« PreviousContinue »
the public testimony of the surveyors and architects of Manchester) during the most rigorous season of the year* to survey in less than two months two towns for some miles in circumference, with all their intricate communications.
Green based his calculation upon the sale of six hundred copies to remunerate him, but by death and "other circumstances”—subscribers deserting him and drifting over to Laurent-the number of copies disposed of fell short by two hundred, a poor compensation for eight years' hard work. In 1796 he speaks sorrowfully of the circumstances which prevented him from reaping the benefit of his work to the extent he had hoped. The slow sale of the copies left on his hands is evident from the fact that he offered them at Ambleside, in 1819.t
Hitherto he had spent his time in surveying, drawing, and painting in his native place; but, in 1791,‡ he visited Buttermere; in 1792 § we see him, in company with his enthusiastic assistant Thornton, in Wales and the lake district, "among the beauties of landscape nature;" in 1794, studying in Cumberland for twelve weeks, a fortnight of which was spent in Buttermere, and in January, 1796, he informs the public that he relinquished all his other occupations, and for some months fixed his residence in different parts of the countries he wished to examine and thoroughly understand. With the publication of his survey he bade farewell to his old profession, and the directory, of this and the following year, introduces him to us as drawing master, 3, Lad
† See advertisement on the covers of his Guide, 1819.
See his Guide, vol. ii., 183.
§ Some of John Thornton's Prints (drawn and aquatinted) of the Lake District, on his tour with Green, are still in existence and in my possession.
Guide, vol. ii., 183.
Lane, where he again lived with his half-brother Hartley.
The results of these wanderings appeared in a "Series of Picturesque Views in the North of England, drawn from nature and engraved by William Green, consisting of forty-eight views of the Lake District and four views of Wales, drawn, aquatinted, and published by William Green, 3, Lad Lane." This shows that he had already acquired the art of engraving and mezzotinting while residing in Manchester, and not in London as generally stated. He exhibited this work in Manchester,* and then left the town never to return, for, in the course of 1796,† addressing his numerous friends of the town, he informs them that he has made arrangements for establishing himself in London.
His friend Craig probably attracted him to London, as the most suitable place for opening a career. Of his life in London we have little knowledge; he moved a great deal amongst the leading water-colourists, and became intimate with John Landseer, Robert Hills, John Glover,§ and others. He was also a constant visitor at the Royal Academy, the British Gallery, and the two water-colour societies, and an exhibitor at the Royal Academy in 1797 and 1798. He worked hard at engraving, etching, mezzotinting, and water colouring, in all of which he became a master. We possess still "A View of Castle Street, Liverpool," painted by Fernel, and engraved by William Green, 74, Charlotte Street, Portland Place, London. While in
* A Description of a Series of Picturesque Views in the North of England, a copy of which is in the Manchester Free Reference Library.
Mercury, 19th January, 1796, No. 2,317.
One of the founders of the Society of Painters in Water Colours, 1804 (1769-1844).
§ Landscape painter in water colours (1769–1849), and president of the Water-colour Society in 1815.
the metropolis he married Ann Bamford, and his first child, Elizabeth, was born here April 7th, 1799.* The London School of Water-colour Painters gave little satisfaction to Green, their "mannerism" was distasteful. He dwellst upon "the different modes in which different landscape painters have been taught, and taught themselves to see nature, as it is termed;" he asks us to compare the London exhibitions to verify his assertion, "yet nature is invariable," and continues, "fully sensible of his own defects as an artist, arising in a degree from causes connected with the foregoing observations, the writer settled at Ambleside, in the year 1800, with a view to remedy his errors. The object which had been unceasingly pursued for the last ten years had been to divest himself, as much as possible, of manner, and to adhere as faithfully as possible to nature."
Not illness, as some biographers have it, but nature, his great teacher, drew him northwards; London was a mere stepping stone to greater ends. Towards the summer of 1800 he was already with wife and child on
his way to the lakes. "The writer, not only for visual gratification, but for study, prefers Ambleside, having with great attention examined both districts, and under the influence of this feeling, he settled himself there."‡ "When the writer was in Ambleside in the year 1778 (as a young man, when surveying for Yates) its appearance was not only antiquated, but highly picturesque; he saw it again in 1792 and 1794, and again in settling there in 1800." He knew his ground well, and
* She was married, 3rd February, 1819, to Mark Mayson, of Keswick, and was the mother of W. H. Mayson, Manchester.
+ See A Description of Sixty Studies from Nature, London, 1810, preface page viii, in the Chetham Library.
See Guide, i. 149.
henceforth Ambleside became his lasting home; and here he entered upon a new life of activity and productiveness. Nature in all its glories of form and colour made him one of her most earnest interpreters and worshippers. He took a cottage opposite the "Red Lion," which he has introduced in one of his etchings. He had brought with him the tools for engraving, etching, aquatinting, and painting, and mixed and prepared his own colours, and his house became a busy studio. He worked from daylight till late in the night. As Hartley Coleridge observes: "Amid many discouragements and with no better patrons than the mutable public of lakers, his spirit never flagged, his hand and eye were never idle, and he had a healthy love for his employment such as none but an honest man could understand." He instituted yearly exhibitions of his works, both at Ambleside and Keswick. The annual stream of visitors to the lakes flocked to the rooms of the artist, which were hung with scores of picturesque views among the lakes and mountains, while other drawings were shown on the tables or enclosed in portfolios of various sizes. He went abroad in all seasons with drawing pad, colour box, and memorandum book. To quote again H. Coleridge:* "No height or hollow of Helvellyn, no bay or bosky cape in Winander's sinuous length, no shy recess, nor brook, nor fairy waterfall, in all the hills, but there he oft had been no idle gazer, but indefatigable with book and pencil." With what poetical rapture Green depicts the effects of twilight in one of his rambles to Seathwaite : "What can be more refreshing to the feeling of an artist than to observe the locality of colour, subdued and almost amalgamated with the floating atmosphere. The
foreground in chastened tones and tints, the distance swimming in celestial blue. The stillness of the evening is highly favourable to the contemplation of such scenes, when without a breath of air to give a rustling to the trees, or a ripple to the lake, the sweet murmurings of tumbling waters vibrate only on the ear, save when the bleating sheep, or the barking of a shepherd dog momentarily interrupts the solemn and impressive silence: the component parts of the landscape becomes momentarily less evident and darkness invisible is succeeded by total darkness." How he revelled in the beauties and revelations of the Duddon valley, "the vale that was the darling of his honest heart,"* and as his daughter Jane observed:† "You will excuse my father's enthusiasm for his darling art, he knows no world, than that in which a painter lives. Trees with him have no other use, but that of giving softness and effect to a picture. The meadows are created for foregrounds, and the hills were designed for distances. Rivers only roll along, to brighten up the landscape, and cattle graze only to give life to his drawings. When, therefore, anything is out of place in a picturesque point of view, it excites his criticism, notwithstanding its utility in other respects." "It was his habit," said the Rev. R. Loxham,‡ "to spend whole days, attended by one of his children, in the open air, engaged in sketching and colouring. Nothing in the shape of the picturesque, seems to have escaped his practised eye, from a simple cottage to the broadest expanse of nature, and most truthfully were the subjects he selected presented by his needle and palette. He
* See Professor Wilson's Works, vol. vi., p. 30-1.
+ Remains of John Briggs, late editor of the Lonsdale Magazine and the Westmorland Gazette, Kirkby Lonsdale, 1825.
‡ Admission Register of the Manchester School, vol. iii., 1874.