"Cambria and Cottonopolis." Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine 82.505 (Nov. 1857): 599. Excerpt.

The pleasant party which made even the wet days pass cheerily at Bryn Cefn has never met again. One young artist of much promise will never return there, for he died last year in France of a sudden attack of fever, true to the last to that romantic medieval faith which he looked upon, at all events, as essential to the artistic character. Cuthbert Chase only remains, hurting his eyes with microscopic studies from nature and breaking his heart with the hopelessness of imitating her to the life. I respect from the bottom of my heart his courage and perseverance; but nature is too much for man with her infinite varieties of form and colour, and myriads of microcosms in a nutshell. Those old masters, sly fellows! took her yoke upon them very jauntily, and did much as they pleased while pretending to perform her service. They did not observe much for themselves, but followed some still older master, giving up their pictorial conscience to his keeping, as Lord Palmerston is said to make Lord Shaftesbury his conscience-keeper in the appointment of bishops. Hence the followers of Claude became more Claudian, those of Salvator more Salvatorian, and those of Poussin more Poussinesque. English ideas of art invested them with infallibility. . . . It is hard to say what the school to which these gentlemen belong can be called in landscape-painting. Pre-Raphaelitism will not do; for the original pre-Raphaelites never attempted to paint a landscape except in subordination to figures, and then neglected all rules of drawing, if not advisedly, at least with unconscious contempt for the subject. But this school, which we may call, for want of a better name, the Naturalistic, applies to landscape the same principles that the pre-Raphaelite brethren apply to figures. As far as I can understand it, they claim the credit of improvement, not so much in method of handling as in manner of work. Instead of mixing colours, they put in pure colour in points, with the object of producing at the right focus of sight some homogeneous colour of brighter aspect than could be produced in any other way. They stipple and cross-hatch instead of washing, glazing, scumbling, &c. And every impartial person must allow that this method produces unwonted brilliancy of effect, albeit at the price of an enormous amount of labour. But the strong point of the school is, that they know no master besides Nature, not even Turner. They appeal to a stone in a wall or a boulder in a brook, show how it presents a hundred tints in the space of a square inch, and triumphantly ask how it is possible to suppose that such stone or boulder can be represented by a hasty blot, except as a subordinate part of a composition, in which it should appear in a painting of the same degree of indistinctness that it presents in nature to the eye

which is looking at something else. In their view, Art should have no existence except that of a mirror of nature. It should have no trick of trade, no system of ciphers or symbols, to be understood only by the initiated. Yet imagination is not excluded from the picture. The study should present nature as seen in her naked beauty by the unbiassed eye-the picture, nature draped and leaving room for the display of taste and skill in the graceful arrangement of her folded robes. Truth at any price and at any pains is the war-cry. Cuthbert Chase will march off with his heavy materials five miles from home, and sit down in a cold wild glen, to bring back one faithful line.


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Copyright © 1999 Thomas J. Tobin.

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