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and means of quiet and continuous exertion, free from all fear of interruption arising from the caprices of an individual employer. Nor can it be hoped that there will ever be any large number of private patrons sufficiently high and comprehensive in their tastes, and at the same time wealthy enough in their means, to afford any considerable amount of such employment as is here contemplated.
And as all experience proves that every subordinate branch of art thrives in proportion to the express cultivation of those higher branches, whence it derives its nourishment and strength, so it is evidently the best policy, even in a narrow and merely commercial sense, for the government of every nation, mainly dependant upon commerce, to give the greatest possible encouragement to historical and poetical art. The highest commercial interest of England, therefore, demands the liberal employment of the arts for public and national purposes ;
And as experience also proves that nothing is more dangerous to the whole social polity of any community than the excessive growth of personal and individual magnificence and luxury amongst the highest classes, so long as it is unaccompanied by the progressive and visible amelioration of the lower classes, especially in a community, the great mass of which is barely able to command the means of mere subsistence,-it is surely not too much to expect that a wise and prudent government will exert its powers to provide some means of public and general magnificence in which those lower classes shall feel they have their due and rightful share, as some counterpoise to that luxury of individuals which has heretofore brought nations, mighty as England, down to the very dust. But should it be that the means which offer themselves as the readiest and most powerful, to enable all to gratify, in some degree, that love of the Beautiful and the Magnificent, which is natural to all
men, are also the means most powerful to dispel that very ignorance of the many, which, when opposed to the isolated splendour of the few, has heretofore given to envy and discontent all their destructive strength,— what must we then think of the government which should refuse to employ them, at the very time when the sad forebodings of a renewed combination between discontent and ignorance are already rife in our land? Surely, then, the highest political interest of England demands the employment of the arts for public and national purposes;
And to what end do we found academies and schools, and store our galleries with the productions of the illustrious dead, thereby doing all we can to stimulate the ambition of the student, and incite him to devote all his energies to the severest toils of his art; if, when he is just ready to run the race, hoping that he may reach the goal, the prize is to be removed from his sight? Is the artist whom we have taught to emulate the glory of a Raffaelle, to be compelled either to sink into utter despair, or to drivel away all his powers in labouring to become the fashionable portrait-painter of his day? Public faith, then, demands the employment of the arts for public and national purposes;
And, above all, if it be true that the Fine Arts may be made powerful adjuncts in teaching the lessons of our holy religion; if it be true that they are capable of eminently subserving the progress of morality, of peace, and of good will, surely then those interests, which of all interests are the highest, concur in demanding the employment of the arts for purposes so truly public and national, as are those which relate to us, not as Britons merely, but as Christians and as men.
The Plastic Arts may be thus employed, chiefly in State enthese three ways: First, by national commissions, to courage
what ways artists of approved ability, for historical pictures (on it may be afforded.“ subjects either religious or relating to British history, to
be placed in our public buildings or galleries), or for works of sculpture (being either public monuments to our illustrious men, or works of adornment for national edifices);
Secondly, by judicious purchases from our public exhibitions, whenever such contain works calculated to do honour to the nation; and
Thirdly, by prizes offered for public and unlimited competition, for pictures and works of sculpture (of the same class as those mentioned under the first head).
pictures and sta. tues.
. The first of these modes is not only that which is the mode of most dignified and which best befits a great and opulent State en
nation, but it is by far the most effective, as respects the
encouragement of the highest order of art. It is to this commis- means, employed with liberality and with judgment, that sions for
the cities of Athens, Rome, Florence, Venice, owe their great and deathless renown. But of this species of
encouragement there has been scarcely any instance in This mode not hither. England, almost from the first introduction of the plastic to prac
- arts up to the present time. The sister art of archi tised in England, tecture, or rather some of its more favored professors,
has been more fortunate; but even here, in recent times, architecture has been encouraged rather as a trade than as an art. And the natural result has followed.
If, indeed, the sums which, during the last quarter of in connex. a century, have been appropriated to public buildings,
ith had been expended with even a moderate degree of dis
cretion, it is certain that we might not only have had a public or palatial edifice or two, which an artist could look upon without feeling ashamed of his country, but the interiors of those edifices might also have been adorned with the works of a Northcote, a Hilton, and a Wilkie-of a Flaxman, a Baily, and a Westmacott.
ion with our recent
But, alas ! our public edifices have usually been so managed, as to transform the architect into a tradesman, and the sculptor (when by any extraordinary liberality he has found admission at all) into a mere mechanic. While the painter has only been employed in the capacity of a house-decorator.
The causes to which this remarkable absence of all public employment for the painter and the sculptor, even upon occasions which would seem so naturally to give rise to it, appear fairly ascribable, will be suggested in treating of competitions for public edifices, and of con- See post. trol over their execution. At present it is sufficient to Chap. IX. notice the fact, and to express an earnest hope that its reproach will henceforth be removed from us. A change so desirable may well be hoped for at the commencement of a new reign, under auspices so happy for the arts, and marked by the erection of a senate-house, under circumstances so much more satisfactory than Opportuthose which have usually attended the beginnings of our nities af
forded by public buildings. Nowhere could the best energies of the erec
tion of the our painters and our sculptors be employed with more propriety and advantage than in the adornment of the parlianew houses of parliament.
The commission of pictures and of monumental statues for our churches will be treated of separately. It is the See post. only mode of public encouragement which has ever been Ch. VIII.
of pictures practised in England to any noticeable extent, and even and monuthis has been usually confined to Sculpture. To what
churches, degree it may have tended to advance that art, and to what peculiar circumstances its limited success may be ascribable, if it should be found to have partially failed, are questions eminently deserving of solution. .
The commission of pictures and of works of sculpture expressly for a National Gallery of British Art, will not, National it is earnestly hoped, be much longer delayed. The Gallery of nucleus of such a collection (a very small one it is true, Art.
and yet requiring to be weeded,) will be found in the present national collection of pictures ; but the most competent judges are agreed in strongly recommending that the ancient and modern works be kept distinct, although they may be contained within the same building.
The second mode of State encouragement is the purchase of eminent (but unsold) works from our Public Exhibitions, when they happen to contain any such worthy of the nation. This, however, though it ought not to be neglected upon fit occasion, is far from being the mode mainly to be relied upon by the State for the advancement of the highest class of Art. It is in this respect too uncertain in its operation, and therefore too little economical, to be considered as more than a secondo ary and supplementary means.
Third mode public
rewards of honour.
The institution of prizes free to the competition of all,
having expressly in view the production of works of the prizes and highest class, but at the same time so graduated as to
recognize and reward different degrees of excellence in that class, though placed last in order of consideration, is, at least, but second in the scale of importance. And perhaps no means which it is in the power of the State to employ is more certain, sooner or later, to attain its object.
These prizes, as they are to be the rewards of mind and of genius, must be attended with the marks of public distinction and honour; as they are to be the rewards of severe and long-continued labour, in a country where the ordinary cares of daily life are often overwhelming, and where poverty is but another term for contempt, they must involve at least such an amount of pecuniary remuneration as shall secure from the pains of indigence, the artist who shall have preferred the uncertain chance