Art at the Exposition



There are certain terms which are in common use among painters, and in studios, and which one must understand in order to comprehend a description or a criticism of a picture. To be pleasing, a picture must be in tone; whether it be painted in a high or a low tone. "Dawn," No. 454, and the "Opal," No. 455, by Robert Reid, are exquisite decorative compositions painted in a very high key. While the two water colors of Neuhuys—Nos. 384 and 388—are low in tone—an unusual thing in water colors—they are very charming. Mr. Reid's pictures must be looked at wholly from a decorative stand-point. He has a fine feeling for line and color, but in both of these pictures he has sacrificed his values for his high tone, which a decorative painter must do to give a pleasing effect. Value means the relations of tones to each other, and concerns the amount of light or dark they may reflect, without regard to color. Many different colors may have exactly the same value.

A white cow in the foreground will have a certain value, while the same cow in the distance will be entirely different in value. In painting from a model in a studio the highest light will fall, perhaps upon the nose, or the forehead, or on a white dress, or a white shirt front. Take that as the unit for comparison, and everything else will graduate from it down to the darkest part of the figure, or group, as the case may be. In a landscape the lightest part of the picture will be either the sky—from whence the light issues—or the sunlight on the ground, or walls, or buildings. The artist has only white paint with which to represent the brilliant lights of nature, so it is only by preserving the relative gradations in value that he is able to produce the suggestion of reality.

"Nature contains the elements, in color and form, of all pictures, as the keyboard contains the notes of all music. But the artist is born to pick and choose and group with science, these elements, that the result may be beautiful—as the musician gathers his notes and forms his chords, until he brings forth from chaos glorious harmony," and Mr. Whistler in his "Ten O'clock" goes on to say that it is not he who has eyes who may see. "The sun blares, the wind blows from the east, the sky is bereft of clouds, and without all is of iron. The holiday maker rejoices in the glorious day, and the painter turns aside to shut his eyes. And when the evening mist clothes the riverside with poetry, as with a veil, and the poor buildings lose themselves in the dim sky, and the tall chimneys become campanili and the warehouses are palaces in the night, and the whole city hangs in the heavens, and fairyland is before us—then the wayfarer hastens home; the workingman and the cultured one, the wise man and the one of pleasure, cease to understand as they have ceased to see, and Nature, who, for once, has sung in tune, sings her exquisite song to the artist alone, her son and her master—her son that he loves her, her master in that he knows her."

It is this mystic hour which Dessar has chosen to paint and he has chosen subjects full of sentiment, of life, and painted them so well that his pictures are among the best at the exposition.

In the country and along the seacoast of France there are standing many crucifixes, where the peasant or the wayfarer may stop for his devotions. "The Departure of the Fishermen"—No. 150, represents a scene on the northern coast of France, where a group of peasants are gathered at the foot of the crucifix before starting out on! their long, uncertain fishing voyage in the north. The sort of people that Pierre Loti has so faithfully described in his "Pecheurs d'Iceland."

The figures have been arranged to form a very interesting composition. In the immediate foreground are two chubby little children arm in arm, carefully drawn and broadly painted. They have stopped in their play to wonder what all the commotion means. Under their faded, old-fashioned dresses you feel their solid little bodies. Nothing could be more childish than the pose of each, nor more infantile than the curve of the neck and cheek. They are painted so that nothing else comes so near the spectator as they; because the painter has not forgotten his relative values. From the little girls the eye is carried back into the picture by the figure of the kneeling woman and her child. She is worked out in more detail and stronger color than the other more distant figures. The kneeling figure at the foot of the crucifix joins the group of three kneeling fishermen with the group of the father kissing his baby in its mother's arms. In the distance the horizon is hidden by the gray cottages of the peasants on the left and the fishing smacks on the right, The whole is enveloped in the soft gray of the evening, which is kept subdued enough in value to allow the three burning tapers in front to give out their golden light. How awkward and clumsy are the fishermen at the cross, offering up their prayers for a safe return! The painter has caught all the noble, natural simplicity and the pathos of the peasant folk, who have not stood for their portraits, but apparently have been caught while absorbed in this last moment of fare-well, for it is not a pleasure trip these homely people are intent upon, it is a perilous journey, from which they may never return. There is a certain quiet dramatic strength in the composition; the story is well depicted, and the artist has put it on his canvas in a straightforward, bold way harmonious, atmospheric, charming.