24 AUGUST 1833, Page 13


OUR attention has again been called to the subject of the National Gallery, by a pamphlet of Mr. CHARLES PURSER the architect ; which consists mainly of an elaborate and unsparing attack on Mr. WILKINS, and a gratuitous defence of the Royal Academy, as a basis upon which to rest his arguments in favour of the pro- jected union of the Academy with the National Gallery. Mr. WILKINS'S vanity and egotism have been sufficiently ex- posed: to attack him again at this time, is slaying the slain.

Mr. PURSER'S defence of the Academy is oddly enough coupled with proofs of its utter neglect of one of the three arts to pro mote which it was expressly instituted. We could without much difficulty make out comparatively as strong a case of its neglect of Painting and Sculpture as Mr. PURSER does in the instance of Architecture. We say comparatively, because they could not have neglected these two arts as they have done Architecture, without rendering their conduct obnoxious to public censure. But even as regards these two, Sculpture, the less popular art, has been much less regarded than Painting. As to the proof afforded by the number of eminent names among the Royal Academicians, that only applies to a late period, and is the effect of public opinion. Successful and popular artists are now eagerly enrolled, either as Associates or Academicians : but private interest still prevails to induct the favoured candidate to the exclusion of more talented but less- prosperous individual, A painter with a large family,, or who is not -likela? .12) thrive in the . world, is shunned as a. pauper likely to harden the fur4s,, and Aot. premising to bring- an accession of lordly iettuetice to back up the corporation; 'Mr. PURSER writes like- an honest, ardent- seiaded manZ and, .he does not suspect, much less detect,.the in- teigueeof the-Academy. At any rate, his defence is one of feeling, not of feat. thinks the Avaderny has been. malfgned, and believe§ it,--perhaps because he has beeu geasely. told so. He doe* not .bring, forward any' strong argument in support of the union of the. Academy, with the. National Gallery ; neither does he refute the "ingenious arguments" urged against it,. Mr- PUessa's suggestion to unite the National Gallery with the British Museum is open to one material objection—want of space for the building.; especially if the Academy, were to-be-combined with. it,, as be proposes. The central locality,, and the junction: of the national sculptures with the national pictures, are advantages that would almost counterbalance the objection of the smoky atmosphere. • But when we consider tIpta national gallery should not only be large enough for our present small collection of pic- tures, with the Cartoons of RAETAELLE,, but should also afford accommodation, aye and inviting room too,. for gifts and bequests of collections and large single pictures, and to allow of a, proper classification, we do not see how the objection of want of room can- be overcome. To be sure, there is as touch space as the proposed site occupies; and, compared with that, it is therefore the more eligible of the two; satin abide. the consideration of the ground at Charing Cross being suitable for the erection of a handsome public building.* • The Morning Herald, in an article on this subject, supports the claim of the Academy for a share of the new building ou the ground of rightof property !

" It would be a gross fallacy to describe as a gift to theparties (the Royal Aca- demy, for instance)the sum of 50,0001. granted last session, to build this edifice in Trafalgar Square. We have already shown that the Academy would give up in return their possessions in Somerset House, which are worth a vast deal more money, particularly for the completion of the Government offices there. This is, therefore, a transaction of bargain and sale, by which the country would gain, and the Academy would lose a few thousand pounds."

But we have yet to learn that the apartments in Somerset House are the " pos essions" of the Roy al Academy. True, the Academy were granted the use of the apartments in Somer- set House for their own purposes: but do they therefore call them their freehold right ? could they alienate them? Certainly not. The gift was to all intents a loan only. If they were called upon to vacate them, then, indeed, the Government might feel itself in a manner bound to provide them others. But it is quite a different thing for the Government gratuitously to furnish them with better and more commodious rooms, at the nation's cost, merely out of complaisance. Let them be satisfied with what they have had, and which was bestowed on them at a time when their numbers were few and their funds scanty, and the public encouragement almost nought. If they have not taken advantage of their season of prosperity to secure a fund for more fitting buildings, is- Government to step in and compensate fbr their want of forethought? If they have, there i3 no need. IS this institution always to remain dependent upon state bounty ? it has had time enough to strengthen its hands and make firm its position : if it has not done so, it is scarcely worth supporting in a state of semi-pauperism. But at any ,rate, the boon is !tat sought for the public, nor for the artists who really need it. These last are out of the Academy, and, so long as the present system' continues, will never be in it.. The Academicians, ac- cording to. their own declaration, have room enough for their own works : it is not for- the artists sakes that they want larger rooms, but that they may have a monopoly revived which the insti- tution of other exhibitions has shaken and is breaking up. We do not advocate the claims of the artists at large for a Govern- ment grant or gallery, simply because they do not deserve or re- quire it. They will thrive better on their own footing. Let the Government encourage the arts by building a National Gallery, and purchasing good pictures by native artists ; but not by setting the picture-painters up in trade by building them a show-room. If the Academy are satisfied with their present actommodation, and complain hypocritically of a prospective loss by the change, why should the nation spend 30,0001. on the coy corporation ; and that at the expense of half the too small gallery that is promised us? The cry of the Academy is a parody on the Nolo episco- pari of the Bishop expectant.

• The advantages of employing the British Museum in this way, at least for a time, are well stated by our correspondent Are ARTIST, whose vigorous letter we received after the above remarks were in print.