MR. LEECH'S Gallery of Sketches in Oil was closed yesterday, after a most successful season. Although these sketches were but enlarged fac-similes of those with which we have been long familiar in the pages of Punch, yet they were touched by the master's hand, and thus attracted us by a fresh interest.

These sketches have formed one of the most popular exhibitions in London, and deservedly so; they pander to no false tastes, but, through the medium of an essentially English humour, lead our sympathies in the right direction ; and the influence they have upon us tends to make us more kindly and genial and tolerant to our brethren, less satisfied with and more humble in ourselves.

Mr. Leech's genius as an artist is unique. He has many imitators; but the difference between them and their prototype is one not of degree, but of kind. There is a breadth about his view of the life of his generation which will make his collected works an epitome of that life, for the delight and instruction of the generations to come. It is a gross blunder to call him a caricaturist; he is a great artist. A moment's reflection will convince us of the difference that exists between him and the vulgar caricaturists of tho last century. His range of observation is bounded by no class or condition of life, but embraces all in a catholic view. Whether he exhibits to us a Duchess in her carriage, whose tall flunkey is pealing away at a knocker in Belgravia, or some urchin children in a go-cart, requesting "Jemima" to knock at the door of an empty house, he makes us feel, what we are too apt to forget, that there is the same human nature in both cases. He shows no division among us. We all like one another better when in his company. He has taught all classes to know each other and themselves better. He is only severe upon falsehood, which he does not spare in any shape; he is fond of exposing pretension and assumption, but he rejoices in modesty and pluck.

His progress as an artist has been remarkably sustained. It is by turning to his early drawings in Punch, that we become conscious of his advance. His work is, and always was, free from any vestige of vulgarity; but of late there has been a more complete and just sense of the fitness of what we may call the accessories, or background of his figures. A lady's boudoir has always the indications of such furniture or knick-knacks as would be found in such a place. The bedroom of Paterfamilias presents the picture of the comfortable middle-class matrimonial apartment. The nursery, the kitchen, the Government office, the club, will all be found in Mr. Leech's sketches to have tho salient points touched off with a remarkable delicacy and taste. Of his hunt ing fields, his watering places, his Scotch salmon streams, we need not speak: they are happily immensely popular; which indi cates a healthy love of nature in the nation at large, whose sympathies have been so truly touched by them.

Mr. Leech hardly required an exhibition to make him better known to us. AVe all rejoice to welcome him every week, and long may it be our privilege to do so, in the pages of Punch. Nor do wo think that our estimate of his ability can be raised by such a reproduction of his works. Their merit is independent of size or colour ; we have just us great pleasure in looking over the small woodcuts; and from them we form as high an opinion of his power as we are ever likely to do by subjecting them to any process of reproduction.

But we are cheered to think that this exhibition has been successful, and profitable at the same time, to an artist who will bo remembered long after most of his contemporaries have been forgotten.

Last modified 19 April 2022