Studio: international art — 6.1896

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The Lay Figure at Home

" The critical barometer presages
storm," said the Lay Figure. " The
men who were lithographers before 1895
naturally object to be told that lithography can
never have the same claim to distinction as plate-
engraving or etching, but that it might well be used
as a medium for autographic work."

"Never mind !" said the man with a clay pipe.
'•The facts are so obvious. The mere list of
artists represented in the Paris Centenary of
Lithography would be enough to disprove such a
statement. Besides, has not Whistler given us
one hundred proofs that the stone may be employed
with no less distinction than the plate?"

" I don't think a fight is bad," the aesthetic
painter said, in a cooing, dove-like voice. "When
we all agree nothing happens. To rouse him to
action a Briton needs unjust criticism from the
other side."

" As well as from his own, where he is quite cer-
tain to get it ?" the Lay Figure asked. " I do not
think the squabbles of partisans help on art much,
and they distract the buyer."

" And yet you always refuse to admire any one
but the master," said the man with a clay pipe.

" Nobody minds being cursed," said the aesthetic
painter. " The unforgivable sin is to praise the
thing that a few prominent writers have preferred
to ignore or to damn. You may attack their work,
and they smile; but if you reflect on their taste,
as you do by praising what they overlooked, they
say very spiteful things."

" But one must praise what is good of its sort,"
said the man with a clay pipe.

" Of course ! if you allow any other sort can be
good except your own. But if you praise Bir-
mingham, Newlyn, or Glasgow to-day, quite well-
informed people refuse to pardon you," the Lay
Figure said.

" Yet surely there are several ways of being
approximately right," the man with a clay pipe
added meditatively.

"Not at present," said the aesthetic painter.
" In the past, of course, we see good in Dutch and
in Italian art. To-day only the chosen deity of
the moment is to be worshipped."

" I don't think any artist should mind printed
criticism," said the Lay Figure. " Most of us have
grown callous to the depreciation of gossip, and if
it be printed in a paper that a week afterwards is
practically non-existent, why notice it ? "'

" Only the other critics do," said the journalist.

" They are the last believers in the value of press
criticism—you see they know how honest and
single-minded it is. So a word that reflects on their
failure to discover a thing worth notice wounds."

" It is almost certain that invective never ex-
ploded a charlatan," said the Lay Figure; " but
after all it is much more amusing to read a few
spiteful sentences than appreciation. If the praise
is moderate and quite evenly balanced, as praise
should be, the subject thinks it inadequate, and
other people yawn and skip the paragraph."

" It has not been a fruitless year" the man with
a green tie observed, apropos of nothing, and
with a suggestion that the harvest of 1895 was due
to his culture.

" Oh no, you decorative chaps have had all the
running," a landscape painter replied. " Really
to look through nearly all the Christmas books
this winter is sad. I have not yet found one
devoted to original work from nature; the photo-
grapher ousts you there, you see."

" He is nothing to us." The man with a green
tie waved his hand as he spoke. "We at least owe
nothing to his camera."

" And precious little to nature," the landscape
painter added. " You evolve beauty from your
inner consciousness, like the German philosopher's
camel, and it is often hump-backed."

" 1896 will be an Arts and Crafts year," the green
tie man said; "and I hear of wonderful things
being fashioned for the show."

" It is all very well for figure painters " the land-
scape painter replied ; " they can grow decorative
and do posters, but landscape art is not commercial.
I fancy we are in for still worse times. But all the
same, I would not give up the outdoor life, the
quiet accord with Nature, for all your patterns and
problems. Nature has a knack of coming into
fashion again."

"Oh you need not grumble," the green tie man
said, patronisingly ; " you have conscious virtue to
sustain you, and, as you say, we may live to see
pictures more popular than bric-a-brac. But,"
he added brutally, " there are too many of you,
and you do turn out such an awful lot."

" Still bent on faction fighting," said The Lay
Figure ; " really I wonder any of you find time to
paint or design. Surely the best argument is work,
not words. I do not think posters, or archaic wood-
cuts, patterns or problems will ever affect the best
work ; it is only the second best that suffers."

" But whatever is, is mostly second best," said
the landscape painter, "that is cold comfort."

The Lay Figure.
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