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pictures at the Royal Academy; be was engaged iu illustrating the works of the most eminent writers of his time, taking precedence in that department of all contemporary artists, many of whom were men of great genius. Rogers, the poet, a leader in criticism and in society, chose him to illustrate his books; and Sir Walter Scott, avowedly preferring Thomson of Duddingstone, nevertheless bowed to the ruling fashion in having both his poetry and his prose illustrated by Turner. Artists enthusiastically recognized his power. His pictures in oil ;md in water-color afforded occupation to a number of the ablest engravers that ever lived. He sold vast numbers of pictures, refused large sums for others, and died worth something like £100,000. These being unvarnished and undisputed facts, some explanation is obviously necessary before Mr. Ruskin's statements in the Edinburgh Lectures can be accepted as true, or, indeed, can be understood. Such explanation, however, is at hand.
In the first place, though Turner did, at a very early period, obtain as much recognition as the academic authorities could accord him, he was for many years a struggling man. Buyers of pictures formed then a small'class compared with buyers of pictures now, and of those who bought pictures only a small proportion cared for landscape. It is certain that, until within a few years of his death, the prices he obtained for pictures were insignificant compared with those now obtained by third or fourth rate men, and that some of those schemes upon which he set his heart were pecuniary failures. Conspicuous among these was the world-famous Liber Studiorum. He began the publication of this work when he had been five years a Royal Academician; and for twelve years, during which his genius retained the freshness of youth, but displayed the full power of manhood, he tried to make it succeed. Five pieces appeared in each issue, the price of the five, in their finest state, being twenty-five shillings. They were mezzotint en
gravings, in a rich brown, executed from his drawings and under his direction, and, in large part, etched by his own hand. They arc the noblest landscape compositions in the world, the corresponding works of Claude, which till then reigned supreme, having been confessedly dethroned by them. But in opulent England he could not find encouragement enough to support him in the enterprise. "Five of the fmest works of his genius," says Mr. Frederick Wedmore, a recent writer on the subject, " were to be bought of him for five-and-twenty shillings; and, for years, splendid impressions of them lay rotting in the chambers in Queen Anne Street." It ought to be recollected also that Turner was excessively penurious in his habits, spending no more than would keep body and soul together with some show of respectability, so that the large total of his fortune may have been due not more to the prices he got than to strenuous saving.
Most important, perhaps, of all, with a view to appreciating the whole of Mr. Ruskin's case in alleging Turner to have been an ill-used and underrated man, is the consideration that Turner s genius did, in some respects, reach its supreme development after he was sixty years of age, and that Ruskiu was y almost alone, not indeed in believing his power to be still great, but in believing it to be greater than it ever was. In the epilogue to Mr. Ruskin's Notes on his own Turner drawings, the story of Turner's artistic activity after he was sixtyfive is told in minute detail, and with a spice of delightful humor.
In 1840, Turner, then sixty-five, entered on that latest phase of his activity which Mr. Ruskin calls his sunset time. He' then, Mr. Ruskin goes on to say, " quitted himself of engraver work," and revisited his Alpine haunts, not so much to draw for other people as to gratify his- own untrammelled sense of beauty. He returned to London in the winter of 1841, bringing with him an immense number of sketches. Of these he
chose ten, embodying his ultimate ideal of landscape beauty. To work up the ten into finished pictures in water-color, technically called drawings, would be a labor of love. He executed four, and took them, by way of specimen, to Mr. Griffiths, then his favorite dealer. "The Pass of the Splugen "—I now quote from Mr. Ruskin—"A red Eighi, and a blue Rigbi, and a blue Lake Lucerne. 'And,' says Mr. Turner to Mr. Griffiths,' what do you think you can get for such things as these?' So says Mr. Griffiths to Mr. Turner,' Well, perhaps, commission included, eighty guineas each.' Says Mr. Turner to Mr. Griffiths, 'Ain't they worth more?' Says Mr. Griffiths to Mr. Turner (after looking curiously into the execution, which you will please note is rather what some people might call hazy), 'They're a little different from your usual style—(Turner silent, Griffiths does not push the point)—but—but—yes, they are worth more, but I could not get more.'"
Mr. Ruskin believes that Turner expected each picture to fetch one hundred guineas, inclusive of ten per cent, commission. Here, then, was a disappointment to begin with. But Griffiths was by no means sure that he could find buyers even at eighty guineas. The style was somewhat changed, the artist was sixty-five, and his reputation had just, says Mr. Ruskin, been "pretty nearly overthrown by Blackwood's Magazine." However, "Griffiths did his best. He sent to Munro, of Novar, Turner's old companion in travel; he sent to Mr. Windus, of Tottenham; he sent to Mr. Bicknell, of Herne Hill; he sent to my father and me." After the utmost exertion, Griffiths could get orders for no more than nine drawings. Turner executed . the ten, giving Griffiths the tenth for his commission. In 1842, therefore, Turner, assisted by a skilful and thoroughlyinformed dealer, was able to get, for ten of the most elaborate water-color pictures he had over executed in his life, seven hundred and twenty guineas clear. If you will walk round any water-color exhibition, in the London season, and observe how
many commonplace drawings, by men making no pretence to genius, arc priced at more than seventy-two guineas, you may be able to appreciate the significance of this fact as illustrating Ruskin's assertion that Turner did not get justice in his own lifetime.
And more is to be told. In 1843, Turner offered to do ten more drawings on the sante terms. But this time Griffiths was baffled. Buskin prevailed on his father to order two, and Munro, of Xovar, took three; in all England, Griffiths could not get another bid. "Turner," says Ruskin, " was-angry, and, therefore, partly ill." He was not too proud to do the five, "but said it was lucky there were no more to do." There was intense bitterness in that remark of Turner's. It went to his heart to know that there were but two men in England (both of them Scotch) who would give eighty guineas for the loveliest things he could put upon paper, out of which eighty guineas eight must go to the hard-wrought Griffiths. And what, as tried by the time-test of forty-five years, was the value of those all but unsalable drawings? One of the three which Munro had taken was Kussnacht, on the Lake of Lucerne. It was sold on the 6th of April, 1878, in London, for £1018 10s. The town sits on the lake in radiance of beauty, like one great crystal of opal, or of snow, on a mirror of amethyst . To have seen it—to have hung it up in the hall of imaginative memory —is to have become richer for evermore. And for that glorious work of art old Turner, assisted by the sleuth-hound Griffiths, warranted to track any Turner enthusiast in England and bleed him, could get, in 1843, but seventy-two guineas. One of the ten executed in 1842—the Zurich—was sold at the same time with the Kussnacht for £1260. Another was the Pass of the Splngen. Ruskin, when he saw it in 1842, made up his mind that it was "the noblest Alpine drawing Turner had ever till then made." I am under the impression that Ruskin had not at that time seen the Farnley Turners, among which, in my humble opinion, is to be found rock drawing finer than in the Pass of the Splugen. Be that as it may, Ruskin, owing to his father's absence on business, could not get the Splngen iu 1842, and Munro had it; but a few of Ruskin's friends bethought them of his admiration for it, and, at the sale just mentioned, they bought it for a thousand guineas to present to him. That was a pleasant kind of thing to do.
Such experiences as these go far to acquit Mr. Ruskin of inaccuracy or exaggeration in his statements as to the neglect of Turner by his contemporaries, and as to his painful consciousness of working without appreciation. Turner was aware of his greatness. LHc had deliberately measured himself against master after master among celebrated landscape painters, and had conquered all with whom he copethj Mr. Ruskin tells us that he was sensitively alive to criticism.j We can therefore understand and sympathize with that " indignation" with which the critic witnessed the derision poured upon the efforts of a man who was still mighty, and who, even if his right hand were losing its cunning, had done so much with it in the days of his strength to shed lustre upon England, that he deserved respect iu his closing years.
Mr. Ruskin is not only a man of great genius, which implies intense activity of thought, and, in most cases, inventive changefulness and progress of opinion, but a man of impassioned feeling. It is impossible that his statements at one period should be mere stereotype repetitions of his statements at another. Of Turner he has spoken in a variety of ways, startling us, at one time, by the transcendency of his admiration, at another by the almost equally audacious length he goes in affirming defects. I shall quote the two extremes of his estimate of Turner, and add those few words, recently printed, which seem to indicate the final rest of his judgment in a golden mean equally remote from both. The first is from the Edinburgh Lectures.