THE GENERAL EXHIBITION OF WATER-COLOUR DRAWINGS.
THE promise of last year's Exhibition at the Dudley Gallery has been thoroughly well kept. It is satisfactory to find that nearly all of the former exhibitors show a marked improvement, still more so that, as appears by the adhesion of new artists, some of established fame, others with their honours yet to win, the undertaking has struck root firmly, and it is to be hoped permanently, in ground hitherto most imperfectly occupied. It was comparatively easy in a first display to bring together a number of drawings selected from the unexhibited accumulations of previous years. It remained for the second year to show that the first year's success had not in fact depended on any such cause ; and the evidence is here patent in the originality, the variety, and the honest workmanship of a large proportion of the pictures exhibited. Mr. Calderon's " La Fontaine" (293) naturally attracts attention, as well by the peculiarity of the materials used as by its great excellence as a work of art. It is painted throughout in distemper (i. e., in opaque colour) on canvas, a method long disused, and revived now to good purpose. It represents a young woman stand- ing in the shade of a small quadrangle of houses in a town of Southern France, and stooping to fill her pitcher at a water- spring. Drawing so large and vigorous, and withal so true, is rare at our water-colour exhibition ; nor is the colour, which is brilliant without gaudiness, of a quality at all too frequently attained. The figure, clothed in white, black, and red, but with bare arms, neck, and feet, is all in shadow, relieved against the strong sunlight of the opposite wall ; and it may be doubted whether under that bright blue sky more grey should not have mingled with the golden glow of sunburnt skin. On the other hand, the picture gains in solidity by not laying extravagant stress (now a little too much in fashion) on reflected lights and colours. There is remarkable and original merit of quite a different kind in Mr. Lamont's " Bored to Death " (192). It is too lake-brown in general colour and husky in texture to be so immediately attrac- tive as Mr. Calderon's picture, and there is besides a little feeble- ness in its treatment. But the indifference felt at a first glance presently changes to admiration for expressiveness of action and very beautiful painting of parts. A gentleman of a hundred years since has a literary crotchet with which he bores both his family and his visitors. Excellent and full of character are the face and hands of the tiresome littirateur ; the perplexed face of the curd, who longs to be away, but is too kindly mannered to cut the lecture short ; and the daughter's air of unresisting but unresigned disgust. The drawing and painting of this last figure are exceedingly good, especially the flesh tints of the arm and hands. For easy and natural grace the " Levantine Lady" (94), by the late Mrs. C. Newton, could scarcely be excelled. The "Jewess of Smyrna" (79), by the same lamented artist, is more complete as a picture, but the triumph over difficulties is more remarkable in the first. Mr. Burr's pair of drawings, " Morning and Evening " (642), the first, a boy (apprenticed evidently to some town occupation) putting on his clothes, the second, the same boy sitting list- lessly before the fire, are true representations of cottage life, having more character and less of the artificial than is usual with us in dealing with such a subject. Mr. Wynfield has also tried water-colour painting on canvas in his " Good Night, Dolly Dear" (577), a pretty sketch of a girl making-believe over her doll. His " First Shot" (517), a gaily attired party grouped round a bench in an old-fashioned garden, is richly coloured, and altogether a pleasant picture. Mr. Hodgson's " Trout Stream near the Monastery" (368), with two monks engaged in the gentle craft, and a third squatted on the bank, book on lap and flower
in hand, has much quiet humour. It is a little over modest in colour. A rich bit of decorative colour is sent by Mr. H. S. Marks, wherein Orpheus " piping down the valley wild" brings round him an admiring audience of lions, bears, and other " wild fowl" (525). More strictly pictorial, and painted with the nicest appreciation for delicate shades and varieties of colour and texture, are his studies of stone, brick, and wood work, especially (510 and 657). Of Miss Martin and Miss J. Russell the one has the greater skill in painting, the other the greater mastery of expression. "A Footstep" (26) by the first, though very good in execution, gives little sign of the cowardice inspired by an uneasy conscience ; while Keats's " Isabella" (38), by the other, betrays some faults of drawing which need all the pretty expression of despair to counteract. " Annie" (178), also by Miss Russell, is a graceful sketch. Similar praise is due to Mr. Pinwell's " The Watch" (282), and a woman and child in black, by Mr. G. H. Thomas (260), and a well painted but rather uninteresting head by Miss Frazer (335), should not be overlooked. Mr. S. Solomon's " Coptic Baptismal Procession" (318) is good in colour and in the pose of the figures ; his Ovidian illustrations are not interesting, and the workmanship in them is careless. Mr. J. Richardson has some good open-air studies of rustic children, not forgetting sonic admirably painted cocks and hens in (45); and " Wayside Refreshment" 1550), by Mr. L. Duncan, is prettily grouped, though lacking refinement in colour. The presence of Mr. Haag's masterly sketch of " Egyptian Musicians" (565) may be noted as significant of the feelings with which the established societies view the present exhibition.
Among the landscape painters, Mr. J. C. Moore still stands pre- eminent for quiet power and simplicity, and for the true and forcible impression of nature which he conveys by his broadly treated and utterly unexaggerated pictures. " Near Tivoli " (71) is looking from the woody uplands over a broad Italian vale bathed in the golden light of sunset. Another (121) is on the banks of the Tiber, stern in outline, parched and embrowned by a southern heat, and altogether strongly contrasted with the richer and more fertile beauty of the first. The tender sunlight of another Italian view by the same artist (474) may also be particularized, but without intending to withdraw attention from his other works. Compare these with Mr. Bannatyne's "Moun- tain Road" (181), where, in spite of much admirable painting, the general effect is trivial. " On the Ouse near York" (251), by Mr. II. Moore, shows how unpromising materials are glorified by certain effects of light. The diffused sunshine is here very beau- tiful, though in the sky the light should have been more concen- trated. A capital sketch of " East Tarbert Castle, Loch Fyne" (212), by Mr. E. Moore, and an equally beautiful study by Mr. W. Moore of a 1Vestmoreland river (275), with many other works of high merit, proceed from this family of artists. Of all of them (except Mr. J. C. Moore) it may be said they are able sketches, but seem to devote too little consideration to the com- position and treatment of their works. There is apparently more thought bestowed on Mr. Mawley's pictures without sacrificing one jot of naturalness. The greatest naturalness indeed is always the result of the most consummate art, not of inconsiderateness. Mr. Mawley has brought away his own impressions from the often painted but unexhausted Thames, and in "Bridge at Hurley" (597) especially is a richness and fulness which is quite original in kind. " Spring me " (521) and "The Approach of Evening" (566) deserve, among other pictures exhibited by him, to be noticed ; particularly the latter, because though full, it is not also low, in tone, as is too often the case with some young artists, to whom sunshine presents insuperable (as to all it is their principal) difficulty. It is this rare combination of fulness with sunlight, lvhielt, among other merits, distinguishes Mr. IV. Field's draw- ings, than which there is nothing more finished or thoroughly rounded off in the gallery. They arc very full in colour, yet so artis- tically gradated as to be entirely free from heaviness. Tenderness indeed is their characteristic, in nowise akin- to weakuess, but rather to strength temperately used. The pure, cream-like ;Alm:There of " Morning's Prime" (5) ; the dewy grass, and water-docks, and shimmering water of the later forenoon (516), and the sultry warmth of noon in the " The Empty Cart" (627), as well as the skilful arrangement of all, will amply re- pay- study.
Compared with these, Mr. Goodwin's pictures, notwithstanding their magnificent colour, appear overcharged and artificial. To be sure, the best of them, all aflame with itscritnson sunset (606), is half spoiled by its white mount. But after all drawbacks, there is an originality and courage in this young artist's use of his paint-box which may serve as a lesson to many of his elders. There is a fine feeling for nature in the grey mountains and mist of Mr. Livett's broadly treated " Early Snow at Pen-y-Gwryd " (337), from which much may be augured : but the foreground rocks betray carelessness of drawing and modelling. Mr. Ditchfield has made a decided step in advance ; but, like others of a certain school, he succeeds better in painting twilight or sunset (49 and 361), or mountain gloom (96), than when he has to reconcile the fulness of colour which he chiefly aims at with broad daylight (69). " Crossways Farm, Abinger " (327), seen across the ripe cornfield, under a dappled sky, is a beautiful little picture of home scenery, by Mr. F. Walton. The perspective of the sky is well rendered. Mr. F. Dillon's " Temple of Isis, Philm" (561), and " Temple near the Sphinx " (572), are remarkably good in colour, particu- larly the latter ; and two pictures by Mr. Binyon (346 and 387) are well considered and quietly effective, though husky in texture. This very undesirable texture may be and, it is said, often is produced by frequent washings off, or by pumping on the drawing. It is very suggestive of a chromolithograph. In Mr. T. Danby's pair of golden sunsets (185 and 199) there is a delightful poetical senti- ment, to which the slightly formal compositions are not inappro- priate. Poetry of a wilder kind is read in Mr. A. Severn's " The Sea from the Land's End " (483). Under a threatening sky, burnished with the fitful and angry light of a sinking sun, the long Atlantic waves "in sequent toil make towards the pebbled shore," and ably has the artist suggested the uneasy welter that seems to presage a tempestuous night. The sky is fine in colour and full of light and motion. A very beautiful study of calm sea will be found in Mr. Chattock's " Oswald Bay" (378) ; and Mr. Aston, besides other pictures betokening advance in his art, sends a spirited sketch of yeasty waves in a gale of wind (637). Mr. Earle's " Orchard in Bloom " (130) and " Spring " (362) are bright, sunny, and fresh; Mr. Herries' " Getting Ballast " (620) and " On the Rocks at Scarborough" (537), with their tender morning haze ; Mr. Williamson's " Clearing up after Rain " (336) ; Mr. Downard's vigorous, if unrefined, " Spring " (219) ; Mr. Glennie's " South Downs " (261) ; Mr. Holloway's " Moonlight " (36) ; and Mr. G. IL Thomas's " Alum Bay " (119), all deserve fuller notice. But space fails. Room, however, must be found for a word in praise of Mr. Bottomley's " Beagle Puppy" (212), of which the funny dazed look is very natural ; and Miss Coleman's flowers and birds must be mentioned, though every one will remember for himself to look for them. They are as remarkable as ever for beauty and delicacy, each one seeming perfect till the next comes in sight.
We must not conclude this article without calling attention to four charming drawings by Mr. S. Vincent. His admirable pictures at the last year's Exhibition in this gallery will not have been forgotten by any lover of art who saw them. Those he has now contributed are, as they ought to be, the utterances of the same artist, only they are, we think, more carefully enunciated. They are more full in colour, perhaps, as to some of them, almost too emphasized as to colour ; but they are all grand subjects, finely felt, and reverently though richly treated, and it is from the tone of the artist's mind intoning the picture that all true artistic delight in a picture arises. Though " Loch Eleraik " (7) and " Glen Shigichan" (160) may probably not be generally considered the two best of his contributions, to us they give, on the whole, the greatest satisfaction, because the artist seems to us to have pre- served in them more of those quaint tosses and harmonies which seem to be eminently the very music of the spheres.
Coming away from, and thinking over, and philosophizing on each successive Exhibition which we visit, be the material oil or water, we find ourselves always pronouncing to an assumed audi- ence of artists this canon, "Mind you do not lose your lights, and above all take care of your greys." The latter part of this canon we perhaps may apply to Mr. Vincent's (55) and (140). To use a word we have often heard fall from a great artist of foreign birth but English sympathies, Mr. Vincent's richly coloured works (though indicating, so far as lines and perspective of forms go, great spaces) would have been still richer if they had been still more " spacey."
To the Dudley Exhibition we most emphatically wish all suc- cess. Its walls are the only walls open to " outside " water- colour artists, and well do they use them.