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A discussion of the impressionistic school makes it almost imperative to continue our investigation by way of the French Section. France is easily to modern art what Italy was to the art of the Renaissance or Greece to antiquity. Almost all countries, with the exception of those of northern Europe, have gone to school at Paris. It becomes quite evident at first glance that a certain very desirable spaciousness in the hanging of the pictures contributes much toward the generally favorable impression of this section of the exhibition, though it is hard to understand why this fine effect should have been spoiled by the pattern used on the wall-covering. It seems unbelievable that a people like the French should so violate a fundamental principle, which a first-semester art student would scarcely do. The otherwise delightful impression of the French section, so excellently arranged, is considerably impaired by this faux pas. There is no chronological succession in evidence in the hanging of pictures in the six galleries of this section, and old and new, conservative and radical, are hung together with no other consideration than harmonious ensemble.
In the western end of the section presided over by a decorative painting of some aras among orange trees (over the west door), a beautiful, almost classic canvas by Henri Georget commands immediate attention. The poetic idealism of this decorative landscape, together with a fine joyousness, give it unusual character. Alongside of it a very intelligently painted little canvas by Albert Guillaume shows the interior of an art dealer's shop. The agent is making Herculean efforts to bamboozle an unsuspecting parvenu into buying an example of some very "advanced" painting. The canvas is fine persiflage in its clever psychological characterization of the sleek dealer and the stupid helplessness of the bloated customer and his wife, who seem hypnotized by the wicked eye in the picture. As a piece of modern genre in a much neglected field, it is one of the finest things of recent years. On the extreme left of this wall a very fine bit of painting of an Arabian fairy tale by E. Dinet deserves to be mentioned.
Almost opposite this small canvas Lucien Simon has a large picture painted with the bravura for which he is famous. The atmosphere of this fine interior is simply and spontaneously achieved, and the three figures of mother, nurse and balky baby are excellently drawn. The still-life by Moride, to the left of this picture, shows all the earmarks of the modern school without sacrificing a certain delicacy of handling which is often considered by many modern painters a confession of weakness. A fine Dutch canvas on the extreme left of this wall, by Guillaume-Roger, attracts by a fine decorative note seldom found in pictures of French easel painters.
The east wall of this gallery is distinguished by a number of fine landscapes by different men. Beginning on the left side of the door Jules-Emile Zingg presents two tonally skillful winter landscapes of great fidelity, while on the right is Henry Grosjean's delicate atmospheric study of a broad valley floor. A decorative watercolour of the Versailles Gardens, by Mlle. Carpentier, commands admiration by reason of its fine composition as well as by the economical but effective technique of putting transparent paint over a charcoal drawing. The sculpture in this gallery is of no great moment. Like much of the modern French sculpture it is very well done in a technical sense without disclosing great concentration of mind.
A variety of subjects continues to impress one in this gallery. Portraits, landscapes, and historical subjects, with here and there a genre note, make the general character of the French exhibit, showing at every turn the great technical dexterity for which French art has long been celebrated. There is no picture of outstanding merit in this gallery, unless one would single out a very sympathetic, simple landscape by Paul Buffet and the Lucien Griveau landscape called "The Silver Thread," diagonally opposite, a canvas of rich tonality and distinctive composition.
An adjoining gallery toward the east has a great number of excellent pictures to hold the attention of the visitor. To begin with the figure painters, the Desch portrait of a little girl in empire costume appeals by its genuinely original design. The carefully considered pattern effect of this canvas is most agreeable and well assisted by a very refined colour scheme. Although a trifle dry, the quality of painting in this canvas is the same as that which makes Whistler's work so interesting. This painting is one of the great assets of the French section, and to my mind one of the great pictures of the entire exhibition. Balancing the Desch canvas, one finds another figural canvas of great beauty of design, by Georges Devoux. "Farewell," while of a sentimental character, is strong in drawing and composition. It is very consistent throughout. Everything in the picture has been carefully considered to support the poetic, sentimental character of the painting, which is admirably delicate and convincing without being disagreeably weak.
Jacques-Emile Blanche is represented in this gallery by his well-known portrait of the dancer Nijinski. A certain Oriental splendor of colour is the keynote of this canvas, which is much more carelessly painted than most of Blanche's very clever older portraits. On the opposite wall Caro-Delvaille shows his dexterity in the portrait of a lady. The lady is a rather unimportant adjunct to the painting and seems merely to have been used to support a magnificently painted gown. There is a peculiar contrast in the very naturalistically painted gown and the severe interpretation of the face of the sitter. Ernest Laurent's portrait of Mlle. X is typically French in its loose and suggestive style of painting, and easily one of the many good portraits in the gallery.
Among the landscapes Andrè Dauchez' "Concarneau," Charles Milcendeau's "Washerwomen," on the opposite wall, and last but not least, Renè Mènard's "Opal Sea" - a small picture of great beauty - deserve recognition. Pierre Roche has a statuette of Loïe Fuller in this gallery which is conspicuous by its daring composition and simple treatment.
Entering this gallery, the first canvas to attract one's attention, by reason of its boldness of composition and colour, is a large Lucien Simon called "The Gondola." The versatility of this artist is well brought out by another picture of a baby, about to be bathed, previously referred to, and by a third canvas, of "The Communicants," near "The Gondola." Simon seems to have no difficulty in using several mediums and styles of expression equally well, as a comparison between "The Gondola" and "The Communicants" will easily prove. This former picture is the more original of the two technically, in colour as well as in composition. It is in danger of losing one's sympathy by a badly selected frame. Near it hangs a trifolium of virgins, of very anaemic colour. The drawing, however, is so very sensitive in this canvas that it makes good for the unconvincing anaemic colour scheme.
The gem of this gallery is a small landscape of Amédée-Julien Marcel-Clément, of extraordinarily fine composition. A fine decorative quality is its chief asset, and its sympathetic technical handling adds much to the enjoyment of this picture. Bartholemé's kneeling figure in the center of the room is of wonderful nobility of expression and entirely free from a certain extreme physical naturalism so often found in modern French sculpture.
Passing into the next gallery, where figural pictures predominate, a very swingy composition of a Brittany festival, by Charles-René Darrieux, is most conspicuous, for the forceful handling and the fine quality of movement which characterize the procession of figures rhythmically moving through the picture. Of the two large nudes on the same wall, one, a Besnard, is vulgarly physical, although well painted, and the other too insipid to make one feel that the French penchant for nudes is sufficiently justified. Le Sidaner's poetic evening recommends itself for the quiet intimacy with which it is handled. Herrmann Vogel's portrait of a gentleman in a chair, also on the east wall, while not very spontaneous in handling, is interesting nevertheless in its composition and the psychological characterization of the sitter. Most of the other pictures in this gallery have really not enough individual character to single them out, no matter how high their general standard may be.
The last and smallest of the French galleries is given over to some recent phases of French art. After looking at the serious work of the French in the other galleries, a first-hand acquaintance with this medley of newest pictures is hardly satisfactory. There is a feeling of affected primitiveness about most of them, particularly in a small canvas of a bouquet of flowers in a green vase, which is the acme of absurdity. If Odilon Redon wanted to be trivial, he has achieved something quite wonderful. Certain ultra-modern manifestations of art are never more intolerable than when seen together in large numbers, as in this gallery. Still, the French section can well afford some of these experimenting talents, since the general character of their other work is so high. Maurice Denis' canvas of a spring procession, in just a few silvery tones, is really lovely; the large number of decorations by him, all around on the second line, scarcely comes up to the beauty of this small canvas.
The French representation deserves much credit for a great number of reasons, not least for an astounding versatility, always accompanied by technical excellence.
Going over into the Italian galleries, the first impression is that while there are certain groups of pictures of a very high order, the general standard of this section is not quite so high as in the French Department. The Italians seem to have the advantage over the French in regard to the selection of a background for their galleries. They made no such mistake as putting a Pullman car floor pattern on the wall, and the general effect is one of calmness. As in the French section, the work of the modern painter seems superior to sculptured work of the same period. The work of Tito and of Mancini, among the painters, stands out in this Italian collection.
Tito, whose work can be found in a group of five pictures in this gallery, has a very pronounced decorative sense, which he employs with great ease in a group of five most excellent pictures. To students of technical procedure his work is worthy of study. His under-painting is done in tempera, and sometimes the complete work, as in the cattle picture, is done in this medium, which, by an application of varnish, is then transformed into an oil. The most interesting pictures in his group of five are the two on the right of his wall. The mythological subjects underlying both canvases have a classic note, but their refreshing colour scheme removes these pictures from any classic affiliation. The woodland scene, enlivened by a few hilarious centaurs pursuing nymphs, is tremendously sure in handling and very gorgeous in the many golden browns and greens which control the colour scheme. The kneeling Venus alongside is unusually alluring in its blue and gold tones, and is one of the really fine pictures in the exhibition. While the Venus and the Centaurs are the backbone of the Italian section, Tito's "Blue Lady" is very chic and, as a colour arrangement of blue-blacks and flesh colour, most decorative. The canvas in the center, evidently belonging to an older period of the artist, has nothing of the direct method of the accomplished master, although in composition it has a certain bigness. Tito's art has the full and rich expression of an original personality.
The landscapes in this gallery, of which there are a goodly number, are all typically Italian in their artificiality of colour and in a certain sweetness which makes them lose in one's estimation the longer one studies them. Clever as they are technically, they do not convince and they do not reflect a thorough knowledge of the spirit of outdoors. All one admires in the Barbizon men - the lyric feeling of a Corot or the more dramatic note of a Rousseau - is missing in the modern Italian landscape as seen in these pictures. They are flippant in their catchy technique and in the absence of any thought.
This room is dominated by three portraits by Antonio Mancini, of unusual cleverness and very fine psychological characterization. Mancini's work grows on one. While seeming at first rather loose and superficial, these portraits disclose on more intimate study a fine constructive quality. They are not particularly interesting in colour; as a matter of fact they are very monochromatic. Their appeal is based on an intensely serious quality of studious experimentation, which a very sketchy technique cannot hide. To the left of the three Mancinis hangs a simple picture of large proportions called "Maternity," by Pietro Gaudenzi. This is one of those modern interpretations of the birth of Jesus which appeals by the individualistic note. The picture is sympathetic by reason of its restriction to a few simple facts. No doubt it will fail to receive a wide appreciation, since sociologically any picture of its type disclosing human life under poverty-stricken conditions is rarely approved by the public. Nevertheless one of the greatest of all stories is, with feeling and restraint alike, well rendered on this canvas.
On the opposite wall Arturo Noci has a very striking interior. There is nothing tricky about this most effective canvas. The result is simply and directly attained by good, sound painting. The red curtain in the distant room is a trifle raw and refuses somewhat to take its place in the picture. Two landscapes on this wall deserve mention for their fine skies and their decorative note. Giuseppe Carosi's little landscape with the oxen is so much better than the one below by the same artist that it is hard to believe both were done by the same man. "La Valle dell' Aniene," by Dante Ricci, is big in feeling, well painted, and unquestionably one of the best landscapes in the Italian section.
The east gallery is almost entirely given over to sculpture, with one exception which is notable so far as the dear public is concerned - a painting, "The Arch of Septimius Severus," by Luigi Bazzani. I cannot fathom why Luigi Bazzani should go to all this trouble in trying to imitate a photograph when the result over which he so painfully laboured could be done by any good photographer for less than five dollars. It seems to me an absolutely futile thing to try to represent something in a medium very badly chosen for this particular stunt. A stunt it is, and always will be, no matter how much we admire the painstaking drawing and the infinite care involved. Texturally the canvas is all wrong, because the sky, the stone, everything in the picture, looks like glass and not like the various things it is intended to represent. However, it is a wonderful piece of patience - so much should be said for it.
Millet's man with the hoe sitting down is the strongest piece of sculpture in this gallery. The figure doubtless belongs to an older school, as its discolorations as well as its technical treatment indicate. Alongside the rest of the things in this small room it is, in spite of being carried somewhat too far, very forceful and convincing. No matter whether the man succumbed to the dreariness of work or to the malarial fever of the Pontine swamps, all that has ever been said about Millet's man and the terrible fatalism of his facial expression is found in this piece of sculpture.
Rodin's influence is making itself felt in most of the other pieces in this room, as in the Vedani kissing pair. The beautiful colour in the marble in this group puts much life into it. Nicolini's work shows much breadth and a fine mastery of form. A frame of animal plaques by Brozzi adds considerably to the artistic merit of the sculpture. A certain muscular mannerism is evident in all of them, though not in the least disturbing.
Two portraits by Enrico Lionne of very repulsive colour are prominently hung in the east gallery, without convincing one in the least of this artist's high standing at home. Cold and artificial, they are not deserving of the prominent place they occupy. Near the door on the opposite wall Vincenzo Yrolli presents a street musician and his audience in a canvas riotous with good colour. The composition and the literal technical treatment of this work commend themselves highly by good judgment and spontaneous handling. The two figure pictures by Pietro Chiesa, on an adjoining wall to the right, ought to be remembered, and also an interior on the opposite wall by Vianello.
In the last of the Italian galleries, on the west wall, we observe the unusual spectacle of a whole family of artists distinguishing itself in a group of pictures. There is Beppe Ciardi, the father; Guglielmo, the son; and Emma, the daughter. All of their pictures are conspicuous for their saneness and big feeling. The father, Beppe, with the center canvas, has not the breadth and bigness that is so typical of both the son's pictures of similar subjects. The skies in the younger man's pictures are particularly fine. The daughter's single canvas, on the left, to me seems even better than those of both father and brother. A certain imaginative quality, shown in this big formal garden, constitutes Emma Ciardi's superiority over the rest of the family. On the whole the showing of this family is excellent in every way.
The landscapes in this gallery are far above those mentioned in the Tito gallery. In fact there are so many other good pictures that a mere mention of names must suffice. From the Ciardi group on toward the right, Guido Marussig's "Walled City", Italico Brass' "Pontoon Bridge", and particularly Scattola's "Venice" are all worthy of comment. Scattola's picture is very sensitively studied, discreetly painted and full of the poetry of a summer night. Before leaving the Italian section, Mentessi's big imaginative architectural study should be appreciated. It will crystallize the visitor's opinion of the general excellence of Italy's contribution to the exhibition.
As a matter of racial tradition, and not so much because of similarity of standards, we are almost obliged to continue our investigations into the other nations most closely allied with the Latin people, of Southern Europe and elsewhere. There is much room to believe that in a contemporaneous art exhibition the Paris influence should make itself felt in more than one way. Paris, after all, is the Mecca of all art students, particularly of the foreign Latin countries. The technical superiority of the French school of painting has for years caused an influx of foreign students into Paris, who are now giving us, in such national sections as those of Portugal, Argentina, Uruguay, Cuba, and the Philippine Islands, the result of this contact. It will easily be seen that unless a distinct national outlook, based on scenery, climate, history, and tradition generally, is added to the mere technical performance, no matter how clever, a national art can hardly develop. So we find that with all the good intentions in the art of any of the countries mentioned, very little typical national expression is brought out. In choice of subject and colour scheme the art of all of these countries is very much alike.
The Portuguese section does not present any great painter such as Spain, for instance, has produced in Sorolla or Zuloaga, though both seem to be very much admired by all Latin painters, as well as by some of the Germanic artists, as a certain canvas of a Dutch lady in the Holland section will demonstrate.
Nudes are still in vogue, or rather naked women, and probably will be as long as the sale of strong drink needs to be increased by the kind of creation commonly known as the saloon picture. There is surely nothing nobler than the truly idealized interpretation of the human figure by artistic means, but the purposely sensuous nude is becoming rather a bore. Painting flesh is one of the most difficult of all things, particularly as to the correct texture, but there ought to be a limit in the production of such a type of picture as the one by Veloso Salgado in the Portuguese section.
Here a great variety of subjects is treated, mostly with entirely too much realism. Photographic truthfulness is not the function of painting, because, first of all, the medium will not allow it without losing a certain quality indicating the fact that it is painting; and secondly, art can only be an approximation anyhow, and it should carry its point by forceful and convincing suggestion rather than by a tightly rendered photographic fact. The great pictures are first those of a strong suggestive quality and, secondly, those possessing a certain something the artist calls design - meaning thereby a more or less arbitrary arrangement of form and colour effects which will please the eye. The idea of design has not struck the Portuguese artist as yet; at least it is not apparent in the pictures of that section. The technical excellence of their work is uniform and in some cases very creditable, particularly in the many small canvases by Senhor de Sousa Lopes, the art commissioner of his country.
Continuing in the western gallery of the Portuguese section, directly opposite the nude referred to, an outdoor sewing circle by José Malhoa arouses interest. The outdoor quality in this canvas is very pronounced, and the gay enlacement of the luxuriant wistaria with the orange trees in the distance, together with the multi-coloured ensemble of children, make for a lovely effect. The middle gallery doubtless holds Portugal's most important claims upon artistic distinction, in the group of three portraits and two still-lifes by Columbano. The three portraits are unusually dignified and psychologically suggestive enough to show that the painter was not interested in exterior facts alone. The portrait of the bearded gentleman in the middle is fine, though somewhat academic in colour. The two little still-lifes wedged in between the larger portraits are exquisite in every way, and make up for a lot of superficialities found in this section. All around in this gallery, in more than a dozen sketches from Spain and Italy, Sousa Lopes shows fine ability in the handling of paint and great power of observation. All of these apparently recent things by Senhor Lopes are far more enjoyable than a huge "Pilgrimage", which, while well painted, is too scattered. The unity of feeling in the work of Columbano is much more necessary in a canvas of this size than in a small sketch. (Rembrandt's famous "Nightwatch" and Velasquez's "Surrender of Breda" illustrate this point very well.) Malhoa's well-painted interior called "The Native Song" has more of this desirable feeling of oneness, which may be due to the fact that it deals with an indoor setting, while de Sousa Lopes' "Pilgrimage" in the adjoining gallery presents a far more difficult problem in the reflected and glaring light effect of a southern country. Among the sculptures of this country Vaz Jor's "Grandmother" is of unusually high merit and intensely well studied. On the whole there is more academic training in evidence than originality of expression, but we may expect good things hereafter from the art of this country, which practically at no time in the history of art has produced any really great name.
Retracing our steps, we invade the Argentine, in a well-appointed gallery. The first general impression is very good, though on closer examination nothing of really great merit holds one's attention for any length of time. While naturalism reigns in Portugal, a more pronounced decorative conventional note predominates in this section, particularly in the portraiture. There is a peculiar superabundance of purple and dark reds in the Argentine section, which gives this gallery a morbid quality. On the main wall, in the left corner, Héctor Nava has a very distinguished "Lady in Black". Among all of the portraits on this wall it is easily the best, although some charming interiors of a singularly cool tonality are not without interest. They are too reminiscent of Frieseke to convince one of their originality. Another "Black Lady", continuing toward the right on the next wall, has much to recommend her. A better frame would enhance the merit of this canvas.
There is no landscape of any importance in the Argentine section, no matter how hard the effort to find one. They are all singularly artificial. A small harbor picture by Pedro Delucchi is strong in colour, as well as in technical treatment. It has an unusual wealth of colour, and great richness which contrasts strongly with the general coldness of this section.
Here another South American republic holds forth in a small gallery off the Italian section. The gallery is dominated by a large equestrian portrait of General Galarza, by Blanes Viale. A certain fondness for disagreeable greens and for decorative effects is noticeable in this gallery, and one is not convinced of the necessity for a more comprehensive display.
The same remark applies to the Cuban section, where Romanach's Düsseldorf style of picture shows at least good academic training, without rising, however, above illustration in any one of the very well painted figure pictures. Rodriguez Morey's big, intimate foreground studies are commendable for their faithfulness and for a certain poetic quality which takes them out of the realm of mere accurate truthfulness.
The small Philippine section makes one curious to know whether there is nothing in the tradition of this people related to the art of Asia that could serve as a basis for their artistic endeavors. To any serious-minded person it must be evident that the Filipino is not going to work out his artistic salvation by way of the Paris studio. It must come out of the soil, so to speak, and must be based on the racial, religious, and other national elements. It would do the Filipino people good to see their collection in close proximity to that of other nations. Aside from that, a natural sequence of artistic development by developing the more decorative arts of making useful things beautiful - such things as pots and pans, rugs, and jewelry - would be much more becoming than this European affectation. The real art of the Filipinos is to be seen in their art industries in the Philippine Building.
For historical reasons alone, if not for supremacy along artistic lines, Japan and China should by right be dealt with at the very beginning. But having had, since time immemorial, a very detached, highly original note, they fit in anywhere, if not best in between the art of the Romanic and Germanic races. Practically the entire world owes a great debt to Japan, for a certain outlook in decorative art has been adopted from Japan by the best artists of the world. Oriental art is so truly an art of the people, devoting itself most closely to the artistic development of the utilitarian things of life, that to see them at their best one has to look at their furniture, including folding screens, pottery, jewelry, rugs, and practically everything else that is needed in the daily life of the people. The art of China and Japan is so old that its real origin is almost a matter of guesswork, and has a certain general obscurity to most outsiders, owing to language, religion, and customs. This has led to a commercial exploitation of their art in Europe, and in America particularly, based mostly on humbug and partly on facts. If all the pottery, rugs and furniture said to have come from distinguished artists and from even more distinguished circles of ownership, mostly palaces of the Ming dynasty, were enumerated, there would be nothing left to have come from the atmosphere of the ordinary Oriental. The Japanese and Chinese are taking quick advantage of the guilelessness of the western lover of art, and much that is to be seen in either one of the two sections is rather a concession to western demand than to native Oriental talent. Only the special student of oriental art will consent to learn enough of the Japanese or Chinese language to familiarize himself with any other than the commonly known artists of these countries, and all that one can do within the frame of an international exhibition is to single out those things which appeal on the basis of certain artistic principles which are the same the world over. To go into the many religious and other sentimental considerations which are sometimes the basic justification for some very extraordinary fantastic things, charmingly exploited by certain art dealers, is impossible within the scope of this book.
The Japanese people, at the extreme southern end of the Palace of Fine Arts, have a representative show of painted screens, of extraordinary beauty. Anyone, without being in the least familiar with the fauna and flora of Japan, must admire the tremendously acute power of observation and surety of drawing which made these designs possible. The two sixfold screens by Taisei Minakami on the east wall of the eastern gallery are probably the most magnificently daring examples of modern Japanese art. To the student of design they offer a most stimulating opportunity for study. Acutely observed, their tropical subjects, very daring in colour, are exhaustively beautiful. The spacing of the design, the relative distribution of the few daring colours against a gold background of wonderful texture, combine in a picture of great vitality. The art of no people is so scientific as that of these people, whose every effort, no matter how insignificant, is technically always sound. Our modern art schools could very profitably imitate the Japanese principle of teaching their young students how to do a thing well and of leaving the choice of subjects to their own inclination.
Almost opposite, a vertical composition of a lumber camp on a mountainside, by Bunto Hayashi, attracts by an unusual subject very descriptively rendered. The picture belongs to the older school, not so much for the lack of colour, which is often erroneously identified with the older Japanese works, as for a certain quality of less decoration and of more detailed treatment of the drawing. The drawing is, of course, the important element in all Japanese art, since all of their work has to yield a great deal of pleasure of the intellectual kind at close distance, on account of the smallness of Japanese dwellings, which keeps the owner of the picture in close proximity with his artistic possessions. A picture of crows in a rainstorm, on the same wall, on the right side of the southern door, and also a very characteristic study of some kind of cedar, with birds on the left of it, give one an excellent idea of the astonishing variety of material that the Japanese artist successfully controls.
In two irregularly shaped triangular galleries adjoining, Shodo Hirata maintains the standard of the first gallery, not to forget, either, Toyen Oka with his oleander bush and the cat on the picturesque fence. Tesshu Okajima's hollyhock screens are marvels of decorative simplicity, while Kangai Takakura uses a washday as a motive for a double twofold screen decoration. The last two artists can both be found in the second irregular triangular gallery, opposite the first one mentioned. The central octagonal gallery also is devoted to screen pictures, done by means of embroidery. Some of them, largely those of native design, are successful in really giving the quality of the subjects depicted, but cannot grow enthusiastic over two unduly protected screen embroideries, a German marine and an English pair of lions, done in silk. They are both as hard as nails and devoid of any real suggestion of the spirit which animates either water or lions in reality. If it is so great an achievement as we are often asked to believe to do certain things in badly chosen material, then why not try to reproduce Rafael's "Sistine Madonna" with thumbtacks? Most such attempts to find an agreeable substitute for the various painting media are merely silly.
Sharing the hospitality of the cases with the embroidery pictures are the wood sculptures, some of which are intensely interesting, as, for instance, the "Man with the Spade." The underlying idea of cubism is very intelligently embodied in this small figure, without any affectation. The many small woodblock prints to be seen here do credit to the reputation which Japanese artists have long enjoyed in this special field.
The remaining smaller galleries are given over to replicas of the originals of older art, modern sculpture, and painting in the modern style. Why the modern Japanese artists want to divorce themselves from the traditions of their forefathers seems incomprehensible. There is not a thing in the western style in this gallery of Japanese painting that comes anywhere near giving one the artistic thrills won by their typically Japanese work. I think the sooner these wayward sons are brought back into the fold of their truly Oriental colleagues, the better it will be for the national art of Japan, the most profound art the world has ever seen.
The first impression of the Chinese section is disappointing. There is no real life in any of the work here displayed, and most of it consists of modern replicas - some of very excellent quality - of their oldest and best art treasures. The Chinese seem to be absolutely content to rest upon their old laurels, the fragrance of which can hardly ever be exhausted; but nevertheless that does not relieve them of the obligation of working up new problems in a new way. There is so much religious and other sentiment woven into their art that to the casual observer much of the pleasure of looking at the varied examples of applied art is spoiled by the necessity of having to read all of the longwinded stories attached to many of them. The freshness of youth, the spirit of progress, which enliven the Japanese section, are entirely missing in this display, which seems like a voice from the past - a solemn monument to an old civilization without any connection with the New Republic and its modern pretensions. I am afraid China is laboring under conditions of internal strife which are detrimental to the development of any artistic expression.
Of all the foreign nations represented, with the exception of Japan and China, none possesses so distinct a national character as the art of Sweden. I cannot help expressing my personal conviction that it is the best national section in the whole exhibition, showing, as it does, not merely easel painting, but also many splendid examples of so-called applied art, which often permits one to get a deeper insight into the standard of art of a people than easel painting alone. It is true that certain examples of painting in the French or American sections are more appealing to us, but in the light of the national characteristics of the people and the country, Swedish art has a very definite quality, consistently shown. Their work has a robustness which has nothing to do with the salon aspect of the art of southern Europe, particularly France. In fact it is almost opposed to the art of the Romanic races, and distinctly apart from the art of Germany. It is fortunate Sweden could make such a splendid showing without the support of the art of such a man as Anders Zorn, who, while decidedly Swedish, is after all much of a cosmopolitan painter, with all the earmarks of an international training. The art of the most artistic of all people, that of the French, is often said to have a decadent note. In comparison, Swedish art may be said to be absolutely robust, healthy, and vigorous, without being coarse. To those who pretend to find a certain physical brutality in Swedish art, I should like to point out that the most delicate pictures in the entire exhibition - those of John Bauer - are the chief asset of the Swedish exhibit. The great variety of the work in this section makes it very interesting, and permits, as said before, close insight into many phases of modern art.
The most pronounced individualities in the collection, covering all fields, are Bruno Liljefors, Gustav Fjaestad, Carl Larsson, John Bauer, Mr. and Mrs. Boberg, David Edström, Mas-Olle, and others too numerous to mention. Bruno Liljefors for many years has been known internationally as one of the best of animal painters, and particularly of sea fowl. He has had the experience common to many great artists, of working himself up from very academic beginnings to a wonderful personality of marked freedom. His canvas of the nine wild swans is perhaps the biggest single picture in the entire Exposition. It is immediately suggestive of a decoration, and to think of it in that sense, as a part of a wall seen from a great distance, makes one almost tremble with expectation. This truly great picture is a rhythmic masterpiece. The placing of these graceful swans is marvelously well studied from the point of view of design, yet none the less does an expression of reality animate these divine birds. There is something about swans which puts them even above the king of birds, the eagle. I can conceive of men killing any animal, but the thought of one of these noble birds falling victim to man's perverse desires is incomprehensible to me. Of the other pictures by the same artist, the flock of wild geese, standing in the shallow water of a stony beach, carries all the conviction of being well studied which applies to any of Liljefors' pictures. The eagles and the seagulls are scarcely as interesting as the swans. Liljefors is never better than when he depicts flying birds - and fly they do. There is never any doubt about it. Those swans are actually in the air, and moving. A certain disagreeable fuzziness in the skies of all of his pictures interferes somewhat with their full enjoyment.
Of the other painters Mrs. Boberg should be mentioned next. She is the wife of Ferdinand Boberg, the architect of the Swedish Building, who himself, as a true artist excelling in a number of things, has a splendid collection of etchings in the long black and white gallery adjoining the Liljefors' room. Mrs. Anna Boberg's pictures, in a very small gallery at the eastern end of this section, are not advantageously hung. Her work is so decorative, and so painted for distant effect, that to see it close at hand is disappointing. The eleven of her pictures are unusual in subject and for that reason win less sympathy than they deserve. All of them were painted on a trip she made with her husband to the Lofoden islands, and when one considers the proverbial coldness of the Arctic seas, her interpretations seem marvelous in their beauty and richness of colour. A study of their titles in the catalogue seems hardly necessary for understanding of their meaning, and I for one am perfectly satisfied to feast on the gorgeous colouring and the great veracity they possess. Some of them are already sold, a most surprising thing when one considers that to most people a picture actually executed in three dimensions is seldom considered meritorious. I do think that while the physical width and height of Mrs. Boberg's pictures are governed by conventional considerations, a little less depth of paint might accomplish the same solid appearance without making one feel like slipping sideways past them into the next gallery for fear of knocking off a few lumps of paint.
In the adjoining gallery, a somewhat larger one on the east, Gustav Fjaestad's very fine decorations form what we are in the habit of calling a "one-man show." Mr. Fjaestad certainly has the decorative feeling, whether he paints a picture or designs a rug. In fact all of his pictures look like designs for rugs. And why not? If a wall rug is a decoration, a picture should be one in just the same way. It is hard to single out among the many good examples the best one, and it may be left to the taste of the individual, who among nothing but good things cannot make a poor choice. The time will come again when our artists will find it honourable and profitable to apply their talents to utilitarian art, as does Fjaestad, and the interrelated activities of the Swedish in both fine and applied arts afford a lesson which is by no means new. It is the basic condition on which the art of the Renaissance flourished that develops men like the Swedes.
There is a big difference between Liljefors and Mrs. Boberg, or again between her and Fjaestad, but not any greater than between all of these artists and John Bauer. John Bauer's paintings are exquisite, and even such abused adjectives as "sweet" and "delicate" are not out of place when applied to his work. I hope we have some enlightened person among us who can afford to buy the whole batch of them, and do it quickly, before any more of them are sold singly. It takes more time to enjoy these little fairy tales than one can afford to give to them. They possess everything a good illustrative painting ought to have. A wealth of ideas imaginatively represented, good drawing, and intimate feeling tell of the keen pleasure the artist must have had in producing these gems.
As an illustrator, though very different, Carl Larsson appeals in a comprehensive group of pictures in another gallery. Carl Larsson's extraordinary resourcefulness in getting everything he needs out of the confines of his home has for years been the cause of his great popularity abroad, and in his thirty-three cheerful drawings he discloses his entire home life, in all the variety of happenings which makes married existence a success. His drawing is faultless, his sense of colour supple and refreshing, and his ability to make such extensive use of the relatively narrow atmosphere of his home without exhausting it proves his caliber. Larsson has a roommate of great distinction and modesty in Oscar Bergman, who has contributed some twenty tender bits of northern landscapes and marines. They are reminiscent of the Japanese, although it becomes almost foolish to think of the Japanese every time someone develops a capacity for acute observation and drawing. Bergman's little lighthouse is particularly convincing and, like most of these things, should not be allowed to return to the artist.
I shall probably have to retrench in attention to the American section if I keep on giving pages to this section. But in spite of their great merit, the work of Kallstenius, Schultzberg, Carlberg, and Osslund will have to go with only meager reference. Osslund's pictures are somewhat startling at first, owing to a complexity of technical treatment. He does not seem to be working in the right medium, for I believe his Japanesque landscapes could be far more sympathetically presented in watercolour. Of the group comprising his work, his "Waterfall", "Summer Evening", and "Evening on Angermann Land" are very fascinating. Mas-Olle's portraits are interesting not only for good technical painting but also for fine characterization. His portrait of an old peasant of Dalecarlia is almost faultless. Near the Mas-Olle portrait Herman Lindquist has a "Sunny April Day" of unusual poetic claim. Schultzberg's big sunlit winter scenes hardly need recommendation to justify their increasing popularity. Alfred Bergstrom's poetic landscapes add more interest, in the small adjoining room on the east. Marine pictures by Hullgren are the only contributions in that field, but quite sufficient to maintain the general standard of excellence. The drunken man seated at a café table is psychologically interesting. As an object lesson to discourage the consumption of liquor it is the most effective picture I have ever seen, and certain interests would do well to buy it for that reason alone, not to speak of the relief this would afford. Ernst Küsel's animal pictures, opposite John Bauer's delightful group, seem quite out of place. His ducks and the goats are satisfactory enough, but I wish he had to live with that calf picture and see it every day. Küsel is undoubtedly humourously inclined, without knowing proper limitations.
The sculpture of the Swedes is of the same unusual excellence that commands so much respect in their other work. Edstrom easily outranks his fellow-artists in his group of naturalistic and conventional architectural heads, in the Liljefors gallery, while in the long and narrow adjoining gallery a multitude of excellent etchings, drawings, and black and white work compel mention. They hardly need any explanation, since in their very character they readily convey their meaning. One could dwell at greater length upon this most representative of all national displays, but I fear that it would have to be done at the expense of the American section, which hospitality has already placed under a disadvantage.
The Netherlands representation is conspicuous for its conservative note, together with the absence of any single picture which might unduly excite one by its merit. I do not wish to prejudice the art lover who strolls into this well appointed section, but coming from Sweden, as we do, so to speak, since it is Sweden's next door neighbor, it gives one rather a shock. Most of the Dutch pictures are good, almost too good, in their academic conventional repetition of the timeworn subjects we have been in the habit of seeing for the last twenty years. The Swedish section is full of real thrills, but the complacency of the Netherlands section can hardly be explained by their national temperament alone. While the Swedish people seem to be blessed just now with an unusual number of men of great gifts in the field of art, the Netherlands have entered into what I hope will be only an interregnum of not overly original painters. The last quarter of the last century saw their glory in the careers of men like the elder Israels, the Mesdags, the Maris, Jacob and Willem, Bosbom, Mauve, Weissenbruch, Poggenbeck, and many others who have departed during the last ten years, or who, if still living, have scarcely maintained their high standards of earlier days. The most illustrious name among the older men is Willem Mesdag, who can hardly be expected at his age to be doing his best. Speaking of Mesdag, one of their best marine painters of the older days, one is forcibly reminded of the fact that though a people of the sea the Dutch do not seem to possess a single strong marine painter. One looks in vain for any pictures of the open sea reflecting the seafaring traditions and activities of the Dutch, and if it were not for Mastenbroek's masterly harbor pictures, one would have to console oneself over this lack of the briny element with a view of the Amsterdam Marine Aquarium. Mastenbroek's big canvas is full of life and well painted. It shows the harbor of Rotterdam animated by a host of vessels of all kinds and descriptions. While there is a fine feeling of loose accidental arrangement about this big picture, it is nevertheless well composed. His small canvas in the adjoining gallery is technically superb, and to my mind the best canvas in the whole Dutch show. In the middle of the same wall Gorter's very decorative autumnal landscape, of a group of beech-trees, commends itself by an unusual feeling for colour and design, so lacking in the two almost monochromatic, untemperamental Witsens on either side. Almost opposite in the same gallery, the most western in the Netherlands section, hangs a broadly painted canvas by Breitner, of the timber harbor of Amsterdam. It is not so original a subject as one is accustomed to see from Breitner, but fully deserving of the best place on the wall. Thérèse van Duyl-Schwartze's portrait alongside is equal to her usual performances, and very broad in style and full of vigor. Jurres' "Don Quixote", Goedvriend's little canvas, and Bauer's "Oriental Equestrian" should all be mentioned in this gallery.
In the middle gallery, on the right of the big Mastenbroek, Christian Addicks' "Mother and Child" charms by its richness of colouring, while in the left corner hangs a very decorative still-life in the best manner of such old Dutch painters as Hondekoeter. Nicolaas Bastert has a typical Dutch canal, and Willy Sluiter a good study of a Volendam fisherman. One gallery is entirely devoted to etchings, woodcuts, and mezzotints, and the standard maintained in this gallery is high. Martinus Bauer's three etchings are among the finest to be seen anywhere in the exhibition, and the work of Harting, van Hoytema, and Haverman do not fall much below his standard. There is young Israels (Isaac) with some very snappy sketches. Nieuwenkamp is intensely interesting in the few things he has there, with a certain sense of humor which is conspicuous for its absence in most Dutch work. The woodcuts of Veldheer are vital and unusually free from any academic feeling. Considering the relative size of the Netherlands, they have a remarkably large number of artists, but scarcely of sufficient bigness of caliber and independence of character to live up to the traditions of this people.
Very modestly tucked away and surrounded by art of the few remaining neutral nations, in a small gallery adjoining Holland and Sweden, Germany unofficially and probably even without her knowledge is represented by a small group of pictures which after many adventures reached the hospitable shores of California. Originally exhibited at the last Carnegie Institute Exhibition at Pittsburgh, they found themselves on the high seas on their return voyage at the beginning of the war, only to be captured by an English cruiser whose captain was so painfully struck by the undeniable evidences of German Kultur that instead of taking them to England he returned them to the United States, to be included eventually in our exhibition. It would be very wrong to generalize upon the standard of German art from this small display, but a number of these pictures can well afford to go entirely upon their own merit.
Zügel's cattle picture is a canvas of the first order, by one of the very important modern animal painters, a man whose fame has penetrated into all lands where art is at all cultivated. The silvery light of a summer morning, filtering through overhanging willow-trees upon the backs of a few Holstein cows, is full of life and admirably loose in its treatment. Above Zügel, Leo Putz, another Munich man, has a lady near a pond, broadly painted, and executed in the peculiar Putz method of square, mosaic-like paint areas which melt into a soft harmony of tender grays and greens. Stuck's "Nocturne" is affected and unconvincing an scarcely representative of this master's style. The many other men give a good account of themselves, particularly Curt Agthe, whose classic "Nude at the Spring" is of wonderful surface quality. Wenk has an Italian marine and Benno Becker a landscape from the same country. Göhler's "Castle Terrace" has a particularly fine sky and a true rococo atmosphere. Hans von Volkmann's "Field of Ripe Grain" is typical of this Karlsruhe painter, whose stone lithographs have given German art a unique place in the art world.