Landscape Now: Panel 7 – Exhibiting Landscape
Landscape Now: Panel 7 – Exhibiting Landscape

welcome back to this the final session
of papers before we have our concluding roundtable I’m Martina Droth. I’m
Deputy Director of Research, Exhibitions and Publications at the Yale Center for
British art or am also Curator of Sculpture and since this is the first
opportunity I’ve had to address the conference I hope you don’t mind but I’m
just going to take a moment to to say a few words and in particular I wanted to
extend my thanks since I haven’t had a chance to do so
to all of our speakers and our chairs for making this such a rich and
stimulating two days and of course we’re not finished yet we’ve got two more
papers and a panel to go but it’s been really great and I also want to thank
everybody here in the room for being so open and constructive in your comments
and so engaged with the conversations and I think we’ve really sort of
challenged everybody in the sense that we’ve brought together quite an eclectic
conference in a lot of ways and many different approaches but I think we’ve
found that there have been many unexpected commonalities and strands
that we’ve been able to bring out and I think it’s been a great way to find out
what we can learn from one another in our different fields I want to just come
back for just a moment about the three-way collaboration that underpins
this conference between us at the Yale Center for British art Paul Mellon
Centre in London of course and the Huntington and as Amy explained this is
part of a series of conferences on British art that we’ve undertaken and we
represent three very different institutions but we also share a lot of
common ground in that we all have a focus on British art we all have
collections and libraries and we all offer fellowships and we support
scholarship and collaborating together is a way of of bringing those things
together and giving them some leverage in a different way and I hope you know
for the benefit of everyone who’s participating to help bring about some
new kinds of networks and connections between people
I think it’s worth reiterating what Mark said yesterday and that we have taken on
some some big topics here and you could also say obvious topics landscape and
our first conference at the Huntington was on portraiture and I think he could
hardly pick two subjects that are more closely identified with with our
institutions and of course in in our case at the center with with with our
collections landscape and portraiture really at the heart of the heart of our
collections but of course as I hope you’ve gathered here that’s really been
the point it’s been the challenge for us to take on those subjects and to turn
them in a different way and to invite different kinds of perspectives on on
those subjects and also to open the door as it were to scholars who may or may
not think about themselves as being active in those fields or as being art
historians in that field but who have a lot to offer to thinking about those
subjects from from different vantage points and I think that’s been very much
in evidence here over these last two days and I want to say that that of
course and I hope this is very obvious this is not intended in any way to
define the field anew or even to claim that this is a state of the field as I
think it’s really I’ve been thinking about how to how to frame that for
myself in the last two days but I think in fact it’s really the opposite because
it asks the question what is the field and or what has the field become and to
look at the boundaries and hopefully to open them up and I really do think we’ve
we’ve done that so so thank you to everyone who’s been taking part I’m
really pleased to chair this session with Nick Alfrey and Greg Smith and
although the two papers may appear to have very little in common we put them
together for very particular reasons and firstly because they focus on landscape
painting that falls into this long eighteenth century period and also
because both of the papers in in very different ways focus on the history of
exhibitions and history of exhibitions is of course an area that was come up
only a little bit really in the last two days
but it is a field of inquiry that’s become increasingly important that
people have really drawn attention to as a as a kind of a new lens for us to
think about the reception of art and audiences the institutional frameworks
around art and the mediated and staged encounter with art so I’m going to
follow the pattern of all the other sessions I’ll introduce our speakers in
turn will save questions to the end we’re running a little bit behind but
we’ll try and catch up maybe by eating a little bit into the tea break so first
of all I’m thrilled to welcome Greg Smith who has published extensively on
the history of British watercolors and landscape art and I’m sure many of you
are very familiar with his work he’s been a curator at the Whitworth in
Manchester at the Design Museum in London and at the barber in Birmingham
and among the many exhibitions that he’s organized and curated was the thomas
curtin show at at the tate and he is now working on thomas curtain on the online
catalog of his drawings watercolors and prints and that’s part of a paul mellon
Center project and he has started his senior research fellowship at the center
and his paper is on Girtin and specifically the panorama of London
welcome thanks very much landscape now even more than the
fascinating and inspired choice of a company exhibition concrete today is a
daunting title for a conference contributor demanding at least some
thoughts on the current state of play however I’m very fortunate to go at the
end of two days of varied papers and stimulating discussion and I am
certainly wiser about the issue than I was when I wrote this paper a week ago
but even so the only thing I can say with some surety is that I do and given
that I actually don’t feel competent to talk about contemporary practice in
within a historical discourse the only thing I do feel totally confident to
talk about is to say that I now understand more about the visual culture
of landscape now than I did that say 20 years ago a very modest personal claim
but it comes with I think a bolder assertion mainly that I do so as the
result of what I take to be the most single important addition change to the
discipline of art history in that period namely the extraordinary impact the mass
digitization of text and images and more importantly with their associated search
facilities I offer the following account therefore of how my interpretation of
Thomas curtains London panorama has radically changed since I wrote about it
for the first time in 2002 as an example of how online research has revealed a
wealth of documentary material but cannot help but refine even challenged
our understanding of landscape art as part of the commercial world of
commodities and a public spectacle now looking back at my account of Goethe’s
panorama of London which opened in August 1802 it strikes me that although
I tried very hard to describe the project as a business venture as well as
an artistic endeavor the lack of documentation then combined with the
seductive visual qualities of the preparator works such as this meant that
I was happy to take the opinions Girtin’s contemporaries at face value
edward Edwards for instance claimed that uniquely Girtin’s panorama was quote
painted by himself and one reviewer talked of how the artist instead of
taking quote the common way of measuring and reducing the objects instead trusted
to his eye in other words I fell for the artists own publicity which promised
that this was in capital letters curtains great panorama of London or as
he subsequently turned it the IDA metropolis this was a learning nila jism
coin from Greek meaning the image of the capital and that’s a suitable way of
distinguishing his artistic project from the run-of-the-mill panorama now my eyes
were opened in spectacular fashion by to online discoveries neither of which I
could have predicted in the pre-digital age the first came in the form of an
advert of advertisement in the morning Chronicle dated the 15th of October
October 1801 which announced to be sold by private contracts a large picture
intended to form an exhibition upon the plan of the panorama representing a view
of London that is nine months before actually went on display and at a time
when no one would have thought to search for information about it using
traditional means by which I mean flicking through newspapers in the
library the crucial point follows the view it is
claimed quote exhibits the principal objects of beauty and the surrounding
country in a striking and picturesque point of view and is made quote from
drawings from drawings painted by mr. Thomas Girtin there followed an even
more unexpected discovery in the form of a wholly unsuspected Chancery law case
Girtin versus Gert in bill ananza plains a plaintiff Marianne Girtin that’s
Thomas Girtin’s widowed defendant John Girtin that’s the artists elder brother
dated to the 14th of May 1804 that is again 18 months after the artists death
and totally to be unexpected therefore the case brought by Marianne was that
she was entitled to the ink that subsidy accrued after his death and
John Girtin replied at length adding a detailed appendix which is what you can
see of all his expenses incurred on behalf of the deceased Thomas that’s in
the left column and the income shown in the right two columns both from the IDA
metropolis and the picturesque views in Paris the prince which he made in this
detail you can see John’s record of the loans that he made in September and
November 1801 quote to pay his men employed in painting the picture of
London that’s Thomas painting the picture of London and mounting 226
pounds sixteen shillings as well as the hundred and four pounds shillings he
also lent to Thomas on November 12th to go to Paris taking with him the finish
London panoramas in the document John Girtin goes on to describe how on returning from France, having failed to shows panoramas in Paris and having
worked through in the meantime the hundred pound loan Thomas agreed quote
should exhibit the set picture in London on the account of the said Thomas Girtin
and that he should receive the admission money from such exhibition and should
defray all the charges and the expenses in other words not only was Girton not
the author in the traditional sense of the I de metropolis but he relinquished
ultimate control over the project as well and if I was feeling a little bit
more provocative I might have changed my title the canvas on which the 360 degree
panorama was painted measuring 1944 square feet that’s 18 feet high and a
hundred and nine feet in circumference has long since been lost we are however
very fortunate in having in addition to the critical notices and reports of the
showing of the panorama five each of the two sets of seven preparatory drawings
that Girtin made I’ve laid them out as a strip showing the missing sections and
also they’re unequal sizes but it’s up to you to imagine them to form a circle
with the left and right images joining together
in the image of the mills the Albion Mills the first set of drawings are
highly detailed outlines and they were almost certainly made using an optical
device perhaps a frame fitted with a grid corresponding to that marked out on
the paper you can just about see the grid there and that is on a scale of one
square to each square foot of canvas knowing that the circular canvas was
produced by other artists or other assistants helps us to understand the
function of the drawings as a precise matrix for an assistant to follow their
first task would have been to mark up the grid on the circular canvas which
would have to be erected on an armature to complete the circle even as it was
being produced and then to transfer the detail drawings square by square this
was not a case of copying dirt in seven outline drawings each with their own
single point perspective but translate them into a convincing illusion and this
was Rick and this required a considerable amount of modification it’s
a skilled operation since every straight line on the drawing would appear curved
it just translated directly onto the canvas the Girton was not directly involved in
this process we probably should have worked out before the discovery of the
new documentation material because here in the foreground and it’s actually
impossible to see there is an instruction to an insistent saying omit
this vessel basically the painting of the monumental canvas itself was an
equally specialized task and there is some evidence from John Burton’s
accounts that it was entrusted to a professional scene painter or painters
in which case the function of the second set of drawings colored outlines without
the grid this time becomes much clearer they were a more general guide for a
specialist professional to follow laying out the drawings as here one can
appreciate the anomaly which I singly fail to notice in 2002 namely that
whilst the seven sections complete the 360 degrees vertically they never
actually account for more than half of the surface area of the canvas and often
much less if you can imagine that each of those drawings should be twice the
height to fill the available canvas I suspect that this is because if we think
of the drawings as models for others to follow
what is not shown in the watercolor might be presumed to be the
responsibility of Girton himself these included large areas of the river
complex sky effects and even a boxing match described by two reviewers as
playing a prominent role in the foreground but not included in any of
the drawings I also suspect it may be something to do with the fact that
Goethe actually didn’t know where he was going to show the panorama when it was
painted but I’ll come back to that issue and then the color drawings themselves
are quite sloppily produced lacking the detail needed for assistance alone to
produce the sort of convincing illusion and high finished praised in the
critical press now this is impossible to prove but I suspect that rapidly applied
washes of color equate to an instruction to assistance to block out the overall
colour structure and to fill in the broader details with Girton reserving
for himself the final touches as with many things the fact we don’t have the
panoramic canvas makes it absolutely impossible to prove the documentary
evidence that the lost panorama canvas was the result of a collaborative
endeavor with a complex division of Laver suggests that the interpretation
of dispatch in the production of these drawings but the suggestion that that is
evidence that they were colored on the spot in other words to capture the
natural effects of a Sun of storm etc breaking over London this suggestion I
suggest just doesn’t work within a collaborative process of production
the latter point might be construed as being typical of a example of the
endemic parochialism of watercolor studies but there is a bigger issue here
I think as part of my project to produce an online catalog of Thomas curtains
work I’m spending much of my time arguing that while some of his works
where indeed colored on the spot others were improvised from secondary
materials and to put it bluntly other encounters were met with nature with
simply just faked what I did not really fully appreciate appreciate in 2002 was
that the then pervasive no notion that landscape art of the period was allied
to an empirical scientific agenda something which we’ll discuss later
infected my own thinking about these particular works as well now in the
second half of my paper I want to look at the implications of another piece of
evidence provided by John Curtin Keene to establish his expense in conducting
the project on his brother’s behalf he recommended the weekly attendance
figures and they make for very sorry reading in the period from August until
the end of November and Thomas’s death when Mary Ann his widow took over the
running of the enterprise the income from the sale of tickets only amounted
to 101 pounds seven shillings that 2020 visitors paying their one shilling
admission giving in a weekly average of only 92 back in 2002 I relied upon the
testimony of the monthly magazine which stated quotes mr. curtains idle
metropolis is very well attended and I characterized the project at the time as
Girt and engaging with the increasingly sophisticated art market of the day
seeking to exploit the appeal of the latest popular spectacle the newly
invented 360-degree panorama however even a cursory look at John Curtin’s
figures reveal a chronically undercapitalized scheme but in business
terms at least was poorly thought through and even shambolic in its
prosecution Girton thus began the project with no idea
he might show his great monumental canvas and without the money also to pay
for its production this monumental canvas would require if
not the specialist building constructed for Robert and Henry Aston Barca which
shown on the left then all then instead a complex structure to adapt an existing
building thereby allowing visitors to enter the circular canvas from below and
view from the center of the canvas the view right shows the eventual home that
John secured for the Eider metropolis that’s wigglies rooms in spring gardens
neatly illustrating how it was unable to compete with the Barkers in terms of
scale but also how is essentially repeated their view you can see at the
top I hope that that’s a very similar view from the Albion Mills looking
across London to the very similar to that the viewpoints selected by gerdt in
the recent discover at least for me of another even larger contemporary
panorama of London from the south end of Blackfriars Bridge by naismith and
Cooper only underlines the unequal competition that faced Girton and Coe
still contemporary critics and writers characterized the idea de metropolis as
an artistic triumph producing a quote a most picturesque display and giving the
most quote a perfect idea of the sublime which amounted therefore to a
connoisseur panorama connoisseurs panorama in quotes however without the
evidence of the bottom line I missed in 2002 the contradiction of that latter
term the attendance figures compared with the 40,000 it has been suggested
visited the Barkers panoramas annually indicate indicate that there were just
not enough connoisseurs to return the profits on the project which sought to
distinguish itself from the run-of-the-mill panorama by pursuing a
fine art agenda now this was not just the case of the brothers misjudging the
market as completely misunderstanding the distinction between the successful
popular spectacle and the and ger teens much broader strategy as an artist
mainly the need for the modern landscape artists to restrict his appeal to a
select audience who might appreciate his claim to produce an elevated landscape
of sentiment and effect beyond the realm of the school of typography from which
he himself had emerged a return to this point later but now I want to look at
instead the documentation of what I called the bottom line of expense and
income and look specifically at how that has revealed some of the ways in which
the connoisseurs panorama of artful effects was at odds with the urban
panorama as the popular spectacle and how this might in turn suggest or amount
to a new iconography for the city now the fundamental problem with the
connoisseurs panorama of effects is one of visibility and legibility as one
French critic complained Curtin’s viewpoint may have been perfect
for quote the magnificent and famous and Paul’s
but the ancient buildings of Westminster can only be seen from a distance and
thus not entirely clearly indeed they are virtually unrecognizable and in the
opposite direction the other great focus of the historic fabric of the city and
its commercial power London Bridge the tower and the pool of London
well that was even more problematic as you can see in the right hand side the
Barkers when they produced their two panoramas from virtually the same
viewpoint as far as we can tell from the prints they published adopted an even
light which showed off the more distant historic sites to good and equal effect
but Goethe’s complex lighting which saw a broken sky in the south give way to an
impending storm to the north obscured many of the most important monuments
even more than their distance from the viewer required the problem of
legibility was compounded by the arbitrary ways in which the capital
sites composed or equally did not compose from the given viewpoint an
otherwise supportive writer in the monthly magazine addressed this issue
complaining what quote the two towers of westminster abbey appear in one mass
which destroys that lightness and air which constitutes a leading beauty in
the building adding that though from the point of
view in which it is taken it is probably a true representation a license surely
is allowed to paint us and wear picturesque effect can be produced a
trifling deviation would be overlooked or forgiven in the case of the Tower of
some Margaret’s Westminster at the block at the top there which you may or may
not be able to distinguish it is hopelessly entangled in the form of the
Abbey which in turn appears as a relatively undifferentiated mass the
point here is that it is precisely the unpick chorist random alignments that
the panorama inevitably generates which found echoes within curtains practice as
a landscape a landscape painter and which alone might have been understood
by the sophisticated connoisseur as a new way of depicting the city if we pull
back from the detail of section three to look at the foreground we see the first
of any number of examples of where Goethe’s viewpoint has resulted not only
in the marginalization of sites of topographical importance but actually a
radical reversal of the subject hierarchy whilst Westminster appears
insignificant and distorted in the distance the newly built Stanford
Terrace and the older domestic and industrial buildings of the upper ground
are lit up by bright sunlights the moon of a summers day indeed across the whole
of the monumental canvas many of the Capitals most important historical
buildings were dwarfed by modest domestic dwellings and Industry of
various degrees of moistness that’s a word again and again the play of light
randomly favors the quotidian over the important Wharf standout in comparison
with nearby courts of law and chimneys and towers rise above grand church
steeples a later panorama stir of London Thomas Horner began work at dawn because
only then might he see the capital before the smoke from the fires and the
manufacturers obscured the totality the all-inclusiveness of the image of the
city which was his concern here in section 4 in particular Goethe
the opposite approach exploiting the dramatic sublime potential of an iron
foundry at work the dense smoke which actually obscures Inigo Jones’s
banqueting house in the distance and reviewers certainly appreciated the
effect with one advising visitors to take notice of the smoke floating across
the picture from Lukens foundry whilst another praised the view as it quote
appears her a sort of misty medium arising from the fires of the forges
manufacturers but for visitors who were attracted by the promise in the ger
teens advertisements of a view of London’s premier monuments it is
debatable where they they whether whether they could have been satisfied
by the artist’s application of the key principle of the sublime they meet that
obscurity is a more effective way at conveying the immensity of the modern
city than the carefully careful enumeration of visual facts in the sort
of even light employed by the Barkers London Bridge and the tower were
particularly poorly served by Gerson’s viewpoints reduced to a distant blur as
a storm hits the city and the bridge is cut abruptly by the brightly lit facade
of the a blue Albion Mills curtains audience no doubt would have found
significance in in that in the way that the burnt-out industrial mill
commonly thought to be the victim of an arson attack by workers whose livelihood
it threatened actually occludes like them gone the wrong way No you know I’ve seen two missed out a
slide them sorry that’s the slide I want however the point is that however the
point is that Gert in like the modern photographer had to adopt or rather
accept the strict logic of the panoramic view which generates good angles for
some buildings and equally uncomprehensible ones for others cutting
into and occluding forms in highly arbitrary ways Curtin’s viewpoint from
the river end of the Albion place terrace that is opposite the albion
mills gave a very fine views and pause but in the opposite direction the view
was interrupted in a quite startling way the blank space in the outline drawing
which I’ve highlighted equates to the receding length of the roof and four
sets of chimneys and this cuts into an obscures part of the buildings in the
vicinity this is the Cross Keys coffeehouse and the rotunda at the Lee
Varian museum of natural curiosities the roof area was left blank in the drawing
because it would not have been possible to paint such closed objects in an
elusive manner on the canvas and it was almost certainly mocked up instead as a
three dimensional structure using real tiles and chimneys and that would have
taken up a large percentage of this section the Vista South from Albion Place
Terrace was not the most picturesque in London dominated by recently built
terraces following the opening a Blackfriars Bridge in 1769 and the
veritable forest of chimneys stretching into the distance
however the powerful perspective of the terraces that line great Surrey Street
mirroring the bold angle of Blackfriars Bridge opposite emphasizes the forward
march of the city’s development and there’s one critic noted the IDA
metropolis would therefore be of particular interest to the antiquary of
the future who quote would see what London was and marked the great
alterations that are about to take place the author was thinking of the changes
proposed for London Bridge but for other writers on Gerson’s view it was the
rapid expansion of the city into the quote surrounding country countryside
that arrested their attention London scene from an exalted situation claimed
another commands admiration equal to the astonishment of strangers in
perambulating the vast increasing extent of the metropolis and the sense of the
city’s growth receives powerful expression I suggest even in a drawing
of this section cutting through the 360 degrees that the IDA metropolis is a
bold diagonal linking the most recent bridge to spend span the times at
Blackfriars the Albion Mill the very epitome of
industrial progress of the day and the great Surrey road marking the extension
expansion of the city and tellingly it was only in these three sections that
Girton include the figures although he could not have planned it Curtin’s view
from the southeast end of the Blackfriars Bridge evoked the
development of the city in wholly positive terms in the Barkers view taken
from a few metres away the bridge draws people into the city with none other
dynamic sense of expansion and growth shown here finally I want to return
briefly to section 3 which contains both the most visit vivid and complex
representation of their heterogeneous mix of land-use in the capital and
illustrates also again the way the item Acropolis could begin to
capture at least something of the city in the influx the key here is the
contrast between the older picturesque buildings of broad wall in the
foreground and the newly built terrace in Stanford Street which cuts across the
last remnants of the tender grounds that’s the green area to the right of
the soon to disappear Lambeth cloth cloth manufacturers and I think you can
just about see some of the cloth laid out on on the green sward there goating
captures precisely the different features of the standard London Terrace
which following the 1774 building act saw a very unpick duress standardization
of construction designed to risk it to reduce the risk of fire the new three
three-story terraces of london stock brick and slate tiles with their mansard
roofs and dormers are divided by prom a prominent interior party wall which
stands proud above a key element of the act the windows too are recessed as part
of the efforts to improve improve fire safety and this feature can be deduced
from the slim shadows which appear around them curtains achievement here
was that he was able and confident enough to render through the use of lice
alone the utilitarian and the modern in a visually interesting way moreover just
enough evidence of the still predominantly rural character of Lambeth
in the form of distant windmills and mature trees remain to complete the
pattern of a complex and contrite repeat the pattern of complexity and contract
on contrast seen across the panorama as a whole of the old and the new the urban
and the rural the domestic and the industrial got into relatively low view
points from another nearby London Terrace means that to appreciate the way
that a new building in Stanford Street was even as the item at replace was
opening hastened the loss of the tender grounds and the market grounds beyond to
a wave a speculative building to understand this we actually must turn to
Thomas hor woods great London map of 1799 and the sheet which correspond
and corresponds to the area shown in section 3 not least because it allows me
to return to my opening point as with the rapid expansion of searchable text
the digitization of the extraordinary rich topographical collections of the
British Museum the British Library the London Metropolitan archives etc played
a crucial role in my understanding of curtains radical position within the
tradition of picturing the city however they and I must make a big confession
here it was actually the rather more low-tech use of mounted photocopies of
hallward’s map a piece of string in the drawing pin which brought home a broader
and more important realization knowing to within a metre or so where Girton sat
to make his drawings it was possible to identify a blob of color or a confused
set of lines lines at the distant spire of a Christopher Wren masterpiece or on
one memorable occasion two blobs of color as the newly installed Telegraph
on the Admiralty building but being the only sign as far as I can see that
Britain was at war or recently at war at the time it may be just a touch of color
but hordes map invariably confer confirmed that the hundreds of
identifiable buildings are invariably in the right place confirming that Girton
must have used a viewing frame to achieve such consistent positional
accuracy and that he fundamentally played the rules of the panorama
whatever artistic effects curtain introduced into his I de metropolis it
was built upon a topographically exact structure the crucial point was not the
Girton achieved a modern iconography for the city by blurring the boundaries
between the panorama and the land landscape painting but if he did so it
was because he produced with with much help a canvas that fulfilled both
functions finally in conclusion 15 years ago and without the benefit of the
evidence of the bottom line as I’ve described it I saw what I then thought
to be a largely self painted epic canvas as part of a heroic engagement with the
expanded art market part of a broader attempt to reduce the
dependency of the artist on the private patron through self-publishing and the
use of dealers they may well be still something in this broader argument but
solid documentation ironically brings a Messier narrative I do however still see
the Ida metropolis as a logical extension of Gert ins work as a
landscape artist this mural a part of Bamburgh Castle will through a long time
misidentified and I think you can see why as the rocking stone Cornwall and I
think is an instructive example of the role of the effacement of the landscape
subject in the career trajectory of the topographical artist seeking higher
status a recognizable image of Bamburgh produced earlier in his career for the
antiquarian picture s market gives way to a sublime conflation of nature and
culture and the projection of a unit a unique identity of an artist whose
aesthetic language might be appreciated by the relatively few perhaps the real
surprise is that Girton was able to maintain his artistic identity even
within a collaborative project rather than it his achievement failed to be
rewarded financially in terms of tickets soul to a public spectacle thank you I’m delighted to welcome Nicole free
honorary research associate in the Department of history of art at the
University of Nottingham and and I remember Nick from my Henry Moore
Institute days and when he and Joyce Lehman who’s here at the conference set
up one of the early network grants on land art which has continued to generate
new new research even since then over many years Nick’s research interests are
in romanticism especially anglo-french artistic exchanges and the legacies of
romantic landscape in British land art in the 1960s and 70s and also looking at
contemporary practices and his paper today looks at landscape then to invoke
a phrase that we have been using at this conference an examination of the
exhibition at Tate Britain in 1973 welcome and I should say at the outset
that just as I had some input into Steven Daniels liquid landscape paper
yesterday so Steven as has a considerably important to into this one
confusing ideas of authorship so this paper is an exercise in the exhibition
history which as Martina said in introducing this this session has been
something of a burgeoning field in art historical studies of late although
exhibitions on landscape have received very little attention and while an
emphasis on landmark exhibitions brings a risk of distorting the broader picture
to say it to say nothing of its corollary the bigging up of the curator
as cultural producer there is a case to be made for landscape in Britain 1750
1850 at the Tate Gallery in 1973 as a landmark event a landmark I mean in the
examination of landscape as a Jean so this paper considers the context the
concepts the installation the reception and the consequences early some of them
of of that exhibition and it also looks at its sequel ten years later which in
which a survey of the next hundred years was attempted well
landscape in Britain 1750 1850 was conceived as the third in a series of
winter exhibitions at the Tate it followed surveys of the ages of
Elizabeth the first and Charles the first and it was also intended to set
the scene for the approaching bicentenary exhibitions of of Turner and
constable it was a collaboration between two curators Leslie Paris assistant
keeper at the Tate and Connell Shields at the Camberwell School of Arts the
exhibition opened on the 20th of November 1973 and ran until early
February 74 it set out to question received ideas or some received ideas
about landscape painting and artist relationship to nature by showing the
countryside as an arena of social and economic change it sought to explain the
emergence of new images and processes and techniques for landscape and to
investigate the conditions of the art world with which this new art had to
contend well there were a number of precedents and parallels for this
reappraisal of landscape in academic inquiry John barrels study of John Clare
the idea of landscape and a sense of place which was published in 1972 took
the year 1732 1740 as its field of investigation and in broadcasting John
Birchers ways of seeing also broadcast in 1972 made her an iconoclastic
intervention in the discussion of Gainsborough
and in exhibition making too there were some significant precedents notably a
decade of English naturalism 1810 to 1820 created for the Norwich Castle
Museum by John gage in 1969 and shown subsequently at the V&A
and it’s actually this show which I think it’s it’s something that Greg I
said just now that this is where that idea of you know the scientific and
empirical basis of a British landscape really starts it starts to come in there
is a there is a connection between well I think there are several other
connections between our papers but this exhibition was described by Peter DASCO
in their preface to the catalogue as a kind of lecture illustrated by works of
art instead of slides making explicit it’s kind Arctic and academic nature
though probably it’s more like a kind of research seminar would have been would
have been a better analogy there’s the cover of the catalog with a diagram of
Cornelius varley’s graphic telescope patented in 1811 signaling the show’s
concerned with new ways of looking and with new apparatus the diagram not I
think actually in the exhibition although the the object the metallics
telescope itself was well one exhibition in particular at potat gallery and with
the same curators Paris and Shields can be seen as a rehearsal for the 1973 show
constable the art of nature in the summer of 1971 as a catalog cover the
opening line of the introduction to the catalogue sets the tone fine
breezy tone the English countryside commonly seen at least by historians of
landscape painting as a place of calm and contentment in constables day
underwent considerable change unquote and at the exit at the entrance
to the exhibition itself the campaign was opened up on another front the
Popular Front as one might say beneath the display of a biscuit tin garishly
decorated with a reproduction of flat furred mill and other pictures of
constable country at X declared John Constable has found what he never looked
for popularity that popular images may misrepresent this exhibition arises from
a suspicion that there may be more to constable than meets most eyes well the
majority of the 115 items exhibited in the show came from the constable family
archive lent by Colonel JH constable with some material amassed by RB Beckett
in the course of his work editing constables correspondence Beckett had
died just a few months earlier so it was as much a display of documents notes
letters and also studio apparatus as it was a conventional display of paintings
drawings and prints in other words processes and ideas countered as much as
works of art themselves here’s a typical exhibit the diagram of rainbow I’m
constable about 1832 possibly made in connection with a lecture came from the
family archive and it’s now in tate archives the catalog admirably succinct
was divided into sections dealing with the art world which included copying and
collecting art theory poetry scientific treatises our notes amount of a section
in which the rainbow drawing of course fitted and studio equipment all this in
the service of showing that matters were not so simple with constable and that
the generally held idea that he loved nature and painted it without
affectation was inadequate as an explanation of
his heart well this small but provocative though easily overlooked
exhibition was the prelude to the larger ambitions of landscape in Britain 1750
1850 which opened out from monographic focus are taking a cast of dozens of
artists and was conducted as a wide-ranging investigation into the
practices of landscape only this time it brought the argument to a wider
constituency of art lovers what was distinctive about the curatorial
strategy in the 73 exhibition was the proposition that landscape painting
could only be understood in terms of an expanded field of ideas and processes
and indeed mediums Paris Shields brought out complex shifting relationships
between images and text painting and printmaking artists and their market
observation fieldwork and theory and although painting was still privileged
in the show it was not presented in isolation and in order to achieve their
objectives the curators had to stretch the conventions of art exhibition making
and to test a limit of what could be done in this format that is with a
display of a constellation of physical objects this presented a particular
challenge to the exhibition’s designer it was Christopher Dean of the firm
Castle Park Dean and Hooke architects and this slide and the next few slides
I’ll show you all showed Christopher Dean’s detailed layout plans just kind
of sub theme in this conference to show lots of numbers I’m adhering to to that
I’m having trouble you know the elusive image it’s true of this presentation
though well the space allocated was the was the full extent of the juvenile
erease at the Tate but the intimidate ting grandeur of the architecture was
largely concealed by an elaborate temporary construction which included
changes of level ramps and steps and the main exhibition spaces were all covered
over a height of about fourteen feet by a muslin ceiling you can see well half
the room can see there this is the entrance here you go up a ramp um it’s
strange isn’t it because what’s wrong with a flat floor the juvik it you know
into the exhibition there’s lots of steps and it’s a very busy installation the designer created an ingenious warren
of spaces of various sizes with showcases display cabinets and
freestanding screens to accommodate the exhibits there were 320 exhibits in all
and with all their challenging diversity of scale and medium and the often
conflicting requirements of display and lighting conditions the material
included estate maps and optical instruments as well as books prints
sketches and diagrams you can see some of that material noted in this in this
layout drawing now all this necessitated the creation of an extraordinary complex
environment but it did not please everybody such a meaningless intricacy of ugly
little spaces one lender wrote testily to the gallery’s director Norman Reed
although he was admittedly disgruntled because the work his institution had
agreed to lend had been damaged by a visitor
well the light the lighting too was the subject of some visitors complaints too
dark to see properly said one correspondent while Dennis Sutton
reviewing the show’s Financial Times complained about too much light casting
shadows on some pictures and obscuring others in
glare but pity the organizers the exhibition opened at the time of a
mounting fuel crisis there were national restrictions on energy consumption in a
letter Paris observes and I quote despite curtailing the opening hours the
cuts in electricity we have made was still not sufficient to conform to
current regulations unquote the exhibition was throwing too
much light in literally darkening time well these technical and organizational
difficulties arguably did little to compromise the effectiveness of the
exhibition of reputation it gained among certain circles as a revelatory
experience I know I’m not the only person in this room that can vouch for
its impacts or at least to others and they were probably rather more it opened
up the whole genre of landscape as something unexpectedly rich and complex
and stimulating all the same looking at the installation photographs in the Tate
archive recently was a disconcerting experience so disconcerting that I’m not
going to show them to you this is a strategy I think it might be the wrong
strategy but the reason it’s so disconcerting is that they brought back
no memory of my visits and I went several times it was as if I’d never
been and I certainly don’t remember all the trees the exhibition was full of
real trees it’s astonishing and you could hear they were very oh you can see
the reverse oh yes it’s planting you see that is planting then there’s another
person planting further on they were deciduous trees I mean some of
considerable heights and this is in November they wish for shedding their
leaves and striking a wintry note a tracery of naked branches in the
photographs you know at intervals among the painted landscapes which of course
were mostly of other seasons the Tate had arranged for a gardener
from the Department of Environment to come and tend the trees and pretty sweet
the leaves two days a week there are the three days he was back at
his normal job at Regents regents park with little quiet season there but one
reason that I don’t remember these things is that in the period that he
immediately afterwards and the years since then the exhibition catalogue news
cover you’ve seen has gradually occluded the experience of the exhibition itself
and it is of course an exemplary catalog pithy succinct indispensable but
everything ever wonderful that catalog everything starts with the exhibition
space and this there’s a place well this is a place of encounter with its own
unique topography and that’s why I’m emphasizing the layout diagrams in this
presentation because they could best bring out this idea of an exhibition as
a space of encounter with primary objects essentially a spatial experience
well if there’s one image that was given currency by the exhibition more than any
other it was surely this one by George Robert Lewis seen here in the diagram
I’m sure I can find it for you oh there it is ger there is another two four
seven and here’s the painting and full-time
hereford dinner door and movin hills from the Hayward large harvest scene
afternoon painting of 1815 positioned as you saw in that diagram a second ago in
the same space as worked by constable me now and other sketches from nature in
the Napoleonic Wars period a detail of Lewis’s painting was reproduced on the
poster and on the cover of the catalog as we’ve seen and it was illustrated in
several of the broadsheet reviews the painting had been in the Tate’s
collection since 1904 but only now seems to come into its own a picture of
harvesting in the summer of 1815 becomes an icon for Britain in the winter of 73
and this makes us reflect more generally on landscape and its moments both of
making and return and on why and how 1973 was one of those moments when
landscape could be invested with meaning but let’s consider that context from
another angle for a massive contemporary landscape practitioners who were also
very much aware that they were operating in an expanded field now landscape
painting may have become a discredited a Jean from the viewpoints of most
advanced art by the late 1960s and early 70s but did that mean that nature the
outdoors the open air was now off-limits to progressively minded artists must it
be accepted that landscape art might be inherently conservative and therefore
best left to traditionalists true there was nothing to be done with some of the
received cherished ideas the rural idyll the beauty spot the scenic route the
picturesque view but a young generation of artists were increasingly turning to
landscape as an alternative to formalism a way of
getting away from the studio than away from the commodification of the art
object and the gallery system some of these results could be seen at the new
art at the Hayward Gallery the previous year 1972 an exhibition generally
reckoned as the first exhibition of conceptual art in London in a public
gallery here’s an installation view there is one in this presentation of the
hewa gallery worked by Richard long and in the background Gilbert and George a
surprising number of the artists involved in this show were engaged with
a landscape in one form or another but in doing so they were adopting new
processes new mediums tools and frameworks and if they seemed to
acknowledge the idea that landscape might be a recurring concern for British
art they also showed the determination to interrogate that tradition critically
now I’m not suggesting that this new art of landscape and the reappraisal of
landscape as a historical Jean were directly linked or even mutually aware
and a credibly obtuse review of the Tate’s exhibition in studio
international by Timothy Hilton who dismissed it as old school landscape
business as usual would suggest quite otherwise but we have landscape as a
subject for investigation being revalidated in the domains of both art
history and practice and undergoing a renewal
in both fields of activity as parallel renewal underlines a point I think that
the early 70s was a time when landscape mattered whether in the making or in the
search for meaning well the timeframe of landscape in
Britain 1750 to 1850 covered what could conventionally be taken as the Golden
Age of landscape from Wilson to the death of Turner though the organizers
were much too shrewd to resort to any such notion in practice they extended
their period through the 1850s to include the pre-raphaelites the last
catalog item was malaise autumn leaves and on this drawing you can see autumn
leaves but you can see the hireling Shepherd and our English coasts and the
Haunted manor listed they do puzzlingly there we see not yet in position but
there the catalogue numbers are there and and there they are now this was also the year in which
Allen’s Daley’s book on pre-raphaelite landscape appeared there would have been
no consensus I think that the pre-raphaelites were part of the Golden
Age of British landscape even a few years previously but by including them
Paris and shields were able to frame their investigation around two great
waves of naturalism a problematic way for students to go back to to Greg’s
point but if they didn’t subscribe to the myth of the Golden Age the 1850
cutoff point served even if inadvertently
to reinforce the idea that after this date landscape would no longer have the
same significance in British art and at a vital episode and the culture was over
and the unspoken implication is that the history of landscape art over the next
hundred years is an altogether less compelling subject one for which
coherent critical framework would be very difficult to devise well as if in
response to this implied challenge ten years later came a sequel landscape in
Britain 1850 1950 picking up on that closing date defined as the end of an
era the death of Wordsworth in 1850 the death of Turner in 1851 the passing of
romanticism the exhibition was developed by a different organization the Arts
Council with different curators Francis Spalding ne and Jeffrey at a different
venue the Heywood gallery on the south bank and the catalogue – as you can see
was in a different format there’s the cover with a detail of James Mackintosh
Patrick’s panoramic autumn Kennedy of 1936 from the Dundee Museum and Art
Gallery now the model established in 1973 was
followed by the selectors to a point in that they’re highlighting unfamiliar
names and reputations and in acknowledging that painting was not the
only medium for the art of landscape so it included posters designs for book
jackets and illustrations pointing to the fact that
there was now a popular and commercial culture kind of mass culture around
landscape that needed to be taken into consideration new conditions as well as
the traditional mode of fine art painting watercolor wood engraving and
so on there’d been two photographs only two photographs by foxes Tolbert in the
1973 exhibition told to be just edging into the period and although photography
had become much more central to the representation of landscape in the next
hundred years curiously it only had a token presence in in this new show and
that’s an indication I think of the difficulty of defining the parameters of
landscape in the modern period what was it exactly now the earlier show had
suggested the ways in which landscape migrated across media from drawing to
print from poetry to painting from landscaping an improvement on the ground
to representations for public exhibition and private consumption but the scale
and pace of these sorts of migration the proliferation of new mediums
technologies kits and markets in the later period made it a field which was
now very difficult to navigate or to frame now the 1983 exhibition was a
remarkable Enterprise in its way but its impact was not comparable in any way to
that of its predecessor and for more than the reasons I’ve just suggested and
whereas the curators of 73 set out to question and complicate received ideas
of what landscape was and they had both canonical names to work with Wilson
Gainsborough Turner constable Palmer to pick out a few while
also recovering many others Rosa Brett was one that struck critics in
particular the organizers of the 1983 exhibition had no clear thesis and no
clear Kanon either to work with there was
nothing comparable at stake since the landscape in the later period did not
have the same prestige and in fact its history and never been written
however simplistically theirs was the first survey not a radical revision when
the catalog had three general essays two curators and an essay by donald
avian literature the literature of landscape but the bulk of it presented
the artists there were over 200 of them in order of birthdate from David Koch’s
to Ken Bennett’s the last name still languishes in total
obscurity biographical notes were given for each one fascinating biographical
notes but there was no commentary on the exhibits themselves so the effect is of
a kind of DnB dictionary of national biography of landscape artists of the
period and the exhibited works appear as illustrations to these lives but no
argument is built around them and the reasons for their selection are never
there for discussed but there’s also between 1973 and 1983 abroad difference
ideas stimulated in that early period were still working their way through
academic scholarship on landscape in the 80s of course in a series of important
publications John Barrow and Birmingham Mike Rosenthal and Steven I mean just
just just just just to name a few but elsewhere landscape matters seemed
altogether less compelling less of the moment in contemporary art land art had
lost the radical questioning edge it once had and more reassuring ideas of
nature as material as resource began to gain ground in the work of Andy
Goldsworthy for example and David now and two years before their big landscape
survey 1815 1950 the Arts Council organized a touring exhibition titled
romanticism continued which included some of the radicals of the 60s and 70s
practice such as Hamish Fulton and Barry Flanagan and accommodated them
comfortably to the idea of a British landscape tradition in 1973 by contrast
there was no such complacency and Romanticism was not so much continued as
critically reconsidered I really enjoyed the the pairing of the papers actually
and I was particularly struck by the by thinking about the the spatial
experiences that you both talked about upon which both of your case studies
depended and they’ve both disappeared as it were and I thought was very brave of
you not to show the installation photographs I could hear the gasps in
the audience all hungry for those installation pictures that we love to
use but I’m going to open it straight out right at the back I just wondered whether you thought that
movies might have had an influence on this show when you think of films like
David Lean’s Doctor Zhivago Ryan’s daughter and Roy’s Aradia all won Oscars
in the mid-1970s well that’s an interesting point I mean I think I think
one would if you look to say the culture of landscape across a number of
different fields in that period I think you would find you know all kinds of
mounting evidence and you know the examples that you suggest about that but
I think it is part of that rich landscape context in mediums at some of
which were you know had huge wide popular appeal thank you both that was
them remarkable I enjoyed it immensely it’s a question for Greg Smith I was
interested in your discussion about the push and pull between atmosphere and
clarity and in the idea metropolis and it reminded me of Diane Chris’s
arguments about the same kind of set of stylistic issues like a stylistic
competition almost between clarity and atmosphere in the wider field of British
landscape painting in the Napoleonic era where it becomes a matter of national
discourse so certain styles their atmosphere and boldness associated of
Britishness for example and I wondered whether that the purview of this topic
was expanded to nationhood so the subjects is the capital city and then
then the as you know like I say there’s this push and pull between atmosphere
and clarity I was wondering whether actually it’s not just about the city
but about the nation at large at this time of war in crisis et cetera
yes I mean that the point that grates makes relates to what she calls the
landscape of effects and ghosting is a classic example of that the association
of effects weather etc with Englishness was strongly developed at the period
both in the critical press and in theoretical writing it’s one of the ways
in which Gerson would have established his artistic nurse but it’s not a it’s a
little bit more complicated in this because the equivalent panorama of Paris
which goes on display at exactly the same time is doing the same thing but
it’s a language which can be learned so generation upon generation of panorama
picks it up so the first generation of Barca panoramas go for straight clarity
even light etc but I think even as Girton is moving it in a more
sophisticated direction the market itself is requiring a more sophisticated
approach so it doesn’t exactly relate to the national subject but it’s certainly
helpful that the first generation of panoramic effects is an English one and
a London subject but it’s certainly part of the broader the panorama fits into
that broader picturing of the English British school as one of effects yes a
question for Nick 1973 say more about necessary three it’s the year that
Britain jonesy European Economic Community and I’d imagine if a similar
exhibition myself next year let’s say it would be kind of overwritten by lots of
stuff about British identity and Europe so I just wondered if that was even an
issue around bland scope in Britain in 1973 no well yeah thank you for bringing
that aspect of the context I think no I don’t think it was an issue because
I think although I’d be interested if anyone you know disagree to this but I
don’t think the creators were interested in national identity in the way that it
has become quite a sort of set-piece topic subsequently but you’re absolutely
right I mean it when you look back on it and the future was Europe as we thought
in 1973 the Whitworth had an exhibition of British artists in Europe to
celebrate the joining the e.c yeah thank you it’s a wonderful pairing of papers
are my questions are ready to Nick which is to do with the kind of differences
between the two moments of the landscape shows I mean it seems to me that one of
the things that comes out in between the two is the kind of institutional crises
that occurs in terms of what institutions like the Tate can do with
landscape painting against a kind of emergence of a new internationalized
view of modern English painting as an abstract painting and I’m thinking here
about its kind of competition with the Royal Academy the Royal Academy emerges
in the early 1980s as the place to encounter British painting in an
international context and that is not landscape painting yeah and so a new
spirit in painting in a sense not only maps out the institutional ascendancy of
the Royal Academy over the Tate but it also in a way frames how the second
landscape in Britain exhibition even though it’s held at the Hayward promoted
by the Arts Council is still sort of courting these complex histories and
therefore that’s what renders it rather anodyne yeah historically no that’s a
good that’s a good point and it’s reinforced I think by the fact that the
83 show was actually conceived as a touring show remember I think that for
other venue at least terrific property for other
venues besides the Haywood and although you know the institution of touring
shows is deeply wonderful and it kind of made it look like a a regional affair
and yeah there is that I mean what you say just brings out a broader point is
it landscape had become pushed into the margin and and of course I have really
thought about the sort of art politics of the early eighties but of course
you’re right and that was the you know the great much trumpeted rebirth of
figurative painting of a kind of expressionistic post expressionist kind
of landscape was very much in the margin yeah yeah I mean the other question is
question yeah you could see well maybe it was a misconceived oh you could argue
it’s a misconceived project but padmi things I think wasn’t you know in a
sense one would like to see it it’s partly out what’s the point of a survey
you know and I think that’s quite a big question yes although I think was the
first exhibition of British art that I’ve ever seen for great is how terrible yeah but it also occurred to me looking
at the is that the other side of his business which was selling individual
watercolors he must have been just as bad at that um he was hopeless and he he
was knew he was dying young and didn’t leave a will the administration of his
estate actually did reveal that he had assets I think it was something like 600
pounds so on that basis whilst he was hopeless in one sense he had at least
accrued over the course of a 10-year career 12-year career professional
career assets of 600 pounds it does suggest that he was whilst not adept at
dealing with the marketplace he was still relatively successful within its Girton yes it’s a good good idea
I could take one more question thank you in talking about Britain you have not
any of the speakers I think have really covered Wales and Scotland and Ireland
and certainly the Royal Academy put on the most amazing exhibition I think it
was 1985 called when time began to rant and rave and that really was covered an
enormous amount of landscape art expressing what was going on in Ireland
at the time would you would you be in interested in commenting on Irish or
Scottish or Welsh painters in context with the subject are we interpreting this as a question
perhaps more for the panel at the end I don’t know boy Dean yes right I’m going
to be chairing this final discussion I’ve got three quarters of an hour but
before I do so before I start properly I want to just quickly hand over to Sarah
and to Martina we want to say something about the newest issue of British art
studies which she’s been published that China digital publisher 8 okay thank you

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