Studio: international art — 1.1893

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http://digi.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/diglit/studio1893/0070
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0.5
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facsimile
Exhibition

virtue of excellence like the outsider. In some
such way only can the trust on which the Academy
takes its stand he honestly discharged.

I have admitted, with what may be thought a
reckless candour, how precarious is the moral basis
on which the poetic painter sets out to make a
living. The painter, when annoyed,, so frequently
has made the same point clear about the critic,
that it would be an affectation of candour to insist
upon that. It is the amusement or passion of a
critic to handle ideas about painting, as it is that
of the painter to handle paint about ideas. He is
fortunate if this interest also amuses other people
and pays its way; and he has this economical
advantage, that more people are interested in
literature than in painting. But there is a farther
moral abyss which yawns beneath his profession.
He not merely discusses the painting he admires
with the public that appreciates it, he also advertises
it to the public that does not. And he will glory if
by any means he attracts attention to and helps in
the sale of what he considers excellent work. Now
this is a dubious proceeding. Why attempt, any
more than the self-respecting painter does, to with-
draw from the rapture of skittles or the edification
of the sermon those who will certainly not be
naturally amused or impressed by good painting ?
It seems morally indefensible, but there are ex-
tenuating circumstances. In the first place, the
advertisement may just possibly attract some of
those it ought to attract, the stray individuals who
share one's amusement or passion. Even a patron
may be caught. Secondly, there is a vague body
of our fellow-creatures who are not amused really
by anything, and of whom there is reason to sup-
pose large numbers of the visitors to galleries,
concerts, and theatres consist. They appear to
take it out chiefly in a consciousness of being dull
over the right thing. It is a touching characteristic
of the race, and a characteristic that may be of the
meanest or the most amiable, to take admirations
on trust, and to enjoy being bored over a thing
which is somehow surmised to be good, rather
than over something of which the tedium is wholly
intelligible. The man who, out of a pious con-
viction, has cherished a chromo by his hearth,
will replace it by a hand-painted picture with a
tepid exaltation when once he suspects that the
picture is the superior article of faith. Why
should he not have a good picture ? Thirdly, the
attitude of the immense majority of our kind to
the arts of literature and painting is this : They
hunt in works of art for those ideas and senti-
ments which habitually get at their emotions,

52

and they will satisfy this craving over the subject of
good painting once they are persuaded to bear with
its art. The art of the thing is an obstruction to
them, but they can be induced to overlook and excuse
it if they can but find the familiar food. Do we not
every day see people reading Shakespeare and
Milton with something like zest, and not really re-
senting very much the fact that the poetry is put in
the bothering shape of verse, and good verse too.
By what form of educational bullying they are led
to tax their ideas and sentiments in so unnatural a
way it is immaterial to inquire; the point is that
the public gradually commanded by the poets in
painting is commanded in the same rather illegiti-
mate way. It would seem, then, to be over-scrupu-
lous on the critic's part to refrain from inviting the
public to look at pictures which they may possibly
not find amusing. Too soon the hush and awe of
tradition will descend, the dead painter be a
miracle of prices in the auction room, and every
hat be duly doffed to his uncomprehended fame.
It is a pity he should not make a living.

D. S. MacColl.

The practice of printing a photo-engraved block
in a vivid coloured ink appears to be growing. The
convention of black and white we all admit, cer-
tain shades of red and brown have also some claim
to exist; but to take an ordinary " process "-block
from a painting and print it in emerald green,
magenta, violet, or blue, is nothing short of an
outrage upon taste, and if the picture be not beneath
it, an insult to the artist. At the best these so-
called half-tone blocks reduce the values of the
picture to a monotonous compromise that sacrifices
the highest lights and deepest shadows; and this
defect, obvious enough when black ink is employed,
becomes still more objectionable when compara-
tively light colours are used. It is true the
blemishes of a tint-block are less evident when
printed in pale grey or green, but its good qualities
(if any) are apt to disappear in even greater pro-
portion. When on the same page with conventional
black and white, one block is printed in red, another
in yellow, another in green, and a fourth in violet,
the result is too hideous to be worth serious attack.
Yet it would seem that such typographic atrocities
are now in favour with periodicals that otherwise
maintain a high artistic level, and so a protest should
be entered against a custom which has nothing to
plead in its defence, for it is not even novel, as
terrible survivals from 1851 show.
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