Studio: international art — 35.1905

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The Lay Figure

The lay figure : on cer-

“ I have a complaint to make,” began the Man
with the Red Tie, “ against an iniquitous insti-

“ Oh ! are we going to waste our time once
more in discussing the Academy ? ” interrupted the
Royal Academician. “ Cannot we find a subject a
little less threadbare ? ”

“ I notice that when I speak of an iniquitous
institution you know at once what I mean,” returned
the Man with the Red Tie. “ But as you fit on
the cap so neatly you shall not be disappointed ;
with your permission I propose to say a few things
about the society of which you have the honour to
be a member.”

“ Go on, please,” sighed the Academician;
“ don't mind me. I am quite used to it. Have
we been committing any new crimes ? I should
have thought we had used up all the possibilities
of wrong-doing long ago.”

“ That is just what I complain of,” said the Man
with the Red Tie sadly; “ you are conventional
even in your misdoings. If you had the wit to
invent new forms of wickedness, I really think I
might be tempted to admire you. But you are so
commonplace ! You go on year after year doing
the same stupid things, and committing the same
old absurdities. You have only one conviction
—that you are infallible; and you perpetually
assert that as the one and only way out of the
difficulties that you create.”

“ All this, I suppose, is because we have rejected
the work of some friends of yours whose merits
you overestimate,” replied the Academician. “ I
deny that we ever create difficulties, or that we
fail to do our duty. We have an important position
to keep up ; and if we do not consider anyone’s
work good enough to recognise, it is our duty to
reject it.”

“ May I ask,” broke in the Critic, “ what is the
position that you feel to be so responsible ? We
are always hearing about the position and the
duty of the Academy. What do you really suppose
it is ? ”

“ Good heavens ! Our position ! ” cried the
Academician. “ Is that to be questioned now after
all these years ? Have we not been the leaders of
British art for nearly a hundred and forty years,
and have we not done our best for it all that long
while ? ”

“As I understand the matter,” replied the Critic,

“it is just what you have done for British Art that
causes complaint. People seem to me to resent
your assumption that the Academy and British Art
are one and the same thing. But about this
position ; where did you get it, and how ? Was it
conferred upon you, or did you earn it by your
own natural superiority ? ”

“Both!” returned the Academician. “It was.
conferred upon us at the outset by the Sovereign,
and we have maintained it worthily by our own
exertions. We enjoy the fullest approval of the-
public, and no one ever finds fault with us.
except a few unsuccessful and discontented

“Among the artists whom you call unsuccessful
and discontented there have been anyhow some
of the greatest masters whom this country has.
produced,” interposed the Man with the Red Tie.

“That is not quite the point,” said the Critic.
“No Academy could be expected to include all the-
masters, they would quarrel so much that the insti-
tution would inevitably go to pieces. But when our
friend says that his Academy enjoys the fullest
approval of the public I begin to see what is really
the position on which he prides himself. The
patronage of the Sovereign counts for little except
as an aid to popular favour. The public gives the-
Academy its position; the stupid public which
knows little and cares less about art—that is the-
god our friend worships. He is a fashion, nothing
more, and while he is the fashion he is naturally
prosperous. But fashions have a way of changing
and this particular one might easily be changed if'
intelligent people would set about it in the right
way. Let the artists who respect themselves give-
up their habit of toadying the Academy; let them
cease to behave as if they thought the Academic-
opinion about their work mattered in the smallest
degree; let them prove to the public that the best
art is to be found elsewhere than at Burlington
House: then I fancy that great and gorgeous,
position which we hear so much about would be-
seriously diminished. Artists are to blame for
treating the Academy with the exaggerated respect:
it demands : if they were more independent, more-
sure of themselves, they would not help to bolster-
up a sham. There are plenty of other Societies,
more worthy of support and more concerned with
the real interests of art. Prick this particular-
windbag, and I am sure you will find nothing;
inside it.”

“You are most offensive,” protested the-
Academician as he went out and slammed the:
door. The Lay Figure.
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