J. E. (John Evan) Hodgson.

The Royal academy and its members 1768-1830 online

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heir-at-law was to have the real estate, and the remainder was
to be divided amongst the next-of-kin.

As the result of this decision the National Gallery received
ninety-eight finished oil pictures, and two hundred and seventy
unfinished ones, and several hundreds of drawings and sketches,
some on ragged scraps of paper and the backs of letters, but all
of great interest. The monument in St Paul's took the form of
a statue, executed by P. McDowell, R. A.

The 20,000 given to the Royal Academy was unaccom-



panied by any restrictions, but it was immediately decided to
keep the sum quite separate from the other property of the
Academy, and to invest it in Consols as a distinct fund under
the title of the " Turner Fund " ; and further, to apply the interest
derived from it to carrying out Turner's expressed wish as
regarded a medal, and to giving effect, so far as might be, to the
benevolent instructions of his will. A prize of a gold medal for
a landscape was instituted, called the " Turner Gold Medal," to
be competed for biennially by the students of the Academy, in
the same year as the other gold medals. The designs for this
medal were made by Daniel Maclise, R. A., at the request of the
General Assembly, and were modelled by Leonard Wyon. The
portrait of Turner forms the obverse, while on the reverse is
represented a student of nature amidst the symbols and charac-
teristics of landscape, and above are three figures personifying
the primitive colours. The first recipient of this medal was
Nevill O. Lupton, in 1857. In 1881 a scholarship of 50,
tenable for one year, was added to the medal.

It was, however, by its endeavours to carry out the benevo-
lent intentions of the testator that the Academy most fully
justified the appropriation to it of a portion of the property.
Although there were no conditions as to how the money was to
be used, it resolved to expend the income derived from the in-
vested 20,000, less the sum required for the medal and scholar-
ship, in giving aid to distressed artists ; and after making
sundry grants in the first two or three years, finally, in 1860,
determined on the institution of annuities of 50 each, to be
granted by the Council to " artists of reputation, not members
of the Academy, who, through the unavoidable failure of pro-
fessional employment, or other causes, may be in circumstances
needing such aid." It is true that at first this resolution was not
fully carried out, only six annuities being given, and the balance
carried to the general account of the Academy; but in 1867 the
number of annuitants was raised to nine, in 1868 to ten, and in
1 879 to twelve. In 1881 it was resolved that the whole of the


accumulated balances which had been carried to the general
account, amounting to 5695, should be repaid to the Turner
Fund, together with simple interest. This made a gross total of
8060, and when invested in Consols, increased the Turner Fund
to 30,939, 1 8s., and allowed the annuities to be raised to fifteen
and the scholarship already mentioned to be added to the medal.
Further balances have since been invested from time to time,
and the total amount now stands at 31,737, us. 2d., and the
number of annuitants at sixteen.

The two main points in Turner's will were the gift of his
pictures to the nation, and his benevolent scheme for the benefit
of poor artists. Whether he would be satisfied with the manner
in which the first has been realised, we are not concerned to
express an opinion ; but, at any rate, the Royal Academy has
done its best to endeavour with the means placed at its disposal
to carry out the second.




LINCOLN'S INN FIELDS is not a fashionable resort, though it is
not quite unknown to the inhabitants of the West. As you
enter it from Great Queen Street you are impressed by its fine
architecture, its dimness, and its vast expanse on few occasions
is the far side of it visible through the smoky atmosphere and
also by its stillness. There seems to be no traffic but that of
lawyer's clerks carrying blue bags, and you might imagine it
was an obsolete and decaying remnant of old London, did you
not know that around you, and on every side, though unseen,
like the forces which underlie the dormant volcano, there are
busy brains at work, forging the fetters and furbishing up the
dread machinery of law and litigation.

Its stillness impresses the imagination and daunts the spirit ;
it is like the torpor which hangs over estates whose title is dis-
puted, or great concerns which have gone into liquidation.
This would not seem an atmosphere congenial to Art, and,
indeed, few people are aware that in the midst of it there stands
a perfect treasure-house of Art ; even the policeman on his
beat, so it has been said, is often unable to direct a stranger
to Sir John Soane's Museum. It stands on the north side
of the square, at the distance of about one quarter of the
entire frontage from the corner of Great Queen Street; its



facade is singularly mean, to which meanness a touch of
vulgarity has been added by two plaster figures perched upon
the cornice ; this seems characteristic of Sir John Soane's mind.
He showed wonderful invention and a striving after originality
in the buildings he constructed, and yet his eye was able to
tolerate solecisms in portions of them which entirely marred
their general effect; and when we find ourselves inside the
museum, crammed as it is with beautiful things, quite a neat
little physiological problem presents itself to our mind, namely,
how the man who delighted in such things, and himself created
so many beautiful designs, could daily go in and out of that
ugly house and not feel his eye offended. The internal arrange-
ments of this unique domicile are truly wonderful, they entirely
upset our accustomed notions of upstairs and downstairs, of
kitchen and parlour ; nothing is as it should be, but all is
unusual and unintelligible; even the walls are a delusion.
When we have finished admiring some pictures and drawings
we see hanging up, our obliging attendant turns a handle, and
hey, presto! the wall, pictures, and drawings vanish, and we
have before us a vista of another gallery filled with drawings,
low reliefs, statues, and Art things of every kind, massed
together, we are bound to confess, in rather bewildering pro-
fusion ; in fact, this multitudinousness becomes overwhelming,
and we are glad to escape at last, saying to ourselves that Sir
John Soane's Museum cannot be done justice to in one visit,
but requires two or three.

Of course, amongst so much, there must be some rubbish ;
in the antique department there is an undue proportion of
plaster compared with intrinsic marble and bronze, and the
drawings, which cover almost every available inch of wall-space,
do not always satisfy our aesthetic cravings ; but for all that
there is much to see and admire. There is a picture of the
" Grand Canal in Venice," which appears to us one of the finest
pictures painted by Canaletto ; this, with the " Rake's Progress,"
and the Election series by Hogarth, and an exquisite early


drawing of " Kirkstall Abbey," by Turner, would alone repay a
visit to Lincoln's Inn Fields.

But perhaps the strongest impression we carry away with
us when we leave the place and tread once more the deserted
flagstones of the great square is wonder and admiration for the
man, for the energy, perseverance, and intensity of fixed
purpose which enabled him in the course of one lifetime to pile
together such a mass of fine things, and for the ingenuity which
enabled him to house them all. His carefulness, tidiness,
ingenuity, and supreme faculty for packing things together
must appear truly miraculous to those not possessed of these
faculties, or who only possess them in that rudimentary con-
dition which is exemplified in the art of pitching things into a
portmanteau and then sitting on them, a condition in which they
exist in the vast mass of untidy humanity. Soane's Museum is
undoubtedly overcrowded, and one cannot help regretting that
its choicer treasures, such as Hogarth's pictures, the exquisite
MSS. of the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries, one or two great
vases, etc., could not have been displayed with more margin
round them, where they could have lived in an atmosphere of
their own undisturbed by alien attractions.

This very remarkable man, John Soane, was born in
Reading, in 1753, and was the son of a bricklayer. His sister
was a servant in the house of George Dance, the architect, and
probably through her influence he was taken into the office, as
errand boy and general fag ; later he was admitted as a pupil,
but the greater part of his time, up to his start for Italy as
gold-medal student of the Royal Academy, was passed in the
office of Henry Holland, an eminent architect in his day. He
had entered the Academy schools in 1771 and obtained the
gold medal in 1776, being awarded the travelling studentship
in the following year, mainly owing to the all-powerful recom-
mendation of Sir W. Chambers, who was much pleased with
Soane's design for a "Triumphal Bridge" which had won him
the medal, and the fortunate student would have been better


advised, or more happily inspired, had he been satisfied to let
well alone, and had he not published a volume of designs which
came out the year after he left England, and which did him
so little credit that in after years he was glad to buy up every
copy he could meet with.

It is seldom a biographer has such an opportunity as he
finds in this man's life, and were it worth seriously and minutely
recording, which it probably is not, a writer of insight could
produce a truer picture of a man's mind than is usually found in
such books. His executed works and his designs, his museum,
and the collection it contains, seem to explain the man and
make him familiar to us, with all that was worthy and unworthy
in him, with his merits and his meannesses, with all his contra-
dictory qualities. And this is much ; when we reflect how few
out of the vast and never-ceasing procession of human lives
which issues out of the darkness and the unknown, to disappear
into it again, ever leave behind them the slightest trace of their
passing, or any recognisable proof that such a man once lived
and was thus fashioned. Sir John Soane, at all events, erected
a monument to himself durable as brass, and though we may
not altogether sympathise with him, we are bound to give him
an honourable place among English worthies.

What is abundantly evident is that he had no genius for
architecture, only a bright fancy and a sense of adaptability, as
also very great industry. He was, moreover, a supremely lucky
man, and there is merit in that, as has been said.

It was lucky that he was appointed to the travelling student-
ship before the publication of his first volume of designs ; it
was lucky that when in Italy he made the acquaintance, perhaps
even acquired the friendship, of Thomas Pitt, afterwards Lord
Camelford, to whose influence he owed his appointment of
architect to the Bank of England ; which was followed by that
of clerk of the works of St James's Palace ; then of architect
to the Woods and Forests, and surveyor of Chelsea Hospital,
all lucrative posts. And finally he was lucky that in his


marriage he drew a prize which, though we know nothing
of its spiritual preciousness, represented a fine material value in
the shape of a handsome fortune. And so it came about that
this son of a Berkshire bricklayer, without any transcendent
qualities that we can discern, was spared the pangs of dis-
appointment, the quips and scorns which patient merit of the
unworthy takes, and which have broken the hearts of so many
men of genius ; fickle fortune dropped one good thing into his
lap after another, and he spent his life in one long luxurious
course of fadding.

But to his honour be it recorded, he also designed the north-
west corner of the Bank of England, one of the most graceful
features in London street architecture. He seems to have
executed many buildings, public and private ; but in the
opinion of the most competent judges he was only successful in
bits, and a painful poverty of design is always apparent in some
portion of his work.

He had ideas, but no idea ; no large sense of unity and com-
pleteness, or of structural consistency ; and that summing up of
his merits which was current at the commencement of this
century, though it sounds futile and ridiculous to us, is perhaps
a just one, namely, that the great claim to originality of Sir John
Soane consisted in his having been the first to adopt, and to dis-
seminate, that particular form of architectural confectionery
known as Tivoli-Corinthian.

When Soane was admitted a student of the Royal Academy,
his name was spelt "Soan," and is found so printed in the
Academy catalogues from 1772 to 1784, when the final "e" was
for the first time appended. He was elected an Associate in
1795, and an Academician in 1802, on the same evening as
Turner; and in 1806 he was appointed Professor of Archi-

His tenure of this post was marked by an incident strongly
illustrative of the somewhat cantankerous and obstinate character
of the man, At the beginning of 1810, the Council passed a


resolution, which is still in force, " That no comments or criti-
cisms on the opinions and productions of living artists in this
country should be introduced into any of the lectures delivered
in the Royal Academy," and the reasons given were : " 1st,
because the lecturers of the Academy are in matters of Art the
public organs of the institution, and are supposed to deliver
sentiments approved of generally by the body ; the sanction of
such an authority therefore should not be used to prejudice the
talents or depreciate the productions of artists whose interests
may be materially affected by unfavourable animadversions thus
officially delivered ; 2nd, because the introduction of such com-
ments or criticisms has a direct tendency to disturb the peace
and harmony of the Academy, and create a spirit of dissension
in the art ; 3rd, because it seems unfair to bring the talents or
works of living artists to trial before a tribunal where they have
no means of defence or justification, and because we conceive
that there are materials sufficient for all the purposes of
example or illustration without resorting to the productions of
artists who, if members of the Academy, have a claim to the
protection of the body to which they belong, and who, if not
members, have a right to a liberal and indulgent consideration
of their merits in an institution which presides over the interests
of the Arts at large."

This resolution was moved by Howard, afterwards Secre-
tary, and seconded by Shee, afterwards President, and carried
unanimously, the other members present being Flaxman, in
the chair, Yenn (the Treasurer), Marchant, and Phillips ; the
President (West) is described in the minutes as being
"in gout" and the Secretary (Richards) as "ill." A copy
of the resolution without the reasons was sent to each of the
professors with a request that they would conform to the same ;
and none of them appear to have raised any objection with the
exception of Soane, at whom it may therefore be presumed the
resolution was chiefly aimed. He replied with a request to be
informed of the names of those present at the Council when the


resolution was passed, and also of the reasons on which it was
founded, both of which requests were refused as " unusual and
irregular," and he was reminded that the books of the Academy
were " always accessible to Academicians " ; and he was also
asked to state when it would be " convenient to him to resume
his architectural lectures." To this inquiry his reply is described
in the minutes of iQth February 1810, as "evasive and unsatis-
factory." Such as it was it left him master of the situation
apparently, as he delivered no lectures that year, and the matter
was allowed to drop until the time again came round for the dis-
charge of his duties as professor, when a similar correspondence
was begun, the situation being further complicated and an
almost comic aspect given it by the presence of Soane himself
on the Council. This time, however, the Council lost patience
with him and declared the professorship vacant ; but when the
resolution embodying this decision was submitted to the
General Assembly in March 1811, that body was not prepared
to endorse so extreme a measure, and though it pronounced Mr
Soane's conduct to have been " highly improper and disrespect-
ful," did not consider him as having thereby vacated the pro-
fessor's chair; and the President at a subsequent meeting of
the General Assembly expressed the hope that " the professor
would now resume his functions." And this he appears to have
done in 1812, though he ended his course with a protest that he
could not continue to perform the duties of his office unless the
Academy would revise and retrace their proceedings relative to
him since the delivery of his fourth lecture in January 1810, which
we may conclude was the offending lecture that gave rise to
the original action of the Council.

Accordingly, in 1813, we find him beginning the old game
again ; but the Council declined to enter into a correspondence
with him, as " after so much ineffectual discussion all tending to
the same point and producing the same conclusions, in which Mr
Soane has inflexibly opposed his single opinion to the general
sense of the Academy and trifled with its lenity, it would be deroga-


tory to the character and dignity of the Society to proceed further
in communicating with him on the subject " ; and further stated
that " Mr Soane having made it apparent that he will not resume
the duties of his office but upon conditions prescribed by him-
self, in direct opposition to the laws of the Society," they " felt
themselves compelled to declare that the office of Professor of
Architecture is vacated." This prompt action and plain
language appears to have had an effect on the recalcitrant and
obstinate professor. At the General Assembly convened on
29th January 1813, to consider the Council's decision after the
application of a little soothing syrup in the form of a declaration,
stating that the Academy had been actuated solely by a con-
sideration of duty to the institution, etc., in passing the law of
1810 with reference to professors, and that they did not hesitate
to express their regret that their Professor of Architecture
should have considered himself injured or aggrieved by any pro-
ceedings respecting it Soane got up and declared that "he
wished that everything past should be buried in oblivion, and
that he was ready to accede to the wishes of the Academy."
Thereupon it was decided that all further proceedings were un-
necessary, and the Council were in their turn smoothed down by
an expression of approbation for the zeal and attention they had
exhibited in the matter. And so after three years the struggle
ended, and Soane discharged his duties as professor till his
death in 1837.

The same unyielding and obstinate temper as was displayed
in this episode was also shown by Soane in his treatment of his
only son, with whom he had a deadly quarrel on account of some
offence to his vanity, and whom he never could bring himself to
forgive. Indeed, so rancorous did his feelings ultimately become
that he not only alienated all his property, but when it was pro-
posed to do him honour, he refused a baronetcy because it
offered some reversionary benefit to his son.

A later incident in his Academic career shows him in a
more favourable light. At the death of Sir Thomas Lawrence


in 1830 an effort, set on foot by the Academy, was made to
purchase for the nation the collection of drawings by Old
Masters formed by him, and so strongly was the proposal
supported by the Academy that it voted a sum of 1000
towards it in spite of an influential opposition led by Turner,
Callcott, and Chantrey, who wanted to pronounce an emphatic
Academic blessing on the scheme without giving any money
towards its realisation. At the meeting at which the final
decision was arrived at, Turner read a letter from Soane offer-
ing to give 1000 towards the purchase of the collection " pro-
vided they can be obtained for the Royal Academy, and placed
solely at its disposal." But it was felt that there was more
chance of raising the money for the purpose of placing the
drawings, as advocated by the Academy, in the British
Museum or National Gallery, and Soane's offer was, there-
fore, declined, with a handsome expression of "high admira-
tion of your very liberal intentions " and " best thanks for the
noble proof you have given of your zeal for the true interests
of Art, and your brotherly regard for the honour of the Royal


was born in 1762 at Nottingham, where his father, a native
of Sienna, practised medicine : he was apprenticed to a sculptor
under whom he worked as a journeyman. This occupation
awoke in him the consciousness that he also possessed original
talent, and aroused his ambition ; so he betook himself to
London in 1781, and became a student of the Royal Academy.
In 1785, having gained the gold medal the previous year, he was
awarded a travelling studentship, and went to Rome for three

When he returned he found patronage awaiting him. Those
would seem to have been halcyon days for sculptors : and the
huge masses of monumental marble which adorn or encumber


the naves and transepts of Westminster Abbey and St Paul's,
testify not only to the gratitude of the public, and of admiring
relatives, but also to the complacency of the Deans and
Chapters of those days. There seems to have been no rule
or sense of fitness in the matter ; influence, as we presume,
backed by wealth and some colourable show of achievement
on the part of a deceased warrior, naval or military, sufficed
to secure a commanding place in the two Cathedrals, where
relatives were left free to pile on marble and mix up fact,
allegory, and heathen mythology so long as their purses held

Of the unfitness and paganism of many of these monuments
we need say nothing, but their ridiculous violation of common
sense makes them the legitimate property of the satirist ; they
remind us of the celebrated statues in the groves of Blarney

" Bold Neptune, Plutarch, and Nicodemus,
All standing naked in the open air."

But Millikin's verses, which were purposely ridiculous, are in
reality not more absurd than Westmacott's representation of
a British officer falling on the field of Waterloo, with nothing
on but a Greek helmet.

Rossi executed several large monuments in St Paul's, one
of which is to Captain Robert Faulkner, R.N., who was killed
on board the Blanche frigate during the fight with the French
frigate Pique, on the $th January 1795, at the age of thirty-two.
It occupies a position under the dome, corresponding to
Flaxman's monument of Nelson on the other side of the nave,
and is of almost equal dimensions. Captain Faulkner is repre-
sented falling into the arms of Neptune, who is seated on a rock
amongst the sea-weed and star-fish, whilst Fame approaches
from behind and crowns the dying hero with a laurel wreath.
The British naval officer is very scantily clothed ; wears, in
fact, quite a minimum of clothing. He carries a shield on his
left arm and a broken Greek sword seems to be dropping from


his right hand. Surely a marble tablet, with or without
Neptune, somewhere on the walls of the nave, would have
been a quite sufficiently adequate national recognition of the
services of Captain Robert Faulkner. However, Rossi was in
no way to blame in this matter ; he executed a commission
given to him, and in doing so, put in his very best work ; at
least his best in St Paul's. It would be too hard a saying
that bad was that best, as Rossi was scholarly, and exhibited
a certain vigour of chiaroscuro, but he had a hard manner,
and was deficient in invention, in design, and in the feeling

Online LibraryJ. E. (John Evan) HodgsonThe Royal academy and its members 1768-1830 → online text (page 20 of 35)