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expressed his apprehensions, “ Witbout some such PUBLIC PERMANENT SOURCE of employment for sculpture, and historical painting as that which has been suggested in these observations, it is to be feared that the arts must remain stationary, or lose ground. Academies may be founded and artists multiplied, but unless a demand, an eagerness, a sort of PUBLIC NECESSITY be created for their works, an evil instead of a good must ensue. The thorough degradation of art in Italy, was produced by the increase of artists keeping pace with the failure of employment. The artist, who could not obtain high commissions, was compelled to undertake low and trivial fancies; and where a crowd of hungry rivals scrambled for bread, the noble emulation of superior excellence, was forgotten in a sordid mechanical competition of under-working each other by reduced prices.” (P. 28, 29.)
“ There are upwards of five hundred names of artists, in the catalogues of this year's London exhibitions. Whoever attentively considers their sources 'of employment, must feel a serious concern at the prospect of the great majority of that number. Prizes to young candidates are bestowed with the most commendable intentions; and those who bestow them are entitled to the gratitude of the artists, and the thanks of the country. But, unfortunately, prizes only create artists, they do not support them. They too often afford a day of triumph, as a prelude to a life of disappointment. The British School will, no doubt, continue to display great genius, and frequently genius of the highest kind; but genius under heavy disadvantages, and often thrown away upon inferior subjects. It may produce as it has produced, shining bursts' of excellence in historical painting, but the vein of gold will be still mixed with alloy, and the greatest
strength of exertion followed by fits of weakness. These results must be expected from the want of steady encouragement; for, without steady encouragement there can be no steady practice. The mind of an artist cannot attain, nor continue a lofty flight, unless his spirit is sustained by continual employment.” (16. 29.)
“Again and again, it is necessary to repeat, that historical art never flourished in any country, in which it did not possess either from religion or public spirit, a PERMANENT, PUBLIC SOURCE of employment, and liberal encouragement. Wherever it is left to the chance patronage of individuals, IT MUST SINK.
Sir Joshua Reynolds bas truly observed, that our taste for the higher excellence of style is not natural, but acquired,' and we all know that those who have not acquired this taste, very rarely extend their ideas of perfection in a picture beyond the polished surface of laborious finishing, or a supposed exactness of imitation.” (Ib. p. 34.) In 1813, three years after the writer of the "
Cursory Thoughts” bad published his reflections, Mr. Prince Hoare, in bis “ Epochs of the Arts,” expressed similar opinions : “ As far as the real and ultimate excellence of painting, sculpture, and architecture is concerned, every plan, which is not sanctioned by the support of the government, and not conducted by professional guidance, under just regulations, will necessarily be found ineffectual." (p. 352.) From p. 253 to 257, the same candid and sound reasoner, has an entire chapter “On the employment of Painting and Sculpture in Public Halls.”
The prospects and interests of the highest department of the British School, are so intimately connected with the fate of West's splendid gallery of historical pictures, that it is a public duty to enter here into some details. The
high reputation of the late President, is supported by all the evidences which mark the character of a great master. His works, as we have showed, wrought a revolution in the royal breast, in favour of bistorical painting in the public style: they induced George the Third to take the fine arts under bis gracious patronage and protection, with the great national object of founding a British School, in every department of painting and sculpture. We have showed the immediate effects of this revolution in the royal mind, by his Majesty's founding the Royal Academy, with an annual grant from the privy purse, so long as that support was necessary ; by the election of Sir Joshua Reynolds to fill the chair of president, and all the happy cousequences of that great master's imperishable. Discourses. .
The works of Raphael, the Caracci, Rubens, and other celebrated painters, formed so many schools of engraving in their own time. The works of WEST, also, formed a school of historical engravers in London. The first prints by British engravers from British historical paintings, were the line engraving by John Hall, in 1769, from the Young Pyrrhus; and the mezzotintos by Green, from the Agrippina and Regulus, in the same year. These were followed, in due succession, by a superb series of prints, from his historical paintings, the impressions of which were purchased with unprecedented avidity upon the Continent, and soon compelled our envious rivals to abandon the senseless prejudice, that British artists were incapable of attaining to excellence in painting. WOOLLETT, HALL, aud SHARPE, the three great line engravers of their day, formed their fine historical style under the direction of West, in engraving from his works, for Boydell, in the same manner that the style of the Bolswerts, Paul Pontius, Vorsterman, and the VISSCHERS was formed under the eye of Rubens. In the matchless engravings of the Death of Wolfe, the Battle of La Hogue, and the Death of Nelson, England fought ber battles over again, and will continue to fight and conquer her enemies to the end of time. The fine impressions and proofs of the Death of Wolfe, and La Hogue, sold for unexampled prices both in England and all over Europe. The late Alderman Boydell, in the year 1790, stated, that the receipts for the Wolfe alone, amounted to £15,000. The best engravers in Paris and Vienna copied the Wolfe and La Hogue, another triumph of British genius. ' Not only Woollett, Sharpe, and Hall, but Fitler, Stow, Legatt, Bartolozzi, Strange, Earlom, Watson, Young, Smith, Cook, Scorodomoff, Michell, Facius, Liart, Cheeseman, Ryder, Wilkins, James Heath, Charles Heath, and other eminent engravers, executed a number of fine prints from his pictures, and extended the fame of West and England all over the world, by the lucrative export of their engravings. It is a remarkable fact, already noticed, that the first fine line engraving ever executed by a British artist, after a British historical painting, was published by Hall, in 1769, from a painting by West; aud the last great historical print, by a British artist, Christ healing the Sick, was finished by Charles Heath, in 1824, from the celebrated picture by the same master. During a period of nearly fifty years, the most eminent English engravers continued to derive celebrity and income from bis inventions.
The picture of Christ Healing the Sick in the Temple was purchased from Mr. West by the British Institution, for £3,150; being more than double the sum ever before paid to any British painter for a single production of his pencil. The Empress of Russia paid Sir Joshua Reynolds £1,500. for his picture of the Infant Hercules strangling the Serpents, which was the highest price ever received by that master. The public-spirited attempt of the British Institution to elevate bistorical painting, by a signal instance of liberal remuneration, cannot be too highly praised, nor too often mentioned ; and we are proud to see that their manificent purchase was richly rewarded.
The Exhibition of Christ healing the Sick was opened April 15th, 1811. Forty subscribers to the picture, at 50 guineas each,
£2,100 00 Seven hundred and ten ditto to the print, at 5 guineas each,
3,727 10 0 Receipts from admissions and catalogues,
arising only from the time the picture
£9,783 13 0
From the above there is to be deducted about the sum of £400, the probable amount of the exhibition, if Mr. West's picture had not been placed in the gallery, leaving £9,383. 13s.
In 1812, to June 10th, there were 90 additional subscribers to the print, at 5 guineas each, and the exhibition produced from the opening of the gallery that year to Jane 10th, about £2,000.
Previous to the purchase of Mr. West's picture, the income of the British Institution, derived from the exhibition, had not in any year reached £900. If we add this £472. 10s. for 90 subscribers, and £1,100. for extra receipts from the exhibition, to the preceding sum of £9,383. 13s. we have a gross sum of £10,956. 38. up to the 10th of June, 1812. We have also been assured, that from June 10th, 1812, to January, 1825, there has been a large sum received by the