19 JULY 1879, Page 15


TUE "BLACK AND WHITE" EXHIBITION AT THE EGYPTIAN HALL. [SECOND NOTICE.] As showing the pictorial capacities of our recent island acqui- sition, the four etchings, No. 144, by Mr. Tristram Ellis, of Cyprus, have some interest, and they appear to be faithful, if some- what uninteresting drawings. Mr. Ellis's work would, we think, look better if done on wood than copper, for the constant use of parallel, and vertical, and horizontal lines crossing each other at right angles, gives a hard and formal appearance, which is singularly out of place in an etching ; this may be especially noticed in the way in which the skies are treated in these four pictures. M. Tissot sends several etchings, very rich in effect, and all reproductions from pictures already exhibited, with the exception of No. 352, "A Portion of the National.

Gallery," which we do not remember to have seen executed in any other medium, though the etching has been exhibited about London in the print-shops for more than a year. By the way, we may mention here that this custom of sending to galleries works which are already familiar to the public is gaining ground, especially in the Academy. This etching of the National Gallery, by M. Tissot, represents a portion of the portico, and in the background the steeple of St. Martin-in- the-Fields Church. In the foreground is a half-length figure of a young-lady student descending the steps, with portfolio under her arm. Under the columns beyond, stand a man and woman, apparently disputing about something. The work is an example of a difficult subject very cleverly treated, the church-tower in the background and the solid ugliness of the gallery columns being especially well done.

Nos. 189 and 191 are two drawings with pen and brown ink, by "E. V. B.," the artist who is so well known for her illustrations to children's books ; they arc very delicate in workmanship, and show considerable imagination. Close to these are two studies, by Mr. E. J. Poynter, RA., for a figure in the picture of " Nausicaa," now exhibiting in the Royal Academy, and a little further on, Nos. 208-9-10, 215, 239, are other studies for the same picture and for a "figure of Helen." Nearly all of these are executed in red chalk. As Mr. Poynter, ILA., is at the present time the chief of our Academicians who endeavours to paint classical subjects, and to arrange his drapery after classical models, it is in- teresting to notice the manner in which his studies are executed ; and we could have no better opportunity of doing this than we have in the present instance, for not only have we the studies of this great Academic draughtsman to examine, but we have also studies of drapery and figures from the pencil of Mr. Burns Jones, who has been frequently con- sidered to be incapable of correct drawing by those who are the warmest admirers of the South Kensington Pro- fessor. Here we have side by side the work of the cele- brated Academician, and the artist whose works when sent to the Academy were uniformly rejected as unworthy, and the public will almost for the first time have the opportunity of discovering the justice of the relative rank which has been assigned to these artists by the Judicial Committee of the Academy.

Let us first endeavour to describe Mr. Poynter, R.A.'s, work. As we have said, they arc chiefly studies of drapery in red chalk. What is, or rather what should be, the chief charac- teristics of a good study of drapery by an eminent artist F' We may answer the question fearlessly, for with the remembrance of the late exhibitions of drawings by the Old Masters, and especially of the drapery studies by Leonardo da Vinci, we can affirm that there are three things which have to be considered. The first is the arrangement of the drapery in graceful lines and folds ; the second, the expression of the form on which the drapery hangs ; the third, the definite drawing and expression in clear light and shade of each separate fold. In these three things all good studies of draperies agree, whether their treat- ment has been in the broadest of possible manners, or as in- volved as that of Mantegna. Titian's, Veronese's, Tiutoretto's, or Leonardo's works all teach us that confused drawing of the folds, or carelessness of arrangement, or concealment of the form beneath, are bad qualities in the execution of drapery. Now, by by this simple test, which can be applied by any one with- out the slightest pretensions to art-knowledge, the studies of drapery here exhibited by Mr. Poynter. How do they stand it P We must confess that, in our opinion, they do not fulfil one of the requirements. The folds are confused and indeter- minate, the body beneath is swaddled in them, rather than ex- pressed by them ; the arrangement of the lines is in no way graceful or pleasing. Look at 239, "Three Studies for a. Figure of Helen ;" could anything be much uglier or more useless than the way in which the drapery is arranged on all

three studies. The figure stands fronting the spectator ; round its shoulders are thick folds of some soft stuff, which suddenly leave off just where one would think they should have begun ; for at the beginning of the breast there is a large gap, which wholly reveals the bosom, and then the drapery begins again, and is con- tinued down to the feet. It is impossible, without seeing the drawing, to understand the full ugliness of this arrangement, but the uselessness of it will be at once understood. Even in ancient Greece, people were not quite so foolish as to muffle up their shoulders for the sake of haring their bosoms, nor could such an arrangement of drapery have been made by an artist who had kept in mind that after all, the first purpose of drapery is practical, not artistic. The same error, as we have men- tioned in our notices of the Royal Academy, may be noticed in Mr. Poynter, R.A.'s, picture of Nausicaa. There all the figures are wrapped in drapery which is either tumbling off, or must tumble off directly they move, and as most of them are engaged in violent exercise, the effect is doubly absurd.

Bearing in mind the three requisites I have spoken of above, turn now to the studies of draperies by Mr. Mime Jones, and look first at No. 213,—" Two Studies for a Picture of a Man at an Organ." That this is quick, and therefore com- paratively slight work, can be seen at a glance ; but, neverthe- less, there is no indefiniteness, no confusion. Every fold and sweep of the drapery aro perfectly clear, one might swear to its form in a court of justice ; and not only might one swear to its form, but to its meaning, its office. Again, though it fulfils its first function, and clothes the man from head to heel, it does not do so in a way which prevents the form beneath being clearly per- ceived. It follows the lines of the figure, or sweeps across them, so that when the folds touch the knee or elbow, or what- ever portion of the body it may chance to be, they are broken and interfered with thereby ; and yet this interference is so managed, that it heightens the beauty of the arrangement, rather than. interferes with it. Look at 236, "Three Studies for a Picture," on green paper in pencil, and notice there how every fold is as distinct as if it had been photographed. How beautiful is the arrangement of the lines, and above all, how the woman's gown expresses the form beneath it !

The power of arranging drapery beautifully is a very rare one, and one, moreover, which cannot be attained without great labour, devoted exclusively to that end ; and we should no more blame Mr. Poynter, RA., because he does not possess it, than we should blame him for not being Turner or Reynolds. Nor is he, perhaps, rightly to be blamed because his studies are radically defective in the qualities which make up good work of this kind ; and the only reason that we have wished to pint out, and in some measure to explain this deficiency, is that so ignorant are many people of the qualities of good drawing of drapery, that they will like the coarse and ignorant arrangement of folds and lines, being taken by its apparent boldness and breadth ; and in consequence, when they see work like that of Mr. Harm Jones, work which is really consummate both in truth and beauty, they immediately consider it wrong, because it contradicts at every turn the style of drawing which they like ; and they do this with the more confidence, when they find their predilections apparently sanctioned by the proceed- ings of the Royal Academicians. The amount of ignor- ance on this subject is perfectly stupendous, and there is no doubt, unfortunately, that no inconsiderable portion of it is due to the fact that the public are instructed in Art by those who know nothing of the subject. It must always be remembered in reading art criticisms, especially many which appear in the daily papers, that if a writer be unacquainted with the truth on the subject of which he writes, his safest, indeed his only, plan is to attach himself and his praise to those whose reputation has been already established, either by the voice of the public, or by the acclaim of his fellow-artists, as in the case of an Academician. It requires no courage and no knowledge to praise a picture by Millais or Watts ; it requires both courage and knowledge to find fault justly with the work of either ; and there is besides always the danger, that the stricture on the particular work will be misread, as One which strikes at the artist's general ability. And in this manner incompetence fol- lows ignorance, and echoes it, for fear of greater error ; and then ignorance increases, and waxes fat, and prides itself upon its obtuseness. " The prophets prophesy smooth things, and the people love to have it so."

It is so easy to be flippant on work which is a little out of the way, so tiresome and thankless to try to discover whether its very strangeness is not that of merit rather than error ; but if the public will once begin to open their eyes to Art as they do in their judgment of other things, there will soon come an end to this ignorance on the part of their professed teachers.

To return to the Black and White Gallery : the largest works here are the two cartoons by Mr. Fred Goodall, R.A., in his pictures of "The Holy Mother" and " Sarah and Isaac," both of which have been exhibited at the Academy, the latter in this year's exhibition. The former of these is, in our opinion, very much the finer, and. it is certainly a beautifully executed cartoon. We have spoken before of what we consider to be the special merits and defects of Mr. Goodall's work, but no one can, we think, deny to it the qualities of earnestness, and a peculiar simplicity and plainness of statement, which are especially suited to the sacred subjects which most generally engage his attention. If it is possible to care for pictures of Old and New Testament subjects in which the main element is dignity of composition, these works should certainly be admired ; but we confess that, for our part, we can hardly sympathise with the Manes, Rebeecas, and Reads that Mr. Goodall draws so fre- quently. They are dignified, and generally depicted with an expression of serious sweetness, and their surroundings are always simple and well chosen ; but they are hardly flesh-and- blood, and seldom seem to us to have much character in their faces. Though he seldom or never attempts the colouring of the French master, Mr. Goodall resembles M. Bouguereau in his style of composition, and in the fair lifelessness of his figures, seeming to have almost reversed the fable of Pygmalion, and instead of making a statue live, to have made a live woman into a statue, and then painted her. We do not know how otherwise to express the stillness which pervades this artist's work. We have left ourselves no space to speak at length, as we should have wished to do, of the etchings by Mr. Whistler in this Gallery. They are in many ways first-rate, though we must confess a doubt as to whether the artist would not do better if he gave us a little more detail in his foreground. That part of' the picture is generally left almost entirely bare, with the exception perhaps of the enigmatical figure which is generally understood to stand for the artist's signature, and which appears in at least one of the etchings in the middle of the water, in the most important part of the picture. The ease of work, or apparent ease, in these etchings is very remarkable, and is especially noticeable in this Gallery, where, as we said in our last notice, the prevailing tendency, is to make elaborate finish the criterion of excellence.