Studio: international art — 3.1894

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London as a Sketching Ground

generally of light, their work as a whole is a failure.
An exhibition of their canvases of the most pro-
nounced would-be brilliance can, as I have myself
witnessed, be reduced to the futility of dulness by
placing a low-toned Corot in their midst from
which we look out among its surrounding panels
of high but lifeless colour as if a window had been
opened in the wall. How is this ? Is it that we
have lost the old sense of the value of shadow, or
is it that the expression of light is after all so
closely interwoven with some form of sentiment,
that it will not come to the call of the copyist at
all, and it is only through feeling we can reach it ?
However that may be, the fact remains that the
high-pitched canvases of to-day will not stand the
test of comparison with the vibrating luminosity of
those of the older masters of light of whom we have
spoken. They are dull; and no more fatal state-
ment could be made of any form of art. M.


My dear P.,—In a former letter I endeavoured
to show you something of the pictorial wealth of
the streets of London, and sketched out a short
itinerary from the City to the West End, but I
left until now any allusion to its water-scenery or to
the vast tidal stream that has made it ever since


the time of the Romans the chief trade centre of
the world. The approach to London by the
South-Eastern Railway gives no foretaste of its
scenery or of its situation. It is made on a level
with the house-tops of Bermondsey and Newington,
their monotonous lines broken here and there by
a few church towers and school-board buildings
which rise like islands out of the dull grey waste,
the eastward horizon cut by the tall masts of ships
which lie in the river off Deptford. But a traveller

after passing London Bridge Station finds suddenly
presented to his view a scene in which almost all
the chief monuments of London occupy a place.
No city that I know is so lavish of its beauties,
opening as it does the whole treasury of its rich


associations at this point where the train first
crosses the river.

To the right is the bridge, with an ancestry
dating almost from prehistoric times and occupy-
ing within a few hundred feet the same site as its
predecessors, the last of whom lived for 650 years ;
hard by is the Old Swan Pier, the busy landing-
place of passenger steamers ; above shoots up the
tall column of the Monument; surrounding it are
the churches of St. Magnus, St. Michael Cornhill,
St. Mary Pattens, and St. Dunstan with its light
silvery spire; and over the mastheads of ships is
seen in the mid-distance the four-square Tower
keep, almost the same as it was left by its Norman
architect, with an unbroken history of eight hundred
years. Nor is the view up stream less full of
associations. The Cathedral of St. Paul stands
high on the sky-line which is fretted by the spires
of countless City churches. Chief amongst them
is St. Mary-le-Bow, to be born within the sound of
whose bells was the qualification of truest citizen-
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