13 AUGUST 1948, Page 24

Black and White

THE artists dealt with in the second trio of volumes published in the admirable English Masters of Black and White series are of rather more questionable achievement than the three draughtsmen with whom the series was launched. George du Maurier is still a well remembered figure, but remembered rather for a style and period to which he gave his name than as an artist. As one looks through the illustrations of this book, particularly those of his later years done for Punch, one realises all too clearly how just this estimation is. As a satirist du Maurier lacked the requisite detachment ; he was far too closely identified with the society which he depicted, and even when he appears most roused the result lacks the fierce explosive quality of a Rowlancison or a Cruikshank. As a result his jokes at the expense of Sir Gorgius Midas for instance, seldom rise above the level of socialite sniggers. over Midas, aitches. As a draughtsman he was remarkable among his contemporaries for becoming steadily worse. Incapable apparently of contriving for himself a" sound workaday style adequate for the tackling of any problem that came _along, he could never free himself from that inhibiting dependence on the live model (which proved the curse of so much English illustration of the period), and consequently his details, even those of dress, furnishing, etc„ upon which he evidently expended much care, seem never to be fully assimilated into the drawing. How far he failed in this direction can be judged by comparing one of his innumerable over-crowded drawIng-rooms with an interior by Leech.

If du Maurier is now only remembered as a period symbol, Edmund Sullivan is hardly remembered at all. This is a little unfair, for, although by no means an inspired draughtsman, he is certainly no whit inferior, and frequently more robust, than the. still over-praised Hugh Thompson. It 4. clear from some of his pre- liminary sketches illustrated in the volume that like so many of his contemporaries he too frequently failed to maintain the dash and liveliness of the first conception in his finished drawing ; but unlike some of ours he never insulted his public by substituting a prepara- tory scribble for a finished drawing. Incidentally, it is surely a little unkind to include two reproductions of his 1914 war cartoons that (particularly the one on page 81) not only completely fail of their avowed purpose, but of which one does not need to be a Freudian to appreciate the embarrassing personal implications.

It is no criticism of Mr. Freedman as an artist to wonder at his inclusion in the present series. He has, as the illustrations amply testify, produced a great' deal of black and white work, but it is as a painter, and particularly as a colour lithographer, that he is justly famous. One cannot feel that his reputation is well served by

printing page after page of lithographic drawings, separated from the background of type for which they were carefully designed and in a technique which he has brought to its fullest perfection combined with colour.. After half a dozen pages one has the illusion that one is turning over a child's painting book and involuntarily stretches out for the paint-brush and the crimson lake ; an illusion which does less than justice to Mr. Freedman's powers as a draughtsman.