Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Since Cézanne
Author: Bell, Clive, 1881-1964
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Since Cézanne" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



[Illustration: (_Photo: E. Druet_) CÉZANNE]

SINCE CÉZANNE

BY

CLIVE BELL



ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Most of these Essays appeared in THE NEW REPUBLIC and THE ATHENAEUM:
some, however, are reprinted from THE BURLINGTON MAGAZINE, THE NEW
STATESMAN, and ART AND DECORATION. I take this opportunity of thanking
the editors of all.

C.B.



CONTENTS

  I. Since Cézanne
  II. The Artistic Problem
  III. The Douanier Rousseau
  IV. Cézanne
  V. Renoir
  VI. Tradition and Movements
  VII. Matisse and Picasso
  VIII. The Place of Art in Art Criticism
  IX. Bonnard
  X. Duncan Grant
  XI. Negro Sculpture
  XII. Order and Authority (1 and 2)
  XIII. Marquet
  XIV. Standards
  XV. Criticism:
  1. First thoughts
  2. Second thoughts
  3. Last thoughts
  XVI. Othon Friesz
  XVII. Wilcoxism
  XVIII. Art and Politics

  XIX. The Authority of M. Derain
  XX. "Plus de Jazz"

ILLUSTRATIONS

  _CÉZANNE_
  _SEURAT_
  _MATISSE_
  _PICASSO_
  _BONNARD_
  _DUNCAN GRANT_
  _OTHON FRIESZ_
  _DERAIN_



[Illustration: (_Photo: E. Druet_) SEURAT]

SINCE CÉZANNE

With anyone who concludes that this preliminary essay is merely to
justify the rather appetizing title of my book I shall be at no pains to
quarrel. If privately I think it does more, publicly I shall not avow
it. Historically and critically, I admit, the thing is as slight as a
sketch contained in five-and-thirty pages must be, and certainly it adds
nothing to what I have said, in the essays to which it stands preface,
on æsthetic theory. The function it is meant to perform--no very
considerable one perhaps--is to justify not so much the title as the
shape of my book, giving, in the process, a rough sketch of the period
with certain aspects of which I am to deal. That the shape needs
justification is attributable to the fact that though all, or nearly
all, the component articles were written with a view to making one
volume, I was conscious, while I wrote them, of dealing with two
subjects. Sometimes I was discussing current ideas, and questions
arising out of a theory of art; at others I was trying to give some
account of the leading painters of the contemporary movement. Sometimes
I was writing of Theory, sometimes of Practice. By means of this preface
I hope to show why, at the moment, these two, far from being distinct,
are inseparable.

To understand thoroughly the contemporary movement--that movement in
every turn and twist of which the influence of Cézanne is traceable--the
movement which may be said to have come into existence contemporaneously
almost with the century, and still holds the field--it is necessary to
know something of the æsthetic theories which agitated it. One of the
many unpremeditated effects of Cézanne's life and work was to set
artists thinking, and even arguing. His practice challenged so sharply
all current notions of what painting should be that a new generation,
taking him for master, found itself often, much to its dismay, obliged
to ask and answer such questions as "What am I doing?" "Why am I doing
it?" Now such questions lead inevitably to an immense query--"What is
Art?" The painters began talking, and from words sprang deeds. Thus it
comes about that in the sixteen or seventeen years which have elapsed
since the influence of Cézanne became paramount theory has played a part
which no critic or historian can overlook. It is because to-day that
part appears to be dwindling, because the influence of theory is growing
less, that the moment is perhaps not inopportune for a little book such
as this is meant to be. It comes, if I am right, just when the movement
is passing out of its first into the second phase.

During this first phase theory has been much to the fore. But it has
been theory, you must remember, working on a generation of direct and
intensely personal artists. In so curious an alliance you will expect
to find as much stress as harmony; also, you must remember, its
headquarters were at Paris where flourishes the strongest and most vital
tradition of painting extant. In this great tradition some of the more
personal artists, struggling against the intolerable exactions of
doctrine, have found powerful support; indeed, only with its aid have
they succeeded at last in securing their positions as masters who,
though not disdaining to pay homage for what they hold from the new
theories, are as independent as feudal princes. But the more I consider
the period the more this strange and restless alliance of doctrine
with temperament appears to be of its essence; wherefore, I shall not
hesitate to make of it a light wherewith to take a hasty look about me.
Here are two labels ready to hand--"temperamental" and "doctrinaire."
I am under no illusion as to the inadequacy and fallibility of both;
neither shall I imagine that, once applied, they are bound to stick.
On the contrary, you will see, in a later chapter, how, having dubbed
Matisse "temperamental" and Picasso "theorist," I come, on examination,
to find in the art of Matisse so much science and in that of Picasso
such extraordinary sensibility that in the end I am much inclined to
pull off the labels and change them about. But though, for purposes
of criticism coarse and sometimes treacherous, this pair of
opposites--which are really quite compatible--may prove two useful
hacks. As such I accept them; and by them borne along I now propose to
make a short tour of inspection, one object of which will be to indicate
broadly the lie of the land, another to call attention to a number of
interesting artists whose names happen not to have come my way in any
other part of this book.

I said, and I suppose no one will deny it, that Paris was the centre
of the movement: from Paris, therefore, I set out. There the movement
originated, there it thrives and develops, and there it can best be seen
and understood. Ever since the end of the seventeenth century France has
taken the lead in the visual arts, and ever since the early part of
the nineteenth Paris has been the artistic capital of Europe. Thither
painters of all foreign nations have looked; there many have worked, and
many more have made a point of showing their works. Anyone, therefore,
who makes a habit of visiting Paris, seeing the big exhibitions, and
frequenting dealers and studios, can get a pretty complete idea of what
is going on in Europe. There he will find Picasso--the animator [A] of
the movement--and some of the best of his compatriots, Juan Gris and
Marie Blanchard for instance, to say nothing of such fashionable figures
as MM. Zuloaga _et_ Sert. There he will find better Dutchmen than Van
Dongen, and an active colony of Scandinavians the most interesting of
whom is probably Per Krohg. The career of Krohg, by the way, is worth
considering for a moment and watching for the future. Finely gifted
in many ways, he started work under three crippling disabilities--a
literary imagination, natural facility, and inherited science. The
results were at first precisely what might have been expected. Now,
however, he is getting the upper hand of his unlucky equipment; and his
genuine talent and personal taste, beginning to assert themselves, have
made it impossible for criticism any longer to treat him merely as
an amiable member of a respectable group. What is true of Spain and
Scandinavia is even truer of Poland and what remains of Russia.
Goncharova and Larionoff--the former a typically temperamental artist,
the latter an extravagantly doctrinaire one--Soudeikine, Grigorieff,
Zadkine live permanently in Paris; while Kisling, whom I take to be the
best of the Poles, has become so completely identified with the country
in which he lives, and for which he fought, that he is often taken by
English critics for a Frenchman. Survage (with his eccentric but sure
sense of colour), Soutine (with his delicious paint), and Marcoussis (a
cubist of great merit) each, in his own way, working in Paris, adds to
the artistic reputation of his native country. In the rue La Boëtie you
can see the work of painters and sculptors from every country in Europe
almost, and from a good many in Africa. The Italian Futurists have
often made exhibitions there. While the work of Severini--their
most creditable representative--is always to be found _chez_ Léonce
Rosenberg, hard by in the rue de la Baume.

[Footnote A: For this word, which I think very happily suggests
Picasso's role in contemporary painting, I am indebted to my friend M.
André Salmon.]

However, most of the Futurists have retired to their own country, where
we will leave them. On the other hand, the most gifted Italian painter
who has appeared this century, Modigliani, was bred on the Boulevard
Montparnasse. In the movement he occupies an intermediate position,
being neither of the pioneers nor yet of the post-war generation. He was
not much heard of before the war, [B] and he died less than a year after
peace was signed. In my mind, therefore, his name is associated with
the war--then, at any rate, was the hour of his glory; he dominated the
cosmopolitan groups of his quarter at a time when most of the French
painters, masters and disciples, were in the trenches. Modigliani owed
something to Cézanne and a great deal to Picasso: he was no doctrinaire:
towards the end he became the slave of a formula of his own
devising--but that is another matter. Modigliani had an intense
but narrow sensibility, his music is all on one string: he had a
characteristically Italian gift for drawing beautifully with ease: and I
think he had not much else. I feel sure that those who would place him
amongst the masters of the movement--Matisse, Picasso, Derain, Bonnard,
and Friesz--mistake; for, with all his charm and originality, he was too
thoughtless and superficial to achieve greatly. He invented something
which he went on repeating; and he could always fascinate simply by
his way of handling a brush or a pencil. His pictures, delightful and
surprising at first sight, are apt to grow stale and, in the end, some
of them, unbearably thin. A minor artist, surely.

[Footnote B: He was at work, however, by 1906--perhaps earlier.]

Though Paris is unquestionably the centre of the movement, no one who
sees only what comes thither and to London--and that is all I see--can
have much idea of what is going on in Germany and America. Germany has
not yet recommenced sending her art in quantities that make judgement
possible, while it is pretty clear that the American art which reaches
Europe is by no means the best that America can do. From both come
magazines with photographs which excite our curiosity, but on such
evidence it would be mere impertinence to form an opinion. Of
contemporary art in Germany and America I shall say nothing. And what
shall I say of the home-grown article? Having taken Paris for my point
of view, I am excused from saying much. Not much of English art is seen
from Paris. We have but one living painter whose work is at all well
known to the serious amateurs of that city, and he is Sickert. [C] The
name, however, of Augustus John is often pronounced, ill--for they
_will_ call him Augustin--and that of Steer is occasionally murmured.
Through the _salon d'automne_ Roger Fry is becoming known; and there is
a good deal of curiosity about the work of Duncan Grant, and some about
that of Mark Gertler and Vanessa Bell. Now, of these, Sickert and Steer
are essentially, and in no bad sense, provincial masters. They are
belated impressionists of considerable merit working in a thoroughly
fresh and personal way on the problems of a bygone age. In the remoter
parts of Europe as late as the beginning of the seventeenth century
were to be found genuine and interesting artists working in the Gothic
tradition: the existence of Sickert and Steer made us realize how far
from the centre is London still. On the Continent such conservatism
would almost certainly be the outcome of stupidity or prejudice; but
both Sickert and Steer have still something of their own to say about
the world seen through an impressionist temperament. The prodigious
reputation enjoyed by Augustus John is another sign of our isolation.
His splendid talent when, as a young man, he took it near enough the
central warmth to make it expand (besides the influence of Puvis,
remember, it underwent that of Picasso) began to bear flowers of
delicious promise. Had he kept it there John might never have tasted the
sweets of insular renown: he would have had his place in the history of
painting, however. The French know enough of Vorticism to know that it
is a provincial and utterly insignificant contrivance which has borrowed
what it could from Cubism and Futurism and added nothing to either. They
like to fancy that the English tradition is that of Gainsborough and
Constable, quite failing to realize what havoc has been made of
this admirable plastic tradition by that puerile gospel of literary
pretentiousness called Pre-Raphaelism. Towards these mournful quags and
quicksands, with their dead-sea flora of anecdote and allegory, the best
part of the little talent we produce seems irresistibly to be drawn: by
these at last it is sucked down. That, at any rate, is the way that most
of those English artists who ten or a dozen years ago gave such good
promise have gone. Let us hope better of the new generation--recent
exhibitions afford some excuse--a generation which, if reactionarily
inclined, can always take Steer for a model, or, if disposed to keep
abreast of the times and share in the heritage of Cézanne as well as
that of Constable, can draw courage from the fact that there is, after
all, one English painter--Duncan Grant--who takes honourable rank beside
the best of his contemporaries.

[Footnote C: The Irish painter O'Conor, and the Canadian Morrice, are
both known and respected in Paris; but because they have lived their
lives there and known none but French influences they are rarely thought
of as British. In a less degree the same might be said of that admirable
painter George Barne.]

It is fifteen years since Cézanne died, and only now is it becoming
possible to criticize him. That shows how overwhelming his influence
was. The fact that at last his admirers and disciples, no longer under
any spell or distorting sense of loyalty, recognize that there are in
painting plenty of things worth doing which he never did is all to the
good. It is now possible to criticize him seriously; and when all his
insufficiencies have been fairly shown he remains one of the very
greatest painters that ever lived. The serious criticism of Cézanne is
a landmark in the history of the movement, and still something of a
novelty; for, naturally, I reckon the vulgar vituperation with which his
work was greeted, and the faint praise with which it was subsequently
damned, as no criticism at all. The hacks and pedagogues and
middle-class metaphysicians who abused him, and only when it dawned on
them that they were making themselves silly, in the eyes of their
own flock even, took to patronizing, are forgot. They babble in the
Burlington Fine Arts Club--where nobody marks them--and have their
reward in professorships and the direction of public galleries. The
criticism that matters, of which we are beginning to hear something,
comes mostly from painters, his ardent admirers, who realize that
Cézanne attempted things which he failed to achieve and deliberately
shunned others worth achieving. Also, they realize that there is always
a danger of one good custom corrupting the world.

Cézanne is the full-stop between impressionism and the contemporary
movement. Of course there is really no such thing as a full-stop in art
any more than there is in nature. Movement grows out of movement, and
every artist is attached to the past by a thousand binders springing
from a thousand places in the great stem of tradition. But it is true
that there is hardly one modern artist of importance to whom Cézanne is
not father or grandfather, and that no other influence is comparable
with his. To be sure there is Seurat, of whom we shall hear more in the
next ten years. Although he died as long ago as 1891 his importance
has not yet been fully realized, his discoveries have not been fully
exploited, not yet has his extraordinary genius received adequate
recognition. Seurat may be the Giorgione of the movement. Working in
isolation and dying young, he is known to us only by a few pictures
which reveal unmistakeable and mysterious genius; but I should not be
surprised if from the next generation he were to receive honours equal
almost to those paid Cézanne.

The brave _douanier_ was hardly master enough to have great and enduring
influence; nevertheless, the sincerity of his vision and directness of
his method reinforced and even added to one part of the lesson taught
by Cézanne: also, it was he who--by his pictures, not by doctrine of
course--sent the pick of the young generation to look at the primitives.
Such as it was, his influence was a genuinely plastic one, which is
more, I think, than can be said for that of Gauguin or of Van Gogh. The
former seemed wildly exciting for a moment, partly because he flattened
out his forms, designed in two dimensions, and painted without
chiaroscuro in pure colours, but even more because he had very much the
air of a rebel. "Il nous faut les barbares," said André Gide; "il nous
faut les barbares," said we all. Well, here was someone who had gone
to live with them, and sent home thrilling, and often very beautiful,
pictures which could, if one chose, be taken as challenges to European
civilization. To a considerable extent the influence of Gauguin was
literary, and therefore in the long run negligible. It is a mistake on
that account to suppose--as many seem inclined to do--that Gauguin was
not a fine painter.

Van Gogh was a fine painter, too; but his influence, like that of
Gauguin, has proved nugatory--a fact which detracts nothing from the
merit of his work. He was fitted by his admirers into current social
and political tendencies, and coupled with Charles-Louis Philippe as an
apostle of sentimental anarchy. Sentimental portraits of washerwomen and
artisans were compared with Marie Donadieu and Bubu de Montparnasse;
and by indiscreet enthusiasm the artist was degraded to the level of a
preacher. Nor was this degradation inexcusable: Van Gogh was a preacher,
and too often his delicious and sensitive works of art are smeared over,
to their detriment, with tendencious propaganda. At his best, however,
he is a very great impressionist--a neo-impressionist, or expressionist
if you like--but I should say an impressionist much influenced and much
to the good, as was Gauguin, by acquaintance with Cézanne in his last
and most instructive phase. Indeed, it is clear that Gauguin and Van
Gogh would not have come near achieving what they did achieve--achieved,
mind you, as genuine painters--had they not been amongst the first to
realize and make use of that bewildering revelation which is the art of
Cézanne.

Of that art I am not here to speak; I am concerned only with its
influence. Taking the thing at its roughest and simplest, one may say
that the influence of Cézanne during the last seventeen years has
manifested itself most obviously in two characteristics--Directness and
what is called Distortion. Cézanne was direct because he set himself a
task which admitted of no adscititious flourishes--the creation of form
which should be entirely self-supporting and intrinsically significant,
_la possession de la forme_ as his descendants call it now. To this
great end all means were good: all that was not a means to this end was
superfluous. To achieve it he was prepared to play the oddest tricks
with natural forms--to distort. All great artists have distorted;
Cézanne was peculiar only in doing so more consciously and thoroughly
than most. What is important in his art is, of course, the beauty of his
conceptions and his power in pursuit: indifference to verisimilitude is
but the outward and visible sign of this inward and spiritual grace. For
some, however, though not for most of his followers his distortion had
an importance of its own.

To the young painters of 1904, or thereabouts, Cézanne came as the
liberator: he it was who had freed painting from a mass of conventions
which, useful once, had grown old and stiff and were now no more than so
many impediments to expression. To most of them his chief importance--as
an influence, of course--was that he had removed all unnecessary
barriers between what they felt and its realization in form. It was
his directness that was thrilling. But to an important minority the
distortions and simplifications--the reduction of natural forms to
spheres, cylinders, cones, etc.--which Cézanne had used as means were
held to be in themselves of consequence because capable of fruitful
development. From them it was found possible to deduce a theory of
art--a complete æsthetic even. Put on a fresh track by Cézanne's
practice, a group of gifted and thoughtful painters began to speculate
on the nature of form and its appeal to the æsthetic sense, and not to
speculate only, but to materialize their speculations. The greatest
of them, Picasso, invented Cubism. If I call these artists who forged
themselves a theory of form and used it as a means of expression
Doctrinaires it is because to me that name bears no disparaging
implication and seems to indicate well enough what I take to be their
one common characteristic: if I call those who, without giving outward
sign (they may well have had their private speculations and systems) of
an abstract theory, appeared to use distortion when, where, and as their
immediate sensibility dictated, Fauves, that is because the word has
passed into three languages, is admirably colourless--for all its
signifying a colour--and implies the existence of a group without
specifying a peculiarity. Into Doctrinaires--Theorists if you like the
word better--and Fauves the first generation of Cézanne's descendants
could, I feel sure, be divided; whether such a division would serve any
useful purpose is another matter. What I am sure of is that to have two
such labels, to be applied when occasion requires and cancelled without
much compunction, will excellently serve mine, which may, or may not, be
useful.

I would not insist too strongly on the division; certainly at first
it was not felt to be sharp. Plenty of Fauves did their whack of
theorizing, while some of the theorists are amongst the most sensitive
and personal of the age. What I do insist on--because it explains and
excuses the character of my book--is that in this age theory has played
so prominent a part, hardly one artist of importance quite escaping its
influence, that no critic who proposes to give some account of painting
since Cézanne can be expected to overlook it: some, to be sure, may
be thought to have stared indecently. The division between Fauves and
Theorists, I was saying, in the beginning was not sharp; nevertheless,
because it was real, already in the first generation of Cézanne's
descendants the seeds of two schools were sown. Already by 1910 two
tendencies are visibly distinct; but up to 1914, though there is
divergence, there is, I think, no antipathy between them--of antipathies
between individuals I say nothing. Solidarity was imposed on the young
generation by the virulent and not over scrupulous hostility of the old;
it was _l'union sacrée_ in face of the enemy. And just as political
allies are apt to become fully alive to the divergence of their aims and
ambitions only after they have secured their position by victory, so
it was not until the new movement had been recognized by all educated
people as representative and dominant that the Fauves felt inclined to
give vent to their inevitable dislike of Doctrinaires.

Taken as a whole, the first fourteen years of the century, which my
malicious friend Jean Cocteau sometimes calls _l'époque héroïque_,
possessed most of the virtues and vices that such an epoch should
possess. It was rich in fine artists; and these artists were finely
prolific. It was experimental, and passionate in its experiments. It was
admirably disinterested. Partly from the pressure of opposition, partly
because the family characteristics of the Cézannides are conspicuous,
it acquired a rather deceptive air of homogeneity. It was inclined to
accept recruits without scrutinizing over closely their credentials,
though it is to be remembered that it kept its critical faculty
sufficiently sharp to reject the Futurists while welcoming the Cubists.
I cannot deny, however, that in that moment of enthusiasm and loyalty
we were rather disposed to find extraordinary merits in commonplace
painters. We knew well enough that a feeble and incompetent disciple of
Cézanne was just as worthless as a feeble and incompetent disciple of
anyone else--but, then, was our particular postulant so feeble after
all? Also, we were fond of arguing that the liberating influence of
Cézanne had made it possible for a mediocre artist to express a little
store of recondite virtue which under another dispensation must have
lain hid for ever. I doubt we exaggerated. We were much too kind, I
fancy, to a number of perfectly commonplace young people, and said a
number of foolish things about them. What was worse, we were unjust
to the past. That was inevitable. The intemperate ferocity of the
opposition drove us into Protestantism, and Protestantism is unjust
always. It made us narrow, unwilling to give credit to outsiders of
merit, and grossly indulgent to insiders of little or none. Certainly we
appreciated the Orientals, the Primitives, and savage art as they
had never been appreciated before; but we underrated the art of the
Renaissance and of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Also,
because we set great store by our theories and sought their implications
everywhere, we claimed kinship with a literary movement with which,
in fact, we had nothing in common. Charles-Louis Philippe and the
Unanimistes should never have been compared with the descendants
of Cézanne. Happily, when it came to dragging in Tolstoyism, and
Dostoievskyism even, and making of the movement something moral and
political almost, the connection was seen to be ridiculous and was duly
cut.

The protagonists of the heroic epoch (1904--1914 shall we say?) were
Matisse and Picasso. In modern European painting Picasso remains the
paramount influence; of modern French, however, Derain is the chief;
while Matisse, who may still be the best painter alive, has hardly any
influence at all. In these early days Derain, considerably younger than
Matisse and less precocious than Picasso, was less conspicuous than
either; yet he always held a peculiar and eminent position, with an
intellect apt for theoretical conundrums and sensibility to match that
of any Fauve and his personal genius brooding over both. About the
best known of Matisse's companions--for they were in no sense his
disciples--were, I should say, Friesz, Vlaminck, Laprade, Chabaud,
Marquet, Manguin, Puy, Delaunay, Rouault, Girieud, Flandrin. I think I
am justified in describing all these, with the exception, perhaps, of
Girieud and Flandrin, as Fauves; assuredly I have heard them all so
described. In very early days Maurice Denis was by some reckoned a
chief, the equal almost of Matisse; but through sloppy sentiment he fell
into mere futility, and by now has quite dropped out. Friesz, on the
other hand, has gone ahead, and is to-day one of the half-dozen leaders:
I shall have a good deal to say about him in a later part of this book.
Vlaminck a few years ago had the misfortune to learn a recipe for
making attractive and sparkling pictures; he is now, I understand, in
retirement trying to unlearn it. Rouault is a very interesting artist of
whom we see little; from what I have seen I should be inclined to fear
that a taste for romance and drama is too often suffered to smother
his remarkable gift for painting. Marquet, with gifts equal to almost
anything, is content, it seems, to remain a brilliant but superficial
impressionist. Puy is a thoroughly sound artist, and so in a smaller way
is Manguin. What has become of Chabaud, who was a bit too clever, and
a little vulgar even? And what of Delaunay? And of Flandrin--what has
become of him? Something sufficiently interesting, at any rate, to give
pause even to a critic in a hurry. His name must not go by unmarked.
Flandrin was amongst the first to rebel against Impressionism--against
that impressionism, I mean, which remained implicit in
post-impressionism. Resolutely he set his face against the prevailing
habit of expressing an aspect of things, and tried hard to make a
picture. So far he has succeeded imperfectly: but he is still trying.

Of one artist who is certainly no Doctrinaire, nor yet, I think, a
Fauve, but who has been influenced by Cézanne, I shall here do myself
the honour of pronouncing the name. Aristide Maillol is so obviously
the best sculptor alive that to people familiar with his work there
is something comic about those discussions in which are canvassed the
claims of Mestrovic and Epstein, Archipenko and Bourdelle. These have
their merits; but Maillol is a great artist. He works in the classical
tradition, modified by Cézanne, thanks largely to whom, I imagine, he
has freed himself from the impressionism--the tiresome agitation and
emphasis--of Rodin. He has founded no school; but one pupil of his,
Gimon--a very young sculptor--deserves watching. From the doctrine a
small but interesting school of sculpture has come: Laurens, an artist
of sensibility and some power, and Lipsitz are its most admired
representatives. At home we have Epstein and Dobson; both have been
through the stern school of abstract construction, and Epstein has
emerged the most brilliant _pasticheur_ alive. Brancuzi (a Bohemian) is,
I should say, by temperament more Fauve than Doctrinaire. Older than
most of Cézanne's descendants, he has nevertheless been profoundly
influenced by the master; but the delicacy of his touch, which gives
sometimes to his modelling almost the quality of Wei sculpture, he
learnt from no one--such things not being taught. Gaudier Brzcska, a
young French sculptor of considerable promise, was killed in the early
months of the war. He had been living in England, where his work,
probably on account of its manifest superiority to most of what was seen
near it, gained an exaggerated reputation. The promise was indisputable;
but, after seeing the Leicester Gallery exhibition, I came to the
conclusion that there was not much else. Indeed, his drawings often
betrayed so superficial a facility, such a turn for calligraphic
dexterities, that one began to wonder whether even in expecting much
one had not been over sanguine. The extravagant reputation enjoyed
by Gaudier in this country will perhaps cross the mind of anyone who
happens to read my essay on Wilcoxism: native, or even resident, geese
look uncommonly like swans on home waters: to see them as they are you
should see them abroad.

Bonnard and Vuillard, unlike Aristide Maillol, though being sensitive
and intelligent artists who make the most of whatever serves their turn
they have taken what they wanted from the atmosphere in which they work,
are hardly to be counted of Cézanne's descendants. Rather are they
children of the great impressionists who, unlike the majority of their
surviving brothers and sisters, instead of swallowing the impressionist
doctrine whole, just as official painters do the academic, have modified
it charmingly to suit their peculiar temperaments. Not having swallowed
the poker, they have none of those stiff and static habits which
characterize the later generations of their family. They are free and
various; and Bonnard is one of the greatest painters alive. Mistakenly,
he is supposed to have influenced Duncan Grant; but Duncan Grant, at
the time when he was painting pictures which appear to have certain
affinities with those of Bonnard, was wholly unacquainted with the work
of that master. On the other hand, it does seem possible that Vuillard
has influenced another English painter, Miss Ethel Sands: only, in
making attributions of influence one cannot be too careful. About
direct affiliations especially, as this case shows, one should never
be positive. It is as probable that Miss Sands has been influenced by
Sickert, who has much in common with Vuillard, as by Vuillard himself;
and most probable of all, perhaps, that the three have inherited from
a common ancestor something which each has developed and cultivated as
seemed to him or her best. _La recherche de la paternité_ was ever an
exciting but hazardous pastime: if Bonnard and Vuillard, in their turn,
are claimed, as they sometimes are, for descendants of Renoir, with
equal propriety Sickert may be claimed for Degas. And it is worth
noting, perhaps, as a curious fact, that in the matter of influence this
is about as much as at the moment can be claimed for either of these
masters. Both Renoir and Degas lived well on into the period of which I
am writing; but though both were admired, the former immensely, neither
up to the present has had much direct influence on contemporary
painting.

From 1908--I choose that year to avoid all risk of ante-dating--there
existed side by side, and apparently in alliance, with the Fauves a
school of theoretical painters. Of Cubism I have said my say elsewhere:
if I have some doubts as to whether, as a complete theory of painting,
it has a future, I have none that what it has already achieved is
remarkable. Also, I recognize its importance as a school of experiments,
some of which are sure to bear fruit and leave a mark on history. Of
the merits of many of its professors I say nothing, because they are
manifest and admitted. Picasso stands apart: he is the inventor and most
eminent exponent, yet I refuse to call him Cubist because he is so many
other things. Braque, who at present confines himself to abstractions,
and to taste and sensibility adds creative power, is to my mind the
best of the bunch: while Léger, Gris, Gleizes, and Metzinger are four
painters who, if they did not limit themselves to a means of expression
which to most people is still perplexing, if not disagreeable, would be
universally acclaimed for what they are--four exceptionally inventive
artists, each possessing his own peculiar and precious sense of colour
and design.

But besides these pure doctrinaires there were a good many painters who,
without reducing their forms to geometrical abstractions, by modifying
them in accordance with Cubist theory gave a new and impressive
coherence to their compositions. Of them the best known, in England at
all events, is Jean Marchand, whose admirable work has been admired here
ever since the Grafton Galleries exhibition of 1912. Lately he has moved
away from Cubism, but has not become less doctrinaire for that. Indeed,
if I have a fault to find with his grave and masterly art it is that
sometimes it is a little wanting in sensibility and inspiration.
Marchand is so determined to paint logically and well that he seems a
little to forget that in the greatest art there is more than logic and
good painting. It is odd to remember that Lhote, who since the war has
been saluted by a band of young painters (not French for the most part,
I believe) as chief of a new and profoundly doctrinaire school which is
to reconcile Cubism with the great tradition, stood at the time of which
I am writing pretty much where Marchand stood. His undeniable gifts,
which have not failed him since, were then devoted to combining the
amusing qualities of the _imagiers_ (popular print-makers) with the new
discoveries. The results were consistently pleasing; and I will here
confess that, however little I may like some of his later preaching and
however little he may like mine, what Lhote produces in paint never
fails to arrest me and very seldom to charm. Herbin, who was another of
those who about the year 1910 were modifying natural forms in obedience
to Cubist theory, has since gone all lengths in the direction of pure
abstraction: his art is none the better for it. Valloton, so far as I
can remember, was much where Herbin was. Now apparently he aims at the
grand tragic; an aim which rarely fails to lead its votaries by way of
the grand academic. Perhaps such aspirations can express themselves only
in the consecrated formulæ of traditional rhetoric; at all events, the
last I saw of Valloton was furiously classical. [D] And for all that he
remains, what he was in the beginning, an Illustrator.

[Footnote D: His exhibits in the _salon d'automne_ of 1921, however,
suggest that he has come off his high horse.]

To me these artists all seem to be of the first generation of Cézanne's
descendants. About the dates of one or two, however, I may well be
mistaken; and so may I be when I suppose half a dozen more of whose
existence I became aware rather later--only a year or two before the
war, in fact--to be of a slightly later brood. For instance, it must
have been at the end of 1912, or the beginning of 1913, that I first
heard of Modigliani, Utrillo, Segonzac, Marie Laurencin, Luc-Albert
Moreau and Kisling, though doubtless all were known earlier to
wide-awake men on the spot. None of them can fairly be described
as doctrinaire: by that time an artist with a pronounced taste for
abstractions betook himself to Cubism almost as a matter of course. All
owe much to Cézanne--Utrillo least; Modigliani and Marie Laurencin owe
a good deal to Picasso's blue period; while Luc-Albert Moreau owes
something to Segonzac. Of the two first Modigliani is dead and Utrillo
so ill that he is unlikely ever to paint again. [E] A strange artist,
Utrillo, personal enough, just as Modigliani was handsome enough, to
satisfy the exigences of the most romantic melodrama, with a touch of
madness and an odd nostalgic passion--expressing itself in an inimitable
white--for the dank and dirty whitewash and cheap cast-iron of the
Parisian suburbs. Towards the end, when he was already very ill, he
began to concoct a formula for dealing with these melancholy scenes
which might have been his undoing. His career was of a few years only,
but those years were prolific; beginning in a rather old-fashioned,
impressionistic style, he soon found his way into the one he has made
famous. To judge his art as a whole is difficult: partly because his
early productions are not only unequal to, but positively unlike, what
he achieved later; partly because many of the Utrillos with which Paris
is overstocked were painted by someone else.

[Footnote E: With great pleasure I contradict this. According to latest
reports Utrillo is so far recovered that before long he may be painting
again.]

Perhaps the most interesting, though neither the most startling nor
seductive, of this batch is Segonzac. Like all the best things in
nature, he matures slowly and gets a little riper every day; so, as he
is already a thoroughly good painter, like the nigger of Saint-Cyr he
has but to continue. Before nature, or rather cultivation, with its
chocolate ploughed fields and bright green trees, as before the
sumptuous splendours of a naked body, his reaction is manifestly,
flatteringly, lyrical. He might have been a bucolic rhapsodist had not
his sensibility been well under the control of as sound a head as you
would expect to find on the shoulders of a gentleman of Gascony. His
emotions are kept severely in their place by rigorous concentration on
the art of painting. Nevertheless, there are critics who complain
that his compositions still tend to lack organization and his forms
definition. And perhaps they do sometimes: only in these, as in other
respects, his art improves steadily. [F]

[Footnote F: _Salon d'automne_, 1921: It has again made a big stride
forward. Segonzac is now amongst the best painters in France.]

"Sa peinture a une petite côté vicieuse qui est adorable"--I have heard
the phrase so often that I can but repeat it. Marie Laurencin's painting
is adorable; we can never like her enough for liking her own femininity
so well, and for showing all her charming talent instead of smothering
it in an effort to paint like a man; but she is not a great artist--she
is not even the best woman painter alive. She is barely as good as Dufy
(a contemporary of Picasso unless I mistake, but for many years known
rather as a decorator and illustrator than a painter in oils) who,
while he confined himself to designing for the upholsterers and making
"images," was very good indeed. His oil-paintings are another matter.
Dufy has a formula for making pictures; he has a _cliché_ for a tree, a
house, a chimney, even for the smoke coming out of a chimney. In this
way he can be sure of producing a pretty article, and, what is more, an
article the public likes.

Very different is the art of Kisling. Rarely does he produce one of
those pictures so appetizing that one fancies they must be good to eat.
What you will find in his work, besides much good painting, is a serious
preoccupation with the problem of externalizing in form an æsthetic
experience. And as, after all, that is the proper end of art his work
is treated with respect by all the best painters and most understanding
critics, though it has not yet scored a popular success. "Kisling ne
triche pas," says André Salmon.

The war did not kill the movement: none but a fool could have supposed
that it would. Nevertheless, it had one ghastly effect on contemporary
painting. When I returned to Paris in the autumn of 1919 I found the
painters whom I had known before the war developing, more or less
normally, and producing work which fell nowise short of what one had
come to expect. I saw all that there was to be seen; I admired; and then
I asked one who had already, before the war, established a style and a
reputation--I asked Friesz, I think--"Et les jeunes?" "Nous sommes les
jeunes" was the reply. Those young French painters who should have been
emerging from the ruck of students between 1914 and 1919 had either been
killed, or deflected from their career, or gravely retarded. Only now
is _la jeunesse_ beginning to give signs of vitality; only now is a new
crop coming to the surface; so now I will take the foolhardy risk of
pronouncing the names of a few who seem to me to have given proof of
undeniable talent--Gabriel-Fournier, Favory, Lotiron, Soutine, Corneau,
Durey, Monzain, Richard, Guindet, Togores, Gromaire, Alix, Halicka. I
must not be taken to assert that all of these are under thirty, or that
none was known to discerning amateurs before the war, or in its first
years at any rate. Certainly, the work of Gabriel-Fournier, Favory,
Soutine, and I think of Corneau, was known to me even, through
photographs, before the Armistice was signed. As certainly I think it
is true that all are of a later crop than Segonzac, Marie Laurencin,
Luc-Albert Moreau, etc., while Monzain, Richard, Togores, Gromaire,
Alix, Guindet, and Halicka are very young indeed. So here are a dozen
painters--most of them little known at present outside a smallish circle
of artists, critics, and inquisitive amateurs--who appear to give
promise of excellence: amongst them I should be inclined to look for the
masters of a coming age. [G]

[Footnote G: Twelve years ago I made a list of young or youngish
painters--the men of thirty or thereabouts--from whom it seemed to me
reasonable to expect great things. It included such names as Derain,
Picasso, Vlaminck, Marchand, Friesz, Maillol, Duncan Grant: one need not
be _laudator temporis acti_ to feel that the men of the new generation
are on a smaller scale. This merely confirms my often expressed notion
that the decade 1875-85 produced a prodigious quantity of greatly gifted
babies. On the other hand, if by comparison with the _salon d'automne_
of 1911 that of '2l seems unexciting, we must not fail to do justice to
the extraordinarily high level of painting that has now been attained.
And this confirms another of my pet theories--that we live in an age
comparable (so far as painting goes) with the _quattro cento_. The works
of even the smallest artists of that age enchant us now, because in that
age any man of any talent could make a picture; but doubtless at the
time critics and amateurs sighed for the first thrilling years of the
movement--for the discoveries of Masaccio and Donatello--and were quite
ready to welcome the novelties of the high renaissance when they came.
The world moves faster nowadays; already we look regretfully back to the
days when Matisse and Picasso were launching the movement, and another
high renaissance may be nearer than we suppose.]

To this list I would add, in no spirit of paradox, two names which, at
first sight, must appear singularly out of place--Camoin and Guérin.
Both were at work before the contemporary movement--the Cézanne
movement--was born or, at any rate, launched; both for a long time
seemed to be, if anything, opposed to it; both for some years lay
dormant in a chrysalis-like state to emerge recently a pair of very
interesting painters. The Camoin and the Guérin with whom I am concerned
appeared since the war; they may, of course, relapse into their former
condition: time will show. Apparently it was only three or four years
ago that Camoin realized that Matisse--his contemporary--was the master
from whom he could draw that nourishment which one good artist may very
legitimately draw from another. So nourished, he seems to have made a
fresh start; at any rate his work has now a freshness and vivacity which
in his younger days he could never impart. The case of Guérin is odder
still. A passionate admirer of Watteau, he would seem to have locked
himself up in a rather sterile devotion to the eighteenth century
master. One must suppose that there was something dead in his
appreciation, something recognized but unfelt, and therefore not really
understood. This deadness came through into his work. Lacking genuine
inspiration, struggling in consequence to impart life by tricks and
conventions, he occasionally allowed himself to tumble into downright
vulgarity. Suddenly, and without renouncing any ancient loyalty, he has
come to life. It is Watteau that inspires him still; but the essential
Watteau--Watteau the painter--not that superficies which is more or
less familiar to every hack, be he limner or penman, who dabbles in the
eighteenth century. How amusing to fancy that the just admiration now
felt for the genius of Watteau by those descendants of Cézanne who
formerly misesteemed it has somehow put Guérin himself in the way of
becoming intimate with an art he had formerly worshipped at a distance!

Though the war did not kill or even cripple the movement, since the war
there has been a change, or, at any rate, a change has become apparent.
To begin with, Picasso has, in a sense, retired from public life--from
the life of the _cafés_ and studios I mean--and in isolation works out
those problems that are for ever presenting themselves to his restless
brain. The splendid fruit of his solitude we saw last summer _chez_ Paul
Rosenberg. From time to time Picasso still paints a Cubist picture--to
keep his mind in--but he is hardly to be reckoned a Cubist, and
certainly not a pure one. Of that school, which still flourishes
(exhibiting at _la Section d'Or_ or rue de la Baume the work of Braque,
Gleizes, Léger, Metzinger, Gris, Laurens, Lipsitz, Marcoussis, Henry
Hayden, and the brilliant Irène Lagut), Picasso is the inspiration,
perhaps, but not the chief. His influence in the western world and on
foreign painters in Paris is as great as ever; but the French, slightly
vexed, maybe, at having accepted so long the leadership of a Spaniard,
show signs of turning back towards their national tradition. So, though
Picasso remains the animator of the doctrinaire school or schools,
Lhote may become the master. It is the fashion, I know, not to take his
influence seriously. No matter how clever a man he may be, Lhote--they
say--is not a big enough painter to be a chief. It may be so--I suspect
it is--yet we should not forget that, besides being intelligent and
capable of drawing more or less plausible inferences from premises of
his own choosing, Lhote can point to a practice by no means despicable.
For the rest, he is the apostle of logic and discipline, and so finds
plenty to approve in the Cubist doctrine and the French tradition from
Poussin to David. I do not know whether Bissière is to be ranked amongst
his disciples--I should think not--but Bissière, a most attractive
artist, is perhaps significant of the new tendency in that he has chosen
to express a whimsical temperament in terms of prim science. About the
science of picture-making, as the director of the National Gallery
calls it, he has little to learn. He knows the masters, the Primitives
especially, and has a way, at once logical and fantastic, of playing on
their _motifs_ which gives sometimes the happiest results. Bissière is
too fanciful and odd ever to be a _chef d'école_ or representative even;
but the very fact that, being what he is, he has chosen such means of
expression is symptomatic.

So the doctrinaire side of the movement persists, animated by Picasso,
and schooled to some extent by Lhote. The main current, however, has
found another channel; and, unless I mistake, we are already in the
second phase of the movement--a phase in which the revelations of
Cézanne and Seurat and the elaborations of their immediate descendants
will be modified and revitalized by the pressure and spirit of the great
tradition. The leader has already been chosen. Derain is the chief
of the new French school--a school destined manifestly to be less
cosmopolitan than its predecessor. The tendency towards nationalism
everywhere is unmistakeable--a consequence of the war, I suppose. It is
useless to deplore the fact or exult in it: one can but accept it as one
accepts the weather. Even England has not escaped; and it is to be noted
that our best painter, Duncan Grant, a descendant of Cézanne who has run
the whole gamut of abstract experiment, is settling down, without of
course for a moment denying his master, to exploit the French heritage,
with feet planted firmly in the English tradition--the tradition of
Gainsborough and Constable. In France, where tradition is so much
richer, its weight will confine more closely and drive more intensely
the new spirit. One new tendency--that which insists more passionately
than ever on order and organization--merely continues the impetus given
by Cézanne and received by all his followers; but another, more vague,
towards something which I had rather call humanism than humanity, does
imply, I think, a definite breach with Cubism and the tenets of the
austerer doctrinaires. It is not drama or anecdote or sentiment or
symbolism that this would bring back to the plastic arts, but rather
that mysterious yet recognizable quality in which the art of Raffael
excels--a calm, disinterested, and professional concern with the
significance of life as revealed directly in form, a faint desire,
perhaps, to touch by a picture, a building, or a simple object of use
some curious over-tone of our aesthetic sense. Deep in their quest of
that borderland beauty which is common to life and art French painters
are once again deeply concerned with life: to borrow an idea from my
next essay, they have chosen a new artistic problem. To them,
however, "life" does not mean what it means to the sentimentalists or
melodramatists, nor even precisely what it meant to the Impressionists.
Contemporary French painting has no taste for contemporary actualities.
By "life" it understands, not what is going on in the street, but--what
to be sure does go on there because it goes on everywhere--the thing
that poets used to call "the animating spark." About life, in that
sense, the painters of the new generation will, I fancy, have something
to say. They will come at it, not by drama or anecdote or symbol, but,
as all genuine artists have always come at whatever possessed their
imaginations, by plastic expression, or--if you like old-fashioned
phrases--by creating significant form. They will seek the vital
principle in all sorts of objects and translate it into forms of every
kind. That humane beauty after which Derain strives is to be found, I
said, in Raffael: it is to be found also in the Parthenon.

I think this preliminary essay should close, as it began, on a note
of humility and with an explanation. Twenty years ago, when I was an
undergraduate, I remember reading just after it was published M. Camille
Mauclair's little book on the Impressionists. Long ago I ceased much
to admire M. Mauclair's writing: his theorizing and pseudo-science now
strike me as silly, and his judgements seem lacking in perspicacity. But
whatever I may think of it now I shall not forget what I owe that book.
Even at Cambridge the spirit of the age, which is said to pervade the
air like a pestilence, had infected me; and I set out on my first
visit to Paris full of curiosity about what was then the contemporary
movement--at its last gasp. My guide was M. Mauclair; his book it was
that put me in the right way. For by bringing me acquainted with
current theories and reputations, and by throwing me into a fever of
expectation, he brought my æsthetic sensibilities to that state in which
they reacted swiftly and generously to the pictures themselves. This, as
I shall explain in another essay, is, to my mind, the proper function
of criticism. I shall never forget my first visits to the Caillebotte
collection; and in the unforgettable thrill of those first visits M.
Mauclair's bad science and erratic judgement counted for something--much
perhaps. They put me into a mood of sympathetic expectation; and such
a mood is, even for highly sensitive people, often an indispensable
preliminary to æsthetic appreciation. There are those who have got to
be made to feel something before they can begin to feel for
themselves--believe me, they are not the least sensitive or genuine of
amateurs: they are only the most honest. I should like very much to do
for even one of them what M. Mauclair did for me. It would be delightful
to believe that by putting him in the way of the best modern painting
and the theories concerning or connected with it--theories which, it
seems, for some make it more intelligible--I was giving his sensibility
a serviceable jog. Everyone, I know, must see with his own eyes and
feel through his own nerves; none can lend another eyes or emotions:
nevertheless, one can point and gesticulate and in so doing excite. If I
have done that I am content. Twenty years hence, it is to be presumed,
those who now read my writings will be saying of them what I was saying
of M. Mauclair's. The prospect does not distress me. I am not author
enough to be pained by the certainty that in ten years' time this book
will be obsolete. Like M. Mauclair's, it will have served its turn; and
I make no doubt there will be someone at hand to write another, the same
in purpose, and in execution let us hope rather neater.

We all agree now--by "we" I mean intelligent people under sixty--that a
work of art is like a rose. A rose is not beautiful because it is like
something else. Neither is a work of art. Roses and works of art are
beautiful in themselves. Unluckily, the matter does not end there: a
rose is the visible result of an infinitude of complicated goings on in
the bosom of the earth and in the air above, and similarly a work of art
is the product of strange activities in the human mind. In so far as we
are mere spectators and connoisseurs we need not bother about these;
all we are concerned with is the finished product, the work of art. To
produce the best eggs it may be that hens should be fed on hot meal
mash. That is a question for the farmer. For us what matters is the
quality of the eggs, since it is them and not hot meal mash that we
propose to eat for breakfast. Few, however, can take quite so lordly
an attitude towards art. We contemplate the object, we experience
the appropriate emotion, and then we begin asking "Why?" and "How?"
Personally, I am so conscious of these insistent questions that, at the
risk of some misunderstanding, I habitually describe works of art as
"significant" rather than "beautiful" forms. For works of art, unlike
roses, are the creations and expressions of conscious minds. I beg that
no theological red herring may here be drawn across the scent.

A work of art is an object beautiful, or significant, in itself, nowise
dependent for its value on the outside world, capable by itself of
provoking in us that emotion which we call æsthetic. Agreed. But men do
not create such things unconsciously and without effort, as they breathe
in their sleep. On the contrary, for their production are required
special energies and a peculiar state of mind. A work of art, like a
rose, is the result of a string of causes: and some of us are so vain
as to take more interest in the operations of the human mind than in
fertilizers and watering-pots.

In the pre-natal history of a work of art I seem to detect at any rate
three factors--a state of peculiar and intense sensibility, the creative
impulse, and the artistic problem. An artist, I imagine, is one who
often and easily is thrown into that state of acute and sympathetic
agitation which most of us, once or twice in our lives, have had the
happiness of experiencing. And have you noticed that many men and most
boys, when genuinely in love, find themselves, the moment the object of
their emotion is withdrawn, driven by their feelings into scribbling
verses? An artist, I imagine, is always falling in love with everything.
Always he is being thrown into a "state of mind." The sight of a tree
or an omnibus, the screaming of whistles or the whistling of birds, the
smell of roast pig, a gesture, a look, any trivial event may provoke a
crisis, filling him with an intolerable desire to express himself. The
artist cannot embrace the object of his emotion. He does not even wish
to. Once, perhaps, that was his desire; if so, like the pointer and
the setter, he has converted the barbarous pouncing instinct into the
civilized pleasure of tremulous contemplation. Be that as it may, the
contemplative moment is short. Simultaneously almost with the emotion
arises the longing to express, to create a form that shall match the
feeling, that shall commemorate the moment of ecstasy.

This moment of passionate apprehension is, unless I mistake, the source
of the creative impulse; indeed, the latter seems to follow so promptly
on the former that one is often tempted to regard them as a single
movement. The next step is longer. The creative impulse is one thing;
creation another. If the artist's form is to be the equivalent of an
experience, if it is to be significant in fact, every scrap of it has
got to be fused and fashioned in the white heat of his emotion. And how
is his emotion to be kept at white heat through the long, cold days of
formal construction? Emotions seem to grow cold and set like glue. The
intense power and energy called forth by the first thrilling vision grow
slack for want of incentive. What engine is to generate the heat and
make taut the energies by which alone significant form can be created?
That is where the artistic problem comes in.

The artistic problem is the problem of making a match between an
emotional experience and a form that has been conceived but not created.
Evidently the conception of some sort of form accompanies, or closely
follows, the creative impulse. The artist says, or rather feels, to
himself: I should like to express that in words, or in lines and
colours, or in notes. But to make anything out of his impulse he will
need something more than this vague desire to express or to create. He
will need a definite, fully conceived form into which his experience can
be made to fit. And this fitting, this matching of his experience with
his form, will be his problem. It will serve the double purpose of
concentrating his energies and stimulating his intellect. It will be at
once a canal and a goad. And his energy and intellect between them will
have to keep warm his emotion. Shakespeare kept tense the muscle of
his mind and boiling and racing his blood by struggling to confine his
turbulent spirit within the trim mould of the sonnet. Pindar, the
most passionate of poets, drove and pressed his feelings through the
convolutions of the ode. Bach wrote fugues. The master of St. Vitale
found an equivalent for his disquieting ecstasies in severely stylistic
portraits wrought in an intractable medium. Giotto expressed himself
through a series of pictured legends. El Greco seems to have achieved
his stupendous designs by labouring to make significant the fustian of
theatrical piety.

There is apparently nothing that an artist cannot vivify. He can create
a work of art out of some riddle in engineering or harmonics, an
anecdote, or the frank representation of a natural object. Only, to be
satisfactory, the problem must be for him who employs it a goad and a
limitation. A goad that calls forth all his energies; a limitation that
focuses them on some object far more precise and comprehensible than the
expression of a vague sensibility, or, to say the same thing in another
way, the creation of indefinite beauty. However much an artist may have
felt, he cannot just sit down and express it; he cannot create form
in the vague. He must sit down to write a play or a poem, to paint a
portrait or a still life.

Almost everyone has had his moment of ecstasy, and the creative impulse
is not uncommon; but those only who have a pretty strong sense of art
understand the necessity for the artistic problem. What is known of
it by the public is not much liked; it has a bad name and is reckoned
unsympathetic. For the artistic problem, which limits the artist's
freedom, fixes his attention on a point, and drives his emotion through
narrow tubes, is what imports the conventional element into art. It
seems to come between the spontaneous thrill of the artist and the
receptive enthusiasm of his public with an air of artificiality. Thus,
a generation brought up on Wordsworth could hardly believe in the
genuineness of Racine. Our fathers and grandfathers felt, and felt
rightly, that art was something that came from and spoke to the depths
of the human soul. But how, said they, should deep call to deep in
Alexandrines and a pseudo-classical convention, to say nothing of
full-bottomed wigs? They forgot to reckon with the artistic problem,
and made the mistake that people make who fancy that nothing looking so
unlike a Raphael or a Titian as a Matisse or a Picasso can be a work of
art. They thought that because the stuff of art comes from the depths of
human nature it can be expressed only in terms of naturalism. They
did not realize that the creating of an equivalent for an æsthetic
experience out of natural speech or the common forms of nature is only
one amongst an infinite number of possible problems. There are still
ladies who feel sure that had they been in Laura's shoes Petrarch might
have experienced something more vivid than what comes through his
mellifluous but elaborate _rime_. To them he would have expressed
himself otherwise. Possibly: but whatever he experienced could not have
become art--significant form--till it had been withdrawn from the world
of experience and converted into poetry by some such exacting problem.

One problem in itself is as good as another, just as one kind of nib
is as good as another, since problems are valuable only as means. That
problem is best for any particular artist that serves that particular
artist best. The ideal problem will be the one that raises his power
most while limiting his fancy least. The incessant recourse of European
writers to dramatic form suggests that here is a problem which to them
is peculiarly favourable. Its conventions, I suppose, are sufficiently
strict to compel the artist to exert himself to the utmost, yet not so
strict as to present those appalling technical difficulties--the sort
presented by a sestina or a chant royal--that make self-expression
impossible to any but a consummate master. The novel, on the other
hand, as we are just beginning to suspect, affords for most writers an
unsatisfactory, because insufficiently rigorous, problem. Each age has
its favourites. Indeed, the history of art is very much the history of
the problem. The stuff of art is always the same, and always it must be
converted into form before it can become art; it is in their choice of
converting-machines that the ages differ conspicuously.

Two tasks that painters and writers sometimes set themselves are often
mistaken for artistic problems, but are, in fact, nothing of the sort.
One is literal representation: the other the supply of genius direct
from the cask. To match a realistic form with an æsthetic experience is
a problem that has served well many great artists: Chardin and Tolstoi
will do as examples. To make a realistic form and match it with nothing
is no problem at all. Though to say just what the camera would say is
beyond the skill and science of most of us, it is a task that will never
raise an artist's temperature above boiling-point. A painter may go into
the woods, get his thrill, go home and fetch his panel-box, and proceed
to set down in cold blood what he finds before him. No good can come of
it, as the gloomy walls of any official exhibition will show. Realistic
novels fail for the same reason: with all their gifts, neither Zola, nor
Edmond de Goncourt, nor Mr. Arnold Bennett ever produced a work of art.
Also, a thorough anarchist will never be an artist, though many artists
have believed that they were thorough anarchists. One man cannot pour an
æsthetic experience straight into another, leaving out the problem. He
cannot exude form: he must set himself to create a particular form.
Automatic writing will never be poetry, nor automatic scrabbling design.
The artist must submit his creative impulse to the conditions of a
problem. Often great artists set their own problems; always they are
bound by them. That would be a shallow critic who supposed that Mallarmé
wrote down what words he chose in what order he pleased, unbound by any
sense of a definite form to be created and a most definite conception to
be realized. Mallarmé was as severely bound by his problem as was
Racine by his. It was as definite--for all that it was unformulated--as
absolute, and as necessary. The same may be said of Picasso in his most
abstract works: but not of all his followers, nor of all Mallarmé's
either.

Was he really a great painter? A new generation is beginning to ask the
question that we answered, once and for all as we thought, ten years
ago. Yes, of course, the _douanier_ was--a remarkable painter. The man
who influenced Derain, and to some extent Picasso, is not likely to have
been less. But a great painter? For the present, at any rate, let us
avoid great words.

In 1903, when first I lived in Paris, Rousseau appeared to be very much
"in the movement." That was because by nature he was what thoughtful
and highly trained artists were making themselves by an effort: he
was direct. To us it seemed, in those days, that a mass of scientific
irrelevancies and intellectual complications had come between the artist
and his vision, and, again, between the vision and its expression. In a
desperately practical and well-organized age, which recognized objects
by their labels and never dreamed of going beneath these to discover the
things themselves, artists, we thought, were in danger of losing the
very stuff of which visual art is made--the direct, emotional reaction
to the visible universe. People had grown so familiar with the idea of a
cup, with that purely intellectual label "cup," that they never
looked at a particular cup and felt its emotional significance. Also,
professional painters had provided themselves with a marvellous
scientific apparatus for describing "the idea of a cup" in line and
colour: they had at their fingers' ends a plastic notation that
corresponded with the labels by which things are intellectually
recognized. They neither felt things nor expressed their feelings. For
even when an artist was capable of a direct, personal reaction it was
almost impossible for him not to lose it in the cogs and chains of that
elaborate machinery of scientific representation to which he had been
apprenticed. A determination to free artists from utilitarian vision and
the disastrous science of representation was the theoretic basis of that
movement which is associated with the name of Cézanne.

From the latter, at any rate, the _douanier_ needed no freeing. Such
science as he acquired in the course of his life was a means to
expressing himself and not to picture-making. As for his vision, that
was as direct and first-hand as the vision of a Primitive or a child;
and to a Primitive his admirers were in the habit of likening him, to a
child his detractors. His admirers were right: his art is not childish.
Primitives, because they are artists, have to grapple with the artistic
problem. They have, that is, to create form that will express an
emotional conception; they have to express their sense of something they
have seen and felt. A child may well have an artistic vision; for all
that, a child is never, or hardly ever, an artist. It wrestles with
no problem because it does not try to express anything. It is a mere
symbolist who uses a notation not to express what it feels but to convey
information. A child's drawing of a horse is not an expression of its
sense of a horse, but a symbol by which other people can recognize that
what occupies a certain position in its figured story is a horse. The
child is not an artist, but an illustrator who uses symbolism. When,
using Mr. Bertrand Russell's new symbolism, I say that L^c3nI--C^ct =
the Almighty, clearly I am not expressing my feeling for infinite and
omnipotent goodness. Neither does the child who teases you to look at
its charming coloured diagram of the farmyard expect you to share an
emotional experience. Doubtless the vanity of the craftsman demands
satisfaction; but chiefly the child wishes to assure itself that some
impartial judge can interpret its notation. One definitely artistic
gift, however, many children do possess, and that is a sense of the
decorative possibilities of their medium. This gift they have in
common with the Primitives; and this the _douanier_ possessed in an
extraordinary degree.

Of Rousseau's sense of the decorative possibilities of paint it is,
I suppose, unnecessary to say anything. Gauguin called his black
"inimitable." But, indeed, we all agree now that, if the term
"decorative" is to be used in this limited and rather injurious sense,
Rousseau, as a decorator, takes rank with the very greatest. More
important is it to realize that Rousseau had his problem; and that he
approached it in the spirit of a Primitive. His reactions were as simple
and genuine as those of any child; he experienced them with that passion
which alone provokes to creation; his problem was to express them
sincerely and simply in the medium of which he could make such exquisite
use. His vision was as unsophisticated as that of Orcagna, and in
translating it he was as conscientious; but he was a smaller artist
because he was less of an artist.

It has been said that Rousseau came short of greatness for want of
science. That I do not believe. Can it be supposed that any man who has
applied himself intelligently to any art for forty years will not have
acquired science enough to state clearly what is clear, intense, and
clamoring for expression in his mind? I see no reason for supposing that
Rousseau ever failed from lack of science to express himself completely.
The fault was in what he had to express. Rousseau was inferior to the
great Primitives because he lacked their taste, or, to put the matter
more forcibly, because he was less of an artist. An artist's conception
should be like a perfectly cooked pudding--cooked all through and in
every part. His problem is to create an expressive form that shall fit
exactly an artistic conception. His subject may be what he pleases. But
unless that subject has been carried to the high regions of art, and
there, in a dry æsthetic atmosphere, sealed up in a purely æsthetic
conception it can never be externalized in pure form. That is what the
great Primitives did, and what the _douanier_ could not do always. In
his pudding there are doughy patches. He is sentimental; and he is not
sentimental as Raphael and El Greco are.

With a race of genteel, but strangely obtuse, critics it was formerly
the fashion to depreciate Raphael and El Greco on the ground that they
were sentimental. Sentimental they are, in a sense. Their subjects
are sentimental; and the religiosity of some of Greco's is downright
disgusting. But of these subjects every scrap has been passed through
the blazing furnace of conception and fused into artistic form. It is as
though a potter, working with dirty hands, had left a stain burnt by the
fire into his gloriously fashioned clay. The blemish is superficial;
the form is untouched. With Rousseau it is otherwise: lumps of unfused
matter break through his conception and into his design; his pudding is
not thoroughly baked. Take that well-known picture of his, _Le Présent
et le Passé_, which used to be in the Jastrebzoff collection, and of
which photographs are familiar to everyone: the two silly, detached
heads in the sky, stuck in for sentiment's sake, are, as the saying
goes, "out of the picture" and yet play the devil with it. They
injure the design. What is more, in themselves they are as feeble and
commonplace as the drawing of a pavement artist, which, in fact, they
resemble. They are unfelt, that is the explanation--unfelt æsthetically.
They have not been through the oven. They are artistically insincere.
Sentimentality makes strange bedfellows. Rousseau has slipped into
the very hole wherein Mr. Frank Dixie and Sir Luke Fildes disport
themselves; only, by betraying his vice in a picture that is, for the
most part, so exquisitely sure in its simple, delicate expression of
a frank and charming vision he gives us an impressive example of the
danger, even to a good artist, of bad taste.

And there is another fault in Rousseau that springs from this lack of
complete artistic integrity. He is something plebeian: he suffers a
slightly self-complacent good-fellowship to creep into his pictures.
Occasionally there grins through his design, and ever so little
disfigures it, a touch of fatuity. He cannot help being glad that he is
so simple and so good, nor quite resist telling us about it. Look at
that portrait of himself--and I impose a most agreeable task, for it
is charming--that portrait dated 1890, and belonging also to M.
Jastrebzoff; do you not feel that the author is a little too well
pleased with himself? Do you not fancy that he will soon be regaling his
sitter with a good, round platitude from the exterior boulevards or a
morsel from some regimental ditty in which he once excelled, that, in
another moment, he will be tapping him on the back, and that he has gone
a little out of his way to tell you these things? The Primitives tell
us nothing of that sort; they stick to their business of creating
significant form. Whatever of their personalities may reach us has
passed through the transmuting fires of art: they never prattle. The
Primitives are always distinguished; whereas occasionally the _douanier_
is as much the reverse as the more successful painters to the British
aristocracy are always.

Yet I daresay it was this jovial and unaffected good-fellowship, quite
as much as his unquestionable genius, that won the brave _douanier_ his
place in the hearts of those brilliant people who frequented what he
used to call his "soirées toutes familiales et artistiques." The artists
and intellectuals of my generation--the generation that received and
went down before the terrific impact of Dostoievskyism--pursued the
simple and unsophisticated at least as earnestly as any follower of an
earlier Rousseau. Whatever the real differences between a noble savage
and an unspoilt artisan may be, the difference between the ideas of them
with which a jaded society diverts itself is negligible. "Il nous faut
les barbares," said Gide. Well, we have got them. [H] And, maybe, the
next generation but one will make as much fuss about a new Matthew
Arnold as we made about Marguerite Audoux.

[Footnote H: This essay was written a few weeks after the signing of the
Armistice.]

Meanwhile the _douanier_ came at the right moment. His "soirées toutes
familiales et artistiques" were crowded with admirers--Picasso,
Delaunay, Duhamel, Guillaume Apollinaire, Jules Romain, Max Jacob, René
Arcos, Braque, André Salmon, Soffici, Blanche Albane, Marie Laurencin,
elegant and eminent people from North and South America, Russia,
Germany, and Scandinavia, to say nothing of his pupils (he professed
both painting and music) and "les demoiselles de son quartier." The
entertainment consisted, if I may trust an ear-witness, of a little bad
music worse played, a little declamation, a glass of wine, and democracy
untainted with the least suspicion of snobbery. There was a delicious
absence of culture, on the one hand, and of romantic squalor on
the other. The whole thing was solidly and sympathetically lower
middle-class. The "soirée tant familiale qu'artistique" closed with a
performance of the Marseillaise; and the intelligentsia retired to bed
feeling that life was full of beauty and significance.



[Illustration: MATISSE (_Photo: E. Druet_)]



CÉZANNE [I].

[Footnote I: _Paul Cézanne_. Par Ambroise Vollard. (Paris: Crès. 4fr.
75.)]

It was the opinion of Degas that "le peintre en général est bête," and
most people seem to think that Cézanne was no exception to the rule.
Before agreeing, I should want to know what precisely they understood by
the word "bête." Cézanne was silly certainly, but he was not stupid: he
was limited and absurd, but not dull; his opinions for the most part
were conventional, but his intelligence was not common; and his
character was as obviously that of a man of genius as the most ardent
hero-worshipper could desire.

Cézanne was a great character. It is a mistake to suppose that great
characters are always agreeable ones. Few people, I imagine, found
Cézanne agreeable; yet painters, one would suppose, were eager to meet
him that they might hear what he had to say about painting. Cézanne's
ideas on painting are not like ideas at all: they are like sensations;
they have the force of sensations. They seem to give the sense of what
was in his mind by a method more direct than the ordinary intellectual
one. His meaning reaches us, not in a series of pellets, but in a block.
These sayings of his remind one oddly of his art; and some of his
comments on life are hardly less forcible and to the point. This, for
instance, provoked by Zola's "L'Oeuvre," is something more than a
professional opinion:

    On ne peut pas exiger d'un homme qui ne sait pas, qu'il dise des
    choses raisonnables sur l'art de peindre; mais, N. de D---- et
    Cézanne se mit à taper comme un sourd sur sa table--comment peut-il
    oser dire qu'un peintre se tue parce qu'il a fait un mauvais
    tableau? Quand un tableau n'est pas réalisé, on le f... au feu, et
    on en recommence un autre!

_Réalisé_--Cézanne's incessant complaint that "he was unable to realize"
has been taken by many stupid people to imply that Cézanne was conscious
in himself of some peculiar and slightly humiliating inhibition from
which his fellows were free; and even M. Vollard has thought it
necessary to be continually apologizing for and explaining away the
phrase, which, moreover, he never does explain. Yet the explanation is
as simple as can be. Genius of the very highest order never, probably,
succeeds in completely realizing its conceptions, because its
conceptions are unrealizable. When Cézanne envied M. Bouguereau his
power of realization he was perfectly sincere and perfectly sensible. A
Bouguereau can realize completely the little nasty things that are in
his mind: if a Cézanne, a Shakespeare, or an Æschylus could realize as
completely all that was in his the human race would think more of itself
than it does. Cézanne's consciousness of the impossibility of realizing
completely his conceptions--his consciousness, rather, that he had
not completely realized them--made him regard all his pictures as
unfinished. Some day, he thought--or liked to believe--he would push
them a little further. His habit of destroying his own works, however,
had nothing to do with any sense of failure or incapacity. It was simply
a manifestation of rage and a means of appeasement. Some people like
cups and saucers: Cézanne preferred oil-paintings, and his own were
always to hand. A word of commendation for "les professeurs" ("qui n'ont
rien dans le ven_._._n_._._tr_._._re--les salauds--les châtrés--les
j_._f_._._._s") or the least denigration of Chardin or Delacroix was
sure to cost a still-life or a water-colour at any rate.

It is surprising that M. Vollard should not have made this more clear,
for he certainly understood the genius and character of Cézanne. His
book is an amazingly vivid presentment of both; and to have made such
a book out of the life of a man whose whole life went into the art of
painting is a remarkable feat. For Cézanne poured all his prodigious
energy and genius into a funnel that ended in the point of his brush. He
was a painter if ever there was one, and he was nothing else; he had no
notion of being anything else. There is enough in Paris, one would have
supposed, to attract from himself for a moment the attention of the most
preoccupied and self-absorbed of men. When Cézanne lived in Paris he
rose early, painted as long as there was light to paint by, and went to
bed immediately after dinner. The time during which he was not painting
he seems to have spent in wondering whether the light would be
satisfactory ("gris clair") next day. Cézanne in Paris, like the peasant
in the country, spent most of his spare time thinking about the weather.

    Comme il se couchait de très bonne heure, il lui arrivait de
    s'éveiller au milieu de la nuit. Hanté par son idée fixe, il ouvrait
    la fenêtre. Une fois rassuré, avant de regagner son lit il allait,
    une bougie à la main, revoir l'étude qui était en train. Si
    l'impression était bonne, il réveillait sa femme pour lui faire
    partager sa satisfaction. Et pour la dédommager de ce dérangement,
    il l'invitait à faire une partie de dames.

All of Cézanne went into his painting; only now and then a drop escaped
that voracious funnel and splashed on to life. It is by collecting and
arranging these odd drops and splashes that M. Vollard has managed to
construct his lively picture of this extraordinary character. It is
because his task must have been so abominably exacting--the task of
catching the artist outside his work--that we easily forgive him a few
lapses from good sense when he is not talking about his hero. It
is annoying, nevertheless, to hear quite so much of the stupid and
insensitive people who attacked and insulted Cézanne. M. Vollard never
tires of telling us about those who hid their Cézannes or threw them out
of window, or sold them for next to nothing and would now give their
eyes to get them back; of those who jeered at Cézanne and would not hang
his pictures at exhibitions, refusing him that public recognition he was
human enough to covet--in a word, of the now discomfited and penitent
majority. I had thoughts once of printing a selection from the
press-cuttings that reached us at the Grafton Galleries during the
first Post-Impressionist exhibition. It would have revealed our leading
critics and experts, our professors and directors, our connoisseurs, our
more cultivated dealers and our most popular painters vying with each
other in heaping abuse and ridicule on the heads of Cézanne, Gauguin,
and Van Gogh. The project is abandoned. That sort of thing I perceive
becomes a bore. And I only wish M. Vollard had perceived it when he was
writing about Zola. Zola failed to appreciate Cézanne, of course. Zola
was an ordinary middle-class man: he was vain, vulgar, petty; he
longed for the consideration of people like himself, and was therefore
ostentatious; he had a passion for money and notoriety; he wanted to be
thought not only clever but good; he preached, he deprecated, he took a
moral standpoint and judged by results; and his taste was execrable. We
meet people of Zola's sort every day in third-class railway carriages
and first, on the tops of omnibuses and in Chelsea drawing-rooms, at
the music-hall, at the opera, at classical concerts, and in Bond Street
galleries. We take them for granted and are perfectly civil to them. So
why, because he happened to have an astonishing gift of statement
and rapid generalization, should Zola be treated as though he were a
monster? Though Diggle, the billiards champion, care little or nothing
for poetry, he may have an excellent heart, as well as a hand far
surpassing in dexterity that of our most accomplished portrait-painters.
No one dreams of reviling him.

Let us be equally just to Zola; let us notice, too, how amusingly he
sets off Cézanne. Both were greatly gifted men: neither was the man
of intelligence and talent, the brilliant man with the discursive
intellect, who carries his gift about with him, takes it out when and
where he pleases, and applies it where and how he likes. Zola, when he
was not using his gift, posed as an artist, a saint, or simply "a great
man"; but he never contrived to be anything but a bourgeois--a "sale
bourgeois," according to Cézanne. Cézanne was all gift: seen as anything
but a painter he looked like a fool. At Aix he tried to pass for a
respectable _rentier_; he found no difficulty in being silly, but he
could not achieve the necessary commonplaceness. He could not be vulgar.
He was always an artist.

Instead of telling us so much about Zola and _tutti quanti_ M. Vollard
might have told us more about Cézanne's artistic development. What, for
instance, is the history of his relations with Impressionism? The matter
is to me far from clear. Cézanne began his artistic life amongst the
Impressionists, he was reckoned a disciple of Pissarro; yet it is plain
from his early work that he never swallowed much of the doctrine.
Gradually he came to think that the Impressionists were on the wrong
tack, that their work was flimsy and their theory misleading, that they
failed to "realize." He dreamed of combining their delicate vision,
their exquisite _sensation_, with a more positive and elaborate
statement. He wanted to make of Impressionism "quelque chose de solide
et de durable comme l'art des Musées." He succeeded. But at what moment
did his dissent become acute, and to what extent was he aware from the
first of its existence? Towards the end of his life he took to scolding
the Impressionists, but one fancies that he was never very willing that
anyone else should abuse them. "Regardez," said he to a young painter
who had caught him coming out of church one stormy Sunday morning, as
he pointed to a puddle touched by a sudden ray of sunlight, "comment
voulez-vous rendre cela? Il faut se méfier, je vous le dis, des
Impressionnistes_..._Tout de même, ils voient juste!"

The critical moment in Cézanne's life--if in such a life one moment may
without impertinence be thought more critical than another--must have
come somewhere about 1870. M. Vollard once asked him what he did during
the war. "Ecoutez un peu, monsieur Vollard! Pendant la guerre j'ai
beaucoup travaillé sur le motif à l'Estaque." M. Vollard is too good a
patriot to add that during the war he also went into hiding, having
been called up for military service. Cézanne, I am sorry to say, was an
_insoumis_--a deserter. He seems to have supposed that he had something
more important to do than to get himself killed for his country. It was
not only in art that Cézanne gave proof of a surprisingly sure sense of
values. Some fulsome journalist, wishing to flatter the old man after he
had become famous, represented him hugging a tree and, with tears in
his eyes, crying: "Comme je voudrais, celui-là, le transporter sur ma
toile!" For a moment Cézanne contemplated the picture in terrified
amazement, then exclaimed: "Dites, monsieur Vollard, c'est effrayant,
la vie!" Useless to blame the particular imbecile: it was the world in
which such things were possible that filled him with dismay. I stretch
my hand towards a copy of the _Burlington Magazine_ and come plumb on
the following by the present Director of the Tate Gallery:

    The truth is that the ecstasy of art and good actions are closely
    interrelated, the one leading to the other in endless succession or
    possibly even progression.

"Dites, monsieur Vollard, c'est effrayant, la vie!" [J]

[Footnote J: Since writing these words I learn that the director of the
Tate Gallery has been unable to find, in his series of vast rooms, space
for two small and fine works by Cézanne. It is some consolation to know
that he has found space for more than twenty by Professor Tonks.]



RENOIR [K]

[Footnote K: _Renoir_. Par Albert André. Crès et Cie.]

Renoir is the greatest painter alive. [L] There are admirers of Matisse
and admirers of Picasso who will contradict that, though the artists
themselves would probably agree. Also, there are admirers of M.
Bouguereau and of Sir Marcus Stone, there are Italian Futurists and
members of the New English Art Club, with whom one bandies no words.
Renoir is the greatest painter alive.

[Footnote L: This essay was written in 1919. He died in 1920.]

He is over forty: to be exact, he is seventy-seven years old. Yet, in
the teeth of modern theories that have at least the air of physiological
certainties, one must admit that he is still alive. A comparison between
the five-and-thirty photographs reproduced by M. Besson and those at the
end of Herr Meier-Graefe's monograph suggests that even since 1910 his
art has developed. But what is certain is that, during his last period,
since 1900 that is to say, though so crippled by rheumatism that it is
with agonizing difficulty he handles a brush, he has produced works that
surpass even the masterpieces of his middle age.

Renoir was born in 1841, and in '54 bound prentice to a china-painter. A
fortunate invention deprived him of this means of livelihood and drove
him into oil. He escaped early from the École des Beaux-Arts, and, of
course, came under the influence of Courbet. By 1863 he was being duly
refused at the Salon and howled at by the respectable mob. He thus made
one of the famous _Salon des Refusés_, and has, in consequence, been
generally described as an "Impressionist." It is an honour he neither
desires nor deserves. The pure doctrine of Impressionism, as formulated
by Claude Monet, enjoins "scientific truth" and submission to Nature,
whereas Renoir observed one day to an astonished disciple, "Avec la
Nature on ne fait rien"; and on being asked where, then, the student
should learn his art added, without any apparent sign of shame or sense
of sin--"Au musée, parbleu!"

Renoir thus affirmed what every artist knows, that art is the creation
and not the imitation of form. In his eyes the most valuable part of an
artist's education is the intelligent study of what other artists have
done. For his own part he studied Courbet and then Delacroix, and,
assuredly, from these picked up useful hints for converting sensibility
into significant form. Sensibility he never lacked. Renoir's painting
gift may, without unpardonable silliness, be compared with the singing
gift of Mozart. His conspicuous characteristics are loveliness and ease.
No painter, I suppose, gives more delight, or gives it more frankly.
That is why his name provokes an odd, personal enthusiasm in thousands
of people who have never seen him. That is why Frenchmen, who have
sometimes a terribly intimate way of explaining themselves, have been
known to assert that they feel for Renoir the sort of grateful affection
that every sensitive man feels for a woman who has given him joy.

But Renoir's natural masters--parents one would say if a man could have
more than two--were Fragonard, Boucher, and Watteau. These, two of whom
he has surpassed, with Rubens, whom he almost equals, are responsible
for most of what is derivative in his art during his first great period
(1870-1881). That this should be the period beloved of amateurs does not
surprise me. It is the period of _Mme. Maître_ (1871), _La Loge_ (1874),
_Moulin de la Galette_ (1876), and _M. Choquet_--"portrait d'un fou
par un fou," Renoir calls it--pictures of ravishing loveliness to set
dancing every chord in a spectator of normal sensibility. Also, it is a
period that has an extraordinary charm for the literary connoisseur. It
throws glamour over the "seventies," and, for that matter, on to the
"eighties." Here are the characters of Flaubert and Maupassant as we
should wish them to be. That _déjeuner_ by the Seine was probably
organized by the resourceful Jean de Servigny, and there, sure enough,
is Yvette with a fringe. The purest of painters becomes historical by
accident. He expresses the unalloyed sensibility of an artist in terms
of delicious contemporary life and gives us, adventitiously, romance. A
fascinating period, but not the great one.

Towards the end of 1881 Renoir set out on a tour in Italy, and, as if
to show how little he was affected by what he found there, painted
at Naples a large and important _Baigneuse_ (now in the Durand-Ruel
collection) in which I can discover not the slightest trace of Italian
influence. He is too thorough a Frenchman to be much of anything else.
The emphatic statement and counter-statement of the great Primitives
is not in his way. He prefers to insinuate. Even in his most glorious
moments he is discreet and tactful, fonder of a transition than an
opposition, never passionate. The new thing that came into his art about
this time, and was to affect it for the next twenty years, was not Italy
but Ingres.

The influence was at first an unhappy one. During three or four years,
unable, it seems, to match the new conception of form with his intensely
personal reaction, Renoir produced a certain number of unconvincing and
uncharacteristic pictures (_e.g._, the dance series, _Dance à la Ville_,
etc.). There is an uneasy harshness about the contours, the forms are
imperfectly felt, they are wooden even, and in their placing one misses
the old inevitability. Signed with another name these essays might by
a dashing critic be called doctrinaire. Then in 1885 came the first
_Baigneuses_ (collection J.E. Blanche), whereby Renoir put himself a
good head above all contemporaries save Cézanne. If this picture were
hung in a public gallery, and the numerous drawings made for it ranged
alongside, how finely discredited would be those knowing ones who, in
their desire to emphasize the difference between form and that of which
form is composed, are in the habit of calling Renoir a great colourist
and then pausing impressively. I suppose it is because he rarely uses a
lead pencil that the wiseacres are able to fulfil their destiny. Drawing
in charcoal or pastel need not be taken seriously; while drawing with
the brush is apparently not drawing at all. That Renoir is a great
draughtsman may be inferred from almost everything he has ever done. But
(though that amazing _Boy with a Cat_ was achieved as early as 1868) it
is the work of this period--and _Les Baigneuses_, with its attendant
studies, are capital examples--that makes patent his mastery and
entitles him obviously to a place between Ingres and Daumier.

That it should be difficult to find a date for the beginning of Renoir's
last period does not much trouble me; but I am sorry that it is quite
impossible to indicate in words its character. One can say confidently
that the new conception was being elaborated between 1895 and 1900; one
can suppose that its final character was to some extent imposed on the
master by his growing infirmities. A painter who can hardly move arm or
fingers will neither sweep nor wiggle. He must paint, if he is to paint
at all, in blobs and smears and patches and soft strokes; and it is
out of these that Renoir's latest works are built up. "Built up"--the
expression is absurd. Rather, it is as though forms had been melted down
to their component colours, and the pool of iridescent loveliness thus
created fixed by a touch of the master's magic--lightly frozen over by
an enchanting frost. Only ice is cold. At any rate, what happens to
the spectator is that first he perceives a tangle of rather hot and
apparently inharmonious tones; gradually he becomes aware of a subtle,
astonishing, and unlooked-for harmony; finally, from this harmony emerge
completely realized and exquisitely related forms. After which, if he
has any sense of art, he remains spellbound and uncritical, and ceases
to bother about how the thing was done. That, at least, is my impression
of Renoir's latest style. Examples of it abound in Paris, notably M.
Maurice Gangnat's collection; and it is said that the artist intends
these pictures to improve by keeping.

In his pleasant, well-written introduction M. Albert André gives a
portrait of Renoir that is almost too good to be true: we are encouraged
to believe just what we should like to believe. It is incredibly
sympathetic. Yet it is very much what we might have guessed from the
pictures had we dared. And, indeed, we did dare--some of us; for,
besides its purely æsthetic character, its French taste and tact, the
art of Renoir has over-tones to which the literary and historical
intelligence cannot choose but listen. An intimate eulogy of France by
a most lovable Frenchman is what, in our lazy moods, we allow these
pictures to give us. They do it charmingly. For instance, though I never
saw a Renoir that could justify a district visitor in showing more of
her teeth than nature had already discovered, here, unmistakably, are
Parisians enjoying themselves in their own Parisian way. Here is the
France of the young man's fancy and the old man's envious dreams. Here,
if you please, you may smell again that friture that ate so well, one
Sunday at Argenteuil, twenty years ago, in the company of a young poet
who must have had genius and two models who were certainly divine. And
that group with the fat, young mother suckling her baby--there is all
French frankness and French tenderness and family feeling without a
trace of its wonted grimness and insincerity.

Renoir is as French as French can be, and he knows it:

    Lorsque je regarde les maîtres anciens je me fais l'effet d'un bien
    petit bonhomme, et pourtant je crois que de tous mes ouvrages il
    restera assez pour m'assurer une place dans l'école française, cette
    école que j'aime tant, qui est si gentille, si claire, de si bonne
    compagnie... Et pas tapageuse.

Renoir will have his place in that school, but another niche has been
prepared for him amongst an even grander company. When, in 1917, _Les
Parapluies_ (a beautiful but not very characteristic work) was placed in
the National Gallery some hundred English artists and amateurs seized
the opportunity of sending the master a testimony of their admiration
which, rather to their surprise and to their intense joy, apparently
gave pleasure. In this they said:

    Dès l'instant où votre tableau s'est trouvé installé parmi les
    chefs-d'oeuvre des maîtres anciens, nous avons eu la joie de
    constater qu'un de nos contemporains avait pris place d'emblée parmi
    les grands maîtres de la tradition européenne.

They said not a word too much.



TRADITION & MOVEMENTS

Much to its embarrassment, the National Gallery finds itself possessed
of that superb picture _Les Parapluies_; and as the director at last
feels obliged to exhume those masterpieces which, for so many happy
months, he and his colleagues have had, albeit in the dark, to
themselves, we can now see Renoir amongst his peers. He is perfectly at
home there. Renoir takes his place quite simply in the great tradition;
and when Cézanne, who is still too cheap to be within the reach of a
national collection, has attained a price that guarantees respectability
he, too, will be seen to fit neatly into that tradition of which he is
as much a part as Ingres or Poussin, Raphael or Piero della Francesca.

That Cézanne was a master, just as Poussin and Piero were, and that he,
like them, is part of the tradition, is what all sensitive people know
and the wiser keep to themselves. For by stating the plain fact that
Renoir, Cézanne, and, for that matter, Matisse are all in the great
tradition of painting one seems to suggest that the tradition is
something altogether different from what most people would wish it
to be. If one is right it follows that it is not simply the
counter-movement to the contemporary movement; indeed, it follows that
it is not a movement at all. This is intolerable. An artist, seen as the
protagonist of a movement, the exponent of a theory, and the clue to an
age, has a certain interest for all active-minded people; whereas, seen
merely as an artist, which is how he must be seen if he is to be seen
in the tradition, he is of interest only to those who care for art.
The significant characteristics of an artist, considered as the
representative of a movement, are those in which he differs most
from other artists; set him in the traditions and his one important
characteristic is the one he shares with all--his being an artist.
In the tradition a work of art loses its value as a means. We must
contemplate it as an end--as a direct means to æsthetic emotion
rather--or let it be. Tradition, in fact, has to do with art alone;
while with movements can be mixed up history, archæology, philosophy,
politics, geography, fashions, religion, and crime. So, by insisting on
the fact that Matisse, Cézanne, Poussin, Piero, and Giotto are all in
the tradition we insist on the fact that they are all artists. We rob
them of their amusing but adscititious qualities; we make them utterly
uninteresting to precisely 99.99 per cent. of our fellow-creatures; and
ourselves we make unpopular.

The tradition of art begins with the first artist that ever lived, and
will end with the last. Always it is being enriched or modified--never
is it exhausted. The earliest artists are driven to creation by an
irresistible desire to express themselves. Their over-bubbling minds
supply abundance of matter; difficulties begin when they try to express
it. Then it is they find themselves confronted by those terrible
limitations of the human mind, and by other limitations, only less
terrible, imposed by the medium in which they work. Every genuine
artist--every artist, that is, with something of his own to say--is
faced afresh by the problem, and must solve it for himself.
Nevertheless, each one who succeeds in creating an appropriate form for
his peculiar experience leaves in that form a record, and from the sum
of these records is deduced something, less definite far than a code,
by no means a pattern or recipe, which is yet a sign and a source of
half-conscious suggestion to those that follow. No artist can escape the
tradition of art except by refusing to grapple with the problem; which
is how most do escape it. The academic humbug uses the old language to
say nothing, the bombastic charlatan devises a new one for the same
purpose; but once a man has something to express, and the passion to
express it, he will find himself attacking the eternal problem and
leaning on the inevitable tradition. Let anyone who doubts this mention
quickly the name of some artist who owes nothing to his predecessors.

Often, however, owing either to some change in circumstances or to his
innate peculiarity, a man of uncommon force and imagination will find
himself with something to say for which the traditional instrument is,
or at first seems to be, inadequate. What shall he do? Why, what Giotto
did, what Masaccio did, what Ronsard and the poets of the Pléiade did,
what Wordsworth did, and what Cézanne has done. All these great artists
struck new veins, and to work them were obliged to overhaul the
tool-chest. Of the traditional instruments some they reshaped and
resharpened, some they twisted out of recognition, a few they discarded,
many they retained. Above all, they travelled back along the tradition,
tapping it and drawing inspiration from it, nearer to its source. Very
rarely does the pioneer himself work out his seam: he leaves it to
successors along with his technical discoveries. These they develop,
themselves making experiments as they go forward, till of the heritage
to which they succeeded they have left nothing--nothing but a fashion to
be flouted by the next great original genius who shall rise. Such is
the shape of a movement. A master, whose sole business it is to express
himself, founds it incidentally, just as incidentally he enriches
the tradition from which he borrows; successors exploit it; pious
great-grand-nephews mummify and adore it. Movements are nothing but the
stuff of which tradition is made. At any given moment tradition ends in
the contemporary movement; the capital works of any age are almost sure
to be capital examples of that movement; but a hundred years later, when
these are clear-set in the tradition, the movement will have become dust
and ashes--the daily bread of historians and archæologists.

Though lecturers still hold up the Renaissance as an example of the
happy and stagnant state of the arts in a golden age when rebels were
unknown, their pupils are aware that Giotto, the father of Renaissance
painting, broke with the _maniera greca_ at least as sharply as Cézanne
did with the nineteenth-century convention; that in the art of the
fifteenth century we have a revolt against Giottesque which must
grievously have wounded many pious souls; and that Raphael himself
stood, in his day, for a new movement. But distance gives a sense of
proportion. We see the art of the Italian Renaissance whole, growing out
of Byzantine and into French. The continuity is patent; and, what is
much to my purpose, it is Giotto and his successors rather than the
artists of the Palaeologie who seem to us to carry on the Byzantine
tradition, while the heirs of the Renaissance are not Salvator Rosa and
Carlo Dolci, but Claude and Poussin. The great artists stand out and
join hands: the contests that clashed around them, the little men that
aped them, the littler that abused, have fallen into one ruin. The odd
thing is that, as often as not, the big men themselves have believed
that it was the tradition, and not the stupid insensibility of their
fellows, that thwarted them. They have made the mistake their enemies
made infallibly: they have taken a dead movement for a live tradition.
For movements die; that is one of the respects in which they differ most
significantly from the tradition. The movement is a vein which is worked
out; the tradition a live thing that changes, grows, and persists. The
artist with a new vision comes on the tradition at its near end, and
finds its implements lying in a heap mixed with the fashions of the
moribund movement. He chooses; he changes; what happens next will depend
a good deal on the state of public opinion. Should the artist have
the luck to be born in a sensitive age and an intelligent country his
innovations may be accepted without undue hubbub. In that case he will
realize that artists can no more dispense with the tradition than
tradition can exist without artists, and will probably come to feel an
almost exaggerated reverence for the monuments of the past. But should
the public be dull and brutish, and hardening the dust of dead movements
into what it is pleased to call "tradition," pelt with that word the
thing which above all others is to dull brutes disquieting--I mean
passionate conviction--the artist, finding himself assailed in the
name of tradition, will probably reply, "Damn the tradition." He will
protest. And, for an artist, to become a protestant is even worse than
using bad language.

Only in France, so far as I know, are the men who are working out the
heritage of Cézanne allowed to be artists and expected to be nothing
more. Elsewhere, the public by its uncritical attitude seems to
encourage them to pose as supermen or to become rebels. Assuredly I am
not advocating that slightly fatuous open-mindedness which led some
Germans to seize on the movement before it was well grown and deal with
it as they have dealt with so many others, collecting its artists as
though they were beetles, bottling them, setting them, cataloguing them,
making no mistake about them, and arranging them neatly in museums for
the dust to settle on. Organized alertness of that sort is only less
depressing than the smartness of those Italians who pounced so promptly
on the journalistic possibilities of the movement as a means of
self-advertisement. All I ask for in the public is a little more
intelligence and sensibility, and a more critical attitude. Surely,
by now, it should be impossible to hear what I heard only the other
day--Mr. Charles Shannon being extolled, to humiliate some enterprising
student, as a "traditional artist." Why, it would be as sensible to call
the man who makes nest-eggs a traditional Buff Orpington! And ought it
still to be possible for a cultivated dealer, because I had refused to
admire a stale old crust by some young New English painter, who, to be
in the movement, had misshaped a few conventionally drawn objects and
put black lines round others--for a dealer, I say, who dabbles in
culture to exclaim indignantly, as one did to me not long ago, "I can't
think why you don't like it: it's Post-Impressionist, isn't it?"

If we cannot lose this habit of calling artists names, at least let us
know exactly what we mean by them. By associating artists with movements
and counter-movements we encourage the superstition that in art there is
some important distinction besides the distinction between good art and
bad. There is not. Such distinctions as can be drawn between the
genuine artists of one age and another, between traditional artists and
eccentrics, though serviceable to historians and archæologists, are
pitfalls for critics and amateurs. To him who can help us better to
appreciate works of art let us be duly grateful: to him who, from their
extraneous qualities, can deduce amusing theories or pleasant fancies
we will listen when we have time: but to him who would persuade us that
their value can in any way depend on some non-æsthetic quality we must
be positively rude. Now, if we are to get rid of those misleading labels
from which works of art are supposed to derive a value over and above
their æsthetic value, the first to go should be those arch-deceivers,
"traditional" and "revolutionary." Let us understand that tradition is
nothing but the essence, congealed and preserved for us by the masters
in their works, of innumerable movements; and that movements are mere
phases of the tradition from which they spring and in which they are
swallowed up. We shall then be armed, on the one hand, against the
solemn bore who requires us to admire his imitation of an old master
because it is in the tradition; on the other, against the portentous
"Ist," whose parthenogenetic masterpiece we are not in a state to relish
till we have sucked down the pseudo-philosophic bolus that embodies his
eponymous "Ism." To each we shall make the same reply: "Be so good as to
remove your irrelevant label and we will endeavour to judge your work on
its merits."

[Illustration: PICASSO (_Collection Paul Rosenberg_)]

The names go together, as do those of Shelley and Keats or Fortnum and
Mason. Even to people who seldom or never look seriously at a picture
they have stood, these ten years, as symbols of modernity. They are
pre-eminent; and for this there is reason. Matisse and Picasso are the
two immediate heirs to Cézanne. They are in the direct line; and through
one of them a great part of the younger generation comes at its share of
the patrimony. To their contemporaries they owe nothing: they came into
the legacy and had to make what they could of it. They are the elder
brothers of the movement, a fact which the movement occasionally resents
by treating them as though they were its elder sisters.

Even to each other they owe nothing. Matisse, to be sure, swept for one
moment out of his course by the overwhelming significance of Picasso's
early abstract work, himself made a move in that direction. But this
adventure he quickly, and wisely, abandoned; the problems of Cubism
could have helped him nothing to materialize his peculiar sensibility.
And this sensibility--this peculiar emotional reaction to what he
sees--is his great gift. No one ever felt for the visible universe just
what Matisse feels; or, if one did, he could not create an equivalent.
Because, in addition to this magic power of creation, Matisse has been
blest with extraordinary sensibility both of reaction and touch, he is
a great artist; because he trusts to it entirely he is not what for a
moment apparently he wished to be--a _chef d'école_.

Picasso, on the other hand, who never tried to be anything of the sort,
is the paramount influence in modern painting--subject, of course, to
the supreme influence of Cézanne. All the world over are students and
young painters to whom his mere name is thrilling; to whom Picasso
is the liberator. His influence is ubiquitous: even in England it is
immense. Not only those who, for all their denials--denials that spring
rather from ignorance than bad faith--owe almost all they have to the
inventor of Cubism, but artists who float so far out of the main stream
as the Spensers and the Nashes, Mr. Lamb and Mr. John, would all have
painted differently had Picasso never existed.

Picasso is a born _chef d'école_. His is one of the most inventive minds
in Europe. Invention is as clearly his supreme gift as sensibility is
that of Matisse. His career has been a series of discoveries, each of
which he has rapidly developed. A highly original and extremely happy
conception enters his head, suggested, probably, by some odd thing he
has seen. Forthwith he sets himself to analyze it and disentangle those
principles that account for its peculiar happiness. He proceeds by
experiment, applying his hypothesis in the most unlikely places. The
significant elements of negro sculpture are found to repeat their
success in the drawing of a lemon. Before long he has established what
looks like an infallible method for producing an effect of which, a few
months earlier, no one had so much as dreamed. This is one reason why
Picasso is a born _chef d'école_. And this is why of each new phase
in his art the earlier examples are apt to be the more vital and
well-nourished. At the end he is approaching that formula towards
which his intellectual effort tends inevitably. It is time for a new
discovery.

Meanwhile a pack of hungry followers has been eyeing the young master as
he made clearer and ever clearer the nature of his last. To this pack
he throws hint after hint. And still the wolves pursue. You see them in
knots and clusters all along the road he has travelled, gnawing, tugging
at some unpicked idea. Worry! worry! worry! Here is a crowd of old
laggards still lingering and snuffling over "the blue period." A vaster
concourse is scattered about the spot where the nigger's head fell, and
of these the strongest have carried off scraps for themselves, which
they assimilate at leisure, lying apart; while round the trunk of Cubism
is a veritable sea of swaying, struggling, ravenous creatures. The
howling is terrific. But Picasso himself is already far away elaborating
an idea that came to him one day as he contemplated a drawing by Ingres.

And, besides being extraordinarily inventive, Picasso is what they call
"an intellectual artist." Those who suppose that an intellectual artist
is one who spends his time on his head mistake. Milton and Mantegna were
intellectual artists: it may be doubted whether Caravaggio and Rostand
were artists at all. An intellectual artist is one who feels first--a
peculiar state of emotion being the point of departure for all works of
art--and goes on to think. Obviously Picasso has a passionate sense of
the significance of form; also, he can stand away from his passion and
consider it; apparently in this detached mood it is that he works. In
art the motive power is heat always; some drive their engines by means
of boiling emotion, others by the incandescence of intellectual passion.
These go forward by intense concentration on the problem; those swing
with breathless precision from feeling to feeling. Sophocles, Masaccio,
and Bach are intellectuals in this sense, while Shakespeare, Correggio,
and Mozart trust their sensibility almost as a bird trusts its instinct.
It never entered the head of a swallow to criticize its own methods;
and if Mozart could not write a tune wrong, that was not because he had
first tested his idea at every point, but because he was Mozart. Yet
no one ever thought of going to a swallow for lessons in aviation; or,
rather, Dædalus did, and we all know what came of it.

That is my point. I do not presume to judge between one method of
creation and another; I shall not judge between Matisse and Picasso; but
I do say that, as a rule, it is the intellectual artist who becomes, in
spite of himself, schoolmaster to the rest. And there is a reason
for this. By expressing themselves intellectual artists appeal to us
æsthetically; but, in addition, by making, or seeming to make, some
statement about the nature of the artistic problem they set us thinking.
We feel sure they have something to say about the very stuff of art
which we, clumsily enough, can grasp intellectually. With purely
æsthetic qualities the intellect can do nothing: but here, it seems, is
something the brain can get hold of. Therefore we study them and they
become our leaders; which does not make them our greatest artists.
Matisse may yet be a better painter than Picasso.

Be that as it may, from Matisse there is little or nothing to be
learned, since Matisse relies on his peculiar sensibility to bring him
through. If you want to paint like him, feel what he feels, conduct it
to the tips of your fingers, thence on to your canvas, and there you
are. The counsel is not encouraging. These airy creatures try us too
high. Indeed, it sometimes strikes me that even to appreciate them
you must have a touch of their sensibility. A critic who is apt to
be sensible was complaining the other day that Matisse had only one
instrument in his orchestra. There are orchestras in which fifty
instruments sound as one. Only it takes a musician to appreciate them.
Also, one hears the others talking about "the pretty, tinkley stuff"
of Mozart. Those who call the art of Matisse slight must either be
insensitive or know little of it. Certainly Matisse is capable of
recording, with an exquisite gesture and not much more, just the smell
of something that looked as though it would be good to eat. These are
notes. Notes are often slight--I make the critics a present of that.
Also of this: it takes a more intense effort of the creative imagination
to leave out what Tchehov leaves out of his short stories than to say
what Meredith put into his long ones.

In the Plutarchian method there was ever a snare, and I have come near
treading in it. The difference between Matisse and Picasso is not to be
stated in those sharp antitheses that every journalist loves. Nothing
could be more obtuse than to represent one as all feeling and the other
all thought. The art of Picasso, as a matter of fact, is perhaps more
personal even than that of Matisse, just because his sensibility is
perhaps even more curious. Look at a Cubist picture by him amongst other
Cubists. Here, if anywhere, amongst these abstractions you would have
supposed that there was small room for idiosyncrasy. Yet at M. Léonce
Rosenberg's gallery no amateur fails to spot the Picassos. His choice
of colours, the appropriateness of his most astonishing audacities, the
disconcerting yet delightful perfection of his taste, the unlooked-for
yet positive beauty of his harmonies make Picasso one of the most
personal artists alive.

And if Picasso is anything but a dry doctrinaire, Matisse is no singing
bird with one little jet of spontaneous melody. I wish his sculpture
were better known in England, for it disposes finely of the ridiculous
notion that Matisse is a temperament without a head. Amongst his bronze
and plaster figures you will find sometimes a series consisting
of several versions of the same subject, in which the original
superabundant conception has been reduced to bare essentials by a
process which implies the severest intellectual effort. Nothing that
Matisse has done gives a stronger sense of his genius, and, at the same
time, makes one so sharply aware of a brilliant intelligence and of
erudition even.

Amongst the hundred differences between Matisse and Picasso perhaps,
after all, there is but one on which a critic can usefully insist. Even
about that he can say little that is definite. Only, it does appear to
be true that whereas Matisse is a pure artist, Picasso is an artist and
something more--an involuntary preacher if you like. Neither, of course,
falls into the habit of puffing out his pictures with literary stuff,
though Picasso has, on occasions, allowed to filter into his art a, to
me, most distasteful dash of sentimentality. That is not the point,
however. The point is that whereas both create without commenting on
life, Picasso, by some inexplicable quality in his statement, does
unmistakably comment on art. That is why he, and not Matisse, is master
of the modern movement.



THE PLACE OF ART IN ART CRITICISM

The knowing ones--those, I mean, who are always invited to music after
tea, and often to supper after the ballet--seem now to agree that in art
significant form is the thing. You are not to suppose that, in saying
this, I am trying to make out that all these distinguished, or soon to
be distinguished, people have been reading my book. On the contrary, I
have the solidest grounds for believing that very few of them have done
that; and those that have treat me no better than they treated Hegel.
For, just as an Hegelian is not so much a follower of that philosopher
as an expounder, one who has an interpretation of his own, and can tell
you what Hegel would have said if Hegel had been endowed by The Absolute
with the power of saying anything, so of those admirable people who
agree, for the moment, that significant form is what matters, no two are
quite agreed as to what significant form is.

Only as to what it is not is there complete unanimity; though there is
a tendency to come together on one or two positive points. It is years
since I met anyone, careful of his reputation, so bold as to deny that
the literary and anecdotic content of a work of visual art, however
charming and lively it might be, was mere surplusage. The significance
of a picture, according to the _cognoscenti_, must be implicit in its
forms; its essential quality is something which appeals directly to the
sensibility of any sensitive person; and any reference to life, to be of
consequence, must be a reference to that fundamental experience which is
the common heritage of mankind. Thus, those who cannot bring themselves
to accept the more austere definition of the term are willing to
recognize as significant certain qualities which are not purely formal.
They will recognize, for instance, the tragedy of Michael Angelo, the
gaiety of Fra Angelico, the lyricism of Correggio, the gravity
of Poussin, and the romance of Giorgione. They recognize them as
pertaining, not to the subjects chosen, but to the mind and character of
the artist. Such manifestations in line and colour of personality they
admit as relevant; but they are quite clear that the gossip of Frith and
the touching prattle of Sir Luke Fildes are nothing to the purpose.

And so we get a school of lenient criticism which takes account of an
appeal to life, provided that appeal be to universal experience and be
made by purely æsthetic means. According to this theory we can be moved
æsthetically by references to universal experience implicit in certain
arrangements of line and colour, always provided that such references
are expressions of the artist's peculiar emotion, and not mere comments
on life and history or statements of fact or opinion. These by everyone
are deemed unessential. No one seriously pretends that in a picture by a
Primitive of some obscure incident in the life of a minor saint there is
anything of true æsthetic import which, escaping the subtlest and most
sensitive artist, is revealed to the expert hagiographer: neither does
anyone still believe that to appreciate Sung painting one must make
oneself familiar with the later developments of Buddhist metaphysics as
modified by Taoist mysticism.

Such is the prevailing critical theory. What of critical practice?
It seems to me that even our best come something short of their
professions; and when I confess that I am going to pick a quarrel with
such fine exponents of their craft as the critics of _The Times_ and the
_Nation_ readers will guess that for once I mean to take my confrères
seriously. Lately we have seen a hot dispute in which, unless I mistake,
both these gentlemen took a hand, raging round a figure of Christ by
Mr. Epstein. For me the only interesting fact that emerged from this
controversy was that, apparently, most of the disputants had not so much
as heard of the greatest living sculptor--I mean Maillol, of course.
Certainly, with the art of Maillol clearly in his mind, it is
inconceivable that one so discriminating as the critic of the _Nation_
should have said, as I think he did say, that Mr. Epstein now stands for
European sculpture as Rodin stood before him. Not only is Maillol quite
obviously superior to Mr. Epstein; in the opinion of many he is a better
artist than Rodin.

But it was not around such questions as these, vexatious, no doubt, but
pertinent, that controversy raged. The questions that eminent critics,
writers, and dignitaries of divers churches discussed in public, while
colonels, Socialists, and cultivated theosophical ladies wrangled over
them at home, were: "Has Mr. Epstein done justice to the character of
Christ?" and, "What was His character?" Was Christ intelligent or was
He something nobler, and what has Mr. Epstein to say about it? Was He
disdainful or was He sympathetic? Was He like Mr. Bertrand Russell or
more like Mr. Gladstone? And did Mr. Epstein see Him with the eyes of
one who knew what for ages Christ had meant to Europe, or with those of
a Jew of the first century? Questions such as these--I will not swear to
any particular one of them--were what the critics threw into the arena,
and no one much blames the parsons and publicists for playing football
with them. But the critics must have known that such questions were
utterly irrelevant; that it mattered not a straw whether this statue,
considered as a work of art, represented Jesus Christ or John Smith.

This the critics knew: they knew that the appeal of a work of art is
essentially permanent and universal, and they knew that hardly one word
in their controversy could have meant anything to the most sensitive
Chinaman alive, unless he happened to be familiar with the Christian
tradition and Christian ethics. If there be no more in Mr. Epstein's
figure than what the critics talked about, then, should the Christian
religion ever become obsolete and half-forgotten, Mr. Epstein's figure
will become quite insignificant. Most of us know next to nothing about
Buddhism and Totemism, and only a little about Greek myths and Byzantine
theology, yet works of art historically associated with these remain,
by reason of their permanent and universal, that is to say their purely
æsthetic, qualities, as moving and intelligible as on the day they left
their makers' hands. About Mr. Epstein's sculpture the important thing
to discover is whether, and in what degree, it possesses these permanent
and universal qualities. But on that subject the critics are dumb.

An instructive parallel in literary journalism occurs to me. I have
noticed lately a tendency in the intellectual underworld--for here I
take leave of first-class criticism--to belittle Ibsen, with the object,
apparently, of magnifying Tchekov, and always it is in the name of art
that Ibsen is decried. Now, if our literary ragamuffins cared two pence
about art they would all be on their knees before Ibsen, who is, I
suppose, the finest dramatic artist since Racine. Few things are more
perfect as form, more admirably consistent and self-supporting, than
his later plays. It was he who invented the modern dramatic method of
seizing a situation at the point at which it can last be seized, and
from there pushing it forward with imperturbable logic and not one
divagation. As an artist Ibsen is to a considerable extent the master of
Tchekov; but, as art is the last thing to which an English Intellectual
pays attention, this fact has been overlooked. What our latter-day
intellectuals take an interest in is what interested their
grandmothers--morals. They prefer Tchekov's point of view to that of
Ibsen, and so do I. They are vexed by the teaching implicit in Ibsen's
tendencious plays; so am I. Yet when I ask myself: "Is Ibsen's
moralizing worse than anyone else's?" I am forced to admit that it is
not. The fact is all moralizing is tedious, and is recognized as such by
everyone the moment it becomes a little stale. Another generation, with
other ideals, will be as much irritated by Tchekov's ill-concealed
propaganda as our generation is by Ibsen's, and as Ibsen's was by
Tennyson's. Depend upon it: by those young people in the next generation
but one who talk loudest, wear the worst clothes, and are most earnest
about life and least sensitive to art, Tchekov will be voted a bore.
What is more, it will be in the name of art that they will cry him down.

Every now and then we hear eloquent appeals to the appropriate
authorities, praying them to add to their school of journalism a
department of art criticism. I hope and believe the appropriate
authorities will do no such thing. Should, however, their sense of
economy be insufficient to restrain them from paying this last insult
to art, they will still find me waiting for them with a practical
suggestion. Any student proposing to educate himself as a critic should
be compelled to devote the first years of his course to the criticism
of non-representative art. Set down to criticize buildings, furniture,
textiles, and ceramics, he will find himself obliged to explore the
depths of his own æsthetic experience. To explain honestly and precisely
why he prefers this chair to that requires, he will find, a far more
intense effort of the intellect and imagination than any amount of fine
writing about portraits and landscape. It will force him to take account
of his purely æsthetic emotions and to discover what exactly provokes
them. He will be driven into that world of minute differences and subtle
reactions which is the world of art. And until he knows his way about
that world he would do well to express no opinion on the merits of
pictures and statues.



BONNARD [M]

[Footnote M: _Bonnard_. Par Léon Werth. Paris: Crès. 40 fr.]

In France, where even amateurs of painting enjoy a bit of rhetoric, for
two or three days after the death of Renoir one could not be long in
any of their haunts without being told either that "Renoir est mort et
Matisse est le plus grand peintre de France" or that "Renoir est mort et
Derain," etc. Also, so cosmopolitan is Paris, there were those who would
put in the query: "Et Picasso?" but, as no Frenchman much cares to be
reminded that the man who, since Cézanne, has had the greatest effect on
painting is a Spaniard, this interjection was generally ill-received.
On the other hand, those who queried: "Et Bonnard?" got a sympathetic
hearing always.

M. Léon Werth deals neither in rhetoric nor in orders of merit. Bonnard
is his theme; and on Bonnard he has written thirty-six pages without,
I think, pronouncing the name of one rival, leaving to his readers the
agreeable task of putting the right heads in the way of such blows as
he occasionally lets fly. Of Bonnard he has written with a delicacy of
understanding hardly to be matched in contemporary criticism. He has
sketched exquisitely a temperament, and if he has not told us much about
its fruits, about the pictures of Bonnard that is to say, he can always
refer us to the series of reproductions at the end of the volume.

[Illustration: BONNARD (_Photo: E. Druet_)]

What M. Werth would say to the distinction implied in my last paragraph
I cannot tell; but I am sure it is important. Certainly, behind every
work of art lies a temperament, a mind; and it is this mind that
creates, that causes and conditions the forms and colours of which a
picture consists; nevertheless, what we see are forms and colours, forms
and colours are what move us. Doubtless, M. Werth is right in thinking
that Bonnard paints beautifully because he loves what he paints; but
what Bonnard gives us is something more significant than his feeling
for cups or cats or human beings. He gives us created form with a
significance of its own, to the making of which went his passion and its
object, but which is something quite distinct from both. He gives us a
work of art.

To consider a picture by Vuillard, whose work is often compared with
that of Bonnard, might help us here. Vuillard loves what he paints,
and his pictures are attractive, as often as not, chiefly because they
represent lovely things. A picture by Bonnard, for all its fascinating
overtones, has a life entirely of its own. It is like a flower, which
is beautiful not because it represents, or reminds one of, something
beautiful, but because it is beautiful. A picture by Bonnard escapes
from its subject, and from its author, too. And this is all-important
because it is just this independent life of its own that gives to a work
of art its peculiar character and power. Unluckily, about this detached
life, about a work of art considered as a work of art, there is little
or nothing to be said; so perhaps M. Werth has done well to confine
himself to the task of giving his readers a taste of the quality of an
artist's mind. This task was difficult enough in all conscience; the
mind of Bonnard is subtle, delicate, and creative, and it has needed
subtlety, delicacy, and not a little creative power, to give us even a
glimpse of it.

The first thing one gets from a picture by Bonnard is a sense of
perplexed, delicious colour: tones of miraculous subtlety seem to be
flowing into an enchanted pool and chasing one another there. From
this pool emerge gradually forms which appear sometimes vaporous and
sometimes tentative, but never vapid and never woolly. When we have
realized that the pool of colour is, in fact, a design of extraordinary
originality and perfect coherence our æsthetic appreciation is at its
height. And not until this excitement begins to flag do we notice that
the picture carries a delightful overtone--that it is witty, whimsical,
fantastic.

Such epithets one uses because they are the best that language affords,
hoping that they will not create a false impression. They are literary
terms, and the painting of Bonnard is never literary. Whatever, by
way of overtone, he may reveal of himself is implicit in his forms:
symbolism and caricature are not in his way. You may catch him murmuring
to himself, "That's a funny-looking face"; he will never say "That's the
face of a man whom I expect you to laugh at." If you choose to take his
_Après-Midi Bourgeoise_ (which is not reproduced here) as a sly comment
on family life you may: but anyone who goes to it for the sort of
criticism he would find in the plays of Mr. Shaw or Mr. Barker is, I am
happy to say, doomed to disappointment. What amused Bonnard was not the
implication, social, moral, or political, of the scene, but the scene
itself--the look of the thing. Bonnard never strays outside the world
of visual art. He finds significance in the appearance of things and
converts it into form and colour. With the pompous symbolism of the
grand-mannerist, or the smart symbolism of the caricaturist, or the
half-baked symbolism of the pseudo-philosophical-futuro-dynamitard he
has no truck whatever. His ambition is not to convey, without the aid
of words, certain elementary ideas, unimportant facts, or obvious
sentiments, but to create forms that shall correspond with his intimate
sense of the significance of things. The paraphernalia of symbolism are
nothing to his purpose: what he requires are subtlety of apprehension
and lightness of touch, and these are what he has. So M. Léon Werth
meets people who complain that "Bonnard manque de noblesse."

Bonnard is not noble. A kitten jumping on to the table moves him, not
because he sees in that gesture a symbol of human aspiration or of
feminine instability, the spirit of youth or the pathos of the brute
creation, nor yet because it reminds him of pretty things, but because
the sight is charming. He will never be appreciated by people who want
something from art that is not art. But to those who care for the thing
itself his work is peculiarly sympathetic, because it is so thoroughly,
so unmitigatedly that of an artist; and therefore it does not surprise
me that some of them should see in him the appropriate successor to
Renoir. Like Renoir, he loves life as he finds it. He, too, enjoys
intensely those good, familiar things that perhaps only artists can
enjoy to the full--sunshine and flowers, white tables spread beneath
trees, fruits, crockery, leafage, the movements of young animals, the
grace of girls and the amplitude of fat women. Also, he loves intimacy.
He is profoundly French. He reminds one sometimes of Rameau and
sometimes of Ravel, sometimes of Lafontaine and sometimes of Laforgue.

Renoir never reminded anyone of Ravel or Laforgue. Renoir and Bonnard
are not so much alike after all. In fact, both as artists and craftsmen
they are extremely different. Renoir's output was enormous; he painted
with the vast ease of a lyrical giant. His selections and decisions were
instinctive and immediate. He trusted his reactions implicitly. Also,
there is nothing that could possibly be called whimsical, nothing
critical or self-critical, about him. Bonnard, on the other hand, must
be one of the most painstaking artists alive. He comes at beauty by
tortuous ways, artful devices, and elaboration. He allows his vision to
dawn on you by degrees: no one ever guesses at first sight how serious,
how deliberately worked out his compositions are.

There is something Chinese about him; and he is one of those rare
Europeans who have dealt in "imposed" rather than "built-up" design.
Bonnard's pictures grow not as trees; they float as water-lilies.
European pictures, as a rule, spring upwards, masonry-wise, from their
foundations; the design of a picture by Bonnard, like that of many
Chinese pictures and Persian textiles, seems to have been laid on the
canvas as one might lay cautiously on dry grass some infinitely precious
figured gauze. Assuredly, the hand that lets fall these beauties is
as unlike that which, even in the throes of rheumatism, affirmed with
supreme confidence the mastery of Renoir, as the easy accessibility of
our last old master is unlike this shy, fastidious spirit that M. Léon
Werth, by a brilliant stroke of sympathetic intelligence, has contrived
to catch and hold for an instant.

[Illustration: (_Mrs. Jowitt's Collection_) DUNCAN GRANT]



DUNCAN GRANT

To-day, [N] when the Carfax Gallery opens its doors at No. 5 Bond Street,
and invites the cultivated public to look at the paintings of Duncan
Grant, that public will have a chance of discovering what has for some
time been known to alert critics here and abroad--that at last we have
in England a painter whom Europe may have to take seriously. Nothing of
the sort has happened since the time of Constable; so naturally one is
excited.

[Footnote N: February 6, 1920.]

If the public knows little of Duncan Grant the public is not to blame.
During the fifteen years that he has been at work not once has he held
"a one-man show," while his sendings to periodic exhibitions have been
rare and unobtrusive. To be sure, there is a picture by him in the Tate
Gallery. But who ever thought of going there to look for a work of art?
Besides, during the last few years the Tate, like most other places
of the sort, has been given over to civil servants. Duncan Grant is a
scrupulous, slow, and not particularly methodical worker. His output is
small; and no sooner is a picture finished than it is carried off by one
of those watchful amateurs who seem a good deal more eager to buy than
he is to sell. Apparently he cares little for fame; so the public gets
few opportunities of coming acquainted with his work.

Duncan Grant is the best English painter alive. And how English he is!
(British, I should say, for he is a Highlander.) Of course, he has been
influenced by Cézanne and the modern Frenchmen. He is of the movement.
Superficially his work may look exotic and odd. Odd it will certainly
look to people unfamiliar with painting. But anyone who has studied
and understood the Italians will see at a glance that Duncan Grant is
thoroughly in the great tradition; while he who also knows the work of
Wilson, Gainsborough, Crome, Cotman, Constable, and Turner will either
deny that there is such a thing as an English tradition or admit that
Duncan Grant is in it. For my part, I am inclined to believe that an
English pictorial tradition exists, though assuredly it is a tiny and
almost imperceptible rill, to be traced as often, perhaps, through
English poetry as through English painting. At all events, there are
national characteristics; and these you will find asserting themselves
for good or ill in the work of our better painters.

Duncan Grant's ancestors are Piero della Francesca, Gainsborough, and
the Elizabethan poets. There is something Greek about him, too; not the
archæological Greek of Germany, nor yet the Græco-Roman academicism of
France, but rather that romantic, sensuous Hellenism of the English
literary tradition. It is, perhaps, most obvious in his early work,
where, indeed, all the influences I have named can easily be found.
Then, at the right moment, he plunged headlong into the movement, became
the student of Cézanne, Matisse, Picasso, though not, curiously enough,
of Bonnard, the modern artist with whose work his own has the closest
affinity, and, for a year or two, suffered his personality to disappear
almost beneath the heavy, fertilizing spate. He painted French
exercises. He was learning. He has learnt. He can now express, not
someone else's ideas, but himself, completely and with delicious ease,
in the language of his age. He is a finished and highly personal modern
artist.

I dare say Duncan Grant's most national characteristic is the ease with
which he achieves beauty. To paint beautifully comes as naturally to him
as to speak English does to me. Almost all English artists of any merit
have had this gift, and most of them have turned it to sorry account. It
was so pleasant to please that they tried to do nothing else, so easy to
do it that they scampered and gambolled down the hill that ends in mere
prettiness. From this catastrophe Duncan Grant has been saved by a gift
which, amongst British painters, is far from common. He is extremely
intelligent. His intellect is strong enough to keep in hand that most
charming and unruly of its sister gifts, sensibility. And a painter who
possesses both sensibility and the intellect to direct it is in a fair
way to becoming a master.

The sensibility of English artists, whether verbal or visual, is as
notorious as their sense of beauty. This becomes less surprising when we
reflect that the former includes the latter. The fact is, critics,
with their habitual slovenliness, apply the term "sensibility" to
two different things. Sometimes they are talking about the artist's
imagination, and sometimes about his use of the instrument: sometimes
about his reactions, and sometimes--in the case of painters--about the
tips of his fingers. It is true that both qualities owe their existence
to and are conditioned by one fundamental gift--a peculiar poise--a
state of feeling--which may well be described as "sensibility." But,
though both are consequences of this peculiar delicacy and what I should
like to call "light-triggeredness" of temperament, they are by no means
identical. By "sensibility" critics may mean an artist's power of
responding easily and intensely to the æsthetic significance of what
he sees; this power they might call, if they cared to be precise,
"sensibility of inspiration." At other times they imply no more than
sensibility of touch: in which case they mean that the contact between
the artist's brush and his canvas has the quality of a thrilling caress,
so that it seems almost as if the instrument that bridged the gulf
between his fingers and the surface of his picture must have been as
much alive as himself. "Sensibility of handling" or "hand-writing"
is the proper name for this. In a word, there is sensibility of the
imagination and sensibility of the senses: one is receptive, the other
executive. Now, Duncan Grant's reactions before the visible universe are
exquisitely vivid and personal, and the quality of his paint is often
as charming as a kiss. He is an artist who possesses both kinds of
sensibility. These are adorable gifts; but they are not extraordinarily
rare amongst English painters of the better sort.

In my judgement Gainsborough and Duncan Grant are the English painters
who have been most splendidly endowed with sensibility of both sorts,
but I could name a dozen who have been handsomely supplied. In my own
time there have been four--Burne-Jones (you should look at his early
work), Conder, Steer, and John, all of whom had an allowance far above
the average, while in America there was Whistler. No one, I suppose,
would claim for any of these, save, perhaps, Whistler, a place even in
the second rank of artists. From which it follows clearly that something
more than delicacy of reaction and touch is needed to make a man
first-rate. What is needed is, of course, constructive power. An artist
must be able to convert his inspiration into significant form; for in
art it is not from a word to a blow, but from a tremulous, excited
vision to an orderly mental conception, and from that conception, by
means of the problem and with the help of technique, to externalization
in form. That is where intelligence and creative power come in. And no
British painter has, as yet, combined with sure and abundant sensibility
power and intelligence of a sort to do perfectly, and without fail, this
desperate and exacting work. In other words, there has been no British
painter of the first magnitude. But I mistake, or Gainsborough, Crome,
Constable, and Duncan Grant were all born with the possibility of
greatness in them.

Many British (or, to make myself safe, I will say English-speaking)
painters have had enough sensibility of inspiration to make them
distinguished and romantic figures. Who but feels that Wilson, Blake,
Reynolds, Turner, and Rossetti were remarkable men? Others have had that
facility and exquisiteness of handling which gives us the enviable and
almost inexhaustible producer of charming objects--Hogarth, Cotman,
Keene, Whistler, Conder, Steer, Davies. Indeed, with the exceptions of
Blake and Rossetti--two heavy-handed men of genius--and Reynolds, whose
reactions were something too perfunctory, I question whether there be a
man in either list who wanted much for sensibility of either sort. But
what English painter could conceive and effectively carry out a work of
art? Crome, I think, has done it; Gainsborough and Constable at any rate
came near; and it is because Duncan Grant may be the fourth name in
our list that some of us are now looking forward with considerable
excitement to his exhibition.

An Englishman who is an artist can hardly help being a poet; I neither
applaud nor altogether deplore the fact, though certainly it has been
the ruin of many promising painters. The doom of Englishmen is not
reversed for Duncan Grant: he is a poet; but he is a poet in the right
way--in the right way, I mean, for a painter to be a poet. Certainly
his vision is not purely pictorial; and because he feels the literary
significance of what he sees his conceptions are apt to be literary.
But he does not impose his conceptions on his pictures; he works his
pictures out of his conceptions. Anyone who will compare them with those
of Rossetti or Watts will see in a moment what I mean. In Duncan Grant
there is, I agree, something that reminds one unmistakably of the
Elizabethan poets, something fantastic and whimsical and at the same
time intensely lyrical. I should find it hard to make my meaning
clearer, yet I am conscious enough that my epithets applied to painting
are anything but precise. But though they may be lyrical or fantastic or
witty, these pictures never tell a story or point a moral.

My notion is that Duncan Grant often starts from some mixed motif which,
as he labours to reduce it to form and colour, he cuts, chips, and
knocks about till you would suppose that he must have quite whittled the
alloy away. But the fact is, the very material out of which he builds
is coloured in poetry. The thing he has to build is a monument of pure
visual art; that is what he plans, designs, elaborates, and finally
executes. Only, when he has achieved it we cannot help noticing the
colour of the bricks. All notice, and some enjoy, this adscititious
literary overtone. Make no mistake, however, the literary element in the
art of Duncan Grant is what has been left over, not what has been added.
A Blake or a Watts conceives a picture and makes of it a story; a
Giorgione or a Piero di Cosimo steals the germ of a poem and by curious
cultivation grows out of it a picture. In the former class you will
find men who may be great figures, but can never be more than mediocre
artists: Duncan Grant is of the latter. He is in the English tradition
without being in the English rut. He has sensibility of inspiration,
beauty of touch, and poetry; but, controlling these, he has intelligence
and artistic integrity. He is extremely English; but he is more of an
artist than an Englishman.

Already the Chelsea show of African and Oceanian sculpture is sending
the cultivated public to the ethnographical collections in the British
Museum, just as, last autumn, the show organized in Paris by M. Paul
Guillaume filled the Trocadero. [O] Fine ladies, young painters, and
exquisite amateurs are now to be seen in those long dreary rooms that
once were abandoned to missionaries, anthropologists, and colonial
soldiers, enhancing their prestige by pointing out to stay-at-home
cousins the relics of a civilization they helped to destroy. For my part
I like the change. I congratulate the galleries and admire the visitors,
though the young painters, I cannot help thinking, have been a little
slow.

[Footnote O: 1919]

Negro art was discovered--its real merit was first recognized, I
mean--some fifteen years ago, in Paris, by the painters there. Picasso,
Derain, Matisse, and Vlaminck began picking up such pieces as they
could find in old curiosity and pawn shops; with Guillaume Apollinaire,
literary apostle, following apostolically at their heels. Thus a demand
was created which M. Paul Guillaume was there to meet and stimulate.
But, indeed, the part played by that enterprising dealer is highly
commendable; for the Trocadero collections being, unlike the British,
mediocre both in quantity and quality, it was he who put the most
sensitive public in Europe--a little cosmopolitan group of artists,
critics, and amateurs--in the way of seeing a number of first-rate
things.

Because, in the past, Negro art has been treated with absurd contempt,
we are all inclined now to overpraise it; and because I mean to keep my
head I shall doubtless by my best friends be called a fool. Judging from
the available data--no great stock, by the way--I should say that Negro
art was entitled to a place amongst the great schools, but that it was
no match for the greatest. With the greatest I would compare it. I would
compare it with the art of the supreme Chinese periods (from Han to
Sung), with archaic Greek, with Byzantine, with Mahomedan, which, for
archæological purposes, begins under the Sassanians a hundred years and
more before the birth of the prophet; I would compare it with Romanesque
and early Italian (from Giotto to Raffael); but I would place it below
all these. On the other hand, when I consider the whole corpus of black
art known to us, and compare it with Assyrian, Roman, Indian, true
Gothic (not Romanesque, that is to say), or late Renaissance it seems to
me that the blacks have the best of it. And, on the whole, I should be
inclined to place West and Central African art, at any rate, on a level
with Egyptian. Such sweeping classifications, however, are not to be
taken too seriously. All I want to say is that, though the capital
achievements of the greatest schools do seem to me to have an absolute
superiority over anything Negro I have seen, yet the finest black
sculpture is so rich in artistic qualities that it is entitled to a
place beside them.

I write, thinking mainly of sculpture, because it was an exhibition
of sculpture that set me off. It should be remembered, however, that
perhaps the most perfect achievements of these savages are to be found
amongst their textiles and basket-work. Here, their exquisite taste and
sense of quality and their unsurpassed gift for filling a space are seen
to greatest advantage, while their shortcomings lie almost hid. But it
is their sculpture which, at the moment, excites us most, and by it they
may fairly be judged. Exquisiteness of quality is its most attractive
characteristic. Touch one of these African figures and it will remind
you of the rarest Chinese porcelain. What delicacy in the artist's sense
of relief and modelling is here implied! What tireless industry and
patience! Run your hand over a limb, or a torso, or, better still, over
some wooden vessel; there is no flaw, no break in the continuity of the
surface; the thing is alive from end to end. And this extraordinary
sense of quality seems to be universal amongst them. I think I never saw
a genuine nigger object that was vulgar--except, of course, things made
quite recently under European direction. This is a delicious virtue,
but it is a precarious one. It is precarious because it is not
self-conscious: because it has not been reached by the intelligent
understanding of an artist, but springs from the instinctive taste of
primitive people. I have seen an Oxfordshire labourer work himself
beautifully a handle for his hoe, in the true spirit of a savage and
an artist, admiring and envying all the time the lifeless machine-made
article hanging, out of his reach, in the village shop. The savage gift
is precarious because it is unconscious. Once let the black or the
peasant become acquainted with the showy utensils of industrialism, or
with cheap, realistic painting and sculpture, and, having no critical
sense wherewith to protect himself, he will be bowled over for a
certainty. He will admire; he will imitate; he will be undone.

At the root of this lack of artistic self-consciousness lies the defect
which accounts for the essential inferiority of Negro to the very
greatest art. Savages lack self-consciousness and the critical sense
because they lack intelligence. And because they lack intelligence they
are incapable of profound conceptions. Beauty, taste, quality, and
skill, all are here; but profundity of vision is not. And because they
cannot grasp complicated ideas they fail generally to create organic
wholes. One of the chief characteristics of the very greatest artists
is this power of creating wholes which, as wholes, are of infinitely
greater value than the sum of their parts. That, it seems to me, is what
savage artists generally fail to do.

Also, they lack originality. I do not forget that Negro sculptors have
had to work in a very strict convention. They have been making figures
of tribal gods and fetiches, and have been obliged meticulously to
respect the tradition. But were not European Primitives and Buddhists
similarly bound, and did they not contrive to circumvent their doctrinal
limitations? That the African artists seem hardly to have attempted to
conceive the figure afresh for themselves and realize in wood a personal
vision does, I think, imply a definite want of creative imagination.
Just how serious a defect you will hold this to be will depend on the
degree of importance you attach to complete self-expression. Savage
artists seem to express themselves in details. You must seek their
personality in the quality of their relief, their modulation of surface,
their handling of material, and their choice of ornament. Seek, and you
will be handsomely rewarded; in these things the niggers have never been
surpassed. Only when you begin to look for that passionate affirmation
of a personal vision which we Europeans, at any rate, expect to find in
the greatest art will you run a risk of being disappointed. It will be
then, if ever, that you will be tempted to think that these exquisitely
gifted black artists are perhaps as much like birds building their nests
as men expressing their profoundest emotions.

And now come the inevitable questions--where were these things made, and
when? "At different times and in different places," would be the most
sensible reply. About the provenance of any particular piece it is
generally possible to say something vague; about dates we know next to
nothing. At least, I do; and when I consider that we have no records
and no trustworthy criteria, and that so learned and brilliant an
archæologist as Mr. Joyce professes ignorance, I am not much disposed to
believe that anyone knows more. I am aware that certain amateurs think
to enhance the value of their collections by conferring dates on their
choicer specimens; I can understand why dealers encourage them in this
vanity; and, seeing that they go to the collectors and dealers for their
information, I suppose one ought not to be surprised when journalists
come out with their astounding attributions. The facts are as follows.

We know that Portuguese adventurers had a considerable influence on
African art in the sixteenth, and even in the fifteenth, century. There
begins our certain knowledge. Of work so influenced a small quantity
exists. Of earlier periods we know nothing precise. There are oral
traditions of migrations, empires, and dynasties: often there is
evidence of past invasions and the supersession of one culture by
another: and that is all. The discoveries of explorers have so far
thrown little light on archæology; and in most parts of West and
Central Africa it would be impossible even for trained archæologists to
establish a chronological sequence such as can be formed when objects
are found buried in the sand one above the other. But, in fact, it is to
vague traders and missionaries, rather than to trained archæologists,
that we owe most of our fine pieces, which, as often as not, have been
passed from hand to hand till, after many wanderings, they reached the
coast. Add to all this the fact that most African sculpture is in wood
(except, of course, those famous products of early European influence,
the bronze castings from Benin), that this wood is exposed to a
devastating climate--hot and damp--to say nothing of the still more
deadly white ants, and you will probably agree that the dealer or
amateur who betickets his prizes with such little tags as "Gaboon, 10th
century" evinces a perhaps exaggerated confidence in our gullibility.

Whenever these artists may have flourished it seems they flourish no
more. The production of idols and fetiches continues, but the production
of fine art is apparently at an end. The tradition is moribund, a
misfortune one is tempted to attribute, along with most that have lately
afflicted that unhappy continent, to the whites. To do so, however,
would not be altogether just. Such evidence as we possess--and pretty
slight it is--goes to show that even in the uninvaded parts of West
Central Africa the arts are decadent: wherever the modern white man has
been busy they are, of course, extinct. According to experts Negro art
already in the eighteenth century was falling into a decline from some
obscure, internal cause. Be that as it may, it was doomed in any case.
Before the bagman with his Brummagem goods an art of this sort was bound
to go the way that in Europe our applied arts, the art of the potter,
the weaver, the builder and the joiner, the arts that in some sort
resembled it, have gone. No purely instinctive art can stand against the
machine. And thus it comes about that, at the present moment, we have
in Europe the extraordinary spectacle of a grand efflorescence of the
highly self-conscious, self-critical, intellectual, individualistic art
of painting amongst the ruins of the instinctive, uncritical, communal,
and easily impressed arts of utility. Industrialism, which, with its
vulgar finish and superabundant ornament, has destroyed not only popular
art but popular taste, has merely isolated the self-conscious artist and
the critical appreciator; and the nineteenth century (from Stephenson to
Mr. Ford), which ruined the crafts, in painting (from Ingres to Picasso)
rivals the fifteenth.

Meanwhile, the scholarly activities of dealers and journalists
notwithstanding, there is no such thing as nigger archæology; for which
let us be thankful. Here, at any rate, are no great names to scare us
into dishonest admiration. Here is no question of dates and schools to
give the lecturer his chance of spoiling our pleasure. Here is nothing
to distract our attention from the one thing that matters--æsthetic
significance. Here is nigger sculpture: you may like it or dislike it,
but at any rate you have no inducement to judge it on anything but its
merits.



ORDER AND AUTHORITY

I

M. André Lhote is not only a first-rate painter, he is a capable writer
as well; so when, some weeks ago, he began to tell us what was wrong
with modern art, and how to put it right, naturally we pricked up our
ears. We were not disappointed. M. Lhote had several good things to
say, and he said them clearly; the thing, however, which he said most
emphatically of all was that he, André Lhote, besides being a painter
and a writer, is a Frenchman. He has a natural taste for order and a
superstitious belief in authority. That is why he recommends to
the reverent study of the young of all nations, David--David the
Schoolmaster! _Merci_, we have our own Professor Tonks.

Not that I would compare David, who was a first-rate practitioner and
something of an artist, with the great Agrippa of the Slade. But from
David even we have little or nothing to learn. For one thing, art cannot
be taught; for another, if it could be, a dry doctrinaire is not the man
to teach it. Very justly M. Lhote compares the Bouchers and Fragonards
of the eighteenth century with the Impressionists: alike they were
charming, a little drunk and disorderly. But when he asserts that it was
David who rescued painting from their agreeable frivolity he must be
prepared for contradiction: some people will have it that it was rather
the pupil Ingres. David, they will say, was little better than a politic
pedagogue, who, observing that with the Revolution classical virtues and
classical costumes had come into fashion, that Brutus, the tyrannicide,
and Aristides, called "the just," were the heroes of the hour, suited
his manners to his company and gave the public an art worthy of highly
self-conscious liberals. The timely discoveries made at Herculaneum and
Pompeii, they will argue, stood him in good stead. From these he learnt
just how citizens and citizen-soldiers should be drawn; and he drew
them: with the result that the next generation of Frenchmen were
sighing:

    Qui nous délivrera des Grecs et des Romains?

Whoever may have rescued European painting from the charming disorder of
the age of reason, there can be no question as to who saved it from the
riot of impressionism. That was the doing of the Post-Impressionists
headed by Cézanne. Forms and colours must be so organized as to compose
coherent and self-supporting wholes; that is the central conviction
which has inspired the art of the last twenty years. Order: that has
been the watchword; but order imposed from within. And order so imposed,
order imposed by the artist's inmost sense of what a work of art should
be, is something altogether different from the order obtained by
submission to a theory of painting. One springs from a personal
conviction; the other is enjoined by authority. Modern artists tend to
feel strongly the necessity for the former, and, if they be Frenchmen,
to believe intellectually in the propriety of the latter.

Look at a picture by Cézanne or by Picasso. What could be more orderly?
Cubism is nothing but the extreme manifestation of this passion for
order, for the complete organization of forms and colours. The artist
has subordinated his predilections and prejudices, his peculiar way of
seeing and feeling, his whims, his fancies and his eccentricities, to
a dominant sense of design. Yet the picture is personal. In the first
place a picture must be an organic whole, but that whole may be made up
of anything that happens to possess the artist's mind. Now, look at a
picture by Baudry or Poynter and you will see the last word in painting
by precept. The virtuous apprentice has stuck to the rules. He has done
all that his teacher bade him do. And he has done nothing else. David
ought to be pleased. Pray, M. Lhote, give him top marks.

Post-Impressionism, which reaffirmed the artist's latent sense of order
and reawoke a passion to create objects complete in themselves, left the
painter in full possession of his individuality. Now individualism is
the breath of every artist's life, and a thing of which no Frenchman,
in his heart, can quite approve. So, if an artist happens also to be a
Frenchman--and the combination is admirably common--what is he to do?
Why, look one way and row the other; which is what M. Lhote does. He
paints delightfully personal and impenitent pictures, and preaches
artistic Cæsarism and David, "the saviour of society." All the week he
is a French artist, traditional as all real artists must be, but
never denying, when it comes to practice, that tradition is merely an
indispensable means to self-expression; and on Sundays, I dare say, he
goes, like Cézanne, to lean on M. le Curé, who leans on Rome, while his
_concierge_ receives the pure gospel of Syndicalism, which, also, is
based on absolute truths, immutable, and above criticism.

It is notorious that you may with impunity call a placable Frenchman
"butor," "scélérat," "coquin fieffé," "sale chameau," "député" even, or
"sénateur"; but two things you may not do: you may not call him "espèce
d'individu," and you may not say "vous n'êtes pas logique." It is as
unpardonable to call a Frenchman "illogique" as to shout after the
Venetian who has almost capsized your gondola "mal educato" M. Lhote is
"logique" all right: but "logical" in France has a peculiar meaning. It
means that you accept the consequences of your generalizations without
bothering about any little discrepancies that may occur between those
consequences and the facts ascertained by experience; it does not mean
that your high _a priori_ generalizations are themselves to be tested by
the nasty, searching instrument of reason. Thus it comes about that the
second master to whom M. Lhote would put this wild and wilful age of
ours to school is that mysterious trinity of painters which goes by the
name of "Le Nain."

I can quite understand M. Lhote's liking for the brothers Le Nain,
because I share it. Their simple, honest vision and frank statement are
peculiarly sympathetic to the generation that swears by Cézanne. Here
are men of good faith who feel things directly, and say not a word more
than they feel. With a little ingenuity and disingenuousness one might
make a _douanier_ of them. They are scrupulous, sincere, and born
painters. But they are not orderly. They are not organizers of form and
colour. No: they are not. On the contrary, these good fellows had the
most elementary notions of composition. They seem hardly to have guessed
that what one sees is but a transitory and incoherent fragment out of
which it is the business of art to draw permanence and unity. They set
down what they saw, and it is a bit of good luck if what they saw turns
out to have somewhat the air of a whole. Yet M. Lhote, preaching his
crusade against disorder, picks out the Le Nain and sets them up as an
example. What is the meaning of this?

M. Lhote himself supplies the answer. It is not order so much as
authority that he is after; and authority is good wherever found and
by whomsoever exercised. "Look," says he, "at Le Nain's peasants. The
painter represents them to us in the most ordinary attitude. It is the
poetry of everyday duties accepted without revolt. Le Nain's personages
are engaged in being independent as little as possible." No Bolshevism
here: and what a lesson for us all! Let painters submit themselves lowly
and reverently to David, and seventeenth-century peasants to their
feudal superiors. Not that I have the least reason for supposing M.
Lhote to be in politics an aristocrat: probably he is a better democrat
than I am. It is the [Greek: _kratos_], the rule, he cares for. Do as
you are told by Louis XIV, or Lenin, or David: only be sure that it
is as you are told. M. Lhote, of course, does nothing of the sort. He
respects the tradition, he takes tips from Watteau or Ingres or Cézanne,
but orders he takes from no man. He is an artist, you see.

In many ways this respect for authority has served French art well.
It is the source of that traditionalism, that tradition of high
seriousness, craftsmanship, and good taste, which, even in the darkest
days of early Victorianism, saved French painting from falling into the
pit of stale vulgarity out of which English has hardly yet crawled.
French revolutions in painting are fruitful, English barren--let the
Pre-Raphaelite movement be my witness. The harvest sown by Turner and
Constable was garnered abroad. Revolutions depart from tradition. Yes,
but they depart as a tree departs from the earth. They grow out of
it; and in England there is no soil. On the other hand, it is French
conventionality--for that is what this taste for discipline comes
to--which holds down French painting, as a whole, below Italian. There
are journeys a Frenchman dare not take because, before he reached their
end, he would be confronted by one of those bogeys before which the
stoutest French heart quails--"C'est inadmissible," "C'est convenu," "La
patrie en danger." One day he may be called upon to break bounds, to
renounce the national tradition, deny the preeminence of his country,
question the sufficiency of Poussin and the perfection of Racine, or
conceive it possible that some person or thing should be more noble,
reverend, and touching than his mother. On that day the Frenchman will
turn back. "C'est inadmissible."

France, the greatest country on earth, is singularly poor in the
greatest characters--great ones she has galore. Her standard of
civilization, of intellectual and spiritual activity, is higher than
that of any other nation; yet an absence of vast, outstanding figures
is one of the most obvious facts in her history. Her literature is to
English what her painting is to Italian. Her genius is enterprising
without being particularly bold or original, and though it has brought
so much to perfection it has discovered comparatively little. Assuredly
France is the intellectual capital of the world, since, compared with
hers, all other post-Renaissance civilizations have an air distinctly
provincial. Yet, face to face with the rest of the world, France is
provincial herself. Here is a puzzle: a solution of which, if it is to
be attempted at all, must be attempted in another chapter.


II

For the last sixty years and more one of the rare pleasures of political
philosophers has been to expatiate on "le droit administratif," on the
extraordinary powers enjoyed by Government in France, whatever that
government may be; and another pleasure, which few have denied
themselves, is that of drawing the not very obscure inference that
France is democratic rather than liberal, and that the French genius has
no patience with extreme individualism. If its effects were confined
wholly to politics, to criticize this national characteristic would be
no part of my business; but as it has profoundly influenced French art
as well as French life and thought, the reader, I trust, will not be
unbearably vexed by an essay which has little immediately to do with
the subject on which I am paid to write. "What is the cause of French
conventionality?" "What are its consequences?" These are questions to
which the student of French art cannot well be indifferent; and these
are the questions that I shall attempt to answer.

The cause, I suspect, is to be found in the defect of a virtue. If it
takes two to make a quarrel it takes as many to make a bargain; and if
even the best Frenchmen are willing to make terms with society, that
must be because society has something to offer them worth accepting. All
conventions are limitations on thought, feeling, and action; and, as
such, are the enemies of originality and character--hateful, therefore,
to men richly endowed with either. French conventions, however, have a
specious air of liberality, and France offers to him who will be bound
by them partnership in the most perfect of modern civilizations--a
civilization, be it noted, of which her conventions are themselves an
expression. The bribe is tempting. Also, the pill itself is pleasantly
coated. Feel thus, think thus, act thus, says the French tradition, not
for moral, still less for utilitarian, reasons, but for æsthetic. Stick
to the rules, not because they are right or profitable, but because they
are seemly--nay, beautiful. We are not telling you to be respectable, we
are inviting you not to be a lout. We are offering you, free of charge,
a trade mark that carries credit all the world over. "How French he (or
she) is!" Many a foreigner would pay handsomely to have as much said of
him.

Any English boy born with fine sensibility, a peculiar feeling for art,
or an absolutely first-rate intelligence finds himself, from the outset,
at loggerheads with the world in which he is to live. For him there can
be no question of accepting those conventions which express what is
meanest in an unsympathetic society. To begin with, he will not go to
church or chapel on Sundays: it might be different were it a question
of going to Mass. The hearty conventions of family life which make
impossible almost relations at all intimate or subtle arouse in him
nothing but a longing for escape. He will be reared, probably, in an
atmosphere where all thought that leads to no practical end is despised,
or gets, at most, a perfunctory compliment when some great man who
in the teeth of opposition has won to a European reputation is duly
rewarded with a title or an obituary column in _The Times_. As for
artists, they, unless they happen to have achieved commercial success or
canonization in some public gallery, are pretty sure to be family jokes.
Thus, all his finer feelings will be constantly outraged; and he will
live, a truculent, shame-faced misfit, with _John Bull_ under his nose
and _Punch_ round the corner, till, at some public school, a course of
compulsory games and the Arnold tradition either breaks his spirit or
makes him a rebel for life.

In violent opposition to most of what surrounds him, any greatly gifted,
and tough, English youth is likely to become more and more aware of
himself and his own isolation. While his French compeer is having rough
corners gently obliterated by contact with a well-oiled whetstone, and
is growing daily more conscious of solidarity with his partners in a
peculiar and gracious civilization, the English lad grows steadily more
individualistic. Daily he becomes more eccentric, more adventurous, and
more of a "character." Very easily will he snap all conventional cables
and, learning to rely entirely on himself, trust only to his own sense
of what is good and true and beautiful. This personal sense is all that
he has to follow; and in following it he will meet with no conventional
obstacle that he need hesitate for one moment to demolish. English
civilization is so smug and hypocritical, so grossly philistine, and at
bottom so brutal, that every first-rate Englishman necessarily becomes
an outlaw. He grows by kicking; and his personality flourishes,
unhampered by sympathetic, clinging conventions, nor much--and this is
important, too--by the inquisitorial tyranny of Government. For, at any
rate until the beginning of the war, an Englishman who dared to defy the
conventions had less than a Frenchman to fear from the laws.

I have already suggested that the consequences of this difference
between French and English civilization may be studied in the history of
their literature and thought. For the abject poverty of English visual
art I have attempted to give reasons elsewhere: here I have not space to
say more than that it is rarely good for an artist to be a protestant,
and that a protestant is just what the English attitude to painting
generally forces a genuine artist to be. But consider the literature of
the French Renaissance: Rabelais is the one vast figure. Ronsard and his
friends are charming, elegant, and erudite; but not of the stupendous.
What is even more to the point, already with the _pléiade_ we have a
school--a school with its laws and conventions, its "thus far and no
further." Nothing is more notorious than the gorgeous individualism and
personality of those flamboyant monsters whom we call the Elizabethans,
unless it be the absence of that quality in the great French writers of
the next age. Had Pascal been as bold as Newton he might have been as
big. No one will deny that Descartes was a finer intelligence than
Hobbes, or that his meticulous respect for French susceptibilities gave
an altogether improbable turn to his speculations. In the eighteenth
century it was the English who did the discovering and the French who,
on these discoveries being declared _admissibles_, brought them to
perfection. Even in the nineteenth, the Revolution notwithstanding,
French genius, except in painting, asserted itself less vividly and
variously than the Russian or English, and less emphatically than the
German.

In recording the consequences of this French taste for authority we have
had to register profit and loss. It is true that the picture presented
by French history offers comparatively few colossal achievements or
stupendous characters. With the latter, indeed, it is particularly
ill-supplied. Whereas most of the great and many of the secondary
English writers, thinkers, and artists have been great "characters," the
slightly monotonous good sense and refinement of French literary and
artistic life is broken only by a few such massive or surprising
figures as those of Rabelais, La Fontaine, Poussin, Rousseau, Flaubert,
Cézanne--a formidable list but a short one, to which, however, a few
names could be added. On the other hand, what France has lost in colour
she has gained in fertility; and in a universal Honours List for
intellectual and artistic prowess the number of French names would
be out of all proportion to the size and wealth of the country.
Furthermore, it is this traditional basis that has kept French culture
up to a certain level of excellence. France has never been without
standards. Therefore it has been to France that the rest of Europe has
always looked for some measure of fine thinking, delicate feeling, and
general amenity. Without her conventionality it may be doubted whether
France could have remained so long the centre of civilization.

One commonly deplored consequence of French conventionality is that it
makes Frenchmen incapable of well understanding or appreciating anything
foreign, or of judging acutely between foreigners and themselves. But is
even this a serious misfortune? French critics can discriminate between
French productions with unsurpassable delicacy and precision. As for the
spring of French inspiration, it is so copious that the creative genius
of that favoured race seems to need nothing more from outside than
an occasional new point of departure, to the grasping of which its
imperfect knowledge and unprehensile taste are adequate. Indeed, the
rare endeavours of Frenchmen seriously to cultivate alien methods and
points of view more often than not end in disaster. Shortly before
the war a school of particularly intelligent and open-minded writers
discovered, what we in England are only too familiar with, the æsthetic
possibilities of charity and the beauty of being good. Dostoevsky began
it. First, they ran after _him_; then, setting themselves, as well as
they could, to study Wordsworth and Walt Whitman, in translations,
they soon plunged miserably into a morass of sentimentality. A gifted
novelist and a charming poet, Charles-Louis Philippe and Vildrac, were
amongst the first to fall in. A Wordsworth can moralize, a Sterne
can pipe his eye, with impunity; but late eighteenth and early
twentieth-century literature prove how dangerous it is for a French
author to trespass in pursuit of motives beyond the limits of his
tradition.

The reason why Frenchmen are incompetent to judge or appreciate what is
not French is that they apply to all things the French measure. They
have no universal standards, and, what is worse, they take for such
their own conventions. To read a French critic on Shakespeare or Ibsen
or Dostoevsky or Goethe is generally a humiliating experience for one
who loves France. As often as not you will find that he is depending
on a translation. It seems never to strike him that there is something
ludicrous in appraising nicely the qualities of a work written in a
language one cannot understand. Rather it seems to him ludicrous that
books should be written in any language but his own; and, until they are
translated, for him they do not exist. Many years ago, at Cambridge, I
remember having a sharpish altercation with Rupert Brooke, who had taken
it upon himself to denigrate the art of Racine. Before long it came out
that he had read the plays only in a translation; for at that time--he
was in his second year, I think--he had little or no French. Everyone
laughed, and the argument collapsed. Set the scene in Paris, imagine a
detractor of Shakespeare or Goethe being convicted of similar ignorance,
and ask yourself whether one Frenchman of the party would have felt that
by such an admission the critic was put out of court.

It cannot be denied, I fear, that the conventional habits of the French
mind lead easily to ignorance and self-satisfaction. To be frank, the
complacent aberrations of French taste, with its passion for Poe and its
pathetic confidence in Kipling and Chesterton, have become a standing
joke abroad. There is no great reason why the French should know
anything of foreign thought and literature; but there is every reason
why, knowing nothing, they should refrain from comment. And how many
Frenchmen do know anything? When I reflect that hardly one can quote
a line of English without committing or, at any rate, permitting the
grossest and most nonsensical blunders, I am inclined to suspect that
the answer is, very few. And I suppose it is this combination of
ignorance with an incapacity for handling criteria of universal validity
which gives to the nation that is assuredly the centre of civilization
its paradoxical air of provinciality. A Frenchman discoursing on foreign
peoples or on mankind in general--a favourite topic--suggests to me
sometimes the fantastic vision of a dog-fancier criticizing a steer.
Grant his premises--that whatever he admires in the one must be
essential to the other--and nothing could be more just and luminous than
his remarks. Undeniably the creature is a bit thick in the girth and,
what is worse, bull-necked. Only, as the points of an ox are different
from those of a poodle, the criticism is something beside the mark: and
there is not much more virtue in the objection to Shakespeare's later
tragedies that they are not written in rhymed verse. Blank verse,
however, is not in the great tradition; and the French critic, with
one eye fixed submissively on authority, doubts whether he would
be justified in admiring it unreservedly. Such are the inevitable
consequences of conventionality: and French conventionality is, in its
turn, the inevitable consequence of a civilization so gracious and
attractive that even the most lawless of its children cannot bear to
appear disloyal.



MARQUET [P]

[Footnote P: _Marquet_. Par George Besson.]

The best picture by Marquet I ever saw was in the Grafton Gallery
exhibition of 1912. It represented a naked woman sitting in a
rocking-chair. Since then I have seen scores of things by him,
admirable, as a rule, and invariably brilliant, but never one that was
quite first-rate. And here comes M. George Besson, with an essay and an
album of photographs, to show us a few works which, surpassing anything
of which we had supposed him capable, emerge triumphantly from that
stream of clever variations on a theme which Marquet has made only too
much his own.

Anyone who compares these nudes with what Matisse was doing a dozen or
fifteen years ago will not fail to discover a common factor: neither
will he be surprised to learn that at one time these two artists were
treated almost as equals. Both achieved a strange and disquieting
intensity by bold simplifications and distortion, by concentration on
the vital movements and characteristics of the human body, and by an
absolute indifference to its literary and sentimental interest. "Lorsque
je dessine j'ai devant un homme les mêmes préoccupations que devant un
bec de gaz." That is well said: what is more, the saying has been put
successfully into practice. Such pictures as numbers 19, 25, and 27 are
entitled to a place beside those of no matter what contemporary.

Needless to say, the integrity of Marquet's vision has considerably
distressed those who have no taste for art; and from one of them,
Marquet's friend Charles-Louis Philippe, it drew a bit of art criticism
that ought not to be lost. "Le ciel me préserve," exclaims the author of
_Marie Donadieu_, "d'aimer d'un amour total un art dont l'ironie parfois
atteint à la cruauté! Et quand, tous les usages admis qui veulent qu'on
ne présente un homme que sous ses bons côtés, quand l'amitié même que
j'éprouve pour M. Marquet m'eussent engagé, à me taire, un devoir plus
impérieux me sollicitait, et j'aurais eu le sentiment de me rabaisser
moi-même en y manquant."

Not even an art critic can be expected to lower himself in his own
eyes by turning a deaf ear to the solicitations of imperious duty.
So Monsieur Philippe very honourably concludes his observations by
expressing the opinion that "il n'a pas droit à toute l'admiration des
hommes puisqu'il a été sans pitié."

The cry of this soft and silly sentimentalist has been neatly put by
M. Besson to the purpose of illustrating, and perhaps a little
exaggerating, the merits of a painter who is, assuredly, neither one
nor the other. Too clever by half, that rather is the fault with which
Marquet must be taxed. The artist who has given us a dozen first-rate
things--superb nudes, "felt" as solid, three-dimensional forms, and
realized as such--is always being forestalled by an astonishing
caricaturist who can knock you off something brilliant, rapid, and
telling while you wait for the boat. Always this brisk and agile person
is stepping forward in front of the artist and jotting down his neat
symbols in the space reserved for significant form. The landscapes
and boats and street-scenes of Marquet, with their joyously emphatic
statement, their lively contrasts, and their power of giving you the
pith of the matter in a few strokes, are about as valuable as the best
things of Forain. They are statements of fact, not expressions of
emotion. Marquet, the inimitable captor of life as it hurries by, is
not much better than a caricaturist; and as he becomes more and more
proficient in his craft he bothers less and less about that to which
it should be a means. The art of Marquet tends ever to become the
repetition of a formula.

Lately, in London, we have been looking at the works of Pissarro, and I
could wish that Marquet would look at them, too. Like him, Pissarro was
a painter of streets and landscapes who returned again and again to the
same motif. In the course of a long life he must, I should think, have
painted the Quai Voltaire, the Quai des Grands Augustins, and the Quai
St. Michel almost as often as Marquet has knocked them off. And if
Pissarro never invented a shorthand wherewith to make notes of what was
going on beneath his window, that was because Pissarro, for all his
impressionist theory, was less concerned with the transitory aspect
of things than with their æsthetic significance. He, too, approached
everything, men and women, trees, rivers, and houses, in the same
spirit: he approached them in the spirit of a painter. Never for the
ugliest harlot, the sorriest thief, or the most woebegone gas-jet did he
feel that whimpering, simpering, sentiment that Tolstoy frankly admired
and Philippe felt the want of. But always he seems to have seen his
motif with the finely disinterested passion of an artist. Now, the
passion of an artist is not to be jotted down: it has to be deliberately
transmuted into form.

If Marquet were as familiar with naked women as he is with the hats,
coats, and petticoats he sees from his window, doubtless by this time he
would have elaborated a set of symbols wherewith to record his sense of
them. Happily he is not: so, before the model, he finds himself obliged
to demand of the artist that is in him some plastic equivalent for his
intense and agitated vision. Thus goaded and disarmed he can produce
a masterpiece. And, therefore, were it for me to give advice, what
I should say to Marquet would be--throw away your sketch-book and
panel-box, and settle down in a studio, with a top light, a model or
two, and a six-foot canvas. Only, as this must be just what M. Lhote has
been telling him, naturally he would tell me to mind my own business.

His apologist, M. Besson, at any rate, has no patience with those who
would set artists in the way they should go. In this essay he gives them
a piece of his mind, and he does it so well and so gaily that it is a
pleasure to be scolded. First, he has a few words with "une dame,
que Gérome fit héritière de ses uniformes et qui devint la muse d'un
géomètre-arpenteur de certaine récente peinture." (Whom can he mean?)

    Je connais l'atelier de Marquet, Madame, en marge de l'Atelier où
    l'on esthétise, où l'on fabrique les manifestes et les novateurs de
    génie. Marquet garde son rôle de peintre. Il n'est guère pour lui de
    souci plus sérieux que le souci de sa liberté. Il veut être libre
    pour peindre, libre même pour oublier la peinture, libre encore,
    libre davantage pour n'être ni questionné ni consulté, pour ne
    devenir ni un expert, ni un éducateur de sots.

    Et voilà pourquoi, vous n'avez jamais fait de conférence en son
    atelier.

And again:

    Pour n'avoir jamais asservi son art à la construction d'un système,
    pour avoir senti la vanité des théories, pour n'avoir pas fait tout
    les pèlerinages d'oû l'on revient avec des règles, l'art d'Albert
    Marquet donne une impression de peinture heureuse.

Of course M. Besson is right. Few in this world cut a more ludicrous
figure than art-masters; few things are more deplorable than propaganda.
Yet M. Besson should be careful: one thing there is more ridiculous
still, and that is counter-propaganda. Protestantism in art is
the devil; but the devil is not such a fool as to protest against
protestantism. He leaves that to the young bloods of the Rotonde and the
Café Royal. By all means let M. Besson claim liberty for his artist,
but, in doing so, let him beware of denying it to another, even though
what that other demands be "liberty of prophesying" or the right to
preach the gospel according to David.



STANDARDS

Some people in England are beginning to realize that while we have been
"saving civilization," first from Germans, and then from Bolsheviks, we
have come near losing it ourselves. [Q] This disquieting truth has been
borne in on them by various signs and portents, not least by the utter
collapse of taste. At life's feast we are like people with colds in
their heads: we have lost all power of discrimination. As ever, "Dido,
Queen of Carthage," and better things than that, are caviare to the
general: what is new, and worse, to our most delicate epicures bloater
paste is now caviare.

[Footnote Q: Written in March 1919.]

At a London dinner-party even a peeress, even an American lady who
has married a peer, dare not commit herself to an adverse literary
judgement--except in the case of notoriously disaffected writers--for
the very good reason that she does not know where to go for a literary
judgement that shall be above reproach. We have as little confidence in
our critics as in our ministers. Indeed, since all our officers, and
most of our privates, took to publishing pages of verse or, at any rate,
of prose that looks odd enough to be verse, the habit of criticism has
been voted unpatriotic. To grudge a man in the trenches a column of
praise loud enough to drown for a moment the noise of battle would have
seemed ungrateful and, what is worse, fastidious. Our critics were
neither; they did their bit: and no one was surprised to hear the stuff
with which schoolboys line their lockers described as "one of the
truest, deepest, and most moving notes that have been struck since the
days of Elizabeth."

This sort of thing was encouraging at the time, and kept our lads in
good heart; but, in the long run, it has proved demoralizing to our
critics as well as to their clients. For, now that the war is over,
those who so loyally proclaimed that any bugle-boy was a better musician
than any fiddler find themselves incapable of distinguishing, not only
between fiddlers, but even between buglers. Perhaps it was natural that
when, during the war, T.S. Eliot, about the best of our young poets--if
ours I may call him--published _Prufrock_, no English paper, so far as
I know, should have given him more than a few words of perfunctory
encouragement: natural that when Virginia Woolf, the best of our younger
novelists, and Middleton Murry published works of curious imagination
and surprising subtlety, critics, worn in the service of Mr. Bennett of
the Propaganda Office and our Mr. Wells, should not have noticed that
here were a couple of artists: but is it not as strange as sad that our
patriot geese, time out of mind a nation's oracles, should still be
unable to tell us whether Lieutenant Brooke, Captain Nicholls, Major
Grenfell, or Lieut.-Colonel Maurice Baring is the greatest poet of this
age?

And in painting and music things are no better. Even our old prejudices
are gone. All is welcome now, except real art; and even that gets
splashed in the wild outpour of adulation. To admire everything is,
perhaps, a more amiable kind of silliness than to admire nothing: it is
silliness all the same. Also, it has brought taste to such a pass that,
except the Russian ballet, there was not last winter [R] in London one
entertainment at which a person of reasonable intelligence could bear
to spend an hour. As for the ballet, it was a music-hall turn, lasting
fifteen minutes, which the public seemed to like rather better than the
performing dogs and distinctly less than the ventriloquist. The public
accepted it because it accepts whatever is provided. Nevertheless, the
subtler of our music-hall comedians have obviously been ordered to
coarsen their methods or clear out, and the rare jokes that used to
relieve the merry misery of our revues and plays are now dispensed with
as superfluous.

[Footnote R: The winter 1918-19.]

The war is not entirely to blame: the disease was on us long before
1914. War, however, created an atmosphere in which it was bound to
prevail. Active service conditions are notoriously unfavourable to the
critical spirit. The army canteen need not tempt its customers: neither
need the ordinary shop under a rationing system: and, it must be
confessed, the habit of catering for colonial soldiers has not tended to
make our public entertainments more subtle or amusing. But the disease
of which taste is sick unto death has been on us these fifty years. It
is the emporium malady. We are slaves of the trade-mark. Our tastes are
imposed on us by our tradesmen, under which respectable title I include
newspaper owners, booksellers' touts, book-stall keepers, music-hall
kings, opera syndicates, picture-dealers, and honest bagmen.

As for the tradesman, he is no longer an expert any more than the critic
or the impressario is. No longer a merchant, no longer a shop-keeper
even, he is to-day a universal provider. Fifty years ago the nice
housewife still prided herself on knowing the right place for
everything. There was a little man in a back street who imported just
the coffee she wanted, another who blended tea to perfection, a third
who could smoke a ham as a ham should be smoked. All have vanished now;
and the housewife betakes herself to the stores. We no longer insist on
getting what we like, we like what we get. The March Hare's paradox has
ceased to be paradoxical. For five years Europe has been doing what it
was told to do; for five years our experts have subjected their critical
sense to a sense of patriotism and a desire to keep in with the
majority; at last the producers themselves have lost their sense of
values and can no longer test the quality of their own productions.
There are no standards.

Let no one imagine that standards are, like police regulations, things
that can be imposed by authority. Standards exist in the mind, where
they grow out of that personal sense of values which is one of the twin
pillars on which civilization rests. All that authority can do is to
stimulate and sharpen that sense by subtle education and absolute
sincerity. The critic can put good things in another man's way and
present them in a sympathetic light; also, he can resolutely refuse ever
to pretend that he likes what he does not like. Standards are imposed
from above in the sense that people who have the ability and leisure to
cultivate their sense of values will, if they take advantage of their
opportunities, inevitably influence those less favourably placed. In the
fine arts, certainly, taste is bound to be very much directed by people
blest with peculiar gifts and armed with special equipment. But, besides
taste in the fine arts, there is such a thing as taste in life; a power
of discerning and choosing for one's self in life's minor matters; and
on this taste in life, this sense of the smaller values, is apt to
flourish that subtler and more precious æsthetic sense. Without this
taste no civilization can exist; for want of it European civilization is
seemingly about to perish.

Take the thing at its lowest. A rich, good-humoured fellow, replete
with a fabulously expensive but distressingly ill-chosen dinner in a
magnificently ill-furnished and over-lit restaurant, excited by Saumur
(recommended as "Perrier Jouet, 1911") and a great deal of poor
conversation drowned, for the most part, by even noisier music, may be
heard to say, as he permits the slovenly waiter to choose him the most
expensive cigar--"That will do, sonny, the best's good enough for me."
The best is not good enough for anyone who has standards; but the modern
Englishman seems to have none. To go to the most expensive shop and buy
the dearest thing there is his notion of getting the best. You may dine
at any of the half-dozen "smartest" restaurants in London, pay a couple
of pounds for your meal, and be sure that a French commercial traveller,
bred to the old standards of the provincial ordinary, would have sent
for the cook and given him a scolding. It is not to be supposed that the
most expensive English restaurants fail to engage the most expensive
French chefs; they are engaged, but they soon fall below the mark
because there is no one to keep them up to it. The clients have no
standards. Go to the opera and look at the rich ladies' frocks: they
might have come out of an antimacassar factory. They express no sense of
what is personally becoming nor a sense of insolent luxury even: they
bear witness to an utter lack of standards, and they cost a great deal
of money. The best is good enough for these fine ladies, and their best
is the dressmaker's most expensive.

This is no mere question of fashions and conventions. If standards go,
civilization goes. To hear people talk you might suppose there had never
been such things as dark ages. Not only have there been dark ages,
there has been an unmeasured tract of pre-historic savagery, and sharp
eyes--notably those of Louis Weber--are beginning to detect certain
similarities between this age and that. The peculiarity of the historic
age, man's brilliant age, the age of civilization, is the conservatism
of its technique and its spiritual restlessness. In the pre-historic age
man's best energies were apparently devoted to perfecting the means
to material existence. Improving the instrument was the grand
preoccupation. From the old stone age to the new, from that to bronze,
and from bronze to iron is the story of pre-historic development. Then
follow some forty centuries during which man rests content with his
instrument. Between the Minoan age and the Industrial Revolution his
technical discoveries are insignificant by comparison with his spiritual
adventures. Content with the plough, the wagon, and the loom, man turns
the sharp edge of his mind to things of the mind, considers himself in
all his relations, thinks, feels, states, expresses, concerns himself
with spiritual, rather than material, problems. With the Industrial
Revolution begins the third act. Again human intelligence and ingenuity
concentrate on the prehistoric problem--the perfecting of the
instrument. For a hundred years Europe marches merrily back towards
barbarism. Then, at the very moment when she is becoming alarmed and
self-critical, at the very moment when she is wondering how she is to
reconcile her new material ambitions with the renascent claims of the
spirit, comes a war that relegates to the dust-bin or the gaol all that
is not of immediate practical utility. The smoke of battle drifts
slowly away and reveals a situation almost hopeless. We have lost our
standards, our taste in life: we have lost the very thing by which we
recognized that there were such things as spiritual values.

In one of his early essays Renan points out that the proper apology for
the old French aristocracy is that it performed the proper function of
a leisured class. It maintained standards. Unlike the English, it
concerned itself neither with politics nor with money-making, nor yet
with local affairs: it stood apart, "formant dans la nation une classe
qui n'avait d'autre souci que les choses libérales." Renan recognized
that a leisured class is the source of civilization; whether he also
recognized that there is no earthly reason why a leisured class should
be the ruling class is not clear. In Europe we have now no leisured
class; we have only a number of rich men, mere wealth-producers, who
perform for high wages the useful functions that miners and milkmaids
perform for low ones. Our leisured class, moribund before the war, died
peacefully in its sleep the year before last. There is no class on this
side the Atlantic to insist on quality now. But if, as I am told, we all
owe money to America, has not America acquired, along with her financial
supremacy, certain moral obligations? Has she not become the leisured
class of the world, and, as such, responsible to civilization for the
maintenance of those standards without which civilization falls? If so,
it is for America to insist in the fine arts on some measure of talent
and intelligence, in society on decent manners, in life on a critical
attitude: it is for her to reaffirm those standards of excellence below
which neither art nor thought nor manners nor merchandize shall be
suffered to fall: for her to teach us once again to be fastidious, to
embolden us to say to a poet, a painter, a politician, a newspaper
proprietor, or even to a _maître d'hôtel_--"This is not good enough."
America possesses the means; she can crack the only whip that carries
much conviction nowadays. Whether she has the will to use it is quite
another matter.



CRITICISM

(I) _Criticism_

Critics do not exist for artists any more than palæontologists exist
for fossils. If both critics and artists could recognize this, how much
poorer the world would be in malice and rancour! To help the artist is
no part of a critic's business: artists who cannot help themselves must
borrow from other artists. The critic's business is to help the public.
With the artist he is not directly concerned: he is concerned only with
his finished products. So it is ridiculous for the artist to complain
that criticism is unhelpful, and absurd for the critic to read the
artist lectures with a view to improving his art. If the critic reads
lectures it must be with a view to helping the public to appreciate, not
the artist to create. To put the public in the way of æsthetic pleasure,
that is the end for which critics exist, and to that end all means are
good.

Connoisseurs in pleasure--of whom I count myself one--know that nothing
is more intensely delightful than the æsthetic thrill. Now, though many
are capable of tasting this pleasure, few can get it for themselves:
for only those who have been born with a peculiar sensibility, and have
known how to cherish it, enjoy art naturally, simply, and at first hand
as most of us enjoy eating, drinking, and kissing. But, fortunately,
it is possible for the peculiarly sensitive, or for some of them, by
infecting others with their enthusiasm, to throw these into a state
of mind in which they, too, can experience the thrill of æsthetic
comprehension. And the essence of good criticism is this: that, instead
of merely imparting to others the opinions of the critic, it puts them
in a state to appreciate the work of art itself. A man blest with
peculiar sensibility, who happens also to possess this infecting power,
need feel no more shame in becoming a critic than Socrates would have
felt in becoming a don. The vocations are much alike. The good critic
puts his pupil in the way of enjoying art, the good don or schoolmaster
teaches his how to make the most of life; while bad critics and
pedagogues stuff their victims with those most useless of all useless
things, facts and opinions.

Primarily, a critic is a sign-post. He points to a work of art and
says--"Stop! Look!" To do that he must have the sensibility that
distinguishes works of art from rubbish, and, amongst works of art, the
excellent from the mediocre. Further, the critic has got to convince,
he has got to persuade the spectator that there is something before him
that is really worth looking at. His own reaction, therefore, must be
genuine and intense. Also, he must be able to stimulate an appreciative
state of mind; he must, that is to say, have the art of criticism. He
should be able, at a pinch, to disentangle and appraise the qualities
which go to make up a masterpiece, so that he may lead a reluctant
convert by partial pleasures to a sense of the whole. And, because
nothing stands more obstructively between the public and the grand
æsthetic ecstasies than the habit of feeling a false emotion for a
pseudo-work-of-art, he must be as remorseless in exposing shams as a
good schoolmaster would be in exposing charlatans and short-cuts to
knowledge.

Since, in all times and places, the essence of art--the externalizing in
form of something that lies at the very depths of personality--has been
the same, it may seem strange, at first sight, that critical methods
should have varied. One moment's reflection will suffice to remind us
that there are often ten thousand paths to the same goal; and a second's
may suggest that the variety in critical methods is, at any rate, not
more surprising than the variety in the methods of artists. Always
have artists been striving to convert the thrill of inspiration
into significant form; never have they stuck long to any one
converting-machine. Throughout the ages there has been a continual
chopping and changing of "the artistic problem." Canons in criticism
are as unessential as subjects in painting. There are ends to which
a variety of means are equally good: the artist's end is to create
significant form; that of the critic to bring his spectator before a
work of art in an alert and sympathetic frame of mind. If we can realize
that Giotto, with his legends, and Picasso, with his cubes, are after
the same thing, surely we can understand that when Vasari talks of
"Truth to Nature" or "nobility of sentiment," and Mr. Roger Fry of
"planes" and "relations," both are about the same business.

Only a fool could suppose that the ancients were less sensitive to art
than we are. Since they were capable of producing great art it seems
silly to pretend that they were incapable of appreciating it. We need
not be dismayed by the stories of Apelles and Polygnotus with their
plums and sparrows. These are merely the instruments of criticism:
by such crude means did ancient critics excite the public and try to
express their own subtle feelings. If anyone seriously believes that the
Athenians admired the great figures on the Parthenon for their fidelity
to Nature I would invite him to take into consideration the fact that
they are not faithful at all. More probably a sensitive Athenian admired
them for much the same reasons as we admire them. He felt much what we
feel: only, he expressed his admiration and thus provoked the admiration
of others, by calling these grand, distorted, or "idealized" figures
"lifelike." Reading the incomparable Vasari, one is not more struck by
his sensibility and enthusiasm than by the improbability of his having
liked the pictures he did like for the childish reasons he is apt to
allege. Could anyone be moved by the verisimilitude of Uccello? I forget
whether that is what Vasari commends: what I am sure of is that he was
moved by the same beauties that move us.

The fact is, it matters hardly at all what words the critic employs
provided they have the power of infecting his audience with his genuine
enthusiasm for an authentic work of art. No one can state in words just
what he feels about a work of art--especially about a work of visual
art. He may exclaim; indeed, if he be a critic he should exclaim, for
that is how he arrests the public. He may go on to seek some rough
equivalent in words for his excited feelings. But whatever he may say
will amount to little more than steam let off. He cannot describe his
feelings; he can only make it clear that he has them. That is why
analytical criticism of painting and music is always beside the mark:
neither, I think, is analytical criticism of literary art much more
profitable. With literature that is not pure art the case is different,
facts and ideas being, of course, the analyst's natural prey. But before
a work of art the critic can do little more than jump for joy. And that
is all he need do if, like Cherubino, he is "good at jumping." The
warmth and truth of Vasari's sentiment comes straight through all his
nonsense. Because he really felt he can still arrest.

Take an artist who has always been popular, and see what the ages have
had to say about him. For more than two hundred and fifty years Poussin
has been admired by most of those who have been born sensitive to the
visual arts. No pretexts could be more diverse than those alleged by
these admirers. Yet it would be as perverse to suppose that they have
all liked him for totally different reasons as to maintain that all
those who, since the middle of the seventeenth century, have relished
strawberries have tasted different flavours. What is more, when I read,
say, the fantastic discourses on the pictures of Poussin delivered by
the Academicians of 1667, I feel certain that some of these erudite old
gentlemen had, in fact, much the same sort of enthusiasm, stirred by the
monumental qualities of his design and the sober glory of his colours,
that I have myself. Through all the dry dust of their pedantry the
accent of æsthetic sensibility rings clear.

Poussin's contemporaries praised him chiefly as a preceptor, an
inculcator of historical truths, more especially the truths of classical
and Hebrew history. That is why Philippe de Champaigne deplores the fact
that in his _Rebecca_ "Poussin n'ait pas traité le sujet de son tableau
avec toute la fidélité de l'histoire, parce qu'il a retranché la
représentation des chameaux, dont l'Ecriture fait mention." But Le Brun,
approaching the question from a different angle, comes heavily down on
his scrupulous colleague with the rejoinder that "M. Poussin a rejeté
les objets bizarres qui pouvaient débaucher l'oeil du spectateur et
l'amuser à des minuties." The philosophic eighteenth century remarked
with approval that Poussin was the exponent of a wholesome doctrine
calculated to advance the happiness of mankind. But to the fervid pages
of Diderot, wherein that tender enthusiast extols Poussin to the skies,
asserting that one finds in his work "le charme de la nature avec les
incidents ou les plus doux ou les plus terribles de la vie," our modern
sensibility makes no response. And we are right. The whole panegyric
rings hollow. For to visual art Diderot had no reaction, as every line
he wrote on the subject shows.

That devout critic who, in the reign of the respectable Louis-Philippe,
discovered that "Nicolas Poussin était doué d'une foi profonde: la piété
fut son seul refuge," is in the same boat. And for companion they have
Mr. Ruskin, who, being, like them, incapable of a genuine æsthetic
emotion, is likewise incapable of infecting a truly sensitive reader. So
far as I remember, Ruskin's quarrel with Poussin is that to his picture
of the _Flood_ he has given a prevailing air of sobriety and gloom,
whereas it is notorious that an abundance of rain causes all green
things to flourish and the rocks to shine like agate. But when Ingres
attributes the excellence of Poussin to the fact that he was a faithful
disciple of the ancients we feel that he is talking about the thing
that matters, and that he is talking sense. And we feel the same--what
instance could more prettily illustrate my theory?--when Delacroix
passionately asserts that Poussin was an arch-revolutionary. [S]

[Footnote S: For this little history of Poussin criticism I am indebted
to M. Paul Desjardins: _Poussin_ (Paris, Librairie Renouard).]

The divergence between the pretexts alleged by our ancestors for their
enthusiasm and the reasons given by us, moderns, is easily explained
by our intense self-consciousness. We are deeply interested in our own
states of mind: we are all psychologists now. From psychology springs
the modern interest in æsthetics; those who care for art and the
processes of their own minds finding themselves æstheticians
willy-nilly. Now, art-criticism and æsthetics are two things, though at
the present moment the former is profoundly influenced by the latter.
By works of art we are thrown into an extraordinary state of mind, and,
unlike our forefathers, we want to give some exacter account of that
state than that it is pleasant, and of the objects that provoke it some
more accurate and precise description than that they are lifelike,
or poetical, or beautiful even. We expect our critics to find some
plausible cause for so considerable an effect. We ask too much. It is
for the æsthetician to analyze a state of mind and account for it: the
critic has only to bring into sympathetic contact the object that will
provoke the emotion and the mind that can experience it. Therefore, all
that is required of him is that he should have sensibility, conviction,
and the art of making his conviction felt. Fine sensibility he must
have. He must be able to spot good works of art. No amount of eloquence
in the critic can give form significance. To create that is the artist's
business. It is for the critic to put the public in the way of enjoying
it.


2. _Second Thoughts_

It is becoming fashionable to take criticism seriously, or, more
exactly, serious critics are trying to make it so. How far they have
succeeded may be measured by the fact that we are no longer ashamed to
reprint our reviews: how far they are justified is another question. It
is one the answer to which must depend a good deal on our answer to that
old and irritating query--is beauty absolute? For, if the function of a
critic be merely to perform the office of a sign-post, pointing out
what he personally likes and stimulating for that as much enthusiasm as
possible, his task is clearly something less priestlike than it would
be if, beauty being absolute, it were his to win for absolute beauty
adequate appreciation.

I do not disbelieve in absolute beauty any more than I disbelieve
in absolute truth. On the contrary, I gladly suppose that the
proposition--this object must be either beautiful or not beautiful--is
absolutely true. Only, can we recognize it? Certainly, at moments we
believe that we can. We believe it when we are taken unawares and bowled
over by the purely æsthetic qualities of a work of art. The purely
æsthetic qualities, I say, because we can be thrown into that
extraordinarily lucid and unself-conscious transport wherein we are
aware only of a work of art and our reaction to it by æsthetic qualities
alone. Every now and then the beauty, the bald miracle, the "significant
form"--if I may venture the phrase--of a picture, a poem, or a piece of
music--of something, perhaps, with which we had long believed ourselves
familiar--springs from an unexpected quarter and lays us flat. We were
not on the look-out for that sort of thing, and we abandon ourselves
without one meretricious gesture of welcome. What we feel has nothing
to do with a pre-existent mood; we are transported into a world washed
clean of all past experience æsthetic or sentimental. When we have
picked ourselves up we begin to suppose that such a state of mind must
have been caused by something of which the significance was inherent and
the value absolute. "This," we say, "is absolute beauty." Perhaps it is.
Only, let us hesitate to give that rather alarming style to anything
that has moved us less rapturously or less spontaneously.

For, ninety-nine out of a hundred of our æsthetic experiences have been
carefully prepared. Art rarely catches us: we go half way to meet it,
we hunt it down even with a pack of critics. In our chastest moments we
enter a concert-hall or gallery with the deliberate intention of being
moved; in our most abandoned we pick up Browning or Alfred de Musset and
allow our egotism to bask in their oblique flattery. Now, when we come
to art with a mood of which we expect it to make something brilliant or
touching there can be no question of being possessed by absolute beauty.
The emotion that we obtain is thrilling enough, and exquisite may be;
but it is self-conscious and reminiscent: it is conditioned. It is
conditioned by our mood: what is more--critics please take note--this
precedent mood not only colours and conditions our experience, but draws
us inevitably towards those works of art in which it scents sympathy and
approval. To a reflective moralist Wordsworth will always mean more
than a yellow primrose meant to Peter Bell. In our moments of bitter
disillusionment it is such a comfort to jest with Pope and His Lordship
that we lose all patience with the advanced politician who prefers
Blake. And, behold, we are in a world of personal predilections, a
thousand miles from absolute values.

Discussion of this question is complicated by the fact that a belief in
the absolute nature of beauty is generally considered meritorious. It
can be hitched onto, and even made to support, a disbelief in the theory
that the universe is a whimsical and unpremeditated adventure which
rolls merrily down the road to ruin without knowing in the least where
it is going or caring to go anywhere in particular. This theory is
unpopular. Wherefore, absolute beauty is too often fitted into a whole
system of absolutes or rather into The Absolute; and, of course,
it would be intolerable to suppose that we could ever fail to
recognize--should I say Him? Unluckily, history and personal
experience--those two black beasts of _a priori_ idealists--here await
us. If beauty be absolute, the past was sometimes insensitive, or we
are: for the past failed to recognize the beauty of much that seems to
us supremely beautiful, and sincerely admired much that to us seems
trash. And we, ourselves, did we never despise what to-day we adore?
Murillo and Salvator Rosa and forgers of works by both enjoyed for years
the passionate admiration of the _cognoscenti_ In Dr. Johnson's time
"no composition in our language had been oftener perused than Pomfret's
_Choice_." If ever there was a man who should have been incapable of
going wrong about poetry that man was Thomas Gray. How shall we explain
his enthusiasm for Macpherson's fraud? And if there be another of whom
the bowling over might be taken as conclusive evidence in the court
of literary appeal that other is surely Coleridge. Hark to him: "My
earliest acquaintances will not have forgotten the undisciplined
eagerness and impetuous zeal with which I laboured to make proselytes,
not only of my companions, but of all with whom I conversed, of whatever
rank, and in whatever place.... And with almost equal delight did I
receive the three or four following publications of the same author."
That author was the Reverend Mr. Bowles.

I was saying that any work of art that has given the authentic thrill to
a man of real sensibility must have an absolute and inherent value: and,
of course, we all are really sensitive. Only, it is sometimes difficult
to be sure that our thrill was the real _coup de foudre_ and not the
mere gratification of a personal appetite. Let us admit so much: let us
admit that we do sometimes mistake what happens to suit us for what is
absolutely and universally good; which once admitted, it will be easy to
concede further that no one can hope to recognize all manifestations
of beauty. History is adamant against any other conclusion. No one can
quite escape his age, his civilization, and his peculiar disposition;
from which it seems to follow that not even the unanimous censure of
generations can utterly discredit anything. The admission comes in the
nick of time: history was on the point of calling attention to the
attitude of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to Gothic,
Romanesque, and Byzantine art.

The fact is, most of our enthusiasms and antipathies are the bastard
offspring of a pure æsthetic sense and a permanent disposition or a
transitory mood. The best of us start with a temperament and a point of
view, the worst with a cut-and-dried theory of life; and for the artist
who can flatter and intensify these we have a singular kindness, while
to him who appears indifferent or hostile it is hard to be even just.
What is more, those who are most sensitive to art are apt to be most
sensitive to these wretched, irrelevant implications. They pry so deeply
into a work that they cannot help sometimes spying on the author behind
it. And remember, though rightly we set high and apart that supreme
rapture in which we are carried to a world of impersonal and
disinterested admiration, our æsthetic experience would be small indeed
were it confined to this. More often than not it must be of works that
have moved him partly by matching a mood that the best of critics
writes. More often than not he is disentangling and exhibiting qualities
of which all he can truly say is that they have proved comfortable
or exhilarating to a particular person at a particular moment. He is
dealing with matters of taste; and about tastes, you know, _non est
disputandum_.

I shall not pretend that when I call the poetry of Milton good I suppose
my judgement to have no more validity than what may be claimed for that
of the urchin who says the same of peppermints: but I do think a
critic should cultivate a sense of humour. If he be very sure that his
enthusiasm is the only appropriate response of a perfectly disinterested
sensibility to absolute beauty, let him be as dogmatic as is compatible
with good breeding: failing that, I counsel as great a measure of
modesty as may be compatible with the literary character. Let him
remember that, as a rule, he is not demanding homage for what he knows
to be absolutely good, but pointing to what he likes and trying to
explain why he likes it. That, to my mind, is the chief function of a
critic. After all, an unerring eye for masterpieces is perhaps of more
use to a dealer than to him. Mistakes do not matter much: if we are
to call mistakes what are very likely no more than the records of a
perverse or obscure mood. Was it a mistake in 1890 to rave about Wagner?
Is it a mistake to find him intolerable now? Frankly, I suspect the man
or woman of the nineties who was unmoved by Wagner of having wanted
sensibility, and him or her who to-day revels in that music of being
æsthetically oversexed. Be that as it may, never to pretend to like what
bores or dislike what pleases him, to be honest in his reactions and
exact in their description, is all I now ask of a critic. It is asking
a good deal, I think. To a lady who protested that she knew what she
liked, Whistler is said to have replied--"So, madame, do the beasts of
the field." Do they? Then all I can say is the beasts of the field are
more highly developed than most of the ladies and gentlemen who write
about art in the papers.


3. _Last Thoughts_

Already I am in a scrape with the critics. I am in a scrape for having
said, a couple of years ago, that a critic was nothing but a sign-post,
and for having added, somewhat later, that he was a fallible sign-post
at that. So now, contributing to a supplement [T] which, being written by
critics, is sure to be read by them, I naturally take the opportunity of
explaining that what I said, if rightly understood, was perfectly civil
and obliging.

[Footnote T: Contributed to the Critical Supplement of _The New
Republic_.]

Perhaps I shall stand a better chance of pardon when it is perceived
that I, too, am fallible, and, what is more, that I am quite aware of
the fact. The reader can see for himself that, from first thoughts to
last--in three years, that is--not only have my opinions on the art of
criticism been modified, but my critical opinions have themselves become
less confident. So, to recall what I did say: I said that critics exist
for the public, and that it is no part of their business to help artists
with good advice. I argued that a critic no more exists for artists than
a palæontologist does for the Dinosaurs on whose fossils he expatiates,
and that, though artists happen to create those exciting objects which
are the matter of a critic's discourse, that discourse is all for the
benefit of the critic's readers. For these, I said, he is to procure
æsthetic pleasures: and his existence is made necessary by the curious
fact that, though works of art are charged with a power of provoking
extraordinarily intense and desirable emotions, the most sensitive
people are often incapable of experiencing them until a jog or a drop of
stimulant even has been given to their appreciative faculties.

A critic should be a guide and an animator. His it is first to bring his
reader into the presence of what he believes to be art, then to cajole
or bully him into a receptive frame of mind. He must, therefore, besides
conviction, possess a power of persuasion and stimulation; and if anyone
imagines that these are common or contemptible gifts he mistakes. It
would, of course, be much nicer to think that the essential part of a
critic's work was the discovery and glorification of absolute beauty:
only, unluckily, it is far from certain that absolute beauty exists, and
most unlikely, if it does, that any human being can distinguish it from
what is relative. The wiser course, therefore, is to ask of critics
no more than sincerity, and to leave divine certitude to superior
beings--magistrates, for instance, and curates, and fathers of large
families, and Mr. Bernard Shaw. At any rate, it is imprudent, I am sure,
in us critics to maintain so stoutly as we are apt to do, that when we
call a work of art "good" we do not mean simply that we like it with
passion and conviction but that it is absolutely so, seeing that the
most sensitive people of one age have ever extolled some things which
the most sensitive of another have cried down, and have cried down what
others have extolled. And, indeed, I will bet whatever this essay may
be worth that there is not a single contributor to this supplement who
would not flatly contradict a vast number of the æsthetic judgements
which have been pronounced with equal confidence by the most illustrious
of his predecessors. No critic can be sure that what he likes has
absolute value; and it is a mark of mere silliness to suppose that what
he dislikes can have no value at all. Neither is there any need of
certainty. A critic must have sincerity and conviction--he must be
convinced of the genuineness of his own feelings. Never may he pretend
to feel more or less or something other than what he does feel; and
what he feels he should be able to indicate, and even, to some extent,
account for. Finally, he must have the power of infecting others with
his own enthusiasm. Anyone who possesses these qualities and can do
these things I call a good critic.

"And what about discrimination?" says someone. "What about the very
meaning of the word?" Certainly the power of discriminating between
artists, that of discriminating between the parts and qualities of a
work of art, and the still different power of discriminating between
one's own reactions, are important instruments of criticism; but they
are not the only ones, nor, I believe, are they indispensable. At any
rate, if the proper end of criticism be the fullest appreciation of art,
if the function of a critic be the stimulation of the reader's power of
comprehending and enjoying, all means to that end must be good. The
rest of this essay will be devoted to a consideration of the means most
commonly employed.

Discriminating critics, as opposed to those other two great classes--the
Impressionistic and the Biographical--are peculiar in this amongst other
things: they alone extract light from refuse and deal profitably with
bad art. I am not going back on my axiom--the proper end of criticism is
appreciation: but I must observe that one means of stimulating a taste
for what is most excellent is an elaborate dissection of what is not. I
remember walking with an eminent contributor to _The New Republic_ and a
lady who admired so intemperately the writings of Rupert Brooke that
our companion was at last provoked into analyzing them with magisterial
severity. He concluded by observing that a comparison of the more airy
and fantastic productions of this gallant young author with the poems of
Andrew Marvell would have the instant effect of putting the former in
their place. The lady took the hint; and has since confessed that never
before had she so clearly seen or thoroughly enjoyed the peculiar
beauties, the sweetness, the artful simplicity and sly whimsicality of
the most enchanting of English poets. The discriminating critic is not
afraid of classifying artists and putting them in their places. Analysis
is one of his most precious instruments. He will pose the question--"Why
is Milton a great poet?"--and will proceed to disengage certain definite
qualities the existence of which can be proved by demonstration and
handled objectively with almost scientific precision. This sort of
criticism was brought to perfection in the eighteenth century; and
certainly it did sometimes lead critics quite out of sight and reach of
the living spirit of poetry. It was responsible for masses of amazing
obtuseness (especially in criticism of the visual arts); it was the
frequent cause of downright silliness; it made it possible for Dr.
Johnson, commenting on the line _Time and the hour runs through the
roughest day_, to "suppose every reader is disgusted at the tautology";
but it performed the immense service of stimulating enthusiasm for clear
thought and exact expression. These discriminating and objective critics
will always be particularly useful to those whose intellects dominate
their emotions, and who need some sort of intellectual jolt to set
their æsthetic sensibilities going. Happily, the race shows no signs of
becoming extinct, and Sir Walter Raleigh and M. Lanson are the by no
means unworthy successors of Dr. Johnson and Saint-Evremond.

It is inexact to say that the nineteenth century invented impressionist
criticism, the nineteenth century invented nothing except the electric
light and Queen Victoria. But it was in the later years of that century
that Impressionism became self-conscious and pompous enough to array
itself in a theory. The method everyone knows: the critic clears his
mind of general ideas, of canons of art, and, so far as possible, of all
knowledge of good and evil; he gets what emotions he can from the work
before him, and then confides them to the public. [U] He does not attempt
to criticize in the literal sense of the word; he merely tells us what a
book, a picture, or a piece of music makes him feel. This method can
be intensely exciting; what is more, it has made vast additions to our
æsthetic experience. It is the instrument that goes deepest: sometimes
it goes too deep, passes clean through the object of contemplation, and
brings up from the writer's own consciousness something for which in the
work itself no answerable provocation is to be found. This leads, of
course, to disappointment and vexation, or else to common dishonesty,
and can add nothing to the reader's appreciation. On the other hand,
there are in some works of art subtleties and adumbrations hardly to
be disentangled by any other means. In much of the best modern
poetry--since Dante and Chaucer, I mean--there are beauties which
would rarely have been apprehended had not someone, throwing the whole
apparatus of objective criticism aside, vividly described, not the
beauties themselves, but what they made him feel. And I will go so far
as to admit that in a work of art there may be qualities, significant
and precious, but so recondite and elusive that we shall hardly grasp
them unless some adventurer, guided by his own experience, can trace
their progress and show us their roots in the mind from which they
sprang.

[Footnote U: Happily, I have never laid great claims to that prevalent
modern virtue, originality; otherwise, I might have been somewhat dashed
by coming across the following passage, only the other day, in the
miscellaneous writings of Gibbon (_de mes lectures Oct_. 3, 1762): "Till
now (says he) I was acquainted only with two ways of criticising a
beautiful passage: the one, to shew, by an exact anatomy of it, the
distinct beauties of it, and whence they sprung; the other, an idle
exclamation, or a general encomium which leaves nothing behind it.
Longinus has shown me that there is a third. He tells me his own
feelings upon reading it; and tells them with such energy that he
communicates them."]

Impressionistic criticism of literature is not much approved nowadays,
though Mr. Arthur Symonds and one or two of his contemporaries still
preserve it from the last outrages of a new and possibly less subtle
generation, while M. Proust, by using it to fine effect in his
extraordinary masterpiece, may even bring it again into fashion. But
it has got a bad name by keeping low company; for it has come to be
associated with those journalistic reviewers who describe, not the
feelings and ideas provoked in them by reading a book, but what they
thought and felt and did at or about the time they were supposed to be
reading it. These are the chatterboxes who will tell you how they got
up, cut themselves shaving, ate sausages, spilt the tea, and nearly
missed the train in which they began to read the latest work of
Benedetto Croce, which, unluckily, having got into conversation with
a pretty typist or a humorous bagman, they quite forgot, left in
the carriage, and so can tell you no more about. But this is not
Impressionism, it is mere vulgarity.

If in literary criticism the impressionist method is falling into
disfavour, in the criticism of music and painting it holds the field.
Nor is this surprising: to write objectively about a symphony or a
picture, to seize its peculiar intrinsic qualities and describe them
exactly in words, is a feat beyond the power of most. Wherefore, as
a rule, the unfortunate critic must either discourse on history,
archæology, and psychology, or chatter about his own feelings. With the
exception of Mr. Roger Fry there is not in England one critic capable of
saying so much, to the purpose, about the intrinsic qualities of a work
of visual art as half a dozen or more--Sir Walter Raleigh, Mr. Murry,
Mr. Squire, Mr. Clutton Brock, Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, and Mr.
McCarthy to begin with--can be trusted to say easily, and, if necessary,
weekly, about the intrinsic qualities of a book. To be sure, Mr. Fry is
a great exception: with my own ears have I heard him take two or three
normally intelligent people through a gallery and by severely objective
means provoke in them a perfect frenzy of enthusiasm for masterpieces of
utterly different schools and ages. Doubtless that is what art-criticism
should be; but perhaps it is wrong to despise utterly those who achieve
something less.

Just at present it is the thing to laugh at biographical and historical
critics, a class of which Sainte-Beuve is the obvious representative,
and to which belong such writers as Taine and Francesco de Sanctis and
all who try to explain works of art by describing their social and
political circumstances. "At any rate," it is said, "these are not
_critics_." I shall not quarrel over words; but I am persuaded that,
when they care genuinely for books and have a gift of exposition, these
perform the same function as their more æsthetically-minded brethren. I
am sure that a _causerie_ by Sainte-Beuve often sends a reader, with
a zest he had never found unaided, to a book he had never opened
unadvised. There are plenty of men and women, equipped to relish the
finest and subtlest things in literature, who can hardly come at a book
save through its author, or at an author save through the story of his
life and a picture of his surroundings; wherefore, few things do more to
promote and disseminate a taste for art and letters and, I will add, for
all things of the spirit, than biographical and historical criticism and
the discussion of tendencies and ideas.

And this brings me to my conclusion. Though the immediate object of
criticism is to put readers in the way of appreciating fully a work or
works in the merit of which the critic believes, its ultimate value lies
further afield in more general effects. Good criticism not only puts
people in the way of appreciating particular works; it makes them feel,
it makes them remember, what intense and surprising pleasures are
peculiar to the life of the spirit. For these it creates an appetite,
and keeps that appetite sharp: and I would seriously advise anyone who
complains that his taste for reading has deserted him to take a dip into
the great critics and biographers and see whether they will not send him
back to his books. For, though books, pictures, and music stand charged
with a mysterious power of delighting and exciting and enhancing the
value of life; though they are the keys that unlock the door to the
world of the spirit--the world that is best worth living in--busy men
and women soon forget. It is for critics to be ever jogging their
memories. Theirs it is to point the road and hold open the unlocked
doors. In that way they become officers in the kingdom of the mind, or,
to use a humbler and preferable term, essential instruments of culture.



OTHON FRIESZ

Friesz is a painter who has "come on" visibly since the war. He has
drawn right away from "the field" to join those leaders--Matisse,
Picasso, Derain, Bonnard, shall we say, with one or two more in close
attendance--a cursory glance at whom, as they flash by, provokes this
not unprofitable exclamation: "How different they are!" Apparently,
amongst the chiefs, that famous movement no longer counts for much. Look
at them; to an eye at all practised these artists are as unlike each
other as are hounds to the eye of a huntsman. Certainly, they all owe
something to Cézanne: but what other important characteristic have they
in common which they do not share with the best of the last hundred
years? It was ever thus: the best, who are all alike in some ways, in
others are, from the first, the most sharply differentiated simply
because they are the most personal. Also, as they mature they become
more and more peculiar because they tend to rely less and less on
anything but themselves and the grand tradition. Each creates and
inhabits a world of his own, which, by the way, he is apt to mistake for
the world of everyone who is not maliciously prejudiced against him. And
Friesz, whose character and intelligence are utterly unlike those of his
compeers, is now, naturally enough, producing work which has little in
common with that even of Matisse--

[Illustration: OTHON FRIESZ]

Matisse, to whom, not fifteen years ago, I saw a picture of his
attributed by a competent amateur who was the friend of both.

Friesz has an air of being more professional than any other artist of
this first rank--for Marchand, I think, is not quite of it. Indeed,
for a moment, Friesz may appear alarmingly professional. Certainly, he
leaves nothing to chance: all is planned, and planned not in haste and
agitation, fingers itching to be at it, but with the deliberation, the
critical thoroughness, of an engineer or an architect. There is so much
of the painstaking craftsman in his method that for a moment you may
overlook the sensitive artist who conceives and executes. But, in fact,
the effective alliance of practical intelligence with fine sensibility
is the secret of his strength, as I realized one day, when I had the
privilege of studying a large decoration (a sketch for a fragment of
which is to be seen in this exhibition) [V] which Friesz had just carried
out. Since then I have not doubted that he was the man who might give
this age that of which the age talks much and gets little--monumental
decoration.

[Footnote V: At the Independent Gallery, 1921.]

Large decorative schemes--when they are not, what most are, mere wastes
of tumid pomposity--are apt to fail for one of two reasons: either they
are too much like pictures or too little like works of art. Because very
few artists are capable by taking thought of adapting their means to an
unfamiliar end, it will happen that a sensitive and gifted painter sets
about a decoration as though he were beginning an easel picture. He has
his sense of the importance of richness, of filling a picture to the
brim; he has a technique adequate to his conception; but he has neither
the practical readiness nor the intellectual robustness which would
enable him to adjust these to a new problem. He endeavours, therefore,
to key every part of his scheme up to the highest pitch of intensity
that line and colour can bear. He is attempting the impossible; his
conception is inappropriate; and, in any case, his technique is unequal
to so vast an undertaking. He produces something which may be delicious
in detail but is pretty sure to be unsatisfactory as a whole. He fails
to fill his space. His work has the vice of Sidney's _Arcadia_ and the
_Religio Medici_: it is good to dip into. You cannot write an epic as
though it were a sonnet.

On the other hand, you must not write an epic as though you were telling
a tale in the bar-parlour, lest you should create another _Earthly
Paradise_, leaving quite untouched the subtler and more energetic chords
in your listener's appreciative faculty. The craftsman decorator, though
he may know how to fill vast spaces, will never fill them with lively
images. His plan may be cleverly devised to surmount difficulties of
structure and material; it will not be inspired. Incapable of keying
his instrument too high, he will be satisfied with a slack string and
abominable flatness. His forms will be conventional; his handling
impersonal; ten to one he will give us a row of insipid Gothic figures
or something in the pseudo-Veronese taste.

Almost everyone would admit that, considered as pictures, those great
decorations in the Doges' Palace were a little empty; no one can deny
that as parts of a vast scheme they are superbly adequate. Very much the
same might be said of the decorations I have in mind. It is clear that
Friesz plotted and reasoned with himself until he had contrived a method
of matching means with ends. By constructing it out of forms less
charged, more fluent, and more in the nature of arabesques than those
he habitually employs he gave to his scheme continuity and easy
comprehensibility: but never did he allow those forms to subside into
mere coloured spaces, or the lines to become mere flourishes: always
every detail was doing something, and so the whole was significant and
alive. The scheme which was planned with caution was carried through
with passion.

Now, obviously, a painter capable of performing this feat must possess a
rare, at this moment possibly unique, gift. Friesz is one who can bring
the whole weight of his intellect to bear on his sensibility. That
sensibility let no one underrate. Before his vision of the external
world, especially before what we are pleased to call Nature, Friesz has
a reaction as delicate and enthusiastic as that of an English poet.
Only, unlike most English painters, he would never dream of jotting it
down and leaving it at that. Such hit-or-miss frivolity is not in his
way. He is no amateur. He takes his impressions home and elaborates
them; he brings his intellect to bear on them; and, as this exhibition
shows, without robbing them of their bloom, makes of them something
solid and satisfying. To realize what a power this is we may, I hope
without indiscretion, glance for an instant at another handsomely
endowed French painter. That M. Lhote does not want for sensibility is
shown by his sketches and water-colours, that his intellect is sharp
enough is proved by his writings; but the devitalized rectitude of his
more ambitious pieces shows how appallingly difficult it is to bring
intellect to bear on sensibility without crushing it. The failure of M.
Lhote is the measure of M. Friesz's achievement.

If I am right, it is only natural that pictures by Friesz should improve
on acquaintance. The studied logic of the composition may for a time
absorb the spectator's attention and blind him to more endearing
qualities; but, sooner or later, he will begin to perceive not only that
a scrupulously honest vision has been converted into a well-knit design,
but that the stitches are lovely. In every part he will be discovering
subtle and seductive harmonies and balances of which the delicacy dawns
on him as he gazes. The more he looks the more will he get of that
curiously gratifying thrill which comes of the recognition of
unostentatious rightness.

But, though he offers the sensitive amateur an unusually generous
allowance of the amateur's most delicate pleasure, Friesz is, above all,
a painters' painter. He has been called a theorist. And, because he is a
painter of exceptionally good understanding, who thinks logically about
his art and can find words for what he thinks, I suppose the appellation
is admissible. But, remember, he never dreams of trying to convert his
theories of art into theories of life. His are not of the kind that can
be so converted; I said he was a painters', not a journalists', painter.
Also, unlike the theories of the mere craftsman, his are based always
on the assumption that there is such a thing as art--something that
is created by and appeals to peculiar faculties, something rare and
personal, something not to be had simply by taking thought and pains,
something as utterly unlike honest craftsmanship as it is unlike the
cryptic mutterings of boozy mountebanks: subject, however, to this
assumption, his theories are severely practical. They have to do solely
with the art of painting; they are born of his own experience; and
he makes visible use of them. That is why I call Friesz a painters'
painter. I wonder whether the Italian Primitives, with that
disquietingly unself-conscious inspiration of theirs, directed with such
amazing confidence along well devised, practical channels, were not a
little like him.

The exhibition is fairly representative of Friesz's later work; and if
it cannot be said quite to summarize a stage of his career, at least it
is a milestone. Friesz has arrived: that is to say, what he has already
achieved suffices to affirm the existence of a distinct, personal talent
entitled to its place in the republic of painting. At that point we
leave him. But we may be sure that, with his remarkable gift and
even more remarkable power of turning it to account, his energy, his
patience, and his manifest ambition, he will soon have gone beyond it.



WILCOXISM

To return from Paris, full of enthusiasm for contemporary art, and find
oneself forced immediately into an attitude of querulous hostility is
surely a melancholy thing. It is my fate; but it is not my fault. Had I
found our native quidnuncs in a slightly less exalted humour, had they
gushed a little less over their imperial painters at Burlington House,
had they made the least effort to preserve a sense of proportion, I,
for my part, had held my peace. But, deafened by the chorus of hearty
self-applause with which British art has just been regaling itself, [W] a
critic who hopes that his country is not once again going to make itself
the laughing-stock of Europe is bound at all risks to say something
disagreeable.

[Footnote W: February 1920.]

In that delightful book _The Worlds and I_, for bringing me acquainted
with which I shall ever be grateful to _The Athenæum_, nothing is more
delightful than the chapter in which Mrs. Wilcox takes us through the
list of the great writers she has known. We are almost as much pleased
by the authoress's confident expectation that we shall be thrilled
to learn any new fact about Miss Aldrich, who wrote "one of the most
exquisite lyrics in the language"; about Rhoda Hero Dunn, "a genius"
with "an almost Shakespearean quality in her verse," or about Elsa
Barker, whose poem _The Frozen Grail_, "dedicated to Peary and his band,
is an epic of august beauty," and whose sonnet _When I am Dead_ "ranks
with the great sonnets of the world," as she would be surprised to
discover that we had never heard of one of them. Mrs. Wilcox believed,
in perfect good faith, that the crowd of magazine-makers with whom she
associated were, in fact, the great figures of the age. She had no
reason for supposing that we should not be as much interested in
first-hand personal gossip about Zona Gale and Ridgeley Torrence, Arthur
Grissom (first editor of the _Smart Set_), Judge Malone, Theodosia
Garrison, and Julie Opp Faversham ("even to talk with whom over the
telephone gives me a sense of larger horizons") as we should have been
in similar gossip about Swinburne and Hardy, Henry James and Mallarmé,
Laforgue, Anatole France, Tolstoy, Tchekov, or Dostoevsky.

And, as Mrs. Wilcox had no reason for supposing that her friends were
not the greatest writers alive, what reason had she for supposing that
they were not the greatest that ever lived? Without the taste, the
intelligence, or the knowledge which alone can give some notion of
what's what in art, she was obliged to rely on more accessible criteria.
The circulation of her own works, for instance, must have compared
favourably with that of most poets. To be sure there was Shakespeare and
the celebrated Hugo--or was it Gambetta? But what grounds could there be
for thinking that she was not superior to the obscure John Donne or the
obscurer Andrew Marvel, or to Arthur Rimbaud, of whom no one she had
ever heard of had ever heard? Mrs. Wilcox was not dishonest in assuming
that the most successful writer in her set was the best in the world;
she was not conceited even; she was merely ridiculous.

It is disquieting to find the same sort of thing going on in England,
where our painters are fiercely disputing with each other the crown of
European painting, and our critics appraising the respective claims
of Mr. Augustus John and Mr. John Nash as solemnly as if they were
comparing Cézanne with Renoir. It is more than disquieting, it is
alarming, to detect symptoms of the disease--this distressing disease
of Wilcoxism--in _The Athenæum_ itself. Yet I am positive that not long
since I read in this very paper that Mr. Wyndham Lewis was more than a
match for Matisse and Derain; and, having said so much, the critic not
unnaturally went on to suggest that he was a match for Lionardo da
Vinci. Since then I have trembled weekly lest the infection should have
spread to our literary parts. Will it be asserted, one of these Fridays,
that the appetizing novels of Mr. Gilbert Cannan are distinctly better
than Hardy's Wessex tales, and comparable rather with the works of Jane
Austen?

To save ourselves from absurdity, and still more to save our painters
from inspissating that trickle of fatuity which wells from heads swollen
with hot air, critics should set themselves to check this nasty malady.
Let them make it clear that to talk of modern English painting as though
it were the rival of modern French is silly. In old racing days--how
matters stand now I know not--it used to be held that French form was
about seven pounds below English: the winner of the Derby, that is to
say, could generally give the best French colt about that weight and a
beating. In painting, English form is normally a stone below French. At
any given moment the best painter in England is unlikely to be better
than a first-rate man in the French second class. Whistler was never a
match for Renoir, Degas, Seurat, and Manet; but Whistler, Steer, and
Sickert may profitably be compared with Boudin, Jongkind, and Berthe
Morisot. And though Duncan Grant holds his own handsomely with Marchand,
Vlaminck, Lhote, de Segonzac, Bracque and Modigliani, I am not yet
prepared to class him with Matisse, Picasso, Derain, and Bonnard.

Having bravely recognized this disagreeable truth, let us take as much
interest in contemporary British painting as we can. I will try to
believe that it merits more enthusiasm than I have been able to show,
provided it is not made a point of patriotism to excite oneself about
the Imperial War Museum's pictures exhibited at Burlington House. As
a matter of fact, the most depressing thing about that show was the
absence of the very quality for which British art has been most justly
admired--I mean sensibility. Mr. Wilson Steer's picture seemed to me the
best in the place, just because Mr. Steer has eyes with which, not only
to see, but to feel. To see is something; Mr. Steer also feels for what
he sees; and this emotion is the point of departure for his pictures.
That he seems almost completely to have lost such power as he ever
had of giving to his vision a coherent and self-supporting form is
unfortunate; still, he does convey to us some modicum of the thrill
provoked in him by his vision of Dover Harbour.

Those thoughtful young men, on the other hand, whose works have been
causing such a commotion might almost as well have been blind. They seem
to have seen nothing; at any rate, they have not reacted to what they
saw in that particular way in which visual artists react. They are not
expressing what they feel for something that has moved them as artists,
but, rather, what they think about something that has horrified them
as men. Their pictures depart, not from a visual sensation, but from a
moral conviction. So, naturally enough, what they produce is mere "arty"
anecdote. This, perhaps, is the secret of their success--their success,
I mean, with the cultivated public. Those terrible young fellows
who were feared to be artists turn out after all to be innocent
Pre-Raphaelites. They leave Burlington House without a stain upon their
characters.

This is plain speaking; how else should a critic, who believes that he
has diagnosed the disease, convince a modern patient of his parlous
state? To just hint a fault and hesitate dislike (not Pope, but I split
that infinitive) is regarded nowadays merely as a sign of a base,
compromising spirit; or not regarded at all. Artists, especially in
England, cannot away with qualified praise or blame: and if they insist
on all or nothing I can but offer them the latter. Nevertheless, I must
assert, for my own satisfaction, that in many even of our most imperial
artists, in the brothers Spenser and the brothers Nash, in Mr. Lewis,
Mr. Roberts, Mr. Bomberg, and Mr. Lamb, I discover plenty of ability;
only I cannot help fancying that they may have mistaken the nature of
their gifts. Were they really born to be painters? I wonder. But of this
I am sure: their friends merely make them look silly by comparing them
with contemporary French masters, or even with Lionardo da Vinci.

Wilcoxism is a terrible disease because it slowly but surely eats away
our sense of imperfection, our desire for improvement, and our power
of self-criticism. Modesty and knowledge are the best antidotes; and a
treatment much recommended by the faculty is to take more interest in
art and less in one's own prestige. Above all, let us cultivate a sense
of proportion. Let us admire, for instance, the admirable, though
somewhat negative, qualities in the work of Mr. Lewis--the absence of
vulgarity and false sentiment, the sobriety of colour, the painstaking
search for design--without forgetting that in the Salon d'Automne or the
Salon des Indépendants a picture by him would neither merit nor obtain
from the most generous critic more than a passing word of perfunctory
encouragement; for in Paris there are perhaps five hundred men and
women--drawn from the four quarters of the earth--all trying to do what
Mr. Lewis tries to do, and doing it better.



ART AND POLITICS

Mr. Roger Fry, by means of an instructive tale (_Athenæum_, August
13, 1920), has shown us that in their dealings with art Bolshevik
politicians remain true to type. Like the rest of their breed, they have
no use for it unless they can exploit it to their own ends. For my part,
I was never so simple as to suppose that, if the _de facto_ government
of Russia professed admiration for Matisse and Picasso, that admiration
had anything to do with the artistic gifts of either of these painters,
any more than that the respect with which the British Government treats
the names of Raphael and Michel Angelo should be taken to imply that any
single one of His Majesty's ministers has ever experienced an æsthetic
emotion. Consequently, I was not at all surprised to learn that the
sure, though unconscious, taste of the statesman had led the rulers of
Russia to reject their first loves; that instinctively they had divined
that both Matisse and Picasso were too much like genuine artists to be
trustworthy; and that they had, therefore, transferred their affections
to the thin, and fundamentally academic, work of Larionoff, which
should, I fancy, be just the thing for advanced politicians.

Some time ago, however, before Picasso was found out, a young Russian
æsthete--so Mr. Fry tells us--was licensed by the competent authority to
pronounce that artist's eulogy, on the understanding, of course, that
the lecture should somehow serve as a stick wherewith to beat the
opposition. Nothing easier: Picasso was pitted against Renoir. Picasso
was a great artist, because, abstract and austere, he was the man for
the proletariat; whereas Renoir, who painted pretty pictures for the
_bourgeoisie_, was no earthly good. The lecturer, as might have been
expected, was out even in his facts: for Renoir--who came from the
people, by the way--might, were he less of an artist, by means of the
taking and almost anecdotic quality of his earlier work, give some
pleasure to a working man; whereas Picasso--the son of middle-class
parents, too--could not possibly win from an honest labourer, left to
himself, anything but sarcastic laughter or ferocious abuse. But even if
true, the lecturer's facts would have been beside the point. To say
that a work is aristocratic or democratic, moral or immoral, is to say
something silly and irrelevant, or rather, silly if meant to be relevant
to its value as art. In the work of Renoir and of Picasso, in all works
of art for that matter, the essential quality, as every sensitive person
knows, is the same. Whatever it may be that makes art matter is to be
found in every work that does matter. And though, no doubt, "subject"
and to some extent "attack" may be conditioned by an artist's opinions
and attitude to life, such things are irrelevant to his work's final
significance. Strange as it may seem, the essential quality in a work of
art is purely artistic. It has nothing to do with the moral, religious,
or political views of its creator. It has to do solely with his æsthetic
experience and his power of expressing that. But, as no politician is
capable of appreciating, or even becoming aware of, this essential
quality, it is perhaps only natural that politicians should look
elsewhere for the significance of art.

This painful but certain fact once grasped, it becomes possible to
understand several things that have considerably puzzled critics and
historians. For instance, it is often remarked, and generally with
surprise, that progressive politicians are commonly averse to new
movements in art. The attitude of the present Russian Government to the
contemporary movement makes neither for nor against this view, for that
novelty it took over as a going concern. Let us see how it looks on the
next, which will be very likely a return to the tradition of Ingres.
The example usually cited by exponents of this theory--that progressive
politicians are reactionary in art--is the notorious hostility of
Liberals to the romantic movement; but I believe that were they to study
closely the histories of the Impressionist, the Pre-Raphaelite, and the
Wagnerian movements they would find in them, too, evidence on the whole
favourable to their case. Be that as it may, this theory, which once
seemed paradoxical, quite loses its fantastic air when considered in the
light of our discovery. Had art anything to do with opinion it would be
strange, indeed, if new art were ill-received by those who like their
opinions new. But as art has nothing whatever to do with such things
there is no more reason why a Radical should like new forms of art than
why he should like new brands of tea.

The essential qualities of a work of art are purely artistic; and since
politicians, if not too coarse by nature, soon make themselves so by
practice, to apprehend these they must, unless they can leave art alone,
seek its significance in what is unessential. Progressive politicians,
who have a way of taking ethics under their wing and even conceive
themselves the active promoters of good, are apt to seek it in morals.
One might have supposed that a message was to be found as easily in
new forms of art as in old; but, unluckily, new forms are to most
incomprehensible. And though to a hardened sinner here and there what
is incomprehensible may be nothing worse than disconcerting, to him
who seeks good in all things, and is constantly on the look-out for
uplifting influences, whatever disappoints this longing is positively
and terribly evil. Now, a new and genuine work of art is something
unmistakably alive and, at the same time, unprovided, as yet, with moral
credentials. It is unintelligible without being negligible. It comes
from an unfamiliar world and shakes a good man's belief in the obvious.
It must be very wicked. And the proper reaction to what is wicked is a
blind fury of moral indignation. Well, blind fury is blind. So no one
could be much worse placed than the political moralist for seeing
whatever there may be to be seen in what is, at once, strange and
subtle.

We are in a position now to clear up another difficulty, which has
distressed so deeply the best and wisest of men that to get rid of
it some have felt justified in tampering with the truth. If art had
anything to do with politics, evidently art should have flourished most
gloriously in those ages of political freedom which do us all so much
credit. The necessity of this inference has been felt strongly enough by
Liberal historians to make them accept without demur the doctrine that
the age of Pericles was the great age of visual art, and repeat it
without mentioning the fact that in that age an aristocracy of some
twenty-five thousand citizens was supported by the compulsory labours of
some four hundred thousand slaves. The truth is, of course, that art may
flourish under any form of government. It flourished in the Athenian
aristocracy and under the despotic bureaucracies of China, Persia, and
Byzantium. In the eleventh and twelfth centuries it flourished under
the feudal system, and in the fifteenth amongst the oligarchies and
tyrannies of Italy. On the other hand, neither the Roman Republic nor
the Roman Empire gave us anything much worth remembering: and no period
in French history has been less fruitful in art and letters than the
first republic and empire. There was Ingres, of course; but the period
on the whole was singularly barren, and it may be just worth remarking
that at no time, perhaps, has French art been so academic, professorial,
timid, and uninspired as in the first glorious years of the great
Revolution.

Here there is nothing to surprise us. But what does, at first sight,
seem odd is that art should apparently be indifferent, not only to
political systems, but to social conditions as well. Barbarism or
Civilization: it is all one to art. Old-fashioned historians, who had a
pleasant, tidy way of dealing with the past, used to plot out from that
wilderness four great periods of civilization: the Athenian (from 480
B.C. to the death of Aristotle, 322), the first and second centuries of
the Roman Empire, Italy in the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries,
and from the end of the Fronde, 1653, to the Revolution. For my part, I
should be inclined to subtract from these the Roman period, and add, if
only I knew more about it, the age of Sung. But accepting, by way of
compromise, all five, we find that three--the Greek, Chinese, and
Italian--were rich in visual art, whereas Rome was utterly barren and
the eighteenth century not extraordinarily prolific. To make matters
worse, we see in the dark and early middle ages a steady flow of
first-rate art from societies more or less barbarous, while lately we
have learnt that black and naked savages can create exquisitely.

Are we, then, to assume that there is no connection between art and
civilization? I think not. A connection there is, but, as was to
be expected, an unessential one. The essential quality in art is
invariable, and what gives the Parthenon its significance is what gives
significance to a nigger's basket-work box. There is such a thing as
civilized art, but its civility lies in adventitious and subsidiary
qualities--in the means, not in the end. It seems to me we do mean
something when we say that Phidias, Sophocles, and Aristophanes,
Raphael, Racine, Molière, Poussin, Milton, Wren, Jane Austen and Mozart
are highly civilized artists, and that the creators of the Gothic
cathedrals and the author of the _Chanson de Roland_, Villon, Webster,
Rembrandt, Blake, Wordsworth, Emily Brontë, Whitman, Turner, Wagner
and the Congolese fetish-makers are not. But, whatever we may mean,
assuredly we do not mean that one set is superior to the other. They
differ widely; but they differ in the means by which they compass the
same end. It is absurd to argue that civilization is either favourable
or unfavourable to art; but it is reasonable to suppose that it may be
the one or the other to a particular artist. Different temperaments
thrive in different atmospheres. How many mute, inglorious Miltons,
Raphaels, and Mozarts may not have lost heart and gone under in the
savage insecurity of the dark ages? And may not the eighteenth
century, which clipped the wings of Blake, have crushed the fluttering
aspirations of a dozen Gothically-minded geniuses and laughed some
budding Wagner out of all idea of expressing his ebullient personality?

It is possible to speak of civilized or uncivilized art and mean
something by our words; but what we mean has nothing to do with the
ultimate value of the work. And, in the same way, there may be an
unessential connection between art and politics, though more remote and
unimportant still. As I have explained too often already, an artist,
before he can create effectively, has got to work himself into a
passion; by some means he has got to raise his feelings to the creative
temperature and his energies to a corresponding pitch of intensity. He
must make himself drunk somehow, and political passion is as good
a tipple as another. Religion, Science, Morals, Love, Hate, Fear,
Lust--all serve the artist's turn, and Politics and Patriotism have done
their bit. It is clear that Wordsworth was thrown into the state of mind
in which he wrote his famous sonnets by love of England and detestation
of France, by fear of revolution and longing for order; but how much
patriotism or constitutionalism has to do with the suave beauty of those
harmonious masterpieces may be inferred from the fact that "hoarse
Fitzgerald" and Mr. Kipling are quite as patriotic and even more
reactionary. Amongst painters David is the conspicuous example of an
artist--a small one, to be sure--intoxicated by politics. David set
out as a humble, eighteenth-century follower of Fragonard. But the
Revolution filled his poor head with notions about the Greeks and the
Romans, Harmodius and Aristogiton, Cornelia and the Gracchi, _sic semper
tyrannis_, and Phrygian caps. And his revolutionary enthusiasm changed
the whole manner of his attack on that central, artistic problem which
never, in any style, did he succeed in solving. But the influence of
this new style was immense, and paramount in French painting for the
next forty or fifty years. It is to be noted, however, that David's
great and immediate follower, the mighty Ingres, who frankly adopted
this style, redolent of all republican virtues, was himself one of the
most virulent reactionaries that ever lived.

And that, perhaps, would be all that needed saying about Art and
Politics were it not that at this moment the subject has an unusual
importance. Movements in art have, more often than not, been the result
of an extraordinarily violent preoccupation, on the part of artists,
with the unessential and insignificant. David rescued painting from
the charming and slightly sentimental disorder of the later eighteenth
century by concentrating on Roman virtues and generals' uniforms. The
Romantics freed themselves from Davidism by getting frantically excited
about a little hazy nonsense rather unfairly attributed to Lord Byron
and Sir Walter Scott. From this the Impressionists escaped by persuading
themselves that they were men of science. And against this my
contemporaries set up a conscious æstheticism, slightly tinged with
certain metaphysico-moral doctrines concerning the cowiness of cows and
the thing in itself. With Cubism conscious æstheticism holds the field,
for the Cubist theory is, in the main, æsthetic. That is one reason why
I cannot think that there is any great future for Cubism. An artistic
movement is unlikely to live long on anything so relevant to art; for
artists, it seems, must believe that they are concerned with something
altogether different. Wherefore, I think it not improbable--indeed,
there are indications already [X]--that, political progress having in the
last few years somewhat outrun civilization, and the new democracy being
apparently hostile to art and culture, artists will take to believing
passionately in what they will call "order." If so, in the name of
Napoleon and Louis XIV, but, let us hope, with the science and restraint
of Poussin and Ingres, they will turn, most likely, to the classical
tradition and, while endeavouring to create significant form, will
assert vehemently that they are expressing their political convictions.

[Footnote X: September 1920.]

[Illustration: DERAIN (_Photo: Bernheim jeune_)]



THE AUTHORITY OF M. DERAIN

Sooner or later the critic who wishes to be taken seriously must say his
word about Derain. It is an alarming enterprise. Not only does he run a
considerable risk of making himself absurd, he may make a formidable
and contemptuous enemy as well. "On ne peut pas me laisser tranquille!"
grumbles Derain; to which the only reply I can think of is--"on ne peut
pas."

Derain is now the greatest power amongst young French painters. I would
like to lay stress on the words "power" and "French," because I do not
wish to say, what may nevertheless be true, that Derain is the greatest
painter in France, or seemingly to forget that Picasso's is the
paramount influence in Europe. For all their abjurations most of the
younger and more intelligent foreigners, within and without the gates of
Paris, know well enough that Picasso is still their animator. Wherever a
trace of Cubism or of _tête-de-nègre_, or of that thin, anxious line of
the "blue period" is still to be found, there the ferment of his unquiet
spirit is at work. And I believe it is in revolt against, perhaps in
terror of, this profoundly un-French spirit that the younger Frenchmen
are seeking shelter and grace under the vast though unconscious
nationalism of Derain.

For the French have never loved Cubism, though Braque uses it
beautifully. How should they love anything so uncongenial to their
temperament? How should that race which above all others understands and
revels in life care for an art of abstractions? How, having raised good
sense to the power of genius, should France quite approve æsthetic
fanaticism? What would Poussin have said to so passionate a negation of
common sense? Well, happily, we know the opinion of Molière:

  La parfaite raison fuit toute extrémité,
  Et veut que l'on soit sage avec sobriété.

Did ever Frenchmen sympathize absolutely with Don Quixote? At any rate,
because at the very base of his civilization lies that marvellous sense
of social relations and human solidarity, a French artist will never
feel entirely satisfied unless he can believe that his art is somehow
related to, and justified by, Life.

Now, Picasso is not Spanish for nothing. He is a mystic; which, of
course, does not prevent him being a remarkably gay and competent man of
the world. Amateurs who knew him in old days are sometimes surprised to
find Picasso now in a comfortable flat or staying at the Savoy. I should
not be surprised to hear of him in a Kaffir kraal or at Buckingham
Palace, and wherever he might be I should know that under that urbane
and slightly quizzical surface still would be kicking and struggling the
tireless problem. That problem his circumstances cannot touch. It has
nothing to do with Life; for not only was Picasso never satisfied with a
line that did not seem right in the eyes of God--of the God that is in
him, I mean--but never would it occur to him that a line could be right
in any other way. For him Life proves nothing and signifies not much;
it is the raw material of art. His problem is within; for ever he is
straining and compelling his instrument to sing in unison with that
pitiless voice which in El Greco's day they called the voice of God.
Derain's problem is different, and perhaps more exacting still.

It seems odd, I know, but I think it is true to say that Derain's
influence over the younger Frenchmen depends as much on his personality
as on his pictures. Partly this may be because his pictures are not much
to be seen; for he is neither prolific not particularly diligent, and
always there are half a dozen hungry dealers waiting to snap up whatever
he may contrive to finish. But clearly this is not explanation enough,
and to appreciate Derain's position in Paris one should be, what
unluckily I am not, a psychologist. One should be able to understand why
his pictures are imitated hardly at all, and why his good opinion is
coveted; why young painters want to know what Derain thinks and feels,
not only about their art, but about art in general, and even about life;
and why instinctively they pay him this compliment of supposing that he
does not wish them simply to paint as he paints. What is it Derain wants
of them? I shall be satisfied, and a good deal surprised, if I can
discover even what he wants of himself.

A year or two ago it was the fashion to insist on Derain's descent from
the Italian Primitives: I insisted with the rest. But as he matures his
French blood asserts more and more its sovranty, and now completely
dominates the other elements in his art. Assuredly he is in the great
European tradition, but specifically he is of the French: Chardin,
Watteau, and Poussin are his direct ancestors. Of Poussin no one who saw
_La Boutique Fantasque_ will have forgotten how it made one think. No
one will have forgotten the grave beauty of those sober greys, greens,
browns, and blues. They made one think of Poussin, and of Racine, too.
And yet the ballet was intensely modern; always you were aware that
Derain had been right through the movement--through Fauvism, Negroism,
Cubism. Here was an artist who had refused nothing and feared nothing.
Could anyone be less of a reactionary and at the same time less of
an anarchist? And, I will add, could anyone be less _gavroche_? _La
Boutique Fantasque_, which is not only the most amusing, but the most
beautiful, of Russian ballets, balances on a discord. Even the fun of
Derain is not the essentially modern fun of Massine. Derain is neither
flippant nor exasperated; he is humorous, and tragic sometimes.

English criticism is puzzled by Derain because very often it is
confronted by things of his which seem dull and commonplace, to English
critics. These are, in fact, the protests of Derain's genius against
his talent, and whether they are good or not I cannot say. Derain has a
super-natural gift for making things: give him a tin kettle and in half
a morning he will hammer you out a Summerian head; he has the fingers
of a pianist, an aptitude that brings beauty to life with a turn of the
wrist; in a word, that sensibility of touch which keeps an ordinary
craftsman happy for a lifetime: and these things terrify him. He ties
both hands behind his back and fights so. Deliberately he chooses the
most commonplace aspects and the most unlovely means of expression,
hoping that, talent thus bound, genius will be stung into action.
Sometimes, no doubt, Achilles stays sulking in his tent. I suppose
Derain can be dull.

But what does he want this genius of his to do? Nothing less, I
believe, than what the French genius did at its supreme moment, in the
seventeenth century, what the Greek did in the fifth. My notion is that
he wants to create art which shall be perfectly uncompromising and at
the same time human, and he would like it none the worse, I dare say,
were it to turn out popular as well. After all, Racine did this, and
Molière and La Bruyère and Watteau and Chardin and Renoir. It is in the
French tradition to believe that there is a beauty common to life and
art. The Greeks had it, so runs the argument, and the Italians of the
high renaissance, but the English poets tended to sacrifice art to
beauty, and the moderns--so Derain may think--sacrifice beauty and
grandeur to discretion. The motto "Safety first" did, I will confess,
just float across my eyes as I walked through the last _salon
d'automne_. And, then, Derain may feel that there is in him something
besides his power of creation and sense of form, something which
philosophers would call, I dare say, a sense of absolute beauty in
things, of external harmony. However we may call it, what I mean is the
one thing at all worth having which the Greeks had and the Byzantines
had not, which Raphael possesses more abundantly than Giotto. In Derain
this sense is alive and insistent; it is urging him always to capture
something that is outside him; the question is, can he, without for one
moment compromising the purity of his art, obey it? I do not know. But
if he cannot, then there is no man alive to give this age what Phidias,
Giorgione, and Watteau gave theirs.

The French are not unwilling to believe that they are the heirs of
Greece and Rome. So, if I am right, the extraordinary influence of
Derain may be accounted for partly, at any rate, by the fact that he,
above all living Frenchmen, has the art to mould, in the materials of
his age, a vessel that might contain the grand classical tradition. What
is more, it is he, if anyone, who has the strength to fill it. No one
who ever met him but was impressed by the prodigious force of his
character and his capacity for standing alone. At moments he reminds one
oddly of Johnson. He, too, is a dictator, at once humorous and tragic
like the mirific doctor, but, unlike him, infinitely subtle. He, too, is
troubled, and not by any sense of isolation nor yet by the gnawings of
vanity and small ambition. It is the problem that tortures him. Can he
do what Raphael and Racine did? Can he create something that shall be
uncompromising as art and at the same time humane?

Face to face with that problem Derain stands for what is to-day most
vital and valid in France--a passionate love of the great tradition,
a longing for order and the will to win it, and that mysterious thing
which the Athenians called [Greek: _spoudiotês_]; and schoolmasters call
"high seriousness." He accepts the age into which he has stumbled with
all its nastiness, vulgarity, and cheek. He accepts that woebegone,
modern democracy which could not even make its great war fine. He
believes he can make something of it. Because he has a first-rate
intellect he can afford to mistrust reason; and so sure is he of his own
taste that he can brush refinement aside. Yet neither his scepticisms
nor his superstitions alienate the intelligent, nor are the sensitive
offended by his total disregard of their distinctions. And though all
this has nothing to do with painting, on painters, I surmise, it has its
effect.



"PLUS DE JAZZ" [Y]

[Footnote Y: 1921]

On the first night of the Russian ballet in Paris, somewhere about the
middle of May, perhaps the best painter in France, one of the best
musicians, and an obscure journalist were sitting in a small _bistrot_
on the Boulevard St. Germain. They should all have been at the
spectacle; all had promised to go; and yet they sat on over their
_alcools_ and _bocks_, and instead of going to the ballet began to abuse
it. And from the ballet they passed to modern music in general, and from
music to literature: till gradually into the conversation came, above
the familiar note of easy denigration, a note of energy, of conviction,
of aspiration, which so greatly astonished one, at least, of the three
that, just before two o'clock--the hour at which the patron puts even
his most faithful clients out of doors--he exclaimed, with an emphasis
in him uncommon, "Plus de Jazz!"

It was the least important of the three who said it, and, had it been
the most, I am not suggesting that, like the walls of Jericho, a
movement would have tottered at an ejaculation. Jazz will not die
because a few clever people have discovered that they are getting sick
of it; Jazz is dying, and the conversation to which I have referred is
of importance only as an early recognition of the fact. For the rest it
was unjust, as such conversations will be; the Jazz movement, short and
slightly irritating though it was, having served its turn and added its
quota to the tradition. But Jazz is dead--or dying, at any rate--and the
moment has come for someone who likes to fancy himself wider awake
than his fellows to write its obituary notice. In doing so he may,
adventitiously, throw light on something more interesting than the
past; he may adumbrate the outline of the coming movement. For always
movements are conditioned partly by their predecessors, against which,
in some sort, they must ever be reactions.

The Jazz movement is a ripple on a wave; the wave--the large movement
which began at the end of the nineteenth century in a reaction against
realism and scientific paganism--still goes forward. The wave is
essentially the movement which one tends to associate, not very
accurately perhaps, with the name of Cézanne: it has nothing to do with
Jazz; its most characteristic manifestation is modern painting, which,
be it noted, Jazz had left almost untouched. "Picasso?" queries someone.
I shall come to Picasso presently. The great modern painters--Derain,
Matisse, Picasso, Bonnard, Friesz, Braque, etc.--were firmly settled on
their own lines of development before ever Jazz was heard of: only the
riff-raff has been affected. Italian Futurism is the nearest approach to
a pictorial expression of the Jazz spirit.

The movement bounced into the world somewhere about the year 1911.
It was headed by a Jazz band and a troupe of niggers, dancing.
Appropriately it took its name from music--the art that is always behind
the times. Gavroche was killed on the barricades, and it was with
his name that Jazz should have been associated. Impudence is its
essence--impudence in quite natural and legitimate revolt against
nobility and beauty: impudence which finds its technical equivalent in
syncopation: impudence which rags. "The Ragtime movement" would have
been the better style, but the word "Jazz" has passed into at least
three languages, and now we must make the best of it.

After impudence comes the determination to surprise: you shall not be
gradually moved to the depths, you shall be given such a start as makes
you jigger all over. And from this determination issues the grateful
corollary--thou shalt not be tedious. The best Jazz artists are never
long-winded. In their admirable and urbane brevity they remind one
rather of the French eighteenth century. But surprise is an essential
ingredient. An accomplished Jazz artist, whether in notes or words,
will contrive, as a rule, to stop just where you expected him to begin.
Themes and ideas are not to be developed; to say all one has to say
smells of the school, and may be a bore, and--between you and me--a
"giveaway" to boot. Lastly, it must be admitted there is a typically
modern craving for small profits and quick returns. Jazz art is soon
created, soon liked, and soon forgotten. It is the movement of masters
of eighteen; and these masterpieces created by boys barely escaped from
college can be appreciated by the youngest Argentine beauty at the Ritz.
Jazz is very young: like short skirts, it suits thin, girlish legs,
but has a slightly humiliating effect on grey hairs. Its fears and
dislikes--for instance, its horror of the noble and the beautiful--are
childish; and so is its way of expressing them. Not by irony and
sarcasm, but by jeers and grimaces does Jazz mark its antipathies. Irony
and wit are for the grown-ups. Jazz dislikes them as much as it dislikes
nobility and beauty. They are the products of the cultivated intellect,
and Jazz cannot away with intellect or culture. Niggers can be admired
artists without any gifts more singular than high spirits; so why drag
in the intellect? Besides, to bring intellect into art is to invite home
a guest who is apt to be inquisitive and even impartial. Intellect in
Jazz circles is treated rather as money was once in polite society--it
is taken for granted. Nobility, beauty, and intellectual subtlety are
alike ruled out: the first two are held up to ridicule, the last is
simply abused. What Jazz wants are romps and fun, and to make fun; that
is why, as I have said, its original name Ragtime was the better. At its
best Jazz rags every thing.

The inspiration of Jazz is the same as that of the art of the _grand
siècle_. Everyone knows how in the age of Louis XIV artists found in
_la bonne compagnie_ their standards, their critics, and many of their
ideas. It was by studying and writing for this world that Racine,
Molière, and Boileau gave an easier and less professional gait to French
literature, which--we should not forget--during its most glorious period
was conditioned and severely limited by the tastes and prejudices of
polite society. Whether the inventors of Jazz thought that, in their
pursuit of beauty and intensity, the artists of the nineteenth century
had strayed too far from the tastes and interests of common but
well-to-do humanity I know not, but certain it is that, like Racine and
Molière, and unlike Beaudelaire and Mallarmé and César Franck, they
went to _la bonne compagnie_ for inspiration and support. _La bonne
compagnie_ they found in the lounges of great hotels, on transatlantic
liners, in _wagons-lits_, in music-halls, and in expensive motor-cars
and restaurants. _La bonne compagnie_ was dancing one-steps to ragtime
music. This, they said, is the thing. The artists of the nineteenth
century had found _la bonne compagnie_--the rich, that is to
say--dancing waltzes to sentimental _Olgas_ and _Blue Danubes_, but they
had drawn quite other conclusions. Yet waltzes and waltz-tunes are just
as good as, and no better than, fox-trots and ragtime. Both have their
merits; but it is a mistake, perhaps, for artists to take either
seriously.

Be that as it may, the serious artists of the nineteenth century never
dreamed of supposing that the pleasures of the rich were the proper
stuff of art; so it was only natural that the twentieth should go to the
hotel lounges for inspiration. And, of course, it was delightful for
those who sat drinking their cocktails and listening to nigger-bands to
be told that, besides being the jolliest people on earth, they were the
most sensitive and critically gifted. They, along with the children and
savages whom in so many ways they resembled, were the possessors of
natural, uncorrupted taste. They first had appreciated ragtime and
surrendered themselves to the compelling qualities of Jazz. Their
instinct might be trusted: so, no more classical concerts and
music-lessons; no more getting Lycidas by heart; no more Bædeker; no
more cricking one's neck in the Sistine Chapel: unless the coloured
gentleman who leads the band at the Savoy has a natural leaning towards
these things you may depend upon it they are noble, pompous, and
fraudulent. And it was delightful, too, for people without a vestige of
talent--and even then these were in the majority--people who could just
strum a tune or string a few lines of doggerel, to be told that all
that distinguishes what used to be called "serious art" from their
productions was of no consequence whatever, and that, on the contrary,
it was these, if any, that ought to be taken seriously. The output of
verse, which was manifestly much too easy to write and difficult to
read, went up suddenly by leaps and bounds. What is more, some of it got
printed: publishers, and even editors, bowed the knee. Naturally, the
movement was a success at the Ritz and in Grub Street, Mayfair. On the
other hand, because to people who reflected for an instant it seemed
highly improbable that fox-trotters and shimmy-shakers were sensitive or
interesting people, that Christy Minstrels were great musicians, or
that pub-crawlers and _demi-mondaines_ were poets, there sprang
simultaneously into existence a respectable, intelligent, and
ill-tempered opposition which did, and continues to do, gross injustice
to the genuine artists who have drawn inspiration, or sustenance at any
rate, from Jazz.

During the last ten years Jazz had dominated music and coloured
literature: on painting, as I have said, its effect has been negligible.
What, for want of a better name, I must call the Cézanne movement was
too profound a stream to be modified by so shallow a current. All the
great contemporary painters are extremely serious; they make no faces at
their predecessors, or at anyone else. They are not _gavroche_. Surprise
is the last emotion they wish to arouse. And, assuredly, they have
neither gone to the hotel-loungers for inspiration nor shown the
slightest desire to amuse them. This is as true of Picasso as of
Derain: only, Picasso's prodigious inventiveness may sometimes give the
impression of a will to surprise, while his habit of turning everything
to account certainly does lead him to cast an inquisitive eye on every
new manifestation of vitality. I have seen him enthusiastic over _la
politique_ Lloyd-George, and I should not be in the least surprised if
he found something in it to serve some one or other of his multifarious
purposes. If, however, surprise were what Picasso aimed at he could go a
very much easier way about it. He could do what his tenth-rate imitators
try to do--for instance, he could agreeably shock the public with
monstrous caricatures and cubist photography--those pictures, I mean,
which the honest stockbroker recognizes, with a thrill of excitement at
his own cleverness, as his favourite picture-postcards rigged out to
look naughty. But Picasso shows such admirable indifference to the
public that you could never guess from his pictures that such a thing
existed: and that, of course, is how it should be. He never startles for
the sake of startling; neither does he mock. Certainly, unlike the best
of his contemporaries, he seems almost as indifferent to the tradition
as he is to the public; but he no more laughs at the one than he tries
to startle the other. Only amongst the whipper-snappers of painting
will you discover a will to affront tradition, or attract attention by
deliberate eccentricity. Only, I think, the Italian Futurists, their
transalpine apes, a few revolutionaries on principle, but especially
the Futurists with their electric-lit presentation of the more obvious
peculiarities of contemporary life and their taste for popular
actualities can be said definitely to have attempted a pictorial
expression of Jazz.

On music, however, and literature its influence has been great, and here
its triumphs are considerable. It is easy to say that the genius of
Stravinsky--a musician, unless I mistake, of the first order and in the
great line--rises superior to movements. To be sure it does: so does
the genius of Molière. But just as the genius of Molière found its
appropriate food in one kind of civilization, so does the genius
of Stravinsky in another; and with that civilization his art must
inevitably be associated. Technically, too, he has been influenced much
by nigger rhythms and nigger methods. He has composed ragtimes. So, if
it is inexact to say that Stravinsky writes Jazz, it is true to say that
his genius has been nourished by it. Also, he sounds a note of defiance,
and sometimes, I think, does evince a will to insult. That he surprises
and startles is clear; what is more, I believe he means to do it: but
tricks of self-advertisement are, of course, beneath so genuine an
artist. No more than Picasso does he seek small profits or quick
returns; on the contrary, he casts his bread upon the waters with a
finely reckless gesture. The fact is, Stravinsky is too big to be
covered by a label; but I think the Jazz movement has as much right
to claim him for its own as any movement has to claim any first-rate
artist. Similarly, it may claim Mr. T.S. Eliot--a poet of uncommon merit
and unmistakably in the great line--whose agonizing labours seem to have
been eased somewhat by the comfortable ministrations of a black and
grinning muse. Midwifery, to be sure, seems an odd occupation for a lady
whom one pictures rather in the rôle of a flapper: but a midwife
was what the poet needed, and in that capacity she has served him.
Apparently it is only by adopting a demurely irreverent attitude, by
being primly insolent, and by playing the devil with the instrument of
Shakespeare and Milton that Mr. Eliot is able occasionally to deliver
himself of one of those complicated and remarkable imaginings of his:
apparently it is only in language of an exquisite purity so far as
material goes, but twisted and ragged out of easy recognition, that
these nurslings can be swathed. As for surprise, that, presumably, is an
emotion which the author of _Ara Vos Prec_ is not unwilling to provoke.
Be that as it may, Mr. Eliot is about the best of our living poets, and,
like Stravinsky, he is as much a product of the Jazz movement as so good
an artist can be of any.

In literature Jazz manifests itself both formally and in
content. Formally its distinctive characteristic is the familiar
one--syncopation. It has given us a ragtime literature which flouts
traditional rhythms and sequences and grammar and logic. In verse its
products--rhythms which are often indistinguishable from prose rhythms
and collocations of words to which sometimes is assignable no exact
intellectual significance--are by now familiar to all who read. Eliot is
too personal to be typical of anything, and the student who would get a
fair idea of Jazz poetry would do better to spend half an hour with a
volume of Cocteau or Cendrars. In prose I think Mr. Joyce will serve as
a, perhaps, not very good example: I choose him because he is probably
better known to readers than any other writer who affects similar
methods. In his later publications Mr. Joyce does deliberately go to
work to break up the traditional sentence, throwing overboard sequence,
syntax, and, indeed, most of those conventions which men habitually
employ for the exchange of precise ideas. Effectually, and with a will,
he rags the literary instrument: unluckily, this will has at its service
talents which though genuine are moderate only. A writer of greater
gifts, Virginia Woolf, has lately developed a taste for playing tricks
with traditional constructions. Certainly she "leaves out" with the
boldest of them: here is syncopation if you like it. I am not sure that
I do. At least, I doubt whether the concentration gained by her new
style for _An Unwritten Novel_ and _Monday or Tuesday_ makes up for the
loss of those exquisite but old-fashioned qualities which make _The Mark
on the Wall_ a masterpiece of English prose. But, indeed, I do not think
of Mrs. Woolf as belonging properly to the movement; she is not imbued
with that spirit which inspires the authentic Jazz writers, whether of
verse that looks oddly like prose or of prose that raises a false hope
of turning out to be verse, and conditions all that they produce. She
is not _gavroche_. In her writings I find no implicit, and often
well-merited, jeer at accepted ideas of what prose and verse should
be and what they should be about; no nervous dislike of traditional
valuations, of scholarship, culture, and intellectualism; above all, no
note of protest against the notion that one idea or emotion can be more
important or significant than another. Assuredly, Mrs. Woolf is not
of the company on whose banner is inscribed "No discrimination!" "No
culture!" "Not much thought!" She is not of that school whose grand
object it is to present, as surprisingly as possible, the chaos of any
mind at any given moment.

The Jazz theory of art, if theory there be, seems stupid enough--as do
most. What matters, however, are not theories, but works: so what of the
works of Jazz? If Stravinsky is to be claimed for the movement, Jazz has
its master: it has also its _petits maîtres_--Eliot, Cendrars, Picabia,
and Joyce, for instance, and _les six_. Oddly enough, _les six_ consist
of four musicians--Darius Milhaud, Georges Auric, Poulenc, and Germaine
Taillefer [Z]--chaperoned by the brilliant Jean Cocteau. All five have
their places in contemporary civilization: and such talents are not to
be disposed of simply by the present of a bad name. For it is not
enough to call an artist "extremist" or "reactionary," "Cubist"
or "Impressionist," and condemn or approve him as such. These
classifications are merely journalistic or, if you will, archæological
conveniences. It is the critic's business to inquire not so much whether
an artist is "advanced" or "Cubist" or "Jazz," as whether he is good,
bad, or interesting; and that is what most critics fail to do. One's
general opinion of a movement or school ought not to affect one's
opinion of any particular work. One may, for excellent reasons, dislike
a movement; one may hold that it hampers or sets on a false scent more
artists than it serves; that it induces students of promise to waste
time and energy on fruitless problems; that it generally fails to
get the best out of its most gifted adherents, while it pumps into a
multitude of empty heads so much hot air as to swell them to disquieting
proportions. This is pretty much what I think of Cubism; but I am not
such a fool as to deny that, experimenting in these very problems which
seem to me to lead most artists into a rather unprofitable world of
abstractions, Picasso and Braque have produced works of the greatest
beauty and significance, while those of Fernand Léger, Jean Metsinger,
and other avowed Cubists are of extraordinary merit and deserve the most
careful attention. I can think of no movement except that called "Art
nouveau," which has not contributed something to the world's artistic
capital and to the great tradition. Only, to realize this, one must be
able to distinguish not only between movements, but between the artists
of a movement. That is what angry critics will not do. That is why the
admirable Mr. Dent--whose brilliant lacerations of _les six_, and other
exponents of Jazz, I sometimes have the pleasure of translating to his
victims--knew no better, the other day, than to bracket Poulenc with
Miss Edith Sitwell. Confusions of this sort seem to me to take the sting
out of criticism; and that, I am sure, is the last thing Mr. Dent would
wish to do. He, at any rate, who comes to bury Jazz should realize
what the movement has to its credit, _viz._, one great musician, one
considerable poet, ten or a dozen charming or interesting little masters
and mistresses, and a swarm of utterly fatuous creatures who in all good
faith believe themselves Artists.

[Footnote Z: Honegger, I think, was never officially of the band.]

The encouragement given to fatuous ignorance to swell with admiration of
its own incompetence is perhaps what has turned most violently so
many intelligent and sensitive people against Jazz. They see that it
encourages thousands of the stupid and vulgar to fancy that they can
understand art, and hundreds of the conceited to imagine that they can
create it. All the girls in the "dancings" and sportsmen at the bar who
like a fox-trot or a maxixe have been given to believe, by people who
ought to know better, that they are more sensitive to music than those
who prefer Beethoven. The fact that Stravinsky wants his music to be
enjoyed in the cafés gives pub-loafers fair ground for supposing that
Stravinsky respects their judgement. Well, the music of Brahms is not
enjoyed by pub-loafers; but formerly the concert-goers were allowed to
know better. Stravinsky is reported to have said that he would like
people to be eating, drinking, and talking while his music was being
played (how furious he would be if they did anything of the sort!), so,
when a boxful of bounders begin chattering in the middle of an opera
and the cultivated cry "hush" the inference is that the cultivated are
making themselves ridiculous. Again: if rules were made by pedants for
pedants, must not mere lawlessness be a virtue? And, since savages think
little and know less, and since savage art has been extolled by the
knowing ones (I take my share of whatever blame may be going) as much
as "cultured" has been decried does it not follow that ignorant and
high-spirited lads are likely to write better verses than such erudite
old buffers as Milton, Spenser, and Gray? Above all, because it has been
said that the intellect has nothing to do with art, it is assumed by the
mob of ladies and gentlemen, who if they wrote not with ease could not
write at all, that there is no such thing as the artistic problem. And
it is, I believe, chiefly because all genuine artists are beginning to
feel more and more acutely the need of a severe and exacting problem,
and because everyone who cares seriously for art feels the need of
severe critical standards, that, with a sigh of relief, people are
timidly murmuring to each other "Plus de Jazz!"

And, indeed, there are autumnal indications: the gay _papier-maché_
pagoda is beginning to lose its colours: visibly it is wilting. When,
a few days after the conversation I have recorded, it was rumoured in
Paris that the admired Prokofieff, composer of _Chout_, had said that
he detested ragtime, the consternation into which were thrown some
fashionable bars and _salons_ was as painful to behold as must have been
that into which were thrown parlours and vicarage gardens when Professor
Huxley began pouring cold water on Noah's Ark. We hurried away to the
Southern Syncopated Orchestra, only to find it sadly fallen off. But had
it really changed so much as we? And, more and more, immense musical and
literary activity notwithstanding, people are looking to the painters,
with their high seriousness, professionalism, conscience, reverence, and
vitality as the sole exponents and saviours of "le grand art." Not for
nothing is Derain the most admired of Frenchmen by the young _élite_;
for Derain is humorous without being _gavroche_, respects the tradition
yet is subservient to no school, and believes that all the highest human
faculties are not more than sufficient to the production of the smallest
work of art.

What the pick of the new generation in France, and in England too, I
fancy, is beginning to feel is that art, though it need never be solemn,
must always be serious; that it is a matter of profound emotion and of
intense and passionate thought; and that these things are rarely found
in dancing-palaces and hotel lounges. Even to understand art a man must
make a great intellectual effort. One thing is not as good as another;
so artists and amateurs must learn to choose. No easy matter that:
discrimination of this sort being something altogether different
from telling a Manhattan from a Martini. To select as an artist or
discriminate as a critic are needed feeling and intellect and--most
distressing of all--study. However, unless I mistake, the effort will
be made. The age of easy acceptance of the first thing that comes is
closing. Thought rather than spirits is required, quality rather than
colour, knowledge rather than irreticence, intellect rather than
singularity, wit rather than romps, precision rather than surprise,
dignity rather than impudence, and lucidity above all things: _plus de
Jazz_. Meanwhile, whether the ladies and gentlemen in the restaurants
will soon be preferring sentimental waltz-tunes to flippant ragtimes
is a question on which I cannot pretend to an opinion. Neither does it
matter. What these people like or dislike has nothing to do with art.
That is the discovery.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Since Cézanne" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home