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THE FACE OF A MUSICAL GENIUS: THOMAS HARDY'S PORTRAIT OF JOSEPH HAYDN

  • ALAN DAVISON

Abstract

Haydn's first visit to England in 1791 was accompanied by a publicity war waged between his supporters and detractors. The composer's friends were keen to present him as a musical genius while at the same time defending him against what they saw as reactionary criticisms over rules and taste. One such defence was in the form of a portrait by Thomas Hardy, probably the most famous image of the composer. While readily considered today as a matter-of-fact representation of an urbane Georgian gentleman, the portrait is in fact a sophisticated response to contemporary arguments surrounding Haydn, and presents him as an inventive genius of taste and judgment. By the manipulation of portrait conventions, Hardy created a visual representation of the composer analogous to written accounts by supporters such as Charles Burney. Haydn is shown as a man confident in his contribution to musical posterity, and the image reinforces advice from the time that repeated listening to and study of his music was required properly to appreciate it. The portrait has lost its original force as conceptions of genius changed from the early nineteenth century, reflecting a shift in the aesthetics of both music and visual art.

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1 Final stanza of Charles Burney, Verses on the Arrival of Haydn in England (London, 1791). The Verses are reproduced in full in H. C. Robbins Landon, Haydn: Chronicle and Works, volume 3: Haydn in England, 1791–1795 (London: Thames & Hudson, 1976), 32–35. The poem's greatest critical acclaim appears to have come from Burney himself when he reviewed it in the Monthly Review of June 1791, when its authorship was still unknown to the public.

2 William Jackson, Observations on the Present State of Music in London (London, 1791).

3 Alan Davison, ‘Thomas Hardy's Portrait of Joseph Haydn: A Study in the Conventions of Late Eighteenth-Century British Portraiture’, Music in Art 33/1–2 (2008), 101–112; republished with some revisions in Journal of the Haydn Society of Great Britain 27 (2008), 2–15. The current article builds upon this research.

4 Thomas Tolley, Painting the Cannon's Roar: Music, the Visual Arts and the Rise of an Attentive Public in the Age of Haydn, c.1750 to c.1810 (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2001).

5 Peter Kivy, The Possessor and the Possessed: Handel, Mozart, Beethoven, and the Idea of Musical Genius (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001), 169. Caryl Clark's Preface to the recent Cambridge Companion to Haydn shows a similar response to the portrait (which adorns the cover): ‘Joseph Haydn: accomplished composer, businessman, gentleman. That's the man we see on the front cover of this volume. No steely-eyed, brooding stare as with many a Beethoven image; no rambunctious, youthful or, alternatively, despondent Mozart; no dreamy-eyed Gluck gazing rapturously to heaven in the act of inspired composition.’ The Cambridge Companion to Haydn, ed. Caryl Clark (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), xi.

6 The reasons for the sharp decline in Haydn's reputation during the nineteenth century have been the focus of several studies, including Leon Botstein's ‘The Consequence of Presumed Innocence: The Nineteenth-Century Reception of Joseph Haydn’, in Haydn Studies, ed. W. Dean Sutcliffe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 1–34; James Garratt, ‘Haydn and Posterity: The Long Nineteenth Century’, in The Cambridge Companion to Haydn, 226–238; and Howard Irving, ‘Haydn and the Politics of the Picturesque’, Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture 36 (2007), 213–234, where the author outlines the rapid change in critical views on Haydn over the decades 1780 to 1820.

7 Although Salomon's career was long thought to reach its zenith with Haydn's visits, Ian Woodfield argues that the reality was quite different; see Woodfield, Salomon and the Burneys: Private Patronage and a Public Career, RMA Monographs 12 (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2003).

8 Quoted in Landon, Haydn in England, 1791–1795, 42.

9 For an overview of Bland's activities as well as an insight into the intense commercial rivalry between the main music publishers at the time see Ian Woodfield, ‘John Bland: London Retailer of the Music of Haydn and Mozart’, Music & Letters 81/2 (2000), 210–244.

10 The letter is translated in several sources, including Woodfield, ‘John Bland’, 227.

11 Tolley, Painting the Cannon's Roar, 169.

12 Quoted in Landon, Haydn in England, 1791–1795, 31. Here Bland or one of his supporters is trying to cash in on the visit, but it would be Salomon who ended up with the most prestige, perhaps unfairly, as it turns out. See Woodfield, Salomon and the Burneys, chapter 9.

13 There is scant reference to Hardy in contemporary sources, including newspapers and journals. Moreover, he barely features in the memoirs or diaries of some people who might have been expected to mention him: Joseph Farington makes only passing reference to him (but does provide crucial information) in his monumental Diary, while Fanny Burney makes no reference at all. He is absent from several major histories, biographies or autobiographies, such as John Thomas Smith's Nollekens and His Times (London: Colburn, 1829), Edward Edwards's Anecdotes of Painters who have Resided or Been Born in England (London: Hansard, 1808) and so forth. The diaries of Mrs Papendiek end just at the time when Haydn arrives in England, and so no reference to Hardy is made, even if she had knowledge of him.

14 The second volume of John Chaloner Smith's monumental British Mezzotinto Portraits (London: H. Sotheran, 1878–1884) lists a portrait by Hardy of a ‘young man’ to which ‘the name of Dussek, the musician has been given … but the authority is incomplete’ (662). The print is held in the British Museum, reg. no. 1902,1011.247. It does not resemble Dussek at all, and shows a rather thin-faced, aristocratic young man. Bland did in fact issue a print of Dussek, and while it is similar to Hardy's other portraits in general appearance, there is no name attached to it, and on stylistic grounds it does not appear to be by Hardy.

15 Hardy's father wrote a local history of mining in Derbyshire, and some valuable information on Hardy's family is contained in Lindsey Potter's Ecton Copper Mines Under the Duke of Devonshire, 1760–1790 (Derbyshire: Landmark, 2004), 226. His brothers, William and John, were apparently also skilled, as William worked as a marble mason and John as an engraver.

16 The Gentleman's Magazine 74 (July–December 1804), 981.

17 Joseph Farington, The Diary of Joseph Farington, ed. Kathryn Cave (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1982), volume 7, 2582. Direct evidence of Hardy's training under Wright of Derby is lacking, but there are some tantalizing clues to support Farington's assertion. First, several elements of Wright's style are apparent in Hardy's work, namely the use of a diffuse lighting on the face and the highlighting of the collar and edge of the cloaks worn by his sitters. Wright's portrait of Samuel Ward (from the early 1790s) displays this trait well. Another clue is the fact that Hardy engraved a drawing owned by Wright: the print ‘A Banditti Made Prisoner’ was published by William Richardson in June 1805. Below the title is inscribed ‘From an original drawing of Mr Mortimer's, in the possession of Mr Wright of Derby’. The copy was most likely made while Wright was still alive, so it would date from 1797 or earlier.

18 Farington, Diary of Joseph Farington, volume 7, 2582.

19 Hardy's locations and the dates given in the Royal Academy can be cross-referenced against other sources on London and the trades at the time. Information on the location and dates of printers, booksellers and engravers consulted for this research can be located at the British Book Trade Index, now online at <http://www.bbti.bham.ac.uk>. Details of locations, residents and architectural descriptions are in the Survey of London, general editor F. H. W. Sheppard, volumes 31 and 32: The Parish of St James, Westminster, Part 2 (London: Athlone Press for London County Council, 1963), available online at <http://www.british-history.ac.uk/source.aspx?pubid=290>. Richard Horward's map of London from the 1790s, ‘Plan of the Cities of London and Westminster, the Borough of Southwark and Parts Adjoining’, was consulted to pinpoint Hardy's location.

20 Information on Kirkman and Salomon was taken from Survey of London, volumes 31 and 32, ‘Brewer Street and Great Pulteney Street Area’, <http://www.british-history.ac.uk/source.aspx?pubid=290&page=1&sort=1> (29 August 2008).

21 Elaine Sisman, ‘Haydn, Shakespeare, and the Rules of Originality’, in Haydn and His World, ed. Sisman (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997), 3–56, and Thomas Bauman, ‘Becoming Original: Haydn and the Cult of Genius’, The Musical Quarterly 87/2 (2005), 333–357.

22 A useful overview of theories of genius and creativity can be found in James Engell's The Creative Imagination: Enlightenment to Romanticism (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1981). Kant's important writings on genius will not be considered in relation to Hardy's portrait. While they were enormously influential in Germany and more widely across nineteenth-century Europe, his impact on English intellectuals was insignificant at the time, with only infrequent mention of him or his works in literature by the early 1790s. See Giuseppe Micheli, ‘The Early Reception of Kant's Thought in England 1785–1805’, in Kant and His Influence, ed. George MacDonald Ross and Tony McWalter (London: Continuum, 2005), 202–314.

23 In Hang-Ups: Essays on Painting (Mostly) (London: BBC Books, 2007), Schama writes: ‘What bothered me … in this headlong rush to history (and away from a sense of artists as bonded by the peculiarities of their own discrete tradition, education and culture) was how indiscriminate the appeal to history as an explanatory deus ex machina could be’ (20).

24 Michael Baxandall, Patterns of Intention: On the Historical Explanation of Pictures (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985).

25 The other two sizes were the half-length portrait (127 cm × 102 cm) and the full-length portrait (239 cm × 147 cm).

26 For more information on these pragmatic aspects of portraiture at the time see Desmond Shawe-Taylor, The Georgians: Eighteenth-Century Portraiture and Society (London: Barrie & Jenkins, 1990), chapter 1, and the seminal study by Marcia Pointon, Hanging the Head: Portraiture and Social Formation in Eighteenth-Century England (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993). Also useful is Louise Lippincott, ‘Expanding on Portraiture: The Market, the Public, and the Hierarchy of Genres in Eighteenth-Century Britain’, in The Consumption of Culture, 1600–1800: Image, Object, Text, ed. Ann Bermingham and John Brewer (London: Routledge, 1995), 75–88.

27 My appreciation goes to Paul Banks (Royal College of Music) for sparking my interest in further interpreting the significance of the score.

28 The engraving of Salomon, published by Bland after Hardy's portrait, was executed by one of the Facius brothers. While in the original oil painting Hardy merely suggests the notation on the score, Facius realizes this as actual music, in this case Salomon's Op. 1 duo for violin and bass. Many thanks to Simon McVeigh for identifying the music.

29 More or less proving this point, Hardy's portrait of Haydn was used as the basis of a Viennese postcard in 1913 by Leo Eichhorn, and the artist has ‘corrected’ the position of the drape so as to frame the composer's head. Hardy may have been an unexceptional painter, but he was properly trained, and this was certainly not the result of poor judgment.

30 Roger Lonsdale's Dr. Charles Burney: A Literary Biography (Oxford: Clarendon, 1965) is indispensable for biographical material on Burney, and discussion of the rivalry between the two men. Burney seems, unusually for him, to have been obsessive in his resentment of Hawkins. A defence of Hawkins can be found in Robert Stevenson's ‘“The Rivals”: Hawkins, Burney, and Boswell’, The Musical Quarterly 36/1 (1950), 67–82.

31 John Hawkins, A General History of the Science and Practice of Music (London, 1776; reprinted New York: Dover, 1963), volume 2, 919.

32 A. Peter Brown, ‘The Earliest English Biography of Haydn’, The Musical Quarterly 59/3 (1973), 343 (original italics).

33 Irving, ‘Haydn and the Politics of the Picturesque’, 222.

34 See, for example, William Sharpe, A Dissertation Upon Genius, Or, an Attempt to shew, That the several Instances of Distinction, and Degrees of Superiority in the human Genius are not, fundamentally, the Result of Nature, but the Effect of Acquisition (London, 1755), William Duff, Essay on Original Genius (London, 1767) and Alexander Gerard, Essay on Genius (London, 1774).

35 William Jones, A Treatise on the Art of Music; In which the Elements of Harmony and Air are practically considered … (Colchester: W. Keymer, 1784), 49–50.

36 Charles Dibdin, The Musical Tour of Mr. Dibdin; In which – previous to his embarkation for India – He finished his career as A Public Character (Sheffield, 1788), 181.

37 Dibdin, The Musical Tour, 182.

38 Charles Burney, A General History of Music, from the Earliest Ages to the Present Period (London: author, 1789), with critical and historical notes by Frank Mercer (New York: Constable, 1957), volume 2, 958.

39 Burney, General History, volume 2, 959.

40 Burney, General History, volume 2, 959, 960.

41 Burney, General History, volume 2, 11.

42 For more on the relationship between the two men see Richard McGrady, ‘The Elegies of William Jackson and Thomas Linley the Elder’, Music & Letters 77/2 (1996), 209–227. For a discussion of Burney's other literary run-ins see Roger Lonsdale, ‘Dr. Burney and the Monthly Review’, The Review of English Studies, New Series, 14/56 (1963), 346–358, and 15/5 (1964), 27–37.

43 Jackson, Observations, 16–17. Jackson's focus on melody is significant, for in some later writings he explicitly links ‘original melody’ to genius. Writing shortly after Haydn's second visit, Jackson was keen to distinguish between mere talent and genius, and concluded that the defining characteristic of genius ‘is invention, a creation of something not before existing; to which talents make no pretence’; see William Jackson, The Four Ages; Together with Essays on Various Subjects (London, 1798), 195 (original italics).

44 Jackson, Observations, 17–18. It should be noted that Jackson's attack on Haydn was not predicated on a reactionary concept of genius; far from it. His writings both before and after his Observations make it clear that he was very much up with, and sympathetic to, fashionable writings on genius. See his various essays relating to genius and originality in the popular Thirty Letters on Various Subjects (Exeter, 1783) and The Four Ages; Together with Essays on Various Subjects (London, 1798).

45 Reprinted in full in Landon, Haydn in England, 1791–1795, 100–104.

46 Landon, Haydn in England, 1791–1795, 103 (original italics).

47 C. L. Cudworth, ‘An Essay by John Marsh’, Music & Letters 36/2 (1955), 155–164. Marsh had strong links to Bland, who published some of his songs and chamber music. Marsh's Journal refers to Bland as ‘a great publisher of songs’; see The John Marsh Journals: The Life and Times of a Gentleman Composer (1752–1827), ed. Brian Robins (Stuyvesant: Pendragon, 1998), 454.

48 Cudworth, ‘An Essay by John Marsh’, 163.

49 Irving, ‘Haydn and the Politics of the Picturesque’, 231.

50 The average number of public visitors was in the order of 50,000 annually during the late 1780s and early 1790s. For a detailed study of the Royal Academy exhibitions during the relevant period see the collection of essays in Art on the Line: The Royal Academy Exhibitions at Somerset House 1780–1836, ed. David Solkin (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001). Especially informative is Marcia Pointon's ‘Portrait! Portrait!! Portrait!!!’, 93–109.

51 If the portrait was completed early in 1791, then it would not have made sense for Bland to wait so long before trying to cash in on the enthusiasm for Haydn's visit.

52 Ludmilla Jordanova, in her work on portraits of scientists, recognizes four functions for accoutrements: visual interest, following established conventions, conveying symbolic information and acting as symbols; see Jordanova, Defining Features: Scientific and Medical Portraits, 1660–2000 (London: National Portrait Gallery, 2000), 80.

53 Kate Retford, in her study of Georgian conversation pieces, argues that viewers would have understood the interior environment of the group portrait as a fabricated space; see Retford, ‘From the Interior to Interiority: The Conversation Piece in Georgian England’, Journal of Design History 20/4 (2007), 291–301.

54 Simon McVeigh, Concert Life in London from Mozart to Haydn (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 204–205.

55 Laurent Dabos's historic portrait of Thomas Paine (c1791) is a good example of a significant text held aloft. It is at the National Portrait Gallery, London, NPG 6804 (74 cm × 59 cm, oil on canvas).

56 On Haydn's own attempt to establish a reputation for priority and genius see Sisman, ‘Haydn, Shakespeare, and the Rules of Originality’.

57 Peter Neugebauer, ‘The “Case” of Joseph Haydn: A Rhinological Patient during the Eighteenth Century’, The Laryngoscope 110 (2000), 1078–1081.

58 The World, 22 May 1792, 1, and The Morning Herald, 25 May 1792, 1. The relevant part of the notice (identically worded in both cases, but in a slightly different format) reads: ‘Mr. HAYDN[.] A Capital PRINT of Mr. HAYDN, engraved from the portrait now in the Exhibition, may be had of J. Bland, No. 45, Holborn; who respectfully informs the Public, that the Portraits of Mr. Pleyel and Mr. Salomon (also painted by Hardy) will be engraved with all possible dispatch, to be the same size as Mr. Haydn's. Price for Proofs to Subscribers, 7s. 6d. and delivered in the rotation of their subscribing.’ Interestingly, the print of Pleyel was not published until May 1793 (engraved by William Nutter), and that of Salomon until December 1792 (engraved by one of the Facius brothers, either Georg or Johann).

59 Marion Scott, ‘Haydn: Relics and Reminiscences in England’, Music & Letters 13/2 (1932), 132.

60 Rosemary Hughes, ‘Haydn at Oxford: 1771–1791’, Music & Letters 20 (1939), 248.

61 Duncan Robinson, ‘Giuseppe Baretti as a “Man of Great Humanity”’, in British Art 1740–1820: Essays in Honour of Robert R. Wark, ed. Guilland Sutherland (San Marino: Huntington Library, 1992), 93.

62 An engraved version by ‘J. Hardy’ is listed in Henry Bromley's A Catalogue of Engraved Portraits … (London, 1793), 383.

63 Sisman, ‘Haydn, Shakespeare, and the Rules of Originality’, 6–8.

64 Bauman, ‘Becoming Original’, 351.

65 See note 34.

66 For example, portraits of Liszt (by Ary Scheffer and Henri Lehmann), Chopin (by Delacroix and Ary Scheffer) and Berlioz (by Courbet) all reflect the relatively recent notion of the creative artist separate from society. For further discussion see Alan Davison, ‘The Musician in Iconography from the 1830s and 1840s: The Formation of New Visual Types’, Music in Art 28/1–2 (2003), 147–162.

67 For a discussion of the Hoppner portrait see Thomas Tolley, ‘“Exemplary Patience”: Haydn, Hoppner and Mrs Jordan’, Imago Musicae 20 (2003), 109–141.

I would like to thank the two anonymous reviewers for this journal for offering useful criticisms and suggestions. Thanks also to Dean Sutcliffe and Keith Chapin for their very helpful comments. Several staff at the Royal College of Music, London assisted me considerably with this research, especially Paul Banks, Paul Collen, Jenny Nex and Lance Whitehead. I would also like to thank Janet Snowman (Royal Academy of Music), staff at the Heinz Archive and Library (National Portrait Gallery), Emma Floyd (Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art), Sheila O'Connell (Department of Prints and Drawings at the British Museum), Alex Kidson (Liverpool Museum) and Elizabeth Barker (Mead Art Museum, Amherst College). My wife Natalie Nugent provided invaluable support and advice during my research on Hardy, while helpful feedback on a draft of this article was given by Erin Johnson-Hill.

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THE FACE OF A MUSICAL GENIUS: THOMAS HARDY'S PORTRAIT OF JOSEPH HAYDN

  • ALAN DAVISON

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