Studio: international art — 14.1898

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The Lay Figure


The Lay Figure was holding a small
brown paper-covered octavo pamphlet.
“This is rather a curiosity which a
friend sent me the other day,” it said. “The
Studio : a Magazine of Decorative Arts. No. i,
June, 1880. One shilling. What makes it more
odd is that I possessed already a pamphlet of the
same shape, with most of the same illustrations and
text, published also in 1880, and entitled ‘Decor-
ation.’ Comparing the two, there is nothing in
the latter indicating that it was practically a reprint
of the former. Of course the accident of the title
is the interesting part to us.”

“ What did The Studio of 1880 preach ? ” said
the Man with a Clay Pipe ; “ that is more to the
point ? ”

“ Apparently a righteous anger against the Royal
Academy, especially adapted for rejected painters,”
the Lay Figure replied. “ It contains a wild pro-
posal that every artist (estimated at 800) should
have the right to send in a picture 24 by 18 inches,
to be hung in one room, 40 feet square and 15 feet
high; coupled with the suggestion that painters
should submit other works in the usual way, and
take the chance of acceptance by the council.”

“It is a pleasant jest,” said the Journalist.
“ What a room, with 200 pictures on each wall!
What a restful, harmonious show might result!
Was nothing else in its programme ? ”

“Oh yes,” the Lay Figure replied, “Caldecott
and Miss Greenaway are satirised, and examples
of poetry supposed to parallel their art are given.
A verse will suffice :

e< e Tommy was an art-
ist, Tommy was a gen’us,

At the Mu-se-um
He drew the Townley Venus.5 55

“ H’m ! seems a bit feeble,” the Man with a Clay
Pipe remarked grimly. “Who illustrated this
weird periodical ? ”

“Moyr Smith chiefly,” the Lay Figure answered,
“but there are designs by T. E. Collcutt, B. J.
Talbert, and drawings by Victor Barthe. It evi-
dently tried to be very funny. Hear this !—Ran-
dolph Grinaway, a boy of fifteen, says that he is
composing poetry: so I said, ‘ Randy, my boy,
stick to letters.’ ‘ Do you take me for a postage
stamp?’ said Randy, with a lordly grin over the
edge of his stick-up collar.”

“I like ‘stick-up collar,’” the Journalist broke
in ; “it is a sweet phrase.”

“ That is The Studio of 1880,” the Lay Figure

said. “ I have read it from cover to cover, but I
find no hint of any of the ideals we hold to-day;
and without being ungenerous, I think we may
add that its designs are equally free from any
charge of anticipating our taste.”

“ It is pleasant to take it as a sample for com-
parison,” the Man with a Clay Pipe spoke slowly
and turned over its pages, reading extracts. “ ‘ Mr.
Ruskin’s mode of dealing with the question seems
to be how to draw. Don’t draw—scribble.’ ” He
was silent. Then he again read :

“ ‘ Codlin was a critic,

His Christian name was Sidney,

He made great bones of Mister J ones,

And others of that kidney.’”

Again he paused, and gloom settled down on his
audience. “ ‘ B. J. Talbert, Moyr Smith, and
T. E. Collcutt,’ ” he continued reading. “ ‘ These
three working in slightly varied grooves with Wm.
Morris [I like the Wm.!] and C. L. Eastlake, have
been the originators of styles which have latterly
had some hundreds of exponents in imitative
persons who have carefully and even painfully
elaborated what it would never have occurred to
them to attempt to originate.’ Yes,” he added, “ I
think we have improved, if only in the matter of

“Yet with all the leaders we respect to-day,
working then, how could they be so blind ? ” said
the /Esthetic Architect. “ To sneer at Burne-Jones
and Caldecott, to ridicule Miss Greenaway in a
magazine of decorative art, how odd it seems to
us ! But then to-day we are more concerned with
finding out what we think good than in belittling
popular or unpopular designers.”

“ I suppose it represented a phase in the advance
of decorative art,” the Man with a Clay Pipe spoke
with a certain air of generosity. “ Certain, Talbert
and Collcutt did good service, and if Moyr Smith’s
figure subjects do not wholly please us now, yet he
tried not vainly to make the public accept conven-
tional treatment of the figure.”

“ They all seem to have felt that to be decorative
it was needful to use hard, unfeeling line”; the
./Esthetic Designer remarked, “ not merely in their
pen-and-ink drawings, but in the designs, I see
a difference, as if they had been worked with a
schoolboy’s hard, scratchy nib, while we possess
a fountain pen. Really I think that is as pertinent
a parallel as one could find between the formality
which ruled in decorative art in 1880 and the
freedom in 1898.

The Lay Figure.
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