HE LAY FIGURE: ON MODERN
ARCHITECTURE AND DECO-
" Don't make much ado about nothing," said
the Critic to the Architect. " You lose your
temper merely because a few writers in the news-
papers have a disinclination, natural enough in
old-fashioned minds, to welcome any note of
modernness in architecture and the decorative
" But they write such twaddle," persisted the
Architect. " Their one aim is to bring about
a reaction against every kind of decorative
effort which complies with the present-day con-
ditions of taste and thought. Note, too, the
manner in which they try to make this aim real.
Their appeal is made, not to the well-informed, but
to the rate-paying public, so that popular dissatis-
faction may be stirred up against the improved
methods of teaching in the Government art-
"Nor is that all," remarked the Designer.
" The public is easily influenced by striking
phrases, and the writers in question are trying to
take advantage of this fact. Thus we are told, for
instance, that the modern style of decoration
imparts to all natural objects the convolutions of
flames and entrails."
The Philosopher laughed. " As an old man,"
said he, "I cannot but be delighted with the irre-
pressible child in the aesthetic temperament. How
amusingly childish it is, to imagine that the
inevitable growth of vigorous new styles out of
vigorous old forms of art can be stayed by the
clamour of a few conservative old fogies ! "
" If anything can impair the vitality of the new
styles," said the Art Historian, "it is the habit most
of us have of chattering, always with self-conscious
enthusiasm, about our modernness, as if we feel
secretly surprised that we are not children of a
century long gone by."
"And it is worth noting," remarked the Man
with a. Clay Pipe, " that most art students, long
before they can draw well, become wondrously
anxious about their 'originality.' Well, I would
sooner eat crab apples with champagne than suffer
from this morbid desire to be original."
".However that may be," said the Philosopher,
" you call attention to a species of mental trouble
which,, I feel sure, is very harmful to the cause of
art. To be self-conscious is to be weak, and you
may be sure that no artist who is truly modern and
original—who, so to speak, has a style in his blood
—wastes his time and weakens his genius by
striving to be unlike other artists."
"It is your opinion, then," said the Critic, "that
the real enemy to the development of type in both
design and architecture is the self-consciousness
produced by a fretful anxiety to be modern and
" Yes, I believe that, because the new in art has
ever come unbidden. It has always been a very
singular personal charm showing through and
modifying the influence of tradition, culture, and
contemporary thoughts and needs on sensitive
temperaments and creative minds."
" True," said the Critic. " But you forget,
I think, that whenever a few men of genius have
broken away from a slavish obedience to tradition,
many weak minds have become possessed by an
intense desire to be original at any price. For
instance, a large number of second- and third-rate
painters were thus affected in the early days of the
Impressionist movement; but this did not prevent
the great leaders of the movement from doing a
great deal of good. Indeed, some of their qualities
became a part of the asstheticism of painting, and
are now so familiar to us all that their origin is
" And you believe," asked the Philosopher,
" that the same thing will happen in the case of the
developments which are taking place to-day in
design and in architecture ? "
" That is my point," the Critic replied. " These
developments, acting on certain minds, certainly
give rise to some wild excesses of eccentricity; but
I see no reason why we should be surprised.
Speaking figuratively, if we wish to have jam we
must expect the scum to boil briskly."
"Granted," said the Philosopher. " Fet me
say, however, that I complain, not because the
scum boils briskly, but because it boils over. This
"Oh ! I'm too selfish to be annoyed," cried the
Critic. " To give way to annoyance, I find, is an
unpleasant way of wasting energy. I prefer to be
tolerant and patient."
"But I am told," said the Journalist, " that your
tolerance is discreditable to your artistic judgment,
since nothing but ornament, ornament, ornament,
is to be found in the houses built and decorated by
the men whom you most admire."
"I like such abuse," answered the Critic. "It
is honest, and it does no harm. Besides, most
people now recognise that simplicity; not ornament,
is the keynote of the new styles."
The Fay Figure.