THE BRITISH INSTITUTION.
THE annual exhibition of the works of British artists at the Gallo), of this Institution opened to the public on Thursday. The display, this year, is the poorest we remember ; and but for some miracles of painting by EDWARD LANDSEER, it would be scarcely worth attention.
This exhibition seems gradually falling off in talent and interest : the
probable causes of its declining state we have before adverted to, and sorry we are to witness such evident signs of their continued opera- tion. The contributions of the veterans, with the one brilliant excep- tion, are few and unimportant ; while the young artists have rather retrograded than advanced. Several whose advent we hailed as giving promise of future excellence, have disappointed the expectations raised by their first efforts. And thus it is with too many—their beads are turned with success. A young artist produces a clever pic- ture, carefully studied and well finished in every part—the result of thought and painstaking: its merits are immediately recognized. The appearance of a new candidate for fame attracts particular attention to
it ; there is a struggle to possess the picture; the painter is regarded as a wonder, caressed and flattered ; commissions and invitations pour in upon him so thick, that acceptance of the one leaves him no time to execute the other. He fancies himself a great man, and thinks he has attained the summit of his profession, when be hes only taken one sure step upwards be neglects the study of nature, draws upon his scanty resources instead of laying up fresh stores, and is content with the small amount of dexterity he has acquired, though he does not take the same pains as before, and has not the same stimulus to invigorate his efforts. He repeats himself with diminishing effect ; and trades on his new-made reputation till he sinks into a confirmed mannerist, de- void of originality ; and his talent dwindles away to nothing. This has been the fate of many an aspirant to fame, who began well, but who wanted either perseverance to follow up his first successful step, or the sense to perceive that be had but gained a vantage-grouhd from which to start in the race of competition.
EDWIN LANDSEER'S dogs and deer are so immeasurably superior to every thing else, that they claim a place by themselves, as the leading feature of the exhibition. Fallow Deer (366), and Red Deer (378), are two groups of a buck, doe, and fawn, so life.like that you wonder for the moment that the timid creatures will allow you to approach so near, and almost expect them to turn tail and Intend away: the illusion is only dispelled by the painter's inability to paint breath—motion be almost depicts. Indeed, bypereritics might find fault with their being too real in one sense ; for the heads advance out of the picture, and challenge scrutiny as actual entities. They are painted with a bold freedom amounting almost to negligence ; yet when viewed so near that the pencilling is distinctly visible, the animals do rot lose the look of substance and reality. The different character of each is finely discriminated, and most delicately expressed : the look of pride and energy of the stag, the soft yielding air of the doe, and the sensi- tive innocence of the fawn, with ears pricked up, are as distinctly marked as the texture of their coats and the substance of the antlers. Of "The Two Dogs" (372)—a stagbound licking his com- panion a bloodhound, also the size of life—we need only say that they seem alive. But the most highly finished painting by LANDSEER is "Rabbit and Stoat" (387): to sum up its excellences in one word, it is the artist's chef d'oeuvre. It is impossible to do justice to the merits of these marvellous productions by description : they must be seen.
To descend from the high ground of excellence to the ordinary level. In the class of DESIGNS we have nothing of importance or of prominent excellence. HERBERT exhibits four highly-finished little pictures,—which, being the best specimens of the most intellectual branch of the art, are placed on the ground ; a set of three illustrations by Mecum from an unpublished fiction of Mr. E. Lvrroer BULWER (326), in the same rank, and next in interest, are stuck up at the back of the Keeper's desk; and the only effort in the most elevated style—a praiseworthy attempt at a Scriptural subject, by A. W. ELMORE, a young artist of promise, " Christ crowned with Thorns" (454)—is so high up as to be equally beyond the reach of praise or objection. When subjects requiring thought and imagination as well as executive skill are thus honourably distinguished at the British Institution, we cannot wonder there should be so few works of this class.
Of the merit of MAULIIIE'S Illustrations it is impossible to form a judgment, as we have no clue to the story: his large picture of " Bohemian Gipsies," reexhibited here, is a fur more striking and satisfactory demonstration of his powers than these theatrical sketches. Two of HERBERT'S designs, " Gulnare" (406), and " Haidee" (422), were engraved in the Keepsake as illustrations of another tale, written to make them serviceable, according to the inverse method practised by the picture-book makers; and it must be confessed they appeared to better advantage than as representations of BYRON'S heroines. The other. two, (407 and 42I,) are subjects from Venetian history, but wanting the strength and elevation of character necessary to bear out the association of great names and lofty spirits. The execution is finished, but so rigid that the faces seem carved out of stone. " The Good Samaritan" (233), is only an ill.draven and slovenly painted Academy model turned to account ; and though ,rich in colour, is un. worthy of Erre% fame, except as a mere study.
This is the sum and substance of the efforts in high art. Two new names, A. D. Limos; and A. JOHNSTONE, are placed against designs baying iudications of talent, but not sufficiently developed to found
expectation upon. CALLCOTT HORSLEY, whose first performance year excited so much admiration, exhibits an interior of an old fasieZit apartment with an ancient couple playing at chess and a young pair making love—" Winning the Game" (i74).-which is by no inns, equal to his former picture. It is neither so firm and clear in the en
eution, nor so well conceived : the perspective of the room violent, that the floor seems on an ascent ; the light is misty and c* and the handling is feeble and timid ; nevertheless it possesses consi'
denible merit. Core, another rising artist, seems retrograding ols. owing perhaps to his having advanced in a wrong direction. The ideaj is above his powers ; he excels in depicting the sober realities acorn mon life and domestic sentiment. " The Post.office" (444), is homely subject ; but the story is not clearly told, and the pathos is questionable: the upturned eyes of the child make us doubt the mil of the mother's grief, whose face is hid by her apron. INSKIIV, fross whom we have had much that is good, and expected still better things since his visit to Rome, seems confirmed in his slovenly mannerism, his colouring, though as harmonious as ever, is as opaque also, arid le; designs more slight and unsatisfactory. T. ROODS, who imitwes his style, contrary to the usual practice of imitators, improves apt it les prototype : " A Sorrento Girl at a Riband-loom " (276), and Goat. herds on the Abruzzi Mountains" (275), are admirable studies of character—well drawn, freely painted, and with a charming tone of colour. We should expect great things from such talent; but expo. rience teaches us to moderate our anticipations. There are a few Humorous subjects, happily treated. " Going to the Fair" (41), by WEBSTER, is a very pleasant scene of rustic life and. juvenile character, in the delineation of which this artist is so success. fill. A boy and a girl are playfully dragging their old grandfather clad the cottage. door to the fair on the green hard by. The girl's glee's face is bright with the sunshine of childish merriment ; and the good. natured old man evidently makes a show of resistance only to entente the pleasure of compliance ; while the comfortable old dame within casts a feigned deprecating look of wonder at the enormity 'bout tole perpetrated by the delighted urchins, who holds up the shilling he is going to spend. The execution of the picture is delicate and free, and adds a charm to the little incident so delightfully and characteristically told. " Going to Poll" (437), is a capital piece of broad comic humour, by HANCOCK, who has hitherto been wasting his time and talentin Vain attempts to imitate Einem Laenseen's animals. An old farmer, who has been swilling the election ale till he is in a state of utter us. consciousness as to the candidate at whose expense and for whoa benefit he has been making a beast of himself, is tied on the back of his nag and escorted in triumph by two rustics to the polling.hooth. It is evident by the dangling feet, and his body hanging forward owr the horse's shoulder, that lie would roll off if left to himself: the lea patch of flesh seen at the nape of his neck as his head hangs down, is s heightening touch of the ludicrous. This picture denotes a genuine vein of drollery that the artist will do well to work out. " Village Reports' (389).—a party of country folks eagerly discussing a bit of scandal ; aid "The Social Pipe" (294)--a smoking party in a hedge ale-house- are characteristic scenes of rustic life, by PODDING: the excitement
of the scandal-mongers is depicted to the life. Feasea's emit humour is bard and forced, and his style of painting too heavy lei laboured for a class of subjects that to be felicitous should either seem done off-band, as is the case with WEBSTER and PIDDING, or be elaborated to a degree of intensity, like WILKIE and Mu. READY. FRASER does not always hit the mark. " The First Day of Oysters," (293) is a party of people eating oysters, 'cis true, beta wants gusto : the folks ought to seem intent on nothing else-the Dandomania should be evident at first sight, and pervade the whole picture. In " The Expected Pointy" (474), the old hunks it fumbling in his pocket with the look of a man who is making an effort to be generous, and hopes he shall be baulked ; but the expectant ha not the intense anxiety requisite to carry out the humour of the scent In trifles like these, it is hit or miss : the merit consists in positive sus cess alone. Buss, whose comic gusto atones for the coarseness of his style, is intolerable when he fails, as he has done in " The Drum..hesd Court-martial," (472,) where an old soldier is trying a cat for killings canary: the want of humorous character in the Uncle Toby is fatal to
the drollery, and exhibits only the extravagance of the idea. " A Look. ing.glass Reflection" (164), by H. P. PARKER, is perfection, so far mm the representation of the sunbeam and the ray of light reflected from the glass ; but the old fisherman is not asleep, though his eyes are closed. Scenic and Portrait Pictures next week.]