THE January exhibition of the Boston Art Club was, for some qualities, perhaps the best that we have had to notice for several years past. To be sure, there was the usual hit of curious antiquity, this time as always, and the usual complement of halfamateurish work in water-color and black and white. This year the special pictorial relic was a portrait of Sir Henry Englefield, by Alexander Pope, the poet, which has the merit of confirming Hogarth’s estimate of the “ man of taste,”if that needed confirming. Curiously, too, there was a tinted wood carving of a Spruce Partridge by Alexander Pope, Jr., exposed in the next room to this portrait. But, these hybrid matters counted out, we found much of interest in the exhibition. Mr. William M. Hunt contributed several interesting charcoal sketches, one of which, with its leafless trees quivering against the sky, and a dim rout of sheep huddled about the boles, had the peculiar charm of Mr. Shaw’s Millet, in the Athenæum. The sketch of a dog, also, was excellent for its sense of supple sinews and good tough hide. Miss Susan Hale’s two water-color landscapes were the most notable of the aquarelles for fresh and bracing feeling; though the coloring looked unduly cold, perhaps, when compared with two scenes from Mr. George N. Cass. Mr. Cass is a color-seer of really rich endowment, and if he should once reach an equal degree of general artistic training and culture, we do not see why he should not also enjoy the same sort of fame as Mr. Boughton. His View, Canton, Massachusetts, presents a simple New England town vested in that variety of color which our climate so easily yields that it is a marvel our painters make no more of it than they do. There is a brooding madder in the crowd of houses, ever which a long, rich-tinted afternoon cloud is spread. By the lake in front stand masses of trees various in tint but chiefly of a clear light green, generously reflected in the water. The madder reappears in the foreground, in a small, autumnal clump of oak beside a rich green railroad bank, the top of which leads one’s eye off to the background, where some white dormer windows are very agreeably picked out of the distance. There is a suspicion of confusion and uncertainty about this, but it is meritorious. A complete contrast in treatment, yet allied by the sense of color, is Mr. Monks’s Clear Day at Salisbury Beach. The greater part of this piece is an almost entirely clear blue sky ; below that we have a little stretch of pale sand-beach darkened into brown by sea-weed just before the sand is lost in the long, thin wash of a quiet, paleblue wave. Beyond this wave, in which two figures are walking, — one with a white shirt, the other with a red dress, —is a narrow line of deep blue, which somehow, though it is the smaller in area, gives a much greater sense of depth and distance. A steamer’s smoke floats up from the horizon, and there are two or three bits of brown cloud, not at first perceptible, in the sky. The whole affects one like the sweep of a master’s bow on the violin. We marvel that Mr. Monks, with this power, can paint so dull a picture as his After a Shower (170). Miss Boott and Miss Cranch also have something of the colorist about them. The former’s Portrait has merit in it, but wants shape, and is too profuse in expression of tints, as compared with the same artist’s clear, intellectual — we had almost said epigrammatic— January Miss Crunch’s Celestina labors under a trouble of dumbness or half-articulate announcement which seems often to affect Mr. Hunt’s pupils. Mr. Hunt himself, however, is outspoken enough in a certain Head (102), which is so high-colored as to give one a strange sense of its having been flayed, or forced into extravasation by prolonged squeezing. We are inclined to think Mr. Duveneck’s way of looking at faces, as instanced in his Blacksmith Boy, safer and more wholesome, though he is perhaps too monotonous in coloring. Mr. Vedder’s youth capering in a mediæval costume strikes us as quite light-headed and useless; Mr. W. M. Chase’s Court Jester is worse, being vulgar ; and there were some other foolish distortions of the same kind. The proportion of figurestudy in this exhibition was not greater than common. Toulmouche’s Interesting Letter (ranked Hors concours at the salon), very remarkable for its technical merits, supplied the usual scene of parquetrie, marquetrie, and silken soft young ladies elaborately doing nothing under pretense of examining a letter, — an extreme of exquisite emptiness. We have reserved till this point the mention of a Bivouac, by Zamacois, which is the most remarkable piece of art in the galleries. It shows us morning breaking over a field occupied by mediæval warriors. The style is totally unlike the painter’s usual polished one, the piece being perhaps a sketch only. Looked at closely, it appears to be a broadly conceived beginning of a picture : one gazes with curious interest at the roughly puckered surface marked by the palette knife, wondering what is to come of it; but stepping back one sees what is strangely like completion. There is a man sprawling upon the ground by the tent on the left, blowing some coals under a kettle; he is all compact of loose strokes, there doesn’t seem a definite line about him anywhere; but, viewed a little distant, he strikes out his limbs with tremendous energy, and the coals seem fairly to palpitate with his breath, while the smoke, urged by little jottings of blue at the edges, twists and rolls away into the air with great spirit. The background shows the dawn, with a lifting curtain of dim mauve, in which is caught the waning moon. This vista of morning holds in strange but clear solution a mass of pale yellow, light green, rose, and blue strokes, with a dash of orange along the horizon. Meantime, all in front is steeped in the cool, gray, twilight mystery of the hour. This is real magic, art in the fullest sense. Our American painters, as usual, are strongest in landscape, and before quitting the subject, — barely mentioning Stuart Newton’s portrait of a lady, which hardly belongs to the present generation of American painting, — we must give praise to Mr. George Inness’s Morte Mount, which, with its clean-cut, virile pine and gray ledge of rock and impending thunder-clouds, is a very sturdy and splendid piece of work. Particularly true and ingenious is the way in which a bare birch-tree is entangled with and at the same time set free from a blinding white light in the sky. Mr. Longfellow, too, sent a spirited study of waves called After the Storm.

— There is always an audience for the sentimentalist in art, and it is to it that Constant Mayer appeals in his Song of the Shirt, lately imported by Messrs. Blakeslee and Noyes. The interest, therefore, is almost purely intellectual, and the picture, looked at across the room, exposes its artistic poverty by its utter failure to impress or excite the eye, which it is clearly the province of a work of art. to do, whatever moral or pathetic aim it may have behind it. The conception is poor, cold, and bad, and the color corresponds; the simplicity is not dignity, it is indigence. There is little else to be said about the work, except that the drawing of the figure is spiritless and not quite correct.

— Messrs. Osgood & Co. have presented us the latest work of M. Viollet-le-Duc1 in a commendable way; translated by Mr. Henry Van Brunt, and illustrated with copies of the original drawings. M. Violletle-Duc is well known as one of the ablest and most fertile of French writers upon architecture. The book contains ten discourses, in which he treats quite amply many topics, and enunciates many principles, always in a fresh and earnest way.

He limits the arts to four : music, architecture, sculpture, painting, and ranks them as here mentioned, music having been the first born. Music and architecture are positive ; sculpture and painting are derivative, and consequences of the former. Believing strongly in the purity and beauty of the Greek architecture, M. Viollet-le-Duc does not advocate its reproduction, the copying of Greek forms, but their examination and study in order that taste and a fine sense of form and decoration may be cultivated. To him there seems danger of an over-civilization stilling that freedom which the great and true architect must enjoy. He does not believe that the Greek forms in stone sprang from the tree pillar and the wooden lintel, but he seems to fail in making it clear that they did not. Roman architecture borrowed and used the Greek forms, but cheapened and debased them. While the Greeks were inspired by a love of beauty alone, the Romans had a practical purpose in what they did. Their populations were large, turbulent, coarse; great armies swept over the lands, and everywhere they builded works of practical use. In a few days or a few months these vast bodies of men put up vast structures. The Greek monuments were small, the Roman great. In order to accomplish this, the Romans adopted, almost created, the arch and the vault. By these means they could raise story upon story, for arch sprang upon arch ; the wonderful baths of Rome, the bridges, the roads, the amphitheatres of Rome and Verona and Nismes and Arles, bear witness to this. The Coliseum at Rome was completed in less than three years.

The Romans piled up their walls with marble, brick, anything which came to hand, leaving the decoration to follow, when they could get decoratious. The result shows decoration of a mixed and often incongruous character; there was no restraint and no delicacy. In their domestic architecture there was at first no ostentation. The outsides of the houses at Pompeii show great plainness and simplicity; expenditure and art were reserved for the interiors ; this was probably true of the Greeks also. Later this good rule was degraded, and in the time of Constantine architecture was in its decadence. But Rome never reached a pure and fine “ style ” as the Greeks did. “ Style consists in distinction of form,” and is one of the elements of beauty. This the Greeks had in perfection. In the primitive epochs style imposed itself upon the architect; later he looked about for something with which he Could create style. In all this two elements prevail : first, necessity, and second, imagination. In every good style of building the uses of the structure must be plain, hold, aud houest; the form must be perfect, decoration must be subservient. Style, then, must express this purpose, and in the finest way. The Greek temple and the Gothic church, the arched bridge and the locomotive, all express it and have style. The artist must have this in view, and must not allow memories to overwhelm his great idea.

M. Viollet-le-Duc then traces the rise of the mediaeval or Gothic style, and the Renaissance manner of Italy. Of architecture in France, corrupted by the taste of the Louis XIV. period, he says that it has not yet recovered its integrity. As to what may be done hereafter he is not very certain; but he is clear that the French have not done well in merely studying the past and endeavoring to create Greek or Italian temples for French law offices. He advocates the study of the past in order to get at principles rather than details, but he advocates for the architect and for the people freedom from academic tyranny and criticism. He does not believe a new style of architecture can be invented; nor do we.

The key-note of this age is the supremacy of the individual. Every man is now asserting himself. There is no strong feeling of nationality, none of clan, and but little of family. He has not yet achieved his independence, so as to learn to combine again, and to coöperate. Until he does, it is not to be expected that great monuments can or will be built, and we had better not attempt it. We shall and we do build great mills and railway stations, because the needs of the time demand them ; and we may and do build excellent houses for the individual man. Here lies the path for architecture at this present time. What we need to keep in mind, however, in treating these temples of home, is simplicity, not ostentation ; form first, decoration next; and more than that, we should not forget that for these temples great size is not demanded, while purity of ornamentation is.

These discourses: are valuable and interesting, but we wish that the writer had taken time to be shorter, for condensation would bring out the strictures and principles more clearly and effectively.

— Amongst the holiday books which one can wish to outlive the holidays is certainly the beautiful volume of American Interiors by Mr. Elliott,2 which appeared at the close of the year. It is a quarto of some hundred pages, and has twenty-two fullpage illustrations in heliotype of some of the most tasteful libraries and dining-rooms in the country. An interesting and very encouraging fact in regard to these pictures is that they represent interiors not only in the East,— in Boston, at Newport, New Haven, New York, Springfield, Albany, — but also in the middle and farthest West, — in Cincinnati and California, — and show how general and almost national the instinct and the taste for household decoration has become. An instructive and suggestive contrast is afforded by the juxtaposition in the same volume of such colonial interiors as Mr. Longfellow’s Library at Cambridge, and Mr. Peabody’s Hall at Danvers, with the handsome modern rooms to which the work is otherwise devoted. The arrangement and decoration of these is sometimes the work of the people of the house, whose names are given in the index, and two of the prettiest are designed by the lady of the house. The greater part are of course by professional architects, who gladly recognize that their art is as much concerned with the shape and effect of chairs and tables as with the construction of houses. Of those who, not being architects, have made household decoration their study, Mr, Elliott himself deserved to be represented, as lie is, by several interiors. In the rapidity with which we become veterans in this country, he is already known as the pioneer in Boston, perhaps in America, of the new taste which already trembles on the verge of being the old taste — the Eastlake taste in furniture and other decorations ; but he has not been a servile imitator, and the interiors given in this book as his work are no less fresh and original in their adaptation of the English ideals to the American occasions than they are charming. Mr. Elliott has really done so much to give the present impulse in the right direction of simplicity and “ sincerity,” practically and theoretically, that we should have been willing to see much more of his work than he would perhaps have thought it modest to give in a book of which he was master. To each illustration is annexed a description of the wood and other materials employed in the decoration of the interiors, and there are two essays prefixed to the whole, one on Dining-Rooms and one on Libraries. These are entertaining, and abound in information, some of which is curious and some of which is not. Wecould have wished, also, that they were written in a tone of somewhat greater soberness, and with a more constant sense of the real limitations of their subjects.

— The Harvard Art Club, of Harvard University, has begun the foundation of a traveling scholarship, the holder of which is to “ visit a place or places, determined by the club, within the regions of ancient culture,” and there make investigation and exploration of artistic remains, keeping a journal which shall be the property of the club, and also securing, when practicable, works of art which shall likewise belong to the club, and by them be lent to the university on the providing of a room for their exhibition. In case the club dissolves at any time, these works will rest permanently in the university. The design is no doubt in emulation of the famous Dilettanti Society of London, and is an eminently worthy one. The carrying out of thorough researches as here contemplated can alone give us in this country a right foundation of judgment in art, and develop an art-patronizing public.

The scholarship, however, cannot be without money, and subscriptions are asked from from all who approve the object. They should be sent to A, C. Gurney, Treasurer of Harvard Arc Club, 16 Holyoke House, Cambridge, Mass.

  1. Discourses on Architecture. By EUGENE EMMANUEL VIOLLET-LE-DDC. Boston: J. It. Osgood & Co.
  2. The Book of American Interiors. Prepared by CHARLES WYLLYS ELLIOTT from existing Houses. With Preliminary Essays and Letter-Press DcscripHons. Illustrated in Heliotype. Boston: Jas. R. Osgood & Co. 1876.