Studio: international art — 34.1905

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The Lay Figure

"I have recently heard a speech which
contained a larger number of common-sense re-
marks on art subjects than one usually expects
from a public speaker," said the Art Critic. " It
was delivered by Sir George Newnes to the students
of the Hornsey School of Art, and in it various
points were touched upon which artists would do
well to consider."

"A publisher giving hints to artists!" laughed
the Man with the Red Tie. "That is indeed
amazing! And you apparently are prepared to
agree with him. That is more amazing still! "

" Wait a little before you begin to scoff," re-
plied the Critic. " You need not assume that I
am upholding all publishers in their dealings
with art simply because I happened to hear one
of them say things which artists ought to take
seriously. You seem, for some reason or other,
to look upon the publisher as your enemy; well,
there is much to be learned even from an enemy,
and—you know the proverb—it is quite right to
learn from him if you can."

" I am always open to conviction," said the
Man with the Red Tie ; " so suppose you tell us
what were these remarks which seem to have made
such an impression on you."

"The most important in many respects," re-
turned the Critic, " was the assertion that the
supply of good illustration is at the present time
greatly in excess of the demand, and that the
market for pictures is grievously overstocked,
This latter fact is one which all painters know
from painful experience, but the first assertion will
come to many of them as a shock. I know far too
large a number of artists who are hugging the de-
lusion that if the worst comes to the worst, and
their pictures cease to be saleable, there is always
a possible living for them as illustrators. Now we
have it on the authority of one of the very men
to whom they would probably go for employ-
ment that there are already too many illustrative
draughtsmen on the market."

"I do not believe it," broke in the Successful
Painter. " Why, more than one publisher has
come to me with the most wonderful offers for
drawings that they wanted to reproduce. Why
should they do this if they have such a crowd of
men ready to produce just what they want ? "

"Because, strange as it may appear," said the
Man with the Red Tie, " you have become a sort
of tradition with the public, and publishers think

that if they could get you to do something that
you have not done before it would be of some use
as an advertisement. You cannot argue from one
unaccountable exception."

" No, indeed ; it is the exception that proves
the rule," commented the Critic. " Most people
have a craving for the unattainable even when
much better things are within easy reach. I think
you may take it as a fact that the unsuccessful
artist who dreams of a sure income as an illustrator
is on the way to a rather grim disillusionment. He
will find that men of far more experience than he
has ever had in this walk of art cannot earn a
living wage, so what sort of chance is he to have
in the struggle for existence ? "

"Was any remedy for this state of affairs sug-
gested in the speech?" asked the Man with the
Red Tie.

"Yes," replied the Critic; "and it is this part
of it that I think so practical and so well worth
consideration. The speaker pointed out shrewdly
enough that there are a number of trades—such as
colour printing, for example—in which the inter-
vention of a trained artist would be of enormous
benefit, and that many of these trades do not
flourish in this country simply because our artists
are too narrow-minded to perceive that they can
be useful outside what they assume to be their
only legitimate sphere. Art workers abroad are
not so foolishly particular ; they do not ignore the
utilitarian side of their profession, and they do not
feel that they are diminishing their dignity by
applying their knowledge and taste to the solution
of trade problems. If you look at the matter in
this light I think you will see possibilities for the
artist opening up in many directions. Why, you
might even have in every large shop a window-
dresser who would arrange symphonies in silks or
poems in potted meats, and greatly increase the
success of his employer's business by setting out
the stock in the shop in the most seductive fashion.
That this would not be the highest walk of art I
am prepared to admit, but it would be quite legiti-
mate, and it would give many a man who is inclined
to write himself down a failure a chance of using
his artistic training not unprofitably. We must try
and realise that painting pictures and drawing
illustrations are not the only occupations to which
the possessors of the aesthetic faculty are bound to
limit themselves. We must widen our view and
shed some of our obsolete prejudices, and then
we might discover that art is not such a hopeless
profession after all."

The Lay Figure.
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