J. E. (John Evan) Hodgson.

The Royal academy and its members 1768-1830 online

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in execution but with a certain massive dignity, and when we have
been told that it is by an unknown artist we have said to our-
selves it is by Francis Cotes. So wags the world ; we give the
great name to things which have no claim to it, the lesser name
we forget, and obscurer merit is defrauded of its meed.



Amongst the original members of the Royal Academy were
two sons of George Dance, who was architect to the Corporation
of London, and who designed the Mansion House and some
churches in the city.

George Dance, junior, was born in 1740. Following his
father's profession, at the age of twenty-eight he succeeded
him in the office of City Surveyor, and it was no doubt his
official position rather than anything he could have achieved
at that early age which caused his nomination in the same
year into the ranks of the newly instituted Academy. He
justified the choice, however, by works subsequently executed.
Newgate Prison, probably the best of these, was a good
example of expression in architecture ; its grim portals
looked like the entrances to the realm of abandoned hope,
and its massive walls, darkened by time and unpierced by
openings, were like barriers which admitted of no return.
His most ambitious effort, and also his greatest failure, was
the facade of Guildhall, a building utterly devoid of civic
dignity or of apparent appropriateness. But it is not in con-
nection with architecture that we best love to recall the name
of George Dance. Amongst the treasures of the Royal
Academy, is a beautiful series of profile portraits by him.
They were engraved by William Daniell ; but no reproduc-
tion can convey any idea of the excellence of the originals,
of their firm and graceful pencilling, or their lifelike expression,
which, to a certain extent, reminds one of Holbein.

In the early days of the Academy it was customary to fine
those members who did not exhibit, and George Dance appears
as a defaulter on more than one occasion. An entry in the
Council minutes of 2nd September 1769, states: "Mr George
Dance attended and paid the treasurer the penalty of 5, which
he had incurred by having omitted to exhibit in the Royal


Exhibition, 1769 ; " and on 6th November 1772, there is another
entry to the effect that " George Dance, Esq., and John
Richards, Esq., attended and made such excuses for their having
omitted to send performances to the last exhibition as was (stc)
deemed sufficient by the Council ; " while at the same meeting,
Zucchi, the Associate, was fined 2, ics. for not having exhibited.
But George Dance made himself useful in other ways than
exhibiting, as he was appointed with William Tyler in 1795 to
examine into the finances of the Academy, on the resignation by
Chambers of the treasurership. As a consequence of this report
it was resolved to appoint auditors, and the first two chosen on
loth December 1796, were the authors of the report. They
were several times re-elected, and on 2nd February 1799, the
Council voted each of them a silver cup of the value of twenty-
five guineas, " for the very great services they had rendered in
investigating and settling the accounts of the Royal Academy
up to the present year." Ten years later Dance was voted
another silver cup of the value of 50, "for the ability and
fidelity with which he long discharged the office of auditor."
He was elected Professor of Architecture in 1798 and resigned
in 1805, never apparently having delivered any lectures. He
died in 1825 and is buried in St Paul's. He was the last
survivor of the foundation members.

NATHANIEL DANCE, R.A. [Sir Nathaniel Dance-
Holland, Bart],

the third son of George Dance, senior, born in 1734, devoted him-
self to painting. He studied under Francis Hayman, and after
Thomas Gainsborough, was the most distinguished pupil of a man
of whom it may be said, that if not witty himself he was the cause
of wit in others. Dance afterwards studied in Italy, and on his
return acquired considerable celebrity both as a painter of
portraits and history. History in those days was the term used
to designate a form of Art which had no particular foundation in


nature, or in impressions which nature produced on people's
imaginations ; it was the result of attentive study of the works
of Guercino and the Carracci, of Luca Giordano and Carlo

Nathaniel Dance painted excellent portraits and might have
gone on triumphantly in the more difficult pursuit of history,
had not his career been cut short by circumstances over which
he only had a partial control. Nature had gifted him with a
handsome person and a fine leg ; qualities which attracted the
observant and appreciative eye of a certain Mrs Dummer, who,
in addition to other attractions which she no doubt possessed,
had an independent income of 18,000 a year. So Dance
married her, and on the ist November 1790 resigned his seat
at the Royal Academy, forsaking the practice both of portrait
and history painting. Soon afterwards he assumed the name
of Holland in addition to that of Dance, was elected a member
of Parliament, and was presented with a baronetcy by his
grateful country in 1800. He died at Winchester in 1811. He
is said occasionally to have painted landscapes, in the intervals
of the more serious duty of governing the country, but we can
call to mind no example which has left any definite impression.


If in the race for wealth and honours selfish men have in
former times kept the monopoly to themselves, it is the case
no longer ; in many directions we may say, " les carrieres
sont libres." In Art they have always been so ; but it happens
that the only two ladies ever elected into the ranks of the
Royal Academy were at its outset. Their names are on the
first roll call Mary Moser and Angelica KaufTman. Mary
Moser was the daughter of G. M. Moser, R.A., the first Keeper
of the Royal Academy. Her name is unknown to fame
except as a flower painter, in which capacity she decorated
an entire room at Frogmore for Queen Charlotte. Disappointed


in an attachment she is supposed to have formed for her
father's successor in the office of Keeper, Fuseli, she married
a Captain Lloyd, and died at an advanced age on 2nd May


This lady, whose correct name was Marie Anne Angelique
Kauffman, was a far more interesting personality than Mary
Moser. Her history is full of graceful suggestiveness, and
contains a touch of deep pathos, which has been made the
groundwork of a romance.

Let us, before relating the incidents of her life, and for
fear of creating an anti-climax of interest, proceed to investi-
gate her claims as an artist. It must be remembered that she
acquired her Art in Italy, in an age of utter artistic decrepi-
tude, when the national genius had sunk to the lowest depths,
when the energy and enthusiasm which had once animated
the painter had been replaced by a mindless formalism a
blind worship of old examples. Angelica, from her earliest
student days, had been taught by every one around her, that
there was but one path in Art that reverently to follow the
footsteps of Raphael, Michael Angelo, and Correggio, though
even at an immense distance, was the noblest career left to
the painter ; nothing else was possible to any one who had
self-respect ; and she acted on the teaching. She was a
woman, and therefore our readers will pardon such a hazardous
generalisation an optimist; she believed in the possibility of
regenerating Art, and womanlike, she also would be satisfied
with nothing but the highest motives and the loftiest aims ;
there was to be no truckling expediency, no half-hearted com-
promises with indifference and a public taste which had gone
to the bad. High Art, Art of the highest, or nothing, was her
motto. And with all that, she failed in the manner she had
selected. Meagreness is no quality of any great Art, least of


all of the Art of the Italian Renaissance ; that was ample,
voluminous, large in its forms, unstinted in its curvature, pre-
senting huge bosses of form against vast vistas of receding
space ; whereas the poor, stinted, half-starved lines of Angelica,
almost as flat as the backgrounds, which she fondly hoped
they relieved from, her evident artificiality of attitude and
costume, suggest, alas, for her reputation, no inspiration but
pedantry, and no love but at second hand, a love not of the
subject but of the idea of the subject. Her colouring, more-
over, had a certain rufousness and tendency to vinous tones
which is often very unpleasant. This may seem a harsh ver-
dict, but of what use is fame, and how is a man bettered by
it when he is dead? In the dim regions hidden from the
sight of mortals and impervious to their fancy, where the freed
spirits are roaming, it may suffice to them, and perhaps give
them greater satisfaction to know that we reverence their
memories and bow in silent admiration of their virtues ; and
to gentle Angelica, the " Miss Angel " of Reynolds' note-books,
it is greater glory to have kept a place in history, and to be
mentioned with tenderness and respect, although no one now
cares for her pictures.

At the date of the foundation of the Royal Academy and
of her nomination by the king to the rank of R.A., Angelica
was living in London with her father, Jean Joseph Kauffman,
a Swiss portrait painter ; she was only six-and-twenty, and is
described as very beautiful. She was born at Coire, in the
Grisons, in 1741, and had landed in this country three years
before the foundation of the Academy in the company of Lady
Wentworth, with a sort of aureole or nimbus of glory about
her, which she derived from a very laudatory notice by the
Abbe Winckelmann, who, with Mengs, Algarotti, and Roger de
Piles, were the shining lights of criticism in that benighted age.
We may judge how great must have been its darkness by the
darkness of its lights.

Lady Wentworth's fair young protegee became the rage;


her beauty, her accomplishments, the charm of her manner,
her sweet voice and her musical talents, delighted every one.
Society was at her feet, and commissions poured in upon her.
Reynolds and Fuseli are said to have been rivals for her
heart. It was decreed, however, that neither of them was to
marry her, that her affections, her trustfulness, her desire for
sympathy, all that was womanly in her nature, were to be
cruelly imposed and trampled upon, that she was to be duped
into the semblance of a marriage with a rascally adventurer
of low degree, who had deserted a wife still living in Germany,
and who was crippled, and could have had no possible motive
for marrying her but cupidity. This fellow's name is supposed
to have been Brandt, but he had assumed so many aliases
the fact was difficult to establish. When he crossed the path of
hapless Angelica Kauffman, he had some money in his pocket,
was dressed in fine clothes, and passed himself off as Count
Frederic de Horn, of noble Swedish family. Such a person really
existed, and it is said that Brandt had once served him as
valet de chambre. Brandt was a fine-looking man, and had
somehow picked up a certain polish of manner, with a swag-
gering air, which imposed upon the simple, unsuspecting
Angelica, who conceived a passion for him, and was finally per-
suaded into a secret marriage with him. He soon, however,
began to extort money from her ; her suspicions were aroused,
and her father, in whose house she had remained, heard of it.
Inquiries were made, and as there appeared to have been
informalities about the marriage, her friends set to work to
get it dissolved. It was ascertained that Brandt had a wife
living, and the marriage became null ; Angelica, out of pure
generosity, paying the rascal a sum of money to be off and
show himself no more.

For some years a cloud hung over Angelica, but she out-
lived it, and was quite restored to public favour. After seven-
teen years spent in England, she married, in 1781, a Venetian
painter, Antonio Zucchi, one of the first elected Associates of


the Academy, and in the same year removed to Rome, where
she continued to practise her Art, most industriously.

There is, in the Library of the Royal Academy, a MS. by
Angelica, which describes the pictures executed by her in Italy.
It is a wonderful monument of industry, and she must also
have possessed great facility. Patronage never ceased ; she
painted for kings, princes, and cardinals, and quite realised
the conception of a great artist's life. She died in Rome on
5th November 1807, an d was buried in the Church of S.
Andrea delle Fratte, with great pomp.

In a letter to Joseph Bonomi, from a correspondent of
his at Rome, Dr M. A. Borsi, which letter Bonomi sent on to
West, to be read at a General Assembly of Academicians, a
full account is given of her death and funeral. The ceremony
was " conducted by Canova," the church being " decorated as is
customary for nobles." "The corpse was accompanied to the
church by two very numerous brotherhoods, fifty capuchins
and fifty priests. The bier was carried by some of the
brotherhood, but the four corners of the pall by four young
ladies, properly dressed for the occasion ; the four tassels
were held by the first four gentlemen of the Academy (St
Luke) ; these were followed by the rest of the Academicians
and Virtuosi, who carried in triumph two of her pictures."
The deceased artist is spoken of in this letter as "the great
woman, the always illustrious, holy and most pious Mrs
Angelica Kauffman."

All these honours, this pomp and pageantry clearly indicate
that in the eyes of the later Romans of the eighteenth century
Angelica Kauffman was a very great artist indeed. We don't
think so, we think something which is very nearly the reverse of
that. An age which looks upon certain modern developments
at home and abroad as the ultimate and most perfect out-
come of centuries of art, is not likely to accept an art which
has in reality no foundation in nature, which is based on a


That art started with the following proposition : that, how-
ever actions may be supposed to have occurred, and whatever
amount of rigidity or irregularity the actors may have been
momentarily forced into by passion or excitement, are things
immaterial to the artist. For pictorial represention it was before
all things necessary to insist, that in the events of history, in
moments fraught with the fate of nations and of men, the actors
always arranged themselves in circles, in two evenly balanced
crowds, or else they availed themselves of fortuitous inequalities
in the ground to form a pyramid, that the principal actor con-
cerned always occupied the middle place, that he always stood in
a graceful and statuesque attitude, that the subordinate char-
acters who were grouped around him, threw themselves into
postures which afforded the best opportunity of displaying their
muscular development, and, in a general way, however prepos-
terous and absurd the whole scene might appear to a casual
spectator, it was nevertheless something very superior because it
was ideal. Angelica Kauffman was a disciple of this school,
she derived from its great apostle the Abb6 Winckelmann who
had founded her fortune by puffing her ; she, like Cipriani and
others of her age, imparted to her classical compositions some-
thing of that attenuated grace and elegance which found its
healthiest expression in the furniture of Chippendale. In the
matter of colouring she adhered strictly to rule ; the upper
members of society, gods, heroes, prophets, etc., were represented
with white skins, and the different ranks in a descending scale were
discriminated by a nearer and nearer approach to the colour of
an old portmanteau. It is an admirably simple and intelligible
hieroglyph you have a white Virgin and Child and a brown
Joseph, and a backwoodsman though he may not have read or
have forgotten the story, will know at once that Joseph is a very
subordinate character.

Such conventionalities and makeshifts were the essence of
Art in the eighteenth century, dignity was supposed to reside,
not in its essential attributes, but in its trappings. It was con-


sidered infra dig. to paint a lady in the garb she always wore, a
conventional hybrid garment was invented by portrait painters,
the " bed gown " as the Duchess of Rutland called it ; and in-
credible as it may seem to us, who have gone into the opposite
extreme, when West was designing his masterpiece of the death
of General Wolfe, Reynolds urged him earnestly and also very
happily vainly, to represent all the characters in classical
garments, as more befitting the dignity of the event.

Of what value is criticism, and who shall estimate the true
value of Art, when he sees the remains of Angelica Kauffman
followed to the grave with almost regal honours, and not a
century later a picture of two ugly French peasants saying their
prayers in a ploughed field, eagerly competed for and finally
purchased at the price of a very comfortable fortune ?

These two events surely mark the extreme limit of the
pendulum in each direction ; excess cannot be carried farther,
and after excess comes reaction. Angelica Kauffman is for-
gotten and the art she practised is now a laughing-stock and a
mockery, but are we perfectly certain that the gods we worship
are firmly enthroned : is it not natural and permissible in a
patient student of Art history, to surmise that these last shall in
their turn be torn down and degraded to make room for other
idols, who for the time being shall satisfy the ever-shifting phases
of ignorance and caprice.

History is like two mirrors facing each other, before us and
behind us is the same prospect repeating itself ad infinitum.


was chiefly known as a scene painter, and for many years was
employed at Covent Garden Theatre. He also painted land-
scapes in oil, representing old baronial halls and ruins of abbeys,
etc., for which there was a great demand in his day. On the
death of Newton in 1788, he was elected to fill the office of
Secretary, and held it for twenty-two years, till his death on 1 8th


December 1810. Besides making a catalogue of the art treasures
belonging to the Academy, he carefully repaired its famous
cartoon by Leonardo da Vinci, and in many ways showed
himself a zealous and capable officer.


born in 1722, was a native of Gascony. Like another celebrated
painter of marine subjects, Clarkson Stanfield, he acquired his
knowledge and his predilection for the subject by serving before
the mast. He came, or rather he was brought, to this country
in 1752 with the crew of a Spanish vessel captured by a British
frigate. When released from confinement in the Marshalsea,
he applied himself to marine-painting under the tuition of a
certain Charles Brooking, eminent in that line. He won a name
for himself, and in 1772 was appointed marine-painter to the
king. His contributions to the exhibition of the Royal
Academy were very numerous, and consisted chiefly of sea pieces ;
indeed, the first ten exhibitions contained no less than forty
works of his, all of English naval battles, one of the most
important being Lord Howe's victory over the combined French
and Spanish fleets off Gibraltar in 1782. In 1792 he succeeded
Wilson as Librarian, but died in the following year, and was
buried in Marylebone churchyard.

Being a sailor, he had naturally a competent knowledge of
shipping and craft of all descriptions, and some of his drawings
in pen and ink heightened with washes, which are preserved in
the print-room of the British Museum, are executed with spirit,
and show great knowledge of effect. In his oil-paintings, many
of which are at Greenwich Hospital, he followed the traditions
of Van de Velde, who had effectually set the type in that depart-
ment, but with less precision and with none of the Dutchman's
exquisite mastery over his materials. The pictures of Dominic
Serres are pleasing in colour but rather thin, and wanting in
depth and atmosphere.




a name well known to lovers of British Art, was born in 1714.
His father was a clergyman in Montgomeryshire, and came of
a good family. The elder brother of the painter possessed a
small estate at Colomondie, near Llanberis, which he was
obliging enough to vacate and to bequeath to Richard Wilson
just in the nick of time, when the latter was in sore straits and
dependent only upon his salary as Librarian for his sustenance.

Art truly is a lottery : some there are who draw great
prizes ; genius of a high order usually commands success, but
mediocrity cunningly directed may achieve it also, and on the
other hand genius of a conspicuous kind may fail. Merit has
been known to starve while folly carouses. We know the stock
virtues industry, preseverence, enthusiasm, and a certain
tinge of self-consciousness ; these, with some genius, are sup-
posed to constitute the model type of the successful man ; but
experience teaches us that we have to reckon with other facul-
ties not so easily defined, with a certain impalpable tone, for
instance, which pervades a man, with the quality of his
utterances, whether they be well-timed or the reverse, with
everything in fact which proceeds from him, with the whole
atmosphere of influences which surrounds him. Great men have
languished in neglect, as for example Ruysdael, the greatest of
Dutch landscape painters, Constable, Muller, and even Turner,
as regards his greatest works. All these had to bear the " quips
and scorns, which patient merit of the unworthy takes," and
Richard Wilson falls into the same unhappy category.

To assign Wilson his proper place amongst British land-
scape painters is a somewhat hazardous venture. He was
under Italian influence, as old Crome was under Dutch, and
as Gainsborough was under Flemish. If we compare these
three typical early landscape painters of the school by the
standard of nature we must begin by putting Gainsborough


out of court. He was greater than either of them, but the
qualities of his landscapes were purely technical ; there is no
single excellence which we can point to by which he advanced
the art in the sense of bringing it nearer to nature ; his skies,
mountains, trees, and meadows were merely plausible pretexts
for the display of his own emotions ; his landscape was in a
high degree subjective. Whereas Wilson and Crome, though
conventional in their forms and the treatment of foreground,
were based upon nature, or, at least, on one fact of nature;
everything they represented is seen through the medium of
atmosphere, an atmosphere which is perhaps too uniformly
hazy and palpable, a little difficult to breathe, but which is a
nearer approach to objective truth than anything in Gains-

Wilson began his artistic career as a portrait painter,
having been placed for instruction with one Thomas Wright
who followed that branch of the profession in Covent Garden.
He is said to have achieved some success in this line, but on
going to Italy in 1749 he abandoned portraits for landscape.
Wilson spent six years of his life in Italy, studying chiefly
in the district about Rome. Ruskin considers that "its
amorphous structure of tufa and volcanic debris covered with
a diseased and overgrown flora," was fatal to him ; by such
scenery, he says, "whose spirit I conceive to be especially
opposed to the natural tone of the English mind, his originality
was entirely overpowered." This may or may not be. In
Wilson's day the natural tone of the English mind had not
yet asserted itself, it had not yet found its first exponent in
Turner. Wilson brought back from Italy a taste for what
Fuseli somewhere calls the "serenity" of Claude, and also an
affectation of classicism, which led him to introduce figures in
very incongruous positions, as the Apollo in the midst of
naturalistic clouds in the " Niobe." This was pointed out by
Reynolds in his fourteenth Discourse, and the impeachment
must be acknowledged to hold good. But he was a fine land-


scape painter for all that, and in the presence of the hard and
stern realism of the present day it is permissible to regret the

Online LibraryJ. E. (John Evan) HodgsonThe Royal academy and its members 1768-1830 → online text (page 9 of 35)