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Studio: international art — 30.1904

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* ' The Lay Figure

THE LAY FIGURE?: ON THE ART as good as an act of charity to bring such coloured

OF COLOUR REPRODUCTION, reproductions within reach of the general public.
Why, then, do so many who call themselves critics

"There are two ways of writing about speak with contempt of even the finest illustrations

art," remarked the Reviewer, thoughtfully. of this sort?''

"A good way and a bad way, I suppose?' said "Upon my word!" answered the Critic, "I
the Student, pertly. have asked myself that question several times, and
"Just so," replied the other, with coldness; "but always with a feeling of self-reproach. Why have
they may be defined. The first way—and it is the I condemned such work with faint praise and set
good way—forces a man to write from within his my readers against it by describing the difficult
subject. In other words, the writer is the instru- processes of colour-reproduction as merely
ment; he works under the guidance of his theme mechanical? My error is due partly to careless-
and at its bidding; and when his task is done, he ness, partly to ignorance, partly to a wish to exalt
recognises that his subject has worked itself out the art of painting by insisting that its finest effects
within him, and written itself. He is as obedient are inimitable, and partly, perhaps, to a dread of
to its needs as a musician is to a tune that chimes the future supersession by colour work of black-
to sudden birth within his mind. To anyone who and-white illustration."

has written about art in this submissive manner, " One can't help admitting," said the Printer,

altogether forgetful of self, I need not speak of the " that there are colour-harmonies in every picture

peculiar pleasure which the experience brings with it. which defy imitation; but this fact merely sets a

Such criticism is an art, and not a metier. It has limitation to the fidelity of a reproduction in colour,

no relation or sympathy at all with practical needs, All arts have their limitations, and this one of which

with its writer's weekly expenditure in board and we speak has a right to be judged fairly despite its

lodging, and hence most professional writers turn lack of completeness. The aim of it is not to give

from it, and scamper through an artistic theme a facsimile beyond criticism, but an illustration

from a spectator's point of view, and see no more truer to the original than we can get in black-and-

of that theme than is necessary to the making of a white. And that is a thing very well worth doing."

little light ' copy.' This, is the worldly way of " But you will acknowledge," the Critic asked,

dealing with art. At times it is paid for at a con- " that there are bad processes in vogue—the three-

siderable rate, but the mischief that it does cannot colour process, for instance, with its tendency to

easily be overstated." lose all the greys in a prevailing tone of puce. I

The Printer nodded, approvingly. " I am quite suppose you do not wish to defend the wretched

of your opinion," said he; "and I have at home a three-colour prints which flood the market at the

little book of newspaper cuttings that give one a present time."

good example of the mischief. Personally, I have "Oh," said the Printer, " I am not entering into

long been interested in the difficult art of repro- detailed criticisms. The very defects of the three-

ducing coloured pictures in exact facsimile. It colour process have suggested improvements, and

must be clear to any thoughtful person that illus- to-day admirable work is done in four, five, and

trations in black and-white cannot possibly do six printings. My contention is that such work is

justice to any form of art having its base in the not by any means mechanical, and that it ought

sense of colour. By engraving or by half-tone you to be judged as an art. There is skilled labour in the

may get the tone values of a painter's work, and in making of the blocks, but the actual artistry does not

the hands of such engravers (let us say) as Turner begin until the blocks are ' proved.' None but an

trained, we may be charmed even in black-and- artist of education can carry out the ' proving' with

white with many great attributes of style by which unquestionable success, for it is necessary to pene-

the painter is made famous. But, naturally, we trate all the colour secrets of the picture in hand,

gain no information about the painter's sense of so that as many as possible of them may be revealed

colour—the most important thing of all. Well, in the reproduction. In a word, 'proving' takes

it seems to me, that the encouragement of art time and requires a right judgment of art. The

among the busy people of the present time, will misfortune is that this fact is not recognised as it

be best assisted by those who are giving their best deserves to be, and the 'proving' is often carried

thoughts to the reproduction in colour of a painter's out by some half-educated person in a hurry. It is

work. If the reproduction is fairly good, the a thousand pities that this should be so."

Painter himself cannot but be benefited; and it is The Lay Figure.
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