19 MAY 1866, Page 13



[SECOND NOTICE.] THE Royal Academy of Arts ought certainly to have the three words "except landscape painting" added to its title. Small as is the assistance which the Academy gives to artists of any sort, it denies even that little to landscape painters. And whereas it hastens to absorb into its ranks most of the figure painters who have by any means attained a sufficient degree of merit to make their pictures popular and attractive, it resolutely turns the cold shoulder to the landscape painter, and leaves him to fight his battle for fame undistinguished by decoration or title. It will be a curious chapter in any future history of the Royal Academy in which the historian deals with the influence of that fashionable corporation during these last thirty years upon landscape art ; and keen will be his regrets that a branch of art which more than any other has suited the genius of that period, should have failed to attract the favour and encouragement of an art school which claims to be national. Or his lucubrations may take a different turn, and he may think, if landscape has flourished as it has done without help from the Academy, what might not have been ex- pected of the figure painters if they bad met with neglect as for- tunate. Or again, seeing to what a depth of imbecility those landscape painters have fallen who are within the pale, how thank- ful ought we to be that we have a goodly number of outsiders quite uncontaminated by official approbation. Seriously, it is no slight evil that from a body holding the position and wielding the power of the Royal Academy, nothing like an intelligent discrimination between the good and the bad in landscape can be got ; but that having first provided for their own members, others are left to find places at haphazard. How else could M. Daubigny's fine moonlight (150) have been banished to the cornice, where although the truth and melancholy beauty of the dappled moonlit sky is still visible, the incidents of rustic life which give meaning to the picture can only be guessed at? How else (to pass over many rejections not all easily referable to an honest exercise of judg- ment) could Mr. T. Danby's picture (418) have been treated with still greater cruelty, and hung where scarcely a trace of his delicate sentiment and handling can be recognized ? Noting these symptoms of unfairness or ignorance, one can only attribute it to some lucky chance (a portion perhaps of the luck that has this year attended so many of the Scotch artists) that a good place has been found for Mr. P. Graham's "Spate in the Highlands" (373), a picture of undoubted merit and originality. Some attempts have heretofore been made to paint the turbid bog-stained torrent as it is in nature after heavy rain, but Mr. Graham has signally, if not alone, succeeded in giving the rich golden brown of the mountain flood without sacrificing the indispensable quality of transparency. This, it will be found, is due to his having remembered that some parts of the surface are sure to reflect the colour of the sky, so that some grey always mingles with the "local" colour of the water. Then the drawing is very expressive, and enables one almost to map out the rocks in the river bed, against and over which the water chafes, plunges, and sweeps. An admirable passage is that where the herdsman is driving back his cattle from the broken bridge, but difficult to see, on account of the strong contrast of black trees against white mist immediately above. This contrast is the great blot in the picture. It robs the mountains of size, the moor of space, and the whole picture of mystery. Cut down the trees and the defect is cured. The sudden break of sunshine lighting up a cloud wreath with silvery brilliance is trite and character- istic. The mountains would have borne more careful study of form and modelling; nor does the moor look wet, as it ought. Of sea painting there are many specimens. Mr. Melby is still the best colourist, though he fails in expressing the weight and force of ocean waves. There is apparently no sufficient reason why the ship (327) should be driven on the rocks. Not so Mr. Stan- field ; he always makes it plain that the storm was irresistible and the wreck certain. For him, however, " Tintagel Castle" (58), is a feeble picture, and in sacrificing local truth of forms and colour, carefully preserved in Mr. Langdale's somewhat hard rendering of the same spot (2), he has not secured any compensating qualities of grandeur or impressiveness. Mr. Gill's "Storm on the Coast" (250) is in some respects a careful study, but there is hardly space for so many waves. Mr. Hook, clever as he is, reminds one too much of the picture manufacturer who painted pictures by the yard and tore them off as he wanted them for 'sale. His work, too, is getting coarse. The truth of Mr. Melby's wave-painting may be best comprehended by comparing it with the wooden un- truth of Mr. W. E. Cooke's (139, 218). Lastly, there is good drawing in the lapping wavelets by Mr. it Moore (321). Mr. Linnell is one of the greatest masters of light and shade now left to us. The charm of his pictures depends far more on that quality than on colour, in which latter particular he is prone to excessive brown (257). However, his "Brow of the Hill" (408) is as beautiful in colour as in chiaroscuro, both qualities combining to produce remarkable mellowness and warmth of light and air. The sun's rays are full white, but the artist probably trusts to time to harmonize them ere long with the rest of his picture. Mr. Linnell's pictures will repay careful study. There is always much to be learned from them. But the greater the genius the more dangerous is it to imitate him, as some do. There is so much real merit in Mr. V. Cole's landscapes, especially in "Evening Rest" (403), where he has chosen a (for him) unusual effect, that it is almost surprising they are not more thoroughly pleasing. There is a savour of paintiness about them not altogether consistent with unaffected honesty of sentiment. On this account, though more showy, they are less agreeable than the works of such men as Mawley (97) and W. Field (38), in which the modesty and sobriety of nature are as truly rendered as her freshness and variety.

With all Mr. Leader's careful and excellent painting, it may be doubted whether he has, upon the whole, improved upon the more simple and rugged nature of his earlier works. His pictures are almost too clean, and though no terms of condemnation are too strong for such poverty and emptiness as characterize the pictures of Messrs. Creswick and F. R. Lee, yet there is such a thing as 4ivercrowding the canvas, even with beauties. No cake should be all plums, and the quiet and repose which seem the proper character of Mr. Leader's pictures (182, 573) would be better secured by less uniform emphasis in painting. Mr. Mason goes to the opposite extreme, yet what a charm is in "The Young Anglers" (492). How beautiful, yet how "accidental," is the linear composition of it. He and Mr. J. R. Lee are among the very few who show true poetical feeling. There is a little picture by the last-named artist, called " PAfin Ground" (49), which attracts attention solely on account of this feel- ing. A quaint strangeness is here thrown over very familiar objects. A breath of kindred spirit has passed over Mr. G. Leslie's " Clarissa " (410), a high-walled and formal garden to an old red-brick manor-house. The artist has never ex- hibited anything more pleasing in colour. Mr. Raven will probably not get much credit for his praiseworthy attempt to bring a new phenomenon within the painter's domain. "Mid- summer Moonlight—Dew Rising" (95) cannot in fact, though happily expressed in parts, be deemed a success, and it is chiefly noticeable on account of the effort it manifests to escape front common-places. A singing bird perched on a hawthorn spray, relieved -against a blue sky, is a more intelligible production from the same hand, and very agreeable in colour. Mr. C. J. Lewis (98), Mr. F. Walton (336), and Mr. H. Moore (395) each send pictures that prove them diligent observers of nature. They paint honestly and without parade. By Mr. E. Moore there is an ex- ceedingly good water-colour drawing of an old archway, very true in its reflected lights (727) ; and near it "An Autumn Evening" (714), by Mr. Ditchfield, very refined and luminous. Mr. J. C. Robinson sends a well drawn though heavily coloured picture, " Quirang, Skye" (465), and Mr. Harvey exhibits what, but for the excessive feebleness of the foreground, would be one of the best landscapes in the Exhibition. It depends for its effect chiefly on its sky, which is in excellent perspective, and leads away the fancy beyond the wall of hills that closes the view at the head of