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His pencil was striking, resistless, and grand;
That he was an improver of human faces no one could be more conscious than Goldsmith; his portrait by Reynolds is sufficiently unlovely, yet it was said by the artist's sister to be the most flattered likeness of all her brother's works.
In 1771, James Northcote became his pupil. Of his coming he thus speaks :-"As from the earliest period of my being able to make any observation, I had conceived Reynolds to be the greatest painter that ever lived, it may be conjectured what I felt when I found myself in his house as his scholar." He unites with Malone in assuring us that such was the gentleness of Sir Joshua's manners, such his refined habits, such the splendour of his establishment and the extent of his fame-that almost all the men in the three kingdoms who were distinguished for attainments in literature, for fame in art, or for exertions at the bar, in the senate, or the field, were occasionally found feasting at his social and well. furnished table.
These accounts, however, in as far as regards the splendour of the entertainments must be received with some abatement. The eye of a youthful pupil was a little blinded by enthusiasm—that of Malone was rendered friendly by many acts of hospitality and a handsome legacy; while literary men and artists, who came to speak of books and paintings, cared little for the most part about the delicacy of their entertainment, provided it were wholesome. Take the following description of one of the painter's dinners by the skilful hand of Courteney: “ There was something singular in the style and economy of his table, that contributed to pleasantry and good humour: a coarse, inelegant plenty, without any regard to order or arrangement. A table prepared
for seven or eight, often compelled to contain fifteen or sixteen. When this pressing difficulty was got over, a deficiency of knives and forks, plates, and glasses succeeded. The attendance was in the same style; and it was absolutely necessary to call instantly for beer, bread, or wine, that you might be supplied before the first course was over. He was once prevailed on to furnish the table with decanters and glasses for dinners, to save time and prevent the tardy maneuvres of two or three occasional undisciplined domestics. As these accelerating utensils were demolished in the course of service, Sir Joshua could never be persuaded to replace them. But these trifling embarrassments only served to enhance the hilarity and singular pleasure of the entertainment. The wine, cookery, and dishes were but little attended to; nor was the fish or venison ever talked of or recommended. Amid this convivial animated bustle among his guests, our host sat perfectly composed, always attentive to what was said, never minding what was eat or drank, but left every one at perfect liberty to scramble for himself. Temporal and spiritual peers, physicians, lawyers, actors, and musicians composed the motley group, and played their parts without dissonance or discord. At five o'clock precisely dinner was served, whether all the invited guests were arrived or not. Sir Joshua was never so fashionably ill-bred as to wait an hour perhaps for two or three persons of rank or title, and put the rest of the company out of humour by this invidious distinction.”
Of the sluttish abundance which covered his table Courteney says enough; as to the character of the guests, we have the testimony of Dunning, afterward Lord Ashburton. He had accepted an invitation to dinner from the artist, and happened to be the first guest who arrived; a large company was expected. “Well, Sir Joshua,” he said, “ and who have you got to dine with you to-day? The last
i time I dined in your house, the company was of e such a sort, that by —- I believe all the rest of the
world enjoyed peace for that afternoon.” “ This observation,” says Northcote, “was by no means ill applied, for as Sir Joshua's companions were chiefly men of genius, they were often disputatious and vehement in argument.” Miss Reynolds seems to have been as indifferent about the good order of her domestics, and the appearance of her dishes at table, as her brother was about the active distribution of his wine and venison. Plenty was the splendour, and freedom was the elegance which Malone and Boswell found in the entertainments of the artist.
The masculine freedom of Johnson's conversation was pleasing in general to Reynolds; it was not, and however, always restrained by a sense of courtesy
or by the memory of benefits. It is related by Mrs. Thrale that once at her table Johnson lamented the perishable nature of the materials of painting, and recommended copper in place of wood or canvass. Reynolds urged the difficulty of finding a plate of copper large enough for historical subjects; he was interrupted by Johnson. « What foppish obstacles are these ; here is Thrale, who has a thousand-tun copper; you may paint it all round if you will, I suppose it will serve him to brew in afterward." When Johnson's pen was in his hand, and it was seldom out of it, he spoke of painting in another mood, and of Reynolds with civility and affection.
“ Genius,” he says, “ is chiefly exerted in historical ile pictures, and the art of the painter of portraits is often the lost in the obscurity of the subject. But it is in * painting as in life; what is greatest is not always
best. I should grieve to see Reynolds transfer to We heroes and to goddesses, to empty splendour and
to airy fiction, that art which is now employed in the diffusing friendship, in renewing tenderness, in quick
ening the affections of the absent, and continuing
the presence of the dead. Every man is always present to himself, and has, therefore, little need of his own resemblance ; nor can desire it, but for the sake of those whom he loves and by whom he hopes to be remembered. This use of the art is a natural and reasonable consequence of affection: and though, like all other human actions, it is often complicated with pride, yet even such pride is more lauda. ble than that by which palaces are covered with pictures, that, however excellent, neither imply the owner's virtue nor excite it.” By an opinion so critically sagacious, and an apology for portraitpainting, which appeals so effectually to the kindly side of human nature, Johnson repaid a hundred dinners.
Reynolds now raised his price for a portrait to thirty-five guineas, admitted some more pupils to the advantages of his studio, and, leaving them to forward draperies and make copies of some of his pictures in his absence, made a visit to Paris. Of the object of this journey there is no account, nor has he made any note of his own emotions on observing the works of the French artists. He returned, and resumed his labours—which were too pressing to permit him to visit Bennet Langton, at his country seat—though they allowed him to obey the King's wish, and see the installation of the Knights of the Garter, in Windsor; on which occasion his curiosity paid the tax of a new hat and a gold snuff-box, pilfered in the crowd.
Young Northcote acquired skill rapidly under Sir Joshua: he ere long painted one of the servants so like nature that a tame macaw mistook the painting for the original, against whom it had a grudge, and flew to attack the canvass with beak and wing. The experiment of the creature's mistake was several times repeated with the same success, and Reynolds compared it to the ancient painting where a bunch of grapes allured the birds : “ I see,” said
he, “that birds and beasts are as good judges of pictures as men.” * The Ugolino was painted in 1773. The subject is contained in the Comedia of Dante, and is said
by Cumberland to have been suggested to our artist me by Goldsmith. The merit lies in the execution ;
and even this seems of a disputable excellence. The lofty and stern sufferer of Dante appears on Reynolds's canvass like a famished mendicant, deficient in any commanding qualities of intellect, and regardless of his dying children who cluster around his knees. It is indeed a subject too painful to contemplate; it has a feeling too deep for art, and certainly demanded a hand conversant with severer things than the lips and necks of ladies, and the well-dressed gentlemen of England. It is said to have affected Captain Cooke's Omiah so much, that he imagined it a scene of real distress, and ran to support the expiring child. The Duke of Dorset paid the artist four hundred guineas, and took home the picture. His next piece, the Children in the Wood, arose from an accident. A beggar's infant, who was his model for some other picture, overpowered by continuing long in one position, fell asleep, and presented the image of one of the babes, which he immediately secured. No sooner had he done this than the child turned in its sleep, and presented the idea of the other babe, which he instantly sketched, and from them afterward made the finished picture. Accident often supplies what study cannot find; for nature, when unrestrained, throws itself into positions of great ease and elegance.
In the month of July he visited Oxford, where he was received with some distinction, and admitted to the honorary degree of Doctor of Civil Law. At that period he was member of the Royal, the Antiquarian, and Dilettanti Societies. When he pregented himself to the audience, and bowed and took