Tuesday, 24 May 2011

A view of Box Hill, Surrey and English landscape painting

I guess I should not have been surprised to find A View of Box Hil, Surrey - one of the paintings from the BBC programme This Green and Pleasant Land in Tate Britain

After collecting my errant sketchbook last week (see ) I got more exercise for the day by walking around all the galleries on the main level.  Everything has moved!  It was a very odd experience because everything has moved (due to a major refurbishment programme - see Tate Britain is changing)

As a result, I found myself looking at everything with fresh eyes.

A View of Box Hill, Surrey by George Lambert (1700-1765)

A View of Box Hill, Surrey (1733) by George Lambert (1700 – 30 Nov. 1765)
considered to be the first proper landscape painted in England
Oil painting on canvas support: 908 x 1804 mm

Location: Tate Britain

I came across one of the landscapes mentioned in This Green and Pleasant Land in the room devoted to eighteenth century art.  This included a small section about very early landscape painting.  That's the point at which landscapes start being painted purely because of the scene.  There are no buildings or landowners with their estates being portrayed as such.

A View of Box Hill Surrey is George Lambert's most famous painting.  This is what the Tate has to say about this painting
Lambert was one of the pioneers of landscape painting in early eighteenth-century Britain.

This painting presents the landscape without the sorts of buildings –palaces or an aristocratic estate – which traditionally featured in such views. Is this evidence of a new appreciation of nature for its own sake? Certainly, landscape became the focus for discussions about the relationship between painting and poetry, and aesthetic ideas such as beauty and the sublime.
 (From the display caption March 2011)
I seem to recall the programme as saying this particular painting is regarded as one of the first proper landscape paintings in Britain.  Certainly Lambert's claim to fame is that he was one of the first artists to develop an English way of painting landscapes.  His paintings were not purely about imitating the Italian way of doing things - landscapes were painted for their aesthetic value rather than as a backdrop to a history story

I discovered that this painting is unusually wide and not a conventional format.  I tried sketching it - and it's much wider than the two squares side by side which I initially thought was the format.  I've taken a look at some other landscape paintings by Lambert and it seems he rather likes this almost letter box-like format.  Just imagine if this had become the accepted dimensions of landscape format!

After George Lambert - Box Hill, Surrey
pencil and coloured pencils

The land in front is now part of the vineyard of Denbies Wine Estate.  Below is an extract from Google Maps which shows both the subject and the approximate location of the artist - although the wheatfields are now vineyards.  It would be interesting to see what the view looks like today from the same fields.

Denbies Vineyard on left, Box Hill on right
the red marker marks the approximate viewpoint of the artist - looking east
From Google Maps - click this link to see full size

I'm doing a post about George Lambert this week as he's an interesting artist and one I was completely unaware of until I watched the programme.

A footnote - the Olympic Road race

Interestingly I learned while researching this picture that Box Hill is to be one of the locations involved in the cycle road race at the Olympics next summer.  The zig zag road up Box Hill - so beloved of both cyclists and motorbike riders - provides the hill challenge to the race. See Cycling Weekly's Olympic road race route officially revealed

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