THE LAY FIGURE: ON PEOPLE
WHO EXPECT TOO MUCH
“ T HOPE, now that the question of reform
of education is so much in the air, that
something will be done to make our
A art schools of some practical utility,"
said the Business Man. “ They seem to be
singularly inefficient at present."
" Inefficient, indeed ! " cried the Art Master.
" What is the matter with them ? They are
doing well enough the work for which they
were designed—what else do you expect ? "
“ Well, perhaps the design was wrong in the
beginning," laughed the Business Man. " Any-
how, I do not think the results are what they
ought to be, and I do not consider that our art
schools give us a fair return for the money we
spend upon them."
“ It may be that you are expecting the art
schools to do something that does not quite
come within their scope," suggested the Critic.
“ They were created for a particular purpose :
is not that purpose being fulfilled ? ”
“ I think not," returned the Business Man.
“ I happen to have seen lately a lot of work
done in art schools, and it seemed to me that
the bulk of it was not at all what the public
would be likely to want and that there was in
it a singular lack of any sense of beauty."
“ Here, stop a minute," interrupted the Art
Master. “ What have the wants of the public
to do with the work of a student in an art
school ? He is not there to please the public,
but to learn the principles of his profession—
the fundamental processes of his trade, if you
prefer to put it in that way—and until he has
mastered those principles he has no business to
be thinking about pleasing the public."
“ And the result is that all the work done in
an art school is obviously art school work,"
argued the Business Man. “ Its only purpose
is to satisfy the teacher, not to appeal to
any one outside who might be likely to want it."
" But surely the work of any student who is
in training for a profession must be done to
satisfy his teacher,” protested the Critic ; " and
it is the dut}? of the teacher to see that the
student does satisfy him. You expect too much
when you ask that the student should also be
interesting a public which has no understanding
of the technical details of his work."
" Would you expect the details of any other
kind of educational work to be interesting to
the public ? " asked the Art Master. “ Would
there be any appeal to any one but his teacher
in the sums done by a schoolboy who was
destined later on to become the head of a great
commercial concern ? Does the public find
any satisfaction in the exercises by which the
perfect discipline of the soldier is acquired ? "
“ But the purpose of an art school is to teach
art," objected the Business Man ; “ and if the
art it teaches is not what the public wants, the
labour of that school is wasted."
" As I take it, the purpose of an art school is
not to teach art," replied the Critic ; " but to
teach the student the technical and mechanical
processes by which he can eventually express
the artistic feeling that is in him. If he has not
this feeling no amount of training will ever
make him really efficient as an art worker ; if
he has it, and it is of the kind to make a definite
popular appeal, his success will be all the greater
because he has been drilled and disciplined
thoroughly at school."
" Must the student then always conform to
the dry, ugly art school formula ? " demanded
the Business Man. “ Must he never be allowed
to show that he has a feeling for and a love of
the beauty which people want to see ? "
“ It is enough for me if he shows that he is
learning the principles and practice which are
immutably the foundation of all good work in
art," declared the Art Master. " Who am I
that I should dictate to him the way in which
later on he should apply those principles to
please his public ? That way he must find for
himself. I have done my dut}? to him when I
have taught him the mechanism of art."
" Then the student's work must always be
mechanical and matter of fact. Is that what
you mean ? " asked the Business Man.
" No, not quite that. You go too far,”
returned the Art Master. “ But all you have a
right to expect of it is that it should show an
intelligent understanding of the mechanism of
the artist’s practice and a workmanlike com-
mand of technical processes. That is what the
student has come to school to learn."
“ Yes, and if there is in it any conscious
effort to please the public its value as school
work is, I should say, appreciably diminished,”
commented the Critic. “ Touting for popularity
is hardly a student's mission."
The Lay Figure.