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Painting

Whatever the painting of the future is to be, it is certain not to be the painting of Monet. For the present, no doubt, Monet is the last word in painting. To belittle him is not only whimsical, but ridiculous. He has plainly worked a revolution in his art. He has taken it out of the vicious circle of conformity to, departure from, and return to abstractions and the so-called ideal.

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.

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