It is interesting to speculate how some of our own in- -
dustries would stand to-day had their Directors been
ready to call in such artists, whose early careers are
associated with the Omega Workshops, as Duncan
Grant, Frederic Etchells, Wyndham Lewis, Venessa z
Bell, Vernard Adeney, Edward Wolfe, McKnight
Kauffer, and Hamilton.
Such work as any of these artists do to-day for repro- jj
duction is done simply because they, and those whose
artistic appreciation is on a similar level, are unable to
obtain the kind of furniture and fabrics they want
by any other means.
They have proved that their ideas are practical, and so
far as their application to reproductive processes is con
cerned, the working "designer" is well fitted to carry
out the routine draftsmanship necessary to put them to
use, provided that a manufacturer does realize that they
mean something as they stand.
Not all artists possess this overplus of creative energy,
but the artist whose imagination is constantly enliven
ing a variety of objects will turn out far more ideas than
any working designer, and his ideas will be original.
There is no lack of native talent in this country. In the
elementary schools of London children between the ages
of four and six, working as free artists without restraint,
are turning out work of astonishing excellence. Much
of it is far superior to the productions of the ordinary
trained "designer." Unfortunately the influence of
children's imitative faculty, and the vitiation of taste
due to constant association with third rate productions
generally shows itself at the age of fourteen or fifteen
in their work. By the time the average art school
student has completed his training he has had the last
trace of independent thought squeezed out of his
If there existed to-day some form of liason between art
and industry, some centre to which artists could offer
their work and on which manufacturers could draw for
ideas, the cost to industry would be no higher than that
of the individual employment of working "designers."
Indeed, as things are, the idea that an independent
artist demands a prohibitive fee is quite unfounded.
This impression has unfortunately been fostered by
those manufacturers who occasionally, as an idealistic
gesture, take an artist's design and offer it to the public
in a de luxe form at a stiff price. They claim that the
price must be high to cover the artist's fee. In fact, they
themselves have not sufficient faith in the merits of the
work and will not risk producing it on a large scale to
cover the fee by many sales at a reasonable price.
Foley's Manager, a very enterprising man, did once
approach a solution to the problem by offering outside 187
artists a sum down and royalties on sales, but his was a
Probably the real difficulty lies with the retail salesman.
Every manufacturer, whatever his business, knows the
limited viewpoint of his retailers and their assistants.
They seem to be, as a class, not only unwilling and un
able to sell anything that the public does not specifically
ask for, but to have no power of supposing that the
public has any unexpressed wants which could be
educated and satisfied by something better than they
already possess. They will not make the attempt to sell
anything that they think may require an effort to be
made known and liked.
There are some beautiful cotton fabrics being produced
in Lancashire to-day, so cheap as to be within the reach
of all, and infinitely finer in colouring and design than
the bulk of fabrics offered at prices many times higher
in the shops.
These fabrics are never seen in this country. They have
been designed and produced with no thought of the
English market and its limitations, as diagnosed by
retail outlets. They are made for a market which
judging by its tasteis far more cultured than our own,
and, judging by its ability to get what it wants, is less
hampered by the ignorance or opposition of salesmen.
These fabrics are made for the natives of Africa.
Making for them, Manchester forgets that tradition of
solid worth which is sometimes a credit, but more often
a debit charge on English enterprise.
The greatest hindrance to the development of art in the
industries of this countryviewed from every aspect
seems to be timidity. Everyone is playing for safety.
Architects, unable to find anything original and good,
introduce us to that which is innocuous. The wealthy
flat owner, distrusting his own taste, engages the
"experts" of a furniture shop to design, deliver and
dispose about his rooms the elements which, as the
expression of his own individuality, would have made
it a home. The result is the "show flat," in excellent
Faultily faultless, icily regular, splendidly null,
Dead perfection, no more.
It has been said that Mohammedanism is a good religion
by which to die, but not so good to live by. The same
appears to be true of English art in industry to-day.
NOTE ON DUNCAN GRANT'S FABRICS FOLLOWS.