lowest level in moths or mollusca, through the higher creatures in whom they become a domestic influence and law, up to the love of pure men and women; and, finally, to the ideal love which animated chivalry. Throughout this vast ascent it is the gradual increase of the imaginative faculty which exalts and enlarges the authority of the passion, until, at its height, it is the bulwark of patience, the tutor of honour, and the perfectness of praise.
94. You will find farther, that as of love, so of all the other passions, the right government and exaltation begins in that of the Imagination, which is lord over them. For to subdue the passions, which is thought so often to be the sum of duty respecting them, is possible enough to a proud dul[Pg 63]ness; but to excite them rightly, and make them strong for good, is the work of the unselfish imagination. It is constantly said that human nature is heartless. Do not believe it. Human nature is kind and generous; but it is narrow and blind; and can only with difficulty conceive anything but what it immediately sees and feels. People would instantly care for others as well as themselves if only they could imagine others as well as themselves. Let a child fall into the river before the roughest man's eyes;—he will usually do what he can to get it out, even at some risk to himself; and all the town will triumph in the saving of one little life. Let the same man be shown that hundreds of children are dying of fever for want of some sanitary measure which it will cost him trouble to urge, and he will make no effort; and probably all the town would resist him if he did. So, also, the lives of many deserving women are passed in a succession of petty anxieties about themselves, and gleaning of minute interests and mean pleasures in their immediate circle, because they are never taught to make any effort to look beyond it; or to know anything about the mighty world in which their lives are fading, like blades of bitter grass in fruitless fields.
95. I had intended to enlarge on this—and yet more on the kingdom which every man holds in his conceptive faculty, to be peopled with active thoughts and lovely presences, or left waste for the springing up of those dark desires and dreams of which it is written that "every imagination of the thoughts of man's heart is evil continually." True, and a thousand times true it is, that, here at least, "greater is he that ruleth his spirit, than he that taketh a city." But this you can partly follow out for yourselves without help, partly we must leave it for future enquiry. I press to the conclusion which I wish to leave with you, that all you can rightly do, or honourably become, depends on the government of these two instincts of order and kindness, by this great Imaginative faculty, which gives you inheritance of the past, grasp of the present, authority over the future. Map out[Pg 64] the spaces of your possible lives by its help; measure the range of their possible agency! On the walls and towers of this your fair city, there is not an ornament of which the first origin may not be traced back to the thoughts of men who died two thousand years ago. Whom will you be governing by your thoughts, two thousand years hence? Think of it, and you will find that so far from art being immoral, little else except art is moral; that life without industry is guilt, and industry without art is brutality: and for the words "good" and "wicked," used of men, you may almost substitute the words "Makers" and "Destroyers." Far the greater part of the seeming prosperity of the world is, so far as our present knowledge extends, vain: wholly useless for any kind of good, but having assigned to it a certain inevitable sequence of destruction and of sorrow. Its stress is only the stress of wandering storm; its beauty the hectic of plague: and what is called the history of mankind is too often the record of the whirlwind, and the map of the spreading of the leprosy. But underneath all that, or in narrow spaces of dominion in the midst of it, the work of every man, "qui non accepit in vanitatem animam suam," endures and prospers; a small remnant or green bud of it prevailing at last over evil. And though faint with sickness, and encumbered in ruin, the true workers redeem inch by inch the wilderness into garden ground; by the help of their joined hands the order of all things is surely sustained and vitally expanded, and although with strange vacillation, in the eyes of the watcher, the morning cometh, and also the night, there is no hour of human existence that does not draw on towards the perfect day.
96. And perfect the day shall be, when it is of all men understood that the beauty of Holiness must be in labour as well as in rest. Nay! more, if it may be, in labour; in our strength, rather than in our weakness; and in the choice of what we shall work for through the six days, and may know to be good at their evening time, than in the choice of what we pray for on the seventh, of reward or repose. With the[Pg 65] multitude that keep holiday, we may perhaps sometimes vainly have gone up to the house of the Lord, and vainly there asked for what we fancied would be mercy; but for the few who labour as their Lord would have them, the mercy needs no seeking, and their wide home no hallowing. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow them, all the days of their life; and they shall dwell in the house of the Lord—for ever.[Pg 66]
97. Our subject of enquiry to-day, you will remember, is the mode in which fine art is founded upon, or may contribute to, the practical requirements of human life.
Its offices in this respect are mainly twofold: it gives Form to knowledge, and Grace to utility; that is to say, it makes permanently visible to us things which otherwise could neither be described by our science, nor retained by our memory; and it gives delightfulness and worth to the implements of daily use, and materials of dress, furniture and lodging. In the first of these offices it gives precision and charm to truth; in the second it gives precision and charm to service. For, the moment we make anything useful thoroughly, it is a law of nature that we shall be pleased with ourselves, and with the thing we have made; and become desirous therefore to adorn or complete it, in some dainty way, with finer art expressive of our pleasure.
And the point I wish chiefly to bring before you to-day is this close and healthy connection of the fine arts with material use; but I must first try briefly to put in clear light the function of art in giving Form to truth.
98. Much that I have hitherto tried to teach has been disputed on the ground that I have attached too much importance to art as representing natural facts, and too little to it as a source of pleasure. And I wish, in the close of these four prefatory lectures, strongly to assert to you, and, so far as I can in the time, convince you, that the entire vitality of art depends upon its being either full of truth, or full of use; and that, however pleasant, wonderful or impressive it may be in itself, it must yet be of inferior kind, and tend to[Pg 67] deeper inferiority, unless it has clearly one of these main objects,—either to state a true thing, or to adorn a serviceable one. It must never exist alone—never for itself; it exists rightly only when it is the means of knowledge, or the grace of agency for life.
99. Now, I pray you to observe—for though I have said this often before, I have never yet said it clearly enough—every good piece of art, to whichever of these ends it may be directed, involves first essentially the evidence of human skill and the formation of an actually beautiful thing by it.
Skill, and beauty, always then; and, beyond these, the formative arts have always one or other of the two objects which I have just defined to you—truth, or serviceableness; and without these aims neither the skill nor their beauty will avail; only by these can either legitimately reign. All the graphic arts begin in keeping the outline of shadow that we have loved, and they end in giving to it the aspect of life; and all the architectural arts begin in the shaping of the cup and the platter, and they end in a glorified roof.
Therefore, you see, in the graphic arts you have Skill, Beauty, and Likeness; and in the architectural arts, Skill, Beauty, and Use; and you must have the three in each group, balanced and co-ordinate; and all the chief errors of art consist in losing or exaggerating one of these elements.
100. For instance, almost the whole system and hope of modern life are founded on the notion that you may substitute mechanism for skill, photograph for picture, cast-iron for sculpture. That is your main nineteenth-century faith, or infidelity. You think you can get everything by grinding—music, literature, and painting. You will find it grievously not so; you can get nothing but dust by mere grinding. Even to have the barley-meal out of it, you must have the barley first; and that comes by growth, not grinding. But essentially, we have lost our delight in Skill; in that majesty of it which I was trying to make clear to you in my last address, and which long ago I tried to express, under the head of ideas of power. The entire sense of that, we have lost,[Pg 68] because we ourselves do not take pains enough to do right, and have no conception of what the right costs; so that all the joy and reverence we ought to feel in looking at a strong man's work have ceased in us. We keep them yet a little in looking at a honeycomb or a bird's-nest; we understand that these differ, by divinity of skill, from a lump of wax or a cluster of sticks. But a picture, which is a much more wonderful thing than a honeycomb or a bird's-nest,—have we not known people, and sensible people too, who expected to be taught to produce that, in six lessons?
101. Well, you must have the skill, you must have the beauty, which is the highest moral element; and then, lastly, you must have the verity or utility, which is not the moral, but the vital element; and this desire for verity and use is the one aim of the three that always leads in great schools, and in the minds of great masters, without any exception. They will permit themselves in awkwardness, they will permit themselves in ugliness; but they will never permit themselves in uselessness or in unveracity.
102. And farther, as their skill increases, and as their grace, so much more, their desire for truth. It is impossible to find the three motives in fairer balance and harmony than in our own Reynolds. He rejoices in showing you his skill; and those of you who succeed in learning what painter's work really is, will one day rejoice also, even to laughter—that highest laughter which springs of pure delight, in watching the fortitude and the fire of a hand which strikes forth its will upon the canvas as easily as the wind strikes it on the sea. He rejoices in all abstract beauty and rhythm and melody of design; he will never give you a colour that is not lovely, nor a shade that is unnecessary, nor a line that is ungraceful. But all his power and all his invention are held by him subordinate,—and the more obediently because of their nobleness,—to his true leading purpose of setting before you such likeness of the living presence of an English gentleman or an English lady, as shall be worthy of being looked upon for ever.[Pg 69]
103. But farther, you remember, I hope—for I said it in a way that I thought would shock you a little, that you might remember it—my statement, that art had never done more than this, never more than given the likeness of a noble human being. Not only so, but it very seldom does so much as this; and the best pictures that exist of the great schools are all portraits, or groups of portraits, often of very simple and no wise noble persons. You may have much more brilliant and impressive qualities in imaginative pictures; you may have figures scattered like clouds, or garlanded like flowers; you may have light and shade, as of a tempest, and colour, as of the rainbow; but all that is child's play to the great men, though it is astonishment to us. Their real strength is tried to the utmost, and as far as I know, it is never elsewhere brought out so thoroughly, as in painting one man or woman, and the soul that was in them; nor that always the highest soul, but often only a thwarted one that was capable of height; or perhaps not even that, but faultful and poor, yet seen through, to the poor best of it, by the masterful sight. So that in order to put before you in your Standard series, the best art possible, I am obliged, even from the very strongest men, to take portraits, before I take the idealism. Nay, whatever is best in the great compositions themselves has depended on portraiture; and the study necessary to enable you to understand invention will also convince you that the mind of man never invented a greater thing than the form of man, animated by faithful life. Every attempt to refine or exalt such healthy humanity has weakened or caricatured it; or else consists only in giving it, to please our fancy, the wings of birds, or the eyes of antelopes. Whatever is truly great in either Greek or Christian art, is also restrictedly human; and even the raptures of the redeemed souls who enter, "celestemente ballando," the gate of Angelico's Paradise, were seen first in the terrestrial, yet most pure, mirth of Florentine maidens.
104. I am aware that this cannot but at present appear gravely questionable to those of my audience who are strictly[Pg 70] cognisant of the phases of Greek art; for they know that the moment of its decline is accurately marked, by its turning from abstract form to portraiture. But the reason of this is simple. The progressive course of Greek art was in subduing monstrous conceptions to natural ones; it did this by general laws; it reached absolute truth of generic human form, and if this ethical force had remained, would have advanced into healthy portraiture. But at the moment of change the national life ended in Greece; and portraiture, there, meant insult to her religion, and flattery to her tyrants. And her skill perished, not because she became true in sight, but because she became vile at heart.
105. And now let us think of our own work, and ask how that may become, in its own poor measure, active in some verity of representation. We certainly cannot begin by drawing kings or queens; but we must try, even in our earliest work, if it is to prosper, to draw something that will convey true knowledge both to ourselves and others. And I think you will find greatest advantage in the endeavour to give more life and educational power to the simpler branches of natural science: for the great scientific men are all so eager in advance that they have no time to popularise their discoveries, and if we can glean after them a little, and make pictures of the things which science describes, we shall find the service a worthy one. Not only so, but we may even be helpful to science herself; for she has suffered by her proud severance from the arts; and having made too little effort to realise her discoveries to vulgar eyes, has herself lost true measure of what was chiefly precious in them.
106. Take Botany, for instance. Our scientific botanists are, I think, chiefly at present occupied in distinguishing species, which perfect methods of distinction will probably in the future show to be indistinct;—in inventing descriptive names of which a more advanced science and more fastidious scholarship will show some to be unnecessary, and others inadmissible;—and in microscopic investigations of structure, which through many alternate links of triumphant discovery[Pg 71] that tissue is composed of vessels, and that vessels are composed of tissue, have not hitherto completely explained to us either the origin, the energy, or the course of the sap; and which however subtle or successful, bear to the real natural history of plants only the relation that anatomy and organic chemistry bear to the history of men. In the meantime, our artists are so generally convinced of the truth of the Darwinian theory that they do not always think it necessary to show any difference between the foliage of an elm and an oak; and the gift-books of Christmas have every page surrounded with laboriously engraved garlands of rose, shamrock, thistle, and forget-me-not, without its being thought proper by the draughtsman, or desirable by the public, even in the case of those uncommon flowers, to observe the real shape of the petals of any one of them.
107. Now what we especially need at present for educational purposes is to know, not the anatomy of plants, but their biography—how and where they live and die, their tempers, benevolences, malignities, distresses, and virtues. We want them drawn from their youth to their age, from bud to fruit. We ought to see the various forms of their diminished but hardy growth in cold climates, or poor soils; and their rank or wild luxuriance, when full-fed, and warmly nursed. And all this we ought to have drawn so accurately, that we might at once compare any given part of a plant with the same part of any other, drawn on the like conditions. Now, is not this a work which we may set about here in Oxford, with good hope and much pleasure? I think it is so important, that the first exercise in drawing I shall put before you will be an outline of a laurel leaf. You will find in the opening sentence of Lionardo's treatise, our present text-book, that you must not at first draw from nature, but from a good master's work, "per assuefarsi a buone membra," to accustom yourselves, that is, to entirely good representative organic forms. So your first exercise shall be the top of the laurel sceptre of Apollo, drawn by an Italian engraver of Lionardo's own time; then we will draw a laurel leaf itself;[Pg 72] and little by little, I think we may both learn ourselves, and teach to many besides, somewhat more than we know yet, of the wild olives of Greece, and the wild roses of England.
108. Next, in Geology, which I will take leave to consider as an entirely separate science from the zoology of the past, which has lately usurped its name and interest. In geology itself we find the strength of many able men occupied in debating questions of which there are yet no data even for the clear statement; and in seizing advanced theoretical positions on the mere contingency of their being afterwards tenable; while, in the meantime, no simple person, taking a holiday in Cumberland, can get an intelligible section of Skiddaw, or a clear account of the origin of the Skiddaw slates; and while, though half the educated society of London travel every summer over the great plain of Switzerland, none know, or care to know, why that is a plain, and the Alps to the south of it are Alps; and whether or not the gravel of the one has anything to do with the rocks of the other. And though every palace in Europe owes part of its decoration to variegated marbles, and nearly every woman in Europe part of her decoration to pieces of jasper or chalcedony, I do not think any geologist could at this moment with authority tell us either how a piece of marble is stained, or what causes the streaks in a Scotch pebble.
109. Now, as soon as you have obtained the power of drawing, I do not say a mountain, but even a stone, accurately, every question of this kind will become to you at once attractive and definite; you will find that in the grain, the lustre, and the cleavage-lines of the smallest fragment of rock, there are recorded forces of every order and magnitude, from those which raise a continent by one volcanic effort, to those which at every instant are polishing the apparently complete crystal in its nest, and conducting the apparently motionless metal in its vein; and that only by the art of your own hand, and fidelity of sight which it develops, you can obtain true perception of these invincible and inimitable arts of the earth herself; while the comparatively[Pg 73] slight effort necessary to obtain so much skill as may serviceably draw mountains in distant effect will be instantly rewarded by what is almost equivalent to a new sense of the conditions of their structure.
110. And, because it is well at once to know some direction in which our work may be definite, let me suggest to those of you who may intend passing their vacation in Switzerland, and who care about mountains, that if they will first qualify themselves to take angles of position and elevation with correctness, and to draw outlines with approximate fidelity, there are a series of problems of the highest interest to be worked out on the southern edge of the Swiss plain, in the study of the relations of its molasse beds to the rocks which are characteristically developed in the chain of the Stockhorn, Beatenberg, Pilate, Mythen above Schwytz, and High Sentis of Appenzell, the pursuit of which may lead them into many pleasant, as well as creditably dangerous, walks, and curious discoveries; and will be good for the discipline of their fingers in the pencilling of crag form.
111. I wish I could ask you to draw, instead of the Alps, the crests of Parnassus and Olympus, and the ravines of Delphi and of Tempe. I have not loved the arts of Greece as others have; yet I love them, and her, so much, that it is to me simply a standing marvel how scholars can endure for all these centuries, during which their chief education has been in the language and policy of Greece, to have only the names of her hills and rivers upon their lips, and never one line of conception of them in their mind's sight. Which of us knows what the valley of Sparta is like, or the great mountain vase of Arcadia? which of us, except in mere airy syllabling of names, knows aught of "sandy Ladon's lilied banks, or old Lycæus, or Cyllene hoar"? "You cannot travel in Greece?"—I know it; nor in Magna Græcia. But, gentlemen of England, you had better find out why you cannot, and put an end to that horror of European shame, before you hope to learn Greek art.
112. I scarcely know whether to place among the things[Pg 74] useful to art, or to science, the systematic record, by drawing, of phenomena of the sky. But I am quite sure that your work cannot in any direction be more useful to yourselves, than in enabling you to perceive the quite unparalleled subtilties of colour and inorganic form, which occur on any ordinarily fine morning or evening horizon; and I will even confess to you another of my perhaps too sanguine expectations, that in some far distant time it may come to pass, that young Englishmen and Englishwomen may think the breath of the morning sky pleasanter than that of midnight, and its light prettier than that of candles.
113. Lastly, in Zoology. What the Greeks did for the horse, and what, as far as regards domestic and expressional character, Landseer has done for the dog and the deer, remains to be done by art for nearly all other animals of high organisation. There are few birds or beasts that have not a range of character which, if not equal to that of the horse or dog, is yet as interesting within narrower limits, and often in grotesqueness, intensity, or wild and timid pathos, more singular and mysterious. Whatever love of humour you have,—whatever sympathy with imperfect, but most subtle, feeling,—whatever perception of sublimity in conditions of fatal power, may here find fullest occupation: all these being joined, in the strong animal races, to a variable and fantastic beauty far beyond anything that merely formative art has yet conceived. I have placed in your Educational series a wing by Albert Dürer, which goes as far as art yet has reached in delineation of plumage; while for the simple action of the pinion it is impossible to go beyond what has been done already by Titian and Tintoret; but you cannot so much as once look at the rufflings of the plumes of a pelican pluming itself after it has been in the water, or carefully draw the contours of the wing either of a vulture or a common swift, or paint the rose and vermilion on that of a flamingo, without receiving almost a new conception of the meaning of form and colour in creation.
114. Lastly. Your work, in all directions I have hitherto[Pg 75] indicated, may be as deliberate as you choose; there is no immediate fear of the extinction of many species of flowers or animals; and the Alps, and valley of Sparta, will wait your leisure, I fear too long. But the feudal and monastic buildings of Europe, and still more the streets of her ancient cities, are vanishing like dreams: and it is difficult to imagine the mingled envy and contempt with which future generations will look back to us, who still possessed such things, yet made no effort to preserve, and scarcely any to delineate them: for when used as material of landscape by the modern artist, they are nearly always superficially or flatteringly represented, without zeal enough to penetrate their character, or patience enough to render it in modest harmony. As for places of traditional interest, I do not know an entirely faithful drawing of any historical site, except one or two studies made by enthusiastic young painters in Palestine and Egypt: for which, thanks to them always: but we want work nearer home.
115. Now it is quite probable that some of you, who will not care to go through the labour necessary to draw flowers or animals, may yet have pleasure in attaining some moderately accurate skill of sketching architecture, and greater pleasure still in directing it usefully. Suppose, for instance, we were to take up the historical scenery in Carlyle's "Frederick." Too justly the historian accuses the genius of past art, in that, types of too many such elsewhere, the galleries of Berlin—"are made up, like other galleries, of goat-footed Pan, Europa's Bull, Romulus's She-Wolf, and the Correggiosity of Correggio, and contain, for instance, no portrait of Friedrich the Great,—no likeness at all, or next to none at all, of the noble series of Human Realities, or any part of them, who have sprung, not from the idle brains of dreaming dilettanti, but from the head of God Almighty, to make this poor authentic earth a little memorable for us, and to do a little work that may be eternal there." So Carlyle tells us—too truly! We cannot now draw Friedrich for him, but we can draw some of the old castles and cities that were the[Pg 76] cradles of German life—Hohenzollern, Hapsburg, Marburg, and such others;—we may keep some authentic likeness of these for the future. Suppose we were to take up that first volume of "Friedrich," and put outlines to it: shall we begin by looking for Henry the Fowler's tomb—Carlyle himself asks if he has any—at Quedlinburgh, and so downwards, rescuing what we can? That would certainly be making our work of some true use.
116. But I have told you enough, it seems to me, at least to-day, of this function of art in recording fact; let me now finally, and with all distinctness possible to me, state to you its main business of all;—its service in the actual uses of daily life.
You are surprised, perhaps, to hear me call this its main business. That is indeed so, however. The giving brightness to picture is much, but the giving brightness to life more. And remember, were it as patterns only, you cannot, without the realities, have the pictures. You cannot have a landscape by Turner, without a country for him to paint; you cannot have a portrait by Titian, without a man to be portrayed. I need not prove that to you, I suppose, in these short terms; but in the outcome I can get no soul to believe that the beginning of art is in getting our country clean, and our people beautiful. I have been ten years trying to get this very plain certainty—I do not say believed—but even thought of, as anything but a monstrous proposition. To get your country clean, and your people lovely;—I assure you that is a necessary work of art to begin with! There has indeed been art in countries where people lived in dirt to serve God, but never in countries where they lived in dirt to serve the devil. There has indeed been art where the people were not all lovely—where even their lips were thick—and their skins black, because the sun had looked upon them; but never in a country where the people were pale with miserable toil and deadly shade, and where the lips of youth, instead of being full with blood, were pinched by famine, or warped with poison. And now, therefore, note this well, the[Pg 77] gist of all these long prefatory talks. I said that the two great moral instincts were those of Order and Kindness. Now, all the arts are founded on agriculture by the hand, and on the graces, and kindness of feeding, and dressing, and lodging your people. Greek art begins in the gardens of Alcinous—perfect order, leeks in beds, and fountains in pipes. And Christian art, as it arose out of chivalry, was only possible so far as chivalry compelled both kings and knights to care for the right personal training of their people; it perished utterly when those kings and knights became δημοβόροι, devourers of the people. And it will become possible again only, when, literally, the sword is beaten into the ploughshare, when your St. George of England shall justify his name, and Christian art shall be known as its Master was, in breaking of bread.
117. Now look at the working out of this broad principle in minor detail; observe how, from highest to lowest, health of art has first depended on reference to industrial use. There is first the need of cup and platter, especially of cup; for you can put your meat on the Harpies', or on any other, tables; but you must have your cup to drink from. And to hold it conveniently, you must put a handle to it; and to fill it when it is empty you must have a large pitcher of some sort; and to carry the pitcher you may most advisably have two handles. Modify the forms of these needful possessions according to the various requirements of drinking largely and drinking delicately; of pouring easily out, or of keeping for years the perfume in; of storing in cellars, or bearing from fountains; of sacrificial libation, of Panathenaic treasure of oil, and sepulchral treasure of ashes,—and you have a resultant series of beautiful form and decoration, from the rude amphora of red earth up to Cellini's vases of gems and crystal, in which series, but especially in the more simple conditions of it, are developed the most beautiful lines and most perfect types of severe composition which have yet been attained by art.
118. But again, that you may fill your cup with pure water, you must go to the well or spring; you need a fence round the well; you need some tube or trough, or other means of confining the stream at the spring. For the conveyance of the current to any distance you must build either enclosed or open aqueduct; and in the hot square of the city where you set it free, you find it good for health and pleasantness to let it leap into a fountain. On these several needs you have a school of sculpture founded; in the decoration of the walls of wells in level countries, and of the sources of springs in mountainous ones, and chiefly of all, where the women of household or market meet at the city fountain.
There is, however, a farther reason for the use of art here than in any other material service, so far as we may, by art, express our reverence or thankfulness. Whenever a nation is in its right mind, it always has a deep sense of divinity in the gift of rain from heaven, filling its heart with food and gladness; and all the more when that gift becomes gentle and perennial in the flowing of springs. It literally is not possible that any fruitful power of the Muses should be put forth upon a people which disdains their Helicon; still less is it possible that any Christian nation should grow up "tanquam lignum quod plantatum est secus decursus aquarum," which cannot recognise the lesson meant in their being told of the places where Rebekah was met;—where Rachel,—where Zipporah,—and she who was asked for water under Mount Grerizim by a Stranger, weary, who had nothing to draw with.
119. And truly, when our mountain springs are set apart in vale or craggy glen, or glade of wood green through the drought of summer, far from cities, then it is best to let them stay in their own happy peace; but if near towns, and liable therefore to be defiled by common usage, we could not use the loveliest art more worthily than by sheltering the spring and its first pools with precious marbles: nor ought anything to be esteemed more important, as a means of healthy education, than the care to keep the streams of it afterwards, to[Pg 79] as great a distance as possible, pure, full of fish, and easily accessible to children. There used to be, thirty years ago, a little rivulet of the Wandel, about an inch deep, which ran over the carriage-road and under a foot-bridge just under the last chalk hill near Croydon. Alas! men came and went; and it did not go on for ever. It has long since been bricked over by the parish authorities; but there was more education in that stream with its minnows than you could get out of a thousand pounds spent yearly in the parish schools, even though you were to spend every farthing of it in teaching the nature of oxygen and hydrogen, and the names, and rate per minute, of all the rivers in Asia and America.
120. Well, the gist of this matter lies here then. Suppose we want a school of pottery again in England, all we poor artists are ready to do the best we can, to show you how pretty a line may be that is twisted first to one side, and then to the other; and how a plain household-blue will make a pattern on white; and how ideal art may be got out of the spaniel's colours of black and tan. But I tell you beforehand, all that we can do will be utterly useless, unless you teach your peasant to say grace, not only before meat, but before drink; and having provided him with Greek cups and platters, provide him also with something that is not poisoned to put into them.
121. There cannot be any need that I should trace for you the conditions of art that are directly founded on serviceableness of dress, and of armour; but it is my duty to affirm to you, in the most positive manner, that after recovering, for the poor, wholesomeness of food, your next step towards founding schools of art in England must be in recovering, for the poor, decency and wholesomeness of dress; thoroughly good in substance, fitted for their daily work, becoming to their rank in life, and worn with order and dignity. And this order and dignity must be taught them by the women of the upper and middle classes, whose minds can be in nothing right, as long as they are so wrong in this matter as to endure the squalor of the poor, while they them[Pg 80]selves dress gaily. And on the proper pride and comfort of both poor and rich in dress, must be founded the true arts of dress; carried on by masters of manufacture no less careful of the perfectness and beauty of their tissues, and of all that in substance and design can be bestowed upon them, than ever the armourers of Milan and Damascus were careful of their steel.
122. Then, in the third place, having recovered some wholesome habits of life as to food and dress, we must recover them as to lodging. I said just now that the best architecture was but a glorified roof. Think of it. The dome of the Vatican, the porches of Rheims or Chartres, the vaults and arches of their aisles, the canopy of the tomb, and the spire of the belfry, are all forms resulting from the mere requirement that a certain space shall be strongly covered from heat and rain. More than that—as I have tried all through "The Stories of Venice" to show,—the lovely forms of these were every one of them developed in civil and domestic building, and only after their invention, employed ecclesiastically on the grandest scale. I think you cannot but have noticed here in Oxford, as elsewhere, that our modern architects never seem to know what to do with their roofs. Be assured, until the roofs are right, nothing else will be; and there are just two ways of keeping them right. Never build them of iron, but only of wood or stone; and secondly, take care that in every town the little roofs are built before the large ones, and that everybody who wants one has got one. And we must try also to make everybody want one. That is to say, at some not very advanced period of life, men should desire to have a home, which they do not wish to quit any more, suited to their habits of life, and likely to be more and more suitable to them until their death. And men must desire to have these their dwelling-places built as strongly as possible, and furnished and decorated daintily, and set in pleasant places, in bright light, and good air, being able to choose for themselves that at least as well as swallows. And when the[Pg 81] houses are grouped together in cities, men must have so much civic fellowship as to subject their architecture to a common law, and so much civic pride as to desire that the whole gathered group of human dwellings should be a lovely thing, not a frightful one, on the face of the earth. Not many weeks ago an English clergyman, a master of this University, a man not given to sentiment, but of middle age, and great practical sense, told me, by accident, and wholly without reference to the subject now before us, that he never could enter London from his country parsonage but with closed eyes, lest the sight of the blocks of houses which the railroad intersected in the suburbs should unfit him, by the horror of it, for his day's work.
123. Now, it is not possible—and I repeat to you, only in more deliberate assertion, what I wrote just twenty-two years ago in the last chapter of the "Seven Lamps of Architecture"—it is not possible to have any right morality, happiness, or art, in any country where the cities are thus built, or thus, let me rather say, clotted and coagulated; spots of a dreadful mildew, spreading by patches and blotches over the country they consume. You must have lovely cities, crystallised, not coagulated, into form; limited in size, and not casting out the scum and scurf of them into an encircling eruption of shame, but girded each with its sacred pomœrium, and with garlands of gardens full of blossoming trees and softly guided streams.
That is impossible, you say! it may be so. I have nothing to do with its possibility, but only with its indispensability. More than that must be possible, however, before you can have a school of art; namely, that you find places elsewhere than in England, or at least in otherwise unserviceable parts of England, for the establishment of manufactories needing the help of fire, that is to say, of all the τἑχναι βαναυσικαἱ and ἑπἱρρητοι, of which it was long ago known to be the constant nature that "ἁσχολἱας μαλιστα ἑχουσι καἱ πὁλεως συνεπιμε λεἱσθαι," and to reduce such manufactures to their lowest[Pg 82] limit, so that nothing may ever be made of iron that can as effectually be made of wood or stone; and nothing moved by steam that can be as effectually moved by natural forces. And observe, that for all mechanical effort required in social life and in cities, water power is infinitely more than enough; for anchored mills on the large rivers, and mills moved by sluices from reservoirs filled by the tide, will give you command of any quantity of constant motive power you need.
Agriculture by the hand, then, and absolute refusal or banishment of unnecessary igneous force, are the first conditions of a school of art in any country. And until you do this, be it soon or late, things will continue in that triumphant state to which, for want of finer art, your mechanism has brought them;—that, though England is deafened with spinning wheels, her people have not clothes—though she is black with digging of fuel, they die of cold—and though she has sold her soul for gain, they die of hunger. Stay in that triumph, if you choose; but be assured of this, it is not one which the fine arts will ever share with you.
124. Now, I have given you my message, containing, as I know, offence enough, and itself, it may seem to many, unnecessary enough. But just in proportion to its apparent non-necessity, and to its certain offence, was its real need, and my real duty to speak it. The study of the fine arts could not be rightly associated with the grave work of English Universities, without due and clear protest against the misdirection of national energy, which for the present renders all good results of such study on a great scale, impossible. I can easily teach you, as any other moderately good draughtsman could, how to hold your pencils, and how to lay your colours; but it is little use my doing that, while the nation is spending millions of money in the destruction of all that pencil or colour has to represent, and in the promotion of false forms of art, which are only the costliest and the least enjoyable of follies. And therefore these are the things that I have first and last to tell you in this place;—that the fine arts are not to be learned by Locomotion, but by making[Pg 83] the homes we live in lovely, and by staying in them;—that the fine arts are not to be learned by Competition, but by doing our quiet best in our own way;—that the fine arts are not to be learned by Exhibition, but by doing what is right, and making what is honest, whether it be exhibited or not;—and, for the sum of all, that men must paint and build neither for pride nor for money, but for love; for love of their art, for love of their neighbour, and whatever better love may be than these, founded on these. I know that I gave some pain, which I was most unwilling to give, in speaking of the possible abuses of religious art; but there can be no danger of any, so long as we remember that God inhabits cottages as well as churches, and ought to be well lodged there also. Begin with wooden floors; the tessellated ones will take care of themselves; begin with thatching roofs, and you shall end by splendidly vaulting them; begin by taking care that no old eyes fail over their Bibles, nor young ones over their needles, for want of rushlight, and then you may have whatever true good is to be got out of coloured glass or wax candles. And in thus putting the arts to universal use, you will find also their universal inspiration, their universal benediction. I told you there was no evidence of a special Divineness in any application of them; that they were always equally human and equally Divine; and in closing this inaugural series of lectures, into which I have endeavoured to compress the principles that are to be the foundations of your future work, it is my last duty to say some positive words as to the Divinity of all art, when it is truly fair, or truly serviceable.
125. Every seventh day, if not oftener, the greater number of well-meaning persons in England thankfully receive from their teachers a benediction, couched in those terms:—"The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Love of God, and the Fellowship of the Holy Ghost, be with you." Now I do not know precisely what sense is attached in the English public mind to those expressions. But what I have to tell you positively is that the three things do actually exist, and can be known if you care to know them, and pos[Pg 84]sessed if you care to possess them; and that another thing exists, besides these, of which we already know too much.
First, by simply obeying the orders of the Founder of your religion, all grace, graciousness, or beauty and favour of gentle life, will be given to you in mind and body, in work and in rest. The Grace of Christ exists, and can be had if you will. Secondly, as you know more and more of the created world, you will find that the true will of its Maker is that its creatures should be happy;—that He has made everything beautiful in its time and its place, and that it is chiefly by the fault of men, when they are allowed the liberty of thwarting His laws, that Creation groans or travails in pain. The Love of God exists, and you may see it, and live in it if you will. Lastly, a Spirit does actually exist which teaches the ant her path, the bird her building, and men, in an instinctive and marvellous way, whatever lovely arts and noble deeds are possible to them. Without it you can do no good thing. To the grief of it you can do many bad ones. In the possession of it is your peace and your power.
And there is a fourth thing, of which we already know too much. There is an evil spirit whose dominion is in blindness and in cowardice, as the dominion of the Spirit of wisdom is in clear sight and in courage.
And this blind and cowardly spirit is for ever telling you that evil things are pardonable, and you shall not die for them, and that good things are impossible, and you need not live for them; and that gospel of his is now the loudest that is preached in your Saxon tongue. You will find some day, to your cost, if you believe the first part of it, that it is not true; but you may never, if you believe the second part of it, find, to your gain, that also, untrue; and therefore I pray you with all earnestness to prove, and know within your hearts, that all things lovely and righteous are possible for those who believe in their possibility, and who determine that, for their part, they will make every day's work contribute to them. Let every dawn of morning be to you as the beginning of life, and every setting sun be to you as its[Pg 85] close:—then let every one of these short lives leave its sure record of some kindly thing done for others—some goodly strength or knowledge gained for yourselves; so, from day to day, and strength to strength, you shall build up indeed, by Art, by Thought, and by Just Will, an Ecclesia of England, of which it shall not be said, "See what manner of stones are here," but, "See what manner of men."[Pg 86]
126. You will, I doubt not, willingly permit me to begin your lessons in real practice of art in the words of the greatest of English painters: one also, than whom there is indeed no greater, among those of any nation, or any time,—our own gentle Reynolds.
He says in his first discourse:—"The Directors" (of the Academy) "ought more particularly to watch over the genius of those students, who being more advanced, are arrived at that critical period of study, on the nice management of which their future turn of taste depends. At that age it is natural for them to be more captivated with what is brilliant, than with what is solid, and to prefer splendid negligence to painful and humiliating exactness."
"A facility in composing, a lively and, what is called, a 'masterly' handling of the chalk or pencil, are, it must be confessed, captivating qualities to young minds, and become of course the objects of their ambition. They endeavour to imitate these dazzling excellences, which they will find no great labour in attaining. After much time spent in these frivolous pursuits, the difficulty will be to retreat; but it will then be too late; and there is scarce an instance of return to scrupulous labour, after the mind has been debauched and deceived by this fallacious mastery."
127. I read you these words, chiefly that Sir Joshua, who founded, as first President, the Academical schools of English painting, in these well-known discourses, may also begin, as he has truest right to do, our system of instruction in this University. But secondly, I read them that I may press on your attention these singular words, "painful and humiliat[Pg 87]ing exactness." Singular, as expressing the first conditions of the study required from his pupils by the master, who, of all men except Velasquez, seems to have painted with the greatest ease. It is true that he asks this pain, this humiliation, only from youths who intend to follow the profession of artists. But if you wish yourselves to know anything of the practice of art, you must not suppose that because your study will be more desultory than that of Academy students, it may therefore be less accurate. The shorter the time you have to give, the more careful you should be to spend it profitably; and I would not wish you to devote one hour to the practice of drawing, unless you are resolved to be informed in it of all that in an hour can be taught.
128. I speak of the practice of drawing only; though elementary study of modelling may perhaps some day be advisably connected with it; but I do not wish to disturb, or amuse, you with a formal statement of the manifold expectations I have formed respecting your future work. You will not, I am sure, imagine that I have begun without a plan, nor blame my reticence as to the parts of it which cannot yet be put into execution, and which there may occur reason afterwards to modify. My first task must unquestionably be to lay before you right and simple methods of drawing and colouring.
I use the word "colouring" without reference to any particular vehicle of colour, for the laws of good painting are the same, whatever liquid is employed to dissolve the pigments. But the technical management of oil is more difficult than that of water-colour, and the impossibility of using it with safety among books or prints, and its unavailableness for note-book sketches and memoranda, are sufficient reasons for not introducing it in a course of practice intended chiefly for students of literature. On the contrary, in the exercises of artists, oil should be the vehicle of colour employed from the first. The extended practice of water-colour painting, as a separate skill, is in every way harmful to the arts: its pleasant slightness and plausible dexterity divert the genius of the[Pg 88] painter from its proper aims, and withdraw the attention of the public from excellence of higher claim; nor ought any man, who has the consciousness of ability for good work, to be ignorant of, or indolent in employing, the methods of making its results permanent as long as the laws of Nature allow. It is surely a severe lesson to us in this matter, that the best works of Turner could not be shown to the public for six months without being destroyed,—and that his most ambitious ones for the most part perished, even before they could be shown. I will break through my law of reticence, however, so far as to tell you that I have hope of one day interesting you greatly (with the help of the Florentine masters), in the study of the arts of moulding and painting porcelain; and to induce some of you to use your future power of patronage in encouraging the various branches of this art, and turning the attention of the workmen of Italy from the vulgar tricks of minute and perishable mosaic to the exquisite subtilties of form and colour possible in the perfectly ductile, afterwards unalterable clay. And one of the ultimate results of such craftsmanship might be the production of pictures as brilliant as painted glass,—as delicate as the most subtle water-colours, and more permanent than the Pyramids.
129. And now to begin our own work. In order that we may know how rightly to learn to draw and to paint, it will be necessary, will it not, that we know first what we are to aim at doing;—what kind of representation of nature is best?
I will tell you in the words of Lionardo. "That is the most praiseworthy painting which has most conformity with the thing represented," "quella pittura e piu laudabile, la quale ha piu conformita con la cosa mitata," (ch. 276). In plain terms, "the painting which is likest nature is the best." And you will find by referring to the preceding chapter, "come lo specchio e maestro de' pittori," how absolutely Lionardo means what he says. Let the living thing, (he tells us,) be reflected in a mirror, then put your picture beside the reflection, and match the one with the other. And indeed, the very best painting is unquestionably so like the mirrored[Pg 89] truth, that all the world admits its excellence. Entirely first-rate work is so quiet and natural that there can be no dispute over it; you may not particularly admire it, but you will find no fault with it. Second-rate painting pleases one person much, and displeases another; but first-rate painting pleases all a little, and intensely pleases those who can recognise its unostentatious skill.
130. This, then, is what we have first got to do—to make our drawing look as like the thing we have to draw as we can.
Now, all objects are seen by the eye as patches of colour of a certain shape, with gradations of colour within them. And, unless their colours be actually luminous, as those of the sun, or of fire, these patches of different hues are sufficiently imitable, except so far as they are seen stereoscopically. You will find Lionardo again and again insisting on the stereoscopic power of the double sight: but do not let that trouble you; you can only paint what you can see from one point of sight, but that is quite enough. So seen, then, all objects appear to the human eye simply as masses of colour of variable depth, texture, and outline. The outline of any object is the limit of its mass, as relieved against another mass. Take a crocus, and lay it on a green cloth. You will see it detach itself as a mere space of yellow from the green behind it, as it does from the grass. Hold it up against the window—you will see it detach itself as a dark space against the white or blue behind it. In either case its outline is the limit of the space of light or dark colour by which it expresses itself to your sight. That outline is therefore infinitely subtle—not even a line, but the place of a line, and that, also, made soft by texture. In the finest painting it is therefore slightly softened; but it is necessary to be able to draw it with absolute sharpness and precision. The art of doing this is to be obtained by drawing it as an actual line, which art is to be the subject of our immediate enquiry; but I must first lay the divisions of the entire subject completely before you.
131. I have said that all objects detach themselves as[Pg 90] masses of colour. Usually, light and shade are thought of as separate from colour; but the fact is that all nature is seen as a mosaic composed of gradated portions of different colours, dark or light. There is no difference in the quality of these colours, except as affected by texture. You will constantly hear lights and shades spoken of as if these were different in their nature, and to be painted in different ways. But every light is a shadow compared to higher lights, till we reach the brightness of the sun; and every shadow is a light compared to lower shadows, till we reach the darkness of night.
Every colour used in painting, except pure white and black, is therefore a light and shade at the same time. It is a light with reference to all below it, and a shade with reference to all above it.
132. The solid forms of an object, that is to say, the projections or recessions of its surface within the outline, are, for the most part, rendered visible by variations in the intensity or quantity of light falling on them. The study of the relations between the quantities of this light, irrespectively of its colour, is the second division of the regulated science of painting.
133. Finally, the qualities and relations of natural colours, the means of imitating them, and the laws by which they become separately beautiful, and in association harmonious, are the subjects of the third and final division of the painter's study. I shall endeavour at once to state to you what is most immediately desirable for you to know on each of these topics, in this and the two following lectures.
134. What we have to do, then, from beginning to end, is, I repeat once more, simply to draw spaces of their true shape, and to fill them with colours which shall match their colours; quite a simple thing in the definition of it, not quite so easy in the doing of it.
But it is something to get this simple definition; and I wish you to notice that the terms of it are complete, though I do not introduce the term "light," or "shadow." Painters[Pg 91] who have no eye for colour have greatly confused and falsified the practice of art by the theory that shadow is an absence of colour. Shadow is, on the contrary, necessary to the full presence of colour; for every colour is a diminished quantity or energy of light; and, practically, it follows from what I have just told you—(that every light in painting is a shadow to higher lights, and every shadow a light to lower shadows)—that also every colour in painting must be a shadow to some brighter colour, and a light to some darker one—all the while being a positive colour itself. And the great splendour of the Venetian school arises from their having seen and held from the beginning this great fact—that shadow is as much colour as light, often much more. In Titian's fullest red the lights are pale rose-colour, passing into white—the shadows warm deep crimson. In Veronese's most splendid orange, the lights are pale, the shadows crocus colour; and so on. In nature, dark sides if seen by reflected lights, are almost always fuller or warmer in colour than the lights; and the practice of the Bolognese and Roman schools, in drawing their shadows always dark and cold, is false from the beginning, and renders perfect painting for ever impossible in those schools, and to all who follow them.
135. Every visible space, then, be it dark or light, is a space of colour of some kind, or of black or white. And you have to enclose it with a true outline, and to paint it with its true colour.
But before considering how we are to draw this enclosing line, I must state to you something about the use of lines in general, by different schools.
I said just now that there was no difference between the masses of colour of which all visible nature is composed, except in texture. Now textures are principally of three kinds:—
(1) Lustrous, as of water and glass.
(2) Bloomy, or velvety, as of a rose-leaf or peach.
(3) Linear, produced by filaments or threads, as in feathers, fur, hair, and woven or reticulated tissues.[Pg 92]
All these three sources of pleasure to the eye in texture are united in the best ornamental work. A fine picture by Fra Angelico, or a fine illuminated page of missal, has large spaces of gold, partly burnished and lustrous, partly dead;—some of it chased and enriched with linear texture, and mingled with imposed or inlaid colours, soft in bloom like that of the rose-leaf. But many schools of art affect for the most part one kind of texture only, and a vast quantity of the art of all ages depends for great part of its power on texture produced by multitudinous lines. Thus, wood engraving, line engraving properly so called, and countless varieties of sculpture, metal work, and textile fabric, depend for great part of the effect, for the mystery, softness, and clearness of their colours, or shades, on modification of the surfaces by lines or threads. Even in advanced oil painting, the work often depends for some part of its effect on the texture of the canvas.
136. Again, the arts of etching and mezzotint engraving depend principally for their effect on the velvety, or bloomy texture of their darkness, and the best of all painting is the fresco work of great colourists, in which the colours are what is usually called dead; but they are anything but dead, they glow with the luminous bloom of life. The frescoes of Correggio, when not repainted, are supreme in this quality.
137. While, however, in all periods of art these different textures are thus used in various styles, and for various purposes, you will find that there is a broad historical division of schools, which will materially assist you in understanding them. The earliest art in most countries is linear, consisting of interwoven, or richly spiral and otherwise involved arrangements of sculptured or painted lines, on stone, wood, metal or clay. It is generally characteristic of savage life, and of feverish energy of imagination. I shall examine these schools with you hereafter, under the general head of the "Schools of Line."
Secondly, even in the earliest periods, among powerful[Pg 93] nations, this linear decoration is more or less filled with chequered or barred shade, and begins at once to represent animal or floral form, by filling its outlines with flat shadow, or with flat colour. And here we instantly find two great divisions of temper and thought. The Greeks look upon all colour first as light; they are, as compared with other races, insensitive to hue, exquisitely sensitive to phenomena of light. And their linear school passes into one of flat masses of light and darkness, represented in the main by four tints,—white, black, and two reds, one brick colour, more or less vivid, the other dark purple; these two standing mentally their favourite πορφύρεος colour, in its light and dark powers. On the other hand, many of the Northern nations are at first entirely insensible to light and shade, but exquisitely sensitive to colour, and their linear decoration is filled with flat tints, infinitely varied, but with no expression of light and shade. Both these schools have a limited but absolute perfection of their own, and their peculiar successes can in no wise be imitated, except by the strictest observance of the same limitations.
138. You have then, Line for the earliest art, branching into—
(1) Greek, Line with Light.
(2) Gothic, Line with Colour.
Now, as art completes itself, each of these schools retain their separate characters, but they cease to depend on lines, and learn to represent masses instead, becoming more refined at the same time in all modes of perception and execution.
And thus there arise the two vast mediæval schools; one of flat and infinitely varied colour, with exquisite character and sentiment added, in the forms represented; but little perception of shadow. The other, of light and shade, with exquisite drawing of solid form, and little perception of colour: sometimes as little of sentiment. Of these, the school of flat colour is the more vital one; it is always natural and simple, if not great;—and when it is great, it is very great.[Pg 94]
The school of light and shade associates itself with that of engraving; it is essentially an academical school, broadly dividing light from darkness, and begins by assuming that the light side of all objects shall be represented by white, and the extreme shadow by black. On this conventional principle it reaches a limited excellence of its own, in which the best existing types of engraving are executed, and ultimately, the most regular expressions of organic form in painting.
Then, lastly,—the schools of colour advance steadily, till they adopt from those of light and shade whatever is compatible with their own power,—and then you have perfect art, represented centrally by that of the great Venetians.
The schools of light and shade, on the other hand, are partly, in their academical formulas, too haughty, and partly, in their narrowness of imagination, too weak, to learn much from the schools of colour; and pass into a state of decadence, consisting partly in proud endeavours to give painting the qualities of sculpture, and partly in the pursuit of effects of light and shade, carried at last to extreme sensational subtlety by the Dutch school. In their fall, they drag the schools of colour down with them; and the recent history of art is one of confused effort to find lost roads, and resume allegiance to violated principles.
139. That, briefly, is the map of the great schools, easily remembered in this hexagonal form:—
|Line and Light.||Line and Colour.|
|Greek clay.||Gothic glass.|
|Mass and Light.||Mass and Colour.|
|(Represented by Lionardo,||(Represented by Giorgione,|
|and his schools.)||and his schools.)|
|Mass, Light, and Colour.|
|(Represented by Titian,|
|and his schools.)|
And I wish you with your own eyes and fingers to trace, and in your own progress follow, the method of advance exemplified by these great schools. I wish you to begin by getting command of line, that is to say, by learning to draw a steady line, limiting with absolute correctness the form or space you intend it to limit; to proceed by getting command over flat tints, so that you may be able to fill the spaces you have enclosed, evenly, either with shade or colour according to the school you adopt; and finally to obtain the power of adding such fineness of gradation within the masses, as shall express their roundings, and their characters of texture.
140. Those who are familiar with the methods of existing schools must be aware that I thus nearly invert their practice of teaching. Students at present learn to draw details first, and to colour and mass them afterwards. I shall endeavour to teach you to arrange broad masses and colours first; and you shall put the details into them afterwards. I have several reasons for this audacity, of which you may justly require me to state the principal ones. The first is that, as I have shown you, this method I wish you to follow, is the natural one. All great artist nations have actually learned to work in this way, and I believe it therefore the right, as the hitherto successful one. Secondly, you will find it less irksome than the reverse method, and more definite. When a beginner is set at once to draw details, and make finished studies in light and shade, no master can correct his innumerable errors, or rescue him out of his endless difficulties. But in the natural method, he can correct, if he will, his own errors. You will have positive lines to draw, presenting no more difficulty, except in requiring greater steadiness of hand, than the outlines of a map. They will be generally sweeping and simple, instead of being jagged into promontories and bays; but assuredly, they may be drawn rightly (with patience), and their rightness tested with mathematical accuracy. You have only to follow your own line with tracing paper, and apply it to your own copy. If they do not correspond, you are wrong, and you need no master to show[Pg 96] you where. Again; in washing in a flat tone of colour or shade, you can always see yourself if it is flat, and kept well within the edges; and you can set a piece of your colour side by side with that of the copy; if it does not match, you are wrong; and, again, you need no one to tell you so, if your eye for colour is true. It happens, indeed, more frequently than would be supposed, that there is real want of power in the eye to distinguish colours; and this I even suspect to be a condition which has been sometimes attendant on high degrees of cerebral sensitiveness in other directions; but such want of faculty would be detected in your first two or three exercises by this simple method, while, otherwise, you might go on for years endeavouring to colour from nature in vain. Lastly, and this is a very weighty collateral reason, such a method enables me to show you many things, besides the art of drawing. Every exercise that I prepare for you will be either a portion of some important example of ancient art, or of some natural object. However rudely or unsuccessfully you may draw it, (though I anticipate from you neither want of care nor success,) you will nevertheless have learned what no words could have so forcibly or completely taught you, either respecting early art or organic structure; and I am thus certain that not a moment you spend attentively will be altogether wasted, and that, generally, you will be twice gainers by every effort.
141. There is, however, yet another point in which I think a change of existing methods will be advisable. You have here in Oxford one of the finest collections in Europe of drawings in pen, and chalk, by Michael Angelo and Raphael. Of the whole number, you cannot but have noticed that not one is weak or student-like—all are evidently master's work.
You may look the galleries of Europe through, and so far as I know, or as it is possible to make with safety any so wide generalization, you will not find in them a childish or feeble drawing, by these, or by any other great master.
And farther:—by the greatest men—by Titian, Velasquez, or Veronese—you will hardly find an authentic draw[Pg 97]ing, at all. For the fact is, that while we moderns have always learned, or tried to learn, to paint by drawing, the ancients learned to draw by painting—or by engraving, more difficult still. The brush was put into their hands when they were children, and they were forced to draw with that, until, if they used the pen or crayon, they used it either with the lightness of a brush or the decision of a graver. Michael Angelo uses his pen like a chisel; but all of them seem to use it only when they are in the height of their power, and then for rapid notation of thought or for study of models; but never as a practice helping them to paint. Probably exercises of the severest kind were gone through in minute drawing by the apprentices of the goldsmiths, of which we hear and know little, and which were entirely matters of course. To these, and to the exquisiteness of care and touch developed in working precious metals, may probably be attributed the final triumph of Italian sculpture. Michael Angelo, when a boy, is said to have copied engravings by Schöngauer and others, with his pen, in facsimile so true that he could pass his drawings as the originals. But I should only discourage you from all farther attempts in art, if I asked you to imitate any of these accomplished drawings of the gem-artificers. You have, fortunately, a most interesting collection of them already in your galleries, and may try your hands on them if you will. But I desire rather that you should attempt nothing except what can by determination be absolutely accomplished, and be known and felt by you to be accomplished when it is so. Now, therefore, I am going at once to comply with that popular instinct which, I hope, so far as you care for drawing at all, you are still boys enough to feel, the desire to paint. Paint you shall; but remember, I understand by painting what you will not find easy. Paint you shall; but daub or blot you shall not: and there will be even more care required, though care of a pleasanter kind, to follow the lines traced for you with the point of the brush than if they had been drawn with that of a crayon. But from the very beginning (though carrying on[Pg 98] at the same time an incidental practice with crayon and lead pencil), you shall try to draw a line of absolute correctness with the point, not of pen or crayon, but of the brush, as Apelles did, and as all coloured lines are drawn on Greek vases. A line of absolute correctness, observe. I do not care how slowly you do it, or with how many alterations, junctions, or re-touchings; the one thing I ask of you is, that the line shall be right, and right by measurement, to the same minuteness which you would have to give in a Government chart to the map of a dangerous shoal.
142. This question of measurement is, as you are probably aware, one much vexed in art schools; but it is determined indisputably by the very first words written by Lionardo: "Il giovane deve prima imparare prospettiva, per le misure d'ogni cosa."
Without absolute precision of measurement, it is certainly impossible for you to learn perspective rightly; and, as far as I can judge, impossible to learn anything else rightly. And in my past experience of teaching, I have found that such precision is of all things the most difficult to enforce on the pupils. It is easy to persuade to diligence, or provoke to enthusiasm; but I have found it hitherto impossible to humiliate one clever student into perfect accuracy.
It is, therefore, necessary, in beginning a system of drawing for the University, that no opening should be left for failure in this essential matter. I hope you will trust the words of the most accomplished draughtsman of Italy, and the painter of the great sacred picture which, perhaps beyond all others, has influenced the mind of Europe, when he tells you that your first duty is "to learn perspective by the measures of everything." For perspective, I will undertake that it shall be made, practically, quite easy to you; if you care to master the mathematics of it, they are carried as far as is necessary for you in my treatise written in 1859, of which copies shall be placed at your disposal in your working room. But the habit and dexterity of measurement you must acquire at once, and that with engineer's accuracy. I hope that in[Pg 99] our now gradually developing system of education, elementary architectural or military drawing will be required at all public schools; so that when youths come to the University, it may be no more necessary for them to pass through the preliminary exercises of perspective than of grammar: for the present, I will place in your series examples simple and severe enough for all necessary practice.
143. And while you are learning to measure, and to draw, and lay flat tints, with the brush, you must also get easy command of the pen; for that is not only the great instrument for the first sketching, but its right use is the foundation of the art of illumination. In nothing is fine art more directly founded on utility than in the close dependence of decorative illumination on good writing. Perfect illumination is only writing made lovely; the moment it passes into picture-making it has lost its dignity and function. For pictures, small or great, if beautiful, ought not to be painted on leaves of books, to be worn with service; and pictures, small or great, not beautiful, should be painted nowhere. But to make writing itself beautiful,—to make the sweep of the pen lovely,—is the true art of illumination; and I particularly wish you to note this, because it happens continually that young girls who are incapable of tracing a single curve with steadiness, much more of delineating any ornamental or organic form with correctness, think that work, which would be intolerable in ordinary drawing, becomes tolerable when it is employed for the decoration of texts; and thus they render all healthy progress impossible, by protecting themselves in inefficiency under the shield of good motive. Whereas the right way of setting to work is to make themselves first mistresses of the art of writing beautifully; and then to apply that art in its proper degrees of development to whatever they desire permanently to write. And it is indeed a much more truly religious duty for girls to acquire a habit of deliberate, legible, and lovely penmanship in their daily use of the pen, than to illuminate any quantity of texts. Having done so, they may next discipline their hands into the[Pg 100] control of lines of any length, and, finally, add the beauty of colour and form to the flowing of these perfect lines. But it is only after years of practice that they will be able to illuminate noble words rightly for the eyes, as it is only after years of practice that they can make them melodious rightly, with the voice.
144. I shall not attempt, in this lecture, to give you any account of the use of the pen as a drawing instrument. That use is connected in many ways with principles both of shading and of engraving, hereafter to be examined at length. But I may generally state to you that its best employment is in giving determination to the forms in drawings washed with neutral tint; and that, in this use of it, Holbein is quite without a rival. I have therefore placed many examples of his work among your copies. It is employed for rapid study by Raphael and other masters of delineation, who, in such cases, give with it also partial indications of shadow; but it is not a proper instrument for shading, when drawings are intended to be deliberate and complete, nor do the great masters so employ it. Its virtue is the power of producing a perfectly delicate, equal, and decisive line with great rapidity; and the temptation allied with that virtue is the licentious haste, and chance-swept, instead of strictly-commanded, curvature. In the hands of very great painters it obtains, like the etching needle, qualities of exquisite charm in this free use; but all attempts at imitation of these confused and suggestive sketches must be absolutely denied to yourselves while students. You may fancy you have produced something like them with little trouble; but, be assured, it is in reality as unlike them as nonsense is unlike sense; and that, if you persist in such work, you will not only prevent your own executive progress, but you will never understand in all your lives what good painting means. Whenever you take a pen in your hand, if you cannot count every line you lay with it, and say why you make it so long and no longer, and why you drew it in that direction and no other, your work is bad. The only man who can put his[Pg 101] pen to full speed, and yet retain command over every separate line of it, is Dürer. He has done this in the illustrations of a missal preserved at Munich, which have been fairly facsimiled; and of these I have placed several in your copying series, with some of Turner's landscape etchings, and other examples of deliberate pen work, such as will advantage you in early study. The proper use of them you will find explained in the catalogue.
145. And, now, but one word more to-day. Do not impute to me the impertinence of setting before you what is new in this system of practice as being certainly the best method. No English artists are yet agreed entirely on early methods; and even Reynolds expresses with some hesitation his conviction of the expediency of learning to draw with the brush. But this method that I show you rests in all essential points on his authority, on Lionardo's, or on the evident as well as recorded practice of the most splendid Greek and Italian draughtsmen; and you may be assured it will lead you, however slowly, to great and certain skill. To what degree of skill, must depend greatly on yourselves; but I know that in practice of this kind you cannot spend an hour without definitely gaining, both in true knowledge of art, and in useful power of hand; and for what may appear in it too difficult, I must shelter or support myself, as in beginning, so in closing this first lecture on practice, by the words of Reynolds: "The impetuosity of youth is disgusted at the slow approaches of a regular siege, and desires, from mere impatience of labour, to take the citadel by storm. They must therefore be told again and again that labour is the only price of solid fame; and that, whatever their force of genius may be, there is no easy method of becoming a good painter."[Pg 102]
146. The plan of the divisions of art-schools which I gave you in the last lecture is of course only a first germ of classification, on which we are to found farther and more defined statement; but for this very reason it is necessary that every term of it should be very clear in your minds.
And especially I must explain, and ask you to note the sense in which I use the word "mass." Artists usually employ that word to express the spaces of light and darkness, or of colour, into which a picture is divided. But this habit of theirs arises partly from their always speaking of pictures in which the lights represent solid form. If they had instead been speaking of flat tints, as, for instance, of the gold and blue in this missal page, they would not have called them "masses," but "spaces" of colour. Now both for accuracy and convenience' sake, you will find it well to observe this distinction, and to call a simple flat tint a space of colour; and only the representation of solid or projecting form a mass.
I use, however, the word "line" rather than "space" in the second and third heads of our general scheme, at p. 94, because you cannot limit a flat tint but by a line, or the locus of a line: whereas a gradated tint, expressive of mass, may be lost at its edges in another, without any fixed limit; and practically is so, in the works of the greatest masters.
147. You have thus, in your hexagonal scheme, the expression of the universal manner of advance in painting: Line first; then line enclosing flat spaces coloured or shaded; then the lines vanish, and the solid forms are seen within the spaces. That is the universal law of advance:—1, line; 2,[Pg 103] flat space; 3, massed or solid space. But as you see, this advance may be made, and has been made, by two different roads; one advancing always through colour, the other through light and shade. And these two roads are taken by two entirely different kinds of men. The way by colour is taken by men of cheerful, natural, and entirely sane disposition in body and mind, much resembling, even at its strongest, the temper of well-brought-up children:—too happy to think deeply, yet with powers of imagination by which they can live other lives than their actual ones: make-believe lives, while yet they remain conscious all the while that they are making believe—therefore entirely sane. They are also absolutely contented; they ask for no more light than is immediately around them, and cannot see anything like darkness, but only green and blue, in the earth and sea.
148. The way by light and shade is, on the contrary, taken by men of the highest powers of thought, and most earnest desire for truth; they long for light, and for knowledge of all that light can show. But seeking for light, they perceive also darkness; seeking for truth and substance, they find vanity. They look for form in the earth,—for dawn in the sky; and seeking these, they find formlessness in the earth, and night in the sky.
Now remember, in these introductory lectures I am putting before you the roots of things, which are strange, and dark, and often, it may seem, unconnected with the branches. You may not at present think these metaphysical statements necessary; but as you go on, you will find that having hold of the clue to methods of work through their springs in human character, you may perceive unerringly where they lead, and what constitutes their wrongness and rightness; and when we have the main principles laid down, all others will develop themselves in due succession, and everything will become more clearly intelligible to you in the end, for having been apparently vague in the beginning. You know when one is laying the foundation of a house, it does not show directly where the rooms are to be.[Pg 104]
149. You have then these two great divisions of human mind: one, content with the colours of things, whether they are dark or light; the other seeking light pure, as such, and dreading darkness as such. One, also, content with the coloured aspects and visionary shapes of things; the other seeking their form and substance. And, as I said, the school of knowledge, seeking light, perceives, and has to accept and deal with obscurity: and seeking form, it has to accept and deal with formlessness, or death.
Farther, the school of colour in Europe, using the word Gothic in its broadest sense, is essentially Gothic Christian; and full of comfort and peace. Again, the school of light is essentially Greek, and full of sorrow. I cannot tell you which is right, or least wrong. I tell you only what I know—this vital distinction between them: the Gothic or colour school is always cheerful, the Greek always oppressed by the shadow of death; and the stronger its masters are, the closer that body of death grips them. The strongest whose work I can show you in recent periods is Holbein; next to him is Lionardo; and then Dürer: but of the three Holbein is the strongest, and with his help I will put the two schools in their full character before you in a moment.
150. Here is, first, the photograph of an entirely characteristic piece of the great colour school. It is by Cima of Conegliano, a mountaineer, like Luini, born under the Alps of Friuli. His Christian name was John Baptist: he is here painting his name-Saint; the whole picture full of peace, and intense faith and hope, and deep joy in light of sky, and fruit and flower and weed of earth. It was painted for the church of Our Lady of the Garden at Venice, La Madonna dell' Orto (properly Madonna of the Kitchen Garden), and it is full of simple flowers, and has the wild strawberry of Cima's native mountains gleaming through the grass.
Beside it I will put a piece of the strongest work of the school of light and shade—strongest because Holbein was a colourist also; but he belongs, nevertheless, essentially to the[Pg 105] chiaroscuro school. You know that his name is connected, in ideal work, chiefly with his "Dance of Death." I will not show you any of the terror of that; only a photograph of his well-known "Dead Christ." It will at once show you how completely the Christian art of this school is oppressed by its veracity, and forced to see what is fearful, even in what it most trusts.
You may think I am showing you contrasts merely to fit my theories. But there is Dürer's "Knight and Death," his greatest plate; and if I had Lionardo's "Medusa" here, which he painted when only a boy, you would have seen how he was held by the same chain. And you cannot but wonder why, this being the melancholy temper of the great Greek or naturalistic school, I should have called it the school of light. I call it so because it is through its intense love of light that the darkness becomes apparent to it, and through its intense love of truth and form that all mystery becomes attractive to it. And when, having learned these things, it is joined to the school of colour, you have the perfect, though always, as I will show you, pensive, art of Titian and his followers.
151. But remember, its first development, and all its final power, depend on Greek sorrow, and Greek religion.
The school of light is founded in the Doric worship of Apollo, and the Ionic worship of Athena, as the spirits of life in the light, and of life in the air, opposed each to their own contrary deity of death—Apollo to the Python, Athena to the Gorgon—Apollo as life in light, to the earth spirit of corruption in darkness;—Athena, as life by motion, to the Gorgon spirit of death by pause, freezing or turning to stone: both of the great divinities taking their glory from the evil they have conquered; both of them, when angry, taking to men the form of the evil which is their opposite—Apollo slaying by poisoned arrow, by pestilence; Athena by cold, the black ægis on her breast.
These are the definite and direct expressions of the Greek thoughts respecting death and life. But underlying both[Pg 106] these, and far more mysterious, dreadful, and yet beautiful, there is the Greek conception of spiritual darkness; of the anger of fate, whether foredoomed or avenging; the root and theme of all Greek tragedy; the anger of the Erinnyes, and Demeter Erinnys, compared to which the anger either of Apollo or Athena is temporary and partial:—and also, while Apollo or Athena only slay, the power of Demeter and the Eumenides is over the whole life; so that in the stories of Bellerophon, of Hippolytus, of Orestes, of Œdipus, you have an incomparably deeper shadow than any that was possible to the thought of later ages, when the hope of the Resurrection had become definite. And if you keep this in mind, you will find every name and legend of the oldest history become full of meaning to you. All the mythic accounts of Greek sculpture begin in the legends of the family of Tantalus. The main one is the making of the ivory shoulder of Pelops after Demeter has eaten the shoulder of flesh. With that you have Broteas, the brother of Pelops, carving the first statue of the mother of the gods; and you have his sister, Niobe, weeping herself to stone under the anger of the deities of light. Then Pelops himself, the dark-faced, gives name to the Peloponnesus, which you may therefore read as the "isle of darkness;" but its central city, Sparta, the "sown city," is connected with all the ideas of the earth as life-giving. And from her you have Helen, the representative of light in beauty, and the Fratres Helenæ—"lucida sidera;" and, on the other side of the hills, the brightness of Argos, with its correlative darkness over the Atreidæ, marked to you by Helios turning away his face from the feast of Thyestes.
152. Then join with these the Northern legends connected with the air. It does not matter whether you take Dorus as the son of Apollo or the son of Helen; he equally symbolises the power of light: while his brother, Æolus, through all his descendants, chiefly in Sisyphus, is confused or associated with the real god of the winds, and represents to you the power of the air. And then, as this conception enters[Pg 107] into art, you have the myths of Dædalus, the flight of Icarus, and the story of Phrixus and Helle, giving you continual associations of the physical air and light, ending in the power of Athena over Corinth as well as over Athens.
Now, once having the clue, you can work out the sequels for yourselves better than I can for you; and you will soon find even the earliest or slightest grotesques of Greek art become full of interest. For nothing is more wonderful than the depth of meaning which nations in their first days of thought, like children, can attach to the rudest symbols; and what to us is grotesque or ugly, like a little child's doll, can speak to them the loveliest things. I have brought you to-day a few more examples of early Greek vase painting, respecting which remember generally that its finest development is for the most part sepulchral. You have, in the first period, always energy in the figures, light in the sky or upon the figures; in the second period, while the conception of the divine power remains the same, it is thought of as in repose, and the light is in the god, not in the sky; in the time of decline, the divine power is gradually disbelieved, and all form and light are lost together. With that period I wish you to have nothing to do. You shall not have a single example of it set before you, but shall rather learn to recognise afterwards what is base by its strangeness. These, which are to come early in the third group of your Standard series, will enough represent to you the elements of early and late conception in the Greek mind of the deities of light.
153. First (S. 204), you have Apollo ascending from the sea; thought of as the physical sunrise: only a circle of light for his head; his chariot horses, seen foreshortened, black against the day-break, their feet not yet risen above the horizon. Underneath is the painting from the opposite side of the same vase: Athena as the morning breeze, and Hermes as the morning cloud, flying across the waves before the sunrise. At the distance I now hold them from you, it is scarcely possible for you to see that they are figures at all,[Pg 108] so like are they to broken fragments of flying mist; and when you look close, you will see that as Apollo's face is invisible in the circle of light, Mercury's is invisible in the broken form of cloud: but I can tell you that it is conceived as reverted, looking back to Athena; the grotesque appearance of feature in the front is the outline of his hair.
These two paintings are excessively rude, and of the archaic period; the deities being yet thought of chiefly as physical powers in violent agency.
Underneath these two are Athena and Hermes, in the types attained about the time of Phidias; but, of course, rudely drawn on the vase, and still more rudely in this print from Le Normant and De Witte. For it is impossible (as you will soon find if you try for yourself) to give on a plane surface the grace of figures drawn on one of solid curvature, and adapted to all its curves: and among other minor differences, Athena's lance is in the original nearly twice as tall as herself, and has to be cut short to come into the print at all. Still, there is enough here to show you what I want you to see—the repose, and entirely realised personality, of the deities as conceived in the Phidian period. The relation of the two deities is, I believe, the same as in the painting above, though probably there is another added of more definite kind. But the physical meaning still remains—Athena unhelmeted, as the gentle morning wind, commanding the cloud Hermes to slow flight. His petasus is slung at his back, meaning that the clouds are not yet opened or expanded in the sky.
154. Next (S. 205), you have Athena, again unhelmeted and crowned with leaves, walking between two nymphs, who are crowned also with leaves; and all the three hold flowers in their hands, and there is a fawn walking at Athena's feet.
This is still Athena as the morning air, but upon the earth instead of in the sky, with the nymphs of the dew beside her; the flowers and leaves opening as they breathe upon them. Note the white gleam of light on the fawn's breast; and compare it with the next following examples:—(underneath[Pg 109] this one is the contest of Athena and Poseidon, which does not bear on our present subject).
Next (S. 206), Artemis as the moon of morning, walking low on the hills, and singing to her lyre; the fawn beside her, with the gleam of light and sunrise on its ear and breast. Those of you who are often out in the dawntime know that there is no moon so glorious as that gleaming crescent, though in its wane, ascending before the sun.
Underneath, Artemis, and Apollo, of Phidian time.
Next (S. 207), Apollo walking on the earth, god of the morning, singing to his lyre; the fawn beside him, again with the gleam of light on its breast. And underneath, Apollo, crossing the sea to Delphi, of the Phidian time.
155. Now you cannot but be struck in these three examples with the similarity of action in Athena, Apollo, and Artemis, drawn as deities of the morning; and with the association in every case of the fawn with them. It has been said (I will not interrupt you with authorities) that the fawn belongs to Apollo and Diana because stags are sensitive to music; (are they?). But you see the fawn is here with Athena of the dew, though she has no lyre; and I have myself no doubt that in this particular relation to the gods of morning it always stands as the symbol of wavering and glancing motion on the ground, as well as of the light and shadow through the leaves, chequering the ground as the fawn is dappled. Similarly the spots on the nebris of Dionysus, thought of sometimes as stars (ἀπὸ τῆς τῶν ἄστρων ποικιλίας, Diodorus, I. 11), as well as those of his panthers, and the cloudings of the tortoise-shell of Hermes, are all significant of this light of the sky broken by cloud-shadow.
156. You observe also that in all the three examples the fawn has light on its ears, and face, as well as its breast. In the earliest Greek drawings of animals, bars of white are used as one means of detaching the figures from the ground; ordinarily on the under side of them, marking the lighter colour of the hair in wild animals. But the placing of this bar of white, or the direction of the face in deities of[Pg 110] light, (the faces and flesh of women being always represented as white,) may become expressive of the direction of the light, when that direction is important. Thus we are enabled at once to read the intention of this Greek symbol of the course of a day (in the centre-piece of S. 208, which gives you the types of Hermes). At the top you have an archaic representation of Hermes stealing Io from Argus. Argus is here the Night; his grotesque features monstrous; his hair overshadowing his shoulders; Hermes on tip-toe, stealing upon him and taking the cord which is fastened to the horn of Io out of his hand without his feeling it. Then, underneath, you have the course of an entire day. Apollo first, on the left, dark, entering his chariot, the sun not yet risen. In front of him Artemis, as the moon, ascending before him, playing on her lyre, and looking back to the sun. In the centre, behind the horses, Hermes, as the cumulus cloud at mid-day, wearing his petasus heightened to a cone, and holding a flower in his right hand; indicating the nourishment of the flowers by the rain from the heat cloud. Finally, on the right, Latona, going down as the evening, lighted from the right by the sun, now sunk; and with her feet reverted, signifying the reluctance of the departing day.
Finally, underneath, you have Hermes of the Phidian period, as the floating cumulus cloud, almost shapeless (as you see him at this distance); with the tortoise-shell lyre in his hand, barred with black, and a fleece of white cloud, not level but oblique, under his feet. (Compare the "διὰ τῶν κοίλων--πλάγιαι," and the relations of the "αἰγίδος ἡνίοχος Ἀθάνα," with the clouds as the moon's messengers, in Aristophanes; and note of Hermes generally, that you never find him flying as a Victory flies, but always, if moving fast at all, clambering along, as it were, as a cloud gathers and heaps itself: the Gorgons stretch and stride in their flight, half kneeling, for the same reason, running or gliding shapelessly along in this stealthy way.)
157. And now take this last illustration, of a very different kind. Here is an effect of morning light by Turner (S. 301),[Pg 111] on the rocks of Otley-hill, near Leeds, drawn long ago, when Apollo, and Artemis, and Athena, still sometimes were seen, and felt, even near Leeds. The original drawing is one of the great Farnley series, and entirely beautiful. I have shown, in the last volume of "Modern Painters," how well Turner knew the meaning of Greek legends:—he was not thinking of them, however, when he made this design; but, unintentionally, has given us the very effect of morning light we want: the glittering of the sunshine on dewy grass, half dark; and the narrow gleam of it on the sides and head of the stag and hind.
158. These few instances will be enough to show you how we may read in the early art of the Greeks their strong impressions of the power of light. You will find the subject entered into at somewhat greater length in my "Queen of the Air;" and if you will look at the beginning of the 7th book of Plato's "Polity," and read carefully the passages in the context respecting the sun and intellectual sight, you will see how intimately this physical love of light was connected with their philosophy, in its search, as blind and captive, for better knowledge. I shall not attempt to define for you to-day the more complex but much shallower forms which this love of light, and the philosophy that accompanies it, take in the mediæval mind; only remember that in future, when I briefly speak of the Greek school of art with reference to questions of delineation, I mean the entire range of the schools, from Homer's days to our own, which concern themselves with the representation of light, and the effects it produces on material form—beginning practically for us with these Greek vase paintings, and closing practically for us with Turner's sunset on the Temeraire; being throughout a school of captivity and sadness, but of intense power; and which in its technical method of shadow on material form, as well as in its essential temper, is centrally represented to you by Dürer's two great engravings of the "Melencolia" and the "Knight and Death." On the other hand, when I briefly speak to you of the Gothic school, with reference to[Pg 112] delineation, I mean the entire and much more extensive range of schools extending from the earliest art in Central Asia and Egypt down to our own day in India and China:—schools which have been content to obtain beautiful harmonies of colour without any representation of light; and which have, many of them, rested in such imperfect expressions of form as could be so obtained; schools usually in some measure childish, or restricted in intellect, and similarly childish or restricted in their philosophies or faiths: but contented in the restriction; and in the more powerful races, capable of advance to nobler development than the Greek schools, though the consummate art of Europe has only been accomplished by the union of both. How that union was effected, I will endeavour to show you in my next lecture; to-day I shall take note only of the points bearing on our immediate practice.
159. A certain number of you, by faculty and natural disposition,—and all, so far as you are interested in modern art,—will necessarily have to put yourselves under the discipline of the Greek or chiaroscuro school, which is directed primarily to the attainment of the power of representing form by pure contrast of light and shade. I say, the "discipline" of the Greek school, both because, followed faithfully, it is indeed a severe one, and because to follow it at all is, for persons fond of colour, often a course of painful self-denial, from which young students are eager to escape. And yet, when the laws of both schools are rightly obeyed, the most perfect discipline is that of the colourists; for they see and draw everything, while the chiaroscurists must leave much indeterminate in mystery, or invisible in gloom: and there are therefore many licentious and vulgar forms of art connected with the chiaroscuro school, both in painting and etching, which have no parallel among the colourists. But both schools, rightly followed, require first of all absolute accuracy of delineation. This you need not hope to escape. Whether you fill your spaces with colours, or with shadows, they must equally be of the true outline and in true grada[Pg 113]tions. I have been thirty years telling modern students of art this in vain. I mean to say it to you only once, for the statement is too important to be weakened by repetition.
Without perfect delineation of form and perfect gradation of space, neither noble colour is possible, nor noble light.
160. It may make this more believable to you if I put beside each other a piece of detail from each school. I gave you the St. John of Cima da Conegliano for a type of the colour school. Here is my own study of the sprays of oak which rise against the sky of it in the distance, enlarged to about its real size (Edu. 12). I hope to draw it better for you at Venice; but this will show you with what perfect care the colourist has followed the outline of every leaf in the sky. Beside, I put a chiaroscurist drawing (at least, a photograph of one), Dürer's from nature, of the common wild wall-cabbage (Edu. 32). It is the most perfect piece of delineation by flat tint I have ever seen, in its mastery of the perspective of every leaf, and its attainment almost of the bloom of texture, merely by its exquisitely tender and decisive laying of the colour. These two examples ought, I think, to satisfy you as to the precision of outline of both schools, and the power of expression which may be obtained by flat tints laid within such outline.
161. Next, here are two examples of the gradated shading expressive of the forms within the outline, by two masters of the chiaroscuro school. The first (S. 12) shows you Lionardo's method of work, both with chalk and the silver point. The second (S. 302), Turner's work in mezzotint; both masters doing their best. Observe that this plate of Turner's, which he worked on so long that it was never published, is of a subject peculiarly depending on effects of mystery and concealment, the fall of the Reuss under the Devil's Bridge on the St. Gothard; (the old bridge; you may still see it under the existing one, which was built since Turner's drawing was made). If ever outline could be dispensed with, you would think it might be so in this confusion[Pg 114] of cloud, foam, and darkness. But here is Turner's own etching on the plate (Edu. 35 F), made under the mezzotint; and of all the studies of rock outline made by his hand, it is the most decisive and quietly complete.
162. Again; in the Lionardo sketches, many parts are lost in obscurity, or are left intentionally uncertain and mysterious, even in the light, and you might at first imagine some permission of escape had been here given you from the terrible law of delineation. But the slightest attempts to copy them will show you that the terminal lines are inimitably subtle, unaccusably true, and filled by gradations of shade so determined and measured that the addition of a grain of the lead or chalk as large as the filament of a moth's wing, would make an appreciable difference in them.
This is grievous, you think, and hopeless? No, it is delightful and full of hope: delightful, to see what marvellous things can be done by men; and full of hope, if your hope is the right one, of being one day able to rejoice more in what others have done, than in what you can yourself do, and more in the strength that is for ever above you, than in that you can never attain.
163. But you can attain much, if you will work reverently and patiently, and hope for no success through ill-regulated effort. It is, however, most assuredly at this point of your study that the full strain on your patience will begin. The exercises in line-drawing and flat laying of colour are irksome; but they are definite, and within certain limits, sure to be successful if practised with moderate care. But the expression of form by shadow requires more subtle patience, and involves the necessity of frequent and mortifying failure, not to speak of the self-denial which I said was needful in persons fond of colour, to draw in mere light and shade. If, indeed, you were going to be artists, or could give any great length of time to study, it might be possible for you to learn wholly in the Venetian school, and to reach form through colour. But without the most intense application this is not possible; and practically, it will be necessary for[Pg 115] you, as soon as you have gained the power of outlining accurately, and of laying flat colour, to learn to express solid form as shown by light and shade only. And there is this great advantage in doing so, that many forms are more or less disguised by colour, and that we can only represent them completely to others, or rapidly and easily record them for ourselves, by the use of shade alone. A single instance will show you what I mean. Perhaps there are few flowers of which the impression on the eye is more definitely of flat colour, than the scarlet geranium. But you would find, if you were to try to paint it,—first, that no pigment could approach the beauty of its scarlet; and secondly, that the brightness of the hue dazzled the eye, and prevented its following the real arrangement of the cluster of flowers. I have drawn for you here (at least this is a mezzotint from my drawing), a single cluster of the scarlet geranium, in mere light and shade (Edu. 32 B.), and I think you will feel that its domed form, and the flat lying of the petals one over the other, in the vaulted roof of it, can be seen better thus than if they had been painted scarlet.
164. Also this study will be useful to you, in showing how entirely effects of light depend on delineation, and gradation of spaces, and not on methods of shading. And this is the second great practical matter I want you to remember to-day. All effects of light and shade depend not on the method or execution of shadows, but on their rightness of place, form, and depth. There is indeed a loveliness of execution added to the rightness, by the great masters, but you cannot obtain that unless you become one of them. Shadow cannot be laid thoroughly well, any more than lines can be drawn steadily, but by a long-practised hand, and the attempts to imitate the shading of fine draughtsmen, by dotting and hatching, are just as ridiculous as it would be to endeavour to imitate their instantaneous lines by a series of re-touchings. You will often indeed see in Lionardo's work, and in Michael Angelo's, shadow wrought laboriously to an extreme of fineness; but when you look into it, you will find that they have always been[Pg 116] drawing more and more form within the space, and never finishing for the sake of added texture, but of added fact. And all those effects of transparency and reflected light, aimed at in common chalk drawings, are wholly spurious. For since, as I told you, all lights are shades compared to higher lights, and lights only as compared to lower ones, it follows that there can be no difference in their quality as such; but that light is opaque when it expresses substance, and transparent when it expresses space; and shade is also opaque when it expresses substance, and transparent when it expresses space. But it is not, even then, transparent in the common sense of that word; nor is its appearance to be obtained by dotting or cross hatching, but by touches so tender as to look like mist. And now we find the use of having Lionardo for our guide. He is supreme in all questions of execution, and in his 28th chapter, you will find that shadows are to be "dolce e sfumose," to be tender, and look as if they were exhaled, or breathed on the paper. Then, look at any of Michael Angelo's finished drawings, or of Correggio's sketches, and you will see that the true nurse of light is in art, as in nature, the cloud; a misty and tender darkness, made lovely by gradation.
165. And how absolutely independent it is of material or method of production, how absolutely dependent on rightness of place and depth,—there are now before you instances enough to prove. Here is Dürer's work in flat colour, represented by the photograph in its smoky brown; Turner's, in washed sepia, and in mezzotint; Lionardo's, in pencil and in chalk; on the screen in front of you a large study in charcoal. In every one of these drawings, the material of shadow is absolutely opaque. But photograph-stain, chalk, lead, ink, or charcoal,—every one of them, laid by the master's hand, becomes full of light by gradation only. Here is a moonlight (Edu. 31 B.), in which you would think the moon shone through every cloud; yet the clouds are mere single dashes of sepia, imitated by the brown stain of a photograph; similarly, in these plates from the Liber Studiorum the white[Pg 117] paper becomes transparent or opaque, exactly as the master chooses. Here, on the granite rock of the St. Gothard (S. 302), in white paper made opaque, every light represents solid bosses of rock, or balls of foam. But in this study of twilight (S. 303), the same white paper (coarse old stuff it is, too!) is made as transparent as crystal, and every fragment of it represents clear and far away light in the sky of evening in Italy.
From all which the practical conclusion for you is, that you are never to trouble yourselves with any questions as to the means of shade or light, but only with the right government of the means at your disposal. And it is a most grave error in the system of many of our public drawing-schools, that the students are permitted to spend weeks of labour in giving attractive appearance, by delicacy of texture, to chiaroscuro drawings in which every form is false, and every relation of depth, untrue. A most unhappy form of error; for it not only delays, and often wholly arrests, their advance in their own art; but it prevents what ought to take place correlatively with their executive practice, the formation of their taste by the accurate study of the models from which they draw. And I must so far anticipate what we shall discover when we come to the subject of sculpture, as to tell you the two main principles of good sculpture; first, that its masters think before all other matters of the right placing of masses; secondly, that they give life by flexure of surface, not by quantity of detail; for sculpture is indeed only light and shade drawing in stone.
166. Much that I have endeavoured to teach on this subject has been gravely misunderstood, by both young painters and sculptors, especially by the latter. Because I am always urging them to imitate organic forms, they think if they carve quantities of flowers and leaves, and copy them from the life, they have done all that is needed. But the difficulty is not to carve quantities of leaves. Anybody can do that. The difficulty is, never anywhere to have an unnecessary leaf. Over the arch on the right, you see there is[Pg 118] a cluster of seven, with their short stalks springing from a thick stem. Now, you could not turn one of those leaves a hair's-breadth out of its place, nor thicken one of their stems, nor alter the angle at which each slips over the next one, without spoiling the whole as much as you would a piece of melody by missing a note. That is disposition of masses. Again, in the group on the left, while the placing of every leaf is just as skilful, they are made more interesting yet by the lovely undulation of their surfaces, so that not one of them is in equal light with another. And that is so in all good sculpture, without exception. From the Elgin marbles down to the lightest tendril that curls round a capital in the thirteenth century, every piece of stone that has been touched by the hand of a master, becomes soft with under-life, not resembling nature merely in skin-texture, nor in fibres of leaf, or veins of flesh; but in the broad, tender, unspeakably subtle undulation of its organic form.
167. Returning then to the question of our own practice, I believe that all difficulties in method will vanish, if only you cultivate with care enough the habit of accurate observation, and if you think only of making your light and shade true, whether it be delicate or not. But there are three divisions or degrees of truth to be sought for, in light and shade, by three several modes of study, which I must ask you to distinguish carefully.
I. When objects are lighted by the direct rays of the sun, or by direct light entering from a window, one side of them is of course in light, the other in shade, and the forms in the mass are exhibited systematically by the force of the rays falling on it; (those having most power of illumination which strike most vertically;) and note that there is, therefore, to every solid curvature of surface, a necessarily proportioned gradation of light, the gradation on a parabolic solid being different from the gradation on an elliptical or spherical one. Now, when your purpose is to represent and learn the anatomy, or otherwise characteristic forms, of any object, it is best to place it in this kind of direct light, and to draw it as[Pg 119] it is seen when we look at it in a direction at right angles to that of the ray. This is the ordinary academical way of studying form. Lionardo seldom practises any other in his real work, though he directs many others in his treatise.
168. The great importance of anatomical knowledge to the painters of the sixteenth century rendered this method of study very frequent with them; it almost wholly regulated their schools of engraving, and has been the most frequent system of drawing in art-schools since (to the very inexpedient exclusion of others). When you study objects in this way,—and it will indeed be well to do so often, though not exclusively,—observe always one main principle. Divide the light from the darkness frankly at first: all over the subject let there be no doubt which is which. Separate them one from the other as they are separated in the moon, or on the world itself, in day and night. Then gradate your lights with the utmost subtilty possible to you; but let your shadows alone, until near the termination of the drawing: then put quickly into them what farther energy they need, thus gaining the reflected lights out of their original flat gloom; but generally not looking much for reflected lights. Nearly all young students (and too many advanced masters) exaggerate them. It is good to see a drawing come out of its ground like a vision of light only; the shadows lost, or disregarded in the vague of space. In vulgar chiaroscuro the shades are so full of reflection that they look as if some one had been walking round the object with a candle, and the student, by that help, peering into its crannies.
169. II. But, in the reality of nature, very few objects are seen in this accurately lateral manner, or lighted by unconfused direct rays. Some are all in shadow, some all in light, some near, and vigorously defined; others dim and faint in aerial distance. The study of these various effects and forces of light, which we may call aerial chiaroscuro, is a far more subtle one than that of the rays exhibiting organic form (which for distinction's sake we may call "formal" chiaroscuro), since the degrees of light from the sun itself to the[Pg 120] blackness of night, are far beyond any literal imitation. In order to produce a mental impression of the facts, two distinct methods may be followed:—the first, to shade downwards from the lights, making everything darker in due proportion, until the scale of our power being ended, the mass of the picture is lost in shade. The second, to assume the points of extreme darkness for a basis, and to light everything above these in due proportion, till the mass of the picture is lost in light.
170. Thus, in Turner's sepia drawing "Isis" (Edu. 31), he begins with the extreme light in the sky, and shades down from that till he is forced to represent the near trees and pool as one mass of blackness. In his drawing of the Greta (S. 2), he begins with the dark brown shadow of the bank on the left, and illuminates up from that, till, in his distance, trees, hills, sky, and clouds, are all lost in broad light, so that you can hardly see the distinction between hills and sky. The second of these methods is in general the best for colour, though great painters unite both in their practice, according to the character of their subject. The first method is never pursued in colour but by inferior painters. It is, nevertheless, of great importance to make studies of chiaroscuro in this first manner for some time, as a preparation for colouring; and this for many reasons, which it would take too long to state now. I shall expect you to have confidence in me when I assure you of the necessity of this study, and ask you to make good use of the examples from the Liber Studiorum which I have placed in your Educational series.
171. III. Whether in formal or aerial chiaroscuro, it is optional with the student to make the local colour of objects a part of his shadow, or to consider the high lights of every colour as white. For instance, a chiaroscurist of Lionardo's school, drawing a leopard, would take no notice whatever of the spots, but only give the shadows which expressed the anatomy. And it is indeed necessary to be able to do this, and to make drawings of the forms of things as if they were sculptured, and had no colour. But in general, and more es[Pg 121]pecially in the practice which is to guide you to colour, it is better to regard the local colour as part of the general dark and light to be imitated; and, as I told you at first, to consider all nature merely as a mosaic of different colours, to be imitated one by one in simplicity. But good artists vary their methods according to their subject and material. In general, Dürer takes little account of local colour; but in woodcuts of armorial bearings (one with peacock's feathers I shall get for you some day) takes great delight in it; while one of the chief merits of Bewick is the ease and vigour with which he uses his black and white for the colours of plumes. Also, every great artist looks for, and expresses, that character of his subject which is best to be rendered by the instrument in his hand, and the material he works on. Give Velasquez or Veronese a leopard to paint, the first thing they think of will be its spots; give it to Dürer to engrave, and he will set himself at the fur and whiskers; give it a Greek to carve, and he will only think of its jaws and limbs; each doing what is absolutely best with the means at his disposal.
172. The details of practice in these various methods I will endeavour to explain to you by distinct examples in your Educational series, as we proceed in our work; for the present, let me, in closing, recommend to you once more with great earnestness the patient endeavour to render the chiaroscuro of landscape in the manner of the Liber Studiorum; and this the rather, because you might easily suppose that the facility of obtaining photographs which render such effects, as it seems, with absolute truth and with unapproachable subtilty, superseded the necessity of study, and the use of sketching. Let me assure you, once for all, that photographs supersede no single quality nor use of fine art, and have so much in common with Nature, that they even share her temper of parsimony, and will themselves give you nothing valuable that you do not work for. They supersede no good art, for the definition of art is "human labour regulated by human design," and this design, or evidence of active intel[Pg 122]lect in choice and arrangement, is the essential part of the work; which so long as you cannot perceive, you perceive no art whatsoever; which when once you do perceive, you will perceive also to be replaceable by no mechanism. But, farther, photographs will give you nothing you do not work for. They are invaluable for record of some kinds of facts, and for giving transcripts of drawings by great masters; but neither in the photographed scene, nor photographed drawing, will you see any true good, more than in the things themselves, until you have given the appointed price in your own attention and toil. And when once you have paid this price, you will not care for photographs of landscape. They are not true, though they seem so. They are merely spoiled nature. If it is not human design you are looking for, there is more beauty in the next wayside bank than in all the sun-blackened paper you could collect in a lifetime. Go and look at the real landscape, and take care of it; do not think you can get the good of it in a black stain portable in a folio. But if you care for human thought and passion, then learn yourselves to watch the course and fall of the light by whose influence you live, and to share in the joy of human spirits in the heavenly gifts of sunbeam and shade. For I tell you truly, that to a quiet heart, and healthy brain, and industrious hand, there is more delight, and use, in the dappling of one wood-glade with flowers and sunshine, than to the restless, heartless, and idle could be brought by a panorama of a belt of the world, photographed round the equator.[Pg 123]
173. To-day I must try to complete our elementary sketch of schools of art, by tracing the course of those which were distinguished by faculty of colour, and afterwards to deduce from the entire scheme advisable methods of immediate practice.
You remember that, for the type of the early schools of colour, I chose their work in glass; as for that of the early schools of chiaroscuro, I chose their work in clay.
I had two reasons for this. First, that the peculiar skill of colourists is seen most intelligibly in their work in glass or in enamel; secondly, that Nature herself produces all her loveliest colours in some kind of solid or liquid glass or crystal. The rainbow is painted on a shower of melted glass, and the colours of the opal are produced in vitreous flint mixed with water; the green and blue, and golden or amber brown of flowing water is in surface glassy, and in motion "splendidior vitro." And the loveliest colours ever granted to human sight—those of morning and evening clouds before or after rain—are produced on minute particles of finely-divided water, or perhaps sometimes ice. But more than this. If you examine with a lens some of the richest colours of flowers, as, for instance, those of the gentian and dianthus, you will find their texture is produced by a crystalline or sugary frost-work upon them. In the lychnis of the high Alps, the red and white have a kind of sugary bloom, as rich as it is delicate. It is indescribable; but if you can fancy very powdery and crystalline snow mixed with the softest cream, and then dashed with carmine, it may give you some idea of the look of it. There are no colours, either in the[Pg 124] nacre of shells, or the plumes of birds and insects, which are so pure as those of clouds, opal, or flowers; but the force of purple and blue in some butterflies, and the methods of clouding, and strength of burnished lustre, in plumage like the peacock's, give them more universal interest; in some birds, also, as in our own kingfisher, the colour nearly reaches a floral preciousness. The lustre in most, however, is metallic rather than vitreous; and the vitreous always gives the purest hue. Entirely common and vulgar compared with these, yet to be noticed as completing the crystalline or vitreous system, we have the colours of gems. The green of the emerald is the best of these; but at its best is as vulgar as house-painting beside the green of bird's plumage or of clear water. No diamond shows colour so pure as a dewdrop; the ruby is like the pink of an ill-dyed and half-washed-out print, compared to the dianthus; and the carbuncle is usually quite dead unless set with a foil, and even then is not prettier than the seed of a pomegranate. The opal is, however, an exception. When pure and uncut in its native rock, it presents the most lovely colours that can be seen in the world, except those of clouds.
We have thus in nature, chiefly obtained by crystalline conditions, a series of groups of entirely delicious hues; and it is one of the best signs that the bodily system is in a healthy state when we can see these clearly in their most delicate tints, and enjoy them fully and simply, with the kind of enjoyment that children have in eating sweet things.
174. Now, the course of our main colour schools is briefly this:—First we have, returning to our hexagonal scheme, line; then spaces filled with pure colour; and then masses expressed or rounded with pure colour. And during these two stages the masters of colour delight in the purest tints, and endeavour as far as possible to rival those of opals and flowers. In saying "the purest tints," I do not mean the simplest types of red, blue, and yellow, but the most pure tints obtainable by their combinations.[Pg 125]
175. You remember I told you, when the colourists painted masses or projecting spaces, they, aiming always at colour, perceived from the first and held to the last the fact that shadows, though of course darker than the lights with reference to which they are shadows, are not therefore necessarily less vigorous colours, but perhaps more vigorous. Some of the most beautiful blues and purples in nature, for instance, are those of mountains in shadow against amber sky; and the darkness of the hollow in the centre of a wild rose is one glow of orange fire, owing to the quantity of its yellow stamens. Well, the Venetians always saw this, and all great colourists see it, and are thus separated from the non-colourists or schools of mere chiaroscuro, not by difference in style merely, but by being right while the others are wrong. It is an absolute fact that shadows are as much colours as lights are; and whoever represents them by merely the subdued or darkened tint of the light, represents them falsely. I particularly want you to observe that this is no matter of taste, but fact. If you are especially sober-minded, you may indeed choose sober colours where Venetians would have chosen gay ones; that is a matter of taste; you may think it proper for a hero to wear a dress without patterns on it, rather than an embroidered one; that is similarly a matter of taste: but, though you may also think it would be dignified for a hero's limbs to be all black, or brown, on the shaded side of them, yet, if you are using colour at all, you cannot so have him to your mind, except by falsehood; he never, under any circumstances, could be entirely black or brown on one side of him.
176. In this, then, the Venetians are separate from other schools by rightness, and they are so to their last days. Venetian painting is in this matter always right. But also, in their early days, the colourists are separated from other schools by their contentment with tranquil cheerfulness of light: by their never wanting to be dazzled. None of their lights are flashing or blinding; they are soft, winning, precious; lights of pearl, not of lime: only, you know, on this[Pg 126] condition they cannot have sunshine: their day is the day of Paradise; they need no candle, neither light of the sun, in their cities; and everything is seen clear, as through crystal, far or near.
This holds to the end of the fifteenth century. Then they begin to see that this, beautiful as it may be, is still a make-believe light; that we do not live in the inside of a pearl; but in an atmosphere through which a burning sun shines thwartedly, and over which a sorrowful night must far prevail. And then the chiaroscurists succeed in persuading them of the fact that there is a mystery in the day as in the night, and show them how constantly to see truly, is to see dimly. And also they teach them the brilliancy of light, and the degree in which it is raised from the darkness; and instead of their sweet and pearly peace, tempt them to look for the strength of flame and coruscation of lightning, and flash of sunshine on armour and on points of spears.
177. The noble painters take the lesson nobly, alike for gloom or flame. Titian with deliberate strength, Tintoret with stormy passion, read it, side by side. Titian deepens the hues of his Assumption, as of his Entombment, into a solemn twilight; Tintoret involves his earth in coils of volcanic cloud, and withdraws, through circle flaming above circle, the distant light of Paradise. Both of them, becoming naturalist and human, add the veracity of Holbein's intense portraiture to the glow and dignity they had themselves inherited from the Masters of Peace: at the same moment another, as strong as they, and in pure felicity of art-faculty, even greater than they, but trained in a lower school,—Velasquez,—produced the miracles of colour and shadow-painting, which made Reynolds say of him, "What we all do with labour, he does with ease;" and one more, Correggio, uniting the sensual element of the Greek schools with their gloom, and their light with their beauty, and all these with the Lombardic colour, became, as since I think it has been admitted without question, the captain of the painter's art as such. Other men have nobler or more numerous gifts, but as a[Pg 127] painter, master of the art of laying colour so as to be lovely, Correggio is alone.
178. I said the noble men learned their lesson nobly. The base men also, and necessarily, learn it basely. The great men rise from colour to sunlight. The base ones fall from colour to candlelight. To-day, "non ragioniam di lor," but let us see what this great change which perfects the art of painting mainly consists in, and means. For though we are only at present speaking of technical matters, every one of them, I can scarcely too often repeat, is the outcome and sign of a mental character, and you can only understand the folds of the veil, by those of the form it veils.
179. The complete painters, we find, have brought dimness and mystery into their method of colouring. That means that the world all round them has resolved to dream, or to believe, no more; but to know, and to see. And instantly all knowledge and sight are given, no more as in the Gothic times, through a window of glass, brightly, but as through a telescope-glass, darkly. Your cathedral window shut you from the true sky, and illumined you with a vision; your telescope leads you to the sky, but darkens its light, and reveals nebula beyond nebula, far and farther, and to no conceivable farthest—unresolvable. That is what the mystery means.
180. Next, what does that Greek opposition of black and white mean?
In the sweet crystalline time of colour, the painters, whether on glass or canvas, employed intricate patterns, in order to mingle hues beautifully with each other, and make one perfect melody of them all. But in the great naturalist school, they like their patterns to come in the Greek way, dashed dark on light,—gleaming light out of dark. That means also that the world round them has again returned to the Greek conviction, that all nature, especially human nature, is not entirely melodious nor luminous; but a barred and broken thing: that saints have their foibles, sinners their forces; that the most luminous virtue is often only a flash,[Pg 128] and the blackest-looking fault is sometimes only a stain: and, without confusing in the least black with white, they can forgive, or even take delight in things that are like the νεβρίς, dappled.
181. You have then—first, mystery. Secondly, opposition of dark and light. Then, lastly, whatever truth of form the dark and light can show.
That is to say, truth altogether, and resignation to it, and quiet resolve to make the best of it. And therefore portraiture of living men, women, and children,—no more of saints, cherubs, or demons. So here I have brought for your standards of perfect art, a little maiden of the Strozzi family, with her dog, by Titian; and a little princess of the house of Savoy, by Vandyke; and Charles the Fifth, by Titian; and a queen, by Velasquez; and an English girl in a brocaded gown, by Reynolds; and an English physician in his plain coat, and wig, by Reynolds: and if you do not like them, I cannot help myself, for I can find nothing better for you.
182. Better?—I must pause at the word. Nothing stronger, certainly, nor so strong. Nothing so wonderful, so inimitable, so keen in unprejudiced and unbiassed sight.
Yet better, perhaps, the sight that was guided by a sacred will; the power that could be taught to weaker hands; the work that was faultless, though not inimitable, bright with felicity of heart, and consummate in a disciplined and companionable skill. You will find, when I can place in your hands the notes on Verona, which I read at the Royal Institution, that I have ventured to call the æra of painting represented by John Bellini, the time "of the Masters." Truly they deserved the name, who did nothing but what was lovely, and taught only what was right. These mightier, who succeeded them, crowned, but closed, the dynasties of art, and since their day, painting has never flourished more.
183. There were many reasons for this, without fault of theirs. They were exponents, in the first place, of the change in all men's minds from civil and religious to merely domestic passion; the love of their gods and their country[Pg 129] had contracted itself now into that of their domestic circle, which was little more than the halo of themselves. You will see the reflection of this change in painting at once by comparing the two Madonnas (S. 37, John Bellini's, and Raphael's, called "della Seggiola"). Bellini's Madonna cares for all creatures through her child; Raphael's, for her child only.
Again, the world round these painters had become sad and proud, instead of happy and humble;—its domestic peace was darkened by irreligion, its national action fevered by pride. And for sign of its Love, the Hymen, whose statue this fair English girl, according to Reynolds' thought, has to decorate (S. 43), is blind, and holds a coronet.
Again, in the splendid power of realisation, which these greatest of artists had reached, there was the latent possibility of amusement by deception, and of excitement by sensualism. And Dutch trickeries of base resemblance, and French fancies of insidious beauty, soon occupied the eyes of the populace of Europe, too restless and wretched now to care for the sweet earth-berries and Madonna's ivy of Cima, and too ignoble to perceive Titian's colour, or Correggio's shade.
184. Enough sources of evil were here, in the temper and power of the consummate art. In its practical methods there was another, the fatallest of all. These great artists brought with them mystery, despondency, domesticity, sensuality: of all these, good came, as well as evil. One thing more they brought, of which nothing but evil ever comes, or can come—Liberty.
By the discipline of five hundred years they had learned and inherited such power, that whereas all former painters could be right only by effort, they could be right with ease; and whereas all former painters could be right only under restraint, they could be right, free. Tintoret's touch, Luini's, Correggio's, Reynolds', and Velasquez's, are all as free as the air, and yet right. "How very fine!" said everybody. Unquestionably, very fine. Next, said every[Pg 130]body, "What a grand discovery! Here is the finest work ever done, and it is quite free. Let us all be free then, and what fine things shall we not do also!" With what results we too well know.
Nevertheless, remember you are to delight in the freedom won by these mighty men through obedience, though you are not to covet it. Obey, and you also shall be free in time; but in these minor things, as well as in great, it is only right service which is perfect freedom.
185. This, broadly, is the history of the early and late colour-schools. The first of these I shall call generally, henceforward, the school of crystal; the other that of clay: potter's clay, or human, are too sorrowfully the same, as far as art is concerned. But remember, in practice, you cannot follow both these schools; you must distinctly adopt the principles of one or the other. I will put the means of following either within your reach; and according to your dispositions you will choose one or the other: all I have to guard you against is the mistake of thinking you can unite the two. If you want to paint (even in the most distant and feeble way) in the Greek School, the school of Lionardo, Correggio, and Turner, you cannot design coloured windows, nor Angelican paradises. If, on the other hand, you choose to live in the peace of paradise, you cannot share in the gloomy triumphs of the earth.
186. And, incidentally note, as a practical matter of immediate importance, that painted windows have nothing to do with chiaroscuro. The virtue of glass is to be transparent everywhere. If you care to build a palace of jewels, painted glass is richer than all the treasures of Aladdin's lamp; but if you like pictures better than jewels, you must come into broad daylight to paint them. A picture in coloured glass is one of the most vulgar of barbarisms, and only fit to be ranked with the gauze transparencies and chemical illuminations of the sensational stage.
Also, put out of your minds at once all question about difficulty of getting colour; in glass we have all the colours that are wanted, only we do not know either how to choose, or how to connect them; and we are always trying to get them bright, when their real virtues are to be deep, mysterious, and subdued. We will have a thorough study of painted glass soon: mean while I merely give you a type of its perfect style, in two windows from Chalons-sur-Marne (S. 141).
187. But for my own part, with what poor gift and skill is in me, I belong wholly to the chiaroscurist school; and shall teach you therefore chiefly that which I am best able to teach: and the rather, that it is only in this school that you can follow out the study either of natural history or landscape. The form of a wild animal, or the wrath of a mountain torrent, would both be revolting (or in a certain sense invisible) to the calm fantasy of a painter in the schools of crystal. He must lay his lion asleep in St. Jerome's study beside his tame partridge and easy slippers; lead the appeased river by alternate azure promontories, and restrain its courtly little streamlets with margins of marble. But, on the other hand, your studies of mythology and literature may best be connected with these schools of purest and calmest imagination; and their discipline will be useful to you in yet another direction, and that a very important one. It will teach you to take delight in little things, and develop in you the joy which all men should feel in purity and order, not only in pictures but in reality. For, indeed, the best art of this school of fantasy may at last be in reality, and the chiaroscurists, true in ideal, may be less helpful in act. We cannot arrest sunsets nor carve mountains, but we may turn every English homestead, if we choose, into a picture by Cima or John Bellini, which shall be "no counterfeit, but the true and perfect image of life indeed."
188. For the present, however, and yet for some little time during your progress, you will not have to choose your school. For both, as we have seen, begin in delineation, and[Pg 132] both proceed by filling flat spaces with an even tint. And therefore this following will be the course of work for you, founded on all that we have seen.
Having learned to measure, and draw a pen line with some steadiness (the geometrical exercises for this purpose being properly school, not University work), you shall have a series of studies from the plants which are of chief importance in the history of art; first from their real forms, and then from the conventional and heraldic expressions of them; then we will take examples of the filling of ornamental forms with flat colour in Egyptian, Greek, and Gothic design; and then we will advance to animal forms treated in the same severe way, and so to the patterns and colour designs on animals themselves. And when we are sure of our firmness of hand and accuracy of eye, we will go on into light and shade.
189. In process of time, this series of exercises will, I hope, be sufficiently complete and systematic to show its purpose at a glance. But during the present year, I shall content myself with placing a few examples of these different kinds of practice in your rooms for work, explaining in the catalogue the position they will ultimately occupy, and the technical points of process into which it is useless to enter in a general lecture. After a little time spent in copying these, your own predilections must determine your future course of study; only remember, whatever school you follow, it must be only to learn method, not to imitate result, and to acquaint yourself with the minds of other men, but not to adopt them as your own. Be assured that no good can come of our work but as it arises simply out of our own true natures, and the necessities of the time around us, though in many respects an evil one. We live in an age of base conceit and baser servility—an age whose intellect is chiefly formed by pillage, and occupied in desecration; one day mimicking, the next destroying, the works of all the noble persons who made its intellectual or art life possible to it:—an age without honest confidence enough in itself to carve a[Pg 133] cherry-stone with an original fancy, but with insolence enough to abolish the solar system, if it were allowed to meddle with it. In the midst of all this, you have to become lowly and strong; to recognise the powers of others and to fulfil your own. I shall try to bring before you every form of ancient art, that you may read and profit by it, not imitate it. You shall draw Egyptian kings dressed in colours like the rainbow, and Doric gods, and Runic monsters, and Gothic monks—not that you may draw like Egyptians or Norsemen, nor yield yourselves passively to be bound by the devotion, or inspired by the passion of the past, but that you may know truly what other men have felt during their poor span of life; and open your own hearts to what the heavens and earth may have to tell you in yours.
190. In closing this first course of lectures, I have one word more to say respecting the possible consequence of the introduction of art among the studies of the University. What art may do for scholarship, I have no right to conjecture; but what scholarship may do for art, I may in all modesty tell you. Hitherto, great artists, though always gentlemen, have yet been too exclusively craftsmen. Art has been less thoughtful than we suppose; it has taught much, but erred much, also. Many of the greatest pictures are enigmas; others, beautiful toys; others, harmful and corrupting enchantments. In the loveliest, there is something weak; in the greatest, there is something guilty. And this, gentlemen, if you will, is the new thing that may come to pass,—that the scholars of England may resolve to teach also with the silent power of the arts; and that some among you may so learn and use them, that pictures may be painted which shall not be enigmas any more, but open teachings of what can no otherwise be so well shown;—which shall not be fevered or broken visions any more, but filled with the indwelling light of self-possessed imagination;—which shall not be stained or enfeebled any more by evil passion, but[Pg 134] glorious with the strength and chastity of noble human love;—and which shall no more degrade or disguise the work of God in heaven, but testify of Him as here dwelling with men, and walking with them, not angry, in the garden of the earth.
 The full meaning of this sentence, and of that which closes the paragraph, can only be understood by reference to my more developed statements on the subject of Education in "Modern Painters" and in "Time and Tide." The following fourth paragraph is the most pregnant summary of my political and social principles I have ever been able to give.
 "τἑχναι ἑπἱρρητοι," compare page 81.
 There were, in fact, a great many more girls than University men at the lectures.
 Only the Gospels, "IV Evangelia," according to St. Jerome.
 This concentrated definition of monastic life is of course to be understood only of its more enthusiastic forms.
 Standard Series, No. 9.
 The meaning of the "Knight and Death," even in this respect, has lately been questioned on good grounds.
 I have expunged a sentence insisting farther on this point, having come to reverence more, as I grew older, every simple means of stimulating all religious belief and affection. It is the lower and realistic world which is fullest of false beliefs and vain loves.
 I am again doubtful, here. The most important part of the chapter is from § 60 to end.
 Virg., Æn., iii. 209 seqq.
 Osborne Gordon.
 See "Ariadne Florentina," § 5.
 See Note in the Catalogue on No. 201.
 There is noble chiaroscuro in the variations of their colour, but not as representative of solid form.
 Every day these bitter words become more sorrowfully true (September, 1887).