Style In Furniture

To illustrate my meaning in writing the foregoing paragraphs upon the " New Art/' many most forcible examples might be brought forward, but it will be sufficient for my present purpose if I refer in particular to the marquetry which constitutes one of the chief features of the furniture and woodwork of the school which we are at present discussing. Much of it is so marvellously clever in execution as almost to defy belief in its being marquetry at all ; yet it misses its aim, viz., the simulation of painting, which is, of course, altogether out of range. The most ambitious, elaborate, and intricate schemes, both pictorial and decorative, teeming with minute detail, and glowing with almost every tone and shade of colour that can be compounded from the painter's palette—really capable of being rendered with any degree of accuracy by the brush alone—are conceived, prepared, and placed in the hands of the marquetry-cutter, to be reproduced by him by means of his veneers, natural and stained, fashioned by the knife, saw, and other appliances for their working. He applies himself to the task with the conscientious desire to make the best "job" he can of it ; but what a "job " it is ! The markets of the world have to be ransacked for veneers of the required figure, colours, and shades ; and they cannot always be obtained. When they—or at all events the nearest to them—are secured, the task of cutting and inlaying follows ; and frequently, in order to get as near to the desired effect as possible, these veneers, many of which are most awkward to "work" even under normal and favourable conditions, have to be cut and fitted into their respective places in pieces of almost microscopic proportions, involving an enormous expenditure of time and labour.

The result of all this, as I have already pointed out, is oftentimes a veritable triumph of technical skill ; yet, withal, it is nothing but an attempt to accomplish the impossible, or, in other words, to rival the choicest productions of the

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palette and brush through the medium of marquetry. It is not for me to enlarge here upon the possibilities and limitations of inlay as a means of decoration, but I may point out that, broadly speaking, it was never devised, nor intended, for the interpretation of schemes in which minute detail predominates, nor for the rendering of complicated harmonies of colouring; it is altogether beyond human ingenuity to employ it with complete success under such conditions. The " New Art" designers, however, do not seem to pay any heed to this. There is scarcely a natural form or effect, from the tiniest piece of down on the breast of a bird, to a gorgeous sunset; from a blade of grass to the u human face divine " ; which they will not attempt to reproduce in marquetry. Instead of adopting the only proper course, and making their ideas conform to the obvious conditions of the materials in which they are to be carried out, they attempt to force those conditions to conform to their ideas. Is it necessary for me to say that to do so is utterly and absolutely indefensible ? Many other instances besides marquetry might be quoted in support of my contention ; but let us change our vein.

In performing the duties of a critic, nothing, I think, is more refreshing than to be able to turn from condemnation to praise—except, of course, there be something constitutionally awry with the critic. Having pointed out what in my humble opinion is the fundamental weakness of the "New Art/' it is with sincere pleasure that I proceed to deal with its strength. Curiously enough, both that weakness and strength spring from practically the same source—the admiration of Nature, and the application of her lessons to the requirements of the furniture designer. But nearly all knowledge, however good it may be, and however desirable its acquisition in the first place, is capable of misapplication; and there are many most powerful forces which may be employed for evil as well as for good. As we have passed in review the artistic evil that has been wrought through

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