gave us examples of Fantin and Bonvin, of Corot, Daubigny and others of the Barbizon school. Millet is represented only in his 'flowery period,' Daumier not at all. The school that followed is entirely unrepresented. Ricard and Monticelli, Courbet and Manet, Degas, Monet and Renoir, to go no further, are entirely absent, and the most pressing problem for a Director of the Gallery, apart from the ransom' of Old Masters, is to secure that the splendid record of painting in the nineteenth century shall not be for ever wanting at Trafalgar Square. A waiting policy would be advisable if by waiting the pictures could be obtained; but this is not so. A few years ago the pick of the work of a Manet or Whistler might have been obtained for a few hundred pounds by a foreseeing purchaser; now it is almost all absorbed by American or foreign collections; the time for purchase is nearly past. What can be done, however, by a competent man, free to use his knowledge and taste, has been demonstrated by Sir Hugh Lane in the galleries of modern art at Dublin and Johannesburg. On this modern ground the system of the National Gallery, so successful in less strenuous times with the older schools, has manifestly failed.


The disadvantages I have enumerated will be readily granted, but the question will be asked, What evidence is there that any modification of the system will be more efficient as well as easy in its action? The success of Sir Frederic Burton might be pointed to in reply, but an exception is not a system, and it will be better to shift the discussion to a wider field. There are two national collections whose scope is immensely wider than that of the National Gallery-namely, the British Museum and Victoria and Albert Museum. The second has been subject to recent changes of government, and is therefore not available for comparison; the first is under the general control of a body of trustees of the same type as that of the National Gallery. Their relation to the business of the Museum is in theory the same, but not in practice. The Keepers of the various departments have much greater authority; the proposals they make for purchase are rarely challenged by the Board. Its members would properly shrink from pitting their knowledge and judgment against those of the Keeper of Egyptian or Greek antiquities, of Medieval, of Renaissance, or of Oriental art. It may be objected that there is a difference between a museum of antiquities and a gallery of paintings, where the leading consideration is the beauty of the acquisitions, not their value as illustrations of the history of art and manners. There is some difference, but it cannot be said that the ideals of the National Gallery really vary much from those that go to the

making of a collection of Greek antiquities or that of prints. And the departments of the British Museum are so well managed, their Keepers have so high a reputation in Europe, that we may well ask what is the secret of their success. The comparative freedom of the Keepers is no doubt partly due to the fact that the field of painting is the only one on which the average member of a Board would be ready to back his opinion against a Director's. But there can be little doubt that the real source of authority lies in the training received by the assistants in the departments, who actively aid the Keeper and become qualified in their turn to act as heads. Take the department that has most analogies with the National Gallery. There the Keeper of Prints and Drawings, Sir Sidney Colvin, has under him several assistants who have come in young from the universities, who learn the field thoroughly, are engaged in research and catalogue work, take each of them a special branch of the work, and are encouraged to write on the subjects of their study. Thus in Mr. Campbell Dodgson, Mr. Binyon and Mr. Hind we have three men known to the world of art for the work they have done, and all prepared by their training to pass to a position of greater independence, as Mr. Cust passed to the National Portrait Gallery, where his assistant was of the British Museum type. The collection at the Print Room justifies the confidence reposed in the Keeper; modern as well as ancient art is fully represented; a Méryon, a Whistler, a Legros, a Strang and a John are found as a matter of course in their due place, as well as Mantegna and Marc Antonio, Dürer and Rembrandt.

The case is different at the National Gallery. There is no regular school of training for Directors, though the present Director had the advantage of preliminary experience at the Tate. There are no departmental assistants; each Director, as he comes, may be inexperienced in museum work, and untried in judgment. He has therefore, till he wins it, no authority, and the result is that the Board cautiously reserves its powers and takes the place of a Director. Looking back over past history Trustees remember cases of artists of repute who proved mere amateurs at this business, and their instinct, as a Board, must be to guard against blunders rather than to play for the sporting chance of successes. The cure for such a state of things is to put future Directors in the way of training by passing them through minor posts. Instead of appointing a Keeper and Clerk under the Director for the purely business side of the administration when new appointments come to be made, at least two Keepers or assistant-directors should be appointed, chosen for their interest in, and knowledge of art, to

The schooling of candidates for such posts would furnish the Slade Professors at Oxford and Cambridge with definite work.

which should be added some technical practice in painting and in the processes of cleaning and varnishing pictures. They should be encouraged to write upon their subject, because that is one of the best ways of learning it, will raise the level of criticism, and will supplement their income. The field of painting, moreover, is so wide that it requires such subdivision. If the Director takes Italian art as specially his province, one Keeper might be responsible for German, Flemish and Dutch, another for Spanish, French and modern art, or this order might be reversed. Incidentally this would help to solve the very pressing problem of a supply of curators for provincial galleries. With notable exceptions, the status of these men with their committees is at present a mean one, because they have no special-training knowledge or taste to give them authority. The accountancy and business of the galleries need raise no difficulty. It could be learned by any intelligent man in a few days, and one such clerk could manage the financial business of the two galleries. He should also be qualified in shorthand and typewriting to aid the Director with his heavy correspondence.

Such a rearrangement, by dividing the duties of the present Keeper, need cost little more than at present, and would, I believe, secure efficiency, continuity and authority in the future direction of the National Gallery. Under it the present dependent position of the Director would insensibly be changed for one of greater freedom, while the Board would fall back into the position of general control at present exercised by the Board at the British Museum. In the remoter future there would be many advantages in uniting the National and other picture galleries and the Victoria and Albert Museum under one Board, along with the British Museum. The present awkward overlapping of collections and the duplicating of keepers would be avoided, and there would be a possibility of interchange between the collections, greatly to the advantage of their arrangement. The natural accompaniment of such co-ordination would be the creation of a Ministry of the Fine Arts to represent the Museums in Parliament.

On one point I am opposed to Mr. Witt's and, perhaps, to the general view in the matter of the Trustees; I mean the proposal to add to or substitute for the present Board a number of experts. The position of a Director, however difficult under the present system, would be intolerable, controlled by the votes of rival authorities on his own subject. The proper relation of such experts to the Director is that of a consultative group (not committee) to any one of whom he may apply for a confidential opinion when a picture is before him, and it would be an excellent thing, and would strengthen the administration, if some honorary title

were applied to the chosen advisers, such as Associate of the National Gallery.' Many willing helpers might be named who would take their place on this list, not excluding dealers, who are ready, to an extent not realised, to aid the Gallery with their knowledge and experience. The part of the Board, as I see it, would be to demand from the Director at the beginning of each year a report setting out his programme, apart from emergencies, a programme drawn up in consultation with his colleagues; to be obliged to draw up and discuss such a programme would clarify his own ideas and test their soundness. The programme laid down, with any comments the Board chose to minute upon it, the Director would be empowered to carry it out as far as possible, reporting progress to the Board at the interim meetings, and obtaining from it the support in his negotiations that influential people are able to afford. Nothing short of a four-fifths' majority of the whole Board should be sufficient to veto a Director's proposals. In face of such a vote on a serious question the Director ought to resign. The way of freedom and responsibility is for the Director the way of efficiency.


The Tate Gallery is officially described as 'The National Gallery, British Art,' and in its entrance-hall are statues of Reynolds, Gainsborough, Wilkie and Flaxman. It very imperfectly answers to this title and promise. There is nothing in it by Reynolds or Gainsborough or Flaxman, and the bulk of the collection, till the other day when the greater part of the Turner Bequest was installed, dated from the second half of the nineteenth century. The title has other defects; no one, from a trustee to a cabman, will ever use it colloquially, and it is ungracious, because it obscures the origin of the Gallery in Sir Henry Tate's generosity; it also invites confusion with the old 'National Gallery of British Art' in what was once comfortably called the South Kensington Museum. The reason for the official title is that the Tate Gallery is part of the National Gallery, pictures of the English school being transferable from one to the other. The transfer of Turner's pictures was, one may hope, the beginning of a greater change. Turner remains at Trafalgar Square sufficiently to secure his place in the world's history of painting; till the transfer was effected he was there out of proportion even to that place. Hogarth, Reynolds, Gainsborough, and the other eighteenth-century masters might well be dealt with on the same lines. Their transfer to Millbank would give much needed room at Trafalgar Square, and reduce at Millbank the space now given to painters who are not masters at all. On the other hand, some nineteenth-century VOL. LXXI-No. 419


masters, like Stevens, deserve to be represented at Trafalgar Square as one or two already are. A serious defect at present is the inaccessibility of the Tate Gallery from the National Gallery and other parts of London. What is wanted is an extension, otherwise desirable, of the Tube system from Charing Cross, with stations at the Stores and Roman Catholic Cathedral in Victoria Street and at the Tate, others in Chelsea, and a terminus tapping the London and South-Western at Clapham Junction.

The second anomaly, and a more serious one, at the Tate Gallery, is the presence of a collection, extending to seven rooms, none of the items in which have been subject to the choice or veto of the Board. The pictures and sculpture of the Chantrey Bequest Collection are chosen, not by the Director and Board, but by the President and Council of the Royal Academy. A sum of between 20001. and 3000l. a year has been at the disposal of this body during thirty-four years for the acquisition of works of the highest merit in painting and sculpture that can be obtained' by artists working in Great Britain; and on the assumption that the purchasers would carry out Chantrey's intention, and thus relieve the National Gallery from the task of obtaining representative work of British contemporary art, the Academy's purchases have been admitted as a matter of course. Actually the Academy has failed to represent all but one or two of the best artists in the period covered by their purchases, and it has been the task of the Board, unendowed for this purpose, to fill up the glaring blanks by securing gifts and by occasional purchases from its meagre funds. If the statement just made appear incredible, an enumeration of names is enough to substantiate it. There have been three chief movements in English art since the days of Turner and Constable. First came the two Italian-trained artists of wide scope and commanding genius, Stevens and Watts. Then followed the movement of the Preraphaelites, preceded by Dyce, accompanied by Madox Brown, and followed by Burne Jones and others. Then came 'Impressionism,' and the various impulses which produced Whistler, Potter, Sargent and Brabazon, Wilson Steer, Conder, John, and others of less certain eminence.

Hardly anything of all this is represented in the Chantrey Collection; a single Watts, an Orchardson, Leighton's Athlete, a Sargent, a Furse, and a few respectable pieces of painting and sculpture besides are all that can be counted among one hundred and thirty-nine purchases from a total expenditure of 80,3251. on ' pictures and sculpture of the year'! A committee of the House of Lords reported adversely on the administration of the Bequest in 1904, but with no result, and under the present constitution of the Academy no change is to be hoped for. The remedy for this

« VorigeDoorgaan »