The Nrodetn Home
[We shall be pleased to reply to any inquiries arising front the articles we publish on the Modern Home page. Inquiries should be addressed to the Editor, The SPECTATOR, 99 Cower Street, W.C. 1, with "Modern Home Page" written in the left-hand corner of the envelope.]
"Room and Book"
"AT the present time we possess a number of first-class designers in nearly every department of applied art, designers of textiles for dresses, curtains, coverings, rugs, wallpapers, glass, china, furniture, &c., yet I can think of no instance where one is employed by any considerable firm. All are working either on their own account, usually handicapped by lack of sufficient capital, or are attached to small private enter- prises." So says Mr. Paul Nash in his .new book,* and though I myself should have hesitated before putting it as roundly as that, there is no doubt that in the main his statement is true enough. When, some few weeks ago, I tried to analyse on this page the reasons for the poor artistic quality of most of our conunercial productions, from the considerable corres- pondence that came from manufacturers it appeared that the fault lay with the trade-buyers, whereas the few buyers who were sufficiently . interested to write blamed the manufac- turers for waiting too much on them and for lacking the courage of their own artistic convictions. No doubt' hoth were right to a point ; but the real fault—or at least the plainest cure for it, lies with the public. As Mr. J. E. Barton said in one of his excellent broadcasts on "Modern Art;" "The visible arts' were ignored in Victorian schools and colleges ; they are still ignored, for the most part, in our education to-day. For a hundred years we have been systematipally educated in blinkers." We are paying to-day for the,long start we got in the industrial race. Other nations, whe..fol- lowed later, have been able to avoid or minimize some of the troubles we blundered into -before. we were aware of their existence—the worst of them a chronic atrophy of the national sense of beauty. It is a sad thought that in England; where a strong appreciation of the beautiful has been most marked all through history—and never more so than in her most virile periods—to-day any manifestation of it is considered queer, cranky, even unmanly. In its place is a spoon-fed and un- reasoning worship of famous names and works of art that it is safe and respectable to admire. And now on the Continent are signs of a renaissance comparable to that which moved the brothers Adam to evolve a style at once English yet based on foreign ideas. They had the traditions of Wren and Inigo Jones to help them ; the designer of to-day has an unbridged gap of a hundred years behind him and a century of' blind wrong-thinking to contend with.
In Room and Book Mr. Nash, whose own work entitles him to our considerate attention,. states the problem so far as interiOr decoration is .concerned and diseusks in what way its solution is to be sought. Not the least valuable part of his brief hiStory of Modern decorative tirCin England is a list at noteworthy designers, with comments on their. Work—though, among the, architects, one_ misses the name of Amyas who is surely entitled to honourable mentiOn. A chirpter on " The Room Equipped." will be of -value-to those-Who feel that their ideas want clarifying, although in the short space occupied
it is necessarily principles rather than practice -that we are given. The second half of the book is devoted to a discussion of modern book-production and includes a clear and untech- nical description of the various methods of reproducing illustrations. It is perhaps ungenerous to say that one would have liked to see both halves of the book expanded ; but the field covered is wide—and one 'would gladly -have read Mr. Nash's views at greater length.
In conjunction with Room and Book, an exhibition is open at the Zwemmer Gallery until April 25th, where work by most of the artists mentioned in the book can be seen. I strongly recommend all those who are interested in the modem home to go there and see many things of a kind which are as yet rarely to be found in our shops : fabrics, furniture, wallpapers. lamps, paintings, pottery, rugs, sculpture, and some beautiful printing and-pattern-papers by the Curwen Press.
G. M. BOUMPHREY.
* Room and Book. By Paul Nash. (Soneino Press. fie.)