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OSCAR WILDE BIBLIOGRAPF

:
LONDON MODELS.

PROFESSIONAL models are a which is quite remarkable. They have also


purely modern invention. To a great command over the varieties of facial
the Greeks, for instance, expression, are peculiarly dramatic, and can
they were quite unknown. chatter the argot of the atelier as cleverly as
Mr. Mahaffy, it is true, tells the critic of the Gil Bias. The English
us that Perikles used to models form a class entirely by themselves.
present peacocks to the great They are not so picturesque as the Italian,
ladies of Athenian society in nor so clever as the French, and they have
order to induce them to sit absolutely no tradition, so to speak, of their
to his friend Pheidias, and order. Now and then some old veteran knocks
we know that Polygnotus at a studio door, and proposes to sit as
introduced into his picture of Ajax defying the lightning, or as King Lear
the Trojan women the face upon the blasted heath. One of them some
of Elpinike, the celebrated time ago called on a popular painter who,
sister of the great Conserva- happening at the moment to require his
tive leader of the day, but services, engaged him, and told him to begin
MODEL. these yrandes dames clearly by kneeling down in the attitude of prayer.
From a Drawing by do not come under our cate- " Shall I be Biblical or
HARPER FENNINGTOX. . f ,, ,j "
Shakespearean,
gory. As for the old masters, Well
'
sir ? asked the veteran. Shake-
they undoubtedly made con- spearean," answered the artist, wondering by
stant studies from their pupils and apprentices, what subtle nuance of expression the model
and even their religious pictures are full of would convey the difference. " All right, sir,"
the portraits of their friends and relations, said the professor of posing, and he solemnly
but they do not seem to have had the in- knelt down and began to wink with his left
<
tunable advantage of the existence of a eye This class however is dying out. As
!

class of people whose sole profession is to pose. a rule the model, nowadays, is a pretty girl,
In fact the model, in our sense of the word, from about twelve to twenty-five years of age,
is the direct creation of Academic Schools. who knows nothing about art, cares less, and
Every country now has its own models, is merely anxious to earn seven or eight

except America. In New York, and even in shillings a day without much trouble.
Boston, a good model is so great a rarity that English models rarely look at a picture, and
most of the artists are reduced to painting never venture on any aesthetic theories. In
Niagara and millionaires. In Europe, how- fact they realize very completely Mr.
ever, it is different. Here we have plenty of Whistler > idea, of the function of an art-
models, and of every nationality. The nit ic, for they pass no criticisms at all They
Italian models are the best. The natural accept all schools of art with the grand
grace of their attitudes, as well as the i .it hl ieit y
the auctioneer, and sit to a
of
wonderful picturesqueness of their colouring, fantastic young impressionist as readily as to a
makes them facile often too facile subjects learned and laU.rious academician. They are
for the painter's brush. The French models, neither for the Whistlerites, nor against them ;
though not so beautiful as the Italian, the quarrel between the school of facts and
pOIMflf a quick ness ol intellect ual .sympathy, a the school of effects touches them n<>t ideal-
;

capacity in fact of understanding the artist, istic and naturalistic are words that convey no
314 LONDON MODELS.

meaning to their ears ; they merely desire that them can talk Greek, many can look Greek,
the studio shall be warm, and the lunch hot, for which to a nineteenth -century painter is
all charming artists give their models lunch. naturally of great importance. If they are
As to what they are asked to do they are allowed, they chatter a great deal, but they
equally indifferent. On Monday they will never say anything. Their observations are the
only banalities heard in Bohemia. However,
though they cannot appreciate the artist as
an artist, they are quite ready to appreciate

WANTS SITTINGS.
THE GRAND STOLID BRITISH SCHOOL.
From a Drawing by HARPER PENNINGTON.
From a Drawing by HARPER PENNINGTON.

the artist as a man. They are very sensitive


don the rags of a beggar-girl for Mr. Pumper, to kindness, respect, and generosity. A
whose pathetic pictures of modern life draw beautiful model who had sat for two years
such tears from the public, and on Tuesday to one of our most distinguished English
they will pose in a peplum for Mr. Phoebus, painters, got engaged to
a street vendor of
who thinks that all really artistic subjects
penny ices. On her marriage the painter
are necessarily B.C. They career gaily sent her a pretty wedding present, and
through all centuries and through all received in return a nice letter of thanks-
costumes, and, like actors, are only interesting
when they are not themselves. They are
extremely good-natured, and very accommo-
" What do "
dating. you sit for 1 said a young

THE MAN WHO SITS FOR COSTUMES AND EXPRESSION.


From a Drawing by HARPER PENNINGTON. /// j
'WILL SIT FOR ANY HISTORICAL PERSONAGE.'
From a Drawing by HARPER PENNINGTON.
artist to a model who had sent him in her
card (all models by the way have cards and a
small black bag). " Oh, for anything you like with the following remarkable postscript :
" Never eat the "
sir," said the girl ; "landscape if necessary!" green ices !

Intellectually, it must be acknowledged,


When they are tired a wise artist gives
they are Philistines, but physically they are them a rest. Then they sit in a chair and
at least some are. Though none of read pennydreadfuls, till they are roused
perfect
LONDON MODELS. 315
from the tragedy of literature to take their
quently keeps a diary of her engagements,
place again in the tragedy of art. A few of and dresses neatly. The bad season is of
ili. in >moke cigarettes. This however is course the summer, when the artists are out
regarded by the other models as shoeing a of town. However, of late
want of seriousness, and is not generally years some artists
have engaged their models to follow
them,
approved of. They are engaged by the day
and by the half-day. The tariff is a shilling
an hour, to which great artists
usually :..M
an omnibus tan*. The two best things about
them arc their extraordinary prettiness, and
their extreme
respectability. As a class
they are very well behaved, particularly
those who sit for the figure, a fact which i's

8IT8 TO ALL THE ACADEMICIAXS.


From a Drawing by HARPER PEXXIXOTOX.

and the wife of one of our most


charming
painters has often had three or four models
under her charge in the
country, so that tin-
work of her husband and his friends should

THE MOOT ECONOMICAL MODEL,


From a Drawing by HARPER I'ENNIXOTON.

curious or natural according to the view one


takes of human nature. They usually marry
well, and sometimes they marry the artist.
In neither case do they ever sit again. For
an artist to marry hi> model is as fatal as for THE MODEL WHO CATS MX HAS " MAlTIITL *AXM AM
a <inrmet to
marry his cook, the one gets no From m Dnvimg by HAftTKft PE*UMJim.
-ittings, and the other gets no dinners.
On the whole the English female models
are very naive, very natural, and very .'OM! not be interrupted. In France the models
huiuouivd. The virtue* which the artist migrate rn ninue to the little seaport villages
values most in them are prettiness and or forest hamlets where the painters congre-
punctuality. Every sensible model conse- gate. The English models however wait
316 LONDON MODELS.
patiently in London, as a rule, till the artists subjects. Then there is the true Academy
come back. Nearly all of them live with model. He usually a man of thirty, rarely
is
their parents, and help to support the house. good-looking, but a perfect miracle of muscles.
They have every qualification for being In fact he is the apotheosis of anatomy, and
immortalized in art except that of beautiful is so conscious of his own splendour that he
tells you of his tibia and his thorax, as if no
one else had anything of the kind. Then
come the Oriental models. The supply of
these is limited, but there are always about
a dozen in London. They are very much
sought after as they can remain immobile
for hours, and generally possess lovely cos-
tumes. However they have a poor opinion of
English art, which they regard as something
between a vulgar personality and a common-
place photograph. Next we have the Italian

"HIS '
FORTE' is EXPRESSION."
From a Drawing by HARPER PENNINGTON.

hands. The hands of the English model are


nearly always coarse and red.
As for the male models, there is the veteran
whom we have mentioned above. He has

THE PROFESSIONAL.
From a Drawing by HARPER PENNINGTON.

youth who has either come over specially to


be a model, or takes to it when his organ is
THE "DEBUTANTE." out of repair. He is often quite charming
From a Drawing by HARPER PENNINGTON. with his large melancholy eyes, his crisp hair,
and his slim brown figure. It is true he
eats garlic, but then he can stand like a
all the traditions of the grand style, and is faun and couch like a leopard, so he is for-
rapidly disappearing with the school he given. He is always full of pretty com-
represents. An old man who talks about pliments, and has been known to have kind
Fuseli is of course unendurable, and besides words of encouragement for even our greatest
patriarchs have ceased to be fashionable artists. As for the English lad of the same
"DO YOU WANT A MODEL ?'
Engraved by II. FiTXKa DAVET, from a Drawing 6 IU ......

he and bring him tlu round of the fttuli<s.


age he never sits at all. Apparently face,
does not regard the career of a model as a all soap and shinines*. Tho young school
serious p: In any case he is rarely like him, but the older school do, and
wlirn ii<- appears on tin- walls of the Royal
it -ver to be got hold of. English boys too
are difficult to find. S .nu-times an ex-model Academy he is called The Infant Samuel.
who has a son will curl hi> hair, and wash his Occasionally also an artist catches a couple of
318 LONDON MODELS.
gamins in the gutter and asks them to come completely unconscious of their own
to his studio. The first time they always picturesqueness. Those of them who can be
appear, but after that they don't keep their induced to sit do so with the idea that the
artist is merely a benevolent philanthropist
who has chosen an eccentric method of
distributing alms to the undeserving.
Perhaps the School Board will teach the
London gamin his own artistic value, and
then they will be better models than they
are now. One remarkable privilege belongs
to the Academy model, that of extorting a
sovereign from any newly elected Associate
or R.A. They wait at Burlington House
till the announcement is made, and then race

to the hapless artist's house. The one who

THE MODEL WHO SITS FOR THE COSTUME IN GENTLEMEN S


PORTRAITS.
From a Drawing by HARPER PENNINGTON.

appointments. They dislike sitting still,


and have a strong and perhaps natural
objection to looking pathetic. Besides they

THE USEFUL YOUNG LADY.


From a Drawing by HARPER PENNINGTON.

arrives first receives the money. They have


of late been much troubled at the long
distances they have had to run, and they
look with strong disfavour on the election of
artists who live at Hampstead or at Bedford
Park, for it is considered a point of honour
not to employ the underground railway,
omnibuses, or any artificial means of loco-
THE USEFUL OLD MAN motion. The race is to the swift.
From a Drawing by HARPER PENNINGTON. Besides the professional posers of the studio
there are the posers of the Bow, the posers
at afternoon teas, the posers in politics, and
are always under the impression that the the circus-posers. All four classes are de-
class is ever really
artist is laughing at them. It is a sad fact, lightful, but only the last
but there is no doubt that the poor are decorative. Acrobats and gymnasts can
LONDON MODELS. 319

give the young painter infinite suggestions, say, from disturbing surroundings," and to
for they bring into tht-ir art an element of study it under certain effects of
light and
Mviftness, of motion, and of constant change shade. But tins v-ry i>olation leads often t..
that the studio model necessarily lacks. mere mannerism in the painter, and robs
What is interesting in these "slaves of him of that broad acceptance of the general
the ring" is that with them Beauty is an facts of life which is the very essence of art.
uiu-oMsi-iou> iv>ult n. ;i roust-inns aim, the
.t
Model-painting, in a word, while it may be
result in fact of the mathematical calculation the condition of art, is not by any means its
of curves and distances, of absolute precision aim. It is simply practice, not perfection.
of eye, of the scientific knowledge of the Its use trains the eye and the hand of the
equilibrium of forces, and of perfect physical painter, its abuse produces in his work an
training. A
good acrobat is always graceful effect of mere posing and prettino
though grace is never his object he is grace- ;
the secret of much of the artificiality of
ful because he does what he has to do in the modern art, this constant posing of pretty
best way in which it can be done graceful people, and when art becomes artificial it be-
because he is natural. If an ancient Greek comes monotonous. < >m>ide the little world
were to come to now, which considering
life of the studio, with draperies and its
its
the probable severity of his criticisms would bric-a-brac, lies the world of life with its
be rather trying to our conceit, he would be infinite, its Shakespearian variety. We
found far oftener at the circus than at the must, however distinguish between the two
theatre. A
good circus is an oasis of kinds of models, those who sit for the figure
Hellenism in a world that reads too much and those who sit for costume. The study of
to be wise, and thinks too much to be -the first is always excellent, but the costume-
beautiful. If it were not for the running- model is becoming rat her wearisome in modern
ground at Eton, the towing-path at Oxford, pictures. It is really of very little use to
the Thames swimming baths, and the yearly dress up a London girl in Greek draperies
circuses, humanity would forget the plastic and to paint her as a goddess. The robe may
perfection of its own form, and degenerate be the robe of Athens, but the face is usually
into a race of short-sighted professors, and the face of Brompton. Now and then, it is
spectacled precieusea ! Not that the circus- true, one comes across a model whose face is
proprietors are, as a rule, conscious of their an exquisite anachronism, and who looks
high mission. Do they not bore us with the lovely and natural in the dress of any
haute ecole, and weary us with Shakespearean century but her own. This however is
clowns Still at least they give us acrobats,
>
t rather rare. As a rule models are absolutely
and the acrobat is an artist. The mere fact de noire sticle, and should be painted as such.
that he never speaks to the audience shows Unfortunately they are not, and as a con-
how well he appreciates the great truth that sequence we are shown every year a series of
the aim of art is not to reveal personality scenes from fancy dress balls which are
but to please. The clown may be blatant, called historical pictures, but are little more
but the acrobat is always beautiful. He is than mediocre representations of modern
an interesting combination of the spirit of people masquerading. In France they are
Greek sculpture with the spangles of the wiser. The French painter uses the model
modern costumier. He has even had his simply for study, for the finished picture he
niche in the novels of our age, and if Manette goes direct to life.
Salomon be the unmasking of the model, Lea However we must not blame the sitters
Frtres Z<:n<<ja,ui.> is the apotheosis of the for the shortcomings of the artists. The
acrobat. English models are a well-behaved and hard-
:

\iran 1> the influence of the ordinary working class, and if they are more interested
model on our English school of painting, it in artists than they are in art, a large section
an not be said that it is altogether good. It of tho j'tihlir is in the same condition, and
is of course an advantage tor tho young most of our modern exhibitions seem to justify
arti>t MtthiK in his studio to be able to its choice.
isolate " a little corner of life," as the From -h OSCAR WILDE.
l/s/5