TYPES OF FEMALE BEAUTY.
HANS MAKART AND EDWIN LONG, R.A.
(FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT.)
LONDON, APRIL, 16.
There are some piotures now on exhibition in London which raise the whole question of the intel- lectual and moral advantages of painting the nude that is, painting the nude as such, and for its own sake only. One of these is by the late Hans Makart, an Austrian ; two are by our own Mr. Edwin Long, R.A. ; and one is by a Russian, Mr. Bukovac. This last, indifferently styled "The White Slave" and
Nana," is the realisti depiction of an entirely nude woman reclining. It will be engraved and published by Graves, and will therefore duly reach New South Wales ; but it is outside the object of this letter, and in my opinion outsids the boundaries of true art. There can, I think, be no doubt that Hans Makart painted his enormous canvas (25 feet by 16), entitled " Summer," now on view in Bond-street, chiefly for the sake of representing nude figures; and the same must be said of Mr. Long's two canvases of " Zeuxis at Cretone," with the qualification that the delineation of gracefully falling draperies of splendid texture and brilliant hue had in the artist's aim an equal place with the human
"We will first look at these pictures, have a word or two to say about their authors, and then briefly express an opinion as to the profitableness or otherwise of the portrayal, no matter how skilfully or charmingly, of
Hans Makart died last October, at the early age of about 40. He literally worked himself to death. He was born at Salzburg, in 1844, and studied at Munich in the School of Piloty. He made his first great impression on European public opinion in 1867, when he exhibited at the Paris Exhibition a large pic- ture called "Roman Euins." From that time his reputation grew rapidly, and his works commanded very high prices. The " Catherine Cornaro," now at Berlin, cost £2500. His best known works are-" Tbe Seven Capital Sins," "The Best at Florence," "The Dream of a Man of Pleasure," "Romeo Beside the Body of Juliet," " Cleopatra," and, above all, the immensely-large " Entrance of the Emperor Charles V. into Antwerp." This was at the Paris Exhibition in 1878, and of it then is an excellent etching on a large scale, which many of your readers will have seen, and which will racall the conspicuous young ladies in their "birthday suits "who are skipping along by the Emperor's charger. What particular reason the artist had for repre- senting nude women in such a procession either from the historical or artistic standpoint I have not been able to discern. The work caused a great sensation, of course, and it must be said that that sensation was justi- fied by the cleverness and vigour of the work, and the strength and " go," (notwithstanding the voluptuous- ness) which characterised it. On the occasion of Makart's death the mourning in Vienna was very general, for he was a great favourite at the Court among the proud nobility of Austria, and with humbler members of the community. So great indeed was the esteem with which he was regarded by ladies of high degree that it is said the fairest and finest women of the aristocracy sat to him as models. A strange con- dition of' manners may be indicated by that fact, but it is not obvious that there is any- thing more discreditable in a wealthy beauty sitting aa a model out of pure aesthetic enthusiasm than in her poverty-stricken sitter doing the same thing for bread. The funeral honours that "Vienna bestowed upon, him were worthy of an
Makart's last great work is that now on view, entitled " Summer." It represents the interior of a sumptuous pavilion, adjacent to which, and partly secluded by trees, is a marble bath. On a sultry day some ladies of rank and wealth have been enjoying the refreshing bath, after which some are reposing, others playing chess, and others again looking on. To the right, in the foreground, with her back to the spectator, is a haughty dame, clad in a bronze-colour brocade, absorbed in the game. On her left is a lady just come out of the bath, with a loose, soft, white garment about her. She, with one of the loveliest of hands, is suggesting a move. On the opposite side of the chess-table ia a dark-haired beauty, with her head standing majestically out of a stiff Medici collar, Near this dark-hatred southern type of beauty stands one who is a fair-haired grey-eyed Teuton. To the left is yet another type of loveliness, a brunette, who stands in the water and supports a wanton youth- ful Bacchus, On the edge of the bath, with her back to the spectators, is a full-length straw-coloured-hair beauty divesting herself of her last garment before entering the water. She is standing near to a couch, upon which another bather reclines. This one is of the ivory skin and auburn hair type. Behind this last is a rich deep-coloured crimson velvet curtain, which balances a deep blue arras to the right. The pavilion over this couch is supported by bronze columns in rich relief. This reclining bather is very lovely, and all her dainty delicate charms of line and flesh tint are visible except that over her left knee, and across her body falls carelessly a pearly shot-silk drapery. She, with out- stretched hand - and a lovely hand it is - is toying with butterflies which hover over her. Above this reclining figure, perched on a folding screen, is a richly painted peacock.
This work, like all Makart's, is purely spectacular. In sumptuousness, " in the pomp of colour so exalted, so glorified," and in the accessories of architecture and drapery, Makart was a disciple of Paul Veronese, and in animal delight in womanly beauty he was a follower of Rubens. The result is very splendid ; but his style lacks the learning of Veronese and the humanness of Rubens. His work is therefore, though popular, theatrical instead of dramatic; and coarse rather than passionate. He loved to paint mere female beauty, but had no insight into female character, either mental or emotional. Of Paul Veronese it was said that his paintings were like full concerts of chanting music. Of Makart, a witty Frenchman, said that his art was like the music of a brass band. ' ' Summer " is to be reproduced in photo-gravure, and you will shortly, I have no doubt, be able to test the graphicness of this present description.
Mr.'Edwin Long, R.A., is doubtless better known to English-speaking people throughout the world than the illustrious Austrian, for his great works haye bean largely engraved. He is famous as the painter of "The Babylonian Marriage Market," «The Egyptian Feaat," "Esther," "Vashti;" and the rest The first-named, like the pic ¡ tures about to be mentioned, was a display of types of
female beauty. It illustrated the truth too that mar- riage, at ' least in Babylon, was not wholly gain, for beauty was almoBt dowerless and dower was sans love- liness, the plainer womenkind getting the greater dower in order to secure for them something like an equal ohance with their more favoured sisters. The two pictures now on view are illustrative of the story of the Greek painter Zeuxis. and are respectively entitled "The Searoh for Beauty," and "ZSUXIB'S Master- piece." The story, as told by Cicero, is as follows:
"The citizen» of Croton, realising that hpaven had Wessed them with a prosperity such as even the gods might envy, were desirous of «bowing their gratitude hy an offer- ing to their protectreB», Hera, that should not be uuworthv the acceptance of a goddens. Thev accordingly proposed to embellish her temple with beautiful paintings, and for that purpose engaged the services of Zeuxis, of Homelea, who gave them several fine specimen» of his ait. But there was one picture that he painted for them of Helen, in which he aimed to expre»B the perfection of female beauty. To obtain model» for this he asked the authorities what beautiful maidens the city could grant him to paint from. They replied by conducting the artist into the Gymnasium, where they showed him Bevi ral boys of eui passing beauty, faying, as he marvelled at their grace ot lunb and form,' ' These are the brothers of our maidens, you can imagine what their sister» are like from them.' 'Then pray »how me the most beautiful of your maidens,' answered Zeuxi», * that my work may be a true impression of Katuro, for unies» mirroied from life art is inanimate and dumb.' Accordingly a decree wie passed commanding the attend- ance of alf the maidens of the city in a place convenient for the inspection of the artint. who thereupon selected five. For he knew that he could find no single form possessing all »he chaiacteristics of perfect beauty, vvh,lch impartial Nature distributes amone; her children, accompanying each, tharm with a defect, that sho may not he at a loss what to give the rest by lavishing all »ho basto give on one."
The first picture represents n crowd of btauties, of .very conceivable type, gathered in a hall to reoeivo the mist and some of the oity fathers. The girls are not only varied in beauty of face and foim, but "motley is their only wear." The costumes are, of course, all Greek in character ; bnt every imaginable texture, grace .f fold, and brilliancy of colour, are here depicted. Having selected five, the artist is seen in the second picture working in a studio from hie models. In this we have draped, partially draped, and wholly nude ¿guras. The motive of Mr. Long in these- as that of
Hans Ma-aïtîn "Summer," spring-undoubtedly _rom simple delight in female varied loveliness, plus, as we have aaid, delightlin graceful diapery. These works also will shortly be issued in reproductions.
Ko higher examples could be adduced, perhaps, than these of modern renderings of female beauty. And no pure-minded man could look at them without intellect -innl enjoyment, > No man, whether artist or amateur, could fail to be impreeeed with the classic refinement of outline, the gvaoefulnesa of draperies, and the lusuriantness of colour here depicted. But the ques- tion comes back,-Ia mere female beauty of form and colour the highest motive of art ? To that there is but one answer, and that a negative one. To the vulgar and tho unrefined euch works as these now under review ara not elevating. A picture dealer baa just told me that he hoe had to withdraw a picture of similar character from his window, io unworthy were the comments of the vulgar pas-ere-by. Cut to the pure-minded, nevertheless, all beauty is ennobling in effect. Then, it may be asked, what ia the objection to "Summer,*' or "Zeuxis's Masterpiece"? Simply unworthines« of aim, lowness of the ideal standard. Nudity, as nudity, ie an un- worthy aim. Nudity in a work in which the motive (like that in Sir Jo-hua Reynolds' " Cymon and Iphi genia ") is to portray the power of moral or intellec- tual qualities, is admissible. In a word, the mÍBBÍon of Art is not to excite passion in the limited sense of that word, but to depict human paae-ion in all the endurance, the yearning, the fervent de-iire-all the broad and in- tense meaning of that meaningful word. High art doea not consist in the depiction of human flesh, bat ki the
reflection of a divine soul.
P.S.-The Hanging Committee of the Eoyal Academy has had no fewer than 10,000 works submitted to it for the Summer Exhibition, of whioh at least two-thirds have been rejected,