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Progress of the Nation page 10


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The fame of Wren must rest on St. Paul's, for in palaces he was less happy than in churches. His additions to Windsor Castle and St. James's Palace, and his erection of Marlborough House are by no means calculated to do him great honour, whilst all lovers of architecture must lament the removal of a great part of Wolsey's palace at HamptonCourt to make way for Wren's erection. A Dutch taste, indeed, it was which levelled all those stately buildings to the ground, to make room for the great square mass which replaced them. A glorious view, if old drawings are to be believed, must all that vast and picturesque variety of towers, battlements, tall mullioned windows, cupolas, and pinnacles, have made, as they stood under the clear heaven glittering in the sun. The writers who saw it in its glory describe it in its entireness as the most splendid palace in Europe. Of the campaniles of Wren, St. Bride's, Fleet Street; that of Bow Church, Cheapside; St. Dunstan in the East; and the tower of St. Michael's, Cornhill, are the finest. The last is almost his only Gothic one, and that would have been a fine tower had the ornament been equally diffused over it, and not all been huddled too near the top. Wren was thwarted in his design of the London Monument. He drew a plan for one with gilt flames issuing from the loopholes, and surrounded by a phoenix, but as no such design could be found in the five orders, it was rejected, and the present common-place affair erected. One of his last undertakings was the repair of Westminster Abbey, to which he added the towers at the west end, and proposed to erect a spire in the centre. Sir Christopher left a large quantity of drawings, which are preserved in All Souls' College library, Oxford, which have never been engraved.

The next great architect of this period is Sir John Vanbrugh, who, when in the zenith of his fame as a dramatic writer, suddenly started forth as an architect, and had the honour of erecting Castle Howard, the seat of the earl of Carlisle; Blenheim House, built for the duke of Marlborough, in reward of his victories; Duncomb Hall, Yorkshire; King's Weston, in Gloucestershire; Oulton Hall, Cheshire; Grimsthorpe, in Lincolnshire; Eastbury, in Dorsetshire, now destroyed; and Seaton Delaval, in Northumberland, since partly destroyed by fire. Besides these, he built the opera house, also destroyed by fire. In all these there is a strong similarity, and as a general effect, a certain magnificence; but, when examined in detail, they too generally resolve themselves into a row of individual designs merely arranged side by side. This is very much the case with the long facade of Blenheim. The main idea recurring again and again is that of a great Grecian peristyle and pediment in the centre, surmounted by another pediment, or a dome, and other such buildings ranged right and left at different heights; the whole united by stretches of plain facade, and plentifully surrounded by vases and images. There is a barbaric splendour, but it has no pervading unity, and only differs from the Italian manner of Wren by a much bolder and profuser use of the Grecian columns and pilasters. In fact, the architecture of the whole of this period is of a hybrid character, the classical more or less modified and innovated to adapt it to modern purposes and the austerky of a northern climate. From Inigo Jones, the great disciple of Vitruvius and Palladio, who adhered as closely to the Grecian as his Italian taste permitted him, down to Colin Campbell and Kent, whose country mansions, like Wan- stead, generally consisted of a huge, oblong, square mass of plainest building, with two or three rows of windows, a parapeted top hiding the roof, and a great Grecian pediment or colonnade in the centre - baldness and ornament meagrely wedded - the same style prevailed.

Amongst the most distinguished of this series of architects is James Gibbs, who, after studying in Italy, returned to this country in time to secure the erection of some of the fifty churches ordered to be built in the metropolis and its vicinity in the tenth year of queen Anne. The first which he built is his finest - St. Martin's, at the north-east corner of Trafalgar Square. This consists of the model of a Grecian temple, the whole design kept as close to the original as the requirements of protestant worship allow, faced by a noble hexastyle Corinthian portico, surmounted by an Italian tower and spire. Much objection has been made to the anomaly of placing a spire on the roof of a temple, both because towers and spires should naturally stand upon the ground, and because such additions are utterly discordant with the principle of the main erection; but, spite of these drawbacks, it must be allowed that St. Martin's is one of the most beautiful churches in the kingdom, and, were the spire away, would bear a strong resemblance to the Madeleine, in Paris. Besides St. Martin's, Gibbs was the architect of St. Mary's, in the Strand; Marylebone Chapel; the body of All Saints, Derby - an incongruous addition to a fine old Gothic tower; the Radcliffe Library, at Oxford; and the west side of the quadrangle of King's College, and the Senate House, Cambridge, left incomplete. In these latter works Sir James Burrows, the designer of the beautiful chapel of Clare Hall, in the same university, was also concerned. Gibbs was, moreover, the architect of St. Bartholomew's Hospital. The greater portion of Gibbs's works present a strange medley of composition, without much original invention.

Nicholas Hawksmoor, a pupil of Wren's, and an assistant of Vanbrugh's in building Castle Howard and Blenheim House, was the architect of St. George's-in-the-East, Ratcliffe Highway, commenced in 1715; St. Mary Woolnoth's, Lombard Street; St. George's, Bloomsbury; St. Anne's, Limehouse; Easton Norton House, in Northamptonshire; and some other works, including a mausoleum at Castle Howard, and repairs of the west front of Westminster Abbey. St. George's, Bloomsbury, is perhaps his finest erection, which has a Corinthian portico, like St. Martin's, and the steeple is surmounted by a statue of George II. On the whole, Hawksmoor's erections are heavy and bald.

During this period, St. John the Evangelist, Westminster, was built by Thomas Archer. The churches of Greenwich; St. George's, Hanover Square; and St Luke, Middlesex, by John James. St. Giles-in-the-Fields; St. Olave's, Southwark, and Woburn Abbey, by Flitcroft; Chatsworth House and Thoresby, by Salmon; Montagu House, by the French architect, Pouget; All Saints Church, and the Peckwater Quadrangle of Christ Church, Oxford, by Dean Aldrich; and the library of Christ Church, designed by Dr. George Clarke, M.P. for Oxford, in the reign of Anne. After these the earl of Burlington, a worshipper of Palladio and Inigo Jones, became a very fashionable architect, and built Chiswick, a copy of the Villa Capra, near Vincenza, since epoiled by incongruous additions; the dormitory at Westminster School; Petersham House, and other noblemen's mansions. The fine colonnade in the courtyard of Burlington House, hidden by the ugly high wall in Piccadilly, is also his work. Burlington was essentially a copyist, as was his protege Kent, who built Holkham, in Norfolk, and the Horse Guards, but acquired as much reputation by his landscape gardening as he did little by his architecture. Kent had the honour of introducing the natural style of laying out grounds and gardens, so finely recommended by Bacon and by the descriptions of Spenser and Milton, and partly adopted by Pope. This system was afterwards taken up and made more general by Launcelot Brown, called Capability Brown, and has now become universal. Kent, however, was so much the fashion, that he was consulted in patterns for furniture, plate, and even ladies' dresses. Towards the end of this period several foreign artists were employed here. We have already named Pouget; Giacomo Leoni was much employed; and Labelye, a Swiss, built Westminster Bridge, which was completed in 1747. Thomas Ripley, originally a carpenter, built the Admiralty.

Painting and Sculpture

Painting, like architecture, was at a very low ebb during this period, with one or two brilliant exceptions. Foreign artists were in demand, and there was no native talent, except that of Thornhill and Hogarth, which could claim to be unjustly overlooked in that preference. Lely in portrait was still living, and Sir Godfrey Kneller, another foreigner, was already taking his place. Kneller was a German, born at Lübec, and educated under the best Flemish masters of the day. As he had chosen portrait painting as his department, he hastened over to England after a visit to Rome and Venice, as the most profitable field for his practice, and being introduced to Charles II. by the duke of Monmouth, he became at once the fashion. Kneller had talents of the highest order, and, had not his passion for money-making been still greater, he would have taken rank with the great masters; but, having painted a few truly fine pictures, he relied on them to secure his fame, and commenced an actual manufacture of portraits for the accumulation of money. Like Rubens, he sketched out the main figure, and painted the head and face, leaving his subordinates to fill in all the rest. He worked with wonderful rapidity, and had figures often prepared beforehand, on which he fitted heads as they were ordered. Amongst his assistants were Pieters, Bakker, Vander Roer, Flemings, and the two Bings - the latter Englishmen. Sir John Medina, a Fleming, was the great manufacturer of ready-made figures and postures for him, the rest filled in the draperies and backgrounds. He had a bold, free, and vigorous hand, painting with wonderful rapidity, and much of the grace of Vandyck, but only a few of his works show what he was capable of. The beauties of the court of William and Mary, which may be seen side by side with those of the court of Charles H. by Lely at Hampton Court, are far inferior to Lely's. His " Converted Chinese," and the portrait of the earl of Bute, at Luton House, may be taken as specimens of his best style.

During this time foreign painters of various degrees of merit flourished in England. Amongst these were John Baptist Vanloo, brother of the celebrated Carl Vanloo, a careful artist; Joseph Vanaken, a native of Antwerp, who did for Hudson what his countrymen did for Kneller - furnish draperies and attitudes. He also supplied many others, so that Hogarth painted his funeral as followed by all the painters of the day in despair. The celebrated battle- painter, Peter Vander Meulen, Hemskirk, Godfrey Schalken, famous for his candle-light effects, John Van Wyck, a famous painter of horses, James Bogdani, a Hungarian flower, bird, and fruit painter, Balthazer Denner, famous for his wonderfully-finished heads, especially of old people, and Theodore Netscher, the son of Gaspar Netscher, all painted in England in the earlier part of the eighteenth century. Boit - a painter of French parentage - Liotard, and Zincke, were noted enamel painters. Peter Tillemans, who painted English landscapes, seats, busts, roses, &c., died in 1734; and the celebrated Canaletti came hither in 1746, and staid about two years, but was not very successful, the English style of architecture, and, still more, the want of the transparent atmosphere of Italy, being unfavourable to his peculiar talent.

There was also a vast deal of decorations of ceilings and staircases still going on, and foreign artists still flocked over to execute it. Laguerre, a Frenchman, succeeded Verrio in this department, and his works still remain at Hampton Court, Burleigh, Blenheim, and other places. Laguerre was appointed to paint the cupola of St. Paul's, designs having been offered also by Antonio Pelligrini, who had thus embellished Castle Howard; but their claims were overruled in favour of Sir James Thornhill. Besides these, there was Lafosse, who had decorated Montagu House, Amiconi, a Venetian, and others, who executed many hundred square yards of such work in England. Such was the fashion for these foreign decorators, that when a native artist appeared equal to any one of them in skill and talent, and superior to most, he found himself paid at a very inferior and insulting rate. This was the case with Sir James Thornhill, of Thornhill, near Weymouth. His father, however, had spent his fortune and sold the estate, and Sir James, being fond of art, determined to make it his profession to regain his property. His uncle, the celebrated Dr. Sydenham, assisted him in the scheme. He studied in London, and then travelled through Flanders, Holland, and France. On his return he was appointed by queen Anne to paint the history of St. Paul in the dome of the new cathedral of St. Paul, in eight pictures in chiaroscura, with the lights hatched in gold. So much was the work approved, that he was made historical painter to the queen. The chief works of the kind of Sir James were the princess's apartment at Hampton Court, the gallery and several ceilings in Kensington Palace, a hall at Blenheim, a chapel at lord Oxford's, at Wimpole, a saloon of Mr. Styles, at Moorpark, and the ceilings of the great hall at Greenwich Hospital. On the ceiling of the lower hall appear, amid much allegorical scenery, the portraits of William and Mary, of Tycho Brahe, Copernicus, Newton, and others; on that of the upper hall appear the portraits of queen Anne and her husband, the prince of Denmark; and paintings of the landing of William at Torbay, the arrival of George I., and others of George I. and two generations of his family. Besides these vast pictures, Sir James painted the altar-piece of All Souls, Oxford, and one presented to his native town, Weymouth. He also copied two sets of the cartoons of Raffaelle, the largest of which is in the gallery of the Royal Academy, and some portraits, amongst others, a portrait of Sir Christopher Wren, preserved at Oxford. Thornhill had great invention and freedom of pencil, and is much more chaste in his style than his foreign rivals, yet he was meanly paid in comparison with them. Walpole says, "High as was his reputation and laborious his works, ho was far from being generously rewarded for some of them, and for others he found it difficult to obtain the stipulated prices. His demands were contested at Greenwich; and though Lafosse received two thousand pounds for his work at Montagu House, and was allowed five hundred pounds for his diet besides, Sir James could obtain but forty shillings per square yard for the cupola of St. Paul's, and, I think, no more for Greenwich. When the affairs of the South Sea Company were made up, Thornhill, who had painted their staircase and a little hall by order of Mr. Knight, their cashier, demanded one thousand five hundred pounds but the directors, learning that he had been paid but twenty-five shillings a yard for the hall at Blenheim, would allow no more. He had a longer contest with Mr. Styles, who had agreed to give him three thousand five hundred pounds; but, not being satisfied with the execution, a lawsuit commenced, and Dahl, a Swedish artist, Richardson, and others, were appointed to inspect the work. They appeared in court, bearing testimony to the merit of the performance. Mr. Styles was condemned to pay the money, and five hundred pounds more for decorations about the house, and for Thornhill acting as surveyor of the building."

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Pictures for Progress of the Nation page 10

Old House of Peers
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Old East India House
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Medal of the Seven Bishops
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William III
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Whitefield preaching
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Convocation house, St. Pauls
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Addisons walk at Oxford
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The residence of Richardson
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Alexander Pope
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St. Pauls cathedral
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Harpsichord
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Tomb of Sir Christopher Wren
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St. Pauls cathedral
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Greenwich hospital
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William Hogarth
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Coins
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Costumes
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Ladies
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Gentlemens
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London street
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