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President of the Academy, Mr. West, struck with his merit, took proper means of communicating to him bis advice to undertake some historical subject for the next exhibition. Accordingly, Proctor sent to the Academy the model of "Ixion on the Wheel,” which was so highly approved of by the members of the council, that it was, by their orders, placed in the centre of the library, separate from all the other models, and secured from risk of danger. The work was greatly and universally admired, and was purchased by a friendly patron of the arts.
“In the following exhibition, Proctor, encouraged by success, sent a group of “Pirithous slain by Cerberus, which was not less admired thạn the former work, and was purchased by the same liberal patron.
"In a third year, conceiving his powers to be strengthened by experience, he undertook a much larger group, of “Diomedes, King of Thrace, torn to pieces by his own Horses." This masterly work obtained a degree of admiration far surpassing that bestowed on his former models, but by no means exceeding its merits, In professional judgments it rivalled the powers of Michael Angelo, and stood inferior to Phidias alone.*_But, alas ! the admirable group found no purchaser. At the close of the exhibition it was carried back to the house of the sculptor, whó, stung to the heart with disappointment, instantly with his own hands broke the model to pieces.” “From this period PROCTOR appeared no more at the President's house, where he had till now become a frequent visitor. On enquiries being made, it was reported that he had lately been
Mr. WEST, who, in the most diffecting manner related to me these anecdotes of Proctor, assured me that his sentiments of the Diomedes were such as I have stated, and that “no praise could be ivo grede for it.” (Note by Mr. Prince Hoare.)
iret very meanly dressed, and apparently labouring under the greatest dejection of spirits. A farther research ascertained, that after the unexpected neglect of his last work, he had abandoned himself to "inactivity, having taken a lodging at sixpence per night in a garret in Clare Market, supporting himself on no other food than dry biscuits, and resorting to the neighbouring pump för his only liquor. Deeply affected by this account, the PRESIDENT hastened to propose the consideration of Proctor's state to the council of the Royal Academy, where it was immediately moved, that he should be sent to Italy by the Academy, with the usual pension, and that fifty pounds should be moreover allowed to him to make the necessary preparations for his journey. This motion being carried, he was invited to dinner by his friendly protector, West; and, after dinner, the resolutions of the Academy were communicated to him. Proctor listened to the report with extreme emotion. It was settled that he should instantly prepare for his journey in company with the President's son. Every thing conspired to elevate hope, and to promise satisfaction. The probable day of departure was named, and the grateful Proctor took his leave.
“ About a week after this arrangement had been made, a friend of Proctor's, who lodged under the same roof with him, was announced at Mr. West's house. The door of the study was opened with eagerness, and the visitor was seen advancing along the gallery with tears in his eyes, and with a countenance full of sorrow and dismay : He came to relate that poor Proctor was no more.
He had suffered from no particular attack of disease ; but HIS EXHAUSTED and LANGUID FRAME had not been able to support the sudden reverse which the favour of the Academy bad produced in his situation and his feelings. The unceasing agitation of his powerful mind had overwhelmed his strength, and he had died that morning. Such were the talents, and such the history of Proctor.-Who, that feels for his country, will not tremble as he touches the connecting thread of the two instances which have just been related? Was Canova to be sought in Italy, and Proctor to die unnoticed at home?" (Prince Hoare's Epochs of the Arts, p. 79 to 84.)
We fear to annex any observation to the above affecting and well-told narrative, lest our remarks should weaken its deep impression. We can only add our confirmation of the melancholy fact, that PROCTOR, who, in one year, had obtained a prize in painting and another in sculpture, from the Royal Academy in London, died of starvation, or, in the words of the Examiner, “was starved to death,” only about a year after, at, or in obscure lodgings in Clare Market. With the inflexible pride and acute sensibility of genios, he unfortunately had, all along, locked up the secret of his penury in his breast as a shame, the divulging of which would have been to him a wound worse than death. Although of gentle manners, he could not brook to solicit favours. But circumstances transpired after his decease, wbich furnished grounds for an opinion, that the limited sums which he had received for his model of
Ixion on the Wheel,” and twelve months after, for that of “ Pirithous slain by Cerberus," the year before he exhi. bited his group of “ Diomedes torn to pieces by his own Horses,” were the chief, if not his only, means of support during two years. The remuneration was liberal, and was paid by a distinguished amateur, solely as an encouragement to a young Hercules in the arts; but it was insufficient for bis healthy sustenance and his other necessary expenses. Intense application, enthusiastic and feverish fluctuations
between the hope of glory and the despondence arising from public neglect, joined to his scanty supply of food, gradually wore him down, and his constitution was gone before any suspicion was entertained of his real situation. If he had binted his distress to his kind instructor and warm-hearted friend, West, he would have been saved. But the zealous efforts of that amiable man to place him in a situation in which his genius would have become an honour to his country, were defeated by his concealment of his sufferings. The honourable vote and liberal bounty of the Royal Academy, the prospect of fame and fortune, came too late: the mortal blow was struck before. Thus perished in the capital of England, in the prime of life, and in possession of the highest powers of genius, THOMAS PROCTOR, an English Sculptor, who, if the periodical press had intro-duced his name and powers to the notice and patronage of his country, as the name and genius of CHANTREY were since, in 1805, might have lived to have been THE PHIDIAS of the age.
The distinguished amateur who purchased the models of Ixion and Pirithous was Sir Abraham Hume. That gentleman was wholly unacquainted with Proctor's situation, but being struck by the beauties of his performances, on seeing them at the exhibition rooms, he purchased them from a liberal wish to patronise British genius. If there bad been another amateur of the same discriminating taste and noble spirit to have remunerated the artist, he would have been rescued from the pangs of despair and want ander which he expired. This extraordinary artist possessed a power ‘of eye, hand, and conception beyond description. He was a native of Yorkshire, and spent his life there in the doll drudgery of a counting-house until he had past bis thirtieth year. Unable any longer to resist the strong impulses within him, he came up to London, entered the
Royal Academy as a student, and broke upon the town as a meteor that dazzles and astonishes for a brief space and sinks in darkness.
Such was WEST, whose character and titles I bere borrow from bis contemporaries; an affectionate husband and father, a sincere friend, a benevolent good man; the founder and father of British bistorical painting; the King's historical painter, the greatest historic painter of the
thie President of the Royal Academy of painting, sculpture, and arcbitecture in London; the head of the fine arts in the British empire ; an honorary member of all the academies of painting, sculpture, and architecture in Europe and America; and last, but not least of his titles, the paternal guide, the able and zealous instructor, and true friend of the British students; as he appears in bis kind advice, fostering encouragement, and active friendship to Proctor, whose fate he never mentioned but with emotions of sorrow and bitterness of heart. The accumulated bistorical labours of his pencil during a long period, are now exhibiting in the spacious rooms built at a great expense, in filial affection, and respect for the public, by bis sons. We speak here from our own knowledge: if Mr. RAPHAEL and Mr. BENJAMIN WEST were possessed of an independent fortune, it would be their first pride, as Englishmen, lovers of their country, and of the British School, to follow the NOBLE EXAMPLE set by SIR GEORGE BEAUMONT, by presenting the entire collection now in their possession to the National Gallery, for the benefit of the British students, and the advancement of the fine arts. But as those gentlemen are not so circumstanced, their next pride would be to place them in the national gallery, through the wisdom and liberality of his Majesty's Government and Parliament! They now make this offer in