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31 posts categorized "Visual arts"

18 August 2017

Illuminations in celebration of the peace

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In 1814, after almost 20 years of war with France, Britain and the coalition forces defeated Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821). With the French leader exiled and the Hanoverian Kings marking 100 years of sovereignty, there was a lot to celebrate, and in the summer of 1814 London's parks played host to a scheme of spectacular entertainments. Free and available for all to enjoy, the events were depicted in brightly coloured prints, such as these examples from the King's Topographical Collection.

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John Fairburn (active 1789-1840), Description of the Grand National Jubilee, held in St James's, Hyde, and the Green Parks, on Monday 1st August, 1814, published by John Fairburn at Fountain Court, Minories, London, August 1 1814, etching and letterpress with hand-colouring, 430 x 335mm, Maps K.Top.26.7.y.

Arguably the most magnificent spectacle was the Temple of Concord, created in commemoration of peace treaties. The Temple was unveiled in a hugely theatrical show. It was initially concealed from view within the walls of a gothic castle, around which a mock siege was performed with cavalry, artillery and rockets. When the siege reached a dramatic climax the walls of the Castle were dilapidated to reveal the Temple in all its dazzling glory. Unveiling the Temple in this way was seen as highly symbolic of the transition from war to peace.

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Thomas Palser (active 1803-43) ,The Fortress (which inclosed the Grand Pavilion) in the Green Park, with the ascent of the Balloon, published in London by Thomas Palser, 24 August 1814, etching and aquatint with hand-colouring, 29.2 x 40 cm, Maps K.Top.26.7.bb.

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Thomas Palser (active 1803-43), The Grand Pavilion in the Green Park, published in London by Thomas Palser, 12 August, 1814, etching and aquatint with hand-colouring, 317 x 48.1 cm, Maps K.Top.26.7.gg.

The mastermind behind the Temple was Lieutenant Colonel Sir William Congreve (1772-1828), a rocket designer and Comptroller of the Royal Laboratory at Woolwich. He had served many campaigns throughout the Napoleonic War (1803-1815), and led a company known as the 'rocket brigade' at the Battle of Leipzig in 1813.

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Matthew Dubourg (active 1806-1838) after John Heaviside Clark (approximately 1770-1863), The Revolving Temple of Concord Illuminated: as Erected in the Park in Celebration of the Glorious Peace of 1814, published Bond Street, London, August 12, 1814 by Edward Orme (1775-1848), aquatint and etching with hand-colouring, 260 x 384 mm, Maps K.Top.26.7.ff.

The Temple revolved so everybody could see its lavish decorations, rendered on semi-transparent fabric lit from behind with rows of oil lamps. Congreve had commissioned some of the nation's best artists like Thomas Stothard to design and paint allegorical scenes of these transparencies, each tableau praising 'the Triumph of England under the Regency'. Congreve had also designed a special type of firework, described by the magazine La Belle Assemblé as a rocket within which a 'world of smaller rockets' were contained so that as soon as it was discharged 'it bursts and flings aloft into the air innumerable parcels of flames, brilliant as the brightest stars'.

London's print sellers never missed an opportunity for business, so cheap and eye-catching prints like this would have been plentiful, and purchased as souvenirs for affordable sums at booths in the parks and print shops.

 

Over 500 views and maps from the King's Topographical Collection and other British Library holdings are available to view at https://www.bl.uk/picturing-places. Keep up to date with what's being discovered at: https://twitter.com/bl_prints.

Alice Rylance-Watson

16 August 2017

“Old Dad” – Turner and Son in Twickenham

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A widowed father in his sixties sharing a small house with his ambitious, unmarried son in his thirties; running the household while his son runs the business.  Sounds familiar?  Steptoe and Son?  Try Turner and Son.

The great painter JMW Turner’s father, William Turner, was born in South Molton, Devon, in 1745, but moved to London around 1770, following in his father’s trade as a barber and wig-maker and settling in Covent Garden.  His wife Mary, sadly, suffered from a form of mental illness, which resulted in her being admitted to St Luke’s Hospital for Lunaticks in Old Street in 1799 and then Bethlem Hospital in 1800, where she died in 1804. Her condition had not been helped by the loss of her daughter, Mary Ann, who died just before her fifth birthday in 1783.

In 1807, JMW Turner was a successful artist with a flourishing studio and gallery in Queen Anne Street, off Harley Street, and had recently been made Professor of Perspective at the Royal Academy.  Because of the Napoleonic Wars, most of his painting expeditions at this time were within the UK.  He also had a busy private life, which included a daughter born to his mistress, Sarah Danby, with another born later.  Turner needed somewhere to escape to for relaxation, so he bought a plot of land in Twickenham and designed a two-bedroom house, Sandycombe Lodge, which was built over the next five years.  In 1813 he moved in with his father, fondly known as “Old Dad”.

Turner Old Dad

John Linnell’s drawing of Old Dad made in 1812, when he attended one of his son’s lectures at the Royal Academy. The eyes below are those of Turner, looking at his notes. Image © Tate CC-BY-NC-ND 3.0 (Unported).  

Old Dad kept house for Turner and tended the plot of land, sometimes complaining of the hard work involved in controlling the rampant weeds. Turner Senior also acted as studio assistant, preparing and varnishing canvases, and initially walked the ten miles to Turner’s studio.  However, he swiftly made the connection between the local market gardens and Covent Garden and could often be seen sitting on top of the vegetables in the market gardeners’ carts, the agreed fare being a glass of gin.

Turner Sandycombe Lodge

Sandycombe Lodge, Twickenham, Villa of J.M.W. Turner, engraved by W.B. Cooke, published 1814. Image © Tate CC-BY-NC-ND 3.0 (Unported). 

There are many visitors’ accounts of the good times that were had at Sandycombe Lodge, which was used for picnics, parties, fishing expeditions and the meetings of The Picnic Academical Club, a sort of artistic lads’ drinking society.  Old Dad played a central role in the organisation of these festivities.  According to an early biographer, Walter Thornbury, he was ‘very like his son in the face, particularly as to the nose...he had a habit of jumping up on his toes every two or three minutes which rather astonished strangers.  The father and son lived on very friendly terms together’. They certainly had a very close relationship and Turner was known to change his plans to be with his father on his birthday.

After 1815, Turner was able to travel more freely in mainland Europe and his visits to Twickenham became less frequent.  Old Dad’s health also began to fail and in 1826, Turner sold Sandycombe Lodge and moved his father back to Queen Anne Street.  This is the part of Turner’s life that is depicted in the film “Mr Turner”. Old Dad died in 1830, at the age of 81 and is buried in St Paul’s, Covent Garden (The Actors’ Church).

Turner memorial

Old Dad’s memorial in St Paul’s Church, Covent Garden - photograph by the author   Noc

 

David Meaden
Independent researcher

Sandycombe Lodge has recently undergone extensive restoration to return it to Turner’s original design and is now open to visitors. Twitter @TurnersHouse

Further reading:
J.M.W.Turner, R.A. The Artist and his House at Twickenham, Catherine Parry-Wingfield, 2012.
The life of J. M. W Turner, R.A.; founded on letters and papers furnished by his friends and fellow academicians, Walter Thornbury, 1897.

Richmond and Twickenham: A Modern Arcadia
Turner's topographical watercolours

 

 

01 August 2017

Battles on the Serpentine

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Historical re-enactment is a centuries-old form of fun. The Romans recreated famous battles in their amphitheaters for public entertainment, and from around the 17th century military displays, mock battles and re-enactments became popular in England. As these prints from the King's Topographical Collection show, historical re-enactment was used to celebrate the Grand Jubilee on 1 August 1814, in mock naval battles which took place on Hyde Park's Serpentine River.

 

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Thomas Palser (active 1803-43), Scene on the Serpentine, Hyde park, on the Night of the Grand Jubilee, August 1, 1814, published in London by Thomas Palser, August 24, 1814, etching and aquatint with hand-colouring, 28.6 x 40 cm, Maps K.Top.26.6.p.

 

The battles were part of a series of public festivities marking peace with France and 100 years of Hanoverian rule. Sixteen years had also elapsed since the major naval Battle of the Nile (1-3 August 1798), which Nelson won for Britain against the French Republic.

A fleet of miniature ships were built at Woolwich especially for the Serpentine re-enactments. They were fitted up and rigged as men-of-war and flew French flags, Union Jacks and American banners. Britain was then still at war with America and one of the key battles for territory had taken place in the Atlantic Ocean off the Eastern Seaboard.

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Thomas Palser (active 1803-43), The Action between the British & American Frigates on the Serpentine, Hyde Park, published in London by Thomas Palser, 1 August, 1814, etching and aquatint with hand-colouring, 28 x 40.6 cm, Maps K.Top.26.6.n.

 

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Thomas Palser (active 1803-43), The Jubilee Naval Action on the Serpentine in Commemoration of the Battle of the Nile, published in London by Thomas Palser, 24 August, 1814, etching and aquatint with hand-colouring, 28.2 x 39.9 cm, Maps K.Top.26.6.o.

 

While some newspaper critics called the events ‘absurd’, most spectators revelled in watching the little ships engage in such dramatic combats. As these prints show, rockets were fired off to simulate blasting cannons and vessels were set alight to excite the crowd and rouse patriotic cheers.

Over 500 views and maps from the King’s Topographical Collection and other British Library holdings are available to view at: https://www.bl.uk/picturing-places. Keep up to date with what’s being discovered at: https://twitter.com/bl_prints

Alice Rylance-Watson

11 July 2017

A turnpike tour of London

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London’s most colourful characters take centre stage in this set of aquatints held in the King’s Topographical Collection. Against the backdrop of London’s main gateways, all sorts from the city’s streets populate the scenes. Ragamuffins, tinkers, traders, milkmaids, and beggars bustle at busy junctions along with soldiers and fat and jaunty well-to-dos. Added to the street traffic are horse-drawn carriages, carts, and riders hurtling down roads at alarming speeds, but the near misses and actual collisions only add to the spectacle.
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Heinrich Joseph Schütz (1760-1822) after Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827), Views of London No.5, Entrance from Mile End or Whitechapel Turnpike, published by Rudolph Ackermann (1764-1834) from Ackermann’s Gallery, No.101 Strand, London, June 1, 1798, aquatint with etching and hand-colouring, 390 x 535 mm, Maps K.Top.22.6.e.
 

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Heinrich Joseph Schütz (1760-1822) after Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827), Views of London No.6, Entrance from Hackney or Cambridge Heath Turnpike, with a Distant View of St Paul’s, published by Rudolph Ackermann (1764-1834) from Ackermann’s Gallery, No.101 Strand, London, June 1, 1798, aquatint with etching and hand-colouring, 400 x 545 mm, Maps K.Top.22.6.f.

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Heinrich Joseph Schütz (1760-1822) after Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827), Views of London No.3, Entrance of Tottenham Court Road Turnpike, with a View of St James’s Chapel, published by Rudolph Ackermann (1764-1834) from Ackermann’s Gallery, No.101 Strand, London, March 1, 1813, aquatint with etching and hand-colouring, 400 x 542 mm, Maps K.Top.22.6.c.  

Maps K.Top.22.6.d.Heinrich Joseph Schütz (1760-1822) after Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827), Views of London No.4, Entrance of Oxford Street or Tyburn Turnpike, with a View of Park Lane, published by Rudolph Ackermann (1764-1834) from Ackermann’s Gallery, No.101 Strand, London, April 1, 1798, aquatint with etching and hand-colouring, 398 x 536 mm, Maps K.Top.22.6.d.

While such figures provide a diverting illustration of London society, the landscape is also significant. Each scene is set in front of a turnpike road: major thoroughfares leading in and out of London. People could use them for a small fee collected by Turnpike Trust employees, who manned toll houses at either side of the barrier. The taxes were reinvested to build new roads and maintain existing ones. Turnpikes could be found across London at Hackney and Tottenham Court Road, at Tyburn (Oxford Street) and Whitechapel, and at Hyde Park Corner and St George’s Road.

Maps K.Top.22.6.a.[?Edouard] Dagaty (?1745-84) Views of London, No.1, Entrance of Piccadilly or Hyde Park Corner Turnpike, with a View of St George’s Hospital, published by Rudolph Ackermann (1764-1834) from Ackermann’s Gallery, No.101 Strand, London, August 1, 1797, aquatint with etching and hand-colouring, 375 x 520 mm, Maps K.Top.22.6.a.  
 

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[?Edouard] Dagaty (?1745-84) Views of London, No.2, Entrance of St George’s Road or the Obelisk Turnpike, with a View of the Royal Circus, published by Rudolph Ackermann (1764-1834) from Ackermann’s Gallery, No.101 Strand, London, August 1, 1797, aquatint with etching and hand-colouring, 361 x 538 mm, Maps K.Top.22.6.b.  

Turnpike roads improved travel and trade across the country. They transformed the national outlook, but also caused traffic jams and attracted some of the city’s more marginal and unsavoury inhabitants. Perhaps for these reasons, then, turnpikes made for topical and diverting subject matter in prints.

Collaborating with artists Thomas Rowlandson and ?Edouard Dagaty, this series was published by Rudolph Ackermann: a savvy and successful print trader who set up a print shop and drawing school on London’s Strand. From his emporium he sold colour-plate books, decorative prints, periodicals, stationery and art materials to cater to a range of different customers.
 

Maps K.Top.27.16.1.Augustus Pugin (1762 – 1832) and Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827), ACKERMANN'S REPOSITORY OF ARTS, 101 STRAND, published by Rudolph Ackermann, London, January, 1809, aquatint and etching with hand-colouring ; sheet 13.9 x 22.9 cm, Maps K.Top.27.16.1.

Ackermann was a major patron of British artists and designers. His association with Rowlandson was particularly fond and lasted over 30 years. He favoured Rowlandson’s comic and adaptable brand of social satire, exemplified here in the Views of London and also in other popular series such as The Tour of Doctor Syntax, the Miseries of London, and the English Dance of Death.

Over 500 views and maps from the King’s Topographical Collection and other British Library holdings are available to view in Picturing Places. Keep up to date on Twitter with what’s being discovered.

Alice Rylance-Watson

 

04 July 2017

Paul Fourdrinier: The Architects’ Engraver in 18th century Britain

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Born in the Netherlands in 1698, Paul Fourdrinier trained in Amsterdam before moving to London in 1720, where he established a highly successful business at Charing Cross. Although he created a wide range of illustrations and maps, he was particularly well known for his work with architects: according to George Vertue, his architectural engravings were ‘remarkable… many are very curious and neatly done’ (‘Vertue’s Notebook’, 136).

Figure 1 Paul Fourdrinier Blog
Paul Fourdrinier after Giovanni Borra, Plate XV from The Ruins of Palmyra, otherwise Tedmor, in the desart, London, 1753. British Library 74/744.f.16. Noc

During a career which lasted over thirty years, Fourdrinier worked with many of Britain’s leading architects. Because architectural books are conventionally identified as the work of the architects whose drawings they are based on, his plates have rarely been treated as a unique body of work. His work appeared in numerous publications: The Designs of Inigo Jones (published by William Kent, 1727), Robert Castell’s The Villas of the Ancients (1728), Andrea Palladio’s First Book of Architecture (rev. Colen Campbell, 1728), Fabbriche Antiche Disegnata da Andrea Palladio (published by Lord Burlington, c. 1730), Isaac Ware’s Designs of Inigo Jones and others (1731) and The Plans, Elevations and Sections, Chimney Pieces and Ceilings of Houghton in Norfolk (1735), Charles Labelye’s A Short Account of the Methods Made Use of in Laying the Foundation of the Piers of Westminster-Bridge (1739), Stephen Riou’s The Elements of Fortification (1746), James Gibbs’s Bibliotheca Radcliviana (1747), John Wood’s An Essay towards a Description of Bath (rev. edn, 1749) and A Dissertation upon the Orders of Columns (1750), Francis Price’s A Series of Particular and Useful Observations, Made with great Diligence and Care, upon that Admirable Structure, The Cathedral-Church of Salisbury (1753), Robert Wood’s The Ruins of Palmyra (1753) and The Ruins of Balbec (1757), Isaac Ware’s A Complete Body of Architecture (1755–57), William Chambers’s Designs of Chinese Buildings (1757) and A Treatise on Civil Architecture (1759), and James Stuart and Nicholas Revett’s The Antiquities of Athens (1762).

Figure 2 Paul Fourdrinier Blog

Paul Fourdrinier after William Chambers, Plate IV from Designs of Chinese Buildings, London, 1757. British Library 56.i.7. Noc

These publications encompass a tremendous range of building types and architectural styles, and in each one Fourdrinier’s exceptional talents were fundamental to the success of the project. Outstanding precision of line was required, and specific graphic conventions were deployed for depth: key tonal differentiations which represented the surfaces of elevations include ‘plain white for smooth ashlar in sunlight; flecks for rough-dressed stone in sunlight; horizontal hatching for half-shading of ashlar; cross-hatching for voids; diagonal cross-hatching for cast shadows, &c’ (Mark J. Millard, 361).

Figure 3 Paul Fourdrinier Blog
Isaac Ware drew this section of Houghton Hall and it was subsequently engraved by Fourdrinier. (Isaac Ware, ‘Transverse Section, Houghton Hall, Norfolk’, 1735. Metropolitan Museum of Art, Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1925.)

Fourdrinier’s reputation for exquisite architectural plates was such that his involvement in a project became part of its commercial appeal. His contributions were regularly highlighted in the advertisements for the different numbers of Ware’s A Complete Body of Architecture. In an advertisement published on 25 August 1756, the Gazetteer and London Daily Advertiser reported that the upcoming number not only included two of Fourdrinier’s plates, but that his work would be standard: ‘The Publick may depend that all the Plates of this Work, will for the future, be executed in the same masterly Manner.’ Today, the masterly details of Fourdrinier’s plates speak for themselves.

Jocelyn Anderson
Courtauld Institute of Art

Further reading:
Eileen Harris and Nicholas Savage, British Architectural Books and Writers, 1556 – 1785, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990.
The Mark J. Millard Architectural Collection, Volume II: British Books Seventeenth through Nineteenth Centuries, Washington: National Gallery of Art, 1998.
‘Vertue’s Note Book B.4 [British Museum Add. MS. 23,079]’, The Volume of the Walpole Society 22 (1933): 87 – 142.

For more from Dr Jocelyn Anderson see our new topography visual art resource Picturing Places -
The Gardens at Kew
18th-century country house guidebooks: tools for interpretation and souvenirs 
Country houses and The Copper Plate Magazine 

 

27 June 2017

A botanical excursion in Wales

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On Sunday 27 June 1773 at Chepstow, a party of botanists were clambering about ‘on the Steep nacked Bank by the Side of the Wye not far from the Castle’, hunting for plants.  The species identified included wild cabbage (Brassica maritima) on Chepstow Castle, madder (Rubria tinctoria) and stonecrop (Sedum rupestre) “upon the Rocks on both Sides of the Wye above and below the Bridge at Chepstow”, and the bee orchid (Ophrys apifera) on the river bank.  They may have been too intent on their botanising to notice that two other members of their party were getting stuck in the mud of the tidal river. The artist Paul Sandby recorded this mishap in his 1775 aquatint, Chepstow Castle in Monmouthshire.

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Paul Sandby, Chepstow Castle in Monmouthshire  British Library K.Top.31.6.f. Noc

This expedition took place between 25 June and 16 August 1773.  The members of the party were Sir Joseph Banks, Dr Daniel Solander, Reverend John Lightfoot, The Hon. Charles Greville, Paul Sandby, and possibly also the Swiss geologist and meteorologist Jean Andre de Luc. The itinerary, recorded in Lightfoot’s journal, covered much of the coast of South Wales from Chepstow to Milford Haven and St David’s.  The purpose of the expedition was primarily botanical but there were also artistic aims. 

Sandby had made a tour of North Wales in 1771 and his subsequent enthusiasm for Welsh scenery must have been well known to his friends. While the scientists explored the vegetation, Sandby was taking views of the many castles along the Pembrokeshire coast. They were at St Quintins on 5 July where Sandby sketched the Castle gatehouse and the botanists found mint, Mentha longifolia, “by the Mill going to St. Quintins Castle a mile from Cowbridge, and in a wet marshy meadow on the left going to the Mill, found Ranunculus lingua” or Greater Spearwort.

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Paul Sandby, St Quintins Castle British Library K. Top.47.50.b .Noc

The party was at St Donat’s on 6 July. While Sandby drew the landscape and castle, the botanists were exploring the cliffs, caves, and crevices at nearby Nash Point where they found the ferns Asplenium marinum and  Adianthum capillus veneris “upon Nash Point facing the Sea, several Patches of it, but upon very high inaccessible places”.

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Paul Sandby, North West View of Saint Donat's Castle British Library K.Top.47.43.b. Noc

Sandby depicted the view up the Neath River on Wednesday 7 July while the scientists were making a new botanical discovery for the county of Cheiranthus sinuatus or Sea Stock “a quarter of a mile before you come to Breton Ferry, on a Sandy Bank, on the right-hand side by the Road Side from Bridge End”.

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Paul Sandby,View up the Neath River from the house at Briton Ferry British Library K.Top.47.46.c. Noc

This expedition had an unexpected outcome for Sandby’s career.  Later the same year, Banks was approached by the artist P. P. Burdett who wished to interest the scientist in his ‘secret’ printmaking technique as a way to reproduce Banks’s collections from his voyage with Captain Cook.  Banks did not take up this offer, but Greville subsequently paid Burdett £40 for the description and passed it on to Sandby.  This was the technique Sandby developed and named aquatint, and his first set of prints, published in 1775, was of the views in South Wales taken during the summer tour; the set was dedicated to his companions, Banks and Greville.

Ann Gunn
Lecturer in Museum and Gallery Studies, University of St Andrews

Further reading:
A transcript of Lightfoot’s  journal is in the Natural History Museum and it was published in 1905 by H. J. Riddelsdell, ‘Lightfoot’s visit to Wales in 1773’, Journal of Botany, British and Foreign, 43 (1905), 290-307
Gunn, A. V., The Prints of Paul Sandby (1731-1809): a Catalogue Raisonné , 2015 Turnhout: Brepols / Harvey Miller

 

22 June 2017

The King’s Architect and the ‘Architect King’

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n 1757 the Swedish-born Scot, William Chambers (1723–1796) was appointed as architectural tutor to the future king, George III. Chambers’ job was to teach the young heir the principles of classical architecture, but together they also designed and built several real buildings too. The King’s Topographical Collection, assembled by George and later given to the nation, now resides at the British Library and includes views of a number of the buildings born out of their partnership, many of which can now be seen at Picturing Places, the British Library’s brand new online encyclopaedia of all things topographical.

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John Spyers’ view of Richmond Observatory. Maps K.Top.41.16.r. Noc

One of those views is featured in my article about the little-known draughtsman, John Spyers. For 20 years Spyers worked for the most famous of all British gardeners, Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, before turning his hand to topographical art and selling two albums of his drawings to the Russian Empress Catherine the Great for a very large number of roubles. A handful of original views by Spyers are preserved in the King’s Topographical Collection. One shows the Royal Observatory in Richmond Gardens, which was designed by Chambers and completed in time for the King to observe the much-anticipated transit of Venus in 1769. While the view’s poorly-drawn sheep are clear evidence of Spyers’ authorship, the drawing was formerly unattributed until an exhibition and conference at Hampton Court Palace in 2016 drew attention to the overlooked draughtsman.

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Design for a Register for the Weather by James Adam. Maps K.Top.41.16.s. Noc

The Royal Observatory is one of the many buildings that illustrate George III’s fervent interests in science and the arts. Another related building is encountered in Peter Barber’s article on the Scottish architect, Robert Adam. Like the Observatory, the design for a weather register by Robert’s partner and brother James was also intended for Richmond. But although it is undoubtedly very elegant, for unknown reasons it was never built – probably to the delight of William Chambers as Robert Adam was one of his great rivals, even though they shared the title of ‘Joint Architect to the King’.

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The Great Pagoda, from Chambers’ Plans, Elevations, Sections…56.i.3 Noc

Adam never completed any major works for the King, whereas Chambers was far more successful in this respect. The majority of his private royal commissions appeared at Richmond’s neighbour, Kew Gardens, between 1760 and 1763. (The present-day Kew Gardens encompasses both parts of the royal estate, although at the time the two gardens were separated by a thoroughfare known as ‘Love’s Lane’.) Chambers designed and built more than 20 follies and seats in a multitude of styles to ornament the gardens – a ‘Turkish’ Mosque, a ‘Moorish’ Alhambra, a ‘Chinese’ Pagoda and a ‘Gothic’ Temple among them. The full story is told in Jocelyn Anderson’s article, which looks at Chambers’ publication, Plans, Elevations, Sections and Perspective Views of the Gardens and Buildings at Kew in Surry (1763). George III’s own copy of this book is today owned by the British Library.

Drysdale PagodaScaff1_2017
Restoration of the Great Pagoda begins… © Historic Royal Palaces

The Great Pagoda in Kew Gardens is currently being restored by Historic Royal Palaces, who are returning the building to its original appearance complete with 80 glowering dragons. The restored building will be open to the public from mid-2018. In much the same way Picturing Places brings into the open hundreds of items from George III’s personal collection of topographical art, with both projects offering further insights into the tastes and patronage of this fascinating and cultured monarch.

Tom Drysdale
Archivist (Curators' Team), Historic Royal Palaces

 

20 May 2017

Constable’s English Landscape

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On 20 May 1832 John Constable was at home in Hampstead drafting an introduction to English Landscape, a set of mezzotints after his own views.  Constable was writing at a time when ‘topographical’ art had become seen as a lesser form of landscape. The draft shows Constable struggling with how to express his aim of lauding “the Genuine Scenes of England” as “the vehicle of General Landscape”, “part of the legitimate art of the country”.

English Landscape C12694-01

British Library Walter Thornbury’s Life of Turner Tab. 438.a.1, Vol. X p.38

 

English Landscape

Rura mihi, et rigui placeant in vallibus amnes,
Flumina amen, sylvasque, inglorious.

This little work being at length compleated it is not without great anxiety that it is offered to the notice of the world - perhaps the very flattering manner in which it has been received by the profession and other intelligent persons cannot have failed both to promote and influence its publication.

The leading object in the production of these Landscape specimins subjects of Landscape - is to help and promote the love of English Scenery and to mark in nature the powerfull influence and endless changes of the “Chiaro scuro” to promote moreover that endeavour.

Another object of this work is to promote that happy union of the study of nature in the fields with the contemplation of works of art at home.

Respiciens rura – laremque suum Ovid

Neither can be effective alone – there can be no reason why the Genuine Scenes of England – repleat with all powerful associations and endearments –  with per this perhaps – their amenity – should not be made the Vehicle of General Landscape – be embodied with its principals – and become part of the legitimate art of the country – the art so pursued could not fail of becoming original & characteristic and what it is the endeavour of this work to promote notwithstanding the hazard of its present disadvantage.

In an age and country so abounding with great examplars – both of living and departed excellence genius. it will follow the imitator or at best and their consequent attendant conoursurship – it must follow that imitative merit or at best that excellence which is eclectic will be the least disputed – and more redily received than that with which the world is as yet unacquainted – but those species of merit would be neither congenial with the spirit, nor at all according the principals which it is the endeavour of this work to display.

Three other drafts of this introduction are held by the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. They were donated in 1953 by Constable scholar R.B.Beckett.
“The most interesting [of the papers I am offering], to my mind, are the draft introductions to English Landscape. In his first draft Constable was going beyond his immediate purpose of explaining the mezzotints and was seeking to put into words the battle, so to speak, which he had been fighting all his life – that of setting landscape, and particularly English Landscape, on its own feet. There is something pathetic in his painful & cumbrous efforts to express himself: an exact parallel with the difficulties he found in his early attempts at drawing, which did not come naturally to him: or you may draw another parallel between his rapid sketches and short satirical remarks on the one hand, his attempts at ‘finishing’ and elaborating in paint or in words, on the other.”

Felicity Myrone
Lead Curator, Western Prints & Drawings

See more about topography and Constable - Draft introduction to English Landscape

Further reading:
Various Subjects of Landscape, Characteristic of English Scenery, from Pictures Painted by John Constable, R.A., Engraved by David Lucas, a set of mezzotints known as English Landscape.  The British Library holds Constable’s draft in an extra-illustrated copy of Walter Thornbury’s Life of Turner, Tab. 438.a.1. English Landscape was issued in parts from June 1830 to July 1832, with an introduction dated 28 May 1832 included in the July instalment.

Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, draft introductions - MS 38-1953, which is not dated or addressed; MS 39-1953, dated May 1832; and MS 40-1953, dated 28 May 1832.

Felicity Myrone, ‘Introductions to Constable's English Landscape’, Print Quarterly, 24 (September 2007), 273-77.