Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Harding, James Duffield
HARDING, JAMES DUFFIELD (1798–1863), landscape-painter and lithographer, born at Deptford in 1798, was son of a drawing-master of ability, who had been a pupil of Paul Sandby. He was taught perspective by his father, received some instruction from Prout, and at the age of thirteen exhibited two drawings at the Royal Academy; these were views of buildings in the manner of Prout. His first attempts at studying from nature were so unpromising that for a time he abandoned the idea of becoming a painter, and his father articled him to Charles Pye, an engraver. Engraving proved distasteful to him, and having by perseverance overcome his original difficulties, he left Pye at the end of a year, and settled down to the practice of water-colour painting. At the age of eighteen he was awarded a silver medal by the Society of Arts. In 1818 he exhibited for the first time with the Society of Painters in Watercolours, and during the whole of his life was a regular contributor to its exhibitions, of which his works, illustrating the scenery of nearly every country in Europe, formed one of the chief features. He was elected an associate of the society in 1820 and a full member in 1821. In 1843 he took up oil-painting, and exhibited many landscapes in that medium at the Royal Academy, and in 1847 resigned his membership of the Water-colour Society in order to compete for academy honours; but in this he was unsuccessful, and, after keeping his name on the list for nine years, withdrew his candidature in 1856, and was re-elected into the Water-colour Society.
From an early period Harding was a successful and popular teacher. When lithography came into vogue in this country, he quickly adopted it as a means of providing good examples for the use of pupils and students, and in the many works which he published greatly developed the resources of the art, carrying it in fact to a point of excellence which has not been surpassed. The 'Académie des Beaux Arts' had awarded him two gold medals for lithographic drawings exhibited at the Louvre. His early productions were drawing-books, consisting of pencil sketches and studies of trees; he printed with two stones in tints, and thus reproduced successfully more elaborate drawings. His 'Sketches at Home and Abroad,' a series of fifty plates done in this manner and published in 1836, excited general admiration, and King Louis Philippe, to whom the work was dedicated, sent the artist a breakfast service of Sevres china and a diamond ring. In 1841 he published 'The Park and the Forest,' a set of beautiful sketches drawn on the stone with a brush instead of the crayon, a plan he devised, and to which he gave the name of 'lithotint.' Among his many other lithographic works were 'A Series of Subjects from the Works of R. P. Bonington,' 1829-30; 'Recollections of India,' from drawings by the Hon. C. S. Hardinge, 1847; and 'Picturesque Selections,' 1861, his last and finest achievement. A series of twenty-four autotypes from the original drawings done for 'Sketches at Home and Abroad' was issued in 1874. In 1830 Harding exhibited Italian views sketched on papers of various tints and textures. This novel idea was generally adopted, and for many years 'Harding's papers' (as they came to be called by drawing-masters), manufactured by Whatman, were extensively used for sketching purposes. In the practice of water-colour painting Harding was chiefly responsible for the abandonment of the exclusive use of transparent colours, in which nearly all the great artists worked before his time. Harding, following the example first set by Turner, freely employed opaque or body colour. In his skilful hands the results were so pleasing that, in spite of the strong opposition of artists trained in old traditions, the system was universally accepted by younger men, and it is now a distinguishing feature of modern water-colour art.
Harding was a prolific author of educational manuals. His 'Lessons on Art,' 'Guide and Companion to Lessons on Art,' 'Elementary Art, or the Use of the Chalk and Lead Pencil advocated and explained,' and 'The Principles and Practice of Art,' in which he expounded his theories with great ability, became approved text-books both here and abroad. At the Paris exhibition of 1855 he obtained 'honourable mention' for two pictures, 'The Falls of Schaffhausen' and 'View of Fribourg.' He died at Barnes, Surrey, 4 Dec. 1863, and was buried in Brompton cemetery.
Harding's sketches, especially of trees and architecture, were executed with amazing facility and dexterity. They show his powers at their best, and have elicited warm praise from Mr. Ruskin in his 'Modern Painters.' His pictures, though popular, were mannered and superficial, and lacked the higher qualities of art. His treatment by the Royal Academy, which not only declined to admit him to its membership, but hung his works badly at its exhibitions, was therefore not unjustifiable. One of his oil-paintings, 'On the Moselle,' is in the collection of Sir Richard Wallace, and there are two in the South Kensington Museum. Harding was a man of much refinement and of genial manners; his portrait appeared in the 'Art Journal,' 1850, p. 181.[Redgrave's Dict. of Artists; Art Journal, 1850p 181, 1856 p. 270, 1864 p. 89; C. Knight's English Cyclopædia of Biography, 1856; Men of the Time, 1856; Athenæum, 12 Dec. 1863; Redgrave's Cat. of the Water-colour Paintings in the South Kensington Museum, 1877; Encycl. Brit. 9th ed. xviii. 140.]