Studio: international art — 42.1908

Page: 88
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The Lay Figure

THE LAY FIGURE : ON LEAVING return, what possible benefit, should we get from

THINGS UNDONE. such expenditure ? "
"More than you think," cried the Critic. "I

" I wonder how much longer our legis- will omit from the discussion one point in which

lating wiseacres intend to go on discussing the I firmly believe, that the dignity of the nation

question whether or not the British Houses of Par- demands that its Parliament House should not

liament are to be decorated," said the Art Critic, be left in a condition of evident incompleteness

" I notice that a Select Committee has just issued and should be something more than an empty

another report on the subject with a whole barn. I will confine myself only to your query

batch of recommendations. Will it lead to as to the return we may expect from expenditure

anything being done, do you think?" on decorations. Has it never occurred to you

" I should say that it is extremely doubtful," that money spent on art education is wasted if the

replied the Man with the Red Tie. " On artistic men educated are given no chance of showing

questions we talk indefinitely—it is a national how they can apply the knowledge they have

habit—but we always shirk action in such matters." acquired; and do you not realise that men

"But why ?" asked the Critic. " What do you without opportunities are'as much wasted as the

imagine is the reason for our inactivity in artistic money spent in training them ? "
matters ? We are supposed to be a practical race, " But they must make their own opportunities,"

and to pride ourselves on not putting off till to- returned the Practical Man; " they cannot expect

morrow what may be done to-day. Why should the State to support them in after life simply

we allow ourselves to treat art in such a totally because they have been trained at the expense of

different way ?" the State. You are arguing that all art students

"You know the reason quite as well as I do," ought to be kept in luxury out'of the public funds,

answered the Man with the Red Tie; " because it and that they ought to be looked upon as a

is the national conviction that art does not count privileged class for which well-paid work must

anyhow, and that it is a mere triviality which is always be found."

unworthy of serious consideration. This question " Nothing of the sort," replied the Critic. " I

of the decoration of the Houses of Parliament at am only arguing that it is the duty of the State to

Westminster will, I am sure, never get beyond the set a good example in the matter of art patronage,

stage of discussion. Every attempt to carry it a and that it could not possibly set this example in

stage further is doomed to failure." a better way than by spending the small annual

" Of course it is," broke in the Practical Man. amount necessary for the efficient decoration of

"Do you imagine for an instant that any Parlia- our national buildings. In this way one of the

ment which is pledged to administer the national best assets which any commercial nation could

affairs with care and economy will sanction the desire—a great school of designers and decorative

expenditure of large sums of money for such artists of the highest type—could be called into

useless work ? We have no right to encourage existence, and the services of the men composing

waste, and I hold that it would be a scandal if any it would be available for carrying out other work

of the public revenues were laid out upon anything which would come in their way. Even now there

so futile and so absolutely unnecessary." is a demand for our art products abroad, and this

"That is your view," laughed the Man with the demand would be enormously increased if we as a

Red Tie ; " the view I should have expected of you, nation did our duty to art. There is the way, if

because you cannot see anything beyond the tip of you would only see it, in which the return would

your nose. But I look at the matter in an entirely come for the money spent in decorating our public

different way, I am glad to say, and I suggest that buildings. I would like to see every place in which

the real scandal is in the fact that for nearly half national business is transacted beautified by fine

a century we have neglected an obvious and decorations commissioned and paid for by the State,

important duty." Other nations do not grudge this kind of expendi-

" What duty have we to art that we fail to fulfil ? " ture. In Paris, Berlin, Washington, and other

asked the Practical Man. " Do we not spend an capitals money for this purpose is given without

enormous and unnecessary amount of money stint. Are we less civilised or less intelligent?"
annually on art education ? What need is there " Great Heavens ! What extravagance; what

to spend more upon decorating a building that is wicked waste!" cried the Practical Man.
intended for use and not; for show ? What earthly The Lay Figure,

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