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. It is also designed to look afresh at the kinds of landscape imagery produced by these individual artists and their contemporaries, using the kinds of art-historical perspectives that are being newly developed in response to our current environmental crisis.
Generation Landscape encompasses and complements detailed new research on a number of the individual practitioners listed above. This activity includes the production of a new online catalogue of Thomas Girtin’s works, written by Dr Gregory Smith, which is due to be published in 2022. Research undertaken as part of the project will also feed into a major Tate Britain exhibition on Constable and Turner, which is scheduled to open in late 2025. Finally, it is also hoped that the project will further the development of a new, digital edition of John Constable’s correspondence.
More broadly, Generation Landscape aims to chart the trajectories of this famous cohort of landscape artists in relation to one another, and in relation to a shared set of interests, experiences and circumstances. Through a series of conferences and research programmes between 2021 and 2024, it will look at how these practitioners 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.
Generation Landscape is being led by Mark Hallett, Director of Studies at the Paul Mellon Centre.