John Varley

Composition, a Castle over a River

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In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
John Varley 1778–1842
Watercolour on paper
Support: 82 × 130 mm
Purchased as part of the Oppé Collection with assistance from the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund 1996

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Like many of his contemporaries, Varley was greatly interested in spontaneous methods of inventing compositions. This little study appears to be entirely impromptu, and can be related to the random ‘blots’ that Varley and others used to prompt their designs. Nonetheless, the key elements of balanced and classical Claudian landscape are in place. Claude’s landscapes, with their tranquil lakes, castles and limpid light, were admired immensely. They provided artists with a set of conventions that were applied to depictions of the national landscape.

Gallery label, September 2004

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