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From The Critic: “The Chicago Letter”

THE EXHIBITION which was opened last week at the Art Insti-
tute is much the most interesting that has been held here since the
Fair. It contains 116 paintings by the Glasgow men, 36 by
Danish artists, and a few by Dagnan-Bouveret, Degas, Thanlow
and Whistler. The latter sends three little pastels, delicate and
exquisite in color—suggestions, dreams, flashes of light from the
wings of the butterfly as it flits by. The Degas is a shadowy
thing, a gray figure againt light; but in its very indistinctness lies
a greater charm than can be found in the large half-nude woman
which Dagnan-Bouveret calls “la Peinsure.” The Thanlow has
the honest, rugged strength of winter, the beauty of vigor rather
than of delicacy: it is an admirable piece of work. But it is not
these, nor the paintings by Couture, Boudin and Raffaéli, nor the
works of the Danes, which make the exhibition notable.

The Glasgow painters are new; often as we have heard of them,
this is the first time a collection of their work has travelled to this
country. Mr. Charles M. Kurtz selected these pictures in Scot-
land and brought them to St. Louis, where they were first exhib-
ited at the annual exposition. From there they were sent to the
Art Institute, which will keep them until Christmas. They make
so distinguished a showing here that the prominence thay have at-
tained within a few years no longer seems astonishing. Their
originality is no more remarkable than their dissimilarity. No man
seems even to have studied with another, and it is difficult to trace
the origin of their divergent methods. The influence of Whistler
is more marked than that of any other, yet they have learned much
in France and much in Japan. But they imitate no one, and their
art is the product of their own consciousness. Each man is a
distinct personality, working out his own problems in his own
way, choosing the material that interests him most, and treating
it without regard to traditions or conventions. And this almost
under the shadow of the Royal Academy.

The work of James Guthrie deserves first place in any mention
of these Scotchmen, and he would be able to hold his ownwith
the painters of any country. His “Constance” in this exhibition
is a rare portrait, rich in color yet very quiet, frank yet reserved,
strong yet exquisitely delicate. The handling is masterly, free and
direct, impressionistic, if you will, with dashes of sudden color,
but never meaningless and lways carrying weight. The same
thing is true of the “Portrait of Dr. Gardiner,” which has, how-
ever, less beauty of color than the other. But in both the painter
has treated his subject in a manner approporiate to itself. A lovely
night scen is like Whistler, and a beautiful, peaceful “Pastoral”
shows Mr. Guthrie in another vein. His pastels emphasize still
more his versatility, for he uses that medium with a dash and
variety that are irresistible. E. A. Hornel is as different from
Guthrie as any man could well be, and no other artist has painted
in quite his riotous way. Like Monticelli, he makes a god of colour,
and all other qualities pay tribute to that one. But because of
this deference, the god is complacent and enables him to produce
singularly beautiful effects. In the “May Day” and “Children
at Play,” there is an abandon which convinces one of the enthu-
siasm of the games, but makes the pictures too much of a jumble
to be decorative. In his Japanese scenes there is more restraint.
No one else has brought from Japan such gay, brilliant, vivid im-
pressions of the life there. They have a radiance which is widely
different from native studies, and at the same time they are essen-
tially Japanese. In composition they are often original; indeed,
Mr. Hornel is conventional in nothing. His is a most unusual
talent, which bids fair to evolve some new harmonies of color, yet
undreamt of in our philosophy.

T. Millie Dow’s crefully finished work is a marked contrast to
most of the others, but he, too, expresses vividly what he wishes
to say. This honesty of purpose, this fearless directness of ap-
peal, this habit of uttering the thought in a way which will con-
vey its meaning most clearly, is characteristic of these Glasgow
men. It is the oly quality common to them all, and it is the
one which makes them so diverse. There is no trace of impres-
sionism in Mr. Dow’s “Enchanted Wood,” but there is a poetic
refinement of beauty which is very real. The touch of a poet, and
in these men there is no sentimentality, is also manifest in James
Paterson’s “Blacknest Tarn,” with its marshy foreground, and
in R. Macaulay Stevenson’s fine landscapes, in which he exoresses
the beauty of twilight and of night. His “by the Mill Pond”
has a wonderfu; peace about it. There is much delicacy and
cleaverness in Mac Gregor’s work, and Hamilton’s “Venice” is an
individual view of a farmiliar subject. David Gould, E. A. Wal-
ton and William Kennedy send charming portrait heads, in which
mere prettiness is never the primary object. Arthur Melville se-
cures his water-color effect with the simplest means, mere dabs of
color representing an Arab procession or a bazaar at Saragossa.
But he says what he wishes to say, the procession is there, and it is
moving: the crowd is animated. And besides all these there are two
men who cannot be omitted, so remarkable is their work with
animals. “The Chase,” by George Pirie, a cock in hot pursuit of a
mouse is, superb in its rendering of the fierce, tense excitement of
the moment. It raises the sordid race to the level of a tragedy. In
“The Aviary, Clifton,” Joseph Crawhall, Jr., shows himself the
equal of the Japanese in the portrayal of birds, but his method is
entirely his own and inimitable.

An authors’ reading is to be given this afternoon at Hooley’s
Theatre for the benefit of the family of the late Eugene Field.
The audience promises to be large, as the house was nearly sold
out several days ago. Mr. Hamlin Garland and Mr. Herbert
Stone have charge of the arrangements, and the former will read
two or three of Mr. Field’s poems, the other writers will read from
their own works, and it will be the first appearance of several of
them, even in this city where they live. Mr. Henry B. Fuller has
never read in public before, I believe, and his cooperation is there-
fore particularly valuable. In addition to these, the names upon
the program are Mrs. Catherwood, Mrs. Lindon W. Bates, Miss
Lillian Bell, Mrs. Madeline Yale Wynne, Miss Harriet Monroe,
Mr. Hobart Chatfield-Taylor and Mr. Opie Read.

CHICAGO, 26 Nov. 1895.    LUCY MONROE.

MLA citation:

Monroe, Lucy. “Chicago Letter.” Review of the Glasgow School Exhibition, The Critic, 26 November 1895, pp. 374-375. Yellow Nineties 2.0, Edited by Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, Ryerson University Centre for Digital Humanities, 2019.