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given up to Mr. Nash, in order that this serious defect
should be substantially remedied. But on the comDec. 1829. pletion of his alterations, of the progress of which the
society were advised to take no cognizance, it was discovered, that instead of putting on a new roof of lighter construction, he had merely propped up the old one with iron pillars, to the serious injury of the gallery for the purposes of exhibition. Legal proceedings were commenced against Mr. Nash for compensation, but unfortunately a system of temporizing was adopted, and after much delay the matter, instead of being submitted to a jury, was referred to an equity barrister,
who, on grounds purely technical, but grossly inequit31st Dec. able, decided in favour of the defendant. From the
severe losses entailed by this affair the society has never recovered.
It is also to be noticed, that considered merely as an exhibition-(leaving out of view its character as a place of sale for pictures)—the expenses of which have to be defrayed from the money received for admission, the gallery of the society is unfavorably located: and this disadvantage has probably been increased by the proximity of the Royal Academy, in its new situation. This combination of unfavorable circumstances appears to have compelled the members to make great sacrifices, of money* as well as of time, in order to continue their operations,
* It is stated that within the last ten years the members have subscribed not less than £1765 to meet demandis which the receipts at the door have failed to provide for. See a Report of the rise and progress of the Society of British Artists, addressed to its patrons and supporters, p. 23. In 1825, £4000 bad been raised by way of mortgage, at 5 per cent. to enable the society to purchase its rooms, (for the value of which 7 per cent. was charged as a rent),- wbich, however, still rer chargeable with an annua payment of £107, reserved in the lease. Ib. p. 15.
While placed in this position the society has been earnestly requested to afford its co-operation to the efforts of the Society for obtaining free admission to national monuments and to works of art, &c. In re
See ante, sponding to this application it has expressed its cordial seqq. willingness to do all within its power for the advancement of so desirable an object; and in earnest of its sincerity the Society has already afforded free admission to its exhibition to several public schools, and to the students of the recently formed School of practical design. “Prudence, however," it is stated in the appeal which the society has published, “ forbids any further extension of the free lists in the present state of its affairs."'*
But,” continues this appeal, “the society now earnestly and respectfully entreat the friends of the arts to assist them in an application to Parliament to place them in that state of independence which will enable them to advance those liberal and extensive views that are so well suited to the exigencies of the times. The amount required to effect the purchase of the galleries, the ground-rents, discharge of debts, &c.g...is £10,000, a sum which is believed to be annually expended by the French government in the purchase of modern works of art: the society, by being relieved from their liabilities, would be enabled to promote, in an efficient manner, the general interests of art, and to appropriate certain days for the free admission of the public, while the current expenses of the exhibition would be provided for by the receipts at the door.”+
Adverting to a comparison which had been instituted by some of the witnesses before the committee on arts and manufactures, between this society and the Royal
Academy, the Report thus proceeds to contrast the
relative positions of these bodies : Relative “The members of the Royal Academy occupy their positions of this Society
rooms rent free, their exhibition is held in a national and of the edifice, a guard of honour attend at the entrance, and Royal Academy.
every cause combines to render it a popular place of public resort; the receipts at the door are consequently large and accumulating, from which resources they provide salaries for their officers, chosen from their own body; such salaries being sufficient to contribute very materially to their comfort, respectability, and independence, which, however, is the less necessary, because the distinction of R. A. attached to their names would alone produce this, as it carries with it generally the reputation of an inseparable talent, and is the passport to favour and patronage.
“The Society of British Artists,” continues the Report, “occupy rooms built at their own cost, and subject to a charge for rent and taxes of upwards of £100 a year; the absence of royal distinctions, their exhibition being held in a private building,...renders it neither so popular nor so fashionable a place of resort, consequently the receipts at the door are inadequate to the payment of salaries to officers; and although the duties cannot be so great as in the larger institution of the Royal Academy, they yet encroach sufficiently on the time to be occasionally extremely inconvenient. This is not all, for the deficiency in the receipts for current and extraordinary expenses is, of necessity, annually supplied by the contribution of the members.
“ The Society, in conclusion, beg the friends of both parties to judge impartially between them, and to do the Society of British Artists the justice to believe that the comparisons made, are not urged in the spirit of rancour; they look not with envy on the prosperity of
the Royal Academy, but with regret at the absence of it in their own body; they consider that the silent perseverance of fifteen years, and the having rescued numbers from poverty by their exertions, entitle them to some reward,-a reward that will come most opportunely now, as it will enable them to accomplish for the public benefit, that which is so loudly (and so justly] called for."*
Well aware that this Society has really accomplished much—especially in landscape art~ I have thought it but just to give a full statement of its claims. With respect to the best mode of meeting them, much consideration will doubtless be required. It is not, however, easy to perceive that any mischief is likely to arise from a grant enabling it henceforth to be free of rent,-provided the basis of the society be somewhat extended, and its permanency secured. And whatever the differences of constitution and plan, which obtain between this society and the Royal Academy, (which ought by no means to be overlooked,) it can scarcely be denied that the favour shown to the latter institution, in its present condition, greatly strengthens the claims of the former to the liberal consideration of the crown and of parliament.
Ib. pp. 28-31.