A Prisoner of Shadows
By IRIS CONLAY "A PRISONER of shadows until my death "-Rouault de.. scribed himself and his pithy but poignant self-portrait -is justified by those haunting illustrations now hanging round the walls of the Redfern gallery in Londonillustrations for the unpublished and incompleted " Miserere " and " Guerre " of Andre Suarez over which the master spent more than nine years of his life.
It is a pity that the gallery's catalogue does not give more space to describing the work on which Rouault was engaged for so long; can't help thinking that to know the thought circulating in an artist's mind is of greater interest to the general public than to know about the technique he employed in translating it into the medium of paint or stone. Interesting though it is to learn that the artist's gouache study was transferred photographically to the copper plate and that this was reworked by the wide application of aquatint, the use of the roulette, free application of dry point lines, direct biting of the plate with acid and scraping away parts of the preliminary photo-engraved burr, what I really want to know is the theme tying together all these pathetic clowns, these gleeful skeletons, these depressed workers, these grinning advocates, these meretricious women and these deeply-suffering Christs.
But even if one cannot follow the exact relationship of print to print in this remarkable collection, and even if the titles in the catalogue seem to hide and confuse rather than to enlighten (what wealths of meaning must lie behind such examples as No. 14 so inadequately titled " Woman and leaning tree "), still the unity of a great spiritual experience makes itself unmistakably felt. There is no artist alive to-day who sees both Man and God so steadily and so whole. And the message of these sombre illustrations is to be found in that relationship of God with Man; God suffering through Christ, Man suffering not atone but with Christ; evil and darkness in juxtaposition with goodness and light, The simple things, the elemental things are certainly portrayed as emerging from an inferno of shadows, his people are too penitential and tense for a pure serenity but every line of Rouault's art defends spiritual values and endows Man with the true dignity and integrity of a human being. Man, he states, may be wrong-headed, ugly, even bestial, but his soul is his own to command and the way of salvation is always open to him.
STUDENT CHRISTIAN MOVEMENT EXHIBITION
An exhibition well worth a.longer life was the collection of contemporary religious art shown early in January in connection with the international conference of the Student Christian Movement. The silver plate, designed by L. G. Durbin for Guildford Cathedral, together with other church furniture, formed the centre of the exhibition and around the walls hung the most representative collection of religious painting I have yet seen in London. Individually the works had mostly been shown before, but it was interesting to see a Last Supper by Matthew Smith, for instance. in conjunction with an Agony in the Garden by Edward Burra; to realise the gift and
the affinity between Graham Sutherland and Rouault, Paul Nash and Epstein, Henry Moore and Eric Gill.
The book production standard of religious work was particularly high, the S.C.M. Press itself under its typographer, John R. Biggs, showing some very interesting designs. The pity was that the exhibition's life of five days was too short to allow many people beyond the students attending the conference to see it.
Most children, if left to develop imaginatively. are artists by nature, and an exhibition of children's work if often remarkable for qualities that quite mature artists have not got. At the Cooling Galleries. Red Hill, a school for the treatment and educalion of children of special ability who have difficulties of emotional and social adjustment are showing the work of their pupils, and jolly good some of it is. Particularly was struck ley the technical ability of E. Westwick, whose tree study was both thoughtful and sensitive. It is intriguing, too, to speculate upon the mind of the child whose pictures are all of mountains, volcanoes and kites; is his maladjusted difficulty finding relief and outlet in these skybound subjects 7 The catalogue has an interesting exposition of the school's theory lay the headmaster and an introduction by a pupil.
In Lent and The Liturgy (St. Clements Press, ls.) the Bishop of Lamus shows that the forgotten emphasis of the Sacred Season is not upon Fasting and Abstinence-imposed or excused by direct legislation-but on " the positive intensification of our spiritual life "-to which it may be an accompaniment " when conditions are favourable." This beautifully-printed pamphlet with its clear elucidation of the Roman Stations, illustrated by fascinating wood-cuts, will be a joy to every cultured Catholic.
Saint Francis of Assisi, site Legends and Lauds, edited by Otto Karrer, translated by N. Wydenbruck (Sheed and Ward. 15s.). A scholarly, well-translated work, bringing together in tidy, supremely readable modern form all the sources of the " Little Poor Man." Editor Karrer's introductory notes are kept felicitously short, for all their illuminating sharpness, and through them the true Franciscan spirit-tempered by such varying minds as those of Brother Leo and St. Bonaventure-blows with pristine freshness in this new full and faithful version of the legends and lives.
The Life of Anne le Rousier (Sands, 4s.) has been translated " from the French " with an abundance of cliches which " sort of " and " so to speak " obscure a "very" interesting story. The genuine adventures of this pioneer Religious of the Sacred Heart in South America should have been freed of pious jargon by a translator who had taste enough to find apt quotations from English sources for the chapter-headings.
Buried in the Country (Wingate, 7s. 6d.) is a quaintly delicious hotch-potch of fanciful recollection told by a West Countryman with a taste for the unusual and a happy flair for arresting and detaining his reader's interest, Richard Phibbs rescues much half-buried lore, transferring it en bloc to enrich the subconscious of (one hopes) a spreading public.