Page 17 - The Studio First Edition - April 1893
P. 17

The Growth of Recent Ant

                 it struck me details had already been published      HE GROWTH OF RECENT
                 many times, and that even the pleasure of hearing    ART. BY R. A. M. STEVEN-
                 the artist describe his own methods, must not be  T  SON.
                 indulged in at the expense of his time. "You
                 must find it hard, Sir Frederic, to fulfil your       PEOPLE  of intelligence often lament
                 social engagements and yet do so much?"  that we live in a decadence ; that our century shows
                 " Social engagements must always give way to  eccentricity, morbid fancifulness, anything but
                                                                     vitality in the pursuit of plastic art. In
                                                                      England most writers held this opinion
                                                                     twenty years ago; and some hold it still.
                                                                     In the letterpress to Mr. T. Cole's wood-
                                                                     engravings after " Old Italian Masters,"
                                                                     Mr. W. J. Stillman, writing in 1892, says
                                                                     that we are impotent to produce art now-
                                                                     adays, and that our only compensation is
                                                                     the extraordinary power of appreciating
                                                                     Botticelli, &c., which belongs to the supe-
                                                                     rior persons of our day. Speaking of the
                                                                     modern spirit, for he seems obliged to
                                                                     concede that it exists, he is very severe
                                                                     on our study of nature and our new
                                                                     sensitiveness to visual beauty. From
                                                                     my own experience I am sure that this
                                                                     worship of pre-Raphaelite Italian art to
                                                                     the neglect of all present painting is
                                                                     still an intolerant bigotry. Many people
                                                                     seem unaware that they live in a most
                                                                     fertile as well as critical century. This
                                                                     is not the place to treat fully the history
                                                                     and growth of the movement, or to give
                                                                     a systematic vindication of modern prin-
                                                                     ciples. But a new periodical may well
                                                                     devote a few words to remind artists and
                                                                     amateurs of our position in history, and
                                                                     to interest the public in the work of our
                                                                     own day.
                                                                       Historians of the past point to Raphael
                                                                     and say, " Behold the end ; after this
                                                                      came mannerism, eclecticism, stale repe-
                                                                      tition, and all that is vile." Yet they
                             A GROUP IN THE " DAPHNEPHORIA "
                                                                     wonder somewhat inconsistently that
                 art," was his reply. " Work is first. I set aside  artists of our century have declined a similar task,
                 regular times for that, and nothing but official  and have preferred a fresh study of nature to the
                 engagements are allowed to interfere with it ; after-  eternal consultation of old formulas. These critics
                 wards I go out, but I keep early hours." For those   have heard that the passion of life and the passion
                 who have forgotten the details referred to above, it   of art are not the same thing ; and they must needs
                  may suffice to say that "these models are clad with   use this truth as an argument against a century
                  real drapery wetted to increase the effect of its fine-  which, inspired by fresh feelings, has sought to
                  ness in proportion to the small scale of the folds,"  convey them in fresh style of art. Convention is
                 and are made only for the sake of ten minutes draw-  a necessity, being a compact between stubborn
                  ing, the serious study of drapery being made from   truths of fact and the scarce less stubborn laws of
                  the living model or lay figure. They help, also, to   decorative effect. Style is the result of this com-
                  facilitate the disposition of the grouping, but are   pact, for it applies the principles of plastic beauty
                  done with as soon as the cartoon is ready for tracing.   to enhance the effect of true feeling and observation.
   12   13   14   15   16   17   18   19   20   21   22