10 AUGUST 1985, Page 19

Artist's incomes

Sir: It is difficult to know exactly what Giles Auty is bemoaning in his article (The art of endurance', 3 August). Is it the cessation of the part-time art teacher or British philistinism? I do, however, feel that he is totally missing the point. He states that '2,000 young artists graduate each year' — as if artists were no different from engineers, accountants or solicitors. The word 'artist', if it means anything, should mean more than a person who has completed a course at a school of art. If we mean by 'artist' a painter as competent as, say, Turner, then nil graduated last year. Lowering our standards to, say, Augustus John, then perhaps half a dozen.

To make money by painting is no more precarious than by writing poetry or com- posing music and was as difficult in the Holland of Van Gogh as it is in Britain today. Unless you have the ability to create a sensation when young like Hockney or John, then as with poets and barristers you will need another income. Gauguin's stockbroking provided it, Constable's wife, Van Gogh's brother and for many others family wealth.

So the moral is that if you want to be an artist, ensure that you are either a self- publicist at a very early age or born into wealth. In my personal experience, more part-time art lecturers were distracted by the charms of their female students than benefited from the chance it gave them of an easily earned income.

E. Goldsworthy 7A Spencer Park, London SW18