RAIMBACH THE ENGRAVER.
THE name of ABRAHAM RAIMBACH is familiar to all admirers of the WILKIE prints : he was one of the old school of historical line-en-
gravers, of which SHARP and JAMES HEATH were the heads; and his reputation is identified with the fame of WILKIE, eight of whose pic- tures he engraved : daring a period of four-and-twenty years he was almost exclusively occupied upon them. M. RAIMBACH died in Ja- nuary last, at the age of sixty-seven; and left some " Memoirs and Recollections " of his life, which he set down at the request of his eldest son : by him they have been printed for private circulation, and we
have been favoured with a copy of the work. Though not of a kind to attract popular attention, it is not without interest as a plain and unaffected narrative of the steady career of a persevering, sensible, and independent man, who earned competence and honourable distinction by the industrious exercise of good natural talents, cultivated by the study and practice of his art. The process of line-engraving is slow and laborious, and withal so difficult that it requires great ability and determination to attain suc- cess : the skill of the artist is appreciated only by the few, who know what he has to contend against ; whereas his failure is apparent to the casual observer : the length of time required to finish a large plate making the undertaking expensive and the risk great, the opportunities of attaining celebrity are rare, and ordinary employment even is pre- carious. Rummest had been sixteen years engaged upon book-plates, beginning with COOKE'S Poets and advancing to SMIRKE'S Arabian Nights, before an opportunity offered for commencing upon a large plate. In 1812, WILKIE proposed to him to engrave the Village Poli- ticians, (the picture which first established the fame of the painter,) on their joint risk : the speculation was not very profitable,—" the trade " being opposed, as usual, to any intrusion on their province ; but it con- solidated the reputation of the engraver, and made his name extensively known. This plate was finished in the comparatively short space of sixteen months : and it was followed by the Rent-Day, a more elaborate work, which occupied two years and a half. 7'he Cut Finger, The Errand-Boy, Blindman's Buff, and Diaraining for Rent, were suc- cessively produced, as joint ventures of the painter and engraver : the last proved unsuccessful, as WILKIE predicted, on account of the un- pleasant nature of the subject ; though the picture is the most dramatic and animated of WILKIE'S works. The Parish-Beadle was a com- mission from Mr. Moos:, at the liberal price of sixteen hundred guineas ; as also was The Spanish Mother, the last of the series engraved by RAIMBACIL All these plates were entirely the work of his own hands ; the engraver never having been able to obtain available assistance in forwarding the plates. To this may be attributed, as his son justly observes, the excellence of the work throughout each. RAIMBACH was an excellent engraver: his plates are admirable for sound and elaborate execution, and for the force and distinctness with which every characteristic of the picture is brought out : the heads are alive with expression, the eyes especially having the lustre and vivacity of the original. Nor is the most minute accessory neglected : all the details were carefully studied, but always with reference to the en- semble : the whole is not sacrificed to the parts. The totally different effect of the several plates engraved by HALstuAcE attests the fidelity with which he rendered the varying styles of the painter : nothing can well be more opposite than the daylight brightness of the Rent-Day and the dark tone of the Parish-Beadle; while the bold and sweeping flow of line in the Spanish Mother is contrasted with the neatness and closeness of execution in the Errand-Boy. The patient elaboration of the engraver, and the solidity and exactness of his work, however, tended to a hard and dry manner, which in the Parish. Beadle amounts to a metallic rigidity ; and of the power that resides in an arrangement of lines to produce the effect of a play of light, the yielding softness of flesh, the flutter of drapery, and such like glancing touches, we per- ceive very few and slight indications. In rendering colour, too, as well as texture, we desiderate something. But the forms are perfect. RAIM- BACH at the outset of his pupillage felt the necessity of becoming a draughtsman, and employed his scanty leisure, before eight in the morning and after six in the evening, in drawing ; and after he left his master, HALL, he entered as a student of the Royal Academy, and drew from the antique and the life for nine years. He became a tolerable miniature-painter too,—possessing, as he modestly says," the very com- mon power of making an inveterate likeness": at one time he was tempted to pursue it as a profession, so gloomy then seemed the prospects of engraving ; but he preferred the solitary drudgery of an engraver's life to the annoyances to which the portrait-painter is subject from the vanity and caprice of sitters. His industry was indefatigable; though his close application to a laborious profession was not continued without a strong effort of the will. Of this we have incidental proofs in the phrase "I set doggedly to work again," which recurs after every period of relaxa- tion. His holydays were few, and chiefly consisted of a short trip to the Continent, which he visited on two or three occasions. He records his impressions in a lively and unaffected manner, showing good sense and justness of observation. These memoranda form the bulk of the volume, the rest being occupied with a simple narrative of his professional career, interspersed with brief notices and anecdotes of the persons he met with. Of his art he says nothing ; being equally silent on his merits and the means he adopted to attain eminence. In this particular the book is disappointing ; but it probably never occurred to him that an account of his method of proceeding would be interesting or instructive to others. He alludes with becoming pride to the honours bestowed on him by the French on exhibiting his first WILKIE print in the Louvre, presenting him with a gold medal, and electing him a Corresponding Member of the Institute of France ; contrasting this unsought recognition of his merits with the utter neglect of foreign artists, however distinguished, by our Royal Academy. He justly censures the "mean and narrow exclusiveness " of this body,.which doles out its paltry distinctions with a niggardly band to importunate claimants, and knows not how to honour itself by granting them unsolicited to eminent talent. In the eyes of the Royal Academy, ABRAHAM RAIMBACH had no existence ; any more than SHARP, WOOLLET, and HEATH had, or than HOP, BURNETT, GoODALT., MILLER, and other first-rate line-engravers now have ; to whose skill and talent Academicians are indebted for the multipli- cation of their works and the spread of their celebrity.