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had such an awkward accident in it, insisted on my giving up the study, saying he would not stay in Chamonix for me to finish it. As I was his guest I complied with his wish, and we left the valley the next day.
This capriciousness is a characteristic of the man. In spite of the womanly tenderness of his nature, which is, when favorably moved, of a kindliness which measures no sacrifice, he is capable, under impulse, of treating a friend of one day with the most contemptuous aversion on the next, for some whim no more important than that which drove us out of Chamonix.
There is in his character a curious form of individuality so accentuated and so imperious that it produces in him the sense of infallibility. He speaks of his opinions not as matters of opinion but as positive knowledge; yet in personal intercourse I found nothing of the dogmatism which is so notable a feature in his writing. He listened to all objections, and often acknowledged, during discussion, the inconsequence of his conclusions; and during the long and vigorous debates which occupied our evenings he not infrequently admitted error, but on the next day held the old ground as firmly as ever. His intellect, with all its power and intensity, is of the purely feminine type. The love of purity; the quick, kindly, and unreasoning impulse; the uncompromising selfsacrifice when the feeling is on him, and the illogical self-assertion in reaction when it has passed; the passionate admiration of power; the waywardness and often inexplicable fickleness, all are there. But behind all these feminine traits there is the no less feminine quality of passionate love of justice, flecked, on occasions of personal implication, with acts of great injustice; there is a general inexhaustible tenderness, with occasional instances of absolute cruelty. Any present judgment of him as a whole is difficult if not impossible, because there are in him several different individuals, and the perspective in which we now see them makes of his position, as an art-teacher, the dominant element of his personality; whereas, in my persuasion, his art-teaching is in his own nature and work subordinate to his moral and humanitarian ideals. He always saw art through a religious medium, and this made him, from the beginning, strain his system of teaching and criticism to meet the demand of direct truth to nature, the roots of his enthusiasm and reverence being not in art but in nature and in her beneficial influence on humanity. A little incident of our Alpine summer will illustrate this view of his character better than all my appreciations. During our stay at Geneva he had some mountain drawing to do at the Perte du Rhône, and asked me to drive
down with him. Not far from the point of view which he had selected was a group of wretched dwellings miscalled cottages but which in America we call shanties, not the picturesque wall-and-thatch structures which the word cottage calls up in England, but built of boards, shabby without being picturesque, and to my American notions only capable of association with poverty and discomfort. Ruskin asked me to draw them while he was drawing the mountains. The subject was anything but attractive or pictorial, and though it should have been enough for me that he wished me to draw it carefully, I only obeyed my own feeling and made a careless ten-minutes' pencil drawing,- all the thing was worth to me. When Ruskin drove up to take me in on the way back to Geneva and saw what I had done, he was, and I must say with good reason, offended at the indifferent way in which I had complied with his request, and after a few reproachful words threw himself back in the carriage in a sullen temper. I replied that the subject did not interest me, and that the principal feeling I had in looking at it was that it must be a wretched home for human beings and promised more fevers than anything else, and that, in short, I did not think it worth drawing. Nothing more was said by either of us until we had driven half-way back to Geneva, when he broke out with, "You are right, Stillman, about those cottages; your way of looking at them was nobler than mine, and now, for the first time in my life, I understand how anybody can live in America." It has always seemed to me that this was a true epitome of the man's nature,- first the æsthetic, outside view of the matter; then the humanitarian, overpowering it; the womanish pettishness, and the generous admission of his error when seen; and after this confession his greater cordiality to me-for he always valued more any one who brought him a new idea, though he often broke friendship with those who differed from him too strongly.
Besides this absorbing passion for the spiritual ideal, the mental constitution whose compass was set to the immovable pole of the most exalted morality, he had a curious facility for seeing things as he wished to. He saw through his feelings and prepossessions, and even looking at nature he only saw certain things, and those in general through his predisposition. So he always held Turner true although the thing he saw was false. In one drawing where Turner has given the full moon rising in cool night-mists at the left of the picture and the sun setting golden at the right, Ruskin explains it as intended to be two pictures. He praises Turner for mingled effects of sunlight and moonlight when he ought to know
that the full moon will cast no shadow until the sun has set nearly or quite an hour. Turner continually puts figures in full light in the foreground of a picture which has the sun setting in the view, the shadows on the figures being consequently on the side nearest the sun, yet Ruskin has never admitted the painter's indifference to the poets of nature.
To the world at large Ruskin's reputation, even as an art critic, rests on the first volume of his "Modern Painters." Very few people have read the second volume, and fewer still the whole five, though the early editions have been sold and a reprint of one thousand since. Of this first volume, what most impressed the public was not the soundness of his views of art, of which it could not judge at all, or his knowledge of nature, of which it could judge but little, but his eloquence, his magnificent diction. Take for instance the following from the comparison of Turner with Poussin, which every reader of the book will remember as what is called a "word picture" of extraordinary power:
“But as I climbed the long slopes of the Alban mount, the storm swept finally to the north, and the noble outline of the domes of Albano, and the graceful darkness of its ilex grove rose against pure streaks of alternate blue and amber, the upper sky gradually flushing through the last fragments of rain-cloud in deep, palpitating azure, half ether and half dew. The noonday sun came slanting down the rocky slopes of La Riccia, and its masses of entangled and tall foliage,
whose autumnal tints were mixed with the wet verdure
of a thousand evergreens, were penetrated with it as with rain. I cannot call it color, it was conflagration. Purple, and crimson, and scarlet, like the curtains of God's tabernacle, the rejoicing trees sank into the valley, in showers of light, every separate leaf quivering with buoyant and burning life, each, as it turned to reflect or to transmit the sunbeam, first a torch and then an emerald. Far up into the recesses of the valley, the green vistas arched like the hollows of mighty waves of some crystalline sea, with the arbutus flowers dashed along their flanks for foam, and silver flakes of orange spray tossed into the air around them, breaking over the gray walls of rock into a thousand separate stars, fading and kindling alternately as the weak wind lifted or let them fall. Every glade of grass burned like the golden floor of heaven, opening in sudden gleams as the foliage broke and closed above it as sheet lightning opens in a cloud at sunset; the motionless masses of dark rock-dark though flushed with scarlet lichen -casting their quiet shadows across its restless radiance, the fountain underneath them filling its marble hollow with blue mist and fitful sound, and, over all, the multitudinous bars of amber and rose, the sacred clouds that have no darkness, and only exist to illumine, were seen in fathomless intervals, between the solemn and orbed repose of the stone pines passing to lose themselves in the last white, blinding lustre of the measureless line, where the Campagna melted into
the blaze of the sea."
Magnificent this is as rhetoric, but if intended to show the shortcomings of Poussin or
the attainments of Turner it is as exaggerated for one as it is unfair for the other; for the effects there described are no more in the power of color than in the feeling of either of those artists. It is not nature-painting at all; neither true to the sense nor to the details of nature. As mastery of the English language I shall not attempt to criticise it, but as statement of what is to be seen in nature or rendered in art it bears about the same relation to the most ideal and orchestral effects of Turner as those do to sober nature. I have put in italics certain expressions to which I ask the grave critical attention of the reader. I leave out the singular topographical inaccuracies which, in a work devoted to truth of nature, ought to claim some attention, but in such a work we may ask the sober meaning of such expressions as "Purple, and crimson, and scarlet, like the curtains of God's tabernacle"; "Every separate leaf quivering with buoyant and burning life, each, as it turned to reflect or to transmit the sunbeam, first a torch and then an emerald"; the rocks "dark though flushed with scarlet lichen-casting their quiet shadows [are shadows ever anything but quiet?] across its restless radiance" [why restless radiance except, like much else in the passage, for alliteration ?]. The color epithets, to an artist, only express a crudity of pigment as unlike Turner as nature; the "arbutus flowers dashed along their flanks" . . . "silver flakes of orange spray [dreamed of from some other locality, for neither exists at Aricia] tossed into the air around them . . . into a thousand separate stars"; and "every separate leaf," show as great contempt for the possibilties of painting in the rendering of detail for the human eye as indifference to the aims of landscape painting, either by Poussin or Turner. The "Purple, and crimson, and scarlet, like the curtains of God's tabernacle," is apocalyptic, not naturalistic, and the entire passage, when we consider that it is part of an essay intended to advocate the close adherence to the facts of nature in landscape painting, can only be put aside as passing legitimate criticism or justifiable comparison. It is safe to say that of a thousand landscape painters and amateurs habituated to look at nature, taking the best and the most trivial, not one who had passed by Aricia would recognize as fact a single characteristic of the description by Ruskin. I know the place better than I do New York, and am confident in saying that neither in the ensemble nor in the detail is there anything there which Ruskin imagines he saw. Much is mere sound, alliteration which is in place in poetry but not in art criticism, and much only the expression of vague imaginings far less like nature than the great scenic compositions of John Martin.
Take another instance from the section on the sea ("Truth of Water," this being the description of a picture, the "Slave Ship"). Again I italicize the passages to which I wish to call attention as demanding analysis and criticism. "It is a sunset on the Atlantic after prolonged storm; but the storm is partially lulled, and the torn and streaming rain-clouds are moving in scarlet lines to lose themselves in the hollow of the night. The whole surface of the sea included in the picture is divided into two ridges of enormous swell, not high nor local, but a broad heaving of the whole ocean like the lifting of its bosom by deep-drawn breath after the torture of the storm. Between these two ridges the fire of the sunset falls along the trough of the sea, dyeing it with an awful but glorious light, the intense and lurid splendor of which burns like gold and bathes like blood. Purple and blue the lurid shadows of the hollow breakers are cast on the mist of the night, which gathers cold and low, advancing like the shadow of death upon the guilty ship as it labors amidst the lightning of the sea, its thin masts written upon the sky in lines of blood girded with condemnation in that fearful hue which signs the sky with horror, and mixes its flaming flood with the sunlight, and, cast far along the desolate heave of the sepulchral waves, incarnadines the multitudinous I believe, if I were reduced to rest Turner's claim to immortality upon any single work, I should choose this. Its daring conception-ideal in the highest sense of the word—is fused on the purest truth and wrought out with the concentrated knowledge of a life.. and the whole picture is dedicated to the most sublime of subjects and impressions,― (completing thus the perfect system of all truth which we have shown to be formed by Turner's works)-the power, majesty, and deathfulness of the open, deep illimitable sea."
"Burns like gold and bathes like blood" is, of course, again for alliteration; "Purple and blue the lurid shadows," etc., part for the sing of the sentence and part poetic imagination utterly unsuggested and unsuggestable by painting; "that fearful hue," etc., to "multitudinous sea," is simply fine writing which, when it conveys a false impression, or no impression legitimate to its professed purpose, is a literary vice, as it is in this case, where the purpose is the description of a picture.
Ruskin supposes this picture to be an attempt to portray the deep sea, but neither he nor Turner was ever out of soundings: how should one paint, or the other recognize, the fathomless as distinguished from the shallow seas? The fact is that the sea in the "Slave Ship" is a long ground-swell, resembling the watery mountains one may see on the open Atlantic no more than the water below a rapid. This form of swell and the "hollow breakers" are never found except when the sea is shoaling. In the deep Atlantic after a long gale, such as Ruskin supposes (I have seen it at its worst once only in 70,000 miles, more or less, of ocean travel by sail and steam), the great waves lift to heights such that Turner's "Slave Ship" would be hidden between two of them. They hang over you like impending doom, and just when you think that the ship must be buried in VOL. XXXV.-51-52.
five seconds, the forefoot of the wave reaches you, and the ship suddenly begins to rise, and in another five seconds you are on the summit looking out over the heaving expanse, -black, save as it is foam-driven, fitfully rising and falling, apparently without law or order, and after being poised an instant you feel the ship going from under you again, your breath almost leaves you with the rapidity of the descent, and you are buried once more in the deep trough of the sea for another brief space. Out of the flanks of these great waves jump and start, fitfully and unaccountably, lesser hillocks, to drop and disappear again; but when the crest of one comes towards you, you see no hollow breaker, for the crest simply pitches forward and slides down the slope there is no combing.
Then, as to truth, Turner's whole picture is a flagrant falsehood. The most gorgeous colors of a sunset are painted in a sky where the sun has still half an hour or more to sink to the horizon; and this license the artist habitually took, although, as every artist knows, these colors never come till after sunset. The clouds are not the "torn and streaming rainclouds" of an after-storm sky, but full-bellied, rolling wind-clouds, so far as they are structurally true to anything; subtly modeled and modulated, but as a whole as utterly impossible a sky as the sea is an utterly impossible sea. It is a marvelous picture: I do not yield to Ruskin in admiration of it as art, or admire it less for its daring license and contempt of nature's details; one can only say that it is magnificent, but it is not nature. Ruskin's feeling as to art may have been, au fond, correct; but it was so disturbed and perverted by his theories and the settled conviction that art was simply the uncompromising rendering of nature as she appears to the bodily vision, that he left out of all consideration the subjective transformation of natural truth which is the basis of art; or, if he reckoned it in, it was to persuade himself that it was due to a peculiarity of vision in the painter. It is impossible to reconcile all the inconsistencies into which this theory led him, such as the exaltation of painters who were mere naturalists, like Brett, or utterly unimaginative realists, like Holman Hunt, and the extraordinary judgment which he pronounced on Millais in his pamphlet on Pre-Raphaelitism,- which phase of art he desired to consider the consequence of his teaching, though, as I have heard Rossetti say, none of the Brotherhood had ever read ten pages of his writing before Ruskin had constituted himself their advocate. In some respects this little book may be considered the summing up of his art teachings, and the violence done to logic and art alike in his par
allel between Millais and Turner is the clearest statement of his errors we possess. The function of the painter is here defined clearly and chiefly to be topographer and historian. "Suppose that, after disciplining themselves so as to be able to draw with unerring precision each the particular kind of subject in which he most delighted, they had separated into two great armies of historians and naturalists; that the first had painted with absolute faithfulness every edifice, every city, every battle-field, every scene of the slightest historical interest, precisely and completely rendering their aspect at the time; and that their companions, according to their several powers, had painted with like fidelity the plants and animals, the natural scenery and the atmospherical phenomena of every country on the earth; suppose that a faithful and complete record were now in our museums of every building destroyed by war, or time, or innovation during these last 200 years; suppose that each recess of every mountain chain of Europe had been penetrated and its rocks drawn with such accuracy that the geologist's diagram was no longer necessary; suppose that every tree of the forest had been drawn in its noblest aspect, every beast of the field in its savage life— that all these gatherings were already in our national galleries, and that the painters of the present day were laboring happily and earnestly to multiply them and put such knowledge more and more within reach of the common people,- would not that be a more honorable life for them than gaining precarious bread by 'bright effects'?"
One may reply, safely enough, that such a career is honorable in the sense that it is honest, but if the honor is that of which artists are most ambitious, it is equally safe to say that there is very little of it to be gained in that life. And this method of study has always been the basis of Ruskin's instruction -instruction for this and other reasons utterly wasted so far as the proper cultivation of art is concerned. I remember how, when Ruskin's drawing-book was published, an artist whose feeling for all the nobler qualities of art I have rarely known equaled, and a personal friend and admirer of Ruskin, said to me, "He should not have printed that; we know now just what he does not know." It is not so much that he ignores the greater gifts, but that he conceives that they can be trained or developed by this kind of antlike proceeding, going over the earth as an insect, not even as a bird. But it is in the comparison of the two painters whom he chooses as types that we most clearly recognize the failure to distinguish
between the two forms of so-called art.
'Suppose, for instance, two men, equally honest,
equally industrious, equally impressed with a humble desire to render some part of what they saw in nature faithfully, and otherwise trained in convictions such
as I have above endeavored to induce. But one of
them is quiet in temperament, has a feeble memory, no invention, and excessively keen sight. The other is impatient in temperament, has a memory which nothing escapes, an invention which never rests, and is comparatively near-sighted. Set them both free in the same field in a mountain valley. One sees everything
small and large, with almost the same clearness; mountains and grasshoppers alike; the leaves on the
branches, the veins in the pebbles, the bubbles in the stream; but he can remember nothing and invent nothing. Patiently he sets himself his mighty task; abandoning at once all thought of seizing transient effects, or giving general impressions of that which his eyes present to him in microscopical dissection, he chooses some small portion out of the infinite scene, and calculates with courage the number of weeks which must elapse before he can do justice to the intensity of his perceptions or the fullness of matter in his subject. Meanwhile the other has been watching the change of the clouds and the march of the light along the mountain-sides; he beholds the whole scene in broad, soft masses of true gradation, and the very feebleness of his sight is in some sort an advantage to him in making him more sensible of the aërial mystery of distance and hiding from him the multitudes of circumstances which it would have been impossible for him to represent. have supposed the feebleness of sight in this last and of invention in the first painter, that the contrast between them may be the more striking; but with very slight modification both the characters are real. Grant to the first considerable inventive power with exquisite sense of color, and give to the second, in addition to all his other faculties, the eye of an eagle, and the first is John Everett Millais, the second Joseph Mallord William Turner." "And thus Pre-Raphaelitism and Raphaelitism and Turnerism are all one and the same thing, so far as education can influence them; they are different in their choice, different in their faculties, but all the same in this, that Raphael himself, so far as he was great, and all who preceded or followed him who ever were great, became so by painting the truths around them as they appeared to each man's mind, not who made both him and them." as he had been taught to see them except by the God
And yet, between the first and the last sentences which I have quoted, the author has gone through a detailed account of the development of Turner's art, showing that it was a continuous evolution of conventional forms of treatment borrowed from earlier painters. He is obliged, to complete his antithesis, to suppose Turner feeble of sight, because he could in no other way consistent with his theory (and everything is always bent to his theories) account for his ignoring "the multitudes of circumstances which it would have been impossible for him to represent," whereas the simple fact was that Turner had, as he afterwards admits, an eagle's eye, and simply ignored whatever in nature did not suit his purpose. Turner was bred on conventions; he began in the style of the men about him, Girtin and his kind; he went through the schools of Loutherbourg, Poussin, Claude, Vandervelde, imitating everybody except the most naturalistic of the Dutchmen, but never from the beginning to the end of his career painting from nature, or in any other way than from memory, and always in a conventional manner very much influenced by the early landscape painters of the true subjective school, to which he belonged in character, faculties, and method; while Millais was a naturalist, who had no invention, no idealism, but was, and is, always working imitatively, and from direct vision, which Turner never did. Turner was
influenced, and happily, by Claude to the last day of his life, though not always obeying the influence to the same apparent degree.
Of Ruskin the writer, aside from the art critic, it is surely superfluous for me to say anything for mastery of our language, the greater authorities long ago have given him his place; the multitude of petty critics and pinchbeck rhetoricians who pay him the tribute of tawdry imitation is the ever-present testimony to his power and masterhood. Probably no prose writer of this century has had so many choice extracts made from his writings, -passages of gorgeous description, passionate exhortation, pathetic appeal, or apostolic denunciation; and certainly no one has so molded the style of all the writers of a class as he, for there scarcely can be found a wouldbe art critic who does not struggle to fill his throat with Ruskin's thunders, so that a flood of Ruskin and water-threatens all taste and all study of art. As an example of his diction take the description of "Schaffhausen": "Stand for half an hour beside the Fall of Schaffhausen, on the north side where the rapids are long, and watch how the vault of water first bends, unbroken in pure polished velocity, over the arching rocks at the brow of the cataract, covering them with a dome of crystal twenty feet thick, so swift that its motion is unseen except when a foam globe from above darts over it like a falling star; and how the trees are lighted above it under all their leaves at the instant that it breaks into foam; and how all the hollows of that foam burn with green fire like so much shattering chrysoprase; and how ever and anon, startling you with its white flash, a jet of spray leaps hissing out of the fall like a rocket, bursting in the wind and driven away in dust, filling the air with light; and how, through the curdling wreaths of the restless crashing abyss below, the blue of the water, paled by the foam in its body, purer than the sky through white rain-cloud; while the shuddering iris stoops in tremulous stillness over all, fading and flushing alternately through the choking spray and shattered sunshine, hiding itself at last among the thick golden leaves, which toss to and fro in sympathy with the wild water; their dripping masses, lifted at intervals, like sheaves of loaded corn, by some stronger gush from the cataract, and bowed again upon the mossy rocks as its roar dies away; the dew gushing from their thick branches through drooping clusters of emerald herbage, and sparkling in white threads along the dark rocks of the shore, feeding the lichens which chase and chequer them with purple and silver." In the expression of what may be seen in a waterfall, and the suggestion of what may be felt, but seen by no bodily eye, is there any thing in our language that is comparable to this? But is it fair to ask art to realize it? Who shall paint "the shuddering iris fading and flushing alternately through the choking spray and shattered sunshine"? It is beyond the province of art to emulate this vein of feeling, as much as to paint Shelley's "flames mingling with sunset." But how many hapless phaetons has our Apollo of the pen thus sent tumbling down on us, entangled in their
"predicates and six," or sixty! Description à la Ruskin has become a disease of the literature of the generation, and your novelist coolly stops you in the crisis of his story to describe a sunset in two or three pages which, when all is said, compare with Ruskin as a satyr with Hyperion.
THUS Ruskin obstinately bent all his conclusions and observations to his doctrines what he wanted to see he saw, nothing else. The summer before going to England I had painted a picture in what I believed the spirit of his teachings, being then one of the most enthusiastic of his disciples. I had conceived a death-struggle between a hunter and a buck, in which they had fallen together over a ledge of rock and lay in death at its foot. I had searched the forest around where I camped in the Adirondacks until I found the ledge which suited the conception, and painted it carefully with the red sunset light coming aslant through the forest and falling on the perpendicular cliff, at the foot of which was a dense, dank growth of ferns,— all painted on the spot and in the sunset light. At the foot, where they would fall, I put my guide, locked with a huge buck, and painted them as carefully as I knew how,- the man from life and the buck immediately after I had killed him. I took it with me to London, and one day Ruskin came into my studio, and, seeing the picture, exclaimed with a gesture of disgust, "Why do you have this stinking carrion in your picture? Put it out, it 's filthy, it stinks!" etc. I was too much under his influence to weigh his judgment against mine, and painted it out accordingly. Dante Rossetti, who had seen and liked the picture as it was, coming in again a few days after, exclaimed, "What have you done to your picture?" I explained, and with strong irritation in his manner he replied, "You 've spoiled your picture," and walked straight out of the room. I had spoiled it, for everything in it had been chosen and painted with reference to this deadly duel, with which Ruskin had no sympathy. Death oppressed him, whence his annoyance with the picture; but that he was olfactorily impressed as he was only could be explained by the fact that, as always, he felt what he imagined or wished to see. He wanted to see truth in Turner's drawings, and he made his truth accordingly. I can but regard his influence on modern landscape painting as pernicious from beginning to end, and coinciding as it did with the advent of a great naturalistic and, therefore, anti-artistic, tendency in all branches of study, it was even more disastrous than it would have been in ordinary circumstances.