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T. CADELL AND W. DAVIES, STRAND, LONDON.

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EDINBURGH MAGAZINE.

No XXXVII.

APRIL 1820.

Vol. VII.

PRANCIS CHANTREY, SCULPTOR. A man of genius and taste, Gray the self in making resemblances of various poet, lamented that his native country objects in clay, and to this employhad made no advance in sculpture. ment he was much attached. But his This reproach has been removed, and affection thus early shown for art was removed too by a masterly hand. but a matter of amusement-he calThose who wish to trace the return culated as little of the scope it presentof English sculpture from the foreigned to the ambition of genius, as he was artificial and allegorical style, to its unconscious that it was the path which natural and original character—from nature had prepared for his fame. cold and conceited fiction to tender The day named for commencing his and elevated truth, will find it chief- new profession arrived, and with the ly in the history of Francis Chantrey usual eagerness of youth for novelty, and his productions. Of him, and of he reached Sheffield a full hour soonthem, we shall try to render some ac- er than his friends had appointed to count. For it is instructive to follow meet him. As he walked up and the progress of an original and power- down the street, expecting their ful mind, from the rudeness of its coming, his attention was attracted by early conceptions, till it comes forth some figures in the window of one with native and unborrowed might in Ramsay, a carver and gilder. He creations of grace, and beauty, and stopped to examine them, and was not dignity.

without those emotions which original Francis Chantrey was born at Nor. minds feel in seeing something congeton, a small village on the borders of nial. He resolved at once to become Derbyshire, on the 7th of April, 1782. an artist; and perhaps, even then, His ancestors were in respectable if associated his determination with those not opulent circumstances, and some ideas and creations of beauty from heritable possessions still belong to the which his name is now inseparable. family. He was deprived of his father Common wonder is fond of attributing very early in life, and being an only the first visible impulse of any extrachild, was educated by his mother ordinary mind to some singular cir. with abundance of tenderness and soli- cumstance, but nothing can be better citude. He attended the school at Nor- authenticated than the fact which deton-but of his progress there, we have cided the destiny of his talents. What been unable to obtain any particular his friends thought of his sudden reaccount. Education and agriculture solution it is useless to inquire-we shared his time between them till his have heard that they did not condole seventeenth year; and a farmer's edu- with him, like the illustrious Burns cation is not always the most liberal. over the pursuits of Fergusson : About this time he became weary of

“ Thy glorious parts the pursuits of his forefathers, and re- Ill suited laws dry musty arts.". solved to study the law under a re- The labours in which Ramsay emspectable solicitor at Sheffield. Whe- ployed him were too limited for his ther this was his own choice or that of powers; his hours of leisure were therehis relations we have not learned, and fore dedicated to modelling and drawit matters not, for another destiny ing, and he always preferred copying awaited him. To accident, we owe nature. He had no other idea of style much of what we are willing to attri- but that with which nature supplied bute to our wisdom; and, certainly to him-he had his own notions of art pure accident, we owe whatever de- and of excellence to rough-hew for light we have received from the pro- himself, and the style and character ductions of Mr Chantrey.

he then formed, he pursues with sucDuring the hours of intermission

These we have learned from labour at the farm, and instruc- were much more pleasant speculations tion at the school, he had amused him to him than to Ramsay, who, incensed Vol. VII.

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cess now.

either at the enthusiasm with which of combining the conceptions of genius they were followed, or the success with with the niceties of acquired skill. which they were executed, defaced The march therefore of the sculptor them, and ordered all such labours to to distinction is a long one and with be discontinued in future. For this much of this mechanical knowledge conduct, it is difficult to find either an Mr Chantrey had to become acquaintexcuse or a parallel. But true genius, ed when he went to London. He had no power on earth can keep back-it also other obstacles to surmount—the will work its way to distinction through artificial and unnatural style imported all the obstructions of folly or envy. from Italy and France, and which It loves to expatiate in secrecy over had been supported by the ablest its future plans-it contemplates its Sculptors of England. growing powers with silent joy, and Our sculpture, till lately, never prepares to come forth on the world, sought to free itself from the absurdiin the fulness of might and the fresh- ties and allegorical subtleties of the foness of beauty.

reign school. Nature was working It is related at Sheffield, that during her own free way with art, and works the intervals of ordinary labour, Mr ing successfully, till our literature, as Chantrey was not to be found amus- well as our sculpture, was overwhelming himself like other young men- ed by a flood which accompanied that he retired to his lodgings, and Charles II, to his throne. Art then light might be seen in his window at fell off from reflecting nature-began midnight-frequently far in the morn- to speak an obscure language-full of ing-and there he might be found dark conceits and remote personificaworking at groupes and figures with tions. The common figures of poetry anabated diligence and enthusiasm. or speech were exalted into monumenOf these early efforts, little is visible tal heroes and heroines, illustrated by -except the effect they wrought. It symbols as unintelligible as themselves, is said, that his mother took great in- Nor did allegory remain pure and unterest and delight in his early produc- mixed— Death was made to extend tions; and this venerable woman en- his figurative dart at the substantial joys the unspeakable felicity of living bosom of a lady, whose husband ento rejoice in her son's reputation. deavoured to avert it with an arm of

He continued nearly three years in flesh. And the conceits of the sculpthe employment of Ramsay, and the tor were worse than his allegory—the clandestine labours of his leisure hours Duke of Argyle expires on his monubegan to obtain notice. Judicious ment, while the pen of Fame is writcounsellors seldom fall to the lot of ing him Duke of Greenwich-a title early genius, and Mr Chantrey found that awaited him,-turning the mofriends who, in the warmth of mis- nument of a hero into the record of a judging zeal, wished to obtrude him contemptible conceit: and these are faon the world before his talents were vourable specimens. matured, or his hand or bis mind dis- On a mind unschooled in the conciplined. Others, of more discernment, ceited pedantries of art, the imprese confirmed him in his natural and cor- sion must have been curious and berect notions of art, and directed his wildering. Art must not pretend to enthusiasm. Among the latter, was instruct nature—what is not of nature Raphael Smith-himself a man of no cannot be of art-nothing better can common talents. He soon discovered be found to be imitated, and those who that the young artist's powers to excel wish to excel can only collect the in art equalled his ambition—and he members of beauty together which naencouraged him to pursue the attain- ture has scattered over creation. The ment of excellence; for in sculpture, true beau-ideal is only a speculation of as in poetry and painting, no one is man on the perfection of nature-its charmed with mediocrity, though all beauty must be tried by nature, and are doomed to endure it.

by her permission must it stand, or

Our Sculpture is a profession infinitely by her sentence it must fall. more laborious than painting, depend poetry, our philosophy, and our ac, ing on shape and expression for its tions, reflect the might, and the bold fascination-demanding an acquaint- and peculiar character of the people. ance not only with varied nature—but Should the nation pass away, her with curious and delicate mechanical works and her deeds will always com. operations, and with that rare talent mand admiration and awe, and will

ness.

tell to future ages the national mind to the living image, and the power and and the national might. Sculpture a- ease with which the character is exlone has refused to receive this strong pressed, the free and unconstrained atand original stamp-it speaks with no titude, have been often remarked and native tongue, it wears no native garb. acknowledged. In this department of It grows not out of our minds and art his earliest busts placed him besouls, nor does it claim limb or linea- yond rivalship, and there he is likely ment of the heroic islanders.

to continue. His name and his works In his twentieth year, Mr Chan- were already known beyond the limits trey purchased the remainder of his of London, when he became the sucengagement from Ramsay, and the se- cessful candidate for a statue of George paration gave mutual pleasure. In the III. for that city. Competition among month of May 1802, he went to Lon- artists in finished works is the fair race don, and began to apply himself with of reputation, and public criticism ardent diligence to the study of sculp- compels genius to finish her labours ture. But those who expect this ar- with an elegant and scrupulous exactdour to continue unabated must con

Not so with sketches and drawsent to be disappointed, for in June ings. Simplicity is the presiding star the same year, we find him on his of artma simple design has a mean way to Dublin, resolved to make a look, and a man may make imposing tour through Ireland and Scotland. sketches on paper, who has not the With his motives for this journey, we capacity to follow them to finished exprofess not to be acquainted ; these are cellence. Gentlemen, whether of the not regions eminent for the produc- city or the plain, may be imposed uptions of art, and likely to attract young on by handsome sketches, as Fluellan artists. A dangerous fever arrested was by the valour of ancient Pistol ;his progress at Dublin, and he did not “ He spoke as brave words, look you, entirely recover till the ensuing sum- as a man would wish to hear on a mer. His illness cured him of love for summer day.” In truth, genius must travelling ; he returned to London in feel reluctance at thus measuring its autumn, and, with his return, his might in the dark with inferior minds, studies were recommenced.

and the field of adventure is usually His application was great, and his occupied either by men of moderate or progress was rapid and visible. He dubious merit, or youths, who are had already conceived the character of willing to risk a chance for distinction. his works, and wanted only opportu- Thus an inferior hand has been pernity to invest them with their present mitted to profane the dust of the illustruth and tenderness. One of his ear- trious Robert Burns. A statue of the liest works is a bust of his friend, Ra- inspired peasant from the hand of his felphael Smith, created with a felicity at low-plowman, Chantrey, was what his that time rare in bust sculpture. Sur- fame deserved, and what Scotland, had rounded, as it now is, with the busts she consulted her fame, would have of more eminent men, it is usually given. singled out by strangers as a produc- A curious circumstance had nearly tion of particular merit. Akin to this deprived London of the fine statue of is his bust of Horne Tooke, to which the king. To the study of sculpture, he has communicated an expression of it seems Mr Chantrey had added that keen penetration and clear-sighted sa- of painting, and some of his pictures gacity. A colossal head of Satan be- are still to be found : of their merits, longs to this period; and, in the at- we are unable, from personal inspecterapt to invest this fearful and unde- tion to speak, but we have been told, fined fiend with character and form, by one well qualified to judge, that he has by no means lessened his own they do his sculpture no discredit. reputation. Eclipsed, as it is now, His pencil portraits are esteemed by with more celebrated works, its gaze many as admirable as his busts, and of dark and malignant despair never are still more difficult to be obtained. escapes notice.

When he presented his design for the Sometime in 1810, he fixed his re- king's statue, it was approved of in sidence in Pimlico, and constructed a preference to others, but a member of study of very modest dimensions. The the Common Council observed, that absolute nature and singular felicity of the successful artist was a painter, and his busts procured him immediate and therefore incapable of executing the extensive employment. Their fidelity work of a sculptor. Sir William Cure

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