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Studio: international art — 28.1903

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The Lay Figure

THE LAY FIGURE; LORD it is waste or time to bemoan the changes which

CURZON'S SPEECH ON THE are taking place in all the Eastern arts ? "

DECAY OF THE INDIAN "Certainly I do," the Manufacturer replied.

ARTS "The spread of Western ideas and habits cannot

be stopped in Eastern countries ; and the tendency
" Wonders will never cease," remarked the of those habits and ideas is to make the Eastern
Reviewer. "For the first time in my life—one arts dependent on European and American patron-
might almost say for the first time in English history age. Nor can it be said at this early date whether
—an English statesman has spoken clearly and with this infusion of European ideas will be bad for the
intelligent earnestness on a question of artistic Eastern genius in art. This is a matter which the
importance. Lord Curzon's speech on the decay future alone can decide."

of the Indian Arts has certainly provoked a good "The subject appears to me," said the Critic,
deal of opposition, but it is none the less of very "to be a perplexing one, but it is not for that
great interest at the present time." reason to be ignored. That the arts and crafts of
" No doubt," said the Manufacturer coldly. India have deteriorated during the last two centuries
" The subject of the speech has a far-reaching there can be no manner of doubt. While losing
interest, but in character it is so complex that no their ancient vitality, contact with European ideas
one can deal with it fairly in the official manner has not, down to the present time, been aesthetically
that commends itself to Lord Curzon." beneficial. For example, the carved wood arm-
" Official manner !" the Reviewer cried. "What chairs and tables made by Bombay craftsmen for
do you mean by that ? " European use cannot be defended upon aesthetic
" I mean," replied the other, " that Lord Curzon lines; neither can the badly designed aniline-dyed
speaks to us from his position as Viceroy of India, carpets turned out at several of the jail factories in
and not as a large-minded critic, well versed in the India be accepted as satisfactory. But I can
hundred-and-one problems of business connected imagine, nevertheless, that it is possible for Indian
with his subject. As Viceroy, wisely or unwisely, craftsmen, under wise guidance, to so depart from
he is distressed by the fact that the Indian arts their traditional forms as to make their productions
and handicrafts are swerving away from their acceptable to European requirements, without lay-
very ancient traditions. He sees decadence and ing themselves open to legitimate blame."
decay in the changes which are taking place, and "That is precisely my view of the case," said the
he calls upon the Indian princes and leading men Manufacturer, "and if the Indian prince desires to
to arrest the mischief by giving up their present receive his British guests and make them comfort-
practice of buying art-work of European manufac- able by allowing them the use of chairs and tables,
ture. It is with the utmost scorn that Lord knives and forks, there is no reason why he should
Curzon speaks of the preference shown by them not do so, without departing disastrously from the
for European carpets, furniture, brocades, tissues, canons of art. The one great paramount duty of
and bric-a-brac. Yet their preference for these the British in India is to encourage and develop
things should not be scorned by the Viceroy of native craftsmanship and commerce. India, no
India, for it is a sign or token of the response made more than any other nation, can afford to stand still,
by the Indian princes and leading men to the She must either be progressive or retrogressive, and
influence of British ideas. Under British rule, it is for us to consider how we can guide and aid a
and in sympathy with the Imperial Idea, changes progression which shall give to the India of the
of racial character are showing themselves in future a new prosperity—a prosperity of wisdom,
India ; and hence we may be sure that a liking of intelligent work, and of happiness and content."
for British forms of thought and of art is more " Meantime," said the Critic, " Europe and
likely to increase than to diminish. But Lord America have already opened to the Indian crafts-
Curzon looks at the whole question from a point men many rich markets, and that counts for a great
of view that excludes many practical considcra- deal in a country which suffers frequently from
tions. It is his wish that the peoples of India famine. When I think of the multitudes that die
should be modern and British in their political in India every year for want of food, I must needs
duties yet ancient and un-British in all that apper- believe, in opposition to Lord Curzon, that the
tains to commerce and to art. It is a bold wish, Indian craftsman cannot receive too much wise
having no connection with good statesmanship." encouragement from our Western civilisation.
"You believe, then," said the Reviewer, "that The Lay Figure.
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