Studio: international art — 67.1916

Page: 210
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The Lay Figure


“ I am in some anxiety,” said the Art
Critic, “about the future of art in this country.
There seems to me much danger that it may be
swept away by a wave of materialism, and that its
importance may be forgotten under the stress of
present-day conditions.”

“ Has it any importance ? ” asked the Plain Man.
“ All this talk about the importance of art rather
irritates me. I cannot see that art is anything but
a superfluity, a sort of embroidery of our existence,
something that we can do perfectly well without;
and, if it comes to that, something that nowadays
certainly it would be a sheer extravagance to

“ Oh, would it,” cried the Young Artist. “ That
is where your beastly materialism leads you astray
Because you are too mentally deficient to appre-
ciate either the significance or the value of art you
would deny it to all those people who regard it as
a necessity of intelligent and civilised life. Have
you no ideals ? ”

“ Do ideals pay ? ” demanded the Plain Man.
“ I have to make a living, and to do that I find I
must use practical common sense, and must not
give way to silly fancies. There is no money in
art, and therefore it is unworthy of the attention
of a business man.”

“ No money in art! Hark to him ! ” exclaimed
the Man with the Red Tie. “ Listen to the busi-
ness man when he really lets himself go and
divulges the true state of his mind ! ”

“Well, I am not ashamed of being a business
man,” declared the Plain Man ; “and I am talking
of things I know. I do not deny that large sums
of money change hands over art deals, but I do
say that this money is wasted on what is really an
extravagance, and that it could be far more use-
fully employed.”

“ What you mean is that you would like to
employ it in your business, and that you hanker
after it to make more money out of it,” rejoined
the Young Artist; “but as art is my business, why
should I not have some of this money to help me
along ? I can make quite as good a use of it as
you can.”

“No, you can not,” objected the Plain Man,
“ because your business, as you call it, is to supply
a non-existent want. The people for whom you
cater are the useless spendthrifts who waste their
substance on a luxury and hamper the real
material progress of their country. Art is not a

thing that anyone actually wants—it does not
satisfy a pressing need.”

“Stop a bit!” broke in the Critic. 1‘That is
where I join issue with you. Art is a necessity
of civilised life and is as essential to promote
mental development as food, is to ensure bodily
growth. If you withhold art the mind of the
people atrophies and the intelligence of the nation

“And if the intelligence of a nation decays
its power to deal profitably with any form of com-
mercial enterprise disappears,” commented the
Man with the Red Tie.

“ Precisely. The nation which aspires to be
commercially successful must have highly de-
veloped and organised intelligence,” agreed the
Critic ; “ and art is one of the most important of
educative factors as well as a commercial asset of
infinite value. The nation which makes art a
prominent fact in its daily life is without doubt
laying the best possible foundation for commercial

“ How is it possible to make art a prominent
fact in daily life?” scoffed the Plain Man. “ We
cannot all buy pictures or stick statues about our
rooms. I have plenty of other ways of using my

“ I do not expect you to buy pictures,” sighed
the Young Artist; “but at any rate you need not
interfere with other people who do want to buy

“That is not quite the point,” said the Critic.
“Buying pictures or statues is not the only way of
encouraging art production; it is not even the
most efficient way. The best encouragement would
be in a frank recognition of the fact that nearly all
articles in everyday use can be and should be of
genuinely artistic quality. Art should enter into
our lives in every possible direction, and to have
anything about us that is not artistically sound
should be regarded as an offence against propriety.
We ought to feel as ashamed of committing an
error of taste as we should be of a lapse from
strict morality.”

“ And pray what do you expect us to spend on
all these artistic accessories to existence ? ” sneered
the Plain Man.

“ Nothing more than you are spending already
on things that are not artistic,” returned the Critic.
“ Indeed, as it is truer economy to buy a good
thing than a bad one, it is from the disregard
of art that real extravagance comes. You, my
business friend, are the spendthrift, not the
art-lover.” The Lay Figure.

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