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

By Walter Shaw Sparrow | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER III
FROM PAUL SANDBY TO EDWIN LANDSEER, THROUGH GAINSBOROUGH AND ROWLANDSON

I

PAUL SANDBY lived to be eighty-four, dying in 1809. Very frequently his landscapes are united to aspects of country life, which were known in his time as "English Pastoral." Gainsborough, too, in soft-ground etchings, with or without aquatint, while thinking of landscape design, touches country life variously. One mood of design is represented by "The Gipsy Encampment," for example, an aquatint mixed with etching, sometimes a little tinted with crayon and wash. It is a pretty day-dream of country life among trees, with gentle and sweet lyrical qualities, Mrs. Gainsborough and her children playing cosily "at gipsies," accompanied by a donkey.

Note in their peculiar charm Gainsborough's own amalgam of masculine and feminine gifts, with a bias towards feminine grace and tenderness. True genius has always been androgynous, a single creative agent with a double sex. To note with impartial care how the male and female attributes are balanced in the work done by persons of genius, is to enrich the study of all art with a great many new enjoyments. A woman of genius may be too feminine or too masculine in her appeals as an artist, and a man of genius may be too masculine or too feminine. It is not often that the male and female attributes are perfectly balanced, with a moderate bias towards manliness in men's work, towards womanliness in the art of very gifted women.

They are balanced very well in Gainsborough's free and broad aquatints and soft-ground etchings. There is one of cattle driven through sunny and wooded pasture, a rapid improvisation charmed with naturalism

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