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Having regained his liberty, Vosterman accompanied Sir William Soames, who was sent by James II. on a mission to the Ottoman Court, intending, as he travelled in the suite of the ambassador, to sketch the most beautiful prospects in that part of the world; but, as Sir William died in the voyage, the noble scheme of Vosterman was by that accident entirely frustrated. He died in 1693, at the age of fifty.
The works of Vosterman are held in high estimation by connoisseurs. He surpassed, by many degrees, all the landscape painters of his time, in neatness of touch and delicacy of finishing. His taste was Flemish, but he worked up his pictures in an exquisite manner, and enriched them with small figures, possessing wonderful truth and exactness. In his views of the Rhine he constantly represents a large extent of country, diversified with hills, lawns, groves, and windings of the river; and artfully comprised the most extensive scenes in a small compass. His tone of colouring is extremely pleasing, and like nature; his touch, tender and full of spirit; and the boats and vessels on the river are not only drawn correctly, but are so placed and proportioned as to delude the eye agreeably by their perspective truth.
The French School of Painting was verging towards its decline, when an artist, full of vigour and animation, seconded by originality of genius, contended against the vicious taste which then prevailed; enjoying, at the same time, a degree of reputation which posterity has fully confirmed. This was Joseph Vernet, one of the greatest painters of France.
He was born at Avignon, in the year 1714. His father taught him, very early, the first elements of painting. At the age of eighteen, Vernet set out for Rome, where his talents were, at first, but ill recompensed; but, as he encreased in circumstances, he gratified his taste for travel. Endowed with a penetrating mind, he owed to the study of nature a large stock of ideas and innumerable pleasing recollections. In the end, the sight of a storm decided his choice in the particular style of painting to which he devoted himself. In a few years, his landscapes, and, especially, his sea-pieces, made his name known throughout Europe. Having employed himself, in his early years, upon historical painting, he had the art of placing in his compositions, figures perfectly well designed, and grouped with considerable judgment, which almost always form the most interesting episodes. He has depictured, with infinite success, the motion of water, and the velocity of clouds; and if he be less delicate and correct than Claude Lorrain in his landscapes, he is infinitely more poetical and ani
mated than that great master in his sea-pieces. After passing twenty years in Italy, and filling it with his chef d'œuvres, he was recalled into France, by an order of the court, in his thirty-eighth year. He was immediately received into the academy, and undertook, at the instance of government, that admirable collection of marine views of the ports of France, which, unfortunately, he was not able to complete. Few artists have left behind them a greater number of works. There is scarcely a cabinet in Europe that does not possess some of his pictures; and almost all the productions of this artist are held in the highest esteem.
The personal qualities of Vernet, and his social virtues, were superior to the influence of fortune, or of honours. Admitted into the presence of royalty, and courted by the great, he constantly preserved his affability, and was ever modest and unassuming. If he indulged in luxury, it was less through ostentation than to attract around him a body of intelligent men, whose society was his principal recreation. In short, Vernet passed through life deservedly happy; he was respected even by those who were envious of his talents; and it may be said, that he terminated his career without having perceived any sensible diminution of his powers. He died, after a short illness, in the year 1789, at the age of seventy-five,