The Bill, as its Long Title demonstrates, is "an Act to stimulate public interest in, and to promote the knowledge, appreciation and practice of, the arts and to establish an arts council". The Bill itself gives a fairly comprehensive definition of the expression "the arts". It includes within its scope matters which ordinarily would not fall within the scope of an expression like "the fine arts". The fine arts will include painting, sculpture, architecture, and the visual arts generally. An extended meaning to the expression "the arts" is given by the definition clause, to include not merely the visual arts such as painting, sculpture and architecture, but also to include music, drama, literature and, in particular, design in industry and the fine arts and applied arts generally. Therefore, the Bill in its scope applies to the visual arts and it applies to drama and literature, and it also applies to design in industry and the applied arts generally.
The Bill proposes to set up a council which will be an incorporated body and will have a director and 11 unpaid members-six nominated in accordance with paragraph (4) of the Schedule by the Government and five co-opted in accordance with the procedure set out in paragraph 5. The general scope and purpose of the council in its work is set out in Section 3. It provides that the council shall, in such manner as the council shall see fit, stimulate public interest in the arts, promote the knowledge, appreciation and practice of the arts, assist in improving the standards of the arts and organise or assist in the organising of exhibitions (within or without the State) of works of art and artistic craftsmanship. The council is also to advise the Government or a member of the Government on any matter (being a matter on which knowledge and experience of the arts has a bearing) on which their advice is requested.
The Bill as it has finally emerged from the Dáil is one which I personally think and which I suggest to Senators is in a very satisfactory state. The council which is to be set up is practically an autonomous body, deliberately designed to have a considerable amount of freedom in its actions and calculated to work in a way that will not be hampered by undue interference by any Department of State and particularly the Department of Finance. In effect, the Council so far as its liaison or contact with the Government is concerned, is responsible through the Taoiseach to the Government.
When it was originally introduced into the Dáil the amount of money that was provided for the activities of the council was limited to the sum of £20,000 per annum. As a result of discussion in the Dáil, the financial provisions contained in Section 5 were altered. There is now no ceiling to the amount of money that may be granted by the Oireachtas to this council annually and the only financial control is that which is exercised by the Government through the Taoiseach. That represents really a fundamental principle in the Bill, a principle that art has to be encouraged by the State in modern conditions and in modern circumstances, but art and all works connected with artistic activities, while being encouraged to the greatest possible extent by the State, should never be controlled by the State. That is one of the great principles embodied in this Bill.
I assume that Senators have read the report of Dr. Bodkin prepared at the request of the Government. He reported in September, 1949. That report had terms of reference which, I think, I need not here repeat. They were comprehensive terms of reference and the subject matter was referred to Dr. Bodkin for his advice and his assistance on all matters connected with the state of art in Ireland and of our artist institutions. This country was very fortunate, indeed, that we had at our disposal a man of the wide knowledge of art and the history of art who was prepared to give us the benefit of his experience and his knowledge and to attach to the report the value of the enormous international prestige which he enjoys not merely as a professor of Fine Arts but also as Director of the Barber Institute of Fine Arts in the University of Birmingham and one who has an international reputation as an expert in artistic matters and an unrivalled knowledge of the history of art. In this report he has very frankly set forth his views on the condition of art in Ireland. For us it does not make very happy reading, nevertheless, I think we have to admit that the criticism he makes and the comments that are contained in his report are well founded. When he says that no other country in Western Europe cared less or gave less for the cultivation of the arts than our own country, we have to accept that as a valid criticism and having accepted it see what we can do to remedy that deplorable state of affairs.
Efforts have been made, since the establishment of this State, to do something for our artistic institutions, the National Gallery of Art, the School of Art, Hibernian Academy, National Museum and other institutions throughout the country. They all ended in futility. So far as I was personally concerned, it was one of my personal ambitions to see that that state of affairs, so far as I could achieve it, was remedied. This Bill, merely a beginning and modest as it is, is, at least, a constructive effort to stop the rot and to remedy the failure that has persisted for so long here to do something for the encouragement of our own native talents and for the betterment of our artistic institutions.
We have, I believe, in this country great art treasures. They are very little known, scarcely appreciated. Little attention has been given to the dissemination of knowledge of the art treasures that we do possess and, very little effort has been made to inculcate in our people a knowledge and an appreciation of visual arts.
There is another object in this Bill, one which is, perhaps, a little bit more material than the first object that this Bill sets out to achieve, the knowledge and appreciation of fine arts, the cultivation of our native talents and, we hope, genius. We hope an effort will be made, when this council is established, to bring some appreciation to our industrialists of the vital importance to our country of the application of art to industry. Later on I hope to say a little more about that very important aspect of this Bill.
I said that one of the fundamental principles of this Bill was that the council should be as free as possible from State interference or State control. We have in this country, unfortunately, very few, if any, people whose resources enable them, or who are inclined if they have resources, to endow our art institutions or our schools of art or architecture. The State, therefore, must come in to aid, assist and encourage, but having done that they must step out of the picture and leave to the council the task of encouraging our young people who have latent talent and possibly genius to develop that talent and find an outlet for that genius in painting, in architecture, in the applied arts and design and subsequently, we hope, in literature and the drama.
While, as I stated at the outset, the definition of the arts in this Bill is pretty wide, embracing a number of matters other than the visual arts, nevertheless, I did envisage that the primary purpose at the outset of this council would be to encourage the fine arts and the applied arts and that it may take some little time to reach the point, if I may use that expression, of literature and drama. At all events, we hope to sow the seeds from which some useful growth will emerge. It is well known that the National Gallery of Art, though we have, as I have stated, wonderful treasures of art, has been starved and shamelessly neglected since the establishment of this State. The amount of money allocated each year for the upkeep of the Gallery and for the purchase of pictures has been insignificant, and when you consider the matters referred to in Dr. Bodkin's report as to the amount of money spent by countries abroad on art and design in industry and the applied arts, the conclusion is inescapable that we have been utterly neglectful of our duties in those respects during the past 25 or 30 years.
Small countries like Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Holland all spend relatively large sums of money on visual art and applied art. Vast quantities of money are spent by France and Great Britain, and we may assume that it is not all for idealistic purposes or to encourage matters of the spirit, so that those people who may possibly think that, in circumstances like the present, in difficult times when there are many problems, social, economic and financial, which require urgently to be treated, it is somewhat a waste of time to introduce a Bill of this character should take pause when they consider that not merely is there a spiritual benefit derived from the expenditure of these vast sums of money in other countries but that there is also a very material advantage accruing from their expenditure.
Successive Governments during the past 28 years or so, since the establishment of the State, have endeavoured to set up industries in this country. Possibly owing to the difficulty of the task and possibly for other reasons, we have been very largely influenced in the matter of these industries by the very materialistic traditions of the 19th-century industrial growth. We have neglected the very wide scope there is for us to make use of the applied arts, the application of art to our industries and the establishment for ourselves of industries of a character that will, when the arts are applied to them, produce for us industrial products of sufficiently high artistic design as to command a very large export trade. The industrialists of America, and, with far-seeing vision, the industrialists of Sweden, spent quite some considerable amount of money in securing proper designs for their industries, and the Swedish glass industry has now achieved for itself world-wide renown and for the Swedish nation an asset of very considerable value.
That is a field that is open to us here and these two branches of the work the Council will have to do work into the same root and grow towards the same object. You cannot have art properly applied to industry unless you have the conditions in which artists can develop their talent and genius, in which the public have a decent appreciation of art. If there are these opportunities for our young people, if there is design of the highest class and if the public have an artistic appreciation and critical faculty, properly developed, there is, I believe, a wide scope for vast expansion of our industries if the arts are properly applied to them.
I should like to express my own and my colleagues' appreciation of the manner in which this Bill was received by Deputies of all Parties in Dáil Eireann. It was given unanimous approval at all stages and eventually emerged from the Dáil a better Bill than it was when originally introduced. I commend it to Senators as a beginning, as an effort to do something which is long overdue, as something which, if put into proper working order, and given the necessary encouragement by the people, as well as by the Government, will bring great advantage and bear great fruit for our people in the material sense, and, more particularly, in the spiritual sense.