EXHIBITION OF ART UNION PRIZES.
THE gratuitous exhibition of the pictures chosen by the prizeholders of the London Art Union draws such crowds to the rooms in Suffolk Street that it is difficult to get a peep at them. Judging from what we saw, however, the taste of the selectors rarely rises higher than pretti- ness and mediocrity ; though it is this year less frequently gratified by positive badness than formerly. This, however, is improvement that we are glad to note. The beneficial influence on art which was the pro- fessed object of this and other similar societies seems to be as remote as ever, so far as the subscribers are concermd ; the discrimination of the patrons being rather below than above the mean level of the artists' talent : painters are more tempted to paint down to the uncultivated likings of the many than up to the enlightened judgment of the few. But the popular interest in works of art that is awakened by means of the Art Unions is not to be overlooked in the estimate of their good effects. The possession of a picture by persons who would never have thought of buying one out of their own pockets—the desire to possess one, manifested by the thousands of subscribers, a large proportion of whom perhaps never gave painting or sculpture a thought before—and the circulation of engravings and bronzes, in quarters where no prints of higher pretension than the portrait of some public character ever found a place—these are seeds that will spring up and yield fruit here- after. And since the Committee devote a portion of the funds to the encouragement of higher aims on the part of artists, the Art Union of London is in the way of doing good. Besides the five hundred pounds offered for an historical picture, the Committee contemplate offering a similar premium for a group in marble. Sculpture needs this encou- ragement more than painting. Another set of Outlines is also adver- tised for : sixty pounds, however, is too little for a series of ten designs.
On the other hand, the catalogue of this year gives proof that the sordid hope of pecuniary gain animates some who take shares in this picture-lottery. Two letters are published, addressed to the Secre- taries, relating attempts that have been made to induce two artists to connive at a scheme by which the holder of a 200/. prize would pocket the money instead of having a picture. The plan suggested to the artists, but scouted by them, was that the painter should buy back his picture at less than the price ; the difference being his share of the fraud. We fear this is only one of many attempts at jobbing in prizes, that have been successful, and therefore kept secret. The influence exercised on the choice of prizeholders, too, is not always of a disinterested and beneficial kind. The effect of exhibiting the prizes at the Gallery of the Society of British Artists is seen in the pre- dominance of pictures by members of that Society : among the prizes this year, again, the number of pictures chosen out of the Suffolk Street Exhibition is nearly equal to that furnished by any other two Ex- hibitions, the Royal Academy included. This looks suspicious. The Committee of the Art Union are bound in justice to the subscribers, and in fairness to the body of artists, to avoid all appearance of being con- nected with any exhibiting society. Mr. R. S. LAUDER'S weak and melodramatic picture of Claverhouse Ordering Morton to be Shot has been selected by the holder of the 400/. prize ; and Mr. CHARLES LANDSEER'S zoological scene of The Return of the Dove to the Ark has captivated the taste of the holder of that of 3001. One of the 200/. prizes has been worthily bestowed on Mr. CATTERMOLE'S grand landscape The Contest for the Bridge, by Mr. J. FLAMANK ; who has made up the price of two hundred and fifty guineas out of his own pocket. The other 2001. prize fell to the lot of a merce- nary man, who, failing in his attempts to turn it into money, has been fain to put up with The Grandmother's Blessing, by Mr. G. Idawn ; which he will doubtless make a market of as quickly as possible. Among other noticeable pictures, to the purchase of which high prizes have been appropriated, are The Tomb of Christ after the Resurrection, by F. DANRY ; King Joash Shooting the Arrow of Deliverance, by W. DYCE ; Hagar and .I.Ahmael, by H. O'NExt.; A Scene from " Old Mor- tality," (Morton awaiting his death,) by J. G. MIDDLETON ; two land- scapes by LEE. two by CRESHICK, The Pyramids and an interior by ROBERTVERld Halt in the Desert, by WARREN.