George Lambert

Classical Landscape


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Not on display

George Lambert 1700–1765
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 1035 × 1168 mm
Purchased 1958

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George Lambert never visited Italy, although his paintings were inspired by the tradition of classical landscape painting.

is a purely imaginary scene, with a carefully balanced composition and figures in generalised dress appropriate to a pastoral scene. Idealised landscapes like this were often designed to be set into panelling, over doors or chimneypieces. They would have been regarded as part of the fixed decoration of the room.

Gallery label, September 2004

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Catalogue entry

T00211 Classical Landscape 1745

Oil on canvas 1035×1168 (40 3/4×46)
Inscribed ‘G. Lambert 1745’, b.l.
Purchased (Cleve Fund and Grant-in-Aid) 1958
PROVENANCE ...; probably acquired by John Pemberton Heywood (1755–1835); by descent to Lt-Col. A. Heywood-Lonsdale, sold Christie's 24 October 1958 (85) bt Leggatt
EXHIBITED Whitchurch Art Exhibition, Whitchurch, Shropshire 1880 (171 as by Wilson); Landscape in Britain c. 1750–1850, Tate Gallery 1973–4 (24, repr.); Gaspard Dughet, Kenwood 1980 (61, repr.); Wilson's Early Contemporaries, Tate Gallery 1982 (4, repr.)
LITERATURE Luke Herrmann, British Landscape Painting of the Eighteenth Century, 1973, p.23, fig.11

Until its sale from the Heywood-Lonsdale collection, this painting had a companion entitled ‘Wooded Landscape with Gipsies’, also signed and dated 1745 (now in the Government Art Collection). Although often this kind of ‘pure’ or imaginary landscape served a primarily decorative purpose, the existence of pairs such as this does show that they could on occasion embody certain intellectual concepts. The Tate's picture is one of Lambert's most assured exercises in the manner of Gaspard Dughet, with figures in Arcadian pastoral dress shown against a background of distant classical buildings, bathed in silvery morning light. Its companion has an evening sky, medieval gabled buildings in woods, and a family of ragged gipsies in the foreground, and is composed in a style derived from the Dutch School, possibly Esaias van de Velde. It shows that Lambert was not only the earliest British landscape painter to have some real understanding of the principles of classical landscape composition, but also that he was one of the first to make a close study of the Dutch seventeenth-century school. It was Lambert's particular achievement to play the two styles off against each other in a matching pair, and may have even been intended as a broader comment on the dawn and decline of civilisation.

The Heywood-Lonsdale collection, though the product of several generations, was largely formed by John Pemberton Heywood (1755–1835) and his grandson Arthur Pemberton Heywood-Lonsdale (1835–97). This picture was probably bought by the former in the 1830s, though it may have been acquired by his son of the same name (1803–77) and the Mrs Heywood who lent it to the Whitchurch Art Exhibition, in Shropshire, in 1880 may have been his widow. His father Arthur (1719–95) is also known to have bought pictures (see M.G. Compton, ‘Compiler's Note’ in The Heywood-Lonsdale Loan, exh. cat., Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool 1959; and letter from the author in Gallery files).

Published in:
Elizabeth Einberg and Judy Egerton, The Age of Hogarth: British Painters Born 1675-1709, Tate Gallery Collections, II, London 1988

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