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Now for the Middle room. Here I should halt you at 229, Mr. Mason's “ Geese,” but that we looked at it when admiring his other pictures, and so with 240, although you will do well to refresh your memories by another look at both. Miss Mutrie's “Roses and Ferns,” No. 336, you will admire, of course, as all her flower pictures. And now mark the last, No. 345, “ The lone sea shore," by C. N. Hemy, a new man amongst us, whom let us welcome and wish God speed to, for this is a bit of very faithful, loving, and precious work.
“How still it is. No sound is heard
But cry of passing bird." And you may pass at once to another of his in the West room, No. 426, “ Among the shingle at Clovelly." The artist, you see, finds beauty and meaning in stones, as the moralist is supposed to find sermons. I think the first to paint common, every-day stones so lovingly was Mr. Brett. At all events his “Glacier" is the earliest instance I remember. And now come to No. 460, “Spring,” by V. Cole,
“When daisies pied, and violets blue,
And lady-smocks all silver white,
Do paint the meadows with delight." This you will feel to be a lovely rendering of the season, and if the artist is apparent in the grouping of the parts, he has not stretched his prerogative a whit beyond the legitimate, and you may safely allow yourselves to admire it to the full. Comment would be superfluous ; enjoy it. And if a foil would heighten the value of such perfectly true and delicious rendering of nature, the Committee has considerately (or was it sarcastically ?) provided it. Look at “ Beech-tree Mill,” close by, No. 466, by F. R. Lee, RA. Can you remember the time when such pieces of perfectly conventional painting were not plenty as blackberries? There is the very same old mill that has done duty for hundreds of such pictures. I should not wonder, however, if many more persons pause to admire this than stay to feel the picture we are comparing with it—“Spring.” For one thing, there is the R.A., and most people, not knowing their right hand from their left, look for some sign or catchword, and, of course, find it in the two magic letters. No 480, by J. M. Carrick, I think you have noticed ; and so into the North room.
No, young lady, you need not give yourself the trouble to look at Mr. Cooper's “On the Kentish Coast, by Folkestone." All those cows and sheep in the very same attitudes, he has painted
word, data, right them
noticed and test core
over and over scores of times ; indeed Mr. Cooper's hand makes cows as mechanically and quickly as the brickmaker bricks. A half-hour's visit to the alleged spot, a few hasty pencil memoranda, or possibly nothing but a faded memory of something he had once seen, and the picture painted throughout in the studio, that, I take it, is the history of this, and indeed of most of this clever painter's productions for many a year. He might have done far better than he has. His pictures have long since been made simply for sale, and a good sale they command. Of course painting may be adopted as a trade, a pleasant, easy, genteel, means of making money, and if the spirit of trade be allowed any place, or any but the most subordinate and infinitesimally small one, the artist inevitably degenerates into the dealer. I would say, look at No. 500, “The Public Gardens, Venice, from the Sea," by Mr. Inchbold; but it is hung so high that I dare say the painter would quite as lieve it had been rejected. And now the sun is shining on Mr. Davis's glorious picture, which you stayed to admire at the beginning, see how the fuller light only serves to bring out the beauty more; the sunlight without blends perfectly with the sunlight in the picture.
As soon as you feel disposed to begin again, we will return to the great room and notice the figure pictures. And No. 5, “ David," at once arrests us. Come, my friend, you probably are better acquainted with the man after God's own heart than I am. What say you to this conception of Israel's poet-chief, her warrior-king, of all her kings the noblest, the most chivalrous, and the best ? You are silent. It is well. Let us stay awhile, and the picture will grow upon you. It is a thing to feel. I did not admire it at first as I do now. But is it not an impressive rendering of the text, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove, for then would I fly away and be at rest”? The whole tone of the picture expresses the feeling; and see how full the sky is of trouble, of perturbation. At first sight I thought there was possibly a little too much energy in the firmly closed hand for the listlessness of the mood; but it is wistfulness rather than listlessness that the weary king is conscious of. You observe the doves flying through the troubled stormy sky to yonder distant mountains where there is light. As we are rather crowded, however, just now, let us go and look at all the other pictures of this artist, Mr. Leighton, and then return to David. Here is one in the same room, No. 120, “Mother and Child." There is no deep lesson intended here. You are simply to admire and enjoy. The mother, however, let us confess, is rather insipid. In the middle room, No. 305, “ Widow's Prayer," and its companion, 316, you will feel the simple pathos and beauty of; but, as a more ambitious picture, and one which, perhaps, the artist himself would prefer us to take as a helping contrast to his “David," we will pause before his “Helen of Troy," No. 309. “Is that Helen ?” you are disposed to ask, I see. Well, Mr. Leighton's Helen, we may say, rather than Homer's. Almost as snowy as her veil, let us hope she will not, like a snow-wreath, melt away before she reaches the Scoan gate. When Miss Constance has gazed as long as pleases her on Helen, and fair Æthra, Pittheus' child, and stag-eyed Clymene, we will go back directly to “David," prepared thus, I imagine, to see and feel far more in it than at first. The more I know this picture, the more grateful I am to Mr. Leighton, whose best work by far this year I take this to be. You will come back to it again I dare say.
You are turning to No. 8. Do you make it out? Egypt, of course. Ah, you fancy it is a group fording a shallow stream at their ease. No such thing, it is the “Rising of the Nile;" and considering that the poor villagers are hastening their escape from desolation and ruin, and bearing their aged sheikh with them, let us admire their courteously standing still so patiently, all properly posed, for Mr. Goodall, R.A., to paint them. A very good Academy picture, no doubt.
Now here is another R.A's production, No. 29, “Starting for the Christening,” and, considering the large number of pictures that had to be rejected, you wonder why in the world this should have found a place at all. The only answer is—"R.A.” Don't waste any time on it, but come at once to one of Mr. Hook's honest, truthful, loving, every way precious works. This year he has been painting on the French coast; but art is of no country, and a nature like his is at home everywhere, with “Breton fishermen's wives," as with our own sailors and sailor boys. Refresh yourselves with this No. 40. And I would take you at once to his other works, Nos. 70, 283, 567; but I do not know that anything is thus gained. Indeed, perfectly satisfactory as are all Mr. Hook’s renderings of the near sea, and the hardy genuine toilers on it or by it, one begins to be conscious of a half wish that he would not confine himself so exclusively to one class of subjects.
In passing, you may look at Mr. Herbert's “ Sower of Good Seed," to which we shall find a perfect contrast in the North room, “ The Parable of the Tares," by Mr. Millais, to which we shall come in time. Notice, if you will, Mr. Whistler's little picture, “ The Golden Screen,” No. 90. He is admired for his skill in colour and effect in handling, but is so freakish and wilful that I fancy he does not do justice to himself. And so we come to Sir Edwin Landseer's first, No. 91; and you may as well take all his together, Nos. 102, “ Prosperity," and 112, “Adversity.” Of course, everyone admires them because they are Sir Edwin's ; but I confess to a sad want of sympathy myself with poodles and puppies. Look at “Prosperity," one asks whether it was worth while to spend so much precious time on a young lady's horse, with a spruce groom beside it, as the central figure, and a little dog in the foreground, taught to stand prettily on its hind feet and beg. But I ask Miss Constance's pardon ; probably she thinks it a duck of a horse. Very true, my dear; and is not that a love of a dog ? just the thing for a Christian lady to fondle and pet and carry in her arms." Adversity” is better, no doubt. You see what the poor horse has come to. That rat in the corner, smelling at the faded rose, is thought a very happy and telling accessory; and it is possible the painter may have seen a rat so æsthetically employed, but not a common vulgar rat, surely; an old court rat at least, no doubt. “The Connoisseurs,” however, No. 152, is his chief picture this year, and it is much admireda portrait of himself, with two noble dogs looking over his shoulders as he sketches. It need not detain you, and as we always disagreeably feel the want of colour in Sir Edwin, we will go back to the next I have set down for you, Mr. Lewis's “Turkish School in the Vicinity of Cairo," No. 121. He revels in this kind of Oriental work, marvellous love of colour, and exquisite handling, you always have. When you have sufficiently enjoyed it in detail and as a whole, in both of which it is, like his pictures in general, perfect, let me ask you to step to the “Bey's Garden," in the next room, No. 234, just by way of still further relief from the low tones of Sir Edwin.
A poor, insipid bit of womankind, you say. Well, she is not one of Mr. Millais' women certainly, but just remember the artist's one desire and aim, simply to give you the beautiful." He does not seek to teach. There is no latent meaning. What the eye sees of outward loveliness, and the soul (not mind, intellect, or spirit, mark you) can indolently enjoy of it, that he seizes ere it fleets and puts before you as a thing of beauty and —- Well, young lady, the quotation is hackneyed, I grant you ; shall I recall it? As for the lady, since no Mahometan cares for a woman to have a soul, the least you can say is that she is a perfect beauty of that kind, and as fair, I warrant you, as deserves to be found in a Bey's garden. Some pleasant little fancy evidently possesses her. Perhaps she thinks herself the loveliest where all is lovely. At all events, what it is given to Mr. Lewis to paint he paints to perfection. And so, back to the East room.
“The Last of the Clan,” No. 150, we will look at by-and-by, if we have time, but I must ask you what you think of Mr.
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Phillip's large picture, “ The early career of Murillo,” No. 156. This, I suppose, is a specimen of the grand style, but whatever of technical excellence it possesses, and of this no doubt there is much, yet one cannot but feel the inadequacy of the result to the labour. What is there worth the pains-taking and skill that have evidently been employed ? And to lift up on high, and make prominent in the very centre of the picture, that coarse fellow cramming his ugly mouth with bread and garlic till he has stuffed in more than it can hold, was art intended, one asks, to depict and perpetuate this? And it is not as though there were any beauty which this might be technically supposed to enhance. The tone of it all is not to my mind pleasing. But it is the kind of thing that is expected of an R.Ā. And here, close by, is another of the Academicians; Mr. Poole has been painting (No. 162) a suburb of the Roman city of Pompeii during the eruption (79, A.D.), when the city was buried under showers of ashes from Vesuvius. Painful throughout, and in some parts hideous; the emaciated boy in the foreground, dying of starvation, is very repulsive, and the woman crushed beneath a fallen column; there is no relief anywhere, and to my mind, as a work of art, it is simply a mistake. Let us seek relief in the Middle room. Ah, here (190) is the first of three of Arthur Hughes'; a fine feeling for colour and for all that is beautiful, whether to the eye only or also to the mind and heart, characterizes all Mr. Hughes' work, as it characterizes himself. I know no artist whose work is more thoroughly, but all unconsciously, the revelation of the man. This is a charming thing, although some little fault is found by some with the drawing of the neck and arın, but you will enjoy his others probably still more. You will, however, scarcely see anything more graceful and lovely than this figure of “Beauty” beside the open wardrobe ; pray allow yourselves to feel all the loveliness of it.
“This girl in armour, kneeling (208) with blended solicitude, devotion, and subdued energy subtly expressed, in the beautiful countenance, I suppose is Mr. Millais' 'Joan of Arc ?!” Right. It has been cynically called a suit of armour with a girl's head stuck on it, but this is not criticism. When you have satisfied yourselves we will go to his large picture, No. 294, “The Romans leaving Britain.” There, take your time over it. Is not that a glorious woman? “Too much akin to the creatures whose skin she wears ?” Not a bit of it. She certainly has not had the advantage of being trained at an Establishment for Young Ladies, nor would she make a model District Visitor, nor can I fancy her filled with gushing admiration of a nice young curate; but it is refreshing to get away from the be-crinolined namby-pambyism that so many of
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