Studio: international art — 2.1894

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The Lay Figure Speaks


" Five galleries this week, and four more to-
morrow." So spoke a jaded critic at a press view
lately. The curious folly of crowding a season's
novelties in pictures into a week is patent to every-
body, but to think that any protest The Studio
could make would alter it, would be a proof of
faith in the improbable ; which is not found in
Art circles to-day.

The winter galleries show more evidence of the
return to bright colour, which, whether discreet or
merely audacious, at least makes a crowded wall
more terrifying than when the plein air school held
supremacy. If bold schemes of colour dominate
the next popular movement, it is more than ever
desirable that hanging committees should reject
half the number, to leave wall space between all
those accepted.

The average wall in a popular gallery to-day is
about as restful as an encaustic tile-maker's frame
of sample tiles. Squares of brilliant colour,
possibly very admirable each within its limits,
become unbearable when huddled cheek by jowl.
How would it be if each frame had a margin of
neutral-tinted background as part of its construc-
tion ? Then even the neatest and tidiest of hangers,
however he fitted his dissected puzzle together,
could not at his worst efface all dividing space.

A correspondent thus writes to the " Lay
Figure" : " You want to see the people more
instructed in the methods and merits of black and
white work, and you think the museums should
help. The example needed to invigorate your
precept exists in the National Museum at Washing-
ton. Here Mr. Koehler, of Boston, has arranged
an admirable exhibit. On one side of the gallery
a history of engraving from the Middle Ages down
to le fln de siecle. On the other side all the tech-
nique, from the roughest wood-block, through
line engraving and etching, up to the photo-
chemical methods of 'process.' From well-
selected specimens and concisely worded labels
the man in the crowd can acquire an intelligent
interest, and the practical student can learn in a
few hours much that would otherwise remain
jealously guarded from him for years. What a
boon such an exhibit would be in the South
Kensington Museum ! Keep moving, ' Lay
Figure,' and more power to your elbow."—Yours,
F. A. B."

The " Lay Figure" cordially agrees with
F. A. B., and can only hope that the matter may
be taken up by the press, or those who have
influence to further a very important branch of
commercial art, which South Kensington seems so
far to have ignored.

Once before only has The Studio touched the
art of music, then it was the genuine Japanese
folk-songs set by Paul Bevan. Now it is a purely
Anglo-Japanese song, The Moosmie, by Douglas
Sladen, set by Mr. Hedgcock, that is so exceed-
ingly good it needs no excuse. That Mr. Hedg-
cock has sung Mr. Kipling's Mandalay to the same
music does not detract from its charm. Mr.

Sladen's lyric is dainty and absolutely " correct," I
believe, in local colour, and the music is so good
that despite its simple melody and popular style,
one cannot help ranking it very high as a work of
art. Like a genuine song of the people, it capti-
vates you, and you forget to criticise.

In the Art Annual, devoted this year to the
Life and Work of Holman Hunt, Mrs. Meynell,
speaking of the famous illustrated edition de luxe of
Tennyson, says : " The enterprise would hardly be
possible now, so much has the art of design tended
away from the work of illustrating the anecdotes of
any literature. Moreover, it belonged to the age of
wood engraving, which we see passing away, and
to the age that thought the more it left to its son
the better. We have suddenly become aware
that our children will much desire to have wall
space and portfolios to fill for themselves, and
will deplore their fathers' conscientious strivings
for immortality."

This seems a pertinent observation which, if in
the minds of critics before, has not, I think, found
one with courage to give it utterance. " Many a
designer," Mrs. Meynell continues, " is now anxious
to work for swift mortality, to do his best for the
dire destruction to which his own body is doomed,
and to serve to-day with all the talent in his

The above is excellent logic, and far better philo-
sophythan the constant posing of the misunderstood
who expect posterity not merely to remember them,
but to exalt their failures to successes. For after
all it is surely the work that was produced for its
day, with no eye as to the future, that has in its
best examples found the immortality of a few

It is evident that were none of our once im-
mortals forgotten, succeeding ages would be so
overwhelmed with past genius that they could find
neither time for production, nor space for new
efforts. Not merely that age may transform
modernity, crude and ugly as it looks to the super-
fine critic, to beauty; but a thing deliberately
planned to improve by age, and needing a genera-
tion or two to ripen it, is certainly unlikely to please
its contemporaries, and may be lost or demolished
before the moment of perfection arrives.

The Butterfly volume may be taken as an ex-
cellent example of this work produced, as its title,
would imply, for swift mortality. But the ephe-
meral has heretofore outlasted the monumental:
an epigram often outlives an epic.

It cannot, however, be deemed ephemeral in its
externals. A really beautiful cover, embellished by
Edgar Wilson, whose fertile invention brightens many
an inside page ; drawings by Grieffenhagen, Raven
Hill, Eckhart, and Besnard; its charmingly planned
pages, good paper and printing, not to mention the
Art, with a really capital A, thrown in as it were
for an overweight, should make it a much sought
for volume, when the young artists who have pro-
duced it are crushed beneath the weight of the
laurels the future holds for them, That such a
capital venture is a success appears hopeful for
English art. The Lay Figure.
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