Francis Danby:
Varieties of Poetic Landscape

Eric Adams

Catalogue Raisonné
Publicaton Date
May 1973
Standard Number
Yale University Press
384 pages

When the imaginative landscape-painter Francis Danby died in 1861, his reputation died as well, owing to a shift in public taste, the loss or decay of many of his best works, and the secrecy surrounding much of his personal life. In this first full-length study of the artist, Eric Adams provides a reliable and comprehensive account of Danby’s life and career and assesses his contribution to British romantic art.

In addition to providing a complete catalogue raisonné of Danby’s known and recorded works, with illustrations of most of those that are extant, Dr Adams skilfully deduces an intelligible patter from the fragmentary evidence of the artist’s erratic career and the confusing variety of his work. He analyses the literary, pictorial, and social influences on Danby’s grand, gloomy, and fantastic art, its stylistic development, and its place in the history of nineteenth-century painting. 

Although the whole of Danby’s career is examined, particular attention is given to the 1820s, when Danby was most in touch with his contemporaries, first as a painter of lyrical genre-landscapes within the intimate local culture of Bristol, and subsequently in the high-art milieu of London, where he competed with Turner and Martin as a painter of historical landscapes. Tracing Danby’s estrangement from the popular tendencies of Victorian art, Dr Adams defines him as a romantic individualist who employed poetic effects while preserving the traditional forms of classical and realistic landscape.