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.