Exhibition | British Art: Ancient Landscapes

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on March 30, 2017

Opening next month at The Salisbury Museum:

British Art: Ancient Landscapes
The Salisbury Museum, 8 April — 3 September 2017

Curated by Sam Smiles

J.M.W. Turner, Stonehenge, ca. 1827–28, watercolour (The Salisbury Museum).

The British landscape has been a continual inspiration to artists across the centuries and particularly the landscapes shaped and marked by our distant ancestors. The megaliths, stone circles, and chalk-cut hill figures that survive from Neolithic and Bronze Age times have stimulated many artists to make a response. In this major new exhibition curated by Professor Sam Smiles, these unique artistic responses have been brought together to create a new discussion. Featuring the work of some of the greatest names in British art from the last 250 years—including John Constable, J.M.W. Turner, Eric Ravilious, John Piper, Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore, Paul Nash, Richard Long, and Derek Jarman—the exhibition explores how this work records and reflects on some of Britain’s most treasured ancient landscapes.

The catalogue is published by Paul Holberton:

Sam Smiles, British Art: Ancient Landscapes (London: Paul Holberton Publishing, 2017), 120 pages, ISBN: 978 19113  00144, £25.

Published to accompany an exhibition at The Salisbury Museum and Art Gallery, this volume explores the most significant works of art engaged with prehistoric moments across Britain from the 18th century to the 21st. While some of the works in the earlier period may be familiar to readers—especially Turner and Constable’s famous watercolours of Stonehenge—the varied responses to British Antiquity since 1900 are much less well known and have never been grouped together.

The author aims to show the significance of antiquity for 20th-century artists, demonstrating how they responded to the observable features of prehistoric Britain and exploited their potential for imaginative re-interpretation. The classic phase of modernist interest in these sites and monuments was the 1930s, but a number of artists working after WWII developed this legacy or were stimulated to explore that landscape in new ways. Indeed, it continues to stimulate responses and the book concludes with an examination of works made within the last few years.

An introductory essay looks at the changing artistic approach to British prehistoric remains over the last 250 years, emphasizing the artistic significance of this body of work and examining the very different contexts that brought it into being. The cultural intersections between the prehistoric landscape, its representation by fine artists and the emergence of its most famous sites as familiar locations in public consciousness will also be examined. For example, engraved topographical illustrations from the 18th and 19th centuries and Shell advertising posters from the 20th century will be considered.

Artists represented include: J.M.W. Turner, John Constable, Thomas Hearne, William Blake, Samuel Prout, William Geller, Richard Tongue, Thomas Guest, John William Inchbold, George Shepherd, William Andrews Nesfield, Copley Fielding, Yoshijiro (Mokuchu) Urushibara, Alan Sorrell, Edward McKnight Kauffer, Frank Dobson, Paul Nash, Eric Ravilious, John Piper, Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, Ithell Colquhoun, Gertrude Hermes, Norman Stevens, Norman Ackroyd, Bill Brandt, Derek Jarman, Richard Long, Joe Tilson, David Inshaw and Jeremy Deller.

Sam Smiles is the author of The Image of Antiquity: Ancient Britain and the Romantic Imagination (1994), Flight and the Artistic Imagination (2012), and West Country to World’s End: The South West in the Tudor Age (2013).

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