obtained, and never can be obtained, in any age, or in any country. History proves the fact that it was by the highest source of public patronage alone, that the artists of Greece and Italy were roused to their immortal performances.

The names which appear to the above important record are, “ Dartmouth, Abercorn, Lowther, Mulgrave, Isaac Corry, Charles Long, George Beaumont, Abraham Hume, Francis Baring, R. P. Knight, Thomas Hope, William Smith, Thomas Bernard.” It would be impossible to find in all Europe, any nine other amateurs, whose rank, talents, refined taste, and patriotic views entitled them to equal authority, on any question relative to the advancement of the fine arts. It is our pride to agree with them, with our whole heart, in their seasonable and admirable declaration,

We quote again with great delight, the following passage from the catalogue of that public spirited body, the Brịtish Institution, in the year 1811 :-"Upon offering some remarks on the object, plan, and progress of the British Institution, it should be premised, that in its foundation, the FINE ARTS have been appreciated, not merely as sources of revenue, or as means of civil refinement, but have been revered and honoured for a NOBLER and MORE USEFUL PURPOSE. When directed to INTELLECTUAL and NATIONAL OBJECTS, and wbilst their character is neither degraded by vulgar subjects, por sullied by licentious images, they are calculated to RAISE the STANDARD of MORALITY and PATRIOTISM; to attract the homage and respect of foreign nations, and produce those intellectual and virtuous feelings, which are perpetually alive to the welfare and glory of the country, and prepared to offer every sacrifice, and to make every exertion in its defence.

" The governors of the Institution, in direpting their attention

towards their object, have not listened to those insinuations, which presame a physical defect in the natives of the British Isles. They can discover no reason why British artists should not excel in the fine arts; or why the countrymen of REYNOLDS and WEST should dread a competition with any modern school."

The illustrious body which thus signalized REYNOLDS and West before all Europe, as the two great luminaries of the British School, was composed of the first personages in the world. It consisted of their late Majesties, of his Royal Highness the PRINCE REGENT, and six. teen additional members of the royal family, roya! dukes, and royal duchesses; of thirty-nine British peers, dukes, marquesses, earls, and viscounts; and the untitled members included a number of gentlemen eminently distinguished for taste, talents, public spirit, and attainments. To be so conspicuously honoured by this exalted body must have been highly gratifying to Mr. West in his age. The high point of view, in which they publicly connected the names of WEST and REYNOLDS, with the fame of Britain, was well calculated to raise the British School, and its two great pillars, in the estimation of other nations. We have been charged, for some years, with entertaining romantic and singular views of the high moral and national end and aim of the fine arts. We have been told that our views are difficult, and some have added, impracticable; but we reply, that difficulties are the precious materials by which men of genius and great nations weave the web of glory; facilities are the ready-made materials for ordinary minds. We trust that we have now, once for all, justified ourselves from this charge of singularity, by having showed that the most distinguished association of royal, poble, and dignified amateurs in existence, was expressly founded for the purpose of elevating painting and sculpture from ordinary aims, “ to a nobler and more useful purpose,” “to intellectual and national objects;“ to raise the standard of morality and patriotism;" “ to attract the homage and respect of foreign nations, and to arm the hand of British valour, if necessary, in defence of the country. We stand so high, and so proudly connected with the illustrious body, in the concurring end and aim of our spontaneous writings on this subject for thirty years, and in the whole train of our independent thinking for the advancement of the fine arts, that we may henceforward calmly hear the charge of singularity in our views of the national means for promoting the public style, not only without reply or regret, but with honest pride and satisfaction.

Here again to show that our opinions are not delivered with a view to a temporary object, or to promote a partial interest, we insert the following passages from a tract published in 1810. By those extracts we hope to mark, with a reiterated force, the distinction between the generative cause or source of the public style, and that which is domestic:

“ The million, unless led to look higher, by some great counteracting principle, and public examples of British art in the superior style, will ever be best pleased by representations of familiar nature. They will still eagerly desire to behold those objects painted, the prototypes of which they are in the habit of seeing daily. This preference is founded in their considering themselves best qualified to judge of such pictures, from the circumstance of possessing, at all times, in their own eyes, a sure standard to ascertain the degree of resemblance between the work of the artist and the original objects in nature."

" A proof of the foregoing reasoning will be found in the instances of Italy and Holland. In the former, THE CHURCHES afforded PUBLIC and CONSTANT EXAMPLES of the superior style of art, the daily contemplation of which formed the taste of individuals and of the Public. The cabinet and gallery pictures were, therefore, painted in conformity with the taste of the latter, in THE SAME SUPERIOR STYLE; and if the patron or employer committed some errors in directing the mode of treatment, still that circumstance was more than balanced by the elevation of his choice.

“ On the contrary, in Holland, OWING TO THE WANT OF PUBLIC EXAMPLES in THE SUPERIOR STYLE, to form the taste of the Public, ART TOOK AN OPPOSITE COURSE. Painting being left to support herself by individual patronage, never rose above the level of ordinary conception. The artists were obliged to please the crowd. Hence, they painted landscapes, cattle, subjects of ordinary and familiar nature, dead game, and still life, suited to the fancy, or uncultivated taste of their employers; and the excellence with which they executed these subjects, often compels us to forget their worst choice.”

“ It is of the last importance, in looking to the prospects of British art, to mark this leading distinction. IN ITALY the painters, or rather PAINTING, by PUBLIC EXAMPLES, FORMED THE TASTE OF INDIVIDUALS, and THE PUBLIC FOLLOWED ART. In HOLLAND, individuals formed the taste and governed the practice of the painters; and ART, instead of leading, FOLLOWED THE TASTE OF THE PUBLIC.

As to the silly notion, that the damp and foggy climate of Holland caused the difference between Dutch and Italian art, it is not worth an argument. Those who believe it may. It is the pedantic sophistry by which Du Bos, Montesquieu, and Winkelman, endeavoured to discourage the people of this country from ever attempting anything elevated in the Arts.” (Cursory Thoughts. p. 34, 35,) Again we remind our readers, that the above tract was written and published in 1810.

The directors of the British Institution, in their admirable publications, have distinctly defined the GREAT MORAL END and INSTRUCTIVE AIM of the PUBLIC STYLE, which they expressly associated to promote as their primary object. The above extracts, from the “ Cursory Thoughts,” founded in the experience of the old foreign schools, as clearly show that the public style alone can create an elevated public taste, and form a source of public patronage similar to that “ which raised and rewarded the Italian and Grecian Masters;” (and again, to borrow the words of the British Institution in 1805). "a patronage, without which, if we refer to historical evidence, we shall find that no high excellence in art bas ever been obtained in any age or in any country." The necessity of opening a public source of patronage, is on all hands allowed, to counteract the great National Evil, the church exclusion of pictures. The British Institution, in their preliminary notice in 1811, remarked, that their body bad “not attained the magnitude and importance, which in such a country as this, might have been expected” (see Catalogue, p. 11), and that it bad “ not as yet succeeded in attracting the attention, and obtaining the protection of GOVERNMENT. (lbid). The Directors, although working against wind and tide, and perpetually baffled on the highest ground, by the adamantine wall of church exclu

« ForrigeFortsett »