Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Romney
Author: Davies, Randall
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Romney" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



                                ROMNEY

                       UNIFORM WITH THIS VOLUME

                               REYNOLDS

           Containing sixteen examples of the master’s work

                               VELASQUEZ

              Containing sixteen illustrations in colour

               A. AND C. BLACK, SOHO SQUARE, LONDON, W.

               [Illustration: LADY HAMILTON WITH A GOAT

                    Tankerville Chamberlayne, Esq.]



                                ROMNEY

                                  BY

                            RANDALL DAVIES

                 CONTAINING SIXTEEN EXAMPLES IN COLOUR
                         OF THE MASTER’S WORK

                                LONDON

                        ADAM AND CHARLES BLACK

                                 1914

                              PRINTED AT
                         THE BALLANTYNE PRESS
                                LONDON



PREFACE


The most obvious gap in the ranks of the portraits by British painters
in our National Collections is caused by the absence of any work of
really first-rate importance by George Romney.

_The Parsons Daughter_, in the National Gallery, and the _Mrs.
Robinson_, at Hertford House, are of the finest quality; but they are
only heads.

The large portrait of _Mrs. Mark Currie_ is charming, but by no means so
fine.

In the _Louisa, Countess of Mansfield_, we are nearer to the very best;
but that is only a temporary loan, and until the public are in
possession of one or two of his superb whole-length portraits, such as
Earl Crewe’s _Lady Milnes_, the Marquis of Lansdowne’s _Lord Henry
Petty_, or the _Lady Bell Hamilton_, they will hardly be able to judge
the work of Romney as fairly as that of his more fortunate
contemporaries.

In placing him in the first rank of English painters, however, the
present generation are only doing him as much honour as he deserves,
after a century of neglect; and there seems to be no fear of his fame
diminishing again or his popularity abating.

R. D.



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


1. Lady Hamilton
with a Goat               _Tankerville Chamberlayne, Esq._ _Frontispiece_

                                                               _Facing p._

2. The Parson’s Daughter          _National Gallery_                   4

3. Thomas John Clavering,
afterwards eighth Baronet,
and his sister, Catherine
Mary                              _Col. C. W. Napier Clavering_        8

4. Maria Margaret Clavering,
afterwards Lady Napier              ”      ”      ”                   12

5. Colonel Thomas Thornton          ”      ”      ”                   16

6. Miss Ramus                     _Viscount Hambleden_                20

7. Mrs. Robinson as “Perdita”     _Wallace Collection_                22

8. William Pitt, the Younger      _National Gallery_                  26

9. Portraits of Mr. and
Mrs. William Lindow (1770)          ”      ”                          28

10. Lady Craven (1778)              ”      ”                          32

11. Mrs. Mark Currie (1789)         ”      ”                          36

12. Portrait of a Lady
and Child (1782)                    ”      ”                          40

13. Lady Hamilton as a
Bacchante (1786)                    ”      ”                          44

14. Emma, Lady Hamilton           _National Portrait Gallery_         46

15. Miss Benedetta Ramus          _Viscount Hambleden_                48

16. Portrait of Romney by
Himself (unfinished) (1782)      _National Portrait Gallery_          52



GEORGE ROMNEY


That Reynolds and Gainsborough were the two greatest portrait painters
in England during the latter half of the eighteenth century is a
proposition which no one is likely to question. Both had qualities which
raised them far above the general, and considerably higher than even the
foremost of their competitors; and though preference for the work of the
one or the other of them is often as much a matter of taste as of
opinion, the pre-eminence of the two is beyond dispute.

When we come to fill the third place, however, the question is not so
readily settled. There are many candidates who are, or ought to be, in
the running; and although the fashion of the present time may send up
the prices of now one now another beyond all that is reasonable and
sensible, it would be rash to say that the most popular has the best
right to the position. Only last year, for example, a new planet swam
into the dealers’ ken, a portrait of _Benjamin Franklin_, painted in
1762 by Mason Chamberlin, one of the original members of the Royal
Academy, realising the extraordinary figure of two thousand eight
hundred guineas; a figure which, as the _Times_ felicitously observes,
“places the artist on an auction level with Reynolds and Gainsborough.”

Judged by the fickle standard of the auction room, Raeburn, at the
present moment, would have precedence over Hoppner, and Hoppner, unless
I am mistaken, over Romney. But who can say whether before another
season is over, the merits of Lawrence or Beechey, West or Copley, may
not come up in the market, and impress an uncritical public with ideas
of beauty and genius which have hitherto escaped their notice?

In my own opinion, George Romney has better claim than any of the others
to be considered next to Reynolds and Gainsborough as a portrait
painter, inasmuch as he seems to me to have exhibited more consistently
the variety of qualities necessary for excellence in that particular
branch of his art.

In its outward manipulation of charm and beauty, the work of Romney is
all that an amateur need ask of it, and considerations of mere elegance
have probably advanced his popularity in the sale room as much as others
more really important. But charm and beauty of this sort are delusive
guides and, unless backed by some more enduring test of excellence, will
lead us downwards only, through the scale of Hoppner, Lawrence, Harlow,
and Shee, till we find ourselves in the company of the simpering
beauties of the early and mid-Victorian age, with their sloping
shoulders and curling ringlets. With Romney we are perfectly safe. No
twinge of conscience warns us to withstand the allurements of _Lady
Hamilton_, or the fascination of the _Parson’s Daughter_. We may flirt
as long and as desperately as we please--in an artistic sense--with
_Mrs. Mark Currie_, without the slightest stain on our æsthetic morals.
There is nothing technically meretricious about any of these beauties,
and the virtue of our taste is only strengthened by the pleasurable
enjoyment of their society.

And why?

One of the first reasons that occur to me is one that may possibly be
challenged as being merely paradoxical; namely, that Romney, like
Reynolds and Gainsborough, was not primarily a portrait painter. That
all three of them became painters of portraits, and will go down to
posterity as such, was not because they wished to, but by the accident
of circumstance. Reynolds was an humble and assiduous disciple of Michel
Angelo, an earnest seeker after conquests in “the grand style.” Of
Gainsborough, it was said that music was his pleasure and painting his
profession; while in that profession, as we know, it was landscape which
chiefly occupied his mind and most delighted him. And Romney actually
writes to his friend Hayley, “This cursed portrait-painting. How I am
shackled with it!”

To explain the paradox we must look back a little into the history of
painting in England, with a glance

[Illustration: THE PARSON’S DAUGHTER

National Gallery]

at that of portrait-painting in other countries besides. Taking the
latter view first, we find that the only name, which readily occurs to
us, of an artist who painted nothing but portraits, is that of Holbein.
In all the greatest schools of painting, since the days of Cimabue,
portraiture was, as it were, a “bye-product,” and with a few exceptions
like Holbein, Velasquez, or Vandyck, there is no great painter who is as
well known for his portraits as for his other works. In England, until
the arrival of Reynolds, there was no school of painting at all, and the
only reason for any painter coming to England was the business, rather
than the art, of making likenesses of its vigorous inhabitants. In
England, consequently, when a school of painting was at last
established, it is hardly surprising to find that the painting of
portraits was the most considerable branch of it, not only in the early
days of its commencement, but throughout almost the whole of its
development; and it was not until comparatively late in its history that
landscape assumed considerable proportions and finally outgrew the other
branch.

Had Reynolds and Romney, like Gainsborough, been landscape painters at
heart, it is probable that such a combination of great talent would have
resulted in a much earlier triumph for the landscapist, and that we
should not have had to wait for Turner and Constable to restore the
balance. For Richard Wilson, the actual founder of the English School of
landscape, only failed to establish it from want of recognition, and
there were many others who were fit to achieve great works in landscape
if it had not been that they were compelled to comply with the popular
demand for portraiture without regard to their artistic inclinations.

But there was a third branch of the art on which, though unheeded alike
by the patron and the public, the minds of Romney and of many more of
the most accomplished artists of the time were bent, namely, the
historical; and so long as the market was closed to their achievements
in this direction, it was impossible for even the greatest among them to
exist without making portraiture their regular business.

Reynolds was wise, or fortunate, enough to satisfy his historical or
classical aspirations by working them in, so to speak, with his
portraits; and while his purely allegorical or poetical compositions
have added little to his reputation, he is never so great, or so
attractive, as when painting portraits in terms of romance. Nor is he
less deservedly popular when realising some idyllic fancy like _The Age
of Innocence_, or _The Strawberry Girl_, _The Infant Samuel_ or
_Robinetta_--all of which are, in fact, portraits of a single model.
Benjamin West, on the other hand, though fortunate in obtaining Royal
approval, and truly royal payment, for his historical compositions,
found little encouragement from the public in taking to this branch of
the profession. “As any attempt in history was at that period an almost
unexampled effort,” wrote James Northcote, R.A., on the exhibition of
West’s _Pylades and Orestes_ at the Exhibition of 1766, “this picture
became a matter of much surprise. West’s house was soon filled with
visitors from all quarters to see it; and those amongst the highest rank
who were not able to come to his house to satisfy their curiosity,
desired to have his permission to have it sent to them; nor did they
fail, every time it was returned to him, to accompany it with
compliments of the highest commendation on its great merits. But the
most wonderful part of the story is that notwithstanding all this bustle
and commendation bestowed upon this justly admired picture, by which Mr.
West’s servant gained upwards of thirty pounds by showing it, yet no one
mortal ever asked the price of the work, or so much as offered to give
him a commission to paint any other subject. Indeed there was one
gentleman who spoke of it with such praise to his father, that he
immediately asked him the reason he did not purchase, as he so much
admired it, when he answered, ‘What could I do if I had it? You surely
would not have me hang up a modern English picture in my house unless it
was a portrait?’”

It was in this year that John Singleton Copley exhibited his first
picture, a boy with a squirrel, in England. He, too, was obsessed with
the

[Illustration: THOMAS JOHN CLAVERING, AFTERWARDS EIGHTH BARONET, AND HIS
SISTER, CATHERINE MARY

Col. C. W. Napier Clavering]

historical idea, and carried it so far that he is better known for his
grand compositions, like the _Death of Chatham_, than for the many very
excellent portraits he painted. Angelica Kauffmann is remembered only by
her well-intentioned but rather boneless classical compositions; and
Fuseli, so far as he is remembered at all, by his weird nightmare
effects in historical pieces.

Broadly speaking, history was a thankless mistress to the painters, and
had it not been that Romney chose to paint portraits for the sake of
accumulating enough money for the pursuit of his own artistic ambitions,
his reputation as an artist would now be as totally forgotten as are
those of many whose names it is almost unfair to them to mention in the
present unappreciative days.

But there is fortunately another aspect of the question. A great deal is
being said at the present time about the merits and demerits of a
classical education for boys. On the one hand we hear that it is
perfectly useless for the ordinary youth to spend the greater part of
his time at school in the generally hopeless effort of acquiring some
familiarity with the classical languages. On the other we are told that
a boy must learn something, and that the training to the mind afforded
by the study of Latin and Greek is more valuable in after life than the
acquisition of any practically useful knowledge. Whichever side we may
incline to in the case of the ordinary everyday boy who is to be sent
out into the world to make his living in one of a dozen or more
different walks of life, there can be no question that the whole-hearted
pursuit of a beloved study, whether of Greek or Latin or Chinese, by a
man of purpose and character, never fails to improve him in any other
study which he may wish to undertake. For the higher walks of life, such
as statesmanship, or the control of large interests, or the influence of
considerable bodies of opinion, it is generally admitted that the school
and university training is advantageous. An archbishop is not in these
days required to address Convocation in Latin, nor is a Prime Minister
expected to quote Horace in debate. But either can delegate the useful
duties of life to others, while they themselves are better fitted by
breadth of view to deal in the largest possible manner with public
questions. It is for this reason, to return to our paradox, that I
consider Romney’s excellence in portraiture was due, in a large measure,
to the fact that he was not willingly a portrait painter. When we see
that Reynolds came back from Italy filled with the ardour inspired by
Michel Angelo and Raphael for great painting; when we see Gainsborough,
torn from his beloved woods and fields to the painting room, both of
them establishing their reputation with practically nothing but
portraiture, I hope that the paradox will seem less paradoxical, and
that it will be agreed that Romney, too, struggling to the last with the
relentless Muse of his historical fancy, was in reality indebted to her
for most of his excellence in the department of portraiture where we are
ready to accord him so high a place. It is only another version of the
old fable of the treasure which the father induced his boys to dig for
in the vineyard. How many a fashionable painter would do well for
himself and for his art by exchanging his brush for a spade!

Anybody can paint a portrait. It is really easier than taking a
photograph. One has only to look at contemporary representations of the
younger members of one’s friends’ families in oil or pastel to realise
that the ordinary person prefers a bad picture to a good photograph.
There is something gratifying to the latent vanity of the sitter in the
mere fact of sitting to a painter. In the old days, when there were no
such things as photographs, the inducement to sit must have been still
greater, and the demand for portraits enormous. Horace Walpole declares
that there were no less than two thousand portrait painters in London in
the middle of the eighteenth century: modern investigation has accounted
for over seven hundred! To be a portrait painter, clearly, then was not
to be an artist; and when we come to sift the artists from the mere
likeness-mongers, we shall almost invariably find that the only great
portraits were the work of men who excelled in other directions, as we
have found in the cases of Reynolds and Gainsborough.

Applying this test to Romney, it is quite surprising to discover how
little is said of his portraiture

[Illustration: MARIA MARGARET CLAVERING, AFTERWARDS LADY NAPIER

Col. C. W. Napier Clavering]

by his two earliest biographers, William Hayley, his life-long friend
and admirer, and the Reverend John Romney, his son. Nor is there very
much more, and certainly no indication of his present pre-eminence among
the British portrait painters, in Allan Cunningham’s lengthy Memoir of
him published in 1832. It is true that his popularity, amounting to
serious rivalry of Reynolds at one period, is mentioned incidentally; as
is also the devotion of his art to Lady Hamilton. But these are only
considered as diversions, as it were, of his main purpose into a side
channel. The dream of his life, we are to understand, was the
achievement of historical compositions.

Certainly he has been unfortunate in his biographers. A more tedious and
pretentious compilation than the quarto of over four hundred pages
published by William Hayley in 1809 as “The Life of George Romney,
Esq.,” I hope it may never be anybody’s fate to peruse. Hayley was a
second-rate poet--his most considerable work being “The Triumphs of
Temper”--with a third-rate intellect. “The influence which the
friendship of Hayley exercised over the life of Romney,” the son of the
artist writes, “was in many respects injurious. His friendship was
grounded on selfishness, and the means by which he obtained it was
flattery. He was able also by a canting kind of hypocrisy to confound
the distinctions between vice and virtue, and to give a colouring to
conduct that might and probably did mislead Romney on some occasions. He
drew him too much from general society, and almost monopolised him to
himself, and thus narrowed the circle of his acquaintance and friends.
By having intimated an intention of writing Romney’s Life he made him
extremely afraid of doing anything that might give offence. He was
always interfering in his affairs--volunteering his advice; and I have
much reason to believe that whatever errors the latter may have
committed, they were simply owing to the counsel or instigation of
Hayley.”

From Hayley, then, we need not expect very much that is likely to be of
value in the way of criticism. But for one thing he is to be thanked,
namely the inclusion in his volume of a short sketch of Romney’s
professional career by John Flaxman, R.A. From this I shall have
occasion to borrow more than a few illuminating passages, a couple of
which I now adduce as evidence of how little Romney’s portraiture was
considered in an estimate of his art specially written at the time of
his death by one whom Hayley calls “an approved artist”:

“As Romney was gifted with peculiar powers for historical and ideal
painting, so his heart and soul were engaged in the pursuit of it,
whenever he could extricate himself from the importunate business of
portrait painting. It was his delight by day and study by night, and for
this his food and rest were often neglected.” And again, by way of
summing up, “A peculiar shyness of disposition kept him from all
association with public bodies, and led to the pursuit of his studies in
retirement and solitude which ... allowed him more leisure for
observation, reflection, and trying his skill in other arts connected
with his own. And indeed few artists, since the fifteenth century, have
been able to do so much in so many different branches; for besides his
beautiful compositions and pictures, which have added to the knowledge
and celebrity of the English school, he modelled like a sculptor, carved
ornaments in wood with great delicacy, and could make an architectural
design in a fine taste, as well as construct every part of the
building.”

The word “portraits” it will be observed occurs but once in these
passages; nor does it appear elsewhere in the sketch. If then it be
admitted that neither Reynolds nor Gainsborough nor Romney were
primarily portrait painters, and that their pre-eminence arises in a
high degree from this cause, we shall have arrived at a standpoint from
which to observe how each of the three was influenced by that cause in a
different manner, and so obtain a better idea of their several
excellences than we are likely to obtain from their “auction values.”

In the first place, it is to be remembered that neither Reynolds nor
Gainsborough was actually averse to painting portraits, whereas we
have

[Illustration: COLONEL THOMAS THORNTON

Col. C. W. Napier Clavering]

Romney’s written word that he hated it. Sir Joshua, to be sure, speaks
of his charming little _Strawberry Girl_ as “One of the half-dozen
original things that no man ever exceeds in his lifetime.” But he was
quite content to receive as many as a hundred-and-fifty sitters in the
course of a single year. Gainsborough, too, could go off into raptures
at the beauties of the young princes and princesses when he was painting
them at Winsdor, and write a flaming letter to the Royal Academy when
the royal portraits were not hung as he desired. Both found their
highest expression in portraiture, as did Romney; but whereas they were
not slow to realise that their respective gifts, widely different as
they were, fitted them pre-eminently for this sort of work, it would
seem that Romney never realised it at all; and while the other two
brought all their forces, consciously, to the beautification of this
particular branch of their art, Romney appears to have done no more than
acquiesce coldly but, be it observed, conscientiously, in the necessity
for it.

I would therefore submit that the chief characteristics which
distinguish Romney’s portraits from those of his two greater
contemporaries are coldness--or rather simplicity--and conscientiousness.
These are conscious qualities, to which I would add a third, which I
believe to be unconscious, that is to say, the influence of the
classical art of the Greeks, which for the sake of brevity I will call
classicism.

The distinction it seems to me is this. That whereas Reynolds was aiming
at the grand style, and spared no occasion for employing it in practice
and expatiating on it in precept, it is impossible to say that he did
not consciously apply its principles--I say consciously--to every
portrait he ever undertook. In Gainsborough’s portraits again we
recognise the hand and the heart of the landscape painter consciously
employing the terms of his favourite craft, when we find in them the
same charm, the same natural and easy grace which is the great
characteristic of his landscape drawings and sketches. While Reynolds
was painting men and women in terms of art, Gainsborough was painting
them in terms of nature. Both were applying all the principles which
they had imbibed from their earliest youth to the particular object on
which they were engaged.

With Romney, on the other hand, this was clearly not the case. He
detested having to paint portraits. His mind was wholly attracted to
allegorical and poetical subjects. Allan Cunningham, writing in 1832,
almost apologises for mentioning his portraits at all. “A list of all
the works which Romney executed in those busy days,” he writes, “would
occupy several pages; it would, however, be absurd to specify many of
them, since they can possess little interest except for particular
families.” He then gives a list of eighteen portraits which are
“remarkable for containing more than one figure, or for their superior
merit, or on account of the character and station of the individual
represented,” adding that “in one of these lucky and prosperous years he
earned by portraiture alone some three thousand six hundred pounds.”

Now if Romney had called upon his Muse to assist him in his portraiture,
as did Reynolds and Gainsborough, there can be little doubt that his
popularity would have extended enormously, and that his reputation would
have been increased in hardly a less degree. But whether it was the
influence of Hayley, or whether, as is more probable, it was the effect
of his character and his deep feeling for his art, Romney rarely, if
ever, permitted his Muse to descend into his painting-room when he was
executing a commission for a portrait. An honest presentment of his
sitters was apparently his only concern; he took their money, and he
conscientiously painted their portraits, in their habits as they lived,
without any conscious attempt at achieving more.

But in keeping his Muse thus apart, it must not be supposed that he
succeeded in banishing her from his inmost self. Her influence is to be
seen and felt in almost every portrait he painted. Rarely as she was
allowed on the stage--as in the famous group of _Lady Gower and her
Children_--she was ever present, though behind the scenes; how else can
one account for the almost classical severity of tone that keeps every
portrait of Romney’s, however simple, from being merely trivial, pretty,
or banal?

[Illustration: MISS RAMUS

Viscount Hambleden]

An alternative explanation of the reticence and simplicity of Romney’s
portraits, his seeming unwillingness to expand into allegorical
portraiture, is his supposed sensitiveness of temperament. Hayley
expatiates on this quality to such an extent as to shake our belief in
its existence; but that it did exist in some degree is unfortunately too
evident to deny. How much or how little it had to do with the limitation
of his fancy in portraiture must only be a matter of opinion, but since
as good evidence of it as any is to be found in the story of three of
his earliest pictures, we may as well consider it before proceeding
further.

Almost the first of Romney’s “popular successes” was a family piece
containing portraits of Sir George Warren, his lady, and their little
daughter, which was exhibited in 1769. “This picture was highly extolled
by the public,” says John Romney, “and brought him still more into
notice. According to a design in one of his sketch-books, Lady Warren is
represented as seated in a graceful and easy posture, with a fronting
attitude, but with her face slightly turned to her right, having her
left elbow leaning upon a pedestal, and the hand extended over her
daughter’s shoulder, a girl about six or seven years old, who is
standing by her. The young lady has her hands gently crossed over her
bosom, and is caressing a little bird which she holds in one hand. Sir
George, habited in a picturesque style, is standing rather to the left,
and somewhat more backward in the picture than his lady. He has his
right arm moderately extended and is directing her attention to a
distant object. The composition is beautiful, correct, and natural, and
the simplicity, grace, and feeling expressed in the figure and character
of Miss Warren are admirable.”

This description, it is to be observed, is not from the picture itself,
which the writer had never seen, but from the artist’s drawing for it;
and it is evident that the drawing must have been executed with much
greater care and particularity than is to be found in most of Romney’s
sketches. The picture itself is now in the possession of Lord Vernon, at
Sudbury Hall, Derbyshire, the little daughter having married the

[Illustration: MRS. ROBINSON AS “PERDITA”

Wallace Collection]

first Lord Vernon. Its present owner informed Mr. Humphry Ward that it
was always supposed to be by Reynolds, and that a professional valuer
valued it as such for probate in 1883.

That so successful an attempt should be repeated was only natural.
Hogarth and Highmore had painted some of these “conversation pieces,” as
they were called, but with indifferent, or at any rate no great amount
of popular, success, and one might have supposed that a young artist
would have been ready enough to respond to the encouragement accorded to
him in this particular class of picture. But no others of the sort are
known to have been attempted, with one exception. At about the same time
Romney was engaged in a portrait group of Mr. Leigh and his family.
Unfortunately, his well-wishing friend Cumberland, the dramatist, in his
efforts to push Romney to the front, was ill-advised enough to drag
Garrick to see his pictures. Now Garrick hated Cumberland, and had a
very poor opinion of him--which is all there is to excuse him for an
unpardonable exhibition of bad taste. “I brought him to see Romney’s
pictures,” writes Cumberland, “hoping to interest him in his favour. A
large family piece unluckily arrested his attention; a gentleman in a
close-buckled bob-wig, and a scarlet waistcoat laced with gold, with his
wife and children (some sitting, some standing), had taken possession of
some yards of canvas, very much, as it appeared, to their own
satisfaction--for they were perfectly amused in a contented abstinence
from all thought or action. Upon this unfortunate group, when Garrick
had fixed his lynx’s eyes, he began to put himself into the attitude of
the gentleman, and turning to Mr. Romney, ‘Upon my word, Sir,’ he said,
‘this is a very regular well-ordered family; and that is a very
bright-rubbed mahogany table at which that motherly good lady is
sitting; and this worthy gentleman in the scarlet-waistcoat is doubtless
a very excellent subject (to the State, I mean, if these are all his
children), but not for your art, Mr. Romney, if you mean to pursue it
with that success which I hope will attend you.’ The modest artist took
the hint, as it was meant, in good part, and turned his family with
their faces to the wall.”

If Romney had been only moderately sensitive we can easily understand
that an impertinence of this sort (for Cumberland was as dense as he was
well-meaning in thinking it was intended in good part) would have been
intolerable from anybody; but when we remember that Garrick was an
intimate friend of Reynolds, we may readily admit that it had in fact a
certain influence on Romney’s choice of subject and treatment. We have
seen that in the other group his success was the result of careful and
prepared study; but I know of no other sketches of his for family
groups--except those for the Gower picture--though there are plenty of
studies of single figures.

A couple of years later, again, he painted the actress Mrs. Yates in the
character of the Tragic Muse, at whole length. This was twelve years or
more before Sir Joshua painted his famous picture of Mrs. Siddons, so
that it is hardly possible to compare the two. But Romney’s picture
cannot have proved more than a _succès d’estime_. “I have often wished,”
says Hayley, “that it had been the lot of Romney to paint this great
actress, one of the most gracefully majestic of our tragic queens, at a
maturer season of her life, and in the full meridian of his power; for
in that case I am persuaded the Tragic Muse of Romney would not have
appeared what at present I must allow her to be, very far inferior, as a
work of the pencil, to the Tragic Muse of Sir Joshua.” For once we may
take Hayley’s opinion as more or less correct, for although I am unable
to pronounce on the merits of the picture, not having seen it, its
history records what was the popular estimate of it. It was purchased by
Alderman Boydell, and put up to auction at Christie’s after his death in
1810, when it was bought in for nine and a half guineas. In 1812 it was
put up again and there was no bid, and the same in 1817 and 1822. In
1824 it at last found a purchaser at £10.

As this was, according to John Romney, his first whole length portrait
of a lady, it would seem probable that he did not receive sufficient
encouragement to pursue the allegorical treatment of portrait subjects.

But whether we incline to the one view or the other, or perhaps accept a
commixture of the two in

[Illustration: WILLIAM PITT, THE YOUNGER

National Gallery]

such proportions as may seem to each of us most suitable to the facts,
we find it to be true that from henceforth Romney’s sitters were treated
as ordinary everyday human beings, and not as gods, goddesses, heroes,
nymphs, muses, or what not. What he gave them was of his best, so far as
it went, and, as I have suggested, his best went farther than he was
conscious of in giving it. Let us now see how his portraiture responds
to the three tests I ventured to suggest, namely, simplicity,
conscientiousness, and classicism.

First, then, as to simplicity, by which I mean in this connection
simplicity of presentment--the plain prosaic record on canvas of the
likeness of the sitter. When we come to consider the third point,
classicism, we shall see that this simplicity extends to every
particular; but for the moment I am only considering the first question
that arises when a commission for a portrait is given--“How would you
like to be painted?” In Romney’s studio there seems to have been but one
answer, namely, “Exactly as I am.” Of accessories there were
practically none. The portrait was painted and that was all. A portrait
by Romney is first and foremost a portrait.

Secondly, his conscientiousness. Who would believe, on a view of any of
Romney’s portraits, that he looked upon portraiture as a cursed
occupation by which he was shackled? Is there any trace of
unwillingness, of haste, of slovenliness? Is there any hint that he was
out of temper with his sitters, or careless in the way he posed them, or
indifferent to the perfection of his painting? We may miss the animation
of Gainsborough, or the triumphant glitter of Reynolds in many of his
sober contemplative faces, but of the perfunctory conventionalisms of
his contemporaries or the slipshod hurry and make-believe of the modern
exhibitors we find no suggestion. Whatever he did was done with all his
strength, if not with all his heart, and no one could complain that his
portrait suffered from want of painstaking devotion to the subject. His
care and conscientiousness are as easily seen, too, in his most busy and
prosperous days as they are in his earliest

[Illustration: PORTRAITS OF MR. AND MRS. WILLIAM LINDOW

(1770) National Gallery]

portraits, like that of Mr. and Mrs. Lindow, which was painted in 1760
before he left Lancaster.

John Romney records an amusing instance of his father’s efforts in this
respect. “I remember his telling me once,” he writes, “what difficulty
he had with a sitter in order to accomplish a little expression. The
gentleman was from the country, and an attorney; and though his
profession required intelligence, yet his countenance gave no indication
of it. To remove a settled dulness that pervaded his features, Mr.
Romney made many attempts, starting every popular topic of conversation,
but all in vain; at length by some uncommon chance, he happened to
mention hunting; at the sound of which word a ray of animation
immediately sparkled in the eyes of the sitter, and imparted a certain
degree of vivacity to his countenance. Mr. Romney took his measure
accordingly, and led him into the subject; after which he was relieved
from any further attempts at conversation as the worthy gentleman
expatiated upon it with spirit until the picture was finished.”

“Even upon persons to whom nature was less parsimonious of her
favours,” he adds, “he knew that dulness would sometimes intrude, and,
therefore, always wished that some friends should accompany his sitters,
both for the purpose already mentioned, and also to relieve himself of
the double task of painting and of keeping up a forced conversation at
the same time.”

Lastly, for his classicism, which is the really distinguishing
characteristic of Romney’s portraits and includes in it all the others.
“On his arrival in Italy,” Flaxman tells us, “he was witness to new
scenes of art, and sources of study ... he there contemplated the purity
and perfection of ancient sculpture, the sublimity of Michel Angelo’s
Sistine chapel, and the simplicity of Cimabue’s and Giotto’s schools. He
perceived these qualities [namely, be it observed, sublimity and
simplicity] distinctly, and judiciously used them in viewing and
imitating nature; and thus his quick perception and unwearied
application enabled him by a two years’ residence abroad to acquire as
great a proficiency in art as is usually attained by foreign studies of
much longer duration.” And again, “His cartoons ... were examples of
the sublime and terrible at that time perfectly new in English art. The
Dream of Atossa, from the Persians of Æschylus, contrasted the
death-like sleep of the Queen with the Bacchanalian Fury of the Genius
of Greece. The composition was conducted with the fire and severity of a
Greek bas-relief.”

How many of the thousands of visitors to the National Gallery would ever
imagine that this last paragraph was written of the painter of _The
Parson’s Daughter_, or _Mrs. Mark Currie_? And yet here, I cannot help
feeling, is the real strength which underlies the structure of even the
airiest of Romney’s paintings. The roots of genius must grow deep if its
branches are to grow high. The foundations of a great building must be
firm. The faintest breeze of enlightened judgment is enough to blow away
the ornamental bungalows of the Victorian portrait-painters, while
castle Romney stands as firm as the rock on which it was built.

“In trying to attain excellence in his art,” Flaxman continues, “his
diligence was unceasing as his gratification in the employment. He
endeavoured to combine all the possible advantages of the subject
immediately before him, and to exclude whatever had a tendency to weaken
it. His compositions, like those of the ancient pictures and
basso-relievos, told their story by a single group of figures in the
front, whilst the background is made the simplest possible, rejecting
all unnecessary episode and trivial ornament, either of secondary groups
or architectural subdivision. In his compositions the beholder was
forcibly struck by the sentiment at the first glance, the gradations and
varieties of which he traced through several characters all conceived in
an elevated spirit of dignity and beauty, with a lively expression of
nature in all the parts.”

Although written of his classical compositions, this criticism of
Flaxman, who was himself more severely classical in his art than the
Greeks, applies with almost equal truth to his portraits. It throws into
light the hidden force that gives them their strength, that keeps them
before us as live men and women instead of painted puppets and dolls.

[Illustration: LADY CRAVEN

(1778) National Gallery]

“His heads were various,” says Flaxman, still on the classical
compositions, but holding the light even more closely to the portraits,
“the male were decided and grand, the female lovely. His figures
resembled the antique; the limbs were elegant, and finely formed. His
drapery was well understood, either forming the figure into a mass with
one or two deep folds only, or by its adhesion and transparency
discovering the form of the figure, the lines of which were finely
varied with the union or expansion of spiral or cascade folds, composing
with or contrasting the outline and chiaroscuro. He was so passionately
fond of Greek sculpture that he had filled his study and galleries with
fine casts from the most perfect statues, groups, basso-relievos and
busts of antiquity. He would sit and consider these in profound silence
by the hour; and besides the studies in drawing and painting he made
from them, he would examine them under all the changes of sunlight and
daylight; and with lamps prepared on purpose at night he would try their
effects lighted from above, beneath, in all directions, with rapturous
admiration.”

Before considering the particulars in which these observations may be
said to be applicable to Romney’s portraits, it is perhaps worth
pointing out that the essential difference between the work of Reynolds
and Romney is to be traced back to the influence exerted on each of them
by his studies in Italy. Reynolds, perhaps fortunately for British art
at the time, seems to have taken Michel Angelo and Raphael as the
founders of painting, and to have confined his study of art,
accordingly, to them and their successors. Romney, on the other hand,
while also regarding them as the chiefs, went back from them to the
antique, taking Cimabue and Giotto on the way. That he particularly
admired Correggio is stated by Hayley, but that Correggio’s “tenderness
and grace he often emulated very happily in his figures of women and
children” is a piece of criticism which I must confess to be beyond me.
Certainly it cannot be applied to his portraits.

“His drapery was well understood,” says Flaxman; I need not quote the
rest of the sentence, because it applies in particular to the drapery of
ladies in the classic period; but in principle, the drapery of Romney’s
sitters is as simple, because well understood, as that of Atossa. Of all
painters of women surely there never was one who required such extreme
simplicity of raiment. The plainest of white or black robes seem to have
been the rule, and the most common exception to absolute simplicity was
not in the garment at all, but in the addition of a somewhat elaborate
and umbrageous hat. Of any pattern on the drapery, I can only recall one
instance, namely, that of Miss Hannah Milnes, a three-quarter length
portrait, now in the possession of Earl Crewe. Here there seems to be
something of the manner of Sir Joshua in several particulars, which is
possibly a conscious imitation. But in portrait after portrait, and
certainly in every piece which is most characteristic of Romney, whether
it is Mrs. Jordan or Lady Hamilton or Mrs. Currie, the plain robe is the
rule. The magnificent picture of Louisa Countess of Mansfield (in
profile, seated under a tree) is now on loan from Lord Cathcart at the
National Gallery, and is hanging close beside Mrs. Mark Currie’s; and
while both depart from the letter of this rule, they depend for their
magical effect upon the spirit of it. Lady Mansfield’s flowing robe is
of a pale yellowish tinge, and a voluminous scarf of grey, almost as
pale, mingles with the folds of drapery. But as contrasted with the deep
shadows of the foliage against which the brightly coloured profile is
set, the general impression is of an exquisitely posed figure in the
simplest of flowing creamy white robes. No ornament fixes the eye, no
violent contrast of colour interrupts the rhythm of the whole figure.
“The design,” says Mr. Roberts in his Catalogue Raisonné, “appears to
have been adopted from a Greek gem.”

Mrs. Currie’s dress, which I hope I am correct in describing as a frock,
is of pure white; but it is faintly striped, not I think in colour, but
in texture; and there are some bows on the elbows, and a sash of pale
lake.

Anything less reminiscent of a Greek statue than this radiant young
English beauty in a muslin frock, I am quite willing to admit, it would
be difficult to think of. At first sight a severely classical taste
would be more likely to condemn her for the

[Illustration: MRS. MARK CURRIE

(1789) National Gallery]

unmitigated prettiness that is usually associated with the cheapest kind
of pictorial imbecility. But let her not be condemned unheard. That she
was an exceedingly pretty woman need hardly be doubted, and that she
wished to be made as pretty as possible in her portrait may fairly be
taken for granted. If she had any other qualities it is probable that
her name would be remembered for them. As it is, Romney has
conscientiously painted a portrait of her which probably pleased her
almost as much as it pleases all of us to-day. “In his composition,” we
remember, “the beholder was forcibly struck by the sentiment at the
first glance.” How true this is of Mrs. Currie and her prettiness! The
painter’s whole effort is concentrated on that one quality, and instead
of dissipating the beholder’s attention with accessories, he soothes it
with a seeming artlessness which no one but a great painter could nearly
accomplish. Mrs. Currie’s drapery is of course strictly English--in
substance at any rate and form. But here again we feel the guiding or
restraining hand of the Classic Muse, just as we should have seen it had
Romney been painting Mrs. Currie in the character of Antigone. As it
was, Romney was speaking English and not Greek; only it is the English,
as it were, of a finely educated man.

But in placing Romney so high above the crowd of ordinary portrait
painters, and a little higher than any except Reynolds and Gainsborough,
it is only fair to consider how far short he fell of equalling those
two. And it must not be forgotten that the limitations which he imposed
upon himself were quite as likely to affect his popularity among his
patrons and their friends as with posterity. Classic simplicity is an
invaluable quality in the portraiture of everyday men and women,
especially when the latter are young and pretty; but a gallery of
portraits by Romney would afford a much narrower view of the
capabilities of the English School than a similar exhibition of the work
of Reynolds or Gainsborough. The oft-repeated assertion of Lord
Chancellor Thurlow that “Reynolds and Romney divide the town, and I am
of the Romney faction,” must be taken with a considerably larger pinch
of salt than is popularly accepted with it. In the first place, Romney
was not at all in fashion until after his return from Rome in 1785, by
which time Reynolds had been painting portraits for at least twenty
years. Gainsborough, too, who was by seven years the senior of Romney,
was quite as many years ahead of him in practice, though he had only
recently come to London from Bath. In the year 1785 we know that Romney
earned £3635 from portraits. At this time, so his pupil Robinson
records, his prices were £20 for a head, £30 for a kit-cat, £40 for a
half-length, and £80 for a whole length. Taking the average at as low a
figure as £35, this means about a hundred commissions in his busiest
year. This is certainly a large number, and Sir Joshua never had more
than a hundred-and-fifty in a year; but it must not be taken as an
average for any great length of years.

Again, when we look at the names of his most distinguished patrons, the
list is not as long or as imposing as those of Reynolds and
Gainsborough. The latter had the patronage of Royalty, besides a good
number of the aristocracy, while Reynolds had, if I may be allowed the
expression, “mopped up” all that was most brilliant in beauty, birth,
and genius, leaving very little for anybody else. The Catalogue of the
Exhibition of National Portraits held at South Kensington in 1867,
enumerates but twenty pictures by Romney, and as many as a hundred and
fifty by Reynolds.

That Romney’s sensitive disposition and retiring habit of life may in
some degree account for his not being more widely popular in his own
time is no doubt true. But apart from any other consideration there is
no question that a fine portrait by Reynolds is a more satisfying
possession than any but the very finest by Romney, and a characteristic
one by Gainsborough more exhilarating. Though there is at least one
instance in which he “wiped Reynolds’s eye,” namely, with his
magnificent head of _John Wesley_, which was painted in 1789, when
Wesley was eighty-six years old. “At the earnest desire of Mrs T.,” the
old man wrote, “I once more sat for my picture. Mr. Romney is a
painter

[Illustration: PORTRAIT OF A LADY AND CHILD

(1782) National Gallery]

indeed! He struck off an exact likeness at once, and did more in an hour
than Sir Joshua did in ten.”

Still, there is a variety of qualities in Reynolds’s and Gainsborough’s
pictures that we do not find, or expect to find, in those of Romney--a
fact which must be taken into account in comparing the number of their
respective portraits exhibited in 1867. The stream of popular taste
steadily ebbed during the century following Sir Joshua’s death, and it
is only of late years that Romney has been “discovered” and restored to
public favour. A great deal of Romney’s present-day popularity I cannot
help thinking is attributable as much to the delectable quality of his
ladies’ faces as to the classic simplicity of treatment which makes them
what they are.

Then, of course, there is Lady Hamilton, to whom, as we find Allan
Cunningham asserting, many have imputed the chief charm of Romney’s best
pictures. In these days it is certainly true that her name is
inseparably associated with Romney’s art in the popular mind, and the
latest addition to the bibliography of Romney is concerned with nothing
but Lady Hamilton. Unfortunately for Romney’s reputation both inside
and outside his painting-room, this lady’s fame has so filled the public
ear with matters which are altogether distinct from the art of painting,
that it is almost impossible to appreciate her influence upon Romney’s
art in anything like its proper proportions. We are as it were between
two fires--the glamour which she threw over the painter and the glamour
which he threw over her; and our view of the matter, unless we are
careful to screen our eyes, is likely to be too highly coloured for the
ordinary purposes of criticism.

The broad fact seems to be that for nearly a decade the inspiration of
Emma Lyon poured like sunlight into Romney’s studio, and although before
it came he had for several years established his reputation and done
some of his best work in portraiture, its withdrawal, in 1791, was the
end of all that was happy or successful in his career. “His imagination
was gone,” says Mr. Humphry Ward; “his health, for many years frail,
became less robust than ever, and of his portraits and pictures painted
after 1791, many exhibit signs of decaying powers.”

That he was exceedingly fond of her need not, of course, be doubted. How
could it be otherwise? But is it any more necessary to dwell upon his
purely personal relations with her than on those of Sir Joshua Reynolds
with Kitty Fisher or Nelly O’Brien? For Reynolds, those two
“professional beauties” were sitters, of whom the painter succeeded in
painting several beautiful and accomplished portraits. For Romney, Emma
Lyon was to some extent the embodiment of the Muse whom I have ventured
to postulate as his guardian angel, when engaged in the perilous
commerce of painting pretty and fashionable ladies. That she was also
the veritable embodiment of all that was pleasing to the mortal eye in
the shape of woman is at least equally certain; but unlike so many of
her frail sisters, she was a remarkably accomplished and intelligent
woman. “She performed both in the serious and comic to admiration,”
writes Romney, in a letter describing an evening at Sir William
Hamilton’s, “both in singing and acting. Her Nina surpasses everything I
ever saw, and I believe as a piece of acting nothing ever surpassed it.
The whole company were in an agony of sorrow. Her acting is simple,
grand, terrible, and pathetic.”

In another letter, to Hayley in June 1791, he writes, “At present, and
the greatest part of the summer, I shall be engaged in painting pictures
from the divine lady. I cannot give her any other epithet, for I think
her superior to all womankind. I have two pictures to paint of her for
the Prince of Wales. She says she must see you.... She asked me if you
would not write my life. I told her you had begun it. Then she said she
hoped you would have much to say of her in the life, as she prided
herself in being my model.” And again in the following month “I dedicate
my time to this charming lady; there is a prospect of her leaving town
with Sir William for two or three weeks. They are very much hurried at
present, as everything is going on for their speedy marriage, and all
the world following and talking of her, so that if she had not more good
sense than vanity her brain must be turned.

“The pictures I have begun are Joan of Arc, a Magdalen, and a Bacchante,
for the Prince of Wales,

[Illustration: LADY HAMILTON AS A BACCHANTE

(1786) National Gallery]

and another I am to begin as a companion to the Bacchante. I am also to
paint a picture of Constance for the Shakespeare Gallery.”

The extent of Romney’s obligations to her, simply as a model, may be
gathered from a glance at Mr. Roberts’s Catalogue Raisonné of his work.
Here we find forty-five different pictures of the fair Emma, a figure
which is about doubled if we count the various versions painted of one
and another--as a Bacchante, for example, no less than twelve separate
canvases are enumerated. Nor does this catalogue probably include a good
many sketches and studies which were left unfinished. Of the various
characters in which he painted her, apart from pictures which were
simply portraits, the list includes those of Alope, Ariadne, a
Bacchante, Cassandra, Circe, Comedy, the Comic Muse, Contemplation,
Euphrosyne, a Gipsy, Iphigenia, Joan of Arc, a Magdalen, Meditation,
Miranda, Nature, a Nun, a Pythian Priestess, S. Cecilia, Sensibility, a
Shepherdess, Sigismunda, the Spinstress. The Sempstress, it may be
mentioned, was not painted from her, but from Miss Vernon.

Such a catalogue as this is, I suppose, unique in the annals of
painting. Oddly enough it is paralleled in those of literature--if it be
not thought too fanciful to quote the example of William Shakespeare.
For fanciful as at first thought it may seem, it is, nevertheless,
helpful to an understanding of the relations of the private life of each
to his particular art.

George Romney, like Shakespeare, was born of humble parents in a remote
country town. Dalton, in Lancashire, is further from London than
Stratford, but as I do not pretend to draw the parallel too closely, I
will confine myself to a short account of Romney’s circumstances only.
He was born on December 15, 1734. His ancestors, yeomen of good repute,
lived near Appleby, in Westmorland, but took refuge during the Civil
Wars in the neighbouring county. His father was a joiner, which in those
days included the trade of carpenter and cabinet-maker, and George was
apprenticed to him. How and at what period the love of painting came
upon him has not been clearly shown. Cumberland asserts that it was
inspired by the cuts in the

[Illustration: EMMA, LADY HAMILTON

National Portrait Gallery]

_Universal Magazine_. Hayley says that he consumed the time of his
fellow-workmen in sketching them in various attitudes, while John Romney
states that Lionardo’s treatise on painting, illustrated by many fine
engravings, was early in his hands. Cumberland describes him as “a child
of nature who had never seen or heard of anything that could elicit his
genius or urge him to emulation, and who became a painter without a
prototype.” At nineteen, however, he was apprenticed for four years to a
painter called Count Steele, who was practising in the neighbouring town
of Kendal. During this time he fell in love with a young lady of some
little fortune, Mary Abbot, and on October 14, 1756, he carried her
across the border to Gretna Green and married her.

His precipitate marriage drew upon him the rebuke of his parents, but he
vindicated himself with some firmness and skill. “If you consider
everything deliberately,” he wrote, “you will find it to be the best
affair that ever happened to me; because if I have fortune I shall make
a better painter than I should otherwise have done, as it will be a
spur to my application; and my thoughts being now still, and not
obstructed by youthful follies, I can practise with more diligence and
success than ever.”

According to Hayley, he soon perceived that his marriage was an obstacle
to his studies; that he was ruined as an artist, and that he might bid
farewell to all hopes of fame and glory, although he was devoting
himself with all his might to his work. “The terror of precluding
himself from those distant honours,” says Hayley--to whom, by-the-by, we
are under no obligation to believe more than we wish--“by appearing in
the world as a young married man, agitated the ambitious artist almost
to distraction, and made him resolve very soon after his marriage, as he
had no means of breaking the fetters which he wildly regarded as
inimical to the improvement and exertion of his genius, to hide them as
much as possible from his troubled fancy.”

This exordium of Hayley’s is, as it were, in the nature of a
“preliminary announcement” of the separation between Romney and his
wife, when five years later he resolved to try his fortune in London.

[Illustration: MISS BENEDETTA RAMUS

Viscount Hambleden]

“In working rapidly and patiently at different places in the north, for
a few years,” Hayley continues, “by painting heads as large as life at
the price of two guineas or figures at whole length on a small scale for
six guineas, he contrived to raise a sum amounting almost to a hundred
pounds; taking thirty for his own travelling expenses, and leaving the
residue to support an unoffending partner and two children, he set forth
alone, without even a letter of recommendation, to try the chances of
life in the metropolis.”

That was in 1762; and for a much longer period than Shakespeare, and
with no occasional visits to his family, Romney worked in London and
became more and more famous, until, as we have seen, his decline set in.

“The summer of 1799 came,” writes Allan Cunningham, “but Romney could
neither enjoy the face of nature, nor feel pleasure in his studio and
gallery. A visible mental languor sat upon his brow--not diminishing but
increasing; he had laid aside his pencils; his swarm of titled sitters,
whose smile in other days rendered passing time so agreeable, were
moved off to a Lawrence, a Shee, or a Beechey; and thus left lonely and
disconsolate among whole cartloads of paintings, which he had not the
power to complete, his gloom and his weakness gathered and grew upon
him.... In these moments his heart and his eye turned towards the
north--where his son, a man affectionate and kind, resided; and where
his wife, surviving the cold neglect and long estrangement of her
husband, lived yet to prove the depth of a woman’s love, and show to the
world that she would have been more worthy of appearing at his side,
even when earls sat for their pictures, and Lady Hamilton was enabling
him to fascinate princes with his Calypsos and Cassandras. Romney
departed from Hampstead, and taking the northern coach arrived among his
friends at Kendal in the summer of 1799. The exertion of travelling and
the presence of her whom he once had warmly loved overpowered him; he
grew more languid and more weak, and finding fireside happiness he
resolved to remain where he was; he purchased a house and authorised the
sale of that on Hampstead Hill.”

So much for the parallel as concerned the private life of either. But
what about his art? Where in Shakespeare’s literary career are we to
find anything comparable with the influence of Emma Lyon on Romney’s
painting during the crowning decade of his accomplishment? I suggest as
the answer, that during a similar period, of about the same duration,
namely from about 1593 to 1603, we may trace a similar influence on the
poet, which is embodied in a series of masterpieces numbering over a
hundred, namely, most if not all, of the first hundred and twenty-five
of “Shakespeare’s Sonnets.” They were all written to one person, and in
such terms of art as have led others besides Alexander Dyce to suppose
that they were really addressed to the poet’s muse rather than to any
corporeal being. As in the case of Romney, the author has been maligned
by the undiscerning vulgar for supposed deviations from the strict path
of virtue in his relations with his friend. But for any one who has an
understanding of the spirit of art there is nothing in either case to
support the allegation. Had Shakespeare and Romney looked no farther
than their own hearths for artistic inspiration, the world would have
been the poorer: that is all.

       *       *       *       *       *

Of Romney’s classical or historical pictures the world knows almost as
little as it cares about them. “I have made many grand designs,” he
himself wrote in 1794, “I have formed a system of original subjects,
moral and my own, and I think one of the grandest that has been thought
of--but nobody knows it.” Cunningham, after disposing shortly of his
portraits, proceeds to state that the historical and domestic pictures,
finished and unfinished, deserve a more minute examination; that they
embrace a wide range of reading and observation and are numerous beyond
all modern example. But with the exception of _Titania and her Indian
Votaries_ and _Milton Dictating to his Daughters_, which were mentioned
by Flaxman, and various fancy portraits of Lady Hamilton, he does not
specify a single finished example. His explanation is that “for one
finely finished there are five half done, and for five half done there
are at least a dozen merely commenced on the canvas.”

[Illustration: PORTRAIT OF ROMNEY BY HIMSELF (UNFINISHED)

(1782) National Portrait Gallery]

So far as these canvases are concerned, there is no doubt that the
majority of them have been destroyed; but there are still in existence a
large quantity of drawings and sketches on paper, both in pencil and in
India ink, for classical compositions. As many of these are probably
rough ideas for his lost pictures, it is perhaps worth mentioning a few
of the subjects enumerated by Cunningham among the unfinished
productions, which may help to identify the sketches, besides, as
Cunningham says, “showing the range of his mind, and also his want of
patience to render his works worthy of admission to public galleries.”
The principal are as follows: _King Lear Asleep_, _King Lear Awake_,
_Ceyx and Alcyone_, _The Death of Niobe’s Children_, _The Cumean Sibyl
Foretelling the Destiny of Aeneas_, _Electra and Orestes at the Tomb of
Agammemnon_, _Thetis Supplicating Jupiter_, _Thetis Comforting
Achilles_, _Damon and Musidora_, _Homer Reciting his Verses_, _David and
Saul_, _Macbeth and Banquo_, _The Descent of Odin_, _The Ghost of
Clytemnestra_, _Eurydice vanishing from Orpheus_, _Harpalice_, _A
Thracian Princess defending her wounded Father_, _Antigone with the
Corpse of Polynices_, _A Witch displaying her Magical Powers_,
_Resuscitation by Force of Magic_, _Doll Tearsheet_, _Cupid and Psyche_.

Besides these there are a number of portrait sketches, which though not
so numerous, are much more charming, in spite of their being exceedingly
rough and slight. They must have been simply notes, and can seldom have
been intended for more than fixing an idea in the painter’s mind. I have
as many as a dozen in my own possession which I have picked up here and
there in the dealers’ portfolios, and there are probably a good number
of them in existence. Rough as they are, they are certainly deserving of
more attention than is usually accorded to them; for though Romney never
seems to have enjoyed the process of committing a portrait to paper as
Gainsborough did, these business-like notes of pose and chiaroscuro give
us a good insight into his methods of setting to work. Perhaps the taste
of a future generation will prefer the rough-hewn idea of a great
portrait painter to the finished achievement of Benwell or Buck in
little.



INDEX


Boydell, Alderman, 26


Cathcart, Lord, 35

Chamberlin, Mason, 2

Cimabue, 5, 30, 34

Copley, John Singleton, 8

Copley’s _Death of Chatham_, 9

Correggio, 34

Cumberland, 23, 46

Cunningham, Allan, 13, 19, 41

Currie, Mrs. Mark, 3, 31, 35, 36


Dalton, 46


Exhibition of National Portraits, 40


Flaxman, John, R.A., 15, 30, 31, 32, 34

Fuseli, Henry, R.A., 9


Gainsborough, Thomas, 11, 16, 17, 28, 40

Garrick, David, 23, 24

Giotto, 30, 34


Hamilton, Lady, 13, 41-43
  influence on Romney’s painting, 51
  Romney’s portraits of, 45

Hayley, William, 13, 25, 47
  influence over Romney, 14, 20

Highmore, 23

Hogarth, William, 23

Holbein, Hans, 5


Kauffmann, Angelica, 9


Michelangelo, 30, 34


Northcote, James, R.A., 7


Pictures by George Romney
  _Bacchante_, 44
  _Constance_, 45
  _Joan of Arc_, 44
  _John Wesley_, 40
  _Lady Gower and her Children_, 20
  _Lady Hamilton_, 3, 35
  _Louisa, Countess of Mansfield_, 35, 36
  _Magdalen_, 44
  _Milton dictating to his Daughters_, 52
  _Miss Hannah Milnes_, 35
  _Mr. and Mrs. Lindow_, 29
  _Mr. Leigh and his Family_, 23
  _Mrs. Jordan_, 35
  _Mrs. Yates as The Tragic Muse_, 25
  _The Dream of Atossa_, 31
  _The Parson’s Daughter_, 3, 31
  “_The Triumphs of Temper_,” 13
  _The Warren Family_, 21
  _Titania and her Indian Votaries_, 52
  “_Tragic Muse_,” 26


Raphael, 34

Reynolds, Sir Joshua, 4, 5, 7, 11, 16, 28, 34, 40

Roberts, Mr., Catalogue Raisonné, 36, 45

Romney, George, birth of, 46
  apprenticed to joinery, 46
  apprenticeship to Count Steele, 47
  classicism, 30
  conscientiousness, 28
  distaste for portrait painting, 4
  first full-length portrait of a lady, 26
  influence of Hayley upon, 14
  in London, 49
  letters to Hayley, 44
  life of, by William Hayley, 13
  marriage to Mary Abbot at Gretna Green, 47
  place among portrait painters, 38
  portraits compared with those of Reynolds and Gainsborough, 18
  prices obtained for pictures, 39
  principal pictures, list of, 53, 54
  return to Kendal, 50
  separation from his wife, 48
  simplicity of treatment, 27

Romney, Rev. John, 13, 21, 29, 47


Shakespeare Gallery, 45

Shakespeare, William, 46


Thurlow, Lord Chancellor, 38


Vandyck, 5

Velasquez, 5

Vernon, Lord, 22


Walpole, Horace, 12

Ward, Mr. Humphry, 23, 42

West, Benjamin, 7

West’s “_Pylades and Orestes_,” 7

Wilson, Richard, Founder of the English School of Landscape, 6


                              PRINTED AT
                         THE BALLANTYNE PRESS
                                LONDON


Typographical errors corrected by the etext transcriber:

trival, pretty, or banal=> trivial, pretty, or banal {pg 20}

scarlet waistcoast=> scarlet waistcoat {pg 24}





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Romney" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home