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whereas, works selected by a committee in any exhibition the works of most merit however judiciously—if disseminated by lot, are those generally most admired by the must occasionally fall mal-a-propos ; a public. There is, moreover, an injustice work of high value will sometimes fall to to the artists in the prestige of judicial the lot of one by whom it is little estimated, power on the part of the committee, beyond as being not to his taste or unsuited to his its unfitness in constitution; so long as its residence, and is willingly disposed of for decisions must be influenced by the amount one-sixth of its value: the contrary will as of funds at its disposal, the best division often happen, and thus discontent or indif- thereof, and many other matters extraneous ference be ultimately generated. On the altogether of the question of merit. Even other hand, it is urged by the committee were the committee properly organized, and advocates, that the interests and advance admitted to be the arbiter elegantiarum, ment of the arts are better cared for when the there would be little gained for the interests selections are made by an elected few of of art generally, so long as works so seacknowledged taste—that there is less lected were to be distributed by lotterychance of personal favouritism to artists, liable as that mode of distribution is to the that a stamp of merit is given to the works evils before pointed out. These evils are thus selected—that it is a more convenient clearly obviated by the exercise of choice plan for prize-holders not residing in the by the prize-holders-silly choices might, vicinity of the exhibition-finally, that the it is true, occasionally be made ; but as the division of the money into prizes is attend- editor of the “ Art-union” remarks, in allued with many dangers and difficulties ; for if sion to this same topic, “the best of us done with reference to the prices of parti- have prejudices and partialities, and a wrong cular pictures, the objects of the society judgment in them (the committee) would must often be defeated by the winner of be a thousand times worse than a score of any certain prize differing in julgment or silly choices on the part of so many private taste from the committee, and if divided so and irresponsible individuals, selecting acas to give the best distribution of the funds, cording to their own foolish fancies.” the results would be to encourage the With reference to the chances of perlower priced pictures, or to cause a compro- sonal favoritism to artists, we think there mise of price on the part of the artists. are as many, if not more, of such resulting
To these arguments we would reply that from a committee as the reverse; the mema committee elected as are the committees bers of a committee are necessarily few and of art-unions, have no right to arrogate to generally known, so that if any artist should themselves the censorship of art; they are meanly seek to win favour for his works on appointed by a public society to disburse personal grounds rather than on their funds under certain regulations—in so doing merits, he knows more easily where to to exercise their taste and judgment. Any direct such unworthy applications, when the factitious stamp of merit which may be right of selection is centered in a small thereby given to the works selected, we con- body, than when it is more widely disceive to be a positive evil—inasmuch as in tributed. As to the probability of prizethe constitution or election of such a com- holders being influenced in their choice by mittee there is no sufficient test of the ca- personal friendship for particular artists, we pabilities or suitableness of its members for cannot see the matter as a very heinous so high an office; further, they are irres- offence, or likely to be of frequent occurponsible beyond the conscientious expend-rence. The chances against any individual's iture of the society's funds ; whilst their obtaining a prize are as the number of judgments are as liable to be influenced by shares to one-or whatever number he may their peculiar tastes as those of more ex- hold; it would be difficult to calculate tended bodies; and taste or zeal not being their complicated proportion against any always commensurate with knowledge, there prize-holder's just obtaining such a prize as can be nothing in such selection of parti- would enable him to gratify his personal cular works, or the omission of others, that regard, without either an advance of money ought to mark them with the stamp of or a sacrifice as to pecuniary interest-of taste or the fiat of judgment. It is pre- which men are not over fond. Nor even tended that it is necessary to lead the pub- supposing such instances to occur, can much lic taste; we deem that the selection of harm be done; nay, the greatest good works of art by a committee so constituted, might often result therefrom, for many is not the way to do so. We know that the young artists have been stimulated and public taste soon educates itself, and that I aided in their progress by timely purchases, dictated more by friendly feeling than cul- amongst us; at least, so far as that sufficient tivated knowledge of art. The inconve- encouragement was held out, in such nience to prizeholders residing at a distance branches of art as were then most generally is obviated by empowering a committee to encouraged, to induce men of talent in choose for such. With regard to the dif- each, to reside in Ireland. Although even ficulty of the division of the funds, we then the crying evil of absenteeism was would say-it is to be taken for granted, felt, yet enough of rank and property-the that all subscribers to such societies are in- natural and legitimate fosterers of refinefluenced by a taste for the objects they ment generally, remained to give occupaseek to promote ; and it then results, that tion to many able artists. It is the high the prizeholders are so many of those privilege, nay, the duty, of those possessing lovers of art who are fortunately enabled to wealth and station to lead and to refine pubindulge their taste by purchases to an ex- lic taste; placed by the hand of fortune tent not limited by the degree of taste, but above the pressure of mere ordinary wants, by the means at their control. It will often they naturally turn their minds to the culhappen that the person having most money tivation of those intellectual enjoyments, is not he of most taste; but it is clear that which, whilst they afford wholesome exerevery man is called upon to exercise his cise to the faculties, combine instruction judgment, whilst no man is obliged to take with gratification ; they build noble mana work of which he does not approve. And sions, and for their internal decoration many, very many are stimulated to add to naturally recur to the sister arts, painting the amount of their prizes a sum necessary and sculpture. Family affection and anto procure works according to their taste. cestral pride alike dictate the perpetuation, We think, by this system, that private pur- by the aid of mimic art, of the good and the chase will be collaterally much increased ; illustrious; their mansions thrown open to which we would esteem the great desidera- admiring friends, or to the wondering gaze tum and the most beneficial result of the of humble tenants or passing strangers, act establishment of art-unions. As to the as the pioneers of art, lead the public to objections of encouraging low price works, its contemplation, and instil the desire of or cutting down in price, they are results, surrounding themselves, as far as circumas far as they go, of both systems; but stances may permit, with similar enjoyments. even more likely to occur when there is a It would be waste of time to seek to prove committee anxious to give the most general an admitted axiom, that the advancement satisfaction—who to increase the number of of the arts is in intimate connexion with prizes, must purchase many works from two the existence of rank and property in any to lwenty pounds, and will not scruple to country; therefore, it will be easily conurge the limit of their funds or previous ceived how as absenteeism increased in Irearrangements, as a reason for offering prices land, the arts "paled and drooped;" when below those demanded by the artists; in to the absence of a first class is added the fact, they will feel called upon, as acting for total preoccupation of those classes, who others, to drive a good bargain—whilst of the must thereby have been forced forward in prizeholders who come into the market, the scale of society-a moral vacuum being though some may plead the amount of as impossible as a physical; when we contheir prize as the limit of their means, a template how completely all classes have far greater number will be found to add been absorbed in political strife—in a wastwhen necessary a sum to equal the price of ing struggle for contested rights, we cannot the work which they desire to obtain, which wonder that the fine arts should have fallen tbus becomes, as it were, enhanced in value. into the shadow of neglect. Indeed that
We come now to the introduction of art. they have continued to exist at all in this unions into Ireland. In testing the appli- country, is mainly attributable to the exertcability of the various systems, or any mo- ions of the artists themselves, in their indification of them, to the promotion of the defatigable struggle against growing public fine arts at home, the precise state of the apathy; nothing but that undying hope, arts should be understood ; for that purpose which is a main ingredient in all mercurial we think a short retrospect of their history, temperaments, could have supported the during the elapsed portion of the present Irish artists through the long night of necentury, necessary.
glect which they have encountered. The The close of the last and the commence- schools established by the Dublin Society ment of the present century found the arts of afforded the young student the means of painting and sculpture somewhat prosperous acquiring the mere rudiments of his art
which, when after long years of anxious prized, and fame borrowing the pithy study he came to profess, he found-placed epitaphic motto of another great architect no where in society.
may, pointing to the edifice, breathe aloud, The want of professional position was “Si monumentum quæris, circumspice !" long felt by the Irish artists; they felt the A great benefit was thus effected. The necessity of that link of association which artists became a recognised body, and they should force them as a body into a positive possessed suitable accommodations for an and recognised place, and they endeavoured annual exhibition of their works. The first to win the public favour by exhibitions of exhibition excited much public interest; an their works, which were successful in pro- interest, alas ! which has gradually declined. portion as they were few and far between. The artists struggled to maintain their anAt length they determined on forming nual exhibition : but, few in number and themselves into a body, constituted similarly without the encouragement of a market for to the Royal Academy of London. In their productions---for purchasers there 1823 a royal charter was obtained, giving were al none-it became a matter of certain immunities and privileges to a body yearly encreasing difficulty to find works to of artists, consisting of fourteen consti- cover their walls. The public, when by chance tuent members and ten associates ; to be they did turn their attention to the subject, entitled the Royal Hibernian Academy of only deplored the decreasing interest of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture. This the exhibition ; in fact it became the fashion was a step in advance ; but not much was to decry even the modicum of merit to be gained thereby ; for though a grade of merit found there. But the public never supplied was thus established a rank conferred on the necessary stimulus; no purchases were the most meritorious artists by ther bre- made, and native talent continued, as it had thren, and confirmed by royal charter; long been forced, to migrate to other maralthough the members were entitled to write kets where something might be gained. R. H. A., and esquire after their names, no While matters gradually assumed this virtual rank was conferred—the public felt disagreeable phase, as regarded the advanceno sympathy with or interest in the Royal ment of art generally, the academy was not Hibernian Academy, which had thus a name unmindful of its greatest function—the indeed, “ without a local habitation.” instruction of rising artists. Mr. Jobnston
It is to the munificence of an individual; had not long been spared to watch the proto the high-minded and well-timed liberality gress of the profession which he had so esof a member of their own body, that the sentially benefitted; but the mantle of his academy, and through them the artists of fostering care fell upon one worthy in every Ireland, for ever owe the deepest debt of way to wear it. His widow, a lady whom gratitude. FRANCIS Johnston, a man to even the fear of being thought to flatter, be revered by every man to whose heart the cannot prevent us from naming as one interests of his country are dear—FRANCIS claiming the warmest gratitude of her felJohnston, the eminent architect, erected a low citizens, with a similar spirit of entemple for the fine arts , at an expense of lightened liberality, ministered to the wants not less than £6,000 ; and with a munifie of the arts of her country; the academy are cence, enhanced in proportion as the arts indebted for their sculpture gallery, and for were then neglected, presented it to the many of the splendid specimens of ancient members of the Royal Hibernian Academy, art that adorn it, to the munificence of Mrs. and to their successors for erer. That this Johnston. By this addition to their internal act is not so generally known as it ought to accommodation-by presents of casts from be; that this good citizen-shunning the the Marquis of Anglesea, Sir Thomas bright glare of political distinction, liber- Lawrence and others, and of a valuable ally, yet unostentatiously working out prac- library from the late Mr. Edward Haughtical good to his country, is not more often ton, the academy were enabled to found the heard of, is a natural result of the depressed various schools for the instruction of state of the arts. When, however, the students. The “ sinews of war,” needed in turmoil of political strife shall have sub- proportion as the exhibitions were unresided; when the arts shall bave assumed munerative, have been in some degree suptheir wonted soothing influence over the plied by a small annual grant from governminds of men ; when that temple of the ment of £300, which barely sufficing for the arts shall be more frequented, the name of pressing wants, is so far of moment, as Francis Johnston emblazoned on its shewing that even in the highest quarter a walls will be more often read, more highly I certain importance is attached to the objects
of the academy. It ought perhaps to be devoted to its purchase. “ Be just before mentioned here, as a proof of the constant you are generous,” is a wise adage: to exardour of the artists for the promotion of pend the money of an Irish art-union in their art, that no public body affords a simi- the purchase of works produced in Ireland is lar evidence of disinterested zeal to that of the justice ; to expend it in the purchase of Royal Hibernian Academy ; no officer of foreign works is that degree of showy gethat body receiving any remuneration for nerosity, spurning the shackles of domestic his services, excepting the secretary, to claims, which the short-sighted admirewhom a small sum is allowed, barely ade- the wise condemn. quate to defray the expense of clerkship
The line of conduct which has produced necessary in his labours. With all this the above-mentioned results has, of course, zeal within and friendly aid without, the its conscientious defenders ; nor must we objects of the academy must be frustrated lose sight of their arguments; they are so long as the artists' labours remain unre- simply these. They wish to raise the warded their works unpurchased ; nor can standard of taste in art by the introduction they look for that zealous attendance in and diffusion of English works; to enhance their schools, until aspiring students receive the interest of the annual exhibition ; to through the medium of rewarded professors, elevate the criterion of merit, and by allowa stimulus to exertion, a pabulum for their ing our young artists to view their works in ambition.
juxta position with the works of their more If we have been somewhat lengthy in favoured brethren, to stimulate them to this retrospect, it is because we believe it exertion and improvement. That these bears essentially on the matter in hand; it are objects of paramount interest we are all affords us our best guide to the selection of agreed. The mode of their attainment is a principle of art-union suited to Ireland, that concerning which we differ; we will and it leads inevitably to the conclusion entertain them seriatim-premising that that that system should be purely national. in our advocacy of the exclusive system, This brings us more immediately to the we do it in no illiberal or narrow-minded discussion of what we conceive to be the prejudice against the talents of other counerrors in the constitution of the Royal tries, but from a sincere desire to see the Irish Art-Union. In common with all the talent of our own worked out ; from a confriends of art, we hailed with hopeful plea- viction that this can only be obtained by sure the establishment of such a society that fostering care, which we bold to be the amongst us, because we thought it was peculiar province of art-unions to afford, and their intention to spend their money at which they can only effect by a judicious home ; to devote their capital to the exploit- expenditure of their funds at home. ation of native talent. Well, what has been To raise the standard of public taste in the result ? In round numbers* £1,235 art in Ireland is, indeed, “a consummation was collected, a sum quite equal to, if not most devoutly to be wished;” but we deny exceeding anything anticipated, in the first that it is likely to be effected by the introyear; of this fully two-thirds—£816 78. duction and purchase of such English works as leaves the country, while only about £275 would fairly come within the sphere of artis expended at home. Surely this is not a union patronage. The purchase of a few common-sense mode of encouraging native fourth or fifth rate pictures might insure talent! It is no answer to say that a por- the influx of many such to the annual extion of the money sent out of the country hibition ; but it is just in those classes that was to Irishmen; though we should ever the vices of any school are to be found ; and and every where wish to see Irish genius the public taste taught to admire such works estimated and encouraged, we think it a —unbased on the great models of art—is primary principle to encourage residence- more likely to be vitiated than elevated; to discourage absenteeism; and so long as a to mistake manner, a pleasing tone of work of merit is to be found, produced at colour, and captivating surface, for the sole home, the funds of the society should be ends of art. That it is most desirable to
have first class pictures of other schools con
stantly presented to the publiceye is undeniaWe quote from memory, but we believe ac- ble. The Royal Hibernian Academy sustain curately, there being as yet no published report of the truth of the position by even seeking such the transactions of the society. Why is this? works to adorn their exhibition, and by pronecessary for the satisfaction of members, and posing to pay the expense of transport of useful even as advertisement.
all works of eminent artists; but these are
works that for the most part must exceed such position, we have but to look to the in price the limit of art-union expenditure ; exhibition of this past year, which, taken it is evident that artists will not be tempted but as a promise of brighter things to come, to send over such works by the circumstance we fearlessly assert to be most creditable to our of an art-union's existence amongst us. resident artists. We regret to say that Ilow then is the object to be effected ? In there were there, works of art, produced at the first place, much is gained by attract- home, in every way worthy of approbation, ing the public mind to the subject. The left unpurchased, while the funds of the human mind is eminently endowed with a society were diverted to other objects not longing after excellence, and the moment so legitimately forming the objects of its it becomes interested in any art or occupa- attention. This we think particularly hard tion it begins to discriminate; it rejects the on Irish artists—so long struggling against bad and seeks the good. Incidentally we public apathy, to a certain degree in commay remark here that the true basis of pub- mon with their British brethren ; they have lic taste-the true school would be a still more suffered under a baleful absenteenational gallery, with a selection of the best ism, while they have struggled to preserve a works of antient and modern art ; constantly position for the arts through all
. When the and gratuitously open to attract and in- public at length came forward to aid them struct the public mind. It would be be- by an art-union, they had surely a right to yond our purpose to dwell upon this sub- have their claims admitted, nay more, to ject here, as it does not fairly bear upon have the exclusive advantage of fosterage the question of art-unions; we may per- from the society's funds, at least until a few haps recur to it at some future period, it years fair play should have placed them being one of great national importance. more upon a footing with their more The main influence that art-unions can fortune-favoured brethren at the other side have on public taste is by the direct en- the channel. couragement of a national school of art. Were a society to start for the encouHold out susficient inducements to your ragement of native manufactures, would native artists to work out their talents— not common sense dictate the propriety of • enable them to live at home; the residence closing the market for a season against of men of talent amongst you, with the foreign productions, until by a proper irriexhibition and diffusion of their works, will gation of capital—by a home competition do more to form a correct taste, than any for premiums judiciously distributed, they occasional introduction of inferior foreign might be fairly able to compete with proworks. Besides, the majority of the picture ductions resulting from a long enjoyed loving public consists of persons who travel, similar system? Does not the same rea and in these days of railway facility, have soning apply to art? It is said, “shew the constant opportunities of seeing the best young artist clever works—tell him, when specimens at the fountain head. Artists, you can paint like that, we will purchase too, must frequently go abroad, to see not your productions;" this could only discouonly the works of modern schools, but to rage and damp his spirit. But purchase any study the great old masters ; they return work of his that evinces talent, you give with improved powers, with elevated tastes, him therefore the first spur to exertion ; and if they find sufficient encouragement he feels that he can produce something of to remain at home, their works will be the value—his first work purchased is to him an best means of improving the public taste. event—it marks an era / not-if he have The argument for the purchase of English the genuine spirit of art about him, which or other pictures, based on the consequent is essentially unworldly and disinterested; influx of such works to our exhibition, is not, we say, for the value of the money, but connected with another consequence put as an evidence of approval does he prize it. forward by the supporters of this system ; It stimulates his ambition ; if he continues which is the advantage to resident artists of to improve, continue to purchase ; if his seeing their works in such juxta position. works fall off or indicate negligence, let We think we have shown that by art-union him suffer; the purchase of his works will patronage, noinflux of works can be obtained, soon become a test of approval ; and he will truly beneficial to the public-still less so gladly expend a portion of his earnings in to the artists; the argument, to have any visiting those emporiums of art, where his weight, is based on the supposition that taste may be elevated and his judgment there is nothing produced at home worthy matured. of public patronage. In refutation of any It is here, therefore--as to home pa