Studio: international art — 67.1916

Page: 284
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The Lay Figure

The lay figure: on the


“ I am afraid that there is in existence a consider-
able misconception about what is desirable for the
proper encouragement of art,” said the Art Critic.
“People seem to have very vague ideas on the
subject, and to be quite uncertain what they ought
to do.”

“ People in this country always have had vague
ideas about art,” sighed the Young Artist. “ There
is hardly anyone who understands it or takes it

“Well, is not art itself rather a vague thing?”
asked the Plain Man. “ I know that you think
me a hopeless idiot when I offer any opinions on
artistic questions, but really I can find nothing
of practical importance, nothing to lay hold of, in

“ And you are nothing if not practical ! ” inter-
posed the Man with the Red Tie. “ Oh, we all
know your attitude towards existence and we are
prepared to make allowances for your obvious

“ But I do not want to make allowances for
limitations which cramp the activities of other
people,” cried the Young Artist. “On the con-
trary I resent them, and I say they ought to be
got rid of. The business man is the enemy of art,
because with his limited intelligence and narrow
outlook he cannot grasp either its meaning or its

“ It is, as you have just heard, because he can
find in it nothing that corresponds to his notion of
what is practical,” commented the Man with the
Red Tie.

“Ah, yes! That is just the point,” broke in
the Critic. “ The business man’s imagination is
bounded always by a balance-sheet, and his profit
and loss account forms his horizon. He cannot
conceive an idea which goes beyond these bound-
aries, and he dismisses as unpractical everything
that cannot be handled by the clerks in his

“ But surely that is the right attitude for the
business man to take up,” argued the Plain Man.

“ He has to deal with the realities of life, with the
little everyday details, if you like to put it in that
way, and he has no time to spare for the fanciful
abstractions which seem big things to other

“ They do not seem big things, they are big,”
declared the Young Artist. “They are the things

which determine the national character and are of
paramount importance in directing the develop-
ment of the country.”

“That is so,” agreed the Critic. “But the big
things can to a very great extent take care of
themselves—their bigness will carry them through.
What I want the business man to appreciate is
that art enters intimately into the little things of
life and comes therefore definitely within the scope
of his limitations.”

“ How can it enter into my life ? ” asked the
Plain Man. “ I am not an art dealer and I do
not buy and sell art objects.”

“Are you sure about that?” answered the
Critic. “You are a trader and you handle many
things in the production of which a great deal of
artistic ingenuity is displayed. In that sense you
are certainly an art dealer, and it is your duty to
see that the art in which you deal is of the best
possible quality.”

“Ah ! That comes as a shock to you,” laughed
the Man with the Red Tie. “ You see, you have
been touching the unclean thing after all, and
didn’t know it.”

“ But surely you are joking when you say that
the odds and ends which the trader handles are
art objects,” expostulated the Plain Man. “ They
are ordinary articles of commerce; how can they
be artistic ? ”

“ Because every article, no matter how small
and trivial it may appear to be, is an art product
if in the making of it artistic skill is required,”
returned the Critic. “ These little things are of
the utmost importance in the general scheme of
art production, and the more their artistic signi-
ficance is recognised by those concerned in their
exploitation the more likely are they to fulfil their
commercial purpose.”

“Yes, their commercial purpose is to be sold
at a profit,” agreed the Young Artist; “ and the
better they are artistically the more saleable they

“ Exactly ! The trader who encourages the
artistic quality in the little, commonplace, every-
day commodities which everybody wants, benefits
himself,” declared the Critic; “ because he

increases the demand for his wares. His profits
increase with the increase in the artistic merit of
the things he offers for sale. If he neglects art he
hurts his own business and endangers his com-
mercial success.”

“ That is quite a new point of view to me ! ”
gasped the Plain Man.

The Lay Figure.
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