Studio: international art — 25.1902

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The Lay Figure


The Architect glanced with amusement at the
Critic, and laughed outright.

" So you dare to believe," said he, " that the
decoration of London for the Crowning of Edward
the Seventh is quite a simple problem, to be solved
easily by trite old cavillings at the street decorations
that Londoners admire ? "

" If I had the problem to attack," the Journa-
list interposed, " I should begin by burning all the
relics of the Greater Jubilee of Queen Victoria."

" Indeed ! " laughed the Architect. " Somehow,
you and the Critic are at sea together. Your bon-
fires are to be lighted long before the Coronation
Day, and citizens are to be compensated for the loss
of their bride-cake ornaments. Now, if all this could
be done, what then ? Something, I suppose, will
rise, phcenix-like, out of the ashes of your bonfires?"

" That depends upon one circumstance," the
Journalist answered. " Will you stand by and play
the magician ? One cannot hope to do anything
well without your help ! But, with your kind per-
mission, I should like to start in a manner some-
what historical, by dragging forth into the light of
day many of those beautiful and ancient costumes
which the City Companies have long ceased to
value as a part of their primitive traditions. Call
out all these Companies, form them into a well-
marshalled procession, set their gay banners waving,
and you will have at least one good line of colour
to harmonise merrily with the more formal array
of marching troops."

" Bravo ! I like that! " exclaimed the Man with
a Clay Pipe. " A Coronation that does not take
us back into time, and make us gladly conscious of
the past within the present and the present within
the past, is to my mind an incomplete festival.
Those ancient city guilds, 'fraternities of artificers,'
clothed in their historic dress, make a good begin-
ning. Think of the leathersellers, with their scarlet
pantaloons peaked at the toes, with their tunic of
red and blue, divided into equal halves, drawn in
negligently about the waist with a light-coloured
girdle, and furred at the sleeves, the collar, and the
hem ! "

" I'm quite at one with you," said the Architect;
" but we have not yet come in touch with the real
difficulty in the problem of decorating London.
Contrast the immensity of this capital with the
narrowness of its main thoroughfares, and then

tell me how to set up, in such restricted space, a
triumphal arch that shall seem in accord with the
mind's conception of London's astounding growth
and Life and working genius. There's not enough
room for any real amplitude of scale and dignity
in structural design. Take Fleet Street, a lane-
like channel running towards that maelstrom of
business—the City. Here, in Fleet Street, even
such things as Venetian masts, garlanded and
festooned, are out of place, for they add greatly to
the troubles of a crowd moving in the narrow
street. And, again, if you make use of bunting,
you gain nothing. With a multitude of flags you
block up the skyward space between the houses,
destroying the perspective vista to those who are
seated in the windows."

" But a designer would have a fair chance near
Whitehall, in Trafalgar Square, or in Regent Street,"
suggested the Critic.

"Granted," the other replied. "But how is he
to make use of his chance ? If the Borough
Councils of London take the matter in hand, it is
more than probable that they'll tease their chosen
designers with petty economies as well as with
their ' practical' advice. One thing they are certain
to insist upon, namely, that the whole British
Empire shall be honoured by a succession of
triumphal arches, placed so closely together that
no person wedged in a crowd would have time
even to guess at the meaning of the display of
emblems in any arch."

"Good!" cried the Man with a Clay Pipe. "To
do just honour to the British colonies and states, a
whole street should be given to each one, so that
some real decorative scheme may be shown in the
general effect produced by the symboJs chosen. In
like manner, too, at the end of the coming June,
the nations of the world might be complimented
by London. Let the Borough Councils think of
this idea, and then entrust to capable men the
task of decorating a given number of streets and
squares, each street or square to be called after
some nation or some British colony, and decorated
in a suitably emblematic way."

" No designer working for such a cause would
be excessive in his fees," the Critic added: "and if
the Newspaper Press were to use its influence in
favour of this scheme, Londoners would increase
the money voted by their thrifty Councils."

" We've got to close quarters with our subject,"
the Architect said airily, "but material enough is
left for another discussion. Father Thames, you
know, with his bridges, must not be forgotten."

The Lay Figure.
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