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Reynolds was comunitted for instruction. Hudson was the scholar of Richardson, and married his daughter ; and after the death of his father-in-law, succeeded to the chief employment in portrait painting. He was in all respects much below his master in ability ; but being esteemed the best artist of his time, commissions flowed in upon him; and his business, as it might truly be termed, was carried on like that of a manufactory. To his ordinary heads, draperies were added by painters who chiefly confined themselves to that line of practice. No time was lost by Hudson in the study of character, or in the search of variety in the position of -his figures : a few formal attitudes served as models for all his subjects; and the display of arms and hands, being the more difficult parts, was managed with great economy, by all the contrivances of concealment.
" To this scene of imbecile performance, Joshua Reynolds was sent by his friends. He arrived in London on the 14th of October 1741, and on the 18th of that month he was introduced to his future preceptor. He was then aged seventeen years and three months. The terms of the agreement were, that provided Hudson approved him, he was to remain four years : but might be discharged at pleasure. He continued in this situation two years and a half, during which time he drew many heads upon paper; and in his attempts in painting, succeeded so well in a portrait of Hudson's cook, as to excite his master's jealousy. In this temper of mind, Hudson availed himself of a very trifling circumstance to dismiss him. Having one evening ordered Reynolds to take a picture to Van Haaken the drapery painter ; but as the weather proved wet, he postponed carrying it till next morning. At breakfast, Hudson demanded why he did not take the picture the evening before ? Reynolds replied, that “ he delayed it on account of the weather ; but that the picture was delivered that morning before Van Haaken rose from bed.” Hudson then said, “ You have not obeyed my orders, and shall not stay in my house." On this peremptory declaration, Reynolds urged that he might be allowed time to write to his father, who might otherwise think he had committed some great crime. Hudson, though reproached by his own servant for this unreasonable and violent conduct, persisted in his determination : accordingly, Reynolds went that day from Hudson's house to an uncle who resided in the Temple, and from thence wrote to his father, who, after consulting his neighbour Lord Edgcumbe, directed him to come down to Devonshire.
Thus did our great artist commence his professional career. Two remarks may be made upon this event. First, by quitting Hudson at this early period, he avoided the danger of having his mind and his hand habituated to a mean practice of the art, which, when established, is most difficult to overcome. It has often been observed in the works of artists who thus began their practice, that though they rose to marked distinction, there have been but few who could wholly divest themselves of the bad effects of a long-continued exer. cise of the eye and the hand in copying ordinary works. In Hud. son's school, this was fully manifested. Mortimer and Wright of Derby were his pupils. They were both men of superior talents; but in Portraits they never succeeded beyond what would be called mediocre performance. In this line their productions were tasteless and laboured : fortunately, however, they made choice of subjects more congenial with their minds. Mortimer, charmed with the wild spirit of Salvator Rosa, made the exploits of lawless banditti the chief subjects of his pencil; while Wright devoted himself to the study of objects viewed by artificial light, and to the beautiful effects of the moon upon landscape scenery: yet, even these, though deserv. ing of great praise, the effects of their early practice, were but too apparent; their pictures being uniformly executed with what artists call a heavy hand.' p. 19.
This is a humiliating retrospect for the lovers of art, and of their country. In speculating upon its causes, we are half afraid to hint at the probable effects of Climate, --so much is it now the fashion to decry what was once so much overrated. Our theoretical opinions are directed far more frequently by a spirit of petulant contradiction than of fair inquiry. We detect errors in received systems, and then run into the contrary extreme, to show how wise we are. Thus one folly is driven out by another; and the history of philosophy is little more than an alternation of blind prejudices and shallow paradoxes. Thus climate was every thing in the days of Montesquieu, and in our day it is nothing. Yet it was but one of many cooperating causes at first--and it continues to be one still. În all that relates to the senses, physical causes may be allowed to operate very materially, without much violence to experience or probability. Are the English a Musical people?' is a question that has been debated at great length, and in all the forms. But whether the Italians are, a musical people, is a question not to be asked, any more than whether they have a taste for the fine arts in general. Nor does the subject ever admit of a question, where a faculty or genius for any particular thing exists in the most eminent degree; for then it is sure to show itself, and force its way to the light, in spite of all obstacles. That which no one ever denied to any people, we may be sure they actually possess: that which is as often denied as allowed them, we may be sure they do not possess in a very eminent degree. That, to which we make the angriest claim, and dispute the most about, whatever else may be, is not our forte. The French are allowed by all the world to be a dancing, talking, couking people. If the English were to set up the same pretensions, it would be ridiculous. But then, they say, they have other excellences; and having these, they would have the former too. They think it hard to be set down as a dull, plodding people: but is it not
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equally hard upon others to be called vain and light? They tell us, they are the wisest, the freest, and most moral people on the face of the earth, without the frivolous accomplishments of their neighbours; but they insist upon having these too, to be upon a par in every thing with the rest of the world. We have our bards and sages (" better none'), our prose-writers, our mathematicians, our inventors in useful and mechanic arts, our legislators, our patriots, our statesmen, and our fighting-men, in the field and in the ring :-In these we challenge, and justly, all the world. We are not behind-hand with any people in all that depends on hard thinking and deep and firm feeling, on long heads and stout hearts:-But why must we excel also in the revérse of these,--in what depends on lively perceptions, on quick sensibility, and on a voluptuous effeminacy of temperament and character ? An Englishman does not ordinarily pretend to combine his own gravity, plainness and reserve, with the levity, loquacity, grimace, and artificial politeness (as it is called) of a Frenchman. Why then will he insist upon engrafting the fine upon the domestic arts, as an indispensable consummation of the national character? We may indeed cultivate them as an experiment in natural history, and produce specimens of them, and exhibit them as rarities in their kind, as we do hot-house plants and shrubs; but they are not of native growth or origin. They do not spring up in the open air, but shrink from the averted eye of Heaven, like a Laplander into his hut. They do not sit as graceful ornaments, but as excrescences on the English character: they are · like flowers in our caps, dying or ere they sicken:'--they are exotics and aliens to the soil. We do not import foreigners to dig our canals, or construct our machines, or solve difficult problems in political economy, or write Scotch novels for us—but we import our dancing-masters, our milliners, our Opera - singers, our valets, and our travelling cooks, -as till lately we did our painters and sculptors.
The English (we take it) are a nation with certain decided features and predominating traits of character; and if they have any characteristics at all, this is one of them, that their feelings are internal rather than external, reflex rather than organic, —and that they are more inclined to contend with pain than to indulge in pleasure. • The stern genius of the North,' says Schlegel, throws men back upon themselves,'-The progress of the Fine Arts has hitherto been slow, and wavering and unpromising in this country, like the forced pace of a shuffling nag,' not like the flight of Pegasus; and their encouragement has been cold and backward in proportion. They have been wooed and won-as far as they have been won, which is no fur
ther than to a mere promise of marriage, with coy, reluctant; amorous delay.' They have not rushed into our embraces, nor been mingled in our daily pastimes and pursuits. It is two hundred and fifty years since this island was civilized to all other intellectual purposes : but, till within half a century, it was a desert and a waste in art. Were there no terræ filii in those days; no brood of giants to spring out of the ground, and launch the mighty fragments of genius from their hands; to beautify and enrich the public mind; to hang up the lights of the eye and of the soul in pictured halls, in airy porticoes, and solemn temples; to illumine the land, and weave a garland for their own heads, like the crown which Ariadne wore upon her bridal-day,' and which still shines brighter in heaven? There were: but their affections did not that way tend.' They were of the tribe of Issachar, and not of Judali. There were two sisters, Poetry and Painting: one was taken, and the other was left.
Were our ancestors insensible to the charms of nature, to the music of thought, to deeds of virtue or heroic enterprise ? No. But they saw them in their mind's eye: they felt them at their heart's core, and there only. They did not translate their perceptions into the language of sense : they did not embody them in visible images, but in breathing words. They were more taken up with what an object suggested to combine with the infinite stores of fancy or trains of feeling, than with the single object itself; more intent upon the moral inference, the tendency and the result, than the appearances of things, however imposing or expressive, at any given moment of time. If their first impressions were less vivid and complete, their after-reflections were combined in a greater variety of striking resemblances, and thus drew a dazzling veil over their merely sensitive impressions, which deadened and neutralized them still more. Will it be denied that there is a wide difference, as to the actual result, between the mind of a Poet and a Painter ? Why then should not this difference be inherent and original, as it undoubtedly is in individuals, and, to all appearance, in nations? Or why should we be uneasy because the same country does not teem with all varieties and with each extreme of excellence and genius ? *
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* We are aware that time conquers even nature, and that the characters of nations change with a total change of circumstances. The modern Italians are a very different race of people from the ancient Romans. This gives us some chance. In the decomposition and degeneracy of the sturdy old English character, which seems fast In this importunate theory of ours, we misconstrue nature, and tax Providence amiss. In that short, but delightful season of the year, and in that part of the country where we now write, there are wild woods and banks covered with primroses and hyacinths for miles together, so that you cannot put your foot between, and with a gaudy show "empurpling all the ground,' and branches loaded with nightingales whose leaves tremble with their liquid notes: Yet the air does not resound, as in happier climes, with shepherd's pipe or roundelay, nor are the villagemaids adorned with wreaths of vernal flowers, ready to weave the braided dance, or returning with a choral song, when evening has gone down,' What is the reason ? " We also are not Arcadians !' We have not the same animal vivacity, the same tendency to external delight and show, the same ear for melting sounds, the same pride of the eye, or voluptuousness of the heart. The senses and the mind are differently constituted; and the outward influences of things, climate, mode of life, national customs and character, have all a share in producing the general effect. We should say that the eye in warmer climates drinks in greater pleasure from external sights, is more open and porous to them, as the ear is to sounds; that the sense of immediate delight is fixed deeper in the beauty of the object; that the greater life and animation of character gives a greater spirit and intensity of expression to the face, making finer subjects for history and portrait; and that the circumstances in which a people are placed in a genial atmosphere, are more favourable to the study of nature and of the human form. Claude could only have painted his landscapes in the open air; and the Greek statues were little more than copies from living, everyday forms.
Such a natural aptitude and relish for the impressions of sense gives not only more facility, but leads to greater patience, refinement, and perfection in the execution of works of art. What our own artists do is often up-hill work, against the grain :-not persisted in and brought to a conclusion for the love of the thing; but, after the first dash, after the subject is got in, and the gross general effect produced, they grudge all the rest of their labour as a waste of time and pains. Their object is not to look at nature, but to have their picture exhibited and sold. The want of intimate sympathy, with, and en
approaching, the mind and muscles of the country may be sufficiently relaxed and softened to imbibe a taste for all the refinements of luxury and show ; and a century of slavery may yield us a crop of the Fine Arts, to be soon buried in sloth and barbarism again.