THE NEW SOCIETY OF WA.TEROOLOUR PAINTER&
We have been so long accustomed to plume ourselves upon having made at least one line of art our own, and we have so petted our water- colour painters as the genius of the family, that it requires considerable rubbing of the eyes to awaken us to the fact, that in this twenty-sixth year of the existence of the new Society and fifty-sixth of the old, the leading painters are not English. Mr. Louis Haghe, the Vice-President of the Society, who has so long maintained the good name of the exhibi- tion, Mr. Wehnert, Mr. Bouvier, and some others, are not bound to us by the ties of nationality, but domiciled with us under the charm of ap- preciation and success. This year we have to welcome even a more pro- mising recruit in Herr Carl Werner, who makes his first bow with a full portfolio, and we cannot feel the slightest grudge in seeing that all his pictures have found admirers and purchasers. It would, indeed, be a petrified state of things, if English eyes could only admire English paintings; happily, our characteristic love of gallantry and fairness has generally been extended to artists of all the world, and long may it continue—ad majorem artis gloriam. Mr. Haghe's pictures this year are particularly interesting, not only from their intrinsic merit as works of art, but as evincing so genuine a feeling for the pursuit of his life, and such .a lively disposition to study in fresh fields. His pictures of Rome and the picturesque people that now tread the classic haunts have all the vigour and warmth of treat- ment that would be inspired by a recent visit to the places. " TheInt- provisatore" is a large and remarkably fine drawing, abounding with all that is picturesque. The ancient grandeur and beauty of Rome are very poetically suggested by the noble ruins thrown into shadow against the bright sky and the houses of modern Rome, while the gay story-teller perched on a marble fragment, is amusing his idle listeners. " A drinking-fountain at Albano," and " The Ghetto " at Rome, are smaller but even more picturesque works. A pair of interiors from the Ducal palace of Venice exhibit to advantage the artist's great taste for displaying architectural grandeur and richness of decoration. The "Lion's mouth" room is an especially beautiful drawing. Figures with Mr Haghe become merely the bearers of rich colours and the chief ornaments of his painted halls : they are always cleverly drawn, but when he proposes to show us with them some scene of tragic violence and deadly purpose, we can scarcely forget the familiar forms which have done duty. so often on the most peaceful and decorous occa- sions. So that, in looking at "The Murder of Rizzio," a large work that has evidently cost much thought and skilful labour, we enjoy the rich colour and sombre air of the tapestried chamber, through which we can peer up to the door leading to Mary's boudoir, where a dark figure lifts the portiere and watches, yet the group which tells the story does not impress the mind with the real horror of such a scene,—the figures have not the individual character and expression necessary for historical painting.
The pictures by Carl Werner will be viewed with great interest ; they
have all the best qualities of water-colour in the style he follows, which appears, at present, to be interiors and buildings with figures. The in
tenor of the Cathedral at Cefalu, Sicily, during high mass, is altogether
one of his beat productions, although the figures play a very insignificant part. The cold splendour of the place is admirably well rendered, in the
polished inlaid pavement, the glistening columns of rare-coloured
marbles with strange capitals, the sculptured monuments, the altar, in a recess, rich with mosaic pictures and golden ornament, and the high timbered roof painted and inlaid—through all this the eye wanders m naturally as if we stood in the solemn place. The same exquisite finish
of every detail, the distinctive character of every object, and the general harmony of colouring, render beautiful his pictures of "Venice as it was" and " Venice as it is"; latter we prefer for the delicious coolness of the shade that sprads over the deserted yet noble palace, and the Landing-stairs all dank, weedy, and moss-grown, made cooler still by the gleam of sunlight on the upper part of the building, and the peep of day seen through the narrow archway. The water is the Only failure in these pictures—in this the artist has gone beyond his depth in trying to paint the peculiar gentle ripple of the canal, and thus favours us with artificial water. But the works we have named, and several others, will delight all who relish the delicacy and the modest beauty of the aquarelle.
Mr. Edmund G. Warren exhibits nothing so happy in its close imita- tion of nature as his drawings of last year, though there are several small works by him which have the great merit of being studied fairly and zealously from nature ; they have, however, the misfortune of being almost like nature. There is a certain violence of colour in them which is foreign as much to nature as to the proper style of water-colour paint- ing. As legitimate specimens of the style, we might point to a fine landscape by Mr. T. L. Rowbotham, from the Lago Maggiore, and a " View of the Bay of Naples," by Mr. C. Vacher. Here we enjoy the glowing atmosphere of Italy, and the harmony of delicate tints in which genuine water-colour painting is so peculiarly successful. There are several landscapes which deserve a general commendation without claiming any special description on account of originality, such as 192, "A bit of Comland," and Ecclesbourne Glen, Hastings," by Mr. J. H. Mole. 244, "Cornfields near Haslemere"; 216, "Leith Hill," and "A peep over a fine Country," by Mr. J. W. Whymper ; the latter a sketchy but very pleasing bit of painting. " A View from Heaven's Gate," by Mr. W. Bennett, is also a favourable specimen of the painter. Mr. Tidey, one of the younger members, has essayed a theme to tax the most imaginative of painters in " The sleep of Ianthe," from Shelley's Queen ; and we cannot refuse to admit the fancy with which he has treated the subject ; but we cannot say that he helps us to realize Shelley's poetic idea of the soul leaving the body. The artist shows more power of fancy than knowledge of, and ability to employ all the resources of his art; and this we notice is the charac- teristic weakness in his other works in the Gallery, a weakness result- ing more perhaps from neglect of practical study than from want of thought.
There are many unpretending works in flower and fruit-painting upon the screens, showing to what an exquisite pitch of finish the style has been carried by Mrs. Mary Margetts, Mrs. Fanny Harris, Miss Emily Fanner, Mrs. Oliver, and other ladies.