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· is always looked upon at first with suspicion, by those who pretend to connoisseurship.”
“ Amateurs without love, connoisseurs without taste, abound every where. In England, fashion is the patron art, and endless are her absurdities. Some of her collectors will have only the drawings or pictures of a single artist, others will have any one kind of subject got together at great trouble and expense. It is true, there is encouragement by this means given to artists, as it opens a market for their works, but it does not the less declare against the true love and genuine discrimination of those who imagine themselves patrons—it does not increase the aggregate quantity of the national taste."
" Patrons after a fashion, like the British Institution; voluble in their own praises, full of pretence and assumption, but empty, and void, and waste,' in reality.”
" Where is the new Academy to be built ?”
“Charing-cross has been named, but it is said there are yet no funds in the hands of Government disposable for the purpose; this exemplifies the old adage, great cry and little wool. I fear it will come to nothing. I respect the Academy, though I dislike it in some things. It has done much for art in the way of instruction.” ,
“It is too much of a political thing. Art, and all connected with it, should be free as air. All those bodies which are immediately founded and supposed to exist upon royal privilege, become things of party, and are ever subservient to the powers that be, tainted with courtiership. Though the Academy is not what it should be, we are indebted to it, still, for many benefits. I cannot forget Barry's exclusion.”
"I agree with you: most assuredly there is a blight upon our Royal establishments, as they are called. This arises from their never being kept to the objects for which they were founded. Men of title, without a grain of scientific knowledge, must have P.R.S. after their names. The Royal Society of Literature, which was going to fix a standard for the English language,' has God knows who on the obscure lists of its obscure labours. Such things existing, prove that bodies organized to guide public opinion, and enlarge the bounds of science, fail of their end; and it is much the same thing in art :-thongh, in justice to the Academy, it is far above all these in the promotion of the objects for which it was founded—an artist must be able to use his pencil to be a member.”
" That must be a curious picture which has been found in the Netherlands, said to be by the younger Teniers-a dandy-dressed portrait of himself. It is a curiosity, at least, and shows the artist's power. I wonder if Seguier will tell my Lord Farnborough to recommend his Majesty, or the British Institution, to purchase it. It will look well by the job Parmegiano, and do miracles in promoting the objects of the Institution.”
“ What objects ?”
“ Why, the encouragement of historic art, to be sure, which was the avowed end of the establishment, as it was beyond the power of individuals to aid art in a manner worthy so great an object. What nuínerous altar-pieces have they not purchased for the new churches ! What sums have they not given to artists who have consumed time, and labour, and life, in historic art! How munificent have they not been in
furtherance of their own avowed objects ! Fame shall trumpet their good deeds over the world !"
" As soon as they are fulfilled." .“ As soon as they are fulfilled, assuredly; but not before.”
“ It is pleasant to see that we are at length imitating the French in our provincial establishments for the encouragement of art; this will do much for the nation : and though we are tardy, we hope to see provincial galleries established, containing collections from the best masters : they might be combined with the provincial libraries in county towns. At Carlisle, Newcastle, Norwich, Birmingham, Southampton, and other places, exhibitions have taken place of no mean specimens of art, principally executed by artists scarcely known in the metropolis.”
“ This will act upon the public mass, and do infinite good ; our best artists have all come from the provinces.”
“ Yes; the West of England predominates in this respect. One can hardly expect a great artist to be born and bred a Londoner ; at least, one who excels in depicting Nature beyond the human form as seen in cities." . “ Gilpin says, the West is the region of fine landscape.' Shade and colour must be studied under the open heavens. The landscape artist will learn little from previous masters, except the mechanism of his art; he must watch the glorious earth and sky from sunrise to sunset, if he would be great. Turner is one of the closest observers of Nature alive; his attention to her is unwearied, unrelaxing; and his works show the result."
“ There is no fear of the lack of artists; taking them in the aggregate, England may at this moment compete with any other country under the sun; she is far before Italy herself. By the by, what poor things are modern Italian painters! The sculptors of Italy still keep their ground, but the successors of Raphael are miserable daubers." . “She has had enough of glory, and reposes upon its reflected brightness. Since the glorious days of Greece, she has been the mistress of the arts, and challenges all rivals, even with her dead relics. She is, in this respect, worth more in recollection than the present realities of other countries. She is the rich perfume left by the dead rose, that still imparts its sovereign odour. How triumphant is her fame; and yet what are her great deeds ? What empires has she conquered since her own Rome fell ? To what universe has she a second time given law? The arts have bestowed upon Italy her second immortality." ." And what shall hinder a Northern nation from becoming equally glorious ?”
“ A want of sensibility to the more delicate refinements of art, an obtuseness of feeling growing out of climate, and the chilliness of a sunless region, these forbid the extension of high art among the northerns. As long as pictures are the fashion, or as long as they are mercantile articles, there will be a demand for them ; but it will be the same in respect to a taste for real art, as if they were so many inlaid cabinets, or decorated clocks."
“ You are severe. Lord Egremont, or the Duke of Bedford, cannot patronise native artists from these motives.” : • They are exceptions, to which add the collections of a dozen or two peers and individuals of fortune more, and then enumerate the collections that remain, and say by what motive they were got together but ostentation or fashion. And after all, they are the proofs of individual, not of national feeling, of which I now immediately speak.”
“Surely you do not imagine that the people of any Italian state showed a feeling for art, even when Italy was at the summit of her greatness in the fine arts, beyond our own countrymen ?”
"I do not mean to say the people generally of any Italian state were judges of art in the severe sense, but I mean to affirm that they loved it, and had taste enough to distinguish beauty from deformity; they felt the glory of what was executed among them, as it elevated the national character. They would never have tolerated the things we see in the north, nor preferred the forms of Teniers to those of Titian. The Moses of Michel Angelo could not be relished or understood by an English crowd of gazers; an Italian crowd even now-a-days would see its design, and feel its greatness in a moment."
“I cannot deny that. I was much struck when that clever work of Chantrey, the statue of the King, was put up at Brighton,-or rather, when the covering was taken off, and it was exposed to public view,-to hear the remarks of the multitude upon it. One could only see a great man; another said it was too large for the King; a third censured the folly of giving a man a green face; and a fourth said it was to be hoped his Majesty would not take cold. I heard not a single observation upon the statue as a work of art; it was deemed by all present, I fully believe, not a whit different from a figure upon a tea-pot, a neat ornament enough for a grass-plot. No one felt or imagined its real defects or excellences, or dreamed that it had cost more pains to execute than a piece of pottery, or the figure-head of a merchant-vessel ; yet this I deem one of that excellent artist's best productions."
“It appears to me that good artists may be denizens of any climate : shall heaven-gifted genius be limited by a few degrees of the thermometer ?-impossible! With entire countries, however, and with national taste, it is another question. It is in the South only that nations are sensible to the fine and subtle impressions which in the North are felt only by a few isolated individuals."
"It is astonishing how few who profess art love it for its own sake ; and without this love no great design will be acbieved. He who paints a picture to order,' may paint it well, but there is every reason to believe it will be wanting in that spirit which the soul of the artist who lives alone for his art can infuse into it. Of all our living artists, I think Northcote has the truest affection for his art as an art. He would paint pictures if there were no such thing as money to be obtained for them; and this is saying a great deal now-a-days."
“I agree with you though reputed not to despise money, Northcote is a true lover of his art, he would pursue no other calling, were he to begin life again. He loves to encourage rising talent, and has no exclusive feeling about him where art is concerned. He sends his pictures to the Suffolk Gallery as well as to the Academy. He has the true republican spirit of art about him.”
“What a profligate waste of money is Nash occasioning about the new palace! they tell me that a little triumphal arch of white marble is to complete the unmatched coup-d'æil before the new St. James's Palace, as it is called. White marble of Carrara in St. James's Park, ornamented with sculpture! Why it will be black marble in six months after it is completed, and will require a superintendent scourer, with his assistants, on the palace establishment, to keep it clean. Then the sul. phurous atmosphere will soon eat off the sharpness of the ornaments."
“ It will last until Mr. Nash gets his per-centage allowed, and this will be long enough for him and his jobs. Who but 'twice double' idiots, as Mr. Adolphus has it, would have allowed the buildings at Hyde Park Corner to be erected of soft stone. Fifty years passed, and all the chisel will have disappeared. Aberdeen granite, with the simple Doric, is the only external material for similar national works in our climate. It seems as if those who should superintend these matters knew nothing about them. A very pretty immortality'* will attach to the labours of friends Burton and Co. at Hyde Park Corner !"
." The question is this, . Do the managers of our public works design them to exist beyond a life-hold lease or not?'-if they do not, and to this opinion I confess I opine, it is well; if they do design that their grandchildren shall see them, then, as old Vinegar Gibbs, I think, said so happily of Sir Richard Phillips, they are the greatest idiots that ever walked the earth without a keeper."
“ Their friends say in justification, that they have kept them down as much as possible, to render them as fragile as the new palace; but unluckily there are no materials for the dry-rot in them, and they will have a comparative immortality to the temple of Solomon Nash. The designs are very pretty, and do credit to the architects; would that the same could be said of the materials of which they are built."
“ There is an excellent idea afloat respecting the frail nature of our public works, and in justification of their early decay; namely, that rapid destruction requires frequent restoration ; and that by this means many workmen and artificers find employment.”
"Excellent logic! So sterile are the brains of our projectors, that they can find nothing new to be done, and therefore erect weak buildings that they may pull down to build up again."
Just so. The arch at Hyde Park Corner, done in granite, would last a thousand years; but that stone is hard to cut, and something new would be to be done by and by, instead of restoring it, had it been erected of that material. Let posterity take care of itself, and tax its ingenuity; ours is exhausted, it seems.”
“What is posterity to us? Let it take care of itself, we shall leave it a thousand millions of national debt: a tumble-down edifice or two will make little difference, in our reckoning, with it !”
“ Ambition in art seems extinguished among those to whom tlie construction of public edifices is confided : the object at present is to make as much money as possible, no matter how ; architects will even turn gardeners for five per cent. upon plantation improvements, or any thing else. Perhaps they are not so much to blame as those who allow them to profit thus from the public money.”
“Enough of this subject, an' thou lovest me.' Have you seen Howard's “Illustrations of Shakspeare?' a very meritorious litile work, the idea borrowed from Retch. The designs vary considerably in me
• Remark of Napoleon to Denon, who called a picture, that with care might last five hundred years, an“ iminortal work."
rit, but they are well worthy of patronage. His idea of Falstaff is most correct, and in many respects novel, but perfectly consistent with Shakspeare's text. In two years and a half this artist has executed two hundred and eighty-four plates ; be merits the praise of exemplary diligence, as well as ingenuity."
“Yes, but I am told his drawings are contrary to règle :--that all outlines, except Flaxman's from the antique, are not tolerated by certain self-willed, opinionated persons. Martin's magnificent conceptions are all false taste, contrary to règle! He who snatches a 'grace beyond the reach of art,' must be put down. The jog-trot of the old schools must be followed. An artist may delight the eye, and give a moral lesson on his canvass, provided he does not innovate upon established rules.".
"And thus the arts be brought to a stand still, and the boundless range of genius be cramped and cribbed within limits assigned to it by an assemblage of line-and-rule critics-stop-watch’ men, as Sterre would style them.”
“ Exactly so. Fellows born with only one idea, and that an oblique one."
" It was once a law, that all pictures should be black in the foreground, to exhibit the perspective to advantage. Now, from watching Nature, we find that the fore-ground may be light, and a distant hill be dark as it can be made; this was considered by many a sad innovation on rule. Like Kneller, some of these gentry would amend nature, and perfect the human frame after their own notions, were it possible."
“Let such be still of the school of a century ago, when English art was led by them, and the humanity of Nature was imitated so abominably. They cannot do much harm, and their nobility will soon be extinct.”
“We ought to have a grand gallery of British art in the metropolis, that what has and can be done by our artists, might be shown to the world, and particularly to the foreigner. He will hardly concede us a school of painting; and yet in some branches of the art it would puzzle him to rival us.”
“In portrait and in landscape we are alone, and above all rivalry. I would we could say as much of some other departments of the art.”
“We might, if the taste of the public led to their encouragement. There is, to me, a stand-still in the general mind at present, as to every thing intellectual. The public seem to crave excitement by fits ; nor is it very delicate as to the food, provided it is fed. Like the boa-constrictor, it must be gorged to apathy, and then it lies passive for a time. There is no steadiness in its demand for intellectual gratification of any kind.”
“ Smirke has completed the new Post Office, I see ; what think you of the edifice?" ; “ It is a good substantial building, of the character suited to our climate, which that architect studies with infinitely more propriety than many others of his profession. They accuse him, as they once did Vanbrugh, of being too heavy in his designs. This I deny. CoventGarden has been censured in this respect, and the censure may be just, as far as the purpose or end of the building is considered, but, as an edifice per se, it merits great praise. Our climate demands that all pub