CROSSING THE BRIDGE, JULES DUPRE (WALLACE COLLECTION)
A GLADE IN THE FOREST OF FONTAINEBLEAU. ROUSSEAU (WALLACE COLLECTION)
THE PATHWAY TO THE VILLAGE CHURCH THOMAS CRESWICK, R.A. (TATE GALLERY)
A PAUSE IN THE STORM AT SUNSET. VICAT COLE, R.A.
Painted in the year 1867.
Champions of landscape came in quick succession. From 1714 (Wilson) to 1792 we have Gainsborough, Crome, Girtin, Turner, Constable, Cotman, De Wint, Cox, Nasmyth, and Linnell Among these we have spoken of Turner ; Girtin, even with his few years of life, may almost be classed with him.
With Constable began the open-air pictures and the faithful study of nature by men who painted the things around them without affectation. He had no fear in presenting nature in her own colours ; and his adoration of the homely English scenery is seen in everything he did. " I love every stile, and stump, and lane in the village ; as long as I am able to hold a brush I shall never cease to paint them." His trees were not painted to convey an outside meaning, but because he loved each one of them. He had no use for a set type of tree ; he wanted each one, from the humble Elder bush that holds a conspicuous place in his " Hay Wain," to the towering trees in the " Valley Farm " 1 (Plate XXI). His was the inspiration that guided the judgment of the French Romanticists.
David Cox saw the freshness of the land and liked trees best when swaying to the wind ; in depicting their movement he has never been surpassed. Nasmyth, the first of the Scotch landscapists, followed Hobbema in his love for detail. Linnell could choose a picture from the heart of the forest, and his oaks, felled trees, and woodmen make up a typical English wood and scene.
It is difficult to believe that Creswick completely understood the structure of a tree, but we cannot deny that in many of his pictures they have the power to charm (Plate XXVIII, p. 39).
Muller, who was only thirty-three when he died, painted the " Eel bucks at Goring," and if he had lived for Constable's sixty-one years, might have outrivalled him in dash and brilliancy.
From 1796 to 1834 were born the great men forming the French romantic school headed by Corot and ended by Monticelli--men who, like Crome and Cotman, painted trees for their own sake, not as incidents in a picture. Corot painted the poetry of atmosphere and discovered pathos in the Willow. He had an exquisite appreciation of the subtle undulations in lines. Diaz could make a few trees the centre and the beginning and the end of a picture that holds our undivided attention (Plate XXIV) Good landscapes did not end with Linnell (Plate XXII) and Monticelli. Cecil Lawson was inspired by the true love of nature, and viewed her in a big way ; his art was convincing
* 1 Students should examine his elaborate and accurate studies of trees in the Victoria and Albert Museum. These pencil drawings of form, seen side by side with the dashing sketch of the "Jumping Horse," show the two phases that are characteristic of a great artist.
Illus 6. Cecil Lawson's Marsh Lands
and refined (Illus. 6). With him lived a set of painters distinguished by their love of nature and the picturesque. Selection of types was, with them, all important. My father, G. Vicat Cole, R.A., was conspicuous for his loving fidelity to nature. His refined drawing exhibited a complete mastery of the forms of trees that he studied and loved so well (Illus. 7 ; Plate XXIX).
No one can pass by that period without paying homage to the men
ILLUS. 7. PENCIL STUDY, BY VICAT COLE, R.A.
who made a reverential study of the smaller forms of nature. Millais, Fred Walker, and North proved the belief which Francois Millet held-- that all objects in nature, however insignificant, are worthy of the toil and talent of an artist. Millais found a meaning in the plants of the hedgerow and painted them with consummate skill. The trees of his later period were drawn with the confidence of a great artist, but do not show the temperament of the true landscape painter. His landscapes seem to me to be masterly studies of strips of country. Was it not that his joy in seeing the open country compelled him to paint them after the restraint of life in a town ?
Fred Walker applied a fresh and searching vision to the objects he painted at close quarters. We have only to look at the Hazel bush in his " Spring " to understand the link between his mind and nature.
The exquisite refinement in the work of J. W. North came as a revelation of artistic discernment (Illus. 8, p. 43 ; Plate XXX).
Leighton has left us some perfect pencil drawings of tree forms.
Trees for book illustrations were drawn with all the feeling that typical English landscape inspires by Birket Foster (how my superior friends will raise their eyebrows !). His was not a conception of great aspects, but the sincerity and sympathy of his pictures separate them entirely from that which is vulgar, or mean. Incidentally we can admire his skill in the grouping of children.
We recognise in the etchings of Seymour Hayden his gift of planning impressive groups of trees.
The beautiful pen and ink and wash illustrations of trees and plants by Alfred Parsons, like his watercolour studies, show a refined and gifted understanding of natural forms.
Trees have never at one and the same time been better or worse painted than they are at the present day. The old masters were content to treat them in a big way and to implicitly follow tradition. They painted one or two types of trees only. Some amongst the modern men draw every sort of tree, and how well and faithfully they do so is seen in the work of Adrian Stokes, Mark Fisher, Sir E. Waterlow (Plate XXXIII, p. 44), Hughes-Stanton, P. Wilson Steer, Arnesby Brown, Lamorna Birch, H. W. B. Davis, the late J. L. Pickering, and Elizabeth Stanhope Forbes, amongst others.
It is difficult to speak of contemporary painters without being considered a prig, but fine work of the present must be included with that of the past, and my admiration is not limited to the few names I choose. There is abundant evidence in our galleries of extensive study combined with a real appreciation of trees ; though unfortunately these examples hang side by side with pictures in which a conscious and forced straining for the grand effect has resulted in the utmost indifference to all that makes a tree a beautiful and a living thing.
We appreciate in George Clausen's work that nicety of balance between the realism that is necessary to convey the artist's love of natural forms and the requirements of art that ennoble them (Plate XXXII).
David Murray shows us the charm of rhythmic lines in stems and branches, and in Oliver Hall's work there is an educated sensitiveness and discrimination in the selection and following of lines--particularly in his etchings (Plate XXXIX).
* 1 In the Victoria and Albert Museum.
THE WINTER SUN. J. W. NORTH, A.R.A. (TATE GALLERY, CHANTREY BEQUEST)
THE ROAD. G. CLAUSEN, R.A.
IN THE MELLOW AUTUMN LIGHT. SIR E. A. WATERLOW, R.A.
Alfred East made the pattern in trees his own ; they are set in an atmosphere of poetry, and we feel their dignity and reserve.
Men, who find beauty even in the lowliest of Nature's handicraft --in the buds, and twigs, and forms of plants among other things-- stand apart from the followers of the modern creed of ugliness, and we
ILLUS. 8. PEN AND INK STUDY OF TREES WITH SUNLIGHT THROUGH THE FOLIAGE, BY J. W. NORTH, A.R.A., SKETCHED IN 1855
are indebted to such painters as Cadogan Cowper, Byam Shaw, and Eleanor Brickdale for their influence.
With Arthur Rackham we enter into the world of Elves and Pixies suggested by the grotesque forms of the roots and saplings of the hedgerow.
Of the work of the living French landscape painters I know too little ; some evidently paint their trees with care and fidelity ; others, in their search for means of expressing light and air, sacrifice all form for a galaxy of colour ; this is chiefly so amongst the followers of Monet. Despite the want of structure that immediately separates their painting from actuality, they often possess a charm, though there seems to me an anachronism in wishing to obtain in a picture the effect of real light on an impossible tree. If we no longer call it a tree, but just something surrounded by beautiful colour, we can enjoy the abstract charm that is inherent to colour without form.
The fine work of Harpignies speaks for itself ; students should study it whenever they have the opportunity.
A figure painter interests us in his figures by quite distinct methods. If he gives us a figure that is a searching portrait of an individual with its beauty and its blemishes, it excites our sympathy from being a part of the everyday life we share in common. We recognise the effect of toil, pleasure, or what not as something personal and intimate that we know of. Harold Speed, in his most interesting book on drawing,' points out how well Degas could utilise this aspect, and many painters whom we know as realists have used its full power. But a painter dealing with some subjects must make sure we shall not think of his figures as individuals. Instead of being personal, his figures must convey a larger outside sentiment that we do not associate with a naturalistic study from one figure. A photograph of a woman's figure, however fine it were, would not represent Eve--we require something more abstract. Pictures by the early Italians, Fra Angelico and Botticelli, for example, owe much of their charm to the aloofness from personal life that the figures show.
We have something of the same distinction in landscape. The painting of a tree may be such an appreciative bit of naturalism that we enter into its existence, as it were. We admire its vigour of life, are astounded at prodigal abundance of leaf and seed and the defiance of the laws of gravitation shown in those huge horizontal limbs. We recall its encounters with storms, sympathise with its fresh start in life, and marvel at the almost human ingenuity that its parts display while seeking light and air. I think this is how Nasmyth saw his oaks and wished us to see them.
But there is the larger standpoint in which the tree does not interest us so pertinently for itself, but becomes a unit in the sentiment of the scene. Claude's trees seem to me so--just beautiful masses full of the atmosphere of the day.
When we are with nature all formulas and precepts must be left behind. If we go out to paint in a set manner we are conscious of ourselves rather than of nature ; our picture will show that we are learned or ignorant, dexterous or clumsy, but it will not show that which should have incited us to paint it. Away from nature, we can reason where our art has failed, and apply those laws that have guided better men before us. Probably we shall evolve trees that retain the character of those we studied, but something from our general store of observation and appreciation will be added ; then they become our own ; we shall have found something in them that the casual observer missed, something that redeems them from the commonplace, and transmutes the commonplace into poetry.
In quick studies painted outside there is a certain naive envelopment and " life " that is generally absent in the thought-out work of the studio. The very accidents of paint due to haste may become gems, and the sketch escape that dull correctness that suggests an intellectual outlook,but dried-up impulses on the part of the painter. But elaborate studies out of doors are also necessary ; unfortunately we experience a disappointment when painting them, that comes from a too conscientious effort to do justice to our trees. While studying the tree, piece by piece, we lose the feeling of greatness with which it first impressed us ; and the difficulty is to regain that environment without falling into slovenliness. If the type to which it belongs is familiar to us, we start our work with more confidence and freedom in the handling of our materials, and finish by retaining something of the spirit of it as a living tree. It is for this that a knowledge of construction is required, not for a display of learning by the accuracy with which we imitate its branches and leaves. But we cannot neglect branches and leaves ; their form and distribution, though individual, never departs entirely from the type of the species.
The outlines of branches against the sky are not very troublesome to draw if care is expended on their construction and pattern ; but everyone knows how difficult it is to set them in their right relation to the sky. They seem distinct against it and yet they are enveloped by it. Against a very bright sky their edges become lost, consequently their thickness is reduced so much that the smaller ones appear as indistinct threads, and the twigs are but a film or are entirely lost. David Murray makes good use of this truth in his delicate lines of stems seen against the sky, in compositions where tree groups come near the centre of his picture (Plate XXXIV, p. 45). If the same space were occupied by harsh dark lines for twigs and sharp-edged branches, the sky would lose its light and be divided into spaces on either side of the trees, and the arrangement would be spoilt. Turner showed us the same appearance in the receding branches of his Italian Stone Pines (Plate XX), and applied the law (that slender forms seen against
* 1 The Practice and Theory of Drawing. Seeley. 10s. 6d. nett.
the light appear more slender) to the rigging of ships seen against the sunset. There are little pictures of Mauve, with tree drawing of great daintiness obtained by the same means. Corot knew exactly where to lose and where to emphasize a form ; his paint is delightfully suave, and looks as if it cost him no effort. This has deceived his imitators who--shirking his experience of hard toil--have even tried to paint their oaks in a similar way, when they had but to refer to Crome for guidance in observation..
It is the fashion to extol the Old Masters at the expense of modern men (it always has been--Coethe in the year seventeen hundred and something complained of it, and in 1770 Reynolds mentions it ; and the sale prices of spurious, bad, and good pictures by the Old Masters today prove it) ; but I would suggest that those who paint should learn how to observe--by the study of other men's works, old masters or new-- and it is with this object in view that I have chosen a few outstanding names amongst those who have shown us what a tree is like.
THE POOL IN THE WOOD. MARK FISHER, A .R . A .
DAWN IN WINTER. ADRIAN STOKES, A.R.A.