Etching and Etchers  

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"Until the recent appearance of the Baudelaire letters (1841-66) all that we knew of Meryon's personality and art was to be found in the monograph by Philippe Burty and Béraldi's Les Graveurs du XIX Siècle. Hamerton had written of the French etcher in 1875 (Etching and Etchers), and various anecdotes about his eccentric behaviour were public property. Frederick Wedmore, in his Etching in England" --Promenades of an Impressionist (1910) by James Huneker

{{Template}} Etching and Etchers (1866) is a book by Philip Gilbert Hamerton.

Full text

ETCHING & ETCHERS


PHILIP GILBERT HAMERTON,

AUTHOR OF THE ' INTELLECTUAL LIFE,' ETC


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NEW EDITION. ILLUSTRATED


MACMILLAN AND CoN-il-^ 1876


Weet gij wat etsen is? — Het is flaneeren

Op 't koper ; 't is in 't zomerschemeruur

Met malsche vedelsnaren fantaseeren.

't Zijn hartsgeheimtjes, die ons de natuur

Vertrouwt, bij 't dwalen op de hei, bij 't staren

In zee, naar 't wolkjen in het zwerk, of waar

In't biezig meer wat eendjes spelevaren ;

't Is duivendons en klauw van d' adelaar.

Romeros in een nootje, en tien geboden

Op 't vlak eens stuivertjes ;— een wensch, een zucht,

Gevat in fijn geciseleerde oden.

Een ras gegrepen beeldje in vogelvlucht

't Is op 't gevoelig goudkleur koper malen

Met d' angel eener wesp en 't fulpen stof

Der vlinderwiek, gegloeid van zonnestralen ;

De punt der naald die juist ter snede trof

Wat in des kunstnaars rijke dichterziel

Uit fantasie en leven samenvieL

C. VOSMAER.


Know ye what etching is? It is to ramble On copper ; in a summer twilight's hour To let sweet Fancy fiddle tunefully. It is the ^diispering torn Nature's heart. Heard when we wander on the moor, or gaze On the sea, on fleecy clouds of heaven, or at The rushy lake when playful ducks are splashing ; It is the down of doves, the eagle's claw ; Tis Homer in a nutshell, ten commandments Writ on a penny's surface ; 'tis a wish, A sigh, comprised in finely<hiselled odes, A little image in its bird's-fli^t cau^t It is to paint on the soft gold-hued copper \^th sting of wasp and velvet of the wings Of butterfly, by sparkling sunbeams glowed. Even so the etcher's needle, on its point, Doth catch what in the artist-poef s mind Reality and fancy did create.

Translated by Holda.


TO


FRANCIS SEYMOUR HADEN.

XJ" ERE is a book written to increase the public interest in an art we both love ; and I dedicate it to you because, in the more difficult way of practical demonstration, you have well helped the same cause. It may be a useful service to take a pen and tell a somewhat indifferent, or otherwise inte- rested public, how great an art etching is ; but it is a far higher achievement to take an etching-needle and compel attention by the beauty of actual performance. The recep- tion your etchings met with — ^a reception unprecedented in the history of the art — must have been gratifying to your feelings as an artist ; but I am sure that I interpret your sentiments justly, in supposing that you felt a still keener and nobler pleasure than that which attends any merely personal success. You have the satisfaction of knowing that a great art, hitherto grievously and ignorantly neglected, has, by your labours, received an appreciable increase of consideration ; and that, as a consequence of the celebrity of your works, many have become interested in etching, who, before their appearance, were scarcely even aware of its existence. It is rather with reference to this result of your labours than to their purely


DEDICATION.


artistic value that I dedicate this book to you, though, at the same time, it may be right to add briefly here, what I have said more at length elsewhere, that of all modem etchers you seem to be the most completely in unison with the natural tendencies of the art How much this implies, and what warm approval may be expressed in this moderate way, the reader will see elsewhere.


PREFACE.

T^HE first edition of this work has been for some time ex- hausted, and copies of it are only to be had occasionally

from dealers in rare books, at fancy prices. In the present

»

edition the book takes its permanent form, for it is stereotyped, and care has therefore been taken about the revision of it. Besides revising what was already written, I have brought my work down to the latest dates by adding notices of the most recent etchings of importance, and by explaining the newest practical improvements in the craft of etching itself which are of proved utility and accepted by eminent workmen. The present edition contains, indeed, more than two hundred pages of entirely new matter, so that it may be considered as a supplement to the first There are also eight illustrations which did not appear in the first edition.

It is necessary to give a few words of explanation about the plates. The book was originally illustrated with impres- sions from original old and modem coppers which were got together temporarily by dint of good luck, considerable ex- pense, and infinite personal trouble. It was impossible to purchase them, and when we had printed the number of copies necessary for our first edition, we were obliged by our contract to return the plates to their owners. We could not, if we


xii PREFACE.


would, get those coppers together again, and it has been thought desirable that the present edition should be cheaper than it could have been with magnificently abundant illustra- tion. It was therefore finally decided that the etchings should now be of minor importance, and that they should be given not at all as " embellishments," but isimply to make the text more intelligible. As an instance of this may be mentioned the plate from Turner, copied from the " Little Devil's Bridge." It does not exhibit Turner's power of composition, for it is only part of a subject ; it cannot show his mastery over light and shade, for the mezzotint which gave the light and shade is omitted ; but it exhibits Turner's way of drawing and biting his organic lines, and that is why it is given in this volume. For this particular purpose it is positively more useful than the original, since in the original the lines are much obscured by dark mezzotinting, which was applied to the plate by Charles Turner after J. M. W. Turner had etched it To make the lines very plain, the printer has been told to print as simply and clearly as. possible, merely that the reader might see what Turner's lines were like. The etchings from other masters are in almost every instance portions of plates selected for some special reason, and not to make the book look pretty. It was suggested that by one of the remarkable new photographic processes sufficiently accurate copies of etchings might have been given at a cheap rate  ; but it seemed that in a book of a practical kind like this it was very desirable that the reader should have plates really produced by the processes of etching which are described and so often alluded to in its pages. I therefore took the trouble to copy portions of plates by various


PREFACE. xiii


masters (a very heavy piece of work, though the result of it looks so slight); and as students of etching can learn more from real plates, when they know how they have been bitten, than from any quantity of vague verbal explanation about getting lines "dark** or "pale," I have also published my own private registers of biting. Reviewers sometimes say very unkind things of me for giving explanations of this technical kind, which they neither know nor care anything about, but art students write to express their gratitude, and only beg that the explanations may be made still clearer and more precise. Between the two I cannot hesitate. The satisfaction of being in some measure useful to real workers is so substantial a satisfaction, that it far outweighs any momentary annoy- ance which may be inflicted by the sneers of an ill-natured reviewer who may happen to be vexed with me for knowing more about my own subject than he possibly can know. At the same time hearty thanks are offered to many critics who helped this book when it first appeared, and whose cordial expressions of approbation no doubt largely contri- buted to its success.

It was written originally with a view to certain purposes of a kind that may be called permanent, and others which were only temporary. I wished to help in transmitting the good and sound tradition of etching — ^this was the permanent purpose  ; but I wished also to exercise some influence of a kind that might be practically useful on the work of the younger men at the present time  ; and this, in a certain sense, was a temporary purpose. The best way to do this seemed to be an outspoken criticism of some recent etchers who had influence


xiv PREFACE.


because they were celebrated painters. It is a popular error to imagine that because a man can paint cleverly he must also be able to etch. The knowledge of a painter has usually, it is true, been the magazine of material from which eminent etchers have selected, by a high faculty of choice, what they put into their etchings  ; but when this selecting faculty is absent, the knowledge of a painter ceases to be available in this art I have myself actually seen accomplished painters trying what they could do on the copper, and seen them puzzled, uncertain, feeble, though they were an3rthing but feeble with the brush. " He has painted many a picture," says one who can etch, of a painter such as I have just alluded to, and by dint of search- ing with opaque materials has even earned the reputation, such as it is, of ' finish.' For the first time he finds himself under the necessity of considering every stroke. He b^ns, and has soon made a hundred where a master would have made one ; but he goes on, and at the expense of many qualities which as a painter he could have held dear, he arrives at last ' How finished ! * says one ; * How worthless ! ' another — for the last knows what the first, possibly, does not — that it is one thing to cover a plate with work until the effect has been obtained, and another to obtain it with little, or rather with the appear- ance of little. Etching is not painting, but an art (though in close alliance with painting) in all respects distinct He who so mistakes its end, intention, and scope, as to overlay his work till all brilliancy and transparence have gone out of it, is con- founding two things, and only labouring to produce opacity." Holding these opinions, I criticised some painters severely as etchers, whilst admiring their pictures very heartily for their


PREFACE. XV


own merits ; but some of the severer of these criticisms are withdrawn from the present edition, as the book has now taken its permanent form, and it is not desirable to perpetuate much criticism of that kind, however just and necessary it may be when first written. Thus the chapter on David Roberts is withdrawn : it was inserted originally because his very poor and unintelligent work in etching had been injudiciously held up as a model Mr. Holman Hunt also came in for a page of critidsm severe enough to convey the impression, as I learned afterwards, of some personal vengeance or animosity. As it happens that I have always felt a great respect for Mr. Hunt's strength of resolution and honesty of purpose in his career as a painter, and also for his accomplished skill (without mentioning his higher gifts, which cannot be dealt with in a parenthesis), I am glad to put an end to this misunderstand- ing by withdrawing the page in question. A friend and corre- spondent, who is himself one of the finest etchers in Europe, told me that he thought highly of a small etching by Mr. Holman Hunt, representing an Egyptian scene with the pyra- mids, and the reader may rely upon his opinion.

A well-known English Academician, not an acquaintance of mine, wrote to me to offer a piece of unasked-for advice, which was to avoid mentioning living men in my writings, because, he said, it savours of diqueism." In this, however, as in other matters, a writer must exercise his own judgment. Much of the sort of usefulness aimed at in the present volume would not be attained if living artists were omitted from its pages. My work with reference to living men consists almost always in drawing public attention to their merits, and it seems


xvi PREFA CE.


better that this should be done for them whilst they are alive, and can reap the benefit of any increase of reputation, than after they are dead, when praise will be of no use to them. I belong to no clique whatever, and I never have belonged to any clique. Most of my work has been done in a foreign country, and when in London or Paris I have gene- rally been much too busily occupied to have time for the cultivation of cliqueish sentiments. The volume the reader holds in his hand is indeed a sufficient reply to such an accu- sation as this, for it praises with equal warmth etchers of the most opposite qualities and schools when their work has seemed to be good in its own kind.

Another accusation which has been to some extent cir- culated both in the English and American press may deserve some words of answer. It has been said of my writings that they exercise a bad influence by exalting mechanism above mind, because they happen to contain a good deal- of tech- nical information. It is quite true that technical matters always seem to me extremely interesting, as they do to all who are not prevented by sheer ignorance from entering into such questions ; all artists delight in them, and even in their difficulties, as mathematicians delight in their problems, and chess-players in theirs. But I have never regarded technical skill as an)rthing more than a means of mental expression, and I have at all times earnestly and energetically maintained the supreme importance of mental power in art, and as energetically condemned the base mechanical skill which is uninformed by noble thought and feeling. Those critics, therefore, who have accused me of exalting mechanism above


PREFACE. xvii


mind say what is contrary to the truth, and are guilty either of unpardonable presumption in speaking of a writer they have not read, or else of yet more unpardonable dishonesty in wilfully misrepresenting him. My teaching about art sub- ordinates everything to the mind of the artist, even that truth to nature which a modem superstition reg^ds as if it were something sacred The following extracts from writings which have been before the public for years are sufficient evidence of this, and the reader will find more recent matter in the present volume, especially in the chapter on the Revival of Etching in England, which maintains and confirms the same principles.

The art of etching has no mechanical attractiveness. If an etching has no meaning it can interest nobody; if its significant lines are accompanied by many insignificant ones, their value is neutralised." — Etching and Etchers^ book i. ch. iiL

  • ' A great etching is the product of a grandly-constituted

mind  ; every stroke of it has value exactly proportionate to the mental capacity of the artist ; so that a treatise on etch- ing is necessarily a treatise on the mental powers of great men." — Etching and Etchers^ book i. ch. vil

"' Above all, it should be well understood that etching is

not, as some imagine, a fit pastime for small minds ; but that, on the contrary, its great glory is to offer the means of

powerful and summary expression to the largest." — Etching

and Etchers^ book L ch. vii.

"The etcher needs, no doubt, some manual skill, some

patience, and a moderate amount of care, but these avail him


xviii PREFA CE.


nothing if they are accompanied by the engraver's coldness. The one capacity which makes all his other powers available is the capacity for passionate emotion." — Etching and Etchers, book i. ch. xii.

"What makes a good etching so peculiarly precious is that it gives lis meaning severed as widely as possible from mere handicraft It is a lump of gold dug out of the artist's brain, and not yet alloyed for general circulation. But when artists thus trenchantly sever mechanism from mind, and offer mind by itself, they discover, of course, that it is not a very saleable commodity." — Signed article in the Fine Arts Qtiar- terly Review for January 1864,

" So far from being the most mechanical kind of engraving, etching, as we understand it, is the least mechanical, because the true etchers never think about mechanical perfections at all, using lines simply for the expression of artistic thought." — The Etcher^ s Handbook^ ch. xviii.

" We affirm that an etched line, as a good etcher draws it, is less mechanical than a burin line, since its modulations, produced by the operation of the intellect, or feeling of the artist, are more numerous and delicate, because the tool is more obedient The anxiety to attain mechanical perfection would probably injure an etcher by diminishing the spon- taneousness of his expressioa" — The Etcher's Handbook, ch. xviii.

"The true finish lies in the intensity and successfulness of the mental act, and that may be proved quite as much by selection and omission as by hand-labour. Always endeavour, in etching, to express your thought in as few


PREFACE. xix


lines as may be, and to put as much meaning into each of those few lines as it can possibly be made to convey. The real finish in etching resides there." — Tlie Etcher's Handbooh ch. xxii.

"The qualities of autograph would be sacrificed if me- chanical exactness had to be obtained at all costs .... autograph is a mental expression in itself." — Thoughts about Art, ch. xxiii. note.

It is always a mistake to attribute too much importance to manual skill in etching, or in any other of the great arts. When there is the true understanding of nature, and the true artistic sentiment, manual skill usually comes with practice, and the greatest artists never trouble themselves about it, warning their pupils against anxiety on that score. — Etching and Etchers, book il ch. ii.

It would be easy to go on accumulating extracts of this kind, but it is not necessary. Enough has been quoted to show how audaciously dishonest it is to accuse me of setting handicraft above spiritual power in the fine arts.


July 1875.


CONTENTS.


BOOK I. ^ofners atiK ^dualities of ^e ^rt.

CHAPTER I,

PAGB

Etching compared with other Arts i


CHAPTER 11. Difficulties and Facilities of Etching .... 22

CHAPTER III. The Popular Estimate of Etching 27

CHAPTER IV. The Influence of Connoisseurship 31

CHAPTER V. Criticism and Practical Work 36

CHAPTER VI. Favourable and Unfavourable Artistic Conditions 40

CHAPTER VII. Comprehensiveness 43

CHAPTER VIII. Abstraction 47


xxu CONTENTS,

CHAPTER IX.

PAGB

Selection 50

»

CHAPTER X.

Sensitiveness 53

CHAPTER XI. Emphasis 56

CHAPTER XII. Passion 59

CHAPTER XIII. Frankness 61

CHAPTER XIV. Speed 63

CHAPTER XV. Motives 66

BOOK II.

I

Eije IButcfi antr ottjer Sdiools.

CHAPTER I. Albert Durer 71

CHAPTER 11. Rembrandt 73

CHAPTER III. Ostade and Bega 97


CONTENTS. xxiii


CHAPTER IV.

PACK

Berghem, Potter, Dujardin loi


CHAPTER V. Vandyke and Hollar 107

CHAPTER VI.

CANALETTI, RUYSDAEL, and others Ill

CHAPTER VII. Zeeman 119

CHAPTER VIII. Goya 123

CHAPTER IX. Jongkind . . • . .128

CHAPTER X. Van S'gravesande 133

CHAPTER XI. Modern Germans and others 138


BOOK III.

CHAPTER I. ft Xb¥IVal of Etching in France 147

CHAPTER II. 157


xxiv CONTENTS.


CHAPTER III.

PACK

Callot and Boissieu i6i


CHAPTER IV. Meryon 167

CHAPTER V. Lalanne 177

CHAPTER VI.

JACQUEMART 183

CHAPTER VII. Charles Jacque 189

CHAPTER VIII. Daubigny 195

CHAPTER IX. Appian 202

CHAPTER X. Chifflart 20

CHAPTER XI. Lalauze, Veyrassat, Martial 212

CHAPTER XII. Various French Etchers 220


CONTENTS, XXV


BOOK IV,

CHAPTER L

PACK

The Revival of Etching in England 239

CHAPTER 11. Turner 261

CHAPTER IIL Wilkie and Geddes 273

CHAPTER IV.

RUSKIN 278

CHAPTER V. Whistler 288

CHAPTER VI. Haden 294

CHAPTER VII. Cruikshank and Doyle 316

CHAPTER VIII. Samuel Palmer 325

CHAPTER IX.

MiLLAIS 339

CHAPTER X. CoPEy H0RSLEY9 Hook 341


r


xxvi CONTENTS.

CHAPTER XI.

PACK

Creswick, Redgrave, Ridley 345

CHAPTER XII. Tayler, Ansdell, Knight 35°

CHAPTER XIII. Chattock and George 353


BOOK V.

Eije interpreters of fainting, antr Copsing in

jFacsimile.

CHAPTER I. The Interpreters of Painting 363

CHAPTER 11. On Copying Etchings in Facsimile 398


APPENDIX.

practical jptotes.

CHAPTER I. The Plate 407

CHAPTER II. The Needle ^09

CHAPTER III. Grounds and Varnishes 411


CONTENTS, xxvii


CHAPTER IV.

PAGB

The Acid Bath 414


CHAPTER V. The Laboratory and Printing-room 415

CHAPTER VI. The Roller and its Uses 420

CHAPTER VII. Biting 423

CHAPTER VIII. Stopping-out 429

CHAPTER IX. Auxill/oues 433

CHAPTER X. The Author's Positive Process 435

CHAPTER XI. The Chemistry of Etching 436

CHAPTER XII. Dry-point 440

CHAPTER XIII. Printing 441

CHAPTER XIV. The Interpretation of Nature 445

CATALOGUE INDEX 447


LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.


COVER AND TITLE-PAGE.

I. Designs on the back of this volume, above and below the title.

These designs of Plovers and Teal are from an etching by M. Bracquemond, called Vanmaux et Sarcdles (see page 225). They are as £uthful an interpretation of Bracquemond's manner as the material would permit They are intended to show the appearance of an etched plate before it is bitten, the black representing the smoked black gromid in which the etching is drawn, and the gold the lines of bare copper, which are afterwards to come black in the printing. All that is left black on the plate is white in the printed proo£

The finer lines in this drawing are purposely run together into simple broad lines, because they would not have printed distinctly in the gold.


2. Design in gold on black on the side of the volume.

This represents, as accurately as the materials would permit, the appearance of part of Turner's plate called the Little DeviTs Bridge (see page 272), when he had just drawn the lines on the plate. The black represents the black smoked etching ground, and the gold the copper as it was laid bare by the etching point The block with which this is stamped on the cover was reproduced photographi- cally from an off-track (see page 444) from my copy of Turner's lines, which is given at page 272. It is more nearly accurate than any other manner of reproduc- tion would have permitted, but the lines are for the most part broader than Turner's lines on the copper must have been, and they are all much less pure and dear, as the reader will easily see by comparing them with those in my etching after Turner. However, they have alwa3rs the true direction, and the design may be of use in preparing the eye of a beginner for the appearance of a drawing on metal in negative, which is all that it is intended for.


3. Woodcut on the Title-page,

This is a copy on wood, by Mr. Cooper, of one of Rembrandt's best portraits of himsel£ It is, I think, the most perfect imitation of etching by wood engraving that I ever saw. Mr. Cooper wisely selected a plate which could be reproduced by accurately placed dots and lines, and which did not exhibit those qualities of texture that cannot be imitated by wood-engraving.

The portrait here copied is that numbered 216 in M. Charles Blanc's Cata- logue. It is called *' Rembrandt au bonnet plat"


XXX


LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS,


ETCHINGS.

All the etchings in this volume, with the exception of plates IX. and XIL, are copied by the author.

Plate IX. is an original sketch from nature by Lalanne, and Plate XIL is an original sketch from nature by the author.


PLATE I. The Corpulent Beggar, after Rembrandt

PLATE IL Portrait of Old Mother, after Rembrandt

PLATE IIL Peasants Drinking, after Ostade


OPPOSITK PAGE


90


92


ICX>


PLATE IV. Cottage on a Shore, after Weirotter .


PLATE V.


TREES, after Waterloo


PLATE VL Boats near Shore, after Zeeman

PLATE VIL Scene in Old Paris, after Callot

PLATE VIII. Palace of Justice and Bridge, Paris, after M^ryon

PLATE IX. Fribourg, Switzerland, by Lalanne (original)

PLATE X. Rocks and Pines, after Turner . . . .

PLATE XI. Part of the Agamemnon, after Haden

PLATE XII. Poplars and Oak, by P. G. Hamerton (original)


114


116


122


164


170


182


272


308


444


ETCHING AND ETCHERS.


BOOK I.


POWERS AND QUALITIES OF THE ART.


i

■ I

i

I


rt

4



I


CHAPTER I.

ETCHING COMPARED WITH OTHER ARTS.

L WITH PAINTING IN OIL.

O ETTING aside the obvious difference in favour of paint- ing, that it can represent colour, we find another difference, scarcely less obvious, in the manner of inter- pretation. The brush is a better instrument than the point, because less conventional, since it does not necessarily resort to lines, and lines do not exist in nature. So far, painting is the higher art ; but it is not quite so well adapted to the expression of transient thought Oil -sketching may be exceedingly rapid, but the medium does not under all circumstances admit of memoranda so completely expla- natory as those which may be obtained with the point. In the most valuable oil -sketching, that in which the true relations of masses of colour are accurately preserved, form has to be sacrificed ; and yet form is usually more important than colour in the expression of artistic ideas. The very presence of colour entails, in hasty work, the abandonment of form, because in coloured art bad colour is intolerable, and good colour is not attainable at high speed, unless it is made the chief aim of the artist When an etching and an oil picture are both produced in the same space of time, the etching is likely to contain a more delicate definition of many interesting points of form than the picture can. An


ETCHING COMPARED


elaborate picture, the labour of weeks or months, may con- tain more form than any good etching, because good etchings are almost ^ always done quickly ; but the finished painting loses in freshness what it gains in completion, and belongs to a wholly different class of art The aim of a laboured picture is power by accumulation  ; the aim of an etching is power by abstraction and concentration. It is certain that some very valuable qualities in oil painting can only be attained by frequent correction and repainting ; the work is done over and over again, often scraped till the previous work shows through, and then the broken tints so obtained, and which cannot be obtained in any other manner, are made available for the expression of natural variety and infinity. It will be shown in the course of this volume that some results of this kind are more or less attainable in laboured etching, but they are not entirely in harmony with the idea of etching as an independent art. If we remain within the limits of true etching, and then compare it simply with such oil painting as alone is competent to convey rapid inspirations, we shall find that the worker in oil is obliged to sacrifice much to colour which the etcher easily preserves ; and farther, that the very heaviness of the medium, when the painter sketches in thick colour, is an obstacle to liberty of expression which the freely- gliding point avoids. The modern habit of sketching in varnish is in some respects more free, but the adhesiveness of the varnish often interferes with perfect liberty, and has to be continually corrected by additions of turpentine. In this method, as in simple oil painting, the embarrassment of colour of course remains.

^ The reader will please notice the reserve implied by this word almost. Some good etchers have worked slowly, and gradually completed their etchings by suc- cessive processes. Justice will be done to these artists in their place.


WITH OTHER ARTS.


2. WITH PAINTING IN WATER-COLOUR.

Water-colour approaches more nearly than oil to the facility and freedom of etching, but even water-colour is less direct True water-colour, in which oqaque pigments are not resorted to, attains its end by a series, often a long series, of washes. The paper is subjected to treatment of very various kinds, according to the caprice of the indi- vidual artist ; but most water-colourists agree on one point, they do not leave their first wash undisturbed ; they either sponge it, or rub it with a rag, or rub it with a brush, or take out whole patches of it to paint afresh on the white paper beneath, and these processes are often repeated with subsequent washes, so that there is a continual effacing or alteration of work done. Now although etching admits of correction, it is only on condition of revamishing the plate, and correction does not enter into the habitual processes, but is resorted to in order to remedy mistakes. A tho- roughly successful etching, an etching successful not only in result but in its progress, does not involve anything of the nature of a correction anywhere. All its touches remain  ; no subsequent work obliterates them  ; shades may be passed over them, but they remain visible still. It follows that etching exacts more decision than water-colour, and, consequently, more strongly tends to produce the habit of decision in its practitioners.

3. WITH DRAWING IN SEPIA OR INDIAN INK,

Drawings in one colour, done with the brush, bear the same relation to etching that water-colour does, with the single difference of colour. A sepia drawing is likely to have its relations of light and dark more accurately true than an etching by the same artist, but is not so likely to


ETCHING COMPARED


rival it in vivacity of accent.^ When a sepia drawing, com- plete as a study of light and dark, aims also at delicate in- dications of form, it becomes too costly in point of time to note impressions whilst they are perfectly vivid. The difference between sepia and etching, if the same time is allowed to both, is entirely in favour of sepia if accurate noting of light and shade is the object, and as entirely in favour of etching if the artist wishes to draw attention to points of character. It is exceedingly difficult in etching, and without great labour and correction almost impossible, to note all delicate weights of tone according to the wish and intention of the artist ; but in sepia or Indian ink this is so easy that where there is failure it may at once be attri- buted to the artist's weakness in chiaroscuro. The first aim of a sepia drawing ought to be perfect light and shade, because that is the especial perfection attainable in the method ; but for an etcher to make complete light and shade his first aim would be barbarous, because it could only be attainable in his art by great labour, and at the cost of qualities more purely mental which ought to be the glory of his work.^

^ Unless the etcher has worked very laboriously for tone, and is a master of the craft, in which case he may possibly get the relations of light and dark as in a sepia drawing, but never easily.

' There is a new school of etching which may be said to have come into being since the first edition of this work was published, and which aims at nothing less than the complete translation of oil-pictures into light and shade. The best men have succeeded in this quite sufficiently to justify their attempt ; but the desire for perfect light and shade is dangerous to the more important quality of expressive drawing, and even to light and shade itself^ for imless the true relations are attained, the attempt to reach them ends in mere blackness or a general dulness of foul greys, which is even worse. An etcher from pictures, who is in reality an engraver using etching as a means of translation, will naturally give great effort to attain true relations of tone  ; but an original etcher ought not to make them his first object ; expression by line ought to be his first object.


WITH OTHER ARTS.


4. WITH DRAWING IN CHALK AND LITHOGRAPHY.

Since chalk-drawings on paper and on stone have the same qualities, they may be considered as one art Litho- graphy is richer than etching in the fulness of a touch, dest plm grasy its touch is softer and blends better. Some pictures can be better interpreted by lithography than by etching. For example, Troyon is admirably rendered by good lithographers, such as Loutrel, Franqais, and Eugene Le Roux, and their lithographs convey a better idea of his manner than etching would. All that is said of etching as an autographic art is equally true of lithography  ; a litho- graph by Harding is just as truly his own as a drawing done by him directly on paper. I have often felt surprised that fine lithographs should not be more yalued than they are  ; it is true that the world has been flooded with bad ones, but the existence of bad performances in any art ought not to produce the impression that the art is generally weak. No one looks for great art in a lithograph ; yet lithography is perfectly competent to express great ideas. But, though quite as autographic as etching, and though an appearance of richness is more easily attainable in it, lithography is so far inferior to etching in precision and sharpness of minute accent, that it is inconceivable how one of Rembrandt's keen little visages could ever be fairly rendered by chalk on stone. The points on which expression depends in the etching of a face are so infinitely minute, that no blunt instrument can render them, and the lithographer's chalk is always, when compared with the etching needle, a blunt instrument. It is also continually crumbling away under his hand, and the very grain of the stone he works upon, though necessary to detach and hold the particles of chalk on which his effect depends, is an impediment to the clearness of lines. The lithographer has one great advantage over the etcher, he can


ETCHING COMPARED


see what he is doing, and though drawings on stone always look better on the stone itself than they do in the printed proofs, the artist does not work in negative as etchers do, but in black upon the pleasant warm tint of the stone, just as if he were drawing in black chalk upon tinted paper.

5. WITH PEN-DRAWING AND INK LITHOGRAPHY.

In polite circles, where a knowledge of the fine arts has not yet penetrated, it is customary to call pen-drawings " etchings ; " and since the existence of the real art of etch- ing is but little known, it will generally be found that when a young lady is said to etch well it does not mean that she bites copper-plates with acid, but simply that she draws nicely with pen and ink. There are also persons more advanced in the study of the fine arts, who, although aware that etching and pen-drawing are distinct arts, believe never- theless tliat their powers and capacities are identical. The truth is, however, that there are several important points of difference, all which, except one, are in favour of etching. The pen is a very free instrument when compared with the burin, but it is not so free as the etching-needle, and the liberty of the artist is still further limited by the necessity for avoiding blots, which easily occur in close shading. Drawing with the pen may be divided into two distinct arts. In its first, or simple form, pen-drawing consists of lines variously disposed, but always drawn with ink of the same strength; in its more complex form, pen-drawing reaches greater delicacy by using ink of infinitely various degrees of dilution, from the palest that can be visible, in a line to the blackest that will flow from the pen. The first method can only compete with the most primitive etching, because it can only imitate etchings done in one biting  ; but the second can also, though at some distance, imitate the more complex etchings produced by several bitings.


WITH OTHER ARTS.


It remains to be observed that there is a marked distinc- tion between etching and pen-drawing, as practical arts, in the effect of pressure with the point of the instrument If you press with your pen you enlarge your line, so that pressure becomes an important means of expression. In etching, on the other hand, pressure ought always to be absolutely equal, and the enlargement of the line can only be effected by taking a blunter point Pressure, in etching, ought to be equal, because where it is too heavy the point ploughs the copper and causes over-biting, and where it is too light the varnish is not perfectly removed, though it may seem to be, and the acid either produces no line at all or a broken series of dashes and dots. We are so accustomed, in the fine arts, to consider pressure as a means of varying expression, that inexperienced etchers find the greatest diffi- culty in reaching the steady equality of it which is necessary to the success of the subsequent biting ; and this difficulty is likely to be felt the most by etchers accustomed to express themselves in arts, such, for example, as violin-playing, where every cresce^ido is an increase of pressure, and every diminuendo a diminution of it

Pen-lithography belongs to the first of the two classes of pen-drawing  ; paleness cannot be obtained in it by dilution of ink, but only by the thinness and paucity of the lines. It follows that pen-lithography can never approach etching in variety of depth, and can neither rival, on the one hand, the delicacy of its fainter passages, nor, on the other, the vigorous depths of its strongly-bitten blacks. If we add to these inferiorities the comparative want of freedom caused by the use of an instrument which may produce a blot if too full,^ or a vacant scratch when it runs dry, and which re- quires replenishing every minute (a continual interruption to the rapid utterance of thought), we have grounds for a com-

  • When the blot is intentional in pen-drawing, it is a great source of power,

and is constantly used by skilful artists.


8 ETCHING COMPARED

parison which is entirely favourable to etching. Pen-litho- graphy has, however, the great advantages of showing the result during the progress of the work, and avoiding the dangers, whilst it misses the charms, of many bitings. It is consequently far better suited for amateurs.

6. WITH DRAWING IN BLACK LEAD.

The black-lead pencil has some definite advantages over the etching-needle. It may be cut very broad, and in this state will rapidly produce pale tints of fine quality, not to be rivalled in etching without much greater labour. It will also yield various degrees of blackness to a variety of pres- sure. As lead -pencils are made of different kinds, some very hard and others soft and black, some with broad leads for shading, and others to be cut to a fine point, very various qualities are attainable in pencil-drawing. There may be an infinite delicacy and precision with the point, an even breadth of shade, and some considerable depth in the extreme darks. It is, however, especially in these darks that pencil-drawing comparatively fails, because it has an unpleasant tendency to shine, and the blackest black produced with a lead-pencil is always light in comparison with printer's ink. The degree of freedom enjoyed by the designer in black-lead is greater than the pen allows, but inferior to the freedom of the etching-point It may be observed, however, that for artists who have not reached a very high degree of decision, this freedom of the etching-point is too excessive to be altogether an advantage. The lead-pencil depresses the surface of the paper where it passes, and so makes for itself a shallow channel whose sides are deep enough to prevent involuntary slips  ; but the surface of polished copper is so very smooth, and the thin coat of varnish resists so little, that the etcher has need of great firmness and precision in the hand itself, for he can never safely rest upon the point It follows that


WITH OTHER ARTS.


pencil-drawing is a far easier art than etching, and in com- mon with the other arts we have been considering, it has the g^reat advantage of being a positive art, etching (by the process usually followed) being altogether negative. It is scarcely necessary to explain these useful terms, borrowed from photography ; but as a few readers may be un- acquainted with them, it may be well to add that a positive art is one in which darks are represented by darks, and lights by lights ; whereas in a negative art, such as etching, darks are represented (in the direct work of the artist) by lights, and lights by darks. This adds greatly to the difficulty of etching, especially in the case of beginners, who find themselves greatly embarrassed by the impossibility (to them) of translating their work into its corresponding posi- tive, as the printing-press will translate it In sculpture, the sculptor who makes a bas-relief works in positive, and the seal- engraver and die-sinker in negative ; but the seal-engraver has a great advantage over the etcher in being able to take frequent proofs of his work during its progress, which the etcher can only do after removing the varnish from his plate. The finest pencil-drawings do not attempt depths of shade, but content themselves with comparatively pale tones. The worst pencil-drawings, those of school-boys who pursue the fine arts, usually abound in passages where great pressure and much repetition, and very black pencils indeed, have ended in the production of such brilliant black-leading as might delight the eyes of an artistic housemaid. The blacks of etching are safer in quality, for, at least, they never shine, and easily reach an intense depth ; but the pale tones of pencil-drawing are safer than the pale tones of etching. As to the value of the two methods, much depends on the kind of subject, and much upon the temper of the master, A naked figure, by G^rdme, is better in pencil, because its modelling is truer and more delicate than any modelling G^6me could express with the etching-needle ; but an old


lo ETCHING COMPARED

man's face, by Rembrandt, is rendered more incisively with the point than it could be with any other instrument.

7. WITH THE GRAPHOTYPE.

Since the Graphotype is a recent invention, it may be necessary, first, to give a brief description of the process. Finely powdered chalk is spread thickly on a metal plate and then subjected to hydraulic pressure till it becomes a solid mass with a beautiful white surface, slightly shining, but not inconveniently brilliant. On this surface the artist draws in a glutinous ink, perfectly black, flowing from a finely-pointed little brush ; the pen cannot be used, on account of the friability of the chalk. The ink glues the particles of chalk where it passes, and when the drawing is complete the white spaces between the lines are easily hollowed by rubbing them gently with a piece of velvet or a light brush. The black lines remain in relief, like the lines of a woodcut The plate is then dipped in a solution of flint and so hardened, after which a stereotype cast, or an electrotype copy, is taken from it, and this stereotype or electrotype serves to print from as a woodcut.

The most obvious advantage of the graphotype is that it is a positive process in every sense. Not only is it superior to etching in showing the artist black for black and white for white, instead of glittering copper for black, and lamp- black for white, but it is superior both to etching and lithography in the entire absence of reversing ; the objects that will be to the right in the print are to the artists right as he works. It is as easy as drawing upon paper with a brush-point and ink of uniform thickness, in lines. No brushwork in the painter's sense is possible, nor are

any more or less pale lines, but the lines may vary in thickness.

The graphotype is as autographic as any process ever


WITH OTHER ARTS. 1 1

invented, and the artist who is only able to draw, and has not devoted much time to the special study of etching, would find the graphotype a more faithful interpreter of his intentions, because inexperienced etchers never accomplish what they propose to themselves, and are especially liable to disappointment in relations of tone. But the graphotype can never supersede etching, being altogether a coarser and heavier process, and neither capable of the delicacy and extreme tenuity of line which distinguish etching, nor of its invaluable variety of dark.^

8. WITH WOOD ENGRAVING.

Wood engravers have never been more skilful than they are now, and never more unfaithful to the true nature and principles of their art No art has been so unfortunate as wood engraving, in being condemned from the first to pro- duce results precisely the contrary of the results which are naturally indicated by the method. If you take a wooden blook unengraved, and print from it as if it were a finished woodcut, you will obtain a perfectly black patch the size of your block. If you take a copper plate unengraved, and print from it as if it were a finished etching, you will obtain a white space, enclosed by four impressed but colourless marks, produced by the edges of the plate, and called the plate mark. If you engrave a line on both block and plate, and then hand them again to their respective printers, your new proofs will give you a white line on a black ground for the woodcut, and a black line on a white ground for the etching. The natural process of woodcutting is, therefore, to leave the darks and mark the lights, showing always the work of the tool as a definite white mark, every touch

^ The graphotype is one of the many processes that have been invented as "substitutes for wood engraving," but it is not a perfect process, though it seems to hold its ground to some extent conmiercially. It may do for coarse work, but of little use for the purposes of fine art.


12 ETCHING COMPARED

of it. But as it happens that paper is white and light- coloured, for the most part, and as people are accustomed to see drawings done in dark upon white, because it is easier to make a very black line on white paper than a very white line upon black, it follows that black upon white has come to be considered by the world in general a more natural and rational, and in every way more orthodox, method of proceeding than white upon black. So the wood engravers have all along been laboriously cutting out bits of white to make us feel as if they had engraved the black lines, and every hasty scrawl of the draughtsman has had to be carefully cut round by them. Hence, wood engraving has not been a genuine art, except in a few instances, nor have its natural powers been duly cultivated. It has occu- pied the position of some man of great natural ability, who has had the misfortune to be bred to a profession for which his faculties were always iinsuited, who by dint of long study and patience has taught himself to do what was required of him, but who has left his true self uncultivated and unexpressed. There are several instances of true wood engraving in the illustrations of Gustave Dor6; but there are many more examples of attempts to imitate other arts. The most genuine wood engraving may be known at once by the perfect frankness of its white lines, and the plain inten- tion of its white spaces, as cut out lightSy not mere intervals of white paper. It may be objected that art more naturally proceeds by black lines than by white lines ; but this is one of the common illusions of custom. We are more accus- tomed to see artists work in black lines than in white ; but if the question be referred to nature, it will be found that natural darks are relieved against lights, and lights against darks, in about equal proportion, so that the power of drawing white lines is just about as useful as the power of drawing black ones. The next time the reader sees a common hedge he will have an opportunity for testing this


WITH OTHER ARTS. 13

doctrine, and will as often find light twigs against dark places as the converse.^

An attempt to compare wood engraving with etching is embarrassed by the various false directions of wood engraving as practised by contemporary artists. One of its recent developments is the imitation of etching itself; and here, of course, the false art remains at an infinite distance from the true one. No wood engraving can ever reach the variety of tint obtained by variety of biting ; and although modem woodcutters are, as mechanics, skilful to a degree which would have astonished Albert Durer, no surface printing can give lines of such fineness and delicacy as may be reached by etched lines, or dry-point scratches, with the ink in them. The best way to compare the wood engraver's imitation of etching with etching itself is to put such wood- cut copies of Rembrandt's etchings as those published in the " Histoire des Peintres " side by side with the originals. The woodcuts in that publication are as good as any modern imitative work whatever, so that the comparison is a fair one. The character of the original is cleverly suggested ; but the degree of reproduction attained is about that attain- able in a pen-drawing, with thick Indian ink, never diluted for lighter passages.

  • As instances of genuine wood engraving, by white lines and spaces, may be

mentioned the following subjects from Dore's ** Quixote :" — "J/aw, Seigneur, ut-ce bonne rigle de ckevaierie que nous allions ainsi par ces montagnes comme des infants perdusV — VoL i. ch. xxv. engraved by Pisan. " Tandis qu'on naviguait ainsi, Zorai'de restait ^ mes c6t^s. " — Vol. i. ch. xlL engraved by Pisan. " Enfin an bout de trois jours on trouva la capricieuse L^andra dans le fond d'une caveme." — VoL i. ch. li. engraved by Pisan. **J'ai deji fait, Seigneur Duran- dart, ce que vous m'avez command^ dans la fatale joumee de notre deroute." — VoL iL ch. xxiiL engraved by Pisan. " Je suis Merlin, celui que les histoires disent avoir eu le diable pour p^re." — Vol. ii ch. xxxv. without engraver's name. " L^ se termine le chant de Tamoureuse Altisidore." — Vol. ii. ch. xliv. engraved by Pisan. In the last the reader may observe the frank cross-hatching of white lines on the stones above the door. Some black lines are still preserved, however, from habit, especially in the dresses of the ladies.


14 ETCHING COMPARED

Another kind of wood engraving is the imitation of burin- work on copper or steel. By far the best instances of this are the cuts after Durer's copper or steel plates in the work just referred to, especially the "Melancholy," which is a wonderful example of clear and minute line-cutting. To compare work of this kind with etching is unnecessary, because all the qualities of woodcut imitations of steel engraving are possessed in higher perfection by steel en- graving itself, which we shall shortly have to consider.

Next to woodcutting in avowed white lines, the kind of work in which the engraver has most to do is the interpre- tation of tints. In facsimile engraving, the engraver has nothing to do beyond the removal of unstained wood, an operation requiring no more intellect, though greater manual skill, than the rubbing away of chalk in the graphotype. But the accurate interpretation of tints requires great artistic judgment, as well as great manual skill ; and the wood en- graver who renders a washed drawing without missing any essential relation of tone, and by means of lines invented by himself, is exercising an art which, whether true or false in its method, has claims of its own, and may be seriously compared with etching. What first strikes us is a wide difference in popularity, entirely in favour of wood engrav- ing. Interpretative wood engraving (as opposed to fac- simile wood engraving) is in the fullest and most extensive sense popular. Many thousands of copies of woodcut illus- trations are sold easily, when the same subjects, if they had been etched on copper, would have found with difficulty two or three hundred purchasers. This is due, in part, to the greater cheapness of woodcuts, which may be cheaply printed, and will yield immense editions without deteriora* tion  ; but it is also due, and in a still greater degree, to some quality io wood engraving which charms the ordinary spec- 1 IS either absent from etching or neutralised peculiarity offensive to the uneducated eye.


WITH OTHER ARTS. 15

It is probable that this quality is an appearance of softness. First-rate modern woodcutting, aided by the artifice of in- serting various thicknesses of paper, so as to obtain a variety of pressure in the printing, attains a degree of softness in itself highly agreeable, and always delightful to the ignorant. Etching, on the contrary, has a natural tendency to look meagre and " scratchy," a tendency overcome only by the most skilful masters.^ If the reader will take the trouble to compare Mr. Birket Foster's drawings on wood, as interpreted by Mr. Edmund Evans, with the etchings of the same artist, he will at once understand the popular feeling, though he may not fully share it The engravings are richer and softer than the etchings ; they have more amenity. It is with the fine arts as with individual men  : amenity is a more popular quality than freedom or truth. Etching is like those characters in real life, too seldom appreciated at their full value, who have abundant energy, great freedom of manner, and an insight too keen to be always agreeable, and whose intense personality and originality make them almost in- capable of concession or conformity. Wood engraving is usually executed in quite a different spirit The engraver does not work passionately, like the true etcher, but gives patient and skilled labour to make his work pleasant to the eye. His art is thus more in unison with the temper of society, which likes a gentle manner and perfect training in little things, and rather objects to intellect, if it disdains con- ventional expression, and takes no pains to make itself agree- able. The whole life of the wood engraver is devoted to arts of interpretation, which the etcher disdains as mecha- nism ; and it is to the perfection attained in these minor arts that the popularity of modern wood engraving is due.^

^ But entirely overcome by them. There are etchings by Rajon and Ilcdouin, for example, in which the quality of softness, wherever the artist desired it, has been as fully attained as it could be even in a chalk or charcoal drawing.

  • In the best wood engraving there is often a lively sparkle due to the intelligent


ETCHING COMPARED


9. WITH ENGRAVING IN MEZZOTINT.

Having prepared his plate by roughening it all over with a heavy tool, so constructed as to present a great number of little sharp teeth, each of which produces a small indentation and raises a corresponding bur, the engraver in mezzotint starts from a point exactly opposed to that of the aquafortist His plate, before anything is represented upon it, yields an impression which is entirely black, and a very rich soft black, perfectly equal, and showing no line or mark of any kind. The etcher's plate, on the contrary, yields a perfectly white impression. The engraver in mezzotint, like the engraver on wood, makes his plate lighter as he works, whilst the etcher darkens his plate. There is also another difference, not less important — the etcher works by lines, and the mezzotint engraver by spaces. The consequence of these differences of method is a difference of quality and spirit. Every art, so long as it is healthy and rightly pursued, tends to express chiefly those artistic ideas which it can express most easily. Mezzotint is naturally rich and soft, with the corresponding defect of vagueness and want of precision in detail, and be- cause its blacks are so full and perfect, and so cheaply ob- tained, it has a tendency to blackness. Etching tends to thinness and hardness, but is capable of any conceivable degree of firmness and precision in detail. It would be absolutely impossible to engrave in pure mezzotint one of Rembrandt's etched faces on the same scale, without missing some of those sharp and delicate accents upon which the power of the work mainly depends. On the other hand, although pure etching, without the bur raised by the dry

wft; in iriucb the <ugr«»ei bu ndlised tonches of while, often vei; minute; Vou seldom And UiIb qualily in clchm^ but it ii perfectly Attainable by Ihe ^cher who is leclmiad psrpoMS. See the chapter in this volume p oT Samuel I'tUiner.


WITH OTHER ARTS, 17

point,^ can never imitate the peculiar velvety softness of mezzotint, it can fully rival its depth and richness of effect. The two arts are to a considerable extent complementary of each other. Pure etching, when not laborious in finish, has a meagre look which mezzotint corrects, and mezzotint has a want of energy and precision which a few etched lines may often effectually supply. Mezzotint and etching are there- fore often seen in combination, as in the " Liber Studiorum " of Turner. Engravers' etching, in combination with mez- zotint, is now popular enough, when helped by machine- ruling, for the production of large prints to hang in drawing- rooms. The mezzotint gives a look of softness, and the machine-ruling an appearance of neatness, which make the etching pass current with the print-buying section of the public.

10. WITH LINE-ENGRAVING.

The mechanical difficulties of line-engraving are so great that they have naturally absorbed much of the attention of line-engravers — so much that the conquest of mechanical difficulty has been too often regarded by them as the chief aim of their lives, to the neglect of artistic qualities. The degradation of line-engraving was complete when a tradition had at length regulated every method of interpretation, and, leaving nothing to the instinct and feeling of the workman, prescribed for him where to put thick lines and thin lines, and lozenges with dots in the middle. Having attained skill in a difficult handicraft, the engravers became proud of their accomplishments, and, forgetting that the only rational use of them could be the interpretation of artistic ideas, took to displaying them for themselves, without reference to either nature or art. To cut lines regularly and put dots neatly became an aim in itself The instrument chiefly used by line-engravers, the burin, is answerable for much of

^ See the chapter on Dry Point C


1 8 ETCHING COMPARED

this lamentable aberration. No tool used in the fine arts has less freedom. It is difficult to handle, requires the application of an appreciable amount of force, and is always slow, even in the most skilful hands. The lines which it cuts are singularly pure and sharp, and it can vary both their thickness and their depth, obediently to the pressure of the fingers and the lower part of the palm. It describes beautiful curves quite naturally, like a skate that bites in ice, but it has great difficulty in following violent and minute irregularities. Its operation on the mind of the artist who uses it is always to make him patient and very attentive to mechanical matters, for which he has to be perfectly cool, and this coolness easily chills into coldness. If modern line- engravers were in the habit of engraving their own inven- tions, as Durer did, the chilling influence of the instrument would have been less visible in their work, because a man who expresses his own thought has always more heat and vivacity than a man who only interprets the thought of another. The misfortune of line-engraving has been that mechanical dexterity has been made too absorbing a pur- suit, and that it has been devoted too exclusively to copyism. No art could long resist these adverse influences. Even etching itself, free and original as it is, would lose much of its freedom and all its originality, if the public required from it mechanical perfection, and set it to the dull business of copying finished pictures.

The decline of line-engraving, in the commercial sense, has been due to its great costliness rather than to any artistic deficiency, and as this costliness in money is merely an expression for costliness in time, line-engraving cannot flourish as etching may, in spite of public neglect, because the practitioners of it cannot afford to pursue it without reference to pecuniary results. Such an art as line-engrav- ing cannot exist without liberal support, but the failure of such support is not to be taken as any proof of inferiority


WITH OTHER ARTS. 19

in the art Line-engraving had great powers peculiar to itself. It was especially adapted for the rendering of the naked figure, whose elaborate curves and complicated model- ling were well expressed by the burins of the great engravers. As the interest in the naked figure has declined, and given place to an interest in landscape and costume pictures, it is natural that less value should be attached to a kind of engraving which greatly surpassed other kinds of engraving in the naked figure only, and which would be thrown away upon the interpretation of popular modern art. Few naked figures in pure etching have yet reached the perfect model- ling of the great line-engravers, but on all other points the artistic advantages rest with the etchers, however great may be the mechanical charms of clean-looking burin work.

The wonderful landscape-engravers of the earlier part of this century, Goodall, Wallis, Miller, and others, to whom must be added Mr. J. C. Armytage, though not strictly line- engravers, for they admitted etching and dry point work (the bur being removed), have reached qualities which for painter-etchers may be considered hopeless. Their marvel- lous renderings of weights of colour in plates from Turner's most delicate drawings, and especially their exquisite skies, are quite beyond rivalry in such etching as painters may safely attempt. All etched skies that I have seen, not excepting the best of Haden and Rembrandt, and even Claude, are either rude or simple in comparison with such skies as the best in Rogers' Poems, and plates 63, 66, and 67 in the fifth volume of " Modern Painters." In Mr. Army- tage's skies, machine-ruling has been admitted as a ground tint, and the lights scraped and burnished out; in the illustrations to Rogers the skies are for the most part pure dry point A skilful etcher, such as Haden or M^ryon may give very intelligible hints of the mental emotion felt by him in the presence of some splendid natural sky, but he cannot render the sky itself, the evanescent delicacy of the


so ETCHING COMPARED

cloud-forms, their melting imperceptible gradations. But the engravers have truly made plates of copper yield images as closely resembling skies as the absence of colour and feebleness of art's light may admit of; they have done more than suggest, they have represented.

A brief recapitulation of the foregoing pages may be useful before we proceed farther.

Etching is superior to oil-sketching in form, and to oil- painting in freshness. It is inferior to both in truth of tone, unless at the cost of immense labour, aided by un- common skill.

It is superior to water-colour in decision and directness, because its earliest work remains, being never obliterated by subsequent washes and removals.

It is inferior to sepia-drawing in accurate rendering of weights of light and dark, but superior to it in indications of form.

It is superior to lithography in precision of minute form and sharpness of accent, but inferior to it in richness and fulness of touch.

It is superior to pen-drawing in freedom, variety, and power, but inferior to it in not being sensitive to pressure.

It is superior to the lead-pencil in depth and power, but inferior to it in equality of pale gradations.

It is superior to the graphotype in variety of depth and in delicacy of line, but inferior so far as executive facility is concerned in being entirely a negative art, whilst the grapho- type is entirely positive. Etching is, however, superior to the graphotype in freedom.

Etching is superior to wood engraving in freedom and depth, but inferior to it in the kind of amenity which is popular.

It is inferior to mezzotint in softness, but excels it in firmness and precision.

It is far superior to line-engraving in freedom, but, unless


WITH OTHER ARTS. 21

in exceptional instances, inferior to it in the modelling of flesh. Etching is also very far inferior to the best modern point-engraving in the representation of skies.

The strong points of etching in comparison with other arts are its great freedom, precision, and power. Its weak points may be reduced to a single head. The accurate subdivision of delicate tones, or, in two words, perfect tonality, is very difficult in etching ; so that perfect model- ling is very rare in the art, and the true representation of skies, which depends on the most delicate discrimination of these values, still rarer.


CHAPTER 11.

DIFFICULTIES AND FACILITIES OF ETCHING.

TN an article on Mr. Haden's etchings in the "Fine Arts Quarterly Review," Mr. Palgrave gives some encourage- ment to the general opinion that etching is one of the easiest of the arts. "Mr. Haden has wisely chosen that branch of art which lays by far the smallest stress on a long course of manual practice. Engraving in its severest forms must probably be placed below oil-painting or sculp- ture in its manual demands. But the highest skill in etching might be reached sooner than the skill to lay one square'inch of even lines with the graver."

Mr. Palgrave refers to the difficulty of manual execution only, and there is much truth in what he says, but not the whole truth. In speaking of an art like etching, it is exceedingly difficult to detach manual from intellectual qualities. In line-engraving this is easier, because in line- engraving manual dexterities have been made a distinct aim, and you know when a man can make lozenges of equal dimensions, and put his dots exactly in the middle of them. But the peculiarity of etching, and its great nobility as a fine art, consist in its disdain of all mechanical or purely manual dexterities whatever. The quality of an etched line depends on its meaning, and on that alone. Skill in etching is always complicated with considerations of feeling and knowledge ; if you eliminate these anybody may etch, be- cause anybody can make lines on a varnished plate as clear and free as Haden's.


DIFFICULTIES AND FACILITIES. 23

When Mr. Palgrave says that " the highest skill in etching might be reached sooner than the skill to lay one square inch of even lines with the graver," he does not tell us by what sort of person this "highest skill " in etching might be so easily reached. This is unfortunate, because the reader may allowably infer that average humanity is understood.

The "highest skill in etching" cannot be reached at all by the average aspirant. Thousands have attempted etch- ing, and these include painters of considerable artistic culture and experience. In this multitude you cannot find thirty first-rate etchers : there are not twenty, there may be ten. If there is any human pursuit wholly inaccessible to men of ordinary powers, it is etching. In this respect there is nothing comparable to it except poetry. Patient industry and some imitative faculty may produce a passable engrav- ing ; learning and long training an academic picture ; but nobody can be taught to make fine etchings or fine poems.

Some pursuits require long labour, but reward all students of fair ability who are willing to give the labour ; amongst these are the common trades and professions. Other pur- suits reward a few aspirants richly and speedily, but to men of ordinary organisation give no return for a whole life of toil The first may be difficult, but are yet possible to all sane men at the price of ten or fifteen years* labour ; the second may be what is called " easy," and yet to nineteen men out of twenty absolutely and eternally unattainable.

The highest skill in poetry might be reached sooner than a comprehensive acquaintance with historical literature.

Yes, if you presuppose a Tennyson.

The greatest technical difficulty of etching — not precisely a " manual " difficulty, for it depends in great measure upon the use of the mordant — is the difficulty of arriving at the relative weights of dark which the artist desires.

In this respect etching is far more difficult than any form


24 DIFFICULTIES AND

of art where results are immediately visible. An artist may be able to get the tones he wants in sepia, or with the pen, and yet be altogether uncertain with the etching- needle.

Etching is here more difficult than line-engraving, because the engraver sees his plate, and has frequent proofs taken during its progress, for his guidance.

A negative process is always so far more difficult than a positive process. Drawing on wood, lithography, and the graphotype, are technically easier than negative etching.

When the brush can be used for shading, instead of lines, there is, so far, greater facility. Setting aside the difficulty of colour, painting is easier than etching.

In an introductory letter by M. Charles Blanc, prefixed to Lalanne's treatise on etching, occurs the following passage : —

" Ah ! si les dilettantes qui s'ennuient, si les artistes qui aiment k fixer une impression fugitive, si les riches qui sont blasts sur les plaisirs de la photographie savaient combien est piquant Tint^r^t de Teau-forte, votre petit ouvrage aurait un succ^s fou. II n'est pas jusqu'aux femmes ^l^antes et lettr^es qui, fatigu6es de leur d^sceuvrement et de leurs chiffons ne puissent trouver un ddassement plein d'attraits dans Tart de dessiner sur le vemis et d'y faire mordre avec esprit leurs fantaisies d'un jour."

It is very possible that if ladies in general were to take up etching as they took up potichomanie a few years ago, the sale of manuals on etching might become very consider- able, but the cause of true art would gain nothing by the spread of a delusive fashion of that kind. In the whole range of the arts it is not possible to suggest one so unsuitable for ordinary amateurs. Very much of the merit of an etch- ing depends upon abstraction, and abstraction requires even greater knowledge than elaboration. Etching must be done


FA CILITIES OF ETCHING. 2 5

rapidly and decisively, whereas when the untrained draughts- man goes fast he always goes wrong, and when he is rigidly decisive it is rigidity in error. A process to suit amateurs should require as little abstraction as possible, and allow of as much hesitation and correction ; above all, the effects of work done should be clearly and immediately visible. The most suitable art for amateurs is oil painting without the embarrassment of colour. A tube of flake white and a tube of Vandyke brown, a prepared milled-board, a selection of hog brushes, and a little linseed oil, are the easiest materials for an amateur to manage ; with these he can see what he is doing, and may correct and efface as much as ever he pleases.^ But a copper plate covered with black vamish, in which every line shows itself in glittering metal, an arrange- ment of shading made wholly with a view to a future biting, a needle that slips about on the smooth copper every time the hand trembles or hesitates — these are not favourable conditions.

Having quoted two writers with whom, however greatly we may respect their general ability, we find it impossible to concur on this particular question of the supposed facility of etching, it is agreeable to change the attitude of opposition for that of cordial approval, and conclude the chapter with a quotation which has our entire adherence.

In the "Fine Arts Quarterly" for June 1866, a writer who preferred to remain anonymous, but who gave evidence of unusual knowledge of his subject, as well as unusual enthusi- asm for it, naturally found himself obliged to notice a delusion which, however unworthy of serious attention, too generally detracts from the estimation of etching to be passed over in silence : —

  • The new independent art of charcoal drawing as practised by the clever French-

men who invented it, or rather established it upon a basis of its own, is also ex- ceedingly well adapted for amateur study ; and, if properly pursued, at the same time very instructive and rapidly rewarding.


26 DIFFICULTIES AND FACILITIES.

    • Of all modern misapprehensions connected with etching

—once accounted an art in which only a master could excel — is that which supposes it to be particularly suited to the half-educated artist The experience which has arisen out of close observation and practice, and which enabled the old etcher to express himself promptly and by simple means, is in these days, it would seem, a proof that his treatment is loose, and that he deals only in indications. The fact that he has learned to select essentials and reject non-essentials, and especially if he is able to do this before nature, that he is merely sketching ; in short, the very qualities which even a great artist is the last to arrive at — simplicity and breadth — are, for some unaccountable reason, quoted to his preju- dice if he happens to be able to observe them on copper. For ourselves, we are well persuaded that etching, of all the arts, is the one least fitted to the amateur ; supposing, of course, the amateur to be the person he is generally described to be. But there are amateurs of different degree." ^

^ The central difficulty, of a technical kind, in etching, and at the same time a difficulty peculiar to this art, is the biting. By great delicacy of observation and keenness of judgment in guessing how something is going on which you can never quite clearly see, you may finally overcome this difficulty enough for practical pur- poses ; that is to say, you may bite accurately enough for the plate to be brought right ultimately by re-biting and partial rubbing-out with charcoal, but there will ever remain a degree of uncertainty about biting, which is a very great difficulty indeed. The reader will find much more on this subject towards the end of the volume.


CHAPTER III.

THE POPULAR ESTIMATE OF ETCHING.

" I "HE existence of the art of etching is not yet generally known. The word is generally known, but not the meaning of it. As we have already observed, the word •* etching," in non-artistic circles, is used to express drawing in pen and ink.

A curious sign of the degree of art-culture supposed to be generally attained by our educated public is that the writer in the "Times" newspaper, when reviewing Haden's etchings, found it necessary to preface his observations with a brief account of the process by which they were produced. Another, and perhaps still more significant fact is that, when a recent publication of the Etching Club was issued, the subscribers were informed that " these etchings were drawn on copper by the artists themselves, and are not touched by any engraver."

When a person has become clearly aware of the existence of etching as an art distinct from pen-drawing, and not in- tended to be an imitation of it ; when he knows that an etched line is bitten by acid in copper or steel, and that the rest of the plate is covered with varnish, the line having been laid bare by the passage of a needle which has removed the varnish along its course, then he has reached the first stage in the knowledge of the art But he may still be liable to a wrong estimate of etching, though he understands, in a rudi- mentary way, its processes. He may believe it to be an un- finished or inferior kind of engraving. An old printer, who


28 THE POPULAR ESTIMATE

occasionally printed painters* etchings, but was more com- monly employed upon engravings, divided the etchings of engravers and those of painters into two categories, as being " finished" and " unfinished." The plates of Rembrandt were not, in his view, completed works, but attempts at engraving, which had stopped far short of completion, because the artist was unable to carry them farther.

There exists also an idea that etching is an " imperfect art" It is not more imperfect than line-engraving, though its limitations are different Every art has its limitations. No sculptor could ever carve a tree in marble, and yet we do not speak of sculpture as an "imperfect art" The powers and limitations of etching are fairly examined else- where in this volume, and the writer's conclusion is by no means unfavourable. Indeed, it is easy to show that the art is unusually versatile.

A notion which could grow up nowhere but in England, the natural home of theories about the dignity of occupa- tions, is, that etching is beneath the attention of great painters. The writer actually met with a printseller who considered it beneath Landseer's dignity, as a knight and Academician, to condescend to etch ! No serious refutation can be given to objections of this kind.

These signs of apathy are briefly noticed here to mark the stage we are just leaving. The reception of Mr. Haden's etchings, and especially the intelligent and abundant criticism which hailed them in the periodical press, was the dawn of a greater enlightenment. Indifference to etching is wholly in- compatible with high art-culture  ; and if we really advance, as we suppose ourselves to do, the true rank and importance of the greatest of the linear arts cannot long remain hidden from us.

Much of the enjoyment which we derive from art con- sists in recognition of the truths which the artist intended to express. But people recognise only what they already


OF ETCHING. 29


know  ; therefore this pleasure is very slight at first, and in- creases with our acquired knowledge. And there are certain forms of art so strangely abstracted and abbreviated, that very great knowledge is required in the spectator to read them at all, just as it is necessary to understand a language thoroughly if we would read letters in it in a hurried hand- writing, full of marks and abbreviations peculiar to the individual writer. To the informed judge, this kind of artistic expression is, from its perfect frankness, peculiarly interesting ; to the ordinary spectator it is uninteresting, because illegible.

The art of etching has no mechanical attractiveness. If an etching has no meaning it can interest nobody ; if its significant lines are accompanied by many insignificant ones, their value is neutralised. But if all the lines are significant and the spectator unable to read their meaning, they must seem to him quite as worthless as those of a bad etching seem to a thorough critic.

Much of the popularity of engravings is due to the neat- ness of the mechanical performance, which all recognise. Machine-ruling is agreeable because it is so neat and regular; mezzotint is pleasant because it is rich and soft ; some oil- painting looks marvellously smooth. Almost every art, except etching, has some external charm of this kind, which, independently of mental expression, serves to secure the approbation of the vulgar. It is because etching has no attraction of this kind that it is not, nor can be, popular.

Since, however, etching relies on qualities of sterling value, it can never cease to be highly appreciated by a limited public of its own ; and in countries where general art-culture is on the increase, this little public must always be adding to its strength, and better able to make its opinion listened to.

This little public, loving the art on high grounds, is naturally fastidious. The buyers of etchings are more diffi-


30 THE POPULAR ESTIMATE OF ETCHING,

cult to please than the buyers of pictures. The extensive sale of bad etchings would do no good to the art, and, if etching were popular, it is likely that many etchers would work down to a low popular standard, as so many painters are in these days compelled to do or starve.

It is a matter less for regret than congratulation that an art should exist safe from the baneful influences of vulgar patronage. This is the good side of unpopularity, and it is enough to reconcile all who truly love what is noble and genuine in etching to the general neglect of it/

  • Since this was written etching has become more popular, for it is now very com-

monly employed in the illustration of works upon art, artistic periodicals such as the "Gazette des Beaux- Arts," the "PortfoUo," the ** Beitschrift fiir Bildende Kunst," and especially to illustrate catalogues of picture collections. Much technical skill has been developed by this kind of practice, but it may be doubted whether it is likely to make the public understand great spontaneous work better than it did before. On the contrary, the more we are accustomed to high finish of this pictorial kind, the less are we likely to tolerate what may seem to us a ruder expression. Besides, the expression of original thought in etching, which is the essence of the art, is as little encouraged, with one or two exceptions, as ever it was. Etching is now extensively used as one of the forms of engraving, for the interpretation of pictures not painted by the etcher, but it is almost impossible for an etcher to live by original work, however excellent


CHAPTER IV.

THE INFLUENCE OF CONNOISSEURSHIP.

THHE greatest evil in the present relation of etching to the public is, that in the little world that really cares for it there should exist a too considerable proportion of persons who are rather connoisseurs than amateurs. The distinction between the two is worth insisting upon, because true amateurs can do nothing but good to any art, whilst connoisseurs, though of use in their way, and even necessary in small numbers, mix their usefulness with much that is positively harmful.

A genuine amateur is a person who values art because it is good as art, and not because it is dear and rare. A genuine amateur looks for artistic merits alone, and is so entirely free from the passion of curiosity-hunting, that he guards himself against the curiosity-madness as a man with a great moral ideal guards himself against dipsomania. The love of curiosity-collecting seems to him a weakness, having some possible utility in the preservation of certain objects in a half-civilised century like this, and so to be tolerated till we finally emerge from the condition of savagery ; but he sees clearly that it is not a love of art Somebody with the curiosity-mania happens to take up button-collecting, or cork-collecting, or autograph-collecting, or by accident he may be turned to the collecting of etch- ings, which, on account of rare states, offers as much to interest him as anything else ; but the true amateur knows the difference between this fancy and the love of art for its


32 THE INFLUENCE OF

own sake. One such amateur said, " I earnestly wish that all works of art, good, bad, and indifferent, were just worth as much as a gallon of atmospheric air, and no more ; we should find out then who loved art and who didn't" A man who could say that, and, having a collection of his own, wish it heartily, had the spirit of the noblest amateur- ship. That spirit desires what is good, but takes no pride in the exclusive possession of it, and only wishes that others might have the good things also, and the ability to enjoy them. If I have a rare etching by Rembrandt, and am happy and proud that other people want it, and envy me because they cannot get it, I lie in the slough and mire of a low egotism, and if I glorify myself as a lover of art on these grounds I deserve no good report A fair test of true amateurship is the way people take the recent discovery of steeling. In former times an etching on copper yielded a few hundred impressions, and a dry-point about one-tenth of the number, before the plate was worn into worthlessness. The finest impressions were the earliest, and when the plate became old it yielded impressions so wretched, that copies of the finest Rembrandts, in the last stage of their existence, are now not worth in the market more than a thousandth part of the value of the earlier proofs, whilst the difference in artistic estimation would be much wider, being infinite. But in these latter days an ingenious Frenchman has called in electricity to remedy this evil. He covers a copper plate, after it is engraved, with a coating of steel so infinitesimally deep, that it does not fill up the lightest scratch of the dry- point During the printing it is this coating of steel, and not the copper, which has to bear the friction ; and when the steel is worn through in any place it is easily removed by a solvent which does not hurt the copper, after which the plate may be re-steeled, and this may be repeated over and over again, so that immense editions of etchings may in these days be printed, without friction on the copper, only


CONNOISSEURSHIP. 33


on its thin steel coat It follows, of course, that unless especial care is taken not to benefit by this discovery, the days of rare fine proofs in work done after this time are over. Everybody will be able to get good proofs of the work of etchers, just as everybody is able to get a correct edition of Scott or Byron. Now this discovery is hateful to lovers of etchings as curiosities, and altogether acceptable and delightful to true amateurs of art A true amateur hates an impression from a worn plate, not because it is common, but because it is bad as art : the relations of tone having all gone wrong, and the most delicate lines being lost altogether ; but the curiosity-hunter hates worn impres- sions chiefly because they are common, and may be had of the low printsellers on the Quai des Augustins, at ten sous a-piece. The true amateur is glad of a discovery which will make good etchings cheap by mere multiplicity of good impressions, so that nobody will be tempted to exhaust a plate. Would it be a bad thing if there were a million perfect copies of Rembrandt's finest works  ? Are there not a million copies of Hamlet, and do we value Shakspeare the less for his boundless publicity and illimitable possibility of reproduction  ?

Amateurship, in the higher sense, means the state in which the love of art is chief, and everything else sub- ordinate. In connoisseurship, knowledge is chief, and the pride of knowledge, love being subordinate or non-existent The glory of connoisseurship is to have ascertained and to possess in perfect readiness many facts relating to work done by famous men ; and these facts have very often no connection whatever with artistic quality or natural truth. It is a great thing for a connoisseur, for instance, to know whether a plate is rare or common, a matter which, artisti- cally, is of absolute indifference. Another great point in connoisseurship is to be aware of the indications by which different states are determined ; for instance, if in the first

D


34 THE INFLUENCE OF

state of a certain plate by Rembrandt the end hair in a dog's tail has a bur, and if in the second state this bur has been removed with the scraper, a professed connoisseur could scarcely avow his ignorance of the fact ; whilst from the artistic point of view ignorance of such details is per- fectly avowable, and is of no importance unless they seriously affect the artistic quality of the work. No amateur need be ashamed of not having the peculiar kind of knowledge which belongs to connoisseurs. When Pro- vidence ordained that there should be connoisseurs, it was with a view to the preservation of thousands of minute facts which the artistic class would have despised too much to treasure them for the benefit of mankind. As the mania for collecting curious things has rendered the general service of preserving much that is valuable as an illustration of the past, so the instinct which leads men to collect odd facts makes these men of use as living books of reference.

The good which connoisseurs do, is to hand down from generation to generation a mass of interesting traditions or discoveries about what has been done in art ; the evil which they do is to produce a too general impression that this kind of knowledge is the knowledge of art itself. It cannot be too clearly stated or understood that a man may have immense artistic and critical acquaintance with some branch of the fine arts and yet not be a connoisseur at all ; or he may be an accomplished connoisseur in the usual accepta- tion of the word, and yet have very little artistic or critical acquirement You find connoisseurs, who really are con- noisseurs— ^that is to say, they can tell you who did a thing and when, and give a shrewd guess as to the price it would be likely to fetch in the market — ^and yet these men can neither draw themselves, nor tell good drawing from bad when they see it They recognise works of art as we re- cognise men's faces, without artistic study. They can tell the touch of an artist as we know the handwriting on the


CONNOISSE URSHIP. 3 5

back of a letter, without waiting to see the signature. People hear them talk about rare impressions, and curious states of the plate, till they are finally persuaded that the study of art means this, and nothing better than this.

Connoisseurs when they are rich are naturally collectors, and even when a collector in his heart holds such knowledge as theirs in slight esteem, compared with the higher know- ledge of artists and true critics, he is, nevertheless, compelled to become a connoisseur in self-defence. It is not safe to buy old etchings without being guided in some measure by connoisseurship, either in your own person, or in the person of some quite faithful friend. Books written by connoisseurs are very useful, as they save one the trouble of remembering the facts they are always ready to communi- cate.

The difference between connoisseurs and amateurs in etching, accurately corresponds to that between bibliographers and readers in literature. You may be great in the know- ledge of the editions of books, or great in the knowledge of the mental wealth of books. If an edition is correct and legible, the wants of the student are satisfied  ; but the book collector prefers a faulty edition if it is rarer, and buys books less because they are good literature than as rare and valu- able curiosities. How seldom are great collectors great readers ! how still more seldom are they select and critical readers ! And so it is in the fine arts ; connoisseurship seems little favourable to the study of the minds of great artists. The habit of keenly looking for small facts, and constantly making small observations, diverts the attention from the mighty powers of the immortals.


CHAPTER V.

CRITICISM AND PRACTICAL WORK.

"^^ EITHER amateurship nor connoisseurship is neces- sarily critical. An amateur is merely a person who loves art, and a connoisseur is a person who knows one thing from another, which need not be on grounds of artistic merit. A critic requires other qualifications.

It has often been asserted that the labours of artist and theorist are incompatible, and that it is useless to attempt both. By an irresistible instinct, however, some men are driven to do both, and cannot endure to give up either, practice seeming to them to be enlightened and guided by theory, and theory to be most solidly grounded on practice. The two seem like the lame man and the blind man, theory being lame and practice blind ; and the lame man in the table mounted upon the blind man's back, and they both got on well enough.

But It is true that artists, as they are generally constituted and educated, cannot be just critics, though their criticism is usually interesting if the necessary allowance is made, in each case, for the artist's point of view. The world of art is divided into many small states or cliques, each as violently prejudiced against the others as the common people in every nation are against foreigners. International criticism is valuable only if you never forget the nationality of the critic. Englishmen accuse the French of being extravagant and parsimonious in consecutive sentences, which only means that the French spend liberally where the English spend


CRITICISM AND PRACTICAL WORK. 37


little, and that by a necessary compensation the French are careful where the English are liberal. So if we consider artistic cliques as little nations, we shall find all pure artists national, and criticising other cliques in that national way. But the critic, in reference to cliques, must be cosmo- politan.

Now to be cosmopolitan in the true sense does not mean to be ignorant about what goes on in different nations. A suC^allow is not cosmopolitan because he flies over many lands ; and yet the present tendency of thought about criticism is, that to avoid cliques and their narrowness it must be confided to men who are just as much outside of the art world as swallows are of the human world.

No person outside of practical art can criticise, and also no practical person living in a narrow clique can criticise justly. The true critic is a person who, having lived within the cliques and learned their languages, can get outside of them at any time by an effort of the will, and see them all at about the same distance from himself He knows them from within, and he knows them from without, both kinds of knowledge being absolutely indispensable to justice.

It is one of the current commonplaces that the age we live in is great in criticism but not in art, and the present Lord Lytton made a capital fable about a certain hen and a weasel, the hen being the artist laying eggs, but in such dread of the weasel (the critic), that at last she grew confused in mind, and dreamed that she was the weasel himself, the con- sequences being as follows  : —

This double identity made up of two —

Her waking and sleeping self— at last, The hen*s life into confusion threw

And over it daily and nightly cast The spell of a two-fold trouble. By day

She lived in such dread of her midnight dream That at length not an egg was she able to lay,

Yet this daily sterility did not redeem


38 CRITICISM AND PRACTICAL WORK.

From its nightiy plague her spirit tormented

When she by the dream's transforming power Changed into a weasel, was discontented

At finding no more any eggs to devour. • ••••••

So are we : who both author and critic in one

Miss the comfort accorded to either alone. By alternate creative and critical powers

Is our suffering identity sundered and torn. And the tooth of the critic that's in us devours

Half the author's conceptions before they are bom.

This is admirably well put, and there are cases of which it is quite true, but since it is our inevitable fate, as tnodems, to become critical in one way or other, our only chance of safety lies in being critical with thoroughness of knowledge. There may have been unconscious artists in former times ; I doubt if there are any now  ; the best of them I know com- bine, as George Eliot does, the artist and critic in one per- son, and are clearly conscious of what they are doing. It may be quite true that the critic in them devours half the author's conceptions before they are bom, but as there is not time in an artist's life to realise more than about one-tenth of his conceptions, the only consequence is a more careful selection of the few that can be realised, and, notwithstand- ing their critical spirit, artists and authors are as prolific as ever, laying as many eggs as their predecessors, and hatch- ing them too.

As artists on the one hand try to enlighten themselves by criticism, so the wisest and best of critics endeavour to get light through practical work. Labour of that kind is good because it shows us the technical limitations, and if the critical reader comes to understand etching thoroughly he may compel himself to a complete analysis by copying works by different great masters, not on paper, but on copper, and by forcing the copper to give the same results as the print before him. Such experiments open our eyes


CRITICISM AND PRACTICAL WORK. 39

more than any amount of time spent in turning over prints in a portfolio. They are study in the true sense of the word, and they have a good moral effect also^ for they make us recognise the qualities of other men who were always different from ourselves, and in most cases superior to ourselves. Consider how valuable to a critic about to write upon Rembrandt, would be the experience of a practical kind which Flameng went through in copying many of his etch- ings ! It would be half an education in itself.

Let us believe, what is assuredly true, that criticism and practice may work harmoniously together in the same mind if only they are wisely directed, and that the critical habit of the modem intellect does not inevitably lead us to sterility. Haydon is sometimes quoted as an example of the bad effects which the critical habit produces in an artist, but all his waste of effort was the consequence of insufficient critical culture. Had he possessed a truly critical culture he would have avoided the waste of energy which we deplore in him, and either produced art-work within the compass of his powers, or else directed them to other objects. So in a pro- fessed critic, Mr. Ruskin, much of what is good in his writing is due to his experience of practical art-work, and where he is not so strong the weakness may generally be traced to a deficiency of practical study. Thus he is strong on moun- tains and architecture, because he has drawn both a great deal, but not strong on figure-painting because he has drawn the figure very little.


CHAPTER VI.

FAVOURABLE AND UNFAVOURABLE ARTISTIC CONDITIONS,

CUCCESS in etcWng is as much an affair of organisation as of artistic superiority. Rembrandt was not a greater artist than Phidias ; but Rembrandt was so constituted as to be the very type of etchers, their perfect representative, whereas we may be sure that if Phidias could have tried to etch he would have failed altogether.^ So amongst living artists, some of the best of them have been unable to etch, though they have tried to do so, and some very imperfeet artists have etched well For example, James Whistler is a strikingly imperfect artist, but he is a fine etcher.

This may seem to imply that etching is an imperfect art, a notion I have already contended against It only implies that etching is an art which pardons some imperfections in favour of some good qualities. The fact is, that the limits of Whistler as an artist are by no means the limits of the art of etching  ; that what he does in it is good, but that also other things may be done in etching which are good, and that Whistler cannot do, and never will be able to do. But he has some of the qualities of a great etcher, and as to those qualities which he has not, their absence is not seriously felt, does not much interfere with our enjoyment of the artist's work. For it is the glory of etching that it never exacts

^ Phidias might have used etching to multiply a sculptor's drawings, just as he might have used any other autographic process, but it is highly improbable that he would have developed any of the peculiar qualities of the art.


ARTISTIC CONDITIONS. 41

completion, never compels an artist to go farther than he safely can go. You must, of course, have certain positive qualities to be able to etch at all ; but if you have these, your want of other qualities is not likely to be painfully felt

The conditions which are favourable and unfavourable to etching may be broadly divided under two heads. Lines of study which tend ultimately to concentration are so far favourable  ; lines of study which tend to elaboration are un- favourable.^ It does not signify by how much elaboration your early studies may pass, if they tend steadily to concen- tration, because you may make very elaborate studies indeed with the deliberate aim of learning how to concentrate powerfully. Some of the most powerful masters of concen- tration have begun by working elaborately, and gradually eliminated unnecessary detail, till, by a long labour of thoughtful omission, they arrived at length at such summary ways of work as best suit the purposes of etching. All that has to be insisted upon is the tendency of an artist's mind and work, not so much what he is doing at any particular time.

Industry cannot make an etcher; it is a question of temperament, with some industry to give manual skill. Slow and timid temperaments are naturally disqualified for an art which exacts decision. You may know from the pictures of an artist whether he has a chance of becoming an etcher. French painters usually etch sooner and better than Germans ; and the English, as might be expected, have facilities which lie somewhere between the two. The French have a true conception of etching as a rapid and compre- hensive art ; but when, as often happens, there is no genuine individual faculty, they fall into emptiness and idle scrawl-

^ There are elaborate etchings which are also good ones, but these are rare, and the words in the text are left for their general truth. Besides, even in the most elaborate plates there are always passages of rapid and concentrated expression, quite beyond the powers of a slow, undecided mind.


42 ARTISTIC CONDITIONS.

ing. The Germans and English usually fail in another way. When a Frenchman cannot etch, he flourishes about on the copper with vain efforts at brilliance and freedom ; when a German cannot etch, he elaborates the most highly-flnished and ridiculous compositions. The English have hitherto preferred to fail after the German manner ; but it is probable that since the influence of French ideas has been brought to bear upon us, our bad etchers will fail rather in emptiness of the rapid than the elaborate kind. It signifies nothing whether empty work is rapid or elaborate, for in both cases it is equally worthless ; but the French deserve some credit for seeing in a dim way what ought to be aimed at, and the Germans are a little to blame for their wonderful want of perception of the best qualities of the process.

Sixteen years ago, when our painters were tending to elaboration of the pre-Raphaelite kind, they were going in a direction not likely to qualify them for etching. Now, when they are painting more and more on the principles of abstrac- tion, they are going towards that condition of mind in which men etch well.

It deeply concerns an artist's personal comfort whether, if he attempts to etch, he is so constituted as to be able to etch well naturally. No art is more discouraging to the unqualified aspirant Etching looks so delightfully easy, that the disappointment at failure is proportionate to the firm confidence in success. A man can draw well, and paint agreeably, so he believes that he will soon be able to etch ; and he does etch, but somehow nothing that he executes seems to have the right degree of life in it ; it is life en- tangled with rigid sinews of death, and veins in which the blood is coagulated and cold. This is because his artistic constitution does not easily throw off" dead and superfluous matter. It throws it off" ultimately, or he could not paint, but it does not get rid of it easily and at once ; and there- fore, for etching, it does not get rid of it in time.


CHAPTER VII.

COMPREHENSIVENESS,

T N the planning of this work, I had given one chapter to abstraction, and another to comprehensiveness, the diffi- culty being which to put first. It seemed best to put com- prehensiveness first, for this reason, that abstraction was likely to be misunderstood without it ; for there exist many kinds of abstraction which could only do harm to an etcher, whereas if he once holds the idea of comprehensiveness in all its breadth of meaning, he is safe.

An artist works comprehensively when he grasps his whole subject at once, in all its relations, and works only with reference to the whole. Etching is eminently compre- hensive ; it does not, like other branches of design, encourage the separation of natural qualities, and the exclusive devotion to one of them. For instance, rigid outline drawing, such as we find on Etruscan vases, is strongly opposed to the spirit of etching, and that not because it is too abstract, but because it excludes facts interesting to etchers, and so is not sufficiently comprehensive. Again, water-colour blotting would be almost as much opposed to etching, though in an opposite direction  ; for here, though we have light and shade, and though things are seized by the middle instead of by the contour, we suffer from a want of delicate accentuation of form. If a single stroke in an etching is inserted with reference to form only, and without reference to the general light and shade arrangement of the whole work, that stroke will go far to ruin it ; or if, in obedience to exigencies of


44 COMPREHENSIVENESS,


light and shade, it forgets the right accentuation of form, then there will be so much the less of that brilliance and life on which the power of etching so largely depends.

There is the greater need to insist upon comprehensive- ness that our painters are not generally remarkable for the possession of it. They too often study things one after another instead of seeing them all at once ; and the art of seeing many things at once is as essential to harmony in painting as the corresponding faculty of hearing many sounds at the same time is to the enjoyment of harmony in music. It is not enough to see the leaf, or even the branch, or the whole tree ; we must grasp the entire landscape, or we are powerless. Our artists do sometimes grasp their subjects largely, and then they might succeed if they were not deterred by the feeling that what is called " finish " is indispensable ; whereas this finish, when it consists in mere elaboration of parts, is irretrievable ruin. The study of etching may have the happiest influence on the progress of painting itself, for it leads to a conviction that comprehen- siveness is the first of artistic necessities. The artist who has it, and keeps it, may add much else to it that is worth having — much delicate and minute observation, much craft of arrangement and subtlety of hand. But for the painter or etcher who has it not, whatever his other attainments, they are of little value, because they can never display themselves in the right time and place ; but, like the reminiscences of people without tact, are always brought upon the tapis when they can create nothing but irritation.

So long as we refer to etching alone, we cannot prove the full value of the great qualities on which success in etching depends. A great etching is the product of a grandly constituted mind ; every stroke of it has value exactly proportionate to the mental capacity of the artist ; so that a treatise on etching is necessarily a treatise on the mental powers of great men.


COMPREHENSIVENESS, 45

Not every reader would see at a glance whether all work was comprehensive or not, but most men know what com- prehensiveness is in other departments of human endeavour. It is the faculty of seeing things in their just relations, the faculty which checks our constant tendency to absorption in narrowing specialities. It keeps our work in due proportion, by constantly reminding Us of the true extent of its great field, for it embraces the whole field with its wide vision. We are always tempted to settle in some pleasant nook or comer of our possessions and leave the rest uncultivated  ; but if we have comprehensiveness, it will not allow us to do this. The most striking characteristic of the comprehensive intellect is its tolerance of necessary local evils and imper- fections, its anxiety for great results only, and carelessness of partial success. It is the faculty of generalship, which knows that no battle can be won without sacrifice, and consciously pays a price for its victories.

In ordinary life much of the narrowness that leads to intolerance and Philistinism comes from the weakness of this faculty. This narrowness is the essence of provincialism, of the prejudices of caste, of that kind of patriotism which is only the provincial spirit on a larger scale. In literature, the want of comprehensiveness leads to an infinite amount of wordy controversy. A hundred writers see a hundred aspects of the truth, and each copiously argues that his own view is the only view worth considering. Want of compre- hensiveness is, however, of less consequence in current litera- ture, especially in periodical literature, than in the fine arts, because unity is less necessary in articles than in pictures, or statues, or etchings. Many articles serve the useful purpose of drawing attention to the subjects they treat of, without being in themselves proportioned works of art ; they are merely the talk of the day, well expressed and widely circu- lated. But a picture or an etching is more than this, or at least aspires to be more. It aspires to have artistic value  ;


46 COMPREHENSIVENESS.

and there is no artistic value without unity, and unity is the result of comprehensiveness.

But may not unity come from a certain narrowness also  ? May not the comprehensive intellect, which is alive to so many aspects of things, introduce the fruits of too various observations, and end by producing discord out of its very opulence  ?

This danger exists so long as an intellect is becoming comprehensive, because, in this condition of gradual exten- sion, the newest acquisition always has an exa^erated importance, and is likely to be displayed and insisted upon disproportionately, and even out of season. And there is a narrowness which ensures a relative and unenviable safety ; but we are not the less bound to urge the desirableness of cultivating a large and comprehensive spirit Above all, it should be well understood that etching is not, as some imagine, a fit pastime for small minds  ; but that, on the contrary, its great glory is to offer the means of powerful and summary expression to the largest. And we may be assured that for a brief expression to be powerful it must be concentrated from large masses of acquired knowledge. I know not how many roses are needed for one small phial of precious attar, but I know that there rises from every good etching such a perfume of concentrated thought that a million flowers must have bloomed for it in the garden of some fertile and cultivated mind.


CHAPTER VIII.

ABSTRACTION.

PTCHING does not proceed so much by abstraction as by comprehensive selection  ; but abstraction has some place in the art, nevertheless, and is to be admitted frankly on certain occasions, and in a modified way very generally.

To understand what abstraction in art is, little more is necessary than a reference to ancient sculpture and design, especially Assyrian or Egyptian. That abstraction was instinctive, and therefore in the best periods as much above criticism as the instinctive labours of the lower animals. What the Egyptian and the Assyrian both did, and what even the more thoughtful Greek did also, though in a more beautiful way, was to take certain facts of nature and leave the r^st The facts which were taken were then treated arbitrarily, or according to the dictates of fixed customs. The facts which were left were no more regarded than if they had never existed.

Abstraction may be of the most opposite kinds. There is the abstraction of a Greek vase, and the abstraction of a blot by David Cox. In the first, outline is the truth pre- served, and effect the truth sacrificed  ; in the second, outline is sacrificed and effect preserved. And there are abstrac- tions within abstraction. Thus, in outline work, we may purposely eliminate all lines that are expressive of softness and feebleness, so as to give a character of severity to our work ; or we may eliminate the lines of strength, and lend a yet greater languor to those of tenderness and voluptuous-


48 ABSTRACTION.


ness. And in the modern blot for effect we may be taking one set of tones or another, since complete imitation of tones is as impossible as complete imitation of lines, and artists take what they want of each, and that only.

Now the kinds of abstraction commonly resorted to in etching are two. First, when an etcher knows that his art cannot really imitate, he resorts to abstraction, and boldly interprets. Secondly, when he could get nearer to imitation if he chose to spend the time, but does not choose, then also he works in an abstract manner.

If there is a strong probability that your technical skill will not carry you through some difficult bit of imitation, give us rather a piece of abstraction, however rude, which may show that you have understood the thing to be rendered. In the works of great etchers there is every conceivable shade of gradation, from the most marvellous imitation to the strongest abstraction. Even in the same plate we may often trace varieties of this kind.^ Imitative finish may be given to some central point of interest, and the execution of the rest of the work may become more and more frankly abstract till it reaches, in the outline of some cloud or dis- tance, an abstraction as great in its way as that of an Assyrian bas-relief.

  • A very remarkable and well-known instance of this is Rembrandt's famous

Hundred Guilder Print The figures in the centre and those to the right are wrought on principles of mingled imitation and abstraction, certain details, as, for instance, the near arm and hand of the praying figure close to Jesus, being almost purely imitative ; but in the figures to the spectator's left the principle of abstrac- tion predominates, and to such a degree that a child's head is drawn in pure out- line, and five or six strokes of the point are made to do duty (very efficiently) for a man's beard. Rembrandt's work generally is a sort of play between the extremes of imitation and abstraction, the degree of either that he chose to give being dependent on his own momentary caprice — a caprice, however, that was generally influenced by subtle artistic considerations. For example, in the etching just re- ferred to, Rembrandt used much abstraction in the figures to the left, because it permitted him to leave a great deal of white paper as a contrast to the dark shades on the right of the composition, and by this artifice he gained much breadth.


ABSTRACTION. 49


Abstraction does not appear to be a rare power. Every- body is in the habit of exercising it in common life. It is a common means of making things intelligible, and abstract drawing is usually more intelligible to uneducated persons, than the art which attempts a full rendering of nature. When we teach children to draw, we begin, as the Egyptians did, with rude, firm outlines; when we narrate events to simple people, we follow the same method, and purposely leave out all delicate and complicated considerations. It is not the abstraction of etching that makes it unintelligible to the people, but the complexity of the truths which it attempts to interpret simultaneously. A strong outline that goes all round its subject, though to the feeling of an etcher usually detestable, would be easily understood, but a fragmentary line which only indicates a quarter of a contour, and that probably not the real contour after all, and which hints half- a-dozen things, is likely, in the ^y^s of most people, to mean exactly nothing.


£


CHAPTER IX.

SELECTION.

A BSTRACTION is, of course, a kind of selection, but it is not the kind of selection that I desire to speak of here.

Abstraction is too analytic a selection for our present purpose. The artist who abstracts does not make a summary of the whole truth before him, but takes out a truth, and sets it forth in as evident a way as he possibly can, in a much more evident way than nature's. He acts as an anatomist who, having killed a wild animal for the sake of its skeleton only, tore away every fibre of muscle and threw it to his dogs ; after which he set himself to clean the bones by boiling them, and, being installed in his museum, erected his white and perfect bone structure without a thought of the flesh that the dogs devoured. This is abstrac- tion— a process of analysis followed by many rejections and few reserves.

The selection of which I would now speak is synthetic, and its object is to remain synthetic to the utmost possible extent. It does not try to detach one truth from its fellows, but to give the sum of all the truths. By means of this synthetic selection a master in etching will fully convey the ideas of structure, of light and shade, and of local colour, with the same set of touches. The more complex the expression, and the simpler the means used, the greater will be the power of the master.

In the infinite treasuries of natural truth some orders of


SELECTION, 51


fact are better suited to etching than others are, and although the comprehensiveness of the great etcher makes him alive to all these orders of fact, his judgment in selection leads him to decided preferences. He desires to be as synthetic as possible in his view, and as broadly receptive, yet he knows the limitations of his art ; and though anxious to express the sum of all the truths, is obliged in selection to look with especial care for the kind of truth which etching renders best This is done, however, in the case of every truly noble etcher, in simple prudence, not from pride — some- times indeed from real humility, as when a master does not like his own more elaborate renderings of certain truths, and prefers to indicate them by some rapid and seemingly care- less interpretation, in which, if there is any contempt at all, it is not of nature, but of the artist's own poverty of resource.

On some spots on the coast of England, especially, if I remember well, on the north shore beyond the castle at Scarborough, there are sands mixed with fine particles of iron. The children take magnets with them there, and so separate the iron from the grains of sand. They want the iron, they do not want the sand, and they are fortunate in possessing an almost piagical implement, which at a touch separates the one from the other.

So acts the selecting genius of great etchers. Though truly comprehensive and synthetic, and quite remote in general feeling from the abstraction of Assyrian sculptors, they find, nevertheless, in nature certain treasures to them especially precious, and which they easily draw to themselves by a constant and sublime magnetism. He who has not the magnet cannot select in this unerring way. You cannot teach selection of this kind  ; you may talk and write till you are weary, but you will not advance one student a step nearer to the mysterious and instinctive power of choice, which is the privilege of genius alone.


52 SELECTION.


All that can be done«  all that in such a treatise as this any writer can be expected to do, is to remind readers if they know it already, and tell them if they do not, that this selection is essential to all good etching, this lordly and high choice, which is authorised by the most comprehensive know- ledge of the wealth of nature.

But selection, I may be told, even selection of this synthetic kind, is equally necessary in painting, and therefore need not be treated of here, in a book devoted to what be- longs peculiarly to etching. It is necessary in all painting, except in the abstract schools which reject it in favour of abstraction, but it is far more important, relatively to other qualities, in this more rapid and summary art of etching. If a painter cannot select at once, he gets the superfluities out of his work by a slow and painful process, like a long malady, or hides them under equally superfluous elaboration. But an etcher who cannot select rapidly is lost.


CHAPTER X.


SENSITIVENESS.


T FIND that great etchers are decidedly a more sensitive body of men than line engravers, and more generally sensitive than some celebrated painters. Certain schools of painting have definitely encouraged insensitiveness to whole orders of truth, under the pretext of style  ; but etching, being an obscure and neglected art, has fortunately been too much despised by the professors of the grand style to be very actively injured by them. If any student, however, chooses to take Agostino Caracci for his model, he may, no doubt, arrive at insensitiveness even in etching.

Sensitiveness in ordinary life is so often spoken of as a weakness or a fault, so often attributed to morbid conditions, that it is needful to claim a right consideration for a kind of sensitiveness, which is neither a fault, nor a weakness, nor a disease. The work of the great men is usually at the same time both exquisitely sensitive, and capable of demon- strations of strength so overpowering, that it seems brutal to minds which have neither its tenderness nor its force. The softer intellects are not rough in this noble way, and so they resent the strong markings of the great etchers as a kind of affront to their own refinement ; but, on the other hand, neither have they the etcher's exquisite sensitiveness, and though it does not irritate them as the apparent coarseness does, it gets no recognition from them, and remains outside their estimate of the artist.

Whoever aspires to be an etcher should try to be sensi-


54 SENSITIVENESS.


tive in the best sense. True sensitiveness is not disease, but the highest life of the purest health. It is easily lost, in the turmoil of the common world, or so far injured as to leave nothing but an occasional capability of noble pleasure. How are we to keep it if we have it  ? It may be lost in too busy intercourse with men, but so also it dies in the dull apathy of long solitude, and the Shepherd on Ben Cruachan has as little of it as the apprentice in the Strand. Its most fatal enemies are over-stimulus and deficiency of stimulus.

In great capitals, the over-stimulus comes in a hundred forms. One very injurious form of it is too many pictures and prints. We will not rail against exhibitions, since they are inevitable, and the best method hitherto devised for the publication of new paintings ; but it is well to guard our- selves against the invasion of mere quantity. No man living can really study more than ten fresh works of art a day  ; he may glance at more in order to select the ten, but he cannot study more. Who would expect any one to read more than ten volumes a day  ? And is there not as much in a painting or etching that really deserves to be studied as in most volumes } Londoners and Parisians seem to have extensive views of the quantity of art a man may digest in a given time ; and so far as I have been able to calculate, they expect a critic to make up his mind on two hundred pictures per day, with a stiff volume on aesthetics, and a new book-illustrator every evening.

Errors in this direction may be avoided if we remember that the mind has a digestion just as the body has, and that it can only take in a certain limited quantity of aliment in the twenty-four hours. Excesses are paid for by a loss of tone, a loss of sensitiveness, a loss of appetite. Then both art and nature lose their charm, and good work cannot even be enjoyed, far less executed.

In the country, on the other hand, from the want of fresh


SENSITIVENESS. 55


stimulus in the sufficiently frequent sight of new works, people fall into that mortal dulness which is one of the well- known marks of provincialism. It is admitted amongst artists that no painter can absent himself very long from capital cities without declining in power  ; and even landscape painters, whose material lies in Alpine valleys or Highland glens, pass regularly some considerable portion of the year in the ugliest capital in Europe.

The best life is that which includes both town and country, and does not in either allow itself to be invaded and overwhelmed by quantity, either of art or nature. The powers of one man in the presence of the immense accu- mulations of the race must always be infinitely little, and an individual human being can no more study all the art in the world than he can eat all the food in the world. Etching is a pleasanter study in this respect of quantity than painting is, for the number of etchers is limited  ; and since the art has never received great encouragement, few artists have left great quantities of etchings behind them. The danger to the sensitiveness of etchers is not so much from seeing too many etchings as too many pictures.

In beautiful scenery the faculties may be dulled by too much nature, as well as too much art Amongst great mountains we are especially exposed to a spirit of reverie, which makes us gaze for ever and do nothing. What we can do seems so little, what they are so much, that we are likely to fall into contemplative indolence, unless roused by the ardour of scientific research, or the necessity for money- getting. Neither of these motives leads to the study of etching, and there is always some probability that an etcher who should persistently absent himself- from fine collections, and live in the midst of a too magnificent nature, would injure his artistic sensitiveness, by too much stimulus of the one kind and too little of the other.


CHAPTER XL


EMPHASIS.


T N all human communication, when there is energy enough to move men, there is emphasis — in oratory, in literature, in acting, in painting, in common daily talk, in music, even in the pantomime of gesture.

All emphasis in design is, and must be, a departure from the rigid truth. Emphasis with pencil or etching needle is the exaggeration of some point which has powerfully struck the artist, or to which he intends to direct the attention of the spectator. And such exaggerations are departures from the truth in more Ways than one ; they obscure other facts, and destroy the equilibrium of nature. Yet a design without emphasis would be uninteresting, except as a curiosity ; it would certainly have no interest as art. Any human com- munication in which the strict order and proportion of nature should be followed would fail of its effect upon mankind. The principle is, that you are not to tell mankind all that has occurred, but what it concerns them to know. Now in every event of history, and in every natural scene, there are millions of minute facts which nobody cares about or needs to care about — facts which, if narrated, would only overcharge the hearer's memory uselessly, and hinder him from giving due attention to the great points. Your time and his being limited, you tell him what seems to you of most importance ; and to impress this on his mind you drive it home with a hearty thrust of emphasis, like a man charging a gun. Artists do exactly the same thing, and etchers especially, for a par-


EMPHASIS, 57


ticular reason. The more elaborate a work is, the less» as a general rule^ is emphasis resorted to because when there is time to make a full exposition of a matter, there is the less need for violence in statement If you have to reply to an adversary in one sentence, you make it a biting epigram ; if you have an hour before you, it tells better to demolish him with studied moderation. Now the etchers, in comparison to the painters, are not accustomed to lengthy utterances. To be brief and go to the point at once is a quality which they aim at This brevity naturally leads to an emphatic manner of work, and it may be observed that the same etcher who strongly emphasizes in a rapid sketch on the copper is far more sober in statement when he works on a laboured plate. But there is a kind of emphasis, necessary to all etching, even the most laboured, and which readily escapes attention. It is the delicate accentuation that lives in every stroke, like the caressing bow-pressures of an accomplished violinist You think there is no emphasis at all, that the etcher has been telling you plain facts in a plain way, and yet you have been interested and pleased. If you have been interested, it is quite certain that there must have been emphasis ; the simple truth would have left you cold. And yet you are in- terested in nature, and there is no emphasis there. Very true, but there was emphasis in the way you looked at nature ; your emotion supplied then what the emotion of the artist must supply for you in art

And might not a spectator's emotion in the presence of a literally true etching supply a kind of emphasis also, as it would before nature 'i

It might perhaps, but it never does. No strictly accurate drawing that I have ever seen has had the power to move a single spectator. Accurate work — that is, work without emphasis — is always passed by with indifference. It does not tell men what to look for, or why they are to look at all, and so they do not feel under any obligation to look. An


58 EMPHASIS,


artist is a person who undertakes, or ought to undertake, to establish a human communication between nature and man- kind; and all good human communication is preceded by selection and enforced by emphasis.

Yet we must not be too emphatic With cultivated people the most effectual emphasis is very subtle and deli- cate, avoiding violence, and seeming rather to arise from the courteous wish to spare trouble to the audience, than from any eagerness to compel attention. If an artist will listen to the best conversation that is to be had, and also to the best music, he may safely carry so much emphasis as he will have heard there into his own practice. There is a difference between such just and necessary stress as this and the vio- lence of bad manners and bad art


CHAPTER XII.

PASSION,

nPHE mechanical labours of the h'ne engraver, extending sometimes over several years on a single plate, require industry and steadiness rather than passion. No passionate temperament could easily bring itself to make careful lines . with a burin when the only result of a thousand days spent in such work should be a translation of another man's thought Great skill is needed, and infinite patience and care, but no tormenting and disturbing emotion. Hence the best line engravers seem to be either men of cold tempera- ment originally, or men who have learned the necessity for coolness in their art, reserving the fire that is in them for other studies, or for their amusements.

But with the etcher these conditions of success are re- versed, at least in the order of their importance. He needs, no doubt, some manual skill, some patience, and a moderate amount of care, but these avail him nothing if they are accompanied by the engraver's coldness. The one capacity which makes all his other powers available is the capacity for passionate emotion. To feel vividly, to be possessed for a few hours by some overmastering thought, and record the thought before the fire has time to die out of it — this is the first condition of success in etching.

Therefore all schools of art which try to suppress passion are injurious to etching, and nobody can be an etcher who either belongs to them or believes their doctrines. The classical school in figure-painting, and the topographic school


6o PASSION.


in landscape^ have never produced a good etcher. Of course neither of these schools set itself to the suppression of all passion, for the classical designers have illustrated scenes of very strong passion indeed^ and even the topographic land- scape painters have, or had at the beginning, a passionate devotion to topographic truth ; but they have both encou- raged a cold indifference to much that no etcher can afford to regard coldly. The classical figure-painters, in the pur- suit of a learned ideal, taught themselves to despise the aspects of the common world, and to this day have a lofty contempt for every artist who is humble enough and intel- ligent enough to take an interest in it The topographers, on the other hand, though they make an exception in favour of Turner, whose genius they recognise, regard the deviations from literal truth which, in the works of less famous painters, are due to genuine passion, as a want of conscientiousness and a blamable laxity of principle.

The student who desires to etch is earnestly recommended to keep clear of all doctrine which endeavours to chill his feeling in any way. To etch well, an artist hardly can be too passionate in his likings. Etch what impresses you, and as it impresses you, and let no theorists poison your mind with the virus of a morbid conscientiousness.


CHAPTER XIII.


InL4^^KX£SS.


II^TCHIXG is eminently a straightforward art, which is one great reason for its unpopularity. People do not like plain lines that tell rude truths ; they prefer fanc>'* arrange- ments. No good etcher will condescend to fancy arrange-


The delightfulness of etching, to us who care for i^ is especially this frankness. No art is so entirely honest; painting and engra^ng have almost always some question- able ingredient of attractiveness, some prettiness or polish to suit widespread but lamentable tastes. The etchers, with few exceptions, have not attempted to make themselves agreeable in this way, probably from a conviction that their art is so inherently unpopular that it would be of no use. The consequence is, that of all artists they are the most simple and direct They are as cunning, and crafty, and subtle as you will in the artifices of method, but it is an honest cunning that aims only at qualities really worth hav- ing; and if these can be reached in a simple way, the simple way is always preferred In saying that etching is an especially honest art, I mean that it does not resort to apparently difficult ways of doing easy things, in order to get credit for difficulties overcome. On the contrary, it is remarkable for preferring apparently simple ways of doing difficult things. So unpretending is it, that the master- pieces of the art attract no attention from the general public, and people who cluster in a close group round a showy


62 FRANKNESS,


picture, will pass without a glance the most exquisite ex- pression of an aquafortist

Etched lines look coarse and awkward very often, the lines of shading seem irregular, pains are not taken to hide the errors of the artist ; sometimes he roughly corrects, and lets you see that he has corrected It happens even that defects in the varnish have been allowed to remain in the bitten copper, and print themselves on every proof taken. Etchers seem to be an idle, careless set of men, who do not finish properly. They are not sufficiently polished, not in harmony with the usages of society. These wayward, eccentric strokes of theirs show a too rampant and irrepres- sible individualism ; if they would learn to shade evenly as the eng^vers do, and make neat curves and lozenges, would it not be much better  ? Frankness may be well on due occasion, but we may have too much of it

This is the way many people feel about the frankness of etching, if they do not say so.


CHAPTER XIV.


SPEED.


TN the letterpress which accompanied Mr. Haden's etch- ings a letter of his was quoted, in which he spoke of the advantages of etching an entire plate at one sitting. The unity of impression so obtained was, Mr. Haden thought, an important gain, and enough to counterbalance much elabora- tion. Looking through Mr. Haden's own etchings by the light of this expression of opinion, we find some which may have been finished at one sitting, and others which must have required a longer time. It will be found in practice that a sketch on copper may be efTectively done in a sitting, but that an etching in which the full resources of the pro- cess are brought to bear will occupy several sittings. It may be also observed that when an etching, supposed to be exe- cuted at once, is afterwards corrected and carried through several states, the sittings required for these corrections ought to be taken into account, and that it is not accurate to class such a plate amongst plates etched at one sitting. If this is strictly attended to, it will be found that an exceed- ingly small proportion of etchings have really been exe- cuted in the way Mr. Haden advocates.

It is right, however, to insist on a certain value in mere rapidity. A rapid stroke, when not so rapid as to miss the necessary modulations, is generally better than a slow one, and a concise expression preferable to a diffuse expres-


64 SPEED,

sion.* The way to attain true speed is to spend a great deal of time in looking, and having decided upon the strokes to be laid, lay them at once, and leave them. It is told of John Phillip, that when he painted he showed no sign of hurry, but would look hard at nature and then lay a few firm touches, not to be disturbed, and that in this careful way he was really getting his picture forward rapidly. So in etching, there should be no unthinking haste, but every line should be determiited upon before it is made.

A good principle to remember is, that for an etching to look fresh we must avoid weariness. This is why Mr. Haden recommends a single sitting ; it seems to him that the fresh- ness of the mind, its first virgin impression of a subject, may be kept three or four hours, but not very much longer. Before the mind acknowledges fatigue it loses its keen interest in the subject which occupies it, and this keen interest is what we have mainly to rely upon for the vivacity of our work. A jaded etcher is sure to spoil his plate. Without making a rule to etch only plates of one sitting, which would confine us to sketching, it is quite necessary to stop before the mind wanders or goes on another tack. The plate, if not yet sufficiently advanced to be printed, may be laid aside and completed at some future time, when the freshness of

  • Every question about art has two sides, and this question about speed is not

an exception to the rule. There are qualities which come of speed and qualities which come of deliberation. However, there is such a thing as deliberate speed, and I should never advocate any other.

Rembrandt gives examples of all degrees of speed and all degrees of deliberate slowness too. Sometimes he aims at the qualities that rapidity attains when directed by knowledge and genius, sometimes at the qualities that infinite patience may attain under the same high mental guidance. The great versatility of etching permits the most opposite treatment. Your work may be as swift as handwriting, or it may be as slow as the progress of an engraver's burin ; good work has been done in both ways. I should say, never work quickly from bravado, nor slowly firom an exaggerated conscientiousness, but choose the rapid or slow expression as it harmonises with your temper and accommodates itself to your thought


SPEED. 6s

interest in it may return to us. If this freshness should not return, the plate is better abandoned.*

  • Landseer attached as much importance to speed in painting as some etchers

have attached to it in their own art. He painted quickly on principle, and settled everything about his composition before going to work, spending marvellously little time in the actual setting forth of his ideas upon canvas. He was fully alive to the fact that rapidity is a good thing in itself, provided only you have knowledge enough, and provided that the knowledge is iat your fingers' ends. After one of his amazing feats of speed he felt a profound satisfaction, not in the half-miraculous achievement, but in having got his thought well expressed whilst it remained fresh and vivid in his mind.


i


CHAPTER XV.


MOTIVES.


HP HE motive of a picture is not so much material as spiritual. It is a certain condition of the mind, pro- duced by the subject, and which the artist, in rendering that subject, desires to reproduce in the minds of spectators. This is the reason why great artists so often choose subjects which seem trifling, and also why Philistinism always mis- understands and despises art What a great landscape- painter attempts to render is not the natural landscape, but the state of feeling which the landscsfpe produces in himself. Since etching is especially an art of feelings an art in which feeling is supreme and mechanism nowhere, it is very im- portant that the etcher should be able to enter into the true conception of artistic motives.

A motive should never be valued according to the popular estimate of its importance, nor even by the effect it may produce on some other artist. If you listen to the people, you may be prevented from studying in some region quite full of good motives ; it seems barren and uninterest- ing to them, and they will make you believe that it is barren. So even an accomplished artist may mislead you by his report of a place ; he may find nothing there suitable to his own idiosyncrasy, and yet for you it may be full of treasure. The converse of this is also true, though not quite to the same extent. A district may be popular, it may even be very attractive to some good painters, and yet you may not find there what you want. This, however, is likely to occur


MOTIVES, 67


more rarely, because if a district is popular there is sure to be either sublimity or beauty in it ; and although it may not be the particular sublimity or beauty which most closely touches you, it is always probable that some phase of these will awaken your interest

Every artist has theories about the choice of subjects which are merely personal and do not concern others, yet he believes them to be universally applicable. We have to guard ourselves against the strong personal feeling of our artist-friends, especially when it expresses itself in negation and discouragement. They are always ready to say that subjects are unfit for pictorial treatment when they are not in harmony with their own personal constitution. Almost anything is a subject, but it only becomes a motive when an artist is moved by it. An etcher ought never to care about subjects, but should etch motives only.

To do this requires great faith, great confidence in our feelings and impressions. This faith is assailed on every side by the scepticism of people who do not see as the artist sees ; but he should not let these attacks disturb him. Other people do not see what he sees, because they are not himself; but if he is quite faithful to his own impressions, he will gain sympathy in the long run, not from everybody, but from those who are near enough to him to enter into his ideas.

One of the great advantages which results from perfect fidelity to motive is the unity of each piece of work when it leaves the etcher's hand. Under the impulse of a feeling he has produced a work, and the feeling will have fused the material into a whole. What we most need for unity is an unreserved surrender to our impression, a simple faith that what has moved us is worth recording, hov/ever poor and uninteresting it may seem.

And as submission to every real motive is a duty, so are resistance to and rebellion against false motives and half-


CHAPTER I.

ALBERT DURER.

Tn\URER was so magnificent a master in the powers and qualities he cared for and aimed at, that it is the more necessary to remember the limitations of his art. His draw- ing is, in its way, superb  ; his management of the burin above criticism  ; his chiaroscuro quite arbitrary and false ; his knowledge of local colour apparently slight, and never certainly to be depended upon ; his aerial perspective null.

We know Durer by his engravings mainly ; but he could etch, and was a true etcher, though he practised the art little. Two of his etchings are described below.

The mechanical perfection of his handicraft as a line- engraver does not concern us here, and must be passed with this simple mention, though it is a tempting subject But Durer's mind concerns us  ; and, admirable as was the perfec- tion of his manual work, he does not owe his greatness to that, but to mental originality and force.

He was one of the most grave artists who ever lived. His gravity went so far that he could do things which, in a jesting age like ours, would have been criticised and carica- tured without mercy. For instance, imagine what would be said if an English academician painted " Samson killing the Lion " as Durer designed that subject, or even such composi- tions as his " Knight and Lady," or the " Satyr and Lady behind the Shield with the Death's Head," or the woodcut of the " Visitation." These, in their way, are all truly great art, but great art of a kind which would not be possible "in this century, on account of our highly developed sense of the ridiculous, and our levity.


7 2 ALBERT D URER.

There is a quality in all Durer's work which gives it inexhaustible interest ; it always makes us feel that we have not yet got to the bottom of it, that there are meanings in it deeper than any we have yet read, and that closer and more intelligent study will be rewarded by farther knowledge and fuller enjoyment. His intense seriousness, his powerful and somewhat morbid imagination, gave him a tendency to philo- sophical and poetical suggestion somewhat beyond the range of graphic art It is easy to propose solutions of Durer's enigmas, but what he really intended, in some of his most elaborate plates, will perhaps remain for ever a mystery. Who knows what was in Durer's mind when he engraved the " Great Horse ^  ? Certainly his purpose was not simply the designing of a muscular quadruped.

It would not be difficult for a writer who, for many years, has loved and studied the noble work of Durer, to occupy several pages with the expression of his long-accumulating thought ; but any elaborate study of this master would be out of place here, because it would have to be based upon his engravings, and not upon his etchings. Even of the etchings themselves it would be an affectation to say very much beyond this, that they stre right in workmanship, and as good in conception as the artist's other religious pieces. It was not in the conception of scenes of sacred history that Durer far surpassed his contemporaries.

St. 3erome. — ^The saint is seated in a rocky place, with a book before him on a rude table made with a board placed upon stones ; there is a lion at his feet and a little water. (Dated 15 12.)

The Virgin and Child, — The Virgin is seated on the edge of a rude trough filled with hay or straw. To her left is an old man with a long beard, and behind her are three figures — a woman and two men. The reader will find a very rich impression of this etching in the British Museum the upper proof on page 1 8 of the Durer volume there.


»-'


CHAPTER IL


REMBRANDT.

T^VERY art has its great representative master, and the representative etcher is Rembrandt He was so consti- tuted, and he so trained himself, as to become, in his maturity, the most consummate aquafortist who has hitherto appeared. There is, however, a difficulty in writing about him which does not present itself in the case of less celebrated artists ; he has been made the subject of such unlimited eulogy, that the sincere expression of critical appreciation must seem faint and pale after the ardours of genuine or affected fanati- cism. Rembrandt is what the French call a god of art The phrase sounds a little blasphemous to English ears; but, whether blasphemous or not, it describes with perfect accuracy the relation of certain famous artists towards their admirers, Rembrandt and one or two others are in a very strict sense the gods of connoisseurs, and the kind of homage they receive is not critical, but has the nature of worship or adoration. After that the critic has a discouraging task before him, for however loud his praise, it is inaudible in the unceasing chorus of traditional hymn-singing; and however mild the expression of a doubt, it is likely to be resented as a species of atheism. False enthusiasm of all kinds is often consider- ably noisier than true enthusiasm ; and it is not easy for a critic, whose admiration is only based on careful study of the works of an artist, to emulate the ardour of those who have never studied him at all.* Considering, therefore, that no-

• The enthusiasm about the classical writers (not merely Latin and Greek, birt


74 REMBRANDT,


thing in the way of phrase-making can be expected to equal what has been accomplished already in honour of the name of Rembrandt, the present writer abandons the rhetoric of eulogy to more adventurous and enterprising authors, and confines himself to a simple analysis of Rembrandt's qualities and powers.

Technical skill is not the highest gift of an artist, but it is his most necessary accomplishment, for without it he can- not worthily realise his conceptions, however elevated. This is a truism, and has been said before in various ways, but it may be well to say it in this place once again, because Rem- brandt holds his supreme rank primarily on technical grounds- Let us, for the present, set aside the question of his intellec- tual power, and reserve considerations of taste, inquiring simply whether he could really etch, or whether his work, like that of many other clever painters who have etched, is foreign to the true genius of the art

A great French painter gave this counsel to his pupils  :

  • ' ^bauchez toujoursr Our English art language is so limited

that we cannot translate the word ebaucher, which means the preparatory brushing-in of a picture ; but what the painter intended to recommend was the practice of carrying forward the picture, always on the same principle of comprehensive sketching, until at last it reached a sufficient completion, being brought to it insensibly, as it were, and without any fixed intention of finish  ; the finish coming of itself after much sketching upon and within sketching. The advice was excellent, even as addressed to painters ; but etchers need a like belief even more urgently. An etching should always be conceived purely as a sketch, and what people call a " finished " etching ought to be nothing more than a sketch carried farther. Rembrandt was always technically safe,

of all countries) is always loudest in the case of persons who read them little or not at all, on the same principle, it may be supposed, which makes religious bigotry most energetic in those who expend little energy in the direction of moral effort.


REMBRANDT, 75


because he never lost hold of the idea of the sketch, and his most laboured work is still strictly conceived on the principles of sketching.

At this stage in our study of the great master it may be well to pause, for there exists a widely-spread misapprehen- sion of the nature of a sketch. Sketching is held to be an easy form of artistic expression, because it is rapid and apparently slight when done, but the knowledge required for a sketch is as great as that needed for a " finished " drawing, the only difference being that, the slighter and swifter the expression, the greater is the necessity for comprehensiveness and selection. It is only the most accomplished artists who, in any true sense, can be said to sketch at all, because it is only when the facts of nature are thoroughly known that the most necessary ones can be selected from the mass. One of the common illusions of dilettantism is the belief that the talent of the sketcher is easily accessible, but the amateur is just as likely to rival the finish of Van Eyck as the liberty of Rembrandt.

Rembrandt always sketched, and his most finished work is sketching carried forwards.

The adherence to this principle is philosophically right and defensible, on the ground that, whenever we see com- prehensively, we see nature itself as a more or less advanced sketch, never in perfect completion. When we lose artistic comprehensiveness and become analytic, — as, for instance, when we examine the buckling of harness before starting for a drive, — we do not see the object as a sketcher would, but at such times we do not see at all in the artistic sense ; we are, for the time being, blind.

The next notable fact about Rembrandt is, that he saw and etched with the most various degrees of abstraction, so that his sketching passes from the very slightest and rudest croquis to what is popularly accepted as finished work. All these degrees of abstraction he had constantly at command.


76 REMBRANDT.


and used them sometimes in the same plate, passing with subtle gradation from one to the other, as it suited him, and so leading us to dwell upon what he considered best worth our study.

So that, if we take the whole series of the plates of Rembrandt, we shall find separate illustrations of sketching in all degrees of abstraction ; and also, if we take certain particular plates, we shall find in each of them a concentra- tion of these various interpretations of nature  ; but, however near the apparent approach to " finish," the most elaborate work is still pure sketching.

Another point which distinguishes Rembrandt from many inferior aquafortists, is his manly use, on due occasion, of the frank etched line. He knew the beauty and the value of it, and was so far from trying to dissimulate it in deference to popular taste, that he laid it boldly and bare wherever he saw the need of it, even in his most careful and elaborate performances. There is only one Englishman, Haden, who has used the line in this direct, effectual way, and Rem- brandt taught him. Turner could use it, also, but he looked always to mezzotint to help him out Of modern French- men, Lalanne, Appian, Chifflart, Jongkind, and Daubigny employ the free line with various degrees of success, but no one has ever yet used it like Rembrandt ; and in this respect even the greatest of the old masters are feeble in comparison with him — all, except Vandyke.

He was very various in method, so that some amateurs, in Ignorance of the usual processes of the art, have attributed to him secrets peculiar to himself There is no evidence, however, that Rembrandt did more than employ the pro- cesses known to all etchers, and the peculiarity of his work was not a peculiarity of method, but a surpassing excellence of skill. So little is generally known about etching, that men who have a reputation for connoisseurship are sometimes unacquainted with the details of practice, so that the little


REMBRANDT. 77


artifices of method, which any one may- learn who will take the trouble, appear to them mysterious and inexplicable. It may be well to gfuard the reader against a mistake to which he may be exposed in reading French criticisms of Rembrandt, in which some impressions of his plates are said to be in the maniire noire, a phrase commonly employed for mezzotint Rembrandt never engraved in mezzotint, but he sometimes, in printing- a plate, left ink on its surface so as to give a certain richness which bears some resemblance to mezzotint; and the maniire noire of the French writers refers, in the case of Rembrandt, simply to this way of printing.

It is not always easy to say positively of small portions of Rembrandt's work, whether it was done with the etching- needle or the dry-point ; and this proves an extraordinary mastery of the latter instrument, which in less skilful hands cannot approach the freedom of the needle. In these cases the way to ascertain the fact is by reference to the earliest proofs, before Rembrandt had removed his bur.

The criticism most interesting to general readers is that which refers to mental rather than technical characteristics, and it would be wrong not to attempt some estimate of Rembrandt as a mind studying nature and humanity. He was a robust genius, with keen powers of observation, but little delicacy or tenderness of sentiment, and he lacked the feminine element which is said to be necessary to poets. He understood certain classes of men quite thoroughly, and drew them with the utmost perspicacity — men with whom his robust nature had sympathy. He had an extraordinary apprehension of natural dignity and majesty, proving thereby the true grandeur of his own mind, for it is only minds of a very high order that see the grandeur of men who enjoy little worldly rank and consideration. ' Rembrandt had little sensitiveness, it seems, as regards the delicate beauty of young women, but he understood — and this is rarer — the


78 REMBRANDT


venerableness of some old ones. He drew a great many Biblical subjects, and a few very immoral ones  ; whether he was religious or not is uncertain  ; it is possible that he may have availed himself of the Bible as a convenient repertory of material, full of fine artistic suggestion, and having the advantage of being universally known. On the other hand, though there is undeniable licentiousness in some of his etchings, his mind does not seem to have dwelt much upon subjects of that kind, and he took them probably merely because they came in his way, as incidents of human life — a state of feeling which the scrupulous reticence of our age may easily misinterpret. He cared very little for beauty and grace, despised prettiness, calmly tolerated all manner of hideousness, and admired nothing so much as a certain stern and manly grandeur, resulting from the combination of habits of reflection and much experience of the world.

The doctrine that great artists are the product of the circumstances that surround them, has been so much insisted upon of late, that the reader will easily see the applicability of it to Rembrandt as an etcher. The visible marks of character in the men he knew were so strongly traced, and their whole aspect so available for his purpose, that he had the advantage of continual study, even in the common inter- course of life. A Londoner in the nineteenth century misses this, unless he is a caricaturist, for the activity of modern existence is destructive of the kind of dignity which Rem- brandt loved, and our costume is not compatible with any true grandeur of demeanour. A still worse evil than our fidgetty activity and mean costume, is the want of clear individuality in our faces : we are trained in the repression of all visible feeling beyond a small range of polite and exceedingly mild emotions, so that our joy never gets beyond a smile of quiet satisfaction, nor may our sorrows command more than a gentle expression of regret But Rembrandt lived in a time when people bore upon their faces a frank


REMBRANDT. 79


record, not only of recent feeling, but of all the intensity of the feelings which had moved the muscles and moulded the physiognomy during the whole course of their lives, and he took the greatest delight in studying living records of this kind. The human interest of his work is, therefore, exceed- ingly great; and his portraits, especially, become for us living acquaintances. The same intensity of individual character is carried through his ideal subjects, and his imagi- nation does not rest satisfied with anything less than personal knowledge of every individual man and woman in his etchings, even though of minor consequence in the action.

The reader who has not yet studied Rembrandt system- atically, but wishes to do so, may conveniently prepare himself for the etchings themselves, by making himself familiar with the photographs from them, and with the Catalogue of Charles Blanc, which is illustrated by forty plates of Flameng, the most spirited copies of etchings ever executed in such a considerable quantity, and with sustained excellence.

Since Rembrandt was a productive etcher, it is wise to divide his work into classes, according to subject, and this has been done for us already by M. Charles Blanc. From these classes the student may select representative examples. Those described below are sufficient to give a very clear idea of the genius of Rembrandt in its full variety of expression.

As the reader has just been recommended to avail himself of the assistance of photographs and copies, it may be well to say a few words as to their especial utility.

A photograph never fairly represents an etching, and is never, in any sense, a substitute for the original plate ; but the forms are retained, though the brilliant quality of the work is in a great measure lost ; and a set of photographs serve to remind us of the plates themselves, or to prepare us for the study of the originals, by making us at least familiar with their subjects and composition. The value of photo- graphy has been forced upon the writer's attention with


8o REMBRANDT.


especial effect, because it was at one time proposed to illus- trate this volume by means of photographs from the great etchers,but the quality of photographic reproductions generally was found so unreliable as to technical merits, that the plan was finally abandoned.* When the photograph from an etching is placed side by side with the original, it is found wanting in clearness and purity of line ; the lines occasionally fail where most delicate, and passages of close but still open shading are represented by something like a washed or blotted tint On the other hand, no etched copy is to be absolutely relied upon, though some very wonderful imitations exist — imitations whose Chinese fidelity deceives all but the most accomplished connoisseurs. Notwithstanding these defects photographs and etched copies may, however, be accepted for what they are worth, and used, not as substitutes for the originals, which should be studied in preference whenever the opportunity occurs, but as reminders and records. Flameng's copies are marvellous for their spirit and truth, and may be recommended as interpretations of the mind of RembrandLt It is not necessary to repeat here what is known of Rembrandt's life ; the reader will find details in M. Blanc's biography which will interest him, but our knowledge of Rembrandt's existence is not very complete. It is certain that he was passionately fond of art, and an eager collector, being willing to buy art as well as to sell it. He had a keen knowledge of human nature, and knew how to catch connoisseurs by the bait of rarity, making different states

  • Etchings are now reproduced by the " Heliogravure Amand-Durand," with

a wonderful yet not quite absolutely perfect fidelity. The plate in his process is really etched, whilst photography ensures its accuracy in the direction of the lines.

+ Here is the title of M. Blanc's Catalogue of Rembrandt's works with Flameng's illustrations : —

" L'CEuvre complet de Rembrandt, decrit et commentc par M. Charles Blanc, ancien Directeur des Beaux- Arts. Catalogue raisonne de toutes les Eaux-fortes du MaStre et de ses Peintures, ome de Bois graves et de quarante Eaux-fortes tirees k part et rapportees dans le texte. 2 vols. Paris  : L. Gucrin, editeur. Dcp6t et vente \ la librairie Theodora Morgand, 5, rue Bonaparte."


REMBRANDT. 8i


of plates on purpose to gratify them in this respect. It appears to be positively known that he had a printing-press in his own studio, and took proofs with his own hands, as every true etcher ought to do.

The value of his etchings has increased greatly since his death, and never more than during the last few years. A single copy of his whole work could not be brought together for less than twelve or fourteen thousand pounds — even supposing the possibility of making a complete collection.

The plate of " Christ healing the Sick " was called the Hundred Guilder Print, because Rembrandt sold a copy of it for that sum. At M. de Burgy's sale, in Amsterdam, in 175s, an impression, in the first state, before the diagonal lines on the neck of the ass, sold for 84 guilders {£^)' This afterwards became the property of Mr. Barnard, at whose sale (London, 1798) it was bought by Mr. G. Hibbert for;£'33  : I  : 6. Mr. Hibbert's collection was sold in 1809, and Mr. Esdaile bought this impression for £/^ 1:7:6. When Mr. Esdaile's collection, in its turn, came to the hammer, this impression fetched £2'^\y Mr. Holford being the purchaser. Another impression was bought by Mr. Smith, at Baron Verstolk's sale, in Amsterdam, 1847, for less than  ;^ 140, and sold, not long ago, at Mr. Charles Price's sale, to Mr. Palmer, for  ;^ii8o. An impression in the usual state was sold at Mr. Carew's sale, in 1 8 3 5 , for  ;^ 1 6  : i os. ; at M. Debois's sale, in Paris, 1844, for  ;£"! 12  ; and at that of Mr. Johnson (London, i860) iox £\6o.

One of the best instances, of the money-value which

attaches to mere curiosity, quite independently of art, is

Rembrandt's " Sleeping Dog." He originally etched this in

one corner of a plate measuring about four inches and a

quarter wide by two and a half high, and afterwards cut it

down to three and a quarter wide by one and a half high.

Only one impression, in the first state, is known, which sold

at Mr. Hibbert's sale, in 1809, for £\  : los. The Duke of

G


82 REMBRANDT.


Buckingham subsequently obtained it for £6\ and at his sale, in 1834, it brought ^^61. In 1841 the British Museum gave  ;^ 1 20 for it. The difference between this copy and an ordinary one is exactly six square inches of white paper, so that the British Museum actually gave a little under twenty pounds per square inch for some blank paper which Rembrandt considered injurious to his etching, since he diminished the size of the copper. The essential point, as a matter of curiosity, was that this white paper should be ivithin the plate-mark. This may be taken as a typical example of that purchasing for curiosity which is so distinct from the love of art. If the size of the copper had been beneficial to the etching, Rembrandt would not have reduced it Artisti- cally, therefore, in Rembrandt's opinion, the needlessly large copper was a defect, and the first state not the best But, in questions of price, curiosity always influences more than art, and an artistic defect will be extravagantly paid for, if only it is a proof of rarity ; especially if, as in this instance, it is connected with some odd circumstance, of a character sufficiently trivial to awaken the interest of persons w^hose love of art is languid.

SACRED SUBJECTS.

Hagar dismissed by Abraham (Blanc, 3  ; Bartsch, 30  ; Claussin, 37  ; Wilson, 37). — The references to the regular catalogues will save the space that would be occupied by descriptions, and allow us to devote the whole of these pages to pure criticism.

This is one of the most perfectly delicate of all Rem- brandt's etchings. The sureness of the faint thin lines on which the expression of the faces chiefly depends, the masterly reservation of reflections and half-lights in open shading, the opportune omission of labour where omission was better than toil, justify our admiration. Observe the


REMBRANDT. 83


thoroughly characteristic drawing of Sarah's old hands and grimly satisfied face ; the strokes are so few that you may count them, and so thin that it needs clear sight even to see them. The face of Abraham is just as good, and the beard is indicated with a dozen strokes towards the edge of it, the rest being left to the imagination.

Abrahams Sacrifice (Blanc, 6; Bartsch, 35; Claussin, 36 ; Wilson, 39). — Independently of its very fine composi- tion, and the magnificent style in the drawing of Abraham and the angel, this plate may be especially recommended as a fine example of the free etched line, which is everywhere perfectly frank and full of vital energy.

Jacob and Laban, sometimes called Three Oriental Figures (Blanc, 7; Bartsch, 118; Claussin, 120; Wilson, 122). — This is one of those plates of Rembrandt, more numerous than is generally supposed, of which the original coppers still exist. The fact is that a considerable number of Rembrandt's original coppers are still in material exist- ence, though the greater part of them have been so much deteriorated by wear, and so injured by retouchings and rebitings, as to be artistically valueless. The most delicate plates have, of course, suffered most. In this plate of " Jacob and Laban," the only part which has suffered serious injury is the black shade in the doorway, which is con- siderably paler than in the earliest impressions. Close lines always give way soonest in the printing, and a modern crcvi can scarcely be trusted, if not steeled, up to a hundred copies ; but when the lines are kept well apart, and not too shallow, they will yield large editions without material in- jury. All tht poptiiar plates of Rembrandt which still exist are now in the most advanced state of consumption  ; they are even more unsubstantial than that, they are ghosts.

The Presentation in the TVw//^ (Blanc, 23  ; Bartsch, 50; Claussin, 54; Wilson, 55). — There are three " Presentations in the Temple," but this may be easily known as the larger,


84 REMBRANDT.


upright one ; it is further distinguished by the French critics as the one en manitre noirc^ by which they mean that the plate has been heavily inked. The brilliancy of the sacer- dotal vestments is rendered here with a power so extraordi- nary, that the plate is a great technical feat. The lines are coarse and rude, but so entirely synthetic and intelligent in their arrangement, that the splendour of gold, and jewels, and embroidery, is fully suggested to the imagination, The high priest, who is standing, is one of the most im- posing figures amongst all the creations of Rembrandt, who had a keen appreciation of sacerdotal dignity and magnificence.

Repose in Egypt (Blanc, 31  ; Bartsch, 58; Claussin, 62  ; Wilson, 63). — This plate is so very slightly bitten as to be exceedingly pale, but M. Charles Blanc believes that this feebleness was intentional. Great artists, in their designs, have often drawn whole pages of such extreme delicacy and paleness that their work is half invisible, and its finest pass- ages to be apprehended by the imagination alone. It is a kind of artistic caprice, like the faint playing of a musician when he imitates music in the remote distance. A plate in this condition is in a very good state to be carried forward in pure dry-point.

Jesus Christ preaching (Blanc, 39  ; Bartsch, 6^ \ Claussin, 71  ; Wilson, 71). — One of the finest of Rembrandt's sacred subjects, and, in its original state, one of the most simple in execution. The copper belonged to Norblin, the engraver, who laboriously retouched it. At Norblin's death it was sold to Mr. Colnaghi. As an example of genuine etcher's work an early impression is unexceptionable.

The Return of the Prodigal Son (Blanc, 43  ; Bartsch, 91  ; Claussin, 95 , Wilson, 96). — Here again is one of the exist- ing coppers, remarkable chiefly for the frightful hideousness of the principal figures. Rembrandt may have desired to indicate that the unfortunate youth had become swinish


REMBRANDT. 85


from companionship with swine, but surely there could be no especial reason for the ugliness of his father. There is, however, much dramatic truth, and even some tenderness, in the arrangement of the group.

Christ healing the Sick (Blanc, 49  ; Bartsch, 74  ; Claussin, 78  ; Wilson, 78). — This is the famous etching known as 'The Hundred Guilder Print," and of which a single impres- sion has been sold for the enormous sum of  ;£'i 180. There are several other plates by Rembrandt at least equal to this in artistic quality, but from its large dimensions and the delicacy of its finish, as well as the impressiveness of the subject, and the force with which the scene is realised, " The Hundred-Guilder Print is usually considered the most im- portant work of the master; and the unprecedented sum which has been lately given for it will only tend to confirm the supremacy of its position. No etching was ever better finished, as true etchers understand finish. The labour is by no means equal throughout, but is skilfully expended where most required, and economised where it could only have interfered with the concentration of the thought. The realism that pervades all that Rembrandt ever did, does not even here give place to any vain attempt at style, and yet the work has style of its own kind, though not in the narrow classical sense. The subject is one with which we have been rendered too familiar, by many artists, for it to exercise its full power on the imagination ; and it requires great effort in the modern mind, detached as it is from the idea of the miraculous, to realise the actual presence of a teacher who could enforce his doctrine by relieving his hearers from their heaviest personal calamities. We must try, however, to sympathise with their eager hope and grateful rejoicing, if we would understand the expression on all these expectant faces.

There is a good deal of dry-point work, and towards the left Rembrandt took care to remove the bur, which


86 REMBRANDT.


destroyed the balance of the chiaroscuro. The market value of an impression in the first state, before Rembrandt had improved and completed the plate, is, of course, much greater than that of a perfect copy, Rembrandt's opinion being held of slight importance by connoisscurship, in com- parison with the merit of rarity and the evidence of an early impression. There is a curious logical fallacy involved in the anxiety for evidence that an impression is an early one. Why are early impressions valued especially at all } Because they are supposed to be of better quality than later ones. But if quality is the object, what is the necessity for evidence  ? Is not quality its own evidence } Connoisscurship first seeks early impressions for their quality, and then distrusts its own judgment as to the very thing it seeks, and so is obliged to look for marks by which an early impression may be known. For instance, in the case of this very etching, connoisseurs tell the first state by the absence of certain diagonal lines on the neck of the ass.

Descent from the Cross by Torchlight (Blanc, 5 8  ; Bartsch, 83  ; Claussin, 87; Wilson, 88). — Although the great "De- scent from the Cross " is much more generally known, and may be considered, in a certain sense, more sublime, I have an especial liking for this ; the work is so right and manly, and the composition so natural and yet so full of art. The way in which the sheet is thrown upon the bier, and the masculine indications of its folds, are a lesson for our modern etchers. If the value of such work as this had been rightly understood by the modern English and Germans, they would have avoided half their errors.

The three Crosses (Blanc, 53; Bartsch, 78; Claussin, 81 ; Wilson, 81). — In the short chapters of the First Book, I spoke of frankness and passion as necessary elements in great etching, and of speed as a quality in itself desirable, when not obtained at the cost of necessary modulations in line. This etching of " The Three Crosses" is, of all Rem-


REMBRANDT. 87


brandt's important plates, the most passionate, the most frank, and the most swift Large as it is, the composition is nothing more — or, would it not be better to say that it is nothing less  ?— than a rapid memorandum of a true vision  ; one of those visions seen only by men of great imaginative endowments. So far as we may presume to speculate on the operation of these mysterious and rare powers, we may infer, from the extraordinary energy of the manipulation and abso- lute disdain of popular requirements, that the one object of Rembrandt in taking this great copper was to fix his vision for ever, without regard to anything but the sublime verity of the transcript. The plate afterwards underwent very rough treatment at his hands  ; much of the early work was effaced, and several afterthoughts were added  ; which changes of in- tention only serve to prove the ungovernable ardour of the first inspired and passionate hour. Rembrandt was in the habit of keeping coppers by him ready varnished, and I have little doubt that in this instance the plate was ready to his hand when the light from heaven came. Many a reader may have lost patience with me when I occupied whole pages with purely technical considerations, but the entire value of this magnificent plate depends upon a techni- cal facility — the ease and freedom with which the etching- point glides upon the copper, at any speed and in any direction. It is certain that if Rembrandt had been set to record his conception with the burin, he must either have restrained his passion whilst the slow tool ploughed its pain, ful way, or renounced his task as hopeless.

The Death of the Virgin (Blanc, 70; Bartsch, 100; Claussin, 103  ; Wilson, 105). — Every lover of art comes, in time, to have private predilections which he cannot always readily account for and explain. Thus, of all the plates of Rembrandt, "The Death of the Virgin" is the one that fascinates and moves me most In all the qualities of art there are at least four of Rembrandt's etchings which


88 REMBRANDT,


fully equal this ; yet not one of them absorbs me so com- pletely. The solemnity of fast approaching death, the gravity of the stately high-priest and the calm physician  ; the sorrow of others present, the pale face upon the pillow, and the helpless hands upon the counterpane, — are elements of a scene which renews itself too frequently ever to lose its interest In the upper air of the lofty room, angels wait for the spirit which the nations will adore as the Queen of Heaven ; and the scene has a grandeur more than royal, for it has the sublimity of art. Considered as etching, the work is so sound and right, so various in degrees of finish, and so masterly in choice and direction of line, that " The Death of the Virgin " may be taken as one of the great t3'pical ex- amples of what etching may be, and ought to be. If the reader would give half-an-hour to a fine impression of this plate, he would understand for ever after the painful and almost indignant feelings with which we hear men de- preciate etching in the vanity of their superciliousness.

ALLEGORIES AND FANCIES.

Youth surprised by Death (Blanc, 79  ; Bartsch, 1 09  ; Claussin, iii; Wilson, 113). — The figure of the young man in this exquisite etching is by far the most elegant of all Rembrandt's creations ; indeed, perhaps, the only one which has, in any marked degree, the character of elegance at all. There is a singular delicacy in the whole of the plate, very notably in the hair and head-dress of the women. It has been beautifully. copied by Flameng.

A Lion Hunt (Blanc, 87  ; Bartsch, 1 15  ; Claussin, 117; Wilson, 119). — A rapid and hasty sketch full of fire and spirit, and curiously resembling in its peculiar inspiration, the ideas of Eugene Delacroix.

The Bathers (Blanc, 117; Bartsch, 195  ; Claussin, 192  ; Wilson, 192). — Of course, no artist is to be judged by his


REMBRANDT. 89


worst productions ; but Rembrandt is so great that he can well afford to be frankly criticised. He seems to have been absolutely indifferent to the beauty of the naked figure, but he never went lower than this in the recording of its hideousness and degradation. We might compare these men to gorillas or baboons, but they are more repulsive; because the ideal of the baboon does not involve the beauti- ful, whereas the ideal of man reaches to the Apollo Belvedere. What sort of satisfaction Rembrandt could find in the sketch- ing of these pitiable objects, is a mystery. They have not even life enough to enjoy their bath like men, but are as miserable and shivering as they are shapeless.

THE BEGGARS.

Rembrandt etched about twenty-five subjects of beggars, several of which are exceedingly felicitous and curiously picturesque. As the plates of some of these subjects still exist, they are sold at low prices ; but, although the lines of one or two that I have examined are certainly Rembrandt's own lines, they have been apparently rebitten to make them last longer. Of course, when a plate has been rebitten by other hands than those of the etcher himself, it can no longer be considered a strictly original work. The direction of the lines is what the artist intends it to be, but not their depth.

The reader will find several fine copies of Rembrandt's " Beggars " in M. Blanc's Catalogue. One of the finest, in some respects, is No. 145, "Mcndiants, Homme et Femme." Only two impressions of it are known to exist ; one in the Cabinet at Paris, the other in the Museum of Amsterdam. The plate was a failure, and Rembrandt probably destroyed it ; but though the face of the nearer figure is a blot, and though the execution generally bears the same relation to common drawing that the almost illegible manuscript of an author b|^^^^e rounded pothooks of a schoolboy.


90 REMBRANDT,


still it is very grand work. Another ver>' fine beggar is No. 149, "Gueux i gros Ventre." Observe the masterly eco- nomy of labour in the cloak and boots  ; the boots especially are splendid examples of fine swift treatment of costume.

ACADEMICAL SUBJECTS.

There are about a dozen etchings of the naked figure by Rembrandt Some of these are very common, as the plates belong to M. Bernard, of Paris, who still prints editions of them. The naked man seated on the ground (Blanc, 160  ; Ba. 196  ; CI. 193  ; W. 193) is a ver> good piece of evidence as to Rembrandt's matter-of-fact interpretation. It is simple realism, quite devoid of aspiration. The model was a poor one, with no form, and Rembrandt seems to have felt no impatience, but to have copied the bad shapes quite con- tentedly. He accepted ugliness without repugnance. The naked woman whose feet are in water (Blanc, 1 64) is an in- stance of bad form of another kind. The young man had no form because he was meagre  ; this woman has none because she is fat : both etchings are as repulsive as photo- graphs of ill-chosen models. And yet these two reasons are not the ultimate statement of the matter, for there is a lean ideal and a fat ideal ; there is a leanness which has a spiritual beauty, and a fulness which has a sensual and material beauty ; the early Italian painters knew the first, and Rubens knew the second, but Rembrandt knew neither. Yet he had an ideal, but we need not look for it in his studies of the naked figure, lean or fat ; his ideal was not corporeal, but mental, and is to be found in his best portraits, and in many personages in his religious subjects, who are as personal and individual as portraits.

The "Diana at the Bath" (Bl. 165  ; Ba. 201  ; C. 198  ; W. 198) is little better, in point of form, than the woman with her feet in the water, but the figure is well poised, and


PLATE I.

THE CORPULENT BEGGAR (GuEux A Gros Ventre;,

After REMBRANDT.

Copied by the Author.


PLATE I.

(To be placetl. opposite pa^e yo.)

The Corpulent Beggar (Gueux a Gros Ventre;.

After Rembrandt.

Copiea by the Author. BITINGS.


In Dutch Mordant, heated to 90** Fahrenheit


Light scratches in background

Darker lines on edge .>...' Finer hues on cl<»ak, face, lop of cap, and shadow in liackground Darkest lines of cloak, boots, and sliadow of boots .


First proof taken, it having been thought unadvisable to carry the biting to its extreme limit for fear of over-biting. ITie darkest lines were therefore still somewhat weak, and needed rebiting.

Plate covered for rebiting, but all lines protected . except the darkest.

Darkest lines bitten 20 minutes more, making their total


Minutes.!


7 12


J**


50


70


In the printing, this plate is well wijied with the canvas only, which leaves a shght tint of oil. It has then been lightly rctroussce on all the darkest lines. The face is not ntrousst^Cy nor are the tliin scratchings.


REMBRANDT 91


most admirably drawn, technically. This is by far the finest of all Rembrandt's naked figures, much finer than the Antiope, for instance, though the pose of the Antiope is good, if the forms are not

PORTRAITS.

It appears to be very difficult to etch a good portrait, if we are to judge by the rarity of successful attempts. There are scarcely any modern etched portraits worth mentioning, and very few older ones, except those of Rembrandt and Vandyke. Rembrandt owed something of his success in portraits to constant practice on the best of all models — himself He etched his own portrait more than thirty times over, in various dresses — an amount of egotism for which any modem etcher would incur the most severe reprobation of reviewers. He had a picturesque physiognomy, and was as good a subject as any he was likely to find  ; nor have we the right to blame an egotism which, in his case, was purely artistic, and very far removed from any vulgar sentiment of vanity. Rembrandt knew that he was a good subject, and found that in this instance the model readily complied with the requirements of the artist ; so he often sat for hours before his looking-glass, and etched the keen, plain visage he saw in it He etched his old mother seven or eight times, and his wife half as often  : the old woman had a capital face, and her illustrious son, then young and obscure, drew it with the utmost intelligence and affection. His early portrait of her (Bl. 193  ; Ba. 354  ; C^ 343  ; W. 348) is one of the most perfect of all his works. He was twenty -two years old then, and already a great master-etcher. One might expatiate long on the firm and exquisite truth with which the wrinkled face has been studied, and yet the wrinkles are not mapped out in a servile Denner-like manner, but always largely interpreted with reference to expression and anatomy. See how they are accentuated on the temple as it passes into the


92 REMBRANDT


shade  ; how tlie reflected lights are kept clear under the chin, where they have scarcely a perceptible breadth  ; how the few thin hairs are drawn with their wave of curl ; how the half extinguished eye retains its remnant of calm light; how the placid lips, full of experience and quiet capacity of irony, meet in their sage reserve ! There is another very fine portrait of the same old lady (Bl. 196  ; Ba. 345  ; C 333  ; W. 339), an extraordinary tour de force in the rendering of an old woman's face, and technically remarkable for its translation of various local values of black in the veil and dress. Of Rembrandt's portraits of himself, two may be especially mentioned, — the " Rembrandt with the Sabre and Aigrette" (Bl. 232; Ba. 23  ; C. 23  ; W. 23), and "Rem- brandt appuy6" (Bl. 234; Ba. 21  ; C. 21  ; W. 21). The first of these two portraits gives us Rembrandt in his charac- ter of a lover of strange and picturesque costumes, of which he had a considerable collection ; the other represents him, very probably, in the dress he usually wore, and is that from which most of us derive our idea of his person. He lived in an age when a man might dress picturesquely without being hooted or laughed at, and so indulged his artistic instincts very freely. No more picturesque scene can be imagined than the interior of Rembrandt's house, full of all things that his eyes desired  : of arms, and carving, and porcelain, of rare tissues, of statues and busts, of pictures, of quaint furniture, of tapestries, and animals and plants, of spoils of earth and sea. In the midst of all these things sat that illustrious and immortal genius — sat, as we see him in this portrait, himself not less picturesque than the things around him, a masculine and robust man, knowing the aspects of life, and scrutinising all things with those sharp, penetrating eyes. What interested him most in the living world around him was neither the loveliness of women, nor the grace of in- fancy, but the thoughtful faces of mature and intelligent men. Thus he drew Cornelius Ansloo, a celebrated preacher of tliose


PLATE II.

PORTRAIT OF OLD MOTHER, By REMBRANDT.

Copied by tlie Author.


PLATE II.

(To be placed opposite page 92.)

Portrait of Old Mother, by Rembrandt.


Copied by the Autlior.


BITINGS.


In Dutch Mordant, heated to go** Fahrenheit


Palest lines at roots of hair, on forehead, behind head, at lower right

hand comer, etc. . . ' .

Darker touches on wrinkles, thin dark lines elsewhere, hair, etc Other dark but thin lines . . * . .

Darkest lines .......


Minutes.


5 15

30 45


First proof taken.

Plate covered again with black ground, and a number of lines and touches which had been omitted now drawn in their places, and bitten in the same proportion as above.

Second proof taken. Some lines and touches reduced with the scraper, others deepened with the burin.


In printing, this plate is wiped with canvas only, and not rdrotissh.


REMBRANDT. 93


days ; Asselyn, a painter of reputation  ; Ephraim Bonus, a physician  ; Clement de Jonghe, a famous publisher of prints  ; Janus Lutma, a well-known goldsmith ; the Burgomaster Six, and other personages, in almost every instance remark- able for an appearance of strong understanding or venerable dignity which compels us to remember and respect them. It may have been a subtle flattery on the part of Rembrandt to give to his sitters a wise and meditative look, as other portraitists add beauty to the features, and dissimulate physical defects  ; but there was a sturdy frankness in Rem- brandt's nature which inclines us rather to the belief that he would not have condescended even to this delicate species of flattery, and that there existed in his models, at least, a strong suggestion of the qualities he attributed to them. The one rare merit of these portraits is that they never seem to lay traps for our admiration, and have no anxiety to please. The Burgomaster Six is reading quietly at his win- dow, without a thought of the world beyond; Ephraim Bonus is thinking not of us, but of the patient whom he has just left upstairs  ; Uytenbogaert, the gold-weigher, is entirely absorbed in his accounts. The difference between these por- traits and too many modern ones is, that these have dignity without pretension, whereas the others have pretension with- out dignity. The execution is sometimes exceedingly mar- vellous, as, for instance, the modelling of the gold-weigher's face, the moustache and imperial of old Haaring, and the eyebrow of Janus Lutma. Whenever the hands are given, as in the lesser Coppenol, the Ansloo, and the Lutma, they are drawn in a simple and direct way, but with singular attention to the character and constitution of the man. Whilst oa the subject of execution, we cannot omit to men- tion the remarkable silvery beard worn by a nameless old man with a fur cap. It is nearly all done by suggestion and omission, but the fulness and softness of it are perfectly expressed. There is an art very useful to etchers, by which


94 REMBRANDT.


the imagination of the spectator is made to do half the work  ; Rembrandt understood this, and often had recourse to it with much cunning. By telling you what the hairs are like on the left side of the beard, he makes you believe that you see hairs on the right, though in reality he gives you nothing there but a space of blank paper.

LANDSCAPES.

Though Rembrandt's draughtsmanship in the figure was often incorrect as to proportion, it was always scientific and based upon anatomical studies, which we know to have been amongst the artist's valued and beloved pursuits. But he did not draw animals so well as men, nor trees so well as animals, and was, in short, much less scientific as a landscape- painter than as a master of the figure. We all know how the study of landscape has lingered behind the study of the human body ; but, because many of the old masters brought to the execution of landscape-subjects that grand and govern- ing manner which they had learned in another branch of art, and because they could, at least, express their sentiment, which was often noble and just, it has resulted that their reputation is considerable, notwithstanding the limitations of their knowledge, and that, even in these days of more accurate research and keener interest in the facts of the external world, these old masters still hold their ground against the rivalry of the most cultivated modems. Thus Rembrandt's manner in landscape is better than that of any modern, except Turner and Haden; and our skilful English landscape-painters, notwithstanding their far greater knowledge of the various effects of nature, have a littleness of expression with the etching-needle which places them in a lower rank as artists. This is the distinction which connoisseurs universally feel, and which makes tlicm often unjust towards the moderns, and blind to their especial superiorities. I have not space


REMBRANDT, 95


to enter into the difficult question of what constitutes greatness of style, but may say that Rembrandt had it, that Claude had it in another way, and that the success of Haden was mainly due to the possession of it

Rembrandt etched about thirty landscapes of various degrees of finish. The slightest and most rapid of them all is the " Bridge of Six," of which Gersaint tells the following story : — Rembrandt used to visit his friend, the Burgomaster, at his country-house, and one day, dinner being served, behold there was no mustard  ! The Burgomaster sent his servant into the village to get some, and Rembrandt made a bet that, before the mustard was placed on the table, he would etch a plate. He etched this bridge, which was visible from the dining-room window. The point of interest in this anecdote is that Rembrandt took a plate which was already grounded, and that he had several with him so pre- pared. An etcher ought always to have plates ready, because the trouble of grounding one may often prevent him from seizing a good opportunity. Another point proved by the story, is that Rembrandt etched from nature directly, not, perhaps, as a general rule, but at least that he had no objec- tion to the practice. The " Bridge of Six " is a rapid and slight sketch of no especial merit or interest

The reader will find, amongst the landscapes of Rembrandt, several very fine examples of the use of the dry-point. One of the finest is the " Landscape with the three Cottages " (BL 3 1 8), in which the bur is used with great power, though with an exaggeration of blackness. The same power, with the same exaggeration of rich blacks, may be found in other plates, especially in the "Bouquet de Bois" (Bl. 323), which is entirely engraved in dry-point The " Landscape with the Tower " and the " Landscape with the Square Tower "(Nos. 324 and 319, in Blanc's Catalogue (are inspired by a very true landscape sentiment, and remain always in the memory The " View of Omval " (Bl. 3 1 2) and the " Cottage with the


96 REMBRANDT.


Great Tree" (Bl. 326), are, perhaps, the finest examples of Rembrandt's masterly use of the needle in pure etching. The distances in both plates are remarkable for ease and simplicity of manner.

It is always, however, a mistake to attribute too much importance to manual skill in etching, or in any other of the great arts. When there is the true understanding of nature, and the true artistic sentiment, manual skill usually comes with practice, and the greatest artists never trouble themselves about it, warning their pupils against anxiety on that score. The distinction between the possession of manual skill and artistic genius is perfectly illustrated in the case of Flameng, the engraver who etched the wonderful copies from Rem- brandt in M. Blanc's Catalogue. I have no hesitation in saying that, in manual skill, Flameng is equal to Rembrandt,* or to any etcher who ever lived  ; and yet, in the first edition of this work, I did not think it necessary to mention Flameng amongst modern etchers, whilst I gave an entire chapter to Daubigny, who is clumsiness itself (or was, at that time) in comparison with him. If Rembrandt had no higher claim on our consideration than mechanical ability with the point, he would not deserve mention in the records of an art whose glory is to spring directly from the mind.

  • This assertion, bold as it may seem, was fully confirmed later by the publi-

cation of Flameng*s copy, in facsimile, of the famous Hundred-Guilder print, a copy which in all technical qualities is simply equal to the original. Flameng has

his due place in this edition amongst the etchers who interpret the works of painters.


CHAPTER III.

OSTADE AND BEGA.

T^HE repugnance which a refined modern gentleman, full of scholarly ideas and delicate sympathies, feels for the sort of humanity in which Ostade delighted, is strong enough in many instances to counterbalance all the technical qualities of the artist, and permanently repel the student. Ostade is not the only painter who has studied the habits of the peasantry  : we have just seen that Rembrandt had a predilec- tion for beggars, and the cottages of poor French farmers and labourers have, during the last few years, been the favourite studies of a class of painters by no means wanting in refine- ment, whose representative is Edouard Frfere. Poverty is not a disqualification in the living subjects of a picture, and it is probable that the most refined artists, if obliged to choose between the interior of a rich tradesman's dining-room, or the interior of a Highland bothy, or a chaumihre in the Morvan, would prefer the rough floor, and rude furniture, and simple inhabitants, to the carpets and mahogany, with their living accompaniments in broadcloth and fine silk. The poor do not repel us in Faed, or Frfere, or Duverger, but they are very repulsive in Ostade and Bega, — so repulsive that we only endure them for the sake of the accomplished art

In justice to ourselves, let us say that it is not the poverty which repels us, but the insensitiveness of the painter to all that is best amongst the poor  : his incapacity to recognise the

true refinement of the rare and delicate natures which are dis-

H


98 OSTADE AND BEGA,

guised in mean apparel, his blindness to that beauty of charac- ter and countenance which is not aided by the arts of luxury. It is not to be believed that when Ostade and Bega studied the Dutch peasantry, the whole of the poor population of Holland was lost in bestiality, or that all the nobler feelings of human nature were utterly crushed out of it by the weight of care, like the juice from trodden grapes. And yet their peasants are universally mere animals, incapable of tenderness and thought, capable only of instinctive cares and besotted sensuality. The males pursue the females, the females give suck to their young, and the height of satisfaction is a swinish contentment in the fulness of the belly and the apathy of the brain.

But, though on the human side there is nothing in this class of art to delight a modern public, it has often technical merits of a rare order. Ostade, especially, was a composer of remarkable ability, combining in the most felicitous way the two compositions of form and chiaroscuro. He was very inferior to Rembrandt in the variety of his execution. Rembrandt had many resources of method which were inac- cessible to Ostade ; but Ostade had always craft sufficient for his purpose, and could reach with great certainty the effects of light, the transparencies, the accentuations which gave him pleasure. It would be an interesting subject for speculation how an artistic accomplishment, which in its way certainly proves much visual and manual cultivation, was compatible with such deadness of the heart and such apathy of the intellect. Cases of this kind seem to prove that technical skill in the fine arts is possible without mental eleva- tion, but they do not demonstrate the vanity of artistic culture generally. It was something for Ostade that he could at least see when his peasants composed well, and that he could enjoy the lights and shadows which gave a sort of sublimity to their habitations. An accomplishment may be worth having, without working the miracle of giving nobility to a


OSTADE AND BEGA. 99

low nature, and we do not despise the classical languages and theology because they were the accomplishments of Dean Swift. The truth is, that not only artistic learning and skill, but all kinds of learning and skill, may be attained without much advance towards nobleness ; yet this does not prove them to be without a utility of their own. It is a fine thing to etch well, or read Greek well, or perform the sword exercise well, independently of moral results ; and the sort of praise due to Ostade is that which may be justly accorded to those who excel in their particular craft.

Bega had a still lower nature than Ostade himself, and, though forcible and clever, had not even that kind of refine- ment which Ostade possessed. There is nothing of Bfega's comparable to Ostade's " Family " for delicacy of the artistic kind ; but as he was certainly a true etcher, though of a de- graded school, it seemed right to mention him in this book. The observations on Ostade's coarse interpretation of peasant- life apply in their full force to Bega.

Early states of Ostade's etchings are now of great value, and have risen much in the market during the last twenty years. In 1838, Mr. Wilson's set was sold for  ;£'i05. Mr. Siguier afterwards gave jfi'iSQ  : 12s. for the same set, which was sold again in 1844 for £z^9 • ^Ss* and again in 1846 for  ;^500. It is now worth a thousand guineas, ten times its value twenty years ago.

Ostade. La Famille (Bartsch, i. 378, 46). — The reader would do well, when he has the opportunity, to refer to the proof in the British Museum, on page 54 of the first volume of the Ostade Collection. It is the most perfect work of the master, and quite remarkable for lighting and composition. Ostade's sense of what was necessary to the support of a group, is like the artistic instinct which led the Gothic builders to use buttresses and low chapels round their edifices, and which in nature gives artistic value to the slopes of debris


loo OSTADE AXD BEGA,


at the feet of mountains. For example, in this etching the composition rises always towards the right, and is buttressed by slopes to the left See how amply the figure of the man is supported by the boy and the dog, and by the seated woman. This law of diminution to the left is carried out in the most trifling accessaries, in the basins above the door, in the spaces between the three cross-pieces nailed to the beams, in the tu'o boards near the ladder, in the openings of the bed and the door. If the woman had adx'anced her left foot in- stead of her right, the man behind her would not have been so well supported  ; and if the little dog had been absent, the buttressing on that side would not have been continued to the gpround. The lighting is, of course, intended to give im- portance to the g^oup ; there are admirable reflections and transparencies in the shade.

Of Ostade s small plates, the reader is recommended to study (for their directness of manner) the^ bust of an old peasant with a pointed cap, and the smoker in an oval. The "Hurdy-gurdy Player" (dated 1647) is a curious instance of careful rendering of the folds of dress.

Some of Ostade's original coppers exist in Paris, but they are so worn that impressions are now worthless.

Bega. Le Cabaret (Bartsch, v. 240, 35). — A group of peasants in an ale-house, with a ver>' dark shading behind the figures; a brilliant and effective plate, but coarse in conception, and wanting in the artistic subtleties that dis- tinguish the masterpiece of Ostade,

Bega's common fault of too much blackness in shadows is equally visible in a clever little figure with a short cloak, " L'Homme avec la Main dans le Pourpoint " (Bartsch, v. 22S. I o). The most delicate bit of work by Bega is the woman in the lozenge, " La Femme portant la Cruche " (Bartsch, v 228, 9). The dress is ver>' cleverly accentuated.


PLATE III.


PEASANTS DRINKING, By Ostade, A portion of a larger Plate representing a Village Feast.


Copied by tlte Author,


PLATE III.

(To he placed opposite page lOO.)

Peasants Drinking, by Ostade, a portion of a larger Plate representing a Village Feast

Copied by iJu Author, BITINGS.


In Dutch Mordant, heated to. 90 Fahrenheit


Light shade on flag

Lightest parts of tree .

Distant tree ....

Other ti^ee, cottages, and distant figures

Foreground figures

Foreground ....


Minutes.


5 10

25

35 SO 70


First proof taken.

Plate covered again with black ground, and many lines drawn which had been overlooked in the first drawing. These were bitten like their neigh- bours as above. A light shade was also added here and there over lines already bitten, and this was bitten from five to ten minutes.

The plate was finished with a little light dry-point work here and there, and a few touches with the burin.


Plate wiped with the hand in printing. The immediate fon^ound rdroussi.


■?^PR^%'


CHAPTER IV.

BERGHEM, POTTER, DUJARDIN.

T^HE great industry of Berghem, and his accurate know- ledge of cattle, give him a certain firmness and pre- cision with the point which are amongst the chief reasons for his reputation as an etcher. Nothing tends more to the popularity of an artist than a neat and clear manner, as free as possible from those vague seekings after excellence which are the marks of advance and aspiration  ; yet this very neat- ness is a quality which the higher criticism regards with dubious approval, because, though it proves the attainment of skill, it fixes the limitation of effort, and too frequently implies the abandonment of noble aims. Berghem and Verboeckhoven have this neatness, but Turner and Troyon have none of it ; and our suspicions as to the value of the quality are fully confirmed by a comparison of these artists. Berghem had a kind of elegance often rather out of place in the subjects he chose, and his shepherds and shepherdesses attitudinise with airs and graces that belong rather to the rustics of Florian than to those of the actual world. His shadows were exceedingly transparent, and his reflections bright ; he had the art of using emphasis well (with a view to the kind of result he aimed at) and he had absolute manual skill. But I cannot consider him a great etcher, and should rank him as nearly as possible on the same level with the modern Gauermann.

One has a natural tenderness for Paul Potter, because he died so early (at twenty-nine), and produced such clever


I02 BERGHEM, POTTER, DUJARDIN.


pictures. He had clear sight, a firm hand, a most excellent memory ; but no imagination, and very little power of com- position. No painter who ever lived retained a more vivid image of an animal after having seen it, nor could any painter copy that image better. But his art was never much more than a very brilliant copyism of facts, though since these facts were usually of a nature which the memory alone could enable him to record, his art is on that account more wonder- ful than the patient literalism which copies a helmet or a vase. Paul Potter had points of superiority over Berghem in his entire freedom from false elegance ; he was quite unaffected, exceedingly clear and accurate in handling, yet not vain of his precision, nor at all anxious to display it. He etched with spirit, but was deficient in freedom, and did not sketch, nor see things with the comprehensiveness of a great sketcher like Rembrandt. I admire his power of memory, his vivacity and spirit, his genuine love of animals, his knowledge of animal construction, his certainty of hand  ; but consider that his weakness in comprehensive sketching and want of imagi- nation disqualify him for a place in the first rank.

Karl Dujardin is one of those artists who, whilst enjoying a great reputation amongst the class of connoisseurs who never work from nature, retain slighter hold on our admira- tion when our judgment has been fortified by much practical study. He learned his horse by heart, and his cow, and his sheep, and his pig, and his donkey, and his goat ; and being able to draw them in a regular manner, and in any common attitude, set them in fancy landscapes of the kind which con- noisseurs receive as a sufficient representation of nature. There is much truth in the attitudes of Dujardin's animals, and the power of drawing them as he did is by no means to be attained easily, for it requires great labour and a certain natural gift ; yet such animal design as his cannot be accepted as of first-rate excellence, because it is too methodi- cal, and wanting in artistic synthesis. He is inferior in


BERGHEM, POTTER, DUJARDIN, 103

skill and knowledge to Paul Potter, but nearly of the same rank in point of artistic conception and imagination, and quite free from the misplaced elegance which often spoiled the work of Berghem. He was not a good etcher, because he could not sketch well ; but his name could not be omitted in a work on etching, on account of his considerable reputa- tion. His stiff, precise lines are not to be recommended for imitation, and his ignorance of landscape was complete. His merits are a certain knowledge of animals, expressed with perfect sincerity, and a dexterity sufficient for his purpose. His lighting is often luminous, but his chiaroscuro was feeble because he had not the least idea of the value of local colour when translated into black and white ; and in most of his etchings local colour is altogether omitted.

A curious instance of purchasing for curiosity occurred in the case of some animals by Berghem. He etched two sets of six each, and one of these sets was executed on a single copper, afterwards divided. Only one impression taken be- fore the division is now known, and the British Museum paid

^I20 for it. The present value of that proof is about
£'400, and its only superiority over good impressions of the

six separate plates is a matter of pure curiosity, depending upon the not very interesting or important fact, that there is only one large plate-mark instead of six smaller ones.

Berghem. The Rivulet by the ruined Mofiument, — With- out elaborate description, the reader may recognise this plate by the woman who is seated in the foreground, with her left foot in the water whilst she wipes the right. There are other figures, and cows, and goats, and sheep. There are traces of sculpture on the monument, especially the bas-relief of a horse. This is one of Berghem's most brilliant and characteristic etchings. The brilliancy is obtained, in a great measure, by vigorous little bits of dark inserted in places where the artist had a fair pretext for their introduction.


I04 BERGHEMy POTTER, DUJARDIN,

Plates of this class are usually kept very light, but the etchers were always on the look-out for such little spots of intense black as that under the woman's armpit here : when these were vigorously marked, a certain liveliness was the result. The student will observe the neat sharp draughtsmanship in the cattle, and the rather dandified elegance of the cowherd with the pole, and the woman who is washing her feet

The Piper (Bartsch, v. 257, 4). — ^A man on an ass meets a pedestrian with a bagpipe, and talks to him, showing him the way with his hand. Behind the piper is a man driving sheep and cows. To the right are many trees, and in the distance a softly-wooded hill. The group in the middle has a picturesque outline, and is exceedingly rich in shade. The work in this central group is generally of fine quality, but there is a somewhat morbid softness, not altogether masculine, in the distant foliage.

The Shepherd by the Fountain (Bartsch, v. 259, 8). — Of all Berghem's plates this is the most characteristic of the master. The figures pose like models who have learned their business well, but not very like the peasants of actual life. The animals are all remarkable for an extraordinary clearness and neatness of execution. Observe especially the head and leg of the cow in the foreground. The shadows are kept exceed- ingly transparent, and the reflections light ; the bucket is an epitome of Berghem's practice in these respects.

The Goat's Head with the black Forehead (Bartsch, v. 267, 19). — A piece of very exquisite execution of its kind, especially in the horns and the dark hair on the goat's fore- head. There is also a small plate with two goats' heads executed with equal skill. Work of this kind approaches more nearly to modern ideas of etching than that of the old masters can be generally said to do. It is not unlike Gauermann in manner, and the best work of the English Club is of the same class.


BERGHEM, POTTER, DUJARDIN, 105

Paul Potter. Two Cows in the foreground, one standings the other lying down  ; Herdsman and three other Cows in middle distance. — The original copper is the property of M. Galichon, of the Gazette des Beaux Arts. It may be con- sidered fairly representative of Paul Potter. It bears out my observation, that he did not sketch. The two cows are pre- sented with great force and with much brilliancy of effect ; but the lines have never the freedom of great etching, and are, in fact, a sort of engraving with the etching-needle. The fore- ground plants are studied leaf by leaf, in the pre-Raphaelite manner, and with the pre-Raphaelite deficiency of synthesis. The three cows in the background, instead of being freely sketched according to the more artistic system of Rembrandt, are here engraved with a dry formality quite opposed to the spirit of etching. The same formality may be observed in the foliage, which is bad, and in the leafless tree, which is, if possible, worse.

The Bull (Bartsch, i. 41, i). — This is one of the most firm and brilliant of Paul Potter's works, and the qualities of it are concentrated in the head, though there are fine indica- tions of form on the body of the animal. There is a class of his etchings which have no pictorial completeness, but are simple studies of individual animals. Considered as studies, and without especial reference to the peculiar qualities of etching, these are always remarkable, and sometimes even astonishing. This bull is one of the best.

Three studies of Horses : Le Cheval de la Frise (Bartsch, i. 47); Le Cheval Frimissant (Bartsch, i. 49, 10); La Mazette (Bartsch, i. 41, 13). — These three studies are amongst the strongest things that Paul Potter ever did. The first is an illustration of power in repose, the second of eager excitement, the third of melancholy decrepitude and of death. The most marvellous of the three is certainly the neighing horse, which is a brilliant feat of memory. The other two may have been studied more at leisure.


io6 BERGHEM, POTTER, DUJARDIN.

Karl Dujardin. Cow, Sheep, and Herdsman, with a city in the distance, — The best thing here is the head of the cow, which may be taken as a perfect example of Dujardin's most successful work. So, on the other hand, is he not unfairly represented by the childish weakness of the distant landscape. There is not the least merit of any kind in the trees and hill, and the buildings all lean to the left, in defiance of gravita- tion. There is no local colour ; and tree, and hide, and grass, are all left white in the light

A Ruin near a stream, Artist sketching. — Since there are no cattle here, but only a landscape and buildings, we can expect nothing but feebleness. This is modest and unpre- tending work, based upon the notions of landscape prevalent in the seventeenth century ; but it is surprising how it was possible for a man who had really studied the construction of animals, not to have clearer insight into that of inanimate nature. Such work as this is as inferior to the etching of Haden or Lalanne, as the water-colours of a modem school- girl to the work of Richardson. It sometimes happens that an artist will compensate for his sins against natural truth by the mere power of his workmanship  ; but here, as in all Dujardin's landscapes, the etching is as technically weak as the interpretation of nature is unintelligent and inadequate.


CHAPTER V.

VAND YKE AND HOLLAR.

T N the course of the last few pages there has not been very much eulogy of the unqualified and enthusiastic kind. Good etchers are exceedingly rare, having hitherto been produced in Europe at the rate of about two in a century. It is possible that, notwithstanding the divergence of opinion on the subject of the rank and capabilities of the art, which unhappily subsists between the present writer and the large majority of the general public, there may, nevertheless, be more harmony between us than we supposed. The public is indifferent to all etchings whatever ; the critic is indifferent to all but a very few etchings.

No true critic can be indifferent to Vandyke. He is one of the great princes of the art, a royal master who is to be spoken of only with the most profound respect He had all the great qualities  ; he had perfect freedom and exquisite refinement ; he used the needle with admirable ease and grace, and his masterly force was restrained and tempered with a cultivated severity. But it is inevitable that a genius of this kind, whose purposes were few, and who always kept steadily to the path where success ever attended him, should not offer matter for so much commentary as the less admirable and less wise, but more various and audacious artists who have undertaken many different enterprises, and alternately surprised the world by unexpected triumphs and almost unaccountable failures. A writer, cunning in his craft, who found himself obliged to supply many pages about


io8 VANDYKE AND HOLLAR,

Vandyke, would have recourse to speculations about the personages he painted, and the history and characteristics of their age ; so that the artist himself would become nothing more than the pretext for a dissertation on manners and events. But of Vandyke himself, as an etcher, little more is to be said than the few sentences already written. His aims were few, his choice of means instinctively wise and right, his command of them absolute, his success complete.

Hollar was not a painter, but a most industrious engraver, and it has rarely happened hitherto that a professional engraver has produced original etchings of great artistic value. The training of an engraver is injurious to originality, and restrictive of freedom, it has also the drawback of being almost exclusively manual and interpretative ; and there is always a great danger that the engraver who attempts artistic etching will fall into the set methods which have become habitual to him, and tliink less of the great artistic exigencies than of that manual neatness and polish which, as an aim in itself, great artists have ever disdained. There have, however, been one or two exceptions to this rule ; and though it is generally true that, to become a great etcher, it is necessary to be first a great painter, it is also the fact that one or two engravers, by profession, have etched occasionally in the high artistic sense. The great majority of Hollar's etchings are not to be recommended as examples of this particular art, but one or two of them have a rare and delicate beauty, which gives him a certain rank.

The proofs of Vandyke's etchings have greatly increased in value of late years. At M. Seguier's sale, in 1844, they averaged from three to eight pounds each, and were then thought to be very dear. At recent sales they have produced sums varying from eight to thirty pounds. Mr. Marshalls set, which a few years ago might have brought eighty or ninety pounds, was knocked down at his sale (i 864) for ^^400. It may be considered certain that, as etching becomes better


VANDYKE AND HOLLAR, 109

appreciated, the plates of Vandyke will attain still higher prices.*

Vandyke. Lucas Vorstermans, — The execution of the portrait itself, including the drapery, is quite magnificent, but the background is rather unfortunate in its formality. The regular horizontal lines are wanting in vivacity, and the little dots between them complete the appearance of mechanism. Whenever Vandyke falls into anything like mechanism, it is sure to be in a background  ; and on this account I should sometimes prefer an early state, before the background was added. In the portrait of Vorstermans the hair is very free and beautiful, and there are some remarkably fine darks in the drapery, especially to the left side.

Justus Suttermans, — There is much nobility in the well- set, intelligent head ; but the wonder of execution in this portrait is the costume, especially on Suttermans' left shoulder, where the lightness of the lace-collar contrasts with the firm and elaborate drawing of the gatherings of the cloth. Observe the good sketching of the right hand, and the way in which the finish of the left shoulder passes gradually into free and loose indication below the waist

Franciscus Vrannx, — A grand old fellow, with a strong kind-looking face and observant eyes, which he was accus- tomed to use, for Vrannx was a painter of Antwerp. Observe the masterly indication of the irregular moustache and small beard,' and the flowing lines of the mantle.

Joannes Snellinx, — One of the most genial of all Van- dyke's portraits, and technically one of the finest. The countenance beams with good humour, and the etching is luminous and lively. The figure, in this instance, has received no injury from its background of sky and cloud.

  • A complete set of Vandyke's etchings has lately been reproduced by M.

Amand Durand, in heliogravure^ and the set is very precious to a student of etching, from the rarity of the originals. The price is sixty francs.


no VANDYKE AND HOLLAR.

Hollar. Gentleman playing on a Guitar, — The Hollar collection, at the British Museum, is so very extensive, that it may be well to inform the reader that this is the last plate in the sixth volume there. The guitar-player is seated near an open window, through which are visible a tower and some shipping. The guitar is of curious construction, being double- scrolled. The player has long hair, a beardless youthful face, and very beautiful, somewhat feminine hands. This etching is remarkable for a quite extraordinary delicacy of treatment, and a most exquisite taste. It is not so vigorous as the work of Vandyke, but fully equal to him in elegance. The metho- dical habits of the engraver recur most in the window-opening, and are especially observable in the mechanical treatment of the sky. There is a great deal of lovely curvature in the guitar and the player's hands, and it is probable that Hollar may have felt the utility of the stiff window lines as a con- trast The tonality of the whole plate is quite perfect in its own key.

The Long View of Greenwich, — Recommended for study, only on account of the distance and the observatory. The foreground, which is covered with dull engraver's work, is curiously barren and uninteresting, and even the sky is mechanical.


CHAPTER VI.

CANALETTI, RUYSDAEL, AND OTHERS.

T^HERE is a certain clearness of manner, and simplicity of purpose, in Canaletti, as an etcher, which makes his work esteemed, not only by connoisseurs, who usually follow tradition in their estimate of works of art, but even by true critics and artists. It is possible that a reason for the reputation of his etchings may be that, although he lived sufficiently long ago to be accepted with the respect given by connoisseurs to old masters, he has much of that modem feeling for the picturesque which most of us secretly enjoy, and which, in this case, we may legitimately applaud. If Canaletti were a living contemporary, connoisseurship would be less satisfied of his merits ; for connoisseurship, like the Catholic Church, waits a hundred years before it canonises its saints.

Canaletti's work is clear, and simple, and honest ; but it has very little freedom, a moderate appreciation of beauty, no grace, and no imagination. He saw that Venice was picturesque, and in him the modern enjoyment of architecture, as a pictorial subject, found its first adequate expression; but we have better architectural painters in these days ; and though good etchers are always very rare, we have one or two men who etch better than Canaletti. The word which best characterises him is respectable mediocrity, but it is mediocrity still, however respectable.

His subjects were usually well selected, and his effects pictorial, though of the most ordinary kind. His etchings


112 CANALETTI, RUYSDAEL, AND OTHERS.


would have greatly benefited by a more thorough study of tonality  ; in several of the most important thefe are obvious faults of relation, chiefly due to a timidity about the values of near shadow and of local colour. In slighter work than that of Canaletti there may be much frank omission, even of tonic relations; but he laboured his plates all over, and when he failed in this respect it was not the bold transgres- sion of consummate science, but the hesitating error of half- knowledge.

Ruysdael has an immense fame amongst connoisseurs, especially on the Continent ; but this is one of those cases in which the modern study of nature is sure to drive the student either into secret revolt or open rebellion. I say nothing here of his pictures, which are out of my present subject, and the reader may worship Ruysdael as a "god of painting," if that kind of devotion is necessary to his spiritual comfort ; but of Ruysdael, as an etcher, I say simply that he is down somewhere in the fifth or sixth rank. It is intelligible that when work like that of Ruysdael is held up as the work of a great master, the majority of the public, not having time to investigate thp matter for themselves, conclude that the whole art of etching is imperfect

Salvator had magnificent gifts of a certain kind, but was not a great etcher, because he did not insist upon the especial powers of the art. All that Salvator did in etching might be done equally well in engraving, and he really aimed at the artistic objects of the great Italian engravers. Some of his plates are admirable in their way, but they are all bad examples of etching. The finest of them, to my mind, is " The Abandonment of CEdipus," which is sufficiently studied below.

Dietrich was exceedingly clever, manually, and very various in manner, but he was remarkable only as an unusually apt imitator of other men's work. His talent, in this respect, was nearly equal to the wonderful gift of our


CANALETTI, RUYSDAEL, AND OTHERS. 113

contemporary, Flameng, and would have been better em- ployed in copying rare plates of the great masters than in attempting subjects of his own choosing. He is mentioned here because, if the reader listens much to the prevalent ideas about etchers, he may be led to waste time in studying him, and embarrass himself with speculations as to which, of all the various manners in which Dietrich worked, was the manner of Dietrich. I doubt whether he had any manner. A plate is mentioned below as being, in all probability, the nearest expression of his personal feeling ; but most likely it is, as to workmanship, a reminiscence of some engraver unknown to me.

Everdingen produced a considerable number of etchings, of which by far the greater proportion are wholly unprofitable for study. Considering the century in which he lived, Ever- dingen was, however, remarkable for a genuine love of wild scenery. He loved rocks and mountain-streams, with cottages and chalets, and so far is in unison with our modern senti- ment. I am rather prejudiced in his favour on this account, and should have been glad to praise him heartily if he had been a more powerful aquafortist He worked generally in a clear and intelligible way, and several of his plates are very pretty. As an aquafortist he reached a certain moderate skill, sufficient for the expression of his ideas, but had not much power of hand or nobility of style. He was also destitute of invention.

Waterloo and Weirotter are represented by examples given in this book. They were both accomplished men in their way ; and Weirotter is especially remarkable for his industry. Waterloo had a gjreat liking for sylvan scenery, which he represented as well as any landscape-etcher of his time, but without either the tenderness of Claude, the grandeur of Salvator, or the accurate knowledge of the modems. Weirotter was very fond of picturesque buildings, of which he etched an immense variety, usually composing


1 1 4 CANALETTI, R UYSDAEL, AND OTHERS,

them very happily with other materials, such as marine subjects, figures, and landscape. He had the great artistic quality of being able to reach the tonality he aimed at, in which he seems to have had a certainty equal to that of a painter, and many of his etchings are almost as complete, in this respect, as pictures. They are frequently luminous and agjreeable in aspect ; they are also much nearer to the feeling of modem students of the picturesque than the work of older masters usually is. The copy from Weirotter given herewith is a good instance of this, for the interest of the artist in the detail of the old cottage, and the way he follows its ins and outs, are very modern indeed. I find, on the whole, that Weirotter rises in one's estimation as time goes on, which is the best proof of substantial qualities in an artist. In the plate given here the cloud is too hard and rocky, but the sky is (at least in the original) very pure and equal in tone, and the buildings are treated very skilfully, every line being studied with the utmost care throughout the variety of its inflections.

Canaletti. La Torre di Malghera. — A white tower to the right, and two low buildings to the left of it ; mountains in the distance, and water in the foreground, with a boat under the building, and a gondola coming into the picture, on the left. There are clouds in the sky, which is etched with much labour. The water is entirely rippled.

Of all Canaletti's etchings this one is the most luminous and the most modern in its choice and interpretation of subject. The buildings are etched with much force and considerable freedom, but the sky is too mechanical.

Le Procuratie e S, Ziminian, — A large, open place in Venice. To the right is the corner of a lofty building with balcony shades, and to the left another building with arches. There are high Venetian masts in the open square. This etching is truer, as to general tonality, than any other by


PLATE IV.

COTTAGE ON A SHORE, Part of larger Plate by Weirotter.

Copied by the Author.


PLATE IV.

(To he placed opposite page 114.)

Cottage on a Shore, part of a larger Plate by

Weirotter.


Copied by the Aui/tor.


BITINGS.


In Dutch Mordant, heated to 90* Fahrenheit.

Minutes.

Extreme distance . '.

Sky .........

Shaded cloud . . ... ' '.

Promontory with figures ... Cottages and cote .......

Foreground, water, and boats .....

4 8

12

25 40

60

First proof taken.

The plate was now covered for rebiting, and all the darkest portions \ were rebitten from five to fifteen minutes more.

Second proof taken.

The plate was now covered with the black ground, and light shades added  ! wherever wanted. These were bitten from eight to sbcteen minutes.

Third proof taken.

The plate was finished by reducing some of the palest lines in sky, cloud, and distance, and by adding a very few with the dry-jxjint

It is printed very simply indeed, being cleanly wiped and not retrcnissie. '

CANALETTI, R UYSDAEL, AND OTHERS, 1 1 5

Canaletti, but the subject is somewhat formal, and much inferior, as picturesque material, to those which Canaletti found accidentally in places less generally known.

RUYSDAEL. The Little Bridge (Bartsch, i. 3 1 1, i). — ^This is one of Ruysdael's important plates, and the subject in nature was no doubt exceedingly picturesque, but the artist has not fully availed himself of the fine quality of his material. The rendering of decayed thatch and rough wall is considerably inferior, in point of skill, to good modern work  ; and the relation of masses is so entirely lost sight of, that the plate, as a whole, is feeble. There is little composi- tion, for the etching is merely a study : but, such as it is, more might have been made of it.

The Travellers (Bartsch, i. 313, 4). — ^A rivulet running through a forest A large forest-tree stands towards the left, with its roots in the water ; a smaller one has fallen forwards across the stream. On the right hand are three travellers on the river-bank, and above them a space of sky with clouds.

This may be quite fairly taken as a representative of Ruysdael's landscapes. One cannot refuse to it the merit of a certain picturesque wildness, for which Ruysdael had an instinctive feeling ; but only thOse connoisseurs who make themselves the uncritical echoes of tradition would ascribe either to this plate, or to any other of its class, any especial value as an interpretation of nature, or any considerable rank as art. It is work of nearly the same value, though not at all of the same kind, as that of the modem French etcher Etienne ; yet I did not think it necessary to give special mention to Etienne in my account of the French school, and should probably have omitted Ruysdael in this place, if his great reputation had allowed me to pass him in silence.

Salvator. The a bandonment ofCEdipus, — The shepherd


1 1 6 CANALET7I, R UYSDAEL, AND OTHERS.

IS tying CEdipus by the feet to the trunk of a great chestnut- tree. There is much grandeur in the design of this tree, and the arrangement of the figures. Many contemporary landscape-painters, especially Mr. M'Callum, could draw a fine tree, with closer imitative veracity, but there is a magni- ficent passion in this design of Salvator's, and a determined intention to make us feel certain striking elements of forest sublimity, which are not common in any school, and always exceedingly rare amongst the literal designers. We are made thoroughly to feel the great height of the tree, and the vast reach of its far-spreading intricate branches. Its trunk rises like a lofty tower, and its clustered leaves poise themselves above our heads like the wings of innumerable birds. These qualities, however, might have been equally well given in a pen-drawing ; and neither this, nor any other etching of Salvator, insists upon the especial advantages and superiorities of etching as an independent art Salvator, like many other artists, employed etching as a convenient process for the multiplication of his drawings, just as in these days he might have employed the graphotype ; but he was not, in the peculiar and especial sense, an etcher.

Dietrich. Tke Satyr in the Peasanis House, — A satyr having paid a friendly visit* to a peasant, accepts his hospi- tality, and attempts to eat hot soup with a spoon  ; but, not being accustomed to utensils of that kind, declines, with much energy of gesture, to repeat the experiment There is plenty of vivacity in the action, and the group is engraved with considerable skill. I use the word engraved purposely, because this is rather engraving with the needle than free etching.

EvERDlNGEN. Cottages by a Torrent (British Museum^ Everdingen, voL i. p. 19). — Two chalet-like cottages to the left ; a stream flowing down amongst rocks over a weir made


PLATE V.

TREES, Van of a Landscape by Watkri.oc

Co/*/)',/ Ay (Ih Aulhor.


PLATE V


[\\> \jc placcii uj»|)Obilc page iio.


Trees, part of a Landscape by Waterloo


Copied by the Aut/ur.

hi ihis little landscnpc ihc organic lines and the shading arc m^rc di>i'iK'"y SLpani'.cd than is comn^c-n with tlie older mailer*. It may I'O lal.en r> a >;■" i 'jxanii.tie (►!' mellic^d. The ]'l.ile passes lliroui;h two distinct >tatc.^ cwc. t." .•!>;.■.?!. linc^ and the be^^itinings (■! deep >hade>, the other tVir liglit shadings, whi\.!i a!c '.lirown over what is aheady d«.mc as a semi-transparent veil.

BITINGS.


I:; Dutch Moidaiii, heated tt> ^jo' I-'ahrvidicit.


Minult


('l«;ikl> and \h<tancr l-ilJlhte^i I'iirls l'  !ivr> . r'niiag'- j^cncrally in hgh" Dark parts i{ ln^cs r unks  ;ai' 1:^:11 n^ KiMeLTrouiv.)


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\~.: -. [M •■•: •. ik'j:\ I .:o |. ia'.c w.i> huw coveud agam with hiack ginimdj i i .""! 'I- l\';l >hadiii^ was addcvi. '1 ln.-> was bitten Cn-'ni bcvcn M

'*'<.i.A.i;'l pio": lakti) \ hitle hght iliaihng with dry-point wa^ advicd hvi^: au'j thjie.


Ip r":!U:rii' llic i.l.iic was clcaiici wiiii the hand, and then nJ.-rus^u- n\


llic: ri.»ie;^r..>un'.i and nearest tree to tlie right


CANALETTI, R UYSDAEL, AND OTHERS. 1 1 7

of a trunk of pine  ; rocks and rising land to the right ; pines and other trees. Four goats in the right corner, and three other goats on a shaded rock near the middle of the etching.

I think this is the most charming of all Everdingen's bits of wild river scenery. It is very fresh in treatment, and it is evident that the artist had a real liking for rocks and rude cottages by wooded hills and streams.

The Man near a Gap in a Fence (British Museum, Ever- dingen, vol. i. p. 19). — A little hill with a wooden cottage on it, and a wooden fence in front of the cottage all knocked down  ; there are some pigs and goats, and a man who is walking down from the cottage happens to be near an open- ing in the fence — whence the title. The sky is clouded, and there are a few trees behind the building.

This subject, though simple, is agreeably composed, and much use is made of the variously-inclined stakes in the broken fence. In the quality of freshness this etching is equal to the preceding one, and both are above the usual average of the artist.

Waterloo (the plate of which a portion is given here). — ^Waterloo often etched studies of trees, and this is one of the best examples amongst many plates of his. The reader will see that Waterloo had clear ideas of the richness, and fulness, and softness of foliage ; that he studied the projec- tion of its masses, and could group his trees effectively. The black shadow, in the left-hand corner, forming a triangle with the edges of the plate, is a conventionalism very commonly found in the landscape-art of Waterloo's time.

Weirotter. a River Scene (British Museum, vol. ii. p. 5 6). — ^A group of boats, with sails, in the afternoon sunshine, their stems towards the spectator. Men are taking an anchor in a small boat to the right, and two men are rowing in another small boat to the left, over which is a windmill on


1 1 8 CANALETTI, R UYSDAEL, AND OTHERS,

the shore. For its brilliant lighting, clear composition, and fine tonality, I think this is the best of all Weirotter's river subjects, and, on the whole, his most desirable etching.

Civita Vecchia, — A round tower to the left, from an opening in which men are bringing merchandise down an inclined plane to a boat The tower and other buildings are relieved against dark trees, and there are large white clouds in the lower part of the sky, against which come the yards of several lateeners. The foreground is entirely water, calm, but slightly rippled, with boats. This is a very characteristic example of Weirotter, for it includes all the kinds of material which he most enjoyed. The plate is bright and effective ; but a greater etcher would not have given to it such steady equality of labour. Weirotter could arrange a subject well, and had much manual ability ; but he had not the wayward choice, the delicate emphasis, the charming caprices, and inimitably wise omissions of the nobler aquafortists.


CHAPTER VII.


ZEEMAN.


TN the proportion of space allotted to each master, in the course of the present volume, I have usually been guided by considerations which have little to do with the estimate of his rank and importance which is most generally prevalent The popular estimate of an etcher's rank is not based upon his etchings, which are never popular, but upon his paintings  ; and etching is so little understood, that when an artist has painted well and etched badly (David Roberts and Eugene Delacroix are recent instances of this), his plates easily obtain a greater degree of attention than they deserve. But even if the general estimate of an etchers work deserved serious attention, which it does not, the question of merit would not of itself decide the extent of space which ought to be allotted to him. It may easily happen, as in the case of Vandyke, that the most distinguished qualities may belong to an artist of whom very little is to be said, whilst some far inferior man may suggest whole pages of observa- tions on the practice of the art, which ought not to be sup- pressed merely because they are not connected with some illustrious name. The subject of this volume being much more the art of etching than the men who have practised it, I have gone very much upon the principle of writing when I had something to say, and stopping short when nothing more remained that seemed to be worth communicating, a principle which is often fatal to the strictly proportionate treatment of a subject, but which nevertheless has the one


I20 ZEEMAN,


great compensating advantage, that the writing is not forced.

Zeeman was not noticed in the first edition of this work, because there did not seem to be any special reason for noticing him. He has a chapter in this edition, because from the direction of the most recent etching it is clear that the danger of contemporary students lies in the ambition to be elaborate, and especially in the desire to realise every- thing, without leaving anything to the imagination. The practice of some etchers of the Dutch school may be useful as an example of simplicity of treatment, and Zeeman especially is an excellent instance of this. I am far from wishing to set him up as a great etcher ; he never was great, but he worked on clear and simple principles from which he never departed, and modem work may be done upon the same principles whenever we choose to adopt them. Zee- man's art was formal and naif, and not nearly so rich in various knowledge and observation as the art of the most accomplished moderns, but it is quite possible to express much richer knowledge than he ever possessed by the means which he employed. There is no necessity to adhere minutely to his artistic recipe, it is enough to understand what is really worth attention in his principles.

His artistic recipe was to divide the scene into three planes — distance, middle distance, and foreground; the dis- tance to be very pale, the middle distance rather dark, and the foreground invariably black. Sometimes there were four planes, in which case there would be two middle distances ; but it was never consistent with Zeeman's recipe to have a light foreground and a dark distance, though such a combina- tion occurs very frequently in nature.

We need not trouble ourselves about any recipe of this kind. Modern art has got far beyond that stage, and places, as nature does, its lights and darks where they are needed for the most various effects.


ZEEMAN, 121


AVhat we may learn from Zeeman and other artists of his time is the value of a clear decision about the interpreta- tion of nature. His mind was quite made up about the extent to which he meant to go in realisation. All very luminous and even spaces were to be represented by blank paper, fine gradations in them being left to the imagination of the spectator. Shades and reflections were broadly and quietly given, it being always clear whether a mass was in shadow or in light. Texture was suggested by direction of line rather than by actual imitation of the quality of surfaces. One consequence, to Zeeman himself, of the adoption of these principles was that his works are never muddled by anxious experiments. All that he intended to do he could do without any painful struggling to put accident on his side. Therefore, it may be well for any one who is wearied with such struggling to remember that the true ark of safety is to be found in self-imposed limits to interpretation. In imposing such limits upon oux intentions, we do not accept " imperfection," as it is sometimes called. All art which is perfect as far as it intends to go is wholly perfect, and truly, in the best sense, finished. In this sense Zeeman's etchings are more finished than a great deal of modern work which is far more laboured ; and if the great purpose of art is to convey impressions, then these etchings are successful, for they always fully convey the impression which the artist intended to communicate.

I. Marine Subject, — Two boats with sprit-sails and lee- boards are leaving shore. In the right-hand corner a man is hauling a small boat in with a boat-hook on the highest of seven stakes which rise out of the water. There are sails in the distance, and a square tower, with a glimpse of land. A few clouds in the sky, and birds to the right.

This etching quite gives the idea of a tranquil Dutch sea picture, with afternoon sunshine on calm water. The boats are drawn with perfect knowledge, and the reflections will


122 ZEE MAN.


bear criticism. A little thing is often of much importance in art Here the shadows cast by the sprits upon the sails give most of the impression of sunshine.

2. Marine Subject — Here it is low tide, and a sloop is ashore on the right There are several figures of men on the sands, and a group of boats are drying their sails in the middle distance. In the distance to the right we have a church, with a spire and other buildings; to the left, five boats with sails. The water is dead calm.

The distance and middle distance are very slightly bitten, and the sky a blank, except a few pale clouds and a little horizontal shading at the top. It was Zeeman's way some- times, when he wanted to give an idea of calm sky, to rule a few horizontal lines at the top, and to the left, but he lefl the rest blank. From the length of the shadows cast this must be morning or evening. It is worth observing with how few lines the calm sea is represented. The whole distance is exquisite in temperance and delicacy.

3. Marine Subject — Sailing-boats receding into distance, the nearest of them with a flag at the poop, as well as at the peak andnnast-head, and a square-sail under the bowsprit, a man-of-war in the distance to the left, three punts and several men in the foreground.

Nothing is better adapted than shipping for the study of distances, because ships can be placed so conveniently at the intervals that the artist may desire. This plate, part of which is copied for the present work, is quite a model of this very useful kind of study. In the early stages of practice subjects of this kind will be found especially useful for the definite purpose which they give to three or four distinct and successive bitings, as the distances are marked by clear intervals, and not by difficult gradations.


PLATE VI.

BOATS NEAR SHORE, Part of a plate by Zeeman.

Copied by the Autlior.


PLATE VI.

(To Ijc placed opposite \ age 122.)

Boats near Shore, part of a Plate by Zeeman.

Copied by the Author. BITINGS.

In Dutch Mordant, heated to 90° Fahrenheit.

Minutes.

1 1

1

!

The most distant boats, the clouds, and the sail of the nearest boat but one ........

The nearest sailing lx)at, and the hull of the nearest but one Water near foreground . ...

Water in the immediate foreground .....

Foreground figures ......

Darkest things in foreground . .

7

15

20

30 45 65

First proof taken.

The plate was now as intended!, except that some of the palest lines, ha\'ing been puq^oscly overbiitcn (7 niin.), had to be weakened with the scraper and burnisher, whilst other lines had to ho. introduced. This was done witli the burin.

The plate is printed simply, with .<;Hght retronssage. It is wiped with canvas, not with the hand.

CHAPTER VIII.


GOYA.


T T has not been part of the plan of this book to give either biographical detail, or much commentary on those qualities of artists which lie altogether outside of the artistic qualities. It is easy, under the pretext of art-criticism, to fill volumes both larger and more readable than this with matter in which purely artistic studies are a very inconsider- able ingredient ; and I am clearly aware that a shrewder literary craftsman would have thrown the art of etching altogether into the background, and amused his readers with pleasant stories about the adventures of Salvator and the amorous intrigues of Goya. Resisting these temptations, I have kept in view one purpose only, the study of etching as an art, and have given space to etchers only so far as they have either really excelled in the art, or at least had the reputation of excelling in it.

Whoever cares to know about the life of Goya may find full information in M. Charles Yriarte's " Biography " (pub- lished by Plon, lo Rue Garanciere, Paris, 1867), which, though a narrative of facts, is the most extraordinary romance of artist-life imaginable. Goya was a man of very remark- able endowments outside of art He had immense physical energy and courage, and at least as much moral audacity. He was ready to measure swords with any bully who might present himself, and sought adventures of this kind in the disorders of the public streets. His numerous illustrations of bull-fights are derived from personal experience in the


124 GOYA.

arena, but he defied things even more dangerous than any mere animal rage, for he was openly revolutionary in religion and politics, exposed himself to the hostility of the Inquisition, and even violated the rigid etiquette of the Court of Spain. His successes with the fair sex were innumerable ; his strength and courage, his easy self-confi- dence and conquering address, made him a master in the arts of gallantry, and he had mistresses in every rank of life, from the women of the common people to the most exalted ladies of the court

Groya had imagination, but of a frightful sort, like the imagination of a man suffering from delirium tremens ; yet this imaginative familiarity with evil spirits does not seem to have affected the happiness of his existence, a happiness, such as it was, based on the substantial realities of the most robust health and complete professional success, with the satisfaction of all the appetites of an energetic animal nature. His etchings are the expression of his violent and ebullient personality ; they are full of passion, but it is observable that there is no trace of any delicate or tender sentiment, or rather that what in other men would have been a sentiment-of this kind, as, for instance, pity for the sufferings of the afflicted, takes, in Goya, the form of protest and antagonism, and be- comes a furious cry of hatred against the oppressor. M. Yriarte tells us that in Spain there exist pictures by Goya which prove artistic delicacy and good taste, that there are pas- sages of sweet colour, and feats of tranquil and loving finish  ; but I am compelled to doubt whether M. Yriarte s enthusiasm for the subject of his book may not have led him to regard those works too favourably. It is certain that he immensely exaggerates Goya's rank as an aquafortist, in attributing to him great technical skill, and especially in saying that he has " few rivals in the practice of his art." I have met with a small original etching by Goya, " The Prisoner," of which the copper belongs to M. Lefort, and that plate is good even


GOYA. 125

as an etching  ; the quality of the work is really fine. This may be considered to prove that Goya was capable of etch- ing well occasionally, but to etch well was not his usual practice. He'generally etched rashly, audaciously, and with- out the slightest care or pains to reach any beautiful or agreeable quality. It is quite possible that a good painter may be a bad etcher ; there are several instances of this amongst our contemporaries ; and it is also possible that his etching may bear some of the worst marks of presump- tuous amateurship. Goya was original in manner, because he took up '^the process without profiting by the experience of his predecessors  ; but ignorance is generally original, for it has no trajditions. It is natural that literary men should like to write about Goya, because he is an excellent subject, and very strong things may be said about his works without overstepping the limits of simple truth. A well-known living poet wrote a volume entitled " Chastisements," and at the close of some verses of extraordinary force, said grimly to his victim, " I hold the red iron, and I see thy flesh smoke  !" This is exactly the temper of Goya : he was always inflicting chastisements, always holding red branding- irons, and watching the steam hissing from the shrivelled cuticle, and the bubbling blood. Of all the great satirists, he is nearest to the nature of a fiend. It was here that his power lay, in his Satanic hate and scorn, not in the mastery of a refined and delicate art It is right to add that, though licentious to the depths of his being, he had more sympathy with certain great modern ideas than any other famous Spaniard. He was a son of the great revolution, and liberal in feeling, though attached to a dissolute court. His works have an important philosophical bearing, often disguised to evade the Inquisition, and he tried to make men disgusted with the horrors of war. Even his immorality is sometimes only a protest against the still deeper legal immorality of the mariage de convenance.


126 GOYA.

Bull-fighting: Plate 3. — ^An artist who undertakes to illustrate the science of bull-fighting ought at least to be able to draw the parts of a bull. The ignorance of con- struction is here so complete, that the nostrils are repre- sented by two small round holes, the eye is out of proportion and badly set, and the ear is not in its right place. There is not a single instance, in all the thirty-three illustrations of bull-fighting, of an eye or an ear even tolerably well drawn. In one or two plates the nostrils are a little better than these, but Goya's most general notion of a nostril, either in a bull or a horse, is a round hole bored with a large gimlet. He has never in a single instance drawn the ear of either animal.

Bull-fighting: Plate 7. — Goya's childish ignorance of animal form was seldom more strikingly manifested than in the wretched little bull in the right-hand comer of this plate. There was no difficulty in the attitude, for it is the easiest of all possible attitudes ; and, since it is the same as that of Paul Potter's bull, the reader may advantageously compare the two animals. Paul Potter had not the fire of Goya, nor his ferocity, but he condescended to study nature, which Goya did not, and so taught himself the proportions of the creature, and the shape of its most important joints. To begfin at the ground, look at these hoofs and fetlocks  ! Could the bull gallop with them } Could he even stand on them }

Bull-fighting: Plate 10. — If you take an old rocking- horse, and char its head with fire, and then smear what remains of its face with thick white paint, you will possess, in sculpture, a work of art, accurately corresponding in scientific truths and artistic value to this wonderful horse of Goya. The combination of ignorance with assurance never ended in the production of art more hideously corrupt. Its formlessness is like the falling away of the putrefied flesh. The art here is not merely lifeless, but it is rotten — not a pleasant word to use, but the most appropriate.

Caprices: Plate 23, Aquellos Polbos. — The first two


GOYA. 127

words of a Spanish proverb, which means, " From this dust comes that mud." The subject is a woman condemned by the Inquisition, and clothed in the frightful and fantastic costume which its victims had to wear. It is the nearest approach to good etching by Goya that I remember. The figure is simply and vigorously indicated, and there is nothing unnatural or distorted in the attitude.

Caprices: Plate 30, P or que esconderlos  ? ("Why hide them } ") — An old man wants to hide his money-bags, and his heirs are laughing at him, because they know that, how- ever closely he clutches them, his death will shortly place them in other hands. Nothing can exceed the hideousness and baseness of these figures ; and the curious thing is that Goya evidently liked to contemplate such baseness.

Caprices  : Plate 36, Mala Nocke. — Two wretched women out in a dark, windy night, their dresses blown about. There is some poetry here, of a terrible kind, and the plate is impressive. Goya's system of aquatinting for light and shade, though artistically far more less complete than Turner's mezzotint, from the all but total absence of gradation, is here sufficient for his purpose, and gives the necessary violence of opposition to the white petticoats of the women, and the necessary bteckness to the night.

The etchings of Goya are in several different series : The Caprices, 80 plates ; The Disasters of War, 80 plates  ; Bull'fightingy 3 3 plates ; The Proverbs  ; and The Prisoners. He also etched a series of horses after Velasquez, and a series of dwarfs after the same master, besides many original separate plates. Many of these are now rare, and I have only studied about two hundred of Goya's etchings  ; enough, however, to convince me that, though he had certainly the genius of a satirist, and plenty of imagination of the most horrible kind, his etchings have little artistic value, and owe their great fame to the fascination of their incomparable horror, and a kind of philosophical reflection whose bitterness suits our taste.


CHAPTER IX.

JONGKIND.

TN the first edition of this work I noticed Jongkind in a chapter devoted chiefly to the minor Frenchmen, but further study has decided me to give him a chapter to him- selfi as it happens that the qualities he relies upon are still most rare in the modem schools. The purpose of his art as an etcher may be explained in a few words. All land- scape-painters make memoranda of impressions, which must of necessity be done very rapidly if they are to be worth anything, because the effects in nature change so fast that they cannot be sketched at all by a slow hand. Jongkind has so far trusted to the intelligence of the public (or of the small cultivated public to which he addresses himself), as to make memoranda of impressions directly upon copper, and print them. This is the whole explanation of ^is work as an etcher. But now comes the person living outside of art, who, when he sees one of these etchings, feels first puzzled and then offended, and thinks that both artist and laudatory critic must be making fun of him. " Could not any child of ten years old do as well } " The true answer to this ques- tion (it is not an imaginary question) is, that, rude as this sketching looks, and imperfect in many respects as it really is, the qualities which belong to it are never attained in art without the combination of talent approaching to geniys, and study of a very observant and earnest kind, quite beyond any possible experience of infancy. The right way to esti- mate work of this nature is to look upon it as the artist's


JONGKIND. 129


manner of noting down an impression in all its freshness. Jongkind succeeds in doing this, either by an unconscious- ness which is itself a great gift, or else by an effort of will strong enough to set himself entirely above the criticism of ignorance. There is something approaching to sublimity in the courage which was needed to send plates of this descrip- tion to the printer. All landscape-painters have made memoranda of this class, though they rarely make them quite so well, but Jongkind is the first who has had the courage to publish them. It seems like the rashness which tempts Providence to set these things before the French bourgeois, or the English Philistine, for the only public they are fit for is a public of true amateurs or artists ; but who- ever can really read them is in a fair way for being able to read all painting that sets itself honestly to the rendering of the mental impression in its unity.*

Jongkind is invaluable to the student of etching as an example of simple line-work pushed to its utmost extreme.

• Although the most ignorant people laugh at Jongkind because they cannot see the difference between his brevity of expression and the meagreness of a child's work, it so happens that two of the best etchers in Europe, in writing to me about other matters, incidentally expressed their approval of Jongkind, and I find in Charles Baudelaire's VArt RomanHque a hearty and intelligent appreciation of his work, which may be worth quoting here.

Chez le meme editeur (Cadart) M. Jongkind, le charmant et candide peintre Hollandais, a depose quelques planches auxquelles il a confi^ le secret de ses sou- yenirs et de ses reveries, calmes comme les berges des grands fleuves et les hori- zons de sa noble patrie — singuli^res abr^viations de sa peinture, croquis que sauront lire tous les amateurs habitues d dechiffrer TSme d*un artiste dans ses plus rapides gribomllages^'*

Whether the etchings of Jongkind are more frequently abbreviations of his painted work or sketches done from nature or recollection, I cannot quite certainly inform the reader ; but in any case the word " abbreviation " is rightly used by Baudelaire, and if the reader thinks of these etchings as an excellent kind of shorthand in which the expression is abbreviated to the utmost, he will come very near to a right understanding of their purpose, though it is not possible fully to appreciate their singular and curious merits as an interpretation of nature with- out studying nature itsel£ They are full of keen observation of natural facts and effects.

K


I30 JONGKIND.


He gives as few lines as possible, never dissimulating them, and never attempting any shade or gradation that would require much craft of biting. Such biting as he does give is quite simple and decided, about three bitings to each plate — a good vigorous black (no mistake about that), a middle tint, and a pale tint for distance. The shading is generally open, but runs very close for contrast in some passages, such as the black hull of a ship. He is always careful to economise labour in shading for fear of spoiling the vivacity of his plate, which it is so very easy to do. Thus the open sky with him is blank paper, and so is calm water, only waves and reflections being indicated by lines. He sketches clouds in frank line, broad and bitten shallow. He resorts also sometimes to a kind of blotting, like that of the ink in pen-sketching.

The town of Maasslins, Holland. — A skating scene on a canal to the right, elevated above the level of a plain to the left, and divided from it by an embankment. There is a great windmill to the left, and the town with its churches is in the distance. Plate dated 1862.

Readers who have studied Topffer will remember what he says about the difference between identity and resem- blance. If an artist draws a thing quite accurately, he gives, not something resembling the form, but the actual form itself as it strikes the retina. But it is possible to give a resemblance of the form, very remote from identity, and yet much more interesting to the spectators, interesting even from the very contradiction between its demonstrable inac- curacy, and its curious look of truth. This may account for the strange interest of the skating figures in this composi- tion. Arc they men and women } Certainly not, for men and women so constructed could never walk — much less could they skate. They are mere puppets, no more, yet such lively puppets that they give us the notion of skating, far better than more elaborately drawn figures would do if


JONGKIND. 131


their action had been less happily conveyed, whilst from the system of execution used being exactly the same as that for the surrounding landscape, they harmonise with it perfectly. It is very interesting to notice with how little labour Jong- kind suggests a gradation. One is suggested (not realised) in the water, and another in the cloud near the mill. The spectator's imagination immediately supplies what is want- ing.

Entrance to the Port of Honfleur, (Dated 1863). — As there are no clouds in this sky, the artist has wisely left it perfectly blank, because white paper (or paper with the slight tint left by the ink when the plate has not been cleared with whitening) expresses the serenity of the pure sky with a perfection that would be most probably lost if any attempt were made to shade it, whilst the gradation in the shading would probably be too imperfect to satisfy a delicate taste. We are made at once to feel that the light comes from the spectator s left by the shadows from the two masts of the brig, which fall towards the right. The water is expressed by a few widely-separated wave-marks. There is a little very light tinting of transparent shade upon the pier and distant houses. The steamer close to the pier (apparently a mere confusion of blotted black lines) is a very clever representation of the effect of a steamer upon the eye at that distance. There are two cutter-rigged boats to the left in the middle distance, and a rowing-boat with four men in it, over the signature. All these are remarkable for great liveliness and motion, and, as in all Jongkind's etchings, when anything is moving at all we are made to see and feel that it is moving.

View of the Railway Port at Honfleur (Dated 1866.) — A singularly awkward subject to choose, with disagreeable perspective lines of rail and quay edge, and a perfectly blank space in the middle. It is worth study only for its perfect unity and truth of impression, for it gives you exactly the


132 JONGKIND,


feeling of being at one of those uncomfortable railway ports where you are generally liable to be run over by a waggon, and to be tripped up by a rope in attempting to get out of its way. The sky is cleverly treated, with its few thin diagonal clouds, and the calm water to the left is expressed with a few wavy lines for prolonged reflection from boat and vessels. If the reader has the plate, by all means let him observe the very summary execution of the little cock-boat with its two inhabitants.

Sortie du port de Honfleur, (i 864.) — ^To my feeling this is the best of Jongkind's plates. It is composed of water and sky, with shipping and boats, and there is a lighthouse on the shore in the distance on the right hand, and a large building to the left. The sky is cloudy, and darkens to the right with powerful open shading, so energetic that it seems as if done with sabre-strokes, but it is not deeply bitten. The black hull and masts of the brig in the foreground to the left are bitten very energetically, and are a very fine example of powerful treatment of near material. The water is translated by open lines indicating ripple, or a generally calm surface and reflection, both being expressed with great knowledge, though most laconically. There is some parti- cularly clever treatment of shallow broad lines about the steamer to the right, and some masterly black blotting as in a pen-sketch. As usual, there is much motion in the boats that move under sail or oar, which enhances the tranquil majesty of the stationary brig.


CHAPTER X.

VAN S'GRA VESANDE,

nPHIS etcher was not included in the first edition of the present work because his etchings have been published subsequently. I think that he has a fair right to the dis- tinction of a separate chapter for the following reasons  : —

There are few etchers in any age who are at the same time simple in their methods of work, and original. The proportion of such etchers at the present day is small indeed. There have never been so many etchers at one time as there are now, yet out of the hundreds who practise the art it is difficult to find more than a very few who express ideas of their own directly and harmoniously. It is sometimes believed that such summary expression of original concep- tion is very easy, and almost beneath the attention of accomplished artists, who are able to carry their work very far forward in the direction of what is popularly considered to be " finish ; " but the truth is, as any one who likes to try it will soon discover for himself, that the power of etching simply and beautifully at the same time is very rare. It has always seemed to me, and it seems to me still, that this gift is the gift for an etcher, and it is so because it saves him a world of technical trouble in the regrounding of plates, rebiting, rubbing out with charcoal, and so on, all which toil of a manual kind is a loss of time which might be spent in what is more essentially art.


134 VAN S'GRA VESANDE,

M. de Gravesande * has published two portfolios of etch- ings, the first consisting of thirteen plates, including the title, the second of ten plates. In each collection there are etchings which might have been omitted without loss, simple studies from nature, without sufficient artistic significance to afford a substantial reason for publication. It is necessary to draw the line somewhere, and I think it ought to be drawn between works which have composition, or what looks like it; that is some relation between their component parts, and those in which there is no such relation. Simple studies of objects are valuable to the artist, but may be kept for his private use.f

Le lac cCAbconcU, — Part of a lake with a flat shore. Two windmills and some trees in the distance, pollard willow, and rushes in the for^round, to the right. A sailing- boat on the water, and also a small boat in which a man is sculling. Long clouds slightly sketched in the sky, and a few wild ducks.

The most noticeable thing here is the treatment of the water, which is full of real knowledge^ expressed with the utmost simplicity of method. There is a broad band of ripple in the distance, then a calmer interval which reflects

  • Carel Nicolaas Storm van S' Gravesande is a Dutch gentleman, with the title

of Jonkeer, and a son of the Vice-President of the house of Representatives, who b also a member of the Council of State. He studied for the bar, and took the degree of Doctor of Law at the University of Leyden, but, having a strong taste for art, quitted legal studies for the career of a painter, to which he has remained faithful since, for the occasional pursuit of etching can scarcely be considered an infidelity to the Muse of Painting, however jealous she may be. As the subject of this notice published his etchings at Brussels he translated his name into French for the convenience of the southern public, and called himself Charles de Gravesande.

t It appears, too, as if in his second publication M. de Gravesande had associated together plates too widely different from each other in size, so that the smaller ones are injured by too much margin, a matter well worth noticing, as it happens to engage our attention. It is a great mistake to suppose that a margin cannot be too large. An unreasonably wide space of margin makes an etching (or drawing) look insignificant instead of enhancing its importance.


VAN S ' GRA VESANDE, 135

the windmill, or rather just recognises it. The boat is sailing on another space of ripple, and little waves come washing in amongst the rushes. The group of trees in the distance is treated comprehensively in masses, but the pollard willows to the right seem coarsely drawn when you think of the delicate beauty of a real willow.

Au bord du Gein pris Abconde. — ^This is one of the most perfect etchings produced by the modern schools, so perfect, indeed, that if I were restricted to the possession of six modern etchings this should be one of them. The material is nothing but. a river shore with a few trees and bushes, and a windmill. The sky and water are both great tranquil spaces of white paper, the one varied by four or five very light streaks of cloud, and a few birds, the other by bits of vegetation rising above the surface, and a ripple here and there. It is not at all an exaggeration to say that the tender and delicate beauty of the shading on the windmill and distant foliage, and of the corresponding reflections in the water, is equal in the quality of softness to the softest work in a chalk or charcoal drawing, whilst in the strong deeply-bitten markings on the nearer shore and foreground there are a vigour ai)d decision which belong to etching alone. This etching is indeed a perfect model for three great qualities whose union is rare indeed. It is both very tender and very strong, and at the same time very re- served in the best and wisest way. The consequence is the harmony of a complete impression, in which nothing is insufficient and nothing excessive. The reserve is most visible in the treatment of water and sky. An etcher has to choose, for open sky, between the tranquillity of blank paper and the gradation to be obtained by shading. The gain by shading is doubtful, because the gradation is likely to come wrong ; the loss in any case is certain, because no shading can ever have the purity and repose which in blank paper come so near to the quality of sky. Therefore in an etch-


136 VAN S'GRA VESANDE.

ing like this, the blank paper is far from being meaningless ; it means the spotless, lineless texture of sky and water which in nature is so pure.

VEscatit i Burght, pris Anvers. — A shore with a small jetty and landing-stage, boats in the foreground, and a steamer and sailing vessels in the distance. This plate is beautifully composed (observe, for example, the utility of the two oars), and the distant boats are skilfully introduced. M. de Gravesandc's boats and boatmen are always full of life, even when the man is a speck on shore or the sail a speck on the horizon ; and his study of water deserves praise for thoroughness and temperance, for its true indication of the perspective of rippling surfaces, and that delicate noting of reflections which marks what is most faintly perceptible, and rejects all arbitrary theories of what the water pheno- mena ought to be for a subtly intelligent observation of what they are.

Entree de fork. — The entrance of a dense pine-forest, no sky visible nor any distance, as the eye can only pene- trate a few yards into the gloom amongst the trunks of the pines. In the foreground is a narrow and rough road going into the forest.

This plate is almost entirely etched in strong, deeply- bitten markings, like Turner's etched work. It is one of the most impressive sylvan subjects I ever met with, and at once reminds us of Dante. Not only are the deep markings well etched, but there are also most skilful shadings and salissurcs of the copper between the lines.

Le Retmir de la Pechc, — Women coming back from the fishing on the sea-shore under a high cliff*. They are just descending a rude wooden stair set against a strong sea-wall, with massive beams and planks.

This large plate is more in the direction of tone etching than the artist's earlier works. The cliff* is all in shade, and so are the figures. The wood-work is powerfully etched


VAN S'GRA VESANDE. 137

in line. The scene is poetical and impressive, but not beautiful.

Pecheurs sur la cdte de Normandie, — Rocks on the shore at low tide, with a few women seeking shell-fish amongst the weeds. Sea calm, without boats. A few light clouds in the sky.

Remarkable as the simple and poetical rendering of a true motive. It makes you feel exactly as you would feel in the dreary place itself, with nothing visible out to seaward but the calm water and calm sky, and nothing more in- teresting or beautiful on the shore than rude rocks and poor fisher-folk gathering a scanty subsistence before the tide rises. The panoramic length of the drawing aids the dreariness of the impression, for we see that, however far we look to right or left, the scene is still the same, with no hope of anything less melancholy than stones, and sand, and salt-water.


CHAPTER XI.

MODERN GERMANS AND OTHERS.

T T was not the original design of this book to mention any artists but those who etched their own compositions, for when an etcher interprets a picture he ceases to act as a creative artist, and becomes merely a translator. The important position, however, which etching has assumed of late years as one of the branches of engraving, will not per- mit me to pass in silence so accomplished an executant as Unger, but since for the same reason it has become neces- sary to mention several other etchers from pictures, I have preferred to group them together in a chapter towards the end of the volume, in which their special branch of the art is studied in a more connected way than it could have been if the materials had been scattered throughout the book. It would be impossible, in such a chapter, to omit the works of William Unger, and at the same time it would be very dif- ficult to do him justice when occupied with original etchers, because an entirely peculiar kind of criticism has to be applied to an etcher who interprets painters. There is always, in such a case, a great risk of confounding the painter and etcher together, and of attributing to the latter merits which are not his own, or shortcomings for which he ought not to be held responsible. A critic will therefore do wisely to keep the two classes of etchers apart, and the same reasons may make the separation a convenience to the reader also by removing some causes of perplexity.

Amongst original modern German etchers, the best of


MODERN GERMANS AND OTHERS. 139

those known to me is Gauermann. His etchings of animals are often delicately accurate in detail, and in such a piece of work as the drawing of a goat's horn he will often prove a rather surprising skill. It would have been no more than justice to give him a separate chapter, or at least to study- one or two of his principal plates, and some readers may think it strange that so hasty a sketcher as Jongkind should be so honoured when Gauermann is passed with a simple mention. Let me explain, therefore, that in my view of the art, which will probably be found to be the correct one, no accomplishment in the representation of details, however exquisitely they may be done, can atone for the absence of that far higher kind of study which sees things in their mutual relations as parts of an artistic whole. Accur- acy in separate detail may be reached with painstaking, by workmen of the most ordinary intelligence. Open any French book of science or travel, illustrated carefully by the best wood- engravers " of the day, and you will find details of the most astonishing minuteness, often almost rivalling those of the photograph ; indeed this very clever handicraft has been carried to such a pitch of perfection of late years, that it seems impossible for it to be carried farther. Such study of detail in scientific or mechanical illustration is precious for its utility, but in the fine arts detail is never precious unless in absolute subordination to some artistic scheme which embraces the whole work, and even then the detail is worth having only just so far as it helps the greater unity in its effect upon the mind. The study of detail for .itself is positively injurious to compre- hensiveness of sight Examine a leaf on a tree, and whilst your attention is occupied with the individual leaf, you will not see the branch as a whole, still less will you see it in its true relation to the background of hill or sky. The most idle of all idle occupations is to spend time in " finishing " things which will never take their proper place in the com-


I40 MODERN GERMANS AND OTHERS,


position. Until everything is in its right place it is no use thinking about finish, and when the parts are in right rela- tions to each other, very little finish will be needed. The enormous Kunstverein (German Art Union) etchings are amongst the most curious examples of wasted labour in the world. The hastiest scrawl of any artist who can truly see half-a-dozen things at once is worth a lifetime of such mis- taken industry. Mere skill with the fingers and patience in labour, without selection, without comprehensiveness, with- out emphasis, without passion, are offensive in proportion to their very success. The more a dull etcher practises the art, and the more assiduously he trains himself in the sort of base dexterity which dulness devises, the more hopeless does his work become.

The full severity of these remarks is deserved by the work of the true German Philistines, but there are some Germans whom it would be unjust to write against quite so energetically. Gauermann, above mentioned, is not dull, but only rather too observant of truth in detail to see truth in mass. The landscapes of Zimmermann and Wurthle are not without some comprehensive energy, but still not suffi- ciently free and intuitive for great etching, and Morgenstern (who punningly signs himself Morgen^^) is somewhat bolder than Zimmermann, but deficient in lightness and grace. Eberle finishes cleverly in a pretty modern way, and Brenn- hauser is skilful to a degree which only makes one regret the misapplication of his abilities.

It has happened, since the first edition of this book ap- peared, that many etchers in different countries have sent proofs of their plates to me. In this way I have enjoyed opportunities for becoming better acquainted with the state of the art in different parts of the world. The tradition of the old Dutch etching lingered into our own century in the person of an etcher named Trooftwyk, who died young, and left a littie series of plates behind him, which were founded


MODERN GERMANS AND OTHERS. 141

on the practice of Potter and his school, not, I believe, as a conscious revival of a past state of art, but simply and sin- cerely as a tradition. This etcher, though so near our own time, seemed wholly untouched by modernism in his com- positions, but in isolated subjects he once or twice rivalled the beautiful detail of Gauermann, and showed a modern temper and sympathy with animal life, especially in his affectionate studies of dogs. All his cattle, on the other hand, are seen through the medium of the traditional Dutch etching of another time, and have the spirit of it so com- pletely that one might easily suppose them to be the very cattle which browsed and sunned themselves in the Holland of two hundred years ago.

Contemporary Italian etching appears to owe what activity it possesses to French influence chiefly. The Duke of Sartirana has etched one or two plates which may be mentioned honourably, especially one which appeared in the publication of the French club for 1869, entitled En Italie. La Phhe aux GrenouillesJ* This was quite artist's work, although the author was an amateur. Other plates by the same etcher prove a careful study of tone in masses, not always sufficiently sustained by adequately rendered form. In this instance etching is a family tradition, as the father of the present Duke of Sartirana practised the art assiduously. Amongst modern Italian painters who seem to have the genuine etcher's gift, I may mention Bianchi of Milan, but he has produced very little, not choosing frequently to lay aside the brush for the etching-needle. Alberto Maso Gilli is an excessively skilful realist, who represents the comedy of bourgeois existence with undeniable force, both of expres- sion and execution, but it is a kind of talent which, though startling for the vivid reality of its effects, is essentially vulgar in more respects than one. The very brilliance of the trompe Vceily so successfully aimed at, is vulgar in itself. Every imaginable artifice is resorted to in order to obtain a


142 MODERN GERMANS AND OTHERS.


deceptive relief. Figures are set in strong lamp-light against black backgrounds till they stand out like models, and they are shaded with a completeness that leaves nothing to the imagination. There can be no question, however, as to the manual and technical power with which the purpose is ac- complished ; sometimes, indeed, the technical power is so striking, that a more refined artist might well envy the pos- session of it. In " Un Rimprovero " a wife is taking a malicious pleasure in letting her husband know that she is aware of some infidelity ; the woman's face is for the most part in strong shadow, and it would be diflScult to find in the greatest works of the greatest masters a more thorough piece of work than the shading of that face, in which every gradation is attended to, and every reflection, even to the faintest The different expressions of the two faces are as life-like as they possibly can be, but all this technical and other ability is employed to tickle the tastes of a very low section of the vulgar continental public

Etching is now practised in every country sufficiently advanced in civilisation for any thorough culture of the fine arts. Paris is the metropolis of etching, but of what is done there this is not the place to speak. There is a good deal of etching activity in places often too scattered for good results. The position of an etcher, for example, in some remote locality in America or Australia, is not favourable to rapid progress, because he may be stopped by technical difficulties in what French artists call la cuisine de I'eauforte, or he may not ciirect his studies from nature towards the kind of skill and knowledge which is specially most useful to an aquafortist. An isolated etcher, however, is better off than an isolated painter, because he can easily get examples of good work which may be purchased cheaply when rarity is not an object, whereas good pictures are always costly things, and the isolated painter sees little but his own can- vases. Very curious instances of the effects of isolation


MODERN GERMANS AND OTHERS. 143

reach me from out-of-the-way places in different parts of the world. For example, an American sent me a series of large etchings of lake scenery in his own country, in which all the trees were well drawn, some of them even remarkably well drawn, with a strong sense of sylvan beauty, and much evidence of observant study ; yet, at the same time, all the other components of lake scenery, mountains, water, rocks, and foreground vegetation, were done with exactly the degree of knowledge which is common in the works of school-girls. Now, if this etcher had not been so much isolated, some artist-friend would have told him to direct his studies more equally. Other solitary students get into difficulties with their chemicals, not being able to deal pro- perly with acid and copper. They complain, too, of their distance from a competent printer who would test their plates in various ways. Then they let themselves be influ- enced by friends who know nothing about the art, or about any art, and so toil after false finish. The consequence is that there is very little good etching done anywhere in the world by students who are not in communication with Paris and the leading etchers there.


ETCHING AND ETCHERS.


BOOK III.


THE FRENCH SCHOOL.


CHAPTER I.

THE REVIVAL OF ETCHING IN FRANCE.

pOR the last fifteen years the practice of etching has gradually become a more and more important branch of artistic work in France, and now the French school is not only the most active in Europe, but it is so influential that all other schools are directly affected by it. At first the art was revived by a few isolated artists, including some of the most distinguished painters, who etched a few plates for their own satisfaction. In this way Engine Delacroix etched a little, so did Meissonier, Daubigny etched more, Charles Jacque gave still more attention to the art, and at last a great number of painters pursued etching sufficiently to attain a certain degree of skill. Then came M^ryon, who did not succeed as a painter, but gave himself entirely to etching, and so expressed a rare and original genius. Lalanne, too, a very clever artist in black-and-white, who worked but little in colour, found etching much to his taste, and produced many plates. Martial, a very accurate draughtsman of streets and buildings, became a most pro- ductive etcher, and issued hundreds of careful studies on copper, which proved his mastery of the process. Jules Jacquemart, who had worked before in water-colour, took to etching with the rest, and astonished every one by an unexampled truth and delicacy in the rendering of still life, so that his works were at once appreciated by all who valued beautiful representations of beautiful things. In this way the impulse was given, and the art was alive again. Then


148 THE REVIVAL OF ETCHING IN FRANCE.


a young and energetic publisher, M. Alfred Cadart, deter- mined to devote himself to the publication of etchings, and gathered round him the scattered artists and amateurs who had revived the art. He founded a club, called the " Soci^td des Aquafortistes," which published some fine things, and a good many plates that tried to be fine but were not ; yet, however defective may have been many of these attempts, they were singularly free from the bourgeois or Philistine spirit, and addressed themselves to the appreciation or to the indulgence of the genuine critic or artist, rarely to the tastes of the vulgar. The Sociiti issued a monthly publication of five plates, which gave place later to a smaller periodical issue, called Vllliistratiofi Nouvelle, in which a more equally good quality was aimed at, and in some measure attained. Finally, in 1874, M. Cadart began to issue an annual port- folio of much higher average quality than either of the two monthly publications. During the twelve years which elapsed from 1862, he had also published a great number of independent collections of etchings by various artists, many of which deserved the serious attention of the public Although M. Cadart was the only French publisher, and, indeed, the only publisher in the world, who has made etching his specialty, several others in Paris have included it amongst other kinds of engraving which they brought before the public The most noteworthy instance of this is its employment by M. Hachette for his unprecedented edition of the four Gospels, illustrated by Bida with 128 pictorial compositions, which were all etched by Bida him- self and fifteen other etchers. The enormous sum of money lavished on the production of this work would never have been risked twenty years ago on an enterprise which de- pended upon etching for its success. At that time a publisher determined to invest fifty thousand pounds in a monumental enterprise would have selected line-engraving as a matter of course, and the intensity of the general


THE REVIVAL OF ETCHING IN FRANCE. 149

prejudice against etching, both in the trade and out of it, would have prevented him from even taking it into con- sideration as an admissible kind of art. Times are changed, however.

The fame and splendour of this g^eat publication, of which a hundred and forty proof copies on Dutch paper were sold at  ;^8o apiece, whilst  ;^20 was the price of an ordinary one, ought not entirely to eclipse many minor publications which have been illustrated with a few plates.

Several other publishing houses have employed etching as a means of book-illustration for works of the highest class in iditions de bibliophile, Messrs. Marne, of Tours, for example, have used it for their magnificent editions of La Fontaine, Pascal, Bossuet, Boileau, F^nelon, Madame de Sevign4 and La Bruy^re, all which are illustrated in etching by Foulquier. The tasteful printer and publisher, Jouaust, whose charming editions of old books are so well known to collectors, has brought out the tales of the Queen of Navarre and the Decameron of Boccaccio with etchings by Flameng, all inventions of his own, which entitle him to honourable mention as an original etcher, independently of his rank as an engraver. In this way the public is becoming familiarised with etching, which no longer appears strange and unfashionable. This result is also due to the steadily- maintained influence of two periodicals, U Artiste and the Gazette des Beaux A rts, both of which have for many years employed etching as their principal means of illustration. Daubigny contributed plates to V Artiste in 1840, 1842, and subsequent years, and the same periodical gave en- couragement to other artists at a time when the demand for etchings was so slight that they had little chance of reaching the public without the regular circulation of a magazine. This magazine was founded in the year 1831, and, though not remarkable for much refinement of taste, has rendered an appreciable service to the fine arts by


ISO THE REVIVAL OF ETCHING IN FRANCE.

disseminating lithographs and engravings of various kinds, many of which have been of a high character. It has never been exclusive with regard to the kind of engraving em- ployed, and it willingly admitted etchings of the most artistic kind (such as those of Charles Jacque and Dau- bigny) at a time when they were by no means generally popular. The editors appear to have consulted very differ- ent tastes, for some of the lithographs which they inserted could with difficulty have been tolerated by any one capable of appreciating the etchings, and they even gratified lady- subscribers with coloured plates of the fashions. What is truly painful, however, is not so much to see common art admitted into a periodical as to see great art systematically excluded because it is not likely to please the multitude, and the credit which V Artiste deserves is for not having excluded work of a high kind, which always appeals to a limited and cultivated public of its own. Along with much that was coarse or meretricious in taste, this periodical has issued some of the very best work, both in lithography and etching, which has ever been produced in Europe ; and if the revival of etching is traced to its sources it will be evident that one of those sources is the manner in which U Artiste was edited, and the liberality with which it pro- vided for the tastes of a minority. It not only encouraged Daubigny and Charles Jacque at the commencement of their careers, but it has since then encouraged other genuine artists, such as Flameng, Veyrassat, Bracquemond, Soumy, and Queyroy. The foundation of the Gazette^ which occurred much later (in 185 7), was also a fortunate occur- rence for the development of etching. This periodical has been favourable to etching, not only directly by the publica- tion of etched plates, but also indirectly, by keeping itself, with admirable consistency, far above all condescension to the bourgeois or Philistine spirit, both in its criticisms and its illustrations, most especially perhaps in the courageous


THE REVIVAL OF ETCHING IN FRANCE. 151


practice of printing the honest rough sketches of artists just as they made them. There are hundreds of things in the volumes of the Gazette which it is utterly impossible that any Philistine should understand, and which must seem to the bourgeois mind as ugly as they are incomprehensible ; * so, as the periodical addressed itself to the educated public only, it could employ etching, and has done so with good results. The effect of an encouragement given to a particu- lar branch of art is often felt afterwards in unexpected directions. Trained by working for the Gazette^ a group of etchers found themselves able to undertake work of a like quality beyond the limits of the periodical, and this led to the habit of etching galleries of pictures, or selections from them, a practice the limits of which it is impossible to foresee.

The influence of one man is sometimes of the very great- est importance even in those movements which appear to be the result of a tendency generally prevalent Thus, in the revival of etching, the engraver Leopold Flameng has given a strong impulse to one branch of the art, that which concerns itself with the interpretation of painting. He was born at Brussels, of French parents, in 183 1. At the age of sixteen he, was a sufficiently good engraver to contribute plates of his own to a publication on the galleries of Florence. As his knowledge of art increased, so did his feelings of rebellion against the kind of engraving which at that time was considered the only legitimate kind. He could not endure the pursuit of mechanical regularity as an aim in itself, and soon perceived that the greatest artists of the past had been superior to such an idle pre-occupation.

  • Such pen-sketches, for example, as the Martyre de St. Laurent^ from a picture

by M. Lehoux, drawn by the author (published June 1874), and the Lever de Lune d Ermerumville, from a picture by M. Moullion, drawn by the author (published August 1874). The boldness with which the Gazette publishes things of this kind, which are perfectly intelligible to artists, but sure to irritate the ignorant, proves that the periodical in question relies upon a very highly cultivated public.


152 THE REVIVAL OF ETCHING IN FRANCE.

" Nanteuil, Edelinck, Drevet," says Flameng in a letter to me, " n'dtaient pas esclaves de la tail/e militaire (ainsi nominee par M. Charles Blanc) des travaux bien aligntl^s et des iligants treillages (expression d' Ingres) lis ne recherch- aient que la perfection du dessin, la grdce et la souplesse dans r^x^cution." Flameng perceived, too, that in the work of the great time there had been a certain rapidity in produc- tion. A picture of importance was finished, and followed very shortly by an engraving from it. " Edelinck ne met- tait qu'un mois k graver un portrait admirable  ! " Flameng felt much discouraged by the condition of public taste in his own time. Great engraving seemed to be killed outright — killed by Wille and Bervic, who gratified the public taste for mechanical regularity ^by an extreme purity of incision and an excessive manual skill, which it became their chief pur- pose to display. "These men," says Flameng, "were not artists, but ingenious artisans. To the misfortune of modem art they transmitted their skill and their artistic ignorance, and even at the present day they condemn their successors, who follow the same path, to spend long years upon plates which dazzle the ^y^s with a superficial brilliance beneath which is nothing. It is like the silk dress on a lay figure." In Flameng's opinion the commercial death of line- engraving was not due to photography, as has been sup- posed, but to the excessive striving after mechanical perfec- tion, which involved such a terrible sacrifice of time. Pub- lishers abandoned it because, after investing great sums of money, they had to wait many years before the plate could be ready for publication, so that the general interest in the subject of it had often already evaporated. Flameng per- ceived that etching had not this inconvenience of slowness, that an etched plate might be produced in a reasonable time, and that the great etchers had not troubled themselves about that mechanical regularity which is the banfe of art. He therefore resolved to study etching especially, and see


THE REVIVAL OF ETCHING IN FRANCE, 153

what could be made of it. At that time he came to Paris, where he worked at first obscurely, but after a while was noticed by the justly eminent critic, M. Charles Blanc, who was then engaged in founding the Gazette des Beaux Arts, M. Charles Blanc at once perceived that Flameng was a true artist-engraver, and that he would work in the genuine artistic temper. He was therefore engaged as a con- tributor, and has remained one down to the present day. His work for the Gazette was in itself a training in the very kind of artistic engraving which he desired to do, because, from the admirable intelligence with which that periodical was conducted from the first, every contributor was encou- raged to think and feel as an artist.

Let me now briefly allude to another point in the history of French etching which cannot be altogether omitted : the position of the art in the public exhibitions. When Flameng began to exhibit there was no chance for an etcher toije honoured with any recompense whatever. The exhi- bitions at that time were entirely under the control of the Institute, a body not likely to welcome very warmly the artistic endeavours of men who deviated from what was then the established routine. This state of things was put an end to by the Count de Nieuwerkerke, Surintendant des Beaux Arts under the Second Empire. When, as a conse- quence of his reforms, the jury was formed, independently of the Institute, by universal suffrage amongst exhibitors, it was more impartial, and soon recognised etching as an im- portant branch of engraving. Flameng received medals in 1864, 1866, and' 1867. In 1870 he received the Cross of the Legion of Honour.

M. Charles Blanc, a critic not at all given to excesses in the use of epithets, and far too accomplished a writer to forget, even for an instant, the necessity for distinguishing between shades of expression, calls Flameng " illustrious " — Villustre graveur — an adjective always reserved, in French


154 THE REVIVAL OF ETCHING IN FRANCE.

criticism, for the one or two men in a generation whom pos- terity is likely to remember. The epithet is not misplaced in this instance. Flameng is really one of those illustrious men whose labours make epochs in the history of the fine arts. He is a thoroughly great engraver, an artist-engraver of the highest rank. Even if isolated, he would have had a place in the history of art ; much more then is he secure of such a place through the tradition already established by his pupils, such as Laguillermie, MassalofT, and others. Though but just in the noon of life, Flameng is already chef d'^cole^ and chief of a school such as has not been seen since the days of Rembrandt ; a school which interprets painting with a sympathy, freedom, and power, which are not to be found in the same degree in any other class of engravers. M. L^on Gaucherel has a place too in the history of art, for the same reason. " My best works," he says with a beautiful modesty, "are my pupils." Amongst them may be counted such artists as Rajon, Le Rat, Courtry, Duclos, Lalauze.

The one thing which strikes us in this French revival of etching is the sustained and extended energy of the move- ment Although some English newspaper-writers, even in considerable journals, are only just now beginning to be really aware that there is such an art as etching, and are wondering and laughing at it as a strange half-intelligible new thing, like South Sea islanders when some puzzling astronomical apparatus is landed upon their shores,* the plain truth is that tlie French revival was begun more than twenty years ago, and has been gathering strength ever since. And in saying this I am much within the truth  ; for if you take as examples the careers of two living veterans, Charles Jacque and Daubigny, you will discover that their earliest plates were produced before 1840. The very first plate by Jacque is dated ten years earlier, but that is a copy

  • See a quotation from the Tlnus newspaper in the chapter on the Revival of

Etching in England.


THE REVIVAL OF ETCHING IN FRANCE. 155

after Rembrandt, a worthy beginning. Observe too that since 1840 Jacque has steadily continued, and that in 1866 his omvre amounted already to 420 plates. Daubigny began to etch in 1838, and in 1841 he exhibited several etchings at the Salon. Mdryon was at work on his series of Parisian subjects in 1850. Flameng exhibited in 1855. These dates are quite sufficient to show that the movement is not of yesterday, though the general public is only just now beginning to be aware of it

The great increase in the number of etchers dates from i860 or thereabouts. It would be better for any fine art that its practitioners should be few and able, if that were possible, rather than numerous and for the most part unskil- ful What really happens, however, in the history of the fine arts is this  : — There are many mediocrities in a genera- tion, and a few men of true genius, so that it almost seems as if, in the arrangements of nature, the crowd were necessary in order that the men of genius might be produced. There is a general state of sentiment amongst those who concern themselves about art, which urges them in some especial direction at a particular time ; and the men of genius either lead the crowd, drawing it after them, or else go with the crowd at first, and afterwards rise out of the midst of it, lifting themselves, as it were, upon its shoulders. Charles Jacque, Daubigny, and Flameng, were leaders, pioneers ; Rajon, Le Rat, Laguillermie, followed a movement already begun, but rose higher than most of thoise who followed it

Few movements in art have been, on the whole, so decidedly successful as this revival of etching in France. It will occupy a very important place in the artistic history of the nineteenth century. The chiefs of the revival have not only made etching quite truly a living art again, but they have pursued a course of study so wisely chosen that it has led them to an absolute executive equality with the very greatest etchers of the past The art is not merely alive


156 THE REVIVAL OF ETCHING IN FRANCE.

again, but it is alive in perfect strength. Never, indeed, in the history of the fine arts have so many thoroughly accom- plished etchers been gathered together within the walls of a single city as there are at this hour in Paris. We do not live in some short after-glow, some partial return of splendour passed away, but in the full bright light of the morning *

  • Since this chapter was written, a new art periodical has been started in Paris

on a scale more important than either of its predecessors. The name of this new magazine is VArt ; it is published weekly, and each number contains, in addition to other illustrations, one etching regularly, with the occasional addition of another. The principal living etchers are on the list of contributors, and their chief business is the reproduction of pictures. The advantage of L'Art over other periodicals is the great size of its pages, which are in quarto grand colombier, a size measuring seventeen inches by twelve. The first number contained a remarkably clever plate, by Rajon, from a picture by Pieter de Hooge in the National Gallery (the Courtyard of a Dutch House), but it is quite impossible for any periodical to keep up to that level r^;ularly  ; there are not enough first-rate etchers in the world to do the work. However, the proprietors of VArt seem determined to enlist the best ability of the day, and if their venture succeeds, as we may hope that it will, the art of etching from pictures will be supported by three periodicals in Paris. It would be well, perhaps, if these periodicals gave rather more encouragement, proportionally, to the independent art of etching, which has aims and purposes of its own not unfre- quently forgotten in the anxiety to interpret, by great labour and often with doubtful success, the tones and textures of painting. But of this I shall have more to say in another place.


CHAPTER II.


CLA UJDE.


'X'HE position of Claude as a landscape-painter may be briefly defined before we consider him as an etcher. He was the first artist who made landscapes thoroughly charming by means of artistic and harmonious composition, and beautiful effects of light By these means he captivated the connoisseurs of his time, and became the father of modem landscape. But he had an essentially classical mind, and therefore could not enjoy pure and wild nature like Englishmen and Americans of the present day, and his study of nature was never very deep or passionate. By long labour, and on account of his artistic aim — for he thought more about art than about facts — he came to possess on some points a very extraordinary technical skill ; and this skill, in combination with his pretty composition and agree- able eff"ects, has sufficed, and will probably always suffice, to maintain his reputation. The modern study of nature has proved that Claude was often scientifically weak, but it has not dethroned him as an artist ; and although many of us can see that he was ignorant of much that has since been added to the common stock of information, we cannot prac- tically beat him on his own ground.

His superiority as an etcher is chiefly a technical superiority ; he could lay a shade more delicately, and with more perfect gradation, than any other etcher of landscape ; he could reach rare eff'ects of transparency, and there is an ineffable tenderness in his handling. These are his chief


158 CLAUDE,


claims to our consideration, and he is so strong on these points that such accomplished moderns as Haden and Samuel Palmer have a great reverence for his name. Add to these qualities a certain freedom and spirit in his lines, which served him well in near masses of foliage, and a singularly perfect tonality in one or two remarkable plates, and you have the gfrounds of his immortality as an etcher. He was great in this sense, but not great in range of intel- lectual perception, and his genius at the best is somewhat feminine. He has left a few unimportant and weak etchings, but he has also left half-a-dozen masterpieces, which the severest criticism must respect One merit of his is not common in his modern successors — the extreme modesty of his style ; no etcher was ever less anxious to produce an impression of cleverness, and his only object seems to have been the simple rendering of his ideas. He sincerely loved beauty and grace, and tried innocently for these till his touch became gentler than that of a child's fingers, yet so accom- plished that the stubborn copper was caressed, as it were, into a willing obedience.

Le Bouvier  : second state (Dumesnil, i. 1 3, 8). — A herds- man is seated near a pool of water which his cows are cross- ing. Beyond the pool is a magnificent group of trees. To the left of these trees are the remains of a temple, and, above the herdsman, a distance with hills. For technical quality of a certain delicate kind this is the finest landscape etching in the world. Its transparency and gradation have never been surpassed. The most wonderful passages are in the great masses of foliage which have been, as it were, tenderly painted and glazed with the point The composition is very beautiful ; and, though the study of nature is less accurate than in some modern work, there is a noble movement in the trees which accurate draughtsmen often miss, and which an etcher, of all artists, is bound to interpret and preserve.

Le Soleil couchant : second state (Dumesnil, i. 19, 15). —


CLAUDE. 159


A seaport at sunset. To the left, an arch of triumph in shadow, and trees ; then a round tower, some battlements, and a square tower ; after which two ships, and a distance of hilly coast To the right is another tower, near which is the setting sun.

This etching is remarkable for the inexpressible tender- ness of its sky. When heretics and unbelievers say that skies cannot be done in etching, it is always convenient to answer them with a reference to this plate ; but the truth is that although the sky is marvellously tender, and in this respect undoubtedly the finest ever etched, the cloud-forms are so simple and so little defined that Claude's success in this instance has not solved more than one of the great sky-problems.

Le Troupeau en Marche par un temps dorage (Dumesnil, i. 22, 18). — Easily recognised by the massive fragment of a ruined temple to the left The temple has Corinthian columns, of which three only are visible. A flock of cattle and goats is driven by a man and a dog in the direction of the temple. In the middle distance, to the right, is a rising ground with a castle on it Between the castle and the temple is a lake with a village on its shore, and beyond the lake, in the extreme distance, are mountains. The reader is recommended to study more particularly the third state.

Claude seems to have had a sensitive and delicate nature, more capable of enjoying the softly gradated sky of a fine afternoon than the grandeur of gathering storm. The sky here is curiously feeble and ineflfectual, but the etching is one of Claude's best, and especially deserves to be studied for the piece of ruined temple, which is etched more firmly and substantially than any other piece of architecture by him.

La Danse villagcoise {J^MvatsxiCiy i. 28, 24). — What follows refers to the first state only. The subject is generally exceedingly pale, and Claude has here made an experiment in the direction of mezzotint, by slightly roughening the


i6o* CLAUDE.


surface of his copper to obtain a tinted distance. The foliage is exceedingly graceful, and, though the plate is obviously an experiment, and an unsuccessful one, it is by no means the least interesting of the series.

Seine de Brigands (Dumesnil, i. i6, 12). — There is a mass of trees to the left, at the foot of which are dock-leaves. Towards the bottom of the trunk these trees are crossed by a palm-tree, and under the palm-tree a man is attacked by brigands. The distance is mountainous, and the middle distance wooded. The point of interest here is the contrast between the firmness and brilliancy of definition in the palm- leaves and other foreground foliage, and the tender quality of work in the distance and sky.

Berger et Berghre conversant (Dumesnil, i. 25, 21). — Not so rich in tone as some other etchings of Claude, but free and grand in manner. The trees to the right have a stately grace, and there is an extreme elegance in the tree that divides the composition. There are some rolling clouds, and there is little repose in the unquiet lines of the fore- ground ; but the shepherd and shepherdess can have their talk without paying much heed to so finely artistic a con- sideration.

La Danse sous les arbres : second state (Dumesnil, i. 14, 10). — The central figure is a woman with short petticoat; above her a group of trees. To the left is a woman with tambourine, and four villagers are seated on the trunk of a fallen tree. Foliage enriches the subject to the right and left, and between the trees we perceive openings of hilly distance. This plate is remarkable only for the manual freedom in the foliage.


CHAPTER III.

C ALLOT AND BOISSIEU.

T T has already happened to me several times, in the course of this volume, to mention artists when they enjoy great reputations, even though I may have little personal sympathy with their work. There is always, however, something to interest us in the criticism of any artist, whether we like him or not, for there is always a lesson to be learned. I believe that no true etcher will get much good by the study of Callot, because his manner was usually far more that of an engraver than a genuine etcher ; but he was a man of great genius and wit, and when he chose to use the point like a true etcher he could do so very effectually. The bits of true etching occur rarely, and only in parts of his works ; the mass of what he did is spoiled, as etching, by reminiscences and imitations of the burin. When the reader has studied a few of the genuine etchers, he will at once see for himself in what failure of this kind consists, and even so great a reputa- tion as that of Callot will have little power to disturb the tranquillity of his judgment. These great reputations are so often due to something else than technical quality, or the faculties which lead to high technical accomplishment, that it is never any reason to conclude that an artist is to be recommended as a model for imitation merely because he is famous.

I have copied a small portion of one of Callot's etchings, the gateway and bridge to the right of the Tour de Nesle.

The reader will at once observe that the bit I have copied is

M


i62 CALLOT AND BOISSIEU.

a composition in itself, and this leads us to one of Callot's most curious defects. His larger subjects are not complete compositions, but half-a-dozen minor compositions fastened together in a sort of panorama. Any one of these, taken by itself, looks more like a picture than the whole engraving did, with its superabundance of ill-arranged material. In this respect Callot differed as widely as possible from the modem French school, which has understood that unity is the first necessity of art, and has also perceived that a large simplicity of subject is one of the easiest means by which unity can be attained. Callot's power of composition was often very great in little groups and bits, if considered separately ; for example, there is a group of horses taken to bathe in the river just under the Tour de Nesle, which is grand enough to be a sketch for a noble picture ; the com- position of it is as fine as it can be, but utterly thrown away in the midst of so distracting a plate, where there is so much conflicting material. What really secured Callot's fame was the original and very life-like manner in which he treated his figures. He had endless inventions in putting his little people into what seemed natural groups. They are often defectively drawn, glaringly out of proportion, and interpreted with the strongest mannerism, but they act and live in the great human comedy, and not even the most insignificant of them are mere lay figures or dolls. As to their proportions, the heads are generally too small, often ludicrously so. Durer gave the head as an eighth of the body, and the antique sculptors made it rather larger. Callot makes it sometimes a ninth, and sometimes even a tenth. In the plate entitled,

Ces pauvres gueux plcins de bon aduetures Ne portent rien que des choses futures,

the player in the right-hand comer has so small a head in proportion to his legs that the diameter of the calf is equal to the whole distance from the chin to the top of the skull,


CALLOT AND BOISSIE U. 163


which would be a monstrous deformity in the living human being, if ever such a misproportion occurred. Callot's exces- sive mannerism is obvious. Its chief peculiarity is the habit of reducing everything as much as possible to a peculiar kind of curve, rather like the curve of a goose quill and feather. If the reader will look at Callot's work with a view to this curve he will be surprised by the frequency of its occurrence. The chiaroscuro of his etchings and engravings ought not to be criticised on the same principles as if it were an attempt at complete chiaroscuro. It is a simple indication of the direction in which the light falls, no more. The texture of Callot's shaded surfaces is often not only imperfect, but positively offensive, especially when he made trellis-work with the burin, a plague to the eyes. He was one of the very worst draughtsmen of landscape who ever lived ; his trees are mere sausages, with tufts of grass for leaves  ; but he drew buildings with a sense of the picturesque in architecture very rare in his own age, so that his records of them are interesting in the highest degree, and we only r^ret that they should be so few.

Boissieu is much more dangerous than Callot, on account of his uncommon skill in the very things that a young etcher is anxious to acquire. He could lay his tones with as near an approach to absolute certainty as any etcher need hope for ; and, in short, he was such a clever fellow that he could do with his hands whatsoever his mind imagined. But all this cleverness, though maintained by inexhaustible patience and untiring industry, led only to delicate renderings of distant tones, and a vulgarly deceptive imitation of nearer objects. Boissieu could etch a tub till it looked as if it had been photographed ; and he could etch a distant hill till it looked as soft and grey as a hill in an old picture ; but both tub and distance were always irremediably uninteresting as fine art Boissieu was an extraordinary master of vulgar imitation, in which no etcher ever surpassed him ; and he


i64 CALLOT AND BOISSIEU.

proved at least this, that there exists in etching a fund of imitative resource which may be drawn upon to an extent little dreamed of by people whose one idea about art is, that it is the imitative copyism of objects, and who hate etching because it is too interpretative for their taste. We shall come later to an imitator of a far higher order, Jules Jacque- mart ; but even Boissieu had settled the question as to ii^hether etching, in skilled hands, could or could not imitate things accurately.

Callot. La Tour de Nesle, — The Tour de Nesle is to the right, near the middle of the composition. Beyond it are the towers of Notre-Dame in the distance, the Pont Neuf, and several church steeples, besides blocks of houses. The foreground is animated by a variety of figures, some in boats, some on horseback, others on foot

The distant view of Paris is beautiful, and the various distances are carefully preserved. There is some bad per- spective, as in the tower itself, where the rings of masonry are wrong. A set of circles, seen in perspective, the circles being at various elevations above the spectator, offers just one of those little perspective problems which puzzle an artist who is not quite sure of himself The figures have the usual intense vivacity of Callot's men and women — they are all alive and doing something  ; this is a power akin to that of Cruikshank, who, by a similar energy in movement, has given life to figures so small that the faces are hardly visible. It is a sort of pantomime that fills this foreground from side to side  ; every group is amusing, and a child might pass half- an-hour in inventing histories of the actors.

I need not expatiate on the great historical and topo- graphical interest of this etching ; its value, as a record of Paris in Callot's time, is almost inestimable.

The Louvre, — Another view of the Seine, but this time looking down the stream, with the Tour de Nesle to the left.


PLATE VII.

SCENE IN OLD PARIS, NEAR THE TOUR DE

NESLE, by Callot.

Copied by the Author.


PLATE VII

(To be placed opposite page 164. >

Scene in Old Paris, near the Tour de Nesi.e.

by Callot Copied by the Author.

This is a very small portion of the lartjc plate which was publishcrl in the first edition of tliis work. In the original the burin may have been a good deal used. In the copy it has not been used.


BITINGS.


Distance and lightest touches on foreground

Middle distance

Darker parts of middle distance

Foreground


12

25 35 50


First proof taken. •

Plate not retouched.

In printing, this plate has been first well wiped with canvas, and then lightly retroussSe in the foreground and the house to the right, but the reiroitssa^e is strictly limited to these portions.


CALLOT AND BOISSIEU. 165

seen from the other side. The water is crowded with high- sterned galleys, with masts and many oars. The sails are furled, the long pennons are powdered with fleurs de lis. It seems to be a royal procession by water ; the quays are crowded with figures.

This is a good instance of the way Callot used to spoil his etchings, by employing engraver's methods of work. In the buildings to the left, the shading, which was at first per- pendicular, has been ruined by a set of unmeaning diagonal lines, which produce a very unpleasant reticulation. There is a mechanical rigidity in the building which is contrary to the freedom of etching. The indications of cloud are weak and engraver-like  ; they have . nothing of the quality of liberal and noble art. The group of buildings just behind the Tour de Nesle is in the highest degree picturesque — that is, we see that the buildings themselves must have been picturesque ; but if they had only been reserved for Mdryon, how much they would have gained in the delineation !

BoiSSlEU. Vue dupont et du chdteau de Sainte Colombe, en Dauphine, — A battlemented and turreted castle to the right, with a mountain behind it. Under the castle are a mill and landing-stages  ; then a river with a bridge, and to the left of the bridge a massive tree  ; to the left of the tree a ruin, with arch beneath. In the foreground a landing-place, projecting from a stone pier to wooden supports, and near the landing- place a boat with large rudder, the boat containing barrels, etc. There are several figures — two men sitting on tiller, man and woman sitting on end of pier, woman and boy walking with a dog, man fishing, man standing leaning on his stick.

There is a considerable artistic craft The distances are kept well, relatively. The foreground is vigorous, with a tendency to old-fashioned trifling here and there. The reflection of the boat is careful, the work on the boat tending to elaborateness, firm and good in light, but in


i66 CALLOT AND BOISSIEU,

shadow needlessly black. The form of the mountain, as in all art of that time, is wanting in firmness and knowledge.

Entrie du village de Lantilly. — A pale delicate sky with some indication of cloud, a building to the right, with a square mass like a tower roofed in the low pyramid form, so often seen in southern countries. There is a staircase with a low gable. There is a large tree to the left, with the trunk partially denuded. The manual delicacy of the work in the sky is very admirable, but the imitative rendering of the tree-trunk is puerile, though skilful in a high degree. On the whole, this is one of Boissieu's best etchings.

Les Tonneliers (the large print). — Scene, the interior of a wine-cellar. Persona^ four men  ; namely, a cooper striking circles with his hammer, two cellar-men carrying wine in a tub suspended on poles, a third standing and looking at the spectator; holding a pitcher on a barrel.

This etching is mentioned for the marvellous imitative finish in the barrel to the left — not to recommend it for imitation, but as a curious example of what may be accom- plished in etching, in that direction, by an artist more skilful than intelligent.

Vue du Passage du Garillano, en Italie. — A pale sky, with a few clouds, chiefly to the right A mountain, a city on a hill in the middle distance, an aqueduct to the right A river with a ferry-boat ; in the boat a carriage and pair,, a man on horseback, and several other people. In the fore- ground, to the left, a horse going to drink at a trough, a man with him, another man, a woman, two children, and a dog. In the right-hand corner is a man on horseback, galloping away.

This is a very perfect etching of its kind. The tone is most successfully reached everywhere. Many nobler etchers might be glad of this technical certainty in getting the tone just pale enough and just dark enough. It is a rare accom- plishment, even amongst clever men.


CHAPTER IV.

MER YON.

'IXTHEN our enlightened century reflects on the ignorances and injustices of the past, it is apt to be well pleased with its own luminous superiority. Albert Durer was wretchedly poor, and John Milton got an instalment of five pounds on the completion of " Paradise Lost," but Mr. Frith and Miss Braddon are paid in thousands. And are not French artists rich and fortunate now } Has not Meissonier just sold a picture for six thousand pounds  ?

No doubt, on the whole, both artists and writers are better paid in these days than they have ever been before ; and although both occupations are more crowded than ever, there is a better chance now than there was formerly for a good workman in either to obtain recognition during his lifetime. But the favour of the public, and the rewards that it brings, do not always find out and encourage the best men ; and there has never been an age when an artist of rare and peculiar power was more exposed to the mortification of seeing vulgar work liberally remunerated, and noble work passed in neglect.

The case of Charles M^ryon is one of those painful ones which recur in every generation, to prove the fallibility of the popular judgment Mdryon was one of the greatest and most original artists who have appeared in Europe; he is one of the immortals; his name will be inscribed on the noble roll where Durer and Rembrandt live for ever. A few persons now living know this as well as I do, but these few belong to a small and highly cultivated class, with which


1 68 MERYON.


the great art public has very little in common. An intelli- gent writer upon art said, not very long ago, that artists had no occasion to complain of the public, because, if the matter were inquired into, it would be found that every artist had his own public This is, no doubt, in a certain sense true  ; every writer and every artist is appreciated by somebody, if only he has some sort of talent and accomplishment ; but for an author or an etcher to live by his work he needs more than this little group of friends. Three customers will keep a painter from starving for a year, but no composer of printed matter could live if he had only three readers. An etcher is a composer of printed matter, and he needs a public sufficiently lai^e to remunerate him adequately for his time, — that is, at least two hundred regular buyers. Now, to find two hundred regular buyers, he requires ten times that number of students and admirers ; and it is not always easy to excite the serious interest of two thousand people. A public which is not extensive enough to enable its favourite to live by his labour, is for all practical purposes not a public at all ; and it is in vain to tell an author that he is unreasonable to wish for more than a hundred readers, or an etcher that he is foolishly anxious for notoriety when he is not satisfied with the approbation of the cultivated few. The suffrage of the cultivated few is very desirable, and there is more intellectual and artistic encouragement in the quiet praise of ten competent persons than in the applause of multitudes ; but the very love of art itself compels an artist to wish for a public not only educated, but numerous; because, without either a numerous public or independent private fortune, he cannot continue to work. Mdryon was sorely tried by public and national indifference, and in a moment of bitter discouragement he destroyed the most magnificent series of his plates. When we think of the scores of mediocre engravers of all kinds, who, without one ray of imagination, live decently and contentedly by their


MERYON. 169


trade^ and then of this rare and sublime genius actually ploughing deep burin lines across his inspired work, because no man regarded it ; and when we remember that this took place in Paris, in our enlightened nineteenth century, it makes us doubt whether, after all, we are much better than savages or barbarians. Now that plates can be preserved by steel- ing, the etchings of a man like Mdryon would sell by tens of thousands if the world knew their value ; but when such work as this is set before the vulgar public, it is like casting pearls before swine.

M^ryon was born in Paris in 1821, the illegitimate son of an English father. Much of the unusual delicacy of perception which distinguished him as an artist, is attributed by M. Burty to maternal influence. He studied mathematics with much industry and application, and entered in 1837 the naval school of Brest. As a naval officer he visited many remote shores, sailing even round the world, and always employing his leisure hours in sketching everything of interest that came in his way. But, though M^ryon loved the sea, and had a fraternal affection for sailors, his health was not robust enough for a life of that kind, and he was obliged to abandon his profession. Being already an intelli- gent practical amateur, he endeavoured to become an artist ; and, with the intention of adopting painting as a profession, took lessons of M. Phellippes, a former pupil of David. As a painter, M^ryon did not succeed, probably from anxiety to produce pictures without the necessary technical education. Whilst suffering from disappointment in this ambition, he happened to meet with M. Eugene Bldry, who directed his attention to etching. M^ryon studied etching for several months with M. B16ry, and employed this time fruitfully in the analysis of plates by the elder masters, which he copied as exercises. This preliminary study was followed by excursions in Normandy and a visit to Bourges, a picturesque old city not very far south of the Loire.


I70 MERYON.


Before undertaking the series of original etchings on which his fame will rest, M^ryon laboriously employed the art in the translation of other men's work, or in the execution of more or less uncongenial commissions. What developed M^ryon was his passionate wish to preserve some adequate memorial of that picturesque old city of Paris which has disappeared before the constructive activity of Haussmann and Louis Napoleon. If old Paris had been likely to remain a generation or t\v'o longer, it is possible that we might scarcely have heard of M^r>'on, because half the quality of his work is due to the intensity of his affection for remains whose destruction he foresaw with the most bitter regret, as a near and irremediable misfortune which he had no power to avert But if an artist cannot save an old building which he loves, he may at least secure a memorial of it, a memorial better than the fidelity of the photograph, because it expresses not only the beaut}*^ of the thing itself, but the pathetic affection of the one human soul that cares for it It became, then, the object of this artist to make a series of etchings in which the old tourcllcs and quaint streets of Paris should be preserved for future times, and when he undertook this task he had already made him- self the most accomplished architectural etcher, not only of this century, but of all centuries  ; not only of France, but of the world. The opportunity for the exercise of Imperial encouragement was exceptional and splendid  ; and if the Government had known its duty, M6ryon would have been commissioned to do perfectly, and on a far more extensive scale, what he did imperfectly in the face of absolute public indifference and the stem possibility of starvation.

So, without encouragement of any kind, this great artist patiently laboured, etching with the strangest and most novel union of sobriety of manner with depth of poetical feeling. He printed a few copies of his plates, and left them with different booksellers and dealers in engravings ;


PLATE VIII.

PALACE OK JUSTICE, AND BRIDGE, PARIS,

Part of a plate by Mekyon.

Copied by the Author.


PLATE VIII.

iTo uc placed opposite pag<; 17a-

Palace oi- Justice, and Bridge, Paris, part cf a

Plate by Mcryon

Copied by the Author


BITINGS.


In Dutch Mi>r^;an'., hcaicJ 1090^ Fahiephe.'


Minutci.


Lightest touches in extreme distance

Sky .

Distant building and paler ripplcii

The remote pepper-lx>x towers

The nearer pepper-box towers

Lighter parts under arches ...

Darker parts imJcr arches with building to tiic left, and farther boa: \

Nearest arcli with nearest boat  !


0 to

20


25


45 55


Fir?t proof lr.kcn.

The pl.ite hav-r.g been bitten as in ten J.. I, thc.o was rotV.ing to be do v.. except add a few linj.^ which bidd l-om ^sniiut^b T'lo pinte w.^=^ cnvero' again ^^^th black ground, and these lines added andLiticn thirty minutes \\\ Dutch mordant.


Second proof Laken.

A few tine lines added m sky and waier with dr\'-po:ni. A few burn lines inserted here and there under the bridges. The >play of the arclie? made visible by making the shade lighter with the burnisher.


Plate printed s:mp!y, being wiped with can\-as only, and then ver>' Mighily


rdrctissii in the foreground and dark arch to the left.


MERYON, 171


but the stream of life rolled past in its ceaseless flow, and paid as much attention to these jewels as the waves of the Mississippi give to some lost treasure on its banks. This neglect seems to have produced the first visible symptom of a mental malady, which clouded, with varying degrees of darkness, the remaining years of the unhappy artist's life. After living in the asylum at Charenton, where he continued in some measure the practice of his art so long as physical health remained, Mdryon at length passed out of an exist- ence made wretched by poverty, sickness, insanity, and by the apathy of an age unworthy of him. M^ryon became subject to the hallucination that he was surrounded by crafty and secret enemies, who were constantly plotting against him.

As an etcher Mdryon was remarkable for great cer- tainty of hand combined with extraordinary caution. When at work from nature he' stood, and without support of any kind, held both plate and mirror in one hand, laying 'the lines with the other, and so steadily that the most skilful etchers marvelled at his skill. No work ever done in the world has been more absolutely honest, more free from executive affectation or pride of method. He had great subtlety and delicacy of observation, and a perception of truth so clear, that it is strange how such bright insight can have been compatible with any cloud or malady of the mind. His work was sanity itself, by its perfect and equal acceptance of various facts, by its patience and steadiness in study, by its caution and moderation in manner. Thus, as I pointed out some years ago, M^ryon was picturesque, but not narrowly and exclusively pictu- resque ; for when a pure line occurred in a modern or Renaissance building, he gave it with marked attention to its especial quality of purity. It is, perhaps, to this very capacity for appreciating purity that a certain peculiarity of M^ryon may be due, which has occasioned a doubt whether


172 MERYON.


he ought to be considered a great etcher, in the strict sense, or a great original engraver. He did not sketch so much or so freely as good etchers usually do, and there is a severity in his manner not always compatible with the ease of true etching. Nevertheless, I class him amongst true etchers on account of his frank use of the explanatory line, which is the chief test ; added burin or dry-point work does not prove impotence with the etching-point, and is little more than a sort of glaze.

Considered psychologically, the work of M^ryon is highly curious. It is thoughtful, reflective, intensely personal, and fiSll of strange hints of a passionate fantasy, secret and sub- dued. This mental quality, far more than the manual dexterity of the artist, is the secret of his inexhaustible charm. He is a sort of enigma for us, which we are always trying to solve. Victor Hugo, with the clear eye of a poet, saw at once this mental fascination, and saw that M^ryon needed to be strengthened by all possible encouragements in his great struggle with the Infinite — the infinite of Paris, the infinite of the sea. This was said in Victor Hugo's peculiar way — he can never write without some allusion to the Infinite or the ocean — but in this case the word was not inapplicable. M^ryon was evidently an artist of vast and vague aspirations, though a dull critic might be pre- vented from seeing this by the unusual precision of his manner. Beyond the actual buildings which he drew, there are suggestions of long and lonely meditation on life and nature, on time and space, and the bewildering abysses of immensity.

Le Stryge. — At an angle of one of the towers of Notre- Dame there is a horned and winged demon who perpetually contemplates Paris, his head resting on his hands, and his elbows on a flat ledge of stone. He looks down the Seine towards the pavilions of the Tuileries, and his stony eyes


MERYON. 173


have watched through the long centuries the changes on its banks. The face wears an expression of quiet and con- tented observation ; from the Middle Ages, when this demon first looked from his lofty post, there has been sin enough in the great city to afford him uninterrupted satisfaction. He saw the massacre of St. Bartholomew, and felt warm glad- ness in his heart of stone whilst the chants of thanksgiving rose musically in the choir below ; nor was he less inwardly gratified when the slow processions of carts took the nobles to the guillotine and the chanting priests were silenced. Those uncouth ears have heard the roar and tumult of revolution and the clamour of the near bells that shook the grey towers in the hour of triumph, when the versatile priesthood praised God and the powers that be. Nor have public crimes or public miseries been the demon's only con- solation. Night after night he hears the low splash when the suicide leaps into the water, and a steady continuous murmur of long lamentation and blasphemy.

When Meryon took the Stryge for a subject, it was with ideas of this kind. If we deduct the malignant feeling which may be attributed to a demon, the position of one who, from a lofty height, surveys the life of a great city, is simply the position of genius relatively to the multitude of men. And Meryon himself, who was a genius of the order most given to reflection and solitude, did not draw his demon without some considerable amount of sympathy. Four ravens are flying about him in the free air, like the dark and morbid thoughts that visit a lofty but too much isolated mind ; and thus, as we know, was Meryon himself assailed.

I am not quite sure whether the obviously false tonality of this plate may not have been intentional, as the same fault certainly was in some engravings of Albert Durer ; but when a critic allows these things to pass in a work which he admires, his silence may be imputed to ignorance. The intense black in the street under the tower of St-Jacques


174 MERYON.


destroys the impression of atmosphere ; though at a consider- able distance, it is as dark as the nearest raven's wing, which cannot relieve itself against it This may have been done in order to obtain a certain arrangement of black and white patches, but it seems unfortunate, and is certainly untrue. The tower of St-Jacques is, however, very right and beautiful, and so is the curious distance over the roofs.

La Pompe Notre-Dame, — If -the reader will refer to Turner's Rivers of France, he will find a subject called the " Hotel de Ville and Pont d'Arcole," in which the picturesque object that engaged Turner's attention and induced him to make the drawing is evidently a curious building in the middle of the river, and in the centre of the composition. This building consists of a tower and two wings, and it is entirely supported on a substructure of wooden scaffolding. This is the pump which has furnished a subject for M^ryon. His remarkable precision of hand, and his usually wise moderation in light and shade, have never been better exemplified. Take, for example, the exquisitely gentle curvature in the three main lines of the tower, and the entire absence of exaggerated blackness throughout the whole plate. Many of the wall surfaces are in the shade, but it is shade illuminated by reflection. The intricate arrangement of the massive carpentry is expressed with evident enjoyment and a strong sense of construction.

VAbside de Noire-Dame de Paris, — ^The tonality here is somewhat less accurate than in the plate just criticised, but the questionable passages are chiefly in the bridge and houses ; and the cathedral is a wonderful piece of work. There are, no doubt, many living engravers who could get quite safely through pieces of architecture not less elaborate, and many photographs have been taken from this very position, which, as copies of the building, are much more mechanically perfect. The value of work of this kind is due to an exquisite artistic sensitiveness, which has presented


MERYON. 175


the subject to us in such a way as to give it poetical interest.

TourelUy rue de la Tixeranderiey demolie en 185 1. — ^The general reader may feel interested in this plate on account of its subject, which is one of those picturesque corner-turrets that the Scottish architects borrowed from the French, and which give so much character to many an old tower north of the Tweed. This was one of the finest examples which had escaped destruction down to the middle of the present century, and its demolition coincided with the erection of the first Crystal Palace in Hyde Park. From the artistic point of view this tourelle was worth considerably more than Sir Joseph Paxton's enormous shed, but its disappearance was not thought an event of much importance, except by a few eccentric people, like M^ryon, who do not always estimate things by a tariff of material values. Readers who intend to etch may find here much profitable study in the explana- tory use of lines which constantly follow either the perspec- tive of surfaces or the direction of shadows ; and the plate has the additional advantage of showing, in a marked degree, how moderate and refined is Meryon's understanding of the picturesque. The stately turret and the free foliage of the vine about its base would have had charms for any sketcher, but M^ryon alone could have seen the full artistic available- ness of the modern chimneys and roof, and the contrasting value of the ugly modern house to the left The explanatory use of line has, in one point, been carried a little too far. There is an attempt to render the appearance of , wood, by a somewhat puerile imitation of its grain. It may be observed also that M^ryon's readiness to accept unpicturesque material has made him a little too tolerant, when he gives us the bit of wall in the foreground forming an acute-angled triangle of the most painfully mechanical sort.

La Rue des Toiles, Bourges. — It is not easy to procure the etchings of M^ryon, which, for the most part, are out of


176 MERYON.


print, the plates having been destroyed ; but the " Rue des Toiles " was given by the etcher to a friend of his, and I hired the copper for the Fine Arts Quarterly Review , in which it appeared in January 1864. The subject is a picturesque mediaeval street ; and though the etching is not so good as those mentioned above — for it has been over-bitten, and there is some confusion in the tonality — it gives, nevertheless, an idea of M^ryon's qualities as a medisevalist Victor Hugo is known to be one of his warmest admirers, and these quaint details have much in common with Hugo's picturesque descriptions.

Le Pont Neiif, — Early proofs of the latest state in which all the dry-point work is given, show M6ryon quite at his best The Pont Neuf is the most picturesque of existing Parisian bridges ; and however superfluous its projecting turrets may have seemed to the utilitarian mind, they were always delightful to artists. This plate has been engraved for no other purpose than to show two of these turrets to the very best possible advantage ; they are in full sunshine, whilst all the rest of the plate is either in subdued middle tint or sombre depths of shade. From the impenetrable gloom under the massive arches to the aerial delicacy of the distant street, there is the widest range of executive resource ; but whatever has been done either in massive arch, or flow- ing water, or many-storeyed houses, or clouded space of sky, has been done always in honour of these two turrets on the bridge. Even the third turret, that nearest us, has been sacrificed to them and cast into intentional shade; and when Meryon comes to the rounding of the far-projecting cornice, where the gleam of sunshine falls, he follows every reflection with an indescribable pleasure and care. The wonder is that the delighted hand could work so firmly here, that it did not tremble with the eagerness of its emotion and fail at the very instant of fruition.


CHAPTER V.

LALANNE.

TV/TAXIME LALANNE is the first artist who ever received knighthood for his qualities as an etcher. When the King of Portugal conferred upon him the Order of Christ, it was expressly in recognition of the value of his etchings  ; but the King of Portugal is an etcher himself, and knows good work when he sees it

No one ever etched so gracefully as Maxime Lalanne. This merit of gracefulness is what chiefly distinguishes him  ; there have been etchers of greater power, of more striking originality, but there has never been an etcher equal to him in a certain delicate elegance, from the earliest times till now.

He is also essentially a true etcher ; he knows the use of the free line, and boldly employs it on due occasion. So far his work is very right, but it has the fault of too much system. Lalanne has reflected much upon his art, and has decided in his own mind that certain methods are good methods, and so he sticks to these on all occasions with a fidelity that amounts to a fault. No one can doubt, on looking at any plate by Lalanne, for example the one in this book, that he is a master of his craft, that he quite knows what he is about, that he is always perfectly safe, and will make the needle express anything he intends to express ; but then, on the other hand, there is no reaching of the mind beyond, no vague yearning after unattempted excel- lence, nor any of those half-failures that attend undefined and unlimited aspirations.

N


178 LALANNE.


The defect of too much system may be due in this instance^ as it certainly was in that of Harding, to the habit of giving lessons^ Few artists who give lessons escape from the temptation to invent and apply a definite method to everything, because such definite methods are the secret of apparent rapidity in teaching. If a great artist tried to make an amateur-pupil follow him in his searchings for un- attempted expressions of unknown thoughts, if he himself became the " hierophant of an unapprehended inspiration," as Shelley said that poets are — and he included painters amongst poets — then the only consequence would be that the pupil would be left behind, alone in the pathless wilder- ness. A teacher who honestly tries to make his pupils learn something, endeavours to simplify art for them  ; that is, he eliminates the vagaries of special research, and makes art as systematic as possible. In doing this he runs infinite risk of spoiling his own art, by abandoning all that he finds to be unteachable ; in other words, all that is rarest and best.

Rue des Marmousets (Vieux Paris). — A capital bit of street-sketching. In this street dwelt of old a pastry-cook, who, with the help of his neighbour the barber, murdered a man in the pastry-cook's house and made pies of him, which were highly appreciated by the public. " C'est de tems immemorial que le bruit a couru qu'il y avait en la cite de Paris, rue des Marmousets, un p^tissier meurtrier, lequel ayant occis en sa maison un homme, ayd^ 4 ce par un sien voisin barbier, faignant raser la barbe : de la chair d'icelui faisait des pastez qui se trouvoient meilleurs que les aultres, d'autant que la chair de Thomme est plus delicate, k cause de la nourriture, que celle des aultres animaux." In M. Lalanne's etching the lines of the old houses, curving slightly and leaning back from the street, are followed with much interest and enjoyment, and every accident in wall or window is made the most of.

A Bordeaux, — A view of the city of Bordeaux, which has


LALANNE. 179


the honour of claiming Lalanne as one of its distinguished citizens. One of the least interesting of his plates. No doubt the cathedral spire and lofty tower with the scaffold- ing set up all round it are indicated with rare delicacy ; no doubt the line of houses along the quay is suggestive of much wealth and large population  ; and the long bridge and the shipping are cleverly put in  ; and the boat in the fore- ground serves, with its black mass, as a vigorous repoassoir. Nevertheless, the plate is dull, and its dulness is to be attri- buted, I imagine, to the impervious blocking-up of the view by that too long and regular line of houses that stretches entirely across it

Demolition pour le percemeni du Boulevard St-Germain, — Though the conventional black shadow crosses the fore- ground, there is great delicacy and truth in the tall tower- like scaffolding, the houses in the middle distance, and the beautiful dome of the Pantheon, visible beyond, like a mountain-crest pale and delicately outlined, seen beyond a middle distance of rugged cliffs and a foreground of scattered boulders.

Demolition pour le percement de la Rue des £coles, — The foreground is dark again under the conventional black shadow, but a glancing side-light illuminates an irregular block of houses, bringing their picturesque projections into strong relief. To the left is a delicate, light spire, probably that of the Sainte-Chapelle, seen through haze, and executed like the cathedral of Bordeaux in the plate criticised above. This spire, and the distant bit of street under it, are full of mystery, and by their extreme delicacy of tint give great force to the intentionally rude work in the foreground. It is a fixed principle with Lalanne to draw near objects with heavy and open lines, and distant ones with light and close lines, keeping a regular gradation between the two of gradu- ally increasing refinement, as the needle passes from the foreground. Like all good etchers, he is very partioular in


i8o LALANNE.


making his lines explanatory ; the direction of the shading in this foreground, always various, always carefully thought out, is an excellent instance.

Vue prise du Pont St.-MicheL — One of the most charm- ing scenes which the improvements in Paris have opened out to us, and the most beautiful etching hitherto published by the French Club. The majestic domes of the new Louvre rise in their strange, accidental, unaccountable way above the long line of the great palaces of royalty and art ; the Pont Neuf is just under them, all in shadow except its picturesque projections that catch the sunshine, and its grace- ful curve to the right, where it joins the brilliant quay. Soft reflections from the noble bridge fall undisturbed amongst the resting barges  ; and groups of trees whose artistic value the Parisian edile knows so well, stand by the noble river, having no more fear of the axe than if they sunned themselves on the loneliest shore of all her hundred leagues.

Aux Environs de Paris, — The foliage is very graceful and elegant, but the excessive love of waved lines in spray- drawing has led to some want of woody quality. It is the garden of one of those delightful habitations where the dainty taste of the Parisian architect has exercised itself in the free country, and where a rich man who is aesthetic enough to know the value of a beautiful dwelling may enjoy the possession of it in peace.

A Neuilly, Seine, — Notable for the same elegance as the preceding subject The water is not sufficiently studied, but the foliage is beautiful.

Paris. Vue prise du Pont de la Concorde, — The largest etching by the artist, but by no means the best The indication of distances is true as to tone, but neither the water nor the foliage is sufficiently studied. The water is not levels and there is an abuse of straight lines in the shading of the foliage. The plate is an attempt to introduce etching as a decoration for walls  ; this etching is intended for framing.


LALANNE. i8i


It would be interesting to see further attempts in this direc- tion, which might make the art somewhat more popular; but it may be doubted whether it is generally wise to attempt very large plates.

Chez Victor Hugo, — ^A series of twelve small etchings, some of which are remarkable for a minute delicacy, obtained without sacrifice of breadth. The best are the "Salon Rouge," the "Galerie de Chfine/' the "Chemin^e de la Galerie de Ch^ne," and the " Look Out" The " Porte de la Galerie de Ch^ne," and the "Chemin^e de la Salle k Manger," may also be mentioned. These plates are not far removed in manner from contemporary English work, and are as good as the best of Horsley and Cope. As studies of still-life they are very admirable, but too photo- graphic in their system of chiaroscuro, often losing detail in black where detail is still clearly visible in nature. Victor Hugo inhabited, when in exile, an ugly modern house, the inside of which he made as romantic as possible, with carved wood and collections of various kinds. The incongruousness between the Philistinism of the house itself, and the poetry of its contents, is very glaring, and would make the place even more intolerable to any one with a sense of fitness than a Philistine dwelling consistently furnished on the principle of Philistinism.

Train de la Gravure d VEauforte (plate 3, opposite page 66, first edition, lowest of the three subjects on the plate). — M. Lalanne has published a useful treatise on etching, much better than any of its predecessors, and illustrated by his own hand. This little landscape-subject is the most delicate and most graceful landscape-etching ever executed in France since Claude's time. It is perfectly charming, and well worth the price of the whole book. The trees are rich and majestic, the water liquid, the bit of foreground vigorous and frank, the distance delicate and aerial. It is an epitome of Lalanne's excellence ; and the only misfortune about it is.


PLATE IX.

(To be placed opposite page 1S2.)

Fribourg, Switzerland, by Maxime Lalanne.


A portion of the original plate.

The following Lil«Ie of Idlings is conjectural, as an acairate register was not kept at the time, ll will be found, however, very nearly accurate, having been ascertained by experiment on anotlier copi>cr.

HITINGS.


Nitric acid and water in equal quantities. Bath (not artificially heated) 65** Fahrenheit.


Minutes.


Extreme distance ..... Di.stant towers, etc.

Street and distance to right ..... Trecii, fountain, and central house, with small kiosk, also upper

buildings to left ... Deepest lines in foreground


3

6

10

20 30


Tliis plate has probably not been retouched. It was done from nature, and is a perfect examji^le of 1-alaiinc's manner in onginal sketching.


The nitric acid used is at forty degrees, which means that when ihc/tVt"- ticidc is set to float in the pure acid, the surlVice of the lifjuid will coincide with ilie fortieth degree on the register. 'I'his gives the dt^.;ree nf dciwity of the acid.


CHAPTER VI.

JACQUEMART.

JULES JACQUEMART is the most marvellous etcher of still-life who ever existed in the world. In the power of imitating an object set before him he has distanced all past work, and no living rival can approach him. Jacque- mart has no invention, little art in composition, and probably neither a very retentive memory nor any profundity of thought, but he sees more clearly, and draws what he sees more exquisitely, than anybody else. He has pushed imita- tion in etching to the utmost imaginable refinement, and developed it to the utmost possible force. The union of these two qualities, force and refinement, was never more perfect, even in the work of the great men of the past ; but it must be remembered that Jacquemart, though a true king in his art, is king of a minor realm. He is amongst etchers what Blaise Desgoffe is amongst painters, an unapproachable copyist of matter.

Such copyism as this amounts, in its way, to genius. The beauties which Jacquemart sees and reveals in a master- piece of goldsmith's or lapidary's work are for the most part imperceptible by the common eye. Like a true artist and poet, he teaches us what to look for ; and we come at last by his guidance to perceive magic qualities in the precious relics of the past, till cups of crystal and agate, and sword-hilts, or chalices of gold, are for us themes of inexhaustible wonder, objects of unwearied interest and contemplation. I never knew the glory and beauty of noble old work in the precious


1 84 JACQUEMART,


stones and metals till Jules Jacquemart taught me. The "Joyaux" of the Louvre were familiar to me, but a veil hung between me and their true splendour ; and it was only when Jacquemart had etched them one by one that I learned to know them truly. An egg of crystal belonged to a fortune-telling gipsy ; her eyes could see magic figures in its watery clearness which revealed to her the hidden mysteries of fate  ; often have others looked into it, but always without apprehending the secret things of destiny. So we have our precious gems and vases, and we never know their inner wonder and significance till there comes a genius like Jacquemart, when suddenly the scales fall from our eyes, and for the first time in our lives we see I So true is this that the study of Jacquemart*s etchings has definitely increased my enjoyment of common objects, such as plate and crystal on a dinner-table, and the veinings of marble, and the trans- parencies of jewels  ; I apprehend subtle lustres and reflec- tions in these things which were once imperceptible to me, and I know that the difference is due to the etchings of Jules Jacquemart — I know this as positively as a man who has been successfully operated for cataract knows to what surgeon he owes the recovery of his sight.

Jacquemart has etched some landscapes and views of cities which show no sign of remarkable artistic powers. He has also published a work on book-binding, giving soft- ground etchings of many old designs, all executed in the prosiest possible way, and as unlike what he does now as the ugly duckling to the swan. His portraits are sometimes clever, and his compositions of flowers still more so, but it is conceivable that another man might attain the degree of skill shown in these etchings. When Jacquemart illustrated porcelain for a work of his father, " Histoire de la Porcelaine," he began to be inimitable  ; and when he was commissioned by M. Barbier de Jouy to illustrate the jewels of the Louvre, he stood at last on his own ground, master of his subject,


JACQUEMART. 185


master of his means^ safe from all human rivalry, a prince in a little fairy princedom of his own, full of enchanted treasures, full of gold and opal and pearls, of porphyry and sardonyx and agate, of jasper and lapis lazuli, all in the deepest and truest sense his own ; for what rich man ever so truly possessed these things  ?

Histoire de la Porcelainc (plate 6). — The etching repre- sents a Chinese dinner-plate and two cups. Jacquemart's principle of imitation has evidently been to give the greatest importance to local colour, and to admit only just so much effect as may be necessary to indicate the form of the object There is effect, however, though often infinitely subtle, in every etching in the work ; one side of an object is always more strongly lighted than the other side, and the light in its passage reveals, by hints of ineffable delicacy, the pro- jections and hollows of the porcelain. The relation of local colour to chiaroscuro is here strictly that aimed at by Paul Veronese, and is precisely the one best fitted for the repre- sentation of painted ware. There are two personages ; a lady in her garden, and her lover scaling the wall ; both have black hair, which, in each case, occurs on a part of the plate which is in full light, but Jacquemart takes no notice of this, and makes the hair as black as he possibly can. This is justifiable because both heads are surrounded by perfectly white porcelain, which by contrast would make the hair strike us as two patches of absolute black, even in full light

Histoire de la Porcelaine (plates 14 and 15). — Especially marvellous for the imitation of texture and surfaces. If the reader will observe the way in which Jacquemart has imitated the craqueli and the souffle in the two vases of plate 14, and the lower part of the tea-pot in plate 1 5, and then study the rich colouring of the upper part of the $ame tea-pot, he will agree with me that when etcKers fail to render texture, it is either because they disdain it, or because they have not


1 86 JACQUEMART.


mastered the art, and not from any defect inherent in the nature of the process.

Huit £tudes et Compositions de Fleurs, — It is not necessary to offer special criticism of any of these compositions, but I may direct attention to qualities which are common to all of them. The true nature of the petals of a flower has never, to my knowledge, been so well expressed in art The petal of a flower, considered simply as tissue, is quite unlike any- thing we are accustomed to manufacture. It is never of the same thickness throughout, it is never precisely of the same shade, it bulges and curls, and softly droops and falls till its surfaces are presented to the light in a thousand unimaginable ways. Alone amongst draughtsmen, Jacquemart has fully comprehended this ; and as his hand, better than any other human hand, has rendered the hardness of porphyry and the inflexible fragility of porcelain, so also it has most truly interpreted the tender shades and complex delicate lines on which depend the untidiness of the poppy, and the beauty of the rose.

Gemmes et Joyaux de la Couronne  : Plate 2, Vase antique de Sardoine. — There is nothing in the form of this vase to merit the labour of Jacquemart, for it resembles a common pitcher; but as the material was dark and very highly polished, the whole object is covered with various reflections, which are imitated with a degree of force and audacity ex- tremely rare amongst copyists of such things as this. Jac- quemart had a studio in the Louvre, and there the precious vases were brought to him  ; they stood upon his table till he had done with them, and the table was near to a window. This window is reflected over and over again on the polished surface of the stone, and the reader may observe how much of the brilliancy of the etching depends upon the contrast between the white sky in the window-panes and the black shades where they are not reflected. He may also perceive the utility of the straight lines of the window-frames, which


JACQUEMART, 187


are here curved in very various directions, and express by their curvature the form of the surfaces which reflect them.

Gemmes et Joyaux  : Plate 6, Vase antique de Porphyre, — An Abbot of St. Denis had an Egyptian vase of porphyry, and, wishing to make use of it for his altar, had a great golden eagle added to it. In Jacquemart's etching the chief marvel is the imitation of the speckled and polished porphyry, which is amazing. The wings and neck of the golden eagle are interpreted with work as simple in manner as an ordinary pen-drawing, yet clearly expressing the nature of the thing. Gemmes et Joyaux  : Plate 1 8, Vase de Jaspe oriental, — The goldsmith's work on this vase is attributed to Cellini, and I mention it for the contrast in manner between the ex- treme precision of the etching on the golden handles, and the mystery of mingled veining and reflection in the jasper. That piece of jasper is marvellously pre-eminent, even in this catalogue of marvels.

Gemmes et Joyaux: Plate 19, Hanap de Cristal de Roche. — ^A drinking vessel of the time of Francis I. cut in rock crystal, in the similitude of a flsh. Of all the substances Jacquemart has imitated, crystal is certainly the most diffi- cult, because it affords so few vigorous oppositions. It is especially difficult when set by itself, in this way, without the help of a background or of any opaque object for contrast The power of cutting clearly is a point of sympathy between the etcher and the carver of the crystal, and the etcher be- comes for the time, by sympathy, in imagination a crystal- cutter. When Jacquemart did this he thought of crystal only, and of copper-plates not at all.

Gemmes et Joyaux : Plate 20, Coupe de Jaspe oriental. — I think this is the most exquisite cup, in point of form, in the whole French collection. Observe the sure drawing of tjie rim, six curves all made different by perspective, and in- expressibly difficult. See also the different treatment of the two handles and of the dolphins below the cup.


i88 JACQUEMART


. Gemmes et Jayaux  : Plate 23, Drageoir de Cristal de Roche. — Here is the same perspective difficulty in the draw- ing of the rim, in still greater complexity. There is a fine flow in the lines, in the raised centre of the cup, like the lines that the reins take when a man drives many horses abreast After etching a bright transparent thing like this, with such beautiful and elaborate curves, Jacquemart could etch a wave, if only it would stay for him  ; but the condition of consummate imitative work is always that the subject must stay to be studied.

Gemmes et Joyaux: Plate 28, Saliere de Lapis LazulL — There is so much local colour here that when once we have been told the material, Ve see it as if it had been painted, with all its depths of azure, and glittering faults of pyrites. The methods of work adopted here are entirely different from those used in the preceding subject, for Jacquemart is so versatile, and adapts his art so readily to the imitation of various materials, that every new kind of matter exacts from him the invention of new arrangements of line.

Gemmes et Joyaux : Plate 30, Coupe de Jaspe oriental, — There is a little group at one end of this cup, Neptune and Amphitrite, which may be taken as a more than commonly severe test of Jacquemart's power of drawing. It is very beautiful ; even the hands, notwithstanding their minuteness, are given with perfect accuracy. Observe the lightness of the pale golden trident, and its contrast with the rich dark of the jasper.**^

• In this portion of the work I adhere to my first plan of describing original etchings only, but the reader will find in the present edition a section on etching from pictures which includes an estimate of Jacquemart's labours in that kind.


CHAPTER VII.

CHARLES J A CQ UE.

TD EADERS who wish to know more about Charles Jacque and his labours than I have space for here, are recommended to procure M. Guiffrey's " Catalogue of Jacque's etchings," which was published in 1 866 by Mdlle. Lemaire, no Boulevard de Magenta, Paris.

Charles Jacque was born in Paris in 1813. At the age of seventeen he was placed with a geographical engraver, but did not like the work, and enlisted as a soldier. His military career lasted seven years, during which he was present at the siege of Antwerp. After his return to the life of a civilian, Jacque spent two years in England, where he worked as a draughtsman on wood ; and these seem to have been his only absences from France. He had relations in Burgundy, and during his visits to these relations he found the material for many of his best etchings. Burgundy is a very good country for an etcher ; the rustic life is more than usually picturesque, and there are plenty of old buildings and bits of good landscape. The true French picturesque is seldom seen in greater perfection than in Burgundy ; it exists there in the most profuse abundance, but in odd places where no one but an artist would know how to discover it Jacque had the right instinct for material of this kind, and made good use of it, as many an etching of his still testifies. His farmyards and scenes of rustic life are most of them reminiscences of this region, and to me — who have lived in Burgundy for years — they have a familiar


1 90 CHARLES J A CQ UE.


air, a look of home, which proves that they render not only the details of local truth, but the spirit of the land.

Charles Jacque is a painter, and a constant contributor to the Salon. I dislike his paintings for their false and un- pleasant colour, but he knows sheep and poultry well, and is a master of rustic life. His skill in drawing poultry may be partly accounted for by the fact that he is himself a dis- tinguished fancier and breeder.

Of his quality as an etcher it is not easy to speak briefly. Some of his works are manly, others effeminate ; some are imitative, others in a high degree interpretative ; some are rapid and intuitive, others slow and painfully laborious. The total result is that he will certainly be remembered as one of the master etchers of our time. He has etched more than four hundred plates, and out of these hundreds a selection might be made which, in its way, would bear a comparison with much of the most famous work of past centuries.

Charles Jacque can work, when in the humour, in as genuine a way as any master whatever, but he is subject to a hankering after dainties in execution, which are not whole- some, artistic pastry and sweets, which a masculine appe- tite ought not to desire. He draws very admirably when the subject of his drawing is one that he has a great affection for ; I have noticed, for instance, that in his farm- yards the utensils are drawn with a degree of truth and pre- cision very unusual in art, and no man ever drew poultry better. He does not really draw trees, however, though he conveys the sentiment of landscape. His deep and sincere love of simple country-life gives a great charm to many of his etchings, and is entirely conveyed to the spectator. A sentiment of this kind escapes analysis, but communicates itself in a wonderful ineffable way. No artist ever had the sentiment of rusticity in a purer form than Jacque. This is quite a different feeling from the great passion for landscape.


CHARLES J A CQUE. 191

and artists who have the nobler passion scorn it The sentiment of rusticity is strictly a classical one ; that is, it springs up always towards the close of rigidly classical periods in art. It is quite natural that Troyon, Charles Jacque, Rosa Bonheur, and such others, should arise at the close of the classical movement which ended with Ingres. Of all the rustic artists Charles Jacque has the simplest and purest feeling ; and his Parisian contemporaries, who for the most part are indifferent to the noble landscape-passion enter without difficulty into an idyllic poetry of this kind. Notwithstanding our Northern breeding, and the influences of our recent literature, we may also enjoy a rusticity which is genuine and sincere.

A PastoraL — A flock of sheep with a shepherd and dog. Further description is unnecessary, because the plate, although without title, is the frontispiece to M. Guiffre/s Catalogue. I mention it on account of the probability that the reader, if interested in Charles Jacque, will either procure the Cata- logue or already possess it.

The chief merits of this little pastoral are unity of manner and simplicity of purpose. It has a delightful appearance of ease, and belongs to that small class of artistic perform- ances in which there is, strictly speaking, no study, but only the results of study. In one sense, we have here the work of three hours, in another the work of thirty years. The subject may be taken as representative of Jacque's pastorals generally ; the landscape is so commonplace as to seem insignificant, yet its very triviality gives a familiar look of truth. The only variety in the land is a difference of level of about a foot, forming a kind of step which repeats itself on the sheep's backs as they slowly advance together. There are three or four willows beyond the sheep, and two young ash-trees on this side of them, but their treatment is freely interpretative, and the leafage is not more studied


192 CHARLES JACQUE.

than the grass in the foreground, which is represented by a few open and careless strokes.

Une Ferme (Guiffrey, 1 89). — ^The farm has two gables and a thatched roof beyond. There are two walls, one to the left coming near to the spectator, and above which are seen the trees of an orchard whose branches overhang and cast shadows down it The other wall is at right angles to the line of building, and in the shade ; beyond it rise lofty trees. A flock of sheep, in a state of much hurry and excitement, are driven by a shepherd and his dog in a direction away from the spectator ; amongst the sheep are two cows, and a third cow is driven by another man along the shaded wall. In the immediate foreground are a cock and four hens on a dunghill.

This is one of the finest of Charles Jacque's farms ; in some of them the finish is pushed unnecessarily far, but the work here is serious and manly. The texture of the long wall with the gables is as good as Decamps', and the colour, ing of the roofs and of the dark tree masses is boldly right and true. The action of the crowding sheep is given with perfect vivacity. There is an apparent rudeness in the open shading of the sky which pleases me by its frank avowal that, although a rough wall may be translated imitatively as to texture, sky and cloud cannot be. Painters have a supersti- tion that every subject needs an escape into the remote distance, and nine men out of ten would have knocked down the wall to the right and given us, in place of it, a league or two of landscape. Charles Jacque has acted much more wisely ; he needed the inclosure as a characteristic of farm- precincts, and as an element in the expression of homeliness. PetitSy petits ! (Guiffrey, 187). — A boy is seated on a board, which rests upon two barrels, and a little girl leans upon the same board near him. The boy is feeding poultr>^ If this etching had appeared in one of the best publica- tions of the English Club, it would have borne comparison,


CHARLES J A CQ UE. 1 93


as a specimen of essentially modern finish, with the best work of Hook or Frederick Tayler; and although the Germans have made laborious attempts in the same direc- tion, they have not yet surpassed such work as this. I feel, however, with regard to this plate, and others of a like quality by the same master, the same sense of approval, under protest, which I have already expressed in speaking of Boissieu and others. The subject is charming, the composi- tion admirable, and the execution skilful beyond praise  ; but this is not the kind of skill that a noble etcher ought to care for and aim at These tours de force in soft shading, like chalk spread with the stump  ; these little specks of reserved light, like touches of white on a lithograph ; these pretty bits of accurate imitation on hoops of barrel and plumage of bird, however dexterous and inimitable in their way, are scarcely worth the toil they cost

If we think of this simply as a picture, our criticism is disarmed, and we can but do homage to its sweetness and truth. There is poetry in the very title, Petits, petits ! The children are not artist's models, but real country- children feeding their favourites, as it seems to us, in some quiet corner where no one sees them. It is an hour of happy idleness ; the simple meal is ended, but one morsel of bread remains which these grateful fowls may share.

UHiver (Guiffrey, 19S). — In the middle of the foreground a youth is seated with a stick between his legs ; he turns his head to look at a girl who is driving two cows. He himself has the charge of eleven pigs. To the right is part of a pool of water, and above the swineherd the border of a wood. The etching is signed in the right-hand corner, " Ch. Jacque, 1864." There is a want of brilliancy in this etching amounting almost to dulncss. The figure of the swineherd is easy and natural, but it is the only really good thing in the plate. There are many trunks of trees which are neither scientific nor imaginative. The subject is agreeably arranged,

O


1 94 CHARLES J A CQ UE.

but feebly executed. It is pretty, and only pretty — a criti- cism which equally applies to several other works by the same artist

Le Labourage (Guiffrey, 182). — A man ploughing with a pair of horses. The horses are drawn with great truth, and all the details about the harness and plough are rendered with careful fidelity. The figure of the man is less success- ful, and the landscape is somewhat meagre and poor. A more powerful landscape-painter would have drawn the dark earth, as it turns over and falls from the ploughshare, with far greater force than this. The earth here looks as much like spread hay as the cloven soil.


CHAPTER VIII.

DA UBIGNY.

'1 1 rHEN a critic has been long devoted to the practical study of art, he may often arrive, by means of experiment, at conclusions concerning the especial powers of artists, which must be inaccessible to the pure theorist Some years ago the present writer had an unfeigned con- tempt for Daubigny, on the ground of his ignorance or negligence of form  ; but some practical attempts in oil-colour and etching, to attain the qualities of Daubigny's work, convinced him that whatever might be the shortcomings or defects of that artist, he deserved at least our most respect- ful consideration. The accurate delineation of form has not been amongst his purposes, and so it has come to pass that he either cannot draw, or will not ; but let us ever remember that he has purposes, and that the abandonment of form is a deliberate sacrifice made for the attainment of these ends. What Daubigny cares for, and aims at, is an artistic unity of aspect ; and as he paints or etches invariably for this unity, thinking of the whole only, and never about parts, except as portions of the whole, it has come to pass that he apparently neglects the parts, and so an animal or a branch may be shapeless, but the picture is not shapeless. Whether the result attained may or may not be worth such great sacri- fices, may be doubtful, but it does not seem doubtful to me. I feel satisfied that Daubigny, both as painter and etcher, has found his true expression, and that this expression in his case is well worth the sacrifice of accuracy in form. But


196 DAUBIGNY.


might he not, by perseverance, have drawn better without missing artistic unity  ? I believe not ; I believe that any attempt to preserve such drawing as is popularly considered good, would have nullified his whole work, whilst the far more arduous ambition of thoroughly good draughtsmanship would have turned his efforts into quite a different channel ; so that the Daubigny whom we know would have had no artistic existence. There are many varieties of bad drawing  : there is Daubigny's, which is perfectly honest, and never sets itself up for more than it is, — nay, which is willing to pass, and does constantly pass, for even less than it is ; and there is the laborious and pretentious bad drawing, which is popularly considered very good, and which always escapes censure, except from true students. Take, for instance, a cow, by some popular cattle-painter, with every bone in its body out of place, and every joint so constructed that an animal built in that fashion could never walk ; these defects will not attract notice if only there is a certain appearance of precision, a certain sharpness of touch, and neat brushwork on a carefully imitated surface. A cow by Daubigny is not in reality more badly drawn, but then evcr>'body sees its shapelcssness at the first glance, because Daubigny has none of the tricks of the painter who works for the market, and in the simplicity of a noble artist-nature scorns the little artifices by which ignorance is concealed. The one thing that he aims at he secures  : he aims at unity, and he secures unity. This unity of aspect is in reality intimately associated with unities of sentiment and thought, and springs from them. Daubigny does not think much, or feel much, about the cow and the branch  : it is the whole landscape which charms and attracts him ; and in his actual work his attention never quits the picture to apply itself to this or that portion of his materials.

The rough, and apparently "unfinished," etchings of Daubigny may seem easy to the inexperienced, and a certain


DAUBIGNY, 197


proportion of them are, no doubt, failures, even if considered strictly from the artist's point of view. But if the reader will study those mentioned below, and then attempt to do free work in the same sense, and with the same direct- ness and simplicity of intention and method, he will find the task more arduous than it perhaps appears. The difficulty of this simple and straightforward etching consists in its very simplicity and straightforwardness. When a plate has evidently been tormented and mended till it came into shape, there is some hope that by labour and correction we may arrive at a like result ; but when these means are forbidden to us by the very nature of the thing to be imitated, the difficulty is greatly increased. What Daubigny does, as an etcher, may not seem at first sight very astonishing, but he expresses himself, and he expresses himself at once. It is like apt and ready oratory, of which the excellence lies quite as much in promptitude as in power.

All this may be said without endorsing the weakest and most trifling etchings of Daubigny. There are several plates, for instance, in the "Voyage en Bateau," which are too trifling to be criticised, and in which the facetiousness of the artist has led to a momentary forgetfulness of art.

Voyage eft Bateati: le Dejetuier d VAuberge, — Five men are seated at table on rush-bottomed stools, and under a vine; they are drinking coffee and smoking pipes after dejeuner. (The first plate of the series, and one of the best.) As a simple sketch on the copper, this may be taken as a model for honesty and simplicity of workmanship. The foliage of the vine is not very good, considered separately as foliage, but it takes its place well in the composition. The etching holds well together, and the relations of tone are unexceptionable. Observe the rapid indication of the vine shadow on the wall, in free open lines running in the right direction. The figures are true landscape-painter's figures, and drawn without pretension.


1 98 DAUBIGNY,


Voyage en Bateau: la Rcclicrche de VAubcrge, — Two figures, one holding a lantern, are seeking their way in a dark night. The cabin of the boat is just visible low down to the left, and there are some dark houses to the right The sky is cloudy, but there is subdued light in two grey spaces behind the formless clouds. This is very genuine and perfect work of its kind, and there are some very fine pas- sages. The various lights and darks immediately above the lantern, and especially the obscurity near the cover of it, are amongst the finest

Voyage en Bateau : Daubigny travail Ian t dans sa Cabitte, — One of the most interesting, as well as one of the best, of the series. A gleam of sunshine lights the canvas on which Daubigny is working, and one or two other canvases which are leaned against the wall of the cabin. The rest of the plate is either in shadow or more or less illuminated by re- flection. The lighting is true and good, and the use of the etched line everywhere frank and right The reader may amuse himself by enumerating the contents of Daubigny's little floating studio. They are not luxurious, and the only signs of self-indulgence are a rather extravagant supply of onions and short pipes, and a coff"ee-pot There are also a gridiron and a frying-pan, and three wine-bottles. These, with bare shelter and the bed that is turned up in the corner, are ample materials for happiness, if only those canvases get on prosperously. Better a little cabin like this, with the satisfaction of doing good work, than the most splendid studio in Paris, with an inward conviction of incapacity. I would rather be Daubigny here, and cook my own dinner and make my own bed, than be a certain Commander of the Legion of Honour whom I could name, who, in his palace of the Champs- Elysdes, is compelled by the devil to paint, year after year, with the clear knowledge that he is a char- latan.

Voyage en Bateau  : la Nuit sur la Rivikrc. — The boat


DAUBIGNY. 199


is to the left of the etching, lighted by a lantern. The opposite shore is dimly visible, and both sky and water are covered with dark shading. There is nothing here but a sentiment ; and if the mind of the reader is inaccessible to that sentiment, the etching for him will be meaningless and absurd. In that case let me beg him to pass it without bitterness of condemnation. The present writer's experiences of boats and tents give him the key to Daubigny's motive. The little cabin is alone on the dark water, under the dark sky ; the shore is formless, vague, impenetrable. The only shelter is in that tiny floating house  ; the only light from the candle in that lantern.

Voyage en Bateau: les Aides. — A lot of children with a small four-wheeled waggon take Daubigny's things for him to the boat. A sketch of this kind opens the great question whether landscape-painters ought to attempt figure-subjects or not. These figures have no pretension to correct draughts- manship, and yet severe figure-painters are delighted with them. This may be explained by the fact that, if there is little power, there is still less pretension. The artist does not pretend to draw the figure otherwise than as he has been always accustomed to draw it for the enlivenment of his land- scapes. The children are beautifully grouped, and the action of the boy in front is free and lively.

Pare d Moutons : le Matin (A large plate which appeared in the first number of the French Etching Club's publica- tion).— The subject is the inside of a sheep-fold at early morn- ing, the dawn brightening on the horizon above the level line of paling which crosses the etching from side to side. There are a few low trees and a little hut on wheels, with a low swelling in the land, beyond the paling, crowned by some distant bushes, and a small windmill to the left. The sheep are grandly grouped, and still seem heavy with sleep. A long flight of birds is coming from the east The impression conveyed is dreary and uncomfortable, with a good deal of


200 DA UBIGNY.


solemn and sad feeling. The execution is frank and appa- rently coarse.

Le Gne, — Twelve cows are just going to cross a broad river with a herd-boy behind them. A large tree extends its branches over the water. The opposite shore is bare and uninteresting.

An etching of this kind is not to be criticised bit by bit ; its one merit is a certain largeness of aspect Referring the reader to the earlier chapters of this book for fuller commen- tary on these qualities, I may say here that the plate before us is valuable for its frankness and comprehensiveness, not for any accuracy or beauty of design. The cows are all out of drawing, the branches are ungraceful, the foliage is ugly, the sky is coarse, and the distance poor ; yet, in spite of all these faults, the etching is not only a fine one, but one of the finest executed in this century. Directness of intention and amplitude of aspect are perfectly compatible with the most obvious imperfections in parts.

Les Vendanges (this is Plate i6i in the publication of the SocMi dcs Aquafortistes), — It is quite a remarkable instance of Daubigny's obtuseness and inaccuracy as a draughtsman. The oxen are no more like oxen than sacks of flour, except that they are decorated with horns. The wheels of the char resemble nothing so much as very broad-brimmed straw hats balancing themselves miraculously on the edge of their brims. All the beauty of the vine leafage is neglected, and the figures of the vignerons are no better than the oxen. There are hills in the distance and clouds in the sky, but both hills and clouds are formless. And still I keep this etching, and value it, because it is a perfect harmony both in sentiment and in tone, one of the most absolutely harmonious plates I know. The least bit of accurate draw- ing, or of what engravers call "finish," in any one detail, would have ruined the whole work unless it could have been


DA UBIGNY, 20I


carried out over the entire extent of it.* It is not to be supposed that Daubigny is quite unable to draw a cart-wheel or a cow's horn ; and when he drew these in this apparently puerile way, we may rely upon it that he knew what he was about. The purpose of this etching has been a certain unity of aspect, which has been purchased by the sacrifice of many truths which another artist might have been unwilling to surrender.

  • And even if such finish had been carried out over the whole extent of the

etching, there would have been a definite loss to set against the gain. We should not have had what we have now, but another thing altogether, not an improve- ment, but a substitution.


CHAPTER IX,


APPIAN.


A /FY admiration for Appian's work as an etcher (he is a charming painter also) was already great several years ago, but the more I see how rare his qualities are in con- temporary art, or in any art, the more I feel disposed to value them. His work is always quite easy and graceful in manner, never strained, never betraying an effort, and it hardly ever fails to charm by a most delicate feeling for the poetry of natural landscape. The lightness, or the apparent lightness, of his hand is such that the wonder is how the point can remove the ground sufficiently to ensure regularity of biting ; were he sketching with a silver point on unglazed porcelain the touch could hardly be more aerial. Although in etching a real equality of pressure is an unfortunate necessity, the proof ought to produce the illusion that the etcher has played piano or forte just as he pleased, and in the best of Appian's etchings this illusion is complete. Another good quality in his work is that each plate, however large or however small it may be, is conceived from the first as a whole, and the first conception is never departed from for the disproportionate realisation of some obtrusive detail. It would be easy to criticise little bits of his work by taking them separately, easy to say that he does not draw a leaf or a blade of grass, a kind of criticism the more specious that it affects to proceed from a superior accuracy of knowledge ; but the answer is that Appian sees always in masses, and gives quite as much detail as is consistent with the preserva-


APPIAN. 203


tion of the mass. His drawing of branches and sprays, for example, whenever they happen to come clearly against what is behind them, is always perfectly delightful, and quite as much detailed as it need be, with light and shade hinted at or expressed almost to the very extremity of a twig. So truly does he interpret the character of trees, especially of denuded trees in late autumn, with a few leaves lingering here and there, that in nature they remind me more frequently of Appian than of any other landscape-painter. Anybody whose eye is accurate may in course of time draw branches and sprays with a photographic truth of detail, accompanied by that tightness and hardness of execution which are so common in the works of the younger English painters ; and it is not very difficult, on the other hand, to get masses tolerably right in tone when drawing is altogether abandoned  ; but rare indeed is the combination of delicate drawing with due attention to the large pictorial relations ; rare indeed is the good taste which can suggest a beautiful detail exactly where it is needed, without ever making it too obtrusive or too conspicuous. It would be an injustice to limit this praise to Appian's execution of trees, though it is here that the elegance of his taste is most evident He is fond of rocks and stones, and makes them substantial enough (in his pictures the rock-texture is always as good as it can be), but nobody can make a rock elegant. The finest of all Appian's qualities, however, is a certain poetry of sentiment which pervades his subjects, especially his river-subjects under even- ing light. In these he becomes truly the artist-poet, and, as there is a perfect harmony between the dreamy sentiment and the effortless execution, the effect of the work is marred by no harsh accent.

I. A large plate, the engraved surface of which measures 14^ inches by 8^, the copper being very much larger. The subject is a rocky river-bed in summer when the stream has ceased to flow. A man on the right is drawing a net from


204 APPIAN.


a deep pool. In the right centre of the composition is a bridge with two arches, and to the left there are gfreat over- hanging masses of rock which cast broad shadows.

This is a very fine study of rocks and little else. The figure and net are beautifully introduced, and both water and sky are well treated, but not important, except as quiet spaces with a little variety in them. The beetling masses of rock, with their vast shadows, are everything in the picture, and are studied with much thoroughness, fractures and alL Rocks are not generally a very grateful subject of study. They stand still to be drawn, which is something, and they afford fine shadows, but it is always extremely ' difficult to make them interesting. The interest of this rocky river-bank lies in the fact that the huge stony masses overhang and seem to threaten.

2. A plate about the same size as the preceding. It is a study of a more open stream with small rocks. The rising bank to the left is covered with copsewood, out of which rise two young trees (oaks apparently, at least the nearer one) almost entirely denuded of their leaves. In the distance is a rising land, with two cottages to the right There are clouds in the sky. In the foreground are ducks and a drake flapping his wings.

This is one of the most masterly of Appian's etchings in execution, and so harmonious in tone that I conclude it must have been done from one of the artist's pictures. The sky and distance are delightful in quality, the sky apparently sketched in dry point, and the bur removed. The distance, which is bitten, has almost the softness of oil. The foreground of course is much more strongly accented, with black shades here and there. The reader may observe with advantage the art with which the water is shaded, its lightest space being small and very central, and the skilful management of what is intended to be distinct and what is intended to be confused. The drake, for instance, and the tree to the left


APPIAN. 205


are distinct things amidst a good deal of delightful mystery and confusion, and both are very beautifully drawn.

3. Souvenir, — Easily recognised by a windmill in the middle. To the right of this is a sailing boat, to the left another windmill. On a rocky bank to the right is a build- ing with a low tower, like a remnant of feudal times. All this material is reflected in calm water.

Nothing is more difficult than the treatment of the sky in etching, and the best way generally is to leave the open sky quite blank, preserving thus its serenity at the expense of its gradation. If any shading is attempted it must not be mechanical, which would be fatal to the harmony of the plate. In the present instance the sky is shaded in fine taste with strokes, generally horizontal in tendency, but never stiffly horizontal. As the sky is lightly bitten the effect is good.

^. Au Valromey (A in). — A little stream, with rocks and trees, and the slope of a rocky hill.

Some of the shadows here are overbitten, especially one to the left, which is far too black. The quality of the foliage, wayward sprays and branches, rocky ground and sky, is delightful.

5. A very small plate, the engraved portion measuring 4^ inches by 2^ inches. The subject is a country path or wild road, with a single figure coming towards the spectator. Behind the figure is a group of poplars and other trees, lower and more massive. To the right is a rising ground  ; to the left a pond, with land rising behind it. The sky is lightly shaded, and a few clouds are sketched near the horizon. The signature is in the upper left-hand corner, with the date 1865.

This little etching is one of the best examples of Appian's charming way of treating what is generally thought common- place and uninteresting scenery. Out of the undulations of a country which is only just not perfectly level, with a few


2o6 APPIAN.


poplars and a pond, he makes a little gem of landscape, to be treasured and remembered.

7. Une Mare. Environs de Rossillon, — One end of a solitary pool of water in rough ground. A stork is standing by the pool, and there are wild stems and branches in the upper part of the composition, which is an upright one. In the left-hand upper corner is the signature of the artist, with the date 1867.

This has always seemed to me the most exquisite piece of free branch and stem drawing in the whole range of French etching. It is this, and much more than this ; for not only are the trees full of an inexpressible waywardness and grace, but the whole work — the bit of rocky bank, the little inlet of calm water, the sweet distance, and the delicate sky ; all this material forms a perfect harmony, presented to us with the true passion of a tender and sensitive artist No one but an artist can know how much this little place must have been loved before it could be etched so.

8. Marais de la Burbanche {A in), — In the middle of the composition is a rock or big boulder-stone, with smaller stones to the right, and similar ones in the distance. Near the central one is some light foliage. To the left the ground rises suddenly in a steep bank. There is water in the fore- ground resembling a calm pool in a stream, and by the water are three storks. The sky is lightly clouded, and in the left-hand upper corner is the date 1868 after the artist's signature. The general effect is that of a calm evening.

One of the loveliest and most perfect bits of quiet land- scape of a melancholy kind I ever met with. Nothing can be more harmonious than this etching, it affects the mind like music.

9. Un Soir Bord du Rhone a Rix {A in), — One bank of the Rhone only is seen, with hills beyond, which are reflected in the calm water. A boat is just coming to land with


figures and small animals (sheep, I think). The sky is charged with rain-clouds. Dated 1869.

Fine in feeling and quite masterly in execution. One of those scenes which ought to make anybody a poet, at least until the last light has died out of the west, and the shinii^ river is finally darkened for the night I like the sobriety which can abstain from exaggeration of the bills — they have truly the faill-poetiy and not the mountain-poetry, which is very different

I o. Un Soir dA utomne Environs de Rossillon. — A reach of a narrow calm river with boats close to the land, and a Agure in one of them ; the ground is nearly flat, but rises gently to the lef^ where there are trees. The distance is dark and vciy mysterious. The sky is clouded, and the plate is dated 1874.

The kind of poetry with which this etching is chained as fully as Uack and white art ever can be is quite peculiar to our century. Painters have felt the charm of twilight from the early days of th«r art in Italy, but it was another charm than this. It was the richness and peace of twilight which they loved, the deep golden glory of it, if that can be called glory which has no radiant splendour, but only a wondrous glow, suffusing everything with that warmth of colour which fills the air on a southern summer eve. Here we have the poetry of another twilight, — of grey clouds, and purple distances, and red leaves darkening in the bron'U of the nearer woods, the sad twilight after rain in autumn, when all the earth is wet and chilled, and the pools in the marshes fili Here am I writing of colour as if the print before me were not in mere black printing-ink, which I suppose it must be chemically, but it brings the colouring of such a scene as vividly before the " inward eye " as a picture to the actual


^^^ sense.


CHAPTER X.

CHIFFLART.

T N the first edition of this book Chifflart was not studied in a separate chapter^ but had only a paragraph amongst minor etchers. A more extended notice appears to be due to him, because his plates are, at the same time, very original in conception, and very pure examples of a particular kind of technical work in etching. He is far indeed from being faultless, and is not at all what a severe and prudent critic would recommend as a " safe man," but with all his errors he has really something to express, and expresses it with the utmost directness. Suppose a man of active and wild imagi- nation, who sits down with a large copper before him, waits a little till a scene or an action presents itself to the inward eye, and then sketches it as quickly as possible on the copper itself without any intermediate memoranda, before the imaginative conception has lost anything of its vividness. This is Chifflart's manner of working, at least in the plates I intend to speak of here  ; and now let me say something that needs to be said about the way in which criticism ought to deal with work that is so produced. It would be most unjust to require from it the qualities which belong to thoughtful and painstaking labour, which gives days or weeks to the elimination of its own errors. The model is not called in that the artist may correct the mistakes of his memory and imagination by a reference to nature, nor does he finish his shading any more perfectly than his design, for if he did there would be one of those executive contradictions which


CHIFFLART. 209


destroy the harmony of art. If one of these hurried impro- visations, in which the forms are all confessedly imperfect, were to be shaded as Le Rat would shade a finished head after Bellini, the result would be unendurable. Chifflart is far too completely the artist to tolerate the slightest approach to false finish * of any kind ; therefore, when he improvises, he shades just as he draws, hewing out the forms by means of shadow, but no more. The drawing is everywhere inaccurate, yet not more inaccurate than the drawing in the hasty sketches of the great masters. That of Rembrandt is often equally imperfect, that of Michael Angelo occasionally. Michael Angelo's rough sketch of the " Fall of Phaeton " is even more shapeless, especially in the animals (which have puddings for bodies, with impossibly small heads and legs all out of pro- portion), than the worst of Chifflart's sketches.

I. Surprise, — Six horsemen surprised by lionesses. The men are naked, but armed with spear and bow. One horse and man are down, under the feet of the others. A lioness has seized the man on the nearest horse, whose companion is attempting his deliverance. His horse, in turn, is attacked by another lioness, which two riders are going to spear. An archer on horseback is aiming at a lioness bounding through the air.

Grandly composed and full of movement The energy of the action will seem over-strained to a cool spectator who does not realise the scene ; and everything is indeed over- accentuated in the drawing, but it is grand genuine work, full

  • What I mean by false finish is a superficial finish applied to anything which

has not yet been prepared to receive it. It would be false finish to polish a statue before it had been hewn into the proper shape. It is false finish in painting to attend to surface before you have got things into their places. It is false finish in education to advance to subtle and delicate distinctions before broader and simpler ones have been fully apprehended. In the work of mechanics the file precedes emery paper, and a coarse file precedes a fine one. The only finish which is worth anything is that which comes when everything has been prepared for it ; then it is well worth having, if rightly applied, both in etching and other arts.

P


210 CHIFFLART.


of right abstraction, and so honest that the most glaring mistakes have been corrected without effacing, the consequence being that a man's wrist is in two positions at once, and one lioness has four ears. Men and animals are full of expression. The nearest horse is mad with fear, the men are full of valour, the wild beasts eager, agile, ferocious.

2. Un Jour de Reco^npcnse, — A classical distribution of rewards, seen from a grotesque point of view. A struggling crowd is fighting its way up to the temple of Fame, where a radiant priestess is holding out laurel crowns, whilst trumpeters blow their trumpets. Raised high above the contending crowd, laurelled, white-robed, and holding palms in their hands, sit the few who have been successful. The unsuccess- ful are either elbowing and crushing each other, or else abandoning the contest with vacant or dejected faces.

This is so sketchy that you can hardly make the figures out, but it is full of grim humour. The faces of the stupid bloated man, and the thin, peevish, disappointed man, who have abandoned the contest, arc both capital.

3. Tlie Sarcophagus, — A classic sarcophagus in a grove, with a meagre, sad-faced man seated and leaning upon it ; another behind showing his naked shoulders ; and a third on the sarcophagus itself ; this last perhaps supposed to be carved in marble.

The seated figure is very finely conceived, and the whole composition is powerful. The shoulder-blade of the man behind is unpleasantly salient, but the thinness of the seated figure is not without grandeur. The plate is simply and powerfully bitten.

4. Pluttis, — A hideous figure is scattering coins from a horn of plenty. I think this is not Plutus, but only his minister ; the god must be the personage lightly outlined in the upper sky, who holds a scourge in his right hand with extended arm. Men are praying and fighting for the coins  ; one is stabbing another; strong men are wrestling on the


CHIFFLART, 211


ground where the gold is scattered ; women are exposing their bodies. A mask, which has fallen off, is lying on the ground. This plate certainly exhibits some of the worst effects of the struggle for wealth, but it is incomplete, morally, by its omission of the good effects. The desire for gold does not only produce murder and fornication, but also many an honourable industry and many a marvellous art

5. Perseus and Androtneda, — Perseus is just driving his lance into the monster, and Andromeda, naked, with flowing hair, is still fastened to the rock by her wrists. The action of Perseus is fine but not new. The beast is suitably heavy and monstrous, something between a bear and a hippopotamus. The bending of the lance is a good idea. Andromeda is heavy and ungraceful, the left leg especially shapeless from the knee to the foot Surely Perseus would never have asked Cepheus to let him marry such an Andromeda as that

6. PersetiSy having slain Medtisa, holds out her severed head, — ^The right foot is on the gorgon's body, the left on a plateau of rock. Perseus is sheathing his sword with his left hand.

This is the best and most thoroughly studied figure amongst the improvisations, but it is ^pose which the etcher may have studied in nature previously, and remembered. It is a good instance of a simple way of treating the naked figure when truth of texture is not aimed at The texture here is rather that of bronze than of flesh. It is possible that some readers may conclude from this and other plates that etching cannot render flesh texture, but this would be an error. In hasty sketching it is very difficult to convey the idea of texture if you shade enough to indicate the modelling, because any coarse or hard shading ruins it at once. The best way is to leave white paper to do duty for flesh as much as possible when you have not time to shade delicately.


CHAPTER XI.

LALAUZEy VEYRASSAT, MARTIAL.

lyr ADOLPHE LALAUZE is one of the most skilful original etchers in the modem French school, but he has not yet produced very much. The best of his works are a little series of ten plates entitled Le Petit Monde^ representing the occupations and amusements of children. We learn from a preface by M. Montrosier that the artist's own children were the models from which he drew, so that he worked with a double affection, the artistic and the paternal in one. The result is very charming, the little incidents are really such as occur in child-life, and they are presented with the most accomplished skill. There are two little girls tind a baby, besides a doll and a dog. The incidents all take place at home, in a pretty French appartcinent with polished inlaid floors and tasteful furniture, which is all lovingly studied as so much still-life, though in due subordination to the figures. Most of the little groups are prettily composed, and one or two quite beautifully. Amongst the incidents are such subjects as the " Drawing Lesson," the " Music Lesson " (in which we see nobody but the two little girls, studying as earnestly as possible), " Baby's Soup " (an administration of soup to the young gentleman), " Baby is very good " (in which baby is in his cot, and one of his sisters amuses him with a bunch of currants, whilst the other plays on the mirlitoti). All these plates are treated with the most perfect technical mastery, combining great ease of manner with a brilliant truth of both texture and tone. The last-named plate especially is a fine


LALAUZE, VEYRASSATy MARTIAL, 213

one, beautifully composed, and full of surpassingly good qualities in execution. It would be a great mistake to suppose that because the subjects of this little collection are taken from the nursery, whilst the plates themselves are popular with children, they are unworthy of serious criticism. On the contrary, the artist has done his best with them, and made them works of art in the higher sense.

Veyrassat's labours as an etcher may be divided into two parts — his copies from pictures, and his original designs on copper. The latter alone concern us in this place. He has etched a few rather large plates, such as " Le Bac " (the ferry- boat), which are skilful and manly in workmanship ; but by far the most delightful of all Veyrassaf s etchings are the little ones. There are ten or a dozen of them which I would will- ingly have described in detail, were it not that they are all executed upon precisely the same principles, and are really the same etching in different forms  ; I mean that the artistic problem to be resolved is the same in the different little plates. It will be enough, therefore, to explain what the problem is, and to show how the artist has overcome the difficulty of it in any one of these instances.

A great secret of success in etching is to keep the arrange- ments for chiaroscuro simple, and to have a few kinds of texture as different as possible from each other, in order to obtain striking contrasts. Veyrassafs scale, in his small etch- ings, consists mainly of four notes, an intense black, for which a black animal is introduced as a pretext, two middle tints for earth, hay-stacks, loaded carts, lighter animals, and part of the sky, and lastly a very pale tint for the sky alone. At the top of the scale the blank paper takes its place as the highest treble. Then, in textures, wc have about four textures kept very distinct, and all equally well done. Black velvet in the black animal, a coarse liny texture for foreground earth and vegetation, a much softer and closer texture for such things as hay-carts at a little distance, and lastly a very fine delicate


2 T4 LALA UZE, VE YRASSA T, MARTIAL.

texture for skies. Now the reason why these etchings are so charming as technical music is because the artist has thoroughly- mastered these few elements of effect, so as to use them in all their strength of contrast, and yet at the same time in perfect harmony, and as he works with few and widely-separated means of expression, they do not get confounded together by miscalculations in the biting. It is impossible to be more judicious  ; the only wonder is that such a skilful artist should be so little adventurous, and rest contented with the repetition of one success. It remains to be observed that, with reference to natural truth and idyllic charm, few artists of the modem rustic school have so happily expressed themselves. All Veyrassat's groups of animals and peasants in the field are full of nature, and of art also, the art being successfully con- cealed, except in such very obvious points as the perpetual contrast of a white horse with a dark one.

Martial is an etcher of extraordinary industry. His collec- tion of etchings on old Paris contains no less than three hundred plates, and besides this great work, he has published several other collections, such as the Salons of 1865, 1866, and 1868, Paris in 1867, Paris during the Siege, Paris Burnt, Paris under the Commune, the Women of Paris during the War, the Sailors at the defence of Paris, Les Pnissiens chez nous, eta The first etching I remember seeing by Martial was the " Porte de la Sacristie dti Coll(^ge d Bcauvais" and that etching was so very conscientious, besides being such sound work, that I after- wards studied everything by the same artist whicli happened to come in my way. There is some very rich and perfect work in the Tourelle de VHdtel Schomberg. In the Rue du Pantour St. Gervais the curious slope and curvature of the old Parisian house-fronts are quite rightly felt and rendered ; and in the Rtu dcs Prkheurs a gothic carved tree at the corner of the house, bearing ecclesiastics for fruit, is imitated with much delicacy. As might be expected from the usual effects of practice, M. MartiaFs labours have developed great manual


LALAUZE, VEYRASSAT, MARTIAL. 215


skill. He has mastered, and mastered long ago, the technical difficulties of etching, so as to express himself fully in the art without being hampered, as less accomplished men are hampered, by the torturing sense that they are saying less than they mean, or something else than the thing they mean. The fine arts are like spoken languages in that. Until you have become absolute master of a language, you cannot speak it at all without either saying less than you intend or something else than that which you desire to say ; but a master expresses his thought with simple precision. The technical skill of Martial is extraordinary, and a few years ago, before skill in etching became more general in France, he had scarcely an equal in this kind of ability. For example. Martial would go to a gallery of pictures and make sketches there in his note- book, and afterwards go home and take several large plates of copper, and write on the copper an account of the pictures, and illustrate it as he went on by many sketches of them etched in the text, feeling quite sure that every one of the sketches would be successful. What would happen to most men if they attempted such a feat would be this  : — One of the sketches on each copper would perhaps be successful, and the rest comparatively failures  : so that to preserve the successful bit it would be necessary to cut all the rest of the copper away. Martial's Lettre sur TEauforte was a feat of that kind. On four large plates he gave a written account of the old process, quite complete as to that process, and illustrated it as he went on, throwing a sketch in here and there, exactly where it was wanted, and all the sketches came quite right. Many another feat of cleverness has he accomplished. In one of his plates we have a great Parisian shop-front, with everything seen through the windows exactly as things are seen through plate- glass  ; and the obscure interior of the shop seen through the open door: and then the positive clearness of the outside of the house, with its windows, and gas-lamp, and the architectural decorations about the arched entrance at the corner, and the


2i6 LALAUZE, VEYRASSAT, MARTIAL.


local colour of the paint, altogether as ungrateful a subject as an artist mi^ht be condemned to execute — vet rendered with a simple, straightforward mastery over a hundred difncultie& Another very* remarkable etching of the same class though on a smaller scale^. represented some houses at the angle of the Boule\'ard des Capucines and the Rue de la Paix, now demol- ished 'including Tahan s shop\ In this plate, all the relations of light, and most of the local colour too, were given with re- markable precision, whilst the dra\('ing was neat and firm, as drau-ing must be to deal successfully with modem street archi- tecture. The recollection of many other plates by Martial enables me to give an estimate of him as an artist, which, as his manner is entirely formed, will probably continue to be accu- rate. His two best qualities are a brilliantly clear conception of facts and perfect manual skill He has no creative imagination, nor any tenderness ; and therefore his work, though always admirable, can never be charming ; never have any hold upon the heart. But notwithstanding this restriction, it is eminently valuable work in its own way, and future students of the histor>- of Paris will be, or ought to be, verj- grateful for it This is historical art in the truest and best sense, genuine history- of what the artist has witnessed, first of that old Paris which Napoleon HI. demolished, and then of those other and more fearful demolishin:;S executed bv shell and flame. Centuries hence such records will still be interesting, indeed the longer they are preser\-ed the more interesting will they assuredly become.

L AL AUZE. La Leqon de Dcssin. — Two little girls are seated before tivo chairs, and very busily engaged in drauing. This etching deser\-es especial attention for its extreme refinement in interpreting the quality of things. It quite belongs to the highest class of object-study, that in which imitation is not slavish but artistic and intellectual The treatment of all textures is admirable here, but I think the golden glittering


LALAUZE, VEYRASSAT, MARTIAL. 217

mystery of the picture-frames is the most unusual in the degree of its refinement Lalauze truly sees as an artist, not fixing his attention upon one element of appearances to the detriment of the rest, but seeing the whole together, indicating just what is really visible at the distance, and not the smallest detail more. A gilt picture-frame is an excellent test of this peculiar capacity for seeing, since we know far more of the constn^ction of a frame than we ever see at once, and the temptation to draw from knowledge rather than sight is very strong, on account of its far greater facility. The great technical merit in M. Lalauze's work is its surpassing truth of texture, and this is not obtained at any very great cost of labour, but simply by thoroughly understanding the nature of the appearance to be interpreted. In this plate we have the dress and hair of the little girls, the oak parquet and chairs, and the wall with the picture-frames, all perfect in their way. I hope, however, that the reader will not conclude, from the space just given to praise good texture here, that I attach more importance to it than it deserves. It gives a great charm to etching, and to painting also, a charm which has never been more appreciated than in our own day, when it is even one of the first essentials to any considerable popularity ; but there has been great etching, and great painting too, without any texture whatever. A higher merit in M. Lalauze is to under- stand the nature of children so perfectly as he does, and to be able to draw them without falling short of expression on the one hand, and without caricaturing it on the other.

Veyrassat. Making a corn-stack, — A tiny plate measur- 3^ in. by 2 in. A cart with three horses is near a stack and unloading. Three men are on the stack and one on the cart There are two white (or light grey) horses, and one dark horse.

This may be taken as one of the forms of the Veyrassat etching. The dark horse supplies the low note, the pale cloudy sky behind the figures gives the treble, and the inter-


ai8 LALAUZE, VEYRASSAT, MARTIAL.

mediate tones are supplied by the landscape, stack, cart, and upper sky. Although the plate is so small, the texture of the foreground is very coarse and open, which affords a stroi^ contrast with the textures of the stack and animals, and these, again, very different from each other, are both very different from the sky. It is in fact a quartett of textures playing to- gether harmoniously, and the difficulty is not so much to imagine these various modes of execution as to mak^ them yield their strong contrast without a discord.

Martial. Tht&tre du Vaudefilk.—K lai^e plate repre- senting one of the prettiest street comers in new Paris. Pub- lished in 1868.

This is a very good example of the strong, clear realism with which Martial interprets a subject All is drawn with the most perfect firmness, and nothing shirked. The straight lines are ruled as in mechanical draughtsmanship, but no merely mechanical draughtsman could have put in the sculpture as it is given here, nor the trees and living figures. On the other hand, it would be difficult to find another artist who would patiently copy all the details which Martial has copied, such for example, as the lettering of the signs. To the right we have Bigtwn, Glacier, Restaurant de Foy  ; to the left Salotts du Cafe Americain; and between these a great number of other inscriptions, all as legible as they would be in a photograph. So the panels in front of the Restaurant de Foy are copied with perfect accuracy. But although details are so strictly attended to, the plate produces a strong effect at a little distance also. No etching conveys more perfectly the idea that you are in modem Paris.

\' V'ly c-idd go through such a piece of work as this w I ' roughly matter- of- fact in his ways of seeing

imi icviir' - ■
. prose of the most resolute kind, without a

I that surprises me is that photography (cnted this kind of work by doing it still


LALAUZE, VEYRASSAT, MARTIAL. 219

better. All that Martial attempts here the photograph can do more thoroughly and completely still. And yet it seems as if so far from discouraging this etcher by anticipating his peculiar work, photography had positively been accepted by him as a teacher. There are evident signs of a photographic influence here, in the black shadows under the balconies, for instance, the black spaces in windows, etc, and the black tree near the theatre, all in strictly photographic chiaroscuro. The reader will understand, however, that I have not selected this plate as showing the limits of M. Martial's abilities, but his exceptionally matter-of-fact temper. There are a hundred plates of his which show more delicacy, and many which give proof of a more desirable kind of power.


CHAPTER XII.

VARIOUS FRENCH ETCHERS.

QUEYROY, COROT, BRACQUEMOND, GAUCHEREL, FEYEN- PERRIN, LEGROS, BR U NET-DEB AINES, DE ROCHEBRUNE, CHAUVEL, CHAIGNEAU, ABRAHAM, VILLE\1EILLE, BAL- FOURIER, SOUMY, DE LONGUEVILLE, BALLIN, LANXON, DETAILLE, DE NEUVILLE.

"jLTAVING studied in some detail a few of the more eminent French etchers, I now find myself restricted, by the limits of this volume, to a simple mention of the others, and of some of their principal works. It may easily happen that artists thus hastily alluded to may in future years distinguish themselves more than they have hitherto had time or opportunity for doing, and so deser\'e separate chapters in some future treatise on the art, written by another critic who will have the advantage of seeing our age from a greater distance. It is always difficult to be strictly just, and in this case the difficulty is greatly complicated by the fact that etchers have had to be selected quite as much because their plates were striking examples of very different styles of work as for qualities which may be considered meritorious. The activity and energy of the French school are so great that every year adds new names to the list, and ever>' year some etcher already known to the public finds his relative position altered, either by his own labour or the labours of his contemporaries. It is therefore utterly impossible to give an account which shall remain permanently true of a school


VAJRIO US FRENCH ETCHERS. 2 2 1

which, being full of life, has life's incessant transformations. When etching was a dead art it was possible to sit down and give a systematic and proportionate account of its past his- tory, but now that it is alive again, and more vigorously alive than ever it was before, the history which is complete when written will be behind the age a year after publication. It is as unsatisfactory in this respect as a " Diciionnaire des Coii- temporaifisr

The transition from amateur to artist is always a very difficult one to accomplish, even when there are perfect leisure and liberty for study, accompanied by an industry not to be discouraged. About fifteen years ago M. QuEYROY was an amateur, but by hard work and perseverance, accompanied by the kind of talent which consists rather in seeing things clearly as they are than in the gift of invention, he has become an artist of considerable skill. The etching of his which, on the whole, is the finest, is a large plate of Loches, This plate is good, especially for its breadth of light-and-shade, and its noble simplicity of treatment The near dark tower to the left is as grand as it can be, and the water is very good and true, but there is a trace of old amateur practice in the fine old gateway which is glaringly out of drawing on account of its bad perspective* M. Queyroy does not seem to have studied perspective scientifically, which, for the representation of architecture, is an omission much to be regretted. Another thing which I observe in this generally noble plate of Loclus is that the etcher has been too ready to substitute straight lines for what in the reality would be varied or interrupted lines. For example, the roof of the old gateway and that of the round tower nearer to the foreground are both outlined with straight lines; in the real thing they would certainly have been broken by the tiles, and very probably also in-

  • The side of the gateway which is in shade is nearly right. That which is

lighted is altogether wrong, because the lines, if prolonged, would never reach what ought to be the vanishing point


933 VARIOUS FRENCH ETCHERS.

fleeted by the yielding of the woodwork under them. Mr. Ernest George has dra\vn the same gate, and gives it a very picturesque outline, perhaps exa^erated  ; but if so, exagge- rated in the artistic direction as this in the mechanical The tendency to ruled lines in M. Queyro/s manner is also very marked in his vast plate of the magnificent House of facqius Caur at Bourges, which is quite an architect's rendering of a building — clear and good of its kind, yet not like the etching of painters. Notwithstanding these criticisms, however, which I print merely because they may be of some use in directing the attention of other etchers to possible causes of imperfec- tion which may be very easily avoided, I am far indeed from undervaluing M. Queyroy's work. His etchings, already very numerous, will possess a lasting interest as records of old France He is always animated by an honest love of his subject ; he has also quite sufficiently overcome the diffi- culties of art to express himself with perfect clearness. The Rue dcs Artnes at Bourges is one of M. Queyroy's most per- fect plates. The Rue dcs Artnes is an old street vrith tourelles, and both mediaeval and modern houses, which M. Queyroy has etched with equal care — rather too equal care, perhaps. He introduces figures well, not hesitating to draw them on rather a large scale in his more important plates, and grouping them very naturally.

I have never been a believer in the theory (rather com- monly received amongst painters) that anybody who can paint can also etch if he will only condescend to do so. Etching is a most peculiar art in many respects, and even the simplest forms of it arc not so simple as they look, for it is as difficult to make a simple thing loole jfelJJHpPt 30^ effective as it is to get at effect by grca^^A^^|HB. a great help, no doubt, for an etcher ta^j^^^^^^^^^^^Dtefore he sets to work on the coppcr.jfa|^^^r ^^^Plhderstands drawing and

light-n^l^^^^V ^^^^ntion of all graphic art ;

eat painters sometimes


VARIOUS FRENCH ETCHERS, 223


etch a little too condescendingly, and take up the needle less in the spirit of a student who has to learn a new and difficult art, than in the spirit of a strong man, accustomed to heavy weights, who by chance has to carry a light one. The most extreme instance of this is the landscape-painter COROT. As he is a very celebrated artist, somebody persuaded him to etch, and the consequence was that he sketched on the copper as if he had been making a pochade with the brush. Now, in oil-painting, this kind of sketching is of use, because it gives tone and colour, though at the sacrifice of form, but in etching such work could never have much value unless all the tones were of the most wonderfully delicate truth, which they are not likely ever to be. Corot is not ignorant of form, but he aban- doned the study of it many years ago in order to direct his attention exclusively to a certain kind of effect In the three etchings of his which are before me as I write, " Souvenir (Tltaliel' Pay sage (Tltaliel' and Environs de Rome (all published in the early days of the Societe des Aquafortistes), the want of some kind of form is very painfully apparent It is hard to see how etching can abandon drawing altogether, especially when such definite forms as tree trunks are brought quite into the foreground. Then Corot has no sense whatever of the use of line (having thought and worked so much with the brush), and the consequence is that he runs all his lines together in a wild scribble for shading, the only apparent object being to cover the copper as fast as possible with something, however artless. It is scribble, scribble every- where, without a plant in the foreground or a leaf upon a branch, the ensemble presenting at a little distance very much the appearance of the preparatory rubbing-in with which an artist prepares his paper for a charcoal drawing, the only difference being that whereas the quality of rubbed charcoal is exquisite, that of etched shading like this is decidedly unpleasant. And yet, in spite of these defects, the few etch- ings of Corot have one merit and charm — they do certainly


224 VARIOUS FRENCH ETCHERS,

recall to mind, by association of ideas, his charming work in oil, so full of the sweetest poetical sentiment All sins are forgiven to the true poets. Corot may not be a great poet, as Turner was, but he is a true one. He feels the mystery of nature ; he feels the delightfulness of cool, grey mornings and dewy evenings  ; he feels the palpitating life of gleaming river-shores and the trembling of the light branches wherein the fitful breezes play. He has an intense sense of the glim- mering indecision and mystery of natural appearances, and he does not, as it seems to us, draw and paint with precision simply because his attention does not fix itself on that which is precise.*

It would be unjust to omit an etcher of such masculine power as Bracquemond, but his works are not always executed upon right principles, though his error has been quite of an opposite character to the formlessness of Corot The veteran landscape-painter thinks only of relation, and not about individual form, but (in the plates at least which I now refer to) M, Bracquemond gives individual form with the utmost force and truth, without the slightest thought of rela- tion. He contributed some plates to the Society which were perfect examples of this system of work, and of the perfection and imperfection that it leads to. One of them, Le Haut dun Battant de Porte, represents part of a door in a farmyard, with four victims nailed to it, a crow, two hawks, and a bat Each

  • It is a remarkable proof of the value of a direct expression, however defective

in its manner, that Corot*s etchings, with all their faults, should convey a better notion of the peculiarities of his genius than the far cleverer plates which Bracque- mond executed after Corot's pictures. \Mien Bracquemond translates Corot, all the pensive tenderness and lightness of touch are lost. Corot is a sensitive dreamer, dwelling in a world of his own. Bracquemond has a strong, clever, tough nature, admirably fitted for representing the field sports of strong men — as, for instance, in his capital sporting print, "Unearthing a Badger" — the physical life of animals, and such aspects of the external world as are to be apprehended by men in general who lead active lives and are a good deal out of doors. It is quite impossible that such a nature should have enough in common with that of Corot to be able to render a single thought of his.


VARIOUS FRENCH ETCHERS. 225

of these is drawn with the utmost strength of imitation, but each of them is independent of the rest, and might be detached as a separate study. One feels this even more strongly in Vanneauxet Sarcelles (lapwings and teal) ; each bird is studied separately, the whole force of the artist's attention being con- centrated upon it exclusively, without embracing the compo- sition as a whole. A large flower comes against the nearest lapwing ; every petal of it is strongly outlined, and then the surface is flatly shaded without any modulation from incidence of light The principle of this work is not at all a bad principle for some kinds of decoration  ; it is quite right on. a dinner-service or a screen, and we are very familiar with it in Japanese art ; but it is wrong in pictorial art, and consequently in artistic etching, which ought to be synthetic above all things. At a later date M. Bracquemond began to study more synthetically, and one result of this change of purpose was " The Hare," which appeared in the Portfolio for May 1872. In this plate the artist still gave evidence of his know- ledge of animal life, for the attitude and expression of the hare were as good as those of the birds in earlier works ; but he now seriously attempted a general effect, and to some extent succeeded in an experiment with line and stipple, whilst the foreground plants, instead of being heavily outlined as before, were now treated as if they had been lightly sketched with a brush. The revolution in manner was therefore com- plete, since in the purpose of the artist synthesis had been substituted for analysis ; and if M. Bracquemond had pursued etching regularly afterwards there can be little doubt that he would have taken a decided rank amongst the best etchers of the age. Unfortunately, however, for this particular branch of art, he accepted an engagement at Sevres which has since occupied all his time.

M. L£on Gaucherel is a well-known engraver who has brought to etching the knowledge of form acquired in another art He is also a very skilful painter in water-colour. His

Q


226 VARIOUS FRENCH ETCHERS.

labours have been chiefly architectural, archaeological, and decorative. All M. Gaucherd's etchings are distinguished by great clearness and knowledge, but they are generally rather hard and severe in manner, being conceived more from an architect's or an engraver's point of view than from a painter's. One of his plates, representing a narrow canal in Venice, between a garden and a lofty house, with a narrow footbridge at a considerable height above the water, appeared in the Portfolio for December 1873, and may be considered in all respects a representative example, having all the clearness of his work with its good drawing and perspective, and also the peculiar hardness just alluded to, which extends even to the foliage. M. Gaucherel has occasionally etched from pictures, and I shall have to recur to this part of his labours in another chapter. He was also one of the artists who etched Bida's designs for Hachette's magnificent edition of the Gospels ; and I may add (though this has nothing to do with etching) that he engraved on steel nearly three hundred ornaments for that wonderful book, and engraved them in a manner so faultless that it excelled all previous work in the same kind.

M. Feyen-Perrin has often etched from his own pictures, which for some time past have represented rather melancholy subjects, found on the coast of Brittany, amongst the fishing population. He has much true natural sympathy for the pathos of a hard life, especially as it touches women ; so, whilst too many of his brethren were painting the dani-monde of Paris, Feyen-Perrin went to study a nobler though less elegant kind of life on the sea-shore. He is not, however, a marine painter in the ordinary sense of the word, but one of the Great French rustic school akin to Millet and others, only studying the peasantry on the coast, with the influence of the sea upon their lives. I think the finest of Feyen-Perrin's etchings is the one called Vanneuses de Cancak. Two women are winnowing on the shore of a broad estuary. I have rarely seen a plate which with such simple means of execution con-


VAUIO US FRENCH ETCHERS. 2 2 7

veyed ideas of texture and tone as well as form, and I shall have more to say of this plate in relation to the art of etching from pictures. The same qualities, though ' in a less striking degree, are visible in "A Sailor's Infancy," which was published in the Portfolio (May 1873). This plate is, however, a better instance than the " Vanneuses " of the sort of pathos which distinguishes the artist's work. A mother is seated on one of the great blocks of a pier with her infant in her arms, and the sea and sky for a background. She is awaiting the arrival of a fishing-boat, visible in the distance ; meanwhile she looks rather sadly on the baby in her arms, as if thinking already of the time when he also must leave her in the fishing-boats. In these plates, although they are done from pictures, we have the perfect originality of the artist, since the pictures are his own, and the needle does no more than interpret the execu- tion which best expresses his own thoughts. When an etcher works from pictures done by another hand the case is entirely altered.

M. Legros, who is now very well known in England as a painter, has etched what are specially and justly called " painters* etchings ; " that is to say, the kind of work which a painter may do by natural genius and by the help of the artistic experience gained in working with the brush. I have already mentioned Corot as another instance of this  ; but there is a difference between the two artists which is much in favour of Legros, who, being a figure-painter, must be depend- ent upon form, and can never entirely neglect it as Corot does in his landscapes. M. Legros uses the etching-needle without at all troubling himself about what may constitute the good and judicious management of it or the contrary, hence his etchings have an inexperienced and amateurish look in direct contrast with the strong mental gifts which express themselves in this simple way, and give a sterling value to the work in spite of all executive deficiencies. The texture of his shading, at least in some of his earlier plates, is


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faulty in a peculiar way which I will try to describe. The lines run together, and produce little black patches by chance, where they were not, could not be, definitely intended by the artist There appears to be no knowledge of the resources of the art, except a difference in depths of biting ; the same thin needle is used everywhere with little variety of texture. The best piece of execution that M. Legros has hitherto produced is Le Banliomme Misire, and this is conceived rather like an old woodcut ; however, it is a thoroughly fine piece of work in every way, and shaded and bitten in most perfect harmony with the subject The mental qualities of this artist's work are always nobly serious, and must seem strangely so to those who believe in the universal levity of the French temperament The legend of La Bonlwntvie Mistre is this: Saints Peter and Paul visited one day a very poor old man, who possessed a hut and a pear-tree, and offered to grant him any wish that he might form, so he did not ask for wealth, but simply requested that whosoever climbed up into his pear-tree might not be able to get dovm again without his permission. In this way he caught a thief or two, and at length came Death to pay Le Bonhomme Mis^re a visit The old man received him very pleasantly, and just begged him to be so good as to climb the pear-tree to get a certain ripe fruit which hung on one of the upper branches. Once there, Death could not get down again without the old man's express permission, so a treaty was concluded between them in consequence of which Misery dwells for ever upon the earth. M. Legros has chosen the moment when Death is up in the pear-tree holding out the pear in his skeleton fingers, and old Misery is looking up at him. The imaginative conception of the whole scene is worthy of some great solemn-minded old northern master. There is something awful too in the plate of the Bell-Ringer in the gloomy steeple chamber, with two children looking up at the bell, half in dread, whilst the ringer's grave face and bent figure indicate rather the fixed habit of a serious mind


VARIO US FRENCH ETCHERS. 2 29

"subdued to what it works in," than any fear of the loud- voiced thing that swings and rings above him. I like too very much the open and sweet gravity of the monk's portrait in a small square etching which just contains the head and neck, and cowl thrown back ; it is the face of a man whose thoughts rise far above the miserable details of the present, and dwell in the contemplation of the eternal The large plate of a girl, a priest, and an old man coming out of church (the old man telling his beads), is full of the same sweetness and noble gravity. The girl has the aspect of a Madonna, and the men's faces are noble studies, both of them. Unfortu- nately, from the want of technical skill, the three heads are so exactly on the same plane that the girl appears gigantic M. Legros has always taken a peculiar artistic interest in the Roman Catholic worship. Many an artist has been struck by the splendour of its ceremonies, by its golden and silk embroideries, candles, ornaments, imagery, incense ; but these things do not attract Legros ; he turns to the monk in his rough garment, and to the poor peasant maidens and old men in the humble village church, watches them as they pray, and draws them with an instinct of sympathy which, in its own peculiar kind, has no precedent in the fine arts.

Few etchers of the modern French school have produced such uniformly good work as M. Brunet-Debaines. Two little plates of his published by Cadart, La Place Royale d Ddle and A Verdun siir le DotibSy are in their way simply perfection, faultless little gems of true etching like the little plates of Veyrassat, everything being well expressed that it was necessary to express at all, and not a stroke too much. Considering how little M. Brunet-Debaines has published in the way of original etching, it is surprising that he should be able to do such work as this, drawn evidently with the most enviable facility, and beautifully right both in all the delight- ful detail which is given of picturesque towers and houses, and in the shading of important masses. In other subjects,


230 VARIO US FRENCH ETCHERS.

where buildings occur whose architectural importance exacts a strict attention to perspective and to constructive detail, this artist goes through his work without neglecting either truth of construction on the one hand or pictorial effect on the other ; and it would be difficult to find in the etchings of architects or painters a manner of work better calculated to explain, at the same time, how an edifice was built and how it looked in sun and shadow. The tower in the Rtu des Grands Dcgris d Blois and the side of Notre-Dame de Bourges^ with its window and doorway, and what is above the doorway, are both good instances of this. M. Brunet-Debaines is also one of the best living etchers from pictures, and I shall have more to say of him in that capacity.

The subject of architecture brings me to the work of M. DE RocHEBRUNE, who etchcs it with great precision and rich- ness of detail, combined with powerful light and shade. Two magnificent interiors of his* have been published by M. Cadart in his annual portfolios (FEauforte en 1874 and TEauforte en 1875). M. de Rochebrune is a painter of noble birth who has the rare privilege of living in one of the grandest of the old French chateaux, so that for these two subjects he had only to look at tA\'0 sides of his o%vn studio, and draw the chimney-piece and the door, gigantic constructions of se;pii- barbaric magnificence fit for some royal hall of the Elizabethan period. These etchings, which are large, are full of strong work in their kind, and prove a resolute determination to draw everything fairly and thoroughly, a determination which is rarely found in unison with such a vigorous sense of effect The same substantial qualities may be observed in other works by M. de Rochebrune even when the subject is much less striking. He has illustrated the chateau of Chambord, the Louvre, the H6tcl Cluny, the ch&teaux of Blois, Pierrefonds, Ecouen, and the cathedral of Strasbourg.

• ChemitUe de Vatdier de Terre-Neuz'e, Vendue, and Porte de VaUUer de Terrc- Neuve,


VARIO US FRENCH ETCHERS. 23 1

The French school is so rich in etchers of ability, whose number increases yearly, that it is impossible in a book like this to avoid omissions which may already be considered un- just, and which are likely to appear much more so a few years hence, when artists now beginning their work shall have developed themselves completely by practice. Amongst those who ought not to be omitted, since they have taken part in the movement for a good many years, M. Chauvel deserves respectful mention for his clear drawing of landscape and genuine manner, as exemplified in such plates as A Fleury Mamey which is simply and well etched, and preferable to his more laboured work, such as that in La Grenouille et le Bceuf. A good specimen of his work, a scene with tree trunks in the foreground and an effect of rain in the distance, under the title Environs de Rouett, was published in FEauforte en 1874. ' There was no waste of labour in this plate, which con- veyed the intended impression perfectly. In the first year of the Societe des Aquafortistes M. Chaigneau contributed a plate called Moutons en Plaine^ which I thought then, and think still, one of the best examples of modern etching of a simple kind, being at the same time right in manner, true to nature, and poetical in feeling. The figure of the shepherdess is almost sublime in her simple dignity, as she glances over her sheep. The landscape, without being minute, is grand and true, the play of light in the corn being very beautiful Like Daubigny's Pare d Moutons, this is a genuine pastoral poem, but here we have an additional satisfaction in the truth with which every sheep is studied and drawn. Another plate by the same artist, Femme Gardant des Moutons, is too coarse in texture to be held in the hand, and does not look well or come well together at a less distance than six or eight feet from the spectator. This is a point which deserves the serious attention of etchers. If their works are to be published in portfolios or books, they cannot safely be etched on the same principle as if they were to be hung on the wall of an exhibition. There


232 VARIO US FRENCH ETCHERS.

is evidently a limit to coarseness of texture in shading — a limit beyond which the lines cease to be shading altogether and become simply black bars with white spaces between them, or a network like a wire fence. M. Abraham's etchings of land- scape deserve mention for a masculine and direct manner, but show little trace of any tenderness in feeling. The best are Environs de Chdtcau Gonticr and Bords de POtidofi, the first a scene in a forest amongst the boles of ancient trees, on rocky broken ground, well composed, and quite giving the impression of such a place ; the other a piece of lowland river-shore, with tall thin graceful trees just well enough drawn to make one regret that they were not treated with the tenderness of Appian or Lalanne. It is not without pleasure that I mention here the name of ViLLEVlEiLLE, a landscape-painter of much feeling, who died, like our own Girtin, in early manhood. He had an exquisite sense of landscape beauty, which, however, is not nearly so apparent in his etchings as it is in his work in oil, which had the additional charm of a warm sunny colour not common either in the French school or in any other. A carping critic might here observe that I am going beyond the province of this book in speaking of an etcher's capacity as a painter ; but it is not so, for in looking at an etching by Ville- vieille I think, and think regretfully, how he would have painted the same subject His etched work is so far inferior as to convey hardly an)^ing of the painter's charm and sweetness. The two plates under the same title, A Nohant- Vicq — one representing an old thatched cottage, and the other an approach to a bridge under trees — are both interesting plates, but the latter is very violent in its lights and darks, the foliage being quite white in the lights, and all cast shadows as black as unmitigated printing-ink could make them. This, however, may have been due simply to technical inexperience, for in another plate by the same artist, En PicardiCy which was given in the first edition of this work, Villevieille had recourse to the roulette for his general tone, and escaped all false vio-


VAjRIO us FRENCH ETCHERS, 233


lence, attaining in place of it a harmony very like that of his pictures. The last-named etching is very simple in subject, but pervaded by a tender melancholy, which makes it linger in the memory for long.

M. Balfourier is a very experienced landscape-painter, who occasionally etches his own pictures. His system of work is simply to begin by putting in all organic markings and biting them rather deeply, after which he passes a veil of shading over the work to be bitten much more lightly. In some of his plates this division of processes is even too apparent, so that the work does not seem harmonised, but in others the technical method is quite successful ; and as the artist always chooses curious and interesting subjects his best plates are well worth preserving. I can heartily recommend two of them, Marais prh cFElclic (Espagne) and Une Usine d la Crau ( Var)y both admirable interpretations of the picturesque of southern Europe. I observe that in M. Balfourier's work the immediate foreground and the far distance are rarely of much importance, but that nearly all his interesting material is to be found on the nearer middle distance, or what the French call le second plan. This is extremely judicious, because at that distance landscape material is most con- veniently situated for a kind of study combining breadth with intelligible detail, and there is much less risk to the general harmony than there would be ina minute study of what lies quite close at hand. M. SOUMY, who was a Prix de Rome^ has, I believe, done little in etching, but two of his plates, published under the same title. Forges d'Allevar en Dauphiniy are very charming, in a rather old-fashioned way, reminding one of Ever- dingen, and quite as good as the best work of that master. In these plates the artist treats broken ground and picturesque buildings very happily, with much breadth of light and shade, and considerable truth of tone. The Baron X)E Longue- viLLE is a naval officer and an amateur, but a very skilful amateur. No marine-painter whom I remember has better


234 VARIOUS FRENCH ETCHERS.

expressed the majesty of a modem war-fleet He is fond of naval magnificence, and understands it both artistically and as an observer of seamanship. The objection to his work is the grave artistic error of losing his darks in absolute black, so that his shadows are usually quite black. This is a complete mistake, due to a i^-ant of study of the inevitable artistic com- promises. In the plate entitled Sotis Voiles courant grand Largue this fault is visible only in the shadows on the nearest sails ; but some other plates — as, for instance, Au Mouillage and En Mar — are altogether spoiled by it In the first mentioned of these subjects the student cannot fail to remark the admirable rendering of the effect of six different distances on the appearance of a ship ; this is the artistic purpose of the etching, and \i'ith right artistic cunning the nearest ship is brought dose to the most remote one. The water is very liquid and good, and the sense of being at sea perfectly communicated. In the Sous Vapcur a steam fleet is going at speed on calm water, clouds of black smoke issuing from ever>* funnel ; I have ne\'er seen the sublimit}* of a steam war-fleet more impressively rendered M. de Longueville has perfect mastery of his materials, and can do all he wants to do in etching, but he seems to have no aspiration beyond the lively and truthful rendering of what he knows. M. Ballin is more ambitious ; some of his plates of marine subjects are interesting historically, and have besides a picturesque interest of quite a peculiar kind, since they set before us the high-pooped ships that sailed and fought two hundred years ago. This kind of restoration is still quite possible, for we have ample e\'idence as to the construction of the ships* and the sea remains ever the same. M. Ballin appears to feel \'er>' strongly the grandeur of the old naval engagements, and draws them with great spirit Since the war of 1S70 there have appeared two or three \'ery dcver etdiers of military subjects^ such as Lan^n. Detaille, and De NeuvillcL Lan^N draws animals capitally, a talent which


VARIOUS FRENCH ETCHERS. 235

stands him in good stead when he has to deal with such a subject as Boulevard Montrouge, 1871, with the dead animals lying about on the pavement, or the trooper's horse in Fau- bourgs 30 Aout soir 1870, or the dead horses in Route de Mouzon, 31 Aout 1870, which are represented with frightful truth amongst the corpses of their riders. Detaille, a favourite pupil of Meissonier, who has become celebrated as a painter very early in life, etches with consummate ease and skill, which may be attributed to his habit of making clever croquis of what he sees for subsequent use in his pictures. His two plates, Un Uhlan and Trompette de C/iasseurSf are as good as anything well can be in that light-handed sketchy manner, being full of the closest observation expressed with admirable ease. Any critic can say that these are "mere sketches," because all the'paper is not blackened ; but he who knows what good drawing is, and where to look for it, will find more of it in a horse's leg by Detaille, sketched from memory in five minutes, than in many a laboured engraving. M. DE Neuville is a painter of soldiers in action and repose, and a clever sketcher on copper ; his Mobiles d la Tranchee^ ^i'ege de Paris, is a good example of the strong character which he puts into his work, every face and every attitude being a separate and strikingly truthful study. With this name I close a chapter already too long for the reader's patience, and yet too short for any adequate study of those etchers who have not been noticed separately. So much energy and so much genuine talent are now to be found in the French school of etching, that the members of it are already too numerous to be spoken of with a fair allowance of space and study to each. We can do no more than simply acknowledge their honourable perseverance, and the very considerable degree of artistic success which has already attended it


ETCHING AND ETCHERS.


BOOK IV.


THE ENGLISH SCHOOL.


CHAPTER I.

THE REVIVAL OF ETCHING IN ENGLAND,

TN a work intended for English readers, it is an excusable degree of patriotism to give rather more space to the English school than would be strictly due to it according to the rules of absolute impartiality. The names of English artists are already known to the reader, and he will expect, it may be supposed, an account of what they have done in etching.- But let me warn him at the beginning that he is not to expect any great enthusiasm or activity in the English school There is no sustained energetic work in this art in England ; it is not encouraged here, as it is in France, by great publishing enterprises succeeding each other rapidly ; nor, on the other hand, is there much of that heroic temper amongst English artists which will persevere in an unremu- nerative pursuit, simply for the love of it, and from a feeling that a noble art ought to be kept alive for its own sake.

In considering the difference between France and Eng- land in this respect, we find that the reasons for it are easily discoverable. The ordinary Englishman measures the graphic arts exclusively by their powers of imitation ; he has no conception of any higher faculty in the artist, or any wider liberty. If you want the key to all his thinking about graphic art, here it is. When there is much imitation of a clever kind, he rather likes the art and thinks it is good ; when there is little imitation, the art puzzles him and he passes it by. Nor is this view of the subject entirely confined to those who are wholly uneducated in art It is so much a part of the


240 THE REVIVAL OF ETCHING IN ENGLAND.

i

national temperament that some of the ablest artists and some of the best-informed critics are never wholly delivered from it, but are always liable to fall back into it, and to for- get all larger and nobler ideas, either in the pleasure of simply imitating nature, or else in the }cindred delight of enjoying such imitation when it has been cleverly and suc- cessfully accomplished Even Mr. Ruskin tells the students at Oxford that the painting which is likest nature is best, and quotes with approbation Leonardo da Vinci's assertion, excusable only in an age when criticism was childish though art was strong and great, that the mirror is the master of painters, and that the proper way to test the merits of a picture is to compare it with the reflection of the living model in a looking-glass ! This is a thing which in modem times could be said only by an English critic, and only to an English audience. The conception of art as something dis- tinct from simple imitation is too generally admitted on the Continent for such a doctrine to be listened to or tolerated there, and the critic who acknowledged it as his own would be answered at once by innumerable voices, " We know better than that ; we know that the true power of art is exhibited in forms which are not imitation, and are not compatible with imitation ; that the work of the artist, as distinguished from that of the simple copyist of matter, is full of deviations from the truth as it would be seen in a mirror, these deviations being not faults to be corrected, but essential parts of the artistic expression, without which the work would be mind- less. We know that the real labour of the artist (though the vulgar may not be aware of it) consists, not in giving a mirror-like image of things precisely as they are, but in a personal and original interpretation of their aspects, far, indeed, from the literal truth of a reflection on metal or on glass."

It may seem that this question has more to do with paint- ing than with etching, but the truth is that the state of


THE REVIVAL OF ETCHING IN ENGLAND. 241

general opinion with regard to imitation affects all the fine arts which concern themselves with the representation of natural objects. If you think that drawing is to be an imita- tion of nature and not an interpretation, there is hardly any piece of thoroughly great work in etching which will not be offensive to you, but if, on the other hand, you have ac- cepted frankly the higher and greater conception of the fine arts, which leaves the pictorial artist as free to express himself as the musical or poetical artist, then the very peculiarities which would have irritated you before for their obvious lack of imitative truth, may possibly afford you a noble pleasure on other grounds, either as expressions of human energy or tenderness, or else because they may suggest to you some glorious or beautiful sight in nature to which they bear hardly any imitative resemblance.

The acceptance or refusal of etching in England, and the possibility of forming a great school of etchers in this country, depend more upon the public feeling about imitation than upon any other peculiarity of taste. So long as the idea prevails that the best art is that which is most like the reflection of nature in a looking-glass, so long will the work of the great etchers appear wilfully false and wrong, and there will be little public encouragement to follow in their footsteps, and to labour for the acquisition of any skill which would ultimately resemble theirs.

How deeply rooted this idea is may be seen in the current criticism of the newspapers, which too often proceeds on the tacit assumption that art has nothing to do but copy some natural model, and that the best art is that which imitates it most closely. " All art," said the Morning Post when review- ing the first edition of this work, " is essentially mechanical ; the needle, the burin, the pencil, the brush, — these are all machines or tools worked by the hand to copy what the eye beholds, and the faithfulness of the copy constitutes the merit of the work. No graphic delineation can portray the

R


242 THE REVIVAL OF ETCHING IN ENGLAND.

invisible, no artist can figure feeling ; this must be extracted by spectators themselves out of the imitated forms, as his was excited by the view of the originals."

Here you have a perfectly clear and intelligible expres- sion of the prevalent English theory about art Here it is clearly stated that the work of the artist is mechanical, that his only business is to copy what his eye beholds, and that the faithfulness of the copy constitutes the merit of the work. It is the mirror-theory taught officially to the Oxford under- graduates. It has the advantage of an extreme simplicity, and it has also the advantage of being the first theory of art which suggests itself to every totally uneducated mind, so that it is always sure of an immediate reception. The "leading journal," the Times^ is awakening to the possibility of an artistic expression not strictly imitative, but the first dawning perception of the strangely new truth (familiar to every French critic since his boyhood) half bewilders the writer and half amuses him, so that he is not quite sure whether he ought to laugh at interpretative work or to treat it rather respectfully. Here is an extract from the greatest newspaper In England  :—

" The Hare — A Misty Mornings by P. Braquemond. On first looking at the etching it produces upon the mind the impression of a bad dream. A hare with one huge solid ear, the fore part of its body in bright light, the hind part scarcely visible, squats in the foreground. In the middle distance are three strange shadows of other hares running at speed in different directions, and, farther off, three pigmy shadows of men. The resemblance to nature is remote, and yet this is a very good etching. The truth is, that the work of the etcher can, in many of its branches, be appreciated only by an educated eye. The etcher does not reproduce nature; he translates it into a language of his own, a language abounding in subtle interpretations conveyed with extraordinary delicacy and harmony, but a language which very often appears but


THE RE VIVAL OF ETCHING IN ENGLAND. 243

gibberish until we have mastered it Then again the etcher is ambitious. He plumes himself on attempting things which might be deemed far beyond the. scope of the black line, which is all he can work with. When he makes these attempts, as in the etching before us, he appears to fail ridiculously, until we come to understand his method, when we are lost in astonishment at the dexterity of his needle. His lights and shadows, falser to nature even than those of photography, are blacker and brighter than anything in earth and heaven  ; we may often take our choice whether his lines and scratches are intended for water or dry land, for clouds or mountains ; but if we surrender ourselves to a competent teacher, we shall soon find it pleasant to be schooled in this strange tongue, and learn what an artistic treat is locked up even in this one-eared hare, with the bright breast and inky body, and in the queer abnormal shadows which mean ' a misty morning ! * "

Now, the writer of the above criticism is certainly in a very different position, intellectually, from that of the contributor to the Morning Post, whose doctrine I quoted previously. He sees that in one art, at least, namely, in etching, there is such a thing as interpretation, but he cannot help feeling that it is too novel an idea to be taken quite seriously at first, so he writes of it as of some strange new thing, though Rembrandt died more than two hundred years ago. He does not seem to be aware that if etching is interpretative, all artistic drawing is so too, nay, that even painting is so, especially in the greatest works. What surprises me in such criticism as this is its perfectly uncultured tone. Ideas about art, which have long been the common property of all cultivated Europeans, are utterly unfamiliar to the critic's mind. He writes upon the subject as you would expect some remote Australian colonist to write about it for some petty colonial newspaper, intended to the occupants of the nearest sheep-runs. And yet he is in the capital of one of the greatest and richest nations pe, for its most influential newspaper, and about an


244 THE REVIVAL OF ETCHING IN ENGLAND.

art which came to perfection two hundred years before he was bom  ! A word more, and we will leave this kind of criticism to those for whom it is intended. The writer in the Times cannot even read common drawing. He laughs at Bracque- mond for having drawn a hare with one ear, whereas, in Bracquemond's plate, the hare has two ears, erect and back to back, he also sneers at the artist for not having shown the hind quarters of the hare more clearly, as if more of them could have been seen in that position, and he is puzzled by the local colour of the white fur and the brown, which seems to him an unaccountable sort of light and shade. And it is to a critic of this degree of culture and capacity that the Times entrusts the reputation of great artists — and its own ! *

It would be unjust to leave the impression that we have no more advanced art-criticism than the specimens which I have just quoted, but they are fair examples of what may still be presented in the centres of English enlightenment, without calling forth either protest or contradiction. What is wanting in England is a general understanding of the true nature of artistic expression, which would enable the national mind to judge of these things for itself. It is not a matter of opinion, but of demonstrable fact, that great art is an entirely different thing from the reflection of material objects in a mirror, and this is quite clearly understood in other countries by cultivated people, whether professedly art critics or not; why, then, cannot it be understood in ours  ? Take the finest living models you can find, dress them or undress them as you will, take the biggest and best of mirrors, and then try to arrange your models and your light till the reflected image looks like a picture by Raphael, or Titian, or our own Sir Joshua

  • It may be observed that this contributor to the Times had to spell the names

of two living artists in the course of his notice, and that he managed to spell them both wrong, though they were printed in capital letters in the volume of etchings which he was reviewing. What degree of accuracy in observation is to be expected from such a writer?


THE REVIVAL OF ETCHING IN ENGLAND. 245

Reynolds ! Do what you will, the reflected image will never resemble masters' work, but will seem only what it is, a reflec- tion of simple nature. There never was a tableau vivant that really looked like a picture, the tableau vivant^ when cleverly arranged, looks like a grouping of artists' models, but no more. So it is with landscape. Take your looking-glass out into the finest natural scenery you can find, it will never show you noble pictures of landscape, but only things like photographs with the addition of colour, and a far more brilliant light Our fathers had a fearful and wonderful invention which they called a "Claude glass," a black mirror, which blackened nature for them, till they fancied that it looked like the old pictures in their galleries. They did, indeed, by this ingenious contrivance, mix the dirt of old pictures with the pure hues of nature, and so brought nature to the dinginess of the art which they admired, but not a branch of a tree, not an outline of a hill, accommodated itself in the mirror to the exigencies of artistic composition. All of Claude that the " Claude glass " gave, was the dust of two centuries in the darkened varnish  ; it imitated neither the beauty of his arrangements nor the ten- derness of his feeling.

Now, when you go into the heart of the matter, and by a thorough analysis of good artistic work endeavour to find out in what it differs from the reflection of natural objects in a mirror, you will soon discover, if your eye is sufficiently educated to discern differences of form, that the artist has been incessantly altering the appearances of things and forcing them into conformity with some conception in his own mind. It is by these alterations, and by these alone, that he can express his personal tastes and feelings. If all artists re- flected nature as the mirror does, you would not, in a gallery, be able to recognise the work of different painters without the help of their signatures. All personal style in art is an altera- tion of nature. Every preference, every affection, destroys that impartiality of the mind which would be necessary to the


346 THE REVIVAL OF ETCHING IN ENGLAND.

reflection of pure truth. Even what is popularly praised in art as truth is never exactly true, but is an exaggeration of some particular kind of truth, exhibited at the expense of others.

If people knew this, and knew how false in many ways is the art which seems to them most true, they would enter more easily into that kind of mutual understanding or tacit convention which is assumed by every powerful etcher to exist between himself and the public It is a convention in some respects resembling that between the reader and the author of a book, by which the latter avails himself of letters and words for the conveyance of his ideas  ; in some respects, I say, or to some extent, but etching is never quite so purely conventional as the signs of writing are. For example, the word "sunset" immediately suggests to the mind of an English reader the setting of the sun, but the word is absolutely conventional ; the choice of the letters which compose it, and of the shapes of the letters, has not been determined in the least by reference to any natural fact of form or colour ; and many other words in other languages convey precisely the same idea. Now let us see how a sunset would be represented in painting first, and then in etching. Suppose it is a red sun- set, and suppose that the best landscape-painter in the world has painted it. He has represented it, let us say, by a disc of vermilion or red lead, but however skilfully he may have laid on the colour, there will still be so much conventionalism in the representation that it will not be recognisable by any one entirely outside of art and its conventions. Show it to an agricultural labourer, who often sees natural sunsets, the chances are that he will take it for a cherry. Now an etched sunset, equally well done, will have been done on the assump- tion of even more conventions than the painted one, and not only the agricultural labourer, but people of far higher educa- tion than his may not be able or willing to enter into these conventions, especially if they are looking for what they think


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is imitative accuracy. The etcher will probably make his sun with a black outline for the round disc, and then put other black marks radiating from it, so that the spectator will say, " it is not like a sunset, it is much more like the nave and spokes of a cart-wheel." What are we to reply to such a piece of criticism as this  ? We can only answer that it is an under- stood thing amongst people conversant with the language of etching, that such signs are to represent the orb and its radiance together. And now we come to the very hottest of the everlasting battle between the criticism of knowledge and the criticism of ignorance. The ignorant critic says, "ah, yes, I see that the merits you affect to discover in these marks, when they are made by the men whom you call great in etch- ing, are purely fictitious merits. This thing that resembles a cart-wheel is conventionally understood to stand for a sunset, and it is the fashion amongst connoisseurs to call it very clever, but it does not resemble nature. In nature the sun has not a black outline, and there are no black lines radiating from him on the sky."

This is the sort of objection to interpretative etching which we meet with very frequently in England, because the concep- tion of art simply as a means of imitation is so very prevalent amongst our countrymen. The answer to it is not difficult to find, but it is difficult to make it clear to those for whom it ought to be made clearest. The fact is that, although the black marks are not like nature, the manner in which they are drawn upon the copper will most distinctly convey to every competent critic the evidence of the artist's knowledge, or betray his ignorance. There are no lines in nature, and yet lines are a most efficient means of recalling nature to the mind, and of expressing the concentrated experience of great artists. If you will not grant any postulate to art, if you will have absolute imitative accuracy, the painted sunset will be inadmissible also, for although the oil-paint may render the sun's colour, it cannot give his light, nor anything like his


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light, and the peasant might have reason on his side, all things considered, if he concluded that the painted sun was more like a cherry than the dazzling orb of day.

Painting comes to us with the postulate: "Let it be granted that a lower light shall be understood to represent a higher light," and in all great interpretative painting there are so many other postulates besides, that it is always difficult to read until we are used to it Etching comes with the chief postulate : " Let it be g^nted that the line, though in itself not true to nature, may be admitted as a means of expression." There are also many minor postulates, but especially this one : "Let it be g^nted that all* truths are not to be g^ven, but only a selection from them."

The granting of such postulates as these establishes between the artist and the spectator a certain agreement which may be called a convention, and in this sense both painting and etching are very conventional arts. But I wish to mark a clear distinction between this kind of necessary mutual under- standing and what a sound criticism would denounce as a blame- worthy conventionalism. Let me give two instances to make my meaning plain. There is a right convention between educated spectators'and educated artists, by which it is agreed that the dull and low light of oil-paint shall be understood to mean the splendour of the sun. This convention is a right one, because it is in obedience to the nature of things, for without it a sunset could not be represented in painting. Now let me give an instance of bad and foolish conventionalism. There was a conventional understanding amongst amateurs some time ago that the green of landscape was not to be painted. There was nothing whatever in the art which opposed itself in this instance to the free rendering of nature. Oil-paint, and water-colour also, could render green with great truth and power. The obstacle to the employment of this colour came from a purely arbitrary conspiracy amongst con- noisseurs and amateurs, by which they had determined that


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when fresh greens were introduced into a picture the work should be understood to be a bad work of art. Foolish con- ventionalisms of this kind appear as if they were devised for the express purpose of restraining the development of the fine arts, and although they originate with persons who profess to take an interest in the advancement of art, their influence is wholly noxious, and original men have to spend their force in contending against them, as Constable contended against the absurd prejudice which I have just mentioned as an example. Now, in comparing the English with the French mind in relation to fine art, I should say that English people generally are much less liable to this latter kind of prejudiced conven- tionalism than the French are, and that so far they have a very great superiority over the French, but that, on the other hand, they are just as far inferior to the French in the capacity for entering into right conventionalisms and for granting necessary postulates. The English public has for the last twenty years been singularly free from all conventional preju- dices about the fine arts, and there is no country in the world where new practices in painting have so good a chance of being fairly estimated on their merits as they have in England. But the English seem to have a peculiar difficulty in entering into those tacit understandings which the fine arts must always presuppose. Let me give an instance of what I mean. In Mrs. Oliphant's admirable novel A Son of the Soily she gives a fine description of a rainbow, and then permits her readers to see what a young English gentleman thinks about it "Young Frankland at the window could not help thinking within him- self what a beautiful picture it would make * if any of those painter-fellows could do a rainbow.* " * Let us try to get to the bottom of young Frankland's ideas on the subject He thinks a rainbow cannot be " done '* in painting, because his

• Observe the note of contempt with reference to artists — "those painter- fellows." This is quite usual in English fiction. The reader will find an essay on the subject, entitled " Artists in Fiction,'* in my Thoughts about Art.


2SO THE REVIVAL OF ETCHING IN ENGLAND.

eye does not receive the same sensations from a painted rain- bow that it does from a real one, or, in other words, the "painter-fellows" cannot imitate the rainbow absolutely. Here is just one of those very numerous occasions on which the artist presupposes a tacit understanding between art and criticism, or what I have called a necessary convention. Paint- ing cannot give the splendour of the rainbow, so we have the postulate : " Let it be g^ranted that the painted rainbow is not to be so splendid as the natural one." Frankland does not understand this; he does not see that the "painter-fellows" ought not to incur contempt because they have not done that which they never pretended to do. He does not enter into the convention which is necessary both to the practice of art and to its. enjoyment He is intensely English in this ; it is an intensely English idea that the purpose of art is imitation, and that where imitation is not achieved, art is a failure. Now let us go a step farther. For a painted rainbow let us substi- tute an engraved one. What would young Frankland say to that? He would say that the engraver was an idiot to attempt it How can you imitate a rainbow with black lines  ? The answer to all such criticism as this is that the artist pre- supposes a certain understanding between himself and the spectator. In the picture the convention was that art should not be expected to imitate natural light, in the engraving that neither light nor colour should be imitated. But a finished engraving might still imitate the g^dation and semi-trans- , parency of a rainbow, and, in fact, these qualities have been often rendered in engraving. Yet even these are not indi- spensable to a work of art A rainbow may be " done " with a few strokes of the etching-needle, or with common pen and ink, and be quite noble and valuable work. Hardly any imitation is possible with these limited means, yet they are right in art, and imply no weakness or folly on the part of the great artists who have so often used them. By the help of a convention into which the spectator is invited or supposed to


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enter, such artists appeal not simply to his eyes, but to his memory of nature and his imagination. When the spectator is ignorant of the convention, he may sometimes fancy that the artist insults his common sense, and certainly it is not to common sense that noble art-work ever did or will appeal. It appeals to far higher faculties, to our memories of the beauty that has been, and our dreams of the beauty that has never been, to our perception of the most subtle truth in nature, and our delight in seeing such truth commented upon, and even modified, by the free and masterful action of human genius.

It is because the English have hitherto understood art much more as a copy than as a suggestion or an expres- sion, much more as a substitute for imagination than as a stimulus to it, that they have been moved with great difficulty by all the forms of art which appeared to them " unfinished." For the same reason the minor artists have in England been exposed to an especially lamentable waste of labour, the too well-known "malady of detail."*

Yet a true principle of good work in drawing was stated in England quite plainly a hundred years ago by Sir Joshua Reynolds. In his fortieth note on Du Fresnoy's poem on the art of painting, when he dwells upon the necessity for breadth, he gives an instance to show what breadth is.

"To illustrate this, we may have recourse to Titian's bunch of grapes, which we will suppose placed so as to re- ceive a broad light and shadow. Here, though each indi- vidual grape on the light side has its light, and shadow, and reflection, yet altogether they make but one broad mass of light : the slightest sketchy therefore, wftere this breadth is pre-

  • This is an expression of Charlet*s, and a just one. The attention to detail at

the expense of the large relations between masses, is due to an overwrought state of the attention which does not indicate perfect mental balance. A good instance of it in poetry is in Tennyson's Maud (xxiil), where the morbid hero is so taken up with a tiny shell on the Breton shore, that it occupies an inordinate space in the poem (twenty-nine verses), though it is an accidental bit of detail. This is quite characteristic of the morbid mind.


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served^ will have a better effect^ will have more the appearance of coming from a master-Jiand^ that is, in other words, will have more the characteristic and generale of nature than the most laborious finishing wJure this breadth is lost or neglectedT

A century later Mr. Seymour Haden wrote an article in ^<t Fine Arts Quarterly Review^ which inculcated the same principle.

" What, then, is the amount and kind of previous know- ledge and skill required by the etcher.^ It is an innate artistic spirit, without which all the study in the world is useless. It is the cultivation of this spirit, not arduously but lovingly. It is the knowledge that is acquired by a life of devotion to what is true and beautiful — by the daily and hourly habit of weighing and comparing what we see in nature, and thinking of how it should be represented in art It is the habit of constant observation of great things and small, and the experience that springs from it It is taste which, a celebrated painter once said, but not truly, is rarer than genius. The skill that grows out of these habits is the skill required by the etcher. It is the skill of the analyst and the synthetist, tlu skill to combine^ and the skill to separate — to compound and to simplify — to detach plane from platie — to fuse detail into mass — to subordinate definition to space, distance^ light, and air. Finally, it is the acumen to perceive the near relationship that expression bears to form, and the skill to draw them — not separately — but together."

There have never been wanting, since art was practised in England, countrymen of ours who understood these things, and, therefore, who understood etching, but they have been too few in number to encourage sufficiently an art which depends upon a multiplicity of buyers. It is necessary here to enter briefly upon a question foreign to artistic considera- tions, the purely commercial question. The fine arts depend upon a sufficient sale of their products. This brings us to one of the most surprising peculiarities in the commerce of


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the fine arts, one of those peculiarities which no human being would ever guess by his own wisdom, but which the experi- ence of business teaches us. To a person not practically versed in such matters, it would seem that the power of multiplying a work of art would be a source of wealth to the artist It certainly would be so in any manufacture which had simple utility for its purpose, and was not in any way dependent upon opinion. No one could create a fortune by making steel pens, if steel pens were not multipliable by the million. Nobody could become rich by drawing designs on calico, but calico-printers become immensely wealthy by multiplying such designs. In the region of fine art, on the contrary, the productions which are multipliable bring in less to the producer than those which are not multipliable, and it is positively a misfortune for an art that its products should have facilities for being multiplied. Painting is luc- rative, because every picture is unique. If pictures could be printed in perfect colour, no single copy would be worth more than a small fraction of what the original is now, and it is likely that after deducting the expenses of printing, with the profits of the publishing and the retail trade, the net proceeds for the author of the work would be much less than they are at present. There is, indeed, another side to the question which we may not altogether overlook. When the sale of a work of art is very great, then indeed the aggre- gation of small profits on many copies is a compensation for the loss of uniqueness in one of them. A very popular novelist is a producer of works of art who finds it greatly to his advantage to be able to multiply his products. But now consider the position of the etcher. His work is not unique, on the one hand, like that of the painter, and on the other hand, although it could be multiplied as novels are, if there were a demand for it, this is not practically an advantage owing to the absence of such a demand. The etcher has, therefore, to a certain extent the disadvantages of artists in


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colour and artists in language, without enjoying enough of the advantages of either to be a compensation. His works are multiplied, and therefore they are not unique, but they are not multiplied enough.

The commercial experience of artists who can etch and paint equally well is, that they cannot afford to etch. This is the real reason why so little has been accomplished by the English school Collectors will g^ve a thousand pounds, or three thousand, for a picture, but they will give a high price for an etching only when other people cannot get it, and in the case of a new plate it is known that anybody can get it

    • Men do not purchase pictures," Archdeacon Fisher wrote to

Constable, "because they admire them, but because others covet them." The truth is, that the motives for purchasing are mixed, but that one of them is to have the satisfaction of being envied. This accounts for the extraordinary value of unique things.

Etching has been practically sustained in England by the occasional labours of painters who have worked simply from an interest in the art A few of them have reached considerable technical skill, even in this desultory way, and with this very slight degree of external encouragement, one or two have produced etchings which will bear comparison with the finest work of other countries and times. Many amateurs have attempted etching in England, and a very few have succeeded

Etching clubs existed in England long before the founda- tion of the French Societe des Aquafortistes. The elder club was composed from the first of many well-known painters, who met together in a friendly way, and illustrated some favourite poet, or combined to publish their own independent inventions. Their first publication was the Deserted Village of Goldsmith, accompanied by eighty etchings of small size, and finished carefully. Many of them are very pretty, and they have a predominating character, evidently derived from the delicate little engravers' vigfnettes which were common


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in the days of the annuals. There is no strong or immortal work in the volume, but it is often interesting and even charming, with a graceful drawing-room sentiment It is curious how this sentiment pervades the work of all the contributors ; they never attempt anything beyond it, but rarely fall short of it In 1844 the club published a series of plates, called Etched Thoughts, which included one or two charming etchings by Creswick, but in this work the members of the club no longer had in view the minute prettiness of their first publication, and had not as yet replaced that prettiness by any more serious quality. In 1847 the club illustrated Gray's Elegy, and in 1849 Milton's P Allegro, these two series of etchings being, in point of composition and artistic sentiment, very like an average academy exhibition. In 1852 the club illustrated the Songs of Shakespeare, and this was the most beautiful of their publications. In it they fully developed their manner of work, the results of former practice being concentrated in each plate. The next four years pass without any publication, but the year 1857 is marked by the issue of thirty plates, entitled Etchings for the Art Union of London, some of which are valuable. The next Interval is longer still, for it is not until eight years afterwards that the club issues its following publication, entitled A Selection of Etchings by the Etching Club, published by Cundall, 1865. This selection consisted of twelve plates on a larger scale than was at that time usual in England. On the whole, this is the strongest work the club has issued. The Haden and Hook are both exceedingly fine ; the " Summer Woods," by Redgrave, is a charming piece of sylvan scenery ; the " Duenna's Return " is Horsle/s best etching ; the " Herdsman," by Samuel Palmer, is one of his three noblest works, and the " Creswick " is at least as good as Creswick's average, which was never a low average.

The misfortune of the English Club has been that, in endeavouring to please an uneducated public, it has too often


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aimed at making etching /r^//^. The art is versatile enough for anything, and if you aim at prettiness you may attain it, but every art has its own especial tendencies, and it does not seem that the tendencies of etching lie in that direction. A strong direct expression of consummate knowledge and passionate feeling are what the art is best suited for, and most of its grandest works are not only not pretty, but their qualities are vigorously the opposite of prettiness. Whilst fully recognising the different merits of English work, its sincerity in the study of nature, its general absence of false pretension, its good intellectual or literary qualities which enable it to interpret the masterpieces of literature, often with great liveliness and a true sympathy with the writers, I have always regretted that on the technical and purely artistic side it should have done so little towards educating a public which needed educating so much. There has been a technical mistake, too, in very much English etching, that of struggling painfully after tone. The failures to which this led are so obvious that they made me speak of some English etching, in the first edition of this work, with a degree of severity which I have since regretted, not that I wrote anything which was untrue, but what I did write might have been expressed more kindly. Yet I was not alone in the dislike to that kind of shading which is at the same time elaborate and false in its tonic relations. Mr. Ruskin wrote against it later, briefly and decisively, going much farther than I had done, and asserting that complete light and shade was never possible in the art at all, whilst all good etchings were done with few lines, a decision which at once condemns the entire work of the English Club* and the greater partof foreigfn work along with it The plain truth is, that the more we learn of light and shade the less we feel able to endure that which is patiently and elaborately wrong ; and it is not much to be wondered at if a critic is led to write severe things when he sees artists of

  • Except here and there some outline sketch by a sculptor.


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reputation taking great pains to shade properly, then trusting their work to an acid bath which upsets the relations of all its tones, and finally publishing the spoiled plate. This is the reason why critics who love light and shade most are likely to be the least tolerant of it after disasters in the acid, and it is these very critics who are likely to insist most on the capacities of the line in etching, because the line is so much less depend- ent for its effect upon a precise accuracy in biting.

One of the most important events in the history of English etching was the appearance of Mr. Haden's plates in 1866. Full justice is done to the merits of these works in the present volume, so that the reader will not suspect me of undervaluing them, if I express my lasting astonishment at their immediate and decisive success. The public was apparently very little prepared to appreciate work of that uncondescending kind, and the press had never shown much knowledge of the subject, yet the native force of Mr. Haden's manner overcame the general apathy, and great numbers of people who had never heard of etching before, or who thought it meant draw- ing with the pen, were made aware of the existence of the art by the articles on Mr. Haden's publication. It seldom happens that the fashion selects the best man, but in this instance it really did so in one especial sense. Several members of the Etching Club were more experienced artists than Mr. Haden, but not one of them was so purely and essentially the etcher. It was even an advantage to him to be an amateur, for not having the habits of either a painter or an engraver, he formed for himself a set of habits adapted to his own peculiar branch of art, and entered into the spirit of it without reference to any other. The quotation already g^ven from an article of his in a review has shown what that spirit is. Not only was Mr. Haden's first publication entirely successful, but when, some years later, he published an etching of the Agamemnon^ the public took copies of it (at three guineas each) in such quantities that, as nearly as I can

S


258 THE REVIVAL OF ETCHING IN ENGLAND.

calculate, the time spent upon the plate must have been paid for at the rate of a guinea a minute*

As we are enumerating the different causes which have aided the revival of etching in this country^ it would be an omission to pass entirely without notice the reception of the present volume, which certainly proved an awakened interest in the art Although, in its first form, an expensive book and a book on an unpopular subject, it rapidly made its way and found a thousand buyers, nor has the demand for it ceased with the cessation of the supply. We may therefore fairly conclude that it may have had some influence upon opinion, at least in drawing attention to the subject, and in provoking the discussion of problems which we can never thoroughly understand without enlarging our views of all the graphic arts.

Soon after the first publication of this book, it occurred to me that as there was no periodical in England which would publish an etching,t it might be a good thing if a new one were founded which would make etching an important part of its system of illustration. I was much interested, at the same time, in the new photographic processes which had been invented for the reproduction of pictures and designs, and it seemed to me that much might be done with these also. I mentioned this idea to a friend who is a member of a well-known firm of publishers, and he at once approved of it, so that we deter- mined to start the Portfolio^ an art-monthly, the first number of which appeared on the ist of January 1870. It is beyond the province of these pages to say anything of the literary side of this undertaking, which had its own purposes and its own

  • This seems to contradict what has been already said in the present chapter

about the public indifference to etching, but the case of the Agamemnon is a very singular exception to the general rule. The reader will understand that I cannot mention instances of failure, which have been much more frequent

+ I mean as a work of art. A few etchings may have been published in one or two of the older magazines, but simply as comic illustrations, or likenesses of cele- brated men, not for artistic interest or quality.


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difficulties. With regard to the illustrations, my plan was to encourage etching chiefly, but, at the same time, to keep well on the look-out for improvements in other processes, and to adopt them as soon as ever they proved to be practi- cally valuable. Although intended only for a cultivated class of readers, the Portfolio succeeded in establishing itself, and has gradually strengthened its position. It deserves mention in this volume for the same reason which induced me to mention V Artiste and the Gazette des Beaux Arts. It has already published a very considerable quantity of etchings, many of them by the best artists in Europe, and it is con- stantly adding to their number. In one respect, however, the result has been rather disappointing to me. I had hoped that a periodical of this kind would be useful as an encourage- ment to the practice of the art in England, but our most active artistic contributors have hitherto been foreigners. Even the series of etchings from pictures in the National Gallery, which is the most important enterprise hitherto undertaken by the Portfolio^ an enterprise indeed of truly national importance, has been hitherto dependent for its realisation upon the talents of the best continental etchers, who were induced to come to England expressly for the undertaking.* Until the foundation of the Portfolio no English publisher would give a commission for an etching, except for comic illustrations to novels, which were ordered for their comic, and not their artistic qualities, and etching was employed for these because it could be done rapidly, and because the caricaturists found that the facility of the point was a convenience to them for giving expression to their Harry Lorrequers and Charles O'Malleys. The true art was

  • This has not been due to any prejudice in favour of foreign work on the

part of the editor, but simply to the fact that there are so few men in England able to etch well enough, and that these few are always busy painting. It would be impossible for the Portfolio to keep up to any high standard of production without powerful help from abroad. There is a good deal of amateur activity in England, but the produce of it is very rarely acceptable.


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absolutely deprived of all encouragement in money,* and was kept alive only by the occasional labours of a few painters who pursued it in their hours of leisure. It was rather fashionable at one time amongst ladies as an amusement, and a manual of the process was published for their guidance ; but an art which taxes to the utmost the powers of the most accomplished artists, and their patience, is not well chosen as a pastime, and is seldom persevered in long. .

In looking to the future of etching in this country, I have some hopes, but they are of a very moderate kind. The Portfolio will go on doing its work, and prevent the appear- ance of an etching from being utterly unfamiliar. Once in a century some genius may appear and attract atten- tion to the art, as Mr. Haden did. But before etching can ever be generally understood in England there must be a complete revolution in the national habit of thinking about art The majority of Englishmen have hitherto believed art to be simply ^n imitation of nature ; they must learn to think of it as an interpretation ; they have believed it to be the work of the eye and the hand  ; they must learn to think of it as "the work of the mind."

  • Except in the case of Mr. Haden, and even in his case, the encouragement

came unexpectedly after the plates were published at his own risk, and not as an inducement to etch them.


CHAPTER II.


TURNER.


TN a work devoted exclusively to one branch of art, it may be thought that artists ought to be studied only in that; but I find that their labours in other departments throw light upon all their work, and when a painter has done great things on copper, it is always interesting to know what he has done on canvas. There is no difficulty here with regard to Turner ; his pictures are so well known, even the collection which was his bequest to the nation represents him in all respects so perfectly, that every reader who cares about art, and has been in London, is sure to have formed an opinion of Turner from the original documents themselves. Even in the case of American or colonial readers, the engravings from Turner's pictures in oil and water-colour give an idea of his quality as a painter sufficiently comprehensive for our purpose. Of all his powers, the one which just now most immedi- ately concerns us is the minute subdivision of weights of colour, as lights and darks, which made his tonality so ela- borate, so much more elaborate than that of the landscape- painters who preceded him. This was the technical quality which, more than any other, made his works translate them- selves so well in engraving. I have said that perfect tonality in etching is difficult and rare ; there are instances of it, but these instances are not numerous. If we could suppose the position of a critic who, whilst remaining entirely ignorant of what Turner had done as an etcher, had nevertheless made himself conversant with the works of all the notable etchers,


262 TURNER,


we should not be far wrong in guessing that the critic's strongest feeling of curiosity about the etchings of Turner would be concentrated on this one point — ^their tonality. He would be anxious to ascertain how far this great master of tonality had overcome the difficulty of it in etching ; and if with this feeling he came across a collection of Turner's plates, he would be much disappointed. Turner was a first- rate etcher au trait, but he did not trust himself to carry out chiaroscuro in etching, and habitually resorted to mezzotint for his light and shade. His etchings were always done from the banning with reference to the whole arrangement of the chiaroscuro, and he never laid a line with the needle without entire understanding of its utility in effect But the effect itself, in Turner's etchings, is always reserved for mezzotint, and it results from this habit of his, that Turner is not so good an example for etchers, or so interesting a master to study, as if he had trusted to pure etching for everything.

I had promised myself in this part of the book to avoid technical matters as far as might be possible, because it appears that when general readers come upon technical ex- planations they have a way of skipping them. But with reference to mezzotint and etching, and the manner of their combination, some explanation of this kind is inevitable. An etched shade, as the reader is already aware, is produced by lines which are drawn with a point on a varnished plate (the point removing the varnish where it passes), and after- wards bitten in with aquafortis ; but a shade in mezzotint is left, and the passages in mezzotint which are perfectly white are the places where the plate has been scraped till the bur is all gone, and then polished with a burnisher. When etching and mezzotint are used in combination on the same plate, the etching is done first, and in simple lines, which are bitten in more deeply than they would be if the plate were intended to remain a pure etching; then the plate is roughened all over with a tool on purpose., and which produces bur — that is,


TURNER. 263


a raising of little points of copper. These little points, which are raised by millions, all catch the ink in printing, and would yield an intense black if they were not removed. They are accordingly partially removed with the scraper when lighter darks are required, and the lighter the passage the more the bur is cleared away, till finally in high lights it is removed altogether, and the plate in these places is burnished. Now, the difference between etching with a view to mezzotint, and etching with no such intention, is very great The etcher for mezzotint is satisfied with selecting and laying down the most necessary and expressive lines, the great guiding lines, and does not trouble himself about shading, except so far as to leave the plate in a condition to be shaded properly in mezzo- tint : whereas the worker in pure etching not only gives the selected and expressive guiding lines, but portions of shade along with them, and at the same time ; and the more skilful he is as an etcher, the more simultaneous he is in method, giving shade and line together from the beginning, especially if he works in the acid.

The power of Turner as an etcher was his power of select- ing main lines, and drawing them firmly and vigorously. In this respect no landscape etcher ever surpassed him ; and if his etchings are studied as examples of line selection, they can do nothing but good, if we only bear in mind that they are preparations for mezzotint

Another point that we cannot safely lose sight of is, that they were not intended to be printed in black, but in a rich reddish brown, so that the fear of over-biting was considerably lessened, and in the heavy foreground markings Turner did not hesitate to corrode the lines to such a depth that the paper was really embossed in the printing, and a student of art who had become blind, might recognise a particular plate by pass- ing his fingers over the back of the impressed proof. One of the most curious instances of this is the " Jason " in the " Liber Studiorum." There is a shadow under the tree to .the left,


264 TURNER.


which is like the bars of a portcullis. The scales of the dragon, the heavy indications of trees, the foreground markings of vegetation, are all so bitten that the paper shows them behind in deeply sunken hollows. From these tremendous corrosions. Turner passed to light indications of distance, as, for instance, in the unpublished plate of Dumbarton, which gives one of the most delicate and charming distances ever etched. There is a small rough etching of Eton, with a man ploughing, with- out mezzotint, which is a good instance of Turner's tendencies in biting, and is one of the most interesting of his attempts, because it shows in exaggeration the sort of quality he aimed at in etching.

It is not fair or just to Turner to judge him as an etcher by taking proofs of plates which were obviously intended for mezzotint, and many of which have since received mezzotint, either from his own hand or that of his engraver. From a desire to economise time, or perhaps simply from imitation of Claude's " Liber Veritatis," Turner never relied upon etching to render effect, and does not seem ever to have studied it as an independent art. The kind of work he aimed at in etching was an indication of form, like the pen-work with which he would often add firmness and precision to a sepia drawing. The wash with the brush was to be imitated in mezzotint, and the difference between his combination of sepia and pen-draw- ing, and his combination of mezzotint and etching, was chiefly a difference in the order of procedure. When he worked on paper, the broad washes were first given, and the pen-markings added at the last ; but when he worked on copper, the lines were etched first, and then the shades added by himself or another engraver. This reversal of method offered, of course, no difficulty whatever to Turner, who, having a perfect hold of his subject, could treat it in any way he liked  ; and what I infer from his choice of this combination is, that Turner was not anxious to win celebrity as an etcher, but merely used etching and mezzotint as the most convenient processes


TURNER. 265


for rendering his sepia studies. In this want of an etcher's ambition lies the distinction between Turner and some other great men who have employed the process. He made use of etching as an auxiliary, and worked well within the limits of the sort of etching he proposed to himself, but he never tried what the process was capable of. It would have been much more interesting to students of this particular art, if Turner had been thrown entirely on his own resources, without the help of mezzotint ; and it would have been especially interest- ing to see how far in pure etching he could have rendered the marvellous subdivisions of tonic values which we wonder at in his pictures and drawings. As a mezzotint engraver. Turner ranks exceedingly high, but his merits in that art are be- yond our present purpose. One thing, however, cannot be outside of our province, the possibility which etching pos- sesses of happy combination with mezzotint, and of which Turner so successfully availed himself It is certainly a fortunate quality in an art to be complementary of another art, so that the two together produce results of remarkable value at a minimum cost of labour. The great freedom and force of the etched line, its immense power of firm and rapid indication, are exactly the qualities in which mezzotint is most deficient; and though etching can by shading, especially if helped by dry-point work, arrive at chiaroscuro not less elaborate than that of the mezzotint engraver, it achieves this at an expense of toil and effort which it is not an exaggera- tion to estimate at three times the labour which he gives for the same result It is remarkable that, in spite of the value now attached to the prints in the "Liber Studiorum," this marriage of two arts so naturally complementary has not been more frequently repeated ; but when Turner issued these plates they had little success, quantities of fine proofs from them were used to light fires, and if they have risen since then in market value, so that a complete set of them is now worth hundreds of pounds, the rise is to be attributed, not to any


a66 TURNER.


appreciation of their quality as art, but to the fame which Turner acquired in other ways, and chiefly by popular en- gravings from his water-colour drawings. When an artist has once become famous, people buy his works whether they like them or not, and they end by believing that they like them  ; but the prints in the "Liber Studiorum" have never been really popular, and even now, when the public may still get some of them for a few shillings each, they generally prefer a showy print from Landseer or Frith. The combination of etching with mezzotint may, however, as art-culture advances, become sufliciently popular to be employed in landscape illustration on a more extensive scale ; and if this should ever be, the etchers of the future will have the advantage of models, in the etchings of Turner, of which it is not too much to say that on all technical points, in the application of artistic judgment to method, they are so sound and safe as to be beyond criticism.

Of his mental grasp, of his imagination, it is scarcely neces- sary to speak here, but a few words on the preparatory studies which led to his success as an etcher will not be out of place. He was much in the habit of drawing forms with the point of a sharply cut and rather hard lead pencil, and the transition from this to the etching needle was natural and easy. In his system of study he divided form from light and shade, and afterwards carried out the division in his etchings, using the needle for form and the scraper for light and shade ; but there is a subtle difference between his etchings and his point-draw- ings. In the point-drawings, form is often indicated with very little reference to light and shade  ; in the etchings the arrange- ment for chiaroscuro is always present in Turner's mind when he lays his lines, and he omits all lines which interfere with it, or even which are simply useless to it. This is a great secret, an open secret, yet one hidden from many artists and nearly all amateurs.

It would not be right to leave Turner without acknow-


TURNER. 267


ledgment of the very unusual manliness of his manner as an etcher, a manliness unfortunately rare in the English school His g^rasp of rock and tree and mountain, his feeling of wildness on desolate moor and black tarn, his fisherman's sense of the strength of stout old boats, his understanding generally of the nature of material resistance in everything, are so masculine, that a few touches of his reveal more of the true nature of matter in any form than the most laboured work of our imitative school. A power of this kind is felt at once by minds which are themselves capable of the same masculine perception, though in far inferior degree, but it is not possible to convey by explanation in what this power consists. It is not in thickness of lines, or in depth of biting, or in manual decision, for a line may be both broad and deep and decided, and yet indicate no perception of the nature of an object : it is in his intense sense of the nature of things that such a man as Turner finds the elements of his force. And a sense of this kind does not lead to popularity, because it does not lead to prettiness. I have never met with a person not artistically educated who, without being prompted, saw anything in the etchings of Turner, still less perceived that they were the strongest things done in modern times with the etching needle. The perception of the nature of matter is very rare in the educated classes, because education is far too exclusively literary, and the most obtuse men in this respect are the men of erudition. It would be easier to explain such a power as this of Turner to a carpenter, or a stone- cutter, or a boat-builder, than to a man who knows nothing except books.

jEsactis and Hesperia, — Of all Turner's etchings this is the most remarkable for the grace and freedom of its branch- drawing. It is a piece of simple brook scenery, and materials not less graceful exist in abundance in all northern countries which are watered by running streams. iEsacus, the son of


268 TURNER.


Priam, sought Hesperia in the woods  ; and Turner, with that love for water which characterises all true landscape-painters, has assig^ned as the place of their fatal meeting one of those sweet little solitudes which from time immemorial have been dear to poets and lovers. She is seated on the gently sloping ground at the edge of a shining pool ; the water has been lately di\dded by stones, which to the left of the etching rise visibly above its surface, but it pauses at the feet of Hesperia, where she sits, as she thinks, alone. i£sacus, still unperceived by her, has just discovered her, as he breaks through the branching fern. Over the head of the nymph bends a boldly- slanting tree, and where its boughs mingle, to the left, there is a passage of such involved and wild and intricate beauty, that I can scarcely name its equal in the works of the master- etchers. Over the head of iGsacus, and between the trunks of the two principal trees, is a glade full of tender passages of light, which are chiefly due to the work in mezzotint, so that this plate may be taken as a transcendent example of Turner's power in both arts. The brilliant freedom of the etched branches, the mellow diffusion of light in the tinted glade, are both achievements of the kind which permanently class an artist

Dumbarton (unpublished). — This plate was no doubt pre- pared for mezzotint, but it is in some respects an advantage for our present purpose that the mezzotint has not been added. It is scarcely probable, considering the disposition of the lines, that the effect of light and shade was intended to be a powerful one. The artistic motive of the composition was space and beauty, rather than force and contrast The view is wide and fair, and the last waves of the granite ocean which tosses its highest crests on Cruachan and Ben Nevis come undulating here in long slopes to the edge of the lowland plain. Out of the Clyde the last expression of the exhausted mountain energy rises far off — the fortress-rock of Dumbarton. Against this beautiful distance. Turner will bring no rudely contrasting


TURNER. 269


tree, but gives us the slender and delicate acacia,* with all its pendent flowers. Leading thus from the faint lines of the distance to the stronger work of the foreground, he has obtained by this transition a natural passage to the massiveness of the great trees to the left The reader is especially entreated to allow himself to receive impartially the full and sweet amenity of this composition, for there are etchings of Turner in which his many-sided mind sought qualities very different from amenity.

Weedy foreground, Man ploughing, — ^This etching is not to be confounded with the larger plate of the same subject which was afterwards engraved in mezzotint Over the plough is a view of Eton College, and space has been left in the middle of the plough for the introduction of another figure  : to the left a woman sits with a baby in her arms. The weeds in the foreground are very heavily bitten, so as to give an impression of great coarseness, but there is an etcher's intelligence even in the rude marking. This habit of over-biting was due, as I have already observed, to Turner's preparation for mezzotint, and intention of printing in warm brown instead of black. It cannot be recommended for imitation, unless under the same conditions.

Inverary Pier. Loch Fyne, Morning. — This view of Inverary shows as well as anything, in the " Liber Studiorum," what sort of duty Turner intended his coarse etched lines to do. The combination of etching with mezzotint was a marriage of two opposite arts. Turner, therefore, avoided in his work with the needle every kind of labour which might intrude upon the domain of mezzotint ; he even did more than this, and purposely sought in every etched line a quality the very opposite of that softness and tenderness of tint which became his chief objects when he took up the tools of the engraver. The striking contrast between methods of work in this plate

  • The tree looks like an acacia (Robinia), but it is far north for one at Dum-

barton, except perhaps in a garden.


27© TURNER.


is focussed in the very centre of it The pale mountain towards Glen Falloch is engraved with aerial delicacy; the qioming shadows fall in soft gradations from the risen wreaths of mist, and against the very tenderest passage of all, the opening of the distant glen, come the stiff mast and coarse sail of a fishing-boat, of the firmest and boldest execution. The heavily etched anchor rising out of the shallow water in the for^^und sets its iron rigidity, by a similar contrast of method, against the soft and liquid surface. To the left this coarseness loses itself more gradually in greater manual refinement, and the transition from the dark boat under the pier to the far trees on the edge of the wooded hill is managed by a subtle blending of lighter and shallower bitings with rich full shades of mezzotint The engraving here, as in the iEsacus and Hesperia," was all done by Turner's own hand. Jason. — When I use the word "coarse" in speaking of the etchings of Turner, or any other master, let it not be understood in the artistic or intellectual sense, but only in the common acceptation of the word, as we say that canvas is coarse when the threads of it are thick and the spaces large. There is as much artistic feeling in coarse canvas as in the finest web from the Indian loom, and the coarseness or fine- ness of a woven tissue is a quality merely relative to the keenness of human sight. The work in Turner's "Jason," which in common language may be justly called coarse because the lines of it are thick and deep, is, in the intellectual sense, considerably more refined than the most minute work of the modem English and Germans. The combination of the highest mental refinement with some roughness of material accompaniment is as natural as that other very common combination, of perfect visible finish with low intel- lectual culture. The reader may remember Mr. Ruskin's vivid commentary on the imaginative force in the conception of this dragon ; and it may be observed with reference especially to etching that its merely executive qualities are


TURNER. 271


always, when in perfection, dependent on imagination. The few rude strokes by which this dragon is made to live and writhe, are, considered merely as etched lines, of a quality incomparably superior to the most careful imitation of scales which laborious dulness could achieve with a month's toil ; and so with the wild branches of the fallen trunk on which Jason leans as he watches his enemy, and the hasty sketching of the skeleton in the corner. Of the mezzotint work I say nothing, because it is not by Tumer^s own hand.

Calm, — This subject is one of the most valuable in the

    • Liber Studiorum," as an illustration of the distinct purposes

to which Turner applied etching and mezzotint. It is a group of boats on glassy sea, within a mile of shore. There is a small boat in the immediate foreground, with five figures in it and no sail ; the central group is composed of hay-boats and fishing-boats, their sails hanging idly from the masts to catch the expected breeze. The cock-boat, with the figures, is etched as coarsely and vigorously as possible ; the two fishing-boats in the centre are etched with moderate strength  ; a hay-boat beyond is just indicated with the needle, and beyond that the vessels are hardly etched at all, being made out, almost exclusively, by various delicate tints obtained with the scraper and burnisher. This is one of the most admirable examples of complete tonality in the whole range of Turner's works, but its value in this respect depends little upon the etched lines. The lines are right and true in their places, and could not be spared  ; they give by their force an extra- ordinary delicacy to the mezzotint, but almost all the tonic values are obtained in mezzotint alone. It is evident that Turner looked upon etching merely as the skeleton of his work, and relied upon mezzotint for its softer beauty and more attractive charm.

Little DeviVs Bridge^ over the Russ above Altdorft, — The heavy etching of the rock and pines to the left, and of the riven tree on the isolated central rock, has the artistic advan-


0


272 TURNER.


tage of harmonising with the rugged material. When the for^^und is occupied by things whose nature is opposed to human effeminacy, and affords enjoyment to none but our hardiest instincts, the iron pencil may be blunt and strong, and the hand of the artist resolute ; but we might not safely infer from the success of such work as this that it would be well to apply a like method to all foregrounds. A living aquafortist has advanced the theory that all forqrround work should be open and coarse, and that the lines should become finer and closer as they recede into the distance. In the case of a subject of this kind the theory is sound ; but when, instead of an impression of wildness, we would convey an invitation to repose, it may be wiser to allure the spectator by surfaces which promise him ease. Mountain scenery has hitherto been very incompletely illustrated in etching. There are immense difHculties in the treatment of distant effect which have not yet been overcome either by the old masters or our contemporaries. Tumer^s use of mezzotint was an evasion of these difHculties, and the effect of drifting mist and broken light beyond the bridge in this design is rendered in pure mezzotint


PLATE X.

ROCKS AND PINES, After J. M. W. TURNER, RA.

Copied by tlu Autlwr.


PLATE X.


{To be pLacccl opposite page 272.)

Rl)CKs and Pines, after J. M. W. Turner, R.A.

Copied by the Author,

TIjIs is a pt'iti.'!! of the forc£:rouniI in Tumor's well-known plate Little Devil\s Uridine over the Kiiss a]i«>ve Altvlorft, S\nt7.crlantL" The lines are given without the mc7/.otint to ohow Turner's way of drawuig and biting his organic lines.

BITIXGS.


In Dutch MoRlant, heated to 90"* Fahrenheit.


The pines seen beyond the bridge Tlie bridge itself Tops of the nearest trees Rocks and bottom of trunks .


Minutes,


14 44 64 77


In nitric batli composed of nitric acid and water in ev]ual prop>ortions.


Short immcr.sion lo cnlarce lines


First proof taken

Plate grounded for rebiting.

Plate rcbittcn with above nitric bath in the foreground


'4


The broadest lines enlarged just at last with pure nitric acid for thirty seconds.


Secund proof taken.

PLite entirely covered wiih briu-li ground, and all omitted Unes drawn

in thcii [.ilacc.>. Plate immersed in Dutch mordant healed as above .


60


Third pro'jf laACiL


This phito is i^rinlcd here quilc sim]>ly without 7\irous3n^c, and cleaned \\\\.\\ the hand like a vi.-iiini'-cniil.

•3


CHAPTER III.

WILKIE AND GEDDES.

'IIT'ILKIE has left two or three etchings of first-rate quality which entitle him to a high place in the ranks of the genuine etchers. His etching of the " Pope examining a Censer," and his dry-point of a gentleman sitting at his desk writing a paper for which a man is waiting, hat in hand, are both equal to the best work of the old masters, and on these two plates alone a reputation may be securely founded. His small etching, "Reading the Will," is very inferior in manner of work, though its dramatic interest is considerable. A felicitous combination of etching and dry-point may be found in the third state of a small plate by Wilkie, called in the British Museum " Boys and Dogs " The subject is two boys, a girl, and a dog ; the boys are making a seat with their hands for the girl, who is not yet seated, but superintends the arrangement This etching is remarkable for the extreme naturalness and ease of the attitudes, whilst the community of purpose unites the little group very perfectly. In the first state there is no dry-point work.

The characteristics of Wilkie's best plates are good com- position and happy selection of line. His perception of character was, no doubt, a very great and rare quality ; but this will not save an etching from condemnation if, as etching, the workmanship is commonplace or wrong. For instance, if Wilkie had never done anything better than the ** Reading of the Will," I should not have classed him amongst great

T


274 WILKIE AND GEDDES.

etchers. The dramatic conception is lively and good, but the workmanship is uninteresting and commonplace.

Andrew Geddes was a good etcher, hitherto not sufficiently appreciated. His dry-points are especially fine  ; the one of a little girl holding a pear is charming for its freedom and grrace. There is a portrait by him with the odd title "Give the Devil his Due," very luminous and well modelled ; and another portrait of a lady in a hood, of which the reader is recommended to study an early impression of the fourth state. The hood is exceedingly fine in dry-point work. His " Head of Martin, an auctioneer at Edinburgh," is very clever and characteristic : I only know one state of it His landscape without title (a clump of trees and wooden building under it) is free, and right in workmanship. In the first state there is no signature, and the sky is dirtied with sandpaper. In the second state the sky is cleared, but light indications of cloud are introduced : there is still no signature. In the third and fourth states there is a signature in the right hand corner, and a sulphur tint is introduced for cloud. Of these states the second is technically the best, and may be taken as a fair example of dry-point This landscape and " The little Girl with the Pear," like the "Pope and Censer" and "Gentleman at his Desk " of Wilkie, are enough of themselves to entitle the author to honourable mention.

Wilkie. TIu Pope examining a Censer, — ^As this is one of the finest etchings ever produced in England, it may be worth while to inquire what are the sources of its power. The draughtsmanship is of that happy kind which, fully possess- ing precision, allows itself perfect freedom. There is a close analogy between freedom of this kind and the freedom of the most beautiful manners. Clowns have freedom amongst themselves, but they have not manners ; semi-gentlemen have manners without freedom, because they think about rules, and force themselves into a disciplined conformity ; but in the


WILKIE AND GEDDES. 275

perfect gentleman the time of discipline is past, and his manners are as free as if he had never submitted to it. The work in this etching is so easy, and at the same time, where necessary, so accurate and precise, that if it were the only production of its author we should infer from it the long labours of his youth. The firm drawing of the Pope's face and the fingers of the left hand, the true and graceful festooning of the rapid lines which indicate the censer-chains, contain the two extremes of freedom and precision in method, between which the greatest etchers range at will. The Pontiff has a royal naturalness of attitude, and quietly examines the work of the goldsmith, who presents it humbly on his knees.

The seat of hands, — ^This plate has no title, but is marked in the British Museum "Boys and Dogs." Two boys are making a seat by grasping each other's arms, and a girl, who is going to sit down upon it, is criticising the arrangement A dog precedes the party. It is a graceful little subject, like those which were often adopted by the best portriiit painters of the last century in family groups. The execution is very spirited and light The rich dry-point work in the third state has much improved the plate. The opportunity is a good one for marking the difference between curiosity-collecting and the love of art. I know not whether the first state of this plate is rare or common, but I know that if the first state is rare, and the third common, all genuine collectors for curiosity will pay ten times as much for the incomplete as they would for the finished work. It is only artistic criti- cism which sets the highest value on the latest states. Of course the plate must not be worn, but a real judge knows a good proof when he sees it without any mark of rarity to guide him.

Gentleman at his Desk. — ^A gentleman is seated in a large arm-chair, and is writing a receipt at his desk. A man is waiting for the paper, and stands behind the chair. The gentleman's wife is looking on whilst he writes. There is a


276 WILKIE AND GEDDES.

dog, which is scratching itself, and there are several small details, such as a boot-jack, sticks, etc Next to the masterly indication of character in the faces and attitudes, this plate is remarkable for its sound quality of dry-point work. If the reader is a practical etcher, he ought to study the rich effect of the background, the darks under the bureau, and near the gentleman's feet, and the slight yet sufficient indications of detail

Reading tlie Will, — ^A lawyer, who is seated on an old- fashioned chair, with his back to the light and a large table before him, is reading a will to expectant heirs. The study of expression is of the kind which made Wilkie popular, and need not be expatiated upon in this place. Wilkie seems to have hesitated between two directions as an aquafortist The execution here is of the sort common in England, the execu- tion of the " Pope and Censer " of a sort unfortunately not so common. If etching were limited to work of this kind, it would be truly no better than a somewhat easier substitute for engraving ; having indeed the advantage of being executed by the artist's own hand, but beyond this no special quality or power. The steady equality of workmanship, the patience to bring all things to an equal point of finish, may prove sanity of mind and freedom from all morbid irritability of nerve, but it proves also some dulness of perception by its very impar- tiality, and a state of mind which differs from the high artistic spirit by its perceptible tendency towards Philistinism. For Philistinism penetrates even into the very realm of art itself, and may be always known, even in its feeblest manifestation, by a sort of prosy conscientiousness.

Geddes. Little girl Iwlding a pear, — She is seated on the ground, and wears a white dress  ; her head is relieved against a dark tree  ; she holds out a pear in her left hand. The dress is very slightly indicated. The whole work is in dry-point.


WILKIE AND GEDDES, 277

It is so natural and graceful that it reminds us of the portraits of children in the best age of English portraiture.

Landscape. — In cases where there is no title, which too frequently happens with etchings, it becomes necessary to give some brief description by which the plate alluded to may be recognised. In this we have a clump of trees and a wooden building. In the foreground to the left there is a low arch in the earth, built of stone. In the later states there is a dark cloud behind the building. With the exception of the cloud the plate is executed in dry-point The subject is simple, and Geddes was not a master of landscape, but his manner of treatment suited the means used, and it may easily happen that accomplished landscape painters, by attempting more, arrive at less satisfactory results.


CHAPTER IV.

RUSKIN.

TT has been one of my purposes in the course of this volume to direct the reader's attention to the most opposite kinds of etching, in order that he might fully appreciate the versati- lity of the art, and have the widest possible field for technical choice if he intended to practise it Mr. Ruskin's work in etching is very different from that of all the artists whom we have hitherto been studying, and, therefore, for that very reason, if for no other, would probably deserve our attention. But Mr. Ruskin has other claims than the originality which springs from perfect sincerity. He draws landscape and architecture with the most delicate feeling and the clearest knowledge, so that, although not professionally an artist, he is certainly an accomplished practical student of art

Mr. Ruskin's merits as a draughtsman would perhaps have obtained a more general and decided recognition if they had not been overshadowed by his celebrity as a writer. The dis- position to deny capacity in two different occupations is so strong, that a good writer has always a peculiar difficulty in obtaining recognition as a painter or draughtsman. This prejudice is especially strong amongst professional painters, who are generally slow to admit the merits of a student who is what is called an " amateur," that is, who does not labour for his bread. If they cannot deny the excellence of his work, they will sometimes even go' so far as to say "he did not do it ; some artist did it for him." *

  • An instance of this came one day under my own observation, and is mentioned

here because the case is a typical one. I was looking through the portfolios of an


RUSKIN. 279


The exact truth about Mr. Ruskin's work in practical art seems to be this : — He is a thorough student, but not an artist, and if not an artist it is rather from self-imposed limitations than from any natural incapacity. I am not sure, however, that in his thinking about art Mr. Ruskin has ever got quite clear of the prevalent English conception of it as a simple imitation of nature, already noticed in the chapter on the revival of etching in England, and his practice seems to have been sub- servient to this conception. The desire to represent nature as in a mirror, and the feeling that the work is safe from criticism when this is done as nearly as the means at the disposal of the artist will permit, appears to lie beneath Mr. Ruskin's practice and to account, at the same time, for its merits and for its limitations. The mirror-theory advocated at Oxford may be taken as evidence of this, and there is a sentence in the preface to the fourth volume of Modern Painters which, in a very few words, conveys to us the author's views of artistic responsibility. Speaking of his own beautiful drawing, which was engraved as a frontispiece to the third volume under the title " Lake, Land, and Cloud," the author says — " the sky is a little too heavy for the advantage of the landscape below ; but I am not answerable for the sky. It was there!'

For this view of artistic responsibility all that can be justly

eminent painter who is usually very severe in his criticism of Mr. Ruskin, and finding one of the best soft-ground etchings in the " Seven Lamps of Architecture," I thought the opportunity a good one for bringing my friend to admit some artbtic capability in the etcher. To my great surprise, he entirely agreed in all I had to say in favour of the plate  ; but when I came to the conclusion, and congratulated my friend on having overcome his prejudices against the author of the "Seven Lamps," he answered me with the following syllogism  : " A man ignorant of art cannot produce a good etching. Ruskin is ignorant of art, therefore Ruskin has not produced this etching."

The fact that the plate was signed y, R, del. d sc. made no difference, and of course the more I showed the command of means of which the plate gave evidence, the less would my friend believe it to be Mr. Ruskin*s work. Every good quality in the work of art was considered, not as evidence that Mr. Ruskin was an artist, but that, being an amateur, he could not have done it.


28o RUSKIN,


said is that it may be admissible with reference to a study, done for the student's own private instruction, and not in- tended to be shown to the public Suppose the case of an artist and his pupil working together from nature. The artist says, " your sky is a little too heavy for the advantage of the landscape below ; " the pupil replies, " I am not answerable for the sky, it was tlureV What, after such a defence, would be the master's most fitting rejoinder  ? It would be something of this kind. He would say — "Well, as a simple piece of imitation it may pass, since you tell me that the sky was there, but it would be well for you to begin to exercise your judgment as an artist, and if this were a picture, instead of a mere memorandum, you would be fully answerable for the sky, and for everything else, whether it was there in nature or not"

Mr. Ruskin is not alone in the belief that it is possible for an artist to relieve himself from all the higher artistic respon- sibilities, on the plea that what he has represented is a fact It is a prevalent national error to believe this, and to think that the test of truth is final* It is not final. The essence of art is not to copy arrangements which actually exist, but to make more admirable arrangements of its own. When the sky does not suit the landscape (which very often happens),

  • I well remember being in the studio of an artist in London when a picture

by a younger painter was shown to me, and I criticised it on the ground that a sharply-defined patch of very vivid green grass was injurious to the balance of colour. ** I am not answerable for the grass," said the painter, " it was there^'* Then the elder artist said *' Woxild you have him alter nature  ? " Neither of them seemed to be aware that an artist could be expected to exercise generalship over his material. They seemed to think that if I did not acknowledge the infallibility of nature it must be in deference to some conventional rule, and they said that, in their opinion, nature was a better authority than conventionalism. Now what I advocate is not authoritative conventionalism, but the use of the mind in art, the exercise of the artist's own judgment, of his own taste and good sense, in selection, omission, emphasis, all in his original way, without reference to any conventional rules whatever. The one thing which seems to me essentially unartistic is the abdication of imperial faculties in order to bind down eye and hand to the servile copyism of matter.


RUSKIN. 281


the true artist invents or remembers another sky which does suit it, or he alters the landscape itself to enable it to support the sky, getting harmony, at any rate, by an exercise of his masterful will This exercise of judgment and will is an essential part of the work and duty of the artist, and he cannot decline it, or excuse himself on the plea of fidelity to the facts.

I have said this so plainly, that it looks like a condemna- tion of Mr. Ruskin's practical work in art, but it is not intended to be that, it is intended only to mark a limit. Mr. Ruskin's speciality in art has been to make studies^ and he makes them admirably well. Practical art, in his case, has been much more a means of acquiring knowledge than of displaying his personal force, which has been exercised (very powerfully) through his writings. Now when drawing is employed either simply to acquire knowledge or simply to communicate it, the work does not challenge the highest aesthetic criticism.

Mr. Ruskin's etchings are of two distinct kinds, in soft- ground and in the ordinary ground. In soft-ground etching the plate is covered as usual, but the ground is mixed with tallow to prevent it from hardening, and a piece of paper is laid over it, on which the artist makes his drawing with a lead pencil. When the paper is removed it brings off with it ground enough from the surface of the copper to expose the latter exactly to such a degree that the acid, in biting, will give a granular appearance, like pencil marks on paper that is slightly rough. This is transferred to the paper on which the etching is printed, so that the proof has much of the quality of a pencil drawing, or of a lithograph, but it may be helped by subsequent work with the point after the plate has been covered with the ordinary ground. Reserves of pure white amidst dark shading may be made anywhere, even in minute quantities, by touches of varnish with the brush before the plate is bitten.

Mr. Ruskin used this process to illustrate the Seven Lamps of Architecture^ but apologised to the reader " for the hasty and


a82 RUSKIN.


imperfect execution of the plates." " Desiring merely to make them illustrative of my meaning, I have sometimes very com- pletely failed even of that humble aim ; and the text, being generally written before the illustration was completed, some- times naively describes as sublime or beautiful features which the plate represents by a blot" The sincerity of this self- criticism was proved later by the withdrawal of these etchings from the work, and the substitution for them of engravings from drawings by the author.

The plain truth appears to be that the soft-ground process involves just the same difficulty of biting as the point process, whilst there is an additional uncertainty about laying the copper bare to the exact d^^ee which the artist desires, hence the liability to " blot," and rebiting is more difficult than in line etching, if indeed it is not altogether impossible. Nor is there anything in the result which is positively superior to lithography, except a mere matter of convenience in getting rid of the weight and fragility of lithog^phic stones, a con- venience which is counterbalanced by the greater cheapness of lithographic printing. For these reasons I intend to say no more about soft-ground etching in this volume, except that if the reader wishes to study it more thoroughly, he will find examples of it in Cotman's works.*

Mr. Ruskin's work with the point in the ordinary ground is either from studies of his own or after Turner. It is always delicate in drawing, but intentionally very simple in the biting, and, therefore, in comparison with the powerful and complex work of the best professional etchers, it is elementary. The

• Soft-ground etching is one of those processes which appear extremely easy when you read a description of them, but which are treacherous and difficult in reality. You have nothing to do but draw with a pencH, remove your paper, and bite. This is the technical theory, but in practice we find that details are often muddled together, that intended gradations are often either spoiled or wholly absent, and that weights of tone often come in wrong relations in the biting. The process gives wonderful texture, however, sometimes, and for certain things, and a quality in some shades not unlike the good quality of the new pkctogravure.


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reader may study it with advantage for the extreme truth of its forms and the accurate observation, whether of nature or of art, which is proved by the choice of line and of shade. If Mr. Ruskin has not gone farther in the direction of complete chiaroscuro, we know that it is because he cares too much for truth of light and shade to trust anything elaborate to so hazardous a means of engraving as the acid bath. When he wants a chiaroscuro study to be reproduced in its full strength, he does not etch it, but has it engraved by Mr. Armytage or Mr. Lupton. The wisdom of this is beyond dispute, yet it is not always necessary that art should be faultless in execution in order to produce its impression upon the mind. The imperfect etchings in the Seven Lamps are of themselves a suffi- cient proof of this. Their imperfection is seen at once, and as quickly forgiven — forgiven for the sake of the life and feeling which make them precious in spite of it What does it matter that some details should be blotted here and there, some shades bitten too much or too little, when the result is that ideas of nobleness or power are, if not quite accurately expressed, at least very vividly suggested }

Capital from the lower arcade of the Dog^s Palace ^ Venice. — When the Seven Lamps of Architecture was published many years ago, I knew little about any tine art, and less perhaps of etching than of others which came habitually in my way ; but this capital from the Doge's palace, from its magniticent depth of shadow and the imaginative grandeur of its foliage and birds, always had a singular attraction for me, and increased my enjoyment of Gothic capitals generally. It is rather a note of shadows than a study of forms, but the forms themselves owe half their grandeur to the shadows they cast The loss of detail in the shadows is not entirely defensible, because there are generally reflections strong enough to show more detail than is visible here ; but the hints and suggestions in this etching have a stronger effect upon the imagination


284 RUSKIN.


than work more completely made out, and it is to be ac- counted a merit that whatever else is lost the artistic aspect is always preserved, or at least its preservation has been the etcher's principal aim. The first springing of the massive mouldings above the capital suggests the weight of the entire arch  ; and though the system of light and shade resembles too closely that of photography, there is a life in the marking of the wild foliage and quaint long-beaked storks which photo- graphy would not have given, for it is not wholly attributable to him who carved the stone : the stone-cutter left, no doubt, the lines of that cornice more simply mechanical than we see them here, and for the picturesque charm of its now broken and various surface we have to thank the artistic feeling of the etcher. A classical designer neither could nor would draw architecture in this way, because if a line had been straight at first he would restore its straightness and draw it rigidly with a ruler, ignoring accident and decay. Mr. Ruskin's opposition to the classical spirit has been rather artistic than philosophical ; but a man who aspires to be an etcher can scarcely hate classicism too ardently, and a- single piece of cornice drawn mechanically, like the Roman Gate of Autun in the " Saint Symphorien " of Ingres, would go farther to ruin an etching than any of the technical imperfections in this.

Part of the Cathedral of Saint Lo, Normandy. — An arch with small statues under canopies, above it a light gable filled with tracery and decorated with crockets, terminating in a finial. Behind this gable is a light gallery of tracery, at the angles of which are pinnacles. There are several defective and weak parts in this etching, but it is delightful for a pathetic fidelity. Observe how every fragment of the beauti- ful broken foliage between the crockets is noticed and recorded, and how entirely free is the etcher from any temptation to restore the fragments which are lost. When a stone is so far decayed that the sharp lines of its sculpture are all gone, the


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mysterious hints of form which still remain in it are studied with unabated interest The difference between this loving and reverential spirit and the feeling which prompts French municipalities to pull down such work as this because it is out of repair, marks the antagonism between artistic and bourgeoises ideas. On one side we have the love for nobleness and a pathetic interest in the broken remnants of a glorious art ; on the other a total indifference to artistic grandeur and a mean intolerance of the marks of time. One of the character- istics of modem Philistinism, both in England and France, is its love of neatness and newness, and its incapacity to see what is venerable in buildings or in men.

Window from the Cd Foscari, Venice. — When artists draw architecture well, they have always a strong constructive instinct, a sense of the weight and strength of the materials, and a knowledge of the uses to which they are put The great massiveness and solidity of the simple Venetian tracery was never rendered in a way at once so powerful in effect and so explanatory of construction. We see how the heavy stones were hewn and placed, and we know why the dark glass was set so far behind the sharp, plain cusps. The first merit of an aquafortist is the power of explaining structure.

Arch from the fagade of the Church of San Michele at Lucca, — Not entirely successful in the biting, one or two cast shadows being exactly of the same weight with the shaded side of the projections which cast them ; and yet, in spite of this, and the excessive sacrifice of detail in shade, an etching of more than usual interest, not only for the quaint richness of its material, but for the bold preservation of local colour in full light The richness of the soft-ground process and its suitableness for architectural illustration have seldom been more completely exhibited, but after the removal of the var- nish the plate has been reinforced with the point, whose assist- ance is seldom altogether unneeded. There are grammatical faults in the tonality, as, for instance, in the shadow on the


286 J^USKIN.


white and dark marble of the arch, which is of precisely the same force on both  ; but there are valuable gradations in the sculptured mouldings, and much interesting variety of line. The light on the wall behind the arcade, between the columns under the shadow of the arch, is the best bit of illumination in the whole plate.

Pass of Faido. Simple tcpograpky. — An etching in few lines, without any indication of light-and-shade, having for its unique purpose the clear expression of the truth about moun- tain form. The principal exercise of the mind in such work as this lies in the selection of those lines which are most ex- pressive of structure. This is a kind of drawing which would be very useful to men of science if they could do anything so truthful, which by some strange fatality they never can. As I look at it, I think what a pity it is that De Saussure^ for example, had not been trained to work of this kind, instead of being dependent upon the feeble draughtsmanship of his assistants and the miserable engravers who reproduced their drawings. The means used here are as simple as they pos- sibly can be. The main lines are given, and a few markings, that is alL There is no modelling and no illumination. Local colour also is omitted. Yet with all these omissions such is the explanatory power of the line that the mountain forms are made plain to us.

For a scientific purpose, this kind of etching may be most useful, but it cannot be practised by an artist without danger. It is perilous for him, because in doing it he would no longer see all the elements of landscape effect simultaneously, and give a resume of the whole, but would look only for the outline and certain markings which exhibit construction, so becoming blind to many other things which it concerns him equally to observe. In a word, this etching is an example of abstrac- tion, and abstraction of a kind which is rather scientific than artistic.

There is a strong temptation to draw mountains on these


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principles from nature, because it is the only kind of deliberate drawing which can be done from nature amongst mountain- scenery at all If you study such scenery in light and shade or in colour, your memoranda must be so rapid as to miss the delicacy of the forms.

Crests of La CSte and Taconay, — ^A study of the same kind as the preceding, but much more beautiful, on account of the indescribable grace of the natural lines, which the artist may have slightly exaggerated in his love for them. As an etched study this is the most perfect thing of its kind I ever met with. I doubt whether there is an artist living in England who can draw mountains with Mr. Ruskin's knowledge of structure and his lively sense of beauty, and I feel Confident that there is nobody out of England who can. We know, however, what a price has been paid for this knowledge, how many seasons of patient labour amongst the Alps, what long self-discipline in observation, and in the art of recording observation.* Few can appreciate the veracity of such drawing ; no one can value it as it deserves to be valued who has not given many a day to labours of the same order in some noble mountain-land.

  • I shonld have been glad to speak of some plates done after Tnmer, bat can-

not do so in this place on account of my rale (a Tery necessary one) to confine myself to original work. The only exception to this rule will be a chapter on etching from pictures.


CHAPTER V.


WHISTLER.


JAMES WHISTLER is of American extraction, and studied painting in France in the studio of Gleyre. As a student he was capricious and irregular, and did not leave the impression amongst his fellow-pupils that his future would be in any way distinguished. He never entirely submitted to the French academical discipline, and his artistic education, like that of many English artists, seems to have been mainly acquired by private and inde- pendent study.

As an artist who by this time has fully expressed at least his tendencies. Whistler may be fairly estimated now. He has very rare and very peculiar endowments, and may in a certain sense be called great, — that is, so far as great- ness may be understood of faculties which are rather remarkable for keenness and originality than range. The faculties which he has are pre-eminently of the artistic order ; he is essentially a painter and etcher, not a dramatist or poet ; he is never literary, but always pictorial. And in his pictures and etchings it is the most artistic points that interest him most — not so much the natural material as what may be done with it His oil-pictures are experiments in colour-harmonies, and his etchings are notes of strange concurrences of line. Whether he really loves anything I have never been able to determine, but he has a predilection for the wharves of the Thames, which, in a warmer tempera- ment, would have grown into a strong affection. Whistler


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seems from his works — I do not know him personally — to be not altogether expansive or sympathetic, but sejf-con- centrated and repellent of the softer emotions. His work is often admirable, but it is rarely affecting, because we can so seldom believe that the artist has himself been affected. It is very observant, very penetrating, very sensitive even, in a peculiar way, but not poetically sensitive. Though edu- cated as a figure-painter. Whistler has given no proof of his interest, either in the events of history or of the common life around him  ; and a figure, for him, is useful chiefly because it can wear clothes of any colour he pleases. The only people for whom he seems to have a sort of liking are the Thames bargemen, and he has sketched them not unfaithfully, with appropriate costume and short pipes. It would be unfair, perhaps, to say that Whistler has no sense of beauty, for he has evidently an instinct for beautiful arrangements of colour, but it is not unfair to say that beauty of form is not his object Indifference to beauty is, however, com- patible with splendid success in etching, as the career of Rembrandt proved. What an etcher needs is not so much a sense of beauty as of expression and variety ; and if a choice had to be made between the man who enjoyed beauty, but enjoyed nothing else, and the man who, without any especial appreciation of the beautiful, read in everything the marks which tell the story of its existence, we may rely upon it that the better etcher of the two would not be the slave of beauty.

Whistler is a master of line, but not of chiaroscuro. There is seldom in his etchings any large arrangement of light and shade, and the resources of art in tonic values are often pre- maturely exhausted, so that to complete the picture we should need some pigment a great deal blacker than printer's ink. The lighting of his subjects is usually very much scattered, but this is in harmony with their medley of material, and

there is no reason why an effect of breaking and scattering

U


29© WHISTLER.


may not occasionally be selected as a motive. Art is so large, that it may express not only unity and repose, but restlessness and confusion. In many of Whistler's etchings the eye has no peace, and cannot find a space of tranquil light or quiet shade ; but after long familiarity with the art that illustrates unity and repose, we find refreshment in this very carelessness of unity, and even, if such a paradox may be pardoned, a unity in their scattering and an aim in their aimlessness.

Mr. Whistler has published a set of his plates since the first edition of this work appeared.* Let me especially re- commend the Hungerford Bridge (for exquisite delicacy of

  • It is unfortunate, I think, that etchings like those of Mr. Whistler and Mr.

Haden should be published at such a very high price and in such a small edition. Money was certainly not the object in either of these cases ; the real object in charging twelve or sixteen guineas for a few etchings is to convey the impression to the public mind that they are very precious things, and it is certain that if the etchings were published at a moderate price there is a class of collectors who would cease to value them  ; such is human nature. But, on the other hand, it is a misfortune for the celebrity of the etcher that so few copies of his works should be in the possession of those who really care about the art for itself, and who do not estimate the quality of a drawing by the sum of money which was paid for it A hundred copies of a publication can do but little for the fame of its author, a thousandjmight do something. In literature we find that it is possible to sell books by thousands without acquiring thereby any inconvenient degree of celebrity, and we also find that cheap editions do not degrade books, but the contnuy. A reasonable way of publishing etchings is that adopted by Mr. SijthofT of Le3rden for Unger*s works, the price being £,\  : 7s. for the set of ten, mounted on boards. A still cheaper and quite practicable system is that of M. Cadart, who issues an annual portfolio at  ;f 2, containing forty etchings well printed on good Dutch paper, but not mounted. Etchings cannot be decently issued independently for less than this, but it is relatively a popular form answering to cheap editions in literature. The Portfolio gives an etching every month for half-a-crown, besides two other full-page illustrations and a quantity of text. I have an especial dislike to the system of publishing very limited editions, and then destroying the plates to create a small demand for the proofs as rarities. The greatest care should be taken not to publish a single proof after the plate shows signs of wear, but until then why not let everybody buy a copy who wants one  ? I am particularly vexed with M. de Gravesande for having destroyed some plates of his mentioned in this volume when only a hundred copies had been printed. One feels that it is almost useless to write about things which can be in the hands of so very few people.


WHISTLER. 291


curve) ; the little girl leaning against a door-post in France, a woman inside the house cooking; a boy seated, and hold- ing his foot (dry-point), hat on the floor, dress of black velvet ; and the three subjects which follow.

Wapping" Wharf. — The reader may know this etching by the following indications. There is a house with bow -windows to the right, and three common windows above. Over these is a sign with the words, " Thames Police ; " a second house bears the inscription, " Wapping-Wharf." The shores of the Thames in London used to be picturesque, and the new embankment will remove much material that is interesting to artists ; but the picturesque of the London river is after all nothing but a more entertaining variety of the universal London ugliness. The Thames is beautiful from Maidenhead to Kew, but not from Battersea to Sheerness. If beauty were the only province of art, neither painters nor etchers would find anything to occupy them in the foul stream that washes the London wharfs ; but even ugliness itself may be valuable if only it has suflicient human interest and fortuitous variety of lines. The long brick streets, whose regularity charms the least artistic section of the public, are as ugly as Wapping Wharf, but they are not so available for etching, because they have nothing accidental and unforeseen. A subject like this is not only picturesque, but very quaint and curious, full of all sorts of odd bits of detail that come together in a strange way that amuses and occupies the spectator. It takes some time to analyse any of Whistler's more com- plicated river subjects, and we have a pleasure in the occupa- tion, which is much enhanced by the singular skill of the designer. In this particular etching attention may be directed to the delicacy of work on the principal roof, and to the rapid but subtle sketching of the barges and wherry in the foreground.

Black Lion Wharf. — I take this as a representative


292 WHISTLER.


example of Whistler's peculiar qualities and faults ; the faults being, as so often happens in art, inseparable from the qualities, and not so much to be condemned as simply stated, to prevent them from having an influence which might become widely and permanently injurious. It is one of the Thames wharfs seen across the water ; in the foreground we have a man sitting in a barge, his arm resting on the gunwale. Near the shore is a schooner, a barge full of barrels, one or two other boats, a landing-stage, a crane, several houses, and two large warehouses, one with a long chimney. The roofs, as usual, are studied with the utmost minuteness, and no detail of window or balcony is missed. The schooner is very finely indicated, but the foreground is slight in the extreme, and is altogether out of relation to the rest of the subject. The artist has exhausted all his darks in the details of the shore : the blacks in a single bow-window beyond the schooner have got down already to the very bottom of the scale ; and as nothing in an etching can be made blacker than pure printer's ink, the artist has no resource left for his foreground, and so sketches it without attempting any statement of its relation to that bow-window. But if we concentrate our attention, as Whistler did, upon the buildings, our study will be amply rewarded. Though the work is very careful, it is by no means slavish, and differs from the careful work of bad etchers more by keenness of observation and vivacity of handling, than by any disdain for small facts. If there is composition, it is so consummate as to be undis- coverable ; but the very absence of it increases the appear- ance of jumble which is so characteristic of the London wharfs. Houses built without a plan, and figures who do not trouble themselves about the rules of art, are the materials that Whistler has sought : disorder and confusion are the law of their visible existence, and not confusion of the sort which in art is the most orderly arrangement ; and as the absence of composition only helps the expression of


WHISTLER. 293


character, so the sins against tonality give a striking look of truth. The whole attention of the spectator is concentrated on the wharf; and if the houses there are considered without reference to any nearer object, their tonality approaches more closely to the strong oppositions of nature than any delicate Tumerian interpretation.

Boats at a mooring — Evening. — Seven boats with masts are fastened by ropes to a ring in a post on the right There is a large barge to the left, with five men on it Behind the boats is a bridge and a church tower ; on the shore, to the left above the barge, there is a brick building with stone facings, and a clock in a tower. The shore is crowded with people, and there are figures ascending stairs.

Whistler's etchings are not generally remarkable for poetical feeling, but there is a harmony in the thin lines of these masts and in the festoons of the converging cables that hold the boats, which approaches poetical synthesis. The variety of inclination in the masts is very subtle and beautiful ; a fan-like arrangement, artfully broken in the middle by one contradictory vessel. There is some mys- terious work in the bridge, and strong realism in the near brick building to the left The fine strokes for cordage are drawn with great certainty against the tender evening sky.


CHAPTER VI.


HADEN.


pRANCIS SEYMOUR HADEN is a London surgeon in large practice, devoted to his profession, which he pursues actively.

Francis Seymour Haden is an artist of rare endowment and consummate practical skill.

These two statements may seem incompatible, but they are both true. When a surgeon or other professional gentle- man outside of art reads this, he will wonder how it can be possible that a practical surgeon can be also a practical artist ; he may even go a step farther, and decide in his own mind that it is not possible. However, whether possible or not, it is a fact. So, when an artist who has not seen Haden's etchings, hears that he is a doctor and an amateur, he may feel certain that the etchings cannot be worth much  ; but then the undeniable fact is that they are worth much, that they are worth more than professional work generally, and that it is difficult to find work of the same technical quality amongst the productions of contemporary artists, either in England or out of England.

This success of Mr. Haden as an artist — a success which is not due to any temporary fashion, but will be as permanent as any other modern reputation of equal present importance — is the most interesting fact which can be adduced in reference to the great question of amateurship, and it is worth while to consider how far Mr. Haden's position .resembles that of other amateurs generally, and what hope of a like success they may reasonably entertain.


HADEN.


29s


It is true that etching has been Mr. Haden's recreation, and not the business of his life ; but drawing, which is the foundation of etching, was employed by him as an auxiliary in the study of anatomy, and men of great energy often carry a spirit of resolution into their amusements, and a determination to do what they undertake as well as they possibly can, even when they have no intention of earning money by it. The kind of recreation which Mr. Haden has sought in art was not pastime, but diversion — not a way of passing time agreeably, so much as something to divert great energies from their usual channel. He would never have been an etcher at all, if he had always regularly enjoyed the perfect health necessary to uninterrupted profes- sional work  ; but though his constitution is robust, there was a time, some years ago, when its powers were so much over- taxed that a very long rest was considered necessary, and during this time of rest Mr. Haden produced the etchings that we know. Since then his health has been re-established, the practice of medicine resumed, and etching all but abandoned. The production of an etching is too serious and difficult a matter to be undertaken when the mind is pre- . occupied by other interests ; and though it may require few hours to etch a plate, these hours must be preceded by other hours of uninterrupted tranquillity, and there must be no anxiety about work to be done, or appointments to be kept, just when the plate is finished. An active surgeon or lawyer, however true might be his natural gift as an artist, however consummate his acquired facility, could not, in short intervals stolen from his profession, get himself suffi- ciently into the artistic frame of mind for the production of good work. The reader would therefore greatly mistake the conditions under which Mr. Haden's etchings were achieved, if he supposed that the artist executed his plates during the intervals of consultations. Though a surgeon by profession, he had been compelled against his will to abandon


296 HADEN,


medicine temporarily, and sought occupation in etching ; living, for the time, the life of an artist, and purposely detaching his mind as much as possible from professional cares and thoughts. That Mr. Haden has by nature a very powerful and original artistic faculty I have no doubt, but it is not so certain that he is naturally more artist than surgeon, or that we ought to regret the devotion of his life to a career outside of art There are instances of men who are in profes- sions which they dislike, and who seek in music or painting, often also in the more attractive kinds of literary work, a relief from the tedium of uncongenial duties. But the case of Mr. Haden is so far from being one of these, that he is devotedly attached to his profession, and quitted it for art only that he might return to it later with re-invigorated energies. He had long possessed a rich collection of etchings, and the example of Whistler induced him to make a practical attempt The result was so far satisfactory as to be an encouragement to perseverance, and Mr. Haden found in etching the patience to endure a temporary pause in the career of his serious ambition. Whilst etching the plates which have won for him artistic fame, Mr. Haden had no idea of showing his work to the public ; he did it for his own health and delight, and neither for our pleasure nor our praise.

This last fact brings me to a consideration which is favourable to the chances of amateurs. Artists who work for money and reputation are obliged to consult the market, to think whether their work is likely to suit the taste which, for the time being, is prevalent ; and this often leads them to much embarrassment and hesitation, and cramps their true genius. They are like speakers on a platform  : they have to adapt themselves to an audience, and their success seems to depend as much upon their knowledge of the public as upon their knowledge of art In saying this, I am not speaking vaguely, but have living instances before me  ;


HADEN. 297


instances of men who, being compelled to go out of their true path in order to earn their bread, become anxious rather to please the public than to satisfy themselves, and waste time and thought in the endeavour to adapt their -work to the general demand. I know these things from the inside, and have seen the effects of this anxiety, the loss of force and directness to which it leads, the loss of originality, the extinction of enthusiasm, the sacrifice of truth. But the artist who neither works for income nor reputation need not suffer from this distracting cause. He goes directly to his aim, which is the perfect expression of his thought His art is not a speech from a platform, but a sincere soliloquy in the presence of nature and of God.

A case like Mr. Haden's is so exceptional that the reader may have a difficulty in believing that he worked without intending to publish. The idea of publication only suggested itself when it had become evident that amongst the plates already executed there was material for an interesting port- folio. An intelligent French critic, M. Burty, saw their value, and catalogued them, and the publication was accom- panied by M. Burty's Catalogue. They were published in Paris, and shortly afterwards in London, by Messrs. Colnaghi. No issue of etchings ever had such rapid and complete success. The reviews of them were very numerous  ; all the London papers noticed them, and every review was in a strain of almost unmixed eulogy. The subscription list was rapidly filled, though the price went beyond even English custom, and in a few weeks one of the busiest surgeons in London found himself one of its most celebrated artists.

A success of this kind is not likely to be repeated, but it has done good service to the art by awakening an interest in it ; and we who by warm praise made Mr. Haden's etch- ings famous, will never have to repent our share in the work. Whatever mistakes we have made, posterity will not say that this is one of them.


298 HADEN.


How the skill came to him is still, after all explanations, a mystery. No one ever before was able to do work of equal quality after so little manual practice. The anatomical drawing laid a foundation, and perhaps the manual precision necessary in dissection, and still more in operations on the living subject, may have developed a natural capacity to apprehend form  : but what is so curious is that the etchings show no trace of a dominant sense of mere construction; that the scientific element is entirely subordinated to the artistic impression, and this to such a degree that there is no obtrusive display of structural knowledge, even where it was fully possessed, and the figures hold their places as true landscape-figures, when any other anatomist would have become pedantic about muscles and bones. The structure of trees is always powerfully rendered, and, whether in foliage, or branch, or stem, the draughtsmanship is equal to that of any contemporary landscape-painter ; but even here there is no pedantry of scieiice or system, and the trees are drawn quite freely and innocently, as if the artist knew them only by the intense gaze of a simple lover of nature. This entire subordination of science to art, in a man scientifically educated, is a proof of immense natural spring and elasticity in the artistic faculty itself. A never-ending subject of wonder to me in Haden's work is that it is not only art, but pure art, — art reigning unopposed in its own realm ; and that the scientific training of the workman has not power to embarrass him, but is easily laid aside, as the old knights laid aside their stiff plate-armour to take their ease in robes of pliant silk.

This etcher has had much against him  : the constant application of energy to other objects, the direction of atten- tion to studies of a different order ; but one thing in his hard professional life has been favourable, — he has learned what it is to observe and what it is to work. The miserable failure of the mass of amateurs is due not so much to their


HADEN. 299


having other work, as to their having no work, to their lamentable ignorance of the nature of work generally. When men have not some great pursuit, they abandon culture when they leave school, and (as a distinguished living poet said to me in a letter) " content themselves with the current enlighten- ment of the epoch." But Mr. Haden has had for his main pursuit one of the noblest and most stimulating of all studies, so that he has never lost the habit of acquisition.

Of his place and rank among etchers it may be necessary now to speak. He is frankly a pupil of Rembrandt, but so thoroughly modem that tradition never stands between him and nature. Haden has nothing whatever in common with the English school of etching, and is only mentioned in this place because he happens to be an Englishman, not as a member of the school. His manner is so entirely in har- mony with the nature of the art, that no man's work, except Rembrandt's, is a safer example in this respect There is never, in an etching by Haden, that uncomfortable fatigue which wearies us so frequently in modem work ; he never even wishes to transgress the limits of the art, but works happily within them, as a sea-captain commands his own ship. Consequently, he never imitates engraving, or betfays a hankering after other methods, or wants etching to do more than it naturally can do. As every quality has its corresponding fault, it may be added, however, that Mr. Haden is so rapid and decided in manner, that he misses, by his very decision, the charm of a certain rare and precious and exquisite {;/decision which one or two first-rate men have had, and which is the last result of art His temper is rather active and rapidly intuitive, than quietly contempla- tive ; and though his etchings prove that he is capable of reverie and rest, he is so only at rare moments, his general habit being emphatic and decisive. Of his imaginative power, there is only evidence of this kind, that he turns what he sees into something interesting and good ; but what he


300 HADEN.


could do without nature or sketches, I am unable to say. It is certain that he is not a literalist, not a prosaic work- man ; and though the imaginative faculty in this case may not be strong enough to be relied upon without reference to nature, it is certainly strong enough to transform and inter- pret nature.

Of the kind of material made use of by this artist, it may be observed, first, that he is a master of foliage, that he has drawn some trees magnificently, both as to wood and leaves ; there is no better stem or branch drawing than his in all contemporary art He draws boats and buildings well, and water in the common varieties of calm and ripple, but he does not seem to have attempted the sea-waves. He draws land with great truth, especially pieces of river-bank, but apparently does not possess any especial knowledge of mountain structure or mountain effects. So his cloud studies are confined to what may be seen in the lowlands. An etcher having Haden's technical power, and perfect leisure for some years, might do great and new things in mountainous countries, if he had the right passion for their sublimities. These victories are reserved for the future ; mountains have been painted, but never etched.*

Out of Study window. — The sky here may be a useful example to etchers, as much for the prudence of the artist as his courage. He has done those things which he ought to have done, and he has also left undone those things which he ought not to have done. This negative side of duty is, for clever and accomplished artists, perhaps the more difficult of the two. With the single exception of Whistler, there is not another etcher in England who would not have killed this sky in trying to finish it.f These masses of heavy

  • Except scientifically by Mr. Ruskin, as we have seen, and slightly by Turner

as a preparation for mezzotint.

t This was true when written, but I think that Mr. Chattock would now etch such a sky rightly if it came in his way.


HAD EN. 301


cumulus might have tempted an ordinary etcher into a painful struggle after imitative modelling, which would have certainly ended in the loss of motion and energy. It would be possible, no doubt, to do work even in etching more imitative than this bold interpretation, but any truth which long labour might have attained would have been dearly purchased by the slighest diminution in the unity and vivacity of impression. A natural sky, even of the most slowly-moving clouds, is always so transient that copyism is out of the question, and the more rapid the memorandum the better does it harmonise with the fleeting nature of the thing. What an etcher most needs to record is, first, the composition, and then so much of the relations of tone as may be necessary to suggest, but not imitate, the natural light and shade. Whilst doing so much as this^ the artist should miss no opportunity of noting and accentuating the lines of energy and motion.

Sunset on the Thames. — The indications of cloud-form here are much slighter than the strong sketching in the preceding study, but the effect of light is given with such magnificent force that the whole sky flames. As a proof of the artist's subtle observation, may be mentioned the horizontal elongation of the sun's disk behind the cloud which^ as it were, seems to draw it out into an oval, a common optical illusion. The broad bright river flows swiftly past the sun, bearing the laden barges. Etching of this kind is purely interpretative : etching may be imitative sometimes ; it is marvellously imitative in the work of Jules Jacquemart, but Haden works always on the far higher principle of interpretation, and has never done so more conspicuously than in this instance. The wild scrawling in the upper sky, the thick black strokes which to the right do duty as solar rays, the faint scratches of dry-point which cross the field of intensest light, the two broad bands to the left which radiate like the sails of a windmill, and are in


302 HADEN.


fact shadows in the misty air — ^all these things, and the undulating lines which mark the flow of the rippling river, are expressional expedients, which no simple imitator could ever discover or apply. He might scrawl as wildly and scratch as faintly, but it would not be the right scrawling and scratching, and he might leave great spaces of white paper like that in the upper sky, but he could not flood it with this ethereal fire.

Whist Uf^s House at Old Chelsea. — It would have been interesting to future students of etching, if Mr. Haden had informed us which of these houses is inhabited by the great etcher of the Thames. He has been kind enough to let us know where Mr. Greaves, the boat-builder, carries on his very useful occupation, but the Thames has had many boat-builders and only one Whistler. There is magnifi- cent power of drawing in this etching, and brilliant arrange- ment of lights and darks. The foreshortening of the bows of the baizes, as seen from the stems, is as good a piece of work as one might hope to find in the Royal Academy, and there is not a marine painter living who would have drawn these barges better. Their immense force as darks gfives great delicacy to the bridge, and the light foliage beyond it ; and their cumbrous weight as a united mass adds greatly to the thread-like tenuity of the rigging in the distance. Of the figures in the foreg^und, it is fair to say that they are neither better nor worse than Turner's. We have a woman in a state of much distress because three little dogs are running afler her, and she displays her legs in a manner so pathetic as to excite the sympathy of everybody but those two watermen with the poles, one of whom seems rather amused at the incident. Both woman and watermen are in a high degree Tumerian ; that is, they are true landscape-painter's figures, not to be judged in themselves,* but with reference to the houses and boats they accompany. Rude as they are, they give life


HADEN. 303


to the scene, and their execution is in harmony with that of the inanimate objects about them.

The Towing-path. — A sketch in dry-point, with a rather high horizon and somewhat empty foreground, on which a lady is walking with a Skye- terrier. It is a river scene, where the stream is divided by an island. This island and both shores are enriched with foliage which is reflected in the glassy water. There is some undulation towards the foreground, but it is smooth and bright, and reflects the sky.

When persons, not much accustomed to etching, come across a dry-point, they are always very much taken by its softness ; but if the tones of dry-point are richer, its lines are poorer than the etched line. In pure etching, Mr. Haden would have drawn better poplars than these, and the other trees would have had more variety and richer detail The best work here is not in the trees, nor in the sky, but the water. The reflection of the central mass on the island is as soft and limpid as we may desire. When water is not so absolutely still as to become a mirror, but yet sufficiently smooth to reflect softly, it can be rendered as well with the dry-point as any other instrument, for the lines needed are all either straight lines, vertical, or horizontal, or else the gentlest curves. The rich quality of dry-point work gives the softness of such reflections perfectly.

A Sunset in Tipperary. — If the reader cares to compare the powers of etching and dry-point, he may place this dry- point side by side with the etching of part of the same subject which appeared in the Fine Arts Quarterly Review.^ The difference is altogether in favour of dry-point if richness of tone is the quality sought, and just as favourable to etching if we value variety of line. Much will depend on the parti- cular impression to which the reader may have access. Thd one before me is so clogged with ink that the signature is a

♦ See Fine Arts Quarterly Review^ No. 3, New Series, January 1867, p. 119.


304 HADEN.


blot, and the nearer trees a mass of undistinguishable dark. But I remember other impressions printed less heavily, in which all the richness of the subject was preserved without this excessive confusion. To judge a dry-point fairly, we must be past the stage in which its softness strikes and captivates us, for this softness is merely a necessary property in the process, and does not of itself imply merit in the executant The scene here is one of those charming glimpses of river, where the stream reflects the sky before it hides itself again under the dark woods. It is evening, and the time seems later than sunset ; the copy before me might pass for late twilight, so lost are the details in the inky depths of shade. Landscape art is often dear to us from its connection with healthy pleasures and agreeable reminiscences. Let us suppose, that we may the better enjoy this plate, that we have descended the river so far in a canoe, and are pausing here whilst the sun sets beyond the dark forest It must, of course, be a river wholly unknown to us, and we ought to feel a little anxiety and apprehension about our twilight course through those solemn woods.

Shere Mill-pond^ Surrey, — The preparation for this volume has compelled me to examine all the most notable etchings which have been produced since the invention of the art. In the course of these studies, I have looked over several thousand plates, and, having selected two or three hundred of the best, weighed their relative merits with the most scrupulous care. The reader will, therefore, do me the justice to believe that any expression of opinion to which I commit myself has been preceded by long deliberation. It is easy to blame ; and censure has always this element of safety, that there is imperfection or at least limitation, in all human endeavour, and that he who discovers faults places himself on a judicial seat, whilst humble admiration implies some acknowledgment of inferiority. A great critic of litera- ture observed to me, that it needed courage to praise without


HADEN, 305


reserve ; and there is so little reserve in what I am going to say, that I need this courage now.

With the single exception of one plate, by Claude, this is the finest etching of a landscape subject that has ever been executed in the world.

The plate by Claude, alluded to above, is the one known as " the Bouvier." We shall have more to say of Claude's masterpiece in its due place. Such superiorities as it may have over this plate of Haden's are compensated by other and different superiorities in the English master, and the two etchings may fairly divide our suffrages. In all fine art, strength and delicacy are the extremes of expressional power, and the stronger the strength and the more delicate the delicacy, the larger in this sense is the compass of the artist In this plate we have both, and both in the supreme degree. The strength is not expressed by violence, but by the unimaginable richness of the great soft masses of near foliage, and the rapid sketching of the nearest reeds. The wild duck is put in with a few incisive lines of dry-point, so true in movement that the bird is set before us with a vital force. The heavy body hangs from the lifting wings, and the head peers forward in the alarm of sudden flight. Under the reeds the water is dark with full reflection, but where the wild duck has just quitted it, there is a bright confusion of momentary disturbance. The smooth little wavelets play softly amongst the reeds, and their liquid swelling and the flight of the bird that caused them are the only notes that break a melody of repose. And as to the right hand we have foliage in the utmost fulness of great masses, so in the centre and to the left of the composition we have it in its slenderest grace. There is no contrast in human or animal form so marked and extreme as this. From the wild duck to the heron, from the ox to the giraffe, the transition is not so great as that from the orbed immensity of the fuU-foliaged chestnut to the slimness of the young poplar, whose leaves

x


3o6 HADEN.


may be almost counted, and whose trunk may be grasped with the hand. But all these things are obvious, and may be easily expressed in words  ; that which is not so obvious nor so easily written about, is the subtle play of soft gjradations like the modulations of tenderest music ; the passage from all that is richest and fullest to all that is thinnest and clearest, a transition managed without abruptness, without violence; yet passing from extreme to extreme.

House of Benjamin Davis, Smith {Newcastle-in-Emfyn, South Wales). — This may be taken as fairly representative of Mr. Haden's sketches on copper. A sketch of this kind may be easily done in three hours, if the artist is clever enough to do it at all, and it may be done as conveniently in the acid bath as out of it Mr. Haden has a way of leaving large white spaces in his foreground, so that sometimes his compositions do not seem solidly based  ; but the advan- tage of a white space is undeniable when there is a fair excuse for leaving one ; it affords repose to the eye, and gives by contrast a value to the blacks, and consequently a brilliance to the whole work, which are not otherwise so easily attainable. These plates at one sitting have an advantage on the score of freshness, but they can scarcely be either rich in detail or complete in tonality, and when good they are rather of the nature of artistic memoranda, than works of deliberate purpose. In this case, although the vehicles cast shadows, and the house is in full light, there is a curious absence of illumination on the foliage, and the plate has a confused look which is not altogether satisfactory.

Early Morning in Richmond Park, — There is a faint little inscription in dry-point to the left of the plate, from one of the songs of Shakspeare, " The lark at heaven's gate sings," and in the space of perfectly white paper, which is here made to represent the bright early sky, the bird is faintly visible. This poetical quotation may have been added when the plate was retouched, for there is abundant dry-point work.


HADEN. 307


and a roughening of the copper on the foliage, which indicate labours subsequent to those with the needle. But whether the quotation occurred to the artist in the presence of nature, or not, the conception of the plate itself has a poetry of its own, and it is filled with the freshness of morning. The contrast of light and dark on the trunks of the great trees is somewhat violent and excessive, and would not stand the test, the one true test of tonality, of translation into colour. If a painter took this etching and tried to make a picture from it, he could not preserve this violence of contrast, for he could not paint his tree with pure flake white on the side where the sun strikes it, and pure ivory black on the other. There is a sooty heaviness in these shades which really injures the effect whilst apparently adding to its force ; but the trunks are drawn with perfect knowledge of their structure, and a masterly indication of bark. There is a little tree on the lower land, the summit of whose foliage is caught by the sunshine, And as it were, burnt by it in a glitter of silvery flame as light as the white sky itself. This is an exaggeration, but a permissible one, for it helps the expression of splendour. There is an unaccountable salissure to the left under the sun, which, whatever it may have been intended to mean, expresses no object or appearance of objects visible in distant landscape ; but though the plate has obvious defects, it has the one great merit, which in etching makes almost any defect pardonable, the unity of a genuine impression.

Battersea Reach, — The same feeling which suggested the introduction of the lark in the preceding subject has sug- gested the balloon in this ; it helps to give the sense of space and air, and reminds us that the white paper there is not to be paper for us, but atmosphere. Mr. Haden's love for large white spaces was never more strikingly manifested than in the last or published state of this etching. In the earlier state the river was crowded with boats, but now these have been removed wherever it reflects the sky, and a vast bright


3o8 HADEK


surface is left unbroken, a surface so bright that it is out of relation to the actual whiteness of the sky, which we must fancy a little brighter still. The massive sketching of the buildings on the opposite shore adds, by its extreme solidity, to the curious appearance of suspension between two voids. This crowded shore, with its houses and prisons of stone, seems to hang like a planet in the pure ether, or the Island of Laputa in the air. This idea is the artistic motive of the work, and the strange charm of the etching may be due to a vague sense of the unexpressed analogy between these sub- stantial buildings of Battersea suspended between two infini- ties, and resting apparently upon nothing, and the stem prose of the life of man between the two eternities.

The Agamemnofi* — ^The plate measures i6 in. by J^ in. It is drawn upon to the edges. There is no margin on the copper. Thus the plate-mark coincides with the edges of the drawing, and there are no ruled lines. I think that it is wise to arrange etchings in this way generally, becaus6 the ruled lines are in too strong contrast with the liberty of the etched ones, and the simple plate-mark is less formal. At the same

  • This etching is not included in the portfolio which contains the plates

hitherto enumerated. It was published separately and more recently. No etching ever published has been so successful, indeed the profits which it realised immediately were so great as to equal the price of a firstrate picture in the Academy, whilst if the time spent is considcretl, there have not been more than three or four painters who have ever earned so much in so few hours. Far indeed, however, from ideas of money-getting was the mind of the artist when he set about his task. He had abandoned etching on account of professional duties, and it was I who induced him to resume the point. 1 had just founded the Port/olio^ and begged Mr. I laden to etch a plate for the young periodical on our usual terms, suggesting that the money might be handed over to some charity. lie accepted, and was glad to earn something in this way for the hospital he has founded. With this yiavf he went to etch the Agatfumnon^ taking the copper with him and work- ing directly from nature, but the copper was too big for the Portfolio, so it was decided he should do something else for us and publish the Agafnentfton plate separately. This was very fortunate, as it turned out, for it is quite possible that if the plate had appeared in a periodical it might have attracted less attention, whereas, having strength to stand alone, its importance was fully recognised.


PLATE XI.

Part of the plate known as

    • THE AGAMEMNON/'

By F. SEYMOUR HADEN.

Copied by the AuUior.


PLATE XI.

(To be placed oi)po3itc page 30S.)

Part of the plate known as "The .AGAMEMNON."

By F. Seymour Hadcn.

Copied by the Author,

This includes a very small portion of ^^^. Haden's large plate, and docs not give any of his deepcal foreground biiings. The importance of the cloud markings in the sky can scarcely be understood without reference to the entire >ky in the ori- ginal. The sun, in tliis fragment, ncces>arily appears exaggerateil in size, and the buildings in the distance look more carelessly drawn than tliey do in the original, because of their greater relative importance in tliis small fragment

BITINGS.


In Dutch Mordant, heated to 90^ Falircnheit


The palest Unes about sun, sky, distance, and water .

Darker lines in distance ......

Domes and buildings of Greenwich .....

Dreadnought (hulk to left) and sail of barge and distant \'essel, also some ripple in water, and some of tlie lighter touches on Agamemnon .......

The Agamemnon (prow to the right) ....

Portion of barge in right-hand corner and kaegromid ripple


First proof taken.

Plate prepared for rebiiing.

The portions rebitten were the domes an«l ImildinQS of Greenwich (ex- cept tliu.se behifid the barge wiih the dark aprit-.^iil) also the Dreadnouglit and sail of the barge, and tlie anchor of the Agamemnon. They were rebitten for eight minutes.


Second proof takeiu

Faint lines now added with the dry-point, or else obtained by reducing with the scraper and burnisher .some of those which had bitten seven minutes. The Dreadnought is slia<led with the burin over the etched lines. The lower part of the Agamemnon, near the water, is bliaded with dr}*-point So is the buuy. Some lines in tlie Agamemnon are deepened with the burin, others are reduced with the scraper.


This pl.ate is printed a.? follows  : — The whole is first wiped with the can- vas only (not the hand.) and then the stern of the Dreadnought, the ripi)Ie and portit;'!! of barge in the immediate foreground, and part of tlie Aga- memnon, are rcinusjcs.


I


HADEN, 309


time the slight depression of the etched surface is good and assists the effect, making the margin like the frame to a picture, and when ribbed or rough paper is employed the etched surface alone is made smooth by pressure, whereas when there is a copper margin the paper is smooth also between the etching and the plate-mark. In the latter case the formality of ruled lines is now frequently avoided by letting the etched work of the drawing come up to an imag- inary line rather irregularly.

The sentiment of this etching is very like that of Turner's well-known picture, the Tdmiraire. In the picture an old

  • war-ship of the heroic time is being towed to her last berth,

there to be broken up like a rotten cask ; in the etching another such old war-ship has actually arrived at her last berth, and the destroyers are already at work upon her. If there is any sight in the world which can touch the heart of an Englishman, it is this. Until now the ship has been alive still, though superseded by later models, but now an official decision has pronounced her to be dead, and sentenced her to dissolution. She floats yet, and there are men in her, but they are doing exactly the same work as the worms in a dead war-horse. They have destroyed a good deal already. Every mast and every spar is gone except the mizzen and the flag-staff at the stern, and even that mizzen is bared of its shrouds. From figure-head to taffrail the bulwarks are cleared away, and the timbers stand up like a shattered battlement, showing the sky between them. As the planking is gradually torn off it will bare the ribs from deck to deck down to the water's edge. But this is not to be done to-day, so we may look at those long rows of port-holes till the sun is down. No more battle-thunder will ever come out of them, they are nothing now but so many windows without glass, and provided with uncommonly thick shutters, some closed, some partially lifted up. Now let us use our imaginations a little and see the old ship as she was in the day of battle


3IO HAD EN.


with all her sails set, gliding swiftly and steadily towards the enemy's line, silent as a chatted thunder-cloud before the lightning flashes. Not until she gets very near will she break that ominous silence. Then suddenly half her port-holes open together, half her guns thrust out their deadly muzzles, a tongue of red flame leaps out from each, followed by a long puff of smoke, and then comes such a roar ! Crash go the flying balls into the enemy ! — Well, we have all read such descriptions, and we all remember how.

With thunders from her'native oak She quells the floods below, — As they roar on the shore, When the stormy winds do blow ; When the battle rages loud and long, And the stormy winds do blow.

Perhaps these very lines may have been ringing in the etcher's memory when he sat down to his task, certainly the sentiments and recollections I have just expressed were his. The Agamemnon was not to him merely a floating wooden thing of rather a picturesque shape, nor was that figure- head, with its British-Greek helmet and crest, merely a reference to the war in Troy, for the wooden Agamemnon had been in sublimer battle than any Grecian leader.

With such a subject as this for a motive, an etcher will do manly work if the strength to do it is in him. And this is manly work. I know very well the sort of criticism which would be applied to this etching by a critic who had recently acquired some knowledge of light and shade, and felt proud of his acquirement. He would say, " With the sun in that position many parts which are left white in the etching would be strongly shaded, for example the figure- head, fish-davit, and dead-wood about it ought not to have been left white against that luminous sky, for they would have come dark against it The barge in the foreground in the left-hand corner ought to have had its side very darkly


HA DEN. 311


shaded indeed^ and so ought the square timbers to the right It would even be impossible, with the sun in that position, that there should be any white spaces on the side of the Agamemnon whatever. On the other hand the side of the other old hull in the distance ought to have been lighter, for it really would in some degree catch the sunshine. The buildings at Greenwich are not lighted as if the sun were behind them, but as if it were on the opposite side of the river. The only bit of true tone is the sprit-sail of the barge near the bows of the Agamemnon, but there are so many things to contradict it (for instance, the buoys at her stem) that this bit of truth (and even the sprit-sail is too dark to be quite true) only makes the general falsity more glaring. As for the sky, the sun is exactly of the same tone as the sky, and the sails behind the Agamemnon, and the water wherever there is no ripple.

This is the kind of criticism which is often applied to line-etchings, but I pay the supposed critic the very rarely deserved compliment of presuming that he really does know something about tone, and can put his finger at once on the tonic solecisms. The answer to all such fault-finding is simply that a genuine artist, when he has achieved his purpose, sets it at defiance. Art is not the slave of nature, but an independent force using nature as a mine of materials. An artist may fairly be blamed for ignorance of tone, he is hardly ever blameable for wilful and open transgression in view of some greater purpose. Now the tonic relations of this plate are utterly false and indefensible. I admit it ; but then I afHrm at the same time that such a pretence to full light- and-shade as would have quite contented a vulgar critic would in all probability have been still worthless in itself and purchased at the cost of everything which makes this plate the strong performance that it is. The purpose of the artist was not expression by shade, but expression by line, and I think he has made his meaning plain. He pre-


312 HA DEN.


supposes, of course, a certain willing activity of sympathetic imagination in the spectator, and also some intelligence Art of this kind certainly does not address itself to the stupid portion of mankind, who would do well to keep out of its way. It is taken for granted that when we have seen that thin circular line so simply drawn above Green- wich, we shall have memory and imagination enough of our own to see the orb of fire, that the black marks in the sky will be clouds for us, and those on the water ripples. Just on the same principle it is presumed that those parts which the etcher has thought it better not to shade will be shaded more delicately and more truly by our own awakened imagination. The most that can fairly be asked from work of this kind is that the lines in it should be first well selected and then soundly drawn. In this etching tliey are so.

I must ask the reader to give his attention in this place whilst I endeavour to make clear a certain property of lines which has never been critically considered. Let it be supposed that you are working, or intending to work, in pure line, that is to say, that you are using the line for outlines or suggestions of outline, and for organic markings, shading in the meantime as little as possible. You are not intending to shade, and yet your markings, in proportion to their quantity, will always inevitably be so much shading in the general effect. For example, the figure-head, fish-davit, etc., in the Agamemnofi are not shaded at all, but only drawn organically, and yet as a certain amount of black is laid on the paper in so drawing them, the consequence is that the eye strikes an average between this black and the white spaces, so that the white spaces do not seem false until we consider them independently. And so it is with the whole side of the vessel. You may find many small spaces in it which are certainly false, taken alone, but the effect of the whole seen together at a little distance is very nearly right This principle may appear new to some readers, and yet all


HADEN. 313


line-engraving depends upon it, for even the grey tint in the most delicate shading with the diamond does in reality represent an average that the eye strikes between spaces which are perfectly black and spaces which are perfectly white. Hence, when an artist has done much for texture in line, it is probable that he may have been shading at the same time, almost without being aware of it. The type of this volume is a kind of shading on the page, though quite unintentional, and at a little distance it will make the page look, not white and black, but grey. Now if the reader returns to the Agamemnon with the conviction that every black line in an etching is sure to tell as shade, he will perceive that, merely by marking things or not marking them, the artist has often suggested shade or left it unsug- gested. For example, the sky is left very open about the sun, but it is much more marked with cloud-lines as the distance from the sun increases. You suspect no shading here, and there is really none of an avowed kind, but all these cloud-markings produce in the aggregate an effect of shade, and do, in fact, give a gradation. So it is with the markings for little waves upon the water ; they too give graduated shade, though apparently intended to indicate only form. Again, it is perfectly true that the barge in the left-hand corner has nothing of what we call shading on its side, where it ought to be very black if the exact truth were given, but now see the subtle operation of the law just indicated. That barge has very powerfully bitten markings which make a dark mass of it as a whole, and the white spaces, though broad, are so influenced by the near neighbour- hood of the black markings that the mind is not -shocked by their fal3ity until it is pointed out, and even then speedily forgives it. Replace those deeply-bitten thick markings by pale ones, and the solecism would be at once intolerable. The plain truth is that there is hardly any intentional shad- ing whatever in this plate ; it is nearly all of it line-drawing of


314 HADEN.


definite things, and yet the drawing is so managed and so dis- tributed as to suggest shading besides. The whole secret may be condensed into a precept Keep open spaces in light parts, let your lines be few there and also thin^ but in darker parts you may put more and stronger markings* I may observe that even such things as the lines of cordage here have a very important effect in the general distribution of light and dark, though they do not look as if put there for that purpose.

There is a great deal of texture in this etching, especially in the Agamemnon — some would say too much — ^but it pleases me because it is explanatory of substance and structure, the direction of the lines always answering to that of the plank- ing. What I value more, however, than any texture is the cunning selection of the most expressive lines in the flowing water, as it eddies and washes past barge, and buoy, and vessel There is much firm good drawing too about the cordage and the crane. Stretched ropes look easier to draw than they really are, and they are seldom well done in etching. There is always a slight curve in them, except in the shrouds of a ship, which are screwed up like fiddle-strings, and even here there is a curve sometimes. An etcher generally does one of two things, either he rules the line and takes all the life out of it by so doing, or else his hand is uncertain, as Zeeman's was, and gives the curve weakly and tremulously. It is rare to find the curve of a rope drawn at once truly and decisively.

I remember that a critic, though without mentioning Mr. Haden by name, wrote something about attitudinising with the free and frank line," in evident reference to my praise of him. Now Mr. Haden certainly does not " attitudinise " with the line, but uses it with the most unaffected simplicity of

  • This is different from M. Lalanne*s precept, and also from the usual practice

of engravers, who put many lines in light parts to get the effect of a grey tint. The engravers also use many dark lines for shading, even when they are intended to signify nothing else.


HAD EN. 315


purpose. The same critic said that Rembrandt's business was not to show how he could do it, but what there is to be done, implying that in the modern school of the line there is an especial ostentation of cleverness in method. I should be sorry if my praise of certain ways of interpretation led any reader to the mistaken conclusion that the etcher who uses them is a sort of performer, anxious to display his skill in difficult manual tricks. A genuine artist always does wish to do things in the best way, but this is not from vanity, it is from the desire to do good work, which is a very honour- able desire, the sign of a good workman. It is possible that, as a critic, I may think more about the " how " than artists themselves do. I do indeed attach very great importance, to the "how," so much that a thorough knowledge of it seems to me quite essential to sound criticism. There is a sentence of Goethe which expresses what must be the feeling of every critical student " Generally," he says of Scott, " he shows great knowledge of art ; for which reason those like us who always look to see how things are done, find especial pleasure and profit in his works."


CHAPTER VII.

CR UIKSHANK AND DO YLE.

■pEW more interesting subjects could occupy a writer on art than the various and truly original genius of Cruikshank^ but I cannot speak of him here with the fulness which his inventive faculty deserves, because the art of etching is, in his plates, so often subordinated to the purposes of the caricaturist, that artistic quality is hardly ever their principal aim, and it would be foreign to the design of a work of this kind to enter largely into the discussion of merits which, however deserving of honourable recognition, are often moral and intellectual rather than artistic Art, with a great social or political purpose, is seldom pure fine art ; artistic aims are usually lost sight of in the anxiety to hit the social or political mark, and though the caricaturist may have great natural faculty for art, it has not a fair chance of cultivation. It would be a mistake, in a volume intended to strengthen the position of etching as a fine art, to direct attention to works whose interest is wholly different, for to criticise them would be an injustice to the caricaturist, and to speak much of their peculiar powers, a digression. The reader may remember the exhibition of Cruikshank's works, which took place a few years ago, at Exeter Hall. There was a large oil-painting in the room, representing the bad effects of drinking too much alcohol. Its social purpose was no doubt excellent, but it lay outside of artistic criticism, because there was no attempt at any one artistic excellence  ; no arrangement of form, no light and shade, no synthesis of


CR UIKSHANK AND DO YLE, 3 1 7

colour. And so it is with very many of Cruikshank's etch- ings ; they are full of keen satire and happy invention, and their moral purpose is always good, but all these qualities are compatible with a carelessness of art which is not to be tolerated in any one but a professed caricaturist

There is, however, in Cruikshank, an artist within or behind the caricaturist, and this artist is a personage of exceptional endowment. His invention is vivid, and his power of drawing the figures invented is singularly sprightly and precise. There are etchings by Cruikshank, though these are not numerous in proportion to the mass of his great labours, which are as excellent artistically as they are notable for genius and wit, where the stroke of the needle is as happy as the thought, and where the student of etching may find models, as the student of manners finds a record or a sugges- tion. In etchings of this high class, Cruikshank carries one great virtue of the art to perfection — its simple frankness. He is so direct and unaflfected, that only those who know the difHculties of etching can appreciate the power that lies behind his unpretending skill ; there is never, in his most admirable plates, the trace of a vain effort.

I never regretted the hard necessity which forbids an art critic to shut his eyes to artistic shortcomings more heartily than I do now in speaking of Richard Doyle. Considered as commentaries on human character, his etchings are so full of wit and intelligence, so bright with playful satire and manly relish of life, that I scarcely know how to write sen- tences with a touch at once light enough and keen enough to describe them. But they are of no value as works of art ; Doyle never selects a line as the great men do, and he does not seem to take the least interest in local colour or chiaros- curo. Though shading is employed to give projection to the personages, Doyle's etchings are in reality conceived only in outline, and his interpretation of nature is, when considered from the artistic point of view, so artless as to be


3 1 8 CR UIKSHANK AND DO YLE.

almost puerile. When he feebly attempts any effect of light, he is always lost, and knows it ; in these cases he will frankly abandon the effect in the same etching, when it becomes inconveniently difficult His sense of the nature of material is quite undeveloped, and he never draws any object as if he had looked at it This absence of imitative study is not, in Doyle, due to any noble abstraction, but is mere defect of training or carelessness of art It is probable that this art- lessness is an essential element in the complex influences of his caricatures  ; the artistic statement is so thoroughly naif, that we enjoy the satire the more, just as we laugh more heartily at a child's portrait of his papa than at the serious efforts of the scientific portrait-painter. But a critic who is anxious to obtain for etching the sort of consideration which is due to it cannot allow his readers to retain the impression that such work as this of Doyle is what he understands by

    • etching," and recommends as art, and it is a positive mis-

fortune that the popular idea of what etching is capable of should be so often derived from work of this kind, the circulation of which, from its connection with successful novels, is usually much more extensive than that of artistic masterpieces. Fifty contemporary Englishmen know Doyle's illustrations of "The Newcomes" for one who remembers Wilkie's *' Pope examining a Censer  ; " and when etching is mentioned in general society, the associations which the word calls up in the minds of the majority have less connec- tion with the treasures of the British Museum than with the pleasant companions of our domestic leisure.

The allusion to " The Newcomes " makes it impossible for me to conclude these observations without acknowledg- ment of . the all but inestimable dramatic value of the illustrations which accompanied it Illustrations to imagina- tive literature are too frequently an intrusion and an imperti- nence, but these really added to our enjoyment of a great literary masterpiece, and Doyle's conception of the Colonel,


CR UIKSHANK AND DO YLE. 319

of Honeyman, of Lady Kew^ is accepted at once as authentic portraiture. In Ethel he was less happy, which was a misfortune, as she was the heroine of the book ; but many of the minor characters were successes of the most striking and indisputable kind. Gandish and the other artists, the military gentlemen, the dubious Englishmen and foreigners, are all set before us with a veracity that is not the less profound that it is illuminated in all its depths by the light of a genial humour.

Cruikshank. The Folly of Crime.— Th^ plate is oblong and upright, the centre of it is occupied by an oval, which is enclosed by a prisoner's chain. Outside of this oval frame are ten minor subjects. The central composition represents the edge of an abyss with a precipice. Smoke and flame rise from the abyss, and near the edge of the precipice lies the corpse of a murdered man. A demon is plunging into the flame  ; this demon holds a vessel on his head with both hands ; the vessel contains jewels and money and bank- notes. A powerfully-built man, having the aspect of a felon, has quitted the corpse to clutch the treasure ; he has planted his foot on a stone which has given way, and falls from the precipice. The jewels rise as if they were serpents to bite his hand  ; the bank-notes fly away in the flame and are burnt. Twelve demons, having glaring ty^s and grinning teeth, congregate in the dark sky over the man's head. Some of them point at him derisively, and he wears a fooFs cap. The minor subjects are as follows : — (i) A man in bed with a heavy weight on his breast ; two hands issue from a cloud, one bearing a pair of scales, the other a flaming sword. Many serpents come from under the pillow and play about his head. (2) Two men on a treadmill. (3) A prisoner in the corner of his den is visited by his gaoler, who is bringing him water to drink. (4-5) Two prisoners in chains. (6) Criminal in a fool's cap lying in a heap of dung, and dying,


3 2 o CR UIKSHANK AND DO YLE.

or very ill, in the last extremity of poverty ; on the wall behind him is a placard offering fifty pounds reward. (7) A man in a fool's cap, starting at his own shadow ; there is an advertisement on the wall offering a hundred pounds reward. (8) A man running away with bags containing a hundred pounds each, and putting his foot in a trap. (9) Man bearing a log of wood, on which is inscribed, " for fourteen years  ; " there is a ship in the distance. (10) Man dragging a log after him chained to his foot, and bearing upon his shoulders a coffin, on which is inscribed, " for life ; " before him is his grave with his spade sticking up in it. The sea and a ship show that he is a convict in a penal colony.

This elaborate plate is as good an example as could be chosen of Cruikshank's moral teaching. Its lesson, like those of Hogarth, is made as direct and obvious as possible, and even repeated under various different forms. The moral is too coarse and palpable to be quite satisfactory to a very thoughtful observer ; great criminals are not always fools, if folly is only to be measured by the troubles into which it brings itself; but the true philosophy of a subject so intricate as this would be too subtle for the caricaturist, who simply tells us that Jack or Patrick committed murder or felony, and was sent to prison, and the treadmill, and Botany Bay. Cruikshank's argument is, that because Jack by crime exposed himself to punishment, and got punished, therefore Jack was a fool to risk consequences so unpleasant. But might not the same prudential argument be turned against innocence itself } And if we were as clever caricaturists as Cruikshank, might we not compose a plate illustrative of the folly of virtue } If dishonesty lands its more artless practi- tioners on dunghills, it also not unfrequently rewards its craftier votaries with considerable comfort, and even luxury ; and the readiness to lie when the world requires it has saved many a man from social degradation. Some things ought to be said and done which, if estimated in this prudential


CR UIKSHANK AND DO YLE. 3 2 1

way, are follies^ and nothing is proved against a criminal by merely showing that his act may lead to unpleasant results. A taste for reading the Bible, which is not now considered blameable in this country, has brought hundreds within the terrible grip of the Inquisition. Bad deeds are not distin- guishable from good deeds by the reward they bring to the agent ; and if homicide leads one man to hard labour for life, so there have been instances where it has opened paths to the loftiest social ambition. It is probable that virtuous men enjoy a serene independence of out- ward circumstances to which the vicious never attain; failure does not fret them, nor hardship weary them so much ; but this inward peace is rather beyond our Hogarths and Cruikshanks, and it is even beyond the sympathy of our common public, which, in its commendable love for good folks, is never quite content unless the novelist rewards them with a carriage and pair. And even this inward peace of the virtuous is not always to be counted upon, for virtuous people are not always altogether satisfied with themselves.

Without being one of the most remarkable instances of Cruikshank's unusual precision with the point, this etching is accomplished and even brilliant in execution. There are some admirable gradations on surfaces, as, for instance, that on the left leg of the large central figure, and there is a choice of means affording powerful contrasts of manipula- tion. Observe the vigorous touches on the detached stone, and the handling on the figure itself. The sea and sky in the little subject mentioned above as number 9, are very simple in method, but as good as the bits of distance in some of the most celebrated old masters.

The Elves and the Shoemaker, — There was a shoemaker

who worked very hard and was very honest. He had nothing

left but leather for one pair of shoes ; he cut it out and laid

it aside at night, and next morning found his shoes made.

As the workmanship was very good, there was no difficulty

Y


322 CRUIKSHANK AND DO YL£.

in finding a purchaser^ so the poor shoemaker bought more leather and cut out several pairs of shoes, and laid the pieces in the same place at night, and the next day found the shoes finished with the same excellent workmanship. The process was repeated, till the shoemaker became rich ; then he and his wife determined to watch at night, to see how the shoes were made, and they discovered that tA\'o industrious little elves came and worked for them. Then the shoemaker and his wife resolved in their gratitude to make clothes for these elves, because they were naked, and they made little garments and laid them in the room and watched for the elves, who on their arrival, dressed themselves with great glee and ran away capering out of the door, never again to enter it But the shoemaker and his wife remained rich ever after.

This pleasant tale, in a well-known book, Grimm's "German Stories," was so well adapted to the genius of Cruikshank, that it has suggested one of the very best of all his etchings. The two elves, especially the nearer one, who is putting on his breeches, are drawn with a point at once so precise and vivacious, so full of keen fun and inimitably happy invention, that I have not found their equals in comic etching anywhere, and they are as supreme in their own department of the art as Haden's "Shere Mill-pond," or Claude's " Bouvier " in theirs. It is said that these elves are regarded with peculiar affection by the great master who created them, which is only natural, for he has a right to be proud of them. The picturesque details of the room are etched with the same felicitous intelligence, but the marvel of the work is in the expression of the strange little faces, and the energy of the comical wee limbs.

Return from a delightful Trip on the Continent. — ^This is a fair specimen of Cruikshank's simple manner. It is a scene of sea-sickness ; a boatful of passengers, male and female, are landing from a continental steamer. The sea is very rough, and in the little transit the passengers suffer acutely.


CR UIKSHANK AND DO YLE. 323

One old gentleman, who bends over the water, as people in this lamentable condition are wont to do, has lost his hat and wig, and there is intentional satire in the resemblance between the cap of another passenger, whose loose ear-flaps are lifted by the wind, and the headgear consecrated to fools. Two thick sailors are rowing, and the women are in the utmost misery and confusion. The adjuncts are sketched as suggestively as those in the woodcuts of John Leech. The spray leaps high, and the steam and smoke from the funnels of the ship are carried away in straight lines by the gale.

Dougal MacCallutn and Hutcheon. — An illustration of an incident in " Redgauntlet," narrated as follows by the novelist : —

"When midnight came, and the house was quiet as the grave, sure enough the silver whistle sounded as sharp and shrill as if Sir Robert were blowing it, and up got the twa auld serving-men and tottered into the room where the dead man lay. Hutcheon saw aneugh at the first glance, for there were torches in the room which showed him the foul flend, in his ain shape, seated on the Laird's coffin."

This is one of the best of Cruikshank's many book- illustrations. The union of comedy with solemn circum- stances gives free expression to both the great faculties of the caricaturist. Cruikshank is a comic etcher, and the greatest comic etcher who ever lived, but his mind realises the solemnity of death. This coffin lying in state, with a monkey perched on the top of it, and two domestics horror- stricken at the demoniacal apparition, is a subject very suitable to a genius in which a sense of the ridiculous co- exists with the most tragic earnestness.

Doyle. A student of the Old Masters, — Colonel New- come is sitting in the National Gallery, trying to see the merits of the old masters. Observe the enormous exaggera- tion of aerial perspective resorted to in order to detach the


324 CRUIKSHAJ^K AND DOYLE.

figure of the Colonel. The people behind him must be several miles away  ; the floor of the room^ if judged by aerial perspective only, is as broad as the lake of Lucerne.

His Highness. — Colonel Newcome is saluted by the Indian. Observe the entire absence of local colour. The Colonel's black hat and blue coat, and Barnes Newcome's black evening costume have exactly the same weight of colour as Colonel Newcome's white shirt-frilL

A Meditation. — Clive is meditating in his studio on the vanity of mediocre painting. The opportunity was a good one for clever sketching of still life, but it has not been seized upon or cared for, and Doyle has taken no interest in the things that surround the artist, which are sketched quite unobservantly.


CHAPTER VIII.


SAMUEL PALMER,


T^HIS artist is one of the few really great English etchers, but as it results from the nature of his work that each plate of his is very costly in time, and as he happens to be a successful painter in water-colour, the consequence is that his production in etching has been extremely limited. For reasons which I have endeavoured to explain in the chapter on the Revival of Etching in England, a successful painter, however well he may be able to etch, can do so only at a sacrifice, and etching is too laborious, as well as too much like the ordinary work of a painter, to afford the refreshment of a recreation. So long as human nature remains what it is, people will not highly value a work of art which others can easily procure, so that the more public the benefit which an artist bestows upon his countrymen, the less will be his reward. If ever a true appreciation of art shall become general amongst our des- cendants, they will wonder how it was possible that Samuel Palmer, to whom was given genius and length of days, and who in his time, as they will see, was one of the most accomplished etchers who ever lived, should have left behind him just half- a-dozen plates. We can tell them how it happened, how one who had mastered the art and loved it, neglected it year after year, simply because his contemporaries did not value beauty when it could be multiplied.

The work of this master in etching has been more than once compared to mezzotint engraving. I said in the first edition of The Etcliet^s Handbook that " the delightfulness of


326 SAMUEL PALMER,

it might be preserved in mezzotint," and a critic in one of the leading reviews said " Samuel Palmer is in fact a mezzotinter." Such expressions as these are due to what is at first sight most obvious in this master*s way of etching, the richness of its light and shade. Constable said that one reason why chiaroscuro was of such great importance was because it first struck the spectator. Now the light and shade of Palmer's etchings might, indeed, be copied very accurately in mezzotint, and a good mezzotint engraver would come nearer than any other engraver to the general aspect and quality of the plates, but a fuller study of the originals, and a sounder knowledge of the resources of different arts, will prove that Samuel Palmer is not simply a mezzotinter, not simply an imitator of mezzotint in etching. The principle of his work is much wider than that. It may be expressed in a single word — eclecticism. Etching is so versatile that you may imitate several different arts by means of it, and, therefore, an artist skilful to avail himself of this versatility may select the qualities which in other arts seem to him most desirable, and combine them har- moniously in one work. This is the true explanation of Palmer's method. He is an eclectic, an artist who, although using etching as his means of expression, remembers all along the powers and qualities of other graphic arts, and adopts them when he chooses, incorporating them into his own work, but so ably that its unity does not suffer. It is quite fair to say that he has adopted the qualities of mezzotint so far as they are to be got by work that is bitten and not raised in a bur, but it is not fair to imply that he limits himself to these qualities. In the very same plate, which strikes you by its resemblance to a mezzotint, you will find, if you look into it more closely, that there is an abundance of well selected line- work, not less masterly in choice, and right in expression than that of Turner and Haden, though quite original, and conse- quently different from theirs. And besides this line-work, if you look more closely still, you will discover passages which


SAMUEL PALMER. 327

have the peculiar qualities of woodcut, I mean of such wood- cutting as IS done upon its own principle, and is not an imitation of something else  ; in other words, you will discover passages where neither the organic line nor yet the soft mezzotint-like shade is the important thing, but where sparkling touches of white, in the midst of intense black, are the true means of expression. Besides these, it is easy to find spaces in the more important plates which are treated with as near an approach to line-engraving as would be compatible with the harmony of the whole — a harmony which is never forgotten, and never marred.

Now if I want a comparison to illustrate the eclectic character of such etching as this, I have one close at hand in the language which I am using, the English tongue, which is the most eclectic of all languages. The spirit of it is to choose everywhere the means of expression which seem most con- venient for the moment, and it does this apparently with little regard to harmony, yet with a result which is perfectly har- monious. He who has the privilege of writing this rich and various language may be truly said to borrow his means of ex- pression from Anglo-Saxon, from old French, from Latin and Greek abundantly, yet he is not writing these languages, nor any one of them  ; he is writing English. Just so the language which Samuel Palmer uses in etching is neither mezzotint, nor woodcut, nor line-etching, but a pure original langyage of his own, which I cannot call by any name but his.

As for the thoughts which he has to express, they are pure poetry, and come to him from that rich realm of the imagination which the poets only can find at all, and which they find everywhere. There is more feeling, and insight, and knowledge, in one twig drawn by his hand, than in the life's production of many a well-known artist. Words cannot express the qualities of such work as his, but we can say that it unites the ripest and fullest knowledge with the most per- fect temper, a temper of patience almost without limit, and of


328 SAMUEL PALMER,

tenderness which is alive to all loveliness, even that which is most lowly and obscure, hardening itself against nothing that is beautiful Rarely has an artist's maturity been so com- plete. The work of his old age is like a great fine fruit which has been in the sun for many days, until all its juices have had just the full time and heat needed for the most perfect mellowness, yet on-which you shall not find the slightest sign that it has hung on the branch too long. No young man ever had the fulness of knowledge which is necessary for such work as that, and few old men have had the serenity of temper, or the powers of work, which are needed for such a complete expression of their knowledge.

" During twenty years," I wrote in 1872, " Samuel Palmer's work has become for me more and more beautiful, more and more abundantly satisfying. It is so tender as to remind us of all that is softest and sweetest in the heart of pastoral nature, and yet so learned that it seems as if some angel had met the artist in his studious solitude, and taught him. Imaginations graceful as a maiden's dream, but without her ignorance, teachings profounder than those of science, yet without her pedantry, a serene spirit inherited from the true and great poets of the times of old who are his fathers — all these he gives us with his art"

His aim as an executant is not consciously distinct from passing thought and feeling, it is not thought of by the artist as a purpose in itself. Here let me pause to consider one danger concerning execution in the fine arts which I have not hitherto dwelt upon, but which is serious enough to merit grave con- sideration. A practised executant acquires a fatal facility, so that at last he can execute without having either new thoughts or new emotions. He has certain forms in the memory like a printed schedule, and he fills them up mechanically, without waiting till he has ideas to put under the several headings. Nothing can be more convenient to the handi- craftsman than this power of working without thinking, but


SAMUEL PALMER. 329

"- - - ■

nothing is more dangerous to the artist It hurries him along whether he is ready or not, till his soul becomes a mere victim tied to the tail of the executive habit which gallops away like a wild horse, the bit between its teeth. As one art illustrates another, and the fine arts are all subject to the same laws, I may take the case of an orator whose tongue goes as fast as it can whether the ideas are in time for it or not The best public speaker I ever heard avoided this error completely. He spoke slowly when the thoughts followed slowly, and had the courage to remain quite silent from time to time when the thought was not ready for expression. It is far more trying for an orator to do this in the presence of a thousand hearers, than for an etcher in the solitude of his own room, and yet graphic artists have rarely authority enough over the hand to make it follow the mind instead of leading it Samuel Palmer said of Claude, *' his execution is of that highest kind which has no independent essence, but lingers and hesitates with the thought, and is lost and found in a bewilderment of intricate beauty." In this sentence we have the key to the writer's own ways of work as an etcher : he dislikes execution, however brilliant, which is not subordinate to the thought ; or perhaps, to put it more accurately, the best execution, in his view, is tentative, and submissively waits whilst the mind seeks, always humbly following and endeavouring to obey, never hurrying the executive processes till they get ahead of the perceptive and inventive processes. And I venture to add that the beautiful sentence in which Samuel Palmer described the excellence of Claude is accurately descriptive of his own ex- cellence, and I would have said of Samuel Palmer, if I had known how to write anything so good, just these words, "his execution is of that highest kind which has no independent essence, but lingers and hesitates with the thought, and is lost and found in a bewilderment of intricate beauty."

Tfie Early Ploughman, — ^This etching was first published


330 SAMUEL PALMER.

in the first edition of the present work under the above title, but on more recent impressions I perceive that Mr. Palmer has added the inscription,

" The morning spread upon the mountains."

I always greatly admired this plate, but the full beauty of it was unsuspected until Mr. Palmer set up a printing-press in his own house, and his son began to take proofs under the artist's direction. The earliest proof of this plate in my posses- sion is of a state preceding the final one, and is touched upon by the etcher to mark intended alterations, especially in the pop- lars, the biting, however, is definitive everywhere,* and yet the work looks comparatively grey and pale, owing to unscientific printing. The impressions in the first edition of Etching and E tellers are better, but are still far from doing full justice to the plate. In November and December 1873, Mr. Palmer having then established his private press, his son kindly took two proofs for me, which for the first time made me fully acquainted with the merits not only of this particular work, but of its author's method of etching. The use of vigorous line-work in the poplars and elder to the right may not be so obvious as it is in Turner's etchings, which were shaded in mezzotint, but the principle of it is the same, and the lines themselves are nearly as vigorous as those of Turner. The execution in this part of the work, indeed in most of the etching before us, is founded upon the strong etched line for organic markings, whilst a delicate close shading at a later stage of the process does for it what the mezzotint did for Turner's etchings, or in other words gives it shade and mass. The reader is requested to guard himself against the almost universal confusion between line and outline. He will find most vigorous line-work in Palmer's etchings, yet hardly such a thing as an outline any-

  • The reader acquainted with technical matters will Icam with some surprise

that Mr. Palmer has never once had recourse to rebiting. This only shows the remarkable skill with which he manages the acid — a skill the more remarkable that he has etched so few plates.


SAMUEL PALMER. 331


where. The losing and finding of beautiful detail amidst the mysterious confusion of nature would indeed be altogether in- compatible with outlines, which define things like countries on a map. The ploughman here, and his team of oxen, are most perfect examples of Palmer's manner of using line and shade. There is a good deal of line, some of it deeply bitten, yet you can hardly catch an outline, unless by accident as it seems, and then it eludes you. The man and animals are softly lighted by the dawn, and they are visible in the dim light with just as much definition as they would have in a good painting, and no more. Palmer's treatment of objects in the foreground is opposed to Lalanne's doctrine, that foregrounds should be etched in strong and open lines, for he sees that in nature foregrounds are not less delicate than distances. In this plate, the shading upon the man's shirt, and on the face of the light- coloured ox, is indeed closer and finer in texture than that on the distant mountain.

The sky is etched very much upon the principle of line- engraving. It has two distinct textures, one over the other, to give transparence and depth, a close texture in pale lines, and a much more open texture in darker lines. There is much en- graver-like skill (of a right kind) in the management of these lines for shading. They run in varied curves, and always at a safe distance from each other, so that there is no uninten- tional doubling. Nothing can be more judicious than the direction given to these undulating lines of shade.

All this technical commentary has left me little room to speak of the artistic beauty of the conception, but the reader is not to suppose that technical criticism deadens the feelings which apprehend the true poetry and significance of art. On the contrary, it is impossible to appreciate the full technical merit of such work as this without at the same time knowing what the lines mean, and sharing the sweetness of the inefiable sentiment which they are intended to convey. It is the sentiment of a poet and a painter, who loves the loveliest


332 SAMUEL PALMER.

hours, and has watched them all his life. No sudden delight in the unaccustomed spectacle of a sunrise ever yet gave the town-bred artiat such knowledge of the dawn-mystery as this. Many a night has the etcher of this plate wandered in a land of beauty from sunset to sunrise, from twilight to twilight, from the splendour of the west to the splendour of the east, watching through the gradual changes of the hours, and gather- ing for us that rare learning of which his works are full.

Tlie Herdsman, — ^This plate was published in the Selection of Etchings by tlie Etching Club, 1865. The subject is a moonrise in a hilly country. To the left is a magnificent tree (chestnut, I think) in full foliage, and under it the herdsman is driving his cattle towards the farm which lies in the dark hollow, and is made visible only by the moonlight which catches the edges of the roofs and gables, and the smoke from the chimneys. In the right foreground is the broken trunk of a tree, which also catches the moonlight, and there is a great sparkle and glitter of it upon the leaves in this part of the etching. The hill is extremely dark, and above it the sky is covered with a voluminous cloud.

The sky in this magnificent plate is etched upon the same principles as that in the Early Ploughman  ; the treatment, too, of the figure and animals is like that of the ploughman and his oxen, but the rest of the etching is done very much upon the principles of woodcut, I mean that the artist, although he has been working in black, thought rather of the white spaces or specks which he reserved in the midst of it than of the black itself. In the large chestnut the etched line is still visible as a means of defining foliage, but the leaves and trunk under the moon are all picked out of an intensely black ground in touches of white. It is wonderful how minute are many of the atoms of white which have a most important influence upon the effect. Those in the dark hill are most of them scarcely bigger than a pin's point, and yet they prevent the darkness from being blacky whilst at the same time they


SAMUEL PALMER, 333

give obscure indications of form, which make the hill really a hill, and not a mere flat piece of black paper. The massive tree to the left is one of the finest studies of foliage ever etched. Every cluster of leaves has been carefully thought out for itself, whilst the grandeur of the masses has been pre- served as completely as it could have been in the most energetic sketch. The little gleams of light along the edges of the roofs reveal the various curves caused by the yielding or irregularity of the timbers, and even in such a minor detail as the goad on the herdsman's shoulder the utmost care is taken to indicate its departure from mechanical straightness. I could not mention a better example of pervading artistic intelligence, which whilst never forgetting, even for an instant, the unity of the whole work, applies itself nevertheless with unfailing and unflagging attention to every detail, how- ever apparently insignificant It is scarcely too much to say that there is not in this etching an atom of white or black — I will not say the size of a pin's head, but rather of its point — which is not there in obedience to a distinct artistic decision.

Ttie Rising Maott, — This plate was published in 1857 in a little set issued by the Art Union of London. The moon has nearly but not quite disengaged herself from behind the shoulder of a hill, and she lights a flock of sheep in the fore- ground. The scenery is of the same order as that of the pre- ceding subject It is amongst the low hills of the south of England, and we are looking down into a hollow, in which nestles a large gabled mansion. A church tower is dimly visible against a dark hill, a few poplars rise out of the hollow against the sky, and a tree in the foreground catdfes the moonlight in its leaves. To the right is a vast plain with a level horizon, responded to by level lines of white cloud in the elaborate sky.

This plate has the technical qualities of the " Herdsman," but not in so striking a degree. The subject is very beautiful,


334 SAMUEL PALMER.

i^-ith an aspect of more perfect repose and serenity* than the other etching. Xotvinthstanding the rather coarse texture of the sk}% it fulAls its purpose admirably, prox-ing what a peculiar thing interpretation is in art. and how opposed to imitation. No natural sky e\'er showed texture of this kind, with its strong markings of black lines and dots, and yet this texture perfectly conveys to us the character of sk\- intended. The whole plate is interesting as a study of texture, obser\'e especially the soft wool of the sheep with the moonlight on it and in it The figure of the rustic in his smock is beauti- fully indicated by touches of white.

It seldom happens that Samuel Palmer does an^-thing which can be found fault with from the artistic point of \neWy his arrangements of material being generally not only quite above censure, but marked by a happy originality of artistic thought and invention. In the present instance, however, he has fallen into the well-knoun error which is commonly called exaggerated perspective — commonly but not quite accurately, as the perspective itself may be free from exaggeration, scientifically true, and yet sure to give a false impression. It would be out of place to enter fully into this subject here, for the few who understand it need no explanation, and the many who do not would require a complete essay on the subject, illustrated, which they would never take the trouble to master, so I will say simply that the sheep here are not in false per- spective, but in very injudicious perspective. They look monstrously big, and the rustic who is coming home does not look distant, he seems like a pigmy. The landscape is far too beautiful and too interesting to be a mere background to the sheep, and the sheep are too important to be nothing but adjuncts to the landscape. Besides this there is not drawing enough in the sheep for that scale. They ought to have been drawn as Rosa Bonheur draws, and not mere bales of flesh, ^\Tapped up in wool, with a head at one end or the other.

The Morning of Life, — This plate has also been called


SAMUEL PALMER. 335

"Work and Gossip." It is an effect of sunlight flaming through branches of strong old trees, with their roots in a narrow rivulet. In the rivulet some boys are washing sheep, two others are dragging and pushing a ram to the water. A girl on her hands and knees is gossiping with a youth. She has been gathering fruit, and has a basket close to her, whilst apples are scattered on the ground.

If classical education, in literature and art, never had a worse effect upon modern performance than it has here, we should not have a word to say against it There is something of Virgil's spirit here, something of Claude's, and I know not what other beautiful associations with, or reminiscences of, many another poet of the past who may have learned the deep sylvan secrets, and known the joy and beauty of young life under the greenwood tree. No doubt the love of nature is evident enough in this plate, but at least equally evident is the delight in noble art and the far-reaching memory of it, in sweet sympathy with what the immortal poets have sung or painted when they too were alive upon the earth, and knew the glory and freshness of the morning. Hence this etching is equally removed from the vulgarity of the realism which has no associations, no memories, no melodies of old music in the brain, and froiA the dulness of blind tradition, which can only repeat what others have done without any insight, or sentiment, or invention of its own.

A more magnificent piece of design in trunks and foliage was never etched. The use of line here is very original and extremely powerful. The originality of it consists in the peculiar and unforeseen way in which the lines begin and end, and in the apparently wayward yet profoundly intelligent placing of the lines. They are not outlines, unless here and there by accident ; they are simply markings put wherever they would be most useful ultimately, and it is a very interest- ing and profitable critical exercise to observe the curious cunning with which this is always done. Another peculiarity


336 SAMUEL PALMER.

about them deserves to be noticed It is one of the few defects of etching that the needle cannot enlarge and diminish the line in the same stroke as the brush can, or even the pen ; but here this defect is apparently overcome, and there is an increase of thickness in the lines, which often beg^n with a fine hair-stroke and become broad in the middle, ending again almost imperceptibly.* These organic lines, strongly bitten, are the skeleton of the subject, and over them is cast a veil of shade, not deeply bitten, and with very little texture in it, as soft in quality as the shade in a charcoal drawing.

So much for the means employed. The knowledge of effect is of course consummate ; it is proved more especially by the way in which the blaze of sunlight fuses and bums away, as it were, the branches and leaves which come between us and the orb, carrying away even the solid edge of a strong bough. Yet there is no exaggeration of light in the fore- ground, for there is really a screen of branches between it and the sun, admitting only a filtered light As for the figures it is impossible to introduce figures more beautifully in land- scape. They are drawn with the most exquisite taste, and with all the knowledge that is needed, whilst for combined energy and grace of attitude they remind us rather of Stothard or Flaxman than of any inferior men, though neither of these great artists could have set figures in landscape as these are set

The Full Moon, (From Bampfylde's "Christmas.")— A rustic is bringing his sheep into the fold close to a thatched cottage. Children are coming to welcome him, and a little girl is petting the dog. The door of the cottage is open, and we see the plate-rack inside, and the housewife preparing the table for supper. High in the sky is the full moon, over the tops of the trees.

There is some particularly thorough branch-drawing here in the near tree to the left The figures are very beautifully

  • This is probably managed by repeated touches with a finer poinL


SAMUEL PALMER, 337

conceived, in movements at once most natural and most graceful. As for the tonality of the plate, it is so perfect as to produce, after looking at it for a little time, almost the effect of illusion. It is one of the most thorough pieces of etched chiaroscuro in existence, the notes of light and dark being all faultlessly in tune, like the notes of a well- played melody.

Sunrise, (Published in the Portfolio for November 1872.) — Another very perfect little plate, having on a much smaller scale many of the qualities which we have already noticed in " The Morning of Life." The sun is rising between the gable of a farm-house and the trunks of trees in a wood. A herds- man with his dog is driving two cows across the foreground. In the left-hand corner a tiny cascade of water is falling from the rock into a little pool. The trunks of the trees cast shadows, and the ground is brilliantly illuminated by the early light

It is unnecessary to enter into any detailed description of this plate after the criticism of the larger one in which the same effect is rendered. In its own way it is like some pearl or diamond without a flaw, but pearls and diamonds are very common things upon the earth in comparison with etchings of this quality.

Comcy thou Monarch of the Vine  ! — In the "Songs of Shakespeare," illustrated by the Etching Club, the most per- fect work which the club ever produced, Samuel Palmer had two compositions, the larger one representing the arrival of Bacchus amongst his worshippers in a wood where the vine grows luxuriantly amongst the trees, and the other represent- ing four plump, naked children gathering grapes from a vine which creeps round a massive bole, and hangs from mighty boughs. In these two subjects the figures are of much more apparent importance than in the others which we have been considering, in fact these are strictly figfure-compositions. The larger one is full of power and vivacity. Bacchus comes

z


338 SAMUEL PALMER.

in a blaze of light, truly divine, and his worshippers receive

him with aves of extravagant ecstasy. The figfure-drawing is

at once energetic and voluptuous, the action and composition

artistic in the extreme, quite in the temper of the great

masters. The whole scene is full of light, and life, and joy,

enough to make would-be revelling pagans of us all, es^er to

be drunk with new wine in some warm southern bower, and

there sing

Come, thou monarch of the vine  ! Plumpy Bacchus with pink eyne  ; In thy vats our cares be drowned, With thy grapes our hairs be crown'd, Cup us till the world go round  ; Cup us till the world go round  !


CHAPTER IX.

MILLAIS,

npHE pre-Raphaelite discipline, which was a protest against inadequate synthesis, and a temporary return to analysis, was highly unfavourable to etching so long as it lasted, but in the well-known career of Millais there came a period of emancipation from excessive analysis, and this would have been the time for him to etch. He did so a little, but most of his talent as a sketcher in black and white has been spent in drawing upon wood. Very many of his drawings on wood have all the qualities of good etchings which the difference of the two processes will permit. His manner of sketching is an excellent manner for an etcher. It is delicate without over-minuteness, and it is rapid and free without neglecting anything essential. Some of the best sketches by Millais are the little vignettes which accompany the initial letters in " The Small House at AUington," such for example, as the sketch of the large house with the squire walking on the terrace (chap. xxxviL). It may seem to care- less observers a very easy thing to do such a sketch as that, and no doubt it was done easily, but only a consummate artist could have drawn it just in that happy way. The croquis of the London houses, in one of which Crosbie and Lady Alexandrina spent that delightful married life of theirs, is also quite in the temper of etching ; indeed such a subject as that would not be endurable in art if treated with any nearer approach to imitatioa But it is unnecessary to men- tion instances, for nearly all the drawings on wood which


340 MILLAIS.


Millais has produced since he abandoned pre-Raphaelitism have been little else than etchings in spirit, though they are technically woodcuts because they have been engraved by the woodcutter.

There is, however, a very wide difference in delicacy between these woodcuts and the original etched work of Millais, a difference quite enough to make us deplore that condition of the public taste which renders it an imprudence for him to etch his own designs, when the finest line of the needle would be safe for ever, and yet not an imprudence, even for so successful a painter, to draw upon wood when every line is imperilled by the burin of the engraver after- wards. I have already gone into the commercial reasons which account for this. The picture is profitable because it is unique, the woodcut is profitable because it shares in the large sale commanded by a popular novelist ; but the etching is neither unique on the one hand, nor popular on the other. Yet it is a great loss to the fine arts when such a draughts- man as Millais has to entrust his designs to the wood- engraver instead of etching them himself He has all the gifts of the etcher, and if this earth were a world in which all good gifts were valued at their worth, Millais would by this time have entrusted many noble designs to the faithful keep- ing of steeled copper.

The Young Mother, — This is the twenty-ninth plate in the etchings published for the Art Union of London in 1857. It is the best etching by Millais that I have seen. The figure of the young woman is very beautifully sketched, as she bends over her infant and kisses the palm of its tiny hand. The lines which indicate the folds of her dress are, in the lights, very free and true  ; but in the shaded parts the cross hatching made use of is not quite so purely etcher's work. The High- land cottages and sketch of shore in tlie distance show most intimate knowledge of the true character of Highland scenery, and much affection for it.


CHAPTER X.

COPE, HORSLEY, HOOK,

T JNTIL the plate of "The Life School, Royal Academy," was exhibited by Mr. Cope in 1867, the position he held as an etcher was on the usual level of our Etching Club, but the " Life School " revealed more power and originality. It was published in the first edition of this volume.

In Mr. Cope's earlier manner the cleverest thing I remember is the study of the old man in the illustrations to the "Songs of Shakespeare "(" Passionate Pilgrim"). That figure was remarkably observant and truthful, and drawn with unusual precision. There are several etchings by the same artist of much inferior merit.

Mr. Horsley has etched a few really good things amongst others not so good. His touch is often free and right, and his still-life is usually admirable. When he spoils a plate, which he has done occasionally, it is from over-work in hatching.

Mr. Hook has done one magnificent plate, "The Egg- gatherer," but his etching aims so decidedly at full tone that when the relations of light and dark come wrong in the biting the work is lost and spoiled. When tone-etchers succeed it is well, their work looks rich and full ; but when they fail, and they often do so from mere miscalculation about acid, not from ignorance, the failure seems complete. Mr. Hook relies much upon texture also, and little upon line, and the quality of his work is always painter-like. The smaller illustration of Shakespeare's song, " Who is Silvia } " is the nearest approach


342 COPE, HORSLEY, HOOK,

to line-etching that I know of his. When an artist has reached such decided success as this we hardly like to dis- courage .him by suggestions of alteration in manner; but if Hook could keep his full and rich tonality, whilst adding to it some liberty and emphasis of line, and some bolder use of open line in shading, he might become an etcher of a higher order.

Cope. Tlie Life School, Royal Academy. — This is a true etching, and one of the manliest pieces of work ever executed in England. The subject is a remarkably good one, because it composes of itself so naturally, and because the effect of chiaroscuro is so powerful. Of all recent attempts to render the naked figure in pure etching, the model here is one of the most successful, — it is frank and genuine etcher s work  ; the reader is especially invited to notice the w^ay in which the reflected lights are reserved on the muscles of the back, and the firm shading over them. The figures of the students are very true and various in attitude. Much of the power of this etching is due to the fearless use of the pure etched line, which is often left to itself, as for instance on tlie floor and screen, and when crossed by hatchings, as in the curtain, and dark shade above the reflectors, never interrupted uselessly, but for the simple purpose of obtaining necessary darks.

Winter Song, — This is a fair example of the better sort of English work. It is not yet strong etching, because there is little power of line, but the shading is in its way honest, though it would have gained by greater simplicity and open- ness. Mr. Cope has produced other etchings of this class which it is not necessary to criticise specially. He has carried the kind of execution which has been chiefly aimed at by the Etching Club as far as any of its members.

HORSI.EY. The Duenna's Return (in Mr. Cundall's series). — A duenna is coming back from a walk, and finds her charge


COPEy HORSLEY, HOOK. 343

talking with a young gentleman at the window. This is a much nearer approach to true etching than is usual in this country. There is considerable freedom of hand, and the value of local colour as light and dark appears to be fully appreciated. The passage of light in the small panes above the door is very beautifully given. The plate is signed J. C. Horsley, 1864, and is decidedly the best work of the artist known to me.

TJie Deserted Village (plate 61). — The lower of the two etchings on this plate, representing a spindle with an arm- chair near an open window, is one of the most brilliant bits of still life I know in modem etching.

Interior of a Weaver^ s Cottage (" Deserted Village," plate 29). — ^The artistic motive of this little subject is intricacy ^ which, illustrated in other ways, is a favourite motive of Whistler's. There is a want of distinction in lights and darks under the loom about the man's legs ; but, with that draw- back, this IS one of the cleverest little etchings in the volume.

Hook. Gathering Eggs fro7n tfie Cliff. — I believe that etching can go no farther than this in the imitation of the effects produced in modern painting. This plate so entirely expresses Mr. Hook's manner on canvas that it is not an exaggeration to say that we may see in it the rich copal glazes and the skilful dry touching, of which, as a painter, he is such an accomplished master. This is less an etching than a translation of oil colour ; but, in its own way, it is skilful beyond praise. The scene is the front of a rocky cliff and a wide expanse of sea with a high horizon. One boy is letting down another by a rope from a ledge of rock, and a sea-gull is flying within a yard or two of the robber. Other sea-gulls are flying over the sea, and there is a line of white cloud on the horizon. The local colour is everywhere so full that even the grey on the near gull's back is carefully rendered, and scarcely a touch of pure white is admitted anywhere except


344 COPE, HORSLEY, HOOK,

in the distant clouds, and in the foam that breaks amongst the rocks. Both cliff and sea are, I will not say etched, but painted with all the artist's habitual wealth of colour, and it needs but little imagination to supply the very hues themselves. The FishcTffiafi s Good-night, — A fisherman is parting from his wife and child, who are sitting on a high sea-wall to which a strong ladder is bound firmly. The man is just descending the ladder, and his right leg is straight whilst his left knee rests upon the wall. The conception of this etching is almost as painter-like as that of the one just criticised, but it is not so successful in execution because there are obvious failures in tonality. The two legs are one undistinguishable blot ; and the side of the ladder, the man's waistcoat, and the clif) behind him, are all as nearly as possible of one tone. It is quite curious how certain modem English etchers dread the frankness of a clear line. If Rembrandt had had to etch that ladder and that pair of trousers, he would have shaded them with honest open strokes, presenting, it is true, no appearance of paint, but far more explanatory of the thing. And even when a great etcher is not very explanatory — as will some- times happen when the nature of material is half lost in un- distinguishable shade — he will throw his lines across it with- out trying to soften them into the semblance of water-colour washes. In this fisherman and ladder ten strokes are given where two were necessary, and after all the subject is so little explained that you cannot distinguish one leg from the other.


CHAPTER XL

CRESWICK, REDGRAVE, RIDLEY.

/^^ RES WICK etched very prettily, but his work was very distantly related to the greater art which has sometimes occupied our thoughts. Creswick's workmanship was delicate and refined in the extreme, and his oppositions of tone were usually just, but he had no independent and original interpre- tation. The craft that he had learned, and he had learned it, was taught him by the engravers, not perhaps in direct personal counsel, but by an influence fully received, whether consciously or unconsciously. If he had a bit of pasture- ground to etch, or a piece of foliage, you are sure to find the very touches with which professional engravers are accustomed to do these things. SOme of Creswick's vignettes are good enough as engraver's work to be inserted in very carefully illustrated books  ; one or two of them might be published in Rogers without giving any unpleasant shock to eyes just fresh from the marvellous handicraft of Goodall. Considered in this independent way, without reference to the art of etch- ing as it was understood by Rembrandt and the great etchers, the work of Creswick is of remarkable excellence ; but here, as in so many other cases, we have to make the reservation, that, however pretty and delicate it may be, this is not the kind of work which an etcher ought to aim at or care for. It is so very pretty, that, if issued separately from the work of other men, it is probable that it would even be popular ; but its popularity would, do no good to the work of stronger etchers. The fact is, that etching of this kind is already quite


346 CRESWICK, REDGRAVE, RIDLEY,

popular enough — there is much of it in modem landscape- engraving  ; and although the public rebels against powerful etching, it accepts this without any audible complaint ; nay, it does not even know that such work is etching at all, so pleasant is it to look upon, but rather inclines to the belief that it is graven work, the doing of which is a mystery.

Mr. Redgrave, the now veteran painter and writer upon art, has also been a contributor to the publications of the Etch- ing Club. The temper of his work is always studious and sincere, and, besides these qualities, it has a certain tender- ness of sentiment, but, from the technical point of view, it has been injured by a striving after finish, which was due, in part, to the habit of working on a small scale. In 1867 Mr. Red- grave exhibited a plate at the Royal Academy which proved that his earlier habits of almost painfully minute execution were by no means inveterate. That plate was somewhat too violent in oppositions, but it had the true spirit of etching, and was not spoiled, as some of the earlier ones were, by too much labour and too little selection.

Mr. Ridley is a rising and well-educated painter, bom in 1837, who has etched a few plates, chiefly of shipping on tidal rivers. He is a very genuine etcher, apparently of the school of Whistler, but in those plates of his which have been published up to the present time I do not see much evidence of very keen or subtle observation, whilst they certainly (being merely studies) exhibit no power of composition. His name is mentioned here not as that of an etcher who has already produced important works, but as an example of soundness in study. There can be little doubt that if the art were encouraged amongst us Mr. Ridley would soon become one of its leaders. So far as he has hitherto gone he is on the right track, but in his praiseworthy rebellion against the faults of the superfine school he is temporarily primitive in method, and seems at present to have little conception of the different


CRESWICK, REDGRAVE, RIDLEY, 347

sources of power which are open to the aquafortist^ or to deny himself their advantages.

Creswick. a Roughish Road by tlie Loch-side,— On the rough bridle-roads which skirt those shores of the Highland lochs which are little frequented by tourists, there are in- numerable subjects far more beautiful and interesting than this. It is always, however, a delightful moment when we come at last, on horseback or on foot, to any place where the road is within six feet of the water, and it is a point of sympathy between Mr. Creswick and his present critic, that the artist has felt the charm of getting down to the very lake itself, even at a spot where the scenery is simple and common- place. Creswick was seldom a powerful landscape-painter, but he was always charming, and this little group of trees and low irregular wall and little glimpse of smooth water have a certain sweetness of their own.

Tfie Deserted Village (plate 2). — A watermill with a church- tower to the left In small vignettes of this kind the object is usually an excessive delicacy of treatment which may easily pass into effeminacy. The foliage here is very graceful and light, but it is not masculine work.

The Deserted Village (plate 19). — A broad river with a bridge across it and castle on an eminence to the left, which is connected by the bridge with a town on the other shore. This river flows into a vast dark lake which is interrupted only by the towers of the castle. Beyond the lake rises an alp of immense altitude girdled by a rain-storm, above which its snows rise in the serene air. This is one of the most perfect and delicate little vignettes of Creswick, and as a piece of engraving will bear a comparison with much professional work.

Tlie Deserted Village (plate 34). — The central vignette on this plate. The subject is a rustic bridge over a small river in which some cows are standing ; beyond the bridge is a


348 CRESWICK, REDGRAVE, RIDLEY.

clump of magnificent elms, and there is a church-tower in the remote distance. The sweetness and beauty of this little composition will be appreciated, I suppose, by every one. The workmanship is very perfect of its kind, and, after the reserves which have been made above, may be praised very heartily.

Redgrave. Barbara. — A vignette in the "Songs of Shakespeare," which may be taken as representative of what were the tendencies prevailing in the English school at the time of its production. The plate is finished like a miniature, and quite in the spirit of miniature-painting. Barbara is sitting by the stream, according to the song, and her figure is surrounded by a sort of framework of trees and plants, every leaf of which is a separate and careful study, but there is less careful attention to masses. This etching required the most delicate printing, and could only be perfectly seen in the early impressions on India paper printed for the Etching Club.

Corpse discovered in a Wood. — The body, probably of a murdered man, is found lying on its back in a little hollow by a gentleman walking that way. This is one of the best of Redgrave's very laborious plates. He would have painted the same subject still better.

Silver Thames. — Exhibited in tlie Academy, 1867. A view on the Thames, very expressive of the character of its scenery. Alternate gleams and cloud shadows give variety to the lighting. The oppositions between the shaded and the lighted trees, though by no means too strong for a state- ment of that isolated natural fact, are, nevertheless, too strong relatively to other things in the plate. For example, the shaded side of the punt, though quite black, is not and cannot be black enough relatively to the black distance, and the reflection of the trees in the water is even lighter than the trees reflected. The clouds are boldly put in, but are some- what heavy and wanting in form. On the whole, however.


CRESWICK, REDGRAVE, RIDLEY. 349

the plate is really an etching, though not yet of first-rate quality, and real etchings are rare.

Ridley. North Dock, — Artists are always teaching us to see something in what we believed to be without interest. Here is a chimney with a little building near it as ugly as any in Lancashire, and yet it must be good material, for it seems right in its place. The masts of the shipping, though rudely sketched, give the effect of intricacy. There is not much composition in the plate, but the manual work is simple and free.

Draham Harbour^ — Rather better than the preceding. A true etching in a simple manner ; the etched line is relied upon everywhere.

Dtirham^ — The scenery of the river shore here is quite remarkable for its ugliness, but the etching is on the whole a good one, in spite of foul chimneys. Mr. Ridley's honest objection to anything but the plain line sometimes leads him to an unnecessary asceticism. The water and sky are here exactly of the same vacant white, whereas the water would have benefited greatly by a little delicate tinting in dry-point. A reflection is always darker than the thing reflected, except when there is a thin stratum of mist q;i the water-surface.

  • These two titles ** Draham Harbour" and "Durham" are given because

they are engraved under the etchings, but a correspondent in the north drew my attention to their evident geographical inaccuracy. " Draham " probably means Seaham  ; as for Durham, it is not yet a seaport, whatever future engineers may do for it Let me remind my correspondent, however, that a critic can only call works of art by the names they bear, whether correctly or erroneously bestowed upon them.


CHAPTER XII.

TA YLER, ANSDELL, KNIGHT,

rpREDERICK TAYLER carried the English manner as far as any of his contemporaries. There is especially one etching of his, in the " Songs of Shakespeare," which has not, in that kind of work, been surpassed. But Frederick Tayler had too distinct manners as an etcher: the highly finished modem way, depending greatly on crev^s,* of vari- ous depth, and on dry-point whose bur is removed ; and a much simpler manner in which the qualities of highly-finished etching were not aimed at. An example of each is criticised below. I should say, judging from Mr. Tayler's skilful and rapid manner in water-colour sketching, and from the ability displayed in the few etchings of his which have been pub- lished, that he had all the natural gifts of a first-rate etcher, and nearly all the knowledge, nothing having been wanting to the full development of his powers in that direction but their culture on a larger scale in works issued independently.

Ansdell is a very accomplished artist, and when he does not think about etching at all, but simply sketches as he would with a finely-pointed pen, he does work of a certain value which value depends on his knowledge of animals, and not on his knowledge of etching, in which he does not appear to be especially interested. I should place a considerable

  • To save the reader the trouble of referring to the book on Processes, I may

say here that the cre-c^ (I know no English equivalent for the word) is a hatching, so close that the separations of the lines cr^vent (give way, die, disappear) in the biting. Crevcs are of various depth, according to the length of the biting.


TAYLER, ANSDELL, KNIGHT, 351

value on some of his simplest etchings, which are the best, but they have little technical quality or power.

Mr. Knight has not been so industrious a contributor to the works of the Etching Club as some other members. The peculiarities of his manner are sufficiently indicated below, in the criticisms of two of his plates.

Frederick Tayler. TIu Forester^ s Song. — From beginning to end, this work proves an entire mastery of the modern English system. The use of close hatching, by which tints of various depths are acquired at the sacrifice of line, has never been carried farther; and if the reader cares to study a good representative specimen of what English painters understand by etching, I could not suggest a better. Although on a small scale the drawing is so clever that all action and expression is preserved in the hands and features of the huntsmen. It is only, however, in fine early impressions that the reader can judge of the technical qualities of this plate. In later ones the black velvets show blotches, partly, perhaps, from defective printing.

A Day's Hunting in the Fens (in Mr. Cundall's series). — A gentleman out hunting is dragging his horse out of a dyke. This etching has none of the executive finish of the preceding one, and belongs to a different class. It is scarcely superior in quality to much modern drawing on wood, nor is there any work in it which would entirely defeat a first-rate modem wood-engraver. The work in this plate is throughout sound, frank, and honest in its own kind.

Ansdell. TJie Sentinel — This magnificent study of a stag will be found in the etchings published for the Art Union of London. Considered specially as etching, it may rank with such German work as that of Gauermann, but the draughtsmanship is so intelligent as to surpass even the best designs of Gauermann ; and I suppose no one could have


352 TAYLER, ANSDELL, KNIGHT

drawn such a stag better. In this kind of etching there is not much technical superiority, because the technical difficulties of the art are scarcely contended against ; but if we consider the work simply as a drawing, we must admit that it is very highly accomplished. The vivacity and precision in the stag's eye and ears and nostril, and the true setting of the noble head, prove thorough knowledge of the animal However this may fall short of great etching, there is no technical failure, and the plate shows none of those painful signs of mistaken and wasted labour so frequent in modern work.

FelloW'COfnmoners, — Donkeys and sheep on a common. This is the eighteenth plate in those published for the Art Union of London. The drawing of the asses and sheep is not quite so brilliant as that of the stag just criticised, with the exception, perhaps, of the foal which is lying down. As in the previous subject, the artist has not attempted full tonality, and the landscape is exceedingly slight.

Knight. The Peasant and the Forest, — One of the plates in a volume called Etched Thoughts, published in 1844. It may be noticed as a special variety of mistaken work. The touches are innumerable, but they explain nothing ; the labour has been unsparing, but it has led to nothing. The man's gaiter, the bark of the tree and its section, are all exe- cuted in the same manner ; there has been no selection, and the consequence is confusion.

Drinking Song. — This etching was published in the "Songs of Shakespeare." It is interesting to me as a sort of forerunner of Unger*s work, which looks almost as if it were based upon it See the study of Unger in the chapter on etching from pictures.

In this composition, which keeps well together, the artist commemorates the old convivial custom of clinking glasses, now fallen into disuse in England, though still kept up on the Continent.


CHAPTER XIII.

CHATTOCK AND GEORGE.

TV/TR. CHATTOCK'S earlier studies in etching were very matter-of-fact and almost photographic transcripts of simple nature, but as he persevered his work gradually became less prosaic and more imbued with the sentiment of an artist He is now one of the best etchers of landscape in England. A specimen of his earlier manner may be found in the Portfolio for May 1871, and if the reader will compare that plate (" Bridge on the River Blythe ") with any recent etching by the same artist, he will at once perceive in what various gains of facility and force true progress in art consists. The plate just mentioned is very truthful and honest work, but the critical spectator perceives, at the first glance, that the etcher has not yet begun to feel the power of the etching- point, that he is trying timidly and carefully, and rather with the seeking of the student than the decided volition of the accomplished artist. A plate published in the Portfolio for September 1873, which is criticised below, showed a surprising, increase of power both in the use of line and in light and shade, but the etcher was still evidently rather overwhelmed by his own hard sense of fact, so that there was a superfluity of literal truth. Since then Mr. Chattock has published a series of illustrations of Eton College and its neighbourhood, which retain all that is needed of the substantial qualities gained by his painstaking early literalism, but exhibit a much more comprehensive sense of natural beauty and a finer feeling for art. The ability displayed in this little series of etchings

2 A


354 CHATTOCK AND GEORGE.

led me to think that Mr. Chattock would succeed in etching from pictures, so he undertook for the Portfolio one of the noblest landscapes by Gainsborough in the National Gallery. The picture, in all its great qualities, was strongly opposed to Mr. Chattock's earliest manner, yet such had been his advance in art that he thoroughly shared its grand and solemn spirit, and rendered it with so much skill that it is difficult to imagine how it could have been rendered better.

Mr. George is an architect who having been accustomed to make sketches during tours undertaken for study, conceived the idea that he might make etchings from some of them and publish them together in a volume. He has published two such volumes up to the present date, the first entitled " Etch- ings on the Moscl," the second, " Etcliings on the Loire." Each contains twenty plates, remarkably equal in quality, and preserving so much of the freshness of a first impression that if we did not know they had been done through the medium of studies we should at once infer that all of them had been etched from nature on the spot. On the whole, the second scries is better and more interesting than the first, good and interesting as that was. Nothing can be more honest and genuine than the work in all these plates  ; there is no attempt, in any of them, to pass off the result of accident as the result of art, evcr^'thing clearly is what the artist intended it to be  ; and this absence of affectation is carried so far that, although some little bits of drawing here and there may appear ama- teurish or even puerile, the artist has the courage to leave them and expose himself to some degree of misunderstanding rather than spoil the freshness of his plates by correction. The principle on which they arc executed is simplicity itself. The serenity of the sky is always represented by white paper, the imagination of the spectator being left to supply whatever gradation may be necessary. Clouds are lightly indicated with a few lines, pale in tint and free in execution. Distances are lightly sketched, but more shaded than clouds, foregrounds


CHATTOCK AND GEORGE, 355

are often powerfully bitten, and between foreground and distance there is an intermediate region where both deep and shallow lines are used together, or one over the other, as required. The only fault that can reasonably be found with Mr. George's execution is rather too much scribbling here and there, especially in foregrounds. However, many of the plates are free from any objectionable scribble, and those in which it occurs are still delightful in spite of it.

R. S. Chattock. " When Rosy Plumelets tuft the Larch!* — A plate published in the Portfolio for September 1873. The subject looks as if it had been found just as it is, in some commonplace part of English country. We are on the borders of a wood, but it is merely a wood, without any of the grandeur of a forest, and a rail-fence goes across the whole subject To the right is a bit of open field with sheep. Between the trees is a small bridge of a single arch, but there is no distance except this, which is not remote. Winter has not yet given place to spring, the branches being without leaves, but the " plumelets " of the larch are visible.

The plate is very effective as a strong piece of realistic study, full of a very decided kind of truth. The work, how- ever, is rude and northern in temper, giving you perfectly the sensation of nature and bringing you within the very odour of the larch-branches, yet not conveying any impression of artistic beauty. You are simply by the wood-side, amidst trunks that a wood-cutter might estimate quite accurately, and there is nothing in this vigorous northern naturalism to remind you of artistic sentiments and traditions.

Boveney Lock (" Sketches of Eton "). — The difference be- tween this plate and the preceding one is not great in truth to nature, for both are as true as they need be, but here we have more decided artistic power. The clump of trees in the middle near the lock-house is in fine broad light and shade, making a noble mass, whilst its depth of local colour is fully


356 CHATTOCK AND GEORGE.


preserved. The flat land on each side of the river is skilfully though slightly treated, and so is the distance, but nothing in this plate proves the artistic power of the etcher so much as the perfectly judicious management of the sky and the water. It is a bright but cloudy day, rather showery, with glimpses of blue sky, and the artist has conveyed the impression of all this as completely by free point-sketching, not very deeply bitten, as he could have done by the most patient engraving. The water is quite a model for the wise use of line for ripple, and of thin dry-point tinting between the bitten lines for reflections.

Monkey Island. ("Sketches of Eton.") — A particularly clever piece of lowland landscape with water and poplars. The reflections in the running water are simply and powerfully drawn. In this plate Mr. Chattock uses to great advantage a technical resource which is very familiar to him, that of em- ploying thick lines and thin ones in the same place to get transparency, the thin ones acting very like a glaze in painting.

The College from the River, (Sketches of Eton.) — One of the richest and most brilliant etchings in the series. The college buildings look exceedingly grand, with all their turrets and battlements, and the manner in which the rippling river just recognises them all in broken reflection is quite a lesson for a student of landscape. The lighting is unusual, for the front of the building is all in shade, and the sunshine only catches the roof, and the low trees, and the grass between the college and the river, but the cficct is excellent, and all the better in this instance that it enhances the impression (which is the true one) of a grey, old building, darkened with the gloom of centuries, situated in the midst of the ever-renewed freshness of nature.

Ernest George. Trier, the Market Plaee, Fountain, and Rothes- Hans. — I will leave Mr. George himself to describe


CHATTOCK AND GEORGE. 357

the subjects of his plates, and then add a few sentences of criticism. After speaking of the decline of Trier he con- tinues—

" There is, however, life and activity in the large market- place, from which our sketch is taken. A handsome Renais- sance fountain forms the foreground. As we saw it at harvest time the figure surmounting it had in its arms a sheaf of newly-reaped wheat which shone golden against a blue sky. Market women were busy around it with their large baskets of blooming fruit. Fantastic gables and high roofs enclose the lively scene. Foremost of these old buildings is the Rothes Haus in our picture with its steep slate roof and its carved gables down the street It is built of the red iron-stone on which the city stands. It was once the Ratshaus, but is now the comfortable hotel at which we stayed."

The two principal things in the etching are the house just mentioned, and the fountain. In the foreground are market-women with their baskets of produce. The fountain is skilfully drawn, but rather over-bitten in the blacks, the market-women, baskets, etc., are just of the quality we find in the old woodcuts of such subjects in the Penny Magazine — no better, no worse, but the drawing and shading of the old Ratshaus are to my taste very refined and delightful. The building is all veiled in a delicate semi-transparent half-tint^ the light slanting down across it and catching the battlements beautifully.

Schloss Elz, View of tlie Celtic approaclied frofn Garden. " Winding down a richly- wooded valley, we have all al once before us the marvellous group shown in our sketch. Schloss Elz is rising out of the lofty rock, round which the stream of the Elz makes almost a circuit. Here is the most delightful cluster of towers, turrets, and gables, dormer windows and bartizans, making a broken outline against the sky."

Schloss Elz looks so much like the fancy of some artist- poet that one has a difficulty in believing it to be real. Mr.


358 CHATTOCK AND GEORGE.

George has drawn all the upper part of the castle admirably well, having evidently enjoyed the roofs and turrets as they deserved, but he has not fairly drawn the rock on which the castle stands, nor the bushes on the rock. Stronger* work here would have benefited the plate considerably.

Angers. Hdtel de Pinch. "We show in our etching a white stone palace of the Renaissance period. This pic- turesque ch&teau has been miscalled the Hdtel des Dues d'Anjou, but there is no evidence that those magnates ever crossed its threshold. It is a princely dwelling, and was erected by Pierre de Pinc6, one of a family in high favour at the court of Francis I. The house is a characteristic example of the buildings of a time when a broken and Gothic outline was preserved after the introduction of pilasters, cornices, and classic mouldings. The circular projections corbelled out from the wall are favourite features in the work of this period, and turret-stairs, as well as oriel windows and balconies, were made to serve the architect in his scheme of light and shade."

This is a very beautiful example of the best qualities in Mr. George's system of etching. Instead of the black opaque blotches of printing-ink which do duty for shadows in vulgar work, the shadows here arc pale and luminous with reflection, and rich in interesting detail, as they were probably in the palace itself. Another thing which pleases me very much in this kind of drawing is the reliance which the artist so wisely places on very slight markings and distinctions. The outlines of the palace against the sky are, on the lighted side, so faint and thin as to be barely visible, yet the slightest unnecessary heaviness in these lines would have gone far to destroy that aspect of aerial elegance which lifts the buildings© much above the level of prosaic architecture. Yet although there is much delicacy in this drawing there is no weakness. All construction is thoroughly understood and fully explained. Ever>' important

  • I do not mean blacker work, but drawing with more meaning, drawing

representing substance more decidedly.


CHATTOCK AND GEORGE.


359


detail of pilaster, cornice, and moulding, every changing direc- tion of wall-surface is made quite clearly intelligible, although it may not be drawn with the minuteness of the photograph.

Amboise, the ChAteaii and Bridge. — " Amboise, one of the most quaint and charming spots of France, and a favoured haunt of her kings, rises on a rock left of the Loire. It is approached from the north by two massive bridges, whose many arches span the shallow waters of the Loire, and of its tributary the Amasse, which joins it here. High roofs stiU cluster beneath the castle, though many old houses were cleared away by Louis Philippe. At the angles of the rock are huge round towers, most of them now roofless.

One of the best instances amongst these etchings of a pleasant and mellow general effect The bridge is in deep sliadow, the light only Just catching the parapet and tops of the cut-water piers. The castle-eminence to the left, with the trees above it and houses below, is also massed in shade, but the chateau itself and the houses on the river-shore to the right are in full sunshine and beautifully lighted. All this fine material is treated quite in the temper of the true etchers. No single ])icce of detail is more than sketched, and if you take any separate thing, such as one window, one chimney, one little figure by the shore, it will seem to you but slight and careless work if you have not rather large conceptions of art, but all these details are subordinate to the general arrangement of the subject, whicli holds together with a per- fection of unity very rare in modem etchings of such material. In fact there is as much unity in this plate, and as mellow a feeling for all that constitutes breadth and repose in art, as there could be in a picture by some tranquil-minded painter in love with the calm beauty of this royal dwelling by the Loire, and forgetful of that dreadful day when from that castle hnlcoTiy the young Mary Stuart saw its waters laden nth more tJKiii a thousand Protestant corpses just freshly r 1>eautiful eyes.


1


ETCHING AND ETCHERS.


BOOK V. THE INTERPRETERS OF PAINTING

AND

COPYING IN FACSIMILE.


CHAPTER I.

THE INTERPRETERS OF PAINTING.

FLAMENG, LAGUILLERMIE, RAJON, WALTNER, BRUNET- DEBAINES, GAUCHEREL, MONGIN, WISE, LE RAT, JACQUEMART, UNGER.

nPHE recent history of etching offers this remarkable sub- ject of reflection, that the art is now mainly employed for a purpose not generally foreseen at its revival, and quite outside of its earliest uses in the hands of the greatest old masters. They used it because it was the most convenient means for multiplying the precise expression of their own ideas, and when the art was revived by painters in the nine- teenth century, it was with the same intention. It is not very many years since Flameng was the only engraver in Europe who studied etching with a perfect faith in its power to interpret pictures, and even he had given sufficient labour to the burin to use it like a master. The example of the greatest etchers of the past, so far from encouraging the idea of interpreting pictures, tended always in the direction of original work. Rembrandt, it is believed, never once etched from a picture ; his plates are as much the independent out- come of his genius as his works in oil, and each plate stands by itself, whether slight or elaborate, as the sufficient and unique expression of one thought of the master. An artist gifted with any fecundity of invention has rarely the patience to execute his works twice over, first in oil and afterwards on copper, and it is only the professional engraver who can find


364 THE INTERPRETERS OF PAINTING,

in the interpretation of works by other men an interest and stimulus sufficient to sustain him through such labour for many years. When painters etched it was seldom from their own pictures, still less from pictures by other artists. If they thought it desirable to prcser\'e some memorial of the works which left their easels, a slight sketch on paper, with a wash of shade, was enough to recall the picture to the memory, and ensure, as in Claude's Lider Vcrifatis, its identification by future purchasers. The time required to etch a picture satis- factorily would in itself have been a decisive objection, but besides this there was not until quite recently any great accumulation of general experience about the best methods of interpreting brush-work with the etching-needle, so that there was hardly anybody in Europe who quite knew how it ought to be done. If, then, it had occurred to a painter to keep a record in etching of the pictures which he produced, he would probably have confined himself to a simple memorandum in line, done on the principles of a pen-sketch, without any attempt to imitate handling and texture. Such a memor- andum would have had its use, but could not, in the nature of things, have conveyed to others anything like a perfect conception of a picture which they had never seen.

The modern art of etching from pictures intends to go very much farther than this, and does indeed, in skilful hands, succeed to a degree which may well surprise a critic who is thoroughly acquainted with the difficulties of the process. The facility with which the etching-nccdle is handled in com- parison with the difficulty of the burin, and the fact that it is held in the fingers exactly as a brush is held, instead of being pushed like the burin, are indeed greatly in the etcher's favour, but the difficulty of getting accurate light-and-shade by the use of acid is as much against him. In etching of a simpler kind, when the lines arc \cry decided and well sepa- rated, partial failures in biting are not fatal to the quality of the work, for the quality in line-etching depends upon the


THE INTERPRETERS OF PAINTING, 365

amount of knowledge and feeling which is put into the line, and even when the line is bitten too much or too little, the knowledge and feeling originally put into it are still quite clearly visible. But in shading, which is nothing but shading, the case is altogether different. Here, if the tone is wrong everything is wrong, and the tone depends almost entirely upon the biting.

The general result of modern etching from pictures has been this. Some wonderful things have been done, and much that has been done is very satisfactory to painters, who are unquestionably the best judges of a matter of this kind. On the other hand a great deal of really bad and vile work from pictures has been published, and is yet published in steadily increasing quantity, work for which no true critic either of etching or of painting would consent to be held responsible. Etching from pictures has in fact become a regular business, and many artists have taken to it as a resource when painting or engraving with the burin did not bring a sufficient income. It is almost impossible to earn an income by original work in etching, even for the most gifted geniuses, but there is always a demand for the reproduction of pictures in various forms, and it so happens that publishers and their customers have perceived that etching can do this with effect. The etcher has indeed many advantages on his side when he interprets certain kinds of pictures. His range of light and dark is as wide as it can be ; he can follow the oil painter down into his lowest tones, even to the obscure depths of gloom in the darkest old masters, and he can at the same time fully suggest the brilliance of the fairest com- plexion or the lightest costume. Persons who have never studied the subject are very apt to imagine that the scale of the different kinds of graphic art is much the same in all cases, since they all have black for their lowest note, and white for their highest, but this conception is very imperfect and inaccurate. Compare etching, for example, with any one


366 THE INTERPRETERS OF PAINTING.

of the numerous photographic facsimile processes which are made to print typographically along with printed text, the blackest black which can be got by this surface printing is grey in comparison with the depth of the etcher's blacks, and at the same time the thinnest line in the photographic fac- simile is thick and heavy in comparison with the faint lines which an etcher can draw with the sharpened needle or dia- mond point, so that he has the advantage at both ends of the scale. Besides this, as we have already observed, a skilful etcher has a great range of different textures at command, so that he can follow the painter pretty closely in the suggestion of surface quality, much more closely than the burin could possibly follow him. The needle is not a brush, and yet the more visible the brush-work is the more easily the etcher can explain to us how the painter used his instrument, for he enjoys just as much liberty as the painter himself, and where- evcr a hog's bristle has left a marking he can imitate it The same facility with the point, and the fineness with which it can be used in drawing, make it an excellent instrument for the rendering of expression. Its superiority in this respect is so marked, that some of the most eminent etchers from pic- tures, when left free to choose their subjects, have willingly interpreted painters who, like Franz Hals, made expression an especial study.

In estimating work done from pictures, the reader is re- quested to keep constantly present in his mind two principles which arc independent of each other, or nearly so, and which when reduced to practice are found to be complementary of each other, the principle of imitation and the principle of interpretation. In working from nature the imitative prin- ciple is a very dangerous one to admit without the most jealous control, for when allowed to reign unopposed, it utterly paralyses all the higher artistic faculties, but in working from pictures the case is altered, and the etcher should imitate as much as he safely can, even to the very touches if possible.


THE INTERPRETERS OF PAINTING. 367

The reason for this difference is obvious. In working directly from nature the model is simple nature without the interven- tion of any human feeling, and if the artist were simply to imitate in his studies, there would be no human feeling in them whatever ; but when we have a picture before us the feel- ing of the painter has already fully provided that human ele- ment which is essential to a work of art, and there is little necessity to superadd a second human element from the mind of the engraver. Whenever, therefore, the engraver can accurately imitate the original painting, it is right for him to do so, but there are times when such imitation is not possible. There is much in painting which can never be imitated in etching, but whenever the copyist perceives that he has to confront one of these difficulties, he has always the resource of interpretation which, far from making his work less admir- able, is likely, if well done, to give it a higher and more inde- pendent interest The two things may embarrass a young student, but every experienced artist or really cultivated critic will at once perceive the clear distinction between them. The best etchers from pictures imitate and interpret by turns, just as it seems best to them, and are equally at home in both. Rajon, for example, will imitate the black velvet of a burgher's doublet in some old Flemish picture, till the imita- tion has almost precisely the quality of the original painting ; but when he comes to Turner's Teiniraire he resorts boldly to the most frank interpretation, and suggests to our imagina- tion the subtle tones which he cannot set before our eyes. Armed with these dual powers, there is nothing in painted art which the etcher may not justifiably attempt

Since etchers who work from pictures endeavour to ac- CQmmodate themselves as much as possible to the manner and feeling of the painter, it follows that their own personal style is often merged and lost in that of the picture before them, so that it is not easy to define the qualities of an etcher from pictures, as we have been defining those of the original


368 THE INTERPRETERS OF PAINTING.


etchers hitherto considered in this volume. The reader will at once perceive the difficulty ; I for my part have felt it so much that I find it impossible to say much of these etchers personally without attributing to one of them, as a distinction, qualities which others have in an equal degree. For example, as an original etcher of still-life, Jules Jacquemart acquired a power so peculiar to himself that his plates were recognisable at the first glance, like some original and familiar signature, but since he has begun to work from pictures, many plates have appeared by him, which, if his name were not attached to them, might easily be attributed to another artist, even by an accomplished critic, well acquainted with Jacquemart's manner. There are plates by Flameng, Rajon, Waltner, and others, which it would be just as difficult to recognise as their handiwork. It is not easy, nor would it be right, for an etcher to supersede, by a mannerism of his own, the mannerisms of the different painters he interprets, but there is another reason which has of late years caused a very definite loss of person- ality in the etchers who copy pictures. A certain body of general executive experience has formed itself, and is now a common stock belonging equally to all who have thoroughly mastered the art The younger men try to acquire this as quickly as they can, and the cleverest of them succeed in doing so very rapidly. They usually come to the art with the ex- perience of a student who has gone through the regular con- tinental education in painting, so that they know a good deal about the qualities of painting, and a moderate degree of application suffices to make them perceive the value of the common methods of interpretation or imitation with the etching-needle, which they at once adopt A young man so prepared by previous general education in drawing and paint- ing may soon become a clever etcher from pictures if he has good abilities, and if he has fine taste and sensitive feeling, with a naturally delicate hand, he may do really admirable work in a few years. But this rapidity of progress in our


THE INTERPRETERS OF PAINTING. 369

younger contemporaries, is due especially to the fact that the way has been made plainer for them by the pioneers, especially by Flameng. What occurred in the earlier part of this century in landscape engraving has now occurred in etching, especially in figure-etching from Dutch pictures — a definitively best way of doing things has been discovered and is already traditional. We need not value the art less for this. An art may render useful service which is not the outcome of personal, individual genius. The engravers who interpreted Turner, and interpreted him on the whole so astonishingly well, were a school which had its methods in common. Take the volume of the " Rivers of France " and try to guess who engraved each plate, without looking at the engraver's name in the corner. Those plates were done by twelve different engravers ; can you recognise them by their work } No, you cannot ; the book is so homogeneous that it looks as if the designs had been all engraved by one person. Exactly the same methods of interpretation are employed throughout. And yet what consummate skill ! — what admirable precision in dealing with the most subtle distinctions of tone in those skies and water- surfaces of Turner ! Here is a kind of engraving which, without being personal, since twelve men could do it, is still most use- ful and valuable, for it has rendered with exquisite delicacy the work of a great genius, and multiplied it by thousands. So it is already with this modern art of etching from pictures. It is not the new invention or discovery of every etcher who uses it, it is now very generally an acquired " business," and yet its results may be well worth having.

Since, however, the etchers have so much in common, I shall not give them separate chapters as I did to the original men, but shall select for mention a few of their most important works.

Flameng. The " Night Watch;' after Rembrandt— It is evident that in this ambitious and important plate M. Flameng

2 B


370 THE INTERPRETERS OF PAINTING.

has determined to give to the world a striking example of his mastery as an etcher, and I was therefore the more surprised, when the work first appeared, by an obvious fault in tonality, the all but total loss of modelling in certain blacks where it ought to have been distinctly visible. The central figure is in full light; this is evident, for his extended hand casts a shadow on his companion, and his advanced leg casts another upon the ground  ; the face and collar, top, are strongly lighted, and yet the doublet and breeches are a black blot, in which nothing is distinguishable except a few little buttons. There is abso- lutely no form whatever in them. This solecism is so glaring that it strikes one at the first glance, and I expressed my sur- prise about it to the artist himself He wrote, in answer, that the printer had overcharged the blacks in the printing, but also that the picture itself is so loaded with dirt that it cannot be properly seen, besides which it is hung in a little room badly lighted — so badly, that the etcher could never have made it out at all without the occasional assistance of a direct sunbeam. Flameng believes that Rembrandt's intention was not to paint a " Night Watch " but a daylight effect, and that this will become evident if ever the picture shall be cleaned and hung where it may be visible.

I have mentioned this in justice to the etcher. In every other respect the work is a marvel. If the reader has the opportunity of comparing it with any of the common engrav- ings of the same picture (for example, the woodcut in Charles Blanc's Histoirc dcs Pcintrcs), he will soon perceive the value of Flameng's masterly drawing, especially in the expression of the faces, which in a work of this kind is the chief thing, the source of its human power. After that two other qualities are to be noticed — the brilliant use of line on a white ground, as in the shorter of the two central figures, the little girl, the collar of the tall man in black, and elsewhere ; and in striking contrast with this the soft, rich shading, especially of the large clear obscure spaces in the background. If the student will


THE INTERPRETERS OF PAINTING, 371

follow out the many different kinds of shading employed in this work, he will perceive that they form in themselves a sort of music, with notes often purposely harsh for contrast with the suavity of others. It is not surprising that a clever and experienced workman should find out many different ways of using the etching-needle, but it is surprising that he should be able to reconcile such very opposite qualities till they all sing pleasantly together in one harmonious masterpiece.

Flameng. UAbreiivoir^ after Troyon. — This plate was published in the Gazette des Bcaiix Arts for June 1874. I mention it in this place as a particularly good example of an etcher's subordination to the painter he interprets. Not only have we here the feeling of Troyon, his unpretending yet sub- stantial draughtsmanship, and his simple yet effective scheme of light and shade  ; but we have also, at least for any one who knows the painter, a striking reminder of his very brushwork. In the sky and distance especially the etching-needle has become a brush, and the very strokes of Troyon*s powerful hog-tool are visible all over. So close an imitation of a painter's manner is of more importance than some persons may readily believe. It greatly helps to put us in unison with his feeling. Such a picture as this would be robbed of half its force if translated by some cold, mechanical engraver ; but the lively sympathy of the etcher with the painter places us in direct communication with him, till we quite forget paper and print, and see the painted canvas itself.

Flameng. Francis the First and the Dnchess of ^tampeSy after Bonington. — This plate was published in the Portfolio for January 1873. The reader may have seen the original picture in the Louvre, a very brilliant little gem of colour. This plate is just as brilliant a piece of etching; indeed at the time of its publication it was, I believe, the most accomplished piece of work which, in that particular kind, had ever been


372 THE INTERPRETERS OF PAINTING.

produced The qualities most valued in modern painting appear to be colour and texture (the most recent sales seem to prove it more and more), with sparkle. This plate is all full of texture and sparkle, with the suggestion of local colour which black-and-white art can give. It is quite a typical example of modern painting, with its little incident, its study of costume, its exhibition of technical dexterity. M. Flameng has thrown himself into the spirit of it as thoroughly as if he had been the author of the picture. It has never seemed to me that texture and sparkle were the highest qualities of art, but the modern public delights in them, and here they are, tant qiiil en voudra I

F. Laguillermie. A Divarf of Philip IV. of Spain^ after Velasquez. — This etcher has had the advantage of a more extended artistic education than is common in these times. He was taught engraving by Riffaut and Flameng  ; he is also a Grand Prix de Rome, and a painter. He has gone through laborious studies in Paris, Rome, Athens, and Madrid. I mention this particular plate, which was published in the Portfolio for April 1873, as a fine example of a very free kind of interpretation. Any one who knows Velasquez will be very strongly reminded of him by this etching, and yet M. Laguillermie has worked quite in his own way, with strong sabre-strokes for shading, and not the slightest attempt to amuse us by pretty textures. The plate is one of my great favourites. The subject of the picture is deeply interesting, as the following paragraph, which I wrote in the Portfolio, will explain  : —

" But there were differences amongst the dwarfs, which Velasquez perceived with his keen, artistic intelligence, and profound observation of mankind. One of them was merely silly, another scowled hatred and envy from under his beetling brows  ; but this one, whose image is here before us, bears the pain of a nobler suffering. O sad and thoughtful face, look-


THE INTERPRETERS OF PAINTING. 373

ing out upon us from the serious canvas of Velasquez, though the grave has closed upon thee for two hundred years, we know what were thy miseries  ! To be the butt of idle princes and courtiers, and, worse than that, to be treated by the most beautiful women as a thing that could have no passion, to be admitted to an intimacy which was but the negation of thy manhood, to have ridicule for thy portion and buffoonery for thy vocation  ; and yet to be at the same time fully conscious of an inward human dignity continually outraged, of a capa- city for learning and for thought ! — all this was enough indeed to drive thee to noble folios, that gave thee some sense of human equality, some intellectual fraternity and con- solation ! "

Rajon. Portrait of John Stiuirt Mill, after G. F. Watts, R.A. — M. Rajon is one of the most productive of the modem etchers from pictures, and at the same time one of the surest He respects himself, and never issues slovenly or careless work, which cannot be said of all his brethren. It is not sur- prising that he should interpret the qualities of painting well, for he is a painter.

Mr. Watts has painted many portraits which have de- servedly taken rank amongst the most important pictures of the age. It is almost a profanation to mention such art as his, so full of intellect and earnestness, so serenely serious, on the same page with the vulgar and brainless work which is the every-day product of the regular portrait-manufacturer. It is not necessary to define vulgarity in this place  ; but I may observe that if any one cares to possess what is the exact opposite of vulgarity in portraiture, he may have it in this noble etching from a noble picture. There is no idle flattery here, no frivolous hiding of the signs of age, no lending of an inappropriate gaiety. The tailor and hairdresser did not determine the painter s work for him before he began it. One purpose only occupied him — to paint worthily a human head


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that was worthy of being painted. Perhaps, indeed, and here is the only criticism I feel inclined to make, the costume and body have been /^^much sacrificed to the head; they are, in fact, seen under different degrees of illumination. You see as much of the body as you could distinguish in the gloom of the latest twilight, but the face is in the ordinary daylight of a room, in " a good gallery light," and every detail is visible. Nor can it be fairly argued that the body is in shadow and the head in light, as it would have been a great maladresse to make the space of shade coincide so precisely with the black costume as to create confusion between shade and local colour. The flat equality of the dark background, in which, at least in the etching, no gradation of any kind is traceable, is also a mistake. It would be difficult to find, on the dullest day, in the plainest room, a space so absolutely without variety. The background and costume are both, however, very cleverly etched, and the effect they produce is like that of hearing two or three of the very lowest notes on the double-bass. The depth of etching, in the lowest notes, has seldom been more powerfully exhibited. The biting of the coat is almost as deep as the bitings in Turner's etchings.

The face is one of the very finest pieces of work ever exe- cuted. Some people say that etching cannot render modelling, and Mr. Ruskin says that it cannot represent hair ; yet the modelling of this face is as thorough and ela- borate as it could be in any kind of engraving, and the scanty locks of hair, and thin whiskers, are rendered with a perfec- tion of texture not to be denied. The whole face is inter- preted by the most judicious use of line, but always for the artistic purpose, never for mechanical display. All that is done has for its object cither the plain rendering of physical structure, or the expression of character. Physically, you have a strikingly thorough study of bone, muscle, and skin, the last even to its wrinkles  ; intellectually, you have tlie


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thoughtful study of a thoughtful face, with the sadness that remained upon it permanently after a great bereavement. I can answer for the likeness ; all who remember Mr. Mill in his latter years will recognise its extreme fidelity. It is well that a portrait at once so artistic and so true should preserve for our descendants the features of one of the few famous Englishmen belonging to our age whom posterity is likely to care about.

Rajon. Tlie Dutch Housewife^ after Nicolas Maes. — ^The original picture was a great favourite of Leslie's. In his Handbook for Young Painters, he says, ** There are few pictures in our National Gallery before which I find myself more often standing than the very small one by Maes, the subject of which is the scraping a parsnip. A decent-looking Dutch housewife sits intently engaged in this operation, with a fine chubby child standing by her side watching the process, as children will stand and watch the most ordinary operations, with an intensity of interest as if the very existence of the whole world depended upon the exact manner in which that parsnip was scraped. It is not the colour and light and shadow of this charming little gem, superlative as they are, that constitute its great attraction  ; for a mere outline of it would arrest attention amongst a thousand subjects of its class, and many pictures as beautiful in effect might not interest so much ; but it is the delight at seeing a trait of childhood we have often observed and been amused with in nature, for the first time so felicitously given by art."

I think Leslie would have been pleased with the way in which Rajon has interpreted the little picture. The etching is charmingly simple in manner and very true in light and shade. There is no strain or display in it anywhere. Great artists, however, are great deceivers, and we should be inno- cent indeed if we supposed that Maes and Rajon were as guileless as they seem. The plain truth is that both picture


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and etching are full of subtlety and cleverness. The brilliantly etched jug to the woman's right was not set there without intention  ; it corresponds to the head of the child, and so makes that of the housewife central. The lighting is full of know- ledge. The absence of all bravura in the treatment is in har- njony with the homeliness of the subject The plate was published in the ortfolio for December 1874.

Waltner. UAngclus, after Millet — I am sorry to have to preface my notice of this etcher with a word of blame, but he deserves it for being so unreliable. When he likes, he can etch as well as anybody, but he may at any time produce hurried and slovenly work incredibly inferior to his best I must add that he is so very clever in the use of the dry point and the burin that he very often resorts to them, so that the most delicate parts of his work are engraved rather than etched ; this, however, is not an objection when the burin work is so ably done that it harmonises with what is bitten.

In this picture by Millet a man and woman are standing near to each other and almost face to face in a vast and per- fectly flat potato-field with a level horizon high up in the picture. There is no other landscape than this, except that the spire of a village church and a few trees and buildings are visible on the horizon at a distance, but they are very small, like the minute distances of Paul Potter. The man and woman arc French peasants who have been loading a wheel- barrow with potatoes  ; both have left off working for an instant, and are praying, the man with bowed head, the woman with clasped hands, whilst they hear the village bell tolling the Angelus. It is impossible not to feel the deep sense of rustic devotion in this most impressive work. After the long day of dull labour in that monotonous field, flat and ugly as a desert, these poor people hear the sound of the evening bell from afar and forget their toil in prayer. The etcher has entered quite heartily into the sincere and earnest


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spirit of the painter, and has etched the picture with so much good taste and feeling that the effect on the heart is quite that of the original painting itself, and yet the slightest mechanical ostentation would have at once destroyed it People used to say that etching was hard and " scratchy " — this plate is as tender as a charcoal drawing, and as true in its light and shade.

Waltner. Dans la Rosie, after Carolus Duran. — A nude figure of a young girl which had a great success in the Salon of 1874. This plate. appeared in the Gazette dcs Beaux Arts for June of that year. The nude, especially when of such a subject as this, which requires the most delicate treatment, is exceedingly difficult to deal with in any kind of engraving. Readers who are familiar with the sort of prints which were so much admired in the eighteenth century, when a profusion of naked limbs of gods and goddesses were represented as cushioned on rolling clouds, will remember how clouds and thighs were alike seized upon by the engravers of those days as pretexts for the exhibition of a certain skill in cutting clear curves with the burin. Such treatment could never give the natural texture, but was a negation and destruction of it In the etcliing before us M. Waltner has treated the nude with the perception and sentiment of a painter. It is like fair living flesh, and not like the back of a silver watch ornamented with eccentric tooling. The outline is so soft that the eye, in trying to follow, is constantly losing and finding it. The modelling is wonderful, considering how limited is the scale of light and dark where shadow itself is fair like shaded snow. And yet the lights tell forcibly enough although there is so little shade to help them. All the rounding of the beautiful limbs and body is got by very simple and facile dry-point sketching, aided perhaps by the burin, but if so by the burin used quite freely and artistically as an etcher may fairly


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employ it.* The background of foliage and the foreground of plants are all bitten, and so is the abundant hair.

Brunet-Debaines. Interieur de Cour en Italic, after Decamps. — The original picture belonged to the Wilson col- lection, and the etching was published along with many other plates from that collection in 1873. The subject is simply a picturesque courtyard, with rough walls, archways, and gal- leries to pass from one house to another. There were great opportunities, in a subject of this kind, for Decamps to enjoy his singular powers of rendering rough textures, and also for his strength of light and shade. M. Brunet-Debaines has so completely reproduced the manner of Decamps in his etching, that any one who, without knowing the original picture, knows others of its class, by the master, will at once feel, after studying this etching, that he has seen the picture itself. Rarely has an engraver entered more completely into the tastes and qualities of the painter he had to interpret

Brunet-Debaines. Ruined Castle on a Lake, after Al- bert Cuyp. — It is by no means an easy thing for a good modern landscape draughtsman, such as the etcher of this picture, to go back to the landscape of the seventeenth century and throw himself into it quite heartily. The qualities of such a painter as Cuyp reside much more in pictorial harmonies than in any great knowledge of nature. There is so much in this picture which to an educated modern must seem poor — almost young-lady-likc, if I may say so without offending both connoisseurs and young ladies at the same time — that one may very easily overlook its two great merits of repose and beautiful lighting. I was delighted, when the first proof was sent to me, with the etchcr*s absolute forgetfulness of

  • The burin has always been considered a permissible auxiliary tool for etchers.

It is very useful in that way, but, unless in skilful hands, dangerous to the harmony of the work.


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himself and his own knowledge in perfect subordination to the painter. This is Cuyp absolutely, with his clear simple land- scape, inartificial arrangement, and bright yet quiet afternoon sunshine. The plate was published in the Portfolio for April 1874.

Gauciierel. The Avenue, Middleharnis^ Holland, after Hobbema. — A most successful rendering of the curiously clear, quaint, and stiff landscape of Hobbema, now so much in fashion both amongst artists and connoisseurs. It is dif- ficult to point out parts as especially worthy of commendation, but I mention with pleasure the remarkably clear quality of the sky and the distance, not because they arc better done than the trees or the road, but because the risk of failure in them was much greater. {Portfolio, October 1874.)

Gauciierel. Tkc Sun of Venice going to Sea, after Turner. — It is a matter of the most extreme difficulty to translate Turner in etching, and it can only be done at all by the boldest interpretation  ; yet it so happened that all the French etchers who have hitherto been employed by the pro- prietors of the Portfolio in the National Gallery immediately became enthusiastic admirers of Turner, and eagerly desired to etch after him. This plate by M. Gaucherel is not quite accurate in details, and it hardly tries to imitate at all, but it conveys, I think, a very good idea of Turner's poetical con- ception, and recalls the picture very strongly to the memory, with its emerald waters, gaily-coloured sails, and dazzling white distances. {Portfolio, November 1874.)

MONGIN. UEstafette, after Meissonier. — A superior officer of mature age is standing with his back to the fire, smoking his pipe, and holding in his hand a letter just re- ceived from the cstafette, who is standing opposite — a thin man in cavalry uniform, booted and spurred, with a carbine


38o THE INTERPRETERS OF PAINTING.

slung behind him. Between these two, at a greater distance from the spectator, sits a younger officer in cavalry uniform, with his right arm resting on a table, the hand holding his pipe, which he forgets to smoke in his anxiety to guess from the expression of his superior's face the nature of the intelli- gence just received. The costumes are those of the eighteenth century, and so is the furniture of the room.

Every one knows with what thorough study and accuracy of finish Mcissonier always presents the details of his figures and their surroundings, what a master he is of imitation, and how careful he has generally been to select subjects which permitted it The present work is a striking example of the paintcr^s qualities, and a still more striking example of the closeness with which a skilful etcher may echo the work of a painter, though the echo is but in black and white. Let us first do full justice to M. Mongin in the much higher study of expression, let us not forget that the faces are of chief import- ance here, and that they arc rendered perfectly. We have the imperturbable look of the old general who reads the letter (you may guess about as much from his visage as from his pigtail), the rather wearied and anxious look of the younger officer, and the half-inscnsiblc but disciplined and military profile of the estafcttc himself, who keeps up his soldierly air though harassed by fatigue and want of sleep. This dramatic interest is, however, soon exhausted, for we are aware that we can never know the contents of the letter  ; if we were in the theatre, the actor would read it aloud to us, but this painted actor is dumb and cannot even change his attitude, he must stand for ever, as he is standing now, with booted legs wide apart, in the attitude of the Colossus of Rhodes, and however weary the messenger may be he can never quit this presence. But such is the nature of pictorial art that when the interest of the subject is exhausted, that of the skill with which it has been represented remains. We follow, in imagination, the artist as he works, and are delighted by the triumphs of


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m

his hand. There is plenty of such technical interest in the remarkable plate before us. The versatility with which the etching-needle is made to imitate the appearance of different substances — marble, glass, leather, wood, cloth, fur, etc. — and the accuracy of shading and biting which gives their exact relative values of light-and-dark, are in themselves interest- ing to a student of art. If the reader had the plate before him, he would perceive how many different kinds of treat- ment the etcher has adopted to get the different qualities of things — deep bitings and shallow, close lines and open, sharp accents and soft shades. I cannot see how Meissonier's picture could have been engraved more accurately with the burin even as to relative values of light-and-dark, but I know very positively that no burin-work could ever have got this variety and truth of texture, nor could it have followed so closely the minute points of drawing on which much of the fidelity of the translation into black and white depends.

Wise. The Triumph of Scipio, after Mantegna. — This plate was published in the Portfolio for January 1874, and was the first of the National Gallery series. The original work is a tempera design in chiaroscuro — a long frieze, of which only a portion is given in the etching. I mention it here as an instance of successful interpretation. It is not really an imitation of Mantegna's work, but a bold and powerful translation of it from the language of tempera into that of a simple sort of etching. You see at a glance what the work is, for no artifice conceals the strokes of the point, but you would have a difficulty in guessing the exact nature of Mantegna's painting, if you were not acquainted with it. In spite of what has been said in the last few pages about the imitation of texture in working from pictures, I do confess that a certain independence on the part of the etcher is by no means displeasing to me. This need not prevent him from expressing the clearest understanding of the picture before him.


382 THE INTERPRETERS OF PAINTING.

Le Rat. Portrait of Leonardo Loredano, Doge of Venice^ after Giovanni Bellini. — ^This is an uncommonly beautiful piece of engraving, but whether it is quite fair to speak of it in a book on etching may be doubtful Let us take it as a text for a short sermon about the transition from etching to engraving. The etcher has generally a burin or two and a few dry points amongst his tools, the latter, perhaps, sharpened like burins with triangular sections and cutting edges. When the biting has not done all that was expected from it, the artist may feel indisposed to take the trouble of regrounding, so he works with the burin a little, or a sharp dry point of hard steel After having done this often, he insensibly acquires considerable skill, and is more and more tempted to do it again. Finally this engraved work covers so much of his plates that, as in the present instance, it is equal in importance to the bitten work. Go a step farther still in this direction and you have the acid employed merely to fix a light design used for guidance, whilst the serious business of the performance is entrusted to the graver. Some etchers from pictures are now going so much in this direction that there is a chance of their becoming real burin-engravers ulti- mately. The plate before us was begun as an etching, and then engraved upon till it reached its present condition of high finish. Let me not be supposed to insinuate anytliing against it, for it is an exquisite piece of work, which ought to have satisfied both the Doge and grand old John Bellini if they could have seen it. {Portfolio, January 1875.)

Jacquemart. Repose, after Berghem. — This and the following plates by Jules Jacquemart were published by Messrs. Colnaghi in a series from the Metropolitan Museum of New York. The artist prepared himself for this task and others of a similar character by the study of effect in etching, instead of pursuing his marvellously successful studies of form and texture in objects of still life. I well remember that


THE INTERPRETERS OF PAINTING, 383

when this transformation began Jacquemart sent me a cer- tain attempt in his new direction, which convinced me that he was what Mr. Ruskin would call "a lost mind," and that those terrible words about an English artist were applicable even unto him — "The change in his manner is not merely Fall — it is Catastrophe ; not merely a loss of power, but a reversal of principle : his excellence has been effaced, ' as a man wipeth a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down/ "

Meanwhile Jacquemart worked on in his new manner, and the end and outcome of it was that he became able to etch very well from pictures. I am not sure that the world is altogether a gainer by the change, for this artist's original etchings from beautiful or precious objects of still-life were what nobody but himself could do  ; whereas, however well he may interpret a picture there are several other men in Europe who can do as much. One or two of his plates are certainly very superlative work, but a good many others do not rise above the ordinary level of professional production. We have, therefore, by this change, lost an artist of singular genius, to enrich by the addition of a single name the list of clever men who can translate pictures in an accomplished professional way.

This plate after Berghem is, however, very far from being commonplace. I had not supposed, when it appeared, that etching could go so far as this in the imitation of a painter's manner, and the peculiar success of it opened to me a most interesting field of speculation and of hope. Photography in its various forms renders touch with admirable fidelity, but then it is grossly unfaithful in the interpretation of colour by Hght-and-dark, and produces the wildest confusion by this unfaithfulness, even in light-and-shade itself. On the other hand, line-engraving cannot at all render the touch, of the picturesque painters ; it is perfectly suited to the interpretation of the classical schools, but just as ill adapted to the more informal manner of modern naturalism. The burin requires


384 THE INTERPRETERS OF PAINTING.

tranquil spaces, the etching-needle can easily follow broken surfaces and ragged outlines. This we knew, but the novel element in this plate from Berghem is the successful imitation of luminous quality in the touches. In work of this kind the touches glisten like dewdrops ; they are not paint, but an artful assemblage of jewels. I wonder what Jacquemart would make of the glitter in a dewy Constable ; he would give it, I believe, with an unprecedented fidelity. Another reflection which occurs is, whether Berghem could have etched his own picture in this rich pictorial manner. We know what his manner was in his etchings — brilliant enough, but neither pictorial nor rich.

A close examination of the workmanship in this plate reveals so much of its secret as is dependent on method merely, and not on sensitive interpretation. The lines are never laid without great care for their tonic value ; and so soon as any line, however short, however apparently necessary to the delineation of form, would interfere in the least with the tonic value of the painter's touch, it is suddenly abandoned, and an empty space left to tell the rest of its story. Treat- ment of this kind is as consummate, technically, as etching can be. The line is used quite frankly everywhere, and there is no attempt to hide it ; but, on the other hand, the artist is never carried away by it, not even to the extent of the thou- sandth of an inch. The entire absence of that tightness of manner which very young artists often take for delicacy of drawing, may possibly incline some of them to pass by this work slightingly, as a careless sketch of landscape. Any one of that opinion is invited, with due respect, just to copy the face of the woman on its own scale.

Jacquemart. The Moerdyck, after Van Goyen. — The sort of subject which Zeeman would have etched in his quaint dry way, and it is highly interesting to observe the effects of Jacquemart's wider experience. Zeeman evidently enjoyed


THE INTERPRETERS OF FAIN7ING, 385

light, and space, and movement ; but he had no richness, no unction, if I may use the word, nor did he understand fine arrangements of chiaroscuro. This etching from Van Goyen scarcely contains more lines, if they were counted, than one of Zeeman's plates, and yet the difference of arrangement and of manner makes this plate opulent and glowing. An ignorant etcher would have given a month of useless labour without getting either the light or the movement of these rolling clouds, or the smoothness of this calm water. There is nothing here but the bare etched line, as frank as possible everywhere, and yet the varied employment of it, to any cultivated spec- tator, suggests everything of the picture but its colour.

Though this is a merit of the painter's, let me add that the composition of this sea-piece is as subtle and cunning as the composition of a simple subject possibly can be. The concen- tration of light in the middle, by the golden cumulus and its reflection, the indication of perspective by the two lantern- poles on the sandbanks, brought purposely near in the picture, and contrasted in their leaning, the arrangement of the ships and boats, all in pairs (a common practice with Turner also, but not, as we see, invented by him) ; the smoke on the distant sandbank and its reflection marrying earth to heaven and water by a little central cloud — all these things, and more that I have not space to enumerate, prove the most thoughtful artistic intention. Even the cannon-smoke from the ships of war has its pictorial purpose  ; it gives clouds close to the water, and these clouds help the light, for that against the focus of the picture is very much lighter than the other.

Jacquemart. Interior of a Dutch Cottage, after Willem Kalf. — At the first glance, a critic half experienced in etching might fancy that this plate had been very imperfectly bitten, and that the etcher could not draw things clearly; but he would be much mistaken, for it is one of the cleverest in the whole set. The subject is the obscure interior of a cottage,

2 C


386 THE INTERPRETERS OF PAFNTiyG.

with an effect of dull daylight through an unseen aperture of some kind. The play of imperfect light, the passage firom light to obscurity, have been rendered by the painter with great care, and the one effort of the etcher has been to make things dear just to the degree which the painter intended, and no farther. On the part of Jules Jacquemait this must have needed especial self-denial, for it so happens that there are many things in this picture which, if left to himself, he w*ould have drawn far more brilliantly than the painter. To publish an etching of this kind is certainly a very high compliment to the art-culture of this generation, as it is rather strong meat for babes ; but we are bound to praise the forgetfulness of self and the simplicity of purpose in faithful interpretation of the picture, which are e\'ident throughout this work. An uneducated public would see nothing in it — ^would not even be able to make out the objects which are indicated by chiaro- scuro simply without any explanatory design, a touch of lights a patch of shade, a half-light, and a reflection. What is the woman doing  ? I know, but leave the reader to amuse himself by guessing, with the observation that all northern readers will inevitably guess wrong.

Jacquemart. Portrait of a Young Woman, ^Itor Lucas Cranach the Younger. — A very faithful and beautiful imita- tion of a quaint portrait in the costume of the sixteenth century, with a rich coif and necklace and a veil There is an infinity of exquisite work in this etching, not only in the richly-patterned dress and background, but in the delicate pale shading of the flesh — a delicacy which adds much to the force of the fine dark eyes and eyebrows. The face has a serene, grave beauty of a very original type, and the expres- sion conveys a mixture of tranquillity and firmness, implying eminent domestic qualities. Beautiful as it is, however, this plate may be taken rather as an example of the versatility of etching than of its especial liberty and power. It is im-


THE INTERPRETERS OF PAINTING. 387

possible, and it would be wrong if it w^ere possible, to interpret a severe and primitive painting like this with the go which would be quite appropriate for an artist like Frank Hals. Jacquemart's merit here has been to enter thoroughly into the spirit of his original, and to bring to his work a delicacy and right patience answering accurately to the feeling and character of Lucas Cranach himself.

Jacquemart. Elisabeth de Valois, Reine (TEspagne, after Sir Antonio Moro. — ^This was one of the most important plates in the series from the Wilson collection. It is men- tioned here for an especial reason. Elisabeth de Valois was dressed as magnificently as possible when she was painted, her costume was covered with embroidery and jewels. Here then we have a complicated and not uninteresting study of still-life, for the queen with her plain face and quiet pose is really little more than a lay figure to carry all this etalage of satin and countless pearls big and little, with great square gems of ruby, sapphire, or emerald, an amazing elaboration of royal finery. Jacquemart feels perfectly at ease amongst it all, nay even enjoys it, instead of losing patience, as many would He studies every separate pearl with its own light and shade and reflection, he gives the sheen of satin and the infinite details of the majestic millinery ; for such study as this is half a return to the labours of his earlier manhood.

Unger. Jcime Couple dans leur Salon^ after Gonzales Coques. — Before considering this particular piece of work let me make a few general observations about William Unger's talent. It is difficult, in an age which has produced half-a- dozen artist engravers of the very highest rank, to say which of them is king ; but if any critic were to give the supreme station to Unger he might maintain his decision by the argu- ment that this artist has etched more plates of uniformly good quality than any one else, whilst a few of his finest works,


388 THE INTERPRETERS OF PAINTING.

taken separately, will bear comparison with the finest of those other distin^ished interpreters of pictures whom we have already studied in this chapter. In one power he certainly surpasses every one of them, namely, in the critic's gift of sympathy with very different kinds of talent It does not in the least signify what an original artist, who never translates the work of other men, and who never writes about it, may think of his rivals in this or any other age. The reader would be much astonished if he could learn how much ignorance and prejudice are perfectly compatible with a successful artistic career. But when an artist undertake^ to interpret the work of many who differed in mental faculty and in technical training, both from himself and from each other, he must either enter heartily into their ways of thought or else grossly misrepresent them. He then requires that rare gift of a good critic which enables him to enjoy opposite kinds of work, and to admire them with such perfect sympathy that for the time being each may appear right and sufficing in its own order. Ungcr has this in perfection. I will answer for it that he must be a very delicate and discerning critic of painting, that his intelligence must be comprehensive and his appreciation just. The mass of his etchings, taken together, are, in fact, a commentary on many great painters, which, instead of being written out in words, is drawn on copper with the point Throughout it Ungcr speaks to us as clearly about the pictures as Vosmaer, the distinguished critic, when he writes Dutch or French. To possess these etchings is much less, no doubt, in a general sense, than to possess the original pictures, but there is a certain special, yet very intelligible, sense in which it is somewhat more. We have here much of the painter, but not all ; we have also something in addition, and that is the intelligent explanation and commentary of an observer who well knows what is admirable, and what is personal and peculiar, in the executive expression of the great painters whom he interprets.


THE INTERPRETERS OF PAINTING. 389

The picture before us, one of the most charming and interesting representations of domestic life in the seventeenth century which have been handed down to us, represents a young gentleman and his wife in their small but tastefully arranged drawing-room. The walls are covered with tapestry to the height of the door, and above the tapestry are hung Dutch landscapes, rather too high to be studied, but good as panels for the decoration of the room. The lady is standing at her open clavichord, the lid of which shows on the inside a sylvan landscape with musicians. The gentleman is gravely seated by the table turning the leaves of a book. On the table are a globe, a statuette, and an hour-glass. There is an indescribably charming air of learning, discretion, and artistic taste in the whole scene. It seems to us that life must have had true dignity, peace, and sweetness under these conditions. And now please observe how absolutely Unger throws him- self into this grave and quiet temper, and with what unhurried sobriety every touch is laid ! We shall see him in other tempers before we leave him.*

Unger. Paysagc Montagncnx, after Rembrandt — This is one of the most complete of Rembrandt's landscapes, and a very fine and majestic composition it is. There is a river in the foreground with a windmill to the right, a bridge of one arch crosses the river, and a horseman is riding towards the bridge. In the distance is a hilly country with trees and some ruins.

  • So far as we may judge by the etcher's portrait of himself on the title-page,

which by the way is one of the most consummate bits of free etching produced in modem times, it appears as if his own personal feeling were not only very dif- ferent from that of the etching described in the text, but even strongly opposed to it. Unger's (nun manner w^ould be light, facile, and intelligent almost to excess, but by no means distinguished for gravity or sobriety. That portrait of himself is done in an excellent spirit for an etcher. The drawing is sound and strong, with- out the least trace of any sort of pedantry, and the ease of it, which is the result of real power and knowledge, is truly marvellous.


390 THE INTERPRETERS OF PAINTING.

The study of minute detail which pre\'ailed in the Eng- lish school some years ago is likely to make us unden^ue the qualities of such landscape-design as this, which relies entirely upon mass ; but if the reader takes delight in the fine artistic arrangement of masses he will enjoy this land- scape much, and be verj' thankful to Unger for the quiet truth of tone with which he has rendered it The picture would not be difficult to copy in charcoal or sepia, but it must have been extremely difficult to etch, for it all depends upon tonic relations, and if they had gone wrong in the biting the plate would have been without meaning, for it has no strong expressive lines to help it. Unger has rendered it in the most unobtrusive way, and all has come just quietly right, even to the palest tints of the distance and the sky. How grandly Rembrandt has placed his ruin and supported it !

Unger. Buste de Fcmmc^ after Rembrandt — The lady shows one hand, her left, which is gloved and holds a flower. She wears a necklace of large pearls.

This is not one of the most striking plates in the series, but it is assuredly one of the most perfect. The face is treated with the greatest delicacy, and yet witli consummate ease. Observe the thoroughness of the skill and knowledge with which the reflections arc rcser\*ed. The texture has the softness of flesh, and that of the costume and background is vigorously opposed to it. Unger has entered so well into Rembrandt's spirit that we recognise the great master at a glance.

The eyes of this portrait are charming in their softness. I think Unger has made the hair a little too wiry and coarse, but the coarseness of texture in the dress is very valuable. The glove is inevitably ugly, for in tliosc days nobody thought of such a thing as a glove that would fit the hand.

Unger. Lc Dormcur, after A. Van Ostade. — A cobbler is sitting asleep in a little corner close to a wooden partition.


THE INTERPRETERS OF PAINTING, 391

He rests his head on his left hand, and has a very happy look on his face as if his dreams were pleasant. Perhaps a pot of beer may have aided in procuring this felicity.

The etching is very remarkable for its spirit of independ- ence. It does not look as if it had been done from a picture at all, but quite conveys the impression of a fresh and spon- taneous invention of the etcher himself. Considered on its own merits it is one of the very best etchings I ever saw ; the work is so straightforward, simple, and expressive.

Unger. Rati Calme, after Willem Van de Velde the younger. — The painter of this picture, which is now in the gallery of Cassel, was only twenty years old when he exe- cuted it, but few artists, however experienced, have so com- pletely rendered the spirit of a scene. I mention it here, however, chiefly to direct attention to the excessive delicacy and self-restraint of the etcher in his interpretation of it There is no attempt to copy the palest tones, but they are just hinted at, and we imagine them. The picture is in a very high key, a very light sky is reflected in calm water, and white sails come against this in full sunshine. The only darks are the hulls of the vessels. Unger has contented him- self with making us understand how light are the prevailing tones, giving the forms of cloud and sail by drawing of ineffable delicacy almost without shading. I strongly approve of the judgment and taste with which this has been done. We feel the light that there is in the picture much more by this treatment than if an attempt had been made to render the pale tones quite accurately, supposing (what is very probable) that they would have been a little put wrong in the biting. The fact is that this etching is a masterpiece, and one of a very peculiar kind, which some younger etchers who are breaking their hearts in struggles after perfect tonic accuracy would do well to study. Such work as this saves health and eyesight by intelligence.


392 THE INTERPRETERS OF PAINTING.

Unger. Portrait (THomme^ after Tintoret — This is the portrait of a young Venetian nobleman, perhaps twenty-seven years old, or so, but nothing seems to be known about the original except what may be gathered from the picture itself.

It is one of the grandest and most impressive portraits in existence. The dark face — of the deepest Italian complexion already, and looking like bronze when set upon that large white frill — is high up in the corner of the canvas to your right. The left hand of the portrait is hanging by his side, gauntletted in a great leather glove ; the other, also gloved, is placed upon a table. The costume is that of the sixteenth century, but dark, grave, and without an ornament The attitude is erect and soldierly, but the main power of the work lies in the expression of the face. The eyes are like coals of fire. It may be doubted whether such another pair of eyes exists in all the world of painting. When once they have looked at you, no farther explanation of the man's cha- racter is necessary. There are portraits of the thoughtful and melancholy kind, which have awakened an unceasing curi- osity, but this would excite fear in a timid person, and resist- ance in a bold one. What a haughty scrutiny there is in that glance, and in those lips what iron resolution  ! This young lord of Venice, whoever he may have been, was one whose passion a woman might dread, and whose enmity a brave man might think twice before incurring. Laws and civilisa- tion have in our days so quelled the fire of individual natures

« 

that we can hardly realise the time when passionate men were as dangerous as volcanoes ; but there are a hundred such in Italian histor>% who were not better neighbours than Vesuvius.

Meanwhile wc have forgotten Hcrr Unger, simply because he has done his work so well. Only one thing needs to be said specially about the etching, and it is this. — Some plates can produce their effect on the mind with little tone, but this one positively needed the darkness of the costume, and the


THE INTERPRETERS OF PAINTING. 393

darkness of the face ; the impression on the mind is partly due to it

Unger, Portrait d'un Chanoine^ after Antonis Mor Van Dashorst. — This is one of the finest of the serious portraits in Unger's portfolios. It is almost entirely in dark tones, and the etcher has not succumbed to the temptation of enlivening them by sparkle here and there, as a common engraver would certainly have done with such a piece of work before him. The dignity and sobriety both of the original painting and the reproduction are, in their way, beyond praise. There are no touches of light even on the eyes, and the small frills about the neck and wrists are so much shaded that they do scarcely anything to relieve the general gravity of tone. The canon's countenance has the same gravity and seriousness, but without any hard severity. He looks charitable, but not inclined to familiarity. Charitas liabenda est ad ontftes, sed fainiliaritas non expedit.

Unger. Hail, Fidelity I also designated Sir Ramp and his Mistress, after Franz Hals. — A more striking contrast in both temper and execution than that between the picture just criticised and this one could not be imagined From dignity and sobriety to their exact opposites seems a distance not easily to be traversed ; yet as Unger could be grave with the learned canon of Antonis Mor, so he can be jolly with this merry gentleman of Franz Hals. It is not simply that the faces here are gay, whereas the other was serious, but the very touch of the point is changed. Hals had great dash and decision in his handling, and a peculiar sort of flickering brilliancy, which was due to his way of rendering surfaces whenever he could by facets, and to his excessive taste for strong accents. It was essentially a vulgar conception of form and surface, but it had much — too much — vivacity. In this vivacity the technical manner of Hals corresponded


394 THE INTERPRETERS OF PAINTING.

admirably with the sort of subject which he generally pre- ferred; so that he had one of the greatest merits an artist can have, namely, a perfect harmony between mind-work and hand-work. The painting here is full of dash and go. The subject of the picture is a roystering blade in the height of a merry hour, his glass raised high, his face beaming with laughter and the spirit of loud jollity, whilst nestling under the huge plume of his prodigious hat is the merry visage of a woman, not pretty certainly, but able, as it seems, to enter into the gentleman's frame of mind The most respectable personage here is the dog whose head appears in the comer. This is the sort of life which Franz Hals lived, and this is how he painted it Anything more spirited than Unger's translation of the picture it is impossible to imagine. All the life and vigour of Hals are reproduced in it

Unger. Franz Hals and Lysbcth Rcyniers, his second wife, after Franz Hals. — This is quite mild and respectable in comparison with the other, but there is merriment here too. The painter is seated under a tree in a garden with his wife. Both are laughing heartily, and she has her hand affectionately on his shoulder. The absence of a wine-glass seems an unaccountable omission. Let us hope tliat the artist has inward satisfactions arising from recent and sufficient potations. He looks as if he had.

Both Mr. and Mrs. Hals are most respectably dressed in black cloth and black silk, and their linen is elaborately got up — not a little matter in those days of huge frills, and cuffs, and collars. I mention the etching chiefly for the ease and simplicity of its execution.

Unger. The Gcrccmors of the Asylum for Old Men in 1664, by Franz Hals. — In this picture the artist does all he can to be serious, yet nevertheless puts a twinkle of merriment into the face of an old man in the background, as if he were irreverentially laughing at the worthy Governors.


THE INTERPRETERS OF PAINTING, 395

The execution of this etching is an extreme instance of a sort of work which Unger resorts to, particularly in interpret- ing Hals, but which, considered in itself, is not to be much commended The whole of this work is in facets, and each facet is shaded flat Here there are four distinct tints of flat shade, but no gradations. The love of angles and facets is carried to an extraordinary excess in the badly-fitting gloves. All this may be an accurate imitation of a strong mannerism in the painter, but it would be a very bad mannerism in any etcher who adopted it as a style of his own.

Unger. Cephaleet ProcriSy after a picture supposed to be by Guido Reni. — It is the closing scene of the legend. Procris is lying wounded in the forest, and Cephalus is touching the fatal dart as if about to remove it

I have selected this plate as a proof that Unger is not bound down to the objectionable manner adopted in the one last mentioned. This picture, whoever painted it, is done in the mature Italian style, with full rounded forms, a great deal of modelling, and (of course) a thorough study of gradation. The landscape is rich and quiet, and put in with very fine taste indeed. No one could guess that the same etcher had executed this plate and those from Franz Hals ; and I do not believe that there is another engraver in the world who has, to anything like the same marvellous degree, the faculty of adopting at will styles which are not only unlike each other, but as strongly opposed as possible. Observe the careful study of flesh and the consistent preservation of local colour in the fair woman and the dark man, without loss of modelling in either.

Unger. Les Quatre Vacfies, after Paul Potter. — ^This plate is not very striking at first sight, and the reader may easily pass it by when he first turns over the etchings of Unger, for it is neither black nor powerful. Nevertheless, it is a singularly excellent example of a true etcher's way of


396 THE INTERPRETERS OF PAINTING.

interpreting rather than imitating a picture ; and I suspect that Unger himself must have been fully aware of its merits, for I see that he has (very allowably) put his signature con- spicuously in the upper corner to correspond with that of " Paulus Potter " in the lower. Potter was a mere boy (only nineteen) when he painted the picture, and there is really not very much refinement of drawing about it ; but it is easier in manner than the work of young men usually is, for there is not the least strain or tightness. This facility has been rendered very happily by a corresponding facility in the etcher; indeed it is a better etching than Potter would himself have made of the same subject, for he was always rather hard in manner as an etcher, though he drew well and distinctly. If the reader has access to the plate, let him observe the admirably slight treatment of the sky, on which no vain effort has been wasted, and the open work of the foreground.

There is a great deal of artist-craft both in Potter's management of this very simple material and Unger*s inter- pretation of it Four cows, a little old tree, a bit of fence, a little common rough pasture ground, and in the distance a tree or two, such as you may find anywhere — this is all ; and yet out of these materials the young Dutch genius con- structed a picture which is a picture, and not a mere study as so many are. He knew how to make the most of his material. Such a work as this ought to be a consolation to artists who live in unpicturcsque localities. The materials of art are everywhere, the makers of art are not so common.*

• A few words of praise are due to the spirited publisher, Mr. Sijthoff of Ley- den, for the manner in which tliesc etchings of Unger have been published. They arc printed on fine Dutch paper, and mounted (pasted by the upper etlge only^ on sufficiently good boards, in such a manner as to enter into the most carefully arranged collections without farther change. They are accompanied by a text printed with the greatest .taste on very fine Dutch paper. The only objection I have to make to the publishing of the set from old masters is that there is a diffi- culty of reference. The plates are numbered, it is true, in the comer of the boards, but there is no corresponding number in the printed text, so that the title


THE INTERPRETERS OF FAINTING. 397

of the plate is not readily found In the other publication from Franz Hals, this is managed better. The title is well printed in red ink on a fly-sheet which accompanies each etching. I observe that Mr. Sijthoff has three classes of impres- sions of the Hals series — artist's proofs on old Dutch or India, selected proofs on India paper, and prints, which put the price of each etching at 7s., 4s. 6d., and 2s. 6d., respectively. On the other hand, the series after various old masters is printed in one class of proofs only, and issued at a price which puts them at rather less than 2s. 9d. each. Considering the expense of text, covers, and portfolios, and the cost of printing, mounting, and advertising, with the deductions of agencies abroad, this is most reasonable ; and Mr. Sijthoff deserves our thanks for placing works of real art, thoroughly well got up, within the reach of cultivated people who have moderate incomes. I see that M. Vibert is having his pictures etched by different etchers under his own superintendence, and that the series is to be published in parts of ten plates each, at £,2Q the part, or  ;f 2 each plate. Of course every one has a right to charge what he Ukes for his own merchandise, but I have already expressed regret that the circulation of works of art should be arti- ficially limited by excessively and unnecessarily high prices, intended to give them a fictitious value as rarities. In the* case of large plates which cost great labour, such as a few of the most important by Flameng, a high price is an inevitable necessity if the artist is to live by his work, but it is a necessity to be regretted both in the interest of the public and for the artist's fame. One great difficulty is the enormous trade percentages. I have known more than one instance in which publishers charged fifty per cent merely as agents, and left the etcher to pay all expenses of printing and advertising. M.' Flameng is trying to avoid this by tak- ing subscriptions at his own house (25 Boulevard Mont Pamasse, Paris) for two new plates of his, after Rembrandt — La Le^n cTAnatomie^ and Les Syttdics, He prints three classes of proofs at  ;f 8, £fi^ and  ;f 4 each. Raj on published his por- trait of Stuart Mill at five guineas for artist's proofs, and two guineas for proofs after letters, but this was issued through the usual channels. There appears to be a demand for early impressions  ; but if the reader cares for artistic quaUty, and is a judge of it, he will value impressions simply for their merits, whether early or late. Unless in the case of drypoints, or etchings much retouched with drypoint (the bur being left) the five-hundredth proof may be just as good as the fifth, and will be better if the printer has been more lucky with it. A sufficient price ought always to be charged to allow the printer to give plenty of time and care to his work, and to destroy every defective impression. This is really important. The utmost care should be taken about paper, too, but this need not make etchings costly, for a sheet of the finest paper costs very little.

I much regret that Mr. Seymour Hadcn's very important plate after Turner's Calais Pier, a plate measuring a yard square, is not yet published (June 1875), so that I cannot speak of it in this edition of my book. It will, however, in all pro- bability, need no help from criticism. A great press has been built on purpose to print it, paper has been manufactured specially, and costly real sepia has been pro- cured from the Adriatic for the printing-ink.


CHAPTER II.

ON COPYING ETCHINGS IN FACSIMILE.

T T is an excellent but at the same time a most severe and irksome discipline, to copy etchings by great masters in fac- simile. This may be done either by a student of the art for his own instruction or by an accomplished master in order to popu- larise noble works which in their perfect states are so rare as to be inaccessible to all but a few of the most wealthy collectors. The technical peculiarities of the old masters can never be quite thoroughly understood by us until we copy them, and the act of copying is a continual revelation, but the patience that it requires is unimaginable so long as we have not tried it. Young engravers with the burin are trained in the use of their supremely difficult instrument by a discipline of this kind, and although the etcher aspires to more freedom and originality of manner, he may do wisely, at a certain period of his career, to imitate their teachableness and forgetfulness of self, in order to study, line by line, the means of expression by which the immortal masters have given their genius to the world. Such work whilst it lasts is slavery, and to some utterly unendurable, but whoever can compel himself to undergo it will come out of it with tripled strength.

Line by line, I have just said, for in this close application of the copyist every line becomes a separate study needing a distinct effort of observation and another distinct effort of manual imitation.

There is not space in this volume to say much about the copyists, though some of them have done marvellous feats.


COPYING ETCHINGS IN FACSIMILE. 399

Many copies are so exact that collectors have to be carefully on their guard against them. There is an etching by Rem- brandt, of a beggar seated on a little hillock, which has been so cleverly copied that Bartsch says it is difficult for the most accomplished connoisseur to distinguish the imitation from the original, and he has to show how it may be done by a little difference in an insignificant mark which in the copy is like an i joined to an w, whilst in the original it is like the letter n. We must leave these details to more voluminous writers, and confine ourselves in this place to the study of a single example, which, however, shall be a notable one.

Flamen^s copy of tlie Hundred-Guilder Print — The illus- trations etched by M. Flameng for M. Charles Blanc's Cata- logue of the works of Rembrandt have long been familiar to every student of the art, and we have known for years that M. Flameng could copy Rembrandt with a degree of life and truth which left little to be desired. Still it is probable that the elite of the European art-public were not quite prepared for the great technical triumph which M. Flameng achieved in the year 1 873, He produced a copy of one of Rembrandt's most difficult and complicated etchings — a copy which, if we balance one quality against another, certainly far exceeds the most perfect photograph in accuracy, whilst at the same time it possesses as a piece of execution in etching all those technical merits for which Rembrandt himself was famous. In fact, this performance entirely confirms what I said of Flameng several years ago, that he can overcome any techni- cal difficulty which Rembrandt himself could overcome  ; and it is not an exaggeration of the truth to affirm, that there exists in Europe in our own day a man who may be said to possess the hand and eye of Rembrandt, though not that force of imagination which was the source and motive of his energy.

It may be difficult to convey to the atechnic reader that full apprehension of the wonder of such work as this, which


400 COPYING ETCHINGS IN FACSIMILE.

will seize upon every etcher when he examines it In a certain sense, and for some peculiar reasons which will be given in support of the assertion, it may be boldly affirmed that, as a technical performance merely, such a copy as this is even more wonderful than the original plate itself. There is a freedom from restraint in all original artistic labour which is not compatible with the duties of the copyist, and yet at the same time the copyist has to play his part so perfectly as to seem not less free in thought and hand than the original artist whom he is imitating. Rembrandt may get a shade, in the biting, paler or darker than he intended it, but who can point out where his idea was imperfectly realised  ? — or even in the drawing of a form a line may fail to correspond quite accurately to his thought, and yet no critic who ever lived discovered the secret of that failure. The freedom of original art is due to the impossibility of comparing the work of the artist with that which it professes to represent ; but the copyist knows that the vcr>' first thing any one will do when he has the opportunity, will be to put his copy side by side with the original and test it by two comparisons — one for the general effect and the other for every detail. Hence, in selecting a work to be copied, we must remember that the more ease and freedom there is in the original performance the greater will be the difficulty of imitating it, and so true is this that painters cannot copy their own sketches. It is easier to write a thing for the first time freely in our own handwriting than to copy our handwriting in facsimile. A child could make a labyrinth of scrawls in a quarter of an hour which the most skilful draughtsman could not reproduce without great care and labour, and a considerable expenditure of time.

Now it so happens that this Hundred-Guilder Print offers every conceivable difficulty to the copyist It is a piece of work in which great freedom of manner is united to an extraordinary delicacy both of line and tone, and no copy can be successful which docs not render all tliose delicate lines and tones with


COPYING ETCHINGS IN FACSIMILE. 401

complete fidelity, whilst preserving to the full at least the appearance of that freedom which Rembrandt really enjoyed, but which in the copyist is nothing but the most consummate acting. It is in a certain sense more difficult to copy an etch- ing in etching than to engrave a picture which the engraver may interpret as he chooses. Here there is no choice; what- ever the master did the copyist must do after him.

The process, too, offers the peculiar difficulty that the artist does not sec his work during its progress, except at occasional intervals, when the etching-ground is removed from the plate, and a proof taken between one state and another. Then he has to draw every line in reverse ; and though he is aided by tracing-paper and the mirror, this is still a very seri- ous inconvenience. And for the intensity of his shades he is dependent upon an auxiliary, which is proverbially difficult to manage, and capable of unexpected treacheries — the acid.

There are passages in a work like this which put to the severest test the capabilities of the executant, because if you cannot conquer them at the first stroke you cannot conquer them at all. There are faces which do not contain more than a dozen lines, and upon the exactness with which these are placed depends the whole expression of the countenance. Let the hand tremble never so little, and its uncertainty will be at once transferred to the copper in the weakness of a false and ill-regulated line. Although Rembrandt was prodigal of lines in transparent shades and half tones, he was most eco- nomical of them when he pleased him to dcssincr an trait, and the copyist has no choice but to use a like economy. Now when the expression of a face, perhaps the face of the most important personage in the composition, is entirely dependent upon the correct and skilful drawing of one stroke, which in many such cases cannot be done slowly, and cannot be done twice without effacing it entirely from the copper, the reader will at once perceive the degree of surencss of hand and eye

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COPYING ETCHINGS IN FACSIMILE. 403

public is now just numerous enough to encourage any serious artist who has the taste and skill to satisfy it.

The value of a copy, in a case of this kind, is greater than might be supposed. A fine impression from a fine copy is nearer to the thought of Rembrandt than an impression taken directly from one of his own coppers when they had been worn by too much printing. A fine impression from a plate etched by a copyist who can etch, is far nearer in quality to the original work than any photographic reproduction ever can be ; and beside this, copperplate printing is much more regular and reliable than photographic printing, so that the satisfactory proofs in an edition are likely to be far more numerous. The photographic engraving on metal, for which several different patents have been taken in England and on the Continent, overcomes this last objection  ; but in those processes so much has to be done by biting and correction that the risks of failure are considerable. A good copy, by an artist who is technically equal to the master he has to render, and who is in perfect sympathy with him, and repro- duces him as a labour of love, is still, notwithstanding all modern discoveries and inventions, the next best thing to a fine early impression from the original plate itself. Were it not that the self-sacrifice required would be almost super- human, and the task so fatiguing as to deaden those very sensibilities which are essential to its successful achievement, one would be tempted to desire that M. Flameng should re-engrave the entire ceiivre of Rembrandt. He has preferred to etch on a large scale several of Rembrandt's most import- ant pictures — a task in some respects less onerous and more interesting than this, since the etcher has been left free to interpret according to his personal taste and feeling.

Few plates of Rembrandt illustrate so completely as this one the various and very different qualities which in their union have given him his supreme rank as an aquafortist. The finish of the shading, true and right finish — very far


404 COPYING ETCHINGS IN FACSIMILE.


indeed from " niggling " — is as remarkable on the one hand as are the sureness and selection of line on the other. The chiaroscuro is arbitrary, of course ; Rembrandt's chiaroscuro usually ivas arbitrary, and it would be easy to point out impossible lights and shadows. But, whatever Rembrandt had a mind to do, that he did in the most efficient and masterly manner. If he wanted a shade to be liquid and transparent, it became merely so much partial darkness, and you see through it just what you ought to see and no more. If he intended a form to be well defined, it will be clearly visible at the right distance, though the means used be of the slightest If he wanted a light to sparkle, it became luminous like a jewel. But enough of these teclinical considerations. The technical craft is useful — it is even indispensable  ; but its best employment is to lead us beyond itself to some thought that may lift up our hearts. There is one pale, plain grave face in the centre of the composition, surrounded by a nimbus of dim glory, which is more affecting in this earnest northern art than in the stately design of Raphael.


ETCHING AND ETCHERS.


APPENDIX.


PRACTICAL NOTES.


CHAPTER I.

THE PL A TE,

Since the first edition of this book was .published I have written a little work especially on the subject of processes, which is called The Etcher's Handbook* That work includes descriptions of many different processes which have been found to answer by different artists, and if the reader cares to follow out all the various paths by which a good artist may arrive at a technical success, he will find most of them indicated there. In the present volume I shall confine myself to a description of two processes which I have found to be practically the most certain and convenient, and which have been used in the illustrations that accompany these pages.

Etching remains, in all essential particulars, precisely the same art as it was in the days of Rembrandt. Its manual difficulties and facilities arc precisely what they were then in the artistic portion of the work, and when a plate is finished it presents exactly the same appearance as a copper by one of the old masters. Several very important improvements — important, I mean, as they concern the practical workman, but not of the slightest consequence to anybody else — have, however, been intro- duced in what may be specially called the work of the laboratory. The object of these is to make the technical business more easy and agree- able, and to bring it more entirely under the control of the operator. Some experienced artists, in whom the traditional spirit is strong, and who have attained their skill in the old ways, reject these improvements altogether. M. Martial has recently published a treatise on etching which simply repeats the old methods without even a word of allusion to any newer ones, but the reader is not recommended to carry the conserva- tive spirit to excess in an art which is half a science, and in which the scientific spirit is really helpful. The great tradition of etching is not affected in the least by these improvements of the laboratory, for drawing with the point is precisely what it was before, but the scientific and purely

  • It is published by Mr. Charles Roberson of 99 Long Acre. I may mention

for the convenience of the reader, that Mr. Roberson supplies eveiylhing necessary to etchers, and I will take care, also for the reader's convenience, that everything mentioned in this section of my work shall be visible in its material shape at Mr. Roberson*s. Letters have frequently reached me complaining that this thing or that viras not procurable in the shops, and it would be a pity if the enthusiasm of anyone, with a natural genius for etching, were to cool for want of proper material supplies.


4o8 APPEXDIX.


mechanical part of the work has been undeniably much improved during the last few years, as the reader will soon gather from the following pages.

If you get your plates from any good English makers you will seldom have any trouble on account of their quality. I have been well supplied by Mr. Wilson (Harji Alley, Shoe Lane, E.C.), and also by Messrs. Hughes and Kimber (West Harding Street, Fetter Lane, E.G.).

The chief defects to be guarded against are excess, deficiency, and inequalities of density. A plate good for engraving is homogeneous and sound in substance  ; a bad plate is often either too hard or too porous, or both. After some practice the etcher may learn to test a plate in two ways, either by engraving a few lines upon it with a burin, or by leaving a few drops of diluted acid on its surface, and, after having washed them away, examining the roughened surface they have left with the help of a microscope. If the burin is used, the noise it makes will tell the ear, and the degree of opposition will tell the hand, when a plate is too dense to be of use, or when there are inequalities of density. The test by acid informs the eye when the grain of the copper is irregular  ; this cannot be detected on the polished surface, but is seen easily when the acid has removed the polish and shows the real grain of the metal.

Hammer-beaten coppers are preferred to rolled coppers, and an ex- perienced artist wrote to me, " When you order your plates, always order them to be extra-hammered."

It is well to order special attention to be given to the bevelling of the edges. If the plates are printed upon certain kinds of paper they will break the paper if they are not properly bevelled, and when the printer sees this result he reduces the pressure on his roller to avoid it, the con- sequence being weakness in the proofs. See that your bevelled edges arc well polished, so that they may print clean.

Copper is the only unobjectionable metal for etchers. Brass is un- equal, and is never used for anything artistic. Zinc is a very porous metal, but for rather coarse and picturesque sketches it may sometimes be preferred. I believe Jeanron used it for his rough sketches. Fonnerly the great objection to zinc was the small number of proofs which it yielded, but this is now overcome by electro-metallurgy. A zinc plate cannot be steeled, but it can be coppered, and with this protection will yield an edition. Zinc may sometimes be useful to amateurs who desire a small number of proofs to give to their friends, even without the coat of copper, and then it is a ver>' cheap metal to use. Sketches done in a simple way, without much delicate shading, as, for instance, caricatures, may be just as good on zinc as on any other metal, but it is not suitable for finished work.

Steel was more valued for etching formerly than it is now. It was valued because it yielded large editions. A copper plate can now be covered with a very thin coat of steel by the electro-type process without injuring the artistic quality of the design, and the protected copper will also yield large editions. The copper plate can also be </^-stcclcd and


THE NEEDLE, 409


r^r-steeled several times, so that there is really no longer any reason for etching on steel, and there is one most serious objection to it. One can never trust a steel plate out of sight without anxiety. People arc so careless, even about the most valuable property, that they can seldom be trusted to take care of things that rust easily corrupts. A very valuable steel plate, by an eminent engraver whom I knew, was so entirely destroyed by rust that the idea of publishing it had to be abandoned. When copper plates are steeled we are still exposed to the rusting of the steel coat through the carelessness of printers, but this is nothing in comparison with the other danger, for though the rust may eat through the steel coat it will not attack the copper, and the only inconvenience is the slight expense of having the plate steeled over again. A short bath in weak nitric acid and water will entirely remove the injured steel coat without hurting the plate.


CHAPTER II.

THE NEEDLE,

Anything in the shape of a pencil with a hard point will do for an etching-needle. Steel is the material usually employed for etching-points. They are very commonly set in wooden holders. The whole instrument may be made of a single piece of steel. In that case it should be kept thin from the point to the place held by the fingers, or else the eye would be inconvenienced by it, for in doing fine work a thick instrument troubles the draughtsman by always hiding some portion of the work that he desires to see. It is a convenience to have the instrument in a single piece, because when set in wood in the ordinary manner it becomes shaky in time, if much pressure is used. Weight is not an objection, but the contrary, for although an etcher's work must look as if his hand were light, he must never draw very lightly in reality — if he did, the point would not entirely remove the etching-ground. It might be sufficiently cleared away to show the copper, yet not entirely cleared away, so that the acid could not attack the copper equally. This is especially likely to happen to inexperienced etchers, because they retain from the practice of some other art, such as pencil-drawing, the habit of varying their pres- sure, and when they want to etch some delicate passage they instinctively, and without reflection, press too lightly.

When the etching-needle is sharpened to a fine point, it may easily be made so heavy that if loosely held between the fingers the mere weight of it will remove the ground sufficiently, but with blunt points which are used for thickerlines an instrument weighing 50 grammes is not heavy enough to remove the ground without being aided by pressure. We have there- fore to keep up the habit of applying pressure in all cases.

A heavy needle may be sharpened at the two ends to different degrees


41 o APPENDIX.


of sharpness. In this case it may be made thicker in the middle to gain weight.

For work of great delicacy sewing-needles may be used, set in a metal holder and held firmly in it by a little screw. They ought not to be thin, nor long enough to be very flexible, as when too weak they are difficult to draw with accurately.

It is these common sewing-needles, set in a holder, which are used when working in the acid, as the reader will see in the account of my positive process.

The needle ought always to be strong enough for the etcher to scratch well into the copper itself without stopping merely at the surface, for if he stops at the surface he may not be sure of remox^ng the whole of the etching-ground, even though it seems as if he did.

There has always been some diflference of practice amongst etchers about the sharpening of the needle. Some like it to come to a point (or to a flat blunt end for the thick lines), others like it to have a cutting edge like the end of a small chisel. There is a process called typographic etching, in which a brass plate is covered with a thick coat of a white composition like wax, and a very peculiar kind of needle is used to remove this, which is too thick to be dealt with by the ordinary needle. Having a set of these tools it occurred to me to try them in genuine etching, and after a little difficulty at first, I found them singularly valu- able. The instrument is, to begin with, nothing but a little round bar of steel, a sixteenth of an inch thick. Two flat sides are made on the grind- stone, which meet at an angle like a capital V in the section of the little bar. The top or round part ns ground down in the form of a snout, like the snout of a field mouse, and there is a peculiar little edge at the very end like the muzzle of the little animal. The needle is set in a piece of beech, five inches long and a quarter of an inch in diameter. I beheve these tools were invented by a son of Mr. Dawson, the eminent land- scape-painter, so for convenience let us call them the Dawson needles. I discovered after some practice that one such instrument might be made to give lines of three very different thicknesses, by simply turning it a little in the fingers. One that I now use habitually gives me —

1. A ver>' fine line in the direction of the cutting edge.

2. A broader line with the top of the snout when used upside doiKni.

3. A very broad line indeed when used side-ways.

This, of course, depends upon the way of sharpening the tool. The practical reader will sec at a glance the enormous advantage of holding three instruments in one. It is an embarrassment just at first, but after practice the hand becomes used to the capabilities of the tool, and by turning it, quite unconsciously, between the finger and thumb, converts it from one use to another.


GROUNDS AND VARNISHES, 411


CHAPTER III.

GROUNDS AND VARNISHES.

In English, the resinous coat which protects the plate is usually called the "ground," and the word "varnish" is reserved for that which is applied with a brush. Let us first consider the nature of the etching- ground.

The purpose of it is to protect the copper between the lines against the action of the acid bath. It ought not to interfere with the use of the needle by opposing any appreciable resistance, and it ought not to require any kind of precaution in the etcher, who should never have to think about it.

A really good etching-ground is of a very peculiar nature. It is suffi- ciently hard without being brittle, and it is adhesive without being too adhesive. It is easily removed with the point, and yet the minutest atom of it that is left between two strokes will cling and remain and protect the copper imtil the biting is all over.

I have given a great deal of practical attention to the making of etch- ing-grounds, and tried many experiments. After much laboratory work and careful comparison, I arrived at the conclusion that the best ground was that of Abraham Bosse, so I give the receipt for it here without troubling the reader with any other. It is sufficiently, without being unpleasantly, adhesive, it resists the acid bath quite perfectly, it offers no appreciable resistance to the needle, and it is very easily laid on the copper.

Bosses Ground, — White wax, very pure, 50 grammes, gum mastic, very pure, 30 grammes ; asphaltum, 15 grammes.

To make it you have a pan of water over a slow fire, and a clean por- celain pot in the pan. Put the white wax first into the pot, and let it melt. Then pound your gfum mastic in a mortar till you have it in very fine powder, and add it gradually to the wax, stirring with a clean little glass rod. When the mastic is quite melted and thoroughly incorporated with the wax, pound your asphaltum also in the mortar until it is in quite a fine powder, and add // gradually, stirring all the time, and taking good care that there are no little lumps of asphaltum. All the three ingredients should be perfectly blended together, which they will not be if the mix- ture is made carelessly. After stirring for some time longer, pour the mixture into cold water, and when it is hard break it up into fragments, and keep it in a wide-necked glass bottle with a glass stopper. If it has been well made you will see that it breaks in a peculiarly pleasant way. It is slightly elastic, but then breaks suddenly, clearly, and with a peculiar sound. It should be a dull black, rather brighter in the breakage.

Etching-ground may be applied to a plate in a liquid state, as photo- graphers apply collodion, by keeping it in solution. It may be dissolved


412 APPENDIX,


either in chloroform or ether  ; it may also be dissolved in oil of lavender. If you make the ether solution let it stand for three weeks, and then decant the clear portion into another phial for use. Some years ago I used these solutions, and valued especially that in ether, but now that I employ the roller, which will be explained shortly, I have almost aban- doned this manner of applying the etching-ground, except for the positive process. When solutions are used the etcher should take care to distin- guish between apparent drying, which takes place ver>' soon, and real drying, which may require many hours.

It is not easy to ascertain, without minute chemical analysis, what is the composition of different etching-grounds sold ready-made. M. Flameng tells me that those sold in London are too adhesive for his taste, but that they resist uncommonly well. The consequence of a too great degree of adhesiveness iii the ground is, that when the etcher does not actually cut into the copper, he may not epitirely remove the ground, though he thinks that he removes it, and as an extremely thin film is enough to protect the copper, the acid will not attack his lines. I have often been tormented by this inconvenience when using English ground, and a very great inconvenience it is, for if so^ie lines are attacked, whilst others are not bitten at all, the result cannot fail to be a disappointment M. Flameng says that a disappointment of this kind occurred to him when he used an English ground, but that he has never experienced it with the French one he commonly uses. I made his ground the subject of some experiments, and found it satisfactory, but for use with the roller I prefer that of Abraham Bosse.

Each of the three elements in Bosse's ground is there for some special reason, and has its own work to do. The mastic gives hardness, the wax softness, the asphaltum adhesiveness. The mixture of the three in the proportions given above secures that very peculiar balance of qualities which is required in an etching-ground. Pitch is used in some grounds to get still greater adhesiveness. Mastic and pitch would be brittle with- out wax, but they would perfectly protect copper against acid. Wax pro- tects copper, but it is too delicate by itself, except for the positive process.

A White Ground. — White wax, 50 grammes; gum mastic, 30 grammes. Melt the wax first as before in a pot surrounded with hot water, and then add the gum mastic ver>' gradually in powder.

This is the same as Bosse's ground without the asphaltum. It is very transparent, but rather weak comparatively. Bosse's ground itself, when applied \Qxy thinly with the roller, will ser\'e as a transparent ground if not smoked.

EtchiniT-Pastcs. The two grounds already described may be con- verted into pastes for application with the roller, by simply melting them and adding oil of lavender in greater or less quantity as the paste is required to be more fluid or more stiff. Mix the oil thoroughly with tlie ground by stirring with a glass rod. As for the quantity of oil required you can judge of that easily by letting a drop of the fluid paste fall on a


GROUNDS AND VARNISHES, 413

cold slab, when it soon solidifies as much as it can. If you find it too hard, add more oil. The most convenient kind of paste for use with the roller is just like the pomatum, sold by hairdressers, in consistence. It is better that it should be rather too thin than too stiff, but it ought to be stiff enough to stand and not flow. Whilst still hot and fluid pour it into wide-necked glass-stoppered bottles, and after it sets pour a little oil of lavender on the top of it to keep it from drying. With this precaution you may keep your paste indefinitely.

Etching grounds for use with the brush. — Take some of the paste just described with a palette-knife and add to it enough oil of lavender to make it suflicicntly fluid for use with the brush. If you want a trans- parent ground nothing more is to be added, but if you want your ground to be black and opaque add lamp-black to it in impalpable powder with the palette-knife, and rub the lamp-black and the etching ground thoroughly well together till you have a sort of oil-paint. This black paint is a very good ground to be laid with a brush, and it is very convenient for use in certain circumstances. For example, a part of your etching is defective and you would like to draw it over again without destroying the rest of your drawing. Clean the ground off the defective place with a rag dipped in oil of lavender, and when the copper is bare paint upon it with the black paint, neatly joining up to the edges of what is to remain. Leave it to dry for twenty-four hours, and then you can etch the passage over again. I must warn the reader, however, that if the black paint is allowed to remain too long (some weeks or months), it is apt to become brittle and shell off if there is any excess of lamp-black in it. If properly mixed, and used within a fortnight, it is perfectly safe, and a very great convenience to an etcher.

Stopping out Varnish, — In the first edition of this work I gave three old receipts for varnishes of this kind, and the reader will find others in other books, but they are all defective. Either they are not fluid enough for stopping out very minute portions of work quite conveniently, or else they do not dry fast enough, or else you cannot work in them with the needle if you want to lay fresh lines across the portions of the plate which are protected by them. After many experiments, I hit upon a stopping- out varnish which has the following qualities  : — i. It is as fluid as possible. 2. It dries at once. 3. It may be worked in afterwards with the needle.

To prepare it, make a saturated solution of white wax in ether.* When this is left to settle there will be a part above, as clear as water, and a part below, just like milk. The clear portion is what you want Decant this into another phial, and if you have any milky sediment, decant again, till all is clear. Add to this about one-sixth of its volume of Japan varnish, and mix well You have now the best stopping-out varnish which has yet been discovered, but as it dries very rapidly it requires a little pre- caution in using. To use it pour a few drops of it into the tiniest bottle you can get, with a very narrow neck, and then dip a small brush into

  • Only a little wax is required, as ether will not really dissolve much. If, on settling,

there is more than a third of milky fluid, you can add more ether, shake the phial, and let it settle again. The clear portion is a quite pure satiuated solution of wax.


414 APPENDIX,


this, adding a drop now and then when wanted. Wash the little brush frequently in oil of lavender and wipe it well. If the varnish gets too thick you may thin it once or twice with a drop of ether, but when the sitting is over throw away what remains in the tiny bottle, clean it well, and take fresh varnish next time from your phiaL There is no need to make the varnish afresh each time, it will keep for years.

In this mixture the ether is used for greater fluidity and more rapid drying than could be got by the use of turpentine  ; the Japan varnish is employed for its dark colour, its hardness, and its resistance to acid, the wax is used to correct the hardness of the Japan varnish, so far as to per- mit the etcher to work in it with the needle.

This varnish remains in perfect condition on the plate for some days or even weeks, but in course of time the hardening power of the Japan varnish so far overcomes the resistance of the wax as to make the ^-amish brittle and therefore unfit to work in with the point I have always found that all ground in which Japan varnish is an ingredient became brittle in a few months, but when we know this it is not an objection, as there is plenty of time to etch the most elaborate plate before the brittleness comes on.


CHAPTER IV.

THE ACID BATH.

One of the very greatest of recent improvements in the scientific part of etching has been the discovery of the Dutch mordant. It is vcr>' slow in operation, but at the same time very sure. With Bosse*s ground it enlarges the line but little, much less than nitric acid does. I cannot conceive how any etcher, who has used it, can employ nitric acid again except as an auxiliary, for a special purpose.

The Dutch Moniant, — This invaluable mordant is composed as follows  : —

Chlorate of potash, 20 grammes ; hydrochloric acid 100 grammes  ; water 880 grammes. Total, 1000 grammes, = i litre.

The way to make it is as follows. First heat the water by putting- the bottle containing it into a pan also containing water, and keep it on the fire till that in the pan boils. Now add the chlorate of potash and see that every cr>'stal of it is dissolved. Shake the bottle to help the solution. When no more cr>'stals are to be seen you may add the hydrochloric acid.

Make a good quantity of this mordant at once, so as always to have a plentiful supply by you.

The Nitric Bath.— The acids commonly used for biting plates before the introduction of the Dutch mordant were nitric and nitrous acids diluted with water, usually with an equal quantity of water.

It is still necessar)' to keep nitric acid in the laboratory as an auxiliarv.


THE LABORATORY AND PRINTING-ROOM. 415

useful under certain circumstances, which will be explained later. Keep it pure and dilute it when required to the degree necessary at the moment.

Perchloride of Iron, more or less diluted with water is an excellent mordant. It bites deep and clear without enlarging the line much, and there is no ebullition as there is with nitric acid. There is however the objection that its dark colour rather prevents one from seeing what is going on, and this is an insuperable objection for the positive process.

You may keep perchloride of iron in the laboratory as an auxiliary, to be used in certain cases.


CHAPTER V.

THE LABORATORY AND PRINTING-ROOM.

It is always best, when it can be managed, to keep acids and other chemicals out of the rooms you commonly inhabit. Any little place will do for a laboratory if it is well-lighted. You may have your little printing establishment in the same room. There ought to be two tables, and plenty of shelves, with a few drawers.

Cleanliness is the great necessity in a laboratory. It ought always to be kept as tidy and clean as possible. The room should be simple and naked, so that everything in it may be easily dusted and washed. The operator ought to make a rule that all shall be in perfect order at least once a day, and keep his rule. An evening inspection will ensure this. You cannot carry order and cleanliness too far in a place of this kind, for there is no certainty or satisfaction in chemical experiments without thenf, and etching is always a chemical experiment

Use nothing but glass-stoppered bottles, and have a large distinctly- written label on each of them. Have all utensils as much as possible of glass, or if not that at least of pure white porcelain.

The Printing-press. — For the convenience of etchers, I invented a miniature press, which may be carried anywhere, and will give good proofs. Mr. Roberson of Long Acre sells the smallest of these at two guineas and a larger size at four gfuineas. M. Cadart, the publisher, also constructed a small press, which is sold in London by Messrs. Dulau and Co., 37 Soho Square, price six pounds. My object was to contrive a miniature and very portable affair, which an etcher might put in his box when travelling, and use anywhere, in an inn, in a friend's house, or even out of doors when etching from nature.* M. Cadart's object was to con-

  • I wish to make a few observations about the way of using those little presses,

as etchers sometimes write to me to complain that their proofs are pale and feeble. As I first invented them, the roller terminated in a ring, like a ring-bolt. The press was then to be temporarily fixed to any strong table or chimney-piece, by means of a screw-clamp, and the printer was to insert a lever in the ring with


41 6 APPENDIX.


trive a convenient reduction of the ordinary printer's press, which, without occupying much space, would still be a substantial piece of furniture. If the reader can give a room specially to etching as a laboratory he will do well to get one of M. Cadart's presses  ; if not, he will find those sold by Mr. Robcrson more convenient, as they can be put out of the way in a minute. More ambitious etchers may set up regular presses like those used by printers. Mr. Haden's great press for printing the ** Calais Pier" after Turner is a magnificent and costly machine, perhaps the finest in all London, Mr. Samuel Palmer, too, has a good press. If the reader chooses to launch out a little in this direction he may spend from ^^25 to £150 on his press without being cheated of a penny.

A press of some kind is not only desirable for an etcher, it is a positive necessity. The habit of frequently taking proofs advances him in his art, and in this sense it is not too much to say that the press is a silent but severe master, always ready to point out the defects of our work, or to encourage us when we deserve it. For etchers who live in the country a press is especially necessary, the delays caused by sending the plates to town every time that a proof is wanted are so annoying as to become in time almost insupportable, and lead to a despairing abandonment of correction.

The qualities of a good press are to have true motion, strong pressure


which he might turn the cylinder. Some amateur fancied that the ring was incon- venient, and persuaded the maker to substitute a small wheel, to be turned with the hands. Now the consequence of this "improvement" is, that the proofs are necessarily weak, for if you j)ut pressure enough on the roller by means of the screws to give you a fine proof, you will not be able to turn it with so small a leverage as the little wheel affords you. I therefore quite decline to be responsible for the success of any of these little presses, which do not afford some means of getting the necessary leverage. The original one in my laboratory has a ring, and to move it I insert a strong lever more than a yard long, which is equivalent to a wlicel six feet hi diameter, the spokes of which are merely levers of the same kind, fixed. WHien full pressure is on, I could not stir the roller without such a. lever. Another press in my laboratory has a wheel of eight spokes, each of them more than a yard long. These are rather more convenient than the loose lever for a fij^cd machine, but the loose lever is more convenient for one that is not always in the same place.

A correspondent in America who has got one of the little presses from En*'- land says, that he fears the little roller, from its small diameter, will not mount the bevel of the plate, when there is pressure enough to give a good proof. Cer- tainly it will not, unless there arc slips of metal at the two edges of the 'travelling board, to keep the roller at a certain height al)Ove the board, so tliat it may not have to rise much upon the bevel. Suppose, for instance, that you are going to take a proof with one of these little presses which has a plain travelling board and a small roller. You put on a good pressure with the screws, the roller turns well and the board travels until the plate is brought to the roller, which then turns round and round on the flannel, without rising upon the plate. You then reiluce the screw pressure, but the consequence is tliat you get a feeble proof. I explained long since to the maker how this inconvenience was to be obviated, and here I wiU


THE LAB OR A TOR Y AND PRINTING-ROOM, 4 1 7

and the least possible friction. The roller must of course be accurately turned, for if it is not, the pressure will be unequal on different parts of the plate. The travelling-board must also be well-planed, so as to be per- fectly flat and of exactly the same thickness throughout. Perfectly good proofs may be taken by means of wooden presses (Rembrandt and his con- temporaries used them), but it is necessary to send the rollers to the turner from time to time. In applying pressure by means of the screws the etcher should take the greatest care to observe that the pressure is equal at the two extremities of the roller ; for if it is not, one side of his proofs will come feebler in the printing than the other side.

I will now give an inventory of things required in the laboratory and printing-room.

§ I. A printing-press.

§ 2. A simple kind of screw-press to flatten proofs. For small plates a common copying-press will answer perfectly.

§ 3. Copperplates. Keep your spoiled coppers (you will have a good many such at first) and have them replaned. If strong at first they may be replaned two or three times. The etching by Lalanne in this volume is on a very thin copper, which has probably been several times replaned. A correspondent thought this objectionable, because thin coppers curved

explain it again. Screw two narrow plates or bands of metal along the sides of the travelling board thus, so that the roller may run on them as if on rails. They


should be a ItttU thinner than the plate, and as long as the travelling board. The plate to be printed is now to be laid between' them. By this contrivance, which I have tested in practice, the roller encounters no insurmountable difficulty, and the pressure may be put on by the screws to any amount required, for the production of a good proof. I can take proofs with the smallest of the miniature presses, as clear and powerful as with a large one, and the reader ought to be able to do the same.

I may add that Japanese paper is much easier to print upon than any other.

I have improved my own large press lately by the addition of guiding rails. These rails are of iron, with a square section of half-an-inch. One of them is screwed upon the board on which the small rollers run. The other is screwed under the travelling board, and both are placed exactly in the middle, so that the latter is just over the former. In my press there are four running rollers, three inches in diameter. These are of wood, so the turner made a groove in each of them for the guiding rails to fit into, and, therefore, when in action, each roller has the lower guiding rail in it below, and the upper one in it above. The consequence of this is, that the travelling board can never deviate in the least, for the rail on the fixed plank makes the rollers go straight, and the rail under the travelling board enables the rollers in their turn to compel the travelling board to go straight The same improvement might be appUed to smaller presses.

2 £


41 8 APPENDIX.


under the press, but M. Lidnard, my printer, says that thin ones arc as easy to print from as others.

§ 4. A roller for rcbiting— the French rouleau ii reverftir* I shall write a little chapter specially on the various uses of this invaluable instrument.

§ 5. Three pieces of plate glass, twelve inches by ten, and three-tenths of an inch thick, like those used in photographic printing-presses. The use of these will be explained in the chapter on the roller.

§ 6. Dabbcrs. The best way to make a dabbcr is as follows  : — Have some horse-hair, some cotton-wool, and a piece of black taffetas silk, of good quality. Lay the cotton-wool on the silk, first, in a circular shape, about four inches in diameter, then lay a good heap of well-separated horse-hair upon this. Draw the silk up all round and force the materials inside into rather a flat shape. Tie the silk together, binding it with a waxed thread, and cut off the superfluous silk. A dabber of this kind may be cleaned with turpentine, or you may put a new cover on it and renew the cover as often as you please, \nthout making a new dabber. The readiest way to clean a dabbcr is to heat it over a spirit lamp, and then briskly wipe it on clean stiff canvas of the sort used in printing. Always keep dabbers scrupulously clean, and in a box of their own.

S5 7. Smoking tapers. What are called " cellar-rats " in France are the best for this purpose. To make them, twist eight cotton threads rather loosely together and dip them two or three times in molten bees- wax. Twist a dozen of these dips together, warming them in warm water to enable you to do it without breaking them.

§ 8. A holder for smoking. A common little tin cup with a flat bottom. You stick the smoking taper in this with wax, and it prevents the molten wax from running on your fingers. An extinguisher.

JJ 9. A set of etching needles. Sec Chapter II.

§ 10. A burnisher. This is if smooth steel instrument for polishing copper by friction and pressure. It must be kept entirely free from scratches or rust-pits.

§ 1 1. A piece of deal with two grooves in it the size of your burnisher. In one of these keep a little emer>' powder, in the other some tripoli and oil. liy rubbing your burnisher backwards and forwards in these grooves you will keep it bright.

§ 12. A scraper. This is a three-edged tool, and its edges have to be kept very sharp or they will scratch the copper.

§ 13. A flat scraper shaped like a leaf, to be kept very sharp. When properly held in the hand this tool will take shavitii^s off the copper half an inch or tlirec cjuartcrs of an inch long. It is the most powerful reducer of surface.

g 14. A good oil-stone to sharpen vour tools. § 15. An engraver's magnifying glass, to be held in the eve. § 16. A larger ma-nifying <,ri;iss, to be held in the hand. § 17. Several photographers trays for acid baths, etc. They arc best in glass, next best m while porcelain, after that come the irutta norrhu


gutta percha


THE LAB OR A TOR Y AND PRINTING-ROOM. 4 1 9

trays, whose chief merit is that they are not fragile. Lastly, trays may be made of wood, painted inside with a solution of Bosse's etching-ground in oil of lavender. These answer fairly well, and are sometimes a conveni- ence, as any joiner can make them, and the etcher himself can paint them. I have several such which have been in use for years. If a leak occurs, give a new coat of etching-ground. The greatest objection to them is that they cannot be used for everything as glass and porcelain can. Thus, you cannot put schist oil or turpentine into them, or even ammonia, and they arc only good for acid and water.

§ 18. A sufficient supply of bottles with glass stoppers for acid baths and other chemicals.

§ 19. A supply of chemicals, including nitric acid, hydrochloric acid, perchloride of iron, chlorate of potash, pure alcohol, methylated spirit of wine (for lamp), oil of lavender, schist oil, shale oil, or petroleum for cleaning,* liquid ammonia, ether, japan varnish, olive oil, asphaltum, white wax, gum mastic, lamp black, and Bleu d* Argent This last is for silvering plates for the positive process. It can only be got in England of Mr. Roberson, 99 Long Acre. — See Chemistry of Etching,

§ 20. Finger-gloves in India-rubber.

§ 21. Willow charcoal. If you cannot get it conveniently from a maker who is accustomed to prepare it specially for engravers, you must make it. Take thick sticks of willow, remove the bark, cut them into short lengths, lay them on the ground in a little stack, and cover them entirely with red-hot wood cinders, and on the cinders heap wood-ashes, so that no air can get to them. Leave them there an hour and a quarter, or an hour and a half, according to the thickness of the sticks  ; then take them out and throw them into cold water.

§ 22. Tracing-paper.

§ 23. Gelatine tracing material. This is sold in thin sheets measuring 21 in. by 13 in. It is most invaluable stuff for all work that has to be reversed. Artists* colourmen in London supply it. To use it you scratch on it with a needle, removing the bur so raised with a strong brush, and afterwards fill the scratches with black lead such as house- keepers use, then, laying it face downwards on the grounded copper you rub the back with a burnisher, which leaves a distinct tracing in com- paratively light colour.

§ 24. Emery paper, the very finest you can get.

§ 25. Plenty of good blotting-paper, soft and thick.

§ 26. A looking-glass for reversing.

§ 27. Printing-ink. A special kind of ink is made for plate-printing  : typographic printing-ink will not do for this purpose. It is well to get your ink ready-made from some experienced printer, or from Mr. Rober- son. It is most troublesome stuff to make.

§ 28. A dabber made of cloth rolled into a cylindrical shape, and firmly

  • Schist oil is much the best cleanser. Petroleum is too volatile for the

purpose, and benzine is much too volatile, but good in other respects. Turpentine docs not clean so well as schist oil, and is much dearer.


420 APPENDIX,


bound round with waxed thread. The edges of the cloth take the ink, and the dabber is held as you hold a tumbler-glass. This dabbcr may be about the size of a pint bottle, and not unlike it in shape. Wlien new, the end should be neatly cut flat with a sharp knife, and singed.

§ 29. A plentiful supply of printer s canvas for wiping the superfluous ink from the plate.

•§ 30. A small supply of old fine muslin, well washed till it is quite soft. This is used for what is called rctroussage^ which will be explained shortly.

§ 31. The plate-heater (for heating plates for printing), which is a box of sheet iron. It may be two feet long by twenty inches wide, and nine inches deep, unless you intend to etch very large plates, when of course you must have a heater big enough to warm the whole of your plate con- veniently at the same time.

The inside of this box is to be kept full of hot air, which may be easily managed by having a hole in the bottom of it big enough to admit the chimney of an ordinar)- oil or petroleum lamp. If you have access to gas ou can use it French printers, from tradition, use charcoal cinders in a flat tray inside the box, with ashes over them to keep the heat regular for a long time. For occasional use a spirit-lamp does perfectly, but it would be expensive to use it long.

§ 32. A supply of paper for printing. If possible you should get a supply of Japanese paper, another of Dutch, and one or two varieties of French and English papers. Paper-making for etchers is now ver>- well understood. If by chance you should run short of paper at any time, and want to take a proof, remember that a good proof may always be taken on any paper which is good for drawing upon in water-colour.

§ 33. A marble slab and mullcr for printer's ink. A knife for the same purpose, like a large palcttc-knife.

§ 34. The ver)' finest whitening.

§ 35. A sponge to damp paper.

§ 36. A flat brush, like a clothes-brush, to brush paper.


CHAPTER VI.

THE ROLLER AXD ITS rSES.

The roller is one of the great modem improvements in the technical apparatus of etching. It is a cylinder of wood 8i inches long, by 4 inches, with two projecting handles in its axis, each of them about an inch thick, and 4^ inches long. The roller is covered with thick smooth leather, but between the leather and the wood there is a covering of thick flannel to give elasticity. The leather is joined so neatly that the place where it is cemented is hardly perceptible. It is drawn over the edges of the cylinder, and tightened with strings like purse-strings, so that the edges


THE ROLLER AND ITS USES, . 421

arc rounded and covered. The reader will perceive that although the roller is a very simple machine, only a highly-skilled workman can make it perfectly well. The best are made by G. Schmautz of Paris, and they may be got from Cadart of Paris, or from Mr. Roberson in London. The price of one in Paris is twenty francs.

The roller is delivered in a box, which is so constructed that no part of the leather ever touches anything. The box is very important to pro- tect the instrument from dust, and the roller is never taken out of its box for longer than just the time necessary for its use.

It was invented at first for one purpose only, namely, to cover the plate for rebiting, which I shall explain shortly, but etchers soon dis- covered that it was also an excellent instrument for laying the first ground. Before its introduction the dabber had been used for both pur- poses, a very clumsy thing in comparison.

Laying tJu first ground with the roller, — In the list of things useful in the laboratory and printing-room, given in the preceding chapter, I mentioned three pieces of plate-glass (see § 5). They are extremely useful when you employ the roller, though not absolutely indispensable. Copper-plates, such as you etch upon, will answer the same purpose, and so will marble slabs, but less agreeably to the operator. I use plate-glass for its cleanliness and the perfect flatness of its surface.

Lay your plate, well-cleaned, on one of these glasses, and have the others on the same table conveniently near. Now take your bottle of etching-paste, that is your Bosse ground made into paste with oil of lavender as already explained. See that there is no dust on your glasses. With a perfectly clean palette-knife take some of the paste and spread it equally on one of the glasses in a horizontal band about two inches broad- If the paste is too thick for this to be done easily, add a few drops of oil of lavender, and mix thoroughly well with the palette-knife. Now take your roller and roll over and over again until you spread a film of paste quite evenly on your glass. If the roller is rather over-charged with paste (you will easily judge of this after a few experiments) pass it once on the other glass to get rid of what is superfluous, then apply it to your copper. You ought to be able to lay a thin and perfectly even coat of paste by this means upon your copper.

When the paste is just of the right thickness and is the proper quantity it simply dulls the surface of the glass, making it of a dead pale brown. It ought not to look like treacle. You ought to hear a regular crisp sotmd as the roller passes over the glass. After some practice the ear will tell you when it is right.

The plate being now covered with a film of paste your next business is to expel the oil of lavender from the etching- ground. The oil was merely a vehicle like water in water-colour painting. It is easily got rid of by heating the plate gently over a spirit-lamp.* When the ground

  • To do this, of course you hold the plate in a hand-vice, with a bit of paper

to protect the polished side from the vice.


APPES'DIX.


You may now cover the back of ihe plate with a little paste applied with the dabbcr.

Whilst the plate is Eiiil warm you smote it To do this yoo light your smoking taper ,'scc precedinfr Chapter. J 7"'. and when there is a large flame, pii-ing off smoke, hold your plate abm-c it with the face downn-ards, in such a manner that the ii.ime may just touch the etching-ground. Move the plate slowly in c\-er>- direction, so that all parts of iu surface may be smoked alike, and n,--m hirr.t.

After a verj- little practice you will be able to ground a plate much more easily and incomparably more perfectly «-ith the roller tban you possibly could with the dabbcr.

Grf>tn,iin_;^ ,7 pLit,/or Ii.h::ir.;.—\i is well to practise what has just been described before attimpting to ground for reblting, as much more skill is required.

The purpose of this process is lo cover and protect the smooth surface of copper between the linis of a plate which has been alre^y bitten, but insufficiently bitten, in order thai the lines may be exposed again to the action of the acid, and deepened, without damapng the smooth spaces of copper and without incurrinj; the great labour which would be necessary to clean the lines of the ctchinfr-ground with the point, if they were tilled.

Hainng cleaned the plate thorou^ihly unth schist-oil and whitening and brcMd, you lay it as before on one of the glasses and charge your roller  » ith etching paste as before. l.\king if pecial care, however, this lime that it is no! ovcr-char^i-J, acd rerr;c\  :n^ what is superfluous by rolling on the st-con.i j^I.ite ii^jss  :f it is. Yc.u thir. pass the roller over the plate by simply /j.,i«;>,y.hi har.d'.es with tht^ thLimbs, nol/r.v,t;>r,,'in the least, as th.it HOi:Id nil the i.h;.;:owcr lirii^s. Koil over the plate twice in one direction, .-.rid then twK-c -ii r:^h: ar.-!fs lo the first direction. Nothing more m;:t; be cone. If thi; h.-.s Kin cone properly the smooth p.vrts will be wt;] co\iTt.-d .md t!.c l:-i-j w l11 no! I>e filled except perhaps a few of the vcr> shai'.oHfit. V.-l; -.hin t\pcl the o;! of lavender by means of hc.it, .\s K-fore. V,ij do -;.; i:>i.-.ke this  :;:ne. IVoic-ct the back of vour pl.itc as K-forc. or H;:h ^:.^J■.J.:-i:-ou; i-.irr.ish. .ind the edges also. You then stop out « ith the s.-.rie v.-:r:i;>h .ill ihins.e parts of the plate which arc alre.uiy suftioicnily bittm, kavinj; the others to be acted upon by the acid.

The old-f.ishioned manner of rebiiitii: was f.ir infenor to this. The dabbcr w.is used, and inuead of employ ins the e;ching-ground in a paste acor,!; .  ;,;:ic-,..^»3itprii-v.,. , -: tlted by beat on another copper- p»«e. Ibej i>ijm>Mii or  !L,.  : .. arran-ement was that shallow ■"^s:^' -' ^hcn ^er^- skilfully done, was ■^■^ ■■ ■ . leepen the lines which did not ">!■• ■■: -.T- . t needed it. The roller makes ftdo;,i .^.,:.< modem etchers bite shallow

  • give  !hi-r crtteme darks until thcj- have

^ ^ reblting as required.


BITING. 423


Grounding a plate to add work with the needle. — A third and most important advantage of the roller is that when the etcher wishes to add work with the needle he is not absolutely obliged to use the transparent white ground. The roller can lay a ground so very thinly and evenly that even after it has been smoked the very finest lines which have been etched already remain distinctly visible and the artist can work over and between them. He thus sees much better what he is doing than in a transparent, ground, whilst he is just as well aware of what has already been done- Another important advantage is that the black ground resists acid more surely than the white one, which is always comparatively weak from the absence of asphaltum or pitch and lamp-black, besides which a defective place is not so easily detected in it as it is in the- dark ground.

If the reader has not a roller he may apply his first ground in solution like collodion, by dissolving it in ether, in chloroform, or in oil of lavender {see Chapter on Grounds and Varnishes), butwhcn the plate has been etched upon it is better to use the dabber, cither for rebiting, or for subsequent work with the needle, because a fluid ground would fill up lines intended to be rcbitten, and it does not properly protect the edges of lines which are intended to be quite covered.


CHAPTER VII.

BITING.

The weak point of etching, which I do not attempt to dissimulate, is the difficulty of biting accurately enough, that is to the exact degree of depth which the artist would desire. There is always an element of hazard in the biting, but our object ought to be at least the reduction of risk if we cannot get rid of it altogether.

The reader is now fore-warned that he is to expect difficulties and dis- appointments at this stage of the process ; at the same time certain devices will be explained by which these difficulties have been much reduced.

The qualities of a satisfactory biting are t—

\ t. To be instantaneous and simultaneous in the first attack. Some

lines on the plate ought not to be biting whilst others are not yet affected

by the acid, for if this occurs the balance of the work will be destroyed,

n though the lines which were untouched at first should be attacked

subsequently.

. To be regular in its operation. The biting ought not to go on nickly for some time and then slowly, nor ought it to stop altogether ,t the will of the operator. [t ought to eat the lines in depth and not in breadth (or as little as


424 APPENDIX.


possible) unless the artist desires to increase their breadth, when the acid ought to do what he wishes.

§ 4. The biting ought to be well under the control of the operator from beginning to end.

Now let me explain some causes which often prevent these desiderata fromjbeing realised.

First with regard to § i. Etchers often suffer from the great annoy- ance of seeing their plate attacked unequally. Some lines will be quite deeply bitten, whilst others are not bitten at all. The consequence in the proof may be imagined. A plate which was harmonious in the drawing looks, in the printing, like the shattered fragments of a ruined inscription. All its tones, too, have gone wrong, and it must either be repaired at the cost of great labour, or else begun over again, with the risk of a similar misadventure. What is the reason for this  ? M. Flameng gave it as his opinion that the cause was too great adhesiveness in the ground  ; M. Greux, on the other hand, thought that the true reason was the state of the copper before the ground was laid, which in his own case he con- tended against by bathing it in acid and water, till water dropped upon it would spread^ and not run off in globules. I suffered at one time greatly from this annoyance, so much that it seemed as if there were an evil spell upon my plates, for the acid attacked the lines irregularly here and there in patches, or one line would be bitten and the one next to it (although apparently drawn in the same way) would resist the action of the acid for several hours. I therefore made many experiments on etching-grounds, especially with regard to the quality of adhesiveness, and I found in accordance with M. Flamcng's opinion that the less adhesiveness there was in the ground, the less was the liability to an irregular attack in the biting. This is why I recommend Bossc's ground. It is sufficiently adhesive but not too much so, and therefore the etching-point easily removes it from the true surface of the copper. When the adhesion is excessive, the paint may often leave a thin film of ground upon the copper not perceptible to the eye, but enough to defend it against acid. But in addition to this I took two other precautions. First, I determined that the surface of the copper should take water well before being grounded, and found that the following treatment effected this better than anything else.

1. Bathe the plate in the Dutch mordant {sec Chap. IV.) for five minutes, or till it is all stained dark.

2. Wash it well in clean water.

3. Bathe it in a mixture of equal parts of liquid anmionia and water till the copper shows red all over.

4. Wash it well in clean water and leave it in the water for half-an- hour.

After this treatment the surface of the copper offers no resistance to water, but can be really lifcttcd. It will therefore not resist an immediate attack of acid in the acid bath if laid bare by the point.

I dry the plate over the spirit-lamp and do not touch it with any rag.


BITING. 425


but remove dust with a clean camel-hair brush just before applying the ground with the roller.

After adopting this system I had no more accidents of the kind described above, but to make assurance doubly sure I forced myself into the habit of cutting into the copper itself with the etching-point. If an etcher were always quite sure of doing this it would be unnecessary for him to trouble himself with precautions about the surface of the copper — he need not even clean it, but in the excitement of rapid work, especially when it is done from nature, one is apt to forget to cut into the copper, so that it is well to be sure about the state of its surface also. The reader is now in full possesssion of means which will enable him to contend against one of the greatest inconveniences which can occur to him.

Now as to the requirement § 2, regularity of operation. Is there danger of irregularity? Yes, there is. What are the causes of it? There are two or three causes, so we will take one at a time. One cause, then, is a difference of temperature. You have founded your calculations about the effects of biting upon an experiment performed under a certain temperature. You afterwards bite a plate under another temperature and are surprised to find the result different from what you expected it to be. But you ought not to be surprised, for temperature is like the regulator of a watch which makes it go fast or slowly. Heat makes the acid bath bite fast, cold makes it bite slowly. Evidently, then, there is a very simple way of obtaining regularity so far as heat can effect it, and that is to keep your bath artificially at the same heat by means of a thermometer and a lamp. I place my porcelain tray that contains the bath on the plate- warmer which is commonly used to warm plates for printing. I put the lamp under it and regulate the heat of the bath to ninety degrees Fahrenheit, just as if I were giving a warm bath to a delicate patient. I keep it steadily to that heat * till the whole operation is over, and by this means, whether in the height of summer or the depth of winter, I know what is done in a given time. Here, again, one of the commonest causes of miscalculation is entirely obviated by the simplest means.

There is a peculiarity about biting with nitric acid which requires to be noted, for it cannot be got over. When many lines arc close together, as in close shading, they bite sooner than when isolated. Biting begins in the closest work, and attacks the most isolated lines last. It creeps into some lines gradually by a sort of contagion from some piece of close shading, as an epidemic disease spreads into the thinly-peopled country from dense centres of population. The Dutch mordant and perchloride of iron both attack more regularly.

Another cause of miscalculation is this. The bath may be very strong at first and then rapidly weaken. I will take an extreme instance.

  • You need not put your thermometer into the acid You can have a smaller

vessel on the same plate-warmer, containing pure water as an indicator.


426 APPENDIX,


Suppose you apply nitric acid quite pure, with a brush  ; the ebtiUition is most violent at the beginning and the action of the acid is tremendous, but in a short time its energy is expended, it has taken up so much copper that it can dissolve no more and you have simply a thick nitrate of copper lying on the surface of your plate. Here the energy is great at the beginning and gradually but swiftly lessens  ; evidently, then, you are not to count upon the action of such a bath as if it were regidarly continuous. The same thing occurs in all cold baths in minor degrees, and now bow are we to combat it  ?

First, we may observe that the quicker and more energetic the action, the quicker also is the decline of power in the bath, we, therefore, do well to choose mordants which operate slowly, such as the Dutch mordant. Again, the smaller the quantity of the mordant the sooner it becomes charged with copper and weakened in its action. It is, therefore, an excellent rule to have deep and large trays for the baths, and put a great quantity of mordant into them. We can also refresh the bath from time to time by pouring out a part of it and adding fresh mordant. Is there any means of ascertaining how much the bath has been weakened  ? Yes, just as the thermometer informs you of its strength, so far as heat affects it, so the colour informs you of its condition as to absorption of copper. When it becomes of a very dark green you know that it has dissolved much copper and weakened itself accordingly. Therefore, just as you keep up to one temperature keep to one colour, a rich green, neither pale nor dark. Mind that the depth of the bath is always the same, or you will not be able to judge of the green. In the warm bath evaporation concentrates the chlorate solution and so counteracts the weakening.

We have said that the action of the bath ought not to stop altogether except at the will of the operator. The inexperienced reader will be much surprised to hear that such a thing ever occurs, but it does occur with all mordants. The lines, for some reason which we will endeavour to ascertain when speaking of the chemistr>' of etching, are hollowed do^Mi to a certain depth but then the acid strikes work and eats no farther. A safe practical precaution against this is to take your plate out of the Dutch mordant from time to time, put it in pure water of the same temperature (plenty of water in a big tray), wash it thoroughly for a quarter of an hour, and brush into all the lines lightly but effectually with a camel-hair brush. If we could add anunonia to the water it would be still better, but we cannot, because ammonia spoils the etching-ground and causes it to come off in flakes.

We may now pass to § 3. We said that the acid ought to eat the lines in depth and not in breadth (or as little as possible) unless the artist desires to increase their breadth, when the acid ought to do what he wishes.

This is almost entirely in our own power. Powerful acid baths which cause ebullition^ as, for example, a strong nitric bath, greatly increase the breadth of lines whilst they bite. Baths which operate slowly and without ebullition, such as the Dutch mordant and perchloride of iron.


BITING. 427


bite in depth without much disturbing the edges of the lines, unless the etching-ground is very weak. For example, the Dutch mordant will not eat much into the edges of the lines when the plate is well covered with Bosse*s ground, but it widens them much and steadily when the plate is only covered with a thin coat of pure white wax applied in solu- tion. Pure nitric acid, on the other hand, widens lines always and enormously, upheaving all the small patches of ground which are left be- tween the lines and carrying them away. The reader now perceives that with different mordants and grounds we have the power of widening lines or not as it pleases us. In some cases it is necessary to do so, and then we choose either a weak ground (as in my positive process) or else a strong ebullient mordant such as nitric acid. In general practice it is however most desirable that lines should remain as nearly as possible such as they were originally drawn  ; hence the Dutch mordant and the perchloride of iron mordant are precious resources for an etcher. A deep narrow line prints clear, pure, and intensely black, it therefore greatly helps to give a brilliant appearance to an etching.

The reader is especially requested to remember that lines are always sure to be enlarged in rebiting, because the ground applied for that purpose is always necessarily very thin, and it is not smoked. It is there- fore prudent to use the Dutch mordant for rebiting, or a dilution of per- chloride of iron, and to heat the bath little, say to 70 degrees, except in cases where an enlargement of the lines is thought necessary to the rich- ness of the effect, as it sometimes may be.

We said (§ 4) that the biting ought to be well under the control of the operator from beginning to end.

This is already to a great extent insured by the precautions I have already indicated, but still farther precautions may be taken with advan- tage. An excellent one is to have a tell-tale or indicator in the same bath with the plate. This is a slip of copper-plate of the same quality and covered with the same ground. The etcher draws upon this a quantity of lines and shading resembling in quality the lines and shading upon his plate. The tell-tale is then put into the bath along with the plate, and from time to time it is taken out and a portion of the ground removed, when the etcher sees at once what the acid has been doing, and can judge whether it is time to stop out portions of the plate itself. To make assurance doubly sure, he ought, however, before stopping-out, to remove a little ground with the scraper from the portion of the plate which he thinks is sufficiently bitten, in order to see positively that it is so. Even then it will require some practice before he can really know the state of his plate by seeing a little bit of the bare copper.

// is better to underbite a plate in the darks than to overbite it, because if underbitten in these lines it is easily darkened afterwards by rebiting, whereas when they are too much bitten it is difficult to reduce them without spoiling the quality of any finer lines that may happen to be in their immediate neighbourhood.

// is better^ on the other handy to overbite light afid pale passages than


428 APPENDIX,


to underbitc thcm^ for, if they are undcrbitten it is most difficult, if not altogether impossible, to rebite them, because you can hardly ever cover the plate with etching-ground without filling them up, whereas, on the other hand, they are very easily reduced when overbitten, either by char> coal or simply with the scraper and burnisher.

In concluding this part of the subject let me warn the reader against two evils common in the work even of clever men,//7//«ij', and rotten lines. Pitting is the occurrence of involuntary dots which, if neglected, get very deeply bitten and cannot then be removed without spoiling the work round them — rotten lines are lines which were intended to be continuous, but which show interruptions and involuntar>' differences of quality.

Pitting may be due to impurities in the materials of which the etching- ground is composed, that is, there may be minute particles of foreign matter imperceptible to the naked eye but soluble in acid. Minute pitting is produced purposely in this way in aquatint engraving. Asphaltum, it appears, is usually more or less impure, containing various foreign sub- stances which, being soluble in mordants, expose a plate to spotting. To purify asphaltum the following method has been proposed by M. Deles- champs. It may be powdered, and washed in water acidulated with hydro- chloric acid. This dissolves the metallic oxides, and organic substances float on the surface and may be removed. The asphaltum is then dried, reduced to a very fine powder, and passed through a fine silk sieve  ; this retains the siliceous particles, and the asphaltum is now pure. White wax is occasionally adulterated with potato powder. It is quite pure in the r/tv/r ether solution, and accordingly, in my positive process, although the ground is of the most extreme tenuity, pitting neater occurs. Pitting may sometimes be caused, when gelatine paper has been used for tracing, by the pressure of the burnisher, which has cither penetrated the ground in consequence of little specks of roughness on the gelatine, or else removed adhesive little specks of roughness in the ground itself. Either cause is quite enough to expose the copper, and yet the naked eye may not perceive it. Now, although pitting may be of very little conse- quence in some parts of a plate, it may be its ruin if it occurs in others — in a face, for example. The best way to avoid it, after taking due pre- cautions to get pure chemicals, is to put the plate, before biting seriously, into a weak mixture of nitric acid and water. Dutch mordant tlarkens lines, and pitting in a black ground is not perceptible to the eye when this mordant is used. Nitric acid cleans copper and shows it light. Whilst the plate is in the bath examine it well, and after a few minutes remove it to a bath of pure water and pass a camel-hair brush all over it. In the water you will discover pitting if it exists, but to help yourself use a strong magnify ing-glass. Remove from the bath and stop-out all the spots with stopping-out varnish. The slight biting which has been caused by the weak nitric bath is easily removed with emery paper after the plate is bitten.

The commonest cause of rotten lines is this. The point, instead o^ removing the whole of the ground along its passage, has only partially


STOPPING-OUT, 429


removed it, so that the copper has been protected here and there. Wherever it was protected there are necessarily interruptions. Another cause may be that some foreign substance has been allowed to get into the line after it was drawn — bits of loose etching-ground may have got into it, or grease of some kind, perhaps from the etcher's own fingers, if he has not used a hand-rest.

As a proof of what a very delicate affair biting is, let me tell the reader an anecdote. I had drawn two elaborate little plates and left them on my table, forgetting to put them in a protected place. A hot summer sun came and looked in upon them — the sun of a Burgundy July — and so the plates were heated and the ground softened. Still the drawing looked perfectly clear, so the plates were put into a cool place and resumed their former appearance. When it came to the biting, however, lo  ! it was impossible ! The sun, in heating the plates, had caused something to ooze out of the etching-ground and varnish the lines — imperceptibly to the eye, but quite sufficiently to protect them against the acid bath. A plate which is drawn upon should be kept in a safe covered place until it is bitten, and should be bitten as soon as possible after it is drawn. Plates may be kept in shallow well-fitting drawers, or in wooden trays that may be laid one upon another.

It is a good precaution, whilst etching, to clear away all the loose bits of etching-ground with a camel-hairbrush, so that you may not be tempted to use the little finger, which would often choke the line.

When you bite a plate with nitric acid, small bubbles of gas arise in the lines. If you leave these undisturbed, they will cause interruptions in the lines, because, where the gas-bubble protects the copper, the acid no longer bites. It is therefore necessary, in using the nitric bath, to remove these bubbles continually with a small feather.


CHAPTER VIII.

STOPPING-OUT,

The best stopping-out varnish has been already described at the end of the Chapter on Grounds and Varnishes, and also the way to use it, but I wish to add a few practical hints which may be of service.

It is a good principle to keep lengths of biting very distinct from each other. It is not wise to trust to biting much for gradation. Minute dif- ferences of shade can hardly ever be insured by stopping-out For example, if an etcher were to stop-out after every five minutes of exposure to the Dutch mordant, much of his labour would be thrown away.

Let me be quite absolutely frank with the practical reader on this subject. Some account of personal experience is best in a matter of this kind.

In theory a shade bitten twenty minutes and a shade of exactly the


430 APPENDIX.


same kind bitten thirty minutes, ought to be very different in the printing — the latter ought to be much the darker of the two. In practice they may be exactly the same.

I was etching a plate at the beginning of this }*ear, after many years of experience in these matters, and it had a dark back-ground entirely shaded in the same way. To get two different shades I bit half the back- ground for twenty, and the other half for thirty minutes. The result in the printed proof was a shade of precisely the same tone and quality throughout*

But now observe a very curious thing. I lowered the whole surface of the copper with charcoal, and by this means got the difference of shade which I desired, for now the part which had been bitten thirty minutes showed distinctly as much darker than the other.

What did this prove  ? It proved that the part which had remained longer than the other in the acid had really been bitten deeper, but at the same time there was the evidence of the first printed proof that this difference of depth in the lines made no difference in the printing.

Again. It has happened to mc not once nor twice, but many times, to try to get gp^dations in skies by stopping-out narrow bands from the horizon upwards as the biting proceeded, and yet the result has been that the shade was pretty nearly the same all over, so that the stopping-out was a waste of time, for one biting would have sufficed for the result obtained.

These are facts of positive experience, not theories. They are directly contrary to the received theor>' of the subject. Can wtr get a sound explanation of these facts?

A deep etched line docs not deliver all its ink to the pa|>er. The evidence of this is that when a proof has just been taken, tlie plate still remains so much charged with ink that much ink comes out of the lines if we cleanse them with petroleum and a brush. A narrow line, moderately deep, gives as much ink to the paper as it can give, and you will not make the line any blacker by deepening it still farther.

When lines are much widened at the same time that they are deep- ened, they give off more ink because the paper is forced more into them. In Turner's etchings the lines are embossed hy the press. It follows from this that with effervescing mordants, such as the nitric bath, which \\iden the lines, finer distinctions of biting may be usefully observed than with the quiet mordants which widen the line but little.

My advice is not to stop-out a plate more than twice or three times before removing the ground and taking a proof. I have often been asked by young etchers to give some fixed scheme of biting for their guidance. I adapt the following from a paper which I wrote and fastened on the wall of my own laboratory. The reader will perceive that it is for an elaborate plate, a simple one may be carried through with much less trouble. The reader will also perceive that ver)- few bitings are given before a proof is taken, and that the plate is often proved.


STOFPING'OUT. 431


SCHEME OF ETCHING. Dutch bath heated on plate-warmer to ninety degrees Fahrenheit,

% I. The plate is covered with Bosse's ground. The etcher has drawn upon it all the most important organic markings upon which the life and meaning of his work depend ; the frontispiece to this volume is an example of such markings. He immerses the plate for fifteen minutes, then stops-out all the lightest markings in distances, etc., after which he immerses for twenty minutes more, and stops-out the middling ones, which are not to be very dark. Finally he immerses thirty-five minutes for the darkest and strongest lines. The account, therefore, stands thus : —

15 min. 20 min. 35 min.

This represents the inmiersions, but the total of time during which the acid has acted is

15 min. 35 min. 70 min.

§ 2. A proof having been taken, the plate is now grounded again and smoked as before, care being taken to fill up the lines sufficiently for their protection.

All strong shading is now added to the plate with the point, but nothing else. It goes through three immersions as before, with stoppings-out between the first and second and the second and third wherever the shading may appear sufficiently bitten. These immersions are —

10 min. 15 min. 25 min.

which give in totals

10 min. 25 min. 50 min.

§ 3. The ground having been again removed and another proof taken, the etcher has before him a plate consisting of nothing but organic lines and strong shading. If it has been well done it will have a firm and manly look, but it will be wanting in delicacy. Parts of it will require a veil of tender shade. He will, therefore, cover the plate again and shade it wherever required with a fine needle. The bitings are now reduced to two,

3 min. 6 min.

giving in totals

3 min. 9 min.

§ 4^ The ground having been removed once more and a proof taken, the next question is — Do any parts of the work require an increase of force  ? If they do, it is to be got by rebiting in the lines already made, which has been clearly explained in the chapter on the use of the roller. The etcher will, of course, previously stop-out all those parts which he does not desire to have rcbitten, and he will use his own judgment about stopping-out other parts after more or less immersion.

§ 5. Even when a plate is in the advanced condition supposed in the present case it may still require improvement of a particular kind. Its


432 APPENDIX.


parts may require to be better brought together, it may be wanting in that great quality of art — unity. This is to be attained most easily by careful retouching of parts, when you can see the whole of what has been already done, and in order to do that, the plate ought to be covered with a trans- parent, or what is called a " white " ground (see Chapter on Grounds). But here we have to encounter a very serious difficulty. It is very easy to apply a safe white ground to a smooth plate, but very difficult to make it safe on a plate where there are deep lines already. The reason is that the ground is always very thin and weak (unless great care is taken) on the jagged edges of the hollows, which are soon exposed to the action of acid, and when once they are attacked the disease spreads rapidly. Suppose a plain traversed by deep ditches and covered with snow. There may be plenty of snow in the ditches and on the flat surface, but there will not be so much just on the angle between the two. The safest way is to apply the white ground with the brush, plentifully, as it fills the hollows well, and when one coat is dry you can give a second, using the brush at right angles to the first direction in which you used it. If heat is used to expel the oil of lavender, it must be with the greatest care, and only just enough for the purpose, for when the ground is melted it alwa>'s by a sort of repulsion, avoids those very edges and angles which most need its protection. Suppose, however, that you have succeeded in cover- ing your plate safely, the next thing is to etch upon it, and by far the most convenient way for seeing what you do is to put the plate in a bath of Dutch mordant, not heated this time (as it is not desirable that its action should be accelerated) and do what you have to do whilst the plate is in the bath, using a fine needle (which the acid itself will keep sharp for you) and beginning with the darkest parts, passing gradually to the lightest. When the last are finished you must take the plate out at once and get a proof. Old-fashioned etchers always treat this process as if it were merely a display of temerity (as if one made displays of temerity in the solitude of his own laboratory), but there arc most substantial reasons f