Lairesse, Gerard

, an eminent Flemish painter, was born at Liege, in 1640. His father, who was a tolerable painter, put his son first to study the belles lettres, poetry, and music, to the last of which Gerard dedicated a day in every week: but at length taught him design, and made him copy the best pictures, particularly those of Bertholet Flaraael, a canon of that city. At the age of fifteen, Gerard began to paint portraits, and some historical pieces, for the electors of Cologne and Brandenburgh, which contributed-to make him known, and gave him great reputation. The ease, however, with which he got his money tempted him to part with it as easily, and run into expence. He was fond of dress, and making a figure in the world; he had also an ambition to please the ladies, and fancied that the liveliness of his wit would compensate in some degree for the deformity of his person. But one of his mistresses, whom he had turned off, having out of revenge wounded him dangerously with a knife, he abandoned such promiscuous gallantry, and married. While settled at Utrecht, and poor, he was seized with a contagious distemper; and, his wife lying-in at the same time, he was reduced to offer a picture to sale for present support, which, in three days’ time, was bought by Vytenburgh, a picture-merchant at Amsterdam, who engaged | him to go to that city. Accordingly Lairesse settled there; and his reputation rose to so high a pitch, that the Hollanders esteem him the best history-painter of their country, and commonly call him their second Raphael; Hemskirk is their first. Yet his style of painting was but a compound of those of Poussin and the old French school. While he aimed at imitating the best Italian masters, he never avoided those false airs of the head and limbs, which seem rather taken from the stage than from nature; so that his works do not rise to the level of true merit. At length, borne down with infirmities, aggravated by the loss of his eye-sight, he finished his days at Amsterdam, in 1711, at the age of seventy-one.

He had three sons, of whom two were painters and his disciples. He had also three brothers, Ernest, James, and John: Ernest and John painted animals, and James was a flower-painter. He engraved a great deal in aqua-fortis. His work consists of 256 plates, great and small, more than the half of which are by his own hand; the others are engraved by Poole, Berge, Glauber, &c. Lairesse has the credit of an excellent book upon the art, which has been translated into English, and printed both in 4to and 8vo, at London, but it is thought that it consists only of observations made by him, and published with the authority of his name. 1


Argenville, vol. III.—Pilkington and Strutt.—Sir J. Reynolds’s Works.