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inions from do not public. Morris Me
naturally mars all unity of action in the subordinate officers, left without distinct instructions, and with no general regulations to fall back upon. Thus, recurring to 1844, we find that Sir C. Eastlake, understanding himself as Keeper to be accountable for cleaning the pictures, and bound to propose this when desirable, did so on the 5th of August, and was in the most vague terms empowered to deal with such of them as he thought fit. The whole matter occupies but three and a half lines of the Minutes ; and although it now appears that eleven pictures were cleaned during that vacation, we look in vain to the proceedings for such a fact. In the autumn of 1846 four others were dealt with, upon authority granted in terms scarcely more precise, and without any record of the pictures suggested by the Keeper, or of the operations he recommended. In each of those years the treatment was extended to a very important work freshly purchased and not yet exhibited in the Gallery; indeed Guido's Susanna,' bought during 1845, underwent immediate cleaning and restoration, without minuted instructions from any meeting of Trustees. The results to the various paintings do not appear ever to have been taken up for consideration, until the public press teemed with attacks, and a strenuous appeal from Mr. Morris Moore had been laid before the Trustees by their colleague, Lord Ellesmere, on the 25th January, 1847.
Sir Charles Eastlake, on retiring from office, told his successor, Mr. Uwins, that the governing body would look to him for suggestions as to cleaning their pictures, and would hold him answerable for what might be done. Mr. Uwins, however, is not aware that such suggestions form part of his duty, or that he has any responsibility in the matter, beyond seeing that pictures, when entrusted to Mr. Seguier by the Trustees, are not injured at his hands. He denies having been in any way consulted before the operations, as Mr. Seguier was; except in one instance (the Paul Veronese), he has never offered an opinion; and he did not consider it desirable to clean any but that one picture. Three of the Trustees hear these statements with surprise, and differ entirely from the Keeper as to his position and duties. Neither does Mr. Seguier distinctly confirm the assertion that he was consulted, apart from Mr. Uwins, as to the pictures recently treated, or allow that, these being in his hands, he was amenable to that officer for the expedients he might adopt. And, coming to matters of fact, he admits having raised the varnish of seven out of the nine pictures by friction, while, in three instances, he removed the whole of it; yet Mr. Uwins, who attended daily as a check upon his practice,
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does not believe that the varnish was entirely removed from any picture, and never saw him resort to friction, which, had he been aware of it, he would have stopped as a dangerous process.
This, however, is by no means the most marvellous discrepancy which meets us. The filthy condition of the backs of the national pictures, and the danger of leaving dust and rubbish to accumulate on them, were strongly pointed out by the Commission of 1850, and by the Parliamentary Committee of that year. The Keeper, however, is not aware that this subject was referred to before that Committee, or discussed by the Trustees; and, as he does not regard such dorsal deposits of dirt to be pernicious, he thought no steps were called for to remove them until some large measure of future protection for the picture-backs should come to be adopted. Accordingly, he gave no orders for the pictures generally being taken down and dusted ; such an operation could not have been done without his knowledge; and he does not believe it ever was performed. But Mr. Seguier recollects that, subsequent to the Report of 1850, the whole pictures were actually taken down, found in a dreadful state, and dusted. Colonel Thwaites confirms this fact, but thinks it happened before 1850: Mr. Thicke states that it was done by himself under Mr. Uwins' orders, during the vacation about three years ago. This remarkable failure of memory among the responsible parties is the more inconvenient, as the Minutes are silent on the subject.
The Trustees' recorded proceedings, with their own and their officers' evidence, too plainly show that the preservation of the national pictures has not hitherto been attended to on any matured system, or with a defined and adequate sense of individual responsibility. It is, therefore, not astonishing that the results have proved most unfortunate. By long use of a noxious varnish, the dimmed and dusky surfaces of certain pictures lost their peculiar beauties, and the proper qualities of the masters. In this state, of which Salvator Rosa's Mercury and the Woodman, or Claude's Death of Procris (No. 84 and 55) are still examples, they ceased to afford profit to students, or pleasure to amateurs, and were consequently condemned to be cleansed of the thick oily deposit which obscured them.
Thus far there is no real discrepancy of opinion : but regarding the necessity of sending to that ordeal so many canvasses, and the treatment they have there undergone, we find every gradation of dissent, from the earnest denunciations of Mr. Morris Moore, to the playful satire of Mr. Ford. Apart from the Trustees and their officers, whom we exclude as parties, twenty-three witnesses speak, with more or less precision, to the cleaning. They consist of five Royal Academicians, five other painters, five cleaners, and eight amateurs: of the entire number but one, an Academician, maintains Mr. Seguier's recent operations to have been innocuous, while a great majority consider that, in most cases, they were uncalled for. A result so decided renders it unnecessary to load our pages with technical details, irksome to ordinary readers.' The amateurs are to a man unprepared to approve of the pictures in their present condition, when compared with that in which they were. Even those witnesses who showed some disposition to parry the questions conceded, for the most part, on searching examination, that the remedy had been carried too far, causing or unveiling mischiefs deeper and worse than those it proposed to cure. Nay, the Trustees themselves refrained from any strong individual expressions in support of their own Minute approying of Mr. Seguier's handiwork; and Sir Charles Eastlake admitted that, in several instances, this had been unnecessary,' injudicious,
unequal,' tasteless,' ill and partially' performed. (No. 4582–92.). Yet, after all this, the Committee, baffled apparently by minor discrepancies which pervade the evidence, have not only shrunk from any specific verdict upon the picture cleaning, but have thoroughly diluted their Chairman's marked, though general, condemnation of its effects, and of the mode in which it was conducted.
In contrast to this course, which we cannot but regret, let us refer to poor Haydon's impassioned diatribe, on seeing Rubens Brazen Serpent utterly ruined during the vacation of 1844,
the whole tone and superb glazing rubbed off. They may • talk as they please of the sufferings of humanity, but there is • nothing so excites my sympathy as the helpless sufferings of s 'fine old oil picture of a great genius. Unable to speak or re'monstrate, touching all hearts by its dumb beauty, appealing 'to all sympathies by its silent splendour, laid on its back in 'spite of its lustrous and pathetic looks, taken out of its frame, 6 stripped of its splendid encasement, fixed to its rack to be
scraped, skinned, burnt, and then varnished in mockery of its 'tortures, its lost purity, its beautiful harmony—and hung up again, castrated and unmanned, for living envy to chuckle over, whilst the shade of the mighty dead is allowed to visit and rest about its former glory, as a pang for sins not yet • atoned for.
On a review of this portion of the inquiry, it appears to us -First, that repeated applications of oil varnish had tarnished or obscured certain pictures in the Gallery, partly by attracting
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atmospheric impurities, partly by its own tendency to darken. Second, that the pictures selected for thorough cleaning in 1846 and 1852 were not those most altered by that Gallery varnish, while none of them were otherwise particularly dirty. Third, that this was, in particular, the case with the two large Claudes, which the Trustees were especially bound to preserve from being tampered with, on the eve of hanging them in immediate contrast and rivalry with pictures by Mr. Turner, bequeathed to the nation on that express condition. Fourth, that, in compliance with instructions to complete, during the approaching vacation, the necessary operations for putting the
pictures in order,' Mr. Seguier has, in some cases, cleared away a medium which, whether given in the process of originally finishing the paintings, or subsequently supplied by restorers, or the gradual result of mellowing influences, did impart a tone, harmony, or depth generally considered as characteristic of the artists. Fifth, that even could Mr. Seguier prove, which he has failed to do, the medium so removed to have been no part of the original process, or the want of harmony, gradation, and transparency now observable to have arisen from antecedent maltreatment, his work would still be liable to Sir C. Eastlake's criticism of tasteless.' Sixth, on the other hand, had Mr. Seguier, instead of honestly limiting himself, in terms of the Trustees' instruction, to what he considered a simple removal of the old varnish, and revarnishing,' retoned the pictures, as is usually done in similar cases, the late outcry would have been in some degree prevented, and their faulty condition masked from ordinary detection. Lastly, that the recently cleaned pictures, while hung in immediate contact with others embrowned by Gallery varnish, are exposed to a contrast unfair at once to their merits, and to Mr. Seguier's reputation.
IV. We now proceed to the results of the present management on the acquisition of pictures, especially by purchase. —
The Angerstein, Beaumont, and Holwell Carr pictures, having been collected by private gentlemen for their own pleasure, naturally consisted of specimens chosen from supposed individual merit, rather than historical importance to art. These form the nucleus of our Gallery, and the same is the case with the Ollney, Farnborough, and Simmons bequests, as with nearly all pictures presented. Under such circumstances, it became the more desirable that the Trustees should, in their purchases, correct the tendency thus developed, and should endeavour to supply such examples as had not reached them from the liberality of amateurs. Again, seeing that taste has long run in
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England upon the later masters of the Low Countries, or the eclectic schools of Italy, no stimulus in that direction was necessary; while the means of studying other classes of art became an obvious want. In particular, a Committee of the House of Commons in 1836 recorded their opinion that Italian pictures of, or anterior to, the time of Raffaele ought to be more sought after in future. With these principles in view, it would have been easy to adopt a system of purchasing calculated gradually to counterbalance the undue predominance acquired by certain styles of art. Nothing, however, of the sort was proposed ; and, notwithstanding the Report of 1836, the number of Flemish and eclectic works since bought has equalled those from the best Italian epoch. This persistence becomes more worthy of notice if we bear in mind that, during the last fifteen years, a large number of valuable panels in the class thus neglected have been drawn from Italy to meet an increasing demand, while many others of the sort have been miserably destroyed by ignorant cleaners. And it consists with our knowledge that a few hundred pounds, judiciously expended in that country about 1836, would have obtained early works for which thousands would now be demanded. Nor is it to be overlooked, that during several years of the intervening period, Sir C. Eastlake, a gentleman reputed to possess great knowledge of Italian art, and the highest appreciation of its value, was, as Keeper, the erofficio adviser on such points. We learn from his own evidence that a constant advocacy of this, his own favourite style, was rendered nugatory by the influence of Sir Robert Peel, who contended that "curiosities' should not be collected. (No. 6023.) Thus, apart from its merits, the suggestion emanating from the Committee of 1836, and urged by the Keeper, was successfully thwarted by an individual Trustee, whose taste as a collector happened to lie in another direction.
We raise here no question respecting the merits of particular schools, as to which prejudices will always arise, from fashion or individual temperament. But we maintain that the administration of a National Gallery ought both to be exempt from such partisanship, and to discourage it. Catholic tastes are assuredly desirable in a public collection of whatever sort, where each visitor ought to be free, not only to indulge his own preferences, but to test them by contrast with whatever else is important. And when we apply this canon in Trafalgar Square, we are struck by the fact that the masters there least represented are just those whom our countrymen have elsewhere fewest opportunities of seeing such as the early painters of Italy, Germany, and Flanders, the greatest ones of Spain and France. Indeed,