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Modern Painters, Volume IV (of V)

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I was in hopes that this volume might have gone its way without preface; but as I look over the sheets, I find in them various fallings short of old purposes which require a word of explanation.

Of which shortcomings, the chief is the want of reference to the landscape of the Poussins and Salvator; my original intention having been to give various examples of their mountain-drawing, that it might be compared with Turner's. But the ten years intervening between the commencement of this work and its continuation have taught me, among other things, that Life is shorter and less availably divisible than I had supposed: and I think now that its hours may be better employed than in making facsimiles of bad work. It would have required the greatest care, and prolonged labor, to give uncaricatured representations of Salvator's painting, or of any other work depending on the free dashes of the brush, so as neither to mend nor mar it. Perhaps in the next volume I may give one or two examples associated with vegetation; but in general, I shall be content with directing the reader's attention to the facts in nature, and in Turner; leaving him to carry out for himself whatever comparisons he may judge expedient.

I am afraid, also, that disappointment may be felt at not finding plates of more complete subject illustrating these chapters on mountain beauty. But the analysis into which I had to enter required the dissection of drawings, rather than their complete presentation; while, also, on the scale of any readable page, no effective presentation of large drawings could be given. Even my vignette, the frontispiece to the third volume, is partly spoiled by having too little white paper about it; and the fiftieth plate, from Turner's Goldau, necessarily omits, owing to its reduction, half the refinements of the foreground. It is quite waste of time and cost to reduce Turner's drawings at all; and I therefore consider these volumes only as Guides to them, hoping hereafter to illustrate some of the best on their own scale.

Several of the plates appear, in their present position, nearly unnecessary; 14 and 15, for instance, in Vol. III. These are illustrations of the chapters on the Firmament in the fifth volume; but I should have had the plates disproportionately crowded at last, if I had put all that it needed in that volume; and as these two bear somewhat on various matters spoken of in the third, I placed them where they are first alluded to. The frontispiece has chief reference to the same chapters; but seemed, in its three divisions, properly introductory to our whole subject. It is a simple sketch from nature, taken at sunset from the hills near Como, some two miles up the eastern side of the lake and about a thousand feet above it, looking towards Lugano. The sky is a little too heavy for the advantage of the landscape below; but I am not answerable for the sky. It was there.

In the multitudinous letterings and references of this volume there may possibly be one or two awkward errata; but not so many as to make it necessary to delay the volume while I look it over again in search of them....