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Reynolds in the composition of those far-famed Dis. courses, he reverses the obligation, and insinuates that Burke had the help of Sir Joshua in writing his admirable admonition to Barry. To claims such as these it would be unwise to listen. Johnson and Burke were of a higher order of intellect than Rey nolds, and displayed a mastery in every subject with which they grappled. Such men were much more likely to impart than receive aid from him in literary compositions; and there is nothing in the letter of Burke which required minute information, or a mechanical acquaintance with the details of art. It discusses principles, not practice, and may justly claim the honour of being the most clear, sagacious, profound, and natural view of the true objects of painting which has ever been composed.
The notes which Reynolds added to Du Fresnoy may be dismissed in a few words. They are distinguished by their sagacity and knowledge-by their shrewd estimates of other men's merits, and by their modesty concerning his own. I have said that the President was frugal in his communications re. specting the sources from whence he drew his own practice-he forgets his caution in one of these notes. He is speaking of the masters of the Venetian school,, and says:-“When I was at Venice the method I took to avail myself of their principles was this:-when I observed an extraordinary effect of light and shade in any picture, I took a leaf out of my pocket-book, and darkened every part of it in the same gradation of light and shade as the picture, leaving the white paper untouched to represent the light, and this without any attention to the sub ject or the drawing of the figures. A few trials of this kind will be sufficient to give the method of their conduct in the management of their lights. After a few experiments I found the paper blotted nearly 1 alike: their general practice appeared to be, to allow not above a quarter of the picture for the light, including in this portion both the principal and second.
ary lights; another quarter to be kept as dark as ludi possible ; and the remaining half kept in mezzotint,
or half-shadow. Rubens appears to have adınitted rather more light than a quarter, and Rembrandt much less, scarce an eighth ; by this conduct Rem-, brandt's light is extremely brilliant—but it costs too much--the rest of the picture is sacrificed to this one
object. That light will certainly appear the brightest 27 which is surrounded with the greatest quantity of shade, supposing equal skill in the artist.”
Reynolds was commonly humane and tolerant; he could indeed afford, both in fame and in purse to commend and aid the timid and the needy. When Gainsborough asked sixty guineas for his Girl and. Pigs, Sir Joshua gave him a hundred; and when another English artist of celebrity, on his arrival from Rome, asked him where he should set up a studio, he informed him that the next house to his own was vacant, and at his service. He could, however, be sharp and bitter on occasion. It is one of the penalties paid for eminence to be obliged, as a matter of courtesy, to give opinions upon the attempts of the dull. Sir Joshua had such visitations in abundance. One morning he became wearied in contemplating a succession of specimens submitted to his inspection, and, fixing his eye on a female portrait
by a young and trembling practitioner, he roughly El exclaimed:-“What's this in your hand ? A por. i trait! you should not show such things :-what's
that upon her head-a dish-clout ?" The student retired in sorrow, and did not touch his pencils for a month.
Allan Ramsay, the king's painter, died in 1784, and was succeeded in his office by Reynolds—the emo. lurnent was little, nor was the honour important. Wilkes, in his sarcastic attack upon Hogarth, confounds the station with that of the house-painter; in short, the place, having been filled by several inferior artists, had sunk into discredit, like that of city
poet. The exertions of Burke in reforming the expenses of the royal household lad reduced the salary of the king's painter from two hundred pounds to fifty; and as Reynolds had no use for the money, and as the station could confer no new dignity upon him, he could have had no inducement to take it, save the desire of complying with the wishes of his benevolent sovereign.
He distinguished himself above all his brother art ists this year by his Fortune-Teller, his portrait of Miss Kemble, and his Mrs. Siddons as the Tragic Muse-all very noble compositions. The latter conveys a strong image of the great actress, as in the fulness of her beauty and her genius, she awed and astonished her audience, making Old Drury to show “a slope of wet faces from the pit to the roof.” It is, indeed, only a portrait-though Barry, in one of his kindly moods, claims for it a distinction higher than that arising from resemblance: but a portrait of Mrs. Siddons was enough. When fully possessed with the muse, I never beheld a human being, either in the imaginings of art or in living life, that seemed so near akin to divinity. The artist valued this magnificent painting at a thousand guineas-it is in the gallery of William Smith, Esq. of Norwich.
Amid the applause which these works obtained for him, the President met with a loss which the world could not repair-Samuel Johnson died on the 13th of December, 1784, full of years and honours. A long, a warm, and a beneficial friendship had subsisted between them. The house and the purse of Reynolds were ever open to Johnson, and the word and the pen of Johnson were equally ready for Rey. nolds. It was pleasing to contemplate this affectionate brotherhood, and it was sorrowful to see it dissevered. “I have three requests to make,” said Johnson, a day before his death, "and I beg that you will attend to them, Sir Joshua. Forgive me thirty pounds which I borrowed from you read the Scriptures
and abstain from using your pencil on the Sabbathday.” Reynolds promised, and, what is better, remembered his promise.
We owe the discovery of an original picture of Milton to the sagacity of Reynolds. It had belonged to Deborah, the poet's daughter; had passed into the family of Sir William Davenant; and was found in the possession of a furniture-broker by a dealer in pictures, who sold it to Sir Joshua for a hundred guineas. It was painted by Samuel Cooper, the friend and companion of Milton, in 1653. Doubts were raised, and suspicions expressed concerning the descent of this portrait, and it must be confessed that all such discoveries deserve to be inquired into by men acquainted with the frauds practised in art. The professional experience of Sir Joshua was the best security against imposition. He was satisfied of its authenticity, and defended it successfully in the Gentlemen's Magazine.
The works of Reynolds had long supplied daily food for those critics who swarm in the land-and scatter censure or praise at least as blindly as For. tune. He was now to be exposed to another of the same class, equally insidious and subtle, and coming in a graver shape-a biographer. With so little skill, however, did this literary undertaker make his approaches, that he at first impressed the artist with a notion that his purpose was not to write his life, but to take it. Now Sir Joshua had long indulged in the pleasing delusion that Malone, or Boswell, or Beattie, or Burke, on all of whom he had showered favours, would perform in due time this friendly office. To them he had opened up all his knowledge, and for their use he had made memorandums concerning his practice, all calculated to direct the pen and shorten the labour of the biographer. But his chief dependence for his biography was on Burke, whose talents he rated even above those of Johnson, and whose service he sought to secure by a donation of
four thousand pounds. The best-laid schemes of mice and men, says the poetical moralist, are often frustrated; and so it happened here. Sir Joshua refused the humble in hopes of the high. When his pencil could no longer please, nor his pen sign away the thousands in his purse, he was neglected or for. gotten by persons who had followed and flattered him.
Two pictures, differing much in character, yet of great merit, came from his pencil during the year 1785. One was Love unloosing the zone of Beauty --a work which I cannot hope to describe in the language of discretion, and the other was the portrait of the Duke of Orleans, infamous under the name of Egalité, of whom I cannot write with temperance.
During the following year, he gave up his thoughts and time to a picture, commissioned by Catharine of Russia, and after long choosing, selected a subject at once commonplace and obscure-The Infant Her. cules strangling the Serpents. He had imagined another and a nobler composition, Elizabeth visiting the English Camp at Tilbury, when the Armada was on the sea; but he relinquished the idea, from a wish to paint something illustrative of the character and undertakings of the empress herself. Now Catharine was a woman who loved nature, and had no taste for allegorical subtleties; and it is probable her Russian connoisseurs never imagined that her actions were shadowed forth in a chubby boy, choking two snakes. She rewarded the President, however, with fifteen hundred guineas and a gold box, bearing her portrait set in large diamonds. Beattie calls it an unpromising subject; Barry commends the light and shade, and Reynolds himself, on bidding it farewell, said, “there are ten pictures underit, some better, some worse.” So many trials had he made, such had been his anxiety to produce a masterpiece. The same year he painted a more simple and more popular picture