“ AT last on this side of the Atlantic an earnest, wide-spread activity in behalf of popular art education is beginning to manifest itself,” says Mr. Stetson, in his energetic and interesting American preface to the translation of Professor Langl’s report ;1 and, believing this activity to be not transient and spasmodic but “ the beginning of a new era in art education,” he throws into the scale a mass of useful information which conclusively shows our commercial and other interests to be seriously concerned in art education. Though manufactures in the United States have greatly advanced, or rather multiplied, in the last half-century, they are still rude in character, i.e., they embody very little of the skill and taste which, by improving the quality of products add to their market value. Our skill has all been expended in labor-saving machinery, in appliances for increasing quantity. What we now need is skill in working up quality,and in raising the value added by manufacture above that of the raw material used. At present, the added value in this country is less than the cost of raw material, while in England, for example, manufacturing actually adds to the price of goods considerably more, than the sum first paid for the materials of those goods. The total cotton manufactures of England, in 1870, were $447,096,000, while the value of the raw material used in them was only $202,296,000; so that the value added was $244,800,000. The prosperity of a country is manifestly proportioned to the degree of skill thus employed in increasing the value of materials ; for while the labor of making goods tasteful is no greater than that of making them otherwise, the compensation for taste is enormous. Naturally, too, agriculture is stimulated by the immediate presence of an artisan population.

These facts have been only recently recognized. At the beginning of the century “ it was the well-drilled soldier upon whom the nations of Europe counted for defense ; the well-trained workman counted for nothing.” Now, however, “the pencil is recognized as the most efficient ally of the needlegun,” as Mr. Stetson puts it, a trifle ecstatically. It was the discovery made by England at the first World’s Fair, in 1851, that she was far behind the nations she had challenged, in industrial skill, which led to the active attention that has been given to art education in that country; and from England’s aroused interest, the Continental powers in their turn were brought to study the subject afresh. What has resulted from this study may be gathered in great detail from Professor Langl’s report,for the translation of which we are much indebted to Mr. Koehler. It should be carefully read by all who wish well to art education in this country. England, France, Germany, and Austria stand at the head of the nations as rivals in improved art education and industrial skill. Among the great powers, the United States come last, in this respect, as they came in 1851, also. Professor Langl takes a discouraging view of us. “ Industry ” here, he says, “ is bent upon usefulness rather than upon artistic beauty ; and individuality of taste is yet out of the question. . . . Architecture might perhaps be expected to develop an independent character, . . but even in this department only European motives are to be seen ; and, as there is no lack of means, these motives are frequently used as a pompous decoration of the most daring constructions. The photographs from Chicago, Cincinnati, and Philadelphia furnished characteristic specimens.” On some accounts it seems a pity that Boston did not burn in time to photograph its resuscitated business district for the Vienna Fair. But we see no reason why we should be denied “ European motives.” There is nothing to say against his criticism of our drawing system, however. The common schools of Cincinnati exhibited their work in truly magnificent bindings, one subject having been drawn by the whole class, so that the same volume frequently showed the same figure fifty to sixty times ” (!) “ Among the work of the teachers’, normal, and high schools, sins against everything like good taste were to be met with, that made one’s hair stand on end.” The teaching in Massachusetts is set down as the best, though in the continuation of Mr. Smith’s instruction in ornament there is a want of freshness,” says Herr Langl, “and of definite style in the forms. This is followed up by heads, animals, flowers, and even whole human figures, arranged rather arbitrarily, and the whole executed in dry, cold outlines in pen-manner.” The free industrial drawing classes of the State receive “full praise,” however. These are the classes which in The Atlantic we have constantly been obliged to praise at the expense of the schools. The other strictures agree with the impression of the present report in regard to English art education, namely, that as yet it has succeeded in advancing skill only in the decoration of flat surfaces. “ Everybody,” says the reporter, “ perceives that the beneficial influence of the English art schools in the matter of form . . . has been of the greatest Importance ; ” yet he thinks it very doubtful whether England will ever be able to attain to “ the position of recognized leadership in art and art industry.” It is worth while to lay up in the memory this criticism of so well-informed a person as Professor Langl; the more so, since there is some tendency in Massachusetts, at least, to become fettered by South Kensington methods. These methods have been copied in several countries of Europe, and they will be more or less urged upon the United States. But, along with many excellences, they are afflicted by a curious repugnance for the finer artistic spirit, which has thus far kept their results in England upon the level of mediocrity, and threatens us in this country with serious delays in true artistic development. It would be hard to find this repugnance more strikingly shown than in Mr. Stetson’s preface to the translation under notice. He endeavors to give the impression that French art education has been quite thrown into confusion by the rise of the English system ; though we all know that, whatever reforms have been introduced in France or are yet needed there, the French schools still produce by far the most skillful designers in the civilized world, and French industries accordingly hold their own above all others, in spite of bad traditions and wearisome frivolities of taste. The secret of this is that industry and art are in full accord in France. Mr. Stetson does not see this, because he is bent upon seeing that the flourishing fine arts of France have been based upon industrial art. One cannot flourish without the other; but industrial art in this country will most assuredly fail, if it refuses to receive inspiration and direct elevating influence from fine art, through the diffusion of that subtle and to many practical persons unsatisfactory and abhorrent thing, “ artistic feeling.” Mr. Stetson boldly sets forth that the “ precise and teachable features ” of artistic knowledge are all that is essential; he does not want “ feeling ” to interfere. He admits, to be sure, “ that a knowledge of the preeise and teachable features of art is far from enough for the making of a genuine artist; but it is also true that there can be no genuine artist who has not this knowledge, which is all that the greatest master can impart.” How, then, are genuine artists made ? How did Cimabue develop Giotto? How did Perngino teach Raphael ? On the other hand, who taught Michael Angelo to correct his master’s drawing at the age of ten, before he had time to go through any of our modern drawing-books of geometric outlines? Into these cases there enters the factor called genius, which Mr. Stetson considers utterly sterile in the production of new artists. By some inscrutable means a man may pass from being an average artisan to being a transcendent artist, according to Mr. Stetson ; but then he can never teach anybody anything more than he knew when he was an artisan. Why not cut down the running expenses of society, then, by doing away with the great artists altogether, and having none but those who are obedient to “ art science,” and want nothing more ? But although Mr. Stetson thinks that “ there are probably thousands of primary teachers in this country who can teach the elements of drawing better than could Raphael,” he is willing to let Raphaels exist. To what purpose? He explains, thus: “As we increase our knowledge of the poetic art and our taste for poetry by reading Homer, Milton, Shakespeare, and do not care to have them further than this for teachers; so the main advantage, to be derived from great artists must come through a study of their works. . . . . In this way they can teach, silently, the most invaluable lessons.” Surely, then, they can teach something vivâ voce, one would say. We are to “ increase our knowledge” by looking at their works; but Mr. Stetson has said that they cannot impart any other knowledge than that which the primary teachers are better qualified to give. Thus it will be seen that he unconsciously admits that there is something else to be imparted. Now this something consists in that “ feeling ” which he so much dreads ; in the cultivation of a more trenchant and a finer vision than “art science” unaided can bestow ; in a thousand details of manipulation, and an artistic instinct, to be acquired only by empirical means. Of course such knowledge cannot at once be supplied by popular art schools, and it can never be furnished by them in other than an approximative way. But no system of art education can lead to high results in industry, much less in fine art, which attempts to do away with reverence for the subtler and more vital qualities of artistic work, which should appear in even the simplest good ornament.

Mr. Stetson has high hopes for American art in the future. So have we. But he seems to dread every foreign influence (except that of South Kensington drawing methods), as threatening our originality. In this he, as well us Professor Langl, errs. All art is transmitted, and combined or developed from different sources. It is merely the impulse toward art which is indigenous. Imitation is natural, at the start; and a course of earnest imitation would be far more beneficial in its results than the mental attitude which shuts our eyes to the beauty and strength of finished artistic work around us. while fixing them on geometric outlines and dreaming of a glorious future for national art. To balance these we shall have to urge an “art of art,” If we are not run away with by “ art science,” and if at the Centennial Show, next year, a modest and patient effort be made to ascertain our true position in the field of industrial art, as well as the defects in our systems of training, we may yet date great advances in the arts from the hundredth anniversary of the nation’s birth. A century is but a small space of time in the history of art, and we can well afford to wait for results. There is already, we think, ample proof of a strong artistic bias in American character; and if the right course he pursued, this native instinct, backed by the resources of our vast country, is capable of bringing us into that leading position which Herr Langl thinks England unqualified for.

— Miss Mary Hallock’s illustrations for The Hanging of the Crane and Mabel Martin have won her a reputation which is not without, solid foundation. Fresh proof of this may be found in a small collection of her pencil-drawings, various in size and scope, now in the possession of Mr. A. V. S. Anthony, at Messrs. J. R. Osgood and Company’s, in Boston. Nothing could show more decidedly the impress of afresh and sincere contact with nature, than these studies, which treat landscape and figure alike with an accuracy, a spiritedness, and a shaping skill which would be remarkable anywhere, and are especially rare in America. Miss Hallock, of course, has her limitations, and the most decided one is that which confines her greatest successes to feminine figures. These she renders with the most absolute charm. There is one drawing in this group which represents a girl spinning in a dark chamber, which is very bold in its light and shade, its indestructible reality ; but those two are more graceful in one of which a lady is shown seated at an old-fashioned desk, writing, and has just turned as if to greet some one who has entered the room, while in the other a buxom young woman is taking a lesson in pie-baking, at one of those mysterious old brick ovens with which our fathers prepared themselves for adequate thanksgiving. The earnestness and absorbed truth-telling manifest in these pieces remind us once more that the real and enduring aim of graphic art is plainly to crown with a sort of primitive surprise the commonest scenes and incidents, and that this can best be reached by the most unaffected simplicity of regard. It is this direct look at things, and this confidence that the simple objects contain all that is desirable, if one can only see it and relate it, which give Miss Hallock’s pieces their fascination. One of her groups of boys here is excellent, quite on a par with her women ; and the large and elaborate skating-scene is extremely vigorous and well composed. There is also a great deal of notable truth in the glimpse of shad-fishermen on the Hudson, waiting for the tide to turn ; their positive intention of reposing themselves unlimitedly is very happily conveyed. For pure landscape, one must look to the view of a rough stone bridge in a dense little grove of bare trees, through whose tops a low hill curves its outline. The springiness of the wood, the multiplicity of its fine ramage, is a marvel of correctness and sympathy ; and the general gray effect of the scene serves to emphasize that remarkable choice and management of color which appear in all the drawings. But our most emphatic approval must go to the large study of a negro girl sitting by a roofed well in an apple orchard. Not only is this a masterly drawing, in every particular, from the solid and well-detailed figure to the apple-tree growth and texture, and the subordinate softness of the grass, but it is also possessed by a very strong and pathetic sentiment, in the resting attitude and the patient yet hopeless longing of the face is concentrated the whole history of the sorrow of an unfortunate race. We have seen nothing from Miss Hallock, in any form, which could give so much hope of her winning triumphs in the larger zone of imagination and emotion. But a more general satisfaction is derivable from these finished and excellent studies, namely, that of seeing one artist, at least, pursuing the course of investing her genius in a permanent stock of faithful knowledge added to brilliant execution, while the majority of even our professed painters are neglecting the unseen sources of power by slurring over the art of drawing with such disastrous indifference.

  1. Modern Art Education : its Practical and Æsthetic Character educationally considered. By PROFESSOR JOSEPH LANGL. Being part of the Austrian Official Report on the Vienna World’s Fair of 1873. Translated with notes by S. R. KOEHLER. With an introduction by CHARLES B. STETSON. Boston : L Prang & Company. 1875.