Page 3, 5th September 1947

5th September 1947
Page 3
Page 3, 5th September 1947 — Art

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Organisations: British School


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Four Painters Who Made the British School

By IRIS CONLAY IN less than 150 years Blake, Constable, Turner and Rossetti had all lived, worked and died, leaving behind them most of the trends which have subsequently become known as typical British School. Four more diverse painters can hardly have co-existed in Si) small a country before, all finding room for themselves to grow to impressivo and individual stature. Anywhere else each would have created a school of his own and in the cnd the most popular woald have influenced and absorbed the resL As it is each had a minor following, but it is difficult to see how any one of these four artists was 'affected in the slightest degree by any other. Blake. visionary and mystic, was not concerned anyway with the romantic enthusiasm for the material world and its appearance, however beautiful; Durer and Michelangelo were his masters and his imagination or his prayer gave him his subjects. Constable saturated himself in the landscapes he knew best and produced his greatest works of Dedham and Hampstead Heath, leaving the spiritual world entirely alone. His are faithful .g.trtraits of nature in the main tradition and he is understood and beloved alike by artists and by laymen. Turner's scope was wider and his imagination encompassed things unbeknown to Constable. Unlike Blake, Turner's feet were firmly on the ground and unlike Constable, his head was in the clouds. He painted the spirit of the landscape while Constable was concerned with its appearance. Rossetti's vision. too, was Dot that of Blake's. Blake was tough where Rossetti was soft. Blake was a mipor mystic while Rossetti was a minor poet-and after seeing the cruel combination of Max 13eerbohm's caricatures of Rossetti's life and the Rossetti watercolours in the same room in the Tate Gallery-one is inclined to say that Blake was real while Rossetti was bogus. But in strict honesty one cannot condemn Rossetti so hardly as that: even idealism has its fashion and the idealism of Rossetti is right out, so that however beautifully he may have clothed his thoughts, it is d: tlicult for us to-day to have patience with them. The work of these four painters, joined in the Tate galleries by a room of the satirical Hogarth's novels in paint, makes an afternoon on Millbank one of the pleasures long remembered.


E. I. Watkin wrote a personal and fascinating survey of Christian art which he called Catholic Art and Culture.* It was published during the war without illustrations and if ever a book was incomplete without pictures it was this. Now it has been reprinted, revised and richly spread with reproductions of most of the subjects discussed by the author. It deserves re-reading in its new glory.

The author of The Nature of Art OP the Shield of Pallas-I' is a brave and honest person. He is not afraid to tell his readers right away in the introduction that they are in for a stout tussle if they would read his book. "An educated man, lacking technical training in philosophy but endowed with an heroically obstinate curiosity can ... understand this one (book) by dint of sustained concentration," he says and then suggests a few chapters best skipped. He is too humble. His stiffest chapters are lightened by an unexpected wit and the points he makes in what could be dry as dust philosophical analyses of the nature of beauty, morality and art in life are stimulants of further thought and discussion. His book is no bedside one, but the alert and vigorous need not be too intimidated to attempt its heights.

" Catholic Art and nature. By E. I. Wa:kin. (Hollis and Ca ter, I8s.) t The Nature of Art or the Shield of Pallas. By Arthur Little, S.J. (Longmans, 8s. 6d.)

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