The man behind his work was seen through it–sensitive, variously gifted, manly, genial, tender-hearted, simple and unaffected; a lover of animals, children and humanity; and if any one wishes to see at a glance nearly all we have written, let him look at Landseer’s portrait, painted by himself, with a canine connoisseur on either side.
Happy lives make dull biographies. Young women with ambitions should be very cautious lest mayhap they be caught in the soft, silken mesh of a happy marriage, and go down to oblivion, dead to the world.
“Miss Pott–the beautiful Miss Pott,” they called her. The biographers didn’t take time to give her first name, nor recount her pedigree, so rapt were they with her personality. They only say, “She was tall, willowy and lissome; and Sir Joshua Reynolds painted her picture as a peasant beauty, bearing on her well-poised head a sheaf of corn.”
It was at the house of Macklin, the rich publisher, that John Landseer, the engraver, met Miss Pott. She was artistic in all her instincts; and as she knew the work of the brilliant engraver and named his best pieces without hesitation he grew interested. Men grow interested when you know and appreciate their work; sometimes they grow more interested, at which time they are also interesting.
And so it came about that they were married, the beautiful Miss Pott and John Landseer, and it can also be truthfully added that they were happy ever afterward.
But that was the last of Miss Pott. Her husband was so strong, so self-centered, so capable, that he protected her from every fierce wind, and gratified her every wish. She believed in him thoroughly and conformed her life to his. Her personality was lost in him. The biographer scarcely refers to her, save when he is obliged to, indirectly, to record that she became the mother of three fine girls, and the same number of boys, equally fine, by name, Thomas, Charles and Edwin.
Thomas and Charles grew to be strong, learned and useful men, so accomplished in literature and art that their names would shine bright on history’s page, were they not thrown into the shadow by the youngest brother.
Before Edwin Landseer was twenty years of age he was known throughout the United Kingdom as “Landseer.” John Landseer was known as “the father of Landseer,” and the others were “the brothers of Landseer.”
And when once in Piccadilly, the beautiful Miss Pott (that was) was pointed out as “the mother of Landseer,” the words warmed the heart of the good woman like wine. To be the wife of a great man, and the mother of a greater was career enough–she was very happy.
Queen Anne Street, near Cavendish Square, is a shabby district, with long lines of plain brick houses built for revenue only.
But Queen Anne Street is immortal to all lovers of art because it was the home of Turner; and within its dark, dull and narrow confines were painted the most dazzlingly beautiful canvases that the world has ever seen. And yet again the street has another claim on our grateful remembrance, for at Number Eighty-three was born, on March Seventh, Eighteen Hundred Two, Edwin Landseer.
The father of Landseer was an enthusiastic lover of art. He had sprung from a long line of artistic workers in precious metals; and to use a pencil with skill he regarded as the chief end of man.
Long before his children knew their letters, they were taught to make pictures. Indeed, all children can make pictures before they can write. For a play-spell, each day John Landseer and his boys tramped across Hampstead Heath to where there were donkeys, sheep, goats and cows grazing; then all four would sit down on the grass before some chosen subject and sketch the patient model.
Edwin Landseer’s first loving recollections of his father went back to these little excursions across the Heath. And for each boy to take back to his mother and sisters a picture of something they had seen was a great joy.