Some time ago I wrote about modern man-made art in the landscape and indicated that one day I would take a look at other forms of art in the landscape. Well, today is the day but this time we going to take look at some of our British landscapes which have been captured in paintings.
What reminded me of the need for this follow up was an exhibition some time ago at London’s Tate Britain Gallery which displayed many previously unseen works by the landscape artist JMW Turner including one of Bamburgh Castle in Northumberland. What I am not going to do is show you the paintings but images of those painted landscapes as seen today.
So to start with let’s take a look at Bamburgh Castle painted by Turner in 1837. When he was just 22, Turner created a fictional scene of a ship approaching the coast with the tall Norman walls of Bamburgh Castle presiding in the background. The work was never publicly displayed, but when it was first seen, it was hailed as ‘one of the finest water-colour drawings in the world’. The castle still stands much as Turner would have seen it – presiding over a long stretch of windswept beach.
When he was even younger Turner sketched West Burton Falls in the Yorkshire Dales during one July day in 1816 on his extensive tour of Yorkshire to sketch views for Whitaker’s “A General History of the County of York” series. West Burton is on Walden Beck, a tributary of the River Ure. A particular characteristic of the fall is the way in which in normal conditions the stream of water fans out into a transparent veil, through which can be seen the rocks behind, exactly as recorded by Turner.
Let’s take a look at two other artists with paintings both from Snowdonia in Wales. We’ll start with Augustus John and his student James Dickson Innes who spent two years painting in the Arenig valley around 1910, especially the mountain Arenig Fawr. Innes who unfortunately died of TB at the young age of 27 painted a canvas of Llyn Tryweryn which is now in the Parc Howard Museum, Llanelli whilst John has a painting of the lake at the Tate. In 2011 Innes and John’s fascination with painting Arenig Fawr and the Arenig valley was the subject of a BBC documentary titled “The Mountain that had to Be Painted”.
For our final image, we take a distant look at “Snowdon from Llyn Nantlle” which is the title of a painting produced by the famous artist Richard Wilson. Born in 1714 into a well-to-do family of farmers and clergy in north Wales, Wilson trained as a portrait painter in London. He inspired John Constable and was feted by the Victorian critic John Ruskin as the father of British landscape painting. A young JMW Turner even trekked across rugged hills and mountains to find the precise spots he had painted from so that he could replicate the dramatic work.
The painting created around 1766 using oil on canvas technique is now located at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool. There was an exhibition of work by Wilson in the National Museum Cardiff to coincide with the 300th anniversary of his birth. The exhibition, which also featured work by Constable and Turner, makes the case that Wilson fundamentally changed the way British and European artists approached landscape.
I hope you have enjoyed taking a modern view of some landscape paintings by Britain’s most celebrated artists.