THE INSTITUTION OF THE FINE ARTS.
A second visit to the Portland Gallery does not strengthen the favour- able impression so commonly given at the first visit by an array of care- fully and tastefully painted works of art. The exhibition is remarkable for the absence of figure-pieces that arrest attention ; though there are some of considerable size and ambition, with names attached to them which we have formerly seen affixed to works of some merit. The best department in the exhibition is a certain sort of view-taking—land- scapes, presenting the survey of a mountain 'Valley with its broken ground; sheep trodden path and placid lake; a corner in a wood ; a glimpse across a meadow country ; a prospect of the sea from the cliffs, through the trees, with glancing shadows ; the flitting light of an un- certain spring morning or the warm steady glow of an autumn morning. In this way we have views of various countries, and for miles upon miles the eye may traverse with more or less of calm satisfaction. But, in these transcripts of nature, the natural is the first necessity ; and we cannot help observing that no pictures in this collection are free from a certain stereotyped kind of handling that altogether mars the effect of nature. If it is a pool surrounded by sedges, the sedges rise in parallel lines; if it is the morning sun of October, the sun is a patch of white paint which burlesques the nnpaintable original ; it is an extensive view there is a too great uniformity of tint, as though the painter forgot how much the colours of nature are affected, not only by aerial perspective," but by the incidence of the light. Thus in one of the best pictures of the collection, Mr. Peel's "October Morning," the piece of ploughed land which recedes downhill from the eye is of the same colour with the piece of ploughed land fronting the spectator. Be. cause more strictly matter of fact, Mr. Parrot's architectural views is Rouen are among the best pictures : they are good scene painting—a phrase we use in a sense the reverse of disparaging. But they too are afflicted by a too great uniformity of texture. The sky and clouds are not unlike the tints upon the architectural ornaments ; the men and women walking about the streets scarcely differ from those sculptured. The departures from routine are not happy, mainly for want of honest work. Mr. Raven calls his view of growing crops crops greens, drawn from ye quicke,"printed in black letter; as if the nomination in the eata• logue were to assist us in appreciating the picture ! It seems to be in- tended for Prie-Raphaelitism applied to landscape; but it violates the very spirit of Prte-Raphaelitism. Notwithstanding the defiance of established routine in the direct presentment of harsh colours, the stalks of the grow- ing corn are all parallel; and the ears are represented by a certain dotted pattern. Amongst the most remarkable pictures in the collection are some strange works ; the strangest of all being a wonderful mountain scene of the town of Varallo, with the sculptor Fiamingo explaining to Bernardino Cairn a group of figures in terra cotta, intended to people the new Jerusalem,—Cairn with his cotton eyebrows, the terra cotta popt4- tion as largo and real as the living Italians, the whole company MO
figures from some biblical tapestry wonderfully transferred to a John-Mar- tinenue dream of scene-painting.
It is not any one quality which makes a painter, nor two, but many Combined. A man may show some of the best faculties and not prove to us that he is an artist. Amongst the most promising pictures of the col- lection is one called "Early Lovers "-a young boy and girl, taken from country life, who have been walking by a rosy pathway. They have stopped just as the youth was crossing a style, astride of which he re- mains, while the girl has seated herself on one of the steps. The truth of the picture lies in the movement and set of her features ; in the plain treatment of her figure, which is pretty, although hidden in coarse and homely clothing ; in the natural flesh and blood of her whole frame; and in the earnest, direct, unstudied manner with which she grasps the youth's hand,-you can see the pressure, clinging and undoubting,- while she earnestly listens as if her whole heart depended upon the truth of what he is saying to her. So far well ; but the artist cannot paint a rose, nor give his breathing girl an atmosphere, nor show us the per- spective of life as it is in those rural districts ; so that he encumbers this pair of " early lovers " with an entourage of indifferent furniture, and stubborn roses that would not adorn the paper of a suburban parlour.