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Studio: international art — 1.1893

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The Royal Academy (Second Letter). By A. Besnard

Academy. But why, pray, this impression of
melancholy ? Why these darkened images that I
see as I advance towards the younger school ?
Why this crcpuscule, after the brilliancy of the day-
light and the joy of brilliant colours? Why,
indeed? No one knows. Simple evolution of
the brain, with which the Scotch school marks the
sudden tacking under the impulsion of Mr. Guthrie.
This artist, a young man of great ability, seems
to like Mr. Whistler enormously, and follows him
in search of his favourite harmonies, where Time
himself seems to have helped him. He must
lovingly leave his canvases to ripen, until they
give you somewhat the impression of repaired old
masters. But Mr. Guthrie does not exhibit in the
Academy this year, he reserves his work for the
Grafton Gallery.

Let us come back to the Academy. We find
triumphant here, as in Paris, Mr. John Sargent,
our American confrere, who exhibits the portrait of a
woman in a delicious key of silver, the impulsive
execution of which has not been without influence
on our young English confreres. Round him are
grouped other seekers of impressions, such as Mr.
Harcourt, who shows us the portrait of a young
girl lit up by lamplight, and whose profile and
contours lose themselves in the azure of the dying
day. It is a remarkably fine piece of painting by a
man who knows the value of his own efforts.
Another work, a young girl's portrait by Mr.
Morley Fletcher, superb in colour, interested my
Frenchman's eyes. Others, Mr. Solomon and
Mr. La Thangue, represent for the English public
French influence. These are evening effects with
lamp or candles. What with us has been an effort,
is here but the exhibition of facile knowledge
which ignores the shuddering excitement caused
by approaching danger.

How much I prefer to these two canvases, the
Benedicite of Mr. Lorimer. Evening effect this
too, but how extremely delicate. The scene passes
between the walls of a high dining-room with high
wainscots, decorated with panels of old tapestry.
The candles are lighted, and their flames, veiled by
yellow shades, gently illumine the middle of the
table set out with flowers and grapes. A large
window, of which the blinds have not yet been
drawn down, admits the blue of the evening. The
numerous and well-behaved little children (for we
are in a nursery) are saying grace with an attentive
air, whilst their nurses, standing up behind them,
are looking on with that discreet and impersonal
air which the traditions of service have handed
down. I can describe the subject, but how can I
explain the harmony of this white envelope ? for the
walls, the children's clothes, the veils, the gloves
and the dresses of the nurses are white. How can
I tell of the power of this white ensemble where
the blue of the dying day and the yellow light of
the candles lightly play ?

It would be impossible for a simple painting to
say more. Mr. John Lorimer is the painter of the
picture. I hope that my French will reach him,
and that he will thus be able to understand the
extremely strong sensations he has given me.

Another picture, entitled The Announcement,
by Mr. H. F. Bacon, shows also some of the old
dramatic sense in the old English acceptation of
the word. It is some intime drama, and the colour
of the picture, most harmonious with the subject,
makes an exceeding strong work of this canvas.
It is most simply told. A young woman in mourn-
ing comes to announce some sad piece of news to
an old woman, whose whole life passes, one may
easily guess, in the corner before her fire. A
servant bends over her, trying to make her under-
stand, for she is evidently deaf.

The young woman, standing upright near a
table, awaits the moment to show herself. The
scene is lighted up by the fire from the chimney,
an effect which the painter has used to give a
powerful tonality to his picture. There is the real
dramatic quality peculiar to the English, and which
it would be a pity to see disappear, for this manner
of understanding a picture is, like their means of
execution, with them entirely individual.

A Slave Market, by Mr. Frank Brangwyn, stops
one's way by the force and intentional exaggeration
of the colouring. He reminds me somewhat of
the role which the " pochades " of our own poor
Regnault played in the Salons of yore. Mr.
Brangwyn evidently believes in being rescued by
colour. He belongs to the great school of Glas-
gow, which has given us Pettie and Orchardson
and Mr. Guthrie, of whom I have already spoken.
We shall find him again at the Grafton Gallery.

I feel that I ought to spend some time over the
water-colours, which have held so great a place in
English artistic production. But, really, what can
one say of it to-day? It is capital which the
English have dropped, and which fructifies better
in other hands than in their own. The really fine
water-colour, broadly painted with water, is for
them but a souvenir, and in all these papers,
more or less coloured, one seeks in vain for
a reminder of their former glory. There are,
nevertheless, several charming things, of Messrs.
Robert Bunny, Carlton Grant, Riders, a pretty bit
of the Thames by MacDonald, and a graceful
marine by Mr. Dawson. Their etching, on the
contrary, seems to me to possess all its old vigour,
and I stopped looking for a long time at the plates of
Mr. Baskett and the fine mezzotint of Mr. George
S. Ferrier.

The New Gallery, which is a little like our
Champ de Mars as compared with the Champs-
Elyse'es, but not altogether similar, offers to the
visitor who seeks the real physiognomy of English
painting a more varied field than that of the
Academy. We see there from the charming
enigmas of Mr. Bume-Jones up to the most
modern manifestations. I must admit that I, for
my part, do not find in this society as much interest
as it appears to attribute to itself. I found there,
excepting the most persistent of the pre-Raphael-
ites, all the painters of the Academy—Mr. Shannon,
with his portraits, Mr. Herkomer, Mr. Richmond,
and Mr. Watts, always poetic and deep. But there
only can you see Mr. Walter Crane, one of the
most ingenious artists one can meet—an artist who

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