THE LAY FIGURE: ON ART IN
RELATION TO TRADE.
" I do wish that the general public would
begin to understand how much art enters, or, at
all events, ought to enter, into our everyday life,"
said the Man with the Red Tie. " It does seem
to me sad that there should be such a want of
taste among the people whom one would expect to
show some sort of discrimination."
" Is there any general want of taste ?" asked the
Shopkeeper. " I think that there are a great
many people who have very definite opinions on
artistic questions and act up to them quite con-
"On what do you base that belief?" cried the
Art Critic. " Are you speaking from experience or
are you merely expressing a vague idea of what
you suppose to be the popular point of view ? "
" Certainly I am speaking from experience, and
a long experience too," replied the Shopkeeper.
" My work brings me in contact with all types of
people, and gives me special opportunities of
judging their likes and dislikes."
" And do you find that they like good art and
dislike bad ?" enquired the Man with the Red
Tie. " Do they choose wisely and show real
discrimination ? "
" I hope that I never offer them bad art,"
laughed the Shopkeeper. " It is not a question of
choosing : they buy the things I have to sell.
You see, I know what they want."
"Ah, that is just the point," broke in the Critic.
" You know what they want and you choose for
them. But do they know what they want, and
would they choose something else if they had the
chance ? "
" I am sure I do not know," returned the Shop-
keeper; "and I am sure I do not care. If they
are ready to buy what I have to offer them, why
should I worry about anything else ? "
" In other words, why should you worry whether
the public has any taste or not so long as you are
prosperous in your business ? " said the Man with
the Red Tie.
" That about sums up the position," agreed the
Shopkeeper. " I am a business man, and I have
to deal with certainties, not vague possibilities."
" But are the possibilities so vague ? " asked the
Critic. " If you offered to the public something
fresh, something better than they had seen before,
something with more real art in it, do you not
think they would be glad to get it ? "
" I really cannot say," answered the Shopkeeper
" But anyhow I should not like to take the risk.
I might have a lot of stuff left on my hands."
" Oh yes, but equally you might not, and there-
fore the risk would be worth taking," declared the
Critic. " There are surely many other kinds of
art than those which people have liked in the past
and which your experience has taught you they
used to want. You ought to be prepared to give
them what they will want in the future."
" When they want it I will supply it," asserted
the Shopkeeper. " But can you tell me where I
am to get what they are going to want ?"
" Go to the manufacturers," exclaimed the Man
with the Red Tie, "and see what they can offer
you. Don't let the people with taste begin buying
abroad because they can get better things there
than are available for them at home. Get ready
for the good time when the general public wakes
" That is all very well, but I cannot sell what our
manufacturers do not make," said the Shopkeeper.
"Then you should make it your business to
teach them what they ought to make," argued the
Critic. "I can quite see that you are to a great
extent in their hands, but at the same time you
have the power to influence their production. If
you use this power wisely you will^ benefit in the
long run, because you will keep your trade from
" That, of course, is worth trying for," replied
the Shopkeeper. " But do you really think there is
much good art in the stuff imported from abroad ?
" I think that very much of it is utterly cheap
and nasty," sighed the Critic, "and intended to
appeal to the lowest and most debased taste; and
I think that our manufacturers are far too much
inclined to imitate it. But that is where you come
in. You can stop the production here of this sort
of stuff if you refuse to handle it, and you can
prevent its importation if you teach the public to
see how bad it is."
" A nice job for me !" cried the Shopkeeper.
" I must educate the manufacturers as well as the
public, it seems."
" Those are the responsibilities of your position,"
laughed the Critic; "and I look to you to realise
them. Ask the manufacturers to supply you with
stuff that is simple, well made, and fitted for its
purpose—in other words, artistically sound—insist
that they shall invite the aid of the artist in their
business ; take the artist into partnership yourself;
raise the standard of production and keep it up.
Then you need have no fear of foreign com-
petition." The Lay Figure.