THE WINTER EXHIBITIONS.
AurnouGn it may be quite true that picture exhibitions are now never out of season, any more than gorse is ever out of bloom, it is yet equally certain that as the blossom on the furze-bush is both scantier and scrubbier in winter than in summer, so our autumnal displays of pictures are (with one exception) pervaded by a lack- lustre mediocrity very distinguishable from the more energetic if not always well regulated life of our summer exhibitions. The collection at the so-called French Gallery is chiefly remarkable for the works of Mr. Calderon and Mr. Watts. The "Attempted Escape of Queen Mary from Loch Leven," by Mr. Calderon, is an excellent picture. Its great dramatic power is proved by the total absence of grimace. The story is told without apparent effort. The Queen is disguised as a laundrymaid, with just suf- ficient dignity in her mien and haughtiness on her lip (haughti- ness which wrecked the adventure) to distinguish her from the real laundress, who shrinks away in a corner, half-frightened at the novel sight of her own clothes and bundle borne by so great a lady. An attendant in sober green (and the colour throughout is sober without dulness) peeps cautiously through the half- opened door, watching for the most favourable moment to escape. The picture bespeaks a practical knowledge of his art in the painter which raises him above the mean ambition of unseasonable dis- play, and makes it possible for him to seek and win a simplicity of effect too rare to be overlooked. A French peasant feeding her canary-bird is another specimen of the same artist's original and quiet power. Mr. Watts is one of the few portrait-painters of our time who give us men and women free from affectation, and from the conscious air which seems to ask, "How do I look in this attitude ?" His likenesses, too, as well of feature as of character, are unusually accurate. But if his portrait of Mr. Gladstone be one of his later works, it shows no sign of over- coming his tendency to dirtiness in colour. Perhaps anything is better than gaudiness, but Mr. Watts needs not the device of a foul face and unwashed linen to show his dislike of that fault. Two landscape sketches, one by Mr. Barwell and the other by Mr. W. Field, are the only other things deserving commendation in this very poor collection. True it is, the catalogue contains some eminent names, but they are appended to inferior specimens of their work, to which it will do them no good to attract attention. Finally, one may be excused for asking whether it was incorrect drawing, disagreeable colour, or absence of expression which won its prominent position for Mr. Stanhope's large canvas?
The solitary exception already alluded to is of course the exhibi- tion of sketches and studies by the Water Colour Society. Here at least we do not get the sedimentary residuum of a picture-dealer's stock in trade : and though even here membership would some- times appear to give the signal for a "rest-and-be-thankful," though neither Mr. Burton nor Mr. George Fripp have this year contributed a single sketch, and though it is not everything here exhibited that carries with it evidence of unsophisticated sketching or study from nature, yet on the whole the specific character of the exhibition is maintained, and the standard of former years has not seriously declined.
One of the first sketches that strikes the eye in going round the gallery is "The Cartoon Gallery, Knole," by Mr. J. Holland (11). It is one of a series made in that most picturesque of houses, all of marvellous delicacy an-I beauty. Very remarkable is the manner in which the artist weaves the tint of his paper into the general scheme of his colour ; still more remarkable the instinctive feel- ing for beauty and harmony which has made a sheet of scrap-work, —a bit finished here, another bit indicated there, and the whole over-scrawled with written notes of colour and form, —please the eye with a peculiar completeness as of a finished work of art. "A Dish of Colour" (346), some flowers thrown loosely on a china plate, is true to its name, a most skilful combination of delicate hues. Mr. Holland's sketches are like well remembered dreams of nature, of things strongly impressive which he has once seen and
"forbears again to look upon." Mr. Boyce, on the contrary, is strongly realistic, and scrutinizes every item with accurate but not unfeeling pencil. In his "Sketch near the Ouse Burn, Newcastle" (175), we have the very apotheosis of chimney-pots : which is not meant in derision, but in admiration of artist-like treatment of common objects. Neither let ' it be overlooked that he has here painted bright morning sunshine shed on town and river, and broken what appeared to be a spell binding him inexorably to rueful skies and twilight solemnity. Of
both these he supplies specimens, "After Sunset at Abinger " (79) being particularly beautiful. Few others would have taken the pains, if they had the ability, to put such fulness of colour as he has done in "Whitby Abbey" (112). And in the green-grey church interior at Giornico (156), a sketch dated 1856, he has given himself a perilous rival to emulate in 1866. There is another good sketch of a church interior at Capri (386), slighter than the other, but equally delicate in colour ; this is by Mr. A. Fripp, whose principal contribution, however, is "The Shrine of Santa Prasede at Rome" (217). This is a masterly drawing of one of the many frescoed and gilded churches of Italy. It is not less daring than harmonious in colour, and very vigorous in execution. Nothing in the gallery leaves a more abiding im- pression on the memory. Near it hangs a drawing of very differ- ent quality, but also of unusual merit, by Dr. Davidson, "At Portmadoc " (221), where the eye ranges over a broad estuary to the low hills beyond, and up to the lightly floating clouds, with unbroken sense of space and freedom. This is not the only sketch by Mr. Davidson showing care and nice study of nature. In his " Easthill, Hastings" (295), the sky and distant shore bathed in mellow sunlight, lack a more congenial foreground and some middle distance to help the feeling of distance. Of the grander and wilder beauty to be found among the Welsh mountains no artist is a more poetical exponent than Mr. Alfred Hunt. His keen and delicate perception receives freely the im- pressions of nature, which he reproduces stamped with an un- mistakable individuality. "Dollwyddelan Valley" (371) has all his accustomed truth, gradation, and refinement, and more than usual skill of treatment. "Durham" (28) is the same "in little" as his picture of last summer. Perhaps it has greater fulness of colour than the larger work, though this appearance may be due to the more sketchy nature of its companions. "Ice-scratched Hollow" (99) is one of Mr. Hunt's discordant purple-and-green sketches—let us hope the last. His " Cumberland Farmer Cross- ing a Ford" (118), with his horse splashing through the water on a dark night, calls old D. Cox to mind. "Carden, on the Moselle" (144), is a deliciously still twilight, just a trifle disquieted by the patch of green that will not keep its place on the distant hill. Mr. Whittaker still gains in fulness of tone (252), without any loss of freshness. His fresh and clear grey Iketch of Capel Curig (200) is perfect in its way. In, the quality of fulness there is still much for him to do, but he is apparently on the right road. This is the quality in which Mr. Dodgson excels, whose leafy nooks on a Yorkshire beck, rich as they undoubtedly are (130, for example), are, however, less strik- ingly successful than his breezy view on "The Thames near Hambledon " (279). The wind is everywhere—clouds, trees, and water are all full of motion. Mr. A. Glenuie continues to be one of the best colourista in the society, and never in his work betrays any symptom of flagging or fatigue. Some of his little views in the classic neighbourhood of Selborne are admirable specimens of his art (233 and 382). Mr. S. Palmer sends a beautiful sketch in Clovelly Park (105), and Mr. Andrews (among many others that are good) a fine moonlight drawing of the Flavian Amphitheatre, Rome (114). There is more life and spirit in Mr. Willis's sketches than in his more laboured works. His horses, pigs, and cows (7, 209, and 355) have great variety of character, and not a little humour.
The figure-painters have contributed little to the Exhibition. Mr. Lundgren sends a richly coloured sketch of "Cupid wounding a Knight" (406), and some others that border on the common- place. Mr. E. B. Jones exhibits some well posed chalk heads (all apparently studied from the same melancholy and bias& model), but nothing in colour ; and Mr. J. Gilbert's landscapes (34 and 85) are very preferable to his stagey " Richard " (108). But every one must feel grateful for what there is. For an artist to exhibit his sketches is to admit the public, as it were, behind the scenes, and to show the working of his mind while his ideas are yet in embryo. It is no small tax upon a society to support two