S. Austin Allibone, comp. Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay. 1880.
Sir Joshua Reynolds
The great events of Greek and Roman fable and history, which early education and the usual course of reading have made familiar and interesting to all Europe, without being degraded by the vulgarism of ordinary life in any country.
Invention, strictly speaking, is little more than a new combination of those images which have been previously gathered and deposited in the memory. Nothing can be made of nothing: he who has laid up no materials can produce no combinations.
Excellence is never granted to man but as the reward of labour. It argues, indeed, no small strength of mind to persevere in the habits of industry, without the pleasure of perceiving those advantages which, like the hands of a clock, whilst they make hourly approaches to their point, yet proceed so slowly as to escape observation.
The works, whether of poets, painters, moralists, or historians, which are built upon general nature, live forever; while those which depend for their existence on particular customs and habits, a partial view of nature, or the fluctuation of fashion, can only be coeval with that which first raised them from obscurity.
A man who thinks he is guarding himself against prejudices by resisting the authority of others, leaves open every avenue to singularity, vanity, self-conceit, obstinacy, and many other vices, all tending to warp the judgment and prevent the natural operation of his faculties. We are not, indeed, satisfied with our own opinions, whatever we may pretend, till they are satisfied and confirmed by suffrage of the rest of mankind. We dispute and wrangle forever; we endeavour to get men to come to us when we do not go to them.
The first degree of proficiency is, in painting, what grammar is in literature,a general preparation for whatever species of art the student may afterwards choose for his more particular application. The power of drawing, modelling, and using colours is very properly called the language of the art.
Though it be allowed that elaborate harmony of colouring, a brilliancy of tints, a soft and gradual transition from one to another, present not to the eye what an harmonious concert of music does to the ear; it must be remembered that painting is not merely a gratification of sight.
It requires the nicest judgment to dispose the drapery so that the folds shall have an easy communication, and gracefully follow each other with such natural negligence as to look like the effect of chance, and at the same time show the figure under it to the greatest advantage.
The great style stands alone, and does not require, perhaps does not as well admit, any addition from inferior beauties. The ornamental style also possesses its own peculiar merit: however, though the union of the two may make a sort of composite style, yet that style is likely to be more imperfect than either of those which go to its composition.
If a portrait-painter is desirous to raise and improve his subject, he has no other means than by approaching it to a general idea; he leaves out all the minute breaks and peculiarities in the face, and changes the dress from a temporary fashion to one more permanent, which has annexed to it no ideas of meanness from its being familiar to us.
If we compare the quietness and chastity of the Bolognese pencil to the bustle and tumult that fills every part of a Venetian picture, without the least attempt to interest the passions, their boasted art will appear a mere struggle without effect.
Claude Lorrain, on the contrary, was convinced that taking nature as he found it seldom produced beauties: his pictures are a composition of the various draughts which he has previously made from various beautiful scenes and prospects.
If we put these great artists on a line of comparison with each other, Raphael had more taste and fancy, Michael Angelo more genius and imagination. The one excelled in beauty, the other in energy. Michael Angelo had more of the poetical inspiration; his ideas are vast and sublime; his people are a superior order of beings; there is nothing about them, nothing in the air of their actions or their attitudes, or the style and cast of their limbs or features, that reminds us of their belonging to our own species.
Reformation is a work of time. A national taste, however wrong it may be, cannot be totally changed at once; we must yield a little to the prepossession which has taken hold on the mind, and we may then bring people to adopt what would offend them if endeavoured to be introduced by violence.