There are a number of canvases in this gallery which have nothing to do with the predominating impressionistic character of the gallery. The Puvis de Chavannes gives one a very fine idea of the idealistic outlook of this greatest of all modern decorators. His art is so genuinely decorative that to see one of his pictures in a frame seems almost pathetic, when we think how infinitely more beautiful it would look as part of a wall. Eugène Carrière is very well represented by a stately portrait of a lady with a small dog. Carrière’s mellow richness is entirely his own and rarely met with in any other artist’s work.
On the west wall opposite the Puvis four very different canvases deserve to be mentioned. In the center a young Russian, Nicholas Fechin, displays a very unusual virtuosity in a picture of a somewhat sensual-looking young creature. Aside from the fascination of this young human animal, the handling of paint in this canvas is most extraordinary, possessing a technical quality few other canvases in the entire exhibition have. There is life, such as very few painters ever attain, and seen only in the work of a master. This work is not entirely a Nell Brinkley in oil, either. I confess I have a strange fondness for this weird canvas.
The international character of this gallery is most pronounced. Directly above the Fechin, Frits Thaulow, the Norwegian, justifies his reputation as the painter of flowing water in a picture of great beauty. Gaston La Touche faintly discloses in a large canvas his imaginative style, carried so much farther in his later work. Joseph Bail, the Frenchman, got into this gallery probably only on the basis of size, to balance the La Touche on the other side. To all appearances Bail has very little in common with the general modern character of this gallery. Nevertheless his canvas has merit in many ways.
A discussion of the impressionistic school makes it almost imperative to continue our investigation by way of the French Section. France is easily to modern art what Italy was to the art of the Renaissance or Greece to antiquity. Almost all countries, with the exception of those of northern Europe, have gone to school at Paris. It becomes quite evident at first glance that a certain very desirable spaciousness in the hanging of the pictures contributes much toward the generally favorable impression of this section of the exhibition, though it is hard to understand why this fine effect should have been spoiled by the pattern used on the wall-covering. It seems unbelievable that a people like the French should so violate a fundamental principle, which a first-semester art student would scarcely do. The otherwise delightful impression of the French section, so excellently arranged, is considerably impaired by this faux pas. There is no chronological succession in evidence in the hanging of pictures in the six galleries of this section, and old and new, conservative and radical, are hung together with no other consideration than harmonious ensemble.