Saturday, June 20, 2009

Regency Artists

Ah, the great Regency artists--the wonderful landscapes of Turner and Constable, the portraits of Sir Thomas Lawrence. You are probably familiar with them. You might know William Blake too for his fantastical, philosophical, illustrated writings.

Gillray, Cruickshank, and Rowlandson are famous for their savage, satirical drawings beloved by Regency print shops, excoriating the monarchy, the politicans, the rich and the famous of the time.

But there were so many other artists.

The portraits of Thomas Phillips put a face to many a famous Regency name, though not so much of the titled aristocracy as Lawrence. Left, for example, is Mary Russell Mitford, a well-known writer of the period.

Phillips' style is documentary, crisp and to the point, quite unlike the poetic romanticism of Lawrence and, earlier, Reynolds.

More popular in their day than Turner and Constable were landscape artists Sir Augustus Wall Callcott and William Collins. Collins is mostly forgotten, and Callcott nearly so.
Above is Callcott's 'Smugglers Alarmed'. The sky is reminiscent of Turner but the details more controlled.

Better remembered is John Sell Cotman, perhaps because his angular, often bleak style has a contemporary feel, more appealing perhaps to the 21st century.

Regency sculptors are seldom mentioned outside of art history texts, yet their work was renowned in its time. John Flaxman and Sir Francis Chantrey and, a little earlier, Joseph Nollekens, were experts in their field, highly respected and affluent. University College London does have a Flaxman Gallery, well worth the attention of any Regency scholar.

As always it is the small picture, the homely detail, that appeals to me most. The amateur watercolours of lady artists such as Diana Sperling, and the genre works of Bonington, Thomas Shotter Boys, and Sir David Wilkie ignite my imagination, and fire my interest in the Regency period.

Sir David Wilkie's 'The Penny Wedding'
Do you have a favourite Regency artist? Please let me know!

Till next time,

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