18 DECEMBER 1880, Page 18


FOLLOWING the example of Mr. Du Maurier, Mr. Charles Keene has reprinted a large number of his contributions to Punch, a series which extends over a period of twenty years, and takes us back to the early days of the Volunteer movement,. the close of the crinoline mania, the great comet, and many other well-nigh forgotten topics of interest. Mr. Keene's work has a special interest for us at the present day, because it re- calls, no less in its defects than its excellences, the caricatures of our most genial draughtsman, John Leech, whose reputa- tion was also made in the pages of Punch. And it is a fact which stares us in the face, that the kind of humour which Leech embodied in his drawings—this peculiar, hearty, genial, easy laughter, at all things in heaven and earth—is becoming every day a rarer phenomenon, and threatens soon to be ranked with other bygone eccentricities of behaviour. The difference is. pointed out clearly enough, on a comparison of this volume, representing " Our People," by Mr. Keene, and the series of

" Society " pictures by Mr. Du Manlier. Over the first book there hangs something of the wider scope, greater tolerance, and broader manner, which marked the caricatures of the earlier half of this century ; in the latter, we find rather a spirit, as carping as it is subtle, as sarcastic as it is refined, as personal as it is narrow, as biting as it is re- strained. Those who are hit hardest by Mr. Keene will scarcely like the artist or enjoy his pictures the less ; those whom Mr. Du Maurier selects as worthy objects of his satire, can, we think, be little likely to forgive an artist who has probed their every weakness for the sake of exposing it. The difference is as essential as it is great, and shows itself in a thousand little characteristics. The one man studies the broad, superficial as- pects of character, class, and nationalities, giving us types of each, rather than individual members of the family; the other artist takes a single class of a single nation, and makes up from that a society of whom each person is well known to us, clear and distinct in his or her personality as the characters of our favourite novelist. And Mr. Du Meunier tells us little of the superficial aspects of these puppets by whom he shows us our weaknesses, follies, and sometimes even our crimes, but loves to drag out the little pet snobbishness, vanity, or cruelty from hiding-places where its existence might well have passed un- perceived. The contrast extends even to the method of the artists' work, and to their several incapacities. Mr. Du Manlier is as incapable of giving us a true working-man in his drawings as Mr. Keene is of giving us the outside aspect of a lady, and while the duchesses of the latter artist resemble their house- keepers, the chambermaids of the former are quite as true ladies as those upon whom they wait. The style of workman. ship is in exact agreement with this contrast. Mr. Du Maurier works with an elaboration of detail, an exquisiteness of finish, and an amount of carefully studied composition, both of line, and light and shade, such as have never been before attempted in periodical illustration; while Mr. Keene dashes in his effects with a rough sketchiness and a calculated imperfection of sur- rounding, which would seem insolent, did it not tell the artist's thought with such admirable clearness.

And the contrast extends even to the subjects of the sketches, as clearly as it does to the mental attitude of the artists or the method of their work. Mr. Du Manlier is at home in richly- furnished rooms, a little overcrowded, as London rooms are wont to be, with visitors and furniture ; he loves soft ottomans, convex mirrors, thick hangings, and moderator lamps ; his pianos are all " grands," his footmen wear powder, his guests the most correct of fashionable clothes. But with Mr. Keene, on the other hand, the more unfashionable the company is, the more happy is the artist in delineating it. We find ourselves in shabby inn parlours, by muddy crossings, or at cottage doors ; the weather is rough, and frequently unpleasant, and so are the people we are introduced to ; the land generally is one of thick boots, strong speeches, and very work-a-daypeople; yet it is fresh and honest, and, if truth must be told, a little more wholesome than the Park, Club, and Curzon-Street atmosphere, which we breathe in Mr. Du Maurier's work. If not polished, it is worth polishing, for it represents a country where the wind blows.

• One People. By Charles Keene. London : Bradbury, Agnew, and Co.

freely, and where the labourers, tradespeople, and small gentility, who, after all, make up nine-tenths of our English folk, lead genuine lives, notwithstanding many vulgarities, weaknesses, and follies.

Another point of difference between the work of the two artists whose styles we have endeavoured to contrast, may be mentioned here. Mr. Du Maurier's caricatures rely for whatever comicality they may possess almost entirely upon the words printed beneath them, and these words are, as a rule, intended to put the reader more in the position of a judge than a simple spectator, to the characters in the little drama before him. Take away the words, the pictures of this artist would be inexplicable and, as caricatures, wholly meaningless. All we should have left would be a series of very elegantly drawn and most perfectly composed pictures of Modern Society.

Take, on the other hand, Mr. Charles Keene's work, and the very reverse is true. In this latter conception of caricature the picture speaks for itself, the words beneath let us in to the

exact meaning of the incident ; but the burlesque spirit is evident throughout the drawing, and in most instances the story is told clearly enough, without a glance at the letter-press. Look, for instance, at the drawing of the boy dancing over the skipping-rope, while he is carrying his master's most precious violin, and the said master is just coming round the corner, in time to see his favourite instrument's peril ; look at the pictures of the unfortunate subs. in the riding-school, or that of Paddy heighteningthe roof of his cabin—by digging out the floor; or that of the Scotchman's expression of horror, as he tells his friend how he " hadna bin in London abnne twa hoours, when bang went saxpence !" Indeed, in all the best of Mr. Keene's work the story is told and the humour is itself found in the drawing in Mr. Du Manner's, the satire (for all his best work is satirical, not humorous) lies in the condition of mind with which the artist puts you in sympathy, or, at all events, in compre- hension. We might push the antithesis further, if it were necessary, and point out how in Mr. Du Manner's work delicacy and beauty both of conception and work go together, and how they are answered in the rougher caricatures of his rival by strength and freedom ; how, in the first artist, the delicacy frequently degenerates into weakness and sometimes mere twaddle, and how in the second, the strength often becomes coarseness and the freedom licence ; how the artist of Society has frequently nothing to laugh at, though much to sigh for; and how the delineator of " Our People " finds food for his laughter where he might rather find occasion for tears ; how the one is unsparingly severe upon all Society's affectations, and yet confesses in every line of his work that Society is for him the one thing needful ; and how the other seems to have no scorn greater than a broad laugh for any human weakness, and as for Society, pushes it out of his way, with a good- humoured indifference to its very existence. All this, and much more of the same kind, lies on the surface of these artists' conceptions ; and it is only worth mentioning, because the public, as a rule, are so little apt to think at all of those who draw for comic periodicals. In the picture-world, draughtsmen of this kind are subjected to much the same fate as writers of news- paper articles,—they have to fling their brains weekly into the gutter, and be content to see them no more, fortunate enough if only they may avail to sweep away some of the rotten cab- bage-stalks and debris of false opinions and prejudices.

A word or two may perhaps be said here as to one or two of Mr. Keene's chief artistic excellences. Fore- most among these is a strong grasp of character, whenever that character in any way constitutes a type rather than an individual. An Irishman, a Scotchman, a drunken soldier, a cabman, an artist, a barman, a maid-servant, or a pater- familias, have rarely (we should be inclined to say never) done so clearly and, on the whole, so truly, as in these drawings. John Leech could probably draw a typical Englishman, and certainly a Frenchman, better, but neither his Scotch- man or his Irishman were as distinctive as Mr. Keene's. Again, perhaps the greatest artistic merit in work of this kind, is to be perfectly simple and easy in appearance. This merit these drawings possess in a high,—in the highest degree. It is a luxury to any one who understands what drawing is, to turn from the laboured yet beautiful draughtsman- ship of Mr. Tenniel, from the Meissonnier-like workmanship of Da Manner, from the involved accuracy and tireless invention of Linley Sambourne's work, to these brilliant sketches of Mr. Keene's, fresh as a spring morning and daring as a Cavalier's

charge, seeming to be conceived and executed without a trace of headache or weariness. It should be noted how much of this effect is probably due to Mr. Keene's power of representing con- tinuous or suddenly-arrested motion. His characters are never posed in attitudes, but have taken up their positions the second before they were put in the picture, and will alter them the second after. This sense of action extends to the treatment of landscape, and there has hardly been since David Cox an artist who expressed as clearly as does Mr. Keene the vitality and constant movement of country scenes. Con- sidering the limited scope of landscape back-ground in cari- catures of this kind, we may say, without fear of con- tradiction, that Mr. Keene's are of almost ideal perfection, being both simple and bold in execution, brilliant in effect, wonderfully subservient to the main purpose of the picture, and yet thoroughly decorative. We have not cared to do more than hint (in this article) at the drawbacks to Mr. Keene's pleasant art, and for this reason, that we believe the cultured public, who have given of late years so much well-deserved praise to Messrs. Tenniel and Du Manner, have somewhat unjustly neglected Mr. Keene ; and we have, therefore, preferred to dwell upon the merits which were unappreciated, rather than the faults of which we are all well aware.