Gillies and Maxwell
THE South hears much in general terms about the artistic renaissance north of the Border, but the Scots proudly keep many of its operations to themselves; it seems odd that only now, and by the ambassadorial zeal of the Arts Council, have a pair of painters reckoned among the most influential in Scotland got a reasonable showing in London. Neither William Gillies nor James Maxwell, of course, is wholly unknown in England—both have had a small share in revious exhibitions down here, notably in e grandiose collection of 'Sixty Paintings or '51 '—but neither has found or, appar- ently, sought a place on the English merry- go-round. Knowing this, nervously con- scious that culture-contact is being effected, the Southern visitor enters the New Bur- lington with some misgivings, under an obligation to be astonished; he need not, however, fear anything too outré. mark the point from which "his course was determined," but this is one of those intro- ductory remarks which make subsequent acquaintance awkward. After this, indeed, Maxwell's,affinities appear to be more with Central Europe than anywhere nearer home; the most obvious influence is Chagall. But his queer and often beautiful
conversations and encounters of Adam and Eve in a wilderness of flowers, the birds that inhabit dreams or fly against the sun, the enormous bouquet suddenly plumped down, overtopping the roofs, in the square of a little town—spring, it is clear, from no imitative impulse, but from his own imagin- ation. Maxwell paints his flowers with love —he is a gardener—but hardly as living plants; they shine rather like 'stars in a highly individual night. His harebells, daisies, broom, are identifiable, but they are no use at all as illustrations to a Botany of Scotland.
The Arts Council have chosen to accom- pany these two strangers with the reintroduc- tion of Steinlen, the Swiss whose descrip- tion, in innumeral4e drawings, etchings, lithographs, of Paris night-life made him better known in Britain fifty years ago than most of his greater contemporaries. He is now forgotten, and is therefore due for revival; like all illustration, his work is modish and subject to the vicissitudes of that condition. But the mode is now setting that way again, and needs only, a gentle push; that, no doubt, is what an Arts Council