After mastering the human form, it does not follow (as figure painters are apt to assert) that one can paint anything, -- I mean, of course, in such a manner that it may rank with the highest achievements in any department of pictorial art. For example, I cannot call top mind a landscape by the hand of a figure painter that could be called monumental, or a consummation of the art of landscape painting, such as we acknowledge a great Turner landscape to be. The work of the figure painters in this domain has seldom transcended the poetic transcript of "a bit of nature." Millais' beautiful landscape, "Chill October," will at once be cited as a contradiction to my statement; but it is just this picture (which stands quite alone amongst figure painters' landscapes) that has led me to my conclusion. Masterly in painting, poetic in feeling, it still remains a transcript of a given section of nature. It can make no claim to composition, and its sky is a non-essential. The happy title, "Chill October," has, however, given the landscape its finishing touch of poetry. I can think of no other picture that has been so enhanced by a title. Having in mind my admiration for Millais as a painter, and my love for him as a man, it may be felt that I have overstepped the lines of good taste in my criticism. But having launched out in an argument in support of a conviction, my only safety is in honestly stating my thoughts.
How is it to be explained that figure painters have so seldom attempted to paint landscape, pure and simple? They have combined figure with landscape over and over again, or, I should rather say, introduced landscape as back- ground to figure subjects. But of landscapes, possessing their own interest, and having their own mission, unaided by human interest, -- how many can be enumerated from the figure painter's hand? [114-15]
von Herkomer, Sir Hubert. My School and My Gospel. New York: Doubleday, Page, and Co., 1906.
Last modified 30 May 2007