The art of 1899. part ii.
THE PARIS SALONS. BY
Are this year’s Salons better or worse
than those of last year or former years ? Does
good work or bad predominate ? These are the
questions which we ask ourselves year after year—
questions which it becomes more and more difficult
to answer. Therefore I will not attempt it. After
all, it matters very little. Is it not natural that
works of real merit should be in a minority ? For
if these legions of artists were all great artists it
would be extraordinary indeed ! Enough if we
can discover even a score or so of canvases reveal-
ing true artistry. Then we need not complain.
A little philosophy is, therefore, needed in our
search, amid this mass of shocking mediocrity, for
the score of true pictures contained therein. These
discovered, one may experience a little of that rare
pleasure which springs from the contemplation of
all true art, especially when one has had to seek it
Such, then, will be my endeavour, in this brief
examination of the great official exhibitions of this
year. Moreover, the title of this article explains
itself. “The Art of 1899 ! ” It is with art alone
that we are concerned.
First, let us do homage to the memory of Puvis
de Chavannes, and let us congratulate the com-
mittee of the Societe Nationale on the manner in
which it has done honour to its late president.
On the very spot where last year he displayed his
admirable Sainte Genevieve veillant sur Paris is now
hung his Portrait de Madame Puvis de Chavannes,
done in 1883. This work is truly admirable. This
darkly-clad woman, with austere face and folded
hands, appears before us to-day as the muse of
Puvis de Chavannes—a mourning muse, whose
lips, like his, are dumb ; whose eyes, like his, are
closed to the light of day around us.
We need not delay long before the canvases
which represent the new president of the National
Society, M. Carolus Duran. Let us at once seek
out M. Carriere, and refresh our eyes with a little
beauty. His two pictures, La Pensee and Le Reveil,
are full of it, the latter especially, for it is a real
XVII. No. 75.—June, 1899.
poem of tenderness, expressed in most striking
fashion. The painting is conceived in a spirit of
the utmost rhythmic beauty—intense, expressive,
complete, and all achieved by the simplest means.
This is art at its highest, art that is within the range
of none but the great artist.
Once more it is to Brittany, to the Pays de la
Mer, that M. Charles Cottet transports us this
year; nor need we regret it. His chief picture,
Gens d'Ouessant veillant un enfant mort, is a work
of superb merit, and proves, coming, as it does,
after his great success of last year, that the artist is
in full possession of his highest powers, absolute
master of his art, armed with incomparable tech-
nical ability—in a word, a powerful and expressive
painter. The execution of this picture is truly
extraordinary in its freedom and its intensity, with
a spirit of mournful, half-wild grandeur emanating
therefrom. Very moving, too, are the four can-
vases styled Deuil. Five landscapes complete his
exhibit; one of these particularly strikes me as
being profoundly beautiful. It is a scene of fish-
ing-boats in harbour at sunset. The nets hang
from the masts, showing in their mournful black-
ness like veils of crape, or spiders’ webs, against
the golden glory of the sky.
M. Lucien Simon, too, has returned to Brittany
for inspiration. In his Luttes we are present with
him at Finistere, amid the broad sunlight, which he
has realised with a flexibility and a variety of effect
denoting a painter of the highest merit. The
manner in which M. Simon has conceived his pic-
ture, grouped his figures and arranged his colour
schemes, the degree of character with which he
has invested these peasants and fishermen in their
“ Sunday best,” is altogether admirable, and earns
for him the indisputable right to be ranked among
the best of our modern artists.
Still Brittany ! This time it is M. Eugene Vaill
who is our guide with L'Heure de la Pricre~
Worthy of all praise, too, is his Soir de Bretagner
with its delightful, melancholy Breton girl, standing
innocent-eyed, amid the falling shades of night.
M. Aman-Jean’s display is one of the chief
delights of the Exhibition. His gifts have been so.
fully expatiated on in these columns that it is.
needless to describe his method anew. I will