be absolutely right and in order, the expenditure of many months' thought and labour may be, and indeed often is, brought to nought by a flaw in material, the over-heating of a kiln, the letting-out of a furnace, or some other unlooked-for and utterly unexpected contretemps. I have gone into these matters at some length, for, as will presently become apparent, in considering the principles and practice of the " New Art" from the strictly critical point of view, it was quite impossible to avoid doing so if the subject is to be discussed with any measure of thoroughness.
How were these French art reformers situated, then, after all ? They would not be bound by the vexatious conditions and restrictions inevitably involved by following any particular traditions, styles, or phases of taste except their own ; they would be free, obeying no laws except those of Nature; and, as we shall presently discover, they were quite prepared, 011 occasion, to take considerable liberties with even those. Under these circumstances what occurred at the outset was inevitable. Having broken all the laws by which they had previously been restrained, and having completely thrown aside all their fetters, or rather fondly imagining that they had done so, they hied them away from the haunts and purlieus of towns and cities, leaving behind them all the old associations of urban life, with its bricks and mortar, to revel in the glorious freshness of the country—the very Temple of Nature herself, with its virgin wealth of unexplored treasures. The joy attendant upon their newly-acquired liberty proved altogether too much at first for brains so long unaccustomed to such an experience. Their mental balance was disturbed ; the mistake of over-indulgence was committed ; and, at the 1 beginning, freedom was sadly abused. Liberty led to licence, and the abuse of licence brought about the existence of a condition of affairs that can only be described as absolutely chaotic. Sketch-books were filled with a multitude of studies natural growths, forms, and colourings. The wildest and style in furniture most fantastic imaginings, based upon them, were conceived and transferred to paper ; imaginings which, it was fondly hoped, would startle the whole of the civilised world, and charm by their beauty, boldness of conception, and striking originality, when they grew into lasting and tangible form under the skilled hands of the craftsman, with his many and varied materials, and innumerable facilities for manipulation and transformation at his command. But here came the first command to " halt." Conditions and restrictions imposed by taste and style might be cast to the winds with impunity, without any one but those indulging in such a liberty either suffering, or reaping any benefit, thereby ; and cast to the winds they were. But when it came to attempting to ignore the hard-and-fast technical conditions and restrictions inseparable from many processes of manufacture—processes of manufacture, it must be understood, upon which these enthusiasts absolutely depended for the practical interpretation of their ideas—where was the free, perfect, and unfettered liberty ? It was found to be non-existent. Difficulties presented themselves at every step, and many of them proved to be altogether insurmountable, although there was a vast deal of kicking against the pricks, and the most ingenious expedients were tried to circumvent them, in order that the new school might be entirely free from all suspicion of convention. The attainment of that happy state defied the wit of man ; and, in the end—not, however, until after
an exceptionally severe struggle—some measure of resignation and obedience to the dictates of the inevitable had to be exercised, though it was almost invariably accompanied by a most emphatic and unmistakable protest.
When they stated their intention to follow Nature, and to obey Nature's laws alone, these artists, though really meaning to carry out their programme, quite neglected to bear in mind the important fact, that natural growths and forms, wondrously beautiful, and indeed incomparable, as
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