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name, would now pay for the paint and canvass which were wasted on it. Yet he drew well, and with ease, and descanted readily and justly on others, when not warped by his own narrow theories.
At fifty, married as he was to a kind and faithful woman, who 'worshipped his genius,' as Mr. Cunningham assures us, though 'without high birth or delicate breeding,' he became at first sight the object of one of Mary Wolstonecraft's numerous affections. Mr. Cunningham shall tell the sequel. Our friend Allan, on this and some other occasions, displays a spirit of scepticism as to appearances and consequences, infinitely amiable, but indicating more familiarity with clay models and marble philosophers than their prototypes of flesh and blood. We pity poor Mrs. Fuseli, but the story is irresistible :—
'At the table of Johnson, the bookseller, Fuseli was a frequent guest, and in all conversations that passed there was lord of the ascendant. There he met his friend Armstrong, who praised him in the journals ; Wolcot, whom he hated; and Mary Wolstonecraft, who at the first interview conferred upon him the honour of her love. The French revolution was at that time giving hopes to the young and fears to the old. Fuseli was slightly smitten; but the cap of liberty itself seemed to have fallen on the heart as well as the head of the lady; who conducted herself as if it were absurd to doubt that the new order of things had loosened all the old moral obligations, and that marriage was but one of those idle ceremonies now disposed of for ever by the new dispensation of Lepaux and his brethren. With such notions Mary Wolstonecraft cast bold eyes upon the Shakspeare of canvass. And he, instead of repelling, as they deserved, those ridiculous advances, forthwith, it seems, imagined himself possessed with the pure spirit of Platonic love—assumed the languid air of a sentimental Corydon—exhibited artificial raptures, and revived in imagination the fading fires of his youth. Yet Mrs. Fuseli appears to have had little serious cause for jealousy in this mutual attachment.'—vol. iii. p. 297.
Mr. Cunningham then introduces the following quotation from 'The Life of Mrs. Wolstonecraft.' Could he transcribe the passage without laughing?
'She saw Mr. Fuseli frequently ; he amused, delighted, and instructed her. As a painter, she could not but wish to see his works, and consequently to frequent his house; she visited him; her visits were returned. Notwithstanding the inequality of their years, Mary was not of a temper to live upon terms of so much intimacy with a man of merit and genius without loving him. The delight she enjoyed in his society she transferred by association to his person. She had now lived for upwards of thirty years in a state of celibacy and seclusion, and as her sensibilities were exquisitely acute, she felt this sort of banishment from social charities more painfully than persons in general are likely to feel it. The sentiments which Mr. Fuseli excited in her mind
taught her the secret to which she was in a manner a stranger. Let it not, however, be imagined, that this was any other than the dictate of a refined sentiment, and the simple deduction of morality and reason.'
Social Charities! Refined Sentiment! Morality and Reason!!
We have neither space nor time to notice the less prominent artists whose lives are here recorded. Some of them are justly characterized, but their works alone retain any interest in the public mind. There is good sense in Opie's lectures, and talent m his coarse but vigorous pencil. He obeyed his own eye and his own feeling, and without genius was at least true and original. We regret Bird, and his studies of real life, to which he rose from painting tea-boards in Birmingham. A few more pictures like Chevy Chase would have given him a more universal praise, but his humbler subjects were full of life and nature. He studied other painters, and his talent died before him. The lesson is not unimportant to those who, like him, excel in any original manner of their own. A more extensive observation of nature may, and will, extend their powers,—the study of art without it enfeebles and contracts them. Morland was a vulgar drunkard of great natural talent, aud his works were much better than his life. Of others we have little to observe. Mere portraits, unless stamped with merit even greater than Hoppner's, are more valuable to history than to art; and Northcote is a tamer Opie, engrafted on an imitator of Sir Joshua Reynolds. The rest are of a faith not allied to many good works, but still respectable.*
We turn from these, but Lawrence deserves more consideration. He had genius, as well as mere talent, and it was of that precocious kind which, by making the possessor wonderful as a child, often ruins its own promise. He was, as we all know, made a show of when only five or six years old, by his father, an innkeeper at Devizes, and then able, to spout poetry or draw likenesses at the pleasure of the company who resorted to the house. Continual drawing gave him readiness, and at ten he was taking portraits at Oxford and Bath, in crayons, which he practised till he was seventeen. He must have learned facility, and much correctness of design and observation, from this constant employment in drawing from actual life; and he then
* We should, indeed, except Cotway, the fantastic miniature painter, of whom, and hiii musical parties, Mr. Cunningham, had he known much, would probably have thought it right to tell us little. We remember that tel well—and wonder how our author should have contrived to converse with no one capable of giving him a hint of the true state of the case which he decks out in the nourishes of sentiment and romance.
began began to paint in oil and study colour in the right school, for he aimed successively at Rembrandt, Reynolds, and Titian. His own estimate of his powers was just, though self-confident, when he told his mother, in one of his juvenile letters, that, excepting Sir Joshua, he would risk his reputation for painting a head with any in London. In truth his hand obeyed his mind more correctly than theirs, and he had begun to learn the art in which of all English painters he and Reynolds alone have excelled—that of fixing in the memory the marked and characteristic but transient expression of the face, and then painting what he knew, correcting only by what he saw when the individual was before him as a sitler.
Encouraged by Reynolds with just commendation, he soon convinced the world of his talents by his well-known portrait of Lady Derby, then Miss Farren, and was employed by the Royal Family, and even proposed as an associate of the Academy by George III., and supported by Reynolds and West, though in contravention of their rules, when but twenty-one years of age. He had also the honour, for it was an honour, of incurring the enmity and being abused by the ribald pens of Wolcott and John Williams, to both of whom Mr. Cunningham pays the undeserved compliment of recording their forgotten slanders. He escaped from a much worse danger, when, induced by the criticism of the day, he attempted, invito. Minerva, to strike out of the admirable and pleasing style which was now natural to him, into the gigantic grandeur of Milton, as expounded by Fuseli. He chose too, after long meditation, as it appears, precisely the subject most unfit for painting, and which he, above all those who ever attempted it. was perhaps the most unfit to paint. He liked poetry, admired Milton, was desirous of outshining Fuseli, whose fame was still rife in the Academy at least, and with much pains constructed an immense Satan. It met, if we are to believe Lawrence himself, the applause of the 'circle of taste,' but assuredly that circle, in his acceptation of it, must have been a very select body. The piece was even abused by Fuseli, who complained that Lawrence had stolen his devil from him. It certainly has much the appearance of one of Fuseli's nightmare monsters, and is as unlike as possible to any conception of the 'excess of glory obscured,' ascribed to the arch fiend by Milton.
Fuseli probably thought his own imagination quite equal to that of Milton, Homer, and Shakspeare united; so he only blamed the evil and prosaic generation in which his lot was cast, and went on devising devils, deities, and ghosts, in evidence of his superiority to the time, and in spite of its obstinate insensibility. Lawrence had more tact, and, with his usual good sense, took the hint, and
condescended condescended to return to common humanity, a subject which he could not only represent, but embellish. His portraits of Kemble in different characters are fine and well-coloured pictures; but like all pictures of the class, they rather give the actor than the character assumed. In these, however, and in his works generally, there are excellencies and beauties which rank him in the English school as second only to Reynolds. His design, from an early period, was better than Sir Joshua's, and his colouring forcible and natural. It continued so, and acquired additional strength, variety, and facility, till he had the happy opportunity at Aix-laChapelle, Vienna, and Rome, of painting the warriors, statesmen, and sovereigns of Europe, and receiving the testimony due to his established talents, from all the foreign artists, as well as their employers. He also studied with a discerning judgment, and used, with sound good sense, the lessons held forth by the immortal works of the Italian masters. The fruits appear in- his portrait of Pius VII., and still more in that of Gonsalvi. On these and his other portraits of men whose names must ever be prominent in English and European history, his future fame might securely rest. They are, with scarcely an exception, strong and well-drawn likenesses, characteristic, and exquisitely painted. Wellington, Castlereagh, Canning, Peel, Croker, Stowell, Eldon, Brougham, Scott, Southey, Davy, Moore, and others not unworthy of being named in the same sentence with tbem, will live to the eye of posterity on the canvass of Lawrence. No man ever struck out a first sketch designed in chalk, as the ground-work of the head to be pourtrayed, which conveyed an image at once so spirited and so true of all the leading characteristics of the subject. Some of these mere sketches are really precious works, and so are many of his unfinished paintings. In them is seen the strong and accurate transcript of his mind; indeed, in some cases, the expression is more clear and definite than that retained in his more perfect pictures. In many of these, the inferiority of the figure, whether left to the execution of his scholars, or carelessly and rapidly added by himself, detracts from the merit of the head; but independently of this, the accumulation of minute and careful touches, that give a countenance and complexion its last finish, sometimes leaves a degree of opacity, injurious to the original conception. Such cases there are: and yet there can be no doubt that the great distinguishing excellence— the one peculiar and unrivalled merit of Lawrence, as a portraitpainter, consisted in the exquisite elaborateness of his drawing of the face. We once heard a distinguished living artist say candidly, 'Sir Thomas's drawing begins where the rest of us leave off.' Lawrence was in his day the most successful painter of EngVol. L. jfo. xcix. G lish
lish female beauty, and consequently a great favourite with our women. We shall be accounted blind, perhaps, if we venture even a qualified dissent from their unanimous verdict, as Mr. Cunningham himself gives their portraits by his hand a preference over those of our less attractive sex. We own the flashing brilliancy of their dark eyes, and the inviting simper of their lips, but we still prefer the varied smiles, and, above all, the clear and bright hue, where any is left, in the faces and bosoms of their lovely grandmothers, by Reynolds, to the white fairness of Lawrence's complexions. The arms and necks of their favourite are too chalky for our taste, and thanks to the sunburnt complexions of our gentlemen, the defect is less conspicuous in the male portraits of Lawrence. The warm, sunshiny glow of Titian's Italian beauties, and the florid blowziness of Rubens' dames, were tempered by Reynolds to that exact tone, which is the boast of our English climate, when shown in its most becoming rays. The lights and shades of Lawrence are as true, perhaps, but not so judiciously selected. That he softened defects and flattered plain women, if such can be supposed to have sat to him, maybe excused ; but we deny that even his art ever produced beauty equal to that of some of his fair originals.
Other artists have confined their ambition to the lucrative practice of portrait-painting, from love of money, but Lawrence made himself dependent on that line of art, from the want of it. He received prices unknown to any earlier professor, but between carelessness, extravagance, and measureless benevolence, he was for ever in difficulties ; and these occasioned in him, as they too often have done in others, some reprehensible subterfuges. Mr. Cunningham mentions the capricious humours of his wealthy and noble sitters, who grew tired of their portraits before they were half, finished. He ought in fairness to have added, that Lawrence received, on the first sitting, one-half of the large price due to him for a finished picture; that from such a temptation he rarely turned away, and continued to levy these contributions, when his undertakings exceeded all possibility of their accomplishment, so that many a fair or distinguished subject remained, after one or two days' attendance, for eighteen or twenty years, unable to procure another sitting, and certainly not the better for the lustres which intervened. From many of these ill-used and neglected claimants, death relieved him. His rooms were full of unfinished portraits; we wish not to comment on the fact; the character and circumstances recorded in his biography sufficiently account for, but assuredly do not justify or excuse it. We remember, however, that when a friend pressed him for information as to the possibility of fiuishing a lady's picture at forty, which