Sunday, 15 May 2011

Manchester City News in memoriam Warwick Brookes 1808-1882

This is the concluding article in memoriam of Warwick Brookes, 1808-1882, Manchester Artist. It appeared in the September 9th. 1882 edition of the Manchester City News.

Warwick Brookes 3 Conclusion.

    In 1870 Messrs. Edmondston and Douglas of Edinburgh employed Mr. Brookes to illustrate a little book for children, entitled Little Tales for Tiny Tots. For this he designed the cover and drew six illustrations on stone. At this time too he made some sketches for Dr. John Brown, of Edinburgh, the genial and popular author of Rab and his Friends. They were to illustrate his “cocks and hens, and swine and bubbly-jocks.” With respect to these the author wrote: “Genius such as yours is best left to its own promptings; you are thoroughly original without being in the least odd or strained. You remind one most of the German Richter, but you are more yourself than anybody else.” One may be “reminded” of the German Richter, but that is all.
    When able to work a little, after his great affliction, Mr. Brookes obeyed the injunction of the poet who says, “that is best which liest nearest; make of it thy work of art;” and it is fortunate that the compulsion under which he laboured, to work in the home circle, entirely accorded with his desires. Inclining to the spiritual rather than to the substantial, he found, in his own children, models whose infinite variety he could not exhaust. In child-life he found that guileless human nature with which his own sympathized most deeply. If it needs a divine nature to exhibit the divine, it also needs a sincere and transparent soul united to a perception of equal strength and delicacy to portray the pathetic helplessness of childhood, that utter dependence which yet has in it the possibility of the infinite of human strength; those orbs which seem to look with wistful wonder on the present out of a strange and remote past; and that mind whose clear scroll has yet to be illuminated with a fateful psalm of life. The sweetness and sincerity of childhood appealed irresistibly to the artist, and gave such vitality to his pencil that, looking at his studies of children, we feel for them a reverence and pity which have in them something of the divine. But the charm they display does not consist in the art of recording facts only; they exhibit the habit, the instinct of analysis, of synthetic selection; and they are rich in the suggestion of something finer and fairer than the realities of common life. Power, combined with a sense of sublimity was outside his range. His imagination had not been fed at the fountains of energy. He was more fitted to deal with forms of delicacy, elegance, and grace. He believed that the Arts are the children of Love, and that it is the mission of Art to excite in the mind emotions of pleasure by the representation of graceful and beautiful things. Like Angelico, he shrank from the representation of evil; and was said of Stothard, he could not have been wicked and witty if he would. Considering his condition and surroundings, it is, as we have said, wonderful how he could work at all. His illness had left him fragile to a degree, and compelled him to live in the Rembrandtish twilight of his sitting room surrounded by half a dozen romping children. But his intellect was as keen, his eye and hand as true, as ever, and his heart was in his work. Yet, surely if any man needed sympathy and friends, it was he. Happily they were not wanting. The qualities of his nature, his helpless condition, and his genius, combined to win to his side, in the persons of Dr. Crompton, Sir Walter C James, and his son, and the Prime Minister, such friends as few men in his condition in life have been so happy as to secure. In the Prime Minister were united disdain of trouble, and influence equal to goodwill. The busiest man is often the man of truest leisure; he governs time by the power of order. But when this is said, much remains in the present and unaccountable. We remember that on the retirement of Mr. Disraeli in 1868 Mr. Gladstone took office, and applied himself to the series of great measures which included the Disestablishment of the Irish Church, a land bill, the abolition of compulsory church rates and of religious tests, the reorganization of the army and navy resulting from the abolition of purchase, national education, and vote by ballot. Any of these imperial themes, one would think, was enough to absorb the energies of an extraordinary mind; but the whole only occupied the political activities of the statesman; his artistic and human sympathies found exercise in (among other things) corresponding with the humble pattern designer, and in bringing his work under the notice of the Queen. We find Mr. W.B. Gurdon writing: “The Queen has written to Mr. Gladstone, saying, ‘Mr. Warwick Brookes’ drawings are really charming; she has purchased four.’” His next letter contained a great surprise. It was dated Downing Street 27th. March 1871, and ran thus:- “Mr. Gladstone desires me to inform you that the Queen has been pleased to approve of the grant to you of a pension of £100 per annum on the Civil List.” In addition the royal warrant was directed to run from the preceding year. Later, the Premier himself wrote:- It was, I assure you, a great pleasure to me to have had any share in securing some marks of the royal favour to one who so well deserves them.” Would that Haydon had found such a friend in Sir Robert Peel or the Duke of Wellington!
    The Doctor’s pharmacopoeia had no remedy so potent as the peace of mind which the royal warrant supplied. It was a new lease of life for the artist. The name once written by childish fingers in shifting sand was now inscribed (shall we say in this country’s book of gold?) at all events in the national ledger. The poor tear-lad who strove to appease his art-hunger, his blind yearning for the beautiful, by copying a public house sign, and the dishes in his mother’s delf-case; had made himself worthy of the favour of the greatest statesman and the highest Lady in the land. They had freed him from that mortal malady of art, the pressing necessity of production. He was rich (like his old representative Joseph Brotherton) by reason of the fewness of his wants; and was thereby enabled to continue to work in his old method of deliberation, precision, and delicacy. And none will look upon his work and enjoy it without a feeling of gratitude to the kindly and helpful hands which enabled him to do it. In 1876 we find the frail artist at Hawarden, the honoured guest of a happy and illustrious family. How could he fail to think of what statesmanship had done for England since the dark days of his youth-days of war abroad; of famine and civil tumult at home; of the Luddites, the Corn-law, and Peterloo; or fail to rejoice in the prosperity, the daylight and liberty he had been permitted to enjoy.
    In taking leave of our late friend it is a pleasure to feel that his life was consistent and complete, and that none can have other than kindly feelings in connection with him. His way of life was humble and unassuming, but his mind was illuminated by the lamp of beauty, whilst art was less a purpose than a passion. As his old friend Frederick J Shields well says, “He was a gentle soul, a true artist. What he might have done cannot be said, but what he did is perfect and delightful. It is like some exquisite geometrical pattern of which only a portion has been unrolled; enough to show its perfection, while its further interlacings are unrevealed. You know they may be more beautiful than the portion you see, but they will be the same in spirit, limited and without surprise. As the Thames above Windsor flowing through the quiet meadows with the willows fringing its banks; the same, though ever changeful soothing, and peaceful. Not a peak of rock or torrent fall, may, not so much as even a steep bank with gnarled roots exposed, and strong branches shooting over you as your boat glides on. There is no taint of evil in his art. It is as pure as the babes he portrays so delicately.”
    The last design on which he was engaged was an illustration of Waugh’s “Come whoam to thy Childer an’ Me,” and was as full of vigour as anything he had done. He worked as long as he could hold the pencil, and resigned it with regret which was tempered by hope. He was grateful to his good friends, and did not repine at what time had taken from him. The true elixir of life is deep a deep and abiding love of Nature, and of her handmaid Art; by means of it man renews his youth like his eagles. So it was in the case of our friend; age could not wither him, he retained his freshness and buoyancy of his early years, and was hopeful and happy to the last.
    On receiving an intimation of his death, The Right Hon. W.E. Gladstone (though immersed in the affairs of Egypt and Ireland) wrote, by return of post, from the treasury, a letter of kind enquiry, with a touching tribute to the memory of the deceased artist, and on receiving a reply, forwarded a donation from the Queen’s Bounty of a hundred pounds.

<Click> to read the poem Come Whoam to thy Childer an' Me.

Come Whoam To Thy Childer An' Me-Warwick Brookes 1808-1882

Above is the illustration for Waugh's poem which turned out to be the last piece of work Brookes completed before his death. I have been lucky enough to secure this example, again from a USA antiquities dealer, which, although not the original drawing, is an 1887 etching from a copper plate, a medium of reproduction for which Brookes was both expert and famous for, having had a lifetime's experience both designing and carving blocks for the calico printing industry, the very occupation he could not afford to give up to become the full time artist, with the full recognition that would have brought now, as it has with his friends and contemporaries  Shields, Rossetti, and others.

One of several references to Warwick Brookes in Galdstone's diary. This one noted, on 24th March 1871, that he wrote to him.

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