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NOTES

ON THE

ROYAL SCOTTISH ACADEMY'S EXHIBITION

OF

1861.

It was one of the maxims of Mr Jonathan Wild the Great, that virtues, like precious stones, are easily counterfeited, that the counterfeits in both cases adorn the wearer equally, and that very few have knowledge or discernment sufficient to distinguish the counterfeit jewel from the real. There is practical wisdom in this, although the author of it may not have made good his claim to a very distinguished place among moralists. Its application is universal. The pearl and the paste, the jewel and the bit of glass, are the types of the two great classes into which every thing and every one may be divided the true and the make-believe; and this is even more strikingly manifest in matters of taste than in morals, probably because there is a more general desire to cultivate a reputation for great advancement in the one, than for stern rectitude in the other. Be the reason what it may, your true jeweller never produces “the genuine article," but Brummagem is ready with hers, and grows rich by it too, just because the genuine -article has been produced, and because the great mass of mankind, in the plenitude of their ignorance, know not the one from the other. Given a Tennyson, and lo! a Tupper with his twentieth edition. The result is the general and abundant cultivation of what is called Genius. It has become fashionable to encourage genius. Men have come to believe that, next to possessing it themselves, the best thing is to discover and foster it. Your poetic genius in these days will never share the fate of Chatterton. A rich and enthusiastic linen-draper will hear of him, and surrepititiously convey a cheque for twenty guineas to his garret. Each budding sprout of artistic talent is eagerly looked for-every suckling carefully nursed each of our connoisseurs has his own pet prodigy, and our Art Associations yearly hatch a new brood.

The character of the artistic profession has risen in public estimation just in proportion to the growth of this fashion, so that we may possibly look forward to the time when, as in the great days of Italian art, nobles will hold the palette of the painter, and kings pick up his pencil. Not many years ago, a youth who took to the arts was looked upon as the black sheep of the flock -the lost Benjamin of the family. Fathers sternly checked the earliest manifestations of the afflatus, and held back their sons from the path of fame as from the broad road that leadeth to destruction. Parents now actually put their sons to the arts as to a genteel profession. And it is highly genteel. Your R.S.A. figures among the notables whom the newspaper reporter says “We observed upon the platform.” He is among the patrons of public balls, or the fashionable arrivals, and even the younger aspirants for the distinguishing prefix which Art Academies confer, sit in the uppermost rooms at feasts, and mirabile dictu, in the chief seats of the synagogue. A few years ago, the painter looked up to the purchaser of his pictures as his patron

“Bowing obsequious to that patron’s notion,

And for each guinea vowing deep devotion.”

of our language as a proof of the sincerity of our criticism.

“Unbiassed or by favour or by spite,

Not dully prepossessed or blindly right,
Who to a friend his faults can freely show,
And gladly praise the merits of a foe.

We love to praise with reason on our side.” “ The call” to this work is from a public daily taking a greater interest in the efforts of the artist, and animated by a growing desire for knowledge as to what good Art really is. The public of Scotland partake largely of the general feeling. Need we refer for illustration or testimony of this to the crowded Exhibitions of the Royal Scottish Academy, the annual reports of that body, the large sums paid for works exhibited under its auspices, and the enormous amount subscribed to Art Unions, and Associations, whether prosperous or failing. There is assuredly no lack of appreciation, such as it is, nor of patronage however blindly it may be bestowed. But there is a plentiful lack of knowledge of that which would be saving knowledge to so many. How is this to be obtained ? Your Art patron is a conscientious man and a patriot. He knows his duty to his country. In the convivial councils of his friends the merits and demerits of Artists are canvassed. He takes his daily paper, and studies its criticism. He buys pictures and hangs them on his walls, only to displace them for others, when he finds that the production he invested in as a thing of beauty, to be a joy for ever, has become a weariness to his eyes. The good, liberal, well-meaning man has as yet only arrived at the knowledge that he has spent his wealth for nought and in vain. But taste, in a certain sense, almost every man has. A confined taste, sufficient for fault-finding, but unequal to the

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