Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 16.djvu/338

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Eastlake
Eastlake
331

was purchased by five gentlemen of Plymouth. The former now belongs to Lady Eastlake, and the latter to Lord Clinton. The large picture was exhibited in London and the provinces, and Eastlake received altogether about 1,000l. for his labour. This enabled him to visit Italy, for which he started in September 1816, passing through Paris, Geneva, Turin, Milan, Parma, Bologna, Florence, and Siena, en route for Rome, which he entered on 24 Nov. in company with Dr. Bunsen (the chevalier).

For the next fourteen years Rome was his home. First seeking Italy for its classical associations, its antiquities, and its art, he learned to love it for its scenery. For a while he abandoned his ambitions as an historical painter, and devoted himself to landscape, and landscape with the picturesque figures of the Italian peasantry. The society was also congenial to him. He had valuable introductions from Visconti and others. Here he met Cockerell, Sir Humphry Davy, Sir Thomas Lawrence, Thomas Moore, Samuel Rogers, Turner, Etty, Uwins, Jackson, the Miss Berrys, Miss Catherine Fanshawe, and Captain and Mrs. Graham (afterwards Lady Callcott). From the date of his first arrival in Rome till 1830, when he finally made his home in England, he only visited England twice, once in 1820 after his father's death, and again in 1828 after his election as an associate of the Royal Academy. The first two years in Italy were spent principally in study, travel, and sketching from nature.

In April 1817 he went by sea to Naples in company with Mr. Seymour Kirkup, and in March 1818 to Greece with Mr. (afterwards Sir Charles) Barry and two others. He stayed more than three months at Athens. From Athens he went to Malta and Sicily, returning to Rome in December 1818, ‘bringing with him ninety oil-sketches, many of them comparatively finished oil-pictures, all interesting works of art.’

His industry in Greece was equalled in Italy; besides sketching in the open air regardless of the sun he drew regularly at the Academy in the evening, and earned himself the title of the most industrious artist in Rome. In Rome his Greek sketches made a sensation, and he was beset with commissions. Little of this pure landscape work is known. Except in 1823 he seldom or ever exhibited a simple landscape, and though his skill and refinement in this branch of art are obvious enough in his later pictures, such as his ‘banditti’ pictures and ‘Pilgrims in Sight of Rome,’ their interest for the public mainly consisted in the figures. A fine example of his union of truth and poetry in landscape composition is now in the National Gallery (‘Byron's Dream,’ exhibited 1829).

His ‘banditti’ pictures first brought him fame in England. Those exhibited at the British Institution in 1823 (all commissions from visitors at Rome) could have been sold ‘fifty times over,’ and brought him a fine compliment from Sir Thomas Lawrence. At this time ‘the principles of Venetian colouring began to occupy his mind,’ and the next year he exhibited at the British Institution a picture with half figures life-size called ‘The Champion,’ which was praised by Haydon for its ‘Titianesque simplicity.’ Returning to his early ambition to excel as an historical painter, he completed a picture of ‘The Spartan, Isadas,’ who, according to Plutarch's ‘Life of Agesilaus,’ was taken for a divinity in battle. It created a sensation in Rome first and afterwards in England, where it was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1827. In the following November Eastlake was elected an associate. In 1828 he exhibited the first version of his celebrated picture of ‘Pilgrims in sight of Rome,’ and in the next year ‘Byron's Dream.’ In the following February, although he had exhibited only six pictures at the Academy, but three of which could be called important, he was elected a full member of the Academy.

When he returned to settle for the rest of his life in England, Eastlake possessed perhaps the most cultivated understanding on art then existing. He travelled always ‘handbook in hand,’ and observed, noted, and criticised with the strictest care everything, whether picture, architecture, or scenery, which came in his way. To complete his knowledge of the picture galleries of Europe, he had on his return to Rome in 1828 taken a tour through Holland, Belgium, and Germany, and on his way to England in 1830 he had visited Vienna. As early as 1819 he had written six articles on different subjects for the ‘London Magazine,’ which was started in the following year, and in 1829 he composed a paper for the ‘Quarterly Review’ on the ‘Philosophy of the Fine Arts.’ This, owing to the author's fastidiousness, was never published in the ‘Review,’ but parts of it were included in the selections from his writings (‘Contributions to the Literature of the Fine Arts’), edited by Mr. Bellenden Ker, in 1848.

The period from 1830 to 1840 was, says Lady Eastlake, ‘the most productive in works of note.’ Besides numerous portraits for which, especially those of ladies in fancy costumes, there was a great demand, there belong to this time the ‘Hagar and Ishmael’ (diploma picture); the ‘Peasant Woman