Studio: international art — 35.1905

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The Lay Figure



“ I have been thinking over the subject
which we discussed at our last meeting,” said the
Designer, “and I still feel that there is a certain
amount of injustice in the assumption that women
are solely or even chiefly to blame for the inartistic
character of the jewellery which is generally offered
to them by the dealers in such wares I think
there are other causes than a want of taste among
the purchasers which would account for the diffi-
culty of creating a new and better fashion in work
of this order.”

“ Do you set yourself up as a champion of the
sex?” queried the Cynic. “Are you trying to
make us believe that women are thirsting for
good art, and are kept from satisfying their
aspirations by the tyranny of the manufacturers
of articles of personal adornment ? If so, I
fear that your gallantry is leading you astray
and is blinding you to facts that should be
sufficiently obvious.”

“ I think the main point in the attack made on
feminine taste, when we wTent into this question
before, was that the barbaric inclinations of woman-
kind led her to prefer showy and expensive things
to those which had been made beautiful by the
use of the less costly materials,” said the Art Critic.
“ The complaint was not so much that women
could not admire things well designed, as that the
majority of them craved for jewellery which bore
the stamp of costliness.”

“Yes, and it is that assertion which I want to
dispute,” replied the Designer. “ I really believe
that one of the chief reasons for the persistence of
this fashion for objects which must be expensive,
and need not necessarily be artistic—I am quite
willing to admit that it exists—is that women have
never been given a proper opportunity of seeing
wffiat can be done by a judicious combination of
taste and economy. What chance have they of
learning any new lessons ? Where can they see
the things which would help them to form flesh
ideas on a subject in which they are keenly inte-
rested ? It is all very well to say they are barbarians,
but has anything really been done to civilise them
in this direction ? ”

“ Are there not plenty of exhibitions in which
the efforts of the designers and craftsmen who
devote themselves to this wralk of art can be
seen?” asked the Cynic. “Cannot these public
shows be looked upon as factors in feminine
education ? ”


“ Have exhibitions of pictures created a fashion
for modern paintings?” returned the Designer.
“Exhibitions appeal only to a limited section of the
public and have a very narrow influence. At best
they would only affect a few hundred people, wffio,
from the fact of their visiting art shows, may be
presumed to have more or less pronounced sesthetic
inclinations. It is the thousands in whom these
inclinations are almost entirely latent that I want
to touch. They go for their jewellery to the shops,
not to this or that gallery, and it is in the shops
that they must be educated if they are to be
educated at all.”

“But surely the shops exist only to supply
people with the things they want,” said the Cynic.
“ If women asked for jewellery that was artistic
and inexpensive they would get it as a matter of

“ Evidently your experience of shopping is
limited,” laughed the Designer. “ Has it never
struck you that what you get in a shop is not what
you want, but the thing that is least unlike what you
intended to buy ? If you ask for something not in
stock you are told that it is not the fashion, or not
to be procured ; some excuse will always be made
for inducing you to take what happens to be avail-
able. How are women to see this new jewellery if
the shopkeepers do not help the manufacturers to
put it on the market ? ”

“ Now I see what you are driving at,” broke in
the Critic. “You mean that, as a step towards the
civilising of feminine taste, the buyers for the shops
wffiich deal in jewellery must first be converted.
You are right, I believe. Of course, in that way
women have been given few enough oppor-
tunities of seeing what scope there is for the artist
and the skilled worker in this class of production.
Not many shops stock anything but the expensive
articles, for those which pretend to be expensive ;
and so the people who might be quite willing to
break away from a tiresome convention are kept,
whether they like it or not, in the same old groove.
The woman would be courageous, indeed, who
persisted in asking for artistic jewellery at a mode-
rate price after the shopkeeper had delivered his
dictum that such stuff was not the fashion. But
if he had it there to show her, and knew enough
about it to impress her with its beauties and its
attractive novelty, I can well imagine that he would
fan the glimmer of taste in her to a quite imposing
flame. And he would create a new fashion, by
which he would profit exceedingly. Set to work to
educate him, by all means.”

The Lay Figure.
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