Delivered November 15, 1853.

77. My object this evening is not so much to give you any account of the works or the genius of the great painter whom we have so lately lost (which it would require rather a year than an hour to do), as to give you some idea of the position which his works hold with respect to the landscape of other periods, and of the general condition and prospects of the landscape art of the present day. I will not lose time in prefatory remarks, as I have little enough at any rate, but will enter abruptly on my subject.

78. You are all of you well aware that landscape seems hardly to have exercised any strong influence, as such, on any pagan nation or pagan artist. I have no time to enter into any details on this, of course, most intricate and difficult subject; but I will only ask you to observe, that wherever natural scenery is alluded to by the ancients, it is either agriculturally, with the kind of feeling that a good Scotch farmer has; sensually, in the enjoyment of sun or shade, cool winds or sweet scents; fearfully, in a mere vulgar dread of rocks and desolate places, as compared with the comfort of cities; or, finally, superstitiously, in the personification or deification of natural powers, generally with much degradation of their impressiveness, as in the paltry fables of Ulysses receiving the winds in bags from Æolus, and of the Cyclops hammering lightning sharp at the ends, on an anvil.[29] Of course, you will here and there find feeble evidences of a higher sensibility, chiefly, I think, in Plato, Æschylus, Aristophanes, and Virgil. Homer, though in the epithets he applies to landscape always thoroughly graphic, uses the same epithet for rocks, seas, and trees, from one end of his poem to the other, evidently without the smallest interest in anything of the kind; and in the mass of heathen writers, the absence of sensation on these subjects is singularly painful. For instance, in that, to my mind, most disgusting of all so-called poems, the Journey to Brundusium, you remember that Horace takes exactly as much interest in the scenery he is passing through as Sancho Panza would have done.

79. You will find, on the other hand, that the language of the Bible is specifically distinguished from all other early literature, by its delight in natural imagery; and that the dealings of God with His people are calculated peculiarly to awaken this sensibility within them. Out of the monotonous valley of Egypt they are instantly taken into the midst of the mightiest mountain scenery in the peninsula of Arabia; and that scenery is associated in their minds with the immediate manifestation and presence of the Divine Power; so that mountains forever afterwards become invested with a peculiar sacredness in their minds: while their descendants being placed in what was then one of the loveliest districts upon the earth, full of glorious vegetation, bounded on one side by the sea, on the north by "that goodly mountain" Lebanon, on the south and east by deserts, whose barrenness enhanced by their contrast the sense of the perfection of beauty in their own land, they became, by these means, and by the touch of God's own hand upon their hearts, sensible to the appeal of natural scenery in a way in which no other people were at the time. And their literature is full of expressions, not only testifying a vivid sense of the power of nature over man, but showing that sympathy with natural things themselves, as if they had human souls, which is the especial characteristic of true love of the works of God. I intended to have insisted on this sympathy at greater length, but I found, only two or three days ago, much of what I had to say to you anticipated in a little book, unpretending, but full of interest, "The Lamp and the Lantern," by Dr. James Hamilton; and I will therefore only ask you to consider such expressions as that tender and glorious verse in Isaiah, speaking of the cedars on the mountains as rejoicing over the fall of the king of Assyria: "Yea, the fir trees rejoice at thee, and the cedars of Lebanon, saying, Since thou art gone down to the grave, no feller is come up against us." See what sympathy there is here, as if with the very hearts of the trees themselves. So also in the words of Christ, in His personification of the lilies: "They toil not, neither do they spin." Consider such expressions as, "The sea saw that, and fled. Jordan was driven back. The mountains skipped like rams; and the little hills like lambs." Try to find anything in profane writing like this; and note farther that the whole book of Job appears to have been chiefly written and placed in the inspired volume in order to show the value of natural history, and its power on the human heart. I cannot pass by it without pointing out the evidences of the beauty of the country that Job inhabited.[30] Observe, first, it was an arable country. "The oxen were plowing and the asses feeding beside them." It was a pastoral country: his substance, besides camels and asses, was 7,000 sheep. It was a mountain country, fed by streams descending from the high snows. "My brethren have dealt deceitfully as a brook, and as the stream of brooks they pass away; which are blackish by reason of the ice, and wherein the snow is hid: What time they wax warm they vanish: when it is hot they are consumed out of their place." Again: "If I wash myself with snow water, and make my hands never so clean." Again: "Drought and heat consume the snow waters." It was a rocky country, with forests and verdure rooted in the rocks. "His branch shooteth forth in his garden; his roots are wrapped about the heap, and seeth the place of stones." Again: "Thou shalt be in league with the stones of the field." It was a place visited, like the valleys of Switzerland, by convulsions and falls of mountains. "Surely the mountain falling cometh to nought, and the rock is removed out of his place. The waters wear the stones; thou washest away the things which grow out of the dust of the earth." "He removeth the mountains and they know not: he overturneth them in his anger." "He putteth forth his hand upon the rock: he overturneth the mountains by the roots: he cutteth out rivers among the rocks." I have not time to go farther into this; but you see Job's country was one like your own, full of pleasant brooks and rivers, rushing among the rocks, and of all other sweet and noble elements of landscape. The magnificent allusions to natural scenery throughout the book are therefore calculated to touch the heart to the end of time.

80. Then at the central point of Jewish prosperity, you have the first great naturalist the world ever saw, Solomon; not permitted, indeed, to anticipate, in writing, the discoveries of modern times, but so gifted as to show us that heavenly wisdom is manifested as much in the knowledge of the hyssop that springeth out of the wall as in political and philosophical speculation.

The books of the Old Testament, as distinguished from all other early writings, are thus prepared for an everlasting influence over humanity; and, finally, Christ himself, setting the concluding example to the conduct and thoughts of men, spends nearly His whole life in the fields, the mountains, or the small country villages of Judea; and in the very closing scenes of His life, will not so much as sleep within the walls of Jerusalem, but rests at the little village of Bethphage, walking in the morning, and returning in the evening, through the peaceful avenues of the Mount of Olives, to and from His work of teaching in the temple.

81. It would thus naturally follow, both from the general tone and teaching of the Scriptures, and from the example of our Lord himself, that wherever Christianity was preached and accepted, there would be an immediate interest awakened in the works of God, as seen in the natural world: and, accordingly, this is the second universal and distinctive character of Christian art, as distinguished from all pagan work; the first being a peculiar spirituality in its conception of the human form, preferring holiness of expression and strength of character, to beauty of features or of body; and the second, as I say, its intense fondness for natural objects—animals, leaves, and flowers,—inducing an immediate transformation of the cold and lifeless pagan ornamentation into vivid imagery of nature. Of course this manifestation of feeling was at first checked by the circumstances under which the Christian religion was disseminated. The art of the first three centuries is entirely subordinate,—restrained partly by persecution, partly by a high spirituality, which cared much more about preaching than painting; and then when, under Constantine, Christianity became the religion of the Roman empire, myriads of persons gave the aid of their wealth and of their art to the new religion, who were Christians in nothing but the name, and who decorated a Christian temple just as they would have decorated a pagan one, merely because the new religion had become Imperial. Then, just as the new art was beginning to assume a distinctive form, down came the northern barbarians upon it; and all their superstitions had to be leavened with it, and all their hard hands and hearts softened by it, before their art could appear in anything like a characteristic form. The warfare in which Europe was perpetually plunged retarded this development for ages; but it steadily and gradually prevailed, working from the eighth to the eleventh century like a seed in the ground, showing little signs of life, but still, if carefully examined, changing essentially every day and every hour: at last, in the twelfth century the blade appears above the black earth; in the thirteenth, the plant is in full leaf.

82. I begin, then, with the thirteenth century, and must now make to you a general assertion, which, if you will note down and examine at your leisure, you will find true and useful, though I have not time at present to give you full demonstration of it.

I say, then, that the art of the thirteenth century is the foundation of all art—nor merely the foundation, but the root of it; that is to say, succeeding art is not merely built upon it, but was all comprehended in it, and is developed out of it. Passing this great century, we find three successive branches developed from it, in each of the three following centuries. The fourteenth century is pre-eminently the age of Thought, the fifteenth the age of Drawing, and the sixteenth the age of Painting.

83. Observe, first, the fourteenth century is pre-eminently the age of thought. It begins with the first words of the poem of Dante; and all the great pictorial poems—the mighty series of works in which everything is done to relate, but nothing to imitate—belong to this century. I should only confuse you by giving you the names of marvelous artists, most of them little familiar to British ears, who adorned this century in Italy; but you will easily remember it as the age of Dante and Giotto—the age of Thought.

The men of the succeeding century (the fifteenth) felt that they could not rival their predecessors in invention, but might excel them in execution. Original thoughts belonging to this century are comparatively rare; even Raphael and Michael Angelo themselves borrowed all their principal ideas and plans of pictures from their predecessors; but they executed them with a precision up to that time unseen. You must understand by the word "drawing," the perfect rendering of forms, whether in sculpture or painting; and then remember the fifteenth century as the age of Leonardo, Michael Angelo, Lorenzo Ghiberti, and Raphael—pre-eminently the age of Drawing.

Fig. 20.

Fig. 21.

Plate XIII.

The sixteenth century produced the four greatest Painters, that is to say, managers of color, whom the world has seen; namely, Tintoret, Paul Veronese, Titian, and Correggio. I need not say more to justify my calling it the age of Painting.

84. This, then, being the state of things respecting art in general, let us next trace the career of landscape through these centuries.

It was only towards the close of the thirteenth century that figure painting began to assume so perfect a condition as to require some elaborate suggestion of landscape background. Up to that time, if any natural object had to be represented, it was done in an entirely conventional way, as you see it upon Greek vases, or in a Chinese porcelain pattern; an independent tree or flower being set upon the white ground, or ground of any color, wherever there was a vacant space for it, without the smallest attempt to imitate the real colors and relations of the earth and sky about it. But at the close of the thirteenth century, Giotto, and in the course of the fourteenth, Orcagna, sought, for the first time, to give some resemblance to nature in their backgrounds, and introduced behind their figures pieces of true landscape, formal enough still, but complete in intention, having foregrounds and distances, sky and water, forests and mountains, carefully delineated, not exactly in their true color, but yet in color approximating to the truth. The system which they introduced (for though in many points enriched above the work of earlier ages, the Orcagna and Giotto landscape was a very complete piece of recipe) was observed for a long period by their pupils, and may be thus briefly described:—The sky is always pure blue, paler at the horizon, and with a few streaky white clouds in it, the ground is green even to the extreme distance, with brown rocks projecting from it; water is blue streaked with white. The trees are nearly always composed of clusters of their proper leaves relieved on a black or dark ground, thus (fig. 20).[31] And observe carefully, with respect to the complete drawing of the leaves on this tree, and the smallness of their number, the real distinction between noble conventionalism and false conventionalism. You will often hear modern architects defending their monstrous ornamentation on the ground that it is "conventional," and that architectural ornament ought to be conventionalized. Remember, when you hear this, that noble conventionalism is not an agreement between the artist and spectator that the one shall misrepresent nature sixty times over, and the other believe the misrepresentation sixty times over, but it is an agreement that certain means and limitations being prescribed, only that kind of truth is to be expected which is consistent with those means. For instance, if Sir Joshua Reynolds had been talking to a friend about the character of a face, and there had been nothing in the room but a deal table and an inkbottle—and no pens—Sir Joshua would have dipped his finger in the ink, and painted a portrait on the table with his finger, and a noble portrait too; certainly not delicate in outline, nor representing any of the qualities of the face dependent on rich outline, but getting as much of the face as in that manner was attainable. That is noble conventionalism, and Egyptian work on granite, or illuminator's work in glass, is all conventional in the same sense, but not conventionally false. The two noblest and truest carved lions I have ever seen, are the two granite ones in the Egyptian room of the British Museum, and yet in them, the lions' manes and beards are represented by rings of solid rock, as smooth as a mirror!

85. There are indeed one or two other conditions of noble conventionalism, notice more fully in the Addenda (§§ 68-71); but you will find that they always consist in stopping short of nature, not in falsifying nature; and thus in Giotto's foliage, he stops short of the quantity of leaves on the real tree, but he gives you the form of the leaves represented with perfect truth. His foreground also is nearly always occupied by flowers and herbage, carefully and individually painted from nature; while, although thus simple in plan, the arrangements of line in these landscapes of course show the influence of the master-mind, and sometimes, where the story requires it, we find the usual formulæ overleaped, and Giotto at Avignon painting the breakers of the sea on a steep shore with great care, while Orcagna, in his Triumph of Death, has painted a thicket of brambles mixed with teazles, in a manner worthy of the best days of landscape art.

Fig. 22.


86. Now from the landscape of these two men to the landscape of Raphael, Leonardo, and Perugino, the advance consists principally in two great steps: The first, that distant objects were more or less invested with a blue color,—the second, that trees were no longer painted with a black ground, but with a rich dark brown, or deep green. From Giotto's old age, to the youth of Raphael, the advance in, and knowledge of, landscape, consisted of no more than these two simple steps; but the execution of landscape became infinitely more perfect and elaborate. All the flowers and leaves in the foreground were worked out with the same perfection as the features of the figures; in the middle distance the brown trees were most delicately defined against the sky; the blue mountains in the extreme distance were exquisitely thrown into aërial gradations, and the sky and clouds were perfect in transparency and softness. But still there is no real advance in knowledge of natural objects. The leaves and flowers are, indeed, admirably painted, and thrown into various intricate groupings, such as Giotto could not have attempted, but the rocks and water are still as conventional and imperfect as ever, except only in color: the forms of rock in Leonardo's celebrated "Vierge aux Rochers" are literally no better than those on a china plate. Fig. 22 shows a portion of them in mere outline, with one cluster of the leaves above, and the distant "ideal" mountains. On the whole, the most satisfactory work of the period is that which most resembles missal painting, that is to say, which is fullest of beautiful flowers and animals scattered among the landscape, in the old independent way, like the birds upon a screen. The landscape of Benozzo Gozzoli is exquisitely rich in incident of this kind.

87. The first man who entirely broke through the conventionality of his time, and painted pure landscape, was Masaccio, but he died too young to effect the revolution of which his genius was capable. It was left for other men to accomplish, namely, for Correggio and Titian. These two painters were the first who relieved the foregrounds of their landscape from the grotesque, quaint, and crowded formalism of the early painters; and gave a close approximation to the forms of nature in all things; retaining, however, thus much of the old system, that the distances were for the most part painted in deep ultramarine blue, the foregrounds in rich green and brown; there were no effects of sunshine and shadow, but a generally quiet glow over the whole scene; and the clouds, though now rolling in irregular masses, and sometimes richly involved among the hills, were never varied in conception, or studied from nature. There were no changes of weather in them, no rain clouds or fair-weather clouds, nothing but various shapes of the cumulus or cirrus, introduced for the sake of light on the deep blue sky. Tintoret and Bonifazio introduced more natural effects into this monotonous landscape: in their works we meet with showers of rain, with rainbows, sunsets, bright reflections in water, and so on; but still very subordinate, and carelessly worked out, so as not to justify us in considering their landscape as forming a class by itself.

Fig. 23.


88. Fig. 23, which is a branch of a tree from the background of Titian's "St. Jerome," at Milan, compared with fig. 20, will give you a distinct idea of the kind of change which took place from the time of Giotto to that of Titian, and you will find that this whole range of landscape may be conveniently classed in three divisions, namely, Giottesque, Leonardesque, and Titianesque; the Giottesque embracing nearly all the work of the fourteenth, the Leonardesque that of the fifteenth, and the Titianesque that of the sixteenth century. Now you see there remained a fourth step to be taken,—the doing away with conventionalism altogether, so as to create the perfect art of landscape painting. The course of the mind of Europe was to do this; but at the very moment when it ought to have been done, the art of all civilized nations was paralyzed at once by the operation of the poisonous elements of infidelity and classical learning together, as I have endeavored to show elsewhere. In this paralysis, like a soldier shot as he is just gaining an eminence, the art of the seventeenth century struggled forward, and sank upon the spot it had been endeavoring to attain. The step which should have freed landscape from conventionalism was actually taken by Claude and Salvator Rosa, but taken in a state of palsy,—taken so as to lose far more than was gained. For up to this time, no painter ever had thought of drawing anything, pebble or blade of grass, or tree or mountain, but as well and distinctly as he could; and if he could not draw it completely, he drew it at least in a way which should thoroughly show his knowledge and feeling of it. For instance, you saw in the oak tree of the Giottesque period, that the main points of the tree, the true shape of leaf and acorn, were all there, perfectly and carefully articulated, and so they continued to be down to the time of Tintoret; both he and Titian working out the separate leaves of their foliage with the most exquisite botanical care. But now observe: as Christianity had brought this love of nature into Paganism, the return of Paganism in the shape of classical learning at once destroyed this love of nature; and at the moment when Claude and Salvator made the final effort to paint the effects of nature faithfully, theobjects of nature had ceased to be regarded with affection; so that, while people were amused and interested by the new effects of sunsets over green seas, and of tempests bursting on rocky mountains, which were introduced by the rising school, they entirely ceased to require on the one side, or bestow on the other, that care and thought by which alone the beauty of nature can be understood. The older painting had resembled a careful and deeply studied diagram, illustrative of the most important facts; it was not to be understood or relished without application of serious thought; on the contrary, it developed and addressed the highest powers of mind belonging to the human race; while the Claude and Salvator painting was like a scene in a theater, viciously and falsely painted throughout, and presenting a deceptive appearance of truth to nature; understood, as far as it went, in a moment, but conveying no accurate knowledge of anything, and, in all its operations on the mind, unhealthy, hopeless, and profitless.

89. It was, however, received with avidity; for this main reason, that the architecture, domestic life, and manners of the period were gradually getting more and more artificial; as I showed you last evening, all natural beauty had ceased to be permitted in architectural decoration, while the habits of society led them more and more to live, if possible, in cities; and the dress, language, and manners of men in general were approximating to that horrible and lifeless condition in which you find them just before the outbreak of the French Revolution.

Now, observe: exactly as hoops, and starch, and false hair, and all that in mind and heart these things typify and betray, as these, I say, gained upon men, there was a necessary reaction in favor of the natural. Men had never lived so utterly in defiance of the laws of nature before; but they could not do this without feeling a strange charm in that which they defied; and, accordingly, we find this reactionary sentiment expressing itself in a base school of what was called pastoral poetry; that is to say, poetry written in praise of the country, by men who lived in coffee-houses and on the Mall. The essence of pastoral poetry is the sense of strange delightfulness in grass, which is occasionally felt by a man who has seldom set his foot on it; it is essentially the poetry of the cockney, and for the most part corresponds in its aim and rank, as compared with other literature, to the porcelain shepherds and shepherdesses on a chimney-piece as compared with great works of sculpture.

90. Of course all good poetry, descriptive of rural life, is essentially pastoral, or has the effect of the pastoral on the minds of men living in cities; but the class of poetry which I mean, and which you probably understand by the term pastoral, is that in which a farmer's girl is spoken of as a "nymph," and a farmer's boy as a "swain," and in which, throughout, a ridiculous and unnatural refinement is supposed to exist in rural life, merely because the poet himself has neither had the courage to endure its hardships, nor the wit to conceive its realities. If you examine the literature of the 17th and 18th centuries you will find that nearly all its expressions, having reference to the country, show something of this kind; either a foolish sentimentality, or a morbid fear, both of course coupled with the most curious ignorance. You will find all its descriptive expressions at once vague and monotonous. Brooks are always "purling;" birds always "warbling;" mountains always "lift their horrid peaks above the clouds;" vales always "are lost in the shadow of gloomy woods;" a few more distinct ideas about hay-making and curds and cream, acquired in the neighborhood of Richmond Bridge, serving to give an occasional appearance of freshness to the catalogue of the sublime and beautiful which descended from poet to poet; while a few true pieces of pastoral, like the "Vicar of Wakefield," and Walton's "Angler," relieved the general waste of dullness. Even in these better productions, nothing is more remarkable than the general conception of the country merely as a series of green fields, and the combined ignorance and dread of more sublime scenery; of which the mysteries and dangers were enhanced by the difficulties of traveling at the period. Thus in Walton's "Angler," you have a meeting of two friends, one a Derbyshire man, the other a lowland traveler, who is as much alarmed, and uses nearly as many expressions of astonishment, at having to go down a steep hill and ford a brook, as a traveler uses now at crossing the glacier of the Col du Géant. I am not sure whether the difficulties which, until late years, have lain in the way of peaceful and convenient traveling, ought not to have great weight assigned to them among the other causes of the temper of the period; but be that as it may, if you will examine the whole range of its literature—keeping this point in view—I am well persuaded that you will be struck most forcibly by the strange deadness to the higher sources of landscape sublimity which is mingled with the morbid pastoralism. The love of fresh air and green grass forced itself upon the animal natures of men; but that of the sublimer features of scenery had no place in minds whose chief powers had been repressed by the formalisms of the age. And although in the second-rate writers continually, and in the first-rate ones occasionally, you find an affectation of interest in mountains, clouds, and forests, yet whenever they write from their heart, you will find an utter absence of feeling respecting anything beyond gardens and grass. Examine, for instance, the novels of Smollett, Fielding, and Sterne, the comedies of Molière, and the writings of Johnson and Addison, and I do not think you will find a single expression of true delight in sublime nature in any one of them. Perhaps Sterne's "Sentimental Journey," in its total absence of sentiment on any subject but humanity, and its entire want of notice of anything at Geneva, which might not as well have been seen at Coxwold, is the most striking instance I could give you; and if you compare with this negation of feeling on one side, the interludes of Molière, in which shepherds and shepherdesses are introduced in court dress, you will have a very accurate conception of the general spirit of the age.

91. It was in such a state of society that the landscape of Claude, Gaspar Poussin, and Salvator Rosa attained its reputation. It is the complete expression on canvas of the spirit of the time. Claude embodies the foolish pastoralism, Salvator the ignorant terror, and Gaspar the dull and affected erudition.

It was, however, altogether impossible that this state of things could long continue. The age which had buried itself in formalism grew weary at last of the restraint; and the approach of a new era was marked by the appearance, and the enthusiastic reception, of writers who took true delight in those wild scenes of nature which had so long been despised.

92. I think the first two writers in whom the symptoms of a change are strongly manifested are Mrs. Radcliffe and Rousseau; in both of whom the love of natural scenery, though mingled in the one case with what was merely dramatic, and in the other with much that was pitifully morbid or vicious, was still itself genuine, and intense, differing altogether in character from any sentiments previously traceable in literature. And then rapidly followed a group of writers, who expressed, in various ways, the more powerful or more pure feeling which had now become one of the strongest instincts of the age. Of these, the principal is your own Walter Scott. Many writers, indeed, describe nature more minutely and more profoundly; but none show in higher intensity the peculiar passion for what is majestic or lovely in wildnature, to which I am now referring. The whole of the poem of the "Lady of the Lake" is written with almost a boyish enthusiasm for rocks, and lakes, and cataracts; the early novels show the same instinct in equal strength wherever he approaches Highland scenery; and the feeling is mingled, observe, with a most touching and affectionate appreciation of the Gothic architecture, in which alone he found the elements of natural beauty seized by art; so that, to this day, his descriptions of Melrose and Holy Island Cathedral, in the "Lay of the Last Minstrel" and "Marmion," as well as of the ideal abbeys in the "Monastery" and "Antiquary," together with those of Caerlaverock and Lochleven Castles in "Guy Mannering" and "The Abbot," remain the staple possessions and text-books of all travelers, not so much for their beauty or accuracy, as for their exactly expressing that degree of feeling with which most men in this century can sympathize.

Together with Scott appeared the group of poets—Byron, Wordsworth, Keats, Shelley, and, finally, Tennyson—differing widely in moral principles and spiritual temper, but all agreeing more or less in this love for natural scenery.

93. Now, you will ask me—and you will ask me most reasonably—how this love of nature in modern days can be connected with Christianity, seeing it is as strong in the infidel Shelley as in the sacred Wordsworth. Yes, and it is found in far worse men than Shelley. Shelley was an honest unbeliever, and a man of warm affections; but this new love of nature is found in the most reckless and unprincipled of the French novelists—in Eugène Sue, in Dumas, in George Sand—and that intensely. How is this? Simply because the feeling is reactionary; and, in this phase of it, common to the diseased mind as well as to the healthy one. A man dying in the fever of intemperance will cry out for water, and that with a bitterer thirst than a man whose healthy frame naturally delights in the mountain spring more than in the wine cup. The water is not dishonored by that thirst of the diseased, nor is nature dishonored by the love of the unworthy. That love is, perhaps, the only saving element in their minds; and it still remains an indisputable truth that the love of nature is a characteristic of the Christian heart, just as the hunger for healthy food is characteristic of the healthy frame.

In order to meet this new feeling for nature, there necessarily arose a new school of landscape painting. That school, like the literature to which it corresponded, had many weak and vicious elements mixed with its noble ones; it had its Mrs. Radcliffes and Rousseaus, as well as its Wordsworths; but, on the whole, the feeling with which Robson drew mountains, and Prout architecture, with which Fielding draws moors, and Stanfield sea—is altogether pure, true, and precious, as compared with that which suggested the landscape of the seventeenth century.

94. Now observe, how simple the whole subject becomes. You have, first, your great ancient landscape divided into its three periods—Giottesque, Leonardesque, Titianesque. Then you have a great gap, full of nonentities and abortions; a gulf of foolishness, into the bottom of which you may throw Claude and Salvator, neither of them deserving to give a name to anything. Call it "pastoral" landscape, "guarda e passa," and then you have, lastly, the pure, wholesome, simple, modern landscape. You want a name for that: I will give you one in a moment; for the whole character and power of that landscape is originally based on the work of one man.

95. Joseph Mallord William Turner was born in Maiden Lane, London, about eighty years ago. The register of his birth was burned, and his age at his death could only be arrived at by conjecture. He was the son of a barber; and his father intended him, very properly, for his own profession. The bent of the boy was, however, soon manifested, as is always the case in children of extraordinary genius, too strongly to be resisted; and a sketch of a coat of arms on a silver salver, made while his father was shaving a customer, obtained for him, in reluctant compliance with the admiring customer's advice, the permission to follow art as a profession.

He had, of course, the usual difficulties of young artists to encounter, and they were then far greater than they are now. But Turner differed from most men in this,—that he was always willing to take anything to do that came in his way. He did not shut himself up in a garret to produce unsalable works of "high art," and starve, or lose his senses. He hired himself out every evening to wash in skies in Indian ink, on other people's drawings, as many as he could, at half-a-crown a-night, getting his supper into the bargain. "What could I have done better?" he said afterwards: "it was first-rate practice." Then he took to illustrating guide-books and almanacs, and anything that wanted cheap frontispieces. The Oxford Almanack, published on a single sheet, with a copper-plate at the top of it, consisting of a "View"—you perhaps, some of you, know the kind of print characteristic of the last century, under which the word "View" is always printed in large letters, with a dedication, obsequious to the very dust, to the Grand Signior of the neighborhood. Well, this Almanack had always such a view of some Oxford College at the top of it, dedicated, I think, always to the head of the College; and it owed this, its principal decoration, to Turner for many years. I have myself two careful drawings of some old seals, made by him for a local book on the antiquities of Whalley Abbey. And there was hardly a gentleman's seat of any importance in England, towards the close of the last century, of which you will not find some rude engraving in the local publications of the time, inscribed with the simple name "W. Turner."

96. There was another great difference between Turner and other men. In doing these drawings for the commonest publications of the day, and for a remuneration altogether contemptible, he never did his work badly because he thought it beneath him, or because he was ill-paid. There does not exist such a thing as a slovenly drawing by Turner. With what people were willing to give him for his work he was content; but he considered that work in its relation to himself, not in its relation to the purchaser. He took a poor price, that he might live; but he made noble drawings, that he might learn. Of course some are slighter than others, and they vary in their materials; those executed with pencil and Indian ink being never finished to the degree of those which are executed in color. But he is never careless. According to the time and means at his disposal, he always did his best. He never let a drawing leave his hands without having made a step in advance, and having done better in it than he had ever done before; and there is no important drawing of the period which is not executed with a total disregard of time and price, and which was not, even then, worth four or five times what Turner received for it.

Even without genius, a man who thus felt and thus labored was sure to do great things; though it is seldom that, without great genius, men either thus feel or thus labor. Turner was as far beyond all other men in intellect as in industry; and his advance in power and grasp of thought was as steady as the increasing light of sunrise.

97. His reputation was soon so far established that he was able to devote himself to more consistent study. He never appears literally to have copied any picture; but whenever any master interested him, or was of so established a reputation that he thought it necessary to study him, he painted pictures of his own subjects in the style of that master, until he felt himself able to rival his excellencies, whatever they were. There are thus multitudes of pictures by Turner which are direct imitations of other masters; especially of Claude, Wilson, Loutherbourg, Gaspar Poussin, Vandevelde, Cuyp, and Rembrandt. It has been argued by Mr. Leslie that, because Turner thus in his early years imitated many of the old masters, therefore he must to the end of his life have considered them greater than himself. The non sequitur is obvious. I trust there are few men so unhappy as never to have learned anything from their inferiors; and I fear there are few men so wise as never to have imitated anything but what was deserving of imitation. The young Turner, indeed, would have been more than mortal if, in a period utterly devoid of all healthy examples of landscape art, he had been able at once to see his way to the attainment of his ultimate ends; or if, seeing it, he had felt himself at once strong enough to defy the authority of every painter and connoisseur whose style had formed the taste of the public, or whose dicta directed their patronage.

98. But the period when he both felt and resolved to assert his own superiority was indicated with perfect clearness, by his publishing a series of engravings, which were nothing else than direct challenges to Claude—then the landscape painter supposed to be the greatest in the world—upon his own ground and his own terms. You are probably all aware that the studies made by Claude for his pictures, and kept by him under the name of the "Liber Veritatis," were for the most part made with pen and ink, washed over with a brown tint; and that these drawings have been carefully facsimiled and published in the form of mezzotint engravings, long supposed to be models of taste in landscape composition. In order to provoke comparison between Claude and himself, Turner published a series of engravings, called the "Liber Studiorum," executed in exactly the same manner as these drawings of Claude,—an etching representing what was done with the pen, while mezzotint stood for color. You see the notable publicity of this challenge. Had he confined himself to pictures in his trial of skill with Claude, it would only have been in the gallery or the palace that the comparison could have been instituted; but now it is in the power of all who are interested in the matter to make it at their ease.[32]

99. Now, what Turner did in contest with Claude, he did with every other then-known master of landscape, each in his turn. He challenged, and vanquished, each in his own peculiar field, Vandevelde on the sea, Salvator among rocks, and Cuyp on Lowland rivers; and, having done this, set himself to paint the natural scenery of skies, mountains, and lakes, which, until his time, had never been so much as attempted.

He thus, in the extent of his sphere, far surpassed even Titian and Leonardo, the great men of the earlier schools. In their foreground work neither Titian nor Leonardo could be excelled; but Titian and Leonardo were throughly conventional in all but their foregrounds. Turner was equally great in all the elements of landscape, and it is on him, and on his daring additions to the received schemes of landscape art, that all modern landscape has been founded. You will never meet any truly great living landscape painter who will not at once frankly confess his obligations to Turner, not, observe, as having copied him, but as having been led by Turner to look in nature for what he would otherwise either not have discerned, or discerning, not have dared to represent.

100. Turner, therefore, was the first man who presented us with the type of perfect landscape art: and the richness of that art, with which you are at present surrounded, and which enables you to open your walls as it were into so many windows, through which you can see whatever has charmed you in the fairest scenery of your country, you will do well to remember as Turneresque.

So then you have these five periods to recollect—you will have no difficulty, I trust, in doing so,—the periods of Giotto, Leonardo, Titian, pastoralism, and Turner.

101. But Turner's work is yet only begun. His greatness is, as yet, altogether denied by many; and to the full, felt by very few. But every day that he lies in his grave will bring some new acknowledgment of his power; and through those eyes, now filled with dust, generations yet unborn will learn to behold the light of nature.

You have some ground to-night to accuse me of dogmatism. I can bring no proof before you of what I so boldly assert. But I would not have accepted your invitation to address you, unless I had felt that I had a right to be, in this matter, dogmatic. I did not come here to tell you of my beliefs or my conjectures; I came to tell you the truth which I have given fifteen years of my life to ascertain, that this man, this Turner, of whom you have known so little while he was living among you, will one day take his place beside Shakespeare and Verulam, in the annals of the light of England.

Yes: beside Shakespeare and Verulam, a third star in that central constellation, round which, in the astronomy of intellect, all other stars make their circuit. By Shakespeare, humanity was unsealed to you; by Verulam the principles of nature; and by Turner, her aspect. All these were sent to unlock one of the gates of light, and to unlock it for the first time. But of all the three, though not the greatest, Turner was the most unprecedented in his work. Bacon did what Aristotle had attempted; Shakespeare did perfectly what Æschylus did partially; but none before Turner had lifted the veil from the face of nature; the majesty of the hills and forests had received no interpretation, and the clouds passed unrecorded from the face of the heaven which they adorned, and of the earth to which they ministered.

102. And now let me tell you something of his personal character. You have heard him spoken of as ill-natured, and jealous of his brother artists. I will tell you how jealous he was. I knew him for ten years, and during that time had much familiar intercourse with him. I never once heard him say an unkind thing of a brother artist, and I never once heard him find a fault with another man's work. I could say this of no other artist whom I have ever known.

But I will add a piece of evidence on this matter of peculiar force. Probably many here have read a book which has been lately published, to my mind one of extreme interest and value, the life of the unhappy artist, Benjamin Haydon. Whatever may have been his faults, I believe no person can read his journal without coming to the conclusion that his heart was honest, and that he does not willfully misrepresent any fact, or any person. Even supposing otherwise, the expression I am going to quote to you would have all the more force, because, as you know, Haydon passed his whole life in war with the Royal Academy, of which Turner was one of the most influential members. Yet in the midst of one of his most violent expressions of exultation at one of his victories over the Academy, he draws back suddenly with these words:—"But Turner behaved well, and did me justice."

103. I will give you however besides, two plain facts illustrative of Turner's "jealousy."

You have, perhaps not many of you, heard of a painter of the name of Bird: I do not myself know his works, but Turner saw some merit in them: and when Bird first sent a picture to the Academy, for exhibition, Turner was on the hanging committee. Bird's picture had great merit; but no place for it could be found. Turner pleaded hard for it. No, the thing was impossible. Turner sat down and looked at Bird's picture a long time; then insisted that a place must be found for it. He was still met by the assertion of impracticability. He said no more, but took down one of his own pictures, sent it out of the Academy, and hung Bird's in its place.

Match that, if you can, among the annals of hanging committees. But he could do nobler things than this.

104. When Turner's picture of Cologne was exhibited in the year 1826, it was hung between two portraits, by Sir Thomas Lawrence, of Lady Wallscourt and Lady Robert Manners.

The sky of Turner's picture was exceedingly bright, and it had a most injurious effect on the color of the two portraits. Lawrence naturally felt mortified, and complained openly of the position of his pictures. You are aware that artists were at that time permitted to retouch their pictures on the walls of the Academy. On the morning of the opening of the exhibition, at the private view, a friend of Turner's who had seen the Cologne in all its splendor, led a group of expectant critics up to the picture. He started back from it in consternation. The golden sky had changed to a dun color. He ran up to Turner, who was in another part of the room. "Turner, what have you been doing to your picture?" "Oh," muttered Turner, in a low voice, "poor Lawrence was so unhappy. It's only lamp-black. It'll all wash off after the exhibition!" He had actually passed a wash of lamp-black in water-color over the whole sky, and utterly spoiled his picture for the time, and so left it through the exhibition, lest it should hurt Lawrence's.

You may easily find instances of self-sacrifice where men have strong motives, and where large benefits are to be conferred by the effort, or general admiration obtained by it; but of pure, unselfish, and perfect generosity, showing itself in a matter of minor interest, and when few could be aware of the sacrifice made, you will not easily find such another example as this.

105. Thus much for his jealousy of his brother-artists. You have also heard much of his niggardliness in money transactions. A great part of what you have heard is perfectly true, allowing for the exaggeration which always takes place in the accounts of an eccentric character. But there are other parts of Turner's conduct of which you have never heard; and which, if truly reported, would set his niggardliness in a very different light. Every person from whom Turner exacted a due shilling, proclaimed the exaction far and wide; but the persons to whom Turner gave hundreds of pounds were prevented, by their "delicacy," from reporting the kindness of their benefactor. I may, however, perhaps, be permitted to acquaint you with one circumstance of this nature, creditable alike to both parties concerned.

At the death of a poor drawing master, Mr. Wells,[33] whom Turner had long known, he was deeply affected, and lent money to the widow until a large sum had accumulated. She was both honest and grateful, and after a long period was happy enough to be able to return to her benefactor the whole sum she had received from him. She waited on him with it; but Turner kept his hands in his pockets. "Keep it," he said, "and send your children to school, and to church." He said this in bitterness; he had himself been sent to neither.

106. "Well, but," you will answer to me, "we have heard Turner all our lives stigmatized as brutal, and uncharitable, and selfish, and miserly. How are we to understand these opposing statements?"

Easily. I have told you truly what Turner was. You have often heard what to most people he appeared to be. Imagine what it was for a man to live seventy years in this hard world, with the kindest heart, and the noblest intellect of his time, and never to meet with a single word or ray of sympathy, until he felt himself sinking into the grave. From the time he knew his true greatness all the world was turned against him: he held his own; but it could not be without roughness of bearing, and hardening of the temper, if not of the heart. No one understood him, no one trusted him, and every one cried out against him. Imagine, any of you, the effect upon your own minds, if every voice that you heard from the human beings around you were raised, year after year, through all your lives, only in condemnation of your efforts, and denial of your success. This may be borne, and borne easily, by men who have fixed religious principles, or supporting domestic ties. But Turner had no one to teach him in his youth, and no one to love him in his old age. Respect and affection, if they came at all, came unbelieved, or came too late. Naturally irritable, though kind—naturally suspicious, though generous—the gold gradually became dim, and the most fine gold changed, or, if not changed, overcast and clouded. The deep heart was still beating, but it was beneath a dark and melancholy mail, between whose joints, however, sometimes the slightest arrows found entrance, and power of giving pain. He received no consolation in his last years, nor in his death. Cut off in great part from all society—first, by labor, and at last by sickness—hunted to his grave by the malignities of small critics, and the jealousies of hopeless rivalry, he died in the house of a stranger—one companion of his life, and one only, staying with him to the last. The window of his death-chamber was turned towards the west, and the sun shone upon his face in its setting, and rested there, as he expired.


[29] Of course I do not mean by calling these fables "paltry," to dispute their neatness, ingenuity, or moral depth; but only their want of apprehension of the extent and awfulness of the phenomena introduced. So also, in denying Homer's interest in nature, I do not mean to deny his accuracy of observation, or his power of seizing on the main points of landscape, but I deny the power of landscape over his heart, unless when closely associated with, and altogether subordinate to, some human interest.

[30] This passage, respecting the book of Job, was omitted in the delivery of the Lecture, for want of time.

[31] Having no memoranda of my own, taken from Giotto's landscape, I had this tree copied from an engraving; but I imagine the rude termination of the stems to be a misrepresentation. Fig. 21 is accurately copied from a MS., certainly executed between 1250 and 1270, and is more truly characteristic of the early manner.

[32] When this lecture was delivered, an enlarged copy of a portion of one of these studies by Claude was set beside a similarly magnified portion of one by Turner. It was impossible, without much increasing the cost of the publication, to prepare two mezzotint engravings with the care requisite for this purpose; and the portion of the Lecture relating to these examples is therefore omitted. It is, however, in the power of every reader to procure one or more plates of each series; and to judge for himself whether the conclusion of Turner's superiority, which is assumed in the next sentence of the text, be a just one or not.

[33] Not the Mr. Wells who taught drawing at Addiscombe. It appears that Turner knew two persons of the same name, and in the same profession. I am not permitted to name my authority for the anecdote; various egotistic "delicacies," even in this case, preventing useful truth from being clearly assured to the public.