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vincing or so eloquent as experience. The indolent, the luxurious, even the vicious rich, while enjoying the pleasure which the works of art afford to them, are innocent; while encouraging and rewarding them, are useful: nor is the most wretched of the poor, less happy than they, while admiring or boasting the monuments of art that adorn his native city, or the church of his village. To the feelings of the Athenian, who walked in the Poikile-of the Englishman who visits Westminster Abbey or St. Paul's or of the Frenchman, before the Arch of Victory, nothing could be necessary to prove, that the arts have been usefully and honourably employed, in recording the courage, the patriotism, or the virtues of their countrymen.
An easy task, therefore, devolves upon that artist, who is selected to open the course of annual study by a public lecture. Master of the principles and practice of his profession, it is a pleasure to him to exhibit to others the knowledge and the taste that have made him worthy to instruct them.
But at the opening of this infant institution, instruction in the study, or in the practice of any of the fine arts, is less necessary than the labour of proving that these arts have not an injurious, but a beneficent effect upon the morals, and even on the liberties of our country. For we cannot disguise from ourselves, that, far from enjoying the support of the general voice of the people, our national prejudices are unfavourable to the fine arts. Many of our citizens who do not fear that they will enervate our minds and corrupt the simple and republican character of our pur
suits and enjoyments, consider the actual state of society as unfit for their introduction: more dread a high grade of perfection in the fine arts as the certain indication of the loss of political liberty, and of the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a few. Many despise the arts and their professors as useless, as manufacturing neither food nor raiment, nor gathering wealth by the enterprize of foreign commerce; and still more, ignorant of the delight, innocent as it is exquisite, which they afford, seek employment for their idle hours in the gratifications of sense, and the ostentatious display of riches.
Inasfar as these prejudices, the only real obstacles to the triumph of the fine arts, grow out of the political constitution of society in the United States, the at. tempt to remove them suddenly by argument will be vain. That such obstacles do exist is certain. On the one hand, the subdivision of wealth, resulting from our laws of inheritance, scatters at the commencement of every generation the funds out of which individual citizens might support the fine arts: and the immense territory over which our population is seeking to spread itself, weakens all combined efforts of private citizens by the separation of distance: on the other, the dread of responsibility in the individual representatives of the people, converting all their notions of good government into the single anxiety to avoid expenditure, withholds that degree of public encouragement, which would give example and fashion to individual favour, and esta. blish a national love and pride in the fine arts.
But mere prejudices, whether of habit, of ignorance, or of false reasoning, are to be conquered. In our republic, that which arises from an opinion that the perfection of the fine arts is incompatible with freedom,—while it is the most powerful to retard their progress,—is at the same time the most unfounded in theory, and the most false in fact.
To ancient Greece the civilized world has been indebted for more than two thousand years, for instruction in the fine arts, and for the most perfect and sublime examples of what they are able to produce. But besides this instruction and these examples, we owe to Greece another obligation. The history of Grecian art refutes the vulgar opinion that the arts are incompatible with liberty, by an argument the most irresistible, that of fact
record. Homer is supposed to have lived about nine hundred years before Christ. The events he has sung, are supposed to have happened three or four hundred years before his birth, or about twelve hundred and fifty years before Christ.
The arts at that period must have been in a very advanced state to have produced a work of such transcendent merit, as the shield of Achilles. But supposing this shield to have existed only in the imagination of the poet, then the state of the arts in his own days, must have been such, as to have rendered his description probable, for the difference of the ordinary exploits of his men and of his gods is not in the nature, but only in the degree, and in the
power and excellence, of their achievements. The Vulcan of Homer was an artist with divine powers; but human artists must have existed, in whose performances he saw
the possibility of that excellence which he has described. And, in fact, between the age of Theseus and Homer the names of many great artists are on record. But leaving the age of tradition, it appears very certain, that the first artists of Grecian origin, who obtained celebrity after the days of Homer, were citizens of the industrious and enterprizing colonies, established in Asia Minor, existing under a republican form of government, in the strictest sense of the word, and rivalling for many years, if not surpassing their mother states in activity and wealth. Harrassed by the kings of Lydia, and by the
. irruptions of the Scythian tribe of Cimmerians, many of the artists of the colonies established themselves in Greece, at Sicyon, Ægina, Corinth; and the first works in sculpture mentioned by Pliny, as executed in Greece, and which were of great celebrity and uncommon merit, were not to be found at Athens, but in the bosom of the rugged and ferocious republic of Sparta, where, by order of the magistrates, the Ionian Greek, Bathycles* filled the sacred enclosure of Amyclæ with the works of his chissel.” The colossal statue of Apollo, sixty feet in hight was placed upon a throne ornamented with sculpture. The figures were incredibly numerous, and represented in groups, events relative to the history, the religion, and the achievements of the republic. To the execution of these works, the laws of Lycurgus, then in full force and vigour, offered no obstacle. It is
* Plin. 1. xxxv. Bularchus the painter, also an Ionian, was cotemporary with Bathycles, about 700 years before Christ; and Pausanias names three celebrated artists, Doriclides, Philocles, and Medon, all Spartans, whose works were in high repute in his day. They lived about 150 years after Bathycles.
not my design to trace the progress of the fine arts through all the republics and colonies of Greece. From the earliest dates, their progress, the public honour in which they were held, their important aid on all occasions of solemnity, municipal, national, and religious, pervades and forms a part of the history, not only of Greece, but of all the colonies, which in spite of her destructive wars, profuse in the waste of human life, she established in Asia, Africa, and Europe. Syracuse, and Agrigentum in Sicily, exhibit to this day ruins of temples of the most ancient Grecian character, and of such stupendous construction and magnificence as to exceed all that history leads us to expect of their wealth
The most splendid era, which the arts have ever witnessed, was perhaps the administration of Pericles at Athens. Pericles, indeed, has been called a tyrant; and it has been denied that the free genius of the Athenians had any share in inspiring those works which render at this day the Acropolis of that city the most interesting spot on the globe. He has been accused of masking his ambition under the exterior of public spirit, of debasing his fellow citizens into his subjects, while he amused their vanity by the works with which he decorated their city, and lulled their watchfulness by the theatrical entertainments to which they were admitted at the expense of the public treasury, and at last of having involved his country in the Peloponesian war, in order to secure himself from the investigation of his fiscal operations.-But can he be called a tyrant, whose influence aided by tears and entreaties could