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George Morland, painter, London (1763-1804) online

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From the water-colour sketch by T. Rowlandson.




(1763— 1804).



Honorary Lay Member of the Society of Scottish Artists.





If the celebrity of a man at his death may be gauged
by the number of biographies of him which then make
their appearance, George Morland must have died
famous. No fewer than four ' Lives ' of the artist
appeared shortly after his death, written respectively
by William Collins (1805), F. W. Blagdon (1806), J.
Hassell (1806), and George Dawe, R.A. (1807). All
four may be consulted in the British Museum, but will
with difficulty be met with elsewhere. In these cir-
cumstances, a new biography seems at least permissible,
more particularly as George Morland still remains a
famous man and numbers a greater multitude of
admirers than ever. His pictures somehow appeal to
the English people as no others do — perhaps because
he was so thorough an Englishman himself, and be-
cause he painted English subjects in a way no man
ever did before or has done since.

In the following Life, the biography by George
Dawe, R.A., is chiefly relied on, both because it was
written by an intimate friend of Morland and the


vi Preface

Morland family, and because it is by an artist of some
standing and knowledge. No attempt in Dawe's bio-
graphy, or in these pages, is made to extenuate George
Morland's faults, but the reader will be gratified to
learn that the artist's life, which is invariabl}' depicted
by recent writers in such dark colours, possessed
many good features. Like his contemporary, Robert
Burns, George Morland may lay claim to that gentle
forbearance which, in consideration of sterling work
performed, ought always to be extended to genius.

In an Appendix will be found a great deal of
material, never yet published, not only illustrative of
the life of Morland, but also, the author trusts, hkely
to be of interest and value to the collector and con-



I. Introductory - - - i
11. Morland's Birth and Boyhood - - 1 1
HI. Early Life in London and Margate - - 19
IV. A Trip to France, and Marriage - - 29
V. Camden Town, and Morland's Earlier Paint-
ings and Prints - - - - 37
VL Paddington Glory, and Disaster - - 50
VIL Leicestershire, and Charlotte Street, Fitzroy

Square - - - - -59

VIII. London Hiding-Places, and the Isle ok Wight 71

IX. 'Alas, Poor Yorick !' - - - - 80

PARI' I. — Paintings by George Morland.

A. — Paintings by George Morland exhibited publicly

in Great Britain - - - - 89

B. — How Morland signed his Pictures - - 102

C. — Critical Remarks on the Works of George

Morland ; by George Dawe, R.A. - - 104.

viii Contents



D. — List of Oil Paintings and some Drawings by (or


Messrs. Christie, Manson and Woods, London,

FROM 1888 TO 1892 inclusive, WITH THE PrICES
OBTAINED - - - - -

P ART II. — Engravings after George Morland.

A. — Engravings after Paintings, or Sketches, by George
Morland, in the Print Room of the British
Museum - - - - " 125

B. — Chronological Catalogue of Engravings, Etch-
ings, ETC., after George Morland, showing
THE Years of their Publication, etc. - 144

C — Engravings sold by Messrs. Sotheby, Wilkinson
AND Hodge, Dec. 20, 1894, with the Prices
obtained - - - - - 162

Index to the Engravers of the Works of George

Morland - - - 165


1. George Morland. From the Water-colour sketch by T.

Rowlandson, in the British Museum. Frontispiece.

2. Juvenile Navigators ; by George Morland. Engraved by

William Ward, 1789.

3. The Farmer's Stable, being a representation ot that be-

longing to the White Lion, at Paddington ; by George
Morland. The original is in the National Gallery,
London. Engraved by William Ward, 1792.

4. Gipsies ; by George Morland. Engraved by William Ward,


5. Selling Fish ; by George Morland. Engraved by John

Raphael Smith, 1799.

6. Peasant and Pigs ; by George Morland. The original is in

the author's possession. Engraved by John Raphael
Smith, 1803.

' Those who have visited the cottage of the peasant, who
have enjoyed rural sports, or engaged in rustic occupations, will
feel a peculiar charm in the works of Morland, arising from
associations which the truth of his pencil never fails to excite.'

George Dawe, R.A., 1807.

' In all the range of British art, there are few things better
than a good Morland.'

W. E. Henley, 1889.



Towards the close of the eighteenth century a group
of British painters made themselves conspicuous by the
excellence of their drawing, the purity of their style,
and the elegance of their designs. Among them were
Francis Wheatley, R.A., James Ward, R.A., and Henry
Singleton ; but chief of all was George Morland. It
has been customary to refer to the life of Morland with
a sigh, and to remark that he was a most idle and dis-
sipated genius. No doubt, he yielded to the convivial
customs of the age in which he lived ; but to imagine
that Morland's was an idle life is to be altogether mis-
taken. No man worked harder than George Morland
during the twenty years or so of his artist life. If any-
one doubts this, he ought to visit the Print Room of
the British Museum and carefully examine the 369
examples of engravings and etchings executed after
Morland ; he ought to note the enormous labour he
bestowed upon studies for the animals and figures
which he represented with matchless skill ; and he
ought to remember the immense number of paintings
which Morland produced besides those that have been
engraved. He will then admit that few artists have
worked harder or worked better than George Morland,
and he will willingly accord him a high place among
the artists not merely of Britain but of the world.



George Morland

The life of George Morland corresponds somewhat
with that of another genius, like him too short-lived,
and yet, like him, putting into his short life infinitely
more than is to be found in the longer lives of most men.
Robert Burns was born in 1759, and died in 1796, aged
thirty-seven. George Morland was born in 1763, and died
in 1804, aged forty-one. Whilst Burns was the poet,
Morland was the painter, of Nature. Both represented
Nature in her homeliest garb, and yet both delighted
the world with the grace and beauty of their represen-
tations. There was a truth and finish in the work
both of Burns and Morland which secured immediate
and universal approval. In other words, both men
were geniuses, and, happily, were recognised as such in
their own day. Unhappily for both, what has cursed
so many a genius ruined and killed them.

Fortunately for British art, Morland lived at a time
when English landscape was eminently picturesque.
The hideous erections of the nineteenth century had
not disfigured one of the most lovely countries in the
world. Thatch-covered houses and cottages were the
universal rule. Stone and not brick was their fabric.
Quaint signs hung from bay-windowed ale-houses,
whilst leafy trees, especially the oak, were everywhere.
The very costumes of the people helped the artist in
these good old days. Women and children wore scarlet
or blue cloaks. Men and boys wore broad-brimmed
hats and knee-breeches. These were the days, too, of
mail coaches, with their variegated life ; of country ale-
houses, with their merry scenes ; of roads constantly
used by travellers on horse or foot, and not deserted as
now for the iron highway. Finally, these were the
days of great public excitement. The distant thunders
of the French Revolution rumbled throughout England.
Last of all appeared the mighty Napoleon with his
designs on Britain, and a martial fever spread through-

Introductory 3

out our country, and every man was a soldier in heart
if not in uniform. Nor must we forget that in these
days of excitement many thin/:js were done which now
are uncommon or unknown. Smuggling was a great
trade, and Morland loved to depict it. The Press-gang
was constantly seizing its victims, as Morland's pencil
shows. And, above all, in that rude, wild, masterful,
and merry age. Drink was everywhere consumed like
water, and Morland rarely represents the meeting of
any men without introducing some hint of the con-
vivial customs of the times.

In judging Morland and his pictures, let us remember
all these things. Do not let us look at them through
the cold, hard, severe spectacles of the end of the nine-
teenth century, but rather endeavour, by a study of the
preceding one, to view the subject from an eighteenth-
century standpoint. Then we shall find that Burns and
Morland were perhaps, after all, not so very much
worse than their contemporaries ; the difference being
that whilst the name, and life, and works, and fame of
Burns and Morland have come down to our times,
those of most of their contemporaries have not.

It was during the latter half of the eighteenth century
that the foundations were laid of the English School of
Painting. Hogarth, our first great artist, had astounded
the world by his marvellous gallery of satirical pictures,
in which vice was dragged from its meanest shelter and
whipped naked before the eyes of all men. Reynolds
and RoMNEY painted the portraits of the celebrities of
the time with matchless grace. Gainsborough, also a
great portrait painter, taught not merely England, but
Europe, the art of landscape painting. Raeburn carried
portrait painting to the highest perfection, and from
remote Scotland found admirers all over the Continent.
His compatriot, Wilkie, delighted England with his
pictures of country life, displaying a delicacy and finish

George Morland

still unequalled. In Constable another universal
master of landscape arose, at whose feet Continental
disciples were glad to sit. Finally, in Turner the art
of painting Nature acquired a power and idealism
which none but the English School has yet dis-

Beside these great names that of Morland is entitled
only to a secondary position. He was only a humble
painter of humble things, and, whilst a master in his
own art, did not aspire to the highest rank. Still, to
be a master even in small things is better than to be a
tyro in great ones ; and Continental critics, with all the
English School before them and awaiting their recogni-
tion, have not failed to pick out of the mass of paintings
the gems of George Morland, and to set them upon a
pedestal by themselves. Thus, in the extremely limited
room in the Louvre devoted to what the French, with
some doubt in their minds, call the 'English School,' a
painting by Morland may be found. It is entitled ' The
Halting-Place,' and was offered by the periodical L'/lr^
to the Louvre in 1881, on the sale of the Wilson Collec-
tion.* It is not one of Morland's masterpieces, but it
contained sufficient talent to a French eye to entitle it
to a place in one of the greatest galleries in Europe.

A discussion has arisen as to the origin of Mor-
land's style. Some have compared him to Gains-
borough, and certainly such a picture as ' The Watering-
Place,' by Gainsborough, is very similar to works
by Morland, who was thirty-six years younger. Others
have seen a resemblance between Morland's style and
that of the brothers Adrian and Isaac van Ostade,
both natives of Haarlem during the first half of the
seventeenth century. About the middle of the same
century flourished Frans van Mieris, of Delft, whose

* Under the title 'La Halte' this picture was engraved by
Rajon and published at Paris (no date).



pictures (such as * The Tinker,' in the Dresden
Gallery) also seem prototypes of those of Morland, if
we must seek an origin of his style apart from Morland
himself. But as Sir Joshua Reynolds said of Gains-
borough's landscapes, so we may say of Morland's
pictures : ' The excellence he attained was his own, the
result of his particular observation and taste ; for this
he was not indebted^to the Flemish School, nor indeed
to any school, for his grace was not academical or
antique, but selected by himself from the great school
of Nature.' We might as profitably seek for the origin
of the style of Robert Burns. The style is native to
the man. Every genius carries a style of his own
about with him. That is the birthright and birth-
stamp of genius. Like Burns, Alorland had a style of
his own ; but just as Burns

' Warbled his woodnotes wild,'

SO Morland painted the rural scenes around him with a
skill and felicity which only inborn and original talent
could explain. No study of other men's st3'les could
have produced this. Morland was an eminently
original painter ; and the best proof of the distinctive-
ness of his style is that those who have tried to copy
it have usually signally failed.

Morland's character was like his style. With refined
touches, he was wild, violent, and unrestrainable. He
regarded one class of society as quite as good as
another, and was as happy with gypsies or smugglers
as with fellow artists or fox- hunters. He was thoroughly
a lover and student of Nature in all its forms ; and
hence his most natural style. As his friend and
biographer George Dawe, R.A., remarked, Morland
' seemed averse to seek knowledge in any other
academy than that of Nature.' And as Morland him-
self exclaimed when chided by a friend for keeping

• >

George Morland

such low company as smugglers and fishermen at The
Cabin, Freshwater : ' Where could I find such a
picture as that ' (holding up his sketch-book), ' unless
among the originals of The Cabin ?' At the same
time, whilst a realist, he did not descend to the gross
depths of the modern school of ' Naturalistes.' Like
Shakespeare, he upheld the ' modesty of Nature,' and
in all his enormous gallery of pictures nothing will be
found that is morbid or immodest. Coarse he may
have been in his conversation, rude in his manners,
drunken in his life ; yet this coarse, rude, dissipated
man had more regard for his art than many a
refined and polished ' Naturaliste ' of the present day.
It was said of Sir Walter Scott that his ideas moved
on such a high plane that he could not tolerate
commonplace names on his estate of Abbotsford, and
therefore changed them to make room for names of a
finer or better-sounding class. His wizard's touch
converted ' Clarty Hole ' into Abbotsford, and ' Toft's
Houses ' into Huntlyburn. Just so, Morland did not
depict the peasantry of his day as miserable or haggard
or hideous-looking persons, but imparted to them a
beauty and elegance which bespoke health and con-
tentment. As Burns wrote :

' They're maistly wonderfu' contented :
And buirdly chiels and clever hizzies
Are bred in sic a way as this is.'

Some modern painters have adopted quite a different
mode. Their peasants painfully recall Burns' lines :

' See yonder poor o'erlaboured wight,

So abject, mean, and vile,
Who begs a brother of the earth
To give him leave to toil.'

The modern ' Naturaliste ' will probably tell us that
the latter are right, and that Morland was wrong. They

Introductory 7

will admire pictures of uf,'ly, photopjraphically-lifelike
peasants, men, women, and children, and despise the
beautiful creations of Morland. Which school is rij:,'ht ?
Surely that of Beauty. Otherwise Art will have to be
learned at the feet of the modern ' Naturalistes ' rather
than at those of the ancient Greeks. The latter could
perfectly well have represented in marble the ugly men,
women and children of their day — but did they ? No ;
they were too artistic to do that. True Art abhors
ugliness and adores beauty. Consequently the Greeks
handed down to us beautiful forms of everything, of
mankind as of architecture, and the world has cherished
them as among its most priceless gifts.

Yet Morland could be very realistic indeed when he
painted the lower animals. His pigs, goats, sheep,
donkeys, dogs, monkeys, rabbits and guinea-pigs are
well known to be unequalled for truth. His horses are
sometimes admirable also. In the public mind, Mor-
land is a painter of pigs only. Certainly he was very
fond of painting pigs ; but, if the public only took he
trouble to look at his pictures, they would find that in
the majority of them pigs are absent. The charm of
his pictures consists in the air of rural beauty, health,
happiness and content everywhere present. Stalwart,
sunburnt, healthy countrymen, wath their handsome
wives and pretty children, all seated underneath an
umbrageous oak, in the vicinity of a delightfully
picturesque cottage, with its heavily thatched roof and
its quaint old windows — such is a picture typical of
Morland, and upon such his fame rests.

Into such scenes of rural bliss do not allow our ideas
of Morland's private character to enter. An artist's
public works and private character are separate things.
As Tennyson said of the poet, so it may be said of the
painter, that he gives ' the people of his best,' and it
is his public offering only the public have to do with.

8 George Morland

It is not for them to pry into his secrets, to lay bare
his private life, or what is worse, to mix that up with
his public works. Let us, therefore, enjoy Morland's
delightful rustic scenes, where often virtue, peace
and purity form the only theme, and let us believe
that away down somewhere in that sad heart of his
lurked the love of what was pure, the knowledge of
what was right, and the hatred of what was wrong.
And let us always remember that, so far as his pictures
prove, he worked for what was right, he represented
what was pure, and he sometimes fearfully chastised
what was wrong.

That Morland was fully conscious of the worldly
advantages secured by industry and the certain doom
of dissipation is very well shown in two carefully
designed pictures which were engraved in 1789, when he
was twenty-six years old. One of these is entitled 'The
Fruits of Early Industry and Q^^conomy,' and repre-
sents a merchant counting money, whilst a lady and
children are at his side. The scene is one of prosperity,
happiness and wealth, and finds its counterpart in the
companion picture entitled ' The Effects of Youthful
Extravagance and Idleness.' Here a man, two women,
and a boy are represented in penury and distress ; and
if anyone seemed to know what dissipation led to, it
was evidently the painter who portrayed this wretched
scene. The young moralist of twenty-six was, un-
fortunately, destined to forget his own teachings, and
when he designed these two pictures he little knew
that his own life was yet

' To point a moral and adorn a tale.'

Nor are these pictures the only instance of his early
moralizing, for in 1790 he executed other two of a
similar kind. In one, entitled ' The Miseries of Idle-
ness,' he represented a family in poverty. In the other,


entitled ' The Comforts of Industry,' he depicted a
happy family circle.

But the sacredness of hearth and home was not his
only held of morality. The temptation and fall of
female innocence was often a subject. In 1788, when
only twenty-five years old, he produced two pictures of
this kind. One is entitled * Seduction,' and represents
a girl reading a letter, whilst a man bribes her woman
companion. The other is entitled * Credulous Inno-
cence,' and shows us a woman tempting a girl, whilst a
man awaits the result outside. There is also Morland's
harrowing tale of Laetitia, told in six pictures, which
represent, besides other scenes, the once happy girl
eloping, being deserted, and returning penitent to her
parents. Yes, Morland was a Hogarth in his way,
and could depict the Road to Ruin quite as faithfully
as he.

Morland could also rise to the level of great political
events. When emancipation of the slaves was being
discussed in France and England, his powerful pictures
were issued, showing the kindly welcome extended by
Africans to European sailors, and the brutal treatment
they often received at the latter's hands. His 'African
Hospitality ' was published at Paris during the first
Republic, under the title ' L'Africain Hospitaller,'
whilst his ' Slave Trade ' appeared as a companion
picture, under the title ' Traite des Negres.' These
pictures must have influenced public opinion both in
England and France, and heralded emancipation.

Although we live in an age of literary whitewash,
there is no use attempting that process with George
Morland. All we can claim for him is that he was a
man like his contemporary Robert Burns ; doing, like
him, splendid work ; leading, like him, an irregular life ;
and coming, like him, to an untimely end. The Scots
have got over the frailties of their great poet, and he

lo George Morland

now holds a place in their hearts as good, at least, as
that of his antithesis, John Knox. They do not allow
stories of the ' wee short hours ayont the twal ' to mar
the ecstasy of their enjoyment of their national bard's
lyrics. When will Englishmen forget the frailties of
George Morland, and look lovingly on his pictures,
without recalling his career ?


morland's birth and boyhood.

George Morland was the heir to a baronetcy, which
he never claimed. The baronetcy in question was that
of Morland of Sulhamstead Banister, created July i8,
1660, and extinct in November, 1716. The first
baronet was Samuel Morland, son of the Rev. Thomas
Morland, Rector of Sulhamstead, in Berkshire.* This
Samuel Morland was a very remarkable man, and had
an extraordinary career. Born about 1625, he was
educated at Winchester School and Magdalen College,
Cambridge. In 1653 he accompanied the embassy of
Bulstrode Whitelocke to Sweden, and became assistant
to Secretary Thurloe. Shortly afterwards, Oliver
Cromwell sent him to Savoy, to remonstrate with the
Duke for permitting the persecution of the Waldenses.
On returning home, Morland published his ' Historj' of
the Evangelical Churches of the Valleys of Piemont ;
with a Relation of the late Bloody Massacre in 1655,
and a Narrative of all the following transactions.'
This work was published in folio, at London, in 1658.

But it was as a mechanician and natural philosopher
that Samuel Morland became most famous. The im-
portance and variety of his inventions are such that, if
true, his name must stand among the greatest bene-

* Burke's 'Extinct and Dormant Baronetcies of England,' 1838.

12 George Morland

factors of mankind, for to him is attributed the invention
of the speaking-trumpet, the fire-engine, and the steam-
engine. In every Httle domestic detail he showed his
strong inventive and mechanical turn. At Vauxhall
House, where he resided, the side table in the dining-
room was supplied with a large fountain, and the glasses
stood under its refreshing streams. Even his travelling
carriage was fitted up with extraordinary clockwork
mechanism, by means of which he could, en route, make
soup, broil steaks, or roast a joint of meat.

Samuel Morland was created a baronet in 1660, and
rented Vauxhall House in 1675. In 1684 he purchased
a house at Hammersmith, subsequently known as
Walbrough House, and he presented to the public a
well adjoining this house, having the following tablet
affixed :

'Sir Samuel Morland's Well,

the use of which he freely gives

to all persons,

hoping that none who shall come after him

will adventure to incur God's displeasure

by denying a cup of cold water

(provided at another's cost and not their own)

to either neighbour, stranger, passenger,

or poor thirsty beggar.

July 8th, 1695.'

Sir Samuel Morland was married four times. His
first wife was a Frenchwoman, daughter of Daniel de
Milleville, Baron de Boessey. His second wife was the
daughter of Sir Roger Harsnet, Kt., and his third was
daughter of Mr. George Fielding. His fourth wife
proved his ruin, for, by her extravagance and profligacy,
she beggared his estate and destroyed his peace of mind.
He obtained a divorce in 1688, and died in impoverished
circumstances in i6g6, leaving a son, at whose death,
in 1716, the Baronetcy became extinct.

Morland's Birth and Boyhood i 3

Tf Sir Samuel Morland was the ancestor of George
Morland, there was certainly an analogy between them

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