Lectures on Landscape by John Ruskin – Design, Architecture & Fine Art Audiobook

Lectures on Landscape by John Ruskin – Design, Architecture & Fine Art Audiobook


one
in my inaugural lecture I stated that while holding this professorship I
should direct you in your practical exercises chiefly to Natural History and
landscape and having in the course of the past year laid the foundational
elements of art sufficiently before you I will invite you now to enter on real
work with me and accordingly I propose during this in the following term to
give you what practical leading I can in elementary study of landscape and of a
branch of natural history which will form a kind of center for all the rest
it theology in the outset I must shortly state to you the position which
landscape painting and animal painting hold towards the higher branches of art
landscape painting is the thoughtful and passionate representation of the
physical conditions appointed for human existence it imitates the aspects and
records the phenomena of the visible things which are dangerous are
beneficial to men and displays the human methods of dealing with these and of
enjoying them or suffering from them which are either exemplary or deserving
of sympathetic contemplation animal painting investigates the laws of
greater and less nobility of character in organic form as comparative anatomy
examines those of greater and less development in organic structure and the
function of animal painting is to bring in to notice the minor and unthought-of
conditions of power or beauty as that of physiology is to ascertain the minor
conditions of adaptation questions as to the purpose of arrangements or the use
of the organs of an animal are however no less within the province of the
painter than of the physiologist and are indeed more likely to commend themselves
to you through drawing than dissection for as you dissect an animal you
generally assume its form to be necessary and only examine how it is
constructed but in drawing the outer form itself attentively you are led
necessarily to consider the mode of life for which it is disposed and therefore
to be struck by an awkwardness or apparent uselessness in its parts after
sketching one day several heads of birds it becomes a vital matter of interest to
me to know the use of the bony process on the head of the hornbill but on
asking a great physiologist I found that it appeared to him an absurd question
and was certainly an unanswerable one I have limited you have just heard
landscape painting – the representation of phenomena relating to human life you
will scarcely be disposed to admit the propriety of such a limitation and you
will still last be likely to conceive it’s necessary strictness and severity
unless I convince you of it by somewhat detailed examples here are two
landscapes by Turner in his greatest time Vesuvius and repose
Vesuvius in eruption one is a beautiful harmony of cool color the other of hot
and they are both exquisitely designed in ornamental lines but they are not
painted for those qualities they are painted because the state of the scene
in one case is full of delight to men and in the other of pain and danger and
it does not turn his object at all to exhibit or illustrate natural phenomena
however interesting in themselves he does not want to paint blue mist in
order to teach you the nature of evaporation nor this lava stream to
explain to you the operation of gravity on ponderous and viscous materials
he paints the blue mist because it brings life and joy to men and the lava
stream because it is death to them again here are two C pieces by Turner of the
same period photographs from them at least one is a calm on the shore at
Scarborough the other the wreck of an Indian men these also are each painted
with exquisitely artistic purpose the first in opposition of local black to
diffuse sunshine the second the decorative grouping of white spots on a
dark ground that the court of purpose of dappling is as studiously and
deliciously carried out by Turner with the Dedalus side of him in the in lane
of these white spots on the Indian men’s deck as if he were working a precious
toy in Ebony and ivory but Turner did not paint either of the C pieces for the
sake of these decorous arrangements neither did he paint the Scarborough as
a professor of physical science to show you the level of low tide on the
Yorkshire coast nor the India man to show you the force of impact in a liquid
mass of seawater of given momentum he painted this to show you the daily
course of quiet human work and happiness and that to enable you to conceive
something of uttermost human misery both ordered by the power of the great deep
you may easily you must perhaps for a little time
suspect me of exaggerating in this statement it is so natural to suppose
that the main interest of landscape is essentially in rocks and water and sky
and that figures are to be put like the salt and mustard to a dish only to give
it a flavour put all that out of your heads at once the interest of a
landscape consists wholly in its relation either two figures present or
two figures past or two human powers conceive the most splendid drawing of
the chain of the Alps irrespective of their relation to humanity is no more a
true landscape than a painting of this bit of stone
for his natural philosophers there is no bigness or littleness to you this stone
is just as interesting to you or ought to be as if it was a million times as
big there is no more sublimity per se in ground sloped at an angle of 45 than in
ground level nor in a perpendicular fracture of iraq than in a horizontal
one the only thing that makes the one more interesting to you in a landscape
than the other is that you could tumble over the perpendicular fracture and
couldn’t tumble over the other a cloud looked at as a cloud only is no more a
subject for painting than so much feculent sinned dirty water it is merely
dirty air or at best a chemical solution you’ll made that it is worthy of being
painted at all depends upon its being the means of nourishment and
chastisement to men or the dwelling place of imaginary gods there’s a bit of
blue sky and cloud by Turner one of the loveliest ever painted by human hand but
as a mere pattern of blue and white he had better have painted to Jay’s Wayne
this was only painted by him and is in reality only pleasant to you because it
signifies the coming of a gleam of sweet sunshine in windy weather and the wind
is worth thinking of only because it fills the sails of ships and the Sun
because it warms the sailors now it is most important that you should convince
yourself of and fully enter into this truth because all the difficulty in
choosing subject arises from mistakes about it I dare say some of you who are
fond of sketching have gone out often in the most beautiful country and yet with
the feeling that there was no good subject to be found in it that always
arises from you’re not having sympathy enough with its vital character and
looking for physical picturesqueness instead on the contrary there are crude
efforts at landscape painting made continually upon the most splendid
physical in America and other countries without
any history it is not of the slightest use Niagara or the North Pole and the
aurora borealis won’t make a landscape but a digitally will if you have
humanity in you enough in you and to interpret the feelings of hedgers and
ditchers and frogs next here is one of the most beautiful landscapes ever
painted the best I have next to Greta and tease the subject physically is a
mere Bank of grass above a stream with some witch Elms and willows a level
topped bank the water has cut its way down through the soft
eluvian of an elevated plain to the limestone rock at the bottom had this
scene been in America no mortal could have made a landscape of it it is
nothing but a grass bank with some not very pretty trees scattered over it
wholly without grouping the stream at the bottom is rocky indeed but it’s
rocks or mean flat and of a dull yellow color the sky is gray and shapeless
there’s absolutely nothing to paint anywhere of a central landscape subject
is commonly understood now see what the landscape consists in which I have told
you is one of the most beautiful ever painted by men there’s first a little
bit of it left nearly wild not quite wild there’s a cart and riders track
through it among the copes and then standing simply on the wild moss
troopers ground the scattered ruins of a great a be seen so dimly they seem to be
fading out of sight in color is in time these two things together the wild
Culp’s wood and the ruin take you back into the life of the 14th
century the one is the border riders Kingdom the other that of peace which is
driven against board riding how vainly both these are remains of the past but
the outhouses and refectory of the Abbey have been
into a farmhouse and that is inhabited and in front of it the mistress is
feeding her chickens you see the country is perfectly quiet and innocent for
there is no trace of offense anywhere the cattle have strayed down to the
river side it being hot day and some rest in the shade and to in the water
they could not have done so at their ease had the river not been humanized
only a little bit of its stony bed is left a meal we’re thrown across stays
the water and perfectly clear and delicious pool to show how clear it is
Turner has put the only piece of playing color in all the picture into the
reflection in this one cow is white another white and red evidently as clean
as morning dew can wash their sides they could not have been so in a country
where there was the least coal smoke so Turner has put a wreath of perfectly
white smoke through the trees unless that should not be enough to show you
they burnt wood he has made his foreground of a piece of copse just
lopped with the new faggots standing up against it and this still not being
enough to give you the idea of perfect cleanliness he has covered the stones of
the riverbed with white clothes laid out to dry and that not being enough yet for
the riverbed might be clean though nothing else was he has put a quantity
more hanging over the abbey walls only natural phenomena in their direct
relation to humanity these are to be your subjects in landscape rocks and
water and air may no more be painted for their own sakes than the armor carved
without the warrior but secondly I said landscape is to be a passionate
representation of these things it must be done that is to say with strength and
depth of soul this is indeed to some extent merely the particular application
of a principle that has no exception if you were without strong passions you
cannot be a painter at all the laying of paint by an insensitive
person whatever it endeavors to represent is not painting but dobbing or
plastering and that observe irrespective of the boldness or my newness of the
work an insensitive person will dog with a camel’s hair brush an ultramarine and
a passionate one will paint with mortar and trowel but far more than common
passions necessary to paint landscape the physical conditions there are so
numerous and the spiritual ones so occult that you are sure to be
overpowered by the materialism unless your sentiment is strong
no man is naturally likely to think first of anatomy in painting a pretty
woman but he is very aptly to do so in painting a mountain no man of ordinary
sense will take pleasure in features that have no meaning but he may easily
take it in Heath woods or waterfalls that have no expression so that it needs
much greater strength of heart and intellect to paint landscape than figure
many commonplace persons bred in good schools have painted the figure
pleasantly or even well but none but the strongest Jon Bellini Titian Velazquez
Tintoretto Mantegna Sandro Botticelli carpaccio and Turner have ever painted a
fragment of good landscape in Missal painting exquisite figure drawing is
frequent and landscape backgrounds in late works are elaborate but I only know
thoroughly good landscapes in one book and I have examined I speak deliberately
thousands for one thing the passion is necessary for the mere quantity of
design in good art whether painting or sculpture I have again and again told
you every touch is necessary and beautifully intended now it falls within
the compass of ordinary application to place rightly all the folds of drapery
or gleams of light on a chain or ornaments in a pattern but when it
comes to placing every leaf in a tree the painter gets tired here for instance
is a little bit of sandro botticelli background I have purposely sketched it
in the slightest way that you might see how the entire value of it depends on
thoughtful placing there’s no texture aimed at no completion scarcely any
variety of light and shade but by mere care in the placing the thing is
beautiful well every leaf every cloud every touch is placed with the same care
and great work and when this is done as by John Bellini in the picture of Peter
martyr or as it was by Titian in the great Peter martyr with every leaf in a
wood he gets tired I know no other such landscape in the world as that is or as
that was perhaps you think on such conditions you never can paint a
landscape at all well great landscapes certainly not but pleasant and useful
landscape yes provided only the passion you bring to it be true and pure the
degree of it you cannot command the genuineness of it you can yes and the
depth of source also its interests may be like the Reichenbach and your is only
like a little dripping holliwell but both equally from Deep Springs but
though the virtue of all painting and similarly of sculpture and every other
art is in passion I must not have you begin by working passionately the
discipline of youth in all its work is in cooling and curbing itself as the
discipline of age is in warming and urging itself you know the back ik
chorus of old men in plato’s laws to the end of life indeed the strength of a
man’s finest nature is shown and do countenance but that is because the
finest nature remains young to the death and for you the first thing you have to
do in art as in life is to be quiet and firm quiet above everything and modest
with this most essential modesty that you must like the landscape you are
doing and to draw better than you expect to like your drawing of it however well
it may succeed if you would not rather have the real thing than your sketch of
it you are not in the right state of mind for sketching at all if you only
think of the scene what a nice sketch this will make be assured you will never
make a nice sketch of it you may think you’ve produced a beautiful work nay
perhaps the public and many fair judges will agree with you but I tell you
positively there will be no enduring value and what you have thus done
whereas if you think of the scene ah if I could only get some shadow or scroll
of this to carry away with me how glad I should be then whatever you do will be
according to your strengths good and progressive it may be feeble or much
fault ‘fl but it will be vital and essentially precious now it is not
possible for you to command the state of mind nor anything like it in yourselves
at once nay in all probability your eyes are so satiated by the false popular art
surrounding us now on all sides that you cannot see the delicate reality though
you try but even though you may not care for the truth you can act as if you did
and tell it now therefore observe this following quite plain direction whenever
you set yourself to draw anything consider only how best you may give a
person who has not seen the place a true idea of it use any means in your power
to do that and don’t think of the person for whom you were drawing as a
connoisseur but as a person of ordinary sense and feeling don’t get artists like
qualities for him but first give him the pleasant sensation of being at the place
then show him how the land lies how the water runs
wind blows and so on always think of the public as Muhly heir of his old woman
you have done nothing really greater good if you can’t please her now
beginning wisely so as to lose no time or labor you will learn to paint all the
conditions of quiet light and sky before you attempt those a variable light and
cloud do not trouble yourselves with or allow yourselves to be tempted by any
effects that are brilliant or tremendous except only that from the beginning I
recommend you to watch always for sunrise to keep a little diary of the
manner of it and to have beside your window a small sketchbook with pencil
cut overnight and colors moist the one indulgence which I would have you allow
yourself and fast coloring for some time is the endeavor to secure some record at
the instant of the colors of morning clouds while if they are merely white or
gray or blue you must get an outline of them with your pencil you will soon feel
by this means what are the real difficulties to be encountered in all
landscape coloring and your eyes will be educated to the quality and harmonious
action of forms but for the rest learn to paint everything in the quietest and
simplest light first outline your whole subject completely with delicate sharp
pencil line if you don’t get more than that
let your outline be a finished and lovely diagram of the hole all the
objects are then to be painted of their proper colors matching them as nearly as
you can in the manner that a missile is painted filling the outline shapes
neatly up to their junctions reinforcing afterwards when necessary but as little
as possible but above all knowing precisely what the light is and where it
is I’ve brought two old-fashioned colored engravings which are a precise
type of the style I want you to begin with finished from corner to corner as
well as the painter easily could everything done to good purpose nothing
for vain glory nothing in haste or affectation
nothing in feverish or morbid excitement the observation is accurate the
sentiment though childish deep and pure and the effect of light for common work
quite curiously harmonious and deceptive they are in spite of their weakness
absolutely the only landscapes I could show you which give you a real idea of
the places or which put your minds into the tongue which if you were happy into
these they would take in the air and light of Italy I dwell on the necessity
of completion especially because I have lost much time myself for my sympathy
with the feverish intensity of the minds of great engravers and from always
fastening on one or two points of my subject and neglecting the rest we have
seen then that every subject is to be taken up first in its terminal lines
then in its light and shade then in its color first of the terminal lines of
landscape or of drawing an outline I think the examples of shale outlined
in your copying series must already have made you feel the exact nature of a pure
outline the difficulty of it and the value but we have now to deal with
limits of a more subtle kind the outline of any simple solid form even though it
may have complex parts represents an actual limit accurately to be followed
the outline of a cup of a shell or an animal’s limb has a determinable course
which your pen or pencil line either coincides with or does not you can say
of that line either it is wrong or right if right it is in a measure suggestive
and nobly suggestive of the character of the object but the greater number of
objects in a landscape either have outlines so complex that no pencil could
follow them as trees in middle distance or they have no actual outline at all
but a graded and softened edge as for the most part clouds foam and the like
and even in things which have determinate form the outline of that
form is usually quite incapable of expressing its real character here is
the most ordinary component of a foreground for instance a pleasantly
colored stone any of its pure outlines are not only without beauty but
absolutely powerless to give you any notion of its character although that
character is in itself so interesting that here Turner has made a picture a
little more than a heap of such stones with blue water to oppose their color in
consequence of these difficulties and insufficiencies most landscape painters
have been tempted to neglect outline altogether and think only of effects of
light or color on masses more or less obscurely defined they have thus
gradually lost their sense of organic form their precision of hand and their
respect for limiting law in a word for all the safeguards and severe dignities
of their art and landscape painting has therefore more in consequence of this
one error than of any other become weak frivolous and justly despised now if any
of you have chanced to notice at the end of my queen of the air am I saying that
in landscape Turner must be your only guide you perhaps have thought I said so
because of his great power and melting colors or in massing light and shade not
so I have always said he’s the only great landscape painter and to be your
only guide because he’s the only landscape painter who can draw an
outline his finished works perhaps appeared to you more vague than any
other masters no man loses his outlines more constantly you will be surprised to
know that his frankness and losing depends on his certainty of finding if
he chooses and that while all other landscape painters study from nature in
shade or color Turner always sketches with the point always of course is a
wide word in your copying series I’ve put a sketch by Turner and Colour from
nature some few others of the kind exist in the
Gallery and elsewhere but as a rule from his boyhood to the last day of his life
he sketched only with the fine pencil point and always the outline more if he
had time but at least the outline of every scene that interested him and in
general outlines so subtle and elaborate as to be inexhaustible in examination
and uncopyable for delicacy here is a sketch of an English Park scene which
represents the average character of a study from nature by Turner and here the
sketch from nature of Dunblane Abbey for the library studio room which shows you
what he took from nature when he had time only to get what was most precious
to him the first thing therefore you have to learn in landscape is to outline
and therefore we must know precisely what an outline is how it ought to be
represented and this it will be right to define in quite general terms applicable
to all subjects we saw in the fifth lecture that every visible thing
consisted of spaces of color terminated either by sharp or gradated limits
whenever they are sharp the line of separation followed by the point of your
drawing instrument is the proper outline of your subject whether it represents
the limits of flat spaces or of solid forms for instance here is a drawing by
hole beam of a lady in a dark dress with bars of black velvet round her arm her
form is seen everywhere defined against the light by a perfectly sharp linear
limit which Hoban can accurately draw with his pen the patches of velvet are
also distinguished from the rest of her dress by a linear limit which he follows
with his pen just decisively here therefore is your first grade law
whenever you see one space of color distinguished from another by a sharp
limit you are to draw that limit firmly and that is your outline also observe
that as you are representing this limit by a dark line is a conventionalism
and just as much a conventionalism when the line is subtle as when it is thick
the great masters accept and declare that can
vention ilysm with perfect frankness and use bold and decisive outline if any
also observed that though when you were master of your art you may modify your
outline by making it dark in some parts light in others and even sometimes thick
and sometimes slender a scientifically accurate outline is perfectly equal
throughout and in your first practice I wish you to use always a pen with a
blunt point which will make no hair stroke under any conditions so that
using black ink and only one movement of the pen not returning to thicken your
line you shall either have your line there or not there and that you may not
be able to gradate or change it in any way or degree
whatsoever now the first question respecting it is what place is your
thick line to have with respect to the limit which it represents outside of it
or inside or over it theoretically it is to be over it the true limit falling all
the way along the center of your thick line the contest of appellate with
protogynous consisted in striking this true limit within each other’s lines
more and more finely and you may always consider your pen line as representing
the first incision for sculpture the true limit being the sharp center of the
incision but practically when you’re outlining a light object defined against
a dark one the line must go outside of it and when a dark object against a
light one inside of it in this drawing of Hogans the hand being seen against
the light the outline goes inside the contour of the fingers secondly and this
is of great importance it will happen constantly that forms are entirely
distinct from each other and separated by true limits which are yet invisible
or nearly so to the eye I place for instance one of these eggs in front of
the other and probably to most of you the separation in the light is
indiscernible is it then to be outlined in
practically combining outline with accomplished light and shade there are
cases of this kind in which the outline may with advantage or even must for
truth of effect be omitted but the facts of the solid form are of so vital
importance and the perfect command of them so necessary to the dignity and
intelligibility of the work that the greatest artists even for their finished
drawings like to limit every solid form by a fine line whether it’s contour be
visible to the eye or not an outline thus perfectly made with absolute
decision and with a wash of one color above it is the most masterly of all
methods of light and shade study with limited time when the forms of the
object to be drawn are clear and unaffected by mist but without any wash
of colors such an outline is the most valuable of all means for obtaining such
memoranda of any scene as may explain to another person or record for yourself
what is most important and its features choose then a subject that interests you
and so far as failure or time or materials compels you to finish one part
or express one character rather than another
of course dwell on the features that interest you most but beyond this forget
or even somewhat repress yourself and make it your first object to give a true
idea of the place to other people you are not to endeavour to express your own
feelings about it if anything err on the side of concealing them what is best is
not to think of yourself at all but to state as plainly and simply as you can
the whole truth of the thing what do you think unimportant in it may to another
person be the most touching part of it what do you think beautiful may be in
truth commonplace and of small value quietly complete each part to the best
of your power endeavoring to maintain a steady and dutiful energy and the
tranquil pleasure of a workman end of lecture 1 lecture to light and shade in my last
lecture I laid before you evidence that the greatness of the master whom I
wished you to follow as your only guide in landscape dependent primarily on his
studying from nature always with the point that is to say in pen or pencil
outline today I wish to show you that his preeminence depends secondarily on
his perfect rendering of form and distance by light and shade before he
admits a thought of color I say before however observed carefully only with
reference to the construction of any given picture not with reference to the
order in which he learned his mechanical processes from the beginning he worked
out of doors with the point but indoors with the brush and attains perfect skill
in washing flat color long before he attains anything like skill in
delineation of form here for instance is a drawing when he was 12 or 13 years old
of Dover Castle and the Dover coach in which the future love of mystery is
exhibited by his studiously showing the way in which the dust rises about the
wheels and an interest in drunken sailors which materially affected his
marine studies shown not lessen the occupants of the hind seat but what I
want you to observe is that though the trees coach horses and sailors are drawn
as any schoolboy would draw them the sky is washed in so smoothly that few
watercolor painters of our day would lightly accept a challenge to match it
and therefore it is among many other reasons that I put the brush into your
hands from the first and try you with a wash in lampblack before you enter my
working class but as regards the composition of his picture the drawing
is always first with Turner the color second drawing that is to say the
expression by gradation of lights either a form or space again I thus give you a
statement wholly adverse to the vulgar opinion of him you will find that
statement early in the first volume of modern painters and repeated now through
all my works these twenty-five years in vain nobody will believe that the main
virtue of Turner is in his drawing I say the main virtue of Turner splendid
though he be as a colorist he is not unrivaled in color may in some qualities
of color he has been far surpassed by the Venetians but no one has ever
touched him in the exquisite nosov gradation and no one in landscape in
perfect rendering of organic form I showed you in this drawing at last
lecture how truly he had matched the color of the iron stained rocks in the
bed of the tecee no and any of you who cared for color at all cannot but take
more or less pleasure in the black and greens and warm Browns opposed
throughout but the essential value of the work is not in needs it is first in
the expression of enormous scale of mountain and space of air by gradations
of shade in these colors whatever they may be and secondly in the perfect
rounding and cleaving of the masses alike of mountain and stone I showed you
one of the stones themselves as an example of uninteresting outline if I
were to ask you to paint it though its color is pleasant enough you would still
find it uninteresting and coarse compared to that of a flower or a bird
but if I can engage you in an endeavor to draw its true forms in light and
shade you will most assuredly find it not only interesting but in some points
quite beyond the most subtle skill you can give to it you have heard me state
to you several times that all the Masters who valued accurate form and
modeling found the radiused way of obtaining the facts they required to be
firm pen outline completed by a wash of neutral tint this method is indeed
rarely used by Raphael or Michelangelo in the drawings they have left to us
because their studies are nearly all tentative experiments in composition in
which the imperfect or careless pen outline suggested all they required and
was capable of easy change without confusing the eye but the Masters who
knew precisely before they laid touch on paper what they were going to do and
this may be observed either because they are less or greater
than the men who change less in merely drawing some natural object without
attempt at composition or greater in knowing absolutely beforehand the
composition they intend it may be even so that what they intend though better
known is not so good but at all events in this anticipating
power Tintoretto Holbein and Turner’s stand I think alone as draftsmen
Tintoretto rarely sketching at all but painting straight at the first blow
while Holbein and Turner’s sketch indeed but it is as with pen of iron and a
point of diamond you will find in your educational series many drawings
illustrative of the method but I have enlarged here the part that is executed
with the pen out of this smaller drawing that you may see with what fearless
strength Holbein delineates even the most delicate folds of the veil on the
head and of the light muslin on the shoulders giving them delicacy not by
the thinness of his line but by its exquisite veracity the I will endure
with patience or even linger with pleasure
on any line that is right however course while the faintest or fineness that is
wrong will be forcibly destructive and again and again I have to recommend you
to draw always as if you were engraving and as if the line could not be changed
the method used by Turner in the Libra studio ‘m is precisely analogous to that
of Holbein the lines of these etchings are to trees rocks or buildings
absolutely with these of Hoban are not suggestions of contingent grace but
determinations of the limits of future form you will see the explanatory office
of such lines by placing this outline over my drawing of the stone until the
lines coincide with the limits of the shadow you will find that it intensifies
and explains the forms which otherwise would have escaped notice and that a
perfectly gradated wash of neutral tint with an outline of this kind is all that
is necessary for a grammatical statement of forms it is all that the great
colorists need for their studies they would think it wasted time to go further
but if you have no eye for color you may go further in another manner with
enjoyment now to go back to Turner the first great object of the Liebherr
studio m4 which I requested you in my sixth lecture to make constant use of it
is the delineation of solid form by outline and shadow but a yet more
important purpose in each of the designs in that book is the expression of such
landscape powers and character as have a special relation to the pleasures and
pain of in life but especially the pain and it
is in this respect that I desired you to be assured not merely of their
superiority but of their absolute difference in kind from photography as
works of discipline design I do not know whether any of you were interested
enough in the little note in my catalog on this view near Blair Athol to look
for the scene itself during your summer rambles if any did and found it I am
nearly certain their impression would be only that of an extreme wonder how
Turner could have made so little of so beautiful a spot the projecting rock
when I last saw it in 1857 and I am certain when Turner saw it was covered
with lichens having as many colors as a painted window the stream or rather
powerful and deep Highland River the tilt foamed and eddie’d magnificently
through the narrow channel and the wild vegetation in the rock crannies was a
finished arabesque of living sculpture of which this study of mine made on
another stream in Glen finless only a few miles away will give you a fair idea
Turner has absolutely stripped the rock of its beautiful lichens to bare slate
with one quartz vein running up through it he has quieted the river into a
commonplace stream he has given of all the rich vegetation only one cluster of
quite uninteresting leaves and a clump of birches with ragged trunks yet
observe I have told you of it he has put into one scene the spirit of Scotland
similarly those of you who in your long vacations have ever stayed near Dublin
will I think be disappointed in no small degree by this study of the abbey for
which I showed you the sketch at last lecture you probably know that the oval
window in its West End is one of the prettiest pieces of rough 13th century
carving in the kingdom I used it for a chief example in my lectures at
Edinburgh and you know that The Lancet windows in their fine proportion and
rugged masonry wood alone form a study of ruined gothic masonry of exquisite
interest yet you find turner representing The Lancet window by a few
bear oval lines like the hoop of a barrel and indicating the rest of the
structure by a monotonous and thin piece of outline of which I was asked by one
of yourselves last and quite naturally and rightly how
Turner came to draw it so slightly or we may even say so badly whenever you find
Turner stopping short or apparently failing in this way especially when he
does the contrary of what any of us would have been nearly sure to do then
is the time to look for your main lesson from him you recollect those quiet words
of the strongest of all Shakespeare’s heroes when anyone else would have had
his sword out in an instant quote keep up your bright swords for the dew will
rust them we’re at my cue to fight I should have known it without a prompter
and quote a fellow act 1 scene 2 now you must always watch keenly what
Turner’s cue is you will see his hand go to his hilt fast enough when it comes
dumb Blaine Abbie is a pretty piece of building enough it is true but the
virtue of the whole scene and meaning is not in the masonry of it there is much
better masonry and much more wonderful ruin of it elsewhere dumb Blaine Abbie
Tower and Isles and all would go under one of the arches of buildings such as
there are in the world look at what Turner will do when his Q is masonry in
the Coliseum what the execution of that drawing is he made judge by looking with
a magnifying glass at the Ivy and battlements in this when also his Q is
masonry what then can he mean by not so much as indicating one pebble or joint
in the walls of Dunblane I was sending out the other day to a friend in America
a chosen group of the library study Orem to form a nucleus for an art collection
at Boston and I warned my friend at once to guard his public against the sore
disappointment their first sight of these much celebrated works would be to
them you will have to make them understand I wrote to him that their
first lesson will be in observing not what Turner has done but what he has not
done these are not finished pictures but studies endeavors that is to say to get
the utmost result possible with the simplest means they are essentially
thoughtful and have each their fixed purpose to which everything else is
sacrificed and that purpose is always imaginative to get at the heart of the
thing not at its outside now it is true there are beautiful
lichens at Blair offal and good building at dumpling but there are lovely lichens
all over the cold regions of the world and there is far more interesting
architecture in other countries than in Scotland the essential character of
Scotland is that of a wild and thinly inhabited rocky country not sublimely
mountainous but beautiful in low rock and light streamlet everywhere with
sweet corpse wood and rudely growing trees this wild land possesses of
subdued and imperfect school of architecture and has an infinitely
tragic feudal pastoral and civic history and in the events of that history a deep
tenderness of sentiment is mingled with a cruel and barren rigidity of habitual
character accurately corresponding to the conditions of climate and earth now
I want you especially to notice with respect to these things
Turner’s introduction of the ugly square tower high up on the left your first
instinct would be to exclaim how unlucky that that was there at all why at least
could not Turner have kept it out of sight he has quite gratuitously brought
it into sight gratuitously drawn firmly the three lines of stiff drip stone
which markets squareness and blankness it is precisely that blank vacancy of
decoration and setting of the meagre angles against wind and war which he
wants to force on your notice that he may take you thoroughly out of Italy in
Greece and put you holy in a barbarous and frost heart and land that once
having its gloom defined he may show you all the more intensely what pastoral
purity and innocence of life and loveliness of nature are underneath the
banks and braze of down and buy every brooklet that feeds the fourth and Clyde
that is the main purpose of these two studies how it is obtained by various
incidents in the drawing of stones and trees and figures I will show you
another time the chief element in both is the sadness and depth of their
affective subdued though clear light and sky and stream the sadness of their
effect I repeat if you remember anything of the lectures I gave you through last
year you must be gradually getting accustomed
to my definition of the Greek school in art as one essentially chiaro-scuro see
as opposed to gothic color realist as opposed to gothic imagination
and despairing as opposed to gothic hope and you are prepared to recognize it by
any one of these three conditions only observe the chiaro-scuro is simply the
technical result of the two others a Greek painter likes light and shade
first because they enable him to realize form solidly while color is flat and
secondly because light and shade are melancholy while color is gay so that
the defect of color and substitution of more or less gray or gloomy effects of
rounded gradation constantly expressed the two characters first academic or
Greek flesh leanness and solidity as opposed to gothic imagination and
secondly of greek tragic horror and gloom as opposed to gothic gladness in
the great french room in the louvre if you would all remember the general
character of the historical pictures you will instantly recognize in thinking
generally of them the rounded fleshly and solid character in the drawing the
grey or greenish and brownish color or defect of color lurid and moonlight like
and the gloomy choice of subjects as the deluge the field of a Lao the starvation
on the raft and the death of Endymion always melancholy and usually horrible
the more recent pictures of the painter Jerome unites all these attributes in a
singular degree above all the flesh lightness and materialism which make his
studies at the nude in my judgment altogether inadmissible into the rank of
the Fine Arts now you observe that I never speak of this Greek school but
with a certain dread and yet I have told you that Turner belongs to it that all
the strongest men in times have developed art belong to it but then
remembers so do all the basest the learning of the Academy is indeed a
splendid accessory to the original power in Velazquez in Titian or in Reynolds
but the whole world of art is full of a base learning of the Academy which when
fools possess they become a tenfold plague of fools and again astern and
more or less hopeless melancholy necessarily is undercurrent in the minds
of the greatest men of all ages of homer ask
Pindar or Shakespeare but an earthly sensual and weak despondency is the
attribute of the lowest mental and bodily disease and the in facilities and
lassitude z’ which follow crime both in nations and individuals can only find a
last stimulus to their own dying sensation in the fascinated
contemplation of completer death between these the highest and these the basest
you have every variety and combination of strength and of mistake the mass of
foolish persons dividing themselves always between the two oppositely and
equally erroneous faiths that genius may dispense with law or that law can create
genius of the two there is more excuse for and less danger in the first than in
the second mistake genius has sometimes done lovely things without knowledge and
without discipline but all the learning of the academies has never yet drawn so
much as one fair face or even set to pleasant colors side by side now there
is one great northern painter of whom I have not spoken till now probably to
your surprise Rubens whose power is composed of so many elements and whose
character may be illustrated so completely and with it the various
operation of the counter schools by one of his pictures now open to your study
that I would press you to set aside one of your brightest Easter afternoons for
the study about one picture in the exhibition of the old masters the so
called Juno and Argos number 387 so-called I say for it is not a picture
either of Argos or of Juno but the portrait of a flemish lady as juno just
as Rubens painted his family picture with his wife as the Virgin and himself
as st. George and a good anatomical study of a human body as Argos in the
days of Rubens you must remember mythology was thought of as a mere empty
form of compliment or fable and the original meaning of it wholly forgotten
Rubens never dreamed that Argos is the knight or that his eyes are stars but
with the absolutely literal and brutal part of his Dutch nature supposes the
head of Argos full of real eyes all over and represents he be cutting them out
with a bloody knife and putting one into the hand of the goddess
like an unseemly oyster that conception of the action and the loathsome
sprawling of the trunk of argus under the chariot are the essential
contributions of Rubens’s own Netherland personality then with the rest of the
treatment he learned from other schools but adopted with splendid power first I
think you ought to be struck by having two large peacocks painted with scarcely
any color in them they are nearly black or black green peacocks now you know
that Rubens has always spoken of as a great colorist par excellence a colour
list and would you not have expected that before all things the first thing
you would have seen in a peacock would have been golden blue he says nothing of
the kind a peacock to him is essentially a dark
bird serpent like in the writhing of the neck cloud like in the toss and wave of
its plumes he has dashed out the filaments of every feather with
magnificent drawing he has not given you one bright gleam of green or purple in
all the two birds while the reason of that is that Rubens is not parks Lanza
colorist they not even a good colorist he is a very second-rate and coarse
colorist and therefore his colored catches the lower public and gets talked
about but he is parks along a splendid draftsman of the Greek school and no one
else except Tintoretto could have drawn with the same ease either the muscles of
the dead body or the plumes of the birds further that he never became a great
colorist does not mean that he could not had he chosen he was warped from color
by his lower Greek instincts by his animal delight in course and violent
forms and scenes in fighting in hunting and in torments of martyrdom in hell but
he had the higher gift in him if the flesh had not subdued it there is one
part of this picture which he learned how to do at Venice the iris with the
golden hair in the chariot behind Juno in her he has put out his full power
under the teaching of Veronese and Titian and he has all the splendid
northern gothic Reynolds or Gainsborough play a feature with Venetian color
scarcely anything more beautiful than that head or more masterly than the
composition of it with the inland pattern of Juno’s robe beneath
exists in the art of any country sisig omnia but I know nothing else equal to
it throughout the entire works of Rubens see then how the picture divides itself
in the fleshly baseness brutality and stupidity of its main conception is the
Dutch part of it that is Rubens his own in the noble drawing of the dead body
and of the birds you have the phidias Greek part of it brought down to Rubens
through Michelangelo in the embroidery of Juno’s robe you had the datalist
Greek part of it brought down to Rubens through Veronese in the head of iris you
have the pure northern gothic part of it brought down to Rubens through giorgio
me and Titian now though even if we had given 10 minutes of digression the
lessons in this picture would have been well worth it I have not in taking it to
it gone out of my own way there is a special point for us to observe in those
dark peacocks if you look at the notes on the Venetian pictures in the end of
my stones of Venice you will find it especially dwelt upon a singular that
tin turret in his picture of the Nativity has a peacock without any color
in it and the reason of it also that Tintoretto longs with the full half of
his mind as Rubens does to the Greek school but the two men reached the same
point by opposite paths Tintoretto begins with what Venice taught him and
adopted from what a thens could teach but Rubens begins with Athens and adopts
from Venice now if you will look back to my fifth lecture you will find it said
that the colourists can always adopt as much chiaroscuro suits them and so
become perfect but the chiaroscuro cannot on their part adopt color except
partially and accordingly whenever Tintoretto’s –is he can laugh
Rubens to scorn in management of light and shade but Rubens only here and there
as far as I know myself only this once touches Tintoretto giorgio nian color
but now observe further the Greek chiaroscuro I have just told you is by
one body of men pursued academically as a means of expressing form by another
tragically as a mystery of light and shade corresponding to and forming part
of the joy and sorrow of life you may of course find the two purposes mingled
but pure formal chiaroscuro mark Antonio’s and Leonardo’s is inconsistent
with color and though it is thoroughly necessary as an exercise it is only as a
correcting and guarding one never as a basis of art let me be sure now that you
thoroughly understand the relation of formal shade to color here is an egg
here a green cluster of leaves here a bunch of black grapes informal
chiaroscuro all these are to be considered as white and drawn as if they
were carved in marble in the engraving of melancholy what I meant by telling
you it was informal chiaroscuro was that the ball is white the leaves are white
the dress is white you can’t tell what color any of these stand for on the
contrary to a colorist the first question about everything is its color
is this a white thing a green thing or a blue thing down must go my touch of
white green or dark blue first of all if afterwards I can make them look round or
like fruit and leaves it is all very well but if I can’t blue or green they
at least shall be now here you have exactly the thing done by the two
masters we are speaking of here is a copy of Turner’s vignette of martini
this is wholly a design of the colored school here is a bit of the vine in the
foreground with purple grapes the grapes so far from being drawn as round are
stuck in with angular flat spots but they are vividly purple spots their
whole vitality and use in the design is in their Tyrian nature here on the
contrary is jurors flight into Egypt with grapes and palm fruit above both
are white but both engraved so as to look thoroughly round all the other
great chiaro-scuro stew my name to you Reynolds Velasquez and Titian approached
their color also on the safe side from Venice they always think of color first
but Turner had to work his way out of the dark Greek school up to Venice he
always thinks of his shadow first and it tailed him in some degree fatally to the
end these pictures which you all laughed at
were not what she fancied mad endeavours for color they were agonizing Greek
efforts to get light he could have got color easily enough if he had rested in
that which I will show you in next lecture still he so nearly made himself
a Venetian that as opposed to the Dutch Academical chiaroscuro he is to be
considered a Venetian altogether and now I will show you in a very simple subject
the exact opposition of the two schools here is a study of swans
from a Dutch book of Academical instruction in Rubens’s time it is a
good and valuable book in many ways and you are going to have some copies set
you from it but as a type of Academical chiaroscuro it will give you most
valuable lessons on the other side of mourning here then is the Academical
Dutchman’s notion of a swan he has laborious ly engraved every feather and
has rounded the bird into a ball and has thought to himself that never swan has
been so engraved before but he has never with his Dutch eyes perceived two points
in the Swan which are vital to it first that it is white and secondly that it is
graceful he has above all things missed the
proportion and necessarily therefore the bend of its neck
now take the colorists view of the matter to him the first main facts about
the Swan are that it is a white thing with black spots Turner takes his brush
in his right hand with a little white in it another in his left hand with a
little lampblack he takes a piece of brown paper works for about two minutes
with his white brush passes the black to his right hand and works half a minute
with that and there you are you would like to be able to draw two swans in two
minutes and a half yourselves perhaps so and I can show you how but it will need
20 years work all day long first in the mean time you must draw them rightly if
it takes two hours instead of two minutes and above all remember that they
are black and white but further you see how intensely Turner felt precisely what
the Flemming did not feel the bend of the neck now this is not because Turner
is a colorist as opposed to the Flemming but because he is a pure and
highly-trained Greek as opposed to the Flemming slow Greek
both so far as they are aiming at form are now working in the Greek School of
phidias but Turner is true Greek for he is thinking only of the truth about the
Swan and do it is pseudo Greek for he is thinking not of the Swan at all but of
his own Dutch self and so he has ended in making with all his essentially
piggish nature this sleeping swans neck is nearly possible like a leg of a pork
that is the result of academic work in the hands of a vulgar person and now I
will ask you to look carefully at three more pictures in the London exhibition
the first the Nativity by Sandro Botticelli it is an early work by him
but a quite perfect example of what the Masters of the pure Greek school did in
Florence one of the Greek main characters you know is to be Greek opera
so posed faceless if you look first at the faces in this picture you will find
them ugly often without expression always ill or carelessly drawn the
entire purpose of the picture is a mystic symbolism by motion and
chiaroscuro by motion first there is a dome of burning clouds in the upper
heaven twelve angels half float half dance in a circle round the lower vault
of it all their drapery is drifted so as to make you feel the whirlwind of their
motion they are seen by gleams of silvery or fiery light relieved against
an equally lighted blue of inimitable depth and loveliness it is impossible
for you ever to see a more noble work of passionate Greek chiaroscuro rejoicing
in light from this I should like you to go instantly to Rembrandt’s portrait of
a burgomaster number 77 in the exhibition of old masters that is a no
bleep ashen at chiaroscuro rejoicing in darkness rather than light you cannot
see a finer work by Rembrandt it has all his power of rendering character and the
portrait is celebrated through the world but it is entirely second-rate work the
character in the face is only striking two persons who like candlelight effects
better than sunshine and he had by Titian has twice the character and seen
by daylight instead of glass the rest of the picture is as false in light and
shade as it is pretentious made up chiefly of gleaming
buttons in places where no light could possibly reach them and of an embossed
belt on the shoulder which people think finally painted because it is all over
lumps of color not one of which was necessary that embossed execution of
Rembrandt’s is just as much ignorant work as the embossed projecting jewels
of Carlo Crivelli a real painter never loads see the Velazquez number 415 in
the same exhibition finally from the Rembrandt go to the little SEMA numbered
93 st. mark there you have the sandro botticelli of the noble greek school in
florence the Rembrandt of the debased Greek school in Holland and the SEMA of
the pure color school of Venice the SEMA differs from the Rembrandt by being
lovely from the Bocelli by being simple and calm the painter does not desire the
excitement of rapid movement nor even the passion of beautiful light but he
hates darkness as he does death and falsehood more than either he has
painted a noble human creature simply in clear daylight not in rapture nor yet in
agony he is dressed neither in a rainbow nor bedraggled with blood you are
neither to be alarmed nor entertained by anything that is likely to happen to him
you are not to be improved by the piety of his expression nor disgusted by its
truculence but there is more true mastery of light and shade if your eye
is subtle enough to see it in the hollows and angles of the architecture
and folds of the dress that in all the etchings of Rembrandt put together the
unexcited color will not at first delight you but its charm will never
fail and from all the works of variously strained and obtrusive power with which
it is surrounded you will find that you never return to it but with a sense of
relief and of peace which can only be given you by the tender skill which is
wholly without pretense without pride and without error end of lecture to
light and shade lecture three color the distinctions
between schools of art which I’ve so often asked you to observe are you must
be aware founded only on the excess of certain qualities in one group of
painters over another or the difference in their tendencies and not in the
absolute possession by one group and absence in the rest of any given skill
but this impossibility of drawing trenchant lines of parting need never
interfere with the distinctness of our conception of the opponent principles
which balance each other in great minds or paralyze each other in weak ones and
I cannot too often urge you to keep clearly separate in your thoughts the
school which I have called of crystal because its distinctive virtue is seen
unaided in the sharp separations and prismatic harmonies of painted glass and
the other the school of clay because its distinctive virtue is seen in the
qualities of any fine work and uncolored terracotta and in every drawing which
represents them you know I sometimes speak of these generally as the Gothic
in Greek schools sometimes as the colorist and chiaroscuro see all these
opposition’s are liable to infinite qualification and gradation as between
species of animals and you must not be troubled therefore if sometimes
momentary contradictions seem to arise in examining special points may the
modes of opposition and the greatest men are inlaid and complex difficult to
explain though in themselves clear thus you know in your study of sculpture we
saw that the essential aim of the Greek art was tranquil action the chief aim of
gothic art was passionate rest a peace an eternity of intense sentiment as I go
into detail I shall continually therefore have to oppose gothic passion
to Greek temperance yet gothic rigidity Stas of ecstasy to Greek action and
Elliot theory you see how EE how intimately opposed
the ideas are yet how difficult to explain without apparent contradiction
now today I must guard you carefully against a misapprehension of this kind I
have told you that the Greeks as Greeks made real and material what was before
indefinite they turned the clouds and the lightning of mount ether may into
the human flesh and eagle upon the extended arm and the messinian Zeus and
yet being in all things set upon absolute ferocity and realization they
perceive as they work and think forward that to see and all things truly is to
see in all things dimly and through hiding of cloud and fire so that the
schools are crystal visionary passionate and fantastic and purpose are in method
transiently formal and clear and the schools of clay absolutely realistic
temperate and simple and purpose are in method mysterious and soft sometimes
licentious sometimes terrific and always obscure look once more at this Greek
dancing girl which is from a terracotta and therefore intensely of the school of
clay look at her beside this Madonna of Philippa lippies Greek motion against
gothic absolute quietness Greek indifference dancing careless against
gothic passion the mothers what word can I use except frenzy of love Greek flesh
leanness against hungry wasting of the self forgetful body Greek softness of
diffused shadow and ductile curve against Gothic lucidity of color and
acuteness of angle and Greek simplicity and cold veracity against gothic rapture
of trusted vision and now I may safely I think go into our work of today without
confusing you except only in this you will find me continually speaking of
four men Titian Holbein Turner and Tintoretto in almost the same terms they
unite every quality and sometimes you will find me referring to them as
colourists sometimes as chiaroscuro sets only remember this that Holbein and
Turner are Greek kiosk Urist s– nearly perfect by
adopted color Titian and temperate are essentially gothic colourists quite
perfect by adopted chiaroscuro I used the word prismatic just now of the
schools of crystal as being iridescent by being studious of color they are
studious of division and while the kiosk Urist devotes himself to the
representation of degrees of force and one thing unseparated light the
colourists have for their function the attainment of beauty by arrangement of
the divisions of light and therefore primarily they must be able to divide so
that elementary exercises in color must be directed like first exercises and
music to the clear separation of notes and the final perfections of color are
those in which of innumerable notes or hues everyone has a distinct office and
can be fastened on by the eye and approved as fulfilling it I do not doubt
that it has often been a matter of wonder among any of you who had faith in
my judgment why I gave to the University as characteristic of Turner’s work the
simple and first unattractive drawings of the BLA series my first and principal
reason was that they enforced beyond all resistance on any student who might
attempt to copy them this method of laying portions of distinct hue
side-by-side some of the touches indeed when the tint has been mixed with much
water have been laid in little drops or ponds so that the pigment might
crystallize hard at the edge and one of the chief delights which
anyone who really enjoys painting finds in that art is distinct from sculpture
is in this exquisite in laying or joiners work of it the fitting of edge
to edge with a manual skill precisely correspondent to the close application
of crowded notes without the least slur in fine harp or piano playing in many of
the finest works of color on a large scale there is even some admission of
the quality given to a painted window by the dark led bars between the pieces of
glass both Tintoretto and Veronese say when
they paint on dark grounds continually stopped short with their tints just
before they touch others leaving the dark ground showing between in a narrow
bar in the pall fairness in the National Gallery you will every where and there
find pieces of outline like this of whole lines which you would suppose were
drawn as that is with a brown pencil but no look close and you will find they are
up the dark ground left between two tints brought close to each other
without touching it follows also from this law of construction that any master
who can color can also do any pain of his window that he likes separately from
the rest thus you see here is one of Sir Josh was first sittings the head is very
nearly done with the first color a piece of background is put in rounded his
sitter has had a pretty silver brooch on which Reynolds having done as much as he
chose to the face for that time paints quietly and its place below leaving the
dress between to be fitted in afterwards and he puts a little patch of the yellow
gown that is to be at the side and it follows also from this law of
construction that there must never be any hesitation or repentance in the
direction of your lines of limit so that not only in the beautiful dexterity of
the joiners work but in the necessity of cutting out each piece of color at
once and forever for though you can correct an erroneous junction of black
and white because the gray between has the nature of either you cannot correct
an erroneous junction of red and green which make it neutral between them if
they overlap that is neither red nor green thus the practice of color
educates at once in neatness of hand and distinctness of will so that as I wrote
long ago in the third volume of modern painters you are always safe if you hold
the hand of a colorist I have brought you a little sketch today from the
foreground of a Venetian picture in which there is a bit that will show you
in this precision of method it is the head of a parrot with a little flower in
his beak from a picture of carpaccio’s one of his series of the life of st.
George I could not get the curves of the leaves and they were patched and spoiled
but the parrots had however badly done is put down with no more touches than
the venetian gave it and it will show you exactly his method first a thin warm
ground has been laid over the whole canvas which carpaccio wanted as an
undercurrent through all the color just as there is an undercurrent of grey in
the Loire drawings and on this he strikes his parrot and vermilion almost
flat colour rounding a little only with a glaze of lake but attending mainly to
get the character of the bird by the pure outline of its form as if it were
cut out of a piece of Ruby glass then he comes to the beak of it the brown ground
beneath is left for the most part one touch of black is put for the hollow to
delicate lines of dark grade to find the outer curve and one little quivering
touch of white draws the inner edge of the mandible there are just four touches
fine as the finest penmanship to do that beak and yet you will find that in the
peculiar pear okayish mumbling and nibbling action of it and all the
character in which this nibbling beak differs from the tearing
speak of the eagle it is impossible to go farther or be more precise and this
is only an incident remember in a large picture let me notice in passing the
infinite absurdity of ever hanging venetian pictures above the line of
sight there are very few persons in the room who will be able to see the drawing
of the bird’s beak without a magnifying glass yet it is ten to one that in any
modern gallery such a picture would be hung thirty feet from the ground
here again it’s a little bit to show carpaccio’s execution it is a signature
only a little wall lizard holding the paper in its mouth perfect it’s so small
that you can scarcely see its feet and that I could not with my finest pointed
brush copy their stealthy action and now I think the members of my class will
more readily pardon me intensely urgh some work I put them to with the
compasses and the ruler measurement and precision are with me before all things
just because though myself trained wholly in the chiaroscuro should at
schools I know the value of color and I want you to begin with color in the very
outset and to see everything as children would see it for believe me
the final philosophy of art can only ratify their opinion that the beauty of
a cock Robin is to be read and of a grass plot to be green and the best
skill of art is an instantly seizing on the manifold deliciousness of light
which you can only seize by precision of instantaneous touch of course I cannot
do so myself yet in these sketches of mine made for
the sake of color there is enough to show you the nature and the value of the
method they are two pieces of study of the color of marble architecture the
tints literally edified and laid edge-to-edge is simply on the paper as
the stones are on the walls but please note in them one thing especially
the testing rule I gave four good color in the elements of drawing is that you
make the white precious and the black conspicuous now you will see in these
studies at the moment the white isn’t enclosed properly and harmonized with
the other hues it becomes somehow more precious and pearly in the white paper
and that I am Not Afraid to leave a whole field of untreated white paper all
rounded being sure that even the little diamonds in the round window will tell
as jewels if they are gradated justly again there is not a touch of black in
any shadow however deep of these two studies so that if I chose to put a
piece of black near them it would be conspicuous with a vengeance but in this
vignette copied from turner you have the two principles brought out perfectly you
have the white of foaming water of buildings and clouds brought out
brilliantly from a white ground and though part of the subject is in deep
shadow the I at once catches the one black point admitted in front well the
first reason that I gave you these law drawings was this of their infallible
decision the second was their extreme modesty in color they are beyond all
other works than I know existing dependent for their effect on low
subdued tones their favorite choice in time of day being either dawn or
Twilight and even their brightest sunsets produced chiefly out of gray
paper this last the loveliest of all gives the warmth of a summer Twilight
with a tinge of color on the gray paper so slight then it may be a question with
some of you whether any is there and I must beg you to observe and receive as a
rule without any exception that whether color be gay or sad the value of it
depends never on violence but always on salty it may be that a great color list
will use his utmost force of color as a singer his full power of voice but loud
or low the virtue is in both cases always in refinement never in loudness
the West window of schardt is be dropped with crimson deeper than blood but it is
as soft as it is deep and as quiet as the light of dawn I say weather color be
gay or sad it must remember be one or the other you know I told you that the
pure gothic school of color was entirely cheerful that is applied to landscape it
assumes that all nature is lovely and may be clearly seen that destruction and
decay are accidents of our present state never to be thought of seriously and
above all things never to be painted but that whatever is orderly healthy radiant
fruitful and beautiful is to be loved with all our hearts and painted with all
our skill I told you also that no complete system of art for either
Natural History or landscape could be formed on this system that the wrath of
a wild beast and the tossing of a mountain torrent are equally impossible
to a painter of the purest school that in higher fields of thought increasing
knowledge means increasing sorrow and every art which has complete sympathy
with humanity must be chastened by the site and oppressed by the memory of pain
but there is no reason why your system of study should be a complete one if it
be right and profitable though incomplete if you can find it in your
hearts to follow out only the Gothic thoughts of landscape I deeply wish you
would and for many reasons first it has never yet received due development for
at the moment when artistic skill and knowledge of affect became sufficient to
complete its purposes the Reformation destroyed the faith in which they might
have been accomplished put it for to the whole body of powerful draftsman the
Reformation meant the Greek school and the shadow of death so that have
exquisitely developed gothic landscape you may count the examples on the
fingers of your hand van Eyck’s adoration of the Lamb at Bugis
another little van Eyck in the Louvre the John Bellini lately presented to the
National Gallery another John Bellini in Rome and the st.
george of carpaccio at venice are all that I can name myself of great works
but there exists some exquisite though feebler designs and missile painting of
which in England the landscape and flowers in the Psalter of Henry the 6th
will serve you for a sufficient type the landscape in the groom on e missile at
Venice being monumentally typical and perfect now for your own practice in
this having first acquired the skill of exquisite delineation and laying a pure
color day by day you must draw some lovely natural form or flower or animal
without obscurity as in missile painting choosing for study in natural scenes
only what is beautiful and strong in life I fully anticipated at the
beginning of the pre-raphaelite movement that they would have carried forward
this method of work but they broke themselves to pieces by pursuing
dramatic sensation instead of beauty so that to this day all the loveliest
things in the world remain unpainted and although we have occasionally spasmodic
efforts and fits of enthusiasm and green meadows and apple blossom to spare it
yet remains a fact that not in all this England and still less in France have
you a painter who has been able to nobly to paint so much as a hedge of wild
roses or a forest glade full of anemones or wood sorrel one reason of this has
been the idea that such work was easy on the part of the young men who attempted
it and the total vulgarity and want of education in the greater body of a blur
artist’s rendering them insensitive to qualities of fine delineation the
universal law for them being that they can draw a pig but not a Venus for
instance to landscape painters of much reputation in England
and one of them in France also David Koch’s and John Constable represent a
form of blunt and untrained faculty which in being very frank and simple
apparently powerful and needing no thought intelligence or trouble whatever
to observe and being wholly disorderly slovenly and licentious and their in
meeting with instant sympathy from the disorderly public mind now resentful of
every trammel and ignorant of every law these two men I say represent in their
intensity the qualities adverse to all accurate science or skill and landscape
art their work being the mere blundering of clever peasants and deserving no name
whatever in any school of true practice but constantly mischievous first in its
easy satisfaction the painter’s own self-complacency x’ and then in the
pretense of ability which blinds the public to all the virtue of patience and
to all the difficulty of precision there is more relation to the great schools of
art more fellowship with the lenient Titian in the humblest painter of
letters on village signboards than in men like these do not therefore think
that the Gothic school is an easy one you might more easily fill a house with
pictures like constables from garret to cellar than imitate one cluster of
leaves by Van Dyck or Giotto and among all the efforts that have been made to
paint our common wild flowers I’ve only once and that in this very year just in
time to show it to you seeing the thing done rightly but now observe these
flowers beautiful as they are are not of the Gothic school the law of that school
is that everything shall be seen clearly or at least only in such missed or
faintness as shall be delightful and I have no doubt that the best introduction
to it would be the elementary practice of painting every study on a golden
ground this at once compels you to understand that the work is to be
imaginative and decorative that it represents beautiful things in the
clearest way but not under existing conditions
and that in fact you are producing jewellers work rather than pictures then
the qualities of grace and design become paramount to every other and you may
afterwards substitute clear skyline for the golden background without danger of
loss or sacrifice of system clear sky of golden light or deep in full blue for
the full blue of Titian is just as much a piece of conventional enameled
background as if it were a plate of gold that depth of blue in relation to
foreground objects being wholly impossible there is another immense advantage in
this Byzantine and Gothic abstraction of decisive form when it is joined with a
faithful desire of whatever truth can be expressed on narrow conditions
it makes us observe the vital points in which character consists and educates
the eye in mind in the habit of fastening and limiting themselves to
essentials in complete drawing one is continually liable to be led aside from
the main points by picturesque additions of light and shade and gothic drawing
you must get the character if at all by a keenness of analysis which must be in
constant exercise and here I must beg of you very earnestly once for all to clear
your minds of any misapprehension of the nature of Gothic art as if it implied
error and weakness instead of severity that a style is restrained or severe
does not mean that it is also erroneous much mischief has been done endless
misapprehension induced in this matter by the blundering religious painters of
Germany who have become examples of the opposite error from our English painters
of the constable group our uneducated men worked to bluntly to be ever in the
right but the Germans draw finally and resolutely wrong here is a raposo of
overbeck’s for instance which the painter imagined to be elevated in style
because he had drawn it without light and shade and with absolute decision and
so far indeed it is gothic enough but it is separated everlastingly from
gothic and from all other living work because the painter was too vain to look
at anything he had to paint and drew every mass of his drapery in lines that
were as impossible as they were stiff and stretched out the limbs of his
Madonna in actions as unlikely as they are uncomfortable in all early gothic
art indeed you will find failure of this kind especially distortion and rigidity
which are in many respects painfully to be compared with the splendid repose of
classic art but the distortion is not gothic the intensity the abstraction the
force of character are and the beauty of color here is a very imperfect but
illustrative border of flowers and animals on a golden ground the large
letter contains indeed entirely feeble and ill drawn figures that is merely
childish and failing work of an inferior hand it is not characteristic of gothic
or any other school but this peacock being drawn with intense delight and
blue on gold and getting character of peacock in the general sharp outline
instead of as Rubens peacocks in black shadow is distinctively gothic of fine
style I wish you therefore to begin your study of Natural History and landscape
by discerning the simple outlines and the pleasant colors of things and to
rest in them as long as you can but observe you can only do this on one
condition that of striving also to create in
reality the beauty which you seek in imagination it will be wholly impossible
for you to retain the tranquility of temper and Felicity of faith necessary
from noble purest painting unless you are actively engaged in promoting the
felicity and peace of practical life none of this bright gothic art was ever
done but either by faith in the attainable Ness of felicity in heaven or
under conditions of real order and delicate loveliness on the earth as long
as I can possibly keep you among them there you shall stay
among the almond and apple blossom but if you go on into the voracity zuv the
school of clay you will find there is something at the roots of almond and
apple trees which is this you must look at him in the face
fight him conquer him with what scathed you may you need not think to keep out
of the way of him there is Turner’s dragon and there is
Michelangelo’s there a very little one of carpaccio’s every soul of them had to
understand the creature and very earnestly not that Michelangelo
understands his dragon as the others do he was not enough of a colorist either
to catch the points of the creatures aspect were to feel the same hatred of
them but I confess myself always amazed in looking at Michelangelo’s work here
or elsewhere that his total carelessness of anatomical character except only in
the human body it is very easy to round a dragons neck if the only idea you have
of it is that it is virtually no more than a coiled sausage and besides
anybody can round anything if you have full scale from white highlight to black
shadow but look here at carpaccio even in my copy the colorist says first of
all as my delicious para que was Ruby so this nasty Viper shall be black and then
is the question can i round him off even though he is black and make him slimy
and yet springing and closed down clotted like a pool of black blood on
the earth all the same look at him besides Michelangelo’s and then tell me
the Venetians can’t draw and also carpaccio does it with a touch with one
sweep of his brush three minutes at the most allowed for all the beasts while
Michelangelo has been haggling at this dragons neck for an hour then note also
in Turners that clinging to the earth a specialty of him LLL grind the Mitchell
the great enemy Plutus his claws are like the clefts of the rock his
shoulders like its pinnacles his belly deep into every fissure glued down
loaded down his bat swings cannot lift him they are rudimentary wings only
before I tell you what he means himself you must know what all this smoke about
him means nothing will be more precious to you I think in the practical study of
art than the conviction which will force itself on you more and more every hour
of the way all things are bound together little and great in spirit and in matter
so that if you get once the right clue to any group of them it will grasp the
simplest yet reach to the highest truths you know I’ve just been telling you how
the school of materialism and clay involved itself at last and cloud and
fire now down to the least detailed method and subject that will hold here
is the perfect type they’re not a complex one of Gothic landscape the
background gold the trees drawn leaf by leaf and full green in color no effect
of light here is an equally typical Greek school landscape by Wilson lost
holy and golden mist the trees so slightly drawn that you don’t know if
they are trees or towers and no care for color whatsoever perfectly deceptive and
marvelous effect of sunshine through the mist Apollo and the Python now here is
Raphael exactly between the two trees still drawn leaf by leaf holy formal but
beautiful mist coming gradually into the distance
well then last here is Turner’s Greek school of the highest class and you
define his art absolutely as first the displaying intensely and with the
sternest intellect of natural form as it is and then the envelopment of it with
cloud and fire only there are two sorts of cloud and fire he knows them both
there’s one and there’s another the Dudley and the
that’s what the cloud and flame of the Dragon mean now let me show you what the
dragon means himself I go back to another perfect landscape of the Living
God expects out line by Edward burne-jones in illustration of the story
of psyche it is the introduction of psyche after all her troubles into
heaven now in this of burne-jones the landscape
is clearly full of light everywhere color or glass light that is the outline
is prepared for modification of color only every plant in the grass is set
formally grows perfectly and may be realised completely exquisite order and
universal with eternal life and light this is the faith and effort of the
schools of crystal and you may describe and complete their work quite literally
by taking any verses of Chaucer in his tender mood and observing how he insists
on the clearness and brightness first and then on the order thus in Chaucer’s
dream when Nathan Isle he thought I was where wall and yet was
all of glass and so it was closed round about that leafless none come in the out
uncouth and strange to behold for every eighth of fine gold a thousand fans I
turning and tuned had and bride singing diverse and on each fan a pair with open
mouth again here and of a suit where all the towers subtly Corvin after flowers
of uncouth colours during I that never been none seen in May next to this
drawing of psyche I placed two of Turner’s most beautiful classical
landscapes at once you are out of the open daylight either in sunshine
admitted partially through trembling leaves or in the last rays of its
setting scarcely any more warm on the darkness of the ilex wood in both the
vegetation though beautiful is absolutely
wild and uncared-for as it seems either by human or by higher powers which
having appointed for it the laws of its being leave it to spring into such
beauty as is consistent with disease and alternate with decay in the purest
landscape the human subject is the immortality of the soul by the
faithfulness of love in both the Turner landscapes it is the death of the body
by the impatience and error of love the one is the first cliffs of aspera by a
circus a speech at Asbury and Patraeus ebony the retba inject those who Metis
say condoms solely Kapinos in a few moments to lose her forever the
other is a mythological subject of deeper meaning the death of Proteus I
just now referred to the landscape by John Bellini in the National Gallery as
one of the six best existing of the purest school being wholly felicitous
and enjoyable in the foreground of it indeed is the martyrdom of Peter martyr
but John Bellini looks upon that as an entirely cheerful and pleasing incident
it does not disturb or even surprise him much less displeased in the slightest
degree now the best landscape to this in the National Gallery is a Florentine one
on the edge of transition to the Greek feeling and in that distance is still
beautiful but misty not clear the flowers are still beautiful but
intentionally of the color of blood and in the foreground lies the dead body of
progress which disturbs the poor painter greatly and he has expressed his
disturbed mind about it in the figure of a poor little Brown nearly black fawn or
perhaps the God Faunus himself who was much puzzled by the death of progress
and Stoops over her thinking it a woeful thing to find her pretty body lying
there breathless and all spotted with blood on the breast
you remember I told you how the earthly power that is necessary in art was shown
by the flight of Daedalus to the hare Pathan Minos look for yourselves at the
story of progress is related to Minos in the fifteenth chapter of the third book
of appala Doris and you will see why it is a faun who’s put to wonder at her she
having escaped by artifice from the beastial power of Minos yet she is
wholly an earth nymph and the son of Aurora must not only leave her but
himself slay her the myth of Seminole desiring to see Zeus and of Apollo and
Coronis and this having all the same main interest once understand that and
you will see why Turner has put her death under this deep shade of trees the
son withdrawing his last ray and why he is put beside her the low type of an
animal’s pain a dog licking its wounded paw but now I want you to understand
Turner’s depth of sympathy farther still in both these high mythical subjects the
surrounding nature those suffering is still dignified and beautiful every line
in which the master traces it even where seemingly negligent it’s lovely and set
down with a meditative calmness which makes these two etchings capable of
being placed beside the most tranquil work of Holbein orderer in this cephalus
especially note the extreme quality quality of serenity of every outline but
now here is a subject of which you will wonder at first why Turner drew it at
all it has no Beauty whatsoever no specialty of picturesqueness and all its
lines are cramped and poor the cramped nests and the poverty are all intended
this is no longer to make us think of the death of happy souls but of the
labor of unhappy ones at least of the more or less limited dullest and I must
not say homely but unholy life of the neglected agricultural poor
it is a Gleaner bringing down her one sheaf of corn to an old water mill
itself mossy and rent scarcely able to get its stones to turn an ill-bred dog
stands joyless by the unfenced stream two country boys lean joyless against a
wall that is half broken down and all about the steps down which the girl is
bringing her sheaf the bank of Earth flowerless and rugged testifies only of
its malignity and in the black and sternly rugged etching no longer
graceful the hard and broken in every touch the master insists upon the
ancient curse of the earth thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to
thee and now you will see at once with what feeling Turner completes in a more
tender mood this lovely subject of his Yorkshire stream by giving it the
conditions of pastoral and agricultural life the cattle by the pool the milkmaid
crossing the bridge with her pail on her head the mill with the old mill stones
and its gleaming we’re as his chief light let across the behind the wild
trees and not among our soft flowing rivers only but here among the torrents
a bit of great chartreuse where another man would assuredly have drawn the
monastery Turner only draws their working mill and Here I am able to show
you fortunately one of his works painted at this time of his most earnest thought
when his imagination was still freshly filled with the Greek mythology and he
saw for the first time with his own eyes the clouds come down upon the actual
earth the scene is one which in old times of
Swiss traveling you would all have known well a little cascade which descends to
the road from Geneva to Sean Mooney near the village of Ngong from under a
subordinate Ridge of the area davara and as the egg were yet you none of you
probably know the scene now for your only subject is to get to Sean Mooney
I’m not Mont Blanc and down again but the valley of peace if you knew it is
worth many shamaness and an impressed Turner profoundly the facts of the spot
are here given in mirrors pure simplicity a quite unpick sure s bridge
a few trees partly stunted and blasted by the violence of the torrent and
storms at their roots a cottage with its mill wheel this has lately been pulled
down to widen the road and the brook shed from the rocks and finding its way
to join the art of the scene is absolutely Arcadian all the traditions
of the Greek hills in their purity were found on such rocks and shadows as these
and Turner has given you the birth of the Shepherd Hermes on Selene and it’s
visible and solemn presence the white cloud Hermes aerial photos forming out
of heaven upon the hills the brook distilled from it as the type of human
life born of the cloud and vanishing into the cloud
led down by the haunting Hermes among the ravines and then like the reflection
of the cloud itself the white sheep with the dog of Argos guarding them drinking
from the stream and now do you see why I gave you for the beginning of your types
of landscape font that junction of T’s and Greta in their misty ravines and
this Glen of the grete above and which Turner has indeed done his best to paint
the trees that live again after their autumn the twilight that will rise again
with twilight of dawn the stream that flows always and the resting on the
cliffs of the cloud that return if they vanish but of human
life he says a boy climbing among the trees for his entangled kite and these
white stones in the mountain churchyard show forth all the strength and all the
end you think that saying of the Greek school Pinder’s summary of it today tis
today tis a sorrowful and degrading lesson see at least then that you
reached the level of such degradation see that your lives being nothing worse
than a boys climbing for his entangled kite it will be well for you if you join
not with those who instead of kites fly Falcons who instead of obeying the last
words of the great cloud Shepherd to feed his sheep lived the lives how much
less than vanity of the war wolf and the gear Eagle or do you think it a dishonor
to man to say to him that death is but only rest see that when it draws near to
you you may look to it at least for sweetness of rest and that you recognize
the lord of death coming to you as a shepherd gathering at you into his fold
for the night end of lecture three lectures on landscape by John Ruskin you

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