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art and its professors before the world, and of doing so in the most
effectual fashion, that John Landseer, in 1806, delivered lectures on
engraving to large audiences at the Royal Institution, and thus laid out
those broad and high views of art for which he has been justly honoured.
He defined engraving as a species of sculpture performed by incision,
and, by defending that view with spirit and skill, became the champion
of his profession. Mr. H. Crabb Robinson described John Landseer’s
lecturing on “The Philosophy of Art,” at a later occasion, December 5,
1813, at the Surrey Institution. “He is animated in his style,” said Mr.
Robinson, “but his animation is produced by indulgence in sarcasms and
in emphatic diction. He pronounces his words in _italics_, and by
colouring strongly he produces an effect easily.”[9] In the year in
which the lectures on engraving were delivered, John Landseer was
elected A.-E.R.A., under protest, as it were, from himself, that he
received the distinction with a view to more effective action in favour
of his fellow-sufferers. In furtherance of this object he, with very
little effect, presented a memorial to the Academicians, and, as he
said, experienced from Sir Martin Archer Shee and others “a very great
deal of illiberality, and was finally repulsed in a most ungracious
way.”[10] After this, says the author of a biography of John
Landseer,[11] the disappointment preyed upon his mind so deeply that he
turned his attention from the practice of his profession to the study of
archæology. This statement requires a considerable quantity of salt. No
doubt this failure of so many hopes and efforts embittered his memory
for a long time. It is said, though, as Mr. Pye told us, it would be
difficult to verify the assertion, that an Associate-Engravership in the
total number of six, which became vacant on the death of John Brown, in
1801, remained vacant because no outsider offered himself until
Landseer’s election in 1806. There were only five such members of the
Academy during the interval in question, and Val. Green, Collyer, James
Heath, Anker Smith, and James Fittler were tenants of the five posts.
The intensity of professional feeling on the subject may be surmised
from this fact.

There is this much to be said about John Landseer’s alleged neglect of
his own profession for the studies of an archæologist: he published
“Observations on the Engraved Gems brought from Babylon to England by
Abraham Lockett, Esq., considered with reference to Scripture History;”
but this was not done until 1817, or ten years after the memorializing
of the Royal Academy. The object of this work was to show that
Babylonian cylinders, the “gems” in question, were not used as talismans
or amulets, but as signets of monarchs or princes - a conclusion which is
not far from the now accepted truth. He next issued “Sabæan Researches,”
1823, a work founded on remains brought from “Babylon,” by the
above-named traveller, comprising letters on antiquities, and lectures
delivered at the Royal Institution. These works have been superseded by
later ones, and more scientific studies than were to be expected from an
author who had been bred to another profession. He likewise published a
discursive “Description of Fifty of the Earliest Pictures in the
National Gallery,” 1834. He produced twenty plates by way of
contribution to the “Antiquities of Dacca” (begun in 1816), a work which
was never completed; this imperfectness likewise marked that book on the
National Gallery which bears “End of Vol. I.” by way of “Finis,” to a
tome which has no successor. He issued “The Review of Publications of
Art,” 1808, a periodical of trenchant quality, but brief career; and he
promoted a second periodical styled “The Probe,” 1837, which seemed - for
it ran to not more than half-a-dozen numbers - designed to oppose the
then recently-established “Art-Union” journal. The chief task of his
later years was engraving his son Edwin’s famous picture of “The Dogs of
St. Bernard,” on which he wrote a small explanatory pamphlet styled
“Some Account of the Dogs and the Pass of St. Bernard.” In 1826 he was
appointed one of the “Engravers to his Majesty.” Later, he exhibited at
the Royal Academy some studies in water-colours from so-called Druidical
Temples. He died on the 29th of February, 1852, aged eighty-three. It is
a curious fact that on his death, and the vacancy caused in the Academy
by that event, Leslie proposed that the disabilities of engravers should
be removed.

The chief work of John Landseer was the bringing-up of his sons; in this
he was thoroughly successful, and worthy of more

[Illustration: _The Highland Shepherd’s Dog._]

honour than is given to one who struggled valiantly towards an unselfish
end. This process of education must have been common to all the objects
of attention and affection. As to the eldest son, but for his admirable
skill with the burin, feeling for animal character, and pathetic
treatment of his brother’s pictures, we should have known comparatively
little about Sir Edwin or his works. The thousands who go to
exhibitions, public galleries, and private collections, are few compared
with those who day by day study the learned prints for which we are
indebted to the skilful hand of Mr. Thomas Landseer. This engraver,
trained as a draughtsman and anatomist under the advice of Haydon, and
to work on copper under his father, generally exercised his craft in
mezzotint, combining with this mode a considerable proportion of
etching, because that process is better adapted to the subjects he
affected than the more severe mode of line-engraving. He executed,
nevertheless, plates in the “line manner.” To him was attributed a
cartoon named “Samson forgives Delilah,” No. 34, in the exhibition of
such works at Westminster Hall, in 1843. His first work in copper was a
“Study of the Head of a Sibyl,” after Haydon, 1816. He engraved a
considerable series of early designs by his brother Edwin in “The
Sporting Magazine,” 1823-6, which, including original works of his own
in the same periodical, were afterwards collected in a folio volume, and
published separately as “Annals of Sporting.” “The Sportsman’s Annual,”
1836, owed much to the brothers Edwin and Thomas; “Twenty Engravings of
Lions, Panthers, &c.,” 4º., 1823, was likewise so composed, and
comprises many excellent specimens of the united arts of the authors.
“Stories about Dogs,” 16º., 1864, and “Stories illustrative of Instinct
of Animals,” 16º., 1864, are amusing books for juvenile students, and
happily illustrated in their way. Probably his most important work, not
a production of his brother’s, is the fine mezzotint of Mdlle. Rosa
Bonheur’s “Horse Fair.” This, with the series of etchings of monkeys
styled “Monkeyana, or Men in Miniature,” which he designed, drew, and
etched throughout, secured the reputation of Thomas Landseer, both as an
original humourist and a translator of the works of others. He was
elected an “Associate-Engraver of the New Class” in the Royal Academy in
1867, after he had been before the public during more than fifty years.
In 1873 he became an “Associate-Engraver.” In 1876 he was merged with
the “A.R.A’s.,” and this distinction was abolished. This artist died on
the 20th of January, 1880. He published “Characteristic Sketches of
Animals,” “Drawn from the life and engraved by T. L.,” 1832, Ten
Etchings, illustrative of “The Devil’s Walk,” 1831, “Flowers of
Anecdote,” with etchings, 1829, and in 1871, “Life and Letters of
William Bewick,” a most readable and excellent book, that is full of
anecdotes and experiences. Most of the original sketches in pencil for
“Monkeyana” are in the British Museum.

As the life of Mr. Charles Landseer does not come within the scope of
our purpose in this text, it will be needless to say more about his
career than that he became an exhibitor at the Royal Academy in 1828.
Before this he travelled in the suite of Lord Stuart de Rothesay in
Portugal and to Rio de Janeiro, where he made a large number of studies
and sketches, which have been described with admiration. He was elected
A.R.A. in 1837; R.A. in 1845; Keeper in 1851. This office Mr. C.
Landseer, having held it for an unusually long period, resigned in 1871;
he died July 22, 1879, leaving an ample fortune, which somewhat
unexpectedly, it is said, accrued to him as the residuary legatee of his
brother Sir Edwin. Mr. C. Landseer was a large donor to the artists’
benevolent societies; 10,000_l._ fell to the Royal Academy for the
“Landseer Scholarships,” as appointed and awarded by the President and
Council. Miss Landseer (Mrs. C. Christmas) exhibited occasionally at the
Royal Academy and British Institution. The name of H. and Henry Landseer
frequently appears in the like manner; this gentleman was a brother of
John Landseer, a frequent contributor to the Exhibitions, especially to
that of the Society of British Artists. Edwin Henry Landseer bore the
second name, in honour of his uncle. At one period it was, at least
occasionally, his practice to use all three of these names. He made a
sketch of Count D’Orsay’s horse, and signed it “E. H. L.,” and, in reply
to a question why he did this, said that his second name was Henry, but,
as his father had said one name was enough, he had given up using it;
(see the Catalogue of the Royal Academy Winter Exhibition, 1874, p. 30.)
Miss Jessie Landseer is a painter of considerable ability, and an
engraver, who etched some of her brother Edwin’s works. She is now,
1880, the sole bearer of the name of Landseer in the family. Mrs.
Mackenzie, her sister, to whom I am much indebted for materials used in
this text, practised art with characteristic success. At the British
Institution Exhibitions of 1821, 1822, and 1823, Miss Landseer, Mr. E.
Landseer, and Mr. H. Landseer appeared together.




A.D. 1802 TO A.D. 1817.


Edwin Henry Landseer was, as stated above, born in 1802 - the year before
another animal painter of modern note, Mr. T. S. Cooper - and that event
happened at his father’s house, No. 83,[12] Queen Anne Street East (not
Turner’s Queen Anne Street), and consequently at his death he was in his
seventy-second year. For the greater part of this long period he
retained far more health and activity than are commonly vouchsafed to
those who pass the allotted term of human life. How that life was
spent, what are the pictures he produced, and under what circumstances
they were executed, I have now, to the best of my means, to inquire and
detail. The best living authority avers that our subject was by no means
diligent at school, in fact, he was “always running away from his
teachers, and always drawing.” His artistic education was begun by his
father at a very early age, but not before natural ability had made
itself evident in sketching and drawing. Training of the best sort was
soon afforded by the judicious care of John Landseer, who directed his
son’s practice, after the mode of the greatest masters, to Nature, so
that “as soon as he could hold a pencil with some steadiness,” says Mr.
R. N. Wornum, the biographer of Landseer in the “English Cyclopædia,”
the boy was sent or accompanied into the fields to draw from sheep,
goats, and donkeys; and especially did he find space for this mode of
study on Hampstead Heath, where the creatures grazed or stood as nearly
in a state of nature as civilization permits to any of their kind in
England; and certainly in that condition of their existence which is
familiar to us. The following account, obligingly furnished to me by the
late Miss Meteyard, at once confirms and illustrates this early
history: -

“In 1849 - 1850 the Howitts resided in Avenue Road, St. John’s Wood,
and the father of Edwin Landseer no great way off. William Howitt
and Mr. John Landseer being well acquainted, and often meeting in
their walks, would go and return together; sometimes one way,
sometimes another, but generally in the direction of Hampstead. One
evening, in passing along the Finchley Road towards Child’s Hill,
Mr. Landseer stayed by a stile of ancient look, and said to his
friend, ‘These two fields were Edwin’s first studio. Many a time
have I lifted him over this very stile. I then lived in Foley
Street, and nearly all the way between Marylebone and Hampstead was
open fields. It was a favourite walk with my boys; and one day when
I had accompanied them, Edwin stopped by this stile to admire some
sheep and cows which were quietly grazing. At his request I lifted
him over, and finding a scrap of paper and a pencil in my pocket I
made him sketch a cow. He was very young indeed then - not more than
six or seven years old. After this we came on several occasions,
and as he grew older this was one of his favourite spots for
sketching. He would start off alone, or with John (Thomas?) or
Charles, and remain till I fetched him in the afternoon. I would
then criticize his work, and make him correct defects before we
left the spot. Sometimes he would sketch in one field, sometimes in
the other; but generally in the one beyond the old oak we see
there, as it was more pleasant and sunny.’

“Those acquainted with Hampstead and its environs will know these
two fields at once. They lie nearly opposite what is now the
Finchley Road Station of the North London Railway, and open out
into West End Lane, a little below Frognal and the parish church.
The old oak is still standing, though in withered decrepitude.[13]
Indeed, till almost recent years, this was a region of oak-trees,
and the whole neighbourhood was picturesque in the extreme. But
much of this beauty is now effaced.

“Belonging to Sir John Maryon Wilson, Lord of the Manor of
Hampstead, and abutting the corner of West End Lane, these fields
will, at no late date, be covered with ‘villas’ and other
buildings. But the fact that the site was Edwin Landseer’s _first
studio_ may be preserved by in some manner naming it after the
illustrious painter.

“This interesting fact was told me by Mr. Howitt whilst walking
through these fields about twenty years ago.


The representation of animals in that mode of life in which the
creatures existed, is that practice which, being best understood by the
common world, would best sustain the objects of an artist who had to do
with so many beasts which were but semi-barbarous, and not in a state of
natural fierceness and wildness. The reader who wishes to see what was
the merit of studies thus pursued, is referred to the South Kensington
Museum, British Art Collection, where a series of nine drawings,
executed at a very early period of his life by Edwin Landseer, and duly
marked with the dates of their production, will not alone evoke
admiration for the nature-given ability of the draughtsman, but testify,
that with such ability to back the practice his father devised, the son
was fortunate in receiving that father’s counsel. Further, the observer
will note how zealously the boy-pupil bent his mind to the task with all
the pleasantness which attends the exercise of natural powers.

[Illustration: _The Beggar._]

This is enforced by Miss Meteyard’s communication. Be it remembered that
even such natural ability as that of Landseer was not trained without
strenuous and long-continued labours.[14] The same course was pursued by
him in painting, and he never, during this early stage, drew without
nature; not, probably, carrying the principle of study in this fashion
to the virtuous excess of William Henry Hunt, his contemporary, of whom
it is said that he would not draw a pin without a model; a saying which
implies the devotion of the man to truth, rather than that he refused to
avail himself of his own experience. That the one would not paint a pin
without a model is as true as that the other painted dogs best because
he relied on nature from the first, and succeeded most in painting them
while he relied most on nature. The drawings and sketches which are
referred to were reserved by John Landseer from a much larger number of
his son’s productions, and by means of notes in that father’s
hand - notes written in affectionate pride, indicating that some of them
were made when the boy was but five years old - declare the progress and
precocity of their subject; so that we see how in the fifth year of his
age Landseer drew well, and thoroughly studied animal character and

Landseer’s precocity exceeded that of Lucas van Leyden, one of the great
artists whose early skill has made them wonderful, and added interest
to their after-glory. Lucas van Leyden etched designs of his own when he
was but nine years of age. When he was fourteen appeared his famous
print of Mahomet killing Sergius the Monk. When Van Leyden was twelve he
painted “St. Hubert,” thereby beating Edwin Landseer in pictorial
progress, if not in precocity of draughtsmanship. To have been so nearly
neck-and-neck in early development with such a magnificent genius as
that of Lucas van Leyden, and to have maintained that remarkable
position through a long life, was a singular fortune. Van Leyden,
however, died at thirty-nine years of age. Sir Edwin’s years attained to
nearly double that period.

At the sale of Mr. M. W. Simpson’s pictures, in 1848 (Mr. Simpson was an
early friend and patron of Landseer’s), a considerable number of the
artist’s youthful productions were disposed of, many of which were, we
believe, painted at about this period of his career. Of those probably
executed a little later, but which for convenience sake we may as well
refer to here, if it were but to declare how these pictures have risen
in value, the following were examples: - “A Scotch Terrier with a Rat in
his mouth,” sold for, although not more than four inches by five inches,
sixty-eight guineas, and would now, twenty-five years later, produce
treble that sum. This work has been engraved, we believe, by Mr. T.
Landseer. “Waiting for Orders,” a full length portrait of Mr. Simpson’s
coachman, sold for thirty-two guineas. This was not that portrait of a
deer-hound which is now called “Waiting,” and was engraved by J. C.
Webb. “The Paddock,” an old chestnut horse, and a white Scotch terrier
near it, with a distant view of Windsor Castle, sold for one hundred
guineas. If this could happen twenty-five years ago, with regard to
unexhibited pictures of comparatively small account, what could be
expected now, although the artist was most prolific, and not, like
Mulready, accustomed to confine his labours to a few canvases or panels?
For this question of the comparative prices of old and later pictures
by Landseer we shall enable the reader to form an answer for himself ere
our task is complete.

Among the minor works of the painter, none have so much interest as
examples of the etchings which were produced when he was little more
than an infant. The inherent ability of the man’s mind is more
distinctly and decidedly marked in these comparatively unimportant works
than in those which received the benefit of years of study and of craft,
and were produced when his natural powers had been consummated by
practice upon a score of pictures, being the fruits of an intelligence
developed to the utmost in that way which these very etchings, more than
any other means, declare to be proper, apt and natural to it. Edwin
Landseer continued the practice of etching, and made the results of
these labours proportionately as valuable and meritorious as his
pictures. It is not, however, to the products of his perfected skill
that we now address our remarks, so much as to the works of his infancy,
boyhood, and youth. As some of these juvenile productions are very rare,
and consequently little studied, although much admired in artistic
circles, our readers will not be sorry to have an account of a
collection of them, including works duly annotated with the age, of the
artist at the time they were executed.[16]

The first etching on our list is said to be also that which was produced
before all others by “Master E. Landseer,” and to have been wrought five
years ere he appeared in the Royal Academy display as an “Honorary
Exhibitor;” doubtless the youngest of his class before or since that
date. It was done in his eighth year, and one plate comprises several
subjects, thus: - 1. The Head of an Ass; which, by the way, is not
thoroughly understood, if one may so write of the production of so
capable an artist; for the head is not well articulated with the neck,
or complete in drawing as to placing the eyes on a level with each
other. Yet it is full of truth in the rendering of texture and
expression, as the beast bites sideways at the large-leaved herbage; his
ears are standing well above his head, and one eye is turned towards us
in a very asinine fashion, steadfastly watching, while the other is
directed downwards as the animal’s wrenching nibble goes on. 2. Is the
Head of a Shorthorned Sheep, with the exact expression of nature in its
ever mobile and quivering lips; the eye is that of the timid creature,
yet seems to meditate. The foreshortening of the horns is astonishing as
the workmanship of a child-draughtsman. 3. Is the Head of a Sheep in the
act of browsing; this calls for no remark, except that of general
admiration for its excellent drawing. 4. Is the Head, on a larger scale
than the others, of a long-tusked, deep-snouted Boar, while dozing in
the sun. Besides these, and probably of even earlier origin, is a not
very well-drawn Head of a Sheep in full-face; here the eyes are a little
out of drawing. On this account, although the defect may be due to the
greater difficulty of the subject when so placed, we are inclined to
believe this etching to be more remote in execution than the
above-described examples, which are, as the productions of a boy of
eight years of age, so far wonderful that they are really better drawn
and more truly expressive than the work of most adult artists. On the
same plate with the sheep’s head in front view is (1) a Donkey, at full
length, so to say, _i.e._, standing on all fours, and biting at his
leg - a capital study, full of action and spirit; (2) a Donkey and her

On another plate are the heads of a lion and tiger (see the last note),
in which the differing characters of the beasts are given with
marvellous craft, that would honour a much older artist than the
producer. The drawing of the tiger’s whiskers - always difficult things
to manage - is admirable in its rendering of foreshortened curves. Then
comes a drawing of a young bull, wrought by Edwin Landseer at nine
years of age, and etched by his by no means very distant senior brother
Thomas; this brute’s walk, the peculiar shouldering, lounging way of his
kind, rolling from shoulder to shoulder, is here in perfection; the bull
whisks his tail lightly from side to side.

Next is another specimen, but on a larger scale than those which are
above described. It exhibits an extraordinarily finely drawn bull, the
foreshortening and handling of whose form is perfect; his expression is
that of a rigid conventionalist - for bulls are not unlike men in these
matters of temperament - a thoroughly old-fashioned John Bull. Behind
this is a foreshortened view of a horse reclining, and, in the distance
of the field, which supplies a landscape-background to the composition,
is a goat. The work of the young artist’s tenth year shows great
progress to have been made, for he wrought the whole design, and
entirely etched the next plate, which represents two groups of cattle
placed one above the other on the paper, which is disposed, as artists
say, upright-fashion, and of about the size and proportion of a large
octavo book. In the lower section is the representation of a ponderous
beast, couched at ease, yet with all his strength drawn together by the
attitude of resting with his limbs beneath his bulky body; he has
downward-pointing horns. He is a surly “_oldish_” bull, who breathes the

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Online LibraryFrederick G. StephensSir Edwin Landseer → online text (page 2 of 11)