Studio: international art — 2.1894

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The Lay Figure at Home

The Lay Figure was writing messages
of congratulation to each of the five
new Associates, when visitors dis-
turbed it. Looking up, it said : "lam writing to

compliment the new A.R.A.'s-"

" Or the old R.A.—which ? " said the journalist.
" Of course," said the man with the clay pipe,
" like everybody else, you abuse the Academy
collectively, and shriek with joy when one of your
favourites is elected."

" Not at all," the journalist replied ; " to me it
is sad. Every election means fewer outsiders and
leaves so much less 'copy' in future. People
sometimes like depreciation of their dearest
enemies, and always of their dearest friends."

" I see; and to bemoan their exclusion is a
subtle form of obloquy," said the Lay Figure,
with a knowing air of discovery. " Now, I think,
to take one instance, that it is a magnificent thing

to have chosen-"

" Of course ; but isn't it rather late to comment
upon it ? " said the journalist.

So the Lay Figure dropped its pen and replied
irrelevantly: " I hear that Morris is printing a
catalogue of his famous collection of early illus-
trated books, at the Kelmscott Press."

" Does that imply you wished him to be made a
full-fledged R.A., as well as Laureate ? " said the
man with the clay pipe.

"Might do worse in each case," the journalist
broke in. " Fancy what capital' copy ' the appoint-
ments would make."

The Lay Figure expressed a distinct opinion
here, that " copy " was the final reason for keeping
celebrities famous, and went on to show that Art,
at least, was free from advertisement.

" Is that your real opinion," said the man with
the clay pipe, " or merely a pleasant bit of opti-
mism ? "

The Lay Figure hesitated, and finally changed
the subject once more.

"Talking of posters," it said (it has a way of
breaking out of its discursive sequence of ideas,
as though you had followed its thoughts), " I hear
they are now printing an Albert Diirer poster, nine
feet square, from the original blocks."

" The Poster from Diirer to Dudley Hardy—
from the Fifteenth Century to To-day—an excellent
title for a lecture," said the journalist.

" Except that Diirer was sixteenth century,
and that seems several hundred years nearer than
the fifteenth," the man with the clay pipe objected.

" Why is it the Glasgow School at the Grafton
get such short notices ? " asked the Lay Figure.

" Because they have a parochial name, I
think," the journalist explained. " If they only
called themselves the ' Chromatists ' or the ' Illu-
sionists,' there would be hope. A school must end
in ' ist' to be recognised as such."

"They paint jolly well," said the man as he
poked at his clay pipe ; " too well if anything:
it looks so easy, and they are not afraid of good
colour or big subjects."

" Give them a nickname and they will be appre-
ciated—that is the secret of success;" the journalist
here illustrated his remarks by many examples.

"The Grafton is the most entertaining Gallery
in London," said the Lay Figure.

" Let us hope it will entertain angels unawares,"
said the journalist; " we want some new unappre-
ciated geniuses; everybody is getting too com-
fortably famous."

" The Yellow Book is to supply you with them,"
said a minor poet who up to that time had been
reading a column of praise of his rival's work, and
looking very green. " Beardsley is sure to do
something to surprise you."

" The monotony of being shocked is as numb-
ing as the monotomy of dulness," said the
journalist; " we want a man to say the common-
place as if it were new."

" Oh, but The Yellow Book is not to be shock-
ing," said the minor poet. " I have offered to
write in it. It is sure to be a big success."

" Do people really care for pictures ? " said the
Lay Figure, and-

"What is Art?—If light be fifteen-thousand
times brighter than white paint, what colour shall
we paint a girl's face against it ? Should any artist
use a camera ?—and a hundred other good old
queries,", the journalist suggested in a tone of
scorn.—" I am surprised you wish to discuss first

" There seem no principles left to discuss," said
the Lay Figure mournfully. " They were all settled
centuries ago. It is only fads occupy us now.
People doubt Ruskin—doubt Pater—doubt even
D. S. M., G. M., and themselves."

" I wish we could hold any sound belief," said
the man with the clay pipe. " Our criticism is
mainly destructive—an inverted form of self-praise
that consists in belittling every other person."

" I think it comes from our anxiety to be the
first to recognise talent," said the Lay Figure.
" We are so afraid of somebody appreciating it
before us, that every goose is a full-fledged swan."
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