THE ROYAL ACADEMY.
THERE is generally a manly enough sentiment in Mr. T. Feed's pictures, and he expresses it with a vigorous brush and generally pleasing colour. The young peasant mother nursing her child (11) is a good example of his work, with leas than usual of that excessive blackness of shadow which too often gives to his open- air subjects, his "Pot Luck" (235), for instance, an over-strong odour of the studio lamp. It is time, too, that he dressed his figures in some other colours than those often repeated reds and greens. He has two essential things to learn ; one is breadth in flesh-painting ; the other is how to use light and shade. An artist ought not to be satisfied with a coarse intimation that he knows of the existence of grey in flesh ; he must fuse it insensibly with the prevailing colour ; and for a lesson in the art he need go back no further than our own Etty. And it is but a poor quality of light and shade which sets a very dark object against a very light background, and there an end (235). Neither defect is singular in Mr. Faed ; instances, and many more glaring in- stances than his, may be found on every wall of the Academy: and what the total neglect of chiaroscuro leads to may be seen in the sorry result produced by the attempts (exhibited in the Octagon room) to translate modern pictures into black and white. Mr. Orchardson paints with greater breadth. There is considerable power in his picture of the nun relating "The Story of a Life" to a class of young seamstresses, in whom the narrative produces a well marked, yet not exaggerated variety of feelings (262). One of the best pieces of character-painting is Mr. J. Archer's "Hearts are Trumps" (191). Three young girls dressed in the costume of our great-grandmothers play at cards, and therein doubtless fore- shadow their future character and fates. In one an easy, light- hearted temper, which seems to secure happiness, is as plain as in another the more serious and foreboding heart, over which the third, a very sneak in disposition, with her craning neck and watchful eye, is ready to take every advantage. The picture is agreeable, and carefully painted ; but here, again, the contrast of light and dark is too violent and too little relieved by half-tones. Mr. J. Feed's " Wappenschaw " (439) has attracted much atten- tion, and the honesty of its workmanship no doubt deserves
respect. But notwithstanding its freedom from affectation, and the clever expression of character in some of its episodes, its interest is too remote in kind, and too little concentrated in treatment. There is absolutely no space in the picture, and the shadows are forced to a pitch of blackness wholly inconsistent with truth. "Selling Fans at a Spanish Fair" (350), by Mr. Burgess, is a bustling scene, rather crowded in composition, but well painted. Its great fault is having for its principal figure one so coarse in appearance and over-strained in expression as the fan- seller in the right centre. There is great beauty in the group in the right-hand corner, but the artist would appear to think that any repose in treatment is inconsistent with stir and animation in the sentiment or general impression of the picture.
Broadly distinguished from those pictures which take the eye at first, but soon cloy the taste, stands Mr. E. Artnitage's "Parents of Christ Seeking Him" (503). Refined in taste and most artist-like in treatment, this picture gains nothing by the place assigned to it. The anxious, questioning gaze of the mother, the true but quiet concern of the bystanders, are ex- pressed with natural simplicity and fine restraint. Bright as is the colouring, yet so free is it from exhibition glitter, that it harmonizes perfectly with the seriousness of the subject. Such a style of art is too rare, and deserves greater encouragement : but caricature and exaggeration are unfortunately more popular and more profitable. "The Remorse of Judas" (10), by the same artist, is also a thoughtful and thought-stirring picture. The betrayer's abandonment, with a "See thou to that" by those who have made use of him, is powerfully expressed. The painting, however, is rather hard. Of the same class, for its earnestness and sobriety, is "The Martyrdom of St. Stephen" (251) by M. Legros ; but greater vehemence of action would have better suited the subject, and not been inconsistent with sobriety of treatment.
Here may be mentioned Mr. Boughton's "Wayside Devotion" (107), as a thoroughly real bit of action. This reality is charac- teristic of the school in which he has studied ; so, too, but less commendable, is the artificially neutralized colour of the back- ground. Reality and unaffectedness are also to be noted in Mr. Emmerson's "Sick Boy" (210), qualities too rare in English treatment of peasant life to be passed over, even when accom- panied by bad colour. And similar praise belongs of right to Mr. Brennan's "Interior in Capri" (313), a little picture, which is further distinguished by very excellent painting of reflected day- light. Mr. Hayllar has shaken himself out of the lethargic atmo- sphere of the Book of Beauty, and painted a thoroughly charming child receiving the last touches of care from her nurse before she goes to what must be her first ball (334).
Little as modern dress lends itself to pictorial purposes, yet it has the merit of being familiar, and consequently if treated with fair skill, with the spirit of an artist and not of a milliner, of attracting no more than its due share of attention. Costumes of bygone times provoke the eye by their very strangeness, and being generally gay in colour, they exact as well as allow the exercise of qualities not easy to unite. Thus the artist must be an antiquarian, and yet have no desire to obtrude his hardly earned knowledge. He must also be a good colourist, able not only negatively to avoid discord, but positively to elicit harmony from his materials : for the possibility of higher success entails the risk of greater failure. Now, it is needless to point out failure in those cases where signal success of any kind can scarcely be expected. The pictures which provoke criticism are those where great ability of one kind is marred by shortcomings of another ; and the remarks here hazarded are made with special reference to Mr. Hodgson's "Jewess Accused of Witchcraft in the Middle Ages" (574). The picture is marked by many excellent quali- ties indicative of a cultivated mind. The story is well told, without any grimace, and the hasty and interested conclusions of the accuser, to whom the undeniable fact of his child's sickness is as satisfactory proof of the poor Jewess's guilt as the existence of certain bricks in his father's chimney was evidence to Shakespeare's clown of Mortimer's illegitimacy, is forcibly con- trasted with the calmer attitude of the baron and his lady to whom appeal is made. But the colour is "leathery," and specially wanting in the refinement to be obtained by attention to
atmospheric accidents of hue. Mr. H. S. narks, again, fond as he is of mediaeval costumes and furniture, is not a master of colour ; though in this respect he is certainly improved. But so original is his humour, so forcibly, yet quietly expressed, and so honest and workmanlike his painting, that his pictures have always an air of distinction which merely pleasing colour or better balanced composition fails of itself to attain. Mr. Nicol might learn of Mr. Marks a lemon of moderation. Mr. Marks exhibits only two small pictures, possessing indeed many of his best qualities, but scarcely reaching the full limit of his powers. In one "my lady's page" is in disgrace (393), or, to speak plainly, in the stocks, not pitied, and not repentant. In the other a " sim- ple-featured " bridegroom comes to the notary for a marriage licence; one sees that it will be one of the wisest acts of his life to marry the clever, bright-faced woman who backs him up (595). Mr. J. D. Watson's "Poisoned Cup" (500) is a remarkably good
example of the use to which medimval costume and furniture should be put—to enrich, namely, and give pictorial form to the subject. At the same time it serves as a contrast to the grim face and artfully unstudied gesture of the treacherous host, who is so coolly preparing a posset for his enemy, not-, as one is glad to observe, without a witness. This picture is a veritable passage from life. How different it might have been made by different treatment may be collected from one which in subject (and in sub- ject only) belongs to the same class. This is Mr. J. Feed's "What will Happen?" (108), a simply theatrical affair. Mr. M. Stone
cannot entirely escape from a similar charge. His "Stealing the Keys" (246) is a feeble picture, florid in style and hackneyed in subject. Nevertheless there are symptoms of better things in the drunken sleepy-heads in the background. A far more vigorous picture is Mr. Wynfield's, showing how Queen Catherine's maids of honour picked their bones and drank beer out of big tankards, and how Percy was surprised by the King flirting with Anne Boleyn (547). But is there not a little clumsiness in the brush work?
Mr. A. Moore finds food congenial to his sense of beauty and grace in a study of the queenly forms and flowing draperies of the later Greek art. Why he should illustrate the Song of Solomon with ladies barely clad in the Coa vestis is neither here nor there. The picture shows a rare power of composition and a sense of beauty which the artist will probably some day cultivate at the fountain head. Yet even from nature he could scarcely learn more consummate grace than that of his little picture fanci- fully called " Pomegranates " (194).
The grossest ease of stage-work is Mr. Ward's "Amy Robsart
and Leicester" (64) ; and both Sterne and Leslie forbid us to think that Mr. Frith's "Widow Wadman " (7t) is the genuine widow who so pertinaciously assailed Uncle Toby. "The Door of a Café in Cairo" (113), by Mr. J. Lewis, is worth looking at; if only for the very beautiful harmony of colour produced by the cat, stone bench, and scarf in the foreground. For the rest, the picture is uninteresting, and the stiffly drawn figure of a man that stands in the doorway has no life or power of motion. Mr. Maclise's fresco of " Nelson " has already been criticized in the Spectator. The oil sketch of that subject, which the artist here exhibits, gives little more than a plan of the larger work.
The good drawing and spirited action of Mr. Beavis's horses (582) deserve to be. noticed. Hung where it is, no one can see whether the picture has or has not other merits. There is also well expressed canine character in the upturned eye of "The Poacher's Nurse" (14), by Mr. Riviere ; "A Watering-place," by M. Fontanisi (37), a vigorous sketch ; Mr. W. Field's "Empty Cart" (249), a repetition, with some variation and refinement of treatment, of a subject already painted by him in water colours, and exhibited at the General Exhibition of Water Colours ; and "Morning Mist" (511), by Mr. J. T. Linnell; very tender and sunny, ought to have been mentioned with the other landscapes.