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- Pictures Every Child Should Know - 40/52 -
that hour he had all the work he could do. Years afterward, when passing that way again in company with a friend, he was seen to take off his hat to the castle.
"Why are you doing that?" his friend asked, in amazement.
"Well, that castle laid the foundation of my success," he answered, "and I am pleased to salute it."
During his young manhood Turner had fallen in love with a girl, and planned to marry, but after he returned from one of his country trips he found she had married another, and from that moment the artist was a changed man. He had been generous and gay before, now he began to save his money, so that people thought him miserly--but he was forgiven when it became known what he finally did with his fortune. After the young woman deserted him he wandered more than ever, and one of his fancies was to keep boys from robbing birds' nests. He looked after the little birds so carefully that the boys named him "old Blackbirdy." He had already begun those wonderful pictures of ships and seas, and his house was ornamented with full-rigged little ships and water plants, which he carefully raised to put into his pictures. By that time he had bought a home of his own in the country, and his father the barber went to live with him. The old man's trade had fallen off, because the fashions had changed, wigs were less worn, and hair was not so elaborately dressed. In the country home the old man took charge of all the household affairs, prepared his son's canvases for him, and after the pictures were painted it was the ex-barber who varnished them, so that Turner said, "Father begins and finishes all my pictures." There the father and son lived, in perfect peace and affection, till Turner decided to sell the place and move into town, "because," said he, "Dad is always working in the garden and catching cold."
Meanwhile he had been made master of perspective in the Academy, and it was expected that he would lecture to the students, but he was not cut out for a lecturer. He was not elegant in his manners, nor impressive in his speech. On one occasion, when he had risen to deliver a speech, he looked helplessly about him and finally blurted out: "Gentlemen! I've been and left my lecture in the hackney coach!"
During these years he had tried to establish a studio like other masters and to have pupils and apprentices about him; but the stupid ones he could not endure, having no patience with them, and he treated all the fashionable ones so bluntly they would not stay; so the idea had to be given up.
He became a visitor at Farnley Hall in Yorkshire, where a friend, Mr. Hawksworth Fawkes lived, and in the course of his lifetime Fawkes put fifty thousand dollars worth of Turner's pictures upon his walls. The Fawkes family described Turner as a most delightful man: "The fun, frolic, and shooting we enjoyed together, and which, whatever may be said by others of his temper and disposition, have proved to me that he was, in his hours of distraction from his professional labours as kindly hearted a man and as capable of enjoyment and fun of all kinds as any I ever knew."
Another friend writes: "Of all light-hearted, merry creatures I ever knew, Turner was the most so; and the laughter and fun that abounded when he was an inmate of our cottage was inconceivable, particularly with the juvenile members of our family."
The story of his disappointment in marriage is an interesting one. It is said that the young lady whom he loved was the sister of a schoolmate. They had been engaged for some time, but while he was on one of his travels his letters were stolen and kept from the young woman. She believed he had forgotten her, and her stepmother, who had taken the letters, persuaded the girl to engage herself to another. Turner returned just a week before her marriage and tried to win her back, but although she loved him, she felt herself then bound to her new suitor and therefore married him. Her marriage was very unhappy and her misery, as well as his own, distressed the artist till his death. Almost all his life, in spite of his seeming gaiety, he worked like a slave, rising at four o'clock in the morning and working while light lasted. When remonstrated with about this he would sadly say: "There are no holidays for me."
All his ways were honest and simple, and his election to the Academy was very exceptional in the way it came about. Most Academicians had graces and airs and good fellowship to commend them, as well as their works, but Turner had none of these things. He had given no dinners, nor played a social part in order to get the membership. When the news was brought him that he was elected, some one advised him to go and thank his fellow Academicians for the honour, as that was the custom; but Turner saw no reason in it. "Since I am elected, it must have been because they thought my pictures made me worthy. Why, then should I thank them? Why thank a man for performing a simple duty." In half a century Turner was absent only three times from the Academy exhibitions, and his membership was of very great value to him.
At this time Turner had an idea for an art publication to be called _Liber Studiorum_. He meant to issue this in dark blue covers and to include in each number five plates. There was to be a series of five hundred plates altogether, and these were to be divided, according to subject, into historical, landscape, pastoral, mountainous, marine, and architectural studies. After seventy plates had been, published, the enterprise fell through, because no one bought the periodical, and there was no money to keep it going. The engraver of the plates, Charles Turner, became so disgusted with the failure that he even used the proofs of these wonderful studies to kindle the fire with. Many years later, a great print-dealer, Colnaghi, made Turner, the engraver, hunt up all the proofs that he had not used for kindling paper, and these he bought for œ1,500.
"Good God!" cried Charles Turner, "I have been burning banknotes all my life."
Some years later still œ3,000 was paid for a single copy of the _Liber Studiorum_.
Turner was a most conscientious man, and many stories are told of his manner of teaching. He could not talk eloquently nor give very clear instructions, talking not being his forte, but he would lean over a student's shoulder, point out the defects in his work, and then on a paper beside him make a few marks to illustrate what he had said. If the artist had genius enough then to imitate him, well and good; if not, Turner simply went away and left him. His own ways of working were remarkable. He often painted with a sponge and used his thumbnail to "tear up a sea." It mattered little to him how he produced his effects so long as he did it. His impressionistic style confused many of his critics, and it is told how a fine lord once looked at a picture be had made, and snorted: "Nothing but daubs, nothing but daubs!" Then catching the inspiration, he leaned close to the canvas, and said: "No! Painting! so it is!"
"I find, Mr. Turner," said a lady, "that in copying your pictures, touches of red, blue and yellow appear all through the work."
"Well, madam, don't you see that yourself, in nature? Because if you don't, heaven help you!" was the reply.
"Once, after painting a summer evening, he thought that the picture needed a dark spot in front by way of contrast; so he cut out a dog from black paper and stuck it on. That dog still appears in the picture."
Another time he painted "A Snow-storm at Sea," which some critics called "Soap-suds and Whitewash." Turner, who had been for hours lashed to the mast of a ship in order to catch the proper effect, was naturally much hurt by the criticism. "What would they have!" he exclaimed. "I wonder what they think a storm is like. I wish they'd been in it."
Turner was conscientiously fond of his work, and when he sold a picture he said that he had lost one of his children.
He grew rich, but he never was knighted, because his manners were not fine enough to suit the king. He wished to become President of the Royal Academy, but that was impossible because he was not polished enough to carry the honour gracefully.
After selling his place in the country Turner bought a house in Harley Street, where he lived a strange and lonely life. A gentleman has written about this incident, which shows us his manner of living:
"Two ladies called upon Turner while he lived in Harley Street. On sending in their names, after having ascertained that he was at home, they were politely requested to walk in, and were shown into a large sitting-room without a fire. This was in the depth of winter; and lying about in various places were several cats without tails. In a short time our talented friend made his appearance, asking the ladies if they felt cold. The youngest replied in the negative; her companion, more curious, wished she had stated otherwise, as she hoped they might have been shown into his sanctum or studio. After a little conversation he offered them biscuits, which they partook of for the novelty--such an event being almost unprecedented in his house. One of the ladies bestowing some notice upon the cats, he was induced to remark that he had seven, and that they came from the Isle of Man."
Thus we learn that Turner's desolate house was full of Manx cats, and of many other pets. When he had moved elsewhere--to 47 Queen Anne Street--one of the pictures he cared most for, "Bligh Shore," was put up as a covering to the window and a cat wishing to come in, scratched it hopelessly. The housekeeper started to punish it for this but Turner said indulgently, "Oh, never mind!" and saved the cat from chastisement.
The place he lived in, where his "dad was always working in the garden and catching cold," he called Solus Lodge, because he wished his acquaintances to understand that he wanted to be alone. One picture painted by him to order, was to have brought him $2,500; but when it was finished the man was disappointed with it and would not take it. Later, Turner was offered $8,000 for it, but would not sell it.
Turner again fell in love, but his bashfulness ruined his chances. He wrote to the brother of the lady. "If she would only waive her bashfulness, or, in other words, make an offer instead of expecting one, the same (Solus Lodge) might change occupiers." Faint heart certainly did not win fair lady in this case, for she married another. Before he died Turner was offered $25,000 for two pictures which he would not sell. "No" he said. "I have willed them and cannot sell them." He disposed of several great works as legacies. One picture of which he was very fond, "Carthage," was the occasion of an amusing anecdote. "Chantry," he said to his friend the sculptor, "I want you to promise that when I am dead you will see me rolled in that canvas when I'm buried."
"All right," said Chantry, "I'll do it, but I'll promise to have you taken up and unrolled, also."
A remarkable incident of generosity is told of Turner. In 1826 he hung
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