Brown, John

, a Scotch artist, the son of a goldsmith and watchmaker, was born in 1752 at Edinburgh, and was early destined to take up the profession of a painter. He travelled into Italy in 1771, and durmg the | course of ten years residence there, the pencil and crayon were ever in his hand, and the sublime thoughts of Raphael and Michael Angelo ever in his imagination. By continual practice he obtained a correctness and elegance of contour, rarely surpassed by any British artist, but he unfortunately neglected the mechanism of the pallet till his taste was so refined that Titian, and Murillo, and Correggio made his heart to sink within him when he touched the canvass. When he attempted to lay in his colours, the admirable correctness of his contour was lost, and he had not self-sufficiency to persevere till it should be recovered in that tender evanescent outline which is so difficult to be attained even by the most eminent painters. At Rome he met with sir William Young and Mr. Townley; who, pleased with some very beautiful drawings done by him in pen and ink, took him with them, as a draftsman, into Sicily. Of the antiquities of this celebrated island he took several very fine views in pen and ink, exquisitely finished, yet still preserving the character and spirit of the buildings he intended to represent. He returned some years afterwards from Italy to his native town, where he was much beloved and esteemed, his conversation being extremely acute and entertaining on most subjects, but peculiarly so on those of art; and his knowledge of music 'being very great, and his taste in it extremely just and refined. Lord Monboddo gave him a general invitation to his elegant and convivial table, and employed him ip, making several drawings in pencil for him. Mr. Brown, however, in 1786, came to London, and was caressed by scholars and men of taste in that metropolis, where he was very much employed as a painter of small portraits in black lead pencil, which were always correctly drawn, and exhibited, with a picturesque fidelity, the features and character of the person who sat to him.:

Mr. Brown was not only known as an exquisite drafts.­man, he was also a good philosopher, a sound scholar, and endowed with a just and refined taste in all the liberal and polite arts, and a man of consummate worth and integrity. Soon after his death his “Letters on the Poetry and Music of the Italian Opera,” 12mo, were published. They were originally written to his friend lord Monboddo, who wished to have Mr. Brown’s opinion on those subjects, which have so intimate a connection with his work on the Origin and -Progress of Language; and who was so pleased with the | style and observations contained in them, that he wrote an introduction, which was published with them, in one volume, 12mo, 1789, for the benefit of his widow. The letters, written with great elegance and perspicuity, are certainly the production of a strong and fervid mind, acquainted with the subject; and must be useful to most of the frequenters of the Italian opera, by enabling them to understand the reasons on which the pleasure they receive at that musical performance is founded, a knowledge in which they are generally very deficient. Not being written for publication, they have that spirit and simplicity which every man of genius diffuses through any subject which he communicates in confidence, and which he is but too apt to refine away when he sits down to compose a work for the public. Lord Monboddo, in the fourth volume of the Origin and Progress of Language, speaking of Mr. Brown, says, “The account that I have given of the Italian language is taken from one who resided above ten years in Italy; and who, besides understanding the language perfectly, is more learned in the Italian arts of painting, sculpture, music, and poetry, than any man I ever met with. His natural good taste he has improved by the study of the monuments of ancient art, to be seen at Rome and Florence; and as beauty in all the arts is pretty much the same, consisting of grandeur and simplicity, variety, decorum, and a suitableness to the subject, I think he is a good judge of language, and of writing, as well as of painting, sculpture, and music.” A very well-written character in Latin, by an advocate of Edinburgh, is appended to the Letters. Mr. Brown left behind him several very highly-finished portraits in pencil, and many very exquisite sketches in pencil and in pen and ink, which he had taken of persons and of places in Italy; particularly a book of studies of heads, taken from the life, an inestimable treasure to any history painter, as a common-place book for his pictures, the heads it contained being all of them Italian ones, of great expression, or of high character. He was so enraptured with his art, and so assiduous in the pursuit of it, that he suffered no countenance of beauty, grace, dignity, or expression, to pass him unnoticed; and to be enabled to possess merely a sketch for himself, of any subject that struck his fancy, he would make a present of a high-finished drawing to the person who permitted his head to be taken by him. The characteristics of his hancl | were delicacy, correctness, and taste, as the drawings he made from many of Mr. Townley’s best statues very plainly evince. Of his mind, the leading features were acuteness, liberality, and sensibility, joined to a character firm, vigorous, and energetic. The last efforts of this ingenious artist were employed in making two very exquisite drawings, the one from Mr. Townley’s celebrated bust of Homer, the other from a fine original bust of Pope, supposed to have been the work of Rysbrac. From these drawings two very beautiful engravings have been made by Mr. Bartolozzi and his pupil Mr. Bovi. After some stay in London, his health, which had never been robust, yielded to extraordinary application, and he was forced to try a seavoyage, and return on a visit to Edinburgh, to settle his father’s affairs, who was then dead, having been some time before in a state of imbecility. On the passage from London to Leith, he was somehow neglected as he lay sick on his hammock, and was on the point of death when he arrived at Leith. With much difficulty he was brought up to Edinburgh, and laid in the bed of his friend Runciman, the artist, who had died not long before in the same place. Here he died, Sept. 5, 1787. His portrait with Runciman, disputing about a passage in Shakspeare’s Tempest, is in the gallery at Dryburgh abbey. This was the joint production of Brown and Runciman before the death of the latter in 1784. 1

1 From the preceding edition of this Dictionary, with additions from Dr. An? Arson’s “Bee,” vol. XV,