THE WEST AUSTRALIAN ART GALLERY.
ARRIVAL OF PICTURES.
The responsibility of expending any part of the sum which the Government votes annually for the purchase of works of art for the formation of a West Australian Art Gallery is one which most laymen would feel diffident in accepting. The educational purpose which such a national collection is designed to serve, as is explained in the interesting communication from Mr. L. Bernard Hall, director of the Melbourne National Gallery, which was published in this journal on Wednesday morning, is different to that of a private collection. As yet only the merest nucleus of the West Australian natural collection has been selected. The fist series of works of art were received some months ago, and another consignment has now come to hand. The paintings included in the latter consignment were recommended for purchase by Dr. Agnew, of Hobart, to Sir James Lee-Steere, chairman of the committee of the Perth Museum—which is charged with the expenditure of the yearly grant. Sir James saw these pictures while on a visit to Tasmania some time ago. They are all the work of English artists, and had been sent out to Tasmania for exhibition and sale.
The paintings selected are six in number, and the price paid for them was in the aggregate £804. The pictures have not yet been hung, and therefore cannot be inspected to the best advantage. Those who inspect them will, however, not all agree that the value of the amount named has been obtained, or that the paintings will have a very high educational value to the artist or to the lay connoisseur.
The most eminent name which appears as the signature of any of the paintings is that of Mr. W. P. Frith, R.A., who is represented in “The Match Sellers.” The painting represents a city street scene—a woman with two children, one a babe in arms, offering matches for sale. The picture is criticised on account of the wax-doll appearance of the children and the fact that the figures present a well- nourished and comfortable appearance not usually associated with those who earn their living tinder the circumstances depicted. The picture was purchased at £100. This, however, seems to the observer who next turns to “Lancing Mill,” to have been moderate. This canvas depicts a Sussex rural scene—a windmill in a hay field with stacked sheaves, and the figures of rustics engaged in harvesting operations, and in the distance a valley. The picture possesses an effective sky. The artist is James Aumonier, and the price £300, and on noting the latter fact the suggestion may arise that some portion of the worth of the picture must have been deemed to lie in its size.
“In Sight At Last,” a depiction of a scene outside a cottage in a fishing village on the sighting of an expected vessel possesses some elements of effectiveness, and compared with the last-named picture the price of £160 does not seem high. The figures, however, lack life, and the colouring is thin. The artist is W. Perth Watson, R.B.A. “Morning Light “ is not one of the strong points of the collection, the scene depicted being a sea-girt cliff, the reflection of the morning sun on the sea being emphasised. The artist is S. Morrish, and the price £100.
The last two paintings strengthen the collection. One of these is a scene from the much- painted Burnham Beeches, by Miss Florence Fitzgerald. The technique is good, and the autumn tints, which form the characteristic feature of the colouring of the picture, are effectively brought out. Life is given to the picture by the figures of children gathering fallen leaves. Effective portions of the painting are the representation of the water lying under an old beech tree, the ruts of the rough track running through the wood, and the background of wood and undergrowth, the artist having avoided the device of dismissing this portion of the background in the manner of a photograph. The painting, as compared with the others, is indeed cheap at £84, though the figures are far from satisfactory. The sixth painting is “The Rugged North,” by G. E. Hargeil, R.I., a Scotch mountain in the background, with characteristic clouds and a drove of Highland cattle in the foreground. This is one of the cheap pictures, as regards the amount paid, £60, but it will be more than some of the others an ornament to the collection.
In addition to the paintings, the art collection has lately been added to by a number of plaster copies of examples of classical statuary, from the establishment of Messrs. Brucciani and Co., of London. The originals are for the most part in the British Museum, the Louvre, or the Vatican. They include a copy of the Venus of Milo, from the famous original in the Louvre, which is accepted as the classical model of the female form ; a figure of Iris, from the British Museum, the feature of which is the draping, an equestrian frieze from the Parthenon, Assyrian friezes, and several minor examples, such as the head of Sophocles, etc.
Neither the models of statuary nor the paintings are yet on public view, but the authorities of the Museum, where they are located, hope to have them open for inspection almost immediately.
Mr. Ralph Peacock was born at Woodgreen, London, in 1868, and has exhibited regularly at the Royal Academy since 1893. “Bunny,” exhibited in 1899, represents a little country girl, seated in a beechwood. Her dress is purple-grey, and she has purple flowers in her hair. The background is dotted with patches of moss, and is a scheme of autumn-looking tones, very warm and quite harmonious. It is an attractive picture, good in colour, and tenderly quaint in sentiment, and very well painted. It was selected by the President of the Royal Academy, Sir Edward Poynter, for the West Australian Museum and Art Gallery.