ROBERTS, NASMYTH, BONINGTON, MÜLLER
IT is not intended to include in our work every painter who has produced meritorious pictures. Many have taken good rank in art whose works are a delight and a pleasure, yet possess no marked character of their own. It is only those who have enlarged the scope of British art by the originality of their manner, their choice of subject or novelty of execution, that claim a particular notice at our hands. Such a one was David Roberts, R.A., whose works we are about to review. He was born at Stockbridge, near Edinburgh, on 24 October 1796. His parents, though in a humble sphere of life, gave him, as is usual with his countrymen, an education beyond that which would have been the lot of a youth of the same class in England. Before the usual age he was apprenticed to a well-known decorator and house painter in Edinburgh, whom he served for seven years, learning all the trade processes--the rapid execution of the decorator, and the mere mechanical appliances which shorten labour. This gave him great readiness of hand, as well as a simple and somewhat matter-offact mode of using his pigments, which he retained during life.
By an innate feeling for art, Roberts was easily led to apply his trade knowledge to something beyond house-painting, for we learn that he had tried scene-painting, and perhaps with the varied practice of his 'prentice training, completed before he was nineteen, he was better prepared for the branch of art he adopted than half the artists of his age, when schools of design were unknown in England and schools of art gave little instruction in the use of the brush and the palette. It is true that Roberts entered as a student at the Trustees' Academy, when Andrew Wilson was at its head--a master under whom many of the Scotch artists who afterwards attained eminence were formed--but Roberts was either satisfied with what he knew and preferred his own methods, or he found it necessary to seek employment for his maintenance. He remained in the school only one week.
He was engaged in 1820 in scene-painting at the Glasgow and Edinburgh Theatres. In 1822 he found employment in the sceneroom at Drury Lane Theatre. For this art his great rapidity of execution peculiarly fitted him, but scene-painting did not satisfy him;