Book of the Artists. American Artist Life, Comprising Biographical and Critical Sketches of American Artists: Preceded by an Historical Account of the Rise and Progress of Art in America
By G. P. Putnam and Son.. With an Appendix containing an account of Notable Pictures and Private Collections. New York:
ONE feels with pride, in looking over Mr. Tuckerman’s book, that the future student of our period must, basing his opinion upon the information here given, fondly regard this epoch as the Golden or Augustan Age of American Art. “ At no other period, perhaps,” we imagine our student, centuries hence, to write, “ and we had almost said in no other country, has art attained such universal and unexceptional perfection. It is not merely that, in the fortunate epoch of which we speak, America had great geniuses in every aesthetic vocation, but that, so far as we can learn from Tuckerman’s elaborate work, none of her artists had any peculiar defect, while each had some striking and original merit.”
In all this the future admirer of Mr. Tuckerman would overstate the matter somewhat, as a writer must if he would praise or would blame effectively. The truth is, Mr. Tuckerman does not laud all our artists alike, though it must be owned that the difference is rather in quantity than in quality of compliment. We do not know that the result was one easily to be avoided by a good-natured man, as most of the artists celebrated here are still in the flesh, and capable, if you tickle them, to laugh, or if you prick them, to cry ; and, along with its excessive kindness, the work has very positive value of a different kind. It opens with a pleasant essay upon American art, from the earliest to the latest times ; and then ensue very full and interesting, and often very sympathetic and graceful, biographical notices of most of our great painters and sculptors, beginning with Copley and ending with Bierstadt. A second division of the work contains brief sketches of the later artists who are of less note in Mr. Tuckerman’s estimation, or who are of too great number to be treated as elaborately as the others. Obviously, men of such marked and characteristic genius as Ward, H. K. Brown, and Story deserve greater consideration than our author gives them, and these have probably suffered through the multitude of their contemporaries. The biographical material has been generally well managed, and Mr. Tuckerman has added to the wellknown facts in the lives of our great artists a fund of anecdote from fresh sources. His book is a complete review of all that has been done in art in America, and of the influences exerted upon it by the different schools of art in Europe. If the picture presented is perhaps too glowing, we feel sure that it will improve with time, which shall bring our artists up to the author’s ideal. It is a good fault, as the tailors say when a boy’s garment turns out too large. As a nation we have in many respects to grow to the praise that has been given us.