Manners and customs of ye Englyshe/Ye Exhybityon at ye Royal Academye.

Illustrated by Richard Doyle

Manners and Customs of ye Englyshe in 1849. No. 11.

Ye Exhybityon at ye Royal Academye.


Ye Exhybityon at ye Royal Academye.

[Monday, May 21, 1849.]

THIS Morning with my Wife to the Exhibition of the Royal Academy, where 611 Paintings, beſides Miniatures and other Drawings, and Pieces of Sculpture, making altogether 1341 Works of Art, and methought it would be ſtrange if there were not ſome Maſterpiece among vo many. The whole to be ſeen for the ſmall Sum of 1s., and the Catalogue coſt me 1s. more, but ſhould have known all the old Hands as well without it. To ſee how eaſy it is to diſtinguiſh them by their Styles after two or three Years' Experience: as one by his Dogs, that might be expected to bark, or to talk rather, with their Looks and Ways like human Creatures. Then another by his Colouring that do reſemble a Man of ſweet Omelet with all the Colours of the Rainbow and many more; which methinks is a Grange Fancy; but now he hath a Picture out of his trite Faſhion; done after the Manner of the antique Maſters, and a good Imitation. A third alio by his unadorned Beauties with their glowing Eyes and Cheeks and plump ſwarthy Fleſh, and a fourth by his never ending Perspectives, and Gulfs or Darkneſs, and Mountains of Blue. But this Year I do mark fewer of theſe old Acquaintances, and more of the Works of younger Men, wherein there is leſs of Knack and more of Freſhness, which I do eſteem a hopeful Sign. The Exhibition at large I judge to be a very excellent middling one, many Pictures good in their Kind, but that Kind in a very few Caſes high. The Silks and Satins moſtly painted to Admiration, and the Figures copied carefully from the Model; but this do appear too plainly; and the Action generally too much like a Scene in a Play. In the hiſtorical Pictures the Characters dreſſed ftrictly in the Falhion of their Time, but in the beſt of them a Lack of Fancy and Imagination, though ſeeming original through a certain Quaintness that do ſmack of Church-Window Saints and illuminated Miſſals. The Landſcapes better, and a moſt brave Morning on the Lake of Zurich by one that hath the right Stuff in him, and ſome ſweet melancholy Shades and ſolemn Groves, and a Solitary Pool, that did pleaſe me mightily, and my Wife do ſay that the Artiſt ſhould be Commiſſioner of Woods and Foreſts. Some Pictures of common Life pretty enough, and a little Crowd before a pleaſant ſentimental one called the Duet. One or two droll ones, as the Slide, and Drawing for the Militia, did make me laugh: but to think how many Woodcuts as good as the beſt you can get in a little Miſcellany published weekly, coſt you 3d. Fewer ſilly Portraits of Gentlemen and Ladies than formerly, which is a Comfort. The Pictures fairly enough hung, and ſtrange to ſee a dead Lion between Monsieur Guizot and Prince Metternich, as though to repreſent abſolute Monarchy, and ſeemed meant for a Joke. Some Pictures in the Octagon Room, which could not tell whether they were good or no for Want of Light, and the fame with all the Sculptures in their Lumber Hole. This is how we treat Art in this Country, and with Paintings prefented to the Nation buried in a Vault, but ſorry Encouragement is given to Genius; and no Wonder that Artiſts do Pictures for Furniture to ſell to the great and ſmall Vulgar, and ſo produce the Kind of Works that make up the greater Part of the Exhibition.