Utopia of Usurers and Other Essays eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 99 pages of information about Utopia of Usurers and Other Essays.
time, broadly speaking, art was supposed to mean good art; advertisement was supposed to mean inferior art.  The head of a black man, painted to advertise somebody’s blacking, could be a rough symbol, like an inn sign.  The black man had only to be black enough.  An artist exhibiting the picture of a negro was expected to know that a black man is not so black as he is painted.  He was expected to render a thousand tints of grey and brown and violet:  for there is no such thing as a black man just as there is no such thing as a white man.  A fairly clear line separated advertisement from art.

The First Effect

I should say the first effect of the triumph of the capitalist (if we allow him to triumph) will be that that line of demarcation will entirely disappear.  There will be no art that might not just as well be advertisement.  I do not necessarily mean that there will be no good art; much of it might be, much of it already is, very good art.  You may put it, if you please, in the form that there has been a vast improvement in advertisements.  Certainly there would be nothing surprising if the head of a negro advertising Somebody’s Blacking now adays were finished with as careful and subtle colours as one of the old and superstitious painters would have wasted on the negro king who brought gifts to Christ.  But the improvement of advertisements is the degradation of artists.  It is their degradation for this clear and vital reason:  that the artist will work, not only to please the rich, but only to increase their riches; which is a considerable step lower.  After all, it was as a human being that a pope took pleasure in a cartoon of Raphael or a prince took pleasure in a statuette of Cellini.  The prince paid for the statuette; but he did not expect the statuette to pay him.  It is my impression that no cake of soap can be found anywhere in the cartoons which the Pope ordered of Raphael.  And no one who knows the small-minded cynicism of our plutocracy, its secrecy, its gambling spirit, its contempt of conscience, can doubt that the artist-advertiser will often be assisting enterprises over which he will have no moral control, and of which he could feel no moral approval.  He will be working to spread quack medicines, queer investments; and will work for Marconi instead of Medici.  And to this base ingenuity he will have to bend the proudest and purest of the virtues of the intellect, the power to attract his brethren, and the noble duty of praise.  For that picture by Millais is a very allegorical picture.  It is almost a prophecy of what uses are awaiting the beauty of the child unborn.  The praise will be of a kind that may correctly be called soap; and the enterprises of a kind that may truly be described as Bubbles.

II.  Letters and the New Laureates

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Utopia of Usurers and Other Essays from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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