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« His admiration delights to dwell in little distinctions, and delicate « discriminations; he loses sight of the leading sentiment, the grand ( character which the artist has impressed upon his work, to follow " the refinements of imaginary emotion, in the corner of a mouth, or 66 the cut of an eye-brow. He gravely parcels out the face like a

map of the passions—finds in every feature a different sentiment, “ and thinks, when he has set them all at variance, that he has pro6 nounced a panegyric on the whole.

“Criticism in the hands of Winckelman, and those who resemble “ him, is precisely that which has been so well described by La

Bruyere: 6 La critique souvent n'est pas une science : c'est un « métier où il faut plus de santé que d'esprit, plus de travail


de “ capacité, plus d'habitude que de génie.”

" The mortifying deceptions which were passed upon him, for " the purpose of exposing his presumption, had little effect in rea “ pressing it. He was to the last the mighty scholiast of taste,

that awful Aristarch Whose front was plough’d with many a deep remark ;'"

Pope. " before whom the artist and the connoisseur were alike dismayed « and discomfited. By the fiat of absolute authority he divided the " whole empire of virtù, assigning the province of genius to his “ friend Mengs the painter, and reserving the department of taste 66 for himself.” ELEM. Note, p. 125.

His observations on the absurd reasoning of those, who vio. late the rules of perspective, under a fallacious pretext of taste,'though fantastically expressed, are strong and just : and he ridicules very successfully the folly which wilfully sacrifices the beauties of propriety with a view

• To snatch a grace beyond the reach of art.' The passage which concludes his remarks on this subject, affords an admirable specimen of his general style :

“ The fearless wing of genius may laudably brush away that cob

web code of critic legislation, in which pedantry and prejudice " have delighted to entangle the interests of taste, and endeavoured " to tie down the talents of every age to the practice of antiquity. " But we should be careful how we are induced to authorize, an“ der any circumstances, a departure from the principles of science,

the precepts of truth; how we are led to tolerate, much less to "applaud an indulgence which militates against the fundamental “ laws of natural propriety ; in order to invest with all the honours 66 of admiration those capricious aberrations, those glittering eccen.

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" tricities of art, which not being reconcileable to nature or com

mon sense, assume the character of irregular excellence, and al.

ways claim our homage, in proportion as they are beyond our ex. “planation or comprehension.

" Those beauties may well be dispensed with, which will not

grow within the pale of propriety, and if all the flowers of this "description were excluded from the pastures of taste, the garden « would not be less blooming or attractive.

“ This doctrine will probably be considered as extraordinary, “by all that class of enthusiastic admirers, who pique themselves on “ the possession of a sensibility of taste, far beyond the phlegmatic

coarseness of ordinary faculties. Those martyrs of moral sym. pathy, who eternally vibrate in tremulous oscillation between the agonies and the ecstacies of life, have no respect for merits which can be made intelligible to common capacities : with them, rea. 66

son and common sense are cold and vulgar critics, who judge 66 when they ought to feel, and question when they should adore. “ In a fine frenzy of delight, they rush to the sanctuary of sentiment, 66 froin the rigid tribunal of the understanding, and what they can. 6 not defend with justice protect by superstition. They delight to “ lose themselves in a sublime obscurity of meaning; to wander in " an agreeable confusion of the faculties amongst the inexpressibles " and indefineables of taste; and are never so thoroughly satisfied “ of their superiority to us common mortals, as when under the rapturous influence of an admiration excited by perfections which can be neither understood nor described.” Elem. Note, p. 81.

On the same just principles of thinking, the author denies the authority of precedent, when in evident opposition to propriety and truth, and admits no example, however illustrious, to be an excuse for error. He observes, “ that precedents are " seldom necessary, but when principles are to be sacrificed, “ for that which will stand by reason, need not be propped by


" We erect,” says he, “into precedents the defects of great men, 6 and are content to be wrong if we can but plead their authority. 16. Thus the name even of Raphael is not unfrequently brought for. (6 ward to bear evidence in favour of imbecility and bad taste; in " the Cartoon of the miraculous draught of fishes, his mode of treat. 66 ing the boat has been considered as a decisive instance to prove, Có that it is sometimes necessary to depart from the strict rules of “perspective and vulgar propriety. Critics have discovered that " if the figures were proportioned to the boat, they would be too

small for the proper impression of the subject, and if the boat were " proportioned to the figures, it would be too large for the dimen. “sion of the picture." ELEM, Note, p. 83.

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Mr. Shee has, however, proved most decisively, that this disproportion of parts was neither necessary to the subject, nor efficient to the attainment of any excellence, which could not be otherwise preserved; and lias observed, that the example even of Raphael would not justify any modern artist in sending his fishermen to sea in a bathing-tub.'

Nor has he combated with less force and skill the arguments of those who defend the unskilful colouring of Poussin and the Roman school, on the ground of its being peculiarly suited to grand historical subjects; who talk of “an historical colouring

peculiarly adapted to elevated subjects, and a severity of “style suited to the grand character of art.” His reasoning on this subject, evinces much good sense and taste, and appears unanswerable ; 'and, to such miserable cant, the lash of his ridicule is justly and skilfully applied. He has ably vindicated too, in another place, the principles and views of the Caracci in the foundation of their school at Bologna from the imputation of those, who seem to have questioned their propriety or practicability merely because they misapprehended them. Indeed, Mr. Shee has shown himself to be thoroughly conversant with the history of his art, and has discriminated with considerable skill the merits and defects of the different schools : on such subjects his judgment is seldom wrong, and always liberal. While he pays the just tribute of admiration to the genius of the old masters, he does not overlook the merits of contemporary artists. Wherever praise is due, he bestows it with a warm sincerity, as honourable to himself as those whom he commends. His character of Barry is drawn with great truth and spirit.

66 Barry, ambitious of renown in his art, and hopeless of any op૮૮

portunity more, favourable to his purpose, proposed to adorn the

great room of “the Society of Arts,” with a series of pictures, 6 illustrative of the progress of man towards civilization and science. “ To complete this extensive work, he devoted himself to poverty “ and seclusion for seven or eight years ; subsisting on means scarce

ly adequate to the support of nature in the humblest station ;


penury of

" and by its exhibition to the public when finished, he obtained, as “ the whole reward of his labours--five hundred pounds!

" Nor did the affluence of honours compensate for the profit; notwithstanding the zeal, the perseverance, and the abi.

lity which he displayed, he found it difficult to live, even on the “ humblest scale of expence, in that city which his genius has so “ much contributed to adorn, and died at last the object of a pub. " lic subscription.

“The merits and the manners of Barry were certainly little suited e to the time, and still less to the country in which he lived. As a

man, he would have been more distinguished in the age of Peri. “cles; as a painter, he would have been more esteemed in the age ~ of Leo; in Greece, he might perhaps have been a sage, as well

as an artist; the leader of a sect in philosophy, and the founder “ of a school of taste. In England, he was only an oddity at whom “every body stared, whom few appreciated, and fewer still under.

66 stood.

" In his art and in his manners, he alike mistook, or rather dis

regarded, what was essential to his time : in the former, he fol. "lowed the Roman school, when only the Venetian was admired; “ in the latter, he neglected urbanity, when urbanity was neces.

sary to please, and allowed himself to be rough and independent

amongst those, who always demand our respect, and often our “ obsequiousness.

“Neglect, mortification, and disappointment, wrought on Barry C their usual effects in irritable and ambitious minds: he withdrew “ from the contest, not defeated, but disgusted: he sunk into him.

self with an indignant feeling of worth unregarded : a proud con. "sciousness of having meant well and merited better of his coun. “try." ELEM. Note, p. 161.

This is in a better style and manner than he usually writes : nor is the sketch of Opie less interesting :

“ Emerging from an humble sphere by his own strength, and un. “ influenced by those predisposing impressions, which generally re6 sult from the regular discipine of the faculties, according to the “ forms of systematic instruction, his mind was stamped with a " character of intrepid curiosity, of unyielding independence, from

which, perhaps, his most conspicuous merits were derived.", .“ In some parts of his art, he rose to great eminence: in the 66 powerful relief of his object he may be said to vie with Rem

brandt, Carravaggio, and Velasquez. Sometimes, perhaps, this 56 praise was obtained at the expense of merits more estimable; but « in characters of age, and strong expression, where vigour of effect 6 is peculiarly appropriate, he carried it to a degree of projection,

which, if it has been equalled, has certainly never been surpassed.


66 in design.

" In that particular quality of colouring called tone, he was

also, at one period of his practice, conspicuously skilled. The « death of James the Sixth of Scotland, and some of his pictures “ painted for the Shakspeare Gallery, displayed a depth, and “ richness of hue, which are not always to be found in his sub.

sequent works. The desire of freshness and purity of tint, ti much influenced his pencil in the latter period of his life, and o sometimes occasioned a crude and chalky effect of colouring, “ which impaired the general impression of his merits.

6 His manner was broad, bold, and original; pursuing truth « without prejudice, but generally without choice; faithful, but 56 not minute in imitation; always forcible in effect, but often feeble

“ A short time before his death, he was appointed to the Pro. s fessor's chair of painting, in the Royal Academy; and if he had

lived to digest and complete his course of lectures in that estab. “ lishment, his profession would have derived instruction and de. " light from his unhesitating boldness of investigation-his origi. "nality of remark and ingenuity of argument. He was one of the

few characters which are to be met with in society, who see with " their own eyes, and hear with their own ears. Untutored in " the awe of authority, a name had no influence upon him when " opposed to an argument. He was no venerator of time, nor

respecter of prejudice: he was an original thinker, whose mind " rushed fearlessly forward in search of truth, wherever it seemed “ likely to be found; and if the peculiarity of his opinions some. 66 times excited surprize and provoked opposition, the ingenuity 6 with which they were maintained, seldom failed to shew great "vigour of thought, and singular acuteness of observation.”

ELEM, note, p. 265. In his attack on authorities and systems, the author has occasionally suffered himself to be borne away in the ardour of pursuit beyond just limits. He has not even spared the venerable name of Homer, to whose whole works þe does not hesitate to prefer a single Greek statue; much on the same grounds which led him, in the comparison he instituted between the claims of poetry and painting, to award the palm of genius to the painter. He has stated little to justify the flippancy with which he speaks of " the practice of Homer, and the ipse dixit of Aristotle.” In fact, he has been ambitious to shew his talent for metaphysical disquisition, and has not much cared what was the subject : nor has he been a little ingenious in the

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