Source: Wikimedia Commons
Source: Wikimedia Commons
Scott's grotto now has a website.By winding pathways through the waving corn,
We reach the airy point that prospect yields,
Not vast and awful, but confin'd and fair;
Not the black mountain and the foamy main;
Not the throng'd city and the busy port;
But pleasant interchange of soft ascent,
And level plain, and growth of shady woods,
And twining course of rivers clear, and sight
Of rural towns and rural cots, whose roofs
Rise scattering round, and animate the whole.
'Though I have now travelled the Sussex-downs upwards of thirty
years, yet I still investigate that chain of majestic mountains with
fresh admiration year by year; and think I see new beauties every
time I traverse it. This range, which runs from Chichester eastward
as far as East-Bourn, is about sixty miles in length, and is called the
South Downs, properly speaking, only round Lewes. As you pass
along you command a noble view of the wild, or weald, on one
hand, and the broad downs and sea on the other. Mr. Ray used to
visit a family* just at the foot of these hips, and was so ravished
with the prospect from Plumpton-plain near Lewes, that he
mentions those scapes in his Wisdom of God in the Works of the
Creation with the utmost satisfaction, and thinks them equal to
anything he had seen in the finest parts of Europe.
(* Mr. Courthope, of Danny.)
For my own part, I think there is somewhat peculiarly sweet and
amusing in the shapely figured aspect of chalk-hills in preference
to those of stone, which are rugged, broken, abrupt, and shapeless.
Perhaps I may be singular in my opinion, and not so happy as to
convey to you the same idea, but I never contemplate these
mountains without thinking I perceive somewhat analogous to
growth in their gentle swellings and smooth fungus-like
protuberances, their fluted sides, and regular hollows and slopes,
that carry at once the air of vegetative dilation and expansion.... Or
was there ever a time when these immense masses of calcareous
matter were drown into fermentation by some adventitious
moisture; were raised and leavened into such shapes by some
plastic power; and so made to swell and heave their broad backs
into the sky so much above the less animated clay of the wild
Charles Baudelaire’s reviews of the Salons of 1845 and 1846 both have sections on landscape. In the 1845 review Baudelaire defends Corot against those who claim he cannot paint because his work looks unfinished. The 1846 review identifies different types of landscape painters:
il y a des paysagistes coloristes, des paysagistes dessinateurs et des imaginatifs; des naturalistes idéalisant à leur insu, et des sectaires du poncif, qui s’adonnent à un genre particulier et étrange, qui s’appelle le Paysage historique.
Baudelaire praises the modern landscape painters who have devoted themselves to the study of nature, but he has no time for ‘historical landscape’, where the aim is to rebuild nature in accordance with ‘healthier and purer rules’. A good tragic landscape is thus
un arrangement de patrons d’arbres, de fontaines, de tombeaux et d’urnes cinéraires. Les chiens sont taillés sur un certain patron de chien historique; un berger historique ne peut pas, sous peine de déshonneur, s’en permettre d’autres. Tout arbre immoral qui s’est permis de pousser tout seul et à sa manière est nécessairement abattu; toute mare à crapauds ou à têtards est impitoyablement enterrée.
an arrangement of stereotyped patterns of trees and fountains, of tombstones and funeral urns. The dogs are cut out on a certain pattern of historical dog; a tragic shepherd cannot, on pain of dishonour, have any other kind of dog. Any immoral tree which had the cheek to grow independently and according to its own nature is necessarily cut down forthwith; any pond full of toads and tadpoles is mercilessly filled in. (trans P.E. Charvet).
Baudelaire also had a section on landscape in his final 1859 Salon review and here he makes clear that the naturalistic depiction of landscape still needs to convey the artist’s feeling and provide a satisfying composition. This is something Corot achieves while Rousseau sometimes falls short, dazzling the critic with his effects but in his ‘blind love of nature’ mistaking a simple study for a finished painting:
M. Rousseau a le travail compliqué, plein de ruses et de repentirs. Peu d’hommes ont plus sincèrement aimé la lumière et l’ont mieux rendue. Mais la silhouette générale des formes est souvent ici difficile à saisir. La vapeur lumineuse, pétillante et ballottée, trouble la carcasse des êtres. M. Rousseau m’a toujours ébloui ; mais il m’a quelquefois fatigué. Et puis il tombe dans le fameux défaut moderne, qui naît d’un amour aveugle de la nature, de rien que la nature ; il prend une simple étude pour une composition.