Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 32.djvu/73

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
Landseer
Landseer
67

himself sketching, with a dog on each side of him critically watching his progress. This portrait, which the artist presented to the Prince of Wales, is in all respects characteristic, for Landseer went about with a troop of dogs, making up, it was said, in quantity for the quality of his early favourite ‘Brutus.’ In disposition he was genial, quick-witted, full of anecdotes of men and manners, and an admirable mimic, qualities which contributed largely to his great success in society. But his highly nervous disposition, which made him enjoy life so keenly, made him also extremely sensitive to anything like censure, or what appeared to him as slights from his distinguished friends, and to such causes are attributed those attacks of mental illness which saddened his life.

As an artist he was thoroughly original, striking out a new path for himself by treating pictorially the analogy between the characters of animals and men. His principal forerunner in this was Hogarth, who occasionally introduced animals in his pictures from the same motive. But Landseer was more playful in his humour, more kind in his satire, trying only to show what was human in the brute, whereas Hogarth only displayed what was brutal in the man. But Landseer was a poet as well as a humorist, and could strike chords of human feeling almost as truly and strongly as if his subjects had been men instead of dogs and deer.

As a draughtsman he was exceedingly elegant and facile, and his dexterity and swiftness of execution with the brush were remarkable, especially in rendering the skins and furs of animals; a few touches or twirls, especially in his later work, sufficed to produce effects which seem due to the most intricate manipulation. Of his swiftness of execution there are many examples. A picture of a bloodhound called ‘Odin’ was completed in twelve hours to justify his opinion that work completed with one effort was the best. Another, of a dog called ‘Trim,’ was finished in two hours, and the famous ‘Sleeping Bloodhound’ in the National Gallery was painted between the middle of Monday and two o'clock on the following Thursday.

His compositions are nearly always marked by a great feeling for elegance of line, but in his later works his colour, despite his skill in imitation, was apt to be cold and crude as a whole. Though he could not paint flesh as well as he painted fur, his portraits are frank and natural, preserving the distinction of his sitters without any affectation. His pictures of children (generally grouped with their pets) are always charming. Perhaps his best portraits of men are those of himself and his father.

Landseer was fond of sport. In his boyhood he enjoyed rat-killing and dog-fights, but in his manhood his favourite sport was deer-stalking. This he was able to indulge by yearly visits to Scotland, where he was a favoured guest at many aristocratic shooting-lodges. At some of these, as at Ardverikie on Loch Laggan, erected by the Marquis of Abercorn in 1840, and occupied by her majesty in 1847, and at Glenfeshie, the shooting-place of the Duke of Bedford, he decorated the walls with sketches. Those at Ardverikie have been destroyed by fire. Sometimes the love of art got the upper hand of the sportsman, as once, when a fine stag was passing, he thrust his gun into the hands of the gillie, and took out his sketch-book for a ‘shot’ with his pencil. Between 1845 and 1861 he executed twenty drawings of deer-stalking, which, engraved by various hands, were published together under the title of ‘Forest Work.’

His most important work as an illustrator of books were his paintings and drawings for the ‘Waverley Novels,’ 1831–41, and six illustrations for Rogers's ‘Italy,’ 1828. He drew a series (fourteen) of sporting subjects for ‘The Annals of Sporting,’ 1823–5, and engravings from his drawings or pictures appeared in ‘Sporting,’ by Nimrod (four); ‘The New Sporting Magazine’ (two); ‘The Sporting Review’ (one); ‘The Sportsman's Annual’ (one); ‘The Book of Beauty’ (five); Dickens's ‘Cricket on the Hearth’ (one); ‘The Menageries’ in Charles Knight's ‘Library of Entertaining Knowledge,’ &c. In 1847 he drew a beautiful set of ‘Mothers’ (animals with young) for the Duchess of Bedford, which were engraved by Charles George Lewis [q. v.]

Landseer was the most popular artist of his time. His popularity, in the first place due to the character of his pictures and to the geniality of disposition which they manifested, was enormously increased by the numerous engravings that were published from his works. Mr. Algernon Graves, in his ‘Catalogue of the Works of Sir Edwin Landseer,’ numbers no fewer than 434 etchings and engravings made from his works down to 1875, and no less than 126 engravers who were employed upon them. Sir Edwin was also very fortunate in his engravers, especially in his brother Thomas [q. v.], who may be said to have devoted his life to engraving the works of his younger brother. Of his other engravers the most important (in regard to the number of works engraved) were Charles George Lewis, Samuel Cousins, Charles Mottram, John Outrim, B. P. Gibbon, T. L. Atkinson, H. T. Ryall, W. H. Simmons, Robert