Loutherbourgh, Philip James de (DNB00)
|←Loundres, Henry de||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 34
Loutherbourgh, Philip James de
LOUTHERBOURGH (LOUTHERBOURG), PHILIP JAMES (PHILIPPE JACQUES) DE (1740-1812), painter and Royal Academician, born at Fulda in Germany on 31 Oct. 1740, was descended from a Polish family. His father, a miniature-painter of Strasburg in Alsace, was painter to the court at Darmstadt, and died in Paris in 1768. The elder Loutherbourgh intended his son to become an engineer, but his mother, whose name was Catherine Barbe Heitz, designed him for the ministry of the Lutheran church, and with that profession in view he was educated at the college of Strasbourg. His love of painting was, however, all-powerful, and resolving to adopt the profession of an artist he received his first lessons in art from his father. He then studied for a time under J. H. Tischbein the elder, and on coming to Paris became a pupil of Carle Vanloo, and later of Francis Casanova [q. v.] In 1763 and the following years he exhibited many pictures at the Salon in Paris, and quickly gained repute as a painter of wild romantic landscape in the style of Salvator Rosa, of battle-pieces in that of Wouwermans and Casanova, and of pastoral landscapes in the manner of N. Berchem. He also was successful in Bible subjects and portraits. On 22 Aug. 1767 he was elected a member of the Académie Royale, before he had attained the prescribed age. Diderot highly extolled his work, and Wille the engraver has described the enthusiasm with which he was received into the Academy (see Dussieux, Les Artistes Français à l'Étranger). De Loutherbourg was married in Paris on 10 Jan. 1764 to Barbe Burlât, by whom he had six children born in Paris. After travelling in Switzerland, Germany, and Italy, De Loutherbourg came to England in 1771. His services were at once secured by Garrick as chief designer of scenery at Drury Lane Theatre. In this line De Loutherbourg was without a rival, and the care with which he modelled and studied each detail, and the skill with which he handled the illumination, rendered his scenes real works of art. His first attempt was in connection with the 'Christmas Tale,' which was produced at Drury Lane Theatre on 27 Dec. 1773. This spectacular play is said to have been by Garrick himself, and it inaugurated a new era of scene-painting in the theatre (cf. Genest, Account, v. 400-1). He also assisted Garrick in a total reform of theatrical costume. He quarrelled subsequently with Garrick's successor, Sheridan, who wished to reduce his salary of 500l. a year. His last scenic efforts were undertaken for O'Keeffe's pantomime of 'Omai or Obesa, Queen of the Sandwich Islands,' with costumes, &c, from studies made on the spot by John Webber, R.A. [q. v.] The piece was produced at Covent Garden 20 Dec. 1785 (ib. vi. 390; Baker, Biog. Dram. iv. 98).
On his first arrival in London De Loutherbourg took a house at 45 Titchfield Street, Oxford Street, and lived there for twelve years till 1783. He first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1772, and was thenceforward a frequent exhibitor, sending over a hundred and fifty pictures in all. He was elected an associate of the Royal Academy in 1780, and an academician in 1781.
In 1782 he planned and constructed an ingenious system of moving pictures within a proscenium, which, by a clever disposition of lights, coloured gauzes, and the like, imitated atmospheric effects at different times of the day. This, which he called the 'Eidophusikon,' he exhibited with music to accompany the movements of the pictures, and the display attracted a numerous audience. The painter Gainsborough was deeply impressed by it. So popular was the exhibition that when De Loutherbourg was prosecuted for exhibiting his system without a musical license, the justices before whom the case came at once granted him the license without inflicting any penalty.
In 1783 De Loutherbourg revisited Switzerland, and on his return settled for the remainder of his life at Hammersmith Terrace, Chiswick. He soon devoted himself to mysticism, the attempt to discover the philosopher's stone, and other absorbing pursuits. He became a believer in Cagliostro and Mesmer, and, falling under the influence of the prophet Richard Brothers [q. v.], he claimed for himself and his wife (probably his second) the power of prophecy and of healing diseases by prayer and faith. In 1789 a list of cures effected by them was published by a fellow-believer, Mary Pratt, under the title 'A List of a few Cures performed by Mr. and Mrs. De Loutherbourg of Hammorsmith Terrace without Medicine, by a Lover of the Lamb of God.' An unsuccessful attempt at healing on their part exposed them on one occasion to the violence of a riotous mob (Thornbury, Old and New London, vi. 545). In 1793 De Loutherbourg, accompanied by Gillray, was sent from England to follow the Duke of York's expedition to the Netherlands in order to make studies for a painting of the 'Grand Attack on Valenciennes.' In the following year he arranged a special exhibition in London of his great battle-piece, 'Earl Howe's Victory on 1 June 1794;' it is now in Greenwich Hospital. De Loutherbourg died at 13 Hammersmith Terrace on 11 March 1812, and was buried in Chiswick churchyard, where there is a monument to him designed by Sir John Soane, and bearing an inscription composed by Dr. C. L. Moody. De Loutherbourg was highly respected in private life.
De Loutherbourg's landscapes and marine subjects are characterised by romantic feeling, and, although they have a tendency to staginess, are wholly free from vulgarity. His acquaintance with Alpine scenery and his knowledge of the continent generally did not impair his admiration for English landscape. A series of engravings in aquatint of English scenery, from drawings by him, was published in 1801 under the title of 'Picturesque Scenery of Great Britain,' and a second and similar set was issued in 1805. His large battle-pieces and scenes in the lives of banditti excited the admiration of his contemporaries. The former include 'Admiral Duncan's Victory at Camperdown,' 1797 (engraved by J. Fittler), 'Earl Howe's Victory on 1 June 1794' (engraved by J. Fittler), 'The Landing of the British Troops in Egypt, 1801' (engraved by L. Schiavonetti), and 'The Grand Attack on Valenciennes under the Duke of York, 25 July 1793' (engraved by W. Bromley). Early examples of De Loutherbourg's painting are to be met with in provincial galleries in France and in private collections in England. A 'View in Cumberland,' formerly in the Vernon collection (engraved by W. Richardson), is now in the National Gallery, and a landscape by De Loutherbourg has recently been presented by Mr. Tate to the South Kensington Museum. Drawings by him are in the print room of the British Museum, together with a collection of his etchings, most of which he produced at an early date in his career, and they include some burlesque pieces (for a catalogue of his etchings see Baudicour, Peintre Graveur Français). De Loutherbourg's services were also largely employed in book-illustration. He drew many of the plates and vignettes in Macklin's 'Bible,' Bowyer's 'History of England,'Bell's 'British Theatre,' and similar works. His portrait, drawn from a miniature by J. Jackson, R.A., was engraved by H. Meyer for Cadell's 'Contemporary Portraits.'
[Redgrave's Dict. of Artists; Jal's Dict. Crit. de Biographie; Sandby's Hist. of the Royal Academy; Biographie Générale; Magasin Encyclopédiqoe, vol. iv.; Dussieux's Les Artistes Français à l'Étranger; Mariette's Abecedario; Chennevière's Archives de l'Art Français; Bellier de la Chavignerie's Dictionnaire des Artistes de l'École Français; Nagler's Allgemeines Künstler-Lexikon; Baudicour's Peintre Graveur Français; Library of the Fine Arts, i. 327; Faulkner's Hist. of Hammersmith; Faulkner's Hist. of Brentford, Chiswick, and Isleworth; Magazine of Art, January 1886.]