THE ROYAL ACADEMY.
• Tins year we see the Academy clearly as a middle-aged institution quickened by the work of a large number of clever young women. The younger men are all at the war or doing hospital work in London.
But the thing which one cannot help noticing is that the war haa made very little change in the general aspect of the galleries, indicating image. takably what one had always suspected, that youth goes elsewhere with its experiments. In this relation the cases of Mr. Brangwyn and Mr. Charles Shannon are interesting to consider. Wo have thought of these artists as young men so long that it has become an article of faith, but both are now well over forty. A few years ago tho Academy added to its strength by electing them Associates, although they rarely exhibited in the Royal Academy and were prominently connected with rival Societies. Since election they have not given the Academy very mach support, but this year each of them has sent three works, and the Academy has purchased one work from each under the terms of the Chantrey Trust. It may be remarked without prejudice that both of these artists had exhibited consistently elsewhere, and yet the Academy had never exercised the duties of its trusteeship so far as to consider their works until they were part of the Royal Academy. Every one knows that Mr. Wilson Steer is our most distinguished landscape painter, yet the Academy has never apparently hoard of his work— although the Uffizi Gallery of Florence commissioned him to paint his portrait for its famous gallery of portraits—and will continue not to hear of him till he exhibits at Burlington House.
Mr. Brangwyn's picture, The Poulterer's Shop (No. 447), is a decora- tion in exactly the same way as a tapestry or a Persian hanging. A huge swan hangs in the centre against a red fabric, and dead fowl% lemons, turnips, pots, stuffs, and two Oriental men make up togethera rich and interesting mass of objects painted and modelled with splendid craftsmanlike zest and artifice. There is no beauty of lighting or of texture as in the old Dutch " still-lifes," but there is the same craftsman spirit, and the test of it is that it justifies its huge size. This one does not feel in Mr. Brangwyn's other pictures—a very dogged piece of decorative landscape, In Provence (No. 17), and a large Mater Dolorosa Betgica (No. 84), where the artist seems to have worked without a complete and definite vision before him. Mr. Charles Shannon is known as a connoisseur who paints, but the curious thing is that his painting really gets fresher and simpler as the weight of his connoisseurship increases. He has never done anything better than his Lady in a Black Hat (No. 483). The black firm silhouette is not over-conscious; the texture of the face is in delicate realism as good as a fine Whistler. The only weakness is the indeterminate curtain that wants the firmness of purpose necessary in ao deliberate a design. The Chantrey pun:these, The Lady with the Amethyst (No. 524), is the least good of his three works. Beautiful textures are a rare thing in modem painting. Me. Orpen can do anything if he likes, but he has not yet shown ma* interest in flesh painting. His faces all differ from one another, some being like red leather as in the portrait of Dr. E. J. Dillon (No. 384, or polished shell as in that of Lord Spencer (No. 706), who has made of modem costume a get-up which is not leas quaint and surprising than that of one of his ancestors by Lely ; but Mr. Orpen seems only interest- ing in his textures so far as he can recall some other substance. Mies St. George (No. 87) is an incredibly delicate figure of pink and silver oaa black background, very charmingly done with most delicate shadow. One is surprised to find that the lady is not transparent. The portrait of Mr. James Law, of the Scotsman (No.448), is a notable piece of character drawing and clever painting. It says " That'll lam him to be a Scots- man" just as distinctly as the Lord Spencer says "That'll lam him to be a Lord," or as the Dr. Dillon even more emphatic, ally cries "
lam him to be a higher diplomatic journalist." Mr. Sargent had a steady Day-of-Judgment manner towards his sitters which indicates their doom in the next world ; Mr. Orpen suggests that their punishment Is in this one. Without his six works this Aoademy would he vastly duller. Mr. John Lavery, on the other hand, brings his sitters into a distinguished company of the elect, who might rub shoulders with sitters from the grandest studios of the past. Sir Charles Wakefield, Lord Mayor of London (No. 18) and Miss Elizabeth Asquith (No. 364), far instance, must have been in art for a very long time. No newly rich no41 ever buy spurious ancestors while Mr. Lavery can simply paint a pedigree on to him. One supposes that sometimes Mr. Lavery must have a sitter who is not quietly distinguished looking, or, if a lady, beautifully dreased and charming, but if so he keeps the event secret. Yet he is clair- voyantly modern, too, and his figures have the elusive momentary look of a society that lives in fast, noiseless motor-cars and the instantaneous lights and darkneesea of an electric age. Even the burly and authoritative figure of The Earl of Derby (No. 466), one of the artist's most effortlem works, has a rarefied look. Mr. George Henry, after establishing a fashion.
able convention in his portraits of women, seems to have lost interim% and his best work now is to be seen in his mon, notably Sir Percival Nair at (No. 14). Mr. Tames Quinn has a searchlight portrait of Miss M. Ii.
Brough (No. 150) that might almost rank as a war picture in its floras relentless realism. One congratulates the painter on his detached and
brilliant portraiture, and the sitter on her magnificent acceptance of .his attack. Mr. Greiffenhagen, Mr. W. Strang, Mr. Cope, Mr. Sant, NV. Percy Bigland in his Old Mrs. X. (No. 434), Miss D. L. Lyster, Mr-
Fiddea Watt, and Mr. A. Van Anrooy are other painters with portraita of interest. Mr. Sargent sends no portraits, which is a big disappoint. ment, for who seeflt to paint the big figures who are conducting the war -The warriors of our ware; with the French stand four-square and splendid in the works of Reynolds ante Gainsborough and Romney. Mr. Sargent has zet to do his Lord ffeathiteld.- That will be " doing his bit." B
they say that he is off to the Rocky Mountains Here he shows two designs for ceiling-pieces, one of them in perfect understanding of the end in view, and, in masterly ease of execution, fit to rank with anything at the kind. It is a group of nude archers on a cloud in a beautiful blue background. There is no detail of flustering draperies to worry the eye as you look up. It is as gay and satisfying as a coral cloud against the blue sky.
Landscape is not very strong this year, although it was during the Napoleonic wars that Turner did some of his best work. Miss Laura Knight (who for some mysterious reason has not yet been made an A.R.A.) has a gay patchwork quilt of landscape in Spring (No. 145), which recalls Millais's Blind Girl in its emotional colour, but the figures have a posing realism that cracks the whole idea of the picture. Burning Weeds (No. 514), although the ground colour is not conceived in relation to the rest of the picture, is a remarkably sincere and fresh reading of e arth. Mr. Arnesby Brown, Mr. Hughes Stanton, Mr. D. Murray, Mr. D. Y. Cameron, Mr. Lee, and Mr. La Thangue are among the other landscape painters who maintain this department.
There are a great many war pictures, and khaki and searchlights appear in nearly every room. Of the realistic war pictures, the pano- ramic views of Mr. W. L. Wyllie are the most valuable as illustrations, and his method of giving the names of the salient features on the frames is a frank recognition of the purely topographical and descriptive aim. They look as though painted from a stationary balloon for Staff purposes, and as if the artist had forgotten his business for a little to follow out pretty passages of colour in the horrific scenes beneath him. Most of the battle pictures are painted with so niggling and careful a brush and distraction of detail that they give no hint of the tremendous pressure and dilation of ordinary life that a battle means. It should surely bo the business of art to communicate in its own terms a synthetic some- thing that cannot be given by a despatch. Mr. R. Jack's Return to the Front (No. 579), a scene at Victoria Railway Station, has a certain amount of design and a simplicity of painting that gives it a claim to attention. The sea pieces include a picture by Mr. Napier Hemy of a fight between a destroyer and a submarine, A.D. 1915 (No. 47), that is crammed full of technical knowledge and real understanding of the North Sea ; but it is difficult to criticize such pictures as Mr. Wyllie's A Fight to a Finish (No. 421), showing the ' Good Hope' going down off Coronel in a halo of fire, and other pictures of the sort—associations are too poignant.
In sculpture the war has given the modern artist one of his few opportunities to serve a real need of the community, for as our heroes fall, and the death-roll spreads from Mesopotamia to the Atlantic, the desire to commemorate their names and deeds is general through- out the country. Our public places, cathedrals and churches, schools and factories, will be filled with memorials of the Great War. It is for our sculptors to be worthy of their office in this great age. In the Academy there are a few signs of new inspirations in memorial tablets.
It is not the custom—it is hardly good manners—in writing about the Academy to mention its Black-and-White Room, but at a time when etching in England is at its zenith, and is honoured throughout the world as one of the distinctive features of the art of our time, it is amazing that this semi-national institution should ignore that side of art and huddle it into its smallest and most obscure chamber. Three or four years ago the Academy elected three well-known etchers—Mr. D. Y. Cameron, Mr. W. Strang, and Sir Frank Short—reviving its old dis- tinction of Associate-Engraver, and there were hopes of reform. Things are worse than ever to-day, and Mr. Cameron has evidently lost hope of the Black-and-White Room attaining the prestige of an ordinary Bond Street gallery. He shows one work there, perhaps as a p.p.c. card, but has escaped himself from the weird company of the department, and this year has become an ordinary Painter-Associate. Mr. Bmngwyn and Mr. Orpen, whose drawings figure in all discriminating Exhibitions estaide, do not show their drawings there. Much the best course would be for the Academy to close its present little black-and-white cell, if it
cannot treat black-and-white as a fine art. J. B.