Obrázky stránek

devotion may rightly display itself in adding what beauty and significance are within our power to churches or buildings connected with religious work. Thus-although it would be an injurious delusion to expect that art can approach the effect it once produced in a world which is irrevocably past—a real field for it still remains. This influence, however, is now most direct and powerful when the instruction of children, or the visitation of the sick and ignorant in their own homes is concerned. Prints and illustrations-a form of art unknown in ancient times—can here still effectually support and supplement the spoken word. For church painting and sculpture the main office now left, 'it seems to me, is to be reverently decorative-appropriately suggestive-to furnish, if I may use the word, a kind of visible musical accompaniment to prayer and praise. And if any here are disposed to rebel against these functions as too limited, I will venture the remark, first, that reserve in the amount of decoration is the secret of effect; and, secondly, that our present style of art in pictures, figures, glass, and mosaic, leaves in general, ample space for greater effectiveness in regard to variety, intelligibility, and (above all) beauty.

Here, however, we are met at once by the difficult practical problem, whither are we to turn for our art ? Copies from ancient work are almost always tame and unimpressive, even if mediæval originals were not, as a rule, too antique, too far from the temper of our day, to be placed before the mass of worshippers with security for the desired devotional effect. Original religious art of that high ancient quality, or even remotely approaching it, could not be procured now from any region of the civilised world, at the cost of all the money in it. There is, indeed, a so-called “realistic " style, which has arisen in some degree from the pictoral literature I have noticed, and from cur increased knowledge of antiquity and of the East. But this, even if it possessed the ability of Holman Hunt's “Christ in the Temple,” I apprehend would be felt to be out of place within a church ; whilst the theatrical displays of Doré or Munkacsy would be simply intolerable. All that seems here to remain for us, therefore, is a plain style of representation, aiming rather at the suggestiveness of a diagram than at the imaginative quality of ancient art. We must look less for things of absolute beauty in themselves than for powerful symbolism, for simple types of doctrine. Such are certain impressive representations of Our Lord in early Christian art. Such also, pre-eminently, is the old Rood-loft group, the Saviour with St. Mary and St. John-removed from our churches in former days, for reasons which are now wholly obsolete.

I venture here, in conclusion, to call for the legally recognised restoration of this visible witness to the central truths of Christianity. Nor, if the Rood were thus replaced, can I believe it would be other than welcome to those who most deeply feel that religion is inward, not outward; a matter of the heart, not of the eye. Every age has its own problems and difficulties; and it is not in the direction of imageworship that nineteenth-century superstitions and dangers tend. The legendary vision of Constantine has its lesson for us. The warning is certainly no less true now than in his day—“ In hoc signo vinces."

J. C. HORSLEY, Esq., R.A. RECEIVING an invitation to read a paper at this Congress on “ Religion and Art, their Influence on each other,” I determined, after communication with the Subjects Committee, and with their expressed sympathy, to select as my theme: “Art Schools and Art Practice in their Relation to a Moral and Religious Life.” This title, suggested by the Committee, represents a most important phase of the general subject, but one impossible to deal with during the few minutes placed at my disposal this morning, save with little more than a blunt statement of a few facts. I am greatly encouraged in my arduous task by the knowledge that I address fellow-Christian soldiers, who rejoice to serve under the great Captain of their Salvation, in whose name alone I venture to speak

Whilst viewing the question in the light of our Christian Faith, we must also consider it as seriously influenced by “that great wave of infidelity now passing over our land,” to quote Lord Shaftesbury's words, that great and good man and earnest Christian, now in perfect peace, resting from his manifold earthly labours in the Everlasting Arms. To this infidelity I attribute much of the evil in art practice now rampant amongst us, and, when carried on by female students, to be considered in all Christian charity as a veritable madness. Being so time-bound I plunge straightway into my subject, taking as an illustration of the crucial question connected with the morality of art practice those letters which appeared recently in the newspapers, as most of you will remember, as to the right or wrong of art representations of female nakedness. I note the curious unanimity with which the various writers, ignoring the use of the good English word "naked,” adopt expressions of French origin, "nude" and "undraped "-euphemistic verbiage, evidently intended to partially clothe the naked fact it contains. This question is ever in a state of unrest, and crops up from time to time in public discussion, showing that the national conscience is by no means easy upon it.

Now, it is an extraordinary fact, that from the day in the last century, when Porteus, Bishop of London, animadverted on the practice of having naked women to sit in Art Schools, until this moment, no one has specially called public attention to the principal evil connected with the subject. Commendable anxiety has often been shown for the morals of artists, and the avoidance of offence to frequenters of Art Exhibitions; but no thought or word of sympathy, as far as I have heard or read, has been publicly expressed for that poor creature, the artists' model, through whose degradation these representations of nakedness are alone possible. "To put the case plainly from a Christian point of view—if pictures or statues of naked women are to be executed, living naked women must be employed as models. But where is the justification in God's sight for those who induce women so to ignore their natural modesty, and quench their sense of true shame, as to expose their nakedness before men and thus destroy all that is pure and lovely in their womanhood ?

I cannot be wrong in assuming that those present will join me in denying the existence of any possible justification of such a practice in the sight of God. At the same time we shall not fully understand the position unless we take into account the opinions of those who entertain different views. There are estimable men and admirable artists who are so imbued with what they deem (erroneously, as I shall presently venture to contend) “the exigencies of art," that they simply shrug their shoulders 'at such arguments as I am using, and pass the question by on the other side. There are others who affirm, that if they employ fallen women as models, a little additional degradation to them matters not. To such I commend the laying to heart the following story, related to me in my youth by an eye-witness of the incident described, and from the hearing of which I date my own deep convictions on the subject I am dealing with, convictions which I have upheld tenaciously for more than thirty years. A wretched woman on the London streets, hearing that money was to be obtained by going to a life academy, but without the slightest notion of what would be required of her, presented herself at the school, and was told to sit down till she could be seen by the master. On his requiring her to take off her clothes, she at first absolutely refused, but was bribed into consent with money. She was then told to draw a curtain at the end of the room, and step on to the model's stage. On doing so, and finding herself suddenly under the glare of gaslight, naked before forty or fifty students, the poor frightened creature threw up her arms, and with a wild shriek fell fainting on the floor. On recovering she, uttering fearful language, dashed the money on the ground, huddled on her garments, and rushed from the place in a storm of passion, the outcome of the few remains of modesty she still possessed. Ah! if those who talk and write so glibly as to the desirability of artists devoting themselves to the representation of naked human form only knew a tithe of the degradation enacted before the model is sufficiently hardened to her shameful calling, they would for ever hold their tongues and pens from supporting the practice.

May I not in all reverence say that clothedness is a distinct type and feature of our Christian Faith, for we worship One Who, in the Apocalyptic Vision, was seen clothed from head to foot, Who Himself enforced the duty of clothing the naked, and Who permitted the record of that touching evidence of returning sanity to the Demoniac of the tombs, in that he sat at His feet, clothed and in his right mind. But those who ride on the crest of that great wave of infidelity already referred to, proclaiming themselves unbelievers or Agnostics, and scoff at all we hold most dear, would calmly tell you, as they have told me, that existence is now to be relieved from the incubus of absurd and worn out prejudices, and confidently assert in respect to the Art question under consideration, that all sorts and conditions of women will ere long as soon sit to artists naked, as they now do clothed. This shocking prophecy has been partially fulfilled. I know of a young lady art student calling upon an amateur artist, whom she had met only once in society, and under the influence of the madness I have spoken of, offered to sit to him naked, and did so. I know of a young sculptress who required a male model to sit to her day after day, absolutely naked, whilst she modelled a figure from him. And were I to speak of these as isolated cases of the dementia now afflicting some female students, I should be jeered at.

As showing the unholy effect on character consequent on unwarrantable forms of study, I may mention the fact of a young lady induced to draw from naked models, who said that she found the pursuit a most fascinating one, but becoming aware of its demoralising influence upon


her own feminine nature, she gave up the work commenced, and never resumed it.

If, in now speaking of Art Schools, I refer first to the Slade School in London, it is to note it as the place where these pernicious modes of study first took their origin; to be afterwards introduced at South Kensington and elsewhere. At this school mere boys are allowed to draw from naked women; and when I told the late Professor Hübner, Director of the Dresden Gallery, that I had myself seen at this place young men and maidens drawing from the same male model, naked save for a mere wisp of clothing, he thanked God fervently that it was impossible to witness such a sight anywhere in Germany. For many years I was officially connected with the Government Art Department at South Kensington, and was well acquainted with its working. During that time not a shilling was expended on naked female models, and it was understood that a minute of Council forbade the application of public funds for such a purpose in all the Government Schools, Of course this was in reference to male students only, no one at that time ever dreaming of such means of study being provided for female students.

Now all is changed. At the South Kensington Exhibition this year of student work, selected for award from the various Government schools, there were only three studies of naked women, but all done by female students, thus trained at public expense to assist in the degradation of their sex. The mode in which such studies are corrected at South Kensington is as follows :-A male and female teacher sit together with the naked model before them, from whom the drawings to be supervised have been made. He criticises, and she subsequently conveys his remarks to the students. At an art school in one of the chief provincial cities, this arrangement sinks to a still lower depth of debasement, for there the “middle woman” is dispensed with, and a master directly instructs a class of female students, drawing and painting from a naked female model. The result of all this miserable work is to female students useless from a professional point of view, for even if they gained any increase of skill from such study it is quite inapplicable to forms of art work within the compass of their powers to execute successfully.

In happy contrast to what I have been describing, I have much pleasure in calling your attention to practical and successful efforts made by two ladies, independently of each other, in the highest interests of female students and models, by the establishment of Art Colleges admirably conducted on Christian principles. Miss Mayor, whose zealous work at Rome must be well-known to many present, has, in addition to the management of her very efficient Art School, organised evening classes for Italian models, at which, with the ready assistance of her pupils, she gives the poor creatures some education, and what is as valuable to them in their calling, heartfelt sympathy and advice in their daily life. This good work is producing most gratifying results

, including the fact that some of the girls who formerly sat as naked models have now quite given up doing so. A lady who has lived for years amongst artists writes to Miss Mayor as follows about these classes —“I am very glad your school for models has been persevered in; growing as it does out of the Art College. It may be the expiation which art owes to generations of human beings, who have lent their material gifts to the painter and the sculptor, and for whose souls no man has cared.”

I earnestly recommend all present to make themselves acquainted with the details of Miss Mayor's work at Rome, which time will not allow me to consider more fully on this occasion. Miss Mayor's strength has, I grieve to say, given way, temporarily only, I trust, from constant labour and heavy responsibilities. Let us all pray that she may speedily be restored to her former health and vigour, and that her life may be long spared to carry on such signal efforts as she has made in the Master's service. Surely there are many who will try to follow her example, and, after the facts I have stated, seek to reclaim and protect not only female models, but female art students in this country. At the Wimbledon Art College for ladies, founded by Miss Bennett, upon whom the burden of her responsible and excellent work almost entirely rests, the principle of combining the comfort and protection of a Christian home, with sound Art teaching under able masters, is fully carried out. The sacrifice which these two ladies make of time and means is worthy of all praise and encouragement, and has done much to mitigate the evils which arise from young women coming up from the country, clustering round the London Art Schools and living in any available lodgings lives of undesirable independence. The Baroness Burdett Coutts, with her unbounded liberality, has greatly aided in remedying this state of things, and that noble lady and most motherly of women, the Princess of Wales, has done infinite service to the daughters of her adopted land by the active interest she shows in the extensive home for female students now erecting at South Kensington through the munificence of Mr. Cooke.

I am proud to say that at the Royal Academy, applications, thrice repeated, by some of the female students there to have models supplied for their use, as at South Kensington, have been refused. The question as applied to male students at the Academy must be considered with the forbearance due to ancient custom; for naked female models have been employed there since the foundation of the institution in 1768. A few years since an earnest endeavour was made by several Academicians to abolish this custom, but the pleadings for what are erroneously termed the "exigencies of art” prevailed. I should not venture to say erroneousły were I not supported in this view, so far as student work is concerned, by eminent English and foreign artists. One of the former, writing to me on the general question says—"Never since I became a member of the Royal Academy have I done an act which seems to be so wanting in manliness and common propriety as to ask a woman to sit before me naked, and now that I have overpassed my half century of life I am not likely to change my practice.” He adds, “The male figure is, or ought to be, the staple of students' study.

I consider the drawing of the female figure but poor practice." In the academies of Berlin, Dresden, Vienna, and Munich, no naked female model is ever employed, not for reasons all here would rejoice to find assigned, but that the eminent artists who direct these institutions Entertain precisely the same views of students' work as those I have just quoted from my colleague's letter.

Let us trust that for these educational reasons, combined with others

« PředchozíPokračovat »