INSTITUTE OF OIL PAINTERS.* A GOOD deal of comment, mostly of the satirical kind, has been bestowed upon Mr. H. F. Stock's " Two Lovers Meeting After Death,"—a picture which, whatever may be its defects, shows at least a more earnest struggle after good art than ninety-nine out of a hundred modern performances. The subject is an abnormal *one and is quaintly conceived; and the work has scarcely any relation to Nature, at all events, to any Nature with which we are acquainted. Both the landscape and the bodies of the lovers are treated conventionally, and the figures are halfrunning, half-flying into each other's arms, in a manner for which our present life affords no parallel. In truth, the picture is perhaps a little comic, in that it misses its sublime intention. One can scarcely pardon an artist who makes so large a demand upon us as this, unless he gives us a better return for our intellectual money. The praise should be that the man who painted it meant something definite and worth the meaning, that his failure is a comparative one, due neither to arrogance nor idleness, and that even in its failure the work is interesting and thoughtful. Contrast with this Mr. Walter Langley's "Old Seaman Cutting Cork," an indoor study, done probably in Newlyn, near Penzance, where the same artist painted his picture of Missing." This picture of the old fellow cutting cork is a good example of everything iu art which Mr. Stock does not possess, and is deficient in every quality which he has. It is smoothly painted by an artist who has learnt his trade sufficiently well; its execution is troubled by no sense of attempted impossibility, no striving after the realisation of any high ideal. The colour is just tolerable, the drawing firm and good, the action very carefully and successfully studied. The whole painting says something like this to us,—" Do you want to see a fisherman cutting a cork ? Well, look ! Here he is." Perhaps it is hardly fair to say that the artist has had no ideal iu his work ; he has rather had the ideal of the work itself than any intellectual or emotional conception with regard thereto. We may say, however, that the ideal has been indefinitely lowered ; since it has become a supremely egoistic one. The strangeness of the contrast of these pictures lies in the fact that from the imperfect one and from its method of conception might come great results, but that from the perfection of the other can come nothing but an infinite series of fishermen cutting corks, or waiters drawing them.
A little landscape by Alfred Parsons, called " Noon:, deserves notice ; but it is not one of his best works, and is chiefly notable for the delicate perception of values so evident iu all this artist's work. It has a touch, too, of that heaviness which seems to be growing upon Mr Parsons, —a lack .of fresh air more than a lack of atmosphere, as of a landscape painted from the hottest room of a Turkish bathAs amongst our younger painters Mr. Parsons is one of the most talented, we should be glad to find his pictures freeing themselves from this quality,—one which is peculiarly French, and which is clearly due in the present instance to the artist's Parisian training. "Le er6puscule de la Morgue," as some one calls it, does not suit English landscape. Mr. Seymour Lucas's " Eloped " is the most important subject-picture in the exhibition, both in its size and in the completeness with which the artist has worked out his idea. It represents a hackneyed incident enough—a red-coated, swashbuckling sort of cavalier, standing with his back to an inn fire, with a lady by his side, and an obsequious host rubbing his hands iu the background. The strength of the work is its reality, the weakness its vulgarity ; the first is due to skilful and most industrious work, and to a certain clear-headed common-sense which Mr. Lucas has always shown in his pictures ; the second comes from the habit of looking at every subject mainly from the costume point of view, of putting picturesqueness above beauty, and archmology above thought. With every allowance for this drawback, the present composition is a good picture, clearly accomplishing what it sets out to do, well-drawn and well-painted, and, if we may use the words in a certain sense (which artists will probably understand), we may add well-coloured also. The colour is, indeed, pleasant and suitable, without tieing really fine ; it has not been done with the intention of having any great beauty of colour any more than it has with the intention of securing any great beauty of form. This picture is simply a record of how a certain individual slapped his boots with his riding-whip a hundred years ago, while a woman sat by the fire and considered, perhaps, why she had ran off with him.
Some mention, though unfortunately not of a complimentary kind, must be made of the picture which hangs next to this, by Mr. Herkomer. This is called " A Dying Monarch," and represents a fir-tree which has been struck by lightning, or riven in some way or another. Had it been by a young artist, it would have been unworthy of notice, but as a spedmen of work by an able man it can scarcely be passed over in silence,—if only from its extremeinjuriousness as an example to younger and less well-known men. Mr. Herkomer has been enabled to open a large art-school of his own ; and, no less for the sake of his pupils than for that of his own reputation, he should refuse to exhibit such hasty, ill-considered work as that here shown. It is not only that the picture is of the cheapest, most motiveless kiud, with a black, twisted trunk stuck in the middle of the canvas against a formless sky ; but that the actual work upon it is insolent, careless, and, in the fullest sense of the word, meretricious ; seeking to gain the applause of the ignorant for an audacity which has no relation to strength, and a melodramatic rendering of Nature wholly opposed to either her beauty or her truth. It merely shows the frightful state to which the influence of the Scotch School in the Academy, and the ignorance of the fashionable picture-buyer have reduced English landscape
painting, that a coarse sketch like this—for it is nothing more nor less—can be hung upon the line in a good representative exhibition like the present. It is a pitiful thing to be obliged to say of a man of this capacity, that almost the first picture he painted, "The Last Muster," has been his greatest achievement, and that in the prime of his life, and strength, and popularity, he is going steadily down the hill with regard to the quality of his work, because he imagines that he can do everything he likes to try. The imperfect achievements which his foolish friends applaud, are nothing but a grief to those who really understand his capacities, and desire to see them fully developed. Belonging, as we do, to those who from the first have recognised Mr. Herkomer's ability, and hoped for great work from his hands, we dare to say to him now that unless he entirely alters his course he will never become a great artist. Let him get rid of his miniature painting, and his forgeing, and his mezzotinting, and his etching, and his modelling, and his wood-drawing,—aye, and even of his landscape-painting, and turn his attention to his own department of art—that of modern figure subjects—and he may be one of our greatest artists yet. At present, the work he is doing is not worth anyone's attention, except as a warning. We must close this article with a very brief notice of Mr. Henry Moore's large and beautiful picture of "A Summer Sea "—not wholly successful, we think, in the drawing of the near waves, yet, taking it altogether, the most beautiful piece of atmospheric effect in the gallery ; full of light and misty sunshine, very delicate, and very true.