Studio: international art — 29.1903

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The Lay Figure


"It's a crying shame," cried the Student, in
excitement. " I repeat, all the visiting Academi-
cians are stunning good fellows, and we boys in the
schools think it jolly hard lines that an attack
should be made upon them and upon the
Academy. The sooner the students form them-
selves into a volunteer corps, the sooner we shall
be prepared for all eventualities. I suppose the
attacks will not always be attacks of words—and I
should like to have a good pot shot at the critics."

"You take things too seriously," laughed the
Reviewer. "The Academy, like all ancient insti-
tutions, must expect to be attacked and have its
shortcomings magnified. I, for one, don't agree
with the extreme views recently put forward both
by 'The Times' and by 'The Quarterly Review.'
There are persons who seem to think that the best
way to improve the Academy is to do away with it
altogether. It would be as wise to clamour for the
abolition of the House of Commons because our
amateurs in legislation pass singular laws from time
to time. For my own part, I see the faults of the
Academy but I wish it well—that is to say, I wish
to see it improved. The greatest enemies to its
improvement are those who attack it without know-
ing anything about its instrument of institution."

"Well," said the Journalist, "the full text of
that instrument appeared recently in The Studio,
and I am not surprised at the attention it excited.
As a document, it is at once lucid and interesting.
That the Academicians themselves should ever
have misunderstood its articles, is, to my mind, very
singular. At the end of the first article or para-
graph, we have the clear statement that the
Academicians must not be members of any other
society of artists established in London. Well, we
all know that this law of its institution has been
broken a great many times during the last decade."

"But, I say," cried the Student, "you don't
mean to tell me that the binding force of that old
document is to last till Doomsday ? "

"Unless I make a great mistake," replied the
Journalist, " the Royal Academy is still an
attribute of the Crown of England, and bound
by its original constitution. It is not, as
many believe, a State institution, for the charter
of its foundation was not countersigned by any
officials of State other than King George III.
King George expressly declared himself the patron,
protector, and supporter thereof, and commanded


' that it be established under the forms and regu-
lations ' mentioned in the instrument. All the
English sovereigns since those days have ratified
what King George did, and at this moment King
Edward VII. is the Academy's patron, protector,
and supporter. He signs all the Academicians'
diplomas, and, so it seems to me, no change can
be made in the laws of the constitution without
King Edward's sanction. What I wish is this—
that the King would exercise his influence and
suggest improvements."

"That is excellent," said the Critic. "But let
us say, for the sake of argument, that the Royal
Academy can treat their charter as a thing of
no consequence. This has been argued. Well,
what benefit is this to the Academy ? If the
general council can veer as it likes in opposition to
the public, it can, in time, be forced by public
opinion to make changes favourable to the pressing
needs of the day. But, personally, I stand by
the original instrument, for it is a document which
gives ample scope for improvements."

" That is quite true," said the Reviewer. " Note,
for instance, that the document makes use of the
generic terms of art—it speaks of painting, of
sculpture, of architecture, without specifying any
form or kind of painting, or sculpture, or architec-
ture. Moreover, it is designated a ' Society for
promoting the Arts of Design.' As a con-
sequence, no form of these various arts is excluded
by the laws of the constitution. Water-colourists
are as eligible as oil painters, decorative painting
is as free to the Academic honours as easel
pictures are. Nor is this all. Architecture does
not consist in masonry only, for it needs and
employs many forms of decorative art to make
its masonry complete. Hence the Academicians
have power to elect any decorative craftsman
of high merit whose work is essential to the
improvement of modern architecture."

" In fact," said the Critic, " the whole document
is worth the closest study. Scarcely a point of any
note is excluded. Even a retiring age is plainly
hinted at. For Article XVII. says that all Acade-
micians 'shall be exempt from all duty' after the
age of sixty. And, last of all, let us remember that
there is one more powerful than the present govern-
ing body of Academicians : there is the King, to
whom the artists of this country have the right of
humbly addressing a petition. Why should not
a petition be addressed to His Majesty? By this
means recognition may be won for those decora-
tive arts which have such a powerful influence on
the nation's home life and international trade."
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