as I have described them, were positively shown in all seriousness at the last Paris Exhibition by two of the leading exponents and pioneers of the " New Art/' not as garden furniture, but as designed, and made of the choicest woods, and at enormous cost, for the homes of wealthy patrons. In the second place, if accused of being prejudiced against the movement itself, even in the most infinitesimal degree, my defence would simply be to affirm, if possible with still greater emphasis than before, that the u New Art" in some of its phases has no keener or more enthusiastic admirer than the writer of these lines.
I should not have laid such great stress upon this great failing of the movement had it been revealed occasionally only, and in momentary lapses from "sweet reasonableness/' constituting but a rare exception to a predominating good taste; but it cannot, unfortunately, be regarded in that light. On the contrary, this failing stood out prominently as one of the leading characteristics of the style at its inception, and though, in the course of time, radical changes for the better have taken place, the same weakness remains, though in a far smaller degree.
This contempt, whether intentional or not, of the sense of fitness and of the limitations of material, was everywhere apparent in the early days of the movement; even at the present time, though vast strides have been made in the proper direction, it is still more or less in evidence, but, fortunately, in a vastly modified form. The constant endeavour to press certain materials into service for the execution of tasks for which they were never intended, and are obviously unfitted, still remains; and that endeavour is inspired and directed by such rare determination—or obstinacy, as some might describe it—that technical impossibilities are almost achieved. Many artists of the new school continue to produce designs with the fixed intention that they shall be carried out in certain stated materials, irrespective
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of the important fact that the very nature of the materials selected renders the consummation of the idea excessively difficult, and, moreover, costly almost beyond calculation. When all is said and done, and the task is finally accomplished, the result is, in many respects, far from everything that could be desired. However fine the conception of the work in question may be in itself, it is generally too apparent that, in its execution, the craftsman was persistently beset with difficulties which called for constant struggle to combat; at the same time, the impression is conveyed that a far better result might have been secured with much greater economy and by the expenditure of one tenth, or even less, of the labour, had greater judgment been exercised in the selection of materials or methods of procedure.
We are forced, therefore, to the conclusion that what we have before us has only been accomplished through the absolutely uncalled-for misapplication of both ingenuity and energy ; and any such feeling cannot but detract most seriously from what satisfaction there may be in regarding the outcome. In almost every impress of the tool, the craftsman seems to be saying " Behold what enormous obstacles I have had to surmount. Note the skill with which I have overcome them ! " We accord unstinted admiration readily, indeed instinctively, for the extraordinary mastery over both tool and material displayed ; we cannot do otherwise. At the same time we are thinking that the majority of the obstacles should never have been there, to be surmounted, and that no valid excuse can really be put forward to justify their presence. Practically we experience the same feeling as that which affects us sometimes at amateur industrial exhibitions, bazaars, and functions of a similar nature, when we are confronted with some such exhibit as, say, " A model of Westminster Abbey; constructed entirely of burnt matches, by the aid of a bent pin ; took three years to make." The reader will be familiar with the sort of exhibit to which I refer.
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