16 FEBRUARY 1940, Page 18


The Leicester Galleries

THE works of the three present exhibitors at the Leicester Galleries are worth seeing for their own sake, and together they give a good line on un-academic art of the present. Anthony Gross, whose water-colours occupy the entrance gallery, has spent enough of his time in France to look at London with a fresh eye. Many English painters (Christopher Wood, for instance) have been jogged into vivid life by the sight of the unfamiliar scrolls and curlicues on the facades of French villas and churches. Mr. Gross returns from abroad to comment on the beauties of Allison Road, N.8, and Gascony Avenue, N.W. 6, and he sees them with the lively, hopeful romance that their nineteenth-century builders and architects expected them to stimulate in everyone. Quite absent from these drawings is the damp-eyed superiority of the 'twenties and early 'thirties. Absent also is the hot criticism of a genuine lover like Osbert Lancaster. The life going on in the drawing-rooms behind these bow windows with Romanesque capitals and frilly curtains can be imagined without any of the nausea we have been trained to register, and we can be grate- ful to the artist for reminding us of many double rows of such semi-detached lives that mount as many gentle rises within the metropolitan area.

Ivon Hitchens, who shows recent paintings in the next room, is a lyrical painter of English landscape. Lyrical in the sense that he would like a picture to paint itself if it would ; he would like it to grow on the canvas little nursed, hardly touched by human hands, in case the growth should be warped or stunted. As pictures will not grow of them- selves he is willing to put himself between nature and the canvas, but only on sufferance. He realises that he must be unusually sensitive, and always awake at the moment when a vision becomes pictorial and ready to be born ; and that he must be, like a good midwife, specially well-educated about his job. He uses colour easily in these latest pictures, but his simple-looking areas of blue and grey and green have the

certainty of his years of experience about them. Dangerously, I compared him last week with Edward Thomas, and I will now take a greater risk and compare him with Hopkins, so lush and complicated are some of his recent patterns. His titles, at any rate, are on my side in showing a Hopkins tendency : Mill-pool, September wind and Path between waters. And the colour of Blue Glade (one-of the best paint- ings) is very much a Hopkins colour.

Henry Moore, whose new sculpture and drawings occupy an inner room, is the best, and so naturally not the " easiest," of living English sculptors. To see his work as part of the English sculpture tradition, imagine stone and wood carving dropping off to sleep at the beginning of the fourteenth cen- tury and waking again, drowsily and not for long, in the eighteenth century. Mr. Moore has looked for inspiration to the sculpture of many other countries and ages, but (advised by English sculpture) he has looked at the primitive elements chiefly. Like the carvers of England's early crosses, fonts and doors, he sees it as absurd to try to copy flesh and blood ; for the human figure will not come to life in stone, but the stone may come to life in itself. Bound to the limitless suggestions of the human figure as model, he has made for this exhibition one very large carving (in elm) and a number of very small figures (in lead), and the material in each case has its independent life underlined, in size as well as character. If these figures were the size of human beings they would lose most of their force. As it is they are full of life, and they are beautiful in surface ; grain, colour and texture being given their full value. In drawing, Mr. Moore at one time was adept at creating an illusion of solids on the flat surface of paper. The new drawings here have the same interest of shape, and each visible area still tells you what is going on round the corner, on the invisible side of each object, but there are no shadows of illusion in them. Instead, they have a strongly decorative side and abound in tricks, well used, as all good