Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

a quality also within the province of art, or where would Hogarth be ?

That it is possible to paint real life in such a manner as to be not a mere record but a symbol, Millet showed, and Mr. Clausen shows in what is unquestionably one of the most remarkable pictures in the Academy, The Boy and the Man, typical figures of tillers of the soil, placed in a landscape as typical as themselves, which furnishes the decorative colour for which their sober toil-stained garb gave no opportunity. The quotation from the Old Testament, appended in the Catalogue, most happily explains and emphasises the idea, which may be said to be more than a mere picture. So, in another way, may we say of Mr. Arthur Hughes's simple and naïve revival of the spirit of medieval faith in the diptych entitled The Rescue—the child kneeling to pray for protection against the dragon, the birds coming to encourage him, the knight who has rescued him seen in the other panel; there is some beautiful detail in this too. Of the idyllic type of picture which blends figures and landscape into a pastoral poem we have a charming example in Mr. Wetherbee's Hylas, which is superior to his larger work in the first room; and in the Salon there is a small picture by M. Labitte, Le Baiser, which as a composition of landscape and figures is quite perfect.

And what of landscape, that great and essentially modern art, so little understood in England ? For what English people admire in landscape is the kind of picture which they say looks ‘so real,' the kind of realism which appeals to them in the paintings of Mr. Leader, whose Summer Morn, North Wales, however, does attract one by that kind of quality which Tennyson indicates in his happy epithet' gaudy.' ? But it is not the object of landscape painting to be realistic-if it could be, which is impossible. Nature is the material for making landscape art out of; every great landscape painting involves a giving up of some detail for the sake of the total effect, and involves, also, a distinct and predominant idea in composition. There are plenty of landscapes in the Academy which are not landscape at all in the true artistic sense, only copies of scenes. There is little of this in French landscape. M. Didier-Pouget, indeed, has achieved a power of realism in his foregrounds which would reduce everything of the kind in the Academy to weakness, and there is no doubt that he is repeating this effect too much ; still, his pictures as a whole are compositions, not mere transcripts, and it is a pity that one of his great scenes should not be exhibited in London. In point of style, however, the most perfect landscape of the year is M. Quignon's Messidor, in which there is a breadth of treatment, a knowledge of what pigment can do and how it can best be done—that perception of the relation between cause and effect before referred to—which is equalled in no

For some were hung with arras green and blue,

Showing a gaudy summer-morn.-The Palace of Art.

other landscape in either exhibition. Its one shortcoming, perhaps, is a want of poetic sentiment; it is a perfect work of art but not a landscape poem. The real landscapes in the Academy are such as Mr. Arnold Priestman's Yorkshire Moors and Mr. East's Serenity of Morning, works in which mere detail is subordinated to composition and to the expression of the poetic suggestion of the scene. The late Mr. Farquharson's small, work, The Barley Field, is another example. At the Salon there is the fine work by M. Harpignies, Bords de la Royat ; M. Cagniart's small and stormy scene, La Nuée ; M. Pouchin's large picture, Vesprée Provençale, with its extraordinarily powerful effect of light from a level sun; all of them works in a broad and grand style and in which a central aim is kept in view, undisturbed by detail which, on Millet's principle, would only weaken the total effect. Still, there have been greater landscape years in the Salon than this one ; but on the other hand there is evidence of a great advance in sea-painting. Hitherto, with such painters as Henry Moore, Hook, Mr. Frazer, Mr. Hemy, and Mr. Somerscales, England has been easily at the head of the world in sea-painting ; and perhaps Mr. Hemy's Waste of Waters is the most complete and perfect work in this year's Academy, the one which most entirely succeeds in its purpose ; and though Mr. Somerscales rather repeats his programme of the single ship in the middle of a dark sea (which I suppose is the reason the Academy have taken to 'skying' him), he does it as well as ever, and he understands ships as no one else does. The French as a nation do not love the sea, and have produced many very bad sea pictures-seas evolved out of their inner consciousness; but there are men now who may take the wind out of our sails. M. Moteley, whose Storm on the Coast of Holland last year was one of the grandest storm pictures ever painted, and as true as it was powerful, has a fine sea triptych in the large gallery which promises much for the future ; and M. Palézieux's Bateaux à la Côte, with its rush of the heavy seas up the beach, all dirty and stained red with the sand they have churned up, is a thing to be remembered.

The immense collection of sculpture in the central court of the Salon is as astonishing as ever in its extent and variety of interest, though it does not contain so many works of the highest order as in some former years, and there is a certain evidence of restlessness and striving after effects which are not properly sculpturesque. M. Ségoffin's Le Temps et le Génie, for instance (a State commission for the square of the Louvre), a symbolical bronze group in which Genius in full flight has overturned Time, is a kind of subject only fitted for representation in painting ; the flying figure of Genius, only supported in the air by the drapery which trails after him, is entirely wanting in the stability which should characterise a group of sculpture. M. Mercié has contented himself this year with a piece of genre sculpture, La Bourrée, danced by a peasant girl in sabots; pretty and vivacious,

but not quite what one expects from a great sculptor. What strikes one, however, in going through the collection, is the evidence it gives of the extraordinary extent of sculptural talent in France, and of the variety of thought which is put into sculpture. Standing in a row close together, for instance, are three works--L'Ère Nouvelle by M. Camus, Bonheur Maternel by M. Peyronnet, and Ivresse Printanière by M. Pourquet-none of which represents quite the highest class of work in the Salon, but each one of them represents, not a mere modelled figure, but an abstract idea symbolised in sculpture; and those are only three out of many examples. Sculpture is an art more intellectually used in France than (for the most part) in England, where abstract symbolism in sculpture is rather an exception, though we have fine examples now and then, such as Mr. Colton's Crown of Love two or three years ago. But the Academy sculpture of this year would be almost a negligible quantity in comparison with the variety and vigour of the Salon collection. The Academy have purchased Mr. Mackennal's Diana for the Chantrey collection, a good statue of the old classic goddess type, but it would only pass as a work of secondary interest at the Salon. The two Academy sculptures which, in their different ways, are of the highest order, are Mr. Harold Parker's Ariadne, a work of real poetry and pathos, and Mr. Reynolds-Stephens's fine equestrian bronze, The Scout in War. Either of these would compel attention at the Salon, and stand out from the crowd as a work of first-class interest; it may be doubted whether there is any other work at the Academy of which this could be said.

Among works which may be singled out for special attention at the Salon is the Trarieux monument by M. Jean-Boucher (who has hyphened his name to distinguish him better from his gifted namesake Alfred Boucher, and now appears under 'J’in the catalogue), a great group apparently incomplete—there should evidently be a portrait bust on the stele—where a lady of noble pose leads up a child to look at the memorial ; it is a modern figure, but the sculptor has contrived to give it true sculpturesque dignity. M. Alfred Boucher's group Humanité, part of an intended monument, is abstract sculpture, the effect of which is a little marred by the patchwork semi-gilt surface of the plaster model ; it is in fact rather a large sketch than a finished work. A feature in the sculpture collection is the presence of two couple of large works for open-air decoration : the two groups of stags by M. Gardet, to flank the entrance to the Bois de Boulogne at the Porte Dauphine, and two colossal bronze draped figures by M. Frémiet, to be placed in the square of the Carrousel. Among the ideal subjects M. Charpentier’s L'Euvre is one of the finest. Among the monuments is a fine one to Watteau by M. Lombard; the portrait bust of the painter on a stele, to which a garland is offered by a woman in the costume and style of the female figures in his own pictures ; and a charming one by M. Pech to Perrault, author of the Contes des Fées, around whose figure delighted children dance in a ring. A remarkable instance of versatility is shown in the two works by M. Picaud, close to each other : one a nude, La Vague, the rather overworked idea of a female figure tumbled over on the beach by a wave, but a beautiful piece of work of its kind; the other a relief in stone entitled Pauvres Gens, a pathetic group of a realistic peasant woman and her boy seated together. Each is equally thorough in its way, and no one looking at the two works would be likely to guess that they were from the same hand. But to mention all the works in sculpture that are of special interest would be impossible.

And then what encouragement sculpture enjoys, too, in France !one practical reason, no doubt, for its immense vitality. In this year's Salon the placard Acquis par l'Etat or Commandé par l'Etat meets the eye at every turn. The French Government must have spent many thousands of pounds in the purchase of works in sculpture from this year's exhibition alone. Imagine such a thing in England, where, two years ago, the Government were invited to buy a work of exceptional ability, the Elizabeth and Philip the Second of Mr. ReynoldsStephens, to place it in the new Naval College, as a group symbolic of England's naval supremacy. The suggestion (with which the present writer had something to do) was met, of course, by a direct non possumus ; there were ‘no funds' for such a purpose. Not, of course, that the money could not have been found (England not being an impoverished country); but that money spent on works of art is regarded in this country as money wasted, which might have been better employed on some 'practical' object. English Government officials, or those who have any influence in Parliament in connexion with such subjects, should visit the sculpture hall of the Salon and see what the French Government does for sculpture, and ask themselves if it is not a disgrace to England that we should neglect art and artists in this way, and whether it is not time that we took the example of France to heart.

On the whole, what one feels in comparing the Salon with the Academy is that behind the visible results in French art there is more of thought, a more intellectual impulse. What many of our artists seem to want is a wider general culture. In the case of exceptional genius, such as that of Turner or Frederick Walker (neither of whom apparently had an idea in his head outside the practice of his art), the force of genius seems to preserve them from the commonplace. But there are many English painters and sculptors, gifted enough in technique, who do commonplace things apparently without knowing that they are commonplace. Instances might be given by the score, if it were not unkind to particularise. Now, there is less of this in France ; there is more evidence of a feeling that a work should have a raison d'être beyond the mere desire to exhibit. One feels this even in noticing the quotations appended occasionally in the catalogue. In the Salon catalogue these generally have some point and significance. Where Academy exhibitors get some of the threadbare and banal phrases they insert as clues to their work one hardly knows. What one does know is that they seem to have a remarkable aptitude for misquoting and mishandling great poets. A collection of the Academy catalogues would form a perfect mine of misquotations. One of the worst is in this year's catalogue. Shelley's Ode to the West Wind ends with the passage :

Be through my lips to unawakened earth
The trumpet of a prophecy! O wind,
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind ?

This appears appended to No. 195 in the Academy catalogue, with an attempt at the last two lines only (omitting the commencement of the sentence of which they form part), which appear thus :

The trumpet of a prophecy, O wind.
If Winter come, shall not Spring come also '(!)

If he wanted to quote Shelley, why could not he look up the poem and get it right ? Really, for its own credit, the Academy ought to submit its catalogue to some competent critical revision, rather than have it defaced with such literary blunders as these.

H. HEATHCOTE STATHAM,

« AnteriorContinua »