Hussey, Giles

, a distinguished artist, was the sixth, but only surviving son and heir of John Hussey of Marnhull, esq. descended from a very ancient family, and was born at Marnhull (in Dorsetshire), Feb. 10, 1710. At | seven years of age he was sent by his father, who was a Roman catholic, to Doway for his education, where he continued two years. He then was removed to St. Osier’s, where he pursued his studies for three years more. His father, though willing to afford him some education, yet designed him for trade; to which, perhaps, he was the more inclined, as a near relation, in the commercial world, offered to take him under his protection and care. Thought from a sense of parental authority, and filial obedience, Mr. Hussey did not at first openly oppose this design, yet it was so repugnant to his natural turn and bent, that he found his mind greatly embarrassed and perplexed; but after some opposition, his father very wisely yielded to his son’s request, to be permitted to follow the direction of his genius; and for that end he placed him under the care and tuition of Mr. Richardson, the painter; with whom he continued scarcely a month; revolting at the idea and proposal of being kept in the bondage of apprenticeship for seven years. He then commenced pupil at large under one Damini, a Venetian artist, esteemed one of the best painters at that time in England, with whom he continued nearly four years. During this time he was principally employed in copying pictures, and finishing those of his master, whom he assisted in painting the ornaments of the cathedral of Lincoln. During their work, on a scaffold nearly twenty feet high, as Mr. Hussey was drawing back to see the effects of his pencil, he would have fallen, had not his master saved him as ingeniously as affectionately, and at some risque to himself. Mr. Hussey entertained such a sense of his master’s humanity and kindness, that he could not bear the thought of being separated from him, and therefore requested permission of his father for Damini to attend him whilst pursuing his studies in Italy. This he obtained; and under the care and direction of the Venetian, our young and inexperienced pupil set out for the seat of science and genius; bending first his course for Bologna. But, soon after their arrival, the poor unsuspecting pupil found that one act of friendship is by no means a sure pledge of another; Damini having in a few days decamped, taking with him all his pupil’s money and the best of his apparel. Mr. Hussey was, however, kindly relieved from this state of distress by signor Gislonzoni, who had been ambassador from | the States of Venice to the court of London, and now became his friend and protector.

Mr. Hussey prosecuted his studies at Bologna for three years and a half, and then removed to Rome, where he was received with the most obliging courtesy by a celebrated artist, Hercule Lelli, who, refusing any compensation, imparted to him in the most friendly manner all that he knew of the art. This did not entirely satisfy Mr. Hussey, who seems to have aimed at establishing some fixed and unerring principles: hence he was led into a search after theory, which ended, although he knew nothing of music, in his adopting the ancient hypothesis of musical or harmonic proportions, as being the governing principle of beauty, in all forms produced by art, and evea by nature. Delighted with this discovery, as he thought it, he continued his studies at Rome with increasing pleasure and reputation. At length, in 1737, he returned to his friends in England, with whom he resided till 1742, when he went to London, where he submitted to the drudgery (as he used to call it) of painting portraits for his subsistence.

Whilst thus employed, our artist met with great opposition and very illiberal treatment from those to whom, in the simplicity of his heart, he communicated his principles, as well as from those whose professional pride was piqued, and envy excited, by those masterly, elegant, and graceful performances which were the result of these principles. The meek spirit of Hussey, as well as his pride of conscious superiority, could ill bear the treatment both himself and his performances met with from the envy of those who depreciated their merit. This, as he often complained, affected him deeply; and so depressed his spirits, and repressed his ardour, as to give him a disgust to the world, and almost a dislike to his profession, and his temper, though not rendered sour and morose, was certainly exasperated. After conflicting with this and other difficulties and misfortunes, Mr. Hussey left London in the month of October 1768, and retired for three years into the country, to recover his health and spirits; and having at length, by the death of his elder brother, Mr. Hussey, in 1773, succeeded to possession of his paternal estate at Marnhull, he resided there in affluence, ease, and content, and pursued his favourite studies, and amusements of gardening, till the autumn of 1787; when, from motives purely | of a religious nature (after having transferred and resigned all his worldly possessions to a near relation) he retired to Beaston, near Ashburton, in Devonshire; at which place, in the month of June 1788, as he was working in the garden in a very sultry day, he suddenly fell, and expired.

The great merit of Mr. Hussey’s pencil drawings from life was, that he has preserved the best characteristic likenesses of any artist whatever. And, with respect to those of mere fancy, no man ever equalled him in accuracy, elegance, simplicity, and beauty. The academical drawings he left at Bologna, notwithstanding the school has been often purged, as it is called, by removing old drawings to make room for those of superior merit, are still shewn on account of their superior merit.

Mr. Barry, that ingenious and liberal artist, whose great work in the paintings which adorn the large room at the Society of Arts in the Adelphi, together with his description of these paintings, do no less honour to himself than to his country, has, among other illustrious characters, thought Mr. Hussey entitled to an eminent place in his Elysium, and thus notices him: " Behind Phidias, I have introdced<Giles Hussey, a name that never occurs to me without fresh grief, shame, and horror, at the mean, wretched cabal of mechanics, for they deserve not the name of artists; and their still meaner runners, and assistants, that could have co-operated to cheat such an artist out of the exercise of abilities, that were so admirably calculated to have raised this country to an immortal reputation, and for the highest, species of excellence. Why will the great, who can have no interest but in the glory of their country, why will they suffer any dirty, whispering medium to interfere between them and siicji characters as Mr. Russey, who appears to have been no less amiable as a man, than he was admirable as an artist?

"The public are likely never to know the whole of what they have lost in Mr. Hussey. The perfections that were possible to him, but a very few artists can conceive; and it would be time lost to attempt giving an adequate idea of them in words.

My attention was first turned to this great character by a conversation I had, very early in life, with Mr. Stuart, better known by the name of Athenian Stuart, an epithet richly merited by the essential advantages Mr. Stuart had rendered the public, by his establishing just ideas, and a | true taste for the Grecian arts. The discourses of this truly intelligent and very candid artist, and what I saw of the works of Hussey, had altogether made such an impression on my mind, as may be conceived, hut cannot be expressed. With fervour I went abroad, eager to retrace all Hussey’s steps, through the Greeks, through Rafaelle, through dissected nature, and to add to what he had been cruelly torn away from, by a laborious, intense study and investigation of the Venetian school. In the hours of relaxation, I naturally endeavoured to recommend myself to the acquaintance of such of Mr. Hussey’s intimates as were still living: they always spoke of him with delight. And from the whole of what I could learn abroad, added to the information I received from my very amiable and venerable friend Mr. Moser since my return, Mr. Hussey must have been one of the most amiable, friendly, and companionable men, and the farthest removed from all spirit of strife and contention.

Mr. Edwards and Mr. Fuseli have spoken less respectfully of Hussey. The latter says, that “disdaining portraiture, discountenanced in history, Hussey was reduced to the solitary patronage of the then duke of Northumberland, who, says Edwards, * offered to receive him into his family, and to give him a handsome pension, with the attendance of a servant, upon condition that he should employ his talents chiefly,‘ though not exclusively, ’ for the duke. This offer he rejected, because the duke did not comply with the further request of keeping a priest for him in the house.' Hussey, a bigot in religion, was attached to the creed of Rome; but had he not been so, commis. sions and patronage, almost confined to drawing copies, ven from the antique, was certainly sufficiently provoking for a man of an original turn, to be rejected.” It is not strictly true, however, that the duke of Northumberland was his only patron. Mr. Duane was another, who possessed many of his works. Mr. West bought some penciled heads at Mr. Duane’s sale, and said of one of them, that “he would venture to show it against any head, ancient or modern; that it was never exceeded, if ever equalled; and that no man had ever imbibed the true Grecian character Vid art deeper than Giles Hussey.1

1 Nichols’s Bowyer, an interesting memoir by Francis Webb, esq. EcU ards’s Supplement to Walpolc’s Anecdotes, Pilkington, by Fuseli.