Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Alexander Fraser Tytler’

Regency Personalities Series

In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Sir Henry Raeburn
4 March 1756 – 8 July 1823

PastedGraphic-2016-07-19-06-00.png

Sir Henry Raeburn

Sir Henry Raeburn was born the son of a manufacturer in Stockbridge, on the Water of Leith; a former village now within the city of Edinburgh. His ancestors were believed to have been soldiers, and may have taken the name ‘Raeburn’ from a hill farm in Annandale, held by Sir Walter Scott’s family. Orphaned, he was supported by his older brother and placed in Heriot’s Hospital, where he received an education. At the age of fifteen he was apprenticed to the goldsmith James Gilliland of Edinburgh, and various pieces of jewellery, mourning rings and the like, adorned with minute drawings on ivory by his hand, still exist. Soon he took to the production of carefully finished portrait miniatures; meeting with success and patronage, he extended his practice to oil painting, at which he was self-taught. Gilliland watched the progress of his pupil with interest, and introduced him to David Martin, who had been the favourite assistant of Allan Ramsay the Latter, and was now the leading portrait painter in Edinburgh. Raeburn was especially aided by the loan of portraits to copy. Soon he had gained sufficient skill to make him decide to devote himself exclusively to painting. George Chalmers (1776; Dunfermline Town Hall) is his earliest known portrait.

In his early twenties, Raeburn was asked to paint the portrait of a young lady he had noticed when he was sketching from nature in the fields. Anne was the daughter of Peter Edgar of Bridgelands, and widow of Count James Leslie of Deanhaugh. Fascinated by the handsome and intellectual young artist, she became his wife within a month, bringing him an ample fortune. The acquisition of wealth did not affect his enthusiasm or his industry, but spurred him on to acquire a thorough knowledge of his craft. It was usual for artists to visit Italy, and Raeburn set off with his wife. In London he was kindly received by Sir Joshua Reynolds, the president of the Royal Academy, who advised him on what to study in Rome, especially recommending the works of Michelangelo, and gave Raeburn letters of introduction for Italy. In Rome he met his fellow Scot Gavin Hamilton, Pompeo Girolamo Batoni and Byers, an antique dealer whose advice proved particularly useful, especially the recommendation that “he should never copy an object from memory, but, from the principal figure to the minutest accessory, have it placed before him.” After two years of study in Italy he returned to Edinburgh in 1787, and began a successful career as a portrait painter. In that year he executed a seated portrait of the second Lord President Dundas.

Examples of his earlier portraiture include a bust of Mrs Johnstone of Baldovie and a three-quarter-length of Dr James Hutton, works which, if somewhat timid and tentative in handling and not as confident as his later work, nevertheless have delicacy and character. The portraits of John Clerk, Lord Eldin, and of Principal Hill of St Andrews belong to a later period. Raeburn was fortunate in the time in which he practised portraiture. Sir Walter Scott, Hugh Blair, Henry Mackenzie, Lord Woodhouselee, William Robertson, John Home, Robert Fergusson, and Dugald Stewart were resident in Edinburgh, and were all painted by Raeburn. Mature works include his own portrait and that of the Rev. Sir Henry Moncrieff Wellwood, the bust of Dr Wardrop of Torbane Hill, the two full-lengths of Adam Rolland of Gask, the remarkable paintings of Lord Newton and Dr Alexander Adam in the National Gallery of Scotland, and that of William Macdonald of St Martin’s.

Apart from himself, Raeburn painted only two artists, one of whom was Sir Francis Leggatt Chantrey, the most important and famous British sculptor of the first half of the nineteenth century. It has recently been revealed that Raeburn and Chantrey were close friends and that Raeburn took exceptional care over the execution of his portrait of the sculptor, one of the painter’s mature bust-length masterpieces.

It was commonly believed that Raeburn was less successful in painting female portraits, but the exquisite full-length of his wife, the smaller likeness of Mrs R. Scott Moncrieff in the National Gallery of Scotland, and that of Mrs Robert Bell, and others, argue against this. Raeburn spent his life in Edinburgh, rarely visiting London, and then only for brief periods, thus preserving his individuality. Although he, personally, may have lost advantages resulting from closer association with the leaders of English art, and from contact with a wider public, Scottish art gained much from his disinclination to leave his native land. He became the acknowledged chief of the school which was growing up in Scotland during the earlier years of the 19th century, and his example and influence at a critical period were of major importance. So varied were his other interests that sitters used to say of him, “You would never take him for a painter till he seizes the brush and palette.”

In 1812 he was elected president of the Society of Artists in Edinburgh, in 1814 associate, and in the following year full member of the Royal Scottish Academy. On 29 August 1822 he was knighted by George IVand appointed His Majesty’s limner for Scotland at the Earl of Hopetoun house. He died in Edinburgh.

Raeburn had all the essential qualities of a popular and successful portrait painter. He was able to produce a telling and forcible likeness; his work is distinguished by powerful characterisation, stark realism, dramatic and unusual lighting effects, and swift and broad handling of the most resolute sort. David Wilkie recorded that, while travelling in Spain and studying the works of Diego Velázquez, the brushwork reminded him constantly of the “square touch” of Raeburn. Scottish physician and writer John Brown wrote that Raeburn “never fails in giving a likeness at once vivid, unmistakable and pleasing. He paints the truth, and he paints it with love”.

Raeburn has been described as a “famously intuitive” portrait painter. He was unusual amongst many of his contemporaries, such as Reynolds, in the extent of his philosophy of painting directly from life; he made no preliminary sketches. This attitude partly explains the often coarse modelling and clashing colour combinations he employed, in contrast to the more refined style of Thomas Gainsborough and Reynolds. However these qualities and those mentioned above anticipate many of the later developments in painting of the nineteenth century from romanticism to Impressionism.

Sir Henry Raeburn died in St Bernard’s House (17 St Bernards Crescent), Stockbridge, Edinburgh. He is buried in St. Cuthbert’s churchyard against the east wall (the monument erected by Raeburn in advance) but also has a secondary memorial in the Church of St John the Evangelist, Edinburgh.

Raeburn made more than a thousand paintings spanning fifty years.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Regency Personalities Series
In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Alexander Fraser Tytler, Lord Woodhouselee
15 October 1747 – 5 January 1813

PastedGraphic-2015-07-11-06-00.png

Alexander Fraser Tytler

Alexander Fraser Tytler was a Scottish advocate, judge, writer and historian who served as Professor of Universal History, and Greek and Roman Antiquities, in the University of Edinburgh.

Tytler’s other positions included Senator of the College of Justice and George Commissioner of Justiciary in Scotland. Tytler was a friend of Robert Burns, and prevailed upon him to remove lines from his poem “Tam o’ Shanter” which were insulting to the legal and clerical professions. His son was Patrick Fraser Tytler, traveller and historian.

Tytler wrote a treatise that is important in the history of translation theory, the Essay on the Principles of Translation (London, 1791). It has been argued in a 1975 book by Gan Kechao that Yan Fu’s famous translator’s dictum of fidelity, clarity and elegance came from Tytler.
Tytler said that translation should fully represent the 1) ideas and 2) style of the original and should 3) possess the ease of original composition.

In his Lectures, Tytler displayed a cynical view of democracy in general and representative democracies such as republics in particular. He believed that “a pure democracy is a chimera”, and that “All government is essentially of the nature of a monarchy”.

In discussing the Athenian democracy, after noting that a great number of the population were actually enslaved, he went on to say, “Nor were the superior classes in the actual enjoyment of a rational liberty and independence. They were perpetually divided into factions, which servilely ranked themselves under the banners of the contending demagogues; and these maintained their influence over their partisans by the most shameful corruption and bribery, of which the means were supplied alone by the plunder of the public money”.

Speaking about the measure of freedom enjoyed by the people in a republic or democracy, Tytler wrote, “The people flatter themselves that they have the sovereign power. These are, in fact, words without meaning. It is true they elected governors; but how are these elections brought about? In every instance of election by the mass of a people—through the influence of those governors themselves, and by means the most opposite to a free and disinterested choice, by the basest corruption and bribery. But those governors once selected, where is the boasted freedom of the people? They must submit to their rule and control, with the same abandonment of their natural liberty, the freedom of their will, and the command of their actions, as if they were under the rule of a monarch”.

Tytler dismisses the more optimistic vision of democracy by commentators such as Montesquieu as “nothing better than an Utopian theory, a splendid chimera, descriptive of a state of society that never did, and never could exist; a republic not of men, but of angels”, for “While man is being instigated by the love of power—a passion visible in an infant, and common to us even with the inferior animals—he will seek personal superiority in preference to every matter of a general concern”.

“Or at best, he will employ himself in advancing the public good, as the means of individual distinction and elevation: he will promote the interest of the state from the selfish but most useful passion of making himself considerable in that establishment which he labors to aggrandize. Such is the true picture of man as a political agent”.

That said however, Tytler does admit that there are individual exceptions to the rule, and that he is ready to allow “that this form of government is the best adapted to produce, though not the most frequent, yet the most striking, examples of virtue in individuals”, paradoxically because a “democratic government opposes more impediments to disinterested patriotism than any other form. To surmount these, a pitch of virtue is necessary which, in other situations, where the obstacles are less great and numerous, is not called in to exertion. The nature of a republican government gives to every member of the state an equal right to cherish views of ambition, and to aspire to the highest offices of the commonwealth; it gives to every individual of the same title with his fellows to aspire at the government of the whole”.

Tytler believed that democratic forms of government such as those of Greece and Rome have a natural evolution from initial virtue toward eventual corruption and decline. In Greece, for example, Tytler argues that “the patriotic spirit and love of ingenious freedom … became gradually corrupted as the nation advanced in power and splendor”.

Tytler goes on to generalise: “Patriotism always exists in the greatest degree in rude nations, and in an early period of society. Like all other affections and passions, it operates with the greatest force where it meets with the greatest difficulties … but in a state of ease and safety, as if wanting its appropriate nourishment, it languishes and decays”. … “It is a law of nature to which no experience has ever furnished an exception, that the rising grandeur and opulence of a nation must be balanced by the decline of its heroic virtues”.

  • Piscatory Eclogues, with other Poetical Miscellanies of Phinehas Fletcher.
  • The Decisions of the Court of Sessions, from its First Institution to the Present Time.
  • Plan and Outline of a Course of Lectures on Universal History.
  • Essay on the Life and Character of Petrarch, with Translation of Seven Sonnets.
  • Essay on the Principles of Translation.
  • The Robbers: A Tragedy.
  • A Critical Examination of Mr. Whitaker’s Course of Hannibal over the Alps.
  • Ireland Profiting by Example.
  • Essay on the Military Law and the Practice of Courts-Martial.
  • Elements of General History, Ancient and Modern.
  • Memoirs of the Life and Writings of the Honourable Henry Home of Kames.
  • Consideration of the Present Political State of India.

Read Full Post »