Ryland, William Wynne

, an eminent engraver, was born in London in the year 1732. His genius for the fine arts manifested itself at an early period of his life, and he was accordingly placed under Ravenet. At the expiration of his engagement he was patronized by his godfather sir Watkin Williams Wynne, and went to Paris, where, for five years, under the guidance of Boucher, who at that time led the fashion in art, he applied with great assiduity to the study of drawing, but did not neglect to improve himself also in the practical part of engraving. From the designs of this principal misleader of the taste of France, Ryland engraved several plates, of which the principal and probably the best engraving he ever performed, is rather | a large work, of which the subject is “Jupiter and Leda.” In this he has displayed great power as an engraver in lines. The print has a fine transparent tone; he has tempered the flimsy touchiness of the French taste with a portion of Ravenet’s solidity; the soft firmness of flesh is ably characterized in the figure of Leda, and the delicacy of the swan, and various textures of the surrounding objects, are rendered with much feeling and judicious subserviency to the principal parts. Such other proofs did he give of his abilities, as to obtain an honorary gold medal, which entitled him to pursue his studies at the academy in Rome, which he afterwards did with great success. From Boucher, however, he acquired a false taste, which diverted his talents from the mark at which he was evidently and successfully aiming when he produced his “Jupiter and Leda;” and this error was heightened by the fashion of stippling which he learned in France, and introduced, with his own modifications, into England. Ryland employed stippling, so as rather to imitate such drawings as are stumped than such as are hatched with chalk, by which means he softened down all energy of style, and has left posterity to regret the voluntary emasculation of the powers he had manifested in his “Jupiter and Leda.

Soon after his return to England, he, however, engraved in lines a portrait of the queen, after Coates, and that portrait of his majesty, after Allan Ramsay, which Strange, from a misunderstanding, either with the earl of Bute or Ramsay, had declined, but they possess neither the vigour nor taste of his “Jupiter and Leda.” From this time he was appointed engraver to the king, and received an annual salary.

His subsequent engravings, in the chalk manner, are chiefly after Angelica Kauffman, and consist of four halfsheet circles, of which the subjects are, “Juno obtaining the Cestus of Venus,” “A Sacrifice to Pan,” “Cupid bound,” and “Cupid asleep;” “Queen Eleanor sucking the poison from the wounded Edward I.” (an excellent engraving of the kind); “Lady Elizabeth Grey soliciting the restoration of her Lands;” “Maria,” from Sterne’s Sentimental Journey, and “Patience,” both upright ovals; also “King John ratifying Magna Charta.” The last plate being left, by Ryland’s unfortunate death, in an unfinished state, was afterwards completed by Bartolozzi. This artist also engraved in lines, “Antiochus and Stratonice,| from, Pietro de Cortona, and “The first Interview between Edgar and Elfrida,” from Angelica Kauffman, both large plates.

Ryland’s engravings in the novel manner were, for the most part, printed in red, and this manner of engraving soon obtained the name of “the red chalk manner,” and was run after with avidity by the public. With so much heedless anxiety was it pursued, that people never stopped to consider whether even red chalk or stumped drawings themselves, of which these prints were professed imitations, were so good representations of nature, or afforded a means so happy and efficient of transfusing the soul of painting, as the art which previously existed of engraving in lines, and which was then exercised in high perfection by Bartolozzi, Strange, Vivares, and Woollet it was enough that it was new and red Ryland and novelty led the way, and fashion and the print-sellers followed.

The end of Ryland was awful. In 1783, some temporary embarrassment led him to the crime of forgery, for which he was executed in the month of August of that year. 1


Strutt’s Dict. Life of Ryland, 1783, 8vo. Rees’s Cyclopwdia, art. Englitk Engraving.