Studio: international art — 37.1906

Page: 188
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The Lay Figure

"I would very much like to know," said
the Man with the Red Tie, "what idea underlies
the attitude of the Government officials in this
country towards art."

" The only idea that I have ever been able to
discover," replied the Art Critic, " is that a policy
of parsimony is the only one which is in any way
permissible, and the only one on which there is a
perfect agreement between all political parties. It
does not seem to matter who is in power; this set
policy is never departed from."

" I think you are not quite fair to our national
representatives," interposed the Art Master ; " this
country compares well with other civilised com-
munities in the amount it spends on art education,
and I do not think it shows any parsimony in
providing the necessary funds for training the men
who have to do the art work of the country. Look
at our Government school system ! Where will you
find a better organisation or one more liberally
supported out of the national funds ? "

" What connection is there between our Govern-
ment school system and art ? " laughed the Man with
the Red Tie. "I daresay we do spend as much money
as any other nation in the world upon maintaining
art schools, but that is part of the attitude at which
I wonder. In that direction we are liberal enough,
no doubt; but in others we are, as our friend the
Critic says, habitually parsimonious. We have no
sense of proportion in our dealings with art."

" But if you put the proper facilities for acquiring
a knowledge of art within the reach of all the people
in a country, what more can you want?" cried the
Art Master. " Surely it is sufficient to train the
taste of a nation in the right way ! Out of this
training will come the right appreciation of artistic
questions and of the national duty to art."

" If you provide the proper facilities," replied the
Man with the Red Tie, " everything else, I daresay,
will follow as a matter of course. But therein lies
the whole point of my enquiry. Our system of
Government art education has been in operation
long enough to enable us to form some opinion as
to its results; but among these I cannot perceive
anything that looks like a serious national con-
viction concerning the value of art as an important
factor in the prosperity of the country."

" Look at the number of students we have in
our art schools," said the Art Master: " look at the
quality of the work they are doing, and at the
evidence they give of sound and well-educated

taste; are those not results enough to justify a
feeling of pride at our success in raising the artistic
standard throughout the country ? "

" No ! emphatically they are not enough," replied
the Man with the Red Tie. "For one thing, I do
not perceive the great gain in taste among our art
workers which seems to you so encouraging ; and,
for another, I cannot trace any increase of aesthetic
intelligence among the men who direct our national
affairs. The Government officials—like you—
cannot get beyond the idea that their whole duty
to art begins and ends with the provision of money
for art schools. They think that a certain amount
of liberality to schools justifies utter niggardliness
in other directions."

" What other directions are there in which
money could be better spent ?" asked the Art
Master. " If you are liberal to schools you surely
need not trouble about anything else ? "

" A fallacy, my friend—a serious fallacy ! " cried
the Critic. " You are convicted out of your own
mouth, for the facts are wholly against you. I do
not dispute that our system of art education is
costly and that large sums are annually provided
for keeping up schools where anyone and everyone
can be taught what is called art. But the official
parsimony of which I complain shows how little
esthetic conviction there is among the national
representatives, and therefore, obviously enough, in
the nation itself. If you compare the sums spent
on art in this country with those provided in France,
Austria, America, and elsewhere abroad, you will,
perhaps, begin to realise what I mean. Do we
maintain state factories for the production of works
of art, like those in France; do we buy out of the
national funds the productions of modern masters
for our galleries and museums ; do we provide our
National Gallery with money sufficient to enable it
to acquire the works which ought to be housed in
it to make the collection it contains passably com-
plete? have we any large view of our respon-
sibilities ? I say we have not; and I feel very
strongly that if we do not mind we shall be left
behind by nations with more knowledge of aesthetic
essentials. What is the use of a system of art
schools if the students they turn out are given no
chances of succeeding in the higher walks of their
profession ? Where are these students to perfect
their knowledge if we allow the best examples of
the work done by the great past masters to go one
by one out of the country ? We want a little less
expenditure on art precept and a good deal more
encouragement of the right kind of practice."

The Lay Figure.
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