Studio: international art — 6.1896

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The Lay Figure at Home

" The coy buyer was hardly to be
enticed by the simple transfer of a
painter's dulness from a medium he was
familiar with to a medium he had never before
practised," the Lay Figure read out loud from an
article on pastels by Mr. Wedmore in an odd
number of The Studio that chanced to be lying
near. " That remark should be taken to heart by
the new lithographers," it said.

" It is fatally easy to do a bad lithograph," the
man with a clay pipe broke in. " Probably the
amateur will even leave his kodak, to make shots
at drawings for the stone once he realises how easy
the method is."

" Lithography is so undecorative," said the
esthetic painter; " it has no relation to the printed

" Exactly," said the Lay Figure, "and therefore
it should provoke the artist to attempt certain sub-
jects which escape both the neo-primitive wood-
engraver and the fin de sicck etcher. Then, for por-
traits, see how good it is; whether you use the
Japanese brush-line, or the finish of a Menzel
pencil study."

" I feel the public will always consider it is
either a mere sketch, or, if you carry it further, a
substitute for mezzotint, or some more costly pro-
cess," said the journalist. "You see the public
likes to get value for its money."

" And usually when it asks for it, is peculiarly
careful to see it does not get it," said the aesthetic
painter. " But I think the symbolist may find
lithography simftatica. I am sure Fernand
Khnoppf would do exquisite things with it if he
did not think it beneath him."

"The difficulty is," said the journalist, "to make
the British public misunderstand it sufficiently.
You see it is not like etching, which is here always
regarded as a supernatural, mysterious achieve-
ment, something more mystic than the pen-scrib-
bling which it miscalled etching. Nor is it
shrouded from vulgar wits like mezzotint and aqua-
tint still are. For the public is accustomed to
it upon title-pages of music and-"

" What does the taste of the public matter ?" said
the man with a clay pipe. " The public always
means, to oneself, the mass of people who do not
appreciate a particular thing. Once an individual
admires your work you look upon him as a prose-
lyte saved from critical damnation, and the mys-
terious entity, the public, counts one for less that
it did; unless, indeed," he went on, meditatively,

"the public as a body approves, and then you feel
sure you are wrong, and change all your opinions
rapidly to keep within the sacred fold of a minority."

" Is it a gain to multiply economic and simple
processes for reproduction ?" said the Lay Figure.
" There is always a danger that the consistent pro-
fessional will find himself crowded out by the
erratic and usually inept amateur, and one can but
dread the prospect of every one who can make a
bad pencil drawing rushing into publication."

" That is merely November pessimism," the man
with a clay pipe replied. " Every craze worth
notice leaves something memorable behind to
justify its existence. Look at the rage for illus-
trated gift-books in the ' sixties and seventies.'
Amid their shiny yellow pages, set between plati-
tudes in poetry and prose and the miscellaneous
pot-boilers of the stock draughtsmen, you will find
masterpieces of their kind, any one of which is well
worth the guinea that bought the whole book when
it was new. How small a percentage of really
notable works the etching craze left; yet who
would regret its inflated popularity when he looks
over the score or two of splendid achievements
that otherwise had never been ? "

" I doubt, all the same, the wisdom of short cuts
to publicity," said the Lay Figure. " It spoils the
student to find himself a personage before he is
fully qualified for ' a promising novice.' "

" That seems to argue that academic experience
always teaches, and is the only school for study,"
said the man with a clay pipe. " You may keep
on pegging away at the routine of learning so long,
that by-and-by you find you have nothing left of
your own to express. No; I think with a well-
balanced mind the lessons taught by practical ex-
periment are worth years of mere pupilage. When
you see your own work in print it looks pitifully
incomplete. Then, and only then, you realise the
difference between intention and achievement."

"Still there is a tendency to rank youthful
attempts higher than more mature efforts," said
the Lay Figure. " Do we not all do our utmost
to encourage the new man or the new craft ? "

" Until he or it is successful, when we slate them
as heartily, and perhaps more honestly than we
praised them at first," the man with a clay pipe
replied. " It means harder schooling for the
individual, that is all. The agony of defeat after
success is far greater than no success at all. But
when a man can gain his second wind and prove
his staying power, as well as his brilliancy, then I
think the result is a more valuable craftsman."

The Lay Figure.
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