Studio: international art — 27.1903

Page: 267
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1 cm
Modern English Plaster Work

account, for the British public is a singular Hercules
indeed, with a much-pampered taste for trifles of
weak sentiment. But to those of us who have held
intercourse with the severer masters of the arts, the
etched dramas of Mr. Legros must needs be fascin-
ating, whether they take us through a sinister and
tragic set of plates like the symbolistic one of
The Triumph of Death, or simply make real to us
some ordinary tragedies of life, like the burning
of a homestead. In these subjects—take the Burn-
ing Village, as reproduced for this article by photo-
gravure—the terror of peasant women is sometimes
represented with a truth that Millet himself could
not have excelled. The terror is really that of
peasant women ; and you may notice also that no
attempt has been made to give traits of national
character to the figures represented. The women
are simply peasants, types of their class. They be-
long to a country discovered by Mr. Legros and
never to be colonised by Great Britain!

One set of dramas in Mr. Legros' etched work
is known by him as his "garden of misery," for
in it he loves to show his deep and tender sym-
pathy for all pariahs, all outcasts, all tramps and
beggars. These poor creatures, the dilapidated
camp-followers of life's war, receive alms from his
kind genius : this may be seen, not in a few good
prints, but in many; and there is one among them
— namely, The Dying Vagabond—that takes rank
at once as a work of transcendent pathos and
strength. In it Mr. Legros achieves an effect of
aweing tragedy more original and more memorable
than any other similar effect produced by a painter-
etcher.' It is a print that stands alone—a master-
piece unique in its own way, and therefore without
a rival of its own kind.

But Mr. Legros has gentler moods also; tragedy
alone does not occupy the whole of his attention.
He can be Corotesque, as in the twilight study
called Fishing with a Net; and in some mid-day
landscapes, like the Sunny Meadow, his art has
flashes of pure sweet sunlight. There are rural
figure-subjects also of a restful kind, like the etching
entitled After the Day's Work; and among the
portraits there are some fine prints, in which the
pain of incessant thought is not the chief thing to
be studied, as it certainly is in the masterly and
pathetic portrait of Auguste Rodin.

But although these gentler etchings are very
refined and very charming, I cannot think that
they give us the least perishable part of Mr. Legros'
etched work. Some of them, no doubt, are perfect
to a detail; but most of them lack those dramatic
and austere qualities which cause Mr. Legros to

stand apart from his comrades of to-day—a lonely
classic. The late R. A. M. Stevenson spoke of him
as "the most lofty and severe of all the classic-
romantic artists now living"; it is, I believe, by
virtue of his sterner work that Mr. Legros will live
on in English art, and continue his strong professor-
ship, fostering always a wholesome detestation for
those prettinesses of style for which many English-
men have long shown a weak partiality.

Walter Shaw Sparrow.


The art of plastering, according to Mr. Bankart,
falls naturally into two groups, and what he seeks to
revive is the English kind, not that which had its
origin in Italy. Stucco duro played a far more im-
portant part in the past than the plaster we are
concerned with here, and I would not have anyone
suppose I am inclined to think meanly of it, but
Mr. Bankart discovers in England the germs of an
indigenous art with the breath of life in it, and
argues, not unfairly, that it is our duty to keep it

We read of lime, the essential ingredient, being
sold by the bagful and hundredweight in the thir-
teenth century, and we hear a good deal about
plasterers at that epoch. There were regulations pro-
viding for the inspection of work, and so important
had they become that a charter of incorporation was
granted to plasterers in 1501. It seems to have been
primarily as one of the busiest building trades that
plastering received so much attention, for there was
little of art in it then, and the decoration of the
earliest examples I have been shown is classical in
its intention. History tells us or the discovery in
manuscript of Vitruvius on the Five Orders (in-
cluding his recipe for the compounding of plaster),
and what a sensation it caused in Italy. It tells
us, moreover, when the first English translation
appeared, and mentions by name the Italians,
plasterers all, who came at the bidding or
Henry VIII. to make his Palace of Nonsuch the
vainglorious thing that it was.

There were mirrors of plaster in classical times,
showing to what a pitch it was brought, and the
name the Italians gave it, " stucco duro," seems to
differentiate it exactly. The art that reached England
from Italy was that of a country politically, morally,
spiritually bankrupt, but the people possessed this

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