6 JANUARY 1906, Page 26


THE WINTER EXHIBITION AT THE ACADEMY. THE collection of pictures to be found at Burlington House this winter is undoubtedly a good one. English painting from Dobson to Watts is represented, and we are able to claim many masters belonging to our own country. Besides native art, we are given some notable examples of the later schools of the Low Countries ; but these, fine as they are and very welcome, are not in any sense representative. Before proceeding to the examination of the pictures in detail, it is impossible not to take notice of the methods of the Academy in relation to some painters who have not long been dead. During their lifetime Rossetti, Burne-Jones, and Alfred Hunt were not favoured by those who control the Academy. Hunt and Rossetti were never even made Associates ; Burne-Jones, though given the • These subscriptions are promised subject to the condition "that the rest of the money required can be collected or promised." f Will increase to E50 if necessary.

Provided that 100 other readers of the Spectator subscribe gt oath. first step in Academic rank, was denied the full title and retired. How comes it that the work of these men is included in an Exhibition of what the Academy calla

" Masters of the British School " ? There is but one answer. The artistic public know quite well that these men were masters, and the Academicians, wishing to attract people

to their galleries, with a profitable cynicism bang the works of those masters who were despised while they lived. The Academy has, indeed, been a stepmother to many a genius

while he was alive ; "but die, and she'll adore yon,"—to quote the undying phrase of Pope.

An English painter who makes a great impression upon us in the present Exhibition is Hogarth more by his portraits than by his subject-pictures. The little boy (No. 1) is a fine piece of bold and accomplished workmanship of the perfectly straightforward kind. The painting is more sympathetic in character than that of the Mrs. Desaguliers (No. 2), which, though full of power, is rather metallic and bard. A fine work attributed to Hogarth here is the portrait of James St. Av,byn (No. 7). There is something of Rembrandt's power of realising old age, and something, too, of his profound knowledge of structure and modelling. The painting is ull of vigour and spirit, and solid without showiness. The dark-complexioned face of the old man is relieved against the white wig, and looks keenly out of eyes which are painted with an admirable sureness of touch. This is one of those pictures which leave a distinct impression on the mind, and in which there is a separate and living identity.

Mozart said that a little of the music of the Zauberflote was written to please the public, but most of it was composed for himself and his friends. The pictures by Reynolds here exhibited seem to show a similar procedure. It is difficult to realise that the portrait of himself (No. 86) is by the same hand as the group of Lady Harrington and two children (No. 87). The former is a bead of sombre hue relieved against a dark background. The artist is here interpreting form and light and shade, building up the work, and causing it to emerge from shadow by the play of half-tones and lights upon the planes of the head. He is dealing with the subtleties of form revealed by light. In the other picture we are conscious of the desire to compound something pleasing and taking. The skill to arrange a group is there; but there is too much pretti- ness instead of beauty, and a lifeless convention is apparent in the painting of the faces. So it is with the portrait of George III. (No. 82) ; the artist is filling a canvas with a conventional pattern, and remains uninterested and untouched. Very different is the large portrait of Dr. Ash (No. 73). The old face is full of character, and though there is formality in the red-robed sitting figure, there is also life and dignity. It is difficult to judge the well-known child picture, The Hon. Leicester Stanhope (No. 74). Though full of life and painted with infinite spirit, the work is one that has set a fashion, and its style has been so often imitated and vulgarised, by Millais among others, that an unprejudiced feeling is difficult. But the laughing child with curly hair and blue sash beating a drum is a real piece of child nature, no matter what doubts may be raised by the subsequent artistic influence of the picture.

The finest Gainsborough here—and it is one of his master- pieces—is the portrait of the violinist, Felice de' Giardini (No. 78). The clear-cut Italian features are splendidly realised, and the sensitive treatment conveys an unforgettable impression of the personality of the musician. Then, too, what could be more perfect than the treatment of the red coat, in which the vermilion has been painted over the warm browns, with that lightness of band Sir Joshua praised ? If the artists who intend to dazzle our eyes next spring with their portraits of soldiers' uniforms and hunting-coats would but come here and learn, we might be spared many eyesores which devastate the Exhibitions with the colour and the technique of the pillar-post box.

There are several portraits by Romney, but when these are seen side by side with the works of the masters they appear unendurably cheap and poor. Romney had a keen eye for sensational prettiness, and owes most of his fame to this and to the interest he arouses in the student of letters and history. To judge of his purely artistic powers we have only to compare such a vapid piece of work as the portrait (No. 88) with the pictures by Reynolds and Gainsborough already described (Nos. 83 and 78).

In the large room there is to be found a magnificent work by Frans Hale (No. 102). It is supposed to represent the painter and his family. Whether this be so or not may be left to the compounders of footnotes and biographies to decide. Let us revel in the magnificence of the painting undisturbed. The picture is a large one, for the figures are life-sized and full- length. In the middle of the group sits a portly man full of robust vigour holding the hand of his wife, while on one side stands a son and on the other a daughter. "A Song of Good Life" the picture might be called, for an air of prosperous good temper pervades all the figures, except the black servant-boy who stands behind, an alien of a subject race. The back- ground of the picture is a sombre-hued landscape painted with quiet restraint, thus giving full value to the brilliant and dash- ing execution of the figures. Perhaps the first thing that strikes us about this fine work is the way in which the painter has made all the figures seem alive. They are all real people, and their characters quite distinct. The mother and daughter have a quiet vitality, but more assurance is seen in the older woman, while the father and his son have exuberant life. There is a fine contrast between the heavy strength of the man and the alert- ness of the boy. Indeed, this last figure standing on the left- band side of the picture is singularly attractive. The face and hands are astonishing pieces of painting, and if there is any one who believes that splendid technique is only a painter's vanity, let him compare this figure with Romney's full-length _portrait of a boy (No. 76). Romney's figure looks like a dummy stuffed with sawdust.

After such robust work as that of Hale, Van Dyck's painting looks a little thin, but his Wife of Snyders (No. 104) and the portrait of the Duke of Richmond (No. 93) are impressive after their fine-gentlemanly fashion.

The works of Turner, of which there are twenty here, show the master in many of his varied phases. In the Adonis Departing for the Chase (No. 28) Turner is seen in the less familiar role of imitator of Titian and Rubens, though, in spite of the inspiration from without, there is plenty of originality in the work. The figures prove that Turner's taste, so refined and delicate when dealing with mountain forms or clouds, was at fault when he painted human forms. The disposition of these figures on the canvas, guided by the painter's marvellous sense of composition, is so exactly right that their imperfections of form are masked by their just- ness of position. The colour of the picture is rich and glowing, and the touch decided and expressive ;—especially is this so in the sky. Among the water-colours by Turner here are the large Devil's Bridge (No. 211) and the wonderful little Mont Cenis in a Snowstorm (No. 210). It is in such a work as this last that Turner remains unapproachable as a painter of the Alps.

Among the six works by Barne-Jones, two are well known, the Love among the Ruins (No. 128) and the Laus Veneris (No. 121). This latter shows very clearly the limitations of Burne-Jones as a colourist. In various parts of the picture are draperies of brilliant hue,—orange, red, and blue are here, but they never unite to form a harmony. Rather the colours stand aloof from one another, as if not on speaking terms. This is not the case with the works of great colourists. The red, blue, and orange of Titian's Bacchus and Ariadne sing together like the morning stars, while the colours of the Lane Veneris "grate on their scrannel pipes." The four pictures from a series of St. George and the Dragon show Burne-Jones painting with far less precision of outline than he was accustomed to do in later years. The effect is that these pictures have a quality and atmosphere which are often missing from his work. At the same time, the characterisa- tion is not as forcible and complete as it became afterwards. The most beautiful of these pictures here shown (they were originally painted for Mr. Birket Foster's dining-room) is The Return of the Princess (No. 125), which with its crowd of quietly coloured figures is full of charm.

The greatest of the Preraphaelites, Rossetti, is repre- sented here by eight works. The best of the oil pictures is The Bride (No. 117). This is a really beautiful painting, and has not got those exaggerations of form which defaced so many of his later works, as, for instance, may be seen in the Mnemosyne (No. 119). Rossetti was never so happy when using oil paint as he was when working in water-colour. Great as are the beauties of The Bride, we have only to turn from it to the Watts, The Amber Necklace (No. 118), which is

alongside, to feel that Rossetti was not an oil-painter by race. But if this is so, there is no question as to his power of getting astonishing effects from water-colour, as may be seen in A Christmas Carol (No. 192).

There are shown in the present Exhibition a number of works by Simeon Solomon, the artist who died so miserably last year. He, like Rossetti, whom he followed, was happier in water-colour than in oil. In the former medium he showed a fine sense of delicate colour, which delighted in creamy whites and pale golden hues. The Mystery of Faith (No. 191) is an example of this. The young priest, holding up a monstrance, is clothed in white-and-gold robes, and the sympathy between these and the delicately iridescent mosaics of the background is finely carried out. The priest's face is full of expression, and has an intense humanity not often found in the work of Rossetti. The Greek Priest (No. 185) also shows what powers this painter had,—powers unhappily wasted.

The three landscapes by Alfred Hunt are each in its way beautiful and characteristic. The Whitby (No. 132) is a fine realisation of evening light, with the shadows creeping up the glowing cliff over the harbour. Full of poetry is the Drachenfels (No. 133), with its opal sky and the light flooding clouds, mountain heights, and river. The works by Colin Hunter are disappointing, as they are not representative of what was best in his art. It is to be wondered that there has not been a selection of his work shown here since his death. The same thing applies to the late Charles Purse, a whole roomful of whose paintings would have done honour to the Academy. The omission to give an adequate exhibition of his works is inexplicable, for he was conspicuous among recent members in bringing credit to the Academy.

In the last room is hung a landscape by Cecil Lawson, The Boone Valley (No. 146). This painter was one of the few men who in recent years carried on the tradition of romantic landscape. The present instance is a remarkably fine one, full of colour and feeling and of a grand design. It dominates its surroundings. The cumulus sky, the rainbow, and the brown moorland are handled in the way only possible to a master.

In the black-and-white room is to be found a collection of drawings by Watts. They are of very great interest, as they show the artist's purely artistic side. Here we see the splendid appreciation of abstract form, and the feeling for grandeur of line. Among these studies are many of those made from a model whose exceptionally fine form inspired some of Watts's greatest works. Nos. 294, 295, 300, 304, and 305 are of great beauty ; the last especially is a grand figure. It is to be hoped that the sentimental authors who are accustomed to write about Watts will study this collection. From it they might learn something of his artistic poetry and power, which they seem not to realise when they write

interpretations of his pictures. H. S.