Room 5 The Inhabited Landscape

William Holman Hunt, ‘Our English Coasts, 1852 (‘Strayed Sheep’)’ 1852
William Holman Hunt
Our English Coasts, 1852 (‘Strayed Sheep’) 1852

Paintings that reveal the impact of human activity on the landscape are an important part of Pre-Raphaelite art. They reveal a spectrum of responses to the great changes that were then being wrought upon the landscape.

Pre-Raphaelite representations of an inhabited world are generally concerned with the immediate physical environment in which men and women lived and worked. Most of these artists lived in cities, and yet there was a new feeling of freedom as painters travelled far and wide, in Britain and abroad, in search of subjects that they felt it was important to record.

None of these painters considered places in terms of the profits and prestige of ownership. Instead they saw towns and countryside, and all that they contained, as a common inheritance, to which all were to have access. These personal representations of the inhabited landscape explore actual environments, for which the artists clearly felt intense personal association and affection. But they also felt distress at the realisation that what was familiar and apparently secure was in fact at risk of disruption, or even destruction, by man.