2 MAY 1891, Page 17



[FIRST NOTICE.] IN this short note of a first impression, it is proposed to ignore the tiresome freaks of the average Academician, the huge depressing photographs of funerals, meetings, and medicine-bottles from Newlyn and elsewhere, and all the other irritating performances that are known as Pictures of the Year, and to single out from among the oil-paintings a few that deserve attention for their art. Ba, first, one general reflection on the art that so solemnly calls itself "imaginative." It is generously supposed that when a painter takes a subject out of Homer, or, it may be, Lerapriive, and that subject includes some mythic or chimeric creature, that his art thereby becomes imaginative. The fact is otherwise. To take a grotesque beast of Greek folk-lore like a harpy or a, hippogriff, is to choose a subject that the modern imagination boggles at in a picture, however much modern euhemerism May welcome it for the pulpit. It is true that a painter of Mr. Burne-Jones's genius can new-imagine a horror in the twist of a mermaid's tail or the coil of a dragon ; but why does Sir Frederick Leighton meddle with the story of Perseus if his tact in dragons is no better than this umbrella entangled with an exploding boiler? Why must Mr. Waterhouse imagine the tale of Ulysses and the Sirens as a modern picture? Mr. Waterhouse's Sirens are not the two Sirens of Homer sitting in the island-meadow, but that is another point, and of no impor- tance. That runs smoothly in the verse of Homer, where one hears the song, and surmises but does not picture a gruesome- charming creature ; or it decorates a vase with a conventional arabesque ; but to join a modern portrait-head to the antique grotesque of the bird-body, and work out the scene with the resources of modern realism in painting, is to be too literal with an ugly, savage fancy. Even a Christian angel could not bear such treatment. Mr. Waterhouse, be it noted, is one of the most skilful painters in the Academy. Another painter who for the same reason deserves criticism, is Mr. S. J. Solomon. His picture need not be criticised as a myth, for the subject is only a pretext for the painting of a nude model. The figure, as nude, is in many ways laudable. There is nothing to compare with it in the Academy. As picture, well, it remains a model, weakened by the would-be prettiness of the head, accessory figures, and scene, that are compromises with fact and not good enough fiction.

In portrait there is at least one fine picture, the Waller Gilbey, Esq., of Mr. Orebardson. It is in the familiar scheme of red chair, yellow-brown clothes, yellow-green background ; but it is an uncommonly fine example of the scheme. The method of the painter, his peculiar brush-stroke, is justified by the effect it renders of playing, vibrating light and air ; the head is delightful for character, and in the hands, the seals, the papers on the knee, the quality of colour is also a delight. To paint like this is to be with Gainsborough. Another notable portrait is Mr. Lavery's Lennox Browne, Esq., P.B.C.S. (878). Here is no forced likeness starting from a canvas, but a picture of a man in a room. Where, one wonders, are the other pictures one hoped for from Mr. Lavery and his compeers; does the Glasgow Institute absorb them, or did the Hanging Committee consider that the true Scotch note was struck in the absurd Pibroch of Mr. Lockhart Bogle P Mr. Sargent this year shows two portraits, and it is needless to say that for painting-power few things in the Academy come near them ; one is the famous Spanish dancer, La Carmencita, another is named Mrs. The foot of Carmencita, the shot-silk dress of the other sitter to name details, are lessons for painters in power of seeing and dexterity of handling; and mora remarkable is the power that sees the figure of the dancer whole. But Mr. Sargent's colour-sense seems to be in an irritated, morbid phase ; the painter of 0(21-nation, Lily, Lily, Bose, flaunts the savage tint of yellow in the dancer's dress, of red and green in the lady's, which are surely bravado, and as colour seem abominable. Mr. Clausen'a portrait-group of children (255), Mr. W. Mouat Loudon's Mary (339), and the clever, if imitative, F. T. Martin, Esy. (561), of Miss M. Cotton, may also be named.

And now to enumerate desirable pictures of other kinds. Mr. Greiffenhagen's An Idyll (206) seemed the finest piece of colour in the exhibition,—poppy-red, blue-green grass and leaves, purple draperies, red rising moon. Mr. Hook, the veteran, shows a fine coast and sea in the first gallery (33), only marred by the awkward little figure that gives it its title. Mr. Tadema's museum is rich as ever in marble, mother-of- pearl, and subtle coloured stuffs (298); as ever, it is poorest in ita§ human specimens; and the Irish Secretary (143) fares at his hands even as his predecessor with Mr. Oulesa (266). Mr. Stott of Oldham sends his Bathing-Place (239), seen and admired already in London some years ago. Mr. Henry Moore's blue sea has been seen and admired before, in another sense ; and Mr. Noble's two landscapes, Mr. Peppercorn's one, and Mr. Swan's study of panthers have familiar merits. Other names are less familiar. Mr. R. G. M. Coventry is one of the few here who seem to have passed through that useful pur- gation of the eyes that Monet supplies, and to have used his eyes thereafter with discretion : his two pictures, Trawlers Mending Nets (643) and Autumn, Loch Ard (883), are striking amid so many primitive accounts of the colour of shadows. Mr. Meyerheim's In Holland (969) is a charming little piece of colour. Mr. J. Walter West's moonlight effect (1,012) is good work, and Mr. W. J. Shaw's Night (1,072), and Mr. C. H. Davis's The Approach qf Night (1,074), come very near success. The same may be said of Mr. W. Belgmve's Evening on North Fi.ambridge Marshes (149), and of two pieces by Miss M. F. Fender (675 and 924).