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

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

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