WINTER 2019 EXHIBITING GALLERIES
GALLERIES/Karen Taylor Fine Art
Joseph Severn (1793-1879)
The brigand's family, 1825
Oil on canvas
24 ¼ by 39 ½ inches, 61.6 by 75cm
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Exhibition: Magick Land- a Journey through Italy
A trip to Italy to study antiquity, Renaissance culture and art, and to sketch landscapes, was considered an important part of an eighteenth-century artist's education. Salvator Rosa and Claude Lorraine a century earlier had painted the Italian landscape and captured the effects of light and were hugely influential on future generations of artists. Throughout the eighteenth century, artists from across Europe came to Italy. Their sketches, in pencil, watercolour and oil, executed en plein air and in the studio, often provided the basis and inspiration for future compositions and commissions once they had returned home.
A highlight is a striking oil by Joseph Severn (1793-1879) the friend of Keats who nursed the poet in Rome at the end of his life. His letters from this time are a vital source of information about the Keats' last days. A genre painting showing the family of a sleeping brigand in the Alban Hills is a strong example of the type of romantic work Severn produced after Keats death in 1821 which enjoyed huge popular and critical success amongst his contemporaries; he had a long waiting list for commissions, of which this is probably an example. Banditti were a subject made very fashionable by Salvator Rosa and Severn had the first-hand experience of an attempted robbery in 1823 when he travelled around Naples. Here he focusses on the humanity of the mother and draws attention to the precarious condition of the family.
The exhibition contains a group of five works by Edward Lear (1812-1888) who set out for Italy in the summer of 1837. For most of the next ten years, the artist wintered in Rome and toured other parts of Italy during the summer. These works include views of the Roman Campagna and Tivoli, Monte Generoso and Calabria. A beautiful drawing of Val Montone in the Campagna is offered from a private collection and was last seen in public at the Royal Academy exhibition of the work of Lear in 1985. It was previously owned by Sir Robin Darwin (1910 – 1974), a British artist and Rector of the Royal College of Art and great-grandson of the naturalist Charles Darwin.
William Callow, another British watercolourist who regularly visited Italy, is represented by four exceptional works of Padua, Venice and Rome. Venice was Callow's inspiration and he returned to the city throughout his life, always staying at the Hotel Europa facing the Grand Canal.
The centrepiece of the show is an important drawing by Thomas Jones, the Welsh artist whose reputation for his strikingly original Italian work has soared in recent years, notably after the landmark exhibition Thomas Jones (1742-1803) ‘An Artist Rediscovered' in 2003 (at the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff, the National Gallery, London and the Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester) reinstated his reputation as one of the most idiosyncratic and innovative eighteenth-century British artists. In his lively and informative memoirs ‘Italian Journal', Jones expressed his joy at travelling through Italy, recording the ‘new and uncommon Sensations I was filled [with] on my first traversing this beautiful and picturesque Country … It appeared Magick Land'.
The drawing by Jones belonged to Iolo Williams (1890-1962) the author of Early English Watercolours published in 1952, the bible of the field, who left a large part of his collection to the British Museum. He took a keen interest in Welsh matters, serving on the Council of the National Museum of Wales and on the Welsh Committee of the Arts Council.