The gem of this gallery is a small landscape of Amédée-Julien Marcel-Clément, of extraordinarily fine composition. A fine decorative quality is its chief asset, and its sympathetic technical handling adds much to the enjoyment of this picture. Bartholemé’s kneeling figure in the center of the room is of wonderful nobility of expression and entirely free from a certain extreme physical naturalism so often found in modern French sculpture.
Passing into the next gallery, where figural pictures predominate, a very swingy composition of a Brittany festival, by Charles-René Darrieux, is most conspicuous, for the forceful handling and the fine quality of movement which characterize the procession of figures rhythmically moving through the picture. Of the two large nudes on the same wall, one, a Besnard, is vulgarly physical, although well painted, and the other too insipid to make one feel that the French penchant for nudes is sufficiently justified. Le Sidaner’s poetic evening recommends itself for the quiet intimacy with which it is handled. Herrmann Vogel’s portrait of a gentleman in a chair, also on the east wall, while not very spontaneous in handling, is interesting nevertheless in its composition and the psychological characterization of the sitter. Most of the other pictures in this gallery have really not enough individual character to single them out, no matter how high their general standard may be.
The last and smallest of the French galleries is given over to some recent phases of French art. After looking at the serious work of the French in the other galleries, a first-hand acquaintance with this medley of newest pictures is hardly satisfactory. There is a feeling of affected primitiveness about most of them, particularly in a small canvas of a bouquet of flowers in a green vase, which is the acme of absurdity. If Odilon Redon wanted to be trivial, he has achieved something quite wonderful. Certain ultra-modern manifestations of art are never more intolerable than when seen together in large numbers, as in this gallery. Still, the French section can well afford some of these experimenting talents, since the general character of their other work is so high. Maurice Denis’ canvas of a spring procession, in just a few silvery tones, is really lovely; the large number of decorations by him, all around on the second line, scarcely comes up to the beauty of this small canvas.
The French representation deserves much credit for a great number of reasons, not least for an astounding versatility, always accompanied by technical excellence.
Going over into the Italian galleries, the first impression is that while there are certain groups of pictures of a very high order, the general standard of this section is not quite so high as in the French Department. The Italians seem to have the advantage over the French in regard to the selection of a background for their galleries. They made no such mistake as putting a Pullman car floor pattern on the wall, and the general effect is one of calmness. As in the French section, the work of the modern painter seems superior to sculptured work of the same period. The work of Tito and of Mancini, among the painters, stands out in this Italian collection.