J. E. (John Evan) Hodgson.

The Royal academy and its members 1768-1830 online

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is more probable that his genius supposing that he possessed
one found its grave in the repeated legacies which it pleased
capricious fortune to afflict him with ; her coup de grdce, which
entirely extinguished him, being the possession of a handsome
estate at Barton House, near Taunton, whither he retired to
languish in opulence until his death in 1794.

He performed the duties of secretary for exactly twenty
years, and on his retirement in 1788 was presented by the
Academy, on the motion of the Council, with a silver cup of the
value of eighty guineas, as so runs the resolution in the minutes
" an acknowledgment of their perfect satisfaction in the able,
faithful, and diligent discharge of his duty as secretary." The
way in which he kept the minute-books and other records shows
evidence of great care and neatness, and of a certain terse,
business-like power of expression.

Dates are unsatisfactory things, and hard to master. New-
ton's life overlapped that of Reynolds by two years at each end,
and the mere figures 1720 to 1794 do not seem to convey
anything very definite ; but we get a very different idea if we
translate these dates into the language of events. He was born
in the midst of the excitement of the South-Sea Bubble, and he
died when the last tail of Robespierre's followers, the miscreants
of the Terror, were being swiftly got rid of on the Place de la
Revolution, in Paris. The humblest life, did we possess authentic
annals, would probably be of surpassing interest. Newton's is
not to be ranked in that class ; he was not a great artist, and is
absolutely unknown to fame ; but he occupied a very honourable
position and performed its duties worthily ; he lived in stirring


times, with great men as his friends and associates ; we are
bound to respect his memory, and can only regret that we do
not know more of him.


G. M. Moser, first Keeper of the Royal Academy, was born
at SchafThausen, in Switzerland, in 1704. In an obituary notice
of him by Sir Joshua Reynolds, he is described as " in every sense
the father of the present race of artists." We beg very humbly
to demur, in spite of the great authority we have quoted, that
there is one very obvious and literal sense which must form an
exception. This necessity will force itself on everybody's reason,
and needs no discussion. What Reynolds meant, no doubt, was
that Moser had exercised great influence in his day. His name,
indeed, is connected with the earliest schemes for the formation
of an Academy ; and as Keeper, his skill in teaching, his great
influence over his pupils, and his " universal knowledge of all
branches of painting and sculpture," had done much to mould
the latest generation of artists. Farther than this the process
of affiliation need not be carried. What we know for certain is
that he had a daughter who was an artist, and that he and the
said daughter, Mary, passed into the ranks of the elect without
more ado on one glorious day of family apotheosis. At the
outset, the ranks of the Royal Academicians had occasionally
to be recruited from the byways of Art, but his claims and
qualifications, as well as those of his daughter, would hardly have
been considered valid a very few years after the foundation of
the institution.

In the little academy in St Martin's Lane, where Hogarth
used to draw, Moser had been a busy and important man. He
was manager and treasurer. He was clever, had a competent
knowledge of the construction of the human figure, and may
very probably have shown an aptitude for imparting that
knowledge, so that, in the formation of the Royal Academy,


they naturally thought of him as an eligible man to fill the
office of Keeper or head of the schools, an important post
requiring artistic knowledge and skill, combined with that
peculiar power which by no means universally accompanies
knowledge, the power of imparting it.

But although the Keeper's is the only will which can assert
itself permanently in the schools, the education is really in the
hands of the Visitors i.e., the Academicians and Associates
elected to serve for one month in each school. This marks
the most radical difference between the Academy of this
country and that of other nations, where every department is
under a permanent professor armed with full authority.

Each system has its advantages and its corresponding dis-
advantages, and it is in the nature of the case that no via media
is possible.

Under a permanent professor, there can be no vacillation or
change of purpose, his will asserts itself equally and uniformly,
and the progress made is more apparent. But it might be more
apparent than real. It is asking too much of human nature, or
asking what human nature only supplies in very rare instances,
to expect that a teacher will be able to understand and sym-
pathise with every idiosyncrasy, and throw himself into every
student's point of view ; and it is also too much to expect that
any system of education can be made elastic enough to adapt
itself to all the changeful phases of natural ability. The
professor is one man, he is round or he is square, and when he
is in sole authority all his pupils, the round men and the square,
must be made to fit into the same hole. The result is that in
Paris, for instance, all the disciples of one professor have a
family likeness, and one conversant with the matter can tell by
a glance at their work who it was that educated them.

On the other hand, the system of education by rotation of
visitors, which was adopted by the Academy and is still con-
tinued, is more likely to insure that each activity shall find its
corresponding receptivity. Each student is pretty sure amongst


the number of visitors to find at least one who thinks and
feels somewhat as he does, and from whom, therefore, he will
receive much more valuable and fruitful instruction than he can
from a man of a totally different turn of mind. Sympathy is
the only medium by which ideas can be communicated ; it puts
master and pupil on the same platform, and they see things
bearing the same relation to each other. But it cannot be
denied, that frequent changes among the teachers, and the
consequent frequent presentation of different classes of ideas,
may have the effect of puzzling and retarding the weaker minds ;
and that the absence of one will authoritatively insisting upon
one course, may cause students to loiter on the road ; and also
that the influence of the students themselves upon each other,
being constantly exercised, may become as powerful as that of
the teachers. In the office of Keeper as established in the
schools of the Royal Academy, we have a tolerable safeguard
against these disadvantages, for although he is not directly
responsible for the teaching, his authority does not cease, and his
will is able to assert itself and keep things moving.

Moser must have fulfilled the duties of the office very ably,
or Reynolds would not have gone out of his way to write such
a very comprehensive eulogium of him. He spoke of him as
the first gold chaser in the kingdom, praise which we can only
estimate the value of, when we have ascertained the quality of
gold chasing in general at that time. Moser's first employment
had been in chasing the brass ornaments in " buhl " cabinet
work. He executed some enamels for the watch of George III.,
for which he was rewarded by a hat full of guineas, and he also
designed the Great Seal of England, and is said to have been
an excellent medallist.

He died in 1783, and was buried at St Paul's, Covent Garden,
his funeral being attended by the Royal Academicians and by
the students, by whom, we are told, he was greatly loved. He
left his daughter Mary, R.A., to write gushing letters, and to
commit ineffectual flirtation with another Keeper of the Royal


Academy, the talented Fuseli ; as shall be related in due


Hayman was born in Devonshire in 1708, and studied under
Robert Brown, portrait painter. Fifteen years senior to
Reynolds, we may say his education was perfected and his
style formed ere yet the light had dawned upon British Art ;
when it was still in the condition to which Barry applies the
word " disgraceful," Fuseli that of " contemptible," and Constable
of " degraded." And of Francis Hayman himself we may say
that he shines by no light that he emitted ; he is visible only by
the reflected glare, often of a somewhat sulphurous character,
which was shed upon the inane eighteenth century by its
historians, its satirists, and by William Hogarth, whose work,
whatever its artistic rank may be, is certainly more strictly
illustrative of his times and surroundings than that of any artist
that ever lived. Hayman, by his theory of Art, his habits and
proclivities, belonged strictly to the age of Hogarth ; he was one
of the "indifferent engravers, coach painters, scene painters,
drapery painters," who used to meet of evenings to draw in the
academy in St Martin's Lane. He was one of those who " follow
the standard so righteously and so laudably established by
picture-dealers, picture-cleaners, picture-frame makers, and other
connoisseurs," by whom "the canvas was thrust between the
student and the sky tradition between him and God."

In some of the terrible scenes depicted by Hogarth's unspar-
ing pencil, the portrait of Hayman might have been appropriately
introduced, and may have been for all we know. In the nightly
hurly-burly of London streets, when the Mohawks were abroad,
and the miserable ineffectual watchman was not safe in his own
box, Hayman and Quin can be discerned lying helpless but
hopeful in the kennel, waiting to be " taken up." The " Mid-
night Modern Conversation " depicted a scene which, from all
accounts, must have been extremely familiar to the painter, who


was, at the same time, esteemed the best historical painter in
the kingdom, but who preferred Figg the prize-fighter's amphi-
theatre to the Academy. Hayman was no doubt a clever man,
but without originality, with no consciousness of the responsi-
bility of Art, no perception of the dignity of its mission, and he
is chiefly interesting as reflecting the artistic barbarism of his
age. Great and shining lights arose in his day, but he compre-
hended them not. He was appointed Librarian of the Royal
Academy under the presidency of Reynolds, and Thomas
Gainsborough was his colleague as a member of the body, and
had been his pupil.

Hayman practised portrait painting, as everybody in those
days did who had to earn a living by painting ; his likeness of
himself in the National Portrait Gallery exhibits unmistakable
vigour and a certain rude intellect and perception of character.
He decorated Vauxhall, painted scenes for theatres and
illustrated books ; all of which achievements have fallen into
the limbo of oblivion, and at best only supply interest for the
curious and the erudite, who love to trace the byways and the
lanes which lead into the great highways of human progress
and enlightenment. An excellent specimen of his work is to be
found in a picture belonging to the Marylebone Cricket Club,
which also possesses an engraving of the picture on which is
written in ink, "The Royal Academy Club in Marybone

Hayman was appointed librarian by the king in 1770. We
are informed that he then had "bodily infirmities" and the
small emoluments served as a consolation. He died in



" EXAMPLE is better than precept." This is an old saying, and
in all probability it contains as much solid kernel of truth as
any of the proverbial nuts which the searcher after wisdom is
called upon to crack, and it may at any rate be accurately and
legitimately applied to the matter of Art education.

There can be no doubt, that the most fruitful and valuable
assistance which can be given to the progress of Art, is by pro-
ducing fine pictures and statues. The productive and the criti-
cal faculties are distinctly different animals, and although they
may be seen occasionally to run evenly in the same team, they
are certainly not housed in the same stable. Their union in
practice may be compared to those abnormal teams which sur-
prise the traveller in the East, where a camel is seen ploughing
with a bullock : it is a makeshift which .enables the fellaheen to
overcome the stubbornness of the soil, though it is fatal to the
regularity of the furrow. Or to set metaphors aside, which like
bills of exchange are very pleasant when drawn, but troublesome
when they come to maturity, the productive faculty works un-
consciously, and the critical consciously. The great productive
genius cannot tell you why he did a thing ; he did it because it
came to him to do it that way. He did not think about it, and
moreover the moment he did stop to think, he hesitated ; he
saw two or three possible roads instead of one inevitable one,
and the odds are that he put down his brush for that day, and



gave the matter up as hopelessly abstruse and complicated.
This is marvellous, and to all but the few gifted sons of men who
possess the divine faculty, it appears incredible. The creative
faculty is first in order of generation, the critical is born of it,
and without the one the other could not exist. Hence it is that
the function of all teachers of Art of all academies resolves itself
into reasoning about what others did intuitively and uncon-
sciously. But, and here the matter becomes much more compli-
cated, there is a presiding faculty which we call taste, which is
evidently not intuitive, which has been built up gradually by the
labours of the critic, and by which the artist and creator himself
is guided. There is a vast storehouse of ideas expressed by Art,
out of which the artist selects by assimilation, and his selection
when completed constitutes his style. To guide him in his
selection is what academies profess to do.

Experience has proved that the best teacher is not always the
best artist, and moreover that the best artists are often deficient
in the critical faculty. It probably could never have been said
of any man that he painted like an angel and judged like an
ass. It is an absurdity to generalise and say that artists know
less about pictures than many people do who have not studied
the art practically ; but it is true, that very great artists who see
with the eyes of enthusiasm and imagination, sometimes do not
give themselves the trouble of going through the processes of
comparison and reflection which are necessary to form sound
judgment of the works of others : and it is also tolerably certain,
that the great artist who does a thing, he does not know why, in
obedience to some imperious impulse in his nature, is less able
to instruct and help others, than he who is in the habit of
accounting to himself for every step he takes. Rubens
acquired only the defects of his style, his florid exaggeration,
from a vigorous and original painter, Adam Van Noort ;
the judicious equipoise, the magnificent completeness of his
art, he owed to the teachings of a timid pedant, Otto


Great, very great, and much to be admired is that mysteri-
ous power given to a few men, to as few probably as is the more
resplendent gift of genius the power to impart knowledge, to
arouse curiosity, and to quicken enthusiasm ; to whom it is
vouchsafed to utter the winged word which falls on the struggling
brain like an inspiration, or like a shaft of light which pierces
the dark chambers of thought, and reveals their disorder and
their emptiness. Such men are as necessary to a great educa-
tional establishment like the Royal Academy as are artists of
genius who give a lustre to its exhibitions, and who stimulate
students by their example. That it has not always been equally
fortunate in the one case as in the other, is but natural ; it has
uniformly and consistently followed the course ordained by its
constitution and prescribed by reason. Each succeeding presi-
dent has delivered his discourses ; in the chairs of painting,
architecture, perspective, and anatomy, professor has succeeded
professor. And though the echoes of their voices have died
away, and their literary efforts have found a common grave in
the oblivion of the waste-paper basket ; though the " Dis-
courses" of Reynolds is still pronounced to be the most "stimu-
lating " of Art books ; we may venture to hope that many have
not been without success, that the words of honest advice
clothed with the authority of experience and the utterance of
profound conviction have not been thrown away, and that with
its practical teaching the Royal Academy has for upwards of a
century and a quarter disseminated lofty views and genuine
maxims which have equally powerfully contributed to its funda-
mental object, the furtherance of British Art.

It was at its second meeting, on I7th December 1768, at
which thirty members were present, that the Academy pro-
ceeded to the election by ballot of four professors as provided
for by the Instrument, viz., those of Painting, Architecture,
Perspective and Geometry, and Anatomy, the first three to be
chosen from among the Academicians. The choice fell on
Edward Penny, R.A., for painting ; Thomas Sandby, R.A., for


architecture; Samuel Wale, R.A., for perspective; and Dr
William Hunter for anatomy. The chairs of Painting, Archi-
tecture, and Anatomy still remain, and to them have been
added that of Sculpture in 1810, and that of Chemistry in 1871.
In 1860 the professorship of perspective was turned into a
teachership ; while in 1886 Associates were admitted to be
candidates for the three chairs, the occupancy of which had
been hitherto restricted to Academicians.

The duties of the originally appointed professors were laid
down in the Instrument. They were each to give six lectures
annually. Those in painting were to be " calculated to instruct
the students in the principles of composition, to form their taste
of design and colouring, to strengthen their judgment, to point
out to them the beauties and imperfections of celebrated works
of Art, and the particular excellencies or defects of great masters ;
and, finally, to lead them into the readiest and most efficacious
paths of study." Those in architecture were to be " calculated
to form the taste of the students, to instruct them in the laws
and principles of composition, to point out to them the beauties
or faults of celebrated productions, to fit them for an unpre-
judiced study of books, and for a critical examination of struc-
tures." The Professor of Perspective is enjoined to " clearly and
fully illustrate all the useful propositions of Geometry, together
with the principle of Lineal and Aerial Perspective, and also
the projection of shadows, reflections, and refractions," and to
" particularly confine himself to the quickest, easiest, and most
exact methods of operation," while the anatomy lectures are
to be " adapted to the Arts of Design." All the lectures, more-
over, are to be " laid before the Council for its approbation, which
shall be obtained in writing, before they can be read in the
public schools." But this somewhat arbitrary and oppressive
regulation does not seem to have remained long in force, and
the only restrictions subsequently placed on the discretion of
the professors was that no "comments or criticisms on the
opinions or productions of living artists in this country shall be


introduced into any of the lectures delivered in the Royal

A separate diploma was given to the professors, or at any
rate to those who were not members of the Academy. The
original draft, signed I5th December 1769, of the one bestowed
on Dr Hunter exists. It is addressed to " our trusty and well-
beloved William Hunter, Doctor of Physick," and after the
preamble as in the other form of diploma goes on, " and seeing
that no liberal art can attain perfection without the concurrence
and co-operation of other sciences, we have resolved to appoint
certain professors to instruct the students in various branches of
knowledge necessary to the arts. We, therefore, in considera-
tion of your great skill in anatomy, do by these presents
nominate and appoint you Professor of Anatomy in our said
Academy of Arts, hereby granting unto you all such honours,
privileges, and emoluments thereof as are consistent with the
nature of the establishment, and compatible with the Instrument
of Institution, and with the laws and regulations by which the
said Society is governed." A similar diploma was also received
by Dr Hunter's successor, as the President reports to the
General Assembly on 3rd November 1783, that "His Majesty
had been graciously pleased to approve the election of John
Sheldon, Esq., as Professor of Anatomy, and to sign his diploma,
dated i8th July 1783." That the outside professor, as we may
call him, might be brought into touch with the general business
of the Academy, it was resolved by the Council on 27th Decem-
ber 1768, "that Dr William Hunter (as Anatomy Professor)
have free access to all General Assemblys." Whether he ever
availed himself of this privilege does not appear, nor do we
know if it was continued to his successor, but it is not in exist-
ence now ; nor are diplomas given to the non-member pro-

Two other entries in the early minutes of the Council with
reference to the anatomy lectures sound curious at the present
day. On I7th March 1769, it was ordered " That the other


lectures on the muscles be at such times as a body can be
procured from the sheriffs, to whom he (Dr Hunter) recom-
mended that application should be made." And on I5th
January 1770, there is the entry, "the President was desired
to make an application to the master of the Surgeons' Com-
pany for a body to be dissected in the Royal Academy by Dr

We will now give some account of the lives of the men who
were first chosen to fill these very important posts in the consti-
tution of the new society.


the first professor who occupied the Royal Academy chair of
Painting, had, in the troublous times which the artists of
England underwent before they found a haven of rest in royal
patronage, occupied the post of Vice-President of the Incor-
porated Society of Artists, and his signature appears amongst
those of the seceders from that body. He was born at Knuts-
ford, in Cheshire, in 1714, and was a pupil of Hudson, some years
probably before young Joshua Reynolds made his timid entry
into a studio which is now associated with his own imperishable
fame. He afterwards studied in Rome under Benefiali ; which
may be called a dumb fact, as neither Penny nor Benefiali are
credited with possessing a voice which is audible at this distance
of time. Penny is said to have been much admired for his
portraits on a small scale, and some of his historical and senti-
mental works were engraved. Amongst these was a " Death
of General Wolfe," a popular subject in those days. Romney,
Mortimer, and Barry tried their hands at it, and others might
have continued had not Benjamin West given the finishing
stroke to the hero of Quebec, and killed him so effectually that
none has since dared to lift his brush against him. In two
pictures Penny represented "Virtue Rewarded and Profligacy
Punished " ; also a " Marquis of Granby relieving a sick


Soldier," which does not seem to have perpetuated the memory
of his lordship's benevolence and condescension.

His influence among his fellow-artists would appear to have
been considerable, as at the General Assembly of the 3rd January
1769, the third held, it was resolved "That the thanks of the
General Assembly of the Academicians be given to Mr Penny
for his activity in bringing several worthy members into the

Of his lectures as Professor of Painting, which he continued
to deliver annually till 1783, when his health failed, and he
resigned the office, there is no record.

He appears to have succumbed to the infirmity of so many
of the noble minds of that period, and married a lady of pro-
perty, which enabled him to end his days in luxurious retire-
ment at Chiswick, where he died in 1791.


The life of the first Professor of Architecture offers the
promise of picturesque materials and an opportunity for that

Online LibraryJ. E. (John Evan) HodgsonThe Royal academy and its members 1768-1830 → online text (page 6 of 35)