The Fashionable Male: David Charles Read | Marie Antoinette's Gossip Guide to the 18th Century: The Fashionable Male: David Charles Read

January 31, 2011

The Fashionable Male: David Charles Read

D.C. Read, Self Portrait. Etching, c. 1830.

I have been fortunate enough to convince @Discombobul8r, or as you may know him, D.C. Read, to take some time and tell us a little bit about the artist that was, David Charles Read (and who better to do so!) Please enjoy this excellent glimpse into the life of a talented artist!

A Short Autobiographical Sketch by the Ghost of Mr. David Chas. Read

Oh look! I find myself in the FRAGRANT BOUDOUIR of a beautiful Mademoiselle! Again. But hold fast! For once I am NOT engag'd in finessing th'Entente Cordiale, but rather have been most kindly invit'd to scriven a few lines which may enlighten ye as to my much neglect'd life and works!

Born in the village of Boldre, Hampshire, in the year 1790, as a youth I was apprentic'd for a number of years to Mr. John SCOTT, an Engraver of some note, in London, and drift'd hither & thither before finding employ as a Drawing Master in the City of Salisbury, Wiltshire, in 1819. Inspir'd by the works of Salvator ROSA, CLAUDe & Sir Joshua REYNOLDs, 'twas here that I commenc'd a series of paintings in oil with th'ambition of exhibiting at the Royal Academy. My good friend, the estimable artist Mr John LINNELL, noted that our mutual acquaintance, Mr John CONSTABLE, found these early works “so good that he was fond of repeating it, even tho' somewhat aginst himself.*” Mr CONSTABLE's friendly opinion, howe'er, soon turn'd to emnity; in his correspondence with Archdeacon John FISHER, he delight'd in defaming, “wretch'd Read and his wretch'd pictures”. And worse! Gah! Thus, after exhibiting just once at the Academy, in 1824, and having become disillusion'd by such artistic in-fighting and politics, I return'd to my forté and resolv'd to become the finest English Landscape Etcher of th'Age.

D.C. Read, Landscape with Cottage Gable and Figures. Etching, c.1831-5.

Which I did.

I produc'd a prolifick 237 plates over a period of 25 years, tho' ye would not know it from supposedly 'learn'd' tomes upon the History of Art, wherein I am too often IGNOR'd entirely, or DISMISS'd as a mere Footnote! I was one of a handful of Artists instrumental in keeping alive the almost forgotten technique of dry point, following in the footsteps of that magnificent Old Master, and perhaps the greatest influence upon my work, th'incomparable REMBRANDT. My mode d'emploi was encapsulat'd in the dedication to my 'Views of the English Lakes' Series in 1840, wherein I note that 'twas always, “more my study to catch the grander features of the Landscape than to embody those minute details which are incidental rather than necessary..”; th'evidence of my noble intentions may be clearly seen in the bold expression of line and form with which I imbued my charming bucolic landscapes, much against the prevailing “microscopic finish” so favour'd at that time.

D.C. Read, Water's Meadow.  Etching, 1844.
Counting their Most Excellent Majesties Queen Adelaide, Queen Victoria & H.R.H. Prince Albert amongst my admirers, a close friend of the talent'd architect A.W.N. Pugin, and flatter'd by the Encomia of such esteem'd fellows as GOETHE and MENDELSOHNN, I moved easily amongst my illustrious contemporaries, my path even crossing that of the Great English Visionary Mr William BLAKE. Yet, since my death in 1851, posterity has been cruel, and my Works and Reputation have drift'd ever further into the Void of Obscurity. Thus have I risen from my unquiet grave, to set right this Great Injustice!

'Tis a hard task indeed to distill my essence in so few words, but if I have whett'd yr. Appetite, ye may learn more of my REMARKABLe LIFE & of my STRUGGLEs 'gainst OBSCURITY & NEGLECT upon the pages of my own Journal, 'The Cogitations of Read'.

DC Read on Twitter: @Discombobul8r
Blog: The Cogitations of Read


  1. Love the etchings; they are extraordinary!

  2. @CR Wall I know I would love to find more of them!

    It is a bit sad, but imagine how many artists have been overlooked by historians in the past, how many have we yet to meet?