« ForrigeFortsett »
a handle, and the sticks of his pencils were remarkable for their length, which no doubt contributed very much to the force of his portraits.
The same year that Mr. Reynolds removed to Leicester Fields, an exhibition was opened by the artists, at a large room in the Strand, belonging to the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce. Hither Reynolds sent four of his pictures, which attracted general admi. ration. The next exhibition, which was in a spacious room in Spring Gardens, contained, among other of his pictures, his fine one of Lord Ligonier, and a portrait of Sterne. On the former occasion the catalogue was considered as a ticket which entitled a whole company to admission ; but much inconvenience and confusion having risen from this, an alteration was adopted the next year, by demanding one shilling from each visitor, who received a catalogue gratis. The reasons of this change, and the design of the institution itself were laid before the public in an admirable address written by Johnson ; which, as connected with the history of the arts at that interesting period, deserves a place in this memoir.
« The public may justly require to be informed of the nature and extent of every design for which the favour of the public is openly solicited. The artists, who were themselves the first promoters of an exhibition in this nation, and who have now contributed to the following catalogue, think
it therefore necessary to explain their purpose, and justify their conduct. An exhibition of the works of art being a spectacle new in the kingdom, has raised various opinions and conjectures among those who are unacquainted with the practice of foreign nations. Those who set their performances to general view, have too often been considered the rivals of each other; as men actuated, if not by avarice, at least by vanity, and contending for superiority of fame, though not for a pecuniary prize. It cannot be denied or doubted, that all who offer themselves to criticism are desirous of praise : this desire is not only innocent but virtuous, while it is undebased by artifice, and unpolluted by envy; and of envy or artifice those men can never be accused, who, already enjoying all the honours and profits of their profession, are content to stand candidates for public notice with genius yet unexperienced, and diligence yet unrewarded; who, without any hope of increasing their own reputation or interest, expose their names and their works, only that they may furnish an opportunity of appearance to the young, the diffident, and the neglected. The purpose of this exhibition is not to enrich the artist, but to advance the art; the eminent are not flattered with preference, nor the obscure insulted with contempt: whoever hopes to deserve public favour, is here invited to display his merit. Of the price put upon this exhibition, some account may be demanded. Whoever sets his works to be shown, naturally desires a multitude of spectators; but his desire" defeats its own end, when spectators assemble in such numbers as to obstruct one another.
" Though we are far from wishing to diminish the pleasures, or depreciate the sentiments of any class of the community, we know, however, what every one knows, that all cannot be judges or purchasers of works of art. Yet we have already found, by experience, that all are desirous to see an exhibition. When the terms of admission were low, the room was thronged with such multitudes as made access dangerous, and frightened away those whose approbation was most desired. Yet, because it is seldom believed that money is got but for the love of money, we shall tell the use which we intend to make of our expected profits. Many artists of great abilities are unable to sell their works for their due price: to remove this inconvenience, an annual sale will be appointed, to which every man may send his works, and them, if he will, without his name. Those works will be reviewed by the committee that conduct the exhibition; a price will be secretly set on every piece, and registered by the secretary; if the piece exposed is sold for more, the whole price shall be the artist's ; but if the purchasers value it at less than the committee, the artist shall
be paid the deficiency from the profits of the exhibition."
In 1762 Mr. Reynolds produced his celebrated picture of Garrick between Tragedy and Comedy, for which the Earl of Halifax gave three hundred guineas, though it was afterwards sold to the late Mr. Angerstein for two hundred and fifty. In the autumn of the same year, he made an excursion into Devonshire, accompanied by his friend Johnson, receiving every-where the respect due to brilliant talents, and which were rendered still greater by personal virtue. During the stay of the two friends at Plymouth, they were entertained by Dr. John Mudge, then an eminent surgeon, and afterwards no less distinguished as a physician in that town; a man of science and worth, to whom, as well as to his whole family, Reynolds was much attached; of which soon after his return to London he gave a very affectionate proof. Dr. Mudge had a son in the Navy Office, then about sixteen years of age; and a frequent visitor at the house of Mr. Reynolds, who wishing to gratify the father, drew the portrait of the young gentleman, who was represented as suddenly discovering himself by drawing aside a curtain, and looking out of the canvass by way of surprising his friends. This picture, we are informed, may be deemed one of the happiest productions of the artist. At the beginning of 1764, Reynolds and Johnson instituted the “Literary Club,” which at first consisted only of twelve members, the others being Goldsmith, Nugent, Burke, Dr. Percy, Sir Robert Chambers, Sir John Hawkins, Bennet Langton, Anthony Chamier, Samuel Dyer, and Topham Beauclerk; but afterwards the number increased and became indefinite. The same year was rendered remarkable by the royal incorporation of the artists of Great Britain, of which chartered Society Mr. Reynolds was chosen a director. In the exhibition of the following season he produced a charming picture of Lady Sarah Bunbury sacrificing to the Graces ; an whole length of Lady Elizabeth Keppel; and another of Lady Waldegrave. The same year he again figured as an author and critic in some notes communicated to Dr. Johnson for his edition of Shakspeare; a literary association which reminds one of the friendship of Erasmus and Hans Hol. bein, with only this exception, that the modern painter far exceeded the German in the power of art as well as in the extent of learning. As a specimen of the acumen of Reynolds in the capacity of an illustrator of Shakspeare, we may take his remarks on the colloquy between the King and Banquo, in Macbeth :