It has seemed to me worth while to show from the history of civilization just what war has done and has not done for the welfare of mankind. In the eighteenth century it was assumed that the primitive state of mankind was one of Arcadian peace, joy, and contentment.
DISPUTES about beauty might perhaps be involved in less confusion, if a distinction were established, which certainly exists, between such objects as are beautiful, and such as are picturesque—between those, which please the eye in their natural state; and those, which please from some quality, capable of being illustrated in painting.
Ideas of beauty vary with the object, and with the eye of the spectator. We inquire not into the general sources of beauty, either in nature, or in representation.
This would lead into a nice, and scientific discussion, in which Three essays on picturesque is not our purpose to engage. The question simply is, What is that quality in objects, which particularly marks them as picturesque?
In examining the real object, we shall find, one source of beauty arises from that species of elegance, which we call smoothness, or neatness; for the terms are nearly synonymous. In the class of larger objects the same idea prevails.
And if we examine a piece of improved pleasure-ground, every thing rough, and slovenly offends. Burke, enumerating the properties of beauty, considers smoothness as one of the most essential.
Whereas, let it want ever so many of the other constituents, if it want not this, it becomes more pleasing, than almost all the others without it. Both ideas however equally enter into the picturesque; and both are observable in the smaller, as well as in the larger parts of nature—in the outline, and bark of a tree, as in the rude summit, and craggy sides of a mountain.
A piece of Palladian architecture may be elegant in the last degree. But if we introduce it in a picture, it immediately becomes a formal object, and ceases to please.
Should we wish to give it picturesque beauty, we must use the mallet, instead of the chissel: No painter, who had the choice of the two objects, would hesitate a moment.
Again, why does an elegant piece of garden-ground make no figure on canvas? The shape is pleasing; the combination of the objects, harmonious; and the winding of the walk in the very line of beauty.
All this is true; but the smoothness of the whole, tho right, and as it should be in nature, offends in picture. Turn the lawn into a piece of broken ground: All the other ingredients of beauty it already possessed.
You sit for your picture. The master, at your desire, paints your head combed smooth, and powdered from the barber's hand. This may give it a more striking likeness, as it is more the resemblance of the real object.
But is it therefore a more pleasing picture? Leave Reynolds to himself, and he will make it picturesque: It was his usual practice in all his portraits. In his figure of Ascanius, we have the fusos crines; and in his portrait of Venus, which is highly finished in every part, the artist has given her hair, — diffundere ventis.
It is one of those objects, that please, as many do, both in nature, and on canvas.
What is it, which gives that dignity of character; that force of expression; those lines of wisdom, and experience; that energetic meaning, so far beyond the rosy hue, or even the bewitching smile of youth? What is it, but the forehead furrowed with wrinkles?
As an object of the mixed kind, partaking both of the beautiful, and the picturesque, we admire the human figure also. It is true, we are better pleased with the usual representations we meet with of the human form in a quiescent state, than in an agitated one: Even among the best masters we see little knowledge of anatomy.
One will inflate the muscles violently to produce some trifling effect: The eye soon learns to see a defect, tho unable to remedy it.The Death of the Moth. Moths that fly by day are not properly to be called moths; they do not excite that pleasant sense of dark autumn nights and ivy-blossom which the commonest yellow-underwing asleep in the shadow of the .
Page 35 - You are certainly right in saying, that variety of tints and forms is picturesque; but it must be remembered on the other hand, that the reverse of this — (uniformity of colour, and a long continuation of lines,) produces grandeur.
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William Gilpin (4 June – 5 April ) was an English artist, Anglican cleric, schoolmaster and author, best known as one of the originators of the idea of the picturesque.