Studio: international art — 60.1914

Page: 172
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The Lay Figure

The lay figure • on facing


“ Do you chance to have read a book
called ‘ Thorley Weir,’ by E. F. Benson?” asked
the Man with the Red Tie. “ If you have not, let
me commend it to your attention ; the story has a
moral.” •

“Oh, yes, I have read it,” laughed the Ait
Critic. “ Did you think the villain of the piece was
drawn from me? I can assure you that the portrait
is not the least like me.”

“ What is the book about ? ” broke in the Young
Painter. “ I have not seen it.”

“ It is just an ordinary love story,” replied the
Man with the Red Tie, “ but the hero is a young
artist of spectacular ability and the villain is a
critic; the whole plot turns upon the relations
between these two.”

“ But what a type of critic is he ! ” cried the
Critic. “ You should explain that though he is
nominally a critic and a writer on Art for various
papers, he is really a dealer, and that he makes a
fortune by exploiting young artists to his own
advantage and by decidedly tricky dealings in Old

“ Good Lord ! That is a commonplace type
enough to write a story about,” said the Young
Painter. “ Most modern critics are dealers in
disguise—and usually in a very thin disguise too.
Those that are not "actually dealers themselves are
in with the regular dealers and regularly share their

“ The type is a common one, I admit,” sighed
the Critic, “ but there are exceptions to the rule.
I may be a bit old-fashioned, but I can say without
fear of contradiction that I have never myself
diverged into Art dealings.”

“ Is that due to want of inclination or lack ol
opportunity?” sneered the Man with the Red Tie.
“ Or is it merely a pose ? ”

“It is due to a quite sincere belief that the
functions of the critic and the dealer are opposed
to one another,” returned the Critic. “I do not
see how the two can be associated without a very
serious deterioration of the critic’s character. If
the critic adopts the dealer’s necessarily material
point of view his own mental attitude must in-
evitably degenerate. He ought to be an idealist,
not a shrewd commercial man.”

“Yet I suppose every dealer ought to be a bit of
a critic,” argued the Young Painter.

“A bit of a critic! Yes,” agreed the Critic.
“ That is true in this sense, that the dealer must be

able to appreciate'^fully the difference between good
Art and bad, and that to exercise this appreciation
he must possess the critical faculty. But what is
much more important to him is that he should
know infallibly what sort of Art will sell and what
sort of Art he can make saleable. He must not
hesitate to handle bad Art if the public want to buy
it, and if he can see his way to make a sufficiently
large profit out of it. His eye must always be on
the Art market.”

“ And the critic, I suppose, must never be so
indiscreet as to allow himself to become conscious
that there is such a thing as an Art market at all,”
laughed the Man with the Red Tie.

“ Precisely, that just sums it up,” answered the
Critic. “ The existence of an Art market cannot,
of course, be concealed from the critic, but the
only consciousness of it that he may show should
appear solely in his desire to influence the market
always to demand the best. In other words, he
must advocate the best, whether it happens to
appeal to the public or not, and he must strive
perpetually and sincerely to teach the Art lover to
discriminate carefully between what is good and
bad in Art.”

“ May he not back his opinion by buying and
selling what is good ? ” asked the Man with the
Red Tie. “ Must his advocacy of the things in
which he honestly and sincerely believes always be
disinterested ? ”

“ If it is not disinterested his criticism becomes
merely the advertisement of the tradesman who is
puffing his wares,” said the Critic. “ The critic
cannot face both ways and keep one eye on great
Art principles and the other on the main chance.
Such a strain on his visual organs must result in
moral astigmatism, and human nature being what it
is, the twist will generally be in the direction of his
personal profit.”

“ It seems to me that the astigmatism of the
modern critic has developed into a regular squint,”
laughed the Young Painter.

“ Let us be charitable and call it a defect in
vision,” replied the Critic. “ But, all the same, it is
a defect I would like to see cured. So long as the
critics give way to the temptation to make a bit for
themselves out of what they know about Art, so
long as they buy and sell either on their own or in
co-operation with the avowed Art dealers, there can
be no pure and helpful Art criticism. No man can
write without bias if he has a direct monetary interest
in the things about which he is writing ; and I am
afraid this bias is very apparent at the present
time.” The Lay Figure.
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