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Queen Victoria Receiving the Sacrament after the Coronation

Charles Robert Leslie

(19 October 1794 - 5 May 1859)

English genre painter of American descent. He was born in London, of American parentage. His father, a watchmaker of Philadelphia, died in 1803, upon his return to that city, leaving his family destitute. Charles Robert was apprenticed to a bookseller, but evinced great aptitude for drawing, and at the age of seventeen he drew a portrait of the actor George Frederic Cooke, which was esteemed so excellent that a subscription was raised to enable him to study abroad for two years. In 1811, he went to London, and was hospitably received by Benjamin West, president of the Royal Academy. He became one of a group of Americans, among whom were the painters Allston and King, Washington Irving, and John Constable.

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#Christening of the Princess Royal

#Princess Royal, 1841

Inscribed in ink, probably by the artist, on a label stuck on the reverse: 'H.R.H The Princess, Royal, painted by C R Leslie, Feby 20th 1841'. Leslie recorded: 'In 1841, I painted a second picture for the Queen [the first was the Coronation painting], 'The Christening of the Princess Royal', I was admitted to see the ceremony, and made a slight sketch of the Royal personages as they stood round the font in the room. I made a study from the little Princess a few days afterwards. She was then three months old, and a finer child of that age I never saw.

His first picture exhibited at the Academy was a melodramatic production, entitled “Murder” (1813). Not until after his visit to Paris, in 1817, did he exhibit his special talent, the painting of humorous historical genre, in his “Sir Roger de Coverley Going to Church.” During this period he designed illustrations for Irving's Knickerbocker History of New York and Sketch-Book, also painting his portrait. In 1822, “May-day Revels in the Time of Queen Elizabeth” secured his election as an associate of the Academy. In company with Sir Edmund Landseer he visited Sir Walter Scott at Abbotsford in 1824, and painted his portrait. In 1825, he married Miss Stone, a celebrated beauty, and in 1826, he became an Academician. Elected professor of drawing at West Point in 1833, he returned to London after a trial of a few months. In 1838, he was summoned to Windsor to paint the “Queen Receiving the Sacrament after the Coronation,” now in Buckingham Palace. He was professor of painting at the Royal Academy from 1848 to 1852, and published his admirable lectures to the students as a Handbook for Young Painters, (1855). Other works are: The Memoirs of Constable, (1865), whose merits he was among the first to recognize; an incomplete Life of Reynolds, (1865); and his own Autobiographical Recollections, (1860), the two last edited by Tom Taylor.

Leslie is chiefly famous as an illustrator of humorous incidents taken from the great authors. His humor is refined and delightful, and no one has entered more into the spirit of the author. He is a good draughtsman and a skillful composer, but his coloring, especially in his later works, is harsh. The shadows are too black, and there are no middle tones to harmonize them with the light portions. The best known of his pictures is “Uncle Toby and the Widow Wadman” (1831), in the National Gallery. The South Kensington Museum contains, besides replicas, three subjects from Molière, “The Dinner at Mr. Page's House” (1838), and others. In the collection of Lord Leconfield at Petworth, in Sussex, are the originals of the “Taming of the Shrew” (1832, replica at South Kensington), “Sancho Panza in the Apartments of the Duchess” (1828), and three others. Two of the Sir Roger de Coverley series are at Bowood, in the collection of the Marquis of Lansdowne. In the Philadelphia Academy are a number of replicas and the original of the “Murder of Rutland.” Consult Leslie's Autobiographical Recollections (London, 1860).


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#Charles Robert Leslie by John Partridge #Self-Portrait #Sketch
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CHARLES ROBERT LESLIE (1794-1859), painter, was the eldest son of American parents. His father, Robert Leslie, a personal friend of Benjamin Franklin, was a clockmaker, of extraordinary ingenuity in mathematics, who in 1793, in order to increase his business connections, came from Philadelphia to London, where Charles was born on 19 Oct. 1794. A sister, Eliza Leslie (1787–1858), who remained in America, was a prolific miscellaneous writer (see Appleton, Cyclopedia of American Biography. When Charles was about five years old, his father, in consequence of the death of his partner, Mr. Price, returned with his family to Philadelphia. In the course of the voyage they had a fight with a French privateer, and had to put into Lisbon, where they spent the winter while the ship was being repaired. Robert Leslie died in 1804, with his affairs embarrassed by a lawsuit; but through the kindness of the professors at the University of Pennsylvania, Charles and his brother were able to complete their education. From his childhood Leslie had shown a decided talent for drawing, but his mother was too poor to permit of his training as an artist, and he was apprenticed in 1808, to Messrs. Bradford & Inskeep, publishers in Philadelphia.

A portrait of George Frederick Cooke, the actor, drawn by the young apprentice from memory, attracted the attention of Mr. Bradford. It was taken to the Exchange Coffee-house, and in a few hours Leslie's fame was spread among the wealthiest merchants in the city. A subscription, headed by Mr. Bradford, was at once raised to enable Leslie to study painting for two years in Europe. After a few lessons in painting (his first) from a Philadelphian artist named Sully, he sailed from New York with Mr. Inskeep on 11 November 1811, arriving in Liverpool on 3 December He bore with him letters of introduction, and was kindly received by Benjamin West [q. v.], the president of the Royal Academy; he was at once admitted as a student at the Academy, and through West's influence was allowed access to the Elgin marbles, then deposited in a temporary building in the gardens of Burlington House. He and another young American, Morse, who had lodgings with him in Warren Street, Fitzroy Square, used to study them from six to eight in the morning, after a bath in the Serpentine. He also studied the Townley marbles in the British Museum, and succeeded in carrying off two silver medals at the Academy schools. He soon became acquainted with Allston and King, two American artists of some standing. From Allston and West he received instruction in painting, and through Allston he made the acquaintance of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, whose society aided in the rapid development of his mind. He was fond of reading and the theatre, and delighted in the acting of John Kemble, Mrs. Siddons, and Bannister. He found congenial fellowship in the society of his fellow-countrymen, Washington Irving and Newton. They had the same circle of acquaintances (chiefly American), and for a time the three generally dined together at the York Chop-house in Wardour Street. John Constable also soon became an intimate friend, and the group, which included Peter Powell, who lived with Leslie at 8 Buckingham Place, Fitzroy Square, formed a merry company.

Leslie's early and natural ambition was to succeed in what was called ‘high art,’ and after a few portraits he painted "Saul and the Witch of Endor," which was rejected at the British Gallery, but was afterwards purchased for one hundred guineas by Sir J. Leicester (Lord de Tabley). The subjects of two other early pictures were "Timon" and "Hercules," but the first which was exhibited at the Royal Academy was called "Murder" (1813), a terrific scene of an assassin stealing from a cave at midnight holding a drawn sword in one hand and (as he himself describes it) ‘his breath with the other.’ In 1814, he exhibited a portrait of Mr. J. H. Payne (the American actor and dramatist) in the character of Norval, and in 1816, "The Death of Rutland," in which the curly-headed young Edwin Landseer [q. v.] figured as Rutland.

In 1817, he went to Paris with Allston and William Collins, and while there painted some portraits of American friends. In 1818, he visited Dawlish and Plymouth, and in the following year exhibited "Sir Roger de Coverley going to Church," the first picture in which he showed his special vocation as an artist. It had an immediate success. It was purchased by Mr. Dunlop, a wealthy tobacco merchant (whose constant kindness he owed to his American connection), and a replica was painted for the Marquis of Lansdowne. At this time Leslie was much occupied in illustrating Irving's Knickerbocker's History of New York and Sketch-book. He also, in 1820, painted Irving's portrait. In 1821, he exhibited the well-known picture of "May-Day Revels in the Time of Queen Elizabeth," which was visited twice in the course of its progress by Sir Walter Scott. Sir Walter, to whom he had been introduced in the previous year, suggested the introduction of the archers. In the same year Leslie was elected an associate of the Royal Academy.

His next picture of note was "Sancho Panza in the Apartment of the Duchess" (exhibited 1824), in which his racy but refined humour first had full scope. It was repeated four times (Mr. Vernon's picture is now in the National Gallery), but the picture of 1824, the first and best, though not the largest, was painted for Lord Egremont, and is now at Petworth, Sussex, with four other pictures by Leslie which were afterwards purchased by the same patron.

In 1824, he went to Scotland with Edwin Landseer and visited Sir Walter Scott at Abbotsford. Here he painted Sir Walter's portrait, and shortly afterwards he made six illustrations for the Waverley novels, which were engraved. In 1825, Leslie removed to the house in St. John's Place, Lisson Grove, where B. R. Haydon [q. v.] painted "Christ's Entry into Jerusalem," and shortly afterwards he married Miss Harriet Stone, to whom he had been engaged for some years. She had been introduced by him in his first picture of "Sir Roger de Coverley" as a yeoman's daughter. The next year saw him a father and a Royal Academician, and his life hereafter was one of constant domestic happiness. This year he painted "Don Quixote doing Penance in the Sierra Morena," for the Earl of Essex, and about the same time his diploma picture, "Queen Katherine and her Maid." In 1829, came his second picture of Addison's famous country squire, which was called "Sir Roger de Coverley among the Gipsies," and in 1831, he exhibited his inimitable "Uncle Toby and the Widow Wadman," "The Dinner at Mrs. Page's House," and "The Taming of the Shrew." The original of the first picture and replicas of the two others were painted for Mr. Sheepshanks, and are now at the South Kensington Museum. "The Taming of the Shrew," or "Katharine and Petruchio," was painted for the Earl of Egremont, and chiefly at Petworth, where the artist and his family paid yearly visits in the summer. During its composition he received some valuable hints from Washington Irving. In 1833, Leslie was induced by his brother in America to accept the appointment of teacher of drawing at the Military Academy at West Point, on the Hudson River, but after six months' trial, at the insistence of his wife, he returned to England.
In 1835, Leslie exhibited "Gulliver's Introduction to the Queen of Brobdingnag" (painted for the Earl of Egremont)
"Columbus and the Egg" (painted for Mr. W. Wells)
1835, "Autolycus" and
1837, "Perdita" (both painted for Mr. Sheepshanks and now in the South Kensington Museum).
In 1838, Leslie was summoned to Windsor to paint "The Queen receiving the Sacrament at her Coronation" (not exhibited till 1843)
followed by "The Christening of the Princess Royal", 1841
1843, "Scene from the ‘Malade Imaginaire’ " (now in the South Kensington Museum)
A large picture of the ‘fudge’ scene from "The Vicar of Wakefield", the only one he painted in illustration of Goldsmith's masterpiece.
In 1844, he exhibited a "Scene from Comus", which was afterwards painted in fresco in the pavilion in Buckingham Palace Gardens.
In 1845, he published The Memoirs of John Constable, R.A.. In 1848, Leslie succeeded Howard as professor of painting at the Royal Academy, and began to deliver the series of lectures which afterwards formed the substance of his excellent Handbook for Young Painters, published in 1855. In 1852, his delicate health obliged him to resign the professorship of painting.
In 1855, he exhibited another ‘Sancho Panza,’ his last picture from Don Quixote;
in 1856, ‘Hermione;’
in 1857, ‘Sir Roger de Coverley in Church;’ and
in 1859, ‘Hotspur and Lady Percy,’ and
‘Jeanie Deans and Queen Caroline.’
He died in Abercorn Place, St. John's Wood, 5 May 1859, the day after the Academy exhibition was opened. His death was hastened by the shock received by the loss of a daughter (Mrs. A. P. Fletcher) shortly after her marriage.

His Autobiographical Recollections, edited by Tom Taylor [q. v.], were published in 1865, and his Life of Reynolds, which he left unfinished, was completed by the same writer and published in 1865. A collection of thirty of his works was exhibited at the Royal Academy in the winter of 1870.

Leslie occasionally painted a scene from scripture, as
"Martha and Mary" in 1833, and
"Christ and his Disciples at Capernaum" in 1843, repeated for Mr. Henry Vaughan in 1858.
His serious scenes from Shakespeare also, like those from Henry VIII and the Winter's Tale, which he painted for I. K. Brunel the engineer, have much merit. But it is as a humorous illustrator that Leslie's special merit as an artist lies. He threw himself so completely into the spirit of his author, whether Cervantes, Sterne, Addison, Shakespeare, or Molière, that we seem to see the very creation of the writer untinged by the personality of the artist. His humour, though hearty, is always refined. Technically, he was an excellent draughtsman, with a vital quality akin to that of Hogarth, with whose works he had been familiar from his youth. He was skilful in composition and deft in execution. His principal defect as a painter was his colour, which, especially in his later works, was harsh.

Among the many portraits which he painted, besides those already mentioned, were those of
Miss Fry
Samuel Gurney, the Marquis of Westminster's family
Lady Lilford (for Lord Holland)
the Duchess of Sutherland
the Marquis of Stafford
the Archbishop of Canterbury (Dr. Howley)
Lord Cottenham
the Baroness Burdett Coutts
Charles Dickens as "Bobadil" (1846) and
(Sir) John Everett Millais (1854).

Leslie was genial, sociable, of high principle, happy in his home and welcomed as a guest by high and low. He was a pleasant and able writer; his Handbook for Young Painters, (1855) and his Life of Constable, (1843, 2nd edit. 1845) are both excellent in their different ways; his letters are natural and full of intelligence, and his appreciation of the work of other artists was sound, generous, and without bias. Though by no means wanting in industry, his production was not large, but this is partly to be accounted for by the popularity of his work, which led to a frequent demand for repetitions of the same subject.

The nation is fortunate in possessing a number of his best works.
"‘Sancho Panza in the Apartment of the Duchess" (National Gallery)
"Uncle Toby Widow Wadman"
"Scene from Comus"
"Scene from 'The Taming of the Shrew’ "
"The Principal Characters from 'The Merry Wives of Windsor’ "
"What can this be?"
"Whom can this be from?"
"Uncle Toby and Widow Wadman" (a replica of the National Gallery picture)
"Florizel and Perdita"
"Autolycus"
"Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme"
"Les Femmes Savantes"
"Le Malade Imaginaire"
"Don Quixote and Dorothea"
"Laura introducing Gil Blas to Arsenia"
"A Female Head"
"Queen Katherine and Patience"
"Amy Robsart"
"The Two Princes in the Tower"
"The Toilet"
"Portia"
"Griselda"
"Her Majesty in her Coronation Robes" (sketch for ‘The Coronation’)
"Christening of the Princess Royal"
"The Princess Royal" (a sketch for ‘The Christening’)
"A Garden Scene" (portrait of the artist's youngest son when a child)
"Dulcinea Del Toboso"
"Sancho Panza"
All the works at South Kensington were given by Mr. Sheepshanks. At the National Portrait Gallery there is a portrait of Lord Holland by Leslie. Between 1813 and 1839, Leslie exhibited seventy-six works at the Royal Academy and eleven at the British Institution.

[Leslie's Autobiographical Recollections; Cunningham's Lives of Painters; Redgraves' Century of Painters; Bryan's Dictionary; Graves's Dictionary, (Graves and Armstrong).]


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Leslie, Charles Robert, R. A. {British-American) Born in England (1794-1859). Taken to America in 1799, he received an ordinary school education in Philadelphia, and was apprenticed to a bookseller in New York. In 1811, he returned to England, and entered the schools of the Royal Academy, studying also under West and Washington Allston. He painted during his early career in London, "Saul and the Witch of Endor," "Anne Page and Slender," "May-Day in the Reign of Elizabeth," and "Sir Roger de Coverley." He was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1821, and Academician in 1825. In 1831, he accepted the appointment of Professor of Drawing at the Military Academy at West Point, but relinquished it the following year, and returned to England. He was made Professor of Painting at the Royal Academy, 1848 to 1852. His lectures were subsequently published. Many of Leslie's works are in the Sheepshanks Collection. His "Uncle Toby and Widow Wadman" (R. A., 1831) and "Sancho Panza in the Apartment of the Duchess" (R. A., 1844) are in the Vernon Collection of the National Gallery, London. His "Columbus and the Egg," "Gulliver introduced to the Queen of Brobdignag," "Library at Holland House," "Queen Victoria receiving the Sacrament at her Coronation," "Jennie Deans and Queen Caroline," "Christ and the Disciples at Capernaum," are well known by the medium of engraving. His "Cooke as Richard III.," "Murder of Rutland by Clifford," and others are in the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts. James Lenox owns his portrait of Washington Irving.

"The more I learn of art, the more respect I feel for Mr. Leslie's painting as such and for the way in which it brings out the expressional result he requires. Given a certain quantity of oil color to be laid with one touch of pencil, so as to produce at once the subtlest and largest expressional result possible, and there is no man now living who seems to me to come at all near Mr. Leslie, his work being in places equal to Hogarth for decision, and here and there a little lighter and more graceful." -- John Buskin.

"From this time [1833] Leslie produced a succession of masterly works, -- masterly in every respect, perhaps, except their coloring, in which a dull red or burnt sienna tint is too prevalent. This is, however, not the case with the 'Sancho Panza' and other early works. He is seen to great advantage in the Sheepshanks Collection." -- Wornum's Epochs of Painting.

"Leslie's first successful attempt was a likeness of Cooke the tragedian, taken at the theater. He soon copied admirably, and became, like most of his fraternity, early occupied with portraits. After teaching drawing for a short time, he resigned the appointment, returned to England, and enjoyed the liberal encouragement which no other country is so well adapted to yield the kind of genius by which he is distinguished. She claims him as her own, but, although born there, his parents were American, and his first lessons in art were received on this side the water. " -- Tuckerman's Book of the Artists.

Artists of the Nineteenth Century, Works, Biographical Sketches, by Clara Erskine Clement and Laurence Hutton. 1879.

Born: October 19, 1794, London, United Kingdom
Died: May 5, 1859, Saint John's Wood, London, United Kingdom
Children: George Dunlop Leslie, Bradford Leslie
Siblings: Eliza Leslie



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