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equally to all ages, and whatever may be their comparative value with regard to others of his paintings they must be accepted as attesting above others his special position as the painter of Ideas.
He has imaged Time, Death, Judgement, Progress, Destiny, Love, Life, Oblivion, Humanity, the Angels of the Apocalypse, War, red-horsed, the bearer of the sword for Him who 'makes war for peace alone,' and who with upward gaze seeks inspiration before he strikes. He has painted the Victor-Rider with star-children for outriders; the sombre Rider of the black horse, ruthless and swift, the scales in his hand; and last, that pale scythe-wielder, Death with his sharp-spiked coronet, the wolf anear, Death the rider who breaks in youth.' And besides these the ancient trinity, Faith,' * 'Hope,' * and Charity,' the moral endowments of humanity, also its idolatries, vanity, greed and wealth; the wedding of the soul to Great Possession,' The Dweller in the Innermost,' with her emblems, the wings of aspiration and the arrows of conscience.
Each Figure follows out its own history in the several paintings where it appears. Time, poised in mid-air betwixt the orbs of day and night,' goes forth to condition human life. He is a son of day, strong in all the austerity of his ever-renewed youth. For him the past is not. Wide-eyed he gazes always before, and there is no looking backward. He is the Hour that tarries for no man, and whose relentless passage none can stay. Time is To-day, is the word of the painter. Yesterday has fallen from him as a discarded mantle, and To-morrow is unborn. Thus he comes, in the great fresco-like picture, bringing with him for companion Oblivion, her with whom there is no remembrance of former things, neither shall there be any remembrance ' of things that are to come with those that shall come after;' her whom, considering how valueless are the memories most men leave behind them, we may surely hold a friend at need. 'Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with all 'thy might,' is the inscription written above these two figures, 'for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave whither thou goest.' And equally surely in our ears rings the cry of the revellers, as he who saw vanity under the sun heard them crying in the streetway: 'Let no flower of the spring pass by us. Let us crown ourselves 'with roses before they be withered,' for the day passes, and
* Tate Gallery.
the night. For every man his hour-the hour that ends. for the children of joy as for the children of sorrow, for him who labours and for him who feasts, there is nor pleasure nor work in the grave whither both are going, nor is there any backward road, nor in that war is there any discharge; what has been has been, and will be never more again. Weigh me the weight of the fire, or measure me the blast of the wind, or, call me again the day that is past' saith the preacher.
Time is once more represented in the often repeated design, Time, Death, and Judgement.'* On these paintings .*On the painter has lavished all the glories of his palette, with the splendour of dark jewels in half-lights, or the glow of painted windows at sunset in the dusk of a grey cathedral. The Greeks represent Kronos (or Time) as a very aged 'man,' wrote William Blake, the greatest, among artists, of visionaries. This is a fable, but the real vision of Time is an eternal youth. I have, however,' he adds, 'somewhat accommodated my figure of Time to the common 'opinion, as I myself am almost infected with it and my 'vision is infected, and I see Time aged-alas! too much so.'t No such contagion has dimmed the sight of the later artist. For him Time has the morning in his eyes and the whole strength of the noonday in his limbs. He has the energy of the Reaper who does not hold in vain the scythe his right hand grasps, the vigour of the vine-dresser when the day of the ripening of the grapes has come. For here it is in relation to Death Time is portrayed. He is Death's bridegroom, and his bride ‡ with her twilight face and bowed head, with the red roses of summer, and youth, and love, and joy of love, the blossoms her pale hands have gathered, caught in the folds of her grey raiment, is-in all her dim beauty-Death herself. And above and behind these two is he who follows' both, he who adjusts the balance with an equal hand, the scales whose weights are always just, a just weight and balance are the Lord's;' he who holds the sword of truth and on whose brow burns the flame of righteousness. Oblivion is not effacement. In the kingdom of death are many mansions, and howsoever fast a man may fly, the Rider on the Black Horse-first painted of all the Angels of the Apocalypse-will overtake him in the
Gilchrist, Life of William Blake.
Then comes the end of the story. More than any other the Figure of Death would seem to have become the preoccupation of Mr. Watts's art. Heretofore in pictorial art death had presented itself mainly in its effects and accompaniments. In countless Crucifixions, Pietàs and martyrdoms, in battle-scenes, or again of late in hospital ward and ambulance, we see the dying and look on the dead. Death truly is the chief factor, but it is a factor off the stage. In the guise of an impersonation it has indeed been encharioted with the figures of Chastity, Love, Time and many another, in the processional Triumphs depicted by Italian art, moving with stately splendour down thronged highways and streets decorated for the high pageant of royal entries. But apart from these effigies, so far as Death was imaged in popular imagination, Western Europe set aside the suggestive metaphors of her sacred books, the Reaper, the Angel, the Sleep-giver, and adopted in their stead the crude emblem of the skeleton king, the grim materialistic sensationalism of the Danse Macabre or the grotesque shrouded Terror of old Moralities, as the semblance of the Force which rules man's exit from the land of life. In the wider range of literature, other conceptions, it is true, abound. Love itself has not a more fairly blazoned psaltery than is contained in the pages of the world's great book of pity and death. Moreover, those pages are illuminated with a tenderness and passion which, had Death not been, creation had sought in vain through all its eternities of invulnerable immortality. Dirges, monodies, death-scenes, lyrics and dramas, and, in another art, the funérailles, requiems and death-songs, have been, so far as ideal beauty is concerned, in another sense than those Renaissance panels Trionfi della Morte. Yet, as a general rule, it is the Deathsentiment in sadness, despair, compassion, that poets have sung, and nowhere is the sentiment so overladen with the old horror than in the death-dramas Maeterlinck has charged with the atmosphere of that invisible, inaudible, immaterial presence, whose entrances and exits are as distinctly indicated as those of any other of the dramatis personæ. The physical repulsion moral allegorists wedded to the sense of sin and the menace of hell is exchangedin the region of secular emotionalism-for a phantasmal fear wedded to a sense of the irremediable malady of living.
To create a symbol, a new symbol, adequate esthetically and ethically, for the expression in Art of his conception of Death, to displace all associations of past grotesques, the
memento mori of skull and shroud by an ideal of beauty; to substitute for the Danse Macabre a Hymn of Peace, for the notes of sombre and mournful acquiescence, of impotent rebellion and unavailing protest, the calm formula of a great mystery, was Mr. Watts's deliberate purpose. True on the pale horse Death passes with the menace of the wrath of God, but it is a solitary image of a single aspect of Death's visitation. As the Bride of Time we have seen her face and know that it is fair. Veiled in the grey raiment of that neutrality of all neutralities, Fate, she crosses the threshold of the open door, barred by Love's broken wing.* But it is as the nurse of immortality's infancies that she has entered the shut chamber, where, her finger touching the dead man's arm, she, the Messenger of Peace, holds his soul, the child of that new birth of dying, to her breast.f 'O Death, ac'ceptable is thy sentence unto the needy and unto him whose strength faileth, that is now in the last age and is vexed with all things, and to him that despaireth,' the very words of the Son of Sirach seem to find their response in this quiet death scene. In another picture ‡ a dead child rests upon her knee; the soft-hued oval of her wingsthe dim tints suggest some human bird of night-frame her bent head, proclaiming her angelhood, as the caressing hand announces her motherhood. Once more the illusion of her actual presence is felt, tranquil as the very plenitude of tranquillity, in the death picture § where she is unseen. The shrouded form rests on the lonely bier; not a feather of those peacock plumes strewn, purple, green, and blue, upon the floor, stirs at her passing, not a petal of those fallen petals is swept by the hem of her trailing robes; the quietude of the untenanted place, filled with tokens of life's lost handiwork, its joys, labours, and companionships, is accentuated to the extreme, and we know that the sleeper sleeps the sleep of an eternal rest. And last Death sits on high,|| enthronedQueen Death-receiving the great surrenders of life, the sword of man, the heart of woman, the youth of the young; the cripple brings to her his staff, and old age its weariness, and infancy its trust, the beggar his hunger, and the oppressed his wrongs. It is the Court of Death, but a Court which might serve as antechamber to a Palace of Life.
* 'Love and Death '-Tate Gallery.
+ The Messenger of Peace '-Tate Gallery.
§ Sic Transit '-Tate Gallery.
The Court of Death '-Tate Gallery.
And Death herself, although a queen, must die. Love is stronger than Death, and in Love Triumphant'* the final scene of the drama of Abstract Idea closes. Love, as ever, in a vesture dipped in blood-his own-rises radiantly victorious, his wings uplifted against a luminous cloud. Time and his grey Bride, hand touching hand, lie prostrate, outstretched in death upon the shadowed earth beneath Love's feet; Time who was his enemy, Death who was his rival, are slain. It is the Gloria in excelsis of his glad Ascension.
Such is the law and the gospel of these paintings. Love is Humanity's steersman,f Love is Life's guide,‡ and the All-pervading Spirit,§ on whose knee is the globe of the Universe, is the Divine Motherhood, Wisdom, of whom it is written: I dwell in high places, and my throne is ' a cloudy pillar. I alone compassed the circuit of heaven ' and walked in the bottom of the deep. I am the Mother of 'fair Love. I, therefore, being eternal, am given to all my 'children.' And in the atmosphere, serene and serious, of these pictures, with their continuous enunciation of thoughts which, if thinking be of any avail, tend towards high endeavours, manhood, patience, and the oblation of ignoble instincts, the passer-by of life's street may look through an open doorway into a tranquil house of peace. He may not dwell therein, he may not perhaps so much as cross the threshold, but for a moment the dust-cloud of the spirit is laid, and he will carry away a memory of clear spaces, sunlit or twilight, of the soul's true vision and the heart's far-off destiny. And one may well believe that those who seek in his painting that which is of painting, no less than those who seek in his art that which is thought, will alike find that in his life-works-to borrow the eloquent sentence of a reverent critic of another day- es flammt 'ein wenig brennendes Lebensöhl welches nie vor unsern Augen verlisch.'