Page images


patch over his eye, one walked lamely with especially when we compare the two sticks, another with one; there were tent and quality of his achievements some arms in slings. I bought a quartern with the brief limit of his life, it is perloaf and Crowe a plum-cake. Leslie and haps hardly possible to think too Walker, playing on tin whistles, headed highly. It may be said that every piethe procession of cripples, which walked, ture he painted made its mark; he limped, and hobbled into Shepperton. Though amused and puzzled, the people

could not do anything commonplace, we met or passed refrained from chaff or

whatever subject he treated was injeers.

vested with a poetic suggestiveness pe

culiar to himself. It does not seem to have occurred to works there is no better example of

Among his smaller Mr. Marks that the population of Shep- this than a little water-color, not as perton in this respect contrasted rather well known as many of his works, enfavorably, in the matter of good taste, titled “The Thunderstorm.”? What with himself and his comrades.

was it which answered to that title? One old lady, however, who saw through Not a landscape with a black cloud and our shamming, reproved us by saying, “Ye the regulation flash of lightning, one ought to be ashamed of yourselves--you might be sure. It was the interior of a might be struck so!" When we got to a small drawing-room in a country house, convenient place the whistles ceased play with a young girl and a child, with ing, and I addressed the natives, assuring their backs to the spectator, planted at them that I was to be member for the the window and evidently gazing borough at the next election, and when that happy day arrived the quartern loaf, such fixedly out of it. It was strangely efas I showed them, would be greatly reduced fective; one felt as if one were looking in price—in fact, all but given away. out at the thunderstorm along with the Crowe then cut up the plum-cake, and dis- children. That was a typical example tributed the slices among the assembled of Walker's way of mingling human inchildren. ... On the return journey, at terest with nature; it was not the thuneach station we stopped (sic) I harangued derstorm per se, but the thunderstorm the people, asking, among other questions, if there were “any lady or gentleman for child, that took the painter's fancy; it

as an awe-inspiring spectacle for the the diving-bell.” The guard came up to our carriage, and, addressing me, said, may be said that half the poetry of the "Well, sir, you are a cure."

work lay in the title. It is mentioned

in the “Life” that he was very particuAfter this example of artistic"humor,"

lar and hard to satisfy as to the titles which a Royal Academician in his ma.

of his pictures. The admirable and ture years thinks it worth while to put suggestive title of "The Harbor of on record in print for the edification of

uge" he owed to a friend, and sig. the world at large, is it not time that nalized his satisfaction with it by dancwe revised the fashion of regarding ing round the studio. This feeling as artists, and encouraging them to re

to the importance of the title showed a gard themselves, as constituting a kind true poetic instinct. A well-chosen and of intellectual aristocracy?

significant title is a key to the artist's The beautifully got up volume of the mental attitude in regard to the work, “Life and Letters of Frederick Walker" and may make all the difference in the contains nothing, we are glad to say, mental attitude of the spectator in exof that sort; the letters in fact are en- amining it. tirely unobjectionable in tone, but un.

Walker's power of combining the senfortunately that is all there is to say timent of the figures with the sentiabout them, and the book forms

ment of the scene, so as to make them notable example of the curious dis.

the crepancy to be found between

1 We do not know where this picture is. We saw

it once only, many years ago, in one of the minor painter as we know him on canvas and

exhibitions-very likely it was the exhibition of the painter behind the


Walker's collected works in Deschamps' gallery Frederick Walker's genius as a painter, in 1876—but it left an ineffaceable impression.





both go home to the heart as with one there was a menace of terror; in "The impression, was one of the most re- Lion in the Path,” where a man in the markable characteristics of his art. foreground sees a lion in the distance, The peculiar feeling which he imparted the whole landscape and sky seem to to his combinations of landscape and be associated with the threatening danfigures may be said to have been a new ger. But Poole's figures were bad; word in art. Of idyllic paintings we they were symbols of what was inhad had many; landscapes with two tended rather than studies of types of lovers, landscapes with a pretty girl at humanity, and we are not suggesting a stile, landscapes with cattle, and so that he was a painter to be compared on. But with Walker the idyll with Walker; he was moreover very sumed a pathetic, even a tragic, mean- unequal; but his finest works show a ing. "The Plough" was perhaps his power of suggesting human sentiment masterpiece in this class of work. The by means of landscape which never remelancholy landscape with its waning ceived the recognition it merited. light is only the duplicated expression In “The Harbor of Refuge,” the comof the pathos expressed in the weary bination is formed of ancient buildings figure of the ploughman, almost lean- and figures, and the main point is the ing for support on the handles of the contrast between the vigor of youth plough at the close of an exhausting and strength and the decrepitude and day's labor. The figures and the land- pathos of old age. The extraordinary scape are poem; each element and dramatic power with which the would lose nearly all of its effect apart contrast is illustrated produced an imfrom the other; and the title, simple as mense effect the year the work apit is, is full of significance in its form. peared at the Academy, and we believe If the picture had been called “Plough many persons regard it as Walker's ing," a title often used for landscapes finest production-it is certainly his which afford no other suggestion for a most popular one; but in our opinion it specific classification, the point would is just open to the charge of being a have been much weakened. “The little overdone and too dramatic; the Plough” puts the abstract for the con- attitude of the mower also is certainly crete; it is the symbolic instrument of somewhat open to criticism, and the human toil—"In the sweat of thy brow prominence of the figure makes this deshalt thou eat bread.” Walker would fect of importance; and on the whole perhaps not have expressed this in so we do not consider it as fine, as commany words, either to himself or to any plete a work, as "The Plough," or one other person, but his poetic instinct likely to retain its hold so long. In was in it. The same indefinable affin

some respects we are inclined to regard ity between the landscape and the fig. "The Bathers” as Walker's central proures, the same suggestive generality in duction, and we have always regretted the title, is seen in such pictures as on this account that it was not the one “The Vagrants,” and “Wayfarers," and selected for purchase for the National “Mushroom Gatherers." Each is an Gallery. The translation of an inci. aspect of the pathos or tragedy of life dent from the common life of his day defined in subject by the figures, and into a picture of almost Greek beauty heightened in expression by the land- and elevation of style is a feat as rare scape. We have had nothing in art as it is remarkable, and such a picture quite like this before. The nearest to from the life of his own day would it, before Walker, was to be found in have been a very fitting work by which some of the landscape conceptions, to represent the painter in the national either with or without figures, by that collection. How instructive, too, if it fine and much neglected and under- could have been hung next to the rated artist, Poole. In his landscape “Derby Day," as an artistic and social entitled "The Dragon's Cave,” without contrast! any figure either human or draconian, The unfortunate painting, as Walker




and his friends considered it, “At the to Thackeray's query as to "whether Bar,” the only life-size figure subject, he could draw," is wonderfully good as far as we remember, that he and quite recognizable as Thackeray: hibited, though perhaps hardly an at the sketch (page 111) in his own studio, tractive work, had a considerable im- with the dealer, with his cheque-book portance, for it served as an indication, sticking out of his pocket, contemplatat all events, of what the artist mighting the picture, and the artist standing have achieved in figure subjects on a by in an embarrassed attitude, is holarge scale. Had his life been spared morous and pathetic at the same time; to the orthodox threescore and ten, and the celebrated drawing of "Capthere is no imagining what Walker tain Jinks in his steam launch the might not have accomplished in paint- Selfish, enjoying himself with his ing; great as his executed works are, friends," and upsetting every one else he was really only just beginning a on the river, which was contributed to career at the time of his death. And Punch is a capital bit of satire. yet of all this intellectual power and It is perhaps question whether poetry which comes out in his pictures, Walker's rustic figures were not too there is not a trace in the letters or in much idealized. One of the few interany anecdotes (of which there are in esting points in Mr. H. S. Marks's book fact very few) that are related of him. is a letter from Ruskin in reply to a reThe author has mainly allowed quest that he would put on paper some Walker to tell his own story, for the record of his impressions of Walker's bulky volume consists almost entirely art in connection with the posthumous of the painter's own letters, linked to- exhibition of the artist's works. gether by a few connecting words; letter seems to have been written but the fact is there is no story to tell. rather in a temper (no unusual occurThe letters for the most part rence, certainly, in Mr. Ruskin's corabsolutely uninteresting. What

we respondence), but, while showing a wanted was a small biography just to great deal of sympathy with and rergive us the main facts as to Walker's

erence for Walker's genius, it suggests life and character; for the rest let his criticisms which are worth considerapictures speak. In a note quoted in the tion, though at too much length to book Mr. Calderon says of him,

quote. Some remonstrances as to his “Walker never expressed an opinion attitude drew from him, however, a about anything, or joined in any dis- second letter in which he puts one point cussion whatever;" and that is just

succinctly in regard to a suggested what one would gather from his let

comparison between Frère and ters; they express nothing characteris

Walker:tic whatever, except an occasional peevishness and irritability. From

I wrote of Frère, first, "he had the simhints here and there we are able to put plicity of Wordsworth.” Well, he lived together the idea of a personality not in a village, loved it, and painted what he without interest; a small but very well- saw there. (Hook has done something of formed figure, a melancholy and ab- the kind, though not so faithfully, for stracted countenance, a character

Clovelly.) But you do not suppose there marked by acute shyness and sensitive is any simplicity in Walker! All those

peasants of his are got up for the stage. ness and a passionate rebellion against Look at the flutter of that girl's apron anything mean or petty. For the rest under the apple-tree. Look at the ridicuone must go to his pictures; except that lous mower, galvanized-Elgin in his attithe vein of "humor" which Mr. H. S. tude (and the sweep of the scythe utterly Marks, as observed, claims for him, out of drawing). You do not suppose that does come out in some of the pen flock of geese is done simply? It is sketches reproduced in the volume.

1 It is said that the person aimed at in this draps. His sketch of Thackeray with his back ing received three copies of Punch' by post the to you, an early effort made in answer day after it appeared.


elaborately affected-straining to express men, are realistic, and this is certainly the feelings of a cockney who had never an idealized mower. But it is a matter before seen a goose in his life, web-footed. for feeling and instinct rather than You do not suppose these children in the logic. We propose the same test as in “Chaplain's Daughter" are simple? They the case of "The Plough;" would you are as artificial as the Sistine Chapel, etc.

wish Walker to have painted out that These criminal children in the “Chap- figure and substituted a faithful study lain's Daughter” we do not recollect at from the man who mows your lawn? the moment. But as to the artificiality Few people would have any doubt as to of the figures in some of Walker's most the answer. celebrated pictures there is truth in the The life and letters of Rossetti are criticism. Walker evolved from his in those of a man who, unlike Walker, ner consciousness a “noble peasant,” had a great deal to say about his own with a superior walk and demeanor; a art and that of other people, and there typical form of him is the boy in “Way- is a good deal that is of interest in the farers," a boy who was certainly never letters here and there, but also a great met with on the highroad as a tramp deal that is not, and which was not in in real life, any more than the laborer the least worth reprinting. What can walking through the foreground in be the possible object of putting on rec“The Old Gate.” Still less did we ever ord such a letter as this, for instance?see in real life the man who hangs on the plougla-tail in “The Plough," or the

Sunday, July 2, 1871. action and attitude of the lad who Whitley Stokes has come from India, walks beside the horses. But it may be and stays only a very short time in Lonreplied that Walker was not, in these don. He is to dine with me Wednesday pictures, aiming at the representation

at 7. I hope you can come, as I am sure

he would like to see you again. of real life. He could be simple and real enough when he chose, in This has the merit of brevity, "Spring,” or in that beautiful and tainly, but there are much longer lettouching design for the illustration of ters which are of as little general in“Philip in Church” for Thackeray's terest. On the other hand, Rossetti's story. But we take it that in such pic- comments on the works of art seen in tures as “The Plough” or “Wayfarers" his not very numerous expeditions are he was idealizing the figures

con- lively, earnest, and of considerable insciously and with a reasonable motive. terest. His curious fancy of putting “The Plough” especially was an alle- his observations on persons and landgory of the weariness of labor, and an

scape, during his journey from London impersonal and typical character was to Paris, into what may be called protherefore given to the figures; they are saic verse, remarks thrown into the sufficiently near to real life to awaken form of metre in a loose careless way, our sympathy, but sufficiently idealized

were worth reprinting; they have no to lift the whole into a more poetic re- literary value

poems (a rather gion.

Will any one say that “The strange remark to have to make about Plough” would be improved or height- any verse of Rossetti’s), but they form ened in effect by substituting for the an interesting record of the impressions actual figures the realistic representa- of a quick and observant intellect, tion of such a ploughman as we may though rather disagreeably permeated meet any day in the fields?

Hardly, by a perpetual discontent with things we think. Walker very likely did not around him. The impression left by reason thus, for as far as appears he the two volumes is not a very pleasant rever did reason about his art; but his

one. In the first place, one cannot but genius led him right. The mower in be struck with the concentrated self“The Harbor of Refuge” is a more diffi- sufficiency of the whole coterie of cult point, because the other figures in which Rossetti was the leading figure; the picture, especially the group of old their persuasion of the supreme impor




tance of their own affairs and their pressing their contempt for all painting own views of art and life, and their outside their own ideals. His pet pame crudely expressed contempt for every for Miss Siddal, who became his wife, one else. All the pros and cons of Bu- was “Guggum," and Mrs. Hueffer, who chanan's exaggerated and unworthy at- as a child sat for one of his pictures, tack on Rossetti under a feigned signa- remembers him standing before the ture in the article on the “Fleshly easel solacing himself over his work by School of Poetry” are debated through a constant repetition of “Guggum, Gugpage after page, as if the matter were gum." The ménage does not seem to of interest to any one now. It has al- have been a very comfortable one, and ready been suggested in our pages, Rossetti's remorse at her death led him however, in we hope more moderate to bury the manuscripts of his poems in and reasonable language, that the tone her coffin, saying, “I have often been of some of Rossetti's poetry is open to writing these poems when Lizzie was a criticism of the kind; not that there ill and suffering, and I might have been is any special poem which we can attending to her, and now they sball blame him for having written, but that go.” That is a feeling that we can the “House of Life" sonnets, if we look honor and sympathize with; but it below the splendid diction and imagery gives one rather a shock to find that, to the real tendency of the thought in six or seven years after, the poet, rethem, embody a view of life which is penting of this act and desiring to esessentially sensuous and decadent tablish a literary reputation, had his But we are not here considering Ros- wife's coffin exhumed and opened and setti as a poet, and may dismiss that the manuscripts taken out again from portion of the subject with the remark among the poor corrupted remains. It that, with whatever reservations, we is inconceivable to us how any man are inclined to think that his greatest who had loved and lost a wife could engift lay in poetry, and that he would dure to do so loathsome a thing. Some have done wisely to have spent more of people will say, no doubt, "Was it not his strength in poetical production in- better so than that such poems should stead of placing it, as we think he (and be lost to the world ?" Well, there are perhaps his friends) did, as a second some things in life even more imporary alternative to painting.

tant than poetry; and we hope many The impression conveyed by the me. persons will feel that, were the poet a moir is that Rossetti in his earlier days, relation of theirs or one in whom they and before he fell into the unhappy were closely interested, they would ten habits which unquestionably shortened times rather that his poems should his life, was not by any

the have been lost, than that they should kind of dreamy and sensitive being have been recovered by an action so which the style and feeling of most of utterly at variance with delicacy of his poems would have led one to ex- feeling and reverence for the dead. As pect. He was apparently a hearty, vig- to the sad accounts of Rossetti's latter orous kind of man, who entered strenu- days, the utter subversion of his will ously both into work and amusement, under the influence of stupendous doses and was at once a staunch friend, an of chloral and wholesale spirit-drinkenthusiastic admirer, and a good hater. ing, it is not the first time that men of But there was an element of coarseness true genius have fallen into that about his character, showing itself in slough; but we cannot see why it various small characteristics, among should all be written down fifteen others of language. His favorite word years afterwards. Why not have let it for paintings that did not please him be forgotten? There is one more point is "slosh" or "filthy slosh;" though we we would allude to in the “Life;" the rather believe that this objectionable author is very solicitous to deny the kind of slang was adopted also by oth charge against Rossetti that he ers of the P.R.B. set, as a mode of ex- “worked the oracle," as the saying is,


« EelmineJätka »