Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 32.djvu/287

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Lawrence
Lawrence
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enjoyed. The royal favour was still more strongly employed in the following year, when on the death of Reynolds Lawrence was appointed principal portrait-painter in ordinary to the king. The appointment was immediately followed, if it was not preceded, by a commission for portraits of the king and queen, to be presented to the Emperor of China by Lord Macartney, who set out on his embassy to China in this year (1792). Lawrence was also now elected painter of the Dilettanti Society, who, in order to grant him membership, abrogated their rule that all members must have passed the Alps.

In 1793 he exhibited another poetical picture, 'Prospero raising the Storm.' and among his portraits were those of Sir George Beaumont, Mr. (afterwards Earl) Grey, the Marquis of Abercorn, and the Duke of Clarence. In February of the following year he was elected a Royal Academician, an honour which was immediately followed by an increase of influential patronage and another change of address, this time to Piccadilly, opposite the Green Park. In 1795 he painted Cowper the poet, who pressed him to come and stay with him at Olney. But not satisfied with a reputation as a portrait-painter he now nerved himself for a great effort in the poetical line, and chose 'Satan calling his Legions' for his subject. The 'Satan' (exhibited in 1797), now in the possession of the Royal Academy, showed clearly that the 'grand style' was beyond the reach of the artist. Though civilly and seriously treated by some critics, one of whom called the figure of Satan 'sublime.' it was severely handled by others, especially Antony Pasquin, who, in his 'Critical Guide to the Present Exhibition at the Royal Academy.' compared the rebel angel to 'a mad sugar-baker dancing naked in a conflagration of his own treacle.' To Lawrence, however, the effect of the picture was satisfactory. 'The Satan.' he wrote to Miss Lee, ' answered my secret motives in attempting it ; my success in portraits will no longer be thought accident or fortune ; and if I have trod the second path with honour it is because my limbs are strong. My claims are acknowledged by the circle of taste, and are undisfuted by competitors and rivals.' His friend, Fuseli, however, who had said of it that 'it was a d—d thing certainly, but not the devil.' also took exception to it on the ground that the idea was oorrowed from him, and this occasioned the only interruption in the long friendship of these two very different artists, who as a rule cordially admired each other's works. The interruption was probably dissolved in laughter, for Lawrence was able to prove, by a sketch which he had taken of Fuseli as he stood in a wild posture on a rock near Bristol, that his idea of Satan was taken not from Fuseli's paintings but from his own person. Other stories with equally-slight foundations are told of Lawrence s borrowings from Fuseli, one in particular relating to the 'Prospero raising the Storm' (see Library of the Fine Arts, 1831, p. 367 ; and Redgrave, Century of Painters, ii. 14). In the same year as the Satan appeared Lawrence achieved a less doubtful success by a portrait of Mrs. Siddons. It was in this year also that he lost both his parents, to whom he was greatly attached. His mother died in May and his father in September.

After the Satan Lawrence did not attempt another picture of pure imagination, but contented himself with portraiture, with now and then a picture which he called 'half history.' representing John Kemble in different characters. The first of these was 'Coriolanusat the hearth of Aufidius' (1798), which was followed by 'Rolla' (1800), 'Hamlet' (1801), and 'Cato' (1802). 'Rolla' was painted over 'Prospero raising the Storm.' and though the features were Kemble's the body was drawn from Jackson the pugilist. The 'Hamlet' is considered the finest of the group, and was presented by William IV to the National Gallery. In the year after the 'Hamlet' (1802) Lawrence for once consented to take a part in private theatricals at the Marquis of Abercorn's at the Priory, Stanmore. The prince was there, with the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, Lord and Lady Melbourne, and other distinguished guests. Lawrence took the parts of Lord Rakeland in the 'Wedding Day' and Grainger in 'Who's the Dupe?' The performances were a success, but he seems to have thought acting derogatory to a person in his position, and determined not to act again except at the marquis's.

Lawrence, who was still popular at the palace, is said to have amused George III y his flirtation with Mrs. Papendiek, the wife of a German musician of the king's household. The king, who espoused the side of the unfortunate Princess of Wales, now discarded by her husband, gave a commission to Lawrence to paint the portrait of the princess and her daughter the Princess Charlotte. While engaged upon these portraits he slept several nights at Montagu House, Blackheath, where the Princess of Wales was then living, was alone with her in the painting-room, and sat up late (though not alone) with her. After the portraits were finished he continued to call upon her. The