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sensions amongst the artists, which in 1768 led to the foundation under royal patronage of an exclusive Society or Academy,' to the prejudice of two independent societies of their fellow-labourers in artone of them a chartered bodyalready existing, we cannot help referring to the circumstances immediately attending the transaction, more especially as regards the hasty manner in which the preliminaries were got through, and the amount of deliberation bestowed in concocting the plan of its formation-circumstances, as we apprehend, constituting a fair prima facie ground for reconsideration upon the first favourable opportunity. The data we go upon are abstracted from the official report of the first meeting of the Academy, on the 14th of December, 1768, a document which by some strange oversight was not put in, along with many other official statements, by the witnesses on behalf of the Academy examined before the late Royal Commission. From this report it appears that,
Some time toward the latter end of November, 1768, Mr. Chambers waited upon the King, and informed him that many artists of reputation, together with himself, were very desirous of establishing a society that should more effectually promote the arts of design than any yet established; but that they were sensible their design could not be carried into execution without his Majesty's patronage, for which they had prevailed upon him to solicit. His Majesty answered, that whatever tended effectually to promote the liberal arts might always rely upon his patronage; in consequence of which a memorial was drawn up, signed, and presented in form to his Majesty on the 28th of November, 1768, by, &c.
This memorial, we are told, was 'received very graciously' by his Majesty, who desired that their intentions might be more fully explained to him; and that .it might be done in writing as soon as convenient. Accordingly
Mr. Chambers drew up a sketch of a plan, which, having shown to as many of the gentlemen concerned as the shortness of time would permit, and obtained their approval, he presented to his Majesty on the 7th of December, who perused the whole, was graciously pleased to signify his
approbation, and directed that it might be drawn up in form, in order to be signed by him, which Mr. Chambers accordingly did; and on Saturday, the 10th of December, 1768, it was laid before his Majesty, who signified his approbation, and ordered that the plan should be put in execution, signing the instrument with his own hand.
In short, the whole time occupied from the first suggestion of establishing an Academy to the final adoption of the instrument' code of laws regulating its constitution and action was twelve days; and W. Chambers, the architect, was the only responsible agent in getting it up whose name is recorded. There was not even any meeting of the memorialists, or of a committee of their body, to consider 'the sketch of a plan' drawn up by him; nor does it appear that any one had any communication with his Majesty on the subject but himself. Such the haste and secrecy with which this new and important institution was improvised; the circumstances attending which seem to go far to account for the surprise, vexation, and ill-feeling which it occasioned in the breasts of those not included in the advantages of the institution, and whose property in another institution of their own was ultimately destroyed by it; such the transaction which poor Haydon in later times, before a Committee of the House of Commons, denounced as 'a base intrigue.'
Putting out of the question, however, all personal considerations and all personal inducements in the matter, we surely have a right, now that art has become a national requirement and no longer a thing of fashion depending upon royal patronage, to put to ourselves the question whether, if the thing were to be done again, if it were now in view to establish an institution for the promotion and encouragement of the Fine Arts, it should be based precisely, or indeed to any extent, upon the plan thus hastily elaborated in 1768? We may, indeed, almost entertain a doubt whether it was in the contemplation of the royal founder himself that his pet institution should one day assume the extended and, as we submit,
anomalous position which it now presents. In the midst of the general neglect with which the poetic arts were treated in those days, this Academy business was probably taken up by the amiable sovereign as a little elegant hobby, not altogether unattended with expense. Accordingly, by the terms of the 'instrument,' whilst the election of all the other officers of the Academy are only subject to his Majesty's approval, the treasurer is to be directly appointed by the king himself, on the ground that being 'graciously pleased to pay all deficiencies' he 'may have a person in whom he places full confidence in an office where his interest is concerned.' So slight indeed were the ideas of 'shop' which entered into the whole arrangement, that the demand 'of the admission shilling at the doors of the exhibition was excused by Dr. Johnson, in an elaborate preface to the first catalogue, on the mere ground of excluding improper persons;' and the king during the first eleven years of the Academy's existence (1769-80) actually contributed £5116 2s. out of his privy purse in payment of deficiencies. From the latter date the royal munificence' has not been taxed to the extent of a single farthing; whilst the Academy has been in the receipt of a large and steadily-increasing income, placing them in the possession of an accumulated fund of £141,000, besides valuable bequests from Sir F. Chantrey and J. M. W. Turner, in possession or reversion. Yet still the arrangement of 1768 survives; the treasurer of the Academy being appointed by the Queen, who moreover exercises a direct control over the funds of the Academy, as if her 'interest' were indeed still concerned' in them. This is an anomaly which under existing circumstances, the Royal Academy being aided, not from the privy purse but by the nation in the form of free premises to the annual value of more than its whole surplus revenue (to say nothing of other considerations involving the general interests of the profession), becomes intolerably absurd, and would alone
justify an entire revision of the whole question of the constitution and present position of the Royal Academy in relation to the Fine Arts.'
Yet it was upon such a slender tenure as this that during many years, when this subject was warmly debated in parliament, Sir Martin Shee resisted successive attempts to investigate and control the affairs of the Academy, insisting that the King's Academy,' as he was pleased to call it, was 'not a national establishment,' but ' a private institution under the patronage and protection of the king, existing by his will and pleasure, communicating immediately with his Majesty, submitting all its laws and proceedings to his sanction, and responsible only to his Majesty for the manner in which its concerns were administered.'
Of the abortive attempts at reforming and popularizing the institution to which this summary veto was thus put, it is unnecessary to say anything at present, save that they were unfortunate in the champions who came forward in their support; the very idea of such men as Messrs. Hume, Ewart, Wyse, and Co., putting themselves forward as authorities on any question in the remotest degree involving matters of taste, reducing the whole affair to a position of ridicule; whilst the public who then knew little and cared less about art, were content to treat the whole affair with indif ference, as a professional squabble in which they had no concern, and the rights of which they did not care to investigate.
In vain the large body of independent artists, year after year, reiterated their complaints of unjus exclusion and neglect. In vain they insisted that it was unreasonable that the number of academicians should be still restricted to forty, a they were at the first establishmen of the Academy nearly a century ago; artists of merit having in creased in number fifty-fold sinc that period, and art purchasers in still greater proportion. In vai they insisted that it was unjust tha the exclusive advantages should
be engrossed by the minority in the important matter of exhibiting their works, as well as in respect to rank and status in society, and in the resulting favours of patronage. These remonstrances were only received by the unthinking multitude with a smile of incredulity and derision, whilst in high places were found men to fix upon them the stigma of official rebuke. One distinguished veteran statesman publicly pooh-poohed ' them as the vain outpourings of 'a few disappointed artists;' and an illustrious prince, since deceased, descanted upon them with pointed severity in an after-dinner speech which deserves to be ever remembered in the history of art. At the Academy dinner, on May 5, 1851, Prince Albert apostrophized the academicians as 'a select aristocracy of a limited number, and shielded in every further struggle by their well-established reputation, of which the letters "R.A." attached to their names give a pledge to the public;' and proceeded to observe: If this body is often assailed from without, it shares only the fate of every aristocracy; if more than another, this only proves that it is even more difficult to sustain an aristocracy of merit than one of birth and wealth,' &c.
But in spite of this courtly rebuff and this heavy discouragement, the claims of art, and the appreciation of art made way in the public mind, at first by almost invisible steps, till at length it became recognized as a national requirement. The establishment of the National Gallery and the Westminster Hall competitions, followed by the institution of Schools of Design throughout the country, as tending to the admission of the importance of the principles of art and beauty as bearing upon productions of general require ment, gradually led to this result. The questionable tenure by the Royal Academy of part of the premises built for the National Gallery, the inconvenience resulting to the latter from that occupation,and the struggle between the two establishments as to their relative claims for provision of this kind, at length brought about
an unseemly position of affairs which it was impossible longer to overlook. It was under these circumstances that in July, 1862, a motion was made by Lord Elcho in the House of Commons, which led to the appointment of the Royal Commission, whose Report is now under our consideration. The initiative in this movement coming from a noble lord who had for many years been the avowed champion of the 'outsiders,' who had opposed the monopoly of the Academy, and contested their right as a private body to obtrude themselves upon any portion of the public property, induced many to believe that the contemplated object of this Commission was in the widest sense republican, and that the most sweeping measures of reform might be expected as the result. But this expectation was speedily disappointed, and all ground for alarm on the part of the 'aristocracy of merit' removed, by the expressions with which the noble lord introduced his motion. mitting that the existence of the Academy' practically constitued a monopoly as to art,' he added, but on the other hand it would be a Quixotic thing to attempt to establish free trade in art. What they must endeavour to do was to use the Academy for the increased promotion of art.' To this mild programme it is not at all surprising to find Mr. W. Cowper, Chief Commissioner of Works, giving a cheerful adhesion in the name of the aristocratic party, avowing that ‘although the Royal Academy was certainly a free and voluntary association of artists, it was also a responsible public organization, and therefore was liable to the inquiry of a Royal Commission;' adding that the Royal Academy itself would be loth to claim immunity from public inquiry, knowing as they did that they could submit their proceedings to the most searching inquiry without the result being in any way to condemn them.'
In a word, the recusancy so obstinately maintained by Sir Martin Shee was disavowed, upon the understanding that things were to be made pleasant.' Accordingly, in the terms of the royal warrant, Earl
Stanhope, Viscount Hardinge, Lord Elcho, Sir Edmund W. Head, and Messrs. William Stirling, Henry Danby Seymour, and Henry Reeve -being with one or two exceptions men happily unknown in the world of art, and therefore presumably without predilections on the subject-were appointed a Commission
to inquire into the present position of the Royal Academy in relation to the Fine Arts, and into the circumstances and conditions under which it occupies a portion of the National Gallery, and to suggest such measures as may be required to render it more useful in promoting art and in improving and developing public taste.' The last portion of these instructions, it will be remarked, distinctly implies as a foregone conclusion the retention of the Academy as the nucleus of any future system for the cultivation of art in the country; a position against which, in the minds of those who consider the matter on broad and independent principles, there are many and obvious objections. These contend that an institution founded upon a narrow and restricted basis, and private in its character and purposes, cannot well be extended to meet a large public requirement. They contend also that the various functions of the Academy in its threefold capacity as an institution of honours, an educational establishment, and an exhibiting company, are incongruous as between themselves, whilst in their working they are incompatible with the true interests of art and of its professors. These, however, are objections which go to the very gist of the matter, involving the whole question of the status and prospects of art in this country; and would require a careful consideration of the facts of the case to a much greater extent than our present limits will permit of. We must be content therefore with briefly touching upon some of the principal points, blue-book in hand.
With regard to the most prominent feature in the constitution of the Academy, namely the limitation of the number of academicians to forty, we are fain to avow, that looking at it merely as a regulation for
establishing degrees of honour, we consider it of little absolute importance. Titles of distinction are the more highly prized in proportion to their rarity and the difficulty of their attainment. It is not enough to say that there are now two hundred painters as good as any of the original founders of the Royal Academy, to establish a case for increasing the number of academicians to two hundred. To be one of the forty élite of his day is all that a man need aspire to, the honour being of course the greater in proportion to the number of competitors he has surpassed. On the other hand, there might be in addition a scheme of honourable recognition by the award of medals for particular performances; which, however, should be kept wholly distinct from Academic degrees. But in truth no system of degrees or other honours could possibly be devised which should include all who chose to follow the profession; there must always be a polloi of more or less relative pretensions amongst themselves, but still none of sufficient merit to claim public recognition; and the greater number of these persons would naturally be dissatisfied with their position, many of them attributing it to erroneous judgment on the part of the electoral body, to prejudice, jealousy, or other unworthy motives.
All depends, however, upon the sound judgment and impartiality with which these awards of honour are made, considered merely as marks of distinction; and when, as in the case of the Royal Academy for many years past, the highest honours have been conferred upon individuals whose merit, judging by their exhibited performances, is pronounced to be inferior to that of a usual number of the excluded, a ground of complaint is at once established, which public opinion will insist upon investigating. It may possibly be true, as Mr. Cope tells us, that the majority of the members of the Academy are desirous of electing into their body the very best men they can;' but does it follow that they have been so successful in
their choice as to justify the same distinguished R.A.'s modest assertions that 'on the whole the conclusion which one comes to after looking at the names of the distinguished artists who are not members of the Academy, is, that there are very few indeed;' that 'with some very few exceptions there are scarcely any artists of eminence who are not in the Academy?" This is a position pretending to establish positive demerit in all below a certain rank of relative merit; and inevitably challenges speculation as to what may be the special and peculiar excellencies of such men as Messrs. Abraham Cooper, George Jones, Charles Landseer, Solomon Alexander Hart, Francis Grant, and even Mr. Charles West Cope himself, as should place them in immeasurable superiority, individually and collectively, above any other half-dozen labourers in the outer ranks of the profession.
But the Academy has also a second class of so-called 'honours,' so ingeniously contrived, however, as virtually to degrade and humiliate all the aspirants to, and the very recipients of that doubtful distinction. The Associate' system is indeed admitted on all hands to be the crying evil of the Academic establishment. It is worthy of remark also that it was not invented until the year following the original foundation of the Academy, and when apparently there was the less occasion for it, as up to that date, and for two years afterwards, the contemplated number of academicians was not filled, there being only thirty-six able and respectable artists' considered eligible for that position; two of whom, Angelica Kauffman and Mrs. Moser, were women. Yet such men as James Barry, Richard Cosway, Edmund Garvey, and James Northcote were in being at the time; and it was only by submitting to this humiliating probation that they were afterwards admitted to membership. Northcote was bold enough to protest against the indignity, and with difficulty submitted, at the carnest persuasion of Sir Joshua Reynolds. And since his day there
have been many who have raised their voices against the system, but in vain. Mr. John Martin, in his evidence before the Select Committee in 1844, said, 'They (the associates) are in an unfortunate position. I think it is degrading to be situated as they are, for a man who is worthy to be an associate is worthy to be an academician. They must first be associates before they become academicians; so that they must first be degraded before they are exalted; and while they are associates they must be humble to the academicians.' Mr. Clint, before the same Committee, said, 'These two classes (academicians and associates) have a most painful tendency to demoralize each other -one class becomes sycophants, the other despots.' This gentleman spoke feelingly, for he had actually, some ten years previously, thrown up his title as associate, which after sixteen years' endurance he found to be an intolerable burden. And now in our day we find Mr. Roberts, himself an academician, in his evidence before the recent Commission, speak still more forcibly to the same effect:
The rank of associate to the Royal Academy,' he states, 'seems to have been an afterthought, having been added some time after its foundation. How it has worked those who have had the sad experience can best tell. Some are fortunate enough to pass this ordeal within a year or two; others, less so, remain for many years hopelessly looking forward to the rank of academicians, and dying associates.
Within the last few years Andrew Geddes, John Hollins, and Francis Danby died associates, their latter years embittered at their being passed over.' And again of the unhappy probationers he says: Murmur at his hard fate he dare not, but he must appear happy and contented, with sometimes a heavy heart; nay, if it is thus painful to the dependant on the votes of the academicians, what must it be to those who like myself commiserate his sad lot?' Adding
'It is under such a state of things impossible that there can be that