Page images
[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]


pounds for thy picture." "Indeed but doubtedly real grace, our artist deemI have tho'," cried John; "for I have, ed affectation; and used often to regot the ten pounds safe in my pocket." ply so to the urgent remonstrances of At this he shewed him the money.- his patron the Doctor. Latterly, however, he acquired more of it; and it is believed, the marked improvement in female portraits in this particular, which he displayed in his latter ef forts, was owing in a great measure to Mrs. Opie, who used to stand over him and endeavour to make him sensible of the true grace of the female form.

Aye," rejoined the Doctor, "but dost thou know that his M- y has got the frame for nothing, and that was worth two pounds." "Damn it, so he has," cried John: "I'll go back and knack at the door, and ask for the frame; d-n it, I will." He was about to proceed, but was dissuaded from it by his friend.

The consequence, however, of this In 1786, our artist was known as royal interview was, that he immedi- an exhibitor at Somerset House; and ately became popular. His door was soon after he aspired to academical thronged with carriages; the nobility honours. He attained, ultimately, to were eager to have their lineaments the rank of a Royal Academician.traced by the hand of the self-taught But the tide of popular favour, which boy from the tin mines in Cornwall. set in so strongly at first, now turned But the ladies soon deserted him.- its current; and we believe that for Opie wanted grace: He could paint many years Mr. Opie scarcely earned the stern features of man; the visage more by his pencil than sufficed to of the midnight assassin; the ferocious an independent and liberal maintecountenance of the warrior; the con- nance. Yet his merit was conspicuous. junct appearance of beggary and de- Dr. Wolcot, breakfasting one morncrepitude; but could not attain to the ing with Sir Joshua Reynolds, shewed power of depicting the soft elegance him one of Opie's pieces: Sir Joshua's and graceful loveliness of the female observation was remarkable-" Why sex. His manner was too harsh and this boy begins where other people rigid; feminine delicacy of character leave off!"" A high compliment, was lost. The ladies soon discovered and the more to be valued, because the this, and transferred their patronage professional testimony of a man who to other artists. Opie was perhaps was himself at the head of the art. too punctiliously accurate to please As soon as Mr. Opie perceived the sex; whatever defects marked the himself advancing in fame and fororiginal, even to the minutest, he tune, he removed from an obscure transplanted to his canvas. This was house in some court, where he lived, doing more than perhaps was wanted: to Great Queen-street, Lincoln's Innthe vanity of those who sit for their Fields, and thence to Berners-street, portraits makes them anxious in gene. Oxford-road. What time his first ral that they should appear something marriage took place we have not better than nature has made them; learned: but it was not felicitous; that art should lend its hand to deco- the lady encouraged a paramour, and rate and adorn. Very few are those the natural consequences were a lawwhom nature has formed so lovelily suit, separation, &c. His second fair, that they can stand the ordeal of marriage was more happy. On the correct and minutely faithful deline 8th of May, 1798, he united himself ation. Opie early erred in this respect, to Miss Alderson, the only child of if error it may be called. While in Dr. Alderson, an eminent physician Cornwall, a Mrs. Daniel, a lady of in Norwich. The lady had, before Truro, sat for her portrait; but she this event, signalized herself by some complained he made her too yellow: poetical productions; but it is the Opie, however, had painted her as works that she has published since she was; and he replied, with his her union with Mr. Opie which have usual blunt sincerity," Will you have elevated her to so reputable a situyourself? If not, I'll go down to Sir ation in the walks of literature. Her Francis Bassett's, and draw one of the Father and Daughter is an affecting graces from Rubens." What is un- and interesting composition: after

this she gave to the world a volume the possession of Dr. Wolcot. This of Poems, which reflect a very con- was among his earliest productions, spicuous lustre on her talents; nor while he was in Cornwall, and is has Mrs. Opie suffered any diminu- esteemed by its possessor as being tion in her reputation by her subse- nothing inferior in expression and offquent efforts, The Mother and giuality of character to any of his Daughter, and the Tales. We with subsequent efforts. But it is not, pleasure pay this tribute to her merits; we believe, generally known, that and we do not hesitate to say, that in there exists a portrait of the learned pathos, in the power of exciting the Mr. Town end, author of a Journey passions, she has no equal in the lan- through Spain, the Physician's l'ade guage among her contemporaries, Mecum, and the Elements of Theraand perhaps no superior in her pre- peutics, now in the Linnæan Gallery decessors. This is undoubtedly pre- of Dr. Thornton. It was among the eminently her forte-in the delinea- very earliest of our artist's production of character, she is less happy, tions. It has on the margin Opie, and particularly in the delineation of pinxit. Æl. 17. It equals Remeccentric character: a striking in- brandt in strength of light and shade, stance of this may be seen in her and is besides an admirable likeness. Mother and Daughter.

The history of this picture is curious, We wish it were in our power to and has not before been given to the give a complete list of our artist's public. The sister of Opie lived as productions. Every thing relating to a servant with Mr. Townsend. Her a man of genius has a clain upon our brother went to visit her, and excuriosity our feelings interest them- pressed a wish to draw her master; selves in the minutest circumstance she laughed at him; but young Opie respecting him. The following are took some common colours from a some of his principal pieces :- house-painter who happened to be I. The death of David Rizzio. This employed on the premises, and acappeared at the exhibition, and is tually drew the very picture now in considered as his chef d'oeuvre. It is Dr. Thornton's possession. The exa striking proof of what might have ecution, however, is what confers the been produced by Opie in the his- high value on this picture; it shews torical line, if the want of sufficient the early dawn of a great mind, the encouragement had not driven him radiance of a rising sun. to the necessity of sacrificing to our national vanity, by labouring in the humble but more profitable avocation of a portrait painter.

II. The murder of James I. King

of Scotland.

Opie is also to be considered as a literary candidate. In Pilkington's Dictionary is a Life of Sir Joshua Reynolds by him, which is written with sufficient knowledge of his subject, and in a correct and easy style. This was his first literary attempt, and it may be conjectured that it received IV. Jeptha's vow. The two last some corrections from his friend. were among those painted for Mack- Afterwards he published a letter in lin's edition of the Bible. They are the Morning Chronicle, (since repubconspicuous for boldness of concep- lished in "An Inquiry into the retion, and for strength of colouring quisite Cultivation of the Art of Deand effect.

III. The presentation in the Temple.

V. Hubert and Arthur, from Shakspeare's King John.

VI. Juliet in the Garden: a piece conspicuous for great sweetness of delineation.

VII. Arthur's escape from King John.

VIII. Escape of Gil Blas.

IX. Musidora.

sign in England") in which he proposed a distinct plan for the forma tion of a National Gallery, tending at once to exalt the arts of this country and immortalize, its glories. At the establishment of the Royal Institution, Mr. Opie was chosen as lecturer. on painting. His exertions here, however, neither pleased himself nor his auditory; the former probably

X. An admirable beggar now in was a consequence of the latter. His

manner of delivery was coarse and zenith of his popularity, beloved by unimpressive; he had no fluency; be his friends, admired as an artist by might instruct, but he had not the strangers, and acquiring every day in art of giving grace to his instructions; creasing fame and wealth, when an his materials were good, but they unexpected termination was put to were not wrought with sufficient ele- his earthly career, on Thursday, the gance and exactness to please the fas- 9th of April, 1807, in the forty-sixth tidious palates of the male and female year of his age. The disease which philosophers who amble up and down occasioned this lamented event origithe lecture room of the Institution. nated in a cold, caught in returning He discontinued them. About the from a visit to his friend Treshani. same time he was elected Professor of He had been attended by Dr. Ash, Painting to the Royal Academy. He Dr. Vaughan, and Mr. Carlisle, and had before offered himself as a candi- in the latter stage of his illness by date, but was told that he had as a Dr. Pitcairn and Dr. Baillie. The competitor a man, whose genius and symptoms of his disorder were extralearning every way entitled him to ordinary. On dissection, the lower preference; it was Fuseli. Opie relin- portion of the spinal marrow and its quished his pretensions, but declar- investing membrane were found ing that only to him would he do it: slightly inflamed, and the brain surConsequently, when that gentleman charged with blood; with other acwas appointed keeper of the academy, cordant appearances, constituting a Opie renewed his claims, and was most rare occurrence in the records elected without difficulty. As a pro- of Medicine. fessor he endeavoured to complete On Monday, the 27th of April, his what he had left imperfect as a lec- remains were interred in St. Paul's turer: to his four lectures at Somer- Cathedral, near those of Sir Joshua set House he found an audience bet- Reynolds. Great funeral honours ter suited to their master. Opie was were paid him, as a testimony of the formed to instruct, not to delight. high esteem felt for his talents. Almost all his professional friends attended, and the body was met at

It has been attempted to crown our artist with the appellation of a scholar. It is a profanation of the term; he Temple Bar by the city marshals, was no such thing. He knew some- who preceded it to St. Paul's. For a thing of French; a little of Latin; more detailed account of this cerethis was the boundary of his intellec- mony, we refer our readers to the tual acquirements; by no perversion of Universal Magazine for May, p. 446. language can he lay claim to the It is supposed he died worth between name of a scholar. But he was a man eight or nine thousand pounds. of genius, and that perhaps is higher In private life Mr. Opie was genepraise. His thoughts and his mode rally esteemed. His coarse manners of expression are his own; his mind had no influence on the virtues of his was vigorous, manly, and original; heart; the latter appeared only the it was accurate, but not enlarged; it more amiable, because contrasted by was acute, but not expanded. In his the unpolished rudeness of their inconversation he betrayed more force vestment. He never completely threw than depth; he maintained his opi- off the roughness of his origin; he nions tenaciously, and was fond of disliked to be in polished society, for argument. He owed much, how the restraint which it imposed was ever, to cultivation: when Dr. Wol- unpleasant to him. At home he cot first discovered him and drew loved to give a loose to, what may be him forth from obscurity to notice, called, the natural propeusities of his he was unable to write a common let- character. He utterly despised what ter; it was the Doctor's friendly task may be termed the polish of society; for many years to correct his episto- he used to condemn it as affectation. lary labours, and to give him a tole- We have heard that his regard to cleanliness was so small, that when painting the portrait of a gentleman or lady at their own house, he would not scruple to wipe his brushes on the

rable style.

Mr. Opie was just beginning to joy the well-eared fruits of his genius and labour; he was reaching the

chintz bed or window curtains. These "For the expression of truth, are the spots of the sun; the ble- which he was thus powerful in givmishes of that which is doomed to ing, it was requisite that he should remain beneath perfection-the mind see, or have seen, the object itself in of man. We bring them forward, the peculiar situation. The impres not from invidious motives; we can sion never left him, and he transhave none such; we would disdain to mitted the image with fidelity to the have any such; but, because impar- canvas. He resigned himself unwil tiality demands that truth should di- lingly to fancy; yet examples are not rect the pen of the biographer. He, wanting, both in historical subjects who wilfully conceals what cannot and in portraits, in which he added to derogate from the dignity of human the subject before him with felicity. nature, but would serve to complete His Arthur supplicating Hubert its yet imperfect characteristics, can (among many others) had an expres justify himself upon no admitted prin- sion which certainly he did not find ciples of honour, integrity, or ho- in his model. In the portrait of an nesty. Artist exhibited last year at Somerset The merits of Opie as an artist House, he gave to the representation have been variously stated; some an ideal elegance, which rendered the have exalted him above, some have head truly poetical, without, in any depressed him beneath his level. For manner, detracting from the like. the satisfaction of our readers we ness. shall close this account of him with "His pictures possessed, in an the following observations on his pro- eminent degree, what painters call fessional talents, which, though not breadth. They were deficient in strictly just, seems to preserve a some of the more refined distinctions medium in its appreciations. It is which mark the highly polished extracted from a contemporary peri- works of Raffaelle, Titian, or Reyodical work. nolds; but they displayed so invariable an appearance of truth, as seemed sufficient to make a full apology, if it had been wanted, for the absence of all the rest.

"Mr. Opie's conception of his subject was original, and his arrangement of it ideal: his execution depended, in a great measure, on the character of the model, which he "On his canvas, in general, no placed before him for imitation in fi- heterogeneous tones appeared; all nishing the parts. He painted, what was played in one key. This princihe saw, in the most masterly manner, ple was observed with the extremest and he varied little from it. He ra- nicety in single figures, though not ther bent his subject to the figure, always equally in the whole. The fi than the figure to the subject. gure and the back ground were each " That may be said of Opie, which separately just, but they did not alcan only truly be said of the highest ways harmonize. One of the hapgeniuses, that he saw nature in one piest instances of his labours, in the point more distinctly and forcibly perfect harmony of tone, is the picthan any painter that ever lived. The ture of Belisarius, at present in the truth of colour as conveyed to the eye British Gallery, and soon to add value through the atmosphere by which the to that of the Marquis of Stafford. distance of any object is ascertained, His portrait of Mr. Fox, in the exhiwas never better expressed than by bition of 1805, and that of the Duke him. He distinctly represented local of Gloucester in the present one, are colour in all its various tones and pro- examples of similar excellence. portions, whether in light or in shadow, with a perfect uniformity of imitation. Other painters frequently make two separate colours of objects thing was marked with precision, and in light and in shade; Opie never. in its place. He gave vivacity and With him no colour, whether white, force of expression to every subject of black, primary, or compound, ever, his pencil."

"In his drawing, the same principle prevailed as in his colouring. Every thing was homogeneous; every

in any situation, lost its respective


On the Italian


From the German.

Est Deus in nobis; agitante calescimus illg


the production of an artificial work, certainly it is in this of extemporaneous poetry, where the intension of operating power stands in proportion THE HE talent of speaking the lan- to the length of time necessary to guage of poetry extempore is, complete its effect; where-but let on the other side of the Alps, so sin- us rather permit an Italian to depict gular an appearance, that they have those symptoms which usually display there no idea of the art itself, to say themselves in scenes of this nature. nothing of the species of intellectual A celebrated author of this nation, enjoyment which it procures to social the Abbé Bettinelli, gives in his work life. The pleasure which a happy im- Dell' entusiasmo delle belle arti, both promptu excites in company is no a lively and striking description of it, more to be compared with the plea- which we shall here communicate to sure which a well executed improviso the reader: occasions, than a common magazine "I have often," says this author, epigram, by X. Y. Z. is with a ballad "had an opportunity of hearing an of Barger, or an elegy of Goethe. It excellent Improvisatore, and I have should even appear, that poetry never observed him on such occasions with shews her power over the mind more the greatest attention. At first he forcibly than in productions of this stands for awhile silent, and as it were kind, where the poet, in the moment irresolute; then he begins slowly aud of creative inspiration, pours his song irregularly his song, faultering somedirectly into the soul of his hearers. times for rime, sometimes for thoughts: This effect, which the rimes of ani- a proof that the enthusiasm is not yet mated improvisatori never fail to pro- come, that the poet finds himself yet duce, cannot be occasioned in the same on the same level with his hearers. degree by any poem, though carrying But suddenly, before he himself suswith it every mark of perfection, and pects it or you are aware of it, you given to the world with all the art of behold him inspired, heated, elevated; declamation. The energy, wrought inspiration spreads her wing; and the up to its highest pitch, with which the symptoms of his flight are perceptiimagination of the poet in these mo- ble in him. With an animated counments works; the continual combat tenance, abstracted from every thing of resisting, and happily conquered, present, he looks towards the hea difficulties, which are here in a man- vens; remains motionless, as if forner brought before the eyes; the over- getting even himself; he is no longer verpowering vigour with which the where he was; he sees no longer Improvisatore extricates himself from what he saw. The curtain has fallen; the labyrinth, in which he had got a new theatre, a new perspective, entangled; the lively enthusiasm another world presents itself in dazzwhich, during this contention, spreads ling lustre to his sight. He talks in from the poet through his audience, dialogue; he invokes; he describes and, thus multiplied, re-acts upon the every object so intuitively, every thing poet and still more powerfully kindles so circumstantially, that nothing but the flame of inspiration; all this the real presence could enable him to must necessarily produce effects, that do it. This wonderful sight, this anieven the utmost perfection of art mating vision inflames his passions ; (which is enjoyed only in the calm bis participation becomes every mocontemplation of the work) and the ment stronger; he riots in the enjoy most masterly declamation never can ment of it. The growing warinth attain: and, if ever the influence of speaks in every vein; his eyes sparkle; intellectual powers stretched beyond higher carnation tinges his cheeks; the common height; if ever the as- an inspired smile dwells upon his lips; cendancy of inspired genius over tem- he shudders with delight, his whole perate reason rendered itself visible in form is in motion.

This interesting article was communicated to the celebrated Wieland by the Italian, Fernow.



"Thus with pure warmth animated and ravished, his voice becomes louder; his gestures become more lively, his affections more vehement. A flood of

3 S

« PreviousContinue »