HINTS FOR FORMING -PROVINCIAL GALLERIES OF ART.
A PARAGRAPH found its way into the London papers a few wet ks ago, which stated that the Liverpool Institution for the Promotion of Fine Art (we believe) contemplated raising a stun of 50,000/. for the for- mation or a Gallery of Pictures. It is this Institution that gives an annual premium for the best historical picture in its exhihition ; the first being this year awarded to Mr. CHARLES LANDSEER for his " Sacking of the Basing-house,"—and, though not strictly- speaking an historical picture, it well deserved the prize. Both these acts mani- fest a spirit of liberal and enlightened encouragement of art, that we can hardly expect to exist at present in two different quarters ; we therefore think that the credit of the munificent proposal we allude to belongs to Liverpool. Besides, we do not forget that to Mr. EWART, the Member for that city, was mainly owing the Select Cormnittee for the encouragement of the Arts. That this intention will be carried into effect, there can be little doubt : the sum required is comparatively small for a wealthy commer- cial city to raise for the accomplishment of a great object,—one, in- deed of national interest as well as local importance. The example thus nobly set will most protably be followed, but to what extent, will greatly depend upon the success of this attempt to refine the public taste ; and its success will be determined by the means adopted for ac- complishing the object. As this will be the first Provincial Gallery of Art established in England, we feel a strong anxiety about it ; and as the nation has hitherto little eNperience of this kind, a few sugges- tions, however crude, may not be without their use. We do hope that the time is not very far distant when every Mechanics Institution will include a school of drawing and design, and every museum have attached to it a gallery of fine art. Certainly', wherever there is an annual exhibition of modern paintings, there should be a perennial one (open gratuitously) of the works of the great masters— to prevent the standard of taste from falling to the level of the talent of the day. People would thus by degrees be brought to admire what was beautiful and good in fine works of art, and to reject what is false and meretricious.
In forming a Public Picture Gallery, these few obvious rules sug- gest themselves.
Quality is to be preferred to quantity. Half-a-dozen really fine pic- tures are better than a hundred ill-assorted and of infetior character. Indeed, poor and commonplace pictures, and of course bad ones, are better away altogether. They occupy room that might be better be- stowed, and distract the attention, and perplex the judgment of the unlearned visiter, who, naturally expecting that nothing but what is good will be admitted into a public gallery, vainly strives to find some- thing to like where there is nothing to admire. The intrusion of me- diocre performances is the grand defect of most galleries. Our own National Gallery, for instance, small as is the collection, requires weeding already. In selecting pictures for a public gallery, the nature of the subject and the manner of its treatment should he more carefully considered than has hitherto been done. It should be borne in mind, that the mass of visiters are those whose attention will be naturally attracted by a beautiful scene, pleasing objects, and an interesting incident : the art of the painter is best shown in its results. Indeed, it is a perversion of cultivated taste that regards the mechanical execution of the painting in preference to the subject and its conception. That should be sub- servient, and follow after. There are cases where great powers of execution are misapplied, and genius wasted on a worthless subject: but these should be regarded at exceptions.
Very few really fine pictures of first-rate merit by great artists are now obtainable. This fact should be borne in mind. The formation
of a fine collection is the labour of years. Offers of "undoubted originals," "grand gallery pictures," " fine specimens of the master," will pour in from all quarters; accompanied perhaps with the disin- terested intimation, that, in consideration of the national character of the institution, a lower price is asked than the picture is worth. We only say, "beware of counterfeits." The old-picture-mania has pretty well subsided by this time: knowledge and dear-bought experience have opened the eyes of the "patrons of art." Pictures, unless of high character, are a drug; and the dealers are lumbered up with rubbish. The manufactory of RAFFAEI.LES and TITIANS is not now car- ried on to the extent it formerly was; but a demand would create an abundant supply at a short notice. Independently of fabrications, however, there are quantities of genuine pictures of little value. These consist of pictures unsaleable at the high prices asked on many accounts. One objection to private purchasers that would not bold in the case of a gallery, is the large size of the picture : ano- ther is, the name of the painter not being very celebrated. Many fine works find no purchasers because they have not a great name tacked to them : and though the productions of a second or third-rate painter are to be jealously scrutinized, it does not follow that they are to be alto- gether rejected. The intrinsic merit of the performance is its best re- commendation. Pictures of uninteresting or disagreeable subjects, or of good subjects feebly or quaintly treated, may also be admissible, where tbe art of the painter is exquisite and his feeling good. They are valuable as specimens of style. Inferior works, by masters of great name, should be suspiciously regarded ; likewise such as have been " restored," or "retouched ;" and "contemporary copies," or " dupli. eate originals." In these the principal trade of the dealers is carried on. Fine and authenticated copies of chefs dceuvre are not only ad- missible, but desirable. A good copy, like n fine cast from a statue, is highly valuable : such as the copy of the Last Supper of LEONA RDO Voscr, by MARCO UGGIONE, a pupil of the painter, and those of the Cartoons of RAEFAELLE by Sir JAMES THORNHILL, belonging to the Royal Academy. A Gallery of Casts from fine specimens of Antique Sculpture, is a most valuable aid to study, and a never-ceasing source of gratification to the visiter. Moreover, they are to be procured at very small ex- pense. A sum that would be little for the purchase of a fine original picture, would furnish a whole gallery of casts : and the thousands bestowed on questionable originals would be better appropriated to procuring accurate and spirited copies of grand pictures. Casts of friezes and capitals, and ornaments from the Greek temples, models of vases, &c. would form appropriate and needful additions. But we reserve a sketch of the contents of a Gallery of Art for another opportunity.