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that there matters were positively retro-refractory academicians. In their Report grading. Even with the advantage of the for the year 1833, as in every preceding recharter granted to the Royal Hibernian Aca- port, they had deplored the indifference with demy, and an allowance made by govern- which the public regarded their exhibitions. ment of £300 a year, so great was the apa. In 1834 their outburst of high spirits rethy in Ireland with respect to all subjects minds one of the jubilations at a farmers' connected with art, that it had for some club dinner at the commencement of a war. time been in contemplation to close the doors“ Whatever has been the complaint formerly, of the Exhibition Room; and the year pre- we have ground to hope that a new era is receding the formation of the Art-Union, there ceiving its date. Genius is countenanced, actually was no Exhibition. What had and emulation will follow!" Nor did their been its value to the artists as an exposition cause of rejoicing prove to be of a temporary for sale may be gathered from another part nature. In the last Report, for the year of the evidence of the witness to whom we 1855-56, are indebted for the preceding facts. “Previous to the Art-Union,” says Mr. Cash,“
“ The Committee have much pleasure in anfour years, during the exhibition of the nouncing that the Annual Funds are continuing works of the Royal Hibernian Academy, tions last year, which was larger than that of any
steadily to increase. The amount of the subscripthirty shillings only was expended on the pa- previous year since 1847, has been exceeded this tronage of Art.” “Thirty shillings annu- year by £707. The sam is £4974." ally ? asked the incredulous chairman of the committee. "No," said the witness, The value of this financial statement, as a " thirty shillings was the entire sum ex proof of the stability of the Edinburgh inpended in the four years !" *
stitution, is enhanced by the fact, that such Such was the condition of the private pat has been by no means the experience of the ronage of Art in Great Britain and Ireland, London Union during the past year. when the Association for its promotion was another part of their Report, the Edinburgh formed in Scotland. Notwithstanding a Committee tell us, that since the foundation temporary opposition on the part of some of of the Association, funds to the extent of the leading members of that very Scottish nearly £100,000 have been subscribed by its Academy, to benefit which it was intended, members; and they farther inform us, with its success was immediate :
not 'unnatural self-gratulation, that by the
similar societies which it was the means of " A large annual fund,” says the Secretary, in calling into existence, the enormous sum of in 1845, "exclusively devoted to the purchase of upwards of a million sterling has been subPaintings and Sculpture, and to the dissemina- scribed throughout the country, and devoted tion of Engravings, was speedily realized, which, in one way or other to the encouragement of in the course of nine years, amounted to not less art! than £36,900. During the same period 771 Into the history of these Societies, all of paintings, 40 pieces of sculpture, and abont 30,000 them formed more or less after the model impressions from engraved plates, were distribut, of the parent Institution in Edinburgh, it is reports and circulars, containing interesting in- unnecessary that we should enter. The fact formation upon subjects connected with the Fine which we have mentioned tells very signifi
. Arts were circulated over the country, and in cantly the tale of their general success, and England, Ireland, and the Colonies, to the extent every detail regarding them will be found in of more than 100,000 copies."
the Report of the Select Committee of the
House of Commons on Art-Unions in 1845, As may well be imagined, a very speedy in the evidence by which the Report is supchange took place in the sentiments of the plemented, and in the Annual Reports which * The above testimony is confirmed by the follow
are published by their respective Com
mittees. ing graphic picture from the lips of another witness. "When our Society commenced, the Exhibition of But of all the proofs of the success of the the Hibernian Academy had been gradually deteri- Union as a means of encouraging art, the orating, both in the number and the quality of the most unequivocal seems to us to be the inworks exhibited. . . After five or six years of most crease which has taken place in private praiseworthy, but unavailing exertions, it had got into difficulties
, and the funds of the exhibition did not purchases. So far from being dried up by pay or remunerate the noblemen and gentlemen
who the substitute which had been found for it, were good enough to subscribe to the getting up of this source has every year become more the fine gallery that they had built. The premises prolific. In the third
year of the existence were sold under a decree of the Court of Chancery, of the Association in Edinburgh, the private and a receptacle for wax-works and dwarfs from sales had mounted up from £300 to £1200. Donnybrook Fair.”
Our information as regards other places is
not so full as we could wish on a point so posed to confer on a community without inimportant, but so far as it carries us, it volving individuals in any sensible pecuniary seems to indicate the same result every- loss. The question, therefore, as to whether where else. In London, large sums are con- the sum paid for the commodity was extravstantly added to the prizes which are there agant or not, was not answered by ascertainawarded in money, in order that pictures of ing whether or not it would sell for the greater value may be secured ; and in the same price again. The sum was paid, not Exhibition of the New Water-Colour Society, for the commodity simply, but for the Ešus the private demand has also increased. In the whole habit and mode of being, on the 1836, the year previous to the establishment part both of the artist and the public, as the of the Union, the amount of private pur- result of which the commodity was produced. chases was £333; in 1843 it was £782. All this, of course, was reversed in an in
In Dublin, though the grounds of his opin- stant, when the London printsellers attemption are not given, the Secretary tells the ed to do, for the benefit of their own pockets, Committee, that “decidedly there has been what the Unions did for the encouragement an increase of private patronage."
of art. In order that their schemes might Viewed, then, as a means of affording pe- succeed, they chose, of course, not the high cuniary aid to artists, and encouragement to class of artistic works which it was desirable art, the success of the Unions was beyond to encourage, but the low class which was al. all question.
ready popular; and their sole object being The notion that the demand which they gain, a distribution of such works by lot, in created was an artificial one,—that the laws their hands, became a lottery in the strictest of political economy were outraged by the sense. To distinguish between such practiwhole system, and that sooner or later they ces and the legitimate action of the Artwould assert their supremacy,—though it Unions, the Legislature most properly interseems to have clung to the mind of one of fered, and the whole subject as regards the the members of the Select Committee, could laws both of political economy and public have scared very few intelligent persons at morality, seems now to stand on as sound a any time. The fact was that the demand basis as could be desired. was there, otherwise it is very unlikely that But grave questions remained behind rethe Unions would ever have succeeded at all; garding the principles on which the Unions but it was there to a small extent on the ought to be conducted, with a view to the part of the many, rather than to a large ex- attainment of what they all professed to tent on the part of the few; and what the have for their ultimate end, namely, the enUnions did was to render the supply accessi- couragement of what in England is called ble to the demand in the form in which it "high," but what we shall here take the existed. Many persons were wealthy and liberty, in common with the practice of the liberal enough to expend a guinea, it might rest of Europe, of characterizing as ideal art.* be two or three guineas, on art, but few Under this is included, properly speaking, were either able or willing to expend two or neither more nor less than art altogether, for three hundred pounds on the purchase of a whatever does not aim at giving expression picture. But the value of two or three hun-to the fundamental, generic conception, with dred pounds from two or three hundred per- greater force and clearness than it is reflected sons, was not only as great, but, as the evi- in the specific or individual variety in comdence of a wider interest, it was greater, as mon life, is not art at all
, but mere imitation. an encouragement to art, than the same sums In fixing the principle of encouragement then, when expended by single individuals; and it was not necessary to commence by limit-, thus it was that for art, as for so many other ing the range of subjects, and setting apart objects, it was found possible to effect by one class as alone suitable for the higher arcombination what, without combination, was tistic treatment. Some, it was true, offered altogether hopeless. The purchase of a pic a vastly wider scope than others
, and in this 'ture by an Art-Union no more created an respect the feeling of those who had been artificial demand for pictures, than the pur- educated in the classic schools of art, in chase of an estate by an Insurance Company favour of religious and historical subjects, creates an artificial demand for landed pro- was thoroughly well founded. Still all subperty. But, moreover, to a certain extent, jects which did not absolutely exclude the the principle involved in Art-Unions was in- element of the beautiful, were legitimate dependent of the ordinary laws of trade. subjects of artistic treatment, the only indisThe chief object aimed at by the subscrib- pensable requisite towards their becoming ers was not to secure an adequate return for their money, but to obtain the benefits
* In their last Report (1856) the Council speak of which artistic taste and knowledge are sup- "refined art.” (?)
works of art being, that they should be highest in art is also most popular, but that treated artistically. In order to encourage this is true even in a community where the art then, and to elevate public taste, it was public taste, ex hypothesi, is low. If the not necessary that the public should all at chief
, if not the sole object of corporate inonce be deprived of those representations of terference, be to raise art above the prevailfamiliar scenes in which they had hitherto ing taste, and by this means to drag the rejoiced; but what was absolutely and en- public taste up after it, it seems difficult to tirely indispensable was that the mode of imagine how this is to be effected, unless a dealing with such subjects should be raised. purer and severer criticism is brought into Where this was not affected or even attempt- play than that of the very taste which is ed, a large sum might indeed be brought thus to be raised. To found Art-Unions for together, the painting of pictures might be the elevation of taste, and then to entrust encouraged, and existing artists might be the existing taste with the duty of determinenriched, but the public would receive no ing the class of works to be encouraged, is benefit, beyond perhaps a little harmless to suppose this taste to be at once capable amusement; and the artist, in place of being and incapable, low and high. But if the recognised as one of its guides and leaders, metropolitan public is not always very clear would of necessity continue to pander to its in its views, or lofty in its aspirations, it is whims, and to depend for his subsistence on always ingenious in defending what it holds a support scarcely more dignified, and not at to belong to the theoretical inconsistencies all more secure, than eleemosynary bounty. by which the great practical results of Eng.
Now two modes of distributing the funds lish life are worked out ;' and here is a speci. of the Unions were suggested, both of them men of reasoning which, in point of subwe must presume having the encouragement stance, would do no discredit to the Times. of art, in the sense which we have mentioned, It had come out in the course of the examinultimately in view. First, there was the ation of the Secretary of the Art-Union, Edinburgh plan of putting the whole fund that the Committee, or Council of that body, collected for each year into the hands of a selects both the picture to be engraved, and committee of gentlemen, chosen for their the artist who is to engrave it; and the supposed artistic knowledge and impartial chairman Very naturally asks him, “On character, and allowing them to select the what principle, then, do you conceive that pictures and other works of art, afterwards the Art-Union Council should not be emto be distributed to the subscribers by lot; powered also to select the paintings, or other and, second, there was the London plan of works of art, which they consider are dedistributing the money itself by lot in the serving of the highest prizes, instead of first instance, and then permitting, or rather leaving it to the choice of the subscribers at compelling, the prizeholders to go into the large ?”_"In the one case,” he answers, exhibition and purchase such pictures as “ we are choosing for the body, and seek to their own taste and judgment might dictate, satisfy the majority; in the other we should the value being in no case less than the prize, be choosing for an individual. A prizeholdbut the prizeholder being permitted to add er who might gain a sea piece, might desire to it whatever sum he might choose, in order an historical picture, and care nothing about to procure a picture of greater value. The the sea piece, and so vice versâ. We find first method was that of the Continental for this reason our plan is much more geneUnions, after which that of Edinburgh was rally liked, and the subscription is larger modelled, and it was adopted by the Art- than it would be if the committee were to Union of Dublin; by numerous similar in- choose. But the committee, I think, in stitutions which speedily sprang up in adopting this plan themselves, have been America; and latterly, we believe, by one actuated by a higher feeling than anything of the most flourishing of them all in point of that kind. They consider that a man of funds, that of Glasgow. The second who selects a picture, by the selection of seems to have originated with the Art-Union that picture is induced to take an interest in' of London; and in this, as in every other re- the subject; he seeks the opinions of his spect, its example was followed by the pro- friends; he goes into picture galleries, where vinciál unions of England, most of which it is known in many cases he had never have since been again absorbed into the pa- been before : and if persons should, in some rent spirit.
instances, choose inferior pictures to those At first sight it seems as if not a word which would have been obtained for them, could be said in favour of the English sys- that is an evil which will cure itself. It is tem without reversing the principle which we speedily pointed out to a man by his friends, enunciated at the commencement of our dis- and if he does not improve this year he will cussion; and asserting not only that what is the next; and so the publie generally be
come in some degree educated. Each man has such friends, in a population so little is the centre of a circle, and the knowledge trained to artistic criticism as that of Lon. which he gains in this manner spreads don, is, we feel sure, the rarest exception ; throughout that circle."
whilst he is also, for the most part, precisely The first part of this answer is honest and the man who will stand least in need of their straightforward, and in every way worthy aid. of an ordinary Englishman. Money repre But it is unnecessary to speculate on the sented the means, Art the end,-and, seen abstract merits and demerits of two rival through the medium of such equivalents, it systems, which have been before the public was not wonderful that for a time the means for upwards of twenty years. The Select should exclude the end from his view. But Committee, in 1845, directed their special in the latter part of his reply he takes refuge attention to the effects actually produced, in a fallacy of which, if we are not mistaken, and we refer both to their Report, and to he was himself half conscious. He assumes the evidence on which it is founded, in conthat the same man is to be a prizeholder firmation of the views we have stated. year after year. Now, if that were the case, Speaking of the formation of the Dublin it is possible that the artistic education of Union, Mr. Blacket tells us, that individual and his friends might make some little progress; though on the hypothe “We had the example of the London Society, sis that he commences at least by selecting and also the Scotch Society, which was worked a bad picture, even then his progress might by way of a Committee ; and it was after delinot impossibly be in the wrong direction; tages of both methods of proceeding,
berate inquiry into the advantages and disadvanfor we entirely concur with the council when as concerned the state of art, and the education they say, in their last Report, that “every of the public mind with regard to art in Ireland, ugly carpet laid down, every ill-proportion- we came to the resolution to adopt the system of ed and unsightly building set up, aids in selection by a competent Committee. : . . We preventing the acquirement of a pure taste, tested it ourselves to a certain degree in our first and is an injury to the community at large." exhibition. Some members of the Committee, But what sort of artistic training
is to result myself in particular, took friends or acquaintances from a series of practical lessons, commenc-supposing prizes of certain sams of money fell
in different classes of society, and we asked them, ed, we shall say, by a ship.chandler at Wap- to your shares, how would you expend them in ping, prosecuted by a green grocer in Co- this exhibition ? And we found that some of the vent Garden, and completed by a perfumer choices were of a kind that would not do much in Regent Street or a pastry-cook in Picca- credit to the Society." dilly ? The perfumer or the pastry-cook from the aristocratic west would disdain to
Guided by this and similar testimony, ofconverse, even on æsthetic subjects, with fered by the vast majority of all the witnesses either of their fellow-pupils; and the ship- examined, with the partial exception of the chandler and the green grocer would not be officials of the London Union itself, the more likely to encounter each other than Select Committee recommend for future Artany other two of the million units that com- Unions the constitution of the Edinburgh pose the population of London. But it is Association, with two slight modifications, farther forgotten that it is not the taste of the advantages of which appear to us, we the public alone, but of the artists, as the confess, more than questionable. Their first leaders of that taste, that the Art-Union pro- proposal is, to throw the election of the fesses to form by means so inadequate. council open to the whole body of subscrib. Now, this is a task which we should think ers, and then as regards the more important would be felt to be both a delicate and a matter of the Committee, they say,-difficult one, even for a committee of accomplished critics of art, and surely it is one
“From the whole body of the council a Com. with which the chance prizeholders must be mittee of selection of three members to be chosen, altogether unable to cope. Still, by the and one amateur, and to be entrusted with the
with power to aggregate as assessors one artist London system, it is forced upon them, for duty of choosing from the annual exhibitions the they must select by such light as they pos- prizes intended for distribution. This Committee sess, that of a rude and uncultivated nature to change annually one-third of its members." being, we should fancy, the only one commonly at their command, and according as The chief points of difference between this they select the artists must paint, or, ---die. recommendation and the existing constituTo say that the prizeholders call in the aid tion of the Association, are, first, the smaller and counsel of friends more skilful than numbers of the Committee recommended, themselves, is but another ingenious mode which is to consist but of three, whereas in of parrying the difficulty. The man who Edinburgh it consists of fifteen members;
and, second, in the recommendation that one and “high art” goes to the wall. The artist and one amateur shall be consulted, second arrangement, not quite so satisfacwhereas artists are excluded in Edinburgh tory, is this :-An artist goes to the holder altogether, and it is taken for granted that of a £150 prize, and says to him, “Here is the Committee itself will contain at all my picture, which is well worth £150, but times the most eminent amateurs that the in order to induce you to take it in preferSociety of the place affords. Now, it seems ence to the others for which the same sum to us that the only serious charge that has is asked, I will give you this other picture ever been brought against the Committee, to the bargain. The prizeholder, whose that, namely, of favouring particular artists, artistic education is just at the stage that would be rather increased than diminished, enables him to value pictures as articles of were both or either of these suggestions ornamental furniture, is delighted with the adopted. Suppose that in so small a body prospect of having two for one ; and the as three, any particular artist had either an artist chuckles secretly at having got £150 intimate friend, or an open or secret enemy, for two pictures that he knows ought never is it not obvious that the public, in the one to have sold for anything,—“high art," as case, would suspect that he was favoured, before, being the only sufferer. Now these and that he himself, in the other, would be are not imaginary but real cases, and we are lieve that he was injured, by every resolu- bold to say, that anything as nefarious has tion which they arrived at with reference to never been laid to the charge of any comhis work? Again, the services of the com- mittee of selection whatever. The chief
, if mittee being rendered altogether gratui- not the only reasonable objection that was tously, would it not always be difficult, often made to Art-Unions, and which still we fear impossible, to find three gentlemen willing attaches to all of them more or less, is, that to undertake the amount of labour which they tempt, by the prospect of moderate must, and of odium which might, attach remuneration, many persons to betake to such an office ? Then, as to the as- themselves to artistic occupations, who are sessors,-if the amateur was not not both altogether destitute of artistic gifts; and eminent and impartial, his advice would be that, by the number of small prizes which either worthless or dangerous, and if he pos- they offer, they stimulate the production of sessed both of these qualities, why should he careless pictures on popular subjects, even not be a member of the committee with a by those who are capable of better things; vote, in place of an assessor without one ? in short, that they encourage a low style of Whilst as regarded the artist, however high art, which, whilst it drags down the artists, might be his qualifications in every respect, effectually prevents the public from rising. we fear his impartiality would never be Now, to obviate these objections entirely above suspicion. For these reasons we can be no easy task, even for an intelligent believe that the Association, as it stands, is committee, for the pecuniary interests of the equal to any scheme that has been suggested Association must be attended to; and these as a substitute for it. Though charges of seem, in the first instance, inevitably to departiality are no doubt mentioned by some press it artistically, though the fact that the of the witnesses, we do not find that any Edinburgh Association has prospered more were brought home to it by the investiga- evenly than the London Union, and is now tions of the Select Committee, and even the advancing in funds whilst its southern rival allegations did not approach, in their perni is retrograding, proves that, ultimately, even cious and demoralizing tendencies, to the financial stability will result from adopting gross collusion which in London was proved the safer system. That on the other hand to have taken place between the prizeholders the committee does much to keep the patronand the artists. Of these “dodges,” two age of the Association in the higher regions were brought to light, so ingenious that we of art, is shown conclusively by the greatly shall mention them for the amusement of higher prices given for pictures in Edinburgh those of our readers who delight in the re than in London. In London, for the year cords of acuteness. The holder of a prize 1856, the highest prize was £200, the second of £150 goes to an artist who has a picture £150, and the following three £100 each. worth £50, and makes to him the following In Edinburgh, for the same year, the highest proposal : “ If you will grant me a receipt was £400, the next £250, the third £150, for £150, which I can shew to the Union, I the following three £120, and the seventh will pay you the price you ask for your pic- £100; and, taking the lists from the other ture, and what is more, I will leave you the end, there were in London twenty-seven picture besides." By this means the prize- prizes of £10, thirty of £15, twenty-four of holder pockets £100, the artist pockets £50, £20, and thirty of £25, making in all 111 in addition to which he retains the picture, prizes, at or under £25, whereas in Edin