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perhaps I ought to have done so.' Cézanne was not a great classic: he was an artist, often clumsy, always in difficulties, very limited in his range, absurdly so in his most numerous productions, but with quite a little mood,' and the haunting idea of an art built upon the early Manet, at which he could only hint. He oscillated. between Manet's earlier and finer manner, that of dark contours and broadly divided colour, and a painting based on the early Monet, all colour in a high key. In this manner he produced certain landscapes, tender and beautiful in colour, but the figure was too diffi cult for him, and from difficulties of all sorts he escaped into the still-lifes I have spoken of, flattened jugs, apples, and napkins like blue tin that would clank if they fell. What is fatal to the claim. set up for him as a deliberate designer, creating eternal images out of the momentary lights of the Impressionists, is the fact that his technique remains that of the Impressionists, a sketcher's technique, adapted for snatching hurriedly at effects that will not wait. Hence his touch, hence those slops of form out of which he tries to throw a figure together. No one was ever further from logical'classic' construction, if that is what we are looking for; none of the Impressionists was so uncertain in his shots at a shape. And when we come to fundamentals, to rhythm, whether it be the rhythm of the thing seen, or the rhythm of the picture imagined, or these two combined, as they are in great art, Cézanne is helpless. We have only to turn to the illustrations to appreciate this. Cut away the theories and the verbiage, and what is actually before us? A forcible head of the painter is the best of them; but even that has only one valid eye; the other portraits are blocks of wood. The vaunted landscapes with figures, the Bathers and Satyrs, are the work of a man who could not command the construction or the expressive gesture of a single figure, could not combine them together, or fit them reasonably into a landscape setting. What a blinding power has theory for the
The Grafton Exhibition included many things. There was Manet as well as Cézanne. There was a group of the more tiresome 'Neo-Impressionists,' but including the inventor among them, Seurat, who introduced 'pointillisme.' The others turned the infinitesimal dots of primary colour that the theory required into large bricks of colour that could not possibly fuse at any distance. I suppose, by the way, it will be impossible to the end of time to persuade people that Monet never at any time used ‘divisionism,' the splitting up of colour into its primary or even its rainbow constituents. Even so careful a writer as Mr. C. J. Holmes asserts this, against the evidence of all the pictures. I endeavoured years ago to explode the supposed scientific basis of the pointillist theory of painting, but all that came of it was a
conviction among my critics that I was myself an Impressionist and advocate of pointillism. I perhaps deserved this for trying to give Impressionism' a wider than its historical meaning.
But this by way of digression. Next after Cézanne among the painters new to London, and that London was grateful for seeing, came Gauguin, who was well represented. This painter, beginning as a rather dull Impressionist, in the wake of Pissarro, developed, for the handling of exotic scenes, a more nervous drawing and vivid colour, reverting to the Oriental decoration that was already implicit in Manet, Degas, and Whistler. There is nothing revolutionary in the drawing of the Tahiti figures; it is the drawing of Degas, stiffer, and less flexible, as might be expected from the painter who began work at thirty; and there is an illogical modelling of the figures in light and shade that does not extend to other parts of the picture. But the pose and grouping of the Tahiti pieces is finely felt, and his colour in these and certain still-lifes has original character and splendour. The fine period was short; it is a drop from L'Esprit Veille to fantastic rubbish like Christ in the Garden of Olives.
With the third name we come, I was going to say, to the real thing: but that would be unfair; to one of those spirits who break through the ordinary moulds, who survive, like the salamander, in a fiery element. Blake is the one English artist who did this and lived undestroyed at a perilous exaltation. Van Gogh had neither Blake's mental range nor his endurance, but in the short period of balance between the lethargic Dutch art of his beginning and the madness of his end he is very like the Blake of Thornton's Pastorals. The hallucination of a reality more intense than that of every day comes to some men by way of wine or drugs, to some by bodily fever, to others by the fever of the mind that production itself induces. Beginning like Gauguin flatly, Van Gogh worked up, like him, through Impressionism, and then, before madness overtook him, snatched at his startling landscape visions. Rain, a cornfield, a sunset, are discharged at us with heightened, hallucinatory intensity. The colour of flowers, too, thus excited him, and the portrait of himself, shown at the Grafton, the exasperated blondness of the tormented mattoid head against a flame of blue, was a masterpiece in its kind. Then he fell over on the other side, and the rest tells us merely the price he paid for a super-lucid interval.
But this was not all. We were asked to regard these three men as the initiators of an art which was carried a stage further by later artists, of whom two were the chief, Picasso and Matisse. Picasso appeared mainly in his early phase, as a Whistlerian, less certain even than Whistler in the construction of a painted figure, but with a delicate sense of colour; an etcher, too, of subtle
line. But a portrait was shown in the sleeve of which (not yet in the face) some geometrical mania was at work. Of this more presently. Of Matisse there were only three small pieces: two insignificant landscapes and a silly doll, La Femme aux yeux verts, in which we were invited to find marvels of rhythm and harmony. I have seen landscapes by Matisse which had a certain barbaric strength of colour; I have not seen enough of his work to trace his history, and I am prepared to believe that he has given pledges elsewhere of good faith in these preposterous experiments; but I see no force in the argument that because drawing is very bad indeed, it must be very good because it is by a clever man, one who has been known, at other times and places, to draw pretty well. I pass over Herbin, Friesz, Vlaminck, and many more, all of them, like Baal's priests, cutting and maiming their forms in a desperate incantation of the fire that had touched Van Gogh. I return from the pictures to the theories.
The catalogue was prefaced by a brilliant piece of writing, unsigned, more closely knit than M. Denis' apologia, and a lecture was given during the exhibition by Mr. Fry, and printed in the May number of the Fortnightly Review. The writer of the preface tacitly showed M. Denis' theory about Cézanne to the door, and advanced a directly opposite account of those he christened Post-Impressionists.' M. Denis had claimed for Cézanne that he was classic,' meaning, as we may put it, that there is a fine balance in his painting between the desires of the painter and the rights of the object painted; that he renders the object justly but finely seen. If this is not a plausible description of Cézanne, it is a possible definition of classic painting. But now we were told that the methods of this school
enable the individuality of the artist to find completer self-expression in his work than is possible to those who have committed themselves to representing objects more literally.
The school, in a word, render their emotions about objects rather than the objects themselves, and Mr. Fry makes it the definition of all drawing that it distorts the object. Personal feeling, then, is the note of the movement, and the Post-Impressionists,' therefore, are not classic at all, but extreme Romantics. I was met by several ghosts of old controversies in this discussion.
The rocking-horse' of the preface reminded me of the 'Noah's ark beasts' of the Glasgow School, 'better than Sidney Cooper,' and another old phrase, 'There is no such thing as correct drawing,' played its part. By that I meant that just as in literature writing can never be said to be finally correct,' nor even grammar, but only to approach perfection of expression, so with drawing. Imitation may be a large part of drawing, but the initial impulse is gesture, and correctness' of imitation by way of tracing is not only impossible, because contours must be amplified to suggest
a third dimension, but the design of the picture, simplification for decorative breadth, sacrifice and emphasis for expressive force, also affect correct' copying. Again I am entirely with Mr. Fry in the stress he lays on the rhythmical basis of design. Perhaps I may be allowed to quote from an article that made people very, angry twenty years ago.1
Drawing is at bottom, like all the arts, a kind of gesture, a method of dancing upon paper. The dance may be mimetic; but the beauty and verve of the performance, not closeness of the imitation, impresses, and tame additions of truth will encumber and not convince. The dance must control the pantomime. Rivers and skies and faces are taken up by the painter as illustrations of a mood, and the lines of the image he creates are not meant to reproduce the thing, but to convey what he felt about the thing-the salutation, the caress he gave to it. . . He wishes to convince the imagination, not to delude the sense . . In the lines of abstract ornament you will often get a more striking impression of conflict or repose than from the most document-supported picture of battle or of sleep; and it is this element, the music of space and form, that really plays to the imagination behind the images that represent person or thing. A division of the paper will do more to enthrone a figure or dignify a landscape than the dress of kings or the presence of palaces, and the drift or swing of a composition across the canvas be more eloquent of its motive than the particular attitude and occupation of its constituent persons.
Here, then, is common ground; but as they say in disputations at the Propaganda, Distinguo. When I came to work at the history of a period of drawing, I saw that there is a strong dividingline between two schools, each of them great, by the degree in which they admit freedom of modification; and Mr. Fry's definition, and my old one, are not the account of all drawing, but of one school only. I have endeavoured elsewhere to bring this out," but must risk a repetition here. 'Classic' drawing, conveniently so called because it is the drawing of Greek fifth-century sculptors, follows the model or nature' very closely, with a minimum of sacrifice and distortion for the sake of emotional emphasis, the expression of action, or the imposition of a rhythm conceived by the designer. It is realist among choice forms, aims at searching out the rhythm implicit in an object, and entrusts to a lucid statement of that rhythm the task of exciting in the spectator's mind the feeling already aroused in that of the artist. It sinks personality and renders the object.
Romantic drawing is not satisfied with this: it emphasises, caricatures, elongates, abbreviates, reshapes the form in accordance with a more violent emotion, a more tyrannic imposition of rhythm, a rhythm of the artist's excitement. The problem of both schools is at bottom the same-namely, to fit into the rhythm ''Painting and Imitation,' Spectator, June 18, 1892. "Nineteenth Century Art. (Maclehose, 1902.)
of the picture or of the sculptor's block the rhythms of the objects included; but classic art more humbly, more patiently and subtly waits upon the secrets of the object : it discovers a rhythm rather than invents. Romantic drawing shatters and reforms the object with its own passion and gesture, and introduces incidentally all manner of 'personal' elements of temper and touch. It follows, naturally enough, that classic art works, by preference, in presence of the object; romantic art tends to remake from memory. 'Nature puts them out,' these artists say; they borrow from her a shorthand of form, a scaffolding on which their system of expression may be hung.
These two tempers and systems exist side by side in varying force at all times.
Masaccio, Piero della Francesca, Dürer,' Holbein, Leonardo and Raphael, Titian till his later days, Velazquez are in the main classics. Giovanni Pisano and Michael Angelo are the great Romantics; Tintoretto, Rubens, and Il Greco are some of the followers. In the modern period Ingres and Stevens are classic; Goya, Géricault, Delacroix, Daumier, Millet, Rodin are Romantics. Almost all Englishmen of any account are Romantics; if we look for a classic among contemporary artists, English or French, it is hard to find any, except Mr. Havard Thomas, who is the extreme case (I am not now discussing relative merits but the completeness of the type). Mr. Walter Sickert is in theory a devout classic, all for the hairbreadth moulding of drawing after nature that is called Ingres in practice he is a Cézanne, making uncertain shots at a real but elusive petite sensation' of his own.
But if the writer of the preface started out with the thesis that his artists were Romantics expressing less objects than themselves, he suddenly abandoned this, and threw out an entirely new and incompatible third theory, namely, that they painted not appearances, not even emotions about appearances, but the Thing in Itself. They paint, he says, 'the treeness of a tree,' and elsewhere, they draw a line round the concept of a thing. Now, if there is one thing that painting certainly cannot do, it is this. You can think the concept of a tree, and you can talk about it, since words allude to ideas but do not represent, but you cannot
A check upon classic drawing is obedience to a normal form or canon of proportion. Some years ago Mr. Sturge Moore published a pretentious book on Albert Dürer, in which he laid it down that Dürer's canon was used only to be departed from. He showed no acquaintance with Dürer's own writings on the subject, except a short passage translated by Sir Martin Conway, and that he had misunderstood. His view was accepted by all his critics, who evidently had not read Dürer's book. But a patient German, L. Justi, at the same time was publishing a treatise, showing that on the back of some of Dürer's drawings the construction from the canon was to be found and was followed.