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A SCHOOL OF ART.
PRITISH art either finds her peculiar nourishment in melancholy,
and loves to fix her abode in desert places; or, it may be, her purse is but slenderly furnished, and she is forced to put up with accommodations rejected by more prosperous callings. Some of the most dismal quarters of the town are colonised by her disciples and professors. In walking through streets which may have been gay and polite when ladies' chairmen jostled each other on the pavement, and link-boys with their torches lighted the beaux over the mud, who has not remarked the artist's invasion of those regions once devoted to fashion and gaiety? Centre-windows of drawing-rooms are enlarged so as to reach up into bed-rooms-bed-rooms where Lady Betty has had her hair powdered, and where the painter's north-light now takes possession of the place which her toilet-table occupied a hundred years ago. There are degrees in decadence: after the Fashion chooses to emigrate, and retreats from Soho or Bloomsbury, let us say, to Cavendish Square, physicians come and occupy the vacant houses, which still have a respectable look, the windows being cleaned, and the knockers and plates kept bright, and the doctor's carriage rolling round the square, almost as fine as the countess's, which has whisked away her ladyship to other regions. A boarding-house, mayhap, succeeds the physician, who has followed after his sick folks into the new country; and then Dick Tinto comes with his dingy brass-plate, and breaks in his north window, and sets up his sitters' throne. I love his honest moustache, and jaunty velvet jacket, his queer figure, his queer vanities, and his kind heart. Why should he not suffer his ruddy ringlets to fall over his shirt-collar? Why should he deny himself his velvet ? it is but a kind of fustian which costs him eighteen-pence a yard. He is naturally what he is, and breaks out into costume as spontaneously as a bird sings, or a bulb bears a tulip. And as Dick, under yonder terrific appearance of waving cloak, bristling beard, and shadowy sombrero, is a good kindly simple creature, got up at a very cheap rate, so his life is consistent with his dress; he gives his genius a darkling swagger, and a romantic envelope, which, being removed, you find, not a bravo, but a kind chirping soul; not a moody poet avoiding mankind fjr the better company of his own great thoughts, but a jolly little chap who has an aptitude for painting brocade-gowns, or bits of armour (with figures inside them), or trees and cattle, or gondolas and buildings, or what not; an instinct for the picturesque, which exhibits itself in his works, and outwardly on his person; beyond this, a gentle creature loving his friends, his cups, feasts, merrymakings, and all good things. The kindest folks alive I have found among those scowling whiskerandoes. They open oysters with their yataghans, toast muffins on their rapiers, and fill their Venice glasses with half-and-half. If they have money in their lean purses, be sure they have a friend to share it. What innocent gaiety, what jovial suppers on threadbare cloths, and wonderful songs after: what pathos, merriment, humour does not a man enjoy who frequents their company! Mr. Clive Newcome, who has long since shaved his beard, who has become a family man, and has seen the world in a thousand different phases, avers that his life as an artstudent at home and abroad was the pleasantest part of his whole existence. It may not be more amusing in the telling than the chronicle of a feast, or the accurate report of two lovers' conversation; but the biographer, having brought his hero to this period of his life, is bound to relate it, before passing to other occurrences which are to be narrated in their turn.
We may be sure the boy had many conversations with his affectionate guardian as to the profession which he should follow. As regarded mathematical and classical learning, the elder Newcome was forced to admit that, out of every hundred boys, there were fifty as clever as his own, and at least fifty more industrious ; the army in time of peace Colonel Newcome thought a bad trade for a young fellow so fond of ease and pleasure as his son : his delight in the pencil was manifest to all. Were not his school-books full of caricatures of the masters? Whilst his tutor, Grindley, was lecturing him, did he not draw Grindley instinctively under his very nose? A painter Clive was determined to be, and nothing else ; and Clive, being then some sixteen years of age, began to study the art, en règle, under the eminent Mr. Gandish, of Soho.
It was that well-known portrait-painter, Andrew Smee, Esq., R.A., who recommended Gandish to Colonel Newcome, one day when the two gentlemen met at dinner at Lady Ann Newcome's table. Mr. Smee happened to examine some of Clive's drawings, which the young fellow had executed for his cousins. Clive found no better amusement than in making pictures for them, and would cheerfully pass evening after evening in that diversion. He had made a thousand sketches of Ethel before a year was over ; a year, every day of which seemed to increase the attractions of the fair young creature, develop her nymph-like form, and give her figure fresh graces. Also, of course, Clive drew Alfred and the nursery in general, Aunt Ann and the Blenheim spaniels, and Mr. Kuhn and his ear-rings, the majestic John bringing in the coal-scuttle, and all persons or objects in that establishment with which he was familiar. “What a genius the lad has," the complimentary Mr. Smee averred; "what a force and individuality there is in all his drawings ! Look at his horses ! capital, by Jove, capital ! and Alfred on his pony, and Miss Ethel in her Spanish hat, with her hair flowing in the wind ! I must take this sketch, I positively must now, and show it to Landseer.” And the courtly artist daintily enveloped the drawing in a sheet of paper, put it away in his hat, and vowed subsequently that the great painter had been delighted with the young man's performance. Smee was not only charmed with Clive's skill as an artist, but thought his head would be an admirable one to paint. Such a rich complexion, such fine turns in his hair! such eyes ! to see real blue eyes was so rare now-a-days! And the Colonel, too, if the Colonel would but give him a few sittings, the gray uniform of the Bengal cavalry, the silver lace, the little bit of red ribbon just to warm up the picture ! it was seldom, Mr. Smee declared, that an artist could get such an opportunity for colour. With our hideous vermilion uniforms there was no chance of doing anything ; Rubens himself could scarcely manage scarlet. Look at the horseman in Cuyp's famous picture at the Louvre : the red was a positive blot upon the whole picture. There was nothing like French gray and silver ! All which did not prevent Mr. Smee from painting Sir Brian in a flaring deputy-lieutenant's uniform, and entreating all military men whom he met to sit to him in scarlet. Clive Newcome the Academician succeeded in painting of course for mere friendship's sake, and because he liked the subject, though he could not refuse the cheque which Colonel Newcome sent him for the frame and picture ; but no cajoleries could induce the old campaigner to sit to any artist save one. He said he should be ashamed to pay fifty guineas for the likeness of his homely face; he jocularly proposed to James Binnie to have his head put on the canvas, and Mr. Smee enthusiastically caught at the idea ; but honest James winked his droll eyes, saying his was a beauty that did not want any paint ; and when Mr. Smee took his leave after dinner in Fitzroy Square, where this conversation was held, James Binnie hinted that the Academi
probably not altogether incorrect. Certain young men who frequented the kind Colonel's house were also somewhat of this opinion; and made endless jokes at the painter's expense. Smée plastered his
studio, and had their heads off their shoulders before they were aware. One day, on our way from the Temple, through Howland Street, to the Colonel's house, we beheld Major-General Sir Thomas de Boots, in full uniform, rushing from Smee's door to his brougham. The coachman was absent refreshing himself at a neighbouring tap : the little street-boys cheered and hurraed Sir Thomas, as, arrayed in gold and scarlet, he sat in his chariot. He blushed purple when he beheld us. No artist would have dared to imitate those purple tones; he was one of the numerous victims of Mr. Smee.
One day then, day to be noted with a white stone, Colonel Newcome, with his son and Mr. Smee, R.A., walked from the Colonel's house to Gandish's, which was not far removed thence; and young Clive, who was a perfect mimic, described to his friends, and illustrated, as was his wont, by diagrams, the interview which he had with that professor. “ By Jove, you must see Gandish, Pen !” cries. Clive: “ Gandish is worth the whole world. Come and be an artstudent. You'll find such jolly fellows there! Gandish calls it hartstudent, and says, 'Hars est celare Hartem'-by Jove he does! He treated us to a little Latin, as he brought out a cake and a bottle of wine, you know.
“ The governor was splendid, sir. He wore gloves: you know he only puts them on on parade days; and turned out for the occasion spick and span. He ought to be a general officer. He looks like a field-marshal—don't he ? You should have seen him bowing to Mrs. Gandish and the Miss Gandishes, dressed all in their best, round the cake-tray! He takes his glass of wine, and sweeps them. all round with a bow. 'I hope, young ladies,' says he, you don't often go to the students' room. I'm afraid the young gentlemen would leave off looking at the statues if you came in.' And so they would : for you never saw such Guys; but the dear old boy fancies every woman is a beauty.
.66 Mr. Smee, you are looking at my picture of " Boadishia ?”, says Gandish. Wouldn't he have caught it for his quantities at Grey Friars, that's all.
6. Yes-ah-yes,' says Mr. Smee, putting his hand over his eyes, and standing before it, looking steady, you know, as if he was going to see whereabouts he should hit' Boadishia.'
"• It was painted when you were a young man, four years before you were an associate, Smee. Had some success in its time, and there's good pints about that pictur,' Gandish goes on. “But I never could get my price for it; and here it hangs in my own room. 'Igh art won't do in this country, Colonel-it's a melancholy fact.'
“ High art! I should think it is high art!' whispers old Smee; .fourteen feet high, at least!'. And then out loud he says: “The picture has very fine points in it, Gandish, as you say. Foreshortening of that arm, capital! That red drapery carried off into the right of the picture very skilfully managed !”
“It's not like portrait-painting, Smee-'Igh art,' says Gandish. "The models of the hancient Britons in that pictur alone cost me thirty pound—when I was a struggling man, and had just married my Betsy here. You reckonise Boadishia, Colonel, with the Roman 'elmet, cuirass, and javeling of the period-all studied from the hantique, sir, the glorious hantique.'
6. All but Boadicea,' says father. She remains always young? And he began to speak the lines out of Cowper, he did—waving his stick like an old trump--and famous they are,” cries the lad:
""When the British warrior queen,
Bleeding from the Roman rods'“ Jolly verses! Haven't I translated them into Alcaics ?" says Clive, with a merry laugh, and resumes his history..
“Oh, I must have those verses in my album,' cries one of the young ladies. "Did you compose them, Colonel Newcome?' But Gandish, you see, is never thinking about any works but his own, and goes on, 'Study of my eldest daughter, exhibited 1816.'
“No, Pa, not '16, cries Miss Gandish. She don't look like a chicken, I can tell you.
.666 Admired,' Gandish goes on, never heeding her.—' I can show you what the papers said of it at the time-Morning Chronicle and Examiner-spoke most 'ighly of it. My son as an infant 'Ercules, stranglin' the serpent over the piano. Fust conception of my picture of “ Non Hangli said Haugeli.”'
“For which I can guess who were the angels that sat,' says father. Upon my word that old governor! He is a little too strong. But Mr. Gandish listened no more to him than to Mr. Smee, and went on, buttering himself all over, as I have read the Hottentots do. “Myself at thirty-three years of age !' says he, pointing to a portrait of a gentleman in leather breeches and mahogany boots; 'I could have been a portrait-painter, Mr. Smee.'
66. Indeed, it was lucky for some of us you devoted yourself to high art, Gandish,” Mr. Smee says, and sips the wine and puts it down again, making a face. It was not first-rate tipple, you see.
666 Two girls,' continues that indomitable Mr. Gandish. “ Hidea for “ Babes in the Wood.” “View of Pæstum," taken on the spot by myself, when travelling with the late lamented Earl of Kew. “Beauty, Valour, Commerce, and Liberty, condoling with Britannia on the death of Admiral Viscount Nelson,"-allegorical piece drawn at a very early age after Trafalgar. Mr. Fuseli saw that piece, sir, when