THE AMERICAN ARTISTS, LIMITED.
The ten American artists, whose work has been on exhibition at one of the galleries recently, and who
announce that they have severed themselves from other bands of artists associated together for exhibition, had a perfect right to take that step if it so pleased them. They have had a great deal of advertising in the newspapers, and they have charged an admission fee which ought to have made their venture profitable, but there is nothing very remarkable in what they have to show. If their exhibition is no better next year than it is this, it is puzzling to know why any one would pay fifty cents to see pictures which are in no sense great, when New York is full of better pictures, which can be seen for nothing at any of the galleries.
The reason people go year after year to see the Academy exhibition is not because it is particularly good. it isn't. No exhibiton of one year's work ever is good as a whole. There may be some good things, and the people who are interested in native art go to see what has been done all over the field, make comparisons, and weed out the bad things mentally. It is worth an admission fee to be able to do this. But the work of the ten men, who have set themselves up as being a class apart, is not worth going to see - if you have to pay for the privilege.
Mr. Robert Reid has the best work there. All of his pictures are brilliant and decorative, but "A Breezy Day" is excellent. It carries the very breath of the uplands. Mr. Childe Hassam has some fairly good things. Some of the canvases exhibited are mediocre and dull, but most of them make a pleasing departure from the illustrative picture.
But we find some of these same painters also on exhibition at the Academy. Do they send to the "Ten Painters'" exhibition what they consider their best things or their worst ones?
T.W. Dewing's picture was charming in its soft, poetic tones. This artist paints misty dreams which transport you from the workaday world into a fairyland.
In the Academy the story telling picture is, as usual, in full force, and without doubt this is just the sort of picture the crowds like. Emotions, suggestions, that intangible thing which moves us in a great picture, if it is, like some of Whistler's, only a line and a blur, and which is art - all that is not popular. The crowd wants facts. It gets a good many of them at the Academy.
One canvas which has been much admired, is called "Sunday Morning." It represents a scene in the early part of this century. It shows what is evidently a Virginia church, with its dispersing congregation, and it is painted by Mr. Henry. An excellent idea is given of the way such a congregation must have looked at such a time, and for that reason it is of value, but simply as an illustration.
One of the best pictures is Mr. Beckwith's portrait of his wife. It is well painted and full of character.
THE VOGUE OF THE LITHOGRAPH.
The fashions in pictures are past finding out. The kindergartners have a fancy
(which they teach) that the history of a country can be accurately read by a careful study of its art. They point to ancient Egypt with its stiffness, and to modern France with its excesses in art, and illustrate their remarks. Every picture sale here tells the story of the changes in fashion, but few of them give any good reason for it. A picture which was valuable last year sells for a song today, and the old canvas hidden in a garret then is elaborately framed now. It appears to be true that the opinions of the majority are made by the few, and we are willing to accept that in paintings and sculpture; but why, oh why, should a lithograph be a thing of scorn last year and most precious this?
The men who ten years ago were buying etchings look at the rarest print with languid eyes today. The lithograph, which had ceased to appear in polite society at all, and was known to the world at large through the medium of circus posters, has become the fad. It is fair to say that with some artists lithography has never gone out of fashion. That versatile being, James Whistler, has always made some lithographs, because he loved the velvety blacks and the delicate, pale, intermediate tones. But today he is not known even as a leader in the new school. Willette is the supreme artist of this medium. It is becoming a fashion in France to make portraits on the stone. Practically, in lithography every impression is an original, as the drawing is made on the stone and is not visible until it is printed. A lithographic stone lasts much longer than an etched plate. Every art student in Paris considers his stone drawings of paramount importance at the moment, and it is probable that this decade will leave behind a collection of these beautiful pictures, which the far seeing will gather in while they are cheap. The work is not difficult, and has the charm of novelty.
Laurens Alma-Tadema is so healthy looking and so healthy minded that he has never fallen under the imputation of trying to "live the life of the beautiful Greeks," and yet, oddily enough, that is exactly what he succeeds in doing, at least so far as surroundings are concerned. His pictures of antique life could almost all of them be painted from a model placed somewhere about his own house and grounds. He is a Dutchman, born in Friesland, and his earliest pictures were of German life in the early middle ages. This was followed by a Pompeian period, and then the elaborate representations of the life of ancient Greece and Rome. But it has been since 1870, when he went to England, and married the enormously rich Miss Epps of the cocoa fortune, that he has been able to realize his dreams of ancient grandeur in his surroundings. He built a London house on the north side of Regent's Park, which is filled with the cool marbles, the frescoes, and the decorations which his pictures have taught us to know.
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We have not many of Sir Frederick Leighton's pictures in this country, but no more beautiful example of his work can be seen anywhere than the Andromeda at the Tooth gallery on Fifth Avenue. Sir Frederick Leighton has so recently died that the story of his work is in everybody's mind. This picture is an excellent example of his best output. It is essentially decorative in effect, the dragon filling up much of the picture and sheltering the maiden under his wing. In the sky Perseus can be seen on his winged horse coming to the rescue. But it is this decorative effect, this decorative excellence, which is too pronounced a feature of all of Leighton's work. His lines are full of poetry, but they are too carefully composed. His pictures are so great that it is impossible not to wish that so much that is great should not be ablaze with the very fire of genius. But as a magnificent example of Leighton's work this Andromeda should be seen.
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Mr. George H. Boughton, who has made a study of Puritans and their history, that he might represent them in his pictures, has discovered an odd old Dutch picture, which is now on exhibition at the Avery galleries in New York. It is supposed to be the sailing of the Speedwell from Delftshaven.
The picture has no name nor date, but there is a label on the back which shows that it once belonged to the Blenheim collection. When the first Duke of Marlborough came back from the Low Countries he brought several pictures with him, and this was undoubtedly one of them.
The picture is by no means extraordinary from an artistic point of view, but it should be bought by one of the museums for its historic value. The ship, with its gay figurehead, flags and guns, might be another than the Speedwell, but the little band of solemn, black coated, ruffed and hatted men are unmistable. These are the English Puritans who settled in New England.
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One collection of pictures which was disposed of in New York in April was of more than usual interest. Many of them were old English paintings, and their genuiness was guaranteed by Mr. Sedelmeyer, who sold them. One of the most charming was a portrait by Romney of Miss Eleanor Gordon. This was an excellent example of the work of this artist, the heavy hair, the arch expression, and the sweet white frock, with its
red sash, making a picture which was delightful, irrespective of its artistic qualities as a painting.
Beside this good Romney there were portraits by Sir Joshua, Gainsborough, Opie, and Shee. One picture by a French artist was of the "Old Pretender," james Stuart. It was almost full length, and clad in armor. Another royal picture was Constable's "Embarkation of George IV from Whitehall," on the occasion of the opening of Waterloo bridge.
The modern pictures were very good. They included a first rate Corot, two Meissoniers, a Munkacey, and a Portuny, besides many others of the first class.
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Mr. James Ellsworth, of Chicago, was the purchaser of the Troyon of the Fuller sale, which the French government coveted, and he is going to take his pictures from Chicago to New York on account of Chicago's atmosphere. This brought Mr. Charles Yerkes' magnificent collection of pictures to Gotham, and will take Potter Palmer's from Chicago to Newport. Mr. Ellsworth has spent more than a million dollars on his paintings, and he has selected them with rare judgment.
He owns ten Innesses. When Mr. W.A. Clarke of Montana finishes his picture gallery on Fifth Avenue and Mr. Ellsworth has settled his collection, the metropolis will have the most remarkable assemblage of paintings ever brought together in one city since the beginning of the world. There are probably as many good pictures in many European cities, but they came there by entirely different means. In the older countries, pictures were collected through inheritance, a process going on from generation to generation. Many of the great portrait collections are made up almost entirely from gifts. In this country the owners of our great private galleries not only made their own collections of pictures, but the money which purchased them. And in nine cases out of ten they require no weeding.
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Besides "The Standard Bearer," by Rembrandt, Mr. George Gould has purchased Gainsborough's portrait of Lady Mulgrave, which was sold at Christie's about a year ago.
It would be a most excellent thing if the owners of our private galleries would allow the public to visit them, as is so commonly done in England, and was so long the practice of the late Mr. Walters, of Baltimore.
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At the Knoedler gallery hangs a Corot which is an interesting specimen of this master's work - especially to students, as it is painted in his "early manner." It is hard to realize that Corot belongs to the last century as well as to this. He was born in 1796 and died in 1875. This large canvas, showing a landscape with wood centers and a wagon with four horses crossing a stream, was painted in 1832. At the first sight it does not suggest Corot, but a look at the detail shows that even then he had the same infallible way of painting nature by means that seem almost intangible.
Corot was not understood, at first. The critics were accustomed to a different sort of painting. These gray canvases did not appeal to them; but as the years went by, the painter's charm asserted itself. Finally his country, always ready to reward her artists, gave him every honor in its power, and he died in the consciousness of his great fame.