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“ Truths, of universal interest, are too often considered as so true that they lose all the power of truth, and lie bed-ridden in the dormitory of the soul, side by side with the most despised and exploded errors.”
S. T. COLERIDGE.
GENERAL REVIEW, IN CONCLUSION, OF THE ADMINISTRA
TIVE ECONOMY OF THE ARTS OF DESIGN IN ENGLAND,
ITS STATE AND PROSPECTS.
1. It has been the object of the preceding pages to bring under review, as succinctly as the extent of the subject and the limit of the writer's ability would permit, the several relations in which the arts of painting, sculpture, and architecture have been, or may become, the subject-matter, either of legislative enactment, or of the administrative care of government.
2. As most of the topics included within this limit had been recently the subjects of investigation before a select committee of the House of Commons, appointed “to enquire into the best means of extending a knowledge of the arts, and of the principles of design among the people (especially the manufacturing population) of the country; and also to enquire into the constitution, management, and effects of institutions connected with the arts,” the present survey was commenced with an analysis of the report of that committee, arranged under three principal heads: first, the means of elementary instruction in the principles of design, more especially with regard to the manufacturing population; secondly, the means of extending the love of art in its highest departments, and consequently, of cultivating and refining the public taste; and thirdly, the legal protection
of artistic property, and the rewards and honours of successful artistic exertion.
3. In the course of this analysis it was perceived, that in the opinion of the committee, the means of instruction in design were very insufficient; taste for the beautiful in art confined to a small portion of the population; the legal protection of artistic property eminently insecure; the rewards and honours accorded to artists meagre and inadequate ;-that, in short, “ 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.”
4. The conclusions thus arrived at, however repugnant to national vanity, were, it was seen, fully borne out by clear and demonstrative evidence. shown, that not only is England inferior to some of her neighbours in the arts of design, considered as a branch of national culture, but that even in the application of design to various manufactures, for which, in some respects, she possesses great advantages, she has been far excelled, by reason of the greater diffusion in some other countries of the love and appreciation of the beautiful.
5. In casting a rapid glance at the past history of the arts of design, it was seen that these results were in strict accordance with former experience. For in no country had high excellence in the arts ever been attained, save by their employment for religious or national purposes.
And nowhere had excellence in the humbler applications of art long continued to exist, save in subordination to high attainment in those nobler branches. But in England, artists, having been almost wholly neglected by the State, and left to the private patronage of individuals, have (for the most part) addressed themselves to the gratification of personal
vanity, and of the taste for ostentatious display in the decoration and adornment of houses, and to other employments of a similar nature.
6. In Greece, for example, the arts were constantly employed to nourish a lofty desire of personal distinction, and an intense international rivalry. Merit received its public honours; the greatest Athenian was proud that he could add to the renown of his country, and in the splendour of that renown the meanest Athenian had his share.
7. So in Italy, at the revival of the arts, art became the handmaid of religion. The artist addressed himself to a whole people, and with the highest of all aims. “We attempt nothing,” said Buffalmacco, “but to make holy men and women by means of pictures on wall and on panel; and by these means to make men, in despite of devils, more devout and better."* Thus the plastic arts became the great exponents of the characteristic feelings and aspirations of the time, and, as expressed in the device of their earliest academy, sought to lift men's minds from earth to heaven.t
8. If it be said that all this relates to a state of things that has wholly passed away, I reply, England too has national feelings and glories to be cherished; great men to be honoured ; ignorant men to be instructed and christianized. For all these purposes the plastic arts have in them as much virtue as they ever had.
9. The question, then, what can the State do towards the exaltation of English art? is one of the gravest import. In approaching its discussion care was taken to guard against extravagant expectations on the
• “Non attendiamo mai altro che a far santi e sante per le mure e per le tavole, ed a far perciò con dispetto dei demonj gli uomini più e migliori."
+ “ Levar dalla terra al cielo nostro intelletto.”
one hand, and on the other, against those degrading theories of government which would limit its duties and its powers merely to the protection of life and property.
10. The primary duty of government, in respect to the plastic arts, was shown to consist in the removal of all obstructions tending to deprive artists of a clear field for exertion and competition, whether from oppressive fiscal laws, from monopolizing institutions, or from the want of protection, either national or international, for the fruits of their labour. Next after this came the duty of employing the arts to their appropriate purpose of advancing popular education, by means of public galleries and museums—these in their turn reacting on the arts by producing truer and wider appreciation, and exalting the standard of taste; and then, the duty of using all opportunities afforded by useful and necessary public works for the adequate employment of that highest order of genius which, even under the happiest circumstances, merely private and individual patronage will always leave in comparative neglect.
11. In proceeding with the enquiry how far these duties had been discharged or neglected, and if wholly or in part neglected, how the defect might best be remedied, it was thought expedient that the suggestion of remedy should proceed pari passu with the statement of defect. And the enquiry commenced with the state of the law respecting copyright in invention.
12. The close connexion subsisting between literary copyright and copyright in works of art and in mechanical inventions appeared to render it necessary to review the whole subject. It was laid down as a primary principle that the putting forth of labour to create a valuable, distinguishable, and exchangeable product, which before had no existence, constitutes a clear and