17 MARCH 1855, Page 19

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The presence of a fair sprinkling of works showing praiseworthy achievement or promise in some qualities of art, but without any one so striking in importance of aim or consummate fulfilment as to stand out with unrivalled prominence, characterizes the present display of the Na- tional Institution. Here, as in the British Institution, we see symptoms of sharp perception and patient observation and endeavour in various quarters, which it will be for time and study to turn to account. May these be seconded by increased mental yet more than manual activity ! In scale of subject and treatment taken together, Mr. Man and Mr. J. Eckford Lauder are the chief exhibitors. The former has selected "The Battle of Stone Ferry" ; an instance of heroic, if reckless, self- devotion in a handful of HigIdanders opposed to more than two thousand of the enemy in the American War. It is thus essentially a large battle- piece ; and it suffers, along with all battle-pieces, from want of interest and of concentrated or valuable pictorial incident Mr. Sagan has done his best with it, only that he has spread his Highlanders over so large a space as to disguise their paucity of numbers ; working it up with all appliances of careful painting, scarlet regimentals, foreground Red Indian, and charging insurgents : his deficiency is in the subject Probably no *We can eves really represent a battle ; and if it could, few are the. topics which are not better fitted for handling by art. In the present work, the manner in which the bayonets of the opposing fighters almost meet at the terrible moment is a good point Mr. Eckford Lauder's pie- ture—" Sir Tristram teaching la belle Isonde the harp "—is conspicuous merely by size, and in no way by merit ; nor do his smaller contributions supply the vacuum.

Had his kinsman Mr. R. S. Lauder, the President of the Society, eta- fined himself to his figure-subjects—"The Gow Chrom and Louise," and "Imogene" from Cymbeline—we should have little to say of a more favourable kind ; but he has redeemed his position by landscapes as full of masterly ease and straightforward nature, (rendered, it is true, with some mannerism, but this dependent on rapid artistic grasp of the main character of his subjects,) as the former two are of the conventional pic- turesque of costume and arrangement The sky of "The Ilawkes Crag" is thin but the water is excellently rendered ; which is also the case in "Inch Colme," with its cones of piled cloud, and to some extent in the "Scene in Ettrick Forest," where the water is a brook which winds its interrupted course over a stony bed. The "Old Hawthorns" has more the air of romantic getting-up. It is curious to note how, when Mr. Lauder proceeds to treat a subject, as in the "Imogene," his landscape, which here still plays an important part, becomes at once comparatively feeble and according to rule, losing, or indeed discarding, the freshness of Nature and her sweet surprises ; such bane attends the "idealizing" shams which form the precepts of academies. Miss Ilowitt has repre- sented "The Lady—from Shelley's Sensitive Plant" with some uncom- mon circumstances of style. The picture is in two oval compartments, each environed with a garland of flowers and foliage designed upon the gilded flat. In the first, the lady is proceeding through the garden on her gentle offices, the sensitive plant itself being the chief foreground ob- ject; in the second, she lies dead, while a woman who has come upon the corpse clasps her hands above her fear-bewildered head, a boy gazes on the uncomprehended face of death, and a priestly company is ap- proaching through the solemn pine-shade. The floral wreaths are thoughtfully harmonized with the varying subjects, and are made ex- pressive of the poem's wealth of natural imagery ; one blooming in fragrant life and beauty, the other rank with foul growths and festering decay, "Prickly, and pulpous, and blistering, and blue, Livid, and starred with a lurid dew."

These flowers and weeds, with their birds and insects, are painted with a most elaborate care and delicacy, and they have a peculiar appropriate- ness in connexion with the poem ; but it must be confessed that they kill the picture, although that also exhibits the artist's diligence in no infe- rior degree. There is a warm grace in the lady's figure, and a tone of awe in the death scene—with a certain tinge, however, of German attitu- dinizing in both. The boy's face likewise might be less vacant without impairing the sentiment intended ; and we think there is too much effect of reflected colour for open out-door scenes, especially in the lady of the first compartment,--an extreme into which the conscientiousness of young artists who determine to render everything they see is very liable to be- ' tray them. In fine, MIES Howitt's "Margaret at the Fountain," of last year, showed her studious culture of a native artistic impulse more va- luably, but not more decisively. Mr. W. B. Scott exhibits the two best- executed works, and two in all regards of the very best which we have seen from his hand. There is a kind of affinity between them, as each represents the generic life of a place and a period ; and in both one can discern that an intellectual man capable of seeing the spirit and the ab- stract of scattered facts is at work. "The Country Market-town—Hex- ham, Northumberland," is portrayed with a genuine sense of that which is quaint and picturesque—not manufactured picturesque—in an old town of the sort. The comely girl reclining and knitting in the window- seat, the pigeons pecking in through the casement at a bunch of cherries, and the active bustling business going on in the market-place below- sheep-driving, farmers on their nags, and girls meeting round the well— combine very aptly and happily. The detail is all individual and in keeping. Yet more successful as a picture is "Albert Durer in Nurem- berg—the Schloss and Thiergartner Gate of Nuremberg, from the wooden gallery at the end of Albert Durer's house" ; where knights and burghers of the brave old German city are passing in the street, and mountebanks attracting women and idlers, under the ken of the great painter himself. The latter is, unluckily, the least satisfactory part of the work ; the rest is managed with capital effect and character' as well as unsparing pains. The fresco of Adam and Eve on the wall of Durer's house, if in- tended for the painter's composition, fails to indicate his manner; nor do we see by what right the cracks of age upon it have been copied. However, Mr. Scott enjoys, understands, and has expressed his subject A third example of the artist is "An Early Day in Spring—the Crows beginning to build" ; faithful in its feeling and the pale sunshine, but somewhat faint and wanting in solidity, on close inspection.

A few other subject-pictures must stand over, together with the land- scapes, till next week.