"What do you ask for this sketch?" said Sir Joshua to an old picture-dealer, whose portfolio he was looking over. "Twenty guineas, your honour." "Twenty pence, I suppose you mean?" "No, sir; it is true I would have taken twenty pence for it this morning, but if you think it worth looking at, all the world will think it worth buying." Sir Joshua ordered him to send the sketch home, and gave him the money.
Two gentlemen were at a coffee-house, when the discourse fell upon Sir Joshua Reynold's painting; one of them said that "his tints were admirable, but the colours flew." It happened that Sir Joshua was in the next box, who taking up his hat, accosted them thus, with a low bow—"Gentlemen, I return you many thanks for bringing me off with flying colours."
Richardson, in his anecdotes of painting, says, a gentleman came to me to invite me to his house: "I have," says he, "a picture of Rubens, and it is a rare good one. There is little H. the other day came to see it, and says it is a copy. If any one says so again, I'll break his head. Pray, Mr. Richardson, will you do me the favour to come, and give me your real opinion of it?"
A countryman was shown Gainsborough's celebrated picture of "The Pigs." "To be sure," said he, "they be deadly like pigs; but there is one fault; nobody ever saw three pigs feeding together but what one on 'em had a foot in the trough."
Once, at a dinner, where several artists, amateurs and literary men were convened, a poet, by way of being facetious, proposed as a toast the health of the painters and glaziers of Great Britain. The toast was drunk, and Turner, after returning thanks for it, proposed the health of the British paper-stainers.
Sir Peter Lely, a famous painter in the reign of Charles I., agreed for the price of a full-length, which he was to draw for a rich alderman of London, who was not indebted to nature either for shape or face. When the picture was finished, the alderman endeavoured to beat down the price; alleging that if he did not purchase it, it would lie on the painter's hands. "That's a mistake," replied Sir Peter, "for I can sell it at double the price I demand."—"How can that be?" says the alderman; "for it is like nobody but myself."—"But I will draw a tail to it, and then it will be an excellent monkey." The alderman, to prevent exposure, paid the sum agreed for, and carried off the picture.
It is well known that Morland the painter used to go on an expedition with a companion sometimes without a guinea, or perhaps scarcely a shilling, to defray the expenses of their journey; and thus they were often reduced to an unpleasant and ludicrous dilemma. On one occasion the painter was travelling in Kent, in company with a relative, and finding their cash exhausted, while at a distance from their destination, they were compelled to exert their wits, for the purpose of recruiting themselves after a long and fatiguing march. As they approached Canterbury, a homely village ale-house caught their eye; and the itinerant artists hailed, with delight, the sign of the Black Bull, which indicated abundance of home-made bread and generous ale. They entered, and soon made considerable havoc among the good things of mine host, who, on reckoning up, found that they had consumed as much bread, cheese and ale, as amounted to 12s. 6d. Morland now candidly informed his host that they were two poor painters going in search of employment, and that they had spent all their money. He, however, added that, as the sign of the Bull was a disgraceful daub for so respectable a house, he would have no objection to repaint it, as a set-off for what he and his companion had received. The landlord, who had long been wishing for a new sign (the one in question having passed through two generations), gladly accepted his terms, and Morland immediately went to work. The next day the Bull was sketched in such a masterly manner that the landlord was enraptured; he supplied his guests with more provisions, and generously gave them money for their subsequent expenses. About three months after a gentleman well acquainted with Morland's works, accidentally passing through the village, recognised it instantly to be the production of that inimitable painter: he stopped, and was confirmed in his opinion, by the history which the landlord gave of the transaction. In short, he purchased the sign of him for twenty pounds; the landlord was struck with admiration at his liberality; but this identical painting was some time afterwards sold at a public auction for the sum of one hundred guineas!
When Benjamin West was seven years old, he was left, one summer day, with the charge of an infant niece. As it lay in the cradle and he was engaged in fanning away the flies, the motion of the fan pleased the child, and caused it to smile. Attracted by the charms thus created, young West felt his instinctive passion aroused; and seeing paper, pen and some red and black ink on a table, he eagerly seized them and made his first attempt at portrait painting. Just as he had finished his maiden task, his mother and sister entered. He tried to conceal what he had done, but his confusion arrested his mother's attention, and she asked him what he had been doing. With reluctance and timidity, he handed her the paper, begging, at the same time, that she would not be offended. Examining the drawing for a short time, she turned to her daughter, and, with a smile, said, "I declare he has made a likeness of Sally." She then gave him a fond kiss, which so encouraged him that he promised her some drawings of the flowers which she was then holding, if she wished to have them. The next year a cousin sent him a box of colours and pencils, with large quantities of canvas prepared for the easel, and half a dozen engravings. Early the next morning he took his materials into the garret, and for several days forgot all about school. His mother suspected that the box was the cause of his neglect of his books, and going into the garret and finding him busy at a picture, she was about to reprimand him; but her eye fell on some of his compositions, and her anger cooled at once. She was so pleased with them that she loaded him with kisses, and promised to secure his father's pardon for his neglect of school. The world is much indebted to Mrs. West for her early and constant encouragement of the talent of her son. He often used to say, after his reputation was established, "My mothers kiss made me a painter!"
Vernet relates, that he was once employed to paint a landscape, with a cave, and St. Jerome in it; he accordingly painted the landscape with St. Jerome at the entrance of the cave. When he delivered the picture, the purchaser, who understood nothing of perspective, said, "the landscape and the cave are well made, but St. Jerome is not in the cave."—"I understand you, sir," replied Vernet, "I will alter it." He therefore took the painting, and made the shade darker, so that the saint seemed to sit farther in. The gentleman took the painting; but it again appeared to him that the saint was not actually in the cave. Vernet then wiped out the figure, and gave it to the gentleman, who seemed perfectly satisfied. Whenever he saw strangers to whom he showed the picture, he said, "Here you see a picture by Vernet, with St. Jerome in the cave." "But we cannot see the saint," replied the visitors. "Excuse me, gentlemen," answered the possessor, "he is there; for I saw him standing at the entrance, and afterwards farther back; and am therefore quite sure that he is in it."