Universitätsbibliothek HeidelbergUniversitätsbibliothek Heidelberg

Studio: international art — 58.1913

DOI issue:
No. 240 (March 1913)
DOI article:
The lay figure: on sectarianism in art
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The Lay Figure


" I wonder if there is any subject over
which people differ more than they do about art,"
said the Art Critic. " I know none—except,
perhaps, religion—that is more vehemently dis-
cussed, and concerning which more divergent
opinions are expressed."

" That is not surprising," returned the Man
with the Red Tie, " because art is a matter of
personal conviction, and as the convictions of
different people vary, so must their expressions of
opinion diverge."

" But there are rules and principles," argued
the Critic, "which govern all kinds of art. Why
should there not be some agreement about

"Because there are not all kinds of art," broke
in the Young Painter. " There is only one kind—
good art. That has its rules and principles, of
course, and everything which does not conform
to them is bad and therefore of no account

"Good art ! Yes, that is the only kind that
counts as of any real value," admitted the Critic;
" but there can be and are many types of good
art, each one of which is. equally worthy of
consideration." ;

" No, that is impossible," asserted the Young
Painter. "The rules and principles you talk
about can only apply to one type of art, the type
that adheres to them absolutely and with scrupulous
fidelity. In all other types there is some attempt
to modify them, or even to depart from them, and
that is clearly not permissible."

" Might I ask," interposed the Man with the Red
Tie, " how we are to discover which is the right
type, the one whose rules are to control all art and
to determine the character and direction of all
artistic effort ? "

" Obviously that must be left to the artist who
has given most thought to artistic questions,"
replied the Young Painter. "He is the supreme
master, the one leader whom all the rest of the
world must follow."

"What! all art is to be for all time the second-
hand expression of the convictions of one man,"
cried the Critic. " That is narrowing things down
indeed ! One leader who lays down a code of
rules and a band of followers who swallow these
rules without thought or question! What an
absurdity ! "

" I must ask something more," said the Man

with the Red Tie. " Who is to elect this leader ?
Who settles that he is better fitted to occupy the
exalted position you would assign to him than
some other artist ? "

" He settles that for himself," declared the
Young Painter, " by proving that no other artist
has an equal claim to respect. We who have
followed his achievements closely are satisfied
that he stands alone and therefore we should
naturally not for a moment presume to question
his authority."

" In other words you invest him with a function
that he, if he happens to be a really great artist,
would be the last to claim for himself," said the
Critic, " and you cling on to his skirts and think
you derive a sort of reflected glory from being
associated with him. That way comes the division
of art into a number of warring factions and the
wasting of so much of its energies on domestic

" That way comes the position of affairs which
we are enjoying to-day," laughed the Man with the
Red Tie.

" Quite so, we have at the moment a very good
chance of judging how the system works," agreed
the Critic. " There is quite a crowd now of schools
and groups each with its heaven-born leader and
its enthusiastic adherents and champions, who
look with disdain on every other group. The
leaders being great men, and endowed with a fair
share of the humility of greatness, are for the most
part on the best of terms with one another and in
spite of differences of opinion are quite ready to
recognise the good qualities of their rivals. But
the followers, how they fight! "

"Well, and ought they not to fight, if they really
believe in their principles ?" asked the Young

"No, of course not, because they have no real
principles of their own," returned the Critic. " If
they had formed sincere convictions for themselves
they would of course be justified in defending
them; but, even then, they ought to respect the
convictions of other men who are not a whit less
sincere than themselves. This sectarianism, this
faction fighting, this wrangling over matters that
are not of vital importance is the curse of modern
art, because it kills all breadth of mind in the
men who follow the artistic profession, and it
bewilders the public, who cannot understand how
trivial and petty these quarrels really are. For
Heaven's sake, let us leave off fighting among
ourselves and give art a chance."

The Lay Figure.