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old man sat in his study among his favourite pictures, a breathing image of piety and contentment, awaiting calmly the hour of his dissolution. Without any fixed complaint, his mental faculties unimpaired, his cheerfulness uneclipsed, and with looks serene and benevolent, he expired 11th March, 1820, in the eighty-second year of his age. He was buried beside Reynolds, Opie, and Barry, in St. Paul's Cathedral. The pall was borne by noblemen, ambassadors, and academicians; his two sons and grandson were chief mourners; and sixty coaches brought up the splendid procession.
Benjamin West was in person above the middle size, of a fair complexion, and firmly and compactly built. His serene brow betokened command of temper, while his eyes, sparkling and vivacious, promised lively remarks and pointed sayings, in which he by no means abounded. Intercourse with courts and with the world, which changes so many, made no change in his sedate sobriety of sentiment and happy propriety of manner, the results of a devout domestic education. His kindness to young artists was great—his liberality seriously impaired his income—he never seemed weary of giving advice—intrusion never disturbed his temper—nor could the tediousness of the dull ever render him eitherimpatientorpeevish. Whatever he knew in art he readily imparted—he was always happy to think that art was advancing, and no mean jealousy of other men's good fortune ever invaded his repose. His vanity was amusing and amiable—and his belief —prominent in every page of the narrative which he dictated to his friend Mr. Galt—that preaching and prophecy had predestined him to play a great part before mankind, and be an example to all posterity, did no one any harm, and himself some good.
As his life was long and laborious, his productions are very numerous. He painted and sketched in oil upwards of four hundred pictures, mostly of an historical and religious nature, and he left more than two hundred original drawings in his portfolio. His works were supposed by himself, and for a time by others, to be in the true spirit of the great masters, and he composed them with the serious ambition and hope of illustrating Scripture and Tendering Gospel truth more impressive. No subject seemed to him too lofty for his pencil; he considered himself worthy to follow the sublimest flights of the prophets, and dared to limn the effulgence of God's glory and the terrors of the day of Judgment. The mere list of his works makes us shudder at human presumption—Moses receiving the Law on Sinai—the Descent of the Holy Ghost on the Saviour in the Jordan—the Opening of the Seventh Seal in the Revelations—Saint Michael and his Angels casting out the Great Dragon—the mighty Angel with one foot on sea and the other on earth— the Resurrection!—and there are many others of the same class! With such magnificence and sublimity who but a Michael Angelo could cope?
In all his works the human form was exhibited in conformity to academic precepts—his figures were arranged with skill—the colouring was varied and harmonious—the eye rested pleased on the performance, and the artist seemed, to the ordinary spectator, to have done his task like one of the highest of the sons of genius. But below all this splendour there was little of the true vitality—there was a monotony, too, of human character—the groupings were unlike the happy and careless combinations of nature, and the figures seemed distributed over the canvass by line and measure, like trees in a plantation. He wanted fire and imagination to be the true restorer of that grand style which bewildered Barry and was talked of by Reynolds. Most of his works —cold, formal, bloodless, and passionless—may remind the spectator of the sublime vision ot the Valley of dry bones, when the flesh and skin had coine upon the skeletons, and before the breath of God had informed them with life and feeling.
Though such is the general impression which the works of West make, it cannot be denied that many are distinguished by great excellence. In his Death on the Pale Horse, and more particularly in the sketch of that picture, he has more than approached the masters and princes of the calling. It is, indeed, irresistibly fearful to see the triumphant march of the terrific phantom, and the dissolution of all that earth is proud of beneath his tread. War and peace, sorrow and joy, youth and age, all who love and all who hate, seem planet-struck. The Death of Wolfe, too, is natural and noble, and the Indian chief, like the Oneida warrior of Campbell,
A stoic of the wools, a man without a tear,
was a happy thought. The Battle of La Hogue I have heard praised as the best historic picture of the British school, by one not likely to be mistaken, and who would not say what he did not feel. Many of his single figures, also, are of a high order. There is a natural grace in the looks of some of his women which few pamters have ever excelled.
West was injured by early success he obtained his fame too easily—it was not purchased by long study and many trials—and he rashly imagined himself capable of any thing. But the coldness of his imagination nipped the blossoms of history. It is the province of art to elevate the subjec; in the spirit of its nature—and brooding over the whole with the feeling of a poet, awaken the scene into vivid life and heroic beauty; but such mastery rarely waited upon the ambition of this amiable and upright man.
James Barry was born in Cork, on the 11th of October, 1741. His mother's maiden name was Juliana Reorden; her ancestors had lost large estates in the county Cork, through rebellions and revolutions; "and his father, whose name was John," says one of his biographers, "had no occasion to blush at his pedigree, if it be true that he was of a collateral branch of the faiiilfy which has been honoured with the Earldom of BaujTqore." Whatever his remote ancestors were, we certain that John Barry was bred a builder; that lus want of success drove him to the sea; that, for many years, he commanded a vessel which traded between the Cove of Cork and England; and that he was fortunate in none of his pursuits.
Of the early education of James Barry we have but an imperfect account; but it must have been watched over with no common care; for in afterlife, when learning was wanted, no one found him deficient. When very young his father took him to sea; but to be pent up in a floating prison—to see the same monotonous scene setting upon him at night,and opening upon him every day,and to drudge and become familiar with the severe duties of a mariner's life, were not for one on whose mind art had already dawned. In the first place, he ran away, and was with difficulty found and brought back; and secondly, instead of handling ropes and adjusting sails, it was his pleasure to make sketches of the coast along which he sailed, or to draw groups and single figures upon the deck, to the amusement of the sailors and the vexation of his father. It was idle to contend against the determined disposition of this wilful boy: his father sent him back to his mother, and he resumed his books and crayons. In the happier moments of his manhood he has been heard to allude jocularly to his marine apprenticeship.
Painting was the natural rather than the accidental direction of his mind—he sketched and drew at an earlier age than his sister, who long survived him, could name. When the rough sailor returned and saw his son's colossal outlines in black and red chalk, on walls, floors, and furniture, he spoke with great bitterness, and said, the boy had abandoned a trade which produced daily bread for wild and unprofitable nonsense. He sought shelter behind his mother's chair, who protected him and encouraged him in his pursuits.
On returning from sea he was sent to school—• where his quickness of parts, and his stubborn and solitary disposition attracted notice. During the hours of leisure he read or drew. Whole nights, his sister said, were taken from sleep; he spent all his pocket-money on pencils and candles; and when, alarmed for his health, the servants, in arranging his room, secreted his candles^ he would not allow them to go there any more, but locked the door and made the bed for himself. His bed became hard and uncomfortable—his mother wished to render it softer, and to introduce order into his apartment—but he resisted her also; even in these early days he exhibited a spirit intractable and capricious, and declared his love for those ascetic and self-denying habits which assume the name of virtues in the legends of the Romish church.
He sometimes, however, mingled m school-boy amusements; and on one of those occasions, wishing to conceal himself from his companions in the favourite game called " hide and seek," he entered a ruinous house in an obscure lane, which had nei