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of the English constitution, and of the popular institutions and societies, which, as far as their objects extend, are practically republican communities*.
If then we need not dread the encouragement of the fine arts, as hostile to our best interests, the interests of our morals, and of our liberty, the inquiry, whether the state of society in our country be ripe for their introduction ceases to be of much importance. A propensity to the fine arts is an instinctive property of human nature. To repress it, it is necessary to confine its activity by positive laws, enforced by all the horrors of religious dreadf. But, where no such restriction pre
* I have lately seen in the newspapers an account of a picture, painted by West, and representing the miracles of Christ. It is stated, that it was his design to send this picture to America, but that a society of Dilettanti had subscribed and paid to him the price fixed by him, on a work, which, from the richness of the subject, must have called forth and displayed all his talents. Whether the story be true or false, it is perfectly probable, and furnishes a strong instance of the popular encouragement given to art in England.
† The divine precept, “ thou shalt make unto thyself likeness of any thing in the heavens above, or in the earth beneath, or in the waters under the earth."-" Thou shalt not bosu down to them to worship them;" has nearly extinguished the arts of painting and sculpture in all countries in which the religion of Moses or of Mahomet prevail. The omission of the latter part of the commandment, confining the prohibition to the adoration of the work of their own hands," has perverted the meaning of the whole. And yet the propensity to art, limiting the Mahomedan artist to fillagree, Arabesque ornament and architecture, has, in these branches, produced admirable works. The sort of decoration called Arabesque, has been enriched by
vails, there is no nation so rude, so ignorant, so occupied with the toils and cares of procuring the support of a miserable existence, so harassed by war and rapine, among whorn art does not spring up spontaneously, combating the sterility of the soil, and the rigor of the climate, but still struggling and succeeding to exist.
The caves of the Hottentot, the deserts of Africa, the rocks of Easter-Island, and the snowy wastes traversed by the Esquimaux and our northern Indians, have their indications of the fine arts; and the club of every savage is carved and painted before it is dyed in the blood of his enemy. Art is a hardy plant. If nursed, tended, and pruned, it will lift its head to heaven, and cover with fragrance and beauty the soil that supports it; but, if neglected, stunted, trodden under foot, it will still live; for its root is planted in the very ground of our own existence. To draw; to imitate the forms around him, is the first delight of the infant; to contemplate and accumulate the productions of art, one of the proudest enjoyments of the polished man; and to be honoured by art with a monument, the last ambition of the dying
If therefore there exist no prejudice to oppose the growth of art among us, the state of society is always ripe for its introduction. And even where prejudices do exist, as they certainly do among us, the arts them
Raphael D'Urbino, in the Vatican, by the likeness of many works of creation, and by beautiful antique Mosaics; but this improvement is not to be found in the ornaments of Mahomedans, who strictly abide by their interpretation of the second commandment.
selves, like Hercules in the cradle, will strangle the serpents. Mild, insinuating, of no political party, all they require is a slight introduction to our acquaintance. Received at first with reserve, they will be cherished by the best of our affections, and find patronage from our most legitimate pride. Our vanity will combat our avarice in their behalf; they will sometimes be disgusted and repelled by ignorance and parsimony, but they will be consoled and attracted equally by liberality and ostentation. Their advancement to that footing of security and reward which is their right, will not be rapid, but it will be certain and durable. The taste for the fine arts when it shall become a national taste, will be as permanent as the national language. It will not be a fashion set by a Charles, or a Louis XIV.; it will be a law to which the economy of our legislatures will bend, and heroic actions will not go unacknow- . ledged, because a statue or a monument requires an appropriation of money.
The Oration of Mr. Hopkinson, held before the Academy of Arts on the 13th of November last, has preoccupied, much more eloquently than my talents would have enabled me to have gone over it, much of the ground, to which these considerations lead, and has given to the public a very interesting account of the rise and progress, chiefly of the art of engraving, as connected with that of printing in this city.
It is a proud circumstance for the fine arts, that among those who have stepped forward with zeal and with talent, with a sacrifice of their time and of their
money, to establish the academy of the arts in this city, that profession, in which study, habit and emulation contributes, perhaps more than in any other, to the cultivation of the powers of the mind, and to the correction of the taste and the judgment, has been prominently active and useful: and that among the most distinguished members of the Academy of the Fine Arts, are those men who are the most eminent at the bar. The aid of their talents, of their eloquence, and of their high
in society, cannot be without their effect, nor will the fine arts, to whom jointly with the poet and the historian, belongs the distribution of wreaths of immortality, be unmindful of their services.
By the facts enumerated in the discourse of Mr. Hopkinson, it is fully illustrated that the most effectual patronage which in their infancy the fine arts can receive, is the certainty of employment. The enthusiasm which belongs to genius will do much, but without this inducement to the young who possess superior talents to devote themselves to their cultivation as a profession, we shall ever remain mere occasional and unskilful copyists. When Hippocrates lamented that to attain perfection in the medical art, life is too short, he uttered a truth peculiarly applicable to the fine arts. Writers of the greatest genius have denied the existence of that individual native predisposition to eminence which is called genius. But though they fail to prove that education is every thing, and genius nothing, it is very certain that he that is most diligent and persevering, will generally be most eminent. Without encouragement therefore, to look forward to the practice of the fine
arts for the means of a competent and honourable enjoyment of the ease and independence which may be procured by trade or agriculture, few, even of those who feel themselves irresistibly impelled by inclination to devote themselves to their culture, will follow the natural bent of their genius.
That subdivision of labour which has been found to produce such surprising effects in other employments, and which has in modern times, pervaded every branch of human activity, has separated the professors of the fine arts into distinct classes. The painters of history, of portraits, of landscape, of cattle, and of sea pieces, are now distinct persons. The sculptor and the architect, , and the artist, who, by multiplying; perpetuates the works of all the others, the engraver, have provinces wholly distinct from each other. This subdivision of the labours of the fine arts is highly promotive of perfection in detail. Whether it is in other respects favourable to the formation of great artists, I will not now inquire; but it certainly gives to us, in the actual'state of American society and wealth, the choice of honouring, and patronising those branches of the fine arts, which we find most conducive to our pleasures and our wants, and which can most easily attain excellence among us.
I am not of opinion that it would be possible to point out any set of practicable measures, to be adopted by the general or state governments, by which the course of the fine arts towards perfection could be promoted among us, so effectual, and so economical, as the simple system adopted by the Greeks. If