Studio: international art — 2.1894

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The Lay Figure Speaks


The question of pen-drawing for a professional
career is, it would seem, generally ignored by our
Art schools. Of course, Mr. Henry Blackburn's
school at Westminster comes to mind, and the
Graphic has shown itself practically concerned in
the matter. Birmingham and a few other provincial
schools take up decorative illustration, but is the
ordinary topical, or topographical, subject ever set
as an exercise to students? Are examples by Vierge,
Rico, Abbey, Raven Hill, or any noted pen-
draughtsman, exhibited to pupils, or the subject
of lectures by their masters ? If so, it would be
well to know the schools which are awakened to
the economic importance of an art which provides
a fairly certain income to the artist, and is at the
same time one of the most important educational
influences upon public taste. If no school, beyond
those mentioned, makes drawing for illustration
part of its course, one can but ask the reason for
such neglect.

Excepting always photography, is there any
branch of any art that is certain to be studied with
the same interest as a drawing in a newspaper or
periodical ? For one person gazing at the ' Griffin '
with sorrow or reverence, you shall see a dozen
looking in at the office of a popular weekly paper ;
for one rapt in contemplation before the facade of
the Law Courts perhaps a hundred with their
backs to it, studying the actuality of the sketches
on the spot which are exhibited in the window of
the Daily Graphic. Through the finest landscape
half the railway passengers keep their eyes on
illustrated journals. Literally face to face with an
art they at least admire, one would think good
technique must ultimately raise their appreciation.

Is good technique in pen-drawing popular ?
The bright little Butterfly should soon solve the
question, for the art it offers monthly with no
ostentation is modern, the work of men well in-
formed concerning the methods of photo-reproduc-
tion, and exhibiting enough good qualities for a
whole series of lectures by an expert. There is
not a printseller's window in London, at the
present time, before which one would linger longer ;
not even Mr. Dunthorne's, where a new mezzo-
tint by Frank Short raises the most bitter feelings
of covetous longing in a poor though artistic

If the Lay Figure spoke its mind freely with
regard to galleries, national and provincial, it
would be inclined to say that for raising the taste
of the masses, such galleries, now confined to
large towns, should be in every village, with differ-
ence imposed by the necessities of the case.

An intelligent selection of engravings from the
current periodicals, reinforced by some photo-
graphs of world-famous pictures, and such repro-
ductions as Amand-Durand's Mehmcholia by Diirer,
the whole costing more for the frames than for
the subjects, and accompanied by an annotated
catalogue, or, better still, each labelled with a
quite technical description, put in simple words,
might be of infinitely more value than a room

of oil-paintings given haphazard by local bene-
factors. Such a series could be easily gathered
together, and if the cost of frames, or the
space available in a parish room or some such
place, prevented a larger number being shown, it
would be easy to change the subjects at stated
intervals. Frames made on the principle of the
transparent drawing slate, that contrivance for pro-
moting the virgin efforts of art in the nursery, would
allow this change to be effected quickly and at the
lowest cost.

You cannot take a rustic and place him before
such a painting as Botticelli's Primavera with
much hope that he will understand a tithe of its
meaning. Pagan myths, or the neo-paganism of
the Renaissance, are as far from him as the newest
paganism of the latest school; but a few engravings
after drawings by Charles Keene, some of the
famous Once a Week woodcuts, a sprinkling of
modern French pictures from newspapers, and
good drawings of all periods not demanding erudite
culture for their enjoyment, might arouse his
interest in their subjects, and lead him to see that
the illustrations of the " penny dreadfuls " were as
the architecture of his new railway station com-
pared with that of the old village church.

That the masses prize pictures more than the
classes, the enormous number of frame-makers'
shops in poor districts might serve to prove. That
their taste is not admirable, a study of the delec-
table achievements in colour or line exhibited in the
windows to tempt them shows quickly enough ;
but given a taste at all, it may be educated, and if
he who made two blades of grass grow where one
grew before is a benefactor to his species, so every
good drawing in a paper that reaches the large
public deserves the thanks of all interested in art.

When in these columns reference was made to
the absence of a Whistler from any English gallery,
the national adjective was purposely employed.
Glasgow, with its Carlyle and its bust by Rodin,
strikes shame to a Londoner when he thinks of his
own galleries.

A correspondent traverses a statement by Mr.
Gibson in his paper last month on Artistic Houses,
where he says "it is needless to give recipes for
decoration through the medium of a magazine;" and
goes on to show that many important matters con-
nected with the actual room must be considered.

Possibly the author did not know that some
querists are very minute in their details. I
remember one such letter of thirty-two quarto-
pages closely covered with particulars referring to-
the economic re-decoration of a "parlour"; true,,
the biographical history of the owner and a few
anecdotes of nothing in particular were included.
Also one has seen in several of our weekly papers
sufficient matter to fill at least three whole pages
of The Studio devoted to a single reply. If,
therefore, words with plans and diagrams can ex-
plain the subject it is obviously possible, if tedious
to those unconcerned ; but how a scheme for
colour is to be so rigidly drawn up in dull words
that a reader may carry it out accurately is quite
another thing. The Lay Figure.
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