At the Press View of the New English Art Club, Egyptian Hall.
About ten people, half women, in the one gallery sparsely hung with eccentric landscapes imitative of early Italian and Dutch work, a few soft hazy portraits, a few intelligent originalities, a few sterile meaningless absurdities, and one striking, shouting, insistent, dominant nude by Wilson Steer.
Seated in front of the nude - a slim woman of 30, with full breasts and red cheeks sitting up in a very large bed - were a man and woman talking in very loud Kensingtonian tones which outraged the prim silence of the gallery. Near them an old and shabby art critic, to be seen everywhere, was writing in a notebook, his red nose and small peering eyes bent down close to the page. After a long time he joined in the conversation of the other two, and they began even more loudly to discuss the nude, dispraising it in a few light easy sentences of condemnation. It certainly was not a masterpiece, with its hard laboured, unreal flesh painting, but the manner of this condemnation almost made me like it.
When I next turned round, the art critic had withdrawn and the other man was elaborately raising a silk hat from his grey head to the departing woman. She left him to talk to another woman in a corner, and then stood alone staring round the gallery. She was a well-developed woman of 34 or less, with the face and bearing of a Sunday-school teacher; her thick mouth worked in that calculating contemplative way that I have noticed in Sunday-school teachers with a passion for gossip at sewing meetings. To see her in the street none would have dreamt that she was a professed art critic, capable of discussing - however foolishly - an uncompromising nudity with her male acquaintance for half an hour at a time.
The total conglomerate effect - loud voices falling coarsely on the silence; untouched sandwiches; silk-hatted man; dowdy-ish, self-possessed woman; innured quiet art critic practising his trade in the spirit of a tradesman; and the rank, calm, supercilious, harsh nudity - the effect was bizarre and memorable.