Undine

Undine by Daniel Maclise (1806-70). C. W. Sharpe, engraver. 24 x 12?? inches. Source: 1855 Art Journal: 114. 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.]

Commentary from the Art Journal

De la Motte Fouqé. in his exquisite romance of "Undine" has furnished Maclise with the theme of this picture. The passage illustrated is that in which the young knight Huldbrand of Kingstetten conducts his beautiful bride, mounted on a richly caparisoned steed, through the forest, followed by the dreamy monk, Father Heilmann. The spirit of the waters, Kühleborn, the uncle and guardian of Undine, having assumed the human form, watches their progress to protect them from "the madcap mimes of earth, and gnomes that haunt the woods." But the soul which by marriage was accorded to Undine, had separated her from the beings with whom she had been associated by birth; she repels the advances and declines the further guardianship of her uncle. In expressing his wrath, he terrifies the young bride, who shrieks and calls her husband to her aid. The knight springs to her side, draws his sword, and strikes at the head of KUhleborn. The sword flashes merely through a torrent, which, foaming from the hill-side, splashes among the group, while a voice is heard to exclaim, "Brave knight, continue always with the same courage to defend your lovely little wife!"

The incident is happily illustrated by the painter: in treating this theme he has found matter for that play of fancy and that inventive power which mark bo many of his works. The picture is richly coloured and elaborately painted.

The artist, Daniel Maclise, is a nativo of the city of Cork; he is, as the name indicates, of Scottish descent While yet "under age," he entered London, became a student of the Royal Academy, and obtained all the medals, including the gold medal which that body awards. In 1833 he exhibited his first picture — "Mokanna Unveiling his Features to Zelica"— at the British Institution. In 1835 he was elected an Associate; and in 1841 he was promoted to full academic honours. From the commencement of his career to the present time, he has laboured worthily and successfully to sustain the reputation he obtained at his outset in life. His pictures are numerous, and generally of large size. As an historic painter, he is justly regarded as one of the leading "glories" of the British school, and his claim to a distinguished position is acknowledged in every country of Europe. He is still in the prime of life, and in the vigour of intellect; his mind has been highly cultivated, and his professional knowledge carefully matured.

In the works of Maclise nothing is more impressive than the redundant imagination which they everywhere display. In many of his recent compositions, there is ample material for twenty ordinary pictures. Who can contemplate any of the productions of his fertile pencil with- out astonishment at the limitless resources whence he draws his properties and accessories 1 It is true, if there were less of these he would be more essentially historical; but with a deep sense of the embarrassments of composition, we are overwhelmed with the seeming profusion and originality of circumstance in his works. His genius is equally at home in poetry, history, and dramatic incident. The imagination he displays is a gift of nature, but the use he makes of it exhibits careful and laborious cultivation. He draws with accuracy and elegance, and admirable as are his feminine impersonations, there is yet a presence and a dignity about his male figures which are a sufficient introduction to the visitor, who is assured of being in good society. Maclise is gifted with many of the most valuable powers which a painter can possess. Though his works have a tendency in mannerism towards the hardness of the modern German school, which gives them much of the appearance of frescoes, there is in them an exuberance of fancy, and bo vast an amount of poetical imagery, as to offer to the spectator abundant sources of pleasant study. This picture of "Undine" is in the collection at Osborne. [114]

Bibliography

“The Royal Pictures.” Art Journal (1855): 114. Hathi Trust Digital Library version of a copy in the University of Michigan Library. Web. 31 July 2013.


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Last modified 31 July 2013