The Lav Figurt
THE LAY PIGURfe AND ART. his pictures arc not essentially different from
chromolithographs after them. Raphael — or
- "Is it a good Academy?" said a Raphael Tuck—that is the question; it depends
Colonial Visitor^who had dropped in. on the point of view."
There was a dead silence. « That may he an easy way to evade the diffi-
"Within no man's memory was an Academy culty," said the Colonial Visitor; "hut surely
railed good during its three months' existence," painters must agree what is art and what is mere
said the Journalist solemnly. "It must be half- accomplishment?"
forgotten before it earns that epitaph." There was silence until the /Esthetic Designer
"Half-a-dozen sensational pictures are enough said , <<i do not believe in the extreme views
to get a show talked about," said the Decadent. 0f either side. I see no reason why a sermon
" But is the good man or the good show 1 talked in paint is essential, nor why virtuosity in excelsis,
about?'" said the .-Esthetic Designer. " One which we esteem only at its lawful value in music,
rather fancies that it is the reverse ; what is most should be more highly valued in painting. You
impressive is often kept silent.' cannot explain the scent of a rose in words, you
" I mean, is there sign of progress ? " said the cannot even describe it so that one who had never
Colonial Visitor. " Are we going ahead or not ? " even smelt a rose would identify it by its odour.
" What do you mean by going ahead ? " said the If a common experience in scent, in sound, or in
^Esthetic Designer. " Do you really feel that art taste cannot be expressed in words, how much
is always evolving to higher forms, or is a matter m0re is it unlikely that 'Art' can be explained so
that can be recorded in parallel columns like the thatth^se who feel it not can recognise it thereby?"
navy of 1898 compared with the navy of 1868? "Why trouble about it?" said the Journalist.
Art is not so easily summed up." " Art may be a pleasant and lucrative profession, it
" What is art? " said the Colonial Visitor. may be a struggle against adverse criticism. Even
"The title of a book by Mr. James Stanley beauty, like morals, is a question of latitude, and
Little, and of another, years later, by Count Leo most efforts to philosophise are not merely fatuous
Tolstoi," he replied. " Yet, with all respect to each but dull. I, for one, wish that the very word were
author, I feel that the answer is still not only to abolished. Let us praise pictures well-imagined and
seek, but must needs remain so. Remember also well executed. Let us praise fine music and fine
that ' Art,' as the term is used nowadays, has ac- buildings j but let us cease to ask if they indeed
quired quite a new meaning. Art was once merely belong to art. Art to me is a sort of Mrs. Grundy
artifice or craft, now we express it to imply inspira- catchword, no more important than many other
tion, supreme technique, to expound a gospel, or purely local shibboleths of the hour. Indeed,
to betray a purpose, and what not. Yet, speaking 'art' is usually but a synonym for 'fashion.' As
for myself alone, it seems to me that art is nothing Mrs. Grundy respects the mode, so Mr. Grundy
but the best efforts of specially gifted men : a thing turns to a fetish labelled ' Art,' and both change
not to be acquired, not to be imitated. Some their idols as rapidly as the seasons change."
people—an infinitesimally small number always— " I knew you would not tell me when I asked,"
have the knack of expressing their sense of the said the Visitor. " I don't believe there is such a
beauty of nature or of imagination so exactly and thing as art."
clearly that a world understands their message." " I quite agree with you," replied the . Esthetic
"What is art? "said the Decadent. "An ex- Designer. "If neither experts nor laymen can
cuse for talking sentiment and for rhapsody on the agree on its attributes, if it changes with the fluc-
misunderstood. The man who discovers it gene- tuation of taste, and is never recognised by more
rally does so to prove his own critical acumen, or than a small minority of the millions of the world,
to exalt some hero who has convinced him." let it go. Then ingenuity, honest unstinted effort,
" But," said the Colonial Visitor, "there must fine virtuosity, and the happy knack of expressing
be something that separates art from all else ? " precisely what the worker meant to express—all
" Yes," replied the Man with a Clay Pipe, " and these things may be valued at their worth. Pos-
when you have defined accurately genius, inspira- sibly, when we have faced the Sphinx, and found
tion, poetry, and a few other abstract nouns, you she cannot answer her own riddle 1 W hat is Art0'
may define art ; until then it depends merely on the we may find that unawares the answer is as clear
concensus of opinion among critics. One will tell as day.''
you that Raphael is of art compact, another that THE Lav FlGVRR