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Robinson's Guide to Richmond (1833)

Part 23
Appendix II

Appendix II


Remains of Ancient Art, &c.

THE name of Cuit has already been noticed in the previous pages. The following account of this eminent artist is taken from Pilkington's Dictionary of Painters, and the History of Richmond. He was born at Moulton, near Richmond, and shewing very early in life a strong inclination for drawing, was patronized by Sir Lawrence Dundas, who sent him to Rome. Having pursued his studies there for nearly six years, with great perseverance and skill, he returned to England and was employed by his patron in taking the portraits of some of his grand children. Mr. Cuit was very desirous of settling in London to follow his profession, and took apartments for that purpose; but a slow fever, which had for some time been troublesome, compelled him to try the benefit of his native air. Consequently he revisited the north, and, finding his health restored, finally settled at Richmond. There he quietly passed the remainder of his life, painting with equal exactness the polished features of park scenery, and the mansions of the opulent, and the moss-grown cliffs and roaring torrents which are so profusely scattered about in Richmond and its vicinity. Having for a number of years secluded himself from the world of art, he contracted a style peculiar to himself, working his pictures as near as he could to approach the effect which the camera obscura throws upon paper. It is the daily effect of nature, without any poetic license of form in compositions, or violent contrast in colouring. During Mr. Cuit's long residence in Richmond, his suavity of manners, and inoffensive deportment, gained him the friendship of the most respectable part of the inhabitants, to whom he was always a welcome visitor. He died at the age of 75, on the 7th of February, 1818.

There is another painter of still higher eminence, who, although he never resided at Richmond, may with propriety be introduced here, Mr. JULIUS IBBETSON, the father of the late J. C. Ibbetson, of this town. The short notice of his life, given by Pilkington, is very incorrect and we therefore avail ourselves of the hints respecting his setting out in life, contained in his ludicrous "Accidence, or Gamut of Painting in Oil."

From his earliest youth he had a most violent propensity or inclination to the art, without ever meeting with instruction, encouragement, or patronage, and he at last, on making his way to London, found himself moored in a picture dealer's garret. Here he was employed in repairing the mischiefs done to the works of the old masters by the sand and scrubbing brush of the merciless picture cleaners. "I had," he says, "by a continual acquaintance with hardship and ill usage, acquired a sort of impervious husk or cork jacket, which enabled me to hold up my head in such miserable situations as would have consigned to oblivion every propensity to exertion, in any other beside myself. The least attempt at painting any thing of my own was discouraged to the last degree, by the gloomy fanatic with whom I was a prisoner, prisoner I may well call myself; instead of raising my pittance, on which I could not exist, he would advance me trifling sums, and I became his debtor. Seven whole years that I lost in that manner, I had the dread of the consequences hanging over me. I never knew the amount till the consummate hypocrite had me arrested, at the moment of my setting out on the first embassy to China.For what? Forty Pounds, which had been seven years accumulating. This last indignity almost broke my heart."

"My drawings, which were only to be seen in the shop windows, as I was entirely unknown, had attracted the notice of some persons of taste, who, with great difficulty, discovered me. I was, all at once, noticed in a manner totally new to me; by people, so contrasted to the sordid vermin with whom only I had been concerned till then, that it was no wonder I was elevated beyond measure."

He now rose to such eminence in his profession, that his landscapes were eagerly sought for by collectors of the first rank. The late Mr. West, very appropriately, called him the Berghem of England. He afterwards retired to Masham, his native place, and died there in the year 1817. Good specimens of his style have now become scarce and severa1 of them have lately been sold at very high prices.

Whilst on the subject of artists, we may notice a curious old painting preserved in the Bede House, or Hospital, on Anchorage Hill, which was founded in the year 1607, by Mrs. Elenor Bowes, upon the ruins of a chapel dedicated to St. Edmund. It is a PORTRAIT OF QUEEN ELIZABETH, decked out with a profusion of lace and jewels. The vanity of the virgin Queen has often been the subject of historical remark, and such an ascendancy did this feeling acquire over her sounder judgment, that in the latter part of her reign she issued a proclamation against setting up ill-favoured likenesses of her royal visage. She also strictly forbid any shadow to be introduced in her portraits, so that it was difficult to give them any other appearance than that of a flat flesh coloured surface. The latter peculiarity is strikingly apparent in the picture at the Bode House, and may, in some degree, be considered a proof of its authenticity, though it detracts much from its effect as a work of art. It has lately been cleaned, so as to restore the original colours, which had become almost concealed under a coat of smoke and dirt.

When part of the west end of the castle fell down, some years ago, a curious horn and large silver spoon were discovered, and sent to the Duke of Richmond. The silver spur of a Knight has also since been found in the castle, and enriches the cabinet of one of our townsmen.

In the year 1720, upwards of 600 Roman silver coins, of Constantius, Julianus, Valentinianus, &c., were discovered in a crevice of the rock at the south-east corner of the bottom of the castle hill. Gale ingeniously supposes that some rich citizen of Catterick, (the Roman Cataractonium) allured by the pleasantness of the woods and water, had fixed his villa here, and trusting to the solitude of the place, buried this treasure at the approach of the Saxons, or on his being called off on a distant excursion. Others take this as a proof that the Roman City of Cataractonium was actually situated here, close to the cataract, from which its name seems to be derived: but the weight of evidence certainly preponderates in favor of the claim of Catterick.

A number of common English coins, of various dates, from Henry III. downwards, have been found at different times in and around the town; and pieces about the reigns of Henry VIII. and his children, are frequently discovered in the rubbish of old houses, which is generally shot into the Swale, below the bridge; the first succeeding flood washes away the crumbling fragments of lime, &c., and leaves the coins in the crevices which intersect the rocky bed of the stream; and they then, of course, become a tempting object of research to the juvenile antiquaries of the neighbouring streets.

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Robinson's Guide to Richmond (1833)
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