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and refined, is often very charming. He understood well
the treatment of landscape as background, and there are
some of his pictures which I prefer to some pictures by

Sir Joshua Reynolds remarks that in general the greatest
portrait-painters have not copied closely the dresses of their
time. Holbein, however, took no liberties with the doublets,
hose, or mantles of the gentlemen he painted, nor with the
head-gear or kirtles of the ladies ; neither did Velasquez ;
and their portraits are, therefore, curious records of fashions,
picturesque, and sometimes fantastic in the extreme, yet
ulways treated with admirable Art ; and I confess I prefer


those of Sir Joshua's portraits in which he has faithfully
adhered to the dress of the sitter ; which is always char-
acteristic,, and often highly so. The manner in which
Queen Elizabeth covered herself with jewels, and the
splendor with which Raleigh decorated his person, pertain
to biography.

In some of Vandyke's portraits, no change is made in
the dress, while in many (I believe the most), that which
is stiff and formal is loosened, and alterations are introduced
that we are only aware of when we compare his pictures
with exact representations, by other artists, of the costume
of the time. Such deviations from matter of fact were
carried much ^further by Lely and Kneller, particularly in
their portraits of ladies ; and the first adopted an elegant,
but impossible, undress, that assists the voluptuous expres-
sion which he aimed at, either to please a dissolute Court,
Dr because it pleased himself ; possibly for both reasons.

With Kneller, however, the ideal style of the dress does
not affect the prevailing character he gave to the beauties
he painted, who seem a higher order of beings than the
ladies of Lely. Among the attractions of the latter the ex-
pression of strict virtue is by no means conspicuous, while it
would seem profane to doubt the purity of the high-born
dames of Kneller. Though, as a painter, not to be com-
pared to Lely, his women seem secured from moral degra-
dation by an ever-present consciousness of noble birth, which
sits well on them ; and though their demeanor is as studied
as the grace of a minuet, it does not offend like vulgar
affectation. Fielding, the natural Fielding, greatly ad-
mired the stately beauties of Kneller, at Hampton Court,
and compared Sophia Western to one of them. Conscious
that. '* when unadorned, adorned the most," they reject the
fuel of jewellery, and are content with only so much assist-
ance from Art as they receive from well-arranged draperies.

The great fault of Lely is the family likeness, closer than


that of sisters, which forbids our relying on his pictures
as portraits ; and this unpardonable fault is carried even
further by Kneller, whose ladies are all cast in one mould
of feature and form, and all alike tall to a degree rare in

Reynolds adopted something from both which he used
to advantage; but he did far more, he recovered por-
trait from all the mannerism that had accumulated on it,
from the death of Vandyke to his own time, and restored
it to truth.

When we compare his style with that of his master,
Hudson, we are struck with its vast superiority, its wide
difference, not merely in degree, but in kind ; and in this
it would appear to form an exception to what has generally
been the case, namely, that the style of every extraordinary
genius is but a great improvement on that of the school in
which he was reared. But it was not from Hudson, nor
from his visit to Italy, that the Art of Reynolds was formed.
The seed that was to produce fruit, so excellent and abun-
dant, was sown before he quitted Devonshire. He there
saw, and probably among the first pictures he ever saw,
the works of a painter wholly unknown in the metropolis.
" This painter," Northcote tells us, " was William Gandy, of
Exeter, whom," he says, " I cannot but consider as an early
master of Reynolds. He told me himself that he had seen
portraits by Gandy equal to those of Rembrandt ; one in
particular of an alderman of Exeter, which is placed in a
public building in that city. I have also heard him repeat
some observations of Gandy's which had been mentioned
to him, and that he approved of; one. in particular was,
that a picture ought to have a richness in its texture, as
if the colors had been composed of cream or cheese, and the
reverse of a hard and husky or dry manner." Now a
single precept like tin's, falling into an ear fitted to receive
it, is sufficient to create a style ; while, upon the inapt, all
the best instruction that can be given is wasted.


I have seen a portrait by Gaudy, which I should have
mistaken for an early work of Reynolds ; and this, with
what Xorthcote tells us, is enough to establish, in my mind,
Gand/s claim to the honor of being the first instructor of
a great genius whom he never saw. Gandy's father was a
pupil of Vandyke ; and being patronized by the Duke of
Ormond, and retained in his service in Ireland, his -voik?
were as little known in London as those of his son, TV : r
practised only in Devonshire. Thus, while the style of
Vandyke degenerated through the hands of his successors
in the Capital, till it was totally lost in the beginning of
the eighteenth century, some of its best qualities were pre-
served in rentete parts of the kingdom, to lead to a splendid
revival of portraiture ; so true it is that, however obscured
from sight, at times, some of the links in the chain of Art
may be, still it is a chain never wholly broken.

Nothing can be further from my intention than to lesse*
the fame of Reynolds. What I have stated merely show*
what indeed we might be certain of without a knowledge of
the facts, namely, that the birth of his Art was not miracu-
lous. Praise enough is still left for him ; for that which he
derived from Gandy was but the medium of his own fasci-
nating conceptions of Nature. " There is a charm," says
Northcote, " in his portraits, a mingled softness and force,
a grasping at the end, with nothing harsh or unpleasant in
the means, that you will find nowhere else. He may gc
out of fashion for a tune, but you must come back to him
again, while a thousand imitators and academic triflers are

In looking over prints from his works, we are astonished
at the many attitudes and incidents we find new to Art,
and yet often such as from their very familiarity in life
have been overloked by other painters. The three Ladies
Waldegrave, one winding silk from the hands of another,
while the third is bending over a drawing, Mrs. Abington


leaning on the back of her chair, and Lady Fenoulhet with
her hands in a muff, for instance ; and then the many ex-
quisitely natural groupings of mothers and children, and of
children with children ; how greatly superior in interest are
such conceptions, fresh from Nature, to some of his inven-
tions, as of ladies sacrificing to the Graces, or decorating
a statue of Hymen, of which indeed he made fine pictures
(for that he could not help), but pictures the impression of
which is comparatively languid.

In the collected works of no other portrait-painter do we
find so great a diversity of individual character illustrated
by so great a variety of natural incident, or aided by such
various and well-chosen effects of light and shadow ; many
entirely new to Art, as, for instance, the partial shadows
thrown by branches of trees over whole-length figures. In-
deed, by no other painter, except Gainsborough, has land-
scape been so beautifully or effectively brought in aid of
portrait. Vandyke generally subdues its brightness to give
supremacy to the head, and Lely and Kneller did this still
more ; but Reynolds, without lessening its power, always
contrived it so as to relieve the face most effectively.

We may learn nearly everything relating to portrait from
Reynolds. Those deviations from the exact correspondence
of the sides of the face which are so common in Nature
are never corrected by him, as they sometimes are by in-
ferior artists under the notion of improving the drawing.
He felt that a marked difference in the lines surrounding
the eyes often greatly aids the expression of the face. He
took advantage of this in painting the fixed despair of
Ugolino, no doubt finding it in the model ; and in a very
different head, his front face of Garrick, he has, by observing
the difference of the eyes, given great archness of expres-
sion, and assisted its intelligence without making the face
less handsome.

It has been said, and I believe it, that no painter cai


put more sense into a head than he possesses himself, and
it must have been rare for Reynolds to meet with an in
tellect superior to his own. Had we no other evidence, that
of Goldsmith, who knew him well, was a close observer, and
no flatterer, would be conclusive :

"Here Reynolds is laid, and to tell you my mind,
He has not left a wiser or better behind."

But his portraits were not always so satisfactory to his
sitters as the works of inferior painters. The truth is,
sitters are no judges of their own likenesses, and in their
immediate family circle the- best judges are not always to
be found. I?ord Thurlow said, "There are two factions,
the Reynolds faction and the Romney faction. I am of
the Romney faction." Now in Romney*s whole-length the
Chancellor appeared a more handsome man than in the
half-length of Reynolds. Romney avoided all indication
of the suppressed temper that was so apt to explode in
violent paroxysms, and this rendered his picture more ac-
ceptable to the original. But he missed what Reynolds
alone could give, that extraordinary sapience which made
Charles Fox say, " No man could be so wise as Lord Thur-
low looked."

That the portraits of Reynolds were the best of all like-
nesses, I have no manner of doubt. I know several of his
pictures of children, the originals of whom I have seen in
middle and old age, and hi every instance I could discover
much likeness. He painted Lord Melbourne when a boy,
and with that genuine laugh that was so characteristic of
the future Prime Minister at every period of his life ; and
no likeness between a child and a man of sixty (an age at
which I remember Lord Melbourne) was ever more strik-
ing. Lord Melbourne recollected that Sir Joshua bribed
him to sit, by giving him a ride on his foot, and said, " If
you behave well, you shall have another ride."


His fondness of children is recorded on all his canvases
in which they appear. A matchless picture of Miss Bowls,
a beautiful laughing child caressing a dog, was sold a few
years ago at auction, and cheaply, at a thousand guineas.
The father and mother of the little girl intended she should
sit to Romney, who at one time more than divided the
town with Reynolds. Sir George Beaumont, however,
advised them to employ Sir Joshua. "But his pictures
fade." " No matter, take the chance ; even a faded pic-
ture by Reynolds will be the finest thing you can have.
Ask him to dine with you ; and let him become acquainted
with her." The advice was taken ; the little girl was placed
beside Sir Joshua at the table, where he amused her so
much with tricks and stories that she thought him the
most charming man in the world, and the next day was
delighted to be taken to his house, where she sat down with
a face full of glee, the expression of wliich he caught at
once and never lost ; and the affair turned out every way
happily, for the picture did not fade, and has till now
escaped alike the inflictions of time or of the ignorant
among cleaners.

Doubts have been expressed of the sincerity of Sir
Joshua's great admiration of Michael Angelo. Had he,
on his return from Italy, undertaken to decorate a church
(supposing an opportunity) with imitations of the Sistine
ceiling, I should doubt his appreciation of the gi^at works
that cover it. But a painter may sincerely admire Art
very different from his own; and I rest my belief of his
full appreciation of Michael Angelo less on his " Tragic
Muse " (Mrs. Siddons) or his " Ugolino," both of which we
may in some degree trace among the conceptions in the
Sistine Chapel, than to that general greatness and grace
of style stamped on all his works. " Reynolds," says
Sterne, " great and graceful as he paints " ; nor could his
Art be so well characterized by any other two words.


It has buen more than once intimated that Reynolds
cared for no other artist's success. But if this were the
case, why did he take the trouble to write and deliver his
discourses? in which he did not fail to give all the in-
struction he could convey, by words, in his own branch of
the Art, as well as in those which he considered higher.
He was daily accessible to all young artists who sought his
advice, and readily lent them the finest of his own works ;
but in doing this he always said to the portrait-painter, " It
will be better for you to study Vandyke." It is clear, that,
though he felt his own superiority among his contemporaries,
he had a belief that British Art' was advancing, and that
he should be 'surpassed by future painters ; like the belief
in which Shakespeare supposes an ideal mistress to say of

"But since he died, and poets better prove/'

for Reynolds, like all men of the loftiest minds, was modest.
Mrs. Bray, in her " Life of Stothard," says, with great truth,
of the modesty of such men, that it " is not at all inconsistent
with that strong internal conviction, which every man of real
merit possesses, respecting his own order of capacity. He
feels that Nature has given him a stand on higher ground
than most of his contemporaries ; but he does not look down
on them, but above himself. What he does is great, but he
still feels that greatness has a spirit which is ever mount-
ing, that rests on no summit within mortal view, but
soars again and again in search of an ideal height on which
to pause and fold its wings."

Gainsborough was the most formidable rival of Reynolds.
Whether he felt it hopeless to make use of Sir Joshua's
weapons, or whether his peculiar taste led him to the
choice of other means; he adopted a system of chiaro-
scuro, of more frequent occurrence in Nature than those
extremes of light and dark which Reynolds managed with


such consummate judgment. His range in portrait was
more limited, but within that range he is at times so de-
lightful that we should not feel inclined to exchange a head
by him for a head of the same person by Sir Joshua. His
men are as thoroughly gentlemen, and his women as en-
tirely ladies, nor had Reynolds a truer feeling of the charms
of infancy. Indeed his cottage children are more interest-
ing because more natural than the " Robinettas " and " Mus-
cipulas" of his illustrious rival, the only class of pictures
by ReyieHa in which mannerism in expression and attitude
obtrudes itself in the place of what is natural. Gains-
borough's barefoot child on her way to the well, with her
little dog under her arm, is unequalled by anything of the
kind in the world. I recollect it at the British Gallery,
forming part of a very noble assemblage of pictures, and
I could scarcely look at or think of anything else in the
rooms. This inimitable work is a portrait, and not of a
peasant child, but of a young lady, who appears also in his
picture of the girl and pigs, which Sir Joshua purchased.

That Reynolds and Gainsborough were not on terms of
friendship seems to have been the fault of the latter, who,
with all his excellent qualities, had not so equable a temper
as Sir Joshua. Reynolds did not, as Allan Cunningham
intimates, wait till the death of Gainsborough to do justice
to his genius. The brief allusion to their last interview in
his fourteenth discourse, which is as modest as it is touching,
proves that he had not done so ; and it seems clear that Sir
Joshua would have told much more, had it not been to his
own honor, and that he has only said what he felt necessary
for the removal of any charge of injustice on his part.

The powers of Gainsborough, in portrait, may be well
estimated by that charming picture in the Dulwich Gallery,
of "Mrs. Sheridan and Mrs. Tickell"; and the whole-
lengths at Hampton Court, of " Colonel St. Leger," and
"Fisher the Composer."


A painter may have great ability, and yet be inferior to
those of whom I have spoken. Sir Thomas Lawrence was
perhaps hindered from rising to the highest rank as a
colorist by his early and first practice of making portraits
in colorless chalk only. His wish to please the sitter made
him yield more than his English predecessors had done to
the foolish desire of most people to be painted with a smile :
though he was far from extending this indulgence to that
extreme of a self-satisfied simper that the French painters
of the age preceding his had introduced to portrait. Of
indefatigable industry, Lawrence's habit of undertaking too
many pictures at the same time was a serious drawback,
in many cases*, to their excellence. He began the portraits
of children which he did not finish till they were grown up,
and of gentlemen and ladies while their hair was of its first
color, but which remained incomplete in his rooms till the
originals were gray. The most beautiful of his female
heads, and beautiful it is, is the one he painted of Lady
Elizabeth Leveson Gower (afterwards Marchioness of West-
minster). This was begun and finished off-hand; and so
was the best male head he ever painted, his first portrait of
Mr. West, not the whole-length in the National Gallery, in
which he has much exaggerated the stature of the original.
He took especial delight in painting the venerable and ami-
able President, who offered a remarkable instance of what
I have described elsewhere, the increase of beauty in old
age, and of whom this portrait is a work of great excel-

Without any of those peculiar blandishments of manner,
either as a painter or a man, that contributed to make
Lawrence the most popular portrait-painter of his time,
Jackson was more of an artist, much truer in color, and,
indeed, in this respect approaching to Reynolds, whose
pictures he sometimes copied so closely as to deceive even
Northcote. When his sitters were ordinary people, his


portraits were often ordinary works ; but when they were
notable persons, he exerted all his powers. The portrait he
painted of Canova, for Chantrey, is in all respects superior
to that which Lawrence painted of the great sculptor;
more natural, more manly, and much finer in effect. His
heads of Sir John Franklin (painted for Mr. Murray), of
Flaxman, of Stothard, and of Listen, are all admirably
characteristic, and among the finest portraits of the British
school ; and I remember seeing at Castle Howard his half-
length of Northcote, hanging in company with Vandyke's
half-length of Snyders, and a magnificent head of a Jew
Rabbi by Rembrandt, and well sustaining so trying a
position. Perfectly amiable in his nature, nothing pleased
Jackson more than opportunities of recommending young
painters of merit to patronage ; and he introduced Wilkie
and Haydon to Lord Mulgrave and Sir George Beau-
mont. With strong natural sense, playful in his manner,
and with a true relish of humor, Jackson was a great
favorite with all who had the happiness to know him, and
his loss, by an early death, was irreparable to his friends,
and a very great one to Art.

The many advantages in many ways resulting from
Photography are yet but imperfectly appreciated; for its
improvements have followed each other so rapidly, that AVC
cannot but expect many more, and are quite in the dark
as to what may be its next wonder. In its present state it
confirms what has always been felt by the best artists and the
best critics, that fac-simile is not that species of resemblance
to Nature, even in a portrait, that is most agreeable: for
while the best calotypes remind us of mezzotint engravings
from Velasquez, Rembrandt, or Reynolds, they are still
inferior in general effect to such engravings : and they thus
help to show that the ideal is equally a principle of por-
trait-painting as of all other Art: and that not only does
this consist in the best view of the face, the best light and


shadow, and the most characteristic attitude of the figure,
for all these may be selected for a photographic picture,
but that the ideal of a portrait, like the ideal of all Art,
depends on something which can only be communicated by
the mind, through the hand and eye, and without any other
mechanical intervention than that of the pencil. Photog-
raphy may tend to relax the industry of inferior painters,
but it may be hoped and reasonably expected that it will
stimulate the exertions of the best ; for much may be learnt
from it if used as a means of becoming better acquainted
with the beauties of Nature, but nothing if resorted to only
as a substitute for labor.



WELCOME, old friend ! These many years
Have we lived door by door ;
The Fates have laid aside their shears
Perhaps for some few more.

I was indocile at an age

When better boys were taught,
But thou at length hast made me sage,

If I am sage in aught.

Little I know from other men,

Too little they from me,
But thou hast pointed well the pen

That writes these lines to thee.

Thanks for expelling Fear and Hope,

One vile, the other vain ;
One's scourge, the other's telescope,

I shall not see again ;

Rather what lies before my feet

My notice shall engage :
He who hath braved Youth's dizzy heat

Dreads not the frost of Age.





WE, O Nature, depart :
Thou survivest us : this,
This, I know, is the law.
Yes, but more than this,
Thou who seest us die
^eest us change while we live ;
Seest our dreams one by one,
Seest our errors depart :

Watchest us, Nature, throughout,
Mild and inscrutably calm.

Well for us that we change !
Well for us that the Power
Which in our morning prime
Saw the mistakes of our youth,
Sweet and forgiving and good,
Sees the contrition of age !

Behold, O Nature, this pair !
See them to-night where they stand,
Not with the halo of youth
Crowning their brows with its light,
Not with the sunshine of hope,
Not with the rapture of spring,


Which they had of old, when they stood

Years ago at my side

In this selfsame garden, and said :

" We are young, and the world is ours,

For man is the king of the world.

Fools that these mystics are

Who prate of Nature ! but she

Has neither beauty, nor warmth,

Nor life, nor emotion, nor power.

But Man has a thousand gifts,

And the generous dreamer invests

The senseless world with them all.

Nature is nothing ! her charm
Lives in our eyes which can paint,
Lives in our hearts which can feel ! "

Thou, O Nature, wert mute,
Mute as of old : days flew,
Days and years ; and Time
With the ceaseless stroke of his wings
Brushed off the bloom from their soul.
Clouded and dim grew their eye ;
Languid their heart ; for Youth
Quickened its pulses no more.
Slowly within the walls
Of an ever-narrowing world
They drooped, they grew blind, they grew old.
Thee and their Youth in thee,
Nature, they saw no more.

Murmur of living !
Stir of existence !
Soul of the worlo '
Make, O make yourselves felt
To the dying spirit of Youth.


Come, like the breath of spring.

Leave not a human soul

To grow old in darkness and pain.

Only the living can feel you :
But leave us not while we live.

Here they stand to-night,
Here, where this gray balustrade
Crowns the still valley : behind
Is the castled house with its woods
Which sheltered their childhood, the sun
On its ivied windows : a scent
From 'the gray-walled garden?, a breath
Of the fragrant stock and the pink,
Perfumes the evening air.
Their children play on the lawns.
They stand and listen : they hear
The children's shouts, and, at times,
Faintly, the bark of a dog
From a distant farm in the hills :
Nothing besides : in front
The wide, wide valley outspreads
To the dun horizon, reposed
In the twilight, and bathed in dew,

Cornfield and hamlet and copse
Darkening fast ; but a light,

Online Libraryi00bostFavorite authors in prose and poetry → online text (page 13 of 66)