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will on the average need of it, and a great deal more -which I don't know, and which you can only find out by experience.

But get this at all events into your heads clearly. A pound of bread and a pint of beer are to be standards of currency, always to be given by your Ducal Government in exchange for a given weight of silver; or a certain number of pounds of bread and pints of beer in exchange for a given weight of gold. (If you like, for lightness, paper and leather better than silver or gold, the Ducal Government will let you have them, provided you keep them clean.)

This current bread and beer, with other standards (a flask of wine, a square yard of cloth, and the like), are to be of standard quality, answered for by the Ducal Government as it answers for its gold—all of the purest and best in its power. Accordingly, the Ducal Government must have mills and breweries. The miller, the brewer, and the gold-coiner are all to be its salaried servants, and all liable to precisely the same punishment (whatever that may be determined as fitting-a huge question, you perceive, having several knots in it !) if they be detected adulterating the bread, the beer, or the gold. Only one coiner will be needful, and perhaps three or four millers and brewers; but these officers of food and coin, be they few or many, will all be equally well looked after, equally in honourable position, equally paid, and equally, as I have just said, liable to be-let us use for the present the more or less parliamentary and elastic expression—"suspended” if they be found adulterating the products under their care.

It is perfectly ridiculous—and a great deal more than ridiculous—to say that these things are impossible. You can elect your Duke and Duchess to-morrow, Lady Day, if you will; you can elect your Brewers and Millers, and their men; you can enable them to grind and to brew on some small scale somewhere; you can agree among yourselves to buy the bread and beer so produced, and none other. You need not ratten anybody, you need not abuse anybody, you need not—until you see occasion— suspend” anybody, you need not send anybody to Parliament, and you need not ask what Parliament is about. If you can only find a dozen of honest people among you, and agree among yourselves to buy of them, you have solved, in essentials, every politico-economical problem of this present world. If you can't find a dozen honest people among you, nor agree upon anything with yourselves, no least politico-economical problem will ever be soluble to you.

And as for building a system of Economy on Dishonesty and Disagreement–i.e., “competition” among yourselves—my hungry friends, every word you hear of advice in that direction is only the rising echo of the eternal cry of the Furies on the walls of Hell—« Venga Medusa.”]

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* (Inferno, ix, 52: compare Vol. V. p. 285, and Vol. XXVII, p. 427.]



[See Letter 79]

(a) REPORT OF THE TRIAL 1 [In consequence of a passage in Letter 79, § 11 (above, p. 160), Whistler brought an action for libel against Ruskin. The case has considerable interest in the history of English art-criticism, and as the report is not easily accessible, it is here printed.]


(Before Baron Huddleston and a Special Jury)

This was an action for an alleged libel which the plaintiff said had been falsely and maliciously published, and had greatly damaged his reputation as an artist

. The defendant pleaded that the article complained of was privileged as being a fair and bona fide criticism upon a painting which the plaintiff had exposed for public view.

Mr. Serjeant Parry and Mr. Petheram appeared for the plaintiff; the Attorney. General and Mr. Bowen for the defendant. In opening the case, Mr. Serjeant Parry said Mr. Whistler, the plaintiff

, had followed the profession of an artist for many years both in this country and abroad

, and Mr. John Ruskin, the defendant, held the highest position in Europe aud America as an art critic. Mr. Whistler was the son of an eminent military engineer

, a citizen of the United States, who for many years was engaged in superintending the construction of the railway from St. Petersburg to Moscow. Having passed some years of his life in St. Petersburg, the plaintiff went to France and Holland, where he studied his profession, and he also acquired a great reputation as a painter in America. He was also an etcher, and in that capacity had likewise distinguished himself. He occupied a somewhat independent position in art, and it might be that his theory of painting was, in the estimation of some, eccentric ; but his grest object was to produce the utmost effect which colour would enable him to do, and to bring about a harmony in colour and arrangement in his pictures. Although a man adopted such a theory and followed it out with earnestness, industry, and almost enthusiasm, yet it was no reason why he should be denounced or libelled. In the summer of 1877 the plaintiff exhibited several of his pictures at the Grosvenor Gallery; and shortly afterwards there appeared in a pamphlet, edited and chiefly written by Mr. Ruskin, entitled Fors Clavigera, an article in which he criticised the modern school of art. He said, “Sir Coutts Lindsay is at present an amateur both in art and shopkeeping. He must take up either the one or the other business

1 [This report is quoted from the Times, by the courtesy of the proprietors.)

if he would prosper in either;" and then referring to Mr. Whistler, he wrote as follows:

“ Lastly, the mannerisms and errors of these pictures (alluding to the pictures of Mr. Burne-Jones), whatever may be their extent, are never affected or indolent. The work is natural to the painter, however strange to us, and is wrought with the utmost conscience of care, however far to his own or our desire the result may yet be incomplete. Scarcely as much can be said for any other pictures of the modern school; their eccentricities are almost always in some degree forced, and their imperfections gratuitously, if not impertinently, indulged. For Mr. Whistler's own sake, no less than for the protection of the purchaser, Sir Coutts Lindsay ought not to have admitted works into the Gallery in which the illeducated conceit of the artist so nearly approached the aspect of wilful imposture. I have seen and heard much of Cockney impudence before now, but never expected to hear a coxcomb ask 200 guineas for Ainging a pot of paint in the public's face.”

The learned counsel contended that these words could not, in any sense, be said to be a fair and bona fide criticism, and coming as they had from so great an authority as Mr. Ruskin, they had, in fact, done the plaintiff a great deal of injury in his profession and in the public estimation.

Mr. James Abbott M'Neill Whistler was then examined by Mr. Petheram. He was of American parentage and born in St. Petersburg, where he lived until he was twelve or fourteen years of age. His father constructed the railway between St. Petersburg and Moscow. He was educated at West Point, America, and afterwards studied in Paris with M. Gavie for two or three years. Mr. Armstrong, Mr. Poynter, and Mr. Du Maurier were his fellow-students. He finally settled in London and continued his career as an artist. He exhibited at the Royal Academy, and sold his first picture there to Mr. Philip, the well-known artist of Spanish subjects. He also exhibited at Paris and at the Dudley Gallery. During the whole of his career he had been in the habit of etching, and he had received a gold medal for his etchings exhibited at The Hague. There were collections of his etchings in the British Museum and Windsor Castle. In 1877 he exhibited eight pictures at the Grosvenor Gallery--a portrait of Mr. Carlyle ; “A Nocturne, in Blue and Gold,” and other “Nocturnes” in “Black and Gold,” and “Blue and Silver”; “An Arrangement in Black,” representing Mr. Henry Irving as Philip II. of Spain; “A Harmony in Amber and Black”; and “ An Arrangement in Brown." Carlyle's picture had been engraved. He sold one of the "Nocturnes to Mr. Percy Wyndham for 200 guineas, and he had a commission for another for 150 guineas. Since the publication of Mr. Ruskin's criticism he had not been able to get the same price for his pictures.

Cross-examined by the Attorney-General : He had sent pictures to the Royal Academy which were not accepted, but that was the experience of all artists. The last picture rejected was “An Arrangement in Gray and Black : portrait of the Painter's Mother.” It was afterwards exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery. The “Arrangement in Black and Gold” was a night view of Cremorne with the fireworks. Asked the meaning of the word “ Nocturne,” Mr. Whistler said that a picture was to him throughout a problem, which he attempted to solve, and he made use of any incident or object in nature that would bring about a symmetrical result. An Arrangement” was an arrangement of light, form, and colour. Among his pictures were some night views, and he chose the word “Nocturne" because it generalised and simplified them all. As he had happened to use some musical terms it was supposed he intended to show a kind of connection between the two arts; but he had no such intention. It was probably the view of Mr. Ruskin that an artist should not let a picture leave his hands which he could improve by labour of his own, and that he should give value for what he received. He had been told that his pictures exhibited eccentricities. Of course he expected that his pictures would be criticised. The “Nocturne in Black and Gold he knocked off in a couple of days. He painted the picture one day and finished it off the next. He did not give his pictures time to mellow, but he exposed them in the open air, as he went on with his work, to dry. He did not ask 200 guineas

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for two days' work; he asked it for the knowledge he had gained in the work of a lifetime. In the course of his evidence the plaintiff said that he sometimes put colour on the frame, saying it was a part of the scheme of the picture, and that he also placed his monogram on the frame as well as on the canvas.

Some of the pictures were exhibited in court, and the jury went to see the rest at the Westminster Palace Hotel.

Mr. W. M. Rossetti, who said he had made art his special study for years, said he appreciated the meaning of Mr. Whistler's pictures. The blue and the silver picture, being a view of Old Battersea Bridge, he thought was very artistic and : beautiful representation of a pale bright moonlight. He held the same opinion of another picture in the same style. The black and gold picture represented the darkness of night mingled and broken by the brightness of fireworks. The picture of Carlyle was a fine portrait with a certain peculiarity. He admired sincerely some of Mr. Whistler's works in the Grosvenor Gallery in 1877, and he thought they were the works which a conscientious artist might put forth.

Cross-examined: The black and gold picture was not a gem nor an exquisite, nor beautiful work, but it was a work of art. Asked if it was eccentric, he said it was unlike the work of most other painters. Two hundred guineas was its full value, not a stiffish price.

Mr. Albert Moore, an artist, said he thought Mr. Whistler's pictures had a large aim in which he had succeeded as no living artist had done. They were beautiful works of art, and 200 guineas was not too large a price for them.

In cross-examination he said he thought there was great originality in the plaintiff's pictures. He could not call it eccentricity.

Mr. W. G. Wills, dramatic author and artist, said that the plaintiff's pictures betrayed a great knowledge of art. Mr. Whistler looked at nature in a poetical light and had a native feeling for colour. His works were those of a inan of genius and a conscientious artist. He described his pictures as original. This was the case for the plaintiff.

The Attorney-General said that after the evidence for the plaintiff he should be compelled to call some witnesses well acquainted with the principles of art to give their opinion on the plaintiff's pictures; but the question for the jury was whether Mr. Ruskin had or had not criticised the plaintiff's productions in a fair, honest, and moderate spirit. A critic might use strong language, and even resort to ridicule, without exposing himself to the charge of acting maliciously. Perhaps some people would extinguish critics altogether; but they had their value; and what would become of the fine arts if there was no incentive to excel? If art was to live and flourish, so must criticism. He regretted he was unable to onll Mr. Ruskin as he was too ill to attend the Court. That gentleman, it was well known, had devoted himself for years to the study of art. From 1869 he had been Slade Professor at Oxford; he had written much on art, and judging from his works it was obvious that he was a man of the keenest susceptibility. He had a great love and reverence for art, and a special admiration for highly finished pictures

, His love for art almost amounted to idolatry, and to the examination of the beautiful in art he had devoted his life. Rightly or wrongly, Mr. Ruskin had not a very high opinion of the days in which we lived. He thought too much coulsideration was given to money-making, and that the nobility of simplicity was not sufficiently regarded. With regard to artists, he upheld a high standard and required something more than a few flashes of genius.

He required and perfect devotion to art, and he held that an artist should not only struggle to get money, but also to give full value to the purchaser of his productions. He said it was the ancient code that no piece of work should leave the artist's hands which his diligence or further reflection could improve, and that the artist's fame should be built not upon what he received, but upon what he gave. Entertaining these views, it was not wonderful that Mr. Whistler's pictures should attract Ni Ruskin's attention and that he should subject them to criticism. He did subject them to a severe and slashing criticism, and even held them up to ridicule and contempt; but in doing so he only expressed, as he was entitled to do, his honest

a laborious

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opinion. The learned counsel then dealt with the evidence of the plaintiff, and contended that his pictures were marked by a strangeness of style and a fantastical extravagance which fully justified the language employed by Mr. Ruskin in regard to them. He hoped to convince the jury before his case was closed that the defendant's criticism, however severe, was perfectly fair and bona fide, and could not be reasonably objected to. In the present mania for art it had become a kind of fashion among some people to admire the incomprehensible, to look upon

the fantastic conceits of an artist like Mr. Whistler, his “nocturnes, “symphonies,

arrangements,” and “harmonies,” with delight and admiration, but the fact was that such productions were not worthy the name of great works of art. This was not a mania that should be encouraged ; and, if that was the view of Mr. Ruskin, he had a right, as an art critic, to fearlessly express it to the public. It was said that Mr. Ruskin had ridiculed Mr. Whistler's pictures; but if he disliked criticism, he should not have rendered himself open to it. Quoting from Fors Clavigera, the Attorney-General showed that Mr. Ruskin was neither a partial nor a stern and hard critic, and that while he aimed his trenchant criticisms right and left, he ungrudgingly gave high praise where it was due. The whole article complained of was a sweeping condemnation of the modern school, and, as regarded Mr. Whistler, pointed out that his conceits and extravagances did not redound to his credit, and that he was careless of his name and fame when he offered such things for sale. It was objected that Mr. Ruskin had said he was “ill-educated”; but if that was Mr. Ruskin's opinion, judging from his productions, was it libellous to say so? It was also complained he had written, “I never expected to hear a coxcomb ask 200 guineas for flinging a pot of paint in the public's face,” but the term coxcomb” was applied to him as an artist, and not as a man.

What was a

coxcomb”? He had looked out for the word, and found that it came from the old idea of the licensed jester, who wore a cap and bells with a cock's comb in it, and went about making jests for the amusement of his master and family. If that were the true definition, Mr. Whistler should not complain, because his pictures were capital jests, which had afforded much amusement to the public. Mr. Ruskin had lived a long life without being attacked. No one could say that he had purchased his praise, and no one had attempted to restrain his pen through the medium of the jury. Mr. Ruskin did not retract one syllable of his criticism upon Mr. Whistler' pictures. He believed he was right. For nearly all his life he had devoted himself to criticism for the sake of the art he loved, and he asked the jury not now to paralyse his hand. If they gave a verdict against him, he must cease to write. It would be an evil day for the art of this country if Mr. Ruskin were prevented from indulging in proper and legitimate criticism, and pointing out what was beautiful and what was not, and if critics were all reduced to a dead-level of forced and fulsome adulation.

Mr. Edward Burne-Jones said he had been a painter for twenty years, and during the last two or three years his works had become known to the public. Complete finish ought to be the standard of painting, and artists ought not to fall short of what for ages had been acknowledged as essential to a perfect work. The "nocturne” in blue and silver representing Battersea reach was a work of art, but very incomplete. It was an admirable beginning-simply a sketch. In no sense whatever did it show the finish of a complete work of art. It was masterly in colour but deficient in form, which was as essential as colour. Its merits lay only in colour. Neither in composition, nor in detail, nor in form had it any quality whatever. As to the next picture, “Battersea Bridge,” the colour was better, but it was even more formless than the other. A day or a day and a half seems a reasonable time for its production. It was, as he said, a mere sketch, and he did not think Mr. Whistler ever intended it should be finished. The “Nocturne” in black and gold representing the fireworks at Cremorne had not the merit of the other two. It was not a work of art; it was one of thousands of failures to represent night. It was not worth two hundred guineas.

Mr. Bowen wished to produce a picture by Titian to show what was a finished work.

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