Nudes are still in vogue, or rather naked women, and probably will be as long as the sale of strong drink needs to be increased by the kind of creation commonly known as the saloon picture. There is surely nothing nobler than the truly idealized interpretation of the human figure by artistic means, but the purposely sensuous nude is becoming rather a bore. Painting flesh is one of the most difficult of all things, particularly as to the correct texture, but there ought to be a limit in the production of such a type of picture as the one by Veloso Salgado in the Portuguese section.
Here a great variety of subjects is treated, mostly with entirely too much realism. Photographic truthfulness is not the function of painting, because, first of all, the medium will not allow it without losing a certain quality indicating the fact that it is painting; and secondly, art can only be an approximation anyhow, and it should carry its point by forceful and convincing suggestion rather than by a tightly rendered photographic fact. The great pictures are first those of a strong suggestive quality and, secondly, those possessing a certain something the artist calls design — meaning thereby a more or less arbitrary arrangement of form and colour effects which will please the eye. The idea of design has not struck the Portuguese artist as yet; at least it is not apparent in the pictures of that section. The technical excellence of their work is uniform and in some cases very creditable, particularly in the many small canvases by Senhor de Sousa Lopes, the art commissioner of his country.
Continuing in the western gallery of the Portuguese section, directly opposite the nude referred to, an outdoor sewing circle by José Malhoa arouses interest. The outdoor quality in this canvas is very pronounced, and the gay enlacement of the luxuriant wistaria with the orange trees in the distance, together with the multi-coloured ensemble of children, make for a lovely effect. The middle gallery doubtless holds Portugal’s most important claims upon artistic distinction, in the group of three portraits and two still-lifes by Columbano. The three portraits are unusually dignified and psychologically suggestive enough to show that the painter was not interested in exterior facts alone. The portrait of the bearded gentleman in the middle is fine, though somewhat academic in colour. The two little still-lifes wedged in between the larger portraits are exquisite in every way, and make up for a lot of superficialities found in this section. All around in this gallery, in more than a dozen sketches from Spain and Italy, Sousa Lopes shows fine ability in the handling of paint and great power of observation. All of these apparently recent things by Senhor Lopes are far more enjoyable than a huge “Pilgrimage”, which, while well painted, is too scattered. The unity of feeling in the work of Columbano is much more necessary in a canvas of this size than in a small sketch. (Rembrandt’s