Documents, Dated Watercolours and Early Accounts of the Artist
Henry Angelo, Reminiscences of Henry Angelo, with Memoirs of His Late Father and Friends (Angelo, 1828, pp.226–29)
Mr. Beckford possessed nearly a hundred of his [John Robert Cozens’] drawings, which were disposed of by public auction at Christie’s, in Pall-mall, but not for the amount of the sum paid for so large a collection, the whole averaging little more than ten pounds each.
The truth is, however, that the vast strides towards the goal of the same art, which had been made by Girtin and Turner, during the intervening period—for this sale occurred in 1805—left these works of Cozens at an immeasurable distance, with reference to all the striking features of painting. This is the more remarkable, as both these extraordinary young men, coevals, had built the first principles of their respective styles, more obviously on the works of Cozens, than of any other artists.
Dr. Munro, then living on the Adelphi-terrace, held, in the winter season, a sort of evening academy, not for emolument, of course, but, as it seems, out of his pure love of art, and from a consequent desire to render assistance to a number of youths of promising talent and genius. To these, his portfolios were open, and he, being himself an amateur painter, presided, and superintended their progress.
Such a distinguished little society should not pass unrecorded; and, for want of a better, be mine the chronicle to preserve its memory from oblivion.
I know not exactly the names of all the ingenious youth who studied here, though I can mention three, whose works have since become an honour to the arts, and a credit to the age and country which gave them birth. It will need no persuasion to establish this, when the names of Turner, Girtin, and Varley, are mentioned as belonging to the list—three young men, coevals, whose original talent, even Italy, in its great pictorial age, might have been proud to inscribe on its illustrious roll of genius.
It is not unworthy of remark, that many, if not most of the best painters of ancient and modern times, have been the disciples of comparatively indifferent masters. In later times, Reynolds, Mortimer, and Wright, were the élèves of Hudson; Wilkie was the pupil of Graham; Beechey, Owen, and Smirke, were taught the practical part of their art, in the atelier of the coach-painter; Turner was the pupil of Malton, and Girtin of Dayes: all of whom soared as loftily above their preceptors, as the eagle above the fowls in the poultry-yard.
There were other prototypes, however, besides Cozens, from whom these three ingenious painters in water-colours derived the first rudiments of pictorial composition. These were Paul Sandby—denominated, and not improperly perhaps, the father of water-colour art—Michael Angelo Rooker, and Thomas Hearne; all admired, known to, and patronised by Dr. Munro. Brought up, as I may say, in the bosom of art, though no artist, I delight to revel in the memory of these artistical coteries.
Paul Sandby, whom I knew from early life, I frequently used to visit, at his residence, St. George’s-row, on the Uxbridge road; and have seen him there, seated at his window, when nearly four-score years of age, with all the enthusiasm of a youthful artist, sketching some incidental effect of light and shadow, from the opposite scene, Hyde-park.