J. E. (John Evan) Hodgson.

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27th March, and Thomas Chambers on 27th August, in the same
year. On this latter date, viz., 27th August 1770, took place the
first election of Associates, when, out of eighteen candidates,
eleven were chosen in the following order : Edward Burch,
Richard Cosway, Edmund Garvey, William Pars, Edward
Stevens, George James, Elias Martin, Antonio Zucchi, James
Wyatt, John Bacon, Michael Angelo Rooker. Of these Burch
was elected an Academician on I ith February 1771, in succession
to Cotes ; and Cosway on 1 5th March in the same year. It is
curious to note that at this last election Antonio Zucchi, who
afterwards became Angelica Kauffman's husband, had an equal
number of votes twelve with Cosway, and the latter was only
elected by the casting vote of the President ; and it is further
curious that Zucchi hardly ever obtained a vote at any subse-
quent election. Five more Associates were elected on 27th
August 1771 : Joseph Nollekens, Nicholas Ball, Biagio Rebecca,
William Tomkins, and William Peters ; and on 2nd November
1772, the first list of twenty was completed by the addition of
James Barry, Stephen Elmer, John Russell, and John Francis
Rigaud. Meantime, however, another Associate had been
rapidly promoted, viz., Nollekens, elected R.A. on ist February
1772; while Barry had even less time to wait, being made an
Academician on pth February 1773.

Originally the voting at elections was not confined to the



members who were present, absent members being " permitted
to give their suffrages sealed up, and enclosed in a letter signed
with their own hand, and directed to the President " ; but this
privilege of voting by proxy no longer exists, having been
abolished in 1856.

The total number of Associates elected during the Presi-
dency of Reynolds was fifty, of whom nine were engravers and
ineligible for the higher honour, which was also not reached by
eighteen others ; twenty-three only being raised to the rank of
full Member. Of these twenty-three, seventeen were painters,
four sculptors, and two architects.

We shall now proceed to give some account of these elected


was the first elected Royal Academician. He entered the
schools on their establishment in 1/69, was made an Associate
in 1770, and raised to full honours the following year. He was
best known as a sculptor of gems, many very beautiful works of
this kind being from his hand. He succeeded Serres as
Librarian in 1794, and held the appointment till his death in
1814. He appears, however, to have been incapacitated by
illness from attending to his duties after a few years, as we find
first Thomas Sandby and then Rigaud acting as his Deputy.
He was also frequently in receipt of pecuniary relief from the


was born at Tiverton in 1740. Like Reynolds, he was the son
of a Devonshire schoolmaster, and was sent up to London to
study Art under Hudson. Allan Cunningham and John
Thomas Smith differ in their account of his early years ; they
both place him at Shipley's drawing-school in the Strand, but


according to the former he went there after a certain period of
study under Hudson, whereas the latter makes him a waiter and
boy-of-all-work there, which account seems incompatible with his
family history. In 1765 he gained a premium of the Society of
Arts. In August 1769, he was admitted a student of the Royal
Academy, and was, as we have seen, elected an Associate the
year after, his advancement to full Membership following in six
months' time.

His career was in every way a remarkable one ; it seems to
have been permitted to him to set at naught those wearisome
maxims which prudence and experience are for ever preaching to
the unwilling. He kept up an enormous expenditure to the
latest days of his life ; he surrounded himself with beautiful and
costly things, with jewels and precious stones, ivory and gold,
marble, lacquer, and porcelain ; he was seen in public attended
by a black page, and wearing a coat of mulberry silk embroidered
with strawberries ; he ate, he drank, he gambled and gave away
his money, and yet seems to have escaped those baneful vicissi-
tudes of fortune which are the usual lot of the thriftless and

The industry and talent necessary to make head against
such a strain must indeed have been remarkable, and it is not
surprising, therefore, that in the cabinets of collectors, in the
catalogues of exhibitions and salerooms, the name of Richard
Cosway should be repeated with such astounding frequency ;
though in his case it has happened, as it happens in that
of all original and prolific artists, that his style has been
imitated, and his name affixed to works which are evidently

In his youth he drew in the Gallery of Antiques, which,
as already related, was opened to students by the Duke of
Richmond, under the guidance of Cipriani, and was popularly
supposed to have acquired something of the grace and beauty of
Grecian Art ; and subsequently he painted pictures in oil of an
ambitious and poetical character. His oil portraits are said to


have been feeble and glossy, and whatever his achievements in
that line may have been, they are now forgotten. His fame
lives only by his miniatures.

The beautiful art of miniature painting may be said to be
the oldest in modern Europe. In the deepest night of the dark
ages, when Art appeared to be extinguished, that of illumination,
which was in all essential points miniature painting, shed a faint
and flickering ray which served to keep the flame alive ; it per-
petuated the memory of what had gone before, and handed down
something to the future. In Durham and in Trinity College,
Dublin, there are two ancient volumes beautifully illuminated,
known respectively as the Lindisfarne Gospels and the Book of
Kells, the work of Irish monks in the eighth century. The
Canute Gospels and the Arundel and Cottonian Psalters belong
to the school known as Opus Anglicum, which had its resting-
place at Winchester in the eleventh century. And although
there are, as far as we know, no extant examples of the missal
painting of the ninth and tenth centuries, the true dark ages, the
beauty of the Opus Anglicum of the eleventh proves that
tradition had been handed down, and that the art had not
perished. With the return of enlightenment, the production of
illuminated manuscripts, with their accompanying miniatures,
became general. The great Flemish painters, Van Eyck, Mem-
ling, Lucas Van Leyden, and Mabuse, lent their hands to the
work, and in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries it attained to
its greatest perfection, as in the " Roman de la Rose " in the
British Museum.

The miniature proper, the portrait on a small scale, dates in
this country from Tudor Ages, and in the words which Shake-
speare has put into Bassanio's mouth, as he contemplates
" Fair Portia's counterfeit "

" Here in her hairs

The painter plays the spider ; and hath woven
A golden mesh to entrap the hearts of men,
Faster than gnats in cobwebs,"


the poet was in all probability alluding to the miniatures of his
contemporary, Nicholas Milliard.

From that day to the time of Cosway the succession of
English miniaturists was unbroken, through Isaac Oliver, the
Segars, Peter Oliver, John Hoskins, Samuel Cooper, Richard
Gibson, and Nathaniel Hone ; and after his day it was continued
through Ozias Humphrey, Francis Cotes, Henry Edridge, Alfred
Chalon, to Ross, Thorburn, and Wells, and then the chain
snapped, for the time, at any rate. The photograph, the minia-
ture by machinery, supplanted the work of men's brains ; the
child of imagination perished, and was succeeded by a sort of
Frankenstein monster in human form but without a human
soul. There are signs indeed of a revival of the old art, but in
too many cases it is of a bastard sort, the offspring of an
unholy alliance with the photographer.

But although the sequence of English miniaturists remained
unbroken from Nicholas Hilliard to Richard Cosway, his art
cannot strictly be said to be a development of what had gone
before. We have stated in a former article that English Art had
no childhood, it did not pass through the infant stages observ-
able in that of Italy, it sprang at once from a highly organised
basis, from Van Dyck and the Venetians. Realism, with a
symbolical meaning, is the natural origin of the Art of all
Christian peoples, perhaps of all Art; aesthetic and organic
qualities are a later development, the outcome of superior culture,
and that amount of culture was attained in this country in the
eighteenth century. Our native artists of former ages, the great
miniaturists of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, were
pure realists ; they sought only the reality and individuality of
nature, and Cosway breaks away from them abruptly. His
works have the excellencies and the defects of the age in which
he lived. His characters have the elegance and refinement as
well as the artificiality of a society which had become conscious
of the rudeness of earlier manners, and was struggling to perfect
its own. The barbarian is strictly natural, he conforms to the


lower instincts of nature ; when he puts on refinement and
endeavours to conform only to his higher instincts, he becomes
artificial. He must pass through that stage before he attains the
highest, and becomes both natural and refined ; and that inter-
mediate stage is the stage of the eighteenth century. Cosway
illustrated it in his miniatures ; the airs and graces of his ladies,
with their languishing eyes and open bosoms, are totally distinct
from the primness, the sedateness, and self-consciousness of the
earlier English ladies of Hilliard and Oliver; and he never
attained to the naivett of Reynolds and Gainsborough, who saw
farther, and were in advance of their age. But he was a great
artist nevertheless : he painted miniatures without any smallness
of treatment, his touch was sprightly and never fatiguing even in
his most elaborate works, his drawing elegant, and his treatment
of hair especially remarkable. It is impossible to think of a
Nicholas Hilliard as anything but a very minute object, whereas
a miniature by Cosway, if you close your eyes, will often convey
the impression of life-size.

Cosway the artist, however, and Cosway the man, present a
very different aspect ; in the ordering of his life and the conduct
of his affairs there was a wildness and extravagance which are
very perplexing to a biographer. He had a mania for keeping
up appearances, for making a great show, and it embittered his
life to find that people did not always take him at the price of
his appearances. His foppery and affectation earned him the
nickname of the " Macaroni Miniature Painter " ; much fun was
made of him, and, as we might expect, he did not escape the dull
and coarse lampoons of Peter Pindar.

The great event of his life, second to the production of his
miniatures, was his marriage with Maria Hadfield. Maria
Hadfield was a lovely woman, if we may credit the testimony of
a portrait of her by her husband. She was very talented as an
artist both in painting and in music, and she possessed an
enthusiastic soul, whose bent turned towards philanthropy and
benevolence. Such a woman with a large family would have


filled the home of Richard Cosway with genial influences, and
his vagaries would have been subdued by the example of her
earnestness ; but unfortunately for him they had but one
daughter, who died young, and the whole current of Maria's
being went awry ; she became an invalid ; she travelled
abroad ; she tried to find a vent for her yearnings and
sympathies by establishing a college for the education of young
ladies, first at Lyons and then at Lodi ; and finally she
returned to her home in Stratford Place, which had been
fitted up by her husband at the most lavish expense, to nurse
him through a long and mortal sickness.

Cosway in his last years seems to have been a victim of
hallucinations ; he gravely related conversations he had held
with Van Dyck and Charles I. This was possibly a malady
of the times ; William Blake, on his own showing, was on
visiting terms with St Paul, and Cosway's quondam friend,
the Prince of Wales, died firmly convinced that he had led a
charge of cavalry at Waterloo.

In July, 1821, when Cosway was aged eighty-two, an old
friend, Miss Udney, called to take him for an airing in her
coach ; on the road he was seized with a fit of paralysis or
apoplexy, and was brought home a dead man. He is said
not to have left much wealth behind him, but we have
seen no record of the sale of all the magnificence of
Stratford Place, which should have realised a considerable
sum. His widow retired to Lodi, where she resumed her
scheme of a ladies' college, and died there some years


was born in Dean Street, Soho, in 1737; his father Joseph
Francis Nollekens, or Nollikins, as Walpole spells the name,
was a painter of some repute, whose father had also been
a painter, and both were natives of Antwerp. Young Joseph


was sent to Shipley's drawing school in the Strand, and at the
age of thirteen was apprenticed to Scheemakers, the sculptor in
Vine Street, Piccadilly. In 1759, ne gained a premium from the
Society of Arts, and in the following year went to Rome,
where he lived for ten years, working diligently after his
fashion ; his diligence lying in the direction of learning rather
what was profitable than what was honourable or instructive;
and yet so great was his native talent, that when he returned
to London in 1769, he was acknowledged as one of the most
eminent sculptors of his age, and succeeded in maintaining
that reputation to his dying day. While at Rome he had
done admirable busts of Garrick and Sterne, and these doubt-
less procured him patrons on his return home. His election
as an Associate took place in 1771, and he was made an
Academician in the following year, George III. soon after-
wards sitting to him for a bust, and also Dr Johnson. Although
he occasionally did works of fancy they were not very successful,
and it was to his monumental sculpture and more especially to
his busts that he owed his reputation.

Soon after he returned to England he took a house in
Mortimer Street, whither he shortly conducted his bride, Mary,
daughter of that intrepid magistrate, Saunders Welch, friend
of Mr Fielding, who was the terror of all evil-doors in and
about Lincoln's Inn and Leicester Fields, and who had from
the roof of a hackney coach scaled the stronghold of a noted
highwayman, dragging him out of his bed and through the first-
floor window. Mary Welch was tall and handsome; she had
had more education than her husband, and could spell and
speak her native language correctly an accomplishment he
was quite deficient in ; but she was equally apathetic to all
intellectual topics, and had, moreover, a strong tinge of " cus-
sedness " in her nature. The annals of their life, the economy
of their household, and their intercourse with friends, are set
forth in an amusing book, entitled Nollekens and his Times,
by John Thomas Smith, for many years keeper of the prints



and drawings in the British Museum, who had been a pupil
or apprentice of the sculptor.

This book is not altogether agreeable reading ; it brings
before us, in a very lively way, all the details of a sordid and
miserly household ; all the shifts and subterfuges which this
couple, so harmoniously united in avarice, had recourse to in
order to keep up appearances and save outlay ; and some
scenes, such as the description of a dinner party given by
them, are really funny ; but it is written in a bad literary
style and worse taste. Nollekens never rises in our estimation ;
his genius, and he had some, is only hinted at, and not dis-
played. Throughout the book he figures as a little, ridiculous,
and imbecile miser, who had neither manners nor morals, who
had no appreciation of what was great in Art, who was utterly
illiterate, who gormandized when he did not have to pay for
his dinner, but was content with offal when he did ; who, at
Academic meetings, pocketed the nutmegs (that, be it remem-
bered, was in the days of punch-drinking) ; who sat in the
dark rather than burn a candle, who never used soap, who
mended his furniture with scraps of tin picked up on dust-
heaps, and whose greatest delight was a Punch and Judy

It is difficult to believe in the accuracy of this likeness,
and it is probable that Nollekens and his Times was an
act of literary vengeance on the part of a disappointed legatee.
Nollekens might certainly have bequeathed more than 100
to John Thomas Smith, if the latter had really served him so
faithfully as he would have us believe. In his youth he had
been his model and his studio servant, for sixty years he had
been his companion, had borne with "his want of decent
manners," and " his natural stupidity and ignorance in conversa-
tion," and one hundred pounds no doubt appeared to be but a
miserable dole out of a fortune of more than 200,000 to reward
a man withal for so much discomfort and boredom.

Nollekens died on the 23rd April 1823, in his eighty-sixth


year, and was buried in Paddington old churchyard. He had
known Garrick, Reynolds, and Dr Johnson intimately, and when
his long life closed, the history of England and of Europe was
turned over to a new page.


The life of James Barry forms one of the strangest chapters
in Art history, a chapter on which we should be at a loss to
pronounce what feeling it most powerfully arouses, whether it
be indignation, contempt, or commiseration.

Barry had talents, energy, and perseverance, which he made
unavailing by inordinate ambition ; he enjoyed the friendship of
one of the wisest and the best of men, whose advice he despised
and whom he alienated by his ingratitude. He had the good
fortune to acquire a position which his achievements in Art
hardly entitled him to, which position he forfeited by flagrant
and intolerable misconduct ; and all we can see in him to
admire is, that he had a certain stoic dignity, and bore his
sorrows and his hardships proudly.

He was born at Cork on nth October 1741. His father
followed the sea, and young James served under him in one or
two voyages ; but he early relinquished his father's calling for
that of an artist. To be a great painter was the object he set
before himself when quite a boy ; he followed it unswervingly
through his youth, and he fondly, but vainly, imagined he had
attained it in his manhood. Some elements of greatness he
certainly did exhibit, but mixed up with an astounding fund of
obtrusive unwisdom. He had great strength of will, energy,
and pertinacity ; he had a true perception of the dignity of Art ;
he saw that it was not only a mechanical achievement, but
called also for intellectual culture ; he stored up candle-ends and
sat up whole nights to the injury of his health ; but he was
headstrong and intractable, would listen to no advice, and when
he got an idea into his head nothing on earth would drive it


out ; he would have asserted it in the face of King Solomon
himself; with the profoundest contempt for everybody else's
opinions, he never in his life was able to form one for himself:
what he called his opinions being merely conclusions based on
imagination and on passionate aspirations.

At the age of twenty-one he painted a picture which
attracted the notice of Edmund Burke, who became from that
hour his firm friend, adviser, and patron. How miserably the
infatuated painter made light of such a privilege, wasted such a
splendid opportunity, and abused so much benevolence, forms
the really instructive value of his life, and invests it with its
impressiveness. A correspondence sprang up between Burke
and Barry which continued almost to the close of the painter's
life, and in the changing tone of Burke's letters, in the cheerful
communicativeness with which they started, the solemn admoni-
tion into which they drifted, and the melancholy reserve which
overspread them at the last, we read more plainly than in the
language of facts how blindly and how persistently Barry trod
the downward path which led to his ruin and disgrace. His
letters in return are indeed quite pitiable. It is hard to describe
their tone ; they are the work of an empty-headed, self-sufficient
coxcomb, who had no perception of his friend's breadth of
vision, not the faintest inkling of the enormous amount of
tolerance and good nature which he must have trespassed upon
with such an intellect as Burke's. He parades his narrow pre-
judices and childish conclusions with the assurance and pompous-
ness of a thinker who has mastered the whole domain of human
thought ; and worse than that, the benefits he received, unheard
of before and certainly undeserved, he looks upon only as a
natural tribute to his merits.

Edmund Burke brought Barry to London and introduced
him to Reynolds, who seems to have formed a favourable
opinion of his talents ; he then sent him to Italy, and maintained
him there at his own expense for five years. This fact, taken
in connection with another very notorious one, that the finances


of the great orator and philosopher were always in a dubious
condition, shows us how deep an interest he took in his young
countryman, and what confidence he had in his future. In
return Barry nobly determined to do nothing whatever to earn
his own living; that sort of thing was beneath him, he could
condescend to nothing but great monumental art, and entertain
no humbler aim than the complete regeneration of the Art of

What his precise theory and ideal of the art of painting was,
it is impossible to determine from his own frothy, incoherent
utterances. We may judge that they were tolerably lofty by
the fact that he treated Michael Angelo and Raphael with in-
dulgent toleration as bunglers in a good cause. He, probably
in a vague and hazy way, entertained the highest of the high-
falutin theories of his day ; which mixed up painting, sculpture,
poetry, and rhetoric, and argued from the one to the other
indiscriminately, as our readers may see exemplified by reading
through Dryden's Preface to Dr Fresnoy's Art of Painting ;
and he returned to London filled with the modest and plausible
project of planting himself there in the midst of coffee-houses
and coteries, of ladies in hoops, powder, and patches, of men in
bob-wigs and pigtails, in perhaps as artificial a state of society
as ever existed, when the Beggars Opera was drawing hundreds
nightly, and when Strawberry Hill was supposed to be the
latest and finest example of Gothic architecture, then and there
to inaugurate a new era in Art which should eclipse the age of
Pericles. To do it, was obviously to court failure, and it must
be confessed that in this case failure was not coy ; she responded
to his advances with an abandon and a laisser alter which left
nothing to be desired.

Barry's life in Italy had been a constant series of broils
with artists, connoisseurs, picture-dealers, and everybody, in
fact, he came in contact with, and the letters Burke wrote to
him, when contrasted with his own vain, fussy, fuming exist-
ence, seem like messages from a higher world, as indeed they


were, an inner world of the mind, where all was harmony and

In answer to a letter full of abuse of virtuosi and picture-
dealers with whom he was at war, Burke wrote the following
passage :

"You have given a strong, and, I fancy, a very faithful
picture of the dealers in taste with you. It is very right that
you should know and remark their little arts, but as fraud will
intermeddle in every transaction of life where we cannot oppose
ourselves to it with effect, it is by no means our duty or our
interest to make ourselves uneasy or multiply enemies on
account of it." And again, " I praise exceedingly your resolu-
tion of going on well with those whose practices you cannot
altogether approve, there is no living in this world upon any
other terms." But to such terms, Barry never could accom-
modate himself. What can exceed the solemnity of the follow-
ing admonition, or the frivolity which could disregard it ?

Online LibraryJ. E. (John Evan) HodgsonThe Royal academy and its members 1768-1830 → online text (page 11 of 35)