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in the Latin poets a feeling akin to our own, when they came close to nature in her solitudes. The deep and solemn passion of Lucretius, the pathos of Virgil, their common love for the Saturnian earth, their sense of things and thoughts too deep for tears, sounded in Latin poetry a note we do not hear among the Hellenes. There is in their verse the mystery, the awe, the feeling after an indwelling deity, the communion with nature as nature, which we are accustomed to call modern. In the decline of the Latin and Greek languages, we find scenery being treated with some degree of appreciation, and nature is used as a
a background to humanity. This nascent feeling for landscape had no opportunity of attaining to independence during the first eight centuries which succeeded to the downfall of the Empire. Christianity introduced a vehemently hostile spirit, which in its reactionary fervour opposed God to nature. Man's one business was to work out his salvation, and to wean his heart from the enjoyment of terrestrial delights. Beauty came to be regarded as a snare. Literature and the
plastic arts decayed. Architecture, the most abstract and utilitarian of the fine arts, bridged over the long tract of æsthetical vacuity between the death of Claudian and the rebirth of poetry in Provence. Renan observes that the most important product of the Middle Ages was a sentiment of the infinite. Everything had been swept away except the selfconscious spirit of man and the transcendent reality of God, the earth on which man dwelt, and the heavens to cover it over with a canopy. Infinity and fact, both shadowy, unreal, and unimaginable. What would happen should theology relax her grasp upon the intellect, and men once more begin to gaze around with curious delight on their terrestrial dwelling-place? But an intermediate stage of long duration had to be traversed. To this we give the name of Renaissance. In it the intellect of man came painfully and gladly to new life through the discovery of itself and nature, until, with Dante, a new spirit is awake in the world. It was not until the seventeenth century that landscape attained to independ
Five great painters initialled this new departure in the arts, Rubens, Claude, the two Poussins, and Salvator Rosa. Before their appearance landscape painting had here and there been practised with great ability and sense of beauty on both sides of the Alps, by Van Eyck, Durer, Titian, Giorgione, Tintoretto, Raphael, and da Vinci. But it had not occurred to masters of the sixteenth century that landscape might be treated as an object in itself. The importance of these five artists is that they emancipated landscape from its traditional dependence upon human motives, and proved that nature in herself is worthy of our sympathy and admiration. However critics may be inclined to estimate the value of their work, this at least is incontestable. The relation between the human motive and the landscape is reversed. The figures are carelessly sketched in. Man takes his position as a portion of the world, not as the being for whom the earth and heavens were created. Contemporaneous in date, or somewhat later than these men, the Dutch contributed even more to the emancipation of art. They frankly ignored the old tradition of historical motives in landscape. The aspects of the earth and sea and sky, the common occupations of mankind upon the fields or in their dwellings, proved for them sufficient sources of inspiration. Dutch painting filled the seventeenth and a portion of the eighteenth century with powerful production. It delivered art from the pedantry of humanism, and anticipated the European revolt against classical canons of perfection. Still, the first essentially modern enthusiasm for nature came with the English Norfolk school which culminated in Turner. Now, in the work of the landscape painters, spirit still speaks to spirit; the spirit of the artist who perceives, interprets, and preserves the beauty of earth, sea, and sky, to the spirit of men ready to receive it. What we owe to these hierophants of nature is incalculable. They are continually training our eyes to see, our minds to understand the world. They show how sympathy, emotion, passion, thought, may be associated with inanimate things — for a masterpiece of landscape painting, like a symphony in music, is penetrated with the maker's thought and feeling. Having passed through the artist's intellect, the scene becomes transfigured into a symbol of what the artist felt. His subjectivity inheres in it for ever after.