High Testimony In All Ages To Its Civilizing Power

That those individuals of the most enlarged and cultivated minds, both in the ancient and modern ages of the world, have ever thus regarded and esteemed the study of the arts, none will attempt to deny. Whether painting or poetry, sculptare or architecture, eloquence or music, each of these arts has the same origin and the same object, and is alike influential and important. Plato studied painting; Socrates was a sculptor by profession; and Aristotle and Alexander were distinguished as patrons of art. Cicero, too, delighted not more in eloquence and poetry, and literature in general, than in the contemplation of corresponding beauties in works of Grecian art, both in painting and sculpture. Locke, who had so deep a knowledge of the constitution, and method of cultivation of the human mind, points out the practice of painting in his work on Education,* already alluded to, as the most fitted for a gentleman, and the pursuit of which he would have chosen as his own, were it not too sedentary an occupation for a man already engaged in other literary studies. Addison devoted a great portion of his ingenious and beautiful essays in the ` Spectator,’ to the consideration and recommendation of the subject of these pages. Burke was not only the tasteful admirer of works of art, but ever the liberal and constant patron of those who displayed genius in its cultivation. Pursuits of this kind have in turn commanded the attention, and invigorated the powers of all the learned, the enlightened, and the highly gifted by nature, of every time and clime. Poetry and eloquence are an acknowledged and essential branch of the education of each. Indeed, both in the case of nations and of individuals, the nobler have been the endowments by which they were distinguished, the more extensive and the more perfect has been their appreciation of art. The more powerful was the mental vision which they possessed, the more clearly and forcibly did they perceive, and the more correctly did they estimate its real value and capabilities.

Thus, the testimony to the civilizing effect of art in all “ages of the world is of a twofold kind. (1.) It is drawn from the condition of the most enlightened nations who have been re-fined and elevated by the influence of art. (2.) It is confirmed by the opinion of the most enlightened men who were the best qualified to judge of the matter.

To persons in general of high rank and extensive fortune, who are wont to distinguish themselves by the judicious collection, and the liberal patronage of works of art, of what importance is it to possess a knowledge of the principles at least of this pursuit, both to enable them to select productions of real merit, and to bestow their patronage in a beneficial manner. Of still higher consequence is it for those who may be called upon to fill stations in society of responsibility and public trust, that they should be qualified to superintend with ability the erection of those great national edifices or monuments which are raised under their direction, and to whom the general encouragement of the arts, as a branch of State policy, is especially confided.