Copyright
J. E. (John Evan) Hodgson.

The Royal academy and its members 1768-1830 online

. (page 28 of 35)
Online LibraryJ. E. (John Evan) HodgsonThe Royal academy and its members 1768-1830 → online text (page 28 of 35)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


On the failure of the business when he was about nineteen
years old he determined to cultivate his talent as a draughts-
man, and became a pupil of George Arnald, A., subsequently
entering the Academy schools, and exhibiting his first picture
in 1806. Like most young artists of the period he began with



328 ACADEMICIANS ELECTED UNDER LAWRENCE

classical and mythological subjects, but it was not long before
he devoted the whole of his time to that more lucrative branch
of art, portraiture. In this he was very successful, and most
of the eminent people of the day sat to him ; among others,
Wordsworth, Jeremy Bentham, Hannah More, and George
Stephenson, whose portraits by him are in the National
Portrait Gallery. He was also employed by Sir Robert Peel
to paint some of the best known men of that period. But
his reputation can hardly be said to have stood the test of
time, and his portraits, though good as likenesses, are not now
thought of much account as pictures.

Pickersgill was elected an Associate in 1822, and an
Academician in 1826. In 1856 he was appointed Librarian
in succession to Uwins, and received, in 1863, the thanks of
the Council for preparing a revised Catalogue of the Books.
He resigned the office in 1864. He does not appear to have
taken much share in the general business of the Academy,
but he was a great stickler for members discharging the duties
of membership as well as enjoying its privileges, and one or
two resolutions to that effect are recorded in the Minutes as
proposed by him. He died in 1875. A son who pre-deceased
him acquired some reputation as an artist, but the name was
continued on the Academy register by his better-known nephew,
F. R. Pickersgill.

WILLIAM ETTY, R.A.

Sometimes called " The English Titian," was born at York
on loth March 1787. In his autobiography he says, "Like
Rembrandt and Constable, my father also was a miller." At
eleven years old he was apprenticed to a letterpress printer
named Robert Peck, " in which business," he writes, " I served
seven full years faithfully and truly, and worked at it three
weeks as journeyman ; but I had such a busy desire to be a
painter that the last years of my servitude dragged on most
heavily. I counted the years, days, weeks, and hours, till



WILLIAM ETTY 329

liberty should break my chains and set my struggling spirit
free."

The first step towards realising these aspirations was an
invitation to London in 1806 from an uncle, William Etty,
whom he speaks of as " a beautiful draughtsman in pen and
ink." This uncle saw merit in the boy's sketches, and provided
him with the means of carrying on his studies. He first drew
in a plaster cast shop in Cock Lane, Smithfield, kept by an
Italian, named Gianelli, and in 1807, through the good offices of
Opie and Fuseli, obtained admission to the Academy schools.
A year later, in consideration of a premium of one hundred
guineas paid by his uncle, he was taken for a year by Sir
Thomas Lawrence, as a pupil into his studio in Greek Street.
It was a long time, however, before he met with any success ;
not till 1811 was his first picture, " Telemachus rescuing
Antiope," hung at the Royal Academy. Nor were his efforts to
obtain medals in the Academy schools, where he was a most
constant and diligent attendant, better rewarded. His last
attempt was made in 1818, when he was technically not qualified
to compete, but the following extract from the Minutes of the
Council of 1 7th November 1818, shows in what esteem he was
held : " The Council taking into consideration the distinguished
merit displayed by Mr Etty in the copy from Titian he has
recently made in the Painting School of the Academy, and
considering also Mr Etty's general good conduct and assiduity
as a Student, request the President will take occasion on the
distribution of the Premiums to express to that gentleman their
high approbation of his work, which the laws of the Academy
have excluded from competition on the present occasion." A
copy of this Resolution was sent to Etty with the request that
he would " leave his picture in the Academy for the inspection
of the General Assembly " ; and at the distribution on the
loth of December, the President publicly expressed to Mr Etty
the high sense which the Academy entertained both of his
talents and of his good conduct



330 ACADEMICIANS ELECTED UNDER LAWRENCE

Etty's devotion to the schools was remarkable, and it may
truly be said of him, that from the time he entered them until
a year or two before his death he never left them, as, even after
his election to the full honours of the Institution, he was con-
stant to his student's easel in the life class. When it was
represented to him by some of his brother members, that it was
derogatory for him as an Academician to continue working
amongst the students, he resented any interference with his
practice, and even threatened to resign, rather than discontinue
his studies in the school. There is no doubt but that this
habit of working night after night in the heated and ill-
ventilated life school very materially shortened his life, bringing
on, after a time, the disease of the heart of which he died. As
a visitor, Etty was very popular with the students of the
Academy, and his vigorous colour and dexterity of execution
influenced a great number of the rising generation of artists of
his day, amongst others who undoubtedly came under this
influence may be mentioned Mr J. C. Hook and Sir John Millais.
Indirectly, also through a pupil of his, Mr Leigh, who after-
wards kept a famous school for young artists in Newman
Street, the influence of Etty's brilliant style was widely
disseminated.

The first picture of Etty's that attracted attention was " The
Coral Finders," exhibited in 1820. This was followed the next
year by " Cleopatra's arrival at Cilicia." The success these met
with enabled him to revisit Italy, where he had spent three
months in 1816, and the year and a half he now stayed were
devoted entirely to the copying of the works of the Old Masters,
especially those of the Venetian School. He had a fine eye for
colour, and the studies by his hand from pictures by Titian,
Paul Veronese, and Tintoretto are amongst the most beautiful
and artistic that have ever been made from those painters.
Returning to England early in 1824, he exhibited in the same
year " Pandora crowned by the Seasons," which was purchased
by the President, Sir Thomas Lawrence, and secured his elec-



SUBJECTS OF ETTY'S PICTURES 331

tion as an Associate in 1825. The Academicianship followed in
1828.

The subjects painted by Etty, generally of a classical or
allegorical nature, were chosen, possibly not so much from a
love of the classics per se, or to convey any moral lesson or deep
meaning, as to afford the artist an opportunity of displaying his
brilliancy of colour and dexterity in rendering the nude form.
As perhaps the most beautiful of his many works of this sort
may be mentioned that in the National Collection, " Youth at the
prow and Pleasure at the helm." The following passage in the
autobiography already mentioned shows which works he him-
self considered to be his greatest : " My aim in all my great
pictures has been to paint some great moral of the heart : ' The
Combat/ the beauty of mercy ; the three * Judith ' pictures,
patriotism and self-devotion to her country, her people, and her
God ; * Benaiah, David's chief captain,' valour ; * Ulysses and the
Sirens,' the importance of resisting sensual delights, or an
Homeric paraphrase of the * Wages of Sin is Death.' " Of
these the first five are in the National Gallery, Edinburgh, and
the sixth at the Royal Institution, Manchester. A man of great
simplicity and purity of mind and conduct, he was much pained
at the opinion freely expressed by some that his works were of
a voluptuous and immoral character ; but though the numerous
renderings of the female nude which abound in his pictures are
sometimes marred by a too realistic likeness of the models he
painted from, they are never prominent in suggestiveness or
artificial in sentiment.

Etty was never married, though, as he tells us, " one of his
prevailing weaknesses was to fall in love." Probably his
extreme bashfulness prevented him from ever making a
declaration of his passion. His niece kept house for him at
No. 14 Buckingham Street, Strand, where he lived from 1826 to
1848. In the latter year, owing to failing health, he moved to
his native place, York, and died there on I3th November
1849.



332 ACADEMICIANS ELECTED UNDER LAWRENCE



JOHN CONSTABLE, R.A.

This distinguished landscape painter, the second son of a
wealthy Suffolk miller, was born on the nth of June 1776, at East
Bergholt, in which neighbourhood his father, Golding Constable,
owned the two water-mills of Flatford and Dedham, besides
two wind-mills. His father intended educating John for the
Church, and sent him to a boarding-school about fifteen miles
from Bergholt, when only seven years old, and afterwards to
another school at Lavenham. At this place Constable received
considerable ill-treatment from the usher, and apparently learnt
very little ; he was happier at the Grammer School at Dedham
to which he subsequently went, and was a favourite with the
master, a Dr Grimwood. He was then about sixteen years old
and had already developed a fondness for painting, a fondness
which was fostered by a close alliance he formed with a certain
John Dunthorne, a plumber and glazier in the village, who
devoted his spare time to painting from nature, and of whom
in his studies Constable became the constant companion.

Constable's father was much opposed to his son's choice of
a profession, and, disappointed at finding him disinclined to the
necessary studies to fit him for the Church, he determined to
make a miller of him. Accordingly for about a year Constable
worked obediently and well in his father's mills, and having a
fresh complexion and fine eyes became known in the neighbour-
hood as "the handsome miller." The time thus spent was
probably by no means wasted, as the intimate knowledge of
his business he then acquired served him in good stead in
after life, the intelligence and accuracy of rendering which
distinguishes Constable's mills from those of other painters
being always remarkable.

An introduction to Sir George Beaumont, whose mother,
the Dowager Lady Beaumont, resided at Dedham, took place
in 1795. Sir George, much pleased with the young artist's



JOHN CONSTABLE 333

endeavours, persuaded his father to send him to London for
the purpose of ascertaining what might be his chance of
success as a painter. Here he made the acquaintance of
Joseph Farington, R.A., who was much struck with the young
artist's studies, and predicted a brilliant future for him in land-
scape painting.

During the next two or three years Constable was allowed
to spend much of his time in London, where he made many
artistic acquaintances, and became daily more firm in his
resolution to adopt the profession of an artist. It was not,
however, until the beginning of the year 1800 that he entirely
abandoned his father's counting-house, and was admitted, on
4th February, a student of the Royal Academy. During his
studentship he received much encouragement from the
President, Benjamin West, who was at all times ready and
willing to assist young artists. He first exhibited at the
Academy in 1802, the picture being merely described in the
Catalogue as " Landscape." He also about this time painted
a few portraits as well as making copies and studies from
Ruysdaei, Claude, and others of the Old Masters. Two
" Landscapes " and two " Studies from Nature " were exhibited
in 1803, and though occasionally some of his pictures were
rejected, he was from that time a constant contributor to the
annual exhibitions. But so little were his early pictures
appreciated, that it was not until 1814 that he found a
purchaser for any of them, two being sold in that year, a small
one exhibited at the British Institution, and a more important
one at the Academy, entitled " A Lock."

These early pictures are in respect of tone, colour, and
finish, equal, if not superior, to any of his later and more
celebrated productions. They were mostly painted direct from
the scenes they represent, and their simple, natural truthfulness
is beyond all praise, though it is very probable that it was
this latter quality which made them unacceptable at a time
when the fashionable taste for landscape was conventional



334 ACADEMICIANS ELECTED UNDER LAWRENCE

and artificial in the extreme. Almost all these unsold early
works remained in the artist's studio until his death, and since
then, on the death of his last surviving daughter, they passed
into the National Collections, a good example of the early
manner being found in " Boat-Building," which was exhibited
in 1815 at the Royal Academy.

On the 2nd of October 1816, after a long engagement and
considerable opposition on the part of the lady's relatives,
Constable married a Miss Bicknell, who brought him valuable
help as regards his monetary affairs, so that, in spite of the
want of patronage for his art, he was at no time of his life
badly off for the means of livelihood.

In 1819 he sent to the Academy the largest and most
important work he had yet produced, " Scene on the River
Stour" better known now as "The White Horse." This
picture is in Constable's very finest manner, and helped to
secure his election as an Associate the same year. It was
purchased from the artist by Archdeacon Fisher for 100,
and after passing through other hands was sold at Christie's,
in 1894, for 6510. Archdeacon Fisher, in 1820, purchased
another of Constable's finest works for ;ioo. It was a view of
Stratford Mill on the Stour, with a group of children fishing
in the foreground, and was sold at Christie's, in 1895, for 8925.

In 1821 Constable exhibited another large picture, called
in the Catalogue, " Landscape Noon," but subsequently entitled
"The Hay Wain," which met with no purchaser at the time,
and was eventually bought, together with two other works,
for .250, by an enterprising Frenchman, who sent them to
the Paris Salon, where they were much admired, and were
destined to exercise a very considerable influence on French
landscape art. "The Hay Wain" is now in the National
Gallery.

Among the most important of Constable's other works
which now appeared in quick succession year after year, the
following may be mentioned : " Salisbury Cathedral from the



CONSTABLE'S PICTURES 335

Bishop's Garden"; "The Jumping Horse"; "The Cornfield,"
which, after the artist's death, was purchased by subscription
from his family, and presented to the National Collection ;
" The Marine Parade and Chain Pier, Brighton," a sample of
many very masterly views of the sea-shore which he occasionally
exhibited ; " Dedham Vale," upright in shape ; " Hampstead
Heath"; and "Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows," the
engraved picture with the rainbow. Besides his works in
oil-colour, Constable exhibited many beautiful water-colour
paintings and drawings from time to time.

The somewhat tardy promotion of this great artist to the
full honours of the Royal Academy occurred on the loth of
February 1829, when he was chosen by one vote over Francis
Danby. That he had not been elected sooner was chiefly
owing to the low estimation in which landscape painting at
that time was held by very many of the members of the
Institution, Lawrence himself bluntly intimating to Constable,
after his election, that he considered him fortunate in being
chosen an Academician at a time when there were historical
painters of great merit on the list of Associates.

As an Academician, Constable, though a landscape painter,
fulfilled his duties as visitor in the Life School of the Academy.
Artists who remembered him in this capacity spoke highly
of his powers as a teacher, and we are told that he sometimes
arranged behind his models a beautiful background of laurels
and evergreens which he had brought from Hampstead.

Constable had lost his wife the year before his election as
an R.A., and there is no doubt but that this loss, coupled with
the mortification he suffered from the continual want of
patronage for his productions, greatly impaired his health.
Judging from his correspondence, he seems to have been
thoroughly aware of his great powers in landscape, and was
likewise extremely sensitive to criticism. His pictures were
seldom favourably noticed in the newspapers during his lifetime,
and it must have been a very painful experience to him to have



336 ASSOCIATES ELECTED UNDER LAWRENCE

these large canvasses year after year returned unsold after the
exhibitions closed.

In 1833 he delivered a course of lectures on Landscape
Painting at the Assembly Rooms at Hampstead, and again
in 1836 at the Royal Institution, Albemarle Street. These
lectures were never written or published, the only account we
have of them being given us from notes and recollections,
by C. R. Leslie, R.A., in his memoirs of the artist.

His death, which occurred on the night of the 3ist March
1837, was unexpected and sudden, although he had been far
from well for some years. He was buried beside his wife in
the south-east corner of Hampstead Churchyard.

We now come to the Associates elected during the Presi-
dency of Sir Thomas Lawrence who did not subsequently
become Academicians. There were only five of them who
failed to reach the higher honour, and of these two were at
that period ineligible for it, being engravers ; the other three
were painters.

HENRY EDRIDGE, A.

Was a miniature and landscape painter of considerable
repute in his day. Born at Paddington in 1768, the son of
a tradesman, he was apprenticed at the age of fourteen to
William Pether, an engraver and landscape painter. As soon
as his apprenticeship was over, in 1784, he entered the Academy
schools, where two years after he gained a silver medal, and,
what was of more importance, attracted the notice of Sir
Joshua Reynolds, who allowed him to make miniature copies of
his works. Thus encouraged he took to miniature portrait
painting as a profession, and with great success. He also did
excellent likenesses in pencil or Indian ink and water-colour,
the figure being drawn and the face finished elaborately in
water-colour. Nor were his efforts in landscape painting with-
out considerable merit. Several of his water-colours are in the



GEORGE CLINT 33T

Victoria and Albert Museum, and some of his portraits in the
National Portrait Gallery.

Elected an Associate in November 1820, he did not live long
to enjoy the honour, dying in April of the following year. He
bequeathed to the Academy a portrait by Sir Joshua of the
latter's Italian servant, Marchi.

GEORGE CLINT, A.

Born in 1770, the son of a hairdresser in a street off
Holborn, he was first apprenticed to a fishmonger, but disgusted
with that employment left it for an attorney's office. He next
tried house-painting, and from that went to the other extreme,
becoming a very successful miniature painter. Engraving also
engaged his attention, and he executed several prints for Sir
Thomas Lawrence, with whom, however, he quarrelled ; and his
existence, hampered as he was with a wife and a large family,
became for some time a very precarious one. It was through
engraving, however, that he eventually found the road to success.
He had been commissioned to do a mezzotint of the picture
by Harlow of " The Kemble Family," which had caused a great
sensation when exhibited at the Royal Academy, and the
consequent acquaintance which he formed with the principal
actors and actresses and patrons of the drama led to his painting
a number of dramatic pictures and portraits of people connected
with the stage. These proved very popular, and he was much in
vogue for a time as a portrait painter.

In 1821 he was elected an Associate, but resigned his
diploma in 1836, aggrieved at younger men having been elected
Academicians over his head. His letter of resignation has not
been preserved, but from the nature of the answer which was
ordered to be sent to him, and which appears in the Council
Minutes of 24th February 1836, it may be presumed not to have
been a pleasant one. The letter is as follows : " Sir, I am
directed by the President and Council to acknowledge the

Y



338 ASSOCIATES ELECTED UNDER LAWRENCE

receipt of your letter, together with the diploma which you have
returned to the Academy, and to inform you that your wish to
have your name taken off the list of Associates will, of course,
be immediately complied with. They forbear to comment on
the terms in which you have thought proper to convey your
resignation. I am, Sir, etc., Henry Howard, Secretary."

Nor did Clint's animosity end here, for his injured vanity led
him to take up an attitude of angry opposition to the Academy,
and to join in the agitation which at the period of his resignation
was being got up against it.

For many years before his death, which occurred at
Kensington in 1854, he had retired from the practice of his
profession.

FRANCIS DANBY, A.

One of the select band of Irishmen who have made
themselves a name in Art. He was born in 1793 near Wexford,
the son of a small landed proprietor. Determined to become
an artist he studied in the school of the Royal Dublin Society,
and under James O'Connor, the landscape painter. Having
had a success with the first picture a sunset effect which he
exhibited at the Dublin Exhibition in 1812, he determined to
come to London, stopping for some time on the way at Bristol.
His first picture at the Royal Academy was in 1817 ; others
quickly followed; and in 1825, his "Passage of the Israelites
through the Dead Sea," gained him his election as an Associate.
The works which for the next few years succeeded these were
of a highly imaginative nature, and showed to the full his talent
for poetical composition and rich and glowing colour : the
best known of them is perhaps "The Opening of the Sixth
Seal."

Circumstances, which need not be entered into here, led to
Danby's going abroad in 1829, and remaining away till 1841.
During that time he appears to have been in difficulties, as the
Minutes of the Council for nth November 1831 show, that in



FRANCIS DANBY 339

response to a letter from him, from Switzerland, stating that he
was greatly embarrassed in his circumstances, and requesting
assistance, a donation of 50 was granted to him, in considera-
tion of the distressed state of himself and his family. During
this time he only contributed two pictures to the exhibition, but
from the date of his return, in 1841, he resumed painting and
exhibiting with all his old ardour and enthusiasm, most of his
works being executed at Exmouth, where he died in 1861.

The nature of Danby's art may be judged by the fact, that
out of the forty-six pictures he exhibited at the Academy, all
more or less landscape in their general character, there are only
three whose titles show that they represented actual scenery,
and the proportion among the large number shown at the British
Institution is even less. Danby made no attempt to copy
Nature, but sought to place on canvas his ideal conceptions of
her in her grandest and noblest aspects.

RICHARD JAMES LANE, A.E.,

an engraver of very considerable merit, no doubt inherited his
artistic qualities from his mother, who was a niece of Thomas
Gainsborough ; his father was a prebendary of Hereford, and, it
may be added as not without interest, his elder brother was
the well-known Oriental traveller, author of The Modern
Egyptians, and other works. Born in 1800, he was articled at
the age of sixteen to Charles Heath, the line engraver ; but finding
little encouragement to pursue the highest branch of engraving,
took to what was then the new art of lithography, and after
some years, devoted himself, though with much regret, to that
method of reproduction. Among his first works were a series
of " Sketches by Gainsborough " ; then came " Imitations of
British Artists," and " Sketches by Sir Thomas Lawrence."

He was elected an Associate in 1827, and subsequently
appointed lithographer to the Queen, for whom he executed
several prints of members of the Royal Family from portraits



340 ASSOCIATES ELECTED UNDER LAWRENCE

by Winterhalter. He also, in his later years, held an official
post in the art department at South Kensington. His death
took place in 1872.



CHARLES TURNER, A.E.

Was born at Woodstock in 1773. He entered the Royal
Academy schools in 1795, and was employed by Boydell. His



Online LibraryJ. E. (John Evan) HodgsonThe Royal academy and its members 1768-1830 → online text (page 28 of 35)