6 JUNE 1840, Page 18



WE return to the consideration of this grand picture with a renewed impression of the imaginative power and executive skill of the painter : a second and more attentive examination of its extraordinary merits confirmed the high opinion we had formed of it from n first and hasty glance. Like all fine works, it grows upon the mind it not only strikes the beholder at first sight, but holds him spell-bound with admiration, while his ideas expand to the full magnitude of the conception. We hold this to be the test of true greatness; and proud are we to know that an English artist has achieved a work characterized by such ele- vated and enduring qualities. Mr. DANDY has signalized his return to his native mutt: by a chef-doeurre the unfavourable eircunt•

stances under which it was produced increase our estimation of his powers ; which, though long held in abeyance by untoward circum- stances, have vindicated their claims to recognition of the most distin- guished kind. Not to fail in depicting such a subject as the Deluge, is a great mea- sure of success; and this picture is many degrees above the negative point : it conveys the idea of a sudden, vast, and overwhelming cala- mity, involving the extinction of a race. It represents a great episode in the universal destruction of mankind : painting can only deal with such a stupendous subject episodically. The supernatural visitation is depicted by means of natural objects ; hence the strong human interest : you are not called upon to believe what is not credible on the ground of possibility, all the phmnomena arc accounted for ; they have analogy with actual occurrences the elements of nature are visible, but in pre- ternatural combination. here are no "three-piled hyperboles" of pic- torial exaggeration —no impossible perspective of landscape, with mountains piled like Pelion on Ossa, and waves a mile long, floating a shoal of human corpses : we sec a great city drowned, and terror- stricken inhabitants flying to the nearest height for safety from the flood that descends in water-spouts from the clouds, and bursts upwards from " the fountains of the great deep." The sun setting denotes that the course of nature is not wholly changed, though its rays arc quenched by the baleful light of the luminary which is the instrument of the Divine wrath. The livid brilliancy that the messenger et' destruction

sheds over the scene has an unwholesome glare that seems inimical to life, but all else is natural : the \ veltering floods that break in foam against the rocks, and rush " in steep-down gulfs" into the vallies, tear- ing up trees by the roots and snapping them in two by the stress of its whirling eddies, are actual water, with waves as fluent and spray as evanescent as ever Ittivsomm or STANFIELD painted. The crag that rears its jagged peaks above the surge, seeming as if toppling- under its freight of human agony, is of Nature's own workmanship ; and the throng of mortals that crest its accessible heights are beings of flesh and blood. In a word, it is an epic picture, intelligible in all its parts, and impressive as a whole ; not a vague, hreamy phantom, having no autetype but in the strained and morbid fancy of the painter. In one respect, we think Mr. DANav has erred, to the detriment of the effect of his picture ; nod that is in bringing the details of human misery too near the eye : either he should have let the universal afflic tion be inferred from one or two examples of the utter destruction of mankind, as NICOLO POUSSIN has done, or he should have been content with a purely scenic representation of the desolation of the earth. In this view of the subject, we consider the figures in the foreground, so to speak, rather detract from the aggregate amount of misery and horror, than add to it. Ills object has evidently been to bring the terrors of the scene more close hom,,, by depicting individual agony and death ; but this kind of suffering affects the feelings rather-than the ima- gination, and it is to the higher faculty that his picture appeals. The attempt to combine two distinct sources of power in producing one im- pression, or to excite two sets of emotions at once, never succeeds : the mind can only be swayed irresistibly by one pervading idea. In look- ing at this picture, we find two antagonist forces at work—sympathy for a few struggling beings that are buffeting with the waves or cling- ing in desperation to the uptorn trees, and awe at the appalling spec- tacle of a world destroyed : one of these two sensations prevails—we need in .t say which, but the claim of the other disturbs the contempla- tion and distracts the attention. Nay more, the representation of that frightful aspect of human nature, where the instinct of self-preservation prevails to the extinction of all more noble and generous impulses, is revolting; and to see a strong man pushing oft' the tree that she clings to, a mother with her infant—to witness the victory of vigorous manhood over enfeebled age and helpless infancy, in the strife for a momentary existence—is shocking. The greater includes the less: we may ima- gine, nay behold even, the fearful struggles for life in the group on the rock ; and see the giant exerting his superhuman strength to maintain his position, and precipitating his weaker fellows into the watery abyss by his efforts : but this is only one ingredient of a mass of misery, where other passions are at work, the strong law of our nature being uppermost. We would not have had one figure so near the eyes as to discern its lineaments : it would require the power of a MunrAim ANom.o or IlArrAELLE to depict in the human face an expression of hor- ror commensurate with so tremendous a visitation. Mr. DAxuv, though he draws the form well enough for a distant view, is inadequate to any thing more ; consequently, the figures which should be most expres- sive are least so : had it been otherwise, however, our argument would have been equally valid. The mothers holding by the branches of the tree, look inure calm than if they had tumbled into a brook and were pulling themselves out ; and the two females swimming seem en- joying a sea-bath. The lion and serpents appear to us exaggerative impertinences ; and the incident of the angel mourning over the dead object of his love, though admissible, is out of place and unimpressive ; while the drowned giant is simply unnatural. The splintered stems are rather ostentatiously thrust on the attention : their twisted branches are not necessary to convey an idea of the fury of the vortex in which they are whirled ; the resisting force is too slight, indeed, to do this : moreover, no tree could retain its hold on the ground against such a pressure. The raging waters, with here and there a floating carcase of man or beast dimly seen beneath the whelming tide, would have been the fittest " foreground" for a scene of universal devastation. While we are snaking objections, we might be critical on the character of the structures that are seen peering above the watery desert,—domes, spires, aqueducts, and above all, a colossal statue, much too modern for an antediluvian city, such as we may suppose Enoch to have built. These obvious defects, however, do not entirely destroy, though they materially injure the imaginative effect of the picture : they prevent it from reaching the sublime height which it would have attained had the painter relied on a broad general impression, produced mainly by elemental appearances, and the effect of mortal terror and dismay on masses of men and animals. This opinion may be tested by screening the near groups from the eye and viewing the picture in its ensemble from the back of the room : its grand features then core out powerfully, and affect the mind with a sense of some inconceivably calamitous visi- tation. The isolation and hopeless extremity of the wretched crowds OR the rock, and the vain efforts of the flying figures climbing up its

base, have then a tragic influence in demonstrating the horror that appals the souls of all mankind; while the ark floating tranquilly in the distance seems the cradle of the future animated creation.

The large dimensions of this picture were likely to militate aganst its sale ; but we are glad to hear that it has been purchased by a gentle- man of taste and fortune in Wales, for a thousand guineas. Meanwhile, it will remain for a time at the place of exhibition in Piccadilly ; where it is visited by numbers.