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But what sort of reasoning would that be which should propose to abolish all academic distinctions in letters because such have been most grievously abused?
Of abuse so profligate as that which has been instanced there is happily no example in any academy of Art; and least of all do we find it in the Royal Academy of England, whatever the other faults of that body. In this case indeed there has been rather too little than too much of connexion with the powers of the State. Yet, if I mistake not, the evil results of limited numbers; -offices for life;—and (especially in past time) of a somewhat grasping and exclusive spirit, are plainly to be detected in this institution, even as in so many others. The remedy is to reform, not to destroy.
1. Limitation of number.
Sir Martin Shee, the eminent president of the Academy, has defended the limitation of number on the ground that there neither are, nor are likely to be, at any one time more than forty artists capable of “transmitting their names to posterity.” (Evid. 1989.) But this, I submit, is rather a reason for having no fixed number at all. The academic roll has at least as much bearing upon the present as upon the future: and in either case its fit numbers must of necessity depend upon the fluctuating number of eminent artists. Hence the limitation is obviously unjust, and ought therefore to cease.
There is, I think, evidence enough in the experience of other institutions, to induce the conclusion that much good might result, were the chief offices and professor
2. Duration of office.
de la prudence par état, ne fera entrer de lumière dans les yeur des peuples que ce qu'il en faudra pour les éclairer peu à peu: suns blesser les yeur des peuples." --Préface des Éloges de l'Acad. Franç. Ton. 1, p. 18.
ships in the Academy made elective for lesser periods than life.
The present functionaries justly command the highest respect of all those who are familiar with the working of the Academy,(regard being had to its very limited means,) under their management. And there are many reasons why re-eligibility should be provided for, in several cases. But still, election for a limited period is a sounder principle than election for life.* On this point it is scarcely necessary to enlarge.
Little doubt can be entertained that the removal of 3. Exclu. the limitation of number would of itself do much towards siveness of
spirit, the removal of that exclusiveness of spirit which has how rebeen complained of. And the abolition of that regulation movable. of the Royal Academy which prevents a member from belonging to any other society of artists in London (which, I believe, everybody has ceased to defend,) will do more in the same direction, But it is to the enlarged liberality of feeling which may be expected to result from a fair and full reform of the establishment in all its features, that we must chiefly trust. Of this reform three particulars appear to be of special importance in relation to the Academy as an assembly of honour; the first, the abolition of the class of associates; the second, that engravers, so long and so unjustly excluded, be admitted to form part of it, as full and equal members; and the third, that the Academy be made perfectly independent, in a pecuniary sense, of the profits of the annual exhibition.
* I am glad to hear by a letter from London, received wbile revising these sheets for the press, that the Royal Society are about to adopt this principle in relation to their president, that office being now vacant hy the universally-lamented resignation of the Duke of Sussex.
As to the class of associates,* I cannot find that any adequate reason has been assigned for its existence. Nor does it seem very easy to imagine any: but the evil effects which have already attended it are far more obvious.
Without adopting the whole of Mr. Foggo's opinion on this subject, as given in his evidence (1380), there is but too much reason to fear that there are some influences connected with this probationary class, which tend to “debase the young artist to a state of feigned humility inimical to the aspirings of high art.” The hope of station and the dread of wer may
cause the aspirants in the profession to forget and neglect eve other motive, whilst in the others, permanent possession of that power” may often make “even men of genius forget themselves.” And Mr. Clint, who speaks from experience, and whose opinion also deserves much respect, characterizes the present connexion between the two classes of academicians and associates as “having a most powerful tendency to demoralize each other.”. (Evid. 989.)
A petition was, in 1836, presented to the House of Commons, to which were attached the distinguished names of Doo, Pye, Burnet, Fox, Goodall, Finden, Robinson, Watt, and Raimbach, showing “that, notwithstanding the high estimation in which the art of engraving, as practised in England, is held by surrounding nations, yet neither the art itself, nor its most distinguished professors, have ever derived from the institutions of the country that consideration, encouragement, or respect, which it is presumed so useful
* “ These associates shall not be admitted into any offices of the society, nor bave any vote in their assemblies.”—Abstract of the instrument of institution of the Royal Academy of Arts. p. 24.
a branch of art may fairly lay claim to.” This petition Evidence was referred to the select committee on Arts and Manu- relating to
the art of factures, and evidence was adduced in support of it, in engraving, the course of which it was stated, by Mr. John Burnet, John Pye, that
8vo., 1836, “What the general body of engravers find fault with is that the honours attached to their profession are only half conferred; that is, the Academy allow all the engravers to be elected associates, but it is impossible they can ever go a step higher: consequently, if I were to put down my name, I might be elected an associate engraver of the Academy, perhaps, but then I would be more degraded than now, for I should rank inferior to a royal academician. Consequently, perhaps with one or two exceptions, no engravers of eminence will insert their names. The great founders of the art, Strange, Woollett, and Sharpe never put their names down. Inferior artists have put their names down, and so it has produced an injurious effect. . . The Royal Academy know it is no honour, and yet they will not alter any law by which we might endeavour to become members, considering it an honour. . . I am not quite sure, I have not looked over the names,
but I think there is no eminent line engraver of the present day, if I except Mr. Bromley, who is an excellent artist.” (924-6.)
And Mr. Pye, in reply to the question—“Does the
Ibid, Royal Academy of Arts in London extend protection or pp. 18, 19. encouragement to the art of engraving?”—says: * It
appears that the laws of the Royal Academy of Arts admit to academic honours, historical painters, landscape painters, portrait painters, flower painters, sculptors, architects, die-engravers, watchchasers, and enamel painters ; professors of each of these branches of art having been academicians, as the catalogues of the Royal Academy testify. But all classes of engravers, excepting dieengravers, are excluded from academic honours; nor can I learn that engraving has ever derived any protection or advantages from the Royal Academy: on the contrary, the constitution of that establishment, instead of excluding engravers altogether, as may be presumed it ought to have done, if engraving were deemed, by those who made its laws, unworthy to rank with the many other branches of art just mentioned, has not merely deprived engraving of that rank in England which is assigned to it by all the academies of art on the continent of Europe; but it has attached to that profession a
mark of degradation that does not attach to any other branch of
“What is the peculiar position in which engravers are placed by
of the present day so fully respond to that fact, that they carefully Pye, Evid.
abstain from all connexion with the Royal Academy on such terms pp. 25, 28. of degradation." (1308-1310.)
These statements are so clear, and the arguments founded upon them so irresistible, that I shall not attempt to add to them, save by remarking that this exclusion of engravers took its origin in one of those very unfavorable circumstances which attended the foundation of the Royal Academy, and which have never since ceased to produce discord in that institution. A brief review of those circumstances will throw light, as well upon the question of limited number, as upon this other question of exclusion of engravers.
In the contemporary work of Sir Robert Strange, which has been already mentioned, the circumstances which attended the first establishment of the Royal Academy are thus related:
“Mr. Dalton, librarian to his Majesty (George III.), had been