Studio: international art — 27.1903

Page: 156
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The Lay Figure

THE LAY FIGURE : ON COL- that they can make a fortune by speculating in the

LECTING AND COLLECTORS. artificial prices realised by old work under the
influence of a craze. They give enormous prices

" It's the puzzle of my life," cried the for this thing or that, merely because the

Journalist, laughing. " In Europe alone, I should mania of the hour directs their minds in a

think, not less than half a million pictures must be given direction. When the mania passes away,

painted—and decently painted, too—every year, at the end of a few weeks or months, prices drop

What becomes of them ? You don't find them in suddenly, and become normal. Then its victims

average homes. The ordinary householder has count up their losses, and curse the dealers instead

pictures of a kind, but even a fourth-rate student of their own stupidity. Common sense should tell

of the schools would feel insulted if he found his them that crazes of taste are good only for those

name upon them. So it is not the rate-paying who are experts in the art of ' buying cheap and

public that buys the annual output of well-painted selling dear.' And common sense should tell them

new pictures. And yet, somehow, anyhow, the that the time has passed for amateurs to gamble in

pictures disappear, like the yearly supply of new- ' antiques ' of all kinds. The value of old things is

made Old Masters and of other 'antique ' rubbish now so widely known, and so many experts ransack

Yes, they disappear, as though they were packs of Europe in order to find rare curiosities, that the

cards handled by good conjurers. Can any one amateur in collecting has no chance at all in his

explain the mystery ? Is there, I wonder, a ceme- odd half-hours of research. If he wants to benefit

tery for pictures, a public burial-ground, where himself and others, he can find many young

much of to-day's work is buried quietly at night men of talent who need help, and whose work

by those official undertakers, mere connoisseurs of at the present time may be bought for trifling

the dead, who prefer a defunct man of talent to sums."

a living genius ? " " No doubt," said the Critic ; " but what has

" You forget America," the Critic put in, smiling, common sense to do with the amateur who yearns

" The United States, in the course of a year, to collect old things ? Study the type of man,

buys many shiploads of European pictures." notice his wonderful self-confidence, his invincible

" Of course !" returned the Journalist with sar- ignorance, and you will soon understand how easy

casm. " America in my time has purchased every it is for a ring of dealers to start a craze in some

year in wild reports a vast multitude of paintings— form of speculative connoisseurship. Speak to him

all gems of the first water. Are you not surprised of the many forgeries which experts have accepted

that masterpieces have yet to be discovered on the as genuine, and he will wink at you knowingly, and

Rocky Mountains ? Myself, I found in American call you an ass behind your back. One of my

homes a great scarcity of good modern painting, so own friends thought he could make a fortune by

I think there must be a great deal of fiction in the gambling at his leisure in the recent craze for old

reputation of the United States as a buyer of English prints, so he gave fantastic sums for clever

pictures. Where, then, is the year's work of the imitations made in Germany. He is now at Bruges,

European painters stored away ? " practising economy."

"It's a puzzling question," said the Reviewer, "Well," cried the Reviewer, "most collectors

" but the private collectors must take a great live to be gulled, and deserve to live for that

many. There are more little-known museums and one purpose alone. The pity of it all is that,

private galleries than most of us are aware, I while immense sums of money are being fooled

know several that overflow with good pictures, away in rash collecting, the arts of our own time

chiefly of the modern schools. In some rooms suffer for want of patronage. Certain men of

they are stacked together in great piles, and every real merit whom I could name earn less in a year

wall in the house is covered. The owners of all than some rich simpletons will pay at an auction

this wealth have a passion for collecting, and being for two Chippendale chairs."

men of taste they have spent their money wisely, " Yes, yes," the Critic sighed. " But, remember,

anticipating the success of men of genius. They living artists have usually fared ill, like Vandyck at

have been real patrons of art as well as collectors." the height of his success, when Charles I. of

"Good!" cried the Man with a Briar Pipe. England made serious deductions from his moderate

" You can't insist too much upon that point. Con- accounts, and forgot to pay his pension regularly,

noisseurship is commonly looked upon as a love Artists of all kinds need a business training."

for old work, and thousands of amateurs believe The Lay Figure.
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