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Morland

Anecdotes Home






It is well known that Morland the painter used to go on an
expedition with a companion sometimes without a guinea, or perhaps scarcely
a shilling, to defray the expenses of their journey; and thus they were
often reduced to an unpleasant and ludicrous dilemma. On one occasion the
painter was travelling in Kent, in company with a relative, and finding
their cash exhausted, while at a distance from their destination, they were
compelled to exert their wits, for the purpose of recruiting themselves
after a long and fatiguing march. As they approached Canterbury, a homely
village ale-house caught their eye; and the itinerant artists hailed, with
delight, the sign of the Black Bull, which indicated abundance of home-made
bread and generous ale. They entered, and soon made considerable havoc
among the good things of mine host, who, on reckoning up, found that they
had consumed as much bread, cheese and ale, as amounted to _12s. 6d._
Morland now candidly informed his host that they were two poor painters
going in search of employment, and that they had spent all their money. He,
however, added that, as the sign of the Bull was a disgraceful daub for so
respectable a house, he would have no objection to repaint it, as a set-off
for what he and his companion had received. The landlord, who had long been
wishing for a new sign (the one in question having passed through two
generations), gladly accepted his terms, and Morland immediately went to
work. The next day the Bull was sketched in such a masterly manner that the
landlord was enraptured; he supplied his guests with more provisions, and
generously gave them money for their subsequent expenses. About three
months after a gentleman well acquainted with Morland's works, accidentally
passing through the village, recognised it instantly to be the production
of that inimitable painter: he stopped, and was confirmed in his opinion,
by the history which the landlord gave of the transaction. In short, he
purchased the sign of him for twenty pounds; the landlord was struck with
admiration at his liberality; but this identical painting was some time
afterwards sold at a public auction for the sum of _one hundred guineas!_


When Benjamin West was seven years old, he was left, one summer day, with
the charge of an infant niece. As it lay in the cradle and he was engaged
in fanning away the flies, the motion of the fan pleased the child, and
caused it to smile. Attracted by the charms thus created, young West felt
his instinctive passion aroused; and seeing paper, pen and some red and
black ink on a table, he eagerly seized them and made his first attempt at
portrait painting. Just as he had finished his maiden task, his mother and
sister entered. He tried to conceal what he had done, but his confusion
arrested his mother's attention, and she asked him what he had been doing.
With reluctance and timidity, he handed her the paper, begging, at the same
time, that she would not be offended. Examining the drawing for a short
time, she turned to her daughter, and, with a smile, said, "I declare he
has made a likeness of Sally." She then gave him a fond kiss, which so
encouraged him that he promised her some drawings of the flowers which she
was then holding, if she wished to have them. The next year a cousin sent
him a box of colours and pencils, with large quantities of canvas prepared
for the easel, and half a dozen engravings. Early the next morning he took
his materials into the garret, and for several days forgot all about
school. His mother suspected that the box was the cause of his neglect of
his books, and going into the garret and finding him busy at a picture, she
was about to reprimand him; but her eye fell on some of his compositions,
and her anger cooled at once. She was so pleased with them that she loaded
him with kisses, and promised to secure his father's pardon for his neglect
of school. The world is much indebted to Mrs. West for her early and
constant encouragement of the talent of her son. He often used to say,
after his reputation was established, "_My mothers kiss made me a
painter!_"


Vernet relates, that he was once employed to paint a landscape, with a
cave, and St. Jerome in it; he accordingly painted the landscape with St.
Jerome at the entrance of the cave. When he delivered the picture, the
purchaser, who understood nothing of perspective, said, "the landscape and
the cave are well made, but St. Jerome is not _in_ the cave."--"I
understand you, sir," replied Vernet, "I will alter it." He therefore took
the painting, and made the shade darker, so that the saint seemed to sit
farther in. The gentleman took the painting; but it again appeared to him
that the saint was not actually in the cave. Vernet then wiped out the
figure, and gave it to the gentleman, who seemed perfectly satisfied.
Whenever he saw strangers to whom he showed the picture, he said, "Here you
see a picture by Vernet, with St. Jerome in the cave." "But we cannot see
the saint," replied the visitors. "Excuse me, gentlemen," answered the
possessor, "he is there; for I saw him standing at the entrance, and
afterwards farther back; and am therefore quite sure that he is in it."





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