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THE UNIVERSITY 
OF ILLINOIS 
LIBRARY 


> From the collection of 
^ James Collins, 

^ Drumcondra, Ireland. 
t' Purchased, 1918, 


4 759-2 

rsth. 

















BIRKET FOSTER 


HIS LIFE AND WORK 


Digitized by the Internet Archive 
in 2018 with funding from 

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Alternates 


https://archive.org/details/birketfosterhislOOhuis 










THE ART JOURNAL 


THP LITTI.E -SHEPIiERDS, 




















ARTIST PROOFS 

OF 

THE LITTLE SHEPHERDS, 

P7-mted on Japan Paper, afid 

SIGNED BY BIRKET FOSTER, 

ARE PUBLISHED BY 

C. E. CLIFFORD & Co., 12, PICCADILLY, LONDON. 


The Edition is strictly limited to loo Signed Artist’s Proofs. 
Price £2 2s. each. 


Early application should be made for these, as the Artist’s Proofs of “An Old 
English Mill," by Birket Foster, were all sold very shortly after publication, 
and are now only to be had at three or four times their original value. 







THE ART ANNUAL 


BIRKET FOSTER 

HIS LIFE AND WORK 


BY 

MARCUS HUISH, LL.B. 

EDITOR OF “THE ART JOURNAL” 


'gTxtntcx'OU;^ gUitstrations 



LONDON: ART JOURNAL OFFICE, 26, IVY LANE, PATERNOSTER ROW 





BIRKET FOSTER, 




PART I.—HIS BIRTH AND EDUCATION. 


OR the first time since this 
series of Christmas Num¬ 
bers of the Art Jcurnal 
commenced we have se¬ 
lected for our subject an 
English artist from outside 
the ranks of the members 
of the Royal Academy. 
The choice during the ear¬ 
lier issues naturally ad¬ 
mitted of no doubt; certain 
names presented themselves 
as claiming of right the 
foremost places in the list ; 
later on, the task of afford¬ 
ing variety led to the introduction of two notable foreign¬ 
ers, and the same motive this year 
induces us to present to our readers 
a memoir of that distinguished artist 
in the mediums of water colour and 
black and white, Mr. Birket Foster, 

Member of the Society of Painters in 
Water Colours. 

If the sentiments which influence 
elections at the Royal Academy were 
more elastic, if distinction in Art was 
the only passport necessary to admis¬ 
sion within its portals, if a world-wide 
recognition of talents constituted a 
claim, then assuredly the subject of 
this biography would have found a 
place amongst the self-elected im¬ 
mortals of that institution at least a 
quarter of a century ago. Had one 
of the now fashionable plebiscites been 
held amongst Englishmen all the world 
over, during any year of that period, 
the name of Birket Foster would have 
been found very near the head of the 
list of artists ; for not only to the pre¬ 
sent but to the past generation his 
name has been for years a household 
word, and no living artist can be 
cited who has afforded greater plea¬ 
sure to a larger clientele, or who has 
done more to educate the masses to 
a love of all that is healthy and all 
that is beautiful in that phase of Art 
which appeals to his countrymen more 
than any other, namely, English land¬ 
scape. 

Mr. Foster has not, like so many of 
his profession, sprung from the ranks. 

He is a member of an old Quaker 
family which has for many generations 


held an honourable position in the north country. It may not 
be without interest to those of the name to have some particu¬ 
lars of the branch from which he claims descent, and I there¬ 
fore cull from a volume, “ The Pedigree of the Fosters of Cold 
Hesledon, in the County Palatine of Durham,” the following 
ancestral tree :— 

Robert Foster of Cold Hesledon. 

I 

Thomas Foster b. at Hawthorne, 1662. 

I 

Robert Foster b. at Hawthorne, 1694. 

Dodshon Foster b. at Hawthorne, 1730. 

Robert Foster b. at Lancaster, 1754. 

Myles Birket Foster b. at Hebblethwaite Hall, 178;. 

I 

Myles Birket Foster b. at North Shields, 4th February, 1825. 


Birket Foster, R.W.S. 


103746 




















BIRKET FOSTER. 


Robert Foster, the artist's grandfather, was, we gather from 
this work, a naval officer of repute, who was engaged during 
the last century in several desperate actions against the 
privateers, and was altogether a source of much distress and 
discomfort to his relations on account of his deserting those 
principles of which his sect were the marked exponents. We 
read that being appointed a store-keeper at Bermuda, where 
was carried on a branch of his father’s mercantile business, 
“ he was moved by the spirit (not the peaceable one of a 
Quaker but the true spirit of an Englishman) to make up his 
accounts, quit his store, collect together a few sailors, lay 
aside the Quaker, mount a cockade, and join a Lieutenant 
Tinsley, then fitting out a small armed vessel against the 
Americans. Coming in her to Portsmouth, after several 
severe actions he got himself recommended to Captain Rey¬ 
nolds as an officer likely to show him some business; was with 


him in the Jupiter, of 50 guns, when they went alongside 
a French frigate of 64 guns ; was, in a desperate action which 
ensued, sent for by the captain, the master being killed, and 
appointed master in his place, and managing the ship for the 
remainder of the action, was appointed Lieutenant of the 
Pelican." 

He was a friend of Wordsworth and Southey, and the 
latter wrote thus of him in 1806 

“Wordsworth sent me a man the other day who was 
worth seeing; he looked like a first assassin in Macieth as 
to his costume; but he was a rare man. He had been a 
lieutenant in the navy, and was scholar enough to quote 
Virgil aptly. He had seen much and thought much ; his 
head was well stored and his heart in the right place.’’ 

The late Professor Sedgwick, in a privately printed volume 
of recollections, recounts an interview which this Robert 



The Distribution of Coals. Drawing by Birket Foster for the Illustrated London News. 


Foster, curiously enough, brought about for him with the 
first great English illustrator in wood engraving, Thomas 
Bewick, at Newcastle, in 1821. 


T\ /f YLES BIRKET FOSTER,* or Birket Foster, as he is 
universally known, was, as our pedigree shows, born 
at North Shields on the 4th of February, 1825, his mother 
being Ann, only daughter of Joseph and Mary King, of New- 
castle-on-Tyne. He was the youngest but one of seven chil¬ 
dren, six of them being boys. His father removed to London 
when his son Birket was five 3'ears old, and it was there and 
in its neighbourhood that his education was completed. 


* Myles Birket has been a constantly recurring name in the family for a 
century past, being derived from a marriage contracted by Dodshon Foster in 
1753 with Elizabeth Myles Birket. 


There is a tradition in the Foster family that young Birket 
could draw before he could speak, and that the local renown 
of Bewick, who was alive when Birket was born (Bewick died 
in 1828), and who was then at the zenith of his fame, influenced 
in no small degree the budding aspirations of a young artist 
who was destined, at a future day, to popularize and carry 
forward to fuller perfection the art which the Newcastle 
school first made familiar in England. 

Mr. Birket Foster himself is more diffident upon the subject 
of his earliest efforts and infantile genius. Fie considers that 
he was fortunate from the very outset in his surroundings and 
influences, and that these had much to do with whatever 
proficiency he attained to. At the first school he attended, 
kept by two ladies at Tottenham, he found in them skilful 
and sympathetic teachers, whilst instruction of a useful 
kind was later on continued at a school for children of the 
Society of Friends at Hitchin, in Hertfordshire. Here he 












PART I.—HIS BIRTH AND EDUCATION. 


3 


stayed until 1840, the rudiments of his teaching including 
lessons in pencil drawing by an intelligent master named 
Charles Parry. 

In those times education for the most part terminated when 
a lad had attained to the age of sixteen, and this was the case 
with young Foster. The weighty question of a profession had 
then to be decided upon. His inclinations were all for that of 


Art, and especially that branch of it which had to do with 
landscape. But there was at the time little promise in such a 
choice; no magnificent houses in the northern and western 
suburbs testified to the business being a lucrative one. Tiny 
chambers in Canonbury, Camden Town, or the Gravel Pits, 
Kensington, served as the studios even of Royal Acade¬ 
micians ; decorative accessories of little or no worth as artistic 



The Gleaners at the Stile. From " Pictures 0/ English Landscape.” 


properties seldom, if ever, cumbered their floors, and the 
simplicity of their surroundings was reflected in their lives. 

The Foster family were intimate with several artists of note, 
and it was common talk how badly they fared and how pre¬ 
carious was their income. 

But the youth was obdurate, and therefore nothing remained 
but to seek for a branch of Art from which a living was a 


possible, if not probable, result. The selection fell upon that 
of a die engraver, fobs being still in fashion, and seals and 
sealing wax in much probable request, owing to the introduc¬ 
tion of the penny postage, whose jubilee we are this year 
celebrating. Mr. Foster, senior, had some acquaintance 
with a Mr. Stone, of Margaret Street, whose premises are those 
now occupied by Wyon, the seal engraver, and it was pro- 





















4 


BIRKET FOSTER. 




bably this acquaintance which turned the scale in the boy’s 
favour. Stone was seen and everything was quickly arranged. 


impetus to wood engraving which with ebbs and flows has lasted 
up to the present time. Occasioned as many of these have been 
by the caprices of fashion, the flood which carried on to fortune 
the artist with whom we are most immediately concerned had 
no fortuitous commencement, but was entirely brought about 
by his being far-seeing enough to gauge the popular require¬ 
ments and at once go out to meet them. In this respect he 
followed in the footsteps of the great wood-engraver, the 
founder of the Newcastle School, to which, as I have mentioned, 
Birket Foster has with some reason been af&liatcd. In 
Bewick’s as in Foster’s case the designer by his illustrations 
made the work which he illustrated a success, and Bewick 
in Gay’s Fables, and Foster in his Tupper, or Pollok, could 
with truth quote the well-known lines in the Dunciad: 


A S the career of the subject of our memoir was 
for the next twenty years of his life inti¬ 
mately connected with the art of wood-engraving, 
a short digression may here be pardoned by the 
reader whilst a glance is given at the position 
which that pursuit then occupied and its fortunes 
during that period. 

Book illustration in England, as most of us are i 

aware, is of comparatively recent growth. So far as 
imaginative compositions are concerned it does not date beyond 
the close of the last centurj', when Bewick and Stothard gave an 


Delightful is this loneliness; it calms 

My heart: pleasant the cool beneath these elms, 

That throw across the stream a moveless shade.” 

Frovi James Graham^s “ Sabbath, 

everybody was heartily, tired of the name and sight of them 
at the date when Birket Foster entered upon his apprenticeship. 


Boy$ in Fursuit of their Clothes. From “ The Boy's Spring and 
Summer Book." 


But fate decided that Birket Foster should not pass his 
life in the service of such a monotonous mistress, for upon 
the day on which the articles of apprenticeship were to be 
signed Mr. Stone unfortunately committed suicide, and this 
naturally also put an end to the projected pupildom. 

We do not know how much the numismatic art of the 
country has lost by the diversion of young Foster’s 
energies to other channels, but we do know what 
other branches have gained, and we cannot be 
sorry for the accident which deprived a profession 
which very much needed it of so much talent, in¬ 
ventiveness, and energy. 

A fresh start had to be again made, and natu¬ 
rally enough, with the father’s stringent provisions 
as to the probabilities of success being fair ones, 
the choice was much narrowed. But the good 
fortune which has attended Birket Foster through¬ 
out life again assisted him. Ebenezet Landells, 
who then stood very high in his profession of a 
wood-engraver, was included amongst the artistic 
friends of the family, probably through his having 
been a pupil of Bewick’s, and north-country born. 

To him Mr. Foster, senior, went for advice, and 
this advice resulted in an offer to take the boy 
into the Landells business, not as an apprentice 
but to try his hand at the work and see whether it 
suited him, an offer which was cordially accepted. 


The traditions established by Bewick were carried on by 
Clennell, Harvey, and others, who transferred the school, about 
1820, to London ; but for the next quarter of a century the 
lustre of wood-engraving was eclipsed by the popularity of the 
“Annuals” which depended upon steel engraving for their 
illustrations, and of that obtained the best which Great Britain 
has ever produced. In this respect their promoters were 
fortunate in obtaining the co-operation of Turner and Stan¬ 
field, the former of whom produced some of his finest work for 
“ Annual Tours.” The fashion was of course overdone, much 
money that had been gained at first was lost later on, and 


“ The pictures for the page atone, 
And Quarles is saved by beauties not his own.” 































c 


Going to Market. From a Water-Colour by Birket Foster. 























6 


BIRKET FOSTER. 


It is one of the most emphatic testimonials to his work 
that within a space of ten years he was able to revive their 
popularity. 

The wood-engravers were at this time principally occupied 
with ‘Ca.e Pentiy Magazine 
and the numerous publi¬ 
cations of Charles Knight. 

But the value of these from 
an artistic point of view 
was very low, and if any 
further proof is required of 
the then state of the art it 
may be found in the ear¬ 
lier numbers of Punch or 
of the Illustrated Lofi- 
do 7 t News. As these were 
both started almost con¬ 
temporaneously with Bir- 
ket Foster’s commencing 
work, and as he was en¬ 
gaged upon both of them, 
some of his recollections 
respecting them may be 
of interest here. 

Pimch, if not born in 
Landells’ workshop, was for some time entirely produced 
there, so far as the illustrations were concerned. Foster 
well remembers the day when Landells came into the en¬ 
gravers’ room, and said, “ Well, boys, we’ve fi.ved on the 
title, we’re going to call it Punch," an appellation which 
when he had left was unanimously voted a very stupid 
one.* At first the success 
of the venture was very 
doubtful, which will not be 
considered surprising by 
any one who glances over 
the earlier numbers, and 
it was not until the Alma¬ 
nack was published that 
it obtained any hold upon 
the affections of the public. 

In the number of Septem¬ 
ber 5th, 1841, Birket Fos¬ 
ter’s work first appears, 
and thenceforward for 
some time all the small 
initials were either his or 
Mr. H. G. nine’s, now the 
veteran Vice-President of 
the Institute of Painters 
in Water Colours. Birket 
Foster’s illustrations for 
the most part had nothing 
comic about them, and the 
initials were formed by tree 
trunks, or fishes, contorted 
into proper shape, evi¬ 
dently suggested by Wil¬ 
liam Harvey’s work. We have, however, a foretaste of his 
later productions in a cornfield with waggons and a setting 


* The name came about from a pun upon Mark Lemon, the first editor’s 
name, some one having suggested that “ tunch must be good with so much 
lemon.” 


sun. Hine on his side attempted comicalities, and one which 
appeared in December, 1841, entitled ‘A Sound Nap,’ a man 
so fast asleep that a spider has spun a web between his nose 
and a brandy-bottle, elicited great approbation from Mark 

Lemon and Henry May- 
hew, when young Foster 
took it to Drury Lane 
Theatre, where the former 
was engaged in writing a 
farce. It was in this same 
month of December, that 
Birket Foster, then not 
eighteen j^ears of age, was 
entrusted with the prepa¬ 
ration of the principal car¬ 
toon. It will be found as 
“ Punch’s Pencillings,” 
No. 22, and is entitled 
“Jack (Lordjohn Russell) 
cutting his name on the 
beam.’’ It is a carica¬ 
ture of Cruikshanks’ well- 
known drawing in Har¬ 
rison Ainsworth’s 
novel, “Jack Sheppard,” 
which had recently been published. 

The Illustrated Lo 7 ido 7 t News appeared in the following 
year and was suggested by the large sale obtained by the 
Weekly Chro 77 icle, a ghastly production whose contents illus¬ 
trated all the horrors of the day. Herbert Ingram, a printer 
and newsagent, had made ;!^i,ooo by selling Parr’s Life Pills, 

and had started Old 
Moore's Alma 7 iack to 
advertise them. For the 
printing and illustrations 
of this and other pam¬ 
phlets connected with it, 
he had called in the ser¬ 
vices of Henry Vizetelly, 
who in his turn had com¬ 
missioned the present Sir 
John Gilbert to illustrate 
it with various imaginary 
scenes in the life of old 
Parr. After many lengthy 
confabulations, for the 
most part held at the 
Cock Tavern, in Fleet 
Street, the paper was 
started on the 14th of 
May, 1842. The illustra¬ 
tions were at first never 
drawn from nature, but 
were concocted from any 
other available source; 
for instance, that of the 
great fire at Hamburg, in 
the first number, was ac¬ 
tually an old block of the city altered. Later on, as the paper 
succeeded, more money was spent upon the illustrations, and 
Birket Foster was often sent into the country to depict events 
which were happening. When the Queen, in 1845, went to 
Germany, Landells was sent as a special artist to illustrate 



“’Where the deer rustle through the twining br.ike.’’ 

From Thomson's SeasonsF 



“ The curfew tolls the knell of parting day.” 

From Gray's Elegy," 










PART I—HIS BIRTH AND EDUCATION 


7 


her progress, and his sketches as they arrived in this country 
were drawn on the block by Foster. One of Birket Foster’s 
original drawings for the Illustrated London News is in 
the collection of Mr. Edmund Evans, and is reproduced at 
page 2. 

But the major part of his original work for this paper was 
upon its Annual Almanacl. Here his pencil will be recog¬ 


nised for many years, even during the period when he was fully 
occupied with book illustration. 

The period at which Birket Foster entered upon his career 
is an interesting one for those of us who know the notabilities 
of the forties only by repute. If there were few giants in the 
artistic world, there were many in the literary, and with several 
of these, thanks to the requirements of the age which de- 



The Stepping-Stones. From “ Pictures of English Landscape." 


manded that the letterpress should be interspersed with illus¬ 
trations, Birket Foster was brought into connection. When 
he started at Landells, the house was busy engraving Catter- 
mole’s and Phiz’s drawings for Dickens’s “ Old Curiosity 
Shop,” and Foster had to take the results to Devonshire Place. 
Thackeray was a frequent visitor at the establishment, and 
angered young Foster and his fellow-student, Edmund Evans 


(of whom more hereafter), by never taking any notice of them 
when they opened the door to him, but pushing past, strode 
up-stairs. All the early contributors to Pjinch were con¬ 
stantly about the place, and of other literary celebrities. 
Captain Marryat and Anthony Trollope may be mentioned 
as having in one way or another come across Birket Foster’s 
track. 













































8 


BIRKET FOSTER. 


' I 'HE first task to which Foster was set as an apprentice 
was the rudiments of wood-engraving, and his master 
at once told him he could not afford to let him spoil other 
people’s drawings, so he must invent or copy designs for 
himself. Full of zeal for his new occupation, he soon had 
several ideas sketched upon blocks; Landells coming round 
shortly afterwards took them up, and at once e.xclaimed, 
“ these are too good to spoil,” and he took them away, di¬ 
recting the boy to make others. When these were presented 
to him, he said, ‘‘You mustn’t engrave, you must draw on the 
wood ; there are plenty of engravers, but very few draughts¬ 
men. 1 will go and see your father ; you will soon get on.” 

So once again the rulings of fate directed the boy’s career, 
and he abandoned, almost before he had entered upon it, 
the profession of a wood-en¬ 
graver. 

The illustrative work upon 
which young Foster was first 
engaged was, singularly 
enough, in connection with 
the late editor of the Art 
Journal. Mr. S. C. Hall 
and his wife were preparing 
a book on “ Ireland, ils 
Scenery and Character” 

(How and Parsons), and for 
this Landells had to prepare 
a portion of the blocks. 

These were made from ama¬ 
teur sketches supplied by 
the author, and Foster was 
at sixteen deemed suffi¬ 
ciently competent to redraw 
and improve upon them. 

He was next employed to 
copy some of the drawings 
made by Stanfield for Mar- 
ryat’s “ Poor Jack.” These 
had already been placed on 
wood by another draughts¬ 
man, but they were not con¬ 
sidered good enough. When 
the blocks were engraved, 

Foster was sent with them 
to Marryat’s lodgings, 
which were next door to the 
Senior United Service Club, 

Pall Mall, where he had an 
interview with the Captain. For some time Foster’s spare 
moments were utilised in running errands and taking blocks 
home. On one of these occasions, in the winter of 1841, 
whilst going to Miss Clint’s, at Islington, with the block of 
the Maypole Inn in Barnaby Rudge, of which Miss Clint had 
to engrave the easier parts, he fell, and snapped several 
tendons of one of his legs, which made him have a personal 
and painful interest in poor Barnaby. 

In those days the opportunities of studying Art were not 
much more extended than half a century earlier, w'hen the 
only place where Turner could study any example of Art was 
in Doctor Monro’s private collection. The National Gallery 
contained but a tithe of the pictures it now possesses, and for the 
greater part of the year no other exhibitions were open to the 
public. To obtain the friendship of a collector of pictures was. 


therefore, a great boon to a young artist, and Birktt Foster 
was exceptionally fortunate even in this respect. For he had 
not long been at Landells before he was taken notice of by 
Jacob Bell, the chemist, the friend of Landseer and the donor 
of the fine collection by that artist to the National Gallery. 
Landells had recommended the boy to copy engravings, as 
that would teach him how to represent colour by line and 
tint, and Mr. Bell, who was a friend of his father, was only too 
ready to lend him for this purpose the Landseer proofs which 
were then being engraved after that artist’s works. These by 
rising at an early hour he found time to copy. One day, pre¬ 
senting a pen-and-ink drawing, after one of these drawings, to 
Mr. Bell, he was so pleased with it that he would have it taken 
off at once for Landseer to see, who, he said, w-as at that mo¬ 
ment dining with Calcott at 
Fladong’s Hotel in Oxford 
Street. But the boy was 
shy and would not go, and he 
missed an interview which 
might have been of much 
assistance to him ; however, 
the excellency of the copy 
was attested by his selling 
it elsewhere for the consi¬ 
derable sum of twenty gui¬ 
neas. 

None but those who have 
experienced it can tell the 
delight which the unex¬ 
pected possession of a 
goodly sum, the first result 
of one’s pencil or brush, 
evokes. In Birket Foster’s 
case it was a perfect God¬ 
send, for it enabled him to 
accomplish a great desire, 
namely, to see the Highlands 
during the holiday which the 
master had promised to his 
industrious apprentice. But 
the delightful anticipations 
with regard to the trip were 
not destined to be fulfilled. 
One day, after leaving Aber- 
fcldy, the postillion took the 
pair-horse chaise contain¬ 
ing young Foster too near 
the edge of a considerable 
declivity, with the result that the whole went over the side and 
our hero found himself Imbedded beneath the chaise with an 
arm broken in two places. But though his pleasure came to 
an untimely end, he would not allow his education to suffer, 
and whilst his right arm was in splints he learnt to draw with 
his left. Unfortunately the ill effects of the accident were not 
confined to his arm, for shortly afterwards a lumbar abscess 
formed on his back, and this not only kept him a prisoner to 
his bed for the long period of seven months but nearly cost 
him his life, as during several days his condition was so grave 
that the eminent surgeon, Aston Key, told him to prepare for 
the worst. But youth and a good constitution were on his side 
and he left his sick-bed on his nineteenth birthday. 

Mr. Foster is never tired of expressing his indebtedness to 
Landells for the education he gave him and the kindness he 






EIHKET F''JST:vR PTN' 




















I 



PART II.—HIS WORK IN BLACK AND WHITE. 


9 


showed him. Convinced that nature would be the youth’s 
best mistress Landells sent him to her with these instructions: 
“Now that work is slack in these summer months spend 
them in the fields; take your colours and copy every de¬ 
tail of the scene as carefully as possible, especially trees 
and foreground plants, and come up to me once a month 
and show me what you have done.” Nothing suited the 
student better, and he passed all his days in the fields at 
Hampstead or Highgate, and there he began an intimacy 
with nature which has never ceased. A splendid memory 
aided him so well that to this day he can draw with abso¬ 
lute fidelity a nettle, a burdock, or any of those essential 
foreground bits which, until then, with perhaps the e.xception 


of Turner, no one had thought it worth while to translate 
with accuracy. In the winter months he worked nearer 
home, but still from nature, frequently visiting the river 
wharves which, in the pre-embankment days, were full of 
material for the true artist. 

The only work which appeared during his apprenticeship 
with his name attached to it as the illustrator, was a small 
volume of poems upon Richmond, which were compiled by C. 
Ellis, the brother of the landlord of the Star and Garter. For 
this he made three drawings from views in its neighbourhood. 
But there is many a book published at this period which 
owes its illustrations to him but which shows no signature 
or acknowledgment of authorship. 


BIRKET FOSTER. PART IL—HIS WORK IN BLACK AND WHITE. 


TT was in 1846 that Birket Foster parted company with Lan- 
-*■ dells, and for the first time found himself left to his own 
resources. The term for which he had agreed to serve Lan¬ 
dells was at an end, and there was now nothing for it but to 
go the round of the publishers and get work when and where 
he could. Youth and 
energy and a knowledge 
of his own capacities all 
combined to give him con¬ 
fidence ; so, armed with 
half-a-dozen drawings 
which he had placed upon 
the wood (leaving it in its 
natural round condition as 
a sort of framework), he 
started in search of for¬ 
tune. His first visit was 
to Sharpe, the proprietor 
of Sharpe's Magazine, 
which was at that time a 
good property. He kept 
a shop in Newgate Street. 

“ We don’t want any as¬ 
sistance,” he at once said. 

‘‘Priordoes all our work, 
and we are quite satisfied 
with it.” He next pro¬ 
ceeded to Robert Bran- 
ston’s, who had a large 
printing and engraving 
establishment, and here 
again he met with no suc¬ 
cess, only politeness, an 
expression of congratula¬ 
tion upon his work, and 
the usual notification that 
he would not be forgotten 
if anything in his line was 
required. His third at¬ 
tempt was more fortunate, for Henry Vizetelly (who was then 
in a good business as a producer of books, undertaking the en¬ 
graving and printing for other firms) directly he saw the draw¬ 
ings, said, ‘‘ You’re the very man I want, I have several books 
I can put into your hands at once, and if you will sell these 


blocks I will buy them.” Our artist was at once commissioned 
to illustrate a book Thomas Miller had written for Chapman 
and Hall, entitled, ‘‘The Boy’s Country Book.” This was 
published in four parts, corresponding to the four seasons. 
A reproduction of one of the illustrations is given at page 4, 

which clearly shows that 
Birket Foster was under 
the influence of Bewick at 
this time, the introduction 
of the comic clement, 
namely, the tow rope 
catching up the boys’ 
clothes, being particularly 
Bewickian. 

The thorough education 
he had received stood him 
in such good stead that, 
from the outset, he ac¬ 
quitted himself so well 
that Vizetelly had no hesi¬ 
tation in recommending 
him to all his clients. The 
immediate result was a 
commission to illustrate 
Longfellow’s ‘‘ Evange¬ 
line.” David Bogue had 
entrusted this to certain 
young pre - Raphaelites, 
but tbeir work had stag¬ 
gered him. Neither he 
or any one else was as 
yet educated up to such 
revolutionary methods. 
He would have none of it, 
and when asked, ‘‘What 
shall you do with the draw¬ 
ings ? ” ‘‘This,” he re¬ 
plied, and wetting one of 
the blocks he erased the 
drawing with the sleeve of his coat. Each was in like 
manner destroyed, although a considerable sum had been 
paid for them. 

With his brother artists treated in this way it may well be 
imagined that Birket Foster entered upon the work with some 

D 



“ His folded flock secure, the shepherd home 
Hies, merrj^-hearted; and by turn relieves 
The ruddy milkmaid of her brimming pail: 

The beauty whom perhaps his witless heart, 
Unknowing what the joy-mixed anguish means. 
Sincerely loves, by that blest language shown 
Of cordial glances, and obliging deeds.*' 

Thomson's ” SeasonsT 







10 


BIRKET FOSTER. 


trepidation, and the publication of this his first important essay 
and its reception by the public was perhaps the most anxiously 
expected event of his life. But any fear as to the issue was 
soon ended. The AthencBum was at that date the literary 
and artistic paper which gave the cue to popular opinion, and 
its verdict would probably make or mar the artist’s future 
career. Coming into Vizetelly’s one morning Foster was 
greeted by him with, “ Here’s the Athencsum ; by Jove, they 
have given it to you ! ” 

His heart may have been 
said to have sunk into his 
boots at this announce¬ 
ment, but when the no-tice 
was handed to him and 
he read it, he hardly knew 
whether he stood on his 
head or his heels, for this 
is what it said :—“A more 
lovely book than this has 
rarely been given to the 
public; Mr. Foster’s de¬ 
signs, in particular, have 
a picturesque grace and 
elegance which recall the pleasure we experienced on our 
first examination of Mr. Rogers’s ‘ Italy,’ when it came before 
us illustrated by persons of no less refinement and invention 
than Stothard and Turner. Any one disposed to carp at our 
praise as overstrained is invited to consider the ‘ Boat on the 
Mississippi,’ which, to our thinking, is a jewel of the first 
water.” 

The criticism in the Ar^ journal for June 1850 was 
equally laudatory, and was 
accompanied by a block of 
‘Morning’ which Mr. Fos¬ 
ter had been commissioned 
to do, to illustrate a series of 
Illustrations from the Poets 
which w'as then running 
through the Jotir 7 ial. 

“Evangeline” had an 
enormous sale, and not a 
moment was lost in adver¬ 
tising that the rest of Long¬ 
fellow’s w'ould be similarly 
published. Birket Foster’s 
joy was somewhat dashed 
at first by seeing the notice, 
which ran as follows : “ In 
preparation. The Minor 
Poems of H. \V. Longfellow. 

Printed uniform with ‘ Evan- 
geline.’ Profusely Illus¬ 
trated.” He was not yet 
accustomed to the latitude 
which publishers allow in 
their notices, but he soon ascertained that the illustrations 
were not “ in preparation,” but were to be placed in his 
hands. 

This second issue of Longfellow was as great a success as 
the first, and Bogue, who acted throughout with liberality, 
suggested that “ Hyperion ” must now be done, and that Vize- 
telly and young Foster had better follow the footsteps of Paul 
Flemming as far as the Austrian Tyrol, and so obtain that 


•accuracy of local colouring which had not been aimed at in 
the earlier illustrations. The trip, the first of many subse¬ 
quent ones abroad, was a great joy to our artist, and is 
sketched out at some length in an appendix which was 
written to the volume by Vizetelly. “Hyperion” was pub¬ 
lished at Christmas, 1852. 

The route taken was up the Rhine, and Birket Foster 
utilised to make a series of drawings of that subject; these 

illustrations were engraved 
on steel by the best line 
engravers after the man¬ 
ner of the old annuals, 
Henry Mayhew being em¬ 
ployed to write the letter- 
press. The work appeared 
in 1855 under the title of 
“The Rhine,” and sold 
largely, w'hereupon a se¬ 
cond volume, “The Upper 
Rhine,” was projected, 
and in due course was 
compiled. 

An agreeable commis¬ 
sion was entrusted to Birket Foster about this time, namely, 
the illustration of Scott’s Poems. These were all, w'ith the 
exception of “ Rokeby,” which had never been popular, 
published during the years 1853—1855 by Messrs. Black, of 
Edinburgh. The artist undertook several visits to the scenes 
of the poems, as well as to Scotland and Wales for the 
purpose of illustrating various guide-books which the firm 
were then publishing. He considers that not only were the 

drawings then made as good 
as any that he at any time 
accomplished, but that the 
engraving and printing of 
the blocks left nothing to 
be desired. The first edi¬ 
tions of the guide-books 
were also beautifully printed. 

From this time forward 
the entirety of the illustra¬ 
tions for almost every book 
he was engaged upon were 
placed in his hands. He 
selected the subjects which 
he cared to illustrate him¬ 
self and placed the re¬ 
mainder in the hands of va¬ 
rious artists to whom he 
considered they were best 
fitted. Apropos of the pub¬ 
lishers’ eagerness and his 
popularity at this time, he 
tells some amusing experi¬ 
ences. The shelves were 
ransacked for subjects which could be illustrated, and even 
Blair’s “ Grave ” and Young’s “ Night Thoughts ” were sug¬ 
gested, the former being actually undertaken. Pollok’s “Course 
of Time ” could not be avoided, and Foster found himself at 
work upon renderings of subjects for which he was entirely 
unfitted, such, for instance, as “ The Plains of Heaven ” and 
“The Unfathomable Lake,” the Fallen Angels in his drawing 
of the latter now reminding him of eels being thrown out of a 




Tha Leafless Avenue. From Cowper's “ Task." 



PART II.—HIS WORK IN BLACK AND WHITE. 


II 




bag. He gained an intimate acquaintance with Tapper’s 
“ Proverbial Philosophy,” for taking it up the Rhine to read 
and select his subjects from, he lost the volume just as 
he had finished its perusal, and had upon his return to wade 
through the whole of it again. 

In other cases, in conjunction with his life-long friend 
Edmund Evans, he drew the illustrations of works which took 
his fancy, and Evans engraved them ; these they disposed of 
to various publishers, and thereby secured a better result 
both artistically and financially. 

At this time the number of artists engaged upon book 
illustrations who have subsequently attained to eminence in 
the profession of Art was quite remarkable ; no similar period 
bears any resemblance to it in this respect. Of painters we 
have Sir F. Leighton, Sir J. E. Millais, E. Burne Jones, 
Rossetti, Holman Hunt. Amongst water-colour painters Sir 
J. Gilbert, G. Dodgson, E. Duncan, and Hine. Whilst in 
workers of black and white the name of John Tenniel stands 
pre-eminent. 

A perusal of the list of works illustrated by Birket Foster 
discloses the curious fact that three-fourths, at least, of them 
consist of poetry, and yet he never illustrated Tennyson, 
Shelley, or Keats, each of whose productions would have lent 
itself so happily to his pencil. As regards the two last-named, 
there is no apparent reason for the omission, but in the case 
of Tennyson matters fell out thus. Tennyson’s publisher at 
this date, when Birket Foster was in full swing as an illustrator, 
was Moxon, and an arrangement had actually been made 
with him for the illustration of the whole of the poems, and 


Pembroke Castle. 

two blocks were drawn and cut, when differences arose, and 
Tennyson withdrew all his copyrights from the house. The two 


blocks which illustrated ‘ Break, Break,’ and ‘ The Reapers,’ 
were afterwards engraved on steel by William Miller, and 
were used in the volumes of Hood’s poems. 


Cawing Rooks. Cowper's “ Task." 


Mr. Foster’s labours in book illustration practically came 
to an end in 1859^ the volumes published at the end of that 
year naturally bearing the date of i860. We 
have subsequently to this, in the year i860, 
only a single volume, ” The Scottish Reforma¬ 
tion,” the illustrations to which were made to 
oblige his friend the author. Dr. Lorimer. An 
interval of eleven years elapsed before any other 
new works appeared with Mr. Foster’s name 
as illustrator. In 1871 and 1872 two volumes 
of Hood’s Poems were published by Moxon ; 
these each contained twenty-two vignettes en¬ 
graved upon steel by the veteran, William 
Miller, of Edinburgh. The work was practi¬ 
cally a labour of love for the old man, and 
whilst they were his last, they were little, if 
anything, removed from being his best work. 
He was close upon eighty when he undertook 
what he called ‘‘a work after my own heart.” 
The task evidently recalled to him his work of 
forty years earlier, when he formed one of the 
band of engravers which immortalised Rogers by 
engraving for his poems Turner’s illustrations. 
In the Hood illustrations the only defect is the 
shape of the vignettes, which in many in¬ 
stances leave much to be desired. Birket 
Foster, who is a past-master in the art, cannot 
have been answerable for this, and the fault 
must be laid at the door of the engraver, who 
carried the washes with too much hardness up 
to the edges. Amongst the most successful 
plates may be noted ‘Autumn,’ ‘A Storm off 
Hastings,’ ‘Cologne,’ ‘The Rhine Dragon,’ 
and ‘ Ghent.’ These volurres, when they turn 
up with their repellently gaudy covers in second-hand book¬ 
sellers’ catalogues, are purchaseable at an absurdly low price. 



















12 


BIRKET FOSTER. 


In 1878, at the suggestion of hlessrs. Maclure and Mac¬ 
donald, Mr. Foster used their lithographic process for a series 
of thirt3'-five sketches which he had made in the previous 
summer during a tour in Brittany; they reproduce, touch for 
touch, his work at Vitre, Quimper, Morlaix, D 61 , Dinan, 
and St. Malo, and perpetuating as they do phases of peasant 
life and dress which are rapidly disappearing, will become 
in time a valuable record. The volume, which is 
of folio size, was published privately by the 
artist. 

Another interval of ten years elapsed before his 
last illustrated work was offered to the public. In 
1888 Messrs. Dowdeswell published a volume of 
reproductions, also by a lithographic process, of 
vignettes of the principal towns in England. 

Before leaving the subject of Mr. Foster’s work 
in black and white, mention must be made of 
that which he has executed with the needle. 

His earliest published etchings are the thirty 
made (evidently in imitation of the Etching Club 
productions) to illustrate Milton’s “ L’Allegro ” 
and “ II Penseroso,” and published in 1855. 
Representing as they do the work of the artist, 
without the intermediary of the engraver, they are 
especially interesting. They are, besides, full of 
delicate beauties. I would call attention in this 
respect to etchings No 4, 7, and 11. The Hamlet, 
by Warton, w'as illustrated in a similar manner 
with fourteen etchings in 1859. A long^interval 
separates these from his next work, which was, 
we believe, a plate of ‘ An Old English Mill ’ for 
this Journal, and which appeared in 1881. This 
was followed by an etching, published by Messrs. 

Tooth; another, called ‘ The Wandering Musi¬ 
cian,’ published by Messrs. Dowdeswell; and 
Walker’s ‘ Cookham,’ etched for Mr. Maclean- 
The frontispiece to this number completes the list, but Mr. 
Foster is at present at work upon a more important plate than 
any he has yet done, and which it is hoped will be com¬ 
pleted this year. 

The moods of the public in matters of Art are so fitful that 
it is no wonder they make the critic despair. We look 
down from our present eminence of Art culture upon the 
appreciation of our fathers with a pity approaching con¬ 


tempt. And yet they readily gave their guinea for the volumes 
illustrated by Birket Foster, and, not content, called out 
for more and more. We see them marked in the second-hand 
booksellers’ catalogues at six, five, nay, even three shillings a 
piece, and pass them by, although in the majority of instances, 
independently of the illustrations, they are admirably printed 
editions of standard authors. When Art is so much a matter 


J, 



*‘To Durham first their course they bear, 

And in St. Cuthbert’s ancient seat sing mass.” 

White Doe of Ryhtone, 


of fashion it is hopeless to forecast, and foolish to do so in 
print, but yet I have no hesitation in saying that the time 
cannot be far distant when the turn of the wheel will bring 
again a more accurate appreciation of these admirable speci¬ 
mens of true woodcutter’s art, and that in their first editions, 
where alone the blocks are seen to their best advantage, they 
will be sought for and bought up at very different prices to 
those for which they are now offered. 


BIRKET FOSTER. PART III.—EIIS WORK IN COLOUR. 


’’ I 'HROUGHOUT the period during which his time had been 
fully occupied with drawing on wood for book illustra¬ 
tion, Birket Foster had never for a moment abandoned his 
determination to become a painter either in oil or water colours. 
Although he had derived a world-wide fame through his present 
occupation, it naturally must have been a continual discour¬ 
agement and annoyance to him to see his life’s work disappear 
under the engraver’s tool, and to feel that be it ever so meri¬ 
torious it would pass without recognition from any corporate 
body of artists. It is not surprising, therefore, to find that 
Birket Poster had from the very outset occupied his spare 
moments with the practice of painting in oil and water colour. 
Of specimens of the first-named method but few of this date 


exist; he tells me that every spare coin was at one time spent 
on paints and canvas, and that the latter cumbered the ground 
in such numbers that the question arose what to do with them ; 
the only solution that could be devised was to cut them from 
their stretchers, roll them up into bundles, and be rid of them 
somehow. He well remembers how he and Evans sneaked 
out one night, with almost guilty feelings as if they were 
surreptitiously disposing of the remains of a crime, and 
watching their opportunity, dropped them from Blackfriars 
Bridge into the Thames, where may-be some remnants are still 
preserved beneath the river mud. 

I have not seen any of his very early water-colours, but if 
one can judge from reproductions which appear as a small 





PART III.—HIS WORK IN COLOUR. 


13 




volume issued in the fifties, they were characterized by that 
minuteness of touch which has since been a principal feature of 
his work. A drawing of Arundel Park, painted about this time, 
in the possession of Mr. Edmund Evans, contains an amount 
of microscopic detail which 
must have been unparalleled 
at that time, save, perhaps, 
in some of John Lewis’s 
works. Mr. Foster attributes 
this to his extraordinarily 
strong eyesight, which en¬ 
abled him to see almost twice 
as much in nature as any one 
else, or as,perhaps, he ought 
to do. He cannot recall that 
at this time he studied or 
affected anybody’s style, but 
it seems as if he was influ¬ 
enced by the pre-Raphaelite 
work which Millais, Ros¬ 
setti, and others were doing 
at that time, and which 
made itself felt in the produc¬ 
tions of almost every young 
artist of the day. 


“ Beneath these Rugi 

T he school of landscape 
painting at the date 

when Birket Foster was most impressionable, in fact, through¬ 
out his student days, was not such as to inspire him with much 
veneration for it, or to create in him a desire to follow it. 
Turner, of course, there was, and of his gigantic achieve¬ 
ments Birket Foster has always been a profound admirer, 
and has evidenced it by acquiring, as soon as his means 
permitted, several exceptionally beautiful spe¬ 
cimens in water colour. But at the period to 
which we refer the best of Turner’s life was 
over, and he was exhibiting flashes only of his 
genius, which to a youth would be almost be¬ 
yond comprehension, and certainly of no use 
for purposes of instruction. Besides Turner, 
who was there practising landscape Art from 
whom he could derive anything ? Certainly not 
Calcott, who had by then reverted to historical 
painting. From Collins, an imitator of nature 
in generalities rather than details, but who 
had attained considerable popularity with his 
‘Happy as a King’ (exhibited at the Royal 
Academy, 1836), he may have unconsciously 
gathered something, especially in his charming 
method of dealing with rustic figures. So 
again from Creswick’s work, who in 1842 had 
been premiated by the British Institution, and 
elected to the Royal Academy, and who would 
therefore be in vogue, he may have had some 
hints. His ‘ Pathway to the Village Church ’ in 
the National Galler}q in its wooded landscape, 
field path, church tower, and girl at stile, is 
thoroughly Fosterian. Besides these we have the ideal 
landscapists, Martin, Dancy, and Poole; David Roberts 
with his scenic scenes, Lewis to whom we have already 
referred, John Linnell and Muller, Harding and Prout, with 


neither of whose work Birket Foster has any sympathy; 
Copley Fielding, for whose distances Mr. Foster has mucli 
admiration, but not for his foregrounds, which he considers 
weak and mannered; Leitch, who was an echo of Stanfield, 

but with an individuality of 
his own as regards colour, 
and F. Tayler; but in none 
of his work can we recog¬ 
nise any derivation from or 
likeness to these. 

Clarkson Stanfield per¬ 
haps influenced Birket Fos¬ 
ter more than any one else. 
Himself an advocate of com¬ 
position almost before any¬ 
thing else, and with an 
intuitive admiration forstyle, 
he perceived both these ele¬ 
ments in this painter’s pic¬ 
tures. His massive fore¬ 
grounds, and the strength 
imparted to them by big 
objects, and the advantage 
which the delicate distances 
gained thereby, always af¬ 
fected him. The block of 
timber which Stanfield al¬ 
most always considered a 
necessary property for his 
foreground, was no spindly stick, but looked as if it could be 
sawn through. This admission shows the derivation of those 
felled elm trunks which are so familiar an adjunct to our 
artist’s foregrounds, and which are always felicitously selected 
as a playground for his children. 

It must not be forgotten that about this time Ruskin was 


;cd Elms.” 

From Grays''Elegy." 


Hoyle’s Mouth. From Black's “ Guide to Wales." 

issulngthevolumes of “Modern Painters,’’ in which he preached 
again and again from the text of truth to nature. To judge 
from his work Birket Foster might certainly have heard and 
profited by these sermons, but so far as he can remember he 





















14 


BIRKET FOSTER. 


did not come across Ruskin’s writings until a period in his 
life when his style was too formed for them to have had any 
perceptible influence upon it. 


T T was in 1858 that Mr. Foster finally determined to give up 
-*■ book illustrating for water-colour painting. Many engage¬ 
ments still continued, but as these came to an end he accepted 
no new ones. He aspired not only to become a water-colour 
artist but one of the first 
in his profession, and he 
knew what a powerful 
assistance to this end 
membership of the So¬ 
ciety of Painters in 
Water Colours would be. 

He therefore spent the 
summer of 1858 in the 
country, in the neigh¬ 
bourhood of Dorking, 
working by himself, and 
painting very carefully 
everything he saw, 
which, as we have seen, 
was in many instances 
toomuch, and hequickly 
found himself uncon¬ 
sciously putting far too 
much substance and far 
too little mystery into 
his work. However, the 
result was a number of 
drawings, from which 
three were selected as 
those upon which his 
candidateshipat the Old 
Society depended. He 
was not successful; his 
previous training was 
alleged as the sufficient 
cause for his rejection, 
with the cry, “We have 
quite enough of these 
wood engravers. Look 
at Gilbert, he’s always 
at it.” . But a few weeks 
afterwards he received 
a solatium in the shape 
of the acceptance of a 
drawing sent in by him 
to the Royal Academy 
of 1859, entitled, ‘ A 
Farm—Arundel Park in 
the Distance,’ and the following year, i860, saw him elected 
unanimously an Associate of the Water Colour Society upon 
the strength of three drawings, ‘View on Holmwood Common,’ 
‘ Children Going to School,’ and ‘A View on the River Mole.’ 
The Queen used to visit the Exhibition regularly during the 
lifetime of the Prince Consort, and on the first occasion 
on which she did so after this election, she expressed a 
wish to purchase one of the new Associate’s drawings. Un¬ 
fortunately it was already sold, and the owner would not 
part with it. Mr. Foster’s elevation to the rank of a full 


member followed in two years, namely in 1862, the shortest 
time on record. 

The year before his election to the Old Water-Colour 
Society, an event happened which brought him under the 
notice of the Art dealers, and through them, of the purchasers 
of water-colours. The drawings which some six years previ¬ 
ously he had made to illustrate the Rhine volumes were sent to 
Foster’s, in Pall Mall, for sale by auction. They had been 
executed when he was a comparative novice in the practice 

of water-colour paint¬ 
ing, but they realised the 
considerable average 
for those days of a dozen 
guineas apiece,* but 
what was better, they 
attracted the attentions 
of Mr. Wallis of the 
French Gallery, and of 
other dealers. Mr. 
Wallis at once called 
upon him, and arriving 
just after the young 
artist’s discomfiture at 
the hands of the Water- 
Colour Society, was at 
once informed of the 
fact. “Never mind,” 
said he, “ set to work 
directly, and paint me 
a big drawing which we 
will send into the Royal 
Academy.’’ This was 
done, with the result, as 
before stated, of its be¬ 
ing accepted and hung. 
Mr. Foster was at this 
time, and for some years 
previously had been, 
living at Carlton Hill 
East, St. John’s Wood, 
near his father, but 
shortly after his election 
increasing notoriety led 
to such continuous in¬ 
terruptions to his work, 
often from mere busy- 
bodies, that he deter¬ 
mined to find a retreat 
in the country. 

The death of his father 
in January, 1861, yet fur¬ 
ther loosened his ties 
to the metropolis. Con¬ 
cerning this event a mistake arose which would have been 
ludicrous under less painful circumstances. The death W'as 
announced in the Times, and the Athenawn (the name of 
father and son being similar) mistook the former for the 
latter, and in its next issue published an obituary notice of 
a most eulogistic nature, testifying to the loss which Art 


• He received five pounds each for them, and individual specimens which have 
since again come under the hammer have sold for as much as a hundred and fifty 
guineas. 
























PART III.—HIS WORK IN COLOUR. 


15 


had suffered through the early death of this most promising 
artist. This was given wide publicity through being copied 
into other papers, and the family was inundated with letters 
of condolence and requests for biographical details of the 


artist’s career. The artist still retains a sheaf of the most 
amusing of these. 

A desire to be in the heart of his sketching ground, and an 
invitation from Mr. J. C. Hook, who was then residing there. 





Rouen Cathedral. From a Water-Colour by Birket Foster. 


led him down the South-Western line to Witley. In those 
days the cottages which now exist, fitted up with every 
necessity the artistic mind may demand, were not as plenti¬ 
ful thereabouts as the blackberries on the hedgerows, and the 
only one which presented itself as at all possible was a small one 
a.t Tigburn, at the foot of the hill upon which Mr. Foster now 


lives. It was inhabited by a poacher, whom the landlord much 
wanted to be quit of, with the rest of the family, including a 
bedridden old man, who was an almost insuperable difficulty. 
Bribes of all sorts, including the purchase of the garden stuff 
at a fabulous price, ultimately effected a clearance, and 
Mr. Foster entered into possession in the summer of i86i. 
























































































i6 


BIRKET FOSTER. 


The cottage was so small and uncomfortable that he soon 
began looking about for a site whereon he could build a house 
for himself. In this he was aided by Mr. and Mrs. Hook, 
and they together scoured the country in search of one. 
As it happened, a chance walk one afternoon with his friends 
and fellow water-colour painters. Sir John Gilbert and Mr. 
J. W. Whymper, brought him to that which was finally deter¬ 
mined upon, and which e.xperience has shown could not have 
been bettered. The land happened to be for sale, but as 
building ground, and no more than three acres could be 
purchased. This Mr. Foster soon found was too small for 
his aspirations, and the building scheme not taking rapidly 
the owner was induced to sell the whole to Mr. Foster and 
Mr. Edmund Evans (who had married his niece), and the 
two now possess within their ring fence a compact estate of 


some score or more acres. Here the house, which will be 
presently described at greater length, was commenced, and 
1863 saw its completion. 

The years which have gone by since then have been passed 
in continuous activity and production, which has of course 
been influenced, and that for the better, by delightful natural 
and artistic surroundings. Given to hospitality, Mr. Foster’s 
house has been a constant rendezvous for a large circle of 
friends, of which the greater part have naturally enough been 
selected from those of his own profession. Of some of these 
friendships we may be permitted to speak here without 
impropriety, for they concern beings whose lives may be said 
to have become national property. 

Much of the short Art life of Frederick Walker was passed 
under Mr. Foster’s roof. The merriest of fellows, he evidently 



The Falls of the Tummel. From a Water-Colour by Birhet Foster. 


fascinated and enthralled all with whom he was brought into 
contact. His fragile tenement contained a spirit brimful of 
fun of the most original kind. Every corner of the house 
and every part of the place has memories of his presence 
and his work; the chimney-piece in one room recalls the 
picture in which Walker portrayed two girls at work, and 
many a precious hour was wasted because their merry 
pranks prevented his ever starting his day’s work. On one 
particular occasion, when these two models had arrayed them¬ 
selves in the chintzy brocades which he much affected, the 
whole day was lost and a hundred pounds or so as well, 
because just before commencing Walker lighted on a hornet 
in a half-dead condition, and he must needs spend several 
hours in vainly trying to resuscitate it. His doctrine was that 
he did not believe in work that was not done spontaneously 


and rapidly, and so he seldom worked e.xcept when he was in 
the humour, and then he got over it at a marvellous pace. 
His picture of ‘ The Well ’ was created here, and Mrs. Foster 
well remembers it, for he kept her and her step-daughter out 
in a pouring rain for over two hours while he sketched them in. 

Birket Foster was introduced to Walker at a private view of 
the Academy. The ceremony had no sooner been performed 
than Freddy took him aside and, with the most serious face, 
said, “ Tell me kindly what is the proper thing to do on being 
introduced to anybody ? I was introduced just now to Harri¬ 
son Weir. I put out my hand and he took off his hat. So I 
drew in my hand and took off my hat, whereupon he put on 
his hat and held out his hand.” Walker’s brother had died 
just previously, and he seemed so depressed that Mr. Foster 
asked him at once down to Witley. He came and stayed for 




































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PART III.—HIS WORK IN COLOUR. 


17 


many weeks, and after that he never waited for an invitation— 
a ring- at the bell was heard and he entered the house as if he 
were one of the family. 

Many were the trips which these two artists made together; 
one of the earliest was to Knole, whither they went because 
Walker had been commissioned by Smith and Elder to illus¬ 
trate “ Esmond,” and thought that the furniture there might 
inspire him. But it did not, and the work fell into the hands 
of Mr. Du Maurier, who carried it to a most successfid end. 

Another and more lengthy e.xcursion was to Venice in 1868, 
when Mr. Orchardson formed one of the party. Walker, who 
was out of sorts, went round by sea, and, to his great consterna¬ 
tion, was asked by the captain to conduct service on Sunda}'. 
How he got through it he did not know, but he described it as 
‘‘frightfully impressive.” Here, again, it was a case rather 
of play than work. Walker inaugurated what he termed 
‘‘gondola combats,” which consisted in the party going in 
two gondolas and splashing one another until they were wet 
through. Walker’s work during this trip consisted of his 
beautiful picture 
of ‘ The Gondola,’ 
a water-colour of 
a palace with Or¬ 
chardson looking 
out of a window 
(this hangs in Mr. 

Foster’s studio), 
and a drawing 
made out at the 
I.ido, a favourite 
haunt of his, be¬ 
cause, as he e.x- 
pressed it, it was 
‘‘ so Thamesy,” 
and the little 
streams between 
the mud were 
“ so lizardy.” 

Mr. Foster has 
made many ex¬ 
cursions to Italy 
before and since, 
but none were so 
enjoyable as this. 

His first was in 1866, when his passage to Venice was 
blocked by the Italian army warring against Austria. Se¬ 
veral others (Mr. Foster thinks not less than seven) were 
made round about 1880 to execute a series of fifty Vene¬ 
tian drawings for the late Mr. Charles Seeley. P'or this 
commission he received the large sum of five thousand 
pounds, but the result has unfortunately never been seen by 
the public, as the owner has never allowed the drawings to 
be exhibited. 

But besides Italy, most of the most picturesque parts of 
Europe have been seen by him. One of his earliest trips was 
an ornithological one to the Shetland Isles, and hardly a year 
passed during the seventies and eighties but some part of 
France, Italy, Switzerland, Spain, or Germany was delineated 
by his pencil and brush. 

Mr. Foster has received honours from many institutions ; 
amongst them may be cited membership of the Royal Aca¬ 
demy of Berlin, an honour which he received simultaneously 
with Mr. Alma Tadema, R.A. 


It goes without saying that Mr. Foster’s life has been a prolific 
one, so far as work in colour is concerned. The Old Water- 
Colour Society’s catalogues testify to two hundred and eighty- 
three exhibits in the fifty-eight exhibitions which have been 
held between i860 and 1890, and besides these many have 
gone into private hands. Of works in oil the record is a much 
smaller one. The Academy Exhibition index contains his 
name continuously between 1869 and 1877, which period he 
showed fourteen pictures ; but Mr. Foster soon found that 
practising in the two mediums was incompatible with success 
in both, and accordingly he has discontinued that of oil paint¬ 
ing since the last named year. It would be w'ell if many of 
his fellows would follow his example. It is of course very 
natural for an artist to yield to the temptation and attempt 
to obtain a mastery over the medium by which alone he can 
hope to attain to Academic honours. But the instances in 
which a successful water-colour painter has achieved distinc¬ 
tion later in life in oil painting are so few that it is a most 
hazardous speculation, and in almost every instance only 

brings in its train 
mortification and 
disgust. 

Our artist’s me¬ 
thod of working 
in colours has na¬ 
turally, to a cer¬ 
tain extent, been 
influenced by his 
long service in 
wood draughts¬ 
manship. Here 
he combined the 
pencil with the 
brush, laying 
upon the wood in 
the first instance 
a wash of Chinese 
white, then put¬ 
ting in his clouds 
and distances 
with Indian ink, 
and his trees and 
foreground with 
a hard pencil. In 
colours, as the Times remarked when criticising an exhibition 
of his works held at Messrs. Vokins’s in 1882, ‘‘he was practi¬ 
cally the inventor of a style, which consisted at first of minute 
execution with the finest point, and with the use of body colour 
carried it to an extent which when he first practised it was 
quite new. But as this method obviou.sly led him away from 
the qualities of breadth* rich tone of colour, and translucent 
effect of light, which belong to pure water-colour, he soon 
became sensible of it and gradually departed from the aim at 
excessive detail, and employed a broader touch and worked 
upon a larger scale. But he still maintains the principle of his 
style, and although enlarging it somewhat in the direction of 
obtaining greater breadth and general harmony, as in his 
latest works, he has never lost an atom of his individuality or 
swerved from his original view, however opposed it might be 
considered to be to what is called the legitimate in water¬ 
colour Art. It is this decided character that gives the greatest 
interest to Birket Foster’s work. He began as an innovator, 
attempting an imitative style that, inasmuch as it dispensed 



F 






i8 


BIRKET FOSTER. 


with the broad washes of water-colour, was out of the pale of 
orthodox practice, and now at last, he enlarges his style by 
learning from nature and developing his method, until he 
solves the problem by obtaining harmonious unity with the 
utmost diversity of detail on such really noble drawings as the 
' Falls of the Tummel’ (see page i6), and the ‘ Porch of Rouen 
Cathedral ’ (see page 15). 

Mr. Foster’s palette is a restricted and simple one, and he 
seldom uses new colours, as he finds it difficult to adapt himself 


to them. Specimens of his rough sketches from nature are 
given in this number. These he actually makes in small 
books, of which he has hundreds full of memoranda. He 
never uses an easel whilst sketching from nature, but works 
with his block held between his knees. 

Much of Mr. Foster’s work has been imitated in chromo¬ 
lithography—a good deal of it very indifferently, a little of it 
remarkably well. But most of the imitations have arisen 
from thoughtless admirers who have attempted to copy his 



The Ford. From a Water-Colour by Birket Foster. 


drawings for the mere love of the thing, and from pirates who 
have done it as a matter of trade. The specimens of these 
latter submitted to Mr. Foster became after a time so numerous, 
that he was driven to make a charge of a guinea before he would 


examine them ; but this does not prevent constant application 
for the identification of drawings which in at least nine in¬ 
stances out of ten are miserable copies, not worth the cost of 
the postage spent upon them. 


PART IV.—BIRKET FOSTER AND HIS CRITICS. 


T DO not propose myself to enter upon a criticism of Mr. 
-*■ Foster’s work, whether in black and white or in colours, 
save to defend it from one or two charges which have been 
brought against it by certain critics who have evidently viewed it 
with the most superficial glance. Mr. Foster has from the very 
commencement of his career been favoured, I might almost say 
pampered, by the Press. There is hardly an artist living who 
has been received with so many smites and so few frowns, 
and the reason for this is probably, as the Athenceum puts it, 
that “ whilst his genius is not vigorous or dramatic, it is so 
tender, delicate, and idyllic, that it is always congenial and 
attractive or, as the Times thirty years later states, that “ his 
long and successful career as an artist holding a high and 


distinct position in our school of water-colour drawing,” has 
been due to “ a mastery of method and style entirely the artist’s 
own, inspired with an enthusiastic feeling for the picturesque¬ 
ness of English landscape.” 

The first charge brought against Mr. Foster’s work, es¬ 
pecially in black and white, is that it is characterized by- 
repetition. 

As to this I would ask such cavillers to consider the task 
which was laid upon the artist by the publishers, and then to 
compare the result with that of any other illustrator similarly 
situated. An artist naturally has certain predilections, and 
when the public not only accepts these, but demands that they 
shall be present in almost all that he does, it is not remarkable 







PART IV.—BIRKET FOSTER AND HIS CRITICS. 


19 




if these recur. For instance, I asked Mr. Foster, .seeing a quan¬ 
tity of firs in his garden, why he so seldom introduced them into 
his pictures, and whether 
he differed from Virgil, who 
sang ‘‘Fraxinus in sylvis 
pulcherrima, pinus in hor- 
tis.” His reply was con¬ 
vincing. “ A fir always re¬ 
minds me of a Noah’s ark 
tree, a stem in the middle, 
a pyramidal mass of foliage 
above with absolutely no 
variety. Now my favourite, 

‘ the hedgerow elm,’ as Mil- 
ton calls it, has a magnifi¬ 
cent bole, redolent of 
strength, and a superstruc¬ 
ture which constantly varies, 
and is as picturesque when 
shorn of leaves as when 
covered with them.” 

This penchant for certain 
forms over others is perhaps 
the secret of the charge just 
mentioned. Mr. Foster pre¬ 
fers the repose of nature to 
its stormier phases, and the 
stillness of noontide making 
itself felt beneatli the trees 
and inducing repose, to 

a rough landscape drenched with rain or snow. For move¬ 
ment he relies upon his figures, and especially on flocks or 
cattle, the former attended by a favourite sheep dog, 
of which he must have obtained the prototype when 
he illustrated Cowper’s “Task,” wherein the wood¬ 
man’s companion is described as— 

“ Shaggy, and lean, and shrewd, with pointed ears 
And tail cropp’d short, half lurcher and half cur.” 

So too the “gentle art” is more to his liking than 
the chase, and therefore we And his fields alive with 
nibbling flocks, his lanes with the slowly moving 
wain, his streams with the stolid angler, and his 
woods with Horace’s pensive muser, who— 

“ Libet jacere modo sub antiqua ilice, 

Modo in tenaci gramine, 

Labunter altis interim ripis aquae.” 


From Poe's '■^Annabel Lee'' 


Although a reason is hardly necessary, the artist adduces a very 
cogent one for his treatment of the subject, namely, that in the 

days of his youth it was con¬ 
sidered correct to represent 
the labouring rustic as a 
chawbacon absolutely de¬ 
void of manliness, with 
turned-up nose, a long upper 
lip, and a vacuous expres¬ 
sion ; his children as sluts, 
and his surroundings as ab¬ 
ject. Wandering amongst 
the Surrey lanes, Birket Fos¬ 
ter saw none of this, but, on 
the contrary, his young ima¬ 
gination discovered beauty 
in everything. The labourer 
if not modelled on the heroic 
type xvas at all events a 
sturdy fellow, and as for his 
children, can any one who 
knows the country deny that 
he has seen, over and over 
again, instances of the 
graces which our artist in¬ 
troduces into his pictures ? 
for instance, the bearing of 
the girl who balances herself 
upon the fallen elm in the 
picture on page 30, and 
who is not more beautiful than hundreds of other little 
lasses for whom we have to thank Mr. Foster. Leaving then 




“ Willows grey close crowding o’er the brook.” 

A second and still more unfounded complaint 
that has been urged against him is that the chil¬ 
dren introduced into his pictures, and which add 
so greatly to their charm, are too graceful and 
idyllic, and too daintily clothed for the rustics 
encountered in one’s walks abroad. It is hardly 
necessary to answer the objections of those who 
prefer ugliness to beauty, and who would insist 
upon its retention rather than that truth should be 
sacrificed. If Mr. Foster has sinned in this respect 
he has done it in company with his friend Frederick 
Walker, with Mason, and other names which w'ill for ever be 
included amongst the immortals of English landscape Art. 


“ Most happy in the shy recess 
Of Barden’s humhle quietness.” 

White Doe of Ryhtone. 


the two, and I believe the only two objections which have 
been raised to Mr. Foster’s work in black and white, we will 


Although he sometimes paints the rushing torrent, 
as in ‘ The Tummel’ (page 16), he much prefers the 
infant stream and— 














20 


BIRKET FOSTER. 


pass on to a more agreeable part of the subject, and glance at 
what we have to thank him for. 

First of all, if he did not actually introduce, he was the artist 
to popularize the homes of the peasantry and life in the 
fields. 

We in this generation have become so accustomed of late 
years to seeing the walls of exhibitions crowded with these 
subjects, that we are apt to overlook the fact that half a century 
ago artists had never condescended to such things ; and if 
they noted the one phase of it represented by tumble-down 
buildings they did so because they were an echo of the classic 
ruin which had for so long furnished a 7 'aisoii d'etre for a 
most unreal and uninteresting landscape. But as a body they 
had entirely overlooked the garden of nature, which cried out 
for notice, no man regarding it. He was almost the first to 
see beauty in the wayside cottage, with its tiled roof ridged 
with moss and houseleek, its timbered sides half hidden in 


vines, its apple-trees pushing their blossoms almost in at the 
leaden lattices ; the first to put on paper the hedgerows decked 
out with honeysuckles and wild rose, and the woods gay with 
hyacinth and primroses. 

Is it to be wondered at that as he stood at the gate of this 
paradise he saw his opportunity, and that when he entered in 
and recorded its loveliness the populace rose at him, accepted 
all he did, and refused to let him draw aught else than country¬ 
side, hamlet, winding lane, and wildflower pasture land ? 
What more satisfying Art can the average Englishman require 
than that presented in the 'Primrose-gatherers’ (on opposite 
page), where one is carried back to memories of days when 
all was youth, and spring, and sunshine, and no lowering 
clouds gave promise of the gloom that was in store in the 
hereafter ? 

And out of this portrayal of nature he evoked three qualities, 
which were not perhaps so rare at that time, but which are 



Royal Cottage near the Trossachs. 


getting day by day less common—daintiness, gentleness, and 
repose. Look at any one of the illustrations in this number 
and see if all three are not apparent. I take up the first illus¬ 
trated work of to-day which presents itself (it happens to be a 
popular illustrated magazine, famed for the amount which is 
expended upon its illustrations), and I have not gone over half a 
dozen of its illustrations before I am conscious of a lack, almost 
an entire absence of this first quality of daintiness, a quality 
which appears to me to be a very necessary one. The editor is 
not, I imagine, to blame ; it is the insidious taint of a malady 
which has recently attacked the Art training of every school, 
and for which we have to thank our Gallic neighbours, namely 
the delineation of everything which the eye sees, however 
revolting and unfitted it may be for reproduction, together with 
a supreme contempt of the principle of the selection of the 
fittest. The quality of gentleness, or gentility, is closely akin to 


this. When we look at the grossness of subject which per¬ 
vaded every form of illustration at the commencement of the 
century, witness the woodcuts of Bewick even, a word of more 
than ordinary praise is due to an artist who has steered so 
clear of it as Birket Foster has done. 

Yet one more notable characteristic must be felt in all his 
work, whether on wood or in water colour, and that is composi¬ 
tion. With all artists of the old school he laments the de¬ 
generacy of to-day, which relegates that essential quality to 
the hindmost of seats, and he fails to see the merits of the pho¬ 
tographic school, which places its nature on canvas exactly 
as it sees it. To him composition came almost naturally, but 
none the less he passed through a long course of study of it. 

Before leaving the subject of Mr. Foster’s work, another fea¬ 
ture of it, which has to do with composition, must not be passed 
over without notice. I refer to his fondness for vignetting his 






G 


Primroses. 







o ^ 


BIRKET E'OSTER. 


drawings, especially those of a small size. The origin of 
this peculiarity, for such it was in water-colours when he first 
practised it, is without doubt due to his having habituated 


himself to it in his work in black and white, where it had been 
utilized by Bewick, Harvey, and many others with more or 
less success. Only those who have attempted it know the dif- 



Butterciips. 


ficulty of producing an entirely satisfactory result, where com¬ 
position plays such a considerable part. Many artists have 
tried, but very few have succeeded, and none have ever ap¬ 
proached Mr. Foster in the delicacy of Ins little dainties, which 


he produces with an ease, a variety, and a prolificness which 
is quite astounding. There is a large public which never 
tires of them, and nothing in water-colours commands a readier 
sale, whether it be in the exhibitions or under the hammer. 


PART V.—BIRKET FOSTER AT HOME. 



The Foresters' or Fosters' horn. 


T’ 


'HE South-Western 
line retains for a 
longer distance per¬ 
haps than any other its 
hideous metropolitan 
character. But when 
that portion of it which 
is termed the Direct 
Portsmouth line at 
length emerges into 
open country, it does 
its best to atone for its 
earlier shortcomings 
by presenting to the 
traveller a series of syl¬ 
van scenes as beautiful 
as any in the south of 
England, and these appear to greater advantage by reason 


of the uglinesses w’hich have had to be borne before. The 
country betters some time before Godaiming is reached, but 
it is after passing that picturesque town that West Surrey 
first dons its forest garb; then it is that above the sandy 
embankment, tipped with heather and bright with broom, one 
enjoys that always delightful sensation of peering down the 
dim arcades formed by innumerable pines, whose resiny odour 
penetrates even the stuffy railway compartment. 

As the train deposits us at the little station of Witley, we 
find ourselves in a garden, and the scent of the pine wood is 
exchanged for that of the rose, hundreds of which, the pro¬ 
duct of a single root, line the platform from end to end. 
Traversing a short pathway, we arrive at a wicket gate, wdiich 
opens into a wood, and we are on Mr. Foster’s soil, and at 
the base of a steepish ascent, upon which stands his resi¬ 
dence, “The Hill.’’ The shelter of the wood is presently 
exchanged for that of an avenue of deftly wov^n filbert-trees, 
diverging paths from which open up vistas of a sundial gar- 




















PART V.—AT HOiMP. 


23 


den, a mass of roses, poppies, campanulas, corn and sun¬ 
flowers, a lakelet white with water-lilies, and well-stocked 
strawberry beds. 

A constant and rapid climb brings the visitor ultimately 
to a terrace, on one side of which stands the house, 
and on the other is unfolded a marvellous panorama. Over 
a rolling champaign, almost hidden by woods, is seen to 
the right Hindhead, the highest point in the prospect, its 
barren summit standing out a deep violet against the sunset 
sky. Somewhat to the left, but apparently not much lower, 
comes the spur which terminates in Blackdown, the topmost 
houses of Haslemere peeping over its crest, and on its flank 
the Poet Laureate’s house, and 
Lythe Hill, where so many of Sir F. 

Leighton’s best works are stored. 

Beyond the Weald—here called of 
Surrey, but for the most part of 
Sussex—can be discovered the spire 
of Petworth, recalling memories of 
'I'urner, and far off on the horizon 
the heights above Goodwood, and 
the range of the South Downs, 
broken midway by Arundel, and 
away to the east by Shoreham Gaps. 

'J hat most assertive of South-Down 
beacons, Chanctonbury Ring, is of 
course visible. 

Whilst any delineation in black 
and white of the scene would fail 
as entirely as words to convey a 
sense of its beauties, this is fortu¬ 
nately not the case with the more 
immediate object of our visit, 
namely, the artist’s dwelling. Mr. 

William Foster has given us at 
page 25 a very artistic rendering of 
his father’s house, which conveys 
everything except the colour with 
which it is decked by the flowers 
which depend from the windows and 
bloom over its sides and roof. 

Leaving a game at bowls in which 
he had been successfully combat¬ 
ing against his son and a young 
student of the Royal Academy (who 
is supposed to be hard at work 
painting an old graveyard hard by, 
the competitive subject for the 
Turner Gold Medal), our host hast¬ 
ens up the lawn to greet us. Tall 
and erect, no one would credit that 
he is over sixty years of age, whilst his open countenance and 
hearty welcome quite belie the somewhat stern appearance in 
which his portraits always clothe him, and which is present 
even when the photographer is, as in the case of the one taken 
for us (page i), a member of his family, and the locale is his 
own garden. One is at once assured of a welcome to Witley, 
and having long heard of the artistic treasures which “The 
Hill ’’ contains, but a few moments elapse before a movement 
is irresistibly made towards the house, and one’s back is 
turned upon the delights of the garden. 

As Mr. Foster hastens to tell us, in a somewhat depreciatory 
tone of voice, and as if to reconcile one to shortcomings, he 


has practically been his own architect. There is little need 
for him to mention this, for the house and its contents testify 
to that best of all qualities, when the designer is an artist, 
individuality. 

Passing at once into the drawing-room, the windows of which 
are seen in the illustration, at either side of the angle nearest 
to us, we are conscious at a glance of the presence, in their 
best attire, of the sister arts of painting in water-colours and 
music. Not only in duty bound, but with a sense of delight, 
we at once make our way across the room to worship at the 
shrine of the great master of water-colour art, and revel over 
a group of Turners, for the most part of the grey paper kind. 


which form a wonderful bouquet of colour, as full and rich 
as on the day on which the artist stayed his hand upon them. 
The names of the Rhine, Switzerland, the Moselle, and 
Sidon, will convey to those who are familiar with Turner’s 
work an idea of the pleasurable anticipations which the 
thought of a prospective quiet study of these induces. This 
furnishing of the choicest meat at the outset has, as we 
know, been regarded from very early times as a rather peril¬ 
ous proceeding, and no greater proof of the high character 
of the remainder of the feast could be furnished than this, 
that subsequent dishes did not suffer by comparison. We are 
sensible of this as we pass round the room, and Mr. Foster 





































24 


BIRKET FOSTER. 




points out the examples of the work of his friends, Jolm 
Lewis, Linnell, William Hunt, Frederick Wkalker, Pin- 


Tiles from the Sleeping Beauty Series. By Bunie-Jones. 

well, Frederick Tayler, and W. L. Leitch, all seen to 
the best advantage in selected specimens, hung upon a 
ground of roughened gold. The only indications in the 
room of jSIr. F'oster’s work are two small drawings which, 
enclosed in a ;passeparfoiit, find a place 
upon his wife’s work-table. The mu¬ 
sical bent of the family is evidenced 
by a novel decoration of the glazing of 
the upper part of the windows, sug¬ 
gested by Charles Keene, whereon scores 
of quaint rounds, catches, and carols are 
imaged, and oftentimes are made actual 
use of. 

He who is endued with a liking for blue 
and white china (and who is not nowa¬ 
days ?) will find it hard to keep his hands 
off many of the specimens which decorate 
not only the chimney-breast, but the frieze 
round the room. Mr. Foster was very 
early in the field in quest of this, the best 
of decorative material. In company with 
Rossetti and a few others he recognised 
its value long before the rest of mankind. 

As evidence of its price at that time, he 
shows a ginger jar for which, at Rossetti’s 
instance, he was induced to give what he 
considered the enormous price of £,\b, 
and for which he has since refused several 
hundreds. But the ware was then to be 
had in abundance. As Rossetti said, 

Murray IMarks’ shop in New Oxford Street 
was like a scene in the Arabian Nights, 
so full was it of enormous jars. He might 
now almost apply the term to any room 
at “ The Hill,” for so replete is the house 
that every bedroom is decked with it, and 
one not only washes, but drinks one’s soup 
out of it. 

To Rossetti, in a way, is also due the deco¬ 
ration of the dining-room. Mr. F'oster, whilst the house was in 
course of building, had been brought a good deal into con¬ 


nection with William Morris, who had some time previously 
started a sort of co-operative shop in Queen Square, where a 

number of young full-blooded 
artists were working off their 
superfluous energies in all sorts 
of decorative ventures. Wil¬ 
liam Morris came down to ‘‘The 
Hill,” and mapped out a won¬ 
derful scheme for the decora¬ 
tion of the house. Much of it 
did not get beyond this stage, 
but some of it fortunately was 
carried out to its accomplish¬ 
ment. Mr. Burne-Jones also 
came, and Mr. Foster asked 
him to do something towards 
the decoration. Burne-Jones 
said that Rossetti had just com¬ 
pleted a version of St. George 
and the Dragon in stained glass 
for Morris, and suggested that 
the adornment of the dining¬ 
room should consist of a portrayal of the same legend. 
Accordingly Mr. Jones painted seven canvases, which form 
a continuous band round three sides of the room. These, 
apart from their excellence, form a most interesting record 


yiew from the Verandah. 

of the work of the painter in the early years of the sixties. 
We give a reproduction of the fifth panel (see page ?6), not 






























H 


' The Hill,'' Willey, South Front. 





































26 


BIRKEr FOSTER. 


because it is more characteristic than the others, but because 
it lent itself best to photography. 

Other examples either of Mr. Burne-Jones’s brush or from 
his designs are to be found in every room of the house. The 
lights upon the stairs are full of stained glass, and include a 
series, very fine in colour, illustrative of the Seasons. On 
pages 28 and 31 will be found two examples of Mr. Burne- 
Jones’s work in this branch of Art. The fireplaces in the 
bedrooms have tiles not only on the hearth-sides but on the 
chimney-breasts upon which various fairy stories are told in 
many a scene, ‘Beauty and the Beast,’‘Cinderella,’‘The Steep¬ 
ing Beauty,’ and others. Our illustration (p. 24) from the last 
named will be of interest just now, when the artist has carried 
out the subject with such a wealth of imaginative detail; it is 
noteworthy that he has kept to his early idea as regards the 


Prince encountering the bodies of those earlier aspirants who 
had succumbed to the magic spell. But one of the most 
remarkable examples of Mr. Jones’s work is the great screen 
which ornaments Mr. Foster’s studio, and of which we give 
one of the eight folds (p. 29). Hereon is portrayed in marvel¬ 
lous detail sixteen events in the life of St. Frideswide, a record 
of whose good works it was meet and right that a graduate of 
the University of Oxford should assist in handing down to 
posteiity. Photography and engraving both fail to translate 
the wonderful wealth of colour which flushes across the studio 
when this screen is unfolded. It was upon calling on Mr. 
Burne-Jones at his house in Great Russell Street, to acquaint 
him of his election to the Water-Colour Society, that Mr. Foster 
first saw the screen, and wanted to purchase it, but it was not 
until some time after, upon Mr. Jones’s moving from Ken- 



Si. George and the Dragon. From the Dining-room. 


sington Square, that he co.nsented to hand it over to his 
brother artist’s safe keeping. 

“ The Hill ” contains two studios, a large one which since 
Mr. Foster has discarded oil painting he seldom uses, and a 
smaller room in which most of his water-colours are produced. 
We give an illustration (p. 27) of the first named, which is 
distinguished by an arched roof, and at either end has two un¬ 
finished frescoes by J. D. Watson, ‘The Feast of the Peacock,’ 
and ‘ The Raising of the Maypole,’ both of which testify to the 
well-known ability of Mr. Foster’s brother-in-law. It was in 
this studio that the plays which took place here during so 
many years at Christmas, and which attracted a consider¬ 
able notoriety, were performed. The master of the cere¬ 
monies was Robert Dudley, and the plays which were 
acted under his direction left little to be desired. The 
scenery was painted for the most part by Fred. Walker, who 


delighted in the contrasts which he introduced. A library in 
which everything was artistic, and in which the portraits on 
the walls were painted with as much care as if they had had 
to satisfy the originals, would be succeeded by an apartment 
which was a growth of everything that was vulgar, from the 
wall paper to the wax fruits. Birket Foster painted for the 
drop-scene a view of Venice, and when a curtain was for 
convenience substituted, a well-known dealer purchased it 
for a considerable sum, and it now adorns a nobleman’s stair¬ 
case. The mzse en scene was most elaborate, and the dresses 
and make-up of the actors were admirable. Frederick 
Walker painted his face so as to be quite unrecognisable, 
making it quite a work of Art. 

The smaller studio has little or no pretensions to distinction; 
it is surrounded by cases in which are stored the multitudinous 
studies which have of necessity accumulated during thirty years’ 



















PART V.—AT HOME. 


27 


work. Sketch-books without end exhibit the artist’s industry. 
Of properties there are none, unless a splendid brass-bound 
chest of Spanish mahogany, a relic it is said of the Spanish 
Armada, may be classified as such. The view from the large 
and low window is an uncommon one. A high bank, a suf¬ 
ficient distance away, allows free entry to the light, but gives 
complete privacy to the apartment. All the vegetation within 
and around it is allowed to run wild, and the artist has 
without moving his chair a mass of useful material at hand 
in the shape of ferns, gorse, and bramble. 


Many other rooms in the house would furnish interesting 
details, but space permits our mentioning only one other, and 
that Is the library. Mr. Foster has not only a voracious 
appetite for pictures but is a bibliomaniac as well, and whilst 
well-fitted bookshelves afford the visitor an ample pabulum 
of light reading, one special case offers an opportunity which 
is seldom met with of conning over the mysteries of first folios 
and quartos of Shakespeare, Caxtons, and works of the early 
printers. But the volume which the illustrator of Milton sets 
most store by is an edition of the Lycophron, which has had 



Mr. Foster's Large Studio. 


the privilege of forming part of the great poet's library and 
bears in his handwriting not only the legend, ‘‘ Sum ex libris 
Jo Miltoni, 1634,” but annotations in Greek and Latin at 
frequent intervals upon its pages. After these even Mr. 
Foster would not contend that the shelves allotted to first 
editions of the books which he has illustrated appear of higher 
importance. But there is plenty else to occupy the attention, 
including scrap-books full of sketches and caricatures by 
Fred. Walker, Charles Keene, J. D. Watson, and Orchardson. 


Nor will the visitor leave the room without an inspection of 
the charming portrait of our hostess, from the brush of Mr. 
Orchardson, which is let into the over-mantel. 

Mr. Foster married, in 1850, Ann, daughter of Mr. Robert 
Spence, and by her had five children. His eldest son, Myles 
Birket, has followed the profession of music, and as organist 
of the Foundling Hospital and the author of many services 
holds high rank amongst his fellows. His second son, Wil¬ 
liam, is well known as a water-colour artist and illustrator. 


















































28 


BIRKET FOSTER. 


especially of children’s books, in which he has displayed a 
considerable fund of humour. All our illustrations ot Mr. 
Foster’s house are from his brush. He is also an ornitho¬ 
logist of no mean order, the woods at Witley affording him 
ample scope for work and observation. To effect this latter 
end he has established himself as the friend of the feathered 
tribes, for he provides them with an infinity of bo.xes in which 
to nest and rear tlieir progeny, an advantage of which they 
are not slow' to avail themselves. 

Mrs. Foster died in 1859, and in 1864, our artist married 
his present w'ife, who was the daughter of Mr. Dawson Watson, 
of Sedburgh, and a sister of Mr. J. D. \Vatson, also a member 
of the Society of Painters in Water Colours. 

Mr. Foster will not allow us to leave without a tour round 
his village, of which he is very proud. The Corporation of 
London in building a hideous charity school, and one or 
two other owners of property in failing to discharge their 
duty in preserving picturesque cottages, have spoilt one or 
two corners of it ; but Witley has still a good title to rank 
as one of the most picturesque hamlets in England, and were 
old Anthony Smith (w'hose memory is to last in his native 
village as long as its church bells give forth a sound) to 
issue from the vault which he tenants, and wander round, 
he would find many a house but little different to what it 
was when as “ Pentioner to King Charles ye ist,’' he and his 
dame and family wended their way each Sunday to occupy the 
squire’s pew. 

Thanks to Birket Foster, who is at work at the present time 
in putting on to copper a series entitled ‘ Memorials of an 


Old Village,’ to Mrs. Allingham and scores of other artists, 
the beauties of Witley cottages may be perpetuated on paper 
even after the tenements themselves have passed away. So 
too Mr. Foster’s drawings will hand down to posterity the 
dress and habits of a race of peasants which has altogether 
changed, and not for the better. The children of a quarter 
of a century ago were almost of the Gainsborough type, in 
their clean flowered prints and white pinafores and sun bon¬ 
nets ; they have given place to smart little wenches decked 
out in the latest fashions of the day ; the picturesque smock- 
frocks are fast disappearing, and are now replaced by respect¬ 
able broadcloth from the ready-made shop at Godaiming. But 
one or two ancients remain to testify to what the rude fore¬ 
fathers of the hamlet were like before the railway came and 
swept away the past. The White Hart, the signboard whereof 
by the way is the combined work of Birket Foster and A. W. 
Cooper, son of an old Academician of that name, is still 
a model public-house, and as such is appreciated by all 
artists. 

'i'he view from every point of vantage in the village is 
interesting; especially is it so from Banacle Hill, wherefrom 
not only the 4 inorama seen from Mr. Foster’s house unfolds 
itself, but a stretch of interesting country lying to the north, 
including Crookesbury Hill, at the foot of which is Waverley 
Abbey, which gave its name to Scott’s novel, and the little 
cottage the home of Swift and Stella. Amongst more modern 
celebrities connected with art or letters who have lived nearer 
home, and actually w'ithin the precincts of Witley, are George 
Eliot, Mr. Hook, Sir Henry Cole, and Mrs. Allingham. 



Stained Gtass. From a Design by Mr. Burne-Jones, A.R.A. 

















LIST OF BOOKS ILLUSTRATED BY BIRKET FOSTER, 


This list docs not include editions subsequent to the first, or any books of lekich the illustrations were not specially 

made by the artist. 


‘ Ireland, its Scenery, 
Character, &c.,’ by Air. 
and Mrs. S. C. Hall. 
How and Parsons. 

‘ Aldershot and all about 
it.’ 

‘Birds, Trees, and Blos¬ 
soms.’ 

‘ Richmond and other 
Poems,’ by C. Ellis. 3 
illustrations by Birket 
Foster. Madden and Malcolm. 

1847. ‘The Boy’s Spring Book,’ by Thos. Miller. 35 illus¬ 

trations by Birket Foster. Chapman and Hall. 

‘ The Boy’s Summer Book,’ by Thos. Aliller. Chapman 
and Hall. 

‘The Boy’s Autumn Book,’ by Thos. Miller. Chapman 
and Plall. 

‘ The Boy’s Winter Book,’ by Thos. Miller. Chapman 
and Hall. 

1848. ‘ The Female Worker to the Poor.’ 3 illustrations by 

Birket Foster. Seeleys. 

1849. ‘The River Thames,’ by J. F. Murray. 

1850. ‘ The Pilgrims of the Rhine,’ by Sir E. B. Lytton. 

I illustration by Birket Foster. Chapman and Hall. 

‘ Evangeline : a Tale of Acadie,’ by Henry Wadsworth 
Longfellow. Engravings after Birket Foster. 
Bogue. 

‘The Year Book of the Country; or the Field, the 
Forest, and the Fireside,’ by W. Howitt. Colburn. 

‘ Original Poems for my Children,’ by Thos. Miller. 
All illustrations by Birket Foster. Bogue. 

1851. ‘Christmas with the Poets.’ 52 tinted illustrations 

by Birket Foster. Bogue. 

‘ The Moorland Cottage.’ By the Author of Mary 
Barton. 

‘The Illustrated Book'of Songs for Children.’ W. 
Orr & Co. 


1851. ‘Voices of the Night,’ by H. W. Longfellow. Bogue. 
‘ The Poetical Works of Oliver Goldsmith.’ 



Fold of a Screen, by Mr. Burne-Jones, A .R.A., illustrating the life of 
St, Frideswide. 

1852. ‘Longfellow’s Poetical Works.’ 81 illustrations by 
Birket Foster. Bogue. 

‘ The Story of Alont Blanc,’ by Albert Smith. Bogue. 



I 





30 


BIRKET FOSTER. 


1852. ‘A Month at Constantinople,’ by Albert Smith. 

Bogue. 

1853. ‘ Fern Leaves from Fanny’s Portfolio.’ 8 illustrations 

by Birket Foster. Ingram, Cooke & Co. 

‘ Poetry of the Year.’ i in water-colour by Birket 
Foster. G. Bell. 

‘ The Lady of the Lake,’ by Sir Walter Scott. A. & 
C. Black, Edinburgh. 

‘The Lay of the Last Minstrel,’ by Sir Walter Scott. 
100 illustrations by Birket Foster and John Gilbert. 
A. and C. Black, Edinburgh. 


1853. ‘A Holiday Book for Christmas and the New Year. 

Ingram Cooke & Co. 

‘A Picturesque Guide to the Trossachs.’ All by 
Birket Foster. Black. 

1854. ‘ Proverbial Philosophy,’ by Martin Tupper. 6 illustra¬ 

tions by Birket Foster. Hatchards. 

‘The Blue Ribbon : a Story of the Last Century,’ by 
Anna Harriet Drury. King and Son. 

‘ An Elegy written in a Country Churchyard,’ by 
Thomas Gray. 13 illustrations by Birket Foster. 
Joseph Cundall. 



Playtime. From a Water-colour by Birket Foster. 


1854. ‘Little Ferns for Fanny’s little Friends.’ 8 illustra¬ 

tions by Birket Foster. Nathaniel Cooke & Co. 

‘L’Allegro’ and ‘II Penseroso,’ by John Milton. 30 
etchings on steel by Birket Foster. Bogue. 

‘ The Golden Legend,’ by Henry Wadsworth Long¬ 
fellow. 35 illustrations by Birket Foster. Bogue. 

1855. ‘Marmion,’ by Sir Walter Scott. 80 engravings by 

Birket Foster and John Gilbert. Black, Edin¬ 
burgh. 

‘ The Dairyman’s Daughter.’ Seeley. 

1856. ‘Sabbath Bells chimed by the Poets.’ In colours. 
All illustrations by Birket Foster. Bell and Daldy, 


1856. ‘The Task,’ by William Cowpcr. Illustrated by Birket 

Foster. Nisbet & Co. 

The Rhine and its Picturesque Scenery,’ described 
by Henry Mayhew. 20 illustrations on steel after 
Birket Foster. London. Bogue. 

‘ The Traveller,’ by Oliver Goldsmith. With 30 etchings 
on steel by Birket Foster. Bogue. 

‘ Mia and Charlie.’ Bogue. 

‘The Poetical Works of George Herbert.’ Nisbet. 

‘ Sacred Allegories,’ by the Rev. W. Adams. 7 illustra¬ 
tions by Birket Foster. Rivington. 

1857. ‘ The Sabbath,’ ‘ Sabbath Walks,’ and other Poems by 





LIST OF BOOKS ILLUSTRATED BY BIRKET FOSTER. 


31 


James Grahame. Illustrations by Birket Foster. 
Nisbet & Co. 



Stained Glass, From a Design by Mr. Burne-Jones, A R.A. 

857. ‘ The Poets of the Nineteenth Century.’ Selected and 

edited by the Rev. R. A. Willmott. 15 illustrations 
by Birket Foster. Routledge. 

‘Ministering Children.’ 8 illustrations by Birket 
Foster. Seeley Jackson. 

‘ The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,’ by Samuel 
Taylor Coleridge. 2 illustrations by Birket 
Foster. Sampson Low & Co. 

‘ Rhimes and Roundelays in Praise of a Country 
Life.’ Bogue. 

‘ The Course of Time,’ by R. Pollok. 27 illus¬ 
trations by Birket Foster. Blackwood. 

‘ Dramatic Scenes and New Poems,’ by Barry 
Cornwall. 14 illustrations by Birket Foster. 
Chapman. 

‘ The Lord of the Isles.’ Adam and C. Black. 

‘The Farmer’s Boy,’ by Robert Bloomfield. 18 
illustrations by Birket Foster. Low & Co. 

‘ The Upper Rhine : the Scenery of its Banks 
and the Manners of its People,’ described by 
Henry Mayhew. Routledge & Co. 

858. ‘ Poems of William Bryant.’ 34 illustrations by 

Birket Foster. R. Grififin, Low & Co. 

‘The Poetical Works of Edgar Allen Poe.’ 17 
trations by Birket Foster. Sampson Low & Co. 


1858. ‘ Comus,’ by John Milton. Routledge. 

‘ The Prince of Peace; or, Lays of Bethlehem.’ 
Seeley & Co. 



.“ Flitting light 

From spray to spray, where’er he rests he shakes 
From many a twig the pendent drops of ice,” 

From Cowper^s Tas^F 

1858. ‘ The Home Affections portrayed by the Poets,’ se¬ 

lected and edited by Charles Mackay. 20 illustra¬ 
tions by Birket Foster. Routledge. 

‘ Kavanagh: a Tale,’ by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. 
38 illustrations by Birket Foster. Kent A Co. 

‘ Poetry and Pictures from Thomas Moore.’ 20 illus¬ 
trations by Birket Foster. Longmans. 

‘ The Shipwreck,’ by Robert Falconer. 

‘ The Grave,’ by Robert Blair. 10 illustrations by 
Birket Foster. A. and C. Black. 

‘ Lays of the Holy Land ; from Ancient and Modern 
Poets.’ 15 illustrations by Birket Foster. Nisbet. 





Venice. From a Water-colour by Birket Foster. 

illus- 1859. ‘The Seasons,’ by James Thomson. 21 illustrations 
by Birket Foster. Nisbet &: Co. 






















32 


BIRKET FOSTER. 


1859. ‘The Merrie Days of England,’ by Ed. McDermott. 

4 illustrations by Birket Foster. Kent & Co. 

‘ Poems and Songs,’ by Robert Burns. 18 illustrations 
by Birket Foster. Bell and Daldy. 

‘ Poems by William Wordsworth,’ edited by Robert 
Aris Willmott. 70 illustrations by Birket Foster. 
Routledge. 

‘The Hamlet,’ by Thomas Warton. 14 etchings on 
steel by Birket Foster. Sampson Low. 

‘ The Poetical Works of Thomas Gray.’ Sampson 
Low. 

‘ Favourite English Poems. Illustrations by Birket 
Foster. Sampson Low & Co. 

‘ The Poems of Oliver Goldsmith,’ edited by Robert 
Aris Willmott. Routledge. 

‘The Deserted Cottage,’ by William Wordsworth. 
Routledge. 

‘ The White Doe of Rylstone,’ by Henry Wadsworth 
Longfellow. 30 illustrations by Birket Foster. Long¬ 
mans. 

1860. ‘ Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage,’by Lord Byron. John 

Murray. 

‘ The Tempest,’ by William Shakespeare. 5 illustra¬ 
tions by Birket Foster. Bell and Daldy. 


i860. ‘The Merchant of Venice,’ by William Shakespeare. 
5 illustrations by Birket Foster. Sampson Low. 

‘ The Poets of the West.’ Sampson Low. 

‘ Common Wayside Flowers,’ by Thomas Miller. In 
colours. Routledge. 

‘ Poems by James Montgomery.’ 39 illustrations by 
Birket Foster. Routledge. 

‘ A Book of Favourite Modern Ballads.’ Illustrated 
by modern English artists. 11 illustrations by Birket 
Foster. W. Kent & Co., late Bogue. 

‘ Lallah Rookh,’ by Thomas Moore. 5 illustrations by 
Birket Foster. Routledge. 

‘ Songs for my Little Ones at Home.’ In colours. 
Sampson Low. 

1862. ‘ The Scottish Reformation,’ by Peter Lorimer, 

D. D. 25 illustrations by Birket Foster. R. 
Griffin. 

1863. 'Odes and Sonnets.’ All illustrations in colour by 

Birket Foster. Routledge. 

1867. ‘Summer Scenes,’ by Birket Foster. A series of pho¬ 
tographs from some of his choicest water-colours. 
Bell and Daldy. 

1873. ‘The Trial of Sir Jasper,’ by S. C. Hall, i illustration 
by Birket Foster. Virtue. 



From Graham's “ Sabbath.” 


PRINTED BY J. S. VIRTUE AND CO., LIMITED, CITY ROAD, LONDON. 











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'• Why can Love neither be bouglit nor sold 1 I “ All other poods by Fortune’s hand are given ; 

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GEORGE ALLEN’S PUBLICATIONS. 


WORKS BY JOHN RUSKIN. 

NEW CHEAF EDITIONS NOW READT, Complete With all the Plates. 

Cloth, small post 8vo, 7s. 6d. each. 

THE SEVEN LAMPS OF ARCHITECTURE. 

1. The Lamp of Sacrifice. — 2. The Lamp of Truth.—3. The Lamp of Power.—4. The 
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The 14 Plates for this Edition have been specially prepared by Messrs. Qoupil and Co. 
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QUEEN OF THE AIR : a Study of the Greek Myths of Cloud and Storm. 
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“ A JOY FOR EVER” (AND ITS PRICE IN THE MARKET). 

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THE EAGLE'S NEST. Ten Lectures on the Relation of Natural Science to Art. 

LECTURES ON ART. Delivered at Oxford in 1870. Revised by the Author, 
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THE ETHICS OF THE DUST. Ten Lectures to Little Housewives on the 
Elements of Crystallisation. Sixth Edition. 


WORKS BY JOHN RXTSKIN—(conlmueJ). 

The following Three Works are uniform, and contain all the Plates as in the Original Editions. 

MODERN PAINTERS. In 5 vols. with all the Woodcuts, 1 Lithograph, 
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Containing, in addition to the above-mentioned Woodcuts, Tliirteen Full-page Autotypes 
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Contents; Pait I.—“THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO RUSKIN.” 

PaiNciPLES OF Art.—Applications to Life. 

Part II.—“SOME ASPECTS OF MR. RUSKIN’S WORK.” 

Mr. Ruskin and Oxford—The Ruskin Drawing School—Mr. Ruskin and the Working 
Men’s College—Mr. Ruskin’s May Queens-Tiie St. George’s Guild and Museum—Some 
Industrial E.xpehimentS — Mr. Ruskin and the BnoKSELLERS. 

Appendices.—CONTAINING NOTES ON MR. RUSKIN’S OXFORD LECTURES. 


By AUGUSTUS J. C, HARD, 

One vol. Crown 8vo, cloth, lOs. 6d. With Map .and 86 Woodcuts. 632 pages. 

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That BROWN & POLSON’S CORN 
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Interested attempts to set aside these facts in favour 
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PORTRAIT 

OF 

Mr. H. M. STANLEY. 


THE FINE ART SOCIETY have the honour to announce that 
they have obtained Her Majesty’s permission to reproduce the por¬ 
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It has accordingly been etched by Mr. Macbeth Raeburn, and will 
be published in the following states :— 

25 Remarque Proofs . . . . . T6 6 0 

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