29 APRIL 1899, Page 34



THE bad pictures at the New Gallery do not as a rule sink to ; such a depth of vulgarity and commonplace as do those at the Academy. To make up for this the directors this year have given us an extra dose of the incompetent amateur. For some time we have been accustomed to an upper row of feeble things, which, however, were easy to disregard. This year prominent places have been invaded, with results that are little short of ludicrous.

It is a great pity, but it is nevertheless the fact, that land- scape art is in abeyance. A few years ago, under the influ- ence of a wave of naturalism, a quantity of fine work was produced of rather an unimaginative order. But the frank enjoyment of out-of-doors, and the robust rendering and freedom, gave to the work produced a charm and a character all its own. As typical of this school might be cited two pictures by Mr. Alfred Parsons exhibited in the same year-1887—Going West and the blossoming orchard, now in the Tate Gallery. Since then the frankly naturalistic inspiration has declined, and as yet no true imaginative in- spiration has taken its place. No amount of healthy natural- ism will ever produce works of permanent interest, for fashions in observation change so quickly. When a work is informed with the real passion of the imagination, the staling hand of time has far less effect upon it. The reason is that what really appeals to man is not what he sees, but what he feels :— " I may not hope from outward forms to win

The passion and the life whose fountains are within."

It is with feelings such as these that one looks at Mr. Alfred Parsons's fine picture, Sea-Holly and Sea-Lavender (No. 237). Throughout the work the attempt to produce an effect of style is evident, but the effort is visible, causing a certain restraint which does not make up for the old naturalistic vigour. Putting these theoretic questions aside, and taking the picture as it is, there is much that is purely enjoyable in it. In spite of the monotonous smallness of all the forms, the drawing throughout is most beautiful. A delicate appreciation of form is visible everywhere. Even if a little frigid, to the sug- gestion of a photographic quality, the sky is very finely painted ; there is a feeling of space and air in it. The colour is a delicate harmony of the yellow of the sandy gras growing on the dyke which winds away into the picture, and the cool grey-green of the sea-holly and the purple of the sea- lavender.

If the qualities of style visible in Mr. Alfred East's picture, The Land that Shakespeare Loved (No. 200), were all his own the result would be more satisfactory. But in spite of the very obvious reminiscences of Corot the picture is a good one. We take it, too, as a sign of grace in Mr. East that he has got beyond the point at which so many landscape painters stop, the point of mere reproduction of the natural facts of the scene. The colour of the present picture is very harmonious ; the creamy evening sky and sombre greys of the trees accord beautifully with the few touches of warm colour in the clouds and distance. Mr. East is generally successful in giving a per- sonality to his trees, and in this picture he is eminently successful in doing so. The freshness of out-of-doors is in Mr. Padgett's delightful picture, In Flanders - (No. 10). The composition of this work is both original and interesting. On the top of the bank which rises from the dull green-grey water of a canal, a mass of building rises, culminating in a windmill. The way this mass is constructed is most effective, and the deep rich colour full of beauty. This is a picture with a strong individuality which takes hold of one in a way which is a pleasant relief after so much that is half-hearted and hesitating in its appeal.

Mr. E. Stott has in no way departed from his accustomed subjects or style ; but why complain when the result is so beautiful and so artistic The blue of the water in the pool of No. 76 is a gem of colour. The Washing Day (No. 223) shows what an artist can do with simple materials. The wash hung up to dry, with the setting sun shining through it, has given the painter the opportunity for a wonderful series of colours.

Mr. Sargent's Colonel Ian Hamilton (No. 149) is by far the most interesting portrait in the gallery. It is sincerely to be hoped that the artists about to paint soldiers' red tunics will take a lesson from the present instance. As a rule a red uniform brings disaster upon a picture, but Mr. Sargent has made it a thing of beauty. This result has partly been achieved by reticence. A dark cloak hangs from the shoulders, leaving only a portion of the red showing. There is no subduing of the red itself ; it is of the fullest and most splendid hue. But in enjoying the uniform we must not forget the soldier. The characterization of the head and hands is perfect, showing a sensitive organisation combined with great vital energy. This picture is a notable achieve- ment in the way of making one feel that a distinct personality is presented to one, and not a mere stain upon the canvas. Another fine portrait is that of Lord Roberts (No. 126), by /dr. Watts. Here again is the impression of personality distinctly conveyed. Sir George Reid has painted a fine portrait of The Rev. A. MacLaren (No. 153), but the painting lacks the supreme craftsmanship of Mr. Sargent or the dis tinction of Mr. Watts. Mr. Shannon may be seen at his worst in the full-length picture of Lady Henry Cavendish Bentinck (No. 199). The painting is pure pose from top to bottom, and is an attempt to produce the doubtful charm of Sir Thom as Lawrence, whose pictures are extolled by the dealers so that the rich may have something to buy now that all the Gainsboroughs and Romneys have been used up. There is an artificiality and in- sincerity throughout Mr. Shannon's picture which is highly displeasing, besides the confusion of the background of holly- hocks of a dingy hue. This painter's good and bad qualities may be well studied in the portrait of Mrs. Senior (No. 170). There is undoubted charm of Polon; but the sweets are too cloying ; cake spread wits honey and cream rises to the mind's eye while looking at this sugared painting. Mr. Shannon has so much good in his art that one regrets all the more these essential faults of taste.

True to its traditions, this gallery includes several "primitive" pictures. In the case of Mr. Gaskin's Twelve Brothers (No. 88) and Mr. Southall's Beauty Receiving the White Rose (No. 90) one can only wonder why the artists stopped short when they so well imitated the surface of quatrocentro pictures, and did not put in the cracks too. Mr. Holman Hunt has painted a picture—or rather, we should say, an historical document—of The Miracle of Sacred Fire in the Church of the Sepulchre, Jerusalem (No. 80). Two and a half pages of the catalogue are taken up with a description of the scene, without which the picture would be unintel- ligible. The picture is crammed with hundreds of figures, and no detail is lost ; the only thing that is missing is the impres- sion of reality. It is like some extraordinary puppet-show, but, if taken with the letterpress, undoubtedly interesting.

Mr. Take goes so near to being really good that one is tanta- lised by thinking what he would be if he were a little better. Cupid and the Sea Nymphs (No. 189) is a picture full of the charm of lovely and delicate colour. But why call the graceful model Cupid I The mechanical device of putting a few arrows in his hand does not make him into the god of love. Mr. Tuke seems to have been so taken up by the problems of the light and colour of flesh out of doors that he has forgotten the claims of form. Not, of course, that his forms are inaccurate; but if a work aspires to enter the realm of the ideal, it must not be held down to earth by such commonplaces of form as the feet and head of the figure under discussion. These forms would have been quite approprilte in a modern bather, but prevent our imagination being fired by thoughts of Cupid. An ideal subject must be translated by ideal forms.

Mrs. Swynnerton's work is always interesting, but not always completely satisfactory. This is the case this year with her large figure called A Dream of Italy (No. 213). If the whole figure was equal to the best part, the torso, it would be a remarkable picture ; but the painting breaks down in the arms hands, and head. Nevertheless, the vigour and strength, and, the obvious joy in creation which the artist had, redeem the picture and give it a quality which few other pictures here possess. We have here something of the spirit which makes valuable the lesser masters of the Venetian School,—a sort of intensity of desire to pioduce like the riotous growth of some