city at night

city at night

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Moving on to Britain

My recent blog entries on the Cleveland Museum of Art have concentrated on art from France.  Indeed, from the time of Louis XVI onward, France was Europe's trendsetter.  But that is not to say that nothing was going on elsewhere in the world of art.  Britain was becoming a major world power and eventually surpassed France.  There was growing demand not only from the aristocracy but also from the growing merchant class for art.

We will now turn to museum's gallery of British art from the 17th through the 19th centuries.

The wealthy all wanted portraits of themselves or of their family, and there were a number of distinguished British portraitists.

Thomas Lawrence did this painting of Catherine Grey in 1794.  She was an Irish-born poet and the wife of politician Lord William Manners.  She rejected the portrait, saying that it was unflattering, and the painting remained unsold in the aritist's studio until his death.  It was eventually acquired by John D. Rockefeller Jr., and he bequeathed the painting to the Cleveland Museum of Art.


Lawrence also did this portrait of Charlotte and Sarah Carteret-Hardy in the early 1800s.  Although his work was much in demand, he was notoriously slow.  It took him five years to complete this painting.

Even more famous was Thomas Gainsborough.  In 1769 he did this portrait of George Pitt.  Pitt looks every inch the English gentleman, although in real life he was infamous for his debauchery and abuse of his wife.

Gainsborough also did this portrait of Mary Wise in 1774.  I have a branch of English ancestors with the last name of Wise.  Could she be a relative of mine?  Doubtful.  My English ancestors were all farm laborers.

Gainsborough Dupont was the nephew and apprentice to the famous painter.  He eventually opened his own successful studio, and at times it is difficult to distinguish the works of the two.  This portrait of Mary Anne Jolliffe was done in 1788

A third famous name in English portraiture is that of Sir Joshua Reynolds.  Reynolds was the founder and first president of the Royal Academy of the Arts.  He is well known for his pictures of children.  This portrait of the Ladies Amabel and Mary Jemima Yorke was done in 1761.

The most famous English landscape artist was John Constable.  He was an amateur meteorologist, and in his paintings he carefully portrayed cloud formations and weather conditions.  This view of Branch Hill Pond was painted in 1828.

Henry Bone was an enamel artist, and he created this work... enamel on copper... which is an exact reproduction of a painting by Titian, "Bacchus and Ariadne".  The picture took three years to complete.  It was a laborious process in which each addition of color had to be fired in a kiln at a different temperature.

William Blake was a poet and artist and a precursor of Romanticism.  His work was mystical and otherworldly, and he was viewed as a madman by many.  Long after his death he came to be appreciated as an important figure in British literature and art.  This tempera painting of St. Matthew was done in 1799.

William Linnell was a popular painter during the Victorian Era.  This large canvas, "Noah - Eve of the Deluge" was painted in 1848 and was purchased for 1000 pounds (a considerable amount in those days) by a wealthy industrialist. 

Decades later, Victorian paintings had fallen out of style, and this work sold at auction for only 130 pounds.
Linnell is also remembered for having supported the destitute and elderly William Blake.

The crown jewel of the museum's British collection is this work by the Romantic painter J.M.W. Turner.  "The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons" was done in 1835, and is a depiction of an event that occurred the year before.

Turner often portrayed the destructive force of nature, and here his atmospheric effects border on abstraction.  Turner's works later exerted a powerful influence on the French Impressionists.

On our next visit to the Cleveland Museum of Art we will see what was going on in the British colonies across the pond.

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