Studio: international art — 35.1905

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The Lay



“ I wonder whether we shall ever see
any permanent result from the efforts of present-
day designers to introduce a new fashion in articles
of personal adornment,” said the Art Critic. “ I
mean that I wonder whether people in general will
be eventually induced to change their taste, and to
adopt fresh ways of satisfying their incurable love
of ornament.”

“ Surely there are already results which prove that
thischangeof taste has been brought about,"returned
the Designer. “ Look at the number of craftsmen
and art workers, male and female, who are now
producing beautiful articles of jewellery, which are
far more artistic than any of the old things. If
there was not a demand for these productions, I
imagine they would not appear. They are very
obviously not made to be given away, so there
must be buyers.”

“ There are exceptions to every rule,” replied
the Critic; “but, in this case, are the exceptions
numerous enough or significant enough to justify
your belief that an alteration in the fashion is
actually an accomplished fact ? I doubt it.”

“ So do I,” broke in the Cynic; “ and I also
think that you are forgetting who the people are
who believe in these fashions. Articles of jewel-
lery are made to satisfy the vanity of women, and
to gratify their immutably barbaric love of display.
These things appeal to the taste of people who do
not know what taste means, so how can you expect
a movement initiated by artists and supported by
skilled art workers to become popular? You are
too much inclined to believe that things are what
you wish them to be. Study human nature, and
especially feminine human nature, my friend, and
you will realise how utterly hopeless are your

“You are a pessimist,” laughed the Designer;

“ I am not so convinced as you are of the bar-
barism of womenkind. They like dainty things ;
and though, I admit, they are very disposed to
follow fashions thoughtlessly, they are never un-
willing to adopt a new one when it is sufficiently
attractive and really provides them with things
which they admire.”

“ Oh, yes ! things that they admire ! ” said the
Cynic. “But what do they admire? You are
assuming that they possess artistic inclinations,
and can distinguish between what is good and bad
in art. I say that they are barbarians and that,
possessed as they are of limited intelligence, they


care only for display. You offer them beautiful
things which are cheap, they want something which
looks like money. They crave for solid gold and
real diamonds, and if they cannot get them they
would rather have paste in plated settings than the
daintiest pieces of new art jewellery which you can
invent for them. They would rather imitate their
wealthier friends and acquaintances than choose
an independent line for themselves. Don’t let
your enthusiasm mislead you as to facts.”

“ I question your facts,” replied the Designer ;
“ you are looking at the matter in too narrow a
way. Of course we have all sorts of traditions to
fight against, but I believe that the love of display
of which you complain is giving way to a better
perception of what can be done with other
materials than gold and diamonds. A good deal
has to be done, of course, before we can claim to
have destroyed all the ancient fallacies. Still, I am
certain it is only a question of time; we shall win
in the end.”

“ Decidedly you deserve to win,” said the Critic,
“and you have my sincerest sympathy in your
efforts. If I speak a little doubtfully about your
success so far, it is not, believe me, because I do
not think that your intentions are right. I should
be delighted to see the new fashion superseding
the old, because I agree more or less with our
cynical friend in his conviction that the basis of
the fashion in personal adornment has been simply
a love of vulgar display. If we can substitute good
taste and a real worship of beauty for barbaric
show, we shall have gone far in the direction of
popularising good art. And, to give the designers
and producers of this modern jewellery their due,
they have been most loyal in their advocacy of the
right principles. They have already proved that
there is no greater decorative value in gold and
diamonds than in silver and opals, for instance;
and that good art is independent of mere costli-
ness. I am entirely with you when you seek to
show to the people who buy jewellery that they
have worshipped far too long a false and inartistic
ideal; and that if they have pretensions to correct
taste, they should discriminate better between the
things which are worth possessing because of their
beauty and those which are valued simply because
they smell of money. But I feel that the women,
who should be your chief customers, are the chief
obstacles you have to overcome before you can
establish a new fashion; I fear they have a much
greater desire to look expensive than to assist you
in your efforts to educate their preferences.”

The Lay Figure.
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