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The Close of the Arts and Crafts
by [?]

Then came the little bit of Socialism, very sensible and very quietly put. ‘How can we have fine art when the worker is condemned to monotonous and mechanical labour in the midst of dull or hideous surroundings, when cities and nature are sacrificed to commercial greed, when cheapness is the god of Life?’ In old days the craftsman was a designer; he had his ‘prentice days of quiet study; and even the painter began by grinding colours. Some little old ornament still lingers, here and there, on the brass rosettes of cart-horses, in the common milk-cans of Antwerp, in the water-vessels of Italy. But even this is disappearing. ‘The tourist passes by’ and creates a demand that commerce satisfies in an unsatisfactory manner. We have not yet arrived at a healthy state of things. There is still the Tottenham Court Road and a threatened revival of Louis Seize furniture, and the ‘popular pictorial print struggles through the meshes of the antimacassar.’ Art depends on Life. We cannot get it from machines. And yet machines are bad only when they are our masters. The printing press is a machine that Art values because it obeys her. True art must have the vital energy of life itself, must take its colours from life’s good or evil, must follow angels of light or angels of darkness. The art of the past is not to be copied in a servile spirit. For a new age we require a new form.

Mr. Crane’s lecture was most interesting and instructive. On one point only we would differ from him. Like Mr. Morris he quite underrates the art of Japan, and looks on the Japanese as naturalists and not as decorative artists. It is true that they are often pictorial, but by the exquisite finesse of their touch, the brilliancy and beauty of their colour, their perfect knowledge of how to make a space decorative without decorating it (a point on which Mr. Crane said nothing, though it is one of the most important things in decoration), and by their keen instinct of where to place a thing, the Japanese are decorative artists of a high order. Next year somebody must lecture the Arts and Crafts on Japanese art. In the meantime, we congratulate Mr. Crane and Mr. Cobden-Sanderson on the admirable series of lectures that has been delivered at this exhibition. Their influence for good can hardly be over-estimated. The exhibition, we are glad to hear, has been a financial success. It closes tomorrow, but is to be only the first of many to come.