Studio: international art — 29.1903

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The Lay Figure


" Is it not high, time," asked the Journalist,
"that we in Great Britain should know some-
thing more than we do at present about the
arts in the British Colonies, those lesser Englands
beyond the seas? Would not an Exhibition of
Colonial Arts be attractive as well as useful ? "

" Curiously enough," replied the Critic, " I asked
the same question the other evening at my Club,
and the opposition it excited proves to me that it
is a question very well worth considering. The
objection to it was that Europe was already so well
stocked with pushful young art schools, that it
would be absurd to add to their numbers by im-
porting products from the aesthetic nurseries of the
Colonies. It would waste time to take this
assertion seriously. The main point is this : the
Colonies are young and virile, unbound by tradi-
tions, and therefore free to exercise their spirit
of originality. This is their character from a
political and commercial point of view. Is it
their character also in their work as painters,
sculptors and craftsmen ? "

" It seems to me," remarked the Reviewer, " that
you have summed up the whole matter correctly.
Of course, we all know a good many of the Colonial
artists, but we know them only in a scrappy and
patchy way, and not one of us could give a clear
and adequate account of the general condition of
the arts in Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and
the Indian Empire. We have a vague kind of
notion that the art training of Europe has found
its way into several of their schools of art, as into
the one at Melbourne ; but I doubt if anyone of
us is aware what results are being produced by
that training. This question, and many others not
less interesting, would be answered by a great
Colonial Art Exhibition in London. Even from
the political standpoint, it would be an admirable
thing at the present time to take this matter in
hand. A scattered Empire like the British may
be drawn together in more ways than one. The
fevered patriotism produced by war is not so lasting
as many believe, for it is generally followed by a
reaction. There comes a cold fit, and it is precisely
then that the intellectual and artistic forms of
patriotism are a god-send. The Colonies justly
feel that their artistic attainments do not deserve
the slights which are so often put upon them here
in England, and these slights would not exist if an

opportunity were given us to see what original art
work is being done in Greater Britain. We need
to be enlightened."

"Bravo!" cried the Journalist. "Though you
speak with the words of a leading article, I agree
with you. Such an exhibition would be a joy after
those which return to us year by year with the
dismal regularity of the income-tax. But, then,
how in the world is it to be inaugurated, and by
whom ? If it were set on foot as a purely private
undertaking, its appeal to the Colonies would not
be sufficiently strong. Should it not be a national
affair? That is to say, should it not be under-
taken by some Government Office, and be graced
with the highest Royal patronage ? "

" It ought to be," said the Critic, " and it would
be worth while to bring the matter before the
Colonial Secretary. If he were to be favourable,
the scheme of the Exhibition would have all the
scope that is necessary to make it a huge Imperial

" The scheme of the Exhibition," echoed the
Man with the Briar Pipe—" a useful phrase that.
You have been talking as though all the artistic
ability in the Colonies were in Anglo-Celtic hands.
You have not said one word about the native
Indian craftsmen, and the admirable work done
elsewhere by those who are under British rule—
the Maoris, for instance. In a word, let the exhi-
bition be genuinely representative of every form of
art and craft practised by our Colonial fellow-
subjects; and, further, let all exhibited works be ot
recent date. Then we shall be able to see whether
the native arts are really declining under the
present-day influences of trade and commerce."

" Yes; that's a good suggestion," said the Critic.
" There has been a loud outcry of recent months
over the supposed decay of the arts in India; and
certainly it would be a useful thing to have this
one question confirmed or refuted by such a
display of native Indian work as would be sent
to an inter-Colonial exhibition. Let us remember,
also, that such exhibitions set up a standard of
workmanship by which progress or decline may be
measured in after years. They produce traditions,
and nations try hard not to fall away from them.
This is another reason why the subject of this
discussion deserves recognition in official quarters."

" I am tempted," said the Journalist, " to speak
to you in a departmental voice, and silence you
with the word—Expense! But I refrain. We
shall hear that word quite soon enough—and it is
pleasant to dream."

The Lay Figure.
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