"Fine Arts." Guardian 5.226 (8 May 1850), 336.

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Passing over many excellent works. . . we would call attention to two extraordinary productions, of which the merits will, no doubt, be much canvassed. These are–A Converted British Family sheltering a Christian Missionary from the Persecution of the Druids (553), by W. H. Hunt, and an allegorical or mystical subject (518) (the catalogue refers to Zech. xiii. 6), by J. E. Millais. These works are in the so-called mediæval style of art. We cannot think that either of them is an advance upon the works exhibited last year by the same artists respectively. Yet we must concede to both a certain power of winning the attention and of subduing the mind to their own meaning and mode of expression, which is the characteristic of works of a high and novel order of genius. The object of this school is to give intensity of expression and individual character to every figure; and a work possessing these qualities has certainly a high relish, after the eye has been wearied with the mawkish repetitions of sterotyped faces and forms, into which even our best modern artists are wont to slide. But we decidedly opine that this might be effected without adopting the quaint distortions of figure which are rather accidents of the great Flemish painters, Van Eyck and Hemling, the masters of this school, than real elements of their art and method of treatment. There are no extravagances about the characters of Shakspeare, notwithstanding their extreme intensity, and however Gothic and barbarous they may appear, or have appeared, to the adherents of the correct and classical drama. This remark is partly suggested by another picture by Mr. Millais (404), Ferdinand lured by Ariel. We feel in this picture a certain strain after oddity, which does not sort with the creations of Shakspeare. The green bats or sprites are novelties in nature which we could well tolerate were they agreeable in art. But the mass of bright green shocks the eye, and makes the picture at first unintelligible.


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Copyright © 1999 Thomas J. Tobin.

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