This title will now be recognised as that of the small group of advanced painters whose home, for exhibition purposes, is at the Carfax Gallery. They may, or may not, constitute a “Cave,” a province of restricted dimensions, within and yet a little away from the New English Art Club. At any rate, the work of the Camden Town contingent comes not in contradiction, but in completion of that by which the larger body of Radicals is represented. The public is interested – if, indeed, it is interested – in results rather than in the inner politics of the painting world. This year the exhibition justifies itself, since of its kind it is a very good one. It constitutes, indeed, a sort of link between the extremism of the Grafton Galleries and the more sober modernity of Suffolk-street. That international extremism is here represented in amusing fashion by Mr. Wyndham Lewis, a cubist, or rather angularist, whose ingenious work will be familiar to all frequenters of the Grafton Galleries. His large design “Danse,” makes a decorative pattern agreeably irritating to the eye, and of a pale, yet potent harmony that shows the colourist. It is only when we strive to see the painting as the artist wants us to see it, i.e., as a synthetic suggestion of terpsichorean gyrations – that we risk becoming “mad” in every sense of the word. A better title for Mr. Lewis’s effort would, perhaps, be “A Tragedy in the Insect World.” We might, perhaps, allow ourselves to be persuaded that here is in progress one of those terribly dramatic scenes which M. Fabre, the prose-poet of the insect world, has so wonderfully described.
Masterly – we use the word advisedly – are two portrait-studies of young girls of the rustic class, by Mr. H. Lamb, both of them entitled “Study of a Head.” Here there is nothing particularly attractive in the quality of the paint. Indeed, the execution has a certain not altogether pleasant “tightness.” But there are manifest, as central and vital qualities, a breadth and comprehensiveness of vision, a forceful directness of execution, that we find but very rarely in modern British art. Mr. Lamb has the indefinable quality of style. If he continues to advance, and proves himself able to rise superior to mere mannerism, to the mere desire to astonish and disconcert, he will have a place apart, and that an important one, in the British school of to-morrow.
Mr. Walter Sickert in the catalogue affixes to his exceedingly clever studies such odd, misleading titles that baldly to cite them would be to give no indication whatever of subject or aspect. “Past and Present” shows a mature wench and another younger – both equally objectionable. “Chicken” is a study of callow youth that promises soon to catch up “present” and “past”. The title “Summer in Naples” is really a deliberate affront to bello Napoli. This painting is the masterly, sordid unemotional study, on the came canvas, of a nude female model and a colourless male creature; the artist, no doubt, who has been making studies from the unlovely form which his partner exhibits with so absolute a liberality. This is unstimulating realism, which depresses all the more in that it lacks the saving element of tragedy in suspense. As to the bravura and withal the subtlety of the execution, as to the consummate ability of the artist, there can hardly be two opinions. What first-rate exercises, what admirable preparation for something which now probably will never come! Is Mr. Sickert cynical, is he flouting the conventional proprieties, or is he really content with these musty, flabby realities – these ugly motives upon which he plays skilful but still ugly variations? Is he wounded, and, therefore, desirous to wound, in order that he may awaken his neighbour? Or is he merely exploiting with sincere satisfaction a field in which he now has few, if any competitors?