Page images
PDF

Oliver of Boyd, Printers, Edinburgh.

La solu!

EDINBURGH MAGAZINE.

EDINBURGH MAGAZINE.

No XXXVII.

APRIL 1820.

VOL. VII.

FRANCIS CHANTRÉY, SCULPTOR. Axan of genius and taste, Gray the self in making resemblances of various poet, lamented that his native country objects in clay, and to this employe had 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 cala Those who wish to trace the return culated as little of the scope it present, of English sculpture from the foreign ed 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 beritable 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 extra child, was educated by his inother ordinary mind to some singular cirwith 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 inquirewe 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 II 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 wisdomn; 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 cess now. 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.

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 workthe intervals of ordinary labour, Mring successfully, till our literature, as Chantrey was not to be found amus- well as our sculpture, was overwhelm. ing 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 unabated diligence and enthusiasm. or speech were exalted into monumen. Of 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 monu: began 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 his mind dis. On a mind unschooled in the con. ciplined. Others, of more discernment, ceited pedantries of art, the impresconfirmed 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, trúe 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 mụst be tried by nature, and are doomed to endure it,

by her permission must it stand, or Sculpture is a profession infinitely by her sentence it must fall. Our more laborious than painting, depend- poetry, our philosophy, and our acing op 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 comoperations, and with that rare talent mand admiration and awe, and will

« PreviousContinue »