« 이전계속 »
in any particular age or country, or in the happy coincidence of causes, what has been their relative influence, or which of them has predominated—we acknowledge certain prominent and admitted sources of excellence-one or more of which have always characterized the existence and success of the arts. Such for instance as climate and scenery-freedom-the native beauty, and symmetry of a people—their peculiar habits and exer- : cises-and, above all, an aptitude in the mind for seizing upon and improving these advantages—which aptitude, if not produced, is at least fostered and matured by them.
Ifthe perfection of the arts in Greece was attributed to these may we not venture to hope that this country will also become one of their favourite abodes; and, that under similar auspices, they will one day display themselves with equal lustre in the United States. Our skies are as serene, our zephyrs as balmy and genial, our mountains as lofty, our vallies and plains as verdant as nature in her prodigality has lavished upon any region of the earth. In the freedom of our institutions there is a moral impulse directing the mind to manly and vigorous exertion. Of this single cause this vital principle of all true greatness, moral and political, we hold it impossible to overrate the influence. And we surely can produce as perfect models of beauty as ever warmed the imagination, or moulded the taste of Grecian sculptor. This opinion is neither hastily nor incautiously hazarded, if we may be allowed to judge by the standards handed down to us from antiquity. Many an unsculptured Venus adorns our villagesand many an Apollo ranges our forests in pursuit of less poetic, though more marketable game than the Python. We cannot boast, it is true, the advantages of games and gymnasia, but the exercises of our hardy foresters and mountaineers are as healthful, and as well calculated to develope the symmetry and perfections of the form, and to impart to it a graceful and manly action, as either the one or the other. Above all, nature is said to have distinguished this country by a talent for the imitative arts. The frequent exhibition of it has been hitherto as much a source of mortification as of pride. We have seen many an aspiring youth born for other days and other destinies obliged to "repress his noble rage" and mingle, undistinguished, with the crowd. Others again, after contending in vain against nature, and yielding to her irresistible impulse, have, for want of proper opportunity, been compelled to occupy the humblest walks of the art, when, under better auspices, they might have become worthy of the age, when
" A Raphael painted and a Vida sang."
Nor is it less a source of regret that the names of West and Coply, Leslie and Newton, are all we can boast of these eminent Americans, whilst their works are the ornaments of foreign capitals.
The only painter we feel at liberty to mention, who, having the choice, preferred the chance of failure and obscurity in his own country, to the most flattering prospects of success abroad, is Stuart. Had that highly gifted artist remained in England, amidst the excitements of professional competition, and the stimulating influence of princely patronage, his name might have deservedly ranked amongst the first of his profession. Whereas, in this country, he was placed beyond the reach of rivalry, and consequently had but little motive to exertion; although he was constantly painting, yet not having that kind of encouragement, which, while it keeps the pencil employed, gives vigour and animation to talent, it is not surprising if his fame does not rest upon as broad a basis as it deserves. He was not even permitted to display his powers in the higher walks of portrait. We have never heard of a whole length painted by him in America, except those he executed of Washington. And the artist, of whom his country might have been as proud as Antwerp is of her Rubens, or England of her Reynolds, will, perhaps, be only known to posterity, as the cotemporary painter of our first President, and as identified with his likeness.
But Mr. Stuart was emphatically a Republican, and lived at a period when the sacrifice of private feeling and interest for the love of country was not a rare occurrence; and if he risked his fame and his fortune through so generous a motive, posterity will make up in respect for his patriotism, whatever may be wanting in admiration of his genius.
This digression will be pardoned, if it leads us to the observation that Mr. Stuart must, in the course of his professional life, have observed a great improvement in public taste. Indeed nothing could have been more adverse to the arts than the condition of this couutry at the close of the Revolution. To have thought, at that time, of any other than those of primary and indispensable utility, would have been absurd and unavailing. It was, therefore, the early and obvious interest of the American people to apply themselves to necessary and useful pursuits. Their devotion to these was exclusive, and marked with all the characteristics of enterprize and perseverance. The best patrons of the mechanic arts are the wants of society. From these they derive a patent that secures to them unfailing
The liberal arts are not so fortunate—they are destined to a severe probation. The endowments of genius must be left to languish until a way is prepared for them hy education and the more substantial accommodations of wealth-until taste and morals unite their humanizing influence, and society can look for support beyond the exertions of the passing day. They then appeal for encouragement, not only to individual taste, but to national pride. And wo to the community which in its prosperity rejects their appeal, and prefers the gross allurements of luxury and extravagance to the pure and elevated enjoyments they proffer to her embrace.
The first public effort of the arts in America was Mr. Peale's Gallery of Portraits, which has attracted a notice fully equal to its praise-worthy design. Without passing in review this venerable line of patriots and heroes, we confess our wish to see it displayed in one of the apartments of the capitol. We dare say it has not less merit than the portraits of Miltiades and his compatriots, which the Athenians placed in the Pæcile. Although this country has advanced very rapidly since the period above referred to, it is not yet able to divide its attention sufficiently between the accommodations and the luxuries of life to afford much encouragement to the fine arts. The original impulse still leads the people to estimate things chiefly by the standard of usefulness, and will, in all probability, continue to characterize them when the necessity for it no longer exists. But notwithstanding the force of this American habit, several of our cities have contended very successfully against it, and in some instances with an ardour that has been even premature. Embellishment was the first fruits of their prosperity, and they are rapidly disenthralling themselves from the heavy maledictions shed upon the land, not only by the genius of architecture, as Mr. Jefferson says, but of many other of the liberal arts. That venerable philosopher contributed to rescue his native state in a great measure from its share of the reproach. Instead of the “mis-shapen piles" of which he had complained, he lived to behold amidst the mountains of Albemarle, edifices of Italian marble and Italian workmanship-chaste in their proportions, and above all, dedicated to the improvement of the rising generation, and to the perpetuation of the taste that had reared them. He also lived to see the capitol of the nation towering over the banks of the Potomac in all the “pride, pomp and circumstance of glorious" architecture.
If the institutions formed by our cities for the promotion of the arts, have not been attended with complete success, it must be flattering to their pride to reflect, that the means of the country, however amply developed, have not kept even pace with the progress of taste. In this respect, its improvement has been wonderful. Our countrymen are very generally acquainted with the history of art-many of them are familiar with its original productions, both ancient and modern; they have formed their judgments upon the same models with the virtuosi of Europe. We may not, it is true, boast of pictures worthy of the Vatican, but we possess some that would do credit to many less celebrated, though first-rate collections. In our academy rooms are to be found perfect casts of all the celebrated statues, which, although divested of the associations that accompany the originals, are not less useful for the purposes of the student and amateur. Engravings have made us acquainted with the particular merits of the different schools of painting in composition, in design, character, drawing and effect, and indeed, with all their excellences except colouring. How far the taste of the country has outstripped the ability of its own artists (and this we are by no means disposed to underrate) is exemplified in the statues of Washington, by Canova and Chantry, and the portrait of Mr. West by Sir Thomas Lawrence, with nothing short of whose excellence could it be satisfied.
The exhibitions of our academies, enriched by the contributions of individuals, bring to light many treasures that would be otherwise comparatively hidden. They awaken an interest in the arts which their periodical repetition serves to renew and keep alive. The good effects of these institutions are exemplified in the increasing number of artists, and their general improvement. Talent is not narrowed down now as formerly, to the single walk of portrait. It looks for patronage to a higher motive than mere vanity and self-love. It looks to a cultivated and liberal taste, which can find in landscape, in history, and in the other branches of the art, charms that it delights to contemplate and cherish. Hence the emoluments of the artist are enhanced. A spirit of fraternity unites him with other artists, and they regard the advancement of the profession as a com
We have always thought it a circumstance unfavourable to the arts, and calculated to retard their progress in America, that we have not a common theatre, upon which the talents of our painters can be brought into immediate and direct competition. In this respect, the advantage of a metropolis would be incalculable. Without a Paris or a London, we are afraid we can never have a Louvre or a Somerset-house.
Excellence in every pursuit is rare; and chiefly so in this most difficult of all arts. It grows from the collisions of personal emulation, and the collected efforts of individual genius and enterprize. Without a common arena, where generous competitors may enter the lists, and challenge each other to the
glorious tilt, we are afraid that there will be but few escutcheons for fame to emblazon. Accordingly, great masters, not only in the art but in each several department of it, have
generally sprung up and flourished together : as in landscape painting was the case with Claude Lorraine, Gaspar Poussin, and Salvator Rosa. This phenomenon has been pointed out by Velleius Paterculus, who thinks it worthy of a separate dissertation in the midst of his Roman History. Afier shewing that all the comic poets flourished about the age of the Scipios, that all the orators were clustered together in a similar constellation around the era of Cicero, he extends the remark to all the other departments of genius. He concludes by sayiog, that he can discover no reason for this phenomenon that is altogether satisfactory, although there are some which seem to him to be not unplausible, and with which he accordingly favours his readers.*
It ought not, therefore, to awaken the alarm or excite the jealousy of any one of our scattered communities, if another, in its zeal for the advancement of the arts, should establish an academy and call it national. This is merely a name, and any style assumed by the members and associates of such an institution, would be altogether innocent and harmless. Would that it were as practicable in reality as it is nominally. If it were so, we would rejoice in its success wheresoever established. In this behalf at least, we are heretic enough to surrender our claims to state rights, and to wish that a grand system of internal improvement could be adopted, by which all the talent of the country might find a high road to its just reward.
Entertaining these views, we have read with lively interest the pamphlet whose title is prefixed to this article. It is an unpretending, but sensible and conclusive vindication of certain opinions expressed by its author in relation to an institution recently established in New York, of which he is the President. Although it is written in reply to a review of those opinions which had appeared in a cotemporary journal, we do not wish to regard it in its controversial character, nor to decide upon the points at issue. It is enough for us that Mr. Morse's pamphlet relates to the fine arts, of one of which, being himself an able professor, in a distinguished situation, he is to be presumed not to have written unknowingly nor incautiously-we do not venture to call in question the soundness of his opinions. If disposed to do so, it would be well for us to remember the reply of
Hujus ergo recedentis in suum seculum ingeniorum similitudinis, congregantisque semet in studium par et emolumentum, causas cum semper requiro, nunquam reperio, &c.--Hist. Rom. I. i. 16. VOL. IV,_NO. 7.