This section is from the book "Arts & Crafts Magazine Vol1-2", by Hutchinson & Company.
The exhibition of the work of the students of the Royal College of Art, marking the close of the session at South Kensington, was very interesting, although it cannot be said that the indications are uniformly in the line of progress. In the department of Applied Design there is much room for improvement, especially in regard to wall papers and textiles. The designs for these were few and of an irritating dead level of mediocrity. For some reason, the system of instruction fails to develop in the pupils anything like individuality either in ideas or in the arrangement of materials, and the feeling for colour seems to be wholly absent. That these qualities are altogether lacking in the students of the department we refuse to believe, especially in view of the abundant evidence of decorative feeling in the work of the painting and modelling classes. In the Architectural School, if there is no startling originality of ideas, the drawings exhibited certainly tell of a sound, practical, and suggestive method of instruction, and that, in its way, no doubt, is of more importance.
It is to the exhibition of the work of the Modelling School that we turn with most satisfaction. It is the first, we believe, under the auspices of the Royal College of Art as at present organised, and we can say, without hesitation, that a better show of students' work has not been seen in England. We note in it, to a remarkable extent, how, while the personality of a brilliant teacher may be reflected in the work of his pupils, it will also help to stimulate the development of whatever originality they may possess, enabling them to turn it to the best account. Professor Lanteri - like his friend and compatriot, Legros, to whose teaching and example we owe so much that is good in art education in England - believes in the artistic talent of the Englishman and still more of the Englishwoman, but declares that it often lies dormant from lack of opportunity for fruition. Without doubt, he himself has been exceptionally fortunate in discovering or stimulating such talent.
Half a dozen capital sculptural exhibits went to prove that the quality of originality at least was not lacking in the work of Professor Lanteri's pupils. Some of them, which won prizes, we illustrate by photographs, but we do not hesitate to say that there were others, uncrowned, which were, to say the least, quite as interesting. We will return to them presently.
The first prize, a £50 travelling scholarship, awarded to Arthur Rogers's design for a Memorial to Dante, could hardly have been bestowed on a more meritorious work by so young a sculptor in any country. The importance and dignity of the composition, and the masterly method of its execution, place it quite above the plane of ordinary student work. The truth of this criticism may be judged by our photograph of the clay model, which, however, gives but a faint idea of the merits of the original. At our request, Mr. Rogers has kindly furnished the following descriptive note: -
"The episode I have endeavoured to illustrate is where Dante is witnessing the torments of the Friar Alberigo and the tyrant Azzolino. Paolo and Francesca are passing to the right to Purgatory, to join the other souls in their state of Limbo, before entering the Paradise which Virgil is about to show to Dante that he might see the Vision of Beatrice with the other maids, the Divine Mercy and Lucian at either side. The Cross surmounted with the Viper, which encircles the emblems of the Cardinal Vices, in the allegorical group at the base, is significant of Dante's idea of the degradation of the Church by its ministers. The heraldry behind the Cross is made up of the arms of the various Popes and Cardinals described by Dante, the Pope's crown being at the foot and behind the Cross. The composition when completed will attempt to give the Divine Comedy in its relative spiritual and material light as written by Dante."
It is one of the merits of Mr. Rogers's work that it is carried out in a style peculiarly his own. He is thoroughly at home when designing in relief. This facility in plastic expression, so noticeable in the Dante Memorial, is no less characteristic of the "juicy" little clay sketch for a lunette, to be placed over the doorway of a hospital, which he modelled in five days last year, in competition. His design was adopted, and part of the subject, in plaster, as it is to be carried out, was shown at the exhibition under present notice. The figures, which are to be life-size, will be seen twenty feet above the level of the street; they represent Medicine and Charity protecting Humanity from Misery and Death, symbolised by winged creatures in the corners. When this striking work is completed we hope to have the opportunity of illustrating it, for hereafter we shall follow closely the professional career of this promising young-sculptor.
Mr. Rogers entered the College on a Manchester County Council Scholarship. Last year he gained the second prize for sculpture, which this year is won by Mr. T. L. Sands for his bas-relief descriptive of "The Return of Perseus and Andromeda." It is cleverly composed, but, rather oddly, the interest of the story is concentrated in the extreme left-hand portion of the frieze, where we see Perseus being led in by an old man, having been preceded by the beautiful Andromeda who is already in the embrace of her mother, while the father extends his hand in welcome to the hero. The group of mother and daughter is particularly line. Mr. J. A. Stevenson, to whom the third prize for sculpture is awarded for his treatment of the same theme, seems to have determined to advance a step the progress of the narrative: the trousseau has been procured, and the happy pair now appear, united, amid the rejoicings and acclamations of their friends. Both of these clever artists are otherwise well represented in the exhibition: Mr. Sands by an exquisitely modelled head of a young woman, and by a vigorous sketch, in plaster, of " Samson and the Lion." In the encounter, we observe, the Hebrew hero has incurred a dislocation of the arm. By the ingenious horizontal pose of the man, whose broad back, by the way, is capitally modelled, the sculptor has managed to dispense altogether with the body of the lion, whose head and tail only arc-seen, the latter, lashed around the thigh of Samson, being full of expression. The same subject was cleverly handled by Mr. Sidney Burton. Mr. Stevenson showed a capital head of an old man. There were many good studies of heads of both sexes, but there was none to equal, in its noble simplicity, the portrait of an old lady, by Miss Winser - the artist's mother, we believe, who bears a striking resemblance to the pictures of "George Sands." This young artist's gift for expressing character is very remarkable; it is seen again in the vigorously modelled and cleverly conceived decoration for a fountain in which she has introduced the smiling features of her fellow student, Miss Grace Edwardes, as a jovial wood nymph, and we noticed it in her portrait sketch of Miss Branand, who won the first prize for painting. The strength of the work of the female students is perhaps the most remarkable feature of the exhibition. It is difficult,for example, to realise that Miss Baker's powerful circular composition in high relief, which we take to represent "Theseus and the Minotaur," is really by a woman. We must not forget to mention such capital work in the round as the seated draped female figures symbolising Industry, Commerce and Justice, by, respectively, Miss Wilhelmina Neuwirt, Miss Dorothy Wise, and Miss Grace Edwardes, nor the last-named young lady's relief of a graceful seated female figure in profile holding a flower, By reference to our notes, we find that we have still to mention the vigorously modelled caryatid, by Mr. Hollins, of heroic size; Sidney Boyes's "Fisherman Finding the Head of Orpheus," a strong and altogether admirable piece of modelling, especially from the back view; "Dawn of the New Century," a nude female figure in relief, with highly decorative accessories, and Mr. A. E. Smith's beautiful life study, in the round, of a seated nymph, which, although we happen to mention it last, is one of the most charming studies in the exhibition.