A Dialogue with Nature: Romantic Landscapes from Britain and Germany
- The Courtauld Gallery |
- 30 January – 27 April 2014
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Exploring romantic landscape drawing in Britain and Germany, from its origins in the 1760s to its final days in the 1840s.
It was Caspar David Friedrich who described Romantic landscape draughtsmanship as 'a dialogue with nature', claiming that 'the artist should not only paint what he sees before him, but also what he sees in himself'.
His words encapsulate two central elements of the Romantic conception of landscape: close observation of the natural world and the importance of the imagination.
Featuring the likes of JMW Turner, Samuel Palmer, Carl Philipp Fohr, and Karl Friedrich Lessing, this exhibition explores the areas of commonality and divergence between the British and German schools.
Examples include Friedrich's Moonlit Landscape and The Jakobikirche as a Ruin, which are shown alongside Palmer's Oak Tree and Beech, Lullingstone Park. These works evidence the shared spiritual vision of nature that extended across both nations, yet the use of wildly different techniques. Friedrich's painstakingly fine detail is a direct contrast to the dynamic freedom of Palmer's penwork.
The newfound emphasis on drawing outdoors extended to amateur artists as well, shown here in the sketchbooks of composer Felix Mendelssohn and the British naval officer Robert Streatfeild.
To see romantic landscapes at their most expansive and painterly, seek out Turner's St Goarshausen and Katz Castle, one of 50 watercolours inspired by his first visit to Germany in 1817. Other highlights include his highly atmospheric rendering of a full moon over Lake Lucerne, as well as Friedrich's subtle wash drawing of a coastal meadow on the remote Baltic island of Rügen.