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Salvator Rosa to one who pretended to dictate to him on the subject of his art, “I am a painter, and not you ;" which, whether that distinguished artist, in the variety of his acquirements, had or not a knowledge of the law, is a liberal but striking version of the legal maxim, “Cuilibet in sua arte,” &c. Giving to our author, therefore, the full advantage of its application, we merely look to the leading motive of the publication as expressed by bimself. " At a time when these arts are beginning to attract the public attention, every discussion which has for its object the extension of correct opinions respecting them, must be of public interest.'
But it is not enough that this public interest should be awakened, and these correct opinions disseminated. Much remains to be done in order to secure to young artists, a thorough academic preparation. The various accomplishments required to make a painter master of his art, as necessarily depend on a regular elementary education, as the attainments of the scholar upon the studies of the grammar school and the college. We speak of it here in its highest and most intellectual character, such as it exhibited itself in the productions of Da Vinci, Raphael, and Michael Angelo. But the principle, under suitable modification, applies to every province and department of the arts. « It is as requisite in its degree to the painter of miniature, as to the painter of history. The very few privileged geniuses, in the full developement of whose powers care and cultivation bave no part, are to be regarded as prodigies and laid out of the account in every scheme of preparatory discipline. Let a painter, for instance, fully aware of the scope of his art, and the moral uses to which it may be applied, be anxious to represent some striking trait of heroism, charity, piety, or other ennobling virtue. History supplies him with onehis imagination pourtrays it—but for want of a ready hand,
“Une main prompte a suivre le beau feu qui la guide," he is unequal to the task of embodying it on the canvass. The idea is either feebly expressed, or vanishes at the point of his pencil. Of his contrast between able conception and tame execution, we have had occasion to observe many instances in the works of living artists. However indispensable talent may be, painting, after all, is an art; and the very term implies systematic and progressive labour.
“Mente diu versata, manu celeranda repenti
The establishment of Mr. Morse's academy shews that the artists of the country are becoming sensible of their deficiency, and are willing to remedy it. This school embraces a system of instruction in the different branches of study connected with the arts of design, such as drawing, perspective, anatomy, painting, history and architecture. In this respect it differs materially from those institutions whose object is the general improvement of public taste by the exhibition of pictures and casts. They are called academies, but are not so in fact, having neither professors nor teachers, nor any plan of instruction for young artists. They are supported chiefly by persons not connected with the profession, but united by a liberal attachment to its interests. The benefit intended by them results incidentally to the artist, in proportion as their object is more or less promoted. The gentlemen who originate and maintain such institutions, have a right to govern them even to the exclusion of professional artists, who ought not on that account to be less interested in their success.
As this association, 'ycleped the “National Academy,” is “a school for students in the arts,” Mr. Morse contends, that after the manner of similar institutions in Europe, it ought to be entirely under the government of artists. We think so decidedly. We are at a loss to conceive under what management it could be placed, more in keeping with its character and design, and better calculated to give effect to its professed objects. Who are better judges of the immediate interests of a profession than they who practise it? Who more able to instruct than they who are skilled in it? He claims for his brethren, in this instance, the common privilege (and nothing more) of regulating their own concerns, and deprecates the idea of introducing into their professional ineetings persons not of their vocation, for the purpose, as it is said, of harmonizing their discordant tempers, and preventing dissensions among them. The disputes of artists (and there are occasional collisions in all professions) proceed rather from sensitiveness than malignity. Their jealousies are generally confined to their own halls, and disturb neither the tranquillity nor the interests of society. But it is not for us to indulge in a graver strain than our author, whose words on this subject, we here quote.
" If artists are such a quarrelsome, jealous class of men, as many would persuade us, so much so as to need umpires and protectors against each other's violence, I fear, that not many gentlemen would spare the time from their own professions, necessary to hear and adjudge all the cases of grievance that must come before them. Moreover, as such an experiment has never been made, we should be loth to de
viate from a tried model, until we had some ground for belief that so novel a measure would produce the good effect intended."
With this difficulty, therefore, in the way, and it appears to be one of no trifling importance, we are afraid that the poor artists must, after all, be left to their own feuds and family-jars—and
“The injuries that they themselves produce
Must be their schoolmasters." We add another paragraph from Mr. Morse's pamphlet, in which he adverts to a danger, supposed to beset all schools, of falling into a system of errors and deviations from general nature.
"The plan of our Academy, formed, as it is, on the English model, renders any such fears groundless. Whatever danger from this cause might be apprehended from any ill-managed Academies on the continent of Europe, the objection does not lie against the Royal Academy of London. The English school is not the school of Reynolds, or West, or Lawrence, or any other painter; it is a school pre-eminently diversified in talent and styles ; and it may, perhaps, be attributed to that more perfect exemption from foreign interference, which in some respects distinguishes it from the continental Academies, that English art is so replete with various beauty. Is it not most reasonable to suppose, that the styles of the different artists, which are annually assembled in one exhibition, and submitted to popular judgment, should rather produce a diversity of styles, according to the diversity of popular tastes, than foster the errors of any single master? But the error of manner does not lie with Academies. Popular and distinguished artists, have always had, and ever will have, their imitators, whether connected with Academies or not."
From the example of the English painters, we are encouraged to hope that the introduction of a system of errors will not be the necessary consequence of establishing a school of painting in this country. We have never heard of any errors common to Romney, Hopner, and Sir Thomas Lawrence-the three great portrait painters of the British school-nor of any mannerism peculiar to Fuseli, Stothard and Opie.
Never having seen the original discourse of Mr. Morse, we have lost the benefit of his arguments in relation to the purchase of old pictures. But we doubt whether it is become so great an evil as to be treated seriously. The emigration of these ancient and venerable strangers shews how rapidly art is peopling the habitations of men in other countries. Forced, in their old age, from the land of their nativity, and torn from those walls, of which their youth had been the pride and the ornament, how could we be so uncharitable as to refuse a shelter to those time
worn exiles. We are taught that hospitality is sometimes unconsciously rewarded in the visits of angels. Now, may we not perchance receive into our mansions, amidst a promiscuous throng of pretenders and impostors, some of those distinguished ornaments of departed days that have been deposed from their “high estate” by the chances of war and revolution, and entertain the former ivmates of palaces, and the companions and witnesses of the revelry and splendour of courts--guests, that in spite of their years and decay, might still serve as models of the characteristic graces of the good old schools to which they belonged ? Besides, ought it not to be a matter of triumph to us to find the genuine Claudes and Salvators, the Carlo Dolces and Correggios hung up in picture shops to tempt the purses of our Conoscenti, so far surpassed by our own modern cis-atlantic painters? We have seen many a Poussin and Wouvermans, with their brilliant skies, their mountains and rocks and waterfalls, and shepherds and shepherd's dogs, fading before the superior but unpretending beauties of a Doughty and a Cole. And we are very certain from such specimens of Sir Godfrey and Sir Peter, as have been offered to us, that our own Sully, under stars less propitious, is far more worthy of the patronage of kings. We ought to remember also, that taste is various and arbitrary. Some connoisseurs prefer old pictures as they do old wine, for having so long resisted the common destroyer, and reverence the very dust that covers the venerable objects of their devotion. Now, if the zeal of these antiquaries should betray them even into open and downright idolatry, it would surely be cruel to restrain the freedom of their conscience, or deprive them of their gods.
The truth is, that a really good picture however fresh from the hands of the artist, has as little to fear from these faded and smoky relics as a beautiful girl, in all the bloom of sixteen, has to dread from the simpers and affectations of a rival in her eighth lustre. One thing is very certain, which is, that the remedy is not in argument. The learned artist may denounce, in the strongest language, the pernicious and vitiating influence of old pictures upon public taste; but he cannot prevent the cargoes of trash that are daily consigned to our dealers. They come for a market, and will find one. The remedy is in the pencil, and in the superior claims of its productions. And we are happy to think that our ingenious author has it in his power to contribute so effectually to the application of this remedy. To suit our language to the cant of the day, let us adopt the American system, and drive out of the market these foreign importations by substituting for them our own manufactures. In establishing the
National Academy of Design, Mr. Morse has taken the most effectual means of improving the young artists of the country. After having initiated them into the principles of the profession, and enlarged their minds with the collateral studies necessary for its suocessful practice, let him impress upon them that the art, in its fullest extent, is but a means, whose end is character and expression in the representation of nature.
While the example of his own manners convinces them how naturally the characters of the painter and the gentleman barmonize, and while he qualifies his students to cultivate the future interests of their profession in a spirit of fraternity and mutual concession and respect, we hope that their solid acquirements, aided by the daily improving taste of the country, will enable them to triumph even over their gigantic enemy—“Old Pictures."
ART. IV.-1. A Tour in Germany, and some of the Southern
Provinces of the Austrian Empire, in the years 1820–18211822. By John Russell. Edinburgh. Boston, reprinted, 1825.
2. Travels in the North of Germany, in the years 1825–1826. By
HENRY E. DWIGHT. New-York. G. & C. and H. Carvill, 1829.
As nothing is so important to society, especially in free countries, as the education of its members, we shall never make any apology for devoting some of our pages to this topic. Indeed we rejoice to believe that the feelings of our fellow-citizens, in accordance with the spirit of the age, will uphold our efforts ; that on this great subject a general interest is excited among them, however inadequate to the wants of the country may, as yet, have been their exertions, or however thwarted by the state of our society, or by circumstances arising from our peculiar position. In the fields of literature, we have been but humble gleaners. In the instruction of our children, our preparations have hitherto been confined to that which seemed absolutely necessary. All that is elevated and commanding in letters, and nearly all that is useful in science, we have left to other nations