International studio — 50.1913

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The Lay Figure

The lay figure : on the
“If I were not blessed with a hopeful disposi-
tion,” said the Art Critic, “ I think I should develop
into an absolute pessimist about the future of art.
Things seem to me to be in a very bad state in the
art world, and at present I cannot see how any way
is to be found out of a position in which there is
no hope of improvement.”
“What is the matter?” asked the Man with the
Red Tie. “ Are we moving too fast for you ?
Personally, I consider that art is in a particularly
vigorous condition just now and that never before
in its history have its activities been so numerous
and so varied.”
“ If you will substitute unrest for activity, I am
quite prepared to agree with you,” returned the
Critic. “ But it is not so much about the present
unrest that I am concerned as about the want
of popular appreciation of art effort—that is what
troubles me.”
“ Good Heavens ! How can you say that there is
any want of popular appreciation of art ? ” cried the
Young Painter. “Was there ever a time when
artists and their doings we-e more in the public
mind or when artistic controversies were more
vehemently debated ? Everybody is interested in
art nowadays.”
“ That may be so,” replied the Critic ; “ and yet
there may be a serious lack of appreciation of the
meaning and value of art. A subject may be
violently discussed and yet it is quite possible that
its real significance and importance may not be
“What are you driving at?” inquired the Man
with the Red Tie. “ Do you want to make out
that all this activity on the part of the artists and
all this interest on the part of the public mean
nothing at all ? ”
“ I only wish it meant nothing at all,” sighed the
Critic, “ because then I should have more hopes
for the future. It is the meaning of it that makes
me feel so pessimistic.”
“ Well, to me it means that art has recovered its
youth and that the public recognise and welcome
this fact,” declared the Young Painter. “The
future, I say, is full of promise because we have at
last succeeded in interesting the public in our aims
and ambitions. There are some very good times
coming for us all now that we have learned the
proper meaning of things and have broken away
from the old fallacies and stupidities.”

“ How delightful are the enthusiasms of youth ! ”
laughed the Critic. “ But forgive me if I
question your infallibility. I am afraid I do not
agree with you ; I am afraid I must even say that
you are suffering under a very serious delusion and
that you are mistaking the morbid second child-
hood of senile art for a healthy reversion to youth-
ful vigour.”
“ Anyhow, there are plenty of people who find the
second childhood of art quite attractive,” broke in
the Man with the Red Tie; “ you cannot deny
“ I do not deny it; I wish I could,” answered
the Critic. “ It is because there are so many
people who find it attractive that I say with such
definite conviction that there is a lack of popular
appreciation of art.”
“ Oh, do explain what you mean,” exclaimed
the Young Painter; “you seem to me to be talking
nonsense ! ”
“ From your point of view I probably am,”
agreed the Critic ; “ but I am not the least ashamed
of myself, nevertheless. I say that the modern public
does not appreciate art because I find that the very
qualities which make art great are those which
people nowadays despise most. Your public
craves for sensations, for violent display, and
dislikes the refinement and reticence which are the
essentials of all fine achievement. Your public
demands art which follows some crazy fashion of
the moment and rejects that which worthily carries
on the great traditions established by the world
masters. Is that a sound or hopeful condition of
affairs ? ”
“You are convicted out of your own mouth,”
exclaimed the Young Painter. “ Was there ever a
time when the works of the world masters, who
according to you established the great traditions,
were more widely appreciated—look at the prices
they fetch ? ”
“ That is only another count in my indictment,”
replied the Critic. “ Vast sums are paid for old
works of art, not because they are beautiful, not
because they are good, but simply because they
are old. These things are elevated to a position
which they have no right to occupy, and the reason
is that the public, following a stupid fashion again,
regards costliness, not beauty, as settling the standard
of merit. There is the trouble ; modern people
have no discrimination in art matters, and when
there is no discrimination there can be no right
appreciation. A true feeling for art is the only
foundation of real taste.”

The Lay Figure.
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