It is with a profound regret, which will be shared with our readers, that we record the death of Mr. Charles Lucy, the eminent artist. After a long illness which only of late showed symptoms ominous of a fatal termination. Mr. Lucy closed a useful and honourable life at his residence, Notting-hill, London, having just entered upon his 60th year. His case was one of a complication of diseases, dropsy of late having supervened upon cancer of the liver, and his sufferings for some four weeks previous to his death were severe, but were borne by him with his usual and quiet fortitude of spirit. In the early part of last week his death seemed to be imminent from water overflowing the heart, but the crisis rather brought relief in the bursting of a small tumour on the liver. Mr. Lucy himself was not conscious of the fatal nature of his illness, and almost to the last expressed his conviction that he would soon recover and be able to "go down to Hereford" in order to take sittings of Mr. Rankin for the Memorial Portrait, which he had been selected to execute. Sic aliter visum, and on Monday last the good and patient sufferer passed away from his agonies without a sigh or a struggle; while pressing the loved hands which he held, his breathing ceased and all was over. His illness was of long standing, having begun some ten years ago; and for the past four years has been steadily gaining upon his vital powers. Although it did not wholly lay him aside, it was sufficient to prevent him from executing many commissions offered to him. Mr. Foley, the eminent sculptor, has taken a cast of the head and face of the deceased, whose fine expressive features are described as singularly beautiful in death. We hear that a portrait of Mr. Lucy will shortly appear in the Illustrated London News. The funeral is fixed to take place to-day (Saturday) at 1 p.m. at Highgate Cemetery.
The deceased leaves a sorrowing widow, the daughter of the late Mr. Bishop, town councillor of this city, and a large family. His eldest son, Mr. Lucy, who is a promising artist, visited Hereford along with his father on the occasion of the exhibition of the noble portrait of Mr. Bosley at the Shirehall, and exhibited a well-painted landscape, a view of the Wye, which may be remembered as hanging by the side of the portrait of Mr Bosley. To that portrait there now attaches a mournful interest. We understand that it was a source of satisfaction to Mr. Lucy in his last days that the very last work that his hand had touched was this portrait of a friend and fellow-citizen. Valuable as it was to Mr. Bosley previously, as at once the gift of his fellow-citizens and the work of Hereford's great artist, that portrait possesses now the crowning value of being the artist's last work, upon which he looked with satisfaction as a memorial of himself. The choice of Mr. Lucy to execute the intended portrait of Mr. Rankin, the magnificent donor of the Hereford Free Library Building, was a just tribute to his genius of which he felt reasonably proud, and if his life had been spared there is no doubt that in that work he would have put forth all his powers as an artist, with the express view of furnishing a memorial of himself as well as the subject of this portrait, but this design has been unhappily frustrated by death, and the portrait of Mr. Bosley remains the artist's last work.
Having so recently sketched Mr. Lucy's career, it is unnecessary now to enter into details. We may therefore merely state that the deceased was the son of the late Mr. Charles Lucy, for many year a citizen of Hereford, and that he was born in this city in the year 1814. His natural bent from a very early age was towards painting, and he began to practice it without instruction, until aided by friends, he devoted his life to art. With that view he decided to go to London to pursue his studies. There, after years of struggling, which seems to be ever the lot of genius in its early upward course, he was taken to the Hague, and afterwards to Paris, by a Mr. Jones, who helped to make a profitable use of his talents in putting him to copy pictures by some of the old masters; and several of those copies are so faithfully rendered that two of them have been sold to connoisseurs as the veritable originals at fabulous prices. Returning to England, Mr. Lucy soon began to gain a position in his profession, and (as already stated) married Ann, daughter of the late Mr. Thomas Bishop, who was for years in the Hereford Town Council, and whose only son is now practising as a physician with great success in Paris; the mother of Mrs. Lucy was a sister of the late Mr. Edward Pritchard, solicitor and treasurer of this city. Mr. Lucy may therefore, may be said to be thoroughly Herefordshire. Not only was he so by family ties, but Mr. Lucy was himself a freeman of the city, as was his father before him. Only a short time elapsed after Mr. Lucy's residence in London before he determined on visiting the continent a second time , and pursuing his studies in the Louvre and other great public galleries. This he did, and with a success which was extremely gratifying to his early friends, who recognised in the young artist those germs of genius which they knew would ultimately yield the finest fruit. For sixteen years Mr. Lucy took up his residence at Paris and at Fountainebleu, where he reared his family. There he executed several of his greatest works, after which he removed to London, where he resided until his death. He still kept up his connection with his native city, of which (as we learn from the Freeman's Roll) he was admitted a freeman on July 39, 1841. It may be justly said that Hereford never had a freeman who did here more credit, or who had shed more honour upon the freeman's roll.
The walk of art chosen by Mr. Lucy was the highest, that of historical painter, and he has left many works of this class which possess a permanent value as illustrations of English history. From the fifteenth century, for example, he took the subject of the first Lord Saye and Sale before Jack Cade, in Cheapside, which he painted for the present lord Saye and Sale, who has deposited it at Broughton castle, where it will form one of the most valuable heir-looms of his family, as well as a little-studied period of English history. In composition, grouping, and treatment, this picture is a truly great production. The story is admirably told; the figure of Lord Saye and Sale, Jack Cade and his ruffian followers, are full of life and spirit; and the handling is at once both vigorous and accurate. The principle figure is a refined and beautiful study, a perfect realisation of the far-seeing statesman and patriot whose chief crime was that he had "traitorously corrupted the youth of England by setting up a grammar school."
Mr. Lucy's only study from the sixteenth century, if we remember aright, is his figure of Alonzo Cano, called the Spanish Michael Angelo, which he has just executed in mosaic on the walls of the Department of Science and Arts at South Kensington.
From the 17th century, Mr. Lucy selected the subjects of his most popular works. For the walls of Westminister Palace, Mr. Lucy painted his famous "Embarkment of the Pilgrim Fathers in the ship mayflower" in 1620. This reproduction of that grand incident, the actual foundation of the great nation now known as the United States of North America, is thus accurately described : *It displays an energetic, yet soft rendering; a blending and toning of colours of the most exquisite character with a fine conception of the whole scene; a natural depicting of feature, and striking individuality of expression of the actors; and a careful painting throughout the picture. It rivets the gaze of the spectator, who feels that he is looking at a picture by the hand of a master." This picture is one of the nine which gained the prizes offered for the best historical picture, and Mr. Lucy received the prize from the hands of the late Prince Consort, as chairman of her Majesty's Commissioners.
The career of Cromwell suggested several subjects which Mr. Lucy treated with remarkable success. One of the chief, perhaps the best, of these was "Cromwell, his Family, and Milton, at Hampton Court Palace on a Sunday Afternoon. A.D. 1658." This picture was noticed by the metropolitan critics in glowing terms, and the general opinion was that it was one of the finest paintings of its class. The intelligent, thoughtful treatment, the refinement of handling, and the historical truth which marked Mr. Lucy's work, were never more finely displayed or more fully recognised. The figure of Cromwell was indeed a grand embodiment of the great uncrowned monarch, worthy of the Times' eulogy "We cannot point to any figure of a great historical personage by any painter of our national school superior to the Cromwell in this picture." Messrs. Agnew, of Manchester, paid Mr. Lucy £1,000 for this picture and published with great success an engraving from it. The picture is now the property of the Corporation of Glasgow. Mr. Lucy painted also a portrait of Cromwell for the collections of the Duke of Manchester, and replicas of it for the collections of Sir Robert Peel and the Duke of Wellington. The likeness of Cromwell was from the cast taken after his death aided by the miniature taken by Cooper during his life. Mr. Lucy painted also a single sitting figure of Cromwell fro Mr. Graves, the eminent printseller, of Pall-Mall, and another picture representing an apocryphal incident in Cromwell's life, the alleged interview between the Protector and Mrs. Claypole, his daughter, when the latter was dying. This picture is a charming bit of sentiment, the solemn tender expression, the soft harmonious colouring, and the life-like treatment of both figures and accessories, all showing the hand of a master. Among the incidents of the present age which Mr. Lucy has painted "Napoleon on board the Orient" stands highest. It was followed by "Garibaldi visiting the tomb of Ugo Foscold in Chiswick Churchyard" and " Nelson in his cabin on the night before the battle of Trafalgar". This last picture was exhibited in Hereford by the engraver for whom it was painted, and was much admired for the treatment of the figure of Nelson.
Among the most famous of the many fine portraits which Mr. Lucy has produced are those of Mr. Gladstone and Mr. Bright, which are marked by a refinement of treatment by no means common in portrait-painting. As remarked by Mrs. Gladstone, "We have the mind as well as the resemblance of the features." In noticing the portrait of Mr. Bosley - the artist's last work - we pointed out these same qualities as characterising the treatment; and we may add that Mr. Lucy's portraits of Cobden, Hague and Garibaldi were equally noted for giving the expression of the mind as well as for the careful painting of the details.
This sad and unexpected termination of a brilliant career will among other results materially affect the movement for the Rankin Testimonial. Hereford has produced no artist capable of taking the place of Charles Lucy; and if the committee go further afield to select a stranger, it is certain they must greatly increase the fund to be given for the portrait. Our lamented friend was willing to accept the amount raised, whatever it might be, because he felt a deep interest in his native city, and was anxious to leave in it a memorial worthy at once of himself and of the magnificent donor of the Free Library, who was to be the subject of the picture. he would not have accepted such a commission from any other hands than those of his fellow-citizens; and it is highly unlikely that any other artist of such eminence will undertake the work for anything like the same sum. We are indeed assured that £300 is the lowest amount for which any portrait painter of high standing will undertake such a commission, and that the terms of many artists of the first rank far exceed that amount.
We have said that the long illness of Mr. Lucy sadly interfered with
his professional labours; as a consequence at his death he left nearly
two thousand pounds' worth of commissions unexecuted. Of course such an
illness tranched deeply upon his means, and we fear that his widow is not
in those circumstances which the deceased artist's friends could desire.
We trust therefore that steps will be taken to bring his case before the
Government and that Mr. Gladstone will do justice to the memory of Mr.
Lucy, as he has already done to that of many other distinguished painters,
by placing the widow on the Government Pension List.
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