THE LAY FIGURE: ON THE
ADVANCEMENT OF SCULP-
" I hear a special eftort is shortly to be made in
London to show to the public what our present-day
sculptors can accomplish," said the Art Critic;
" and I must say I am very glad to hear it."
" So am I," returned the Sculptor, " for I think
we have tolerated quite long enough the utterly
casual way in which we have been treated not only
by the people in this country but also by the art
societies which are supposed to look after the
interests of our profession."
"And you think that a little judicious advertise-
ment will help to make you better appreciated,"
laughed the Man with the Red Tie. " But you
must not expect too much all at once; you will
not convert the British public by a single demon-
stration of your importance. You have to break
down a very ancient tradition that sculpture is
merely one of the minor arts."
" Why should such a preposterous tradition ever
have come into existence ? " asked the Sculptor.
" It does not flourish in foreign countries; why
should we be the only nation that is lacking in
understanding? It seems to me to be decidedly
discreditable that our intelligence should compare
so poorly with that of other peoples."
" You can scarcely expect the public to appre-
ciate what they never have any chance of becoming
properly acquainted with," replied the Critic.
" Sculpture is regarded as a minor art because it
has always been compelled to play second fiddle to
painting in the public exhibitions. Our custom is
to assign it the worst rooms in the art shows, or to
put it in positions where it will be duly effaced by
the pictures, and so a tradition which is, I quite
agree with you, wrong and foolish is kept alive. . If
we had been accustomed to show the same con-
sideration to sculpture that it receives abroad I
think you would find the attitude of the British
public very different from what it is at present."
" Our methods, in fact, provide a very effective
illustration of the proverb about giving a dog a bad
name," said the Man with the Red Tie; "we are
prejudiced, and as a result we condemn indiscrim-
inately and thoughtlessly. But to move this dead-
weight of prejudice will be a long and weary
" Of course it will," cried the Sculptor ; " but it
can be moved if we strive hard enough and long
enough. We mean to try anyhow, and I believe
we shall succeed."
" But the first and most important step," broke
in the Critic, " is to convert the men who have
authority in our art exhibitions. They act as the
intermediaries between the artists and the public,
and they have a good deal of power to influence
the popular taste. If they would realise how much
depends upon them your task would be greatly
" Will they ever realise it ? " asked the Man with
the Red Tie. " I do not think they show the
slightest inclination to join in the fight against
prejudice or to try to remove the popular delusion.
They are really the worst offenders, but they seem
to glory in their stupid support of a tradition
that is obsolete."
" Obsolete indeed ! " cried the Sculptor. "There
never was a time when sculpture was so worthy of
consideration in this country as it is at the present
moment. It is no longer bound round with the
restrictions which in past years limited its scope
and narrowed its activity. It has launched out
into many new directions; it is progressive and
full of vitality, and it needs only a measure of the
right kind of encouragement to become the great
power in our modern art world."
"Yes, sculpture has made a great advance of
late years,''said the Critic, "and it is for that
very reason that I am anxious to see it given better
opportunities. If it were in the same state that it
was half-a-century ago I should have little sympathy
with the demand of the sculptors for wider
publicity. In the old days the exhibition of a few
ideal figures and some portrait busts summed up
sufficiently what was being accomplished in that
branch of art. But now that sculpture has found
its right direction as a close ally of architecture,
that kind of summing up is unjust and misleading,
and certainly does not put the present position of
affairs properly before the public. Our best sculp-
tors to-day are in the very front of the decorative
movement and are doing noble service to serious
and intelligent art. They have a far truer sense of
their responsibilities as artists than the painters,
most of whom are merely playing futilely with the
old conventions or are occupying themselves with
the invention of new ones which are even more
futile than the old. Therefore I hope that a real
effort will be made to secure for sculpture the fullest
recognition of its strength and many-sidedness, and
to make the public understand that it is in no
sense a minor art. But you will have to begin by
inducing the art societies to treat it in a more
rational fashion and with more serious considera-
tion." The Lay Figure.