Studio: international art — 44.1908

Page: 244
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The Lay Figure

The lay figure : on the


. “.Does it not strike you that there has
been during recent years a great improvement
in landscape painting ? ” asked the Art Critic. “ I
feel that there is much more real progress in this
branch of pictorial practice than in any other ; I
can see a marked increase in the number of men
who study Nature intelligently and sympathetically.”
“ I am not sure that I agree with you,” returned
the Art Master; “ the modern landscape school
seems to me to be too much inclined to disregard
the great traditions ; it is too revolutionary, I think
—too forgetful of the higher artistic principles, and
too indifferent about the finer qualities of style.”

“ What a narrow view you always take ! ” cried
the Man with the Red Tie. “ You never will
admit that art can develop ; you surround it with
hard-and-fast rules, and the more out of date these
rules are the better you seem to like them.”

“ Great traditions can never be out of date,”
replied the Art Master. “ They are for all time ;
without them you bring art to a state of anarchy.”
“Would you mind telling me,” inquired the
Critic, “ what these traditions are ? Who estab-
lished them, and what do they prescribe ? ”

“ These traditions are the immutable rules by
which all serious artistic effort is directed,” said the
Art Master. “ They were established by the old
masters, and they prescribe respect for the laws of
composition, design and orderly arrangement,
which control all forms of art practice alike.”

“ But where does Nature come in? ” interrupted
the Man with the Red Tie. “ Is everyone to think
by rule, and see by rule ? Is no one ever to receive
an inspiration or to form an impression ? Is Nature
always to be cramped and confined and never to
be given a chance of asserting herself? ”

“ Nature is a wild thing,” replied the Art Master,
“ and must be disciplined before she can become a
fit associate for art. Art is not the representation
of Nature as she is, but the expression of an intel-
lectual understanding of what she ought to be.
She can be made a useful servant to art, but art
must always be her master.”

“ This is extremely interesting,” laughed the
Critic. “ Would you mind telling me how, with
these convictions, you would train a man who
wished to become a landscape painter ? ”

“ I would train him exactly as I would any other
painter,” answered the Art Master. “Why should
I make any difference ? He must learn to draw
and to paint in the usual way; he must learn the

principles of composition and the laws by which
colour arrangement and the management of light
and shade are governed. He must master his
craft in all its details, and then he can apply his
powers in any direction he pleases.”

“ And when would you put him to the study of
landscape ? ” asked the Critic.

“I would not make him study landscape at all,
or, at all events, not as part of his training,” re-
turned the Art Master. “ He can sketch out of
doors in his spare time, if he likes. But if he
goes properly through his school course he will
have no difficulty in painting landscapes, because
he will have acquired the power to observe facts
accurately and to represent details faithfully.”

“ Do you count landscape painting as only a
sort of portraiture ? ” cried the Man with the Red

“You can put it that way if you like,” replied
the Art Master. “ It is the representation of facts
and details, the recording of what is before you,
and so it is closely akin to portraiture, is it

“ Of course it is not,” said the Critic. “ In por-
traiture absolute fidelity to fact is essential; in
landscape the facts must be understood, but they
must, if necessary, be generalised and modified as
the imagination or the, impressionability of the
artist suggests. It is just because the education of
the landscape painter is not carried on now on the
lines which you lay down that there is this im-
provement which I commend. Teachers have
discovered that they must take their pupils out-of-
doors and show them how to look at Nature. They
realise that the men who are to paint landscape
properly must learn to see not with the short-range
microscopic vision of the portrait painter, but with
an eye that can focus Nature’s vastness delicately
and with subtlety. The open-air school has become
of late years a very important institution, and the
students who belong to it are finding out the use-
lessness of the old hard-and-fast traditions. Nature
is teaching them her own rules, and under her
guidance they are advancing in a way impossible
to the man who spends years hunting for details
within the four walls of a class room. The great
masters of landscape have always been rebels,
taking their own way in opposition to convention,,
and studying in the manner that they knew by
instinct to be correct; by their example the
modern teacher, of the right type, is allowing him-
self to be guided, and he is, in consequence,
exercising a most valuable influence on the art of
our time.” The Lay Figure.

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