This research project is founded upon the simple fact that a stellar collection of British landscape artists – including JMW Turner, John Constable, Thomas Girtin and John Sell Cotman – were born within just a few years of each other (1775 in the case of the earliest, Girtin and Turner, and 1782 in the case of the latest, Cotman). Generation Landscape is intended to explore the benefits – and to confront the problems – of studying this group of artists, and other contemporary landscape practitioners such as Cornelius Varley (born in 1778) and Augustus Wall Callcott (born in 1781), as part of a distinctive artistic generation.
Encompassing and complementing new PMC-supported research that is being carried out on individual members of this cohort, including Girtin and Constable, this project will chart the trajectories of this cluster of artists in relation to one another, and in relation to a shared set of interests, experiences and circumstances. It will look at how they and their works interacted with, and differed from, each other, and responded in both comparable and contradictory ways to the challenges – artistic, cultural, political and environmental - thrown up by their era. In pursuing these lines of enquiry, Generation Landscape will also explore the reasons why this cohort of artists focused so intensely on landscape painting, and trace the ways in which, in doing so, they helped generate an enduring, collectively-articulated iconography of the British countryside.
The project is also intended to bring a host of fresh, critical perspectives to bear on what has become one of the most familiar and deeply-studied strands of British art: landscape painting of the early nineteenth-century. These perspectives will be shaped by new research on the artists concerned, by recent scholarship on the generational dynamics of artistic exchange and development, and, no doubt, by the environmental preoccupations and debates of our own generation.
Generation Landscape, which is being led by Mark Hallett, is intended to result in a major Paul Mellon Centre publication, the character of which will be determined as the project unfolds.
The first major event in the programme of events associated with the project is an inaugural Generation Landscape conference dealing with the concept of generational identity in the visual arts, which will take place at the Paul Mellon Centre in the summer of 2020.