1. LONDON MODELS (continued)
As regards the influence of the ordinary model on our English
school of painting, it cannot be said that it is altogether good.
It is, of course, an advantage for the young artist sitting in his
studio to be able to isolate 'a little corner of life,' as the
French say, from disturbing surroundings, and to study it under
certain effects of light and shade. But this very isolation leads
often to mere mannerism in the painter, and robs him of that broad
acceptance of the general facts of life which is the very essence
of art. Model-painting, in a word, while it may be the condition
of art, is not by any means its aim.
It is simply practice, not perfection. Its use trains the eye and
the hand of the painter, its abuse produces in his work an effect
of mere posing and prettiness. It is the secret of much of the
artificiality of modern art, this constant posing of pretty people,
and when art becomes artificial it becomes monotonous. Outside the
little world of the studio, with its draperies and its bric-e-brac,
lies the world of life with its infinite, its Shakespearean
variety. We must, however, distinguish between the two kinds of
models, those who sit for the figure and those who sit for the
costume. The study of the first is always excellent, but the
costume-model is becoming rather wearisome in modern pictures. It
is really of very little use to dress up a London girl in Greek
draperies and to paint her as a goddess. The robe may be the robe
of Athens, but the face is usually the face of Brompton. Now and
then, it is true, one comes across a model whose face is an
exquisite anachronism, and who looks lovely and natural in the
dress of any century but her own. This, however, is rather rare.
As a rule models are absolutely de notre siecle, and should be
painted as such. Unfortunately they are not, and, as a
consequence, we are shown every year a series of scenes from fancy
dress balls which are called historical pictures, but are little
more than mediocre representations of modern people masquerading.
In France they are wiser. The French painter uses the model simply
for study; for the finished picture he goes direct to life.