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Proportion-Single objects.-Contrast.-Uniformity.

ness the sinewy giant by anointing him with the juice of charmed flowers, without violating probability, for no limit can be placed upon supernatural power.

Again, symmetrical proportions are necessary. Every part should have its due relation to all the others, and to the whole, and should be made prominent and conspicuous in proportion to its importance. Heavy columns to support a light architrave, or a large portico to a small building, is invariably displeasing. With regard to the form of single objects, when viewed without respect to utility or their relation to other things, we seem to judge by innate perception ; certain shapes are intrinsically beautiful. Two vases may be of nearly the same dimensions, and equally adapted to hold the precious perfume or the floral treasure, and yet the form of one be really unpleasing to the eye, while that of the other may excite strong feelings of delight. Gently curving and undulating outlines are most beautiful, and thence are generally employed by Nature in her smaller and more delicate productions, while bold angular outlines characterize her larger and sublimer works; each is agreeable in its place.

The advantages of contrast to heighten effect are so well understood, that it is constantly employed by the artist. But if the design be obvious, the effect will most probably be lost. The mind refuses to believe that one object is large because another is small, or that one is beautiful because another is not. When properly used we are unconscious of its employment, while we feel its power.

False and groundless comparisons,” says Sir Joshua Reynolds, never strike us as such, if they answer the end designed.” And as the eye is pleased with contrast, so also is it gratified with exact uniformity. We delight to compare two similar objects, and discover that they exactly resemble each

Variety.--A faultless critic.—Axiom of Coleridge.

other. But if the resemblance is not perfect, and yet too slight to admit of contrast, we are disappointed and displeased. The windows of a building should be all perfectly alike, or so different that the various kinds would strongly contrast with each other. In the corresponding parts of a regular body, we can be satisfied only with exact conformity, and in their mere similarity dwells a species of beauty.

Variety is another means of giving interest. That is most pleasing which calls into activity the greatest number of faculties, provided there be no confusion. Nothing could be more tiresome than a long poem that presented none but heroes to our notice, or if they were the principal actors, if they were not variously discriminated. In architecture, curved and straight lines opposed to each other, give an agreeable variety to a building. And the skilful musician knows how to delight, and is himself delighted, by the inexhaustible variety of combinations that “unbind the hidden soul of harmony.”

To be a faultless critic, it were necessary that all the faculties of the mind should be fully developed. It was an axiom of Coleridge, that a work of art should be judged by its intrinsic merits, not by its faults. And while the vulgar eye may perceive the defects of even the sublimest works of imagination, it takes a high degree of cultivation really to appreciate and sympathize with their excellencies.

Technical sense. Highest object.


PAINTING, in a technical sense, is the art which represents the appearance of natural objects on a plane surfaci, by means of colour and the management of light and shade, so as to produce the appearance of relief. As a fine art, its highest object is the beautiful, exhibited in visible forms by colours. “ The ideas thus conveyed to us, have this advantage,” says Richardson, an enthusiastic old writer on his art, “ they corne not by a slow progression of words, or in a language peculiar to one nation only ; but with such a velocity, and in a manner so universally understood, that it resembles inspiration or intuition-as the art by which it is effected resembles creation ; things so considerable and of so great price being produced out of materials so inconsiderable, and of a value next to nothing. What a tedious thing would it be to describe by words the view of a country, and how imperfect an idea would, after all, be afforded! Painting does it effectually, with the addition of so much of its character as can be known from thence ; and, moreover, in an instant recalls to your memory at least the most considerable particulars of what you have heard concerning it, or occasions that to be told which you have never heard.

"Agostino Caraeci, discoursing one day on the excellency of the ancient sculptures, was profuse in his praises of the Laocoon, and

Annibale Caracci.—Noblest field of the painter.

observing that his brother Annibale never spoke, nor seemed to take any notice of what he said, reproached him as not enough esteeming so masterly a work. He then went on describing every particular of that noble relic of antiquity. Annibale turned himself to the wall, and with a piece of charcoal drew the statue as exactly as if it had been before him. The rest of the company were surprised, and Agostino, silenced, confessed that his brother had taken a more effectual way than himself to demonstrate the beauties of that wonderful piece of sculpture. Li poeti dipingono con le parole, li pittori parlano con l'opere'—(The poet paints with words, the painter speaks with works,) said Annibale.

“The business of painting is, to perform much of the effect of discourse and books, and, in many instances, more speedily and with more reality. To consider a picture aright, is to read it; but taking into account the beauty with which the eye is all the time entertained, (whether of colour or composition,) it is not only to read a book, and that finely printed and well bound, but as if a concert of music were heard at the same time. You have at once an intellectual and a sensual pleasure.

"By an admirable effort of human genius, painting offers to our eyes every thing which is most valuable in the universe. It presents to us the heroic deeds of ancient times as well as the facts with which we are more conversant, and distant objects as well as those we daily see. In this respect, it may be considered as a supplement to nature, which gives us a view of present objects only.”

The noblest field of the painter is that in which he vies with the poet, embodying ideas and representing them to the spectator; but as there are innumerable gradations in poetry, from the most elevated epic or drama to the shortest lyric, the excellence of

Evidence of skill.—Term nature in respect to art.

which may consist merely in giving effect to a single sentiment or situation, comic, touching, &c., so pictures may present all varieties, from the elevated productions of a Michael Angelo to the image of a single dew-drop, a leaf, or a feather.

Objects which attract no attention and are of little interest in themselves, when imitated by the artist are often interesting and even beautiful. In the still life of the Flemish painters, turnips and cabbages are translated into a higher sphere, and as evidence of the skill of the painter become invested with interesi and a humorous sort of beauty. And as things indifferent may thus be made worthy of notice, so may beautiful and elevated objects be idealized, appearing as if in being transfused through the mind of the artist they had undergone some etherealizing process, or been imbued with a kind of intellectuality. A landscape on canvass, though a copy of nature rigidly correct, fails to give high satisfaction, unless there is a poetic spirit breathing through the scene, even as we see portraits unquestionably like the body of the original, yet without a spark of the soul. And how val. uable the art that can arrest the smile of joy on the lip of beauty, and fix it for ages ; that can perpetuate and hand down to posterity the features of the great and good, with their virtues inscribed on their countenances.

"To know an art thoroughly," says Opie, we must know its object, which, in regard to painting, is not quite so easy as it appears at first; for though all agree that its purpose is to imitate nature, yet the vast superiority of many works of art over others equally challenging to be considered as true and faithful representations of nature, shows that some limitation and explanation of this very extensive and complicated term, is necessary to our forming a correct idea of its meaning in respect to art; without which it will be vain to hold it up as a standard.

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