Contributor: Nicola J. Watson
Location: Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection, USA
Description: This oil painting executed in 1819 by Thomas Daniell (1749-1840) shows part of an extraordinary ‘Indian’ landscape at Sezincote House in Gloucestershire, UK. Still extant, and open to the public, this expensive experiment in the Indian style was completed in 1817. The style was characteristically British rather than European, associated with wealthy ‘nabobs’ returning from long residence in India to make their way in British society as best they could; the eclecticism of le jardin à l’anglaise when exported to Europe stretched more usually to the exoticism of chinoiserie. (1) Nevertheless, this garden illustrates a Europe-wide truth about how inland water was imagined in the period; water was Romantic if – and only if — it appeared to be wild rather than tame. By contrast, explicitly instrumentalized water – the waters of spas and canals, for example – remained resolutely unromantic.
Continue reading “Temple, Pool and Cave, Sezincote Park, 1819.”
Contributor: Martin Fog Arndal
Location: National Portrait Gallery, London
Description: In 1797, renowned philosopher and author, Mary Wollstonecraft sat for her last portrait made by John Opie, portrait painter to the royal family as well as a number of other influential Britons. Of the different portraits Wollstonecraft would sit for, this one stands out due to its serene expression. Compared to Opie’s first portrait of her in 1790-1, in which Wollstonecraft is holding an open book in her hands, gazing straight into the eyes of the beholder, the latter portrait is radically different. Holding no objects, only bearing the colors of black and white, she lights up against a dark background, gazing to her right. In front of Opie sits not only the feminist depicted in 1790-1, but a mother of one, and pregnant once again. However, the vividness of her eyes, the relaxed shoulders, and the relaxed composition defy the emotional turmoil that had defined the years before her untimely death. Eleven days after giving birth, later that same year Opie depicted her for the last time, Wollstonecraft would pass away.
Continue reading “Mary Wollstonecraft”