Art Galleries and Exhibitions
The London Galleries of Art might be thus classified:
In the first three classes, the visitor, if he be in earnest, will find his most promising and productive fields of study and criticism. As regards the fourth, he may have to go far and wide to see what is worth seeing, and the search cannot always be said to be rich in results. Picture-dealers' exhibitions are of very variable and fluctuating merit. Sometimes one finds a collection of unusual and commendable excellence, but not with great frequency; and as for the pictorial rubbish, he may light upon representative examples of that in almost any street he has a mind to turn into, and without paying a shilling for admission to the shop where they are exhibited.
The inauguration of the London Art Season takes place the last week of March, with the festival known as "Show Sunday." Afterwards, the galleries of the Water Colour societies are opened for the spring exhibitions. Then follow the "Critics" and "Private View" days at the Royal Academy and New Gallery in the last week of April. On the first Monday of May the doors of Burlington House are thrown open to the public, and thereafter remain open till the last week of July. The visitor will be likely to find in each of these annual commemorations somewhat to arrest his attention, and perchance not a little to instruct and amuse him.
"Show Sunday" is the day on which artists who exhibit, or hope to exhibit, at the Royal Academy and elsewhere receive their friends and friends' friends at their studios.
The artist-localities of London no longer centre in Fitzroy Square, as in the days of Clive Newcome, and Mr. Gandish. Within the last ten years they have become extended to the remoter suburbs of London — to Hampstead and Highgate on the north, Kensington and Chelsea in the west, Chiswick and Putney in the south. It is a far cry, as some people know, from the Chelsea Embankment to St. John's Wood; and the picturesque settlements of Holland Park, at Kensington, are sufficiently remote from the ancient art regions of central London. Moreover, Highgate and Primrose Hill are not so nigh to Bedford Park, Chiswick, that a hansom cabman will accept, with graceful courtesy, a half-crown as his legal fare.
To compass all these outlying districts, and in the intervals of driving and "entraining" (a word for which we have to thank the War Office), to twist through folds of silks and satins, and to view a great variety of pictures, and listen to a still greater variety of twaddling criticism concerning them — these are the ends of "Show Sunday."
The entrie to the "Private View Day," a privilege eagerly sought in the fashionable world, is exclusively in the bestowal of the Royal Academicians. Influence in that direction would no doubt secure admission; but the galleries are generally so overcrowded that the chief delight is to be found, not in criticising the pictures, but in criticising the company.
In the department of "Private Views," as of some others of our social life, the appetite may be said to grow with what it feeds on. One would suppose that a full dose of "private view" on a Wednesday would limit the temptation to a second full dose on a Friday. But not so; the relish for this kind of London excitement is prodigious once it sets in. People will do "the New" and half-a-dozen smaller Bond Street Galleries in a week, and crave for more. They are quite ready to tackle all the full Galleries of the Academy itself if these fall within the period; and having "done the Galleries," and beaten the record of their acquaintances and friends, they are content to rest from their labours, so far as the London Art season is concerned. The Art Galleries Private Views of London of To-Day are an awful experience, not to add exercise of mind and body both.
We should not omit to remind the reader here that the national exhibitions are - those of the National Gallery (in 1887 completely reorganised); the National Portraits, temporarily at Bethnal Green Museum; the Picture Gallery (Sheepshanks and Chantry Bequest) at the Museum, South Kensington; the recently opened City Art Gallery at Guildhall; to which may be added the collections at Hampton Court Palace, Dulwich College, the Soane Museum — all more particularly referred to elsewhere.
The Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House, Piccadilly, was instituted by George III. in 1768; one of the primary objects for which it was founded being "the establishing of an annual exhibition open to all artists of distinguished merit, where they may offer their performances to public inspection, and acquire that degree of reputation and encouragement which they shall be deemed to deserve." There are, at present, forty-one Royal Academicians and thirty Associate members, with various Honorary Retired Academicians, Honorary Foreign Academicians, Honorary Members, Professors, and a Secretary.
Royal Academy Summer Exhibition of and statuary opens, as we have said, the first Monday in May, until the last week in July. Admission from 8 a.m. till dusk 1s., catalogue 1s. The last week of July the galleries open from 7.30 till 10.30 p.m., the price of admission is 6d., and that of the catalogue 6d.
The Royal Society of Painters in Water Colours, 5, Pall Mall East, S.W., was formed in 1804. The exhibition of the works of this society are held twice in the year, in April (continuing through the Season) and December. Admission 1s.
The Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours, whose location is the Art Galleries, Prince's Hall, Piccadilly, was founded in the year 1831, as "The New Society of Painters in Water Colours," a title subsequently altered to that which it now bears. It holds exhibitions in the spring (continuing through the Season) and winter. Admission 1s.
The Society of British Artists, Suffolk Street, Pall Mall East, founded in 1823, "for the erection of an extensive gallery for the Annual Exhibition and Sale of the Works of Living Artists of the United Kingdom in the various branches of Painting (in oil and water colours), Sculpture, Architecture, and Engraving, at the period when the tasteful and opulent are usually resident in the Metropolis, viz., during the months of April, May, June, and July." It holds two exhibitions, one in the spring and one in the winter. The former opens in March; the latter in November. Admission 1s.
The New Gallery, Regent Street, has now taken its place among the principal Art Galleries in London. It was established in 1888, and the usual summer exhibitions of the works of living artists have been held in May. In the autumn the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society has gathered together here a collection of works of design and handicraft, and in the winter interesting exhibitions of pictures and relics have been held illustrative of the Tudor, Guelph, and Victorian periods.
In addition to the foregoing, the visitor might find a good deal to interest him in the periodical exhibitions of Boussod-Valadon & Co. (116 and 117, New Bond Street). At the French Gallery (Pall Mall) may usually be seen a good collection of modern French pictures; at the Fine Art Society's rooms (148, New Bond Street) water-colours, engravings, and etchings; at Agnew's in Old Bond Street examples of the modern English School; at McLean's (7, Haymarket) and at Tooth's, near at hand, water colours and engravings, etc.; so also at Messrs. Dowdeswell's (160, Bond Street); at Mr. Le Fevre's in King Street, St. James', and at Mr. J. P. Mendoza's, also in King Street, St. James'.