"Fine Arts: Royal Academy." Athenaeum 1592 (1 May 1858): 565-567. Excerpt.

Mr. Wallis is not very successful this year-much as we are sure there is in, and much as people expect from the painter of the 'Dead Chatterton,'--that most intensely London scene, that last act of a thousand Grub Street tragedies. His Dead Stonebreaker (562) may be a protest against the Poor-law, but still it is somewhat repulsive and unaccounted for. In a purple, mouldy, rather opaque twilight, on a heap of angular granite stones, in the vicinity of trees and brambles, dim and dark, against a thickened sky, lies a dead pauper stonebreaker-smock, cords, highlows, complete. His face, wan and sunken, is drooped against the bank,--they will wait long at home for him. His switchy hammer has dropped from his hand; a long, thin, wiry stoat has already, so quiet is he, so harmless and uncomplaining, mounted on his foot, scenting death, and curious about who and what he is, whether dangerous or food. This may be a protest against the Poor-law--against a social system that makes the workhouse or stonebreaking the the end of the model peasant; but it may also be a mere attempt to excite and to startle by the poetically horrible. If one dead man pleases, paint another, may be the argument,-the logic should be, if I make on triumph by a dead man, paint no more. There is the Morgue, there are dead-houses in Bedlam, there is the thief just down from the gallows, there is the suicide-painter,but, who but an undertaker would pelt us with skulls? As for Henry Martin in Chepstow Castle (462), we see nothing but a portrait. Martin was an unestimable man as Cromwell denounced; he lived, local tradition says, in not uncomfortable retirement, and died, we believe, of apoplexy. He was a Republican in theory and a Cavalier in action.--Sir W. Raleigh in the Tower (369), though only an historical anecdote, is more interesting, though we hardly knew him again in fur and gown, looking so old and seedy and musty, seated at a table with stock books and other philosophic implements. We rejoice in the thoughtless boy in slashed purple satin (fine contrast to his father's tawny bilious yellow), lounging on a chair and blowing bubbles,--glittering many-coloured evanescences, types of life. There is a sober thoughtfulness about this as there is about all Mr. Wallis does, and unaffected vigorous intensity: but this year he is unlucky in subjects.


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Copyright © 2000 Thomas J. Tobin.

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