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and immediately, in the shape of so many
visible feet of canvass, actual human facts,
and distinct aspects of Nature, which poetry
can only describe, and which music can but
obscurely hint at. The Art which can do this,
and which has done it over and over again
both in past and present times, is surely of all
arts that one which least requires a course of
critical training before it can be approached
on familiar terms. Whenever I see an
intelligent man, which I often do, standing before
a really eloquent and true picture, and
asking his marked catalogue, or his newspaper,
or his guide-book, whether he may safely
admire it or not, I think of a man standing
winking both eyes in the full glare of a cloudless
August noon, and inquiring deferentially
of an astronomical friend whether he is really
justified in saying that the sun shines!

But, we have not yet fairly got at the
main obstacle which hinders the public from
judging of pictures for themselves, and
which, by a natural consequence, limits the
influence of Art on the nation generally.
For my own part, I have long thought and
shall always continue to believe, that this
same obstacle is nothing more or less than
the Cant of Criticism, which has got obstructively
between Art and the people,—which
has kept them asunder, and will keep them
asunder until it is fairly pulled out of the
way, and set aside at once and for ever in
its proper background place.

This is a bold thing to say; but I think I
can advance some proofs that my assertion is
not altogether so wild as it may appear at
first sight. By the Cant of Criticism, I desire
to express, in one word, the conventional
laws and formulas, the authoritative rules
and regulations which individual men set
up to guide the tastes and influence the
opinions of their fellow-creatures. When
Criticism does not speak in too arbitrary
a language, and when the laws it makes
are ratified by the consent and approbation
of the intelligent public in general, I
have as much respect for it as anyone. But,
when Criticism sits altogether apart, speaks
opinions that find no answering echo in the
general heart, and measures the greatness of
intellectual work by anything rather than by
its power of appealing to all capacities for
admiration and enjoyment, from the very
highest to the very humblest,—then, as it
seems to me, Criticism becomes Cant and
forfeits all claim to consideration and respect.
It then becomes the kind of criticism which
I call Obstructive, and which has, I think, set
itself up fatally between the Art of Painting
and the honest and general appreciation
of that Art by the People.

Let me try to make this still clearer by
an example. A great deal of obstructive
criticism undoubtedly continues to hang as
closely as it can about Poetry and Music.
But there are, nevertheless, stateable
instances, in relation to these two Arts, of the
voice of the critic and the voice of the people
being on the same side. The tragedy of
Hamlet, for example, is critically considered
to be the masterpiece of dramatic poetry;
and the tragedy of Hamlet is also, according
to the testimony of every sort of manager,
the play, of all others, which can be invariably
depended on to fill a theatre with the
greatest certainty, act it when and how you
will. Again, in music, the Don Giovanni of
Mozart, which is the admiration even of
the direst pedant producible from the ranks
of musical connoisseurs, is also the irresistible
popular attraction which is always sure to
fill the pit and gallery at the opera. Here,
at any rate, are two instances in which
two great achievements of the past in
poetry and music are alike viewed with
admiration by the man who appreciates by
instinct, and the man who appreciates by
reason and rule.

If we apply the same test to the achievements
of the past in Painting, where shall we
find a similar instance of genuine concurrence
between the few who are appointed to teach,
and the many who are expected to learn?
I put myself in the position of a man of fair
capacity and average education, who labours
under the fatal delusion that he will be
helped to a sincere appreciation of the works
of the Old Masters by asking critics and
connoisseurs to form his opinions for him.
I am sent to Italy as a matter of course. A
general chorus of learned authorities tells me
that Michael Angelo and Raphael are the
two greatest painters that ever lived; and
that the two recognised masterpieces of the
highest High Art are the Last Judgment,
in the Sistine Chapel, and the Transfiguration,
in the Vatican. It is not only Lanzi
and Vasari, and hosts of later sages running
smoothly after those two along the same
critical grooves, who give me this information.
Even the greatest of English portrait-
painters, the true and tender-hearted gentleman,
Sir Joshua Reynolds, sings steadily
with the critical chorus, note for note. When
experience has made me wiser, I am
able to detect clearly enough in the main
principles which Reynolds has adopted in
his Lectures on Art, the reason of his
notorious want of success whenever he tried to
rise above portraits to the regions of historical
painting. But at the period of my
innocence, I am simply puzzled and amazed,
when I come to such a passage as the following
in Sir Joshua's famous Fifth Lecture,
where he sums up the comparative merits of
Michael Angelo and Raphael:

If we put these great artists in a line of comparison
with each other, (lectures Sir Joshua), 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

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