traceried wall, of plate upon the altar, of this and
that little detail, of which the treatment remained
broad while it became finished. At Nuremberg
to name two, that for excellent reasons I remember
admirable is the broad and luminous picturesque-
ness of his interiors of the Kaiser Kapelle and St.
Sebald. At Rothenburg, as far as simple archi-
tecture is concerned, what a variety lay before him !
And yet from all its richness and variety he turned
now and then, to paint the humble window of the
little bourgeois or little tradesman's house ; the
window-sill with its few pots of green-leaved and
blossoming flowers, seen, some of them, against the
brown-red shutter ; fragile fuchsia, and healthy
But whether Francis James is occupied with flower
painting, or with church interiors of Germany or the
Eastern Riviera, or with landscape pieces, or with
28o ON BOOKS AND ARTS
studies of the village shop, it is always the same
spirit of broad interpretation that dominates his
work. Its business is to recall an impression
artistic always, whether beautiful or quaint it is
not generally its business to be imitative, strictly
imitative, of actual object or scene. Quite an infinity
of detail is pleasantly suggested by a drawing of the
grocer's shop at Bewdley the Post Office of the
country town and just as much by ' Shop Front,
Bewdley,' which shows us the deep bow-window of
Mr. Bryan, the bookseller ; a background before
which some quiet figure out of Jane Austen might
conceivably have passed. But the detail is not
obtruded. If you peer closely into the paper, it is
not dryly made out. In a sense, l il riy a rienJ
Stand away a little, and then again, ' ily a tout!
But, of course, Mr. James's preoccupation with
a quaint little world of the provinces, whose com-
binations of colour, as he here shows us them, are
curious rather than lovely that preoccupation of
his is occasional rather than constant ; and we shall
never therefore take his measure by an inspection
of work like this. Some quaint line it possesses, and
to the interest of quaint as well as of lovely com-
binations of line, Francis James is quite alive. But
it is where the combinations of line may be lovely
FRANCIS JAMES 281
where they may have their highest quality herein
and yet more where with beautiful lines there must
(to do justice to the theme) be associated beautiful
colour ; it is here that Mr. James is most charac-
teristic. ' Autumn, Asolo,' shows this to some extent ;
and so do other landscapes in which the world to
which he has addressed himself, whether of Lombard
or Venetian plateau, or of Alpine height, is dealt with
with intrepidity. But it is to churches and flowers
or sometimes to the interiors of drawing-rooms or
bedrooms lived in by tasteful people, and full there-
fore of objects that should gratify the eye in their
happy, well-arranged union it is to churches and
flowers in the main, and most of all flowers, that we
must come back, to find Francis James quite at his
most exquisite, quite at his most characteristic.
Perhaps it is hardly possible nowadays to paint
flowers without submitting to some extent to the
influence of the Japanese. From them, whatever
else you learn, you learn freedom of treatment and
a conception based upon essentials. The limitations
of Japanese Art it does not happen just now to be
the fashion to recognise ; though every one who is
really educated every one who understands the
Classics of Art, the immense achievements of Europe
from Holbein to Turner must know of these limita-
282 ON BOOKS AND ARTS
tions, and must feel them. That does not prevent
the perception of the value of those things which
Japanese art (among the arts of other peoples
indeed) has had some capacity for teaching us.
And when Francis James makes his pink and white
roses trail over the paper, with tints so pale and
delicate, I think sometimes of the Japanese. I think
of them much less when he sets a whole posy a
whole group, at least in a tumbler, and has his
massive colour, his rich, great colour, his fearless
juxtapositions. And then, perhaps, with the
Japanese influence not lost altogether, but still
mainly subdued not displayed at all, and scarcely
even insinuated do I rejoice in Francis James at
Among painters, water-colour painters, Francis
James is the poet of flowers, as Van Huysum, it
may be two hundred years ago was their prose
chronicler. The public knows Van Huysum best
by his work in oils. The rare amateur of noble
prints knows him best by Earlom's two splendid
translations of him into the medium of mezzotint.
But the not less rare connoisseur of the fine draw-
ings of a past period, knows him by water-colour
sketches, such as those possessed by the Depart-
ment of Prints and Drawings at the British Museum.
FRANCIS JAMES 283
And as there are moments, moods, opportunities,
when men apparently far apart get nearer together,
so, just now and again by Van Huysum's practice in
water-colour by his pure sketching in that medium
the gulf that separates him from Francis James, is,
not bridged indeed, but narrowed. The moment Van
Huysum passes beyond the pure sketch, the perhaps
even rapid study, something that is of the nature of
the artificial, of intentional and obvious intricacy,
begins to assert itself. Now, with the delightful
artist of the day whose eulogium I am slowly
making, that is never the case.
Francis James's fondness for flowers is, in some
sense, akin to a woman's instinctive fondness for
everybody's children. He has joy in their mere
life. And it is their life that he paints. And he
paints them in their own atmosphere the sunlight
heightening so the key of their colour, or a little rain
perhaps has fallen and their life is refreshed. Had
the rain fallen when Van Huysum painted them,
the drop would have glistened on the petal ; the
perfection of the imitation of it is what we might
have been asked, first of all, to see and admire. But
it is not their accidental condition that Francis
James imitates. It is their splendid vigour or ex-
quisite freshness see, for instance, this noble
284 ON BOOKS AND ARTS
primula with its deep glowing, slightly mauveish
reds and its enriched green leaves ; in its condition,
a very bridegroom coming out of his chamber.
Amongst flowers, Francis James, I find, is universal
in his loves. He does not swear fidelity to the rose
or he does not swear the particular fidelity which
is only exclusiveness. In every garden, every green-
house, every season of the year, he has (to use the
sailor simile) 'a wife in every port.' He is as
various in his appreciations of the beloved and the
admirable as is a young man by Mr. Thomas Hardy.
Primula, tulip, rose, pelargonium, and then the
hundred orchids having thanked one of them for
its beauty, and profited by it, he turns with happy
expectation to another. Nor does disappointment
One little confidence made to me long ago, I
recollect I propose, before I finish this article,
ruthlessly to break. James destroys many drawings.
He strangles the ill-begotten. He pronounces, with
severity, judgment upon his creations. He assists
the fittest to survive. Three or four years back he
was wrestling manfully with the treatment of the
orchid. No one, I think, had really treated the
orchid before then. Since then, in oils, Mr. William
Gale, in a group of works too little known, has
FRANCIS JAMES 285
treated it with unequal, of course, yet often with
remarkable, skill. But when Francis James had
drawn, at Sanders' nursery during several months'
sojourn at St. Albans, to that end orchids of every
kind, great was the massacre of the innocents. We
were permitted afterwards to see the successes ; the
failures had been done away with.
This is characteristic, and that is why I record it.
People who observe flowers, and do not only buy
them, will not be astonished that when this happened
most this severe review and condemnation it was
orchids, orchids only, that were in question. And
this for several reasons. Some are beautiful, but
some are ugly, almost morbid indeed things for the
delectation of Des Esseintes, the too neurotic hero
of M. Huysman's A Rebours ; scarcely for healthy
folk, whom mere strangeness may not fascinate.
And then again, the extreme intricacy of the forms
of some of them, tells in two ways against their
employment as subjects for a painter. It is not
only it is not so much that their intricacy adds
to the difficulty of correctness ; it is rather that it
adds to the difficulty of their comprehension by the
spectator of the draughtsman's drawing. The public
knows the rose and the geranium it knows, besides,
two score of flowers of English garden and hedge-
286 ON BOOKS AND ARTS
row. But the intricacy of the orchid is as yet an
unfamiliar intricacy, and it is infinitely various ; and
therefore, though the painting of the orchid in
Francis James's water-colours was an experiment
interesting and courageous, and within reasonable
limits successful, that work was but one phase
far from the most important of a career and
of a talent full already of individuality, distinction,
(Studio, January 1898.)
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