Modern Painting
George Moore

Part 3 out of 4


_To the Editor of "The Speaker"._

SIR,--Your art critic "G. M." is in error on a matter of fact,
and as everybody knows the relationship between fact and theory,
I am afraid his little error vitiates the argument he propounds
with so much vigour. It was _after_, and not before, his
election as an Associate that Mr. Burne-Jones made his solitary
appearance as an exhibitor at the Royal Academy.--Yours truly,

R. I.

Sir,-It has always been my rule not to enter into argument with
my critics, but in the instance of "R. I." I find myself obliged
to break my rule. "R. I." thinks that the mistake I slipped into
regarding Mr. Burne-Jones's election as an Associate vitiates the
argument which he says I propound with vigour. I, on the contrary,
think that the fact that Mr. Burne-Jones was elected as an
Associate before he had exhibited in the Royal Academy advances
my argument. Being in doubt as to the particular fact, I
unconsciously imagined the general fact, and when man's imagination
intervenes it is always to soften, to attenuate crudities which
only nature is capable of.

For twenty years, possibly for more, Mr. Burne-Jones was a resolute
opponent of the Royal Academy, as resolute, though not so truculent,
an opponent as Mr. Whistler. When he became a popular painter Mr.
Agnew gave him a commission of fifteen thousand pounds--the largest,
I believe, ever given--to paint four pictures, the "Briar Rose"
series. Some time after--before he has exhibited in the Academy--Mr.
Jones is elected as an Associate. The Academicians cannot plead that
their eyes were suddenly opened to his genius. If this miracle had
happened they would not have left him an Associate, but would have
on the first vacancy elected him a full Academician. How often have
they passed him over? Is Mr. Jones the only instance of a man being
elected to the Academy who had never exhibited there? Perhaps "R. I."
will tell us. I do not know, and have not time to hunt up records.

G. M.


Manchester and Liverpool are rival cities. They have matched
themselves one against the other, and the prize they are striving for
is--Which shall be the great art-centre of the North of England. The
artistic rivalry of the two cities has become obvious of late years.
Manchester bids against Liverpool, Liverpool bids against Manchester;
the results of the bidding are discussed, and so an interest in art is
created. It was Manchester that first threw her strength into this
artistic rivalry. It began with the decorations which Manchester
commissioned Mr. Madox Brown to paint for the town hall. Manchester's
choice of an artist was an excellent and an original one. Mr. Madox
Brown was not an Academician; he was not known to the general public;
he merely commanded the respect of his brother-artists.

The painting of these pictures was the work of years; the placing of
every one was duly chronicled in the press, and it was understood in
London that Manchester was entirely satisfied. But lo! on the placing
in position of the last picture but one of the series an unseemly
dispute was raised by some members of the Corporation, and it was
seriously debated in committee whether the best course to pursue would
not be to pass a coat of whitewash over the offending picture. It is
impossible to comment adequately on such barbarous conduct; perhaps at
no distant date it will be proposed to burn some part of Mrs. Ryland's
perfect gift--the Althorp Library. There may be some books in that
library which do not meet with some councillor's entire approval.
Barbarism on one side, and princely generosity on the other, combined
to fix attention upon Manchester, and, in common with a hundred
others, I found myself thinking on the relation of Manchester and
Liverpool to art, and speculating on the direction that these new
influences were taking.

There are two exhibitions now open in Manchester and Liverpool--the
permanent and the annual. The permanent collections must first occupy
our attention, for it is through them that we shall learn what sort
and kind of artistic taste obtains in the North. At first sight these
collections present no trace of any distinct influence. They seem to
be simply miscellaneous purchases, made from every artist whose name
happens to be the fashion; and considered as permanent illustrations
of the various fashions that have prevailed in Bond Street during the
last ten years, these collections are curious and perhaps valuable
documents in the history of art. But is there any real analogy between
a dressmaker's shop and a picture gallery? Plumes are bought because
they are "very much worn just now", but then plumes are not so
expensive as pictures, and it seems to be hardly worth while to buy
pictures for the sake of the momentary fashion in painting which they

Manchester and Liverpool have not, however, grasped the essential fact
that it is impossible to form an art gallery by sending to London for
the latest fashions. Now and then the advice of some gentleman knowing
more about art than his colleagues has found expression in the
purchase of a work of art; but the picture that hangs next to the
fortuitous purchase tells how the taste of the cultured individual was
overruled by the taste of the uncultured mass at the next meeting. I
could give many, but two instances must suffice to explain and to
prove my point. Two years ago Mr. Albert Moore exhibited a very
beautiful picture in the Academy--three women, one sleeping and two
sitting on a yellow couch, in front of a starlit and moonlit sea. In
the same Academy there was exhibited a picture by Mr. Bartlett--a
picture of some gondoliers rowing or punting or sculling (I am
ignorant of the aquatic habits of the Venetians) for a prize. The
Liverpool Gallery has bought and hung these pictures side by side.
Such divagations of taste make the visitor smile, and he thinks
perforce of the accounts of the stormy meetings of councillors that
find their way into the papers. Artistic appreciation of these two
pictures in the same individual is not possible. What should we think
of a man who said that he did not know which he preferred-a poem by
Tennyson, or a story out of the _London Journal_? Catholicity of taste
does not mean an absolute abandonment of all discrimination; and some
thread of intellectual kinship must run through the many various
manifestations of artistic temperament which go to form a collection
of pictures. Things may be various without being discrepant.

The Manchester Gallery has purchased Lawson's beautiful picture, "The
Deserted Garden"; likewise Mr. Fildes' picture of a group of Venetian
girls sitting on steps, the principal figure in a blue dress with an
orange handkerchief round her neck, the simple--I may say
child-like--scheme of colour beyond which Mr. Fildes never seems to
stray. The Lawson and the Fildes agree no better than do the Moore and
the Bartlett; and the only thing that occurs to me is that the cities
should toss up which should go for Fildes and Bartlett, and which for
Lawson and Moore. By such division harmony would be attained, and one
city would be going the wrong road, the other the right road; at
present both are going zigzag.

But notwithstanding the multifarious tastes displayed in these
collections, and the artistic chaos they represent, we can, when we
examine them closely, detect an influence which abides though it
fluctuates, and this influence is that of our discredited Academy. The
Manchester and Liverpool collection are merely weak reflections of the
Chantrey Fund collection. Now, if the object of these cities be to
adopt the standard of taste that obtains in Burlington House, to
abdicate their own taste--if they have any--and to fortify themselves
against all chance of acquiring a taste in art, it would clearly be
better for the two corporations to hand over the task of acquiring
pictures to the Academicians. The responsibility will be gladly
accepted, and the trust will be administered with the same honesty and
straightforwardness as has been displayed in the administration of the
moneys which the unfortunate Chantrey entrusted to the care of the

The sowing of evil seed is an irreparable evil; none can tell where
the wind will carry it, and unexpected crops are found far and wide. I
had thought that the harm occasioned to art by the Academy and its
corollary, the Chantrey Fund, began and ended in London. But in
Manchester and Liverpool I was speedily convinced of my mistake. Art
in the provinces is little more than a reflection of the Academy. The
majority of the pictures represent the taste of men who have no
knowledge of art, and who, to disguise their ignorance, follow the
advice which the Academy gives to provincial England in the pictures
it purchases under the terms--or, rather, under its own reading of the
terms--of the Chantrey Bequest Fund. One of the first things I heard
in Manchester was that the committee had been fortunate enough to
secure the nude figure which Mr. Hacker exhibited this year in the
Academy. And on my failing to express unbounded admiration for the
purchase, I was asked if I was aware that the Academy had purchased
"The Annunciation" for the Chantrey Bequest Fund. "Surely," said a
member of the committee, "you agree that our picture is the better of
the two." I answered: "Poor Mr. Chantrey's money always goes to buy
the worst, or as nearly as possible the worst, picture the artist ever
painted--the picture for which the artist would never be likely to
find a purchaser."

Last month the Liverpool County Council assembled to discuss the
purchase of two pictures recommended by the art committee--"Summer",
by Mr. Hornel; and "The Higher Alps", by Mr. Stott, of Oldham. The
discussion that ensued is described by the _Liverpool Daily Post_ as
"amusing". It was ludicrous, and those who do not care a snap of the
fingers about art might think it amusing. The joke was started by Mr.
Lynskey, who declared that the two pictures in question were mere
daubs. Mr. Lynskey did not think that the Glasgow school of painting
had yet been recognised by the public, and until it had he did not see
why the corporation should pay L500 for these two productions, merely
for the sake of experimenting. Thereby we are to understand that in
forming a collection of pictures it is the taste of the public that
must be considered. "Of course," cry the aldermen; "we are here to
supply the public with what it wants." I repeat, the corporations of
Manchester and Liverpool do not seem to have yet grasped the fact that
there is no real analogy between a picture gallery and a dressmaker's

The next speaker was Mr. Burgess. He could not imagine how any one
could recommend the purchase of such pictures. The Mr. Burgesses of
twenty-five years ago could not understand how any one could buy
Corots. Mr. Smith asked if it were really a fact that the committee
had bought the pictures. He was assured that they would be bought only
if the council approved of them; whereupon Alderman Samuelson declared
that if that were so they would not be bought. Dr. Cummins compared
the pictures to cattle in the parish pound, and it is reported that
the remark caused much laughter. Then some one said--I think it was
Mr. Smith--that the pictures had horrified him; whereupon there was
more laughter. Then a member proposed that they should have the
pictures brought in, to which proposition a member objected, amid much
laughter. Then Mr. Daughan suggested that the chairman and
vice-chairman should explain the meaning of the pictures to the
council. More laughter and more County Council humour. The meeting was
a typical meeting, and it furnishes us with the typical councillor.

In the report of the meeting before me a certain alderman seems to
have been as garrulous as he was irrepressible. He not only spoke at
greater length than the rest of the councillors put together, but did
not hesitate to frequently interrupt the members of the committee with
remarks. Speaking of pictures by Millais, Holman Hunt, and Rossetti,
he said:--"We have had exhibitions, and the works of these great
artists were at various times closely scrutinised, and they had borne
the most careful scrutiny that could be directed to them. Now I defy
you to take a number of pictures such as those in dispute, and do the
same with them." No one could have spoken the words I have quoted who
was not absolutely ignorant of the art of painting. Imagine the poor
alderman going round, magnifying-glass in hand, subjecting Millais and
Holman Hunt to the closest scrutiny. And how easy it is to determine
what was passing in his mind during the examination of the Glasgow
school! "I can't see where this foot finishes; the painter was not
able to draw it, so he covered it up with a shadow. In the pictures of
that fellow Guthrie the grass is merely a tint of green, whereas in
the 'Shadow of the Cross' I can count all the shavings."

But we will not seek to penetrate further into this very alderman-like
mind. He declared that the Glasgow school of painting was "no more in
comparison to what they recognised as a school of painting than a
charity school was to the University of Oxford." I am sorry our
alderman did not say what was the school of painting that he and his
fellow-aldermen admired. In the absence of any precise information on
the point I will venture to suggest that the school they recognise is
the school of Bartlett and Solomon. The gallery possesses two large
works by these masters--the Gondoliers, and the great picture of
Samson, which fills an entire end of one room. But what would be of
still greater interest would be to hear our alderman explain what he
meant by this astonishing sentence:--"The only motive of Mr. Hornel's
picture is a mode of art or rather artifice, in introducing a number
of colours with the idea of making them harmonise; and this could be
done, and had been done, by means of the palette-knife."

I have not the least idea what this means, but I am none the less
interested. For, although void of sense, the alderman's words allow me
to look down a long line of illustrious ancestry--Prud'homme,
Chadband, Stiggins, Phillion, the apothecary Homais in "Madame
Bovary". After passing through numerous transformations, an eternal
idea at last incarnates itself in a final form. How splendid our
alderman is! Never did a corporation produce so fine a flower. He is
sententious, he is artistic. And how he lets fall from his thick lips
those scraps of art-jargon which he picked up in the studio where he
sat for his portrait! He is moral; he thinks that nude figures should
not be sanctioned by the corporation; he believes in the Bank, and
proposes the Queen's health as if he were fulfilling an important
duty; he goes to the Academy, and dictates the aestheticism of his
native town. There he is, his hand in his white waistcoat, in the pose
chosen for the presentation portrait, at the moment when he delivered
himself of his famous apophthegm, "When the nude comes into art, art
flies out of the window."

The alderman is the reef which for the last five-and-twenty years has
done so much to ruin and to wreck every artistic movement which the
enthusiasm and intelligence of individuals have set on foot. The mere
checking of the obstruction of the individual will not suffice; other
aldermen will arise--equally ignorant, equally talkative, equally
obstructive. And until the race is relegated to its proper function,
bimetallism and sewage, the incidents I have described will happen
again and again.

* * * * *

A marvellous accident that it should have come to be believed that a
corporation could edit a picture gallery! Whence did the belief
originate? whence did it spring? and in what fancied substance of fact
did it catch root? A tapeworm-like notion--come we know not whence,
nor how. And it has thriven unobserved, though signs of its presence
stare plainly enough in the pallid face of the wretched gallery.
Curious it is that it should have remained undetected so long;
curious, indeed, it is that straying thought should have led no one to
remember that every great art collection of the world has grown out of
an individual intelligence. Collections have been worthily continued,
but each successive growth has risen in obedience to the will of one
supreme authority; and that it should have ever come to be believed
that twenty aldermen, whose lives are mainly spent in considering
bank-rates, bimetallism, and sewage, could collect pictures of
permanent value is on the face of it as wild a folly as ever tried the
strength of the strait waistcoats of Hanwell or Bedlam. But as
Manchester and Liverpool enjoy as fair a measure of sanity as the rest
of the kingdom, we perforce must admit the theory of unconscious
acceptation of a chance idea.

But I take it that what is essential in my argument is not to prove
that aldermen know little about art, but that twenty men, wise or
foolish, ignorant or learned, cannot edit a picture gallery. Proving
the obvious is not an amusing task, but it is sometimes a necessary
task. It may be thought, too, that I might be more brief; the elderly
maxim about brevity being the soul of wit may be flung in my teeth.
But lengthy discourse gives time for reflection, and I am seriously
anxious that my readers should consider the question which these
articles introduce. I believe it to be one of vital interest, reaching
down a long range of consequences; and should these articles induce
Manchester and Liverpool to place their galleries in the care of
competent art-directors, I shall have rendered an incalculable service
to English art. I say "competent art-directors", and I mean by
"competent art-directors" men who will deem their mission to be a
repudiation of the Anglo-French art fostered by the Academy--a return
to a truer English tradition, and the giving to Manchester and
Liverpool individual artistic aspiration and tendency.

Is the ambition of Manchester and Liverpool limited to paltry
imitations of the Chantrey Fund collection? If they desire no more, it
would serve no purpose to disturb the corporations in their management
of the galleries. The corporations can do this better than any
director. But if Manchester and Liverpool desire individual artistic
life, if they wish to collect art that will attract visitors and
contribute to their renown, they can only do this by the appointment
of competent directors. For assurance on this point we have only to
think what Sir Frederick Burton has done for the National Gallery, or
what the late Mr. Doyle did for Dublin on the meagre grant of one
thousand a year. It is the man and not the amount of money spent that
counts. A born collector like the late Mr. Doyle can do more with a
thousand a year than a corporation could do with a hundred thousand a

Nothing is of worth except individual passion; it is the one thing
that achieves. And I know of no more intense passion--and, I will add,
no more beautiful passion--than the passion for collecting works of
art. Of all passions it is the purest. It matters little to the man
possessed of it whether he collects for the State or for himself. The
gallery is his child, and all his time and energy are given to the
enrichment and service of _his_ gallery. The gallery is his one
thought. He will lie awake at night to better think out his plans for
the capture of some treasure on which he has set his heart. He will
get up in the middle of the night, and walk about the gallery,
considering some project for improved arrangements. To realise the
meaning of the passion for collecting, it is necessary to have known a
real collector, and intimately, for collectors do not wear their
hearts on their sleeve. With the indifferent they are indifferent; but
they are quick to detect the one man or woman who sympathises, who
understands; and they select with eagerness this one from the crowd.
But perhaps the collector never really reveals himself except to a
fellow-collector, and to appreciate the strength and humanity of the
passion it is necessary to have seen Duret and Goncourt explaining a
new Japanesery which one of them has just acquired.

The partial love which a corporation may feel for its collection is
very different from the undivided strength of the collector's love of
his gallery. And even if we were to admit the possibility of an ideal
corporation consisting of men perfectly conversant with art, and
animated with passion equal to the collector's passion, the history of
its labour would still be written in the words "vexatious discussion
and lost chances". The rule that no picture is to be purchased until
it has been seen and approved of by the corporation forbids all
extraordinary chances, and the unique and only moment is lost in
foolish formulae. The machinery is too cumbersome; and chances of
sale-rooms cannot be seized; it is instinct and not reason that
decides the collector, and no dozen or twenty men can ever be got to
immediately agree.

Not long after my article on Manet was published in the columns of the
_Speaker_, a member of the Manchester art committee wrote asking where
could the pictures be seen, and if the owners would lend them for
exhibition in the annual exhibition soon to open. If they did, perhaps
the corporation might be induced to buy them for the permanent
collection. Now I will ask my readers to imagine my bringing the
pictures "Le Linge" and "L'Enfant a l'Epee" over from France, and
submitting them to the judgment of the Manchester Corporation. As well
might I submit to them a Velasquez or a Gainsborough signed Smith and
Jones! It is the authority of the signature that induces acquiescence
in the beauty of a portrait by Gainsborough or Velasquez; without the
signature the ordinary or drawing-room lady would prefer a portrait by
Mr. Shannon. Mr. Shannon is the fashion, and the fashion, being the
essence and soul of the crowd, is naturally popular with the crowd.

In my article on Manet I referred to a beautiful picture of
his--"Boulogne Pier". It was then on exhibition in Bond Street. I
asked a friend to buy it. "You will not like the picture now," I said;
"but if you have any latent aesthetic feeling in you it will bring it
out, and you will like it in six months' time." My friend would not
buy the picture, and the reason he gave was that he did not like it.
It did not seem to occur to him that his taste might advance, and that
the picture he was ignorant enough to like to-day he might be wise
enough to loathe six years hence.

An early customer of Sir John Millais said, "Millais, I'll give you
five hundred pounds to paint me a picture, and you shall paint me the
picture you are minded to paint." Sir John painted him one of the most
beautiful pictures of modern times, "St. Agnes' Eve". But the wisdom
of the purchaser was only temporary. When the picture came home he did
not like it, his wife did not like it; there was no colour in it; it
was all blue and green. Briefly, it was not a pleasant picture to live
with; and after trying the experiment for a few months this excellent
gentleman decided to exchange the picture for a picture by--by
whom?--by Mr. Sidney Cooper. I wonder what he thinks of himself
to-day. And his fate is the fate of the aldermen who buy pictures
because they like them.

The administration of art, as it was pointed out in the _Manchester
Guardian_, is one of extreme difficulty, and it is not easy to find a
competent director; but it seems to me to be easy to name many men who
would do better in art-management than a corporation, and
embarrassingly difficult to name one who would do worse. Any one man
can thread a needle better than twenty men. Should the needle prove
brittle and the thread rotten, the threader must resign. Though a task
may be accomplished only by one man, and though all differ as to how
it should be accomplished, yet, when the task is well accomplished, an
appreciative unanimity seems to prevail regarding the result. We all
agree in praising Sir Frederick Burton's administration; and yet how
easy it would be to cavil! Why has he not bought an Ingres, a Corot, a
Courbet, a Troyon? Why has he showed such excessive partiality for
squint-eyed Italian saints? Sir Frederick Burton would answer: "In
collecting, like in everything else, you must choose a line. I chose
to consider the National Gallery as a museum. The question is whether
I have collected well or badly from this point of view." But a
corporation cannot choose a line on which to collect; it can do no
more than indulge in miscellaneous purchases.


One Sunday morning, more than twenty years ago, I breakfasted with a
great painter, who was likewise a wit, and the account he gave of a
recent visit to the Dore Gallery amused me very much. On entering, he
noticed that next to the door there was a high desk, so cunningly
constructed both as regards height and inclination that all the
discomforts of writing were removed; and the brightness of the silver
inkpot, the arrangement of the numerous pens and the order-book on the
desk, all was so perfect that the fingers of the lettered and
unlettered itched alike with desire of the caligraphic art. By this
desk loitered a large man of bland and commanding presence. He wore a
white waistcoat, and a massive gold chain, with which he toyed while
watching the guileless spectators or sought with soothing voice to
entice one to display his handwriting in the order-book. My friend,
who was small and thin, almost succeeded in defeating the vigilance of
the white-waistcoated and honey-voiced Cerberus; but at the last
moment, as he was about to slip out, he was stopped, and the following
dialogue ensued:--

"Sir, that is a very great picture."

"Yes, it is indeed, it is an immense picture."

"Sir, I mean great in every sense of the word."

"So do I; it is nearly as broad as it is long."

"I was alluding, sir, to the superior excellence of the picture, and
not to its dimensions."


"May I ask, sir, if you know what that picture represents?"

"I'm sorry, but I can't tell you."

"Then, sir, I'll tell you. That picture represents the point of
culmination in the life of Christ."

"Really; may I ask who says so?"

"The dignitaries of the Church say so."

Pause, during which my friend made an ineffectual attempt to get past.
The waistcoat, however, barred the way, and then the bland and dulcet
voice spoke again.

"Do you see that man copying the right-hand corner of the picture?
That gentleman says that the man who could paint that corner could
paint anything."

"Oh! and who is that gentleman?"

"That gentleman is employed to copy in the National Gallery."

"Oh! by the State?"

"No, sir, not by the State, but he has permission to copy in the
National Gallery."

"A special permission granted to him by the State?"

"No, sir, but he has permission to copy in the National Gallery." "In
fact, just as every one else has. I am really very much obliged, but I
must be getting along."

"Sir, won't you put down your name for a ten-guinea proof signed by
the artist?"

"I'm very sorry, but I really do not see my way to taking a ten-guinea

"Then, perhaps, you will take one at five--the same without the

"I really cannot."

"You can have a numbered proof for L2, 10s."

"No, thank you; you must excuse me."

"You can have an ordinary proof for a guinea."

"No, thank you; you must really allow me to pass."

Then in the last moment the white waistcoat, assuming a tone in which
there was both despair and disdain, said--"But you will have a year
and a half before you need pay your guinea."

Who does not know this man? Who has not suffered from his
importunities? Twenty years ago he extolled the beauties of "Christ
leaving the Praetorium"; ten years later he lauded the merits of
"Christ and Diana"; to-day he is busy advising the shilling public
thronging the Dowdeswell galleries to view Mr. Herbert Schmalz's
_impressive_ picture of "The Return from Calvary". I do not mean that
the same gentleman who presided at the desk in the Dore Gallery now
presides at the desk at 160 New Bond Street. The individual differs,
but the type remains unaltered. The waistcoat, the desk, the pens and
the silver inkstand, such paraphernalia are as inseparable from him as
the hammer is from the auctioneer. All this I have on the authority of
Messrs. Dowdeswell themselves. When engaging their canvasser, they
offered him a small table at the end of the room. Their ignorance of
his art caused him to smile. "A table," he said, "would necessitate
sitting down to write, and the great point in this business is to save
the customer from all unnecessary trouble. Any other place in the room
except next the door is out of the question. I must have a nice desk
there, at which you can write standing up, a lamp shedding a bright
glow upon the paper, a handsome silver inkstand, and a long,
evenly-balanced pen. Give me these things, and leave the rest to me."

Messrs. Dowdeswell hastened to comply with these requests. I was in
the gallery on Monday, and can testify to the pleasantness of the
little installation, to the dexterity with which customers were led
there, and to the grace with which the canvasser dipped the pen in the
handsome silver inkstand. The county squire, the owner of racehorses,
the undergraduate, and the Brixton spinster, are easily led by him to
the commodious desk. Go and see the man, and you will be led thither

It is a matter for wonder that more artists do not devote themselves
to painting religious subjects. There seems to be an almost limitless
demand for work of this kind, and almost any amount of praise for it,
no matter how badly it is executed. The critic dares not turn the
picture into ridicule however bad it may be, for to do so would seem
like turning a sacred subject into ridicule--so few distinguish
between the subject and the picture. He may hardly venture to
depreciate the work, for it would not seem quite right to depreciate
the work of a man who had endeavoured to depict, however inadequately,
a sacred subject. Everything is in favour of the painter of religious
subjects, provided certain formalities are observed. The canvasser and
the arrangements of the desk are of course the first consideration,
but there are a number of minor observances, not one of which may be
neglected. The gallery must be thrown into deep twilight with a vivid
light from above falling full on the picture. There must be lines of
chairs, arranged as if for a devout congregation; and if, in excess of
these, the primary conditions of success, one of the dignitaries of
the Church can be induced to accept a little excursion into the
perilous fields of art criticism, all will go well with the show.

It would be unseemly for a critic to argue with a bishop concerning
the merits of a religious picture--it would be irreverent, anomalous,
and in execrable taste. For it must be clear to every one that the
best and truest critic of a religious picture is a bishop; and it is
still more clear that if the picture contains a view of Jerusalem, the
one person who can speak authoritatively on the matter is the Bishop
of Jerusalem. And it were indeed impossible to realise the essential
nature of these truths better than Messrs. Dowdeswell have done; they
have even ventured to extend the ordinary programme, and have decreed
a special _matinee_ in the interests of country parsons--truly an idea
of genius. If a fault may be found or forged with the arrangements, it
is that they did not enter into some contract with the railway
authorities. But this is hypercriticism; they have done their work
well, and the _matinee_, as the order-book will testify, was a
splendid success. The parsons came up from every part of the country,
and as "The Return from Calvary" is the latest thing in religious art,
they think themselves bound to put their names down for proofs. How
could they refuse? The canvasser dipped the pen in the ink for them,
and he has a knack of making a refusal seem so mean.

About Mr. Schmalz's picture I have really no particular opinion. I do
not think it worse than any picture of the same kind by the late Mr.
Long. Nor do I think that it can be said to be very much inferior to
the religious works with which Mr. Goodall has achieved so wide a
reputation. On the whole I think I prefer Mr. Goodall, though I am not
certain. Here is the picture:--At the top of a flight of steps and
about two-thirds of the way across the picture, to the left, so as not
to interfere with the view of Jerusalem, are three figures--as Sir
Augustus Harris might have set them were he attempting a theatrical
representation of the scene. There is a dark man, this is St. John,
and over him a woman draped in white is weeping, and behind her a
woman with golden hair--the Magdalen--is likewise weeping. Two other
figures are ascending the steps, but as they are low down in the
picture they interfere hardly at all with the splendid view. The dark
sky is streaked with Naples yellow, and the pale colour serves to
render distinct the three crosses planted upon Calvary in the extreme

In this world all is a question of temperament. To the aesthetic
temperament Mr. Schmalz's picture will seem hardly more beautiful or
attractive than a Salvationist hymn-book; the unaesthetic temperament
will, on the other hand, be profoundly moved, the subject stands out
clear and distinct, and that class of mind, overlooking all artistic
shortcomings, will lose itself in emotional consideration of the
grandest of all the world's tragedies. That Mr. Schmalz's picture is
capable of exercising a profound effect on the uneducated mind there
can be no doubt. While I was there a lady walked with stately tread
into the next room, and seeing there nothing more exciting than rural
scenes drawn in water-colour, exclaimed, "Trees, mere trees! what are
trees after having had one's soul elevated?"

That great artist Henri Monnier devoted a long life to the study and
the collection of the finest examples of human stupidity, and
marvellous as are some of the specimens preserved by him in his
dialogues, I hardly think that he succeeded in discovering a finer gem
than the phrase overheard by me in the Dowdeswell Galleries. To
appreciate the sublime height, must we not know something of the
miserable depth? And the study of human stupidity is refreshing and
salutary; it helps us to understand ourselves, to estimate ourselves,
and to force ourselves to look below the surface, and so raise our
ideas out of that mire of casual thought in which we are all too prone
to lie. For perfect culture, the lady I met at the Dowdeswell
Galleries is as necessary as Shakespeare. Is she not equally an
exhortation to be wise?


It is certain that the introduction of Japaneseries into this country
has permanently increased our sense of colour; is it therefore
improbable that the invention of photography has modified, if it has
not occasioned any very definite alteration in our general perception
of the external world? It would be interesting to inquire into such
recondite and illusive phenomena; and I am surprised that no paper on
so interesting a question has appeared in any of our art journals.
True, so many papers are printed in our weekly and monthly press that
it is impossible for any one to know all that has been written on any
one subject; but, so far as I am aware, no such paper has appeared,
and the absence of such a paper is, I think, a serious deficiency in
our critical literature.

It is, however, no part of my present purpose to attempt to supply
this want. I pass on to consider rapidly a matter less abstruse and of
more practical interest, a growing habit among artists to avail
themselves of the assistance of photographs in their work. It will not
be questioned that many artists of repute do use photographs to--well,
to put it briefly, to save themselves trouble, expense, and, in some
cases, to supplant defective education. But the influence of
photography on art is so vast a subject, so multiple, so intricate,
that I may do no more here than lift the very outer fringe.

It is, however, clear to almost everybody who has thought about art at
all, that the ever-changing colour and form of clouds, the complex
variety (definite in its very indefiniteness) of every populous
street, the evanescent delicacy of line and aerial effect that the
most common and prosaic suburb presents in certain lights, are the
very enchantment and despair of the artist; and likewise every one who
has for any short while reflected seriously on the problem of artistic
work must know that the success of every evocative rendering of the
exquisite externality of crowded or empty street, of tumult or calm in
cloud-land, is the fruit of daily and hourly observation--observation
filtered through years of thought, and then fortified again in
observation of Nature.

But such observation is the labour of a life; and he who undertakes it
must be prepared to see his skin brown and blister in the shine, and
feel his flesh pain him with icy chills in the biting north wind. The
great landscape painters suffered for the intolerable desire of Art;
they were content to forego the life of drawing-rooms and clubs, and
live solitary lives in unceasing communion with Art and Nature. But
artists in these days are afraid of catching cold, and impatient of
long and protracted studentship. Everything must be made easy,
comfortable, and expeditious; and so it comes to pass that many an
artist seeks assistance from the camera. A moment, and it is done: no
wet feet; no tiresome sojourn in the country when town is full of
merry festivities; and, above all, hardly any failure--that is to say,
no failure that the ordinary public can detect, nor, indeed, any
failure that the artist's conscience will not get used to in time.

Mr. Gregory is the most celebrated artist who is said to make habitual
use of photography. Mr. Gregory has no warmer admirer than myself. His
picture of "Dawn" is the most fairly famous picture of our time. But
since that picture his art has declined. It has lost all the noble
synthetical life which comes of long observation and gradual
assimilation of Nature. His picture of a yachtsman in this year's
Academy was as paltry, as "realistic" as may be.

Professor Herkomer is another well-known artist who is said to use
photography. It is even said that he has his sitter photographed on to
the canvas, and the photographic foundation he then covers up with
those dreadful browns and ochres which seem to constitute his palette.
Report credits him with this method, which it is possible he believes
to be an advance on the laborious process of drawing from Nature, to
which, in the absence of the ingenious instrument, the Old Masters
were perforce obliged to resort. It will be said that what matter how
the artists work--that it is with the result, not the method, with
which we are concerned. Dismissing report from our ears, surely we
must recognise all the cheap realism of the camera in Professor
Herkomer's portraits; and this is certainly their characteristic,
although photography may have had nothing to do with their

Mr. Bartlett is another artist who, it is said, makes habitual use of
photographs; and surely in some of his boys bathing the photographic
effects are visible enough. But although very far from possessing the
accomplishments of Mr. Gregory, Mr. Bartlett has acquired some
education, and can draw, when occasion requires, very well indeed from

Mr. Mortimer Menpes is the third artist of any notoriety that rumour
has declared to be a disciple of the camera. His case is the most
flagrant, for it is said that he rarely, if ever, draws from Nature,
and that his entire work is done from photographs. Be this as it may,
his friends have stated a hundred times in the Press that he uses
photography, and it would seem that his work shows the mechanical aid
more and more every day. Some years ago he went to Japan, and brought
home a number of pictures which suited drawing-rooms, and were soon
sold. I did not see the exhibition, but I saw some pictures done by
him at that time--one, an especially good one, I happened upon in the
Grosvenor Gallery. This picture, although superficial and betraying
when you looked into it a radical want of knowledge, was not lacking
in charm. In French studios there is a slang phrase which expresses
the meretricious charm of this picture--_c'est du chic_; and the
meaning of this very expressive term is ignorance affecting airs of
capacity. Now the whole of Mr. Menpes' picture was comprised in this
term. The manner of the master who, certain of the shape and value of
the shadow under an eye, will let his hand run, was reproduced; but
the exact shape and value of the shadows were not to be gathered from
the photograph, and the result was a charming but a hollow mockery.

And then the "colour-notes"; with what assurance they were dashed into
the little pictures from Japan, and how dexterously the touch of the
master who knows exactly what he wants was parodied! At the first
glance you were deceived; at the second you saw that it was only such
cursive taste and knowledge as a skilful photographer who had been
allowed the run of a painter's studio for a few months might display.
Nowhere was there any definite intention; it was something that had
been well committed to memory, that had been well remembered, but only
half-understood. Everything floated--drawing, values, colours--for
there was not sufficient knowledge to hold and determine the place of
any one.

Since those days Mr. Menpes has continued to draw from photographs,
and--the base of his artistic education being deficient from the
first--the result of his long abstention from Nature is apparent, even
to the least critical, in the some hundred and seventy paintings,
etchings, and what he calls diamond-points on ivory, on exhibition at
Messrs. Dowdeswell's. Diamond-points on ivory may astonish the
unthinking public, but artists are interested in the drawing, and not
what the drawing is done upon. Besides the diamond-points, there is
quite sufficient matter in this exhibition to astonish visitors from
Peckham, Pentonville, Islington, and perhaps Clapham, but not
Bayswater--no, not Bayswater. There are frames in every sort of
pattern--some are even adorned with gold tassels--and the walls have
been especially prepared to receive them.

These pictures and etchings purport to be representations of India,
Burma, and Cashmire. The diamond-points, I believe, purport to be
diamond-points. In some of the etchings there is the same ingenious
touch of hand, but anything more woful than the oil pictures cannot
easily be imagined. In truth, they do not call for any serious
criticism; and were it not for the fact that they afforded an
opportunity of making some remarks--which seemed to me to be worth
making--about the influence of photography in modern art, I should
have left the public to find for itself the value of this attempt, in
the grandiloquent words of the catalogue, "to bring before my
countrymen the aesthetic and artistic capabilities, and the beauty in
various forms, that are to be found in our great Indian Empire." To
criticise the pictures in detail is impossible; but I will try to give
an impression of the exhibition as a whole. Imagine a room hung with
ordinary school slates, imagine that all these slates have been gilt,
and that some have been adorned with gold tassels instead of the usual
sponge, and into each let there be introduced a dome, a camel, a
palm-tree, or any other conventional sign of the East.

On examining the paintings thus sumptuously encased you will notice
that the painter has not been able to affect with the brush any slight
air of capacity; the material betrays him at every point The etchings
are _du chic_; but the paintings are merely abortive. The handling
consists in scrubbing the colour into the canvas, attaining in this
manner a texture which sometimes reminds you of wool, sometimes of
sand, sometimes of both. The poor little bits of blue sky stick to the
houses; there is nowhere a breath of air, a ray of light, not even a
conventionally graduated sky or distance; there is not an angle, or a
pillar, or a stairway finely observed; there is not even any such
eagerness in the delineation of an object as would show that the
painter felt interest in his work; every sketch tells the tale of a
burden taken up and thankfully relinquished. Here we have white wall,
but it has neither depth nor consistency; behind it a bit of sandy
sky; the ground is yellow, and there is a violet shadow upon it. But
the colour of the ground does not show through the shadow. Look, for
example, at No. 36. Is it possible to believe that that red-brick sky
was painted from Nature, or that unhappy palm in a picture close by
was copied as it raised its head over that wall? The real scene would
have stirred an emotion in the heart of the dullest member of the
Stock Exchange, and, however unskilful the brushwork, if the man could
hold a brush at all, there would have been something to show that the
man had been in the presence of Nature. There is no art so indiscreet
as painting, and the story of the painter's mind may be read in every

But another word regarding these pictures would be waste of space and
time. Let Mr. Menpes put away his camera, let him go out into the
streets or the fields, and there let him lose himself in the vastness
and beauty of Nature. Let him study humbly the hang of a branch or the
surface of a wall, striving to give to each their character. Let him
try to render the mystery of a perspective in the blue evening or its
harshness and violence in the early dawn. There is no need to go to
Burma, there is mystery and poetry wherever there is atmosphere. In
certain moments a backyard, with its pump and a child leaning to
drink, will furnish sufficient motive for an exquisite picture; the
atmosphere of the evening hour will endow it with melancholy and
tenderness. But the insinuating poetry of chiaroscuro the camera is
powerless to reproduce, and it cannot be imagined; Nature is
parsimonious of this her greatest gift, surrendering it slowly, and
only to those who love her best, and whose hearts are pure of
mercenary thought.


This, the ninth season of the New English Art Club, has been marked by
a decisive step. The club has rejected two portraits of Mr. Shannon.
So that the public may understand and appreciate the importance of
this step, I will sketch, _a coups de crayon peu fondus_, the portrait
of a lady as I imagine Mr. Shannon might have painted her. A woman of
thirty, an oval face, and a long white brow; pale brown hair,
tastefully arranged with flowers and a small plume. The eyes large and
tender, expressive of a soul that yearns and has been misunderstood.
The nose straight, the nostrils well-defined, slightly dilated; the
mouth curled, and very red. The shoulders large, white, and
over-modelled, with cream tints; the arms soft and rounded; diamond
bracelets on the wrists; diamonds on the emotional neck. Her dress is
of the finest duchesse satin, and it falls in heavy folds. She holds a
bouquet in her hands; a pale green garden is behind her; swans are
moving gracefully through shadowy water, whereon the moon shines
peacefully. Add to this conception the marvellous square brushwork of
the French studio, and you have the man born to paint English
duchesses--to paint them as they see themselves, as they would be seen
by posterity; and through Mr. Shannon our duchesses realise all their
aspirations, present and posthumous. The popularity of these pictures
is undoubted; wherever they hang, and they hang everywhere, except in
the New English Art Club, couples linger. "How charming, how
beautifully dressed, how refined she looks!" and the wife who has not
married a man _a la hauteur de ses sentiments_ casts on him a
withering glance, which says, "Why can't you afford to let me be
painted by Mr. Shannon?"

We are here to realise our ideals, and far is it from my desire to
thwart any lady in her aspirations, be they in white or violet satin,
with or without green gardens. If I were on the hanging committee of
the Royal Academy, all the duchesses in the kingdom should be
realised, and then--I would create more duchesses, and they, too,
should be realised by Messrs. Shannon, Hacker, and Solomon _les chefs
de rayon de la peinture_. And when these painters arrived, each with a
van filled with new satin duchesses, I would say, "Go to Mr. Agnew,
ask him what space he requires, and anything over and above they shall
have it." I would convert the Chantrey Fund into white satin
duchesses, and build a museum opposite Mr. Tate's for the blue. I
would do anything for these painters and their duchesses except hang
them in the New English Art Club.

For it is entirely necessary that the public should never be left for
a moment in doubt as to the intention of this club. It is open to
those who paint for the joy of painting; and it is entirely
disassociated from all commercialism. Muslin ballet-girl or satin
duchess it matters no jot, nothing counts with the jury but _l'idee
plastique_: comradeship, money gain or loss, are waived. The rejection
of Mr. Shannon's portraits will probably cost the club four guineas a
year, the amount of his subscription, and it will certainly lose to
the club the visits of his numerous drawing-room following. This is to
be regretted--in a way. The club must pay its expenses, but it were
better that the club should cease than that its guiding principle
should be infringed.

Either we may or we may not have a gallery from which popular painting
is excluded. I think that we should; but I know that Academicians and
dealers are in favour of enforced prostitution in art. That men should
practise painting for the mere love of paint is wholly repugnant to
every healthy-minded Philistine. The critic of the Daily Telegraph
described the pictures in the present exhibition as things that no one
would wish to possess; he then pointed out that a great many were
excellently well painted. Quite so. I have always maintained that
there is nothing that the average Englishman--the reader of the _Daily
Telegraph_--dislikes so much as good painting. He regards it in the
light of an offence, and what makes it peculiarly irritating in his
eyes is the difficulty of declaring it to be an immoral action; he
instinctively feels that it is immoral, but somehow the crime seems to
elude definition.

The Independent Theatre was another humble endeavour which sorely
tried the conscience of the average Englishman. That any one should
wish to write plays that were not intended to please the public--that
did not pay--was an unheard-of desire, morbid and unwholesome as could
well be, and meriting the severest rebuke. But the Independent Theatre
has somehow managed to struggle into a third year of life, and the New
English Art Club has opened its ninth exhibition; so I suppose that
the _Daily Telegraph_ will have to make up its mind, sorrowfully, of
course, and with regret, that there are folk still in London who are
not always ready to sell their talents to the highest bidder.

For painters and those who like painting, the exhibitions at the New
English Art Club are the most interesting in London. We find there no
anecdotes, sentimental, religious, or historical, nor the conventional
measuring and modelling which the Academy delights to honour in the
name of Art. At the New English Art Club, from the first picture to
the last, we find artistic effort; very often the effort is feeble,
but nowhere, try as persistently as you please, will you find the loud
stupidity of ordinary exhibitions of contemporary painting. This is a
plain statement of a plain truth--plain to artists and those few who
possess the slightest knowledge of the art of painting, or even any
faint love of it. But to the uncultivated, to the ignorant, and to the
stupid the New English Art Club is the very place where all the absurd
and abortive attempts done in painting in the course of the year are
exposed on view. If I wished to test a man's taste and knowledge in
the art of painting I would take him to the English Art Club and
listen for one or two minutes to what he had got to say.

Immediately on entering the room, before we see the pictures, we know
that they are good. For a pleasant soft colour, delicate and
insinuating as an odour of flowers, pervades the room. So we are glad
to loiter in this vague sensation of delicate colour, and we talk to
our friends, avoiding the pictures, until gradually a pale-faced woman
with arched eyebrows draws our eyes and fixes our thoughts. It is a
portrait by Mr. Sargent, one of the best he has painted. By the side
of a fine Hals it might look small and thin, but nothing short of a
fine Hals would affect its real beauty. My admiration for Mr. Sargent
has often hesitated, but this picture completely wins me. It has all
the qualities of Mr. Sargent's best work; and it has something more:
it is painted with that measure of calculation and reserve which is
present in all work of the first order of merit. I find the picture
described with sufficient succinctness in my notes: "A half-length
portrait of a woman, in a dress of shot-silk--a sort of red violet,
the colour known as puce. The face is pale, the chin is prominent and
pointed. There were some Japanese characteristics in the model, and
these have been selected. The eyes are long, and their look is aslant;
the eyebrows are high and marked; the dark hair grows round the pale
forehead with wig-like abruptness, and the painter has attempted no
attenuation. The carnations are wanting in depth of colour--they are
somewhat chalky; but what I admire so much is the exquisite selection,
besides the points mentioned--the shadowed outline, so full of the
form of her face, and the markings about the eyes, so like her; and
the rendering is full of the beauty of incomparable skill. The neck,
how well placed beneath the pointed chin! How exact in width, in
length, and how it corresponds with the ear; and the jawbone is under
the skin; and the anatomies are all explicit--the collar-bone, the
hollow of the arm-pit, and the muscle of the arm, the placing of the
bosom, its shape, its size, its weight. Mr. Sargent's drawing speaks
without hesitation, a beautiful, decisive eloquence, the meaning never
in excess of the expression, nor is the expression ever redundant."

I said that we find in this portrait reserve not frequently to be met
with in Mr. Sargent's work. What I first noticed in the picture was
the admirable treatment of the hands. They are upon her hips, the
palms turned out, and so reduced is the tone that they are hardly
distinguishable from the dress. As the model sat the light must have
often fallen on her hands, and five years ago Mr. Sargent might have
painted them in the light. But the portrait tells us that he has
learnt the last and most difficult lesson--how to omit. Any touch of
light on those hands would rupture the totality and jeopardise the
colour-harmony, rare without suspicion of exaggeration or affectation.
In the background a beautiful chocolate balances and enforces the
various shades of the shot-silk, and with severity that is fortunate.
By aid of two red poppies, worn in the bodice, a final note in the
chord is reached--a resonant and closing consonance; a beautiful work,
certainly: I should call it a perfect work were it not that the
drawing is a little too obvious: in places we can detect the manner;
it does not _coule de source_ like the drawing of the very great

Except Mr. Sargent, no one in the New English Art Club comes forward
with a clearly formulated style; everything is more or less tentative,
and I cannot entirely exempt from this criticism either Mr. Steer, Mr.
Clausen, or Mr. Walter Sickert. But this criticism must not be
understood as a reproach--surely this green field growing is more
pleasing than the Academy's barren stubble. I claim no more for the
New English Art Club than that it is the growing field. Say that the
crop looks thin, and that the yield will prove below the average, but
do not deny that what harvest there may be the New English Art Club
will bring home. So let us walk round this May field of the young
generation and look into its future, though we know that the summer
months will disprove for better or for worse.

Mr. Bernard Sickert, the youngest member of this club, a mere
beginner, a five- or six-year-old painter, has made, from exhibition
to exhibition, constant and consistent progress, and this year he
comes forward with two landscapes, both seemingly conclusive of a true
originality of vision, and there is a certain ease of accomplishment
in his work which tempts me to believe that a future is in store for
him. The differences of style in these two pictures do not affect my
opinion, for, on looking into the pictures, the differences are more
apparent than real--the palette has been composed differently, but
neither picture tells of any desire of a new outlook, or even to
radically change his mode of expression. The eye which observed and
remembered so sympathetically "A Spring Evening", over which a red
moon rose like an apparition, observed also the masts and the prows,
and the blue sea gay with the life of passing sail and flag, and the
green embaying land overlooking "A Regatta".

I hardly know which picture I prefer. I saw first "A Regatta", and was
struck by the beautiful drawing and painting of the line of boats,
their noses thrust right up into the fore water of the picture, a
little squadron advancing. So well are these boats drawn that the
unusual perspective (the picture was probably painted from a window)
does not interrupt for a second our enjoyment. A jetty on the right
stretches into the blue sea water, intense with signs of life, and the
little white sails glint in the blue bay, and behind the high green
hill the colours of a faintly-tinted evening fade slowly. The picture
is strangely complete, and it would be difficult to divine any reason
for disliking it, even amongst the most ignorant. "A Spring Evening"
is neither so striking nor so immediately attractive; its charm is
none the less real. An insinuating and gentle picture, whose delicacy
and simplicity I like.

The painter has caught that passing and pathetic shudder of coming
life which takes the end of a March day before the bud swells or a
nest appears. The faint chill twilight floats upon the field, and the
red moon mounts above the scrub-clad hillside into a rich grey sky,
beautifully graduated and full of the glamour of waning and
strengthening light. The slope of the field, too--it is there the
sheep are folded--is in admirable perspective. On the left, beyond the
hurdles, is a strip of green, perhaps a little out of tone, though I
know such colour persists even in very receding lights; and high up on
the right the blue night is beginning to show. The sheep are folded in
a turnip field, and the root-crop is being eaten down.

The month is surely March, for the lambs are still long-legged--there
one has dropped on its knees and is digging at the udder of the
passive ewe with that ferocious little gluttony which we know so well;
another lamb relieves its ear's first itching with its hind hoof--you
know the grotesque movement--and the field is full of the weird
roaming of animal life, the pathos of the unconscious, the pity of
transitory light. A little umber and sienna, a rich grey, not a bit of
drawing anywhere, and still the wandering forms of sheep and lambs
fully expressed, one sheep even in its particular physiognomy. Truly a
charming picture, spontaneous and simple, and proving a painter
possessed of a natural sentiment, of values, and willing to employ
that now most neglected method of pictorial expression, chiaroscuro.

Neglected by Mr. Steer, who seems prepared to dispense with what is
known as _une atmosphere de tableau_. Any one of his three pictures
will serve as an example. His portrait of a girl in blue I cannot
praise, not because I do not admire it, but because Mr. MacColl, the
art critic of the _Spectator_, our ablest art critic, himself a
painter and a painter of talent, has declared it to be superior to a
Romney. I will quote his words: "The word masterpiece is not to be
lightly used, but when we stand before this picture it is difficult to
think of any collection in which it would look amiss, or fail to hold
its own. If we talk of English masters, Romney is the name that most
naturally suggests itself, because in the bright clear face and brown
hair and large simplicity of presentment, there is a good deal to
recall that painter. But Romney's colour would look cheap beside this,
and his drawing conventional in observation, however big in style."

To go one better than this, I should have to say the picture was as
good as Velasquez, and to simply endorse Mr. MacColl's words would be
a second-hand sort of criticism to which I am not accustomed. Besides,
to do so would be to express nothing of my own personal sensations in
regard to this picture. So I will say at once that I do not understand
the introduction of Romney's name into the argument. If comparison
there must be, surely Mr. Watts would furnish one more appropriate.
Both in the seeing and in the execution the portrait seems nearer to
Mr. Watts than to Romney. Of Romney's gaiety there is no trace in Mr.
Steer's picture.

The girl sits in a light wooden arm-chair--her arm stretched in front
of her, the hands held between her knees--looking out of the picture
somewhat stolidly. The Lady Hamilton mood was an exaggerated mood, but
there is something of it in every portrait at all characteristic of
our great eighteenth-century artist. The portrait exhibited in this
year's show of Old Masters in the Academy will do--the lady who walks
forward, her hands held in front of her bosom, the fingers pressed
together, the white dress floating from the hips, the white brought
down with a yellow glaze. I do not think that we find either that
gaiety or those glazes in Mr. Steer. From many a Romney the cleaner
has removed an outer skin, but I am not speaking of those pictures.

But if I see very little Romney in Steer's picture, I am thankful that
I see at least very rare distinction in the figuration of a beautiful
and decorative ideal--a girl in blue sitting with her back to an open
window, full of the blue night, and on the other side the grey blind,
yellowing slightly under the glare of the lamp. I appreciate the very
remarkable and beautiful compromise between portrait-painting and
decoration. I see rare distinction (we must not be afraid of the word
distinction in speaking of Mr. Steer) in his choice of what to draw.
The colour scheme is well maintained, somewhat in the manner of Mr.
Watts, but neither the blue of the dress nor the blue of the night is
intrinsically beautiful, and we have only to think of the blues that
Whistler or Manet would have found to understand how deficient they

The drawing of the face is neither a synthesis, nor is it intimately
characteristic of the model: it is simply rudimentary. A round girlish
face with a curled mouth and an ugly shadow which does not express the
nose. The shoulders are there, that we are told, but the anatomies are
wanting, and the body is without its natural thickness. Nor is the
drawing more explicit in its exterior lines than it is in its inner.
There is hardly an arm in that sleeve; the elbow would be difficult to
find, and the construction of the waist and hips is uncertain; the
drawing does not speak like Mr. Sargent's. Look across the room at his
portrait of a lady in white satin and you will see there a shadow, so
exact, so precise, so well understood, that the width of the body is
placed beyond doubt.

But the most radical fault in the portrait I have yet to point out; it
is lacking in atmosphere. There is none between us and the girl,
hardly any between the girl's head and the wall. The lamp-light effect
is conveyed by what Mr. MacColl would perhaps call a symbol, by the
shadow of the girl's head. We look in vain for transparent darknesses,
lights surrounded by shadows, transposition of tones, and the aspect
of things; the girl sits in a full diffused light, and were it not for
the shadow on the wall and the shadow cast by the nose, she might be
sitting in a conservatory. Speaking of another picture by Mr. Steer,
"Boulogne Sands", Mr. MacColl says: "The children playing, the holiday
encampment of the bathers' tents, the glint of people flaunting
themselves like flags, the dazzle of sand and sea, and over and
through it all the chattering lights of noon." I seize upon the
phrase, "The people flaunting themselves like flags." The simile is a
pretty one, and what suggested it to the writer is the detached colour
in the picture; and the colours are detached because there is no
atmosphere to bind them together; there are no attenuations,
transpositions of tone--in a word, none of those combinations of light
and shade which make _une atmosphere de tableau_.

And Mr. Steer's picture is merely an instance of a general tendency
which for the last twenty years has widened the gulf between modern
and ancient painting. It was Manet who first suggested _la peinture
claire_, and his suggestion has been developed by Roll, Monet, and
others, until oil-painting has become little more than a sheet of
white paper slightly tinted. Values have been diverted from their
original mission, which was to build up _une atmosphere de tableau_,
and now every value and colour finely observed seem to have for
mission the abolition of chiaroscuro. Without atmosphere painting
becomes a mosaic, and Mr. MacColl seems prepared to defend this return
to archaic formulas. This is what he says: "The sky of the sea-beach,
for example, if it be taken as representing form and texture, is
ridiculous; it is like something rough and chippy, and if the
suggestion gets too much in the way the method has overshot its mark.
Its mark is to express by a symbol the vivid life in the sky-colour,
the sea-colour, and the sand-colour, and it is doubtful if the
richness and subtlety of those colours can be conveyed in any other
way." Here I fail altogether to understand. If the sky's beauty can be
expressed by a symbol, why cannot the beauty of men and women be
expressed in the same way? How the infinities of aerial perspective
can be expressed by a symbol, I have no slightest notion; nor do I
think that Mr. MacColl has. In striving to excuse deficiencies in a
painter whose very real and loyal talent we both admire, he has
allowed his pen to run into dangerous sophistries. "The matter of
handling," he continues, "is then a moot point--a question of
temperament." Is this so?

That some men are born with a special aptitude for handling colour as
other men are born with a special sense of proportions is undeniable;
but Mr. MacColl's thought goes further than this barren platitude, and
if he means, as I think he does, that the faculty of handling is more
instinctive than that of drawing, I should like to point out to him
that handling did not become a merely personal caprice until the
present century. A collection of ancient pictures does not present
such endless experimentation with the material as a collection of
modern pictures. Rubens, Hals, Velasquez, and Gainsborough do not
contradict each other so violently regarding their use of the material
as do Watts, Leighton, Millais, and Orchardson.

In the nineteenth century no one has made such beautiful use of the
material as Manet and Whistler, and we find these two painters using
it respectively exactly like Hals and Velasquez. It would therefore
seem that those who excel in the use of paint are agreed as to the
handling of it, just as all good dancers are agreed as to the step.
But, though all good dancers dance the same step, each brings into his
practice of it an individuality of movement and sense of rhythm
sufficient to prevent it from becoming mechanical. The ancient
painters relied on differences of feeling and seeing for originality
rather than on eccentric handling of colour; and all these
extraordinary executions which we meet in every exhibition of modern
pictures are in truth no more than frantic efforts either to escape
from the thraldom of a bad primary education, or attempts to disguise
ignorance in fantastic formulas. That which cannot be referred back to
the classics is not right, and I at least know not where to look among
the acknowledged masters for justification for Mr. Steer's jagged

Mr. Walter Sickert, whose temperament is more irresponsible, is
nevertheless content within the traditions of oil-painting. He
exhibits two portraits, both very clever and neither satisfactory, for
neither are carried beyond the salient lines of character. Nature has
gifted Mr. Sickert with a keen hatred of the commonplace; his vision
of life is at once complex and fragmentary, his command on drawing
slow and uncertain, his rendering therefore as spasmodic as a poem by
Browning. He picks up the connecting links with difficulty, and even
his most complete work is full of omissions. The defect--for it is a
defect--is by no means so fatal in the art-value of a painting as the
futile explanations so dearly beloved by the ignorant. Manet was to
the end the victim of man's natural dislike of ellipses, and Mr.
Walter Sickert is suffering the same fate. Still, even the most remote
intelligence should be able to gather something of the merit of the
portrait of Miss Minnie Cunningham. How well she is in that long red
frock--a vermilion silhouette on a rich brown background! I should be
still more pleased if the vermilion had been slightly broken with
yellow ochre; but then, at heart, I am no more than _un vieux
classique_. The edges of the vermilion hat are lightened where it
receives the glare of the foot-lights; and the face does not suffer
from the red. It is as light, as pretty, as suggestive as may be. The
thinness of the hand and wrist is well insisted upon, and the trip of
the legs, just before she turns, realises, and in a manner I have not
seen elsewhere, the enigma of the artificial life of the stage.

The aestheticism of the Glasgow school, of which we have heard so much
lately, is identical with that of the New English Art Club, and the
two societies are in a measure affiliated. Nearly all the members of
the Glasgow school are members of the New English Art Club, and it is
regrettable that they do not unite and give us an exhibition that
would fairly stare the Academy out of countenance. Among the Glasgow
painters the most prominent and valid talent is Mr. Guthrie's. His
achievements are more considerable and more personal; and he seems to
approach very near to a full expression of the pictorial aspirations
of his generation. Years ago his name was made known to me by a
portrait of singular beauty; an oasis it was in a barren and bitter
desert of Salon pictures. Since then he has adopted a different and
better method of painting; and an excellent example of his present
style is his portrait of Miss Spencer, a lady in a mauve gown. The
slightness of the intention may be urged against the picture; it is no
more than a charming decoration faintly flushed with life. But in his
management of the mauve Mr. Guthrie achieved quite a little triumph:
and the foreground, which is a very thin grey passed over a dark
ground, is delicious, and the placing of the signature is in the right
place. Most artists sign their pictures in the same place. But the
signature should take a different place in every picture, for in every
picture there is one and only one right place for the signature; and
the true artist never fails to find the place which his work has
chosen and consecrated for his name.

I confess myself to be a natural and instinctive admirer of Mr.
Guthrie's talent. His picture, "Midsummer", exhibited at Liverpool,
charmed me. Turning to my notes I find this description of it: "A
garden in the summer's very moment of complete efflorescence; a bower
of limpid green, here and there interwoven with red flowers. And three
ladies are there with their tiny Japanese tea-table. One dress--that
on the left--is white, like a lily, drenched with green shadows; the
dress on the right is a purple, beautiful as the depth of foxglove
bells, A delicate and yet a full sensation of the beauty of modern
life, from which all grossness has been omitted--a picture for which I
think Corot would have had a good word to say." In the same exhibition
there was a pastel by Mr. Guthrie, which quite enchanted me with its
natural, almost naive, grace. Turning to my notes I extract the
following lines: "A lady seated on a light chair, her body in profile,
her face turned towards the spectator; she wears a dress with red
stripes. One hand hanging by her side, the other hand holding open a
flame-coloured fan; and it is this that makes the picture. The feet
laid one over the other. The face, a mere indication; and for the
hair, charcoal, rubbed and then heightened by two or three touches of
the rich black of pastel-chalk. A delicate, a precious thing, rich in
memories of Watteau and Whistler, of boudoir inspiration, and whose
destination is clearly the sitting-room of a dilettante bachelor."

Mr. Henry, another prominent member of the Glasgow school, exhibited a
portrait of a lady in a straw hat--a rich and beautiful piece of
painting, somewhat "made up" and over-modelled, still a piece of
painting that one would like to possess. Mr. Hornell's celebrated
"Midsummer", the detestation of aldermen, was there too. Imagine the
picture cards, the ten of diamonds, and the eight of hearts shuffled
rapidly upon a table covered with a Persian tablecloth. To ignore what
are known as values seems to be the first principle of the Glasgow
school. Hence a crude and discordant coloration without depth or
richness. Hence an absence of light and the mystery of aerial
perspective. But I have spoken very fully on this subject elsewhere.

Fifteen years ago it was customary to speak slightingly of the Old
Masters, and it was thought that their mistakes could be easily
rectified. Their dark skies and black foregrounds hold their own
against all Monet's cleverness, and it has begun to be suspected that
even if nature be industriously and accurately copied in the fields,
the result is not always a picture. The palette gives the value of the
grass and of the trees, but, alas, not of the sky-the sky is higher in
tone than the palette can go; the painter therefore gets a false
value. Hence the tendency among the _plein airists_ to leave out the
sky or to do with as little sky as possible. A little reef is
sufficient to bring about a great shipwreck; a generation has wasted
half its life, and the Old Masters are again becoming the fashion. Mr.
Furse seems to be deeply impressed with the truth of the _new_
aestheticism. And he has succeeded within the limits of a tiny panel,
a slight but charming intention. "The Great Cloud" rolls over a strip
of lowland, lowering in a vast imperial whiteness, vague and shadowy
as sleep or death. Ruysdael would have stopped for a moment to watch
it. But its lyrical lilt would trouble a mind that could only think in
prose; Shelley would like it better, and most certainly it would not
fail to recall to his mind his own immortal verses--

"I am the daughter of earth and water,
And the nursling of the sky;
I pass through the pores of ocean and shores,
I change, but I cannot die."

What will become of our young artists and their aspirations is a tale
that time will unfold gradually, and for the larger part of its
surprises we shall have to wait ten years. In ten years many of these
aesthetes will have become common Academicians, working for the villas
and perambulators of numerous families. Many will have disappeared for
ever, some may be resurrected two generations hence, may be raised
from the dead like Mr. Brabazon, our modern Lazarus--

"Lazare allait mourir une seconds fois,"--

or perchance to sleep for ever in Sir Joshua's bosom. That a place
will be found there for Mr. Brabazon is one of the articles of faith
of the younger generation. Mr. Brabazon is described as an amateur,
and the epithet is marvellously appropriate; no one--not even the
great masters--deserved it better. The love of a long life is in those
water-colours--they are all love; out of love they have grown, in its
light they have flourished, and they have been made lovely with love.

In a time of slushy David Coxes, Mr. Brabazon's eyes were strangely
his own. Even then he saw Nature hardly explained at all--films of
flowing colour transparent as rose-leaves, the lake's blue, and the
white clouds curling above the line of hills--a sense of colour and a
sense of distance, that was all, and he had the genius to remain
within the limitations of his nature. And, with the persistency of
true genius, Mr. Brabazon painted, with a flowing brush, rose-leaf
water-colours, unmindful of the long indifference of two generations,
until it happened that the present generation, with its love of slight
things, came upon this undiscovered genius. It has hailed him as
master, and has dragged him into the popularity of a special
exhibition of his work at the Goupil Galleries. And it was inevitable
that the present young men should discover Mr. Brabazon: for in
discovering him, they were discovering themselves--his art is no more
than a curious anticipation of the artistic ideal of to-day.

The sketch he exhibits at the New English Art Club is a singularly
beautiful tint of rose, spread with delicate grace over the paper. A
little less, and there would be nothing; but a little beauty has
always seemed to me preferable to a great deal of ugliness. And what
is true about one is true about nearly all his drawings. We find in
them always an harmonious colour contrast, and very rarely anything
more. Sometimes there are those evanescent gradations of colour which
are the lordship and signature of the colourist, and when _le ton
local_ is carried through the picture, through the deepest shadows as
through the highest lights, when we find it persisting everywhere, as
we do in No. 19, "Lake Maggiore", we feel in our souls the joy that
comes of perfect beauty. But too frequently Mr. Brabazon's colour is
restricted to an effective contrast; he often skips a great many
notes, touching the extremes of the octave with certainty and with

But it is right that we should make a little fuss over Mr. Brabazon;
for though this work is slight, it is an accomplishment--he has
indubitably achieved a something, however little that something may
be; and when art is disappearing in the destroying waters of
civilisation, we may catch at straws. Beyond colour--and even in
colour his limitations are marked--Mr. Brabazon cannot go. He entered
St. Mark's, and of the delicacy of ornamentation, of the balance of
the architecture, he saw nothing; neither the tracery of carven column
nor the aerial perspective of the groined arches. It was his genius
not to see these things--to leave out the drawing is better than to
fumble with it, and all his life he has done this; and though we may
say that a water-colour with the drawing left out is a very slight
thing, we cannot fail to perceive that these sketches, though less
than sonnets or ballades, or even rondeaus or rondels--at most they
are triolets--are akin to the masters, however distant the

I have not told you about the very serious progress that Mr. George
Thompson has made since the last exhibition; I have not described his
two admirable pictures; nor mentioned Mr. Linder's landscape, nor Mr.
Buxton Knight's "Haymaking Meadows", nor Mr. Christie's pretty picture
"A May's Frolic," nor Mr. MacColl's "Donkey Race". I have omitted much
that it would have been a pleasure to praise; for my intention was not
to write a guide to the exhibition, but to interpret some of the
characteristics of the young generation.

The New English Art Club is very typical of this end of the century.
It is young, it is interesting, it is intelligent, it is emotional, it
is cosmopolitan--not the Bouillon Duval cosmopolitanism of the Newlyn
School, but rather an agreeable assimilation of the Montmartre cafe of
fifteen years ago. Art has fallen in France, and the New English seems
to me like a seed blown over-sea from a ruined garden. It has caught
English root, and already English colour and fragrance are in the
flower. A frail flower; but, frail or strong, it is all we have of art
in the present generation. It is slight, and so most typical; for,
surely, no age was ever so slight in its art as ours? As the century
runs on it becomes more and more slight and more and more intelligent.
A sheet of Whatman's faintly flushed with a rose-tint, a few stray
verses characterised with a few imperfect rhymes and a wrong accent,
are sufficient foundation for two considerable reputations. The
education of the younger generation is marvellous; its brains are
excellent; it seems to be lacking in nothing except guts. As education
spreads guts disappear, and that is the most serious word I have to

Without thinking of those great times when men lived in the giddiness
and the exultation of a constant creation--when a day was sufficient
for Rubens to paint the "Kermesse" thirteen days to paint the "Mages",
even or eight to paint the "Communion de St. Francois d'Assise"--and
blotting from our mind the fabulous production of Tintoretto and
Veronese, let us merely remember that thirty years ago Millais painted
a beautiful picture every year until marriage and its consequences
brought his art to a sudden close. One year it was "Autumn Leaves",
the following year it was "St. Agnes' Eve", and behind these pictures
there were at least ten masterpieces--"The Orchard", "The Rainbow",
"Mariana in the Moated Grange", "Ophelia", etc. Millais is far behind
Veronese and Tintoretto in magnificent excellence and extraordinary
rapidity of production; but is not the New English Art Club even as
far behind the excellence and fertility of production of thirty years


We have heard the words "great artist" used so often and so carelessly
that their tremendous significance escapes. The present is a time when
it is necessary to consider the meaning, latent and manifest, of the
words, for we are about to look on the drawings of the late Charles

In many the words evoke the idea of huge canvases in which historical
incidents are depicted, conquerors on black horses covered with gold
trappings, or else figures of Christ, or else the agonies of martyrs.
The portrayal of angels is considered by the populace to be especially
imaginative, and all who affect such subjects are at least in their
day termed great artists. But the words are capable of a less vulgar
interpretation. To the select few the great artist is he who is most
racy of his native soil, he who has most persistently cultivated his
talent in one direction, and in one direction only, he who has
repeated himself most often, he who has lived upon himself the most
avidly. In art, eclecticism means loss of character, and character is
everything in art. I do not mean by character personal idiosyncrasies;
I mean racial and territorial characteristics. Of personal
idiosyncrasy we have enough and to spare. Indeed, it has come to be
accepted almost as an axiom that it does not matter much how badly you
paint, provided you do not paint badly like anybody else. But instead
of noisy idiosyncrasy we want the calm of national character in our
art. A national character can only be acquired by remaining at home
and saturating ourselves in the spirit of our land until it oozes from
our pens and pencils in every slightest word, in every slightest
touch. Our lives should be one long sacrifice for this one
thing--national character. Foreign travel should be eschewed, we
should turn our eyes from Paris and Rome and fix them on our own
fields; we should strive to remain ignorant, making our lives
mole-like, burrowing only in our own parish soil. There are no
universities in art, but there are village schools; each of us should
choose his master, imitate him humbly, striving to continue the
tradition. And while labouring thus humbly, rather as handicraftsmen
than as artists, our personality will gradually begin to appear in our
work, not the weak febrile idiosyncrasy which lights a few hours of
the artist's youth, but a steady flame nourished by the rich oil of
excellent lessons. If the work is good, very little personality is
required. Are the individual temperaments of Terburg, Metzu, and Peter
de Hoogh very strikingly exhibited in their pictures?

The paragraph I have just written will seem like a digression to the
careless reader, but he who has read carefully, or will take the
trouble to glance back, will not fail to see, that although in
appearance digressive, it is a strict and accurate comment on Charles
Keene, and the circumstances in which his art was produced. Charles
Keene never sought after originality; on the contrary, he began by
humbly imitating John Leech, the inventor of the method. His earliest
drawings (few if any of them are exhibited in the present collection)
were hardly distinguishable from Leech's. He continued the tradition
humbly, and originality stole upon him unawares. Charles Keene was not
an erudite, he thought of very little except his own talent and the
various aspects of English life which he had the power of depicting;
but he knew thoroughly well the capacities of his talent, the
direction in which it could be developed, and his whole life was
devoted to its cultivation. He affected neither a knowledge of
literature nor of Continental art; he lived in England and for
England, content to tell the story of his own country and the age he
lived in; in a word, he worked and lived as did the Dutchmen of 1630.
He lived pure of all foreign influence; no man's art was ever so
purely English as Keene's; even the great Dutchmen themselves were not
more Dutch than Keene was English, and the result is often hardly less
surprising. To look at some of these drawings and not think of the
Dutchmen is impossible, for when we are most English we are most
Dutch--our art came from Holland. These drawings are Dutch in the
strange simplicity and directness of intention; they are Dutch in
their oblivion to all interests except those of good drawing; they are
Dutch in the beautiful quality of the workmanship. Examine the rich,
simple drawing of that long coat or the side of that cab, and say if
there is not something of the quality of a Terburg. Terburg is simple
as a page of seventeenth-century prose; and in Keene there is the same
deep, rich, classic simplicity. The material is different, but the
feeling is the same. I might, of course, say Jan Steen; and is it not
certain that both Terburg and Steen, working under the same
conditions, would not have produced drawings very like Keene's? And
now, looking through the material deep into the heart of the thing, is
it a paradox to say that No. 221 is in feeling and quality of
workmanship a Dutch picture of the best time? The scene depicted is
the honeymoon. The young wife sits by an open window full of sunlight,
and the curtains likewise are drenched in the pure white light. How
tranquil she is, how passive in her beautiful animal life! No complex
passion stirs in that flesh; instinct drowses in her just as in an
animal. With what animal passivity she looks up in her husband's face!
Look at that peaceful face, that high forehead, how clearly conceived
and how complete is the rendering! How slight the means, how
extraordinary the result! The sunlight floods the sweet face so
exquisitively stupid, and her soul, and the room, and the very
conditions of life of these people are revealed to us.

And now, in a very rough and fragmentary fashion, hardly attempting
more than a hurried transcription of my notes, I will call attention
to some three or four drawings which especially arrested my attention.
In No. 10 we have a cab seen in wonderful perspective; the hind wheel
is the nearest point, and in extraordinarily accurate proportion the
vehicle and the animal attached to it go up the paper. The cabman
turns half round to address some observation to the "fare", an old
gentleman, who is about to step in. The roof of the cab cuts the body
of the cabman, composing the picture in a most original and striking
manner. The panels of the cab are filled in with simple straight
lines, but how beautifully graduated are these lines, how much they
are made to say! Above all, the hesitating movement of the old
gentleman--how the exact moment has been caught! and the treatment of
the long coat, how broad, how certain--how well the artist has said
exactly what he wanted to say! Another very fine drawing is No. 11.
The fat farmer stands so thoroughly well in his daily habit; the great
stomach, how well it is drawn, and the short legs are part and parcel
of the stomach. The man is redolent of turnip-fields and rick-yards;
all the life of the fields is upon him. And the long parson, clearly
from the university, how well he clasps his hands and how the very
soul of the man is expressed in the gesture! No. 16 is very wonderful.
What movement there is in the skirts of the fat woman, and the legs of
the vendor of penny toys! Are they not the very legs that the gutter

No. 52: a big, bluff artist, deep-seated amid the ferns and grasses.
The big, bearded man, who thinks of nothing but his art, who lives in
it, who would not be thin because fat enables him to sit longer out of
doors, the man who will not even turn round on his camp-stool to see
the woman who is speaking to him; we have all known that man, but to
me that man never really existed until I looked on this drawing. And
the treatment of the trees that make the background! A few touches of
the pencil, and how hot and alive the place is with sunlight!

But perhaps the most wonderful drawing in the entire collection is No.
89. Never did Keene show greater mastery over his material. In this
drawing every line of the black-lead pencil is more eloquent than
Demosthenes' most eloquent period. The roll and the lurch of the
vessel, the tumult of waves and wind, the mental and physical
condition of the passengers, all are given as nothing in this world
could give them except that magic pencil. The figure, the man that the
wind blows out of the picture, his hat about to leave his head, is not
he really on board in a gale? Did a frock coat flap out in the wind so
well before? And do not the attitudes of the two women leaning over
the side represent their suffering? The man who is not sea-sick sits,
his legs stretched out, his hands thrust into his pockets, his face
sunk on his breast, his hat crushed over his eyes. His pea-jacket, how
well drawn! and can we not distinguish the difference between its
cloth and the cloth of the frock of the city merchant, who watches
with such a woful gaze the progress of the gathering wave? The weight
of the wave is indicated with a few straight lines, and, strangely
enough, only very slightly varied are the lines which give the very
sensation of the merchant's thin frock coat made in the shop of a
fashionable tailor.

It has been said that Keene could not draw a lady or a gentleman. Why
not add that he was neither a tennis player nor a pigeon shot, a
waltzer nor an accomplished French scholar? The same terrible
indictment has been preferred against Dickens, and Mr. Henry James
says that Balzac failed to prove he was a gentleman. It might be well
to remind Mr. James that the artist who would avoid the fashion plate
would do well to turn to the coster rather than the duke for
inspiration. Keene's genius saved him from the drawing-room, never
allowing his gaze to wander from where English characteristics may be
gathered most plentifully--the middle and lower classes.

I find in my notes mention of other drawings quite as wonderful as
those I have spoken of, but space only remains to give some hint of
Keene's place among draughtsmen. As a humorist he was certainly thin
compared to Leech; as a satirist he was certainly feeble compared to
Gavarni; in dramatic, not to say imaginative, qualities he cannot be
spoken of in the same breath as Cruikshank; but as an artist was he
not their superior?


In looking through a collection of Reynolds, Gainsboroughs, Dobsons,
Morlands, we are moved by something more than the artistic beauty of
the pictures. Seeing that peaceful farmyard by Morland, a dim remote
life, a haunting in the blood, rises to the surface of the brain, like
a water-flower or weed brought by a sudden current into sight of the
passing sky. Seeing that quiet man talking with his swineherd, we are
mysteriously attracted, and are perplexed as by a memory; we grow
aware of his house and wife, and though these things passed away more
than a hundred years ago, we know them all. That other picture,
"Partridge Shooting", by Stubbs, how familiar and how intimate it is
to us! and those days seem to go back and back into long ago, beyond
childhood into infancy. The life of the picture goes back into the
life that we heard from our father's, our grandfather's lips, a life
of reminiscence and little legend, the end of which passed like a
wraith across the dawn of our lives. For we need not be very old to
remember the squire ramming the wads home and calling to the setter
that is too eagerly pressing forward the pointer in the turnips. A man
of fifty can remember seeing the mail coach swing round the curve of
the wide, smooth coach roads; and a man of forty, going by road to the
Derby, and the block which came seven miles from Epsom. And so do
these pictures take us to the heart of England, to the heart of our
life, which is England, to that great circumstance which preceded our
birth, and which gave not merely flesh and blood, but the minds that
are thinking now. We have only to pass through a doorway to see
sublimer works of art. But though Troyon and Courbet were greater
artists than Morland, Morland whispers something that is beyond art,
beyond even our present life; as a shell with the sound of the sea,
these canvases are murmurous with the under life.

That young lady so charmingly dressed in white, she who holds a rose
in her hand, is Miss Kitty Calcraft, by Romney. Do we not seem to know
her? We ask when we met her, and where we spoke to her; and that
mystic when and where seem more real than the moment of present life.
The present crowd of living folk fades from us, and we half believe,
half know, that she spoke to us one evening on that terrace
overlooking those wide pasture lands. We see the happy light of her
eyes and hear the joy of her voice, and they stir in us all the
impulses of race, of kith and kin.

Romney is often crude, but the worst that can be urged against this
portrait is that it is superficial. But what charm and grace there is
in its superficiality! Romney was aware of the grace and charm of the
young girl as she sat before him in her white dress: he saw her as a
flower; and in fluent, agreeable, well-bred and cultivated speech he
has talked to us about her. The portrait has the charm of rare and
exquisite conversation; we float in a tide of sensation. He was only
aware of her white dress, her pretty arm and hand laid on her soft
lap. But while we merely see Kitty, we perceive and think of
Gainsborough's portrait of Miss Willoughby. We realise her in other
circumstances, away from the beautiful blue trees under which he has
so happily placed her; we can see her receiving visitors on the
terrace, or leaning over the balustrade looking down the valley,
wondering why life has come to her so sadly. We see her in her
eighteenth-century drawing-room amid Chippendale and Adams furniture,
reading an old novel. No one ever cared much about Miss Willoughby.
There is little sensuous charm in her long narrow face, in her hair
falling in ringlets over her shoulders; and we are sure that she often
reflected on the bitterness of life. But Kitty never looked into the
heart of things: when life coincided with her desires, she laughed and
was glad; when things, to use her own words, "went wrong", she wept.
And in these two portraits we read the stories of the painters' souls.

But the question of nationality, of country, in art detains us.
Beautiful beyond compare is the art of Tourguenieff; but how much more
intimate, how much deeper is the delight that a Russian finds in his
novels than ours! However truly the purely artistic qualities may
touch us--great art is universal--we miss our native land and our
race in Tourguenieff. We find both in Dickens, in Thackeray. Miss
Austen and Fielding have little else; and vague though Fielding may be
in form, still his pages are England, and they whisper the life we
inherited from long ago. The superb Rembrandt in the next room, the
Gentleman with a Hawk, lent by the Duke of Westminster, is a human
revelation. We only perceive in it the charm, the adorableness, the
eternal adventure of youth; nationality disappears in the universal.
This beautiful portrait was painted in 1643, a year after the
"Night-watch". The date of the portrait of the Lady with the Fan is
not given. They differ widely in style; the portrait of the man is ten
years in advance of the portrait of the woman; it seems to approach
very closely, to touch on, the great style which he attained in 1664,
the year when he painted the Syndics. Of his early style, thin,
crabbed, and yellow, there is hardly a trace in the portrait of the
Man with the Hawk; it is almost a complete emancipation, yet it would
be rash to say that the Lady with the Fan is an early work, painted in
the days of the Lesson in Anatomy. In Rembrandt's work we find sudden
advancements towards the grand final style, and these are immediately
followed by hasty returnings to the hard, dry, and essentially
unromantic manner of 1634. The portrait of the Young Man with the Hawk
was painted in middle life. But if it contains something more than the
suggestion of the qualities which twenty years later he developed and
perfected for the admiration of all time, if the immortal flower of
Rembrandt's genius was still unblown, this is blossom prematurely
breaking. The young man is shown upon darkness like a vision: the face
is illuminated mysteriously, the brush-work is large and firm, the
paint is substantial without being heavy, the canvas is smoky, an
unnatural and yet a real atmosphere surrounds the head. The black
velvet cap strikes in sharp relief against the background, which
lightens to a grey-green about the head. The modelling of the face is
extraordinarily large and simple, and yet without omissions; we have
in this portrait a perfect example of the art of being precise without
being small. The young man is a young nobleman. He stands before us
looking at us, and yet his eyes are not fixed; his moustache is golden
and frizzled; his cheeks are coloured slightly; but the picture is
practically made of a few greys and greens, and white, slightly tinted
with bitumen; yet we do not feel, or feel very little, any lack of
colouring matter. Rembrandt realised in the romantic young man his
ideal of young masculine beauty. Truly a beautiful work, neither the
boyhood nor the manhood, but the adolescence of Rembrandt's genius.

Between the portrait of the Lady with a Fan and Sir Joshua's portrait
of Miss Frances Crewe it would be permissible to hesitate; but to
hesitate even for one instant between Miss Crewe and the Young Man
with the Hawk would be unpardonable. Sir Joshua painted as he thought;
he had an instinctive sense of decoration and a deep and tender
feeling for beauty; he was especially sensible to the agreeable and
gay aspect of things; his eyes at once seize the pleasing and
picturesque contour, and his mind divined a charming and effective
scheme of colour. He saw character too; all the surface
characteristics of his model were plain to him, and when he was so
minded he painted with rare intelligence and insight. He did not see
deeply, but he saw clearly. Gainsborough did not see so clearly, nor
was his hand as prompt to express his vision as Sir Joshua's; but
Gainsborough saw further, for he felt more keenly and more profoundly.
But light indeed were their minds compared with Rembrandt's. Rembrandt
was a great visionary; to him the outsides of things were symbols of
elemental truths, which he expressed in a form mighty as the truths
themselves. There is no question of comparison between him on one hand
and Reynolds and Gainsborough on the other. Yet we should hesitate to
destroy our Reynolds and Gainsboroughs, to preserve any works of art,
however beautiful. Were we to keep what our reason told us was the
greatest, we should feel as one who surrendered England to save the
rest of the world, or as a parent who sacrificed his children to save
a million men from the scaffold.


Woman's nature is more facile and fluent than man's. Women do things
more easily than men, but they do not penetrate below the surface, and
if they attempt to do so the attempt is but a clumsy masquerade in
unbecoming costume. In their own costume they have succeeded as
queens, courtesans, and actresses, but in the higher arts, in
painting, in music, and literature, their achievements are slight
indeed--best when confined to the arrangements of themes invented by
men--amiable transpositions suitable to boudoirs and fans.

I have heard that some women hold that the mission of their sex
extends beyond the boudoir and the nursery. It is certainly not within
my province to discuss so important a question, but I think it is
clear that all that is best in woman's art is done within the limits I
have mentioned. This conclusion is well-nigh forced upon us when we
consider what would mean the withdrawal of all that women have done in
art. The world would certainly be the poorer by some half-dozen
charming novels, by a few charming poems and sketches in oil and
water-colour; but it cannot be maintained, at least not seriously,
that if these charming triflings were withdrawn there would remain any
gap in the world's art to be filled up. Women have created nothing,
they have carried the art of men across their fans charmingly, with
exquisite taste, delicacy, and subtlety of feeling, and they have
hideously and most mournfully parodied the art of men. George Eliot is
one in whom sex seems to have hesitated, and this unfortunate
hesitation was afterwards intensified by unhappy circumstances. She
was one of those women who so entirely mistook her vocation as to
attempt to think, and really if she had assumed the dress and the
duties of a policeman, her failure could hardly have been more
complete. Jane Austen, on the contrary, adventured in no such dismal
masquerade; she was a nice maiden lady, gifted with a bright clear
intelligence, diversified with the charms of light wit and fancy, and
as she was content to be in art what she was in nature, her books
live, while those of her ponderous rival are being very rapidly
forgotten. "Romola" and "Daniel Deronda" are dead beyond hope of
resurrection; "The Mill on the Floss", being more feminine, still
lives, even though its destiny is to be forgotten when "Pride and
Prejudice" is remembered.

Sex is as important an element in a work of art as it is in life; all
art that lives is full of sex. There is sex in "Pride and Prejudice";
"Jane Eyre" and "Aurora Leigh" are full of sex; "Romola", "Daniel
Deronda", and "Adam Bede" are sexless, and therefore lifeless. There
is very little sex in George Sand's works, and they, too, have gone
the way of sexless things. When I say that all art that lives is full
of sex, I do not mean that the artist must have led a profligate life;
I mean, indeed, the very opposite. George Sand's life was notoriously
profligate, and her books tell the tale. I mean by sex that
concentrated essence of life which the great artist jealously reserves
for his art, and through which it pulsates. Shelley deserted his wife,
but his thoughts never wandered far from Mary. Dante, according to
recent discoveries, led a profligate life, while adoring Beatrice
through interminable cantos. So profligacy is clearly not the word I
want. I think that gallantry expresses my meaning better.

The great artist and Don Juan are irreparably antagonistic; one cannot
contain the other. Notwithstanding all the novels that have been
written to prove the contrary, it is certain that woman occupies but a
small place in the life of an artist. She is never more than a charm,
a relaxation, in his life; and even when he strains her to his bosom,
oceans are between them. Profligate, I am afraid, history proves the
artist sometimes to have been, but his profligacy is only ephemeral
and circumstantial; what is abiding in him is chastity of mind, though
not always of body; his whole mind is given to his art, and all vague
philanderings and sentimental musings are unknown to him; the women he
knows and perceives are only food for it, and have no share in his
mental life. And it is just because man can raise himself above the
sentimental cravings of natural affection that his art is so
infinitely higher than woman's art. "Man's love is from man's life a
thing apart"--you know the quotation from Byron, "Tis woman's whole
existence." The natural affections fill a woman's whole life, and her
art is only so much sighing and gossiping about them. Very delightful
and charming gossiping it often is--full of a sweetness and tenderness
which we could not well spare, but always without force or dignity.

In her art woman is always in evening dress: there are flowers in her
hair, and her fan waves to and fro, and she wishes to sigh in the ear
of him who sits beside her. Her mental nudeness is parallel with her
low bodice, it is that and nothing more. She will make no sacrifice
for her art; she will not tell the truth about herself as frankly as
Jean-Jacques, nor will she observe life from the outside with the
grave impersonal vision of Flaubert. In music women have done nothing,
and in painting their achievement has been almost as slight. It is
only in the inferior art--the art of acting--that women approach men.
In that art it is not certain that they do not stand even higher.

Whatever women have done in painting has been done in France. England
produces countless thousands of lady artists; twenty Englishwomen
paint for one Frenchwoman, but we have not yet succeeded in producing
two that compare with Madame Lebrun and Madame Berthe Morisot. The
only two Englishwomen who have in painting come prominently before the
public are Angelica Kauffman and Lady Butler. The first-named had the
good fortune to live in the great age, and though her work is
individually feeble, it is stamped with the charm of the tradition out
of which it grew and was fashioned. Moreover, she was content to
remain a woman in her art. She imitated Sir Joshua Reynolds to the
best of her ability, and did all in her power to induce him to marry
her. How she could have shown more wisdom it is difficult to see. Lady
Butler was not so fortunate, either in the date of her birth, in her
selection of a master, or her manner of imitating him. Angelica
imitated as a woman should. She carried the art of Sir Joshua across
her fan; she arranged and adorned it with ribbons and sighs, and was
content with such modest achievement.

Lady Butler, however, thought she could do more than to sentimentalise
with De Neuville's soldiers. She adopted his method, and from this
same standpoint tried to do better; her attitude towards him was the
same as Rosa Bonheur's towards Troyon; and the failure of Lady Butler
was even greater than Rosa Bonheur's. But perhaps the best instance I
could select to show how impossible it is for women to do more than to
accept the themes invented by men, and to decorate and arrange them
according to their pretty feminine fancies, is the collection of Lady
Waterford's drawings now on exhibition at Lady Brownlow's house in
Carlton House Terrace.

Lady Waterford for many years--for more than a quarter of a
century--has been spoken of as the one amateur of genius; and the
greatest artists vied with each other as to which should pay the most
extravagant homage to her talent. Mr. Watts seems to have distanced
all competitors in praise of her, for in a letter of his quoted in the
memoir prefixed to the catalogue, he says that she has exceeded all
the great Venetian masters. It was nice of Mr. Watts to write such a
letter; it was very foolish of Lady Brownlow to print it in the
catalogue, for it serves no purpose except to draw attention to the
obvious deficiencies of originality in Lady Waterford's drawings.
Nearly all of them are remarkable for facile grouping; and the colour
is rich, somewhat heavy, but generally harmonious; the drawing is
painfully conventional; it would be impossible to find a hand, an arm,
a face that has been tenderly observed and rendered with any personal
feeling or passion.

The cartoons are not better than any mediocre student of the
Beaux-Arts could do--insipid parodies of the Venetian--whom she
excels, according to Mr. Watts. When Lady Waterford attempted no more
than a decorative ring of children dancing in a richly coloured
landscape, or a group of harvesters seen against a rich decorative
sky, such a design as might be brought across a fan, her talent is
seen to best advantage; it is a fluent and facile talent, strangely
unoriginal, but always sustained by taste acquired by long study of
the Venetians, and by a superficial understanding of their genius.

Many times superior to Lady Waterford is Miss Armstrong--a lady in
whose drawings of children we perceive just that light tenderness and
fanciful imagination which is not of our sex. Perhaps memory betrays
me; it is a long while since I have seen Miss Armstrong's pastels, but
my impression is that Miss Armstrong stands easily at the head of
English lady artists--above Mrs. Swynnerton, whose resolute and
distinguished talent was never more abundantly and strikingly
manifested than in her picture entitled "Midsummer", now hanging in
the New Gallery. "Midsummer" is a fine piece of intellectual painting,
but it proceeds merely from the brain; there is hardly anything of the
painter's nature in it; there are no surprising admissions in it; the
painter never stood back abashed and asked herself if she should have
confessed so much, if she should have told the world so much of what
was passing in her intimate soul and flesh.

Impersonality in art really means mediocrity. If you have nothing to
tell about yourself, or if courage be lacking in you to tell the
truth, you are not an artist. Are women without souls, or is it that
they dare not reveal their souls unadorned with the laces and ribbons
of convention? Their memoirs are a tissue of lies, suppressions, and
half-truths. George Sand must fain suppress all mention of her Italian
journey with Musset, a true account of which would have been an
immortal story; but of hypocritical hare-hearted allusions Rousseau
and Casanova were not made; in their memoirs women never get further
than some slight fingering of laces; and in their novels they are too
subject to their own natures to attain the perfect and complete
realisation of self, which the so-called impersonal method alone
affords. Women astonish us as much by their want of originality as
they do by their extraordinary powers of assimilation. I am thinking
now of the ladies who marry painters, and who, after a few years of
married life, exhibit work identical in execution with that of their
illustrious husbands--Mrs. E. M. Ward, Madame Fantin-Latour, Mrs.
Swan, Mrs. Alma-Tadema. How interesting these households must be!
Immediately after breakfast husband and wife sit down at their easels.
"Let me mix a tone for you, dear," "I think I would put that up a
little higher," etc. In a word, what Manet used to call _la peinture a
quatre mains_.

Nevertheless, among these well-intentioned ladies we find one artist
of rare excellence--I mean Madame Lebrun. We all know her beautiful
portrait of a woman walking forward, her hands in a muff. Seeing the
engraving from a distance we might take it for a Romney; but when we
approach, the quality of the painting visible through the engraving
tells us that it belongs to the French school. In design the portrait
is strangely like a Romney; it is full of all that brightness and
grace, and that feminine refinement, which is a distinguishing
characteristic of his genius, and which was especially impressed on my
memory by the portrait of the lady in the white dress walking forward,
her hands in front of her, the slight fingers pressed one against the
other, exhibited this year in the exhibition of Old Masters in the

But if we deny that the portrait of the lady with the muff affords
testimony as to the sex of the painter, we must admit that none but a
woman could have conceived the portrait which Madame Lebrun painted of
herself and her little daughter. The painting may be somewhat dry and
hard, it certainly betrays none of the fluid nervous tendernesses and
graces of the female temperament; but surely none but a woman and a
mother could have designed that original and expressive composition;
it was a mother who found instinctively that touching and expressive
movement--the mother's arms circled about her little daughter's
waist, the little girl leaning forward, her face resting on her
mother's shoulder. Never before did artist epitomise in a gesture all
the familiar affection and simple persuasive happiness of home; the
very atmosphere of an embrace is in this picture. And in this picture
the painter reveals herself to us in one of the intimate moments of
her daily life, the tender, wistful moment when a mother receives her
growing girl in her arms, the adolescent girl having run she knows not
why to her mother. These two portraits, both in the Louvre, are, I
regret to say, the only pictures of Madame Lebrun that I am acquainted
with. But I doubt if my admiration would be increased by a wider
knowledge of her work. She seems to have said everything she had to
say in these two pictures.

Madame Lebrun painted well, but she invented nothing, she failed to
make her own of any special manner of seeing and rendering things; she
failed to create a style. Only one woman did this, and that woman is
Madame Morisot, and her pictures are the only pictures painted by a
woman that could not be destroyed without creating a blank, a hiatus
in the history of art. True that the hiatus would be slight--
insignificant if you will--but the insignificant is sometimes
dear to us; and though nightingales, thrushes, and skylarks were to
sing in King's Bench Walk, I should miss the individual chirp of the
pretty sparrow.

Madame Morisot's note is perhaps as insignificant as a sparrow's, but
it is as unique and as individual a note. She has created a style, and
has done so by investing her art with all her femininity; her art is
no dull parody of ours: it is all womanhood--sweet and gracious,
tender and wistful womanhood. Her first pictures were painted under
the influence of Corot, and two of these early works were hung in the
exhibition of her works held the other day at Goupil's, Boulevard
Montmartre. The more important was, I remember, a view of Paris seen
from a suburb--a green railing and two loitering nursemaids in the
foreground, the middle of the picture filled with the city faintly
seen and faintly glittering in the hour of the sun's decline, between
four and six. It was no disagreeable or ridiculous parody of Corot; it
was Corot feminised, Corot reflected in a woman's soul, a woman's love
of man's genius, a lake-reflected moon. But Corot's influence did not
endure. Through her sister's marriage Madame Morisot came in contact
with Manet, and she was quick to recognise him as being the greatest
artist that France had produced since Delacroix.

Henceforth she never faltered in her allegiance to the genius of her
great brother-in-law. True, that she attempted no more than to carry
his art across her fan; but how adorably she did this! She got from
him that handling out of which the colour flows joyous and bright as
well-water, the handling that was necessary for the realisation of
that dream of hers, a light world afloat in an irradiation--light
trembling upon the shallows of artificial water, where swans and
aquatic birds are plunging, and light skiffs are moored; light turning
the summer trees to blue; light sleeping a soft and lucid sleep in the
underwoods; light illumining the green summer of leaves where the
diamond rain is still dripping; light transforming into jewellery the
happy flight of bees and butterflies. Her swans are not diagrams drawn
upon the water, their whiteness appears and disappears in the
trembling of the light; and the underwood, how warm and quiet it is,
and penetrated with the life of the summer; and the yellow-painted
skiff, how happy and how real! Colours, tints of faint green and mauve
passed lightly, a few branches indicated. Truly, the art of Manet
_transporte en eventail_.

A brush that writes rather than paints, that writes exquisite notes in
the sweet seduction of a perfect epistolary style, notes written in a
boudoir, notes of invitation, sometimes confessions of love, the whole
feminine heart trembling as a hurt bird trembles in a man's hand. And
here are yachts and blue water, the water full of the blueness of the
sky; and the confusion of masts and rigging is perfectly indicated
without tiresome explanation! The colour is deep and rich, for the
values have been truly observed; and the pink house on the left is an
exquisite note. No deep solutions, an art afloat and adrift upon the
canvas, as a woman's life floats on the surface of life. "My


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