Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

a bride; in Rome, as a harlot. But up to a certain point, the history of either teaches the same lesson. In Greece, the Fine Arts were primarily devoted to the expression and excitement of intense love of country; and in ancient, as afterwards in modern Rome, to the representation of the dominant religion of the State. Where, in fact, does the religion of ancient Rome now exist, but in the relics of her gorgeous temples ?

And in regard to modern Rome, where are those gigantic conceptions of papal authority, which the intellect of a Gregory or a Leo gave birth to, so expounded and set forth to us, as in the paintings of Raffaelle and Michael Angelo?-paintings, which embody that most splendid dream of the Almighty Ruler of the Universe governing the world through the instrumentality of one great Vicegerent, all-powerful upon earth. However much of evil such conceptions may have contained, the man is surely not to be envied who can look upon the Vatican without feeling that they were not wholly evil; that the powers which put them forth involved in their exercise, and by the very necessity of their nature, much that was both good and great; and that in their appointed place they have fully subserved the gracious plans of Providence. Suffice it, however, for us, that here, in the Holy City, as formerly in the birthplace of the loftiest civilization the human mind could reach unaided by Revelation, we find men to have attained the acme of perfection in stamping upon the material forms of nature the impress of their Divine intellect, only by bringing all their noblest energies under the government of the one leading principle -the grand idea of their age. And so it must be in this country, if England be destined ever to attain the first rank in Art. That rank never will be attained so long as Art continue to be for the most part the inere minister of ostentatious luxury, or of refined sensuality;

and almost as devoid of moral purpose as of national character. *

Our artists must look back upon our own past, and forward towards our own probable future, seeking earnestly to realize both, if men are ever to speak of the British epoch of the Fine Arts.

But what can the state, collectively, do towards the same end? In retracing the progress of the Revival, we see the several rulers occupied in combining and guiding the efforts which the two-fold impulse-religious sentiment and civil rivalry—had given birth to.

Glancing at a later, and a very different period of the history of Art—that of the age of Louis XIV. in France,—we see the personified State, not combining and guiding alone, but itself supplying the initiative impulse. The results at each period are sufficiently contrasted.

At present, and in Great Britain, the predominant impulse of Art is to connect itself with commerce, and herein would seem to be involved the primary duty of The state concerning it. What correlative danger excess in this direction may demand to be guarded against, is a question deserving of separate consideration.

But, in relation to this primary duty, experience would seem to show that Government can do little more to good purpose than clear away obstructions, and watch that artists and men of letters, no less than merchants, have a clear field for competition; suffer no interruptions, either from oppressive fiscal laws, or from monopolizing institutions; and take no detriment from the want of protection, either national or inter

of

* Looked at in this point of view, who can refuse to assent to the saying of Seneca ?- “Non enim adducor, ut in numerum liberalium artium Pictores recipiam, non magis quam Statuarios, aut Marmorarios, wat cæteros lururiæ ministros."

national, for the fruits of their labour. If, in addition to this, such opportunities as are afforded by useful and necessary public works for the patronage of the highest order of merit are honestly employed, then, I submit, the Government, as such, will have done its duty, so far as relates to the direct encouragement of the Fine Arts.

But this will still leave untouched that most important duty-the indirect encouragement of Art, as necessarily arising out of a better and more equable provision of the means of moral and intellectual culture, so as to place a truly qualificative education within the reach of all-which it confessedly is not at present.

I am quite aware that I here enter upon a disputed question, surrounded with not a few difficulties; some of these I shall be led to notice presently, but in this place it is sufficient for me to observe, that all parties to the question are, without exception, agreed that Government has some duty to perform in respect to education; although the extent of that duty is matter of dispute. I contend therefore simply, that in all education reform, come whence it may, the preparation, I say not of an increased number of artists, but of an artloving people, is one object to be aimed at; and that so far as Government interposition shall be eventually found to be beneficial in respect of this reform, and therefore a duty, so far Art must share in the benefit.

As regards the duty of founding and maintaining sufficient public Museums and Galleries, on a liberal scale, as contributive towards this end, there will, I apprehend, be no difference of opinion.

The importance of making the cultivation of a taste for Art an indispensable part of general education cannot be overrated, if it be plain, that, in order to discharge the responsibilities primarily attaching to human nature, every nation, and each individual of every nation,

must care for something more than the means of sustaining, and pampering, and adorning mere animal life; if every man be bound to minister to the craving intellect as well as to the craving appetite,—to cultirate his moral being as well as his physical being; and if in that moral being there exist a capacity of receiving cultivation by the perception of beauty in form and in colour,-if that craving intellect feel a void which can only be filled by such perceived beauty; then it is a matter of deep and solemn obligation to seek to discover under what forms and by what modes of exertion we may realize all that excellence in the production of Art which it may be permitted us, as a nation, to attain; and all that generally diffused capacity of obtaining enjoyment from those productions, which may be compatible with the diversified duties and employments of human life. And hence it is surely to be in ferred, that the original cultivation of the feeling for Art, should, to use Bacon's fine comparison, belong to that part of the 'tree of education—the trunk—only above which the branches begin to shoot off in their various directions.

Should this be realized, it may be that the prophecy of an enthusiastic and excellent Frenchman will have its ful6lment. “ There have been,” said he, “ four ages which men have agreed to honour before all others, on account of the high excellence to which the Fine Arts have been carried in them; those of Periclesof Augustus of the Medicis -- and of Louis XIV. One other epochal age has yet to appear--that which, uniting all the discoveries of the ages which have preceded it; thoroughly impregnated with their knowledge; rich in their acquisitions; strong, even in acquaintance with their errors and their faults, shall assure to the Arts an indestructible domination, and defy all the Vandalism to come.”

I proceed to what has appeared to me the second Second point, clearly proved by the Report of the Committee, point proved namely: that our own Government has not hitherto mittee-that

the English done what it might to promote the progress of the Arts Govern

ment has in this country.

not hitherto I think this proved quite irrespective of the limits, be promoted

the progress they more or less wide, beyond which the useful of the Fine interposition of Government may become injurious Arts. interference.

For in matters wherein the obligation of the Government is beyond all question, and to which no power short of that is adequate, we are clearly wanting, even if we still content ourselves with the humble standard of what has been done and is doing elsewhere.

In support of this assertion, I shall again select, although but very briefly, from the mass of evidence before me:

T. C. Hofland, Esq., Secretary of the Society of British Artists :

p. 108,

“I think the inaccessible character of most of our Exhibitions, both Evid. on

Arts, 1836, public and private, has greatly retarded the cultivation of art Abroad, every great country, except England, has had a National Gallery open to its public; and at an early period of life, the public become acquainted with fine works of art, and, to a certain degree at least, these galleries create a love of Art among the people, and they respect the Art, and look up to the artists.

In France an Artist is looked upon in a very different point of view to what he is in this country. In France he is infinitely more respected; he is patronized by the State, and he feels his weight and consequence

and the diffusion of the love of Art is much the same thing as the elevation of Art."

very

The Reverend Josiah Forshall, Secretary to the British Museum, &c.

Evidence “In France the savans may possibly have some little political beforeCom

mittee on influence, and the Government of the day may be anxious to con

British Muciliate their good opinion and favour; such has not hitherto been the

seum, 1835.

« НазадПродовжити »