Art in England - Notes and Studies
by Dutton Cook
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Notes and Studies



London Sampson Low, Son, and Arston Milton House, Ludgate Hill. 1869.

Edinburgh: T. Constable, Printer to the Queen, and to the University.




It will be readily understood that this little volume does not affect to set forth anything like a formal history of the rise and progress of Art in England. The fitting treatment of such a theme would need much more space—not to mention other requirements—than I have here at command. I have designed merely to submit in a manner that may, I trust, be acceptable to the general reader, and not wholly without value to the student, some few excerpts and chapters from the chronicles of the nation's Art, with biographical studies of certain of its artists.

In this way I have felt myself bound so to select my materials as to avoid more travelling over familiar ground than seemed absolutely necessary. I have therefore assumed the reader's acquaintance with the lives and achievements of the great leaders of native Art—Hogarth, Reynolds, Gainsborough, for instance—and have forborne to occupy my pages with directly rehearsing their famous memoirs. It seemed to me desirable rather to call attention to the stories of artists who, though less renowned, less prominent in popular estimation, were yet of mark in their periods, and had distinct influence on the character and progress of Art in England. Many of these artists were contemporaries, however, and in dealing with their careers severally, it has hardly been possible to escape repetition of the mention of incidents pertaining to the times in which they conjointly 'flourished,'—to employ the favourite term of Biographical Dictionaries. I must ask the reader's pardon if he should find these repetitions intrusively frequent. But the papers herein contained have, for the most part, already appeared in print, when it was deemed advisable to make each as complete in itself as was practicable. They are now reproduced after revision, and, in some cases, considerable extension, but their original form cannot be wholly suppressed or vitally interfered with. I can only hope that what was a merit in their isolated state may not be accounted too grievous a defect now that they come to be congregated.

Finally, I would suggest—referring with all due modesty to my own efforts in this direction—that the lives and labours of our Art worthies form wholesome as well as curious subjects for popular study. I do not desire to set up the artist—merely in right of his professing himself an artist—as peculiarly or romantically entitled to public regard. But a nation's Art is, in truth, an important matter. To its value and significance the community is more awake than was heretofore the case, and what was once but the topic of a clique has become of very general concern and interest. Sympathy with Art must necessarily with more or less force extend to the professors and practisers of Art. Surveying the past, one cannot but note that often patronage and public favour have been strangely perverted—now cruelly withheld, now recklessly bestowed. Here genius, or a measure of talent nearly amounting to genius, has languished neglected and suffering—here charlatanry has prospered triumphantly. Something of this kind may be happening now amongst us, or may occur again by and by. Acquaintance with the past history of native Art—its struggles, trials, troubles, and successes—will surely prove of worth in considering its present and future position and prospects. As some slight aid to the diffusion of information on the subject, these otherwise unpretending pages are respectfully submitted to the reader.



Charles the First appears to have been the first English Sovereign who regarded art, not merely as an aid to the splendour of the throne, but for its own sake. As Walpole says, 'Queen Elizabeth was avaricious with pomp, James the First lavish with meanness.' To neither had the position of the painter been a matter of the slightest concern. But from Charles the First dates truly the dawn of a love of art in England, the proper valuing of the artist-mind, and the first introduction into the country of the greatest works of the continental masters.

At the present day a complaint is constantly arising, that artists are found to be deficient in general education, while what may be called for distinction's sake the educated classes are singularly wanting in artistic knowledge. The Universities do not teach art;[1] the Art-schools do not teach anything else. As a result, speaking generally, the painters are without mental culture, the patrons are without art-acquirements. (This supposes the patrons to be of the upper classes; but of course at the present time a large share of art-patronage comes from the rich middle or manufacturing classes, whose uninformed tastes are even less likely to tend to the due appraisement and elevation of art.) Mr. Ruskin, giving evidence before the commissioners inquiring into the position of the Royal Academy (1863), says, 'The want of education on the part of the upper classes in art, has been very much at the bottom of the abuses which have crept into all systems of education connected with it. If the upper classes could only be interested in it by being led into it when young, a great improvement might be looked for;' and the witness goes on to urge the expediency of appointing professors of art at the Universities. Upon the question of infusing a lay-element into the Royal Academy by the addition of non-professional academicians, Mr. Ruskin takes occasion to observe:—'I think if you educate our upper classes to take more interest in art, which implies of course to know something about it, they might be most efficient members of the Academy; but if you leave them, as you leave them now, to the education which they get at Oxford and Cambridge, and give them the sort of scorn which all the teaching there tends to give of art and artists, the less they have to do with an Academy of Art the better.'

[1] The Slade Professorship, recently instituted, is a step towards mending this matter, however.

It is somewhat curious after this to consider an attempt made by King Charles the First, in the eleventh year of his reign, to supply these admitted deficiencies of University instruction: to found an Academy in which general and fine-art education should be combined.

A committee, consisting of the Duke of Buckingham and others, had been appointed in the House of Lords for taking into consideration the state of the public schools, and their method of instruction. What progress was made by this committee is not known. One result of its labours, however, was probably the establishment of the Musaeum Minervae, under letters-patent from the king, at a house which Sir Francis Kynaston had purchased, in Covent Garden, and furnished as an Academy. This was appropriated for ever as a college for the education of nobles and gentlemen, to be governed by a regent and professors, chosen by 'balloting-box,' who were made a body corporate, permitted to use a common seal, and to possess goods and lands in mortmain. Kynaston, who styled himself Corporis Armiger, and who had printed in 1635 a translation into Latin verse of Chaucer's Troilus and Cressida, was nominated the first regent of the Academy, and published in 1636 its constitution and rules, addressed 'to the noble and generous well-wishers to vertuous actions and learning.' The Academy—'justified and approved by the wisdom of the King's most sacred Majesty and many of the lords of his Majesty's most honourable privy council,'—its constitution and discipline being ratified under the hands and seals of the Right Honourable the Lord Keeper of the Great Seal of England and the two Lord Chief Justices—professed to be founded 'according to the laudable customs of other nations,' and for 'the bringing of virtue into action and the theory of liberal arts into more frequent practice.' Its aims were directed to the end that England might be as well furnished for the virtuous education and discipline of her own natives as any other nation of Europe; it being 'sufficiently known that the subjects of his Majesty's dominions have naturally as noble minds and as able bodies as any nation of the earth, and therefore deserve all accommodation for the advancing of them, either in speculation or action.' It was considered that a peculiar institution was required for teaching those 'most useful accomplishments of a gentleman'—the sciences of navigation, riding, fortification, architecture, painting, etc., which, if taught, were yet not practised in the universities or courts of law. Many of these sciences, it was admitted, were taught in London, 'in dispersed places;' but it was convenient to reduce and unite them in one certain place, and not to teach them perfunctorily and rather for gain than for any other respect—desirable, too, that youth should have, in a virtuous society, generous and fitting recreations as might divert them from too much frequenting places of expense and of greater inconvenience. The intention of the Academy was also to benefit gentlemen going abroad, by giving them language and instruction, with other ornaments of travel. 'There is no understanding man,' says the prospectus or advertisement of the institution, 'but may resent how many of our noblemen and young gentlemen travel into foreign countries before they have any language or knowledge to make profit of their time abroad, they not being any way able to get knowledge for want of language, nor language for want of time; since going over so young, their years of license commonly expire before they can obtain to sufficient ripeness of understanding; which no nation is known to do but the English: for what children of other nations come over to us before they are of able age and ripeness?' Another inconvenience arising from the want of the Musaeum Minervae was stated to be the necessity many gentlemen were under of sending their sons beyond seas for their education, 'where, through change of climate and dyat, and for want of years of discretion, they become more subject to sickness and immature death.'

It was required of gentlemen admitted into the Musaeum that they should pay fees of at least L5 each, and should bring a testimonial of their arms and gentry, and their coat armour, 'tricked on a table, to be conserved in the museum.' There was to be a Liber Nobilium always kept, in which benefactors and their benefits were to be recorded, beginning with King Charles, 'our first and royal benefactor;' and it was provided that if any gentleman should have any natural experiment or secret, and should communicate it to the Musaeum and upon trial it should be found true and good, his name and experiment should be recorded in Liber Nobilium for a perpetual honour to him.

The regent was required to instruct personally, or to superintend instruction in 'heraldry, blazon of coates and armes, practical knowledge of deedes, and evidences, principles and processes of common law, knowledge of antiquities, coynes, medalls, husbandry,' etc. The Doctor of Philosophy and Physic was to read and profess physiology, anatomy, or any other parts of physic. The Professor of Astronomy was to teach astronomy, optics, navigation, and cosmography. Instruction in arithmetic, analytical algebra, geometry, fortification, and architecture, was to be given by the Professor of Geometry. A Professor of Music was to impart skill in singing, and music to play upon organ, lute, viol, etc. Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Italian, French, Spanish, and High Dutch were to be taught by the Professor of Languages. In addition, a Professor of Defence inculcated skill at all weapons and wrestling (but not pugilism apparently), and ample instruction was to be afforded in riding, dancing, and behaviour, painting, sculpture, and writing. A preparatory school was also to be annexed for the young gentlemen whose parents were desirous of having them brought up in the Musaeum from their first years. Finally, it was expressly provided that no degrees were to be given, and the Academy was not to be conceived in any way prejudicial 'to the Universities and Inns of Court, whose foundations have so long and so honourably been confirmed.'

For no long time did the Musaeum Minervae flourish. The King's troubles began; and in the storms of civil war the Academy for teaching the upper classes science and the fine arts, manners and accomplishments, fell to the ground and disappeared utterly. So bitter and inveterate was the feeling against the King, that, as Walpole says (and Walpole, be it remembered, cherished no reverence for Charles the First—quite otherwise—under a facsimile of the warrant for the King's execution, he wrote 'Magna Charta,' and he often found pleasure in considering the monarch's fall), 'it seems to have become part of the religion of the time to war on the arts because they had been countenanced at Court.' So early as 1645, the Parliament had begun to sell the pictures at York House. On the 23d July in that year votes were passed ordering the sale, for the benefit of Ireland and the North, of all such pictures at York House 'as were without any superstition.' Pictures containing representations of the Second Person in the Trinity, or of the Virgin Mary, were judged to be superstitious, and ordered to be burned forthwith. Immediately after the King's death, votes were passed for the sale of all his pictures, statues, jewels, hangings, and goods. Cromwell, however, on his obtaining sole power, made some effort to stay the terrible sacrifice that was being made of the royal collections.

There was thus an end of King Charles's Musaeum Minervae. Yet, if not absolutely founded on its ruins, at any rate in some measure following its example, we soon find record of the rise of a similar institution. One Sir Balthazar Gerbier, without Government aid or countenance, but acting entirely on his own responsibility, had opened an Academy 'on Bednall-green without Aldgate.' This was probably in the year 1649.

Sir Balthazar Gerbier, architect and painter, 'excellent in either branch,' says a biographer, had led a somewhat curious life. In a pamphlet published in Paris, in 1646, addressed 'to all men that loves Truth,'—singularly rich, thanks to the French printers, in blunders, orthographic and grammatical,—Sir Balthazar gives some account of his family and himself. He was born about 1591, at Middelburg in Zeeland, the son of Anthoine Gerbier, a baron of Normandy, and Radegonde, daughter-in-law to the Lord of Blavet in Picardy. 'It pleaseth God,' writes Sir Balthazar, 'to suffer my parents to fly the bluddy persecutions in France, against those which the Roman Catholics call the Huguenots. My said parents left and lost all for that cause.' He came to England when about twenty-one, and entered the service of George Villiers, 'newly become favourite to King James, being immediately after Baron, Viscount, Earle, and afterwards created Marquis and Duke of Buckingham.' He accompanied Buckingham to Spain, and was employed in the famous treaty of marriage, though ostensibly acting only as a painter. While in Spain he executed a miniature portrait of the Infanta, which was sent over to King James. The Duchess of Buckingham wrote to her husband in Spain, 'I pray you, if you have any idle time, sit to Gerbier for your picture, that I may have it well done in time.' After the accession of Charles, it appears that Gerbier was employed in Flanders to negotiate privately a treaty with Spain, in which Rubens was commissioned to act on the part of the Infanta; the business ultimately bringing the great painter to England. In 1628, Gerbier was knighted at Hampton Court, and, according to his own account, was promised by King Charles the office of Surveyor-General of the works after the death of Inigo Jones. In 1637, he was employed at Brussels in some private state negotiation with the Duke of Orleans, the French King's brother, and in 1641 he obtained a bill of naturalization, and took the oaths of allegiance and supremacy. According to Vertue, he was much hated and persecuted by the anti-monarchic party, for his loyalty and fidelity to the King and his son. At the sale of the royal collection he made purchases to the amount of L350. The suspension of all art-patronage during the Commonwealth, probably necessitated the establishment of his Academy at Bethnal Green, as a means of obtaining a livelihood. Painters did not flourish very much under the rule of the Puritans.

A fly-sheet, undated, which may be found in the British Museum, sets forth the plan of Gerbier's Academy. He addresses himself 'to all Fathers of Noble Families and Lovers of Vertue,' desires public notice of his great labours and exertions, and informs the world that 'the chiefe Famous Forraigne Languages, Sciences, and Noble Exercises' are taught in his establishment. 'All Lovers of Vertue,' of what age soever, are received and instructed, and each of them may select such studies, exercises, and sciences as are most consonant to his genius. Public lectures are announced to be read gratis every Wednesday afternoon, in the summer at three, in the winter at two o'clock. A competent number of children of 'decayed families' are taught without fee. 'Lovers of Vertue' are stated to be thus freed from the dangers and inconveniences incident to travellers, who repair to foreign parts to improve themselves, and leave the honour of their education to strangers, running 'the hazzard of being shaken in the fundamental points of their religion, and their innate loyalty to their native country.' The nation is therefore exhorted to reflect seriously on Sir Balthazar's proffers; to embrace them vigorously and constantly to countenance and promote them, 'since that the languages declared to be taught in the Academy are:—Hebrew, Greek, Latin, French, Italian, Spanish, High Dutch, and Low Dutch, both Ancient and Modern Histories, jointly with the Constitutions and Governments of the most famous Empires and Dominions in the World, the true Natural and Experimental Philosophy, the Mathematicks, Arithmetic and the Keeping of Bookes of Accounts by Debitor and Creditor, all Excellent Handwriting, Geometry, Cosmography, Geography, Perspective, Architecture, Secret Motions of Scenes, Fortifications, the Besieging and Defending of Places, Fireworks, Marches of Armies, Ordering of Battailes, Fencing, Vaulting, Riding the Great Horse, Music, Playing on all sorts of Instruments, Dancing, Drawing, Painting, Limning, and Carving,' etc. Certainly Sir Balthazar's was a sufficient catalogue of arts, sciences, and accomplishments. The lectures 'composed for the good of the public' were afterwards printed, and to be obtained at Robert Ibbitson's house in Smithfield, near Hosier Lane. It may be noted that a lecture upon the art of well-speaking, brought upon the lecturer the derision of Butler, author of Hudibras.

In the winter the Academy was moved from Bethnal Green to Whitefriars. Sir Balthazar issued advertisements as to his lectures. It is to be feared his good intentions were not always appreciated by the public of the day. In one of his advertisements we find him complaining bitterly of 'the extraordinary concourse of unruly people who robbed him, and treated with savage rudeness his extraordinary services.' Something of a visionary, too, was Sir Balthazar;—yet, with all his vanity as to his own merits—his coxcombry about his proceedings,—a sort of reformer and benefactor also in a small way. At one time we find him advertising that, besides lecturing gratis, he will lend from one shilling to six, gratis, 'to such as are in extreme need, and have not wherewithal to endeavour their subsistence, whereas week by week they may drive on some trade.' By-and-by, however, Sir Balthazar was probably more disposed to borrow than to lend. His Academy met with little support—with ridicule rather than encouragement; was indeed a total failure; and he left England for America. For some years nothing was heard of him.

In 1660, however, we find him publishing at Rotterdam 'a sommary description, manifesting that greater profits are to be done in the hott than in the cold parts of America.' This contains an account of his journey with his family to settle at Surinam. But there, it seems, he was seized by the Dutch, treated with much violence (one of his children being killed), and brought to Holland. He attempted, but in vain, to obtain redress from the States for this strange treatment of him. He probably returned to England with Charles II., for he is said to have aided in designing the triumphal arches erected at the Restoration.

Gerbier's name is attached to a long list of books and pamphlets. Some of these are of a controversial character; the author was a stout Huguenot, fond of denouncing the Pope; oftentimes alarmed at plots against himself on account of his religion, and now publishing a letter of remonstrance to his three daughters who, in opposition to his will, had entered a nunnery in Paris. Other works relate to architecture and fortifications, the languages, arts, and noble exercises taught in his Academy, or contain advice to travellers, or deal with political affairs. Mr. Pepys records in his diary, under date the 28th May 1663:—'At the Coffee House in Exchange Alley I bought a little book, Counsell to Builders, by Sir Balth. Gerbier. It is dedicated almost to all the men of any great condition in England, so that the dedications are more than the book itself; and both it and them,' the diarist adds somewhat severely, 'not worth a farthing!'

Sir Balthazar died in 1667, at Hempsted-Marshall House, which he had himself designed, the seat of Lord Craven, and was buried in the chancel of the adjoining church. Portraits of Gerbier were painted by Dobson[2]—the picture was sold for L44 at the sale of Betterton the actor—and by Vandyke. The work by Vandyke also contained portraits of Gerbier's family, and was purchased in Holland by command of Frederick, Prince of Wales, and brought to Leicester House.

[2] A portrait of Gerbier, Sir Charles Cotterel, and W. Dobson, painted by Dobson, the property of the Duke of Northumberland, was exhibited at South Kensington in 1868.

For something like half-a-century after Sir Balthazar Gerbier's time we find no trace of another Art Academy in England.


Pope, denouncing the vanity of wealth and the crimes committed in the name of taste, visits Lord Timon's villa, and finds plenty of pegs on which to hang criticism—ample scope for satire. With depreciating eyes he surveys the house and grounds, their fittings and garniture, almost as though he were going to make a bid for them. 'He that blames would buy,' says the proverb. Then he passes to the out-buildings, taking notes like a broker in possession under a fi. fa.

'And now the chapel's silver bell you hear, That summons you to all the pride of prayer: Light quirks of music, broken and uneven, Make the soul dance upon a jig to heaven. On painted ceiling you devoutly stare, Where sprawl the saints of Verrio or Laguerre, On gilded clouds in fair expansion lie, And bring all paradise before the eye,' etc.

Who was Verrio? Who was Laguerre?

ANTONIO VERRIO was born in Lecce, a town in the Neapolitan province of Terra di Otranto, in the year 1639. Early in life he visited Venice to study the colouring of the Venetian masters. He returned a successful, not a meritorious painter. In 1660 he was at Naples, where he executed a large fresco work, 'Christ healing the Sick,' for the Jesuit College. This painting, we are told, was conspicuous for its brilliant colour and forcible effect.

Subsequently the artist was in France, painting the high altar of the Carmelites at Toulouse. Dominici says that 'Verrio had such a love for travelling that he could not remain in his own country.'

Charles II., desiring to revive the manufacture of tapestry at Mortlake, which had been stopped by the civil war, invited Verrio to England; but when he arrived the king changed his plans, and intrusted the painter with the decoration in fresco of Windsor Castle. Charles was induced to this by seeing a work of Verrio's at Lord Arlington's house at the end of St. James's Park, the site of Buckingham House. 'In possession of the Cartoons of Raphael,' Fuseli lectured, angrily, on the subject, years afterwards, 'and with the magnificence of Whitehall before his eyes, he suffered Verrio to contaminate the walls of his palaces.' But there was raging then a sort of epidemical belief in native deficiency and in the absolute necessity of importing art talent. In his first picture Verrio represented the king in a glorification of naval triumph. He decorated most of the ceilings of the palace, one whole side of St. George's Hall and the Chapel; but few of his works are now extant. Hans Jordaens' lively fancy and ready pencil induced his critics to affirm of him, 'that his figures seemed to flow from his hand upon the canvas as from a pot-ladle.' Certainly, from Verrio's fertility in apologue and allegory, and the rapidity of his execution, it might have been said that he spattered out his works with a mop. Nothing daunted him. He would have covered an acre of ceiling with an acre of apotheosis. As Walpole writes, 'His exuberant pencil was ready at pouring out gods, goddesses, kings, emperors, and triumphs over those public surfaces on which the eye never rests long enough to criticise, and where one should be sorry to place the works of a better master. I mean ceilings and staircases. The New Testament or the Roman History cost him nothing but ultramarine; that and marble columns and marble steps he never spared.'

He shrunk from no absurdity or incongruity. His taste was even worse than his workmanship. He delighted to avenge any wrong he had received, or fancied he had received, by introducing his enemy, real or imaginary, in his pictures. Thus, on the ceiling of St. George's Hall, he painted Anthony, Earl of Shaftesbury, in the character of Faction dispersing libels; in another place, having a private quarrel with Mrs. Marriott, the housekeeper, he borrowed her face for one of his Furies. Painting for Lord Exeter, at Burleigh, in a representation of Bacchus bestriding a hogshead, he copied the head of a dean with whom he was at variance. It is more excusable, perhaps, that, when compelled by his patron to insert a Pope in a procession little flattering to his religion, he added the portrait of the Archbishop of Canterbury then living. In a picture of the 'Healing of the Sick,' he was guilty of the folly and impropriety of introducing among the spectators of the scene, portraits of himself, Sir Godfrey Kneller, and Mr. May, surveyor of the works, all adorned with the profuse periwigs of the period. But he could not transfer to his pictures a decorum and a common sense that had no place in his mind. Hence he loved to depict a garish and heterogeneous whirl of saints and sinners, pan-pipes, periwigs, cherubim, silk stockings, angels, small-swords, the naked and the clothed, goddesses, violoncellos, stars, and garters. A Latin inscription in honour of the painter and his paintings appeared over the tribune at the end of St. George's Hall:—'Antonius Verrio Neapolitanus non ignobili stirpe natus, ad honorem Dei, Augustissimi Regis Caroli Secundi et Sancti Georgii, molem hanc felicissima manu decoravit.'

The king lavished kindness upon this pretentious and absurd Italian. He was appointed to the place of master-gardener, and lodgings in a house in St. James's Park, to be afterwards known as Carlton House, were set apart for his use. Here he was visited by Evelyn, who records that 'the famous Italian painter' was 'settled in His Majesty's garden at St. James's, which he had made a very delicious paradise.' The artist also dined with the author, and was regaled with 'China oranges off my own trees, as good, I think, as ever were eaten.' For works executed in Windsor Castle between the years 1676 and 1681, he received the sum of L6845, 8s. 4d. Vertue copied the account 'from a half-sheet of paper fairly writ in a hand of the time.' It particularizes the rooms decorated, and the cost. For the king's guard chamber, L300; for the king's presence chamber, L200; for the queen's drawing-room, L250; for the queen's bed-chamber, L100; and so on, until the enormous total is reached. Of his paintings in St. George's Hall Evelyn writes, 'Verrio's invention is admirable, his ordnance full and flowing, antique and heroical; his figures move; and if the walls hold (which is the only doubt, by reason of the salts, which in time and in this moist climate prejudice), his work will preserve his name to ages.' He employed many workmen under him, was of extravagant habits, and kept a great table. He considered himself as an art-monarch entitled to considerable state and magnificence. He was constant in his applications to the Crown for money to carry on his works. With the ordinary pertinacity of the dun, he joined a freedom which would have been remarkable, if the king's indulgence and good humour had not done so much to foster it. Once, at Hampton Court, having lately received an advance of a thousand pounds, he found the king so encircled by courtiers that he could not approach. He called out loudly and boldly—

'Sire! I desire the favour of speaking to your Majesty.'

'Well, Verrio,' the king inquired, 'what is your request?'

'Money, sire! I am so short in cash that I am not able to pay my workmen, and your Majesty and I have learned by experience that pedlars and painters cannot give credit long.'

The king laughed at this impudent speech, and reminded the painter that he had but lately received a thousand pounds.

'Yes, sire,' persisted Verrio, 'but that was soon paid away.'

'At that rate, you would spend more than I do to maintain my family.'

'True, sire,' answered the painter; 'but does your Majesty keep an open table as I do?'

Verrio designed the large equestrian portrait of the king for the hall of Chelsea College, but it was finished by Cooke, and presented by Lord Ranelagh. On the accession of James II. he was again employed at Windsor in Wolsey's tomb-house, which it was intended should be used as a Roman Catholic chapel. He painted the king and several of his courtiers in the hospital of Christchurch, London, and he painted also at St. Bartholomew's Hospital.

But soon there was an end of his friends and patrons, the Stuarts. James had fled; William of Orange was on the throne; a revolution had happened little favourable to Signor Verrio's religion or political principles. There is a commendable staunchness in his adherence to the ruined cause: in his abandoning his post of master-gardener, and his refusal to work for the man he regarded as a usurper; though there is something ludicrous in the notion of punishing King William by depriving him of Verrio's art. He did not object, however, to work for the nobility. For some years he was employed by Lord Exeter at Burleigh, and afterwards at Chatsworth. He was true to his old execrable style. He introduced his own portrait in a picture-history of Mars and Venus, and in the chapel at Chatsworth he produced a dreadful altar-piece representing the incredulity of St. Thomas. He painted also at Lowther Hall. For his paintings at Burleigh alone he was paid more money than Raphael or Michael Angelo received for all their works. Verrio was engaged on them for about twelve years, handsomely maintained the while, with an equipage at his disposal, and a salary of L1500 a year. Subsequently, on the persuasion of Lord Exeter, Verrio was induced to lend his aid to royalty once more, and he condescended to decorate the grand staircase at Hampton Court for King William. Walpole suggests that he accomplished this work as badly as he could, 'as if he had spoiled it out of principle.' But this is not credible. The painting was in the artist's usual manner, and neither better nor worse—and his best was bad enough, in all conscience. His usual faults of gaudy colour, bad drawing, and senseless composition were of course to be found; but then, these were equally apparent in all his other works. Later in life his sight began to fail him, and he received from Queen Anne a pension of L200 a year for his life. To the last royal favour was extended to him, and he was selected to superintend the decorations of Blenheim. But death intervened. The over-rated, overpaid, and most meretricious painter died at Hampton Court in 1707. There is evident error in Dominici's statement that the old man met his death from drowning on a visit to Languedoc. Walpole, summing up his merits and demerits, says, rather curiously, 'He was an excellent painter for the sort of subjects on which he was employed, without much invention and with less taste!'

The father of LOUIS LAGUERRE was by birth a Catalan, and held the appointment of Keeper of the Royal Menagerie at Versailles. To his son, born at Paris in 1663, Louis XIV. stood godfather, bestowing on the child his distinguished Christian name. The young Laguerre received his education at a Jesuit College, with the view of entering the priesthood, but a confirmed impediment in his speech demonstrated his unfitness for such a calling. He began to evince considerable art-ability, and, on the recommendation of the fathers of the college, he eventually embraced the profession of painting. He then entered the Royal Academy of France, and studied for a short time under Charles Le Brun. In 1683 he came to England with one Picard, a painter of architecture. At this time Verrio was in the acme of his prosperity. He was producing allegorical ceilings and staircases by wholesale. He had a troop of workmen under him, obedient to his instructions, dabbing in superficial yards of pink flesh, and furlongs of blue clouds. Verrio was happy to secure forthwith so efficient an assistant as Laguerre, and soon found him plenty to do. In nearly every work of Verrio's after this date, it is probable that Laguerre had a hand. He seems to have been an amiable, kindly, simple-minded man, without much self-assertion or any strong opinions of his own. He was quite content to do as Verrio bid him, even imitating him and following him through his figurative mysteries, and floundering with him in the mire of graceless drawing and gaudy colour and ridiculous fable. He had at least as much talent as his master—probably even more. But he never sought to outshine or displace him.

'A modest, unintriguing man,' as Vertue calls him, he was quite satisfied with being second in command, no matter how ignorant and inefficient might be his captain.

John Tijon, his father-in-law, a founder of iron balustrades, said of him, 'God has made him a painter, and there left him.'

He worked under Verrio in St. Bartholomew's Hospital, and at Burleigh; he executed staircases at old Devonshire House, in Piccadilly, at Buckingham House, and at Petworth; assisted in the paintings at Marlborough House, St. James's Park; decorated the saloon at Blenheim; and in many of the apartments at Burleigh on the Hill 'the walls are covered with his Caesars.'

William of Orange gave the painter lodgings at Hampton Court, where it seems he painted the Labours of Hercules in chiaro-oscuro, and repaired Andrea Mantegna's pictures of the Triumphs of Julius Caesar.

The commissioners for rebuilding St. Paul's Cathedral unanimously chose Laguerre to decorate the cupola with frescoes. Subsequently this decision was abandoned in favour of Thornhill; but, as Walpole says, 'the preference was not ravished from Laguerre by superior merit.'

Sir James Thornhill received payment for his paintings in the dome of St. Paul's at the rate of forty shillings the square yard. The world has still the opportunity of deciding upon the merits or demerits of those works. Vertue thinks that Sir James was indebted to Laguerre for his knowledge of historical painting on ceilings, etc. For decorating the staircase of the South Sea Company's House, Sir James received only twenty-five shillings per square yard. By speculating in the shares of the same Company, it may be stated that another artist, Sir Godfrey Kneller, lost L20,000. But prosperous Sir Godfrey could afford to lose; his fortune could sustain even such a shock as that; at his death he left an estate of L2000 per annum. He had intended that Thornhill should decorate the staircase of his seat at Wilton, but learning that Newton was sitting to Sir James, he grew angry. 'No portrait painter shall paint my house,' cried Sir Godfrey, and he gave the commission to Laguerre, who did his very best for his brother artist.

On the union of England and Scotland, Laguerre received an order from Queen Anne to design a set of tapestries commemorative of the event, introducing portraits of her Majesty and her Ministers. He executed the requisite drawings; but it does not appear that the work was ever carried out.

In 1711 he was a director of an academy of drawing instituted in London, under the presidency of Kneller. On the resignation of Kneller, there was a probability of Laguerre being elected in his place; but he was again defeated by his rival, Thornhill, probably as much from his own want of management and self-confidence, as from any other cause.

He drew designs for engravers, and etched a Judgment of Midas. Round the room of a tavern in Drury Lane, where was held a club of virtuosi, he painted a Bacchanalian procession, and presented the house with his labours.

He had many imitators; for there are followers of bad as well as of good examples. Among others, Riario, Johnson, Brown, besides Lanscroon, Scheffers, and Picard, who worked with him under Verrio.

His son and pupil, John Laguerre, manifested considerable ability, and engraved a series of prints of 'Hob in the Well,'[3] which had a large popularity, though they were but indifferently executed. He was fond of the theatre, with a talent for music and singing; painted scenery and stage decorations. He even appeared upon the boards as a singer.

[3] A favourite old ballad farce by Dogget, the comedian.

Laguerre, in his age, feeble and dropsical, attended Drury Lane on the 20th April 1721, to witness his son's performance in a musical version of Beaumont and Fletcher's 'Island Princess;' but, before the curtain rose, the poor old man was seized with an apoplectic fit, and died the same night. He was buried in the Churchyard of St. Martin's-in-the-Fields. The son subsequently quitted the stage, and resumed his first profession. He etched a plate, representing Falstaff, Pistol, and Doll Tearsheet, with other theatrical characters, in allusion to a quarrel between the players and patentees. He died in very indigent circumstances, in March 1748.

Time and the white-washer's double-tie brush have combined to destroy most of the ceilings and staircases of Signor Verrio and Monsieur Laguerre. For their art, there was not worth enough in it to endow it with any lasting vitality. They are remembered more from Pope's lines, than on any other account—preserved in them, like uncomely curiosities in good spirits. To resort to the poet for verses applicable, though familiar:—

'Pretty in amber to observe the forms Of hair, or straws, or dirt, or grubs, or worms; The things we know are neither rich nor rare, But wonder how the devil they got there!'


Horace Walpole, in his Anecdotes of Painting, having deplored the low ebb to which the arts had sunk in Britain during the time of George the First, proceeds to consider the succeeding reign with greater complacency: accounting it, indeed, as a new and shining era. Under George the Second he found architecture revived 'in antique purity;' sculpture redeemed from reproach; the art of gardening, or, as he prefers to call it, 'the art of creating landscape,' pressed forward to perfection; engraving much elevated; and painting, if less perceptibly advanced, still (towards the close of the reign, at any rate) ransomed from insipidity by the genius of Sir Joshua Reynolds. The king himself, it was conceded, had 'little propensity to refined pleasure;' but his consort, Queen Caroline, was credited with a lively anxiety to reward merit and to encourage the exertions of the ingenious.

This glowing picture of the period in its relation to the fine arts, contrasts somewhat violently with what we learn elsewhere concerning the poverty of Richard Wilson, the ill-requited labours of William Hogarth, the struggles and sufferings of James Barry, and generally, of the depressed condition of native professors of art during the eighteenth century. That the portrait-painter (the 'face-painter' as Hogarth delighted contemptuously to designate him) found sufficient occupation is likely enough; but, otherwise, the British artist had perforce to limit the aspirations of his genius to the decoration of ceilings and staircases, and to derive his chief emoluments from painting the sign-boards of the British tradesman: if not a very dignified still a remunerative employment; for in those days every London shop boasted its distinct emblem.

Nevertheless it is certain that in George the Second's reign Fashion began to take up with Taste. Dilettanteism became the vogue. Objects of virtu were now, for the first time, indispensable appendages of the houses of the aristocratic and the rich. A rage for 'collecting' possessed the town, and led to an expenditure as profuse as it was injudicious. Of the vast sums disbursed, however, but a small share came to the native artist. His works were passed over as beneath the notice of the cognoscenti. The 'quality' gave their verdict against modern art and in favour of the ancient masters. A race of old picture-brokers and jobbers in antiquities sprang into existence to supply the increasing demand for such chattels. The London Magazine for 1737, in an article attributed to William Hogarth, inveighs bitterly against these speculators and their endeavours to depreciate every English work in order to enhance the value of their imported shiploads of Dead Christs, Holy Families and Madonnas: the sweepings of the continental art-markets. Auction-rooms were opened in all parts of London for the exhibition and sale of choice objects of every kind, and became the resort and rendezvous of all pretending to wealth and fashion. Agents were to be found at the chief foreign cities eagerly exhuming antiquities for transmission to England: certain of immediate sale and enormous profit there. The prevailing appetite seemed to grow by what it fed on. And then, of course, unscrupulous people took to manufacturing antiquities; and, so doing, drove a brisk and remarkably remunerative trade.

The neglected British artist naturally made protests and wrote pamphlets more or less angry in tone, according to the state of his purse and his temper and the extent of his self-appreciation. The press of the period raised its voice: a less portentous and sonorous organ than it has since possessed. Even the players ventured to be satirical on the subject. It was early in 1752 that Mr. Foote's comedy of Taste was brought upon the stage of Drury Lane Theatre, David Garrick both writing and speaking the prologue. Probably the satire soared rather above the heads of the audience. Foote admits as much in his preface to the published play: 'I was always apprehensive that the subject of the following piece was too abstracted and singular for the comprehension of a mixed assembly. Juno, Lucina, Jupiter Tonans, Phidias, Praxiteles, with the other gentlemen and ladies of antiquity, were, I daresay, utterly unknown to my very good friends of the gallery; nor, to speak the truth, do I believe they had many acquaintances in the other parts of the house.' Accordingly Taste, on its first production, was only repeated some four nights, and, though revived once or twice afterwards, never took rank as a stock piece. Yet, as Mr. John Forster says of it, Foote's play is legitimate satire, and also excellent comedy.

There is little or no plot. Foote did not care for continuous story; he could generally secure the favour of the audience by the wit of his dialogue and a quick succession of lively incidents. In the first act Lady Pentweazle sits for her portrait in a broadly humorous scene. Puff is an impudent trader in sham antiquities and objects of virtu; Carmine, an artist constrained by poverty to aid and abet him in his nefarious proceedings; Brush is another confederate. In the second act a sale by auction is represented. Carmine appears as Canto the auctioneer; Puff figures as the Baron de Groningen, who is travelling to purchase pictures for the Elector of Bavaria. Lord Dupe, Bubble, Squander, and Novice, are fashionable patrons and collectors of art. The pictures to be submitted for sale are inspected. One of them is particularly admired; but is ultimately discovered to be 'a modern performance, the master alive, and an Englishman.' 'Oh, then,' says Lord Dupe, changing his tone, 'I would not give it house-room!' The antiquities are then brought forward. 'The first lot,' announces the auctioneer, 'consists of a hand without an arm, the first joint of the forefinger gone, supposed to be a limb of the Apollo Delphos. The second, half a foot, with the toes entire, of the Juno Lucina. The third, the Caduceus of the Mercurius Infernalis. The fourth, the half of the leg of the Infant Hercules. All indisputable antiques, and of the Memphian marble.' One critic objects to a swelling on the foot of Juno as a defect in its proportion; but the auctioneer informs him that the swelling is intended to represent a corn, and the defect is thereupon pronounced an absolute master-stroke. Presently the auctioneer proceeds: 'Bring forward the head from Herculaneum.... Now, gentlemen, here is a jewel.... The very mutilations of this piece are worth all the most perfect performances of modern artists. Now, gentlemen, here is a touchstone for your taste!' He is asked whether the head is intended to represent a man or a woman. 'The connoisseurs differ,' he answers. 'Some will have it to be the Jupiter Tonans of Phidias, and others the Venus of Paphos from Praxiteles; but I don't think it fierce enough for the first, nor handsome enough for the last.... Therefore I am inclined to join with Signor Julio de Pampedillo, who, in a treatise dedicated to the King of the Two Sicilies, calls it the Serapis of the Egyptians, and supposes it to have been fabricated about eleven hundred and three years before the Mosaic account of the creation.' A bystander inquires what has become of the nose of the bust? 'The nose? What care I for the nose?' cries an enthusiastic amateur. 'Why, sir, if it had a nose I wouldn't give sixpence for it! How the devil should we distinguish the works of the ancients if they were perfect? Why, I don't suppose but, barring the nose, ROUBILIAC could cut as good a head every whit.... A man must know d——d little of statuary that dislikes a bust for want of a nose!'

It must be admitted that this is satire of a good trenchant sort. The reader will find plenty more of it if he will only turn to the comedy for himself. Our immediate purpose is with the sculptor for whose name Mr. Foote has found a place in his play.

The rage for collecting antiquities was only equalled by the passion for 'restoring' them when collected. To disinter a torso here, and a head there, and then to make a sort of forced marriage of the fragments; to graft new feet upon old legs; to dovetail stray hands upon odd arms; to reset broken limbs, and patch and piece mutilations and deficiencies, constituted the delights and the triumphs of the amateurs. In accomplishing these exploits the services of foreign workmen were extensively employed; for, by a curious piece of reasoning, the foreign sculptor, no matter how limited his capacity, was held to be far more competent to restore antiquities than the English artist of whatever reputation. It was, doubtless, in consequence of this demand for foreign labour, and the liberal manner in which its exertions were recognised and requited, that Louis Francis Roubiliac found his way to this country.

In his account of the sculptor, Walpole is singularly brief; supplies very meagre information; yet when he was compiling his Anecdotes the fame of Roubiliac was at its highest; he was freshly remembered on all sides, and the facts of his early life could have been collected, one would imagine, without much difficulty. He was born, from all accounts, at Lyons, about the close of the seventeenth century; was a pupil of Balthazar of Dresden, sculptor to the Elector of Saxony, and came to England in 1720. That he was without repute in his native land is evidenced by the fact that no mention of him appears in D'Argenville's Lives of the most Eminent Sculptors of France, published in 1787. Of his parentage nothing is known. He had apparently received a fair education; was found to possess a considerable acquaintance with the literature of his native land; more especially was conversant with the works of the best French poets, and himself produced original verse of a respectable quality. Yet, notwithstanding his long residence in England, he never mastered the English language so as to be able to use it freely; and in all the anecdotes extant of him he is represented as employing the broken dialect common to foreigners.

For some years after his arrival in England his occupation would appear to have been little better than that of a journeyman sculptor, employed under various masters in botching antiquities. Mr. John Thomas Smith, in his Life of Nollekens, informs us that when Mr. Roubiliac had to mend an antique, he 'would mix Gloucester cheese with his plaster, adding the grounds of porter, and the yolk of an egg: which mixture when dry forms a very hard cement.' Walpole states that the artist had little business until Sir Edward Walpole (Sir Robert's second son: Horace was the third) recommended him to execute half the busts in Trinity College, Dublin; but the date of this act of patronage is not supplied. A story attributed to Sir Joshua Reynolds, and set forth in his Life by Northcote, relates that Roubiliac first secured the patronage of Sir Edward Walpole by picking up and restoring a pocket-book he had dropped at Vauxhall, containing bank-notes and other papers of value. The artist declined to receive any reward for this service, although ultimately he was persuaded to accept the annual present of a fat buck, as a testimony of gratitude and regard; further, he became the object of Sir Edward's constant patronage. Horace Walpole says nothing of this story; but the brothers, it was well known, were not friends, seldom if ever met, and probably were not closely informed of each other's proceedings. In a letter written in 1745 to his friend George Montagu, Horace Walpole gives an amusing description of the patron of Roubiliac, and, incidentally, reveals the not very brotherly terms subsisting between himself and the knight: 'You propose making a visit to Englefield Green' [where Sir Edward lived], 'and ask me if I think it right? Extremely so. I have heard it is a very pretty place. You love a jaunt—have a pretty chaise, I believe, and I dare swear, very easy; in all probability you will have a fine evening; and added to all this, the gentleman' [Sir E.W.] 'you would go to see is very agreeable and good-humoured,... plays extremely well on the bass-viol, and has generally other people with him.... He is perfectly master of all the quarrels that have been fashionably on foot about Handel, and can give you a very perfect account of all the modern rival painters.... In short, I can think of no reason in the world against your going there but one: do you know his youngest brother?? If you happen to be so unlucky, I can't flatter you so far as to advise you to make him a visit: for there is nothing in the world the Baron of Englefield has such an aversion for as for his brother!'

It was probably some years before this that Roubiliac had obtained employment from Mr. Jonathan Tyers, who in 1732 had become the proprietor of Vauxhall Gardens. The 'New Spring Gardens at Fox Hall' had in the previous century been a resort of Mr. Samuel Pepys, who has left on record his approval of the place. 'It is very pleasant and cheap going thither,' he writes in 1667, 'for a man may go to spend what he will or nothing, as all one. But to hear the nightingale and the birds, and here fiddles and there a harp, and here a Jew's-trump and here laughing, and there fine people walking, is mighty divertising.' Since the Pepys period, however, the gardens had fallen into disrepute; had indeed been closed during many seasons. Mr. Tyers took the place in hand, bent upon restoring its fame and fashion. He erected an orchestra, with an organ, engaged the best singers and musicians of the day, built alcoves for the company, and secured paintings by Messrs. Hayman and Hogarth for the further embellishment of the gardens. Then he discussed with his friend, Mr. Cheere, as to adding works of statuary. Mr. Cheere dealt largely in painted leaden figures, then much employed in 'the art of creating landscape.' He was 'the man at Hyde Park Corner' of whom Lord Ogleby in the comedy[4] makes mention when he says: 'Great improvements, indeed, Mr. Sterling! Wonderful improvements! The four Seasons in lead, the flying Mercury, and the basin with Neptune in the middle, are in the very extreme of fine taste. You have as many rich figures as the man at Hyde Park Corner!' Mr. Cheere advised Mr. Tyers to set up a statue of Handel. There was some difficulty about the expense. But Mr. Cheere introduced a clever artist, a Frenchman, content to work upon very moderate terms. This was, of course, Louis Francis Roubiliac; who accordingly produced his statue of Handel: greatly to the admiration of the habitues of Vauxhall. It stood, in 1744, on the south side of the gardens, under an enclosed lofty arch, surmounted by a figure playing on the violoncello, attended by two boys; it was then screened from the weather by a curtain, which was drawn up when the visitors arrived. Mr. Tyers's plans were crowned with success. Fashion was enthusiastic on the subject of Vauxhall. Royalty patronized; the nobility protected and promoted; and the general public crowded Mr. Tyers's handsome pleasure-grounds. The ladies promenaded in their hoops, sacques, and caps, as they appeared in their own drawing-rooms: the beaux of the period were in attendance, with swords and powdered bag-wigs, their three-cornered hats under their arms. Read Walpole's account (in another letter to George Montagu) of his visit in 1750. He accompanied Lady Caroline Petersham and little Miss Ashe—or 'the Pollard Ashe,' as it pleases him to describe her. The ladies had just put on their last layer of rouge, 'and looked as handsome as crimson could make them.' They proceed in a barge, a boat of French horns attending, and little Miss Ashe singing. Parading some time up the river they at last debark at Vauxhall, and there pick up Lord Granby, 'arrived very drunk from Jenny's Whim'—a tavern at Chelsea frequented by his lordship and other gentlemen of fashion. Assembled in their supper-box, Lady Caroline, 'looking gloriously jolly and handsome,' minces seven chickens in a china dish (Lord Orford, Horace's brother, assisting), and stews them over a lamp, with three pats of butter and a flagon of water, stirring, and rattling, and laughing: the company expecting the dish to fly about their ears every minute. Then Betty, the famous fruit-woman from St. James's Street, is in attendance with hampers of strawberries and cherries, waits upon the guests, and afterwards sits down to her own supper at a side table. The company become, by-and-by, a little boisterous in their merriment, and attract the attention of the other visitors; there is soon quite a concourse round Lady Caroline's box, till Harry Vane fills a bumper and toasts the bystanders, and is proceeding to treat them with still greater freedom. 'It was three o'clock before we got home,' concludes Walpole. Such was a fashionable frolic at Vauxhall under Mr. Tyers's management: when Roubiliac's statue of Handel stood in the midst.

[4] 'The Clandestine Marriage.'

Vauxhall vanished some ten or a dozen years since. Its latter days were dreary, down-at-heel, and disreputable enough. The statue had departed long previously. 'It was conveyed to the house of Mr. Barrett, at Stockwell,' records Mr. J.T. Smith in 1829, 'and thence to the entrance-hall of the residence of his son, the Rev. Jonathan Tyers Barrett, D.D., of No. 14 Duke Street, Westminster.' Mr. Henry Phillips, in his Musical and Personal Recollections (1864), regrets that when Roubiliac's Handel 'was brought to the hammer, and sold by Mr. Squibb on the 16th March 1832, for two hundred and five guineas, the Sacred Harmonic Society did not purchase it in place of its being bought by Mr. Brown, of University Street.' Nollekens used to value the statue at one thousand guineas. The plaster model became the property of Hudson, the preceptor of Reynolds, who possessed a collection of models at his house at Twickenham. Upon the death of Hudson and the sale of his collection, the model was bought for five pounds by the father of Mr. J.T. Smith, a pupil of Roubiliac's, and it then passed into the possession of Nollekens. When Nollekens's effects were sold, the plaster Handel was knocked down by Mr. Christie to Hamlet, the famous silversmith. Its further history has not been traced.

The statue of Handel, the first original work that can, with any certainty, be ascribed to Roubiliac, may be regarded as a fair specimen of the artist's manner. He was of the school of Bernini. He followed the sculptors who infinitely prefer unrest to repose in art. He dearly enjoyed a tour de force in stone. He liked to deal with marble as though it were the most plastic of materials: to twist it this way and that, and rumple and flutter it as though it were merely muslin. To have carved a wig in a gale of wind would have been a task particularly agreeable to this class of artists; they would have done their best to represent each particular hair standing on end. They adored minutiae: a shoulder-knot of ribbons, the embroidery of a sword-belt, the stitches of a seam, the lace of a cravat, were achievements to be gloried in. And yet, with all this realism in detail, their works are unreal and artificial in general effect; as a glance at any statue by Roubiliac will sufficiently demonstrate.

This arises possibly from the artist's fondness for attitude. He seems to have regarded posture-making as a peculiar attribute of genius. His figures are always in a constrained and over-studied pose: twisting about in the throes of giving birth to a great idea: filled with the divine afflatus, even to the bursting of their buttonholes and the snapping of their braces. His Handel is in a state of exceeding perturbation: his clothes in staring disorder, his hair floating in the breeze. The intention was to represent the composer in the act of raptured meditation upon music; but, as Allan Cunningham remarks, he looks much more like a man alarmed at an apparition. But then this exaggeration of demeanour was very much the artist's own manner in actual life. The Frenchman has always a sort of innate histrionic faculty: he is for ever, perhaps unconsciously, playing a part. So Roubiliac was himself incessantly acting and attitudinizing, much after the fashion of his statues. He seemed to hold that it was expedient, for the better preventing of mistakes about the matter, that genius should always in such way advertise itself; there was danger lest it should not be believed in if it left off making grimaces and striking attitudes. Perhaps from his own point of view, and in his own time, the artist was right. It was necessary then to do something to arrest the attention of a public apathetic on the subject of art-talent, unless, as Peter Pindar sang, the artist 'had been dead a hundred years.' Possibly, the only way for a man in those days to gain credit as a genius was by affecting eccentricity and unconventionality: taking heed that all his proceedings were as unlike other people's as possible. Thereupon the world argued: geniuses are not as we are; this person is not as we are; therefore he must be a genius. Q.E.D.

Consequently, we find Roubiliac—a thin, olive-skinned Frenchman, with strongly-marked, arching eyebrows, mobile features, and small, sharp, dark eyes—liable at all times to fits of abstraction, attacks of inspiration. He will drop his knife and fork while at dinner, sink back in his chair, assume an ecstatic expression: the fit is on him; he must abandon his meal and hurry away at once to lock himself in his studio, and place upon record the superb idea which has so inconveniently visited him. His companions make allowances for him: men of genius are often thus. At other times he is absorbed in meditation upon his art: address him, and he makes no reply, fails to hear. While engaged upon his statue of Handel, he decides that the great musician must have possessed an ear of exceeding symmetry, and searches everywhere for a model. He scrutinizes the ears of all his acquaintances. Suddenly he pounces upon Miss Rich, the daughter of the Covent Garden manager. 'Miss Rich,' he cries, 'I must have your ear for my Handel!' In Westminster Abbey he permits himself to be 'discovered'—to use an appropriate theatrical term—lost in contemplation of the kneeling figure at the north-west corner of Sir Francis Vere's monument. His servant, having thrice delivered a message, without receiving a word in reply, finds his arm suddenly seized, and his master whispering mysteriously in his ear, while he points to the statue: 'Hush! hush! he vill speak presently!' At another time he invites a friend to occupy a spare bed at his house, gives him his candle, and bids him good-night. Presently the friend is heard crying aloud in great excitement and alarm; the bed is already occupied: the dead body of a negress is laid out upon it. 'I beg your pardon,' says the artist, 'I quite forgot poor Mary vas dere. Poor Mary! she die yesterday vid de small-pox. She was my housemaid for five, six years. Come along; I vill find you a bed somevhere else.' All this was but acting up to the idea Mr. Roubiliac had formed of the abstractedness and eccentricity of genius.

Serene, sedate Flaxman, who adored the antique, who held that sculpture should be nothing if not calm and classical, was little likely to sympathize with Roubiliac, or to comprehend his close following of Bernini, or indeed to care at all for his productions. 'His thoughts are conceits; his compositions epigrams,' says Flaxman. And then he is astounded that Roubiliac, who, at the ripe age of fifty, accompanied by Hudson the painter, also arrived at a period of life somewhat advanced for study, visited Italy, should presume to return unmoved and unenlightened by what he had seen. 'He was absent from home three months, going and returning,' relates Flaxman, with an air of indignation; 'stayed three days in Rome, and laughed at the sublime remains of ancient sculpture!' Positively laughed! To Flaxman, who was certainly a bigot in regard to the beauties of the antique, if Roubiliac was something of a scoffer in that respect, this seemed flat blasphemy. Yet it was hardly to be expected that Roubiliac, at the height of a successful career, would admit his whole system of art to have been founded on error—would consent humbly to recommence his profession, and forthwith prostrate himself at the feet of ancient sculpture. His admiration for Bernini—whom of course Flaxman cordially detested—was genuine enough. The Italian's florid manner chimed in with his own French, gesticulating, mercurial notions of art. If excess of self-satisfaction prevented him from rendering due homage to the relics of the past—and possibly his early toils as a 'restorer' further tended to blind him to their value—he was careful to pay tribute to the merits of the artist he had selected for his prototype. Hazlitt mentions, on the authority of Northcote, that when Roubiliac, returned from Rome, went to look at his own works in Westminster Abbey, he cried out in his usual vehement way, 'By God! they look like tobacco-pipes compared to Bernini!' And he was not without honest admiration for the production of other artists more nearly of his own time. Whenever he visited the city he was careful to go round by the gates of Bethlehem Hospital, in Moorfields, over which stood Caius Gabriel Cibber's figures of Raving and Melancholy Madness: Colley Cibber's 'brazen, brainless brothers,' as Pope called them, ignorant, possibly from their having become so begrimed with London smoke, that they were really carved in stone. Roubiliac highly esteemed these statues. Though in idea evidently borrowed from Michael Angelo, they were yet strictly realistic in treatment, and were reputed to be modelled from Oliver Cromwell's giant porter, at one time a patient in the Hospital. When Bethlehem was removed to St. George's Fields the surface of these figures was renovated by Bacon, the sculptor. They are now deposited in the South Kensington Museum.

Indeed, what Flaxman intended as a reproach, may sound in modern ears much more like approval. 'He copied vulgar nature with zeal, and some of his figures seem alive.' Roubiliac constantly had recourse to the living forms about him; Flaxman preferred instead to turn to the antique. We hear of Roubiliac's fondness for modelling the arms of Thames watermen and the legs of chair-porters: in each case the particular employment inducing great muscular development of the limbs to be moulded. And this desire for independent study was really creditable to the artist. He sought to arrive at the correctness of the ancients by a pathway of his own: to check, by a distinct reckoning, an individual reference to nature, and, if need was, fearlessly to depart from, what they had registered as the result of their investigations. A more legitimate charge against him was that he was negligent in his choice of forms for imitation; undervalued refinement of idea; took altogether a somewhat mean view of nature, or adulterated it with too large an infusion of the dancing-master. Certainly he was fonder of fritter than of breadth; and his draperies are often meagre in effect from the multiplicity of their folds, and his attempt at rendering texture in marble. This may be noticed in his statue of Sir Isaac Newton, at Cambridge, where an excess of labour, seems expended on the silk mantle of the figure—all the small creases and plaitings of the light material being represented, and the surface highly polished, still further to increase the resemblance.

This statue, however, was highly admired by Chantrey,[5] and to it, in his Prelude, Wordsworth has dedicated laudatory lines.

[5] 'Chantrey esteemed highly the works of Roubiliac; he admired his busts; and thought the statue of Newton at Cambridge of the best character of portrait sculpture. The simplicity of the figure, united with the apparent intelligence and thought in the countenance, he considered as quite satisfactory; and although he generally disliked the imitation of any particular material in drapery, he was reconciled to the college dress of the philosopher. From its perfect arrangement, the imitation is so complete that the person who shows the statue at Cambridge always informs the visitor that it only requires to be black to render it a deception. He was inclined to tolerate anything that displayed ingenuity without violating possibility, yet he could never endure such extraneous and uninteresting matter as the shot, the barrel of powder, and the bent chamber of a piece of artillery in the monument to Lord Shannon, in Walton Church, which, with much to commend in the two figures, has a profusion of objects, and a grey marble background, representing a tent, altogether unnecessary and derogatory to the purity of sculpture. Still Roubiliac was rich in thought and reason, for, in his monument in Westminster Abbey, where he has represented Death as a skeleton, he felt that the thin and meagre bones would be as offensive as impracticable; therefore judiciously involved the greater part of the emblem in a shroud or drapery, adding thereby to his allegory and aiding his art. However hostile this style may be to the simplicity of sculpture, the ability of the artist in the conception and execution deserves high praise. The beadle of Worcester Cathedral informed a friend of Chantrey's, that when the sculptor was in that city he always went to see the monument to Bishop Hurd by Roubiliac, and remained a long time in intent observation of the work, for he thought the artist's power over the material surprising, though he disliked polishing the marble.'-Recollections of Chantrey, by George Jones, R.A.

The cast taken by Roubiliac from the face of Newton is in the Hunterian Museum, Glasgow.

There is no necessity for running through a list of Roubiliac's works. But his statue of Shakespeare is deserving of a passing notice. It of course fails to satisfy the students of the bard, who delight to pay equal homage to his philosophy as to his poetry. There is nothing of the sage about the work: it is wholly of the stage indeed. It is replete with Roubiliac's established ecstatic super-elegant manner; with a strong tinge of theatricalism, possibly added by Garrick, for whose temple at Hampton the statue was undertaken; who attitudinized in aid, as he imagined, of the sculptor's labours, with a cry of 'Behold the swan of Avon!' and who, it must be said, at all times entertained a very 'footlight' view of the poet. The price paid for the work was three hundred guineas only. Roubiliac was to supply the best marble he could for the money. Unfortunately the block turned out to be much spotted and streaked; the head was especially disfigured with blue stains. 'What!' cried Garrick, 'was Shakespeare marked with mulberries?' It became necessary to sever the head from the shoulders and replace it with one of purer marble. The statue was completed in 1758. Under the terms of Garrick's will, it became, on the death of his widow, the property of the nation, and it now stands in the entrance-hall of the British Museum. After the purists and the exacting have said their worst against the statue, it will yet be found—from the spirit of its execution, its cleverness, and 'go,' to resort to a vulgarism—charming a very large class of uncritical examiners.

As Lord Chesterfield said of Roubiliac, 'he was the only statuary of his day; all other artists were mere stone-cutters.' It is very desirable, in estimating his merits, to bear in mind that he stood alone; his rivals, Rysbrach and Scheemakers, he had completely outstripped; and, apart from his following of Bernini, he was clearly an artist of an original and creative kind. What is hard to forgive in him, however, and what indeed has much detracted from his reputation, is the fact that a long list of allegorical monstrosities was in some sort the result of his example. Charmed with certain of his works, and possessed just then by particular memories it deemed deserving of monumental celebration, the nation rushed recklessly to its stone-cutters. The terrible works which blemish and blister the walls of our cathedrals and churches were the consequences. Verrio and Laguerre had long set the fashion of disfiguring ceilings and staircases with their incomprehensible compositions. Roubiliac carved similar parabolic productions in marble and set them up in Westminster Abbey and elsewhere. In these, heathen divinities jostle Christian emblems; Paganism is seen abreast of true religion. In the aisle of a Gothic abbey, John, Duke of Argyle and Greenwich, warrior and orator, expires at the foot of a pyramid, on which History, weeping, writes his deeds, while Minerva (or Britannia) mourns at the side, and Eloquence above, tossing white arms in the air, deplores the loss she has sustained. Here we find Hercules placing the bust of Sir Peter Warren upon a pedestal, while Navigation prepares to crown it with a laurel wreath; a British flag forming the background and a horn of plenty emptying its contents beside an anchor and a cannon. In the monument to Marshal Wade, Time is endeavouring to destroy a pillar adorned with military trophies, which fame as zealously protects. The famous Nightingale memorial represents a husband shielding a dying wife from the attack of Death: a grinning skeleton levelling a javelin as he issues from the opening iron door of a tomb. The admirable execution of these works cannot blind the critic to the utter unfitness and folly of their conception.

But Roubiliac's successors far outbid him in absurdity. To a number of people a precedent is always a point of departure—an example to be imitated with violent exaggeration. After our sculptor came a deluge of imbecility. We are then among stone-cutters who shrink from nothing; we are treated then to clouds that look like muffins—to waves that resemble pancakes. Apotheosis becomes preposterous; allegory goes fairly mad. Glancing at certain post-Roubiliac achievements, we long for an earthquake. Nicholas Read, the least competent of his pupils, upon the sculptor's death occupied his studio, advertised himself as successor to Mr. Roubiliac, and, strange to say, was largely employed: the execution of the monuments to Admiral Tyrrell and the Duchess of Northumberland, in Westminster Abbey, being intrusted to him. During his master's life the apprentice had boasted of the great deeds he would do when he had served his time. Roubiliac cried scornfully, in his broken English: 'Ven you do de monument, den de vorld vill see vot von d——d ting you vill make of it!' His words were justified by Read's monument to Admiral Tyrrell: possibly the most execrable work in stone in existence; which is saying a good deal. As Nollekens would often remark of it: 'Read's admiral going to heaven looks for all the world as though he were hanging from a gallows with a rope round his neck.'

As Roubiliac's first work was a statue of Handel for Vauxhall Gardens, so his last was a statue of the same great composer for Westminster Abbey. He died on the 11th January 1762, and was buried in St. Martin's Churchyard, 'under the window of the Bell Bagnio.' His funeral was attended by the leading members of the Society of Artists, then meeting at the Academy in Peter's Court, St. Martin's Lane: the room they occupied, it may be noted, having been Roubiliac's first workshop. The artists following the funeral were:—Mr. (afterwards Sir Joshua) Reynolds, Moser, Hogarth, Tyler, Sandby, Hayman, Wilton, Bartolozzi, Cipriani, Payne, Chambers (afterwards Sir William), Serres, Ravenet, the elder Grignon, Meyer, and Hudson; and the dead master's three pupils, John Adkins, Nicholas Read, and Nathaniel Smith.

Roubiliac died poor; indeed, seriously in debt. Yet he had married well, it would seem. An old newspaper, under date January 1752, records: 'Married Mr. Roubiliac, the statuary in St. Martin's Lane, to Miss Crossley of Deptford, worth L10,000.' No particulars of his married life have come down to us, however. It is probable that his wife predeceased him. The money was spent in any case. Perhaps she never possessed so much as the world gave her credit for. The sale of his effects, after payment of his funeral expenses, left only about one-and-sixpence in the pound to his creditors. Though constantly employed, the prices he received were small; and a thoroughly conscientious artist, he never spared time or labour upon the commissions he had undertaken. He was not, it is stated, extravagant in his habits; did not waste his means in the support of a pretentious establishment. On the contrary, his method of life was very modest: his tastes were simple enough. Society was not yet prepared to admit the professions to her salons; her somewhat costly caresses were reserved for the ingenious of a succeeding generation. Roubiliac was content to live that easy pleasant tavern life favoured by the men of letters and artists of the eighteenth century, and with which Johnson and Boswell have made us so intimately acquainted. A bottle of claret and a game of whist solaced his leisure hours; and these were not numerous: he was constantly to be found in his studio, late at night, hard at work long after his assistants had retired: a vivacious, honest, warm-hearted man, much and justly esteemed by his friends and contemporaries.

He was a familiar acquaintance of Goldsmith, who in his Chinese letters speaks of him kindly as 'the little sculptor.' He was fond of music, and Goldsmith would play the flute to him. As Sir John Hawkins records, the sculptor once tricked the poet by pretending to set down the notes on paper as Goldsmith played them. Goldsmith looked over the paper afterwards with seeming great attention, said it was quite correct, and that if he had not seen him do it he never could have believed his friend capable of writing music after him. Roubiliac had jotted down notes at random. Neither had any real knowledge of music, and Goldsmith played entirely by ear.

His intimate and fellow-sculptor—a painter also—Adrien Charpentier, executed a characteristic portrait of Roubiliac. He is represented at work upon a small-size model of his Shakespeare. He is touching the eye of the figure with his modelling tool, and the task, one of some delicacy and difficulty, adds to the animation of the operator. His head, where it is not covered by the fanciful loose head-dress affected by poets and artists of the period, is bald: possibly shaven, for the convenience of wig-wearing, after the custom of the time. His dress is disordered, his bosom bare, his wristbands loose. Had Roubiliac carved his own statue in stone, it would probably, in treatment, have closely followed Charpentier's picture.

A portrait of Roubiliac, painted by himself, was sold for three-and-sixpence only at the sale of his effects. The prices, indeed, at this sale seem to have been desperately low. There were no antiquities or objects of virtu brought to the hammer: and Mr. Canto was not the auctioneer! A copy by Reynolds of the Chandos portrait of Shakespeare, with seven other pictures, was knocked down for ten shillings only, the father of John Flaxman being the purchaser. Reynolds had painted the picture as a present to his friend, Mr. Roubiliac. It afterwards became the property of Mr. Edmond Malone.


The famous artists of the Continent almost invariably organize schools of art, converting their studios into miniature academies, surrounding themselves with pupils and disciples who sit at their feet, listen to their teaching, assist them by painting for them the less important portions of their works, adopt their processes, and follow their styles of drawing and colouring. There is something to be said for the system. It is an advantage to the young student to be constantly brought into contact with a real master of the art; to have the opportunity of working under his supervision, and, on the other hand, of watching him at his labours, and of witnessing the birth, growth, and completion of his best pictures. The main objection to the plan is that it may develop merely imitative ability rather than stimulate genuine originality; that it inclines the student to follow too scrupulously a beaten track rather than strike out a fresh pathway for himself. He may reproduce the virtues of his exemplar's art, but he will certainly copy its vices as well. And then the difficult question arises: when is he to assert his independence? At what period in his career is he to cease leaning on his teacher, and to pursue his own devices unaided and alone? He may have tied his leading-strings so tightly about him that liberty of thought and action has become almost impossible to him, and the free use of his limbs, so to speak, has gone from him. It is quite true that the artist should be a student all his life; but then he should be a student of art generally, not of any one professor of art in particular, or he will be simply the pupil of a great master to the end of the chapter, never a great master himself.

Objection to a system of instruction that may tend to perpetuate mannerism, to cramp originality, and fetter genius, has of late years led to considerable opposition to art-academies generally, whenever more is contemplated by them than the mere school-teaching of the pupil, and the affording him assistance at the outset of his professional life. Haydon was fond of declaring 'that academies all over Europe were signals of distress thrown out to stop the decay of art,' but that they had failed egregiously, and rather hastened the result they had intended to hinder. Fuseli asserted that 'all schools of painters, whether public or private, supported by patronage or individual contribution, were and are symptoms of art in distress, monuments of public dereliction and decay of taste.' He proceeded afterwards to defend such schools, however, as the asylum of the student, the theatre of his exercises, the repositories of the materials, the archives of art, whose principles their officers were bound to maintain, and for the preservation of which they were responsible to posterity, etc. Dr. Waagen was of opinion that the academic system gave an artificial elevation to mediocrity; that it deadened natural talent, and introduced into the freedom of art an unsalutary degree of authority and interference. The late Horace Vernet entertained similar views, recommending the suppression of the French Academy at Rome. M. Say (the Adam Smith of France) held that all Academies were in truth hostile to the fine arts; and a report of a committee of the English House of Commons (1836) went far in the same direction, venturing to predict the probability 'that the principle of free competition in art as in commerce would ultimately triumph over all artificial institutions,' and that 'governments might at some future period content themselves with holding out prizes or commissions to the different but co-equal societies of artists, and refuse the dangerous gift of pre-eminence to any.'

In England the school of the individual great artist upon the continental plan seems to have had no counterpart. Favourite portrait-painters have, now and then, employed a staff of subordinates to paint the draperies, and fill in the backgrounds of their works, but the persons thus employed have been mechanicians rather than artists. Northcote was the pupil of Reynolds, and Harlowe was taught by Lawrence; but in neither case was there much attempt at maintaining a school of manner, as it would be understood out of England. The works of Northcote and Harlowe contain traces of the teaching of their preceptors little more than do the productions of their contemporaries, and they certainly bequeathed no distinct traditions of style to their successors. In England the foundation of a National Academy, or of an institution in any measure manifesting the characteristics of a National Academy, took place long subsequent to the rise of the foreign Academies. And the English Royal Academy, as at present constituted, cannot be said to occupy a position analogous to that of foreign academies. As was expressed in the Report of the Parliamentary Committee of 1836: 'It is not a public national institution like the French Academy, since it lives by exhibition and takes money at the door, yet it possesses many of the privileges of a public body without bearing the direct burthen of public responsibility.' Or, as was succinctly explained by Mr. Westmacott, himself an academician, before the commissioners appointed in 1863 to inquire into the position of the Royal Academy: 'When we wish not to be interfered with we are private, when we want anything of the public we are public;' and then he goes on to say: 'The Academy is distinctly a private institution, and, admitting it is not perfect, doing great public good all for nothing,' i.e., without charge. Mr. Westmacott was unconsciously pleading guilty to Haydon's accusation that 'the academicians constituted in truth a private society, which they always put forward when you wish to examine them, and they always proclaim themselves a public society when they want to benefit by any public vote.'

For long years the sentiment had prevailed in England that art was no affair of the State, had no sort of interest for the governing power of the country, or indeed for the general public; and it was, of course, left to those persons to whom an Academy of Art was in any way a matter of necessity or importance, to found such an institution for themselves. Certainly the encouragement given to the painter during the first half of the eighteenth century was insignificant enough. He was viewed much as the astrologer or the alchemist; his proceedings, the world argued, were sufficiently foolish and futile, but still harmless; he was not particularly in anybody's way, and therefore it was not worth anybody's while to molest or displace him. But as for patronizing, or valuing, or rewarding him, turning upon him the light of the royal countenance, or cheering him with popular applause, those were quite other matters. King, and Court, and people had vastly different things to think about. He was just suffered, not succoured in any way. He must get on as well as he could, educating, improving, helping himself. As for aid from the State, that was absolutely out of the question.

For the benefit of his brother artists and of himself, therefore, Sir Godfrey Kneller, who had lived in happier times, so far as art was concerned—for the Stuarts had some love for poetry and painting, though the Hanoverian sovereigns had not—instituted a private drawing Academy in London in the year 1711. Of this Academy, Vertue, who collected the materials for the 'Anecdotes of Painting,' which Walpole digested and published, was one of the first members, studying there some years; and it was probably of this institution that Hogarth wrote in 1760, describing it as founded by some gentlemen painters of the first rank, who, in imitation of the Academy of France, introduced certain forms and solemnities into their proceedings which were objectionable to several members, and led to divisions and jealousies in the general body. Finally, the president and his followers, finding themselves caricatured and opposed, locked out their opponents and closed the Academy.

Sir James Thornhill, who had headed the most important of the parties into which the institution had become divided, and who held the appointment of historical painter to George I., then submitted to the Government of the day a plan for the foundation of a Royal Academy which should encourage and educate the young artists of England. He proposed that a suitable building, with apartments for resident professors, should be erected at the upper end of the King's Mews, Charing Cross. The cost of carrying out this plan was estimated at little more than three thousand pounds; but although Lord Treasurer Halifax gave his support, the Government negatived the proposition, and declined to find the necessary means.

Sir James, not altogether daunted by his ill success, determined to do what he could on his own responsibility, and without aid from the Treasury. He opened a Drawing Academy, therefore, at his house in James Street, Covent Garden, on the east side, where, as a writer in 1804 describes the situation, 'the back offices and painting-room abutted upon Langford's (then Cock's) Auction Room in the Piazza,' and gave tickets to all who desired admission. It is to be feared that Sir James's generosity was somewhat abused. Certain it is that dissensions arose in his Academy as in Kneller's; that one Vandrebank headed an opposition party, and at length withdrew with his adherents to found a rival school. According to Hogarth, 'he converted an old meeting-house into an Academy, and introduced a female figure to make it more inviting to subscribers.' But this establishment did not last long, the subscriptions were not forthcoming, and the fittings and furniture of the school were seized for debt. Upon the death of Sir James, in 1734, his Academy was also closed.

But a school had now become indispensably necessary to the artists of the day. After a time they forgot their differences, and again united. Hogarth had become possessed of his father-in-law Sir James Thornhill's furniture, which he was willing to lend to an association of artists founding a new school; a subscription was accordingly arranged, and a room 'large enough to admit of thirty or forty persons drawing after a naked figure,' was hired in the house of Mr. Hyde, a painter in Greyhound Court, Arundel Street, Strand. Hogarth, attributing the failure of preceding academies to an assumption of superior authority on the part of members whose subscriptions were of largest amount, proposed that all members should equally contribute to the maintenance of the establishment, and should possess equal rights of voting on all questions relative to its affairs. For many years this academy, which, in 1738, removed to more convenient premises[6] in Peter's Court, St. Martin's Lane, existed in a most satisfactory manner. To this school of Hogarth's, as we may fairly consider it, the majority of the English painters of the reign of George II. and the early part of George III., owed much of their art education. Perhaps the success of the school was due in great part to the discretion and good management of the artist who had been nominated its chief instructor: George Michael Moser, a gold and silver chaser, enameller and modeller, Swiss by birth. Something also it owed to its unpretentious yet practical and utilitarian character. The artists were bound together by mutual convenience; their school, conferring no degrees, aiming at no distinction, was of equal advantage to all. It was strictly a private institution, in no way attracting to itself public notice or asking for aid from the public purse.

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