A painter’s writings

Dalrymple writes in the British Medical Journal of Benjamin Robert Haydon and his mistaken vocation (subscription required):
If the artistic muse rewarded effort and devotion alone, Benjamin Robert Haydon (1786-1846) would have been the greatest artist who ever lived. Often, and for years, he worked 16 hours or more a day at his art; he suffered every kind of deprivation for it. Alas, try as he might, he could rarely get things right. After his tragic death aged 60 (he cut his own throat after failing to kill himself with a gun), Dickens wrote with obvious regret, “All his life [Haydon] had utterly mistaken his vocation. No amount of sympathy with him and sorrow for him in his manly pursuit of a wrong idea for so many years . . . ought to prevent one from saying that he most unquestionably was a very bad painter.”
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Haydon, who must have been a remarkable man because he was the friend of many of the geniuses of his time, is now known more for his writings than his paintings. His autobiography contains a graphic and deeply moving description of the death of his mother: “Incessant anxiety and trouble gradually generated that dreadful disease angina pectoris. The least excitement brought on an agonising struggle of blood through the great vessel of the heart, and nothing could procrastinate her fate but entire rest of mind and body. Her doom was sealed, and death held her as his own whenever it should please him to take her.”
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Haydon also wrote 26 volumes of diaries; many of the entries recorded the money worries that finally overwhelmed him. The last entry is possibly the most poignant in all literature: “God forgive me. Amen. Finis of B. R. Haydon. ‘Stretch me no longer on this rough world.’– Lear. End of Twenty-sixth Volume.”

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