Studio: international art — 42.1908

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The Lay Figure

r-r^HE LAY FIGURE: ON COLOUR
PHOTOGRAPHY.

^ "You painters are going to have the
conceit taken out of you directly," said the Prac-
tical Man : " I see that the recent discoveries in
colour photography have made possible the exact
reproduction of nature. No one will want to have
pictures now."

" Really ! Is that your idea ? " inquired the Man
with the Red Tie. " You actually imagine that
a mechanical process like photography can drive
painting off the field entirely ! Are you serious ? "

" Of course I am," replied the Practical Man.
" Why should anyone continue to take the smallest
interest in painted things which may or may not be
like nature, when there is available a process which
will give the facts of a subject, colour and all, with
absolute accuracy ? Now that colour can be photo-
graphed the last reason for the existence of the
painter has disappeared. We have no longer any
use for him, because this mechanical process that
you sneer at can do his work cheaper and better
than he can."

" But painting is an art," objected the Man with
the Red Tie, " and, therefore, it must always hold
a higher position than any process like photo-
graphy, no matter how skilfully this process may be
applied."

"Not at all," laughed the Practical Man ; "you
are so blinded by your prejudices that you cannot
understand what the public wants. We common-
sense people have only put up with paintings
because we have hitherto had nothing better,
because nothing else would give us the colour of
the things we see. We recognised long ago how
much better photography is for black-and-white
illustrations than an artist's drawings, as you can
see for yourself if you look at any of the illustrated
papers ; and now we have the chance we shall soon
come to the same conclusion with regard to colour
work. In a few years' time there will be no
painters left—they will have discovered that it is
no use trying to compete with photography and
will have abandoned their palettes if they have any
sense at all."

" Your prophecy might come true if all people
thought as you do," broke in the Art Critic. " But
you assume too much when you suggest that you,
and you alone, know what the public wants. Your
range of knowledge, my friend, is a little limited,
and if you would take the trouble to learn a little
more about this subject you would not talk such
arrant nonsense."

338

" Oh, indeed ! " sneered the Practical Man. " I
know that all people with any business capacities
and practical intelligence, all who are not dreamers
and fanatics, would agree with me. You are
behind the times, and are quite out of touch with
modern ideas."

" Then I thank Heaven that there still remains
quite a large number of dreamers and fanatics,"
replied the Critic, " if the development of a prac-
tical intelligence leads to such stupid convictions
as you possess. Your friends, no doubt, want the
same sort of stuff that pleases you because, like
you, they are so satisfied to be ignorant that they
refuse to learn even the rudiments of artistic know-
ledge. Outside the narrow bounds of your business
capacities you are an illiterate lot, and, as illiterate
people always do, you substitute blatant assertion
for argument."

" What on earth has this got to do with colour
photography, I should like to know?" interrupted
the Practical Man.

" Keep quiet," laughed the Man with the Red
Tie; "you are hearing some useful truths."

" It has everything to do with colour photo-
graphy, as that is the subject you have chosen to
talk nonsense about," continued the Critic. " You
said that the process of photographing in colour is
going to kill painting and extinguish artists. Now
this is not even an original stupidity, for it is merely
a repetition of what your predecessors in igno-
rance said when photography was first invented.
The photograph was certain to oust the por-
trait painter—has it done anything of the sort ?
Colour photography is going to destroy painting
—it will not. What will happen to it is this.
A few men, very few, of real artistic power will use
it properly and will attain fine results with it, but
the majority of the men into whose hands it will
fall will produce the cheap art, literal art, common-
place art, stupid art, that satisfies you and your
dull-witted friends who find pleasure in silly snap-
shots. It will be the joy of the raw amateur,
and it will record coarsely the features of the
seaside tripper. But, meanwhile, the painter's
art will continue on its way unharmed by any
mechanical competition and encouraged by every-
one who has the intelligence to distinguish
between true and false art and to appreciate noble,
personal, human craftsmanship. That you will
not be in this company of art lovers I can
well believe ; your practical, illiterate mind
cannot rise to such heights. But you need
not advertise your folly now."

The Lay Figure.
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