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engraving. The current expenses of management amount to £700, still leaving the committee with an unappropriated balance in hand of nearly £1400.
But, notwithstanding the gratifying results which have thus attended the establishment of this association, great dissatisfaction was expressed at an early period of its progress, with that part of the plan which vests the absolute choice of the works purchased in the committee
of management. This dissatisfaction led to the formation New As- of a new association, in the prospectus of which it was sociation
stated, “That the whole of the sums subscribed, up to motion of the period when the subscription will close, will be the Fine
divided into large and small prizes, and drawn for Scotland.
during the ensuing exhibition; after which each prizeholder (or those whom he may appoint) will be entitled to select a picture, or other work of art, then exhibiting in the Scottish academy to the amount of his prize.”
To this new association, the subscription to which is also one guinea, there were in the first year 340 subscribers; in the second, 811; and in the third (which has just closed), 1011. Ninety-two pictures have been purchased at prices varying from £100 to £5; and the society has recently issued its first print, which, however, is not of a character to do it much credit. The next engraving is to be from “The widow," by Mr. Allan, a picture exhibited in the Royal Academy, in London, in 1839. It appears that with reference to the selection for purchases, it was found to be inexpedient to limit it to the Scottish academy, as at first proposed; so that pictures may now be chosen from either of tbe Edinburgh exhibitions.
England. The first association of this kind established in
Society, England, was the “Society for the encouragement of for the encourage- British art,” formed in 1835. But this society, although ment of
art. it has been in existence for four years, has never had
an available income exceeding £300 a year, and it is believed that the income of the present year will fall considerably short of this sum. The pictures it has already purchased have been selected by the committee of management, as in the first Scottish association : but with such contracted means it has of course been able to do but little for the encouragement of art. In its original plan ten per cent. on the gross amount of its subscriptions was set apart as an accumulating reserved fund, to be employed in the purchase of historical pictures for presentation to some public institution, but this excellent feature was soon abandoned on account of the small amount of the subscriptions.
The “Art-Union of London," was established in Art-Union March, 1837, upon a plan similar to that of the Asso- ° ciation for the Promotion of the Fine Arts in Scotland, except that the selection of the works of art for purchase was left to the members themselves, instead of being entrusted to the committee of management, resembling in this particular the plan of the new Scottish society.
During the first year of the operations of this asso- First year ciation there were 352 subscribers, subscribing 466 guineas; in the second year, 568 subscribers, sub- 1837-8. scribing 721 guineas; in the third year, 1058 subscribers, 1838-9. subscribing 1234 guineas; and in the present the fourth year, 1970 subscribers, subscribing 2143 guineas. During these four years ninety-two pictures have been purchased, at prices varying from 10 to 200 guineas; and amounting in the whole, with the additions made by the individual prize-holders,* to about 3300 guineas. About 1000 guineas have been appropriated to engraving three of the pictures thus purchased, exclusively for the
* These additions have amounted to nearly six hundred pounds.
members. The first of these was Mr. Simson's picture, “A Camaldolese Monk, showing the relics in the sacristy of his convent” (a picture painted in Rome); and the second, “A river-scene in Devonshire," by
F. R. Lee, R.A. The third yet remains to be selected. Art-Unions Similar associations have been formed in several of be Pro- the great provincial towns in connexion with their
annual exhibitions, but hitherto these have but seldom had any permanent character. By this means, however, a sum of about £2300 has been expended upon works of art during the past year (1839) in the towns of Liverpool, Birmingham, Bristol, and Newcastle-onTyne alone;* and, generally speaking, not only is the aggregate amount of sales at the provincial exhibitions upon the increase, but the character of those exhibitions also is fast improving.
We have now obtained abundant evidence that, at least as respects the primary object of increasing the number of those who take some interest in the state and progress of the arts of design in Great Britain, these societies have not existed in vain. It remains then, after comparing certain peculiarities in their several plans, to offer some suggestions respecting their future course.
• Namely, at Liverpool, £1023, including additions by the prizebolders; at Birmingham, £746, of wbicb no less than £216 was added by the prize-holders ; at Bristol, £220; and at Newcastle, £270. Considerable sums were also raised in other of the great towns, and especially in Manchester, but I have not the details at hand. At Leeds an exhibition, in which pictures formed one of the leading feature, was so highly successful, as respects the receipts for admission, that after payment of all expenses there remained a net profit exceeding £2000. This sum, bowever, being devoted to the Leeds mechanics' institution, by which the exbibition had been planned and managed, was of no advantage to the artists whose productions had helped to create it, and the sales were extremely limited.
The most important peculiarities which distinguish these societies from each other appear to be, selection -as being intrusted either to the managing committee, or to the individual prize-holder;--the composition of the committee-particularly as respects the inclusion or exclusion of artists ;-the publication of an engraving; and the creation of a reserved fund for directly encouraging the higher branches of art. I shall remark on each of these points in their order.
The argument in favour of intrusting the selection to 1. Selecthe committee has been thus stated in the Report of the tures, dec. first Scottish association. It is there said that but for this plan “there would be no leading or general principle to guide the selection of works purchased. Each member who held a prize might secure a picture to please his own taste; but when they were all put together it would be found, that having been chosen without any concert, or any view to the state of art generally, the selection was somewhat beterogeneous. It is not to be supposed,” continues the Report, “that all the members of a popular association, however strong their desire to promote the interests of art, have equally cultivated their tastes regarding it; whilst, on the other hand, they can have no difficulty in choosing annually from the general body a few members into whose hands they may safely confide their interests; and who, in the purchases they make, will be guided neither by individual partialities or antipathies, but solely by an earnest desire to confer a benefit upon native art, by singling out the works which, in their different departments and styles, have made the farthest advance towards excellence, and may be considered as examples for younger and more inexperienced artists.”
To this argument the committee appear to attach considerable weight, as they have twice stated it at
length in their Reports.* It is not however an argument which will bear much examination : for, in the first place, it is not shown that a “somewhat heterogeneous” selection would be any evil; and, in the next place, the fact is entirely overlooked that even on the supposition that the taste possessed by the subscribers at large is inferior to that possessed by the committee of management (of which, indeed, there ought to be little doubt)—the plan of individual selection tends strongly to create and develope taste in the general body by the very duties which it imposes on them, and that in this way, agreeably to all experience, the standard of excellence will be elevated from year to year. So that it may be no paradox to say that art will be benefited by the latter scheme more than by the former, even although the choice of pictures should, on the whole, for a few years be confessedly inferior to what it might have been, if intrusted to a well-chosen committee.
In a subsequent Report, the same committee proceed to contend, that even if the directing body be but intrusted with the power of fixing the sums to be expended upon pictures, such apportionment “must bear a reference to the actual state of the exhibition from which the purchases are to be made. Thus, if it appear to the committee that there is upon the walls a work of great merit which ought to be bought for £300 or £400, one of the prizes will be a sum to that amount. But it is quite possible that the picture may be purchased by another party before the prize-holder has an opportunity of offering for it, in which case the object of the committee is frustrated; or it is equally possible that the prize-holder himself may