Studio: international art — 25.1902

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The Lay Figure


" Can it be true ? " the Designer asked, with a
tone of excitement in his voice.

" Do you refer to the world's legacy of good
luck in dreams from Mr. Rhodes ? " said the Critic.

" No," returned the other; " it is something un-
important by the side of that true greatness. There
is a rumour that the Royal Academy this autumn
will hold an arts and crafts exhibition instead of
the usual winter show of Old Masters. That
seems trivial enough, but is it not also astonishing,
even incredible? Has that white elephant of
officialism in British art, the Royal Academy,
made up its mind to speak to us as wisely as
one of yEsop's animals ? "

" However that may be," said the Critic, " the
same rumour has come to me from three painters
who pretend to be on whispering terms with the
secrets of the Royal Academy. They are in diplo-
matic running for the next vacancies among the
Associates, and theii uneasiness of mind is comical
to witness. Their chance of being elected will be
put in danger, you know, if Burlington House
should take up the cause of the artist-craftsmen."

" As a stroke of good policy," said the Designer,
" that would be excellent. It would silence all
the writers who are at odds with the Royal
Academy and its dandified pampering of the
painter's craft. It is easy to do little by making
a show of doing much, and the Academy may
easily keep to its settled old impolicy by yielding
a bit now with a good grace."

The Reviewer shrugged his shoulders. " That
strikes me as being nonsense," said he. " I've a
firm belief in the vitality of the decorative move-
ment in art, and I feel sure it will be as yeast in
the dough of old traditions. Burlington House
will pass through a great and radical change if
the artist-craftsmen gain a footing for their rights."

" I believe so too," said the Critic. " But, even
granting that the Academy has decided to open a
side-door now and then to the applied arts, is it
not surprising that craftsmen and designers should
have waited so long for their recognition, always in
grumbling inactivity ? "

" What could we do but wait ?" the Designer

" Why, you could have banded yourselves
together, and petitioned the King to sanction
the inauguration of a Royal Academy of Design.
That would have been a manly and a worthy

way of asking the King to make known, during
his Coronation year, the high value he places
upon the applied "arts in their relation to the
industrial vicissitudes and needs of his empire."

" A pretty idea, no doubt," replied the Designer,
" but you will find that 'most British craftsmen
prefer to work alone; to be freelances—and not
disciplined troops—in the commercial warfare.
Self-dependence is the thing they set store by."

" Yet this self-dependence is merely vanity,"
said the Reviewer. " If they understood the age
in which they live, they would not pit themselves
one by one against the slipshod economics pro-
duced by the over-strenuous competitions in trade.
They would realise that the applied arts require
a wise organisation, ■ in order that their full
influence may be brought to bear on anything in
hostility with them. A Royal Academy of Design,
if well managed, would multiply the strength of
each individual member, and keep the manu-
facturers closely in touch with the doings of the
industrial arts in other countries."

" That's a cheering view of officialism in art,"
said the critic, sceptically. "Yet I own that in
some countries, as in Austria, the work done by
that kind of officialism is wonderfully good. The
Viennese craftsmen of to-day have a most fortu-
nate gift for organisation, their general or special
schools for industrial art—they number about 650,
and have 100,000 pupil-apprentices—being in all
respects admirably practical and modern. It
may be that a Royal Academy of Design would
cultivate in England a similar genius for co-
operation in the decorative arts."

" Organisation is necessary in- any case," said
the Reviewer, "for the South Kensington system
is not yet equal to the task, which it ought to do
thoroughly. It is certainly a more useful system
than it was a few years ago, when it did little else
but train second-rate drawing masters. Still, com-
pare the results of its organisation with that of the
industrial art movement in Austria, and you will
become aware of its defects. It is a system that
is not taken seriously enough by those who are
responsible for its administration. It is a thing
essential to the welfare of many industries, yet it
is not made as thorough as dead-earnestness with
knowledge could make it."

" Well, well! " cried the Man with the Clay Pipe.
" Progress consists in doing well something which
has not been done equally well before; so there is
always a large hope for us all while we have reason
to be discontented."

The Lay Figure.
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