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continued longer after cultivation and art had arisen ; and therefore we find that the flourishing period of religious painting in Spain lasted proportionately longer than among any other people ; indeed so long that there was scarce opportunity for the non-religious art to arise, for the influences which foster art declined almost at the same moment when the first decline in religious empire became perceptible. Much of the wealth which the merchants brought from the New World was spent in constructing not city palaces - the most gorgeous ecclesiastical buildings which any country has ever possessed. The general character of Spanish painting is grave, religious, dark, such as mystifies and depresses the spectator rather than delights or ravishes him. Their paintings were for churches, not for saloons or banqueting halls. The Church exercised not merely a moral but even a decretal power over the painter, whom she forbad to deviate from the established type by which sacred personages were represented. The artist was not crushed by this, for he firmly believed in what he painted, and by that earnestness of belief produced upon his canvas much of the religious sublime. At last, when art became more imitative and less purely devotional, it yet took its subjects from the monastic population the monks, and the beggars that lay at the cathedral porch. A plutocracy arose in Seville, formed of the merchants who traded with the golden colonies. In Seville arose a school of painters abandoning sublimity, taking nature for their subject, and revelling in gorgeous colouring, yet still acknowledging to some extent the sway of religion. This was the school of Murillo and Velasquez; Murillo, whose colour rivals that of Titian ; Velasquez, who, disliking Raffaelle, placed the Venetians upon the throne of his admiration. It came after that of Juan Sanchez de Castro and his scholars*, who painted in the hard, dry, heavy style of early devo
* Life of Murillo, trans. by Davies, 1819, p. 16.
tional painting, so inexpressive of anything but superhumanity, that labels contained the words supposed to issue from the holy mouths. It came just before that of La Feria*, whose paintings of blended brilliant colours but little drawing were scrambled up for lucre and exported to the Indies, there to adorn the homes of the Spanish-American plutocrats ; a class of patrons, indeed, who while they almost produced the school of Seville, are said at last to have damaged Murillo's style by giving him orders for more paintings than he had time to execute well. So long as there existed in Spain a school of respectable artists, they never gave way to the Renaissance style of Julio Romano. They never ceased to be religious by becoming mythological, poetic, or ideal. The current of artistic representation never triumphed over the current of devotional imagery, for the latter was in Spain continued so late that when it sunk the arts were sinking likewise. There was no such thing in Spanish artists as a feeling for the beautiful apart from the religious, for Velasquez, the head of the naturalist school, never succeeded in the ideal. Though the plutocracy of Spain assisted the Church in patronising art, and has imprinted its tastes upon Spanish art in its best period, they imported from the Low Countries the works of artists who, more free from religious thraldom, could abandon themselves with more freedom to the light tastes of a plutocracy; and under monarchs like Charles the Fifth, Philip the Second, and Philip the Fourth, the great painters of foreign schools, for example, Titian and Rubens, were patronised in the palace of Madrid, as Holbein and Vandyke were patronised in England. The Spaniards never cared for minute paintings or engravings, for they had little sympathy with mechanical and exact occupations.
* Life of Murillo, trans. by Davies, 1819, pp. 35, 36. † Ford's Handbook of Spain, p. 263.
Thus then, out of the examination of national histories, where one social force alone works its way uninterrupted, or at the most modified by not more than one other force, comes the establishment of principles which may show or tend to show how to each social state a certain condition of art is by nature attached. I do not dare to embark on the enterprise of applying these principles to English art, for that were to launch into a sea of connoisseurship, where not only should I be no safe pilot, but where every knot we make would lead us further from the land it is ours to explore. But let these facts be remarked. It is only since England has seen rise within it a plutocratic element that we can be said to have had a school of painting. * As town life and plutocracy increase, the patronage of the fine arts increases. The cotton lords of Manchester, the woollen lords of Leeds, and the merchants of London and Liverpool, are the patrons for whose gratification has arisen a school of painting in this country ; a school which our aristocracy, like that of other countries, failed to evoke. We have no saintly, fervid, holy-figure-loving school, for we are a Protestant people, and shy of ceremonious religion. Our wisest painters do not affect the sublime of Michael Angelo and Raffaelle, and therefore they are our wisest. The patronage for portraits increases, even though it has the rivalry of daguerreotypism. And large pompous gorgeous pictures, such as those which are now produced in goodly number in plutocratic France, are coming into favour here. But I am mistaken if English art will not make it its aim to reflect the excellencies of many types and many forms. Some will excel in devotion, others in the repose and grandeur of historical scenes, others delighting
Before Gainsborough, our landscape artists were all dry mannerist imitators of the Italian schools, or hopeless daubists, and Gainsborough was a product of Bath, which in his day was the chief place in England where plutocratic fashionable town-life existed.
in plutocratic richness of colour, others in the democratic love of common homely scenes. How far they may be reconciled on one canvas, I leave to connoisseurs to determine ; but if our art as a whole is not a compromise and fusion of several schools, it is the only thing English which is not composite, and, in short, for that very reason would not deserve to be English.
There are many ways in which a subject like this might be handled by a ready essayist. Were he a metaphysician, he would seek deep in the recesses of the human heart for the sympathies which bind all men in a universal brotherhood. Were he a divine, he would insist on that Christian doctrine which bids all men consider themselves before God as distributable only into the classes of the sinless and the sinful, and teaches us that it will be immaterial to what tribe or nation of men belonged the creatures who tremble at the sound of the last trumpet. Were he a political economist, he would look upon the whole human race as a family bound to produce as much wealth as possible, and would regard all material distinctions and boundaries as foolish obstructions to the production of wealth.
of wealth. Were he a physiologist, he would assume every man to be a cosmopolite, and regard him as a subject on which the common laws of our nature operated, though haply modified upon occasion by the effect of climate, and the transmission of hereditary peculiarities ; but were he a statesman, he would, I apprehend, be deeply interested to observe how in the early stages of national progress the distinctions of tribes and country are strongly marked, how they become fainter at a more advanced period of civilisation, and how in very