J. E. (John Evan) Hodgson.

The Royal academy and its members 1768-1830 online

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absence of the poetical atmosphere which suffuses the landscapes
of Richard Wilson.

His life was altogether unhappy ; when he returned from
Italy he took a house on the north side of Covent Garden, then
a fashionable quarter, but he changed his abode often, and each
change indicates a stage on a descending scale of prosperity.
On the death of Hayman in 1776 he was chosen to succeed him
as Librarian, and the emoluments of the post, though very small,
served to keep him from starvation. His character lacked some
of the elements of success, not on the side of genius but on that
of other less conspicuous but equally necessary qualities ; he
was morose and irritable, and would not speak men fair, and
that may have had something to do with it. Whatever it may
have been, he was sometimes unable to buy canvas and colours,
and his end would no doubt have been miserable but for the
windfall we have alluded to, the death of his brother and his
succession to the estate of Colomondie, whither he retired as to
a haven of rest after the storms of life, and where he died peace-
fully in 1782 in his sixty-ninth year.

In that same year " Peter Pindar " (Dr John Wolcott), in his
Lyric Odes to the Royal Academicians ', addressed him in
the following lines, which were really prophetic :

" But honest Wilson, never mind ;

Immortal praises thou shalt find,
And for a dinner have no cause to fear.

Thou start'st at my prophetic rhymes,

Don't be impatient for those times,
Wait till thou hast been dead a hundred year."


who succeeded Carlini in the Keepership, in 1790, appears to
have undertaken the duties of the office as an occupation in his
old age. Born in 1722, the son of a manufacturer of plastic


ornaments for ceilings, he received his first artistic education
abroad, and in 1744 gained the silver medal awarded by the
French Academy for working in marble. In 1747 he went to
Rome, and while there in 1750 was presented by the Roman
Academy with the Jubilee Gold Medal of Benedict XIV. Re-
turning to England in 1758, he became joint manager with
Cipriani of the Duke of Richmond's gallery, in Spring Gardens,
and it was not till some twelve years after that he finally adopted
the profession of a sculptor. He had in the meantime been
appointed state-coach carver to the king, and in that capacity
made the model for George III.'s coronation coach. He
executed many public monuments, of which that to General
Wolfe in Westminster Abbey is a good example, and amassed
a considerable fortune. His house was for years a rendezvous
for distinguished men of all ranks and callings, and he seems to
have been much beloved and esteemed. An obituary notice of
him says, " He was a very respectable man, and if not a leading
genius in the Arts, he possessed considerable knowledge of
them, and had a very correct taste." He succeeded Wale as
Librarian in 1786, but resigned that office on being elected
Keeper, a post which he held till his death in 1803.


born 1736, painted in early life heraldic subjects and floral
decorations on coach panels, and subsequently won considerable
distinction by the great brilliancy of his flower pieces. He
died in 1771.


who was born in Dublin in 1732, or, as some accounts say,
in 1728, first studied art at the School of the Royal Dublin
Society under Robert West. He soon showed a talent for
landscape, and after gaining a premium of 50 at Dublin,


came in 1761 to London, where he quickly made himself a
name as a landscape painter both in oil and water-colour, and
obtained another premium of 50 from the Society of Arts.
Landscapes by him are to be found in many country houses.
He died in 1784.


born at Norwich in 1728, was apprenticed to a coach-panel
painter in London, and afterwards became a member of the
St Martin's Lane Academy. He is said to have been the first
herald painter who designed the supporters of coats-of-arms
with any resemblance to nature. Catton was appointed coach
painter to George III., the painting of ornamental designs for
coach-panels being then considered as an art. His exhibited
works were chiefly landscapes. He died in 1798.


who began life as a merchant's clerk, became a pupil of Francis
Hayman's, and subsequently earned a certain measure of success
as a portrait painter. His likeness of Dr William Hunter, which
is in the Diploma Gallery, is a good specimen of his skill. He
died in 1787.


was the architect of several mansions and bridges, among the
latter the well-known Magdalen Bridge at Oxford. He was
the author of a work entitled London and Westminster Improved,
published in 1766, in which he advocated several projects which
have since been carried out, among them the rebuilding of
London Bridge, and the building of a new bridge near Somerset
House. He died in 1786.



born at Dublin about 1718, was more or less of a self-made
artist who painted portraits with some success ; and also
indulged his sense of humour in caricatures which were not
always in good taste, and brought him into trouble once or
twice with his fellow Academicians. An account of one or two
such incidents, especially of his fracas with Angelica Kauffman,
has been given in Chapter III. He died in 1784.


born at Tubingen, in Wurtemberg, in 1735, was an eminent
miniature painter. He came to England when fourteen years
old, studied miniature painting under C. F. Zincke, and was a
member of the St Martin's Lane Academy. Becoming
eminent in this art, he was appointed miniature painter to
Queen Charlotte, and painter in enamels to George III. In
1775 he proposed that 100 out of the 200 annually given in
charity should be invested " to accumulate, and in time constitute
a Fund, the interest thereof to be paid in sums not exceeding 2$
per annum to such Academicians (or their widows) or associates
(if thought proper) as shall appear to have no real income of
their own exceeding 50 per annum." He grounded his proposal
on the fact that " daily experience teaches us this most melan-
choly truth, that men of the greatest talents oftentimes, from
various causes, in old age feel penury and want." And he
defended the plan as liable to few objections in any point of
view, as all of the Academicians and Associates "in their active
person of life contribute by joint exhibition of their work, to
raise a considerable sum of money, and of which they derive no
personal advantage," and was "only calculated in process of
time, if unfortunate accidents in our body take place, to render
perhaps the remnant of life more comfortable." The proposal


was accepted, but the Fund did not come into operation for
some years. It will be again referred to in a subsequent
chapter. Meyer died in 1789.


was the son of an engraver, and a pupil of Hudson. He is
somewhat unknown to fame, but had merit enough to be nomi-
nated one of the original members of the Royal Academy ;
and we also read of him, that in the course of his chequered
career he was appointed Portcullis Pursuivant in the Herald's
College, a title which is suggestive of the downward tendency
he exhibited through life. His work is chiefly known to us by
what he did for Reynolds and others in the painting of draperies
and hands. If in a full-length by Sir Joshua you detect a
passage hardly painted with a rigid, unelastic brush, that is
Peter Toms ; by that sign you know him. After the death of
Cotes, the last of his employers, poor Toms took to drinking,
and put an end to himself in 1776.


though nominated as an architect, was usually represented at the
exhibitions by busts and low reliefs. He appears to have been
the chief actor in the revolt against Reynolds, which ended in the
latter's temporary resignation as already described in Chapter III.,
and his manners evidently in the President's opinion left much to
be desired. He appears, however, to have had a good head for
figures, as he was appointed, with George Dance, in 1795, to
examine into the accounts on the resignation of the treasurer-
ship by Chambers, and was subsequently nominated a Trustee,
and in 1796 elected an Auditor, both of which offices were the
outcome of his and Dance's report. He died in 1801.



was chief engraver to his Majesty's Mint ; his principal exhibited
works were medallions. He died in 1779.


born near Florence in 1702, was a painter chiefly of landscapes,
in which he introduced small figures with considerable taste.
He came to England in 1752, and acquired a very good reputa-
tion, many of his pictures being engraved. In 1773 ne returned
to Italy, and died in Florence in 1789.


a younger brother of Thomas Sandby, R.A., the architect, was
born at Nottingham in 1725. Employed, like his brother, in
the military drawing office at the Tower, he was engaged as
draughtsman to the Survey of Scotland undertaken after the
campaign of 1745-46. This employment he quitted in 1752, and
went to live with his brother at Windsor, of which place and its
neighbourhood he made a very large number of drawings, which
were engraved in aquatint by himself. In 1768 he was appointed
chief drawing-master at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich,
a position which he resigned in 1799. His death occurred in

Paul Sandby was one of the first artists to advocate the
formation of an academy, and severely ridiculed Hogarth's
opposition to it. He was a very large contributor to the early
exhibitions that were held in London, and was one of the
directors of the Incorporated Society of Artists, from which
however he seceded on the foundation of the Academy.

Sandby's fame as an artist rests on his water-colour drawings ;
indeed he has been called the father of the water-colour school
in England ; but his landscapes, though carefully drawn, are


hardly more than topographical drawings tinted to imitate


was born at Eye, in Suffolk, in 1706. Commencing his artistic
education under an Italian artist in London, he afterwards went
to Rome and studied there for some years. Returning to
England he settled at Bath, where he painted portraits and
historical pieces, which he exhibited with great constancy but
no great success. He died in 1792.


was a painter quite hors ligne, a fine colourist and a supreme
executant, who possessed that peculiar incommunicable quality,
like wit in conversation, which is able to invest common things
with beauty, and to impart the grace of intellect and imagination
to commonplace objects.

He was a Bohemian by descent, the son of an architect, and
was born according to one authority in 1735, at Frankfort-on-
the-Maine, or, according to another in 1733, at Ratisbon. He
is said to have studied in Italy and to have practised in Germany,
at Coblentz, and other places, as a portrait and historical painter ;
but his early life, his goings to and fro, are hidden in obscurity,
from which he emerged by one of those sudden and unforeseen
turns of the tide which lead those to fortune who know how to
avail themselves of them.

A picture by Benjamin Wilson was exhibited in London
representing Garrick and Mrs Bellamy as Romeo and Juliet.
Garrick discerned in it an abler hand than that of its reputed
author, and set to work to investigate the matter. It was
probably a clue supplied by Philip Audinet, the engraver, which
enabled him to trace the picture to its real author, an unknown
foreigner named Johan Zoffany or Zoffanij (an adjective
termination in Slavonic dialects which would make the name


Johan of Zoffa, wherever that may be). It was ascertained
that this man was in the receipt of 4.0 a year from Benjamin
Wilson, who was ignorant of drawing, and engaged him to paint
bodies to his faces, and that he was kept strictly dark. Wilson
had found him out by observing some beautifully painted
clock-faces, which came from the shop of Stephen Rimbault, a
noted manufacturer of musical timepieces, known as " twelve-
tuned Dutchmen " ; and Rimbault had taken him into his
service at the recommendation of an Italian named Bellodi, who
pricked the tunes for him, Zoffany having been starving in a
garret in Bellodi's house. This is the account given to John
Thomas Smith by Philip Audinet, who had served his time
with Rimbault, and it may, we suppose, be accepted as an
authentic chapter in the history of one of the greatest painters
of the last century.

David Garrick, to his great honour, did his best to rescue
Zoffany from obscurity, by giving him employment and making
him known to Reynolds. One of the first pictures he painted
in his own name was the portrait of Garrick as Abel Drugger
in the Alchymist, which made his fame and fortune. In John
Thomas Smith's Nollekens and his Times, there is a letter
written by Mary Moser, R.A., to Fuseli in Rome, which con-
tains the following passage :

" I suppose there has been a million of letters sent to Italy
with an account of our exhibition, so it will be only telling you
what you know already, to say that Reynolds was like himself
in pictures which you have seen ; Gainsborough beyond himself
in a portrait of a gentleman in a Vandyke habit ; and Zoffany
superior to everybody in a portrait of Garrick in the character
of Abel Drugger, with two other figures, Subtle and Face. Sir
Joshua agreed to give an hundred guineas for the picture ;
Lord Carlisle, half an hour after, offered Reynolds twenty to
part with it, which the knight generously refused, resigned his
intended purchase to the lord and the emolument to his brother
artist (he is a gentleman)."


Here is a transaction in every way satisfactory ; it redounds
to the credit of everybody concerned in it ; to that of Reynolds,
of Garrick, of Zoffany, and indirectly to that of the exaggerative
Mary Moser with her million letters ; her admiration was well
placed, and quite unstinted and devoid of envy.

From this time forward Zoffany's position was secure. He
became a successful portrait painter, and was especially noted
for his representation of actors in character. Talent such as
his, though very rare and very admirable, is a precarious
possession in the arts ; it does not lead straight to the goal, to
the fountain-head of popularity ; it does not touch the heart.
He seems to have been quite devoid of imagination. Unlike
his great contemporaries, Reynolds and Gainsborough, who
transformed the object before them into its spiritual prototype,
who made a strawberry girl, or a peasant girl with a pitcher,
live with a life which was not their own, which was true only in
what is essential in human lives, Zoffany was tied down by the
thing before him, and could not project himself beyond it. He
was dependent on the picturesqueness of that object a
picturesqueness which he rendered with wonderful felicity and
grace, but which remained picturesqueness ; and even his
favourite practice of painting actors in character removed his
pictures still farther from the illusion of being natural ; they
were the simulacrum of a simulacrum ; the imitation of an
imitation. His art was exquisite ; it had the sparkle and crisp-
ness of David Teniers with the depth and richness of Adrian
Brauwer. But it fails to appeal to any but the connoisseur, the
man who has studied technique and can appreciate its excellence,
and it leaves ordinary spectators unmoved.

The painter of imagination is independent of his theme ; it
is the quality that attracts. Zoffany must often have been at a
loss, as the theme was all in all to him ; and even in the
eighteenth century, so infinitely more picturesque than ours, with
its powdered wigs and pigtails, its satins and embroideries, its
cocked hats and ruffles, the happy combination may not always


have presented itself to his inquiring gaze. Things apparently
did not go as smoothly and as prosperously as he wished them,
and we find him restless and unsettled. He returned to Italy
provided with letters from the king, and painted the picture of
the interior of the Florentine gallery, which is now in the royal
collection at Windsor. It is a marvel of execution, the satin
coats, the gold frames, the furniture, all gave him an opportunity
for displaying his peculiar excellence of touch ; but the subject
is an unfortunate one ; the pictures within a picture double the
sense of artifice and unreality, and the whole scene is not more
real and lifelike than the pictures by Titian and Raphael which
are depicted in it. It is like his portraits, which you know to
be portraits of actors whom you know to be acting.

With this drawback, the important one of want of imagina-
tion, ZofTany was perhaps second to no painter that ever lived
for the felicitous rendering of actual objects before him, for the
subdued richness and naturalness of his colouring, and for the
grace of his drawing and the breadth of his light and shade.

His trip to Italy, we must suppose, did not enrich him or
materially improve his prospects, and in 1781 we find him
embarking for India. It was a bold and original venture, and
we are not informed who or what it was that induced him to
risk it. He was probably carried away by the idea then pre-
vailing in England that India was a sort of Golconda. The
splendour of the Orientals, their muslin garments encrusted with
jewels, their silken turbans, their elephants with gorgeous hous-
ings, all the glitter of their arms and gewgaws, exactly suited
his talent, and he painted many pictures there and found patrons.
In 1796 he returned to England with a competent fortune and
retired to Kew, where he continued to practise his art, and
where he died on i6th December 1810.



THE third clause of the "Instrument" says: "After the first
institution, all vacancies of Academicians shall be filled by
elections from amongst the exhibitors in the Royal Academy."
It further states that the names of candidates are to be put up
in the Academy three months before the day of election ; and
that each candidate, to be duly elected, must have at least thirty
suffrages in his favour. But it soon became apparent to those
who were conducting the affairs of the infant society that it
would be a dangerous, and for many reasons an impolitic
thing, to admit not only to its privileges, but to a share in its
government, persons of whose qualities both as artists and
men they might know little ; and it was accordingly determined
to institute a sort of probationary class, which would give the
opportunity of further testing those qualities. At the same time
it was thought that while, on the one hand, the influence of the
Academy would be extended by this increase in its members, on
the other, by restricting the number of orders in its hierarchy to
two, the distinction of belonging to it would not be unduly

The question of instituting a " new order or rank of members
of the Royal Academy, who shall be called Associates of the
Royal Academy," was first discussed by the Council on I3th
November 1769, and the resolutions at which they arrived, after



two or three meetings, were laid before the General Assembly
on nth December, in the same year. They were passed, and
immediately received the approbation of the king. By them it
was enacted that the Associates should be " elected from amongst
the exhibitors, and be entitled to every advantage enjoyed by
the Royal Academicians, excepting that of having a voice in the
deliberations or any share in the government of the Academy."
They were to be balloted for in the same manner as the
Academicians, and elected by a majority of those balloting.
Their number was not to exceed twenty, and " no apprentice,
nor any person under the age of twenty " was to be admitted.
Those exhibitors who desired to become Associates were, within
one month after the close of the exhibition, to write their names
on a list, to be put up in the great room of the Academy, and
remain there two months, when a General Assembly, of which
a month's notice was to be given, was to be held for electing
Associates. And the vacant seats of Academicians were to be
filled from these Associates only, who were to be artists by
profession, painters, sculptors, or architects.

The form of obligation to be signed by Associates is nearly
the same as that of the Academicians, which has been already
given, the difference being that at the end of the preamble are
added the words, "and having empowered the President and
Academicians to elect a certain number of Associates"; while the
subscribers are styled " duly elected Associates of the said Royal
Academy," instead of "either original or elected Members of the
said society." The form of diploma, though the same in design
as that of the Academicians, differs in the wording, and runs
as follows : " His Majesty having been graciously pleased to
establish in this the City of London a society for the purposes
of cultivating and improving the arts of painting, sculpture, and
architecture, under the name and title of the Royal Academy of
Arts, and under his own immediate patronage and protection ;
and His Majesty having thought fit to entrust the sole manage-
ment and direction of the said society, under himself, unto forty


Academicians, with a power to elect a certain number of
Associates, we, therefore, the President and Academicians of the
said Royal Academy, by virtue of the said power, and in
consideration of your skill in the art of ... do, by these
presents, constitute and appoint you . . . gentleman, to be one
of the Associates of the Royal Academy, thereby granting you
all the privileges thereof, according to the tenor of the laws
relating to the admission of Associates, made in the General
Assembly of the Academicians, and confirmed by His Majesty's
sign manual. In consequence of this resolution you are required
to sign the obligation in the manner prescribed, and the
secretary is hereby directed to insert your name in the roll of
the Associates." As soon as convenient after his election the
newly-chosen Associate attends at a meeting of the Council,
and after signing the roll of institution receives his diploma,
which bears the signatures of the President and the Secretary.

The law limiting the number of Associates to " not more than
twenty" remained unchanged till 1866, when it was altered to
" the number to be indefinite, with a minimum of twenty " ; but
this change produced no practical result, no addition being made
to the old total till 1 876, when it was resolved to increase the
number to thirty, and make that the minimum.

It ought to have been previously mentioned that before
resolving on this second order from which to fill up the gaps
in their own numbers, the Academicians had decided on
instituting a class of Associate-engravers. This resolution was
no doubt taken to meet the complaints of engravers, urged
strongly on their behalf by Sir Robert Strange, at their exclu-
sion from the newly-founded society under the instrument of
foundation. The law creating the class was made by the
Council on iQth January 1769, and confirmed by the General
Assembly on 2$th March following. The number of engraver
Associates was not to exceed six, a number which appears dis-
proportionately large as compared with the twenty places after-
wards allotted to painting, sculpture, and architecture ; but then


it must be remembered that there was no further promotion for
the engravers. It was not till after long years of agitation that
they succeeded in gaining admission to the upper rank ; the
first engraver admitted an Academician being Samuel Cousins,
whose election took place in 1855. The total number of engraver
members was, however, at the same time reduced, and now may
not exceed four, and may consist of less, and of this total number
not more than two may be Academicians.

The first election of Associate-engravers took place on
26th February 1770, when three were elected, Thomas Major,
S. F. Ravenet, and P. C. Canot; John Brown was elected on

Online LibraryJ. E. (John Evan) HodgsonThe Royal academy and its members 1768-1830 → online text (page 10 of 35)