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Title: Modern French Masters
Author: Van Vorst, Marie
Language: English
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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.

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                         MODERN FRENCH MASTERS



                             MODERN FRENCH
                                MASTERS

                                  BY

                            MARIE VAN VORST

                            WITH PREFACE BY

                          ALEXANDER HARRISON

                                 PARIS
                              BRENTANO’S
                         37 AVENUE DE L’OPERA
                      AND UNION SQUARE, NEW YORK
                                 1904



                  Printed by BALLANTYNE, HANSON & CO.
                        At the Ballantyne Press



                       IN GRATEFUL APPRECIATION

                          OF THE HOSPITALITY

                                  OF

                        THE PALL MALL MAGAZINE

              I INSCRIBE THIS COLLECTION OF ESSAYS WHICH

                  HAVE ALREADY APPEARED IN ITS PAGES

                             TO MY FRIEND

                           GEORGE R. HALKETT

                              PARIS, 1904
                           90 RUE DE VARENNE



PREFACE


The source of art is the fountain of Love: the winged spirits, Painting,
Sculpture, and Poetry, spring from it hand in hand. With affectionate
leave-takings and cries of joy at their liberation, they soar into
space, the angel of Music out-winging the rest because of more lambent
fibre, but she is no more vital nor pulsating than her sisters.

Genius is Love, Talent is the sure perception of essentials combined
with the power of expression. Talent, coupled with genius, produces the
Love-Child that men call a Masterpiece.

The love-child in Art is the most perfect of all human creations,
whether the artist lover be conventional or academic, or rebellious
against form and schools, or capricious and eccentric. Emerson said:
“Write above your door the word, ‘_Whim_.’” This, Alfred Stevens,
Besnard, Dégas, and the great sculptor Carries would have applauded,
and above all--Whistler!

Whether the lover be brutal and aggressive (Courbet and at times
Besnard), shy and distinguished (Puvis de Chavannes), dreamy and
caressing (Corot and Cazin), alert and pulsating (Sargent, Zorn),
retiring and retrospective (Millet-Lobre), nobly dominating (like Rodin,
who says “_il faut planer_”)--or varied in impulse--one might say
capricious--like Whistler, Bastien Lepage and Monticeli--the obsession
of the _motif_ will infallibly assert itself in convincing form, the
vital impulse of loyal desire will in every case assume masterly shape,
and if sequent be great. And as all the world loves a lover, so all the
world sooner or later will love the lover’s work.

It is extremely difficult to justly decide how potent for good or evil
upon the individuality of genius is the influence of the so-called
“_Schools_.” The influences of early education and distant ideals often
impede true progress. Youth submits naturally to an instruction which
may or may not be misdirected. Broad cultivation of general, vital, and
æsthetic force, and encouragement of impulse, are advantageous, whereas
the domination of the pupil by the master-teacher may be detrimental.

The valiant and revered old soldier-artist Gérome constantly asserted:
_Le dessin c’est la probité de l’art_.

Puvis de Chavannes would have formulated that Art is the expression of
love, not of military probity! None the less, however, are those wrong
who cavil against the Schools purely from a spirit of adverse criticism.

Great Bastien Lepage, the year before his death, told me that it was his
constant struggle to overcome bad habits formed in the École des Beaux
Arts, whilst on the other hand, other temperaments have profited
normally by the codes of the École.

Jules Breton is said to have left the School a failure, and to have
afterwards wrought out his real success in the loneliness of his native
fastnesses.

Besnard, in spite of being Prix de Rome, has had a sufficiently broad
grasp and requisite assertive audacity to benefit by the Schools. He
quickly assimilated such influences as served his purpose, intelligently
discarding what might otherwise have hampered him. Besnard’s
temperamental confidence, and at times his lack even of reverence, while
possibly weakening to his inspiration from the point of view of poetical
reserve and distinction assured his freedom and strengthened his
audacious fecundity. He at times lacks _tenderness_, but he loves hard!
and his are _les défauts des grandes qualités_.

Puvis de Chavannes, gentle, distinguished, noble and shy, was both
personally and professionally the Grand Seigneur of modern art. He is
full of restraint; thoughtful, reserved, a lover of style. There is no
audacity in this painter’s work, which is at times wavering and even
clumsy in expression, nevertheless Puvis de Chavannes is _un dieu_!

Rodin and Besnard are both masterly, constructive draughtsmen: the
former invariably synthetic in execution and generally so in conception.
Besnard reaches his apotheosis in La Fée. In the art of both men there
is marvellous variety--both of _motif_ and treatment. Rodin’s gigantic
force is calm and sure; Besnard’s nervous--sometimes even boisterous as
though he were naïvely rebelling against a moment of bashfulness!

If Rodin can be said to possess a fault, it is _an occasional dominance
of the grotesque_: a probable result of an intense personality, too
great originality. Besnard’s over-desire is similar; and he is more
frequently garish, over-audacious in his experiments and his
expression. A striking contrast to these painters is Cazin. His art is
timid, caressing, poetic and tender. He lacks the nobility of aim of
Puvis de Chavannes. He is intimate, domestic, directly in _liaison_ with
his painting.

He treats his art as something dear to his heart, peculiarly personal.
He loved to fondle nature in her _purring_ moments; in the soft hours of
twilight, when the spirit of the landscape is moody, fleeting, gently
sad submissive and persuasive.

ALEXANDER HARRISON.

     CONCARNEAU, _April 1904_.



CONTENTS


                                                                    PAGE

PUVIS DE CHAVANNES                                                     1

JEAN CHARLES CAZIN                                                    31

RODIN                                                                 61

PAUL ALBERT BESNARD                                                  105

STEINLEN                                                             157



ILLUSTRATIONS


PUVIS DE CHAVANNES:

                                                                    PAGE

Puvis de Chavannes (_From a portrait by Léon
Bonnat_)                                                               4

Rhône et Saône (Lyons)                                                 7

Ste. Geneviève Series (Panthéon)                                      11

Ste. Geneviève Series (Panthéon)                                      15

Ste. Geneviève Series (Panthéon)                                      16

Sorbonne Series, No. 1                                                19

Sorbonne Series, No. 2                                                20

“Le Repos” (Amiens)                                                   23

“La Rivière”                                                          24

“L’Hiver” (Salon d’Arrivée, Hôtel de Ville,
Paris)                                                                27


JEAN CHARLES CAZIN:

The Windmill                                                          35

A Picardy Village                                                     39

The Death Chamber of Gambetta                                         43

Moonlight                                                             47

The Village Street                                                    51

The Holy Family                                                       55

The End of the Village                                                57


RODIN:

Rodin                                                                 64

“Le Frère et la Sœur”                                                 67

Intérieur d’Atelier                                                   71

Le Désespoir                                                          75

La Porte de l’Enfer                                                   77

St. John the Baptist                                                  79

Intérieur d’atelier avec le groupe des “Bourgeois
de Calais”                                                            83

“Le Penseur”                                                          87

Beau Torse                                                            89

Le Jardin des Oliviers de l’Homme de Génie                            91

La Tempête                                                            95

Sirènes Chantant                                                      97

Buste de Mons. Rodin, par Falguière                                   99


PAUL ALBERT BESNARD:

Paul Albert Besnard in his Studio                                    108

Convalescence                                                        111

The Sick Woman                                                       115

La Femme qui se Chauffe                                              119

Death                                                                123

A Portrait in Yellow and Blue                                        127

The Fisherman’s Daughter                                             131

Sunset, Algeria                                                      135

Horses tormented by Flies                                            139

Love                                                                 143

The Flirtation                                                       147

A Woman of Biarritz                                                  151


STEINLEN:

Street Children                                                      161

Mother’s Love                                                        165

A Steinlen Poster                                                    169

Work-Girls                                                           173

Dry-Point Etching                                                    177

A Steinlen Poster                                                    181

A Steinlen Poster                                                    185

En Attendant                                                         189

A Study                                                              193



PUVIS DE CHAVANNES

[Illustration: PUVIS DE CHAVANNES

(From a Portrait by Léon Bonnat)]


In the midst of the most stormy period that France has seen for ten
years, in the turbulence of political and national tumult, Puvis de
Chavannes passed from his country’s life into its history. During the
week that saw the fall of the Brisson Ministry, when Paris was a sea of
frantic demonstration and safety assured by military law, he died: his
life a gospel of serenity and peace, his genius and its expressions a
glory to his people, an inspiration to present and future Art. At once
his character stands out with the marvellous distinctness all things
assume when they first become the past, on the first morrow in which we
look back to them as yesterday.

The death of this great frescoist and painter leaves a place unfilled.
He has had no equal, no predecessor, and his successor is not easy to
name. To produce this original genius, whose grandiose, sublime, yet
simple productions appeal not only to the artist and the critic, but to
the peasant, who stands long and enthralled before the Ste. Geneviève of
the Panthéon, is the creation of half a century, and due to peculiar
circumstances of time and race. He was a great man as well as a great
painter; his temperament full of sun and humour, his soul calm and of
crystalline clearness.

Puvis de Chavannes was born in Lyons in 1824, of an old Bourguignonne
family, the warmth and glory of Burgundy in his veins; he was of
vigorous physique, of gay and sanguine temperament, attached by a subtle
lien to the school which for six centuries has produced great painters,
great sculptors and dreamers.

Puvis de Chavannes went to school as a boy at the Lycée of Lyons, later
to the Lycée Henri Quatre in Paris. He was a painter by selection; had
partially fitted himself for a scientific profession, when after careful
consideration he deliberately chose the career of a painter. From the
moment of his decision he never wavered, but gave to the province of art
he had made his own the absolute devotion of the enthusiast, the fierce
unremitting toil of which only great genius is capable. His student life
began in the studio of

[Illustration: RHÔNE ET SAÔNE

(Lyons)]

Couture, and lasted but three months. The methods in the atelier were
uncongenial to him.

“Is _that_ the way you see the model?” he asked of Couture, whose
formula of _blanc d’argent_, _jaune de Naples_, vermilion and cobalt
produced on the canvas a very different effect to that which Puvis de
Chavannes recognised. He left the place and never returned, but
continued to paint for several years under Henri Schaffer.

There was no school for the unfolding of this spirit, unlike its times,
greater than the masters, and lonely. For as it proved for thirty years,
the path of Puvis de Chavannes was to be a solitary way. He walked in it
with front serene, and proud stoicism and a savage devotion, looking
neither to the right hand nor to the left, for who should observe or
follow, making unerringly toward the brilliant goal and the immortal
fame hidden from those who scoffed at him, and which even his vision but
dimly saw.

In 1850 a Pietà was accepted at the Salon; in 1861 “La Paix et la
Guerre” received the second medal; one of the decorations was bought by
the State, and the painter, in a glow of enthusiasm over this first
recognition after eleven years of waiting, presented the other picture
to the Musée at Amiens. These pictures, however, failed to win him
general appreciation; he was the object of constant adverse criticism
for thirty years, and it was sufficient for him to complete a work to
awaken a perfect hubbub of abuse; he was the sport of the wit and the
cartoonist, the artistic joke of the time. During this period he bent to
his labour, his ears closed, his eyes open to all of beauty, and his
mind free to receive impressions. To the heavenly vision alone he was
obedient, and when, in 1892, public favour burst forth in a storm of
applause, he seemed to hear it scarcely more than he had heard the noise
of dispraise. In his atelier at Neuilly, an immense building full of
scaffolding and apparatus for sustaining and elevating his pictures, he
shut himself from the world and stood before his canvas from morning
until night, never breaking his fast until he had completed nine hours
of work. Infinitely apart, removed from critics and admirers, he was the
absorbed dreamer, seeking ever to transmit, to make visible his dream.

After his work-day was over he gave himself freely to his friends. To
the struggling unknown he was most sympathetic, and the fact that a
young artist was

[Illustration: STE. GENEVIÈVE SERIES

(Panthéon)]

unpopular and misunderstood would win for him at once an interest from
Puvis de Chavannes.

They say of him that he was absolutely indifferent to public opinion;
but once, indeed, criticism touched his spirit to bitterness. “When
Hades wants to lay new paving-stones, it will not fail to consign the
commission to Puvis de Chavannes, a man of good intentions and vast
ideas who has promised for twenty years to give us a masterpiece. This
he will never do, for he can neither draw nor paint.” This was from the
pen of Edmond About, a professed admirer and friend of the painter. Of
the defection Puvis never spoke without bitterness. Alexandre Dumas,
too, shot his barbs. “Puvis knows so little of drawing that he should
scarcely permit himself the luxury of not painting.” But Théophile
Gautier and Théodore de Banville, the poet who wrote Gringoire, were
amongst the few who appreciated Puvis de Chavannes. In the stupid
blindness of the time it needed a poet’s eye to discern this peculiar
ethereal form of beauty to which his own perceptions and productions
were kin.

Puvis de Chavannes was surrounded by an atmosphere of unbroken calm
through which jarring contact with the world never penetrated to trouble
the spirit. This separation enabled him to give from a height, from the
impenetrable distance into which he withdrew, his ennobling inspiring
creations.

Hitherto, in mural decorations and in frescoes, landscape formed an
inferior part; it was a subordinate background, complementary to the
figures, unreal, exaggerated, brilliant, glaring. It remained for Puvis
de Chavannes to introduce into his frescoes the country of France with
its exquisite atmospheric effects; to make rivers, trees, fields, and
woods dignified, expressive parts of his composition; as a landscape
painter he occupies a place with Corot, Rousseau, Troyon.

There could not be a greater distance between schools than that of this
master and the men of his period.

The loves of the shepherds, the follies of Olympus, Greek myths, with
little logical bearing on place or object decorated, had been the
subjects chosen for the walls and ceilings of public monuments and
public buildings. From these uninspired conceptions to the creations of
Puvis de Chavannes is a decided transition. His compositions, never
fantastic or impossible, are the highest conceptions of the real, as
well as visions of

[Illustration: STE. GENEVIÈVE SERIES

(Panthéon)]

[Illustration: STE. GENEVIÈVE SERIES

(Panthéon)]

the most exalted flight of a beautiful imagination. He chose his
subjects himself always, and never permitted a suggestion. Ceilings he
did not like to decorate; it seemed to him an unnatural form. “I seek,”
he said, “to open a window on to the real,” and it has been said that he
opened one into the soul.

In his work there is “a union of the mind of the antique and the spirit
of Christian art.” He was a great believer, as one of his friends
said--_un immense croyant_.

Of his faith or dogma his art, however, tells us nothing definite. The
legends of saints are no less breathing evidences of a distinct _credo_,
than the mythical figures in the Vision Antique and other works of the
same character are expressions of harmony with the Greek pagan spirit.
It is the expansive, all-embracing province of highest art the faith in,
the love for Beauty which is the creed of Puvis de Chavannes; and it is
the manner in which this inspired genius conceived and presented the
forms of Beauty that separated him so vastly from his materialistic
forerunners and contemporaries in France.

Hitherto the human form had been presented, for the most part, for the
delectation of the sense alone. Corporeal, physical beauty absorbed the
painter, and awakened in return such admiration as this form of art
expressed with greater or less refinement and power will always evoke.
The artist, for the most part not believing in soul, scarcely suggested
its existence. Not since the early Italians has any one painted as Puvis
de Chavannes. Meditation, indifference to the world, absorption in his
work, aided his development, “his genius unfolded in solitude.” The
human form was to him the shadow, and the soul the reality; he made
earthly beauty a veil for his idea of the eternal; form he subordinated
to his thought. “I try,” he said, “through the shade to suggest the
essence.” Nor let it be advanced that over his incapacity to draw Puvis
de Chavannes threw concealing mistiness. His pastels, his drawings, the
figures he has seen fit to leave nude, or semi-nude, disprove this.

In 1872 he was made a member of the jury of the first Salon instituted
by the State. A vivid remembrance of his own disappointment made him
seek to introduce leniency into the judgments. He could not avail, and
he resigned. On the next day, all his own canvases (which, no longer
being a member of the jury, he had a right to exhibit) were refused.
What the

[Illustration: SORBONNE SERIES, No. 1]

[Illustration: SORBONNE SERIES, No. 2]

criterion of public taste in Art was at this time, certain pictures in
the Luxembourg and the Louvre attest! The jurors and the judges are
forgotten. Puvis de Chavannes, however, is remembered, with the
distinguished company of the Refused--Courbet, Dupré, Baryé, Troyon,
Rousseau, Diaz, Millet, Corot. It was not until he had produced a great
number of his masterpieces that his success was determined--his genius
recognised. He then ceased to be the individual, the sport of vulgar pen
and brush, and became the symbol of his work as the flag is of
patriotism. He became a gift, a force, a glory, which France before his
death revered, and which she justly honours. He was made President of
the Academy of Fine Arts at the new Salon, Champs de Mars, and wore the
cross of the Legion of Honour.

It would take volumes to speak in detail of the works of Puvis de
Chavannes. A list of them is as follows. Thus far I think it can be said
that there are no volumes that deal with him or his works technically.
The technique of painting can only be interesting to painters when
discussed by the profession; and such books are almost unknown.

“The Pietà” (1850); “La Paix et la Guerre” (1861); “Travail et Repos”
(1865), in the Musée of Amiens; “Ave Picardia Nutrix” (1865); “Ludus,”
“Pro Patria,” “Doux Pays,” all in the gallery of Picardie (1879);
“Marseille, Porte d’Orient,” and “Marseille, Colonie
Grecque”--Marseilles Museum (1867); “St. Radegonde and Charles
Martel”--Hôtel de Ville at Poitiers (1872); “Ste. Geneviève of the
Panthéon, Paris” (1877); “Bois Sacré,” “La Rhône et La Saône,”
“L’Inspiration Chrétienne,”--Musée at Lyons (1883); “L’Art Céramique,”
“Inter Artes et Naturam,” and “Groupe”--Musée at Rouen (1890-92);
“L’Hiver,” “L’Eté,” “Victor Hugo offrant son Lyre à la Ville de
Paris”--Hôtel de Ville, Paris (1893); “Lettres, Arts et Muses”--Sorbonne
Paris (1894). Lastly, another continent called his genius to create
something for its generations to hand down to fame, and for the Boston
Library Puvis de Chavannes painted “Le Génie Messager de Lumière.”

“The Childhood of Ste. Geneviève,” four panels to the glory of the
patron saint of Paris, covers a portion of the right wall of the
Panthéon. This was the first decoration given at the close of the war of
the Commune. The subjects are the pious Childhood, the

[Illustration: “LE REPOS”

(Amiens)]

[Illustration: “LA RIVIÈRE”]

Consecration, and the Miracles of the Saint; and there are no more
beautiful expressions of religious art in the contemporaneous French
school.

The figures are strong, simple, natural. The background is a summer
landscape, of exquisite loveliness. In the foreground are the rugged,
rustic peasants, the pastoral life, and the pure figure of the child
Geneviève. The atmosphere is tender, the composition dignified and
impressive, and the scenes are pervaded with peace. These pastoral
paintings were a new era in the school of _plein air_. One does not ask
if the setting is an anachronism. Puvis de Chavannes, to aid him in the
production of this masterpiece, read no histories, studied no text-books
regarding the costumes and manners of the times of the saint. He went to
the plain of Nanterre, absorbed himself in the atmosphere of the country
around Paris. The Seine and Mont Valérien became his background and
setting. Then he shut himself in his studio at Neuilly, where Ste.
Geneviève and her people appeared to him as he painted them on the
Panthéon walls. If these pictures suggest the Florentine renaissance, it
is because the monastic religious, the naive simplicity, are sympathetic
with the spirit of the Italian painters. The frescoes are full of a
fine effulgence, animated by a flame as mysterious as that in a virgin’s
lamp before a dim mediæval shrine. He received the order in 1883 to
decorate the staircase in the Palais des Arts at Lyons. He painted the
Bois Sacré and the symbolic figures of the Rhône and the Saône. For this
work he received the sum of 40,000 francs. His expenses were 10,000, and
the fresco took him three years to paint, making about 6000 francs that
he was paid for these splendid works of art--the price that a modern
portrait-painter of distinction would refuse for a picture of one of the
_beau-monde_. This order completed, the painter looked and waited in
vain for new walls and decorations. “For me,” he said, “the horizon
seems to close down upon the future: there remains nothing for me to do
but to battle against indolence; but if I can inspire youth with the
example of a life of labour, not altogether fruitless, I shall have
lived to some purpose.” And again: “They come slowly,” he said, “these
vast spaces whereon I may express myself with broad, free sweep.” When
he first received the order to decorate the hemicycle of the
Amphitheatre of the Sorbonne at a price of 35,000 francs, he refused,
and the committee received a letter of acceptance from him the next
day.

[Illustration: “L’HIVER”

(Salon d’Arrivée, Hôtel de Ville, Paris)]

In the meantime he had found his subject; as for the question of the
ridiculous price offered him, he did not even refer to it.

His production was enormous, his energy untiring. After months of labour
he would go to the seaside, and give himself up to rest and indolence.
“In these times I am in despair,” he said, “and feel as though I should
never work again. Delightful as is this repose, it is to the days of
labour that I look back with the greatest pleasure. It seems as though
my power were gone for ever.” This he wrote from Dieppe, where he was
digging shrimps in the sand like a boy. He began his studies for the
career of an artist late. What other men accomplished and put by he saw
fulfilled in his own day. And because of his unusual vigour and fecund
power of production he realised in mature years what to others are the
dreams of youth. It is this juvenance carried into ripe age that gives a
virginal freshness to his painting. His fresco in the Boston Library, as
well as the work upon which he was engaged at the time of his
death--“The Old Age of Ste. Geneviève,” a new series for the
Panthéon--far from suggesting declining power, possess the fresh bloom
by which only the young spirit can make beautiful its creations. The
painter had reached an apotheosis of power. He had been the product of a
country whose times are strange and complex. His land, his race, its
blood and tradition generated his genius, and he leaves to it in turn
his glory, and the stirring example of his life, at the time of his
country’s need, it may be well said; and the relics of his beautiful art
will remain, when political crusade, when exaggerated types and schools
are past and forgotten.



JEAN CHARLES CAZIN


In the month of March 1901, the French painter Jean Charles Cazin died
at Lavandou, a little nook in Southern France on the borders of the
Mediterranean. He was in the plenitude of his talent, in the rich and
mellow prime of his life. He had gone to Lavandou on one of his frequent
voyages in search of change and refreshment; he died there alone.

It is an ancient prayer--“Lord, may I die in my bed,” but rather an
original idea to seek to pass out of life in the very bed where one was
born! This, however, was Cazin’s dream. He had carefully preserved every
beloved detail in the home of his childhood and youth in Samer
(Pas-de-Calais); thither he planned to return and pass his last days. He
longed to inhabit again his boyhood’s room; to go forth for ever
surrounded by all that had welcomed him into a world he was to leave
richer for his existence. Fate disposed otherwise.

He was born in 1846, near Samer, a little town in the neighbourhood of
Boulogne. His parents were well-to-do, his father a doctor of some
renown. Cazin attended the college at Boulogne, and received later his
baccalaureate at Lille.

In order to facilitate his artistic studies his parents sent him to
Paris, where he joined the art class of the beloved Boiscaudron. This
teacher’s influence on his pupils has been enormous. It must be
remembered that he also instructed Rodin and Lhermitte. The tuition was
free in the little class near the École de Médecine, and this studio
made hot war against the more conservative Beaux-Arts.

Cazin never seems to have considered his student days at an end. He was
perpetually learning; for ever pursuing his art as an inexhaustible
classic; seeking to discover and develop new technique; to test to the
uttermost his capacity. Later in life, when long past the student age,
he studied in Antwerp, and his fine figure, with noble head on which the
hair was already turning grey, was constantly seen in the museums, where
he wandered--enjoying the masterpieces he admired and understood.

He married, early, a woman who shared his artistic

[Illustration: THE WINDMILL]

tastes, and who herself has added to modern art. He exhibited his first
pictures in the salon of ’65-66, and was also among those men who were
in later years proscribed by the jury, and with his colleagues reaped
the singular benefit of popularity because of adverse criticism, and
became a founder of the new salon, known as the Champ de Mars. He had
apparently no feverish desire to rush before the public, to present
creations of his youth for criticism. Possessed of that rare patience
which can wait for fame, he did not choose to force a future, and put
off rather than sought a definite introduction to the world.

Meanwhile he matured his work, labouring at his canvases during that
fruitful period when hope is most sanguine and talent freshest; he
himself was only timidly appreciative of the work done in the interval
between his appearance in the salon of 1876 and that of 1887.

In 1887, a space of more than ten years from his début, he exhibited “Le
Chantier,” and from this time, with slight interruptions, down to the
date of his death, his abundant work never ceased to delight the public,
which accorded to Cazin the unusual mark of instantaneous favour. His
work has been seen constantly in England; it is very popular in
Holland, on the Continent everywhere, and he has enjoyed a marked
success in America.

Later followed “La Fuite en Egypte” (1877), “Le Voyage de Tobie” (1878),
“Le Départ” (1879), “Ismaël” (first medal, 1880), “Tobie” (1880),
“Souvenir de Fate” (1881), “Judith,” “Agar and Ismaël” (1883).

Then followed an interval when the public looked in vain for Cazin’s
name amongst exhibitors. Modern life failed to inoculate this meditative
artist with the fatal haste, the febrile, nervous desire to do
everything in a moment. Nothing disturbed his habits of study and the
slow working out of his ideas. He retired again from public notice to
mature his conceptions before showing them. Art and art alone took Cazin
hither and thither on his frequent capricious voyages.

It was as though, suddenly, in a dream, some landscape beckoned him--an
Italian evening or a moonlit dyke it might be summoned him; for with
little warning he was in Paris to-day, in Tuscany to-morrow. Fortunately
he had a family who not only understood his brusque departures, but who
enjoyed the journeys

[Illustration: A PICARDY VILLAGE]

as well as did the master himself. He was in every land a student; in
the Pays Bas he was an ardent painter, in Italy a constant visitor at
the galleries and museums, in England a potter. The art of ceramics
always strongly interested him, and he has proved himself a clever
exponent of it.

For a Frenchman he travelled widely, making many trips to Holland and
Flanders, Italy and England. He was keenly appreciative of the art with
which these countries teemed, and studied with benefit to his own
methods the Flemish and Dutch masters as seen in the Pays Bas--his
imagination impressed by the sober stretches of Netherland landscapes,
by the velvet seductiveness of Italian hillsides and golden towns, and
the misty loveliness of English country. Of Holland he has left us
numerous admirable studies, etchings, pictures--the mills and the flat
meadows, melancholy dyke lines, scenes on the Zuyder Zee and in
Amsterdam. All these are familiar and delightful to his admirers.
Possibly he has produced no more perfect piece of work than the picture
called “Moonlight on the Zuyder Zee.”

Holland, so long a school and educator and inspirer of landscape
painters, has found no modern more quick to represent her country or
more appreciative of its native art than Cazin. There is in his work a
suggestion of the spirit of the masters of Holland and Flanders far away
and removed as he is by his mysticism and the ephemeral handling of
colour from the frank colourists of the Dutch School. There is the
minute attention to detail, the clever value given to scheme, the
massing of much in small compass, the master art of concentrating on the
important point. When the painting is analysed the critic discovers that
every detail is scrupulously studied.

Italy inflamed him with a love for symbolic subjects. The spirituality
of the old masters was an evident inspiration to him. But, in
considering Cazin, while interested to trace the different elements he
found sympathetic and appealing, one fails to discover anything to
detract from Cazin’s own absolute originality.

England, eminently _connoisseur_ of landscape painting, has seen fit to
approve Cazin. His exhibition in London was received with the most
flattering appreciation. England knew Cazin for one of those foreigners
who had adopted London as a dwelling-place, and who was in sympathetic
touch with the English people.

[Illustration: THE DEATH CHAMBER OF GAMBETTA]

There exists therefore for him a feeling of personal friendship.

He came with his family to England in 1871, and remained there for three
years. His original project was to form a school of art of which he
should be master. This plan failing, he went instead to Fulham, where he
personally directed the management of a pottery, and was thus enabled to
carry out his desire to experiment in this plastic art. In this he was
successful. His exhibition in 1882 at the Central Union placed him
amongst the first masters in modern ceramics, and after his artistic
display of clays, France gave him a decoration. There is a case of
Cazin’s pottery in the Luxembourg Museum.

He was received at first with a certain wonder. His drawing, intensely
delicate, was forceful and striking because of its frank ingenuousness,
its primitive simplicity. In his colouring harmonious and extraordinary
tones ineffably soft, lights and shades indefinitely blended until at
first the picture appeared through a haze, whilst under the eyes it
slowly took form out of the mist; lines disengaged themselves, shapes
grew distinct, and the perfect little picture fully declared itself. A
good example of this is “Nuit d’Etè” (Seine et Marne).

It will be readily understood that this novel technique, at the time of
its appearance, did not pass unchallenged. It was evidently a manner, an
eccentricity--a trick of colour, a playing with the public vision! Many
endeavoured to understand and reproduce the “Cazin effects.” How was it
done? And it was bruited by the baffled that M. Cazin painted behind
locked doors! The sorcery of the master was not to be discovered, nor
was there an élite who, behind the curtain out of gaping sight, learned
the power that created “Moonlight on the Zuyder Zee.”

Will amateurs learn one day that rules of rhetoric cannot teach the
scribbler how to write a lyric?--that the atelier cannot impart the sign
to make brush and palette create that which is none other than the
_individuality_ of the painter? Cazin’s tender, mysterious treatment,
Corot’s profound tranquillity, Turner’s golden flame, the genius of the
masters, _are_ their technique.

Cazin knew nothing of the common struggle of those artists who are
obliged to ingratiate themselves into the public favour. He was accepted
at once, and soon beloved--an uncommon biography. And his agreeable
relations with the public, the atmosphere of

[Illustration: MOONLIGHT]

welcome and liking with which his work was met, his own family relations
(of the most happy and genial kind), all is evident in his art. His
pictures are full of the influence of the repose--“_la douceur infinie
qui répand les âmes qui sont en paix_.”

Cazin possessed a strongly developed decorative sense. His
contemporaries appreciated it when they gave him the supervision of the
hanging of pictures at the different exhibitions and made him
conservateur of the Musée du Luxembourg itself. This special sense is
evident in his work, as, for example, the grouping in “L’Ours et
l’Amateur des Jardins,” “La Parole de Socrate,” in the drawings and
studies for his various pictures, designs which in many instances
strongly suggest fresco and are Italian in their _genre_.

Until 1888 his subjects had been chiefly symbolic, chosen from Biblical
scenes; figures predominated in these canvases. After this period the
character of his work changed, and he devoted himself to landscape
painting, and as a landscapist he will pass down to fame. For Cazin
chose to surround his conception of figure-painting with the very acme
of his art; with the fruit of years of patience, the mystery of labour
and all that his poetic soul knew of the seasons and of changing nights
and days. For even in the most important canvases, where figures fill
the foreground, the value of the paintings is in their backgrounds and
surroundings.

Take, for example, “Agar and Ismaël in the Desert.” In the picture the
eye leaves the group of desolate mother and child for the country’s
desolation, the arid sand world, dangerous, sinister--the parching sky,
the pitiful scrub growth. The thought of the narrative is lost in
Cazin’s delineation of the landscape, in the atmosphere and painting of
the picture, and in its subtle composition.

As a rule, for the human drama the scene is the setting, whereas with
Cazin humanity _illustrates_ the text of his creation. His landscapes,
his fields, meadows, dunes, deserts, are the picture, and the figures
become subordinate, suggestive, taking their character from the
character of the soil and country.

The streets of the rustic villages have spoken to Cazin, and told him
their secrets at evening time. His studies of the little town near his
native village are especially lovely. These French parishes have
whispered their mysteries, as twilight, slipping from gold to grey,
steals down the twisting lanes. Cazin has caught

[Illustration: THE VILLAGE STREET]

the sadness of the country, its monotonous desolation, as well as its
repose. The pictures in themselves are almost narrative; the wide slopes
of bare meadow after harvesting, the sombre note of little pine-clusters
on a sandy hill, and the melancholy of the dyke lands, his own country
has spoken to him as a mother to a son who understood and who will
interpret her well. See the “Ruisseau en Picardie,” “Lac en Picardie,”
“Route près d’Equihen,” “Moonlight at Equihen.” It is into these
sympathetic surroundings that he introduced the studies he cared to make
of human life, Biblical subjects and a few classic themes. These are not
anachronisms, strictly speaking, but show a modern spirit, which places
his conception of Christ amongst men and women of to-day, as Rembrandt
placed his religious pictures in the land of his birth, which makes the
divine legend suddenly appear in the centre of the Norman wheat-field,
or sends Mary and Joseph with the Holy Child by moonlight from a little
provincial farm in Picardy. Tobias by a French riverside walks with a
celestial visitor. Judith is a woman of the people, and nothing but the
essence of tradition may be read in Cazin’s popularising of Bible story,
in his introduction of Hebraic legend to the scenes and actors of
humble, everyday peasant life. His painting of “Judith” was originally
intended for the Gobelin manufactories.

Despite the fact that his mind was full of his historic and epic legend,
and that dramatic subjects constantly presented themselves to his
attention as schemes for pictures, his trend towards landscape was too
strong, and it is extremely interesting to observe this impassioned
hero-worshipper carried toward his dreamy, peaceful current which became
his inevitable course. As the painter of lovely landscapes, Cazin is
known chiefly as the portrayer of moon-setting and falling rain on a
far, unknown country side.

Some one has said, “Turn a hundred painters loose in France before their
respective bents have been decided--and ninety-nine will be landscape
painters.”

So paintable is the French country, so seductive to the senses and
imagination, that the land germinates and brings forth the very finest
fruit of open-air painting: witness Troyon, Daubigny, Corot, Lorrain,
Poussin, Puvis de Chavannes, Cazin.

Cazin had a magnificent head. His eyes were blue, his features finely
chiselled and strong. His manners were most charming, and he was widely
beloved.

[Illustration: THE HOLY FAMILY]

Properly speaking, no school perishes with the death of Cazin, although,
strangely enough, no master displayed greater avidity to inculcate
principles of art. Despite his pedagogic passion Cazin leaves behind him
no disciples who menace his fame. His art was too personal and varied to
permit of a school’s foundation.

[Illustration: THE END OF THE VILLAGE]

His pictures have been purchased widely on the Continent and in England
and America. Time and space do not permit a catalogue of the canvases
which have appeared in public and private collections. When Cazin died
he was at work on two pictures destined for the State. They are symbolic
subjects, and were intended for the walls of the Sorbonne. They go by
the titles of “L’Ours et l’Amateur de Jardins,” and “La Maison de
Socrate.”

In the Luxembourg Museum are to be seen several good examples of Cazin’s
work: “Agar et Ismaël,” “La Chambre de Gambetta,” a tragic
representation of the room in which Gambetta died, two landscapes, a
case of pottery, and a bust in bronze.

Mrs. Potter Palmer of Chicago possesses the “Judith”; “Tobie” is in the
gallery at Lille; “La Journée Faite” in the Lyons Museum; “Souvenir de
Fête” in the Museum of the City of Paris; “Le Chantier” belongs to
Monsieur May.

Alexander Harrison, the American painter, said, in speaking of Cazin:
“He is a striking contrast to _Courbet_, for example, whose manner of
painting is insistent; whereas Cazin conceals, rather than displays, his
technique. His qualities are subtle and elusive. He avoids realistic
brutality; his delicacy is a semi-fastidiousness in contrast to the
almost _féroce_ realism of Courbet, and the robust Troyon.

“His attitude towards his ideal is reserved, caressing. Suavity, a
certain suggestion of concealment distinguish his work. Sometimes the
unvaried tone is monotony.

“His subjects were not chosen from the great solitudes; and although
figures are often absent from his canvases, the pictures always suggest
the human element and are full of associations.

“His townsfolk in the Norman village where he lived seldom saw Cazin at
work during daylight; but belated fishermen, returning in the small
hours of late night, would find him wandering along-shore, or pondering
as he paced the high sand-dunes.

“These reveries were part of Cazin’s science and art; he applied and
developed the accumulated science of long study, and created the medium
best fitted to express his ideas and the especial times of day he cared
to paint.

“His use of a _wax medium_ accounts for some of the quality of his
work.”



RODIN

[Illustration: RODIN]


In the vast presentation of subject, in the numberless examples of cause
and effect, demand and supply, representative of the tide reached by
commerce, industries, and arts in this nervous, intense modern
civilisation, there is nothing worthier of note than the work of Rodin,
the sculptor, to whom France at last has seen fit to give general
recognition.

Without the walls proper of the Exposition, at the Pont de l’Alma, a
building known as the Pavillon Rodin was constructed, wherein a
collection, although incomplete, divulged Rodin to a world who did not
know him, and delighted his admirers. The concession of the site for the
little gallery marks the history of yet another struggle between artist
and prejudice. “In spite of my efforts,” Rodin said, “and a widespread
cordial feeling toward me in other countries, Paris was so loth to grant
me this place, that had it not been for two of my friends--a Minister,
and a Conseiller Municipal--I should have pleaded in vain!”

Rodin, together with his architect, constructed, arranged, and decorated
this hall. It is a circular _salon_, with a succession of smaller rooms
surrounding the main rotunda like a gallery; the walls are covered with
pale yellow stuff; and a splendid flood of sun pours in from skylight
and sides, all of which are of glass. Within this limited space are
gathered many of the most important statues, bronzes, and busts, and the
casts of several originals which it was impossible to secure for this
exhibition. “Les Bourgeois de Calais,” the “Balzac,” the incompleted
group of “Victor Hugo,” “Porte de l’Enfer” (“Door of Hell”), “L’Age
d’Airain” (“The Age of Bronze”), “L’Homme au Nez Cassé” (“The Man with
the Broken Nose”), “L’Eve” (Eve), “L’Éternelle Idole” (“The Eternal
Idol”), “La Guerre” (“War”), “La Pensée” (“Thought” or “Reverie”),
“Psyche,” “The Moon bids Adieu to Earth in order to ascend to the
Zenith,” “Amor Fugit” (“Love Flees”), “Le Printemps” (“Spring”), L’Homme
qui s’Eveille” (“The Awakening of Man”), the busts of Jean Paul Laurens,
of Dalou, of Mirabeau, Falguière, Mme. M. V. Besides these

[Illustration: “LE FRÈRE ET LA SŒUR”]

there are countless figurines, little groups, _ébauches_, studies,
schemes for old and new work, heads, torsos in plaster, marble, bronze,
iron, and stone; whilst about the walls are hung the photographs of
works not exhibited and the drawings of the sculptor.

The acknowledgment and recognition by Paris of her great son has not
come too late. In spite of the fact that he has been for forty years an
object of intense, displayed hatred (“so keen a hate,” he says, “that if
Paris had been Italy in the time of the Borgia, I should have been
poisoned”), in spite of the enmity of artists and populace, this tardy
reception finds him unembittered, his temper warm and human, and with
hand quick and outstretched to the tardy greeting. The man himself is so
simple, so great, that he is even touched by the long-denied meed of
praise.

Standing before the head of “L’Homme au Nez Cassé” (curiously enough the
milestone of his first defeat, refused by the Salon in 1864), his
masterpieces all around him, in the mellow light of the autumn sun
falling on exquisite marble or dark bronze, Rodin said: “It is good to
be alive. I find existence marvellous, glorious. These effigies of human
pain” (and he indicated a bronze representing an emaciated poet dying on
the knees of the Muse) “no longer make me suffer as they used. I am
happy. To me nature is so beautiful, the truths of humanity are so
thrilling, that I have grown to adore life and the world. _Je trouve que
la vie est tellement belle!_” His face was fairly luminous. This
apotheosis of _bien-être_ that the sculptor has reached in late middle
age is perhaps Nature’s gift, her reward to him who, in spite of
discouragement and the world’s scorn, has for forty years been her
faithful, adoring disciple. France is true to her traditions in her
treatment of her celebrated men. She has slaughtered a king, dethroned
an emperor, sold a deliverer (Jeanne d’Arc), and to her immortal artists
offers as a stirrup-cup at starting such draughts of bitterness that if
the very divinity within them did not preserve them for posterity’s
good, who can tell whether Carpeaux, Delacroix, Manet, Rude, Berlioz,
Garnier, Baryé, Puvis de Chavannes, and Rodin would not have fallen by
the way?--and all the names are not here! Prejudice and schools in every
country and age have their scores to level. (Shades of Shelley, Keats,
Chatterton, will bid England hold her peace.) Puvis de Chavannes
(Rodin’s mighty brother amongst France’s great artists) stretched toward
his laurels in old age a hand that stiffened in

[Illustration: INTERIEUR D’ATELIER]

death before it could hold the wreaths of fame. One and all of the
illustrious ones were misapprehended; and Auguste Rodin, when he made
his first appeal to public judgment, stepped into this rank, and
awakened “the idiot risibles of a gaping stupidity,” instead of the
grave appreciation that was his due.

Rodin is of the people, and was born in Paris in 1840. His parents were
poor, and during the long years--apparently fruitless, and heaping
disappointment on disappointment--urged him to take to a trade which
would bring him immediate results. “I have no history,” he says; “my
life is simply the story of constant struggle and unchanged poverty. I
was poor, but I was strong; and in the moments when I was not bitterly
discouraged I felt a certain stimulus in setting myself against the
world. Over by the École de Médecine, in Paris, is the little school
where I went as a boy, and where I first took simple lessons in
drawing.”

He acknowledges the influence of no directed instruction on his art. In
his young manhood he was a workman in the _atelier_ of Baryé, and the
models of twisted cobras, lithe tigers, crouching panthers, maddened
lions--their graceful contours and curves, the attitude of savage
grace--may have impressed their images on the keen memory of the young
journeyman. At all events, in his types of the animal triumphant in man,
in the pose and gesture of _abandon_, there is much that suggests
kinship between the human being and the uncivilised beast--the barbarous
grace and beauty of both. But Rodin is not conscious of the effect of
any school: in the _ateliers_ of both Baryé or Carrier-Belleuse he sold
his skill for his daily bread.

In 1864 he sent the head of “The Man with the Broken Nose” to the Salon.
This mask, perfectly modelled, worthy the seal of antiquity, was refused
“because of its originality.” The refusal was a bitter blow to Rodin;
and whether or not the verdict appeared to him just, it had the effect
of intimidating him, and he waited thirteen years before again appearing
before his adverse jury.

At this period (1864-70), on the edge of his own doorstep, as it were,
with no power to franchise the threshold, he worked, a paid daily
labourer, for Baryé, Carrier-Belleuse, and in 1871-77 for Van Rasbourg
in Brussels. “During the long time,” he says, “when I gave what power I
possessed to others, my thoughts were keen and alive toward my own
creations. On Sunday I was free, and that day I afforded a model for
myself and worked in my little room from the life. I

[Illustration: LE DÉSESPOIR]

[Illustration: LA PORTE DE L’ENFER]

tried to make the most of every expression, every turn, of my varying
model,--for the human being changes constantly, and my time was
infinitely precious and infinitely short. I was never able to bring to
satisfactory termination very much during these _séances_. It was in the
paid week, it was during the days of others, that I really produced. I
permitted myself then a careful mental study of what Sunday had
suggested and had failed to achieve. As I thus meditated, fleeting
thoughts and inspirations came to me, and I would hold them, force them
to remain, until at the following _séance_ with my model I could mould
their likeness in clay. I consider that this training of my memory was
of inestimable advantage.”

In 1877 “L’Age d’Airain” was sent to the Salon, and accepted. The
extraordinary criticism it evoked is sufficient praise. It was said to
be “too perfect,” and the sculptor was accused of having “cast the
statue from life”! When these insulting suspicions had been disproved to
the eminent jury’s satisfaction, Rodin’s statue--a strong, beautiful
male form of Greek purity and classical simplicity of outline--received,
in 1880, a third-class medal. This was bought by the State, and can be
seen in the Luxembourg Gardens.

Thus, successively accused first of too great originality, second of too
faithful realism, Rodin was received by his censors; but ridicule
reached its dizzy height when at the Salon of 1898 was exhibited the
statue of Balzac, ordered by the Société des Gens de Lettres, and
refused by them.

Above the _éclat_ of that time, when Paris made rendezvous before the
rejected monument to laugh and

[Illustration: ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST]

immoderately jeer, it is hard even now to raise a reasonable voice.

The august Société, which claimed that it “failed to recognise Balzac in
the statue,” should have been put to the blush by a commercial man, a
Monsieur Pellerin, who pleaded to purchase the Balzac. The sculptor
refused, and took the offending plaster back to his own workshop. “I was
cruelly hurt and made ill,” Rodin said, “and it did me great harm.” A
brilliant pamphlet was forthcoming, however, by Arsène Alexandre, which
suggested to at least part of the intelligent spectators that “they may
have laughed too soon.” The Balzac has held, during the Exposition,
chief place in the Pavilion Rodin, where those who still seek it for its
stimulus to laughter may find it, and where others may study it to calm
advantage. France’s greatest novelist, the writer of the _Comédie
Humaine_, as conceived and made to exist in sculptured form by a man
like Rodin, is a combination in itself not without interest. There is in
this work a tremendous, almost savage force, a virility and power, an
abandonment to subject above form, characteristic of Rodin. Balzac is
posed as a spectator, his arms folded across the chest under the flowing
monk’s robe which the novelist assumed when at work. His body is rested
on one backward-drawn foot, whilst the other, a little advanced, throws
out the line of leg and knee. The head, superb and massive, is lifted
and backward inclined; the lips are parted, the eyes, deep-set, caverns
of thought under heavy brows, look out at the defile of humanity which
the romancer so keenly studied to immortal results. This Balzac is
_moqueur_, _rêveur_, student, analyst; and the genius which has--roughly
if you will--mightily modelled the Titian of literature, has finely
comprehended, with the kinship of greatness, the type of the immortal
Parisian. The stupendous figure has nothing in common with the approved
style of statues to great men that mark the public places and squares of
our cities and towns, and there is everything in the _outrance_ of
presentation, the novel, daring, crude handling, to bewilder the crowd
who distrust what they fail to understand. But it is sufficient for the
serious, unprejudiced observer to come once and look, to return and
gaze, in order to recognise that he is before a masterpiece--the effigy
of a human being appearing as in life from a flowing garment, symbol of
the art of the romancer, the robe of imagination with which he enveloped
his analyses. It becomes thus impossible not to feel the power of
Rodin’s Balzac as one studies the gigantic head emerging from the

[Illustration: INTERIÉUR D’ATELIER AVEC LE GROUPE DES “BOURGEOIS DE
CALAIS”]

drapery as the author lifts his eyes on the comedy of life.

In 1882 appeared simultaneously “St. Jean préchant” (“St. John the
Baptist preaching”) and “The Creation of Man”; and down till 1885 the
busts of Jean Paul Laurens, Carrier-Belleuse, Victor Hugo, Antonin
Proust, Dalou, were exhibited at the Champs de Mars. To subsequent
exhibitions were sent busts of Puvis de Chavannes, “Le Cariatide,” “La
Danaïde,” “La Pensée,” monument to Victor Hugo, the “Balzac,” “Le
Baiser,” “L’Ève,” and the busts of Falguière and Rochefort.

In the Salon of 1889 was exhibited the group known as _Les Bourgeois de
Calais_, ordered by Calais, and which, cast in bronze, stands to-day on
the marketplace of that town. This piece, which has not its compeer,
commemorates the heroism of six of the city’s citizens in the days when
England was France’s conqueror. Froissart with characteristically simple
pathos tells the story. Calais, taken by the English, was destined to
destruction, but King Edward offered to spare the populace on the
condition that six notable bourgeois should come forth to him
bare-headed, bare-footed, ropes round their necks, and the city’s keys
in their hands. “I shall do with them according to my good
pleasure”--which good pleasure, as the world knows, was to grant pardon
and safe _convoi_, at the plea of the gracious Queen Philippa. But they
have no dream of pardon, these men, who one after another seem again to
pursue their expiatory way for us across the ages. The grateful people
of the town have bathed their naked feet with tears of adoration and
farewell, and, devoted to probable death and to sure humiliation, they
are before us. History has kept the names of four: Eustache de St.
Pierre, Jean d’Aire, Jacques and Pierre de Wissant. On their faces are
depicted all things save the sense of defeat. In the drawn visages,
convulsed hands, in the bent and defiant attitude, are pride, hauteur,
grief, resolution. The wasted forms bear the marks of siege, privation,
hunger, and anxiety, but there is no trace of submission in the mediæval
vicarious offering. Old age is here, passive in a moment of sublime
renunciation; youth, rebellious at this demand of Fate; middle life,
desperate in tense despair. These figures are real and human; this is
modern realism with classic delineation. Verse or prose, brush or
pencil, could not, line for line, have caught the story better and told
it more expressively. The mass loves a work of art that tells a tale,
and here

[Illustration: “LE PENSEUR”]

the layman and the most difficult symbolist may alike enjoy. A narrative
is told, and Art, in the mode of recount, is elevated.

[Illustration: BEAU TORSE]

Rodin’s busts are strikingly _ressemblant_--not always flattering to the
subject, but remarkable revelations of the character of the individuals
themselves. His busts of Victor Hugo and Henri Rochefort and Jean Paul
Laurens are especially fine.

“In making a portrait, for example,” Rodin says, “it requires several
_séances_ for me to get into the spirit of my model. I am seeking always
the distinguishing trait that makes this man or woman an individual
different from the rest of his kind. When I discover this _trait
marquant_ I dwell upon it, I insist on it--I caricature it, if you
like--until my bust has likeness; then I know _that I know_ my model.”

The sculptor has been at work for fifteen years on the famous “Porte de
l’Enfer” (“Door of Hades”), ordered by the Museum of Decorative Art in
Paris. Of this stupendous undertaking, as yet incomplete, only the most
inadequate idea can be given. The portal measures six mètres in height;
the panels and borders are filled with countless figures in _bas_ and
high relief. Above the doors is a nude male figure in a sitting posture,
elbows on the knees, head sunk on the hands. This is _Dante_, dreamer,
meditator, before whose eyes passes the vision of the condemned. The
groups, couples, and single figures represent everything that a fertile
talent can conceive of dread and grief; there are visible

[Illustration: LE JARDIN DES OLIVIERS DE L’HOMME DE GÉNIE]

Greed, Lust, Crime, Despair--in short, all the worst of the World, the
Flesh, and the Triumphant Fiend. At the lower corners are masks of Pain,
and around and about them Satyrs, Centaurs, Nymphs male and female,
human forms of all ages and nations, run their terrible race. These
remarkably modelled figures are entwined, interlaced, leaning the one on
the other, seeking to escape, pursuing, haunting, and fleeing,
repelling, clasping in eternal desire, eternal horror, eternal despair.
Here are Paola and Francesca in their own forms, and their symbols in
many another; here, even, are tiny bodies of infants, “who seek with
sightless eyes to penetrate limbo and the shades.” No one but Rodin
since the days of the Ghibellines could have ventured upon this subject,
and of the tremendous result there has as yet been one general verdict
of praise. It is Rodin’s _chef-d’œuvre_. The doors are to be cast in
bronze, and are all but in the hands of the casters.

Carpeaux, Rude, Chapu, have given to France splendid monuments. The
sculpture of these men is powerful, virile, telling,--their technique
that of the schools, their expression at once comprehensible. This art,
picturesque, decorative, ends with the production, and suggests as a
whole nothing beyond that which is before the eyes. Rodin’s art, by
reason of his more complex, subtle temperament, his more artistic
sympathy and profounder insight into nature and humanity, has been a
renaissance to modern sculpture, and is to plastic art what Puvis de
Chavannes was to decorative painting. He calls himself a student of
human life, a disciple of nature, from which he inspires himself, and in
an original, individual manner expresses in tangible form his
conceptions of the mysteries of life. He has caught the ineffable moment
of passion, and dared to transfix the embrace of love in stone. He has
dared to portray by his art that which poet, musician, painter, have not
waited to confess is an inspiration to all creation; and is it not
possible that those who are so hasty to malign and criticise Rodin do
not understand him? At all events in his latest productions he shows no
sign of temporising, and chooses unflinchingly to be an expositor in
stone of the passions, the sensations, and crises of humanity as he
apprehends them.

Alongside of the high spirituality reached in the apotheosis of
renunciation in the group of “Les Bourgeois de Calais,” alongside of the
intellectuality of the “Victor Hugo,” are examples of the grossly
material. Here is the exquisite roundness of youth in “Brother and

[Illustration: LA TEMPÊTE]

[Illustration: SIRÈNES CHANTANT]

Sister” (“Frère et Sœur”), a group of charming, innocent loveliness.
Touching it is the lankness of shrivelled age (Statue of an Old Woman).
Here are expressed the violence of all sensation, the legitimate
happiness of love, the languor of satiety, the wantonness of riot, the
solemnity of death, the hopeless horror of the damned (“La Porte de
l’Enfer”).

Rodin the man is unassuming, and his manners are almost naïve. In his
_accueil_ he is courteous and charming, extending a gracious reception
to the world he generously permits to freely seek him. Below medium
height, strongly, powerfully built, his head lionesque, his eyes keen,
deep-set, and very brilliant, we see him when at work in the white long
blouse he wears in his _atelier_, Rue de l’Université. The vast room is
filled with groups completed and others in different stages of
advancement, chiefly innumerable casts for the “Porte de l’Enfer.”
Around Rodin are his stone-cutters, achieving from blocks of marble the
contours of the models in clay before their eyes. A fine, clinking
sound, a “tin-tin,” fills the place to echo as the penetrating
instruments tap the hard surface. Rodin’s hands are covered with wet and
drying clay; the metallic sound is an accompaniment to his thoughts. “My
_métier_ is to express my ideas in plastic form; and, curiously, it is
of form I think the least.” (His enemies will find here a _point
d’appui_ and fresh impetus to mirth!) “To me all expression should be
subordinate to the

[Illustration: BUSTE DE MONS. RODIN, PAR FALGUIÈRE]

idea; and for the elusive, fleeting ideals I am on an eternal search. I
may imagine that under my hands, as I mould a faun possibly, or a satyr,
I have caught the ineffable conception fast at last; when, under my very
touch, I see the being change. My inspiration becomes another, and lo!
the clay is a faun no longer, but a Sappho--head thrown back, lips
parted, plunging into a sea!”

And to this man, the eternal search is for beauty, which, according to
his creed, exists in everything that lives, moves, or has its being.
“Nothing is ugly that has life,” Rodin says. “Age has its own
loveliness, as youth has its especial charm. Whatever suggests human
emotion, whether of grief or pain, goodness or anger, hate or love, has
its individual seal of beauty. Therefore,” he exclaims, “since I hold
all existence to be beautiful, and all beauty to be truth, _on a bien le
droit de choisir parmi les choses vraies_” (one has the right to choose
amongst truths). And although to Rodin has been attributed mastery in
all arts save that in which he is absolutely _maître_, of his drawings,
his designs, his ceramics, bear the touch of genius,--he is _par
excellence_ the sculptor. No critic can observe certain groups without
conceding mastery to him in his art. It is claimed that there exist in
antiquity no more perfect examples of the human form than “L’Age
d’Airain,” “Le Printemps,” and “Le Baiser.” Had these marbles been
unearthed at Samothrace or disinterred at Athens, antiquarians (if
puzzled to trace the Grecian spirit) would scarcely have hesitated to
assign these figures their places amongst the remnants of the dust and
ashes of the Golden Age. But between Phidias and Rodin, between pure
Greek and the complex modern, there is a great gulf fixed. The times
demand, crave, insist upon and generate, another spirit. The ancients
portrayed divinity in the mystic ideal clothed in ideal form; this
modern portrays humanity, with its warring desires, its breath, span,
happiness of love.

Rodin will be perhaps always misunderstood. He is a pagan, and in his
art has been so varied as to make it difficult to judge him by a
standard or to compare him wisely with his forerunners or his
contemporaries. The same hand that has perfectly carved the lovely
woman’s head in “La Pensée,” rounded the limbs in the delicacy of “The
Eternal Idol,” the same hand tears forth from clay and stone sinister,
terrible conceptions, mighty symbols of desolation as on “La Porte de
l’Enfer,” the inevitable misery in the retribution. From a block of
marble he causes a woman to blossom forth like a flower, until rough
block and figure appear of different materials--the one a cold,
pulseless background, a sheath for a form so instinct with life that the
stone has the texture of flesh, and seems to bloom and glow. Take, for
example, the figure of Psyche holding back the draperies of night that
she may see Eros. Rodin is an absolute expression of his times, a modern
with the subtlety of idea, the suggestive conception that is the
distinguishing mark of nineteenth-century talent, part of the spirit
that has created the schools of symbolism, that has coined the term
“degenerate”; and to this trend of mind, which no civilisation hitherto
could have produced, has been added robust physical strength and an
order of genius akin to that of the ancients, before whose immortal
works Rodin is a humble and devout worshipper, and from whom, in his
modesty, he thinks himself infinitely removed, and to whom he is in
reality divinely allied.



PAUL ALBERT BESNARD

[Illustration: PAUL ALBERT BESNARD IN HIS STUDIO]


Paul Albert Besnard bears no relation to any school. “I have never
formed part of a group,” he says; and in revenge or despair no group has
formed itself around the master. There is, properly speaking, no Sargent
school and no Whistler school, and may these men not be taken to be
masters of the present time? It is a distinguishing peculiarity of
modern art that schools do not form as they did in the old days.
Possibly an explanation of the fact why there is little discipleship is
that we are in the age of individualism and not of intense and imitative
study. Each man and woman intends to be an _arriviste_ without being a
plodder and scholar. There is great pressure toward ultimate success;
desire for originality. Imitation of methods and technique is not
sympathetic. Above all there is a marked absence of the genius which
carries men to the pinnacle Besnard has reached. Apprenticeship is not
to the taste of the modern student! Of people who put paint on canvas
there are legion--of painters few--and in France, _Degas_ and _Besnard_
head the list.

Nothing would be more mistaken than to call Besnard an Impressionist, or
to confound him with that school of art. The word has been too freely
used and misapplied. Besnard’s art, in as far as possible, is the
complete embodiment of his conception; the canvas when it leaves his
hand--in as far as the painter is able to completely transmit his
thought--is finished. Besnard does not pretend to flitting and
intangible effects--to suggestive impressionism--he claims by his work
to have expressed his idea, and does not trust to the public to
interpret him or his inspiration--he has masterfully done so for
himself.

The provinces, the Midi and the North have given to France most of her
famous men; it is unusual for a Parisian born and bred to win
distinction in his own city. It often seems to be a fact that the genius
of the individual demands uprooting from his native soil--and that
transplanting is salutary for development and success. Puvis de
Chavannes was a Lyonnais, Ingres came from Montaubon, Rodin and Besnard
are Parisians. This last named prophet found instantaneous

[Illustration: CONVALESCENCE]

honour in his own country. Besnard is a child of fortune; success came
to him early, and he has no stories to relate of struggle and despair.
Of the rough way to Fame he is ignorant, of the tortures which
stimulated and deepened the experience of Rodin, of the long and painful
route of Puvis de Chavannes to recognition Besnard knows nothing! He has
no hardships to recount: one of the happy ones in the world of art, he
is singularly devoid of history. He takes a calm and cheerful
satisfaction in the facts of his successes, and is delighted to have no
complaint to make of public or critics. “I began with success” (he says)
“and it has never left me.”

Besnard was born of a painting family, his father a pupil of Ingres and
his mother a clever miniaturist. The boy was destined for Diplomacy, but
with his talent for art his distaste for any other career rapidly
declared itself. His parents acknowledged his predilection, and he
entered the Beaux Arts. His master was the celebrated Brémond; and
although Besnard claims never to have been an ardent student, and to
have painted with freedom, following out his individual tastes and
original inclinations, the strict academic influence of the schools, the
system of Brémond, himself a pupil of Ingres, is markedly evident in
Besnard’s technique. His _métier_ has been thoroughly formed, his manner
of painting arrived at through the close and laborious study in the
school of that greatest master of modern painting--Ingres.

His _début_ before the public was with a portrait called “La Femme Rose”
about the year ’68. This picture created an immediate effect upon the
critic and public, and the artist, scarcely more than a boy, found
himself the success of the moment. The following year he took the Prix
de Rome, which recognition instead of coming to him--as it did to most
of the student world--a stimulus and a reward, broke in--as it
were--success upon success! In order to avail himself of the privilege,
the prize offered, he was obliged to leave behind him the opening of a
career already promising and to journey to Italy. The period of his
Italian sojourn was neither productive nor important; and he afterwards
made a stay in London, where he found himself sympathetic with English
people and their art. He painted several portraits whilst in England,
and amongst them those of Admiral Sir Redmond Cameron and Sir Bartle
Frere.

The pictures exhibited at the Salons following his

[Illustration: THE SICK WOMAN]

success with “La Femme Rose” were “L’homme qui court après la Fortune”
and “Procession des Seigneurs de Voilans,” a decorative bit of painting
done, as is evident, in his extreme youth, full of movement and
sincerity and novelty, and indicative of his power as future decorator.
This picture is to-day on the walls of his studio in Paris.

Then followed “Une Source,” “St. Benoit et Enfant,” and a large canvas
“Après la Défaite.”

In 1883 a portrait called “La Femme jaune et bleue” caused an artistic
furore and recalled the enthusiasm with which his _début_ had been
received a few years before. The picture was not a portrait, it was a
study of lights. Besnard is not, strictly speaking, a portrait painter,
and this production, “La Femme jaune et bleue,” rather than the faithful
transcription of a likeness, is the skilful, masterly treatment of a
scheme. Never was Besnard able to reproduce for the people--who at once
flocked to give him orders for portraits--the effects which had so
strikingly won their notice. In the portrait of “La Femme jaune et
bleue” he has insisted upon the effects of _deux rayons_--the light of
an interior and the delicate illumination of the twilight entering from
without. In this blending of tones, the azure luminescence of twilight
and the yellow lamplight, stands the woman’s figure. The public to whom
the picture was enthralling did not perhaps comprehend it was the
rendering of an idea, the peculiar vision of Besnard, or understand that
therein lay its distinction and that it was not a study of portraiture.

Then may be mentioned Besnard’s celebrated “Poneys harcellés par les
mouches.” No one who has seen the two young horses in their stalls
forgets this live and graceful picture, with its animation and _verve_,
its interesting anatomical study and the treatment of colour and tone.
The animals are admirably drawn and the blue and crimson and violet of
the scheme are Besnard’s own. This bold and eccentric production added
much to the reputation of the painter and was one of the most remarked
pictures at the Chicago Exposition. It is now owned by the Count
Rajinski (Russia) and is a veritable _chef d’œuvre_.

Besnard has also another equine group called “Le Marché des chevaux en
Algérie,” now in the possession of the Baron Franchetti.

A list of the most celebrated of Besnard’s pictures is more or less
complete as follows:

The frescoes in the Sorbonne.

[Illustration: LA FEMME QUI SE CHAUFFE]

“La Vie renaissante et la Mort.”

Fresco in the Hôtel de Ville, “l’Apothéose de la Lumière.”

Fresco in the Ecole de Pharmacie.

Frescoes in the Hospital for Poor Children at Berck.

Portrait of Réjane.

Portrait of the Princess Mathilde.

Portrait of his family.

Portrait of his wife.

The last four are in his own possession.

“Couché du soleil sur le bord d’Algérie.” Luxembourg.

“La Mort.” Luxembourg.

“Femme qui se chauffe.” Luxembourg.

“Entre deux rayons.” Luxembourg.

“La Féerie Intime.” Russia.

“L’Ile heureuse”--in the possession of Mr. Henschel.

At the present date Monsieur Martignac, Paris, possesses several
splendid canvases of Besnard’s, notably “l’Espagnole,” “Le Regard,”
“l’Automne” and “La Femme de Biarritz.”

In America the purchasers of Besnard have been few. One of the most
interesting of his paintings is at Baltimore, in Mr. George Vanderbilt’s
collection.

Paris, appreciative of her distinguished son, has confided to him the
most important of the decorations now under the city’s
consideration--the ceiling of the Théâtre Français and the cupola of the
Petit Palais. Let the amateur of art, whose list is already long, add
these mural decorations which are now in process of construction, and it
will be seen that the art of interior painting is not extinct in France,
and that these tasks have been happily consigned to the man best fitted
at present to perform them.

Besnard is at present engaged upon the ceiling of the Théâtre Français.
Its dimensions are vast, covering a surface of 273 metres. His subject,
already composed in miniature, is as follows:

The god Apollo, in his chariot, draws his horses back on their haunches
whilst he salutes the great masters of drama--Corneille, Racine,
Molière, Victor Hugo, all of whom are seated at the top of a flight of
temple steps. Behind the god are a group of the Hours, and in front, the
Muses. On the last step of the temple is a charming group and
distinctive of Besnard. The female figure of Time reposes against

[Illustration: DEATH]

another figure representing Truth--a most subtle and agreeable image.

The cupola of the Petit Palais is divided into four panels, and
Besnard’s intention is to represent in his paintings the city of Paris
in four different conceptions--“Paris Hospitalière,” “Paris dans son
Art,” “Paris dans le Commerce,” and “Paris dans les Industries.”

For the St. Louis Exposition in the United States Besnard has sent a
frieze covering 760 metres, entirely surrounding the walls of the
Exposition Française. In this building will also be seen by the tourists
there “l’Ile heureuse.”

For the more minute consideration of Besnard’s works it is well to begin
with the decorations in the Ecole de Pharmacie where the walls of the
corridor entrance to this School are entirely covered with his
decorations. The order was given in 1883 and fulfilled in 1888. Here
Besnard has given a series of fresh and delicate _plein air_
frescoes done upon the walls themselves. As they are without
protection--regrettably--they are being marked by the vandal pencils of
the sightseer and the students. To the right, the first panel represents
the open fields where peasants and women gather the medical herbs. In
another panel follows the sorting of the herbs in the laboratory; the
third is the laboratory itself with the distillation of the medicines.
Then comes a line of landscapes just above over the woodwork of the wall
like a dado. The first is the serious, meditative scientist in the
balcony of his house, overlooking the river and the city. Alongside this
are several landscapes of a peculiarly gentle and attractive charm. At
the end of the hall are again four large frescoes, the forest where the
chemists and the botanists are engaged in their researches--the lecture
room and the geologist amongst the rocks. On the opposite wall is the
companion series of oblong panels whose subjects have become so well
known to the connoisseur: Dawn on a primæval sea where up from the waves
prehistoric creatures rise weird and appalling; a group of sea-horses
emerging from the waters; a troop of mastodons, and lastly primitive man
and woman disporting on the shores of an ancient sea whose waves to-day
are confined in some strata of rock to be found by the geologist’s tool.

On the left, at the entrance door, are the most beautiful of the series
of decorations. These are life size. One is “La Malade,” a sick girl in
her bed, surrounded by the mother, the nurse and the physician.

[Illustration: A PORTRAIT IN YELLOW AND BLUE]

The companion piece is “The Convalescence,” and is undoubtedly one of
Besnard’s _chefs d’œuvre_. The invalid, after her long and weary
confinement, is being supported by tender arms into the sunlight; and it
would be difficult to imagine a more expressive and suggestive subject
for these walls. The picture is full of sunlight and mysterious
half-tones, and is expressive of tenderness and sympathy and
encouragement. In fact, these frescoes possess in a large degree the
essentials of good decoration--simplicity of line--bold and correct
drawing--impressive human sentiment and impressive subject.

Again and notably, in the decorations of the Salle des Mariages in the
Mairie du Louvre the subtlety of Besnard’s treatment of his task, the
upleading and inspiring effect he has produced makes well worth a
special description of these pictures. It will appear impossible to the
dogmatic mind that a secular room, in a Republican Mayor’s office, can
suggest an atmosphere of sacred beauty. This, however, has been rendered
the case by the decorations with which Besnard has beautified this
square, dark, conservative apartment. As one enters the apartment where
civil marriages are performed in this particular quarter of Paris the
eyes find on the wall opposite the door a graceful and agreeable picture
of youthful love. The girl--an exquisite figure--is surrounded by flying
birds and young doves. She is seated on a bank of flowers and above her
a youth of age as tender as her own waves a branch of spring flowers.
From this, one seeks the side wall and a large panel of bright and
glowing colour. The subject is harvest time, and the fields are heavy
with their burden of grain. On a sheaf of golden wheat is the figure of
a woman, mature now although still young, and at her breast a child. Two
other children play about her, and alongside the husband’s strong,
vigorous figure wrestles with his refractory horse. This decoration,
purely pastellic in impression, is so soft and plastic that the clear
colour seems ready to come off at the touch. It is peculiarly
velvet-like in quality and very high in tone. Already this square,
unbeautiful room with its green-covered benches has altered in
character. The greatest forces of the world, the greatest beauty of the
world, have penetrated it through these interpretations of a master. But
it is not to the exuberant and lovely expressions of life that the man
and woman who come here to the Maire’s office

[Illustration: THE FISHERMAN’S DAUGHTER]

to be joined in wedlock, turn, or on which--from the very position of
the picture--their eyes are forced to rest. Directly over the official
desk--directly over the entrance door--is the third decoration of the
suite. In the frailest tone, if this word may be employed, in the most
mysterious medium, he has painted a winter scene. To the left a little
row of skeleton trees range in nude, chaste bareness; in the far
distance is the lonely outline of a ruined tower. Close together--at the
top of a long line of stone steps--are seated a man and woman. Age has
claimed them; they are old. But the woman still leans upon the man. What
this fresco portrays of union, of inseparableness, of devotion, is not
easy to express in words. There is no hint of melancholy in this winter
scene, in this study of old age which Besnard has seen fit to
accentuate, which he has chosen for his principal panel, and on which
the newly married couple must meditate. It is the beautiful apotheosis
of wedded love daringly looking beyond youth to the serene beauty of
life’s decline. The frescoes were done in 1898. They are drawn at once
with freedom and precision, and are excellent examples of the best
modern mural art.

The subject painted on the arch of the Amphithéatre de Chimie, La
Sorbonne, is highly imaginative. Besnard has called it “La Vie
renaissante de la Mort.” It consists of three large panels. In the
centre panel, thrown on a bank of yellow herbage, is the body of a
woman, at her breast a nursing infant. From the other breast a stream of
milk flows forth, gaining in dimensions until it swells to a river of
life. Around her mouth cluster a horde of butterflies, the disseminators
of germs. A serpent, symbolising generation, makes his way slowly toward
the woman. The right panel represents figures of Adam and Eve. Adam
carries the young and lovely figure of the mother of life downward
toward a river flowing past the portals of Eden. Her hand is
outstretched toward the golden apples of an overhanging tree. Together
the couple descend toward the river which supposedly carries on its
breast the _débris_ of plants and offscum of the earth, and loses itself
in the earth again. At the left a mighty chasm charged with fire
represents a crucible purifying and revivifying and reconstructing. Thus
Besnard has chosen to symbolise the forces of nature--Water, Air, Earth,
Fire. The principles of organic chemistry--creatures of flora, fauna and
animal life under the solar influence.

[Illustration: SUNSET, ALGERIA]

It is a singular and bold conception, magnificently drawn and
pastel-like in treatment.

The Musée du Luxembourg is especially rich in the artist’s works, and
the buyers for the State have shown wisdom and penetration in their
choice. In one of the rooms is a small canvas not over 18 by 6 inches.
It recalls in character and distinction the little picture of Gambetta’s
room done by Cazin, and it is only the great masters who thus
wonderfully fill small bits of canvas with whole histories of life.
Besnard has called his study “La Mort”--a miserable little mansard room
_au sixième_ in a third-class hotel--the meagre furnishings are a chair,
table, and iron bed on which lies the dead figure of a woman. At the
door the voluble _concierge_, half curious and half touched, ushers in a
young man, no doubt the lover of the wretched creature beyond all the
questions of life; the man is in evening dress, hat in his hand. Here we
have poverty, misery, debauch, disgrace and despair in a medallion, as
it were. The composition and the treatment recall no one but Besnard
himself, but the literary quality of the picture suggests Hogarth
series, and Tolstoi and Balzac. This affinity with a sister art is now
and then interestingly observed in the narrative pictures of the great
masters.

“Entre Deux Rayons” is the so-called portrait of a woman. Again the
effect of two lights is here accentuated. The canvas is full of light
and seems positively to radiate. The tones are red and yellow, warm and
iridescent, and the flesh of the arms and neck melt into the scheme of
the drapery. The picture is a marvel of delicate beauty and technique.
(1893.)

But surpassing all the pictures in this Museum, in the same room, on a
considerably larger canvas, is “La Femme qui se chauffe,” the nude
figure of a woman crouching before a fire whose existence is only
evinced by the play of its reflections upon her flesh. From a little cup
of blue and white china she is drinking a draught, evidently warm and
delicious, to judge from her attitude, which is expressive of entire
comfort and _bien être_. The work, in point of view of modelling and
drawing, is absolute perfection. This treatment of the nude has the
strength and power of marble with the addition of colour. In none of
Besnard’s paintings is the luminous quality more striking. There is in
it an opalescence and vibration, it possesses the softness of old
paintings, and alone in a gallery of masterpieces would give Besnard the
right to first rank. The scheme of “La Femme qui se chauffe” is blue and
yellow, the

[Illustration: HORSES TORMENTED BY FLIES]

background a penumbra of azure, from which the brilliant figure of the
woman comes dazzlingly forth.

The pictures in the possession of Monsieur Martignac deserve note. “Le
Sourire,” painted in 1895, is a portrait of merit and perhaps
particularly interesting because uncharacteristic of Besnard. It is
successful as a study of dark, more sombre tones, and has many of the
characteristics of Dutch painting.

“L’Automne,” again, is a study low in tone, and Besnard has left his
type (distinctly the blonde woman) to paint a dark creature through
whose loosened hair fall a shower of autumn leaves. This picture is a
veritable phantom of a season past. There is an Algerienne in this
collection, interesting because it is yet another treatment of Besnard’s
famous “Deux Rayons.” The Eastern woman is seated in the window of the
booth, and blending with the room’s light is that light from the long
Eastern street which seems actually to enter her room at the threshold
of her booth.

In 1893, Mr. James Sutton, of New York, ordered from Martignac forty
Besnards to be sent to America. His name was then scarcely known in the
United States. Many of the canvases found instant appreciation. One
beautiful portrait called “La Pensive,” in the possession of Monsieur
Martignac, is especially worthy of mention. Here Besnard is faithful to
his type--a blonde woman with brilliant head of copper-coloured hair.
She leans a little forward with her chin on her clasped hands. Her dress
is of yellow satin and old lace, in her hands two great pink roses. The
scheme of the picture is yellow with a single delicate pink note. The
hair, the flesh, and the texture of the satin and the lace are all
repetitions and repetitions, all insistences of the yellow tone.

“La Femme de Biarritz”--Martignac--one of Besnard’s late paintings, is
very beautiful indeed. The model is a woman of warm, voluptuous type,
revealing the characteristics of the Basque. This picture was painted
when Besnard was in Biarritz, where he had gone for the health of one of
his children.

Monsieur Martignac has several examples of Besnard’s pastels, and
curiously enough the more delicate treatment that his canvases in oil
display is absent in these pastels, whose colours are so vivid as to be
almost blatant; but they are splendid achievements, and Besnard is the
first pastellist in France. Some of his most successful works in this
medium are in the possession of Dr. Delbet, of Paris.

[Illustration: LOVE]

Besnard’s personality recalls that of his distinguished countryman,
Rodin. He has the same strong, vigorous physique, the same air of power,
but these two great masters in temperament and in life and experience
are the antipodes. Besnard is not a recluse; he is, on the contrary, a
man of the world, very domestic too, and absorbed in his family and his
home. His hotel and studios are a little removed from the centre of
Parisian turmoil. He entertains and receives a great deal and has a
large circle of acquaintances and friends. In order to control as much
land as possible and to construct larger workshops, he has bought
extensively around his house. In one studio are the projected designs
for the Théâtre Français, in another the new portrait of his wife, a
full-sized figure of a woman of middle age, her hair is snow white, her
dress sumptuous black velvet, and she holds a yellow-covered novel in
her hands. This was exhibited at last year’s Salon and is the most
realistic of all Besnard’s paintings.

There is an interesting portrait in this same studio of the Princess
Mathilde Bonaparte, who died this winter, and whose salons have been
famous for the last half-century. The Princess is seated at a table by
a green lamp, in the position and environment so well known to men and
women of letters.

On these walls also hang the celebrated picture of the painter’s family,
painted about twenty years ago, a group of red-cheeked children and
their mother.

In this large, agreeable room, Besnard paints from models and statues,
makes his designs and drawings, his etchings, his sketches and his
pastels. But upstairs at the top of his house (whose walls are rich with
their friezes of designs) is an elaborate studio particularly designed
for posers for portraits. This sumptuous apartment--furnished in the
most luxurious manner--suggests a drawing-room and not a studio at all.
Rich screens of Chinese and Japanese workmanship, paintings by the old
masters (none of his work is here), objects and _bibelots_ and treasures
of art adorn the apartment. The chimney-piece is interesting as an
example of Besnard’s taste for plastic art. It is set in panels of
stained glass, and around the fender are coiled a pair of gigantic
boa-constrictors made in plaster and afterwards painted. The effect is
picturesque, terrifying and peculiar, and is the work of the artist
himself.

This room boasts the black-and-gold cabinet which

[Illustration: THE FLIRTATION]

figured in “La Féerie intime.” The picture, as will be remembered, is
the nude figure of a young woman ensconced in a great armchair. The
garments she has just quitted softly surround her. The brilliant and
dazzling effect of the painting is in the meshes of her spangled dress
blazing with reflected light, and from the gold that gleams and glitters
is the lacquer of the Chinese cabinet. The whole picture is a glow of
gold and fire, and in this luscent envelope the woman muses and dreams.
This picture is in Russia, as are many of Besnard’s canvases. Many
critics and painters class this picture as the finest example of modern
art.

It would not be complete to close the study of Besnard without mention
of his etchings. Here and there a dealer may have a complete set of the
few produced, but they are few indeed, and difficult to obtain. The most
celebrated is known as “La Femme.” In this series Besnard has drawn
woman in every stage of her existence. We have the flirt, the mistress,
the wife, the happy mother with her children, the miserable mother, who
to cover the form of her freezing child denudes herself, and at length
casts her body over her son; the woman of the ball-room, the woman of
the streets, and, in short, he has seen fit to display every state and
condition of femininity in this study of black and white.

There also is a weird and eccentric suite, designated as “La Mort.” In
these studies Besnard has indeed played with his conception, ringing its
changes to endless and infinite variety. Death, the skeleton, pursues
his prey in every imaginable state of society--in the streets, in the
crowd, to the lonely individual, to the lovers’ embrace, to the man and
wife before the altar, he lurks behind a pillar to seize the solitary
passer-by, he appears in the ball-room, jogging elbows with the
_débutante_, he rescues the beggar and menaces the rich man. Here in
these drawings the painter displays his first and only hint of
morbidness. The idea of death, he says, has always been with him an
obsession. Whistler’s etchings are alone to be mentioned in class with
these admirable _eaux-fortes_.

Besnard himself explains the absence of the melancholy strain which is,
as a rule, strongly underlying the work of all great genius.

“I never work when I am unhappy. Unhappiness has a most depressing
effect upon my execution and my conception. Never in times of anxiety
have I said, ‘I will turn to my work, I will lose myself in my

[Illustration: A WOMAN OF BIARRITZ]

creations. When my child was ill I was utterly incapable of producing,
and only when its recovery was certain could I undertake my work again.
(And it is at the hospital for sick children at Berck, when he was there
for the health of his child, that he painted his frescoes.)

“My best work is that which I enjoy when I am doing it; it is the work
which brings me pleasure, the work that I do when I am cheerful, which
is my best. This is, of course, according to temperament, but such is
mine! I produce a great deal, I work very hard, of course I am
ambitious, and at times know discouragement, when my conception is so
far behind my power of expression. I take often two months to do a
picture and work and correct my canvases enormously. There are days when
the mystery that should surround an idea is absent. Those are the days
that I say one sees too clearly, and at that time I do not paint. _Je ne
pioche pas_, which means ‘I do not dig away at my work.’ I have produced
enormously and I owe my success to myself and my work alone. I have
never had patronage and have never been part of a coterie.”

He has the gift of facile labour and his mental and temperamental
characteristics are revealed in the free, breezy, healthful inspirations
of his work. His is a happy, vigorous genius, sane and normal, utterly
devoid of much of the weakness marking modern French art.

       *       *       *       *       *

As soon as the painter of mural decorations leaves the domain of myth
and contiguity to his subjects, he is on dangerous ground. Pure
imagination is too personal, too largely of the painter’s own
time--dying with his death and needing the very spirit of the age to
interpret it, and when modern subjects become the choice for
decorations, they should have for their principal scheme that which will
appeal to the mass and be of general interest. The poorest man and
woman, the youngest child may understand and enjoy the decorations in
the School of Pharmacy. These are perhaps the most promising for the
continuation of Besnard’s fame. They will live. The same may be said of
the pictures in the Mairie of the Louvre; whereas, those in the School
of Chemistry, delightful as they are, are so personal and subtle that
they require printed cards to make them intelligible to the mass. The
ceiling of the Hôtel de Ville represents the apotheosis of science. A
female figure with the profusion of reddish hair Besnard is fond of
painting, holds in her hands sheaves of light which she casts down into
a darkened world.

“My method of work is not different to that of the other masters,”
Besnard says. “I first make a design in wash and then colour it
liberally, put in all the vibration that I see and feel in nature.” (He
has chosen his definition happily, Vibration is a distinct quality of
his work). “I am really glad you do not think I represent a school! I
feel myself a solitary as far as my art goes.... I love motion, and
action, and variety, and yet withal I am a dreamer, completely lost in
my conception and in my mental preparation for my work. For this reason,
perhaps because I am so constantly absorbed in the world of imagination,
my taste in literature is for modern things--for immediate things, if I
may so say. I rise at seven in the morning, and am at work at nine. I
paint until luncheon, and rarely do good work in the afternoons. I take
my inspirations, the ideas for my pictures, from everything that
surrounds me. I cannot tell from where they come, but I am always
seeking to accurately arrange my ideas and render my conceptions and my
translations of them harmonious.”

In the summer Besnard goes to Savoie, where in the long vacations he
does almost no work, repairing his forces, resting and giving himself to
the enjoyment of his tranquil, domestic life. “I think I may say that I
love light above all things.”

And in no modern paintings is the luminous quality more evident.
Certain of his paintings possess the mellowness of the Dutch school.
There is a likeness to Rubens in his treatment of flesh, in the
exuberance and splendid animalism of his women, whereas in the
half-tones and sombre scheme (take, for instance, “Le Regard”), Franz
Hals and Porbus are recalled. Light is his motive in the ceiling of the
Hôtel de Ville. It radiates in the crucible of fire in the Sorbonne
ceiling, whilst the decoration of the Français, Apollo the Sun god,
again repeats the insistent idea. Besnard’s predilection for prismatic,
dazzling effect is unique; a special sense for colour combined with
magnificent technique and accurate drawing, explain the power of his
painting and his high rank in the criticism of the present.

Besnard is in the vigorous prime of his life and production. His
redundant creative force is enormous and he will, it is to be hoped and
believed, abundantly add to France’s treasures of modern art.



STEINLEN


One cannot think of Steinlen, Willette, Guillaume, Rivière, Léandre, and
their colleagues in the same school, without having before one’s eyes an
image of the multi-populous, seething quarter of Paris wherein these
clever nineteenth-century seers and priests of a certain cult lived and
moved, without remembering Montmartre, and the famous cabaret _Le Chat
Noir_, once on the Boulevard Rochechouart.

The Chat Noir was founded by Rodolphe Salis in 1882. This artistic
tavern saw Caran d’Ache’s _début_: his silhouettes of Napoleon and the
Grand Armée did much to make the place popular. Willette here presented
his fascinating musical stories of _Pierrot_--_Histoires sans Paroles_.
The Shadow Pantomime of Henri Rivière was also a celebrated contribution
to the little Bohemian theatre.

The Chat Noir has succumbed to the law of progress that sweeps
pitilessly before its scythe whatsoever would hinder its course. The
delicious little plays appealing to the ready appreciation of the
Faubourg Montmartrois, as well as to the keenest critics,--pantomimes of
ephemeral beauty, extraordinary shows and shadow dances,--find no longer
this stage waiting to extend its hospitality for their interpretation.
It has no successor. A multitude of little people--feeble flames--were
snuffed out as the Chat Noir closed its doors for ever. But there were
those to whom the Café was only an ante-chamber to larger rooms; and
among these men Steinlen is conspicuous.

The various quarters of Paris are magnets, drawing inevitably unto them
those spirits who shall understand, who shall find their ways
sympathetic, who shall become their poets, historians, painters.

The sensitive Boutet de Monvel reveals the Champs-Elysées, the Bois de
Boulogne, the parks, the communal schools, and the gardens; for this
painter of children seeks only the reposeful ways where children go,
where they study, are led, carried, or wander safely alone.

In Belleville, Geoffroy has been responsive to benevolence and charity
from man to man. He presents the Foundling Schools, the Asylums. The

[Illustration: STREET CHILDREN]

soothing atmosphere of charity envelops his work--he has seen the poor
through the medium of philanthropic faith. Daumier, the father of
personal caricature, sixty years ago regarded Paris with the
philosopher’s eyes. Gavarni looked through the single eyeglass of the
man of fashion, as it were, on the petty vanities of the gay social
world.

And Steinlen?

He is “a lover of life,” “an adorer of truth.” In his youth, even,
surrounded by the wild _jeunesse_ of the student quarter, his spirit was
calmer, profounder than the others. Montmartre became the magnet drawing
to its centre this ardent soul; in Montmartre, then, as to-day, he saw
the Giant Need, imperfectly met by the vast charity of the world. It is
from this district that his eternal plea resounds for the poor whose
necessities are eternal. He finds his quarter tragic in its commonplace
moods; to him the passions of the people have spoken. There is vibrant
and touching pathos in his rendering of the love-story of the grisettes,
the love-story of the workman and workwoman of the people, an infinite
tenderness in his pictures of humble family life--the gathering of the
sad little bands enveloped by the fervour of maternity, when the frail
mother, bending over her children, has more love to give than bread.
And if, as we study and consider his work, we are shocked at times, and
claim that the truth is unpleasing--is this not because his subjects are
sought among those phases of life to which too often we willingly close
our eyes?

Steinlen is a Swiss Protestant of simple parentage. He was born in
Lausanne, and is Parisian by adoption only. His grandfather was a
painter of talent. Save for the fact that Steinlen married at twenty and
came to Paris to earn his bread with his brush and pencil, his history
has no special interest. He had no time or chance to follow the academic
course of study in the _ateliers_ of Paris. In order to meet his
responsibilities, he had to make money, and at once. He therefore turned
his talent to every use.

“I made designs for wall-paper,” he says, “for cotton stuffs, even,--to
say nothing of illustrations for booksellers and book-writers, and for
song-writers.”

Some of his most important work has been done through the medium of a
newspaper. During the years 1891-92 _Gil Blas_ printed all the drawings
Steinlen could finish. He laboured with energy almost ferocious, under
the pressing need of means for daily existence. The result was the
finest. It is not too much to state

[Illustration: MOTHER’S LOVE]

that this work of Steinlen’s in _Gil Blas_ helped to revolutionise
illustrative art in the periodicals of France.

He gave to the accomplishment of his editor’s orders his best effort,
and filled during nearly two years the weekly pages, not for the
amusement of his public, but for their awakening to the interest in the
life of Paris as seen in the Faubourgs. Awaken and instruct he did. He
made a call upon sympathy, and stirred and stimulated charity; but also
his art was an epoch in illustrative journalism.

Public and editors demanded thenceforth more than the inadequate
drawings of mediocrity, and solicited sketches from the best pencils.
The modern French weeklies exhibit the cleverest possible illustrations,
forming in their class the highest grade.

Frontispiece and other drawings in _Le Rire_ and _Gil Blas_ to-day by
Jean Veber, Léandre, Willette, are delights to the collector, and any
one possessing the years containing Steinlen’s contributions to these
papers is considered fortunate.

For the most part the illustrations in _Gil Blas_ are coloured. They are
satires on life drawn to accompany some “_Saut d’esprit_” or to portray
simply street scenes as Steinlen knows them, or are political cartoons.
In his street studies he has been relentless in his realism, careless of
how unpleasant may be the impression of these frankly told horrors. No
detail of sordid existence has been neglected in his bold depicting of
the city’s misery.

Needless to say how admirable is the technique in these sketches, the
fresh vigorous work of a man whose spirit alone was in the subject,
whose ambition chafed for the leisure to create in what to him was the
great province of art, the picture, the oil-painting.

It was in the early part of his career that he added to the glory of the
modern poster. Artists of distinction in London and Paris have not
hesitated to employ their talent in street-wall decoration. In France,
Steinlen has many rivals amongst favourite painters of the day, most
notably Léandre, Willette, Cheret. But the Steinlen posters have not
been surpassed nor superseded. They are immensely popular, peculiarly
happy.

It is scarcely necessary to recall “_Lait Pur Sterilisé_,” the enormous
poster of world-wide popularity; it is universally known--there was a
craze for it in Paris and in New York--of its type it is perfection. The
subject is a dear little girl, red-haired, red-robed, seated before

[Illustration: A STEINLEN POSTER]

a table drinking a bowl of milk, under the jealous eyes of three great
cats. The child is Steinlen’s little daughter, and the drawing of child
and cats is as skilful and clever as it well can be.

There are several charming _affiches_ especially designed for Sarah
Bernhardt--others for Yvette Guilbert. Chiefest of these is the famous
Café des Ambassadeurs. Steinlen made in this a striking portrait of the
original _café chanteuse_; and Yvette,--slender, lithe, enchanting, as
Paris and the world has found her,--boasts no more characteristic
portrait of herself than the Steinlen poster.

Advertisements for Vernet les Bains, Trouville, the posters Mothu,
Doria, and lastly Le Rêve--may be mentioned as important. They are all
difficult to obtain.

These studies, for a purpose of necessity transient, destined to be
transmitted to paper and pasted along street walls by a bill-poster’s
brush, constructed to catch the crowd’s attention in order that their
mission should be fulfilled--are neither vulgar nor sensational.
Vigorous, strong, they are worthy the word Steinlen applies to his other
work--“_Serious_.” They are done with his characteristic splendid
stroke. Their colouring is brilliant, crude and boldly frank the
drawing. Steinlen’s stroke is celebrated: eminently fearless, rapid,
trenchant. It has been cleverly said that in each of his creations the
_trait marquant_ is so deeply emphasised, the one idea is so imposed,
that it is as though when his work were done he drew below it one dark
black line. In his studio may be seen a wall-decoration destined rather
for a _café_ than for a poster--a study of the streets, a bit of the
passing crowd, taken out, as it were, and held before us. Steinlen has
renounced this branch of popular decoration. His posters are already
rare, and are becoming yearly more valuable.

Steinlen has done an immense amount of illustrating. Many volumes of
François Coppée, Anatole France, and Guy de Maupassant are made doubly
attractive by his collaboration. He has illustrated the songs of Bruant
and Jouy, of Montmartre and student fame. Among some of the publications
valuable chiefly because Steinlen has collaborated with the writers may
be mentioned “Chanson d’Aïeules” (Tellier, Paris); “Chanson des Cabots”
(Guetville); and “Chanson Rouge” (Boukay).

These illustrations number, amongst other subjects, “The Chief of the
Claque,” “The Cabotins of Paris,”

[Illustration: WORK-GIRLS]

“The Souffleurs of the Theatre,” “The Director of the Theatre Himself.”
Each little picture is gay, familiar, intelligent, finely conceived and
finely drawn. For a song dedicated to Alphonse Daudet he has a strong
study of symbolic misery: a nude creature kneeling in the middle of a
deserted street, arms out-spread ready to clutch her prey, who is the
passer-by. In the same book we have “The Knifegrinder,” “The
Needlewoman,” “The Wine-seller.” Paris seems to have given up her
hetacomb of human souls and human bodies for his observation and
portrayal. In the drawing for a book of Coppée’s is “The _Gamin_ of
Paris,” a little half elf creature, half human child. This ghoul, seated
on a mass of refuse, is red-eyed and horrible in his misery. He typifies
Belleville, the Whitechapel of Paris. He is the accrued poverty,
squalor, and criminal tendencies of generations combined with the
frailty of childhood, the slenderness of youth. The subject is powerful,
the workmanship excellent.

The best of his illustrations have been made for Edouard Pelletan, the
publisher in the Boulevard St. Germain. M. Pelletan has conceived the
idea of bringing out a yearly publication called _L’Almanach du
Bibliophile_. Jules Claretie, Anatole France, Gustave Larroumet, and
Sully Prud’homme, have collaborated to write a series of articles. But
Steinlen is the feature of the publication. Monsieur Pelletan asked him
to make a dozen drawings whose headings should be the twelve months of
the year, the general subject to be the glorification of Labour. But
Steinlen grew enthusiastic over his task, and drew many more than the
twelve studies. A collection of the designs was on exhibition in
Monsieur Pelletan’s library during 1901.

These pictures--for they are not studies, but admirably finished
creations--represent the working man and the working woman in the
pursuit of their various occupations. We see the _blanchisseuse_ stagger
home through the drizzling mist, bowed under her huge burden of linen.
On the skeleton scaffolding the builder becomes a speck, infinitely far
from his fellows; the apprentice goes chattering gaily along with her
companions,--again we have the attractive girl of the people, whose
class in France is distinct, and whose personality is so agreeable.
Steinlen touches with his happiest, lightest stroke the gay figure of
youth and charm.

Another drawing portrays the family again around

[Illustration: DRY-POINT ETCHING]

the humble board. But the finest of the suite are four pictures drawn at
Monsieur Pelletan’s suggestion that Steinlen should show the public what
his skill was in careful, minute technique; for the critics have accused
him of too great facility and too rapid production. He has called the
first picture “Le Bois,” where a carpenter, a strong, well-drawn figure,
nude to the waist, bends over the rough planks of wood, yielding in long
curling shavings to his plane. In the second, “La Pierre,” the
stone-polisher crouches over his well-nigh implacable mass of stone,
until he may almost distinguish his image in the smooth surface. In the
third, “Le Fer,” a like half-nude labourer struggles with his contortion
of the mighty mineral. Lastly, Steinlen has depicted the miner, deep in
his cavern’s interior.

These studies demand a first place in the catalogue of modern drawing,
and lack in the perfected workmanship none of Steinlen’s distinctive,
free, untrammelled handling of his subject and expression of his art.
They would not lose, placed side by side with the drawings of Puvis, and
indeed possess the primitive purity of line and reveal the serious
conception which mark the work of masters.

Pelletan has just published Anatole France’s new book “L’Affaire
Crainquebille,” a satire on French law and modes of justice, done in
Anatole France’s most delightful manner, and illustrated by Steinlen.

Crainquebille, a seller of turnips, which he pushes through the streets
in a little hand-cart, is accused of having called out to a policeman
“_Mort aux Vaches!_”--a slang opprobium of the streets. The poor
innocent, unconscious of offending, is haled to the courts, where he
becomes the victim of a most amusing and witty _procès_, withal
tragically pathetic. He is condemned to prison, and when once more at
liberty attempts to resume his ancient, respectable calling. He finds
himself a pariah, shunned because of the stigma of “jail-bird!”
Crainquebille falls into abject poverty and inebriation. In his starving
misery he reflects, “Prison isn’t half a bad place, after all!” and to
partake once more of its peace he sins deliberately. Bearding the
policeman in his den--that is, the street lamp’s shadow--he cries out to
him, “_Mort aux Vaches!_” But the amiable officer, “un bon père de
famille,” laughs at the old man and bids him go about his business. The
poor old Crainquebille finds the justice of the world too intricate to
comprehend. Imprisoned for a fault which when repeated evokes

[Illustration: A STEINLEN POSTER]

mirth! He disappears in the fogs of a winter street.

This collaboration of Anatole France and Steinlen is _spirituel_ and
successful. “Once more Steinlen was quite carried away” (Monsieur
Pelletan says); “I suggested twenty drawings. He has given me
fifty-five!” And each illustration is a little masterpiece, admirable in
execution and full of sympathy with the class the downtrodden
Crainquebille represents.

It is false to suppose that Steinlen does not give to each of his
creations the greatest pains. For the little volume called “Le Chien de
Brisquet”[A] he made eighty drawings for Anatole France before he got
one to his satisfaction, and it was for “Le Chien de Brisquet,” which
volume of drawings it will be difficult to surpass, that Steinlen drew
and re-drew his canine sketches. “Although,” said Monsieur Pelletan, “I
assure you _I_ was quite satisfied with the first drawings!”

A word must be said regarding his feline studies. Cats have been
favourite animals with poets and painters: witness Baudelaire, Poe,
Coppée, Manet; and Steinlen, too, has found these slender, graceful
felines interesting. There is in his representation of this animal a
subtle perceiving of the link and of the difference between the brute
and the human. It suggests the masters whose paintings of animals have
made them famous, Landseer above all. When his book “Le Chat” came out,
it was bought at first for children, but could not long be kept in the
nurseries. Copies were pilfered for drawing-rooms and studios, where
elders claimed these treasures of clever design. Steinlen’s host of
drawings are undoubted indications of a power not to be confined in the
sphere of the illustration for books. Admirers of Steinlen’s look for
great things of him during the next years, claiming that his future is
more brilliant in promise than any of his colleagues, Jean Veber
excepted.

Steinlen himself is a delightful personality, and distinctly a force.
The grasp of his hand, the fire of his eye, his courtesy, charm, and the
pleasure it is to hear him speak, render him an unusual companion. His
friends, naturally, are legion--he is much beloved; but, as they say in
France, he is _très sauvage_--preferring to let the world go its ways,
and to shut himself away with his work in his remote studio.

His intimate contact with the very poor, the very

[Illustration: A STEINLEN POSTER]

suffering, has formed his points of view and left its mark on his
nature. He is a Bohemian, and values slightly luxuries and ways of
modern worldly life. He is familiar with the haunts of the thieves in
the dangerous parts of Paris: he may well take his life in his hands--he
is beloved and known, he is safe. He knows the interiors where
starvation and cold and crime are side by side. He has helped
generously, who can say how many? directly from his own purse and
indirectly through the wide sympathy he has aroused.

No peculiarities of the fluctuating mass which is the very life of the
city, which is the agglomerate expression of pleasure, pain, vice,
crime, good, evil, sadness, joy, are lost upon Steinlen. He seems to be
_en rapport_ with those people whom we call our brothers and treat as
our inferiors and our enemies. The tricks, the attitudes, the
expressions, the behaviour of the passers-by are familiar to him. With a
few clever strokes of brush or pencil he has given us the _piquante
ouvrière_, the modest apprentice, in a graceful, unconscious pose as she
poises on her hip the hat-box she is carrying to a customer. In this
_jeune fille_ representative, in the toss of her head, the curve of her
arm, the swish of her neat skirts high above her well-shod feet, in
this jaunty creature, scrupulous as to tidiness, is a certain phase of
Paris drawn with crystalline distinctness. This girl of the people is
dangerous, charming, and to her the boulevardier is an enemy. Paris is
epitomised by this one flaring street-wall decoration. So much for the
_jeunesse_, gay, laborious, and generally self-respecting. We do not
often see Steinlen so gay.

In his studio in the Rue Caulaincourt, walking to and fro, he converses
delightfully with his friends. He is a workman, his muscular hands are
full of force, his build powerful, although he is compact and small. He
suggests endurance, and the patience that is the result of hand-to-hand
tussle with existence, and tender understanding of the needs of one’s
neighbour. His eyes are keen, penetrating, and kind, his features
strong. He has a golden voice, as the French say, caressing and
indolent. Its measured cadence, its slow, agreeable flow contrasts
strongly with the man himself. He wears the coarse velveteens of the
labourer, cuffs close around his muscular wrists. His trousers are
voluminous, and on his feet flap loose Indian slippers. His appearance,
and the fact that his studio is in one of the poorest quarters of Paris,
his whole attitude and life, suggest, not a

[Illustration: EN ATTENDANT]

scorn of material things, but a perfect ability to forego them.

The studio is a workshop first of all; it is free from would-be artistic
decorations, full of canvases and folios of drawings. He has his own
lithographic stones, and does his own printing, holding this as an art
important, as do many of the moderns; and he, as well as many another
modern, insists on the expediency of making his own colours.

Steinlen thinks unfavourably of academies and salons, “where,” he says,
“in order to exhibit at stated periods the artists paint anything and
everything under rush and stress.” He sends to no public collections.
When a goodly number of studies have accumulated in his studio, he
organises a little _exposition_ of his own, and the admirers of his work
have an opportunity to visit a Steinlen exhibition in the autumn, when
he will delight, charm, and touch the public as he has never hitherto
failed to do.

At this period of his life--and he is still young--he finds the
insistent needs of daily existence are met; and he draws, as it were, a
sigh of relief, and turns toward what is his recreation, because a
beloved labour, and the goal of his career, painting in oil. Steinlen
bemoans the fact that he lacks the prescribed technicalities an
academic education would have given to him; but this fact has left him a
freedom from rules which, in spite of their immense importance, are
often trammels to individuality. At all events the daring boldness of
his stroke, and his perfect originality, have been developed with no
hindrance. Need has been his spur, talent the response to the goad.

Possibly Steinlen is nowhere better displayed than in a certain canvas
at present in his studio in the Rue Caulaincourt. It is a life-size oil
painting, a study of a man and woman in the working class. It is
evidently the end of the day, and the scene a nook or corner in some
room so distant from the rooms we all know that it is hard even to
imagine where it may be. The workman has taken the young creature in his
arms for a long embrace. His head is bent over her, and she looks out
from the picture above the man’s arm. Her face is exquisite, and in
thorough keeping with the type of her class.

The sombre note predominates throughout Steinlen’s work. That inevitable
penalty of sadness which must be paid when the eye dares to look, and
the soul dares to consider how our fellow beings struggle for
existence.

[Illustration: A STUDY]

The work of this man, who is not a caricaturist, but a student and
faithful representer, bears a strong likeness to things in literature
rather than to things in art. He suggests Dickens, Zola, Tolstoi.
Throughout his work is apparent the broad sympathy of a man of the
people who has espoused their cause and made himself their prophet.

Part of the crowd, elbow to elbow with humanity in the very vortex of
the mass, he has felt the multitude, blood and sinew, around him, until
it has become amalgamated fairly with his inspiration. Then withdrawn to
a fortification, possibly, of his city, in semi-retirement, he lets the
turbulent suggestions take form that he may present them to the world.
Thus Steinlen, so closely of the people, is in reality separated from
mankind by virtue of his talent. And if to the eye demanding agreeable
form, beauty seems sometimes lacking in this artist’s strong, original,
profoundly human creations, it may be said that æsthetics do not abound
in the walks of life which this student of humanity portrays.


                  Printed by BALLANTYNE, HANSON & CO.
                          London & Edinburgh


                               FOOTNOTE:

                          [A] Chez Pelletan.





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