The New York Art Season

IN attempting a brief review of what the past season has produced in the way of pictorial art, it will be well, I think, not to content ourselves with a mere enumeration of individual objects of interest. We may profitably pass, by their means, to some estimate of the present condition of our art as a whole, and especially of the promise it gives as to its development in the near future. Only those who vividly remember American art as it was twenty years ago will quite understand the satisfaction we feel in looking back over the creditable showing of the past season ; only such will appreciate the intense pleasure we draw from its evidence that the day is approaching when we shall have an art not only accomplished, but national, — not only schooled in the best contemporary methods, but devoted to the expression of our own local life and our own individual impressions. It would be idle, of course, to say that any such art yet exists in a comprehensive way. but we may fairly claim, I think, that we can already see its beginnings and foresee its wide development.

It has been a little hard to remember, looking at all that has claimed our attention during the past few months, that a very short time ago we had no “ art season " whatever, nothing but the Academy’s exhibition as the sole attraction of the year. This year four general exhibitions have been filled to overflowing, and a number of special collections have succeeded one another. In considering the work produced, it will be best, in view of the aim I have just declared and of the limitations of our space, to pause over the good work only, confessing at the outset, once for all, that a vast amount of bad work also has been shown, and that false methods and mistaken aims and immature accomplishment still

claim their devotees. We have known the time when these things seemed so dangerous to the future of our art as to call for constant mention and for detailed blame. There was a day when it seemed as though learners would have nowhere else to look for models, and the public nowhere else to bestow its admiration. But this day has passed. The so-called “ new men,”and the elder workers who are identified with them in aim and practice, have done far more for us than merely to paint their own pictures. They have established good methods of teaching, and have inculcated, by word and deed, better general views of art; and these views and methods have already impregnated our most conservative institutions. The worst work on our exhibition walls now rarely comes from the hand of a beginner, but is most often due to some older Academician, or to one of his contemporaries. It is a hopeful sign of the times, indeed, that many quite new and unknown names come yearly to swell the ranks of our best workmen, and to help carry off the highest honors. The generation that is just entering upon its life’s work seems, in a word, to be starting along the right road, uninfluenced, to any dangerous extent, by the example of men whose names have long been held in honor, but whose practices could not now be followed without contempt for what we have found to be better methods. Recognizing this fact the critic is no longer driven to constant fault-finding.

What, now, are the good qualities to be especially looked for in judging the present of our art and in calculating its future ? Fifteen years ago our artists as a body — with a few notable exceptions, whom I need surely not stop to mention here — were not animated by individual and characteristic thoughts or feelings. Nor were they, on the other hand, masters of an accomplished technique,— of that precious artistic speech which can make the tritest or most casual thought, the most hackneyed or prosaic object, a painted joy forever. If we wished to improve upon our past, this technical ability was the first thing to he acquired as a necessary basis for all other excellence. Beginning, then, with the beginning, our younger artists have gone abroad in crowds to seek for manual training; that being a thing to be best learned by precept and example, not to be easily evolved from one’s own soul, no matter how much artistic material might surround one, and no matter how truly one might be inspired thereby. We have now got far on the way toward technical accomplishment, I think; we may now boast of a large and rapidly growing body of young men whose work would in any country stand on a level with that of the ablest, of all but the most inspired, of modern brushes. We have been a little slow to recognize this fact, however; a little afraid to believe our eyes when they bore witness that young Americans, with quite unknown names and origins, were painting things as good as we could get from Europe, ■were conceiving of their art In the most thorough-going and artistic way, and were displaying, moreover, a commendable degree of diversity among themselves. At first we said, “ They have Caught a foreign trick from foreign masters. They have painted well, perhaps, in pupilage; but when left to themselves they will do the sort of work our men have always done, or they will run into extreme eccentricity and artistic aberration.” They have amply proved, however, that they will do none of these things. The men who five or six years ago came home from foreign cities to be greeted with such prophecies now paint better than at that time. Each year —■ note the successive exhibitions of the Society of American Artists—they show less of mere eccentricity, fewer mere tours de force, more of balance, of discretion, and of high artistic effort. From extremely clever pupils they are growing to be masters in their art. They paint as enthusiastically, as steadily; they are as devoted to their art, and as entirely determined to pursue it irrespective of popular cavil, as when fresh from the inspiring atmosphere of Paris or of Munich. We are forced at last to confess that they can and do paint well,

— still using the word in its narrower technical but most important sense. Convinced of this, however, we cannot rest satisfied a moment with so great a gain, so immense a promise for the future. We instantly demand that they shall do work racy with the flavor of the soil,—work such as no man has ever done before, and that will therefore be " original.” This for records of external life. When they attempt imaginative work we insist that they shall at once show a power to rival that developed at the supremest moment of the noblest schools. These are all demands which must be realized, of course, before we can have a truly national art, — an art that shall be our own by any stronger title than the mere fact of its production on this side of the water. Art is long, however, and its steps are many and gradual, and must be properly sequent. It is only those who have no confidence in their own power to discern good work, though as yet unheralded by fame, in their own ability to perceive signs and promises as well as complete and wide results, who despair of the fact that our artists will soon see our own local materials in a pictorial manner, and think our own characteristic thoughts in an artistic way. It is for proofs that they have already begun, indeed, to do so, — for evidence that we have already men among us who are not only good painters, but American artists,

— that we should most keenly look, in our current criticising. While praising, therefore, good painter’s work of every sort, no matter how unoriginal, it is for work in which local life and local ideas are most distinctly visible that our highest commendation should be reserved.

After so much generalizing, it may he well to pass at last to a few particulars. I must preface the notice of our New York pictures by a few words with reference to some that were shown in Philadelphia last autumn. A hundred canvases that were sent from the easels of painters practicing or still studying in Paris afforded a hitherto unfound opportunity of estimating what a large body of our aspirants are accomplishing. They showed much excellent work ; little that was very original, it is true, in either mood or technique, but a great deal to prove that Americans are at last fully reconciled to the necessity of hard and systematic study. We were especially glad to see much capable figuredrawing on a large scale. Most of it was academical practice-work, and nothing more; but it was accomplished to a degree that would have startled us a few years since. The fact that it did not in the least surprise us now, that it did not fully satisfy us, indeed, shows how our standard of requirement, has risen in the interim. When we looked at the works in detail, moreover, we found some that broke the level of commonplace acquirement, and showed original and successful impulse. Of Miss Dodson, for example, I may surely say that her work displayed not only admirable training, but an individual temperament and a commendable degree of versatility. Miss Dodson has undoubtedly a future before her, and one may predict, perhaps, that if she ever combines the large scale and assured drawing and broad masculine style of her Deborah, here shown, with the fresh fancy of her smaller decorative works, — The Pupils of Love and The Dance, — she may do very good and much-to-be-desired work in the way of mural decoration. Mr. Picknell’s canvases — the Route de Concarneau, which won official recognition at the last Salon, and Au Bord du Marais — were bold and vigorous things, most admirable in technique, and showing, it seemed to me, a sentiment and accent of their own. And there were still other works at Philadelphia for which more than accomplished workmanship might have been claimed,

— notably those of Mr. Marr, now of Milwaukee, and of Mr. Kenyon Cox, who sent a strange and fascinating little portrait.

Nothing more strongly marks our recent growth in productiveness and versatility than the sudden rise of our water-color art. Twenty years ago it was an almost unknown thing. Half a dozen years ago, even, we took but a languid interest in its possibilities. Now it is universally popular with our artists, even with those whose methods of work in oil would seem most alien to its requirements ; and it is immensely popular with the public at large. — disproportionately so as compared with the estimation in which that public sees fit to hold good native work in oil. The large collection of aquarelles shown this year

— there were over eight hundred numbers, and no works in black and white were admitted — was of greater average excellence, I think, than any previously shown. There was but little work of the best possible sort, while there were dozens of drawings, each of which would have made its mark not many years ago, but which now passed unnoticed amid crowds of almost equal excellence. The old-fashioned “ niggling ” imitations of work in oils, distressingly hard and flat, and painfully elaborate, were in a minority. Even painters who had nothing of much interest to say upon their paper had learned to speak in a simple and direct way that gave no opportunity for fault-finding, if it gave no occasion for any special praise. Perhaps the greater part of the work did not merit higher commendation than this. But even this is a level by no means to be despised, in view of things not long gone by. From such a level there stood out, moreover, some work of a more decided and individual stamp, — work both strong and peculiar in its artistic flavor. The three men who were most conspicuous for excellence were Messrs. Winslow Homer, Currier, and Blum. Mr. Homer’s work is too well known to need detailed notice here. He was at his very best, and when at that best must always be recognized as strong, and individual, and intensely local. Whether or no one personally likes his kind of strength and his sort of individuality is another matter. Mr. Currier, whose work still comes from Munich, is of course an impressionist of the deepest dye, but one who has, most fortunately, a genuine impression to convey. He signed a dozen large drawings, most of them showing sunset or storm-cloud effects over wide stretches of moorland. His color was superb and his handling very clever, and there was an amount of action in his clouds and atmosphere that one rarely sees in paintings of any sort.

Mr. Robert Blum is more or less of an impressionist also, when he works with aquarelle, but his style is as delicate and as fragile, so to say, as Mr. Currier’s is intense and fiery. He exhibited a number of views of Venice, cool and gray or softly blue in tone, airy yet spirited in handling ; with all their tenuity very vigorous, with all their tenderness never soft, with all their daintiness the reverse of weak. Mr. Blum would excite interest did we know but a single work of his. But when we have seen a number, curiosity as to his future course is added to the interest. His facility is so great and his artistic sympathy apparently so wide that we cannot guess what he may next produce. Many blame him, saying that this sympathy goes out not only to varying aspects of nature, but to various methods of working characteristic of other men. To me it does not appear that Mr. Blum imitates Fortuny or Martin Rico, but, rather, that he sees and feels for the moment as one or the other of them has seen and felt, which is a very different thing, — a thing that may produce original and spontaneous work along similar lines, but that will not degenerate into imitation. This I say merely in explanation of the strong reflected accent that some critics find in his undeniably beautiful handiwork. For myself I would say more—that he is usually as fresh and genuine as he is delightful. Besides his out-of-door effects in Venice, he showed here a large drawing, quite beautiful in color, called Venetian Girls Stringing Beads, which disclosed a distinct gift for expressive facial painting. This was the more noteworthy because our aquarellists are as yet very deficient in their treatment of the figure. Few of them even attempt to deal with it. In this exhibition there was little good home work of the sort, if we except some realistic and delightfully local bits of low-life from the brush of Mr. Kappes, a study by Mr. Eakins, and the accomplished but not very original work of Mr.Hovenden and Mr. C. S. Reinhart. A few lovely foreign pieces in the room, by Vibert and Tofano and Simoni and Heilbuth and Kaemmerer, served as a gauge by which to measure our own short-comings.

In closing this brief notice I should like to give more than mere mention and general praise to the out-door studies of Messrs. Foxcroft Cole and Freer and Muhrmann, to the fresh spring-like effects of Mr. Bruce Crane, and to the fine color of Mr. Harry Chase’s coast views.

When we pass to the consideration of the two spring exhibitions of work in oil, we reach, of course, the main interest of our subject. They were opened simultaneously, but were inevitably compared by every visitor for more reasons than this of mere synchronism. Nothing could have been more opposed than the respective principles which had guided the formation of the two collections ; nothing more opposite than the appearance of the two when shown. On the one hand, at the National Academy, the principle had been one of extreme inclusion ; on the other hand, with the Society of American Artists, it had been one of extreme exclusion. If the Academy, however, while accepting very bad work, had recognized it as such when hanging the few really good things admitted, there would have been no such outcry against the institution as has gone up this year. It has been universally accused of proving once more that it is almost ridiculously behind the times, almost childishly opposed to outside men and novel methods, almost destructively devoted to its own interests instead of to those of the public and of art. That it does not recruit its ranks as it should is shown by the fact that the associates recently promoted to be full Academicians are Mr. Louis Tiffany, which is well enough ; Mr. B. C. Porter, which is not so well ; and Mr. Yewell, which is quite inexcusable ; and this although such names were on the list as those of Bridgman, May, Quartley, Sartain, George Smillie, and, above all, George Fuller.

There have been worse Academy exhibitions than this last one, but that was when the average of our art was infinitely lower. Judged by what it should have been, no exhibition has been so bad, so behind the times, so unrepresentative of the better aspects of our art. There are signs, however, that the limits of academic narrow-mindedness — usually, I believe, honest and conscientious, though so mistaken — have been reached, that a broader policy will govern matters in the future, and that this year’s complaints will not have to be repeated.

Turning to the other exhibition, we found, as I have said, an entirely different state of things. In place of seven hundred and fifty works at the Academy, following a descending scale down to

the utmost limits of deluded intention and incapable performance, we had a catalogue with but one hundred and sixty numbers; and this was not the result of meagre contributions, for it is understood that more than twice as many pictures were rejected. The committee on admissions voted secretly for each canvas, the artist’s name being concealed so far as possible, and pictures by the most popular men shared the fate of exclusion with pictures by many members of the Society itself. It is very probable that there has been much dissatisfaction among disappointed artists, but the public has not complained, and even these artists cannot charge injustice ; for while good work may have been rejected, it was not superseded on the walls by things of little value. It was the declared policy of the committee, backed by the Society as a whole, to admit nothing that was but fairly good, nothing that was but up to a standard of commonplace excellence, nothing, in a word, that had not an especial interest of some kind to distinguish it. It is needless to say that such a policy would be out of place with any public association, with any corporation intended to give a chance to all men. But a glance at these walls, and a mental comparison of them with the aspect of an average exhibition, convinced us that it was an excellent policy upon occasion. It was surely well to see for once a collection that was actually fine as such, that as a whole was a thing of which Americans might well be proud. It needs to be said, moreover, that while the standard of admission had been high, it had been sufficiently broad and flexible to include good work of very various kinds ; that while the exhibition had been strictly managed, it had not been managed in the interests of a clique, or of one particular style of art. We saw Mr. Albert Ryder on the one hand, and Mr. Gilbert Gaul on the other, and more need not be said. When the pictures were examined in detail they proved for the “ new men,” I think, all that I have claimed for their performance in the beginning of this article; and they proved one or two things more : as, for example, that many of them can get color as well as tone, that they love beauty as well as singularity and effectiveness, and that they do not seem inclined to imitate one another, or to run in parallel ruts. In the case of one or two painters, moreover, of Mr. Alden Weir and Mr. William M. Chase especially, there was great variety to be found in the different creations of the same brush.

In the matter of mere workmanship — the first desideratum just at present, as I have said— there was much to give delight. The brush-work was excellent in almost every case; often individual, and sometimes quite masterly. Perhaps Mr. Alden Weir’s Still Life, with flowers in a blue and white pot, was the most exquisite bit of pure painter’s work in the room, perfect in composition, in color, in sentiment, in handling, — showing a felicitous conjunction that even the same brush may never give us in the future. This was faultless art of the perennial sort; art that could not be hurt by any possible proximity; art that would have seemed as good in the sixteenth century as it did in the nineteenth ; art that will hold its own, no matter what the future may produce. Mr. Chase’s Studio Interior, splendid in color, was a specimen of what has been called “ bravura painting,” pushed to its furthest limits, yet as unaffected and as right as the soberest work could be. Mr. Currier’s Boy in Red, sent, from Munich, was another piece of bold, fine workmanship and color. And while speaking of color Mr. Bunce must not be forgotten, with his Venetian sunsets and the wonderful skies in some of his smaller studies ; nor Mr. Walter Palmer, who showed a fine landscape with golden grain.

When we passed from the painting as such to the subject matter chosen, when we looked for traits of mind rather than powers of hand, we found again much to delight and much to encourage us. We noted in the many portraits, for example, a great advance in the way of getting, within the strictest artistic limits and with the most beautiful results, what may be called national in addition to individual characteristics. Mr. Wyatt Eaton’s lovely girls, and those of Mr. Abbott Thayer, Mr. Eastman Johnson’s child in the snow, and the elderly gentleman painted by Mr. Weir, might all have been shown as typical specimens of the genus American. We have had portraits for many years, of course, of which this might have been said, but they have too generally been abortions in point of art — one or two great names to the contrary — for their memory to lessen the fresh satisfaction we feel in thinking of these beautiful works. It was a disappointment that Mr. Chase showed this year none of his brilliant and characteristic masculine portraits, and that Mr. Sargent sent us nothing to rival the Carolus Duran of last season. Of all the portraits here shown, the best were perhaps those of Mr. Eaton. Nothing could have been more beautiful in treatment and tone and sentiment than the full face head called in the catalogue Miss M. G. R. If an artist had been asked to pick out the two most complete pictures in the room, this would have been one, I think, and Mr. Weir’s Still Life would have been the other.

Quite the strongest piece of local characterization, if I may so call it, was due, however, to the brush of Mr. Eakins, of Philadelphia. Of all American artists he is the most typically national, the most devoted to the actual life about him, the most given to recording it without gloss or alteration. That life is often ugly in its manifestations, no doubt; but this ugliness does not daunt Mr. Eakins, and his artistic skill is stick that he can bring good results from the most unpromising materials. In spite of a deficient power of coloring, his brush-work is so clever, his insight into character so deep and his rendering of it so clear, his drawing is so firm, and his management of light so noteworthy that he makes delightful pictures out of whatsoever he will. —even, as in this case, out of three homely figures with ugly clothes in an “ undecorative ” interior. This Lady Singing a Pathetic Song was so impressive because it was admirably painted, and because it was at the same time absolutely true to nature, — a perfect record of the life amid which the artist lives. The day will come, I believe, when Mr. Eakins will be rated, as he deserves, far above the painters of mere pretty effects, and a good way above even men of similar artistic skill who devote themselves to less characteristic and less vital themes. All possible renderings of Italian peasants and colonial damsels and pretty models cannot equal in importance to our growing art one such strong and real and artistic work as this one I have noted.

Mr. Twachtman approaches our outdoor scenes in a similar spirit, dealing with the most prosaic and local of themes — with the Suburbs of Cincinnati, for example, and the Dock, Foot of Tenth Street, —and proving that even such homely material may be wrought into satisfactory and, of course, quite original sorts of art. Mr. Lungren’s Rainy Night, New York, was, again, a quitefresh theme, treated with immense dash and brio, — altogether one of the most interesting things of the year, though, so far as I know, the young artist’s début in oils. Mr. Will H. Low’s Skipper Ireson Tarred and Feathered by the Women of Marblehead was an ambitious and clever, though not altogether successful, attempt to deal with native matter in the way of historical genre. It promised very well for what Mr. Low may yet accomplish in the same line.

Turning to the strictly imaginative work in the exhibition we ceased, of course, our quest for local sentiment and subject matter ; for there is no fatherland to which things of the spirit must swear allegiance. To no terrestrial kingdom belonged, for instance, Mr. Ryder’s delicious bit of brown color with moonlight on the sea. No one has ever painted just like Mr. Ryder, and when we have once known his pictures we feel that we should have suffered grievous loss had he never been born to paint in just this manner. If we set him against Mr. Eakins, by the way, we shall see that the extremes of our capable art are already very far asunder, with room enough between them for every possible growth, realistic or imaginative.

Mr. Weir’s Muse of Music was more remarkable, perhaps, for beautiful painter’s work than for spiritual force, and Mr. Fuller was not here seen at his best, though nothing of his can lack for charm and interest. Mr. Blakelock’s attractive work suggested, but did not equal Mr. Ryder’s, and the lovely bit of landscape sent by Mr. La Farge had been painted long ago.

In the way of sculpture there was a little of the very best sort, due principally to Mr. St. Gaudens and to Mr. Olin Warner. Nothing could have been more lovely or more skillfully wrought than the latter’s portrait bust of Miss Maud Morgan, which was well worthy to stand side by side with some exquisite antique. More valuable even than its beauty, however, was its loyalty to the aspect of our own time and people.

We may leave the Society’s exhibition now with the pleasant thought that all the pictures—with but one or two exceptions, Mr. Currier’s Boy in Red alone being of much importance among them — had been painted on this side of the water, and owed nothing whatever to foreign inspiration or assistance. This is not the place, of course, to speak of Bastien-Lepage’s Joan of Arc, — the only foreign picture in the room, but one of the most interesting ever sent across the water.

At the Academy also there were some good portraits, with the true and vital qualities we longed to find. Such were Mr. Maynard’s portrait of Mr. Millet, Mr. Weir’s portrait of Miss Cottier, — again a piece of perfect workmanship, — Mr. Lippincott’s portrait of a little girl, and Mr. Vinton’s most strong, genuine and characteristic portrait of a gentleman. Mr. B. C. Porter, of whom we once expected such good things, has fallen far below his former standard, and has become very hard in color and in handling. Mr. Millet’s immense picture of Miss Kate Field showed some very excellent painting, of course, but was showy and striking rather than artistically right, — a fact that was owing to the pose as much as anything. Mr. Carroll Beckwith draws beautifully, and is very self-confident, but lacks taste and the sense for color. Mr. Hovenden’s small portrait of a gentleman was quite admirable in every way ; his genre picture of Vendean peasants preparing for war was a most thorough and conscientious piece of work ; and his study of a negro in a cabin-interior was strong and genuine. Mrs. Anna Lea Merritt is always interesting and clever, and her half-length of a lady in brown was among the best things in the place. But, unfortunately, when she painted her large, prettily colored, and attractive portrait of a young lady she left the path of contemporary, characteristic rendering, and tried to transplant Gainsborough —attitude, color, sentiment, and all — into the midst of a quite alien world. So the canvas had an accent of unreality, of affectation almost, in spite of all its charm. Mr. Carl Marr’s strongly handled portrait of an old lady had already been seen in Philadelphia. Mr. Shirlaw sent a child’s portrait, beautifully painted, and a delicious little figure called The Tomboy. Mr. Dielman, Mr. Kappes, and Mr. Burns were to be commended for capable treatment of local themes, though the last was crude in color. Miss Emmet and Miss Wheeler, pupils of Mr. Chase, sent promising portrait-work. Miss Emmet’s bore an air of distinction always to be desired, in feminine portraiture, especially. But her painting of flesh is not yet as good as her very clever treatment of accessories. Miss Wheeler’s picture was especially good in character, Mr. Dowdall is another promising young workman.

Mr. Eastman Johnson’s large canvas called The Funding Bill showed the lifesize figures of two gentlemen conversing in an elaborate interior. Its ambitious character needs no further demonstration, and it deserved high praise for its intensely local spirit. (I cannot use the adjective “ local ” too often, I think, to express a most important quality.) The handling was more broad and rapid than we are used to seeing from Mr. Johnson’s brush ; very good indeed in parts, though not quite uniform all through the canvas. If a man of Mr. Eastman Johnson’s age can make such a new departure and such a stride in advance as he has made this year,—not only in this canvas, but in his more complete though not so interesting portrait in the other exhibition, — we need surely not doubt of the flexibility or the latent energy of American art.

One of the most perfect of the year’s pictures was Mr. Douglas Volk’s Puritan Girl, standing in the snow and dreaming of her absent lover. One hardly knew which to admire the more in this lovely picture, the rendering proper or the delicate sentiment, which seemed not at all hackneyed or “ sentimental.” Especially remarkable was the treatment of the wide white landscape,— the painting of the horizon, and the way in which the bluish tones of the snowshadows had been preserved without making the canvas cold in color. Mr. Eakins was again at the front with his most interesting, though only partially successful, Four-in-Hand, and with a little study of a girl, beautifully treated for effects of light. Many good academic figure paintings had already been seen in Philadelphia.

It is needless to say that our landscape art, in the hands of the younger men and of the elder ones who are akin to them in aim and spirit, has broken away completely from its former hard handling and minute detail and panoramic composition. Mr. Inness was at his very best this year, and every one knows what he then can do. Mr. Harry Chase’s coast views were as good as those he had painted in aquarelle. Mr. Bruce Crane’s spring landscapes were very cleverly handled, and very fresh and charming in color. Mr. Bunce was about as usual. Mr. Enneking’s important canvas called November was so badly hung that we had to depend upon our memory of his previous works adequately to appreciate it. Mr. Albert Ryder sent an exquisite dream of nature wonderfully put on canvas. Mr. F. S. Church’s Seashore in a Fog was clever, and the work of Messrs. Sartain, Smillie, Swain Gifford, Clement Swift, Foxcroft Cole, Miller, Bolton Jones, Macy, McEntee, Wyant, and Quartley was as good as usual. Mr. Blum made his first attempt in oils, I believe, with a Venetian scene showing gondolas and fishing-boats on a glassy blue sea under a glassy blue sky, and with a hint of the city low down in the distance. As yet Mr. Blum’s management of oil is not quite so dexterous as his management of water-color, but it is wholesomely different in character. There was no “impressionism" here ; distinct yet broad handling was joined to a skillful treatment of the difficult scheme of color.

Finally, going back to the figurepainting, I may note as not only the most beautiful picture at the Academy, but the most beautiful of the year, Mr. Fuller’s Winifred Dysart, original and perfect in conception, in sentiment, in color, in handling, — in every possible way; a glory to our art, and a priceless contribution to the art of the world at large.

Of course much good work, and more that was instinct with promise, has been passed over in this brief survey. The landscape work at the Society of American Artists, for example, has been quite neglected. Though very good, it was less important than the figure-painting there to be seen, and this is an assertion that by itself speaks volumes for the change that has come over our performance. There were, it must be, some pictures, especially at the Academy, which proved that certain young men from whom we once expected much do not now seem likely to fulfill their promise. It is curious, in view of the general belief that our men do better abroad than at home, that these men are most of them still resident in Europe.

Among the special exhibitions there have been many of much interest. The posthumous collection of Mr. Sanford Gifford’s pictures proved him to have possessed a strong and interesting artistic temperament. Mr. Gifford and Mr. Kensett will always be named as the ablest representatives of the landscape art of their generation. Mr. Tilton belongs to the same school. A collection of his paintings exhibited this winter showed work by no means devoid of excellence and charm, though work somewhat alien to the tastes and needs of to-day. Mr. Bridgman’s pictures and studies — more than three hundred in number—attracted great attention, professional as well as popular. Especially to be praised were his magnificent and varied out-door sketches. Some, too, among his latest studio-pictures showed a growing sense of color and quality and an increasing breadth of touch. It is to be regretted that Mr. Bridgman feels it best that he should continue to live in Paris. His influence over our advancing art will thus be nut, and while we shall share in the world’s enjoyment of a good cosmopolitan painter we shall lose one who might have been an admirable interpreter of the more picturesque aspects of our civilization. I can but think that Mr. Bridgman himself will lose something, too, by turning his back upon a career which might, produce more original and distinctive art than that which he now creates.

The Artists’ Fund collection showed two quite noteworthy canvases this year, — a delicious hit of color and sentiment from the brush of Mr. Hormer Martin, and a vital and characteristic, though somewhat prosaic, portrait of a young girl by Professor John F. Weir.

Though it was one of the most important collections of the year, the Exhibition of Works in Black and White has been crowded from my page. I can only say now in a general way that this is perhaps the branch of our art of which we have most reason to be proud ; in which we are most enterprising, most original, most inclined to think our own thoughts and to go our own road, after having learned from others how to start upon the way. If any one doubted last winter whether we had good draughtsmen among us, men capable of originating manners and styles and of conceiving ideas to be expressed thereby, a walk past the crowded walls of this exhibition might have been of service to him. And if any one questions whether direct effort and patronage can improve an art or not, let. him study our current work in black and white, and remember in what way most of it has been called forth and encouraged. The clever and poetic figures which Mr. Dewing sent to this exhibition should at least be named, for his work in colors has not been of sufficient importance this year to secure for him the notice which on general grounds he merits. No space is left me for further comment on this collection, or for a reference, even, to the decorative work of the season, which in the fittings of some private houses, and of the Union League Club especially, has been creditable as a whole, and now and then quite admirable.

May I not claim now, in conclusion, that the interesting and successful things I have noted in this paper, backed as they were by a great deal of fairly competent work, were enough to outweigh the mass of inefficiency that accompanied them, and to warrant us in the most hopeful looking toward a future near at hand ? In the Loan Exhibition recently opened at the Metropolitan Museum, moreover, we can now see a number of native works, almost all painted within the last five years, and may note how well they stand their close contact with the finest of imported pictures. If only the public would appreciate this fact and fully do its part! If only the people who now patronize American art were not as a general thing those who care least of all for good painter’s work as such! The time was when Americans preferred home work, right or wrong, simply because it was home work. Unfortunately it was then usually wrong. This fact was recognized by some cultivated patrons who have since not cared to see that we are rising to a higher level of achievement. Following in their wake are many purchasers who believe on general principles that all European work must be good, and that all American work must bo second-rate. It is needless to explain who are left to encourage our own artists, — only the mass who buy for “ subject,” and the very, very few who have courage enough to buy for intrinsic value, and not for nationality or name. The best of our painters have, of course, a small but enthusiastic clientele. Yet I do not fear contradiction when I say that, while as a people we profess deep admiration for the finest foreign handiwork, the home efforts which most readily sell are those that least resemble that handiwork in either aim or manner.

M. G. Van Rensselaer.