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Studio: international art — 26.1902

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The National Competition


The rearrangement of the Victoria and
Albert Museum has now contributed to a much
more favourable display of the designs sent in for
the National Competition at South Kensington
than has been the case in former years, when
they were relegated to an outhouse and scattered
broadcast among irrelevant lumber of many kinds.
A good deal of weeding-out has also been done in
some of the more elementary classes, where the
work, however valuable as training (and much of it
may be challenged on that point), hardly justifies
public exhibition; and in the exercise of copying
standard models the results shown might even yet be
better proportioned to the relative value of the work.

On the other hand, the present display is poor
in several sections to which we look for something
new and distinctive in design. In the architectural
proposals there is hardly anything to arrest the
eye, and nothing whatever in furniture. The
strongest classes are the textiles and the pottery,
both containing really admirable and interesting
work. Designs for jewellery, enamels, and the
lighter decorative metals are less numerous but
above the average in quality. There is little
attempt at the treatment of stone, wood, iron, or
lead. Gesso seems to have disappeared after
much fitful experiment, but white plaster decora-
tion steadily maintains its level. At the other end

of the scale the essays in lace are more prolific
than striking. Embroideries are very few, and
bookbindings still fewer. Printing processes, how-
ever, are clearly receiving from the more thoughtful
students the attention they deserve.

It is pleasing also to notice the marked advance
of one or two schools, such as Worcester and
Liverpool (Mount Street), in the range and versa-
tility as well as the general high level of their
work, and the good position maintained by Lambeth
and Battersea, Birmingham, Plymouth, New Cross,
Camberwell, the Midland pottery centres, and
others that have already distinguished themselves
in special branches of design. The Battersea
textiles are, perhaps, a little reminiscent of last
year's patterns, but this may be inevitable with so
many pupils working on similar lines. One of the
most original and distinctive pieces of work in this
group is the printed muslin by Jessie M. Browton
(Watford), with its bold but very pleasing little
figures of rabbits, trees, and flying birds—a triumph
in the fiat treatment of objects on several planes in
a light fabric demanding simplicity and reticence
in ornament. A comparison of the various textiles
confirms the impression that this branch is one of
the most fruitful in invention, though much of the
work in it is less original than the piece described.
The design by Norman R. Hall (Leeds), for
example, pleases us chiefly by its unassuming
quietness and lack of any " points" that arrest
the eye, filling perfectly the need that sometimes
arises for pattern in its lightest and least aggressive



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