Saturday, 27 November 2010

Townscape: Covent Garden Market

Covent Garden Market by Balthazar Nebot c1744
oil on canvas, 35 x 48¼ in. (86.8 x 122.6 cm.)

Yesterday I was sketching in Covent Garden (see Travels with my Sketchbook) and was reminded of the many artists who have painted Covent Garden Square and market.

This is an eighteenth century painting by Balthazar Nebot of Covent Garden Market.  He did a number of very similar paintings of this view - one of which is in Tate Britain.  This is their description of their painting.
Nebot’s view of Covent Garden looks west towards St Paul’s Church. It records the activities and architecture of Covent Garden which, by the 1730s, was at the heart of London’s artistic community. It was a popular urban subject, also painted by Samuel Scott, amongst others.
The market was first developed in the 1650s. Twenty years later the Earl of Bedford was given permission to ‘hold forever a market in the Piazza on every day in the year except Sundays and Christmas Day for the buying and selling of all manner of fruit, flowers, roots and herbs’.

Paintings of townscapes are fascinating in terms of revealing to the modern eye just how old some buildings are.

The whole of the background of this painting is still in existence - St Paul's Church designed by Inigo Jones is the greek temple looking building left of centre and the brand new Apple Store in Covent Garden now occupied the building on the extreme right (with the colonnades) - which is where I sketched yesterday.  I gather it's the largest Apple Store on the planet!  How things have changed......

This is a description of the artist Balthasar Nebot who was active between active 1730-after 1765 based on that on the Tate website which in turn is based on Elizabeth Einberg and Judy Egerton, The Age of Hogarth: British Painters Born 1675-1709, Tate Gallery Collections, II, London 198.  The links are 
Painter of open-air genre scenes, topographical landscape and some portraits 
Life obscure. Waterhouse (1981, p.255) records that he was of Spanish origin and married in London 1729/30.  Harris (1979, p.160) suggests that he established himself within a circle of genre painters working in and around Convent Garden, including Peter Angellis (q.v., whose subjects of fishmongers' and vegetable-sellers' stalls are close to Nebot's), Joseph van Aken (q.v.) and ?Peter Rysbrack.  Known for his paintings of market scenes in the 1730s
It's always struck me that there are many more artists who specialise in landscapes rather than townscapes - or topographical pictures of towns. 

In future I'm going to try and feature more artists who specialise in this specialist type of "landscape" painting - and to highlight how topographical paintings often tell the story of our culture and history.

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