Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 32.djvu/289

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Lawrence
Lawrence
283

ordinary to his majesty, and the Royal Academy elected him president on the evening of his return. The king, in giving his sanction to the election, presented Lawrence with a gold chain and a medal of himself, inscribed 'From His Majesty George IV to the President of the Royal Academy.' In the catalogue of the Royal Academy for 1820 he was able to add to his honours 'Member of the Roman Academy of St. Luke's, of the Academy of Fine Arts at Florence, and of the Fine Arts at New York.'

He had now reached the summit of his profession, and attained a fame which increased rather than diminished during the next and last ten years of his life. This is a period marked also by equal activity and skill. To it belong his portrait of Lady Blessington, celebrated in Byron's verses, and the charming Miss Fry, now in the National Gallery, and one of the last of his works. In this period were also executed his most famous pictures of children, the young Lambton, son of John George Lambton, afterwards first earl of Durham, the Calmady children, the charming group called 'Nature.' and the children of the Marquis of Londonderry, as well as a series of pictures painted for Mr. (afterwards Sir Robert) Peel, including Lord Liverpool, the Duke of Wellington, Canning, Southey. The well-known portraits of Mrs. Peel and her daughter, and the groups of the Countess Gower and her son, of Lady Georgiana Agar Ellis and her son, and the Marchioness of Londonderry and her son, and portraits of Sir Walter Scott and Thomas Moore were also among his latest works. The favour of the king continued with him to the end. In 1826 he sent Lawrence to Paris to paint the portraits of Charles X and the dauphin, and he subsequently allowed him to wear the cross of the Legion of Honour which was conferred on him by the French king. A magnificent service of Sevres china, which was also sent to him by Charles X, was left in his will to the Royal Academy to be used on state occasions. Other m inor hou ours in the shape of diplomas from the academies of Bologna, Venice, Vienna, Turin, and Copenhagen fell upon him. He was also created a D.C.L. of Oxford, 14 June 1820, and was a trustee of the British Museum. Nothing could apparently exceed his prosperity. He lived in a fine house, which was a perfect museum of art treasures, and included the finest collection of drawings by the old masters ever made by a private person ; he held every distinction which could fall to one of his profession, and was courted by the highest society scarcely less as a man than as an artist. Yet, notwithstanding all this, he was never free from anxiety or the necessity for continual labour. As a boy he hampered himself by allowing his father 300l. a year, and signing a bond on his behalf, but since the death of his parents he made large sums of money. His prices were high. Lord Gower paid fifteen hundred guineas for the portrait of Lady Gower and her child, and Lord Durham paid him six hundred guineas for that of his son. Yet he had managed his affairs so ill that at sixty years of age he was still continually harassed by his pecuniary obligations. He died of ossification of the heart, after a few days' illness, on 7 Jan. 1830, and was buried with many honours in St. Paul's Cathedral. When his estate was realised it was found to be no more than sufficient to meet the demands upon it, but 3,000l. was produced by an exhibition of his works at the British Institution, and this sum was devoted to the benefit of his nieces. Lawrence no doubt spent much money on his collection of drawings, but he lived simply and entertained little, and he may be elieved when he says : 'I have neither been extravagant nor profligate in the use of money. Neither gaming, horses, curricles, expensive entertainments, nor secret sources of ruin from vulgar licentiousness have swept it from me.' But he began early in life to anticipate his income, and when he had money in hand he would lend it or give it away with lavish and thoughtless generosity. But if Lawrence was a bad hand at keeping money, he was very accomplished in the art which, when combined with professional skill, chiefly enables a portrait-painter to make a fortune — the art of a courtier. The desire of pleasing was bred if not born in him, and from the time he pencilled his father's guests in the Black Bear at Devizes till his death he never lost a sitter by an unflattering likeness. Nor did he fail to make use of any of the advantages with which nature had endowed him. Though not tall (he was under five feet nine), his beautiful face, active figure, agreeable manners, and fine voice were not thrown away upon either lords or ladies, emperors or kings. Even George IV pronounced him a high-bred gentleman, and his own portrait was so much in request that the king, Sir Robert Peel, Lord Francis Leveson Gower, and the city of Bristol were at the same time candidates for the first from his easel.

Though shining in society he was not a sociable man . Among his many male friends he had few, if any, who could be called intimate. To John Julius Angerstein [q. v.], 'his very first friend' as he calls him, who had early in life helped him with a large loan, to Joseph Farington, R.A., who for many