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The Scottish School of Painting
Chapter XII. David Scott and William Dyce


So far the stream of Scottish painting has flowed in a restricted channel. Portraiture, genre painting, subjects from history or historical romance, have been the theme of figure-painters north of the Tweed. And the latter department has been treated by Allan, Harvey, and Duncan rather in the narrative manner than with any intention of pointing a lesson which all might read from the records of the past. Not only so, their compositions want that largeness of design which gives dignity and impressiveness, and they would fail of their aim if used for decorative purposes in connection with national or municipal buildings, where such subjects find their most appropriate home. In another sphere, the Raeburn tradition had imparted a certain breadth and simplicity of design to the work of his successors, which was in danger of being lost sight of by their contemporaries in the more ambitious and complex departments of figure-painting. Lauder, as we have seen, felt the necessity of some larger element, and the two painters with whom we have now to deal shared his feeling. Though younger men, Scott and Dyce had already turned to the same source for deliverance from what they must have considered the trivial tendencies of the native school. Lauder, recognising the importance of the sensuous element in painting, sought this through a higher conception of colour-arrangement, his two brother artists by an appeal to the intellect through symbolism and a larger design. Etty’s work, so highly prized amongst Scottish artists about this time, would affect them differently, but all in the direction of a larger treatment.

Able men as Scott and Dyce were, they failed to leave any marked impress on the native school, and the story of their doings and aspirations stands apart from the main current of Scottish painting. Under happier circumstances it might have been otherwise, but the sharp contrast they make with their contemporaries renders them all the more interesting. The son of an engraver, David Scott was early in touch with art, but that advantage was more than counterbalanced by the austerity which a series of family afflictions had imparted to the household ; and when with opening manhood dreams of art came to him, “the pale cast of thought” which never left him was already quite pronounced. “In his nineteenth year,” we read, “his thoughts were much bent on religious matters,” and his scrap-book shows the nature of his reflections:

.... can this be? Yes! I feel Death clasp me round like a great hand of steel

are the closing lines of a stanza from this source quoted in his brother’s memoir. A little later we read of his reciting an “Ode to Death” “full of great words and involutions,” which “ made a due impression and was considered very fine.” About this time—1827—he shakes himself free of the paternal profession as “a thing not to be borne,” and, perhaps to symbolise the occasion, begins a picture of Lot fleeing from the Cities of the Plam, on the scale of life.

His first exhibited works are mostly in accordance with a youth so nourished. The Hopes of Early Genius dispelled by Death, 1828, was followed next year by The Last of Ossian. Works of a more joyous and strenuous nature alternate with The dead Sarpedon borne by Sleep and Death,1 Cam,f and Russians burying the Dead.% The subjects of the former are mostly from Greek mythology, or have in them a strain of allegory, like Nimrod the Mighty Hunter, and the sketch of Wallace defending Scotland— afterwards developed on a larger scale. Those earliest works already show Scott’s qualities and limitations. At a time when most painters are concerned only with the rudiments of the craft, Scott has, unhappily for himself, come to the conclusion that technical qualities are of secondary importance. His creed once formed, he adheres to it with a kind of obstinacy characteristic of the man ; though there are not wanting indications in the notes and sayings of his later life, that he had misgivings on the point which it took him some trouble to suppress. The technique of the Venetians, when he first encountered it in its worthier manifestations at the Louvre and in Venice itself, calls forth his admiration, and there is a false ring about the sentence with which he winds up his very interesting analysis of the school: “ But oh ! what is to be seen here to fulfil what painting ought to and can perform ? Nothing. Titian is an old man without imagination in all his works; Tintoretto a blind Polyphemus, Veronese a doge’s page ”; as if he felt it necessary to curb his admiration to fit a preconceived theory.

Such a mental outlook made Scott impatient of training, and his contempt for portraiture deprived him of that discipline of hand and eye invaluable to many of his contemporaries ; so that it is not surprising to find his work characterised by an inadequacy of technique which goes far to neutralise the often grandly felt intention. In the Nimrod, for instance, along with a largeness of design befitting the symbolic treatment, there is a total lack of those finer curvatures of line and gradations of surface which would have given suppleness—in this case one may almost say coherence—to the contorted figure of the prototype of huntsmen. The Sarpedon and Cain are executed in a low key and in a monochromatic scheme. In the latter the herculean form of the first murderer rushes straight forward, his livid brow branded with strange imprints, and with hands pressed to his ears that he may escape the upbraidings of the group who point the finger at him as he flies. In the other the slain Lycian is “ carried swiftly in state by the Twins Sleep and Death ” to his native shore. The pallor of the dead warrior is finely contrasted with the brawny shoulder on which he rests, and with the muffled form who clasps him from above. The group, inclosed by the sable wings of the Sun God’s envoys, and felt rather than distinctly seen, floats diagonally across the darkness. The scale of life on which these two works were executed was, of course, trying for one so meagrely equipped in the technique of his craft; but even in the smaller Russians burying their Dead, of the same year, the execution is uncouth and clumsy.

At the age of twenty-six he sets out for Rome, self-reliant in his ideas, and with little notion of the weak joints in his artistic armour. His Italian journal exhibits Scott in his relations to his calling, to his new surroundings, and to his ever restless and unsatisfied spirit. Several Scottish painters and sculptors happen to be in Rome at the same time, and their company saves him from overmuch brooding. His old master, Andrew Wilson, seems sorely perplexed at this strange product of the orthodox Trustees’ Academy. "Criticises some parts of my picture; takes out his snuff-box, and asks if he has said enough.” “A neatly done copy of Correggio would be the thing for him,” is the comment of his quondam pupil. The names of Macdonald and Park, of Lees, Mclnnes, and Lauder, figure throughout the journal with those of Gibson, Wyatt, and Severn, from south of the Tweed. At the Cafe—the famous Greco—or at one or other of their studios, they discuss art or “talk wildly of religion, evil and good.” On one occasion he even joins Park in singing the first psalm—Scotch precentor fashion—which recalls to him that he had last heard it in the manse of Kippen, with appropriate reflections.

But through it all, in broken health during the earlier months, he works indefatigably. The spring and summer of 1833 find Scott engaged on various characteristic subjects, Time surprising Love, The Four Times of the Day, Sappho and Anacreon, and the Vintager. Both as regards symbolic meaning and execution the first named is one of the most striking of the artist’s works, and it shows better than words how much he has been affected by Venetian methods. The gaunt figure of the Destroyer, his bald head bound with a dark fillet, is seen in profile, seated on a red mat spread across the foreground of a Giorgione-like landscape. With hands folded about his knees, he regards grimly a rosy-winged Cupid, who, with spent shafts and silken bow-string snapped, realises with horror that he is within the sweep of the great scythe, the blade of which for a moment lies inactive on the sward. Beyond, a youth in ruddy garment leaves a disconsolate maiden. Both in design and colour the work differs diametrically from the monotonic treatment of Cam and Saerpedon. In Four Times of the Day the artist has sought to embody and symbolise in human form the feeling engendered by certain natural conditions. It is a vein in which he is peculiarly happy. Evening, with feet set close and seen against a darkling twilight, is borne on the back of a great moth. The figure stoops earthwards, drawing a soft veil around head and shoulders as he comes, and almost brushing the petals and leafage of a rose-bush silhouetted against the fading light, whilst the evening star grows brighter in the sky above. Night, floating athwart a blue grey firmament spotted with stars and with lower limbs seen against a crescent moon, is equally successful. A Vintager, and Sappho and Anacreon, are works of a less individual nature, in which he allows himself to deal with the purely pictorial and to illustrate more lightsome aspects of life. This he regards as a lapse from his true vocation, for we read in his journal of May 16, “Ashamed of my own prettiness in Sappho. Look back on my own pictures of Remorse and Sarpedon as more truly what I should do.” He is uneasy when he departs from the colossal and the abstract.

At length, after nearly half a year in Rome, Scott settles to a work after his own heart. Discord, or the Household Gods Destroyed, is conceived on the scale which seems to be the painter’s native element. Next to the Vasco de Gama it is his largest canvas, measuring nearly thirteen feet by ten and a half. In subject as in dimension the work was congenial, for it is intended to embody, through the media of the painter’s art, the “eternal strife and tragedy of the progress of Humanity.” One can form little idea of the picture from the ineffective engraving in his brother’s memoir. Ur. Brown says “the whole canvas is as dark as necessity and fate could render it.” The plate gives a totally different idea, so that, without acquaintance with the original, it cannot be judged from a technical point of view. But, apart from that, the work is one which strains to the utmost his artistic theories. For this chaotic family strife of “some primaeval epoch” is stripped, as far as possible, of that sensuous element which is the painter’s proper sphere. Scott’s best works, his theories notwithstanding, have their share of what he so little regarded both in colour and form ; but it is difficult in this contorted and unrestful composition to find any aesthetic pleasure whatever.

For fifteen years after his return to Edinburgh, in failing health during the last few, Scott continued to develop his individual talent amidst many discouragements. History and allegory, Scripture, with the lighter creations of fancy and literature, furnish the themes. Of serious subjects, the Traitor's Gate and Vasco de Gama, of 1841 and 1842, best represent his mature talent; in the lighter vein Puck fleeing btfore the Dawn is the most successful. The first-named picture is at the Mound, having been presented to the nation some years ago by the late Mr. Robert Carfrae. Its title in the catalogue of the exhibition of 1842 was, Thomas Duke of Gloucester, having been secretly carried off from, England at the command of King Richard II., taken into Calais, where he was murdered. It is one of the most impressive of the artist’s works, and in it, more than in any other, he shows a painter-like mastery of his material. The short title, The Traitor's Gate, is perhaps the more suitable, giving the subject a wider significance. A boat with some half-dozen occupants glides under the narrow arch of a water-gate in the immediate foreground. The figures in the stern, the doomed man and his guard, are silhouetted against a luminous sky and moonlit sea, the free expanse of which contrasts with the gloom of the passage they are just entering. The boatmen have shipped their oars, there is a glimpse of a man in strenuous action at the portcullis chain, whilst a mysterious figure in the prow turns the edge of a broad axe towards the Duke, who eyes it steadily yet fearfully. The prisoner and his keepers, the latter stooping to avoid the toothed bar, still catch the moonbeams, whilst an artificial light illumines in varying degree the nearer figures, and the solid masonry and timber-work of the gloomy portal. On the sea-line a three-masted ship strikes against the lightening sky, on which a few stars are dimly visible. A sense of overmastering destiny and the weakness of the individual fills the mind when looking on this weird and original composition. Yet a moment, and this man of royal lineage, spirited away from courtly surroundings, and with the ducal coronet still on his brow, is shut out from the common heritage of humanity, “clasped round”—to quote the artist’s early note-book— “with a great hand of steel.” Everything deepens the impression : the rigid attitude and ashen countenance of the victim, his guard with ready halberds, the rasp of the great chain as the boat shoots silently under the arch, the vaguely seen man with the axe, and the furtive sidelong glance of the boatman; all, action, attitude and gesture, contribute to the sense of impending tragedy. And here the technique is mostly of a high order. The painting of the naked limbs of the man who works the portcullis, and of the boatmen, is of a virility that leaves little to be desired, the modelling is at once easy and vigorous and the colour has a quality not often found in Scott’s flesh painting. Unfortunately, in the faces of the Duke and his attendants, the old summary and somewhat archaic treatment has been adhered to. With this exception the work everywhere evinces a handling of paint which shows that Scott was by no means deficient in the qualities he so underrated. The composition is grand in its masses, and, alike in shadowed vault and calm radiance of sea and sky, there are the mystery and the glamour which only a capable craftsman can impart.

The Vasco de Gama, though belonging to the same category, is weighted with a different moral. The inevitableness of Fate met by dignified submission is the lesson of the one; the heroic man a match for Fate, of the other. And the means are as different as the aim. In place of stealthy hurried movement and pervading silence, there is the turmoil consequent on the opposing forces of man and the elements. The subject, taken from Camoens’ “Lusiad,” represents the great navigator encountering the spirit of the Cabo Tormentoso—since known as the Cape of Good Hope. The scene enacts itself on a ground of blackest night, and the crowd on the deck of the labouring vessel is rendered visible only by the lurid lightning which the spectre, looming vague and vast ahead, hurls at the presumptuous adventurers. Vasoo, with feet well apart, and the cross of his sword-hilt clasped to his breast, faces the spirit with unflinching look. His raised right hand shades his eye from the blinding glare and secures his plumed cap against the storm. A doublet of dove-coloured silk and a wind-blown cloak of pale blue distinguish him from his more soberly attired companions, who crowd around him with varied action and expression. The deck, both nearer and beyond, swarms with the huddled forms of officers and crew, whose countenances express every shade of bewilderment, anger and panic. A yellow-haired young nobleman draws his sword and rushes to support his leader, a seminude sailor unsheaths a dagger behind his back, with very different intent, whilst a companion shakes his fist defiantly at the author of their calamities. One or two soldiers sustain their courage with cross and rosary; a terror-stricken priest shelters behind the mast. This heterogeneous mass of humanity, made visible for a moment in the lightning flash, expresses the various mental attitudes —from resolute faith to limp cowardice—in which man confronts the supernatural. It was the artist’s supreme effort, and fortunately, like the work of the previous year, its technical merits sustain its high moral purpose. The variety of colour and vivacity of handling accord with the tumultuous and turbulent nature of the scene; and though the drawing and proportions of so many figures in contorted attitudes and violent action are far from satisfactory, these weaknesses are to some extent veiled by a distribution of light and shadow which subserves the aesthetic as well as the narrative purposes of the picture. For the light, like the arrangement of the figures, is con-centrical ; it flames on the gay vestments of the hero and his immediate attendants, whence the tone is gradually lowered till the reds, blues and buffs of the ill-drawn subsidiary figures are swallowed up in the surrounding darkness.

The triptych of the following year, Wallace, the D fender of Scotland,* though lacking the grandeur of the larger works, is a fine conception, combining richness of colour with a dexterity of touch in detail seldom reached by the artist. In Puck feeing from the Dawn, Scott touches the high water mark of such flights of fancy. Judged by Le Conte’s engraving it seems a perfect embodiment of a subject one would have thought too intangible for material treatment. This chubby figure with great moth’s wings and hands clasped about his knees, with the swift flight of Titania and her faery train across the quickening dawn, interprets as no one else has done, one of Shakespeare’s most charming conceptions. The broad terrace and dark sea-line, broken by marble statue and sable fir, add that touch of the concrete necessary to bring the theme within the domain of the painter’s craft. The Belated Peasant, where faery elves and goblins of “pygmean race”—pale on the amber sky or dark against the yellow disc of the rising moon—“hold midnight revels by a forest side,” shows how responsive was Scott’s nature in this department, and how even “such stuff as dreams are made of,” took form and shape under his sympathetic hand.

Scott’s art was many-sided, and a high place in it has always been allowed to his designs and illustrative work in black and white. These furnish a more suitable vehicle for forms of art addressed to the intellect, and get rid of the sensuous element inseparable from colour. The artist’s connection with engraving early led him to express himself thus ; and from the Monograms of Man, a series of six copper-plates in delicate outline, issued in 1831, to the Eighteen Astronomical Designs drawn the year before his death. Scott returned to the medium at frequent intervals. The best known are the twenty-five Illustrations to the “Ancient Mariner” published in 1837, and the Forty Designs to the “Pilgrim’s Progress” of 1841. In all of them, though the earlier series—some of those to Coleridge’s poem especially—show defective drawing, the individuality of the man is strongly felt, whilst some of the plates entitle their author to rank with the foremost of those who have expressed themselves in this the most abstract form open to the artist. Various of the Astronomical Designs—on which he was still engaged at the time of his death—notably The Comet and The Footprint of the Omnipotent—are amongst the grandest examples of Scott’s imaginative power.

Though Dyce has been bracketed with Scott as indicating a revolt from the aims and methods of Scottish figure-painting, their careers had little else in common. Throughout his professional life Scott never swerved from the ideal with which he set out, and his technique, though enriched on the colour side, retains the same characteristic from beginning to end of an instrument inadequate for the full expression of his thought. Dyce, on the other hand, masters his craft with seeming ease, and after a few tentative efforts in figure-painting, of a Scriptural or classic aim mostly, settles down to the career of a portrait-painter in Edinburgh. Everything pointed to a brilliant future for the painter of Harriet Maconochie and The Painter's Son, when his course was suddenly checked by his connection with the Government Schools of Design. Ten years are practically lost to his art, and when he again turns to his easel, he finds himself so rusty in the use of the brush that, along with the veteran William Etty, he returns to Mr. Taylor’s Life school in St. Martin’s Lane. But neither this exemplary course, nor the association with the great English brushman can bring back the William Dyce of former days. New ideas are in the air; his repeated visits to the Continent have brought back the old passion for devotional and legendary art, and from henceforth his technique shows a curious combination of that of the Primitives and the English Pre-Raphaelites. These later years were so much occupied with a series of frescoes in the House of Lords, at Buckingham Palace, and at Osborne, that his easel pictures were comparatively few, and he died at the age of fifty-eight without having done full justice to his powers in any one direction. But in several he left unmistakable evidence of a rare and versatile talent which was not confined to the painter’s art.

Taking the degree of M.A. at Marischal College, Aberdeen, at the age of sixteen, Dyce was destined for a professional career; but the boy had already determined otherwise, and in 1825, after some preliminary study in Edinburgh and London, he visits Rome, where he remains nine months, fascinated by the work of Titian and Nicolas Poussin. In 1827 he is in Rome again developing Pre-Raphaelite tendencies and evoking the admiration of Overbeck and his German followers with a Madorvna and Child, an admiration carried to the point of subscribing a considerable sum to purchase it and thus to enable the artist to remain in Rome, as they attributed his determination to leave to pecuniary causes. This was not the case, and the young artist returned to his native city forthwith, carrying with him, it may be presumed, the picture which had so attracted the Nazarenes. But such art was not in demand in the granite city, and the painter, chagrined at his want of success, threw aside his brushes and turned to the pursuit of science. This he did to so much purpose that his Alma Mater awarded him the Blackwell prize for an essay on electro-magnetism. He was only some twenty-three years of age, and the nature of his future career seemed to lie in the balance when, drawn, no doubt, by some rumour of the art movements there, Dyce came south to Edinburgh. During the eight years he spent in the Scottish capital his art runs the normal course, i.e., an increasing practice in portraiture varied by subject-pictures at ever longer intervals. At first portraits are scarce, but from 1833 onwards they take the lead, and the Aberdonian seems in a fair way of sharing with Watson Gordon, Graham Gilbert, and one or two others, the heritage of Raebum.

He certainly makes his debut—if one may judge from the one or two pictures available for the comparison—in a manner to rouse great expectations. The Infant Hercules, now in the Scottish National Gallery, is a surprising work for one so young. The well-knit figure of this stalwart of the cradle, just awakened to the consciousness of his power, with a deadly enemy in either fist, fills the canvas in a manner satisfying to the eye, both as regards linear design and arrangement of colour. The healthy sun-browned flesh, the draperies of creamy white and deep crimson, with the Titianesque sky, show at once the source of the inspiration and the ability of the pupil. The body is well modelled and, though suggestive of a vivacious brushwork, it has the more equal surface which distinguishes Italian from Flemish methods. The exhibition of 1833 contained portraits of Lord Meadowbank and his youngest daughter Harriet Maconochie. The former is a three-quarter length and full front presentment of a senator of the Scots College of Justice in those official robes which have undergone little change during two centuries, and to which native portraitists have been so much beholden for the setting, at once pictorial and dignified, of many of their most characteristic subjects. Here, a handsome man rather past the prime of life is set against the conventional sky and curtained pillars. The character is well rendered, the colour-masses nicely arranged and balanced, but there is a certain crudity and hardness due to the artist’s having left out of count the harmonising effect of atmosphere. Little Harriet’s portrait is a masterpiece. Some special inspiration has surely guided the hand of the artist in this delineation of childhood, worthy almost of a place beside The Age of Innocence or Penelope Boothby. A girl of five or six, seated on the ground, with knees drawn up and clasped hands resting on her lap, is seen full face. The blue-grey eyes hold the spectator with their half amused, half serious regard, the large pupils and the shadowy folds of brown hair causing them to tell dark on a rather pale complexion. The lower features have a dimpled softness, and the Cupid’s bow mouth has a touch of light on the lower lip. Over a white frock she wears a ruddy striped pinafore ; and a sky of neutral blue with glints of light low down, forms the background. The formality of the pose is saved by its ingenuous quaintness, and in the technique the artist has forgotten Italy and Venice, and thought only of the most direct means of expressing what was before him. This he does with a simplicity and mastery of his material which make one regret that this, his true vocation, was so soon to be abandoned for the uncongenial labours of a Government official, and the more artificial products of his later years. The flesh is softly and sweetly modelled without much impasto, and its thinner shadows—where the twill of the canvas shows quite distinctly—gives it more affinity with contemporary Scottish work than could have been expected from the painter of The Infant Hercules of three years earlier date, and Francesca da Rimini, exhibited in 1837. In the setting, too, he adopts the low-toned conventional sky of his brother painters rather than the Venetian blue and white of the earlier work.

A fitting companion to Harriet Maconochie is Dyce’s portrait of his son. Speaking from memory, this Portrait of the Artist's Son is of a more golden tone and is painted with a fuller brush than the other, but the fair-haired, dark-eyed boy has something of the same formality of pose and naiveti of expression. Mrs. Cockhurn —the wife of Lord Cock hum—and Sir G. Lowry Colef may be taken as representing the painter’s male and female portraiture of about this date. The former in dark dress, Indian shawl and turban of deep red, is more modem—less brown in the shadows—than most contemporary work. In some respect- it is more akin to Duncan than Watson Gordon. The three-quarter length of the military officer, in its narrower shadows, broad half-tones, and finely rendered character, is more reminiscent of the latter. In the Francesca da Rimini of 1837, Dyce reverts to Italy and the oft-repeated theme from Dante, with doubtful results. In spite of a certain simplicity of design and the hint of tragedy the picture leaves one unmoved.

After 1837 William Dyce’s name is rarely found in the Scottish Academy catalogues. Indeed, from causes already alluded to, the palette and brushes had almost to be laid aside for many years, during which his best energies were devoted to the thankless task of the establishment of Government Schools of Design, first in London and then throughout the provinces. Time and again Dyce resigned his position in despair at the red tape of Government methods, only to be called in again to clear up the deadlock into which things tended to drift; and when at last he got rid of the matter some time after 1850, the early formulas no longer fitted his new ideas. His position as Director of the Schools of Design, and his study of similar institutions abroad, had perhaps brought him in contact with some of those who had subscribed to purchase his Madonna and Child, and who had since been busy decorating with frescoes the public buildings of various German cities. The completion of the new Houses of Parliament and their mural adornment had been long discussed, and when a decision was come to, Dyce was intrusted with an important share in the carrying out of the scheme.

In this fresco work Dyce was fairly launched on a career which allowed full play for his early predilections. To popularise art in the North and to make it once more an important factor in national life, by means of the mural decoration of churches and public buildings, was the dream of the men with whom he had associated during his early visits to Rome. And for fifteen years past they had not lacked opportunity. They had been let loose, so to speak, on the churches and municipal institutions of the Fatherland. Overbeck—though he remained in Rome—Veit, Fiihrich and Steinle found various fields for their activities; but it was especially in Munich that the princely munificence of Ludwig I. gave opportunity for the working out of the experiment on a great scale. After erecting palatial buildings which changed the appearance of the city, he had intrusted their decoration to Cornelius, saying to him, “You are my Field-Marshal, do you provide Generals of Division.” And for many years, with the help of Kaulbach and Schnorr, that painter had been doing his best to realise Schiller’s idea of educating humanity through aesthetics. Their labours were quite recent when the determination to decorate the new Houses of Parliament was come to, and it is known that the series of frescoes from the Arthurian legend, executed by Dyce for the King’s robing-room in the House of Lords, was suggested by Schnorr’s illustrations of the Nibelungen in the Royal Palace at Munich.

Dyce’s undertaking was never completed, but the five or six panels he painted have fared better than the German frescoes, most of which, according to Muther, are fast falling into a state of ruin. The subjects, taken from the story of Arthur, are illustrative of Religion, and of the virtues of Courtesy, Generosity, Hospitality, and Mercy. Religion represents the Vision of Sir Galahad and his Company, where knights,- churchmen and ladies worship the throned figure of Christ, supported on either side by saints and symbolic animals borne on clouds. A shield and battle-axe lie in front of the altar steps, thus signifying the dedication of weapons of offence and defence to the service of religion. This large panel is flanked by two smaller upright pictures, Generosity on the right and Courtesy on the left. The former shows King Arthur unhorsed and spared by Lancelot, the latter Sir Tristram harping to La Beale Isoude. The wall facing the windows has for centrepiece Hospitality, a large oblong composition, Admission of Sir Tristram to the fellowship of the Round Table, in which the knight bows under the sword of Arthur, who, attended by warriors, harpers, and singers, occupies a raised da'is on the right. Behind and beyond Sir Tristram is seen a mixed company of ladies and knights on horseback with squires and attendants. The scene takes place in a great hall with arched windows and tesselated pavement. A smaller panel to the right, Mercy, Sir Gawaine swearing to be merciful and never to be against the Ladies, represents the warrior undergoing a process of coercion at the hands of five amazons, one of whom has possessed .herself of his sword. The Baptism of King Ethelbert, in the Peers’ Chamber, was painted in 1846. It was the first of the frescoes executed, and that which determined the going on with the scheme, but, from the position it occupies, it is difficult to get much idea of either arrangement or colour. The decoration at All Saints’ Church, Margaret Street, London, and the windows at Ely and Alnwick, are known to the writer only through cartoons and engravings.

Meanwhile his easel pictures were few and far between. In 1844 he was represented at the Royal Academy by King Joash shooting the Arrow of Delvoeramee, a simple and telling composition, in which the shaft of the kneeling king, drawn to the tip, seems urged on its course by the outstretched arms of the prophet seated behind him. In 1850 there appeared Jacob and Rachel, which subject he repeated several times with modifications. From this date onward, having got rid of his connection with the Government Schools, his appearances at the Royal Academy are more frequent. In these later pictures his technique is affected by the English Pre-Raphaelites. He adds to his former severity of design and the something of asceticism which linked him with the earlier German movement, an elaboration of detail equal to that of any of the famous brotherhood, then a growing power in native art. In such works as Titian making his first essay in colour, St. John and his Adopted Mother, and George Herbert at Berner-ton,\ the excessive elaboration of the setting weakens the design, whilst the Pegwell Bay,§ though said to have been painted from memory with the aid of a pencil drawing, is suggestive of photography both in landscape and figures. The figure-pictures differ; the former being full of positive colour, whilst the latter is in a scheme of grey-greens on a light sky, emphasised by the dark-robed figure of the poet-priest. The St. John, though not exhibited till 1860, had been painted in 1844, and taken up again and worked on seven years later. The probability is that its fuller colour and more searching detail belong to the year of revision, when Millais and Hunt had already given evidence of a new development of the colour-faculty in kindred themes. But neither in this arrangement in which the primary colours play a leading part, nor in the other where they are altogether suppressed, is there anything of that impassioned naturalism which marked the new movement. The breadths of crimson, blue-green and dark green of the one, and the detail of both, seem to be a something superimposed rather than of the fibre of the work. In the Pegwell Bay the ghostly range of chalk cliffs, with the comet of 1858 traced faintly on the October afterglow, appeals to the imagination, but the effect is marred by the puny treatment of the foreground, where the indiscriminate introduction of every detail of rock and weed disturbs the restfulness of the scene and the hour. The crinolined ladies, though somewhat prosaic, might have enhanced by contrast the impressiveness of the picture, had it not been for the irritating spottiness of their surroundings. His continued labours on the Arthurian series of frescoes would not help the colour-quality of his work in such easel pictures, and may account for the more neutral tone of the George Herbert, one of the latest of them.

William Dyce was elected to the Associateship of the Scottish Academy in 1835, and later on he held its honorary membership. At the Royal Academy he attained the rank of Academician in 1848, having been elected Associate four years previously.

Something of the difference of temperament which characterised Scott and Dyce may have been gathered from the preceding pages. Though both alike sought after qualities hitherto neglected by the Scottish school, the results were hardly adequate to the talent of the artists. It seems, indeed, as if comparatively trivial circumstances had come between each and a much greater fulfilment. But as the greater men rise above circumstances, there must have been an inherent weakness in the nature or artistic equipment of both which prevented their rising to higher things. Nor is it difficult to find in their respective temperaments an explanation of such partial failure. These were as the poles asunder. Scott’s was of an inflexible rigidity, and it was his dogged adherence to ideas he had taken up when hardly beyond boyhood, that led to the halting expression of faculties so rare and personal. He remains a warning to his successors that not even genius can afford to despise the means through which it has to be expressed. The morbid self-analysis of his journals gives the impression of one foredoomed to neglect and failure, but firmly resolved to face his destiny. But it cannot be said that he was neglected in the sense that some men of genius have been. Both to his brother artists, many of his distinguished fellow citizens, and visitors of note, the studio of David Scott was an attraction, and though the nature and scale of his work made commercial success an impossibility, he was not worse off in this respect than many others who have devoted themselves to a high ideal. “ The ever ready hearts and hands of a few devoutly admiring friends,” Dr. Brown tells us, “ and the good prices brought by such pictures as did sell," enabled him to live in modest plenty. Commercial success has not often made for a higher achievement, and it is not the want of recognition in this sense that is responsible for Scott’s shortcoming. Inadequate means of expression, and the often strangely archaic treatment of his subjects, are the sufficient explanation of his uncertain position in the art world of to-day. So true is it that in painting “mere technique” is more than the seeing of visions and dreaming of dreams. But what an interest his singular temperament adds to Scott’s character, and how it contrasts with that of his brother artist. Dyce writes to him from Edinburgh: “And what do you think of Rome? Does not its greatness and sublimity of character overwhelm you? All my recollections of it are associated with the most delightful, I may say exquisite feelings.” It was far otherwise with Scott. His unrestful spirit was no more satisfied with the centre of the art world than with the comer he had occupied under St. Leonard’s crags. He saw the same works of the masters, and visited the studios of the artists with whose fame Europe was resounding. But neither past nor present could overwhelm Scott. He weighed the merits and defects of the greatest as if he were one of themselves, and was not slow to detect the weakness of those German painters who had so fascinated his correspondent. Their works he describes as “a compound of antiquarianism and of gentle religious sentiment,” and the whole movement as “singularly at variance with the general tendency of thought in the present day ” and indicative of “exhaustion and senility.”

In his more facile temperament, and his sympathy with this lapse into medievalism, which took so many forms during the first three-quarters of the nineteenth century, Dyce presents a strong contrast to Scott. For 'a while the impression made on him by his early relations with the German painters was counteracted by his practice in portraiture, but it was revived by his mission abroad and the fresco work in which he was subsequently engaged. Thenceforth his pictures show no trace of his Edinburgh period. It is difficult to imagine how the painter of Harriet Maconochie and The Artist's Son should have been so suddenly and completely diverted from a career which promised for him a place amongst the great portraitists of the century. But it is unfair to judge him by the standards of another time. In the thirties, and indeed until quite recently, portraiture was not assigned the high place it now holds. Few painters set out with the idea of devoting themselves to it. And one cannot but admire the abundance and versatility of a talent ever endeavouring to adapt itself to the new ideas of the time. The expectation of a revival of art through the practice of fresco painting has not been fulfilled, and though Dyce’s work in this direction has a simplicity and dignity that saved it from the extravagances of that of Cornelius and Kaulbach, Muther’s words that “it must remain an imported plant that cannot possibly thrive in a northern climate” seem equally true of Great Britain and Germany.

Of the several figure-painters of this period still to be noted the most talented is James Eckford Lauder. Younger than his brother Robert by nine years, his works are in a similar vein, though marked by a strong individuality. The brothers had been in Italy together, and whilst there James made many excellent copies from the works of the old masters. From his return to Scotland till the middle of the century, portraiture and subjects from Shakespeare and Scott form the bulk of his contributions to the Scottish Academy’s exhibitions. Those from Shakespeare are the most numerous, scenes from The Tempest frequently occupying his brush, whilst from Scott’s “Pirate” he repeats Mimna and Brenda on three different occasions. Scriptural subjects appear now and again, and one or two of these rank amongst his ablest works. The Ten Virgins is well known throughout Scotland, having been engraved for the Royal Association. A more important picture and one which is less known is The Parable of Forgiveness, now in the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool. It is of large dimensions, having been painted for the Westminster Hall competition of 1847, where it gained a £200 premium. It illustrates the four verses of the parable in which the king, moved with compassion, forgives and releases the servant who owed him ten thousand talents, and who had been condemned to be sold with his wife and children and all that he had. From the position of the picture in the great staircase of the Liverpool Gallery it is impossible to make any close analysis of the workmanship. One can see, however, that there are many fine passages of colour for which the Eastern costume gives ample scope; the masses are finely arranged, and, though there is some want of suppleness in the drawing, the action is highly dramatic.

Lauder’s qualities can be better judged from his small picture of Bailie Duncan Macwheeble at Breakfast,* surely one of the happiest translations ever made from the literary to the painter’s art, making concrete, as it does, for thousands, a creation of which the finest art of the penman can only suggest a vague and nebulous version. Such translations are sometimes a positive misfortune, as displacing the more adequate conception the reader had formed for himself; but no one, hardly the author of “Waverley” himself, can have had in his mind’s eye a Macwheeble so delightfully embodying the description of Bradwardine’s man of law. Surrounded by the confusion of an apartment which serves at once as office and living-room, the bailie, in rusty black night-cap and morning gown, sits crouched over his bicker of oatmeal porridge eagerly scanning the document propped up beyond. The pot-bellied Dutch brandy-bottle with its accompanying glass, the metal inkstand and bent candlestick, and the wig on its wooden block, contest the limited space of the half-desk, half-table, with crumpled papers, accounts and books of reference. A confused heap of musty volumes is piled on a chair by the doer's elbow, and others, open or closed, encumber the foreground. Such complementary details would naturally suggest themselves, but there is a keener interpretation of character in making the bailie follow with his finger the lines of the document from which he reads. This, and the half-closed eye, tell of advancing years and the parsimony which delays the use of the inevitable spectacles. But no such embodying of the creation of a kindred art would have given Lauder’s picture the high place it occupies in its own, had it not been supported by an adequate technique. It is through its simple and admirable arrangement of light and shade, its rendering of textures, and the happy introduction of a note or two of colour, that this little canvas is saved from being an inventory of what is described and suggested' in “Waverley,” and made a work of art in its own sphere. By the first of these the attention is concentrated on the shadowed face and figure of Macwheeble, which forms the nucleus of the composition, whilst the leathery surface of the flesh, the varied grain of wood and metal, of parchment and calf binding, are rendered with a fuller brush and with a care and precision almost rivalling that of Fettes Douglas. On this small canvas the painter’s reputation rests more securely than on his larger diploma work, Hagar, or even the elaborate composition in the Walker Art Gallery.

William Bonnar and George Simson were painters of less individuality. The former painted many genre pictures in which the weaker side of Wilkie’s practice is evident. One of the most notable of these appeared at the Scottish Academy’s exhibition of 1839, and represented the Buccleuch ladies visiting the cottage of a widow. In his later years he painted many portraits, some of which, those on a small scale especially, are handled with considerable verve and give the impression of being faithful likenesses. George Simson echoes the subjects and manner of his abler brother William, whilst R. Mclnnes, W. B. Johnstone, R. R. Maclan and Alexander Christie follow in the wake of the stronger exponents of history and genre. The last-named was the ablest of these. His picture, Consulting the Gypsies, is admirable both in expression and technique, the latter reminiscent of the best early work of Erskine Nicol.


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