THE LAY FIGURE: ON THE
PENALISING OF ART.
" Another injustice to art ! " cried the Man
with the Red Tie/ " Are we never to be given a
chance ? Are we always to be the target for the
slings and arrows of outrageous fortune ? "
" What is the particular trouble now ? " asked
the Young Artist: " We have had so many injus-
tices to put up with lately that I am beginning to
lose count of them."
" Well, I was thinking about this new entertain-
ments tax," said the Man with the Red Tie. "It
seems to me an unfair imposition upon art shows,
and I feel that it will press very hardly upon all
classes of art workers."
" If you want my view of it, I consider it is
imposed in an entire misconception of both the
functions of art and the mission of the artist,"
declared the Young Artist. " I cannot follow the
reasoning which would justify the application of
such a tax to art exhibitions and I cannot possibly
see how they can be made to come under the head
" That is because you do not understand the
popular view of art," broke in the Art Critic.
" You take art seriously, but to the ordinary man
it appears only as an amusement, a frivolity which
must be approached in a light and careless spirit.
The practical person regards it as a useless and
not particularly reputable luxury, and, as such, a
legitimate subject for taxation."
"Then am I ranked with the other clowns
as a mere provider of unnecessary amusement ? "
exclaimed the Young Artist. " Is that the position
I occupy in the world ? "
" I fear that a very large section of the public
takes that view of you," agreed the Critic.
"Clearly, it is the opinion of the Government—
which presumably represents the feeling of the
majority—that you are only an entertainer, and
that if you are taxed out of existence no one will
be much the worse for your disappearance."
" There you have it! " sneered the Man with the
Red Tie. " Art is only a sort of grinning through
a horse-collar, and if you will grin in these solemn
times you must pay the penalty for being so un-
" But I neither want to grin myself nor to make
other people grin," protested the Young Artist.
" I want to teach them something and to give them
something to think about. I do take myself and
my work quite seriously and I claim that I am an
educator, not a mountebank."
" So you say," laughed the Man with the Red Tie;
" but your fellow-men do not agree with you.
There is no escape from the position which the
world thrusts upon you : the more serious you are
the more people chuckle."
"That is the pity of it," commented the Critic.
"When an artist talks about the educational value
of his work or the importance of his mission the
public either marvel at his conceit or abuse him
for the impudence of his pretensions. None of
those practical, business persons, who boast so
persistently that they form the backbone of the
country, will ever allow him a hearing. They are
quite confident that they can do perfectly well
" But can they do without him ? " demanded the
Young Artist. " Is he not a necessary part of the
social and industrial machine ? "
" Certainly other countries seem to think that
he is," returned the Critic ; " it is only here that
he is laughed at and taxed as a mere purveyor of
comic interludes. Abroad, pains are taken even
in war time to protect him and to encourage his
activity. I know that in one at least of the enemy
countries the State has taken art under its particular
care, has subsidised artists, has provided funds to
enable them to tide over their difficulties, and has
spent money freely to develop new forms of artistic
effort. I do not know of any country, except this,
in which art has been systematically penalised on
the score of economy or unjustly hampered by
taxation on the ground that it is a luxury or an
" We are nothing if not original," jeered the
Man with the Red Tie. " Anyhow, we seem to be
quite incapable of understanding what are the
needs of art, and we always, in dealing with it,
choose the wrong road and the wrong method,
if we possibly can."
" And what is the price that we shall have to pay
in the future for our unique attitude ? " asked the
" Time alone will show," replied the Critic;
"but I fear it will be a heavy one. I fear that
nations wiser in their appreciation of the value of
art and with a juster sense of its importance will
profit by our stupidity and take from us what by
right should be ours. They are striving to keep
it alive ; we with our boasted commonsense and
our wonderful idea of shrewd business devices are
doing all we can to kill it. I have few hopes for
the future ; the outlook is depressing."
" Well, we shall deserve all we get," said the Man
with the Red Tie. The Lay Figure.