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The Database of Ornament

Any mention of the quiet failure of the
Theâtre Libre in London would interfere with
an article on M. Antoine and his theatre,
shortly to appear. The ahurissement of the
audiences was comic to behold; the expressions
of awkward ennui, of mistrust, spoke the com-
plete lack of sympathy they felt with the aims
of this earnest and original movement.

As I write, the Exposition des Vingt in
Brussels is still open, but it shuts before this
will be seen. Imagine a collection of such
varied works of those of MM. Paul Dubois,
Besnard, Fremiet, Rops, Rodin, Pissaro, such
variety of aims and modes of expression in
one English exhibition! Imagine such appre-
ciative catholicity to make it possible! suffi-
cient reverence for the conscious aims of
different artists to make a combination so free
from the narrowness of cliques, the bigoted
aims of those whose privilege it is for the time
being to guard the door!

The success of Mr. Stott’s exhibition in
Paris caused no small surprise, and it is but
just to add that the artist stood the test
bravely. If scarcely a thinker, or large in his
sympathies, he displayed an earnest and man-
ful wish to show what he feels, and escaped
certain square-brush mannerisms so dear to
some of our younger realists.


It is unnecessary to say anything of Mr. Seymour Hayden, one of
those rare artists appreciated alike by his own cloth and the public. I
would speak of Mr. Strang, destined to great things; one of those artists
sufficiently out of date to keep his aims and his method in harmony and
under control. If he is greatly indebted to Legros, he has not for the
rest stooped to employ the technical means which are public property,
but has shown a wide sympathy with the rarer masters, with Holbein,
with Rembrandt, with Differ, with Millet.

M. Degas does not himself exhibit this year at the New English
Art Club, and M. Jacques Blanche is all but absent. There are two
brilliant studies by Sargent, that varied and undulating artist, and
exquisitenesses by Mr. Whistler.

Though M. Claude Monet’s exhibition proved a shilling trappe a
b£tises pour les bourgeois, it was a breath of fresh air, turning into snuff
and treacle the pictures in the next room. I will not press the point that
Monet’s work is not so original as some English artists appear to think,
but accede to the entreaty of the catalogue not to criticise the pictures
too hastily, as they are so new.

In the Salon, M. Roll is bravely to the fore. It is curious to note the
incapacity of the English to grasp the note this artist has struck, to
follow his variety of subject, the genuine manliness that characterises
everything he has laid his hand to, that variety of aim, enabling him to
paint such deeply moving poems as his War, his Work, and like a real
master, strengthen these works with vivid studies of the poetry of a back
in sunlight, of living portraits standing in full light and atmosphere. I
suppose these debar him, according to our English notions, from ever
being a poet, and a poet in the highest sense.

Madame Cazin makes her appearance again. It is unnecessary to
add that her picture is full of that charm, that perfume, so delightful, so

M. Besnard once more shocks the public with the best picture in the
Salon, a radiant piece of colour, of which it is difficult to convey an idea,
with our deeply rooted conviction that good colour must be brown. This
artist has for some time been startling the honest Salon walls with pictures
full of a poetry of vision to be found elsewhere only in Turner. Besides the
distinct eblouissement one feels before his canvases, the visible melody
they emit, he has the exceptional gift of understanding that something
rare that floats round a face, that something Da Vinci and Boticelli
understood. I do not mean each work of his contains all these qualities,
as well as the distinct and almost literary imagination he has displayed
in larger works; this would actually destroy the oneness of each picture


which is his greatest trait, and enables him frankly to vary himself, and
be genuine each time.

La Sirene is not valuable as a piece of literature, has nothing to
do with the moral tract. A modern woman near some water, it is frankly
visual, and yet possesses that poetry of vision, the painter’s poetry par
excellence, to such a degree that the impression left is a deeply moving one.

M. Dagnan Bouveret has won the Médaille d’Honneur, and few artists
have better deserved it. Admirable in every detail, his quiet picture
delights the art world after Lepage, as J. Breton delighted after Millet.
Pages might be written to describe its excellent qualities, yet like all
his works, this picture will not push art one step towards its future;
it belongs simply to its time and the past.

M. Falguiere’s Juno, though very graceful, is hardly worthy of him;
it remains a sweet piece of colour and true painter’s drawing, drawn with
the brush.

One cannot praise too highly Uhde’s tryptich, with its solemn
homeliness and holiness. The bevy of children, tumbling about like bees,
on the side wing, is very charming, but the whole work is a little too
small for the artist’s touch, which tells to greater advantage in larger
works. The central panel is beyond praise.

M. Raffaelli’s picture has the strange and piquant aroma that belongs
to so much of his work.

The same thing may be said of M. Ary Renan’s subtle contribution.

’Tis hard not to experience a slight feeling of disappointment before
M. Falguiere’s statue, and yet how to express that disappointment,
when all he does displays such temperament? Has M. Fremiet improved
his Joan of Arc? The original statue made such a deep impression on
me that I can scarcely feel grateful for any alteration. The rumour of
M. Albert Wolff’s influence in the matter is almost an excuse for my
sense of irritation. It is a thing to be deeply thankful for that we are not
blessed with a M. Albert Wolff.

M. Dubois’ Joan of Arc is very interesting. I feel great difficulty
to follow his ideal of the heroine in this naive and strange little woman
with her face like M. Dubois’ exquisite Faith. My objection, I know, is
outside the question, as the statue is, after all, M. Dubois’. I feel a slight
sense of complication about it, and quite outside the superior originality
of M. Fremiet’s design, much prefer its energetic sense of oneness, the
more ardent and square-jawed heroine.


Madame Besnard sends one of the sweetest things in the Salon, full
of delicate things in modelling.

A new technical method infallibly contains, to the average artist,
the secret which belongs to the admired past, and it is almost impossible
to appear sincere in appreciating work quite obviously without this
ease, this freedom, which is the last phase of artistic development. M.
Christophle has no learnt graces; he is, in fact, a little dry, yet his statue
kills the realistic knees and feet, the liquid workmanship that surrounds
him. The poetry of conception, the genuinely manly poetry, is striking.
His statue arrests you with its dramatic enigma, with its original and
forcible lines; it throbs with intention and the impress of a human mind.
All this the artist has done with a very old myth; and besides the
technical side, in defiance of the newest theories that modern clothes alone
give value to a work, the work is nothing if not modern.

                                                                        R. SAVAGE.


MLA citation:

Savage, Reginald. “Notes.” The Dial, vol. 1, 1889, pp. 23-26. Dial Digital Edition, edited by Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, 2018-2020. Yellow Nineties 2.0, Ryerson University Centre for Digital Humanities, 2019.