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Leicester Square. At the age of twenty-three he set up in business on his own account, engraving crests and the like. At this time, to rise to the height of copper-plate engraving was, he tells us, his highest ambition, and gradually he obtained work as a book-illustrator ; amongst other work of the kind, he engraved twelve prints for Butler's Hudibras. He was always on pleasure bent, and owed his artistic training less to schools than to cultivating his natural powers of observa. tion. One may picture him roaming about the streets of London, storing up oddities and characters in his memory, and now and then, when something particularly fantastic struck him, stopping to make a thumb-nail sketch. It is told, for instance, how one day in a public. house he saw two drunken women brawling. One of them filled her mouth with brandy and spirted it in the eyes of her antagonist. “See ! see !” said Hogarth to his companion, taking out his sketchbook and drawing her, “ look at the brimstone's mouth.” This sketch was afterwards worked up in his “Modern Midnight Conversation.” But besides these studies from nature, Hogarth seems to have worked in the school of Sir James Thornhill, serjeant-painter to the king, and in 1729 he clandestinely married the great man's daughter. He settled in lodgings in South Lambeth, and for three or four years painted small “ conversation pieces.” He also obtained some repute as a portrait painter. The work, however, which first established his fame was the series of the “ Harlot's Progress.” He had two convincing proofs of its success. It reconciled his father-in-law to him. “Very well ! very well !” Sir James exclaimed on being shown the work ; “the man who can make works like this can maintain a wife without a portion.” More than this, the “Harlot's Progress" called forth that sincerest form of modern flattery : the prints which he executed from his designs were extensively pirated. Amongst Hogarth's other claims to the gratitude of artists is this, that he succeeded a few years later (1735) in inducing Parliament to pass an Act recognising a legal copyright in designs and engravings. The “Harlot's Progress” was immediately followed by the “ Rake's Progress" (now in the Soane Museum), and as these works are similar in scope and design to the “Marriage à la Mode” in this Gallery, it is worth while to notice the reasons which induced him, he says, to “turn his thoughts to painting and engraving subjects of a modern kind and moral nature.” “I thought,” he says, “both critics and painters had, in the historical style, quite overlooked that intermediate species of subjects which may be placed between the sublime and the grotesque. I therefore wished to compose pictures on canvas similar to representations on the stage. In these compositions, those subjects that will both entertain and inform the mind bid fair to be of the greatest public utility, and must therefore be entitled to rank in the highest class.” Hogarth did not, however, obtain recognition “in the highest class.” The world bought his engravings, but not his pictures. But he sometimes obtained large prices for his portraits ; “ for the portrait of Garrick,” he says, “I received more than any English artist ever before received for a single
portrait” (£200); and he had occasional commissions for sacred and historical subjects. In 1753 he appeared as an author (see below, under 112, p. 444), and in 1757 he succeeded his father-in-law as serjeantpainter, a post to which he was re-appointed on George III.'s accession. In 1733 he had moved to a house in Leicester Fields, where he lived for the rest of his life; he is buried at Chiswick, where he had a villa. For thirty years he was incessantly busy with his pictures, his prints, his squibs and satires. His character may be read in his speaking portrait of his own face in this Gallery (112), and in the epitaphs of friends. Garrick's is the best known, but Johnson's best sums up the artist's life
The hand of him here torpid lies
That drew the essential forms of grace :
That saw the manners in the face. The most striking feature in Hogarth's art is involved in what has just been said. He is often described as being “ more of a satirist than an artist " ; but this is hardly so. He was a satirist because he was so faithful an artist. What he did (as a critic of our own day puts it) was to “hold up to every class Nature's unflatt'ring looking-glass." Hogarth had, as we have seen, a direct moral intention in his holding up of nature's glass; and herein is perhaps the secret of his greatness (see p. 390). But whilst the greatest English artists have never followed art for the sake of pleasure only, on the other hand no great artist ever followed art without pleasure. Hogarth is no exception to this rule. “There is seldom wanting in his works,” says Coleridge, “some beautiful female face ; for the satirist in him never extinguished that love of beauty which belonged to him as an artist.” Look, for instance, at the "yielding softness and listless languor " in the figure of the bride (113), or at the delicacy of drawing in that of the girl at the quack doctor's (115). And then, secondly, note in the whole “ Marriage à la Mode " series the infinite inventiveness of the artist. “The quantity of thought,” says Charles Lamb, " which Hogarth crowds into every picture, would alone unvulgarise every subject which he might choose.” The connoisseurs of the historical style and the grand style have been very severe upon Hogarth's incursions into that field ; but his “ Sigismonda” (1046, p. 429) is admirable alike for its command of expression and its colour.
A portrait of the actress—Lavinia Fenton—who took the town by storm at the first representation of Gay's “Beggar's Opera” (January 29, 1728), in the part of Polly Peachum, the simple heroine
Roses and lilies her cheeks disclose,
But her ripe lips are more sweet than thosewho, in order to escape the worse fate designed by her parents, marries a dissolute young gallant with many wives already (“How happy could I be with either, Were t'other dear charmer away"). In the end, after many hair-breadth escapes from the gallows, he makes the faithful Polly happy. Miss Fenton herself made a great match in the end. Ballads had been written in her honour declaring that
Of all the belles that tread the stage,
There's none like pretty Polly,
Except her voice, is Folly. So much was the actress identified with her part that the name of Polly clung to her—witness Gay's letter to Swift, in 1728, announcing her marriage : “The Duke of Bolton has run away with Polly Peachum, and settled £400 a year on her.” And later Walpole wrote: “ The famous Polly, Duchess of Bolton, is dead, having, after a life of merit, relapsed into her Pollyhood.” When young, she was described as “very accomplished, a most agreeable companion, with much wit and good strong sense, and a just taste in polite literature." 119. A LANDSCAPE FROM “AS YOU LIKE IT.”
Sir George Beaumont, Bart. (1753–1827). Sir George Howland Beaumont, seventh baronet of a very ancient family, has a double claim to the grateful memory of all visitors to the National Gallery. He was largely instrumental in the original estab. lishment of the Gallery, and he was the friend and patron of many old masters of the British School. When Lord Liverpool was debating whether or not to buy the Angerstein collection for the nation, Sir George went to him and said, “Buy them and I will add mine." The bribe was accepted and duly paid, and though Beaumont was himself a painter of some ability, the country could better spare the paintings he made than the paintings he gave. The extent of his gift can be seen on reference to Index II, and it was not a gift that cost him nothing. How sincerely and even passionately he loved his pictures is shown, among other things, by the pretty story attaching to one of his Claudes, which has already been told (see XIV. 61, p. 358). But Beau. mont was as much and as sincerely devoted to artists as to pictures. Sir Joshua, and Lawrence, and Chantrey, were all amongst his friends. He had taken lessons from Wilson, whom he regarded as a greater even than his favourite Claude, and to whom he was much attached. His kindness and generosity to young artists were unbounded. He supported Jackson (see p. 531); he was one of the first to detect and encourage the genius of Wilkie (see p. 490); and he was a generous patron of Haydon. Nothing gives a better insight into the life of the cultivated country gentleman of the time than the recollections in Haydon's Autobiography of visits to Sir George at Coleorton. His relations with the poets of the day are known to every one through
Wordsworth's sonnets, dedications, and inscriptions, and may now be read in the Memorials of Coleorton (edited by Professor Knight, 1887).
As a painter, Beaumont had some taste and imagination. He was educated at Eton and New College, Oxford, and cultivated his taste for painting on a tour which he made in Italy, shortly after his marriage to a lady who shared both his refinement and his generosity. His house at Grosvenor Square was a meeting - place for all who were interested in the arts ; but what he best loved was to gather painters and poets around him at Coleorton, his country-seat in Leicestershire. “ Sir George painted,” says Haydon, “and Lady Beaumont drew, and Wilkie and I made our respective studies for our own purposes. At lunch we assembled and chatted over what we had been doing, and at dinner we all brought down our respective sketches, and cut up each other in great good humour.” That Sir George had some faculty of calling out imagination is shown by the fact that an early picture of his suggested Wordsworth's beautiful lines on “ Peele Castle." Several of Wordsworth's other poems were in their turn illustrated by Sir George Beaumont. Of the many eulogies which his contemporaries have written of him, none is more interesting than Scott's, for it not only praises his character and his painting, but adds a significant tribute to his powers as an art critic. “Sir George Beaumont's dead," writes Scott in his Diary, February 14, 1827, “by far the most sensible and pleasing man I ever knew; kind, too, in his nature, and generous ; gentle in society, and of those mild manners which tend to soften the causticity of the general London tone of persiflage and personal satire. As an amateur painter he was of the very highest distinction; and, though I know nothing of the matter, yet I should hold him a perfect critic in painting, for he always made his criticisms intelligible, and used no slang.”
Like every critic, no matter how judicious, Sir George Beaumont exercised the right of departing in practice from his own precept. This picture is an instance— being a representation of a scene from Shakespeare, a kind of subject of which, in a letter to Haydon, Beaumont “always doubted the prudence.” The scene is that in Act ii. Scene I of As You Like It, where the Duke, about to go and kill venison, confesses that it irks him to gore the poor dappled fools, and the “First Lord ” replies that the melancholy Jaques also (part only of whose figure is here seen)“ grieves at that.” They had only to-day stolen behind him as
he lay along
1046. SIGISMONDA AND GUISCARDO.
William Hogarth (1697-1764). See under 1161, p. 424.
A picture with an interesting history. Hogarth had a standing feud with the connoisseurs of his day and their admiration of the old masters. He determined to show that he was as good as they ; and when Sir Richard Grosvenor gave him a commission in 1759, he chose for his subject Sigismonda, a picture of which, ascribed to Correggio, had just sold at an auction for the then high price of £400.1 The subject is from one of Boccaccio's tales (translated by Dryden) which tells how Sigismonda, the daughter of Tancred, Prince of Salerno, secretly loved and married Guiscardo, a poor but noble youth, page to her father. Tancred, having discovered the union, caused Guiscardo to be strangled, and sent his heart in “a goblet rich with gems, and rough with gold" to Sigismonda :
Thy father sends thee this to cheer thy breast,
And glad thy sight with what thou lov'st the best. Sigismonda accepted the gift and took a poisoned draught; and as she prepared to die, wept over her lover's heart
Her hands yet hold Close to her heart the monumental gold. Hogarth took much trouble with his picture-his handsome wife sitting to him, it seems, for Sigismonda, and sent it for his patron's approval. Sir Richard Grosvenor, not liking the picture, shirked out of the bargain on the ground that though it was “striking and inimitable,” “the constantly having it before one's eyes would be too often occasioning melancholy ideas to arise in one's mind, which a curtain's being drawn before it would not diminish the least." Hogarth revenged himself in poetry for the insult to his painting : “I own," he wrote
He chose the prudent part
1 Hogarth's contempt was more for the connoisseurs than for the old masters whose names they took in vain. "The connoisseurs and I are at war, you know," he said to Mrs. Piozzi ; "and because I hate them, they think I hate Titian--and let them !" The present case is in point. The Sigismonda sold as a Correggio was really by Furini (one of the "people of importance in their day" in Mr. Browning's Parleyings).