Hyde Park in 1851 by James Duffield Harding (1797-1863). J. B. Allen, Engraver. 24 x 22 inches. Source: 1856 Art-Journal. Image capture and formatting by George P. Landow. You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the Hathi Trust Digital Library and the University of Michigan and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one. [Click on image to enlarge it.]

Commentary by the Art-Journal

It was a perfectly natural desire on the part of the Queen to possess some pictorial record of the great "Peace Congress," as it has not inaptly been called, which London witnessed in-1851, and which owed so much of its success to the influence of her Majesty, and the exertions of her illustrious Consort. The "Exhibition of all Nations" called into action a host of artists of all kinds, who illustrated it internally and externally iu all its variety of details, and in every possible mode of treatment; and doubtless a considerable number of these pictorial works found their way into the presence of royalty; but the Queen wished to have a picture painted expressly for herself—one that should be commemorative of the event, and yet not too circumstantial in its character—a picture of the locality and its visitors rather than a portrait-like representation of the building which—

—Like a wondrous vision rose
Where the green turf luxuriant grows,
       And stately elm-trees nod;
Where, in the pleasant months of spring.
Through the tall boughs young voices ring,
       And o'er the verdant sod,
Mingled with roll of chariot-wheels.
And tramp of horses' iron heels.

"It stood all glittering in the day;
No pile of marble, stone, or clay,
       As palaces are reared;
But a vast edifice of glass,
Through which the merry sunbeams pais;
       Arched roof and walls appeared
As if some hand with magic strong
Had stretched those crystal aisles along.

"And thither from remotest bound
Of the 'wide earth's encircling round,'
       Came men of every clime,
Laden with all that mind conceives.
Or human industry achieves,
       Or science holds sublime;
Prom east to west, from south to north,
Their tributary' gifts poured forth."

Mr. Harding received the royal commands for the picture just as the doors of the Crystal Palace were about to be closed to the public. The honour could not have been conferred upon one better qualified for the task; and yet, with a recollection how often the subject had already been the theme of the pencil, he must have felt the difficulty of imparting to it anything of an original and novel treatment. But this artist is never out of his element where green sward and waving trees are to be the chief ingredients of his picture, and Hyde Park supplies full materials of this description. The view of the "Palace" is taken from the western end of the park, where the trees are larger and more picturesquely situated than at the opposite end. We see comparatively little of the building; it is almost entirely screened by the continuous masses of foliage, under which groups of visitors, native and foreign, rest and regale themselves, giving a Watteau-like character to the picture. The drawing and disposition of his figures are, as was remarked iu the biographical sketch of Harding in the Art-Journal of last month, qualities of excellence which must always excite attention in the works of this artist. He knows where to place them so that they shall constitute a pleasing as well as, in an artistic view, a necessary part of the composition. They never seem introduced for any other purpose than because they ought to be there as an integral portion of the work, and they are always so circumstanced, in action and costume, as to appear so.

The picture is in the collection at Buckingham Palace. It illustrates, with reference to the time when, and the circumstances under which, it was painted, almost the closing scene of that great drama which, during so many previous months, had engaged the attention of every civilised people in the world, either as actors or spectators, or both. The first "Crystal Palace," having fulfilled its purpose of enlightening the nations in the Arts of peace, and of engaging them in honourable and peaceful rivalry, has been levelled to the ground, but only like the second Temple at Jerusalem, to rise again in greater splendour; and, with more varied attractions than the first offered, it has now become one of the wonders of the modern world.

Bibliography

“The Royal Pictures. Hyde Park in 1851.” Art Journal (1856): 302-3. Hathi Trust Digital Library version of a copy in the University of Michigan Library. Web. 21 August 2013.


Victorian Web Visual art James Duffield Harding Victorian Painting

Last modified 21 August 2013