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a pledge to support the interests of bistorical painting in the memory of West, as an honour to the country, which is a tower of strength at the present moment! A testimony
to his fame which can never be obliterated or forgotten.
After having recapitulated the bigh estimate of Prince Hoare, of Sir Henry Raeburn, of Mr. Shee, and of the British Institution, we shall recapitulate some points from the discourse of Sir THOMAS LAWRENCE, which we bave inserted in a former page. Sir Thomas places the names of REYNOLDS and WEST, the two great lumiDaries of the arts in the modern world, together, with the lamenting expression of a noble mind, that the powers of the latter “ DESERVED NOT THE CONTRAST OF THEIR PRESENT FORTUNE.” We most sincerely partake in this painful conviction, and we deplore the melancholy fact, that the pictorial hill of fame is of a richer soil near its base, that it becomes less productive in its ascent, and that
6 Shadows, clouds, and darkness rest upon
Its barren head."
But we trust, that the members of the Government will be true to their own character and to the interests of the British School, by extending the public patronage of the State to the works of the great British historical painter after bis decease, on the broad grounds of public policy, justice, and honourable feeling.
In this recapitulation we remind our readers, that the present President described the grand series of Mr.West's earlier compositions from sacred and profane history, as “not only superior to any former productions of English art, but far surpassing contemporary merit on the continent, and unequalled at any period below the school of the Caracci ;" that is, unequalled by any of the Italian masters for the last two bundred years. We have, also, already noticed, that Sir Thomas Lawrence afterwards mentioned the grand picture of Christ Healing the Sick in the Temple, as ą greater display of power; and then noticed his still later productions, (Christ Rejected, and Death on the Pale Horse,) as works of " more arduous subjects, of greater magnitude, and, IF POSSIBLE, more powerfully impressive." The " if possible," strikingly attests the power of the former pictures, and the "astonishing abilities of the two stupendous works which crowned the close of his long, honoured, and laborious life! The ascendipg scale of this great master's excellence is distinctly marked by his former pupil, up to his eightieth year, in which he finished the last of these sublime compositions. Persons of ordinary minds generally exhibit a decay of their bodily and mental faculties together; but men of superior genius retain their intellectual powers after the decay of their bodily strength. Michael Angelo was fast approaching his seventieth year when he finished his prodigious work, the Last Judgment, in the Sistine Chapel.
It is known that Sir Thomas Lawrence, when lately upon the continent, visited Rome, and the principal cities of Italy, and that he gratified bis fine taste and professional desire of improvement, by inspecting the chief works of the old master3. We here recapitulate a remarkable fact already adverted to. The present President, in his address to the students in the Royal Academy, stated, that when enjoying this feast abroad, he found, on comparing the grand compositions of West in his memory, with the master-pieces of Italy which he was examining, the works of
the great British historical painter rose in his estimation by the comparison.
The third President, impressed with a strong sense of WEST'S genius and profound science, and of the importance of his works as materials of study in the formation of a British School, addressed the following advice to the Students; an advice to drink deeply of the learning in those fine compositions. The sentence is short, but it contains volumes for the consideration of Government in their purchase of pictures for the British National Gallery. “But, though unnoticed by the public, THE GALLERY of Mr. West REMAINS, GENTLEMEN, FOR YOU, and EXISTS FOR YOUR INSTRUCTION.”-Here is the most important directing truth laid down by the
very bighest professional authority, and coming from a mind of unclouded talent and unbiassed integrity. What sounder counsel can the Government have for its guidance? What a proud triumph is this for England! The students of painting in the Royal Academy are sent by the present President, not to Rome, nor to Florence, to Venice, to Bologna, Parma, nor to Paris, for improvement; but, in the first instance to the historical gallery of West, the founder and father of the British historical school of painting, and, for a long series of years, the acknowledged head of the arts in the British empire. May the words of Sir Thomas Lawrence, through the wisdom of Government, prove prophetic! May the series of West's historical pictures exist and remain for ever unseparated, for the instruction of the British students, and the glory of the British School!
We insert the following extracts from a critique on Mr. West's Death on the Pale Horse, in 1817, in a quarterly work, some years discontinued, and remarkable for its sub
sequent attempts to lower the professional character of that great, master. “ Till very lately, NO ONE ARTIST SUSTAINED THE DIGNITY OF EPIC and HISTORIC ART but the VENERABLE PAINTER of THE PRESENT PICTURE, who, for nearly THREEFOURTHS OF A CENTURY, stood almost alone as AN HISTORICAL PAINTÉR; and during the whole of which time he has held A REPUTATION DESERVEDLY BRILLIANT. Patronized by HIS SOVEREIGN, his best works decorate the royal balls of Windsor; yet no individual or private patronage encouraged HIS SOLITARY EFFORTS to maintain the rank of an historical painter.” “The pictorial patriarch received abundantly the rewards of his steadiness, his perseverance, and chivalrous adoration of his art. Placed BY HIS TALENTS AT THE HEAD of THE ENGLISH SCHOOL, &c. &c." The above testimony of Mr. West's genius, and of his solitary and enthusiastic devotion to historical painting, is contained in an unfavourable review of his picture. And the same publication some time before contained the following just tribute of applause:-“No one can so well spare praise as OUR at present GREATEST HISTORICAL PAINT. ER; we will therefore borrow of HIS RICHES, to bestow on those who are less richly endowed, or less bold in bending the great historic bow."When such were the confessions of Mr. West's assailants, we may fairly stand acquitted of partiality in our very humble testimony to bis merits.
In addition to these written and published i evidences of the science, the power, and grandeur displayed in Mr. West's works, we proceed proudly in oor recapitulation to the triumphant record of facts--the twenty-seven annual elections of the great British historical painter of our day, to fill the high and dignified public office of President of the Royal Academy of painting, sculpture, and architecture in England. This may be very fairly termed a national elevation indeed! Would the Royal Academicians, with all their jealous sense of professional reputation, their conflicting pride, their honourable ambition of precedence, their eager competition as men of genius, and their feelings of self-respect as gentlemen, bave unanimously and voluntarily, twenty-seven times, 'elected any but an artist of the highest claims to stand, as Mr. Shee has termed it, at their head, and at the head of the arts in the British empire ? The question needs no answer. It is to be remembered, that a year for deliberation intervened between each of these elections: and that each was a public act, recorded in the presence of the world : that they extended over a period of at least twenty-seven years, 'and that each was honoured with the royal signature and sanction. Here is the highest possible professional testimony to the powers of Mr. West as an historical painter, and to the bigh excellence 'in drawing, character, expression, composition, and colouring, exhibited in the grand series of pictures which he has left behind him; and which now offer such noble materials to the Government for enriching the national gallery of England with acknowledged masterpieces of the British pencil.
Besides these twenty-seven annual elections by the Royal Academicians of England, we have to recapitulate, that the sight of his pictures by foreign artists and amateurs on their travels in England, and the fame of his genius spread abroad by the fine series of prints from his historical-compositions, induced the artists of the different academies of painting, sculpture, and architecture on the continent, unanimously to elect him a member of their several institutions. In the United States of America he was salso