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Art in Scotland
Chapter VIII

IT was during the interval between his first visit to Rome and his permanent settlement in London that Allan Ramsay, along with some of the leading men in Edinburgh, formed themselves into a small literary coterie, known as the Select Society, which exercised some influence in its way. Along with the painter, David Hume seems to have been a leading spirit; and after Ramsay went to London, we find Hume writing him regarding this Society in 1755—"What chiefly renders us considerable is a project of engrafting on the Society a scheme for the encouragement of Art and Science and Manufactures in Scotland, by premiums, partly honorary and partly lucrative. A box is opened for donations, and about 100 guineas have been given in. We hear of considerable sums intended by Lords Hopetoun, Morton, Marchmont, &c., who desire to be members. Nine managers have been chosen, and to keep the business distinct from our reasoning, the first Monday of every month is set apart for these transactions, and they are never to be mentioned in our Wednesday meetings. Advertisements have been published to inform the public of our intention. A premium, I remember, is promised to the best discourse on taste and the principles of vegetation. This regards the belles lettres and the sciences, but we have not neglected porter, strong ales, and wrought ruffles, even down to linen rags." The scheme thus introduced, and which included a long list of the most curious subjects for competition, was advertised as "a Society for the encouragement of the Arts, Sciences, Manufactures, and Agriculture," and the list of managers is headed by the name of the Duke of Hamilton, followed by other noblemen and gentlemen. Among the premiums offered were medals and prizes of from two to five guineas for drawings of fruits, foliage, or flowers, limited to competition by boys or girls under sixteen years of age. In the first awards thus made in 1756, a gold medal was given to James Alves of Inverness, "now abroad to improve in painting"; [The name of James Alves, London, appears as an exhibitor at the Royal Academy in 1774, of Vertumnus discovering herself to Pomona, and a subject from the 'Tatler '; and in 1779, of two crayon portraits.] three guineas for the second best to William Jamieson of Kilmarnock; and two guineas for third best to George Willison and Thomas Donaldson of Edinburgh, the second-last mentioned of whom rose to some eminence as a portrait-painter after the usual visit to Rome, and died in India. In the advertisement of that year it is intimated that "contributions and subscriptions to the Society's funds are received by Mr Andrew Fairholm, banker, their treasurer, and subscription papers are lodged in shops and in the clerks' offices of every county and royal borough in Scotland." The funds of the Society being in this manner augmented, the scheme was widened, and in the following year design was included, a branch of art then at its very lowest ebb in Scotland. The result of this section of the competition in 1757 stands as follows: "For best drawing of flowers, &c., by boys or girls under fifteen from copies, three guineas—no drawing of sufficient merit produced: for similar drawings from nature, by boys or girls under fifteen, five guineas—no drawings of sufficient merit produced: for best landscape from pictures or drawings, by boys or girls under eighteen, three guineas, to Thomas Donaldson in Edinburgh: for best drawing copied wherein the Doric, Ionic, or Corinthian orders with their proper ornaments are introduced, by boys or girls under eighteen, four guineas—no drawing of sufficient merit produced: for the best drawing of any busto, statue, or bas-relieve, by boys or girls under twenty, a five-guinea piece of William and Mary, given by Lieut.Colonel Oughton, to Richard Cooper, junior, Edinburgh." A note is added to this part of the report stating that certain prizes had been given for drawings of a bust, picture, and bas-relief which did not fulfil the conditions of the competition, and also informing the public "that the progress made in several branches of drawing since last year is very considerable." In the following year, 1758, the premiums for drawing from the round fell to three previously successful competitors—in fact, for the three successive years there only appear some five names, showing the limited number of competitors : in this year's competition it is somewhat remarkable that out of eight premiums offered of two and three guineas, for simple drawings and designs for damask linen, Scotch carpets, and flowered lawn, no drawings of sufficient merit were produced, and in design especially, not a single specimen was put in for competition for these at that time considerable prizes. In 1759, probably in consequence of this absence of competitors, only one prize was offered for design, and the others for drawing were carried off by the successful competitors of the preceding years, after which there seems to be no traces whatever of this Society, excepting an obscure notice in the year 1761, in which it is mentioned that the "Select Society" were still holding their meetings, but now converted into a Society for Promoting the Reading and Speaking of the English Language in Scotland.

This Association, known as the Edinburgh Society, is often confounded with the honourable Board of Trustees for Manufactures in Scotland, which had its origin at the period of the union of the two kingdoms. Previous to this time some attention had been directed towards the development of the industries of Scotland, especially in regard to linen-weaving, carpet manufactures, &c., which had been more extensively introduced into Scotland by the immigration of the French Protestants into this country as well as the sister kingdoms; and for the accommodation of the foreign weavers, the magistrates of Edinburgh had caused cottages and workshops to be built on a piece of vacant land close to the city, where Picardy Place now stands—hence its name, most of the weavers having come from Picardy. With a view of still further developing such industries as well as improving them, by the "Act concerning the Public Debt" in the Treaty of Union, it was agreed that a sum of money known as the "equivalent" should be paid to Scotland, in compensation for its new burthen in the form of its share of the national debt. The sum appointed to be paid amounted to £385,000, and among the various allowances payable out of this sum, such as the losses sustained by private individuals by reducing the coin of Scotland to the standard and value of that of England, payment of the debts of the African and Indian Trading Company, &c., a payment of £2000 per annum for "the space of sevine years," was to be employed towards "incouradgeing and promoteing the manufacture of coarse wool within those shyres which produce the wool;" I the "surplus," after other payments, to be applied towards other purposes consequent on the Union. Subsequently it was provided that this payment should be in perpetuity; and on the establishment of a separate Fishery Board in 1809, it was appropriated to the School of Design, National Gallery, and Museum of Antiquities. This money was placed at the disposal of a Board of Trustees; the "surplus " was also to an extent available for similar purposes and to the same board of twenty-one gentlemen was also further intrusted a portion of the funds realised by the sale of the estates forfeited in the Rebellion of 1745. The object of the last-mentioned fund was definitely for the purpose of establishing an Academy of Design in order to promote a taste among the workmen and youth of both sexes in Scotland, hence known as the Trustees' Academy. It has been sometimes doubted whether the national cultivation of art was benefited in the best possible way by the constitution of this board as directors of an Academy of Design, and with sonic justice. A body of noblemen and gentlemen were perhaps more unlikely then, even than at the present day, to understand the details of the administration intrusted to them. They very probably presumed that as the art was required to be taught in Scotland, no Scotch native could be qualified to convey the instruction; and it has been argued, from the fact that the first two masters being foreigners, there were no native artists at that time in Scotland capable of fulfilling the duties. Facts, however, prove quite the reverse. The indenture of the Academy of St Luke, previously referred to, was signed by eighteen artists, some of whom, such as Cooper, Alexander, and Norrie, are known to have been quite capable. This was thirty years before the Trustees' Academy was projected; and as only about thirty artists combined at Hogarth's suggestion to get up the Academy in London, eighteen was a fair proportion in Edinburgh for the purpose intended. Had such a man as John Graham, who was appointed to the mastership forty years later, been available and allowed the full control of the Academy at its institution, there can be little doubt but that Scottish art would have been matured by at least half a century.

The classes in the Trustees' Academy were opened in 1760, in a room in the Edinburgh College, the hours of study being at first limited to from ro till 12 in the forenoon, these being then supposed the least likely to interfere with the time of workmen, for whom the Academy was then exclusively intended. An evening class was subsequently opened, at what period is unknown. The first master appointed was William Delacour, a French artist previously settled in Edinburgh, who had been much employed by the Jacobites as a portrait-painter, besides having a reputation for painting fancy subjects somewhat in the style of Watteau, and landscapes, a style of decoration on which he was sometimes employed for the interiors of mansions. At his death in 1767 (or 1768) he was succeeded by another Frenchman of the name of Pavilion, who like his predecessor seems to have done nothing beyond teaching the merest rudiments of the art of drawing, such as were required by house-painters, pattern-makers, and others of that class. The small salary attached to the office of master, the few students attending—limited to twenty, who were instructed gratis —and the appreciation of art in design as well as in painting hardly existing at that time in Scotland, only induced a dead-alive kind of study, if it could be called study at all. This could hardly be expected to awaken into life under the flighty enthusiasm of Alexander Runciman, who succeeded Pavilion about the year 1771, at the salary of £120 per annum—although an additional room was granted for the accommodation of the class, and Lis yearly of premiums offered by the Trustees.

Runciman, who could hardly have been expected to find the nature of the work very much in accordance with his taste ai aspirations, was succeeded at his death in 1785 by David All,?, who held the office till 1796; but if either of these artists imbued their students with any of their own enthusiasm, or imparted anything of their own skill, the too short time allowed for practice, the want of proper and sufficient examples to draw from, and the class of students under their instruction, must have rendered any artistic development impossible. With perhaps one exception, no artist of future eminence seems up till this time to have benefited by the Academy. This exception was Alexander Nasmyth, who drew in the evening class for a short time under Runciman, and seems very soon to have exhausted the possible study of the few casts of any merit contained in the Academy. Among the models was a small group of the Laocoon, which Nasmyth had been set to copy over and over again from different points of view. On finishing his sixth drawing from this group, sick of the subject, he begged Runciman to let him have a new one—probably rather a difficult request to comply with. "I'll give you a new subject," said Runciman rather angrily, and turning the group upside down, told him to copy that. Nasmyth had no alternative but to do as he was told, and produced a drawing of the group which so pleased his master that he had it framed. It hung up in the class-room for a long time, with a memorandum attached detailing the circumstance. [Autobiography of James Nasmyth.]

On the death of David Allan the class was put under the charge of John Wood. This teacher, however, only held the appointment for about one year, owing to the Board of Trustees having appointed him on the faith of drawings which he had submitted with his application for the position, and which were subsequently discovered not to have been executed by himself. Wood having been dismissed, more care was exercised in the selection of a successor, and in 1798, out of some nine or ten artists submitting specimens of their work, the board were fortunate in securing the services of John Graham, who held the appointment till 1817. From the time of Graham's appointment, the Academy entered into a new era of its existence, and first assumed a proper position as a place for art education. In addition to artistic talent of a high order, he possessed a power of communicating his knowledge and enthusiasm, a kindly interest in his pupils, and sufficient spirit to develop the study of art in its higher departments, in spite of the narrow opposition openly expressed by several of the citizens, who were so blind as to be unable to see how the minor art of design could be thus advanced. Money-prizes for drawing had been given hitherto, and to these were now added premiums for oil-painting, which was for the first time introduced. A growing appreciation of art began to assert itself, and the ardent-minded Graham soon drew around him many pupils, some of whose names subsequently became the brightest in the roll of Scottish artists. Under his direction, in the Academy there studied for several years Sir William Allan, Sir David Wilkie, Sir J. W. Gordon, and many others, who never mentioned his name but with the most grateful respect.

As whatever books and registers of the Academy formerly existed were lost or destroyed early in the present century, of the various details of the Academy, as well as the subjects of the competitions in oil-painting, no records now remain beyond what have been mentioned in the written lives of the artists or preserved by other means. From these we learn that the first subject for competition in painting was from the tragedy of "Macbeth," the competitors being allowed to choose their own subjects from the play. The premium on this occasion was awarded to a young artist named David Thomson, who died in his youth in 18r, a landscape-painter of flashy execution, the award having been made not without some suspicion of unfairness, he being a brother of the secretary. The premium of 1803, however, fell to one whose future career fulfilled his early promise, when Wilkie gained £10o for his picture of Calisto in the Bath of Diana. The subjects chosen for competition were selected from poetry and history; and curiously enough, with the exception of" Macbeth," the picturesque incidents of Scottish history and the works of the early Scottish poets seem never to have suggested themselves as sources for illustration. The scheme of the Academy was otherwise further extended under Graham's management, and additional classes were opened,' as little good could be expected to result from short attendances in the evenings, and at a class meeting at an inconvenient time of the day for those otherwise occupied. A collection of good casts from the antique was commenced by Graham; the examples of fruit, flowers, and grotesque ornaments, which had hitherto been the only models set before the students, were banished for ever from the Academy;" and the Board adopted a more liberal system than they had hitherto done in its management.

After the death of Graham, from 1818 the Academy was ably and worthily conducted by Andrew Wilson, who brought to his task the cultivated taste of a travelled artist, an intimate knowledge of the works of the great masters, and a wide theoretical as well as practical knowledge of his art, having spent many years abroad collecting pictures, &c., for public and private galleries. He resigned his appointment as professor of drawing at the Military College of Sandhurst on being appointed director of the Academy, and held that post till 1826, when he removed to Italy with his wife and family. During the seven or eight years he occupied the position, he had many pupils who subsequently rose to eminence in their profession, among whom were Robert Scott Lauder, D. 0. Hill, and William Simson. [David Roberts is claimed as a pupil of Andrew Wilson, but he only attended one week and was dissatisfied.]

The period was a troublous one for art in Edinburgh, owing to the action of the body of noblemen and gentlemen forming the Institution for the Encouragement of the Fine Arts, founded in 1819, which at first refused to recognise any contemporary art in its exhibitions, or any artist in the directorate during its existence. The leading members of this institution were also connected with the Board of Trustees who controlled the Academy, and from a surplus of the grant of £2000 per annum, had by this time accumulated sufficient to build the Royal Institution on the Mound for their own exhibitions, and in which rooms were provided for the use of the Trustees' Academy, the collection of casts commenced by Graham having been considerably augmented by Andrew Wilson. The 'Scots Magazine' of this year (2826) contains an article on a new Drawing Institution projected in Edinburgh, in which no names are mentioned, and which was probably a part of the scheme contemplated by the artists then uniting for establishing what afterwards became the Royal Scottish Academy. This article speaks rather slightingly of what was being done by the Trustees' Academy; and while throwing cold water on the proposed Drawing Institution, hints that the Royal Institution on the Mound might more easily supply any desideratum which existed regarding higher art education, suggesting at the same time that a school for sculpture should be added.

On Andrew Wilson's resignation in 1826, William Allan was appointed his successor. This eminent artist had been settled in Edinburgh for about twelve or thirteen years after returning from his adventurous wanderings among Tartars, Turks, and Russians, and was the first of the professors of the Academy to inculcate a love of Scottish history among his students, thus giving an impetus to the historic branch of his art, so well illustrated by himself and his students, the most notable of whom were Thomas Duncan, Sir George Harvey, and J. A. Houston. About 1827-28 a number of artists, including David Scott, petitioned the Board of Trustees to open their gallery for study during the mornings. This was acceded to, and permission given to draw from seven till nine on Saturday mornings, and on four mornings in the week during the vacation months. Two or three years later, another request was addressed to the secretary for further liberty of attendance with less interruption. This was also acceded to, but only to the seven artists who had signed the application, and under certain restrictions. The restrictions were, that the casts should not be moved, a fine to be imposed for non-attendance, and the artists to pay the keeper for his extra work. The two first of these were annulled, each student paid his half-guinea to Smith the keeper, and thus further facilities were for a short time enjoyed.

The Academy had now assumed some considerable importance, as, in addition to the director, other masters were appointed. Thomas Duncan was at an early age put in charge of a class for colour, and afterwards of that for drawing; while Charles Heath Wilson, the son of Andrew Wilson, was about 1837 appointed to a class for the study of ornament and design, separate from and independent of William Allan. Allan was about this time elected President of the Royal Scottish Academy when it received its charter (1838), and during his term of office, from 1837, William Dyce was head-master for about eighteen months; after which the latter went to London, having been selected to act as superintendent and secretary to the recently established School of Design at Somerset House. It was during William Allan's term of office that life classes were first introduced, under the auspices of the Royal Institution. This was in 1832, prior to which, for nearly five years, one had been in operation, held by David Scott, Daniel Macnee, and other eight artists. The Scottish Academy, which by dint of persevering effort had now attained its position, held a life class in the evenings from eight till ten o'clock, so that enthusiastic students could also attend the Trustees' class, which met for two hours at six o'clock. Among the other efforts by the Board, some feeble attempts, probably not very well directed, were made towards the introduction of technical education. One of the students, still living, speaks of an old man who was sometimes seen coming into the rooms to teach the mysteries of the weaver's craft, receiving a salary for the instruction of two or three pupils. Sir William Allan finally retired from the management of the Academy early in 1844, on the 18th July of which year the secretary writes to David Scott that the Board "have incorporated the chair of the class for drawing from the antique with that for the theory and practice of colour, and appointed Mr Duncan, who filled the latter, to be head-master or director over the whole establishment, with the assistance of Mr W. Crawford and Mr J. Ballantyne as preceptors under him." Duncan died in the following year, and was succeeded by George Christie, who had assisted the former for about two years. An interesting memento of Christie's management, which terminated in r80, is preserved in the Scottish National Gallery, consisting of figures of saints designed by him, and painted on a gold ground in the Byzantine manner by his pupils Thomas Faed and John Macdonald.

The following statement, published in 1845,' gives an idea of the work being done by the Academy: "It now consists of one class for the study of drawing from the ancient statues, under one master; a class for the study of pictorial colouring under another master; a life academy under the especial care of the head-master; a school for instructing pupils in all the various departments of ornamental design, both in form and colour, including architecture, geometry, perspective, modelling, fresco and encaustic painting, &c., divided into classes and under the superintendence of one master and an assistant; to all which is added a course of lectures on pictorial anatomy. The number of pupils is at present about 130, all of whom receive instruction gratis. Candidates are at first admitted as probationers for three months, during which period the Board is enabled to ascertain whether their talents are such as to warrant their continuance; and if so, to determine to what department they shall be attached. Prizes are awarded and there are annual exhibitions of their works. The sculpture gallery contains casts of the Elgin Marbles, the Ghiberti gates, and Greek and Roman busts; the latter collection having been made at Rome by the Alborini family, from whom they were purchased for this gallery." The course of lectures on pictorial anatomy referred to were given by Dr James Miller, the introductory one of which was published at the request of the Board of Trustees in 1842; but to any one conversant with the practice of art education, it must be admitted that some colouring must be eliminated from the above extract. In this year, 1845, the staff of teachers stood as follows: Director—Alexander Christie ; Master of antique, life, and colour classes—John Ballantyne; Assistant— William Crawford; Lecturer on anatomy—Professor Miller; Master of architectural, ornamental, and fresco classes—Alex. Christie; Assistant - Silas Rice; Curator of picture . galleries - James Graham (with two assistants).

In the year 183o, Robert Scott Lauder was appointed headmaster, having previously acted in the capacity of assistant to Sir William Allan. Among the pupils of this gifted artist were many who worthily represent their native art in the present day—notably W. Q. Orchardson, John M'Whirter, William M'Taggart, the Burrs, John Pettie, Peter Graham, Hugh Cameron, to which must be added the names of the lamented George Paul Chalmers, and the still more recent Robert Herdman, two of the most accomplished representatives of the Scottish School of Art.

The arts of modelling flowers and wood-carving had just lately been introduced; and the distinctive character of the Trustees' Academy ceased in 1858, when it was affiliated with the Art Department of South Kensington, as one of the Government Schools of Design taking root all over the country. This important change led to the limitation of its education as a school of art. "My Lords of the Treasury, after consulting the best authorities," concluded that the line should be drawn where the study of the antique finishes and that of the life begins. The life class was therefore placed under the control of the Scottish Academy for the training of artists, an arrangement which the Art Department in London has since tried to overturn, so as to bring all the classes under its control.

In closing this account of the Trustees' Academy, it may be not out of place to quote some remarks made by the distinguished Sir J. Noel Paton at the meeting of the students and managers in 1876. In the course of his address, Sir Noel remarked that this Academy was the prototype of all the schools in these kingdoms destined for the art education of the people in connection with national manufactures. "It was the first school where a collection of casts from the remains of classic and medieval art was brought together as the basis of such education, and where artist and artisan might sit down side by side and draw from a common model: the first school, also, which offered art education to the sex which now forms so large and distinguished a section of the students attending Government schools of art,—having been in active operation, stimulating the arts of design in Scotland, and giving great names to British art for generations before the wide-stretching Briareus of South Kensington came into existence. If the Edinburgh School of Art, since its affiliation, has necessarily been conducted on the South Kensington system, we might soothe our national vanity with the recollection that that system was admittedly foreshadowed, in all its best features, so far back as 1837, in the comprehensive and far-seeing letter addressed to the Board of Trustees by William Dyce and C. Heath Wilson, both alumni of this institution. Whether the affiliation to South Kensington had exercised, or was likely in the long-run to exercise, a salutary influence on our national School of Art, was a question he was not called on to discuss; but his conviction was, that the distinctive characteristics of every national school were the natural outcome of the essential characteristics of the people in whose midst it had sprung, and that as such they were worthy of preservation as a source of strength, not of weakness."

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