Page:Our Philadelphia (Pennell, 1914).djvu/251

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231
THE FIRST AWAKENING

Philadelphia talking an appalling lot of rubbish about art, and the new affectation of interest was more deplorable than the old frank indifference.

I was as ignorant of art as the child unborn, but not more ignorant than the average Philadelphian. The old obligatory visits to the Academy had made but a fleeting impression and I never repeated them when the obligation rested solely with me. I had never met an artist, never been in a studio. The result was that the Art Galleries at the Centennial left me as blank and bewildered as the Hall of Machinery. Of all the paintings, the one I remembered was Luke Fildes's picture of a milkmaid which I could not forget because, in a glaring, plush-framed chromo-lithograph, it reappeared promptly in Philadelphia dining- and bedrooms, the most popular picture of the Centennial—a popularity in which I can discern no signs of grace. Nor can I discern them in the Eastlake craze, in the sacrifice of reps and rosewood to Morris and of Berlin work to crewels, in the outbreak of spinning-wheels and milking-stools and cat's tails and Japanese fans in the old simple, dignified Philadelphia parlour; in the nightmare of wall-papers with dadoes going half-way up the wall and friezes coming halfway down, and every square inch crammed full of pattern; in the pretence and excess of decoration that made the early Victorian ornament, we had all begun to abuse, a delight to the eye in its innocent unpretentiousness. And if to the Centennial we owe the multiplication of our art schools, how