Public Galleries of Art are now regarded by the most enlightened men, and the wisest legislators, as of incalculable benefit to every civilized country. (See vol. i., page 6, of this work.) They communicate to the mind, through the eye, "the accumulated wisdom of ages," relative to every form of beauty, in the most rapid and captivating manner. If such institutions are important in Europe, abounding in works of art, how much more so in our country, separated as it is by the broad Atlantic from the artistic world, which few comparatively can ever visit: many of our young artists, for the want of such an institution, are obliged to grope their way in the dark, and to spend months and years to find out a few simple principles of art.

A distinguished professor, high in public estimation, has declared that the formation of such an institution in this country, however important and desirable it may be, is almost hopeless. He founds his opinion on the difficulty of obtaining the authenticated works of the great masters, and the enormous prices they now command in Europe. The writer ventures to declare it as his long cherished opinion that a United States National Gallery is entirely practicable, as far as all useful purposes are concerned; and at a tithe of the cost of such institutions in Europe. In the present state of the Fine Arts in our country, we should not attempt to emulate European magnificence, but utility. The "course of empire is westward," and in the course of time, as wealth and taste increases, sale will be sought here, as now in England, for many works of the highest art. It is also to be hoped that some public benefactors will rise to our assistance. After the foundation of the institution, it may be extended according to the taste and wants of the country; professorships may be added, and the rarest works purchased. When the country can and will afford it, no price should be regarded too great for a perfect masterpiece of art, as a model in a national collection. To begin, the Gallery should contain,

1st. A complete library of all standard works on Art, historical and illustrative, in every language.

2d. A collection of the masterpieces of engraving; these should be mounted on linen, numbered, bound, described and criticised.

3d. A complete collection of casts of medals and antique gems, where the originals cannot be obtained. There are about 70,000 antique medals of high importance to art. (See Numismatics, vol. iii., p. 269, of this work.) These casts could easily be obtained through our diplomatic agents; they should be taken in Plaster of Paris or Sulphur, double—i.e., the reverse and obverse,—classified, catalogued, described, and arranged in cases covered with plate glass, for their preservation.

4th. A collection of plaster casts of all the best works of sculpture, particularly of the antique. Correct casts of the Elgin marbles are sold by the British Museum at a very reasonable price, and in this case would doubtless be presented to the institution.

5th. A collection of Paintings. This is the most difficult part of the project, yet practicable. Masterpieces of the art only should be admitted, but historical authenticity disregarded. The works of the great masters have been so closely imitated, that there are no certain marks of authenticity, where the history of the picture cannot be traced. (See Spooner's Dictionary of Painters, etc., Introduction, and Table of Imitators.) Half the pictures in foreign collections cannot be authenticated, and many of those which are, are not the best productions of the master, nor worthy of the places they occupy. (See Mrs. Jameson's Hand-Book to the Public Galleries in and near London; also the Catalogues of the various Public Galleries of Europe.) Therefore, instead of paying 5,000 or 10,000 guineas for an authenticated piece by a certain master, as is sometimes done in Europe, competent and true men should be appointed to select capital works, executed in the style of the great masters. Many such can be had in this country as well as in Europe, at moderate prices.

6th. The Institution should be located in New York, as the most convenient place, and as the great centre of commerce, where artists could most readily dispose of their works. For this favor, the city would doubtless donate the ground, and her citizens make liberal contributions. The edifice should be built fire-proof, and three stories high—the upper with a skylight, for the gallery of paintings. Such an institution need not be very expensive; yet it would afford the elements for the instruction and accomplishment of the painter, the engraver, the sculptor, the architect, the connoisseur, the archæologist, and the public at large; it would be the means of awakening and developing the sleeping genius of many men, to the honor, glory, and advantage of their country, which, without it, must sleep on forever. See vol. ii., pp. 149 and 155, and vol. iii., p. 265 of this work.