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upon the artist's hands, who could not obtain a purchaser for them, at the lowest prices, or at any price.
But, if this posthumous rise in price for the fine works of Reynolds, Gainsborough, Wilson, and Hogarth, were the only proof that the taste of the British public has advanced within the last sixty years, it would prove very little. We rejoice that the taste of the public has improved in portrait, landscape, familiar life, and every other class of subject, in the domestic style. But we must own our fear, that there the account of improvement ends. To. prevent too great a reliance upon those posthumous high prices, we refer to a fact. The works of Raphael, Michael Angelo, Correggio, Titian, and their great contemporaries, continued to rise in estimation and price in Italy, while the public taste, and the style of the Italian schools, rapidly declined. About the middle of the eighteenth century, when the public taste, and the style of the Italian schools, bad sunk to their lowest declension, the fine painting and sculpture of the great masters, in Leo's golden days, were purchased at the highest prices, and held in the bighest estimation, in that country.
Here we close our main proofs, that the DOMESTIC STYLE, including portraits, familiar life, fancy subjects, and landscapes, although sustained by the genius and vigorous practice of REYNOLDS, GAINSBOROUGH, WILSON, and HOGARTH, four of the greatest masters of the British school, wholly failed, from 1746 to 1768, during the last fourteen years of George II. and the first eight years of George III. to overcome or make any impression upon the obstacles to the public style of history painting, arising from the exclusion of painting and sculpture from the churches; and also failed to create a taste for historical painting in this country.
There was also at that period, a numerous body of British artists, in the various classes of the domestic style. One hundred and forty-one of those painters were members of “ The Incorporated Society," in 1765.
Having arrived at this important point, two serious questions arise :
FIRST.-Does not the great national obstacle, to the public style of historical painting, the exclusion of pictures from churches, exist in as full force in 1825, as it did in any of the years from 1746 to 1768 ?
To this, we may venture at once to reply-It does.
SECOND.-As REYNOLDS, GAINSBOROUGH, WILSON, and HOGARTH, with one hundred and forty-one painters in the domestic style, wholly failed, from 1746 to 1768, to make an impression upon that national obstacle to the public style; we ask, are there now in England, any four artists in the domestic style, SUPERIOR to those four great masters?
To this, also, we may frankly answer, that, as far as we have had opportunities of ascertaining the public opinion in amateur circles, there are not now any four living British artists in this country, superior to Reynolds, Wilson, Gainsborough, and Hogarth.
Therefore, it is plain, that the domestic style is, at present, as incapable of overcoming the national obstacle to the public style as it was from 1746 to 1768; and
We shall proceed to show that unless the Government, by some wise, speedy, and liberal measures of permanent patronage, will open a field for the encouragement and support of the public style, the historical style introduced by his late Majesty, in the person of WEST, in 1768, must decline and wholly perish in this country.
But, be it remembered, we are compelled to deny that the domestic style can create a taste for the public style in any country, where paintings are excluded from the churches and public buildings. We again repeat our conviction, that the domestic style, however it may flourish for a season, must gradually decline and fall into a bad taste, unless invigorated and chastened, by a continual intercourse with practical examples of the public style, executed by contemporary artists. It is not enough to form a NATIONAL GALLERY, enriched with fine examples of the public style, by the old masters, for the inspection and study of young artists. The French, in the time of Louis XV. when the meretricious affectation and empty facility of BọUCHER, were extolled as models of grace and masterly execution, possessed the fine Italian specimens in the Orleans Gallery, and in the Royal Collections in Paris and its vicinity. We have, also, already noticed, that with all the great examples of the Vatican in view, the arts declined in Rome, until the sickly mannerism of Sebastian Concha and Trevisiani, the flashy bravura of Antonio Pellegrini, and the dry servility of Pompeo Battoni, found disciples in the schools where RAPHAEL and MICHAEL ANGELO had taught; and patrons in the palaces, which their genius had embellished. These instances are quite enough to show, that artists, like other men, do not form their style upon what they see, or read, of past ages, but by the manner or style which is in fashionable practice in their own time. We, again, anxiously repeat our well-matured conviction, that unless the domestic style be derived from the public style, and chastened by it, the former must be moulded by the uncultivated taste of the million, and be obedient to the heartless and frivolous caprices of fashion. Wherever the public style and the domestic style are not patronized, and do not flourish together, the latter must decline. Artists in the same class and school, invariably fall into an unconscious imitation of each other, until the school dwindles, as the race of the noblest animals degenerates, when the breed is too long confined to one stock.
The preceding facts are essential materials in the British annals of the eighteenth century. They are absolutely necessary for the formation of any distinct view of the present state of the British school. But many of them have been hitherto kept out of view, by some writers, through negligence, and want of research; or they have been slightly noticed by others as isolated circumstances, of little importance, from which no salutary inference has been drawn. Like the stones for a building, hewed from the quarries and laid in heaps, they have been accumulated, by certain authors, with no other view but that of gratifying the rage for anecdotes, or swelling out their volumes. Fortunately, the memoirs of Reynolds have been written with commendable zeal and ability, by very eminent men, to throw, what Sir Thomas Lawrence has so justly termed, “a dazzling splendour” round the name of a painter immortalized by his genius, by the profound philosophy of his admirable Lectures, and by the dignified suavity of his manners, which raised his profession in the public opinion, and rendered him an object of general esteem and affection. The world is indebted to the biographers who have so meritoriously exerted their talents in honour of this great master. A portion of the valuable details, which they have preserved from oblivion, has contributed
to our means of establishing this important truth, that the domestic style cannot create a higher feeling for the Fine Arts in England, or in any country where painting is excluded from the churches, than that which is purely pleasurable, arising from the delightful emotions of a kindred circle, or from the works of genius, as a refined embellishment of private mansions. This is the utmost effect which can be produced upon the public mind by the domestic style, however admirable in its productions, and richly deserving all its honours and lucrative emoluments in this country, where it was, in the middle of the last century, and where it is, at present, carried to the highest excellence.
It is true that the portraits of great and good men, when set up as honorary testimonials in public buildings, have a strong effect on the minds and manners of their countrymen : they form valuable instruments of excitement, which ought, on all memorable occasions, to be called into action. But, the magic pencil of Reynolds was employed to convey to posterity, for more than two generations, the portraits of the wisest, greatest, and most virtuous Englishmen of his age. Yet the facts, which we have drawn forth and placed in their most important light before the public, incontrovertibly prove that the inestimable series of his portraits, with those of Gainsborough, failed altogether to produce a public taste for the works of British genius, in the highest department of painting, as an instrument of moral culture or national glory. So limited was their effect upon the public mind, that they even failed, as we have already showed, to open the eyes of men to the grandeur of Wilson's landscapes, or the magic simplicity of Gainsborough's village groups and rural scenery. Facts, here again, must supersede un