26 MARCH 1954, Page 12



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