A Century of British Painters

By Richard Redgrave; Samuel Redgrave | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXXI
ANIMAL PAINTERS -- LANDSEER AND ANSDELL.
MARINE PAINTERS -- STANFIELD, COOKE
AND HOLLAND

WE have described in an earlier chapter the great merit of James Ward, R.A., as an animal painter. He may be said to have been the successor in that branch of art of Morland and Stubbs, both clever artists of very opposite characters. In our present chapter we have to deal with another animal painter, who enjoyed an almost unparalleled reputation, and whose works are perhaps even at present a little too near to us to enable us to criticize them quite dispassionately. Sir Edwin Henry Landseer, R.A., sprang from a family of artists, and occupied an almost unique position in the art world from his babyhood. He was the third and youngest son of John Landseer, the engraver, and was born in Queen Anne Street, London, 7 March 1802. His father taught him to draw in company with his two brothers, and some of Edwin's sketches, or, rather, portraits of animals, made at five, seven, and ten years of age, are shown at the South Kensington Museum. Hampstead Heath was his first studio, and it is recalled that his father lifted him over the stiles of the fields leading to it to enable the future painter to reach his sketching position. He also visited the Tower and Exeter Change at an early age to sketch and to etch--for he began, too, to etch, when quite a boy--the animals preserved in those menageries. F. G. Stephens, in his excellent Memorial of Landseer, relates an anecdote which Landseer took for the subject of one of his sketches, reproduced with three others by Thomas Landseer in Twenty Engravings of Lions, Panthers, etc. 'A lioness--an orphan of course--had been captured in very early cubhood, and brought on board ship, and was suckled by a bitch, for whom, although she soon surpassed her nurse in size and strength, she ever retained the utmost affection and some respect. The attached couple were shown in Exeter Change menagerie, attracted much admiration, and were the source of unmitigated delight to many thousands of good people.' Here was a subject Landseer could delight in. Unlike other animal painters, he infused into his creatures an almost human element, which, while it did not interfere with the finest perception of animal

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