Studio: international art — 34.1905

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The Lay Figure


"I have heard lately," said the Art Critic,

" that the proprietors of certain of the weekly
illustrated papers are beginning to complain that
their efforts to please the public are not properly
appreciated. The profits on some of these publica-
tions are said to be going down, and journals
which were once widely popular do not, I am
told, keep their circulation up to their former

" I am not surprised," replied the Man with the
Red Tie; "the whole game of illustrated journalism
is played out. People have got tired of pictures,
and therefore they do not care for papers which
make the production of illustrations part of their

" You are quite wrong," broke in the Black-and-
white Draughtsman ; " that is not the reason why
illustrated papers have ceased to interest the public.
There is more demand now than there ever was for
pictures of a sort. Because things in exhibitions
do not sell, and because artists are bitterly com-
plaining of bad times, you must not assume that
taste has changed. Just look at the sale there
is for reproductions of well-known works of art.
Why, I could quote you a whole host of publica-
tions which have been successful during the last
few years simply because they provided this class
of art."

" But you admit that some of the regular weekly
papers have fallen off in their circulation," returned
the Man with the Red Tie; " how, then, do you
account for that fact ? Why should these papers
not be as well supported now as they were in the
old days ? "

" Because they have got into a groove which is
too narrow and too inartistic," said the Black-and-
white Draughtsman. "Because they take little
account of what is really the popular taste, and do
exactly what they should not do if they wish to
retain their prosperity. If you take up one of
these papers now, how often will you find in it any-
thing worth looking at ? As a rule, they are full
of commonplace photographs reproduced in the
baldest and most unconvincing manner. Who
cares to buy such stuff as that ? "

" Oh! of course you would object to photo-
graphs," laughed the Man with the Red Tie; "they
are cutting you out, and you do, not find your
invaluable services so much in demand. No
wonder you are so ready to criticise !"

" Please do not misunderstand me," answered

the Black-and-white Draughtsman. " If the photo-
graph is a good one, and has a real pictorial value,
it has quite as much right to reproduction as an
original drawing, and is artistically of little less
importance. I am not so blinded by professional
jealousy that I cannot admit the claim of photo-
graphy, when properly used, to rank among the
arts. But there are photographs and photographs ;
and if you fill a paper with snapshots of every-
day incidents and commonplace scenes, you cannot
expect people to fall over one another in their
eagerness to buy it. Why on earth should they ?
They can see all this sort of thing in their daily
walks abroad, and so they do not want it cooked
up again in their newspapers."

" Yes, I think I agree with you," replied the Man
with the Red Tie; "everyone has a camera now-a-
days, and the supply of home-made snapshots is
more than enough to satisfy the demand for in-
different photography. The papers are trenching
on the ground already fully occupied by the
amateur, and so they suffer. That is what you
believe to be the position of affairs, is it not ? "

" You have hit it exactly," broke in the Art
Critic ; " illustrated journalism has become nothing
more than a game for amateurs. The manage-
ment of many of these papers is in the hands of
journalists, who in matters of art are the merest
amateurs, and know little and, if possible, care less,
about aesthetic questions. There are even editors,
I am told, who boast of their suppression of the
black-and-white draughtsman, as if they were doing
something clever by keeping out of their pages every-
thing which could by any possibility be considered
original or artistically interesting. They labour
under the delusion that they meet a popular demand
by providing always the most inartistic type of
illustrations—though there is, I believe, plenty of
practical evidence that people would rather pay
for the original work of an able artist than some-
thing which is either a photograph or looks like one;
and they seem amazed when the public shows its
opinion of them by carefully refraining from buying
the papers which they misdirect. The present
position of affairs is one which pleases me greatly.
I am delighted to think that the illustrator is
having his revenge, and that the papers which have
snubbed and neglected him are feeling the effects
of such a policy. But, at the same time, I hope
that some at least of the dissatisfied proprietors
will see that it is necessary to make very definite
changes in the management of their property if
they wish to recover the ground they have lost."

The Lay Figure.
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