Studio: international art — 49.1910

Page: 168
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The Lay Figure

THE LAY FIGURE: ON THE
CHANCES OF THE CRAFTS-
MAN.

“ I think we are all agreed,” said the Craftsman,
“ that the art worker, the man who devotes him-
self to the study of the applied arts, has as great
claims to consideration as his fellow-artists, the
picture painters and sculptors. But, would you
tell me, has he the same chances of bringing his
work before the public ? ”

“If you want a plain answer to a plain ques-
tion,” returned the Man with the Red Tie, “ I
should say that he certainly has not. He is, I
think, hampered by lack of opportunities.”

“And lack of opportunity means lack of appre-
ciation, does it not ? ” continued the Craftsman.
“ In other words, the standing of the craftsman
would be greatly improved if he were more fre-
quently in evidence and more respectfully treated.”
“ Surely, that is obvious,” replied the Man with
the Red Tie; “ the artist whose work is never
seen, or whose best productions are shown under
conditions that do them less than justice, cannot
expect to be very highly estimated by the public.
He is a wasted force.”

“Not entirely,” broke in the Art Critic. “He
may in his obscurity be adding much to the sum-
total of the art of the country in which he lives;
but he is not likely to be discovered until he has
been dead for a century or so. He will reap no
advantage personally if publicity is denied to him,
but ultimately his labour will not be wasted.”

“ But what good is that to him while he is
alive?” sighed the Craftsman. “Is he to work
only for future generations and to get nothing
from the present ? ”

“There is another point, too,” said the Man
with the Red Tie. “ Is it possible for any but the
most abnormal of human beings to go on doing
his best when he knows that it will bring him no
reward? The very consciousness of his powers
will make him unwilling to waste himself on people
who do not appreciate him. He will not go on for
ever fighting against neglect.”

“ No ! There I am afraid you are right,” agreed
the Critic. “ Human nature must be taken into
account, and there is nothing so harmful to the
sensitive humanity of the artist as neglect or even
want of encouragement. The artist can endure
poverty far more cheerfully than obscurity, he
must be before the public, he must have an
audience if he is to continue to do his best.
Theoretically, neglect will not make him a less
168

conscientious worker, but practically it tends to
kill his enthusiasm and to cramp his power.”.

“ That is my point,” cried the Craftsman. “ I feel
that to deny to the worker in the applied arts the
chances to which as an artist he is entitled is to
diminish not only the popular estimation of his
work, but also his own personal capacity.”

“ To reduce him in fact from the level of an
artist to that of a mere journeyman,” added the
Man with the Red Tie.

“There is that danger, undoubtedly,” said the
Critic. “ He needs the incentive of a direct appeal
to the public to induce him always to aim at the
highest, and if his aim is not a high one he loses
his right to be counted as an artist. The oppor-
tunity to make this direct appeal should be open
to him for his own sake and for that of his art.”

“ But is it open to him ? ” asked the Craftsman.
“ Can he come before the public properly ? ”

“ I think he can abroad,” replied the Critic, “ but
I admit he has at present no real chance in this
country. Our art societies do not seriously recog-
nize the applied arts, and will not give them a fair
show. The Royal Academy, for example, pro-
fesses to support painting, sculpture, architecture,
and design, but in its Spring exhibitions it allots to
sculpture its two worst rooms, and to architecture
and design one room that would not contain a
hundredth part of the things that ought to be
shown. The craftsman is not encouraged there,
and as the other societies follow suit he has either
to organize exhibitions himself or not exhibit at all.”
“ He must depend upon the shops to give him
publicity,” suggested the Man with the Red Tie.

“ He will not get it there either,” answered the
Critic. “ The shops do not want fine work, and
will not trouble about things that are original and
inspired. No, the craftsman’s chances must come
from the recognition by the art societies of the fact
that painting is not the only art, and from a
broadening of the artistic outlook. The Academy
could at once put the applied arts into their
proper position by making its winter exhibition a
craftsman show. If the Academy would give the
lead, the other societies would follow, and then the
applied arts would come to their own. I may be
unduly sanguine, but I do believe that some such
reform is likely in the not very remote future.
Other countries have frankly recognized the im-
portance of the craftsman and give him his right
position ; we cannot afford to lag too long behind
in taste and common sense. Our art societies
must recognize him as frankly in self-defence.”

The Lay Figure.
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