Studio: international art — 62.1914

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The Royal Academy Exhibition, igi4

BITION, 191 4.

It cannot be said that there are any sur-
prises in the Royal Academy exhibition this spring
or that it differs to any perceptible extent from its
predecessors in the last few years. It is a quite
■characteristic show, solid and respectable and well
up to the average ; it has all the familiar Academy
features, and it makes its appeal to the public
in the way that has been sanctified by long custom.
There is not much work in it that can be reckoned
as absolutely of the first rank ; there is little that
can be dismissed as wholly bad ; for the most
part, the things shown are examples of the applica-
tion of sound technical principles to the treatment
of material which was not particularly worthy of
artistic consideration. To the seeker after sensa-
tions the exhibition no doubt seems dull and
uninspiring but for the student of art it has a
real technical interest, though he will learn from
it lessons in craftsmanship rather than new and
fruitful ideas of the way in which his craft should
be applied.

But to blame the Academy because the work-
it has brought together is what it is would be
unfair. The exhibitions at Burlington House are,
after all, only summings-up of what the artists
throughout the country are doing, and the Academy
is in many ways the most catholic and tolerant
art society we have. The exhibition this year
includes adequate examples of almost all the
schools of practice that count as in any way worthy
of recognition; nearly all the ways of using artists'
materials arc illustrated, except the devices of
those extravagant cliques which by their foolish
affectations and want of sanity have put themselves
outside the pale. If the exhibition is dull the
fault lies with the artists who have submitted
their work for selection, and if their work is dull
the ultimate blame must be laid upon the public,
which does not encourage originality or freshness
of effort.

So when people profess to find an Academy
■exhibition unsatisfying they had better take
themselves to task for having forgotten to pro-
vide the artists throughout the country with any
inducement to break new ground. If there were
a demand for a more personal type of production
there are many men who would be only too
glad to supply it; and the works of these men
would give character and interest to the various
art exhibitions and would certainly find their way
to the Academy, which aims consistently at

pleasing the widest possible public. What the
majority is content to accept will always make
up the bulk of the collection at Burlington House
—the Academy lives by being popular and must
follow, not lead, the taste of the crowd. It is
obvious, then, that the critics who condemn an
Academy show as a dull thing, without vitality
or vigorous initiative, are actually reflecting on
themselves for having failed to fulfil their obligations
to the art of the country.

That the Academy is not so wedded to precedent
as to be unwilling even to attempt experiments
is shown by certain changes which have been
made this year in the arrangement of the exhi-
bition. The most obvious alteration is the
transference of the water-colours and black-and-
white works from the rooms specially built for
them a few years ago to two of the galleries
previously allotted to oil paintings, and the placing
of the more moderate-sized canvases in the water-
colour and black-and-white rooms. The most
significant one is the hanging of Gallery IV. with
some regard for right spacing and for the correct
relation of the pictures one to the other. The
first change is not particularly to be commended,
but the other is unquestionably full of great
possibilities. If the whole exhibition were treated
in the same way the improvement in its appearance
would be surprising ; and though this sort of
spacing might involve a reduction in the number
of works shown, the sacrifice would be worth
making for the sake of those which would be
chosen to represent the art of the year.

Most of the pictures which have a right to be
remembered as salient features of the show are by
men of well-established reputation—there are 110
spectacular first appearances of unknown artists, and
there are few instances in which the younger men
who are coming to the front have made any great
advance. Mr. Sargent, who was reported to have
given up portrait painting, has triumphantly re-
asserted his mastery in this field with two remarkable
examples, of which one only, the portrait of Lady
Rocksavage, now appears on the wall, the other and
more important work, a portrait oi Henry James,
Esq., having on the very first day of the exhibition
fallen a prey to the vagaries of a female suffragist.
In addition Mr. Sargent exhibits three brilliant
open air studies, Cypresses and Pines, Sketchers,
and San Geremia. Mr. Sims shows delightfully his
imaginative and executive powers in his fantasies
The Little Archer, Spring Song, and La Cage aux
Amours : Mr. Waterhouse does himself full justice
with his delicately treated Annunciation, his vigorous

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