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they are the best of all the numerous works of this artist. Their lustre is fresh and unfaded; their colouring natural and harmonious: they present a lively image of the times and the people; but they are deficient in strength and variety of character; they seize attention, but are unable to detain it.
West, however, had the good fortune to maintain his influence at Windsor. When the King grew weary of courts, and camps, and battles, the observing artist took new ground, and appealed to the religious feelings of his royal patron. He suggested to the King a series of pictures on the progress of revealed religion: a splendid Oratory was projected for their reception; and half-a-dozen dignitaries of the church were summoned to consider the propriety of introducing paintings into a place of worship "When I reflect," said the King," that the Reformation condemned religious paintings in churches, and that the parliament in the unhappy days of Charles the First did the same, I am fearful of introducing any thing which my people might think popish. Will you give me your opinions on the subject t" After some deliberation Bishop Hurd delivered in the name of his brethren and himself their unanimous opinion, that the introduction of religious paintings into his Majesty's Chapel would in no respect whatever violate the laws or the usages of the Church of England. "We have examined too," continued Hurd," thirtyfive subjects which the painter proposed for our choice, and we feel that there is not one of them but may be treated in a way that even a Quaker might contemplate with edification." The King conceived this to be an ironical allusion to West, and was a little nettled. "The Quakers," he replied, "are a body of Christians for whom I have a high respect. I love their peaceful tenets and their benevolence to one another, and, but for the obligations of birth, I would be a Quaker." The Bishop bowed submissivelv and retired.
No subtle divine ever laboured more diligently on controversial texts, than did our painter in evolving his pictures out of the grand and awful subject of revealed religion. He divided it into Four Dispensations—the Antediluvian, the Patriarchal, the Mosaical, and the Prophetical. They contained in all thirty-six subjects, eighteen of which belonged to the Old Testament, the rest to the New. They were all sketched, and twenty-eight were executed, for which West received in all twenty-one thousand seven hundred and five pounds. A work so varied, so extensive, and so noble in its nature, was never before undertaken by any painter. But the imagination of West was unable to cope with such glorious themes; the soft, the graceful, and the domestic were more suited to his talents. Several of the subjects toa were necessarily the same as those painted by the great masters—the Last Supper, the Crucifixion, and the Annunciation had been over and over again handled by artists higher in mental stature than West; and in the competition he had nothing to hope, and every thing to fear. He was daring in his undertakings; not so in his genius.
During the progress of these works, he painted many pictures of lesser importance. The King, the Queen, the young Princes and Princesses sat fortheii portraits, sometimes singly and sometimes in groups, forming in all nine pictures, for which West received two thousand guineas—a royal price, when we consider the charges of Reynolds and Gainsborough at this time. They are well conceived and prettily drawn, but want soul and substance, and seem the shadows of what is noble and lovely. There is no deception; they are flat, aud the eye seems to see through both colour and canvass; but time and frail materials may be mainly blameable for this.
The war which broke out between Britain and her colonies was a sore trial to the feelings of West; (us early friends and his present patrons were in volved in the bloody controversy. He was not, according to his own account, silent; he was too much in the palace and alone with his Majesty to avoid some allusion to the strife; the King inquired anxiously respecting the resources of his foes and the talents of their chiefs, and the artist gave, or imagined he gave, more correct information concerning the American leaders and their objects than could De acquired through official channels. West had been long away from his native land; his literary talents were not of an order to allure correspondents, and with few, if any, of the influential insurgents can it be supposed that he was at all acquainted. But not few were the delusions under which this amiable man lived. How he contrived both to keep his place in the King's opinion, and the respect of the spirits who stirred in the American revolution, he has not told us, but it is not difficult to guess. He was of a nature cold and unimpassioned; his religion taught him peace, his situation whispered prudence, and the artist dismissed civil broils from his mind, and addressed himself to more profitable contemplations. He saw his reward in fortune, and perhaps in fame, for those days of toil and nights of study, in which he painted and pored over history, sacred and profane, and he closed his eyes on all else save elaborate outlines and the effect of light and shade.
He was now moving in the first circles, and the word of West was the courtly sanction in matters of taste. His various and extensive works left little leisure for the acquisition of extra-professional knowledge, and he probably thought that excellence in art was enough. By dining with divines, he had learned to skim the surface of religious knowledge, and his professional and general society gave him hints as to what was passing in the world of literature and fashion. He made the little that he did know go far; and found means to pass with men of some discernment as a silent person of fair education, who did not wish to throw any wisdom away. The royal favour was much; and he had besides a certain quiet air of natural dignity in his manner.
The death of Reynolds vacated the President's chair, and no one then living was more worthy to fill it than Mr. West. The fierce temper of Barry left him no chance of the honour which his genius merited. To the choice of the Academy the king gave his »eady sanction, and West took his place on the 24th of March, 1792, and delivered his inaugural address to an audience who much applauded a composition which could have cost him little thought, since it dwelt but on two topics—the excellence of British art, and the gracious benevolence of his Majesty.
The new President delivered many discourses, all more or less distinguished for plain practical sense. He pressed upon the students the value of knowledge and the necessity of study, and the uselessness of both without a corresponding aptitude of mind and buoyancy of imagination—in other words, genius. He advised them to give heart and soul wholly to art, to turn aside neither to the right nor to the left, but consider that hour lost in which a line had not been drawn nor a masterpiece studied. "Observe," he said, "with the same contemplative eye the landscape, the appearance of trees, figures dispersed around, and their aerial distance as well as lineal forms. Omit not to observe the light and shade in consequence of the sun's rays being intercepted by clouds or other accidents. Let your mind be familiar with the characteristics of the ocean; mark its calm dignity when undisturbed by the winds, and all its various states between that and its terrible sublimity when agitated by the tempest. Sketch with attention its foaming and winding coasts, and that awful line which separates it from the heavens. Replenished with these stores, your imagination will then come forth as a river collected from little springs spreads into might and majesty. If you aspire to excellence in your profession, you must, like the industrious bee, survey the whole face of nature and sip the sweet from every flower. When thus enriched, lay up your acquisitions for future use, and examine the great works of art to animate your feelings and to excite your emulation. When you are thus mentally enriched, and your hand practised to obey the powers of your will, you will then find your pencils or your chisels as magic wands, calling into view creations of your own to adorn your name and country."
In this way he laboured to stimulate his youthful audience; but to awaken indifference into energy— to add wings to those whose imaginations were fit for flight, and fuel to the fire of genius, required higher powers. He had no unstudied felicities of phrase, little vigour of thought, or happiness of illustration—he was cold, sensible, and instructive; and the student, who may learn from his pictures the way to manage a difficult subject, and from his life the art of employing his time, can hardly be expected to re-read his discourses.
So regular were West's hours of labtfur, and so carefully did he calculate his time, that to describe one day of his life is to describe years. He rose early—studied before breakfast—began to work on one of his large pictures about ten—painted with little intermission till four—washed, dressed, and saw visiters, and having dined, recommenced his studies anew. His works were chiefly historical; he dealt with the dead; and the solitude of his gal'ery was seldom invaded by the rich or the great, clamouring for their portraits. Visiters sometimes found their way to his inner study while he had the pencil in his hand; he had no wish to show off his skill to the idle, and generally sat as silent and mo