• MR. HAYDON'S PETITION IN BEHALF OF HIGH ART.
Is compliance with the request of Mr. HAYDON, we lay before our readers a copy of a petition from that eminent but unfortu- nate artist, which was presented to the House of Commons last week by the Honourable GEORGE AGAR ELLIS. It is dated from an appropriate place for the pursuit of historical painting— namely, the King's Bench Prison. We conceive it to be a docu- ment worthy the attention of the Government as well as the patrons of art. There is nothing in it egotistical or impertinent ; but it is, on the contrary, a concise and moderate, as well as an earnest appeal in support of the claims of historical painting to national encouragement. It is an indubitable and undisputed fact, that no painter ever did or can earn a decent livelihood by painting historical pictures, without either kingly or national patron- age ; and it is also too true, that without patronage the art must become a handicraft, and the artist an artisan or jobber. The English school of art is every year less and less elevated in the objects of its imitation and its manner of imitating them ; and must, at this rate, speedily fall to the level of the Dutch school. If we make any pretensions as a nation to fame in the fine arts, it is assuredly one of the objects of a liberal government to support and extend that celebrity. The ornaments of peace are not of less value or importance in their way than the arts of war. The
Catholic religion perhaps had, in Italy, a lamer share than. i
the Government n promoting the encouragement of historical painting : but when WEST was patronized by GEORGE the Third, a feeling was kept alive for this the highest branch of art, which could have been excited in a Protestant country by no other means. If the Government were to offer annual premiums for the best Historical Picture, to be placed either in the National Gal- lery or in our public buildings, the art would be much more ad- vanced than by the purchase of old pictures, which ought to be accumulated only by the munificence of private individuals. To purchase specimens of the old masters, is to benefit the picture- dealers at the expense of the country ; witness the PARMEGIANO at the British Institution. There are two ways of promoting art, —the one by encouraging artists, in giving them commissions, which shall excite their emulation ; the other by placing before them for study the chefs ctceuvres of the great masters. Let the Government do its part by the former, and the Royal Academy at- tend to its duties by the latter mode. As far as regards the culti- vation of the public taste and the upholding of the glory of the nation in this respect, a collection of fine paintings by our own coun- trymen would surely be a more legitimate boast and source of pride, than the possession of what any nation may acquire by force of money. But we detain the reader too long from Mr. HAYDON'S petition. It SIIOWETH—That it is now fourteen years since your Honourable House, in the Report on the Elgin Marbles, recommended to the attention of the Government the great distinction to which so small a state as Attica had risen, principally by the public encouragement bestowed by the authorities on Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture. That, in every country where the arts have risen to eminence, the private patronage of the opulent, and the public patronage of the Government, have gone hand in hand. That in England the arts have risen to their present excellence by private pa. tronage alone. That in every branch of art which depends solely on pri- vate support, the greatest excellence has been the result ; and the British artist at present, in those branches, stands unrivalled in the world : but that, in that important department, Historical Painting (to advance which effectually, a monarch or a government alone are able), there is still the same want of support or established system of reward, though the Royal Academy has been founded sixty-two years, and the British Gallery twenty-five. That though your Honourable House has mast generously afforded the student the most distinguished examples for the improve- ment of his taste, in the purchase of the Elgin Marbles and Ans''erstein Pictures, yet the attempt of any British artist to approach, how- ever humbly, the great works amongst those splendid productions, is as much an effort of uncertain speculation and probable ruin as before they were purchased—for no other reason, but from a want of a system of public encouragement, by an annual vote of money, as in France, Ger- many, Netherlands, Prussia., Russia, Sweden, Denmark, and Spain. That, in the late foundation of two Universities in this metropolis, no provision was made for cultivating the taste in art of the student; while in France, on the very first plan for establishing a Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, in imitation of one founded in London, the Fine Arts were at once placed with Literature and Philosophy; thus affording a most remarkable evidence of the relative estimation of art in the two greatest .nations of the world. That your petitioner presumes to think this proceeded not from superiority of taste, but from the superior im- portance given to the arts in consequence of an annual sum bestowed by the Government for their 'cultivation, thereby raising their dignity in the opinion of all classes. That, from his own personal experience, your petitioner is entitled to say, that no moderate vote of money would be more popular, with the educated middle classes, than such a vote for such purposes. That your petitioner is even ready with a plan or plans for such a system of reward ; and respectfully and humbly begs to assure your Honourable House, that, till the English historical painter is placed on a level with the portrait painter—till he is saved from the struggles of poverty, and degradation and imprisonment are not permitted to be the conclusion of a life of arduous labour and indefatigable anxiety—till, in fact, the Honourable the House of Commons, or the Government, cease to think his wants not worthy of national consideration—the arts of Bri- tain, however high and however perfect may be the productions of a domestic nature, will never rank with Italy or Greece, and this glorious country never by foreign nations be estimated as capable of producing painters who will take their station by the side of the poets, the philoso- phers, the statesmen, or the heroes which she has so prolifically pro- duced. And your petitioner humbly trusts your Honourable House will, at no very distant period, take this beautiful department of art under your protection ; and, in your wisdom, devise such means for its reward as to your Honourable House may seem fit. And your petitioner will ever pray. B. R. HAYDON. King's Bench Prison, June 2, 1830,