« PreviousContinue »
himself, and now and then we come upon a sentence that strikes a clean, clear note: "All those works of art that we dwell upon with ever renewed pleasure attract us by the delicacy, the tenderness, or the force of those emotions which the artist imaginatively felt when he was producing them; and it is one of the most wonderful yet undeniable powers of painting, and of all the graphic arts, that the emotions of the artist are communicated to all spectators who have naturally a sensitiveness like his own." And again: "The progress of a landscape painter appears to be through a kind of materialism to a visionary idealism by which he attains in its full perfection the artistic estimate of things. Materialism appears to be necessary as a stage, but only as a stage."
A vigorous statement like this does much to make one forget the unfortunate methods so evident in the bulk of the volume, and what is left of unpleasant impressions almost disappears for the moment, as we close the book on this last sentence, which has in it a truth that applies to more varieties of art than Mr. Hamerton allows : "There may be a color-music without meaning, invented by the imagination, exactly as there is a sound-music without meaning, or, at least, of which the meaning could not possibly be expressed in any other language than its own. Therefore, when we come to this kind of imagination, in which substance is either banished altogether or reduced to a minimum, whilst the delicacies of color are retained, the only intelligent way of considering it is to think of it as an art existing on its own basis, which is almost, though not quite, independent of nature."
It is always agreeable to pass from the study of the theory of art to its practice at the hands of a great master, and
1 Antonio Allegri da Correggio. His Life, his Friends, and his Time. By CORRADO RICCI, Director of the Royal Gallery, Parma. From the Italian by FLORENCE SIMMONDS.
the season brings us a distinct contribu
this literature. Correggio has had many biographers and more interpreters, but among them all, from Tiraboschi to Morelli, there is not one whose services to English readers have been what those of Dr. Ricci promise to be in his new book on the painter. He starts with the assumption that has governed all his predecessors, that Correggio belongs among the major artistic figures of his time; and this takes for granted much the same attitude of enthusiasm which has been demanded with strenuous persistence by the greater number of critics rhapsodizing over the epicurean qualities in the master's art. But Dr. Ricci protests in his preface that he has “endeavored to avoid the pitfalls of fetichism," and he adds that "if the more fanatical worshipers of Correggio find us lacking in enthusiasm, and his detractors blame us for our leniency, we must content ourselves with the knowledge of having sought the golden mean." With some trifling reservations, we may say that Dr. Ricci has found it. And the matter is one of no small significance when the character of Correggio is considered. More than most artists of the. Renaissance he needs to be weighed with severe impartiality. He belongs to the line of lyric painters which began with Botticelli in the pure dawn of Italian art; gave Antonio Allegri to the town of Correggio and the school of Ferrara some years later, through a seemingly unrelated phase of development; and then, providing Venice with a representative in Giorgione, took a great leap across the decadence of the peninsula to reappear in the persons of Watteau and Lancret in France. Every one of the men we have named has suffered at the hands of his friends, because the lyrical inspiration in his work has wakened po
With 37 full-page plates and 190 text illustrations. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. 1896.
etic thoughts in their minds and incited. them to rhetorical deliverances. Correggio offers an engaging theme for panegyric and fantastic surmise, since he cultivated an art all daintiness and fragile charm in the midst of a movement which was hastening on to the brilliant but specious triumphs of materialistic feel ing. Dr. Ricci makes a dispassionate biographer, and gives us the material for a clear and consistent appraisal of his
The sub-title to this volume indicates the good judgment and sympathy with which our author has extended his scope. He aims to reconstruct the environment of Correggio, and thus to show more eloquently the sources and development of the latter's art. If he fails to accomplish his purpose altogether, it is because he lacks imagination. The picture he draws of the Emilian society in which the painter was brought up is more erudite than flexible and dramatic. To identify Correggio with a living epoch, to show his close connection with the fastidious civilization in which the lords of Correggio, the princes of Mantua and Parma, stand conspicuous and potent, it is necessary to handle the history of those men and cities with warmth of feeling and animation of style. Yet Dr. Ricci might justly claim that his scholarship has done all that may be expected of scholarship; and if we regret his paucity of imagination, we may also remember with comfort that the quality has run away with most of his forerunners. None of those forerunners has thrown so much light as Dr. Ricci throws, for all his dryness, on the surroundings of Correggio. He destroys the old conception of the painter, as a man detached by circumstance and taste from the social expansion of his time, and restores him to the circle of wealthy and cultured contemporaries with whose encouragement alone could the refinement of his nature and the distinction of his art have been nurtured and made strong. This VOL. LXXVII. NO. 462.
volume presents a man of reserved and quiet temperament, whose placidity has often been mistaken for the resignation of an obscure and even neglected worker, but of whom his fellow-townsmen had a genuine appreciation, and in whom the rich nobles of the day found one of their most precious aids. Let the reader who remembers Correggio as something of a rustic, or a struggler, or a disappointment to himself and his friends, read in Dr. Ricci's book of the way in which Veronica Gambara wrote of him when corresponding with Isabella d'Este at Mantua. "Our Antonio," she calls him, and Dr. Ricci has no difficulty in showing that the affectionate phrase sprang from Correggio's intimate acquaintance with the little court of his city, and with many of its patrician ramifications beyond the walls. When he went to Mantua, early in his career, it was under the protection of the princes of Correggio; and later on, his labors for the Abbess Giovanna Piacenza in the convent of San Paolo at Parma, and for the authorities of the Duomo and of the church of San Giovanni Evangelista in the same city, were all undertaken with the encouragement of Cavaliere Scipione, Donna Giovanna's high-born kins
We should be glad if it were possible to transfer to these pages some of Dr. Ricci's interesting details, assembled in his endeavor to revive the atmosphere of his painter as a participant in Renaissance life. But we must pass from the indication of what this biographer has done to clarify understanding of Correggio the man to what he has to offer in elucidation of Correggio the artist. Here he is in the main moderate and sagacious. There is only one point in his analysis which provokes emphatic dissent. He gives a discreet account of the two great domes in Parma, preserving his critical equilibrium in the presence of their sublimity and their impassioned brilliancy of design. His closing
garlanded decoration of the Camera di San Paolo to an acquaintance with the Camera degli Sposi and the well-known Madonna della Vittoria in the Louvre, seem to us to be of superficial character, and to have been held in common by the masters of the Renaissance. They have little weight, they are of no permanent significance, when placed in the balance with the essentials of Correggio's art, his lyrical strain, his imaginative vivacity, his elegance, his suavity of style, his nobility, his passion for a tender, vaporous, and above all things poetic scheme of form and color. He is in every one of these qualities— qualities which determine the final value of his genius-a positive antithesis to the intellectual and somewhat northern and astringent Mantegna, a man of peculiar rigidity in the most distinctive phases of
estimate of the stupendous fresco in the cathedral at Parma is a perfect illustration of the manner in which Correggio should be considered. It reveals understanding and sobriety, sympathy and justice, enthusiasm and good sound sense. Dr. Ricci recognizes that, extraordinary as the cathedral dome may be, the work exceeds the boundaries of mural decoration, and becomes defective in its organic relations. He is a felicitous critic, too, of the beautiful ceiling in the convent of San Paolo. But something he says with reference to this work brings up a familiar and troublesome quantity in the literature of Correggio. He repeats with approval Meyer's observation that "the winged genii who hold up the inscription in the Camera degli Sposi" (Mantegna's famous room in Mantua) "are the true precursors of Correggio's putti; " that is, the putti of the Camera di San Paolo. Dr. Ricci reminds us in a footnote that Eastlake, Burton, Paul Mantz, and others have made the same point in discussing the Mantuan and Parmesan decorations. This does not in the least fortify the hypothesis of a Mantegnesque influence which Dr. Ricci insists upon, presenting various kinds of evidence to prove his argument.
No critic who has written upon Correggio fails to have something to say about the latter's indebtedness to Mantegna, and Dr. Ricci follows the rest. He wants to extend the sphere of Mantegna's influence upon Correggio; and though he wisely rejects the old notion that the two were ever in the relation of master and pupil, he tries to make out a case for his painter's having come in contact with works by the earlier master, and for his having been seriously affected through the experience. Some slight influence we may grant. In his earlier works Correggio occasionally repeated some of the motives of Mantegna. But the elements on which Dr. Ricci would prolong this situation into Correggio's maturer years, referring the
Give due force to the individuality of Correggio, and the whole hypothesis of a Mantegnesque influence fades away from the bold assertions of his critics into a brief and unimportant passage in the interpretation of his art. Dr. Ricci keeps it in the foreground. It has been there too long, and we regret that the present volume is likely to perpetuate a false impression. In all other details Dr. Ricci commands the respect, the admiration, and the gratitude of students. He gives them, on the whole, the most tangible and reasonable image of Correggio that exists among books on Italian art. Thanks to the generosity of the publishers, who have gathered together in excellent plates a veritable museum of the master's paintings and studies, it will be possible for the reader to base upon this work a just and serviceable conception of the painter.
In the long history of art criticism there is perhaps no name which arouses a more genuine or more loving admiration than that of Mrs. Anna Jameson. Her work has that peculiar sympathetic quality which appeals at once to the popular imagination. However learned she may
be, she is never dry; however poetic, she is never beyond the average comprehension; and withal she knows so well just what to say and how to say it that she has won a lasting place in the hearts of the people.
The scope of her work in its original plan was of great magnitude and importance. Her purpose was to furnish an interpretative guide to the entire field of religious art (painting and sculpture), not only covering the several centuries of the "old masters," but coming down to her own times, and ranging over the art of Italy, Germany, France, Belgium, and Spain. The subjects treated were to include the complete cycle of Scripture themes, both Old and New Testaments, and also those legends which grew into greatest prominence in the mediæval Church, and which constituted so large an element in ecclesiastical and monastic art. This magnificent scheme the writer did not live to carry to full execution, but the portion which she completed is a splendid monument to her industry and enthusiasm. This consists of two volumes on the saints and martyrs, known under the general title of Sacred and Legendary Art, one on the Legends of the Monastic Orders, and one on the Legends of the Madonna. Taken with her previous work on the Early Italian Painters, there are in all five volumes as the result of her art studies.1
Mrs. Jameson's own estimate of her ability was a very just one, and the great task to which she set herself was one for which she was admirably adapted. She was unusually gifted with powers of description; she could tell a story delightfully, had a keen sense of beauty and a great reverence for sacred things. As a critic, her point of view is purely literary; her chief aim is to explain the incident which forms the art subject. To her the first question to ask in the presence of a masterpiece was, What is it all about? A 1 The Writings on Art of Anna Jameson. Edited by ESTELLE M. HURLL. In five volumes.
picture, like a book, has a story to tell, and the story itself was, in her opinion, a more important matter than the authorship or the technical skill employed in its narration. For discussions of technique, indeed, she had but little taste. At the time of her writing, though no strictly scientific work had been done in this field, there was a growing interest in such subjects which prepared the way for later writers. The new movement, far from enlisting her sympathy, only made her more zealous in her chosen task, determined that an intelligent understanding of the significance of the great masterpieces should keep pace with the increasing knowledge of their artistic qualities. Perhaps who can tell?—she looked forward to the day of a still more profound mode of criticism, to which her own should lead up, a criticism of the philosophic principles which are the fundamental motif of art. Be that as it may, her work lies just between the purely scientific method on the one side and the purely philosophical on the other, and forms a connecting link between the two. So far as her resources permitted she availed herself of the results of her contemporary technical critics, and, on the other hand, so far as in her lay she revealed occasional glimpses of the higher criticism towards which her own tended. But in the main she held consistently to the middle course, and in this department her work is such as we can never afford to dispense with. We must keep our Crowe and Cavalcaselle and our Morelli as books to be used for occasional reference; Symonds and Pater take a higher place of honor as treasures for rare hours of quiet reflection; Mrs. Jameson must stand between them, always at hand, the writer dearer than all others for constant and familiar companionship.
The new edition before us merits attention for the exceeding care which the Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin & Co. 1895.
editor plainly has taken in bringing Mrs. Jameson's work to the test of the special criticism expended since her time on the origin of the several pictures discussed by her, and of the latest authorities respecting their present position. Mrs. Jameson was not careless, but the critical apparatus in her day was meagre compared with what is now at our service, and no one would have thanked Miss Hurll more warmly for the laborious task she has performed with such scrupulous fidelity than Mrs. Jameson herself. The scheme of illustration is fresh and sensible.
From biography and critical study we pass to the interesting reproductions of great art which we have learned to look for at the hand of Mr. Cole. Criticism of his new book hesitates between spending itself upon the charm of the Dutch and Flemish masters and following the more technical considerations provoked by the engraver's art. Many students of the volume will thank him for just the glow and friendly human feeling of Dutch painting. These things exist in Mr. Cole's blocks with astonishing vitality. Confined to an apparently inflexible chord of black and gray tones, he yet achieves the golden beauty of his originals. With this alone we might be content. But the believer in American wood-engraving must recognize in this volume, first of all, a remarkable illustration of the range and power of his favorite form of reproductive art. Analysis of the illustrations pauses delighted over the revelation they provide of what a spacious field one American graver, at least, can cover. Mr. Cole turns from the subtlety of the Italian masters to the direct, substantial conventions of the Low Countries. His hand accommodates itself to the change without yielding up a fibre of its skill, and, after having more than pleased his public with exquisitely intuitive interpretations of the 1 Old Dutch and Flemish Masters. Engraved by TIMOTHY COLE. With Critical Notes by
most spiritualized paintings in the world, he runs, with equal authority, equal persuasiveness, up and down the whole gamut of Dutch and Flemish art, - an art humanized beyond the measure of any other in the very strictest sense of the term. Dutch painting is painting permeated by what might be called the finer instincts of the flesh. Flemish art is in the same case. The pathos of Rembrandt, the polish of Van Dyck, does not lift either master into the region of purely imaginative and idealistic things. Both men stand upon the solid earth, and both express themselves through quite ponderable elements of art. The technique of an Italian, like the elder Lippi, for example, like Fra Angelico, or like Benozzo Gozzoli, is intertwined, despite its often naïve precision and transparency, with refinements of feeling, of mind and spirit, which make it tremulous with beauty. The Dutch or Flemish technique is traceable through no such labyrinthine conditions. It is direct, vigorous, simple, and for the engraver even more than for the dilettante of artistic emotions its secrets lie upon the surface.
Mr. Cole is familiar with both kinds of technique, and reproduces both with a hand so searching and so sure that his equivalent on so small a scale has a force immeasurably wider than the limits of his block. Texture, relief, movement, the three great results which were secured over and above the sensuous charm of color by the impetuous and authoritative brushes of the great Dutch and Flemish masters, Mr. Cole transfers to his pages through the manipulation of his instrument. Something of the solidity and elasticity of creative art is carried into his engravings. In the open brush-work of The Jolly Man, by Frans Hals, as Mr. Cole gives it after the original at Amsterdam, there is the variety of color, there is the mobility of surface, which JOHN C. VAN DYKE, and Comments by the Engraver. New York: The Century Co. 1895.