A Century of British Painters

By Samuel Redgrave; Richard Redgrave | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XX
HOWARD, HILTON, HAYDON, AND ETTY

IN this chapter we propose to trace the career, marked by struggles and neglect, of four talented men who devoted themselves to naturalize the grand style in the English school, and to assert its power. They were contemporaries in the schools, and competitors in the race of fame, but one came a few years before the other three, and had a more lengthened career; and to him we give the precedence. Henry Howard, R.A., was born in London, 31 January 1769. He left school at thirteen with an average education, and a little knowledge of Latin, and then from time to time accompanied his father to and from Paris, and picked up French. Though not intended for an artist, he showed a predilection for drawing, and at the age of seventeen he became the pupil of Philip Reinagle, R.A. In 1788 he was admitted a student of the Royal Academy, and in 1790 he gained the two first medals--the first silver medal in the life school, and the gold medal for his original painting of Caractacus, which the president Reynolds informed him was the best picture which had been submitted to the Academy.

Having thus distinguished himself, he determined, in pursuit of his art, to visit Italy, and he set off early in 1791. He went by Paris and Geneva over Mont Cenis to Turin, Milan, Parma, Bologna and Florence, seeing and sketching many of the fine works of art in those cities, and finally reached Rome. Here he pursued his studies, and painted in competition for the travelling studentship of the Royal Academy a large composition, the figures life-size, of ' The Death of Abel, a subject from the text of Gesner'. The treatment, which was hardly Scriptural, was unfortunate, and he was not only unsuccessful in his competition, but his work narrowly escaped rejection at the Academy Exhibition in 1794. He returned by Florence, Venice, and Trieste to Vienna, Dresden, and home by Hamburg. He was now in his twenty-sixth year, and well trained for his art career. His tastes led him to the poetic and classic, rather than to the more severe and grand style, and in 1795 he exhibited three small-sized pictures, ' Puck and Ariel', ' Satan Awaking in the Burning Lake', and a

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