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THE PAINTER'S EULOGY.
Whether apart consider'd or combin'd,
Painting is a branch of the Fine Arts sedulously cultivated by every civilized nation throughout the globe. In England, and especially during the present reign, it has arisen to high distinction. His MAJESTY has vouchsafed his patronage to artists in a way most honourable to his taste and judgment.
MR. WEST'S LIFE.
The establishment of the Royal Academy, and the annual Exhibition of Paintings at Somerset House, excite emulation and hold out the meed of reward. The most extraordinary proof of native genius may be found in the history of Mr. Benjamin West, President of the Royal Academy. Besides his many paintings at Windsor Castle, his Christ healing the Sick, and his Christ Rejected are master-pieces, the theme of universal admiration. His Life, by MR. GALT, previous to his residence in England, is a most entertaining volume. The story is told with an ease and simplicity which find their direct way to the heart. A few anecdotes will be acceptable.
“ MR. BENJAMIN West is a native of America, and his parents were of the Quaker persuasion. He was born in 1738, (the year of his Majesty's birth,) near Springfield, in the state of Pennsylvania. The young artist shewed early indications of his love of painting. In his seventh year he sketched a likeness of a Sleeping Infant in the cradle, consigned to his care; was taught by Indians to mix colours, and shot birds with the view of copying their piumage into his pictures. These were executed with a common pen, but having a pencil described to him, he soon made one with the fur stolen from the tail of his father's black cat ! A relative soon presented him with a box of colours, pieces of canvass prepared for the Easel, and six engravings by Grevling. This formed an era in his life. Friends multiplied, who furnished him with instruction, by which he so improved, that.
MR. WEST'S LIFE.
his productions attracted general admiration. From the perusal of Plutarch, he painted the Death of Socrates, his first historical production.
He now settled at Philadelphia, enlarged the circle of his acquaintance, and made rapid improvement. These advantages had a happy influence on his subsequent life. But the manner in which the Friends overcame their scruples respecting Painting, and the singular form of devoting the young artist to the profession, shall be transcribed :
" When BENJAMIN West had attained his sixteenth year, his father became anxious to see him settled in some established business. The old gentleman was sensible tbat the profession of a painter was not only precarious, but regarded by the religious association to which he belonged, as adverse to their tenets, by being only ornamental, and he was anxious on his son's account, and on his own, to avoid those animadversions to which he was exposed, by the free. dom he had hitherto granted to the predilections of Benjamin. He, therefore, consulted several of his neighbours on the subject, and a MEETING of the Society of Friends, in the vicinity, was called to consider publicly what ought to be the destiny of the
“ The assembly met in the meeting-house, near Springfield, and after much debate, approaching to altercation, a man of the name of John Williamson rose and delivered a very extraordinary speech upon the subject. He was much respected by all present
WEST DEVOTED TO PAINTING.
for the purity and integrity of his life, and enjoyed great influence in his sphere, on account of the superiority of his natural wisdom; and as a public preacher
among the Friends, possessed an astonishing gift of • convincing eloquence. He pointed to old Mr. West
and his wife, and expatiated on the blameless reputation which they had so long maintained and merited 80 well.
• They have had,' said he, ten children, whom they have carefully brought up in the fear of God, and in the Christian Religion ; and the youth, whose lot in life we are now convened to consider, is BENJAMIN, their youngest child. It is known to you all, that God is pleased, from time to time, to bestow upon some men extraordinary gifts of mind, and you need not be told by how wonderful an inspiration their son has been led to cultivate the Art of PAINTING. It is true, that our tenets deny the utility of that art to mankind. But God has bestowed on the youth a genius for the art; and can we believe that OMNISCIENCE bestows his gifts but for great purposes ? What God has given, who shall dare to throw away? Let us not estimate Almighty wisdom by our notions; let us not presume to arraign his judgment by our ignorance ; but in the evident propensity of the young man, be assured we see an impulse of the Divine hand operating towards some high and beneficent end.'
“ The effect of this argument, and the lofty commanding manner in which it was delivered, induced the assembly to agree, that the artist should be al
WEST DEVOTED TO PAINTING.
lowed to indulge the predilections of his genius; and a private meeting of the Friends was appointed to be holden at his father's house, at which the youth himself was requested to be present, in order to receive, in form, the assent and blessing of the Society. On the day of meeting, the great room was put in order, and a numerous company of both sexes assembled. BENJAMIN was placed by his father, and the men and women took their respective forms on each side. After sitting some time in silence, one of the women rose and addressed the meeting on the wisdom of God, and the various occasions on which he selected from among his creatures the agents of his goodness. When she had concluded her exhortation, John WILLIAMSON also rose, and in a speech, than which, perhaps, the Porticos of Athens never resounded with a more impressive oratory, he resumed the topic which had been the subject of his former address. He began by observing, that it was fixed as one of their indisputable maxims, that things merely ornamental were not necessary to the well-being of man, and that all superfluous things should be excluded from the usages and manners of their Society.
“• In this proscription we have included,' said he, the study of the FINE ARTS, for we see them applied only to embellish pleasures, and to strengthen our inducements to gratify the senses at the expense of our immortal claims. But because we have seen PAINTING of derogatory use, and have, in consequence, prohibited the cultivation of it among us;