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been of still more humble extraction. Sir Thomas Lawrence was the son of an innkeeper-Jackson, of a tailor; Gainsborough and Bird were the sons of clothiers-Opie and Rommey, of carpenters and Mortimer, of a miller. No one, of what is called
good family,' or nearly connected with persons of rank, has ever yet become a painter; nor is painting considered a liberal profession, and one of those which the junior members of our aristocracy are at liberty to embrace. The first nobleman in the land may practise painting as an amusement, may devote to it much of his time, and may attain a proficiency equal to that of a professional artist, without its being considered derogatory to his rank; but if the tenth son of the lowest Baron were to follow painting as a profession, there would be many well-meaning persons who would hold up their hands in surprise and horror at the degradation of such a step. They could scarcely be more shocked at his keeping a shop, than at the idea of his painting for money. Painting is treated as a mechanical art, and the man of rank would be considered to lose caste by following it. Now, without summoning to our aid that undeniable principle, that there is no real disgrace in any honest calling, or taking higher and sounder ground of argument than the customs and prejudices of society, we must say, that there seems to be something very unreasonable in this exclusion of the art of painting from the list of such professions as a gentleman is considered at liberty to follow. Why should the announcement from a nobleman that one of his younger sons discovers a strong bent for painting, and will, therefore, become a painter by profession, be answered (as it would) by a stare and a shrug, and remain a theme for wonder and reproach? Society admits that a peer may, without shame, sell the productions of his pen: why might he not dispose of the productions of his pencil? If the Honourable Mr Such-a-one, a barrister, may take guinea fees without contamination, why may he not, equally without disgrace, paint a picture, send it to an exhibition, and sell it for a hundred pounds? But literature and law, it will be said, are more dignified, useful, and important, than painting. True: nor do we claim for painting an equality with them in those respects. We only mean to show, that what is analogous in the mercenary part of the profession, has no adverse effect in the case of literature and law; and we can conceive no other grounds on which the profession of painting can be placed under the ban of society at all. There is nothing degrading in the course of study which is necessary to prepare the student to be a successful painter. He need undergo no humiliating apprenticeship to art. It is no dull drudgery to which he is bound. He must love his art, and follow it with
VOL. LIX. NO. CXIX.
enthusiasm. He must be naturally gifted, and be directed to painting by the bent of his genius, if he would hope to be eminently successful. It is not unrefined, or unintellectual. On the contrary, it is allied to refinement and intellectual pursuits. Every branch of painting requires somewhat of a poetical turn of mind-many require imagination-and some, that the artist should be conversant with society. The highest excellence in portrait-painting, for example, is unattainable, without that delicate perception of manner and expression, and the graces of deportment, which only habits of society can give. Painting is no bar to cultivation of mind; on the contrary, it is often found connected with literary ability. Our own brief history of the fine arts, contains a larger proportion of instances of the combination of pictorial with literary talents than that of any other country. Hogarth, Richardson, Reynolds, Gainsborough, Opie, Barry, Romney, Lawrence, Fuseli, and Northcote, were all men who, if they did not employ the pen much, at least evinced the power of using it with respectable ability; and we can close this list of learned artists with an eminent living example-the present President of the Royal Academy. But the caprice of society is the more remarkable and unreasonable, because, though it refuses to smile upon the painter's outset, and frowns upon the adoption of painting by those who are of gentle blood, it warmly hails the successful artist, and accords to him a social position as secure and honourable as to the untitled followers of other professions. Sir Joshua Reynolds, West, Cosway, Hoppner, and Lawrence, were the companions even of royalty, and mixed with the most aristocratic society in the land; and the same may be said of some eminent artists of the present day. We trust that the favour never withheld from such successful artists as may choose to seek it, will erelong be extended to the art. Our refusal to extend such favour, is, we fear, a proof of imperfect civilisation ;-a proof that the spirit of feudalism is not yet extinct amongst us. There have been times and countries, in which no profession but that of arms was deemed worthy of a gentleman; and in some of the least civilized parts of Europe, that of law is still held to be degrading. As civilisation advances, it tends to liberalize, to break down prejudices, and to throw open a wider sphere for the exercise of each man's ability. We shall be glad if, in course of time, it throws open the study of painting to all whose circumstances forbid them to be idle, and who are directed, by the inborn gift of nature, to seek this species of employment. Since painting can be successfully cultivated only by those few who are imbued with a natural genius for the art, it is more desirable than in the
case of professions, which depend comparatively little upon a peculiar bent, that the sphere out of which its votaries are collected should be as extensive as society can make it.
Many lovers of painting sincerely regret that we have no Public Collection worthy of the country. We can sympathize not a little with the wounded spirit of national vanity, which, after contemplating the splendour of the Louvre, or of the galleries at Dresden or Munich, contrast with these magnificent and wellstored repositories the meagre homeliness of that handful of good but ill-arranged pictures which were huddled together in the National Gallery in Pall-Mall. We can enter into this feeling, and should be well pleased if we could have pointed out, as the property of the nation, to a foreign friend, who might be visiting London, something more dignified than the very small collection just mentioned. If the nation were to possess a gallery of painting, equal to that at Paris, or Dresden, or Florence, the lover of painting would, of course, rejoice in the facilities afforded him for the frequent contemplation of excellence in art, and would, as one of that body of joint-proprietors-the nation-feel a certain satisfaction in his fractional proprietorship, akin to that which he would feel, in a greater degree, in possessing a good collection exclusively his own. We sympathize with this feeling; but if seriously asked, whether we believe that the possession of a national collection of paintings, as good as those of Paris, Dresden, and Florence united, would give a vast impulse to British art,-would render the annual exhibitions of the works of our artists much better in all the essential elements of excellence than they are at present, we cannot answer in the affirmative. Far from being certain that the effect would be favourable, we are not even without fear of the reverse. We fear the possession of such standards would tend to check the spirit of originality, and convert our artists into servile copyists. They would look more at art, and less at nature. They would gaze at excellence beyond their reach; and their emulation, depressed by the sight, would too probably prefer the safer and easier course of mechanically following in the steps of their predecessors, to the bolder effort of seeking to catch inspiration from the same source. The contemplation of certain attained and recognised beauties in painting would too probably contract their view of the domain of art would bind them down to the narrow faith, that nothing good could be done in painting that did not resemble and conform to something approved and distinguished that had been done already-and would render them insensible to the inexhaustible wealth of that extensive sphere in which the painter may expatiate,
If we want some practical criterion, by which to judge of what a great collection would do for this country, let us ask what it has done for others. Has modern art been found to spring up refreshed and exuberant wherever a splendid public gallery has been opened? Does it thrive at Dresden and at Munich? Have even all the treasures of Italy saved the modern paintings of that land from tame mediocrity and imitative stiffness? Does that land, so long the favoured dwelling-place of art, send back its foreign pupils evidently imbued with the fruits of example, exhibiting an increased proficiency which can be attributed solely to the contemplation of Italian art? Is it so? Or is it not rather to the contemplation of nature under another and a more attractive aspect, that we may attribute all the truly remarkable proficiency and success that some of our travelled artists have attained? Wilson studied not Claude, but Italy; and the paintings of Eastlake, the most successful of our modern artists who have resided for any length of time in Italy, though they bear indisputable evidence of his having successfully studied in that country, treat subjects such as were never treated by the great masters of Italian art, and handle them in a style which these masters never exhibited; and we would say, not in disparagement of his performances, but admiring and approving, that we can conceive that they might equally have been painted, if the galleries and churches of Italy had been emptied of their treasures, and nothing were left but its picturesque people. Painting, although, like poetry, it is imaginative and inventive, is, still more than poetry, an imitative art; and it signifies much whether imitation be at second or at first hand, whether it is merely the copy of a copy, or is drawn directly from the natural object. The latter of these processes will exhibit an originality, a vigour and a truth, which in the former will be greatly wanting. Now, unquestionably, a study of even the most approved standards of excellence in painting would tend to produce that which should be rather the copy of a copy, than a performance exhibiting that subtle spirit of grace and truth, that unequivocal reflex from nature itself, which constitute the principal merit of the great originals. I consider general copying,' says Sir Joshua Reynolds, a delusive kind of industry. The student satisfies himself with the appearance of doing something; he falls into 'the dangerous habit of imitating without selecting, and of labouring without any determinate object. As it requires no 'effort of the mind, he sleeps over his work; and those powers of 'invention and disposition, which ought particularly to be called out and put in action, lie torpid, and lose their energy for want of exercise. How incapable of producing any thing of their own
'those are who have spent most of their time in making finished copies, is an observation well known to all who are conversant 'with our art.' Let us not, however, be supposed to deny, that great advantage may be derived by the artist from the study of excellent paintings. They may be highly useful, if rightly treated. But in order to be profitable to modern art, they should be employed not as constant guides, but as occasional tests,—rather to correct and elevate the taste, than to exercise an influence on the minutiæ of art. The artist who would truly profit, should try rather to imbue himself with their spirit, than to adopt their manner. He should attempt, by their aid, to place himself in imagination on that vantage-ground, on which stood the great painters who conceived and executed them. From models treated in this spirit great benefit might accrue to art. But this is not, as it may at first appear, an available argument in answer to our fears respecting the probable effect of a great national collection. We must con
sider, not how it may, but how it will be employed; and we fear the abuse is more probable than the use. It is easy and tempting to employ these models of excellence in such a manner as would be injurious to art. For one who catches the subtle spirit of the original, and attempts to paint with a kindred feeling, twenty will exercise their ingenuity in acquiring the trick—the manner the handling the accessories, and not the essentials-the marks and signs by which indeed the master may be distinguished, but which do not constitute his merit. We say, therefore, not that the frequent contemplation of the works of the old masters cannot do good, but that the good is too often more than counterbalanced by the harm.
But it may be urged, that the sight of celebrated paintings may have a favourable effect, not by direct impression upon the artists, but indirectly through the public. It will raise the standard of public taste; it will create a demand for works of art of a superior class; and the artist will be stimulated to greater care and exertion by the increased fastidiousness of his employers. In this we admit there is some degree of truth, and the whole sounds plausible in theory. But it has been practically proved, that adoration of the works of the great masters of Italian art is quite compatible with the most chilling disinclination to encourage a contemporary-with the most depressing apathy towards modern merit-with the most supercilious and pedantic derision of all originality, all deviations from recognised standards. How was the proud spirit of Hogarth made to writhe under the neglect and parsimony of those would-be patrons of art, who were squandering hundreds on bad copies of the old Italian masters, of which even the originals did not display half the genius which