Our Living Painters; their Lives and Works: a Series of nearly a Hundred Brief Notices of Contemporary Artists of the English School. (J. Blackwood.)
'Our Living Painters' appears to be chiefly founded on the lives of contemporary artists that appeared in 'Men of the Time,' that useful but partial, imperfect and unequal compilation. The last decanterer of biographical facts has done nothing to improve or correct the mistakes of his predecessors. He shows, however, on the other hand, little partizanship, and scarecely stops to point out the faults or deficiencies of even the most flagrant Art offenders. He is a follower, and not a leader; therefore, he puts in no young man. The future R.A.s are ignored as completely as if the present R.A.s would live and enjoy their har-won honours for ever. The author is too timid and time-serving to predict, however certain of fulfilment might be the prophecy. . . .
Th writer dates the useful heresy of Pre-Raphaelitism from 1849, when the 'Isabella' of Millais, the 'Rienzi' of Holman Hunt, and the 'Girlhood of the Virgin' by Rossetti, were exhibited. He says of Mr. Holman Hunt's 'Claudio,' a beautiful but affected picture, and verging, as serious men's works are apt to do, on the ludicrous:--
"His back is towards the prison window, and out in the summer light there are flowers and life. His guitar, with its scarlet ribbon, hangs in the sunshine. The face is turned towards you--and such a face! He is young, and loves the world: the mouth is a mouth for love, and that brow a brow for pleasure garlands; and that whole face tells us of weakness and of self-love. He is blind to those sweet, stern eyes that gaze into his very soul and see the craven fear that cowers there. To him death is the fearful thing--to her it is the shamed life that alone has terror. How, in his bewildered fearfulness, he fingers the chain that fetters him to the wall. To loosen that! If he could but loosen that at any price--any how to get away from that! The colour is glorious; so fine that the poor frames that neighbour it seem to enclose mud by comparison."
The antiquarianism, too, in this poetical picture, drawn from a painful and jarring play, was not thoroughly assimilated, and there was just a suspicion of the fancy ball, the station-house, and a broken shin, about the whole thing.
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