Samuel Cousins R.A.
(9 May 1801 - 7 May 1887)
Cousins was preeminently the interpreter of Sir Thomas Lawrence, his contemporary. During his apprenticeship to Samuel William Reynolds he engraved many of the best amongst the three hundred and sixty little mezzotints illustrating the works of Sir Joshua Reynolds which his master issued in his own name. In the finest of his numerous transcripts of Lawrence, such as Lady Acland and her Sons, Pope Pius VII and Master Lambton, the distinguishing characteristics of the engravers work, brilliancy and force of effect in a high key, corresponded exactly with similar qualities in the painter.
After the introduction of steel for engraving purposes about the year 1823, Cousins and his contemporaries were compelled to work on it, because the soft copper previously used for mezzotint plates did not yield a sufficient number of fine impressions to enable the method to compete commercially against line engraving, from which much larger editions were obtainable. The painterly quality which distinguished the 18th-century mezzotints on copper was wanting in his later works, because the hardness of the steel on which they were engraved impaired freedom of execution and richness of tone, and so enhanced the labor of scraping that he accelerated the work by stipple, etching the details instead of scraping them out of the ground in the manner of his predecessors. To this mixed style, previously used by Richard Earlom on copper, Cousins added heavy roulette and rocking-tool textures, tending to fortify the darks, when he found that the burr even on steel failed to yield enough fine impressions to meet high demand. The effect of his prints in this method after Reynolds and Millais was mechanical and out of harmony with the picturesque technique of these painters, but the phenomenal popularity which Cousins gained for his works at least kept alive and in favor a form of mezzotint engraving during a critical phase of its history.
Abraham Raimbach, the line engraver, dated the decline of his own art in England from the appearance in 1837, of Cousins's print (in the mixed style) after Landseer's Bolton Abbey. Such plates as:
In 1885, he was elected a full member of the Royal Academy, to which he later gave in trust £15,000 to provide annuities for superannuated artists. One of the most important figures in the history of British engraving, he died in London, unmarried, in 1887.
Memoir of Samuel Cousins, R.A., Member of the Legion of Honor, George Pycroft, M.R.C.S.E., (published for private circulation by E. E. Leggatt, London, 1899); Catalogue of the Works of Samuel Cousins, RA., Algernon Graves, 1888; Samuel Cousins, Alfred Whitman, 1904; Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.), Hugh Chisholm, ed. (1911); The Nuttall Encyclopædia, Frederick Warne, James Wood, ed. (1907).
COUSINS, SAMUEL (1801-1887)
Mezzotint engraver, was born at Exeter 9 May 1801. His father had five sons and four daughters. His early education was in the Exeter episcopal school, and while there he showed great taste for art, spending most of his spare time in copying engravings with the pencil. Captain Bagnall accidentally saw some of Cousins's drawings in a shop window; bought several, and sent him to the Society of Arts. Cousins was then under ten years of age. He gained, on 28 May 1811, the silver palette of the Society of Arts for a drawing after a print by James Heath representing 'The Good Shepherd' painted by Murillo. In the following year Cousins received the silver Isis medal for another pencil drawing, the subject of which was 'A Magdalen.' This was seen by S. W. Reynolds, the mezzotint engraver, who in September 1814 took the youth as apprentice without receiving the usual premium, which amounted to 300l. Sir Thomas Dyke Acland was a warm patron, and took care that the boy's education should be carried on.
After finishing his apprenticeship he reluctantly consented, at Acland's desire, to become assistant to his master for four years, at a salary of 250l. On four plates -- portraits of Sir Joseph Banks, the Rev. T. Lupton, Viscount Sidmouth, and the Rev. J. Mitchell -- executed between 1822 and 1825, the name of Reynolds is associated with that of Cousins. On 19 February 1824, Cousins wrote: 'I have been lately finishing a half-length plate from a picture by Sir W. Beechy. It is a portrait of the Duchess of Gloucester, a tolerably good plate, and I am to have my name to it; but I believe it will not be seen abroad much, and therefore will be of little use.... Mr. Reynolds has taken another pupil, ...and by his improved behaviour towards me certainly intends keeping me as long as he can.'
At the end of his four years' partnership Cousins set up for himself at 104 Great Russell Street. In 1826, he visited Brussels, and in this same year he engraved the first plate on his own account, the portrait of Lady Acland and her children, and also 'Master Lambton,' after Sir Thomas Lawrence. In November 1835, he was elected an associate of the Royal Academy, transferred to the new class of associate-engravers in 1854, and was the first to receive, 10 Februaary 1855, the rank of academician-engraver. He determined in 1874, to retire, but was induced to undertake new work, and did not entirely give up his art until 1883. He died at his house, 24 Camden Square, 7 May 1887. He never married. A sister lived with him during the greatest part of his life, and survived him. One of his latest works was an engraving of his own portrait by Mr. Long (1883). He was also painted by Mr. Frank Holl in 1879, and etched by M. Waltner. In January and March 1872, Cousins deposited in the department of prints and drawings, British Museum, an almost complete set of his engravings, and presented a small set to the Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter. He also gave about that period 15,000l. to the Royal Academy in trust for the benefit of deserving and poor artists. In 1877, Messrs. Thomas Agnew & Sons held an exhibition of Cousins's works at Manchester; in 1883, another exhibition took place at the Fine Art Society, 148 New Bond Street, and a third exhibition was held in the season of 1887, at Messrs. H. Graves & Co.'s, Pall Mall. The following is a list of the most important engravings by Cousins:
[Mr. George Pycroft's privately printed Memoir of Samuel Cousins, 1887, supplies a full chronological list of Cousins's works; Artists at Home, 1 April 1884; Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 12, by Louis Alexander Fagan; en.Wikipedia.]
View artist's work: Samuel Cousins R.A. (1801-1887)