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CHAPTER. VI.

OF THE ROYAL ACADEMY, AND OF THE EFFECTS OF ACADEMIES

IN GENERAL ON THE PROGRESS OF THE ARTS.

“Amicas reprehensiones gratissime accipiamus, oportet: etiam si reprehendi non meruit opinio nostra, vel hanc propter causam, quód recte defendi potest.'

"-August. Hieronymo, Ep. xciii. “. Die Academie der bildenden Künste ist in der doppelten Absicht errichtet: einmal die Erhaltung und Fortpflanzung der Künste, welche nur durch lebendige, ja persönliche Ueberlieferung möglich ist, zu sichern; so dann den Künsten, ein öffentliches Daseyn, ein Beziehung auf die Nation und den Staat selbst zugeben, wodurch sie fäbig werden, ibrer seits vortheilhaft auf das Ganze zuruckzuwirken, den Sinn für Schönbeit und den Geschmach an edleren Formen allgemein zu verbreiten.” &c.—Constitution der Königl. Academie der bildenden Künste von Baiern. $ 1.

CHAPTER VI.

OF THE ROYAL ACADEMY, AND OF THE EFFECTS OF ACADEMIES

IN GENERAL ON THE PROGRESS OF THE ARTS.

Regret has been already expressed (in speaking of free exhibition) that this important question concerning academies and their effects should have been so much mixed up with other matters really foreign to it, and of a character which has led to ill feeling and angry discussion on both sides.

It is still more to be regretted that in all the enquiries, both individual and official, which have been instituted into this subject, the Academy which we are most concerned with has been exclusively regarded in its concrete nature, and with all the casual and accidental imperfections which have attached to it in progress of time. Yet never, perhaps, did institution take its origin under circumstances more unfavorable, or grow up surrounded by more temptations to abuse, than did the Royal Academy of England.

The charges recently brought against the Academy have been made without the slightest discrimination. It has been accused of being wholly corrupt and without a single redeeming trait in its character. And while no regard has been paid to the various and distinct objects of the Academy, whether as school, as exhibition, or as assembly of honour, the sole panacea has been loudly proclaimed to be "free trade in art, as in commerce.

It has been further said that the abuses of the Academy are but the common results which have ever attended similar institutions in all countries; although it is quite certain that, since the first establishment of such institutions, not only have the arts passed through nearly all their various phases, and effects of a widely different character been found to result from academic establishments when known only as associations of honour, and when known as schools of instruction in art; but also that effects different from both have resulted when academies have become further known as the media for exhibiting the works of their members to the public of the day. It is therefore of the first importance to keep these several objects (casually combined) in that distinctness of view which is proper to their individual nature.

The principle of free trade in art (a phrase so repeatedly used by some of the witnesses before Mr. Ewart's committee) may be very applicable to exhibitions; it may or may not be equally applicable to schools of instruction; but to talk of it in connexion with the distinctive honours of one of the highest of the liberal professions is obviously ludicrous. For what sort of an honour would that be in which the suffrage of the veriest tyro, just able to execute an exhibitable drawing, has equal weight with the suffrage of the most celebrated veteran in art?

That academies, even when considered simply as assemblies of honour, have frequently been found liable to · serious abuses is undoubted. Nor is it probable that our own has escaped all taint. But what have been usually the causes of these abuses ?

I imagine that the following are among the most considerable: a fixed limitation of the number of members; election of the official members to their respective offices for life;—that spirit of exclusiveness which has so often

Academies considered as assemblies of honour.

led to a tacit, if not avowed, assumption of all-comprehensiveness; and, in some cases, a far too close connexion with the ruling political authorities of the day.

To select an example from a literary body of this character, were not these, I would ask, the causes which entrained the corruption of the French Academy founded by Richelieu? The first three led to the most miserable intrigues, to the most absurd pretensions, and to the bitterest quarrels which ever disgraced the history of literature; the last to that vile spirit of adulation towards the ruling power, which achieved a triumph over the most prostrate court that was ever seen in Europe. For it was reserved to this learned academy by the official reading of one of its academic questions* to raise an involuntary blush on the cheek of a monarch accustomed to almost divine honours, and who had been for more than a quarter of a century the very spoiled child of fortune. The court so outvied was the court of France; the monarch so outshamed was Louis the Fourteenth! But the French Academy, not satisfied with having outstripped all its competitors in adulation, soon after outdid itself, by erasing from its roll the name of Saint-Pierre for daring, when that pompous reign had closed, to bring its boasted pretensions to the bar of a sober judgment; and by that one deliberate act did all that in it lay to eternalize the slavery of its country!+

Laquelle des vertus du Roi est la plus digne d'admiration ?')Question proposée par l'Académie.

† It was the same learned body which solemnly enunciated the significant doctrine that governments must watch over the progress of knowledge in order to prevent it from injuring the mental vision of the people by its quantity and its rapidity.

« Parmi les verités importantes que les gouvernemens ont besoin à accrediter, il en est qu'il leur importe de ne répandre la lumière que peu à peu et comme par transpiration insensible.And the Academy proceeds to express its view of its own utility in this respect: “Un pareil corps, également instruit et sage, organe de la raison par devoir et

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