« ZurückWeiter »
Paolo and Francesca-an Incantation from Theocritus—Theseus, Ariadne, and the Minotaur-and Comus from Milton. These works attest his love of poetic art, and his resolution to die as he had lived in the service of the loftier Muses.
With wit of this order, and willingness to let it be felt, he had nevertheless many friends, and among them we must number the students of the Royal Academy. Those of the year 1807 presented him with a silver vase, designed by one whom he loved
Flaxman the sculptor: he received it very graciously. Ten years afterward he was presented with the diploma of the first class in the Roman Academy of St. Luke.
He had the art of acquiring friends and the rarer art of retaining them. To the names of Cadell, and Boydell, and Armstrong, his first and intimate companions, he added many more as he increased in years; and in naming those who purchased his works, we name the chief patrons of the poetic style of painting. Roscoe, the elegant author of the life of Leo the Tenth, bought eleven-Wood Mason purchased four-Sir Robert Smythe became proprietor of several-six went to the gallery of Mr. Locke of Newbury Park--two were purchased by Sir Brooke Boothby-as many by the late Lord de Tabley-Graham Moore and Carrick Moore, brothers of Sir John Moore, commissioned several. Mr. Knowles increased his collection to a dozen, and the Earl of Guildford, a kind and constant friend, became proprietor of forty. He exhibited in all some seventy pictures-but he painted upwards of two hundred, and those are scattered through many collections. One of great merit-Paolo and Francesca - is honourably placed in the gallery of Sir Thomas Lawrence; and another singularly wild and beautiful piece is in the keeping of one who feels its worth, Mr. Wainewright.
His life, though not without disappointment, had VOL. II.--Z
been hitherto without sickness, and his spirits seemed inexhaustible, but old age had now come upon him and the end was drawing nigh. He had lived eighty years and upwards, enjoyed the world, and obtained no little distinction: nor was he insensible to the advantages which he had enjoyed. “I have been a happy man,” he said, “ for I have been always well, and always employed in doing what I liked ;" a boast which few men of genius can make. When work with the pencil failed, he lifted the pen, and as he was ready and clever with both, he was never obliged to fill up unemployed time with jobs which he disliked.
He was on a visit to the Countess of Guildford at Putney Hill, and having engaged to dine with Mr. Rogers the poet, along with Sir Thomas Lawrence and Mr. Ottley, was about to proceed to London, when he felt suddenly indisposed. Lady Guildford persuaded him to send an apology, which he wrote with reluctance-he went to bed, and grew worse and worse. Doctors Holland and Crichton, two skilful physicians, were called in—but nature, which had lasted long, was manifestly giving way, and all aid proved unavailing. Fuseli was perfectly calm and quite conscious of his situation. “My friend," he said to Mr. Knowles, who hurried from London to see him, “I am going to that bourne whence no traveller returns." He spoke with the same cheerful resignation and calmness to Lady Guildford and her accomplished daughters, who watched over him with much solicitude, and seemed uneasy and restless when Sir Thomas Lawrence, who admired and loved him, was away from his side. Early in the morning of the fifth day of his illness a fatal change in his looks was visible-he seemed aware of this
he looked anxiously round the room-said several times, in a low and agitated voice, “Is Lawrence come-is Lawrence come?" and then appeared to listen for the sound of the chariot wheels which
brought his friend once a day from London to his bedside. He raised himself up a little-then sank down and died, on the 16th of April, 1825, in the 84th year of his age.
For the character of Henry Fuseli, personal and mental, I willingly transcribe the words of Lavater; they are less the offspring of his wild- speculations in physiognomy than the settled convictions of his heart and mind; it is to be remembered that our artist and he were early and attached companions. «The curve which describes the profile in whole is obviously one of the most remarkable: it indicates an energetic character which spurns at the idea of trammels. The forehead, by its contour and position, is more suited to the poet than the thinker. I perceive in it more force than gentleness, the fire of imagination rather than the coolness of reason. The nose seems to be the seat of an intrepid genius. The mouth promises a spirit of application and precision, and yet it costs the original the greatest effort to give the finishing touch to the smallest piece. Any one may see, without my telling it, that this character is not destitute of ambition, and that the sense of his own merit escapes him not. It may also be suspected that he is subject to impetuous emotions, but will any one say that he loves with tenderness--with warmth to excess? Though capable of the greatest actions, to him the slightest complaisance is an effort. His imagination is ever aiming at the sublime and delighting itself with prodigies. Nature intended him for a great poet, a great painter, and a great orator-but, to borrow his own words, .inexorable fate does not always proportion the will to our powers; it sometimes assigns a copious proportion of will to minds whose faculties are very contracted, and frequently associates with the greatest faculties a will feeble and impotent.""
This, we must confess, is a shining but not a very amiable charactera less theatrical description may
not be unacceptable. Fuseli was of low staturehis frame slim, his forehead high, and his eyes piercing and brilliant. His look was proud, wrapped up and sarcastic-his movements were quick, and by an eager activity of manner he seemed desirous of occupying as much space as belonged to men of greater stature. His voice was loud and commanding-nor had he learned much of the art of winning his way by gentleness and persuasion-he was more anxious to say pointed and stinging things than soli. citous about their accuracy; and he had much pleasure in mortifying his brethren of the easel with his wit and overwhelming them with his knowledge. He was too often morose and unamiable-habitually despising those who were not his friends, and not unapt to dislike even his best friends, if they retorted his wit, or defended themselves successfully against his satire. In dispute he was eager, fierce, unsparing, and frequently precipitated himself into angry discussions with the Council, which, however, always ended in peace and good-humour-for he was as placable as passionate. On one occasion he flew into his own room in a storm of passion, and having cooled and come to himself, was desirous to return; the door was locked and the key gone; his fury overflowed all bounds. · 6 Sam!” he shouted to the porter, “ Sam Stowager, they have locked me in like a blasted wild beast-bring crowbars and break open the door.” The porterma sagacious old man, who knew the trim of the Keeper-whispered through the keyhole, “Feel in your pocket, sir, for the key !" He did so, and unlocking the door, with a loud laugh exclaimed, “What a fool-never mind-I'll to the Council, and soon show them they are greater asses than myself.”
Men interpreted Fuseli's frequent complaints of want of encouragement in his art as tantamount to an acknowledgment of poverty. He became a member of the Academy at the urgent request of
his wife, in order that she might be sure of forty pounds annually in case of his death; and the Royal Academy bestowed the keepership upon him in order to avoid the reproach of permitting a man of his learning and genius to suffer from want in his old age. To the surprise of his executors and the astonishment of his brethren, he died comparatively rich. How he had contrived to hoard, no one could divine; the sums which he received for his paintings were not large;. the earnings of his pen could be but moderate, and in his native land he inherited no patrimony. He lived at little expense, it is true--but frugality cannot make much out of a small income. I hesitate to mention, what I suspect is the truth, that opulent friends opened their purses.to him, in the belief that such kindness was not unseasonable, and that Fuseli wanted the candour or the fortitude to confess that he had no real occasion for such benevolences.
As a painter, his merits are of no common order. He was no timid and creeping adventurer in the region of art, but a man peculiarly bold and daring
who rejoiced only in the vast, the wild, and the wonderful, and loved to measure himself with any subject, whether in the heaven above, the earth beneath, or the waters under the earth. The domestic and humble realities of life he considered unworthy of his pencil, and employed it only on those high or terrible themes where imagination may put forth all her strength and fancy scatter all her colours. He associated only with the demigods of verse, and roamed through Homer, and Dante, and Shakspeare, and Milton, in search of subjects worthy of his hand; he loved to grapple with whatever he thought too weighty for others; and assembling round him the dim shapes which imagination called readily forth, sat brooding over the chaos, and tried to bring the whole into order and beauty. He endeavoured anx. iously to