Studio: international art — 90.1925

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*■ ART a000a

The Plain Man had been to a small but
extremely advanced exhibition of " modern
art " and was still fuming about it. At
length he rose from his chair and walked
up and down the room in a kind of despair,
his feelings finding vocal utterance as
follows : 00000

" All this modern stuff beats me. It
seems to me to be a vast conspiracy of
nonsense. The—diagrams in the precious
show I have just been looking at for the
most part resemble nothing on earth,
and when they do resemble something
they are like the first scribbled efforts of
children. Yet there are apparently con-
siderable numbers of people who think
them good. What does it mean i " 0

u In any argument/' said the Critic,
with a slightly exaggerated calm (for the
excitement of the Plain Man always made
him feel rather superior)—" in any argu-
ment it is necessary clearly to define at the
beginning what you are arguing about.
You say in hollow and tragic tones, ' All
this modern stuff/ but surely you do not
condemn roundly all the artistic produc-
tion of the brilliant and amusing (if dan-
gerous) age in which we live i We must
disentangle good modernity from bad." 0
I know, I know," said the Plain Man.
" But standards have gone so utterly by
the board. The only answer I get when I
apply to those who are supposed to under-
stand is neither helpful nor answerable.
It is ' Art has nothing to do with life or
your standards of life. If you can't appre-
ciate us we are sorry for you. You do not
belong to our rarefied sphere, and there is
no more to be said.' "000

" Yes," replied the Critic, " but what I
was going to say is this : we are living in
an age of experiment. For one thing, war
has caused an enormous confusion, and
this has an inevitable effect on every phase
of life. People are trying to look at the
world in a novel way ; have, in fact, been
almost forced to do so. Now experiment
is good in itself. In every profession
there is need for movement, otherwise
stagnation sets in. Thus in art certain
things have already been done as well as
they could be done, so that we have to


strike out in another direction to save our-
selves from being merely bad copyists.
The moderns are experimenting with form
and colour. There is this much good in
it—that movement is going on." 0

44 You can move back as well as for-
ward," muttered the Plain Man. " I like
to see something complete and finished—
a beautiful representation of the things I
know and love." 0000

" Exactly. Experiment is not enough in
itself. Still bear in mind the Aristotelean
maxim that virtue is a mean between
two extremes. The age before our own
finished its art so carefully that it lost all
the meaning of design and harmony and
essential form. It gave so much attention
to the subject (and a particular type of
sentimental subject) that it reduced the
subject picture to a dreary anecdotage. It
is natural for us to react from that. We
have grasped once more the value of sim-
plicity and the value of design. This has
been exaggerated into a vice as mere
mechanics and a total absence of intellec-
tual and emotional content. The desir-
able goal lies somewhere between, and the
best of our serious and capable modern
artists are on the right road to attain it." 0

44 Then you don't care for these wild
things—circles and cubes and tottering
clumsy shapes without meaning?'" asked
the Plain Man, who had in mind a " syn-
thesis " by a gentleman with a very out-
landish name. 0000

44 I condemn them utterly," answered
the Critic. 44 Except you are as a little
child you shall not enter into the Kingdom
of Art, is in a way a true statement. But
it entails the combination of the child's
freshness and keenness of vision with a
hand skilled and matured by long expe-
rience and devoted study of nature. Only
the accomplished can afford to fumble.
It is as perilous for a student to
experiment without hard-won skill as for
a bird to attempt to fly before its wings
are fledged. And here is one of the great
unfledged," he added. 000

This was the appearance of a very, very
lofty young man who held that the natural
world was thoroughly outmoded, and who,
as usual, fell immediately into an acri-
monious discussion with the Plain Man,
during which the Critic faded quietly away.
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