THE LAY FIGURE : ON FINISH- have not to strain your eyes to discover whether a
ING A PICTURE. splotch of colour is intended for a cow in the
foreground or a house in the distance."
"I have just been looking at a set of "Did your friend consider that his paintings
sketches which a young friend of mine has brought were finished, or did he tell you that they were
back from the country," said the Plain Man, " and only notes ? " asked the Critic.
I feel a little bewildered. He says they really " Oh, dear me, yes; he thought they were
represent the places he has seen, but to me they finished," replied the Plain Man. " He declared
are meaningless daubs." that they represented fully the impression made
"As I have not seen your friend's sketches," upon him by his subject in each case, and he
laughed the Art Critic, " I would not presume to was not a little hurt because I asked him what
offer any opinion on them. But it is possible, is they would look like when he had really worked
it not, that they are meaningless only to you? them out."
Other people may be able to understand them." "You seem to have been making yourself
" You mean that I am not educated up to the unpopular," chuckled the Man with the Red Tie.
proper high art pitch," answered the Plain Man. " I call it very indiscreet of you to ask such
" Perhaps not; but I do not go about the world questions when you did not know whether your
with my eyes shut, and I do know what things friend was showing you sketches or finished
look like. I prefer a picture which reminds me pictures."
of something I have seen." " But how can a picture be finished when there
"And you have never seen anything like these is no detail in it at all?" demanded the Plain
sketches," broke in the man with the Red Tie. Man. " My idea of finish is completeness, the
" Well, that does not prove that they are not all putting in of the things which are there in nature,
right. I daresay that your friend does not look I do not want suggestions that only an artist
at nature in the same way that you do." can understand; I want reality, and facts plainly
" But surely there is only one way of looking at stated. I do not want all the details left out."
nature," argued the Plain Man; "and surely it is "Then you want a great deal more than you
the duty of an artist to paint what he sees. His are entitled to expect," said the Critic. " By all
work cannot be like nature if he does not." means let us insist that there should be put into
"Certainly an artist should paint what he a picture the things that are in nature—that is
sees," replied the Critic, " but it is by no means vitally important. But for Heaven's sake do not
his duty to paint what you see. So far from ask that all the things in nature should be crowded
there being only one way of looking at nature into one small canvas, and do not suggest that
I should say that every really observant person finish comes from profligacy of detail. Nature is
sees her differently." so complex, so infinite, so full of detail, that art
" Yes, and every observant artist paints her cannot realise a tenth part of her. All it can do
differently," added the Man with the Red Tie. is to record faithfully and sincerely one or other
" It is the essence of art that it should allow scope of her endless phases. The phase the artist
for individuality both of vision and expression." chooses may be one which demands detail, or it
" I may be a very dull person," sighed the may be one which can only be expressed by the
Plain Man, " but still I do want a picture to be broadest of generalisations; but both records
intelligible. These sketches are simply daubs and have an equal right to be accepted as finished
blots, splashes of colour without any shape in pictures. It is not the quantity of detail but the
them. Of course, being sketches, I did not expect Tightness of the general effect that constitutes
them to be finished, but my friend seemed to be finish in a work of art, Your friend's sketches,
surprised when I said I did not know what they unintelligible as they are to you, may be ex-
were supposed to represent." quisitely finished if he has achieved in them this
" If they had been finished, as you call it, do rightness."
you think you would have understood them any " And how am I to know whether he is right ? "
better?" enquired the Man with the Red Tie. asked the Plain Man.
"Why, of course!" cried the Plain Man. "A "If you cannot judge for yourself, you will
finished picture has all kinds of details in it which have to take his word for it, I am afraid," laughed
help to tell its story and to explain what it is about. the Man with the Red Tie.
You can see what they are meant to be, and you The Lay Figure.