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contemporary English Art be, for the most part,
As to our criticism on Art-making two or three exceptions, as honorable as they are rare—who ever detects in it a coherent reference to principles, or a simple and high purpose? I imagine it would be difficult to name any subject on which the public tolerate, or would tolerate, so much vague nonsense (to say nothing of bitter prejudice) as is continually poured forth under the name of " criticism," on works of art.
But I shall here confine myself to a brief quotation or two from the Report before me.
Historical John Martin, the Painter:
“So long as portrait painting is patronized as the only true p. 72, seqq. historie,' so long must historic painting be dead as an Art, for
artists paint to live, and it is too much to expect any one to die a martyr to his love of any peculiar branch. ... It is obvious to every one that Art must have suffered when such men as Wilkie, and many other distinguished members of the Royal Academy, should have been obliged to leave the higher, and follow the fashion for portrait painting."
Idem, B. R. Haydon: p. 88, seqq.
“All the world desires to see the exhibition, as it is a spring show of little pictures, portraits, and little pieces of furniture; such works become the object of every person to purchase and artists to produce. · ... From the native vigour of the English character, and its constitutional habits, it has contrived to obtain a high reputation in every species of Art, except historical painting; .... the three kinds of painting; epic, dramatic, and historic, are popularly included under the term historical painting.”
• “The prevalent characteristic of the English school of painting, at this moment, is the MATERIAL. You see bold execution and glaring colours, but there is an absence of sentiment-nothing rouses, elevates, touches, or addresses the soul in the vast majority of our artists." --England and the English, book iii. chap. ii.
Colderick Hurlstone, * President of the Society of is pulch Artists: : tyn no nation that has attained so high a degree of prosperity and civilization, and in which the elegancies of life are so generally cultivated, as England, are the superior departments of Art in so low a state."
Sir J. D. Paul:
“ In common with everybody else, I am much struck with the Of Arcbi. very low state of Architectural taste in this country. I think it is tecture : impossible not to be astonished at the very little taste exhibited in the number of new churches which have been built.”
Mr. Cockerell, R. A., on the same subject:
“Architecture, considered as the science of building, has greatly improved; but, as an Art, I apprehend it has by no means gained; on the contrary, I do not believe that its principles, as a Fine Art, are so well understood as formerly: ... it is matter of caprice ...... at present, our taste in Architecture is purely one of imitation and not of invention; . . . . . it is much more under the control of fashion than the direction of principle.”+
I submit then that there is really sufficient warrant for the statement of the Committee, that in the application of artistic skill to manufacturing industry, we are much behind some of our continental neighbours, and that, in the words of the Report, “ from the lowest connexion between design and manufacture, up to the highest branches of poetical design, the Arts have received little encouragement in this country.”
• The painter, it will be remembered, of “The Prisoner of Chillon,” and “ Peasants of the Abruzzi" in the Exhibition of the British Artists in Suffolk street, of last Year.
+ Mr. Bulwer has an excellent observation on this subject: “Greek Architecture,” he says, “even in its purity, is not adapted to a gloomy and chilly climate; all our associations connect it with bright skies and "a garden life;' but when its grand proportions are omitted, and its minute details of alien and unnaturalizable mythology are carefully preserved, we cannot but think that we have adopted one at least of the ancient deities, and dedicated all our plagiarized blunders in stucco to-the Goddess of Laughter.”—England, &c. 2d Edit. vol. ii. p. 210
of the hum.
There is yet one other point, on which I far quote the opinion of Sir Martin Shee, the Presiden Pin the Royal Academy, expressed in his recent Letı., time Lord John Russell, &c., on the Exhibition of the Royai ca
Academy :* Alleged in- “The French populace are, I regret to be obliged to sensibility confoss it
confess it, more sensible to the works of Art,-more bler classes qualified to enjoy the pleasure which such works afford, to the infuence of and less disposed to injure them, than are the humbler works of classes of this country.” Art.-Let., &c. p. 23.
If these things be true, it is high time to cease railing, and begin considering how they are to be amended.
For my own part, I confess, I do not think it will be by Act of Parliament. I have no love for the forcing system, either in knowledge or in commerce; nor do I expect that Government patronage will of itself suffice to create a new Revival.
But, inasmuch as I believe that our inferiority in the application of design to manufacture, as well as our apathy to the more spiritual creations of Art, are alike to be traced to the one radical defect,-namely, that with us the Fine Arts have not as yet been trained to take firm hold as indigenous and hardy creatures of the soil, and a necessary part of its common culture, but have, on the contrary, been nursed as exotic luxuries; so I think, that in this very preparatory training, there is something which it is the natural office of THE STATE to do, and which it alone can do well. Some such lesson the history of the great Revival will teach us, if it be thoughtfully considered.
There is so much that is dazzling in the constellated lustre of the age of Raffaelle and Michael Angelo, -we
• Not, I believe, printed for Sale.
harii accustomed to hear of the results of the patronage
Thoʻlius and of Leo the Tenth, and to gaze upon the iarders of the Vatican, as if they had been raised by
në magic of some mighty spell, that we are tempted almost to forget what had been already achieved in the age which preceded, and upon how high a vantage ground those illustrious men had been placed by the efforts and the discoveries of the many earnest, and patient, and successful artists who had gone before them.
It were well indeed if some who talk much about patronage, were now and then to refresh their memories, by referring at least to the instructive and accessible pages of Lanzi or of Tiraboschi, upon the early history of the revival of Art in Italy,
It would then be seen that it was not by the fortuitous appearance of a galaxy of munificent and heavendescended patrons, creating a new excellence in Art, by forming the desire to flatter their personal vanity in a way more refined than formerly ;--that it was not by this, or by any similar means, that the heralds of the Revival prepared the way for their country's greatness and their own immortality, but by entering heart and soul into the prevalent feeling-the onward aspiration which characterized their time; by appealing from the lower passions to the loftier; by addressing themselves directly to the emotions which were struggling and burning within the bosoms of the noblest of their countrymen, and translating these into the most universal of all languages—that of Plastic Art in its highest and purest manifestations.
The builders, for instance, of that early time, disdaining to continue the mere imitators of a corrupted style, seem to have said to one another: Let us build temples to the Eternal, of which the eye shall with difficulty penetrate the depth or estimate the height; whose columns, without pedestal or capital, like the tall and all sted, 11° trees of the forest, shall insensibly lose themselves the vaulted roofs; the gigantic arcades of which were be crowned with long galleries, fit to be filled on solenin days with countless crowds ;-temples, whose sculptured towers shall raise aloft the august signs of our redemption, announcing to the traveller from afar, that he is indeed entering a Christian city.
Yes, it was in temples such as these that our fathers worshipped, and to their erection and adornment, that they loved to dedicate of their worldly substance as God had prospered them. Rich and poor, the great and the lowly, alike contributed.* These things, indeed, may have been turned to abuse-as what may not be?-yet were it well if we, their descendants, more frequently imitated those who thus honoured religion in its outward forms, remembering, with Sir Thomas Browne, that we have reformed from them, not against them.
These cathedrals, which seem intended almost for eternity, were erected beneath the influence of a growing ecclesiastical authority; they were the exponents of a new element in the onward march of civilization, and their builders went forth in all the strength of men, whose lives were devoted to one great object, and whose minds could grasp everything that tended to its attainments. Everywhere the same ideas are impressed upon the visible forms of Art, -religious feeling.t-resist
• Compare, for example, in the bistory of the Abbey of Saint Denis, (Paris MSS.), the account of its decoration with Arabesque painting on glass, &c.; when “the devotion was so great, on the part both of rich and poor, that money flowed into the treasury in such abundance as to enable the Directors to pay the workmen regularly from week to week.”-See also Alexander Lenoir, Peintures sur Verre. It must be confessed, our modern churches are generally built on a different principle.
+ Mr. Bulwer has well observed, that even in our time, the most striking and powerful painter we possess, owes his inspiration to a deep