A Book of British Etching: From Francis Barlow to Francis Seymour Haden

By Walter Shaw Sparrow | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II
GEORGE STUBBS--WITH SOME OF HIS CONTEMPORARIES

I

GEORGE STUBBS deserved, but did not find, a Boswell. In his old age--he died on July 10th, 1806, his eighty-second year--he allowed young William Upcott to make notes from his autobiographical talk; but Upcott, afterwards a great researcher, and the discoverer of Evelyn's Diary, was not ripe for that fine art which Boswell had handled easily, being a first-rate portrait-painter in well- fleshed and breathing biography

To collect notes peopled with living men and women--to collect them with right judgment for a project as definite as good architectural planning--is rarer than any other literary gift. Though Upcott was a greenhorn when he tried to get information from old Stubbs, his notes have been very useful. Unfortunately, they have never been printed verbatim. They came into the hands of Joseph Mayer, F.S.A., of Bebington, an amateur writer, who used them patchily for a monograph on Stubbs, published in 1879. The Mayer-Upcott sketch of Stubbs remains our main authority.

Some new facts are found in Farington's Diary; a careful book by the late Sir Walter Gilbey has added well-arranged facts about pictures and prints, etc.; but. Mayer's handling of Upcott's notes brings one's mind nearer than anything else to Stubbs himself, a man with many opposed gifts which somehow agree as happily as do berries on a big bunch of grapes. A Hercules in physical strength; a fine draughtsman with a very uncommon lightness of touch; a painter who received from the same buyers, for pictures of equal size, higher prices than Reynolds a man of science who wrote and illustrated a book that won fame on the Continent as well as in England; a revolutionary leader in sporting art,

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