Studio: international art — 50.1910

Page: 37
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Mr. William Rot hens teiris Paintings

HE PAINTINGS OF MR.
WILLIAM ROTHENSTEIN.
BY J. B. MANSON.

Perhaps the most remarkable characteristic of
latter-day Art has been its tendency to fall away
from its legitimate aims and ideals, and to become
a mere mode of technical expression, wherein
the cleverness of the artist has unfettered scope.
This tendency, perniciously attractive as it is, has
found much favour with the majority of our
younger painters, with the result that a great deal
of the art produced in these days has no other
claim to existence than the desire of its producers
to display their dazzling dexterity. Up to a point,
skilled painters, brilliant draughtsmen, competent
craftsmen, have never been more numerous, but
the great abilities of many of them have been
somewhat nullified through want of proper re-
straint and thoughtful direction. Art, as a means
of expressing emotion, as an educative and en-
lightening influence on society, has given place to
an art which has for highest aim
the display, sometimes brilliant,
not seldom banal, of mere tech-
nical triumphs, the painting of
attractive surfaces and textures in
a dexterous manner.

It is to the influence of the
dogma of “ art for art’s sake ” that
the present waywardness of art is
due. This dogma, whose inception
had value as a protest against the
degrading influence of the illustra-
tive art of the period, has out-
grown its usefulness. Neverthe-
less, many of the painters of to-day
are still labouring in the narrow
paths circumscribed by its tenets.

The theory that art could have no
other mission than its own glorifi-
cation has led to its present state
of atrophy and to its degraded
position as a means of the glorifi-
cation of the painter’s cleverness.

It is, therefore, with a lively sense
of healthful stimulation that one
is able to turn to the work of
William Rothenstein, which stands
in marked contradistinction to the
effete effusions of the disciples of
Part pour Part.

Rothenstein’s distinction lies
not in any triumph of technique;

his work is great, not because it is glazed better
than other painters’, not because it shows an
admirable use of impasto, not because it rivals
Rembrandt’s or emulates Manet’s, but because it
is an intense expression of deep human emotion,
and because it is fundamentally sincere. It has
that simplicity which is an essential characteristic
of really great art, and which only a great artist
can obtain.

It is from the moods and feelings—often called
commonplace—of contemporary life that Rothen-
stein has drawn his inspiration. All his work is
the realisation of the poetry which is inherent in
human life wherever its fundamental qualities find
spontaneous expression. He has a spirit of self-
abnegation which in itself is the highest expression
of personality, and any personal peculiarities
(which nowadays masquerade as personality) are
lost in his absorption in his subject. He becomes,
as it were, and for the time being, the thing he is
painting. By this means he obtains a complete
understanding of the soul that is in matter, as in

PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST BY WILLIAM ROTHENSTEIN

(.Metropolitan Museum, New York)

37
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