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The following pages are in no sense an attempt to advocate realism in rock-painting. Personally I believe I prefer idealism to realism, breadth to detail, the best French art to the best recent English -a preference natural enough in any one who spends much time in the analysis of scenery, as the geologist does.
But neither the real nor the ideal is to be attained without true knowledge. Whatever may be the artist's idea of truth, or nature, or art, that he should have knowledge enough to attain. When I remember Turner and Ruskin, and their days and weeks of constant and intense communion with Nature; or young Constable, on his tower, studying what he used to call the “natural history of the skies”—the changes of the atmosphere, which he afterwards painted so exquisitely; or Nöel Paton, forgetting his meals as he lay on the grass studying “effects"; or when I think of the Lake poets, addressing themselves for whole seasons to study Nature's: face feature by feature; or Tennyson's long practice in the art of drawing a whole picture in one line of poetry,-I am convinced that the ideal is only to be approached through the real, and that sound knowledge is the basis of everything that is worthy to live.
The chief object of this address was to ask the question, Whether geology has not at least the same claim to the attention of the landscape-painter that human anatomy, by general usage if not general consent, has to that of the sculptor ? Whether the Greeks studied anatomy or not I do not know; rightly or wrongly, it is an essential part of the training of every sculptor and figure - painter of modern times. Even in its narrowest sense, viewed as anatomy—the anatomy of the earth—there is no argument against the study of geology by artists that will not equally apply to the study of human anatomy. But geology has a much wider scope than mere anatomy: in this wider sense I believe it to be singularly adapted for the study even of those artists who, with Mr Ruskin, object to the study of artistic anatomy of every kind. For it is a science not of dissection but of observation-not of the class-room but of the hillside; it appeals in endless ways to the reason and the imagination, tempting the mind to spread its wings into many picturesque regions both of time and surface, both of the past and the present. It might, in a word, be to the landscape-painter, if properly studied, very much what history is to the painter of historical subjects.
We have been told that art has nothing to do with science, and that the best modern artists, and all the Old Masters, got on admirably without knowing any geology. But Turner's aptitude (if we take Turner as representing the moderns) for discerning structure and expression in rocks—the result, we all know, of much hard work—is no more an argument against some training in geology than Shakespeare's untaught genius is an argument against the Universities. And let any one who refers us further back than Turner compare the Old Masters where they have disregarded Nature with the Old Masters where they have followed Nature, and then say whether they are not superior at every point when taught of the Great Mother. Not a few of the Old Masters, disregarding Nature courageously -or with the courage that comes of entire unconsciousness of danger-give us at least great effects and a fine romanticism, and, Mr Ruskin notwithstanding, are not altogether to be judged by modern standards. The artists of our modern schools, on the other hand, with few exceptions, do not dare to offer us unnatural effects: the age will not allow it; everything is brought to the standard of “ Nature,”
and judged there. If they are not willing to copy Nature, they are willing at least to accept her “tones” and
" and " values." But I venture to think that, as a rule, they have hardly yet learned enough of her to make her their teacher as Nature could teach, still less to make of her their servant, as it has been given to some great painters to do. Never, I believe, until they have done this, will they rival the Old Masters on their own ground.
So far as geology is concerned, I am satisfied that there is only one way open to them,-study, knowledge. I would have preferred, had it been possible, not to use the word science at all. It leads inevitably to something like controversy. But whatever it may be called, I humbly think that this study can best be approached, not as science, not as investigation and inquiry, but as a kind of Nature-teaching. Like all the teachings of Nature, it will be found to be fraught with poetry.
There is, I am aware, a wholesome artistic horror of scientific distinctions and specific scientific details, and it is founded on a correct instinct. But, are geological and other scientific details, after all, so much more dangerous than details of any other kind-details of costume or furniture or bric-a-brac, or the antiquary's “rowth of auld nick-nackets ” ? You will see half-a-dozen pictures in our Scottish National Gallery that suffer from over-elaboration of figure and design-on armour, vases, old books,