Landscape: A Picture of Britain



Paintings such as Turner’s Vale of Heathfield and Vale of Ashburnham (1816)
show qualities of Italian art. They were made for being reproduced as engravings in tour books of Britain. Another example, is Turner’s Chain Pier, Brighton,
from Picturesque Views of the Southern Coast of England, 1826.
Rowlandson also painted views of Britain, such as Vale of Langothlen, North Wales, 1799.
Who was buying these paintings and engravings? There were more and more urban dwellers buying packaged versions of the English landscape. As the industrial revolution developed there was a new social class of the new rich who were looking for something different from landscapes consisting of the country estates of the aristocracy.
Ruskin’s parents for example were sherry importers, had money and had the time to tour Britain. The middle classes create their own images that were different from the landed aristocracy. The landed aristocracy had a bad press and were associated with the French aristocracy.

Links to Rowlandson – Dr. Syntax prints

Rowlandson, An Artists Travelling Wales, 1797 is a caricature of the typical artists. The picture breaks all the rules with a light middle ground, a precipice and poor people that look poor (a different image from the above).
Wide open vistas were thought to reflect the spirit of liberty in England, known as “sweet liberty”. It was associated with English landscapes and landscapes designed by Capability Brown with open vista, informality, wilderness, curves and hidden lakes as opposed to French formal gardens with straight lines and fountains. They were known as Jardin Anglais and were ironically popular in France, particularly with Marie Antoinette.


Joseph Wright of Derby, Sir Brooke Boothby (exhibited 1781), from the Tate site – “Sir Brooke Boothby was a widely-travelled Derbyshire landowner and a member of the Lichfield literary circle. He is shown here lying by a stream, or ‘brook’, in his native Derbyshire, holding a copy of Rousseau Juge de Jean-Jacques which he had recently edited. Boothby’s devotion to the revolutionary ideas of his friend, the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, made him a lover of nature. Wright shows him as the Rousseau-esque ‘man of feeling’ communing with the natural world. He was a founder-member of the Lichfield Botanical Society and rests among burdock leaves.” “Sight as a civic virtue”, see Barrell.


The Haywain, Constable, 1824, recessional layers, timelessness (England always had and always will look this way). It must be remembered that because of the revolution in France (1789) and America (1775-1783) the threat of revolution in England was very real and imminent. A stuck cart has been described as a metaphor for the issues of revolution.
Transporting goods. The Haywain was not well regarded at the Royal Academy but was bought by the French State. Constable’s images became the epitome of Englishness by the end of the nineteenth century but were already regarded this way by High Victorian England and this view was promoted by his biographer Leslie and by Constable himself during his lifetime. We finally bought the Haywain back from the French.

The Cornfield, Constable, 1826. The boy has been suggested to be Constable as a boy. The flock is kept in order by the dog, representing faithfulness but also order and control. The gate is off its hinges which is a situation a farmer would not allow as the flock could then enter the corn. Constable would have known this but intentionally repainted the gate to be even older, he described the painting as “eye salve”.


Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows, 1831.

England (concept) = England (geography)
Country the countryside (not cities or factories, perhaps surprisingly as England was then the most advanced nation on earth. A good description of the English country church yard can be found at the end of Dicken’s Oliver twist.

Identity and Threat

turner_battle_of_trafalgar_1823
Turner, Battle of Trafalgar, October 21st 1805, 1823
Ship frame the picture, it gets darker down the painting. Atmospheric smoke wreaths the ships. The ship middle left is Nelson’s Victory with the French ship that attacked it, Redoubtable to its left. Next left is the Temeraire (renamed after the battle the Fighting Temeraire), the ship that came to Victory’s rescue. At the bottom of the picture we see the Spanish and French in the water and British naval officers coming to their rescue, an event that actually happened the next day.


In Turner’s painting of the same scene, Battle of Trafalgar, 1805 (painted 1823) we see an unusual image. He was criticized for paitning the rigging incorrectly, for showing too much suffering and for showing the French in the foreground. It shows the whole battle in one scene so it is a history painting of the event in general rather than specific reportage. It is not the type of composition we are used to as Victory is showing as an enormous slab, side on. The signal “England expects every man to do his duty” is in the rigging but was pulled down before battle commenced. Nelson changed into full dress uniform and kept it on which was unusual because he normally changed again into a drad uniform when battle started.


Clarkson Frederick Stanfield (1793-1867), Sketch for `The Battle of Trafalgar, and the Victory of Lord Nelson over the Combined French and Spanish Fleets, October 21, 1805′, painted in 1833. There is a sense of the battle coming to an end, a forlorn feeling. A horizontal seascape is difficult to reprresent.


De Loutherbourg, The Battle of Camperdown, 1799.


Turner’s The Field of Waterloo, 1818 is as anti-war as you could get and still be hung at the Royal Academy. It had a quote from Lord Byron’s appended. It is an apocalyptic view painted in 1818 and representing the Battle of Waterloo. It is not a heroic scene.

Turner also painted a view of Italy representing Byron’s Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage.


Turner’s War, The Exile and the Rock Limpet exhibited 1842


Turner, Ploughing up Turnips, near Slough, 1809.

Turner Bridport, 1811.
Ropes were produced at Bridport.

Turner Leeds, 1816. After the war was self-sufficiency. This was painted for a History of Leeds commissioned by Leeds City Council.

Joseph Wright of Derby, Joseph Arkwright’s Cotton Mill by Night, famous as the first to be artificially lit so work could continue at night.

Cotman Bedlam Furnace.

Constable, Boatbuilding Near Flatford Mill, 1815.
Nationalism and Englishness. “I was born to paint England.” The epitome of Englishness. Constable country. Needed to find an image that united the nation from the aristocracy to the poor. Aristocrats often had more in common with the French aristocracy. Land ownership signifies wealth. Loutherbourg was Swiss. Turner, Crossing the Brook, is actually Tamer Valley but looks Italian. Canals linked the country and carried all the heavy goods.

Englishness – a fascination with the weather. English colours are cooler than Italian. Turner influenced Delacroix in 1824. A generalised image, not a specific image. it doesn’t show the disenfranchised workers, but certainly shows Englishness. It was not until the 1830s that Constable started to be associated with Englishness (see Athenaeum Magazine). Biography written by Leslie portrays him as English and deeply patriotic. This is the only painting we are sure he painted outside to catch the light. here was one other he may have painted outside. He used to to help him paint in his studio. He did not include industry around the boat. Does it work? It is incredibly foreshortened, like a marrow.
There is an issue of how he uses figures, the worker’s face is simply drawn with a single brushstroke.

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