Wednesday, December 9, 2020

489. A Century of Art (3)

The 1911 Grafton Galleries exhibition on art between 1810 and 1910 - admission 1 shilling - was accompanied by Charles Ricketts's booklet A Century of Art 1810-1910. Here follow notes on Turner and Beardsley. The complete text of Ricketts's notes may be consulted via Internet Archive.

A Century of Art, 1810-1910 [by Charles Ricketts]

If we can say no painter has surpassed Turner in technical skill, we can say also no sculptor has surpassed Rodin in emotional range. Turner's faculties of invention were immense, but as a designer of landscape he is surpassed by Hokusai, his contemporary, who was also a great figure-draughtsman.
(p. 5)

Turner in some early masterpieces detected and compassed a great deal which Crome seems to have done instinctively, almost unknowingly, but the development of the greater genius lay in other directions. 
Constable more than Turner broke away from the traditional use of pigment.
(p. 10)

J.M.W. Turner, 'Morpeth', etching and mezzotint (1809)
[Tate Gallery, London]
More than once the great name of Turner has found its way into these pages, each time with the sense that he is almost absent from a place where he should have been at his strongest, for one fine picture only (No. 70), illustrating as it does but a phase of his life-work, is here to represent him. Fortunately, the set of water-colours in Room IV. will in part atone for this flaw in the Exhibition. It is probably but little known how many of the masterpieces by Turner shown at the Guildhall eleven years ago have now left the country, proving again that if we can no longer hope to retain the more famous works of the old masters, and if modern English painting often goes abroad, the accumulated inheritance of our great English masters must follow also. The mere pride of possession, failing other finer reasons, such as our debt to the future, has gone out of the Englishman's character of to-day.
(p. 14-15)

Three phases of Turner's maturity are illustrated in this gallery. The "Morpeth," executed for the Liber Studiorum (No. 147), the "Montjen" (No. 148), for the "Rivers of France," and the exquisite "River Scene" (No. 149) are separate specimens of his development. The "Colchester" (No. 150) is famous. In all these we can note the gradual change in his workmanship from the explicit statement of facts to an imaginative revaluation of them, from the "Morpeth" to the "River Scene." 

(p. 28)

Aubrey Beardsley, 'The Climax' (1893)
[Tate Gallery, London]
It seems but yesterday that both these men [Beardsley and Conder] were our contemporaries. They have been dead but a few years, and yet their work has become a delightful thing of the past to which we look back with regret. Beardsley's Salome drawings have counted enormously in the Continental conception of Wilde's masterpiece; without them it is more than probable that Strauss' musical translation of the play would somehow have been different.
(p. 37)

Quoted from Charles Ricketts, A Century of Art 1810-1910. London, Carfax & Co., 1911, pp. 5, 10, 14-5, 28, and 37. The catalogue does not contain a list of exhibited paintings, drawings and prints, nor does it contain illustrations. A separate list of the pictures was published by the International Society: A Catalogue of the Pictures, Drawings, Prints and Sculpture at the Century of Art Exhibition of the International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers held at the Grafton Galleries, June and July, 1911. [A copy is in the National Art Library, V&A Museum, London: Historic Catalogues 200.B.208].