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Promenades of an Impressionist By James Huneker Characters: 88663

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05

Giambattista Piranesi was born at Venice in 1720. Bryan says that about 1738 his father sent him to Rome, where he studied under Valeriani, through whom he acquired the style of Valeriani's master, Marco Ricci of Belluno. With Vasi, a Sicilian engraver, he learned that art. Ricci and Pannini were much in vogue, following the example of Claude in his employment of ruins as a picturesque element in a composition. But Piranesi excelled both Ricci and Pannini. He was an architect, too, helping to restore churches, and this accounts for the proud title, Architect of Venice, which may be seen on some of his plates. He lived for a time in Venice, but Rome drew him to her with an imperious call. And, notwithstanding the opposition of his father, to Rome he went, and for forty years devoted himself to his master passion, the pictorial record of the beloved city, the ancient portions of which were fast vanishing owing to time and the greed of their owners. This was Piranesi's self-imposed mission, begun as an exalted youth, finished as an irritable old man. Among his architectural restorations, made at the request of Clement XIII, were the two churches of Santa Maria del Popolo and Il Priorato. Lanciani says that Il Priorato is "a mass of monstrosities inside and out." It is his etching, not his labour as an architect, that will make Piranesi immortal. He seems to have felt this, for he wrote that he had "executed a work which will descend to posterity and will last so long as there will be men desirous of knowing all that has survived the ruins of the most famous city of the universe."

In the black-and-white portrait of the etcher by F. Polonzani, we see a full-cheeked man with a well-developed forehead, the features of the classic Roman order, the general expression not far removed from a sort of sullen self-satisfaction. But the eyes redeem. They are full, lustrous, penetrating, and introspective. The portrait etched by the son of Piranesi, after a statue, discovers him posed in a toga, the general effect being classic and consular. His life, like that of all good workmen in art, was hardly an eventful one. He married precipitately and his wife bore him two sons (Francesco, the etcher, born at Rome, 1748-Bryan gives the date as 1756-died at Paris, 1810) and a daughter (Laura, born at Rome, 1750-date of death unknown). These children were a consolation to him. Both were engravers. Francesco frequently assisted his father in his work, and Bryan says that Laura's work resembled her father's. She went to Paris with her brother and probably died there. She left some views of Rome. Francesco, with his brother Pietro, attempted to found an academy in Paris and later a terra cotta manufactory.

The elder Piranesi was of a quarrelsome disposition. He wrangled with an English patron, Viscount Charlemont, and, like Beethoven, destroyed title-pages when he became displeased with the subject of his dedications. He was decorated with the Order of Christ and was proud of his membership in the London Society of Antiquaries. It is said that the original copper plates of his works were captured by a British man-of-war during the Napoleonic conflict. This probably accounts for the dissemination of so many revamped and coarsely executed versions of his compositions. His besetting fault was a tendency toward an Egyptian blackness in his composition. Fond of strong contrasts as was John Martin, he is, at times, as great a sinner in the handling of his blacks. An experimenter of audacity, Piranesi's mastery of the technique of etching has seldom been equalled, and even in his inferior work the skilful printing atones for many defects. The remarkable richness and depth of tone, brought about by continuous and innumerable bitings, and other secret processes known only to himself, make his plates warm and brilliant. Nobility of form, grandeur of mass, a light and shade that is positively dramatic in its dispersion over wall and tower, are the characteristic marks of this unique etcher. He could not resist the temptation of dotting with figures the huge spaces of his ruins. They dance or recline or indulge in uncouth gestures. His shadows are luminous-you may gaze into them; his high lights caught on some projection or salient cornice or silvering the August porticoes of a vanished past, all these demonstrate his feeling for the dramatic. And dramatic is the impression evoked as you study the majestic temples that were P?stum, the bare, ruined arches and pillars that were Rome. It is P?stum that is the more vivid. It tallies, too, with the Piranesi plates; while Rome has visibly changed since his day. His original designs for chimneys, Diverse Maniere d'Adornare i Camini, are pronounced by several critics as "foolish and vulgar." He left nearly two thousand etchings, and died at Rome November 9, 1778. His son erected a mediocre statue by Angolin for his tomb in Il Priorato. A manuscript life of Piranesi, which was in London about 1830, is now lost. Bryan's dictionary gives a partial list of his works "as published both by himself in Rome and by his sons in Paris. The plates passed from his sons first to Firmin-Didot, and ultimately into the hands of the Papal Government."

De Quincey's quotation of Wordsworth is apposite in describing Piranesi's creations: "Battlements that on their restless fronts bore stars"; from sheer brutal masonry, gray, aged, and moss-encrusted, he invented a precise pattern and one both passionate and magical.


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, did not hesitate to group Meryon's name with Rembrandt's and Jacquemart's (one feels like employing the Whistlerian formula and asking: Why drag in Jacquemart?); and to-day, after years of critical indifference, the unhappy copper-scratcher has come into his own. You may find him mentioned in such company as Dürer, Rembrandt, and Whistler. The man who first acclaimed him as worthy of associating with Rembrandt was the critic Charles Baudelaire; and we are indebted to him for new material dealing with the troubled life of Charles Meryon.

On January 8, 1860, Baudelaire wrote to his friend and publisher, Poulet-Malassis, that what he intends to say is worth the bother of writing. Meryon had called, first sending a card upon which he scrawled: "You live in a hotel the name of which doubtless attracted you because of your tastes." Puzzled by this cryptic introduction, the poet then noted that the address read: Charles Baudelaire, H?tel de Thébes. He did not stop at a hotel bearing that name, but, fancying him a Theban, Meryon took the matter for granted. This letter was forwarded. Meryon appeared. His first question would have startled any but Baudelaire, who prided himself on startling others. The etcher, looking as desperate and forlorn as in the Bracquemond etched portrait (1853), demanded news of a certain Edgar Poe. Baudelaire responded sadly that he had not known Poe personally. Then he was eagerly asked if he believed in the reality of this Poe. Charles began to suspect the sanity of his visitor. "Because," added Meryon, "there is a society of littérateurs, very clever, very powerful, and knowing all the ropes." His reasons for suspecting a cabal formed against him under the guise of Poe's name were these: The Murders in the Rue Morgue. "I made a design of the Morgue-an orang-outang. I have been often compared to a monkey. This orang-outang assassinated two women, a mother and daughter. Et moi aussi, j'ai assassiné moralement deux femmes, la mère et sa fille. I have always taken this story as an allusion to my misfortunes. You, M. Baudelaire, would do me a great favour if you could find the date when Edgar Poe, supposing he was not assisted by any one, wrote his tale. I wish to see if this date coincides with my adventures." After that Baudelaire knew his man.

Meryon spoke with admiration of Michelet's Jeanne d'Arc, though he swore the book was not written by Michelet. (Not such a wild shot, though not correct in this particular instance, for the world has since discovered that several books posthumously attributed to Michelet were written by his widow.) The etcher was interested in the cabalistic arts. On one of his large plates he drew some eagles, and when Baudelaire objected that these birds did not frequent Parisian skies he mysteriously whispered "those folks at the Tuileries" often launched as a rite the sacred eagles to study the omens and presages. He was firmly convinced of this. After the termination of the trying visit Baudelaire, with acrid irony, asks himself why he, with his nerves usually unstrung, did not go quite mad, and he concludes, "Seriously I addressed to Heaven the grateful prayers of a pharisee."

In March the same year he assures the same correspondent that decidedly Meryon does not know how to conduct himself. He knows nothing of life, neither does he know how to sell his plates or find an editor. His work is very easy to sell. Baudelaire was hardly a practical business man, but, like Poe, he had sense enough to follow his market. He instantly recognised the commercial value of Meryon's Paris set, but knew the etcher was a hopeless character. He wrote to Poulet-Malassis concerning a proposed purchase of Meryon's work by the publisher. It never came to anything. The etcher was very suspicious as to paper and printing. He grew violent when the poet asked him to illustrate some little poems and sonnets. Had he, Meryon, not written poems himself? Had not the mighty Victor Hugo addressed flattering words to him? Baudelaire, without losing interest, then thought of Daumier as an illustrator for a new edition of Les Fleurs du Mal. It must not be supposed, however, that Meryon was ungrateful. He was deeply affected by the praise accorded him in Baudelaire's Salon of 1859. He wrote in February, 1860, sending his Views of Paris to the critic as a feeble acknowledgment of the pleasure he had enjoyed when reading the brilliant interpretative criticism. He said that he had created an epoch in etching-which was the literal truth-and he had saved a rapidly vanishing Paris for the pious curiosity of future generations. He speaks of his "na?ve heart" and hoped that Baudelaire in turn would dream as he did over the plates. This letter was signed simply "Meryon, 20 Rue Duperré." The acute accent placed over the "e" in his name by the French poet and by biographers, critics, and editors since was never used by the etcher. It took years before Baudelaire could persuade the Parisians that Poe did not spell his name "Edgard Po?." And we remember the fate of Liszt and Whistler, who were until recently known in Paris as "Litz" and "Whistler." With the aid of Champfleury and Banville, Baudelaire tried to bring Meryon's art to the cognisance of the Minister of Beaux-Arts, but to no avail. Why?

There was a reason. Bohemian as was the artist during the last decade of his life, he did not always haunt low cafés and drink absinthe. His beginnings were as romantic as a page of Balzac. He was born a gentleman à la main gauche. His father was the doctor and private secretary of Lady Stanhope. Charles Lewis Meryon was an English physician, who, falling in love with a ballet dancer at the Opéra, Pierre Narcisse Chaspoux, persuaded her that it would be less selfish on her part if she would not bind him to her legally. November 23,1821, a sickly, nervous, and wizened son was born to the pair and baptised with his father's name, who, being an alien, generously conceded that much. There his interest ceased. On the mother fell the burden of the boy's education. At five he was sent to school at Passy and later went to the south of France. In 1837 he entered the Brest naval school, and 1839 saw him going on his maiden voyage. This first trip was marred by the black sorrow that fell upon him when informed of his illegitimate birth. "I was mad from the time I was told of my birth," he wrote, and until madness supervened he suffered from a "wounded imagination." He was morbid, shy, and irritable, and his energy-the explosive energy of this frail youth was amazing; because he had been refused the use of a ship boat he wasted three months digging out a canoe from a log of wood. Like Paul Gauguin, he saw many countries, and his eyes were trained to form, though not colour-he suffered from Daltonism-for when he began to paint he discovered he was totally colour-blind. The visible world for him existed as a contrapuntal net-work of lines, silhouettes, contours, or heavy dark masses. When a sailor he sketched. Meryon tells of the drawing of a little fungus he found in Akaroa. "Distorted in form and pinched and puny from its birth, I could not but pity it; it seemed to me so entirely typical of the inclemency and at the same time of the whimsicality of an incomplete and sickly creation that I could not deny it a place in my souvenirs de voyage, and so I drew it carefully." This bit of fungus was to him a symbol of his own gnarled existence.

Tiring of ship life, he finally decided to study art. He had seen New Zealand, Australia, Italy, New Caledonia, and if his splendid plate-No. 22 in M. Burty's list-is evidence, he must have visited San Francisco. Baudelaire, in L'Art Romantique, speaks of this perspective of San Francisco as being Meryon's most masterly design. In 1846 he quit seafaring. He was in mediocre health, and though from a cadet he had attained the rank of lieutenant it was doubtful if he would ever rise higher. His mother had left him four thousand dollars, so he went over to the Latin Quarter and began to study painting. That he was unfitted for, and meeting Eugène Bléry he became interested in etching. A Dutch seventeenth-century etcher and draughtsman, Reiner Zeeman by name, attracted him. He copied, too, Ducereau and Nicolle. "An etching by the latter of a riverside view through the arch of a bridge is like a link between Meryon and Piranesi," says D.S. MacColl. Meryon also studied under the tuition of a painter named Phelippes. He went to Belgium in 1856 on the invitation of the Duc d'Aremberg, and in 1858 he was sent to Charenton suffering from melancholy and delusions. He left in a year and returned to Paris and work; but, as Baudelaire wrote, a cruel demon had touched the brain of the artist. A mystic delirium set in. He ceased to etch, and evidently suffered from the persecution madness. In every corner he believed conspiracies were hatching. He often disappeared, often changed his abode. Sometimes he would appear dressed gorgeously at a boulevard café in company with brilliant birds of prey; then he would be seen slinking through mean streets in meaner rags. There are episodes in his life that recall the career of another man of genius, Gerard de Nerval, poet, noctambulist, suicide. It is known that Meryon destroyed his finest plates, but not in a mad fit. Baudelaire says that the artist, who was a perfectionist, did not wish to see his work suffer from rebiting, so he quite sensibly sawed up the plates into tiny strips. That he was suspicious of his fellow-etchers is illustrated in the story told by Sir Seymour Haden, who bought several of his etchings from him at a fair price. Two miles away from the atelier the Englishman was overtaken by Meryon. He asked for the proofs he had sold, "as they were of a nature to compromise him"; besides, from what he knew of Haden's etchings he was determined that his proofs should not go to England. Sir Seymour at once returned the etchings. Now, whether Meryon's words were meant as a compliment or the reverse is doubtful. He was half crazy, but he may have seen through a hole in the millstone.

Frederick Keppel once met in Paris an old printer named Beillet who did work for Meryon. He could not always pay for the printing of his celebrated Abside de Notre Dame, a masterpiece, as he hadn't the necessary ten cents. "I never got my money!" exclaimed the thrifty printer. Enormous endurance, enormous vanity, diseased pride, outraged human sentiment, hatred of the Second Empire because of the particular clause in the old Napoleonic code relating to the research of paternity; an irregular life, possibly drugs, certainly alcoholism, repeated rejections by the academic authorities, critics, and dealers of his work-these and a feeble constitution sent the unfortunate back to Charenton, where he died February 14, 1868. Baudelaire, his critical discoverer, had only preceded him to a lunatic's grave six months earlier. Inasmuch as there is a certain family likeness among men of genius with disordered minds and instincts, several comparisons might be made between Meryon and Baudelaire. Both were great artists and both were born with flawed, neurotic systems. Dissipation and misery followed as a matter of course.

Charles Meryon was, nevertheless, a sane and a magnificent etcher. He executed about a hundred plates, according to Burty. He did not avoid portraiture, and to live he sometimes manufactured pot-boilers for the trade. To his supreme vision was joined a miraculous surety of touch. Baudelaire was right-those plates, the Paris set, so dramatic and truthful in particulars, could have been sold if Meryon, with his wolfish visage, his fierce, haggard eyes, his gruff manner, had not offered them in person. He looked like a vagabond very often and too often acted like a brigand. The Salon juries were prejudiced against his work because of his legend. Verlaine over again! The etchings were classic when they were born. We wonder they did not appeal immediately. To-day, if you are lucky enough to come across one, you are asked a staggering price. They sold for a song-when they did sell-during the lifetime of the artist. Louis Napoleon and Baron Haussmann destroyed picturesque Paris to the consternation of Meryon, who to the eye of an arch?ologist united the soul of an artist. He loved old Paris. We can evoke it to-day, thanks to these etchings, just as the Paris of 1848 is forever etched in the pages of Flaubert's L'Education Sentimentale.

But there is hallucination in these etchings, beginning with Le Stryge, and its demoniac leer, "insatiable vampire, l'eternelle luxure." That gallery of Notre Dame, with Wotan's ravens flying through the slim pillars from a dream city bathed in sinister light, is not the only striking conception of the poet-etcher. The grip of reality is shown in such plates as Tourelle, Rue de la Tisseranderie, and La Pompe, Notre Dame. Here are hallucinations translated into the actual terms of art, suggesting, nevertheless, a solidity, a sharpness of definition, withal a sense of fluctuating sky, air, clouds that make you realise the justesse of Berenson's phrase-tactile values. With Meryon the tactile perception was a sixth sense. Clairvoyant of images, he could transcribe the actual with an almost cruel precision. Telescopic eyes his, as MacColl has it, and an imagination that perceived the spectre lurking behind the door, the horror of enclosed spaces, and the mystic fear of shadows-a Poe imagination, romantic, with madness as an accomplice in the horrible game of his life. One is tempted to add that the romantic imagination is always slightly mad. It runs to seed in darkness and despair. The fugitive verse of Meryon is bitter, ironical, defiant; a whiff from an underground prison, where seems to sit in tortured solitude some wretch abandoned by humanity, a stranger even at the gates of hell.

Sir Seymour Haden has told us that Meryon's method was to make a number of sketches, two or three inches square, of parts of his picture, which he put together and arranged into a harmonious whole. Herkomer says that he "used the burin in finishing his bitten work with marvellous skill. No better combination can be found of the harmonious combination of the two." Burty declared that "Meryon preserves the characteristic detail of architecture… Without modifying the aspect of the monument he causes it to express its hidden meaning, and gives it a broader significance by associating it with his own thought." His employment of a dull green paper at times showed his intimate feeling for tonalities. He is, more so than Piranesi, the Rembrandt of architecture. Hamerton admits that the French etcher was "one of the greatest and most original artists who have appeared in Europe," and berates the public of the '60s for not discovering this. Then this writer, copying in an astonishingly wretched manner several of Meryon's etchings, analysing their defects as he proceeds, asserts that there is false tonality in Le Stryge. "The intense black in the street under the tower of St. Jacques destroys the impression of atmosphere, though at a considerable 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," etc. This was done for the sheer purpose of oppositional effects. Did Hamerton see a fine plate? The shadow is heavy; the street is in demi, not total, obscurity; the values of the flying ravens and the shadow are clearly enunciated. The passage is powerful, even sensational, and in the Romantic, Hugoesque key. Hamerton is wrong. Meryon seldom erred. His was a temperament of steel and fire.


The sitting-room was long and narrow. A haircloth sofa of uncompromising rectitude was pushed so close to the wall that the imprints of at least two generations of heads might be discerned upon the flowered wall-paper-flowers and grapes of monstrous size from some country akin to that visited by the Israelitish spies as related in the Good Book. A mahogany sideboard stood at the upper end of the room; in one window hung a cage which contained a feeble canary. As you entered your eyes fell upon an ornamental wax fruit piece under a conical glass. A stuffed bird, a robin redbreast, perched on a frosted tree in the midst of these pale tropical offerings, glared at you with beady eyes. Antimacassars and other things of horror were in the room. Also a centre table upon which might have been found Cowper's poems, the Bible, Beecher's sermons, and an illustrated book about the Holy Land by some hardworking reverend. It was Aunt Jane's living-room; in it she had rocked and knitted for more than half a century. There were a few pictures on the wall, a crayon of her brother, a bank president with a shaved upper lip, a high, pious forehead, and in his eyes a stern expression of percentage. Over the dull white marble mantelpiece hung a huge mezzotint, of violent contrast in black and white, a picture whose subject had without doubt given it the place of honour in this old-fashioned, tasteless, homely, comfortable room. It bore for a title The Fall of Nineveh, and it was designed and mezzotinted by John Martin.

Let us look at this picture. It depicts the downfall of the great city upon which the wrath of God is visited. There are ghastly gleams of lightning above the doomed vicinity. A fierce tempest is in progress as the invading hosts break down the great waterways and enter dry-shod into the vast and immemorial temples and palaces. The tragedy, the human quality of the design, is summed up by the agitated groups in the foreground; the king, surrounded by his harem, makes a gesture of despair; the women, with loose-flowing draperies, surround him like frightened swans. A high priest raises his hand to the stormy heavens, upon which he is evidently invoking as stormy maledictions. A warrior swings his blade; to his neck clings a fair helpless one, half nude. There are other groups. Men in armour rush to meet the foe in futile agitation. On temple tops, on marble terraces and balconies, on the efflorescent capitals of vast columns that pierce the sky, swarms affrighted humanity. The impression is grandiose and terrific. Exotic architecture, ebon night, an event that has echoed down the dusty corridors of legend or history-these and a hundred other details are enclosed within the frame of this composition. Another picture which hangs hard by, the Destruction of Jerusalem, after Kaulbach, is colourless in comparison. The Englishman had greater imagination than the German, though he lacked the latter's anatomical science. To-day in the Pinakothek, Munich, Kaulbach holds a place of honour. You may search in vain at the London National Gallery for the paintings of a man who once was on the crest of popularity in England, whose Biblical subjects attracted multitudes, whose mezzotints and engravings were sold wherever the English Bible was read. John Martin, painter, mezzotinter, man of gorgeous imagination, second to De Quincey or the author of Vathek, is to-day more forgotten than Beckford himself.

Heinrich Heine in his essay, The Romantic School, said that "the history of literature is a great morgue, wherein each seeks the dead who are near or dear to him." Into what morgue fell John Martin before his death? How account for the violent changes in popular taste? Martin suffered from too great early success. The star of Turner was in the ascendant. John Ruskin denied merit to the mezzotinter, and so it is to-day that if you go to our print-shops you will seldom find one of his big or little plates. He has gone out of fashion-fatal phrase!-and only in the cabinets of old collectors can you get a peep at his archaic and astounding productions. William Blake is in vogue; perhaps Martin-? And then those who have garnered his plates will reap a harvest.

Facts concerning him or his work are slight. Bryan's dictionary accords him a few paragraphs. When at the British Museum, a few years ago, I asked Mr. Sidney Colvin about the Martins in his print-room. There are not many, not so many as in a certain private collection here. But Mr. Colvin told me of the article written by Cosmo Monkhouse in the Dictionary of National Biography, and from it we are enabled to present a few items about the man's career. He was born at Hayden Bridge, near Hexham, Northumberland, July 19, 1789. His father, Fenwick Martin, a fencing-master, held classes at the Chancellor's Head, Newcastle. His brothers, Jonathan (1782-1838) and William (1772-1851), have some claim on our notice, for the first was an insane prophet and incendiary, having set fire to York Minster in 1829; William was a natural philosopher and poet who published many works to prove the theory of perpetual motion. "After having convinced himself by means of thirty-six experiments of the impossibility of demonstrating it scientifically, it was revealed to him in a dream that God had chosen him to discover the great cause of all things, and this he made the subject of many works" (Jasnot, Vérités positives, 1854). Verily, as Lombroso hath it, "A hundred fanatics are found for a theological or metaphysical statement, but not one for a geometric problem."

The Martin stock was, without doubt, neurasthenic. John was apprenticed when fourteen to Wilson, a Newcastle coach painter, but ran away after a dispute over wages. He met Bonifacio Musso, an Italian china painter, and in 1806 went with him to London. There he supported himself painting china and glass while he studied perspective and architecture. At nineteen he married and in 1812 lived in High Street, Marylebone, and from there sent to the Academy his first picture, Sadak in Search of the Waters of Oblivion (from Tales of the Genii). The figure of Sadak was so small that the framers disputed as to the top of the picture. It sold to Mr. Manning for fifty guineas. Benjamin West, president of the Royal Academy, encouraged Martin, and next year he painted Adam's First Sight of Eve, which he sold for seventy guineas. In 1814 his Clytis was shown in an ante-room of the exhibition, and he bitterly complained of his treatment. Joshua, in 1816, was as indifferently hung, and he never forgave the Academy the insult, though he did not withdraw from its annual functions. In 1817 he was appointed historical painter to Princess Charlotte and Prince Leopold. He etched about this time Character of Trees (seven plates) and the Bard at the Academy. In 1818 he removed to Allsop Terrace, New (Marylebone road). In 1819 came The Fall of Babylon, Macbeth (1820), Belshazzar's Feast (1821), which, "excluded" from the Academy, yet won the £200 prize. A poem by T.S. Hughes started Martin on this picture. It was a national success and was exhibited in the Strand behind a glass transparency. It went the round of the provinces and large cities and attracted thousands. Martin joined the Society of British Artists at its foundation and exhibited with them from 1824 to 1831, and also in 1837 and 1838, after which he sent his important pictures to the Royal Academy.

In 1833 The Fall of Nineveh went to Brussels, where it was bought by the Government. Martin was elected member of the Belgian Academy and the Order of Leopold was conferred on him. His old quarrels with the Academy broke out in 1836, and he testified before a committee as to favouritism. Then followed The Death of Moses, The Deluge, The Eve of the Deluge, The Assuaging of the Waters, Pandemonium. He painted landscapes and water-colours, scenes on the Thames, Brent, Wandle, Wey, Stillingbourne, and the hills and eminences about London. About this time he began scheming for a method of supplying London with water and one that would improve the docks and sewers. He engraved many of his own works, Belshazzar, Joshua, Nineveh, Fall of Babylon. The first two named, with The Deluge, were presented by the French Academy to Louis Philippe, for which courtesy a medal was struck off in Martin's honour. The Ascent of Elijah, Christ Tempted in the Wilderness, and Martin's illustrations (with Westall's) to Milton's Paradise Lost were all completed at this period. For the latter Martin received £2,000. He removed to Lindsey House, Chelsea, in 1848 or 1849, and was living there in 1852, when he sent to the Academy his last contribution, Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. November 12, 1853, while engaged upon his last large canvases, The Last Judgment, The Great Day of Wrath, and The Plains of Heaven, he was paralysed on his right side. He was removed to the Isle of Man, and obstinately refusing proper nourishment, died at Douglas February 17, 1854. After his death three pictures, scenes from the Apocalypse, were exhibited at the Hall of Commerce. His portrait by Wangemann appeared in the Magazine of Fine Arts. A second son, Leopold Charles, writer, and godson of Leopold, King of Belgium, was an authority on costumes and numismatics (1817-89). His wife was a sister of Sir John Tenniel of Punch.

John Martin was slightly cracked; at least he was so considered by his contemporaries. He was easily affronted, yet he was a very generous man. He bought Etty's picture, The Combat, in 1825 for two or three hundred guineas. There are at the South Kensington Museum three Martins, watercolours, and one oil; at Newcastle, an oil. At the time of his decease his principal works were in the collections of Lord de Tabley, Dukes of Buckingham and Sutherland, Messrs. Hope and Scarisbruck, Earl Grey and Prince Albert. The Leyland family of Nantchvyd, North Wales, owns the Joshua and several typical works of Martin. Wilkie, in a letter to Sir George Beaumont, describes Belshazzar's Feast as a "phenomenon." Bulwer declared that Martin was "more original and self-dependent than Raphael or Michael Angelo." In the Last Essays of Elia there is one by Charles Lamb entitled Barrenness of the Imaginative Faculty in the Production of Modern Art. The name of Martin is not mentioned, but several of his works are unmistakably described. "His towered architecture [Lamb is writing of Belshazzar's Feast] are of the highest order of the material sublime. Whether they were dreams or transcripts of some elder workmanship-Assyrian ruins old-restored by this mighty artist, they satisfy our most stretched and craving conceptions of the glories of the antique world. It is a pity that they were ever peopled." "Literary" art critic as he was, Lamb put his finger on Martin's weakest spot-his figure painting. The entire essay should be read, for it contains a study of the Joshua in which this most delicious of English prose writers speaks of the "wise falsifications" of the great masters. Before his death the critics, tiring of him sooner than the public, called Martin tricky, meretricious, mechanical. To be sure, his drawing is faulty, his colour hot and smoky; nevertheless, he was not a charlatan. As David Wilkie wrote: "Weak in all these points in which he can be compared to other artists," he had the compensating quality of an imposing, if at times operatic, imagination. Monkhouse justly says that in Martin's illustrations to Milton the smallness of scale and absence of colour enable us to appreciate the grandeur of his conceptions with a minimum of his defects.

In sooth he lacked variety. His pictures are sooty and apocalyptic. We have seen the Mountain Landscape, at South Kensington, The Destruction of Herculaneum, at Manchester, another at Newcastle whose subject escapes us, and we confess that we prefer the mezzotints of Martin, particularly those engraved by Le Keux-whose fine line and keen sense of balance corrected the incoherence of Martin's too blackened shadows and harsh explosions of whites. One looks in vain for the velvety tone of Earlom, or the vivid freshness of Valentine Green, in Martin. He was not a colourist; his mastery consisted in transferring to his huge cartoons a sense of the awful, of the catastrophic. He excelled in the delineation of massive architecture, and if Piranesi was his superior in exactitude, he equalled the Italian in majesty and fantasy of design. No such cataclysmic pictures were ever before painted, nor since, though Gustave Doré, who without doubt made a study of Martin, has incorporated in his Biblical illustrations many of Martin's overwhelming ideas-the Deluge, for example. James Ensor, the Belgian illustrator, is an artist of fecund fancy who, alone among the new men, has betrayed a feeling for the strange architecture, dream architecture, we encounter in Martin. Coleridge in Kubla Khan, De Quincey in opium reveries, Poe and Baudelaire are among the writers who seem nearest to the English mezzotinter. William Beckford's Vathek, that most Oriental of tales, first written in French by a millionaire of genius, should have inspired Martin. Perhaps its mad fantasy did, for all we know-there is no authentic compilation of his compositions. Heine has spoken of Martin, as has Théophile Gautier; and his name, by some kink of destiny, is best known to the present generation because of Macaulay's mention of it in an essay.

The Vale of Tempe is one of Martin's larger plates seldom seen in the collector's catalogue. We have viewed it and other rare prints in the choice collection referred to already. Satan holding council, after Milton, is a striking conception. The Prince of Eblis sits on a vast globe of ebony. About him are tier upon tier of faces, the faces of devils. Infernal chandeliers depend from remote ceilings. Light gashes the globe and the face and figure of Satan; both are of supernal beauty. Could this mezzotint, so small in size, so vast in its shadowy suggestiveness, have stirred Baudelaire to lines that shine with a metallic poisonous lustre?

And there is that tiny mezzotint in which we find ourselves at the base of a rude little hill. The shock of the quaking earth, the silent passing of the sheeted dead and the rush of the affrighted multitudes tell us that a cosmic tragedy is at hand. In a flare of lightning we see silhouetted against an angry sky three crosses at the top of a sad little hill. It is a crucifixion infinitely more real, more intense than Doré's. Another scene-also engraved by Le Keux: On a stony platform, vast and crowded, the people kneel in sackcloth and ashes; the heavens thunder over the weeping millions of Nineveh, and the Lord of Hosts will not be appeased. Stretching to the clouds are black basaltic battlements, and above rear white-terraced palaces as swans that strain their throats to the sky. The mighty East is in penitence. Or, Elijah is rapt to heaven in a fiery whirlwind; or God creates light. This latter is one of the most extraordinary conceptions of a great visionary and worthy of William Blake. Or Sadak searching for the waters of oblivion. Alas, poor humanity! is here the allegory. A man, a midget amid the terrifying altitudes of barren stone, lifts himself painfully over a ledge of rock. Above him are vertiginous heights; below him, deadly precipices. Nothing helps him but himself-a page torn from Max Stirner is this parable. Light streams upon the struggling egoist as he toils to the summit of consciousness. Among the designs of nineteenth-century artists we can recall none so touching, so powerful, so modern as this picture. Martin was not equally successful in portraying celestial episodes, though his paradises are enormous panoramas replete with architectural beauties. His figures, as exemplified in Miltonic illustrations, are more conventional than Fuseli's and never naively original as are Blake's. Indeed, of Blake's mystic poetry and divination Martin betrays no trace. He is not so much the seer as the inventor of infernal harmonies. Satan reviewing his army of devils is truly magnificent in its depiction of the serried host armed for battle; behind glistens burning Tophet in all its smoky splendour. Satan in shining armour must be a thousand feet high; he is sadly out of scale. So, too, in the quarrel of Michael and Satan over the sleeping Adam and Eve. Blake is here recalled in the rhythms of the monstrous figures. Bathos is in the design of Lucifer swimming in deepest hell upon waves of fire and filth; yet the lugubrious arches of the caverns in the perspective reveal Blake's fantasy, so quick to respond to external stimuli. Martin saw the earth as in an apocalyptic swoon, its forms distorted, its meanings inverted; a mad world, the world of an older theogony. But if there was little human in his visions, he is enormously impersonal; if he assailed heaven's gates on wings of melting wax, or dived deep into the pool of iniquity, he none the less caught glimpses in his breathless flights of strange countries across whose sill no human being ever passes. There is genuine hallucination. He must have seen his ghosts so often that in the end they petrified him, as did the Statue Don Giovanni. Martin was a species of reversed Turner. He spied the good that was in evil, the beauty in bituminous blacks. He is the painter of black music, the deifier of Beelzebub, and also one who caught the surge and thunder of the Old Testament, its majesty and its savagery. As an illustrator of sacred history, the world may one day return to John Martin.


Anders Zorn-what's in a name? Possibly the learned and amiable father of Tristram Shandy or that formidable pedant Professor Slawkenbergius might find much to arouse his interest in the patronymic of the great Swedish painter and etcher. What Zorn means in his native tongue we do not profess to know; but in German it signifies anger, wrath, rage. Now, the Zorn in life is not an enraged person-unless some lady sitter asks him to paint her as she is not. He is, as all will testify who have met him, a man of rare personal charm and sprightly humour. He, it may be added, calls yellow yellow, and he never paints a policeman like a poet. In a word, a man of robust, normal vision, a realist and an artist. False realism with its hectic, Zola-like romanticism is distasteful to Zorn. He is near Degas among the Frenchmen and Zuloaga among the new Spaniards; near them in a certain forthright quality of depicting life, though unlike them in technical and individual methods.

Yes, Zorn, that crisp, bold, short name, which begins with a letter that abruptly cuts both eye and ear, quite fits the painter's personality, fits his art. He is often ironic. Some fanciful theorist has said that the letters Z and K are important factors in the career of the men who possess them in their names. Camille Saint-Sa?ns has spoken of Franz Liszt and his lucky letter. It is a very pretty idea, especially when one stakes on zero at Monte Carlo; but no doubt Anders Zorn would be the first to laugh the idea out of doors.

We recall an exhibition a few years ago at Venice in the art gallery of the Giardino Reale. Zorn had a place of honour among the boiling and bubbling Secessionists; indeed, his work filled a large room. And what work! Such a giant's revel of energy. Such landscapes, riotous, sinister, and lovely. Such women! Here we pause for breath. Zorn's conception of womanhood has given offence to many idealists, who do not realise that once upon a time our forebears were furry and indulged in arboreal habits. Zorn can paint a lady; he has signed many gentle and aristocratic canvases.

But Zorn is also too sincere not to paint what he sees. Some of his models are of the earth, earthy; others step toward you with the candid majesty of a Brunhilda, naked, unashamed, and regal. They are all vital. We recall, too, the expressions, shocked, amazed, even dazed, of some American art students who, fresh from their golden Venetian dreams, faced the uncompromising pictures of a man who had faced the everyday life of his day. For these belated visionaries, whose ideal in art is to painfully imitate Giorgione, Titian, or Tiepolo, this modern, with his rude assault upon the nerves, must seem a very iconoclast. Yet Zorn only attempts to reproduce the life encircling him. He is a child of his age. He, too, has a perception of beauty, but it is the beauty that may be found by the artist with an ardent, unspoiled gaze, the curious, disquieting beauty of our time. Whistler saw it in old Venetian doorways as well as down Chelsea way or at Rotherhithe. Zorn sees it in some corner of a wood, in some sudden flex of muscle or intimate firelit interior. And he loves to depict the glistening curves of his big model as she stands in the sunlight, a solid reproach to physical and moral an?mia. A pagan, by Apollo!

As an etcher the delicacy of his sheathed lion's paw is the principal quality that meets the eye, notwithstanding the broad execution. Etching is essentially an impressionistic art. Zorn is an impressionist among etchers. He seems to attack his plate not with the finesse of a meticulous fencing-master but like a Viking, with a broad Berserker blade. He hews, he hacks, he gashes. There is blood in his veins, and he does not spare the ink. But examine closely these little prints-some of them miracles of printing-and you may discern their delicate sureness, subtlety, and economy of gesture. Fitzroy Carrington quotes the Parisian critic Henri Marcel, who among other things wrote of the Zorn etchings: "Let us only say that these etchings-paradoxical in their coarseness of means and fineness of effect-manifest the master at his best."

Coarseness of means and fineness of effect-the phrase is a happy one. Coarse is sometimes the needle-work of Zorn, but the end justifies the means. He is often cruel, more cruel than Sargent. His portraits prove it. He has etched all his friends, some of whom must have felt honoured and amused-or else offended. The late Paul Verlaine, for example, would not have been pleased with the story of his life as etched by the Swede. It is as biting a commentary-one is tempted to say as acid-as a page from Strindberg. Yes, without a touch of Strindberg's mad fantasy, Zorn is kin to him in his ironic, witty way of saying things about his friends and in front of their faces. Consider that large plate of Renan. Has any one so told the truth concerning the ex-seminarian, casuist, and marvellous prose

writer of France? The large, loosely modelled head with its fleshy curves, its super-subtle mouth of orator, the gaze veiled, the bland, pontifical expression, the expression of the man who spoke of "the mania of certitude"-here is Ernest Renan, voluptuous disdainer of democracies, and planner of a phalanstery of superior men years before Nietzsche's superman appeared. Zorn in no unkindly spirit shows us the thinker; also the author of L'Abbesse de Jouarre. It is something, is it not, to evoke with needle, acid, paper, and ink the dualism of such a brain and temperament as was Renan's?

He is not flattering to himself, Zorn. The Henry G. Marquand, two impressions, leaves one rather sad. An Irish girl, Annie, is superb in its suggestion of form and colour. Saint-Gaudens and his model is excellent; we prefer the portrait. The Evening Girl Bathing is rare in treatment-simple, restrained, vital. She has turned her back, and we are grateful, for it is a beautiful back. The landscape is as evanescent as Whistler, the printing is in a delicate key. The Berlin Gallery contains a Zorn, a portrait striking in its reality. It represents Miss Maja von Heyne wearing a collar of skins. She could represent the Maja of Ibsen's epilogue, When We Dreamers Awake; Maja, the companion of the bear hunter, Ulfheim. As etched, we miss the massiveness, the rich, vivid colour, yet it is a plate of distinction.

Among his portraits are the Hon. Daniel S. Lamont, Senator "Billy" Mason, the Hon. John Hay, Mr. and Mrs. Atherton Curtis, and several big-wigs of several nations. An oil-painting is an impressionistic affair, showing some overblown girls dressing after their bath. The sun flecks their shoulders, but otherwise seems rather inclined to retire modestly. Evidently not the midnight sun.

We have barely indicated the beauties in which the virile spirit of Anders Zorn comes out at you from the wall-a healthy, large-hearted, girted Swede is this man with the Z.


The name of Frank Brangwyn may fall upon unresponsive ears; yet he has a Continental reputation and is easily the foremost English impressionist. New York has seen but little of his work; if we mistake not, there was a large piece of his, a Gipsy Tinker in the open air, hung several seasons ago at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Mr. Kennedy shows extraordinary etchings of his at the Wunderlich Galleries. We call them extraordinary not alone because of their size, but also because Brangwyn is practically the first among latter-day artists to apply boldly to etching the methods of the impressionists. Etching in its essential nature is an impressionistic art. We do not mean to assert that Brangwyn uses the dot or dash or broken dabs in his plates, for the very good reason that he is working in black and white; nevertheless a glance at his plates will show you a new way of conquering old prejudices. Whistler it was who railed at large etchings. He was not far wrong. In the hands of the majority of etchers a large plate is an abomination, diffused in interest, coarse of line; but Brangwyn is not to be considered among this majority. He is a big fellow in everything. Besides, Whistler was using the familiar argument, pro doma sua. The same may be said of Poe, who simply would not hear of a long poem (shades of Milton!) or of Chopin, who lost his way in the sonata form, though coming out in the gorgeous tropical land, the thither side of sonatas and other tonal animals.

Because Catullus and Sappho did not write epics that is no reason why Dante should not. It is the old story of the tailless fox. Brangwyn as well as Anders Zorn has been called a rough-and-ready artist. For exquisite tone and pattern we must go to Whistler and his school. Brangwyn is never exquisite, though he is often poetic, even epical. Look at that Bridge, Barnard Castle. It is noble in outline, lovely in atmosphere. Or at the Old Hammersmith-"swell," as the artist slang goes. The Mine is in feeling and mass Rembrandtish; and as we have used the name of the great Dutchman we may as well admit that to him, despite a world of difference, Brangwyn owes much. He has the sense of mass. What could be more tangibly massive than the plate called Breaking Up of the Hannibal? Here is a theme which Turner in The Fighting Téméraire made truly poetic, and Seymour Haden in his Agamemnon preserved more than a moiety of sentiment, not to mention the technical prowess displayed; but in the hulk of this ugly old vessel of Brangwyn's there is no beauty. However, it is hugely impressive. His landscapes are not too seldom hell-scapes.

The Inn of the Parrot is quaint with its reversed lettering. The Road to Montreuil is warm in colour and finely handled. How many have realised the charm of the rear view of Santa Maria Salute? It is one of the most interesting of Brangwyn's Venetian etchings. His vision of Saint Sophia, Constantinople, has the mystic quality we find in the Dutchman Bauer's plates. A Church at Montreuil attracts the eye; London Bridge is positively dramatic; the Old Kew Bridge has delicacy; the Sawyers with their burly figures loom up monstrously; the Building of the New Victoria and Albert Museum, South Kensington, recalls, as treated by the impressionistic brush of Brangwyn (for the needle seems transformed into a paint-loaded spike), one of H.G. Wells's terrific socialistic structures of the year 2009. Remember that Brangwyn is primarily a painter, an impressionist. He sees largely. His dream of the visible world (and like Sorolla, it is never the world invisible with him) is one of patches and masses, of luminous shadows, of animated rhythms, of rich arabesques. He is sib to the Scotch. His father is said to have been a Scottish weaver who settled in Bruges. Frank saw much of the world before settling in London. He was born at Bruges, 1867. The Golden Book of Art describes him as a one-time disciple of William Morris. He has manufactured glass, furniture, wall-paper, pottery. His curiosity is insatiable. He is a mural decorator who in a frenzy could cover miles of space if some kind civic corporation would but provide the walls. As the writer of the graceful preface to the Wunderlich catalogue has it: "He gets the character of his theme. His art is itself full of character." Temperament, overflowing, passionate, and irresistible, is his key-note. In music he might have been a Fritz Delius, a Richard Strauss. He is an eclectic. He knows all schools, all methods. He is Spanish in his fierce relish of the open air, of the sights-and we almost said sounds-of many lands, but the Belgian strain, the touch of the mystic and morose, creeps into his work. We have caught it more in his oils than etchings. It is not singular, then, that his small etched plates do not hold the eye; they lack magnetic quality. It is the Titan, rude and raging, dashing ink over an acre of white paper, that rivets you. The stock attitudes and gestures he does not give you; and it is doubtful if he will have an audience soon in America, where the sleek is king and prettiness is exalted over power.


Mr. Frank Weitenkampf, the curator of the Lenox Library print department, shows nineteen portfolios which hold about seven hundred lithographs by Honoré Daumier. This collection is a bequest of the late Mr. Lawrence, and we doubt if the Bibliothèque Nationale at Paris surpasses it; that is, in the number of detached examples. There the works of the great artist are imbedded in the various publications for which he laboured so many years-such at La Caricature, Les Beaux Arts, L'Artiste, Les Modes Parisiennes, La Gazette Musicale, Le Boulevard, and Masques et Visages. The Lawrence lithographs are representatives, though not complete; the catalogue compiled by Loys Delteil comprises 3,958 plates; the paintings and drawings are also numerous. But an admirable idea of Daumier's versatile genius may be gleaned at the Lenox Library, as all the celebrated series are there: Paris Bohemians, the Blue Stockings, the Railways, La Caricature, Croquis d'Expressions, Emotions Parisiennes, Actualités, Les Baigneurs, Pastorales, Moeurs Conjugales, the Don Quixote plates, Silhouettes, Souvenirs d'Artistes, Types Parisiens, the Advocates and Judges, and a goodly number of the miscellanies. Altogether an adequate exhibition.

Honoré Daumier, who died February 11, 1879, was almost the last of the giants of 1830, though he outlived many of them. Not affiliated with the Barbizon group-though he was a romantic in his hatred of the bourgeois-several of these painters were intimate friends; indeed, Corot was his benefactor, making him a present of a cottage at Valmondois (Seine-et-Oise), where the illustrator died. He was blind and lonely at the end. Corot died 1875; Daubigny, his companion, 1878; Millet, 1875, and Rousseau, with whom he corresponded, died 1867. In 1879 Flaubert still lived, working heroically upon that monument of human inanity, Bouvard et Pécuchet; Maupassant, his disciple, had just published a volume of verse; Manet was regarded as a dangerous charlatan, Monet looked on as a madman; while poor Cézanne was only a bad joke. The indurated critical judgment of the academic forces pronounced Bonnat a greater portraitist than Velasquez, and Gér?me and his mock antiques and mock orientalism far superior to Fromentin and Chasseriau. It was a glorious epoch for mediocrity. And Daumier, in whom there was something of Michael Angelo and Courbet, was admired only as a clever caricaturist, the significance of his paintings escaping all except a few. Corot knew, Daubigny knew, as earlier Delacroix knew; and Balzac had said: "There is something of the Michael Angelo in this man!"

Baudelaire, whose critical flair never failed him, wrote in his Curiosités Esthétiques: "Daumier's distinguishing note as an artist is his certainty. His drawing is fluent and easy; it is a continuous improvisation. His powers of observation are such that in his work we never find a single head that is out of character with the figure beneath it. … Here, in these animalised faces, may be seen and read clearly all the meannesses of soul, all the absurdities, all the aberrations of intelligence, all the vices of the heart; yet at the same time all is broadly drawn and accentuated." Nevertheless one must not look at too many of these caricatures. At first the Rabelaisian side of the man appeals; presently his bitterness becomes too acrid. Humanity is silly, repulsive; it is goat, pig, snake, monkey, and tiger; but there is something else. Daumier would see several sides. His pessimism, like Flaubert's, is deadly, but at times reaches the pitch of the heroic. He could have echoed Flaubert's famous sentence: "The ignoble is the sublime of the lower slope." Yet what wit, what humour, what humanity in Daumier! His Don Quixote and Sancho Panza are worth a wilderness of Dorés. And the Good Samaritan or The Drinkers. The latter is as jovial as Steen or Hals.

A story went the rounds after his death which neatly illustrates his lack of worldliness. His modesty was proverbial, and once Daubigny, on introducing him to an American picture dealer, warned him not to ask less than five thousand francs for the first picture he sold to the man. The American went to Daumier's atelier, and seeing a picture on the easel, asked, "How much?" The artist, remembering Daubigny's warning, answered, "Five thousand francs." The dealer immediately bought it, and on demanding to see something else, Daumier put another canvas on the easel, far superior to the one sold. The Yankee again asked the price. The poor artist was perplexed. He had received no instructions from Daubigny regarding a second sale; so when the question was repeated he hesitated, and his timidity getting the better of him, he replied: "Five hundred francs." "Don't want it; wouldn't take it as a gift," said the dealer. "I like the other better. Besides, I never sell any but expensive pictures," and he went away satisfied that a man who sold so cheaply was not much of an artist. This anecdote, which we heard second hand from Daubigny, may be a fable, yet it never failed to send Daubigny into fits of laughter. It may be surmised that, despite his herculean labours, extending over more than half a century, Daumier never knew how to make or save money.

He was born at Marseilles in 1808. His father was a third-rate poet who, suspecting his own gift, doubted the talent of his son, though this talent was both precocious and prodigious. The usual thing happened. Daumier would stick at nothing but his drawing; the attempt to force him into law studies only made him hate the law and lawyers and that hatred he never ceased to vent in his caricatures. He knocked about until he learned in 1829 the technics of lithography; then he soon became self-supporting. His progress was rapid. He illustrated for the Boulevard journals; he caricatured Louis Philippe and was sent to jail, Sainte-Pélagie, for six months. Many years afterward he attacked with a like ferocity Napoleon III.

Look at his frontispiece-rather an advertisement-of Victor Hugo's Les Chatiments. It is as sinister, as malign as a Rops. The big book, title displayed, crushes to earth a vulture which is a travesty of the Napoleonic beak. Daumier was a power in Paris. Albert Wolff, the critic of Figaro, tells how he earned five francs each time he provided a text for a caricature by Daumier, and Philipon, who founded several journals, actually claimed a share in Daumier's success because he wrote some of the silly dialogues to his plates.

Daumier was the artistic progenitor of the Caran d'Aches, the Forains-who was it that called Forain "Degas en caricature"?-Willettes, and Toulouse-de-Lautrecs. He was a political pamphleteer, a scourger of public scamps, and a pictorial muck-raker of genius. His mockery of the classic in art was later paralleled by Offenbach in La Belle Hélène. But there were other sides to his genius. Tiring of the hurly-burly of journalism, he retired in 1860 to devote himself to painting.

His style has been pronounced akin to that of Eugène Carrière; his sense of values on a par with Goya's and Rembrandt's (that Shop Window of his in the Durand-Ruel collection is truly Rembrandtesque). This feeling for values was so remarkable that it enabled him to produce an impression with three or four tones. The colours he preferred were grays, browns, and he manipulated his blacks like a master. Mauclair does not hesitate to put Daumier among the great painters of the past century on the score of his small canvases. "They contain all his gifts of bitter and profound observation, all the mastery of his drawings, to which they add the attractions of rich and intense colour," declares Mauclair. Doubtless he was affected by the influence of Henri Monnier, but Daumier really comes from no one. He belongs to the fierce tribe of synics and men of exuberant powers, like Goya and Courbet. A born anarch of art, he submitted to no yoke. He would have said with Anacharsis Cloots: "I belong to the party of indignation." He was a proud individualist. That he had a tender side, a talent for friendship, may be noted in the affectionate intercourse he maintained for years with Corot, Millet, Rousseau, Dupré, Geoffroy, the sculptor Pascal, and others. He was very impulsive and had a good heart with all his misanthropy, for he was an idealist reversed. The etching of him by Loys Delteil is thus described by a sympathetic commentator: "Daumier was very broad-shouldered, his head rather big, with slightly sunken eyes, which must, however, have had an extraordinary power of penetration. Though the nose is a little heavy and inelegant, the projecting forehead, unusually massive like that of Victor Hugo or of Beethoven and barred with a determined furrow, reveals the great thinker, the man of lofty and noble aspirations. The rather long hair, thrown backward, adds to the expression of the fine head; and finally the beard worn collarwise, according to the prevailing fashion, gives to Daumier's face the distinctive mark of his period." This etched portrait may be seen in several states at the Lenox Library.


How heavily personality counts in etching may be noted in the etched work of Maxime Lalanne which is at the Keppel Galleries. This skilful artist, so deft with his needle, so ingenious in fancy, escapes great distinction by a hair's breadth. He is without that salt of individuality that is so attractive in Whistler. Of him Hamerton wrote: "No one ever etched so gracefully as Maxime Lalanne; … he is essentially a true etcher… 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." This is very amiable, and Joseph Pennell is quite as favourable in his judgment. "His ability," wrote Mr. Pennell in Pen Drawing and Pen Draughtsmen, "to express a great building, a vast town, or a delicate little landscape has never been equalled, I think, by anybody but Whistler." Mr. Pennell modestly omits his own name; but the truth is that Pennell is as excellent if not more individual a draughtsman as Lalanne, and when it comes to vision, to invention, and to the manipulation of the metal he is the superior of the Frenchman. The American etcher rates Lalanne's lines above Titian's. Whistler and Titian would be big companions indeed for the clever-mannered and rather pedantic Lalanne.

Let us admit without balking at Hamerton that his line is graceful. He belongs to the old-fashioned school which did not dream, much less approve, of modern tonal effects in their plates. A Lalanne etching is as clean and vivid as a photograph (not an "art" photograph). It is also as hard. Atmosphere, in the material as well as the poetic sense, is missing. His skies are disappointing. Those curly-cue clouds are meaningless, and the artist succeeds better when he leaves a blank. At least some can fill it with the imagination. Another grave defect is the absence of modulation in his treatment of a landscape and its linear perspective. Everything seems to be on the same plane of interest, nor does he vary the values of his blacks-in foreground, middle distance, and the upper planes the inking is often in the same violent key. Such a capital plate, for example, which depicts a fire in the port of Bordeaux is actually untrue in its values. Dramatic in feeling and not without a note here and there of Rembrandt, this particular composition fails, just fails to hit the bull's-eye.

After all, we must judge a man in his genre, as Keppel père puts it. Maxime Lalanne's style is that of a vanished generation in etching. He was a contemporary of Meryon, but that unhappy man of genius taught him nothing. Born at Bordeaux in 1827, Lalanne died in 1886. He was a pupil of Jean Gigoux (1806-94), a painter whose gossipy souvenirs (1885) pleased Paris and still please the curious. (Gigoux it was who remained in Balzac's house when the novelist died; though he was not visiting the master of the house.) From this painter Lalanne evidently imbibed certain theories of his art which he set forth in his Treatise on Etching (1866).

Strangely enough, illustrator as he was, his transpositions into black and white of subjects by Troyon, Ruysdael, Crome, Constable, and many others are not so striking either in actual technique or individual grasp as his original pieces. Constable, for instance, is thin, diffuse, and without richness. Mezzotinted by the hands of such a man as Lucas, we recognise the real medium for translating the English painter. A master of the limpid line, Lalanne shows you a huddled bit of Amsterdam or a distant view of Bordeaux, or that delicious prospect taken on a spot somewhere below the Pont Saint-Michel, with the Pont Neuf and the Louvre in the background. He had a feeling for those formal gardens which have captured within their enclosure a moiety of nature's unstudied ease. The plate called Aux Environs de Paris reveals this. And what slightly melancholy tenderness there is in Le Canal à Pont Sainte-Maxence. There are several states of the "Villers" etching, an attractive land and seascape, marred, however, by the clumsy sameness of the blacks in the foreground.

Without possessing Meryon's grim power in the presentation of old Paris streets and tumble-down houses, Lalanne has achieved several remarkable plates of this order. One is his well-known Rue des Marmousets. This street is almost as repellent-looking as Rue Mouffetard at its worst period. Ancient and sinister, its reputation was not enticing. In it once dwelt a pastry cook who, taking his crony the barber into his confidence, literally made mince-meat of a stranger and sold the pies to the neighbours.

Messire Jacques du Breul, in his Le Théatre des Antiquités de Paris (1612), remarks, not without critical unction, in his quaint French: "De la chair d'icelui faisit des pastez qui se trouvoient meilleurs que les aultres, d'autant que la chair de l'homme est plus délicate à cause de la nourriture que celle des aultres animaux." Every one to his taste, as the old politician said when he kissed the donkey. When you study the Lalanne etching of this gruesome alley you almost expect to see at the corner Anatole France's famous cook-shop with its delectable odours and fascinating company.

The scenes of Thames water-side, Nogent, Houlgate Beach, at Richmond, or at Cusset are very attractive. His larger plates are not convincing, the composition does not hang together; the eye vainly seeks focussing centres of interest. Beraldi was right when he said that Lalanne has not left one surpassing plate, one of which the world can say: There is a masterpiece! Yet is Maxime Lalanne among the Little Masters of characteristic etching. His appeal is popular, he is easily comprehended of the people.


The etched work of the brilliant Frenchman Louis Legrand is at last beginning to be appreciated in this country. French etchings, unless by painter-etchers, have never been very popular with us. We admire Meryon and Helleu's drypoints, Bracquemond, Jacquemart; Félix Buhot has a following; Lalanne and Daubigny too; but in comparison with the demand for Rembrandt, Whistler, Seymour Haden, or Zorn the Paris men are not in the lead. There is Rops, for example, whose etchings may be compared to Meryon's; yet who except a few amateurs seeks Rops? Louis Legrand is now about forty-five, at the crest of his career, a versatile, spontaneous artist who is equally happy with pigments or the needle. His pastels are much sought, but his dry-points have gained for him celebrity. Though a born colourist, the primary gift of the man is his draughtsmanship. His designs, swift and supple notations of the life around him, delight the eye by reason of their personal touch and because of the intensely human feeling that he infuses into every plate. Legrand was one of the few pupils of Félicien Rops, and technically he has learned much of his master; but his way of viewing men and women and life is different from that of the Belgian genius. He has irony and wit and humour-the two we seldom bracket-and he has pity also; he loves the humble and despised. His portraits of babies, the babies of the people, are captivating. Imagine a Rops who has some of Millet's boundless sympathy for his fellow-humans and you have approximately an understanding of Louis Legrand.

He is a native of Dijon, the city that gave birth to Bossuet, but Legrand is not that kind of Burgundian. Several critics pretend to see in his work the characteristics of his native C?te d'Or; that, however, may be simply a desire to frame the picture appropriately. Legrand might have hailed from the south, from Daudet's country; he is exuberant as he is astute. The chief thing is that he has abundant brains and in sheer craftsmanship fears few equals. Like Whistler, his principal preoccupation is to suppress all appearance of technical procedures. His method of work is said to be simplicity itself; obsessed by his very definite visions, he transfers them to the scratched plate with admirable celerity. Dry-point etching is his principal medium. With his needle he has etched Montmartre, its cabarets, its angels-in very earthly disguise-its orators, poets, and castaways, and its visiting tourists-"God's silly sheep." He has illustrated a volume of Edgar Poe's tales that displays a macabre imagination. His dancers are only second to those of Edgar Degas, and seen from an opposite side. His peasants, mothers, and children, above all, babies, reveal an eye that observes and a brain that can co-ordinate the results of this piercing vision. Withal, he is a poet who extracts his symbols from everyday life.

This is what Camille Mauclair said of him at the time of his début:

"An admirably skilful etcher, a draughtsman of keen vision, and a painter of curious character, who has in many ways forestalled the artists of to-day. Louis Legrand also shows to what extent Manet and Degas have revolutionised the art of illustration, in freeing the painters from obsolete laws and guiding them toward truth and frank psychological study. Legrand is full of them without resembling them. We must not forget that besides the technical innovation [division of tones, study of complementary colours] impressionism has brought us novelty of composition, realism of character, and great liberty in the choice of subjects. From this point of view Rops himself, in spite of his symbolist tendencies, could not be classed with any other group if it were not that any kind of classification in art is useless and inaccurate. However that may be, Louis Legrand has signed some volumes with the most seductive qualities."

Gustave Kahn, the symbolist poet who was introduced to the English reading world in one of the most eloquent pages of George Moore, thinks that Legrand is frankly a symbolist. We side with Mauclair in not trying to pin this etcher down to any particular formula. He is anything he happens to will at the moment, symbolist, poet, and also shockingly frank at times. Take the plate with a pun for a title, Le paing quotidien ("paing" is slang for "poing," a blow from the fist, and may also mean the daily bread). A masculine brute is with clinched fist about to give his unfortunate partner her daily drubbing. He is well dressed. His silk hat is shiny, his mustache curled in the true Adolphe fashion. His face is vile. The woman cries aloud and protects herself with her hands. In Marthe Baraquin, by Rosny senior, you will find the material for this picture, though Legrand found it years ago in the streets. Unpleasant, truly, yet a more potent sermon on man's cruelty to woman than may be found in a dozen preachments, fictions, or the excited outpourings at a feminist congress. Legrand presents the facts of the case without comment, except the irony-such dismal irony!-of the title. In this he is the true pupil of Rops.

However, he does not revel long among such dreary slices of life. The Poe illustrations are grotesque and shuddering, but after all make believe. The plate of The Black Cat piles horror on horror's head (literally, for the demon cat perches on the head of the corpse) and is, all said, pictorial melodrama. The Berenice illustration is, we confess, a little too much for the nerves, simply because in a masterly manner Legrand has exposed the most dreadful moment of the story (untold by Poe, who could be an artist in his tact of omission). The dental smile of the cataleptic Berenice as her necrophilic cousin bends over the coffin is a testimony to a needle that in this instance matches Goya's and Rops's in its evocation of the horrific. We turn with relief to the ballet-girl series. The impression gained from this album is that Legrand sympathises with, nay loves, his subject. Degas, the greater and more objective artist, nevertheless allows to sift through his lines an inextinguishable hatred of these girls who labour so long for so little; and Degas did hate them, as he hated all that was ugly in daily life, though he set forth this ugliness, this mediocrity, this hatred in terms of beautiful art. Legrand sees the ugliness, but he also sees the humanity of the ballateuse. She is a woman who is brought up to her profession with malice aforethought by her parents. These parents are usually noted for their cupidity. We need not read the witty history of the Cardinal family to discover this repellent fact. Legrand sketches the dancer from the moment when her mother brings her, a child, to undergo the ordeal of the first lesson.

The tender tot stands hesitating in the doorway; one hand while holding the door open seems to grasp it as the last barrier of defence that stands between her and the strange new world. She is attired in the classical figurante's costume. Behind, evidently pushing her forward, is the grim guardian, a bony, forbidding female. Although you do not see them, it is an easy feat to imagine the roomful of girls and dancing master all staring at the new-comer. The expression on the child's face betrays it; instinctively, like the generality of embarrassed little girls, her hand clasps her head. In less than a minute she will weep.

Another plate, L'ami des Danseuses, is charged with humanity. The violinist who plays for the ballet rehearsals sits resting, and facing him are two young dancers, also sitting, but stooping to relieve their strained spines and the tendons of their muscular legs. The old fellow is giving advice from the fulness of a life that has been not too easy. The girls are all attention. It is a genre bit of distinction. Upon the technical virtuosity in which this etcher excels we shall not dwell. Some of his single figures are marvels. The economy of line, the massing of lights and darks, the vitality he infuses into a woman who walks, a man who works in the fields, a child at its mother's breast, are not easily dealt with in a brief study. We prefer to note his more general qualities. His humour, whether in delineating a stupid soldier about to be exploited by camp followers, or in his Animales, is unforced. It can be Rabelaisian and it can be a record of simple animal life, as in the example with the above title. A cow stands on a grassy shore; near by a stolid peasant girl sits slicing bread and eating it. Cow and girl, grass and sky and water are woven into one natural pattern. The humour inheres in several sly touches. It is a comical Millet. Very Millet-like too is the large picture, Beau Soir, in which a field labourer bends over to kiss his wife, who has a child at her breast. A cow nuzzles her apron, the fourth member of this happy group. The Son of the Carpenter is another peasant study, but the transposition of the Holy Family to our century. A slight nimbus about the mother's head is the only indication that this is not a humble household somewhere in France. Maternal Joy, Mater Inviolata are specimens of a sane, lovely art which celebrate the joys, dolors, and exaltations of motherhood. We prefer this side of the art of Legrand to his studies of sinister jail-birds, hetairai, noctambules, high kickers, and private bars, the horrors of Parisian night life. Whatever he touches he vivifies. His leaping, audacious line is like the narrative prose of a Maupassant or a Joseph Conrad. Every stroke tells.

His symbolical pictures please us least. They doubtless signify no end of profound things, yet to us they seem both exotic and puerile. We go back to the tiny dancers, tired to sleepiness, who sit on a sofa waiting to be called. Poor babies! Or to the plate entitled Douleur. Or to the portraits of sweet English misses-as did Constantin Guys, Legrand has caught the precise English note-or any of the children pieces. If he knows the psychology of passion, knows the most intimate detail of the daily life of les filles, Legrand is master too of the psychology of child life. This will endear him to English and American lovers of art, though it is only one of his many endowments. His wit keeps him from extremes, though some of his plates are not for puritans; his vivid sympathies prevent him from falling into the sterile eccentricities of so many of his contemporaries; if he is cynical he is by the same taken soft-hearted. His superb handling of his material, with a synthetic vision superadded, sets apart Louis Legrand in a profession which to-day is filled with farceurs and fakers and with too few artists by the grace of God.


Practitioners of the noble art of illustration are, as we know, modest men, but no matter the degree of their modesty they are all distanced by the record in shyness still maintained by Constantin Guys. This artist was once a living protest against Goethe's assertion that only fools are modest, and the monument recently erected to his memory in Paris is provocation enough to bring him ferrying across the Styx to enter a disclaimer in the very teeth of his admirers. So set in his anonymity was he that Charles Baudelaire, his critical discoverer, was forced to write a long essay about his work and only refer to the artist as C.G. The poet relates that once when Thackeray spoke to Guys in a London newspaper office and congratulated him on his bold sketches in the Illustrated London News, the fiery little man resented the praise as an outrage. Nor was this humility a pose. His life long he was morbidly nervous, as was Meryon, as was Cézanne; but he was neither half mad, like the great etcher, nor a cenobite, as was the painter of Aix. Few have lived in the thick of life as did Guys. To employ the phrase of Turgenieff, life, like grass, grew over his head. In the Crimean camps, on the Parisian boulevards, in London parks, Guys strolled, crayon in hand, a true reporter of things seen and an ardent lover of horses, soldiers, pretty women, and the mob. Baudelaire called him the soldier-artist. He resembled in his restless wanderings Poe's man of the multitude, and at the end of a long life he still drew, as did Hokusai.

Who was he? Where did he receive his artistic training? Baudelaire did not tell, nor Théophile Gautier. He went through the Crimean campaign; he lived in the East, in London and Paris. Not so long ago the art critic Roger Marx, while stopping at Flushing, Holland, discovered his baptismal certificate, which reads thus: "Ernestus Adolphus Hyacinthus Constantinus Guys, born at Flushing December 3, 1805, of Elizabeth Bétin and Fran?ois Lazare Guys, Commissary of the French Marine." The baptism occurred January 26, 1806, and revealed the fact that he had for godfather an uncle who held a diplomatic position. Guys told his friends that his full family name was Guys de Sainte-Hélène-which may have been an amiable weakness of the same order as that of Barbey d'Aurevilly and of Villiers de l'Isle Adam, both of whom boasted noble parentage. However, Guys was little given to talk of any sort. He was loquacious only with his pencil, and from being absolutely forgotten after the downfall of the Second Empire to-day every scrap of his work is being collected, even fought for, by French and German collectors. Yet when the Nadar collection was dispersed, June, 1909, in Paris, his aquarelles went for a few francs. Félix Fénéon and several others now own complete sets. In New York there are a few specimens in the possession of private collectors, though the Lenox Library, as a rule rich in such prints, has only reproductions to show.

The essay of Charles Baudelaire, entitled Le Peintre de la Vie Moderne, to be found in Volume III of his collected works (L'Art Romantique), remains thus far the standard reference study concerning Guys, though deficient in biographical details. Other critical studies are by Camille Mauclair, Roger Marx, Richard Muther, and George Grappe; and recently Elizabeth Luther Cary in a too short but admirably succinct article characterised the Guys method in this fashion: "He defined his forms sharply and delicately, and used within his bounding line the subtlest variation of light and shade. His workmanship everywhere is of the most elusive character, and he is a master of the art of reticence." Miss Cary further speaks of his "gentle gusto of line in motion, which lately has captivated us in the paintings of the Spaniard Sorolla, and long ago gave Botticelli and Carlo Crivelli the particular distinction they had in common." Mauclair mentions "the most animated water-colour drawings of Guys, his curious vision of nervous elegance and expressive skill," and names it the impressionism of 1845, while Dr. Muther christened him the Verlaine of the crayon because, like Verlaine, he spent his life between the almshouse and a hospital, so said the German critic. Furthermore, Muther believes it was no mere chance that made of Baudelaire his admirer; in both the decadent predominated-which is getting the cart before the horse. Rops, too, is recalled by Guys, who depicted the gay grisette of the faubourgs as well as the nocturnal pierreuse of the fortifications. "Guys exercised on Gavarni an influence which brought into being his Invalides du sentiment, his Lorettes vielles, and his Fourberies de femmes."

It is not quite fair to compare Guys with Rops, or indeed with either Gavarni or Daumier. These were the giants of French illustration at that epoch. Guys was more the skirmisher, the sharpshooter, the reporter of the moment, than a creative master of his art. The street or the battle-field was his atelier; speed and grace and fidelity his chief claims to fame. He never practised his art within the walls of academies; the material he so vividly dealt with was the stuff of life. The very absence of school in his illustrations is their chief charm; a man of genius this, self-taught, and a dangerous precedent for fumblers or those of less executive ability. From the huge mass of his work being unearthed from year to year he may be said to have lived crayon in hand. He is the first of a long line of newspaper illustrators. His profession was soldiering, and legend has it that he accompanied Byron to Missolonghi. The official career of his father enabled the youth to see much of the world-Greece, the Balkans, Turkey, Persia, and perhaps India. On returning to France he became an officer of dragoons and for some time led the life of a dandy and man about town. With his memory, of which extraordinary tales are told, he must have stored up countless films of impressions, all of which were utilised years later.

In 1845 we find him installed at Paris, though no longer in the army. Then it was he began to design. He became contributor to many periodicals, among the rest the Illustrated London News and Punch. For the former journal he went to the Crimean war as accredited art correspondent. The portfolio containing the Crimean set is now most sought for by his admirers. He is said to have originated the expression "taken on the spot," in the title of one of his instantaneous sketches. Few draughtsmen could boast his sure eye and manual dexterity. The Balaklava illustration is as striking in its way as Tennyson's lines, though containing less of poetic heroism and more ugly realism. Like the trained reporter that he was, Guys followed a battle, recording the salient incidents of the engagement, not overemphasising the ghastliness of the carnage, as did Callot or Goya or Raffet, but telling the truth as he saw it, with a phlegm more British and German than French. Though he had no Dutch blood in his veins, he was, like Huysmans, more the man of Amsterdam than the man of Paris. He noted the changing and shocking scenes of hospital life, and sympathy without sentimentality drops from his pen. He is drily humorous as he shows us some plumaged General peacocking on foot, or swelling with Napoleonic pride as he caracoles by on his horse. And such horses! Without a hint of the photographic realism of a Muybridge and his successors, Guys evokes vital horses and riders, those seen by the normal vision. The witching movement of beautiful Arabian steeds has not had many such sympathetic interpreters.

In Turkey he depicted episodes of daily life, of the courts of the Sublime Porte itself, of the fête of Ba?ram, which closes the fast of Ramadan. His Turkish women are not all houris, but they bear the stamp of close study. They are pretty, indolent, brainless creatures. In his most hurried crayons, pen-and-ink sketches, and aquarelles Guys is ever interesting. He has a magnetic touch that arrests attention and atones for technical shortcomings. Abbreviation is his watchword; his drawings are a species of shorthand notations made at red-hot tempo, yet catching the soul of a situation. He repeats himself continually, but, as M. Grappe says, is never monotonous. In love with movement, with picturesque massing, and broad simple colour schemes, he naturally gravitated to battle-fields. In Europe society out of doors became his mania. Rotten Row, in the Bois, at Brighton or at Baden-Baden, the sinuous fugues of his pencil reveal to succeeding generations how the great world once enjoyed itself or bored itself to death. No wonder Thackeray admired Guys. They were kindred spirits; both recognised and portrayed the snob mundane.

As he grew older Guys became an apparition in the life of Paris. The smash-up of the Empire destroyed the beloved world he knew so well. Poor, his principal pleasure was in memory; if he couldn't actually enjoy the luxury of the rich he could reproduce its images on his drawing-pad. The whilom dandy and friend of Baudelaire went about dressed in a shabby military frock-coat. He had no longer a nodding acquaintance with the fashionable lions of Napoleon the Little's reign, yet he abated not his haughty strut, his glacial politeness to all comers, nor his daily promenade in the Bois. A Barmecide feast this watching the pleasures of others more favoured, though Guys did not waste the fruits of his observation. At sixty-five he began to go down-hill. His habits had never been those of a prudent citizen, and as his earning powers grew less some imp of the perverse entered his all too solitary life. With this change of habits came a change of theme. Henceforth he drew filles, the outcasts, the scamps and convicts and the poor wretches of the night. He is now a forerunner of Toulouse-Lautrec and an entire school. This side of his career probably caused Dr. Muther to compare him with Paul Verlaine. Absinthe, the green fairy of so many poets and artists, was no stranger to Guys.

In 1885, after dining with Nadar, his most faithful friend, Guys was run over in the Rue du Havre and had his legs crushed. He was taken to the Maison Dubois, where he lived eight years longer, dying at the venerable age of eighty-seven, though far from being a venerable person. Astonishing vitality! He did not begin to draw, that is, for a living, until past forty. His method of work was simplicity itself, declare those who watched him at work. He seemingly improvised his aquarelles; his colour, sober, delicate, was broadly washed in; his line, graceful and modulated, does not suggest the swiftness of his execution. He could be rank and vulgar, and he was gentle as a refined child that sees the spectacle of life for the first time. The bitterness of Baudelaire's flowers of evil he escaped until he was in senile decadence. In the press of active life he registered the shock of conflicting arms, the shallow pride of existence and the mere joy of living, all in a sane manner that will ever endear him to lovers of art.

George Moore tells the following anecdote of Degas: Somebody was saying he did not like Daumier, and Degas preserved silence for a long while. "If you were to show Raphael," he said at last, "a Daumier, he would admire it; he would take off his hat; but if you were to show him a Cabanel, he would say with a sigh, 'That is my fault.'"

If you could show Raphael a croquis by Constantin Guys he would probably look the other way, but Degas would certainly admire and buy the drawing.

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