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continue its neglect, and seem to prove by this indifferonce THAT THE GENERAL ENTHUSIASM SO RECENTLY EXCITED by THOSE FINE PRODUCTIONS, and the respect then shown to their venerable author, were but the impulse and fashion of an hour, dependant on the mere convenience of place and distance, instead of the rational tribute of the judgment, and the feeling protection of an enlightened and just people.”
We regret exceedingly that we have been obliged to copy the above valuable matter from the very loose and inaccurate report published in the newspapers, in which so much of the President's clearness and force of language is lost. The observations of one of the highest professional authorities now living, ought to have been correctly preserved. Sir Thomas Lawrence confirms the astonishing fact, that West was roused by the munificent reward of the British Institution, and by the public admiration of bis Christ Healing the Sick, to the display of still greater epergies in his two last sublime compositions, although they were painted on the verge of his eightieth year. The present President places the splendid series of his paintings from sacred and profane history above all contemporary art, and unequalled by the great Italian masters since the school of the Caracci, that is, above all competition for more than two hundred years, and, of course, ranking among the great masters of the preceding period. This agrees with the judgment of Prince Hoare, who ranks him among the “Chaste Composers of the Florentine and Lombard Schools." A comparison with the works of “ the great masters of the renowned ages,” is fatal to all false pretensions, but the British empire may justly be proud, that, even when tried by this test at Rome, the works of the great founder and father of British historical painting, and of
the public style in this country, rose higher than ever in the estimation of Sir Thomas Lawrence, who is justly looked up to as one of the most competent judges, and certainly the most candid and impartial authority pow in existence.
The present President of the Royal Academy, speaking with grateful affection of his predecessor, bears just testimony to“ the gentle humanity of his nature, and that parental fondness with which youth and its young aspirings were instructed and cherished by him.” What an eulogium upon Mr. West, as a man, and as the President of a great national institution! This record of truth does equal honour to the memory of the deceased, and to the speaker's goodness of heart. The great master, whose virtues he has recorded, was of a mild and amiable character, cordial in his manners, a stranger to envy, and indefatigable in his endeavours to promote the advancement of the students in the Royal Academy. He was at all times, ready to confer fair praise on his contemporaries: was irreproachable in his morals, and esteemed and honoured in all the rela. tions of privato life. These circumstances are not now mentioned with a view to blazon a panegyric on the deceased founder and father of British bistorical painting ; but to show, that while his acknowledged genius and the grand series of his composition entitled him to a munificent public support in his profession, there was nothing in his private life to justify the failure of his hopes produced by the discouragement of historical painting in this country. On the contrary, posterity will bear evidence to the important fact, that the private virtues of Mr. West formed an additional recommendation of his genius to the liberal patronage of the British empire.
SIR THOMAS LAWRENCE mentions with deep regret and surprise, the desertion of the spacious exhibition rooms built by the filial reverence of his sons, for the fame of their deceased parent, with an honest reliance on a liberal support in their laudable efforts to meet the expectations of the public, and confer honour on the memory of an eminent and good man, and great artist, “ whose loss was felt as a NATIONAL CALAMITY.” The passage affords so striking an instance of the coldness and indifference produced by the great national obstacle, the exclusion of pictures from churches, that we re-insert the short expression of his feelings, to make a more full impression upon our readers.—“Yet, what slight circumstances may retard the effect usually produced by death on the fame of the eminent and good! It is now more than three
years that we have witnessed at his own residence an exhibition of THE ACCUMULATED labours of this venerable and great master, whose remains were honoured with a public funeral, and whose loss was felt as a NATIONAL CALAMITY, TOTALLY NEGLECTED and DESERTED: the spacious rooms in which they are arranged, erected in just respect to a parent's memory, and due attention to the imagined expectations of the public, as destitute of spectators as the vacant halls of a corporate body; and but, for the possession of other property of known value, threatening to injure the remaining fortunes of the filial love that raised them.”
It is to avert the threatened extinction of historical painting in England, and save her from the continued disgrace of abandoning her artists in the highest department of the arts, that we have spontaneously taken up the pen, without any personal connection with the family of Mr. West, or any personal interest in this question. Unhappily, we all know that this is not the first instance of the desertion to which an bistorical painter in this country is exposed. The life and death of Barry are notorious instances of this national apathy. We could here enter into some affecting details, but we prefer the authority of a candid and liberal writer, PRINCE HOARE, from whose interesting work we have already quoted.-"Barry had assiduously improved the faculties of no ordinary kind with which heaven had endowed him. His mind was informed by travel, by research into every study which adorns the schoJar and strengthens the artist.-He devoted his life to historical, or rather to poetical painting ; and he passed the greater portion of it in difficulty and partial obscurity; unable to discover any opportunity of employing bis talents and acquirements either greatly to his own advantage, or to that of the community. At length by perseverance, by the force of impressive arguments, and attested professional ability, he made his way to the single undertaking which forms the important memorial of his name, at the residence of the Society of Arts. With the exception of that solitary opportunity of opening the accumulated stores of his mind, his years of life were, for the most part, consumed unprofitably, amidst discontent, indignation, reproach of the neglect which wronged bim, and unconquered unproductive devotion to the research of excellence in his art." (Epochs of Art, p. 160.)
The author of “ Cursory Thoughts on the present state of the Fine Arts, occasioned by the Founding of the Liverpool Academy,” published in 1810, speaks thus of Barry,
“ His first publication after his return from Italy, recommended itself to the world, by an old English stamp of manly plainness, and unanswerable reasoning. He had the good fortune to be honoured by the notice and personal friendship or intimacy of many of the nobility, gentry, and
most eminent characters in the literary and mercantile world: his moral character was irreproacbable ; he was a distinguished member of the Royal Academy; and for thirteen years professor of painting in that institution. That eminent statesman, Burke, the British Demosthenes, was his early patron, and continued to the last his friend. With all these advantages he also enjoyed the very great advantage of being held as an artist in bigh estimation by the public. And yet, after a life of struggle, disappointment, and poverty, he was compelled to drink off the cup of sorrow and humiliation to its last dregs, and to submit to have his name advertised as an object for a public subscription, in the hope of obtaining for his wants and gray hairs, that shelter which was refused to his merits. Sad indeed must have been the necessity, which wrang from his proud heart an assent to that last deplorable shift of misfortune. But even there the evil genius of British historical painting pursued him, and he lived just long enough to endure the whole weight of the misfortune, but died too soon to receive a single shilling of the sum subscribed.
. Chatterton in the bloom of youth, escaping from poverty by poison; and Barry, with the broken spirit of age, faltering an assent to the proclamation of his own distress, are spectacles of terror, grief, and indignation, sufficient to extinguish every spark of genius in the British breast.” (p. 21, Cursory Thoughts, &c.)
A writer in the Examiner of Jan. 16, 1825, after remarking on the neglect which Barry, West, and Fuseli have experienced, adds—“MR. PROCTER, who gained both prizes for sculpture and painting, was starved to death in an obscure lodging in Clare Market. And Mr. HAYDON, after devoting twenty years to history, and having his works applauded by thousands, lost all his plasters,