A Text-Book of the History of Painting

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9781770451063: A Text-Book of the History of Painting

Excerpt: ...conviction by the pupil to the last. He modified the classic subject somewhat, studied Raphael and the Italians, and reintroduced the single figure into art (the Source, and the Odalisque, for example). For color he had no fancy. "In nature all is form," he used to say. Painting he thought not an independent art, but "a development of sculpture." To consider emotion, color, or light as the equal of form was monstrous, and to compare Rembrandt with Raphael was blasphemy. To this belief he clung to the end, faithfully reproducing the human figure, and it is not to be wondered at that eventually he became a learned draughtsman. His single figures and his portraits show him to the best advantage. He had a strong grasp of modelling and an artistic sense of the beauty and dignity of line not excelled by any artist of this century. And to him more than any other painter is due the cultured draughtsmanship which is to-day the just pride of the French school. 149 Gros was a more vacillating man, and by reason of forsaking the classic subject for Napoleonic battle-pieces, he unconsciously led the way toward romanticism. He excelled as a draughtsman, but when he came to paint the Field of Eylau and the Pest of Jaffa he mingled color, light, air, movement, action, sacrificing classic composition and repose to reality. This was heresy from the Davidian point of view, and David eventually convinced him of it. Gros returned to the classic theme and treatment, but soon after was so reviled by the changing criticism of the time that he committed suicide in the Seine. His art, however, was the beginning of romanticism. The landscape painting of this time was rather academic and unsympathetic. It was a continuation of the Claude-Poussin tradition, and in its insistence upon line, grandeur of space, and imposing trees and mountains, was a fit companion to the classic figure-piece. It had little basis in nature, and little in color or feeling to commend it. Watelet...

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