"Fine Arts: Royal Academy." Athenaeum 1646 (14 May 1859): 651-652. Excerpt.

Mr. Dyce's Good Shepherd (174) is not equal to his later works. There is the usual purity and severity of style, good drawing and austere religious manner, but our Saviour's face is rather harsh than loving, and the colour is dull, and in parts heavy. The sheeps' wool looks sooty, as if they were sheep of the neighbourhood of London, where wool is apt to get black, and nopt preserve its ordinary dull brown yellow. It is most unfortunate in a religious picture, meant to show the "God of love," that there should be a look of slight ill-temper and vexation about the face. . . .

After conventionalism, however experienced and clever, it is refreshing to get to that singular work of a rather crotchetty genius,--Mr. Brett's Val d'Aosta (908). It is literally the first large historical landscape painted on P.R.B. principles; hitherto we have had beech-trees, walls, and palings, but no famous or world-known spot with due expansions of size and distance. Here it is--spindley, white-leafed poplars, slants of vines and plough-land, little golden patches of corn and green strips of grass, chestnut-trees, and goats and herd-girl, backed up by great mountains with snow and splintered pinnacles, and above even this scurries of fretful mists,--all somewhat hard, and restricted, and toy-like in style, yet deliciously bright and sunny, and true to the Piedmontese side of the Alps on a July noon. It is given us in an affidavit view that no mere copying or toil, though for centuries, without the poetical sense and the lynx-eye could have conveyed to you. There may be velvet moss, and veined chestnut-leaves, and terraced ground, and peaceful hut, and alder-trees, and woods, and white villages, and much repetition of delight and truth,--but Mr. Brett will soon learn to long for much which he still wants. There must be larger and more comprehensive thought--equal patience, but less sense of labour. Perhaps, if, disregarding a momentary truth for a more universal and superior truth, Mr. Brett had given us a calm, unbroken sky, the picture would have been more peaceful, homogeneous, and the idea of unity would have been impressed upon us more artistically.

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Copyright © 2000 Thomas J. Tobin.

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