In transcribing the following material from The Reader, an interesting, unfortunately short-lived intellectual magazine of the 1860s, I have used the Hathi Digital Library Trust web version of a copy in the Princeton University Library. The full-text version is generally accurate, and the one common OCR error here takes the form of turning the letter “e” as “o.” I corrected the scanning errors, and for ease of reading I have added a few paragraph breaks and italicized the titles of paintings. If you come upon any errors I have missed, please do not hesitate to let the editors of this site know. — George P. Landow
One of the painters best represented in this Exhibition is Mr. Leighton. He has four pictures, which, although they display a great versatility of invention and careful training, are not all satisfactory. His great acquirements are marred by some inadequate conception of the subject, or by a false chiaroscuro. Not necessarily; for this artist's pictures are often rightly conceived, as they are also sometimes very good in effect. As an instance of wrong conception, we cannot help classing the largo work of Jezebel and Ahab met by Elijah the Tishbite (382). By the position of the figures in this picture, the king and queen cannot yet have been face to face with the prophet, who has his hand still on the latch of the gate opening into the vineyard, and which, as itstands open, mus conceal them from his view. Yet they are already overwhelmed with rage and mortification. The first words of the king were "Hast thou found me, O mine enemy?" and not until after the full delivery of the message did he go home and rend his clothes, and put on sackcloth and ashes. Tho action of Jezebel, in spite of a certain grandeur about the drawing of the face, is rather that of a pettish woman than of the wicked queen who had conceived and brought to fruition the wicked work which the prophet was sent to reprove. The figure of Elijah is grandly drawn; but tho general style of the picture is somewhat lowered by decorative accessories and colour.
A Girl Feeding Peacocks (429) illustrates the other point on which wo have taken exception. How could this girl's head be so light against that brilliant white cloud? Put a sheet of whito paper between the eye and the sky: if the sun be shining on it it will be brilliantly white against a grey-toned atmosphere; if there is ordinary daylight, the paper will appear positively dark against the white cloud. Tones of colour, however delicate, will never stand in place of a true chiaroscuro. To be right, a picture must be translatable into black or white; if not, we feel conwrong and uncomfortable, as in the work before us. We bare aaid bo much about these pictures, with great deference. In speaking of Mr. Leighton we do not forget that he is a great artist, and one of whom the country has reason to be proud. We feel jealous of his reputation, and most anxious that his unusual powers, great industry, and distinguished acquirements should produce the ripest possible fruit.
As an evidence if the strength that is in him, note the small picture of A Girl with a Basket of Fruit (406), probably the most beautiful picture in the exhibition; and, as a contrast to this, the Italian Crossbowman (528) full of power and force.
“Art. Royal Academy (Second Notice).” The Reader: A Journal of Literature, Science, and Art. (16 May 1863): 485-86. London: “Published at 112, Fleet Street,” 1863. Hathi Digital Library Trust web version of a copy in the Princeton University Library. 21 July 2016.
Last modified 21 July 2016