Page:Dictionary of National Biography, Second Supplement, volume 3.djvu/265

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They lived in Macquarie Street. George, with his younger brother, William Severin (b. 18 Jan. 1837, d. 23 June 1905), at first went to a school in Sydney until 1848, when George was sent home to Eton. His parents followed him to England two years later. He seems to have left no impression on his contemporaries at Eton save that of 'a pale, lean, tall, eccentric person,' although a contemporary portrait shows him as a handsome youth. Shooting was the only form of sport for which he cared. The whole family returned to Sydney in 1853, on account of George's health, contrary to the wishes of his Eton tutor, who saw in him the making of a good classical scholar. The brother William was at the same time withdrawn from Brighton College. A tutor was brought out for the two boys, and he complained of George's dreamy poetic temperament, which hindered continuous application. In the Lent term of 1854 Salting entered the newly founded University of Sydney with a scholarship for general proficiency. After a career in which he especially distinguished himself in classics, he graduated B.A. in 1857. When George and his brother left the university their father acknowledged their debt to its training by founding 'The Salting Exhibition,' tenable for three years by any pupil of the Sydney grammar school.

The Saltings returned to England in 1857, and settled in Rutland Gate. In October 1857 George matriculated from Balliol College, Oxford, but left after one term, owing apparently to his mother's death and its effect upon his father. The father gave up his London house and spent the autumn of 1858 in Rome. This sojourn moulded George's future career. While in Rome he devoted his whole time to the galleries, churches, and architectural monuments or to available books on the artistic and archæological treasures of the city. To other modes of study he added photography, then a serious undertaking, which involved his wheeling on a truck about the streets the apparatus together with a kind of tent, in which to develop his plates. Early in 1859 the party went to Naples and then to Florence. After a short visit to Australia they settled at a house named Silverlands, near Chertsey, where the father died (14 Sept. 1865). Thereupon George took for himself a suite of rooms over the Thatched House Club at the bottom of St. James's Street. There he remained unmarried and living with the utmost simplicity until death.

On his father's death Salting inherited a fortune generously estimated at 30,000l. a year. Thenceforth he devoted himself exclusively to collecting works of art, to which he brought a rare judgment and an unfaltering zeal. His severe training in Rome had prepared him for the vocation, which he was encouraged to pursue by the example of his friend Louis Huth, of Charles Drury Edward Fortnum [q. v. Suppl. I], and of (Sir) Augustus WoUaston Franks [q. v. Suppl. I], who had lately given a new seriousness to the study of medieval and renaissance art. But Salting was unique among the collectors of his time in consecrating the whole of his time and money to the pursuit, to the exclusion of every other interest.

For more than forty years Salting when in London spent each afternoon on a pilgrimage from one dealer to another, examining their wares with the greatest deliberation. When an object was selected as a desirable purchase, the price involved tedious negotiation, which Salting seems purposely to have prolonged so as to give him continuous occupation. Where he felt imcertain of his own judgment, he would walk to one or other of the museums or to a fellow collector, to obtain an opinion. At times he bought objects that on examination did not prove to be of good enough quality for his taste, and he would cause dealers embarrassment by offering these, which he called 'marbles' in allusion to schoolboy usage, in part payment for something of higher quality.

In the early days of his occupation of the Thatched House Club his purchases went there, but when the limited space proved inadequate even as storage, he lent his main collection of oriental porcelain to South Kensington (Victoria and Albert Museum), and subsequently many purchases went thither direct from the dealer.

Chinese porcelain was Salting's first serious interest, probably owing to the influence of Louis Huth. Here he formed what is without doubt one of the great collections of the world. It is especially valuable and important as presenting, perhaps more satisfactorily than any other, a complete series of the strictly artistic productions of the Chinese in this material. He cared but little for the historical interest of the wares or for tracing their history ; in his taste Chinese porcelain was confined to what he considered beautiful, without regard either to antiquity or to the evolution of the manufacture. To a limited extent he collected Japanese art products, but never with the same enthusiasm. His eclectic mind and sensitive eye evidently failed to