FRESCO-PAINTING: LETTER IIL FRESCO-PAINTING: LETTER IIL
ON ROTTMAN'S LANDSCAPES. FRESCO-PAINT/NG AT BONN, AND IN SAXONY, ITALY, AND FRANCE. GENERAL OBSERVATIONS ON TEE FORM, INFLUENCE, AND PRESENT STATE OF ART,
27th December 1841, For the cupolas and lunettes of the twenty-five arcades along the south side of the Pinakotbek, CORNELIUS prepared a series of particularly fine de- signs, representing the most interesting periods in the lives of eminent Italian and Dutch painters, from Cameine to RUBENS; the execution of whichsvas intrusted to Professor ZIMMERMANN. He further contributed the designs for the frescoes for the Isarthor, (Gate of the Isar); which was restored by Pro-
feslor GARTNER. Upon a frieze seventy-five feet long, upon the eastern side, is represented the " Entry of King Lewis of Bavaria " after the battle of Amfing ; and upon the other side, looking towards the city, the " Adoration of the Kings." BERNHARD NEIIER, by the maeterly execution of these paint- ings, obtained a great reputation ; owing to which he was invited to Weimar, where he is now occupied in decorating many rooms of the ducal Palace. Commissioned by the Crown Prince of Bavaria, LisneascursinT has designed a series of excellent compositions for the decoration of the Castle of Hohen- echwangau, the completion of which now occupies many young artists of great talent. In landscape also, considered as an independent art, fresco has attained an unexpected excellence, through the genius of KARL BOTTAIANN. To him we owe a series of the most interesting views in Italy, Sicily, and Greece ; which are placed, after the compositions from the " History of the House of Bavaria," in the arcades of the Hofgarten. These incomparable works prove in a striking manner, what, even within such narrow means as fresco commands, genius is capable of effecting. Together with great breadth of composition' they breathe such a freshness, a magic of light and colour, that even from the best period of the art we can select nothing of the kind to be placed with them in legitimate comparison. Notwithstanding the many tech- nical difficulties which fresco presents, in particular to the landscape-painter, the treatment of these pictures is so light, so masterly, that the mere spec- tator is ignorant of the practised skill that is displayed. But it is not by this technical treatment alone that ROTTMANN stands so high as a fresco-painter. Still more must we admire the highly-poetic education of his mind, and his artietical power of arrangement. It is only by such means that landscapes which present particular scenes, or portrait landscapes, can become true works of art ; while, on the other hand, mere mechanically-copied views possess no other interest than could attach to landscapes reflected in a glass. The original thought, the graceful feeling, of a mind imbued with the perception of the beautiful, and the expression of its conceptions in compositions appropriate, as well as becomingly treated with regard to design and colour, are what we desire in works of art. These form their essence, their inward life: if deficient,
" We start, for soul is wanting there."
and we can have at most but to admire the mechanical dexterity they display. Easy as it is to fail in landscapes of this kind, yet Roe-mama has solved the problem of possible success, by the resources of so powerful a mind, that every picture, by its calmly satisfying truth, possesses all the charms of an harmo- nious poem. With respect to the distribution of light and shade this great artist has adopted a style perfectly original as regards fresco landscapes, by avoiding as much as possible all large masses of shade in the foreground, and placing them more in the distant portions of the picture; in consequence of which, the various tones required are quite attainable in fresco, and have suffi- cient depth and transparency for their situation.
Leaving Munich, we must now direct our attention to the Rhine ; where we
see the first efforts of the school that CORNELIUS founded. In the house of the Count VON SPEE, at Heldorf, STURMER has lately painted the first picture from a series illustrative of the reign of the Emperor FREDERICK BARRA- Bosse. The same artist undertook, with STILKE, the representation of the "Last Judgment," in the Assize Ball at Coblentz ; but this remained unfi- nished, and was finally built over, in consequence of arrangements to improve the sound. The great hall of the University of Bonn is decorated with fresco. paintings representing the four faculties. Of these, HERMANN designed Theo- logy, and completed it with the help of G5TZENBERGER and Eaten. FORSTER; GoTZENBERGER undertook and painted Jurisprudence, Philosophy, and sub- sequently Medicine. Excellent, and in strict accordance as these are with the principles of fresco-painting, they are inferior to the Theology of HERMANN. These first attempts (the pictures of GliTZENHERGER belong to a later period) which the school of CORNELIUS made, lead us to examine works of a similar kind which the pupils of SCHADOW have produced. If we only consider that the school of Diisseldorff is entirely opposed to that of CORNELIUS, (al- though when seen in a higher point of view it only completes its rival's excel- lence, or in conflict with it tends to raise art, inasmuch as reaction on the one band paralyzes or subdues the excesses of the other)—or if again we remember, that on the banks of the Rhine no princely patron of the arts ia found en- couraging their restoration in taste and punty, or in a great and monumental stride, as is the case in Bavaria, by the resources of a cultivated mind, a refined zeal, and well-directed wealth—we cannot wonder that the school of Dilsseldorff has produced no work in fresco-painting to be compared with the excellence so general and so observable at Munich. Here, nevertheless, there are many compositions deserving of much attention. H. MilCKE has painted, in the house of the Count VON SPEE at Helsdorf, two pictures representing incidents in the life of FREDERICK BARBAROSSA, of which the " Submission of the Mi- lanese" is particularly deserving of praise. If MLICKE may be justly censured for the employment of too deep a tone of colour, by which fresco I. entirely deprived of its peculiar attribute, light, yet we must admit that these compositions evince how nearly it can approach to oil-painting in power of effect. The execution is so excellent that we cannot wish it more complete. By the same artist there is a Madonna and Child, with two Saints, in a side- chapel of St. Andrew's Church at Dusseldorf. C. F. LEssnea has painted a "Battle-field at lkonium," for the Castle of Helsdorf; and another particularly fine and animated composition representing the storming of that city, although commenced by him, has been finished by PainnEmaxx, as this style of painting was not suited to LESSING'S inclinations.
At the request of the Baron de FURSTENBERG-STAMMHEIM, C. DEGER has, in conjunction with several painters of Dfisseldorff, commenced the architectural decoration of the Church of St. Appollinaris at Remagen. In Saxony, not only the Royal Family, but many pnvate individuals, have taken great interest in fresco. In addition to the five pictures on subjects illustrative of GOETHE'S poems, by Professor PESCHEL of Dresden, in the hall of the Belvedere at Dit- tersbach on the Elbe, and the paintings in the mansion once belonging to the BARTEL family, now to that of LEPLAY, at Leipzig, by the same artist and PRELLER, there are many by VOGEL in the Castle Chapel at Plllnitz. A most extensive work at the Royal Castle of Dresden now occupies the attention of FENDEMANN; and, to judge from the cartoons, something of great power, and which may confer honour on the school of Dusseldorf in its peculiar style, and on this its most distinguished pupil, may be expected, as the technical completion, considering that the artist has succeeded so well in a finished fresco in his native city. At the royal villa of Rosenstein, near Stuttgart, ANTHONY GEGENBAUER has decorated a great hall, and its dome, with frescoes, from the story of Psyche. GEGENBAUER has also made very successful attempts at Rome in covering canvas tightly stretched, with a mortar composed of lime and gypsum, and then painting on it in fresco; so that by these means he has suc- ceeded in producing removable pictures, among others, Cupid and Psyche, Her- cules and Omphale, remarkable for the extreme delicacy of their handling and colour. He speaks in high terms of the advantages afforded by this method ; as the artist is enabled, by damping the back of the canvass, and consequently the mortar which forms the ground of the picture, to paint, not only two but probably three days on the same portion of the work. But the author of this method never seriously intended that other paintings (not treated as experi- ments, and not from absolute necessity to be afterwards inserted in walls) should be similarly painted for the mere purpose of this advantage. For the hall of the Stsedel Institute, at Frankfurt-am-Main, Vorrn has executed a large fresco representing in two allegorical pictures, (Italy and Germany,) the introduction of Christianity into the latter country, the consequent moral improvement, and progress of civilization. The composition of the principal
figure is powerfully conceived; the various groups are well arranged ; they are significant, and give the fullest and most harmonious completion the d •
n o e esign. Of the two allegorical side-pictures, that of Italy is particularly impressive,-by its grand and noble style ; hut in general execution, notwithstanding its ex- cellence, it is inferior to the other compositions by this great artist at Rome. In Hanover, Professor OSTERLEY has completed a large fresco painting for the new Castle Chapel ; but, in a church so strangely decorated, it does not appear to be particularly well located.
A tolerably full view has now been given of the most remarkable pro- ductions of German painters in the department of Fresco. The best ex- amples of Italian artists, of late years, may be limited to the paintings of BENVENUTI in the Cupola of San Lorenzo at Florence. In France, Where, strictly speaking, the grander style of art which has here occupied our atten- tion has never flourished, no remarkable compositions can be cited among the productions of recent times. For the works referrible to the style we have mentioned have been partly executed in oil, and partly in wax-colours ; and how incompatible such processes are with the true principle of monumental mural painting, as before defined, is proved by the results in the Louvre, the Pantheon, and now in the Church of La Madeleine. Of the works lately exe- cuted by PAUL DELAROCHE I am unable to speak ; and, as my information would be but obtained from the accounts lately published, it is unnecessary to dwell either upon their subject or style. Yet some general hints relative to the colours, and the mode of execution, with regard to extensive compositions, may be of use, as they may tend to promote inquiry, confirm experience, or fix attention upon points which, apparently trifling, are essentially requisite to 'weenie
Unless the artist be possessed of great powers of imagination and of rapid execution, it will be requisite for him to prepare a finished sketch, wrought to its proper hue and colour, and so well digested that there may be no necessity for making any essential alteration in the design. When the cartoon is elabo- rately prepared, the greatest care is next requisite to ascertain the fitness of the wall to receive the colour. The mortar that forms the ground of the painting should be well examined, to clear it from lumps, to lay it on perfectly even, and to polish it perfectly smooth—for small inequalities in the surface will produce great irregularities in the drawing. The brushes and pencils should belong and
soft, otherwise they may raise rake or rae the painting ; the colours should be arranged in pots or basins, and those most likely to be employed largely com- posed; and several palettes with raised edges should be ready at hand to work from, or assist in compounding the hues requisite to produce a brilliant and harmonious effect. As the colours become lighter when dry or as they appear when wet, they should be well tested; to effect which, a few pieces of brick or of any absorbent stone should be provided, for these absorbing the water, the colours appear very nearly of the same hue that they will be when the fresco is dry. Experience must be the best guide as to the state of the wall most fit to receive the colour. I have found it recommended, not to begin until the layer of mortar is hard enough to resist the pressure of the finger, as otherwise the colours would spread, and prevent all possibility of neatness and clearness in execution; which is to be effected with great rapidity and lightness of hand. They take a limited, if not a degrading view of the fine arts, who conceive that their aim is merely pleasure; or who regard their productions as the usual appurtenance of wealth. Their ultimate object is of a more elevating, of a more ennobling character. They are in the highest degree subservient to edu- cation. However defined, education may be considered as the government of thought and feeling, awakened by communion, excited by assimilation, and directed by the acquired experience, the judgment, and discernment of higher minds. Now we are influenced not only by what we hear, but what we see; and over most men imagination has far more power than either memory or reason. A man of feeling is as much excited by the representation as the de- scription of a great action, and the glowing truth of the canvas not unfre- quently exceeds the art of the rhetorician. The school and the university may indeed provide instructors, divide our time, direct our studies ; but education has but commenced: we are still subject to the pressure from without, and the silent influence of habits, which ■ ••••■••• Come Ull bel flume Che con sileusio at mar va declinando
E as vada, o as stia, mat al presume,"1
imperceptibly form our character or modify the impressions of the mind. States like individuals, are educated by circumstances ; and national character is liable to the same impressions as the individual. A people, says FILANGIERI, among whom the fine arts have made considerable progress, has (other means existing in proportion) greater opportunities and fewer obstacles toward the creation of opinions most favourable to public virtue and general civilization. Now, if institutions for the encouragement of the fine arts be of use to a people, they are indispensable to an artist. He who desires to acquire a knowledge of order, xymmetry, proportion, of unity combined with contrast, must attentively study, feel, and perceive the effects produced by the compositions of those works: "Di cat la tame rumor nel moudo dura E durera quanto ii monde butane."
In a country like this, where party-spirit has become a kind of religion, while
religion gives strength to party-spirit—where wealth, not knowledge, is power, and the opinions of wealth have the influence of taste—where commerce and commercial pursuits become the instructors of the masses—it is not surprising either that the fine arts should be neglected, or patronized more from vanity than esteem. Therefore is it that portrait-painting ROW so exclusively predo- minates ; that elderly gentlemen are disinterred from country-towns to be ex- hibited as Platos robed in flannel, instructing British youth; that Mayors are painted afterthe manner Of the Picts, and hung at the expense of the corpora- tion. Is a man promoted ? he stands rubrick on the wall: ordered to India, we see him "prior to his departure." Does he write a fashionable novel ? we have his lofty personification : and while the reigning passion or the reigning toast is eternally repeated, we are surfeited in addition with what are termed "Family Pieces," in every variety of wretchedness, human, mental, or artistic. And for this, Art is derided, and the artist censured. FELTHAal was right- " It is from where there is no judgment that the severest judgment comes "; for let it be remembered, that art struggles here with difficulties unknown in other lauds. To the Greek, the fine arts were the symbolic forms of the beau- tiful which he worshipped in every varied expression. To the Roman, more practical and less refined, they were yet the historians of his fame :
" Religione patrum, multos servata per auuos.''
Christianity early assumed a symbolism ; it became emblematic at a later period:
" Proptcrea visum nobis, opus utile, totis Felicia domibuspictigra illudere sancta."
But it was the worship of the Virgin which tended to the poetry of religion, and acted as the conservator of art, until it became the parent of that relined sense of the beautiful which was the inspiration of modern Italy. From that hour the Roman Catholic religion consecrated it to its service, and made art honoured and reverenced by the sovereigns of the earth ; from that hour it was protected alike by the social affections and the moral feelings. The decline of art in England may be dated from the Reformation. The Church excluded all adventitious aid to devotion, forbade all symbolic representation, and fixed the worship of the Deity on the abstract conceptions of the mind. And the people echoed this feeling : a picture in a church, if not profane, was Popish; and that opinion has been preached and mitred until this day. Nor has the Government in any manner directed attention to the encouragement of British
Art. Individuals have therefore chiefly fostered that branch which to them is of most interest-the small picture of familiar life, or the portrait, "which re- vives the affections of the living by recalling the memory of the dead."
Can we blame the artist because his nature is subdued to what he works in ? can we say, produce great compositions, admire his ability, and refuse him its reward ? The world has ever some cant phrase : it recommends a man to work for fame ; and then punishes his exertions, by starvation. It is because 1 believe that Fresco can attain the highest aims of art-it is because I feel that as a branch of art it is deserving of assistance-it is because I am convinced that as a school of art it will tend to raise, to give a higher direction, a more extensive field, to the abilities of our own artists-that I have endeavoured to explain, by the resources of others, what are its principles, what it purposes, and what it can effect. Fresco-painting was restored to Rome by the influence of AUGUSTUS: capable of enslaving his country, he concealed the habits and form of tyranny, by the graceful exercise of its power. It has been reserved for the Sovereign of this great empire to consolidate peace, to extend the blessings of education, and to encourage the refinements of social life:
" Tenho amor laudum, tantre est Vteroata curie."
it is reserved for those who now meet to promote measures "in the hope that our New Houses of Parliament may hand down to posterity a memorial of the genius of our artists, and of the importance attached to art in this country," so to act, "that whether by painting or sculpture, or both combined, the events of our past history and the persons of our public benefactors may be trans- mitted with unimpaired respect to the grateful recollection of the English people." I am not ignorant, however, of the opposition which exists to schemes of this description. The encouragement of art in England is opposed by a Church which brands as Popish the productions of art when connected with its temples ; • it is opposed by the legislative spirit of the day, which considers man as a mere machine, a being of bone and sinews, from whom the mind and the immortal soul has fled forever; it is opposed by that love of gain and of economy begotten upon the mercantile feeling which invests the land ; it is opposed by those whose pure taste and lofty sensibility can neither be awakened nor grati- fied but by the productions of foreign artists; and by those who value art as the handmaid of pleasure, and who consider that when it is reduced to a mere matter of ornament, it has fulfilled the purposes, the object, and the intellec- tual elevation of its design. Against this opposition we must advance by the right direction of public opinion :
- mortali urguemur ab hoste
Mortales ; totidem nobis animieque, manusque."
S. R. H.
• This intolerance has by no means the merit of origivality to recommend it The earlier fathers condemned Painting as connected with Paganism. The savage Therm.- tux reproached Hawse* ears for two deadly sins-painting and marrying. The C01111. cil of Elvira proscribed paintings on the walls of churches. (Can. 30.)