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Promenades of an Impressionist by James Huneker

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called his Dreams, which record the scenery of his own soul during the
delirium of a fever. Some of them (described only from memory of Mr.
Coleridge's account) represented vast Gothic halls, on the floor of
which stood all sorts of engines and machinery expressive of enormous
power put forth and resistance overcome. Creeping along the sides of
the walls, you perceived a staircase, and upon it, groping his way
upward, was Piranesi himself. Follow the stairs a little farther and
you perceive it to come to a sudden, abrupt termination, without any
balustrade, and allowing no step onward to him who had reached the
extremity, except into the depths below. Whatever is to become of poor
Piranesi? You suppose, at least, that his labours must in some way
terminate here. But raise your eyes, and behold a second flight of
stairs still higher, on which again Piranesi is perceived, by this
time standing on the very brink of the abyss. Again elevate your eyes,
and a still more aerial flight of stairs is beheld, and again is poor
Piranesi on his aspiring labours, and so on, until the unfinished
stairs and Piranesi both are lost in the upper gloom of the hall."

This plate was evidently one of the Carceri set--sixteen in all--which
the etcher improvised after some severe cerebral malady. What would we
not give to have heard the poet of Kubla Khan describing the fantastic
visions of the Venetian artist to the English opium eater! The
eloquence of the prose passage we have transcribed has in it some
faint echoes of Coleridge's golden rumble. That these two men
appreciated the Italian is something; perhaps they saw chiefly in his
work its fantastic side. There was no saner craftsman than Piranesi
apart from certain of his plates; no more solid construction in a
print can be shown than his various interpretations of the classic
ruins of Rome, the temples at Paestum. He was a great engraver and
etcher whose passion was the antique. He deliberately withdrew from
all commerce with the ideas and art of his own times. He loved
architecture for architecture's sake; not as a decoration, not as a
background for humanity, but as something personal. It was for him
what the human face was for Rembrandt and Velasquez. That he was
called the Rembrandt of Architecture is but another testimony to the
impression he made upon his contemporaries, though the title is an
unhappy one. Piranesi even in his own little fenced-off coign of art
is not comparable to the etcher of the Hundred Guilder print, nor are
there close analogies in their respective handling of darks and

It might be nearer the mark to call Piranesi--though all such
comparisons are thorns in the critical flesh--the Salvator Rosa of
architecture, for there is much of Salvator's unbridled violence,
fantasy, and genius for deforming the actual that is to be encountered
in some of Piranesi's works. His was not a classic temperament. The
serene, airy, sun-bathed palaces and temples which Claude introduced
into his foregrounds are seldom encountered in Piranesi. A dark Gothic
imagination his, Gothic and often cruel. In his etching of public
buildings at Rome or elsewhere, while he is not always faultless in
drawing or scrupulous in observation, such was the sincerity and
passion of the man that he has left us the noblest transcriptions of
these stately edifices and monuments. It is in the rhythmic expression
of his personal moods that his sinister romantic imaginings are
revealed, and with a detail and fulness that are positively

It should not be forgotten that in the eighteenth and in the early
part of the nineteenth centuries Piranesi achieved widespread
popularity. He was admired outside of Italy, in England, in France,
and Germany. A generation that in England read Vathek and Mrs.
Radcliffe, supped on the horrors of Melmoth and Frankenstein, knew
E.T.W. Hoffmann and the German romantic literature, could be relied on
to take up Piranesi, and for his lesser artistic side. Poe knew his
work and Baudelaire; we see that for De Quincey he was a kindred
spirit. The English mezzotinter John Martin must have studied him
closely, also Gustave Dore.

The Carceri (1750) of Piranesi are indoor compositions, enclosed
spaces in which wander aimlessly or deliriously the wraiths of damned
men, not a whit less wretched nor awful than Dante's immemorial mob.
Piranesi shows us cavernous abodes where appalling engines of torture
fill the foreground, while above, at vertiginous heights, we barely
discern perilous passageways, haunted windows peering out upon the
high heavens, stone-fretted ceilings that are lost in a magic mist. By
a sort of diabolic modulation the artist conducts our eye from these
dizzy angles and granitic convolutions down tortuous and tumultuous
staircases that seemingly wind about the axis of eternity. To traverse
them would demand an eternity and the nerves of a madman. Lower
barbaric devices reveal this artist's temperament. He is said to have
executed the prison set "during the delirium of fever." This is of the
same calibre as the clotted nonsense about Poe composing when
intoxicated or Liszt playing after champagne. It is a credible
anecdote for Philistines who do not realise that even the maddest
caprice, whether in black and white, marble, music, or verse, must be
executed in silence and cold blood. Piranesi simply gave wing to his
fancy, recalling the more vivid of his nightmares--as did Coleridge,
De Quincey, Poe, Baudelaire, and the rest of the drug-steeped choir.
We recall one plate of Piranesi's in which a miserable devil climbs a
staircase suspended over an abyss; as he mounts each step the lower
one crumbles into the depths below.

The agony of the man (do you recall The Torture by Hope of Villiers de
l'Isle-Adam?) is shown in his tense, crouching attitude, his hands
clawing the masonry above him. Nature is become a monstrous fever,
existence a shivering dread. You overhear the crash of stone into the
infernal cellarage--where awaits the hunted wretch perhaps a worse
fate than on the pinnacles above. It is a companion piece to Martin's
Sadak searching for the Waters of Oblivion. Another plate depicts with
ingenuity terraces superimposed upon terraces, archways spaced like
massive music, narrow footways across which race ape-like men, half
naked, eagerly preparing some terrible punishments for criminals
handcuffed and guarded. They are to walk a sharp-spiked bridge.
Gigantic chains swing across stony precipices, a lamp depends from a
roof whose outlines are merged in the gray dusk of dreams. There is
cruelty, horror, and a sense of the wickedly magnificent in the
ensemble. What crimes were committed to merit such atrocious
punishment? The boldness and clearness of it all! With perspicacity
George Saintsbury wrote of Flaubert's Temptation of Saint Anthony: "It
is the best example of dream literature that I know--most writers who
have tried this style have erred, inasmuch as they have endeavoured to
throw a portion of the mystery with which the waking mind invests
dreams over the dream itself. Any one's experience is sufficient to
show that this is wrong. The events of dreams, as they happen, are
quite plain and matter of fact, and it is only in the intervals that
any suspicion occurs to the dreamer."

Certainly Piranesi remembered his dreams. He is a realist in his
delineation of details, though the sweep and breadth of an ideal
design are never absent. He portrays ladders that scale bulky joists,
poles of incredible thickness, cyclopean block and tackling. They are
of wood, not metal nor marble, for the art of Piranesi is full of
discriminations. Finally, you weary. The eye gorged by all the mystic
engines, hieroglyphs of pain from some impossible inquisition--though
not once do we see a monkish figure--all these anonymous monkey men
scurrying on what errand Piranesi alone knows; these towering arches,
their foundations resting on the crest of hell (you feel the
tremendous impact of the architectural mass upon the earth--no mean
feat to represent or rather to evoke the sense of weight, of pressure
on a flat surface); the muffled atmosphere in these prisons from which
no living prisoner emerges; of them all you weary, for the normal
brain can only stand a certain dose of the delirious and the
melancholy. This aspect, then, of Piranesi's art, black magic in all
its potency, need no longer detain us. His Temples of Paestum sound a
less morbid key than his Carceri, and as etchings quite outrank them.


Giambattista Piranesi was born at Venice in 1720. Bryan says that
about 1738 his father sent him to Rome, where he studied under
Valeriani, through whom he acquired the style of Valeriani's master,
Marco Ricci of Belluno. With Vasi, a Sicilian engraver, he learned
that art. Ricci and Pannini were much in vogue, following the example
of Claude in his employment of ruins as a picturesque element in a
composition. But Piranesi excelled both Ricci and Pannini. He was an
architect, too, helping to restore churches, and this accounts for the
proud title, Architect of Venice, which may be seen on some of his
plates. He lived for a time in Venice, but Rome drew him to her with
an imperious call. And, notwithstanding the opposition of his father,
to Rome he went, and for forty years devoted himself to his master
passion, the pictorial record of the beloved city, the ancient
portions of which were fast vanishing owing to time and the greed of
their owners. This was Piranesi's self-imposed mission, begun as an
exalted youth, finished as an irritable old man. Among his
architectural restorations, made at the request of Clement XIII, were
the two churches of Santa Maria del Popolo and Il Priorato. Lanciani
says that Il Priorato is "a mass of monstrosities inside and out." It
is his etching, not his labour as an architect, that will make
Piranesi immortal. He seems to have felt this, for he wrote that he
had "executed a work which will descend to posterity and will last so
long as there will be men desirous of knowing all that has survived
the ruins of the most famous city of the universe."

In the black-and-white portrait of the etcher by F. Polonzani, we see
a full-cheeked man with a well-developed forehead, the features of the
classic Roman order, the general expression not far removed from a
sort of sullen self-satisfaction. But the eyes redeem. They are full,
lustrous, penetrating, and introspective. The portrait etched by the
son of Piranesi, after a statue, discovers him posed in a toga, the
general effect being classic and consular. His life, like that of all
good workmen in art, was hardly an eventful one. He married
precipitately and his wife bore him two sons (Francesco, the etcher,
born at Rome, 1748--Bryan gives the date as 1756--died at Paris, 1810)
and a daughter (Laura, born at Rome, 1750--date of death unknown).
These children were a consolation to him. Both were engravers.
Francesco frequently assisted his father in his work, and Bryan says
that Laura's work resembled her father's. She went to Paris with her
brother and probably died there. She left some views of Rome.
Francesco, with his brother Pietro, attempted to found an academy in
Paris and later a terra cotta manufactory.

The elder Piranesi was of a quarrelsome disposition. He wrangled with
an English patron, Viscount Charlemont, and, like Beethoven, destroyed
title-pages when he became displeased with the subject of his
dedications. He was decorated with the Order of Christ and was proud
of his membership in the London Society of Antiquaries. It is said
that the original copper plates of his works were captured by a
British man-of-war during the Napoleonic conflict. This probably
accounts for the dissemination of so many revamped and coarsely
executed versions of his compositions. His besetting fault was a
tendency toward an Egyptian blackness in his composition. Fond of
strong contrasts as was John Martin, he is, at times, as great a
sinner in the handling of his blacks. An experimenter of audacity,
Piranesi's mastery of the technique of etching has seldom been
equalled, and even in his inferior work the skilful printing atones
for many defects. The remarkable richness and depth of tone, brought
about by continuous and innumerable bitings, and other secret
processes known only to himself, make his plates warm and brilliant.
Nobility of form, grandeur of mass, a light and shade that is
positively dramatic in its dispersion over wall and tower, are the
characteristic marks of this unique etcher. He could not resist the
temptation of dotting with figures the huge spaces of his ruins. They
dance or recline or indulge in uncouth gestures. His shadows are
luminous--you may gaze into them; his high lights caught on some
projection or salient cornice or silvering the August porticoes of a
vanished past, all these demonstrate his feeling for the dramatic. And
dramatic is the impression evoked as you study the majestic temples
that were Paestum, the bare, ruined arches and pillars that were Rome.
It is Paestum that is the more vivid. It tallies, too, with the
Piranesi plates; while Rome has visibly changed since his day. His
original designs for chimneys, Diverse Maniere d'Adornare i Camini,
are pronounced by several critics as "foolish and vulgar." He left
nearly two thousand etchings, and died at Rome November 9, 1778. His
son erected a mediocre statue by Angolin for his tomb in Il Priorato.
A manuscript life of Piranesi, which was in London about 1830, is now
lost. Bryan's dictionary gives a partial list of his works "as
published both by himself in Rome and by his sons in Paris. The plates
passed from his sons first to Firmin-Didot, and ultimately into the
hands of the Papal Government."

De Quincey's quotation of Wordsworth is apposite in describing
Piranesi's creations: "Battlements that on their restless fronts bore
stars"; from sheer brutal masonry, gray, aged, and moss-encrusted, he
invented a precise pattern and one both passionate and magical.


Until the recent appearance of the Baudelaire letters (1841-66) all
that we knew of Meryon's personality and art was to be found in the
monograph by Philippe Burty and Beraldi's Les Graveurs du XIX Siecle.
Hamerton had written of the French etcher in 1875 (Etching and
Etchers), and various anecdotes about his eccentric behaviour were
public property. Frederick Wedmore, in his Etching in England, did not
hesitate to group Meryon's name with Rembrandt's and Jacquemart's (one
feels like employing the Whistlerian formula and asking: Why drag in
Jacquemart?); and to-day, after years of critical indifference, the
unhappy copper-scratcher has come into his own. You may find him
mentioned in such company as Duerer, Rembrandt, and Whistler. The man
who first acclaimed him as worthy of associating with Rembrandt was
the critic Charles Baudelaire; and we are indebted to him for new
material dealing with the troubled life of Charles Meryon.

On January 8, 1860, Baudelaire wrote to his friend and publisher,
Poulet-Malassis, that what he intends to say is worth the bother of
writing. Meryon had called, first sending a card upon which he
scrawled: "You live in a hotel the name of which doubtless attracted
you because of your tastes." Puzzled by this cryptic introduction, the
poet then noted that the address read: Charles Baudelaire, Hotel de
Thebes. He did not stop at a hotel bearing that name, but, fancying
him a Theban, Meryon took the matter for granted. This letter was
forwarded. Meryon appeared. His first question would have startled any
but Baudelaire, who prided himself on startling others. The etcher,
looking as desperate and forlorn as in the Bracquemond etched portrait
(1853), demanded news of a certain Edgar Poe. Baudelaire responded
sadly that he had not known Poe personally. Then he was eagerly asked
if he believed in the reality of this Poe. Charles began to suspect
the sanity of his visitor. "Because," added Meryon, "there is a
society of litterateurs, very clever, very powerful, and knowing all
the ropes." His reasons for suspecting a cabal formed against him
under the guise of Poe's name were these: The Murders in the Rue
Morgue. "I made a design of the Morgue--an orang-outang. I have been
often compared to a monkey. This orang-outang assassinated two women,
a mother and daughter. Et moi aussi, j'ai assassine moralement deux
femmes, la mere et sa fille. I have always taken this story as an
allusion to my misfortunes. You, M. Baudelaire, would do me a great
favour if you could find the date when Edgar Poe, supposing he was not
assisted by any one, wrote his tale. I wish to see if this date
coincides with my adventures." After that Baudelaire knew his man.

Meryon spoke with admiration of Michelet's Jeanne d'Arc, though he
swore the book was not written by Michelet. (Not such a wild shot,
though not correct in this particular instance, for the world has
since discovered that several books posthumously attributed to
Michelet were written by his widow.) The etcher was interested in the
cabalistic arts. On one of his large plates he drew some eagles, and
when Baudelaire objected that these birds did not frequent Parisian
skies he mysteriously whispered "those folks at the Tuileries" often
launched as a rite the sacred eagles to study the omens and presages.
He was firmly convinced of this. After the termination of the trying
visit Baudelaire, with acrid irony, asks himself why he, with his
nerves usually unstrung, did not go quite mad, and he concludes,
"Seriously I addressed to Heaven the grateful prayers of a pharisee."

In March the same year he assures the same correspondent that
decidedly Meryon does not know how to conduct himself. He knows
nothing of life, neither does he know how to sell his plates or find
an editor. His work is very easy to sell. Baudelaire was hardly a
practical business man, but, like Poe, he had sense enough to follow
his market. He instantly recognised the commercial value of Meryon's
Paris set, but knew the etcher was a hopeless character. He wrote to
Poulet-Malassis concerning a proposed purchase of Meryon's work by the
publisher. It never came to anything. The etcher was very suspicious
as to paper and printing. He grew violent when the poet asked him to
illustrate some little poems and sonnets. Had he, Meryon, not written
poems himself? Had not the mighty Victor Hugo addressed flattering
words to him? Baudelaire, without losing interest, then thought of
Daumier as an illustrator for a new edition of Les Fleurs du Mal. It
must not be supposed, however, that Meryon was ungrateful. He was
deeply affected by the praise accorded him in Baudelaire's Salon of
1859. He wrote in February, 1860, sending his Views of Paris to the
critic as a feeble acknowledgment of the pleasure he had enjoyed when
reading the brilliant interpretative criticism. He said that he had
created an epoch in etching--which was the literal truth--and he had
saved a rapidly vanishing Paris for the pious curiosity of future
generations. He speaks of his "naive heart" and hoped that Baudelaire
in turn would dream as he did over the plates. This letter was signed
simply "Meryon, 20 Rue Duperre." The acute accent placed over the "e"
in his name by the French poet and by biographers, critics, and
editors since was never used by the etcher. It took years before
Baudelaire could persuade the Parisians that Poe did not spell his
name "Edgard Poe." And we remember the fate of Liszt and Whistler, who
were until recently known in Paris as "Litz" and "Whistler." With the
aid of Champfleury and Banville, Baudelaire tried to bring Meryon's
art to the cognisance of the Minister of Beaux-Arts, but to no avail.

There was a reason. Bohemian as was the artist during the last decade
of his life, he did not always haunt low cafes and drink absinthe. His
beginnings were as romantic as a page of Balzac. He was born a
gentleman _a la main gauche_. His father was the doctor and private
secretary of Lady Stanhope. Charles Lewis Meryon was an English
physician, who, falling in love with a ballet dancer at the Opera,
Pierre Narcisse Chaspoux, persuaded her that it would be less selfish
on her part if she would not bind him to her legally. November
23,1821, a sickly, nervous, and wizened son was born to the pair and
baptised with his father's name, who, being an alien, generously
conceded that much. There his interest ceased. On the mother fell the
burden of the boy's education. At five he was sent to school at Passy
and later went to the south of France. In 1837 he entered the Brest
naval school, and 1839 saw him going on his maiden voyage. This first
trip was marred by the black sorrow that fell upon him when informed
of his illegitimate birth. "I was mad from the time I was told of my
birth," he wrote, and until madness supervened he suffered from a
"wounded imagination." He was morbid, shy, and irritable, and his
energy--the explosive energy of this frail youth was amazing; because
he had been refused the use of a ship boat he wasted three months
digging out a canoe from a log of wood. Like Paul Gauguin, he saw many
countries, and his eyes were trained to form, though not colour--he
suffered from Daltonism--for when he began to paint he discovered he
was totally colour-blind. The visible world for him existed as a
contrapuntal net-work of lines, silhouettes, contours, or heavy dark
masses. When a sailor he sketched. Meryon tells of the drawing of a
little fungus he found in Akaroa. "Distorted in form and pinched and
puny from its birth, I could not but pity it; it seemed to me so
entirely typical of the inclemency and at the same time of the
whimsicality of an incomplete and sickly creation that I could not
deny it a place in my _souvenirs de voyage_, and so I drew it
carefully." This bit of fungus was to him a symbol of his own gnarled

Tiring of ship life, he finally decided to study art. He had seen New
Zealand, Australia, Italy, New Caledonia, and if his splendid
plate--No. 22 in M. Burty's list--is evidence, he must have visited
San Francisco. Baudelaire, in L'Art Romantique, speaks of this
perspective of San Francisco as being Meryon's most masterly design.
In 1846 he quit seafaring. He was in mediocre health, and though from
a cadet he had attained the rank of lieutenant it was doubtful if he
would ever rise higher. His mother had left him four thousand dollars,
so he went over to the Latin Quarter and began to study painting. That
he was unfitted for, and meeting Eugene Blery he became interested in
etching. A Dutch seventeenth-century etcher and draughtsman, Reiner
Zeeman by name, attracted him. He copied, too, Ducereau and Nicolle.
"An etching by the latter of a riverside view through the arch of a
bridge is like a link between Meryon and Piranesi," says D.S. MacColl.
Meryon also studied under the tuition of a painter named Phelippes. He
went to Belgium in 1856 on the invitation of the Duc d'Aremberg, and
in 1858 he was sent to Charenton suffering from melancholy and
delusions. He left in a year and returned to Paris and work; but, as
Baudelaire wrote, a cruel demon had touched the brain of the artist. A
mystic delirium set in. He ceased to etch, and evidently suffered from
the persecution madness. In every corner he believed conspiracies were
hatching. He often disappeared, often changed his abode. Sometimes he
would appear dressed gorgeously at a boulevard cafe in company with
brilliant birds of prey; then he would be seen slinking through mean
streets in meaner rags. There are episodes in his life that recall the
career of another man of genius, Gerard de Nerval, poet, noctambulist,
suicide. It is known that Meryon destroyed his finest plates, but not
in a mad fit. Baudelaire says that the artist, who was a
perfectionist, did not wish to see his work suffer from rebiting, so
he quite sensibly sawed up the plates into tiny strips. That he was
suspicious of his fellow-etchers is illustrated in the story told by
Sir Seymour Haden, who bought several of his etchings from him at a
fair price. Two miles away from the atelier the Englishman was
overtaken by Meryon. He asked for the proofs he had sold, "as they
were of a nature to compromise him"; besides, from what he knew of
Haden's etchings he was determined that his proofs should not go to
England. Sir Seymour at once returned the etchings. Now, whether
Meryon's words were meant as a compliment or the reverse is doubtful.
He was half crazy, but he may have seen through a hole in the

Frederick Keppel once met in Paris an old printer named Beillet who
did work for Meryon. He could not always pay for the printing of his
celebrated Abside de Notre Dame, a masterpiece, as he hadn't the
necessary ten cents. "I never got my money!" exclaimed the thrifty
printer. Enormous endurance, enormous vanity, diseased pride, outraged
human sentiment, hatred of the Second Empire because of the particular
clause in the old Napoleonic code relating to the research of
paternity; an irregular life, possibly drugs, certainly alcoholism,
repeated rejections by the academic authorities, critics, and dealers
of his work--these and a feeble constitution sent the unfortunate back
to Charenton, where he died February 14, 1868. Baudelaire, his
critical discoverer, had only preceded him to a lunatic's grave six
months earlier. Inasmuch as there is a certain family likeness among
men of genius with disordered minds and instincts, several comparisons
might be made between Meryon and Baudelaire. Both were great artists
and both were born with flawed, neurotic systems. Dissipation and
misery followed as a matter of course.

Charles Meryon was, nevertheless, a sane and a magnificent etcher. He
executed about a hundred plates, according to Burty. He did not avoid
portraiture, and to live he sometimes manufactured pot-boilers for the
trade. To his supreme vision was joined a miraculous surety of touch.
Baudelaire was right--those plates, the Paris set, so dramatic and
truthful in particulars, could have been sold if Meryon, with his
wolfish visage, his fierce, haggard eyes, his gruff manner, had not
offered them in person. He looked like a vagabond very often and too
often acted like a brigand. The Salon juries were prejudiced against
his work because of his legend. Verlaine over again! The etchings were
classic when they were born. We wonder they did not appeal
immediately. To-day, if you are lucky enough to come across one, you
are asked a staggering price. They sold for a song--when they did
sell--during the lifetime of the artist. Louis Napoleon and Baron
Haussmann destroyed picturesque Paris to the consternation of Meryon,
who to the eye of an archaeologist united the soul of an artist. He
loved old Paris. We can evoke it to-day, thanks to these etchings,
just as the Paris of 1848 is forever etched in the pages of Flaubert's
L'Education Sentimentale.

But there is hallucination in these etchings, beginning with Le
Stryge, and its demoniac leer, "insatiable vampire, l'eternelle
luxure." That gallery of Notre Dame, with Wotan's ravens flying
through the slim pillars from a dream city bathed in sinister light,
is not the only striking conception of the poet-etcher. The grip of
reality is shown in such plates as Tourelle, Rue de la Tisseranderie,
and La Pompe, Notre Dame. Here are hallucinations translated into the
actual terms of art, suggesting, nevertheless, a solidity, a sharpness
of definition, withal a sense of fluctuating sky, air, clouds that
make you realise the _justesse_ of Berenson's phrase--tactile values.
With Meryon the tactile perception was a sixth sense. Clairvoyant of
images, he could transcribe the actual with an almost cruel precision.
Telescopic eyes his, as MacColl has it, and an imagination that
perceived the spectre lurking behind the door, the horror of enclosed
spaces, and the mystic fear of shadows--a Poe imagination, romantic,
with madness as an accomplice in the horrible game of his life. One is
tempted to add that the romantic imagination is always slightly mad.
It runs to seed in darkness and despair. The fugitive verse of Meryon
is bitter, ironical, defiant; a whiff from an underground prison,
where seems to sit in tortured solitude some wretch abandoned by
humanity, a stranger even at the gates of hell.

Sir Seymour Haden has told us that Meryon's method was to make a
number of sketches, two or three inches square, of parts of his
picture, which he put together and arranged into a harmonious whole.
Herkomer says that he "used the burin in finishing his bitten work
with marvellous skill. No better combination can be found of the
harmonious combination of the two." Burty declared that "Meryon
preserves the characteristic detail of architecture... Without
modifying the aspect of the monument he causes it to express its
hidden meaning, and gives it a broader significance by associating it
with his own thought." His employment of a dull green paper at times
showed his intimate feeling for tonalities. He is, more so than
Piranesi, the Rembrandt of architecture. Hamerton admits that the
French etcher was "one of the greatest and most original artists who
have appeared in Europe," and berates the public of the '60s for not
discovering this. Then this writer, copying in an astonishingly
wretched manner several of Meryon's etchings, analysing their defects
as he proceeds, asserts that there is false tonality in Le Stryge.
"The intense black in the street under the tower of St. Jacques
destroys the impression of atmosphere, though at a considerable
distance it is as dark as the nearest raven's wing, which cannot
relieve itself against it. This may have been done in order to obtain
a certain arrangement of black and white patches," etc. This was done
for the sheer purpose of oppositional effects. Did Hamerton see a fine
plate? The shadow is heavy; the street is in demi, not total,
obscurity; the values of the flying ravens and the shadow are clearly
enunciated. The passage is powerful, even sensational, and in the
Romantic, Hugoesque key. Hamerton is wrong. Meryon seldom erred. His
was a temperament of steel and fire.


The sitting-room was long and narrow. A haircloth sofa of
uncompromising rectitude was pushed so close to the wall that the
imprints of at least two generations of heads might be discerned upon
the flowered wall-paper--flowers and grapes of monstrous size from
some country akin to that visited by the Israelitish spies as related
in the Good Book. A mahogany sideboard stood at the upper end of the
room; in one window hung a cage which contained a feeble canary. As
you entered your eyes fell upon an ornamental wax fruit piece under a
conical glass. A stuffed bird, a robin redbreast, perched on a frosted
tree in the midst of these pale tropical offerings, glared at you with
beady eyes. Antimacassars and other things of horror were in the room.
Also a centre table upon which might have been found Cowper's poems,
the Bible, Beecher's sermons, and an illustrated book about the Holy
Land by some hardworking reverend. It was Aunt Jane's living-room; in
it she had rocked and knitted for more than half a century. There were
a few pictures on the wall, a crayon of her brother, a bank president
with a shaved upper lip, a high, pious forehead, and in his eyes a
stern expression of percentage. Over the dull white marble mantelpiece
hung a huge mezzotint, of violent contrast in black and white, a
picture whose subject had without doubt given it the place of honour
in this old-fashioned, tasteless, homely, comfortable room. It bore
for a title The Fall of Nineveh, and it was designed and mezzotinted
by John Martin.

Let us look at this picture. It depicts the downfall of the great city
upon which the wrath of God is visited. There are ghastly gleams of
lightning above the doomed vicinity. A fierce tempest is in progress
as the invading hosts break down the great waterways and enter
dry-shod into the vast and immemorial temples and palaces. The
tragedy, the human quality of the design, is summed up by the agitated
groups in the foreground; the king, surrounded by his harem, makes a
gesture of despair; the women, with loose-flowing draperies, surround
him like frightened swans. A high priest raises his hand to the stormy
heavens, upon which he is evidently invoking as stormy maledictions. A
warrior swings his blade; to his neck clings a fair helpless one, half
nude. There are other groups. Men in armour rush to meet the foe in
futile agitation. On temple tops, on marble terraces and balconies, on
the efflorescent capitals of vast columns that pierce the sky, swarms
affrighted humanity. The impression is grandiose and terrific. Exotic
architecture, ebon night, an event that has echoed down the dusty
corridors of legend or history--these and a hundred other details are
enclosed within the frame of this composition. Another picture which
hangs hard by, the Destruction of Jerusalem, after Kaulbach, is
colourless in comparison. The Englishman had greater imagination than
the German, though he lacked the latter's anatomical science. To-day
in the Pinakothek, Munich, Kaulbach holds a place of honour. You may
search in vain at the London National Gallery for the paintings of a
man who once was on the crest of popularity in England, whose Biblical
subjects attracted multitudes, whose mezzotints and engravings were
sold wherever the English Bible was read. John Martin, painter,
mezzotinter, man of gorgeous imagination, second to De Quincey or the
author of Vathek, is to-day more forgotten than Beckford himself.

Heinrich Heine in his essay, The Romantic School, said that "the
history of literature is a great morgue, wherein each seeks the dead
who are near or dear to him." Into what morgue fell John Martin before
his death? How account for the violent changes in popular taste?
Martin suffered from too great early success. The star of Turner was
in the ascendant. John Ruskin denied merit to the mezzotinter, and so
it is to-day that if you go to our print-shops you will seldom find
one of his big or little plates. He has gone out of fashion--fatal
phrase!--and only in the cabinets of old collectors can you get a peep
at his archaic and astounding productions. William Blake is in vogue;
perhaps Martin--? And then those who have garnered his plates will
reap a harvest.

Facts concerning him or his work are slight. Bryan's dictionary
accords him a few paragraphs. When at the British Museum, a few years
ago, I asked Mr. Sidney Colvin about the Martins in his print-room.
There are not many, not so many as in a certain private collection
here. But Mr. Colvin told me of the article written by Cosmo Monkhouse
in the Dictionary of National Biography, and from it we are enabled to
present a few items about the man's career. He was born at Hayden
Bridge, near Hexham, Northumberland, July 19, 1789. His father,
Fenwick Martin, a fencing-master, held classes at the Chancellor's
Head, Newcastle. His brothers, Jonathan (1782-1838) and William
(1772-1851), have some claim on our notice, for the first was an
insane prophet and incendiary, having set fire to York Minster in
1829; William was a natural philosopher and poet who published many
works to prove the theory of perpetual motion. "After having convinced
himself by means of thirty-six experiments of the impossibility of
demonstrating it scientifically, it was revealed to him in a dream
that God had chosen him to discover the great cause of all things, and
this he made the subject of many works" (Jasnot, Verites positives,
1854). Verily, as Lombroso hath it, "A hundred fanatics are found for
a theological or metaphysical statement, but not one for a geometric

The Martin stock was, without doubt, neurasthenic. John was
apprenticed when fourteen to Wilson, a Newcastle coach painter, but
ran away after a dispute over wages. He met Bonifacio Musso, an
Italian china painter, and in 1806 went with him to London. There he
supported himself painting china and glass while he studied
perspective and architecture. At nineteen he married and in 1812 lived
in High Street, Marylebone, and from there sent to the Academy his
first picture, Sadak in Search of the Waters of Oblivion (from Tales
of the Genii). The figure of Sadak was so small that the framers
disputed as to the top of the picture. It sold to Mr. Manning for
fifty guineas. Benjamin West, president of the Royal Academy,
encouraged Martin, and next year he painted Adam's First Sight of Eve,
which he sold for seventy guineas. In 1814 his Clytis was shown in an
ante-room of the exhibition, and he bitterly complained of his
treatment. Joshua, in 1816, was as indifferently hung, and he never
forgave the Academy the insult, though he did not withdraw from its
annual functions. In 1817 he was appointed historical painter to
Princess Charlotte and Prince Leopold. He etched about this time
Character of Trees (seven plates) and the Bard at the Academy. In 1818
he removed to Allsop Terrace, New (Marylebone road). In 1819 came The
Fall of Babylon, Macbeth (1820), Belshazzar's Feast (1821), which,
"excluded" from the Academy, yet won the L200 prize. A poem by T.S.
Hughes started Martin on this picture. It was a national success and
was exhibited in the Strand behind a glass transparency. It went the
round of the provinces and large cities and attracted thousands.
Martin joined the Society of British Artists at its foundation and
exhibited with them from 1824 to 1831, and also in 1837 and 1838,
after which he sent his important pictures to the Royal Academy.

In 1833 The Fall of Nineveh went to Brussels, where it was bought by
the Government. Martin was elected member of the Belgian Academy and
the Order of Leopold was conferred on him. His old quarrels with the
Academy broke out in 1836, and he testified before a committee as to
favouritism. Then followed The Death of Moses, The Deluge, The Eve of
the Deluge, The Assuaging of the Waters, Pandemonium. He painted
landscapes and water-colours, scenes on the Thames, Brent, Wandle,
Wey, Stillingbourne, and the hills and eminences about London. About
this time he began scheming for a method of supplying London with
water and one that would improve the docks and sewers. He engraved
many of his own works, Belshazzar, Joshua, Nineveh, Fall of Babylon.
The first two named, with The Deluge, were presented by the French
Academy to Louis Philippe, for which courtesy a medal was struck off
in Martin's honour. The Ascent of Elijah, Christ Tempted in the
Wilderness, and Martin's illustrations (with Westall's) to Milton's
Paradise Lost were all completed at this period. For the latter Martin
received L2,000. He removed to Lindsey House, Chelsea, in 1848 or
1849, and was living there in 1852, when he sent to the Academy his
last contribution, Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. November 12,
1853, while engaged upon his last large canvases, The Last Judgment,
The Great Day of Wrath, and The Plains of Heaven, he was paralysed on
his right side. He was removed to the Isle of Man, and obstinately
refusing proper nourishment, died at Douglas February 17, 1854. After
his death three pictures, scenes from the Apocalypse, were exhibited
at the Hall of Commerce. His portrait by Wangemann appeared in the
_Magazine of Fine Arts_. A second son, Leopold Charles, writer, and
godson of Leopold, King of Belgium, was an authority on costumes and
numismatics (1817-89). His wife was a sister of Sir John Tenniel of

John Martin was slightly cracked; at least he was so considered by his
contemporaries. He was easily affronted, yet he was a very generous
man. He bought Etty's picture, The Combat, in 1825 for two or three
hundred guineas. There are at the South Kensington Museum three
Martins, watercolours, and one oil; at Newcastle, an oil. At the time
of his decease his principal works were in the collections of Lord de
Tabley, Dukes of Buckingham and Sutherland, Messrs. Hope and
Scarisbruck, Earl Grey and Prince Albert. The Leyland family of
Nantchvyd, North Wales, owns the Joshua and several typical works of
Martin. Wilkie, in a letter to Sir George Beaumont, describes
Belshazzar's Feast as a "phenomenon." Bulwer declared that Martin was
"more original and self-dependent than Raphael or Michael Angelo." In
the Last Essays of Elia there is one by Charles Lamb entitled
Barrenness of the Imaginative Faculty in the Production of Modern Art.
The name of Martin is not mentioned, but several of his works are
unmistakably described. "His towered architecture [Lamb is writing of
Belshazzar's Feast] are of the highest order of the material sublime.
Whether they were dreams or transcripts of some elder
workmanship--Assyrian ruins old--restored by this mighty artist, they
satisfy our most stretched and craving conceptions of the glories of
the antique world. It is a pity that they were ever peopled."
"Literary" art critic as he was, Lamb put his finger on Martin's
weakest spot--his figure painting. The entire essay should be read,
for it contains a study of the Joshua in which this most delicious of
English prose writers speaks of the "wise falsifications" of the great
masters. Before his death the critics, tiring of him sooner than the
public, called Martin tricky, meretricious, mechanical. To be sure,
his drawing is faulty, his colour hot and smoky; nevertheless, he was
not a charlatan. As David Wilkie wrote: "Weak in all these points in
which he can be compared to other artists," he had the compensating
quality of an imposing, if at times operatic, imagination. Monkhouse
justly says that in Martin's illustrations to Milton the smallness of
scale and absence of colour enable us to appreciate the grandeur of
his conceptions with a minimum of his defects.

In sooth he lacked variety. His pictures are sooty and apocalyptic. We
have seen the Mountain Landscape, at South Kensington, The Destruction
of Herculaneum, at Manchester, another at Newcastle whose subject
escapes us, and we confess that we prefer the mezzotints of Martin,
particularly those engraved by Le Keux--whose fine line and keen sense
of balance corrected the incoherence of Martin's too blackened shadows
and harsh explosions of whites. One looks in vain for the velvety tone
of Earlom, or the vivid freshness of Valentine Green, in Martin. He
was not a colourist; his mastery consisted in transferring to his huge
cartoons a sense of the awful, of the catastrophic. He excelled in the
delineation of massive architecture, and if Piranesi was his superior
in exactitude, he equalled the Italian in majesty and fantasy of
design. No such cataclysmic pictures were ever before painted, nor
since, though Gustave Dore, who without doubt made a study of Martin,
has incorporated in his Biblical illustrations many of Martin's
overwhelming ideas--the Deluge, for example. James Ensor, the Belgian
illustrator, is an artist of fecund fancy who, alone among the new
men, has betrayed a feeling for the strange architecture, dream
architecture, we encounter in Martin. Coleridge in Kubla Khan, De
Quincey in opium reveries, Poe and Baudelaire are among the writers
who seem nearest to the English mezzotinter. William Beckford's
Vathek, that most Oriental of tales, first written in French by a
millionaire of genius, should have inspired Martin. Perhaps its mad
fantasy did, for all we know--there is no authentic compilation of his
compositions. Heine has spoken of Martin, as has Theophile Gautier;
and his name, by some kink of destiny, is best known to the present
generation because of Macaulay's mention of it in an essay.

The Vale of Tempe is one of Martin's larger plates seldom seen in the
collector's catalogue. We have viewed it and other rare prints in the
choice collection referred to already. Satan holding council, after
Milton, is a striking conception. The Prince of Eblis sits on a vast
globe of ebony. About him are tier upon tier of faces, the faces of
devils. Infernal chandeliers depend from remote ceilings. Light gashes
the globe and the face and figure of Satan; both are of supernal
beauty. Could this mezzotint, so small in size, so vast in its shadowy
suggestiveness, have stirred Baudelaire to lines that shine with a
metallic poisonous lustre?

And there is that tiny mezzotint in which we find ourselves at the
base of a rude little hill. The shock of the quaking earth, the silent
passing of the sheeted dead and the rush of the affrighted multitudes
tell us that a cosmic tragedy is at hand. In a flare of lightning we
see silhouetted against an angry sky three crosses at the top of a sad
little hill. It is a crucifixion infinitely more real, more intense
than Dore's. Another scene--also engraved by Le Keux: On a stony
platform, vast and crowded, the people kneel in sackcloth and ashes;
the heavens thunder over the weeping millions of Nineveh, and the Lord
of Hosts will not be appeased. Stretching to the clouds are black
basaltic battlements, and above rear white-terraced palaces as swans
that strain their throats to the sky. The mighty East is in penitence.
Or, Elijah is rapt to heaven in a fiery whirlwind; or God creates
light. This latter is one of the most extraordinary conceptions of a
great visionary and worthy of William Blake. Or Sadak searching for
the waters of oblivion. Alas, poor humanity! is here the allegory. A
man, a midget amid the terrifying altitudes of barren stone, lifts
himself painfully over a ledge of rock. Above him are vertiginous
heights; below him, deadly precipices. Nothing helps him but
himself--a page torn from Max Stirner is this parable. Light streams
upon the struggling egoist as he toils to the summit of consciousness.
Among the designs of nineteenth-century artists we can recall none so
touching, so powerful, so modern as this picture. Martin was not
equally successful in portraying celestial episodes, though his
paradises are enormous panoramas replete with architectural beauties.
His figures, as exemplified in Miltonic illustrations, are more
conventional than Fuseli's and never naively original as are Blake's.
Indeed, of Blake's mystic poetry and divination Martin betrays no
trace. He is not so much the seer as the inventor of infernal
harmonies. Satan reviewing his army of devils is truly magnificent in
its depiction of the serried host armed for battle; behind glistens
burning Tophet in all its smoky splendour. Satan in shining armour
must be a thousand feet high; he is sadly out of scale. So, too, in
the quarrel of Michael and Satan over the sleeping Adam and Eve. Blake
is here recalled in the rhythms of the monstrous figures. Bathos is in
the design of Lucifer swimming in deepest hell upon waves of fire and
filth; yet the lugubrious arches of the caverns in the perspective
reveal Blake's fantasy, so quick to respond to external stimuli.
Martin saw the earth as in an apocalyptic swoon, its forms distorted,
its meanings inverted; a mad world, the world of an older theogony.
But if there was little human in his visions, he is enormously
impersonal; if he assailed heaven's gates on wings of melting wax, or
dived deep into the pool of iniquity, he none the less caught glimpses
in his breathless flights of strange countries across whose sill no
human being ever passes. There is genuine hallucination. He must have
seen his ghosts so often that in the end they petrified him, as did
the Statue Don Giovanni. Martin was a species of reversed Turner. He
spied the good that was in evil, the beauty in bituminous blacks. He
is the painter of black music, the deifier of Beelzebub, and also one
who caught the surge and thunder of the Old Testament, its majesty and
its savagery. As an illustrator of sacred history, the world may one
day return to John Martin.


Anders Zorn--what's in a name? Possibly the learned and amiable father
of Tristram Shandy or that formidable pedant Professor Slawkenbergius
might find much to arouse his interest in the patronymic of the great
Swedish painter and etcher. What Zorn means in his native tongue we do
not profess to know; but in German it signifies anger, wrath, rage.
Now, the Zorn in life is not an enraged person--unless some lady
sitter asks him to paint her as she is not. He is, as all will testify
who have met him, a man of rare personal charm and sprightly humour.
He, it may be added, calls yellow yellow, and he never paints a
policeman like a poet. In a word, a man of robust, normal vision, a
realist and an artist. False realism with its hectic, Zola-like
romanticism is distasteful to Zorn. He is near Degas among the
Frenchmen and Zuloaga among the new Spaniards; near them in a certain
forthright quality of depicting life, though unlike them in technical
and individual methods.

Yes, Zorn, that crisp, bold, short name, which begins with a letter
that abruptly cuts both eye and ear, quite fits the painter's
personality, fits his art. He is often ironic. Some fanciful theorist
has said that the letters Z and K are important factors in the career
of the men who possess them in their names. Camille Saint-Saens has
spoken of Franz Liszt and his lucky letter. It is a very pretty idea,
especially when one stakes on zero at Monte Carlo; but no doubt Anders
Zorn would be the first to laugh the idea out of doors.

We recall an exhibition a few years ago at Venice in the art gallery
of the Giardino Reale. Zorn had a place of honour among the boiling
and bubbling Secessionists; indeed, his work filled a large room. And
what work! Such a giant's revel of energy. Such landscapes, riotous,
sinister, and lovely. Such women! Here we pause for breath. Zorn's
conception of womanhood has given offence to many idealists, who do
not realise that once upon a time our forebears were furry and
indulged in arboreal habits. Zorn can paint a lady; he has signed many
gentle and aristocratic canvases.

But Zorn is also too sincere not to paint what he sees. Some of his
models are of the earth, earthy; others step toward you with the
candid majesty of a Brunhilda, naked, unashamed, and regal. They are
all vital. We recall, too, the expressions, shocked, amazed, even
dazed, of some American art students who, fresh from their golden
Venetian dreams, faced the uncompromising pictures of a man who had
faced the everyday life of his day. For these belated visionaries,
whose ideal in art is to painfully imitate Giorgione, Titian, or
Tiepolo, this modern, with his rude assault upon the nerves, must seem
a very iconoclast. Yet Zorn only attempts to reproduce the life
encircling him. He is a child of his age. He, too, has a perception of
beauty, but it is the beauty that may be found by the artist with an
ardent, unspoiled gaze, the curious, disquieting beauty of our time.
Whistler saw it in old Venetian doorways as well as down Chelsea way
or at Rotherhithe. Zorn sees it in some corner of a wood, in some
sudden flex of muscle or intimate firelit interior. And he loves to
depict the glistening curves of his big model as she stands in the
sunlight, a solid reproach to physical and moral anaemia. A pagan, by

As an etcher the delicacy of his sheathed lion's paw is the principal
quality that meets the eye, notwithstanding the broad execution.
Etching is essentially an impressionistic art. Zorn is an
impressionist among etchers. He seems to attack his plate not with the
finesse of a meticulous fencing-master but like a Viking, with a broad
Berserker blade. He hews, he hacks, he gashes. There is blood in his
veins, and he does not spare the ink. But examine closely these little
prints--some of them miracles of printing--and you may discern their
delicate sureness, subtlety, and economy of gesture. Fitzroy
Carrington quotes the Parisian critic Henri Marcel, who among other
things wrote of the Zorn etchings: "Let us only say that these
etchings--paradoxical in their coarseness of means and fineness of
effect--manifest the master at his best."

Coarseness of means and fineness of effect--the phrase is a happy one.
Coarse is sometimes the needle-work of Zorn, but the end justifies the
means. He is often cruel, more cruel than Sargent. His portraits prove
it. He has etched all his friends, some of whom must have felt
honoured and amused--or else offended. The late Paul Verlaine, for
example, would not have been pleased with the story of his life as
etched by the Swede. It is as biting a commentary--one is tempted to
say as acid--as a page from Strindberg. Yes, without a touch of
Strindberg's mad fantasy, Zorn is kin to him in his ironic, witty way
of saying things about his friends and in front of their faces.
Consider that large plate of Renan. Has any one so told the truth
concerning the ex-seminarian, casuist, and marvellous prose writer of
France? The large, loosely modelled head with its fleshy curves, its
super-subtle mouth of orator, the gaze veiled, the bland, pontifical
expression, the expression of the man who spoke of "the mania of
certitude"--here is Ernest Renan, voluptuous disdainer of democracies,
and planner of a phalanstery of superior men years before Nietzsche's
superman appeared. Zorn in no unkindly spirit shows us the thinker;
also the author of L'Abbesse de Jouarre. It is something, is it not,
to evoke with needle, acid, paper, and ink the dualism of such a brain
and temperament as was Renan's?

He is not flattering to himself, Zorn. The Henry G. Marquand, two
impressions, leaves one rather sad. An Irish girl, Annie, is superb in
its suggestion of form and colour. Saint-Gaudens and his model is
excellent; we prefer the portrait. The Evening Girl Bathing is rare in
treatment--simple, restrained, vital. She has turned her back, and we
are grateful, for it is a beautiful back. The landscape is as
evanescent as Whistler, the printing is in a delicate key. The Berlin
Gallery contains a Zorn, a portrait striking in its reality. It
represents Miss Maja von Heyne wearing a collar of skins. She could
represent the Maja of Ibsen's epilogue, When We Dreamers Awake; Maja,
the companion of the bear hunter, Ulfheim. As etched, we miss the
massiveness, the rich, vivid colour, yet it is a plate of distinction.

Among his portraits are the Hon. Daniel S. Lamont, Senator "Billy"
Mason, the Hon. John Hay, Mr. and Mrs. Atherton Curtis, and several
big-wigs of several nations. An oil-painting is an impressionistic
affair, showing some overblown girls dressing after their bath. The
sun flecks their shoulders, but otherwise seems rather inclined to
retire modestly. Evidently not the midnight sun.

We have barely indicated the beauties in which the virile spirit of
Anders Zorn comes out at you from the wall--a healthy, large-hearted,
girted Swede is this man with the Z.


The name of Frank Brangwyn may fall upon unresponsive ears; yet he has
a Continental reputation and is easily the foremost English
impressionist. New York has seen but little of his work; if we mistake
not, there was a large piece of his, a Gipsy Tinker in the open air,
hung several seasons ago at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Mr.
Kennedy shows extraordinary etchings of his at the Wunderlich
Galleries. We call them extraordinary not alone because of their size,
but also because Brangwyn is practically the first among latter-day
artists to apply boldly to etching the methods of the impressionists.
Etching in its essential nature is an impressionistic art. We do not
mean to assert that Brangwyn uses the dot or dash or broken dabs in
his plates, for the very good reason that he is working in black and
white; nevertheless a glance at his plates will show you a new way of
conquering old prejudices. Whistler it was who railed at large
etchings. He was not far wrong. In the hands of the majority of
etchers a large plate is an abomination, diffused in interest, coarse
of line; but Brangwyn is not to be considered among this majority. He
is a big fellow in everything. Besides, Whistler was using the
familiar argument, _pro doma sua_. The same may be said of Poe, who
simply would not hear of a long poem (shades of Milton!) or of Chopin,
who lost his way in the sonata form, though coming out in the gorgeous
tropical land, the thither side of sonatas and other tonal animals.

Because Catullus and Sappho did not write epics that is no reason why
Dante should not. It is the old story of the tailless fox. Brangwyn as
well as Anders Zorn has been called a rough-and-ready artist. For
exquisite tone and pattern we must go to Whistler and his school.
Brangwyn is never exquisite, though he is often poetic, even epical.
Look at that Bridge, Barnard Castle. It is noble in outline, lovely in
atmosphere. Or at the Old Hammersmith--"swell," as the artist slang
goes. The Mine is in feeling and mass Rembrandtish; and as we have
used the name of the great Dutchman we may as well admit that to him,
despite a world of difference, Brangwyn owes much. He has the sense of
mass. What could be more tangibly massive than the plate called
Breaking Up of the Hannibal? Here is a theme which Turner in The
Fighting Temeraire made truly poetic, and Seymour Haden in his
Agamemnon preserved more than a moiety of sentiment, not to mention
the technical prowess displayed; but in the hulk of this ugly old
vessel of Brangwyn's there is no beauty. However, it is hugely
impressive. His landscapes are not too seldom hell-scapes.

The Inn of the Parrot is quaint with its reversed lettering. The Road
to Montreuil is warm in colour and finely handled. How many have
realised the charm of the rear view of Santa Maria Salute? It is one
of the most interesting of Brangwyn's Venetian etchings. His vision of
Saint Sophia, Constantinople, has the mystic quality we find in the
Dutchman Bauer's plates. A Church at Montreuil attracts the eye;
London Bridge is positively dramatic; the Old Kew Bridge has delicacy;
the Sawyers with their burly figures loom up monstrously; the Building
of the New Victoria and Albert Museum, South Kensington, recalls, as
treated by the impressionistic brush of Brangwyn (for the needle seems
transformed into a paint-loaded spike), one of H.G. Wells's terrific
socialistic structures of the year 2009. Remember that Brangwyn is
primarily a painter, an impressionist. He sees largely. His dream of
the visible world (and like Sorolla, it is never the world invisible
with him) is one of patches and masses, of luminous shadows, of
animated rhythms, of rich arabesques. He is sib to the Scotch. His
father is said to have been a Scottish weaver who settled in Bruges.
Frank saw much of the world before settling in London. He was born at
Bruges, 1867. The Golden Book of Art describes him as a one-time
disciple of William Morris. He has manufactured glass, furniture,
wall-paper, pottery. His curiosity is insatiable. He is a mural
decorator who in a frenzy could cover miles of space if some kind
civic corporation would but provide the walls. As the writer of the
graceful preface to the Wunderlich catalogue has it: "He gets the
character of his theme. His art is itself full of character."
Temperament, overflowing, passionate, and irresistible, is his
key-note. In music he might have been a Fritz Delius, a Richard
Strauss. He is an eclectic. He knows all schools, all methods. He is
Spanish in his fierce relish of the open air, of the sights--and we
almost said sounds--of many lands, but the Belgian strain, the touch
of the mystic and morose, creeps into his work. We have caught it more
in his oils than etchings. It is not singular, then, that his small
etched plates do not hold the eye; they lack magnetic quality. It is
the Titan, rude and raging, dashing ink over an acre of white paper,
that rivets you. The stock attitudes and gestures he does not give
you; and it is doubtful if he will have an audience soon in America,
where the sleek is king and prettiness is exalted over power.


Mr. Frank Weitenkampf, the curator of the Lenox Library print
department, shows nineteen portfolios which hold about seven hundred
lithographs by Honore Daumier. This collection is a bequest of the
late Mr. Lawrence, and we doubt if the Bibliotheque Nationale at Paris
surpasses it; that is, in the number of detached examples. There the
works of the great artist are imbedded in the various publications for
which he laboured so many years--such at _La Caricature, Les Beaux
Arts, L'Artiste, Les Modes Parisiennes, La Gazette Musicale, Le
Boulevard,_ and _Masques et Visages_. The Lawrence lithographs are
representatives, though not complete; the catalogue compiled by Loys
Delteil comprises 3,958 plates; the paintings and drawings are also
numerous. But an admirable idea of Daumier's versatile genius may be
gleaned at the Lenox Library, as all the celebrated series are there:
Paris Bohemians, the Blue Stockings, the Railways, La Caricature,
Croquis d'Expressions, Emotions Parisiennes, Actualites, Les
Baigneurs, Pastorales, Moeurs Conjugales, the Don Quixote plates,
Silhouettes, Souvenirs d'Artistes, Types Parisiens, the Advocates and
Judges, and a goodly number of the miscellanies. Altogether an
adequate exhibition.

Honore Daumier, who died February 11, 1879, was almost the last of the
giants of 1830, though he outlived many of them. Not affiliated with
the Barbizon group--though he was a romantic in his hatred of the
bourgeois--several of these painters were intimate friends; indeed,
Corot was his benefactor, making him a present of a cottage at
Valmondois (Seine-et-Oise), where the illustrator died. He was blind
and lonely at the end. Corot died 1875; Daubigny, his companion, 1878;
Millet, 1875, and Rousseau, with whom he corresponded, died 1867. In
1879 Flaubert still lived, working heroically upon that monument of
human inanity, Bouvard et Pecuchet; Maupassant, his disciple, had just
published a volume of verse; Manet was regarded as a dangerous
charlatan, Monet looked on as a madman; while poor Cezanne was only a
bad joke. The indurated critical judgment of the academic forces
pronounced Bonnat a greater portraitist than Velasquez, and Gerome and
his mock antiques and mock orientalism far superior to Fromentin and
Chasseriau. It was a glorious epoch for mediocrity. And Daumier, in
whom there was something of Michael Angelo and Courbet, was admired
only as a clever caricaturist, the significance of his paintings
escaping all except a few. Corot knew, Daubigny knew, as earlier
Delacroix knew; and Balzac had said: "There is something of the
Michael Angelo in this man!"

Baudelaire, whose critical _flair_ never failed him, wrote in his
Curiosites Esthetiques: "Daumier's distinguishing note as an artist is
his certainty. His drawing is fluent and easy; it is a continuous
improvisation. His powers of observation are such that in his work we
never find a single head that is out of character with the figure
beneath it. ... Here, in these animalised faces, may be seen and read
clearly all the meannesses of soul, all the absurdities, all the
aberrations of intelligence, all the vices of the heart; yet at the
same time all is broadly drawn and accentuated." Nevertheless one must
not look at too many of these caricatures. At first the Rabelaisian
side of the man appeals; presently his bitterness becomes too acrid.
Humanity is silly, repulsive; it is goat, pig, snake, monkey, and
tiger; but there is something else. Daumier would see several sides.
His pessimism, like Flaubert's, is deadly, but at times reaches the
pitch of the heroic. He could have echoed Flaubert's famous sentence:
"The ignoble is the sublime of the lower slope." Yet what wit, what
humour, what humanity in Daumier! His Don Quixote and Sancho Panza are
worth a wilderness of Dores. And the Good Samaritan or The Drinkers.
The latter is as jovial as Steen or Hals.

A story went the rounds after his death which neatly illustrates his
lack of worldliness. His modesty was proverbial, and once Daubigny, on
introducing him to an American picture dealer, warned him not to ask
less than five thousand francs for the first picture he sold to the
man. The American went to Daumier's atelier, and seeing a picture on
the easel, asked, "How much?" The artist, remembering Daubigny's
warning, answered, "Five thousand francs." The dealer immediately
bought it, and on demanding to see something else, Daumier put another
canvas on the easel, far superior to the one sold. The Yankee again
asked the price. The poor artist was perplexed. He had received no
instructions from Daubigny regarding a second sale; so when the
question was repeated he hesitated, and his timidity getting the
better of him, he replied: "Five hundred francs." "Don't want it;
wouldn't take it as a gift," said the dealer. "I like the other
better. Besides, I never sell any but expensive pictures," and he went
away satisfied that a man who sold so cheaply was not much of an
artist. This anecdote, which we heard second hand from Daubigny, may
be a fable, yet it never failed to send Daubigny into fits of
laughter. It may be surmised that, despite his herculean labours,
extending over more than half a century, Daumier never knew how to
make or save money.

He was born at Marseilles in 1808. His father was a third-rate poet
who, suspecting his own gift, doubted the talent of his son, though
this talent was both precocious and prodigious. The usual thing
happened. Daumier would stick at nothing but his drawing; the attempt
to force him into law studies only made him hate the law and lawyers
and that hatred he never ceased to vent in his caricatures. He knocked
about until he learned in 1829 the technics of lithography; then he
soon became self-supporting. His progress was rapid. He illustrated
for the Boulevard journals; he caricatured Louis Philippe and was sent
to jail, Sainte-Pelagie, for six months. Many years afterward he
attacked with a like ferocity Napoleon III.

Look at his frontispiece--rather an advertisement--of Victor Hugo's
Les Chatiments. It is as sinister, as malign as a Rops. The big book,
title displayed, crushes to earth a vulture which is a travesty of the
Napoleonic beak. Daumier was a power in Paris. Albert Wolff, the
critic of _Figaro_, tells how he earned five francs each time he
provided a text for a caricature by Daumier, and Philipon, who founded
several journals, actually claimed a share in Daumier's success
because he wrote some of the silly dialogues to his plates.

Daumier was the artistic progenitor of the Caran d'Aches, the
Forains--who was it that called Forain "Degas en
caricature"?--Willettes, and Toulouse-de-Lautrecs. He was a political
pamphleteer, a scourger of public scamps, and a pictorial muck-raker
of genius. His mockery of the classic in art was later paralleled by
Offenbach in La Belle Helene. But there were other sides to his
genius. Tiring of the hurly-burly of journalism, he retired in 1860 to
devote himself to painting.

His style has been pronounced akin to that of Eugene Carriere; his
sense of values on a par with Goya's and Rembrandt's (that Shop Window
of his in the Durand-Ruel collection is truly Rembrandtesque). This
feeling for values was so remarkable that it enabled him to produce an
impression with three or four tones. The colours he preferred were
grays, browns, and he manipulated his blacks like a master. Mauclair
does not hesitate to put Daumier among the great painters of the past
century on the score of his small canvases. "They contain all his
gifts of bitter and profound observation, all the mastery of his
drawings, to which they add the attractions of rich and intense
colour," declares Mauclair. Doubtless he was affected by the influence
of Henri Monnier, but Daumier really comes from no one. He belongs to
the fierce tribe of synics and men of exuberant powers, like Goya and
Courbet. A born anarch of art, he submitted to no yoke. He would have
said with Anacharsis Cloots: "I belong to the party of indignation."
He was a proud individualist. That he had a tender side, a talent for
friendship, may be noted in the affectionate intercourse he maintained
for years with Corot, Millet, Rousseau, Dupre, Geoffroy, the sculptor
Pascal, and others. He was very impulsive and had a good heart with
all his misanthropy, for he was an idealist reversed. The etching of
him by Loys Delteil is thus described by a sympathetic commentator:
"Daumier was very broad-shouldered, his head rather big, with slightly
sunken eyes, which must, however, have had an extraordinary power of
penetration. Though the nose is a little heavy and inelegant, the
projecting forehead, unusually massive like that of Victor Hugo or of
Beethoven and barred with a determined furrow, reveals the great
thinker, the man of lofty and noble aspirations. The rather long hair,
thrown backward, adds to the expression of the fine head; and finally
the beard worn collarwise, according to the prevailing fashion, gives
to Daumier's face the distinctive mark of his period." This etched
portrait may be seen in several states at the Lenox Library.


How heavily personality counts in etching may be noted in the etched
work of Maxime Lalanne which is at the Keppel Galleries. This skilful
artist, so deft with his needle, so ingenious in fancy, escapes great
distinction by a hair's breadth. He is without that salt of
individuality that is so attractive in Whistler. Of him Hamerton
wrote: "No one ever etched so gracefully as Maxime Lalanne; ... he is
essentially a true etcher... There have been etchers of greater power,
of more striking originality, but there has never been an etcher equal
to him in a certain delicate elegance." This is very amiable, and
Joseph Pennell is quite as favourable in his judgment. "His ability,"
wrote Mr. Pennell in Pen Drawing and Pen Draughtsmen, "to express a
great building, a vast town, or a delicate little landscape has never
been equalled, I think, by anybody but Whistler." Mr. Pennell modestly
omits his own name; but the truth is that Pennell is as excellent if
not more individual a draughtsman as Lalanne, and when it comes to
vision, to invention, and to the manipulation of the metal he is the
superior of the Frenchman. The American etcher rates Lalanne's lines
above Titian's. Whistler and Titian would be big companions indeed for
the clever-mannered and rather pedantic Lalanne.

Let us admit without balking at Hamerton that his line is graceful. He
belongs to the old-fashioned school which did not dream, much less
approve, of modern tonal effects in their plates. A Lalanne etching is
as clean and vivid as a photograph (not an "art" photograph). It is
also as hard. Atmosphere, in the material as well as the poetic sense,
is missing. His skies are disappointing. Those curly-cue clouds are
meaningless, and the artist succeeds better when he leaves a blank. At
least some can fill it with the imagination. Another grave defect is
the absence of modulation in his treatment of a landscape and its
linear perspective. Everything seems to be on the same plane of
interest, nor does he vary the values of his blacks--in foreground,
middle distance, and the upper planes the inking is often in the same
violent key. Such a capital plate, for example, which depicts a fire
in the port of Bordeaux is actually untrue in its values. Dramatic in
feeling and not without a note here and there of Rembrandt, this
particular composition fails, just fails to hit the bull's-eye.

After all, we must judge a man in his genre, as Keppel _pere_ puts it.
Maxime Lalanne's style is that of a vanished generation in etching. He
was a contemporary of Meryon, but that unhappy man of genius taught
him nothing. Born at Bordeaux in 1827, Lalanne died in 1886. He was a
pupil of Jean Gigoux (1806-94), a painter whose gossipy souvenirs
(1885) pleased Paris and still please the curious. (Gigoux it was who
remained in Balzac's house when the novelist died; though he was not
visiting the master of the house.) From this painter Lalanne evidently
imbibed certain theories of his art which he set forth in his Treatise
on Etching (1866).

Strangely enough, illustrator as he was, his transpositions into black
and white of subjects by Troyon, Ruysdael, Crome, Constable, and many
others are not so striking either in actual technique or individual
grasp as his original pieces. Constable, for instance, is thin,
diffuse, and without richness. Mezzotinted by the hands of such a man
as Lucas, we recognise the real medium for translating the English
painter. A master of the limpid line, Lalanne shows you a huddled bit
of Amsterdam or a distant view of Bordeaux, or that delicious prospect
taken on a spot somewhere below the Pont Saint-Michel, with the Pont
Neuf and the Louvre in the background. He had a feeling for those
formal gardens which have captured within their enclosure a moiety of
nature's unstudied ease. The plate called Aux Environs de Paris
reveals this. And what slightly melancholy tenderness there is in Le
Canal a Pont Sainte-Maxence. There are several states of the "Villers"
etching, an attractive land and seascape, marred, however, by the
clumsy sameness of the blacks in the foreground.

Without possessing Meryon's grim power in the presentation of old
Paris streets and tumble-down houses, Lalanne has achieved several
remarkable plates of this order. One is his well-known Rue des
Marmousets. This street is almost as repellent-looking as Rue
Mouffetard at its worst period. Ancient and sinister, its reputation
was not enticing. In it once dwelt a pastry cook who, taking his crony
the barber into his confidence, literally made mince-meat of a
stranger and sold the pies to the neighbours.

Messire Jacques du Breul, in his Le Theatre des Antiquites de Paris
(1612), remarks, not without critical unction, in his quaint French:
"De la chair d'icelui faisit des pastez qui se trouvoient meilleurs
que les aultres, d'autant que la chair de l'homme est plus delicate a
cause de la nourriture que celle des aultres animaux." Every one to
his taste, as the old politician said when he kissed the donkey. When
you study the Lalanne etching of this gruesome alley you almost expect
to see at the corner Anatole France's famous cook-shop with its
delectable odours and fascinating company.

The scenes of Thames water-side, Nogent, Houlgate Beach, at Richmond,
or at Cusset are very attractive. His larger plates are not
convincing, the composition does not hang together; the eye vainly
seeks focussing centres of interest. Beraldi was right when he said
that Lalanne has not left one surpassing plate, one of which the world
can say: There is a masterpiece! Yet is Maxime Lalanne among the
Little Masters of characteristic etching. His appeal is popular, he is
easily comprehended of the people.


The etched work of the brilliant Frenchman Louis Legrand is at last
beginning to be appreciated in this country. French etchings, unless
by painter-etchers, have never been very popular with us. We admire
Meryon and Helleu's drypoints, Bracquemond, Jacquemart; Felix Buhot
has a following; Lalanne and Daubigny too; but in comparison with the
demand for Rembrandt, Whistler, Seymour Haden, or Zorn the Paris men
are not in the lead. There is Rops, for example, whose etchings may be
compared to Meryon's; yet who except a few amateurs seeks Rops? Louis
Legrand is now about forty-five, at the crest of his career, a
versatile, spontaneous artist who is equally happy with pigments or
the needle. His pastels are much sought, but his dry-points have
gained for him celebrity. Though a born colourist, the primary gift of
the man is his draughtsmanship. His designs, swift and supple
notations of the life around him, delight the eye by reason of their
personal touch and because of the intensely human feeling that he
infuses into every plate. Legrand was one of the few pupils of
Felicien Rops, and technically he has learned much of his master; but
his way of viewing men and women and life is different from that of
the Belgian genius. He has irony and wit and humour--the two we seldom
bracket--and he has pity also; he loves the humble and despised. His
portraits of babies, the babies of the people, are captivating.
Imagine a Rops who has some of Millet's boundless sympathy for his
fellow-humans and you have approximately an understanding of Louis

He is a native of Dijon, the city that gave birth to Bossuet, but
Legrand is not that kind of Burgundian. Several critics pretend to see
in his work the characteristics of his native Cote d'Or; that,
however, may be simply a desire to frame the picture appropriately.
Legrand might have hailed from the south, from Daudet's country; he is
exuberant as he is astute. The chief thing is that he has abundant
brains and in sheer craftsmanship fears few equals. Like Whistler, his
principal preoccupation is to suppress all appearance of technical
procedures. His method of work is said to be simplicity itself;
obsessed by his very definite visions, he transfers them to the
scratched plate with admirable celerity. Dry-point etching is his
principal medium. With his needle he has etched Montmartre, its
cabarets, its angels--in very earthly disguise--its orators, poets,
and castaways, and its visiting tourists--"God's silly sheep." He has
illustrated a volume of Edgar Poe's tales that displays a _macabre_
imagination. His dancers are only second to those of Edgar Degas, and
seen from an opposite side. His peasants, mothers, and children, above
all, babies, reveal an eye that observes and a brain that can
co-ordinate the results of this piercing vision. Withal, he is a poet
who extracts his symbols from everyday life.

This is what Camille Mauclair said of him at the time of his debut:

"An admirably skilful etcher, a draughtsman of keen vision, and a
painter of curious character, who has in many ways forestalled the
artists of to-day. Louis Legrand also shows to what extent Manet and
Degas have revolutionised the art of illustration, in freeing the
painters from obsolete laws and guiding them toward truth and frank
psychological study. Legrand is full of them without resembling them.
We must not forget that besides the technical innovation [division of
tones, study of complementary colours] impressionism has brought us
novelty of composition, realism of character, and great liberty in the
choice of subjects. From this point of view Rops himself, in spite of
his symbolist tendencies, could not be classed with any other group if
it were not that any kind of classification in art is useless and
inaccurate. However that may be, Louis Legrand has signed some volumes
with the most seductive qualities."

Gustave Kahn, the symbolist poet who was introduced to the English
reading world in one of the most eloquent pages of George Moore,
thinks that Legrand is frankly a symbolist. We side with Mauclair in
not trying to pin this etcher down to any particular formula. He is
anything he happens to will at the moment, symbolist, poet, and also
shockingly frank at times. Take the plate with a pun for a title, Le
paing quotidien ("paing" is slang for "poing," a blow from the fist,
and may also mean the daily bread). A masculine brute is with clinched
fist about to give his unfortunate partner her daily drubbing. He is
well dressed. His silk hat is shiny, his mustache curled in the true
Adolphe fashion. His face is vile. The woman cries aloud and protects
herself with her hands. In Marthe Baraquin, by Rosny senior, you will
find the material for this picture, though Legrand found it years ago
in the streets. Unpleasant, truly, yet a more potent sermon on man's
cruelty to woman than may be found in a dozen preachments, fictions,
or the excited outpourings at a feminist congress. Legrand presents
the facts of the case without comment, except the irony--such dismal
irony!--of the title. In this he is the true pupil of Rops.

However, he does not revel long among such dreary slices of life. The
Poe illustrations are grotesque and shuddering, but after all make
believe. The plate of The Black Cat piles horror on horror's head
(literally, for the demon cat perches on the head of the corpse) and
is, all said, pictorial melodrama. The Berenice illustration is, we
confess, a little too much for the nerves, simply because in a
masterly manner Legrand has exposed the most dreadful moment of the
story (untold by Poe, who could be an artist in his tact of omission).
The dental smile of the cataleptic Berenice as her necrophilic cousin
bends over the coffin is a testimony to a needle that in this instance
matches Goya's and Rops's in its evocation of the horrific. We turn
with relief to the ballet-girl series. The impression gained from this
album is that Legrand sympathises with, nay loves, his subject. Degas,
the greater and more objective artist, nevertheless allows to sift
through his lines an inextinguishable hatred of these girls who labour
so long for so little; and Degas did hate them, as he hated all that
was ugly in daily life, though he set forth this ugliness, this
mediocrity, this hatred in terms of beautiful art. Legrand sees the
ugliness, but he also sees the humanity of the _ballateuse_. She is a
woman who is brought up to her profession with malice aforethought by
her parents. These parents are usually noted for their cupidity. We
need not read the witty history of the Cardinal family to discover
this repellent fact. Legrand sketches the dancer from the moment when
her mother brings her, a child, to undergo the ordeal of the first

The tender tot stands hesitating in the doorway; one hand while
holding the door open seems to grasp it as the last barrier of defence
that stands between her and the strange new world. She is attired in
the classical figurante's costume. Behind, evidently pushing her
forward, is the grim guardian, a bony, forbidding female. Although you
do not see them, it is an easy feat to imagine the roomful of girls
and dancing master all staring at the new-comer. The expression on the
child's face betrays it; instinctively, like the generality of
embarrassed little girls, her hand clasps her head. In less than a
minute she will weep.

Another plate, L'ami des Danseuses, is charged with humanity. The
violinist who plays for the ballet rehearsals sits resting, and facing
him are two young dancers, also sitting, but stooping to relieve their
strained spines and the tendons of their muscular legs. The old fellow
is giving advice from the fulness of a life that has been not too
easy. The girls are all attention. It is a genre bit of distinction.
Upon the technical virtuosity in which this etcher excels we shall not
dwell. Some of his single figures are marvels. The economy of line,
the massing of lights and darks, the vitality he infuses into a woman
who walks, a man who works in the fields, a child at its mother's
breast, are not easily dealt with in a brief study. We prefer to note
his more general qualities. His humour, whether in delineating a
stupid soldier about to be exploited by camp followers, or in his
Animales, is unforced. It can be Rabelaisian and it can be a record of
simple animal life, as in the example with the above title. A cow
stands on a grassy shore; near by a stolid peasant girl sits slicing
bread and eating it. Cow and girl, grass and sky and water are woven
into one natural pattern. The humour inheres in several sly touches.
It is a comical Millet. Very Millet-like too is the large picture,
Beau Soir, in which a field labourer bends over to kiss his wife, who
has a child at her breast. A cow nuzzles her apron, the fourth member
of this happy group. The Son of the Carpenter is another peasant
study, but the transposition of the Holy Family to our century. A
slight nimbus about the mother's head is the only indication that this
is not a humble household somewhere in France. Maternal Joy, Mater
Inviolata are specimens of a sane, lovely art which celebrate the
joys, dolors, and exaltations of motherhood. We prefer this side of
the art of Legrand to his studies of sinister jail-birds, _hetairai_,
noctambules, high kickers, and private bars, the horrors of Parisian
night life. Whatever he touches he vivifies. His leaping, audacious
line is like the narrative prose of a Maupassant or a Joseph Conrad.
Every stroke tells.

His symbolical pictures please us least. They doubtless signify no end
of profound things, yet to us they seem both exotic and puerile. We go
back to the tiny dancers, tired to sleepiness, who sit on a sofa
waiting to be called. Poor babies! Or to the plate entitled Douleur.
Or to the portraits of sweet English misses--as did Constantin Guys,
Legrand has caught the precise English note--or any of the children
pieces. If he knows the psychology of passion, knows the most intimate
detail of the daily life of _les filles_, Legrand is master too of the
psychology of child life. This will endear him to English and American
lovers of art, though it is only one of his many endowments. His wit
keeps him from extremes, though some of his plates are not for
puritans; his vivid sympathies prevent him from falling into the
sterile eccentricities of so many of his contemporaries; if he is
cynical he is by the same taken soft-hearted. His superb handling of
his material, with a synthetic vision superadded, sets apart Louis
Legrand in a profession which to-day is filled with farceurs and
fakers and with too few artists by the grace of God.


Practitioners of the noble art of illustration are, as we know, modest
men, but no matter the degree of their modesty they are all distanced
by the record in shyness still maintained by Constantin Guys. This
artist was once a living protest against Goethe's assertion that only
fools are modest, and the monument recently erected to his memory in
Paris is provocation enough to bring him ferrying across the Styx to
enter a disclaimer in the very teeth of his admirers. So set in his
anonymity was he that Charles Baudelaire, his critical discoverer, was
forced to write a long essay about his work and only refer to the
artist as C.G. The poet relates that once when Thackeray spoke to Guys
in a London newspaper office and congratulated him on his bold
sketches in the _Illustrated London News_, the fiery little man
resented the praise as an outrage. Nor was this humility a pose. His
life long he was morbidly nervous, as was Meryon, as was Cezanne; but
he was neither half mad, like the great etcher, nor a cenobite, as was
the painter of Aix. Few have lived in the thick of life as did Guys.
To employ the phrase of Turgenieff, life, like grass, grew over his
head. In the Crimean camps, on the Parisian boulevards, in London
parks, Guys strolled, crayon in hand, a true reporter of things seen
and an ardent lover of horses, soldiers, pretty women, and the mob.
Baudelaire called him the soldier-artist. He resembled in his restless
wanderings Poe's man of the multitude, and at the end of a long life
he still drew, as did Hokusai.

Who was he? Where did he receive his artistic training? Baudelaire did
not tell, nor Theophile Gautier. He went through the Crimean campaign;
he lived in the East, in London and Paris. Not so long ago the art
critic Roger Marx, while stopping at Flushing, Holland, discovered his
baptismal certificate, which reads thus: "Ernestus Adolphus Hyacinthus
Constantinus Guys, born at Flushing December 3, 1805, of Elizabeth
Betin and Francois Lazare Guys, Commissary of the French Marine." The
baptism occurred January 26, 1806, and revealed the fact that he had
for godfather an uncle who held a diplomatic position. Guys told his
friends that his full family name was Guys de Sainte-Helene--which may
have been an amiable weakness of the same order as that of Barbey
d'Aurevilly and of Villiers de l'Isle Adam, both of whom boasted noble
parentage. However, Guys was little given to talk of any sort. He was
loquacious only with his pencil, and from being absolutely forgotten
after the downfall of the Second Empire to-day every scrap of his work
is being collected, even fought for, by French and German collectors.
Yet when the Nadar collection was dispersed, June, 1909, in Paris, his
aquarelles went for a few francs. Felix Feneon and several others now
own complete sets. In New York there are a few specimens in the
possession of private collectors, though the Lenox Library, as a rule
rich in such prints, has only reproductions to show.

The essay of Charles Baudelaire, entitled Le Peintre de la Vie
Moderne, to be found in Volume III of his collected works (L'Art
Romantique), remains thus far the standard reference study concerning
Guys, though deficient in biographical details. Other critical studies
are by Camille Mauclair, Roger Marx, Richard Muther, and George
Grappe; and recently Elizabeth Luther Cary in a too short but
admirably succinct article characterised the Guys method in this
fashion: "He defined his forms sharply and delicately, and used within
his bounding line the subtlest variation of light and shade. His
workmanship everywhere is of the most elusive character, and he is a
master of the art of reticence." Miss Cary further speaks of his
"gentle gusto of line in motion, which lately has captivated us in the
paintings of the Spaniard Sorolla, and long ago gave Botticelli and
Carlo Crivelli the particular distinction they had in common."
Mauclair mentions "the most animated water-colour drawings of Guys,
his curious vision of nervous elegance and expressive skill," and
names it the impressionism of 1845, while Dr. Muther christened him
the Verlaine of the crayon because, like Verlaine, he spent his life
between the almshouse and a hospital, so said the German critic.
Furthermore, Muther believes it was no mere chance that made of
Baudelaire his admirer; in both the decadent predominated--which is
getting the cart before the horse. Rops, too, is recalled by Guys, who
depicted the gay grisette of the faubourgs as well as the nocturnal
pierreuse of the fortifications. "Guys exercised on Gavarni an
influence which brought into being his Invalides du sentiment, his
Lorettes vielles, and his Fourberies de femmes."

It is not quite fair to compare Guys with Rops, or indeed with either
Gavarni or Daumier. These were the giants of French illustration at
that epoch. Guys was more the skirmisher, the sharpshooter, the
reporter of the moment, than a creative master of his art. The street
or the battle-field was his atelier; speed and grace and fidelity his
chief claims to fame. He never practised his art within the walls of
academies; the material he so vividly dealt with was the stuff of
life. The very absence of school in his illustrations is their chief
charm; a man of genius this, self-taught, and a dangerous precedent
for fumblers or those of less executive ability. From the huge mass of
his work being unearthed from year to year he may be said to have
lived crayon in hand. He is the first of a long line of newspaper
illustrators. His profession was soldiering, and legend has it that he
accompanied Byron to Missolonghi. The official career of his father
enabled the youth to see much of the world--Greece, the Balkans,
Turkey, Persia, and perhaps India. On returning to France he became an
officer of dragoons and for some time led the life of a dandy and man
about town. With his memory, of which extraordinary tales are told, he
must have stored up countless films of impressions, all of which were
utilised years later.

In 1845 we find him installed at Paris, though no longer in the army.
Then it was he began to design. He became contributor to many
periodicals, among the rest the _Illustrated London News_ and _Punch_.
For the former journal he went to the Crimean war as accredited art
correspondent. The portfolio containing the Crimean set is now most
sought for by his admirers. He is said to have originated the
expression "taken on the spot," in the title of one of his
instantaneous sketches. Few draughtsmen could boast his sure eye and
manual dexterity. The Balaklava illustration is as striking in its way
as Tennyson's lines, though containing less of poetic heroism and more
ugly realism. Like the trained reporter that he was, Guys followed a
battle, recording the salient incidents of the engagement, not
overemphasising the ghastliness of the carnage, as did Callot or Goya
or Raffet, but telling the truth as he saw it, with a phlegm more
British and German than French. Though he had no Dutch blood in his
veins, he was, like Huysmans, more the man of Amsterdam than the man
of Paris. He noted the changing and shocking scenes of hospital life,
and sympathy without sentimentality drops from his pen. He is drily
humorous as he shows us some plumaged General peacocking on foot, or
swelling with Napoleonic pride as he caracoles by on his horse. And
such horses! Without a hint of the photographic realism of a Muybridge
and his successors, Guys evokes vital horses and riders, those seen by
the normal vision. The witching movement of beautiful Arabian steeds
has not had many such sympathetic interpreters.

In Turkey he depicted episodes of daily life, of the courts of the
Sublime Porte itself, of the fete of Bairam, which closes the fast of
Ramadan. His Turkish women are not all houris, but they bear the stamp
of close study. They are pretty, indolent, brainless creatures. In his
most hurried crayons, pen-and-ink sketches, and aquarelles Guys is
ever interesting. He has a magnetic touch that arrests attention and
atones for technical shortcomings. Abbreviation is his watchword; his
drawings are a species of shorthand notations made at red-hot tempo,
yet catching the soul of a situation. He repeats himself continually,
but, as M. Grappe says, is never monotonous. In love with movement,
with picturesque massing, and broad simple colour schemes, he
naturally gravitated to battle-fields. In Europe society out of doors
became his mania. Rotten Row, in the Bois, at Brighton or at
Baden-Baden, the sinuous fugues of his pencil reveal to succeeding
generations how the great world once enjoyed itself or bored itself to
death. No wonder Thackeray admired Guys. They were kindred spirits;
both recognised and portrayed the snob mundane.

As he grew older Guys became an apparition in the life of Paris. The
smash-up of the Empire destroyed the beloved world he knew so well.
Poor, his principal pleasure was in memory; if he couldn't actually
enjoy the luxury of the rich he could reproduce its images on his
drawing-pad. The whilom dandy and friend of Baudelaire went about
dressed in a shabby military frock-coat. He had no longer a nodding
acquaintance with the fashionable lions of Napoleon the Little's
reign, yet he abated not his haughty strut, his glacial politeness to
all comers, nor his daily promenade in the Bois. A Barmecide feast
this watching the pleasures of others more favoured, though Guys did
not waste the fruits of his observation. At sixty-five he began to go
down-hill. His habits had never been those of a prudent citizen, and
as his earning powers grew less some imp of the perverse entered his
all too solitary life. With this change of habits came a change of
theme. Henceforth he drew _filles_, the outcasts, the scamps and
convicts and the poor wretches of the night. He is now a forerunner of
Toulouse-Lautrec and an entire school. This side of his career
probably caused Dr. Muther to compare him with Paul Verlaine.
Absinthe, the green fairy of so many poets and artists, was no
stranger to Guys.

In 1885, after dining with Nadar, his most faithful friend, Guys was
run over in the Rue du Havre and had his legs crushed. He was taken to
the Maison Dubois, where he lived eight years longer, dying at the
venerable age of eighty-seven, though far from being a venerable
person. Astonishing vitality! He did not begin to draw, that is, for a
living, until past forty. His method of work was simplicity itself,
declare those who watched him at work. He seemingly improvised his
aquarelles; his colour, sober, delicate, was broadly washed in; his
line, graceful and modulated, does not suggest the swiftness of his
execution. He could be rank and vulgar, and he was gentle as a refined
child that sees the spectacle of life for the first time. The
bitterness of Baudelaire's flowers of evil he escaped until he was in
senile decadence. In the press of active life he registered the shock
of conflicting arms, the shallow pride of existence and the mere joy
of living, all in a sane manner that will ever endear him to lovers of

George Moore tells the following anecdote of Degas: Somebody was
saying he did not like Daumier, and Degas preserved silence for a long
while. "If you were to show Raphael," he said at last, "a Daumier, he
would admire it; he would take off his hat; but if you were to show
him a Cabanel, he would say with a sigh, 'That is my fault.'"

If you could show Raphael a croquis by Constantin Guys he would
probably look the other way, but Degas would certainly admire and buy
the drawing.



The impressionists claim as their common ancestors Claude Lorraine,
Watteau, Turner, Monticelli. Watteau, Latour, Largilliere, Fragonard,
Saint-Aubin, Moreau, and Eisen are their sponsors in the matters of
design, subject, realism, study of life, new conceptions of beauty and
portraiture. Mythology, allegory, historic themes, the neo-Greek and
the academic are under the ban--above all, the so-called "grand
style." Impressionism has actually elevated genre painting to the
position occupied by those vast, empty, pompous, frigid, smoky,
classic pieces of the early nineteenth century. However, it must not
be forgotten that modern impressionism is only a new technique, a new
method of execution--we say new, though that is not exactly the case.
The home of impressionism is in the East; it may be found in the vivid
patterns woven in Persia or in old Japan. In its latest avatar it is
the expression of contemporaneous reality. Therein lies its true
power. The artist who turns his face only to the past--his work will
never be anything but an echo. To depict the faces and things and pen
the manners of the present is the task of great painters and
novelists. Actualists alone count in the future. The mills of the
antique grind swiftly--like the rich, they will be always with us--but
they only grind out imitations; and from pseudo-classic marbles and
pseudo-"beautiful" pictures may Beelzebub, the Lord of Flies, deliver

That able and sympathetic writer D.S. MacColl has tersely summed up in
his Vision of the Century the difference between the old and new
manner of seeing things. "The old vision had beaten out three separate
acts--the determination of the edges and limits of things, the
shadings and the modellings of the spaces in between with black and
white, and the tintings of those spaces with their local colour. The
new vision that had been growing up among the landscape painters
simplifies as well as complicates the old. For purposes of analysis it
sees the world as a mosaic of patches of colour, such and such a hue,
such and such a tone, such and such a shape... The new analysis looked
first for colour and for a different colour in each patch of shade or
light. The old painting followed the old vision by its three processes
of drawing the contours, modelling the chiaroscura in dead colour, and
finally in colouring this black-and-white preparation. The new
analysis left the contours to be determined by the junction, more or
less fused, of the colour patches, instead of rigidly defining them as
they are known to be defined when seen near at hand or felt... 'Local
colour' in light or shade becomes different not only in tone but in

To the layman who asked, "What is impressionism?" Mauclair has given
the most succinct answer in his book L'Impressionisme: "In nature," he
declares, "no colour exists by itself. The colouring of the object is
pure illusion; the only creative source of colour is the sunlight,
which envelops all things and reveals them, according to the hours,
with infinite modifications... The idea of distance, of perspective,
of volume is given us by darker or lighter colours; this is the sense
of values; a value is the degree of light or dark intensity which
permits our eyes to comprehend that one object is further or nearer
than another. And as painting is not and cannot be the imitation of
nature, but merely her artificial interpretation, since it has only at
its disposal two out of three dimensions, the values are the only
means that remain for expressing depth on a flat surface. Colour is
therefore the procreatrix of design... Colours vary with the intensity
of light... Local colour is an error; a leaf is not green, a tree
trunk is not brown... According to the time of day, _i. e._, according
to the greater or smaller inclination of the rays (scientifically
called the angle of incidence), the green of the leaf and the brown of
the tree are modified... The composition of the atmosphere... is the
real subject of the picture... Shadow is not absence of light, but
light of a different quality and of a different value. Shadow is not
part of the landscape where light ceases, but where it is subordinated
to a light which appears to us more intense. In the shadow the rays of
the spectrum vibrate with a different speed. Painting should therefore
try to discover here, as in the light parts, the play of the atoms of
solar light, instead of representing shadows with ready-made tones
composed of bitumen and black... In a picture representing an interior
the source of light [windows] may not be indicated; the light
circulating, circling around the picture, will then be composed of the
_reflections_ of rays whose source is invisible, and all the objects,
acting as mirrors for these reflections, will consequently influence
each other. Their colours will affect each other even if the surfaces
be dull. A red vase placed upon a blue carpet will lead to a very
subtle but mathematically exact exchange between this blue and this
red; and this exchange of luminous waves will create between the two
colours a tone of reflections composed of both. These composite
reflections will form a scale of tones complementary of the two
principal colours.

"The painter will have to paint with only the seven colours of the
solar spectrum and discard all the others;... he will, furthermore,
instead of composing mixtures on his palette, place upon his canvas
touches of none but the seven colours juxtaposed [Claude Monet has
added black and white] and leave the individual rays of each of these
colours to blend at a certain distance, so as to act like sunlight
upon the eye of the beholder." This is called _dissociation_ of tones;
and here is a new convention; why banish all save the spectrum? We
paint nature, not the solar spectrum.

Claude Monet has been thus far the most successful practitioner of
impressionism; this by reason of his extraordinary analytical power of
vision and native genius rather than the researches of Helmholtz,
Chevreul, and Rood. They gave him his scientific formulas after he had
worked out the problems. He studied Turner in London, 1870; then his
manner changed. He had been a devoted pupil of Eugene Boudin and could
paint the discreet, pearly gray seascapes of his master. But Turner
and Watteau and Monticelli modified his style, changed his way of
envisaging the landscape. Not Edouard Manet but Claude Monet was the
initiator of the impressionistic movement in France, and after
witnessing the rout and confusion that followed in its wake one is
tempted to misquote Nietzsche (who said that the first and only
Christian died on the cross) and boldly assert that there has been but
one impressionist; his name, Monet. "He has arrived at painting by
means of the infinitely varied juxtaposition of a quantity of colour
spots which dissociate the tones of the spectrum and draw the forms of
objects through the arabesque of their vibrations." How his landscapes
shimmer with the heat of a summer day! Truly, you can say of these
pictures that "the dawn comes up like thunder." How his fogs, wet and
clinging, seem to be the first real fogs that ever made misty a
canvas! What hot July nights, with few large stars, has Monet not
painted! His series of hayricks, cathedrals, the Thames are precious
notations of contemporary life; they state facts in terms of exquisite
artistic value; they resume an epoch. It is therefore no surprise to
learn that in 1874 Monet gave the name (so variously abused) to the
entire movement when he exhibited a water piece on the Boulevard des
Capucines entitled Impression: Soleil Levant. That title became a
catchword usually employed in a derisive manner. Monet earlier had
resented the intrusion of a man with a name so like his, but succumbed
to the influence of Monet. One thing can no longer be
controverted--Claude Monet is the greatest landscape and marine
painter of the second half of the last century. Perhaps time may alter
this limit clause.

What Turgenieff most condemned in his great contemporary,
Dostoievsky--if the gentle Russian giant ever condemned any one--was
Feodor Mikhailovitch's taste for "psychological mole runs"; an
inveterate burrowing into the dark places of humanity's soul. Now, if
there is a dark spot in a highly lighted subject it is the question,
Who was the first impressionist? According to Charles de Kay, Whistler
once told him that he, James the Butterfly, began the movement; which
is a capital and characteristic anecdote, especially if one recalls
Whistler's boast made to a young etcher as to the initiative of Corot.
Whistler practically said: "Before Corot was, I am!" And he adduced
certain canvases painted with the misty-edged trees long before--but
why continue? Whistler didn't start Corot--apart from the
chronological difficulties in the way--any more than Courbet and Manet
started Whistler; yet both these painters played important roles in
the American master's art. So let us accept Mauclair's dictum as to
Claude Monet's priority in the field of impressionism. Certainly he
attained his marked style before he met Manet. Later he modified his
own paint to show his sympathy with the new school. Monet went to
Watteau, Constable, Monticelli for his ideas, and in London, about
1870, he studied Turner with an interest that finally bordered on
worship. And why not? In Turner, at the National Gallery, you may find
the principles of impressionism carried to extravagant lengths, and
years before Monet. Consider Rain, Steam and Speed--the Great Western
Railway, that vision of a locomotive dashing across a bridge in
chromatic chaos. Or the Sea Piece in the James Orrock collection--a
welter of crosshatchings in variegated hues wherein any school of
impressionism from Watteau's Embarkment to Monet's latest manner or
the _pointillisme_ of Signac and Seurat may be recognised. And there
is a water-colour of Turner's in the National Gallery called Honfleur,
which has anticipated many traits of Boudin and the Manet we know when
he had not forgotten Eugene Boudin's influence.

Let us enjoy our Monet without too many "mole runs." As De Kay pointed
out, it was not necessary for Monet to go to London to see Constables.
In the Louvre he could gaze upon them at leisure, also upon Bonington;
not to mention the Venetians and such a Dutchman as Vermeer. It is
therefore doubly interesting to study the Monets at Durand-Ruel's.
There are twenty-seven, and they range as far back as 1872, Promenade
a Trouville, and come down to the Charing Cross Bridge, 1904, and the
two Waterloo Bridge effects, 1903. It is a wide range in sentiment and
technique. The Mills in Holland of 1874 is as cool and composed as
Boudin. Sincerity and beauty are in the picture--for we do not agree
with those who see in Monet only an unemotional recorder of variations
in light and tone. He can compose a background as well as any of his
contemporaries, and an important fact is overlooked when Monet is
jumbled indiscriminately with a lot of inferior men. Monet knew how to
_draw_ before he handled pigment. Some lansdcape painters do not; many
impressionists trust to God and their palette-knife; so the big men
are sufferers. Monet, it may be noted, essayed many keys; his
compositions are not nearly so monotonous as has been asserted. What
does often exhaust the optic nerve is the violent impinging thereon of
his lights. He has an eagle eye, we have not. Wagner had the faculty
of attention developed to such an extraordinary pitch that with our
more normal and weaker nerves he soon exhausts us in his flights. Too
much Monet is like too much Wagner or too much sunshine.

The breezy effect with the poplars painted flat is an example very
unlike Monet. The church of Varengeville at Dieppe (1880) is a classic
specimen; so is the Pourville beach (1882). What delicate greens in
the Spring (1885)! What fine distance, an ocean view, in the Pourville
picture! Or, if you care for subdued harmonies, there is the ice floe
at Vetheuil (1881).

The London pictures tell of the older artist--not so vigorous, a vein
of tenderness beginning to show instead of his youthful blazing
optimism. Claude Monet must have had a happy life--he is still a
robust man painting daily in the fields, leading the glorious life of
a landscapist, one of the few romantic professions in this prosaic
age. Not so vain, so irritable as either Manet or Whistler, Monet's
nerves have never prompted him to extravagances. Backbiters declare
that Monet is suffering from an optical degeneration--poor, overworked
word! Monet sees better, sees more keenly than his fellow-men. What a
misfortune! Ibsen and Wagner suffered, too, from superior brains. If
Monet ever suffered seriously from a danger to his art it
was--success. He was abused in the beginning, but not as severely as
Manet. But success perched on Monet's palette. His pictures never seem
to suggest any time but high noon, in spirit, at least. And he is
never sad. Yet, is there anything sadder under the sun than a soul
incapable of sadness?

In his very valuable contribution to the history of the cause,
Theodore Duret, the biographer and friend of Whistler and Manet has in
his Les Peintres Impressionistes held the scales very much in favour
of Manet's priority in the field over Monet. It is true that in 1863
Manet had drawn upon his head the thunderous wrath of Paris by
exhibiting his Dejeuner sur l'Herbe and Olympe--by no means a
representative effort of the painter's genius, despite its diabolic
cleverness. (It reveals a profound study of Titian, Cranach, and
Goya.) But his vision was in reality synthetic, not analytic; he was a
primitive; he belongs to the family of Velasquez, Ribera, Goya. He
studied Hals--and with what glorious results in Le Bon Bock! He
manipulated paint like an "old master" and did astounding things with
the higher tones of the colour scale. He was not an impressionist
until he met Monet. Then in audacity he outstripped his associates.
Discouraged by critical attacks, his courage had been revived by
Charles Baudelaire, who fought for Richard Wagner as well as for Poe
and Manet. To the painter the poet scornfully wrote: "You complain
about attacks? But are you the first to endure them? Have you more
genius than Chateaubriand and Wagner? They were not killed by
derision. And in order not to make you too proud, I must tell you that
they are models, each in his own way, and in a very rich world, while
you are only the first in the decrepitude of your art." Sinister and
disquieting that last phrase, and for those who see in impressionism
the decadence of painting (because of the predominance given to the
parts over the whole) it is a phrase prophetic.

Manet is a classic. His genuine power--technically speaking--lies in
the broad, sabre-like strokes of his brush and not in the niggling
_taches_ of the impressionists--of which the _reuctio ad absurdum_ is
pointillisme. He lays on his pigments in sweeping slashes and his
divisions are large. His significance for us does not alone reside in
his consummate mastery of form and colour, but in his forthright
expression of the life that hummed about him. He is as actual as Hals.
Study that Boy With the Sword at the Metropolitan Museum--is there
anything superficial about it? It is Spanish, the Spain of Velasquez,
in its beautiful thin, clear, flat painting, its sober handling of
values. The truth is that Manet dearly loved a fight, and being _chef
d'ecole_, he naturally drifted to the impressionists' camp. And it is
significant that Duret did not give this virile spirit a place in his
new volume, confining the estimate of his genius to the preface.
Mauclair, on the contrary, includes Manet's name in his more
comprehensive and more scientific study, as he also includes the name
of Edgar Degas--Degas, who is a latter-day Ingres, plus colour and a
new psychology.

The title of impressionism has been a misleading one. If Degas is an
impressionist, pray what then is Monet? Pissarro, Sisley, Cezanne are
impressionists, and in America there is no impropriety in attaching
this handle to the works of Twachtmann, J. Alden Weir, W.L. Metcalf,
Childe Hassam, Robert Henri, Robert Reid, Ernest Lawson, Paul
Cornoyer, Colin Campbell Cooper, Prendergast, Luks, and Glackens. But
Manet, Degas! It would have been a happier invention to have called
the 1877 group independents; independent they were, each man pursuing
his own rainbow. We may note an identical confusion in the mind of the
public regarding the Barbizon school. Never was a group composed of
such dissimilar spirits. Yet people talk about Millet _and_ Breton,
Corot _and_ Daubigny, Rousseau _and_ Dupre. They still say Goethe
_and_ Schiller, Beethoven _and_ Mozart, Byron _and_ Shelley. It is the
result of mental inertia, this coupling of such widely disparate

Nevertheless, divided tones and "screaming" palette do not always a
picture make; mediocrity loves to mask itself behind artistic
innovations. For the world at large impressionism spells
improvisation--an easy-going, slatternly, down-at-the-heel process,
facile as well as factitious. Albert Wolff must have thought these
things when he sat for his portrait to Manet. His surprise was great
when the artist demanded as many sittings as would have done the
painstaking Bonnat. Whistler shocked Ruskin when he confessed to
having painted a nocturne in two days, but with a lifetime experience
in each stroke of the brush. Whistler was a swift worker, and while he
claimed the honour of being the originator of impressionism--didn't he
"originate" Velasquez?--he really belongs to the preceding generation.
He was impressionistic, if you will, yet not an impressionist. He was
Japanese and Spanish, never Watteau, Monticelli, Turner, or Monet.

MacColl has pointed out the weakness of the scientific side of
impressionism. Its values are strictly aesthetic; attempts to paint on
a purely scientific basis have proved both monotonous and ludicrous.
The experiments of the neo-impressionists (the 1885 group), of Signac,
Seurat, were not very convincing. Van Rhysselberge, one of the few
painters to-day who practise _pointillisme_, or the system of dots, is
a gifted artist; so is Anquetin. The feminine group is headed by the
name of Berthe Morisot (the wife of Eugene Manet, a brother of Edouard
and the great granddaughter of Fragonard), a pupil of Manet, the most
individual woman painter that ever lived; and Mary Cassatt, a pupil of
Degas, though more closely allied to the open-air school in her
methods. Miss Cassatt possesses a distinguished talent. As a school
impressionism has run down to a thin rill in a waste of sand. It is
more technical than personal, and while it was lucky to have such an
exponent as Claude Monet, there is every reason to believe that
Monet's impressionism is largely the result of a peculiar penetrating
vision. He has been imitated, and Maufra and Moret are carrying on his
tradition--yet there is but one Monet.

We know that the spectral palette is a mild delusion and sometimes a
dangerous snare, that impressionism is in the remotest analysis but a
new convention supplanting an old. Painters will never go back to the
muddy palette of the past. The trick has been turned. The egg of
Columbus has been once more stood on end. Claude Monet has taught us
the "innocence of the eye," has shown us how to paint air that
circulates, water that sparkles. The sun was the centre of the
impressionistic attack, the "splendid, silent sun." A higher pitch in
key colour has been attained, shadows have been endowed with vital
hues. (And Leonardo da Vinci, wonderful landscapist, centuries ago
wrote learnedly of coloured shadows; every new discovery is only a
rediscovery.) The "dim, religious light" of the studio has been
banished; the average palette is lighter, is more brilliant. And
Rembrandt is still worshipped; Raphael is still on his pedestal, and
the millionaire on the street continues to buy Bouguereau. The amateur
who honestly wishes to purge his vision of encrusted painted
prejudices we warn not to go too close to an impressionistic
canvas--any more than he would go near a red-hot stove or a keg of
gunpowder. And let him forget those toothsome critical terms,
decomposition, recomposition. His eyes, if permitted, will act for
themselves; there is no denying that the principles of impressionism
soundly applied, especially to landscape, catch the fleeting,
many-hued charm of nature. It is a system of coloured stenography--in
the hands of a master. Woe betide the fumbler!


The secret of success is never to be satisfied; that is, never to be
satisfied with your work or your success. And this idea seems to have
animated Auguste Renoir during his long, honourable career of painter.
In common with several members of the impressionistic group to which
he belonged, he suffered from hunger, neglect, obloquy; but when
prosperity did at last appear he did not succumb to the most dangerous
enemy that besets the artist. He fought success as he conquered
failure, and his continual dissatisfaction with himself, the true
critical spirit, has led him to many fields--he has been portraitist,
genre painter, landscapist, delineator of nudes, a marine painter and
a master of still-life. This versatility, amazing and
incontrovertible, has perhaps clouded the real worth of Renoir for the
public. Even after acknowledging his indubitable gifts, the usual
critical doubting Thomas grudgingly remarks that if Renoir could not
draw like Degas, paint land and water like Monet or figures like
Manet, he was a naturally endowed colourist. How great a colourist he
was may be seen at the Metropolitan Museum, where his big canvas, La
Famille Charpentier, is now hung.

Charpentier was the publisher of Zola, Goncourt, Flaubert, and of the
newer realists. He was a man of taste, who cultivated friendships with
distinguished artists and writers. Some disappointment was experienced
at the recent public sale of his collection in Paris. The _clou_ of
the sale was undoubtedly the portrait of his wife and two children. It
was sold for the surprising sum of 84,000 francs to M. Durand-Ruel,
who acted in behalf of the Metropolitan Museum. Another canvas by
Renoir fetched 14,050 francs. A _sanguine_ of Puvis de Chavannes
brought 2,050 francs, and 4,700 francs was paid for a Cezanne picture.

The Charpentier Family, originally entitled Portrait de Madame
Charpentier et Ses Filles, was painted in 1878, first exhibited at the
Salon of 1879, and there we saw and admired it. The passage of the
years has tempered the glistening brilliancies and audacious chromatic
modulations to a suave harmony that is absolutely fascinating. The
background is Japanese. Mme. Charpentier is seated on a canopy
surrounded by furniture, flowers; under foot a carpet with arabesque
designs. She throws one arm carelessly over some rich stuff; the hand
is painted with masterly precision. The other arm has dropped in her
lap. She is an interesting woman of that fine maternal type so often
encountered in real France--though not in French fiction, alas! Her
gaze is upon her children, two adorable little girls. A superb dog, a
St. Bernard, with head resting on paws, looks at you with watchful
eyes. One of the girls sits upon his shaggy hide. The mother is in
black, a mellow reception robe, tulle and lace. White and blue are the
contrasting tones of the girls--the blue is tender. A chair is at the
side of a lacquer table, upon which are flowers. Renoir flowers, dewy,
blushing. You exclaim: "How charming!" It is normal French painting,
not the painting of the schools with their false ideal of pseudo-Greek
beauty, but the intimate, clear, refined, and logical style of a man
who does not possess the genius of Manet, Degas, or Monet, but is
nevertheless an artist of copiousness, charm, and originality. Charm;
yes, that is the word. There is a voluptuous magnetism in his colour
that draws you to him whether you approve of his capricious designs or
not. The museum paid $18,480 for the Charpentier portrait, and in
1877, after an exposition in the rue Le Peletier, sixteen of his
paintings, many of them masterpieces, netted the mortifying sum of
2,005 francs.

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