PAINTING IN ENGLAND.

Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830), born at Bristol, England, in the White Hart Inn, of which his father was landlord. He was wonderfully precocious, and as a child of five years would recite odes, and declaim passages from Milton and Shakespeare. Even at this early period he made chalk or pencil portraits, and at nine he finally decided to become a painter from having seen a picture by Rubens. At this period he made a colored chalk portrait of the beautiful Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, which still hangs in Chiswick House, in the room in which Charles Fox died. His father was the son of a clergyman, and was bred a lawyer, but had never prospered; still his culture and education gave a certain zest and tone to the mind of young Lawrence, and made him, with his elegant figure and handsome face, the successful courtier that he afterward became. He worked hard, with considerable success, and with but little instruction until, at the age of eighteen, he went to London for the first time. At that period he was described as being extremely handsome in person, with fine, regular features, brilliant eyes, and long, chestnut-colored hair falling to his shoulders. He lodged close by Sir Joshua Reynolds—then near the end of his career, and from him received much valuable advice. During Lawrence’s first years in London he attempted pictures illustrating classic art, but without much success. Indeed he was never successful in large, imaginative pictures, and during most of his career of more than forty years, confined himself to portraits. The time was propitious for him: Gainsborough was dead; Reynolds was almost blind, and had given up painting; and Romney had no hold on the court and the leaders of fashion. Lawrence raised his prices, and had all he could do. He adopted a more expensive style of dress, and in fact lived so extravagantly that he never arrived at what may be called easy circumstances—his open-handed generosity contributed to this result. He early received commissions from the royal family. In 1791 he was elected an Associate, and in 1794 an Academician. The next year George III. appointed him painter in ordinary to his Majesty. He was thus fairly launched on a career that promised the highest success. In a certain sense he had it, but largely in a limited sense. He painted the portraits of people as he saw them; but he never looked behind the costume and the artificial society manner. He reproduced the pyramidically shaped coats and collars, the overlapping waistcoats of different colors, the Hessian boots, and the velvet coats, adorned with furs and frogs, of the fine gentlemen; and the turbans with birds-of-Paradise feathers, the gowns without waists, the bare arms and long gloves, the short leg-of-mutton sleeves, and other monstrosities of the ladies. And for thirty years his sitters were attired in red, or green, or blue, or purple. He absolutely revelled in the ugliness of fashion. Occasionally Lawrence did some very good things, as when he painted the Irish orator and patriot, Curran, in one sitting, in which, according to Williams, “he finished the most extraordinary likeness of the most extraordinary face within the memory of man.” He always painted standing, and often kept his sitters for three hours at a stretch, and sometimes required as many as nine sittings. On one occasion he is said to have worked all through one day, through that night, the next day, and through all the night following! By command of the prince regent he painted the allied sovereigns, their statesmen, princes, and generals—all the leading personages, in fact, in alliance against Napoleon. His pictures in the exhibition of 1815 were Mrs. Wolfe, the Prince Regent, Metternich, the Duke of Wellington, Blucher, the Hetman Platoff, and Mr. Hart Davis. During the Congress that met at Aix-la-Chapelle in 1818, Lawrence was commissioned by the Prince Regent to paint its principal heads for an especial gallery. He thus had for sitters nearly all the leading statesmen of Europe. From Aix-la-Chapelle he went to Vienna, and thence to Rome in 1819, where among others he painted likenesses of the Pope, of Cardinal Gonsalvi, and of Canova. Of the latter, Canova cried out, “Per Baccho, che nomo e questo!” It was considered a marvellous likeness; and without violating good taste he worked into the picture crimson velvet and damask, gold, precious marble, and fur, with a most brilliant effect. Before reaching home in London he was elected President of the Royal Academy. At this time he had been elected a member of the Roman Academy of St. Luke’s, of the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence, and of the Fine Arts in New York. He continued to improve as a painter, and between 1825 and the year of his death, painted and exhibited some of his finest works. He usually exhibited eight pictures each year, and although without a rival, gave evidence of anxious care to sustain his reputation. He was especially successful with children, and many of these pictures—as well as of celebrities—were engraved, and have thus become known all over the world. Of his eight pictures exhibited in 1829—the last he ever contributed—Williams says: “It is difficult to imagine a more undeviating excellence, an infallible accuracy of likeness, with an elevation of art below which it seemed impossible for him to descend.” Lawrence died on the morning of the 7th of January, 1830, with but little warning, from ossification of the heart; he was buried with much pomp and honor in St. Paul’s Cathedral, by the side of Sir Joshua Reynolds.