In early days in England there were miniature-painters, and in the last half of the sixteenth century there were some very important English painters of this kind. Before the days of Charles I. the English kings were much in the habit of inviting foreign artists to England, and commissions were given to them. The painters who were most prominent in England were of the Flemish school, and even under Charles I., as we have seen, Rubens and Vandyck were the principal painters in England. But in the reign of this king some native artists made names for themselves, and what we call the English school of painting may really be dated from this time.

Before speaking of painters I must mention one miniaturist whose works were in demand in other countries, as well as in England. Samuel Cooper (1609-1672) has been called “the Vandyck in little,” and there is far more breadth in his works than is usual in miniature. He painted likenesses of many eminent persons, and his works now have an honorable place in many collections.

William Dobson (1610-1646) has been mentioned in our account of Vandyck as a painter whom the great master befriended and recommended to Charles I. He became a good portrait-painter, and after Vandyck’s death was appointed sergeant-painter to the king. His portraits are full of dignity; the face shadows are dark, and his color excellent. He did not excel in painting historical subjects. Vandyck was succeeded at court by two foreign artists who are so closely associated with England that they are always spoken of as English artists.

Fig  70 Fig. 70.—Sir Joshua Reynolds.

Peter van der Faes (1618-1680), who was born in Westphalia, is known to us as Sir Peter Lely. He became the most celebrated portrait-painter after Vandyck, and his “Beauties at Hampton Court” are pictures which are known the world over. He has been accused of not painting eyes as he ought; but the ladies of his day had an affectation in the use of their eyes. They tried to have “the sleepy eye that spoke the melting soul,” so Sir Peter Lely was not to blame for painting them as these ladies wished them to be. He was knighted by Charles II., and became very rich. His portraits of men were not equal to those of women. When Cromwell gave him a commission to paint his portrait, he said: “Mr. Lely, I desire you will use all your skill to paint my picture truly like me, and not flatter me at all; but remark all these roughnesses, pimples, warts, and everything as you see me, otherwise I will never pay you a farthing for it.” Sir Peter Lely was buried in Covent Garden, where there is a monument to his memory with a bust by Gibbon.

Sir Godfrey Kneller (1646-1723), born at Lübeck, was a rival to Sir Peter Lely, and had the honor of painting the portraits of eight crowned heads and a very great number of other people of importance. He had studied both the Dutch and Italian manner; for he was the pupil of Rembrandt and Bol, of Carlo Maratti and Bernini. Some critics praise his pictures very much, while others point out many defects in them. He painted very rapidly, and he sometimes hurried his pictures off for the sake of money; but his finished works are worthy of remark. He especially excelled in painting hair; his drawing was correct; some of his groups of children are fine pictures; and some madonnas that he painted, using his sitters as models, are works of merit. His monument was made by Rysbrach, and was placed in Westminster Abbey.

Both Sir Peter Lely and Sir Godfrey Kneller had pupils and followers; but there was no original English artist before the time of William Hogarth (1697-1764), and he may really be named as the first master of a purely English school of painting. When Hogarth was fifteen years old he was apprenticed to a silversmith, and the grotesque designs which he copied for armorial bearings helped to increase his natural love for all that was ridiculous and strange. After 1718 he was much occupied in engraving for booksellers, and at length he began to paint small genre pictures and some portraits, in which he made good success, but he felt that he was fitted for other work. In 1730 he married the daughter of the artist, Sir James Thornhill, without the consent of her father.

Soon after this he began his series of pictures called the “Harlot’s Progress,” and when Sir James saw them he was so satisfied with the talent of Hogarth that he declared that such an artist could support a wife who had no dower, and the two painters were soon reconciled to each other. Before 1744 Hogarth had also painted the series of the “Rake’s Progress” and “Marriage à la Mode” (Fig. 71).