John Downman visited Italy in 1773 with his fellow artist, Joseph Wright. Although within his professional career he was principally recognised as a portraitist, the informal studies that Downman made during his Italian travels reveal his highly original talent for landscape. His landscape studies, like the one shown here, were made primarily in monochrome washes and in pen and ink. Unlike the majority of views of Vesuvius by other artists, which show the volcano from a distance within the wider landscape, Downman focuses upon the play of light and shadow on the stark, rock-strewn crater.
Gallery label, April 2007