Illustrated companion

George Lambert was a friend of Hogarth and is the first substantial figure in the history of English landscape painting. By the early eighteenth century two distinct kinds of landscape painting had developed: 'classical' landscape based on the example of Claude Lorraine, who transformed the Italian landscape of his day into imagined scenes of classical antiquity, and 'topographical' landscape which was concerned with rendering the natural beauty of a particular scene. Classical landscape was by far the most popular with collectors, and commentators such as Horace Walpole in his Anecdotes of Painting in England (published 1765) complained at both the lack of good landscape painters and the lack of interest in English scenery: 'In a country so profusely beautiful with the amenities of nature, it is extraordinary that we have produced so few good painters of landscape ... Our ever-verdant lawns, rich vales, fields of haycocks and hop grounds, are neglected as homely and familiar objects.' These comments occur immediately before a few lines devoted to Lambert in Walpole's book. In fact, Lambert himself mostly painted the classical type of landscape and his 'View of Box Hill' is all the more remarkable for the freshness and accuracy of its vision of an English landscape on an English summer's day: particularly notable is the gradation across the sky of the light from the setting sun and its play on the clouds. Hogarth himself, in his book The Analysis of Beauty, said that the ability to render this kind of effect was 'Claud de Lorain's peculiar excellence and is now Mr. Lambert's'. In the foreground are three gentlemen who have evidently been picnicking - the one on the ground is looking at an overturned wine bottle. Opposite him is a country-woman sitting down with a leather ale bottle by her side. One of the gentlemen is sketching, an interesting inclusion by Lambert of a reference to his own business of landscape art.

Published in:
Simon Wilson, Tate Gallery: An Illustrated Companion, Tate Gallery, London, revised edition 1991, p.27