Page:Dictionary of National Biography. Sup. Vol II (1901).djvu/393

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Hamerton
Hamerton
381

France, where Hamerton settled in the neighbourhood of Autun. The step was most fortunate, as it tended to dissociate him from the exclusive practice of pictorial art, in which he would hardly have risen above mediocrity, and to direct him to aesthetic criticism and general literature. The turning point of his career was the publication (1862) of 'A Painter's Camp in the Highlands,' which not only obtained immediate success both in England and America, but made him a contributor to English periodicals. He wrote for the 'Fortnightly' and other reviews, succeeded F. T. Palgrave as art critic on the 'Saturday Review,' an employment which obliged him to spend much time in London, and procured a commission for an extensive work on etching and etchers, which was not published until 1868. A nervous illness in this year, which incapacitated him from railway travel, necessitated the resignation of his post on the 'Saturday.' Unable to leave home, he turned to novel writing, and produced in succession 'Wenderholme' (1869), and, under the pseudonym of Adolphus Segrave, 'Marmorne' (1878), both of which obtained favour with a select public. A more important enterprise was the establishment, in conjunction with Mr. Richmond Seeley, of 'The Portfolio,' which forthwith took rank as one of the most important of English artistic periodicals. The introduction of illustration, first by autotype, afterwards by the Woodbury type and various methods of photogravure, made it an epoch in illustrated art literature, while the objects reproduced and the literary contributions were also of the highest order. Hamerton, who had become devoted to etching, contributed a series of papers entitled 'The Unknown River,' with illustrative etchings by himself; and afterwards a series of 'Chapters on Animals,' illustrated with etchings by Veyrassat, and 'Examples of Modern Etchings,' with notes. He continued to direct the journal for the remainder of his life, and it gave him an assured and important position in the world of art. 'The Graphic Arts,' 1882, 'Landscape in Art,' 1883, 'The Saone,' 1887, and ' Man in Art,' 1894, mainly reproduced from 'The Portfolio,' were further contributions to art literature, as well as a life of Turner (1879). His most important literary work, however, was performed as an essayist, and included five books of the highest merit in their respective departments. He had already (1873) published 'The Intellectual Life,' a charming and thoughtful study. In 'Round my House' (1876) he gave the world such a study of French social life as could only have proceeded from one who had, like him, resided for many years in the heart of France. 'Modern Frenchmen' (1878) was an equally valuable series of biographies of notable men, displaying modern French thought in its most refined aspects, and aiming, like all Hamerton's work of this class, at the establishment of cordial feeling between France and England. 'Human Intercourse' (1882) was a work of the class of 'The Intellectual Life.' 'French and English' appeared in 1890. The principal external events of a life so full of artistic and intellectual effort were an unsuccessful candidature for the Slade professorship of fine art at the university of Edinburgh (1880) ; the tragic death of a son in 1888; and Hamerton's removal in 1891 to Boulogne-sur-Seine, where he died on 4 Nov. 1894. His death was sudden, but he had long been suffering from hypertrophy of the heart. He left an autobiography brought down to the date of his marriage. It was completed and published in 1897 by his widow, better qualified than himself to render justice to the many admirable traits of a sterling character somewhat deficient in superficial attractiveness, and less likely to bring into relief, as he has done, the foibles hardly to be escaped by one doubly prone to sensitiveness as author and as artist. Much, however, that seems vanity is merely lack of a sense of humour. The writer's undoubting conviction that whatever interests him must interest others burdens his pages with superfluous detail. He is indeed once visited by the reflection that ' the reader may advantageously be spared my boyish impressions of the Great Exhibition.' A consistent application of this excellent principle would have benefited the book. Mrs. Hamerton's part of it is also minute, but never tedious. It is an almost unparalleled example of idiomatic English from the pen of a lady who knew none when she was married, and only lived in Great Britain for a short time.

Hamerton also wrote 'Contemporary French Painters' (1865) and 'The Etcher's Handbook' (1871). Etching became his favourite art, and he was a frequent contributor to the exhibitions of the Painter Etchers' Society. In 1882 he was made an officier d'Acad6mie. On 3 March 1894 he received the degree of LL.D. from the university of Aberdeen. His portrait, from a photograph by A. H. Palmer, son of Samuel Palmer [q. v.], is prefixed to his autobiography, and another, by Elliott & Fry, was reproduced in 'Scribner's Magazine' for February 1895.

[Philip Gilbert Hamerton : an Autobiography and Memoir, 1897.]

R. G.