Studio: international art — 19.1900

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The Lay Figure

THE LAY FIGURE. ON A NEW "Then we have Breton's attitude to the milk-

BOOK. and-water idealists," remarked the Art Historian.
" You will remember what he says to those weak

"Who wants to read a truly genuine painters who believe that in a picture where the

first-hand book on French painters ? " asked the subject is supernatural the style must be nebulous,

Lay Figure. the colour bloodless. He tells them, among

"We all do, I suppose," the Art Historian many other truthful things, that 'Rembrandt, le

replied. " But are you thinking of Nos Peintres peintre de l'invisible, est le plus puissant des

du Sikle, the book by Jules Breton ? " peintres visibles.' And he adds : ' Pour peindre

"Yes." le surnaturel, il faut toute l'etendue et toute

"Then," continued the other, "I've perused it l'intensite du naturel.'"

twice already." " Shakespeare teaches the same lesson," said

"Jove! how dull the book must be!" the Lay Fgure; "but some men are so constituted

Journalist muttered. that they cannot profit by it."

" To my mind," said the Lay Figure, " it has a " So let us pass on to something gay," yawned

homeliness of character that makes it even more the Journalist. " Does your author laugh at

readable than Fromentin's great volume, Les times? Can he tell characteristic stories about

Maitres d'Autrefois." his painters ? "

" True," said the Man with a Clay Pipe. " You shall judge," answered the Man with the
"The book came into my hands some weeks ago, Clay Pipe. " One year Fuvis de Chavannes sent
and one cannot speak too highly of its kindliness, to the Salon a little picture so rudimentary in
its good fresh criticisms, and its beautiful sympathy form that the members of the committee of selec-
tor peasant life." tion knew not what to do. ' We cannot refuse
"There's no lack of good things," the Art Puvis,'they said helplessly to one another, and yet
Historian assented. "The author himself lives in they were all quite certain that it was their duty to
every page. He can say, with Montaigne, ' Ce ne refuse him. At last Delaunay volunteered to be
sont mes gestes que j'escris : c'est moy, c'est mon the leader of a forlorn hope. He was on the best
essence.' His book is himself." of terms with Puvis, and he would advise the great
"And that disarms criticism," mused the Lay man to withdraw the painting. This was done,
Figure. "Among his remarks there are some but Puvis saw in the whole affair'a hostile parti
that plainly invite opposition, and yet I could pris, and for a long time afterwards he cut every
no more oppose them than I could quarrel with member of the committee."

Montaigne's little vanities." " There is also a characteristic story about

" Let that be as it may," said the Man with a Courbet," said the Art Historian. " Courbet's

Clay Pipe. "What I think most admirable is vanity was at once so great and so ingenuous that

Breton's reasonableness—a quality, mark you, that it caused him to put on a frank air of protection

writers on art don't give us very often. As a rule, when speaking'of even the greatest Old Masters,

indeed, they are frankly treasonable. This is One day, for instance, a friend told him that a

why they so frequently speak of their subject as certain picture of his—a rather ill-drawn torso of a

though it were not affected by the action of nude girl—was equal to a Titian. ' Eh ben,' he

the influences of life on the sensitive aesthetic replied with disdain, ' c'est ca qui l'aurait embete

temperament. They seem to believe that art is a votf Titien !' This was drawled out softly, and the

miraculous thing having no connection with any tone of disdain in Courbet's voice was rendered

type of society. Jules Breton sees how foolish it the more comic by the franc-comtois accent."

is to consider art in this unscientific manner, and " But these stories are not told unkindly," said

one feels throughout his book that he and his the Lay Figure; " and there are others of a quite

painters are indeed children of the nineteenth different sort. Take the one in which it is related

century." how Jules Dupre, himself a poor man, hired for

"That's good," said the Lay Figure. "You re- young Theodore Rousseau a studio fit to paint in.

mind me of the author's remarks on the after-effects Among the French artists of that period there

of the French Revolution, which cannot but be existed a beautiful generosity, and Jules Breton

helpful to all who understand how necessary it is represents it worthily."

not to dissociate men of genius from their epochal The Lay Figure.

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