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English Gallery at the Exhibition Expo Paris 1855
© Source / BnF
English Gallery
English Gallery at the Exhibition Expo Paris 1855
© Source / BnF
English Gallery

The English exhibition was of particular interest. English artists professed great independence in their art. The principles, the purely artistic rules which directed the French school and most of the other schools in Europe, seemed to have been completely neglected by them. In drawing, and especially in colour, their works generally left much, if not everything, to be desired. But careful study soon revealed in their principal artists a great sense of truth, in expression, in gesture, and in composition. Their canvases were talking pictures. The painter had put all his concern, all his talent, into making his painting say something. We leave to the charge, to lithography, the paintings of manners: Daumier, Cham, Nadar, who have a lot of wit, amused and interested everyone; but from the pencils of the Charivari or the Journal pour rire, they did not make paintings. The English had transported into painting these humorous jokes of the French sketch, adding to them the positive tinge of their grave and calm nature. They had taken the task seriously.
Their genre paintings, for this was where they excelled, were, moreover, executed with remarkable skill and conscience.
Britain had 232 paintings, sent in by a hundred artists. Along with France and Belgium, it was the most widely represented nation in the field of art. All the most famous had competed to support the old glory of England: Landseer, Leslie, Goodall, Mulready, O'Neil, Pyne, Roberts, Stanfield, Frost, Eastlake, Cooper, Chalon, Rankley, Salomon, Georges Lance, etc.
The works sent were estimated to be worth 130,000 pounds sterling, about 3,250,000 francs; they had been insured by the English companies before they left England.
We entered the English gallery through the portico which overlooked the vestibule of the staircase leading to the upper gallery, next to the buffet.
We began by visiting the left wall.
We first encountered the Scoffers (921), by Mr. Rankley, of London, with this epigraph from Goldsmith: "The fools, who came to scoff, stayed to pray. Then we noticed the Emotion of Esther (905), by Mr. O'Neil; the Interior of St. Stephen's Church, Vienna (929), by Mr. Roberts; the Village Coquette (853), by Mr. Georges Lance; a painting representing the Marriage of Queen Victoria (820), an official picture belonging to the Queen, by Sir G. Hayter.
Landseer, the illustrious painter of animals, whose smallest canvases can be bought in London for 40 and 50,000 francs, began with a superb painting of Animals at the Forge (858); then came Brazilian Monkeys on a Pineapple (856). These almost microscopic animals were executed with perfect skill and taste.
After Mr. Landseer, whom we shall soon meet again, came Claudio and Isabella (841), by Mr. Hunt; Sancho Panza and the Duchess (871), a masterpiece of finesse and wit by Leslie: Sancho's expression of good-naturedness and confidence, and the Duchess's somewhat forced composure, repressing a violent urge to laugh that manners restrain, were expressed with perfect art; Old Story (944), by Mr. Stone, was a very philosophical page, and the Duchess was a very good artist. Stone, was a very interesting philosophical page; the Scene from the Vicar of Wakefield (870), i.e. the episode of Mr. Burkell, by Mr. Leslie, was again a charming thing.
The Proof of Touch (884), by Mr. Maclise; the Widow's Ball (807), by Mr. Goodall, were also highly regarded.
Mr. Landseer then offered his Dogs by the Fire (863), whose types were so true and so skilfully rendered.
We met further on with the Red Hat (852), by Mr. G. Lance; a Presbyterian Baptism (909), a painting of English manners, by Mr. Phillip; the Showers (774), by Mr. Creswick.
The Purpose (891), a comic scene, a little forced perhaps, by Mr. Mulready; the Choice of a Wedding Dress (889); the Canon (897); Put a Child in the Way He Ought to Go (895), and Dr. Winston's Discussion of Principles, from the Vicar of Wake-field (896); the Brother, and the Sister (892); Blackheath Park (890), were charming canvases in which Mr. Mulready showed all the flexibility of an accomplished talent, and highly justified the great reputation he enjoyed in England.
Here we found ourselves in the presence of a little masterpiece of expression and wit: Uncle Tobias and the Widow Wadman, a subject from Tristram Shandy, Ac Sterne (869), by Mr Leslie. The naively witty bonhomie of Uncle Tobias, who took his pipe out of his mouth to blow into the eye of the pretty young widow, forms a charming contrast with the latter's mischievous coquetry.
The Wolf and the Lamb (893), by Mr. Mulready, was perhaps one of the most adorable creations of this artist. How well these two children were English! and how happily the threatening wolf clenching his fists and frowning, while the poor lamb seeks to cover his head with his elbow, represented the profound idea of the fable of La Fontaine! As an execution, this painting left little to be desired; as a spirit, it was a masterpiece.
In a lower rank, though remarkable, now came some paintings worthy of attention; these were: the Poacher (864), by Mr. Lee; a Village Church Choir (956), by Mr. Webster; Ophelia (925), by Mr. Redgrave; the Poets' Ravine (922), by the same; the Morra (Italian play), by Mr. Hurlstone.
English artists did not shine so brightly in their history pictures; they had exhibited only a few; the genre was their domain: they reigned supreme. The Battle of Meeanee (739), by Mr. Armitage, was proof of this. General Sir Ch. Napier, at the head of 2,500 men, won a victory on February 17, 1842, over the Beluchi army, which was ten times more numerous, and brought the Sindh provinces under English rule. This painting, which recalls a national triumph, belonged to Queen Victoria.
The Gentleman's Daughter (924), by Mr. Redgrave, was a melancholy episode of touching truth.
A Lodge (818), and the Reading of the Novel (817), by Mr. Hannah, were two compositions conspicuous for their English originality.
We shall now mention: the Spartan Isadas repelling the Thebans (785); Francis of Carrara, Lord of Padua, escaping from the pursuit of Ga-leazzo Visconti, Duke of Milan (788); the Pilgrims arriving in sight of Rome (786), by Mr. Eastlake, which were interesting canvases, but in another kind. The Deer Hunters in Scotland (761), by Mr. Cooper; Red and Black (756), by Mr. Cooke; The Pupil (816), by Mr. Gush; the. Last Call (942), by Mr. Stone; a Scene from Molière's Bourgeois gentilhomme (800), in which the spirit of our great comic was well rendered, by Mr. Frith; the Royal Family at the Temple (954); a Neapolitan Widow, weeping for her dead child, surrendered to despair on hearing the joyous sounds of the carnival (950), by Mr. Uwins; and the Judgment of Lord William Russell, in 1683 (821), by Mr. Hayter.
The Order of Enlargement (886), by Mr. Millais, deserved special mention. There had been much discussion in front of this painting, which was already a proof of its merit.
The Remonstrance (943), by Mr. Stone; Ascot Hunting Rendezvous and Her Majesty's Deer Hunting Crews (814), by Mr. Grant; John Knox seeking to stop the violence of the people exalted by his eloquent preaching against the Roman Church, at Perth, Scotland (850), by Mr. Knigth; Florentine Presentation (886), by Mr. Millais; and the Knigth; Flora Macdonald's Presentation to Prince Charles Edward (845), by Mr. Johnston; Henrietta Mary of France rescued in misfortune by Cardinal de Retz (790), by Mr. Egg, were works of different intent and style, but all equally remarkable.
The English exhibition was limited by a landscape by Mr. Hùlme, representing the Ffos Noddyn Gorge in Wales (838). We were therefore going to cross the gallery and resume, on the opposite wall, the series of English paintings, leaving behind us the resumption of the French school.
We first meet two charming canvases: an Episode of the Happy Days of Charles I (808), by Mr. Goodall; Brunetta and Phillis, a subject from The Spectator (936), by Mr. Solomon; a Scene of Religious Controversy under Louis XIV (794), by Mr. Elmore; the Deceptions of the Shareholders of the South Sea Company (953), by Mr. Ward; Childhood and Old Age. (833), by Mr. Horsley; The Novice (796), by Mr. Elmore; A Public Writer in Seville (910), by Mr. Phillip; the Sanctuary ( 857), by Sir E. Landseer.
The Baron's Manor (883), a Christmas feast in the old days, by Maclise, rather accurately portrays the manners and customs of old. The Evening Canon (777), by Mr. Danby, produced a certain effect, in spite of the strangeness and exaggeration of the general tone adopted.
Then came Catherine's Marriage Search (792), by Mr. Egg; Florence Cope before dinner (766), by Mr. Cope; Serena, overwhelmed, falls asleep, and, on awakening, finds herself surrounded by anthropophagi (752), by Mr. Chalon; Cardinal Wolsey's Arrival at Leicester Abbey (768), by Mr. Cope; Interior of St. Stephen's Church, Vienna (929), by Mr. Roberts; Metastasis discovered by the scholar Gravina, Rome (881), by Mr. M'Innes.
Mr. Frith had exhibited a charming little painting of a Russian pope trying to woo Lady Montagne (798), the witty wife of the English Ambassador to Constantinople in the late eighteenth century. Mr Egg had reproduced the first meeting, in a cabaret where she was a servant, of the future empress of Russia, Catherine, and Peter the Great (793).
Not far away are the Provost of Peterhead (810), by Mr. Gordon, of Edinburgh; the Tethered Ram (862), by Sir E. Landseer; a View of the Thames below Greenwich (826), by Mr. Holland: Catherine and Petrucch (826), by Mr. Egg; and a View of the Thames below Greenwich (826), by Mr. Holland. Holland; Catherine and Petrucchio (868), by Mr. Leslie; Job and the Messengers (917), by Mr. Poole; Buckingham Rejected (791), by Mr. Egg; Portrait of Paganini (907), by Mr. Patten.
There were now few paintings left to visit in the English gallery, but they are very interesting: these are: Luncheon in the Mountains of Scotland (860); Jack on Duty (859); Cattle Drivers in the Mountains of Scotland (861), by Sir E. Landseer:
Her Majesty Queen Victoria receiving the Blessed Sacrament on her Coronation Day, by Mr Leslie.
Lady Jane Grey and Royer Ascham (834), by Mr. Horsley; The Queen of the Gypsies (916), by Mr. Poole; A Musical Reunion (835), by Mr. Horsley, and, finally, Balloon Game (955), by Mr. Webster, concluded the exhibition of Great Britain.

© Guide dans le Palais de l'Industrie et des Beaux-Arts 1855