John Constable, ‘Sketch for ‘Hadleigh Castle’’ c.1828–9
John Constable, Sketch for ‘Hadleigh Castle’ c.1828–9 . Tate

Room 6 in Walk Through British Art

1810

12 rooms in Walk Through British Art

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Art in 1810

Flatford Mill (‘Scene on a Navigable River’)

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John Constable
Flatford Mill (‘Scene on a Navigable River’)
1816–7

Landscape painting flourished in the 19th century, ranging from the epic, through rustic nostalgia to the naturalism championed by John Constable. He based what he called his ‘natural painture’ on study of nature, experience of his subjects and attention to working life, especially in the Stour Valley where his father was a miller and merchant. When possible, he sketched or worked on pictures outdoors. Flatford Mill shows barges approaching Flatford footbridge after passing through the lock near his father’s mill. Its bright, airy realism was unprecedented at the time.

Gallery label, February 2016

The Field of Waterloo

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Joseph Mallord William Turner
The Field of Waterloo
exhibited 1818

The Battle of Waterloo (1815) saw Britain and Prussia defeat France, putting an end to the Napoleonic wars and more than a decade of conflict. Turner visited the battlefield, already a tourist attraction, in 1817. He filled a sketchbook with drawings and notes, and later made studies of soldiers’ uniforms in preparation for this painting. In it, Turner emphasises war’s tragic consequences for all its victims. With the painting he quoted Byron’s poem ‘Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage’, lamenting ‘friend, foe, in one red burial blent!’. Many other works by Turner are on display here in the Clore Gallery.

Gallery label, February 2016

Head of a Man (?Ira Frederick Aldridge)

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John Simpson
Head of a Man (?Ira Frederick Aldridge)
exhibited 1827

This painting depicts the actor Ira Aldridge (1807-1867). Aldridge was born in New York, USA. He joined an African American theatre troupe in the early 1820s. In 1824 he travelled to Britain in the hope his talents would be better appreciated. Aldridge enjoyed huge success in Europe. He was the first African American actor to play the title role in William Shakespeare’s Othello. He was painted several times in the early stages of his career. It is unclear whether he was working as a model or sitting for artists to promote his own public image.

Gallery label, July 2019

Sketch for ‘Hadleigh Castle’

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John Constable
Sketch for ‘Hadleigh Castle’
c.1828–9

Constable made full-size sketches like this for many of his six-foot paintings. They allowed him to explore his ideas before committing them to the final canvas. The finished picture in this case was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1829. The composition originated in a minute drawing Constable made on a visit to the ruins of Hadleigh Castle in Essex in 1814, but this painting was not developed until around the time of his wife’s death in 1828. The resulting image of loneliness and decay is now often seen as exemplifying his desolate state of mind at the time.

Gallery label, February 2016

Coming from Evening Church

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Samuel Palmer
Coming from Evening Church
1830

Palmer painted this while living in Shoreham in Kent (1826–33). He regarded Shoreham as an ideal landscape, a rural paradise touched by a divine presence. Palmer was inspired by William Blake’s illustrations (1821) to Ambrose Philips’s imitation of Virgil’s First Eclogue and could have been describing his own work when he wrote of the Blake engravings: ‘They are visions of little dells, and nooks, and corners of Paradise; models of the exquisitist pitch of intense poetry . . . There is in all such a mystic and dreamy glimmer as penetrates and kindles the inmost soul’.

Gallery label, February 2016

Amateurs of Tye-Wig Music (‘Musicians of the Old School’)

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Edward Francis Burney
Amateurs of Tye-Wig Music (‘Musicians of the Old School’)
c.1820

This is one of a series of images Burney produced satirising attitudes towards music. Here his subject is the ‘battle’ between traditional and modern music. Modern music is represented by Beethoven and Mozart, whose names appear in the foreground. Traditional music is represented by a bust of Handel in the upper centre. A group of musicians is playing (badly) music by Handel’s contemporary, Corelli. They are dressed in the traditional clothing of Handel’s day, including the ‘tye-wigs’ mentioned in the title.

Gallery label, February 2016

The Raising of Jairus’ Daughter

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Henry Thomson
The Raising of Jairus’ Daughter
exhibited 1820

This large painting was first exhibited at the Royal Academy in London in 1820. It shows a scene from the life of Christ. Jairus was a leader of the synagogue whose daughter lay dying. Jairus appealed to Jesus for help, and despite the scepticism of the mourners in attendance the child was returned to life. Jairus’s daughter is placed at the centre of the canvas, prepared for burial. The painting is a rare example of large-scale religious art by a British artist. It was created in an academic style indebted to the examples of 16th and 17th-century Italian and French art.

Gallery label, February 2016

Madonna and Child

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William Dyce
Madonna and Child
c.1827–30

Dyce visited Italy in the late 1820s. While there he became aware of the art of the Nazarenes, a group of German painters. They were inspired by 15th-century religious painting, and set out to create an art for their own times which possessed the same moral purpose. This picture, modelled on Raphael’s ‘Madonna and Child’ subjects of the early 1500s is quite uncharacteristic of English art of the 1830s. In this sort of picture, Dyce emerges as a precursor of the Pre-Raphaelites. As a senior Royal Academician he was an important supporter of their aim to renew English art.

Gallery label, October 2013

Hylas Surprised by the Naiades

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John Gibson
Hylas Surprised by the Naiades
1827–?36, exhibited 1837

John Gibson was one of the most widely-regarded neoclassical sculptors in Europe. In this statue group he depicts the moment in Greek myth when Hylas, the boy companion of Hercules, was abducted by water-nymphs who were entranced by his beauty. Hylas is simultaneously admired and restrained by the two Naiades. Gibson’s treatment of the scene draws on many classical sources, and the marble is inscribed (in Greek) with the words ‘Beautiful Hylas’. The statue was bought by Robert Vernon, a successful businessman and patron of the arts, and subsequently given to the nation.

Gallery label, February 2016

A Scene at Abbotsford

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Sir Edwin Henry Landseer
A Scene at Abbotsford
exhibited 1827

Landseer began exhibiting animal and historical pictures in the 1820s. He painted a number of Scottish highland subjects and, like Turner, illustrated the works of the novelist, Sir Walter Scott. From 1824 Landseer was a visitor to Abbotsford, Scott’s house in the Scottish Borders. This picture conveys its Romantic atmosphere. Scott’s great deerhound, Maida, which was then dying, lies with his younger companion, among antiquarian relics and sporting trophies. This painting was shown at the British Institution in 1827, when it was bought by the Duke of Bedford.

Gallery label, February 2016

Standing Female Nude

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William Etty
Standing Female Nude
c.1835–40

Etty specialised in painting the nude and continued to attend life classes at the Royal Academy throughout his life. The presence of an older man working away studiously alongside much younger students caused some amusement among his contemporaries. Etty’s modern reputation has rested on the apparent realism and erotic charge of his painted studies, which seem forward-looking, but the artist considered that he was working in a well-established tradition of high-minded painting.

Gallery label, February 2016

Punch or May Day

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Benjamin Robert Haydon
Punch or May Day
1829

Haydon thought of calling this painting ‘Life’, reflecting his ambition to capture a cross-section of London. His composition is full of pairings and contrasts. A hearse and a marriage coach nearly collide. The newly-weds are contrasted with the violent Punch and Judy puppet show on the left. Christianity, as represented by St Marylebone Church, co-exists with the pre-Christian May Day procession in the foreground on the right. Part of this parade is a dancing chimney sweep with blond curls and soot-blackened face. This performance of ‘blackness’ contrasts with the artist’s treatment of the black footman standing at the back of the carriage.

Gallery label, July 2018

The Village Holiday

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Sir David Wilkie
The Village Holiday
1809–11

Scottish-born Wilkie became a star of the London art world, widely admired for his moralising or humorous narratives of everyday life. Here, Wilkie updates the ancient theme of the choice between virtue and vice – in this case drink. Outside a pub, a man hesitates between going home to his wife or staying to drink with his friends. The consequences of a wrong decision are shown by the collapsed drunk on the right; Wilkie said even his dog looked ashamed of him. Wilkie exhibited the picture in 1812. It was bought by John Julius Angerstein, an important collector.

Gallery label, October 2013

The Gleaning Field

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Samuel Palmer
The Gleaning Field
c.1833

Samuel Palmer’s vision of the landscape was shaped by his friendship with the older poet and artist William Blake (1757–1827). Blake’s words in Milton are those of a prophet waiting for liberty and peace to reign: ‘I will not cease from Mental Fight, Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand: Till we have built Jerusalem, In England’s green & pleasant Land.’ This picture shows a scene after harvesting has finished. Palmer, a devout Christian, created images of ‘England’s green & pleasant Land’ that contrasted with the harsher contemporary reality of change and social unrest in the countryside.

Gallery label, February 2016

The Mill Stream. Verso: Night Scene with Bridge

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John Constable
The Mill Stream. Verso: Night Scene with Bridge
c.1810

This study shows the view from the forecourt of Flatford Mill across a side stream of the river Stour in Suffolk, which had been diverted under the mill to work the water-wheel. The water churned up by the water-wheel left the mill through an archway below the forecourt, which explains the turbulence seen in the foreground of the sketch. The house is Willy Lott’s House, named after the tenant farmer who lived there for over 80 years. It appears in several of Constable’s finished paintings, the most famous of which is The Haywain 1821 (now in the National Gallery).

Gallery label, February 2016

Kensington Gravel Pits

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John Linnell
Kensington Gravel Pits
1811–2

John Linnell was a pioneer of the new observational landscape painting of the early 19th century. By 1811, he was sharing a house with the painter William Mulready at Kensington Gravel Pits, near the Bayswater Road. Linnell and Mulready sat down ‘before any common object’ and tried ‘to imitate it minutely’. Linnell studied the gravel workings in a series of carefully observed watercolours completed out of doors. This picture, with its careful observation of the surface textures of the ground, brilliant lighting and vivid sky, was developed from the watercolours.

Gallery label, October 2013

The Rat-Catcher and his Dogs

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Thomas Woodward
The Rat-Catcher and his Dogs
exhibited 1824

The village rat-catcher, resting on the steps, is identified not only by the cage containing live vermin at his side, but by his unusual hat-band, portraying his prey. A cat stalking the caged rats, ignored by the man absorbed in playing with his terriers, introduces a note of humour to the scene. The purpose of the rat-catcher’s occupation was probably straightforward pest control, although ‘ratting’ – when dogs competed to kill live rats in a pit – was a popular blood sport. Woodward was employed as an animal painter by Queen Victoria but he also produced landscapes and historical subjects.

Gallery label, February 2016

The Peep-o’-Day Boys’ Cabin, in the West of Ireland

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Sir David Wilkie
The Peep-o’-Day Boys’ Cabin, in the West of Ireland
1835–6, exhibited 1836

Some of Wilkie’s most popular pictures showed life and folk traditions in rural Scotland, familiar from his boyhood. Later, in 1835, he visited Ireland, which he compared to Spain for its picturesque potential. He exhibited this picture the following year. It evokes the ‘state of primeval simplicity’ he found in Galway and Connemara, while underplaying the political and religious unrest implied by the title.Peep-o’Day Boys were Protestant guerrillas. They raided Catholic rebels at dawn, during uprisings in the 1780s and 90s. Wilkie had first planned a more contentious subject: a Whiteboy, from another group who championed oppressed tenants.

Gallery label, May 2007

French Coast with Fishermen

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Richard Parkes Bonington
French Coast with Fishermen
c.1824

After the Napoleonic War, cultural exchange with continental Europe resumed with artists travelling back and forth across the Channel. For its variety, originality and painterly qualities British painting was especially admired in France. The appearance of British pictures in the so-called ‘English salon’ (Salon des Anglais) in Paris in 1824 encouraged French artists to visit London. Bonington lived in Paris, and French Coast with Fishermen was almost certainly included in the 1824 Salon. Bonington’s exhibit caused a sensation and like John Constable, he was awarded a gold medal.

Gallery label, October 2018

The Disgrace of Wolsey

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Henry Monro
The Disgrace of Wolsey
exhibited 1814

Thomas Wolsey (1473–1530) was an English archbishop, statesman and a cardinal of the Catholic Church. He was a trusted advisor to King Henry VIII, who made him Lord Chancellor. In 1529, having failed to secure an annulment of Henry VIII’s first marriage, Wolsey was removed from government and arrested for treason. This painting won Monro a prize at the British Institution in 1813. The Institution was keen to promote historical painting by British artists. Monro died the following year, aged only 22.

Gallery label, July 2019

The Porch of St Maclou, Rouen

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David Roberts
The Porch of St Maclou, Rouen
1829

The medieval architecture of France and the fine examples of Gothic to be seen in cities like Rouen became popular themes for artists during the 1820s. British artists responded enthusiastically, extending their tradition of the picturesque tour to continental scenery and antiquities, while French artists and writers directed attention to monuments and religious relics recently neglected or defaced as a result of the Revolution. For Charles Nodier, Rouen was the ‘Herculaneum of the Middle Ages’. More than a detailed study of architecture, Roberts’s picture of St Maclou is intended as a moody evocation of a lost age of faith.

Gallery label, February 2016

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William Dixon
Cottages near a Track
Date not known

Until recently little has been know about William Dixon and his work has been confused with that of his friend and mentor, John Linnell. After his death, Linnell bought Dixon's 'sketches from nature and studies for Pictures', including this bright and bold study of a rural track, perhaps a Northumberland subject.

Linnell observed that Dixon made no use of his 'beautiful studies from nature',
and didn't look after them properly. Perhaps he was unable to solve the problem of translating the freshness
of his sketches into works for exhibition.

Gallery label, September 2002

The Colosseum from the Esquiline

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Sir Charles Lock Eastlake
The Colosseum from the Esquiline
1822

Eastlake began his career as a painter but went on to become Director of the National Gallery in 1851. The sale of an early picture funded Eastlake’s travels to Rome in 1816. There he joined a circle of artists including the Italian sculptors Antonio Canova and Bertel Thorwaldsen, the German Nazarenes and students of the French Academy of Fine Arts. Eastlake often sketched outdoors, straight from nature. His habit of painting even in bright sunshine won him the nickname ‘the Salamander’. From these studies he painted small pictures of Roman scenery like this view of the Colosseum.

Gallery label, May 2019

George Canning (after Joseph Nollekens)

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Edward Hodges Baily
George Canning (after Joseph Nollekens)
1829

This bust of the statesman and orator George Canning (1770–1827) was one of a group of national heroes commissioned by Robert Vernon. Baily copied the bust of Canning (who died two years before this commission) from an 1810 bust by Joseph Nollekens. Canning was Foreign Secretary from 1807 to 1809, and 1822 to 1827, and Prime Minister shortly before his death in 1827. Busts such as this were intended to record the likeness of a subject, while the classical reference and durable material indicated the timeless nature of their achievements.

Gallery label, February 2016

Art in this room

Flatford Mill (‘Scene on a Navigable River’)
John Constable Flatford Mill (‘Scene on a Navigable River’) 1816–7
The Field of Waterloo
Joseph Mallord William Turner The Field of Waterloo exhibited 1818
Head of a Man (?Ira Frederick Aldridge)
John Simpson Head of a Man (?Ira Frederick Aldridge) exhibited 1827
Sketch for ‘Hadleigh Castle’
John Constable Sketch for ‘Hadleigh Castle’ c.1828–9
Coming from Evening Church
Samuel Palmer Coming from Evening Church 1830
Amateurs of Tye-Wig Music (‘Musicians of the Old School’)
Edward Francis Burney Amateurs of Tye-Wig Music (‘Musicians of the Old School’) c.1820

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