Introduction: Crossing the Channel
The first room of the exhibition introduces aspects of the relationship between British and French art in the early nineteenth century. After years of wartime stand-off, the period of High Romanticism (1820-1840) was one of fervent cultural exchange between Britain and France.
In the aftermath of the Battle of Waterloo (1815), British artists contributed regularly to Paris Salons, shared studios with French colleagues, collaborated with Parisian print publishers, and served as drawing masters to the French aristocracy. Meanwhile, for progressive French artists, a visit to London became a rite of passage. French painters responded to the technical freedom they saw in British art, both in oil and watercolour. France was also swept by enthusiasm for British literature, from Shakespeare to Lord Byron and Sir Walter Scott.
To illustrate these themes, this gallery contains works by Richard Parkes Bonington, Eugène Delacroix, John Constable, Théodore Géricault and others. Constable’s View on the Stour, exhibited in Paris in 1824 at the ‘British Salon’, is displayed along with the gold medal awarded to him. Also on show are examples of Géricault’s celebrated lithographs of London scenes, made during his stay in England in 1820-1.