« PreviousContinue »
geon's Hall of this city. Aikman, the try, if the exertions of our artists were friend of Ramsay the poet, produced left to their natural bias. Many cirthe very excellent portrait of Princi- cumstances, it is true, contribute to pal Carstairs, which may still be seen produce and to modify the genius of in the Library Hall of the University a people; but there is a strong preof Edinburgh, and several other indi- vsumption, I appreliend, from the roviduals of eminence in their day con- mantic character of the sænery of this tributed to furnish those bearded country, the peculiar naïveté of our countenances, or those majestic mon- national character, and our decided sters in robes or gowns, by which the tendency to catch what is striking and walls of our ancient and public edi- picturesque, either in the appearances fices are so profusely covered. It of nature, or in the aspects of characought to be remarked, however, that ter,-a tendency so unequivocally dissome native painters occasionally ap- played in the idiom of our language peared, who ventured to indulge in a that the genius of our artists would bolder style, and whose productions naturally display itself with the hapbear the stamp of that progressive im- piest effect, either in depicting the provement which every country in more romantic scenery of nature, or in Europe very rapidly underwent dur- expressing those peculiarities of our ing the last century. The taste and national manners which power of Runciman are sufficiently many fine subjects for its exhibidisplayed by his great work in the Hall lion. It is notorious, accordingly, of Ossian at Pennycuick House, and by that in both these departments the his excellent picture of the Ascension, natives of this country hold, at this which still appears over the altar of one moment, a very high rank; and that, of the Episcopal chapels of this city. while Nasmyth and Williams, in lands As society advanced, the art of land- scape painting, may vie with the most scape painting, and all that infinite approved artists among our southern variety of the productions of the pen- neighbours, the compositions of Wilcil, in which the genius of the artist kie and Allan, as delineations of must furnish his subject, gradually character, have outstripped the exerattained a state of comparative excel- tions of all other coinpetitors, in the tence; and several works of consider- captivating style appropriated to such able merit, in both these departments, productions. may still be found either in the col- Your readers will perceive, therelections of the curious, or among the fore, from what I have now said, that, hereditary treasures of our older fa- though I consider the genius of our milies. Norrie was a landscape paint- countrymen, in the art of painting, er of some eminence in this city about never yet to have been so propitiously the middle of the last century. Moore, situated as decidedly to display its nawho flourished somewhat later, has tive partialities, I am disposed to bebeen regarded as the best landscape lieve, not only from analogical reasonpainter of his day; and, since his ings, but from facts universally actime, every branch of the art has been knowledged, that the department of advancing with a rapidity, though not this art, which may be regarded as esperhaps proportioned to the high cha- pecially suited to the character of our racter of the country in other respects, minds, is that which is conversant eiyet sufficient to shew what might be ther with what is magnificent in naexpected from the abilities of our art- ture, or interesting and peculiar in ists, if their exertions were aided by national character, and that, as the every advantage of circumstances. poetical compositions of Ramsay and
From this review, however, it must Burns are pre-eminently entitled to be apparent that the genius of this the character of Scottish, not merely country, for the arts of design, has because they are occupied with nanever been placed in such circum- tional peculiarities, and delivered in stances as completely to develope its the characteristic language of the counnative tendency; and that we are not try, but from their being exact specientitled, from those productions of the mens of that tone of thinking and feelpencil, which are still exhibited as the ing which is most congenial to our nachef-d'æuvres of our predecessors, to tural temperament—that artist also decide respecting the character which may be regardled as peculiarly the re-. painting would assume in this coun- presentative of the genius of our people
who exhibits, with the happiest and supported by private contribations, it most characteristic effect, either the was intended chiefly for those who picturesque featuresof national scenery, had already acquired a taste for the or the grotesque peculiarities of na- refinements of art, and was meant to tional manners.
support and perfect this taste among From about the middle of the last the better educated of the inhabitants century, till the present times,-a pe- of Scotland. Another attempt was riod during which the advances of this made in 1797, which likewise failed; country towards refinement have been and, lastly, a public exhibition of the quite unexampled, -many unsuccess- productions of our artists was opened ful attempts have been made to esta- in the year 1808, with the most problish in Scotland, and particularly in mising appearances of success, but ulthis city, such a general combination timately shared the fate of all precedof the productions of its artists, as ing attempts, partly, as it is underinight have the effect both of fostering stood, from some misunderstanding &the talent which is latent in the coun- mong the artists themselves, and parttry, and of diffusing a more decided ly from the want of due encouragetaste for what is excellent in art. The ment on the part of the public. Of first of these attempts was made in this last institution, however, the methe year 1753, by Robert and Andrew rits of which must still be fresh in the Fowlis, the celebrated printers. These recollection of many of your readers, accomplished individuals, having pre- and which may be regarded, indeed, viously given much reputation to as the only general display of the Glasgow by the unrivalled elegance powers of our artists that has yet been of their style of printing, were natu- made, it is but justice to affirm, that, rally desirous that in other branches during the first years of its existence, of art that city should support the it was supported with an ability and high character it had acquired in one spirit, from which every friend of department. The academy which painting anticipated the most benefithey instituted with this view, con- cial results, and that, although it ne tinued to exist for somewhat more cessarily suffered a diminution of than twenty years, and, though it was brilliancy from the retirernent of some at last found to be too great a scheme of the leading artists during subseto be maintained principally by pri- quent years, it had altogether a most vate individuals, and fell accordingly important effect upon the taste of the into utter extinction, it is yet well country, and contributed to diffuse, known that this atteinpt was produc- throughout every class of the inhabitive of a very beneficial influence upon tants, a very correct feeling, both of the tuste of the community, and that the comparative merits of our native several artists, who have since attain- artists, and of those principles which ed to very considerable eminence, were are universally applicable to the proreared under the auspices of this most ductions of the pencil. patriotic institution.
It seems to me quite evident that About ten years after the decline some establishment similar to those of this establishment, viz. in the year the failure of which I have now been 1786, another unsuccessful attempt to noticing, must exist in every enlightestablish an acadumy of the fine arts ened country, as a centre from which in Edinburgh was made by some art- a knowledge of the principles of art ists who had recently returned from may be generally diffused. Some the Continent of Europe, and who had such establishment, in fact, is necesbeen accustomed to witness the splen- sary to enable the artist to acquire that did institutions which are so numerous feeling of his importance, and that and beneficial in toreign countries. sense of his relation to the other memAt the distance of five years from the bers of the community, which are esperiod of this attempt, viz. in th year sential to a vigorous prosecution of 1791, Mr Alexander Nasmyth made his labours ; because it is evident, a similar fruitiess endeavour to supply that, so long as he works merely for this important detect in the establish- his employers, without possessing an ments of our metropolis. The insti- opportunity of exhibiting his produce tution woich he projected was to have tions, along with those of his most dise been denominated the Gallery of Art, tinguished compatriots, to the notice and, as it was designed to have been of the public, he exists but as a hidden member of the community around finer productions of art will be found him, as a being whose operations are to generate, more powerfully perhaps confined to the seclusion of his study, than any other cause, in the minds with little relation either to similar even of the lowest and least instructed individuals, or to the interests of the of mankind. commonwealth to which he belongs. The time, in fact, seems now to It is obviously under a very differ- have arrived, when the existence of ent aspect that the artist views him- some such institution cannot long be self, when his solitary labours are in- dispensed with. Scotland, during the tended to augment the treasures of last fifty years, has been advancing his country, and are destined to be with unexampled ardour in the path brought into public competition with of improvement. In science and in the productions of other masters. arms she has already obtained the Every feeling, both of private interest most brilliant trophies; and the only and of public spirit is then awakened wreath which is yet wanting to her in all its activity; and, while the pro- glory is that which is reserved for the ductions of the artist acquire a new “ Mistress of Arts." The natives of dignity in his estimation, from their this country have also displayed unes relation to the most valuable riches of quivocal talents for this species of exthe community, he is excited to ex- cellence. Their public exhibitions pend upon them all the powers of his have been considered, by, very compegenius at once, by the recollection of tent judges, as not inferior, on their the able rivals that surround him, limited scale, to any other within the and of the impartial examination to British dominions. A crowd of acwhich his works must be subjected. complished individuals are now colIt is also obvious, that it is only by lected within this city, whose taste bringing his own productions into and genius in every variety of style comparison with those of other indi- are universally admitted. Many of viduals, that the artist can acquire that the most celebrated artists in the cacorrect feeling of the comparative me pital of the empire are natives of this rits of different styles, which is ne- country; and the same impression of cessary to regulate his attempts at im- their superior talents, which Scotchprovement. The finest genius, un- men have conveyed to our southern less guided and corrected by an ex- neighbours in so many other departe tensive observation of contemporary ments of manly accomplishment, productions, will necessarily be sub- continues to be maintained by the ject to many irregularities and defects; style of their productions in this fine and no individual can be expected to branch of liberal pursuit. To the arrive at much excellence in his pro- artists themselves, then, of this city, fession who is not in the daily habit I should be disposed most respectfully of comparing his efforts with those of to say, Let every feeling of jealousy an extensive circle of ardent rivals, or of private misunderstanding, which whose separate merits he may gra- may hitherto have prevented the sucdually appropriate, and whose pecu- cess of your endeavours to establish liar defects he may make it his ob- for your country a repository of art, ject to avoid. Such an establishment be now resigned at the prospect of seems to be necessary, in the last that mighty good which your steady place, for diffusing a taste for what is co-operation is sure to produce. Aselegant over the great mass of the in- sume, as a body, that prominent place habitants of a country. A people who in the eyes of your countrymen which have no opportunity of examining your undeniable merits entitle you to those productions on which the mas- hold; and remember, that, by thus ters of art around them have been conducting yourselves, you are employed, will necessarily remain in chieving a great work, not merely for pitiable ignorance of all the first prin- your private interest, but for the imciples that are applicable to such sub-provement of your country. And the jects, and, what is decidedly a matter inhabitants of this metropolis, who of far deeper regret, will be deprived may be supposed to exercise a paraof all that high feeling of the capabi- mount influence over the taste of their lities of their nature, and of all those neighbours, I would also earnestly exmeliorating influences upon the tem- hort to co-operate with ardour in the per and habits, which the sight of the same patriotic design ; to patronize,
as far as their abilities extend, exer- sal study, and when the greatest dane tions which are intended for the gene- ger to which knowledge is exposed, ral advantage ; and, in particular, to may be derived from the very superabstain, by hasty observations, from abundance and fearlessness of its cul. casting a slur upon the productions of tivators. But the arts require to be a body of men who may be supposed fostered and supported by all the care peculiarly sensible to the attacks of that is appropriated to productions criticism, and who are exerting them- which are reared with difficulty, and selves for the accomplishment of a easily injured ; and though it is nei. great national object.
ther possible nor desirable completely I make this last observation with to repress the exertions of criticism, it the greater earnestness, because I have ought never to be forgotten that the long regarded the spirit of criticism, incision which may be both necessary which is at present characteristic of and expedient for removing the luxthe inhabitants of this metropolis, as uriancies of an overgrown tree, mayinpresenting a subject of very curious jure the vital energy of a sapling, and speculation. All the world are aware if continued to be inflicted with an what an unexampled tone of decision unsparing hand, may eventually exthis spirit has assumed on the great pose the land to all the horrors of nasubjects of literature and science. kedness. For a long period, too, the stage in It is with much pleasure that I this metropolis has been guarded
from have lately seen the artists of this the intrusion of any audacious novel- city assiduously employed in the study ties, by an unfailing exertion of those of those masterpieces of Grecian art damnatory powers which the lieges which, during the last two thousand have reserved entire to themselves; years, have commanded the universal and there is reason to believe, that the admiration of mankind, and which failure of so many attempts to esta- have now been propagated by means blish a repository of the fine arts in of casts over most of the enlightened this city may, in some degree, be at- capitals of Europe. Copies of several tributed to the same cause. I will of the most remarkable of these not, at present, endeavour to account sculptures had been transmitted to for so remarkable a propensity in the this metropolis as materials of study natives of this country. They, of to the youths who are educated in the course, will naturally attribute it to academy of this place ; and the very their superior discernment, and better handsome manner in which these mos education, and those who have smart- dels were laid open to the artists by ed under the lash of their chastise- the eminent individuals who patroment, will as willingly attribute it to nize the academy, demand the grativery different causes. But an impar- tude and thanks of the community. tial observer will probably suggest, It is interesting, at the same time, to that both these conclusions might be observe the effect which the first very advantageously modified, and sight of these celebrated statues apthat mixed considerations, as in all pears to have upon the minds even of human concerns, are more probably the best judges. The severe and unthe efficients than either superior adorned simplicity of Grecian taste is taste or absolute folly. What I wish, not readily appreciated by those who however, at present more especially have been accustomed to that more to remark is, that a very delicate re- vague expression which characterizes gard to circumstances is at all times the works of all modern artists; and necessary, in order to render criticism it is not till repeated study has dissubservient to its only legitimate pur- covered the animated but correct pose ;--and that there is a vast differ- qualities of the productions of Greece, ence between the state of literature, that Taste resumesits native simplicity, as it now exists in most of the counc and Admiration joins that shout of actries of Europe, and the situation at- clamation which these wonderful motained by the fine arts in some of the numents have so long commanded. most enlightened of the European Much will unquestionably be done for commonwealths. A very powerful the perfection of art by the general hand may be necessary for repressing study of these celebrated works. The the tendency to hasty composition in very enthusiasm which the artist must an age when literature is an univere necessarily feel while employed in
AND EDUCATION OF CHILDREN IN
copying after the masters of Greece, lightened strangers by whom this meand while contemplating those models tropolis is visited. I have not venwhich have so uniformly been admir- tured to propose any plan for this ed, amidst every vicissitude of opin purpose, because I do not profess to nions and tastes, cannot fail to ani- be sufficiently acquainted with all mate him to more successful exer- the circumstances, upon a considerations. A fine opportunity is also af- tion of which such a plan ought forded him, by these models, of ob- to be formed. I cannot doubt, howa serving those correct proportions, and ever, that the country is now prepar. that resolute adherence to the truth ed for such an establishment, and of nature, by which the statues of leaving the manner of producing it to Greece are so remarkably character- the judgment of those who are better ized, and a conviction cannot fail to acquainted with all the requisite conbe produced by the same studies, that siderations, I have only to express a it is in an attentive observation of the hope that this important object will appearances of nature that the artist speedily be accomplished; and that must seek for that perfection in his this city, so celebrated in other reline which it is the necessary object spects, will, at no distant period, vina of his ambition to attain. Amidst dicate, in this particular also, its right all these advantages, however, it to the title so often bestowed upon it, ought never to be forgotten, that of being the “ Athens of the North.” there is radical difference be- I am, Mr Editor, yours, &c. tween the style of the ancients, and
L. that which is most natural to our northern imaginations; and the fola
EXPENCE OF THE BOARD, CLOTHING, lowing profound observation of Madame de Stael, the principle of which it is the object of most of her works to illustrate, ought to be familiar to MR EDITOR, the understanding of every artist, The inclosed Report I think valuaa The ancients, says this accomplished ble and deserving of publication, alwriter, possessed, if we may be allow, though not of a very recent date. ed the expression, a corporeal soul, Some particulars in it are merely loand its emotions were all strong, de- cal, but others are of general interest. cided, and consistent. It is not the It is the only account î have ever met same with the human heart as it is with of the expences of an institution developed in modern times. If, con- for the board, clothing, and education tinues the same author in another of children, exclusively under the passage, if in our days the fine arts management of that respectable Sociewere confined to the simplicity of the ty of Friends commonly called Quaancients, we should never attain that kers, and it may serve in some degree primitive strength which distinguishes as a standard of comparison by which them, and we should lose those inti- the public, or their respective manamate and multiplied ernotions of which gers, may judge of the profusion or our souls are susceptible. Simplicity economy in the conduct of similar inin the arts would, among the mo- stitutions. To serve this purpose efderns, easily degenerate into coldness fectually, it would be necessary to and abstraction, while that of the an- know every thing regarding the obcients was full of life and animation. ject and extent of the institution. I
I have thus rapidly delineated what can only state, that the children in I conceive to have been the progress the Ulster Provincial School were well of the art of painting in this country. clothed, well fed and educated ; and I will not conceal from you, however, that they received instruction in reada that my chief object in making these ing, writing, accounts, needlework, observations has been to draw, if pos- the service of a house and farm, bem sible, the attention of the communi- sides acquiring habits of method, opty, and particularly of the artists, to der, and subordination, qualifying the importance of forming some such them to be excellent servants or ape repository of their productions as may prentices. From this report we see at once be conducive to the progress that all this may be done for the ex« of the arts, and form an object wor- pence of L. 18, 6s. 4d. annually for thy of the attention of the many en- each child; and we may rest assured,