[L., L.] "The Two Pre-Raphaelitisms: Article Fifth." Crayon 4 (Nov. 1857), 325-329.

full text

Having thus completed our task as far as relates to the works of the active members of the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood, properly so called, we shall now proceed to give a brief account of several other artists who have, more or less, been companions or followers of the original brethren in their efforts to create a school, based upon life and Nature, out of the then existing conditions of English Art.

It could not be imagined that a movement of such a nature, and so strenuously carried out as it was, could occur without finding some sympathizers who would, to a certain extent, unite themselves to it, in order to share in the effort:--vast as were the obliquy [sic] and ridicule which broke out against the original movers, there were several men who did this, some in a lesser, and some in a greater degree, but who all, according to the position they took, shared in the difficulty, and now, as is right, share in the credit which success has brought. The first of these whom we shall mention is Ford Maddox Brown, an artist of standing and repute before the commencement of the Pre-Raphaelite movement, whom it would be incorrect (though not on those grounds alone) to designate as a companion, still less as a follower of it–he may more justly be called a precursor of the school, to the extent in which his works adhere to the principles heretofore laid down as those upon which Pre-Raphaelitism is based. Ford M. Brown is an artist of the most solid and accomplished order; indeed, there are few in England, and those only such painters as Holman Hunt, who can be at all brought into comparison with him in these respects. In scientific knowledge of Art he stands almost without a rival; being a most skillful designer, a learned draughtsman, and an accomplished colorist of the most real and solid order; he unites these qualities with a singularly deep perception of actual human expression and nature, and altogether these are carried to such a degree that no one can look upon his work without instantly recognizing it as being from the hand of an artist of the highest grade.

As want of space will hinder us from describing at large all the works of any of the artists to whom we propose to refer in the present paper, we shall keep within the rule of only mentioning the titles of the chief of each man’s pictures, and confine our descriptions to a single one by each painter, in order to give some idea of the peculiar qualities of the work of each individual. Before doing so let it be distinctly understood that it is not from any idea of the comparative merit of these artists in relation to those of whom we have spoken in previous papers, but simply, as we have said, from the want of space.

The question of comparative merit would least of all apply to Ford M. Brown, in any sense which would imply that he is inferior to any of the members of the brotherhood, properly so called. His chief works have been "Mary Queen of Sots just before her Execution," "The Death of King Lear," "Wickliffe Reading his Translation of the Bible to John of Gaunt," "Chaucer Reading to Edward the Black Prince," "Christ Washing Peter’s Feet;" a large and beautiful landscape from a locality near London; several smaller pictures and landscapes; and lastly, a noble work, entitled "The Emigrant;" which latter we quote as an example of his productions. This is a circular picture, of about four feet in diameter. The emigrant ship El Dorado is standing down channel, running free before a stiff nor’ easter, topsails set, and herself careening over to leeward, so that from those now distant cliffs the watchers of her course might see her copper as the clear and frosty daylight makes its flash above every wave: but our business is not with them, but with these two whom we see here seated against the taffrail; doubtless they left well-wishers and sick hearts enough behind them, but hearts which shall turn again to home, only missing those who sit before us, who themselves part from home, and friends, and country at one plunge. A man and his wife, clearly a gentleman and a lady, and that not of the drawing-room order:--he robust and hale, though trouble-scarred and somewhat worn, a strong bitterness in his face, which regret, and the remembrance of old affections and of home, are fast breaking down into their own kinder level; you see on his visage at once that a long battle has been waged by him at home before he grew desperate, and cast off the chains of habit and love of country, in order to commence anew upon the wider fields of the south. It is good to see how the wisdom of the painter has made the lady’s face so to resemble his, as though the love of each for the other had moulded both into something like the same forms; albeit the regret is stronger with her than the bitterness, yet so much sorrow is upon them both that either may say (when the next dash of the sea comes on board)–wiping a cheek–"It is only the spray," and gasp down the stern indignation which has melted into grief. He has a rough brown coat on, closely buttoned, with the collar against his face; and a brown wide-awake upon his head; one ungloved hand is thrust into his breast, the bare flesh thereof peeps through a gaping button-hole of the coat; he holds an umbrella over his wife as a defence against the wind and spray, and clasps her hand in his own with the energy of strong though subdued emotion; the knuckles, where the skin is drawn tensely over them, show white against the purple red into which the cold has brought the rest of the hand. Her thick shawl is drawn close around her, and between the folds, where they come open below, we see the little feet of an infant in worsted socks of white and scarlet. In spite of anger and the blanching cold, his face is handsome and manly; his age not more than thirty, perhaps not so much, but "trouble on trouble, pain on pain," have marked it harshly, and worn it somewhat thin. Her face is firm and full, thoroughly English in the bolder type, maternally and beautifully noble, full of trust, and loving with the clear force of singleness of heart; the strong wind has loosed part of a broad braid of her brown hair, which, unnoticed, blows athwart her forehead; the whole face is rosy with the chill, and there are traces of recent tears about the eyes. Behind these two are other figures, seen between the husband and wife, emigrants of a different and coarser class; two half-intoxicated, a low Irishman and a vile Englishman; a drunken quarrel going on; some children who are very various in character; a ship’s-boy in the quarter boat, hanging from the davits, who is engaged in arranging some vegetables for early use. Over the heads of the figures you see the long sea-line, and other vessels bending over to the breeze, and a steamer making way for port. The execution of the picture which we have here attempted to describe, was of the most masterly order, not in the usual sense of the phrase, which is generally a kind of ostentation, as if the painter cried out for our admiration, by seeming to do much with little effort; but the work is really moderate and temperate from conscious power; the finish perfect, and the color more than fine, but wise. The last word will apply to the whole picture in every part; the choice of subject, so fitting to this time; the design, so interesting and just in its carrying out; the expressions, so feeling and deep; the color, which is just and true, and withal most beautiful in arrangement; the drawing, skillful in the highest degree;--in short, although it may seem an extravagant thing to write, yet of all the pictures we have ever seen, we may pronounce this to be the only one in which our scrutiny could not detect a fault. To say this is no hyperbole.

The same artist’s little picture of "Lear," was a most valuable gem; his "Christ Washing Peter’s Feet," contained some of the finest flesh-painting we have ever seen on the scale of life: this latter picture obtained the prize of 60 as the best picture sent to the exhibition at Liverpool last year–a similar honor to that which Millais, in two cases, and Hunt, in three, in all have obtained at either Birmingham, Manchester, or Liverpool.

Walter Howell Deverell, son of the late secretary of the government School of Design, died two years since at the age of twenty-six;--a few words of affectionate tribute to his memory will not be out of place in an article relating to the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood. A gentleman, whose real genius and refined talent were united with the utmost kindliness of heart and a debonair humor, to produce a character frank and gay as a child, was Walter Howell Deverell. He was followed to the grave by many friends to whom these qualities had endeared him, and who now preserve his memory as that of the first of their band from whom they are parted in this world. The subjects of his pictures were frequently from Shakspeare, to the illustration of whose plays his personal qualities most aptly fitted him. "The Banishment of Hamlet," "A scene from ‘As You Like It,’" and one from "Winter’s Tale," were the chief of them. He left incomplete a large picture of a domestic subject, which exhibited the highest promise; these, with several smaller character pictures, and very many designs for proposed pictures, were the labors which filled up the short span of his life. He showed a peculiarly dramatic elegance of design in all these pictures, which, although seldom complete in their execution, were of so great excellence, that if his life had been longer with us, he unquestionably would have proved himself the worthy companion (as he was the dear friend) of the artists whose works have been treated on in this series of papers. A delicate and uncertain health frequently checked him in pursuing his studies with that severe application which can alone develop them into perfect practice.

Charles Allston Collins, son of W. Collins, R.A., the widely-known artist, has been almost from the first the worthy companion of the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood; a companion in the truest sense, for at the time when obloquy was sharpest, and misrepresentation the most willful and malicious, Charles Collins firmly and practically stood up for his convictions, receiving, as was fit, and even more than was fit, his share of the abuse and ridicule which the works of Holman Hunt and Millais then attracted. The subjects of his pictures have been of the ascetic and spiritualized order; the first, and which, perhaps, gained the most attention, was entitled "Convent Thoughts;" coming as this did in the year 1851, into the midst of the thoughtless amusement which the Pre-Raphaelite works excited at that time. This picture represented a nun in a convent garden, contemplating a passion flower; she stood robed to the feet in white, holding a flower of that plant in her hand, and with fixed and pure regard was lost in thought on its symbolic relations; she stood upon a plat of closely shaven grass, and round about her feet was the water course which nourished the garden plants; the bounding wall of the garden was well covered with climbing plants, and the sky was clear, cold, and pure overhead; in the water at the feet of the muser were golden and silver fish and many water-plants–so clear and shallow was this water that its utmost depths was [sic] open to the eye: all things in the picture were clear, cold, and pure, but artificial and ascetic; the shaven grass, the ordered paths of the garden, the trim edges of the stream, its shallowness, coldness, clearness; the exotic fish and plants, the orderly purity of the nun’s garments, and lastly the loveliness of her face, loveliness that was pure without signs of effort and without suffering, chaste, but also cold:--all these things were, we say, exponents of the motive of the picture. It was a work of enormous labor and most delicate finish; nothing could possibly be carried to a greater extent in quality of minuteness than the clear tones and exquisitely transparent character of the water, or be more various and elaborate than the flower beds and the parasites upon the wall of the garden; you might look into the deepest intricacies of the shrubs, and see reflection upon leaves and transparent leaves themselves right down in the very centre of every plant; the exquisite drawing which abounded in these details was most marvellous, and put to shame all missal illumination that has ever been seen. Collins has exhibited numerous portraits, with most valuable qualities of execution, admirable true readings of human character, and therein shown how Pre-Raphaelitism could be best applied to portraiture. The next year to that which produced "Convent Thoughts," Collins exhibited one of the most exquisite little landscapes that have ever been seen at the Royal Academy, entitled "May, in the Regent’s Park;" it showed a view of one of the pleasure gardens which are contained in that locality, with laburnum and lilac in full bloom, and the little quaintly-shaped flower-beds with their contents, and the surrounding grass-plats; this little picture was almost as highly finished as the one we have just referred to. This, with a little picture illustration of Keble’s "Lyra Innocentium," and another, "The Devout Childhood of St. Elizabeth of Hungary," were his productions of the year 1852. In 1854, "A Thought of Bethlehem, part of the Life of Madame de Chantel," a subject of an act of Christian mercy, taken from the biography of Madame de Chantel, in Miss Kavanagh’s "Women of Christianity," was painted by him; and in 1855, "The Good Harvest," a girl carrying a bundle of wheat. These are all of his works with which the public are acquainted; it is only to be regretted that there are not very many more.

Arthur Hughes is one of those artists who have adopted Pre-Raphaelitism as their rule in Art. He has painted several pictures of a very exquisite description, exhibiting most delicate and refined fancy, with an admirable feeling for expression, elegance and color. The first picture of his which exhibited Pre-Raphaelite convictions was called "Ophelia," and represented Shakspeare’s heroine, seated on the bank of a sluggish stream; worn, wasted, and half lost in the sick insanity of her hapless love, she had crowned herself with half-withered garlands, and was playing with her own thought of death; the background of the picture was very fine, a waste marish [sic] spot, open to the low horizon, with some stark birches along the banks of the stream, whose pale, silvery bark and half-denuded boughs, were in excellent keeping with the character of the subject. An exquisite little picture of Rosamond in her bower, with the palace behind, and Queen Eleanor approaching along the sunlit garden-paths, was one of his most admirable works; but the picture upon which his name at present stands, was exhibited at the Royal Academy last year, entitled "April Love;" the motto of which was taken from Tennyson’s famous song in "The Miller’s Daughter."

Love is hurt with jar and fret,

Love is made a vain regret,

Eyes with idle tears are wet,

Idle habit links us yet,

What is love? for we forget:

Ah, no! no!"

Never was a love-poem more exquisitely illustrated than in this most beautiful picture; of all the illustrations of Tennyson with which the exhibitions of London of late years have abounded, there have been none so perfect as this; nor, we may say, is it possible to find in the range of the poet’s works a more difficult subject to found a picture upon. A young girl, who has just awarded forgiveness to her lover for one of those offences which fretful love finds so frequent, allows him passionately to embrace her hand, while her face is turned from him and towards the spectator. But how to describe that face we know not; its tearful joy and tenderness, mixed with a sort of loving wonder, as if the reconciliation was a surprise so great that its pleasure could only mingle with girlish astonishment; the expression of struggling happiness about the mouth was a marvellous accomplishment of the artist’s skill and deep feeling; her hair is brushed lightly from her face, as if disarranged while indulging in previous angry thoughts. The scene is a garden summer-house, in which the lover has found her by surprise, and now retains her hand, as he stoops over the back of the garden-seat, passionately pressing it to his face: she has on a gown of purple with a white body of muslin, and by her disengaged hand, with unconscious action, gathers up to her throat a long scarf of tissue, banded across with blue: the color and texture of this contrast admirably with the rest of the picture; in front a thick, clustering ivy plant clambers up a tree stem which supports the garden-house, while through the window of this, behind and over the head of the stooping lover, the sunlight falls upon and through thick lilac blossoms and leaves, lighting the deeper parts of the picture with rich reflections: at her feet lie the petals of a ruined rose-blossom, which tells us upon what her pettish impatience has found vent either before his arrival or while he was obtaining forgiveness. Mr. Hughes also exhibited last year a triptich illustrative of Keats’s "Eve of St. Agnes."

Edward Lear, well known as the author of several books upon travel in Greece (one of which obtained for him the rare honor of an applausive poem by Tennyson, "To E. L., on his travels in Greece,") was known as a landscape painter before he became a pupil of Holman Hunt, to whom, he is proud to acknowledge inestimable benefit for instruction in the practice of Art. Lear has mostly given his attention to reproducing large pictures, from careful studies made in Greece, of classic scenes. "Mount Parnassus," "Marathon," "Sparta," "The Temple of Phigaleia," and two pictures of "The Island of Philæ," are the most marked amongst his works which have been exhibited; besides these he has painted a very large and fine view of Windsor Castle.

Another pupil of Holman Hunt’s, Robert B. Martineau, does highest credit and honor to his master and himself. His pictures are, "Kit receiving his Writing Lesson," from Dickens’s Old Curiosity Shop; "The Taming of the Shrew," from Shakspeare’s play, the immediate subject of which is to be found in act 2, scene 1.

Kat. "I chafe you if I tarry; let me go."

Pet. "No, not a whit; I find you passing gentle."

Katherine is here endeavoring to escape from her tormentor, who, in his wildest humors, leans against the door, hat in hand, full of mock politeness, and that rough gaiety which led the fair angered one to call him a crab (apple). The humor of the whole scene is capitally rendered; there is the quaintest resemblance to a crab-apple in Petruchio’s face as he stands there laughing: burning with wrath, yet self-restrained, the irate Katherine draws herself to her full height, fronting him, making that mock apology of hers more angry for the new restraint, and with apparently some sort of conviction just entering her mind that she has found her master. Last year Martineau exhibited "The Lesson;" a lady hearing a lesson from a little girl, her protégé, the motto "Try and remember," the lady’s bidding to the child, whose puzzled face shows her hopelessness of extraction from the snare of a short memory: also, he exhibited in the same year a small picture from Saintine’s "Picciola," the hero of that tale, attending upon his beloved plant, beside which he has stretched himself upon the flagged prison yard.

Michael Frederick Halliday has shown by the success with which his pictures have met, that indomitable energy and perseverance will force their way through all obstacles; for, commencing the practice of Art, as a profession, at a period of life much later than is customary, he has obtained in a very few years, a status in the profession which only the small minority reach to, even when commencing their studies at the usual age. Some very beautiful, truthful, and elaborate sketches, or rather pictures, in water-color, from scenes in the Highlands of Scotland, are amongst the earlier of his productions; and in these he has shown an amount of meteorological knowledge, and a truth of feeling for the examples of nature which supplies his subjects, that is not often found. At the Royal Academy, last year, he exhibited a picture entitled, "The Measure for the Wedding-ring." A couple whose prospective happiness is made visible by their occupation, the gentleman being engaged in procuring the dimension of the lady’s finger, in order to obtain the mystic symbol of the rite upon which they are about to enter, and the lady submitting to this operation with bashful grace; they are seated in the apse of a ruined chapel, the broken wall of which is covered with climbers of every kind: in the painting of this background, the artist exercised an amount of labor, care, and skill, which only the success of the result could repay. A charming little picture by this artist is called "The Music Lesson:" a country girl, about twelve years of age, is receiving instruction in the art of performing on a sort of whistle-pipe, from a boy of her own age and class. She kneels upon the ground, sitting upon her heels, the boy close beside her holding the pipe between her lips, his fingers upon the stops; he tells her–"Now blow," which she does with goodwill, with what result of satisfaction to her instructor we cannot say; if docility will advance her progress, there certainly never was such a pupil; the interest she evinces in the study is capitally shown by the sort of shaded expression of her drooped eyelid as she glances along the tube, the action of inflating the chest in order to effect her musical purpose, is well expressed by the way in which she raises her arm–elbow out and fixed–moving the whole limb from the shoulder only: behind them are tall wheat-shocks from the reaped fields in which they are, and further on a beautiful little English landscape; and, beyond all, the level sea; a goldfinch, just alighting upon one of the ears of wheat, which swings about in the summer air, is capitally introduced, and most beautifully painted.

During Holman Hunt’s sojourn in Egypt and Syria, his companion, for a part of the time, was Thomas Seddon, who conceived the desirableness of pictures showing the present condition of holy sites in the East, as well as the entire novelty of representing Eastern character, by elaborately painting from the materials on the spot; with these views, he proceeded there in Holman Hunt’s company, and returned shortly before him, with several works which are the result of much unflinching labor and devotion, as well as considerable technical skill. An exhibition was made of these in London, which attracted much attention from those who valued, or did not forget the associations which were connected with the localities which his landscapes represented. The chiefest among them was a large, and we are informed, extremely faithful view of the city of Jerusalem, taken from a point without the walls, and embracing within its scope most of the sites which are reputed to be those which connect the city with the history of Our Lord, and, of course, others whose associations are of an earlier date. We have said that he united the object of which these pictures were an example with that of painting Eastern scenes with great elaboration on the spot; at the Royal Academy last year, he exhibited several pictures, which, indeed, of all the pictures which profess to show the desert and its inhabitants, appear to meet most truly our own preconceived ideas of the respective characters of both; his "Arab Sheikh and Tents in the Arabian Desert," appeared well to represent this; the sheikh with his brown purple face, lost in the shadow of his great hood, and his tawny limbs, lean and sinewy, purple and sun-scorched through generations of interesting savages, whose honors culminated in the dignitary Seddon. Very interesting also was the desert itself, as the picture showed the sand ridges, into which the wind ploughs up the surface of the earth like broad ripples of the sea. He exhibited at the same time "Dromedary and Arabs in the City of the Dead, Cairo," and "Interior of a Deewan, Cairo," both of which showed the same qualities that characterized the work we have referred to. A few months since, Mr. Seddon returned to the East, and, while staying at Cairo, was attacked with dysentery, which terminated in his death, November 23d, 1856. Mr. Seddon left behind him the memory of an accomplished artist and an excellent friend, and as such is deeply regretted by his companions and others. The objects which he set before himself to accomplish in Art, are such, the value of which it would be superfluous to point out, and which could only be attempted through great difficulty and privation; it was while reëntering upon this field of suffering that he died, as we have said. The energy of modern English painters has led them into localities where certainly no artist had ever set down before, with the resolve of exactly representing extraordinary phases of Nature. We have already related what was accomplished by Holman Hunt and Thomas Seddon, in the deserts of Arabia and Syria, and now we have to refer to another difficulty conquered by John Brett at the foot of a glacier in Switzerland, by painting a most astonishingly elaborate picture of such a scene. In a valley between Alpine hills, lies the frozen sea, contorted into strange waves, whose fixed and various forms startle one with a general resemblance to those of the liquid ocean; breaking through these waters, which move only in the whole mass, are the rocks of the mountain side, the great boulders from which lie scattered on the unchanging ocean. The surface of these rocks is abraded and scarped into channels and fissures by the crush and creeping advance of the ice which neighbored upon their original position, so also are the hill-sides themselves, worn away by the advance of the irresistible conqueror. If you take up a magnifying glass (and without it half the picture’s interest is overlooked) you can see, over the surface of the glaciers, the tumultuous waves of ice which hang behind one another far up into the valley. The astonishment which the aspect of the scene creates, is only equalled in the mind of the spectator, by that which moves him in conceiving the marvellous endurance, the unequalled patience, and most astounding fidelity which the painter had brought to the execution of the picture.

L. L.


This document was scanned/transcribed from the original source.

Copyright © 1999 Thomas J. Tobin.

Return to the list of reviews