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Relievo of Thetus.-Improvements in sculpture.-Chantrey.
The subject is historical, but the characters are heroic, and a dramatical gradation of passion is expressed in a few figures. From the patriot's undaunted attitude, you perceive he is saying: "nor wouldst thou have disdained to receive me with articles of peace, because I am descended of noble progenitors, and I have ruled over many warlike nations," while the emperor listens with attentive respect.
The basso-relievo of Thetis rising to comfort Achilles, is of the epic class. The sentiment and character is beautiful and pathetic; the composition so unlike any work, ancient or modern, that the combination may be considered as the artist's own. The harmony of composition in the parts, which strengthens the unity of sentiment, is striking in these two, as well as several other works of this artist; and may be reckoned among the acquisitions which British sculpture has received from his talents and industry. Nor is this our only obligation; he laboured in every department, and the whole art of sculpture has profited by his means. Before his time, only one English sculptor (Mr. Nollekens) had formed his taste on the antique, and introduced a purer style of art. Since then, sculpture has been gradually emerging from its state of barbarity-simple emblems have supplied the place of epigrammatical conceits; and imitations of the fine heads and beautiful outlines of the antique statues, have succeeded to lifeless blocks, or caricature copies of common
Francis Chantrey was born in Derbyshire, in 1781. He early evinced a predilection for art, but received no early and regular training in his chosen profession. He was, in his youth,
Love of painting.-Estimate of pictures.-Prosperity.
much fascinated with the pencil and palette; he indeed hesitated between the two arts; but the muse of sculpture prevailed. He, however, always retained an ardent love for painting, and his criticisms on that subject were not less judicious than his observations on works in his own department of art. All his remarks bore immediately on the main purport of the work, and his first inquiry was relative to the value of the sentiment expressed, never suffering himself to be misled by finish or manner. He looked for the best and most careful execution in the heads and hands, as therein are read the emotions of the mind. To him the value of a picture existed in expression; without the mens divinior, all was to him worthless. Like Canova, he was intensely alive to the beauties of colour, and the ever-varying hues and expressions of natural scenery, to him had peculiar charms.
His professional prosperity may be dated from the year 1808, when he received a commission to execute four colossal busts for Greenwich Hospital-those of Duncan, Howe, St. Vincent, and Nelson. Three years after, still young and unfriended, he sent his bust of Horne Tooke to the Academy exhibition, where its great merit caught the eye of Nollekens. He lifted it from the floor-set it before him-moved his head to and fro, and having satisfied himself of its excellence, turned round to those who were arranging the works for the exhibition, and said, “There's a fine, a very fine work; let the man who made it be known; remove one of my busts, and put this one in its place, for well it deserves it." Often afterwards, when desired to model a bust, he said in his most persuasive way, "Go to Chantrey-he's the man for a bust-he'll make a good bust for you-I always recommend him.”
During the eight years previous to 1808, he declares that hed not make five pounds by modelling. Such a period of
Drudgery at the chisel.-Modern costume.-Character of busts.
drudgery at the chisel had disgusted and discouraged any other than a man stimulated by the purest love of his art.
In 1816, he was elected an associate of the Royal Academy. The same year he exhibited the Sleeping Children, which won for him the warmest admiration. While the more ambitious impersonations of heathen divinities were passed coldly by, his group was constantly surrounded by sympathizing throngs; and mothers looked and wept, and returned again to gaze upon the loveliness and innocence that so appealed to their hearts.
In 1818, he was chosen a member of the Academy. The following year, he visited Italy, and was elected a member of the societies of Rome and Florence. Soon after his return, he executed four of his most admired busts-those of Lord Castlereagh, Phillips the painter, Wordsworth, and Sir Walter Scott; the last has been pronounced his best.
Sir Francis Chantrey is thought to have achieved as great a triumph, as did West, in the Death of Wolfe, in the introduction of modern costume into the higher departments of art.
In addition to his eminent talents, his heart was the seat of those virtues, which endear men to their fellows by bonds that can never be knit by the merely cold exercises of social duty. He was generous, humane, and charitable. He ever lived upon the most friendly terms with his brother academicians, and was much respected in those circles, to which by his position he was entitled to admission. "His busts," says Mr. Jones, in his "Recollections of his Life, Practice, and Opinions," "were dignified by his knowledge and admiration of the antique; and the fleshy, pulpy appearance he gave to the marble, seems almost miraculous. The heads of his busts were raised with dignity, the throats large and well turned, the shoulders ample, or made to appear so, and thus, while likeness was preserved, natural defects
Distinction in his profession.-Statue of Northcote.
were obviated. George IV., the duke of Sussex, Lord Castlereagh, and others, were so struck with Chantrey's power of appreciating every advantage of form, that they bared their chests and shoulders that the sculptor might have every advantage that well-formed nature could present.
"The distinction he enjoyed in his profession, gained him the consideration of the most exalted personages in the kingdom. From three sovereigns he received great attention. George IV. evinced an affability towards him which he often mentioned with pleasure. When he modelled his bust, the king wished him to increase his price, and insisted that the bust of himself should not return to the artist a less sum than three hundred guineas."
The book above mentioned, abounds with agreeable anecdotes, in all of which the sculptor is an actor. On the varnishing days at the Royal Academy, he was very fond of joking with Turner and Constable, carrying his jokes even to an extent which might
have ruffled the temper of some men. Mr. Jones relates many instances of his liberality, one of which is in reference to the monument of Northcote: "On the sculptor being asked, what it was to be, he replied, 'It is left entirely to me. I may make merely a tablet if I choose. The money is too much for a bust, and too little for a statue; but I love to be treated with confidence, and I shall make a statue, and do my best.' And probably, Chantrey never executed any thing more characteristic, or more like, than the face and figure of Northcote, for every one to whom the painter was known, started at the resemblance; and the work only wanted colour to make the spectator believe that he saw the veteran artist in his studio." Chantrey died in 1841.
Architecture. Three divisions.-Origin of styles.
ARCHITECTURE may be divided into civil, naval, and military. Civil architecture alone, however, takes rank as a fine art; and that only, when its object is the expression of beauty or grandeur.
Protection from the weather undoubtedly led to its invention; and it was not until mankind had made considerable advance in the useful arts, that it aimed at any thing more than a shelter from the elements. But when the real necessities of man were supplied, his ever restless and aspiring mind, prompted by that innate desire for the beautiful and the true, which, though disordered and weakened, he brought with him from Paradise, sought to adorn his dwelling-places, and, above all, the temples of his religion.
"Whatever rude structure the climate and materials of any country have obliged its early inhabitants to adopt for their temporary shelter, the same structure, with all its prominent features, has been afterwards kept up by their refined and opulent posterity. Thus the Egyptian style of building has its origin in the cavern and mound; the Chinese architecture is modelled from the tent; the Grecian is derived from the wooden cabin; and the Gothic, from the bower of trees."