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But during these times we do occasionally hear of British artists of distinction. Nicholas Hilliard was employed by Queen Mary and by Elizabeth. The miniatures of Isaac Oliver obtained great renown, and his son, Peter Oliver, was patronized by Charles I. Samuel Cooper, uncle by marriage of the poet Pope, was known as the "miniature Vandyck." There were George Jamesone, and William Dobson (the ancestor of the present distinguished Academician of that name), who were contemporaries and successful imitators of Vandyck. But whatever may have been the merits of these artists, they were not svifficiently numerous to represent anything like a national school of painting. Nothing can better illustrate the poverty of English art in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and even the early part of the eighteenth century than the catalogues of famous collections, such as those of Cliarles I., of the Duke of Buckingham, and in later times of the Duke of Marlborough, which were almost entirely composed of the works of foreigners. In two little volumes, published as late as 1766, under the title of The English Connoisseur, we find in a list of 250 pictures at Wilton House only two by English painters, Lambert and Abraham Johnson, and a few crayon drawings by Mr. Hoare, of Bath, afterward a member of the Royal Academy. In the collection at Windsor Castle, at that same time, there was but one English picture, "a portrait of Lacy, a famous comedian in King Charles the Second's time, by Wright."
But in the early part of the eighteenth century there were already many English applicants for artistic fame, who only required encoui'agement and patronage to make their names widely known. Soon after the death of Kneller, which occurred in 1723, Sir James Thornhill (a few years later the father-in-law of Hogarth) endeavored to obtain the formation of a Royal Academy under the patronage of the King. Charles, Lord Halifax, the joint author with Prior of the "Country Mouse and the City Mouse," interested himself warmly in the scheme, but it failed, and Thornhill started a private academy at his own house in James Street, Covent Garden, on the east side, Avhere the back offices and painting-room abutted upon Langford's (then Cock's) auction-room in the Piazza. On the death of Thornhill, in 1734, the academy was continued in a room hired in Peter's Court, St. Martin's Lane.
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John Everett Millais, P.R.A.
John Ireland, in his Hogarth Illustrated (vol. iii., chap, iii.), quotes a passage, somewhat condensed and altered, from the original MS. in the British Museum, of Hogarth's account of the English academies of art previous to 1760. "Sir James dying," he writes, "I became possessed (in 1734) of his neglected apparatus, and thinking that an academy, if conducted on moderate principles, would be useful, I proposed that a number of artists should enter into a subscription for the hire of a place large enough to admit of thirty or forty persons drawing after a naked figure. This proposition being agreed to, a room was taken in St. Martin's Lane (Peter's Court). The academy has now existed nearly thirty years, and is for every useful purpose equal to that in France or any other."
Another document bearing on the subject among the MSS. in the British Museum is a copy of a petition of the Dilettanti Society, signed by John, Duke of Bedford, Evelyn, Duke of Kingston, with other members, and presented to the King, about this time (1760). The petitioners state that they have formed themselves into a society for the improvement of the arts, and they beg for permission to erect a "Building or Temple in your Majesty's Green Park next Piccadilly." The petition goes on to suggest that "the properest spot would be over against the little street called White Horse Street, westward of the Earl of Egremonts house in Piccadilly." The petition met with no response, but the School of Art in St. Martin's Lane was still doing good work without any help or royal patronage. In 1752, Reynolds, the future President of the Royal Academy, had returned from Italy, and in the following year a meeting was held at the "Turk's Head," Gerrard Street, Soho (afterward the head-quarters of the famous Literary Club), with a view to form a public academy; but the scheme was unsuccessful. In 1755 the idea was again started, and negotiations on the subject were entered into with the Dilettanti Society, which was ready to assist, but its members wished to leave too large a share in the control of tlie proposed institution, and the project again failed.
The first idea of a public exhibition of pictures seems to have arisen from the paintings presented by Hogarth, Reynolds, and other artists to the Foundling Hospital, to which the public was allowed free access. The place became a fashionable lounge, and the artists determined to attempt something of the same sort for themselves. A meeting took place on the 12th of November, 1759, and it was resolved that a public exhibition should be held annually, to commence each year in the second week of April. The "Society of Arts," founded in 1754, gave the use of their rooms, opposite Beaufort Buildings, in the Strand, and the first exhibition was opened on the 21st of April, 1760. In the following year tbere were two separate exhibitions, the first in Spring Gardens, managed by the "Society of Artists of Great Britain," the other in the old rooms in the Strand, by a body of seceders, subsequently called a "Society of Free Artists," which continued its annual exhibitions till 1776. The former body contained nearly all the most distinguished artists, and among the exhibitors were Romney, Reynolds, and Gainsborough; admission was free, but the catalogues cost a shilling, and 13,000 copies were sold. Dr. Johnson about this time writes to Baretti: "The artists have instituted a yearly exhibition of pictures and statues, in imitation, I am told, of foreign academies. This year  was the second exhibition. They please themselves much with the multitude of spectators, and imagine that the English School will rise much in reputation."
In 1762 the same writer contributed a preface to the catalogue for the exhibition at Spring Gardens, and £524 8s. was taken as entrance money. A third exhibition was soon after instituted by the Society of Sign-painters, who hired for the purpose a large room at the upper end of Crow Street, Covent Garden, nearly opposite the play-house. The receipts of the old society increased each year, and on the 26th January, 1765, the King, at the solicitation of the members, granted them a royal charter as the "Incorporated Society of Artists of Great Britain." The roll was signed by two hundred and eleven artists, among whom were Allan Ramsay, Bartolozzi, Cosway, Gainsborough, Hudson and his former pupil Reynolds, Romney, Benjamin West, and Zoffany. One famous name was wanting among the signatures. In the previous year Hogarth had died, and was buried in the church-yard at Chiswick, not far from his old rival, Kent, who ten years before had been laid in a vault in the church.
But it is time to return to the affairs of the new Society of Artists. Its regulations appear to have been badly drawn up: there was no limit to the number of members, and the directors were unable to perform their duties in a manner wliich they thought likely to advance the interests of art. In 1767 only eight of the old directors were re-elected, and in the following year they wrote to Joshua Kirby, the President, resigning their seats. A committee of four members, Chambers, West, Cotes, and Moser, was at once appointed by the retiring directors to take measures for the formation of a new academy. The King gave his patronage and assistance, and some of the regulations were written out by his Majesty's own hand. The affair was kept entirely secret till all the preparations were complete, and was at length revealed to the President of the old Society by the King himself. Kirby, who had arrived on some business at Windsor, was ushered into the presence of George III. as West was showing his picture of "Regulus." Kirby admired tlie work, and expressed a hope that West would exhibit it. He replied that it belonged to his Majesty, who at once joined in: "I shall be happy to let the work be shown to the public."
"Then, Mr. West," said Kirby, "you will send it to my exhibition." "No," replied the King; "it must go to my exhibition -- to the Royal Academy." The President of the Associated Artists bowed and retired. It is said that the disappointment shortened his life, but he survived till his fifty-ninth year, in 1774. He is buried in the churchyard at Kew, where are also the graves of Gainsborough and Zoffany.
A meeting of about thirty artists, who were to compose the new Academy, was convened for the following evening, 9th December, at the house of Wilton, the sculptor, to receive the code of laws and nominate office-bearers. It was intended to elect Reynolds as President, but he had taken no part in the preliminary negotiations, and it was feared that he would not attend. He yielded, however, to the persuasions of West, who called for him in the evening, and took him to Wilton's house, where he was received with enthusiasm, and the necessary business was at once begun. The code of laws was accepted, and thirty-six Academicians, recommended by his Majesty, were elected. On the next day a report was made to the King, who approved of the proceedings, and signed the "Instrument" defining the constitution of the Royal Academy, which thus began its existence on Saturday, 10th December, 1768.
On the 14th December the first general assembly was held at Pall Mall. Twenty-eight members attended, and signed an obligation to observe all the laws and regulations contained in the ''Instrument," and the officers were chosen by ballot. Joshua Reynolds was elected President, William Chambers, Treasurer, George Michael Moser, Keeper, and Francis Milner Newton, Secretary. Eight Academicians were chosen as members of the Council, which was to have the "entire direction and management of all the business of the society." Nine others were appointed Visitors, whose duty was to "attend the schools by rotation, each a month, to settle figures, to examine the performances of the students, to advise and instruct them." These regulations, with some slight modifications, continue in force to the present day and the students have the assistance and advice of the ablest members of the Academy, who willingly sacrifice their time and convenience to this important duty. "The greater the painter," writes Mr. Charles Leslie, in his Life of Reynolds, "the more valuable must always be his instruction. It has always appeared to me that the most valuable part of the constitution of the Royal Academy is that by which the members are made to be in turn the teachers. When I was a student I well remember how much I felt the advantage of being able to consult such men as Flaxman, Fuseli, Stothard, and Turner."
The duties of the Keeper were to take charge of the models, casts, and other movables belonging to the Academy, and "to attend regularly the schools of designs during the sittings of the students." No better man could have been chosen as first Keeper than Moser, the Swiss gold chaser and enameller, who had presided over the Societies, which met first in Greyhound Court and afterward in St. Martin's Lane. Though in his sixty-fifth year, he was still fit and ready for work. "All who knew him," wrote Reynolds, "were his friends;" but he knew very well how to maintain the importance of his office, and he was as much respected as he was liked by the students of the Academy. He was the father of Mary Moser, one of the only two ladies ever elected as Academicians. Francis Milner Newton was born about 1720, and had acquired some reputation as a portrait-painter. He was an excellent man of business, and took an important part in the establishment of the Royal Academy, of which he was Secretary from its commencement in 1768 till 1788, when he retired. He died in 1799.
The selection of Reynolds as President was of inestimable advantage to the Academy. He was born at Plympton, in Devonshire, on July 16, 1723. At the age of seventeen he was placed under Hudson, who had succeeded Richardson and Jervas, as the fashionable portrait-painter of the day. He remained in London not quite two years, and then, owing to some disagreement with his master, returned to Devonsliire, where he obtained a good deal of employment in painting portraits of the local celebrities. In 1744, a few years after his father's death, he made the acquaintance of Commodore Keppel, who had recently been appointed to tlie command in the Mediterranean, and offered Reynolds a passage on board his flagship, the Centurion. They sailed on the 9th of May, 1749, and after visiting many places on the way, Reynolds arrived in Rome early in 1750, where he staid, "to his measureless content," two years. On his way home he passed a month in Paris, and was back in London in 1752. He first took apartments in No. 104 St. Martin's Lane, which had at one time been occupied by Sir James Thornhill, but he afterward moved to No. 5 Great Newport Street. His prices were, at that time (1755), 12 guineas for a head, 24 guineas for a half-length, and 48 guineas for a whole-length. In 1779 he charged £37 10s. for a head size, £52 10s. for a kitcat, £73 10s. for a half-length, and £156 10s. for a whole-length. His prices never at any time approached those paid to Lawrence toward the close of his career. In 1760 Reynolds bought the liouse formerly in the possession of the fatlier of George Morland, the artist, in Leicester Square, then known as Leicester Fields, where he remained till his death. His sister, Frances Reynolds, was for some time living with him, but they do not appear to have got on very well together. She was of a nervous, fidgety disposition, which would be extremely trying to a man of Reynolds's calm and equable temperament, but Johnson had a great affection for her, and declared that ''she was very near to purity itself." She had some small share of her brother's talent, and painted miniatures, which, he said, "made himself cry, and others laugh.'' There is a head-size portrait of her by her brother, whom she survived many years. She died at Queen's Square, Westminster, aged eighty, on the 1st of November, 1807.
Sir Joshua's house in Leicester Square is little changed, though there have been some slight alterations in the interior arrangements. The staircase, which was trod by so many of the beauties and illustrious men of the day, is an interesting feature of the building, and still retains the old cast-iron balustrades, curving outward at the bottom, to allow space for the ladies' hoops. The place is now occupied by Messrs. Puttick and Simpson, the auctioneers.
Reynolds had at this time (1760) already attained almost the highest eminence in his profession. Horace Walpole writes in February, 1759, "Mr. Reynolds and Mr. Ramsay are our favorite painters, and two of the best we ever had." But he met a formidable rival in Gainsborough, and soon Romney was to arrive in London, and win many admirers by the extraordinary grace and beauty of his female portraits. Romney never belonged to the Royal Academy, and no picture by his hand was ever shown within its walls during his life, but in recent times his works have formed a powerful attraction at the exhibitions of old masters at Burlington House. With the exception of James Barry, who will be alluded to hereafter, he was perhaps the only contemporary painter for whom Reynolds felt decided feelings of dislike. Romney was quarrelsome, illiterate, and eccentric in his habits, but his great merits as an artist are now universally recognized, and it would be a graceful act of the present members of the Royal Academy to place his portrait in their building, with an inscription like that on the bust of Moliere in the French Academy, "Rien ne manquait a sa gloire; il manquait a la notre." Reynolds kept a regular diary of his sitters, with occasional memoranda of social engagements. The pocket-books in which these were written are now, with the exception of a few missing volumes, in the possession of the Royal Academy. The first of the series was for 1755; the last is for 1790, after he had been compelled by failing eyesight to give up painting, and contains only entries for dinner engagements, appointments with friends, and meetings at the club or Royal Academy. The pocket-book for 1759 contains appointments with 148 sitters.
In 1769, the year in which he commenced his duties as President, there were only 78 sitters, but this diminution in number may only show that the same persons sat oftener. Mr. Leslie, in his Life, says that with Reynolds the number of sittings varied considerably -- from five or six to sixteen or eighteen. But his work as President must have occupied a good deal of his time. He was indefatigable in his attendance at the Academy, and in the first two years from its formation his signature is only missing in the minutes of one Council meeting (1st October, 1770), when we learn from his diary that he was enjoying a little hunting and partridge shooting in his own county. The Academy found its first home in Pall Mall, immediately adjacent to Old Carlton House, a little eastward of the site now occupied by the United Service Club. Its first exhibition, comprising 136 works, was opened on the 26tlh April, and was visited by the King on the 25th May, an advertisement having been previously inserted in the papers that on that day the public would not be admitted. It closed on the 27th of the same month. The price of admission was, as at the present time, one shilling; the catalogues were sold for sixpence, and the total receipts were £699 17s. 6d. In 1792, the year in which Reynolds died, 780 works were exhibited, and the receipts had increased to £3178 12s.
In 1886 the total receipts amounted to £18,741 7s. On Monday, August 2d (bank holiday), 7642 persons paid for admission, which on that day was at the reduced charge of sixpence.
In the Council minutes for 13th April, 1770, there appears an entry of the members "having examined the several pictures of the Exhibition."
At the present day the task of selecting from the pictures sent for exhibition by artists not belonging to the Academy is very arduous, and however conscientiously it may be performed, the decision of the Council cannot always be infallible. A summary of the results of the exhibition in 1886 will give some idea of the duties to be performed. The Council commenced its selection on Monday, March 29th, and finished on Tuesday, April 6th. The works sent by non-members amounted to 8875, of which 1753 were accepted and hung, though the space at the disposal of the Council was very insufficient for such a number. The members contributed 172 works, of which 144 were paintings. It will be seen from the above statement that 7122 works were refused, and if one considers the vast amount of disappointment, unhappiness, and even despair that is undergone each year by the artists of rejected pictures, it is not surprising that the Academy should sometimes be regarded by the outside world with no very kindly feelings. The engraving of the painting by Mr. C.W. Cope, R.A., exhibited at the Academy in 1876, gives some idea of the annual scene which takes place when the President and Council "select the pictures."
The work of the "committee of arrangements," as it is officially called, which determines the order and position of the pictures on the wall, is scarcely less difficult or laborious. In 1886 it commenced on Wednesday, April 7th, and was not completed till Wednesday, April 21st. In some respects the task is even more invidious than that of the "selection." The greater number of the rejected works are by artists whom the members of the Council have never known or seen, but those which the hanging committee is called upon to arrange are in many cases by comrades and intimate friends. It is not unusual, moreover, for Academicians to be extremely dissatisfied with the place assigned to their productions. Northcote declared he never had a picture well hung, and even the gentle Angelica Kauffman complained to her friend the President that her paintings were badly placed. The first volume of Council minutes contains the record of a very serious dispute on the subject, which occurred a few years after the formation of the Academy.
Thomas Gainsborough was an original Academician, and his name will always be considered as one of the most illustrious among British painters. "The art of Gainsborough," writes Mr. Leslie, "has a charm not to be found even in that of Reynolds; a pastoral feeling which raises him to the level of Burns." The two great painters, though they were never on familiar terms, had a just appreciation of each other's genius. "D_____ him, how various he is!" said Gainsborough, on examining the President's works at one of the exhibitions. "I cannot think," confessed Reynolds, before a picture by his rival, "how he produces his effects." Gainsborough had refused to fulfil any of his Academical duties, and had more than once given trouble about his pictures at the annual exhibitions. In 1784 he sent a full-length group of three of the royal princesses, and insisted on its being hung lower than the usual level of pictures of that class. The Academy still possesses the letter which Gainsborough wrote to the hanging committee on that occasion. "Mr. Gainsborough presents his compliments to the gentlemen appointed to hang the pictures at the Royal Academy, and begs leave to hint to them that if the royal family which he has sent for exhibition (being smaller than three-quarters) is hung above the line along with the full-lengths, he never, while he breathes, will send another picture to the exhibition. This he swears by God." A more temperate letter was written to the Council, but it was impossible for the governing body to be dictated to by one of its members, however distinguished he might be; a reply was sent informing him that "the Council have ordered your pictures to be taken down and delivered to your order whenever [you] send for them." The incident was most regrettable, as Gainsborough never exhibited again at the Royal Academy, but it is impossible to question the propriety of the Council in upholding its authority. It is satisfactory to know that the breach between Reynolds and Gainsborough was at last closed. On the deathbed of the latter he sent for his rival, and a reconciliation took place. "If any little jealousies have existed between us," said Reynolds, in his discourse of December, 1788, delivered shortly after the death of Gainsborough, "they were forgotten in those moments of sincerity; and he turned toward me as one who was engrossed in the same pursuits, and who deserved his good opinion by being sensible of his excellence."
The first "committee of arrangement" of which a record appears in the Council minute-books was appointed on the 25th March, 1771, and consisted of Mr. West, afterward President, Cipriani, Richard Wilson, the celebrated landscape-painter, the Keeper, G. M. Moser, and the Secretary, F. M. Newton. Some of the pictures can be identified by an examination of the catalogue. There are not many spectators, but the burly figure on the right is probably Dr. Johnson, and the two connoisseurs on the left are supposed to be meant for Richard Wilson (one of the hanging committee), with his enormous nose, and William Hunter, the first Professor of Anatomy to the Academy. The royal personage in the centre and the lady ogling him through the sticks of her fan have neither of them been recognized, but I have not the smallest doubt that they are intended for the Duke of Cumberland and Lady Grosvenor, whose notorious intimacy was the cause of a divorce case, then the talk of the town.
On the 14th of January the new apartments in Somerset House allotted by the King to the Academy were taken possession of, and the lodgings appropriated to the Keeper, the Library, the Schools, and the Council-room were occupied, though the exhibitions were continued in Pall Mall till 1780.
The first annual dinner took place on St. George's Day, in 1771. and twenty-five guests were invited. Johnson and Goldsmith, who had been appointed by the Academy in the previous year -- the former Professor of Ancient Literature, the latter Professor of Ancient History - were both present, and Walpole gives some account of their conversation on the occasion. But we have fuller details of the dinner in 1774. At the Council meeting of the 10th of March of that year it was resolved that the Lord Chamberlain, the President of tlie Royal Society, and other guests, among whom were David Garrick, George Colman, and Samuel Foote, should be invited, and at the next Couiicil fresh names were added to the list, including Edmund Burke, Topham Beauclerk, well known to readers of Boswell's Johnson, and Henry Bunbury, who afterward married the elder Miss Horneck, Goldsmith's '"Little Comedy." Johnson was, of course, present as an office-bearer of the Academy, but poor Goldsmith, who had died a few weeks before in his lonely chambers in the Temple, at Brick Court, was absent for the first time. The menu and Mr. John Dring's bill for the dinner are still in existence. The table was laid for ninety-two persons, at five shillings a head, and the entertainment, with charges for glass, waiters, beer, and other extras, cost £45 0s. 9d., but the wine appears not to be included. The fare was extremely plain. For the first course there were fowls, greens, ham, veal pie, raised pie, salad, and roast beef. The second course consisted of geese, asparagus, ducks, pudding, and lamb. In 1791 Mr. Rickholt, of the Freemasons' Tavern, provided the dinner, and the charge had risen to half a guinea a head. The new purveyor was not chosen, however, without giving some practical proofs of his merits, and in the Council minutes of 9th April appears a resolution "that the President and Council do appoint to dine at Mr. Rickliolt's house on Thursday next, the 28th, to taste his wines."
The annual dinner is still held, and now takes place on the Saturday before the opening of the exhibition on the first Monday in May. There is perhaps no social meeting in England where such a distinguished company assembles, and great statesmen, distinguished soldiers, and the most famous literary men of the day are proud to be present at the brilliant gathering. Not many years ago it was said that an ambitious amateur had spent £25,000 on the pictures of living artists in the hope that his munificent patronage would procure him an invitation to the dinner at Burlington House, but his well-meaning efforts were unsuccessful, and he was not present at the banquet.
Another ceremony which has an interest very different from the scene just described is the delivery of an address by the President, on alternate years, at the distribution of the medals to the prize students. Reynolds's discourses were much admired at the time, and they are still considered as models of their kind, both in style and matter. On the occasion of his last address, in 1790, when he had finished speaking, Burke stepped up, and taking the President's hand in his own, quoted the lines from Milton:
Reynolds's health was now beginning to fail, though till almost the end he mixed much in society, and regularly fulfilled his duties as President. On the 5th of November, 1791, he made his will, but was unable to attend the General Assembly of the Academy on the 10th. His eyesight was becoming more impaired, and he suffered much from depression of spirits. In January, 1792, he was so ill that he was unable to leave his bed, and on the 23d February he died, in his sixty-ninth year, with the same calm fortitude and tranquillity which had always been the most striking trait in his character. Among his eminent contemporaries in art, besides those already mentioned, were Francis Cotes, Bartolozzi, who engraved the plate for the Academy diplomas from a design by Cipriani, Richard Cosway, celebrated for his miniatures, Joseph Nollekens, the sculptor, John Singleton Copley, and James Northcote, Reynolds's pupil and biographer.
DIPLOMA OF ASSOCIATE.
Benjamin West was the second President of the Royal Academy. Born in America in 1738, and brought up by parents who belonged to the Society of Friends, he acquired the simple tastes and habits of his people, which he retained to the end of his life. His first lessons in art were from a band of Cherokee Indians, who taught him how to prepare the red and yellow colors which they used for adorning their weapons; but his artistic talents soon attracted attention, and he was enabled, by the kindness of friends, to visit Rome. After a residence of three years in Italy he went to London in 1763, where he at once became famous as a historical painter, and was one of the original Academicians. George III. and his Queen were favorably impressed with the young artist, who before long acquired considerable influence at court. He died in March, 1820, having presided over tbe Academy twenty-eight years. During his term of office the most eminent Academicians were Hoppner, Turner, Sir Augustus Callcott, Sir David Wilkie, Sir Henry Raeburn, Mulready, and Sir Francis Chantrey.
Joseph Mallord William Turner was the greatest landscape-painter of modern days. He was born in 1775, and became a student in 1789. His first Academy picture, a view of Lambeth Palace, was accepted in 1790, and for sixty years uninterruptedly he contributed to the exhibitions. Dr. Waagen says "that no landscape-painter has yet appeared with such versatility of talent. His historical landscapes exhibit the most exquisite views, and effect of lighting; at the same time he has the power of making them express the most varied moods of nature -- a lofty grandeur, a deep and moody melancholy, a sunny cheerfulness and peace, or an uproar of all the elements." Turner died in December, 1851.
The third President was Sir Thomas Lawrence, who was born in 1769, the year after the foundation of the Academy. At an early age he showed remarkable genius for drawing, and was taking professional portraits in crayons when little more than ten years old. While still a boy he was allowed to visit some of the collections of pictures in the neighborhood of Bath, where his father was then living. In after-days, when President of the Royal Academy, and possessor of a magnificent collection of drawings by the old masters, he readily gave permission for students to copy them, or any of the pictures in his gallery. The present writer has heard Sir Francis Grant speak of the kindness which, as a young man, on his first arrival in London, he received from Lawrence. He was not only allowed to copy any of the pictures in the President's collection, but also to use one of his studios. In February, 1794, Lawrence was elected a Royal Academician, but on account of his youth, the diploma was not signed till December of the following year. His reputation as a portrait-painter was European, and during his career he painted many foreign celebrities, besides nearly all the distinguished persons of his own country. His best known works are the portraits of Mrs. Siddons and of Kemble, now in the National Gallery, and the famous collection at Windsor (known as the "Waterloo Gallery") of the great commanders and sovereigns who took part in the campaign of 1814. Lawrence died after a short illness in January, 1830. The most distinguished Academicians elected duriug his Presidency were Charles Leslie, Etty, and Constable, the most national and one of the greatest of English landscape-painters.
Martin Archer Shee was chosen as successor to Lawrence, though some of the Academicians thought that Wilkie's superiority as an artist gave him a better claim to the post, but Leslie, who himself voted for Wilkie, wrote afterward: "Sir M. Shee made so incomparable a President that I am glad the majority did not think as I did at the time of the election." Shee was eminent as a portrait-painter, but his works never attained the highest level of art, and they are now rarely seen. His favorite pursuit, next to painting, was literature, and he was an excellent speaker. On the first occasion when he occupied the chair at the Academy dinner Lord Holland and Lord Grey declared that his opening speech was the best they had ever heard. Sir Martin died in his eighty-first year, in August, 1850. Among the Academicians elected since the death of Lawrence were Sir Edwin Landseer, Stanfield, Daniel Maclise, and David Roberts.
In 1816, Henry Fuseli, the Keeper of the Academy, was much attracted by one of the students, a pretty little cui'ly-headed lad with an extraordinary talent for drawing animals. This little "dog boy," as Fuseli used to call him, was Edwin Landseer, and his name is now probably more widely known than that of any other English artist. His first work at the Academy was accepted when he was only seventeen years of age, and from then till the time of his death his pictures were generally the chief points of interest at the annual exhibitions. On the death of Sir Charles Eastlake, Landseer was elected as President, but his failing health obliged him to decline the position. He died in October, 1873, and was buried in the crypt of St. Paul's Cathedral. The ceremony was attended by his colleagues of the Academy, and by nearly every artist in England. The cortege started from Trafalgar Square, and the whole of the way to St. Paul's the streets were lined with spectators. Since the funeral of the Duke of Wellington no such crowds had been seen on a similar occasion, but his friends of the great world, who had been proud to entertain him at their houses, and not too proud to accept from him many valuable productions of his pencil, were very scantily represented.
During the Presidency of Sir Martin Shee the Royal Academy moved from Somerset House, where the annual exhibitions had been held since 1780, to the National Gallery, in Trafalgar Square. The new rooms were occupied in 1836, and in the following year the exhibition was opened with much state by William IV., on the last occasion that he ever took part in a public ceremony. The Duchess of Kent and Princess Victoria visited the galleries on the same day.
Sir Martin Shee was succeeded by Sir Charles Eastlake, a gentleman of cultured taste, who excelled rather in the theory than in the practice of his profession. He was born in 1793, and early showed a strong feeling for classical art, which was further developed by travels in Greece and Italy. On the appointment of the Fine Arts Commission in 1841 he was named Secretary, and in 1855 he became Director of the National Gallery. His contributions to art literature were published in a collected form in 1846, but the volume is now rarely met with. Sir Charles Eastlake died December, 1865. During his term of office the most notable Academicians elected were Sir John Watson Gordon, President of the Scotch Academy, Thomas Creswick, William Powell Frith, Samuel Cousins (elected an associate engraver in 1835, who is still living, and without a rival in the art of mezzotint engraving), James Clark Hook, the marine painter, and Sir John Millais.
Sir Charles Eastlake's successor as President was Sir Francis Grant. Born in 1804, and educated at Harrow, one of his earliest reminiscences was of a visit paid by Lord Byron to his old school, when the poet met with an enthusiastic reception from tlie boys.
During the twelve years Sir Francis Grant presided over the Royal Academy he was on very cordial terms with his colleagues, from whom on all occasions he received the warmest support and assistance. Among his intimate friends was Edwin Landseer, whom in early days he used to meet at Gore House, where Count d'Orsay was then living with his mother-in-law. Lady Blessington. Mr. Disraeli was at that time one of the same coterie, and the present writer well remembers hearing him reminded by Sir Francis Grant of a supper party where Count d'Oi'say proposed a humorous toast to the tailors of England, and called on him (Mr. Disraeli) to respond. Landseer's letters to Sir Francis are carefully preserved, and many of them contain interesting pen and ink sketches. Sir Francis Grant died in his seventy-fifth year, in October, 1878. During the time he was President many distinguished artists were elected to full Academical honors. Among them were Thomas Faed, Calderon. Watts, and Sir Frederick Leighton. But the most notable event during Sir Francis Grant's tenure of office was the removal of the Academy to Burlington House, which, by a strange coincidence, is labelled 'Academy of Arts' in one of Hogarth's engravings, known as "Masquerades and Operas," published in 1724. The magnificent building where the exhibitions are now held, with its new schools and other recent additions, has cost about £150,000, which has been entirely paid out of the Academy's funds. During Sir Francis's latter years he often expressed a desire that his successor might be Frederick Leighton, and after his death this wish was realized by the unanimous vote of the Academy, and by its hearty approval of all those interested in the success of British art. Sir Frederick Leighton has now been President for over ten years, and has on many occasions shown his anxiety that the institution over which he presides should keep up with the progress of the day.
The best known Academicians elected since the death of Sir Francis Grant are Orchardson, Alma-Tadema, Vicat Cole, Ouless, Briton Riviere, and Marcus Stone. The most important improvements have been the erection of the new schools and the revised code of laws for the students, of which an excellent description is given by Mr. F. A. Eaton, the Secretary of the Academy, in the London Fortnightly Review of December, 1883. It has always been emphatically recognized by the Academy that one of its most important duties is instruction in art, and the very first Council meeting has a minute on the subject. There is no space in this article for any detailed explanation of the present system, and only a few bare statistics can be given. The annual cost of the schools is between £5000 and £6000. There are at present about five hundred students on the books of the Academy, who receive the best professional education which the country can give, without payment of any fees; and with the exception of the annual vacation of two months, the schools are open during the whole year. The general superintendence is vested in the Keeper, but there are, or will shortly be, professors of Painting, Sculpture, Architecture, Anatomy, and Chemistry, besides a teacher of Perspective and a master in the Class of Architecture. Not the least important part of the teaching is that, already alluded to, by the Visitors, elected from the ablest members of the Academy, who serve each a month in rotation. There are three travelling studentships of £200, tenable for one year, given biennially to the winners of the gold medals of painting, sculpture, and ai'chitecture. There are also many other substantial rewards, in the shape of medals, scholarships, and money pi'izes, given annually to successful students.
There is another good work which the Academy has always been diligent in performing. The Council books, from their earliest commencement, have constant entries of pecuniary assistance given to indigent artists or their relatives. The amount annually allotted to this purpose is now very large, and is in many cases increased by the private benefactions of members.
The Royal Academy celebrated its centenary in 1868, and still appears to have every prospect of a long existence. It might be possible for an enthusiastic reformer to point out defects in some of the regulations, and to suggest improvements which would bring the governing body more into contact with the outside world, and we hear rumors, indeed, that something of the sort is at present actually under consideration. But no unprejudiced person who takes the trouble to acquire a knowledge of the subject will doubt for a moment that the members do their utmost to fulfil the duties intrusted to their charge; and as long as the Royal Academy is animated with these conscientious feelings, and contains within its body so many of the ablest artists of the kingdom, it may hope to continue for many years its useful and honorable career.
It only remains for the writer to express his grateful acknowledgment of the permission accorded to him by the Council to examine the minute-books and the archives, and he must add his hearty thanks to the President and the Secretary for the invariable kindness with which they have responded to his inquiries for information.
EIGHT PRESIDENTS OF THE ROYAL ACADEMY. By FREDERICK WEDMORE.
DIFFICULT as it may be to be accurately prophetic in regard to posterity's verdicts, it is safe to say that the best work of Sir John Millais will live with the best work of Constable and Turner, of Gainsborough and of Wilson, of Hogarth and of Etty -- will take its place, that is, in the front rank of English painting; and so we come to add one more great artist to the scanty two or three of the eight painters one or other of whom, from 1768 to the month in which this article appears, has presided over the English Royal Academy of Arts. And who, one asks, may be those two or three? Leighton -- "our admirable Leighton," in the cordial and veracious "word of his successor -- Leighton is probably one of them. Sir Joshua, quite certainly, is another. And who may be a third? No one, it is to be feared, of whom a single living man can have a vivid recollection. For we must, in any case, go back so very far -- we must go back at least some seventy years -- in order to find him. It is not Sir Francis Grant, is it? -- courteous and charming gentleman, sound and straightforward painter, as Sir Francis was. It is not Sir Charles Eastlake. Just as conclusively it is not, and it cannot be, Sir Martin Archer Shee, the worthy person on whom the chair devolved during the year that first saw William IV. upon the throne. Who, then, remains behind? Sir Thomas Lawrence, President for ten preceding years. He alone is in the running, but I cannot entertain any real hope that he will come up early to the winning-post. There is a temporary reaction in his favour just now. The English dealer looks with respect upon his effort, and the French connoisseur, with a wish to be extremely up-to-date, insists on talking much about him. The only President I have not named thus far is the blameless Quaker President -- Benjamin West -- as to whom, when he was still a youth, the "elders" of his particular "meeting" sat solemnly in conclave to debate whether he should or should not be permitted to address himself to canvas and the palette. The elders took a liberal view as well as a kindly one, and Benjamin was suffered to paint. He painted with immense success -- for Fame that goes, and Money that goes also -- but for immortality he did not paint. See, then, how few among our eight Presidents of the Academy have been producers of the art that lasts!
It is almost a thankless business, the going back among the records of mediocrity -- the careful appraisement of that which in its day was serviceable, but whose use has long been fulfilled. Still, as one surveys the list of Presidents, one feels that if hardly two or three of them appeal to one to-day with any approach to irresistible force, there is this interest at least attaching to each one of them -- that each one of them, almost, represents with something of accuracy the taste of his time. And if that anywhere fails to be quite true, it is with the immortals only that it fails. The taste of the time in which they first appear is not always pleased with the immortals. But the rest -- the rest would never have been Presidents at all if they had not represented the fashion of their day. Imagine Sir Martin Shee President this morning; fancy Sir Charles Eastlake at this moment at the head of the profession whose one adoration is for force -- whose one cry is for "values"! That artist, so mildly elegant, so unobtrusively tame! Yet he had his day, and he was honoured in it. With this last consideration there is connected, too, the question whether a great President of the Academy is bound to be a great painter. Most certainly he is not bound to be a painter in a great style. He is not bound to be an artist whose claim to the Ideal consists, in chief, in plentiful lack of the appreciation of the Real. It is enough if he paints something greatly, whether the something be Olympian gods or a dish of fruit and the reflections in a glass of water. But is he bound -- it may even be urged further -- to paint greatly at all? And even if, in some measure, it may fairly be asked of him that he shall represent in some degree the taste of his time, may there not, in the question of fitness for a Presidency, be the yet more important demand, "Is the man a great gentleman, an artist, not, perhaps, of extraordinary achievement, but of comprehensive view; the master, not, perhaps, of his particular craft, but yet a leader of men, just and conciliatory, with manner bland yet decisive?" And we may be sure that the secret of certain past elections to the Presidency -- elections which have made hard judges, narrow experts, wonder -- is to be found in the answer to that question. And more and more as time proceeds will the issue be complicated -- and I think quite fairly complicated -- by such a consideration as this one: "In the world of Society, will the man do? For he has to do there, just as much as in the world of the studio."
Scarcely until the advent of Sir John Millais himself to the highest of artistic dignities, has the office of President been held by anyone of first-rate originality. Nor is this a remarkable circumstance, for official recognition of any kind is proffered but slowly and unwillingly to those whose way is ever their own. The biggest President thus far -- a man whose work the approval of four generations, with different aims, has consecrated -- was not himself conspicuously original. Scarcely was he original with the originality of Crome or Gainsborough -- never at all with the originality of Hogarth, Watteau, Chardin, Quentin de Latour. Sir Joshua's greatness lies less in his originality than in his comprehensiveness -- his comprehensiveness first as an artist, who could paint "Cupid as a Link-boy," and Kitty Fisher, dark, sparkling, prettily wanton, and Esther Jacobs, homely and restful, poetic, delicately blonde, and then again, Lady Carlyle in stately meditation; the ready sprightliness of Mrs. Abington, in a comedy of Congreve's; Mrs. Siddons, with a mind to "stab" anything -- yes, even the potatoes -- Baretti, subtle yet direct; and Admiral Keppel; and "Hope Nursing Love" (the portrait of the exquisite Miss Morris, half reclining, with bared breast); and this or that child, with all the waywardness of infancy and its inconsequence; and the landscape of Richmond Hill. And next, of course, we take into account Sir Joshua's comprehensiveness as a man: an urbane man of affairs", a man of society; the associate of Burke; a man not displeased at all times with the modest companionship of Miss Reynolds, his sister, who kept his house for him in Leicester Square; a man who, as indulgent as Johnson to the demi-monde, and better, perhaps, acquainted with it, gathered himself together for close reflection and sagacious comment on the art he practised, and so addressed to the assembled students of the Royal Academy lectures which teach us to this day many truths, and some untruths, about painters, and which are a lesson in grave and dignified and stately English style.
But if in some of the foregoing words I may seem to have disparaged or denied Sir Joshua's originality, do not let it be thought that I would deny at all or would disparage his greatness. His greatness -- outside the important matter of his range, which has been spoken of already -- lay in the enormous difference which his practice all at once established between the work that was his own and that of any of his English predecessors, Hogarth alone excepted. The technique of the art -- and more one great portrait-painter practising in England a hundred years before him. Art will always owe something to Sir Peter than its technique, the conceptions it expressed -- went up by leaps when Reynolds put his brush to canvas. Not that I would seek to undervalue the Lely's unremitting record of fleshly and familiar grace; but, save for Hogarth, between Lely's time and Reynolds's, who was there in English Portrait-Painting whose work must live. And as for Sir Joshua's more immediate forerunners, what stiffness and what mannerism, what poverty of pictorial conception, was generally theirs!
Reynolds was a wonderful colourist in warm tones: a richer, not a more delicate, colourist than Gainsborough: a more harmonious and subtler colourist than Romney. His, in a sense, and in a measure, was a Venetian palette: not Venetian, indeed, with quite the flexibility of Watteau, yet recalling the Venetian Paintings far more than those of any other school. And, turning to another quality, his composition was so fine that it appears inevitable: so good is it that unless you are well on the look-out, you do not notice it at all: there is nothing obvious about it. Something of this he had learned, no doubt, from the now decried and the then popular masters of Bologna and Parma. And then, his grasp of character! It excels that of any Venetian, except, it may be, Moroni: it excels yet more anything in the works of those painters of mid-Italy to whose virtues Sir Joshua, in his discourses, pays willing tribute. They were devoted to the abstract and the general. Sir Joshua was devoted to the individual -- not, of course, with quite the penetrating glance of a Velasquez or a Rembrandt; yet still devoted; for certainly he was, of the individual, an adequate exponent.
For eight-and-twenty years -- four years longer than his illustrious predecessor -- Benjamin West sat in the chair of the Academy. If he had not the lure of a great artist, he had the taste and love of Art of the artistic person, and the discretion of the Quaker; he was a courtier of the best and worthiest type. His tenure of the Presidency -- a post nominally not given for life, but one as to which there is made each year at least some show of formal choice -- his tenure of the Presidency was once, at least, seriously, if not effectively, disputed. Fortunate is it for the memory of West that the official distinction was at least his; for, to speak plainlv, it is only by his having been the recipient of it that we have cause to recollect even any portion of his work. And to say that is not to be so severe as it at first seems. His art was essentially of a period: its particular conventionality and its particular artificiality are distasteful to us to-day. But it is no reproach to him to say that West was useful and acceptable in his own generation. The conception of pictorial art then generally entertained, found itself sufficiently embodied in the conscientious productions, of this good soul, who loved his kind -- and sincerely loved painting.
David Mlkie -- who was a genre painter often close to Nature, where West had been an historical painter, far enough from vivid History -- might almost have been West's successor, as afterwards he might have been Shee's. But it is upon Sir Thomas Lawrence that, in 1820, "the election lights." His vogue as a portrait-painter was at that moment untouched by the vogue of another. Not for him any such rivalry as had had to be encountered by the great Sir Joshua, who, fashionable as he was through all his life, yet found himself at one time in competition with Gainsborough, and at another in competition with George Romney". Lawrence, from his earliest manhood, had enjoyed the suffrages of the town. Not wholly without character as a recorder of men, he put down plainly on his canvas the seductiveness of women. One element of their seductiveness at least he heightened. Yet he chronicled scarcely at all their intellectual power -- scarcely arrested for a moment on his canvas their spiritual grace. His fair women, though observant of the proprieties, are carnal rather than divine: luscious rather than witty. Before long, the inconstant admirer tires of their charm. Here and there, of course, is an exception. The Stage, on which Genius finds so happy a manifestation, and by which Genius is itself so happily inspired, have a certain stimulus even to Sir Thomas.
Lawrence, charged as he was with his material prose and his cheap and showy poetry. In vivacity and fascination, in the beauty of life, his portrait of Miss Farren leaves nothing to be asked for. For a moment at least that bewitching comedian must have affected him almost as Lady Hamilton affected Romney. Delighting so entirely his eye and heart, she gave -- doubtless she gave -- strength and refinement to his hand.
Shee, as was fitting, had long been an Academician, when, by the votes of his brethren, he was in 1830 motioned to the chair. Only the curious inquirer into past greatness can be invited to address himself to any study of his work. Now, at least, after the death of Lawrence, who, however great were his deficiencies, was a considerable artist, we find ourselves among a little sequence, so to say, of Presidents whom it is dullness to study. Yet, as for Shee himself, he was a man of brilliancy, though never a great painter. His "Thomas Moore" has vivacity, and is what is called "speaking." It is observant, certainly, and adroit.
Sir Charles Eastlake sat in the chair after Sir Martin Shee, and sat there not without reason, for he had social charm and judgment and fine taste; and so, in several ways, the country is his debtor. But Eastlake's art displayed, in the main, not only conventions, which are inevitable, but conventionality, which we resent. Who can say of Sir Charles Eastlake that his outlook on the world, though sincere and conscientious, was wholly his own? With these lines there will be printed an illustration -- it is a picture from the National Gallery -- in which that conventionality is revealed. See the actual picture, in which the faults are even more evident than in the reproduction, and there must be noticed, rather painfully, the thin and tepid, though clean, colouring, and, again, the artificial arrangement of the light and shade -- the high lights concentrated on the faces, and so much of the figures in a shadow impenetrable and ridiculous. But in a portrait of Napoleon, the artist -- a younger man when he accomplished it -- is displayed better. In more "important" compositions he was wont to be preoccupied with an interest that is almost literary -- or, he was sentimental rather than pictorial. Yet he had some gift of genuine tenderness -- a painter's or a writer's equivalent for the actor's don des lannes.
Of Sir Charles Eastlake's immediate successor, Sir Francis Grant, I must be pardoned for saying only that he was at least a characteristic Englishman, manly and shrewd, distinguished of bearing, observant in a prosaic fashion, of the points in man or horse. At home at Ascot, at home at Melton Mowbray, in Paris scarcely in his element.
So lately have there been issued eloquent and comprehensive eulogies of Lord Leighton that I am loth to say anything which savours of the twice-told tale. But one thing this very circumstance, this recent wreath and all the tributes that came after it, allows me fortunately to take note of -- the praise awarded to Lord Leighton when, "in streaming London's central roar," they left him to his rest, showed that the carping criticism of which he had received so much in his later years represented not at all the real feeling of the competent, in regard to his achievement and his place. That he was artificial, that he was manufactured, that he was scarcely an artist, that he was an artist out of date -- we had been told that to satiety. It was the privilege of the ill-educated to mock at and to jeer at him. The rawest youth from Paris, with his little shibboleth, demolished the President to his complete satisfaction. But when Lord Leighton died, all the graver, fitly-equipped critics thought fit to remind the painter-youth, ingenuous and narrow, hot and prejudiced, that Leighton had great qualities, scarcely now grasped, scarcely not rightly valued -- a master of draughtsmanship, a master finished of his labours, at least, he was smooth after a fashion that is gone -- he lacked modern handling. But look, then, of line, a master of design, a master of composition. He had one fatal fault, no doubt, in many people's eyes: in the Photo by Russell and Sons, at his sketches. His sketches in oil -- so many of which his friend Mr. Wyke Bayliss, the President, was fortunate enough to secure, in two successive seasons, for the walls of the Royal British Artists -- his sketches are direct in method, and august in colour. Lord Leighton was himself very indulgent, very forgiving, to the smart youth who paints. But for me, when I hear the smart youth holding forth, out of the riches of his wisdom, on the great President who is no more, I think of the author of the latest vers de socieie amiably patronising the author of "Comus," of the successful temporarily popular dabbler in stories of adventure kindly pronouncing on Fielding and on Smollett, or of the narrator of the chaste career of some Italian "light o' loves" thinking that with an easy word he puts aside the austere Dante -- tramples down for his own private benefit the laurels of the Florentine. Not so quickly, however, do these great things pass.
And now there has succeeded, very rightly, to the chair of the departed idealist -- to the chair of the poet who sought, full often, his inspiration in the methods of the Past -- an immense realist, an artist who fails sometimes, as he so frequently succeeds; one who, whether failing or succeeding, is sincere and himself, always a man with a rare hold upon the modern world; perfectly fearless in the grapling with it -- an interpreter of mode. In cliaracter, of its intensity, its nervous force. For Sir John Millais, at least in the more characteristic of his work, no old-world dreams, no drawing his inspiration from a Past with which -- however much it may at times impress and interest him -- the sincere modern cannot be in complete sympathy. Millais's painting mirrors the life of his own generation: not, of course, in the fashion of literary anecdote, but in the way of faithful and courageous portraiture. "All my poems," saitl Goethe, to the privileged Eckermann -- the listener to the finest of the secrets of the greatest literary art -- "all my poems are occasional poems." On a re-experience they were founded -- a real experience of some incident, some emotion, some interesting personality, had been the source and germ of them. Well! On no foundation less sure than that, there is established the practice and the fame of Millais.
HEAR THOU MY TALE.
KEY TO THE ILLUSTRATION "SELECTING THE PICTURES".