THE TRIUMPH OF BLACK AND WHITE.
"After all, the best of KEENE's life-work is to be found in the innumerable cuts which he contributed to Punch during a period of nearly forty years; and still more in the originals of these, the masterly pen-and-ink drawings which are now for the first time shown in a collected form to the Public."
So says Mr. CLAUDE PHILLIPS, in his "Prefatory Note," to the "Catalogue of a Collection of Drawings of the late CHARLES KEENE," now on view at the Rooms of the Fine Arts Society, 148, New Bond Street.
If the British Public possess that "taste for Art" and that "sense of humour" which some claim for and others deny to it, it (the B.P.) will throng the comfortable and well-lighted Gallery in New Bond Street, where hang some hundreds of specimens of the later work of the most unaffected humorist, and most masterly "Black-and-White" artist of his time. Walk up, Ladies and Gentlemen, and see—such miracles of delineation, such witcheries of effect, as were never before put on paper by simple pen-and-ink!
It is difficult to realise sometimes that it is pen and ink, and that only—all the delightful display of fresh English landscape and unsophisticated British humanity, teeming with effects of distance, hints of atmosphere, and suggestions of colour. Many a much-belauded brush is but a fumbling and ineffective tool, compared with the ink-charged crowquill handled by CHARLES KEENE. Look at "Grandiloquence!" (No. 220) There's composition! There's effect! Stretch of sea, schooner, PAT's petty craft, grandiloquent PAT himself, a nautical Colossus astride on his own cock-boat, with stable sea-legs firmly dispread, the swirl of the sea, the swish of the waves, the very whiff of the wind so vividly suggested!—and all in some few square inches of "Black-and-White!"
Look, again, at the breadth of treatment, the power of humorous characterisation, the strong charm of technique, the colour, the action, the marvellous ease and accuracy of street perspective in No. 16 ("The Penny Toy!"). Action? Why, you can see the old lady jump, let alone the frog! Fix your eye on the frightened dame's foot, and you'll swear it jerks in time to the leap of the "horrid reptile."
Or at that vivid bit of London "hoarding," and London low life, and London street-distance in "'Andicapped!" (No. 25.) Good as is the "gaol-bird," is not the wonderfully real "hoarding" almost better?
Who now can draw—or, for that matter, paint—such a shopkeeper, such a shop, such a child customer as those in "All Alive!" (No. 41), where the Little Girl a-tip-toe with a wedge of cheap "Cheddar" at the counter, comes down upon him of the apron with the crusher, "Oh, mother's sent back this piece o' cheese, 'cause father says if he wants any bait when he's goin' a fishin', he can dig 'em up in our garden!"
Are you a fisherman, reader? Then will you feel your angling as well as your artistic heart warmed by No. 75 ("The Old Adam") and No. 6 ("Wet and Dry"), the former especially! What water, what Scotch boys, what a "prencipled" (but piscatorial) "Meenister"!...