Typos p. 156: Rhiel [= Riehl]
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Landscape and Portrait Painting
1. The Value "Ugly" in the Mouth of the Creator.
In the last section of this lecture, I told you of three kinds of ugliness. I said there was the ugliness of chaos and disorder, which provokes the hate of the layman, and which the artist overcomes. I spoke of the ugliness of form in Art, which appeared when the artist had failed in his endeavour to master disorder, or when he had selected a subject already ordered, in which he has left himself no scope for manifesting his power; and I also pointed to that ugliness of subject in Art, in which the ordinary beholder, as well as the artist, recognizes the degeneration of his type or a low example of it.
There is, however, a fourth aspect of ugliness, and that is the esoteric postulation of the value "ugly" by the creator. I have shown how creating also involves giving, and therefore loss just as
We must remember that his eyes are not our eyes, and that his mind is not our mind. He cannot look at Life without enriching her. But what is his attitude to the transfigurations of former artists?
Before these the Dionysian artist can feel only loathing, and, in a paroxysm of hatred, he raises his axe and shatters the past into fragments. All around him, a moment before, people said: "The world is beautiful!" But he, thoroughly alone, groans at its unspeakable ugliness.
He rejoices as he sees the fragments fly beneath his mighty weapon, and the greater the beauty of the thing he destroys, the higher is his exultation. For, to him, "the joy in the destruction of the most noble thing and at the sight of its gradual undoing," is "the joy over what is coming and what lies in the future," and this "triumphs over actual things, however good they may be." 1
What he calls "ugly," then, has nothing whatsoever in common with any other concept of ugliness; it is simply the outcome of his creative spirit "which compels him to regard what has existed hitherto as no longer acceptable, but as botched, worthy of being suppressed ugly!" 2 And thus it is peculiar to him alone.
I have shown you that Nietzsche explains
1 W. P., Vol. I, p. 333. See also B. T., pp. 27, 28.
2. W. P., Vol. I, p. 333.
Not only a creative genius, however, but also a creative age, may use the word ugly in this Dionysian sense. For a robust and rich people scorn to treasure and to hoard that which has gone before. And thus our museums, alone, are perhaps the greatest betrayal of our times.
When the Athenians returned to their ruined Acropolis in the first half of the fifth century before Christ, they did not even scratch the ground to recover the masterpieces that lay broken, though not completely destroyed, all around them. And, as Professor Gardner observes, it is fortunate for us that no mortar was required for the buildings which were being erected to take the place of those that had been destroyed; otherwise these fragments of marble sculpture and architecture, instead of being buried to help in filling up the terraced area
The men of the Renaissance, in the same way, regarded the buildings of ancient Rome merely as so many quarries whence they might bear away the materials for their own constructions. And whether Paul II wished to build the Palazzo di Venezia, or Cardinal Riario the Cancellaria, the same principle obtained. At the same period we also find Raphael destroying the work of earlier painters by covering it with his own compositions, 2 and Michelangelo not hesitating to obliterate even Perugino's altar frescoes in the Sixtine Chapel in order to paint his "Judgment." While in comparatively recent times, at a moment when a great future seemed to be promised to modern Egypt, Mehemet Ali sent his architect to the sacred Pyramids of Gizeh, to rob them of the alabaster which he required for his magnificent mosque on the citadel of Cairo. 3
1 A Handbook of Greek Sculpture, by E. A Gardner M.A., p. 212.
2 Piero della Francesca's decorations in the Vatican painted under the direction of Pope Nicholas V were ultimately destroyed by Raphael. See W. S. Waters, M.A., Piero della Francesca, pp. 23, 24, 108.
3 See also Fergusson, A History of Architecture, Vol. I, p. 48: ". . . If we had made the same progress in the higher that we have in the lower branches of the building art, we should see a Gothic Cathedral pulled down with the same indifference, content to know that we could easily replace it by one far nobler and more worthy of our age and intelligence. No architect during the Middle Ages ever hesitated to pull down any part of a cathedral that was old and going to decay; and to replace it with something in the style of the day, however incongruous that might be;
Still, there are degrees and grades among ruler-artists. All of them cannot aspire to the exposition of the highest human values. And just as some turn to design and to ornament, and thus, in a small way, arrange and introduce order into
and if we were progressing as they were, we should have as little compunction in following the same course."
Even when it uses Nature merely as a symbol or a vehicle, however, there can be little doubt that this kind of Ruler-Art is a degree lower in rank than the art which concerns itself with man; and when this kind of art becomes realistic, as it did with Constable and all his followers, it is literally superfluous. Only when the landscape is a minor element, serving but to receive and convey the mood or aspiration of the artist, is it a subject for Ruler-Art, and then the hand of man should be visible in it everywhere. With the artist's arranging, simplifying and transfiguring power observable in Nature, landscape painting, as Kant very wisely observed in his Kritik der Urteilskraft, becomes a process of pictorial gardening, and as such can teach very great lessons.
When it is remembered that landscape painting only became a really important and serious branch of art when all the turmoil and contradiction which three successive changes of values had brought about were at their height I refer to the blow levelled at Mediæval values by the Renaissance, to 'the blow levelled at the Renaissance by the Counter-Renaissance and Protestantism (in its German form of Evangelism and in its English form as Puritanism), and to the blow levelled at the artistic spirit of Europe in general by the rise of modern science in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and when, therefore, doubt and confusion had already entered men's minds as to what was to be believed about Man and Life; when it is remembered also that it was precisely in the north, where, as we shall see, culture was less a matter of tradition than in the south, that landscape found its most energetic and most realistic exponents from Joachim Patenier 1 to Ruysdael; and that it
1 According to Dr. Wilhelm Lübke, Outlines of the History of Art (Vol. II, p. 452), Patenier might almost be called the founder of the modern northern school of landscape painting. See also p. 575 in the same volume. On this subject see also Muther, Geschichte der Malerei, Vol. II, p. 72: "Although in a way it is possible to establish in what respect the painting of the Netherlands in the sixteenth century ran parallel with that of Italy, it is also necessary to emphasize the fact, on the other hand, that
For, difficult as it may seem to realize it, there is nothing whatsoever artistically beautiful in landscape. 1 Only sentimental 2 townspeople, compelled by their particular mode of existence to gaze daily on their own hideous homes and streets, ever manifest a senselessly ardent and determined affection for green fields and hills, for their own sake; and with English psychologists, it would be quite admissible here to say that all beauty that particular people believe to exist in country scenery,
in some very important matters the former separated itself from the latter, notably in landscape. The Italian classical painters still continued to allow it to appear only as a decorative vanishing point. In the Netherland School a thoroughly familiar tendency remained ever active. And, as this tendency could not be reconciled with the trend of great art, the moment arrived when landscape painting, as an independent branch of Art, severed itself from religious painting." Muther mentions Hendrik Met de Bles, Joachim de Patenier and Bosch as the leaders of this tendency.
1 See W. H. Riehl, Culturstudien aus drei Jahrhunderten, p. 67.
2 This use of the word sentimental in regard to the love of nature for its own sake, is not by any means unprecedented. Schiller, in his essay Ueber naive und sentimentale Dichtung, as an advocate in favour of the love in question, constantly refers to it as sentimental. (See 1838 Edition of Works, Vol. XII, pp. 167-281.)
Mr. S. H. Butcher, 2 for instance, points out how landscape painting only became a serious and independent branch of art among the Greeks after the fourth century B.C. that is to say, long over a century after the date when, according to Freeman, the decline of Hellas began; and, in speaking of the Greeks in their best period, he says: "They do not attach themselves to nature with that depth of feeling, with that gentle melancholy, that charac-
1 See W. R. Hardie, Lectures in Classical Subjects, pp. 1617: "What are the scenes in Nature which had the greatest attraction for the ancients? The landscape which a Greek would choose for his environment was a tranquil one, a cultivated spot or a spot capable of cultivation;" and p. 21: ". . . apart from the work of one or two exceptional poets like Æschylus or Pindar, it must be allowed that the ancient view of Nature was somewhat prosaic and practical, showing a decided preference for fertile, habitable and accessible country."
2 Some Aspects of Greek Genius, p. 252. See also his remarks, pp. 246248, concluding thus: "The great period indeed, of the Attic drama, when the dialectic movement of thought was in full operation, can hardly be called 'simple' in Schiller's sense" [he is quoting Schiller on "Simple and Sentimental Poetry," where in the opening paragraph Schiller applies the word naiv, simple, to a natural object as meaning that state in which nature and art stand contrasted and the former shames the latter); "yet even then, as in Homer, nature is but the background of the picture, the scene in which man's activity displays itself the change of sentiment sets in only from the time of Alexander onwards. Nature is then sought for her own sake; artists and poets turn to her with disinterested love; her moods are lovingly noted, and she is brought into close relationship with man."
But even among sensible moderns, uninfected by sentimental fever, the love of nature is mostly of a purely utilitarian kind, as witness the love of cornfields, hayfields and orchards. The farmer at
1 Studies of the Greek Poets, Vol. II, p. 258.
2. See Social Life in Greece (Mahaffy), p. 426, and What have the Greeks done for Modern Civilization? (Mahaffy, 1909), p. 11: "External nature was the very thing that the Greeks, all through their great history, felt less keenly than we should have expected. Their want of a sense of the picturesque has ever been cited as a notable defect." See also W. R. Hardie, Lectures on Classical Subjects (1903), p. 8: "To what extent do the modern feelings and fancies about Nature appear in the ancient poets? . . . The usual and substantially true answer is that they appear to a very slight extent. Like Whitehead, the Greek is slow to recognize 'a bliss that leans not to mankind.'"
In fact, the attitude of sensible mankind in general towards landscape, as landscape, seems to have been pretty well summarized by the writer of the 104th Psalm, from whom, according to W. H. Rhiel, the Christian world, and especially the Teutonic part of it, seems to have derived much of their love of the beauties of Nature. 1
What constitutes the artistic beauty in a painted landscape, then, is the mood, the particular human quality, that the artist throws into it. As the French painters say, a landscape is a state of the soul; and unless the particular mood or idea with which the artist invests a natural scene have some value and interest, and be painted in a commanding or ruler manner, it is a mere piece of superfluous foolery, which may, however, find its proper place on a great railway poster or in an estate agent's illustrated catalogue.
There is, on the other hand, another kind of love of nature, which dates only from the eighteenth century, and which is thoroughly and unquestionably contemptible. This also, like the above, is the result of association, and has nothing artistic in its constitution; but this time it is an association
1 Culturstudien aus drei Jahrhunderten (2nd Edition, 1859), p. 63.
In this love a new element enters the appreciation of Nature, and that is a dislike and mistrust of everything that bears the stamp of man's power or his labour, and therefore an exaltation of everything untutored, uncultured, free, unconstrained and wild.
This attitude of mind seems to have been unknown not only to the Greeks and to the Romans, 1 but, practically, to all European nations up to the time of Rousseau. As Friedländer says, it would
1 See S. H. Butcher, Some Aspects of the Greek Genius, pp. 265, 266: "Mountains and lonely woods and angry seas, in all periods of Greek literature, so far from calling out a sublime sense of mystery and awe, raise images of terror and repulsion, of power divorced from beauty and alien to art. Homer, when for the moment he pauses to describe a place, chooses one in which the hand of man is visible; which he has reclaimed from the wild, made orderly, subdued to his own use. Up to the last days of Greek antiquity man has not yet learnt so to lose himself in the boundless life of Nature, as to find a contemplative pleasure in her wilder and more majestic scenes."
See also J. A. Symonds, Studies of the Greek Poets, Vol. II, p. 257: "The Greeks and Romans paid less attention to inanimate nature than we do, and were beyond all question repelled by the savage grandeur of marine and mountain scenery, preferring landscapes of smiling and cultivated beauty to rugged sublimity or the picturesqueness of decay. . . ."
See also W. R. Hardie, Lectures on Classical Subjects, pp. 3, 9, 17, and Friedländer, Roman Life and Manners, Vol. I, pp. 391, 392, 393, 395.
Even in the Bible illustrations of the eighteenth century, we also find the same spirit prevailing. Paradise that is to say, the original picture of virgin glory in natural beauty is made to look like what moderns would call a monotonously flat garden, devoid of any indication of a hill, in which the Almighty, or Adam, or somebody, has already clipped all the trees and hedges, and carefully trimmed the grass.
You may argue with Riehl 3 that mediæval painters must have thought rough, wild and barren country beautiful; otherwise, why did they put it in
1 Ueber die Entstehung und Entwicklung des Gefühls für das Romantische in der Natur, pp. 4, 10.
2 Culturstudien aus drei Jahrhunderten, p. 57.
3 Ibid., pp. 59, 60.
In reply to this I cannot do better than quote Friedländer again, who on this very question writes as follows
"At least the lack of a sense for the beauty of mountain scenery, which is noticeable in the poetry and travels of the Middle Ages, viewed as a whole, ought to lead us to suspect that this same sense could have been only very slightly apparent in the realm of pictorial art. But ought we not to ascribe the fantastic and romantic art ideal of the old masters, in landscape, rather to their endeavour to transfer the scene and figures of their pictures from reality to an imaginary world? . . . Even if historical painters like John van Eyck and Memling eagerly introduced jagged rocks and sharp mountain (which apparently they had never seen) into their backgrounds . . . it is difficult to recognize any real understanding or even knowledge of the nature of mountains in all this; but simply an old and therefore very conventional form of heroic landscape which was considered as the only suitable one for a large number of subjects." 1
But there is other evidence, besides that to be
1 Ueber die Entstehung und Entwicklung des Gefühls für das Romantische in der Natur, pp. 2, 3.
Suddenly, all this is contradicted and reversed. Precisely where man's hand has been, everything is supposed to be polluted, unclean, and ugly; and rough, uncultivated nature, however rugged, however unkempt, is exalted above all that which the human spirit has shaped and trained.
How did this change come about?
To begin with, let it be said, that it was not quite so sudden as Friedländer would have us suppose. Long before the dawn of the eighteenth century, the very principles that were at the base of European life and aspirations the principle of the depravity of man, the principle of liberty for liberty's sake, the principle of the pursuit of general truth; and finally, the principle that experience that is to say, a direct appeal to nature was the best method of furnishing the mind all these principles had been leading steadily to one conclusion, and this conclusion Rousseau was the first to embody in his energetic and fulminating protest against culture, tradition, human power and society.
1 E. B. d'Auvergne, The English Castles, pp. 216, 217.
All of you who have read the fulsome and bombastic praise of Nature, together with the bitter disparagement of the work of man, in such works as La Nouvelle Héloise, the Confessions, his letters to Monsieur de Malesherbes, and his Reveries of a lonely Rambler, will not require to be told the gospel Rousseau preaches. 1
1 See Lettres Nouvelles addressées à Monsieur de Malesherbes (Geneva, 1780), 3rd letter, p. 43. Speaking of a lonely walk in the neighbourhood of his country house, he says: "J'allois alors d'un pas plus tranquille chercher quelque lieu sauvage dans la forêt, quelque lieu désert, où rien ne me montrant la main de l'homme ne m'annonçat la servitude et la domination, enfin quelqu' asyle où je pusse croire avoir pénétré le premier, et où nul tiers importun ne vint s'entreposer entre la nature et moi. C'était là qu'elle sembloit déployer à mes yeux une magnificence toujours nouvelle. L'or des genêts et la pourpre des bruyères frappoient mes yeux d'un luxe qui touchoit mon cur; la majesté des arbres" and so on in the same romantic strain for twenty lines. It is impossible to reproduce every passage I should like to quote, in order to reveal the full range of Rousseau's passion for nature and his bitter contempt of man and man's work; but the above is typical, and other equally gushing passages may be found in Les Rêveries du Promeneur Solitaire (Paris, 1882), pp. 119, 138, etc., etc.; La Nouvelle Héloise, especially the 11th letter; Les Confessions (Ed. 1889, Vol. 1), Bk. VI, pp. 229, 234, 238, 245, and Bk. IV, p. 169: ". . . on sait déjà ce que j'entends par un beau pays. Jamais pays de plaine, quelque beau qu'il fût, ne parut tel à mes yeux. Il me faut des torrents, des rochers, des sapins, des bois noirs, des montagnes, des
This new feeling for the romantic, for the unconstrained and for the savage in Nature, although it soon dominated art, was, in its essentials, quite foreign to art and to the artist. It had nothing in common with the motives that prompt and impel the artist to his creations. Its real essence was moral and not artistic; its fundamental feature was its worship of the abstract principles of liberty, anarchy and the absence of culture, which rude nature exemplifies on all sides; and it was a moral or scientific spirit that animated it, whether in Rousseau or in his followers.
Friedrich Schiller, who entirely supports Rousseau's particular kind of love for Nature, frankly admits this 1 in his able and profound analysis of
chemins raboteux à monter et à descendre, des précipices à mes cotés, qui me fassent peur. . . . J'eus ce plaisir . . . en approchant de Chambéri
1 Sämmtliche Werke (Stuttgart and Tübingen, 1838), Vol. XII, "Ueber naive und sentimentale Dichtung," p. 168, 169: "This kind of pleasure at the sight of Nature is not an æsthetic pleasure, but a moral one: for it is arrived at by means of an idea, and it is not felt immediately the act of contemplation has taken place, neither does it depend for its existence upon beauty of form." And, p. 189, after pointing out that the Greeks completely lacked this feeling for Nature, he says: "Whence comes this different sense? How is it that we who, in everything related to Nature,
One or two voices, such as Hegel's 1 and Chateaubriand's, were raised in protest against this thoroughly vulgar and sentimental attitude towards savage and wild phenomena; but they were unable to resist a movement, the strength of which had been accumulating for so many centuries in the hearts of almost all Europeans; and, ultimately, numbers triumphed.
Even the hand of man of the artist in a painted landscape, got to be a thing of the past. Realism because it most conscientiously repeated that unconstrained and anarchical spirit which the romantic age loved to detect in matted weeds, in tangled and impenetrable coppices, in thick festoons of parasitic plants, in unhandseled brambles and in babbling brooks became the ruling principle. Classical
are inferior to the ancients, should pay such homage to her, should cling so heartily to her, and be able to embrace the inanimate world with such warmth of feeling? It is not our greater conformity to Nature, but, on the contrary, the opposition to her, which is inherent in our conditions and our customs, that impels us to find some satisfaction in the physical world for our awakening instinct for truth and primitive rudeness, which, like the moral tendency from which that instinct arises, lies incorruptible and indestructible in all human hearts and can find no satisfaction in the moral world."
1 See Hegels Leben, by Karl Rosenkranz, especially pp. 475, 476, and 482, 483.
Just as England by her influence had created Rousseau and his peculiar mode of thinking, 2 so, again, British influence was to show its power in the world of Art. The parallel is striking, but nevertheless true. In the years 1824, 1826 and 1829, Constable, whom Muther calls the father of landscape painting, 3 and whom Meier Graefe calls the father of modern
1 See The Life and Letters of John Constable, by C. R. Leslie, R.A., pp. 343, 349.
2 See J. Morley's Rousseau, Vol. I, pp. 85, 86: "According to his own account, it was Voltaire's Letters on the English which first drew him seriously to study, and nothing which that illustrious man wrote at this time escaped him." And p. 146: "Locke was Rousseau's most immediate inspirer, and the latter affirmed himself to have treated the same matters exactly on Locke's principles. Rousseau, however, exaggerated Locke's politics as greatly as Condillac exaggerated his metaphysics." And p. 147: "We need not quote passages from Locke to demonstrate the substantial correspondence of assumption between him and the author of the Social Contract. They are to be found in every chapter."
3 Geschichte der Malerei, Vol. III, p. 175.
4 Modern Art, Vol. I, p. 140.
5 Ibid., p. 138: "What his fatherland neglected was
After all that I have said concerning the principles of Ruler-Art, it will scarcely be necessary for me to expatiate upon those elements in portrait painting which are antagonistic to these principles; for when you think of portrait painting as it has been developed by the claims of the bourgeoisie in Europe, you must not have Leonardo da Vinci's
taken over by the Continent. Strange as this neglect may seem, the rapidity with which Europe assimilated Constable is even more remarkable. The movement "began in Paris. . . . France needed what Constable had to give. . . . The young Frenchmen saw the traditional English freedom with eyes sharpened by enthusiasm."
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(Dresden Royal Picture Gallery.)
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When Rembrandt painted his bride Saskia, 1 for instance, the extent to which he exercised his simplifying and transfiguring power is amazing, and precludes all possibility of our classing this work among the portraits which should be condemned. He knew perfectly well that poor Saskia was not beautiful what beautiful girl would have condescended to look at Rembrandt? so what did he do? He cast all the upper and right side of her face in shadow, and deliberately concentrated all his attention, and consequently the attention of the beholder as well, upon three or four square inches of nice round muscle in the lower part of Saskia's young cheek and neck. But how many plain daughters of rich bourgeois would allow three or four square inches of their cheek and neck to be exalted in this way, at the cost of their eyes and their nose and their brow? The same remarks also apply to Rembrandt's "Jewish Rabbi" in the National Gallery. There he had to deal with an emaciated, careworn old Jew. How did he over-
1 Dresden Royal Picture Gallery.
This, then, is not the class of portrait work which need necessarily deteriorate the power of art. What does deteriorate this power, is that other and more common class of portrait painting which began in Holland in the seventeenth century, and in which each sitter insisted upon discovering all his little characteristics and individual peculiarities; in which, as Muther says, each sitter wished to find "a counterfeit of his personality," and in which "no artistic effect, but resemblance alone was the object desired." 1
It was the insistence upon this kind of portrait work by the wealthy bourgeoisie of England, which well-nigh drove Whistler, with his ruler spirit, out of his mind, and it is precisely this portrait work which is dominant to-day. In order to be pleasing and satisfactory to the people who demand it, this class of painting presupposes the suppression of all those first principles upon which Ruler-Art relies in order to flourish and to soar; and where it is seriously and earnestly pursued, art is bound to suffer.
This was recognized three hundred years ago by the Spanish theoretician Vincenti Carducho, and his judgment still remains the wisest that has ever been written on the subject. In formulating the credo of the sixteenth century, he wrote as follows
1 History of Painting (Eng. Trans.), Vol. II, pp. 572, 576.
Our art at the present day is, unfortunately, very largely the development and natural outcome of the two influences I have just described, and that accounts for a good deal for which I have failed to account hitherto.
Art no longer gives: it takes. It no longer reflects beauty on reality: it seeks its beauty in reality. And that is why it falls to pieces judged by the standard of Ruler-Art. It cannot bear the fierce light of an art that is intimate with Life and inseparable from Life. In its death-throes it has decked itself with all kinds of metaphysical plumes, in order that it may thus, perhaps, live after death. But these plumes have been used before by dying gods and have proved of no avail. "Virtue for virtue's sake," was the cry of a dying religion. "Art for art's sake," is now the cry of an expiring godlike human function.
But unless this cry be altered very quickly into a cry of art for the sake of Life, there will be no chance of saving it. Before this art for Life's sake can be discovered, however; before the purpose
1 Muther, History of Painting (English Translation), Vol. II, p. 481.
The purpose of man is a thousand times more important than the purpose of art. The one determines the other. And as a proof of how intimately the two are connected, see how much doubt there is as to the purpose of art, precisely at a moment when men also, owing to the terrible civil war which is raging among their values, are beginning to doubt the real purpose of human existence.
It would be useless to indulge in a detailed criticism of individual artists. To all those who have followed my arguments closely, no such clumsy holding up of particular modern artists to ridicule will seem necessary. In some of your minds these men are idols still, and it pleases only the envious and the unsuccessful to see niche-statues stoned.
The great artist, as I have shown you, is the synthetic and superhuman spirit that apotheosizes the type of a people and thereby stimulates them to a higher mode of life. But where should we go to-day, if we wished to look for a type or for a desirable code of values which that type would exemplify?
We know that we can go nowhere; for such things do not exist. They are utterly and hopelessly extinct.
Our first duty, then, is not to mend the arts you cannot mend a cripple. But it is rather to mend
"Away from God and Gods did my will allure me," says Zarathustra; "what would there be to create if there were Gods!
"But to man doth it ever drive me anew, my burning will; thus doth it drive the hammer unto the stone.
"Alas, ye fellow-men, within the stone slumbereth an image for me, the image of all my visions! Alas that it should perforce slumber in ugliest stone!
"Now rageth my hammer, ruthlessly against its prison. From the stone fly the fragments: what's that to me?
"I shall end the work: for a shadow came unto me the stillest and lightest of all things once came unto me.
"The beauty of the Superman came unto me as a shadow. Alas my brethren, what are the gods to me now!" 1
1 Z., II, XXIV.