The New International Encyclopædia/Leslie, Charles Robert
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Leslie, Charles Robert
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LESLIE, Charles Robert (1794-1859). An English genre painter, of American descent. He was born in London, October 19, 1794, of American parentage. His father, a watchmaker of Philadelphia, died in 1803, upon his return to that city, leaving his family destitute. Charles Robert was apprenticed to a bookseller, but evinced great aptitude for drawing, and at the age of seventeen he drew a portrait of the actor George Frederic Cooke, which was esteemed so excellent that a subscription was raised to enable him to study abroad for two years. In 1811 he went to London, and was hospitably received by Benjamin West, president of the Royal Academy. He became one of a group of Americans, among whom were the painters Aleston and King, Washington Irving, and John Constable.
His first picture exhibited at the Academy was a melodramatic production, entitled “Murder” (1813). Not until after his visit to Paris, in 1817, did he exhibit his special talent, the painting of humorous historical genre, in his “Sir Roger de Coverley Going to Church,” During this period he designed illustrations for Irving's Knickerbocker History of New York and Sketch-Book, also painting his portrait. In 1822 “May-day Revels in the Time of Queen Elizabeth” secured his election as an associate of the Academy. In company with Sir Edmund Landseer he visited Sir Walter Scott at Abbotsford in 1824, and painted his portrait. In 1825 he married Miss Stone, a celebrated beauty, and in 1826 he became an Academician. Elected professor of drawing at West Point in 1833, he returned to London after a trial of a few months. In 1838 he was summoned to Windsor to paint the “Queen Receiving the Sacrament After the Coronation,” now in Buckingham Palace. He was professor of painting at the Royal Academy from 1848 to 1852, and published his admirable lectures to the students as a Handbook for Young Painters (1855). Other works are: The Memoirs of Constable (1865), whose merits he was among the first to recognize; an incomplete Life of Reynolds (1865); and his own Autobiographical Recollections (1860), the two last edited by Tom Taylor. Leslie died at Saint John's Wood, London, May 5, 1859.
Leslie is chiefly famous as an illustrator of humorous incidents taken from the great authors. His humor is refined and delightful, and no one has entered more into the spirit of the author. He is a good draughtsman and a skillful composer, but his coloring, especially in his later works, is harsh. The shadows are too black, and there are no middle tones to harmonize them with the light portions. The best known of his pictures is “Uncle Toby and the Widow Wadman” (1831), in the National Gallery. The South Kensington Museum contains, besides replicas, three subjects from Molière, “The Dinner at Mr. Page's House” (1838), and others. In the collection of Lord Leconfield at Petworth, in Sussex, are the originals of the “Taming of the Shrew” (1832, replica at South Kensington), “Sancho Panza in the Apartments of the Duchess” (1828), and three others. Two of the Sir Roger de Coverley series are at Bowood, in the collection of the Marquis of Lansdowne. In the Philadelphia Academy are a number of replicas and the original of the “Murder of Rutland.” Consult Leslie's Autobiographical Recollections (London, 1860).