MR. HADEN'S ETCHINGS.
ETCHING is not and never has been a generally popular art, and since the reasons which have prevented its being so must always continue in scarcely abated force, it probably never will be. Foremost among those reasons is the difficulty of printing from the etched plate. To secure good prints from an engraved plate, generally nothing more is wanted than good daylight and a neat-handed workman. But the etched plate is less easily dealt with, and it rarely happens that the printer is not required to eke out the pictorial effect which the etcher has only rapidly suggested. It is useless to say that the latter ought to do his work more carefully. Even if the method admitted of that, the artist could not be expected to devote to what is never his most serious work (generally, in fact, only the first memoranda for it) the care necessary to make the printing of etchings as easy as that of engravings. The consequence is that artists have most frequently been their own printers, regulating their own and supplying in the press the blanks left by the more stenogra- phic needle. At the present day there is only one man known as a good printer of etchings ; he it is who has printed Mr. Haden's, as be does also most, if not all, of those produced by the Etching Club, of which Mr. Haden is so worthy a member. Unusual difficulty implies unusual cost. Etchings therefore are never cheap. Another cause for the high price of etchings, viz., the peculiarly rapid wearing of the plates, is to some extent obviated by an application of the modern process of acierage, whereby the copper is coated and protected by an infinitely thin film of the harder metal iron. Next to their high price, their unfinished and sometimes ragged condition prevents etchings from being favourites beyond the limited circle of those, whom a special cultivation of taste, enables to appreciate the far-reaching though bald and imperfect modes of expression known to and commonly used by the etcher. Not that any taste, however cultivated, is above those aids and achievements of art which are generally supposed to exercise the greatest influence on the uncultivated ; a colour richly contrasted and delicately harmonized; light and shade (the stronghold of Correggio, as it was of Turner) applied in nice gradations and just proportions. These, and other qualities, all undreamed of by the uninstructed in art, lie at the very foundation of the pleasure which all derive from good works of art, so that to depreciate or throw contempt on them is simply stupid. Divorce what art (whether painting or poetry) has to say from the form in which it is said, and there remains a very dry residuum indeed. But in fact it is wrong to assume (as some do) that expressiveness and suggestiveness are to be chiefly found in other qualities than those of colour and 'chiaroscuro, and to insist that the sketchy etching is superior to the finished engraving. In a sense this may be true, for in most cases the engraving is the work of a mere copyist, while the etching is the original offspring of an artist's imagination, where every line is instinct with life and feeling. A comparison of Flaxman's original drawings in outline for the Odyssey with the engraved copy, is an excellent though perhaps extreme illustration of the difference. But here we have only a symptom of the difference between the two classes of men who produce the different works, and it cannot be doubted that could we chain down the original artist to the engraver's stool, and get him to carry his work as far as he could with in- telligent execution, we should have a " finished " engraving far more valuable than any etching. Turner's Liber Studiorum is sufficient evidence of this.
Nevertheless, beyond the point where the general admiration ceases there lies food for a more recondite taste ; a taste which is not the less real ,because it be acquired, and it ia in this remoter region, and for this rarer taste, that the etcher works. Not be- cause he carries his worIno further towards finish, but because he puts into it nothing which does not add to its expressiveness, is the etcher deservedly esteemed. It is not finish, but bad, meaning- less finish which is contemptible. To finish a picture rightly is the hardest part of an artist's work, and since finish is not looked for in an etching, etching is peculiarly fitted to the amateur artist. For amateur Mr. Haden is, and he claims consideration for this in the frontispiece of his book, when he tells us its pro- duction was but recreation after his sterner labours. Judged from this point of view, his etchings are probably unrivalled, and without any indulgence at all they take very high rank in their own department. Most of them (and certainly the beat) are landscape sketches, done with the etching needle out of doors, as others would sketch on paper or canvas. Mr. Haden evidently possesses some of the most essential gifts that go to make a great artist. An original observer, acute in extracting the dis- tinguishing characteristics and beauties of form and texture, he sketches with an apparent enthusiasm which were enough to cover a multitude of faults. His shortcomings are chiefly those of the amateur, that is, of one who devotes only a part of his time and energies to an art which to be thoroughly mastered requires constant activity of hand as well as of eye ; who succeeds least when he leaves the region of suggestion and attempts realization. The view at "Old Chelsea" is a good example both of his greatest strength and his greatest weakness. The old-fashioned, patched, and rather decrepit houses standing about in a desultory sort of manner on the river-bank, and the clumsy coal-blackened lighters that throng the strand, are firmly and feelingly drawn. There is a kind of moral strength in every line ; and the detached block of houses near the left hand is as nearly as possible perfect as a bit of black.and-white sketching. But the attempt to give full realization to the blackness of the barges has resulted in cutting the picture in two. There is the distance of trees and houses, delicately sketched ; and there is the foreground of barges ; and the two are insufficiently connected by. the houses on the left. -Nothing in nature is so cut off from surrounding objects as the barges in this etching. Probably the defect might be partially cured in printing by stinting the supply . of ink on certain portions of the plate, e. g., on the under, surfaces of the barges, which would naturally catch a re- flected light. However, the merits far outweigh the defects, and among the merits must be counted this (because it is not so easy to attain as it seems),—that these houses, which have evidently seen better days, and these lighters which perform the proverbially dirty work of carryin' g-coals, are not made to look smug and clean and polished, but have all the marks of the wear and tear and rough usage which they have actually borne in this worky-day world. The collection includes several other studies of old houses, and among them one of the most remarkable is the view of " Kidwelly," with its effect of broad sunshine so easily and truthfully represented. The effect in " Egham Lock" is similar. Mr. Haden was quite right to omit the tall spire of Kidwelly Church ; it would have spoilt the squareness of his composition and the quietude of his effect. Another sketch from South Wales, " Kilgerran Castle," is among the best of the series. There is less attempt at realization than in almost any other, but the lines possess a liveliness and variety of character which make it wonder- fully expressive of sturdy keep and broken-hill side. The study of cloud, "Out of Study Window," stands undoubtedly first. The rolling, toppling, and tumultuous motion of stormy cumuli, hurried in sharp-edged masses through the clear and humid air, was never given with greater truth or spirit. "Sunset on the Thames" is one of those fine effects of which Londoners have a monopoly (let them make the most of it), where the sun plunges into a lurid mass of mingled smoke and cloud. The smoky volumes that sweep across the golden sky are but , faintly, perhaps too faintly, indicated. Below, the tidal ripples of the swiftly flowing water are well expressed, better than are the markings in some of the Welsh sketches which are in- tended to indicate running water. Some of these are careless and inexpressive, as in "The Ferry at Cardigan." One trout stream, however, there is (" Kennarth "?) which runs very un- mistakably over its stony bed.
To the drawing of trees Mr. Haden has evidently devoted very careful attention, and in many particulars with very great success. Generally the drawing of the trunks and branches of his „trees is admirable : the lower stems of poplar trees at Fulham, vigorously drawn and well articulated, are good examples. Folio*, however, is another and ,far more difficult matter. To thislaifficulty half .
the rules* of the drawing-masters have been ad —to little purpose. Besides their main error of conventional vulgarity, soon seen and shunned, there is also this mistake too often made by them and others, of ascribing undue importance to the identi- fication of the particular tree intended. Foliage may be classified roughly as massive and mobile, and it is far more important to ex- press the one or the other characteristic well, than to make it clear to a botanist whether the tree you have drawn is an ash or a walnut. This by the way. There is nothing conventional in Mr. Haden's - foliage. Indeed his fault would seem rather to be an unnecessary fear of conventionality, and a consequent use of far-fetched methods of expression. Sometimes he reminds one more of the inextricable confusion of a tangled thread than of true foliage, and at others (as in "Share Mill-pond ") the organism of a tree is lost in the dark masses which ought, as in nature, only to clothe, not to obliterate, the skeleton. The artist has, however, the satis- faction of knowing that if he has not completely succeeded in this part of his work, he has failed in good company, and may reflect that after all drawbacks there remains a large balance to his credit, enough to maintain him in the front rank of the landscape artists