THE INTERNATIONAL SOCIETY AT THE NEW GALLERY.
THE works shown by the International Society form a puzzling collection which it is impossible to consider as a whole. Here we find work of the most mediocre kind, done by some one whose chief aim seems to be the desire to be startling at second hand. In every direction there is evidence of the misunderstanding of the masters of impressionism, the repetition as an empty formula of what had once been an individual discovery. Amid much that is crude, and often insincere, we are startled by coming upon the work of a master,—a Degas, a Carriere, or a Manet. The first of these three painters sends, among other things, a beautiful study of women carrying baskets called Les Blanchisseuses (No. 204). Here, at any rate, is the work of a master, even if it is little more than a study. There are some workers in the arts who seem to be only fully comprehensible to fellow- workers ; to the outside world they appear uninteresting. Degas is to be classed among these, and many people will no doubt wonder at the admiration which artists must feel for this little canvas on which is painted the two women carrying their baskets. Though hardly more than sketched in, the characterisation of the figures is so just, and the appreciation of their movement so complete, that the work, in spite of its reserve, dominates many a more pretentious picture. Also we cannot but rejoice that Degas has been able to escape here, at any rate, from the monotonous tyranny of the ballet.
The large picture by Manet, Le Linge (No. 177), shows how vital was the artist's sense of the character of form, and how vigorously he was able to express in paint what he saw. Another good example of painting of a special sort is the Antibes (No. 197) of Claude Monet. Intense light and colour are put upon the canvas, and the distant snowy mountains with the Mediterranean in front of them shine with the sun- shine of the South. Such work is logical and masterly and a harmony, but when this style of painting is brought to such an excess as in M. Guillaumin's two landscapes (Nos. 191 and 211) the result is merely hideous.
Mr. Horne! in his A Summer Idyll (No. 82) has succeeded in painting with charm, if not with great originality. The faces of the two children sitting by the sea where the wild roses trail over the beach are beautiful both in feeling and execution, even if they do recall the work of Matthew Maris. The picture is a curious compromise in lighting; the sky, sea, and foreground, and parts of the figures, are all under the natural illumination of strong silvery light. However, here and there are passages of black shadow suggestive more of the studio than of out-of-doors.
It is curious to compare the two opposite poles of treatment in two pictures of the same subject. This may be done in the North Room, where the two pictures of motherhood by Eugene Carriere and J. de Forest Brush face each other (Nos. 189 and 214). In the Frenchman's work everything is enveloped and made mysterious by a filmy mist through which the forms shimmer, emerging from darkness and losing them- selves in will-o'-the-wisp light. There is no slurring of form to produce the illusive quality; the modelling is all there, only done with the greatest subtlety. The American artist, on the contrary, makes out each part with complete certainty, though at the same time with great delicacy, suggesting recent followers of the art of Bastien Lepage. The child in the mother's arms is a charming little creature; painted most sympathetically, and the older child, a boy, at the side of the picture, is well painted, and has a face full of expression.
The work of Mr. 0. H. Shannon is always interesting, even when we realise that his pictures often just lack something, though we do not know quite what. This is the case with The Millpond (No. 222). The two figures bathing, as well as the landscape, possess qualities of solemn and harmonious beauty which make us feel that when the painter gives us a picture with the something we hitherto have missed it will be a very fine one indeed.
We understand that the pictures now on view will, at the end of February, give place to a collection of the works of the water-colour and black-and-white members of the Society. The sculpture will remain the whole time.
The sculpture to be seen here is certainly in two instances of remarkable interest. Besides the great marble group by Rodin, Le Balser (No. 1), there is a collection of nineteen bronze statuettes and reliefs by the late Constantin Meunier. It is perhaps not far wide of the mark to describe this Belgian sculptor as a Jean Francois Millet working in bronze. But from this it must not be supposed that Meunier had nothing to say of his own ; it is rather that his way of looking at the miners and dock labourers whom he modelled was large and impressive. He gives us not so much individuals as types, though at the same time his figures are deeply human, and not unreal abstractions. The relief Retour de la Mine (No. 24) is a fine example of the artist's power of welding the action of a whole group into one rhythmic idea, as is also Le Port (No. 26), with the beautiful figure on the right. Among the statuettes, which are varied and beautiful both in design and feeling for surface, two especially deserve study, the Debardeur (No. 27) and the Chercheuse (No. 36). The former, in which the dock labourer has a sack over the head and shoulders, is finely conceived. The figure has plenty of grace without being made to look stilted and artificial, and the figure of the woman worker has an especially beautiful face. The large symbolical bust Anvers (No. 29) is a fine piece of treatment, so large, so dignified, and so beautiful. The head has the typical head- dress which is appropriate to the dock worker of the great port. M. Rodin's group of two large figures is, like all his work, full of subtlety and vague poetic feeling. The forms are of heroic mould and of vital modelling throughout, and there is that effect of enveloping light which Michelangelo first discovered in his later sculpture, and of which Rodin alone seems to possess the secret now. By some enchantment of light the figures have life and movement, and they make such work as that of M. Bartholome (Nos. 2 and 3) look dead and academic, even while we acknowledge its science and power.