Studio: international art — 88.1924

Page: 240
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THE LAY FIGURE: ON SIGHT-
SEERS AND STUDENTS. 0

" I notice that you fellows are always
complaining that the general public take
no interest in art," said the Plain Man.
" Do you really believe it, or do you talk
like that merely for the sake of something
to say i" 0 0 0 0 0

" Of course we believe it," answered
the Young Artist indignantly." " Why do
you put us down as a set of humbugs <
We have had evidence enough of the
small interest taken by the public in our
efforts, and I can assure you that our
complaints are amply justified." 0

The Plain Man chuckled. " Perhaps,"
he replied, " the fault lies with you and
not with the public. If you do not give
people what they want you cannot expect
them to be interested in you. Now I
should have said that art was really very
popular—good art, I mean; not the sort
of stuff you call art." 000

" Your intention, I presume, is to be
offensive," sneered the Young Artist. "But
would you kindly tell me where you dis-
cover any signs of the popularity of good
art i" 0 0 0 0 0 0

" Where you could find them for your-
self if you kept your eyes open," returned
the Plain Man. " My dear chap, look
at the crowds who go to our public art
galleries and museums; what takes them
there except an interest in art t They want
to see the best, so very wisely they choose
the places where it is brought within
their reach." 00000

" I very much wish that I could agree
with you," sighed the Critic, who had been
listening to the argument. " I would
like to think that all the people who visit
our national collections are genuine art
lovers who really enjoy what they can see
there. But I have my doubts." 0

" There you are," cried the Young
Artist in triumph. " Of course, the crowds
you talk about are mainly made up of
sightseers. If you eliminate the profes-
sional students, the very few connoisseurs
who want to get information on some
technical point, and the idlers who have
strayed in out of the rain, you have left
only a mass of casual visitors whose one
idea is to get a free show. Don't suggest

240

that they are fit to be called art lovers, for
Heaven's sake." 0000

" No, I am afraid a good many of them
are like the old lady who objected to the
National Gallery because the exhibits
there were not changed once a week as
they were in the other picture houses,"
said the Critic with a smile. " Curiosity
brings more people to public galleries
than a genuine and cultivated interest in
art." 000000

" But, surely curiosity implies interest,"
protested the Plain Man with some
degree of heat. " And, surely from curio-
sity can come an honest desire to learn.
It is all very well to be contemptuous
about sightseers, but if you do your
sightseeing in places where everything is
worth looking at, of course you must profit
by it." 00000

" Not if you look at everything,"
replied the Critic. " There it is that I
make the distinction between the sight-
seer and the man who is interested in art.
The one looks at everything, but sees
nothing, and, consequently, derives no
profit from his inspection, the other goes
with an intention to study some phase or
type of art, and selects only the examples
which will help him to arrive at a fuller
understanding. The one is not more than
vaguely curious, the other is genuinely
interested." 00000

" And, do you think this vague curio-
sity can ever develop into genuine
interest i " asked the Young Artist. 0

The Critic hesitated a moment. " I
really do not know," he answered. " In
very many people the sightseeing habit
is so ingrained that they can never free
themselves from it, and if you show them
a number of objects they will always
rush from one to the other without giving
themselves time to appreciate any of them.
But there may be a few less restless souls,
who, beginning in vagueness, are able
to end in concentration and become
serious and thoughtful students. They
would certainly profit by their visits to
collections of works of art, because they
would learn to pick from these collections
only what interests them, and would not
try to swallow more than they can pos-
sibly assimilate." 0000
The Lay Figure.
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