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W.C. Brownell

I have already mentioned the most representative among those who have "arrived" of the school of academic French sculpture as it exists to-day, though it would be easy to extend the list with Antonin Carlès, whose "Jeunesse" of the World's Fair of 1889 is a very graceful embodiment of adolescence; Suchetet, whose "Byblis" of the same exhibition caused his early death to be deplored; Adrien Gaudez, Etcheto, Idrac, and, of course, many others of distinction. There is no looseness in characterizing this as a "school;" it has its own qualities and its corresponding defects.

It is the fashion to think of David as the painter of the Revolution and the Empire. Really he is Louis Seize. Historical critics say that he had no fewer than four styles, but apart from obvious labels they would be puzzled to tell to which of these styles any individual picture of his belongs. He was from the beginning extremely, perhaps absurdly, enamoured of the antique, and we usually associate addiction to the antique with the Revolutionary period.

French sculpture naturally follows very much the same course as French painting. Its beginnings, however, are Gothic, and the Renaissance emancipated rather than created it. Italy, over which the Gothic wave passed with less disturbing effect than anywhere else, and where the Pisans were doing pure sculpture when everywhere farther north sculpture was mainly decorative and rigidly architectural, had a potent influence.

Side by side with the academic current in French art has moved of recent years a naturalist and romantic impulse whose manifestations have been always vigorous though occasionally exaggerated. In any of the great departments of activity nationally pursued—as art has been pursued in France since Francis I.—there are always these rival currents, of which now one and now the other constantly affects the ebb and flow of the tide of thought and feeling.

When we come to Scott after Fielding, says Mr. Stevenson, "we become suddenly conscious of the background." The remark contains an admirable characterization of romanticism; as distinguished from classicism, romanticism is consciousness of the background. With Gros, Géricault, Paul Huet, Michel, Delacroix, French painting ceased to be abstract and impersonal. Instead of continuing the classic detachment, it became interested, curious, and catholic.

He remains, too, one of the very finest, even in a competition constantly growing more exacting since his day. He had a very particular talent, and it was exhibited in manifold ways. He is as fine in relief as in the round. His decorative quality is as eminent as his purely sculptural side. Compared with his Italian contemporaries he is at once full of feeling and severe. He has nothing of Pilon's chameleon-like imitativeness. He does not, on the other hand, break with the traditions of the best models known to him—and, undoubtedly he knew the best.

Aubé is another sculptor of acknowledged eminence who ranges himself with M. Rodin in his opposition to the Institute. His figures of "Bailly" and "Dante" are very fine, full of a most impressive dignity in theensemble, and marked by the most vigorous kind of modelling. One may easily like his "Gambetta" less. But for years Rodin's only eminent fellow sculptor was Dalou. Perhaps his protestantism has been less pronounced than M. Rodin's. It was certainly long more successful in winning both the connoisseur and the public.

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