LESSING in his Laocoön defines the different points of view of an artist and a poet who strive to portray the same emotion; and it has always seemed to us that he, perhaps unconsciously, proved a certain unfitness in purely literary men for criticising justly an artist’s work. Artistic conciseness is opposed to literary expansiveness, and what may appear bald in style and treatment may be all that the materials afford to express a certain idea; so that to criticise an artist for what he has not done would be to do him injustice. The literary art-critic surveys an artist’s work from an elevated point; he translates to the world what the painter has consciously or unconsciously expressed, for genius is often unconscious, and he adds thereto his own idiosyncrasies of thought. It is one of the objects of art to create intellectual activity and interest, to lead us to new fields of thought and to suggest moods and ideas ; but it is not the only object, for then high art would be in danger of becoming the exclusive prerogative of a narrow sect. The literary art-critic, too, lacks that controlling power which comes from actual practice in putting new ideas into shape upon the canvas. With him theories accumulate, when a healthy handling of the pencil would blot them out forever. The critic may magnify the difficulties of technical processes, or he may undervalue them. He recognizes that the best judge of good expression in writing is one who has himself written ; but he is often dogmatic to the extreme in regard to an art of which he knows nothing from a technical point of view. The literary art-critic often calls upon us to admire pictures as works of beauty and of high art which derive their interest mainly from historical association, or from a characteristic individuality. He cannot put himself into the warm, luxurious mood of color in which an artist may have reveled ; indeed, his temperament may be a cold one ; the intellectual side may have dwarfed the sensuous, and he sees the highest art in the line rather than in color.

Is there reason for our rebellion at the authoritative tone of certain art-critics? It is certain that we recognize in ourselves a growth of higher appreciation for pictures, from year to year. Many paintings which delighted us a twelvemonth since have lost their charm ; only a few hold their place in our esteem. We are forced to confess that long and severe study is necessary to fit us for entrance into the ranks of just critics. We find that we should have a liberal training in all that is recognized as education. We should have seen the best pictures, and it is important that we should have obtained some technical knowledge of the processes in art, so that we may appreciate its limitations. Standing, therefore, on this sure ground of outlook, the human mind, with its ever-present wish to systematize, desires to frame certain laws which shall be a guide to itself and to others. The term “ beauty ” forms a great obstacle to our clear understanding. One of the objects of art is to express beauty in some shape ; but we cannot define it without using vague metaphysical expressions which really give us no satisfaction. Men of science have succeeded in reducing the units by which they measure material objects to absolute measures which are recognized throughout the scientific world. Beautiful is a relative term; the best educated and the most cultured people of the earth do not agree in their classification of objects of beauty. But can we not apply a process of selection, and take what the world’s most refined minds have handed down as definitions of beauty, in other words, the residuum of gold which the furnace of time has left ? We find in Schopenhauer the surmise that the sensation of beauty arises out of the condition in which there is an impossibility of sorrow; or it is a pure intelligence without aim or object, utterly satisfied. Winckelmann says that the beautiful is a thing of which it is easier to say what it is not than what it is. Burke affirms that beauty is the quality of bodies by which they produce love, or a similar passion. Hogarth, in his Analysis of Beauty, claims that beauty is simplicity in the midst of variety. Hemsterhuis says that the heart judges of beauty as that of which it can obtain an idea in the shortest space of time. These definitions are eminently unsatisfactory. The spirit which we pursue continually eludes us. Perhaps it is best that beauty should be indefinable, and that the standard should be indefinite, for then by the process of judgment and criticism our perceptive powers are always on the increase. As we study art we become a little clearer in our convictions; our sense of the symmetrical gradually grows. We distinguish certain things which when together constitute a pleasing effect, and when separated from each other give an unpleasant sensation. When men endeavor to convey their impressions to others we perceive the influence of the complexity of human natures. Every man has a different organization. Some have senses of a limited range, others morbid tastes in certain directions. One, because he has a very sensitive ear, delights in certain harmonics which satisfy an abnormal longing often accompanied by a one-sided development. Another possesses eyes which are peculiarly sensitive to the delicate variations in the velocity of color waves; for this one, color is superior to form. An artist is often a poor art-critic, because his tastes may have become developed in a one-sided manner. The technique of his art has had its difficulties, which may have usurped too great a share of his thoughts. The deep student of historical art finds hints and motives in sketches and studies which are merely repulsive to a simple sense of beauty. He who should devote his life to studying the schools of design in nature’s architecture, who should trace the contours of the leaves of maples, of oaks, of thistles, of the fronds of ferns, and should endeavor to find the materials for the formation of different schools of design analogous to the Grecian, the Roman, the Gothic, and the Moorish in nature’s work, would soon become so interested in his investigation that the line would become more important in his eyes than color. He would be in danger of losing his sense of the latter, or at least it would become deadened, and in place of the instinct and feeling of an artist he would substitute the modern tendency to philosophize or to psychologize. Thus it is that the intellectual interest which we take in a subject substitutes a new standard of beauty, which is, in general, far removed from that which would find the most advocates among cultivated artistic people. Before joining, therefore, the school of any artcritic we should understand his idiosyncrasies, lest by the force of his mind he lead us to form fantastic tastes.

In line there is more definiteness than in color. The literary man has the artist more upon his own vantage-ground when he criticises the drawing than when he interprets the moods of color. In all that pertains to form and composition the man of literature and the artist are nearly allied. Both have had an analogous training in outlining their ideas and, indeed, in filling in with the pen’s point the details of the picture which they wish to present. In respect to color, however, the artist is separated by a wide gulf from literary men as a class. The appreciation of delicate tones is a matter of native fitness united to diligence with the brush. It is not so nearly allied to intellectuality as to sensuousness; so that we find that most modern art-critics expend their critical force upon the drawing and the composition of a picture. Turner, for instance, appeals to them more through his masterly drawing than through his color. They find more satisfaction in engravings and photographs from his pictures than in the pictures themselves; for in these the drawing is separated from the color. Thus, too, the excellences and the fire of Blake’s compositions divested of color appeal strongly to the literary mind. We find statesmen and historians gathering collections of engravings and becoming virtuosos in etchings. Modern French landscape art therefore seems slovenly work to men who have trained their eyes to observe excellence in form expressed merely by means of the pen or pencil. It is well known among artists that unless a pupil has a genius for color, excellence in the judgment of fine gradations of tints comes to him only with a gradually developed maturity of mind. If one should set out, for instance, to paint a level field, his various essays would be very instructive. At first he would see only the predominant green, and would feel that the near grass should be stronger in color than the remote. It is only by long study that he becomes conscious of the delicate browns, the grays, and the thousand gradations in what appears to be a simple sweep of color. The color-drawing of that field, so to speak, can only appeal by its general effect to the literary man, who is not a colorist and cannot interpret the work of a great colorist.

Before Ruskin, art-criticism in England was confined mainly to newspapers. In Hazlitt we find a literary art-critic developed from an embryo artist. He wrote as if he belonged to the guild. In his TableTalk there is a delicious description of the pleasure he took in limning an old lady’s face. He revels in the artistic processes by which he caught the tints and shades of the countenance, and says, “ One is never tired of painting, because you have to set down not what you know already, but what you have just discovered. In the former case you translate feelings into words ; in the latter, names into things.” Before a landscape by Poussin he cannot find words to describe his pleasure. That he was an artist transformed into a literary man can be seen by the following advice to his young boy: “ Yet if I were to name one pursuit rather than another I should wish you to be a good painter, if such a thing could be hoped. I have failed in this myself, and should wish you to be able to do what I have not, to paint like Claude, or Rembran dt, or Guido, or Vandyke, if it were possible.” Among the essays collected by Hazlitt we find one marked with the initials T. T., which contains sentiments which Hazlitt probably subscribed to. In speaking of the pleasure that artists take in technicalities the writer says, “ We have alluded particularly to Turner, the ablest landscape-painter now living, whose pictures are, however, too much abstractions of aerial perspective and representations not so properly of the objects of nature as the medium through which they are seen. They are the triumph of the knowledge of the artist, and of the power of the pencil over the barrenness of the subject. They are pictures of the elements of air, earth, and water. The artist delights to go back to the first chaos of the world, or that state of things when the waters were separated from the dry land, and light from darkness, but as yet no living thing nor tree bearing fruit was seen upon the face of the earth; ‘ all is without form and void.’ Some one said of his landscapes that they were pictures of nothing, and very like.”

Ruskin has fully atoned for the want of art - criticism in England before his time, He has led people to think about art more than any other writer, ancient or modern. He would have an artist limn rocks with the knowledge of a geologist, plants with the skill of a botanist, and combine philosophical insight with artistic spirit. He is an interesting example of the manner in which art can stimulate the intellectual faculties to such an extent that they can turn upon their foster-mother and demand that she should be learned as well as beautiful. One is carried away by the splendor and picturesque force of the critic’s language, and one learns to demand realistic work, and to seek for what is termed truth in art; Ruskin is, in reality, a philosopher who has founded a school of æsthetics upon the methods which men take in expressing their ideas upon canvas. It is delicious to meet an ardent Ruskinite: he resembles a Catholic; His faith is founded upon a rock. He knows he is upon the right road, and is sure that all the world else is wrong. Ruskin’s influence upon English art has undoubtedly been verygreat in so far as he has insisted upon conscientious study.

Among the French writers, Thëophile Gautier stands forth as a very tolerant artcritic. Like Hazlitt, he was early at tracted towards art. Sainte-Beuve says of him that, having passed from the studio into the Cénacle Littéraire, he often had one foot in one and one in the other. He painted with the pen. In his Voyage en Espagne we are continually struck with his artistic eye, especially in regard to color ; he is everywhere alive to its delicate gradations and tints. He is, moreover, most liberal in his art criticisms. “Why,”he says, “should we write in the morning that concerning an honest man which we should not say to him at the dinner-table in the evening ? “ If one is read by fifty thousand persons, it is no reason why one should be uncourtcous and wound-inflicting.” Sainte-Beuve says of this remark that it circumscribes the critic, but continues, “ Le dirai-je? si le critique perd par là en fermeté et autorité, le talent de l’écrivain gagne en ces précautions tout humaines, et l’on est recompensé en finisses heureuses.” Gautier is enamored of English art, from Reynolds to Landseer. His literary instincts appear to have been stimulated bythe story-telling character of it. He could find “ books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything.” The last three words of Shakespeare’s line distinguish him from the followers of Ruskin. Gautier has all the delightful tact of a gentleman of his nation. In speaking of Baron Levs, the Belgian artist, he says, “ S’il se permit de ressembler aà quelqu’un, c’est sans doute à son père, et M. Leys est dans ce cas; chez lui il n’y a pas imitation, mais similitude de tempérament et de race; c’est un peintre du XVI siècle vena deux cents ans plus tard, voilà tout. M. Leys n’est pas un imitateur, mais un semblable.” The last sentence is delightful.

This liberality of criticism has very many instances among French men of letters. Alfred de Musset in his notes upon the pictures exhibited in the salon of 1836 writes in the most generous spirit, and is always careful to give his impressions as those of himself, and not to state them as resulting from fixed and rigid laws. He says continually“ J’aime” or “Je n’aime.” He has no reluctance in using even superlative terms. Speaking of a copy upon porcelain which Madame Jaquotot had made of the Virgin with the Veil, he says, “ It is as beautiful as Raphael’s.” Moreover, he claims that a work of art should be judged by two: conditions : one, that of pleasing the public ; the other, of satisfying connoisseurs. But Taine surpasses them all by his freedom from dogmatism. In his Philosophy of Art we find the following : “ The modern method, which I strive to pursue, and which is beginning to be introduced in all the moral sciences, consists in considering human productions, and particularly works of art, as facts and productions of which it is essential to mark the characteristics and seek the causes, and nothing more. Thus understood, science neither pardons nor prescribes ; it verifies and explains. It does not say to you, 'Despise Dutch art because it is vulgar, and prize only Italian art;’ nor does it say to you, ‘ Despise Gothic art because it is morbid.’ It leaves every one free to follow his own predilections, to prefer that which is germane to one’s temperament, and to study with the greatest care that which best corresponds to the development of one’s own mind.” Goethe in his Essayson Art recognizes the importance of viewing life and art together, and affirms that “ he who would write or dispute about art at the present time ought to have some not ion of what philosophy has accomplished in our day and is still accomplishing.”Indeed, we do not find narrow views on art in any of Goethe’s writings ; he everywhere recognizes the excellences of different schools of painting.

The French art-critic is, in general, not so cold and fastidious as the English, nor so philosophical. He is wanting also in the ponderous scientific analysis of the German. The sensuousness of art appeals to his temperament more strongly than it does to the Saxon or the Teuton. It will be interesting to see if mobilized Germany, with its strength in philosophy and psychology, can ever surpass France in art. There is a certain belief, call it superstition if you will, that science and mobilization like that of Germany are inimical to high art, and that art is a plant of wild growth.

It is perhaps essential that an art-critic should be dogmatic if he desires to form a school. People, are generally led by men of strong convictions. Those of limited calibre who have a strong impulse to study art, arising from a taste for it or from a conviction that such study is essential nowadays for high culture, often substitute the dicta which fall from the lips of a dogmatic master for their own unsettled opinions in art, and find immense peace of mind.

The chief characteristic: of modern art criticism is perhaps its literary and psychological character. The artist’s character is dissected, the peculiarities of his moods of production are dwelt upon. It may often happen that he becomes an object of interest to himself. The question whether Turner’s eyes were astigmatic or not is of overwhelming interest to the scientific critic. The scientific spirit of the age has had its influence upon English and German art; it would bring all under law and order, forgetting, it may be, that its weights and measures are not always fitted for work in an imaginative domain. The dogmatic, scientific art-critic is unhappy if the laws of perspective are violated. Right is right, and he sees no reason why rigid laws should be violated to produce effect. “ Truth is truth, is it not ? he asks, and you are compelled to answer humbly, “ Yes.” Yet the conviction remains that there is truth sometimes in the apparent violation of a rigid law, although you could not maintain the proposition with a logical and severe critic of the scientific cast of mind. He whips out his pencil in a moment and proves to you by a geometrical proposition that the moon should never be painted so large as we often see it in pictures; and when you suggest the need of exaggeration, to produce effect, he utterly refuses to acknowledge it. He is immensely troubled to account for the manner in which the lights are thrown, and a grand effect cannot withdraw his eyes from an impossible shadow. The grounds of his opinions are tangible, and are entitled to much respect. But the narrowness and barrenness of his methods of criticism are especially repugnant to imaginative minds.

It is amusing to observe how art-criticism can transform people. One reads a violent article in the newspapers against the works of a certain artist, and finds that it is the work of a good-natured man who would not knowingly hurt the feelings of the smallest thing that lives. An art topic has the effect of a religious controversy with him. It is the red flag which excites his animosity. The sweet and pliant temper of a young lady art-student suddenly hardens when the tenets of her teacher are attacked, and the listener is shocked with a sudden surprise, as if he were the steamer which had struck an iceberg. Uncompromising faith is a dangerous adversary when one is not oversure of his ground. With a look or a gesture the dilettante can bar you out inexorably from the ranks of the cultured ; in his company one walks through galleries with abased feelings, and repeats art-criticisms which are handed about and form a part of the floating conversational stock of bookish people. One learns in time not to give way to his feelings. He gathers a stock of expressions which are fashionable in art, and talks learnedly and vaguely about the “ values ” of a certain picture. He is indeed a brave man who can break away from the tenets of an art-school and proclaim the genius of a young and obscure artist of marked idiosyncrasies.

In the representation of the human figure we have rigid standards. The condition of mind of an art-critic who has deeply studied the representation of the human figure by the ancient Greeks approaches that of a student of science. In this case, what seems dogmatism to the uninitiated is often the fault of their own education. In landscape art, however, there are few standards; and here intolerance in criticism is unpardonable. Every one looks at nature with his own eye. Sombre moods appeal to some, and light and gay moods to others. One sees a certain grotesqueness in the massing of cloud-forms and in groups of trees, which lurks even in the brightest mood of a landscape. Another is shocked by everything short of the most graceful and delicate. In questions of the preponderance of light or shade, of careful definition of outlines or broad nebulous effects in color, there are a thousand different, tastes. While there are certain well-recognized principles to which all landscape art must conform, there is also a wide latitude for the display of individual traits.

Finally, the most objectionable form of dogmatism in art-criticism is perhaps that assumed by certain critics who pronounce a picture “irretrievably bad” without giving the grounds of their opinion. This is not criticism ; it is an ungentlemanly obtrusion of the conceit of knowledge, the propriety of which may well be questioned.

A few artists and patrons of painting have lately laid the foundation of a drawing school in Boston, which promises to be the most immediately useful and invigorating measure yet taken in this part of the country for the development of pictorial art. The school is to he placed in the portion of the Museum of Fine Arts now finished, and is to be conducted under auspices and on principles that impress us as most excellent. The academic mode of organization, which involves so much cumbrous machinery and has so often resulted in obstruction and strife, has been wisely eschewed, and the enterprise is in the hands of a committee of twelve, which has resolved itself into suitable sub-committees. These gentlemen are Messrs. Martin Brimmer, E, C. Cabot, E. W. Hooper, William M. Hunt, John La Fargo, Charles G. Loring, F. W. Loring, F. D. Millet, R, S. Peabody, C. C. Perkins, Frank Hill Smith, and W. R. Ware. The school is to be one “of fine art as distinguished from applied art,” and its chief object is to give to persons who are proposing to become artists the means of serious professional study. An excellent provision is that the estimates for each year’s expenses shall be based upon the amount of money actually in hand at the beginning of the year; enough has now been subscribed for a year’s work, and a competent teacher, it is thought, engaged ; and the committee have under considerat ion a plan for forming an association of several hundred members for the permanent support of the school. We need hardly say that to open to native talent the surest way to a healthy growth, some such design as this has long been needed and is absolutely essential. Under the influence of a teacher who has had the rigorous European training, with an energetic life-class, and the supervision of persons of knowledge and taste, we may hope for a systematic coöperation of sentiment and skill which shall yield substantial results. Thoroughness and sincerity can be infused into our art only by means of this kind.

— Last year, at this season, we noticed Mr. J. E. Baker’s lithograph portrait of Mr. Longfellow, issued by the publishers of The Atlantic. From the same hand, under the same auspices, we now have before us an excellent likeness of Mr. Bryant, being the second in what will doubtless prove a very popular series of life-size heads of American poets. The subject and the size of the representation offer a severe test to the lithographer’s skill; but we think Mr. Baker has met it in the present case with even more skill than was shown in the Longfellow portrait. The light is less diffused than in that, the shade of the background is perhaps a little better managed, the drawing is equally careful, and there is the same impressive resemblance to the original. The lithograph is, of course and of nature, restricted; but making allowance for the difference between printed pictures and those that are without the power of being multiplied, we cannot imagine anything which will so nearly take the place of a fine crayon head as this excellent print. The public may be sure that with this production they will obtain the work of a remarkable draughtsman, as well as an excellent presentment of the venerable and popular poet.