"Royal Scottish Academy’s Exhibition. Second Notice." Scotsman 42.3978 (20 Feb. 1858), n. p. [3].

excerpt

The "Mouth of the Wild Water, Inveruglas, Lochlomond," no. 165, painted on the spot by Waller H. Paton, is a scene very similar to those which we have had so often from his hand–viz., a water-course, with rocks and green foliage. There is nothing so intrinsically attractive in such a scene as to justify its frequent repetition; and as the present specimen exceeds in laborious detail all which have preceded it, we would fain hope it will be the last of its kind, and that the clever artist will henceforth resort to "fresh woods and pastures new." With great pretensions to truth in its elaborate detail, we cannot but look on the present picture as unsound in principle and untrue to nature. If the law of nature, so well stated by Mr Ruskin as invariably followed by Turner, be correct–that the human eye, being a lens, can only see distinctly at one time what falls within its focus, so that it is totally impossible to see distinctly at the same moment two objects placed vertically at unequal distances–it follows that if a foreground is finished clearly and sharply , showing that the eye of the artist was directed to that point, the middle distance and distance must have appeared to him at the same moment confused and indistinct. On the same principle, if the focus of the eye is brought to bear on the middle and extreme distance, the foreground would bear the same character of mystery and confusion. . . . The natural principle is diametrically opposed to Mr Paton’s practice. In the present picture he has first directed his eye to the rock and water in the front, which he has finished with extraordinary minuteness and detail; then shifting his focus to the middle distance, he has done the same for it; and so on upwards, every portion to the top of the ravine executed with as much finish and care as the foreground. But, independently of this objection, no one can doubt that the farther in nature any object is removed from the eye, the more indistinct and confused it becomes in its detail of definite form. Look at a tree, for example, at fifty yards off, and not a leaf is distinguishable; so in architecture–all the lesser details, even at a small distance, become confused and undecided, so that we cannot tell what they are. This great law is universal; but it is entirely overlooked by Mr Paton, who represents objects in the middle distance and distance with quite as much care and finish as if they were placed within a few inches of his eye. The result is that the picture gives no idea of space or distance, and the whole objects look as if they were piled perpendicularly on the top of each other–a heterogeneous mass, in general effect resembling a piece of sewed worsted work. M Paton exhibits other two [sic] pictures–"M’Farlane’s Oak, Loch Lomond," No. 158, and "Arrochar Road, near Tarbet," No. 384. These appear to us very poor specimens–the road scene, in its weak execution and black colour, looks like a work from a female pupil of the Nasmyth school. "M’Farlane’s Oak" does not appear to us to be much better. . . .

For the sake of variety, let us conclude with noticing "Katherine and Petruccio" by Augustus Egg, No. 120. The jaunty devil-may-care look of Petruccio is admirably expressed, and the drawing and action of the figure is remarkably good. Katherine seems to melt under his influence, and though her clenched fist denotes self-will, the look which she turns on Petruccio is wavering and irresolute. The accomplished artist excels in scenes of this kind, which suit his free and masterly style.


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Copyright © 1999 Thomas J. Tobin.

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