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PROPOSED GALLERIES FOR PICTURES AND STATUES AT THE UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD.
WE rejoice greatly that the University of Oxford will, in the course of the year, probably in the spring, commence building a Picture and a Statue Gallery. We sincerely congratulate the lovers of art and of literature, and indeed we may say all ranks of the community, upon this occasion, persuaded as we are that a deep study of the fine arts will engender a taste which has been long wanted, and which must tend to make every other study more effectual. But be fore we enlarge upon the advantages, let us lay before the public some slight statement of the plan proposed.
After much trouble, the University has succeeded in obtaining, after M. A. Taylor's death, the wreck of Sir R. Taylor's fortune bequeathed to it, subject to the life-interest of M. A. Taylor. This legacy amounts to about £63,000 three per cent consols; and the purposes specified by the donor, who was an architect, are, in the first place, to erect an edifice within the precincts of the University with the proceeds, (i.e. the interest thereof;) and afterwards, with the same interest, to pay teachers or professors of some European languages. The first object will absorb all the proceeds for some years to come. This is the whole case, as far as Sir R. Taylor's benefaction is concerned, excepting that a purchase has been made for the site of the edifice. But this bequest and purchase is connected with picture and statue gal leries in the following manner :-' -The University have purchased ground spacious enough to embrace an object long entertained, viz. statue and picture galleries, and have advertised for plans embracing both objects. We understand that the plans sent in have been submitted to Sir R. Smirke, that is, five out of the number; set apart by a committee of gentlemen. About the year 1790, a Dr Randolph left £1000, to accumulate in order to aid the University in building a picture-gallery; and this benefaction, which has increased to about L.5000, constitutes the immediate occasion for the additional purchase. The University, we are glad to hear, hope, from the sources within their control, to add consider
ably to this sum, and to be able to erect galleries which shall not be discreditable to them. It is contemplated, therefore, that the two buildings -that to arise from Sir R. Taylor's bequest, and the gallery-should be combined in external appearance, though totally distinct in their internal arrangement, and supported by distinct funds. It is said that Sir R. Smirke has given the preference to the plan of Mr Cockerell, and that it is in the Italian Palladian style.
As the buildings are not yet commenced, we venture to throw out one or two remarks, which may practically be found useful. That external appearance is of great importance, we would by no means deny; but in galleries that have been erected, the purpose of their erection seems to have been forgotten in attempts to make fine exteriors, which attempts have nevertheless woefully failed. The great object should be unquestionably the entire fitness of the galleries for the exhibition of pictures and statues. We will therefore begin with the picture-gallery, and state its requisites. And here it will be manifest at the first, that as pictures vary in size and character, they must require to be seen at different distances and lights; and that therefore one gallery will not suffice. For however the eye may be gratified by the long range and general display, this of itself may be said to be but one picture, to which it is absurd to sacrifice the rest. We would, if possible, have for every picture of great value and of striking interest, but one room; this may not be very practicable, but still a building may be judiciously erected with this view. One great advantage in single rooms is the capability they afford of adapting the light to the picture, and of even toning it. To those who are only accustomed to see filled galleries or private rooms, the effect of a good picture transferred to a single room, and its peculiar light and position, would be quite magical. A picture probably never looks so well as upon the painter's easel. He has chosen his light, subdues or modifies it to his purpose, and has placed his picture
where his eye can best direct his hand. Now, if this be so, it must be that we should study and imitate this art of the painter; we say art, for with him it is an art. We have some old pic. tures of painters' rooms-of Ostade, we remember, and others, and it is curious to note their management of the light. Artists now attend to the same thing. They do not allow cross and distracting lights; and we believe the old masters painted in very low lights, (we mean not in position, for they were from above,) reduced even by blinds. Their finest works were for churches and chapels, and to be seen in that "dim religious light ;" and not only on this account were they painted in such, but because by this management a greater power was acquired, a greater strength in the lights and shades to bring them out; and it will be observable, that the Italian schools particularly are actually more seen in reduced than in strong lights.
We think there is a great error in the modern views of this matter. The object of making rooms as light as possible, is neither advantageous to pictures, nor agreeable nor conducive to that repose which the eye requires for pleasurable continuance in room. If these observations are just, the management of light, and power of varying it, must be of great importance; and it will likewise follow that an appropriate management can only be perfectly attained, for pictures of the highest value especially, in single rooms. The size and proportions of such rooms will likewise be a subject of much consideration. There is an old practice, likewise to be avoided-the hanging one picture above another; sometimes, indeed, we see them three or four deep, in which case they all suffer. We maintain that no picture is seen to advantage when the spectator is obliged to strain his neck into a most uncomfortable position to look at it: the looking at a picture is, or should be, a continuous action, not like the survey of a building, in which case the eye without fatigue changes, and at a moment receives the impression, and passes on. To place the spectator in an uncomfortable position, is injudicious, and not only indisposes him to that calm and constant survey which the work requires; but by making him uncomfortable in himself, removes from
him much of his capability of receiving pleasure, and therefore his true judgment and relish. And besides this, the eye is subjected to a light to which it is by no means accustomed. When it sees objects upon a level with it, it is under the softening shelter of the brow, the eyelids, and the delicate sieve-like curtain of the eyelashes; and when it is forced to look upwards, especially for a continuance, it receives a shock and a painful sensation which the mind may unreason. ably refer to the object surveyed as the cause. We would therefore lay it down as a general rule, that pictures should be hung rather below than above the eye. It will be said that many fine works are too large so to be treated, and that many have been painted expressly for high positions, even cielings and cupolas. As to the first objection, we would rather have the spectator raised than the picture; as to the latter, it is and has been the great defect, and consequence of degrading art to the merely ornamental, by which pictures became mere accessories, adjuncts, and not the principal objects. Let us take, for example, the large Sebastian del Piombo in the National Gallery. Is it not evident that that picture cannot be justly seen?-the horizontal line of the picture being one, and that of the spectator's eye another. Could that picture be brought down, and the spectator be upon a platform, so that his eye should be on the horizontal line in the picture, we are quite persuaded that the effect would be wonderfully heightened, and the whole picture more immediately taken in, comprehended in one view, than it can possibly be in its present or indeed any other position. And then, as we before observed, could it have a managed and subdued light, so that no raw rays should bodily interpose between the eye and the picture, the grand and solemn awfulness of the picture would be, as it should be, of the miraculous.
In the examination of the architect of the New National Gallery before the Committee of the House of Commons, we remember it was stated what space a picture should be raised above the floor, and what space should terminate it below the cieling. This we considered absurd, and not the result of any rule. As much as may
be possible, let the picture give out the rule, and its horizontal line direct. Take the fine Claudes in the National Gallery; let each be in its own room, regulate the light, and let them be hung with the eye of the spectator seated (for there is something in that quiet continuous position) upon the horizon; and what magic would there be in the sunset!-all the lines would verge to their proper perspective—the illusion would be complete. You may be sure that Claude so looked at his pictures on his easel; and we scarcely do him justice, in hanging them as those wonderful marine pieces are now hung. We have often been struck with the insignificant appearance of pictures, whose beauty and value were previously well known, when we have seen them raised in the auctioneer's stand; and have been surprised that some better contrivance for exhibiting them had not been adopted. Pictures, like other beauties, should" stoop to conquer." It may be said that these hints may be well thrown out when the pictures are first collected, and the gallery then to be built, but of little practical use before any collection is formed. There is some truth in this, but of less force than might at first be imagined. It would not be very difficult to calculate the different dimensions of pictures likely to form a collection; and single rooms may accordingly be arranged of every variety of size-afterwards, adaptation could not be very difficult. That such arrangements would require great architectural skill we are quite aware; but" Ne sutor ultra crepidam,' we are not architects. Nearly all these observations will apply likewise to a statue-gallery. We have never yet seen one perfectly satisfactory: neither the Apollo Belvidere, nor the Venus de Medicis are well lodged. Some seem to think statues are to be put in niches, as if walls had eyes, and could admire but a statue should be seen all round; indeed, if possible, it should be so movable as to be raised or
lowered; it should be capable of being viewed in every possible position then would one statue be made, as it were, so many pictures. To fix a statue, so that you may walk round it, will not be enough, unless you have the power of varying the lights, so that they should come from any direction. Take that beautiful frieze
of the Elgin Marbles; let the light come from behind the figures, and the horsemen seem chasing their own shadows; let the light come from the opposite direction, and how the speed is increased by the shadows thrown behind them! They are different things: let the light be above them-then beneath them-what variety! and as every form is in itself beautiful, and as the complication of forms is throughout beautiful, so by varying the power of viewing them, you multiply beauties to the eye, which, though they existed, and must exist, in the art, were lost to the spectator who had but the power of one light. The endless variety of position in which statues may be viewed, renders attention to lights in statue-galleries even more important than in picture-galleries. The painter, in a great degree, determines his own light and shade, and one character of it; the sculptor no less attends to light and shade in attending to the roundness, the massiveness, and largeness, or the contrary, of the parts; but in so doing is unlimited, and thus in making one makes many statues—the painter makes but one picture.
The University having determined to erect picture and statue galleries, the next consideration is-how are they to be filled, and to what purpose if they are filled? We will assume that the University see the advantages of connecting the arts with literature. The advantages are indeed many. But as the advantages must be supposed to arise from the really fine things these galleries are to hold, we should wish to know what works the University at present possess, available, and what means of acquiring others. We are not aware that the University have any of much merit in possession, nor even that the colleges, could they contribute what they have, could supply largely. To purchase, would, we fear, require larger funds than could be raised. Something may be acquired, in the course of time, by liberal bequests, and perhaps this is the only source to be much relied upon. There can be no doubt but that the probability of ultimately possessing a fine gallery, will greatly depend upon the interest first excited upon the subject; and to create this interest a very inexpensive beginning may suffice. Let a portion of the
building be set apart for prints and casts they are easily obtained, and will serve well the purpose of general lectures upon art. And this leads directly to the use to which such galleries may be applied. There should be at least one professorship of painting and sculpture in the University. Lectures ought to be publicly given. We are aware that there is here a great difficulty. From what funds can such a professorship be maintained? Why may we not look to the generosity of wealthy men, edu cated at Oxford, who are likewise lovers of art, for a liberal donation for this purpose? Let us consider what amount would be necessary-we want not large funds. The professorship would confer honour, and would be an object of high ambition. It would mainly exalt the rank and dignity of art; but it would impose important duties, much devotion of time and abilities, and therefore, like other professorships, should have something of honour substantial besides the name attached to it. What, then, would be a competent endowment? To reply to that question we should ascertain the duties. We would have no term pass without lectures. The professor should have rooms, perhaps, for practical illustrations; it would therefore be desirable that he should have a residence in the building. With this extended beneficent view, the endowment should be liberal. But let us take it at its lowest-supposing that additional lectures may be assisted by gratuities from attendants. Suppose the duties attached to the endowment to be limited to one course of lectures in the year; in that case, one hundred pounds per annum might be sufficient. The last instituted professorship was that of Political Economy, by H. Drummond, Esq., with one hundred pounds a-year; the duties being, to deliver a definite number of lectures in the year, and to publish certain of them. It is holden only for five years. The professorship of Moral Philosophy is founded also with the same endow ment; and that of Anglo-Saxon Lite rature with somewhat more. The professorship of Ancient History, instituted by Camden, is worth only one hundred and twenty pounds ayear-there is none, perhaps, more efficient; the professor delivers a course at least twice in the year, and
has generally above one hundred persons in his class. The professorship of Experimental Philosophy is worth about one hundred and thirty pounds a-year-the course of lectures is well attended. This professor, and some others, not all, receive a sum of one or two pounds from each person attending. The practice of receiving a fee is seemingly optional, and not founded upon any principle. If the professorship of Painting were two hundred pounds per annum, it might be thought proper that no fee should be required; but if less, it might be desirable. If, then, one hundred pounds would endow a professorship of painting and sculpture, (for we suppose we must at present take them together,) and if two hundred pounds would be a handsome endowment, we would not think so ill of the lovers and patrons of art and of literature as to suppose, that such an endowment as the largest might not be easily raised if the thing were properly taken up. Many may not wish to come forward, under an impression that the University are adverse to such an endowment, thinking that, were it not so, a professorship of the kind would have been established long ago: but the public should know that the case is quite otherwise. It should be known that all, or very nearly all the funds of the University are appropriated to their several purposes, and that the University, as trustee, has only to distribute them. The University has no means of founding a readership. few years ago, some members, wishing to promote the study of mathematics, exerted themselves to obtain subscriptions in order to found exhibitions for that purpose; and recently (last year) the University restored some funds which had been applied to other purposes for the endowment of a professorship of Logic. Even these funds the University has obtained by a tax upon their own members. It is, therefore, from inability, and not from disinclination on the part of the University, that such a professorship has not been established. Let this be well knownsome leading persons in or out of the University take an active interest in the matter, and we entertain little fear. Such an endowment would do great honour. There are many individuals to whom the amount would be no object-were subscriptions re
sorted to, surely the sum would be easily raised; or why should it be hopeless to obtain a grant for the purpose, by petition to Parliament through the University member? There are no politics in this, and one would hope there would be but little opposition. This is not the first time that we have urged this upon the public notice; and we cannot now resist the temptation, offered by the intention of the University immediately to build galleries, again to excite the public attention to the subject. Should we have to encounter the jealousy of the Royal Academy? We think not. The "liberal arts" should engender a generous wish for extension—for diffusion of the best principles of taste. There is no place so fit as our Universities for their establishment. The advantages are too numerous to mention. Besides the immediate connexion of the arts with literature, especially with the Greek, of which they are the very soul-for all Greek poetry is picture, vivid, distinct, and particular-besides the relish, and taste, and elucidation, which literature and the arts would lend to each other, and thereby render the grace of education perfect, we do think that the endowment of a professorship, with galleries and facilities of giving effective lectures, would be the means of rescuing many from idle ness, and its usual accompaniments dissipation and ruinous expenditure. It would engender a taste where none existed, and by making one study at least agreeable, lead to a habit of study and of thought, and to a desire, through taste, of intellectual improvement. It would be the means of providing, not a mere light and passing pleasure, but a passion for life. We have ourselves induced some young men, upon entering on life, to take up painting as an amusement, and they have expressed unbounded gratifica tion from the pursuit. It is one that makes the dullest days-the days that are heavy to the listless idler-days of busy delight. But it is not our purpose to eulogize the art; there is little need. We would only most earnestly recommend the endowment of professorships at both our Universities. A few words might be said upon the choice of professors; and here we expect that many (perhaps the general opinion) will not agree with our view,
A friend to whom we have proposed the plan, states as a first difficulty, that "no endowment would be sufficient to keep away from London a painter of first-rate eminence: for though we might meet with an ac complished amateur, whose talents and reputation might secure ample credit to such an appointment; yet we should ordinarily, perhaps, have to look to a professional artist, who, however excellent in his own department, might be wanting in literary attainments to give effect, or even secure attention, to a course of lectures. Much, indeed, could be done, were a first-rate person merely to deliver once a-year, in the University of Oxford, a series of lectures, having his usual residence still in London.' We cannot in any way
agree with our able friend. For though we are satisfied that he very much underrates the literary attainments of artists, for the proof of whose attainments we need but refer to the lectures of Reynolds, Fuseli, Barry, and Phillips, we very much doubt if it would be desirable to look for professors to the quarter he recommends. It may seem very strange, but it has been very often observed by those most conversant with the arts, that professional painters are not the best judges of works of art. There may be many reasons given for this: perhaps the truest is, that art has an unlimited scope; the artist a limited scope. He chooses but one field in which to spend his days-to which to devote all his time and genius. To this particular walk he is partial-his whole thought is directed to one practice. If high finish, laborious execution be his taste, he will but badly understand the dash and vigour of another school. We should not value the criticism of a Denner upon Michael Angelo. The eye of a Wynantz would be but ill tutored for the wild and more general beauties of Salvator Rosa. Nay, not even a Claude, perhaps, would be quite qualified to see the beauties of a grander and more free pencil. Artists there are, without doubt, so gifted by nature and study with such an exquisite sense, that they are in all perceptions of taste superior to the rest of mankind, and are without the necessity of divesting their minds of their own practice, and have an immediate perception of all beauties within the range