29 APRIL 1905, Page 31

A DEARTH of good pictures is no doubt as disappointing

to Directors as it is to visitors of Exhibitions. It must be admitted that this year the work to be found at the New Gallery reaches but a very moderate average; and one or two fine works only serve to emphasise the fact. It is particularly noticeable that in very few instances can we find imagination or poetic feeling. This may be said of portraits, landscapes, and subject-pictures alike. The qualities that make pictures live with a life of their own, which are so hard to define and so easy to recognise, have to be searched for carefully in the New Gallery this year. The great bulk of the pictures carry no conviction with them. They seem to be the result of no strong impulse, but merely to proceed from a desire to fill a frame with something, it matters not greatly with what. Every one cannot be strikingly original, but we may legitimately ask that painters should so settle their thoughts that their impressions may be conveyed clearly. Often in an Exhibition the eye is arrested by a picture which is not particularly well done, simply from the fact that the artist had a clear idea of the impression he wished to produce. In spite, however, of these drawbacks, the value of such an institution as the New Gallery receives striking proof by the presence of Mr. Havard Thomas's statue of Lycidas (No. 533). Incredible as it may seem, this fine piece of work was this year rejected by the Academy, an act deeply resented by artists and critics alike. The modelling of the figure is subtle and close to life, and recalls Verrocchio and Donatello, and also has some of the qualities of archaic Greek sculpture. It would no doubt be easy to point out a stiffness in the pose of the arms ; but it is equally easy to point out the fineness of the head and the life which animates the whole surface of the body. The sincerity of the study of form of every part, and the absence of show, should have ensured the acceptance of this work by any institution which was alive to the interests of serious art.

There is no doubt of Mr. George Henry's artistic intention in The Satin Gown (No. 200). The picture is admirably studied and felt, nothing has been left to chance, and a perfectly coherent system of colour and values makes the picture produce a decided and definite impression. The dress and the body under it are beautifully painted, and the face and pose of the lady are both interesting. The light that comes in at the window beside the sofa is very cold, and the air of the room is rather suggestive of the chill of new plaster. Perhaps this coldness of feeling arises from the artist not having hidden sufficiently the extreme care with which the picture is constructed. But this rather conscious austerity is to be preferred to the meretricious fulness of the style of Mr. Shannon, who in his two portraits (Nos. 110 and 223) seems by a display of dexterity to wish to persuade us against our better judgment that the work is masterly. It is difficult to imagine the use of the back- ground of the first of these portraits, which may be intended to be a decorative presentment of sky and trees, but into which the figure sinks as into a feather-bed. The very antithesis of this method is that of Mrs. Marianne Stokes in her portrait of Sir Matthew Joyce (No. 243). The accusatior. of hardness might here be made, for the relief of the outline of the profile against the dark background is remorseless. Nevertheless, the beautifully subtle and sincere drawing of the face makes the picture one that is not easily overlooked, because there is vitality in the work. In a quite different manner Mr. Lavery has given life to his portrait Chou bleu (No. 89), though he has a little overemphasised the blue bow. The colour of the picture is most satisfactory with its blacks, greys, and blues.

Mr. Sargent is represented by three pictures, two of which cannot be called interesting ; but the third, Sir Frank Swettenham (No. 219) is a wonderful piece of stage manage- ment and painting. The late High Commissioner of the Malay States stands in white uniform with order and sword. Behind the figure at the top of the picture is seen the lower part of a large terrestrial globe with a gilded stand, and a sofa is heaped with gorgeous stuffs of red and gold. From this description it will appear that the picture aims at showing the state and office of a High Commissioner and Commander-in- Chief. In this Mr. Sargent has certainly succeeded, for at the first glance the portrait can be recognised as that of a man bolding high place. Unlike too many pictures of this class, the apparatus of command does not render the man himself insignificant. The personality of the subject of the picture, both in figure and face, dominates the surrounding mag- nificence. The skill with which the white clothes are painted is remarkable even for this painter, and it is difficult to know which to admire more, the brilliancy of the handling, or the subtlety of the rendering of the direct and diffused light as it strikes on the varying facets of the body. Allusion has been made to the way in which the man dominates his stately surroundings. How has this been accomplished ? Is not the reason this,—that while magnificence has been piled up in the accessories, the figure remains in a simple white uniform ? Ma foi ! it est bien distingue.

The landscapes of Mr. Alfred East and of Mr. Bertram Priest- man are alike disappointing, and for the same cause. Both painters are too obviously constructing decorative schemes, which are not spontaneous enough to make us forget that an elaborate process of arranging Nature has been gone through. Instead of Nature being surprised in a decorative mood which has been arrested and made permanent, the ideal element seems to have been added as a sauce, and is not an inevitable part of the scene. Mr. East's A Village in Picardy (No. 174) is quiet in colour, if not very inspiring, and Mr. Bertram Piiestman's The Cement Works (No. 252) full of light and air, though rather diffuse and lacking in concentration. One of the few pictures in the Gallery which has imagination is Mr. Adrian Stokes's Afternoon in a Forest (No. 155). The splash of sunlight deepens the gloom, and throws up the colour of the finely drawn bare stems of the fir trees. In the Central Hall are six sketches of South Tyrol by Mr. Stokes. Nos. 436 and 438 are particularly interesting, the former with its blue mountain and willow trees, and the latter with its dark contorted willow trunks, orange branches, and snowy ground. Mr. Harold Speed contributes a moonlight picture, The Alcantara, Toledo, by Moonlight (No. 202). The design of the picture is good, with its fortified bridge over the river and road winding away into the darkness. The light is well realised, but the colour seems a little heavy and unatmo- spheric. Nevertheless, the picture is well worth looking at, as it has a touch of imagination, as well as being an interesting study of an effect which is not just ordinary daylight.

There is not much to be found of interest in the water- colour work in the Balcony. Arthur at Cameliard (No. 274), by Mr. Edgar Davis, is a curious instance of borrowed style, for so close is the copy of Rossetti's early work that there is

included the portrait of Miss Siddal in the Guinevere.

Among the landscapes is a broadly treated Edinburgh (No. 315), by Mr. Leonard Powell, of which the sky is well realised.

The tones of blue throughout the picture are satisfactory in their harmony. Two pictures, in their different ways, are worth looking at for charm of colour and quiet execu-

tion,—The Old Boatman, by L. Campbell Taylor (No. 61), and Within the Bgguinage, by A. Fahey (No. 239). Mrs. Swynnerton has a largeness of style and a vigour of colour that make her work quite individual. Her Water Nymph (No. 187) has a broad decorative feeling in it which is by no means a common quality. It is perhaps to be regretted that the effect is a little coarse, though it is possible that the work

may have been painted for a special position. It seems to want appropriate surroundings, in which it might look very well. At present, though possessing remarkable qualities, it misses being quite successful.

As has been said, this year's Exhibition cannot be called in any sense a remarkable one ; indeed, it seems below the average. A heroic policy no doubt would be to miss a year and wait for better times ; but this is a proceeding that can hardly be expected of Directors and artists ; neither would the general public be pleased, for they will no doubt be quite satisfied

with the present Exhibition. H. S.