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PRESENT STATE OF THE ART OF PAINTING IN FRANCE.
By T. C. BRUNN NEERGAERDT, Member of the French Institute.*
TRANSLATED FROM THE FRENCH.
PROFESSOR FIORILLO Published of Simonidi, that he took Jacob at Gottingen, some time ago, the Courtois for his model, and that he third volume of his History of the studied Wouvermans : all this Art of Painting, which contains does him honour ; but I cannot that branch of the subject relating coincide in the opinion of this to France.
author when he says,
( that he The author says in his preface, (Casanova) was nothing else, in that « at first he only thought of the true sense of the word, than a speaking of the old French school, plagiarist, who sometimes took one and that it was too soon to describe groupe and sometimes another the modern one. I am not of his from the works of Bourguignon, opinion ; I think that the modern and placed it in his own pictures.' school has already produced, and in battle pieces, several things is daily producing, artists of suf- may resemble each other, without ficient merit to entitle them to be our being entitled to say that one publickly noticed. I am also of painter has stolen from another. opinion that M. Fiorillo would have People fight and are killed, in gendone well to have waited until he eral, in the same manner. . Casahad procured some more exact in- nova was a man of genius, and I formation, or visited France in per- think the accusation of our author son.
is ill founded. He has said very I have not written the following little upon the talents and works observations in the spirit of a of this artist; who has, however, critick ; it is the love of the arts acquired a just reputation in and of truth, which has alone dic- France. He has forgot his brothtated them ; and I only furnish M. er, who was director of the gallery Fiorillo with the present additional at Dresden ; and he has also information, that he may be ena- omitted to mention several of his bled, in a second edition, to render scholars who are known in France. his work more useful, by making Francesco Casanova, in his latter it more exact and more complete. years, did some small paintings of
The period, which embraces the animals, of an agreeable compoartists of the modern school, will sition and of a light touch, for include all such, of any repute, as which he was well paid. have died since 1750, I shall be- In delivering the eulogy which gin with Francesco Casanova,whom is due to the talents of M. Vernet, I knew on my first visit to Vienna. he only quotes his design of HypFiorillo says that he was a pupil polyta, and that of the leader of
the car, who returns with his comFrom a memoir entitled “ Correc- panions. He informs us that Dartions et Additions pour un Ouvrage de M. cis is engraving it. We can tell Fiorillo sur l'Art de Dessin en France depuis son Retablissement jusqu'à nos
him, however, that Darcis never Fours." Read at the French National lived to finish this engraving. Institute, May 11, 1806.
Charles Vernet laboured
great deal in his latter years. One ere she finds another Robert ; parthird of his designs belongs to Ro- ticularly in an age where all the land the printseller, who has al- men of genius aim at historical ready got several of them extreme- painting. Robert has perhaps ly well engraved ; particularly made too many designs ; but not fourteen, by Debucours, in the for those who love taste and an soft manner in which he excels. agreeable effect. He has done a Five other large designs are not great many pieces with red and equally well engraved. There is black crayons. one of them in China ink, another The French themselves pay in bistre, and some coloured ones more justice than M. Fiorillo does of great beauty ; among others, a to Greuze, although his method of Departure for the Chase. Vernet designing has nothing in common is at present occupied with his with the present school. He grand piece, the Battle of Marengo. thinks it extraordinary that he
Robert is merely named : the should be called a painter of a parauthor, therefore, does not know ticular school; he would rather the extent of his talents : France, have him called “the painter of however, never had such a painter the people or the nation, because as Robert for the interiour of pieces his pictures very often represent of architecture. He was as well the most characteristick traits of acquainted with perspective as the entire manner in which the Panini, and delineates it in a man- French think and feel.” But the -ner higbly agreeable to the eye. good and bad actions wbich occuAt one time, one could not in- py the pencil of the celebrated habit a dwelling-house without Greuze do not belong exclusively having a bed-room or a saloon de- to the French nation ; they are corated with Robert's pictures common to all nations. We find His works are of different qualities; in all countries men who have he sometimes went too fast, by nothing to leave to their families wishing to do too much. We at their death, except their good have sometimes wished him to reputation ; there are every where finish a little more ; but perhaps, mothers who love their children ; by being more finished, he would sick persons who are consoled by not know how to preserve the their children ; as well as there spirit which always reigos in his are children who endeavour to desrural scenery and in his architec. troy the will of their father when ture ; his talents would be of they think that it is not favourable great use in theatrical decorations. to them ; and there are also child. His figures are not correct, but ren who even attempt the lives of they never want spirit. The best those who have given them birth. pictures of this master are a part He grants more nobleness of style of his studies in Italy. He en. to Greuze than was possessed by graved at Rome a small architec- Cornelius Trousty or Hogarth : tural work which he called his I do not know where he has derive Soirées, and which has given us ed this comparison.
ed this comparison. M. Fiorillo cause to regret that he has not thinks that Diderot has praised done more.
Robert treated bis. Greuze with too much enthusiown style of painting with so much asm. He thinks the colouring of superiority that he never had any Greuze is mannered: he has not rivals ; and France will wait long seen, therefore, any of his heads ; Vol. IV. No. 8.
at least, he does not mention them. Speaking ; but the composition is Few artists have painted with so empty, cold, and dry in short, much sentiment and truth as he the colouring is hard, as if they has done: in France he still passes did not choose any thing in nature for a good colourist. The author except a local colour, and as if they says 6. that Greuze endeavoured only sought to relieve the effect Dever to lose sight of the sim by forced shades which fall into plicity of nature ; but Nature her. the dark. The moderu French self is mannered at Paris.” Noth artists thiuk that they have suring is easier than to vilify a whole passed the simplicity of the nation. Greuze made a quantity Greeks in theit works; but they of designs, which can only be re- confound simplicity with emptigarded as mere studies, all full of ness, and laboured composition sentiment. Greuze created his with the great pains they take to own school, and it perished with become fat and insipid. As they him.
are not possessed of a pure and The Germans, Italians, and classical sentiment, they remain English, exclaim against the at the entrance of the temple of French school, because they envy Taste, without finding the fundaits superiority The man who mental principle of it; and it has regarded Europe with an im• would seem that the genius of the partial eye for the last ten years, times removes them from what is surely cannot think that there is called the ideal of the art, &c." any school in existence at present. These are the bad French artists except the French school : no of whom M. Fiorillo speaks, be country possesses so great a num. cause he has not succeeded in ber of historical painters, or so drawing a picture of the good great masters, as France does ones ;' for he has never seen the Among other nations there are works of the latter, and he judges distinguished talents : a Fuger, a by those of the former. He afterWest, an Abildgaard, and a Hetsch, wards says, “ that the antiqixe will always do honour to their ought to be studied ; that Racountry ; and yet for all this there phael and Michael Angelo studied is not a German school, an English it ; but that they endeavoured, school, or a Danish school. surrounded as they were with no.
It is necessary that I should ble, grand, and spiritual forms, to quote some passages of M. Fio idealize, as it were, the forms of villo's Introduction to the History nature." The author is therefore of the new French school. He ignorant that the good French asserts « that the modern artists painters study Nature much, and take David for their model, and that she never was more studied exaggerate his defects without pos- by any school : as a painter, he sessing his talents.” He finds, ought to know that people somehowever, that the present is supe- times see with different eyes. riour the old French school, and M. Fiorillo says that the picture he continues in this manner : of Saint Roch curing those infect« The greatest part of the works ed with the plague, laid the foun. of the modern school resemble dation of the celebrity of David : coloured statues or bas-reliefs ; he might have added to this, what the contours of the figures are has been said of the Horatii, that sharp and edgy, the expression this picture alone would have been
bufficient to secure immortality to ple, and well connected in all him. I do not like to speak of its parts. We think we see dying any thing unless I have seen it, persons in looking upon the poor because in that case it is my own diseased creatures. The Virgin judgmenty at least, that I pro- pleased me least of all; her colnounce; and therefore I only ouring is not so fine as that of the named this picture when I wrote rest of the picture. David appears upon the performances of David, in this work as great a colourist not having been at Marseilles at as a designer; and he destroys the that time. I have been there, opinion of some of his pupils, who however, several times since, and assert that design and colouring had an opportunity of often ad- never go hand in hand. After miring one of the chefs-d'æuvres having seen Saint Roch, I do not of this great artist. I may even know whether to give the preferprophesy that in future ages pil- ence to the Horatii or to Saint grimages : will be made for the Roch. sake of admiring it. I request M. Fiorillo speaks of Belisarius Fiorillo will add to his second with esteem : he relates the same edition the few words I am now anecdotes I have already printed : going to say, if he has any confi- he does not think the head of Beli: dence in my judgments.
sarius noble. “Every body would The picture of Saint Roch was take it for a French invalid." I commanded from David for the did not experience the same senadministration of the department sation on looking at this picture ; of Marseilles. He did it at Rome and I never heard this reproach in 1780. On receiving it, the made by any French artist. This purchasers thought it too fine to picure at present belongs to the deprive connoisseurs and amateurs senator Lucien Bonaparte. of it: they therefore gave up their He praises much the design on first idea, of placing it in their own the Horatii ; but according to him hall, and sent it to the office of the composition is defective ; he the records, where it has since re- thinks the posture of the oldest son mained. The subject of the pic- confined. " The father (he says), ture is Saint Roch addressing the who is in the middle of the picVirgin, supplicating her to cause ture, resembles an old serjeant, the plague to cease. He is upon who is drilling three recruits ac. his right knee, and rests the end cording to strict military tacticks." of his left foot upon one of the sick The father of the Horatii never persons. He lifts his clasped hands inspired this sentiment. Fiorillo to the Virgin, who is seated with thus continues : In the head of the infant Jesus. Below there is the father no trait of his visage at full length a dying person who characterizes a man who is exBests himself upon his left arm ; posing his children to the greatest a little higher up are two young danger, and who sees them per. people expiring. The expression haps for the last time.” This in the head of Saint Roch is very judgment would not be at all surfine ; the design of the whole fig. prising if it did not come from a úre is admirable: upon examin. painter, who ought to know the ingin detail his arms, legs, and different sentiments of mankind as hands, we are equally satisfi- well as he ought to know the effect d. The composition is sim- produced by the mixture of the
· different colours. Was it ever ter, of mademoiselle Coliquert, and
possible to express, better, in the my own, of which I am not a little same head, the joy of saving his , vain. •; country, and the fear of exposing Ingre ought to go to Rome , but his children to danger? The most he has not yet set.out, as the aupowerful passion ought naturally thor says. We expect great to carry away the victory in the things from him. The design of mind of the most sensible father. Stratonice, which he is doing for
The author says, at the end of me, is well composed and well dehis article upon Brutus, that many signed, and we may hope to see a people prefer this picture to that fine picture of it. He has finished of the Horatii. In France, great several portraits, among which we beauties are discovered in both; distinguish that of mademoiselle but we generally give the prefe- Riviere, fourteen years of age. rence to the Horatii. if
M. Fiorillo thinks that Gros has We read in a note that Morel talents ; but he forgets to assign has engraved the Horatii, Brutus, to this artist the distinguished and the Sabines: all this is false ; place which his country has given none of the three engravings bave him among the pupils of David, yet appeared. It is certain that, and which he so justly merits. he is occupied with the Horatii ; He thinks iti astonishing - that but he has a full year's labour yet such a terrible subject as the before bim. The graving tool of Plague of Egypt, of this painter, an artist does not move so quickly should have excited so much enas the pen of an author.
thusiasm. I am very happy, kon The portrait of mademoiselle the contrary, that justice has been Brognard is mentioned without done to a fine picture, well designany distinction among the other ed, well painted, and finely colourportraits of Gerard : this portrait, ed. Gros is one of the first colhowever, deserves great praise, ourists of the modern school. Our and it ought to be placed by the author does not recollect, thereside of the Joconde of Leonardo da fore, that such subjects have been Vinci.
represented by the first talents. Every thing which comes from He does not know Mignard's the pencil of Gerard is beautiful ; Plague, Poussin's Massacre of the every thing is wisely conceived : Innocents, his Deluge, and many he paints without having the air of others. painting : his full length portrait The name of mademoiselle Ge. of madame Recamier has done rard is mixed, without mercy, in him much honour. He has paint- a crowd of others who are scarcely ed several portraits of his friends known. Her name merits some in a sitting or two. I ought to distinction. Her pictures are ac mention bere the celebrated Du- greeably composed ; the subjects cis ; no pencil ever produced more are well chosen, executed with a in less time.
careful pencil, and finely coloured. · Gerard has also done some por. A great deal has been engraved traits of his friends,designed at one after her. sitting, which may serve as a mo- The author is not well pleased del for those who wish to design in with the miniatures of Augustin ; this manner. I may quote those he has, perhaps, never seen them; of madaine Redouté and her daugh- at least, he is surely not acquainted