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Overbeck, as we have seen, deliberately laid out his life for tranquillity; but not sheltered, as Fra Angelico, in a cloister, his serene mind was at times clouded by trouble. First came the death of his son, then he lost a brother, and afterwards was bereaved of his wife. All accounts tell that the darling son, Alfons Maria, inherited the rare gifts of the father, and unhappily also was a sharer in like bodily frailty. He had been reared with tenderest solicitude, in the hope that he might carry on the good work. The profession chosen was that of architecture, an art which the Christian painter felt to be of a “mystic nature,” being something “musical,” and “the visible emblem of religious enthusiasm.” But the bright promise was soon darkened: the youth died in the autumn of 1840, at the early age of eighteen. The father in overwhelming sorrow recounts, in a letter to Emilie Linder, how he had watched over the sick bed, and had snatched up a pencil by the quarter of an hour to assuage his grief. The boy was dutiful, and filled with filial love he was so good that the people called him a saint. The stricken parent turned to art as “a crutch to support his lameness, and as a solace to his tears.”

The picture of The Entombment, or rather The Pieta, in Lubeck, tells of the mind’s heavy burden. In 1837 an association had been formed, and money subscribed among friends and admirers, who desired that the native city should possess some work worthy of the painter’s renown. In 1842, on the completion of the first sketch and the cartoon, a letter arrived in Lubeck, saying that the grief through which the artist had passed was thrown into a composition that expressed the uttermost anguish of the soul. And again, in 1846, on the completion of the work, the Christian man writes, praying that this “lamentation over the death of the Son of God may arouse in the spectator true faith and repentance. May this painting, begun in tears for my own and only son, and finished in grief for the loss of my dear brother, draw tears from the eyes of Him who shed not only tears, but blood, in order that His death might be our life. Such aim have I always in my art, without which it would seem idle, indeed blasphemous.”

The Pieta was exhibited in Rome, and friendly criticisms were followed by final touches, with the filial intent to make a worthy offering to the parental city. In March, 1846, Overbeck announces, in the most modest terms, that the labour of love had at length been dispatched to Lubeck, and, much to his joy, a quiet side chapel of the choir of the Marien Kirche was chosen for its resting-place. The impression on entering this secluded spot, shut in by a locked gate, is almost startling; the eye gazes, as it were, on the actual scene: the figures are life-size; the pictorial style is, perhaps, all the more persuasive because it belongs to a remote time nothing modern breaks the spell of sacred associations. The spectator is transported to a sphere super-mundane, and altogether religious. The dead Christ, well modelled and a fine piece of flesh painting, lies stretched on the ground in a white winding-sheet, and, as sometimes with the old painters, the body seems not dead but sleeping, as if expectant of resurrection. The composition is strictly traditional, indeed the Pieta of Perugino in the Pitti Palace has been implicitly followed: around are the holy women weeping, with disciples and Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathaea. Every head, hand, and drapery, are thoroughly studied. Dark rocks, lofty cypresses, and distant hills, make up a landscape which adds solemnity and depth of colour. Within a few minutes’ walk of the Marien Kirche and this Pieta still remains Memling’s masterpiece, which, as already related, had deeply impressed the youthful painter while yet in the Lubeck home, but allegiance had been long, we know, transferred from old German to Italian art, and accordingly the style adopted recalls well-remembered compositions by Francia, Fra Bartolommeo, and Perugino. Not a single new motive intrudes; in fact, Overbeck no more desired a new art than a new religion; for him the old remained unchangeably true, sacred characters were handed down immutably as by apostolic succession; he would rearrange an attitude, but feared to lose personal identity; he desired that this Pieta should awaken such holy associations as environ old pictures.

Overbeck received a commission from a Yorkshire squire, Mr. Rhodes, to paint an altar-piece for the Protestant church of St. Thomas, in Leeds, recently built from the design of Mr. Butterfield. Naturally the Incredulity of the Apostle was chosen as the subject, and the picture reached completion in 1851. The composition is in no way out of keeping with the Anglican Church; it is without taint of Romanism; but we are told by Ernst Forster, the Munich critic, that “people were not well pleased with the work,” at all events it never reached its destined place. Mr. Rhodes had brought the picture to England from Overbeck’s studio, and being for disposal, it was offered to Mr. Beresford Hope, who gladly became the owner, at the price of 300_l_., the modest sum asked by the artist. The scene is thrown upon canvas with the painter’s habitual simplicity, brevity, and breadth. Christ in commanding, yet benignant, attitude, with arm uplifted, utters the words: “Reach hither thy hand and thrust it into my side, and be not faithless, but believing.” The Apostle reverently approaches. Beyond stretches a distant landscape with a mountain-height that might be mistaken for the crested summit of Soracte. The lines of composition flow symmetrically, the sentiment has quiet dignity, with that sense of the divine presence which seldom fails the painter. The picture hangs in the drawing-room of Mr. Hope’s town-house, and, though painted for a church, conforms to domestic uses, not being “too bright or good for human nature’s daily food.” The personation of the Saviour when once seen will not be forgotten; the figure, indeed, was cherished by the artist, for the motive with slight variation is repeated in The Vocation of the Apostles James and John (see Illustration), and again in The Sacrament of Marriage. Overbeck had none of the modern unrest which seeks novelty for its own sake; as a Christian artist, his growth was that of grace; and, if tested here and elsewhere by the worthiness of his conception of the God-Man, no painter attained a more heavenly ideal. It is hard to realise on earth a more perfect divinity than seen in the design Feed my Sheep. The Incredulity of St. Thomas has been exhibited in England twice; first in 1853, in the Royal Academy, where, I remember, it was honoured with a conspicuous place in the large room; afterwards, in 1857, it was seen in the Manchester Art Treasures. As far as I know, it is the only large and important work of the master submitted to the English public.

Overbeck, thirteen years after the death of his son, was in 1853 bereft of his wife, who had been his companion and caretaker for more than thirty years. She died suddenly, yet, as her husband thankfully records, with all the consolations the soul could desire. She had in the morning been to church and taken the sacrament; she was then seized with difficulty of breathing, but, on reaching home, revived, and raised her voice to the praise and glory of God; after, she grew worse, desired to see the priest, received extreme unction, and so died.

The good painter, when the help-mate of his life was taken away, felt utterly desolate and disabled. He had never been accustomed to look after the house; some thirty poor families are said to have been dependent on his bounty; but as for himself he took little thought, and all he desired was to be saved from mundane cares. In Rome there happened to be a certain family of Hoffmanns, who, like the painter, had forsaken Protestantism for Catholicism. They were endowed with the worldly faculties in which the Christian artist was wanting, and so a close relationship had conveniently grown up. Overbeck, on the death of his wife, being absolutely incapable of getting on alone, arranged to live with this family; moreover, he adopted Madame Hoffmann, a lady of forty, as his daughter, and the adoption included the husband and the children. They seem to have made him comfortable, and letters exist which give expression to his gratitude. They, on their side, reaped their reward, inasmuch as on the death of the good artist they came into the possession of the contents of his studio, his papers, and correspondence, moneys, and all other properties. After the aforesaid family arrangement, the blood relations found little favour, and all who bore the name of Overbeck were cut off without a shilling.

Earthly trouble did but turn the painter’s gaze heavenwards, and his art, which in time of trial came as consolation, grew all the more spiritual as it passed through waters of affliction. Few painters, even in the good old days, obtained so sympathetic a public. Belief in a mission begat like faith in others, and so solicitations came for drawings and pictures far in excess of available time and strength. Certain commissions could not be entertained, secular subjects had been long eschewed, religion and the Church were alone accounted worthy of service. Therefore, in genial mood, was the great picture for Cologne Cathedral undertaken and carried out. The work occupied no less than nine years; the cartoon was already in course of preparation in 1846, and the picture reached completion in 1855. But, as with other engagements, the negotiations and preliminary correspondence extended over a longer period. Thus, as far back as 23rd August, 1829, Overbeck, while working on the Assisi fresco, writes from Santa Maria degli Angeli to his friend Mosler, stating that the Dusseldorf Kunst-Verein wish for some picture; but prior engagements stand in the way: he foresees that on the return to Rome he will find his studio crowded with works begun, but still unfinished, besides sketches of all sorts and sizes for pictures not even commenced. He therefore asks for delay, and ends with apologies for not writing more on the parental plea that “though it is Sunday, I have long given my promise to my boy Alfons, whose tenth birthday is to-day, that he shall have a ride on a donkey, and I am all the more obliged to keep my word because my fresco work here compels me for the moment to neglect him. We are all, thank God, very well, and enjoy a thousand blessings in this abode of Paradise.” Three months later he writes under mistaken impressions as to the character of the commission; he wishes to know the architectural style of the church, and hopes it may be Gothic; he desires accurate measurements, because the picture must appear to belong to its destined place, and then ends in the following characteristic terms: “I repeat once more that the commission fills me with utmost pleasure, but to you I must confide my great anxiety, that I fear this picture is destined for a Protestant church, as I hear it is to be for some newly-built church. Should this, indeed, be the case, then pray try to give the whole thing another direction, as such a commission would not suit me at all, and to refuse it would be very disagreeable to me.”

Overbeck’s visit to Cologne, in 1831, naturally led to further conferences concerning the picture for the Cathedral. The proposal, at first, was that a triptych on a gold ground, in a Gothic frame, should be painted for the high altar. Drawings were prepared, the general scheme was approved by Cornelius, and the Archbishop gave his assent. But objections having been raised on historic or archaeologic grounds, the pictorial reredos was abandoned in favour of the present stone altar table. The artist felt deeply disappointed, and craved the prayers of his friend Steinle, who was engaged on the decoration of the choir. Fortunately, the services of Overbeck were only transferred from the high altar to the Madonna chapel, renovated to receive The Assumption commissioned to be painted. The cartoon was prepared and approved, and while engaged on the work the artist expressed himself supremely happy; he had no higher ambition than to be found worthy of a place in the great Cathedral.

The Assumption of the Madonna is suited to its surroundings; it is in keeping with the Gothic structure and decorations, and in companionship with old triptychs and other works which carry the mind back to remote ages. The composition stands forth as a vision of the imagination; from the darkness of the grave into the light of the upper sky rises the Queen of Heaven, borne upwards on angels’ wings; midway sustained by clouds are the adoring host, comprising Adam, Eve, Abraham, and King David; on the ground below are seen, in miniature, the disciples around the empty tomb. The whole conception is in perfect accord with the rites and ceremonies of the Church; while looking at the picture and listening to the voices in the choir, the harmonies between form and sound seem fitly attuned.

Overbeck, on the completion of the Cologne picture, revisited Germany for the second and last time. On the 20th July, 1855, he left Rome, proceeded to Florence, thence by way of Switzerland reached Frankfort, and extended his journey as far as Dusseldorf. In Cologne he stayed some weeks, and a festival, with usual laudatory speeches, was given in his honour. I happened to encounter the painter during his sojourn; I could hardly believe my eyes when I discovered the venerable artist gazing with accustomed placidity at Rubens’s brutal representation of The Crucifixion of St. Peter, head downwards. With reverence I approached the great master, and received a kindly shake of the hand. Overbeck on the return-journey passed a quiet month at Mayence; he also once more saw his old friends at Stift Neuburg, near Heidelberg. In Frankfort many sympathetic hours were spent with his attached companion Steinle, whose elevated works proved a renewed delight, and whose happy family circle recalled his own joys and losses. The town of Spires also received a visit, the inducement being Schraudolph’s extensive frescoes, then in progress within the Cathedral. Posterity has reason to lament that these important works were not entrusted to the chief of Christian painters. Some further weeks passed pleasantly among congenial minds in Munich, but friends were grieved to mark growing infirmities. Overbeck had reached the age of sixty-six, and Emilie Linder writes sorrowfully, that he was the only person over whose death she could rejoice, because all pertaining to the body had become a painful burden. Even the affectionate demonstrations of his countrymen were too much for him, and so gladly he turned his steps homewards. Yet not without lingering regrets did he journey southwards, and on reaching the summit of the Brenner he writes: “I turned round once more and gave, through the streams flowing northwards, a last greeting to my German land.” After four months’ absence, home comforts brought rest to his troubled mind.

Overbeck, after the death of his wife in 1853, left the Cenci Palace and went to dwell in the more quiet region of the Esquiline Hill, near the church of Santa Maria Maggiore. Later on he removed to the house in which he died, belonging to a convent, in the Via Porta Pia on the Quirinal Hill, near to the little church of San Bernardo, where he worshipped and lies buried. I remember the sequestered dwelling on the Esquiline, lying away from the road in one of those Italian wildernesses called a garden or a vineyard. The surroundings were inspiring; the eye wandered among churches and ruins, and beyond stretched the Roman Campagna, spanned by aqueducts and bounded by the Alban Hills, with Rocca di Papa, the painter’s country retreat. The studio, which on Sundays continued to be crowded with strangers from all countries, had little in common with the ordinary run of painting rooms. Showy sketches, picturesque costumes, gay carpets and draperies, which commonly make a fashionable lounge, were wholly wanting. Like the studio of Steinle in Frankfort, all was in keeping with an art not dependent on outward materials, but reliant on inward thought. Around were ranged compositions embodying ideas, cartoons and drawings in no way decorative, but simple and austere studies of form in light and shade, or slightly tinted. At this period were thus evolved the pictorial series of the Via Crucis and The Seven Sacraments. Turning from these creations to the painter himself, the visitor might be tempted to indulge in psychological speculations touching the processes whereby the spirit of the man passed into objective shape. More and more the old and solitary master withdrew his affections from earthly concerns, he approached the close of life as the sun which sets to rise on a new day, and his art breathed the atmosphere of those pure regions where his beloved ones were at rest.

In the summer time was usually sought some country abode, not for remission of labour, but for refreshment through change of scene amid the beauties of nature. Overbeck, in 1856, was full of work, and in the autumn he journeyed to Perugia, and took as his travelling companions the small drawings of the Via Crucis. There, in the cradle of Umbrian art, in the presence of Perugino and Raphael, he carried out the scenes of The Passion. In the hill country of Perugia his thoughts turned to the hills round about Jerusalem, olive gardens spoke of the Garden of Gethsemane, a land lovely, yet sad, told of Him who trod the Via Dolorosa. The painter divided the day between the practice of his art, Church functions, and social intercourse; he revisited the scenes of his labours at Assisi, and rejoiced the German Sisterhood of St. Francis by a visit. The next year the picturesque district of Ariccia was chosen for summer sojourn, with the advantage of Cornelius within the distance of a walk. The following autumn the two old friends revisited the spot. Here the water-colour drawings of the Via Crucis, or The Stations, were with earnest solicitude brought to completion.

The Stations in “the history of our Lord” have been accustomed to comprise Christ’s last sufferings, and in their symbolic meaning “represent the way to Calvary through which the believer is typically supposed to enter into the inner and holier part of the Church.” Such compositions are almost indispensable to every Roman Catholic place of worship, however humble; therefore Overbeck, desiring that his art should at all seasons furnish aids to devotion, designed these fourteen stations on the Via Dolorosa. According to precedent, the series begins with Jesus Condemned, and ends with The Entombment. The compositions were elaborated in two forms, the one as cartoons, the other as water-colour drawings. The treatment is, of course, traditional, and the general style does but suggest the line of criticism with which the reader must by this time be familiar; more than ever we here encounter sermons for the edification of the faithful rather than works appealing to the artist. The notes which a few years since I made before the drawings in the Vatican read somewhat severe, yet I ought hardly to withhold the impressions left on the mind. Utmost devotion and sincerity will be taken for granted, but I found that the excessive striving after religious feeling degenerated into morbid affectation and spiritual spasm, that sentiment passed into sentimentality, and that simplicity scarcely escaped childishness. Throughout became painfully apparent the lack of physical sinew and dramatic force; the characters, not being modelled on the life, wanted truth to nature; they were afflicted with a bodily frailty and mental infirmity wholly unequal to the tragic situation. These shortcomings in works of noblest motive may be ascribed to two causes: first, advancing age, with increasing loss of power; secondly, the confirmed habit of slighting art and ignoring nature in order to magnify some favourite dogma. Thus the divine painter in late years missed his aim and marred his work.

These reflections receive confirmation in The Seven Sacraments, compositions which are triumphs of faith at the expense of art. The painter, however, in fairness, must be allowed to speak for himself. “I must,” he writes, “first set forth what my conception of art is. Art to me is as the harp of David, whereupon I would desire that Psalms should at all times be sounded to the praise of the Lord. For when earth and sea and everything that therein is, when Heaven and all the powers of Heaven unite in extolling their Creator, how can man fail to join with every faculty and gift his Maker has endowed him with in this universal hymn of thanksgiving? And especially how can one of the noblest attributes he possesses the creative talent revealed in art fail to acknowledge that its highest glory and noblest end consist in offering in art’s own peculiar language Psalms and Songs of Praise to the Lord? So precisely as Psalms of Praise would I wish to be accepted my seven representations of the Sacraments, which, as so many fountains of grace, the Church causes abundantly and ceaselessly to flow. These mercies of God are the subjects of my seven pictures. As regards their style and execution, they may be compared to tapestries after the manner of the Arazzi of Raphael, such as it is customary to display in Italy on feast days for the adornment of churches, and serving for the instruction of the people in a language all can understand. Similar tapestries might, in a more favourable time than the present, have been wrought from these representations, but they appear now only as designs preparatory to their possible completion some day in fresco or tempera."

Biblical history received ample exposition in numerous accessory compositions. Each of The Seven Sacraments was surrounded by a predella, a frieze, and two side borders. Some of these long spaces dilated into several themes, and thus the total number of subsidiary subjects falls little short of forty. The foliated and floral ornament in style is not Raphaelesque, but more allied to early Gothic; the manner is graceful but feeble. The scheme embodies types in the Old Testament with their fulfilment in the New; both conjoined are brought to bear on the teachings of the Church concerning the Sacraments. Some of the analogies may appear, at least to outsiders, rather fanciful and far-fetched. Yet, the mystic meanings thrown around the singularly lovely composition of Matrimony satisfy at least the poetic sense. The artist explains how in the frieze is seen the union of Christ with the Church the heavenly architype of marriage celebrated by a choir of angels. The predella presents a symbol from the Old Testament in Tobias, who, under divine guidance, obtains a companion for life. One side-border exemplifies the first institution of matrimony in Paradise; angels above, in embrace, are scattering flowers. On the opposite side an angel showers down thorns, and on the ground beneath lies the dead Saviour, signifying that marriage through suffering obtains its consecration. The painter ends with the closing prayer that “these seven Psalms which I have sounded on my harp may exhibit the teaching of the Church in its beauty and sublimity, and thus do honour to God, to whom alone are due glory and praise in time and in eternity. Amen.”

Neither The Seven Sacraments as works of art, nor the printed notes thereto as treatises in theology, have been accepted by the world favourably. Even within the Roman Catholic Church they are deemed rather ultra; unfortunately the painter could not see when and where his art became an outrage on the common sense of mankind. His treatment of Holy Communion in these Sacraments, as well as in sundry other designs, is an instance of the way in which he pushed full far his sacerdotalism. He habitually departs from the treatment sanctioned by the great masters, from Giotto to Leonardo da Vinci; in place of a long table whereat all are seated is a small altar, before which the Apostles kneel; in lieu of a supper, the cloth is laid with only a plate and chalice, and instead of the breaking of bread among the disciples, Christ stands apart elevating a wafer. Now, all religious controversy aside, most minds will feel that, by thus substituting a fiction for a recorded fact, the subject is spoilt in point of art. And herein I cannot but recall a saying of Coleridge to the effect that he who begins by loving his Creed more than Christianity will end “by loving his Church more than truth."

Between the Christian artist and the head of the Church grew, as might be expected, a bond of mutual respect and attachment. Overbeck and Pius IX. had much in common; they were as brothers in affliction; the age was unbelieving; they had fallen upon evil days; and each was sustained alike by unshaken faith in the Church. Concerning The Stations, the drawings of which are in the private rooms of the Vatican, the Pope showed the liveliest interest, and wrote a letter to the artist full of apostolic benedictions. He had also evinced his friendly regard by giving sittings for his portrait. Afterwards, in 1857, came the commission to paint, for the Quirinal Palace, the large tempera picture representing Christ miraculously escaping from the Jews, who, according to the Gospel of St. Luke, had “thrust him out of the city, and had led him to the brow of the hill whereon the city was built, that they might cast him down headlong.” This astounding composition is the one step from the sublime to the ridiculous; it represents Christ with the right foot on the edge of a precipice, the left in the air on the heads of small angels: it was intended to symbolise the Pope’s escape from Rome, and his subsequent return to the city; and further it expressly signified the triumph of the spiritual over the temporal power. While the large and important work was in progress, Pius IX. paid a visit to the painter in his studio, an event to the honour of modern art comparable to the old stories touching Francis I. with Leonardo da Vinci and Philip IV. in the painting-room of Velazquez. This abortive miracle on canvas left on my mind, when seen in the studio, a very painful impression, and sound critics Zahn and others pronounce the subject as unpaintable, and the work most unfortunate. Overbeck had not the power possessed by the old masters of carrying the imagination into the age of miracle.

I have been at some pains to make the account here given of the painter’s works exhaustive. My opportunities of observation have been favourable, and yet, especially as no complete biography of the artist has hitherto been published, some minor works may have escaped my notice. Here, in conclusion, may fitly come a few additions. The Raising of Lazarus, the exquisite drawing of which, now in the Dusseldorf Academy, has already received notice, was, in 1822, painted in oils. The Death of St. Joseph, before mentioned, was, in 1838, reproduced for the private chapel of the newly created Bishop of Algiers. Also worthy of mention are cartoons of The Twelve Apostles and of The Four Evangelists, for the Torlonia chapel at Castel Gondolfo; a design, Christ teaching the Lord’s Prayer, for a window in the church of St. Katherine, Hamburg; sketches, including The Coronation of the Virgin, for a cathedral in Mexico; likewise drawings of the Virtues, also Moses and the Daughters of Jethro, the last engraved by Gruner, and then in England, belonging to Lord Hatfield. Also The Vocation of St. John and St. James, a pencil drawing in the possession of Baron Lotzbeck, Schloss Weihern, near Munich. This beautiful design has been chosen as one of the illustrations to this volume. Few masters have been so largely engraved as Overbeck; scarcely a picture or drawing of import exists that has not become thus widely diffused. By the artist’s own hand are reproduced, on copper, St. Philip Neri, and a Pilgrim. In France were published the “Book of Hours,” and “The Imitation of Christ,” severally illustrated from designs by Overbeck. A pictorial art, chiefly reliant on form, and expressly intended for the teaching and saving of man, was fitly thus multiplied and disseminated.

Numerous portraits of Overbeck, by himself and friends, give a retrospective view of his character. Probably the earliest is a pencil drawing in the Vienna Academy by the Viennese painter, Johann Scheffer von Leonhardshoff; the date must be prior to 1810, and the age somewhere about twenty. The head is remarkable, almost abnormal; the outlook on the world is inquiring, querulous, and combative; the penetrative eyes seem in search after undiscovered truth; the pursed-up mouth is prepared for protest; the attenuated nose and contracted nostril betray austerity and acerbity; the whole aspect is that of nervous irritability. The spirit is still in unrest, having sought in vain for the ideal; and unsatisfied yearnings already settle into moody sentiment and melancholy. In these traits are clearly legible the painful perplexities and the severe conflicts of the painter’s first period. And like mental states and bodily conditions are carried into the pencil likeness already mentioned, taken in Rome by Cornelius some three years later: for the moment the mind seems masked by a phlegmatic mass of German clay; whatever might be light-giving in the inward man appears clouded. This, as we have seen, was for the young painter a time of doubt and difficulty, and the face remains as yet unillumined. The next known portraits come at a long interval, and show marked changes, which tell of deep and not wholly blissful experiences. In 1837, Carl Kuchler, who made a series of portraits of German painters living in Rome, took and engraved the likeness of Overbeck at the age of forty-eight. The head is most striking and impressive; the coronal regions, the reputed abode of the moral and religious faculties, rise in full development; the frontal lobes of the intellect, with the adjacent territories of the imagination, bespeak the philosopher and the poet, while the scant circuit of the posterior organs gives slight sign of animal passion. The mien is that of a mediaeval saint austere, devout; the eyes steadfastly gaze as on hidden mysteries, yet shine with spiritual radiance; the brow, temple, and cheek are those of the child, yet thinker; all the features have settled into meditative repose, gently shaded by melancholy. Overbeck, at this time in close converse with Heaven, had given himself unreservedly to Christian Art; hence this supremely ideal head. The portrait, contributed to the autograph collection of artists’ heads in the Uffizi Gallery, Florence, pleased neither the painter nor any one else, yet it was carried out on the favourite doctrine of uniting the inward with the outward man. The style is hard and dry, the character that of starved asceticism; the expression is Jesuitical, and actual traits are so exaggerated as barely to escape caricature. The artist was painted by Carl Hoffmann, also, it is said, by Genelli and Ernst Deger. The portraits in late life, whilst preserving personal identity, betray somewhat painfully the inroads of age and ill health. Rudolf Lehmann made a faithful study in 1853; Adolf Grass, an inmate in the house, painted in oils a portrait in 1865; and Professor Bendemann, in 1867, prevailed upon the diffident old man to give a sitting. Two years later death entered the house, and Friedrich Geselschap, a friend and artist from Dusseldorf, came a few hours after the eyes were closed, and made a full-size chalk drawing of the head as it peacefully lay on the pillow. This faithful transcript, now on the table before me, scarcely sustains the statement of some writers, that the countenance after death assumed a glorified aspect; but, whether living or dying, peace, though not void of pain, is the pervading expression.

Overbeck, after the goodly habit of the old masters, was fond of introducing himself as a spectator in the sacred scenes he depicted, and thus the above list of portraits is considerably extended. The painter appears personally in Christ’s Entry into Jerusalem; also, in company with his friends Cornelius and Veit, he joins the general assembly of artists in The Triumph of Religion. Again, in The Gospels the devout painter is present at the Crucifixion, bent on his knees, the hands clasped, his eyes gazing on Christ upon the Cross. Overbeck was not thus the egotist or a man craving for glory, but merely the humblest of servants seeking some inconspicuous place among the followers of Christ, and desiring to be numbered with God’s elect.

I have endeavoured, though perhaps very imperfectly, to lay before the reader a picture of Overbeck as the artist and the man, and now little remains save a few general conclusions. I have anxiously tried to ascertain the painter’s mode of work, and the successive steps by which he matured his compositions. This inquiry has proved all the more difficult, because drawings in their early stages were persistently kept out of view. The artist had two studios, the one strictly private for quiet incubation apart; the other public, wherein only finished products were shown. The question is, how consummate designs such as The Gospels were elaborated. I find that Overbeck first revolved a subject in his thoughts until he had formed a distinct mental conception; this inward vision he would sometimes for months carry about with him, within the house and in his walks abroad. At last, when it had taken shape, he sketched out the idea with lead pencil on a small piece of paper; and, just in proportion as the first process had been tentative and slow, so was the final act swift and certain. In these supreme moments he had the power of throwing off his innermost thoughts without aids from the outer world: the lines flowed from his pencil rapidly when he had made up his mind what to do, and the forms once set down were seldom changed. The facility increased rather than lessened with years; thus we read, “At the age of seventy-two I create with undiminished freshness and pleasure.” As soon as the first small sketch was complete, the usual method was followed of squaring out the surface with lines, in order to reproduce in charcoal, chalk, or sepia the design on the full scale required often the size of life. For the important figures, for the heads, hands, and draperies, studies from the life were diligently made. Such drawings and cartoons have been and are greatly prized by connoisseurs; for example, The Seven Years of Famine was acquired by Sir Thomas Lawrence for his collection. The reader will understand how difficult it was for the painter to find assistants who could help in this directly personal work, in this concentration of individual thought; hence the prolonged time needed, extending, as we have seen, to periods of five or ten years. Separate studies of colour were also sometimes, if not always, made. The ultimate stage of painting upon canvas or wall was comparatively a mechanical process.

Furthermore, we have to consider and make allowance for certain technical notions of Overbeck and his school. The opinion upheld was that the idea or mental conception constituted the chief value of any art work, that outline or form was the direct language or vehicle of such idea, and that colour, light, shade, surface-texture, or realism, were subordinate, if not derogatory, elements. Thus it is that the works of the master cannot be judged by ordinary standards: hence likewise the drawings and cartoons are superior to the pictures.

Especially does Overbeck’s colour stand in need of explanation or apology. In the first place we have to take into account how far the artist was bound to tradition; we have, for instance, to bear in mind that in painting The Assumption, he was enjoined by the Church to clothe the Madonna in white. Then comes the whole question of symbolism, or the inherent or accepted relation between colour and thought and feeling. Now, I think it probable that Overbeck sacrificed harmonies pleasing to the eye for the sake of arrangements that might inculcate doctrines or impress emotions. Certain it is that he looked on colour as something carnal: the example of the Venetian painters warned him against passionate excess, and so as a religious artist he felt it a duty to use sombre pigments, tertiary tints, and low, shadowy tones. Thus much needs explanation, yet it must always be cause for regret that Overbeck did not take for examples such masters of colour as Fra Angelico and Perugino, and thus gain the heavenly radiance begotten of religion.

The art of Overbeck will live by its merits despite its defects; it is vital and enduring in the three mental elements of thought, form, and composition. The last he matured and mastered with the certainty of a science and the beauty of an art. His compositions have the exactitude, and occasionally the complexity, of geometric problems, neither are they without the rhythm of a stanza, or the music of a song.

How much and in what manner the art of Overbeck was due to direct inspiration from heaven is not easy to determine. But, at all events, the modern master, like his forerunners in the spiritual school of Umbria, watched and waited, fasted, prayed, and painted. One who observed him closely testifies how, while making the drawings for The Gospels and The Seven Sacraments, he was penetrated with the life of Christ. From deep wells the infinite soul flowed into the finite mind, and the art conceived in the spirit of prayer issued as a renewed prayer to God.

The reader, I trust, has formed a judgment as to the three-fold relation in which Overbeck and his works stand to nature, to historic precedent, and lastly, to inward consciousness or individual character. We have seen that the notion prevalent in Rome, that the living model was wholly discarded, is inaccurate; bearing on this moot point may be here told an anecdote. It is related how one morning, when the artist was engaged on the Tasso frescoes, in the Villa Massimo, he had need of the life for a muscular arm, and so sallied forth into the neighbouring Piazza of the Lateran and made appeal to some men who were breaking stones on the road. One of the number, of amazing muscle, consented to sit, but, to the disgust of the purist painter, the man turned out to be a public executioner, who only took to stone breaking when slack of usual work. Another story is to the effect that, one day a fellow of terrific aspect entered the studio, declaring he was without food, and demanding engagement as a model. He turned out a villain, and so the aversion grew to coming in contact with common and unclean nature. Another reason assigned for the non-employment of models is the lack of sufficient strength to sustain protracted study from the life. Hence recourse to other methods: for instance, both mental and pencil notes were taken of casual figures and incidents in society or in the public streets. John Gibson, the sculptor, cultivated a like habit. Also a remarkable memory, of which much might be told, served as a storehouse of pictorial materials. It is recounted now on Sunday evenings, after the reception in the studio of fifty or a hundred guests, the meditative artist would recall and describe the visitors one by one, and after many years, and perhaps in a distant place, meeting some person, otherwise unknown, he would say, “I remember to have seen that face once in my painting-room.” In like manner his memory was peopled with figures, whose acquaintance he had made only in pictures: thus, when he came to paint The Assumption for Cologne Cathedral, he had recourse to the mental vision of the Madonna, derived from an old Sienese panel, and, when charged with the plagiarism, he replied: “The figure realises my idea, and I do not see why I should search further.” Thus, however, it came to pass that he borrowed more and more from others, just in proportion as he took less from nature. But in coming to a fair judgment, we have to remember that the accidents in nature, and the grosser materialism in man, were foreign to this super-sensuous art, the aim being to reach the hidden meaning and the inner life. Hence the favourite practice of placing and posing in the painting-room some well-chosen figure which was quietly looked at, carefully considered, and taken in; thus the irrelevant elements were eliminated, and only the essential truths assimilated. This was for Overbeck the saving study of nature: he made extracts and essences, elaborated generic types, and thus his art became supreme in beauty. However, the beautiful is not always new, neither is the new always beautiful.

The painter’s relation to the historic schools of Christian Art has been so fully stated, that little more remains to be said. The old masters were studied much in the same way as nature: their spirit was inhaled, and just as John Gibson was accustomed to ask, What would the Greeks have done? so Overbeck put himself in the place of the early Italian painters, and desired that his pencil might be guided by their spirit. Like Raphael, what he borrowed he made his own, and often added an aspect and a grace peculiar to himself. A gallery of pictures was for him what a well-stored library is to a literary student, who takes from the shelves the author best supplying the intellectual food needed. The method is not new or strange: Bacon teaches how the moderns inherit the wisdom of the ancients, and surely if for art, as for learning, there be advancement in store, old pictures, like old books, must give up the treasure of a life beyond life. Overbeck in the past sought not for the dead, but for the living and enduring.

Given a painter’s genius and surroundings, his art usually follows under the law of cause and effect. Overbeck’s pictures, as those of others, yield under analysis as their component parts, nature plus tradition, plus individual self. As to the individual man, we have found Overbeck the poet and philosopher, the mystic, somewhat the sentimentalist, and, above all, the devout Catholic. The character is singularly interesting, and the products are unusually complex. He had forerunners and many imitators, yet he stands alone, and were his pencil lost, a blank would be felt in the realm of art. His genius was denied grandeur: he did not rise to the epic, and scarcely expanded into the dramatic; his path was comparatively narrow; his kingdom remained small, yet where he stands is hallowed ground; his art is musical, altogether lyrical, yet toned with pathos, as if the lamentations of The Holy Women at the Sepulchre mingled with the angel-voices of The Nativity. The man and his work are among the most striking and unaccustomed phenomena of the century, and so far as his art is true to God, humanity, and nature, it must endure. His own assurance is left on record: he held that knowledge and doing are of value only so far as they ennoble humanity, and lead to that which is eternal. He believed in the dependence of art on personal character, on elevation of mind and purity of motive. The noblest destiny of the race was ceaselessly before him, and he looked to Christian Art as the means of showing to the world the everlasting truth, and of raising the reality of life to the ideal. In conclusion, I think it not too much to claim Overbeck as the most perfect example, in our time, of the Christian Artist.

The pecuniary rewards of the painter were in no fair proportion to his talents or his industry. His labour, as we have seen, was primarily for the honour of art and religion, and his protracted modes of study, as well as the esoteric character of his compositions, were little likely to meet with adequate return. Overbeck never realised large sums; his prices measured by present standards were ridiculously low, and even when overcrowded with commissions, he is known to have fallen short of ready cash. Happily, after early struggles, he became relieved from pressing anxieties, yet he remained comparatively poor.

Overbeck’s influence, the example of his life, the principles of his art, extended far and wide throughout Europe. In France, the German master won the reverence of the Christian artist Flandrin. In England, Pugin held him up to students as a bright example. In Vienna and Prague, Joseph Fuhrich, as a disciple, worked diligently. In Munich, Heinrich Hess, and in Spires, Johann Schraudolph, painted extended series of frescoes allied to the same Christian school. In Dusseldorf like traditions live: Deger, Ittenbach, Carl and Andreas Muller studied in Rome, and their frescoes in the Rhine chapel at Remagen were inspired by Overbeck. And specially does the mantle of the revered painter rest on his friend Eduard Steinle; important works at Strasbourg, Cologne, Frankfort, Munster, Klein-Heubach, and Reineck, respond to the spirit of the great artist who, dead, yet speaks.

Brief is the narrative of the approaching end. The infirmities of age scarcely abated the ardent pursuit of an art dear as life itself. Overbeck had suffered from an affection of the eyes, and his later drawings, notwithstanding partial panegyrists, betray a faltering hand, together with some incoherence in thought, or, at least, in the relation of the parts to the whole. For some time, in fact, vitality had been ebbing from his work. The summer of 1869 found him in his favourite retreat of Rocca di Papa, and we are told he was “still busily creating.” His country dwelling stood among beauties which, in illness as in health, came with healing power. From this sylvan quietude the aged painter, in June, wrote to his dear friend, Director Steinle, a letter abounding in love and aspiration; he dwells on the serenity of the Italian sky, on the splendour of the landscape stretching before his eye into the far distance; with characteristic modesty he laments that even in old age he is not sufficiently advanced for the great task set before him, and desires without intermission to turn to good account the time still left; and then he counsels his “Brother in Christ” to direct the mind steadfastly towards the glorious olden days which point to the blessed goal.

Overbeck, on his return to Rome in the autumn of 1869, resumed his accustomed order of life. One who knew him well in later years relates that he was to be found in his studio in the early morning, that, after a short interval at noon, he resumed work till stopped by the darkness of evening, and that, such was the wealth of material stored in the mind, that he went on inventing without aid from usual outward appliances. He still sought utmost tranquillity, and any intrusion on the hours of study became extremely painful to him. Latterly he had been engaged on a small composition of The Last Judgment; also he was occupied on designs illustrative of human life a series which had advanced as far as the Return from Church of the Wedding Party. Such were the congenial avocations when, on the fourteenth day after the return home, he was seized with a severe cold on the chest. Yet the symptoms so far yielded to medical treatment that in eight days the danger had passed. Suddenly, however, ensued a total failure of power, yet for the most part the mind remained unclouded. A day or two before death he asked for a piece of charcoal, and added a few touches to a design on which lately he had been working; and at times, when apparently unconscious, he would look upwards, raise and move his hand as if in the act of drawing. He prayed almost without ceasing, was grateful for each kindness, and with dying lips had a loving and comforting word for everyone. The last sinking came in quietness; sustained by the consolations of religion he fell asleep towards six o’clock in the evening of Friday, the 12th of November, in the eightieth year of his age. He lay as he had lived in peace; and near his bed was placed the drawing on which he had lately worked, also the small cartoon of The Last Judgment.

The next day, according to the painter’s wish, the body was taken by the hands of his brother artists to San Bernardo, the little parish church near his house, where he worshipped, and where he is still remembered. An eye-witness writes from Rome to Lubeck, on the 18th of November: “I have just come from the burial of our great fellow-countryman. Amid universal grief the funeral mass took place this morning. The mournful ceremony was performed by a German bishop assisted by Cistercian monks; many artists and German students were present, and joined in psalms composed by the Abbe Liszt. The whole function was most solemn, as if the pious spirit of the departed had entered the whole assembly. Around the bier were gathered Protestants as well as Roman Catholics; the coffin bore the many orders which the artist had received, but was never seen to wear; and at the feet lay the crown of laurels which his Roman brethren reverently offered to their acknowledged chief.” The body lies in the chapel of St. Francis of Assisi, within the church of San Bernardo. The resting-place is marked by a white marble cross, let into the wall, bearing the inscription “Joannes Fridericus Overbeck In Pace.”