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tained men of unquestionable literary attainments. The caustic and acute Fuseli left the writing of his life to a literary friend, and Northcote's wish was that Hazlitt should have been his biographer. Painting is a sublime art, and requires a life devoted to its study, to the exclusion of literature and all other subjects.f
The most popular writer of the lives of painters, architects, sculptors, cum plurimis aliis, of the present day, Mr. Allan Cunningham, has laid down the principle, that, as art is an imitation of nature, by nature must it be judged. Art is not always an imitation of nature; and, with respect to the second part of the sentence, it would be extremely difficult to define what nature means. Man must be removed
far indeed from a state of nature before he can admire anything in art but the monstrous, the distorted, and the glaring. Even in civilized society, strong and violent contrasts, and extremes bordering on the absurd, excite much admiration; nor is this admiration exclusively confined to the vulgar and illiterate. In fact, to appreciate art, requires a peculiar faculty, not very extensively bestowed by nature; and the faculty must be cultivated, and cultivated in a manner very opposite to its cultivation amongst practical painters. Artists differ most strangely in their opinions upon works of art, and they concur in nothing except that, with respect to tone and expression of pictures, the public is the only judge.
We have been led into these prefatory observations by a perusal of numerous anecdotes, memoranda, and private letters, which have been communicated to us relative to Sir Thomas Lawrence, since the octavo biography of this distinguished artist was published. The whole of these communications, at least with very few and immaterial exceptions, are strongly corroborative of the views which that biographer took of the subject and of the artist. The Life of Lawrence' still contains all that is known, or that it is material to know, of this great head of the modern school; but some of the following facts and letters will be amusing to the public, and useful as confirmations of the impressions which people have imbibed from the octavo edition of his life. It is highly gratifying to state, that in all that has been communicated to us respecting Sir Thomas Lawrence, since the publication of his biography, we find that domestic friends, English acquaintances, and foreigners, concur in their attachment to the man; and in their strong admiration of his generous spirit and amiable nature. Not one would wish
“ To draw his frailties from their dread abode;" and all concur in feeling that
“ He was a man Eye shall not look upon his like again." With respect to the pedigree of Sir Thomas Lawrence, there has been a pardonable speaking of couleur de rose. It is said that his father, the descendant of Sir Robert Lawrence, a companion of Cour de Lion,
* The life of Sir Joshua, by Farrington, was written under a compunctious visiting of nature, as an offering of retributive justice for the unprovoked conduct by which he had assailed the latter days of this great artist and amiable man.
+ The part of the life of a painter which a painter can best write, consists in a few, a very few, didactic precepts and technicalities. These are easily comprehensible, however, by anybody. Of taste and pictorial effect the principles are now well understood and generally diffused.
inherited a legacy from one Zachariah Agaz, of Sunning Hill, that he was prosperous in worldly affairs, and that he married a Miss Read, whose grandfather, Mr. Andrew Hill, (a Squire Western,) in resentment of the clandestine marriage, altered a legacy to her of 50001. into a shilling. Mr. Lawrence is said to have been articled to an attorney, one Mr. Ginger, of Hemel Hempstead, who, at the expiration of his apprenticeship, offered him a share of his respectable business. In all this statement there is not one particle of truth. In the records of Doctors' Commons there appears but one will of a Zachariah Agaz, a distiller, of London, and which makes no mention whatever of the name of Law
Mr. Giuger could not have offered Mr. Lawrence a succession to his business, as his own son, at the age of twenty-one, certified as an attorney in 1746, and succeeded to his father; whilst Lawrence never intended to follow the profession, for in October, 1746, two years before his term was out, he is certified in the books of the Excise-office, to have been under instructions in that department, and to be “ qualified for surveying victuallers', maltsters' stores, &c. So humble were his worldly affairs, that, in 1769, after twenty-two years of service, and seventeen years after his marriage, he resigned his office of supervisor of Bristol, the salary of which was only 831. 5s. a-year, and the fees varying from 5l. to 101. per annum. Mr. Andrew Hill, of the noble family of Hill, so far from being of the Squire Western genus of country gentlemen of the old school, was a practising lawyer; his will is well drawn up, in his own hand-writing; and so far from his leaving or having to leave 50001. to his niece, Lucy Read, now Mrs. Lawrence, he left to her sisters only 4001. each, and only 2001. to her brother, Francis William Read. No mention whatever is made of Lucy Read.
It is but justice to Sir Thomas to state that he always laughed at these innocent attempts to dignify his humble birth. He happened once to dine in a very large party, where there was an eccentric lady, possessed of a pedigreephobia, and who insisted on being descended from Cæur de Lion's Sir Robert Lawrence, of Ashton Hall. They did not know each other, but the name of Lawrence suddenly awakened the ruling delusion. She stared at him intensely across the table for some time, and not a little to his annoyance; and when this outré manner had attracted the attention of everybody, she suddenly exclaimed to the astounded Lawrence
“ Bless me, how much you are like my grandmother-her very image -you are like my mother, and the counterpart of myself—you have the Lawrence features, and are of the true breed of the renowned, illustrious knight of Palestine-you must be of the glorious house of Lawrence of Ashton Hall."
The effect was irresistibly ludicrous, and Sir Thomas, with inimitable self-possession and placidity, replied
'I shall be happy, madam, if you can make it appear that I am descended from anybody so respectable, for I assure you I can never make it out for myself.”
Lawrence, in his family portraits, represents his father as a burly, corpulent man, with a broad, coarse face, shrewd, and vulgar. His mother's countenance was classic and beautiful; full of expression, and much resembling in features and contour the noble countenance of Mrs.
June.---Vol. XL. NO. CLXII.
Siddons.* Sir Thomas resembled his mother, and her features run through the family. His fine figure and countenance, with his persuasive, captivating elegance of manner, led to a saying that the late King had pronounced him one of the finest specimens of a gentleman in his kingdom. I have been assured by a celebrated baronet, who was much in the company of both, separately and together, that his late Majesty's opinion was directly the reverse. This is extremely probable, for no two men, in point of manners, could have been more completely antipodes to each other. Sir Thomas's manners were natural, and beautifully natural; they evinced a nature at ease with itself, and benevolent to all around. The manners of the sovereign were artificial in the extreme. But tests of manners are extremely arbitrary. Whoever witnessed the late Sovereign in company with the Emperor Alexander, the King of Prussia, and the Duke of Wellington, must have seen four of the most opposite schools of manners, and of which only one was thoroughly natural. One was of the Spanish school of Cervantes, another of that of Henri Quatre, another of that of Charles V.or Le Grand Monarque, and the last that of vivacious, joyous, and intellectual nature. Sir Thomas's manners exhibited an intellectual and joyous nature--a benevolently joyous nature-of which one of these great masters could form no conception-it was not in his heart nor in his head.
The biographer of Sir Thomas Lawrence was compelled to notice the pecuniary embarrassments which embittered his life, even to his last hour: but he has not solved the question, how a man of such simple habits, with such a very large income, could be embarrassed, even to a milk bill, and to the humblest accounts of domestic details. Early debts, contracted on the scale of a very small income, are easily liquidated, when an income, as in his case, increases eight or ten fold. The solution, however, is easy. He was utterly negligent of accounts, profusely benevolent to everybody, generous to exhaustion towards his numerous relations ; he painted much from motives of liberal or tender friendship; in other cases was often not paid, and some dæmon whispered, Lawrence, have a taste,” for he purchased preposterously objects of virtu, at an enormous price, and not always with the judgment that might have been expected of a practical artist. His collection has gone a-hegging, has been refused by individuals and public bodies, to whom, by his will, he offered it, at what he considered a very low price-low compared to what he had given for it. His miscellaneous property fetched by auction 15,445l.; and supposing it cost only 20,0001., this alone would be a material deduction from his receipts during the years he was president of the Academy.
Connoiseurship in pictures is, of all arts, the most flattering and uncertain ; and the best practical painters, the most experienced dealers, are as often at fault as mere anateurs. To one gentleman, in whose
* The family portraits have been engraved by Mr. F.C. Lewis, with great success. Sir Thomas was always enraptured with the fidelity, delicacy, and nature with which this gentleman engraved his lighter works. At length the engraving of the first sketch cof the Calmady children enraptured the President, and it will probably descend to ages as the finest specimen of beautiful nature, beautifully portrayed, and as beautifully transmitted by the graver to posterity. Sir Joshua's passion was the portraiture of young and beautiful children, but he never equalled Lawrence's sketch of the Calinady children.
friendship, and in whose sagacity and honour as a picture-dealer, his confidence was justly reposed, Mr. Woodburn, he says, in one letter, “Mr. Ottley detected two Raffaells in your collection that I overlooked --there is nothing like frank acknowledgments of blindness.”. Sir Thomas's utter mistake with respect to the Correggio is only parallel to some of Sir Joshua's errors of the same sort.
In a private letter, he says——" I am glad to hear that you have had agreeable communications with Mr. Revel; it was very gratifying to me to meet with a man of such general good taste, and so true an enthusiast in art. He must not regret parting with the drawings, since you can inform him how justly they are valued, and how carefully they are preserved. Few things could more strongly tempt me to Paris, than frequent visits to his rooms,” &c.
The following extract from a letter to Mr. Woodburn is highly to the honour of Lawrence's liberality, and painfully illustrative of the great superiority of the French government in patronizing art:-" The probable situation of the picture of Baron Gerard in our own exhibition. I am quite sure that, after the claims of royal portraits, it would have the first station; but I acknowledge that should the general courtesy of our school be wanting, which I have no reason to apprehend, the responsibility would rest on me. I shall always remember my obligations to the French Academy, and to the directors of its exhibition, for the high liberality of their conduct, and the generous kindness which I experienced from French artists.
I rejoice to hear of the general advancement of the arts in France, and the noble encouragernent afforded to them by the Government, in the commissions for great works now executing by their ablest artists." Sir Thomas Lawrence proceeds--“I remember the
A. del Sarto’ that you speak of at Mons. Lafitte's; a fine first-rate picture, as I instantly felt it to be when I saw it first—a work that ought to have been in our National Gallery,"
Sir Thomas, speaking of a Leonardo, adverts to a little imposition “ Do you know that there is a modern Italian print, an outline, published, I believe, at Milan, of this picture. The composition, the characters very accurately given, but with another name attached to it."
Sir Thomas is perpetually alluding to the illiberality of our otherwise profligate Government.
“ I regret (and so do others) with Mr. Agar Ellis, that the English Government did not advance the money for the purchase of the bronze. You know the unanimous recommendation which we sent to it from the Museum,"
Sir Thomas not only regretted the indifference of Government to works of art, but he equally regretted the very bad taste that was engendered by the late King's unfortunate exclusive admiration of the Flemish school. In a letter to Mr. Woodburn, he says" I wish, indeed, that there were better chance of its (an Annibal Carracci) being secured for the National Gallery; but you know what the unsettled state of the Government is, so minute detail is the order of the day. I will hope, says Sir Thomas, “ that the recent exclusive taste for the Flemish pictures is fast subsiding. The works most admired in the British Institution have been of a different description; and our superior artists who are returned from the Continent, and whose opinions are justly of authority, come with a full impression of the superiority of the greatest masters of the Italian schools, and of the necessity of cultivating that highest
style. The introduction of Rubens, Vandyke, and Sir Joshua into the cabinet of Mr. Peel is another circumstance of promise; and his liberal spirit will not be cold in any measure of importance to the arts. He is now a Director of the Gallery,” &c. &c.
Suspicions justly attach to our despatches; for where a government makes it out that it is always successful in all battles and in all details, it may be presumed that the public statements are highly coloured, and the returns not very accurate. Sir Thomas Lawrence, in a private letter,
“I have a letter to-day from General Stewart (Lord Londonderry). He speaks with great confidence of the glorious battle that will take place,” (and which did take place, to our discomfiture.) “Out of 7200 British firelocks that Marshal Beresford had at Albuera, only 3000 remained fit for duty at the close of the action.” This is a greater portion of loss than any on record, especially for a drawn battle. So much for discrepancies between public despatches and private letters. The loss at Talavera, the maximum of all losses, was only one in three: here we have nearly one man killed or wounded out of every two and a small fraction.
Lawrence, on painting any favourite subject, had no opinion of his own. He took everybody's advice, but it cannot be said that he followed nobody's; for he followed some portion of everybody's, unless some influential person could gain the ascendancy. His picture of Satan was a fearful trial in a new school. His heart was set upon it, and his mind was in trepidation. The following playful letter, upon a subject so earnest to him, is characteristic of his fine temper :
Madam,- I beg to inform you that Mr. who has just left me, not content with quietly gaining a victory, has compelled me to acknowledge it, by reminding me of the determination I expressed to you about the Beelzebub in my picture of Satan. I certainly meant to keep to that figure which you approved, but Jove and Mercury were too mighty for me; and the alteration of turning the head, as it would have taken from its consequence, being too trifling to allow me to introduce the figure in another composition, (which, as it is so liked, I wished to do,) I have now finally resolved to paint another.
“ The truth is, Madam, that I have no will of my own, and that Mr. turns and twists my brains about just as he pleases, shoves them into an opposite corner, and then tells them, Y are better where you are,' which they implicitly believe; depriving me thus of that only consolation
• A man convinced against his will,
Retains the same opinion still.' Now, though I am not unwilling that he should know my sense of this usage, yet I am by no means so hurt as to wish you privately to hint that a female sitter, from Richmond, was sent away this morning, that I might have the society of a gentleman who would not stay with me. This would be too severe; and the obvious reason for my mentioning the circumstance is, that you should not.—May I trouble you, Madam, intercede with Mr. A
that when he leaves W- for N--, I may receive the little picture, and make more alterations in it, which Mr. L- has pointed out, and which I think so necessary to be attended to."
Lawrence's family verses are at least as good as the vers de société