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Studio: international art — 6.1896

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http://digi.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/diglit/studio1896/0175
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Mortimer Menpes Mexican Memories

these qualities in themselves by their irresistible
truth raise the work to art. Yet they might be so,
and yet be mere imitation of Nature, lacking the
fine selection and the peculiarly indefinite sentiment
which it is convenient to call poetic. Or having
these two factors, they might yet just miss the
singleness of conception, surely and simply realised,
which, obeying law and order, is also inspired by
caprice and the personality of the artist's choice,
and gives you as result a picture that is entitled to
be considered a work of art, using the expression in
its most restricted sense.

For art is no more inevitably present in a picture
than in a door-knocker. Examples of each exist
which may be fairly held to be within the sacred
bounds, but the mass of pictures, like the mass of
door-knockers, are merely evidence of craft and
skilled workmanship more or less good, which
would be more truly described as manufactured
products than as art.

Having claimed so much for Mr. Mura's work,
it were sheer folly to attempt to set it against that
of other artists and decide whether it were greater
or less than theirs. Nor is it essential to declare
that the Dutch school of landscape he has elected
to follow is the best and only legitimate school.
In the kingdom of art are many mansions, and the
taste of individuals trained, or untrained, must
needs find some more satisfying than others. But
to those who feel the beauty that rises to "the level
of every day's most quiet need," and forsaking
tragedy, or epigram, find the commonplace holds
as much worth valuing as the abnormal—such who
look below the surface of things recognise in the
work of modern Holland a great school albeit one
working in limited ways. If the true test of a
picture be the time you can live opposite to it with-
out being wearied, then indeed the Romanticists
have a chance of being ranked even higher than
their already accredited position. For you no
more grow weary of such pictures as these than of
Nature herself.

In Dredging we have another instance of Mr.
Mura's power to interest you in the simplest sub-
ject, and the interest is conferred not by the
incident of the picture but by its veracity and sub-
ordination of all fortuitous details. Even its
admirable composition is so skilfully managed
that the art which has produced it is concealed in
accordance with a proverb more widely quoted
than observed. In the two figure-pieces, Gossip
and A Street in Whitechapel, you discover that the
artist's accurate observation and keenly intelligent
facility for recording the thing seen are equal to

the task of depicting what is rightly considered
the noblest subject. Yet here the same admirable
restraint confronts you, the individuals are charac-
terised as types, no less than as persons; but the
artist never descends to garrulous anecdote, but
in clear-cut well-defined phrase sets down a literal
report which is infused with style, so that the
pictorial interest dominates all. Literature in the
flat is not his concern, nor does he stray into the
domain of a sister art, but with light and shadow,
contour and silhouette, builds up the presentation
of his subject; and because it is thus subordinated
to the convention of his material, it fulfils its pur-
pose as a picture, although it happens to be a
record of many other facts at the same time. One
has but to study the average black and white
figure subject of the illustrated paper to discover
how narrow the border-line is between the record
of the photograph and that of the artist, and yet
that the line, fine as it may be, is as sharply
marked as that between death and life. The one
is but a dead image, the other a reflection of
vitality and sentient being. But, as these drawings
show us, black and white may record landscape
poetically, without copying the mannerism of any
particular artist who has previously succeeded in
the difficult feat.

It is hard to write dispassionately of work that
by its pathos and grace charms you and yet satis-
fies you fully by its technique and its content to be
self-contained. In no way does Mr. Mura's work
appeal to the careless sightseer. As you linger
before it you forget to criticise, forget even whether
it is in harmony with your preconceived taste, and
are content to enjoy frankly its unobtrusive deli-
cacy and refined beauty. So you realise once
again that the most lasting sensations are those
which are least insistent in forcing themselves upon
you, and that the true wonder-land which never
palls is the common life of the ordinary day, where
every fresh miracle of sunshine and shadow has a
new secret for an artist to interpret and record as a
fresh delight for the intelligent appreciation of less
fortunate mortals.

G. W.

MR. MORTIMER MENPES
AND HIS MEXICAN
MEMORIES.
Coming into Messrs. Dowdes-
wells' well-arranged galleries, on a close November
day, from a sloppy Bond Street where the very air
seemed merely finely diluted mud, it was pleasant

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