Page images

A. This does not proceed from a want

of capacity in them, but from a defect in , : . their plans : they are, as you know, bio

graphers; and, as the persons whose lives they write, are all of one profession, the continued repetition of the same thoughts, and of the same technical terms, tire and distract the reader. There is another objection to their manner of writing; their ideas, however just, are so scattered through the different parts of their works, that they are not easily reducible to any system. In the exposition of an art, as in the distribution of a picture, a loose dispersion of the

objects, confounds both the eye and the • understanding. But, these writers are sub

ject to a still. greater disadvantage ; for, as the painters whose talents they describe, if

we except a very few, excelled much more • in the mechanick, than in the ideal part

of painting, it throws the force of their observations on that point, with which

B ?


we, who are but observers of the art, have the least to do.

B. THOUGĦ I „nderstand very well the terms mechanick and ideal, in their geri neral acception, yet, I wish you would : explain them, in their particular relation to the subject before us.

A. We may consider the imitative arts of in two points of view; ist, As imitations of a such objects as are actually before the eyes. 2dly, As representations of those images which are formed by the fancy. The first, is the mechanick or executive part of the art; the second, the ideal or inventive. [a] Tully has justly distinguished those ,

[a] Nec verò ille artifex, quum faceret lovis formi-,', am aut Minervæ, contemplabatur aliquem è quo fimí. li: udinem duceret; fed ipfius in mente infidebat spe. # cies pulchritudinis eximia quædam, quam intuens, in eique defixus, ad illius fimilitudinem artem et manum dirigebat. In Bịuto.


parts, when he observes, that the Jupiter of Phidias was not drawn from any pattern in nature, but from that idea of unexampled beauty, which the artist had formed in his mind. The great difference, obferved among painters of any name, arises from their different excellencies in these two parts: those, whose chief merit is in the mechanick, will; like the Dutch painters, be fervile copiers of the works of nature ; but those, who give wholly into the ideal, without perfecting themselves in the mechanick, will produce [b] sbozzo's, not pictures : it is evident then, that the perfection of the art consists in an union of these two parts. Of all the moderns, Raphael feems to have come the nearest to this point. The next to him is, perhaps, Correggio. I have said perbaps, because, though there is no great variety in his

b] The rough draught of a pi&ture.

B 3


ideas, yet are they sometimes so happy, aby tended with such grace, and executed with such truth, that, as there is no one artif, whose paintings we see with more pleasure, so is there no one, whose impressions we je

ceive more warmly, or remember longer 7 and this last is the test of perfect paintisi

But before I enter further into our subject; may not be improper, to lay before you the method I propose to observe. First theny we will examine our capacity to judge of the imitative arts; to determine whichi va must previously fix the limits between talte and science. In the next place, i consider the true value of these arts, which must be estimated, by their antiquity, their degree of credit with every polite nation,

nd, above all, by their usefulness to socies wy. I shall then divide painting, which is 3 our principal object, into its four leading branches, namely, design, colouring, clear obscure, and composition. Concerning each


of these, I shall endeavour to point out its different beauties and ends; how far the ancients seem to have attained those ends; and of course, what light they must stand in, on a comparison with the moderns. One satisfaction you will have in this progress, that, almost every step we take, will be on claffick ground; and, as all the testimonies I use, or lights I borrow, are from the best writers of antiquity, the vivacity and good sense in their remarks will at once entertain, and guide us in our pursuit. As the day is now too far spent to enter upon our subject, to-morrow, if you please, we will begin; and dedicate a morning to each of the divisions, in the order I just now stated them.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]
« PreviousContinue »