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ples of composition, and disclose the charms of i beauty and the whole mystery of colour. He re
quired lively diligence-continued study and unlimited belief in the excellence of the chief masters of the calling-in reward for which lie promised distinction and fame. But fame could be acquired
only by study, hard and, above all, well-directed1 rules were the ornaments, not the fetters, of genius, į and hard labour was the way to eminence, and the
only way. The great painters, when they conceived a subject, first made a variety of sketches, then a finished drawing of the whole-after that a more correct drawing of every separate part-then they painted the picturo, and after all retouched it from the life. The pictures, thus wrought with such pains, appeared to be the effect of enchantment, and as is some mighty genius had struck them off at a blow.-Those Discourses were always heard with respect; and as the subject was new, the compositions full of knowledge, and the illustrations numerous and happy, they obtained the approbation of skilful judges, and rose to such reputation, that they were attributed at one time to Johnson, and at another to Burke.
They are distinguished by many beauties, and deformed by one serious fault-they correspond not with the character of English art, and the determined taste of this country. “Study,” exclaimed Reynolds to his students (and I could quote fifty pages to the same purpose), “ study the great works of the great masters for ever. Study as nearly as you can in the order, in the manner, on the principles on which they studied. Study nature attentively, but always with those masters in your company : consider them as models which you are to imitate, and at the same time as rivals which you aje to combat.” Such was his theory: we all know what was his practice.
He could not be unaware, while he was lecturing ļ the annual academical crop of beardless youths
upon the necessity of studying in the character, and labouring in the style of the princes of the Italian school, that he was sending them forth to seek bread and fame in a pursuit where neither were to be found; while he was shutting his lips, and keeping silence concerning the domestic style and the mystery of portraiture, in which he himself was unequalled.
It was, I apprehend, too, the province of the Presi. dent to point out those natural qualities by which genius for art might be distinguished from forwardness and presumption, and young men might see whether they were led by the false light of vanity or by light from heaven. Every dunce can labour; but stupidity must toil like Caliban, while genius works its ready wonders like the wand of Prospero. It was not enough that he called the students before him, and set them their stated tasks of smoothing clay or of colouring canvass :-he ought to have admonished, nay, commanded the dull and unintellectual to retire from a pursuit for which they were unfit. All men indeed are capable of being artists in a certain degree, as all men may be versifiers; but a decent drawing is no more a proof of genius in art, than a few smooth and sounding lines are a proof of the spirit of poetry. The youth who is to be encouraged in the pursuit of poetry should show glimpses of original power of thought and ready happiness of language; and a student in art should display some production of original and unborrowed talent before admission to the Academy. A good eye, a steady hand, and a little practice may enable any young man to make such a copy of an antique figure as will give him admission, without genius to rise one step higher
Sir Joshua's historical paintings have little of the heroic dignity which an inspired mind breathes into compositions of that class. His imagination commonly fails him, and he attempts to hide his want of wings in the unrivalled splendour of his colouring,
att and by the thick-strewn graces of his execution.
He is often defective even where he might have ex. pected to show the highest excellence: his faces are formal and cold; and the picture seems made up of
borrowed fragments, which he had been unable to o work up into an entire and consistent whole.
His single poetic figures are remarkable for their unaffected ease, their elegant simplicity, and the splendour of their colouring. Some scores of those
happy things he dashed off in the course of his life, i and though they are chiefly portraits, they have all the charm of the most successful aerial creations. The Shepherd Boy is one of his happiest. Of children he seems to have been remarkably fond ; nor
can one forbear imagining that he has romped or hele ridden with them on the parlour broom, sorrowed
with them over the loss of their favourite birds, smiled with them on their being endowed with new finery, and enjoyed all the mixed surprise and tri
umph expressed in the face of Muscipula on catching * a mouse in a trap. It is true that they are all children
of condition, with their nurses wet and dry—that their clothes are of the finest texture and the latest fashion and that we are conscious of looking at future lords and ladies. But nature overpowers all minor feelings, and we cannot refrain from doing involuntary homage to the genius of the painter who has gladdened us with the sight of so much innocence and beauty.
To some of his poetic figures I cannot afford such 1. praise, though the grace of their composition and el the singular sweetness of their looks raise them faj ale above censure. By what he considered a classical U refinement upon his professional flattery of im
proved looks and glowing colours, he suffered some
of the fairest of his sitters to be goddesses and 250 nymphs, and painted them in character. This was
w the commonplace pedantry of painting ; it had been and the fashion for centuries.' Lely and Kneller caused
VOL. I.-A a
the giddy madams of the courts of the Stuarts to stalk like Minervas or Junos, though they had naturally the dispositions of Venus or Danaë; and Rey. nolds, who had equal loveliness and infinitely more purity to portray, indulged his beauties with the same kind of deification. In truth, it is only worthy of a smile.
The portraits of Reynolds are equally numerous and excellent, and all who have written of their merits have swelled their eulogiuṁs by comparing them with the simplicity of Titian, the vigour of Rembrandt, and the elegance and delicacy of Vandyke. Certainly, in character and expression, and in manly ease, he has never been surpassed. He is always equal-always natural-graceful-unaf. fected. His boldness of posture and his singular freedom of colouring are so supported by all the grace of art-by all the sorcery of skill-that they appear natural and noble. Over the meanest head he sheds the halo of dignity; his men are all nobleness, his women all loveliness, and his children all simplicity : yet they are all like the living originals. He had the singular art of summoning the mind into the face, and making sentiment mingle in the portrait. He could completely dismiss all his preconceived notions of academic beauty from his mind, be dead to the past and living only to the present, and enter into the character of the reigning beauty of the hour with a truth and a happiness next to magical. It is not to be denied that he was a mighty flatterer. Had Colonel Charteris sat to Reynolds, he would, I doubt not, have given an as. pect worthy of a President of the Society for the Suppression of Vice.
That the admirers of portrait-painting are many the annual exhibitions show us; and it is pleasant to read the social and domestic affections of the country in these innumerable productions. In the minds of some they rank with historical composi.
tions; and there can be no doubt that portraits which give the form and the soul of poets and statesmen and warriors, and of all whose actions or whose thoughts lend lustre to the land, are to be received as illustrations of history. But with the mob of portraits fame and history have nothing to do. The painter who wishes for lasting fame must not lavish his fine colours and his choice postures on the rich and the titled alone; he must seek to associate his labours with the genius of his country. The face of an undistinguished person, however exquisitely painted, is disregarded in the eyes of posterity. The most skilful posture and the richest colouring cannot create the reputation which accompanies genius, and we turn coldly away from the head which we happen not to know or to have heard of. The portrait of Johnson has risen to the value of five hundred guineas : while the heads of many of Sir Joshua's grandest lords remain at their original fisty.
The influence of Reynolds on the taste and elegance of the island was great, and will be lasting. The grace and ease of his compositions were a lesson for the living to study, while the simplicity of his dresses admonished the giddy and the gay against the hideousness of fashion. He sought to restore nature in the looks of his sitters, and he waged a thirty years' war against the fopperies of dress. His works diffused a love of elegance, and united with poetry in softening the asperities of nature, in extending our views, and in connecting us with the spirits of the time. His cold stateliness of character, and his honourable pride of art, gave dignity to his profession: the rich and the far-descended were pleased to be painted by a gentleman as well as a genius.
Of historical and poetic subjects he painted upwards of one hundred and thirty. They are chiefly in England, and in the galleries or chambers of the