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A tax on sales, though useful, would not provide enough. All these devices presuppose a long period of operation; whereas the battle for the possession of our diminishing treasure is going to be short and sharp, and is already half-decided. The battle is between a well-known group of bottomless purses on the other side of the Atlantic in the first rank, and in the second the greater activity and in some cases greater resources of foreign and colonial galleries-these on one side, and on the side of our picture galleries inadequate means and methods fitted for easier times. The bottomless purses are a 'function' of the protective system of a vast and wealthy continent; fortunes there have reached a wicked scale that throws into the shade the oldfashioned fortunes of the holders of our treasures the ratio is that of London houses to New York sky-scrapers. There is small probability that this difference of scale will be altered in our favour. If Protection were introduced in England it might indeed raise the fortunes of the new trust magnates to the higher grade that certain practical monopolies at present reach; but the scale could never rival the American, because it is too late to attempt to bring our dependencies within a Customs-ring. The pull given by this enormous difference of scale in private fortunes was not at first realised, and when six years ago 45,000l. was demanded as the ransom of the Rokeby Velazquez, people could not believe that the price was a natural one in the new market, and not the result of some nefarious rigging by the dealers. Since then the pace has grown hotter, and the Lansdowne 'Mill' was lost the other day at double the price.
Is this taste, so rapidly developed by American millionaires, a passing fashion? Possibly it is; perhaps the millionaire of the future will find it more interesting as well as more adventurous to spend his money upon native and contemporary art. When it has outgrown the silly craze for imitating or importing ancient European buildings, a country that has already produced some excellent architecture may produce painters and craftsmen worthy of the new buildings. Or a financial crisis that in a sudden shrinkage of values and credit leaves these fabulously wealthy men for the moment without a penny of ready-money might check buying and lead to selling. But the probabilities are that in a few years the clearance of our available treasures will be complete, and that before a revolution of fortune breaks up the American private collections, these will have been made over by gift or bequest to public galleries. Nor are the American millionaires, though the most formidable, our only competitors. The galleries of America, of the Continent, and even of our Colonies, if not in many cases more handsomely endowed than ours, are directed with great energy and knowledge, and more
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richly furnished with friends. The regular resources in some cases are greater, and are growing. Thus the gallery of Melbourne, by the single endowment of the Felton Bequest in 1904, obtained 240,000l.; all the invested funds of the National Gallery were a year ago 135,8721.,2 and its yearly grant from the State of 50001. would have to be multiplied by twenty to buy at present prices a single first-rate and well-known picture. Lord Curzon and Sir Edgar Vincent, trustees of the Gallery, suggested lately an increased grant of 25,000l. or 50,000l. But this sum, handsome as a regular grant, would not meet the case of pictures like the Bridgewater and Temple Newsam Titians, the Iveagh Rembrandt, the Velazquez portraits at Apsley and Devonshire Houses, or Rothschild Gainsboroughs, if (which Heaven forfend!) they ever were to come into the market. If we are to fight for things approaching these in value it can only be done by opening a credit of at least a million, to be drawn upon when the necessity arises. Some part might be provided by private subscription, and King Edward and his present Majesty, when Prince of Wales, pointed the way by their contributions to a Reserve' in the hands of the National Art-Collections Fund; but such effort could only be expected when the Treasury had played its part; the need is too great and too immediate for private action only. We cannot, of course, dream of keeping everything; we cannot keep even a very great deal; but a short list of what might be regarded as national heirlooms' has been drawn up by the Fund, and is at the disposal of the Government. Besides the things on such a list there do turn up from time to time out of the wonderful stores of the country pictures and objects that have escaped the scrutiny of Mr. Herbert Cook and his colleagues. For example, last summer the Abdy Collection, withdrawn for years from the knowledge of collectors, came up for sale at Christie's. Beside the Botticellis there. appeared a picture identified by Sir Claude Phillips as a Carpaccio, but of a different rank from any Carpaccio hitherto known, more intense in its trance of religious awe and passion than all but the best of Bellini or Mantegna. Beside it the Carlisle Mabuse is a piece of cold-hearted, capable picture-making. The Fund was represented at the sale with all the money that could be ventured at short notice; but even at a few days' warning the bidding rose to 12,500l., and the picture eventually went to the Metropolitan Museum, New York.
Such is the emergency, which should be considered and dealt with quite apart from the ordinary activities either of the National Gallery or of the Fund. It is not a question of a perpetual burden on the Budget, but of the defence of a limited number of things against a sudden and overwhelming attack during a few critical 2 Since reduced by part-purchase of the Mabuse.
years. I pass now from the general situation to consider the system with which the National Gallery confronts its competitors, become so much more numerous, active, and efficient.
THE NATIONAL GALLERY
The National Gallery, of which the Tate Gallery is a branch, is controlled by a Director and a Board of Trustees, numbering at present ten. This Board is of the old-fashioned type, consisting of territorial magnates and men of wealth or leading position in public affairs, all of them in some degree interested in art, and possessed of art collections, inherited or acquired. Few of them -with notable exceptions, like Mr. Heseltine-would be described as connoisseurs or experts in the field of painting covered by the collections of the National Gallery; the Board was evidently intended to mediate between expert views, represented by the Director, and the interests of the public; it might be described as a House of Lords revising his proposals. The ordinary meetings of the Board are monthly, except in vacation time. The direction of the affairs of the Gallery is very closely in its hands, and in particular the most difficult and delicate business, that of acquiring new pictures. The exercise of its powers has varied. Sir Frederic Burton gained so much authority during his term of office that he was in fact as well as in name Director. Since his time the Director's powers have become limited in practice as in theory to bringing up proposed purchases for the decision of the Board, on which he has a vote. He can deal in a summary way with the rejection of unimportant offers of gift or sale. He has larger powers in the hanging of pictures and their conservation, and the preparation and revision of catalogues is left to him. The remaining officers at Trafalgar Square are a Keeper and Clerk. The Keeper is also Accounting Officer for the two galleries and Secretary to the Board; his main duties beyond these are to deal with the routine business of administration and with visits and inquiries of an ordinary character. The duties of the Keeper of the Tate Gallery, under whom is a clerk, are in theory of the same routine character; but, owing to the distance between the galleries and the absorption of the Director in the constant business at Trafalgar Square, he has come to take over, for his gallery, the greater part of the Director's functions, except where the Board is concerned. The Director's time is absorbed by the innumerable visits he must pay or receive dealing with pictures. that are in the market or may come into it, by journeys he must undertake, by correspondence on these subjects, or by visits and
3 The subordinate officials are formally at the disposal of the Board for any duties that may be assigned to them, and in the stress of late years, including a period when there was no Director, the staff has had to play a laborious part.
letters on points connected with the existing collection. Problems of re-hanging are raised by every addition to the collection, and its rapid growth of late years and the extension of the buildings have made further claims on his time and strength.
The system outlined above will obviously depend for smooth and efficient working on the degree in which the Director can command the confidence of his Board and can induce its different members-not all of whom are likely to be in favour of any one proposal-to sink their individual preferences in deference to his conviction. If he does not thus succeed, the system will easily lead to friction, or even complete stoppage, in the work of the machine; and a Director, otherwise competent, who lacks diplomatic and persuasive powers will be at a disadvantage; the need for such persuasion will double, in any case, his anxieties. Even in the most fortunate case, the system evidently is contrived rather to check the mistakes of a fallible Director than to aid the efforts of a competent. The decisions of a committee, when the members give full play to their individual views, will approach unanimity in exact proportion to the insignificance of the problem debated, and will tend to compromise, fatal in art. Pictures of middling character or of thoroughly accepted character will easily command support; pictures of strong character, sometimes called 'ugly,' will arouse the enthusiasm of some members, the dislike of others. The 'ugly' in this sense is the purgatorio of the beautiful, the 'pretty' is its inferno; and the disputed beauty that issues from the test is the rarest, but the least likely to win through a committee.
Suppose, once more, that the Director, by the loyal and selfsuppressing support of his Board, overcomes the vices inherent in the committee system, there still remains the serious defect that where a meeting of the Board and debate must be the preliminary to action, he may be unable to act quickly enough to secure his picture. He cannot, when he suddenly finds a masterpiece in the sale-room, bid without instructions, unless by the intermediary of a friendly dealer, who is prepared to risk having the picture left upon his hands. He cannot go through what, in many cases, must be the long and intricate 'stalking' or 'playing' of a picture, because when the time for striking comes he dare not commit himself. Dr. Bode has got round this difficulty to a certain extent by the help of a group of collectors, who are only too glad to acquire objects that his Gallery is unable or unwilling to purchase; but German collectors are at present buyers in the market; English owners, even trustees of the Gallery, have been forced to become vendors.
We have not yet come to an end of the difficulties. The immediate business before the Trustees at the monthly boards is
more than sufficient to occupy their time: there is little left either for thinking ahead or for scheming ahead. I mean that the action of a committee of busy men is bound to be from hand to mouth, concerned with the immediate proposals brought before it by the vicissitudes of the market. Its members are for the most part otherwise occupied between the meetings, and proposals come to them without preparation. The consideration of general policy is likely, in these circumstances, to suffer neglect, the question of the directions and the proportion in which expenditure is desirable, the looking far ahead for probable events; so that when some capital occasion comes, the funds may be already exhausted by temptations that might have been resisted. For the Director, too, there will be the temptation of limiting his policy to what an incalculable Board will most easily be brought to endorse.
These considerations are not merely the easy criticism that comes to an outsider. They represent the views of men among the Trustees who have given prolonged thought to the problem. No one gave more time and care to his duties as trustee than the late Lord Carlisle. He was senior trustee for many years; he was constant in his visits to the two galleries, and to balance his own strong prepossessions he followed very closely the critical movements of the time. I had many discussions with him on this subject. He felt that the responsibility now assumed by the Trustees made it difficult for any one of them to yield his judgment; but he was convinced that the right thing was for a competent Director's views to prevail, and again and again he did magnanimously waive his own prejudice when he thought there was a fair case made out for his view not being on a reasonable forecast that of eternity, or, let us say, that of a Board of Trustees twenty years hence.
Difficulties become, of course, intensified the nearer one approaches the debatable land of modern art, and the direction of the National Gallery has evidently avoided as much as possible this thorny region. I will speak presently of the English school, but the dearth of modern painting in the National Gallery is much more serious in the case of the foreign schools or rather school, for modern painting, with few exceptions, is French or English. I have called the system of the Board, not by way of blame, an 'oldfashioned' one, and it is so in this further sense that the choice of trustees, so far as it has depended on their being collectors or inheritors of pictures, has had in view the older schools. This seems to call for correction. The representation of our own eighteenth century since Hogarth has chiefly depended upon gifts; the French eighteenth century has hardly been represented at all, and it was only the wonderful windfall of the Wallace bequest that filled an obvious blank. The French nineteenth century was also unrepresented till first the Edwards gift and then the Salting