Studio: international art — 51.1911

Page: 344
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https://digi.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/diglit/studio1911/0365
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The Lay Figure

THE LAY FIGURE: ON THE

RISK OF BEING FANATICAL.

“ I suppose you would accuse me of being
old-fashioned if I were to declare my conviction
that fanaticism is one of the most evil influences in
Art,” said the Art Critic. “Yet, even at the risk
of having to defend myself against such a charge,
I am prepared to give that as my opinion.”

“ I should say that you were not only old-
fashioned, but an absolute reactionary as well,”
cried the Man with the Red Tie. “Why, fanaticism
is the motive force in modern Art! ”

“Yes, indeed,” agreed the Young Painter, “there
is no room in the world now for half-hearted en-
thusiasms. We must all be fanatics if we are to
keep Art alive; the times are too strenuous to give
a chance to any but the strongest beliefs.”

“Which is the more important, the belief itself,
or only the strength of it?” asked the Critic.” I
object to the fanatic as an intemperate advocate of
half-digested ideas. He does not reason; he sees
none of the side lights on his subject; he only
shouts his own crude view of things at the world
and expects it to be accepted. Do you think
that is right ? Does it not matter what opinion
you hold so long as you assert it vehemently
enough ? ”

“ I should say that any opinion would do if you
have the courage to stick to it,” laughed the Man
with the Red Tie. “The mission of the fanatic is
not to deal with subtleties of reasoning, but to put
forward a plain proposition as vigorously as possible
and not to allow it to be contradicted.”

“You mean he should assert but never argue,”
returned the Critic. “ That looks to me as if you
knew that he had a weak case.”

“No, no !” objected the Young Painter. “You
cannot say that about the fanatic in Modern Art.
It is the strength of his position that makes him
fanatical. Why should he be tolerant when he
knows he is right ? If he condescends to argue,
he admits that some other opinion than his might
be permitted.”

“ But would you tell me,” enquired the Critic,
at what particular date in history the fanatic
acquired infallibility. Why should the present-day
fanatic be any more trustworthy than his predecessor
of a generation or two ago ? ’

“ I think you will find that the enthusiast in Art
has always been on the side of progress,” replied
the Young Painter, “ and, therefore, that he has
always been worthy of trust and confidence.”

“ Oh, surely not,” said the Critic, I am old
344

enough to remember the time when the general
fanaticism took the form of blind worship of the
Old Masters, and when nothing but slavish imita-
tion of their works was allowed to count as Art.
Would you say that made for progress?”

“You score one,” laughed the Man with the Red
Tie. “ I am beginning to see what you are driving
at.”

“Well, of course,” hesitated the Young Painter,
our predecessors may have made mistakes. But
I am sure we are on the right track now.”

“ How can you be sure ? ” asked the Critic.
“ Another generation may ridicule your enthusiasms
as heartily as we do those of the men who declared
that imitation of the Old Masters was the highest
form of expression of which Art was capable.
There is no finality in fanaticism; it changes with
every period, and is swayed by every passing
fashion. It is the resort of the intellectually
destitute, and it is only too often a cloak for
ignorance.”

“Yet there must be strong convictions in Art,
if there is to be any real progress,” pleaded the
Young Painter. “Surely you will admit that.”

“ Gladly, because it is the strong conviction I
want,” replied the Critic. “ If there is this strong
conviction, based upon reason and supported by
intelligence, we shall have progress in Art from
generation to generation. At present, what you
call progress is only the swing of a pendulum
which goes from one extreme to another but
always covers the same ground. The fanatics of
yesterday breed the fanatics of to-day; the pendu-
lum swings from Old Master worship yonder to
artistic anarchy here, and then it goes back again
to the place from which it started. While this
process continues there can be no forward move-
ment.”

“But what, then, is the remedy,” asked the
Young Painter..

“ I know of none save a frank recognition that
fanaticism is, as I say, an evil influence,” answered
the Critic. “We must curb our wild enthusiasms,
and our intemperate desire to experience new
sensations at all costs. We must think for our-
selves sanely and temperately, we must study
humbly, striving to discover what is good in all
forms of Art—for there is something to be learned
from them all—and we must not deny to any
sincere student the right to be heard, simply
because he does not hold the same opinions that
we do. Let us avoid the dangers of fanaticism
and seek safety in toleration.”

The Lay Figure.
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