§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS
, in rising to move—That, in the opinion of this House, grants in aid of Art and Industrial Museums should not be confined to London, Edinburgh, and Dublin, but that a special grant should be made to the Science and Art Department, South Kensington, to enable them to supply Provincial Art Galleries and Museums with original examples and reproductions of Industrial Art adapted to their special local acquirements, and also to maintain and to still further develop the circulation system now administered by the Department; that gifts or loans of such articles and works as may be available from the National Art Collections, and from the British Museum, should be made to Provincial Art Galleries and Museums; and that such aid be confined to those towns or localities which are rated under the Free Libraries and Museums Act, and that the amount of such aid be proportioned to the sum raised and spent in each locality; and that, in order to give due effect to these proposals, it is desirable to place the whole of the National Art and other Collections, including the National Gallery and British Museum, under the direct control and administration of a Department of the Government,said, that he did not intend to take up much of the time of the House, as the subject of his Motion had already been debated. Nearly all the leading towns were forming themselves together in order to bring the question to a practical issue. It was one of the highest moment, involving the national prosperity in no small degree. This country had the finest workmen in the world, and it was only right they should be well educated; but we did less in that respect for them than any other country in Europe did for its workmen. In the face of the increasing competition in all our manufacturing industries on the part of foriegn nations, and when they saw those nations using great efforts to bring before their people everything relating to Science and Art, it was most important that we should do all we could to improve the artistic and industrial education of our workmen. Nothing could be further from his intention than to oppose the grants that were made to similar Institutions in London for these and other purposes, or to interfere in any way with the South Kensington Museum. On the contrary, his Motion pointed rather to an increase of the grant and to generalize its application, so that the various localities in the country might be benefited thereby. 577 He did not wish to imply that there was any jealousy in the large Provincial towns of the South Kensington and British Museums, and the other Collections in London. On the contrary, they were thoroughly satisfied with those institutions, and with their management under gentlemen like Sir Philip cunliffe Owen and Mr. Wallis. They were quite aware that South Kensington was doing all the good it could, and as well as it could, considering the means at its disposal. What they wished was that the advantages conferred by such institutions should be extended to the large towns in the Provinces. The authorities at South Kensington referred in their Report to the manner in which they were carrying on the circulation system by loans, and to the way in which they were endeavouring to get reproductions by electrotype and other processes. They went on to state that the system of loans was better than any permanent and unchangeable exhibition could possibly be. That might be true to a certain extent; but the large central industrial towns wanted exhibitions of works of Art, not for a short period of time, but continually, so that working men might have opportunities of examining the articles, whether they were pictures, jewellery, or other things, which illustrated the manufactures of their particular localities. The splendid and unique collection of jewels in the British Museum, for instance, was comparatively unknown, there being, on the last occasion he (Mr. Collings) visited it, only seven persons present, three of whom were ladies; while in the town of Birmingham there were said to be from 10,000 to 20,000 working jewellers, who had but a small chance of seeing such splendid examples of their art. The loans which were made were not at all sufficient to meet the requirements of the time, though, no doubt, the loans and the extension of them to corporation museums had done a great deal of good. The people of the country would not now submit to be governed by the mechanical plans of London coteries in this respect. Indeed, the country governed London by its riper and more generous ideas, and well for London that this was so, as the events of recent years had demonstrated. Again, there ought to be a circulating department, by which what was known as high art might pass through the land 578 and vivify the national life. A small Museum of Casts from the Antique was being formed at South Kensington; and why, he asked, should not Mr. Perry, instead of providing one reproduction or set, provide, say, a dozen, and let each of our principal towns have one of them? He wished to urge on the Treasury that grants for what he would call the higher life of the nation should be considered in a very liberal spirit. The authorities at South Kensington must not be content with offering their reproductions at half price to the country museums. He would suggest that when a reproduction was made, copies should be sent free of cost to such towns and localities as were rated under the Libraries and Museums Act. It was said—"Where would you draw the line to all these expenses? "Well, his Resolution, by limiting the grant to towns which rated themselves, provided for that. It would be a self-acting scheme, and he could see no objection to it, seeing that it meant that the locality which raised £1,000 should have twice as much as one that raised £500, and that would work fairly all round. It had been alleged that the Provinces wished to break up the National Collections; but he was unable to discover how the apportionment of selected specimens to localities appropriate to their exhibition was less national than confining them to one place in London, where, comparatively speaking, they were unvisited and unknown. The Turner drawings, for instance, were kept, as Mr. Ruskin had said, in a cellar in London. At all events, there were, doubtless, many duplicates, and many examples as nearly duplicate as possible, which might be spared for the Provinces, without injuring the unity of the Collections in the Metropolis. His Resolution recommended that all these institutions ought to be under one Department of the State. That seemed to him to be merely a matter of common sense. Where three or four managements existed, they, as every business man knew, must clash with one another. The results he desired could not be obtained without some such change as that indicated by his Resolution, the real intention of which was, of course, to put pressure on the Treasury, and, if possible, to induce the authorities to spend more money on the national education. 579 It seemed strange that there should be national pictures at the British Museum, when they had a large National Gallery. They wanted a more active management of these institutions. Instead of being a vital organizing body, the Trustees of the British Museum were mainly ornamental. They included such personages as the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Speaker of the House of Commons, the First Lord of the Admiralty, and the Law Officers of the Crown, as if those Gentlemen had not enough to do in other directions. The management ought to be, as South Kensington was, more responsible to Parliament. Then, again, the managers of the National Gallery were elected for life. These facts showed that there was a want of unity between the national institutions of the country. The management of them did not secure the highest results. The Trustees, knowing the new requirements of the country, must exert themselves. As he had said, he hoped that the time would come when all the educational institutions of the country would be under one management. The sooner they got hold of the idea that expenditure for education was in its infancy the better. They should not hold their hands in the matter, for many persons in the country, who took great interest in education, would not complain of grants for education generally until they found the sum exceeded that for military purposes; and he believed the working classes especially were in favour of that. There was nothing which the taxpaying people were so ready for as a large increase for educational expenses, always provided the moneys were well spent. Now, it was sometimes suggested by the opponents of his scheme that the Provinces might help themselves. But that was precisely what they had done already, and were still doing, and that to an extent that would astonish Londoners. But there was a limit beyond which they could not go. He had a table showing that 42 towns, with a gross population of 5,500,000, had provided a capital for fittings and other things for free libraries and museums to the extent of £1,000,000; and the 1d. rate, representing the sum for their maintenance, was about £100,000. But those amounts did not represent the whole of the amounts that had been spent in these localities. Birmingham, for instance, had in the past 580 10 years spent over £750,000; and, no doubt, Manchester, Leeds, and Liverpool had been equally liberal, and had shown an equal public spirit. But the inequality of rating made it difficult to obtain all that was wanted out of the rates. The complaint that the Provinces did nothing for themselves might rather be retorted on Londoners, whose parks and museums were provided out of the whole taxation of the country. He found that £106,000 was spent by the Government on the parks in and around London, and on the London museums and public buildings £304,000, of which the British Museum got £116,000. He did not object to that; but he wanted an extension of the principle. It might mean an increase of taxation, but not necessarily, as the country thought there were many ways in which the current expenditure might be reduced. For instance, the Government might spend less upon the Army, or upon some other Department of the State. An increased education expenditure would be cheap; it would, in the end, be an economical policy, to say nothing else, to secure the civilizing and elevating influences which would follow the increased Art culture of the nation. At any rate, the people would not object to a larger expenditure for good results. He hoped the Government would be alive to the manner in which the Provinces regarded this subject, and would consider whether it would not be well that the Provinces, which were taxed for London and rated for themselves, should, after they had done all that they could for themselves, have their needs considered by the Government in no mean spirit. To show how the people in the Provinces valued these institutions, he might state that in Birmingham, in 1877, the number of visitors to the Art Gallery was 394,645, while the number of visitors to the British Museum in the same year was only about 30 per cent more. The hon. Member concluded by moving the Resolution of which he had given Notice.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words" in the opinion of this House, grants in aid of Art and Industrial Museums should not be confined to London, Edinburgh, and Dublin, but that a special grant should be made to the Science and Art Department, South Kensington, to enable them to supply Provincial Art
Galleries and Museums with original examples and reproductions of Industrial Art adapted to their special local acquirements, and also to maintain and to still further develop the circulation system now administered by the Department; that gifts or loans of such articles and works as may he available from the National Art Collections, and from the British Museum, should he made to Provincial Art Galleries and Museums; and that such aid he confined to those towns or localities which are rated under the Free Libraries and Museums Act, and that the amount of such aid he proportioned to the sum raised and spent in each locality; and that, in order to give due effect to these proposals, it is desirable to place the whole of the National Art and other Collections, including the National Gallery and British Museum, under the direct control and administration of a Department of the Government,"—(Mr. Jesse Collings,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
said, there were certain portions of this comprehensive Motion on which his right hon. Friend near him (Mr. Mundella) would answer his hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Collings) in more detail, and more to his satisfaction; but he (Mr. Gladstone) wished to take a general view of its wide scope, and especially to refer to the closing portion of the Motion, which determined the course the Government must take on this occasion. The Motion began by affirming that grants in aid to industrial museums should not be confined to London, Edinburgh, and Dublin; but the fact was they were not, at that moment, confined to London, Edinburgh, and Dublin. His hon. Friend would say that was done in an insufficient degree; but, in practice and in a form not thought objectionable, they did go beyond these cities; and independent loans formed a very important part of the system. The Motion of his hon. Friend, however, would seem to suggest the interpretation that there should be an indeterminate extension of the grants. As to the second part of the Motion, that a special grant should be made to the Science and Art Department, South Kensington, to enable it to supply Provincial Art Galleries and Museums with original examples and reproductions of industrial art, he might observe that, as far as reproductions went, something was already done. But, as far as regards original examples, he must own he thought the 582 House would do unwisely to pledge itself to that subject until it had considered and adjusted, in very carefully weighed terms, the manner in which a system of purchasing original examples for those Provincial Museums was to be worked. It would, undoubtedly, be a matter of very great difficulty. These subjects and others connected with them were necessarily unending. Let not his hon. Friend, however, think that he (Mr. Gladstone) complained of his making this Motion. It was the result of a healthy appetite; but there was no end to its extension. His hon. Friend dealt with the centres. He had got into his head the cases of those enormous communities of 300,000 or 400,000 people; but after the central authority had settled its account with those large towns, which by that time would probably have swollen to 700,000 or 800,000, there would be a different set of candidates, and, instead of this amicable controversy taking end, they would have to hand it down from generation to generation. His hon. Friend would derive some consolation from observing that they had been travelling at no inconsiderable rate already. If he understood the speech of his hon. Friend aright, they ought to expend£25,000,000 a-year on these branches—that was to say, it ought not to be less than the expenditure on the Army and Navy. [Mr. COLLINGS: No, no; the Army only.] Well, his hon. Friend certainly held out some hopes of economy to be effected in a marvellous manner; but he (Mr. Gladstone) would like to see some examples of that kind from him in a practical shape before he could commit himself even to the reduced estimate of £15,000,000. He would point out, however, that they were, as he had said, travelling at a considerable rate already in this direction, though it might not satisfy the sanguine mind of the Parliamentary youth of the hon. Member for Ipswich. If they took the summary of expenditure as it stood in the Estimates presented to the House, it would be seen that a sum of £4,533,000 was taken for Science, Art, and Education. His hon. Friend might say that was not an adequate sum; but he (Mr. Gladstone) had known in his Parliamentary life when the sum given was little more than a fiftieth part of what it was now; and if that were so, it was now growing 583 at the rate of between £100,000 and £200,000 a-year; and probably his hon. Friend, in the course of his Parliamentary career, might see it reach what he would admit to be a very respectable figure. The administrative Department at South Kensington had actually initiated and greatly extended a system wholly new, highly beneficial, undreamt of 30, or even 20 years ago, and undergoing a great and progressive extension; so that in principle, as far as regarded the administrative part of his Motion, there was no quarrel between him and his right hon. Friend (Mr. Mundella). In the last clause of his Motion, the hon. Member had ventured on a matter quite distinct from the earlier part of his proposition, as to the extension of the present administrative operations; and he had proposed what would, in effect, be a very difficult subject of actual legislation, when he said that all these Departments ought to be brought together, and placed under the direct control and administration of a Department of the Government. He (Mr. Gladstone) would not affirm absolutely the negative of that proposition; but yet he was inclined to affirm very decidedly these two things—first, that it was open in certain branches to doubt and qualification; and, secondly, that it involved a work of very considerable difficulty, and one to which, it would be most unwise for the Government, on whom the whole responsibility would lie, to pledge themselves to at this moment. First, as to the qualification; looking at an institution like the National Portrait Gallery, that institution appeared in the Estimate for one of the most modest sums inscribed in it. £2,585 was the sum at the disposal of the National Portrait Gallery. That Gallery had been satisfactorily managed for a long series of years, owing to the very enlightened representation of the late Lord Stanhope, with results very remarkable indeed. And though it had been worked by an independent Body, yet its relations to the Government had been uniformly satisfactory; and he owned he should be very loth, on the mere ground of administrative symmetry, to interfere with an arrangement of that kind, unless he were well satisfied he could well mend it. Take the case, again, of the National Gallery. That Gallery, at a period not very remote, was the subject 584 of incessant controversy and contest. At present, with a certain control through the Treasury, not involving interference in detail, they had made a harmonious combination of the two elements—firstly, that which was strictly professional, and which predominated in the person of the Director; secondly, that friendly aid which the Director now had it in his power to obtain from the Trustees, who were always chosen as among the best instructed, most enlightened, and best disposed of those gentlemen who were willing to give their services. He was exceedingly struck with the fact that whereas, a certain number of years ago, the columns of the newspapers were filled with controversy about the price that had been given for this picture, the manner in which that picture had been cleaned, scoured, and scarified—for that was the sort of accusation then constantly made—they appeared to have reached the time when public opinion was, on the whole, very well satisfied. Then there was the larger and more difficult question as to the British Museum. About that, all he could say was that he thought there was very much to be said in favour of a change of the present system; for he was by no means prepared to say there was nothing to say against it. It was a matter in which, men of great acuteness and competency had found the greatest difficulty in arriving at a conclusion, and, even after seeming to have arrived at a conclusion, had been shaken in it. But the point he wished to raise was that the British Museum had in it certain elements of its old character of a private or semi-private foundation; and his hon. Friend would find very great difficulty indeed when he came to sweep away the old Trustees and their present complicated constitution. He (Mr. Gladstone) did not wonder that the hon. Gentleman was struck with the fact that the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Prime Minister, and the First Lord, of the Admiralty were among the Trustees. At the same time, the anomaly was not so great as it appeared, because, while they were official Trustees, yet, in point of fact, they were not the managers. The Trustees, from amongst themselves, chose a standing Committee, and that was the Body which really managed, except as to the matter of election of new Trustees and the matter of patronage in the Museum, 585 which was regulated entirely by a small body of three persons, called the Principal Trustees. The question of sweeping away that Body required really, before it was adopted, much more searching investigation than they could give it now; and it was not a very easy thing to say, in his opinion, how far the State, not having the gift of prophecy, and never foreseeing in the slightest degree to what vast dimensions that little institution would extend itself—how far the State, having recognized private rights in the appointment of Family Trustees, was in a condition, at a moment's notice, to sweep them all away for the purpose of bringing them under a Department. It was a question not altogether easy to dispose of, and would require more close examination before the House could be called upon to decide upon it. He quite admitted with his hon. Friend that such arrangements ought to be made as would obviate entirely the serious evils and inconveniences that had arisen in former times, and that might arise now, to a certain extent, from the competition of one Department with another in the same field of purchase. That was a thing which ought not in any well-regulated system to prevail; but as to the matter of unification, and bringing these institutions under the direct sway of a Department of the Government, that, he thought, was a matter which they were not ready to determine. He recognized the vast importance of the work; but it was not yet ripe for decision. Perhaps they were not able to travel so fast as his hon. Friend; and he hoped his hon. Friend would not ask them to give a legislative pledge, which would certainly be premature, and which might involve them in difficulties it would not be easy to extricate themselves from.
§ MR. BERESFORD HOPE
said, he heartily sympathized with much of the general intention of the Motion of the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Collings), as he believed every right-minded man would, in so far as it recognized the elevating influence of Art upon the human mind. He had great pleasure in seeing all over the country a general agreement that it was not mere grind and greed that elevated a people, but that the mind must be fed by feeding the eye. He could not, however, regard with an equally favourable view the 586 manner in which the details of the Motion were worked out; and he regretted that the hon. Member for Ipswich should have loaded it with so much debatable and, in some respects, not strictly accurate matter. For his own part, he would not traverse the whole field opened up by the Motion, but would deal with the subject from the point of view of the particular institution with which he happened to be administratively connected—namely, the British Museum—which the hon. Gentleman had only referred to in a sort of offhand postscript to his speech. He could quite understand the idea of a hard, merciless concentration of Art treasures under State administration. That was the idea of France and other countries. But a National Collection, presided over by a body of Trustees chosen for their capacities and station, who possessed something of individual independence, and who took a disinterested personal interest in the objects of Art under their care, was a thing peculiarly English; and he was a little sorry and jealous to see that its advantages had been somewhat overlooked. The British Museum, in seeking the advancement of Art in its historical aspect—Art which illustrated ages long gone by, which was the key of history—nay, which was an embodiment of history itself—had its own special mission to fulfil, a mission at least as important as its other function of the education of the eye, however important that might be, of the individual workman or student. People talked of the British Museum as a mere collection. They did not realize it as a Body which extended its long tendrils all over the world, and which, through the medium of men like Smith or Rassam, laid bare the wonders of a long-buried civilization. It was not merely that the British Museum sat at the seat of custom buying articles tendered by dealers. To give one instance of its work, it quite recently secured an invaluable prize in the shape of 5,000 Assyrian tablets from Sipporah, or Sepharvaim, and it was assiduously exploring the secrets of that fateful city of Babylonia, which was so much older than the days of what used to be the limit of authentic history, and in which, according to the quaint legend of Berosus, the Chaldean Noah had deposited the antediluvian records. It might be said that this was a fantastic 587 legend; but certainly in the Sipporah records which had been dug up they possessed memorials of the very greatest antiquity. In the diffusion of a knowledge of Art, as well as in the region of discovery, the British Museum, too, was doing a great and earnest work. If it did not do quite so much as the hon. Member for Ipswich might expect, it was not the Trustees, but the Treasury who were to blame; and, though he had no desire to see the expenditure of the British Museum equal that of the Army or Navy, he could assure hon. Members that it could very well do with a little more. If the hon. Member for Ipswich could descend from his high, exalted, and wide scheme, and squeeze a little more money from the Treasury, he (Mr. Beresford Hope) was sure the Trustees would be most thankful to get all they could, and would spend it in the best possible way. They were not to be blamed for selling their duplicates; but the Treasury was for making it necessary. The system of management of the British Museum had been criticized. What, it was said, did the First Lord of the Admiralty, or the Archbishop of Canterbury, or the Prime Minister, know about Art? Well, assuming, which it was surely fair to do, that no man could become First Lord of the Admiralty, or Archbishop of Canterbury, or Prime Minister, without having a greater share of brains than fell to the lot of most mortals, he should certainly prefer the opinion of those three personages on questions of Art to that of the first Brown, Jones, or Robinson one met in the street. But, as he should show, these high personages had not, in fact, much to do with the internal regulations of the Museum. Then, as to Family Trustees, it ought not to be forgotten that their position was not only an acknowledgment of great gifts made to the nation by the self-sacrifice of individuals, but possibly tended to encourage contributions of that kind. If so, it was a cheap price to pay for advantages so considerable. But, above all, it was well to have the general body of Trustees large and varied, seeing that out of them were elected the Standing Committee upon whose shoulders the practical work of administration fell. The extent of the powers of the Trustees who were not upon the Standing Committee was, besides the election of that Committee, pretty well limited to meet- 588 ing four times a-year, and receiving a Report which, as a general thing, was accepted as it stood. If he were asked to state a practical advantage due to their having Family Trustees, he would mention the presence on the Standing Committee of that Family Trustee, Lord Derby, with whose great common sense and administrative capacity the country was familiar. They had also as Trustees such men as Lord Sherbrooke, the Duke of Somerset—although he must confess that most able administrator laboured under the disadvantage of having been a First Lord of the Admiralty—the hon. Baronet the Member for the University of London (Sir John Lubbock), Sir Henry Rawlinson, and the Presidents of the Royal Society, the Society of Antiquaries, and the Royal Academy, while their great network of officers included men of European reputation. Need he name Owen, Newton, Günther, Birch, Franks, and the Principal Librarian, Mr. Bond, all of whom met and discussed the common weal with their official Professors on a footing of manly independence, which might not be so easy with a Minister of Museums, holding Office on a tenure of from six months to five years. No doubt, there was a large and an intelligent body of workmen employed at Birmingham, Sheffield, and the other great centres of trade, in the development of which a knowledge of the Fine Arts was of the utmost importance; but still it would be impossible to cut up the National Collections piecemeal and send them in a fragmentary condition into the Provinces. They were told of the great number of "almost duplicates" Now, an "almost duplicate" was just the last thing which ought to be sent away, for the diagnosis of historical Art so much depended on the comparison of the differences, or the details of objects generally resembling each other. It was said that if the masterpieces of Art were retained in London, the manufacturers of Birmingham and Sheffield could not come to London to visit them. Well, that was true; but so was the proposition that if these specimens of the Fine Arts were sent down to Birmingham and Sheffield, much fewer of the Londoners would be induced to go down to visit them. From that it was apparent the Museums should be kept where they were most accessible, and where visitors from all parts of the 589 Kingdom might obtain as much enjoyment from them as did the Londoners themselves. When Birmingham became the capital of the Empire, by all means let them send the British Museum and the National Gallery there; but while London, with its millions of inhabitants against Birmingham's hundreds of thousands, continued to be the capital, on the principle of the greatest happiness of the greatest number their National Collection ought to remain there. They should be chary, indeed, in dispersing and breaking up those Collections. If there was zeal in Birmingham, in Manchester, in Liverpool, or in Sheffield, so much the better. He was a very warm friend to the system of reproduction, by which all the Art Schools throughout the country might be furnished with the most perfect copies of valuable originals, and be stimulated to the production of the elegant, elevated, and pure. That system had begun with spirit within the British Museum, and he trusted that it would go on with increasing liberality; and if the hon. Member for Ipswich would withdraw his somewhat crude and visionary idea of boiling up all these institutions in a cauldron, and would propose a practical method of securing the most complete system of reproduction, he would have the support of those who now felt themselves compelled to oppose his Resolution in its present shape.
§ MR. SLAGG
said, he felt bound to say a few words in support of the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Collings), because he thought there had been no reasonable or sufficient answer made to his request that larger support and greater facilities should be given in the way of encouraging the Arts throughout the country. He (Mr. Slagg) had the honour of seconding a similar Motion to that of his hon. Friend last Session; and also in the Session of 1880 he brought under the consideration of the House a scheme for the reproduction of National Art treasures. He was therefore encouraged still further to press on the Department the propriety of supporting this proposal. However much the Resolution might be deprecated as being unnecessary or impracticable, it was only by bringing such propositions before the House, and pressing them upon the attention of the Government, that any steps would be taken in a matter which 590 was so essential to the welfare of the commerce of this country. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Beresford Hope) argued in favour of keeping the National Art treasures under the control of a cultivated group in London, with whose administration the right hon. Gentleman and his friends were very well satisfied, although, in its practical working, there was no result produced on the vast populations of the manufacturing towns, who were more in need of artistic influences than the cultivated people who lived in this Metropolis, and who had large means of gratifying their refined tastes. The Prime Minister also appeared to be satisfied with the present state of affairs, so well satisfied, indeed, that he deprecated every proposition of the hon. Member for Ipswich. He (Mr. Slagg) could, however, ask the House to compare the results with those achieved by foreign countries. For example, when they compared their position artistically with that of France, there was not only very much to wish for, but also very much to be ashamed of, in relation to their present position. It was said that vast and yearly increasing sums were now expended on education and artistic objects; but these sums would appear very paltry compared with the sums and efforts which were willingly made by their French neighbours in regard to all that related to artistic culture. It seemed to him that in that country no expenditure was too large, no legislative effort too great, no administrative power too perfect, in order to supply, not only Paris, not only the cultivated few, but to extend the influence of Art to every town and province, and every centre of industry, throughout the whole country. When satisfaction was expressed with England, he thought they could not have their attention sufficiently called to the state of things in France, where the Ministry of Fine Arts spent no less than £2,000,000 annually upon Art purposes alone, not only to supply the great museums of Paris, but to present treasures to all the museums in France, and to give grants directly subserving the Art industry of every district. The result was to place the Art products of France in a position of very great and deserved preeminence. Were they, however, on that account, to despair of the Art cul- 591 ture, industrially speaking, of this country? He claimed that, at the present time, they must bestir themselves in the matter. The foreigner was encroaching upon their industries in every direction, and though they could still claim a complete supremacy in the power of mechanical production, when they compared their artistic powers and measured their artistic manufactures with their Continental neighbours they were very much in arrear. He had recently had the opportunity of making inquiries on the Continent in connection with the French Treaty negotiations, and he had never been more convinced of the necessity of bestirring themselves in that matter than by seeing the assistance which was afforded in France to the great industrial classes in the culture of Art as applied to manufactures. When we looked at our large industrial towns we had certainly reason almost to despair; but still he thought the English nation should never entertain the idea that they were not capable of becoming equal to the French and the Continental nations in artistic manufactures, and if they only encouraged the development of the natural gifts of their people, they might still hold their own in competition and excel their rivals. But what encouragement was given? What assistance was afforded to their industrial classes in such a way that they could apply it to the improvement of their industry? They were depressed by the miserable surroundings of their dwellings and the complete absence of artistic objects that were worthy of being studied. No doubt, London was the place for principal and original objects of Art; but duplicates were unwisely sold, instead of being distributed, and the fragmentary and unsystematic reproductions that had been made hitherto were totally inadequate to meet the necessities of the Provinces, to supply the examples that were needed by the designer and the artist, and to enable the managers of Provincial Museums to make the best selections of illustrations that were locally required. Could they not do much more in reproducing existing Art treasures? He had never seen anything obtainable that the British Museum had reproduced. He understood that the reproduction of ancient coining had been abandoned by that institution. [Mr. BERESFORD HOPE said, that was going on.] He 592 was glad to hear it. They had, however, not seen much evidence of it. Collections ought to be copied on a business-like principle, and he desired that the managers of their Provincial museums should know where they might go with a certainty of success in completing their Collections. He was pleased that South Kensington had done so much. He might be told that the advance had not been very largely responded to by the public; but there were one or two reasons for that. One was that he thought where towns undertook the erection of museums, and provided proper places of deposit and exhibition, the Directors of those institutions should not be called upon to pay so much as half the cost, but should become entitled to them when they could show that they had done what was required. It had been suggested that the local rates should be called to bear the cost of filling the museums; but they were pretty well over-burdened already; and in regard to local subscribers they were really a very small body of persons, and naturally felt somewhat being called upon for so many purposes. The successive demands necessary, therefore, fell upon a limited few; and he claimed that the matter should be met by the Government. Only the nation possessed the supply—the local authorities could not find it if they wished. South Kensington Museum now swept the whole country; and he could only look to his right hon. Friend to do more to assist those industrial centres which had become to so great an extent the taxpaying power of the country.
§ MR. MUNDELLA
said, the Prime Minister having replied to the first part of his hon. Friend's Motion, all that he (Mr. Mundella) had simply to do now was to notice that portion of the Motion which proposed that a special grant should be made to the Science and Art Department, South Kensington, to enable them to supply Provincial Art Galleries and Museums with artistic examples and reproductions of industrial Art, adapted to their special local requirements. He had often told his friends that it was impossible that South Kensington or any other Department could undertake to supply original examples to the Provinces. But South Kensington could supply assistance and advice in the making of purchases, and a collection 593 which had just been purchased for Birmingham had been very greatly admired. If it were possible for South Kensington to provide original examples for the Provinces, there would immediately arise contests as to which museum should have particular specimens. But his answer to this demand was that if they distributed their Collections in that way, they would disintegrate the whole National Collection. There must be in the great centre of this Empire the very best original examples that could be found in the world. There were not only 4,000,000 of people in London, but they had all the people of the Empire visiting the capital some time or other. When men came to London from the Provinces they expected to see there the very choicest objects of Art which the British nation could produce. Those original articles could not, therefore, be distributed from one side of the country to the other without the present great National Collections of Art objects being broken up. While he could not accede to his hon. Friend's demand for originals, he was quite ready to accord to the utmost of his ability anything in the shape of reproduction which was necessary to stimulate Art. What the Government had done in the past year in this respect had been a great advance on anything that had ever been done before. The Estimates showed the great advance which had been made. The Vote for Schools of Science and Art was this year £160,000, against £154,000 in the previous year. Then the sum spent in the purchase and circulation of works of Art was £28,954, against £24,561. The whole increase, then, was in order to increase the circulation of works of Art in the Provinces. The Vote for South Kensington had increased from £39,000 to £42,000; the total amount of the two Votes having increased from £63,000 to £73,000. He would tell hon. Members what had been done. A few years ago South Kensington commenced to make loans of objects for temporary exhibition at different towns in the Provinces. Those loans had gone on increasing from year to year until the mere cost of the carriage came to £4,000 a-year. Last year they circulated throughout the Provinces 15,047 objects—that was to say, paintings and other original objects, to something like 80 or 100 museums. They were continually sending fresh streams of objects from South Kensington to the different mu- 594 seums. One museum had a collection for six months, then it was exchanged with another, and so a circulation of objects was kept up through the different towns of the Kingdom, care being taken that those kinds of works of Art which were best calculated to stimulate the taste of any particular locality should be sent to it. No part of the work which he was engaged in was more interesting than to witness the active, useful work done in connection with the South Kensington Museum; and yet the hon. Gentleman came down to the House and reproached the Government for not having done sufficient. They could only say—We give you all we can, no more,Though poor the offering be.He could not honestly say that the Treasury had been illiberal in this matter, for he thought that an increase of £10,000 upon a Vote for one Department was a very substantial increase. The hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Slagg) had said that they compared poorly with foreign nations; but he would probably find that more was done for Art by the State in England than in any other country. He was very doubtful whether Prance did as much for Provincial Art as England. France did a good deal, but it was for Paris alone, while Lyons and the other large centres had to pay for the Art they required from their local rates. They did it, and he could not believe that Manchester would be behind Lyons, or Birmingham behind any corresponding town on the Continent. Moreover, this country did a great deal in the way of reproductions. Already £3,000 worth of reproductions had been ordered for next year. When the State supplied Birmingham, Leeds, and the other large towns with casts and facsimile reproductions of all kinds of works of art at half the price they cost, he did not think there was any reason to complain. The hon. Member for Manchester thought they should be supplied gratis. He (Mr. Mundella) was not of that opinion. He thought it was only fair, when the State contributed 50 per cent of the cost, that an effort should be made by the locality to pay the remainder. Everything that could be done to stimulate Art throughout the country was done. Already industrial Art in many towns and places in the Kingdom had been greatly benefited by what South Kensington had 595 effected. There were Schools of Art all over the conntry, which were doing a great work, assisted by the loan of an increased number of objects of Art, which were constantly in general circulation by means of an increased staff appointed for the purpose. The larger the increase in the Vote, the larger would be the number of objects of Art which he would be able to circulate throughout the country during the year. He thought that everything that could fairly be asked was now done by the Department to realize the aspirations of his hon. Friends, and that the localities might justly be required to have sufficient public spirit to pay their moiety. He trusted that, after the assurances the Prime Minister had given, and the explanations he had tendered to the House, the Motion would not be pressed.
§ MR. GEORGE HOWARD
said, that the Trustees of the National Gallery were fully alive to the desirability of circulating throughout the Provinces drawings and artistic works, and were doing the utmost in their power in that direction. Only recently they decided to transfer a Collection from Dublin, where it had been 10 years, to Liverpool. As a Trustee of the National Gallery, he denied that Turner's pictures were being kept in a cellar there or in the dark. As many of Turner's drawings as could be lent out were on loan. With respect to Mr. Ruskin's suggestion that the Trustees of the National Gallery should place the Turner Collections in some conveniently-built garret or upstair room, all he could say was that he wished the Treasury would enable them to extend the National Gallery. The Trustees found themselves very much cramped, not only with respect to the Turner drawings, but in other respects, and they were unable to act in the matter without the assistance of the Treasury. He fully agreed with the suggestion of the hon. Member for Manchester as to the great advantage which would result from co-operation between the National Museum and the Provincial Museums in the purchase of original works of Art. There were, no doubt, large numbers of original paintings, which, although they might not be suitable for the National Collection, might be well worthy of a place in a Provincial Museum. He was sure that anyone who had seen the objects of art which Birmingham had purchased for its Museum with its own money would 596 feel a wish to assist the development of Provincial Museums.
§ MR. ILLINGWORTH
said, that there was a growing feeling of discontent at the practical monopoly enjoyed by the Metropolis in the Art treasures concentrated in London. It was high time that it should be understood that the Metropolis could not supply the demands of the whole Kingdom, for, after all, London had only one-tenth of the population of the country. It was practically impossible for the great bulk of those artizans who wished to improve themselves in every branch of industry to come to London to obtain a practical acquaintance with the Art treasures in it. It was absolutely necessary that these should be brought to their own doors, that they might study to improve the branches of industry for the purpose of meeting the competition of the Continent. He did not doubt that the right hon. Gentleman had done everything in his power; but this Vote was most insufficient and almost contemptible. A sum equal to this was spent in despatching Embassies to decorate Foreign Sovereigns with the Order of the Garter. He thought it was time for the public voice to be heard in that House, in order that the adjustment and distribution of the public money should be controlled. What in the past had been the condition of the people of this country? They lived in gloomy homes in narrow streets; their hours of labour were excessive, and the taxation was excessive. The House was reminded that in the last 50 years they had made a marvellous advance. He was thankful for that; but he hoped that the public would put an increasing pressure on the House in order that the public income might be expended in more useful directions than it had been in the past. A new wave of public opinion was arising in favour of State aid being given to the stimulation of Art in Provincial towns. A new demand would be made on the Education Department by the public, who would not be satisfied with the altogether inadequate proposal which the right hon. Gentleman had mentioned, and which appeared in the Estimates of this year.
§ MR. H. DAVENPORT
said, that the Vote, which had been slightly increased this year, was inadequate to the wants of the great manufacturing towns throughout the country. Connected as he was with North Staffordshire, he felt deeply 597 interested in the question of bringing before the body of artizans in that district a large number of specimens of ornamental Art. He concurred in the observations of the hon. Member who had just spoken as to the necessity of bringing such specimens down to Provincial localities. He hoped that the discussion which had taken place would excite attention on the part of the Education Department to this question.
§ MR. O'DONNELL
said, that the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. collings) very properly thought fit to make some reference to the interests of Ireland in his Motion; and although no other English Member manifested the least desire to grant any assistance whatever to that country, it raised a cry of "Divide!" when the first Irish Member rose to speak. He intended briefly to refer to one or two points which concerned the interests of Ireland. He found fault with the Parliamentary outlay sanctioned by the Government for the reproduction of specimens of Art, and, at the same time, must express his concurrence in the remarks of the hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Illingworth) that the assistance given to the important department hardly deserved to be designated by the name of grants. It was not until they should see £1,000,000 devoted to the culture of the brains and the training of the fingers of their workmen in the higher ideals of perfection in every department of Art and industry could they be justified in saying that a real attempt had been made by the Government to promote this all-important branch of education. However, he thought they might take the observations of the Vice President of the Council as clearly intimating that all his desires were with the increased encouragement of artistic and industrial education in this country. He wished to refer particularly to the suggestion of the Mover of the Resolution that aid of this description given by the Government should be regulated by the degree in which towns or cities were rated under the Towns Improvement Act. A condition of that kind might be very proper in England; but in Ireland, where British administration had made a tabula rasa of all industrial perfection, the policy of the Government should necessarily be one of gratuitous assistance for some time to come, so as to 598 repair, in some degree, the vast injuries inflicted upon every department of industry in Ireland. In sending their artistic missionaries to Ireland they should proceed on the supposition that the past history of that country left very little artistic development existing at present, and that their first duty should be to produce that development before expecting any efforts at local and independent initiation. It was admitted in Papers and Reports presented to the House that there was no population more susceptible of industrial culture than the Irish people; and the policy of the Government should be to direct their missionaries to discover that susceptibility in different parts of Ireland, and, by giving it proper and liberal encouragement, to promote industrial prosperity in the country. It might seem rather strange that he should be pleading the assistance of the Government for the Irish people in what might be called the luxuries of refined civilization, while so many of those people were in want of the very necessaries of life; but he trusted there was a better outlook for Ireland than might be immediately visible from the standpoint of English legislation. He was sincerely desirous that some vigorous effort should be made for the development of artistic education in Ireland. There were a dozen places in Ireland where such assistance could be conveniently and profitably given at the present moment, and it was only by efforts such as those that they could expect to bring about the improvement of the present state of affairs of the country. He was aware that his suppositions were rather Utopian, and that to the minds of many hon. Members of that House it was like looking for the advent of the Millennium to expect the day when fair administrative ability would be conspicuous in Irish affairs, and when such institutions as the Board of No Works and the Local Misgovernment Board would be abolished.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Main Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."