1 MAY 1847, Page 13


IT is proposed to strike a medal in honour of the gallant Spa- niards who so nobly rescued the shipwrecked people of the Tweed; and no sooner is this known than divers artists rush forth with demands for free "competition" in supplying the design. When will artists abandon these low practices to extort patronage, instead of winning it by the powers proper to their art? Competition has been resorted to in cases of public demand for works of art ; but the results of such experiments have not justified the practice. Indeed, on reflection, it will appear that what is termed "com- petition," as contradistinguished from generous rivalry or emula- tion, is only appropriate to matters of trade : official departments cannot handle it well in matters of art. A design is not a Navy contract, that you can pronounce upon its merits by the indis- putable standard of arithmetical figures. Nor will a Government promote art by setting artists to scramble for odd jobs. There is no adequate tribunal for judgment. The taste which forms the judg- ment on art is to a great extent dependent on artists for its develop- ment. If our artists desire to develop the popular taste—of which the official taste must be always the mere representative and agent—they must be more free with their work ; more exalted in their generosity, their self-reliance, and their ambition for art at large ; more humble in their individual pretensions, less grasp- ing at pelf, less self-seeking. There are a thousand channels. Meanwhile, Governments should extend their patronage justly to recognized and established merit ; their rewards should not be bestowed for the odd job, or debased to the condition of mere pre- carious wages. In the particular instance, we do not know that the Government could obey the proper mode more safely or liter- ally than in continuing to employ Mr. Wyon, the artist who has rescued our coinage from its rude and semibarbarous state—has imparted to its mechanical perfection, delicacy of finish, force of effect, and grace of design.