THE new note in French art is the portrayal of those secret analogies which pervade life and make up the texture of character and circumstance, and their result on human destiny. ” The soul contains within itself the event that shall presently befall it,” says Emerson; ” for the event is only the actualization of its thoughts.” The artist must be also the seer. He must be the diviner of mental states, the poet of moods, the reader of the unwritten, the discerner of the invisible. To Romanticism succeeded Impression-ism ; to Impressionism succeeds Intimism. All the merely dogmatic laws of academic rule are swept away, or, rather, are surrounded by and engulfed in the high tide of intimate insight and constructive sympathy. The artist is quickened by the magnetic suggestion of that which lies beyond the surface. He paints with thought as well as with the brush. A ruined castle on a hillside, silhouetted against the blue sky ; the flush of sunset ; a reflection in the water ; a shadow on the path, all these subtle hints transpose themselves, in the artist’s mind, into new creations and groupings. To what extent has this brilliant, subtle, mercurial and psychological art of the day affinity with the great achievements of the Renaissance, is a question that occurs to the mind. In the Salons of recent years portraiture is seen as an instantaneous, nervous grasp of character and mood and temperament ; an impetuosity that seizes on characteristics with a kind of electric verve, as in the portrait of a young man in hunting costume, exhibited in the Spring Salons of 1908, with two tall greyhounds beside him, seen standing on a hillside silhouetted against the far horizon, his right hand raised to hold down his hat, a great coat slung over his left arm, his garments all flying in the wind, and two or three lonely stone-pines on the hill. What an electric impression has M. Bernard Boutet de Monvel depicted in this scene, which is not only a portrait, but a picture, a biography, and the rendering of the very life of the subject. No artist has more wonderfully and impressively illustrated the new note in portraiture than has M. de Monvel in this work.
Less elaborate but even more penetrating than Sargent’s brilliant audacities, is the work of a group of the French, Italian and Spanish painters, typically represented by Boutet de Monvel, Besnard, Boldini, and Degas, who, though his irony is always apparent, is a student of truth. In M. Albert Besnard is fairly initiated a new period in art. Intellectually he is in touch with science, with ethics, with the new social ideal. The superficial critic proclaims him fantastic; but he has the poet’s mind, the poet’s intricate subtlety, and he who penetrates beneath the surface, and has the intuitive recognition of the hidden significances of M. Besnard’s mental processes, finds him singularly luminous, and an artist whose work is a very lens through which one sees that which was before invisible. M. Camille Mauclair regards Besnard as ” the artist who will appear in the future as the logical transition between Impressionism and the art of the Twentieth Century.” For already, although the first decade of the new century has not yet passed, the keen observer who stands n the watch-tower of life recognizes the changed point of view reflected in the art as well as in the scientific progress of the day. More than a quarter of a century has elapsed since M. Besnard emancipated himself from all academic traditions. It was in the Salon of 1884 that his portrait of Mme. Roger Jourdain caused a tempest and tumult not unlike the violent storm that broke over the Salon of 1898, caused by Rodin’s creation of the statue of Balzac. This portrait, in which Mme. Jourdain is seen near the golden light of a lamp, while a blue-gray twilight still lingers at the window, was well termed an ” iridescent fairy-land.” There followed the remarkable portraits of Mme. Madeleine Lemaire, and of the artist’s wife, herself an artist, perhaps the first woman sculptor of to-day ; and then that epoch-making portrait of Mme. Réjane, in the Salon of 1900, which was continually surrounded by groups of worshippers and of detractors, whose vigorous denunciations left little to the imagination. Equally vigorous, however, was the eloquent language of the devotees to this powerful work. Mme. Réjane is portrayed as in the act of walking across the stage. She is in a pink gown with roses on her corsage, one of which has fallen to the floor, and in the irresistible motion of the figure the gazer expects to see the rose instantly brushed aside by her trailing draperies, as she moves swiftly on. No critical writer has more admirably defined the art of M. Besnard than has M. Camille Mauclair, when he says :
” Besnard’s work is the very expression of contemporary thought, which sometimes it even forestalls ; it inaugurates a new era ; it is of value not only in itself, but in all the promise it contains, in all that it unveils of a road which nobody had thought of taking, or, at any rate, had dared to take.
” M. Albert Besnard is unquestionably a great painter ; but he is also a profound spirit, a well-informed and clear intelligence, deeply interested in science and letters, a firm believer in evolutionistic ideas and one who foresees in scientific truths the elements of a new beauty and a new symbolism. . . . He has had the courage to face science and ethics impartially ; he has had faith in his time ; he has rejected the theory that there could be ugliness where there is character and life. But if he had con-fined himself to these sociological ideas, he would not have been a painter ; all they did was to direct and control his instinct. In him was to be found, after the advent of impressionism, a system of decorative ideas which had been unknown hitherto.”
In decorative painting M. Besnard is perhaps equally epoch-making. Of his remarkable power of imitation M. Mauclair finely speaks, in a long description of Besnard’s celebrated work in the Hôtel de Ville in Paris the municipal palace corresponding to the . City Hall of American cities, and of these decorative paintings M. Mauclair writes :
” The ceiling of the Salle des Sciences at the Hôtel de Ville is in conformity with the theme, ` Science spreads light over the universe.’ . . . He has painted the nocturnal azure as background and upon it has lighted up fiery stars, comets and nebulæ ; the moon occupies an entire panel, with her mountains, canals and livid and icy planes. At the background of the ether from the edge of the planets in the making, semi-human and semi-fantastic beings arise, and are whirled away in elliptical movement, led by a nude, haggard goddess, who throws an armful of sheaves of flame into the waste, and who is a flame herself through all the radiations of her gold-colored skin. They advance toward the brink of the gulf and fall into the void, escorted by figures of pure line, the Sciences that lead them toward the Ideal. Never has the whirl of knowledge, the intoxication with cosmic mystery, been expressed with such a prodigious force as in this ceiling, with its violent blue and orange harmony, which really pierces the roof of the hall and encloses a bold thought in an essentially decorative work. This elliptical and whirling course across the plurality of the worlds is a drama of surprising lyricism, at once natural and strange.”
The student of the Salons of 1908 cannot but realize that French landscape art has three distinctive phases ; a decorative touch of reality in the noble work of Théodore Rousseau who derived a certain solidity and massiveness from the best traditions of the Dutch school ; with Corot, an all-pervading poetry and grace and sentiment entered into landscape painting, which became, under the new lights of Claude Monet, a definite rendering of atmospheric effects. For the plein air movement, initiated by Claude Monet by his insight into the analysis of light, brought to bear on art the truth that it is not the object in a landscape, but the effect of the light at a given moment on that object, which is the important fact to the painter. This resulted in a third innovation, the recognition of the disassociation of tones, as astounding to the artistic world, as has been that of Dr. Le Bon’s new theories of the dis-association of matter, to the scientific world of this year. These three phases then, typified, in a general way, by the work of Rousseau and Daubigny, by Corot and by Monet, all enter, in varying degrees, into the supreme truth of the insight and the Intimism that stamps the Salons of 1908 with a new significance. Of this evolution of art we find a French critic saying :
” Preoccupied at first with rustic details, with the drawing of the objects of nature, landscape painting turns next toward their moral significance, their soul, their mystery, and finally identifies this soul with light itself, which becomes the essential concern of painting. Commenced by sketches from nature, arranged and composed in the studio, landscape art ends by installing itself on a certain spot with fifteen canvases, upon which the artist works in turn, changing them from hour to hour. Conceived at first almost sculpturally, in great decorative masses, with the intention of giving full expression to the material solidity of wood or rock, landscape painting becomes volatile and fluid, a mere music of colors, a caress of transparent lights, through which we can see the scene serving as pretext, like the theme of a sonata reappearing through its variations. The old idea of the picturesque, finding a landscape interesting if it contains an accumulation of curious details, yields completely to this passionate love of air, brightness, sunlight and twilight effects. This is the great trait of the history of landscape art from Rousseau to the present day. Thus realism is transformed; reflecting modern sensitiveness in its entirety ; and painting is gradually freed of its material character in order to arrive at a kind of comparative immateriality, under the influence of music, which plays the leading part in the history of modern art.”
While acknowledging the influence of Rousseau and Daubigny, who felt the grandeur of majestic trees, the enchantment of far horizon lines, the sublimity of colossal masses of rock, Diaz, whose painting of forest depths is characterized by jewel-like splendor of color, in his emerald greens, his topaz and ruby, yellows and reds of autumn colors, must not be forgotten. The present does not obliterate the past. Delacroix, with his gift of romantic transcription; Ingres, imbued with the spirit of the beauty of Greek art ; Prud’hon, with his delicate touch and problematic significance ; David, who made history visible in his great works, ” The Coronation at Notre Dame ” and other historical scenes ; Courbet, with his lurid splendor of sunsets ; Corot, with his sympathy with Italian scenes and art, as shown in his ” Near Rome and other pictures, which translate the poetry of Virgil and Horace into form and color; Jules Dupré, with his exquisite feeling for nature, all these artists are of the immortality of France.
In 1863, however, the artists who had been rejected by the Salon of that year arranged their works in a collection which they called, half in derision, half in bravado and assertion, the ” Salon des Refuses.” Among these was one of Claude Monet’s called simply, ” Impression ” a sunset scene painted in the new plein air manner ; and it was from that picture that his followers took the name of ” Impressionists.” The new cult made a decided departure from the school in which were numbered Théodore Chassériau and Gustave Moreau, and which in a general sense without attempting any chronological succession, has included Cabanel, whose especial distinction, at best, is hardly greater than that of a fashionable portrait painter of his time and an artist of academic virtues. Tissot, whose transcriptions from the life of Christ has made him famous; Bouguereau, best known, it may be, by his picture, “La Vierge Consolatrice ; ” Bonnat, whose portraits have their own enduring excellence ; Carolus-Duran, whom the public at large estimates more highly than do the latter-day critics, but whose work has those brilliant and attractive elements that win admiration, and whose lovely portrait of the ” Mother and Children,” of the young girl in a garden, and others, must always be remembered, and who is adding new lustre to the Villa Medici during his present residence there as the director of the French Academy, all those artists have produced work which is a valuable part of the modern inheritance.
With Édouard Manet’s painting of ” Olympia,” and his ” Music at the Tuileries,” ” The Opera Ball,” and his portraits of Zola and of Mme. Berthe Morizat, and with the impassioned and brilliant work of Gustave Doré, new influences of vitality were felt in French art. Illustration became elevated to a dignity never before associated with art. Puvis de Chavannes, Besnard and Chéret revealed striking possibilities in decorative work. Rafaelli painted his wonderful ” Notre Dame and his extensive series of the types of Parisian life. Degas, with his creed that the individual ” is the product of the psychology of a period and of a race,” carried the courage of his convictions into his portraits. In the opinion of the late Ernest Francesco Fenollosa, than whom there is no greater critical authority on art, Degas approaches more nearly to the power of the old masters than any other contemporary painter. It has been under Manet and Degas that painting has achieved larger horizons, ” imbued with the striving after psychological characterization that dominates the contemporary mood.” The creed of the hour holds that ” the likeness of a man is the portrait of his thought.” Eugène Carrière, that unique and original genius, whose portraits are ” mysterious interpretations, invocations of souls,” left his immortal impress on art, written in his own hieroglyphics, that are his invention, rather than his discovery of a technique. One feature of French art is very notable in any survey of its entire history; and that is the way in which in France, far more strikingly than in any other nation, art has always been visibly influenced and even determined by intellectual progress. Science, music, and ethics have, to a marked degree, set the pace for the plastic arts. The reality of the visible world has been revealed to artists in successive gradations, which correspond closely to the increased revelations granted to scientific researches.
In decorative design, Puvis de Chavannes stands out preëminent for his swift adaptation of intellectual progress. Of him M. Mauclair has written :
“He even succeeded in expressing absolutely modern symbols, and in forecasting a new style suitable for our time. This is testified by a curious panel of the decoration for the Boston Library, ` Electricity carrying Good and Bad News.’ Along two telegraph wires that cross the canvas, on a background of sky, there slide in opposite directions two women. One, dressed in black, hides her face under her folded arm; the other, dressed in white, smiles while offering a bouquet, and both of them are being swept giddily away. It is impossible to imagine what ingenuity the artist required to arrange this composition without falling into the ridiculous ; he has attained supreme emotion in supreme sobriety, thanks to his innate intuition of the way to adapt any idea to decoration.”
Eugène Carrière was one of the most intimate friends of Rodin, and, like that artist, maintained his striking individuality in his work. Early influenced by Spanish art, he yet never came under the enchantment of color, but his mind was dominated by expression. In his single figure pieces, or in his strange, dream-like portrayals of an entire audience at theatre or opera, he establishes the very atmosphere, not only of the lights and shadows and a crowd of people, but the feeling that pervades the throng, and of the individual life with its emotions, its anxieties, its gaiety, its inspirations. He paints the very thought in the air ; the glances ; the telepathic intercourse that pervades the scene. He paints the hands in a manner that individualizes one from another. To him the throng is not composed of dream figures, but of living, thinking beings, each with the human tragedy, the human story, the mystery of human destiny. Into his decorative work he carries this same element of the inscrutable. In one of his paintings for the decoration of the Hôtel de Ville, the design shows two women gazing upon Paris. They are invested with an atmosphere of serious contemplation, and with some subtle hint, too, of the sibyl and the seer, as if fore-seeing, if not reading, the riddle of future destiny.
The composition is typical of the attitude of the French nation as well as suggestive of that larger and still unread riddle of creation. For to the French Paris is the universe. No country is so little represented in the vast tide of modern travel as is France. The reason is not far to seek. It does not lie in lack of intelligent interest in the changing scenes and marvellous revelations of contemporary progress, nor yet in any lack of easy prosperity. But the Parisian has his Paris. In it he lives and moves and has his being. The Frenchman who lives in the provinces has Paris to visit within convenient proximity. Why should he fare forth afar to benighted regions that have no Paris ? There is but one Ville Luminaire. It is for the barbarians of other lands, who dwell afar from this cosmopolitan centre, to travel, and make their pilgrimages to it not for one on whom the gods have set their seal in making him a native of France to fly in the face of an evident Providential decree by wandering afar. The French attitude suggests the American mot, ” If you live in Boston you can go to New York, but if you live in New York where could you go to ? ” Living in Paris, where, indeed, could a Parisian betake himself ? Shall he be ungrateful for this last, best gift of the gods ? All this line of suggestion is interwoven with M. Carriére’s figures of the two women who are gazing upon Paris as the Peri might gaze, enraptured, on Paradise the Blest.
In the Salon of 1908 there was noted a fine landscape by Henri Le Sidanier which revealed his gift of seeing nature as a symphony of color gradations, and is painted with his characteristic originality of technique. The Salons of the spring of 1908 were, indeed, unusually fine, and while there were, all in all, many pictures of mediocre interest, as is inevitable where the collections run into the thousands, the proportion of notable work was large, and it included a wide range over portraiture, landscapes, marines and general subjects. In the way of beauty, these galleries offered us the most enchanting loveliness. The landscapes were so luminous ; the very air was painted and the sunshine and the blossoms and the fragrance ; the very breath of the sea was in these wonderful marines; the changeful glow of sunset effects in the atmosphere. There was, for instance, the splendor of a sunset on a coast evidently that of Italy where the whole horizon is aflame with the setting sun shining on masses of floating clouds seen over the mountainous ranges that lie in deepening purple shadow. At the foot of the hills that rise from the coast is the curling smoke of a campfire, and the figures of a group of people are flitting about. Again there was an interior of a deep wood the trees all in autumn colors, and on a marble walk near a walled pond two lovers are seen pausing in an absorbed conversation.
Frederic Arthur Callender was represented by a scene in Normandy a landscape in which he has so wonderfully caught the peculiar shimmer and haze in the air of France. Mr. Callender is one of the most eminent among the colony of American artists in Paris, and his work is accepted at the old and conservative Salon of the ” Artistes Français ” without reservation a signal honor. For several years Mr. and Mrs. Callender have lived in Venice ; last autumn they came to Paris, where Mr. Callender had passed many of his student days, to which the intense artistic atmosphere allures him again. ” Paris is the centre of all the new ideas in painting,” Mr. Callender says ; and apparently within even the past two years art has taken gigantic strides forward in Paris. A few years ago there was rather a decadence ; it was perhaps a kind of transition period ; but there is certainly now a revival of great vitality. ” The Road to the Wood ” is the title of one of Mr. Callender’s paintings, which was purchased by the King of Italy in 1901, and presented by his Majesty to the National Gallery in Venice. Two years later the king purchased of Mr. Callender another landscape, a Normandy scene, which is placed in the royal gallery in the Palazzo Quirinale in Rome. A native of Boston, and beginning his art study at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts under the lamented Professor Grundmann, and under Professor Crowninshield, Mr. Callender subsequently entered the Julien Academy in Paris, and came under the influence of Boulanger and Lefebvre, going later to Italy, where for years he gave himself to the study of the old masters with a devotion which seems to have imparted to his work a serious and lasting dignity. One of the well-known Italian critics wrote of him : ” Mr. Callender is a superior artist, not only from the point of view of technique, but also for that breath of poetry which he infuses so understandingly into subjects from which others would draw forth only material representations of the truth. Nothing could be more attractive, for instance, than the mystery with which his ` In Summer’ is enveloped, and also his latest picture, ` The Road to the Woods,’ which our king has just purchased.” Mr. Callender has made a long and serious study of the evolution of Italian art, spending much time in Italy in research in past years.
Larpentier and Raymond Desverreux, père et fils, are two of the most interesting artists who have won their honors at the annual Salons. M. Larpentier Desverreux paints nature in a vivid and poetic manner and his son is a specialist in military painting. The younger Desverreux studied under Gérôme and Edouard Detaille, and he won the ” Mention Honorable ” of the Salon by a great historical battle-piece called ” The Defenders of the Eagle,” a most forcible and appealing work, of which a French critic wrote :
” Grenadiers, with their heavy headgear, voltigeurs, with their big ` shakos,’ they have all fallen fallen in one doleful pile, above which still waves the colors of the regiment. The last poor fellow who bore aloft the standard of his country still retains in the rigid death clasp the flag-staff, on which the Emperor’s Eagle glimmers in the last rays of the dying day. When succor arrived it was too late. The defenders of the Eagle were no more, all fallen ! Officers, soldiers, down to the drummers, all had succumbed rather than surrender the symbol which their country had confided to their courage.
” And when at evening the battle had ended, the great Emperor, in his legendary gray over-coat and ` petit chapeau,’ drew near, and looking down saw all that remained of the brave defenders of his glory. Though impassible, yet his emotion was profound and painful, for history relates that tears were seen trickling from his eyes. Clouds of smoke and dust extend back to the horizon, a dismal shrouding over the late scene of carnage and horror.”
Paul Bartlett, of Boston, the distinguished sculptor, is recognized in Paris as one who has ” arrived,” and his work commands wide recognition on both sides of the Atlantic.
The decorative paintings of 1908 formed a signal feature. One of these an immense canvas shows a vast stretch of level ground with a great rainbow arching the sky and groups of youths and girls wandering about, or pausing in conversation. From Aubertin is the ” L’Aube des Cygnes,” a small lake with swans rising out of the water, and aerial figures a Leda, an Undine, who knows what ! also seen in the water, with trees and greenery on the edge of the lake and in the background. Of this work Henri Franz says :
” M. Francis Aubertin last year achieved a great success one of those successes which should intimidate an artist ; this year he remains worthy of himself in this most delicate domain of decorative painting. The size of the hall in which his panel is placed admits of its being seen at a good distance ; thus one can grasp the delicious harmony of the picture, in which the bluish light from the bodies of the nude women plays on a pool, amid the swans and the water-lilies. M. Aubertin is at his best in distributing his colored masses with a view to the general impression; the balance of his work is perfect, small detail being subordinated to the realization of the decorative whole.”
M. Roll, the eminent and accomplished president of the Société Nationale, contributed a remarkable decorative work in the ” Vers la Nature pour l’Humanité,” a most harmonious and lofty ensemble, distinguished for its philosophic significance, its beauty of coloring, and its imaginative quality.
There were many others of interest. One, for instance, represented a young girl reclining in the open air on the grass. The figure is nude, but delicately posed, and all about her are flowers scattered. The beauty of the flesh-painting, the luminous transparency of the air the out-of-door feeling can not be translated into words.
Still another was also a nude figure, the head on a pillow and a rose just fallen from the hand. But the most entrancing decorative work that has almost ever been shown was that of Raphael Collin, who is fairly a painter of the ethereal universe. He exposed two very large canvases. The one simply shows a sense of infinite space, with two figures (female, draped) sitting, meditatively, with the most perfect peace, serenity, joy, uplifting, expressed in their countenances. It is not the peace of vacant inanity, or mere repose, even ; but of achievement, power, poise and harmony. The other is an equally colossal canvas, with the same infinite space, in which two figures are floating in the air, with some flying drapery investing parts of the figures.
The coloring of both is delicate and exquisite, and M. Collin has succeeded in fairly painting space ! It is the infinite ether into which one gazes. M. Collin is a professor in the Académie des Beaux Arts, and he has a special clientèle of American students, who regard him as one of the greatest among modern masters. The portrait of Professor Collin, as seen in his own studio, is one of the interesting works in latter-day French art. Raphael Collin is one of the group which included Besnard, Bastien-Lepage, Carrière and Gervex, who were all pupils of the Beaux-Arts, and he is eminent as a portrait painter, as well as a decorative artist. Among his decorative works is the one called ” Music,” in the Opéra Comique (1899), in which Sibyl Sanderson, in her rôle of Manon, is immortalized in the ideal figure. In the Musée du Luxembourg is M. Collin’s ” Floréal,” and he is the creator of decorative works in the Odéon, and also in Tokio, Japan, where is placed his ” Idyl of the Sea.” M. Collin is now engaged in illustrating the work ” Daphne and Chloe,” and it is a dream of beauty.
Something more than even les palmes academiques is offered to such artists as these. American students are many of them enthusiastic in their accounts of kindly help and sympathy from these French artists, who are by no means merely les amis des beaux jours, but the friends who give the encouragement, the word, the aid at the moment it is most needed.
While the exhibition of the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts opens about the middle of April, the Société des Artistes Français opens on May first, both closing on the last day of June. Both Salons have their exhibitions in the Grand Palais des Beaux Arts in the Champs Élysées.
No city has such spacious and splendid galleries in which to exhibit pictures and sculpture as has Paris in this magnificent Grand Palais, with entrances in the Avenue Alexander III and in the Avenue d’Antin. This palace of art was built in 1900 to provide galleries for the great Exposition of that year, and was erected as a permanent building. Opposite the Palais Grand is the ” Petit Palais ” so large that it would seem anything but ” petit ” except as contrasted with the colossal size of the Grand Palais. The vista of this avenue, which crosses the river by the Pont Alexandre III, with its great bronze angels and bronze lamps, is one of the most beautiful in all Paris. The Grand Palais is built around a large court, which is used as a garden to display the sculptures. Seats are placed at close intervals ; masses of greenery are grouped here and there, and the effect is very picturesque, but it is far from comfortable to be obliged to walk about on the gravel and sand in order to study the marbles. One finds an easier if a less heroic way, by studying the sculpture from the balcony above with the aid of an opera-glass. Taking the sculptures in this fashion, there is truly a royal road to viewing the Salons, for two elevators are in service from the lower to the upper balconies, on which all the galleries for pictures open, and one can even make the tour of these in a wheel-chair if he is so disposed. The galleries opening on the lower terrace are used for the exposition of rugs, tapestries, aquarelles, pastels and drawings. The upper galleries are richly carpeted, with an abundance of sofas and fauteuils, and they open into one another so that from Salle I to Salle XLIV one makes a continuous tour, and from the last gallery of one Salon the visitor passes, through another official portal, into the first gallery of the other. The softly tinted walls show the works to advantage ; the light is admirable ; the rooms are full of beautifully dressed women, and men who are ” turned out ” with the same perfection of detail. Every-thing contributes to a most agreeable atmosphere. Everything delights one. The visitors have all that exquisite grace of courtesy that characterizes the high breeding of France. Conversation is carried on in softly modulated tones. The voices are those of cultivated and refined people. One may pass hours in these galleries without undue fatigue. Both Salons (the Société Nationale and the Société des Artistes Français) have their galleries in this Grand Palais, that rises, a stately structure of white marble, from the green garden in which it is set. There is an excellent restaurant, there is the balcony on which friends may sit and talk, and every convenience, indeed, is met.
For years past it has been the ” new ” Salon (the Nationale) that carried off the honors. That can hardly be said of its 1908 exposition, fine as it was. For the ” old ” one (the Artistes Français) was a perfect dream of color. The artists, many of them, fairly painted the air. Their work is luminous. In it the sun shines, the trees wave in the wind, and flowers offer their fragrance. There are views of a deep inlet from a blue sea with the sun shining on rocks in the water ; there are sunsets such as no painter ever dared to put on canvas before; there are large decorative paintings, where, in the azure of infinite space, angels are floating. There are scenes ethereal and terrestrial in this wonderful array. Many of the pictures seen displayed the legend, ” Commanded by the State.” For the French government concerns itself effectually with things artistic, giving constant practical recognition and aid. It is no wonder that art flourishes in Paris. Every possible recognition and advantage are given to further its progress. With the forty-six galleries of the ” old ” Salon and some forty-two or more of the new ” the tour of the galleries is no slight effort, yet so luxuriously bountiful is the entire arrangement that the progress is a perpetual delight. Never were exhibitions of pictures made so perfect in all appointments as in this Grand Palais in the Champs Élysées.
The sculpture garden of 1908 revealed varied and important work. There was a statue of Hugo, posed standing on the edge of a rock, his left hand holding a cane, with his hat on the top of his stick, his coat skirts blown by the wind, his face bent downward as if in deep meditation. A statue of a soldier fallen in the snow; lying dead, the snow partly covering him, was a work of great technical power. A statue of Night, personified as a female figure, is wonderful, in that it seemed a night that holds all the promise and prophecy of the dawn.
Glancing at this beautiful creation one could not but recall Bayard Taylor’s impressive lines in his ” Poet’s Journal,”
” Who thinks, at night, that morn will ever be ? Who knows, far out upon the central sea, That anywhere is land ? And yet, a shore Has set behind us, and will rise before.”
So this statue of Night seemed to bid one to be of good cheer, to realize that in the darkest midnight glows the promise of the dawn ; that, as the poet assures us,
” A past foretells a future.”
So one gazed at this Night and went his way with renewed courage and more abiding faith.
Heathcote Stathain, in a critical review of the sculpture in the French Salons for 1908, says:
” Among works which may be singled out for special attention at the Salon is the Trarieux monument by M. Jean-Boucher (who has hyphened his name to distinguish him . better from his gifted namesake Alfred Boucher, and now appears under ` J ‘ in the catalogue), a great group apparently incomplete there should evidently be a portrait bust on the stele where a lady of noble pose leads up a child to look at the memorial ; it is a modern figure, but the sculptor has contrived to give it true sculpturesque dignity. M. Alfred Boucher’s group
Humanité,’ part of an intended monument, is abstract sculpture, the effect of which is a little marred by the patchwork semi-gilt surface of the plaster model; it is in fact rather a large sketch than a finished work. A feature in the sculpture collection is the presence of two couple of large works for open-air decoration : the two groups of stags by M. Gardet, to flank the entrance to the Bois de Boulogne at the Porte Dauphine, and two colossal bronze draped figures by M. Frémiet, to be placed in the square of the Carrousel. Among the ideal subjects M. Charpentier’s ` L’OEuvre ‘ is one of the finest. Among the monuments is a fine one to Watteau by M. Lombard ; the portrait bust of the painter on a stele, to which a garland is offered by a woman in the costume and style of the female figures in his own pictures ; and a charming one by M. Pech to Perrault, author of the ` Contes des Fées,’ around whose figure delighted children dance in a ring. A remarkable instance of versatility is shown in the two works by M. Picaud, close to each other : one a nude, ` La Vague,’ the rather overworked idea of a female figure tumbled over on the beach by a wave, but a beautiful piece of work of its kind ; the other a relief in stone entitled ` Pauvres Gens,’ a pathetic group of a realistic peasant woman and her boy seated together. Each is equally thorough in its way, and no one looking at the two works would be likely to guess that they were from the same hand. But to mention all the works in sculpture that are of special interest would be impossible.
” And then what encouragement sculpture enjoys, too, in France ! one practical reason, no doubt, for its immense vitality. In this year’s Salon the placard Acquis par l’Etat or Commandé par l’Etat meets the eye at every turn. The French government must have spent many thousands of pounds in the purchase of works in sculpture from this year’s exhibition alone.
” The immense collection of sculpture in the central court of the Salon is as astonishing as ever in its extent and variety of interest, though it does not contain so many works of the highest order as in some former years, and there is a certain evidence of restlessness and striving after effects which are not properly sculpturesque. M. Ségoffin’s ` Le Temps et le Génie,’ for instance (a State commission for the square of the Louvre), a symbolical bronze group in which Genius in full flight has overturned Time, is a kind of subject only fitted for representation in painting ; the flying figure of Genius, only supported in the air by the drapery which trails after him, is entirely wanting in the stability which should characterize a group of sculpture. M. Mercié has contented himself this year with a piece of genre sculpture, ` La Bourrée,’ danced by a peasant girl in sabots ; pretty and vivacious.”
Over the medallion bust of a man, a strange, fantastic figure reaches out a menacing hand a conception as curious as it is admirable in technique. Among the pictures, M. Lhermitte has a great landscape, where the family and friends of a laborer are resting after the day’s toil in the shadow of tall hayricks, while near there stand a pair of oxen, that seem fairly to breathe, so lifelike are they.
M. Charles Cottet’s picture ” Au Pays de la Mer Douleur,” is one of the deepest human tenderness and sorrow. On a rude trestle on the shore is the body of a man cast up by the waves, while over him bend his anguished wife and his weeping mother. The serious faces of the men and the grief of the women are so vividly pictured that no one can look at this work unmoved.
René Ménard’s ” The Appian Way ” is a veritable classic, and no Italian master, or Poussin or Corot, could more charmingly reveal this view of the pine tree against the blue Roman sky, the old ruins with the massive stones, the splendid space of the Campagna, and the dark, grim row of cypresses in the middle distance. It has the very air of Rome, and shows that M. Ménard is the classicist by nature. There is nothing artificial in this picture.
M. Lucien Simon has distinguished himself anew in that lofty and exquisite composition, ” Cérémonie Réligieuse dans la Cathédrale d’Assise.” So perfect is every detail of the drawing and the richness of color, that one is fairly transported back into the cathedral of the city of Saint Francis. The lofty arches of the ancient basilica are seen indistinctly in the quivering lights which the faint daylight and the candles of the altar unite to produce ; the sense of silence and of solemnity in the interior is felt.
” The fair white chasubles, so admirably painted, the brass work, the marble, the mosaics, the choir boys’ surplices — all go to make up a magnificent symphony of color, wherein every-thing is rightly disposed, and every note rings perfectly true. One realizes that the artist has experienced a real emotion, and the sense of grandeur aroused in one’s mind marks an advance beyond that tendency to a certain virtuosity which was to be noticed in his ` La Messe ‘ of last year.”
An English critic remarks that of paintings ” which commemorate historic scenes there is an unusual dearth in this year’s Salon ; indeed, there are only two worth mention : M. Faivre’s rather powerful and dramatic painting of the death of Madame de Lamballe, which is like a page out of Carlyle, and M. Jacquier’s of the burning of the captured standards in the courtyard of the Invalides before the entrance of the conquering armies into Paris in 1814, of which, to say truth, more might have been made. But there are some very interesting smaller works dealing with episodes in real life : the ` Diabolo ‘ of M. Kowalsky (who, in spite of his name, is a-born Parisian), a beautiful girl playing with the fashionable toy in a sunlit meadow, a picture full of grace and brightness ; M. Jules Lefèbvre’s pathetic little work ` Abandonnée ; ‘ and a very fine work by M. Hirschfield (a Russian by birth but the pupil of three great French painters), ` L’Aveu ‘ figures of an old and a young lady seated in twilight beneath some trees, the action of the two expressing a moment of strong emotion ; no realism of detail ; the whole is kept in a subdued tone in which nothing obtrudes to interfere with the main interest of the picture. Pathetic, too, is a work by a Budapest artist, M. Szenes, ` Mea Culpa,’ a girl seated alone in a wood, with a tragic expression of remorse on her face. A very small interior by M. Lecomte, ` Seule,’ is one of the finest things of this class in the exhibition. It represents a dimly lighted room with a huge state bed and a lady alone in it ; it might have been suggested by Marcel Prévost’s Mariage de Juliette,’ and ` le grand lit Louis Quinze,’ only it is rather too serious for that. It is a fine little picture, reminding one of some of the small interiors by Fantin-Latour.”
The three works from M. Ignacio Zuloaga are curiously individual and, as Henri Franz well says of two of these, “Zuloaga has chosen to conjure up two nightmare visions. In one of these pictures, wherein everything is startling and abnormal, even to the greenish background of the ancient walls of Segovia, Zuloaga who, like all the painters of the Spanish School, is addicted to painting dwarfs presents a monster of this sort, with bestial face and sightless eye, bearing a couple of inflated wine-skins, these legless, shapeless hides, monstrous in themselves, flanking the dwarf left and right. Above is a strange, unnatural sky, completing the night-mare impression intended by the painter. The picture beside it depicts a group of cadaverous-featured witches, with lack-lustre eyes and bony hands, their faces stamped with all the misdeeds and crimes imaginable denizens evidently of the most abominable haunts of Segovia. Then to these two strange productions Zuloaga has added a third,” continues M. Franz, ” one full of seductive grace a portrait of Mme. Bréval in the second act of `Carmen,’ draped with a shawl marvellously treated, and standing in the strong glare of the footlights, with the background of the picture palely illuminated. It is a very fine work, worthy to rank with the famous productions by this painter which adorn the great galleries of Europe.”
A small picture, ” Le Repas du Soir,” by Joseph Bail, is of interest in showing the painter’s skilful treatment of light in an interior, where a group of people sit around a table with shaded lamps illuminating the scene.
The picture of Jean Paul Laurens, ” Homage â Beethoven;” lacks little of being the popular picture of the year, if one may judge by the crowds continually surrounding it. The scene shows an orchestra playing the ” Ninth Symphony ” of the master. The effect of all the heads bent over the music-stands is rather fascinating in its simplicity, and one imagines one can hear the grand inspiration of the musician passing over them. Next to this M. Laurens paints a vision of his own. At the end of the orchestra he has depicted a statue of Beethoven, which is well treated. All the great figures of Beethoven’s works are being whirled heaven-wards in a harmonious garland, and the sweep of movement, the harmony of color, are very effective.
From Henri Martin is a great decorative work of an Italian landscape with olive trees, the multiplicity of shades of green painted with all the magic of M. Martin’s touch. The sub-lime Jura landscape by M. Pointelin, and the lovely children frolicking on the beach by Mme. Demont-Breton are both interesting. Two portraits from Léon Bonnat, one of a woman gowned in scarlet subdued by bands of sable, the other of a French diplomat, sustain the artist’s reputation as the official painter of the ” élégances de la Troisième République.”
If the Salons are not enriched by any work from M. Claude Monet, the reason may lie in the fact that the artist decided that his canvases were not worthy of his ideal visions, and in a few hours, with a knife and brush, he destroyed every one of them.
These pictures constituted a series of important studies of reflections in water, under changing light effects, a marvellous work to attempt, and to his own critical exactions the result scored a failure. M. Claude Monet’s canvases usually bring high prices, and five to ten thousand dollars is no uncommon figure to be paid for them.
There is a distinctively new note in the Salons of this year, a new phase of representation a new kind of realism of which the first impression is horror, and the succeeding one a glimmer of recognition of a certain scientific significance in those portrayals. The earth, the air, the sea – and humanity, have given up their secrets to the artist. He has surprised science in her wonderful processes. In a picture called ” The X-Ray ” is seen the interior of a hospital. A woman with her body nude to the waist lies on a narrow white bed. On an apparatus near are curious and complicated appliances of electrical science, and by her side stands the physician, his watch in his hand, watching the wonderful ray of light and counting the minutes, the seconds, of its application. The artist has suggested in the man’s face the sensitive refinement and the indomitable will power of the specialist. The subtle and fine modelling of the head is almost sculpturesque. The poise reveals the character of the scientific thinker. Although, at a superficial glance, it is a repulsive picture, the more serious study reveals its greatness as a commentary on science as applied to human need in the evolutionary progress of man.
Frederic Bridgman was represented by two of his characteristically Oriental canvases. Mr. Bridgman’s studio was formerly one of the most interesting of artistic interiors ; but he has now left the French capital for a sojourn in Algiers. There was a vestibule containing Renaissance sculptures, angels from Donatello, and casts, opening into an Oriental room, with mosaic pavement, Moorish lamps, Indian tapestries and bas-reliefs from Egypt. In the Greek room was a frieze of black and terra cotta reproduced from Etruscan vases. The music-room had been made by Mr. Bridgman’s exquisite taste a very shrine of the lyric art.
The studio of Walter Gay in the Rue Ampère is another of special claim among those of American artists in Paris, and his château at Le Breau offers many a subject for sketches and paintings, of which several artists have availed themselves. Mr. Gay’s noted picture, ” Bénédicité,” which was exhibited at the Salon of 1888, was purchased by the state and is now in the Luxembourg.
In the sculpture section of the ” New ” Salon for 1908, M. Auguste Rodin exposes three works that, as usual, baffle the average visitor. By the catalogue one learns that they are ” Orphée,” ” Triton et Néréide ” and ” Muse ; but as shapeless blocks, for the most part, leaving their significance largely to the imagination, they excel, and may stimulate all the activities of fancy.
The spring Salons are a feature of universal interest in Paris life. Every one visits them, and returns again and again. The works are discussed in all grades of life, from the ceremonial dinner to the casual meeting of workmen in the street. Long lines of motor cars wait before the portals of the Grand Palais des Beaux Arts, and the beautiful galleries offer the most typical scenes of Parisian life.