EXHIBITION AT THE Royal, ACADEMY, SOMERSET HOUSE.
Ii r our second visit to thus exhibition, we looked more attentively at the historical pictures and poetical designs, with a view to ascertain *hat progress had been made in these higher branches of art ; and we shalt this week confine ourselves to a consideration of this class of subjects.
55, " The Progress of Civilization,—the Ancient Britons In structed by the Romans in the Mechanical Arts," H. P. BRIGGS, is a picture of first-rate excellence, painted for the Mechanics' Institute at Hull. It is a fitting ornament for such an institution, and worthy of the high reputation of the artist. The design is simple and expressive ; the drawing is good ; and it is painted in a bold, free style, with harmony of colour and breadth of effect. The composition is di- vided into two parts,—on one side, are a Roman soldier and a philo- sopher pointing to a scroll, which a boy is holding up, and on which is an architectural design ; on the other, are a group of the natives of Britain attentively listening, while a Druid is looking on with suspicious reserve : Stonehenge forms the background. The expression of the priest is excellent, and the wild and eager looks of the rude islanders are well depicted : the attitude of the one whose whole figure is shown, is striking and natural—the hue of his flesh is rather brickdusty. The head of the Roman philosopher is good, though the mass of drapery over his left shoulder is in the way, and injures the freedom of his action. The boy is very graceful, and the soldier is statue-like. The group of females in the centre seeem squeezed in, and do not happily unite the two parts of the picture; and we rather object to this division, though it is incidental to the subject. Viewed as a whole, however, it is a noble work of art. 79, "The Maid of Judith waiting outside the Tent of Holofernes,' forms " the second and last pendant picture to the principal one," painted by Mr. ETTY for the Scottish Academy of Fine Arts : but, as we before observed, it is too much a repetition of the former pictures. The first represented Judith in the tent in act to smite Holofernes. Iit the second, she was stealing out with her bloody trophy to give it to her maid. In that picture, it will be remembered, the face of Judith was turned from the spectator, and only the countenance of the maid was seen.. The figure and face of the maid in the latter picture are repeated, with almost the same attitude ; and the scene with the sleeping guards is also similar, as well as the general colour and effect. This is a pre- servation of identity which is more convenient to the artist than necessary to the scene and the subject, even in a series of pictures. We have the maid twice, and the mistress once and a half—for what is Judith without her face ?—Frenzied enthusiasm, amounting almost to inspiration should have been depicted in her countenance, kindling the fires
inspiration, her blood, and lighting up her dark eyes with vengeful
indignation, and nerving her woman's arm with the energy of her will. Nothing like this was expressed or attempted in Mr. ETTY'S Judith ; which was merely a gigantic female figure, with a sphynx-like countenance, and her fair skin revealed beneath an embroidered dress. In the physical and the ornamental, that picture was rich; and so is the present ; the scenic effect and accessories are in grand and appropriate taste. The figure on the ground, however, is like a bag of leather ; and the helmet on his shoulders hides both head and neck : the hands, how- ever, are well drawn, and they make the rest look more empty and less like life. The colouring is too brown, and the effect sombre and heavy. We gladly turn to snore successful efforts of Mr. ETTY'S talents. "The Shipwrecked Mariner" (411) is a fine picture ; the figure extremely well painted, and conveying a vivid idea of the subject. This is true painting ; for, though the face is hidden, the expression is conveyed to the mind, and acts upon the feelings by means of the truth and nature of the delineation. " Sabrina" (170) is a poetical and beautiful design; though the nymph has rather too much colour for a Naiad ; her foot, shown through the transparent sea-green drapery, is a pretty touch of fancy. The figure of the nymph, seen in profile, has rather an ungrace- ful effect, on account of the strong light thrown along the whole length -of one limb. 163, " Window in Venice, during a Festa," is a rich piece of colouring, and contains a fine and solid sample of womanhood, with an amplitude of ripeness, and the glow of health and animal
spirits. It is an extremely well-painted picture. 144, "Nymph Ang- ling," is pleasing, and has good effect, though rather sketchy Mr. Evry has splendid talent, a luscious taste in colour, and a poetical fancy when he chooses to exert it. We wish he would paint a bacchanalian scene, with Nymphs and Satyrs bearing clusters of grapes, and Bacchus him- self young and fair, his skin stained with wine-spots, and old Silenus, brown and full as a wine-skin.
Mr. HILTON revels in SPENSERts Fairy Qaedn, and in these sylvan subjects he is always delightful. His " Sir Calepine 'rescuing Serena" (64) is, therefore, a fine picture, full of spirit and action, and with a rich and quiet tone of colour. The Virgin 'bound for the Sacrifice is very chastely painted, but looks dead already. His other picture (168), " The Angel releasing Peter out of Prison," is a failure as regards the
Apostle and the Angel: the latter looks more like Una, and Peter like a blear-eyed mendicant. The sleeping guards are extremely well drawn, and naturally grouped, but their flesh is too leathery. Artists of the present day paint Scriptural subjects at a disadvantage ; and we wonder why they are so partial to them, seeing they are not in great demand either for new or old churches. All history is open to their choice ; but the Bible has been so thickly illustrated, and by the greatest masters, that if a modern painter would be original in designing from it, he can scarcely be so.
Mr. NEWTON'S "Lear attended by Cordelia and the Physician" (152), is an excellent picture ; simple in composition, with fine expression. Lear's physiognomy is rather too Jewish in character, and Cordelia's inquiring look should have been dimmed with sorrow and apprehension ; but it is well conceived, nevertheless. There is an integrity and purpose in Mr. NEWTON'S mode of treating a subject, anti a mastery about his style, that render all his works admirable. His " Subject from the Merchant of Venice," which is Bassani° reading the letter, and Portia inquiring the nature of its ill news, is a clever picture ; but we think the expression of both the characters might be improved by being deepened ; the mouths also are rather lax and large, and the legs of Bassani° are very wooden. Indeed the execution of both pictures is too slovenly. The Bardolph-like look of the bearer of the letter, though it has good character, is not in keeping with the serious nature of the sentiment which the picture is meant to convey.
Mr. Boxam, has also chosen "Lear" as the subject of an interesting
picture (246) ; and, by a singular chance, has selected the same scene and nearly the same point of time as Mr. NEWTON. His production evinces both feeling and understanding of the sentiment, though in the delineation it is deficient in force. We do not like the too modern fashion of Cordelia's- dress, particularly as it aggravates the formality of her attitude : the position of her hands, one supporting that of her father, and the other round his neck, while his head leans against bees, is touching and natural. The attitude of Lear, bending forward with feebleness, is well conceived ; Mr. NowvoN makes his form reclining backwards ; and both are good. The breadth of drapery over the lower limbs of Mr. BOXALL'S Lear makes his body seem not sufficient in sub- stance. The quiet tone of this picture occasions it to be almost invisible in the obscure corner where it is hung ; it deserves a better place.
In this room also is a "Lady Macbeth," by R. T. BONE (226) ; which, .as a piece of poetical imagination and dramatic character, is fine and true, both as regards the nature and expression of the picture. The artist has seized upon that point of time when Lady Macbeth, having stolen into Duncan's chamber, stands look- ing on the sleeping king; and he has successfully expressed in her countenance the feeling conveyed by her confession, "Had he not re- sembled my father as he slept, I had done it." She stands with the left arm raised, holding a lamp ; the right, which grasps a dagger, just rests on the bed. Her face is coarse, but with cruelty only ; ugly, but only with malevolence ; masculine, but only with sullen de- termination. It is a woman's face, with a deadly expression ; the humanity of her feeling .seems obscured by the blackness of her pur. pose: Her costume is also in fine taste; the heavy folds of her purple drapery, the black hood, and thick slashed sleeves, are in good
keeping. We do not know if Mr. BONE be a young artist, but this is an extraordinary picture, worthy of a maturity of genius it is
not only 'a promise, but a grand performance. It does not look like a chance expression either ; it is too full of purpose throughout. The ex- ecution of the picture' in drawing, Colouring, handling, and effect, are masterly, even to the flare of the lamp. Mr. LESLIE'S scene from the Merry Wives of Windsor, of "The Dinner at Page's House" (113), is admirable for true Shakspearian character. The Merry Wives are a tempting pair of laughter-lov- ing dames ; and their dress, action, and expression are lively and na- tural. Falstaff is not the unctuous "white-bearded Satan" of SHAK- HPEARE • he is too sober, discreet, and sensible a person. • Master Slen- der might have been a portrait of the original, it is so true a personifi- cation of the ideal character ; and Justice Shallow, with "his face withered like an old apple-john," is also good ; the whole company, and the scene and its accessories, are excellent throughout. The effect of a mid-day sun shining into the room through the half-drawn window- curtains, is excellent ; the drawing is generally good; and we do not ob- ject to the stiff and starched primness of the girl, unless she is meant for Anne Page. The colouring is rather crude, and there is too much black in it. This artist's ", Scene from Tristram Shandy" (238), "My Uncle Toby looking into the Eye of the Widow Wadman," is admirable for truth and reality of character ; and we can give it no higher praise than in saying it looks as though it were painted from the life on the spot. Uncle Toby is somewhat of the LABLACHE order in figure, and not unlike him in look.; his earnestness and Simplicity, and the action of the widow, :are capital.
(To be continued.]