vieillard récompensé de son labeur. Here is the whole theory of virtuous republican life in a nutshell; the mother and infant on one side of the base of a pyramidal composition; on the other side the young soldier, rifle and all, prepared to defend his country; at the apex of the pyramid the old man, to whom some nude agrarian nymphs offer up the fruits of the earth, the recompense of his toil. M. Hugues is a fine sculptor, who has done some notable worksno one who saw it will ever forget La Muse de la Source; but he has made a mistake here in mixing up realistic with nude allegorical figures in the same group. But the most portentous sign of the times in sculpture is the huge relief composition, on a curved plan, a commission from the State to M. Daillion, entitled Aux Morts! Aux Exilés! (2 Décembre 1851). On the face of the work are the figures of those killed or exiled in connexion with the Coup d'état, a nude Victor Hugo standing out conspicuous on the right; on the top is the mailed figure of France, with a broken sword, trying to keep off the beak of the Imperial Eagle. So the memory of Badinguet has come to this! The evil that men do lives after them'; but one might add the context: 'The good is oft interred with their bones.' It seems rather ungrateful; France made much of him at one time, and would still consecrate his memory, if her own cry of à Berlin' had led to a satisfactory result. A finer piece of political symbolism is to be seen in M. Marx's Le Joug de la Victoire, also a State commission; a figure of Victory, with one knee on a shield beneath which two men are crouched, bent double like the souls in the tenth book of the Purgatorio who bore heavy stones on their backs :

E qual più pazïenza avea negli atti

Piangendo parea dicer: Più non posso.

That is a moral we may all take to heart; and it is expressed in fine sculptural form.

Leaving these moralities and turning to works that are purely artistic in their intent, one may note that M. Mercié's chief contribution is an heroic-size bronze figure of Columbia for some monument in America; he has done better things, but the head and the action are fine, as they could hardly fail to be in his hands. Inspiration and Harmonie, by M. Convers, are two fine half-recumbent figures forming part of a decoration for the courtyard of the National Conservatoire of Music: they take opposite sides of the base of a decorative column. 'Inspiration,' gazing straight before her, is a noble figure answering to the title; 'Harmonie' he has endeavoured to symbolise by making her half turn her head to listen to some birds, which, as a musician once complained, sing so horribly out of tune,' and certainly the music of nature' is an idea rather passé now; it might have done 4 G

VOL. LXXI-No. 424

for Herbert Spencer, but we know that music no more arose out of natural sounds than Gothic vaulting out of the imitation of trees. M. Hippolyte Lefebvre, usually the patron of realistic sculpture, exhibits a spirited fronton for the theatre of Lille, symbolising Apollo; it will look better when it has the boundary lines of the pediment to control it. M. Charpentier's Fleurs qu'il aimait is a very graceful relief figure of a nude girl reaching up to kiss a cluster of roses. M. Villeneuve exhibits a half-size model of a monument to Rabelais for the town of Montpellier, a semiarchitectural erection, with heads of Pantagruel and Gargantua worked into it, and a gowned figure in front representing the Faculté de Médecine studying Rabelais' translation of the aphorisms of Hippocrates; and M. Corneille Theunissen exhibits the base of a monumental stele to Jules Breton, with one of Breton's own peasant figures seated by it. M. Desca's full-length figure of Berlioz is too quiet and contemplative for Berlioz, who was nothing if not a fighter; this hardly gives one an idea of the composer who stamped his feet at the Conservatoire orchestra'Faster! faster! This is a Saltarello!' to the scandal of the respectable Habeneck. As to the number of single figures that are simply charming, any one of which would arrest attention at the Academy, it would be impossible to name half of them. One little incident may be quoted as characteristic; Mlle. Bois exhibits a pretty nude child figure, Petite Baigneuse, supposed to be standing before the sea, but she is not content to leave it at that; a new significance is given to it by the couplet engraved beneath it:

Et devant l'océan l'enfant tremble et frémit,

Et devant l'Infini l'humanité recule.

One example among many of the wish of French sculptors to attach some poetic meaning to what might otherwise be regarded as a mere piece of modelling.

It is not worth while to pass the wicket to look at the sculpture in the New Salon: that way madness lies'; it is a sort of sculptural Golgotha, where one may see legs, arms, and heads as separate exhibits. Let us go up the stairs to No. 1 Gallery, and see what the painters have to show us. There are two large decorative paintings in this room; one is M. J. P. Laurens's Première Séance solennelle des Jeux floraux (3 Mai 1324), a subject which seems rather prominent this year; we have already seen the great fountain downstairs in commemoration of the event (which, by the way, is there noted as 'XV century'). M. Laurens's picture shows rows of spectators seated beneath a mass of trees outside the city walls, listening to some declamation from a personage on a platform in the foreground; it is painted with a dry facture which suggests the idea that it is intended for tapestry,

though not quite decorative enough in composition for that method. The other work referred to is M. Gorguet's huge ceiling for a Salle des Mariages, of which neither the title (Prairial') nor the treatment is very intelligible, but which is totally unsuited for a ceiling, in that it is a vertical or pyramidal composition, as if designed for an upright position; a ceiling painting should always be an all-round composition, not one with a base and an apex. Some French painters understand this very well, and have given fine examples of it; this one, quâ ceiling painting, is a mistake. The only two other things of much interest in the large room are M. Didier-Pouget's two landscapes; rather too scenic, but with his usual extraordinary power of effect in the foregrounds. The English public are very fond of realism in landscape; one would like to see one of Didier-Pouget's landscapes at the Academy-it would create a sensation, at all events, in that respect.

There is a much larger proportion of comparatively uninteresting work among the pictures than among the sculpture; still, one can hunt up plenty of fine things out of the acreage of canvas. M. Paul Chabas repeats a motive he has used once or twice before, a young girl standing in shallow water, the centre incident in a large canvas; in this one, Matinée de septembre, he has aimed at a bright effect in the whole; the girl with her blonde head must nevertheless show darker than the background, so the lake and the mountains are all kept in a shimmering silver light. With the various nudes of which 'après le bain' is the common denominator we need not trouble ourselves; but there are nude paintings which rise above the level of ces machines-là,' either by sheer splendour of execution, as in M. Guay's Nu, or by their decorative effect, as in M. Moulin's long low picture Plein air: femme nue, where the figure lies at length on a purple mantle, with a background of foliage and the gleam of an evening sky through the leaves. M. Aimé Morot is rather below himself in his small picture Ephémère printemps, where a nude lady with her back to the spectator studies her figure in the looking glass: a piece of trickery unworthy of so fine a painter. M. Saint pierre brings the nude into the region of allegory with his figure of Fortune tiptoe on her wheel among the clouds, showering coinage from a cornucopia', while a lappet of wind-blown drapery covers her eyes; there is a fine energy and 'go' about it. Mlle. Rondenay brings us to the other extreme, the anti-poetical, of nude painting, in her Baigneuses, somewhat similar to that which was bought by the Government last year; she is no doubt a very powerful plein-air painter of the figure, but she tends to get coarse, not only in execution but in another sense; in London the picture would hardly be thought decent, and it is certainly not beautiful. Quite above all these is M. Lavergne's Le Paradis perdu; Adam and

Eve, life-size and painted in a very broad style of execution, seated in the foreground of a melancholy twilight landscape. The remarkable quality in this is the fine sense of unity of composition in the lines of the figures and the landscape, all of which fall together as one whole : it is in the true sense a picture, not a mere representation.

Among what may be called the subject pictures of the year M. Debat-Ponsan, who last year symbolised France as a white horse throwing over Napoléon, is again dealing with horses, but this time they are two material cavalry horses held by an orderly dragoon in the foreground while the officer uses his field-glass; Ceux qui veillent is the title. M. Debat-Ponsan is always either patriotic or moral in his pictures, but it is always good painting. M. Tattegrain, too, is a versatile incident painter who seems able to handle every kind of subject with effect; this time it is a powerfully painted rocky coast scene, which gets its title Sauveteurs d'épaves (in other words, 'wreckers') from the two unkempt wolfish figures who nearly tumble over each other down the foreground path in their hurry to hook in flotsam and jetsam on the beach. He has done more interesting pictures, but these two figures are unpleasantly real. Mme. Demont-Breton, who disappointed us last year, is more like herself again with the figure of the old peasant woman, L'Aïeule, looking lovingly on her sleeping grandson; but I like her better at the seaside than inland. M. Henri Martin has what may be called a decorative painting in his pointilliste style, Dévideuses, two girls sitting on opposite ends of a rail, with a landscape behind them: a rather trivial subject to come from M. Martin. M. Roganeau has come rather near making a great picture in his large evening landscape Le Soir à la Rivière, with figures of women filling their waterpots out of the stream (a most unhygienic proceeding) and moving away with them; the figures are not quite interesting enough, but there is a large, calm serenity about the whole which is impressive. M. Joseph Bail, in La Lectrice, has forsaken that characterless type in his figures which Lady Bilderby approved of, and paints a young and old lady of strongly differentiated type; the accessories are painted with his usual power of execution, but the work is more frankly genre than has been usual with him.

Among pictures which have some special point of interest is M. Martens's experiment, in Rayon de Soleil, in producing an interior effect of light and colour, with a seated nude figure, in an ultra-pointilliste method of execution; one would not like to see all pictures painted that way, but this one is very clever and effective. M. Montchablon has painted a ghastly picture of the rowing-deck of a galley, La Chiourme, that terrible tragedy of human beings reduced to machines which so stained the naval

history of Rome and of Renaissance Italy. This, one may say, is one of the pictures painted to point a moral, or to make us realise something that once happened; which is not the real business of art, of course, nor of novel-writing, nor of drama. Nevertheless moral lessons have been powerfully driven home both in novel and drama, and one does not see why painting may not be occasionally pressed into the same service. Though the French are so essentially artists, there are always some moral pictures in the Salon, some very good ones; M. Geoffroy's, for instance, A l'hospice des enfants assistés: l'abandon d'un enfant : a tragedy in humble life powerfully told; and another rather amusing example is M. Steck's Le soir au bord du Legué, a decorative picture for the Salle des Mariages at Saint-Brieuc. Here we have the happy result of marriage: the family group of the artisan, the artisan's wife, and their child, all enjoying a holiday on the heights above the river. Thus does a paternal Republic encourage its citizens with the spectacle of the joys of family life. Among other points in the Salon are M. Georges Leroux's painting of an evening dinner under the loggia of the Villa Medici, with the heavy masses of trees dark against the twilight sky (the figures are rather commonplace); the odd idea of Mlle. Bonnier of a triptych of vêtements feminins: matin; après-midi; soir-garments et praeterea nihil (a lady to whom I mentioned this seemed exceedingly interested in the idea); and M. Mercié's portrait of a pretty little child under the title La Puce, with a flea delicately painted on the frill of her dress-a rather unpleasing joke for a great artist to indulge in.

There are a great many fine portraits, among which M. Humbert's Portrait de Mdlle, N.. is perhaps the finest example of perfectly balanced style in painting in the whole Salon; some of the best French portrait-painters over-accentuate the costume in their portraits of ladies, so that it becomes a picture of the lady's dress rather than of herself; M. Humbert never makes this mistake, he knows exactly where to stop. M. Lauth has an expressive portrait of Mme. Marcelle Tinayre, the novelist; and M. Umbricht a charming one of his own daughter, in which he avoids the hardness of texture which some eminent French painters-M. Comerre, for instance-fall into in their over-finished productions. Important landscapes are not very numerous, but there are some very fine examples of that breadth of style which the best French landscape painters cultivate. French landscape would be thought by many English people coarse in style in comparison with much of ours; but the French do not paint pretty landscapes (except M. Biva, who in that way at least stands alone); they want the power and sweep of sun

« VorigeDoorgaan »