Three Boston Painters

BOSTON has no annual exhibition like those of London, Paris, and New York, in which, theoretically at least, the best work of the year in art is brought together. The Boston Art Club does indeed give two or three exhibitions each year, but, like those of the old Athenæum and of the short-lived Allston Club, these are largely composed of pictures loaned by their proprietors and the work of non-residents and foreigners. There has never been in the New England metropolis a regular recurrence of artistic tournaments, like those of the English Royal Academy and the French Salon, to which living artists are invited to send their own works in open competition with their contemporaries.

In default of the comprehensive view afforded by these great art fairs, he who would inform himself of the condition of contemporary art in Boston must take advantage of the lesser opportunities of which there is an almost constant succession. The Art Club, as already mentioned, occasionally opens its doors to the public the receptions of the Palette Club afford to the favored few specially invited an interesting study of the work of students and amateurs, interspersed with frequent contributions of painters of established reputation; but the chief resource must be the galleries of the principal art dealers, where beside the constantly changing stock of works on sale there are frequently to be seen special collections of pictures by resident artists.

Of the many such collections exhibited during the past year, some of which have been noticed in the Art department of this magazine, none were more important or more interesting than those of Messrs. W. M. Hunt, George Fuller, and J. Applgton Brown.

Whatever differences exist between these three painters, — and they are many and great, — they have at least this in common: that there is in all their works an element of poetry, whether of incident, or of suggestion, or, more fundamentally important than either, that strictly pictorial kind of poelry which is the expression of the artist’s intense appreciation of the beauty of form, of color, of the effects of light and shade, which he finds in his subject and which become the motive of his picture, the reason why he paints it, its inspiration.

A striking instance of this last kind of poetry is to be found in a small sketch, or study, though most certainly a picture, which was on the whole the most attractive feature of Mr. Hunt’s exhibition. The subject is a very simple one. Two youths have come to bathe at evening in a secluded pool, shut in by a dense screen of foliage. One of them has waded out into the water until it has reached his armpits, hearing his companion upon his shoulders. The latter has raised himself to an erect position ami stands with outstretched arms, preparing himself for the plunge which is evidently to follow. Both turn their backs to the spectator and their faces are invisible. The clear pearly white of the bathers’ naked flesh, relieved against the dark, green background, together with the beauty of the unclothed youthful figures, hesitating between action and repose, motionless yet full of movement, constitutes the whole picture, one which has all its attractiveness, all its charm, all its poetry, within itself, and owes nothing to suggestions from without.

It is to be regretted that a wider publicity could not be given to this charming sketch than that resulting from its too brief exhibition; that it could not, for instance, be reproduced in etching, that most fascinating form of art now so popular in France and England, and to which it seems to be admirably adapted.

In another of Mr. Hunt’s works there is also a group of bathers, but instead of being the principal feature they are accessory to the landscape, which, in this case, constitutes the picture. The hour is shortly after sunset. Near the horizon the cloudy sky is faintly streaked with red, while a ruddy glow, feebly Contending with the prevailing gray, flushes the heavens and is repeated in the glassy surface of the stream. Less effective or less striking pictorially, less a picture in itself than the other, at least at the first glance, it has a charm of suggestiveness not felt and not needed in that, and may be taken as a good instance of another way in which a picture may be said to be, poetical: namely, when it inspires in the sympathetic beholder poetic thoughts not arising directly from the artistic or poetical treatment of form, light and shade, and color. The theme, the motive, is evening; the moment when —

“ fades the glimmering landscape on tlie sight,
And all the air a solemn stillness holds,”—

a solemn stillness that seems, indeed, to be the prevailing sentiment of the picture; a stillness made only more marked by the fancied sound of shouts and laughter and of plashing water coming faintly from the distant group of bathers.

In yet another of Mr. Hunt’s pictures maybe found an instance of a third kind of poetical interest which may attach to a work of art, the poetry of incident.

The scene here represented is again sunset or early twilight, the after-glow of a November dny. A russet rather than a rosy light still lingers in the sky, and a few faint crimson streaks mark the spot where the sun has just gone down behind the steep hill-side, which occupies the greater part of the canvas and at whose foot the spectator is supposed to be placed. Just beyond the crest of the hill we see, as we look up, an ox - cart, and two men at work gathering in corn-stalks from the pyramidal heaps in which they had been left to dry after the corn itself was harvested. A few stooks, only, are still standing, rising dark above the line of the hill-top against the evening sky, which, though warm in color, is suggestive of cold, —the harbinger of a frosty night. One of the men on the top of the load, already piled high, stoops to arrange in due order the bundles of stalks which the other lifts to him on the point of his fork. On the right, in a depression between the hills, a line of apple - trees closes the vista. The foreground, dimly seen in the gathering dusk, is a rough, plowed field, in which the lines of stubble, the half-effaced “hills” where once the corn stood in rows, with here and there a few scattered leaves and withered stalks, are felt rather than discerned.

Though this picture is by no means wanting in strictly pictorial poetry, — the purely artistic attractiveness which makes it a picture, — nor in the poetry of suggestiveness, these are both made subordinate to the poetry of incident, the story proper which the artist had chiefly in his mind to tell: that sad, pathetic story of the hard, laborious, joyless life of the small farmer in New England, — a life of which, for the most part, we have had, in painting at least, only caricatures, but which contains, when rightly seen, as many elements of poetry as that of the French peasants whom Millet has made immortal.

In this picture, as in the study of the two bathers, the purely pictorial effect is dependent upon the opposition of dark and light. But the terms are reversed. Here it is the background which is light, while the principal figures are dark. This change imparts at once a different character to the scene, and invests the group around which the interest centres with a sombreness in accord with the pathos of the story. Nor is the contrast so vivid. There is nothing to recall the brilliant contrast of the bathers’ white flesh and the dark mystery of the green trees. The twilight sky glows, indeed, but does not sparkle; while the group of the cart, the oxen, and the men, though counting as dark against the sky, is steeped, as it were, in the subdued light with which the ambient air is filled,—an effect no less true to nature than conducive to the poetical charm. Equally with the other picture it has its purely pictorial melody, but a melody played lower in the gamut and in a minor key. Nor is it any longer a simple melody. It is pressed into the service of the poetry of incident and becomes the accompaniment of the song, not the song itself.

As for the poetry of suggestiveness in this picture, it is difficult to separate it from the poetry of the story, which is not told solely by the action of the men around the cart. Each portion of the picture takes up the tale in turn, or rather in concert; every inch of the canvas has its part to play in the drama. And how well do these subordinate characters, as we may call them, play their parts! They speak the lines set down for them, and nothing more; not interpolating irrelevant matter to attract attention to themselves and to mar the unity of the play, as bad actors often do on the stage. The plowed field, with its half-effaced corn-liills, records the past labors of the husbandman and the successive stages of the growing crop; the sky says plainly that autumn has come and the long imprisonment of winter is near. It is no mere imitation of nature that we have before us. No photograph, no pre - Raphaelite rendering of sticks and stones, could give this impression, could have this suggestiveness. It is not a portrait of the field as it actually was, but as it appeared to the quick sense of the poet-painter.

But admirably, on the whole, as the story is told, effectively as every part of the picture is made to help in the telling, Mr. Hunt has not quite succeeded in giving it, in the genuine Yankee dialect, with a strong flavor of the soil about it, as Burns or Millet would have done had they been born in New England. Neither the men, nor the oxen, nor even the apple-trees, are of the pure Yankee type; and the whole picture has something of a foreign air. There is a want of that perfection of local coloring which we can never hope to see fully realized in the portraiture of the rural life of New England until some youth, “ native here, and to the manner born,” shall, as Millet did, quit the plow handle and the scythe for the palette and brush, and — profiting by the means of art education now beginning to be so abundantly offered — qualify himself to render a tardy justice to the race from which he sprang.

One ought not, however, to insist too strongly upon this defect in Mr. Hunt’s picture. Burns and Millet have drawn the farm laborer as seen from within Tennyson, and Mr. Hunt must, of necessity, paint it as seen from without; but this does not in the least prevent their being true poets.

Whatever want of localization there may be in this episode of New England farm life, no fault of the sort can be found in the two large landscapes which plainly represent no other than New England woodland scenes. Not the damp, sunless depths of the primeval forest, where the wayfarer, if he quit for a moment the beaten trail, sinks knee-deep in moss and rotting wood, and where the chill air, redolent of decay, makes it dangerous to linger; but the neglected woodlands to be found in the neighborhood of almost every New England village where, since the introduction of coal as fuel, the wood is not cut so regularly as it once was, and where, here and there, singly or in groups, a few stately oaks or beeches have been allowed to attain a length of years and fullness of growth usually denied them. Here, amid ruin caused by neglect or wanton destruction, forcing our way through the high and tangled underbrush that too often hides from view the “dim vaults” and “winding aisles” of “ God’s first temples,” we occasionally come upon a remote and secluded spot, spared alike by the woodman’s axe and the forest fires, where the nibbling sheep have kept down the rank luxuriance of the wild grape and of the beautiful but destructive smilax, and where we are vaguely reminded of the stately majesty of the Bas-Bréau, that crowning sylvan glory of Fontainebleau.

In some such favored corner of a New England “wood lot” Mr. Hunt seems to have found the subjects of his two pictures. Grand old trees spread abroad their gnarled and knotted branches darkly against the translucent, sun-illumined green of the foliage, their “ immovable stems ” fast anchored in the soil by the muscular grasp of their strong roots; while, impudently intruding on their venerable privacy, a group of upstarts of lesser growth here and there assert the New England character of the place, which is again marked by the low wall, long disused and half fallen, loosely built of large, unhewn, and lichencovered stones. Subjects of this class ought to be especially dear to American landscape painters, as they have ever been to him who, of all American poets, has best described and most fully entered into the spirit of American scenery. Few who have tried to reproduce on canvas the sort of scenery which inspires Bryant have seemed to recognize the sort of poetry which he found in it, and which is indeed there; but in Mr. Hunt’s pictures we have a strong impression of the —

“ Stilly twilight of the place ;”1
. . “ the solemn shade,
Verdure, and gloom, where many branches meet,
So grateful when the noon of summer made
The valleys sick with heat ;" 2

In spite of the bold and sketchy execution, the great masses of color, though laid on as with a trowel, are yet so carefully selected and skillfully placed that they have a harmony, a tenderness and delicacy so characteristic of sylvan scenery, and giving to the woods so much of their tranquillizing and consoling influence.

If it be among the objects of the new Art Museum in Boston, as it undoubtedly should be, to form by degrees a gallery of American art, these two pictures, so thoroughly American in subject and in feeling, and the work of one long recognized as at the head of his profession in Boston, should at once take their permanent place on its walls.

In all the landscapes and landscape studies which formed so large a part of Mr. Hunt’s two exhibitions will be recognized the power to see rightly and the ability to express briefly and strikingly. The union of these two qualities constitutes what is called strength in art. United with this there will also be found in all Mr. Hunt’s work, however rough and unfinished, a refinement which is always the concomitant of true strength, and without which strength becomes mere brute force, repulsive and vulgar. As an example of the pervading presence of this characteristic even in what, materially considered, may be called his coarsest painting, one may take the yellow backgrounds of his unfinished portraits. Made up as they are of great splashes and blotches of different shades and colors, see how exquisitely they blend into one harmonious whole, — passing through infinite imperceptible gradations from their highest light to their deepest shadow, — and how the quality of the color thus produced is throughout as far as possible removed from coarseness and vulgarity!

Mr. Hunt rarely, if ever, makes color alone the motive of a picture. Even in the Boy with a Mandolin, perhaps the most brilliant example of color lately exhibited by him, you are less attracted by the rich Giorgione-like tones of the flesh, the iridescent sheen of the drapery of shot silk, the brilliant contrast of the white turban and whiter teeth with the dark skin, than by the roguish archness of the boy’s face, the naïve delight with which he listens to the twanging string. The color is subordinate to the thought of the picture.

So it is with all. If there were time to go through the list, we should find that something beside the color, or the form, or the cliiaro - oscuro, something more than the mere material, was the real motive which, with perhaps one or two exceptions, led to the painting of each picture. In the landscapes it is the solemn twilight, the almost sacred calm of the woods, the boisterous exhilaration of a breezy day, the awful majesty of towering clouds, the tender freshness of spring, the sultry glow of summer; in the portraits it is the pensiveness of one, the eager animation in another, the proud indifference of a third, and, in the head of Sumner, the man weary and worn in the public service, that one sees first of all.

One of the great difficulties of the technical part of art is that its business is not to reproduce with literal fidelity the forms and colors of visible nature, but to convey to the beholder the artistic or poetical impression produced by these on the artist - painter. To distinguish what features of the scene before him produce the impression he feels is by no means easy ; and having once found them it is equally difficult to keep them resolutely in view, shutting the eye to everything else. The temptation is strong to put into the picture what a public more wedded than it suspects to certain conventionalities of treatment expects to find there: on the one hand to represent what is not seen, though it is known to exist; and on the other to dwell upon parts which, though plainly enough seen if one looks for them, have no influence in producing the general impression, but, on the contrary, if made too conspicuous, diminish its force.

This difficulty — which each of our three artists combats in his own way — Mr. Hunt seems to attack more boldly than the others, and by a method implying greater vigor and impetuosity of conception, or of impression, as well as of execution. Judging by his more recent productions, his present mode of working would seem to be to dash at once upon the canvas an abstract, as it were, of the actual appearance of things as they present themselves to his eye in the impassioned moment when his subject first captivates his imagination. The whole picture is there from the first, but so broadly and expeditiously indicated as to be hardly intelligible except to the artist himself. It is a poem in shorthand; the mass of clay that is one day to be a statue, but has, as yet, only a rude resemblance to the human form. The life, the movement, is there, but obscured, impeded, and hampered by the grossness of the material. All the subsequent work is a process of refining; it only remains, as the French say, to dégrossir the statue. We may regret that in some of Mr. Hunt’s work the refining process has not been carried further; we may long to scrape away the great masses of what is too visibly paint and which almost prevent our seeing the picture, — as the shapeless lumps of clay hide the statue that is to be, — but it is impossible to avoid the conviction that, after all, the picture is there.

The question of the truthfulness of the character given to a portrait is one with which the critic has no concern, — at least, where the subject is a private person. It is sufficient for him if the portrait has a character of some sort, whether it be the right one or not. It is this impress of character that raises the painter’s work above the mechanical fidelity of the photograph, and makes it art; and it is this even more than their pictorial and technical excellence which peculiarly distinguishes Mr. Hunt’s latest exhibited portraits.

The one which perhaps attracted most attention was that of a lady seated, her figure turned toward the left of the canvas, but the face looking directly toward the spectator. The subject is young, of fair complexion, and has a placid expression, thoughtful, if not sad. Across her lap lies a guitar of antique pattern, the neck of the instrument retreating into the canvas, — a marvel of foreshortening and perspective. The lady’s left hand rests lightly across the soundingboard, with a soft, caressing touch, — a movement of ineffable grace and tenderness, —while the right grasps loosely the neck of the instrument, the fingers absently pressing the strings. She is not playing (were she doing so the position of the hands would be reversed); she has finished her song, and sits gazing dreamily with the sentiment of the melody still lingering in her face. The picture was marked “unfinished;” but indeed there seemed nothing to be added, unless it were the strings of the mandolin, and even the absence of these was scarcely noticed.

Another portrait, a young girl in a riding habit, also marked “ unfinished,” more nearly than the first justified the designation. But if those who may have imagined that the two or three daubs of paint which for the time did duty as a band were laid on at hap-hazard had looked at them from a little distance, they might have seen how completely these daubs expressed the movement, the very look, of a hand lifting a curtain. Rough and unfinished as it was, the hand was there.

The pictures of Mr. George Fuller, exhibited at the gallery of Messrs. Doll and Richards during the past summer, have a certain quaint, old-fashioned air which is far from displeasing. There is nothing modern about them; none of the new French fashions so much decried by some and so eagerly and unintelligently run after by others. They awaken reminiscences of the works of the old masters, especially those of the Dutch school; and the relationship which they seem to claim with these must be traced, one would say, if at all, through English rather than French channels.

Very differently from Mr. Hunt, Mr. Fuller appears to approach the technical difficulties of his art with extreme caution, and to begin by enveloping his subject in a sort of misty obscurity, from which he gradually evolves (this seems to be his method of working) such parts of it as interest him and in which he seeks to interest us. One can imagine a picture growiug gradually under his hands out of a mere flat mass of shadow: a head slowly assuming rotundity; the modeling, step by step, carried further; the illuminated portions receiving, touch by touch, a higher pitch of light and color; all done slowly, deliberately, tentatively, with many a backward step and fresh beginning, with constant reference to the ideal model, — the picture existing from the first in the painter’s mind, — till, at last, the limit of art is reached, or the painter’s hand tires and he is forced to confess that he can carry the process no further. But how successful it often is as far as it goes, and how little seems wanting!

The poetry of incident, in the few canvases in his exhibition which profess to tell a story, is of the most simple and tender kind. Its heroes and heroines are almost always children, for whom he seems to have as great a love as Edouard Frère, whom he at times resembles in treatment as well as in subject. One picture, especially, reminds one of Frère. It is a winter scene, in which a group of children are drawing a sled, loaded with their younger playmates, down a slight descent over the dry, crisp snow which covers the ground and which the wind whirls in a fine dost about their feet. This effect, so often noticeable in our coldest weather, is admirably rendered. No less successful is the winter sunset, seen through the slender trunks of young oak-trees that border the road and to whose branches cling the withered and ice-incrusted leaves. There is no tinge of the morbid melancholy so apt to be associated with winter by artists who attempt to put poetry into winter scenery instead of finding it there. The children are enjoying themselves heartily, and the beholder instinctively shares with them the healthy exhilaration of the keen and frosty air.

The greater part of the canvases in Mr. Fuller’s collection were, however, studies of heads and portraits. Some of the studies had only partially emerged from their first nebulous state. Two heads of young women in this misty, vague, and shadowy condition are remarkable for the delicate and refined treatment of the hair, which in one is combed back from the forehead and falls in long loose tresses behind, resting on the shoulder, and in the other is gathered in a knot on the top of the head.

Stronger and deeper in tone and more positive in color are two nearly halflength studies of young girls, each with a wooded background. One of the girls has twined a wreath of leaves and wild flowers around her straw hat; the other has adorned in the same way her own dark hair. This last study is a marvel of rich, ruddy, and golden color, of which it is no exaggeration to say that it is Rembrandtesque.

But the most satisfactory, upon the whole, of these studies of heads is that of a hoy, whose light hair, rebellious to the brush, bristles over his forehead and short round face, and whose serious gray eyes, looking straight out from the canvas, have that dreamy, vacant gaze, susceptible of various interpretations, according to the mood of the beholder, which so often in portraits by the old masters—in those of Rembrandt especially—lends the charm of a certain mystery and unfathomablencss to the expression.

In all these studies Mr. Fuller has evidently been trying experiments, particularly in the rendering of hair. In some the means employed are more obvious than the result is satisfactory; but it is by trying these experiments that the artist has learned to succeed so well as he has done in the last-mentioned head of a boy, in the young woman with long loose tresses, and perhaps best of all in the portrait of a gentleman, in which the white hair and beard have a silvery sheen and an apparent softness to the touch which are truly admirable.

These studies are also essays in modes of rendering flesh, though in truth Mr. Fuller’s method is in all more or less the same. All his work is in impasto, and reminds one as to color as well as texture of the rich cream which some English painter recommended to his pupils as the standard of consistence for the pigments to be employed in flesh painting. This use of impasto gives to Mr. Fuller’s heads an air of solidity very striking when they are compared with Mr. Longfellow’s head of a monk, which was hung near them, painted in the thin manner of Couture, — in which only the lights are in body color, while the darks are rendered by transparent glazings. This head, though an admirable study when seen by itself, had, in juxtaposition with Mr. Fuller’s solidly painted canvases, almost the air of a transparency. Fortunately, art is, or should be, broad as well as long, and all roads are good that lead to Rome.

The poetry in the pictures of Mr. J. Appleton Brown is in some respects quite different from that which characterizes the works of Messrs. Hunt and Fuller. In the poetry of incident, that is, of human incident, they are wholly wanting. No one of the thirty canvases in his recent exhibition professes in the least to tell a story in which any human being plays a part. The few figures introduced occupy very subordinate positions; trees, clouds, hill-sides, the wild waves, the running brooks, — these are his only subjects; it is of these only that he has a story to tell. Man and his works are almost wholly ignored: not a house, not even a distant spire, is allowed to intrude into the unaccompanied presence of nature; we have barely a glimpse, now and then, of a boat, a traveled road, or an artist’s sketching umbrella left to itself on the edge of a wood.

Nor have Mr. Brown’s paintings precisely that kind of purely pictorial poetry which lends so great a charm to the works of the old Dutch masters. Like some recent poets who have rebelled against the melodious jingle that charmed the ears of our grandfathers, he professes to care more for the substance of poetry than for the poetic form; and though that is not in truth wanting, it is a new form cast in a modern mold, and not at first recognized by those whose tastes have been shaped by study of the ancient models.

Mr. Brown’s landscapes are indeed thoroughly modern. There is little in them that recalls the old masters, and scarcely more to remind one of the socalled romantic school of landscape, developed in France simultaneously with the romantic school of literature, and whose leaders, Rousseau, Troyon, Dupre, Diaz, have until lately been regarded as the standards of excellence by those of our artists who have studied abroad. Mr. Brown’s sympathies are with a later school of French landscape painters, whose best known names are, or were, Corot and Daubigny, — a school which, neglecting the strong effects in which their predecessors delighted, make the interest, the poetry of their pictures to consist in the reproduction of the physiognomy, the inherent character of each particular scene, and in harmonies of color rather than in oppositions of light and shade. They exult in the fresh greenness of meadows, the tender verdure of woods in spring, the thin foliage and tall, silvery stems of birches, the glassy surface of still water, the delicate grays and diffused light of a cloudy sky, the mists of early morning. They are in full sympathy with that very tender love of Nature which enters so largely into much of the poetry of to-day, and which tends more and more to centre about her simpler and less obtrusive aspects.

That Mr. Brown has indeed studied Corot might be suspected from the fondness which he shares with him for quiet river-side scenes, and especially for those where the stream is bordered by long lines of nearly leafless trees. Such resemblances as this, were there nothing more, would be evidence of mere plagiarism; but Mr. Brown should have credit for having sought deeper into the mysteries of Corot’s art. It has been truly said that what most distinguished Corot above all his contemporaries was his thorough appreciation of values. It is here, rather than in his tall and slender trees, that Mr. Brown is really like him. It is this thorough mastery of values which gives its charm to the picture he calls November. The scene, evidently in New England, is an open pasture, sere and yellow: in the middle distance, toward the left, is a large oak - tree with russetbrown foliage; toward the right and farther off, a solitary figure, dark amid the faded grass; and farther still, a thin fringe of leafless trees. Quaker-like in the modesty and simplicity of its color, with no obvious striving for effect of any sort, the picture is yet thoroughly effective from its apparent and approximative truthfulness. Every object, having its proper proportional value, keeps its place perfectly, and one can see exactly where it is, whether near or distant. As people stand in presence of the picture, it seems as though one might walk into it for miles.

It is a picture, too, full of the natural and healthy poetry of autumn, the season of long walks through pastures and along the hill-sides; a season the sadness of whose suggestions of decay is tempered by the inspiration of its clear air and its invigorating breezes. The values in the picture are not, indeed, absolutely true; they could not be. The tree, doubtless, came darker against the sky in nature; the difference in depth of tone between that and the withered grass was also greater in the real scene; and more than all there were greater variances between the several parts of each object. It is in the adjustment of these degrees of value to the limited means of art, as compared with those of nature, that the skill of the painter is shown. One of the chief means by which this adjustment is effected is by considering each object in the mass, and determining first of all its relation—as to depth of tone — to surrounding objects; only afterwards distinguishing its several parts from one another, and giving to each its proper relief and modeling, so far as this can be done without disturbing the relations of value already established.

Another point of resemblance which Mr. Brown has with Corot is that he is not in the least afraid, as occasion requires, of making his trees green. Curson’s Woods and The Road to the Mill at Curson’s, Newburyport, were the most striking instances of this. In both are dense masses of deep green foliage, with little or no sky visible; and how truly the impression of nature may confidently be left to any one to say who, during the late luxuriant summer, has walked or driven through the shaded lanes anywhere in Eastern Massachusetts.

The most remarkable picture in the collection was on the whole that called On the Artichoke, West Newbury. The season represented is autumn. In the foreground is a calm, sluggishly flowing stream and a line of bare trees with slender trunks. Behind these, in the middle distance, stretches a broad green meadow, through which, with many a serpentine curve, a brook flows toward the spectator, to join the larger stream; its waters now reflecting the blue sky, now flashing like molten silver in the noonday sun. One is always sure, in Mr. Brown’s pictures, of the time of day and of the sun’s place in the heavens. Beyond the meadow rises a line of upland, brown and gray with withered grass, along whose sides the shadows of the flying clouds chase one another, one can almost see them move,—defining, as they glide along, the else unsuspected inequalities of the surface. On the top of the hill a few trees, touched with a master hand, show their delicate, impalpable outlines against the sky, while at the base a line of trees, nestling between the meadow and the hill, glow with the bright, but here unexaggerated tints of our New England autumns. The bright blue sky overhead is almost wholly covered with torn and ragged fragments of white cloud, streaming across the canvas from left to right, strongly suggestive of a brisk breeze. All in this picture seems admirable; but what is most remarkable is the rendering of the water in the immediate foreground. It would be difficult to find a more successful attempt to give at the same time the surface of water and the reflections seen in it. The sky as reflected in the stream seems to be immeasurably deep, — as far below us as the real sky is high above: while at the same time we can distinctly see that the water has a surface, a mere filmy nothing, too impalpable, seemingly, to have been really painted, and which one cannot but fancy was transferred to the canvas by a pure act. of the will.

There may he those who will miss in Mr. Brown’s pictures as well as in Mr. Hunt’s later work the evidences of long, laborious, and patient application, and will thence infer the absence of that love which gives an indefinable charm to the works of those who put their heart into what they do. It is perhaps difficult to associate the humility of a true love of nature with rapid execution and profuse production. We are apt to think that only by lingering long over one’s work, — caressing it, as the French say, adding fearfully and tremblingly one loving touch after another, — the true lover of nature and of art is shown. But true love is manly as well as humble, can be hold on occasion, is content to do the best it can rather than to be forever “ sighing like a furnace ” for the unattainable, and so degenerating into sentimentality. Rapidity of execution is by no means incompatible with tenderness of feeling. Witness the cloud shadows in Mr. Brown’s picture mentioned above. Though done with one sweep of the brush, it would be hard to conceive how any subsequent caressing or tinkering could add an iota to their tender and evanescent loveliness. Their charm was surely none the less felt by the artist because felt at once and expressed as soon as felt.

  1. Forest Hymn.
  2. Autumn Woods.