Stephens on Macbeth


Stephens's brief and superficial account of R. W. Macbeth's career suggests that the author was not personally acquainted with the artist and that he had only an arm's-length relationship with his work. This is perhaps unsurprising, since Macbeth was twenty years younger than Stephens (one of the three youngest artists represented in Artists at Home, older only than Thornycroft and Dicksee) and had been elected an A.R.A. only in 1884, the year the sketch was composed. Indeed, most of Macbeth's career was still ahead of him. Stephens fills the void with a long list of Macbeth's works that attests to his versatility as an artist, an "able painter in oil, draughtsman in water-colours, and etcher," as Stephens describes him. For the most part, the litany of titles is even-handed, with few of them standing out from the mass in any way. The exception is A Fen Farm (present location unknown), which Stephens consider's Macbeth's "masterpiece" (probably), "representing a handsome Lincolnshire lass standing at a field gate just before sundown, while the golden light flooded her whole form and all the landscape," a veritable illustration of a poem by Jean Ingelow. In the final paragraph, Stephens accedes to Macbeth's "graceful desire" and acknowledges the early influence of three distinguished masters, now deceased--Frederick Walker (1840–1875), G. J. Pinwell (1842–1875), and George Hemming Mason (1818–1872)--and one, J. E. Millais, who was very much alive: "it is out of gratitude to them and others of the school," Stephens concludes, "that he is now producing etchings after their works."


Robert Walker Macbeth, Self Portrait, 1883


R. W. Macbeth, The Ferry, 1881

Stephens on Macbeth