5 NOVEMBER 1881, Page 13


UNITED ARTS GALLERY.*—W1NTER EXHIBITION. Tills Gallery is one which has been recently founded by the London International Exhibition Society, for various beneficent artistic purposes, besides the primary one of selling pictures. It chiefly, however, resolves itself at present into a collection of foreign oil-paintings, probably the best which is open in London. The German and Low-Country schools are especially well re- presented, and there are good pictures from France and Italy, though these are comparatively few. The galleries are three in number, exceptionally well lighted and comfortable, and there is not the persistent dealer at your elbow, directly you stop to examine a picture. It is true that the " secretary " is there, but his presence is not oppressively evident. The strength of the Gallery is in cabinet pictures, of little dramatic or poetic in- terest, but frequently showing grasp of character in its more superficial aspects, and almost invariably worked with con- siderable technical skill.

The picture that will excite most interest in the exhibition is No. 42, "Alone," by Josef Israels. In subject and treat- ment, it does not differ from the ordinary paintings of this master ; but it shows his work at its best, both in feeling and execution. It represents a somewhat bare cottage in- terior, in the background a bed, upon which lies a dead woman ; while in front of her, facing the spectator, her husband is seated, his hands pressed closely together. The man's face seems to us to be a triumph of emotional painting, if only because it realises for us so keenly his suffering, without any of the distortion of the features caused by violent grief. This peasant is dry-eyed and motionless,—has sat there by his wife for hours in the same position, trying to realise that she is really dead. In technique, the picture is very fine, the management of the dim, afternoon light, as it fades away into semi-darkness above the dead woman, being especially notable. On the whole, though we may regret that M. Israels dwells so persistently in the Valley of the Shadow of Death, we must allow that he at least perceives the meaning of much of its scenery, and treats it with dignity, as well as power. If we wish to see Death painted from another, and, as we hold, a less real point of view, we have only to look at the large picture here, by Jules Girardet, of an "Incident in the Siege of Saragossa." This represents an inroad of eoldiery into a great cathedral, and the death of two priests at the altar. The altar, with the

• Ws. 111 and U7 New Bond Street. murdered priests, is in the right-hand foreground of the pic- ture, and one of the dying men has tumbled down the altar- steps, and lies in a confused heap towards the spectator ; the other, just shot, is stretching one arm forward to pardon his assassins, and leaning upon the altar for support. The picture is powerful to a high degree, and obtained a third-class medal when exhibited at Paris ; but it is more the tour de force of a clever artist, than anything else. It does not move us a bit. We feel that priests and soldiers alike, are but actors in a drama, and that the real reason for the picture is only to exhibit the painter's skill. Now, exhibition of skill is tolerable in inverse ratio to the importance of the subject with which it is concerned. If an artist paints only a pot and a cabbage, he may exhibit his skill as much as he pleases, if he paints, say, as did the old Dutchmen, a kitchen interior, he may still do the same, but he must not force it quite so much upon our attention ; and so onwards, till when the subject becomes one of intense interest, we find that the skill shown should be veiled entirely. It should never be thought of by the spectator, though of course its effect is felt. The consequence of this is, that when we see any large work of important interest of which our prominent feeling is,— What a clever fellow this painter must be ! it is an invariable sign that be is little more than a clever fellow,—he has never really "touched the happy isles." These remarks apply espe- cially to the large picture of Boden-Miiller, entitled "Charity," a work representing a girl and old woman in medieval costume, relieving a beggar at a cathedral door. This is painted with all that flat thoroughness that marks the wofk of the modern Munich school ; it is industrious and clever in its composition, and carefully drawn. It is difficult to say it lacks anything, except that it has not reached "the happy isles." And the same things may be said, too, of the large work of the "Death of Occur de Lion," by A. Steinheil, though this work is of far greater power than the last mentioned. In several ways, indeed, it is very fine. The colour is sombrely rich throughout, the drawing not only good but strong, and the composition and details carefully worked out. And the painting of the whole is minute, without being niggling. But the work is too laboriom, too evidently laborious, to gain its desired effect. We can only praise the artist's industry, and pass on. Perhaps as good a contrast as could easily be found to this work is the Norwegian "Harvest-field," by Miinthe, a work which, when it was exhibited at our Royal Academy, was hung up out of sight, side by side with one of Heffner's best works. We spoke at the time of the pitiable feeling which alone could have induced such treatment of first-rate foreign artists, so we will only say here that, now that Herr Miinthe's work can be seen, it amply justifies itself, and not its judges. Miinthe is an artist who has succeeded beyond any painter of modern times in giving the true aspect of Wiater,—giving it, too, with a touch of that poetical feeling without which all landscape painting is but a species of coloured photography. The present work is not winter, but late autumn, the time towards sunset, and is, in our opinion, one of the most successful of the artist's works. There is a fine picture by Artz of the "Old People's Home, at Katwyk, Holland," a sort of workhouse interior, showing the old people at dinner. This is a grey and blue picture, something in the manner of Legros. There are many other pictures here of great interest, but these we must leave to the discernment of the sight-seer, merely ex- pressing our opinion that the exhibition is quite the best artistic shillingsworth one can obtain in London just now. A word of praise must be given to the illustrated catalogue, which is a very type of what a catalogue should be, except that it wants an index of exhibitors. The full-page illustrations, of which- there are dozens, are filet-rate, and how the work can be pro- duced for a shilling, in such a style and on such splendid paper, is to us a mystery.