Studio: international art — 30.1904

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The Lay Figure


" I wonder if there is much foundation

for that often-repeated assertion that we have no
real art teaching in this country," mused the Lay
Figure during a pause in the conversation.

" What is there to wonder about ? " cried the Art
Master excitedly. "Surely you must know that no
greater libel has ever been published than the
suggestion that we do not pay proper attention to
art teaching. Is there any country in the world
where more money is spent on training art students,
or where a more complete system of tuition exists ?
The Royal College of Art and its branches through-
out the United Kingdom have a magnificent record
of work done, and are producing annually a vast
number of young workers who show perfectly what
can be accomplished by judicious methods-of edu-
cation. And there are other schools which are
doing their best according to their ideas."

" Oh, yes; there are plenty of schools besides
the South Kensington machine," sneered the
Academy Gold Medallist. "There is, for instance,
an insignificant institution at Burlington House
which has turned out a painter or two during the
last hundred years or so. The Academy has done
more for British Art than all the Government
schools put together; no other teaching place can
be compared with it. Look at the names of the
men who have been educated there ! Nearly all
our more distinguished painters have been Academy

"I was not talking about painters,"replied the Art
Master. "It is not the mission of the Royal
College to make painters. It is a school of design,
and is doing a great work in improving the national
taste, as well as in training designers and craftsmen
who will raise the standard of our manufactures.
We do not want the public money to be spent on
painters, but on men who will be of some use to the
wage-earning community. We are anxious to add
to the sum total of the nation's prosperity, not to
foster erratic genius."

" Are we not getting away from the original
proposition?" enquired the Art Critic. "The
point raised was whether we have any real art
teaching : as I understand it, any system under
which students can learn not only the tricks of
their trade but, as well, the great principles which
they must master before they can hope to accom-
plish anything of importance. If the matter were
merely one of schools we ought to be the most
artistic nation in the world. Are we ? I think he

would be a bold man who ventured to assert that
we are doing anything to justify such a pretension.
For my own part, I am inclined to argue that we
are only just beginning to appreciate what Art, in
the best sense of the word, really means."

" But surely you will admit that the system in
the Government schools is a sound one, and that
it has done much to make us an artistic nation,"
broke in the Art Master.

"You want me to admit far too much," replied
the Critic. " The Government schools, like those of
the Royal Academy, and like the many other teach-
ing institutions, public and private, have, of course,
had some successes with their students; but whether
these successes are in proper proportion to the
amount of money spent is very much open to
question. I do not see the signs of the general
regeneration that you talk about. That there are
certain schools where admirable work is being
done, both by the masters and the students, I
gladly recognise. The schools I mean train the
students to carry out properly the things they
design, and give them practical as well as theo-
retical knowledge. This is the right way to teach
art, and to produce artists of the most valuable
kind. But I cannot help feeling that such schools
are the outcome of some exceptional master's indi-
viduality, and not of the Government system.
That system is too superficial, too much inclined to
substitute a smattering of many subjects for really
thorough education in important things. Nothing,
perhaps, proves this better than the fact that, when
the Royal College had to be reformed not long ago,
men who had not been trained under the system
were chosen to do the work. We do not want
theorists, half-educated workers who break down
directly their acquirements are practically tested :
we want artists soundly equipped and with high
ideals—men who are enthusiasts themselves, and
can inspire enthusiasm in others. When our
schools are all under teachers of this type we
shall be on the road to artistic efficiency. Then
our students will not be compelled, as they are
now, to go abroad in search of the training which
they cannot get at home ; and we shall not be
in danger of losing our esthetic individuality
under foreign influences. Then we shall certainly
hav. some real art teaching, and we shall take
our proper place among the nations which
intelligently encourage artistic effort. But at
present we are not making a right use of our

"That," said the Lay Figure, "is what I meant
to imply." The Lay Figure.
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