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painters can only, in my judgment, be exercised by a
comparatively small class amongst us—composed of
individuals who possess leisure, opportunities of travel
and of study, aptitude for observation and comparison,
and a natural disposition to derive enjoyment from the
contemplation of objects of art. On them the duty
rests of upholding the eternal principles on which true
art is based. English amateurs—from Royalty
downwards to the merchant—have always fostered
the arts; not alone encouraging living artists, but
coming forward, with alacrity, to possess themselves
of really valuable specimens of bygone times, when
offered, at intervals, in the market. And the English
Government also displays unremitting zeal in the
acquisition of works calculated to encourage the
public to interest themselves in the higher excellences
of painting. It would be matter of real gratification
to feel that these could be exemplified in the perform-
ances of modern professors. Let us hope that such
will be forthcoming at no distant day.
The very narrow space into which it has been
requisite to compress this sketch, precludes the
addition of farther remarks suggested by the actual
condition of art, and the influence of opinion bearing
upon it in this country. I must content myself with
saying that if, indeed, “the many,” now form the bulk
of the purchasing class, and bestow the widest fame
upon professors of art, it may safely be added that
never were “the many” so well served as now. For
every variety of taste, a painter brings the supply;
(often, indeed, creating it;) yet the teeming abundance
of artistic talent—diffusing itself, as it does, along
countless channels, and offering meritorious and

attractive works in all styles, seems destined, in some degree, to supplant the cultivation of the noble and elevated type. If each period of history bears its characteristic stamp, surely in none has the impress of contemporary feeling and thought been more discernible than in the art, and I must permit myself to add, the literature of fiction, of our OWI) eT3. It may be fairly presumed, I think, that the important step taken in a high quarter, within these few years, to improve the means of art education among the people, was owing to a perception of the tendencies above indicated. To furnish to the humble youthful student, gratuitously, assistance in forming a taste for the higher attributes of art, and, next, in carrying even into the material products of the country some traces of their refining influence, was, indeed, a project dictated by a discerning comprehension of the value of sound elementary study. The foundation of the South Kensington Museum, due in great part to the Prince Consort's agency, may, it is to be hoped, operate as a counterpoise to the causes which for some considerable period would seem to have modified and, in a measure, vulgarized the character of British Art. That relish for striking effect, both of colour and expression, for exquisitely high-wrought finish, and for melo-dramatic composition, which now pervades the community, may possibly be one day superseded by a preference for loftier qualities in painting. Should such a change arrive, we may safely ascribe much of it to the salutary, the instructive, study of the masterpieces of all kinds and all countries, ancient and modern, which are to be seen in our principal national depositories: accompanied and seconded by the lessons of competent professors under the direction of the managers of the Kensington Museum, working in harmony with the great schools of the Royal Academy.

August, 1861.

[Reprinted from the “Victoria Regia.”]





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