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of commercial and political affairs, with the home occurrences of the day, which immediately affect the minds and money-making interests of the million, have prevented it from being sufficiently discussed. The surface has been skimmed, but little more. We can only arrive at a fair view of the consequences, to which the present want of patronage for historical painting must inevitably lead, by a brief but comprehensive view of the whole case. A calm retrospect will enable us to decide, whether the state of patronage for the public style has or has not increased in this country, since the middle of the last century. It will be seen that the most illustrious Personage of the State, alone, had power to create the very limited historical patronage which has existed during that long period. It will be also seen that the royal example had little or no influence, even in the court circle; and that nothing but historical painting had power to excite the late King to take the Fine Arts under his special patronage and gracious protection.
If a single historical painting, WEST's Agrippina landing with the ashes of her husband, Germanicus, at Brundusium, produced that powerful effect upon George the Third, in 1768; surely, in 1825, the fate of the splendid series of West's unsold historical paintings, now on view in the noble gallery erected by his sons, since his decease, must bave a lasting and decided influence upon every student in the Royal Academy, and upon the most vital interests of that high department of Painting.
In 1752, when Reynolds, after his return from Italy, re-commenced his professional career in London, there was no such art as British historical painting in England. It was to be created. Here we have to repeat an oft-repeated fact, that not only on the Continent, but in England, a disgraceful prejudice prevailed against the genius of Englishmen, amounting to a confirmed belief, that there was some disqualifying influence in the climate of this island, and in the minds and constitutions of Englishmen, which rendered them incapable of excelling in any works of invention, but those performances which are wrought by the mechanic arts. Notwithstanding the monstrous absurdity of this disgraceful opinion, it was received as an established truth. Among the celebrated foreign writers, who triumphantly promulgated this Anti-British notion, as a certainty, in their publications, it is quite sufficient to name the ABBE DU Bos, WINKLEMAN, MONTESQUIEU, and VOLTAIRE. But it is important to notice, that this gross prejudice did pot originate with these eminent authorities. They only adopted and strengthened a general belief, which they found current on their entrance into public life, and which had existed during many generations. The splendour of their abilities and their popularity, successfully disseminated this Apti-British aspersion all over Europe, with a renewed force; and the envy of British superiority, in almost every other art of war and peace, obtained it ready eredit: so that when Reynolds appeared, the arrogant and disgraceful assumption, that the people of England were inferior in genius to the people of the Continent, and were absolutely disqualified by nature from attaining to excellence in the Fine Arts, was received, as an axiom, by foreign Princes and People, by every foreign Court, foreign Academy, and foreign Literary Society.
Undoubtedly it was a truth that, at that period, England was far ipferior to the nations on the Continent, in the Fine Arts; but it was a gross error to attribute that inferiority to any defect in the genius of Englishmen, wbich had originated in very different causes. The force of
ancient political changes, and of conflieting religious opinions, beginning early in the reign of Henry VIII. and operating for two centuries, had not only rendered painting and sculpture extremely odious, and had excluded pietures and statues from Churches, but had engendered an almost incurable spirit of religious and political hostility to the Fine Arts in this country. So long as the Head of the Church and State, the Legislature, and the Clergy, esteemed the destruction of pictures and statues an act of loyalty and pious duty, which merited applause and pecuniary reward, it was not to be expected that Englishmen would devote their lives and genius to the cultivation of those obnoxious arts, as a means of professional fame, or even of professional livelihood. Who would take up the pencil and chisel, with the certainty of their inevitable consequences, neglect, contempt and poverty, instead of patronage, honour, and fortune? The whole spirit and authority of the Government, of the laws, of the Churoh, of public morals, and of public and private opinion, being directed against those productions of genius, as evil and disloyal instruments, they fell into entire disuse and abborrence, in their very infancy in England, at the period, when, from opposite causes, from their being patronized by the temporal and spiritual Princes of Italy, and employed to embellish churches and public buildings, they were advancing to their highest glory in that country.
Thus the whole frame of government, the system of education, and the public institutions, which are the only competent source and support of the public or historical style, became, in this country, the active enemies and destroyers of painting and sculpture. This fact is not offered here as a novelty, but merely to impress the necessary truth, that, upless THE SAME HIGH POWERS, which proscribed and banished the Fine Arts, are as actively employed to re-inslate them, and to open a constant field for their support, it is in vain to expect that the public or historical style can continue, or ever flourish in England, although it may drag on something like a precarious and discreditable existence.
Here an important fact offers itself to our consideration. Although only devotional or sacred subjects in painting and sculpture, were proscribed by Edward VI. and Queen Elizabeth, yet when they were formally excluded from churches and public buildings, so dependent is the domestic style upon the public style, that the former sunk into insignificance, bordering upon utter extinction, soon after the latter was proscribed, and rooted out in this country. This consequence has not been sufficiently noticed. HOLBEIN, NICHOLAS HILLIARD, and other painters, found employment in the reign of Henry VIII. and were patronized by that monarch: but under Edward VI. the English painters of portraits and familiar life, had already fallen into disrepute and poverty. Walpole bas preserved an extract from one of Hilliard's letters, which shows the low state to which they were reduced. “Nevertheless, if a man be so induced by nature, and live in time of trouble, and under A GOVERNMENT wherein arts be not esteemed, and bimself but of small means, woe be unto him, as unto an untimely birth; for, of mine own knowledge, it hath made poor men poorer, as amongst others many, the most rare English drawer of story works, John Bossam." This Hilliard painted Mary, Queen of Scots, and Queen Elizabeth, and the latter patronized Frederico Zucchero, and other portrait painters; but, even portrait painting fell into disuse, excepting at court. In every country where the public style is not patronized, although the domestic style may be encouraged, and acquire, for a time, a flourishing state, as, at present, in England, it is exposed to decline and fall into an inferior taste from two causes : FIRST, from its having no supplies of great principle, from daily and familiar examples of practice in the public style : SECOND, from its being supported by the patronage of the uncultivated million, and compelled to adapt its choice of subjects, and mode of execution, to the liking and direction of persons who are usually governed by the caprices of fashion, and are, generally, more inclined to set a value upon enamel surface, and that attention to minutiæ which wears the appearance of high finishing, than upon the higher qualities of breadth, pure taste, expression, character, and a fine choice of nature.
The bistory of “ that most rare English drawer of STORY WORKS, in black and white, John BoSSAM," may serve for a specimen of the miserable poverty that attended history painters, in the persecution of pictures, during the reign of Edward VI. Walpole has published it, from Hilliard's quaint manuscript, in which this artist is described as “one, for his skill, worthy to have been Serjeant Painter to any King or Emperor, whose works in that kind are comparable with the best whatsoever in cloth, and in distemper-colours; and belike wanting to buy fairer colours, wrought therefore for the most part in white and black; and growing yet poorer, by charge of children, &c. gave painting CLEAN OVER: but being a very fair-conditioned, zealous and godly person, grew into a love of God's divine service, upon the liberty of the gospel, at the coming in of Queen Elizabeth, and became a reading minister; only unfortunate, because he was English born, for even the strangers would have set him up.” Here the poor painter, after having been driven by the church war against pic