John Forster first introduced Daniel Maclise and Charles Dickens in December of 1836.
Forster and Maclise were already great friends and they now introduced the twenty-four year old
Dickens to an important segment of literary London. Although the young author had produced
Sketches by Boz, the first installation of Pickwick Papers was yet to be published. Maclise, who had
become an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1835, was the better known figure. With Dickens'
help, he was soon to become notorious.
[K. Perugini, "Charles Dickens as a Lover of Art and Artists," The Magazine of Art, 1903, 127.]
Throughout the decade, the friends shared many dinners, visits and adventures. One of their outings was commemorated by a painting. In the autumn of 1842 the three friends, joined by landscape
painter Clarkson Stanfield, visited Cornwall. Back in London, Maclise produced Waterfall at St
Nighton's Keive, Near Tintagel [Victoria and Albert Museum.] Dickens' sister-in-law Georgina modeled for the barefoot maiden who is placed within a depiction of the scenery the friends had just
seen. Dickens wanted the painting but was afraid that the generous Maclise would refuse to value it highly enough so he resorted to a "pious fraud" by having an intermediary buy it [Letter to C.
Beard 18 Dec 1842.] Maclise's fame was secured by his 1840 election to the Royal Academy and
his selection as a fresco muralist for the new House of Lords. He completed The Spirit of Chivalry
in 1847 and The Spirit of Justice in 1849.
Although Dickens especially liked the frontispiece, Maclise was frustrated by having to work on such a small scale. His illustrations for the Christmas Book of 1845 The Cricket on the Hearth and the 1846 Battle of Life lead to some acrimony between the two friends but the relationship was sufficiently intact that they traveled together to Paris in 1850.
Throughout the next twenty years --both men died in 1870-- there was a growing distance and the two old friends rarely met. Maclise went on to distinguish himself as a Royal Academician, frequent exhibitor and creator of the two gigantic battle scenes in the Royal Gallery at Westminster; The Meeting of Wellington and Blücher After the Battle of Waterloo and The Death of Nelson. Dickens eulogized his former friend at the Royal Academy banquet in words that have come to define and limit Maclise as;
Flattering as these works seem, they were soon twisted by the more private remarks that Dickens made to John Forster and his daughter Kate. The result has been that Dickens' biographers have unfairly concluded that Daniel Maclise was wayward, lazy, moody and solipsistic. A general aura of immorality and insufficiency have been attached to the man because of his friendship with Dickens. This unfair portrayal of the sensitive, hardworking Irish artist is the result of an over-reliance on Dickens' impressions complicated by cultural and personal misunderstandings. Daniel Maclise deserves to be remembered as one of the finest artists of his day and as a charming and central figure of the Victorian cultural world.
(this article contributed by...)