Pictures To See In London
( Originally Published 1917 )
"When a man is tired of London he is tired of life for there is in London all that life can afford."
BOSWELL'S Life of Johnson.
Among the many fine collections of painting in London, we may speak of three: the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square, erected in 1832 and several times enlarged, containing about 1,200 pictures; the National Gallery of British Art at Millbank on the Thames Embankment, called the Tate Gallery from the donor, Sir Henry Tate, inclosing especially contemporary art, with nearly a thou-sand pictures, and the National Portrait Gallery, adjoining the former, and having more than 1,600 portraits of eminent men and women.
Let us visit first the twenty-four rooms of the National Gallery, devoted to the earlier schools of painting. Beginning with the Tuscan School, " The Madonna and Child Enthroned," attributed to Cimabue, is of much interest, though modern critics have taken away our faith in real Cimabues. This work of Cimabue's school and the "Coronation of the Virgin " by Giotto recall Ruskin's words: "The early efforts of Cimabue and Giotto are the burning messages of prophecy, delivered by the stammering lips of infants."
Botticelli's " Nativity of the Saviour," " Portrait of a Young Man," and the famous "Mars and Venus " should be noted for their striking contrast. The " Mars and Venus " is one of those three pictures for which the beloved Simonetta is reported to have posed undraped, and some symbolic meaning has been suggested in connection with her life.
Andrea del Sarto's "Portrait of Himself" is a fine work, expressive of the artist's subtle temperament. His richly colored picture of " The Holy Family " is full of atmosphere and mystery. The " Virgin and Child with St. John," attributed to Fra Bartolommeo (1475-1517), reminds one of Raphael. A large, though less pleasing, picture is Filippino Lippi's " The Virgin and Child with St. Jerome and St. Dominic."
An " Entombment," by Michelangelo, is a youthful and unfinished work in tempera on wood, and a more striking and beautiful picture attributed to him is " The Madonna and Child with John the Baptist and Angels." The Child tries to pull away from his Mother the book she is holding—a human child, suggesting, too, divine inspiration, as what natural, beautiful child does not!
Fra Angelico's " Adoration of the Magi " is a notable picture, more pleasing than his "Christ with the Banner of the Resurrection, surrounded by a crowd of saints, martyrs, and Dominicans," " so beautiful," says Vasari, " that they appear to be truly beings of Paradise."
The " Assumption of the Virgin," attributed to Botticelli, is noteworthy.
The Schools of Lombardy and Parma include several noted Correggios: " The Holy Family," showing a sweet mother and child; the so called " Ecce Homo " or " Christ Presented by Pilate to the People," of which a critic says, it " has both the qualities and defects of this artist." A charming picture is Correggio's " Mercury Instructing Cupid in the Presence of Venus." This picture Rus-kin couples with Titian's " Bacchus," as one of the two paintings in the gallery he would last part with.
The Sienese master, Sodoma, a pupil of Leonardo, is represented in a splendid head of the Christ. Leonardo's " The Saviour" (p. 44) has even been attributed to Sodoma, but the prevailing opinion inclines to da Vinci.
Two other celebrated pictures must be mentioned: Leonardo's " The Virgin of the Rocks," a beautiful group in a grotto, said to be a studio copy of " La Vierge aux Rochers " in the Louvre, though each has been claimed, respectively, as the original. The second is Luini's " Christ disputing with the Doctors (or the Pharisees?)," also called " Christ Teaching," in which may be observed the faint smile and beautiful hands characteristic of Luini.
The Ferrarese and Bolognese Schools are represented, and beyond them is the Umbrian School. A famous picture here is the large fresco by Raphael's master, Perugino (1446-1523), " The Adoration of the Shepherds," representing the Virgin, St. Joseph, and shepherds adoring the Infant Saviour. In Perugino's fa-mous triptych are to be seen " The Arch-angel Michael," " The Virgin adoring the Infant Christ," and " The Archangel Raphael and Tobias." The Virgin has been compared to a Raphael, and the delicate landscape and tones of the sky to Turner. Still another splendid Perugino is " The Virgin and Child with St. Jerome and St. Francis."
The National Gallery owns no fewer than five great works attributed to Raphael. A famous one is the somewhat Byzantine "Madonna degli Ansidei," illustrating the pyramidal composition. This picture was bought from the Duke of Marlborough for 70,000 pounds, said to be the largest sum ever given by a public gallery for a single painting. The " Grand Raphael of Colonna," which was a loan exhibition here for a time but is now in the Metropolitan, New York, is an interesting contrast in composition, being an inverted pyramid. Of the other Raphaels here, the " Vision of a Knight," a youthful work, " St. Catherine of Alexandria," and " The Virgin, Infant Christ, and St. John " are all worthy of study, as is the interesting " Portrait of Pope Julius II.," said to be an early copy of the original in Florence.
The Paduan School is well represented in Andrea Mantegna (1431-1506) in " The Triumph of Scipio." Striking effects are produced by simple means, the figures really seem to move, and all is properly subordinated, though the painter has limited himself in color to gray tones only.
Crivelli's curious altar piece should also be noticed, and four allegorical groups by Veronese.
Of the Venetian School, " The Knight in Armour " is another of the few works attributed with certainty to Giorgione. It shows a beautiful and dignified figure, with qualities not unlike " The Knight of Malta " (p. 224).
The Venetian Schools are rich in works of Paolo Veronese (1528-1588). The warmth of color, richness of treatment, and grandeur of style of Venetian art are all well marked in Veronese's great work, " The Consecration of St. Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, in Syria, in the Fourth Century." Even better is the same artist's picture, " St. Helena: Vision of the Invention of the Cross," considered " one of the finest ever painted." " The Rape of Europa " presents still more famously the subject of Titian's work of the same name in Mrs. John Lowell Gardner's collection in Boston.
Titian (1477-1576), as we know, preceded Veronese and was his master. Of the great Titians here may be named the realistic " Holy Family with adoring Shepherd," " The Madonna and Child with St. John the Baptist and St. Catherine Embracing the Divine Infant," " Bacchus and Ariadne "—a composition of many figures in glowing color—the equally radiant " Venus and Adonis," and the noble, poetic " Portrait of Ariosto." Still another impressive Titian here is "Christ and Mary Magdalene after His Resurrection," illustrating the Saviour's words, "Noli me tangere" (Touch Me not).
Tintoretto's " St. George Destroying the Dragon " is interesting for certain naïve qualities as much as for the Venetian richness of color. St. George appears to be mounted on a " rocking-horse," in the words of a critic, who adds, " You cannot reasonably expect a Venetian to be a good delineator of an animal he perhaps never saw."
Veronese's classic historical picture, " The Family of Darius at the Feet of Alexander, after the Battle of Issus, B.C. 333," called forth Ruskin's praise as " the most precious Paul Veronese in the world."
Giovanni Bellini is represented in the masterly portrait of " The Doge Leonardo Loredano."
In the late Italian Schools, Salvator Rosa's " Landscape, with Mercury and the Dishonest Woodman is a poetic picture, the theme being from AEsop's Fables. The versatile Salvator Rosa (1615-1673) was poet, painter, and musician.
In Guido Reni's works we miss the religious sincerity of earlier painters, though some of his are very pleasing. A celebrated one is his " Susannah and the Two Elders," representing the beautiful nude woman about to enter the bath in the garden of her husband Joachim at Babylon, " a work," says Ruskin, " de-void alike of art and decency." Guido's " Ecce Homo " is important.
In the early Flemish School, an advance in portraiture beyond the early Tuscan School is observed. Jan van Eyck's full-length portraits of a Flemish merchant and lady, " Giovanni Arnolfini and Jeanne de Chenany, his Wife," are pleasing for their simplicity and realism.
A particularly interesting and valuable work of very medieval style is Hans Memling's " The Virgin and Infant Christ Enthroned in a Garden." The Child is touching the open book held by Our Lady. At the left an Angel plays upon a zither. St. George stands at the right, the slain dragon just visible at his feet. Kneeling in the foreground is the princely donor. Though the figures appear detached, yet each is a portrait, and the picture's charm lies in its quaintness and quite unworldly atmosphere. Its prevailing tone is red.
Quinten Matsys is represented in two heads,," Salvator Mundi and the Virgin Mary."
Sir Anthony Van Dyck's " Equestrian Portrait of Charles I." is considered a fine work, showing the King mounted on a dun horse and attended by Sir Thomas Morton. Another Van Dyck is " Theodosius and St. Ambrose."
Rubens' famous "Judgment of Paris " is here, a large and brilliant canvas with three very graceful female figures, and a pleasing Cupid. There are in all about thirty by Rubens,. including sketches.
The National Gallery owns some seventeen or eighteen valuable Rembrandts. The most notable, in the rooms of the Dutch and Flemish Schools, are Rembrandt's " Portrait of an Old Lady," a beautiful Holland face with the lines of age softened by the white cap and ruff;
" His Own Portrait," " Jewish Merchant," " An Old Man," "A Burgomaster," " A Jewish Rabbi," and the remarkable group entitled " Woman taken in Adultery," with its " mysterious harmony " of coloring.
Smaller, but very valuable canvases, by the lesser Dutch masters, are from Van de Velde, Cuyp, Nicholaas Maes, Hob-bema, van Ruisdael of whom there are at least fourteen, Teniers, Jordaens, Cornelis Janssen, Paul Potter, and De Hooch, besides Frans Hals' " Portraits of a Man and " A Woman," not perhaps in his best style.
Of the early German School, " The Ambassadors " by Hans Holbein the Younger is representative.
The Spanish School is led, of course, by Velasquez and Murillo. The realistic head of " Philip IV. of Spain Hunting the Wild Boar," by Velasquez, is a magnificent picture. The Spanish Admiral Pulido-Pareja" of the same artist has been called " the finest portrait in the National Gallery, perhaps in the world." So lifelike is this painting that it is said to have deceived even King Philip IV., who saw it in the studio. Mistaking it for the Admiral himself, his Majesty cried, " What are you doing there? Is it thus that you execute my order? Is it not to you that I have confided the honor of my flag? " Perceiving his mistake, however, he said to Velasquez, the painter, "My son, you completely deceived me."
" Venus with the Mirror," or Venus and Cupid, is another Velasquez picture with a story. It once belonged to the Duke of Alva, and is known as the " Rokeby Venus," from another owner. It was purchased in 1906 for 45,000 pounds and presented to the nation. This picture, it has even been claimed, " marks the highest point the art of painting has ever reached."
Five splendid Murillos include " The Holy Family," the favorite " St. John and the Lamb," a sketch for " The Nativity of the Virgin " (the large picture is in the Louvre), a " Spanish Peasant Boy," and the " Boy Drinking."
In the rooms of the French School, there are some twelve works of Claude Lorraine (1600-1682), who influenced Turner so greatly in his early style. Turner left two works to the National Collection, stipulating that these be hung between two paintings by Claude. One of these, Turner's " Dido Building Carthage," in composition reminds one of Claude. This picture was such a favorite with Turner that he wished it to be his winding sheet when dead. Mr. Ruskin, however, says of this work that the artist's " eye for color unaccountably fails him." These pictures, with the two by Claude, are in the Turner Room. The larger Turner Collection is in the Tate Gallery at Millbank.
Of the French School there are also popular works by Greuze, Nicolas Poussin, Lancret, and Madame Vigée-Le Brun's charming portrait of herself; be-sides examples of the Barbison School.
In the rooms of the British School may be seen fine pictures from Hogarth to Constable, with portraits by Reynolds, Gainsborough, Raeburn, Romney, and others.
Of the Old British School, Hogarth's well-known series, " The Marriage a la Mode," is most interesting and worthy of study as to technique. The famous " Shrimp Girl," balancing on her head a basket of her wares which she is crying forth, is admired by many for its fresh color and other strong qualities.
Elsewhere a series of fine Constables and works by Morland attracts attention.
Sir Joshua Reynolds' great portraits include many famous men and women of his day. " Admiral Keppel " is the noted subject which made the artist's fame and brought hosts of sitters. " Lord Heath-field" is one of his most characteristic portraits. Heathfield, then General Elliot, it will be recalled, valiantly de-fended the fortress of Gibraltar in the siege of 1779-1783. In this picture, painted in 1787, the General wears on his brilliant red uniform the Star of the Garter and holds in his hand the key of the fortress. The face is filled with a lively defiance to Britain's foes. Constable calls this picture " almost a history of the defence of Gibraltar."
Other fine Reynolds portraits here are that of himself, whom he so often painted, for practice; another, known as " The Banished Lord," and the great picture of his dear friend and companion of the Cheshire Cheese Inn, " Dr. Samuel Johnson."
Perhaps the most popular, as well as the most beautiful, child portrait in the world is " The Age of Innocence (p. 172), by Sir Joshua. "The Strawberry Girl " is another. Sir Joshua loved to give a touch of quaintness to his youthful sitters, as in little Penelope Boothby's well-known portrait, and the young people were very fond of the artist. Once when Penelope was lost, after looking everywhere for her, some one thought to send to Sir Joshua's studio, and there was the small truant!
Another favorite child picture here is Reynolds' " Heads of Angels," painted from Lord. William Gordon's little daughter in different views. Still an-other, formerly very popular, is " The Infant Samuel," kneeling to await the voice of God and ready to answer, " Speak, Lord, for Thy servant heareth."
Sir Joshua's famous picture of " Mrs. Siddons as the Tragic Muse," considered by many the finest portrait ever painted in England, is in the Dulwich Gallery. But Gainsborough's beautiful and almost equally famous portrait of " Mrs. Sid-dons " is here, and is interesting for cornparison with Sir Joshua's and with the third by Sir Thomas Lawrence.
Other important Gainsborough pictures in the National Gallery include the " Portrait of Miss Gainsborough," his daughter, and the " Wood Scene, Cornard, Suffolk," a perfect landscape; also other fine Gainsborough landscapes. His charming portrait of " The Honourable Mary Graham " (painted in 1776) is, of course, in the National Gallery of Scot-land, and is regarded by many as the artist's finest work; while his equally or perhaps even more famous " Blue Boy," in which the artist " revelled in his favorite color," is in the Grosvenor Gallery, London.
With Reynolds and Gainsborough is always closely associated their rival and contemporary, George Romney. Muther describes Romney's art as " holding the mean course between the refined classic art of Reynolds and the imaginative poetic art of Gainsborough."
Romney's great portrait here is " Mrs. Mark Currie." " Lady Hamilton as a Bacchante" is a charming picture. As an illustration of the rise in value of Romney's work, it is stated that a por-trait of Lady Hamilton, bought in the artist's own day for 5o pounds, sold recently for 50,000 pounds. Romney painted children very well, but his great examples of these are in private holding, including the group of three fascinating " Horsley Children."
The Scottish painter, Sir Henry Rae-burn (1756-1823), is shown in an extremely fine portrait of " Mrs. H. W. Lawzun." Raeburn occupies in Scottish art a position similar to that of Reynolds in the English. His greatest productions are many of them in Edinburgh, as for example the celebrated " Professor Robinson," now in the University of Edinburgh. The red dressing gown in this picture must have given the artist as great pleasure in painting it as Gainsborough derived from his favorite color in the " Blue Boy." Raeburn also painted children well; of these, the best are now owned privately, including the two sweet little girls, entitled " The Paterson Children."
Sir Thomas Lawrence, P.R.A. (1769-183o), is represented in several famous portraits, among them that of the author, " Miss Caroline Fry," which is much ad-mired; also the " Portrait of Mrs. Sid-dons," already mentioned; and the " Por-trait of Benjamin West, P.R.A." He was the American boy who rose to be a noted painter of British portraits, and at last became President of the Royal Academy. The National Gallery, Washing-ton, is fortunate in having Lawrence's beautiful picture of " Lady Essex as Juliet."
Sir Edwin Landseer (1802-1873) is shown in several fine animal pictures. Other Landseers are at the Tate Gallery.
Of two portraits here by Sir John Everett Millais, P.R.A (1829-1896), that of " The Right Honourable W. E. Gladstone " had been called " the painter's finest effort in portraiture."
Visiting next the National Portrait Gallery, on account of its proximity, we find everywhere the interesting faces of literature and history. A long line of well-known royalties may be seen, of course, including most interesting pictures of Queen Victoria at different periods, Prince Albert, and others. Of historical portraits we may mention Sir Walter Raleigh, William Tyndale, Ben Jonson, Shakespeare (the Chandos por-trait), John Bunyan at the age of fifty six, Samuel Johnson by Reynolds, David Garrick; and Kemble (1757-1823), the tragedian, by Gilbert Stuart; of interesting women, Nell Gwynne and other beau-ties, by Lely; of the later literary world, and others, Coleridge, Wordsworth, Shelley, Lord Byron, Thomas Carlyle by Millais, Florence Nightingale, Charles Darwin, Herbert Spencer, Lord Tennyson, Robert Browning, Thackeray, and Charles Dickens; also the famous por-trait of Cardinal Manning, by Watts ; be-sides many portraits of the artists, miniatures of celebrated personages, and other pictures.
The so called Tate Gallery at Millbank contains works by the modern artists of the British School. Founded by Sir Henry Tate, it is officially styled the National Gallery of British Art, and is considered as a branch of the National Gallery at Trafalgar Square. In front of the Tate Gallery is a statue of Sir John Everett Millais, P.R.A. We may study in this gallery the larger Turner Collection, also the Pre-Raphaelites, and the later British artists.
The Turner Collection contains more than a hundred finished paintings, 182 unfinished, and 19,000 drawings and sketches, bequeathed by the artist to the nation. Any attempted description of the Turner rooms, ablaze with color, would be inadequate. Among the greatest may be named, " Ulysses deriding Polyphemus," " The Shipwreck," " Crossing the Brook," " Sunrise on a Frosty Morning," " Richmond Hill," " The Arch of Constantine, Rome," " The Evening Star," " Tivoli," " Rain, Steam, and Speed," and, besides many others, the renowned " Fighting Téméraire towed to her Last Berth." Of this last picture, which celebrates a famous incident in the battle of Trafalgar under Nelson, Ruskin says,
" No ruin was ever so affecting as this sliding of this vessel to her grave. The setting sun images forth the departing glory of the old vessel, while the first quarter of the new moon represents the ascendancy of steam power over the old wooden ships, with their sweep of canvas sail, as seen in the tug towing the vessel into port.. There seems to be sadness, too, in the old sun as he takes his last farewell of the fighting ship he has so often companioned in the deep."
Of the Pre-Raphaelite School, Dante Gabriel Rossetti has many pictures. The greatly admired Annunciation called Ecce Ancilla Domini " (Behold the Handmaid of the Lord) is one of his earlier works. " Beata Beatrix " is a symbolistic picture of the sanctified Beatrice, a portrait of the artist's dearly loved wife, painted in 1863, a year after her death. The date at the top of the frame is that of Beatrice's death, June 9, 1290. The prevailing tone is red; Beatrice is sitting in the sleep of death; in the background stand Virgil and Dante. The famous " Dante's Dream " is in the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool.
Another Dante picture in Liverpool is that of Ary Scheffer's " Dante and Beatrix," noted for its anachronism; they stand looking out on domes and towers still unbuilded in their day in Florence.
Still another beautiful Rossetti, not in the Tate, but the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, is " The Day Dream," a young woman reading a mystic book, in a 'mystic wood; she has all the Romantic qualities of Rossetti's women; this picture, begun in 1868, was only completed in 1880, the model being the wife of his dear friend, William Morris.
The recent acquisition by the Tate Gallery of the Rae Collection of Rossettis has brought the very noted and beautiful women's portraits, entitled " Monna Vanna," " Fazio's Mistress," and " The Beloved," in oil, and many more water-colors.
Two other Pre-Raphaelites are represented: Holman Hunt in " The Ship " and Millais in " Ophelia." Important historical pictures here by Millais are " The Northwest Passage," in which is Trelawney, the friend of Byron and Shelley. The second, a vivid and picturesque painting, perhaps his most popular, is The Boyhood of Raleigh," two lads listening to the tales of an old sailor. The two boys, it is said, are Millais' own young sons.
Frederick Lord Leighton, P.R.A. (183o-1896), has a charming nude, " The Bath of Psyche."
Burne-Jones has a fine room, of which the greatest picture is, of course, " King Cophetua and the Beggar Maid " (p. 26).
The Watts room is filled with works, mostly large, interesting not only for their fine coloring, but in many cases also for their allegorical or symbolic allusions. The picture which the artist said best portrayed his message to the age is " Love and Life " (Frontispiece), replicas of which are in Washington, and in the Louvre. A companion picture is " Love and Death." The pensive blinded " Hope," in blue, bending over her harp with but a single string left, is well known.
The popular " Sir Galahad," a copy of which is said to be in every middle class American household, is privately owned in London.
Two rooms of miscellaneous pictures include Constables, Landseers, and many others of interest.
Whistler's " Old Battersea Bridge " is a beautiful canvas of wonderful mysterious color. It is always recalled that this was one of the disputed works in the Whistler v. Ruskin trial.
John Singer Sargent, R.A., whom we proudly claim as, an American artist, in spite of his Florentine birth, is represented in his very generally admired " Carnation Lily, Lily Rose," two little girls lighting Japanese lanterns for a gar-den fête said to have been on Thames side. Sargent's strong " Portrait of Miss Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth " cannot be over-looked, as it is a striking and familiar picture.
In the same room is a charming scene by C. W. Furse, " Diana of the Uplands," an English girl with a straining dog on leash, out for a brisk run over the windy hills. New works are constantly being acquired by this already large and important National Gallery.