The Autobiography of Benjamin Robert Haydon (Masterplots, Definitive Revised Edition)
It is one of fate’s curious tricks that as Benjamin Robert Haydon’s reputation as a historical painter has diminished since his lifetime, the estimation of his writings has risen correspondingly. In the first quarter of the nineteenth century, the years principally covered by the AUTOBIOGRAPHY, Haydon’s friends gave encouragement and much-needed financial assistance to his efforts to bring England to an appreciation of the ideals of High Art, which to Haydon meant historical painting on an epic, Raphaelesque scale. His excursions with the pen, however, were inconveniently likely to bring enmity and spite on the impetuous head of the young painter; and it was earnestly wished by his friends that he would wield the brush instead of the pen.
Now, a century after his death, Haydon’s merit as an artist is dubious. There are suggestions that he be redeemed somewhat from the obscurity and neglect he has fallen into, but these are by no means strong enough for him to be considered a central figure in the history of painting. But his intimacy with prominent social and literary figures of the English Romantic period, his spirited style of writing, and his faithful recording of his activities, thoughts, and impressions of people, make his autobiography and journals a rich source of information for anyone interested in the background of English life in the early nineteenth century.
(The entire section is 1743 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of this article. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!
Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Benjamin Robert Haydon, a painter of historical subjects, as a child displayed a precocious interest in art, and he was encouraged by his parents and his first teacher, all of whom were fond of painting as an avocation. Haydon determined to take up painting as a career and refused the more dependable livelihood promised by his father’s printing and publishing office. An eye inflammation had seriously impaired his vision, but it was characteristic of Haydon that this handicap merely increased his determination. He went to London in 1804, studied for two years, and then embarked upon the series of large historical canvases that made his reputation. Although these heroic paintings gained him wide recognition, they brought in very little money; moreover, the Royal Academy gave his work a cold reception, mostly because he wrote scathing articles about the academy’s tyranny over British art and taste for Leigh Hunt’s Examiner, thereby ensuring their lasting enmity. Frequently cheated in payments and commissions, often in debt and finally imprisoned for it, Haydon remained industrious, courageous, and optimistic. His family was often in want, and five of his eight children died. To support the family, he was forced to depend upon his lectures on painting; he gave free painting lessons and tried unsuccessfully to start another academy. His romantic paintings, vast in scope and grandiose in style, were known and admired throughout the world, but they did not...
(The entire section is 429 words.)