Eastlake, Sir Charles Lock
EASTLAKE, SIR CHARLES LOCK (1793-1865), English painter, was born on the 17th of November 1793 at Plymouth, where his father, a man of uncommon gifts but of indolent temperament, was solicitor to the admiralty and judge advocate of the admiralty court. Charles was educated (like Sir Joshua Reynolds) at the Plympton grammar-school, and in London at the Charterhouse. Towards 1809, partly through the influence of his fellow-Devonian Haydon, of whom he became a pupil, he determined to be a painter; he also studied in the Royal Academy school. In 1813 he exhibited in the British Institution his first picture, a work of considerable size, "Christ restoring life to the Daughter of Jairus." In 1814 he was commissioned to copy some of the paintings collected by Napoleon in the Louvre; he returned to England in 1815, and practised portrait-painting at Plymouth. Here he saw Napoleon a captive on the "Bellerophon"; from a boat he made some sketches of the emperor, and he afterwards painted, from these sketches and from memory, a life-sized full-length portrait of him (with some of his officers) which was pronounced a good likeness; it belongs to the marquess of Lansdowne. In 1817 Eastlake went to Italy; in 1819 to Greece; in 1820 back to Italy, where he remained altogether fourteen years, chiefly in Rome and in Ferrara.
In 1827 he exhibited at the Royal Academy his picture of the Spartan Isidas, who (as narrated by Plutarch in the life of Agesilaus), rushing naked out of his bath, performed prodigies of valour against the Theban host. This was the first work that attracted much notice to the name of Eastlake, who in consequence obtained his election as A.R.A.; in 1830, when he returned to England, he was chosen R.A. In 1850 he succeeded Shee as president of the Royal Academy, and was knighted. Prior to this, in 1841, he had been appointed secretary to the royal commission for decorating the Houses of Parliament, and he retained this post until the commission was dissolved in 1862. In 1843 he was made keeper of the National Gallery, a post which he resigned in 1847 in consequence of an unfortunate purchase that roused much animadversion, a portrait erroneously ascribed to Holbein; in 1855, director of the same institution, with more extended powers. During his directorship he purchased for the gallery 155 pictures, mostly of the Italian schools. He became also a D.C.L. of Oxford, F.R.S., a chevalier of the Legion of Honour, and member of various foreign academies.
In 1849 he married Miss Elizabeth Rigby, who had already then become known as a writer (Letters from the Baltic, 1841; Livonian Tales, 1846; The Jewess, 1848) and as a contributor to the Quarterly Review. Lady Eastlake (1809-1893) had for some years been interested in art subjects, and after her marriage she naturally devoted more attention to them, translating Waagen's Treasures of Art in Great Britain (1854-1857), and completing Mrs Jameson's History of our Lord in Works of Art. In 1865 Sir Charles Eastlake fell ill at Milan; and he died at Pisa on the 24th of December in the same year. Lady Eastlake, who survived him for many years, continued to play an active part as a writer on art (Five Great Painters, 1883, etc.), and had a large circle of friends among the most interesting men and women of the day. In 1880 she published a volume of Letters from France (describing events in Paris during 1789), written by her father, Edward Rigby (1747-1821), a distinguished Norwich doctor who was known also for his practical interest in agriculture, and who is said to have made known the flying shuttle to Norwich manufacturers.
As a painter, Sir Charles Eastlake was gentle, harmonious, diligent and correct; lacking fire of invention or of execution; eclectic, without being exactly imitative; influenced rather by a love of ideal grace and beauty than by any marked bent of individual power or vigorous originality. Among his principal works (which were not numerous, 51 being the total exhibited in the Academy) are: 1828, "Pilgrims arriving in sight of Rome" (repeated in 1835 and 1836, and perhaps on the whole his chef-d'œuvre); 1829, "Byron's Dream" (in the Tate Gallery); 1834, the "Escape of Francesco di Carrara" (a duplicate in the Tate Gallery); 1841, "Christ Lamenting over Jerusalem" (ditto); 1843, "Hagar and Ishmael"; 1845, "Comus"; 1849, "Helena"; 1851, "Ippolita Torelli"; 1853, "Violante"; 1855, "Beatrice." These female heads, of a refined semi-ideal quality, with something of Venetian glow of tint, are the most satisfactory specimens of Eastlake's work to an artist's eye. He was an accomplished and judicious scholar in matters of art, and published, in 1840, a translation of Goethe's Theory of Colours; in 1847 (his chief literary work) Materials for a History of Oil-Painting, especially valuable as regards the Flemish school; in 1848, Contributions to the Literature of the Fine Arts (a second series was edited by Lady Eastlake in 1870, and accompanied by a Memoir from her pen); in 1851 and 1855, translated editions of Kugler's History of the Italian School of Painting, and Handbook of Painting (new edition, by Lady Eastlake, 1874).
See W. Cosmo Monkhouse, Pictures by Sir Charles Eastlake, with biographical and critical Sketch (1875).
(W. M. R.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)