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GREAT VARIETY IN THE SIGNS EMPLOYED IN DIFFERENT
PLACES. It must not be inferred from the foregoing account and illustrations of the sign language that it is a hard and stereotyped system, such as ancient Sanscrit or Hebrew. On the contrary, every large deaf and dumb school, or collection of deaf mutes, inevitably produces signs of its own that may or may not be intelligible to other schools just as the various counties, and even separate towns in England, have their individual forms of expression, tones, and (in general terms) dialects that may differ widely from those of other districts—yet the basis of all is still English; and even such separate dialect speakers would be more intelligible to each other than would Germans and English, or French and English. As an illustration of this, the late head master of the Liverpool Deaf and Dumb School found many peculiar signs prevalent in it with which he had never met in the Yorkshire* and Edinburgh Schools in which he had for years been a teacher ; and many of their signs were equally unknown to each other, or to the Liverpool School. But the basis of all was the sign language of the Abbé de l'Epée, and a very little effort enabled him to add to his knowledge, and to make his sign language richer than it was before, by adding Lancashire signs to those of Yorkshire and Auld Reekie.
With this short and imperfect sketch of the sign language of the deaf and dumb we may bid a temporary farewell to its great inventor; but we shall probably enrol him in our thoughts in the future as among the worthiest and greatest of the benefactors of that large host of poor and miserable which the world had contained for centuries, and that he at last did so much to elevate and to bless.
* The school in Doncaster is the officially recognised school for deaf and dumb children from all parts of Yorkshire.
THE INFLUENCE OF ART.
BY ALFRED H. FRAZER.
FORTY or fifty years ago Art was looked upon as expensive luxury, which could only be enjoyed by a few. The number of artists was, in consequence, very limited, and of these the majority were regarded as erratic, though harmless, individuals, who were incapable of more useful labour. However, in this, as in other matters, time has brought about many important changes; and the fact that at the present time we have 12,000 professional artists in the metropolis alone, actively engaged in its various branches, proves that an enormous advance has been made in the general appreciation of art.
This has been brought about, to a great extent, by the issue of books containing beautiful illustrations, and by improvements in the various processes for the reproduction of important pictures by the most eminent artists, which are now published at prices within the means of almost the poorest classes ; and if there are still many homes whose walls are bare of decoration, the fault lies, not with the art producers, but with the tenants themselves, as the result of their stolid indifference to the influence of art, and their unwillingness to sacrifice the indulgence of less worthy gratifications for the sake of improving their more immediate surroundings.
In several important matters connected with the progress of art, it is interesting to note that Liverpool, among provincial towns, has led the way. The opening of the Royal Academy in 1768, under the presidency of Sir
Joshua Reynolds, was immediately followed by the formation of a society in Liverpool, having for its object the promotion and encouragement of art. A few years later, through the efforts of one of Liverpool's most illustrious sons, William Roscoe, the first public exhibition was inaugurated. It was of a varied and comprehensive character, its eighty-five exhibits including designs for bedsteads in the Chinese taste, models of ships, and, what was certainly a remarkable example of realistic art, a portrait of the Marquis of Granby, adorned with human hair.
In 1810 the Liverpool Academy was founded, and to its exhibitions (of which a number were held in the Royal Institution) pictures were contributed by the leading artists of the day, including the President of the Royal Academy, who, to quote from the preface to the catalogue,
thought it not improper to favour the society with his performances; a circumstance which, whilst it dignifies this undertaking, reflects the highest honour on his candour and politeness.” Later on, we find the municipal authorities taking an active part in the operations of the Academy by offering premiums of twenty guineas each for the three best works in painting, drawing, and sculpture.
This system of prize awards not only created a spirit of emulation among artists, but conferred on the Academy itself a distinction and power enjoyed by no other contemporaneous institution.
Its policy for a time was such as to meet the approbation of the public as well as the general body of artists ; but, unfortunately, this happy condition was not fated to last, and its recognition of the pre-Raphaelite movement, whilst it conferred on Liverpool the proud distinction of being the first to appreciate its merits, proved fatal to the fortunes of the Academy, and eventually its existence as an exhibiting body came to a termination. Only recently Liverpool has taken another important step by the establishment of a school, which not only embraces painting and sculpture, but also architecture and the minor arts of design.
Among employers of labour the complaint is general that skilled labour is not available to carry out work of an artistic character; and it frequently happens that men from other countries have to be brought over to England for that purpose.
It is, therefore, of the greatest importance that our working classes should be afforded every facility for acquiring a sound training in skilled and artistic work.
In Paris art schools exist for the special purpose of educating artizans in all kinds of decorative work, such as stone and wood carving, pottery, metal work, carpentery, house painting, &c.; and as there are no fees to pay, the instruction is thus brought within the reach of the poorest citizens.
Every month competitions take place in the various classes, and those pupils who gain a specified number of marks are raised to a higher department. Another important feature is, that students are not limited to one subject, but are taught the principles which govern all branches of decorative work. In the schools of painting and sculpture the pupils are also made acquainted with a knowledge of architecture, so that when they go out into the world, they are fully equipped and prepared to take advantage of any opportunity that may present itself.
The importance of such a system was recognised in the earliest schools of art. About twelve centuries before Christ, Greece could boast an academy which produced many great masters of design. Giotto, the founder of the Italian school of painting, also practised as an architect, and no other example of his skill in this direction need be mentioned than the famous Campanile at Florence, where stand also other monuments of the genius of the great painters or sculptor-architects.
In England, I am sorry to say, the majority of artists confine their attention to either pictorial art or sculpture, and the result is that craftsmen have to be specially trained to meet the growing demand for work of a decorative character.
It is, therefore, impossible to over-estimate the importance of the action of the municipal authorities in founding a school of architecture and the allied arts in this city, and in the near future we may expect to see some practical results of the excellent training which is now being carried on in its various departments.
At the present time our citizens complain that strangers do not make any extended stay in the city, but pass quickly through to other destinations. This cry is, unfortunately, well founded ; but it must be pointed out that the remedy for this state of things lies with the ratepayers themselves.
There is, I fear, an absence of that patriotic and selfsacrificing spirit which fifty years ago led to the erection of St. George's Hall. It is true the cost of its erection was ultimately defrayed by the municipal authorities, but not until after the public had subscribed very largely to the building fund.
Had it been left to the present generation I am very much afraid the hall would not have been erected on such an important scale. As it is, notwithstanding the great lapse of time since its formal opening, it still remains in an incomplete state, although so little expense is necessary to make it one of the finest buildings in the world.