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Studio: international art — 29.1903

Seite: 234
DOI Heft: DOI Artikel: DOI Seite: Zitierlink: i
http://digi.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/diglit/studio1903b/0249
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The Lay Figure

THE LAY FIGURE: ON THE
LACK OF ENTHUSIASM
AMONG YOUNG ARTISTS IN
ENGLAND.

" I am really beginning to think," said the
Journalist, " that England is going back to that
light-heartedness which, in pre-Puritan days, won
for her the title of Merrie England. She can put
on a holiday mood without the least difficulty now,
and can enjoy herself as jollily as she used to do
in the times of the old May Day festivities. I
thought of this when the French President came,
saw, conquered, and gave London a mid-week
holiday. But I suppose," he added, looking at
the Reviewer, " that you will have something
nasty to say about this change in English popular
life."

" That depends," replied the Reviewer. - " I
admit what you say about the holiday spirit and
the merry-making ; but I -notice also a correspond-
ing falling-off in seriousness—or, rather, in that
enthusiasm which a progressive nation should feel
for all forms of work as well as for all kinds of play.
I am an old man myself now—not far short of
seventy—and, as I look back upon my life, I can
follow, step by step, the gradual change of our
English attitude towards solid hard work. From
youth to middle-age I lived with men who, though
they worked like Trojans, never once admitted
that they had overmuch to do. It was looked
upon as boasting and bad form to speak of the
long hours of business. Then a change came, and
a new generation began to hurry, and fret, and
chatter about their work, though, in truth, they did
less than their fathers. To-day a man looks vexed
if you ask him if he is busy. He wants you to use
a stronger word, and pile on the agony. He wants
you to think that he is a slave to his work, a martyr
to the strenuousness of the time And yet, believe
me, there was rlever less enthusiasm than there is
now in all walks of life. Look about you and
study the men in Parliament, the men in the City,
the professional men, and the painters, sculptors,
and designers, and you will find among them, as
among the artisans and labourers, a certain dilet-
tantism—a certain want of zealous enterprise and
earnestness. The artists, above all, astonish me
and amuse me. If they work for four hours on
end they feel they have the right to soothe their
tired nerves for the rest of the day ; andsto do this
they cultivate an exquisite social taste. Most of
them have their eyes fixed on society. When I
think of them and remember the untiring manner

234

in which Turner and his fellows served their art,
I cannot help feeling that our present-day art
workers are becoming lazy. Do you think that
a crotchet of an old man?"

" As for that," replied the Journalist, " I have
no opinion. Whether artists work much or little,
they certainly produce more than they can sell."

"Yes," said the Critic, "but that is not really the
main point. Personally I am quite at one with the
Reviewer. Artists and craftsmen alike show a
singular lack of enthusiasm. In the early days of
the Royal Academy it was no uncommon thing for
such men as Etty to give their evenings regularly to
studies from the life, recognising, no doubt, that
an artist remains throughout his career a student.
He can never afford to relax his energies, and say
to himself that he is a master. I think of poor
Etty, when aged and dropsical, slowly panting
upstairs to his life class, a dear, kind, worn-out old
student, yet brimful of ardour. And, again, con-
sider the amazing perseverance and toil of Turner,
of David Cox, of Stothard, and of all the leading
men of their generations. Their endless delight in
their industry was free from all vainglory. It
proved that they were modest men, never
satisfied with their achievements. Upon my
word, I wish the same spirit would come back,
for the aits are not thriving now as they ought
to do."

" There certainly is a kind of slackness in the
studios," remarked the Student, " and I don't
wonder at it. The study of art is made so abomi-
nably easy to-day that we youngsters in the schools
feel that all the adventure is gone out of it. In
the old days, when a career of art was looked upon
by papa and mamma as a wicked and dangerous
thing, likely to lead to the workhouse, the life of
an art-student was worth living. He had a jolly
rough time of it. He took pride in muddling
his way over difficulties, and in proving to the angry
judges at home that he had not mistaken his
vocation. Art in those days was as exciting as
bush-ranging. But now that we art-students are
pampered and coddled and petted, we get lethargic,
and suffer from what I must call a State-aided
habit of taking things too easily. The difficulties
of the future are not foreshadowed by any anxious
hardships in our apprenticeship nowadays. Dis-
courage the arts, and enthusiasm will revive. Take
my word for it."

" Common sense—yes, that's common sense,"
the Reviewer said approvingly, and the discussion
ended.

The Lay Figure.
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