XVII. PROGRESS IN THE ARTS.
Following Copley and West came, close together, three painters whose works were of a high order, some of them being familiar to every one in engraved copies. These were Charles Wilson Peale, Gilbert Stuart, and John Trumbull. Peale was a saddler's apprentice, Stuart the son of a snuffmaker; Trumbull, on the other hand, was the son of one of the foremost statesmen of the Revolution. To all three we owe portraits of Washington from life. Peale painted him in his prime, just after the battle of Monmouth; Trumbull painted him as he was a few years later, at the surrender of Cornwallis; and Stuart painted him when the added dignity of age had crept upon him, and he was President at Philadelphia. Both Peale and Trumbull fought in the Revolution. Trumbull is now best known as the painter of the historical pictures of the war for independence which hang in the Capitol at Washington; of which the most familiar is the "Battle of Bunker's Hill."
It could no longer be said, after these great painters had lived and left enduring results of their labors, that America was devoid of a genius for, or an appreciation of, art. The appearance of Washington Allston, who as a colorist won the name of the "American Titian," and whose noble conceptions of Biblical subjects, executed with wonderful power, have given him permanent rank among the best artists of his time; and of Henry Inman, whose versatile genius readily took up portrait, historical, or landscape painting at will, served to carry American art yet another grade higher. Rembrandt Peale sustained the tradition of his father's ability by his own works; Sully came from England to win fame here as a portrait-painter; Vanderlyn and many others rapidly rose to establish art as a profession and adornment in this country. It is worthy of note that two of the greatest of American inventors, Robert Fulton and S.F.B. Morse, began life as artists; but found it more profitable, in fame and fortune, to run steamboats and establish telegraphs.
[Artists as Inventors.]
The sister arts have nourished in this country in a degree scarcely less marked than painting. In sculpture, a later but prolific growth with us, the names of Hiram Powers, Horatio Greenough, Crawford, Ball, Story, Ward, Rogers, Hart, and Harriet Hosmer, sufficiently attest the progress made and the reputation established in this respect. In drawing, caricature, water-colors, and other minor branches of art, our progress has been scarcely less notable; we may fairly claim to have our Gillrays and Cruikshanks as well as our English cousins.
[Art a Modern Necessity.]
Art, from having been a very rare luxury among our forefathers even as lately as the beginning of this century, has become an adjunct, it may even be said a necessity, of our civilization. Drawing is being taught in our schools, and is regarded as one of the polite accomplishments of educated young ladies. Art galleries have sprung up everywhere, and art stores are popular resorts in our larger cities. Art societies thrive and flourish in many States, and art teachers are in demand in most of our towns. Colonies of artists swarm in stately buildings in New York, Boston, and Philadelphia. The time has come when no artist of merit need starve for want of patronage.
Thousands of Americans, travelling abroad every year, spend the larger portion of their time in Europe in visiting those splendid art galleries which the munificence and taste of kings and nobles have established, and which are free to all the world. The taste for art has become universal, and has penetrated all classes; few are the American houses, in these days, wherein the evidences of this taste are not apparent.
Music has progressed with the other arts in popularity and culture; though America, like England, has as yet produced no really great composer. Every branch of music, however, is cultivated with us; and music as a profession is even more certainly lucrative than painting. America welcomes the most renowned singers and musicians in the world, and the highest efforts of musical composition are performed here to audiences sufficiently cultivated fully to enjoy and appreciate them. We cannot doubt that the future will still further develop the American love of all the arts; or that, in time, this continent will rival that of Europe in great artistic productions.