1 NOVEMBER 1940, Page 12


FIFTY-FIVE years ago the New English was born, in time for Alma Tadema to be pained by it, for William Morris to frown

on it and for Aubrey Beardsley to become a bright young member of it. It was hotly defended against scurrilous attacks in these columns in the early nineties by Mr. D. S. MacColl, who had just been appointed art critic. Its lions contributed

to The Yellow Book. Its heyday was when someone said at a Royal Academy banquet that Sickert's new portrait of George Moore looked like an intoxicated mummy (loud cheers). Its influence has been enormous, partly because for years the heads of famous art schools happen to have been chosen from among its members. The Academy relaxed in its attacks long ago, and by this time has absorbed 41 R.A.'s and A.R.A.'s from among its members. It is no longer a revolutionary body, and looking round the walls of its ninety-first exhibition at the Suffolk Street Galleries it is hard to realise that it ever was one. Yet here embalmed are its history and its traditions. They are the traditions of Impressionism, defined by what is called a " sound tradition of English draughtsmanship "—that is, an interest in observant, descriptive outline, an indifference (comparatively) to fancy and imagination and a distaste for flummery.

Manet, Monet and Degas were the influences that ruffled the waters in the Club's early years, and they are still its major influences. Cezanne has hardly rippled the surface. Picasso might never have been born. Among the water-colours and drawings those by Charles Cheston, Prof. Schwabe, Francis Dodd and Dr. MacColl show at its best the New English sensibility. A Wilson Steer (dated 1932) is a beautiful understatement about autumn tints. Diana Murphy, a non-member, stylises elegance and grace in two drawings, and shows a keen observation in a third (of greenhouses and garden frames) that proves her present manner to be not final but promising. Among the oils there is a good deal of mild pleasure to be had. The paintings of Ethel Walker stand out. Her old-master-like exercise, The late Hon. Mrs. Adam, tells those that need to be told of the learning and experience that there is behind a good emotional sea-piece like her September Wind and Storm across the gallery. A pleasant show, with few excitements and no howlers.