A Century of British Painters

By Samuel Redgrave; Richard Redgrave | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VI INFLUENCE OF FOREIGNERS ON ENGLISH ART

IN the preceding chapters an attempt has been made to show the state of art and artists at the death of Hogarth, and coincident with the efforts successfully made to found the Royal Academy. From the date of this last event, and, no doubt, arising principally from the opportunity which its periodic and well-attended exhibitions gave to artists to make known their works to the public, both pictures and painters began largely to increase. But, as we look down the annual list of exhibitors, ranging over the long period of more than one hundred years, how few do we find whose lives and labours have been thought worthy of any record; how still smaller the number of those who have had a marked influence on art, and whose names have become household words. Many of those, moreover, whose names in their own day were in men's mouths, and who waxed rich through Court favour, ignorant patronage, fashion or caprice, have fallen from their first estate; while some who in their lifetime were despised, or little appreciated, have at last obtained their due meed of honour. Our task is to treat of those few who have done honour to our school or who have influenced its progress, and to try to explain their merits and the causes of their success.

Nor will this prove any limited labour, since it is characteristic of Englishmen that they are a people of marked individuality and independent thought, and this is characteristic of their art also; in the British school, although there is a marked national style, yet the manner is as varied as the men of note it includes. Nor is it to be supposed that at this period England was wholly unvisited by foreign artists; some such will be found in the list of the first members of the Academy; and as it may be thought they exerted some influence on the rising school, it will be proper to examine, in this chapter, how far this was the case; of these painters the following deserve an especial notice: Giovanni Battista Cipriani, Angelica Kauffmann, and Johann Zoffany, among the figure painters; Francesco Zuccarelli and Philip J. de Loutherbourg among the landscape painters. These alone possessed that distinction and attained that eminence which would lead us to infer any durable impress on the character of our art.

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