Mr. F. Hopkinson Smith lectured to a very large audience last night on American Illustrators. He said in the past fifteen years American illustration has been steadily improving. Its defects have constantly grown less, and it has become more and more a fine art. Its characteristic feature is that it is almost entirely in black and white. Americans have no time to learn to be masters of color. What is needed for that is long periods of doing nothing but absorbing the beauty of nature, studying sunsets and color effects. What all modern illustrators aim at is "tone," that is to say, effects in black and white.
First of all American illustrators stands Abbey. His resources are inexhaustible. Whenever he is called on to interpret a work he can find the idea in his own mind, and yet he invariably realizes the ideal of the author. He always copies from a true model. If he wants to draw an old-fashioned spinet he does not paint a cut down Steinway Grand, but he gets the real article without any regard to trouble or expense. One great reason of his success is his innate personal refinement.
Charles S. Reinhart is the best all round illustrator that we have ever had in this country. He is always ready to adapt himself to circumstances and he is always good humored. He has no prejudices but is thoroughly cosmopolitan. For this reason his pictures are always true to life. We have in his work no slips like that Doret made when in a painting he filled the streets of London with Frenchmen. Reinhart seems always to catch the characteristic feature of his subject and he invariably makes it very easy to recognize just what he means.
Chief of caricaturists is A. B. Frost. Full of humor himself, he catches the idea of the author and always succeeds in making the situation a little funnier than the author had conceived it. Besides his caricatures, his sketches of Negro and camp life are not excelled by any in sincerity and genuineness.
Frederic Remington is as unique in art as Rudyard Kipling in literature. He is perfectly true to nature, and he is so intimately acquainted with what he draws, that is chiefly scenes of Western life, that he brings out always the chief characteristics of his subject.
Of the younger men the most prominent is Dana Gibson. His methods are rather peculiar but his effects are always true. F. S. Church is one of the most original of American artists. His picture, "The Viking's Daughter," is an ideal conception of a beautiful woman. It is a picture of a typical American woman.
Chief of those remaining is Winslow Homer. He stands out as a man who has always found his subjects at home. He has succeeded in showing that there is as much beauty on the rocky shores of Maine as there is in Venice. There are many other artists who have done much to further the development of art in America, but there is no space to give them.
Illustration is an art great in conception and execution, and it has a great influence on civilization, not only as teaching the love of the beautiful, but also as correcting many perverted ideas.