31 JANUARY 1880, Page 14




BEFORE noticing the water-colours in this gallery, we must say a few words on the drawings and studies sent for exhibition by Messrs. Linton, Sandys, and Richmond, and a few others whose names are less familiar to the public. First, let us take Mr. W. B. Richmond, whose work has acquired an interest which it might otherwise have lacked, from the circumstance of its author having been chosen to succeed Mr. Ruskin in the Slade Professorship of Fine Arts at Cambridge. The first thing that strikes us about these " studies " is that they are in no true sense of the word " studies " at all, but rather clever sketches, not done for improvement or future use, but mainly with a view to exhibition. At least, such is the irresistible impres- sion given by the careful way in which the various studies are arranged on the paper, as well as by a certain studied incom- pleteness that pervades them all. But whether this be so or not does not affect the merit of each individual effort; and it is of such alone that it is necessary to speak. The merits chiefly observable are careful work, painstaking if weak, and an attempt at delicacy of drawing both rare and commendable in a young artist; none the less, it must be observed that the work is not in any sense that of a master, and the inaccuracies of the drawing are made the more evident from the figures being somewhat pretentiously anatomical. Mr. Richmond would do well to get the main proportions of his figures more accurate than they are generally in his work, before he insists upon the markings of the various smaller muscles ; and it is somewhat idle to attempt to work in silver point when an artist's drawing is no more assured than we see it here. For the rest, the worst quality observable in Mr. Richmond's work—worst, as being both bad in itself, and one which is little likely to be corrected in future years—is its evident aim- lessness. In all his pictures this infirmity of purpose is evident. There is more strength and, we had almost said, meaning, in a half-drawn thistle by Sir Frederick Leighton, than in all Mr. Richmond's work put together. We had occasion, the week before last, to dwell upon the difference between the figures of Sir F. Leighton and those of Mr. Burne Jones, and we may here add that the figures of Mr. Richmond seem to have been. studied from the works of the latter artist, rather than copied from nature. His men and women are emasculated and (if we may use such an expression) e-feminated—they stand in a state of languid half-being, as if moulded in wax, giving somewhat the impression of those turnip flowers which skilful greengrocers display for the admiration of passers-by. Mr. Linton sends some studies of drapery, chiefly a figures without heads, which seem somewhat out of place amongst the other work of this gallery. They are skilfully exe- cuted, but seem to aim at a wholly different effect to any that we are accustomed to connect with such studies, and neither in beauty of line, intricacy of fold, variety of design, nor refinement of light and shade, are they worthy of admiration. They seem to be studies of good, serviceable clothing, such as might have been procured from the cheap tailor of the period, if cheap tailors existed so long ago. The admirers of chalk drawings,

of what may, perhaps, be called the old school, will find much to please them in the large portraits contributed to this gallery by Mr. F. Sandys, a singularly skilful and painstaking workman, whose great picture of Medea was so harshly treated by the Press, some years back. To us, these portraits seem to possess every quality of good portraits, except just that one touch which would have made them great; they rise to the very highest point of the common-place, but, alas ! they rise- no further. It may be that a dozen or so years may have made us unduly partial to the picture of Medea by this artist, to which we have referred above, but we cannot help thinking Mr. Sandys is capable of better things than this elaborate por- traiture of common-place people. A little picture, No. 461,. called "The Sisters," by Mr. Fairfax Murray, requires a word. of notice for the originality of its mode of execution. It has been drawn upon common brown-paper with black-and-white chalk, into which gold has been worked here and there in the background, in the dresses, 45.:c. The effect produced is very quiet and harmonious, and yet possessed of a richness hardly to be found in an ordinary chalk drawing.

We now come to the consideration of the water-colour draw- ings which fill the large West Room and the smaller one known as the Sculpture and Water-Colour Gallery. One side of the west room is now filled with works by Dutch painters, who_ belong to the Hague Society of Painters in Water-colours.. These pictures have, we believe, been brought over at the in- stance of Mr. Alma Tadema, R.A., who, we understand,. assisted by Mr. Comyns Carr, introduced them to our critical contemporaries of the Press before the opening of the exhibition.. It is always a rash thing to take a diametrically opposite view to that of a crowd of cognoscenti, but in this case we have- no alternative, and we wish to state our opinion in terms which it shall be impossible to mistake. That opinion is, that these- water-colours, so far from being good models for the imitation of our artists, or worthy of admiration from our amateurs and sightseers, are neither the one nor the other; that they are not even indifferent performances, that can be classed with much of our English mediocre art, and passed over in silence, but that they are distinctly and for the most part utterly bad. We- challenge any critic who has admired these works, and recorded his admiration in print, to deny that they are, with hardly a single exception, destitute of all gradation of colour, all beauty of colour, all beauty of design, and all definite form. There is not from beginning to end of this series a single object in nature drawn with even an approach to correctness ; there is not a single instance in which the texture of any object represented is even attempted to be given ; there is not a single combination of beautiful line, and only one in which there is the slightest attempt to depict pure colour. It is sufficient to make any honest and commonly intelligent person despair of his countrymen in art matters, when those who write on art are so ignorant of all true aasthetic principles as to hold up for the admiration of the people such grievous daubs as those that now hang on the walls of the Grosvenor Gallery. Let us be clearly understood,—we do not deny that there is one quality in these works worthy of praise, and that is what is com- monly known among artists as "tone," that is, as nearly as can be expressed shortly, the right relation of the various shades used in the picture; but so far from this being the whole of art,. it is hardly the beginning, and the right criticism on those Dutch water-colours is that which ought to be passed upon. Whistler's pictures, namely,—that if art can be said to con- sist in leaving off just where the difficulties begin to occur,. there is little difficulty in being an artist, and no merit. What on earth is the good of " tone " in a picture, or a man,. if there's nothing else; any one can paint in good tone who painted only in grey and white, or grey and black, or any other neutral colours. You might as well praise a man's correct use of words and terseness of diction, when his speech consisted simply of a verb and a substantive, such as "fire burns," or "water flows." It must be repeated over and over again, that some dyes of neutral tint, however harmonious, will not of themselves make an adequate picture, or, strictly speaking, a picture at all; that beautiful forms cannot be rendered by some formless patches of tint, that light and shade mean more in nature than one grey uniformity of tone. Let us take a few of these Dutch. water-colours, and see how far they warrant our dislike to, their method. No. 2 in this west gallery is a drawing called "The Peacock Feather," by J. Mans. It repre- sents a child in a dirty-white frock, with white satin shoes, -sitting in a half-light, holding a peacock feather in her hand; on the floor beneath is the fan from which the feather has been picked. The background of this picture is smudged about, apparently without any special inten- tion. Now, what we wish to call our readers' attention to in this work is that it is not only false to the facts it expresses— as, for instance, in the colouring of the peacock-fan and the child's flesh—but that it is wilfully ugly. The child's dress is a combination of dirty finery, at least such is the impression given by the tone of the white ; the background, the floor, and the fan are, not so much gloomy, as dirty in colour; the face has no individuality, and tells no story. What is to be gained by looking at or painting such a picture P What possible good can it do to spectator or artist ? It is not beautiful, it is not suggestive, it is not even true, and yet here it is, in this most -wsthetic of galleries.

Look at No. 3, by E. J. du Chattel, called "A Rainy Day." 'This is a little, greeny-grey landscape, with some blurred willows in the middle-distance. The sky is supposed to be one -of grey clouds, but no clouds ever were at once so broken and so formless, and the whole picture is spotted about, apparently without any reason, with little dabs of bright body-colour, till it looks as if it had been laid face downwards on the artist's pallet. No. 5, "At Anchor," by G. Henkes, is a row of fishing-boats, anchored a few yards from shore in a somewhat rough sea, at least from the dull colour and the broken patches of white we believe it is intended to represent a rough sea, though it might -as well represent a ploughed field, were it not for the fishing- boats. We looked at this picture from every varying point of distance that the breadth of the gallery afforded us, and we failed to find that even from the farthest point was there any likeness to rough water. A certain yellowish mass, broken here and there by patches of white paper, represented the sea, 'but drawing there was absolutely none, nor was there even truth of effect.

No. 7 is a landscape by Van de Sande Bakhnysen, remark- able only for the same characteristics as those we have mentioned above,—absence of colour, and either absence or mis- representation of form. Take another class of subject, the two .drawings of flowers and pears, numbered 9 and 15, by Madame Mesdag van Houten, and with the recollection of William Hunt's work fresh in your mind, go and stand before these works, and say what quality of admirable art you can there find. 'Truth of colour P Assuredly not ; the colour is vague and un-

So we might go on through these works, but we are leaving little space for those of our countrymen, and. so will only men- tion, in conclusion, the best of their pictures, which is No.

16, by Joseph Israels, and is entitled "Left Alone." This re- presents the usual Israels scene, namely, an old woman sitting alone by the side of a dead man, who (in this last instance) lies on the bed by her side ; the rest of the picture is, as usual, a low, dark cottage interior, with faint light coming in from a window

in the background. Here the one merit of these Dutch painters reigns supreme,—the tone of the picture is perfect ; more than this, the feeling of desolation is conveyed with all this artist's -wonted ability. But it must not be overlooked that, as we have said above, it is comparatively easy to be harmonious, -when nothing brighter than tertiary colour is used. The use of such colours is certain to entail upon an artist not only a -very limited choice of subject, but to ultimately render him in- capable of seeing true colour at all. It is just like wearing blackened spectacles for a few years,—they are very soothing to the eye, and all objects seen through them are nice and har- monious in their inky tones, but their use is hardly likely to increase the power of seeing clearly and truly; and to gain such sight is one of an artist's hardest tasks. So, again, to look at .every object in the twilight is a comparatively simple way of avoiding all the subtleties of outline revealed in a brighter light; and so, to speak plainly, are the two greatest difficulties of art evaded by the water-colour painters of whom we have been speaking. We have spoken thus plainly upon the merit of these works, because we believe it to have been a fatal error of judgment on the part of Sir Coutts Lindsay to have given them such a conspicuous place in his gallery ; and for this reason, —they are the very worst examples of art that could be put before our young painters, and it is hardly to be hoped that they, seeing daubs of such facile ignorance applanded by the critics and honoured by the exhibitor, will not be led away into attempting to reproduce in their own practice the methods of execution that we have been criticising so severely. And in this we are not speaking purely from what is likely to happen, for it would be easy to point to more than one young English painter who has been led away by the meretricious cleverness of the foreign landscape-painting,and has ever after wandered in hopeless confusion, trying to combine his old practice and his new theory. And the exhibition of these works is far more likely to affect artists than the public, simply because the ordinary public do not see, as does an artist, all the errors involved therein, all the ignorance which they imply. It is more than likely that many a young artist, who is working hard in all humility to gain the power of making his sight true and his hand accurate, will, in the bitterness of his soul at the misplaced admiration he sees bestowed upon such work, abandon his efforts after real truth and beauty, and seek only, as Ruskin once said, in another connection, "to daub his way to emolument and oblivion." Look, for instance, at that portrait, by Edward Clifford, of "Lady Olive Guinness" (No. 61) ; a pale woman, in a dark dress, with a background of deep blue sky. It is impos- sible to help seeing that that picture is a failure, perhaps we might say, an utter failure ; and yet, failure as it is, there is more in it than there would be in a thousand of such Dutch landscapes as those we have spoken of, for one cannot help seeing also that Mr. Clifford has been trying to make a Titian portrait, that is, the most beautiful one he knows, and, indeed, the failure, like the failures of most earnest efforts, has in it some little trace of the desired object. Take this portrait, and put it in your mind's eye beside the bargeman's head, by Mr. H. Herkomer, that hangs in the middle of the side wall, and you will get pretty well the two extremes of art ; but of this, too, we cannot stay to speak farther than to say that the two works typify the real and the false artistic frame of mind—the real being that which sees beyond its utmost efforts an infinitude of beauty which can never be reached ; the false, that which feels that its powers are greater than the requirements of the objects on which those powers are exercised.

No. 62 is a clever view of the Thames at Greenwich, by Jules Lenore, its chief fault being that all objects are just a little blurred, as if the picture had been a photograph, and the land- scape had shifted itself a little while the view was being taken. No. 63 is an example of an English painter ruined by imitation of foreign work. Three years ago, we warned Mr. Fisher that his work would be spoilt by his continued imitation of the French blottesque rendering of nature, and to-day, we are sorry to say that our warning has come true. No. 65, "A Storm in St.

Andrew's Bay," by W. E. Lockhart, R.S.A., is a very clever, rough sketch ; for those who are admirers of the old water-colour school of painting, we can mention that in some respects Mr. Lockhart is equal to David Cox, who never painted wetter sand and fresher weather than there are in this sketch.

From this to Mr. C. E. Holloway's "A Windy Evening" is a translation from the old to the new, and though in some respects Mr. Holloway's work is the finer, it is hardly a comfortable pic- ture; and surely the colour of the sea is a little exaggerated, in its yellowish white. Mr. IT. Holiday has sent a large and important work, in illustration of one of the scenes from Wagner's opera

of Das Rheingold, representing the Rhine maidens, three nude female figures floating upwards in the moonlight, with a

background of mountain peaks. The first impression given by this work is one of sorrow at there being so much good work in it, we will not say wasted, but a little unfortunate in its effect.

The truth is, we suppose, that imaginative subjects of this class require a peculiar ability, such, for instance, as that of Sir Noel Paton, to render them successfully, and that here the peculiar ability has been wanting. It is no use to find fault with a picture like this, for this or the other detail of treatment. All depends upon the fact of whether the artist's imagination has worked freely, and made the subject live. Here it has not done so ; the effort has been great, the spectator feels that, but

it has not been successful, and we can only hope that Mr. Holiday's next work will be as fortunate as this is patiently industrious. Perhaps the most thoroughly attractive little water-colour in this gallery, though it is scarcely of more im- portance than a sketch, is one by Mr. A. B. Donaldson, called "Evening Lights," Holland, a river scene at sunset, which should be studied by all those who love the quiet effects of evening light upon calm water and low-lying landscape. Miss Edith Martineau sends one of her soberly painted portraits, which though, perhaps, somewhat failing to carry out the quotation given, is notable for its good work, and its utter absence of all affectation. It is a pity that Miss Martineau confines herself so exclusively to a somewhat poor key of colour; we should like to see some of her work in richer and purer tint. Considering the amount of reputation and un- doubted skill in design of its author, the worst thing in this exhibition is a picture called "The Triumph of Spring," by Walter Crane. This is bad in every way ; the colour is harsh and ill-assorted, the painting of flesh and drapery so bad as to be beneath criticism, and the drawing and anatomy of the figures feeble, where they are not wrong.

Nos. 91 and 108, by W. G. Addison, are thoroughly pleasant and painstaking Spring landscapes, in the latter of which the drawing of the chestnut leaves and flowers is very good. Mr. Addison should be on his guard against a somewhat heavy quality of green which he is apt to get in his pictures. "The Music Lesson," by Tristram Ellis, is, we fear, an affectedly pre-Raphaelite piece of work, though portions of it, as, for instance, the violin, are finely painted. The whole picture is almost a burlesque, especially the child's face. We must leave out, from want of space, many pictures we should like to have dwelt upon at some length, only mentioning, as decidedly clever and somewhat imaginative work, the two pictures by Mr. H. J. Stott, Nos. 115 and 120; a careful Venetian scene by Mr. E. J. Poynter; a fine study of a man in armour, by Mr. Linton ; and a very bad, pretentious picture, by the same artist, of "Youth and Time ;" a fine and truthful effect of the Thames at night, with the Embankment lights reflected in the water; two finished studies by Mr. Briton Riviere, A.R.A., for his picture of "Circe and Daniel ;" and a clever picture of a Spring orchard, by Alfred Parsons.

The "Silver Twilight," by Mr. P. M. Morris, A.R.A., is unreal and sickly in tone ; and what may be called the neo-Jacobean portraits, by Mr. J. C. Moore, seem to us to take away from children the little simplicity their French bonbons and scien- tific toys have yet left them. In the Water-colour Galleries, Miss Alice Squire has a pretty little landscape, somewhat in the style of Mrs. Ailing]] am ; Mr. D. Carr, a picture. of "Red Roses," very beautiful as a piece of colouring ; Walter Severn, a picture of "Havre Gosselin, Island of Sark," that reminds one of Pratt, and is very sunny, and strong both in drawing and colouring. Mr. F. S. Walker has a picture of the "Convent Garden," a little conventional in its figures, but fresh and plea- sant in its foliage and landscape. Mr. A. C. Gow has a very carefully studied little picture of "A Solo on the Violin," rather Meissonnier-like in its execution. And there is a picture by C. Green, of "The Rent Collector," that would make a good pair with the last mentioned. We must close this article with a word as to the sunniest and prettiest little landscape in the whole gallery, and one which should be hung up in the centre of the muddy Hague daubs, to point the contrast. This is," 0, the Sweet Spring !" by Frank E. Cox, an English girl coming down a green meadow, holding a child by the hand,—meadow, sky, and maiden as fresh, and bright, and fair as English air can make them.