Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

if this were the case, there would be large classes of designers who would clearly have no need of it at all. Yet it forms an important part in the education of every ornamental artist. His first object is, of course, to acquire freedom of hand and the power of imitating what is set before him. This, it is said by some, is acquired by practice in figure-drawing, far better than in any other manner; and therefore they argue that we ought to place figure-drawing in the first rank, and assign to it the first importance in the education of the designer. The assertion is, however, challenged by other authorities; who deny that greater power is communicated by drawing the figure than by any other kind of drawing. This is purely an artist's question, and to artists we must leave the solution, merely remarking that the study of the figure appears to be of a severer character than the study of other forms-and to be, on that account, well adapted to produce a careful and simple style.

[ocr errors]

But those who advocate this its grammatical use,'-as it is well styled by Mr. Redgrave-are met with an objection that the time spent in this part of the teaching would be turned to better account, if devoted to studies in which the pupil, while obtaining as good, or nearly as good, an education for his hand and eye, would be at the same time acquiring specific knowledge of a kind that would be directly and immediately useful to him,-or, in other words, to the study of conventional ornament. Now we do not at all underrate the importance of giving instruction in conventional ornament. It is, of course, a main part of the business of the school; but we must protest against the notion that the study of conventional ornament can ever be sufficient for a designer in any branch of manufactures whatever. If we are ever to attain originality of invention if we are ever to have a school of our own-we must draw our inspiration, not from the productions of other schools, but from nature. The ornamentist, as we saw in the beginning, applies the principles of beauty which he discovers in Nature to a new subject; but how is he to do this if he do not take Nature for his guide? What sort of a landscape would a painter produce, if he studied only Claude and Ruysdael, instead of going to the rocks, trees, and streams themselves, from which Claude and Ruysdael drew? If an attempt to imitate the works of Nature at second-hand is always insipid, how vain must be the attempt to apply to a new subject the principles on which she produces those works, without first taking the pains to acquire them from herself! Conventional ornament is an adaptation of natural beauty to the productions of human industry. Undoubtedly it is most important to the student to

know how the Greeks or Italians contrived to turn natural forms to account for this purpose: but first let us take care to familiarise him with the natural forms themselves; so that, when he is at work for himself, he may compose his variations upon the true type, and not upon the conventional rendering of it. The herald who drew his ideas of the king of beasts from the Royal Arms of England, pronounced the lions in the Tower to be not the least like real lions! The mistake was not of much consequence in the particular instance referred to; but we should hardly feel satisfied with a designer who could only arrange the lily or the rose upon classical principles, — without having himself an acquaintance with the natural peculiarities and varieties of the flower. A close study of natural forms is therefore indispensable to the designer-and should form part of his education at an early period. Indeed, in the formation of a great ornamentist we should be inclined to put off the study of conventional ornament as long as possible; and, to borrow a metaphor from a kindred art, we would have him learn his grammar thoroughly, before he begins to think of style.

-

We are aware that this theory cannot always be acted upon. Perhaps it is at present inapplicable to the majority of cases. Students, who come for a few months' special instruction to assist them in their daily avocations, cannot be set down to the rudiments; but must be assisted in their own way, or they will leave the school. We cannot help suspecting, indeed, that there has been rather too much prudery in this respect at Somerset House. Mr. Richardson, one of the masters, mentions a case where a student an ironmonger by trade-asked him to assist him in making a design for a stove: he set him to work accordingly; but Mr. Wilson-then the director of the school-coming by, took the student away, and set him to work upon an elevation of the temple of Theseus, desiring him to copy it by a scale of modules and minutes: in a few days the young man left the school! We dare say the director was quite right in thinking the young man wanted more elementary instruction; and that it would have been a good thing for him to have gone through a thorough course of it: but the young man was not willing to drudge and so he was not benefited at all. Even the committee of management, which was substituted for the director on the abolition of that office, appear to have run some risk of splitting on the same rock; and, in their zeal for sound teaching, to have somewhat overlooked the peculiarities of the class for which

* Mr. Richardson's letter; see Report of Special Committee of Council of School of Design, 1847.

they had to prescribe the course of education. It seems to us that nothing can be sounder than their general scheme of instruction for all such pupils as desire really to become - what the schools were at first intended to produce-superior designers. But they should remember that superior designers take long in educating; that the public are impatient for fruits; and that there are multitudes of young men in the country who, without desiring a thorough training, are eager to avail themselves of the advantages of the school for special purposes of their own,—men, in short, who want assistance rather than education. For such as these a great deal of latitude must be allowed. When a friend of ours obtained his commission in a county regiment, he went to a master of arms, to learn the sword exercise-and naturally asked how long it would take him to acquire it. 'Why, sir,' was the reply, if you only want to learn the sword exercise 'well enough to pass in the yeomanry, I can show you that in 'two lessons; but if you want to become a master of your weapon, we must begin at the beginning, and have twelve 'lessons at least.' That is just the case with the students in the Schools of Design. Nine tenths of them cannot afford to go through the twelve lessons; but they want the two, just to enable them to pass in the manufactory. Superior designers, to be sure, cannot be formed in this way; yet a great improvement may be effected in the class which so materially influences designing, the under-drawers, the fillers-up, and the putters-on-who have hitherto rather impeded than assisted the designer, owing to their inability to execute his conceptions with any thing like taste or fidelity. We think it abundantly clear that the Schools of Design have already done a great deal in this direction; and we hope that neither the public nor the committee will underrate its importance.

Reverting to the question of the figure-drawing, we cannot help expressing our doubts whether another important reason for enforcing it has not been overlooked. We need offer no apology for extracting the following remarks of a writer whom we have already quoted. He says: Almost all subjects of 'decorative art are intended to serve some purpose more or less intimately connected with the human person; and, in order to adapt them to it, a knowledge of the figure is indispensable. Even in architectural decorations those ornaments and colours 'ought to be chosen which are best adapted to the sizes and 'complexions of the men and women who are to use the building; but, in respect of the smaller things, such as dress and furniture, which come in immediate contact with the person,'too much care cannot be taken to make them suit it. A

[ocr errors]

manship to costly materials, and an elegant wooden platter to the most sumptuous gold or silver plate, less beautifully wrought.

Notwithstanding our ostentatious habits, no one will deny that of late years a step has been taken in this direction. The attention of the public has been aroused; and we have become conscious of our short-comings. In these matters the desire of improvement is half the battle. Crude theories in art, incorrect practices, and bad examples cannot be suppressed by act of parliament. But the taste of a people may gradually be raised, by taking every opportunity of making it familiar with the best possible models of every description. And, to whatever extent Schools of Design may contribute to this enviable consummation, they will in the same degree secure every immediate and minor object, in this their more complete success. At a late meeting of the School of Design established in the Potteries, - Mr. Labouchere in the chair,-the President of the Board of Trade was requested to assure his colleagues, that no branch of manufacture more urgently required the advantage of Schools of Design than that of china and earthenware; that no district has the prospect of being more extensively benefited by their operation than the Staffordshire Potteries; and that they trust no population will be found more grateful for their establish'ment.' Mr. Labouchere truly observed, in reply, that, after all which Government might do, the real success and permanent interests of such institutions must mainly depend on the support given them by the communities in which they exist; and we agree with the Athenæum in rejoicing that in one instance, at least, this element of final prosperity seems likely to be supplied.

ART. VI. — 1. Political and Social Economy, its practical Applications. (From Chambers's Instructive and Entertaining Library.') By JOHN HILL BURTON. Edinburgh:

[ocr errors]

1849.

2. Evils of England, Social and Economical. By A LONDON PHYSICIAN. London: 1849.

3. Tactics for the Times. By J. C. SYMONS. London: 1849.

PERHAPS the two features which have most distinguished the

public mind of Britain during the last few years are, a quick perception and conscientious sense of our social evils,and an entire want of system and philosophy in our mode of treating and regarding them. Till the continental convulsions of the last twelvemonths threw for the time all other matters

into the shade, the public attention seemed to be fixing itself upon the miseries and maladies of our population with an almost morbid intensity; and with an impatience of endurance, and a craving for action, as alarming to the philosopher as it was encouraging and consolatory to the mere philanthropist. Most of the topics which had formerly absorbed the interest of the nation were settled and forgotten. The agitating questions of foreign policy, parliamentary reform, and religious toleration, were well nigh disposed of; and the vast field of colonial policy, which for some years to come will probably occupy the front rank in popular and parliamentary interest, had as yet scarcely been opened. No wonder, therefore, that the regular campaigns of party warfare, from the absence of those great subjects which had divested them of their littleness, were beginning to be trite and wearisome. In the pause from conflicts, both internal and external, which ensued, people had leisure to look at home, and to inquire into their domestic position. And what they saw might well stagger and appal them. Meanwhile, benevolent individuals had long been busy in examining and exposing those particular grievances or sufferings which had severally attracted their imagination or their pity. Each philanthropist had his pet evil. Some mused and discoursed on that congeries of undigested symptoms which they termed The Condition-of-England Question.' Others, less comprehensive in their sympathy, or less ambitious in their zeal, were content to divide the labours of social reformation. One man considered the factory population as his peculiar charge. Another took coal mines under his especial protection. A third organised a crusade against drunkenness; a fourth occupied himself with the statistics of education; a fifth affected juvenile criminals; a sixth paupers; a seventh looked after slaves; an eighth threw his ægis over the natives in remote colonies;-till the unfortunate agricultural peasants were the only portion of our population that seemed neglected and forgotten. No Protector of the Aborigines sprung up for them: For those on whom this office should naturally have devolved, were busy in other fields.

[ocr errors]

Two great benefits have resulted from this widespread and irregular activity. In the first place, we have collected an invaluable mass of information on the condition, moral and physical, of nearly every branch of the poorer classes, to guide us in our efforts for their amelioration; and, secondly, we have at last penetrated the public mind with the sincere conviction that these matters possess for us a personal, paramount, and urgent interest, with which no question of foreign policy or party struggle can for a moment vie. The task of restoring health and sound

« AnteriorContinuar »