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Studio: international art — 34.1905

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Drawings by David Cox

Were it possible to add to his repu-
tation, certain drawings which David Cox shut into
the cupboards of his studio and which are now
being brought into the light would do so. They
are likely as it is to put this phase of his art more
prominently before the general public, to whom
there has been served up for years only finished
David Coxs. Everyone knows the struggle of
the artist to impose his genius upon his generation;
everyone knows the overpowering genius that
filtered through the elaborated technique which at
the time was, and to some extent still is, the only
thing marketable. That Cox did not find his
happiest expression in the finished picture is known
to every student of his art, and it would be a
sorrowful thing that the added evidence these
sketches give of what his genius really consisted
should have remained for any time shut away, were
it not a fact that an advance in knowledge on the
part of the public has earned the reward the
introduction of further examples of this lighter and
truer side of his genius brings.

The examples that we give of his charcoal
sketches show just the lightest side of his art. We
are not erring if we take them twice as seriously as
the painter did himself; on the contrary, we are
but meting out a tardy justice to genius that, in spite
of our pride in its pre-eminence, even yet perhaps
has not received, in full, recognition of its versatility
and charm.

Can one point to any contemporary sketching
which summarises so effectively what is essential to
sketching,—to any work which is so naive, so un-
selfconscious and unaffected in its singular

One may recognise studies for his pictures in
some of these sketches ; and whilst remembering
the spirit that was carried into his completer work,
we cannot help but think what an Impressionist
was partly sacrificed in the side of his art that his
patrons chose to encourage. Trees have never
altered in their shape at all, though no one would
be led to think so by the study of pictures. The
straightforward emotional utterance typified in Cox's
art gives to the sketches which, after all, reveal
what is really characteristic of his genius, that
freedom from contemporary mannerism which
makes his art as true for ourselves as it could seem
for his contemporaries.

More than one of the sketches that we give
might have been drawn yesterday. Nature does

not alter ; why should art ? At least, why should
art, which aims at truth to nature, so often have
stumbled into conventions which date a landscape
by the bygone shape of trees ?

Of the great un-selfconsciousness of Cox, one
is reminded by these studies. One has heard of
Whistler framing his sketches with care, going
through certain rites to impress the spectator; yet
David Cox probably put these away with others in
a pile near the floor, not half conscious of how
significant of his genius his simplest sketch might
be. Whistler's attitude towards his work was
the right one. We are less likely to measure
art with a foot-rule than formerly, and have come
to understand that a slight thing, autographic and
vivacious as a man's handwriting, may like a man's
handwriting, have for us far more abiding personal
interest than the " copper-plate" art that finds its
way into the finish of pictures.

All these sketches display what is termed quality;
they have that especial freshness of quality that is
consequent upon spontaneous execution. In the
originals the beauty of touch which is evinced in
the handling of the charcoal is a revelation.
One finds, too, that Cox instinctively in these
his unconsidered sketches observed the delicate
limitations of his medium in a way that with a
modern would have resolved itself into conscious

The impulses which began with Cox we have
since formulated into a creed. Again to Whistler,
perhaps more than to anyone else, has been due
the increased power shown by the connoisseur of
the present day in distinguishing between what is
essential in all art and what is essential only to
some particular phase.

The sense of open air with which Cox en-
dowed his pictures is well expressed in these
studies. Nature was always such a live thing
for him that an impression of her bustle and
movement is realised throughout all his drawings
and paintings.

Our illustrations are drawn from amongst a
collection of water-colours, drawings and sketch-
books that have come into the possession of Mr.
A. Walker, of Bond Street, from the painter's
granddaughter, and which represent every phase
through which his art passed ; amongst them is an
early water-colour of trees dated 1802, and among
the water-colours in his later manner are many
sketches showing his methods and the ease of
workmanship and freedom of style to which he

Thomas Oldforde.
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