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For MAY, 1805.

ACADEMY, &c. &c.


BENJAMIN every useful and ornamental art. We have an enemy (would we were only allowed to say a rival) who contends with us in arts as much as in arms. He would be viewed as an Augustus as well as an Alexander. By conquest he has obtained possession of the finest models in architecture, painting, &c. and he would invite and draw to Paris, as to another Rome, the assiduous artist and the inquisitive traveller, and thereby, while aiding the pursuits of the one, and gratifying the curiosity of the other, lay every city in Europe under a tax or a degree of subjugation. It behoves us, therefore, to compete with our antago nist in this design, as well as in his more serious one, knowing, as we do, that the arts in a commercial point of view, enrich us in peace, and defend us in war. It is inconceivable whiat sums of money were formerly sent out of England to purchase pictures and prints, when we began to have a taste and a desire for them, and yet had no artists among us to execute them in a satisfactory style. This eagerness to obtain the works of eminent artists, brought those artists themselves in time to reside with us, thereby exciting an emulation in our countrymen. So great has been the improvement (no doubt from correspondent encouragement) in painting, engraving, and sculpture, in England, that without vanity or partiality it may be said, we are in this respect behind no rival nation whatever. With the fruits of the pencil, indeed, notwithstanding the increase of painters, the demands of the wealthy will always remain to be supplied; but of those of the graver, vast numbers are yearly exported, and thereby they contribute to swell the influx and the sources of the nation's wealth. It is not within the scope of our memoir, to enter into the influence painting may have on the other arts; else might it be shewn how much trade, in a variety of shapes, has been he nefitted by the encouragement and improvement in this. It is only meant to have it understood, how much the British nation is indebted to British artists for increasing its wealth, and enhancing its honour and reputation. Among these, and at the head of them stands Benjamin

T has been said by more than one celebrated writer, that the genins of the arts and sciences hangs on and enervates the arm of the warrior: but nations are preserved or overcome as well with the sword, as by other instruments and means. It is at all times good to contend with the same weapons as the adversary, when they are acknowledgedly powerful. That whatever embellishes a country, and elevates its character, must ever deserve our praise and admiration none can deny; but there are persons who for a moment night consider a time of warfare as not a proper season to speak of the charms and attractions, nor to recommend the cultivation, of the fine arts. Athens and Rome did not fall into decay because they engrossed the arts; these were only the concomitants of wealth and luxury, and therefore, were the sufferers in, and not the harbingers of their ruin. Barbarians have not prevailed over polished nations merely because they were ignorant in this respect, or despised the arts. They have always succeeded in their bold designs from their numbers, their precipitation, their contempt of danger, and the insatiable desire of possessing those riches which nourish the arts. Numerous instances may be cited of the existence of nations being prolonged from the knowledge of them alone. With us it cannot be a doubt that the prosperity of the arts, as well as the sciences, is of the highest importance. The arts enrich as well as polish a nation, and in the present condition of the mercantile world, we could not long maintain our rank in it without the product of the arts. The cultivation of the fine and liberal arts improves our taste in every thing; and it is from this source, more than from any other, that we have gained the opinion, allured the favours, and consequently shared the wealth of almost every country on the face of the earth. But there is a circumstance, as new as it is imperious, to dictate the policy of our encouraging and cherishing the growth and improvement of VOL. III.

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Biographical Sketch of Benjamin West, Esq.

West, Esq.; and this station he is enti- deemed worthy of relating. When this



tled to, as well from the vast number piece was finished, numbers of persons and variety of his works, as from their of rank went to see it, among the rest intrinsic value. When we reflect on the the late and highly accomplished Earl saying of Aristotle, "How long is art, of Chesterfield. After he had looked a how short is life!" we consider this great while at the picture, he inquired gentleman as singularly happy, in as far if Mr. West was at home and to be seen. as he may be desirous of living admira- Upon being answered in the affirmative, tion and posthumous glory. If it were he sent in word, that Lord Chesterfield not to be thought bordering on the pro- wished to speak with him. He was fane, we might say, the power of cre- ushered in. "Well," says he, "Mr. ation has been delegated to his hand. West, I am glad to see that we have The list of his works, which with diffi- such a painter among us, as can proculty has been obtained, we shall pub- duce a picture like that I have been lish at the end of this sketch, as a rare some time viewing. It has, however, instance of what can be achieved by a one fault and you can't mend it: nor man of genius and application. It is a would I have you try." "What can curious record of professional diligence, that be my Lord," said Mr. West, and ought to be preserved: we believe great curiosity to learn it. Why, the no age, no country ever produced the fault is," said the facetious peer, "that like. If a person would ask him how it was not painted a hundred and fifty he has spent his life; he has only to years ago, for then the world would value take the inquirer into one room in his it as it ought to be." This was a great house, and in the words of Sir Christo- and a deserved compliment, as every pher Wren, say, circumspice." Mi- one will say, who has seen the picture; chael Angelo lived to the age of ninety, which now is in the possession of the Titian to that of ninety-nine: the first personage in the kingdom. It was works of these great painters are de- observed before, that pre-eminence in servedly admired, but we can have no any one, will stir up envy. The great conception they bore any proportion in Phydias was hated for his excellence in number with those of Mr. West. That, the art. Mr. West has in one instance however, is not all. We never have experienced the malignity of this pas heard of his undertaking any subject, sion. The circumstance is no otherwise against which he has been provoked deserving of notice, than as the biolike Nealces to throw his pencil.* grapher is acquainted with the real fact. Merit will always excite envy as well as Mr. West conscious of the uprightness emulation; but we have never heard of of his conduct, thought it unnecessary the envious in his train, endeavour to to make any reply to an insinuation decry any one of Mr.W.'s productions as thrown out by a paragraph in a public destitute of merit. We can of ourselves newspaper, two years ago, that Mr. express our partiality for some one or West was desirous of taking an advanother of his pieces; and while we are tage of the council of the academy, by thinking of his death of Wolfe, his La exhibiting a disguised picture a second Hogue, his picture of the death of the time. No reasonable person could for stag, or the rescuing of Alexander III. a moment suppose that an artist covered his Phaton soliciting Apollo for the with professional laurel, would have s chariot of the sun, his Thetis and spark of vanity to gratify in a case like Achilles, his King Lear and his daugh- this or that the exhibiting one picture ter, and his Regulus, we are un- more or less, should add to, or lessen able for the moment to take any of his reputation. A groundless imputathe rest into the imagination. Of this tion is thrown out in a diurnal print; last mentioned piece, it is deserving of always desirous of calling names, if in remark, that it was an early subject of his labours; it was painted more than thirty-five years ago. On this occasion, an anecdote occurs, which may be


any respect eminent: the censure, however unfounded, runs from paper to paper, and truth always slower in its pace than falsehood, does not overtake

We are told by a writer of an after-age, that Nealces laboured in vain on the portraiture of a horse, not being able to satisfy himself in duly representing the foam of his mouth; when his patience being tired out, he took up his sponge, and threw it at the canvas, which falling fuckily on the exact and critical part of the picture, effected completely by chance, what he was unable to do by design.


it, till it is tired in its course. The true. We do, we will adhere to this idea, however, of misleading the judg- maxim. We will take up no characment of the council, was soon after ters of whom we cannot speak the done away, and the fullest satisfaction truth. Biography of living persons has offered to the worthy president, for any some exceptions to it. It has the air of uneasiness his mind might have felt up- adalation when you praise and of envy on the occasion. More than twenty or malice, when you condemn. years ago, a picture was finished for have cotemporaries, at whose conduct Lord D, the s.ject Hagar and her in this respect we blush. The Universick son: that nobleman's son dying sal Magazine shall never be the vehicle soon after, who was supposed to have a of incense to those whom we know in little likeness to the young figure in our hearts to be worthless. We will the piece, his Lordship could not bear select only such characters for our obto look upon it. He exchanged it for servations, as we think deserve well of another with a picture dealer, and Mr. their country; such as merit imitation; West availed himself of the opportunity or deserve public notice for their public of purchasing it. He made a consider conduct. able alteration in it, in above half of its extent, and wholly took out one figure and substituted another. He has done the same thing we understand with many of his pictures, and as well as the date of the first painting on them, has added that of the period of the alteration. Such alterations may be conceived adviseable, some on the score of matured judgment, improved taste, change of costume, or allured fancy: but from whatever motive he may be prompted to do it, a painte- has a right to make what changes he pleases with his own works. Mr. West, it seems, was confined by indisposition, and, therefore, not enabled to explain to the council what he had done to the picture. Envy's green eye had perspicarity to discern the two dates on the canvas, and obtained the rejection of the picture for that season. The true state of the matter was afterwards explained by the artist to the council, and the next year the picture was readily admitted. It would, therefore, be a pity and regret, that any person, whether at home or abroad, to whom the talents of Mr. West are known, should be led to form the unfavourable opinion of his probity, as a mau not being equal to his skill as an artist. So far, however, from this circumstance having lessened him in the estimation of those who know him, we are persuaded, that in the qualities of integrity he may be put on the list with another great painter, Metrodorus of old, the Athenian, who was unanimously chosen to bring up the children of Paulus Emilius, as well as to adorn his triumph by the matchless trophies of his pencil. It is a maxim "Say nothing of the dead but what is good," we add, Say nothing of the living, but what is

Benjamin West, though a native of America, is not only claimed by England as her painter, but as her subject also. He was born at Springfield, Chester county, in the province of Pennsyl vania. He is from a branch of the family which distinguished itself in the wars of Edward the Third. They settled at Long Crandon, in Buckinghamshire, during the reign of Richard the Second. They embraced the quaker principles about the year 1667, which had not then been long adopted. A Col. James West, one of his ancestors, and who distinguished himself in the battle of Worcester on the side of the republicans, is supposed to have been the first of the family who embraced quakerism. In Seward's Anecdotes is a letter from the renownedJohn Hampden to him. On the second visit of the celebrated William Penn, to his own province in America, denominated by him Pennsylvania, the greater part of Mr. Wes's family went the voyage with him. His grandfather and grandmother had previously crossed the Atlantic ocean, having accompanied the benevolent Penn in his first visit to the new colony. The present Mr. West is the son of Mr. John West, and is the youngest of ten children. His turn for painting was discovered while he was very young, and at the early age of sixteen he was allowed by his family to follow it as a profession. It may be said of him, Faber suæ fortuno, for the savings by his diligence in painting portraits and historical pieces in Philadelphia and New-York, by the time he had a trained the age of twenty-one, enabled him to repair to Italy, that seat of the ancient and modern arts, and where genius never fails, like the bee, to lay in its stores for future occasions. In his way to Rome, Mr. West disembarked at Leghorn, and

there from the house of Messrs. Jackson rence, as well as from several Italians of

and Rutherford, at the factory, had the
advantage of a recommendation to Car-
dinal Albani and others of distinction at
Rome. Through this honourable chan-
nel he was introduced to Raphael Minges,
Pompio Battoni, and many eniment ar-
tists in that capital. From frequent in-
terviews with these persons, and from
the kindness of Mr. Robinson, after-
wards Lord Grantham, in obtaining for
him an easy access to every thing that
was new and precious in the art, he was
enabled to bring that knowledge of the
profession he had already acquired to the
Roman standard of taste, which by com-
mon consent of the scientific is allowed to
be indisputable. This to Mr. West was a
kind of Normal school where masters
themselves regulate their judgment, and
acquire a confidence, which both facili-
tates their labours, and puts them out
of the reach of being disturbed by the
fickleness of other persons faucy, and the
vascillating opinions of those who are in
search of perfection, but know not where
to find it. It is said that his mind was
so affected and lighted up by the novelty
and grandeur of what he saw within the
walls of this once proud city, that his
health was greatly affected and impaired,
and he was advised by his medical friends
accordingly to quit Rome for a time,
which he did, and returned to Leghorn,
once more to benefit himself by the
kindness of his friends, and to bathe in
the sea.
His mind soon recovered its
wonted vigour, and he again repaired to
Rome to prosecute his studies. Michael
Angelo, Raphael, and Poussin, attracted
most of his attention, and it is not diffi-
cult to discern that the style of two of
these masters has entered considerably
into the character of some of his com-
positions. A second time his health de-
clined, and for the third time he took up
his temporary residence at Leghorn,
where again recovering as before, he did
not think it proper to go back to Rome,
but made the gallery of Florence the
school of his further instruction. Now
a more serious illness than before inter-
rupted his career, and confived him more
than six months to his room and bed, ul-
timately terminating, by the resolution
of a fever, in a tumified ancle, for the
cure of which he was obliged to submit
to an operation. During this anxious
and painful period, Mr. West received
many friendly and condescending atten-
tions from the late Lord Cowper, Sir Ho-
race Mann, the English minister at Flo-

distinction. His time, though spent in
a sick room, was not wholly lost to him;
for he employed a great part of it in
reading, drawing, and composing Listo-
rical subjects. As soon as he was able
ke tried the effects of change of air, and
visited Bologna, Parma, Mantua, Vero-
na, and Venice, which places contain the
valuable works of Correggio, Julio Ro-
mano, Titian, Caracci, and other cele
brated masters of the Venetian and Lom-
bard schools. With an invigorated
health, and an enriched mind, he for the
last time visited Rome. While here, he
completed two pictures, one of Cymen
and Iphigenia, which the connoisseurs
spoke very favourably of, and affirmed
to be full of promise. Not without some
apprehensions of a relapse, he resolved
to take the first favourable opportunity
of seeing the country of his ancestors,
In the company, therefore, of Mr. Pal-
toune, a gentleman of great taste in
painting, he commenced his journey to
Paris and London, making Parma, Ge-
noa, and Turin, in his way. He was ad-
mitted to inspect some of the best pic-
tures in the hotels of the nobility of
Paris, where he was much gratified, and
reached London in the month of August,
1763. He lost no time after his arrival
here, but set about gratifying his desire
to behold the best specimens of archi-
tecture and paintings the country con-
tains. For this purpose he paid a visit to
Oxford, Blenheim, Bath, Fonthill, Wil-
ton, Windsor, and Hampion Court, at
which latter place he amply surveyed
the Cartoons by Raphael. There was
nothing very flattering in the state of
the arts at this time, to induce our young
traveller to fix his permanent residence
in England, and he was actually prepar
ing to return to Philadelphia, with the
view of fixing himself in that city, and
professing the art of which he now bad
made himself a skilful master. He was
informed, however, that in the following
April an exhibition of painting, sculp
ture, and architecture, would be opened
at the great room in pring-gardens, to
which place he was invited by Mr. Rey-
nolds (afterwards Sir Joshua) and Mr.
Richard Wilson, to send the two picces
he had painted while at Rome; as also
another portrait of General Monckton,
which he had executed during the win-
ter for that meritorious officer. The
favourable reception by artists and the
public, of these the first European
fruits of his pencil, and the assurances


made to him that he could not fail to for public entertainment and private inadvance in proportion as he should struction. This constancy in his labe known, induced him to relinquish bour, a facility of execution arising the idea of returning to the other from profound skill, together with the hemisphere. In this same year, a enjoyment of good health, since he has lady of the name of Shewell, of Phi- resided in England, have enabled him ladelphia, to whom Mr. West had been to show such a list of his own works as in a manner engaged, left that city in we will venture to say was never procompany with his father, and arriving duced by any master before, ancient or in London a few weeks after, they were modern. It would seem not only as if married and settled in London. By this he were the child of his art, but the amiable lady, (who has not the happi- art itself his child. He has an affection ness, however, to enjoy a good state for it, no wonder therefore that he of health), Mr. West has two sons. has exhibited it at all times in such enThough both draw with ease and cor- gaging, such enchanting forms. Ashis rectness, it is in the hand of the eldest pictures are all chaste, so have his manonly, we have sometimes discovered the hers been always highly moral. pallet. Mr. West, however, will not, has never thrown away an hour in noisy like Tintosett, leave a variety of un- riot, nor in idle dissipation. He has finished pictures for his sons to com- a charming little viila, in Berkshire, his plete. He is methodical, regular, and Tusculum; but he has not much leiphilosophical, in every thing he under- sure to enjoy it. The duty he has to takes. While his imagination is warm perform as president of the academy, on the subject, he devotes his hands to together with his professional avocathe lively impulse, and never lays by a tions, engross almost the whole of his work to be forgotten, but preserves it hours, though many of them "con in his mind or under his eye, till it is fi- sume the midnight oil." For what is nished. The exhibition at Spring Gar- called pleasure, or pleasurable parties, dens, already spoken of, was formed in he has no time to spare. His mind de1760, by artists, and in five years after- rives recreation by withdrawing a short wards they became incorporated. Mr. time from a large painting, a picture of West was elected a member, was soon profound and varied composition, to a appointed a director, and constantly ex- smaller one, the subject of which is hibited his works there, till 1768, when more familiar and easy of execution. a plan which had beca framed for an His soul is in his profession, which is institution of greater magnitude and the reason so much of it appears importance, and which had been sub. in his living figures. When we gaze on mitted to the King, was approved of by his Achilles now exhibiting in the aca his majesty. Mr. West was fixed on as demy, it is not necessary to see Thetis one of the four artists named, to receive and Petroclus to know they are by him, the royal approbation and instruction and occupy his thoughts: in short we for carrying it into effect. To Dr. may say of him what Charles II. said Drummond, then archbishop of York, in character of John Riley's works, Mr. West owed the advantage of hav-he paints both inside and outside." ing been introduced, to the king. He Mr. West has passed a good deal of had painted for that prelate, Agrippina his time at Windsor, in the neighlanding at Brundusium with the ashes of Germanicus, and this picture which Dr. D. laid before the king, was the honourable passport of the artist to royal favour.

This was the occasioning of his majesty commissioning Mr. West to employ his pencil on Regulus, which work was the first of his exhibitions at the Royal Academy, on its opening in 1769. Mr. West has the best title to be named a supporter as well as a founder of the new academy, for there has not passed a year since its commencement in which he has not exposed some of his works

bourhood of which place his countryhouse is situated. For many years he has enjoyed the countenance of royalty. If the king is not so fond of this noble art as some of his ancestors were who have filled the throne of England, he at least admires it sufficiently to profess himself the protector of it. His ma jesty's reign has not been a passive one, war has engaged more than one half of it. Peace is the nurse of the noble arts. No painter ever executed half the works for a king as Mr. West has done, and we doubt not to the entire satisfaction of his majesty. It has been no uncom

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