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to vie with the ancients, but the gibing reply of the foul fiend is upon them, with a vengeance ;
Aye! but will they come ?" Who obeyed their call with more high-minded alacrity than Haydon and his pupils? Well, and wbere are they? And what was his reward? Oh shame! England! when will you be true to your own genius in the arts? When the goal of glory is the KING'S BENCH, who would not be an historical painter !
There will be some prospect of competing with the ancients when the Government is authorised to address this encouragement to the artists who have evinced powers in the historical department.-- There are the master-pièces of Greece and Italy, which the state has purchased at the paternal suggestion of his Majesty, and by the wisdom and liberality of Parliament: they are placed before you, not to abash you by comparison, but to rouse your emulation; a public fund is lodged in the treasury" to raise and reward” British merit:-here are the commissions which you are to execute for the embellishment of the specified public buildings:--Go and obtain " the homage of foreign nations." for your country, by exerting your genius for her glory.
If ever a nation acquires national glory by the purchase of works of art, it is when she nobly applies her means and her public patronage to purchase the chief works in the highest class of excellence by her native artists. There is, at present, not a British historical picture in the British National Gallery. But the unrivalled series of the Marriage à-la-Mode, with his own Portrait, by Hogarth; the admirable Village Festival, by Wilkie ; and the magnificent Portrait of Lord Heathfield, by Reynolds ; on account of their standard excellence in their class, and their being the works of British artists, are entitled to peculiar notice,
We have offered these observations, because there are some grave persons who draw their chief arguments from their bankers' books, and conceive that genius and glory are purchaseable in foreign countries, and can be impored like rum, sugar, tobacco, and cotton, or any other saleable commodity. Such persons imagine, that in buying the Townley, Phygalian, and Elgin Marbles, and the Angerstein collection of paintings, the Government has established the national character of England for national taste and genius in the highest style of sculpture and painting. These confident reasoners speak as if the probable extinction of the public style in this country was a mere nothing, and that it was as easy to make up A NATIONAL GALLERY full of imported glory, as it is to stock a warehouse in Thames-street with West India produce. We confess, however, that we are a little dull upon this delicate point. We have endeavoured to show that genius, and the glory of high excellence in the arts, are a native growth which cannot be transplanted: they have “ a local habitation," from which all the armies in the universe cannot drive them; and "a name," of which all the gold in the mines of South America cannot obtain possession.
We trust we have replied in the preceding remarks, to the objections of those who have so unthinkingly blamed the Government for the admission of a few fine English pictares into the national gallery in Pall-mall. We confess that we consider the purchase to bave been a measure of wisdom and national feeling ; because British glory in the fine arts, like British glory in arms, must be the offspring of British mind and of British genius, worked up by British hands, by British pencils, and British chisels. It must be of native growth, fostered by public patronage, and reaped by public spirit from our own intellectual soil. If we were to purchase all the fine pictures and statues on the Continent for a national gallery, we should be, after all, no more than the keeper of a treasure, while foreign nations would possess the glory of baving produced it. A national gal. lery in England, to answer its end and title, ought not only to comprehend fine examples of the old schools for study, but also to be rich in national, that is, in British pictures. We have showed that the British Institution, to whose exertions and enlarged views the arts and the country are so much indebted, publicly announced in 1811, the imporiant fact that they had purchased Mr. West's Christ Healing the Sick, for the purpose of making it the foundation stone of A BRITISH GALLERY: and undoubtedly that distinguished body in doing so, acted from their conviction that a British gallery was absolutely necessary as one of the means towards enabling the British artists to vie with the masters of Greece and Italy. The splendid collection of pictures by the late PRESIDENT WEST, now exhibiting in the spacious rooms erected by. bis sons, offers a golden opportunity to Government of proceeding with their excellent purpose of forming a national gallery of fine pictures from the foreign old schools and from the British masters.
We mention the purchase of Mr. West's splendid series of historical pictures on public grounds; that is, first, on the ground of their high, indisputable, and acknowledged merits, and their being the productions of a great British master. We humbly conceive that the proposed purchase of them would prove a benefit to British students, an encouragement to all British artists, and would confer a national mark of distinction on the British school. We sincerely think that such a purchase would be a national acquisition equally honourable to the memory of the great founder and father of the British school, and to the true British feeling, good taste, and enlarged views of the Government. The merits of West stand proudly forward, not only in the testimony of his works, but in the unbiassed testimony of his professional contemporaries, and of his country. We show our indifference to the charge of repetition, when we here recapitulate the following unbiassed opinions of a writer of sound taste and elegant faucy, a gentleman critically skilled in the works of the ancient and modern schools—“ Christ Healing the Sick assumes SO HIGH A RANK in graphic composition, as to fear no future decline from its present just estimation. The GREAT MASTER OF COMPOSITION from whose band it came, holds a place in this respect AMONGST WHATEVER MODERN or ANCIENT SCHOOLS have produced OF EMINENCE. Above the sportive, desul. tory trains of Venetian grouping, he ranks with the MORE CHASTE COMPOSERS of the FLORENTINE and LOMBARD SCHOOLS, and surpassing many, is excelled by few. The merits of the picture exhibited at the Britisb Gallery are not new in the artist. Nearly fifty years of his life have been passed in the production of works of similar worth.”—(Prince Hoare's Epocbs of the Arts, p. 221.)
Mr. Prince Hoare, in the same work, terms the late President, “ the great historical painter of our day." The late Sir HENRY RAEBURN, whose powers as a painter, and judgment in works of art were so highly and justly appreciated by his country, in a letter now before us, mentions Mr. West thus :-" The great British historical painter of the age, whose works would rank him in the best ages of art in Italy among the great masters."Mr. Shee, in the extract which we have inserted in a former page, from his “ Commemoration of Reynolds,"
rejoiced in the public patronage conferred by the British Institution on this GREAT and VENERABLE ARTIST, who STANDS AT THE HEAD, not only OF THE ARTS IN THIS COUNTRY, but WHO HAS PRODUCED WORKS WHICH TAKE THE LEAD OF HIS COMPETITORS IN EVERY OTHER COUNTRY IN EUROPE.”
We have already showed, that the British Institution, with honest exultation, in the true spirit of national pride and of public patronage, expressed a hope to England, that “ THE COUNTRY of REYNOLDS and WEST" would not merely imitate, but would rival the Grecian and Italian masters. We refer to that fact again, to place it in a new light. That body, consisting of the first amateur judges, in whatever relates to the fine arts, thus united these two great British masters with the glory of the British empire by the imperishable links of honour. They held them up to Europe as the two EYES' of the Britista School, the two great luminaries of the arts in the modern world. We have also, in a former page, stated, that the public exposition of principles in which this just homage was paid to British genius, was issued under the sanction of their late Majesties, of his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, of sixteen additional members of the royal family, of thirty-nine British peers, and of a list of gentry of distin guished taste, talents, and public spirit. The document, so honourable to the illustrious, noble, and eminent names which are prefaced to it, is a matter of national record. Nor was this an empty compliment; it was followed up by the signal proof of their sincerity, in their purchase of a single picture by the pencil of WEST, at the unparalleled remuneration of three thousand guineas: Here is