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There's romance in the air at the Royal Academy of Arts
One was passed over for the role of Royal Painter and had a difficult relationship with the Royal Academy he helped to create; one sold only 20 paintings during his lifetime and dressed in black after the death of his wife for the rest of his life; and the other was an eccentric loner, who lived with his father for thirty years, wouldn't let anyone watch him paint, and refused to sell his paintings. But the sum of their collective artistic genius turned English landscape painting on its head and still resounds around the world today. You can see many examples of their visionary works at the Royal Academy of Arts current exhibition, Constable, Gainsborough, Turner and the Making of Landscape.
Dolbardern Castle by J M W turner. Image from Royal Academy website.
I have to admit to a bit of an obsession with the ethereal, dream-like landscapes of my favourite painter, Joseph Mallord William Turner, the eccentric loner of my opening paragraph. What he lacked in social skills and politeness, he more than made up for with the beauty and inventiveness of his seminal oils and water colours in the Romantic style. I don't believe that any of the Impressionist painters who followed him could match his ability to depict light and create atmosphere on canvas.
His predecessor, Thomas Gainsborough, is known more for his skill as a portrait artist (he is the creator of the famous Blue Boy) than for his landscapes, but he was influential in eschewing the more formal academic approaches to landscape painting and introducing a quick, light quality to his works.
Romantic Landscape by thomas Gainsborough. Image from Royal Academy website.
The works of John Constable, the previously described man in black, were equally as revolutionary as those of Turner. His watercolours and preliminary landscape sketches were particularly free and abstract, but faithful to what he saw around him. Not for him was the traditional approach to 'composing' a picture.
Leaping Horse by John Constable. Image from Royal Academy website.
The Royal Academy's exhibition also includes the work of lesser known artists from the period including Paul Sandby and Richard Wilson. As well as viewing magnificent paintings like Turner's Dolbardern Castle, Gainsborough's Romantic Landscape and Constable's The Leaping Horse, there will be glimpses into the men themselves and the world they inhabited. You can see letters written by Gainsborough, Constable's palette and Turner's water colour box.
When: the exhibition is on now and runs until 17 February 2013. Times: Monday to Thursday 10am to4.30pm, Friday 10am to 10pm, Saturday & Sunday 10am to 6pm Where: The Royal Academy of Arts (The John Madejski Fine Rooms and Weston Rooms), Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1J 0BD. Bookings: Advance tickets can be purchased online here up to 24 hours prior to you intended visit. Cost: Free for children under 7, and ranges from £3.00 for children aged 8 to 11, up to £8.00 for adults.
The Royal Academy of Arts. Image by Mike Peel www.mikepeel.net from Wikimedia Commons.
Their works may not seem very radical or revolutionary to us today but they were the artistic trailblazers of their time, and notwithstanding their personal idiosyncrasies, they forged a whole new and exciting approach to art that produced some of the most beautiful and loved paintings of the English canon. Go along and see what that Romantic era fuss was all about.