His nymphs are as much below the forbidding majesty of goddesses as they are above the hoyden awkwardness of country girls. In his halts and marches of armies, the careless slouch of his soldiers still retains the air of a nation that aspires to be agreeable as well as victorious.
But there is one fault of Watteau for which till lately I could never account. His trees appear as unnatural to our eyes as his figures must do to a real peasant who had never stirred beyond his village. In my late journeys to Paris the cause of this grievous absurdity was apparent to me, though nothing can excuse it. Watteau's trees are copied from those of the Tuileries and villas near Paris—a strange scene to study nature in ! There I saw the originals of those tufts of plumes and fans, and trimmed-up groves, that nod to one another like the scenes of an opera. Fantastic people ! who range and fashion their trees, and teach them to hold up their heads, as a dancing-master would, if he expected Orpheus should return to play a minuet to them.
of a gentleman's family, became a painter by genius and inclination. He had a place under the government, which he quitted to devote himself to his art, which he practised solely on sea-pieces. He drew in that way from his childhood, and studied the technical part of ships with so much attention, that he could cut out a ship with all the masts and rigging to the utmost exactness. In 1723 he began to practise in oil, and in two years copied above forty pictures of Vandevelde. With so good a foundation he openly professed the art, and his improvements were so rapid that the Duke of Chandos gave him thirty guineas for one of his pieces. Nor was his talent for music less remarkable. He both played on the hautboy and composed, and some of his compositions in several parts were published. But these promising abilities were cut off ere they had reached their maturity by that enemy of the ingenious and sedentary, the gout. He died April 10, 1728, in the thirty-seventh year of his age, and was buried at Chelsea.
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Publication information: Book title: Anecdotes of Painting in England: With Some Account of the Principal Artists. Volume: 2. Contributors: Horace Walpole - Author. Publisher: Swan Sonnenschein. Place of publication: London. Publication year: 1888. Page number: 296.
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