THE LAY FIGURE: ON RESPECT a man could not spend his money better than in
FOR OLD AGE. surrounding himself with great works of art.
Whatever his motive, he would at least deserve
" I wish someone could explain why credit for his taste if he selected good things."
there is at the present time such an extraordinary " I thought you would see my point of view,"
craze for old pictures," said the Art Critic. "It chuckled the Financier. "Our friend here is so
seems to me to have got to a pitch that verges prejudiced and so ready to impute wrong motives,
almost on insanity, and it still goes on." He is apt to be very unjust to people he dislikes."
" Have you no theories on the subject ? " en- " Oh ! am I ? " queried the Man with the Red
quired the Man with the Red Tie. " You are not Tie. " I am quite as ready as you are to back up
often at a loss for reasons why this thing or that any one who buys good art, and I do not mind how
happens. Wherefore this spirit of enquiry ? " much money he spends on it. What I say is that
" Because I want to know how this matter strikes the millionaire knows nothing about art, and wastes
other people," returned the Critic. " I have my thousands of pounds upon stuff that he would not
theory, of course, but it is always useful to hear look at if he had a glimmering of real taste."
new ideas on an interesting question; and I thought " But, great heavens!" cried the Financier, " he
perhaps you might have a new idea for once." buys old masters ! Where could he find finer works
" I am much obliged," laughed the Man with of art than those ? Have you no respect for the
the Red Tie, " and I will do my best to satisfy great artists who have made the history of art, and
you. I believe the craze for old masters to be who must always remain unapproachable ? "
simply a fad of the millionaire who wants to pose "There are old masters I respect, most certainly,"
as an art patron, and at the same time to advertise replied the Man with the Red Tie, " but what I
to the world the fact that he has more money complain of is the millionaire's foolish habit of
than he can spend wisely. When millionaires wasting money on anything and everything old,
were scarce any one could buy old pictures by whether it is good or bad. Art is not dead, my
great artists for a hundred pounds or so ; but now friend, and there is plenty of modern work better
that the number of preposterously rich men has than half the things which are run after simply
increased they have run up the prices of artistic because they were produced centuries ago."
antiquities by bidding one against the other." "You surely would not ask a man of taste to
" So far you are right," said the Critic. " Now buy modern art ? " gasped the Financier,
tell me why the millionaire prefers old masters." "Ah ! you have condemned yourself," broke in
" Merely because he has been told that he ought the Critic. " There is the explanation of the craze,
to do so," replied the Man with the Red Tie. No man of taste should buy modern art! That is
" You see, he is usually a parvenu, and having no the creed of the millionaire, a creed which stamps
family traditions'of his own he tries to ape those of him at once as without taste or common-sense,
his betters. Because the old families had collec- Now, I hold that there is in the art of the present
tions of old pictures he thinks he must have a day a higher standard, finer qualities, and a nobler
collection too. He is under the impression that it type of achievement than you will find in any
will help him to get into society, and that his reck- previous period of art history, if of course you
less art patronage will induce people to forget the except the work of the few supreme masters. For
dry goods store in which he began life." these masters, old or new, I have the greatest possible
" No ! I protest! " interrupted the Financier, respect, but you ask too much when you expect me
" You are talking sheer nonsense. You are per- to like everything ancient and to despise every-
verting facts to suit your own wrong view of the thing modern. Old age ceases to be worthy of
case, and you are libelling men who, whatever respect when it is simply senility, or doddering
they have sprung from, have certainly acquired feebleness. You may pity it, but you must not
taste with their millions. How could a man spend hold it up as an example to the young. And so
his money better than in surrounding himself with much of the art which fetches high prices to-day is
great works of art? If the craze, as you call it, stamped with the senile imbecility that is the sign
for old masters is a fad of the millionaire, then, I of a mis-spent youth. It never was good, and now
say, you should honour the millionaire for his in its decay it is offensive. Throw it away, bury
discrimination and not run him down as a vulgar it, get rid of it somehow, and get something
and ignorant person." cleaner and fresher in its place ! "
" I quite agree with you," said the Critic, " that The Lay Figure.