Exhibition | Richard Wilson

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on March 5, 2014

To mark the opening of Richard Wilson and the Transformation of European Landscape Painting, curators Robin Simon and Martin Postle will be in New Haven this evening (5:30, Wednesday, 5 March 2014) for a session entitled “Putting Wilson on the Spot: Landscape, Art, and Location.” Exhibition press release from the YCBA:

Richard Wilson and the Transformation of European Landscape Painting
Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 6 March — 1 June 2014
National Museum Cardiff, 5 July — 26 October 2014

Curated by Robin Simon and Martin Postle

cropped to image, recto, unframed

Richard Wilson, Dinas Bran from Llangollen, 1770–71, oil on canvas,
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

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This spring, the Yale Center for British Art presents the first major exhibition in more than thirty years devoted to Welsh painter Richard Wilson (1714–1782), considered by many to be the father of British landscape painting. Richard Wilson and the Transformation of European Landscape Painting, opening on March 6, 2014, will demonstrate the extent of Wilson’s influence throughout Europe and explore his work in its international context. The exhibition will focus on the nearly seven years he spent working in Rome in the 1750s, a transformational period for Wilson and for European landscape art.

The exhibition will feature many of Wilson’s greatest paintings and drawings alongside works by European masters who preceded Wilson, contemporaries whose practice directly influenced his, and artists who were in turn taught or influenced by him. Other artists in the exhibition will include the old masters Claude Lorrain and Gaspard Dughet, as well as many of Wilson’s contemporaries such as Claude-Joseph Vernet, Pompeo Batoni, and Anton Raphael Mengs. Also presented will be works by many of Wilson’s pupils and followers, including the little-known artists Robert Crone and Adolf Friedrich Harper—both of whom studied with Wilson in Italy, as well as major figures such as John Constable and J. M. W. Turner.

As part of a cosmopolitan group of artists in Rome, Wilson pioneered a serious and powerfully original approach to landscape that reflected the nascent neoclassicism being advanced by his friends Anton Raphael Mengs and Johann Winckelmann. Wilson’s pupils in Rome transmitted his style across northern Europe. Setting up in London after his Italian sojourn, he established a large and successful studio and gained a European reputation with grand historical landscapes—such as The Destruction of the Children of Niobe (1760)—which were featured at the new public art exhibitions in London and widely disseminated through popular engravings. His treatment of British landscapes, particularly of his native Wales, borrowed their conceptual framework from the paintings of the seventeenth-century masters Claude Lorrain and Gaspard Dughet, but with a specificity of lighting conditions and weather that was an enduring legacy to the British landscape school.

Wilson’s great success during the 1760s slipped away in the following decade, as there was less demand for his work and his health deteriorated. By the time of his death he was largely forgotten. However, within a few years his critical reputation began to revive, and by the early nineteenth century he was celebrated as a pioneering figure of the British school. His innovations in landscape painting were crucial to the development of the genre during the romantic period, which saw its greatest expression in the work of J. M. W. Turner and John Constable, both profound admirers of Wilson.

This is the first exhibition the Center has co-organized with Amgueddfa Cymru– National Museum Wales. The exhibition has been co-curated by Robin Simon, Honorary Professor of English, University College London, and Editor, The British Art Journal, and Martin Postle, Deputy Director of Studies, The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, London. The organizing curator at the Center is Scott Wilcox, Chief Curator of Art Collections and Senior Curator of Prints and Drawings; and, at Amgueddfa Cymru–National Museum Wales, Oliver Fairclough, Keeper of Art.

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From Yale UP:

Martin Postle and Robin Simon, eds., with contributions by Steffen Eggle, Oliver Fairclough, Jason Kelly, Ana María Suárez Huerta, Lars Kokkonen, Kate Lowry, Paul Spencer-Longhurst, Jonathan Yarker, Scott Wilcox, and Rosie Ibbotson. Richard Wilson and the Transformation of European Landscape Painting (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014), 416 pages, ISBN: 978-0300203851 $80.

719zjikDWQLLong known as the father of British landscape painting, Richard Wilson (1713–1782) was in fact at the heart of a profound conceptual shift in European landscape art.  This magnificently illustrated volume not only situates Wilson’s art at the beginning of a native tradition that would lead to John Constable and J. M. W. Turner, but compellingly argues that in Rome during the 1750s Wilson was part of an international group of artists who reshaped the art of Europe. Rooted in the work of great seventeenth-century masters such as Claude Lorrain but responding to the early stirrings of neoclassicism, Wilson forged a highly original landscape vision that through the example of his own works and the tutelage of his pupils in Rome and later in London would establish itself throughout northern Europe.

Martin Postle is assistant director of the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art. Robin Simon is honorary professor of English at University College
London, and editor of The British Art Journal.

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