EXHIBITION OP THB SOCIETY OP BRITISH ARTISTS.
To those who, like ourselves, have come to look upon the Exhibition of the Society of British Artists as "Mr. Anthony's Exhibition," nothing can be more satisfactory than the result of the present year, save in the single respect that his pictures are less than usual in number. The mass of con- tributions serve merely as a foil to his. From this mass, however, heed- ful inspection will distinguish a considerable number of landscapes. Few of these, indeed, are striking, but many are very nice and accurate. Of inventive or dramatic subjects the exhibition is barren to a degree ; being, practically, a near approach to a landscape gallery. The views from nature predominate largely in quantity, and have almost a monopoly of quality ; and, their merits being, as we have said, chiefly of the less salient kind, the general impression is rather under than above what seems war- ranted on the analysis of component parts.
The development of Mr. Anthony's style has been twofold ; the faculty of abstract expression keeping pace with the progress of the power of outward realization. The former is displayed this year more vividly than on any previous occasion. We recognize in the painter's works not only a truly unique gift of execution, a massive strength which creates Nature on the canvass rather than copies her in a merely imitative feel- ing, but also the insight which pierces to the heart of her mystery. In one sense we look upon Mr. Anthony as effecting the most perfect com- bination of the imaginative and realist landscape known to art. He does not appear in the remotest degree to divide the two qualities. He never paints the sentiment as a thing apart—never deals in abstractions as such : bat he perceives them intensely; and he places the scene before you with such absolute truth, and such a perfect rendering of his own perception, that what he sees in nature is virtually all there in his pie- ture, to be felt and traced out by the gazer through a feeling precisely corresponding with that which revealed its prototype to the painter. In "The Village Bridal" (200), Mr. Anthony's largest work, the accord of external nature to the human event is not of the more obvious order of sentiment. Nature is not got up for the occasion. The sky is not cloud- less, but a sea of light vapour, broken by a rift of blue here and there, and whose grey deepens almost into dusky black round the church steeple. An orderly suspense seems over all—over the bridal train, and the knots of villagers, and even the companionable dogs grouped together at the gravel pathway's edge. The feeling, so far from being light. hearted, is of intense seriousness; a seriousness, however, into which me- lancholy enters only so far as into all prolonged contemplation when the mind becomes fixed and broods. To the right, the outside fields lie pale but fair in the autumn sun, leading the thought onward to that wider world beyond the solemn church-grounds, in which their future awaits the bride and bridegroom. "The Glen at Eve" (430) has a look of glory, which seems truly as of the scene itself, not of the representation. The sun is dying behind the farthest trees, but burns through them in- a - fiery haze. Beyond the deep hushed stream the wood stretches, a vista ' of dense embowering green; and masses of rock incrusted with fierce pro. fusion of colour lie about; the vegetation and the rocks, doubled in the " motionless water, reaching across to the one bold promontory on which the peasant-sisters stand, turning homewards from the sunset: rt noble -; work indeed—a poem, if poem ever was produced. Nor less admirable is "The Ferry, Twilight" (230). This is a perfect sleep of Nature ; a ' silence which can be seen, faintly broken, but not disturbed, by sounds of stall active human life. The sky grows dimmer imperceptibly, and the thin crescent moon whiter, and the reflections in the stream sharpen into firmer distinctness. These three works are real things : they grow on the eye and expand ; and you see more and more in them by degrees, as in nature. The whole is stamped with truth, and parts possess wonder- ful actuality—as (to confine ourselves to the first picture) the left-hand chestnut-tree, the scattered autumn leaves, and the hard-smoothed gravel walk. No. 372, "Shadows from the Leaves," has less to arrest the be- holder, but cannot be called inferior. It seems to be the reverse view of "The Rocky Lane" of last year, and has the same delightful sweetness of colour. The sunny coolness of the waving foliage and the rivulet is refreshing ; and the sheep-dog, the only traverser of the lane, capitally introduced. In the figure-study "Thoughtful Hours" (88), what chiefly deserves mention is the easy truthfulness of look in the accessories—the jagged old door, the cradle and blanket, and the green strip of curtain, ' transparent to a subdued light.
Of Mr. Pyne's works—" The Head of the Wastwater," and "The Serves on Wastwater" (48,178)—neither is large, but both are power. fuL They are catalogued as "painted on the spot" ; and have an air of more local truth than is usual with the painter. The first ably expresses a rainy dreariness ; and the latter, especially when viewed from a little distance, stands out as a striking scene impressively rendered. It has the sense of inaccessibility.
Mr. West's Norwegian contributions are numerous and important. 'We were most struck with the "Scene near Hardanger Fiord" (248), with its deep blue mountain-range, against which the peaked rock in the left foreground rises with fine boldness. The waterfall and the sunlight on the rocky pathway are well given. Another waterfall subject, 'Pas Heigh Veien" (290), merits similar praise ; and again' the " Mountain Torrent—Sogne Fiord" (416) is a superior work ; the foreground water in shadow washing the stone-studded sands especially skilful. We might particularize several others, so far as the mere fact of their worthiness roes- but there is not much difference of kind. Mr. West is, moreover, one of the best exhibitors in the water-colour room. Mr. Boddington contributes extensively, appearing in many cases to great advantage. This artist has so intimate a knowledge of a variety of natural aspects, and such eminent skill of hand, he is so well up in his art, and his man. ner is so agreeable, that we regret he will not take the one step further which would free him from a certain oliqueishness, and make him alto- gether one of the select few. It is not always easy clearly to detect Boddington's faults. His colour is sometimes mistaken—as in the "Sedgy Nook on the Thames in the leafy month ofJune " (222)—though even in this respect his style has a basis of truth. He is certainly more chargeable with superfluity than deficiency ; doing too many things in the course of a year. Study he has, and the qualities of - finish ; he only lacks sternness of study. Meanwhile, we can enjoy' him with the most thoroughgoing of his admirers. Among several works very pleasing, and even more than pleasing, we may cite the "Quiet Valley, Autumn—North Wales" (182), partioularly good fit' thi sky; "Summer" (474), and "Mid-day on the Thames" (96), though in this we are uncertain whether that glare of approaching rain which the artists of Mr. Boddington's band render with so much truth was inten- tional; and the "Sketch from Nature" (147) is a most charming little piece of colour. What we have said of Mr. Boddington applies equally to Mr. Percy ; nor are our commendations less amply claimed by the latter artist's picture of "Rain on the Hills—North Wales" (392). A tribute of cordial praise is likewise due to Mr. Clint, who appears more prominently; than usual with a host of views : all full of the fresh free open-air feeling, lively in colour, rich and various in form, and evidently conscientious in likeness. We may refer the visitor to the two Dor- setshire views, Nos. 238 and 283; and there are others not inferior to these.
Another scene excellently conjured up is the "Shady Lane near Soli- hull" (154) of Mr. Ward. The depth and recession of the foliage, and the rutty road—a road one can easily walk along in fancy—are capital : the fault of the picture is its too dusky green. A second Warwickshire lane (234) is similar in merits. In the "Windy Day on the Coast- Oban, Argyllshire" (142), there is overmuch strong tint as distinct from strong colour; and the wave-beaten rock is not massive and resistant enough. Mr. Tennant's and Mr. Wainewright's coast-scenes have a family likeness. In No. 435, "On the Jersey Coast—Dead Calm after Thunder," the former gentleman has portrayed a difficult aspect with muCh reserved force : the latter, in No. 465, "On the Coast near Hast- ings," treats very truthfully an ordinary sunlight and a quietly advancing tide ; but there is some want of interest in the presentment.
One of the most original works in the gallery is Mr. M'Cullinn's "Llyn Idwal " (219)—original, indeed, to the extent of singularity. A vast wall of morning mist envelops all at the height of a few feet from the ground, hanging overhead in huge flocks, and overshadowing the clear sheeny depths of the lake. In rendering this appearance of the water, Mr. M'Cullum has skilfully achieved a difficult attempt ; and the figure stepping forward, as it were, from the bewildering vapours into the world of life, is well placed. The mist itself seems somewhat overdone, and the yellowish foreground is neither pleasing nor natural-looking in colour; but it is difficult to divine the precise limit of truth in an aspect of nature comparatively exceptional. Something May evidently be expected from this young artist ; as also from Mr. R. Elmore, whose small view of " Buckland Village" (303) fully confirms the opinion we formed at the British Institution of his independence of purpose. Here is strong faith- fulness of character, of a Turneresque kind ; and the treatment of the water, with its almost inky shadows, shows perception. An artist whom we identify for the first time this year is Mr. W. Gosling—although his name has appeared before. This gentleman's " Harvest " (260) is fresh and nice, contains a good deal in small space, and is particularly truthful in the waving corn ; and the same valuable qualities of style are visible in his remaining studies, Nos. 223, 254, 298. In colour, they lack bright- ness of hue, though not wanting in brilliancy of touch. The incident of 'Mr. 0: Shalders's "Mountain Ford" (242) is intelligently brought out and Mr. Pettitt's " Lyons " (134) is effective. Of interiors, the exhibition contains four by Mr. Hardy, always happy and select in colour and handling, and eminently so in the "French Cottage" (404); as well as two by Mr. Previa. Of Mr. Hurlstone's Spanish studies the best are the fortune-telling scene, No. 39—appropriate in character and expression ; the " Arrieros " (89), bearing some affinity to a street-group of last year, but considerably less unpleasant ; the "Eimer of the Cathedral of Seville" (454) ; and the "Flower Girl of Seville" (475), most skilled of all in arrangement and quality of colour. No. 494, The Second Daughter of Sir William Eden, Bart." is a nice portrait, so far as the head is concerned ; the colour brilliant, and the espibgle look of pleasure over the captive bull- finch engaging. Among the others, the chief point for remark is the very ugly position of the legs, repeated in Nos. 31 and 60. "The Women of England in the Nineteenth Century" (271), by Mrs. Huristone' is well-intentioned morally, and has a certain nnakilled look of truth: be- yond the intention we forbear to criticize.
If excessive delicacy of toning and contour is an advantage more than counterbalancing the something of namby-pamby it entails, Mr. Baxter may lay claim to success. The most manly of his contributions is the "Portrait of the Son of Alexander Steele, Esq." (143). Mr. Mogford's "Timid Bather" (236) is a creditable study, but tells of the Academy model ; while Mr. Sintzenich's "Margaret of Valois and Lefevre the Re- former" (286)—almost the only historical attempt in the rooms—can at best be called respectable. The "Scouts on the Rocky Mountains, North American Indians" (457), by Mr. Manley, is sharply designed and painted, with well-studied national character. The standing figure wants roundness somewhat.
Mr. Smallfield, in No. 130—the scene from Measure for Measure, where the Duke visits Mariana, who is listening to the song "Take, oh ! take those lips away !"—has evidently aimed at " His endeavour is not successful, yet neither is it an utter failure. Mari- ana is no more than a school-girl sitting for her portrait; and through- out there is nothing vital or passionate. Mr. Smallfield's faults, how- ever, are rather negative than positive, and do not preclude the likelihood of improvement. He shows some feeling for a quiet and judicious dis- posal of colour. This appears more fully in his "Portrait of Miss Blake" (55), which is altogether more satisfactory, and in the accessory flowers, of which there is very delicate handling. Mr. Glass's "Blue of the deepest dye" (184) is not bright, but crude; and there is no finish in its rather coarse precision. Mr. J. T. Peele's "Children in the Wood" (63) is well meant and careful; but he has so thoroughly divested the theme of its beauty that we must pronounce the picture a complete mis- take. The accessories and incident of the subject have not been slighted' yet the sympathy is so entirely unmoved by these two half-washed look- ing children, that the plaintive ballad will be suggested, we imagine, to very few beholders. Mere mention must suffice for the familiar spirit- ings of Mr. Woolmer, the rather quaint " Pacha's Pet" of Mr. Colby Mr. Robinson's "Sketch of an Old Countryman" (389), and Mn, Romilly's unexaggerated domestic subject (237) ; and we exhort the reader religiously to eschew Mr. Noble, Mr. Blencowe, and the Iftenadie Mr. Hay. Mr. Herring exhibits some of his cleverest animal-pictures ; among which we think it no disrespect to him to class " Cromwell's soldiers in possession of Arundel Church, of which they made a guard-room and stable" (191). Mr. Earl is dexterous in another specialty of the same style ; Mr. Maull excellently imitative in "The Larder" (58) ; Mr. Fran_ cis, in No. 190, "War in India," convulsed, but not strong. Mr. Bar- rates dogs (292) are expressive and Mr. Luker's oxen (1115 solid.
In the water-colour room, dr. Perry's animals (514), Mr. Surgey's art- istic Gothic interior (526), the fruit-piece and nest of Misses J. and A. Childs (586, 609)—beautifully rich in colour, and as near the excellence of Hunt's studies as any of a similar kind —Mrs. Withers's always welcome still-life (510, 601), and Mr. P. Holland's purely designed " Callas " (654), deserve. notice. .