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ideas, and lift its tastes out of the slough of vulgarity in which it is revelling in all matters appertaining to art.
Now, this is not the case with regard to music, which, although a separate branch of study, is treated with becoming respect in most of our newspapers. No editor expects to get a fair notice of a concert from any but a musician-one, at least, who has a theoretical knowledge of what is good, commonplace, or bad. A gentleman who has spent his life reporting debates, or attending the Middlesex Sessions, does not suddenly find himself seated in a stall at Covent Garden for the purpose of giving a detailed account of the latest inspirations of Verdi or Gounod! When, however, the subject to be dealt with is painting, some such incongruities appear to be the sole explanation that can be offered for the disgraceful way in which it is frequently handled.
Why should this be? Why is the noble art of painting adjudged of so little importance that the reviewing of it often seems to be entrusted to gentlemen whose days are spent in totally alien occupations, or in doing odds and ends of literary work, who are thoroughly townbred, without a particle of real sympathy with the beauties of nature, with no appreciation of the grandeur and requirements of art; and whose knowledge of the subtle gradations of a sunset has been derived from observations made whilst dining at Greenwich; whose conceptions of character and expression have been accumulated from a familiarity with Rotten Row, and the hubbub of a race meeting; whose acquaintance with landscape beauty is obtained from their Sunday's visit to Richmond Hill; whose notions of clouds, sea, and cliffs, have been acquired during the month's holiday at Margate; who are about as competent to understand the drawing of a wave, the anatomy of a tree, or the delicate beauties of grass and herbage, as an Ojibbeway Indian is to comprehend mathematics; who only regard fine colour as a combination of unbroken tints; and whose ideas of the correct form of the human figure seem to be derived from the latest book of fashions.
Fully aware that they are nothing if not critical, they are also under the impression that to criticise means to find out all the faults, and ignore all the merits of the subjects under their treatment. The works of intellects so infinitely superior to their own that it is insult to speak of them in the same breath, are pitilessly condemned in three or four lines; the labour of years is passed over with a few contemptuous and condemnatory words, and genius so subtle, and skill so consummate, as to be beyond their comprehension, are held up with a ribald joke to the scorn and ridicule of the crowd. They cannot conceive
how sacred is the matter they are dealing with, and how an ignorant expression of opinion may crush the hopes and blight the prospects of hard-working and earnest-minded strugglers on the ladder of fame. Ruthless tyrants! who scruple at nothing. They have, let us hope, no idea of the depth of the wounds they inflict upon natures which, from their very occupation, must be sensitive and highly wrought.
Even, if sometimes praise be justly heaped up upon those who could very well afford to do without it, is there any necessity for these mighty oracles, the critics, to take pains to show that there are other artists who have been guilty of actual crime in endeavouring to perpetuate some lovely landscape, or a pretty face? Surely a want of success in inducing the public to admire what they have deeply reverenced, and striven their utmost to imitate, is punishment enough, without being pilloried and gibbeted as heinous offenders by these be-wigged and pompous judges-" these bookful blockheads, ignorantly read."
Is there any necessity for their revelling in the ceremony of passing sentence? Need they be so very fond of putting on the black cap, as though they thought it fitted them better than the cap and bells— their own peculiar and appropriate head-dress, and, as if they believed it gave a look of intelligence to their purblind eyes? Why should they never appear easy unless frowning on the prisoner at the bar, as with unctuous utterance they tell him that his picture shall be taken to the place whence it came, and thence to the place of execution, and there in his presence be hung in his own room, with its face to the wall. When, on the other hand, the facetious line of criticism is taken up by the reviewer, it scarcely becomes less offensive; but it is a little more harmless, inasmuch, as in most cases the jokes being very bad, the public, by inference, concludes that the opinions intended to be conveyed in them are not very sound. Of course it is the province of "Punch" to be humorous on all subjects; and when, some years ago, in noticing a charming picture by the late Mr. Stanfield, entitled, "Dutch dogger carrying away her sprit," he said, with consummate wit, and clever satire on nautical expressions, that the only fault to be found with it was, that instead of carrying away her sprit, she was leaving it behind her, we could not fail to be tickled with his fun.
Or again, when, at about the same time, Mr. Millais, then a lad, exhibited a picture, entitled "Pizarro seizing the Inca of Peru,” our jocose friend called it "Seizing the inkstand of Peru," and made allusion to the naturally black looks of the unfortunate Peruvian, why, we could but laugh and go with him all the way.
But when we find bad imitations of such witticisms, creeping into what ought to be fair and earnest judgments, one cannot feel amused, but simply disgusted.
What shall be said of newspaper articles filled with remarks after this fashion? A work under notice is called "Gathering sheep upon the banks of Lochleven," and all the sapient critic says is this: "Who washed the sheep, and the dog, and the boy, and his coat, and the cliffs-in fact, everything except the face of the moon, which would be all the better for washing." Speaking of a sunset effect, he says, "More last gleams, hope they will not last too long," and, on a subject entitled, "After much rain "—" after very much rain, we should think; indeed, the muchness of rain it would take to produce such very Berlin-woolly water is incalculable; it is a matter of conjecture, also, whether the water is really coming down, or going up; any way, its edges are nicely pared."
What an exquisite humourist is this fellow! But when he endeavours to be serious, unfortunately he fails to be intelligible. What does this mean ?—“ dull, but real, because shaded," as the only remark applied to "Harvesting near Shere, Surrey." We had imagined that harvesting was conducted at a bright season of the year, and were not aware that a representation of it would find its sole claim to reality in being shaded! The dulness, however, very likely is our own, for when we find, in another picture, that the "chief effect of the rain seems to have been to remove the dirt, which was quite unnecessary, the artist would never have noticed it," we confess ourselves utterly puzzled. But the climax of incapacity and ignorance was reached the other day by the "Daily Telegraph," when it accused Mr. Carl Haag of an inordinate use of body colour. Now, it is well known to all artists, and indeed to every educated eye, that there is no water-colourist who so carefully avoids having recourse to such a material as this eminent painter. It is very doubtful if he has a bottle of Chinese white in his possession even; his work is purity itself: yet we are told that "he plunges freely into the troubled sea of body colour;" that "he sacrifices transparency for the sake of instantaneous and coarsely meretricious effect;" that there is " ever present the same Teutonic contempt for pure water colour, and the desire to obtain immediate ocular reward by the free use of body colour;" and that "his finished pictures are even more heavily laden with impaste than his roughest draughts"! Comment here would be thrown away. We can only pity the writer, the editor, and the public, for it
would seem utterly hopeless to expect anything like competence in this branch of journalism, if such gross and inexcusable ignorance is allowed to go unchallenged! Yes, and hopeless it will remain, until writers on art shall strive to educate themselves. We know everybody cannot do this; there must be some natural tendencies towards, and love for, the subject. The soil must be congenial, or no amount of labour or manure will make it produce such a flowering shrub as it would be worth our while to cull from.
Some of the rarest natural qualities are as essential for a full appreciation of painting, as for its thoroughly successful practice. A perfect feeling for colour is undoubtedly the chief of these, almost everything else in connection with art can be learned to some extent, but this There are a few unfortunate individuals upon whom music has no pleasurable effect, but for one of these, we have fifty, to whom colour is a sealed book, which nothing can open.
Thus, it must be obvious, that first-rate critics will be nearly as rare as first-rate artists, but this is no excuse for the short-comings we complain of. If a newspaper is not fortunate enough to obtain the services of a competent person, its proprietors should confine their notices of art to a simple description of the pictures. Let them state what there is to be seen, abstaining from all comment, and then we should not be told in the same breath (as we have been quite lately, by a leading journal) that it is a great pity Mr. Frith had discarded subjects of the present day, because by going back a couple of centuries for his theme, he had achieved his greatest artistic triumph! In a word, we should escape the cant, trash, and rubbish, which passes amongst the multitude, not for the opinion of one or two individuals, as it really is, but for the verdict of the constituted authorities! Let, therefore, the gentlemen whom these things concern, lay them well to heart, and by degrees, perhaps, the tone of art criticism may improve; but at present, it is not too much to say, that not one in a thousand of our picture reviewers, or indeed of our educated classes generally, on entering upon the business or pleasure of life, have anything but the most meagre acquaintance with a subject, a complete familiarity with which, can only be acquired by years of study and diligent application.
How we Inaugurated Ensign M'Nish.
BY CAPTAIN LAURENCE LOCKHART.
In a certain ancient town, north of the Tweed, there was stationed, now many years ago, a four-company detachment of a distinguished Scottish regiment-the Strathbungo Highlanders.
The officer in command of the detachment, which was remote from head-quarters, happened to be a young captain afflicted neither with a fear of responsibility nor with a sense of his official importance, and in these days general officers in charge of districts had not acquired the satanic propensity of going to and fro on the face of the earth, and paying sudden visits of inquisition to the different outlying stations in their command; so the life of the detachment was an easy and a jolly life, and the gay youngsters did as they listed, with no one to make them afraid.
It was the custom at this time to send ensigns on appointment direct to this detachment for instruction in drill, and they were not transferred to head-quarters until the labours of the drill-sergeant and adjutant had qualified them to take part efficiently in the movements of the battalion.
This arrangement had given rise to an amusement very popular among the officers of the detachment, which was called “inaugurating an ensign."
In this amusement there were none of those cruel and even brutal elements which, unfortunately, at one time entered occasionally into the composition of "a practical joke" in the army.
The fun of the " Strathbungos" was free from any ruffianism of that description. The scheme of the "inaugurations" was simply this-that every young officer on his first arrival should, by various cunning devices, find himself plunged into a new world, and living in the midst of a military extravaganza-a new world peopled with a very peculiar people, and a drama in which action and actors were alike unexpected and extraordinary. No commonplace incident was suffered to disturb the illusion, or dissipate, by unconscious comparison, the glamour that was cast over the mind of the patient. He was hurried from one startling conception to another, before his reason had time to settle on any salient point for recovery, till he invariably ended in