Britain is a nation of romantics. From our obsessive fascination with THAT scene in “Gone With The Wind”, to our long upheld tradition of ‘saying it with flowers’, we are known as one of the most creatively expressive nations in the world.
Romanticism also extends to our love for art – more specifically, artists whom convey mood, expression and nostalgia through landscape paintings.
The 18th Century masters, John Constable and William Turner, are two of our most iconic Romantics. Famed for going against the grain of religious depictions and sombre commemorations popular during the 18th-19th Centuries, Constable and Turner sought the beauty of unknown rural spots in England to convey the charm that could be found on our own doorstep. Thomas Gainsborough (a portrait painter by trade) achieved little recognition in life, yet became as eminent as his 18th Century counterparts for ethereal projections of the English countryside. The Romantics largely paved the way for contemporary landscape art as we see it today. Nearly all British artists seek to retain that classical balance of light and wilderness, whether or not modern abstraction features in such works. Enjoy our selection of some of the most revered landscape works exhibited around the UK today.
Chichester Canal (c. 1828) – By J. M. W. Turner
Bequeathed to the nation in 1857, the “Chichester Canal” is regarded one of the most spectacular of all Turner’s works. Commissioned by George Wyndham, 3rd Earl of Egremont, it is thought the painting’s ambient sunset hues were inspired by the atmospheric effects of the Mount Tambora volcanic eruption in Indonesia, around April 1815. The occurrence led to 1815 being dubbed the “Year Without Summer” for many years afterwards. Turner’s impression of this East-facing vista down Chichester Canal is believed to be the very same view he saw from the windows of Petworth Manor, West Sussex.
Turner’s colourful representation now hangs alongside a vast collection of his work within the Tate Gallery, London.
The Haywain (1821) – By John Constable
A leader of the Romanticists during the 18th Century art revolution, John Constable is best known for his classical portrayals of rural landscapes and village life, capturing scenes as they happened. Much of his work centres around the ribbons of greenery either side of the River Stour, Suffolk – where Constable lived for most of his life. The Haywain typifies life at Flatford Mill on the River Stour, as it would have looked in 1821. The diminutive cottage to the left belonged to Willy Lott, farmer and owner of the surrounding lands.
Today, “The Haywain” takes pride of place among several notable Constable works, at the National Gallery, London.
Yorkshire Landscape (1997) – By David Hockney
During the 1960’s, Yorkshire-born David Hockney set the world alight with his unique blend of “pop art” and photo-collage. His style remains unmellowed – although a little more sympathetic to his natural surroundings at Bridlington, Yorkshire. Created in 1997, the oil on canvas known simply as “Yorkshire Landscape” is regarded one of Hockney’s finest recent works. The area is thought to be within the East of Yorkshire, possibly near the Warter Priory Estate.
This painting features as one in a series of five executions by the acclaimed David Hockney, which can now be viewed within the Tate Britain Gallery, Millbank, London.
An Autumn Lane (1886) – By John Atkinson Grimshaw
A lone woman walking home along a Yorkshire lane, in the fading light of Autumn. Perhaps she is returning from a toiling day at market, or visiting a friend within the walls of that opulent mansion. John Atkinson Grimshaw was an adept Victorian visionary, famed for capturing the stunning hues of natural light within his paintings – usually dawn and dusk. Atkinson Grimshaw’s works almost always feature a misty haze in the distance – possibly exemplary of his desire to convey a softer side to the suburbias of London and Yorkshire, during a period of great industrial revolution.
Autumn Lane was sold in 2007 via Christies Auctioneers at the Rockefeller Plaza, New York. No details of the buyer were ever disclosed.
Lincoln Cathedral (1794) – By Thomas Girtin
A lifelong friend to the enigmatic J. M. W Turner; Thomas Girtin is now recognized in his own right, for influencing the social acceptance of watercolour painting during the 1800’s. He is best known for his love of painting architecture – particularly ruinous or darkly mythical structures such as Bamburgh Castle, Scotland. Lincoln Cathedral, completed in 1794 is far less bold and linear than his later efforts – his subsequent experimentalism with watercolour, pastels and varnishes producing some of his most defining works.
Lincoln Cathedral now hangs alongside other outstanding efforts by the artist at Tate Britain, London.
View of Windsor Terrace Looking Westward (c. 1765) By Paul Sandby
Often referred to as the “father of modern watercolour landscape painting”, Paul Sandby’s work is exceptionally detailed, to the extent many compare them to photography. This watercolour of Windsor Castle from the North West aspect is a prime example, particularly along the battlements and within the foreground. Sandby is well known for capturing lighthearted scenes, depicting families and social gatherings amid some of the most beautiful rural and regal areas of England.
Meadow (1875) – By Alfred Sisley
A spirited meadow on a hot summer’s day, brought to life by delicate poppies and wildflowers among the swaying grasses. Regardless of his subject, Alfred Sisley’s works are always poetic and “Meadow” is arguably one of his finest oil on canvas landscape examples. Sisley was inspired by the beauty of French architecture and nobility, yet there is something so delicate and English about this meadow, it could well have been based upon an English vista.