Works in the Herald 1933

To many, besides myself, who have scant leisure to examine closely various trends in the modern artistic world, there must be a great deal in recently established schools and aesthetic movements that is puzzling.

Why, for example, does the literary youth of today seek to express his higher emotions in free verse when he may still employ verse that is not so free, or good, forthright, matter-of-fact prose to convey his ideas - if any?

I admit I have not explored the art of free verse writing very far, and to me the most precious of it is mere babbling incoherency that suggests gin. For the sake of its intense exponents and the future of the alleged art I hope I am wrong.

Why, again, do capable sculptors, such as Epstein, adopt for their models a negroid or mongolian type with a tendency to goitre?

I give up.

Why, yet again, do modern musicians go to the jungle for their melodies when quite a number of Beethoven and Mozart themes yet remain to be stolen?

It is all very puzzling. In my early Victorian ways I have worried over these things at odd moments without coming any nearer to a solution, without receiving any clue that might lead to a reasonable explanation - except in one respect. I think I have made an important discovery in the field of ultra-modern painting that clears up a lot of mystery that has troubled others beside myself.

The other day I happened to be looking with amazed eyes at a painting of a variety that I have heard described as the "sunflower and fish-tail school." For me it represented nothing on the earth above or the sea below; and I was about to give it up when I was joined by a very serious young man whom I knew was himself an artist of this strange school.

For the first time in my life I discovered in him a modern who was not only communicative but actually coherent in regard to his art.

Ignoring much of the jargon with which he assaulted me, I seized upon one phrase that seemed to bring me sudden light.

"Pattern, man, pattern!" he kept repeating. "Can't you see that pattern-design is the only thing that matters in art?"

And immediately I did see -- far more than he explained.

Years ago, when I was a boy, there were quite a number of honest workmen who made a good living in the exploitation of this same pattern and design - worthy lads of the "sunflower and fish-tail school." Owing to the vagaries of fashion they found their occupation gone; but men must live. And what is more natural than to find in the ranks of the painters of today the wall-paper designers and devisers of fancy chintz patterns of yester-year?

In those days they were artisans; today they are artists. But they might have said so in the first place. It would have saved a lot of mystery.

Herald, 2 December 1933, p8

Copyright © Perry Middlemiss 2002-05