London, Volume 3

Knight, Charles


LXIV.-The. Royal Academy. No. 1.

LXIV.-The. Royal Academy. No. 1.




During the reign of the George and part of that of the , it seemed as though the nation at large was inclined to participate in the well-known contempt of of those monarchs for



whatever it might do as regards his similar opinion of



at: all events,--since anything deserving the name of art--had existed in this country, never before had the prospect seemed so hopeless.. The admirable works of Holbein and- Vandyke, and, in a lesser degree, of Lely and Kneller (all foreigners), which had been scattered so profusely abroad through the palaces and mansions of- England, appeared to have fallen on a soil barren, as far as they were concerned, but most prolific of the ranker and more gaudy kinds of vegetation. Whilst the national mind appeared to make no response to the exertions of the great painters we have mentioned, the sight of the acres of garish canvas-

Where sprawl the saints of Verrio and La Guerre,

set us all decorating our staircases and ceilings in a similar manner; mythology was made easy to the humblest capacities; Jupiters and Junos, Venuses and Mercuries, flocked about us in the most condescending fashion-high art was to be our own at once: there is no saying how soon the spirit as well as the forms of the art-religion of ancient Greece might not have been revived among us, but for the unlucky sarcasms of those wicked poets! At the period of the accession of George II., our most eminent native artists were Sir James Thornhill, the


painter of the dome of and the great hall of Greenwich Hospital, works which, whatever admiration they excited in his own day, when he successfully disputed the palm of reputation with La Guerre, are now at least as remarkable for the mode in which they were paid ( a square yard), as for their excellence; Hudson, the chief portrait-painter; and Hayman, the decorator of , and the author of many illustrative designs of

Don quoteuixote

and other publications. When such were our great men, no wonder that French critics amused themselves with speculations on the cause of what they declared to be our evident unfitness ever to be distinguished in art, and kindly condoled with us on our ungenial climate and our defective physical organizations If they could have seen what was then going silently on in different parts of England, these sagacious critics would have saved themselves much trouble, some confusion, and have derived a lesson as to putting their own house into order, which would have been useful. Holbein and his immortal followers, it turned out after all, had come to an ungenial soil; on the contrary, it appeared they had been slowly doing that which it is the prerogative of genius only to do-making equals, and not imitators. It was not long after the commencement of the reign of George II., that Sir James Thornhill, on rising morning, found on his breakfast-table some etchings of so remarkable a character, that when he learnt they were by his poor son-in-law, who had offended him by marrying his child without his consent, he at once forgave them both. The etchings were some of the as yet unpublished engravings of the

Harlot's Progress;

the poor son-in-law was Hogarth. In the same street where this scene took place-St. Martin's Lane--a few years after, a young painter from Devonshire had established himself after having visited Rome, and older artists talked of the absurd heresies he was practically broaching. Hudson, before mentioned, who was his old master, went to see him, and after looking for some time on the picture of a boy in a turban, exclaimed, with an oath,

Reynolds, you don't paint so well as when you left England.

Another eminent portrait-painter, who had studied. under Kneller, also came to the studio and expressed his opinions:--

Ah! Reynolds, this will never answer; why, you don't paint in the least like Sir Godfrey!

The young artist, by no means overwhelmed, answered with quiet confidence, and explained his reasons (which of course embodied all his novel views in art), with great ability, till at last Ellis cried out,

Shakspere in poetry, and Kneller in painting, d-e!

and marched out of the room. Not many years had to elapse before that heretical student was acknowledged the master of a genuine and lofty English school of painting, and posterity has confirmed the opinion of contemporaries. Lastly, about the same time, Gainsborough, yet a boy, was obtaining holidays from school by ingeniously forging notes of leave from his parent, for the purpose of making sketches in the beautiful woods which surrounded his native place in Suffolk ; and Wilson, the English Claude, was being happily turned from portrait to landscape by an accident. Whilst studying at Rome, he waited morning a long time anticipating the coming of the artist Zucarelli, and, to beguile the time, sketched the scene he beheld through the windows before him. Zucarelli, looking on it when he came, was astonished, and asked Wilson if he had studied landscape. The answer was in the negative.

Then I advise you to try, for you are sure

of great success,

was Zucarelli's immediate remark; and Vernet, an eminent French painter, spoke to the same effect. The picture of Niobe marked his return to England, and caused his immediate recognition as a painter of high genius. It is to these men that we chiefly owe the extraordinary advance in English art which has been made in the space of a single century. From the period of their advent we may date the rapid disappearance of the historical pictures of the La Guerre and Thornhill school,

the mobs of the old divinities-nymphs who represented cities-crowned beldames for nations-and figures, ready ticketed and labelled, answering to the names of Virtues;

[n.211.1]  and with them went the artists who were at Reynolds's chief rivals, and whom he describes as having

a set of postures which they apply to all persons indiscriminately: the consequence of which is, that all their pictures look like so many sign-post paintings; and if they have a history or a family piece to paint, the


thing they do is to look over their commonplace book, containing sketches which they have stolen from various pictures; then they search their prints over, and pilfer


figure from


print, and another from a


; but never take the trouble of thinking for themselves.

In place of all these different kinds of inanities, Hogarth now set the town considering the stern realities of life, and instilled into them his wholesome morality; Reynolds showed a truer divinity, hedging in the shapes of humanity itself, than Verrio had ever fetched down from Olympus; and Wilson and Gainsborough revealed the natural beauties of the every-day world to thousands who had at least practically forgotten them. It was during the height of the reputation of these men that the Royal Academy started into existence, and chiefly in consequence of their exertions.

It appears from Hogarth's memoirs of himself that the attempt to form a kind of artists' academy was made about the beginning of the eighteenth century

by some gentlemen-painters of the


rank, who in their general forms imitated the plan of that in France, but conducted their business with far less fuss and solemnity; yet the little that there was, in a very short time became an object of ridicule.

The single object then desired was a school for drawing from the living model; and it is curious, and an unanswerable evidence of the low state of the arts, that in so important a matter nothing should have been done previously, or more effectively when undertaken. But the public had an idea that some of these meetings were for immoral purposes, and the artists had rot a little difficulty to overcome on that score. The Duke of Richmond had the credit, later in the century, of establishing the school in this country for the study of the antique, having fitted up a gallery with a number of casts, busts, and bas-reliefs,

moulded from the most select antique and modern figures at that time in Rome and Florence.

Cipriani was of the teachers here for a few months. Other associations, of the kind before referred to, sprang into existence from time to time. Vertue in was drawing in , of which Kneller was at the head. Sir James Thornhill also founded at the back of his house in , which, Hogarth says, sunk into insignificance; and after his death, Hogarth, becoming possessed of the apparatus, himself caused the establishment of another, ultimately known as the Society of


Incorporated Artists, from which the Royal Academy, which Hogarth so strenuously opposed on the ground of the deleterious influence he conceived such establishments would have on art, may be said to have arisen. This is by no means the most noticeable feature of the contrast between Hogarth's intended opposition and actual support. A new advantage was soon discovered by the artists in the combination they devised, the advantage of exhibition, and it is that has since kept the body firmly together by its potent influence. For this, also, the Academy is indebted chiefly to Hogarth. On the erection of the , it was desired, in accordance with the taste of the day-and an admirable taste, too, if better use had been made of it--to decorate the walls, &c. But the charity was too poor to pay the artists for so doing, some of whom accordingly offered to do it gratuitously. Hogarth was the chief of these benefactors. The fame of the different works spreading abroad, people began to desire to see them; their desires were gratified, the exhibition took amazingly; and thus did the painters of the day derive their idea of the advantages that might accrue from exhibitions of their collected works. An opportunity for making the experiment soon offered. In a Society was formed for the encouragement of arts, manufactures, and commerce, which, among its other good deeds, expended in years nearly , together with gold medals, silver, gold palettes, and large and small of silver, in rewards to youthful competitors in painting, sculpture, and architecture. The great rooms of this Society were thrown open for the public English exhibition of art, ; the admission was free, and the price of the catalogue sixpence. The scheme was successful, and therefore repeated the next year in the great room of , when the price of their catalogue was raised to a shilling, and admission was only to be obtained either by an individual or a party by the purchase of a catalogue. Johnson, writing to Baretti, notices this exhibition, and says,

They (the artists) please themselves much with the multitude of spectators, and imagine that the English school will rise in reputation.

This exhibition has filled the heads of the artists and the lovers of art.

And then follows a bit of what too many at that time thought philosophy, but of which it is truly surprising to find Johnson the utterer.

Surely life, if it be not long, is tedious, since we are forced to call in the assistance of so many


to rid us of our time--of that time which never can return.

Johnson's friend Reynolds taught him better, a few years later, in those immortal discourses, which the doctor among others had the credit with some credulous or envious people of having in a great measure written. He may, perhaps, even have received a more direct reproof if he were in the habit of expressing such opinions in Reynolds's presence. The latter esteemed his art too highly to allow such remarks from such a quarter to pass unnoticed. His admirable comment upon an observation made by the Dean of Gloucester, Dr. Tucker, that a pin-maker was a more useful and valuable member of society than Raphael, is here in point.


said Reynolds,

is an observation of a very narrow mind--a mind that is confined to the mere object of commerce-that sees with a microscopic eye but a part of the great machine of the economy of life, and thinks that small part which he sees to be the whole. Commerce is the means, not the end of happiness or pleasure: the end is a rational enjoyment by

means of arts and sciences,

&c. The friendship of these remarkable men commenced in an interesting manner. Reynolds, whilst on a visit in Devonshire, took up Johnson's Life of Savage. He was standing at the time leaning against the chimney-piece. He read, and read on, without moving, till he had finished the book, and then, on trying to move his arm, found it benumbed and useless. From that time he eagerly sought an opportunity of becoming acquainted with the writer, and soon offered, which resulted in a lasting and cordial friendship. It was perhaps through this connexion that Johnson was induced to write the advertisement of the exhibition, when the artists ventured on the bold experiment of charging for the admittance of each person, but at the same time thought a kind of apology or explanation necessary. The concluding sentences, which are Johnsonian all over, contain the pith of the whole.

The purpose of this exhibition is not to enrich the artist, but to advance the art: the eminent are not flattered with preference, nor the obscure insulted with contempt: whoever hopes to deserve public favour is here invited to display his merit.

This exhibition, too, being successful, the custom was firmly established, and the associated company began to grow rich and influential. In they,obtained a charter of incorporation under the title before mentioned.--But their very success bred dissension: there was no deciding what to do with the money. The architects wanted a house, the sculptors wanted statues, and the painters wanted a gallery for historical paintings, whilst some wanted nothing but the money itself, and to grow rich. Another cause of division existed in the very heterogeneous composition of the Society. It consisted at period of members, many of whom were artists only in name; and that was not the worst of the evil, for the bad and indifferent portions of the Society were so numerous as entirely to overpower the good, and to give tone and influence to the whole. This, of course, was not to be endured, and some of the best members seceded, among whom were Reynolds; and West, then known as a young American artist of promise, and a quoteuaker, whom the King, George III., had taken under his especial patronage. The Presidency of the Incorporated Artists being vacant about that time, Kirby, teacher of perspective to the King, was elected, and in his inaugural address assured the members that His Majesty would not support the dissenters. West was then painting his picture of for the King in the palace, where Kirby was day announced, and, by the King's orders, admitted, and introduced to West, whom he had never seen before. Kirby looked at the picture, commended both it and the artist, then turning to George III., observed,

Your Majesty never mentioned anything of this work to me. Who made the frame? It is not made by


of your Majesty's workmen, it ought to have been made by the royal carver and gilder.


was the quiet reply,

whenever you are able to paint me such a picture as this, your friend shall make the frame.

I hope, Mr. West,

added Kirby,

that you intend to exhibit this picture?

It is painted for the palace,

was the reply,

and its exhibition must depend upon His Majesty's pleasure.


remarked the King,

I shall be very happy to let the work be shown to the public.

Then, Mr. West, you will send it to my exhibition?


interrupted the King,

it must go to


exhibition--that of the Royal Academy.

Such was the announcement to the Incorporated Artists of the success of a memorial


that had been presented by the seceders from their body, which stated that the principal objects they had in view were the establishing a well-regulated school or academy of design, and an annual exhibition, open to all artists of distinguished merit; and they apprehended that the profits arising from the last of these institutions would fully answer all the expenses of the ; they even flattered themselves, they said, that there would be more than was necessary for that purpose, and that they should be enabled annually to distribute something in useful charities. The constitution was signed by George III. on the , and the

Royal Academy for the purpose of cultivating and improving the Arts of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture

was an established thing.

Before the King's answer had been received, the choice of the members for. the presidency had been fixed, and the manner in which they announced it to him whom it most nearly concerned was striking. Reynolds and West, when the former had determined to join the new body, entered the hall together where the artists were assembled. They rose to a man, and saluted Reynolds with the single but significant word


Although touched by such a mark of approbation, he would not agree to accept the honour till he had consulted his friends Burke and Johnson, who advised him to do so; and, accordingly, he did. The young monarch not only thus favoured the Royal Academy, but promised to supply all pecuniary deficiencies from his private purse, and then gave additional to the whole by knighting the chosen President, Reynolds. Johnson was so elated at the honour paid to his friend, that he broke through a restraint he had for some years imposed on himself of abstaining from wine. If the world had been searched for a man combining all the most desirable qualifications for the office, it would have been impossible to have found a better man for the Presidency of the New Academy than Sir Joshua Reynolds. Deeply imbued with the loftiest theories of the art, which he had studied at the fountain-head, in the works of Raphael and Michael Angelo, at Rome, and in those of the illustrious ancients of Greece, and himself a painter of rare excellence, he possessed at the same time literary attainments of a distinguished order, to enable him to give adequate expression to whatever he most desired to instil into the rising minds of the Academy. As a man his character seems to have approached as near to perfection as our erring nature admits of. Amid all the squabble and clamour, which from time to time shook the academic halls, the noble figure of the President seems ever to stand aloof in calm dignity. The deep repose which forms of the characteristics of antique art, was not to him a thing to be talked about only, or even to be thought of: he knew that the stream can rise no higher than its source, the artist's whole being must be in harmony with what he desires to achieve, and with him it was so. Of his generous sympathy with struggling genius the anecdotes are as numerous as they are individually delightful. On of his journeys on the Continent a young artist, of the name of De Gree, attracted his attention, and, probably through his advice, came to England. Reynolds, knowing the difficulties of the young artist, generously gave him guineas: it is pleasant evidence of the character of the man thus .assisted to find that the money was at once sent off for the use of poor aged parents. When Gainsborough offered for sale his picture of

The Girl and Pigs,

at the price of guineas, Sir Joshua


gave a . Gainsborough appears to have taken a pique against Reynolds, and left a portrait of him unfinished that he had begun. But, on his death-bed, who does he send for but Reynolds; and with him by its side, and uttering the words,

We are all going to Heaven, and Vandyke is of the company,

died. To these qualities we must add that, in person, Reynolds added the graces of the gentleman to the dignity of the man; and, in his house, that he was hospitable without being profuse. Fond of the best society, Burke, Johnson, Goldsmith, Garrick, were continual visitors at his table, he made all such enjoyments tend to the enriching and enlarging his mind, and thus was constantly carrying fresh acquisitions of thought to his study, instead of withdrawing his attention from it, as is too often the case under such circumstances. As President his act was in accordance with all that we have described, and stamped a glory on the Academy that will for ever make its memory dear to the lovers of art. He voluntarily undertook the duty of delivering a series of discourses for the instruction of students, and commenced with the opening of the Academy, January , and continued them from time to time till the world was in possession of the whole of those writings which now form the student's best text-book for the principles of his art, and where not the painter only, but the poet and the musician, may find the most valuable instruction.

The members of the Academy were well calculated to support the reputation which was at once obtained by the favourable circumstances of its commencement. In the excellent picture, by Zoffany, of the hall of the Academy during of the


days devoted to drawing from the living model, we have the portraits of the original members; and it is surprising, on looking over their names as given in the Key, to see the amount of talent here congregated together. No wonder the Incorporated Artists soon sunk into oblivion, for they must have been deprived of almost every-man of any eminence among them. Goldsmith's couplet on Reynolds, and the empty pretenders to knowledge who used to buzz about him,

When they talked of their Raphaels, Correggios, and stuff,

He shifted his trumpet, and only took snuff,

points out the President in the centre. Next to him, with his hand raised to his chin, is Dr. William Hunter, brother to John Hunter, who was appointed Professor of Anatomy. On the other side of Reynolds, the star on the breast marks Sir William Chambers, the author of a most valuable

Treatise on Architecture,

the architect of , and the admirer of Chinese gardening: an admiration for which he was somewhat severely handled by Horace Walpole and the poet Mason in the well-known

Heroic Epistle,

which ridiculed, in rhyme, the prose reasoning and descriptions of the original. Near the extremity of the picture, on the same side, is the standing full-length figure of West; behind him, hat and stick in hand, Cipriani; and by his side, nearer the front and middle of the picture, Hayman, a powerful-looking man sitting at his ease, watching the process of placing the model in the position desired. On the other side of Reynolds and Hunter the figure is that of Bartolozzi, the eminent engraver, near whom is Wilson, with his hand in his breast, his portly figure raised upon an elevation above any of the neighbouring figures. Wilson, who is said to have painted his

Ceyx and Alcyone

for a pot of beer and the remains of a Stilton cheese, was represented in Zoffany's original sketch with a pot of beer at his elbow. Wilson, hearing this, immediately obtained a very


looking cudgel, and vowed to give his brother painter a sound threshing. Zoffany prudently took the hint, and caused the offensive feature to vanish. Standing in front of the model, examining the propriety of the position, are Yeo, and Zucarelli, an Italian artist, who had distinguished himself in England as a scene-painter at the Opera. A curious circumstance is mentioned in Smith's

Nollekens and his Times:

the distinguished painter Canaletti, it is there stated, frequently painted the buildings in Zucarelli's landscapes. The person giving the handle suspended from the ceiling for the support of the arm, to the man who is being placed in the position required, is Moser, of the most active movers in the foundation of the Royal Academy. The noble figure standing against the chair, with arm reclining on its back, belongs to a somewhat ignoble personage, Nathaniel Hone, a man who made some noise in his day by an attempted attack on Sir Joshua and the lady whose portrait (that in the square frame):is introduced instead of herself on the wall above Hone, Mrs. Angelica Kauffman, the well-known historical painter. of the ideas adopted by the mediocre artists of the time to console themselves under Reynolds' undeniable pre-eminence, was that he was a plagiarist, and accustomed to steal his groups, attitudes, &c. Hone, to give point and popularity to the idea, painted a picture, in which a wizard-looking personage stood with a wand in his hand, surrounded by various works of art, and pointed


to a number of scattered prints, beneath which were slight indications of various of Sir Joshua's works the most nearly resembling, or appearing to resemble them in design. Still more grossly was a representation introduced into the composition of the lady, Angelica Kauffman, between whom and Sir Joshua some slight flirtation was said to have taken place. This picture Hone had the impudence to send to his brother Academicians for exhibition, who rejected it with indignation. Hone then endeavoured to deny that his picture did refer to the personages in question, but the thing was too evident. In quitting Mr. Nathaniel Hone we must not forget Peter Pindar's summary of his abilities :

And now for Mister Nathan Hone:

In portrait thou'rt as much alone,

As in his landscapes stands the unrivall'd Claude:

with this difference, that Hone's isolation was at the wrong end of the professional scale. To return: the full-length figure occupying the extreme right of the picture is Richard Cosway, an excellent miniature-painter, and a gentleman who, if we are to believe his own word, had occasional communings of a remarkable nature.


day at the Royal Academy dinner he assured a brother Academician, that he had that morning been visited by Mr. Pitt, who had then been dead about




asked the brother member,

and pray what did he say to you?




Why, upon entering the room, he expressed himself prodigiously hurt that during his residence on this earth he had not encouraged my talents,

&c.[n.217.1]  Over Cosway's right shoulder appears the head of Nollekens, the sculptor, a strange mixture of opposites; in his works exhibiting a graceful and refined intellect, and in manners appearing an illiterate boor.; a miser, who might almost have contested the palm of notoriety with Elwes, yet of the best of masters, and occasionally generous in an uncommon degree, where generosity was well bestowed. That he was essentially what he appeared in his productions rather than in anything else, we want no other proof than his conduct on a certain occasion. An admirable bust of Home Tooke came to the Exhibition: it was by a young and friendless sculptor, and it was placed-where such works are but too apt to be placed in the struggle for the best positions. Nollekens happened to see it: he took it up-he looked at it in way, then in another, and, at last, turning to the parties arranging the exhibition, said,

There's a fine--a very fine work; let the man who made it be known remove


of my busts, and put this in its place, for well it deserves it :

--the sculptor was Chantrey. But figure remains particularly demanding noticethe painter himself, Johan Zoffany, who sits in the left-hand corner, palette in hand. He was born in Frankfort, but came to England whilst yet a young man, and, attracting the attention of the Earl of Barrymore, speedily distinguished himself. His admirable pictures of Garrick and other performers are well known. A pleasant passage is recorded of him. He went at period to Florence, at the Grand-Duke's invitation, and whilst there was accosted day by the Emperor of Germany, then on a visit to the Duke, who, seeing and admiring his performances, inquired his name. Zoffany having told him, was asked what countryman he was.

An Englishman,

was the reply.

Why, your

name is German!


said the painter,

I was born in Germany--that was accidental; I call that my country where I have been protected.

The real talent of the Royal Academy, we see, therefore, was very great; and additional lustre was shed upon it by its connection with such men as Johnson, who was appointed professor of ancient literature, and Goldsmith, professor of ancient history: both appointments were merely honorary. Goldsmith observed concerning his,

I took it rather as a compliment to the institution than any benefit to myself. Honours to


in my situation are something like ruffles to a man who wants a shirt.

Thus favourably ushered into the world, the Royal Academy commenced that career of prosperity which has known no check, but steadily increased down to the present day. At the Academy was lodged in , and held their annual exhibitions in ; but George III. soon caused apartments to be fitted up in , where he exhibited his interest in their welfare by his steady attention to all their concerns. And when the old Palace was purchased by the nation, he took care that a portion of the new edifice should be reserved for the Academy. In the Academicians entered upon their new apartments, which were fitted up with great magnificence, and were soon made to exhibit a higher splendour from their own hands. Sir Joshua, for instance, painted the ceiling of the library. In the same year the exhibition was also removed from to , and the painters were now thoroughly at home. The sovereign smiled upon them, the people flocked in crowds to see their pictures, the critics were mute, or at least the echo of their voices has not reached us; and so passed on the time for a year or , when all at once a succession of shells was thrown into the camp in the shape of

Lyric Odes to the Royal Academicians, by Peter Pindar, Esq., a distant relation of the poet of Thebes, and Laureate to the Academy;

and tremendous seems to have been the flurry, the flutter, and the indignation. The qualifications of the critic were of no ordinary kind, as a single circumstance may partly show. Whilst Wolcot (Peter's real name) was residing at Truro as a physician, he had taken a boy into his service to clean the knives, and fulfil other such menial offices. of his occupations was to fetch paunches for the dog, and it was noticed that he always spent a considerable amount of time on these errands. At last the secret was explained: he brought home day a portrait of the butcher, which Wolcot saw and was astonished. He then made the boy paint his (Wolcot's) portrait, which was equally successful. From that time he became the young artist's patron, assisting him not only in all the more worldly and business portions of his career, but in the development of his natural talents: a matter in which Wolcot's extensive knowledge and sound judgment were of great moment. Such was the early history of Opie. But the duller or more incapable members of the Academy might have forgiven his knowledge that they were dull and incapable, but they could not forgive the wit and humour which made the whole of their world know it too. It seems to have been somewhat a fashion of late to decry Wolcot's abilities, because he so often misused them; but we doubt whether any critic's opinions, formed under similar circumstances, and making allowance for the exaggeration given to them in passing through the satirical medium in which they reached the public, will better stand the test of time. The poet at the outset thus solicits for the inspiration proper to his theme :


Paint and the men of canvas fire my lays,

Who show their works for profit and for praise ;

Whose pockets know most comfortable fillings,

Gaining two thousand pounds a year by shillings.

He then at once plunges into his subject. Some of Reynolds's pictures engage his attention, and, on the whole, escape pretty well, with a concluding compliment to the painter: then, with much unction, comes in as the concluding lines of the Ode,

Now, mistress Muse, attend on Mister West ;

and, certainly, never does Peter appear more in his glory than when attacking the eminent but overrated painter, and especial favourite of royalty. The daring character of the subjects chosen by West seems to have stirred the satirist's sharpest bile; Mr. Cunningham says,

The mere list of his works makes us shudder at human presumption:

this must be Wolcot's excuse for the more presumptous--the irreverend--tone of the passage in which he conveys his opinion of the manner in which such gigantic conceptions had been developed:

O West, what hath thy pencil done?

Why, painted God Almighty's son

Like an old-clothes man about London streets!

Place in his hand a rusty bag,

To hold each sweet collected rag,

We shall then see the character complete.

His description of another of West's historical paintings, King Alexander of Scotland attacked by a Stag, is irresistibly ludicrous; and, although the effect to us is decreased by our not having the picture before us, as the public had about the time, or a little before they read the


yet it is only necessary to bear in mind the serious and lofty expression intended by the artist to enjoy it still:

His Majesty, upon his breech laid low,

Seems preaching to the horned foe;

Observing what a very wicked thing

To hurt the sacred person of a king,

And seems about his business to entreat him

To march, for fear the hounds should eat him.

The stag appears to say, in plaintive note,

I own, King Alexander, my offence: True, I've not showed my loyalty nor sense; So bid your huntsmen come and cut my throat!

The cavalry, adorned with fair stone bodies,

Seem on the dialogue with wonder staring;

And on their backs a set of noddies

Not one brass farthing for their master caring,


In an epistle from Brother Peter to Brother Tom at Rome, alluding to the King's great partiality for West, he explains the royal motives and feelings by likening him and West to a girl with a daisy which she has placed in the garden,

Thinking the flower the finest in the nation,

and who then visits it every hour, watering it, proud of her gardening,

Then staring round, all wild for praises panting,

Tells all the world it was its. own sweet planting;

And boasts away, too happy elf,

How that it found the daisy all itself!

We must add that Peter does not deny West's merit, .but its misapplication and audacity. Of his picture of


for instance, he says to him,


The hero's form is not disgraced;

Which adds a leaf of laurel to thy head.

Gainsborough, now a member of the Academy, as well as an exhibitor, next falls under the lash for his portraits, the originals of which, he complains, ought not

Thus to be gibbeted for weeks on high,

Just like yon felons after death,

On Bagshot or on Hounslow Heath,

That force from travellers the pitying sigh.


charming forte

of this eminent artist, landscape, is at the same time fully acknowledged. Loutherbourg and Wilson follow next, and the notice does equal credit to Peter's judgment and feelings:

And Loutherbourg, when heaven so wills,

To make brass skies and golden hills,

With marble bullocks in glass pastures grazing;

Thy reputation too will rise,

And people, gaping in surprise,

Cry Monsieur Loutherbourg is most amazing!

Till then old red-nosed Wilson's art Will hold its empire o'er my heart, By Britain left in poverty to pine.

The position of poor Wilson, the

English Claude,

was here but too accurately described. It seems almost incredible, yet it is undoubtedly true, that after the appearance of such pictures as his


he should be reduced to obtain his subsistence by working for the pawnbrokers: many of his finest works went fresh from the easel to them; and we may judge at what prices.


individual who had bought pieces frequently from him, when solicited, by the miserable painter to purchase another, took him up into a garret, and showing him a pile of paintings, said,

Why, look ye, Dick, you know I wish to oblige, but see! there are all the pictures I have paid you for these three years.

Perhaps it was in pity to his misfortunes that some of his brother Academicians sent Penny, the historical painter, whom Barry so worshipped, to advise with him as to the cause. And what, our readers will be curious to know, might be their advice? Why, that, as his works were deficient in the gayer graces of style, he ought to imitate the lighter style of Zucarelli! Can we, ought we to wonder at the

torrent of contemptuous words

the indignant painter poured forth upon the coterie and their messenger? But, alas! it was himself who was to suffer most by their utterance. He sank from


rank to another, till at last he found himself in a room somewhere about

Tottenham Court Road

, destitute of the commonest comforts, making sketches for half a crown each. Here a noticeable scene took place. A lady of rank desired a young student of her acquaintance to mend a


-rate landscape-painter. The latter, acquainted with Wilson's genius and misfortunes, mentioned him. The lady insisted on seeing him immediately, to the young man's alarm, who was afraid that neither Wilson's room nor the pictures it contained might be exactly in the best state for the occasion. However, with much tact, he so managed matters as to let the lady obtain a just appreciation of the painter: she ordered


landscapes. As she drove away, Wilson, detaining the young student, looked sadly in his face, and said,

Your kindness is all in vain--I am wholly destitute--cannot even purchase proper canvas and colour for these paintings.

But his friend soon set that matter right. On reaching home, he said to himself,

When Wilson, with all his genius, starveswhat will become of me?

He at once renounced the profession, as a profession, and, entering into holy orders, rose high in the church. This was the Rev.

Mr. Peters, the painter of numerous pictures of pretension. Wilson, we must add, spent his last hours in comfort in of the most delightful parts of Wales; a small estate having descended to him at the death of a brother.

A capital hit at the imitators of Sir Joshua occurs in of the for (the ); where Peter says,--

Sir Joshua (for I've read my Bible over), Of whose fine art I own myself a lover, Puts me in mind of Matthew, the first chapter: Abram got Isaac--Isaac, Jacob got-- Joseph to get was lucky Jacob's lot, And all his brothers, Who very naturally made others; Continuing to the end of a long chapter.

Sir Joshua's happy pencil hath produced A host of copyists, much of the same feature; By which the Art hath greatly been abused: I own Sir Joshua great, but Nature greater.

For several years did the licentious but able critic continue his stinging odes, enriching them with a variety of stories that of themselves would have made the opinions they conveyed popular, if there had been less of truth, though exaggerated truth, in them than there was. In the

Lyric Odes' we find some of the most popular humorous tales in verse which the language possesses. The story of the

Country Cousins' and the visit to was written to illustrate the conduct of many of the ladies at the Exhibition, who, instead of admiring the great works they had come to see, stopped to dote upon the lace and the brocade-

The pretty sprigs the fellow draws;

Whilst, unobserved, the glory of our nation,

Close by them hung Sir Joshua's matchless pieces;

Works that a Titian's hand could form alone-

Works that a Rubens had been proud to own.

Hodge, and the razors made to sell, was in ridicule of mercenary artists, who cared only for the mercantile value of their productions; and a practical exemplification of the value of Peter's advice to artists:--

The genius of each man with keenness view,

A spark from this or t'other caught,

May kindle, quick as thought,

A glorious bonfire up in you.

Whilst this storm was hurtling about their ears from without, the members of the Academy were not altogether at peace among themselves within. In Gainsborough sent a portrait to the Exhibition, with directions that it should be hung as low as the floor would admit. A bye-law either prevented his wishes from being fulfilled, or formed a colourable reason for objections: he sent for his picture back, and never exhibited with his brother Academicians again. A more


important division was that which took place in , when Reynolds was the party principally concerned. It appears that, on the formation of the Academy, among the other appointments made was that of a Professor in Perspective, who gave public lectures. At the death of the lecturer the public lectures were discontinued for some years. This arrangement did not agree with the President's views; and in , when an architect of the name of Bonomi placed his name on the list of candidates for the degree of Associate, he determined his election by his own casting vote against Gilpin, an artist of high reputation, on the ground that Bonomi might be subsequently ` elected an Academician, in order that he might be appointed Professor of Perspective.

The minority of the Academicians attributed the vote to Sir Joshua's desire to oblige Bonomi's patrons, but there does not seem to be a shadow of proof of the truth of this charge. An Academician's seat soon became vacant, and Sir Joshua, pursuing his avowed intention, supported Bonomi in opposition to Fuseli, who was also a candidate. We have no doubt of the purity of Sir Joshua's motives, but it was unfortunate, to say the least of it, that such a man as Fuseli was to be opposed in favour of the comparatively unknown Bonomi. Fuseli, in a manly, straightforward manner, went direct to the President's house to solicit his vote. He was received with the accustomed kindness; his claims were distinctly acknowledged; but, said Sir Joshua,

Were you my brother, I could not serve you on this occasion; for I think it not only expedient, but highly necessary for the good of the Academy, that Mr. Bonomi should be elected.

He added,

On another vacancy you shall have my support. Fuseli thanked the President for his promise, but expressed a hope that, if he tried his friends on the present occasion, the latter would not be offended.

Certainly not,

was the reply, and they parted. On the evening of the election the Academicians found on their table certain drawings neatly executed by Bonomi. This excited much contention, as being a novel proceeding, and as Fuseli had received no notice to prepare an exhibition of a similar kind. It is, however, to be observed that Fuseli's works must have been well known to all present, and Bonomi's, in all probability, were not. Ultimately the drawings were removed. When the vote took place, there were votes for Fuseli, and only for Bonomi. Sir Joshua, for once in his lifetime, seems to have been deeply wounded and indignant at the conduct of his brethren. days after the occurrence he wrote to the Secretary of the Academy,

I beg you would inform the Council, which I understand meet this evening, with my fixed resolution of resigning the Presidency of the Royal Academy, and consequently my seat as an Academician. As I can no longer be of any use to the Academy as President, it would be still less in my power in a subordinate situation. I, therefore, now take my leave of the Academy, with my sincere good wishes for its prosperity, and with all due respect for its members.

Sir William Chambers in the meantime had obtained an interview with the King to inform him of the occurrence, when, among other flattering expressions of royal favour, his Majesty stated he would be happy in Sir Joshua's continuing in the President's chair. It was a wonder George III. did not confine himself to vague words of regret, and set about at once getting his , West, installed in the vacant presidency: for he had so little appreciation of the greatness of


Reynolds, that he never gave him a single commission, or was ever painted by him more than once or twice, and then only at the latter's express request, as well as at his own expense; and this, too, whilst West was scarcely ever absent for a week together from the Palace, where he was painting great work after another, to be paid for at royal prices. Sir William Chambers lost no time in telling Reynolds of the King's words, but he remained firm, and the letter we have transcribed was sent. At the council were inclined to have disgraced themselves by allowing such a man to be lost to them from such a cause without an effort at reconciliation; but better feelings grew up, and ultimately a deputation, consisting of Messrs. West, Copley, Farington, T. Sandby, Bacon, Cosway, Cotton, and the Secretary, waited upon Sir Joshua at his house, and requested him to re-consider his determination. Sir Joshua was not a man to resist honourable kindness of any kind; he at once acceded, and the President that evening re-appeared in his place. It was well that matters ended thus pleasantly, for that same year Reynolds died. Only a few months after these scenes had taken place he delivered a discourse, which was attended with or remarkable circumstances. There were present a large number of distinguished persons, in addition to members and students; and the weight of the assembly was so considerable, that just as the President was about to begin a beam in the floor gave way. Great was the confusion and alarm; Reynolds alone sat silent and composed. The floor sank a little, but that was all; it was quickly supported and made safe. Reynolds afterwards remarked, and it is a striking evidence of the entire absorption of his mind into the general interests of art, that if the floor had fallen, the whole company must have been killed, and the arts in Britain thrown back a couple of centuries. In the Discourse that was then begun, he said,

So much will painting improve, that the best we can now achieve will appear like the work of children;

another trait of his character and his faith in the grand principle of never-resting improvement, the principle which religion and philosophy alike teach us to be, above all others, the best worth living for. And then, as if some dim prophetic consciousness was at work within, whispering that he would never again have an opportunity of recording his devotion to the memory of the man whose soul seemed to partake of the superhuman energy enshrined in the forms of the sibyls, the prophets, and the apostles he so loved to paint, he spoke thus:

I reflect, not without vanity, that these discourses bear testimony of my admiration of that truly divine man; and I should desire that the last words which I should pronounce in this Academy, and from this place, might be the name of Michael Angelo.

In effect, ; he appeared not at the Academy after that evening. An enlargement of the liver took place, which no skill could remedy. He was perfectly well aware of the near approach of death, though friends, unwilling to banish hope from their own breasts, spoke of recovery and years of future happiness to be enjoyed.

I have been fortunate,

was his answer,

in long good health and constant success, and I ought not to complain. I know that all things on earth must have an end, and now I am come to mine.

He expired on the in the same deeply peaceful manner he had lived. The day after, the following appeared in the newspapers of the day:--

Sir Joshua Reynolds was on many accounts one of the most memorable men of his time. He was the first Englishman who added the praise of the elegant arts to the other glories of his country. In taste--in grace--in facility-in happy invention, and in the richness and harmony of colouring, he was equal to the greatest masters of the renowned age. In portrait he went beyond them; for he communicated to that description of the art, in which English artists are most engaged, a variety, a fancy, and a dignity, derived from the higher branches, which even those who professed them in a superior manner did not always preserve when they delineated individual nature. His portraits remind the spectator of the invention and the amenity of landscape. In painting portraits he appeared not to be raised upon that platform, but to descend upon it from a higher sphere.

In full affluence of foreign and domestic fame, admired by the expert. in art and by the learned in science, courted by the great, caressed by sovereign powers and celebrated by distinguished poets, his native humility, modesty, and candour never forsook him, even on surprise or provocation; nor was the least degree of arrogance or assumption visible to the most scrutinizing eye in any part of his conduct or discourse. His talents of every kind powerful by nature, and not meanly cultivated by letters; his social virtues in all the relations and all the habitudes of life, rendered him the centre of a very great and unparalleled variety of agreeable societies, which will be dissipated by his death. He had too much merit not to excite some jealousy, too much innocence to provoke any enmity. The loss of no man of his time can be felt with more sincere, general, and unmixed sorrow. Hail! and Farewell.

Thus wrote who had enjoyed the fullest opportunities of arriving at an accurate estimation of Sir Joshua Reynolds's character-Edmund Burke.


[n.211.1] Allan Cunningham's British Painters, vol. i., p. 51.

[n.217.1] Nollekens and his Times, vol. ii. p. 406.