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Plans for the future manage
Mr. Martin is of opinion that the managing body of
the annual exhibition should not be permanent, but ment of the elective for a certain length of time: all artists who
have exhibited for two or three years in London having the privilege of voting for the managers of such exhibition;" and the committee to include “representatives of each branch of Art.” (Evid. ut sup. 885.)
Mr. Haydon concurs in this recommendation, and that the term to entitle to vote should be three years; and he is of opinion that "in the present state of the
irt, six hundred artists might form the first constituency” for this purpose. (ib. 1085-9.) He indeed carries the principle so far as to say, “I would manage the whole Art by twenty-four directors, professors, and lecturers in the same way; I would restore the principle of the chartered body of artists.” But I need not repeat the arguments which have been already adduced against this jumbling together of various and dissimilar objects, from which so much mischief has arisen heretofore.
Mr. Foggo (ib. 1381), Mr. Hurlstone (ib. 763), and other witnesses, concur in the general principle that the exhibition committee should be elective for short periods from a general constituency of exhibitors of a certain standing, and of course without any exclusive privileges, such as those complained of in the Academy. But it does not appear that any questions founded upon these recommendations were put either to the president or to the secretary of the Academy.
Entirely concurring in the general principle thus laid down, I will only add my earnest hope that the first point to engage the attention of such a committee, would be the practicability of effecting a classification of the pictures exhibited, at least into the broad divisions of history and poetry-landscape and portraiture. Such a step is indispensable, if it is to be really
the aim of our future exhibitions to improve and elevate the public taste, and not to degrade it.
It might then be hoped that our chief annual exhibition, under the management of a clearly responsible body, free from the distraction of other objects, and therefore under no undue anxiety about the amount of receipts at the doors, and free also to take public measures to promote the sale of the works committed to their charge, would both increase the immediate rewards of our artists, and powerfully contribute to bring about that enlightened and liberal appreciation on the part of the great mass of the public, which alone affords a sure basis for the future and permanent prosperity of the Arts in this country. I submit, then, that the most desirable reform in the
Summary Royal Academy,—the reform which would most extend of desirable
improveand strengthen its usefulness, consists,
1, In the separation of its functions as assembly
of honour, and as school of instruction, from
exhibition, confining it wholly to the former;
number of its members; the recognition of
abolition of the class of associates;
public funds as shall be sufficient, when
4, In adequate provision for the official inspec
tion of its schools, and for the publication of periodical reports upon its general proceedings.
I confess I am not without a fear that the changes here proposed will be regarded by some as going too far, and by others as not going far enough ; but as to the former, I have reason to believe that some of the most eminent of the academicians themselves are convinced there must be some reform, and I cannot doubt that as enquiry proceeds, it will be more and more evident that nothing short of the reform here advocated will be found adequate to the occasion.
The Royal Academy, which even at present is very far indeed from being the useless institution that some have so hastily represented it, has too many claims upon the public gratitude in connexion with the past, not to be able to assume much higher ground than it has lately occupied. Ranking as the highest institution in the country connected with the Arts, it ought to be seen in the vanguard of every endeavour to extend their influence and elevate their practice. Ranking as a royal institution under the immediate patronage of a sovran, to whom the Arts look up, not only as their beneficent protector, but also as their familiar and appreciating friend, it ought to be seen as the very mainspring of all generous emulation, free alike from those vague and desultory aims which are born of the mere impulses of trade, and from that narrow one-sidedness of an exclusive nationality, which would elevate one country only upon the depression of another.
It is rather in considering what the Academy has omitted to do, than in what it has done wrongly, that the necessity for its improvement is most fully perceived. Is the copyright of artists daily made an object of plunder by reason of a wholly inefficient law,—where are the urgent petitions of the Royal Academy of Arts for its instant protection? Are the national collections of works of Art greatly deficient in works of the highest order,—where are the remonstrances and recommendations of the Academy for their extension? Has the science of chemistry, in its majestic march, made mighty contributions—as yet of a nature little understood—to the mechanical means at the command of the artist,—where are the exertions of the Academy to explain and apply those new acquisitions to the onward progress of the Arts?
But if none, save unsatisfactory answers can be at present returned to these and many similar questions, it must not be forgotten that not all the blame belongs to the Academy: the truth is far otherwise.
“The Royal Academy,” says its President, with great justice, * "is not a national establishment. Though rendering important public services, it is not in any respect supported or assisted from any public fund.” Left to the hazardous support of “shillings taken at the door,” what wonder if it address itself chiefly to the gratification of the mere portraiture taste of the day, and now and then resort to little manoeuvres to make this taste as profitable as may be, for the time being? It is rather matter of admiration that there should be so many exceptive instances, and that many high and generous efforts should at different times have been made to obtain support for the nobler but less favoured branches of art,-if not by the Academy as a collective body, yet by individual members of it, and sometimes by precisely those members whose peculiar pursuits might be supposed likely to prevent such exertions, were they not men of too honorable and lofty a spirit to be governed by considerations of a merely personal nature.
* In his “ Letter to Lord John Russell, on the alleged claim of the public to be admitted gratis to the Exbibition of the Royal Academy.”
To remove all occasion for the continuance of this stigma; to give to these honorable but isolated and inadequate exertions unity and strength; to make the Academy what it ought to be (and what, if the means be afforded it, it will assuredly become,)--an association of artists aiding one another in the attainment of mature excellence, and in the enlargement of their individual views of the principles and purposes of their art,-cooperating in all contemporary endeavours for the attainment of like objects,—and at once elevating and sustaining the public taste for the Beautiful and the Fit; it is first of all indispensably necessary that the Academy shall have a recognized public existence. Until this be done, it cannot be expected to act otherwise than as a private body, capricious in its actions, and doubtful as respects their motives, because alike unrewarded and irresponsible.
To assert that academies are useless is easy; to prove that they may not be very useful is somewhat more difficult: but to deny that they have been of the greatest utility in past times is impossible.
An institution which has for nearly seventy years maintained the only public school of Art in England, and which has in our own time reared in that school such artists as Hilton, Baily, Howard, Westmacott, Uwins, Mac Clise (to name some only of those who are now living), can very well afford to be called useless by those who rather seek to destroy than to improve. That such institutions may be made much more useful than they