John Lucas vs Franz Xaver Winterhalter

Excerpt from a Review of  

John Lucas, portrait painter, 1828-1874: a memoir of his life mainly deduced from the correspondence of his sitters, by his son, Arthur Lucas (London: Methuen 1910)

“Our admiration of the book itself and for Mr Arthur Lucas’s filial piety only increases our regret at remaining unconvinced as to the claims of John Lucas to a place in the front rank of painters. The Victorian era, especially in the earlier years, is in fact a somewhat dismal record of competent mediocrity. Genius, or what remained of it, died with Sir Thomas Lawrence in 1830, and many years were to elapse before it again showed its head above the soil in British art.

“It was a dull, drab period, for which the artists themselves cannot be held wholly responsible. The patrons of art liked paintings which they could understand, and which reflected their own ideas and personalities to the exclusion of the painter’s. Painters were only too complaisant, and under the presidency of Sir Francis Grant mediocrity reigned supreme at the Royal Academy, and thus received the hallmarks of authority…

“The survey of a career like that of John Lucas enables us to understand why in certain circles Winterhalter should have been preferred.”

© L.C., “Reviews and Notices”, The Burlington Magazine, 18: 96 (Mar 1911), 357.

Review of “Princess Alice” by F.X. Winterhalter (1857)

Review of the portrait of Princess Alice by F.X. Winterhalter (1857)

“The likeness of Princess Alice, taken in 1857, by the Court painter, Herr Winterhalter, presents to our eyes a well-grown young lady of fourteen, who, as the novelists say, might be older. It is a fact very humiliating to physiognomists that the character and expression of a face are greatly influenced by the arrangement of the hair; and we suppose this is the reason why we are not forcibly struck by the resemblance of the young Princess to her parents.

“Nevertheless, we can with little difficulty trace in these delicate features certain general repetitions of the family type. There are “the ripe Guelph cheek and the straight Coburg brow,” though the former is less Guelphic in its ripeness than we have observed to be the case with other cheeks among princes of the blood royal, while the Coburg brow loses a little of its individuality by the partial adoption of a coiffure recently in vogue at the Tuileries.

“Mr Lane has considerately softened the harsh materialism, and modified the Dutch flatness which are so distinctive of the Winterhalter school of painting; and at the same time he has preserved all the best qualities belonging to an artist who is inspired with no comprehensive or elevated ideas of human life.” [See cat. no. 582]

© “Lithographic Portraits of the Royal Family.” Daily News, 22 November 1859, 3.

Review of Four Princess by F.X. Winterhalter (1849)

Review of Four Princess by F.X. Winterhalter (1849):

“This graceful group of royal children is worthy of this courtly painter’s best efforts, and in its pleasing arrangement, the prettiness of the faces and attitudes, and cheerfulness of the landscape, one is almost unconsciously reminded of his first work by which he achieved celebrity, and though the vistas of the Isle of Wight may not be as classical as the heights of Fiesole, still there is somehow an identity of touch and feeling in both figure and landscape, which makes it the more regrettable that this accomplished painter should ever have abandoned his first style.

“Mr Winterhalter’s sojourn in England has, however, not been void of the benefit which ever accrues to those who come in contacts with its colourists. A more chastened feeling pervades his family groups, and the light and shade is more pleasantly subdued, the varied expressions of these pretty juvenile heads, from the pensive to the sportive, are rendered with masterly discrimination. The motive, too, of arranging flowers, a favourite pastime, is gracefully told. The way in which the lights and darks of the dresses are contrasted show no less the well-skilled hand in telling effects. The neat and careful modelling of the engraving, not less than the pleasing effect of the design, entitle the engraver, Mr. G. Richardson Jackson, to the highest commendation.” (See cat. no. 359)

©  “Fine Arts”, Daily NewsJanuary 1851, 6.

Exhibition of “The Royal Family” and “Prince of Wales” by F.X. Winterhalter in 1847

Review of the Exhibition of The Royal Family and Prince of Wales by F.X. Winterhalter at St James’s Palace in 1847:

“The Banqueting Hall, in St James’s Palace, has been turned into an exhibition room, and the public are admitted by orders from the Lord Chamberlain to see “the two royal pictures,” painted by Winterhalter, for the Queen, in January of the present year.

“The small picture is a full-length portrait of the Prince of Wales in a sailor’s dress – a black straw cap on his head, little bits of blue about his shirt, black horn-buttons to his white jean trousers, his handkerchief tied about his neck in a sailor’s knot, and his hands stuffed deep into the pockets of his trousers. Such is a description of the picture, but little can be said in favour of it as a work of art. The attitude is easy enough, but the face wants character. What would it have been in Sir Joshua Reynolds’s hands? Look at his Master Crewe as Henry VIII., so full of character and colour. With all its defects, this portrait of the Prince is a national picture. One warms to the dress, and “Rule, Britannia,” and “Ye mariners of England,” rush willingly to the lips. [Cat. no. 319]

“The second of “the two royal pictures” is what painters call a family group. It is a very large picture, representing the Queen and Prince Albert and their five children. It is almost as much an indoor as an outdoor scene. The Queen and the Prince are represented seated on a sofa – the Queen in a white dress and the order of the Garter, and the Prince in a suit of black, with black silk stockings. On the Queen’s right, and standing by her side, is the Prince of Wales, in a red velvet dress, and immediately in front of the Queen is her Majesty’s second son, in the act of running to play with his three sisters, who form a charming group on the left of the composition. The two elder Princesses are playing with their youngest sister on a cushion on the ground, and the Prince Albert is represented touching the Queen’s hand, and directing her attention to the group before her, while his left hand hangs lackadaisically down, as if he was fond of showing off his wristband. On the Prince’s left is a table, with fruit upon it, and on her Majesty’s right is a vase of flowers. [ 316]

“Such is a brief description of a very interesting picture; one, however, which cannot be compared for a moment with the Pembroke family at Wilton, the Marlborough family at Blenheim, or the Cornaro family at Northumberland House, but richer in colour than we had been led to expect from the pictures, at Sir Robert Peel’s, of the Queen and the Prince by the same artist. The “exhibition,” if such it may be called, will well repay a visit. We may add that the two pictures are to be engraved – both, we believe, by Mr. Cousins, who never suffers a work to pass from his hands without adding to its excellences.”

© “Fine Arts”, Daily NewsMay 1847, 5.

Portrait of Queen Adelaide (1849) by Franz Xaver Winterhalter

Review of F.X. Winterhalter’s portrait of Queen Adelaide (1849, oil on canvas, HM Queen Elizabeth II, cat nos 357 & 358), in Caledonian Mercury, 4 March 1850:

“It is not generally known, that her late Majesty the Queen Dowager sat to Winterhalter for her portrait within a very short period of her demise; indeed, the last sitting took place within a month of her death. The portrait was painted expressly for her late Majesty’s brother, the Duke of Saxe-Meiningen, and is a fine specimen of Winterhalter’s talent.

“It represents the Queen Dowager in a sitting posture, and admirably reserves the features of the lamented deceased. There is nothing painful in the expression, as might be apprehended by those unacquainted with the Christian calmness and humility with which her late Majesty contemplated her approaching dissolution almost up to the moment when this world closed upon her, and the picture is altogether a highly interesting work of art.

“Three copies have been made by Mr. W. Corden, of Old Windsor, respectively for her Majesty the Queen, her Royal Highness the Duchess of Kent, and his Serene Highness Prince Edward of Saxe-Weimar; in addition to which Mr Lane has made a very beautiful lithographic drawing of the portrait for private distribution. The original picture is already on its way to Germany.”

[© “Portrait of the Queen Dowager”, Caledonian Mercury, 4 March 1850]