The British artist William Marshall Craig (ca. 1765- ca. 1834) painted miniature portraits of the royalty and the aristocracy of late eighteenth and early nineteenth-century London. In this recently acquired sketchbook, we see nine wash drawings and forty-one hand-colored etchings, including “Pleasures of the Imagination” (above). The original poem (published 1743) is by Mark Akenside, but this drawing is oddly accompanied by three lines attributed to George Crabbe.
An illustration to The Tempest, (Act I scene ii), showing Prospero and Miranda (below) is the only drawing fully colored. The album was apparently compiled about a century after Craig’s death. Both the style and the bookplate, which is that of Sir Algernon Tudor-Craig (1873-1943), suggest that it was put together in about 1910-20. According to Christopher Edwards, Tudor-Craig was a herald and an authority on eighteenth-century Chinese armorial porcelain, but he also compiled a catalogue of the library of the Freemasons’ Hall in London.
Craig is best remembered for his course of lectures on drawing, painting, and engraving delivered and then published in 1821 (Firestone ND1130.C9).
The title page of that book recognizes him as “painter to his Royal Highness the Duke of York” and so, it is interesting that his introduction reflects on patronage, in particular. He writes, “Patronage is the proper nutriment of arts, but it should be patronage founded on solid common sense, and on feelings refined by contemplation; or, like deleterious food, it will excite bad habits, and unwholesome usages, in those who receive it.
…An artist may labour for years, and without ceasing to produce works of real excellence; but it is all in vain, unless he find persons qualified to appreciate his powers; and, on the other hand, when youthful talent begins to show its dawnings, the well-informed patron may greatly assist to guide and direct its course, till it arrive at meridian splendour.”