« AnteriorContinuar »
FRANCIS CHANTREY, SCULPTOR.
A MAN of genius and taste, Gray the poet, lamented that his native country had made no advance in sculpture. . This reproach has been removed, and removed too by a masterly hand. Those who wish to trace the return of English sculpture from the foreign artificial and allegorical style, to its natural and original character-from cold and conceited fiction to tender and elevated truth, will find it chiefly in the history of Francis Chantrey and his productions. Of him, and of them, we shall try to render some account. For it is instructive to follow the progress of an original and powerful mind, from the rudeness of its early conceptions, till it comes forth with native and unborrowed might in creations of grace, and beauty, and dignity.
Francis Chantrey was born at Norton, a small village on the borders of Derbyshire, on the 7th of April, 1782. His ancestors were in respectable if not opulent circumstances, and some heritable possessions still belong to the family. He was deprived of his father very early in life, and being an only child, was educated by his mother with abundance of tenderness and solicitude. He attended the school at Norton-but of his progress there, we have been unable to obtain any particular account. Education and agriculture shared his time between them till his seventeenth year; and a farmer's education is not always the most liberal. About this time he became weary of the pursuits of his forefathers, and resolved to study the law under a respectable solicitor at Sheffield. Whether this was his own choice or that of his relations we have not learned, and it matters not, for another destiny awaited him. To accident, we owe much of what we are willing to attribute to our wisdom; and, certainly to pure accident, we owe whatever delight we have received from the productions of Mr Chantrey.
During the hours of intermission from labour at the farm, and instruc tion at the school, he had amused himVOL. VH.
self in making resemblances of various objects in clay, and to this employment he was much attached. But his affection thus early shown for art was but a matter of amusement-he calculated as little of the scope it presented to the ambition of genius, as he was unconscious that it was the path which nature had prepared for his fame. The day named for commencing his new profession arrived, and with the usual eagerness of youth for novelty, he reached Sheffield a full hour sooner than his friends had appointed to meet him. As he walked up and down the street, expecting their coming, his attention was attracted by some figures in the window of one Ramsay, a carver and gilder. He stopped to examine them, and was not without those emotions which original minds feel in seeing something congenial. He resolved at once to become an artist; and perhaps, even then, associated his determination with those ideas and creations of beauty from which his name is now inseparable. Common wonder is fond of attributing the first visible impulse of any extraordinary mind to some singular circumstance, but nothing can be better authenticated than the fact which decided the destiny of his talents. What his friends thought of his sudden resolution it is useless to inquire-we have heard that they did not condole with him, like the illustrious Burns over the pursuits of Fergusson:
"Thy glorious parts
Ill suited laws dry musty arts." The labours in which Ramsay employed him were too limited for his powers; his hours of leisure were therefore dedicated to modelling and drawing, and he always preferred copying nature. He had no other idea of style but that with which nature supplied him he had his own notions of art and of excellence to rough-hew for himself, and the style and character he then formed, he pursues with success now. These we have learned were much more pleasant speculations to him than to Ramsay, who, incensed