of the important fact that the very nature of the materials selected renders the consummation of the idea excessively difficult, and, moreover, costly almost beyond calculation. When all is said and done, and the task is finally accomplished, the result is, in many respects, far from everything that could be desired. However fine the conception of the work in question may be in itself, it is generally too apparent that, in its execution, the craftsman was persistently beset with difficulties which called for constant struggle to combat ; at the same time, the impression is conveyed that a far better result might have been secured with much greater economy and by the expenditure of one tenth, or even less, of the labour, had greater judgment been exercised in the selection of materials or methods of procedure.
We are forced, therefore, to the conclusion that what we have before us has only been accomplished through the absolutely uncalled-for misapplication of both ingenuity and energy ; and any such feeling cannot but detract most seriously from what satisfaction there may be in regarding the outcome. In almost every impress of the tool, the craftsman seems to be saying “ Behold what enormous obstacles I have had to surmount. Note the skill with which I have overcome them! ” We accord unstinted admiration readily, indeed instinctively, for the extraordinary mastery over both tool and material displayed ; we cannot do otherwise. At the same time we are thinking that the majority of the obstacles should never have been there, to be surmounted, and that no valid excuse can really be put forward to justify their presence. Practically we experience the same feeling as that which affects us sometimes at amateur industrial exhibitions, bazaars, and functions of a similar nature, when we are confronted with some such exhibit as, say, “ A model of Westminster Abbey; constructed entirely of burnt matches, by the aid of a bent pin ; took three years to make.” The reader will be familiar with the sort of exhibit to which I refer.
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