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THE FINE ARTS
OF THE BRITISH MUSEUM,
Presented to the library of Harvaet bolkegu
Manchester Free Liliowy 1 Nov. I. 1951
“ Be thine, Britannia, thine the noble aim,
To live through long futurity of fame!
SHEE's Elements of Art.
The circumstances which led to the preparation of this volume will best explain the views with which it is now submitted to the public.
The Author having been long convinced that the principle of nonintervention on the part of Government, however sound in Commerce, has limits in respect to the Fine Arts, and to Public Education, carried beyond which it becomes a serious evil, naturally felt a deep interest in the proceedings of the Committee appointed by the House of Commons, on the motion of Mr. Ewart, “ to enquire into the best means of extending a knowledge of the Arts and of the principles of Design among the people of this country; and also into the constitution, management, and effects of Institutions connected with the Arts." And when, at the close of the session of 1836, he received the Report of that Committee, he was led to draw up some remarks upon it, with a view to their immediate publication, in the shape of a pamphlet. The perusal of that Report also induced him to take an active part (in conjunction with an esteemed friend) in the formation of the Society called the “ Art-Union," for the purposes and nearly on the plan therein recommended.
This and other engagements prevented the immediate completion of his task in a manner satisfactory to himself and to the demands of the subject, and, during the vacation of last year, he was led so to enlarge his plan that the pamphlet (part of which had been already printed) almost imperceptibly grew into a volume. But so little had been done in the interval either by the Government or by Parliament, in connexion with the subjects here treated of, that the delay has rendered very slight alterations necessary even in the portion first written; and
these are noticed in the concluding chapter, which contains a brief review of the whole subject.
In attempting to give a general, but to the measure of the writer's ability conscientious survey of the state and prospects of the Plastic Arts in England, the subject has naturally divided itself into two parts, perfectly distinct: the one, the actual or internal state of the Arts—first, in their practice, and next, in their appreciation ;the other, the administrative or external economy of the Arts; the means of promoting the knowledge of them, as well for appreciation as for practice; and including the many public questions connected therewith, as Copyright-Museums Academies Public Works; in a word, the EDUCATION OF THE PEOPLE, so far as the Arts of Design ure capable of promoting it. It is to this latter branch of the subject that the present volume is confined.
That the writer has overcome the many difficulties connected with these topics, he dare not hope ; but he trusts he may have done something towards removing the obstructions which have hitherto stood in the way of their fair estimation. He will only add, that as this work treats but of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture, he has retained the term Fine Arts on his title-page only in compliance with common usage Elsewhere he has most frequently employed the more precise and accurate terms of Plastic Arts and Arts of Design.
WILLESDEN, MIDDLESEX ;
July 30, 1840.