Constable, Gainsborough, Turner and the Making of Landscape at the Royal Academy of Arts
Last year I completed a module on art of the 18th century, where we spent a lot of time looking at traditional English landscapes and the concept of the picturesque, the sublime and the beautiful. I have always been a huge fan of Turner, but this course allowed me to become more familiar with the other two English Romanticists. Hence why I felt I simply couldn’t miss the Royal Academy’s latest landscape show.
The exhibition concentrates on the development of landscape depiction, and examines the artistic influences on the work of Constable, Gainsborough and Turner. The show features 17th century engravings and mezzotints attributed to Claude Lorrain, Nicholas Poussin and Salvator Rosa, as well as work from the title artist’s contemporaries (think Richard Wilson and Thomas Smith of Derby).
Fans of landscape painting should be prepared for an in-depth visual study of landscape development and history, but should perhaps be aware that the show is not your typical painting blockbuster. Engravings are the key focus of the exhibition, but certain physical objects displayed throughout the exhibition space create a quirky and sentimental value to the show: Turner’s watercolour set, test paper and fishing rod, which went with him on every painting trip, were definite highlights for me, and formed a real artistic personality for Turner and allowed the visitor to imagine the artist at work for themselves.
This is a show for hardcore landscape lovers with a real passionate interest in the subject, and who, like the Royal Academy, wishes to see landscape transcend its status of an understated art form.