Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub

other ; and, above all, in attaching myself to the best works only: for I perceived, that in the study of model, the most prejudicial quality is mediocrity. The bad strike and disgust; but those that are not good, nor absolutely bad, deceive us by offering a flattering and dangerous facility. It is for this reason that engraving, which may contribute to the progress of the arts, when it is employ'd on subjects that are judiciously chosen ; and, in copying them justly, may become prejudicial by the indifferent works it multiplies without number. How many productions of that art have required the labour of a year, and do not deserve a moment's attention ! But let RAPHAEL be copy'd by skilful engravers, let a young artist profit by his labours, and works, without dignity and expression, will soon become intolerable to him ; he will perceive to what an elevation the excellence of the art can raise him. The way to know and to avoid mediocrity, is by the study and imitation of beautiful productions ; or, in want of them, of the most finished translations that have been made from them-for so we may call beautiful prints. Let a young draughtsman study the heads of RAPHAEL, and he will not see without disgust, the sordid figures of indifferent painters. But if you first feed him with those insipid substances, he will soon lose the taste necessary to relish the excellence of ANTINOUS and APOLLO. In the one case, he will advance firmly in his career ; in the other, he will continually totter, and even not be sensible of his own weakness.

It was from these reflections, that, following the steps of the masters, I dared to form a method of my own. My first precept was to pass from one principal part to another, without staying to attempt at once the numberless details that I

perceiv'd in each of them. By this method I accustomed myself to design, or rather dispose the trees in masses, chusing WATERLOO for my model ; and the more I studied this artist, the more I found in his landscapes the true character of nature ; and the more that discovery struck me, the more pleasure I found in imitating him : so that it was to him I owed at last the felicity of expressing my own ideas, but it was by borrowing his style. Then, to avoid what they call a manner, I ventured to insert more variety in my studies, and to associate with my

first master those artists whose tastes differ from his; but who, at the same time, have, like him, nature and truth for their object.

Swanefeld and BERCHEM, by turns, presided over my labours. Like the bee, I search'd honey from many flowers. I consulted, I imitated—and, returning to nature, wherever I found a tree, a trunk, or foliage, that attracted my regard, that fix'd my attention, I made a sketch of it, more or less finish’d. By this method, I join'd to facility the idea of character, and I form'd a manner that became more personal to me. It is true, an original inclination frequently brought me back to my first guide ; I return’d to WATERLOO, when the disposition of the trees was to be regulated ; but

1

BERCHEM and SALVATOR ROSA obtain'd the

preference in disposing the grounds, and characterising the rocks. MEYER, ERMELS, and HAKERT assisted me in distinguishing the truth of nature, and LORRAIN instructed me in a happy choice of vistos, and a fine harmony of the grounds. I learnt, by studying him, to imitate the verdure of the fields, the soft distances, and admirable gradations, by the secret artifice of their shades. To concludem I had recourse to WOUVERMANS for those light and sweet transient scenes that, illuminated with a moderate light, and cover'd with a tender verdure, have no defect, but the appearing sometimes too tufted.

Thus passing from various imitations to continual reflections, and then returning to nature, I found, at last, that my efforts became less laborious. The principal masses and forms laid themselves open to my sight. Effects, that I had not perceiv'd, struck me. I was at last able to express, by a single stroke, what art cou'd not detail without prejudice. My manner became expressive. How often, before this first progress, have I search'd, without finding them, objects favourable to imitation; and how often did they present themselves to my sight! Not, however, that every view, or every tree, contains all that picturesque beauty I sought after ; but my experienced eye no longer beheld objects without distinguishing forms that pleased me, or characters that fix'd my attention. I saw no shade that had not some branch well disposed, some mass of foliage agreeably group'd, some part

of a trunk whose singularity was not striking. A detach'd stone gave me the idea of a rock; I exposed it to the sun in the point of view that best agreed with my design, gave it in my mind a proportionable larger extent, and then discover'd the most brilliant effects in the clare obscure, the demitints, and the reflections. But when, in this manner, we investigate our subjects in nature, we shou'd take care not to let them lead us away by their singularity. Let us seek for the beautiful and noble in the forms, and manage with taste those that are merely fantastic. It is the idea of a noble simplicity in nature that must moderate a fight that wou'd carry the artist to a taste for the marvellous, to exaggeration, perhaps even to chimeras; and lead him away from that probability in which the truth of imitation consists.

With regard to the manner in which I executed my studies, they were not finished drawings, nor mere sketches. The more interesting any part of my subject appear'd, the more I finish'd it at the first attempt.

There are painters who content themselves with making, in haste, a mere sketch of a finish'd picture that nature presents them, and lay it aside to be finish'd at leisure. What is the consequence? Their accustomed manner takes place of the idea too lightly impress'd on the mind; the characteristic of the object disappears, and is lost. What can supply this? Neither the magic of the colouring, nor the effects of the clare obscure ; they may

1

amuse for a moment, but the critical

eye will search for the true and natural, and, finding it not, will turn away from the work with disdain.

But when I wou'd have used my studies, made after nature, in the invention of a whole, I found myself embarrassed and intimidated. I fell into factitious details which wou'd not agree with the simplicity and truth of those parts I had taken from nature. I cou'd not find in my landscapes the great, the noble, the harmonious, and the striking effect of the whole. I was, therefore, obliged to have recourse to those masters who appear'd to me to excel in composition.

EVERDINGHEN, whom I have not yet mentioned, frequently presented me with that rural simplicity, which pleases even in those countries where reigns the greatest variety. In his works I found impetuous torrents, rocks broken and cover'd with the thickest brambles, and rustic spots, where poverty finds a happy retreat in the most simple cottage. Though his bold and spirited touches were capable of inspiring me, I did not think that he was the only one whose example I should follow. It even appear'd to me not unprofitable to have learnt, before imitating him, to paint rocks in a better style. Dietricht taught me. The pieces he has composed of this kind are such, that one wou'd say they are EVERDINGHEN's; but he has surpass'd himself.

SWANEFELD, in his turn, offer'd me the dignity of ideas. I admired the prodigious effect of his ex

« PredošláPokračovať »