OREALD.COM - An Old Electronic Library
eng: a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Progress of the Nation page 11

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 <11> 12 13 14 15 16

Other English artists of this period were John Riley, an excellent and original painter, who died in 1691; Murray, a Scotchman; Charles Jervas, the friend of Pope, a man much overrated by his acquaintance; and Jonathan Richardson, a much superior artist to Jervas, and author of the valuable " Essay on the Art of Criticism, as it relates to Painting." Thomas Hudson, a pupil of Richardson, and his son-in-law, was an admirable painter of heads, and had the honour of being the instructor of Sir Joshua Reynolds. Henry Cooke, like Thornhill, was a decorator, and painted the choir of New College Chapel, at Oxford, and the ceiling of a large room at the New River head. He was a pupil of Salvator Rosa. Luke Cradock, a flower and fruit painter; John Wootton, a popular animal painter; Francis Hayman, an historical painter and designer for book-plates - those for "Don Quixote" being his best; and George Lambert, one of the first English landscape painters of any mark.

Far above all other English artists of this period, however, stood William Hogarth. There is no artist of that or any former age in England - and we may also say the same down to our own day - who is so thoroughly English. He is a John Bull from head to foot - sturdy, somewhat headstrong, opinionated, and satirical. He is, indeed, the great satirist of the brush; but his satire, keen as it is, is employed as the instrument of the moralist; the things which he denounces and derides are crimes, follies, and perverted tastes. In his own conduct, as on his canvas, he displayed the same spirit, 4 often knocking down his own interests rather than not express his indignant feeling of what was spurious in art, or unjust towards himself. Hogarth was the first English painter who attracted much notice amongst foreigners, and he still remains amongst our painters one of the most original in genius. His subjects are not chosen from the loftier regions of life and imagination, but from the very lowest or the most corrupted ones of the life of his country and time. "The Harlot's Progress," "The Rake's Progress," "Marriage a la Mode," "The March to Finchley," "Gin Lane," "Beer Lane," &c., present a series of subjects from which the delicate and sensitive will always revolt, and which have necessarily an air of vulgarity about them, but the purpose consecrates them; for they are not selected to pander to vice and folly, but to expose, to brand, to extirpate them. There is, even in their repulsiveness, a tragic and deeply moral spirit which the most fastidious must feel, and which has given them so strong a hold on public estimation. Like Swift, he exposes to view the foulest and vilest corners of human nature; but, though with as powerful, it is with a more sympathising hand. Like Juvenal, he lays bare the tainted flesh of depraved society to the bone, but he means unmistakably to heal and not to destroy. The dashes of exaggeration in many of his pieces give him the title of a caricaturist, but it is never at the expense of nature and truth. He may be said to have introduced and established caricature in this country.

He first published an engraving of "The Small Masquerade Ticket, or Burlington Gate," in ridicule of lord Burlington's architecture, and of Pope's eulogiums on Burlington and satire of the duke of Chandos. He illustrated "Hudibras," and produced a satirical plate, "The Taste of the Times," in 1724; and, some years after, "The Midnight Conversation" and "Southwark Fair." Not content with the fame which this vein, so peculiarly his own, was bringing him, he had the ambition to attempt the historical style, but this was a decided failure. In 1734, however, he came out in his full and peculiar strength in "The Harlot's Progress." The melancholy truth of this startling drama, mingled with touches of genuine humour, seized at once on the minds of all classes. It became at-once immensely popular; it was put upon the stage, and twelve hundred subscriptions for the engravings produced a rich harvest of profit. In the following year he produced "The Rake's Progress," which, though equally clever, had not the same recommendation of novelty. In 1744 he offered for sale the original paintings of these subjects, as well as "The Four Times of the Day," and "The Strolling Actresses Dressing in a Barn;" but here he felt the effect of the sturdy English expression of his sentiments on art, and his distributing, as a ticket of admission, an engraving of "The Battle of the Pictures," which gave great offence to painters and their patrons. The whole sum received was only four hundred and twenty-seven pounds - a sum nearly doubled by the sale of "The Rake's Progress" alone, since then. Undaunted by his self-injuring avowal of his opinions, he offered in 1750 the pictures of "Marriage a la Mode" for sale, but put forth an advertisement in such caustic terms, as he reflected on the result of his former auction, that he effectually kept away purchasers, and only obtained a hundred and twenty pounds for what Mr. Angerstein afterwards gave a thousand pounds for. These are now in the National Gallery, as well as his own portrait. His " March to Finchley " being sent for the royal inspection, so impressed George II. with the idea that it was a caricature of his guards, that, though the engraving of it was dedicated to him, he ordered the picture out of his sight, with expressions of great indignation. Hogarth quietly substituted the name of the king of Prussia in the dedication, as "an encourager of the arts." He presented the picture to the Foundling Hospital, where it remains.

Soon after appeared his twelve plates of "Industry and Idleness," and in 1753 he published a work called "The Analysis of Beauty," in which he attempted to prove that the foundation of beauty and grace consists in a flowing, serpentine line. He gave numerous examples of it, and supported his theory with much ingenious argument. The book brought down upon him a perfect tempest of critical abuse from his envious and enraged contemporaries. In 1757 he visited France, and being engaged in sketching in Calais, he was seized and underwent very rough treatment from " the politest nation in the world," under an impression that he was employed by the English government to make drawings of the fortifications. This adventure he has commemorated in his picture of "Calais Gate." In the following year he painted his "Sigismunda."

Besides those enumerated, "The Four Election Scenes," "The Enraged Musician," "The Distressed Poet," and "England and France " - all made familiar to the public by engravings - are amongst his best works. In 1760 occurred the first exhibition of pictures by British artists, the works of Hogarth being an actuating cause. He had presented to the Foundling Hospital, besides his "March to Finchley," his "Marriage a la Mode" and his "Moses brought before Pharaoh's Daughter," his most successful picture of that kind; and Hayman and other artists having followed his example, a company of artists conceived the idea that an exhibition of the works of living artists might be made profitable. Hogarth fell readily into the plan, till it was proposed to add to this a royal academy of arts, which he opposed with all his might. Hogarth had the more English idea that the arts would succeed best by public rather than royal favour, and for the time he prevailed, and, to mark his own strong feeling on the subject, he etched a couple of satiric vignettes, showing the mischief of royal patronage, and these were printed in their catalogue of the following year. In his latter years he was engaged in a bitter quarrel with John Wilkes, the politician, and Churchill, the satirist, in which he as relentlessly caricatured them with his pencil as they abused him with tongue and pen. The following remarks on Hogarth's style and merit as an artist, by Dr. Waagen, give a just idea of his merits: - "What surprises me," he says, "is the eminent merit of these works as paintings, since Hogarth's own countryman, Horace Walpole, says he had but little merit as a painter. All the most delicate shades of his humour are marked in his heads with consummate skill and freedom, and every other part executed with the same decision, and, for the most part, with care. Though the colouring, on the whole, is weak, and the pictures, being painted in dead colours with hardly any glazing, have more the look of water-colours than of oil paintings, yet the colouring of the flesh is often powerful, and the other colours are disposed with so much refined feeling for harmonious effect, that, in this respect, these pictures stand in a far higher rank than many of the productions of the modern English school, with its glaring, inharmonious colours." Hogarth died in 1764, and was buried in the churchyard at Chiswick, where also lies by his side his wife, who survived him twenty-five years.


In sculpture at this period we stood much lower than in painting. Here we had no Hogarth, nor even a Thornhill. All that was of any value in this art proceeded from the chisels of foreigners, and even in that what an immense distance from the grand simplicity of the ancients! The sculpture of Italy and France was in the ascendant, but Bernini and Roubiliac had little in common with Phidias and Praxiteles, and our own sculptors presented a melancholy contrast to the work of artists of the worst age of Greece or Rome; we have scarcely a name that is worth mentioning. The best of our native sculptors was John Bushnell, who was employed by Wren to execute the statues of the kings at Temple Bar; and Francis Bird, who was also employed later by Wren to execute " The Conversion of St. Paul," in the pediment of the new cathedral, the bas-reliefs under the portico, and the group in front, all of a very ordinary character. His best work is the monument of Dr. Busby in the transept of Westminster Abbey. Besides this he executed the monument of Sir Cloudesley Shovel, also at Westminster, and the bronze statue of Henry VI., in the quadrangle of Eton College, both very indifferent. Gibbs and Bird executed the ponderous and tasteless monument of Holies, duke of Newcastle, at Westminster, and that fine old minster is disgraced by a crowd of still more contemptible productions at this period. These can only be equalled in wretchedness by the works of a trading school, who supplied copies in lead of ancient gods, goddesses, shepherds, shepherdesses, &c., for the gardens of the nobility, which soon swarmed in legions in all the gardens and areas in and around the metropolis. Amongst the chief dealers in this traffic were Cheere and Charpentier, who employed foreign artists, even, for such images, and it was the fortune of Roubiliac to commence his English career with the former of these traders.

The three chief foreigners of this period were Rysbrach, Scheemakers, and Roubiliac, who were copyists of the French sculptors Coysevox, Bouchardon, and Le Moyne, as they had been of Bernini. Rysbrach, like Roubiliac, was at first employed by the image-makers, and he then worked for the architects. Kent and Gibbs employed him, and took the credit of his skill; but he soon asserted his own right, and became the leading sculptor in this country for a long time. He executed the monuments of Sir Isaac Newton and lord Stanhope, which bear the name of Kent, and that of Prior, in conjunction with Coysevox, which bears the name of Gibbs. To these may be added those of admiral Yernon and Sir Godfrey Kneller, all at Westminster; that of George II., at Greenwich, and of Dr. Radcliffe, at Oxford. They are all mediocre; but his busts, of which he executed a great number, are far superior. Rysbrach had not imagination for a large design, but truth and skill of hand for a bust, which gave him great distinction in that department.

Scheemakers, a native of Antwerp, like Rysbrach, was employed by Kent, and, till superseded by Roubiliac, executed a considerable number of indifferent monuments; amongst these were monuments of Shakespeare, from a design by Kent, in Westminster Abbey; of Dr. Chamberlain; Sheffield, duke of Buckingham, Sir Charles Watson, Sir Charles Wager, and lord-chancellor Hardwicke - the last at Wimpole. Much of such merit as these possess has been attributed to Laurent Delvaux, who worked in conjunction with him.

But Louis Francois Roubiliac was the great sculptor of this period. He was a Frenchman, and thoroughly French in his spirit and manner. He was soon brought out of the statue-manufactory of Henry Cheere, and introduced to public notice by Sir Edward Walpole, who recommended him to execute several busts for Trinity College, Dublin. This led to his engagement for the execution of the monuments of John, duke of Argyll, in Westminster Abbey, his very best work, which, indeed, made him popular at once, and introduced him to the most fashionable practice till his death in 1762. His chief works, besides the Argyll monument, are those of Sir Peter Warren, and of the Nightingale family, in Westminster Abbey; those of the duke and duchess of Montagu, in Northamptonshire; and one of bishop Hough, in Worcester Cathedral. His chief statues are those of George I., at Cambridge; of George IL, in Golden Square, London; of Handel, in Westminster Abbey; of the duke of Somerset and Sir Isaac Newton, both at Cambridge. His busts are numerous.

Roubiliac is, perhaps, the finest sculptor which France has produced, though all his works of any account were done in this country. He is especially remarkable for the perfection of his finish, and the wonderful execution of' his drapery, though the design of it is generally heavy, tasteless, and often ungraceful. The statue of "Eloquence," in the Argyll monument, is one of the most successful of his productions, and displays much power of invention as well as of execution; but the great fault of his monuments is that which has prevailed ever since the decline of art, the use of allegory in stone to express the simple sentiments of grief, of national admiration, or of personal greatness - not by the expression of these qualities in the sculptured figure, or group of figures, or real personages, but by endeavouring to embody these sentiments in visible forms. With these defects, however, Roubiliac stands at the head of the sculptors of his time.


The condition of engraving during this period was very similar to that of the other arts, and, like them, it was chiefly practised by foreigners, French and Dutch. Mezzotint was much cultivated during the early part of the period, and in this the artists were principally Englishmen. Henry Luttrel and Isaac Becket, who were connected, were much engaged in it, but William Smith, a pupil of Becket's, carried it to its greatest perfection. Smith was taken by Kneller into his house to mezzotint his works, and he executed them with remarkable brilliancy and effect. Kneller afterwards employed Simons, a Norman, and besides these, the two Faber▀, Williams, and Le Blon, the latter of whom introduced mezzotinting in colour, were the Best practised of the art: Edward Kirkall attempted still further to imitate coloured drawings, for the illustration of books, by a combination of etching, mezzotinting, and wood-engraving, but it did not succeed.

<<< Previous page <<< >>> Next page >>>
Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 <11> 12 13 14 15 16

Pictures for Progress of the Nation page 11

Home | Privacy Policy | Copyright | About