Print and Property : Graphic Landscape
Conference, Lecture – Richard Johns, John Bonehill, Kate Retford, James Finch
- 4 November 2021
- 12:00 – 2:00 pm
- This event is part of the online conference programme 'Graphic Landscape: The Landscape Print Series in Britain, c.1775–1850'
12.00–12.10 Introduction by Richard Johns (Senior Lecturer in History of Art at the University of York)
12.10–12.30 John Bonehill (Lecturer, History of Art, University of Glasgow), Picturing Property: The Estate Landscape and the Late Eighteenth-century Print Market
12.30–12.50 Kate Retford (Professor of Art History, Birkbeck, University of London), Views of the Lakes at the Vyne
12.50–13.00 Comfort break
13.00–13.20 James Finch (Assistant Curator, 19th Century British Art, Tate Britain), Amelia Long’s Views from Bromley Hill
13.20–14.00 Panel discussion and questions
John Bonehill, Picturing Property: The Estate Landscape and the Late Eighteenth-century Print Market
Pictorial surveys in print of the nation’s great houses and landed estates were a vital part of ‘the business of landscapery’ (to borrow Conal Shields’ memorable phrase). High-profile debates over the coincidence or otherwise of landed and public interests ensured the estate a canonical cultural status and such schemes a ready market. Part of the polite geographies of the time, also set out in maps, travel literature and poetry, serial print publications such as William Watts’ The Seats of the Nobility and Gentry (1779–86) extolled the virtues of personal property and private landownership as the foundation of a modern society. They helped to co-ordinate Britain’s localities and regions in people’s minds as a complex but ordered and harmonious mosaic of landed power.
Such ventures exploited serial formats to telling effect, opening up fresh perspectives and expanding the topographical and geographical reach of landscape art. Indeed, printed views of the estate ranged over a rich array of sites, regions and terrains across Britain and its colonial territories, including the slave landscapes of the Caribbean. Despite a tendency for scholars to think about estate portraiture largely in terms of views of ‘the country house’, serial publications in the line were rarely so confined.
Taking in extended, nationwide surveys of country and suburban seats as well as sets focused on individual properties, this paper will trace developments in the market for serial prints of the landed estate in the latter part of the eighteenth century. Such publications proliferated in these years, to the point of near market saturation, reflecting a broad interest in the estate and its depiction, not least among polite, urban dwellers who lacked the resources to build such domains and whose attitudes were as likely to be censorious as curious. As this paper will show, the making and meaning of these series, involving collaborations between publishers, printmakers, artists and, importantly, their patrons, was increasingly inflected by wider anxieties over the improvement of landed property and the erosion of customary modes of existence.
Kate Retford, Views of the Lakes at the Vyne
As well as being sold ready to be bound, or sometimes framed, print series were also used to create print rooms. Fashionable from c.1750 to c.1820, anything from modest numbers to more than 300 prints could be pasted onto the walls of one of these rooms, embellished with printed borders. Series were particularly useful in providing a number of thematically united prints of the same dimensions, helping to structure the display, facilitate symmetry and encourage viewer engagement.
My paper will focus on the plates from Joseph Farington’s Views of the Lakes (1784–9) included in the surviving print room at The Vyne in Hampshire. Whilst this room was renovated by the National Trust in 1959, more of the fabric is original than had previously been thought. It was primarily created by Caroline Wiggett, an adoptive daughter of the family, in 1817, with the assistance of her aunt and brothers. She used a large quantity of older material already at The Vyne but also a significant selection of recently published prints.
In my talk, I will reflect on the processes of recontextualisation and, indeed, transformation at stake here. Farington’s plates are featured in a display which also includes prints after Italian old masters and Hogarth’s Four Times of Day, all linked by added decorative borders. Their letterpress has been cut away and the views are here also divorced from William Cookson’s accompanying descriptions. The scenes would therefore only be recognisable locales for those with necessary knowledge; generic, picturesque views of lakes and mountains for others. Furthermore, Farington’s carefully planned running order was set to one side in deference to the display context, as well as personal taste. It also appears that the family only purchased the first six plates, issued in 1786, and so the full series, represented in surviving bound volumes, is truncated.
Farington’s Views at The Vyne offer a rich opportunity to think about the reception, use and display of such print series, the relative contexts of bound volumes and use as pictures in a ‘paper museum’, and the complex relationship between text and image.
James Finch, Amelia Long’s Views from Bromley Hill
Amelia Long, Lady Farnborough (1772–1837), the daughter of a collector, who went on to marry a connoisseur, was one of the foremost amateur watercolourists of her generation. Reputedly the ‘favourite pupil’ of Thomas Girtin, her work was held in sufficient regard for her to have been an honorary exhibitor at the Royal Academy between 1807 and 1822 and is held by several public collections. In spite of her talent, recognition during her lifetime and place within the London art world, however, Long’s work has received little attention since the exhibition of her work at Dundee Museums and Art Galleries in 1980.
Despite her achievements as a watercolourist, Long is arguably of greater interest as a printmaker. Rather than work with reproductive printmakers, Long etched her own plates and produced two very different series of landscape etchings. Etchings by Lady Long From Her Sketches Taken in France and Holland in 1815–1817–1819 documents Long’s travels amongst the first wave of British artists (also including Turner and Cotman) visiting the continent at the end of the Napoleonic Wars and displays a keen interest in both topography and the armies still conspicuously present on her travels. Long’s nine Views from Bromley Hill (c.1805), meanwhile, depict the house and gardens, which Long and her husband acquired in 1801, and transformed to their own designs.
This paper will focus on Long’s views from Bromley Hill, viewing these prints in the context of the topography of this area of Kent (now London), coterie artistic production and the representation of a property which became both a meeting place for society gatherings and an arena for Long’s own creativity.
About the speakers
Richard Johns is Senior Lecturer in History of Art at the University of York where his research and teaching encompasses various aspects of British art. Landscape-related publications include Framing Robert Aggas: The Painter-Stainers’ Company and the English School of Painters (2008), Turner and the Sea with Christine Riding (2013) and From the Nore: Turner at the Mouth of the Thames (2016). In 2019 he co-curated the exhibition Ruskin, Turner & the Storm Cloud with Suzanne Fagence Cooper.
John Bonehill teaches art history at the University of Glasgow. He has published extensively on various aspects of eighteenth-century art and culture, including Old Ways New Roads: Travels in Scotland 1720–1832 (with Anne Dulau Beveridge and Nigel Leask).
Kate Retford is Professor of History of Art at Birkbeck, University of London. She has published widely on eighteenth-century British art, particularly on gender, portraiture, and the country house. Her recent publications include The Conversation Piece: Making Modern Art in Eighteenth-Century Britain (2017) and The Georgian London Town House: Building, Collecting and Display, co-edited with Susanna Avery-Quash (2019). She is currently working on a book about print rooms in eighteenth-century country houses, funded by a Leverhulme Research Fellowship in 2021–2022.
James Finch is Assistant Curator, 19th Century British Art at Tate Britain, where he has worked on the exhibitions Van Gogh and Britain, William Blake and Turner’s Modern World. He was previously Curatorial Assistant at the Royal Academy of Arts and wrote his PhD thesis on ‘The Art Criticism of David Sylvester’ (AHRC-funded Collaborative Doctoral Partnership between Tate and the University of Kent). He has also published essays on artists including Lucian Freud, Barnett Newman and Alberto Giacometti.
02 Nov 2021
Print, Politics and Industrialisation : Graphic Landscape
09 Nov 2021
Revisiting the Canon: Graphic Landscape
11 Nov 2021
A Wider View: From Collaboration to Empire: Graphic Landscape