Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 39.djvu/288

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Mulready
Mulready
282

the acquaintance of John Varley [q. v.] the water-colour painter, who took him into his house (2 Harris Place, Oxford Street) as a sort of pupil-teacher. Varley and he appear to have had many tastes in common, including one for pugilism. While with Varley he improved greatly as an artist, and laid the foundation of his success as a teacher, on which his future livelihood was mainly to depend. Among those artists who benefited most by his instruction were John Linnell [q. v.] and William Henry Hunt [q. v.], who was placed under his especial care. Unfortunately he did not confine his attention to his master's pupils, but fell in love with one of Varley's sisters, and married her in 1803, when he was in his eighteenth year. The union proved a very unhappy one. Mulready's earnings were not sufficient to support a wife and the four children which she soon brought him, and dissensions arose between the young couple, which were terminated, after about six years of married life, by a separation which was deliberate, formal, and final. Mrs. Mulready, who survived her husband by a few months, declared that though they generally lived in the same neighbourhood for nearly fifty years after the separation, she had only once caught sight of him in the street. No explanation is given of this complete breakdown of sympathy, but their poverty probably did not tend to smooth the temper of Mulready, which was naturally violent. 'I remember the time,' said Mulready, 'when I had a wife, four children, nothing to do, and was 600l. in debt.' His want of occupation was not the result of idleness. He taught drawing, and used to say that he had ' tried his hand at everything from a miniature to a panorama.' The panorama is supposed to have been one by Sir Robert Kerr Porter [q. v.] His artistic ambition is shown by the subjects of his first compositions. He painted 'Ulysses and Polyphemus,' 'The Disobedient Prophet,' and 'The Supper at Emmaus,' and made a large cartoon of 'The Judgment of Solomon.' We are told that none of these works gave any great evidence of talent, and it is probable that his intercourse with Varley moderated his ambition, and turned his attention to landscape. In 1804 he made his first appearance at the Royal Academy with two views of Kirkstall Abbey, and one of a cottage at Knaresborough, the result of a trip to Yorkshire, and he exhibited three landscapes in each of the following years. At this time he was much engaged in designing for children's books, a whole series of which were published between 1807 and 1809. The illustrations of the following are attributed to him: 'Lamb's Tales from Shakespeare,' 1807; 'The Elephant's Ball,' 1807; 'The Butterfly's Ball and the Grasshopper's Feast,' 1807; 'The Lion's Masquerade,' 1807; 'The Lioness's Ball,' 1807; 'The Peacock at Home,' 1807; 'The Lobster's Voyage to the Brazils,' 1808; 'The Cat's Concert,' 1808; 'The Fishes' Grand Gala,' 1808; 'Madame Grimalkin's Party,' 1808; 'The Jackdaw at Home,' 1808; 'The Lion's Parliament,' 1808; 'The Water-king's Levee,' 1808; and 'Think before you speak,' 1809. To these may perhaps be added 'The King and Queen of Hearts,' 'Nong Tong Paw,' 'Gafier Gray,' and 'The Sullen Woman.' During these three years he exhibited figure subjects; in 1807, ' Old Kaspar' at the Royal Academy; in 1808, 'The Rattle 'at the British Institution, and 'The Dead Hare,' and a 'Girl at Work' at the Academy. In 1809 he sent to the Academy 'Returning from the Alehouse,' since called 'Fair-time' (now in the National Gallery, with a new background painted in 1840, when it was again exhibited at the Academy), and to the British Institution 'The Carpenter's Shop.' This was his first work of any importance, a simple domestic scene, of the class of art to which he subsequently devoted himself, influenced perhaps by the success that Wilkie had just achieved by his. 'Blind Fiddler.' In 1811 he improved his position by a picture of the Wilkie type called 'The Barber's Shop ' (a lout brought to have his red locks cropped by the village barber), and continued this success by other humorous pictures of boy life. In 1813 he exhibited 'Punch,' 'Boys Fishing' in 1814, and in 1815 'Idle Boys.' In November 1815 he was elected an associate, and in February 1816 a Royal Academician, so that his name never appears as an associate in the q. catalogues. In 1816 the picture of 'The Fight interrupted,' in which we see the bully of the school severely damaged by a brave little champion of liberty, justified his rapid promotion, and greatly increased his reputation.

His style, which had hitherto shown his very careful study of the Dutch masters and a desire to rival Wilkie. now changed to one more original and peculiar to himself. In 1815 he exhibited 'Lending a Bite,' in 1820 'The Wolf and the Lamb,' in 1821 'The Careless Messenger detected,' in 1822 'The Convalescent from Waterloo,' in 1824 'The Widow,' in 1825 'The Travelling Druggist' in 1826 'The Origin of a Painter,' in 1827 'The Cannon,' in 1828 'The Interior of an English Cottage,' in 1830 'Returning from the Hustings.' These were followed by 'Dogs of two Minds,' 1830, 'A Sailing Match,' 1831, 'Scene from St. Ronan's Well,' 1832, 'The