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of archæology, and of the history and literature of art; for the general improvement of the library and other collections ;* and, above all, for the discontinuance of a practice which is alike disgraceful to the Academy and to the country-the closing of all the schools of · instruction during the whole period of the annual exhibition.
This needful increase of resources has been often called for, from the time of Barryť downwards, but the claim has been hitherto disregarded. Without it little improvement can be expected.
No reasons have yet been assigned why the functions of management, as respects these schools, should be separated from those of the assembly of honour. But when the schools are placed on a more satisfactory footing, as to maintenance, it will be indispensable to
* It is highly honorable to the Academy, that when Sir Thomas Lawrence's admirable collection of drawings by ancient masters was offered for sale, that body, impelled by a desire to see the collection preserved entire, as for the honour of the country it ought to have been, voted, on the motion of Mr. Phillips, then professor of painting, the sum of £1000 towards a subscription for its purchase, on condition that it should be placed in the British Museum, and rendered available for the general study of artists, and the improvement of the public taste. But the Academy was unable, single handed, to accomplish its excellent purpose.
+ See Barry's Account of a Series of Pictures, &c. (8vo. Lond. 1783,) p. 103, et seq., and Sir M. A. Shee's Elements of Art, p. 306, &c. It is to be regretted that the opponents of academies, in toto, are not more careful in their selection of authorities. It is not, for example, uncommon to find them claim both the writers now referred to, and apply portions of their writings in a sense they were never intended to bear. Barry (though a thorough reformer of their abuses) was one of the staunchest supporters of academies. The same may be said of Sir Martin Shee, whose often. quoted opinions, in the Elements of Art, apply to the Academy, considered simply as an exhibition of the works of the day.
that of an
provide for their regular inspection, and for the publication of periodical reports. These ensured, it is not easy to perceive any necessary incompatibility of function, so far as schools and assembly of honour are concerned.
But very different is the case when we come to Academy, consider the Academy as a means for the public exhi- as a public
; considered bition of the works of the day.
exhibition. To give to an assembly of honour, by which alone Incompatithe highest claims of every artist in the country are to
Lo this funcbe adjudged, an uncontrolled power over the exhibition tion with or non-exhibition of the works on which those claims as are founded, and by which they are to be justified, is at of honour. once to give temptation to an abuse of power; and having thereby induced that abuse, (the best constituted bodies being fallible,) further to take away all appeal from its injustice.
The object of an honorary distinction, such as R.A., is to stampa man's pretensions as an artist with the sanction of those who are best qualified to judge of them. To the individual it is a most gratifying honour; to the public a most valuable indication.* But as no imaginable association for conferring such distinctions can be made to work with unerring certainty, so the existence of them
• It must surely be attributable to the hurried and imperfect consideration which is sometimes all that a protracted viva voce examination allows of, that so well-informed a man and accomplished an artist as Mr. Hurlstone should have thus expressed bimself on this subject before the Arts' Committee, (in Qu. 793, vol. ii.): “A diploma is not necessary in art; the public at large, the higher classes in particular, are those who decide on the success of an artist, and they can well appreciate talent in art immediately that it appears.” Let the reader contrast this with the opinion of Sir M. A. Shee (Qu. 2005, ib.) and decide for bimself :-“it is because the public are ignorant, to an extraordinary degree, on the subject of the arts; it is because even those who are considered as the enlightened class of society, who are even considered competent to legislate on all other points, are incompetent judges of the arts, that it is necessary it should be reserved for artists to decide as to who are entitled to academic honours.”
becomes an evil directly they are made indispensable conditions to the notice and favours of the public.
The object of an exhibition is to afford every candidate for the favour of the public an opportunity of obtaining it, irrespective of any particular distinction or mark of honour whatsoever; and it is at once the means of judging of the propriety of such distinctions in the cases wherein they have been conferred, and the court of final appeal against real or supposed error or injustice in the cases wherein they have been refused. But to unite the control of honours and of public exhibitions in the same hands, is to place not alone the professional distinction but also the very means of subsistence of the rising artist at the absolute disposal of a body of men who are at once his competitors and his judges. It is to vest in one fallible court the enormous powers of primary judgment
and of final appeal. Incompati- And again: the object of a school of instruction is to bility of the functions confer upon the student all that knowledge of his art, of exhibi- both in theory and in practice, which is possessed by its those of ablest existing professors. It is to raise him (so far as
may be done by instruction) up to the level of the artistical knowledge of his day.
The object of an exhibition (so far as respects the exhibitor) is to call forth the native and original powers of the artist, by the force of emulation. It is to throw him upon his own resources and raise him above the level of his day.
But to unite the absolute control and management of the schools with the absolute control and management of the exhibition, is to offer a premium for servile imitation, and to prevent, as far as is possible, all progressive improvement.
For it is to be remembered that with the great body of the public, the exhibition of the Royal Academy (held too in a publie edifice) is the exhibition par excellence ; it
is that which is to be followed and looked up to. And
“I may state,” says Mr. George Rennie, “ with regard to the Evidence grievances complained of by artists regarding the exhibition, that as to exthe academicians reserve to themselves all the best places; and also, by regulation No. 8, in the printed rules, that three days or more, according to the convenience of the arrangement, at the discretion of the council, shall be allowed to all members of the Royal Academy, to finish or paint up their pictures in the places which bave been allotted to theni, previous to the day appointed for the annual dinner in the exbibition room. Now, I believe, there is no rule or regulation of the Royal Academy that is more complained of by artists. . .. The academician has the sole privilege of admittance to the exhibition rooms, where he may retouch and finish his pictures and clean them; in fact, he may put them in the very best condition to be seen; whereas an artist who is not an academician, submits his pictures to the public view dusty, dirty, and in whatever situation they may remain after the dust and bustle of preparing the exhibition is over.--(II. 676-7.)
“Have you ever heard it made an object of remark by foreign artists, or in foreign professional works, the immense proportion the
. But this objection is greatly obviated in the case of the Royal Academy, by the number of academicians, and by its including professors of various distinct branches of art, having equal votes in every case.
number of portraits in the Exhibition at Somerset House bears to other paintings?-It is a very common and a very just remark. The number of portraits may be referred to the great wealth of the country, and the want of acquaintance with the arts generally among our population ; another reason is,—the Royal Academy existing by the profits of exhibition, there is no class of art that brings more money to the doors than the portraits."-(Ib. 683.)
The preponderance of portraits in the annual exhibition is indeed enormous. From a return, in classes, of the number of works exhibited during the ten years ending with 1833, it appears that the number of historical and poetical works, together, was 1,398; while the number of portraits was 5,093, or nearly 4 to 1.*
The evidence continues. The next witness is Mr. Hurlstone, President of the Society of British Artists:
“The Royal Academy compel artists to exhibit there, by declaring that, unless they do, they shall be debarred from all the honours and the highest patronage of the profession, and at the same time they alone have unlimited control of the proceeds arising from the exhibition of those artists' works. In referring to their returns, I find that, during three years, the proportion of members of the Academy, and other exhibitors, was, in 1833, 45 members of the Royal Academy (including associates), and 608 non-members. In 1832, 48 members exhibited, and 638 non-members. In 1831 the exhibition consisted of the works of 45 members, and 655 nonmembers.”—(Ib. 743.) “The funds of the Royal Academy are raised from the exhibition of all the artists' works, and it seems hardly reconcilable with justice that there should be 600 artists [exhibiting] who have no control over the funds, no positive claim on them, and that 40 should have an absolute control, besides pensions appropriated to themselves."—(Ib. 778.)
Mr. Martin, referring to the old apartments of the Academy, admits that
“ The academicians have bad a great deal to contend with; they
* But it is only justice to the members of the Academy to observe, that of the former number 349, or one fourth, were contributed by them, but of the portraits only 685, or little more than one eighth.