Studio: international art — 26.1902

Page: 314
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The Lay Figure

"The leaders of officialism," said the
Critic, smiling, "are always spoken of as public
bodies. Can anyone say why ? Is it because they
have usually no public spirit ? "

" Public fiddlesticks ! " snapped the Reviewer.
"The phrase explains itself. If such agents
of officialism gave themselves the trouble to think,
to use their minds, they would be something more
than public bodies; but since they prefer to act
with the least possible help from their brains, it is
merely as public bodies that they do their work
—and earn large salaries."

" They certainly make the wildest blunders in art
matters," agreed the Sculptor, "and scarcely a voice
is raised in protest. As a case in point," he con-
tinued, "take the history of Mr. G. F. Watts's
wonderfully virile group, Vital Energy, which in a
little while will be leaving England for ever. Some
time ago Mr. Watts, with his usual kindness and
public spirit, was willing to give his noble group
to the nation if the bronze-casting were paid
for out of the nation's purse. An official or
two came to see the group, and smiled and talked
before it with suave diplomacy. There, so far as
England's interest is concerned, the matter ended.
But when Mr. Rhodes died, and the question of
erecting a worthy monument to his memory came
up for consideration, the genius and the generosity
of Mr. Watts were remembered by Mr. Rhodes's
executors, and it was soon arranged that the
majestic group should be cast in bronze by them,
in order that it might be shipped to South Africa
and placed on the summit of the Matoppos. And
so a great work of art has been lost to England
through the stupidity of an official body."

" What else can you expect ?" cried the
Reviewer. " Most leaders of officialism are merely
amateurs in business, worked by the influence of a
staff of permanent subordinates, who excite no
more public interest than is felt for the chairs and
tables in a government office."

" Granted," said the Critic. " Yet it is com-
forting to be angry with them. Recently, too, one
of their wild freaks in art has provoked me like an
insult. A friend of mine offered to the Tate
Gallery an excellently characteristic bust by Mr.
Frampton, the Academician, whose high position
as an imaginative sculptor is recognised all over
the world. The offer, in due course, having been
brought before the Trustees of the National
Gallery, was declined with thanks. The Trustees did


not feel justified in sending an affirmative reply, as
it is not the custom to accept the works of living
artists except under the special conditions of the
Chantrey Bequest!"

" Impudent nonsense !" cried the Reviewer.
" Plenty of works by living artists have been
accepted for the Tate Gallery. Mr. Peacock, for
instance, gave one of his best pictures, The Sisters ;
Mr. Thomas Brock, R.A., has presented his well-
known statue, Eve; and there are other examples."

"All that my friend has pointed out in a reply
to the Trustees," said the Critic. " What the result
may be I cannot guess. But, meantime, a public
protest can do no harm. Why in the world should
the Tate Gallery be closed to the good work of
living artists? A man's death is not a miracle-
worker in art. It may add to the pecuniary
value of his productions, but it does not increase
the worth of the art within those productions."

" But that is not all," said the Critic. " If the
Tate Gallery is to be dependent on the Chantrey
Bequest, it will be little better than a side-show of
the Royal Academy, a mere annex of that un-
progressive institution. That the President of the
Academy should be also a ruling influence at the
National Gallery is, without doubt, a serious ex-
tension of the excessive power of Burlington
House ; and now we learn that the Tate Gallery is
not only governed by the officialism of the National
Gallery, but also that it is in danger of being kept
for the purchases made by the Academy under
the terms of the Chantrey Bequest. Think of

" Perhaps," said the Journalist, " the Trustees
are afraid of filling the Tate Gallery too rapidly."

" Such a fear is quite unnecessary," replied the
Critic. " Galleries can be emptied as well as
filled, and those pictures which may have to be
displaced to make room for other works can be
lent to public museums in the provinces. The
real truth is that the Trustees of the National
Gallery are unfitted to rule the Tate Gallery, for
they are not noted for a keen sympathy for present-
day tendencies in art. And this being so, what
next? Is the Tate Gallery to be what its donor
intended, and what its official name pre-supposes—
the National Gallery of British Art ? If so, then
the acceptance of new work should not depend on
the judgment of men who show no real apprecia-
tion of fresh aims, of progressive new styles. The
unwarrantable slight put upon Mr. Frampton is a
case in point, and official bodies are usually con-
sistent in their repetitions of mistakes."

The Lay Figure.
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