International studio — 22.1904

Page: 209
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1 cm
C. 51 ft/*

FROM the days when Sir Philip Sydney wan-
dered in the grounds of Penshurst and nurtured
his flower-like soul within its flower gardens, to
the day when Swinburne, writing his sweetest
verses in the gardens of an old manor-house,
dedicates them to Sir Philip Sydney, English art
and English poetry have ever found inspiration in
the gardens which we have always made our own.

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Nothing now can spell England to the traveller
returning like the sight of English private grounds.
Men have slaved to possess them, and died to
retain them; so much do they mean in the history
of families, so much do they mean even to the
family gardener tending the growing plants. It is
no wonder, then, that pictures of them are popular
—and here for once the public reserves to itself
the right of giving its own art-criticism, and this
they do with some measure of justification, for
who should know better how a flower has been
painted than they that love them ? What opinion
can be more worth having than the opinion of love ?
To secure favour here the artist must be possessed of
the knowledge of something more than values. He
must at once be in sympathy with the delicate form
of lilies and the riotous colour of red roses. In the
dark cool green shadows of the clipped box hedges
he must feel the romance we know to be there.
To paint flowers—singly or in gardens—demands
of the artist something other than a technique
which subordinates everything to the vulgarity of
its own self-assertion ; it demands tenderness, light-
ness, and patience, as from petal to petal the artist
advances with what in a lifetime he has gathered of
skill. Mr. Elgood's gardens satisfy all these require-
ments ; perhaps at times he lingers too lovingly
over some corner of delicious colour, losing the
breadth of the whole; but he were an ingrate
indeed who would pause to find fault where there
is so much of good to show.
In the painting of the a?
how the high red wall, seen for a space
behind the flowers, stimulates our fancy. To
children playing inside such a garden, outside that
wall lies fairyland. To the grown-up, tired worker
it is heaven that lies within.
Old sundials at the end of long gravel walks,
where the shadows of the yews lengthen as the sun
goes down, crusted flower-pots, urns, and fountains,
with here and there a peacock slowly moving from
sun to shade. Looking at Mr. Elgood's pictures
one imagines that never once within these iron
gates has there been any rain. The dragon-fly is
by the wall, and bees pass, full of their own import-
ance, from flower to flower. At the back of nearly
every Englishman's mind is some such vision.
How to address himself to this deep-seated love
in his fellow-countrymen has been Mr. Elgood's
problem, and it cannot have been a difficult one;
he simply shares with us the skill we envy, that can
take away and keep in a treasure-house for memory
the things it once has seen.

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