Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 6.djvu/686
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
founded to promote those objects which have been fostered by the elder society, which, drifting away from Art in its highest sense, has taken in hand industrial art and applied science. One single comparison will demonstrate my meaning. In the beginning of the century—under the auspices of Count Rumford—the Royal Institution undertook to improve the dwellings of the working classes, to warm and ventilate workhouses, hospitals, and cottages, and to and patronize improvements in the economical consumption of fuel and the teaching of culinary science. In the present year the Society of Arts, founded originally to encourage young artists, has offered premiums for the best kinds of culinary and domestic warming apparatus, and has directly fostered attempts to instruct the people of England in the best methods of preparing food.
The Society of Arts has now existed for a hundred and twenty years, and owes its foundation to Mr. William Shipley, a landscape-painter, who, from a "well-grounded persuasion of the extensive utility of the art of drawing to this nation, erected the Academy in the Strand, opposite to Exeter Change." By the efforts of this gentleman a meeting was held in 1754 at Rawthmell's coffee-house, to consider the propriety of establishing a "Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce."
It was resolved to bestow premiums on a certain number of boys and girls, and an advertisement was issued accordingly. The industrial element, however, was not lost sight of, as, while a number of drawing prizes were advertised, premiums were offered for the discovery of cobalt in England, the growth of madder, and the manufacture of buff leather. The primary object was the encouragement of art, but the view taken of the "polite arts" was a sufficiently wide one, inasmuch as the premiums offered under this head were ultimately grouped under 196 classes. Many prizes were awarded for drawing, and among the recipients was Richard Cosway, who afterward became a Royal Academician, and a portrait-painter of repute. It was soon found necessary to confine the objects of study to certain models, and, as no public museum or National Gallery then existed, individual collections, such as that formed by the Duke of Richmond, were selected for study.
On the consolidation of the Society, the artists of London applied for permission to hold an exhibition in the Society's rooms. This permission was granted, and exhibitions continued to be held for several years. This annual inspection of the works of rival artists, who formed themselves into separate bodies, excited emulation, directed public attention toward their works, and ultimately secured for them the royal patronage and protection. These first exhibitions of pictures by native artists in the rooms of the Society of Arts may, therefore, be regarded as the origin of that exhibition of the Royal Academy which now forms one of the great events of the London season.