7 DECEMBER 1889, Page 31


SOCIETY OF PAINTERS IN WATER-COLOURS. IT can fairly be said of the present exhibition that it is a representative one, including as it does examples of all styles, from the time-honoured hands of Messrs. Charles Davidson, Fripp, and Collingwood, down to the latest developments of impressionist art from the skilful pencil of Mr. Clausen. The Society's Winter Exhibitions have for some time past ceased to be distinguishable (except by the regulation white mount) from the Spring ones by any predominance of " sketches and studies" of which they were originally to be composed. This year there is, thanks to Messrs. Burne-Jones and others, an appreciable element of sketches and studies. The unfinished drawings of the late Frederick Tayler are unexhibited works collected after his death last year, and shown in accordance with the practice of the Society, which thus does honour to a deceased member's memory. Although these spirited sketches of hunters and hounds may owe something to their untouched white- paper backgrounds, we must allow that this painter has always contrived to compress a great deal of the joy of the pursuits and life of pure air and rapid movement in his breezy little pictures. After paying this tribute to an old and well-deserving contributor to these exhibitions, we turn to the works of his contemporaries and successors. To a highly finished picture of the character of Mr. Henry Wallia's " The Sick King in Bokhara" (33), the regulation winter white mount is not becoming. This drawing, with its wealth of detail and delicacy of colour, demands a richer setting. Next in importance, but far below it in technical merits and sub- ject, we would name Mr. Henry Henshall's large study of a damsel sprawling in an armchair, "In Wonderland" (101). We have for some time rather suffered from a plethora of black-stockinged misses of uncertain age, and the beauty of these individual extremities does not appear to us to excuse the exhibition of them. The girl's pink dress is certainly a clever piece of colour, and contrasts well with the green chair- cushion and brown background; but this is a subject in which the particular qualities of water-colour are thrown away, an unjustifiable encroachment on a territory in which oil reigns supreme.

Sir John Gilbert's large drawing of a Bishop (172) is not a specially interesting example of the President ; we much prefer " The Sonnet" (12), in which we recognise all the romance, and, if we may so express it, Walter-Scott flavour which has so long been associated with the President's work. There is a strength about Sir John Gilbert's landscape, and a palpable picturesqueness in the incidents with which he peoples it, which irritate the fine-drawn, morbid quint- essentialism of the day.

Miss Clara Montalba is to be congratulated on her new departure in her clever impressionist studies of a most diffi- cult theme,—the Navy as it is. We particularly like the two puffing torpedo-boats tearing through the calm grey water of Portsmouth Harbour (43), with a lurid glow of sunlight illuminating the red roofs of the old town which has witnessed so many successive types of naval architecture since the graceful corvettes and grandiose three-deckers of Nelson's time ; and not less H.M.S. ' Anson' (149), where, too, she successfully treats in a pictorial spirit a subject most difficult of picturesque treatment,—the cumbrous bulk on the water of a modern turret-ship, showing that even iron architecture combined with smoke can furnish excellent material for the unsealed artistic eye. Mr. Henry Moore is well represented by his usual breezy sea-pieces, as full of light and wave-motion as ever. Mr. Albert Goodwin, we think, might have made more of " The Dance of Death Bridge at Lucerne " (21). No

better subject could be desired than this grim old bridge, with its memento mori overhead, while the generation of the day

passes heedlessly to and fro beneath. The painter's version seems to us too tame and prettified, and to have missed the impress of time and manifold association which the bridge so

strikingly bears. It is like, and yet unlike, and would more suggest a fao-simile of the bridge put up in connection with one of our prevailing monster Exhibitions.

"Eton " (48), from the same hand, is an exquisitely delicate drawing showing the College roofs, relieved against a grey, late autumn sky, just peeping above the willow-boughs of the foreground. Mr. Goodwin is quite at his best with his "Eton," and seems to us to have in this case seized the ideally beautiful moment of a scene that has been so often painted : the pre- sentment of tender, autumnal beauty, together with the old, irregular brick buildings and the willow-fringed channel of the back-water, is an admirable example of this happy power.

Mr. Matthew Hale's views deserve notice as illustrations, to a certain extent, of the same power. We prefer, of the four, " Clevedon" (268), a flat view on the coast ; the only drawback is a certain granulated texture, and a tendency to a sickly yellow colour. In Mr. Albert Goodwin's views of the falls of the Rhine, with a great deal of skilled, patient workmanship, there is a blueness about the water which is not quite pleasing.

Mr. Charles Robertson is a large and varied contributor to the present collection ; his most important work here, "Arrival of a Caravan from Persia" (126), with its hot, dust-laden atmosphere, its buildings that reflect the sun- light, its fountains, its bales of merchandise, skins and saddle- bags, arms and camel-furniture, its motley crowd of hagglers and idlers, beggars and hucksters, camel-drivers and sheiks, brings before us all the contrasted squalor and splendour, stir and stagnation of the East, and of Damascus, that most Eastern of Eastern cities. Mr. Robertson paints all this under its chaotic but charming aspect, with a dexterous hand and excellent feeling for colour, texture, and tone, but with no effort at concentrating his interest or focussing his composition. For students or lovers of Eastern picturesqueness, the picture should have strong interest, and is a good example of the way the modern painter eschews the old rules of composition and attaches himself more than ever to the scattered elements of pictorial effect in his subject. Very different in subject, but equally dexterous in technique, is his exquisitely delicate "Lyme Regis" (348), hung on one of the screens. It is perhaps not the happiest taste that, whether accidentally or not, the rock-form in his " Golgotha" (362) actually assumes the form of a skull. Mr. Charles Gregory, like many another modern painter, attempts to solve the problem of painting at their full strength open air and green trees, but, in our opinion, is not so successful as Mr. Birket Foster with an equally difficult one,—namely, the heat-mist hanging on Loch Alsh (340). What matters the name that is given—" study " or " drawing "—to such pleasurable aspects of English child-life as Mrs. Allingham's two exquisite little pictures of children on the rocks at the seaside (315 and 351)P Nothing is more noticeable in all Mrs. Allingham's work than the finish and feeling introduced throughout. Take these children crabbing : small as they are, there is not a detail shirked ; finished as they are, they leave no impression of over-labour, but keep their places in subordination to the main purpose of each drawing, and show how finish is reconcilable with breadth, and exactness with artistic effect. In these days of " impressionism," when the " blottesque " is apt to run riot in reaction against the over- minuteness intolerantly insisted on in certain schools, such work as Mrs. Allingham's is especially valuable, as showing how conscientiousness and thoroughness may be reconciled with artistic requirements.