The 1840s saw a continuation of Michael Angelo Titmarsh’s reviews of art exhibitions, which were not always appreciated by those whose works he discussed. Frank Stone could hardly have relished Titmarsh’s description of the male protagonist in a charming little drawing of a pair of lovers as a ‘Dummkopf’ (‘dolt’). He also pursues further the strategy of finding analogies between the visual and the musical arts which he had adopted in ‘A Pictorial Rhapsody’ when he attempts to describe how ‘an early Raphael’ might act on a sensitive beholder:
it is impossible for any person who has a sentiment for the art to look at this picture without feeling indescribably moved and pleased by it. It acts upon you—how? How does a beautiful, pious, tender air of Mozart act upon you? What is there in it that should make you happy and gentle, and fill you with all sorts of good thoughts and kindly feelings? I fear that what Dr. Thumpcushion says at church is correct, and that the indulgences are only carnal, and of the earth earthy; but the sensual effort in this case carries one quite away from the earth, and up to something that is very like heaven, (ii. 555–6)This passage, which brings together one of Thackeray’s touchstones in painting (Raphael) with its equivalent in music (Mozart), presents in its conclusion an image of artistic ascent or apotheosis which is remarkably like the conclusion of Schiller’s ‘Division of the Earth’. But there are two important differences. It is now the art-lover, not the artist, who is transported to heaven; and Titmarsh carefully removes all religiose suggestions by his stress on the carnal and sensuous basis of artistic enjoyments. He notes, in this connection, that the Düsseldorf School has now overcome its Romantic-Nazarene beginnings under Cornelius and has sent ‘very fine scientific faithful pictures that are a little heavy but still you see that they are portraits 123drawn respectfully from the great, beautiful, various, divine face of nature’ (ii. 569). The ‘divine’ is not apprehended by soaring into some impossible Empyrean, and even less by aping the religious art of the past: it is to be found in nature, scientifically understood as well as aesthetically appreciated. What Titmarsh commends in a religious picture like Laemlein’s The Waking of Adam is its ‘gladness, vigour, and sunshine’; and he warns against an excess of the ‘pathetic’ when discussing Steuben’s Our Saviour Going to Execution: ‘The mention of this gentleman brings us to what is called the bourgeois style of art, of which he is one of the chief professors. He excels in depicting a certain kind of sentiment, and in the vulgar, which is often too the true, pathetic’. The vulgar may be ‘true’—but does it make for good art? (‘On Men and Pictures’, ii. 557).