THE great majority of the pictures at the Academy give one the feeling that their painters, though often competent work- men, have an entirely different point of view from those men whom we acknowledge as masters. It is not merely a differ- ence of degree, but of kind. There is an essential relation- ship between Rembrandt and Fra Angelico, or Whistler and Watts, paradoxical as it may sound. Each of these had one dominating artistic quality in common,—the desire and the capacity to see things in an interesting manner. Each saw the world with very different eyes and recorded his vision in totally different ways, but each looked for and found qualities of interest and beauty. Great numbers of pictures in present-day Exhibitions seem to be painted by people who do not appear to think that anything further is demanded of them than that they should copy with accuracy the objects they have chosen to paint Too few consider that the most searching criticism is needed in the selection of a subject. Nor is this all. The painter must be for ever on his guard to escape a snare perpetually spread before him. This snare entices him to move along the line of least resistance, and be satisfied if his representation imitates Nature accurately. But accuracy alone is useless in picture-making. There must be that indefinable something which shows that the painter not only saw Nature, bet saw it in an interesting manner. It is vain for the artist to have poetic and noble ideas if his vision of the objects he uses to embody his ideal is commonplace. Also it is useless to be able to draw figures or landscapes correctly if distinction is wanting. Even a sense of colour, which is like charity and covers a multitude of sins, will not avail unless the artist has this fundamental quality of mind, a quality so hard to describe, but so easy to recognise. It would be easy to fill a column of the Spectator with the titles of pictures in the present Exhibition which are without this essential quality. Instead of undertaking this thankless task, let us turn to some of the works which one gladly
recognises as of true artistic achievement. Among vast • expanses of the ugly and the commonplace, the eye lights with pleasure on an exampl of the delicate art of Mr. Horiael,
whose work is unfamiliar at the Academy. Here in the last room is hung a beautiful picture of children, The. Music of
• the Woods (No. 836). The faces of the three children are painted with the greatest refinement and distinction, and in the peculiarly individual manner which is characteristic of the artist. Mr. Hornel has woven a delightful harmony out • of the pale yellow of the primroses and colour of the blue- bells ; and although the general colour of the picture is pale and almost wan, there is no lack of strength. The artist seems to have desired to contrast the restless patches of colour and form which pervade the whole picture with the faces. On these alone the eye rests, and rests with pleasure on account of the beauty of the types and the originality of the treatment. An example of the lack of the central artistic impulse is to be found in Mr. David Murray's picture immedi- ately facing Mr. Hornel's work. Here confronting each other are examples of Nature seen with the distinction that makes a work of art, and the reverse. Mr. Waterhouse in his Phyllis and - Demophoon (No. 232) has joined exquisite colour and beautiful form. The figure in the tree is finely designed, with the inter- weaving of the branches and the arms and drapery. Very happy, too, is the subordinate figure, which, although com- pletely realised, never distracts the attention, but rather leads up to and emphasises the nymph whose lovely face looks down upon the kneeling man. In this quality of subordination Mr. Waterhouse has not been quite so successful in his Jason and Medea (No. 243). Here the attention is divided between the two heads. We wish to look at Jason, who is much the finer of the two figures, but owing to some fault of the design, the attention is taken away by the rather uninteresting Medea.
It is impossible not to regret two such pictures as Mr. " Sargent's Lady Eden (No. 38) and The Countess of Essex (No. 425). In both of these the cleverness is wearisome.
Observation of character and beauty of execution have been forgotten in dexterity. Touches seem to have been put - on, not because they were essential, but because they were startling. Very different is the portrait of Lady Sassoon (No. 237). Here a solid mastery shames the frothy super- ficiality of the other two. In this picture, which is a study • of black enlivened by a little pink, the pale faze full of - character detaches itself with great force. Evidently Mr.
Sargent has found a sitter who could arouse his powers. Portraiture of a very different but very fine kind is to be seen
in Mr. Orchardson's Thomas Carlaw Martin, Esq. (No. 173). ' The simplicity of the means employed in this finely modelled head is such that at first sight the great subtlety of the .treatment is hardly apparent. This phase of the painter's art is infinitely to be preferred to his anecdotes and incidents.
Mr. Clausen has painted sunlight in a way that is perhaps not equalled in any other picture here. His Building the Rick (No. 357) shows the carrying out of the principles he has so ably discussed in his lectures. The composition is vitalised and held together by the use of strong shadows and inter- vening patches of sunlight. This has been done in such a way as entirely to avoid the patchy effect so often produced by sunshine in pictures. The figures on the top of the rick • against-the sky are finely treated, and everywhere the picture shows the happy union of effective design enforcing the expression of the action. The colour is rich and harmonious, and Mr. Clausen has attained a notable effect of luminosity in the sky and sunlit background by the skilful framing of the dark leaves of the chestnut-trees.
The delicate art of Mr. Stott is well seen in his The Reaper and the Maid (No. 205). Very skilful is the fusion of the two
sources of light in the picture, the glowing remains of the . sunset and the light thrown by the rising moon. Mr. Stott knows well how to make his pastoral figures one in feeling with the landscape, and this valuable quality is finely exemplified here. Another painter who deals with light is Mr. Arnesby Brown. The Thunder-Cloud (No. 851) shows that he has great knowledge of cloud-form, and knows how to make the mass of piled-up cumulus look vast and imposing.
Here, at any rate, are some pictures well worth looking at, and which have more than a passing interest. There are more, too, to which attention will be directed later. But 'they are but a tiny handful of grain out of a great and overpowering quantity of chaff. If some of the best pictures have been painted by Academicians, certainly the worst come also from the members. This perhaps, granted existing conditions, could not be avoided. At the same time, there is no excuse for the hanging of such numbers of pictures which are false in feeling, vulgar in taste, and showy in execution. Heavy is the responsibility of those who, without care for the example they are setting, give the endorsement of exhibition to such pictures. To mix indifferently good and bad together as if there were no difference is to delude the uninstructed, and discourage those endeavouring to maintain