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What can Teaching do?
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subject, there is one grand and leading objection of the opponents to learned artistic culture, and thorough artistic instruction, which we must endeavour to meet. It will be said that though the doctrines which we have here advanced, when considered a priori, seem plausible enough, it is impossible to set them up empirically, that experience has shewn that artistic eminence is a boon which God bestows but on a few generations of men, and that though the experiment has often been tried, no important results have ever followed from an attempt artificially to secure it. Now our answer to this is, that it is but half true, and that the half of it which is true no more furnishes an argument against the cultivation of art than of any other department of mental endeavour. It is certain that no training will ever call into being a strongly and originally productive mind; you cannot create genius; but in the present case, as in every other, you can supply the conditions of its working so soon as it shall be sent into the world; nay, what is more, you can secure the nearest approach to its energizing which is consistent with the comparative weakness of ordinary minds. Now, if we place ourselves in the most favourable position for the reception of genius when it arrives ; whilst in the meantime we turn the ordinary staple commodity of talent to the best advantage, we accomplish all that we aimed at, and it is no fair reproach against a system that it does not do more. “ But can you shew us an example even of this minor success ?” We answer, “ many;" and as the instances are not only more numerous, but far more important than seems usually to be supposed in this country, we shall select two or three of them by way of example. The first we translate from Kugler :
“ In Greece itself, after the age of Alexander the Great, art experienced a gradual decline, and during the whole of the last period of its indigenous existence, we scarcely encounter a single distinguished name. At the close of this period, however, towards the middle of the second century (B. C.), a restoration of art was brought about at Athens by means of a renewed study of the works of the great masters, and an endeavour thus to rise again to a higher region. At this period, indeed, works of wonderful perfection were produced, but in which might be remarked a certain coldness and deficiency in naïveté which invariably characterizes periods of restoration.”— (P. 223.)
What will such of our readers as are new to the subject think, after this rather cold commendation, when we tell them that it was this school which produced the Venus de Medici, the Farnese Hercules, the Torso of the Vatican, the Barberini Faun, the Diana of Gabii in the Louvre, the Venus of the Bath, and the Venus Kallipyge! It is to this school of the revival, indeed, that we are indebted for by far the larger share of exist
n into whing art in Itwas born, andving in
ing Greek statues ; and it was this school which, when transplanted to Italy, for two hundred years longer, flourished as a vigorous exotic, to delight the eyes, and refine the manners, of a hard, unimaginative, practical people! Such is our first example of an artificial school; and we shall be contented with one more, which shall be taken from more modern times. Raphael had not been dead much more than a quarter of a century, and Michael Angelo was still living in a green old age, when Ludovico Caracci was born, and yet on him was laid the task of reviving art in Italy from a state of the basest degradation into which it had sunk in the hands of the so-called Naturalisti, an artistic sect whose tenets very closely resembled those which the advocates of license so eloquently support in our own day. The principles on which, in the first zeal of his opposition, he attempted to found what has been called the Eclectic School, were sufficiently absurd. They are embodied in the following sonnet by Agostino Caracci :
6 Chi farsi un buon pittor cerca, e disia,
Il disigno di Roma abbia alla mano,
Che qui lasciocci il nostro Niccolino." “ This patchwork ideal,” says Kugler, “constituted only one transition step in the history of the Caracci and their school. In the prime of their artistic activity they greatly threw off their eclectic pretensions; they neither needed the decorum of Tibaldi nor the invention of Primaticcio ; they had attained an independence of their own. The imitation of the great masters, where it is apparent, is no longer of a soulless, superficial character, but is a thoroughly understood and artistic appropriation of their highest qualities, bearing the character rather of rivalry than of imitation. It is true that the eclecticism they originally professed left its traces in a coldness, stiffness, and academical consciousness, which offends the spectator; but we are inclined to moderate even this criticism, when we consider the difficulty of opposing fresh ideas to the exaggerated mannerisms then existing, and when we consider also that it was the individual energy of these painters which forced them a way through the trammels of imitation. They possessed a true and a great feeling for the representation of
the higher subjects of life, and it was by their own incredible zeal that they attained a considerable, though not a perfect, harmony of corresponding style. In some respects they adopted the bold naturalism of their times, but moderated and refined by an acquaintance with the great models of antiquity, and with' those of the Raphael period.”
Such, in few words, was the school of the Caracci, from which, besides the founder and his two nephews and fellow-workers, Agostino and Anibale, there arose Domenichino, Albani, Guido Reni, Guerchino, Lanfranco, and others, who, whatever may be their rank as compared with the heroes of the Raphael time, have certainly never been surpassed by later painters. As the prejudices of the present day against all art which is not supposed to be the result of immediate inspiration, have led many to adopt a depreciatory view of the Bolognese school, it may not be out of place, for the benefit of those whose opinions are swayed by authority, to recall the sentiments of Sir Joshua Reynolds, the already often quoted father of English artistic criticism. In speaking of “style,” which he characterizes as “a power over materials, whether words or colours, by which conceptions or sentiments are conveyed,” he says, “ In this Ludovico Caracci (I mean in his best works) appears to me to approach the nearest to perfection. His unaffected breadth of light and shadow, the simplicity of his colouring, which, holding its proper rank, does not draw aside the least part of the attention from the subject; and the solemn effect of that twilight which seems diffused over his pictures, appear to me to correspond with grave and dignified subjects, better than the more artificial brilliancy of sunshine which enlightens the pictures of Titian.” “It is our misfortune," he adds, “that those works of Caracci which I would recommend to the student are not often found out of Bologna;" he enumerates them; and concludes, “I think those who travel would do well to allot a much greater portion of their time to that city than it has hitherto been their custom to bestow.” In connexion with this subject, it is not unimportant that we should remark, that the only artistic revival of our day, that of architecture, has arisen precisely from the causes we have indicated as most likely to produce it in the other arts. In connexion with certain ecclesiastical tendencies in England, a greater degree of attention began to be bestowed on the subject by the public, a few good “ Hand-books” appeared, and criticism revived to such an extent, that, as a friend once observed to us, every school-girl in England now knows more of Gothic architecture than the best architects did fifty years ago. A new class of architects consequently was called for; nor did the supply lag behind the demand. Pugin and his followers appeared, and we have now a school of Gothic architecture at all events, which, if it wants the freshness and naïveté of a first enthusiasm, has almost atoned for the absence of these qualities by the skill and freedom with which it combines and adapts already existing ideas.
The unquestionable merits of modern landscape painting we are disposed to regard rather in the light of an original appearance than a revival of art, and we attribute them partly to the more accurate observation of nature, and more correct views of her working, both organic and inorganic, which modern science has introduced, and partly to the entirely novel manner in which the poetry of nature has been seized by Wordsworth, Coleridge, and their followers. Coleridge in his “ Hymn to the Earth," expresses the sentiments with which the painter, as well as the poet of nature, must approach his task, when he says,“ Thrilled with thy beauty and love in the wooded slope of the
thanksgiving." But whilst a seriousness of purpose, a loving and almost religious earnestness, before unknown, las been brought to bear both on the study and representation of nature in her lower manifestations, it is remarkable that whatever has reference to man as a spiritual being, and not as a mere breathing organism, is treated with a degree of frivolity which no semi-civilized race ever exhibited. Our philosophy of nature stops short whenever it arrives at the workings of spirit, and investigations into the physical principle of life, have taken the place of inquiries into the laws of mental action; our art shuns the representation of the highest form of organized existence, that in and through which alone sensuous expression can be given to spiritual qualities; and we confess that it is rather on a growing consciousness of the degrading nature of these tendencies which we imagine we perceive in many quarters, than on the circumstance that the great Exhibition of Industry is open in London, and half the world staring at our calicos and patent chubbs, that we found the hope that our national effort may yet, in our own day, be directed to higher aims than those which it has at present assigned itself.
The Old Testament: Newman and Greg.
Art. IV.-1. A History of the Hebrew Monarchy, from the
Administration of Samuel to the Babylonish Captivity. By FRANCIS WILLIAM NEWMAN, formerly Fellow of Balliol College, Oxford, and Author of “ The Soul; Her Sorrows
and Her Aspirations.” London, 1847. 2. The Creed of Christendom: its Foundation and Superstructure.
By WILLIAM RATHBONE GREG. London, 1851.
If some impression has been made on the minds of a few thoughtful and serious persons by the perusal of Mr. Newman's Hebrew Monarchy, it must be ascribed rather to the author's reputation for ability and learning, than to any evidence of either which the volume itself affords. The fact that he is Latin Professor in University College, London, and that he bears a high character for classical scholarship, may have predisposed some to entertain favourably his pretensions as a critic and a theologian, and to listen with deference to the cavils against sacred truth to which he has lent the prestige of his name and position, but most of which would be dismissed from the thoughts at once as utterly futile, if they occurred in the pages of an anonymous or unknown author. It is because we are well aware how liable the humility of general readers is to be thus practised upon by strong assertions, resting solely on the authority of the asserter, that we are induced to offer a few considerations by means of which even “he who occupies the room of the unlearned” may satisfy himself of the invalidity, or at least the insufficiency, of the arguments by which Mr. Newman endeavours to destroy our belief in the Old Testament, as a revelation from God. Those who are well acquainted with the subject, will perceive that these considerations are not distinguished by novelty or originality; but, then, neither are the objections to which they are opposed. If Mr. Newman will condescend to reproduce the identical arguments, or rather assertions, advanced by Paine against the divine authority of Scripture, the Professor of Latin, and late Fellow of Balliol, must be content to receive the same answers which proved sufficient to refute and silence his vulgar and ignorant predecessor.
There are some persons, we know, who look on the task of refuting objections as an idle one, and are willing to waive the whole question for and against the genuineness of Scripture bistory; affirming, with Mr. Newman in his preface, that our faith should not rest on historic records, but on the evidence afforded by the testimony of our own hearts. They forget that a religion which is sought only in the heart of each man, will be a religion of his own framing, varying with the character of each individual.