THE EARL OF LYTTON
rose, in accordance with notice, "to call attention to the administration of the Chantrey Trust; and to move for the appointment of a I Select Committee of this House to inquire into the matter, and, if necessary, to make recommendations." He said: My Lords, the subject of the Motion which I have placed on the Order Paper is very different from the matters which usually occupy your Lordships in this House, and it has nothing whatever to do with current politics. I offer no apology, though, for bringing it forward, because it is a matter of great national importance which has aroused considerable interest in the country of late, and one with which your Lordships are very specially qualified to deal. The case I have to present is that of a very generous legacy which has been left by a private individual in trust for the nation, but which has been administered in so partial and narrow a sense that the nation has not reaped the full benefit of his generosity. I do not come here, my Lords, as an art critic, and I have no intention of giving to your Lordships a lecture upon the merits or shortcomings of particular artists or their work. I shall endeavour, so far as I can, and it is not altogether easy to do so, to confine myself to points which would be worthy of your consideration if the subject of the Trust were any other subject than that of art.
For nearly twenty years now the administration of this fund has been the subject of comment and criticism in art circles. I have no new facts to offer, and I do not base my case upon any recent I event of special importance. My justification for bringing the question before Parliament at all rests upon three grounds —(1) the accumulation of evidence over i a series of years to the effect that the intentions of the testator in this matter I have not been fully carried out and 625 that the interests of the nation and of art generally have been sacrificed to those of the particular association of artists who belong to the Royal Academy; (2) the growing tide of hostile criticism which at the present moment is finding vent in almost every organ of public opinion in the country; and (3) the continued refusal of the Royal Academy to meet any of the charges which are brought against them or to give any explanation of their conduct, and their repeated assertions that they are responsible to no one, and that probably those who criticise them are actuated by motives either of wounded vanity or jealousy. When the administration of a public fund is attacked upon public grounds and when evidence is produced in support of the attack, I hold that the administration of that fund should be submitted to public investigation, and to make such an inquiry there is nobody in the country more competent or better suited than a Committee of your Lordships' House.
I do not ask you to-day to express any opinion upon the merits of the question. I do not ask the Government to take any steps on their own account. I only ask that when you have heard some facts which I shall place before you, you will say that the Royal Academy, in so far as they are in the position of trustees of the nation, shall not be allowed to evade responsibilities which would be required of any other body placed in a similar position, and that you will allow the whole matter to be inquired into and investigated in a judicial, impartial, and thorough manner by a Committee of this House. Though many of your Lordships are probably familiar with this question, I think it is necessary that I should first of all explain exactly what the Chantrey Trust is. Sir Francis Chantrey was an artist and sculptor who died in the year 1842, leaving the greater part of his life's earnings for the encouragement of art in this country. The interest of the money which he left, which amounted to about £2,000 or £3,000 a year, was entrusted to the President and Council of the Royal Academy for the purchase of works of fine art in painting and sculpture of the highest merit which had been executed in this country. 626 The will is expressed in the clearest possible terms, and both the powers and the limitations of the trustees are very clearly set forth, but as I have here a copy of the will itself it would perhaps be better if I quote Sir Francis Chantrey's own words. He says—And the clear residue of the same monies shall be laid out by the President and other members composing such Council for the time being, of the Royal Academy, or of such other society or association as aforesaid, when and as they shall think it expedient in the purchase of works of Fine Art of the highest merit in painting and sculpture that can be obtained, either already executed or which may hereafter be executed by artists of any nation, provided such artists shall have actually resided in Great Britain during the executing and completing of such works, it being my express direction that no work of art, whether executed by a deceased or living artist shall be purchased unless the same shall have been entirely executed within the shores of Great Britain.…. And my will further is that such President and Council, in making their decision, shall have rogard sololy to the intrinsic merit of the works in question, and not permit any feeling of sympathy for an artist or his family, by reason of his or their circumstances or otherwise, to influence them. And I do hereby further direct that such President and Council shall not be in any manner obliged to lay out and expend in every or any one year, either the whole or any part of the monies so paid over to them for the purpose aforesaid, or any accumulations that may arise therefrom, but that the same respectively may from time to time be reserved and accumulated for a period not exceeding five successive years, if such President and Council shall see occasion.…. And I furthor declare my will to be that the President and Council of the Royal Academy, or of such other society or association as aforesaid, do and shall within the succeeding year next after any work shall have been purchased by them as aforesaid, cause the same to be publicly exhibited for the period of one calendar month at the least in the annual exhibition of the Royal Academy, or in some important public exhibition of Fine Arts, the same to be selected by such President and Council, subject to such regulations as they shall think fit and proper.Now, my Lords, you will see from the passages I have read that the trustees are at liberty to purchase the work of any artist who has lived and worked in this country, whether he is at the time alive or dead. They are charged to have regard solely to the intrinsic merits of the works in question, and to buy for no other reason. They are. to exhibit the pictures after they are purchased, and they may accumulate their monies for five years, if they so desire, in order to be able to afford to purchase a really first-rate picture. In 627 all these particulars the will is clear and precise. It was a fine idea of Sir Francis Chantrey's that the money which he had made in art should go back to art after his death. He hoped and believed that in time his name would be associated with a collection of the finest works of art which have been executed in this country. His conception was that of a truly national gallery of British art. Think, my Lords, what an opportunity was there. Think of the great artists who have worked and lived in this country, of whom we are so justly proud, men whose works might have been collected together for the benefit of posterity and associated for ever with the bountiful generosity of Sir Francis Chantrey. It was a great opportunity, and yet we have to contrast with that ideal the reality of actual fact. The name of this great patron and benefactor of art has come now to be associated with a collection of pictures which, in the opinion, I may say, of almost everyone, is a mere byword and mockery. There is one other passage which I think I ought to quote from the will with reference to the housing of these pictures—And it is ray wish and intention that the works of art so purchased as aforesaid shall be collected for the purpose of forming and establishing a Public National Collection of British Fine Art in Painting and Sculpture executed within the shores of Great Britain in the confident expectation that, whenever the collection shall become or be considered of sufficient importance the Government or the country will provide a suitable and proper building or accommodation for their preservation and exhibition as the property of the nation, free of all charges whatever on my estate.This generous man had a simple faith in the generosity of others, and he never doubted for a moment that his action in this matter would be recognised and would be followed up by the Government of his country. His expectations in that respect were realised, but not from the quarter to which he looked, and it was left to the generosity of another private individual, Sir Henry Tate, to give money for the erection of a building in which the works purchased with Sir Francis Chantrey's money could be housed. About ten years ago, when the Tate Gallery was built, the pictures which h d been purchased out of the Chantrey Fund were handed over by the Academy 628 to the Tate Gallery, and it is on the pictures which hang now in the Chantrey Rooms in the Tate Gallery, and on those which do not hang there but which might be expected to hang there, that the whole case against the Academy is founded.
This is not a matter of taste alone. If it were, I should not bring it before your Lordships. Parliament can do a good deal, but even Parliament cannot compel the Royal Academy or any other body to have good taste, and Parliament is not a body qualified to decide as to who has and who has not good taste in this country. But I think I can prove that Sir Francis Chantrey's intentions have not strictly been carried out either in the letter or the spirit. In the first place, as I read from the will just now, only pictures of the highest merit were to be bought, and I think I can prove that that at any rate has not been carried out. Even if the principal pictures in the Gallery painted by Royal Academicians themselves, for which very high prices were paid, were works of the highest meritr—and I shall prove in a moment that a good many of them were nothing of the kind—still it would be impossible to say the same of a large number of very stupid little pictures bought for paltry sums of from £20 to £50. I could read to your Lordships a list of a dozen names of artists whose works are in the collection which I think your Lordships will never have heard of before and which are unknown to art critics and connoisseurs in this country. Is it likely that, if these pictures were of the highest merit, if they were the best works of art existent in this country, the names of those who painted them would not even be known to art connoisseurs in the country?
The will says the works of dead as well as of living artists may be bought, but only in one instance has this been done. In every other case hasty purchases from the exhibition of the year have been made. The one case in which the work of a dead artist was purchased was a large sacred picture by Hilton, which was bought in the first year that the Trust came into operation. Hilton was an artist who; died in 1839. His picture is not one of great importance. It cannot have added very great interest to the collection. But if an indifferent picture by Hilton may 629 have been bought, why might not masterpieces by, say, Cotman, Constable, Turner, and other artists who were alive at the time of Hilton have been bought also, and, to go back further, pictures by Raebura, Crome, and others, who were alive at the same time as Hilton, and who died only a few years before him. In fact, the purchase of that picture is one of the mysteries of the collection, and it is not clear precisely on what grounds it was bought. With the whole range of works of art executed in this country to choose from, in almost every case have purchases been made from the exhibitions of the Royal Academy. The exceptions are few and are interesting as showing what the trustees—the President and Council of the Royal Academy—might have done if they had been so disposed; but in twenty-seven years there are only four exceptions to this rule. One is the picture of an Academician, two others are pictures of men who subsequently became Academicians, and the fourth of an outsider.
Conceive a private collector who had £2,000 or £3,000 a year to expend in collecting pictures. Suppose one of your Lordships were fortunate in having that money to spend on that object. Is it likely that you would content yourself with going to the exhibition of the Royal Academy year after year and buying, let us say, the best picture there, without going to a single sale and without in fact visiting any other institution? Is it possible that you could get together in that way a collection of pictures which would be in accordance with the instructions and wishes of Sir Francis Chantrey? By this policy, from which they have only departed in four instances, this fund left by Sir Francis Chantrey has come to be used as a sort of prize fund for the exhibition of the Royal Academy. Your Lordships will understand how dependent they naturally are for their very existence on the success of their annual exhibition. Well, when they make it known that they do not intend to purchase out of this fund pictures exhibited anywhere else, they naturally give a very strong inducement to artists to send their pictures for exhibition at Burlington House. I do not say whether this policy has arisen from misunderstanding of the terms of the will or by intention. That is a point 630 which the Committee, if appointed, will have to go into; but, whatever their motive, the result is the same. The result is that these pictures which now hang in the Chantrey Rooms of the Tate Gallery, instead of being the finest works of art produced in this country, are nothing ing more or less than a selection of the exhibits for twenty-seven years in the Royal Academy.
Not even in every case have the best pictures of the Academicians themselves been bought. That is rather a difficult question to go into here, but I may mention one or two cases which I think will prove what I mean. I suppose really the most notorious instance was the picture of the late President of the Royal Academy, Sir John Millais, the picture probably known to all of your Lordships called "Speak, speak." I doubt if there are any people in this country who would say that that was the best picture Millais painted, or if there are many who would deny that it was the very worst. Then, again, there is the case of a man called North, a very well-known water-colour painter, a man who for many years has painted excellent pictures in water colours, none of which have ever been purchased. But a few years ago he was elected a member of the Royal Academy, and subsequently one of his pictures was bought out of the Chantrey Fund, not, however, one of his well-known and admirable water colours, but a large picture in oils of a very indifferent character. Now, my Lords, I ask: Was it probable that the best picture of a man who was famous as a water-colour painter should have been a work in oils?
I may quote one other instance, one of their purchases is a landscape picture by a very well-known portrait painter, an Academician. Probably it will be as well if I do not mention the name; it is not very essential to my point. He is a portrait painter, and this was a landscape picture which was bought for £800. The companion picture to that, also a landscape painting of the same character, size, and merit, was commissioned by a picture dealer for £400, half that which was given out of the Chantrey Fund for the picture in question. Some years later that picture came into the market at an art sale, and was bought by a private 631 individual, who, knowing that £800 had been given for the companion picture by the Chantrey Trustees, thought he was making a very good bargain when he purchased it for £100. Since that occasion this picture has twice again come into the market, once soon after it was purchased, but it was bought in for £90, and the last time was last summer when it came up for sale at Christie's and was bought in for £20. I understand Christie's have offered £30 as approximately the value of the picture. Have we any reason to suppose that the nation made a better bargain when it bought the one picture for £800 than the private collector when he bought the other for £100, and could not get rid of it for £20?
But if their purchases have been strange, the pictures they have not bought have been stranger still. Whilst they have purchased pictures by men whose names would probably be unknown to your Lordships, those whose works they have not bought include men of the highest reputation, the most famous artists who have worked in this country during the last fifty years. What would Sir Francis Chantrey have said if he had lived to see this national gallery of pictures after twenty-seven years without a single work by Burne-Jones, Rossetti, Madox Brown, Holman Hunt, Legros, Alfred Stevens, Whistler, and many other artists I might name? There is not a single example of these artists in the collection. I am well aware that pictures of some of these artists when they were first painted were not received very favourably; in fact, that they had very few admirers ', indeed. But my point is this, that there must have been since that date many Councils of the Royal Academy containing men who did admire those works, men who have publicly said that they admired them. It cannot be said that they have no admiration for this school, because one of the first purchases they made was a picture by Rooke, who was at that time an assistant to Burne-Jones. If, therefore, they will buy the picture of a mere assistant of that school, is it not strange that they should not buy some of the pictures of the master himself?
My point, therefore, is that there have been men on the Council of the Academy who have admired these pictures, and I ask why have they not bought them? 632 The only explanation which fits the facts is that these artists did not exhibit their pictures at the Royal Academy. There are other explanations which have been put forward, but they cannot be sustained. In the first place, it has been alleged that the trustees were obliged by the terms of the will itself to buy pictures from the Royal Academy. I would not refer to that except that it has been set forward by an Academician himself in defence of the action of the Academy, but I have read to your Lordships the terms of the will, and there is no sort of obligation on the trustees to buy out of the Royal Academy, or out of any other exhibition. All that Sir Francis Chantrey laid down, and very properly laid down, was that when the pictures were bought they should be exhibited in order that the public might have an opportunity of seeing them. It has also been suggested that pictures by these men were not available for purchase, but any reference to the records of the sales at Christie's and elsewhere will immediately dispose of that contention, for it will then be found that pictures by these artists have come up for sale over and over again, and in almost every case at prices well within the range of the fund, and considerably lower than those which have been paid for some of the pictures which are included. There have been plenty of pictures available for purchase had the trustees been so disposed, but they have preferred to patronise their own exhibition and to buy at top prices pictures which, if they were now placed on the market, would probably not fetch half what was paid for them.
I shall be asked, What can now be done? What could a Committee do if it were appointed? I may be sanguine, but I am inclined to think a good deal could be done. I have not very much sympathy, not very much patience with those who admit that things are bad and then refuse to take any steps to remedy them. I am inclined to think that a Committee, if appointed, could do a good deal. In the first place, they could secure some answer from the Royal Academy to the charges which have been brought forward, some explanation of the methods which they have hitherto adopted. That in itself would be interesting and desirable. Then their next 633 business would be to examine the charges which have been brought forward to see whether they are justified, and when they have done that I believe they will find that the narrow groove into which the trustees have settled down for many years is the result of circumstances which are avoidable, the result of conditions which they have imposed on themselves, which prevent them from attending sales and going about the business as any art connoisseur on his own account would do, and which prevent them from taking a wide and generous view of their duties. I think that a Committee could make recommendations which the Royal Academy themselves would be quite prepared to carry out. I think they would clear up many misunderstandings and much uneasiness which prevails at the present moment in art circles, and that the result of their deliberations and Report would be that this fund would be administered more efficiently in the future. I will only say, in conclusion, that if the cause of art is to flourish in this country, if generous acts like those of Sir Francis Chantrey are to be encouraged, then Parliament should show itself ready to investigate alleged abuses and to watch over the distribution and the use which is made of monies left for a very definite purpose. Therefore, I finally appeal to your Lordships, in the name of the public, and in the interests of art generally, to accept my Motion.
Moved, "That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the administration of the Chantrey Trust; and, if necessary, to make recommendations."— (The Earl of Lytton).
§ THE EARL OF WEMYSS
My Lords, I rise now because I believe that what I am authorised to say will tend to greatly shorten this discussion. My noble friend, no doubt, knows of this little book which I hold in my hand. It is an indictment by Mr. MacColl of the Royal Academy, and in this book there is set out the will of Sir Francis Chantrey. The noble Earl has not read the beginning of it. The first passage of importance is to this effect, that his estate shall be devoted to the encouragement of British fine art in painting and sculpture. Therefore, it 634 is for the encouragement of British art, and not for the purpose of making a collection of English pictures that the Trust exists. The charge against the Royal Academy amounts to this, that bad purchases have been made, that they have missed chances which they might have embraced, and that they have not purchased pictures of painters who ought to have a place in this collection. As regards bad purchases, I have no doubt many of your Lordships, as picture collectors, could recall occasions when your purchases in after years scarcely stood the test of time and inspection. Who is there who can say he has never made bad purchases, or that all his purchases are to his satisfaction? As to missing chances, we all miss chances to buy at the right moment. On one occasion I myself lost the chance of securing a work of Albert Dürer for £120 which was subsequently sold to the Berlin Gallery for £5,000. These are the sort of chances individuals lose, but when it is a case of a body which has to be got together to consider the purchases the case is more difficult.
The main charge brought by my noble friend is that painters who ought to be included in this collection are not represented. I have been to the Tate Gallery lately, and I quite admit that there are many pictures there which have been bought under the Chantrey Bequest which I certainly did not like, and which probably ought not to have been bought; but when this inquiry, assuming it is granted, takes place, no doubt good reasons will be given for the purchase of pictures which generally would not be popular. I thought it right, being interested in art, to put myself in communication with members of the Royal Academy in connection with this question, and I think it much better than giving any ideas of my own that I should give to your Lordships the results which I have jotted down of the conversations I had with members of the Academy as to the non-purchase of pictures and the missing of chances. This is what they say: The conditions of the will make purchases difficult. No commissions are allowed: that is to say, they cannot order a picture from a painter, they cannot buy until the picture is exhibited. Thus pictures 635 have not been got that they would gladly have bought. Alma Tadema's pictures were always purchased before they were exhibited. Burne-Jones's pictures at his best time were always painted on commission, and he had on commission more than he could execute. Whistler rarely exhibited work of first importance. Everyone is not agreed as to his position as an artist, but I think all will agree that his etchings are splendid. Rossetti and Madox Brown practically ceased producing purchasable works before the Chantrey Fund was available. Alfred Stevens painted few pictures. A portrait of his was bought for the National Gallery. Now, as to the management, this is their explanation: The Council is a shifting body. What one set of men might consider desirable another might object to. The Council for the time being is the final authority Purchases have been made elsewhere than at the Royal Academy—namely, at Grosvenor House and the New Galleries; but the best men, as a rule, send pictures to the Royal Academy, and purchases consequently are best made there.
The Council of the Royal Academy are accused of a breach of trust and of jobbery. If they were really good jobbers they would purchase only pictures painted by Royal Academicians, yet out of 105 purchases named in the book I hold in my hand only twenty-seven were the work of Royal Academicians. I do not think that can be called jobbery. The Royal Academy, so far from being opposed to inquiry, court it, and are most anxious that this should be gone into. Whether my noble friend I when he gets his Committee will get any noble Lords to serve with him I cannot tell. Personally, I should be sorry to serve on it. For what have the Committee got to do? The members will have first of all to go to the Tate Gallery and consider every picture there, and take a vote probably on some as to whether or not they would have purchased them themselves. Having settled that point, they will then have to find out now. many pictures they might have preferred to those purchased in the course of fifty or sixty years. Some of those pictures with which a comparison would be necessary may have gone to America, Australia, New Zealand, and other coun- 636 tries; so that if the Committee fulfil I their duty, which is entirely one of comparison between what has been purchased and what has not, they will have to travel all over the world. If, however, there is to be a Committee, I hope a good Committee will be appointed, and I wish them joy of the work before them.
§ LORD DAVEY
My Lords, being one of the trustees of the Chantrey Fund, though I have nothing to do with the functions of the Royal Academy, it is, I think, right that I should say a few words, because as the Motion is framed I understood it to be an attack on the administration of the Chantrey Trust. I ought to point out that Sir Francis Chantrey's will vested the residue of his property in trustees, of whom I have at present the honour to be one, but the duty of the trustees is confined to taking care of the funds and of handing over the income each year to the Royal Academy for the purchase of works of art, as the noble Earl has described. The amount of the fund is, I think, a little over £2,000 a year, and your Lordships who are in the habit of buying pictures know that if you went to Christie's and invested in pictures of the best known and most celebrated masters of the British school, living and dead, £2,000 a year would not go very far. It is true that the Royal Academy may request the trustees to accumulate the money till a large sum is obtained, but they do not conceive that to be the best mode of executing their trust.
What I desire to point out to your Lordships is that Sir Francis Chantrey vested the selection of works of art absolutely in the Royal Academy, or, rather, I should say, in the Council of the Royal Academy. I do not doubt that the noble Earl and any Committee over which he presides would make a. much better selection and execute the discretion which Sir Francis Chantrey vested in the Royal Academy better than they have done; but I venture to ay that that is no reason for displacing the Royal Academy, and I am glad to gather from the noble Earl's remarks, that the Committee which he asks your Lordships to appoint is a mere Committee of inquiry to make recommendations which the Royal Academy may or may 637 not adopt, and that he has no intention of altering the disposition of Sir Francis Chantrey's will, which could only be done, of course, by an Act of Parliament. I am not able to go in detail into the questions brought forward by the noble Earl, but I think there are two or three observations which he omitted to make. In the first place, he did not draw attention to the clause in the will which the noble Earl below me mentioned, namely, that no works are to be bought on commission. Commissions cannot be given to any artist to execute works for the Chantrey trustees. Your Lordships are aware that the greatest painters of the present time, at any rate, generally work on commission, that their works are ordered and are purchased long before they leave their studios. That is almost invariably the case with artists who are most celebrated at the present time, and the Council of the Royal Academy have been advised that not only can they not order a work on commission, but that they cannot even purchase an unfinished work in the artist's studio. That advice may have been wrong, but it is advice they have received from legal persons competent to give it. No doubt the works of the greatest masters of the English school from time to time come into the market, but in order to purchase at Christie's or elsewhere, where these pictures are sold, you must have the money in your pocket, and the prices for which works of this character are sold at Christie's are rather beyond the comparatively modest means of the Chantrey Fund. It would require the accumulations of some years to pay such prices as one sees in the newspapers and knows from one's own experience are given for the works of the greatest artists in the British school.
There are two conceptions of the way in which the Chantrey Trust could be carried into effect. One way would be to form a gallery of the greatest masters of British art. The Royal Academy did not conceive that that was the best mode, in the interests of art, for executing the trust reposed in them, and they did not think, having regard to the amount of money at their disposal, it would be wise to confine themselves to the purchase of a comparatively small number of the works of the greatest artists. The other 638 way in which the Chantrey Trust might be employed consistently with the terms of the will was in the encouragement of British art by purchasing the pictures of promising young and unknown artists. The noble Earl shakes his head, but I venture to say that in my opinion that would be in perfect consistency with the trust which is reposed in them, and the Royal Academy in most cases have executed their trust in that way. They have bought from time to time what they conceived to be works of the greatest merit from artists who are comparatively unknown.
I have seen and enjoyed a good many pictures in my time, and have been fortunate enough to buy a few of my own, but I do not pretend to be an art critic, and I should be the last person in the world to take part in a discussion as to the comparative merits of one artist over another. I myself am acquainted with the Chantrey collection, and I certainly think that, whatever the opinion of the noble Earl may be, he used rather an extravagant expression when he called the Chantrey collection a byword and a mockery. I must say I think that was an extremely exaggerated expression, and that it was not one which on reflection the noble Earl would be prepared to abide by. Nor do I think he was accurate when he said the Chantrey Trustees had not fulfilled their trust either in the letter or the spirit. That, of course, is a matter of opinion, and I certainly should not be disposed to ask your Lordships to express any opinion on that point.
As the noble Earl below me has told your Lordships, the Royal Academy are perfectly prepared to meet an inquiry if your Lordships think fit to appoint a Committee, and, indeed, will welcome one, because they are satisfied that they will be able to give a satisfactory account of their proceedings. But I must say the inquiry seems to me to be of a difficult character. The noble Earl opposite, I gather, does not propose that it should end in bringing in a Bill to alter the Chantrey Trust, and when one thinks of the sort of evidence that the Committee will have to inquire into one does not envy the position of noble Lords who will serve on it. They will, of course, have 639 complaints that pictures of some particular artist have not been purchased. I ought to tell your Lordships that the Trust has only been in existence since 1877, and that 105 pictures have been bought. It will be said by gentlemen who are interested in galleries other than the Royal Academy, that pictures ought to have been bought out of their galleries instead of out of the Royal Academy;, and you will have other persons, amateur art critics, who will come forward and explain their views on the shortcomings of the Royal Academy. As, however, no opposition is offered on the part of the Royal Academy to the appointment of this Committee, I do not think it is necessary for me to detain your Lordships further.
THE FIRST COMMISSIONER OF WORKS (Lord WINDSOR)
My Lords, I think my noble friend behind me may be satisfied in having brought a question before your Lordships which is of very great interest, certainly, to those who are concerned with the position which modern British art should hold relatively to the modern pictorial art of the world. I do not propose, in the very few remarks I have to offer on behalf of His Majesty's Government, to follow my noble friend in the first part of his speech, in which he, I think, with great skill navigated the deep waters between what I may call the shoals of individual taste and the rocks of authority. It is a neighbourhood which I do not wish to find myself in, as very keen controversies are easily aroused near it. But the question which presents itself to the Government is really this: Has the noble Earl in moving this Motion made out a prima-facie case for some inquiry? The Government have no intention whatever of attempting to pre-judge this question, nor of expressing any opinion as to the merits or demerits of the actual works which have been brought under the Chantrey bequest. The point which they have to express an opinion about is whether, as I have said, a prima facie case has been made out for some inquiry.
The noble Earl opposite submitted a list of reasons given to him by members of the Royal Academy for the course they have taken while on the Council, and while responsible for the carrying out of 640 the Trust, and I venture to think that this very list of reasons justifies my noble friend behind me in bringing the Motion before the House. There are matters, which I think a Committee of this House would clear up, quite unconnected with the duty which the noble and learned Lord opposite playfully suggested that the Committee would have to undertake. It is perfectly clear that it has been in the minds of members of the Royal Academy Council that it was necessary that pictures bought under this bequest should be pictures exhibited in the Royal Academy. I venture to think that a Committee appointed by this House might with perfect propriety make it clear that under the terms of the will the Council of the Royal Academy were taking too narrow a view of their duties, and that there really were not those limitations upon their choice which they have, no doubt, perfectly honestly believed existed.
There is another instance I would give. I do not throw it out as a suggestion, because I have not got to make suggestions, but it has been said that the Council of the Royal Academy is a shifting body, that the whole Council has to come to some agreement, and that it is very difficult in those circumstances to make a choice in any way the same as anindividual with knowledge and authority could make. Why should not the Council of the Royal Academy appoint a managing director? What happens in a company of directors? They do not lessen their authority by any such steps as that. They do not lessen their responsibility, but they appoint one who looks into matters for them, and whose advice they naturally pay particular attention to. I cannot see any reason why the Council of the Royal Academy should not appoint one eminent artist who would give his particular attention to carrying out the terms of Sir Francis Chantrey's will, and who might give most valuable advice to the Council, who otherwise are likely to take the line of least resistance, and perhaps buy pictures, not because they are particularly admired, but because they are not very strongly objected to.
Certain difficulties have, no doubt, presented themselves to the Council of the Academy in carrying out this Trust. In their rules and regulations they have 641 possibly put unnecessary limits to their choice, and in the interests of Sir Francis Chantrey's own wishes, in the interests of British art which this collection is meant to encourage, it is perfectly possible, I think, that a Committee of this House, on inquiry, may be able to persuade: the Council of the Royal Academy to take a broader view than they have done hither to of the duties which have been handed over to them. I have no more to say on behalf of His Majesty's Government except that they do think that a prima-facie case for an inquiry has been made out by my noble friend, and that they do not propose to oppose the Motion which he has made, and which I am glad to hear those who have been specially speaking for the Royal Academy have no intention of opposing either. I trust and believe that, however difficult may be the task which is set them, my noble friend may be enabled to appoint a Committee which will be able to come to conclusions and to offer suggestions that it will not be out of the power of the Council of the Royal Academy to adopt.
§ THE EARL OF CARLISLE
My Lords, I should not wish to detain the House were it not that the noble Earl who moved this Motion wrote an article in a e weekly paper, a copy of which was sent to me, and which other noble Lords no doubt received, in which he made a statement which I think ought to be corrected. He said—Since it was taken for granted by Chantrey that some trouble would be expended on the work of selection, an additional sum of £300 a year was bequeathed to the President for his £ pains.I think anyone who reads the will of Sir Francis Chantrey will see that this bequest to the President had nothing c: whatever to do with the administration p of the Chantrey Trust. It was made specially, without any condition whatever, for his own absolute use and benefit. It was made at a time when there was no salary attached to the office of the President of the Academy, and what a points this out more strongly is that a subsequent bequest of £50 to the Secretary hi of the Academy had the condition of looking after the affairs of the Trust attached to it. At the death of Sir Francis Chantrey the Academy paid over 642 this salary of £300 to the President, who enjoyed it for thirty years before the Trust came into operation. Therefore, I do not think it can be fairly said to have been given for the administration of the Trust. I think that this mistake illustrates a little the spirit in which this inquiry has been made. It seems to me that it has assumed so hostile an attitude that it is likely to a considerable extent to do away with the good which this Committee may effect.
I quite agree with the noble Lord in thinking that this Committee may do considerable good in assisting the work of the Council of the Academy, and possibly in enabling them to do away with some of the regulations they have made. But I cannot think that this Committee can possibly alter the character of the work. It cannot possibly make a Committee of the Academy other than academic. It seems to me extremely natural that the Council of the Academy should prefer academical works to others, not necessarily because they "job," but because they believe them to be good, The Academy are supposed to elect into their body the best painters and to hang on their walls those pictures which they consider to be best, and you can hardly expect them to pass a vote of censure on themselves by buying something which is exactly opposite to what they like. I very much agree with some, at all events, of the criticisms made by the noble Earl; but I do not know what will be gained by putting them forward. He tells us that numerous works that are universally admired now were not bought, but if the trustees of the Chantrey Bequest or any other public body had bought those works when they were painted they would have been met by universal execration by the organs which now complain of the administration of the Trust. Some of the critics of the administration have gone so far as to say that works by Holbein and Vandyck might have been purchased under the Trust, but that surely is to reduce the argument to a reduclio ad absurdum. Surely Sir Francis Chantrey cannot be supposed to have intended old masters to be bought out of his bequest. It seems almost common sense to suppose that it was contemporary art that he meant to encourage.
643 As to the criticism with regard to the prices paid, the noble Earl surely cannot have noticed that portion of the will in which Sir Francis Chantrey says expressly that the prices to be paid shall be liberal and shall be wholly in the discretion of the President of the Council of the Royal Academy. The noble Lord has told us what Sir Francis Chantrey's intentions were. We can only judge them by the will. He took great pains to say that it was to be in the hands of the Academy. He was an Academician himself, and knew all about the Academy; and not only did he put the Trust in the hands of the Academy, but he provided that if that body ceased to exist the Trust should be administered by such other society as might be formed by its last members. It was plainly Sir Francis Chantrey's intention to leave the administration of the fund in the hand of the Academy, and I do not know exactly, if your Lordships' Committee object to that, into whose hands you would put it. It is a very doubtful question. I hope this Committee will succeed in the objects which Lord Windsor has put before it, but I think it would be well that in starting their labours they should not hope entirely to alter the character of the bequest.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (The Marquess of LANSDOWNE)
My Lords, there is other important business before the House, and I think we seem to be all of one mind with regard to the Motion of the noble Lord. I do not, therefore, intend to take up your Lordships' time. I think we are all indebted to the noble Earl for having brought this subject before the House. It is one which has attracted a great deal of public attention lately, and the noble Earl has treated it in language of great moderation, and has been careful to avoid any imputation of unworthy motives to the Council of the Royal Academy in the manner in which they have discharged their duties. On the other hand, it is impossible to exaggerate the strength of the feeling which prevails in favour of some inquiry into the manner in which those duties have been performed, and it is satisfactory to know that the Council of the Royal Academy itself desires that such an 644 inquiry should take place. I think, therefore, we have every reason to anticipate that the inquiry will be productive of useful results. I was not at all alarmed by the gloomy forebodings of the noble Earl, Lord Wemyss, who described to us the hopelessness of the task which we were assigning to the members of this Committee. He drew a picture of them reviewing not only the purchases of the past, but lost opportunities of purchasing which have now become merely historical. I venture to express the hope that if this Committee is appointed they will concern themselves with the future rather than the past, and that they will not, if I may use the expression, break their teeth upon lost opportunities, or upon purchases which in the eyes of many people have been of a disappointing character. I desire to say only one word with regard to what fell from the noble and learned Lord opposite. I understood him to suggest that the scope of the inquiry should be in some way or other limited. I do not know whether that will be the case. The noble Earl has not formulated the exact words of his Motion, but I gather that he intends to move that a Select Committee should be appointed to inquire into the administration of the Chantrey Trust, and, if necessary, to make a recommendation. [The Earl of LYTTON assented.] If that Motion be put to your Lordships and carried, I take it that the Committee will be able to make their inquiry and to offer any recommendations they please without restriction. It will be when we have those recommendations before us that we shall have to consider in what manner they should be dealt with.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, and ordered accordingly.