Studio: international art — 36.1906

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The Lay


“I want to enlist your sympathies,” said
the Enthusiast, “in a project which will, I am sure,
appeal very strongly to you all; and I want you to
show in a practical manner that you consider my
scheme to be worth supporting.”

“That is an opening I have heard before,”
laughed the Man with the Red Tie ; “ I know
what it means. You have in your pocket a sub-
scription list on which you wish us to inscribe our
names. Well, we are always ready to do what we
can to help brethren in distress. Who is it this
time ? ”

“You mistake my intention,” returned the En-
thusiast ; “ I have a subscription list to put before
you, I admit, but it is not for the benefit of any
individual. I want to raise a fund for putting up
a statue as a memorial of a great artist who has
recently died.”

“ A statue of an artist! ” cried the Man with the
Red Tie ; “ what a surprising idea ! I compliment
you on your originality. But at the same time I
am not quite sure that I agree with your scheme
or feel much inclined to support it.”

“Why not?” interrupted the Sculptor. “Why
should we not put up statues to artists as we do to
other public men ? Why should the soldiers, and
the politicians, and the philanthropists have all the
statues, and the artist, who in his own sphere does
quite as much for the community, always go
without ? ”

“Yes, indeed,” said the Enthusiast, “it is an
injustice which we ought to do our utmost to
amend. Let us glorify our artists in an appro-
priate manner; let us show to posterity how much
we respected them while they lived and how eager
we were to do them honour when they died. By
our enthusiasm we can establish their repute for
ever and ensure for them the immortality they

“ The immortality they deserve ! ” replied the
Man with the Red Tie. “ By all means ! But do
you really believe that a statue is a device for
ensuring the immortality of the person it professes
to represent ? If the master towards whose
memorial you wish us to subscribe has not done
work that makes his immortality quite safe, is there
the remotest chance that his effigy will have the
smallest meaning or interest for the people who
may happen to see it a hundred years hence? ”

“You forget, I think,” objected the Sculptor,
“that the statue will be presumably a work of art,


and therefore worthy of the attention of future
generations, even if its subject is unfortunately
not remembered. Only give us the opportunity
and I am sure we will deal quite as worthily with
an artist as with any of the other personages whom
we have to represent.”

“ I think you are going away from the main
point of our discussion,” interposed the Art
Critic ; “ we are debating the suitability of statues
to artists, not the merits or demerits of public
sculpture in general.”

“And I say,” cried the Man with the Red Tie,
“ that if an artist requires a statue to remind people
of his existence he is decidedly not worthy of a
statue at all.”

“Quite so,” replied the Critic; “the right of
an artist to receive a memorial of this nature is one
which cannot be settled by his contemporaries.
His real memorial he creates himself, by his own
works, which remain after his death for the judg-
ment of posterity. If these works are not thrown
aside on the rubbish heap specially reserved for
mistaken ambitions, if they go successfully through
the sifting process which Time applies, then the
people who have learned to value them may if
they please show their appreciation of the debt
they owe to the artist by erecting a public monu-
ment to him. But if we try to anticipate this
remote judgment we run the risk of making our-
selves ridiculous.”

“ If we glorify other men who have held public
positions, why should we treat the artist dif-
ferently ? ” asked the Enthusiast.

“Because,” said the Critic, “the artist is not a
public man, and the attempt to give him a position
to which he is not entitled is not only demoralising
to him while alive but is actually destructive of
his reputation. Great artists are not necessarily
men of attractive personalities, and are rarely
endowed with sculpturesque beauties. If you drag
them into the crude, hard light which glares upon
Society, you show up their imperfections as human
beings and lead people into the quite erroneous
impression that these imperfections must neces-
sarily detract from the value of the work which
such men have done. The artist should live
in seclusion, should be a mystery, and his
productions should be the only evidence that
he gives of his existence. When you stick up
a statue of him with his broken nose, his hump-
back, or his eye-glass, you tear off the veil
that hid him from the world and he ceases to be

The Lay Figure.
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