Studio: international art — 49.1910

Page: 82
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The Lay

THE LAY FIGURE: ON THE

CLAIMS OF THE CRAFTSMAN.

“ I wish someone would explain to me,”
said the Craftsman, “ what sort of person is really
entitled to be called an artist. How would you
define an artist ? Who or what is he ? ”

“ Everybody is an artist nowadays,” laughed
the Man with the Red Tie. “ Cooks are artists,
so are hairdressers, music-hall performers, house
painters, dressmakers—anyone and everyone in
fact.”

“ I was not thinking so much of the people who
assume the title whether they have a right to it or
not,” returned the Craftsman. “ I was wondering
rather why it was commonly given to some men
and withheld from others, who, as it seems to me,
might fairly claim it.”

“ Surely the artist is the man who exercises his
imagination and his technical skill in the produc-
tion of things that are beautiful,” broke in the Art
Critic. “ The title is given him because he
possesses the creative faculty and applies this
faculty to artistic purposes. All inventors are not
artists, of course, but a man is not an artist unless
he has very definite powers both of invention and
expression.”

“ Quite so,” replied the Craftsman ; “ that is a
definition I am quite willing to accept. But here
comes the point that rankles in my mind—why are
art workers always spoken of as if they were divided
into two classes, artists and craftsmen? Is not
the craftsman an artist ? ”

“ Certainly he is, if he satisfies the conditions I
have just laid down,” cried the Critic. “The
designer who can make the things he imagines is
emphatically not less an artist than the painter or
the sculptor.”

“ And the distinction of which our friend com-
plains is a false one made by people who do not
understand what art means,” commented the Man
with the Red Tie. “ It is simply a proof of the
popular narrow-mindedness.”

“ I should call it rather a proof of popular
respect for a false convention,” said the Critic.
“It has become the fashion to give the title of
artist almost exclusively to painters, and so closely
is this fashion followed that I believe a great many
people of apparently normal intelligence would be
quite surprised to hear even a sculptor spoken of
as an artist.”

“ Then what hope is there for the craftsman ? ”
asked the Man with the Red Tie. “ How can he
expect to have his right position recognised ? ”

82

Figure

“ We need never give up hoping for the correc-
tion of a popular error,” answered the Critic.
“Even a fashion can be changed if its absurdity
can be made sufficiently evident.”

“ There is the difficulty,” sighed the Craftsman.
“You have got to make the public realise that
they are following an absurd fashion; and to con-
vince people that they have been making fools of
themselves is an uphill game. I am much afraid
that this implied contempt for the craftsman is due
to a general undervaluing of the work to which he
devotes himself.”

“No doubt,” replied the Critic. “But this
deprecatory attitude towards artistic craftsman-
ship is not necessarily permanent, and I think that
even now there are signs of amendment. A grow-
ing section of the public is interesting itself in
other kinds of art work besides painting, and the
influence of the craftsman is increasing. As he
gains in influence so he will rise in the popular
estimation.”

“ He will have to rise far before he takes his
right position in this country,” objected the Crafts-
man.

“Not so far as you think,” said the Critic.
“ There is already a very sincere appreciation
abroad of the importance of the art work which is
being produced here, and we may fairly claim to
have inspired more than one foreign movement in
design and craftsmanship. But I admit that a
good deal more could be done in this country to
encourage the development of the applied arts. I
would like, for instance, to see our national and
municipal museums acquiring regularly examples
of modern craftsmanship—there are many things
created year by year which are quite worthy
to be placed beside the work of the ancient crafts-
men—-and I would like to see collectors diverting
some of their attention from the battered relics
from the past ages to the quite.as admirable pro-
ductions of their contemporaries. It would please
me also to find that people had ceased to regard
the worship of dubious pictures by old masters as
the one certain and infallible proof of enlighten-
ment. But I believe that all these things will
come.”

“ What, may I ask, are the grounds for your
belief?” inquired the Craftsman.

“The excellence of modern craftsmanship,”
replied the Critic. “ Good work will always con-
vince if you allow time enough for its influence to
be properly felt and for its character to be generally
understood. But of course you must keep up
your standard.” The Lay Figure.
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