PAINTING IN ENGLAND.

Mr. Copley, soon after his arrival in London, passed over to the Continent, and through Italy, studying in Parma and in Rome. He visited Naples and Pæstum also. It is said that he studied so diligently that he was with difficulty persuaded to paint two portraits in Rome. In 1775 he travelled and studied in Germany, in Holland, and in France. This same year his wife and family joined him in England. These consisted of his wife, his son, John Singleton, who afterward became the famous Lord Chancellor Lyndhurst; his daughter Elizabeth, afterward married to a distinguished merchant in Boston, and who survived to a great age; Mary Copley, who lived unmarried to the great age of ninety-four; and another son who died young. In 1777 he was made an Associate of the Royal Academy, and six years later an Academician. He was now in the full tide of success. He was offered five hundred guineas to paint a family group of six persons. The well-known group of Copley’s family, called the “Family Picture,” the “Death of Lord Chatham,” and “Watson and the Shark,” were on his easel in 1780. The picture of Lord Chatham falling senseless in the House of Lords was commenced soon after his death in 1778. It was engraved by Bartolozzi, and twenty-five hundred copies were sold in a few weeks. Copley exhibited the picture, to his own profit as well as fame.

In 1781 occurred the death of Major Pierson, shot in the moment of victory over the French troops who had invaded the island of Jersey. His death was instantly avenged by his black servant, and of this scene Copley made one of his finest pictures. He took pains, with his usual honesty, to go to St. Helier’s, and make a drawing of the locality. The picture is thoroughly realistic, although painful. His large picture of the “Repulse and Defeat of the Spanish Floating Batteries at Gibraltar” was painted on commission from the city of London. It is twenty-five feet long by twenty-two and a half feet high; but there are so many figures and so much distance to be shown in the painting that the artist really needed more room. Of the commander, Lord Heathfield, Sir Robert Royd, Sir William Green, and some twelve or fifteen others, the artist made careful portraits.

The story told by Elkanah Watson shows Copley’s strong sympathy for America. In 1782 Watson was in London, and Copley made a full-length portrait of him, and in his journal Watson says: “The painting was finished in most exquisite style in every part, except the background, which Copley and I designed to represent a ship bearing to America the acknowledgments of our independence. The sun was just rising upon the stripes of the Union streaming from her gaff. All was complete save the flag, which Copley did not deem proper to hoist under the present circumstances, as his gallery was the constant resort of the royal family and the nobility. I dined with the artist on the glorious 5th of December, 1782. After listening with him to the speech of the king formally recognizing the United States of America as in the rank of nations, previous to dinner, and immediately after our return from the House of Lords, he invited me into his studio, and there, with a bold hand, a master’s touch, and, I believe, an American heart, he attached to the ship the stars and stripes. This was, I imagine, the first American flag hoisted in Old England.”

Copley purchased, for a London residence, the mansion-house in George Street belonging to Lord Fauconburg. It afterward became more widely known as the residence of his son, Lord Lyndhurst. Lord Mansfield’s residence was near by, and among the many commissions from public men was one to paint his lordship’s portrait. Perhaps one of the most interesting of all his commissions was one to paint the picture of Charles I. demanding the five obnoxious members from the Long Parliament, for which a number of gentlemen in Boston paid one thousand five hundred pounds. It is said that every face in this great picture was taken from a portrait at that time extant; and Mrs. Gardiner Greene narrates that she and her father were driven in a post-chaise over a considerable part of England, visiting every house in which there was a picture of a member of the famous Parliament, and were always received as honored guests. Copley’s painting of the death of Lord Chatham was much admired. So numerous were the subscriptions for the engraving that it is said Copley must have received nearly, or quite, eleven thousand pounds for the picture and the engraved copies. It was quite natural for Copley to be popular with New Englanders; indeed, almost every Bostonian, at one time, on visiting London, made a point to bring home his portrait by Copley, if possible. There are known to exist in this country two hundred and sixty-nine oil-paintings, thirty-five crayons, and fourteen miniatures by him. These pictures are carefully cherished, as are indeed all memorials of this generous and kindly gentleman. Although his life was mostly passed in England, where he obtained wealth and renown, yet in a strong sense he could be claimed for Boston, as it was there he was born; it was there he received his artistic bias and education; it was there he was married, and had three children born to him; and, finally, it was there that he acquired a fair amount of fame and property solely by his brush. It will be worth while for the readers of this volume to take pains to see some of the more noteworthy Copleys.