Hadleigh Castle Revisited

So following on from the first watercolour experiment I thought I’d have another go. I reviewed my reflection notes and to combat the curling sketchpad paper problem I raided the stationary for these —>

There was nothing I could do about the time limit issue, but to combat the cold and unpleasant outdoor experience I painted indoors from a photo I’d taken of a place I know very well, the ruins of 13th Century Hadleigh Castle. I was able to paint over 3 lunchtimes that way. Here is my finished picture:

Hadleigh Castle, Watercolour on paper
I was standing right on the edge of a drop here so Constable’s view no longer exists

In the eighteenth century ruins were a very popular topic for artists. Constable and J.M.W. Turner were among those who toured Britain in search of ruins and picturesque landscapes. I picked on Hadleigh because it is one of the locations that Constable had painted at. This view point isn’t exactly as his was because the area has changed quite a bit in the last almost 200 years. Whatever high viewing place he was situated on no longer exists. Neither does the large tree or half of the castle ruins. It also looks as though we’ve reclaimed a lot more land because I could only see the sea as a tiny blue line in the distance from where I stood.

Hadleigh Castle, The Mouth of the Thames–Morning after a Stormy Night. 1829
John Constable, 1776–1837.
Oil on canvas
48 x 64 3/4 inches (121.9 x 164.5 cm)
© Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection


My paining is not as true to life as the photo. It would have been easier to paint if i hadn’t added the clouds but I thought it needed something other than blue sky. Also, Constable always had interesting skies in his pictures. He took scientific study of clouds to get them more accurate. Also, the colour of my sky is wrong, too deep. I enjoyed experimenting with the brush to create the different textures for the greenery but this wasn’t very 18th C of me because they were painstakingly meticulous and would have drawn it all much more accurately than I have the patience for unfortunately. I think this sketch was more successful than the last one (of St Pauls), because I am more comfortable indoors generally. I would not have had the time to paint this scene from life because it’s too far from London for a lunchtime jaunt and at the weekends I have my toddler with me. Also, the clips (and lack of wind) really helped with curling paper situation. I toyed with the idea or adding some people but in the end decided against it.

Constable’s Castle

Constable also didnt do his giant canvas in the field, he created this pencil sketch in 1814, the only time he visited Hadleigh.

He wrote to his future wife Maria: ‘At Hadleigh there is a ruin of a castle which from its situation is a really fine place – it commands a view of the Kent hills, the Nore and North Foreland & looking many miles to sea’ (letter of 3 July 1814; in R.B. Beckett, ed., John Constable’s Correspondence, II, Ipswich 1964, p.127).(Tate, 1998)

Hadleigh Castle, near Southend
Pencil, Page from a sketch book. Pencil drawing of Hadleigh castle.
8.3 cm x 11.1 cm
Given by Isabel Constable, daughter of the artist
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

From that he made some oil sketches such as this one in the Tate to work out any kinks in the compositional details:

Sketch for ‘Hadleigh Castle’ c.1828-9 John Constable 1776-1837 Purchased 1935 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N04810
© Tate 2017, CC-BY-NC-ND 3.0 (Unported)

As an aside, the technical paper on this sketch is very interesting. Explaing how they know that someone other than Constable has extended the canvas to add to the sketch and composition on the left (and slightly less on the right). Even in the small reproduction, once its been pointed out, you can clearly see the slightly yellow tone to the edge of the sky on the left and far right.

Constable started painting his 6 footers in 1818, and he submitted his Hadleigh Castle, The Mouth of the Thames–Morning after a Stormy Night to the Royal Academy exhibition in 1829, the year in which he was elected an Academician.

Constable’s wife Maria died in November 1828, and the sombre, desolate tone of the work is generally assumed to reflect his mood at this time. In a letter of 19 December of that year, he wrote to his brother Golding: ‘I shall never feel again as I have felt, the face of the World is totally changed to me‘ (in C.R. Leslie, ed. Hon. Andrew Shirley, Memoirs of the Life of John Constable, R.A., London 1937, p.234). (Tate, 1998)


Duff, N. ‘Constable’s Sketch for Hadleigh Castle: A Technical Examination’, Tate Papers, no.5, Spring 2006. At http://www.tate.org.uk/research/publications/tate-papers/05/constables-sketch-for-hadleigh-castle-technical-examination (Accessed 9 May 2017)

English Heritage. (2006) History of Hadleigh Castle At: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/hadleigh-castle/history/
(Accessed on 7 May 17)
Tate. (1998) Constable Sketch for ‘Hadleigh Castle’ At: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/constable-sketch-for-hadleigh-castle-n04810
(Accessed on 7 May 17)

V&A. (2017) Hadleigh Castle, near Southend Drawing Constable At: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/b/british-watercolours-landscape-genre/
(Accessed on 7 May 17)

Yale Centre for British Art. (2017) Hadleigh Castle, The Mouth of the Thames–Morning after a Stormy Night, Constable At: http://collections.britishart.yale.edu/vufind/Record/1669233
(Accessed on 7 May 17)


Assignment four

As with the previous assignments, I have made the assignment as a pdf document which can be downloaded here: Assignment 4 PDF submission.

The assignment includes.

  • Four & ½ pages of notes (for three chapters in WHA, 18th-20th century)
  • Two annotations of paintings & direct references
  • One 600 word analysis & direct references
  • General References for assignment 4

As per Assignment 3 feedback I’ve added extra references sections for the direct references used in each bit of the Assignment, it seems a bit overkill to me but if that’s the preferred format then hopefully I have it right this time.


On the run up to creating assignment 4, again I re-read the feedback from previous assignments because that seemed to help with assignment 3.

On the assignment 3 feedback there were a few rework tasks to do, which I’m going to do next (since I was again running behind on my part 4 work with my daughter running me ragged). I did start to review the suggestions provided and have a new tag for those posts: Assignment 3 feedback

I followed the same advice as A3 as far as I could, In general avoid over-reliance on websites and I need to “Engage with more broadly ‘theoretical’ texts so as to deepen your research and expand your comments” using a wide variety of source materials. “Compare and contrast information and evaluate others’ arguments.”. The library books I ordered for specific parts of this section took forever to come in so I found this quite difficult this time, meaning my studied were a bit disjointed as I kept having to put bits aside to wait for another book. One of the comments was to synthesise different art historians’ interpretations. I found this useful especially this time for both the annotations and the analysis. I really enjoyed reading the John Berger essays and I hope to get some time to read some more of them.

Again, for all parts of the assignment I did preparation blogposts which allowed me to get my notes out of my system so i could broadly keep within the word limits. For the WHA notes tried to put a bit of reflection on each of the posts too, I seemingly regressed with my tendency to over note-take but I’m working on it with reading goals as suggested, however my goals this time were to include enough info in my initial notes that i could pull bits out to expand upon re the following A3 feedback: Using a separate set of responses on the blog to “develop short sections of analysis (examine how key components in each chapter fit together and relate to each other), comparison (explore the similarities and differences between the ideas you are reading about), and synthesis (bring together references to different sources or viewpoints)”. My intention was to do a separate bit of analysis on each of the major themes and go off to other books I was reading (such as the Berger essays) and expand on the points in the WHA. The only bit where i was actually able to do this was the Landscape/Industrial Revolution post which I did as direct preparation for the assignment.

Speaking of the analysis part, on reflection, the task calls for A 500-word analysis of a maximum of four paintings or sculptures, which demonstrate the influence of political, social and economic changes on either the portrayal of the city. And i think covered that in my blogpost but i might be close to the edge of skirting the point on the actual analysis because what i wanted to write about was the effect of the industrial revolution on landscape painting, so the pictures i choose don’t all portray the city.

Similarly, with the chose of work annotation & comparison. Since i wanted to do industrial revolution for the 500 words, I wanted something that would reflect the impact of imperialism to annotation, but also something which was a recent event. I hadn’t decided between The Raft of the Medusa and the Goya for the recent event so I hedged my bets and did Goya first, thinking that it is both a contemporary event AND shows the (negative) impact of imperialism. My other thought was to do Napoleon Bonaparte Visiting the Pest House in Jaffa by Gros as the imperialist work. Cursory comparison notes I wrote down to compare it with Goya’s 3rd May was as follows:

  • Use of Christian imagry
  • Propaganda vs truth
  • Pro vs anti war
  • Exotic vs local
  • Differnt viewpoints of the French army
  • Precursor to romantic movement
  • Heroic suffering

but ultimately I found the idea of comparing the raft more compelling.

As discussed with my tutor, I’ve appropriated the original section 3 visit to a country house for this parts visit to a country house. I’ll find another place to visit for section 3 (or do it from internet perhaps as it says in the course notes). With its Neo-classical and Rococo features Hylands House definitely belongs in Part 4.

Overall reflection against the Assessment Criteria:

  • Demonstration of subject-based knowledge and understanding – again there was a lot of reading in this section, and also I tried to use a few more books for the assignment research (as per feedback from assignment 1, 2 & 3). I think I have demonstrated my understanding of the area in this assignment according to the research I have done (see above).
  • Demonstration of research skills – Where possible I tried to go and see the work I was researching in person, but also evaluated the sources I was looking at in books and on the internet for their scholarly worth.
  • Demonstration of critical and evaluation skills – I tried to engage with the concepts throughout part three within each of the exercises that I actually completed, I knew I was running short on time so I skipped ahead to the assignment and have yet to do most of the exercises. I did better on sticking to the word count in the assignment analysis this time, putting all my long-winded thoughts and research into ancillary blogposts on my learning log. Also, I found the OU format that my tutor recommended for comparing works allowed me to review the works in my own words before diving into the research parts.
  • Communication – I think my ideas and points are written clearly. I try to reflect on bits as I go along since the assessor cannot be inside my head. I suspect the they won’t have the time to wade through every blogpost though.

Visit an eighteenth century Neo-classical house: Hylands House

Hylands House - Exterior
Hylands House – Exterior

Looking around for a country or town house to visit I came across Hylands House in Chelmsford which is only an hour away from where I live.

Originally I visited Hylands House for the country house visit in section 3 (first published 7th Aug 2016), I noted at the time that I didn’t think this visit matched that section well because Hylands fits so well into the section 4 house visit, so I’ve moved this visit and edited the blog post commiserate with what I learned (well after the visit) in section 4 on the 18th century.

The 18th century clearly splits stylistically into two, the fancy, twiddly Baroqueish Rococo style, which was all the rage with the very fashionable and the very rich élite (it’s very over the top as many things of fashion are!) and then a return to classical in the latter half of the century when demands for liberty were widespread and they needed an art for free people, ordinary people and looked back to the ancient republics. This was the Age of Reason, due to the Enlightenment, the philosophical movement which swept Europe much as humanism had done in the previous century. Hylands exhibits both styles, its fascinating to see the Rococo interior of the main rooms balanced out by the Neo-classical alterations which were added later.

The style showed off social standing amongst the wealthy by the classicism of implied Roman republican virtues. ‘A Neo-Palladian house declared its owes respect for propriety and decorum and with its dressed stonework , columns and pediment, marked his social standing far move obviously than the 17th century brick-build gentlemen’s house’ p622

The history:

The history of ownership of the estate has been tracked through nine private owners since it was finished in 1730, each making modifications and redesigned.

1728 to 1797 – Comyns Family

Sir John Comyns was a wealthy, well respected local lawyer. He bought the grounds as it was then the “manor of Shaxstones in Writtle”. He commissioned a fashionable new red-brick house in Queen Anne style with two storeys and grounds set out in formal geometric design. There was a pleasure garden and small kitchen garden to the north of the house. This was completed in 1730 and is the central part of the house we see today. Sir John Comyns died in 1740, with no children to pass the house to. He left the estate to his nephew, John Comyns of Romford, who, in 1759, commissioned a monument to the life of his uncle, (currently at the family vault in Writtle Church). In 1760 the estate passed to John’s son, John Richard Comyns.

1797 to 1814 – Cornelius Hendrickson Kortright 

Cornelius Kortright, a wealthy Danish merchant, bought the estate for £14,500 at auction. He commissioned Humphry Repton, who is now generally regarded as one of three outstanding designers who dominated the English Landscape movement from about 1720 to 1820 to update the Hylands estate to the fashionable Romantic Movement (eg landscape gardening and neo-classical architecture).

The Essex Herald in January 1810 reported Kortright’s hospitality during the Napoleonic Wars “an elegant ball and supper at his beautiful seat Highlands… at which all the fashionables in the neighbourhood were present, including many military gentlemen”

“Kortright purchased a further 150 acres of land to create Repton’s vision for Hylands. Hylands House became a winged, neo-classical villa, covered in white stucco. With its portico and Ionic pillars, Hylands was considered the height of Georgian elegance. An Estate map of 1814 also shows extensive changes to the Estate, including changes to the approach roads, servants’ quarters to the west, a new site for the Kitchen Garden, Ice House and Pleasure Gardens, the Serpentine Lake and a lodge to the entrance near Widford.” (Chelmsford council, 2016)

Kortright sold the house to move to a larger estate in Fryerning to support a larger family before the house redesign was finished.

1814 to 1839 – Pierre Caesar Labouchère

Pierre Labouchère, a Dutch merchant banker, bought the estate un 1814 and finished off the Humphry Repton redesign of the house and parklands. This is the symmetrical building encased in stucco, fronted by a huge neo-classical portico we see today.

Labouchère was a “keen horticulturalist, and had a 280 ft long conservatory built, with innovative heating techniques that enabled him to grow award winning forced exotic fruit and vegetables.” (Chelmsford council, 2016) He also added a pleasure garden, stable block, and is responsible for filling the interior with neo-classical statues, replicas of which can be seen in the house today, including works by Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen.

1839 to 1858 – John Attwood

John Attwood was an ironworks entrepreneur and MP for Harwich, he bought the estate from Labouchère’s son Henri after Labouchère’s death. Attwood wanted peerage so needed the place to be more impressive, so set about updating and enlarging the house to better show his status and wealth. He purchased over 3,500 acres of additional land surrounding Hylands, privatised the road from Writtle to Margaretting that ran through the estate and considerably enlarged the house and fully redecorated.

“However, he spent such a large proportion of his fortune on Hylands that when problems in his political career heralded financial difficulties, debts of £300,000 forced him to sell the house and estate. John Attwood eventually moved to France, where he died a pauper, never having realised his dream to become a peer.” (Chelmsford council, 2016)

1858 to 1904 – Arthur Pryor

“Arthur Pryor was a partner in the Truman, Hanbury and Buxton Brewery and purchased a much reduced Hylands Estate in 1858. He did little to the house other than some redecoration, although some of the exuberant decoration in the Banqueting Room is credited to him.

Pryor served as a Justice of the Peace, Deputy Lieutenant of the County and High Sherriff of Essex, and became a patriarchal figure in the community. He purchased the living of Widford Church, and had it rebuilt, as well as commissioning an entirely new church for the community in Galleywood, the only church in the country built on a racecourse. Arthur’s eldest son inherited the estate but let Hylands House rather than living in it himself.” (Chelmsford council, 2016)

1905 to 1920 – Sir Daniel Gooch

Sir Daniel Gooch was a Edwardian country gentleman who, having initially rented the house and estate in 1905 finally bought it in 1907. He modernised the house and installed electricity and telephones and entertained regularly. Gooch was a keen explorer and part of the Shackleton polar expedition, but had to return home with frostbite before reaching the South Pole.

“In 1912 the Gooch family hosted a society wedding that made national headlines, as the groom (Mr Claude Graham-White, a well-known aviator) and his friends flew in and landed their aeroplanes in the estate.” (Chelmsford council, 2016)

During World War I, Hylands was requisitioned as a military hospital and Sir Gooch had installed the most modern medical equipment at his own expense. Over 1,500 patients were treated here during the war, and both King George V and Lord Kitchener inspected troops here, in 1914 and 1915 respectively. The family fêtes and parties turned into fundraising events and the hospital finally closed in 1919.

In 1920, Hylands was sold to a syndicate of local gentlemen and sold again two years later…

1922 to 1962 – Mr John and Mrs Christine Hanbury

John Hanbury, chairman of the brewers Truman’s (like Arthur Pryor), bought the estate in 1923 but died suddenly so his wife and son took over. Tragically, his son, Jock, was then one of the first pilots to die in the Second World War in a flying accident. In memory of her husband and son, Christine Hanbury dedicated a private area in the gardens to them. She made a lot of changes to the grounds, including adding rhododendron borders and a lawn tennis court.

During the second world war the SAS had their headquarters at Hylands, it was a POW camp and also a wireless command post for the 6th Anti-Aircraft Division.

“On one memorable occasion, Captain Paddy Blair Maine (who went on to become this country’s most decorated soldier) attempted to drive a Jeep up the Grand Staircase for a bet. The incident caused much commotion and Christine Hanbury dispatched the men to bed with instructions to remove the Jeep in the morning when they had clearer heads. The Jeep had to be dismantled before it could be removed.” (Chelmsford council, 2016)

In 1962 Christine Hanbury died, leaving Hylands to her trustees.

1966 to present: Chelmsford City Council

Chelmsford City Council bought the estate and opened it up to the public in 1966, since then the house and grounds have been restored in phases to their former splendour. The house has been classified a Grade II* listed building (in 1985). By 1996 the external work to the House had been completed, the Entrance Hall restored to its Georgian grandeur and the Blue Room and Boudoir were refurbished.

“The east wing was fully restored and opened to the general public at Easter 1999. The west wing and basement restoration quickly followed and their grand opening took place at Easter 2004. The restoration of the basement area has brought to life the original red brick Queen Anne house and a number of exciting discoveries were made. Interpretation boards throughout the house offer visitors an informative and photographic display of the restoration process.” (Chelmsford council, 2016)

By 2005 the house was finally completely restored. By 2007 the gardens designed by Humphry Repton were restored (financed by the Council and a Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £3.4 million).

“The main elements of this project are detailed below.

  • Restoring Repton’s parkland – the original ‘Widford Approach’ drive has been reinstated for pedestrians and cyclists, providing beautiful framed views of the estate, before finally revealing the house itself. Repton’s spectacular views of the lake from the house can now also be enjoyed, especially from the Repton room located with Hylands house.
  • Conversion of the stable block – the Georgian stables have been restored and converted into The Stables Visitor Centre which incorporates a new visitor centre, with craft studios. gift shop, cafe, interpretation rooms, education room and stabling for horses.
  • Home Farm – these farm buildings have been restored and adapted for storage and offices for the Grounds Maintenance team.
  • Flint Cottage – a former gamekeeper’s cottage and now derelict, has been brought back to its original appearance and is now used as a store to support the Council’s events in the park.

(Chelmsford council, 2016) 

As well as being open to the public to visit the house and grounds, Hylands Park is now used stage large events for example the V Festival (since 1996) and it was the venue for the Essex overnight stop of the 2012 Olympic torch relay.

“The great house or planned public building, with its combination of architecture, landscape, and decorative art (as well as the paintings hung in its rooms), has frequently been seen as the total expression of a single philosophical, political and aesthetic point of view.” (Pointon, M, 1997)

My Visit


The walkways that lead up to the house let you appreciate the elegant facade’s classical splendour as you approach.

Hylands House – Exterior
Hylands House – Exterior
Hylands House – Exterior

Neoclassical features include:

  • A Tetrastyle Ionic portico, four column colonnade topped by a pediment.
  • The columns have the ionic volute capital but the shaft is smooth here rather than fluted.
  • Palmette pattern on the frieze
  • Ornate dentil on the classic cornice
  • A symmetrical look (although not perfectly symmetrical when you look twice, the right side of the building is longer , there is no door in this side, and the windows are slightly different. Also on the right side of the main part of the building the upper windows are longer than the rest of the main building, this throws off the proportional logic of a classical facade for the building as a whole but each part of the building is proportional).
  • symmetrical chimney stacks
  • Sash windows, most are rectangular, but two in the entrance of the main part of the building are round-headed with a keystone (which almost looks 1930s to me) and moulded surround.
Hylands House – Exterior, The columns have the ionic volute capital but the shaft is smooth here rather than fluted.
Sash Window, Classical round-headed with a keystone (which almost looks 1930s to me) and moulded surround.
Under the Portico, Ornate dentil on the classic cornice. palmette pattern on the frieze. Sash Piano mobile windows.
Hylands House – Exterior
Main Entrance, A Tetrastyle Ionic portico, four column colonnade topped by a pediment.
Hylands House – Main Entrance door, exterior view.

The main entrance door is a double panel door, with Fanlight above. If the Terrance room door is open you can see all the way though to the back garden, through the entrance hallway and the terrace room.

Hylands House – Main doorway entrance/exit, interior view.

The place had a rather good set of information for visitors. They handed us a sheet with a map on it (luckily it was laminated and dribble proof for my toddler). There were also many information panels on the walls throughout, although the topic of the panel was often not for the room that the panel was displayed in. I took photos of them and tried to relocate them appropriately in my notes here.

Hylands House - floor plan
Hylands House – floor plan

“The eighteenth-century country mansion like Syon House or Kedleston Hall was typically designed as a sequence of spaces, starting with a spectacular entrance hall, then a series of rooms moving from public display to private family use; this progression was reflected in the architectural detail, for example the degree of ornamentation. The same principles apply to a palace on a grand scale, like Versailles or Hampton Court, where a clear distinction exists between state rooms and private apartments. Public spaces are intended to create splendid or dramatic effects, while in private spaces aesthetic inter- relationships are of more importance. (Course Notes)

I’ve tried to note how the rooms flow into each other but I couldn’t easily discern which would be public or private rooms as all the lower ground except for the study seemed intended for display to guests.

The chequered floor of the entrance hall (which I’ll cover later) leads you off in either direction through a double doorway with an ornate medallion and a blind archway (down the corridor in the picture below is the small dining room).

Hylands House – Entrance

Small Dining Room

click on the photos to open them into a bigger gallery view:


We started in the small dining room (the main entrance was full of people) which had no door to it but was accessed through columns from the hallway. There was supposed to have a Victorian Oval Stretcher table (2 in the plan) but that now resides upstairs in the saloon. The Torchere is now in a space opposite the fireplace (i.e. in the other side of the room to (1) in the plan). Beside the left hand column (when looking into the room as on the plan) there now stands an undescribed wooden table with pamphlets on it.

On the right hand side wall beside the columns is a door with tiny faces in the frame (pictured), next to that opposite the mirror was a hanging space for a painting but with no painting hanging there anymore.

The wall lighting fixtures and mirror match the style of the chandelier with little cherubic faces etc. Each of the curtained windows actually also has folded back wooden window blinds (pictured).

things of note: the ceiling moulding & ornament above the doors indicate where to go now, drawing you up and down that corridor, to pause at the columns before going into this room.


Oppoisite the small dining room is the study. Its a very small wood panelled room which seemed to be part comfy meeting room for bridal prospectives and part storeroom. There was a modern display case along one side of the room, a desk with wedding album on it and a comfy sitting area. towards the back of the room was a globe (which presumably opens into a bar as I’ve seen before) and some odds and ends.

things of note:

  • comfy ‘mans’ space.
  • Flamboyant decoration is decreased to create a more intimate, relaxing atmosphere.

Banqueting room:

Hylands House – banqueting room panorama

Next to the small dining room is a rather ostentatious gold and pink banqueting room. In here is plenty of hanging artwork as well as mouldings and soft furnishings. At one end of the room, so you see it as you enter, is a large oil painting, Portrait of Arthur Pryor, 1865, (and his dog Satan), by Sir Francis Grant. Opposite him, at the other end of the room (just beside the entrance), hangs a another large oil painting, Portrait of Mrs Elizabeth Pryor, also attributed to Sir Francis Grant, 1861. On the left in front of a large mirror is a fireplace with a Victorian Mantel Clock sitting on top. The ceiling and mouldings are ornate with gold patterns and four symmetrical coats of arms (all the same), above the fireplace, window and large portraits. One assumes this is the coat of arms of the Pryors given the other decoration?

‘A reading of moliere’ by Jean francois de Troy, reminded me very much of these Rococo decorated rooms, the wall paper, the mouldings, the fireplace with mirror above, and even the ornate clock.

‘A reading of moliere’ by Jean francois de Troy (1679-1752)

Terrace Room:

Terrace Room

The Terrance had large viewing windows onto the gardens but it was a rather funny shaped room. In this room I could just imagine Mr Darcy chatting in the corner during a ball. I think this must primarily be used for weddings now given the decor and lack of furnishings.

Click to see these images larger:


Hylands House – Entrance – left of door when you come in

We skipped straight through when we arrived because there were people there arranging their wedding. However when we exited the Terrance they were gone and we were able to appreciate the entrance and its Venus status.

The poet Shelley famously said ‘We are all Greeks’ and certainly the influence of Greek civilisation is all around us. (course notes).

Things to note:

  • Classical influence – prominent Venus with Apple statue in a blind archway. Refer back to section 2 notes on Venus.The golden apple was the prize to Venus by Paris in the myth but, in this 18th century context, the apple could be taken in another way, a Classical subject revisited with Christian moralising (denoted by the apple from eden), as Love seen as ‘Natural‘ in 18th century on within a social construct.
  • Room made symmetrical with 3 archways on each wall, some doors, some blind.
  • Diagonal checked floor directs you towards the hallway doors.
  • Classical ornate medallion and a blind archways over the hallway doors

information panels:

Hylands House information panel from the Saloon about decorative art
Hylands House information panel from the Saloon about the Venus statue in the entrance hallway.

Grand staircase hall:

Grand Staircase – running ornament dado detail, Raffle-leaf design, scrolling leaf-like ornament found in Rococo decoration.


Onwards from the Entrance was the staircase hall. It has a checked floor and some classical mouldings along the ceiling. The grand staircase was designed by Humphry Repton.

Things to note:

  • Rococo influence stairway
  • checked floors again indicating paths between doorways
  • archways and blind archways to help symmetry
  • classical mouldings scene along one wall to balance out interesting stairs but this has been relocated from its original location in the dining room, see the panel below ( you can click to see a larger picture):
Hylands House



Saloon – Ceiling detail, a pattern of rosettes
Saloon, here you can see the ceiling modillion and foliated pattern cove

This seemed more of a very wide corridor connecting all the rooms than a room of its own, perhaps its because all the doors were open. It had lots more objects to see than the first few rooms though.

Things to note:

  • carpet and ceiling interest to indicate direction of travel between rooms
  • oriental influence with Japanese and Chinese objects and Chinese influence of seat design, which i didn’t appreciate at the time of the visit.
  • English blue pottery with Hyland scenes on it. Wedgewood influence
  • picturesque views from the windows

Drawing room:



The drawing room is the room with a piano. This room was highly decorated with cherubs and gilding. Also, some painted decor to match the raised relief patterns.

This room reminded me of Hogarth’s Marriage a la Mode II, 1743, which satires the social side of this style of interior, columns & classical ornament, but also Chinese ‘frivolities‘ and ‘preposterous‘ Rococo clock. ‘to Hogarth such objects symbolised heartlessness  or affectation – deviance from nature in life and art‘. WHA, p622.

Things to note:

  • Rococo influence
  • double mirror either side of the room same as Francois de Troy painting depicts
  • Trome-l’oeil on ceiling and walls
  • More French influences, eg the clock and candelabra


This room had the most paintings in it, and a dining table & chairs, candlesticks etc

Things to note

  • The paintings in here were piled high, much like in the Hogarth works.
  • The sitters of the paintings were all in contemporary dress.

Grand Staircase Gallery (upstairs)

Going back through the Saloon, we went up the Grand staircase to the Grand Staircase Gallery (the little landing outside the Repton room).

The Repton room – upstairs

Things to note

  • Nice views of the garden from here.
  • lack of ornament in this private space, not public facing (until now ;))

The Social History room

Next to the Repton Room is the social history room, sort of a poor-mans V&A.

information panels:

Hylands House – Social History Room

The basement

The basement is accessed outside the Banqueting room (you can also go upstairs here too but the Bridal suite was in use and closed to the public when we went.

Information panels:

Hylands House – Basement


Hylands House – Basement
Found in the Basement, Photograph of a watercolour sketch of Hylands by Major G. Whitmore, c 1808, when stationed in Chelmsford during the construction of the Napoleonic defences between Gallerywood and Widford. The sketch shows Kortright’s bow-fronted drawing room on his new east wing, and is important eye-witness evidence of its construction at this time.
Found in the  Basement, Engraving of Laboucheres ‘Elegant villa’ with matching wings, in 1819. By Preston Neale, from Views of the Seats of Noblemen and Gentlemen (Series 1, vol 2).

Hylands House – Basement



History and Restoration information panels:

Hylands House
Hylands House – Saloon
Hylands House
Hylands House – Humphry Repton background info
Hylands House – Repton’s Red book
Hylands House restoration techniques
Hylands House
Hylands House, information in the hallway by the small dining room
Hylands House panel in Saloon about restoring the East Wing
Hylands House panel in Saloon about restoring the East Wing
Hylands House  panel of Grand Staircase Gallery (upstairs outside Repton Room)
Hylands House, West Wing restoration information (displayed in the hallway by the small dining room)
Hylands House, West Wing restoration information

The Gardens

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to visit the gardens myself (with a grumpy child and pushchair in tow it wasn’t practical), the concept of the garden was as important as the building for a neoclassical country houses as came to realise while studying section 4. I’ve opted looking at the aerial view provided by google maps. There’s a bigger formal garden behind and to the left of the house, with a lake, and circles of flowerbeds, and geometric walkaways, and a much smaller garden behind a fence right next to the property on the right which might be the ‘kitchen gardens’. In front and behind the house in the views I saw from the windows its just picturesque natural style gardens with grass and trees and walkways from which you can appreciate the view of the House as you approach. The landscape gentleman’s park was a symbol of British liberty in the 18th century, as ‘defined by Locke, and enjoyed by the propertied class…a product of the classically based culture, created by and for the well bred and well read‘. WHA, p623.

Other exterior photos, the stables and information boards:


BBC news. (2011) Hylands Park in Chelmsford to host 2012 Olympic torch, 2011, bbc news online, At: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-essex-14031990
(Accessed on 14 Jun 16)

BBC news. (2012) London 2012: Olympic cauldron lit in Chelmsford At: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-essex-18748018
(Accessed on 14 Jun 16)

Chelmsford council. (2016) “The History of Hylands” 2016 by Chelmsford City Council At: http://www.chelmsford.gov.uk/history-hylands
(Accessed on 13 Jun 16)

Honour, H & Fleming, J. (2009) A World History of Art. (7th Ed), London, Laurence King Publishing

Hopkins, O. (2012) Reading Architecture: A Visual Lexicon. (7th Ed), London, Laurence King Publishing

Pointon. (1997) History of Art: A Students’ Handbook. (4th Ed), London, Routledge.
Ross. (2016) Hylands House, History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation At: http://www.britainexpress.com/attractions.htm?attraction=2088
(Accessed on 13 Jun 16)

Essential Reading: WHA ‘From Impressionism to Post-Impressionism’

Political, economic or social factors

Franco-Prussian war ended in humiliating surrender 1870. Next yr, 1st German emperor crowned at Versailles, the Paris Commune was viciously suppressed (Courbet imprisoned for his part). Many artists avoided trouble at this time by going abroad, eg Manet & Sisley went to London. Second Empire monument Paris Opera House opens in period of Third Republic, a celebration of ‘bourgeois stability’ but sculpture criticised for indecency ( designed by Charles Garnier (1825-98) with virtuoso sculpture on its façade by Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux (1827-75)). Paris a city for men, women and children preferred society in the suburbs, (as painted by Morisot). Public have difficulty comprehending the work of the Impressionists. Neo-impressionists were active supporters of Socialist-Anarchist movement in France eg Signac, bore witness to ‘ great social struggle… taking place between workers & capital ‘ p717,. Socialism played positive role in highlighting social protest, eg Angelo Morbeli (1853-1919) For eighty cents,1895. American Civil War ends 1865. Japanese woodblock became widely accessible after 1854 when Japan reopened to foreigners by USA, closed since 1638 expect for Dutch. Devastating fire in 1871 caused an architecturally innovative building boom in Chicago Changes in bourgeois social living stemming from new domestic architecture as middle-class architects designed medium sized detached houses.

Changes to status or training of artists

A regular feature of 19thC were attacks of outrage on artists by the public. Salon des Refuses opened 1863 to accept works rejected by the Salon including those of Impressionists providing an alternative avenue for success. Impressionists eventually recognised by cultivated intelligentsia if not the official art world. Successful artists had good standard of living, eg Monet had 6 gardeners! More artists working without commissions due to independent economic means, amateurs taking up art as a passion, art as a way of life became common changing the status of artists. Scottish Art Nouveau architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868-1928) more appreciated in Vienna than Glasgow due to the style spreading via lavishly illustrated magazines which had international circulations. International exhibitions which were a feature of 1890s which would make artists well known v quickly.

Development of materials and processes

Degas gave up oils for pastel, mixed media & watercolour by 1870s. He learned devices of illusion from Japanese prints, a way of seeing form. Also keen photographer. With the exception of Degas, the Impressionists completed their finished works in open air, not just sketches. Impressionists used high toned palette of clear bright colours, applied with varied, broken brushwork onto a canvas primed with white (not traditional brown), using colours alone to create form, spectrum colour s blend optically with distance. In contrast with spontaneous freshness of Impressionist brushwork Georges Seurat developed a new laborious, painstaking methodical technique done in the studio he called chromoluminarism (pointillism/divisionism), short, non-directional, brushstrokes uniformly separated painted evenly across the canvas hoping for greater luminosity. In later works these brushstrokes became juxtaposed dots of pure colour ‘divided’, colours blended optically at the correct distance instead of mixed on the palette. Angelo Morbeli created specially devised 3 pointed brush to make intricately woven strokes run in parallel threes. Revolutionary use of real materials in sculpture such as hair, muslin or satin p711. Lithography developed into ‘polychrome medium converted posters ’ allowed new form of public art eg Lautrec. New reproduction process following invention of photography allowed art magazines to be lavishly illustrated (as mentioned above). Use of Metal as building parts continues, creating cast iron districts by 1840s, especially in NY where James Bogardus (1800-74) introduced cast iron facades, playing a role in prefabrication, one of the most important innovations of the Industrial Revolution, parts could be mass produced & assembled onsite saving on time & skilled labour. Prefab houses of iron were being shipped from England all over the world.Crystal Palace by greenhouse designer Joseph Paxton (1803-65) exploited this to be of its own time. Intended to be a temporary space for an exhibition of international wonders of the industrial age. A radical departure from previous design  & construction models but seldom admired by contemporary architects, they felt compelled to ‘clothe’ their buildings in past style ornament while taking advantage of new materials eg John Roebling’s Brooklyn Bridge, technological marvel having Gothic arches. Similarly Statue of Liberty was also using internal metal framing to support the copper drapery of the antique Roman vision. Buildings had maxed out at 12 stories until metal framing introduced in 1883 Chicago by William Le Baron Jenney (1832-1907), skeleton construction which free from load bearing walls followed in 1889, from this Louis Henry Sullivan (1856-1924) achieved complete independence from old styles & gave skyscrapers their classic form with his Guaranty (Prudential) Building (1894-95) in Buffalo, New York.

Styles and movements

Impressionism : Claude Monet (1840-1926) tried to answer Baudelaire’s demand for an art for ‘modern life’ with The picnic, 1865-6 . Striving for optical truth on a contemporary subject. Impressionism born when Monet and Renoir (1841-1919) spent the summer together in 1869, their paintings showed innocent and joy in the visible world . p702 They thought of it as the final stage of Realism. It reflects the positivist scientific attitudes of the mid 19thC, Colour and optical theories by Chevreul. Positivism influenced the Realists already in their rejection of past and future as subjects. They should invent nothing, their concern was with truth and contemporary experience. Impressionists sought totally objective transcription of the everyday world around them, emotionally uninvolved, often social observation giving voice to those not previously heard or painted . Baudelaire had said ‘modernity is the transitory, the fleeting, the contingent ’. p703 Landscape or outdoor subject, usually small in scale, painted on the spot. Relied on colours blending optically when viewed at the right distance, not much tonal contrast. They combined all these elements that prior artists had used separately. painted outside so the truth of the first immediate impression of the scene would not be lost. p703 ‘Impression – sunrise’, Monet’s 1872 painting coined the term Impressionist. Paintings appear flat, as per scientific theory at the time that we do both see the third dimension. Illusionistic innovations, experiments with spectrum palette, idyllic scenes, diaphanous brushwork, shimmering water & blazing summer light. Manet, Monet and Renoir often painted together. Albert Sisley (1839-99) simplest & purest, Female painter Berthe Morisot (1841-95) concentrated on subjects of social spaces of women & children with greater attention to solidity of form. Renoir developed doubts about lack of form, composition & content. With his traditional concern with human figure & ‘rainbow palette ‘, he wrung Impressionism dry. Edouard Manet (1832-83) was associated but never exhibited with impressionists, seemingly concentrated on exploitation of women eg Olympia. Urban Nightlife & vitality of cafés, bars & cabaret. Loneliness & disillusion of city life, isolation & alienation typical of modern sensibility. p710. Eg Manet’s A bar at the Folies-Bergere 1881-2 . And Degas (1834-1917) who created finished works in the studio with only studies done on location, scenes of modern life, cafes, ballet dancers, nudes etc. Preferred ‘artificial life’ to ‘natural life’ of the rest of the Impressionists. His images of women don’t ‘presuppose an audience ‘ they are ‘honest simple folk ‘. Keyhole aesthetic. He was also a sculptor, highly regarded by Renoir although his sculpture mostly only cast after his death.

Japonisme: Influence of Japanese art signalled a break from Classical tradition, allowing new ways to see & represent the illusion of 3D space on a 2D surface. Influence on Degas not immediately obvious, but it showed him what drawing really meant. First of the indigenous arts that helped to develop modern western art, followed by African, Polynesian and indigenous American. Whistler‘s Nocturne: Blue and Silver, Cremorne Lights, 1872 translates Japanese art into Western terms, as does Monet’s Impression – Sunrise. Mary Cassatt ‘s colour prints of women & children use the high vantage point & asymmetry of the Japanese style, similarly with Gauguin ‘s The Vision after the Sermon,1888. Toulouse Lautrec incorporated the style translated into posters, flattening illusionistic space & uniting pattern of pictorial elements with lettering. Also evident in Van Gogh‘s later work.

Neo-Impressionist : mid 1880s revolt on trivial content & formlessness lead to extended style with more meaning, personal impressions of the artist. Seurat created pointillism to impose logic & discipline on Impressionist discoveries. Eg bathers . His hard edged outlines & firm structural effect of line based composition also contrasts with Impressionists atmospheric imprecision. His subject matter was more working class, less bourgeois. One of his followers, Paul Signac (1863-1935) became the diversionists /neo-impressionists spokesman. Politically provocative work by Signac, Pissarro , Henri-Edmond Cross & others now seems lyrical & carefree. Italian divisonisti developed independently. Symbolism: was main subjective current of anti-Impressionism in last two decades of century. Turned away from objective naturism to imagination and fantasy. Expressive line & form. Aim ‘to clothe the Idea in sensual, perceptible form’ p717 Explicit rejection of Impressionism & neo-impressionism following Emile Bernard (1868-1941) ‘to allow ideas to dominate the technique of painting‘ p718. Went to Brittany for backwards village life, Pont-Aven school. Developed simplified style of bold outline and flat colour, ‘Cloisonnism’, a catalyst for Paul Gauguin (1848-1903) . He gave up profitable career as stock broker in 1883 to paint. Dream, memories, imaginings & allegories predominant in his paintings as with other Symbolists such as Van Gogh, Edvard Munch (1863-1944), Auguste Rodin (1840-1917). Gauguin’s style based on ‘innocence and knowledge, the savage and uncivilised ’ p719. Sought purity, simplicity & myth of the primitive which he immersed himself in,first in Brittany then when he moved to Tahiti & married a local girl, eg Spirit of the dead watching,1892. Art as a new religion for both Gauguin and Vincent Van Gogh (1853-90). Van Gogh’s was a calling . He painted over 800 pictures, plus drawings, in a ten year period, experiencing insanity, mental breakdown and finally suicide, each painting a cry of anguish, eg the night cafe, 1888 . With disharmonies of green, red & yellow expressing ‘ the terrible passions of humanity ’.p718 He’d studied to become a pastor in Belgium, becoming an artist instead to satisfy spiritual craving. Another moody, broody individual was Munch, his unbalanced work having a cumulative effect. Theme of suffering through love, fin-de-siecle disillusion eg Frieze of Life, culminating in the scream, 1893. Sculptor Rodin’s 20yr long, unfinished The Gates of Hell, also shows psychic distress of fin-de-siecle period. He objected to being called a Symbolist, working from nature like impressionist painters his sculptures were naturalistic feats, that also portrayed states of mind. Last great sculptor of old tradition, not innovative as Degas.

Historicism provoked demand for a style of the 19th Century, Art Nouveau was the 1st attempt to break from the past. A new positive, expressive modern style of sculpture & architecture, taking its name from a gallery in Paris designed by Belgian Henry van de Velde (1863-1957). Munch’s The Scream exact contemporary of the Tassel house in Brussels by Victor Horta (1861-1947) featuring similar slithery, curvilinear patterns & decorative swirls characteristic with Art Nouveau, though there is no emotional turmoil in the new style, the patterns are purely decorative, flat and relaxed. Antoni Gaudi Spanish architect & Art Nouveau designer created buildings with whacky asymmetrical, jagged planes, extravagant forms, often having no straight walls or right angles, everything undulating with organic interplay of exterior and interior. American architect Sullivan created first skyscraper, ‘form follows function‘. p728. Bourgeois domestic architecture another 19thC phenomenon, ‘picturesque‘ tradition for small houses in England started by John Nash (1752-1835).  Philip Webb’s The Red House for artist William Morris. Later, Charles Francis Annesley Voysey’s informal rustic trend. Eg Norney, Surrey. Individual plan to suit clients,cozy rooms, friendly & wholesome dream of lost rural bliss. In US Henry Hobson Richardson’s open plan, neo-romanesque, Shingle style houses.

Greatest of all late 19thC artists Paul Cezanne (1839-1906) believed in reflection upon rather than simply observe. New depth of understanding of Impressionism, art, nature, perception and reality, his paintings had deep level of personal spirituality. He was able to see depth and pattern simultaneously, & sought to answer problems of representing desired depth on a flat canvas. Financially independent & solitary, he enjoyed the flexibility of setting up a still life to ‘realize’ over time, sometimes creating wax standing. Purposefully created perceived distortions & incorrect perspectives. His use of colour, solid construction and simple shapes gave enhanced effects of mass, volume & rhythm. eg Fruit Bowl, Glass & Apples 1879-92. Evenly worked with thick, regular, slanted brush strokes & lush colour creates a consistency across the canvas. Wide range of subjects, still life,portraiture, landscape, painted with restricted palette of greens, blues & earth colours. Eg Mont Sainte-Victoire seen from Les Lauren (1902-04).

Inside and outside influences

Colour theory & Positivism influenced Impressionists. Influence of Japanese prints & Impressionist style unshackled artists from the Classical tradition & ‘authority of the old masters’. Japanese prints more influential than photography on Impressionists (& Symbolists eg Gauguin). Every major painter (except Cézanne) affected. Socialist politics influence Neo-Impressionist & Italian Divisonisti art. Symbolists inspired by Baudelaire’s cult of private world of the self & theory of correspondences. Turned romantics & Delacroix ideas of expressive colours to line & form. Bernard & Pierre Puvis de Chavannes influenced Gauguin. He also drew inspiration from reproductions of Egyptian reliefs, Parthenon frieze, Rembrandt, Borobudur reliefs etc as well as his exotic South Sea culture & surroundings. Gauguin influential, Munch impacted by him impressionism, Seurat & van Gogh. Art Nouveau influenced by Symbolist, Rococo & Celtic ornament, pre-Raphaelites, William Morris & Arts & Craft movement but essentially new style. Post-Industrial Revolution nostalgia inspired 19thC domestic architecture & art.

Critics, thinkers and historians

Scientific theories of 19thC were important to the Impressionists new modern way of seeing. Michel Eugene Chevreul (1786-1889) wrote of colour theories. Also pursued study of optics & physiological principles with Hermann, L. F. von Helmholtz (1821-94) et al. Positivism was a philosophical system created by Auguste Comte (1798-1857), non-scientifically variable explanations are inadmissible. our senses and perception are the only acceptable basis of knowledge. p703. French Poet Jules Laforge (1860-87) wrote of Impressionists he knew. Like Manet & Degas, Naturalist writers Zola & Maupassant also took urban night life as inspiration. Writer Edmond de Goncourt compared Greek art to ‘boredom in perfection ‘ when looking at Japanese prints p710. Théodore Duret wrote 1st serious discussion of Impressionism 1878. Academician Jean-Leon Gerome stopped French President entering room of Impressionist work. Symbolist Movement heralded for poets by Jean Moreas with Socialist Manifesto 1886, who rejected Zola. Poet Gustave Kahn, gave further explicit declaration. Tolstoy, war and peace, 1864. Bell invents telephone, Edison invents phonograph & telegraph. Wilde, the importance of being earnest

Honour, H & Fleming, J. (2009) A World History of Art. (7th Ed), London, Laurence King Publishing

Landscape and the Industrial Revolution

Assignment 4 instructions requires a 500-word analysis of a maximum of four paintings or sculptures, which demonstrate the influence of political, social and economic changes on either the portrayal of the city or the perception of women in the nineteenth century. I wanted to focus on the effect of the Industrial Revolution on the art of landscape at this time.

The Industrialisation revolution from 18th to 19th century is not only responsible for our modern way of life but also sowed the seeds that would later blossom into modern art. The Industrialisation revolution began in England in 1780s because no guild restrictions or customs barriers as per Europe. Exploited still growing colonial empire and overseas trade but cost of lower social level human suffering was very great. It was a time of great change, agricultural efficiencies saw unskilled farmers moving out of the rural life of the country, with its cottage industry and hand crafting processes to take their chances in the cities, with new factories, chances for employment. This caused great stress on those cities for the poor, horrific working conditions, bad sanitation, child labour, starvation, the factories created air and water pollution.

According to WHA, in Manchester 1826, overproduction led to trade recession & thousands of unemployed. successful factory owners had country houses to retreat to while workforce had cheap redbrick back-to-back hosing which turned into slums. From 1830s, factory owners made company towns for workers and cared about their welfare (Owen & Fourier’s theories).

Prior to the Industrial Revolution, the landscape genre was the lowest of the low. Landscape was included in art as background at best. The importance of the landscape (still as a background subject) was revived somewhat with Watteau’s painting Pilgrimage to Cythera, which was an important turning point for 18th century art. The subject of courtly scenes in an idyllic country setting was so striking and new that the expression “fête galante” was invented to describe it. Based on the Greek Myth of the Isle of Cythera being the birthplace of Aphrodite, goddess of love, these amorous couples fall in love there.

Jean-Antoine WATTEAU (Valenciennes, 1684 – Nogent-sur-Marne, 1721)
Pilgrimage to the Isle of Cythera, 1717
H. 1.29 m; W. 1.94 m
INV. 8525
© Musée du Louvre

Interest in landscape painting and in looking at the landscape itself grew rapidly through the second half of the eighteenth century, not a coincidence, leading to artistic definitions such as picturesque, landscape scenes which were seen as being artistic but containing elements of wildness. Writers such as William Gilpin (Observations on the River Wye 1770) and Uvedale Price (An Essay on the Picturesque as Compared with the Sublime and Beautiful, 1794) developed the theory of the picturesque.

During the Industrial Revolution, a new class system emerged where middle and upper classes became richer and had more leisure time. Advancement in train transport allowed for day trips out of the city into the country to enjoy the fresh air. John Constable responded to this change with his huge six-foot paintings, remembering and mourning the loss of simpler times. Reminiscing on his boyhood in the country. The painting leaping horse is one such example. He elevated landscape painting out of obscurity to the size of history paintings, laying the groundwork for the impressionists later in the century.

The Leaping Horse is from this series and depicts a tow horse jumping one of the barriers erected along the path by the River Stour to prevent cattle from straying. Begun in 1825, Constable described the painting in a letter, as ‘a lovely subject, of the canal kind, lively – & soothing – calm and exhilarating, fresh – & blowing’. The painting was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1825 but remained unsold. Constable then altered the composition by painting over an old willow stump which was in front of the horse, although a faint trace of the tree can still be seen. The removal of the willow stump and the addition of the half-furled sail on the barge gave the composition greater strength and direction by concentrating the eye on the dramatic leap of the horse. (Royal Academy of Arts Collections, 2011)

John Constable, R.A. 1776 – 1837
The Leaping Horse, 1825
Oil on canvas, 1420 X 1873 mm
© Royal Academy of Arts, London


Air polluted by in industrialisation meant introduction of public parks, lungs of the city. e.g. Regents park designed by architect John Nash (1752-1835) surrounded by middle class houses. Country estate views now available to those classes. Inspired by the parks in Liverpool, American journalist Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903) took back the public park idea to the US and collaborated with Calvert Vaux (1824-95) on NY’s Central Park in 1863. When Constable moved to London he was not attracted to the formality of city parks and said ‘a gentleman’s park is my aversion. It is not beauty because it is not nature’. He painted his giant canvas in the studio but did many outdoor sketches and delighted in capturing fleating weather conditions in paint. He studied meteorology and was able to lend that scientific precision to his cloud formations.

Constables contemporary Turner was famous for his wild seascapes and dramatic skies. In his painting The Fighting Temeraire, he mourns the lost of the glory days of sail over steam. Depicting the ‘most noble and distinguished’ warship, the 98-gun ship ‘Temeraire’, as a beautiful, elegant but ghostly presence behind the black steam tug, spewing flame as it pulls the great ship down the river to the Rotherhithe shipyard to be broken up as the sun sets on past times. In fact, much of this is artistic licence, the actual event note that the old ship had been shipped of its sails, guns and much else, even the sunset would have be in the wrong direction. Like Constable, he is painting an idealised memory, even using white and gold paint rather then her dark yellow and black.

Two steamboats “tugged” the Temeraire (the first time this verb was used) along the winding 55 mile stretch of the Thames between Sheerness and Rotherhithe. One tug pulled, whilst the other was behind the Temeraire, acting as a brake. […]

When he exhibited the picture in 1839, he included these lines in the display:

The flag which braved the battle and the breeze,
No Longer owns her.

Indeed, the Temeraire doesn’t fly the union flag any more. Instead, a white flag flutters from the mast of the tug. This shows that a ship was in commercial hands.
However, it also makes the Temeraire look as if she’s being brought in under a flag of surrender, a further insult to her memory. (National Gallery of Art, 2017)

Joseph Mallord William Turner, 1775 – 1851
The Fighting Temeraire tugged to her last berth to be broken up, 1838
Oil on canvas, 90.7 x 121.6 cm
Turner Bequest, 1856

The cities at that time were foul places, poet William Blake is famously quoted referring to London factories as “dark satanic mills”, we can see what he meant when we look upon the painting ‘Coalbrookdale by Night’ by Philippe Jacques de Loutherbourg, from 1801 with its great fiery sky from the great blast furnaces of the iron making town of Coalbrookdale, the horse drawn carts in the foreground are a direct contrast and hark back to the simpler times of Constables world.

Painting, Coalbrookdale by Night by Philippe Jacques de Loutherbourg, 1801. Oil on canvas; 68×106.7cm, in gilt frame 85.5x124x7cm. Signed and dated. Exhibited as ‘A View of Colebrook Dale by night’ at Royal Academy London, 1801 (cat. 54). Featuring night work at the Bedlam furnaces in Madeley Dale (i.e. Coalbrookdale) along the river Severn, Shropshire. Open coke hearths give off vivid flames and smoke. Archetypal image of the Industrial Revolution.

Photography plays an interesting part in recording the actual conditions, I found these photographs of Burnley from the Weavers Traingle website from the days when the town led the world in the production of cotton cloth:

The Weavers Triangle in c. 1910. A photograph taken from the tower of a factory with Trafalgar Street on the right and Westgate on the left.
The Weavers Triangle in the 1930s. A pall of smoke hangs over the mills making it impossible to see the surrounding hills.
The Weavers Triangle in the 1930s. The canal weaves its way between factories and workers’ housing from Sandygate bridge in the foreground to the Mitre Bridge.























The river Thames in London was particularly polluted, causing hundreds of deaths from cholera. Rather more fantisaical, London artist John Martin’s painting Pandemonium, an illustration of Milton’s paradise lost, depicts Satan standing on what could be opposite Westminster, with the Thames turned into a fiery lava flow.

John Martin, Pandemonium, 1841, oil on canvas, 123 x 184 cm (Private Collection)

The impressionists also turned to the landscape, issues of memory are also important here, as John Berger points out the ‘impression’ is built up not only of paint but also memories of the viewer’s experience with seeing whatever is being depicted, be it sunlight, people, flowers etc.

The impressionist paintings were ‘both more precise and more vague than any other painting you have seen before. Everything has been more or less sacrificed to the optical precision of its colours and tones. Spacious, measurement, action (history), identity all are submerged within the play of light.‘ (Berger, J, 2001)

Scientific discoveries and inventions of the 19th century had an important influence on the impressionists, they experimented with complementary colours and had a keen interest in the way in which the human mind processes what it sees. When we look at a landscape, or a crowd of people, we do not instantly see every face, or leaf in detailed focus, but as a mass of colour and light. Impressionist painters tried to express this experience.

Monet said that ‘the motif is for me altogether seconday; what I wanted to represent is what exists between the motif and me‘ (1895).

‘You cannot enter an impressionist painting; instead it extracts your memories.’ (Berger, J, 2001)

Like Constable the Impressionists did their painting out of doors, unlike him they often started, and sometimes finsihed the painting outside, rather than making sketches from which to work in the studio.

Impressionism appeared as a liberation to the claustrophobic mid 19th century bourgeois culture. ‘to painting out of doors in front of the motif; to observe directly, to accord to light its proper hegemony in the domain of the visible; to relativize all colours (so hat everything sparkles) ; to abandon the painting of dusty legends and all direct ideology; to speak of everyday appearances within the experience of a wide urban public (a day off, a trip to the country, boats, smiling women in sunlight, flags, trees in flower – the impressionist vocabulary of images is that of a popular dream, the awaited, beloved, secular Sunday ); the innocence of impressionism – innocence in the sense that it did away with the secrets of painting, everything was there in the full light of day, there was nothing to hide, and amended painting followed aside – how could this not be taught of as liberation? ‘ (Berger, J, 2001)

As Berger notes, when we think of impressionist paintings we think of sunshine and sunday afternoons at lesuire but despite all this, there are some Impressionist paintings from within London, recreating the atmospheric conditions of the diffused light though the smog filled air such as those Monet created when he visited such as this one (which was actually worked on in his studio in France after the visit):

Claude Monet, 1840-1926
Waterloo Bridge, Gray Weather, 1900
Oil on canvas
65.4 x 92.6 cm (25 3/4 x 36 3/8 in.)
Signed, l.l.: “Claude Monet”
Gift of Mrs. Mortimer B. Harris, 1984.1173


If not for the fog, Claude Monet once remarked, “London wouldn’t be a beautiful city. It’s the fog that gives it its magnificent breadth.” While working on his London series, he rose early every day to paint Waterloo Bridge in the morning, moving on to Charing Cross Bridge at midday and in the afternoon. He observed both motifs from his fifth-floor window at the Savoy Hotel. The Art Institute’s two Waterloo Bridge paintings are dated 1900 and 1903, but both were likely begun in 1900 and dated only when Monet felt that they were finished. He worked on all of his London paintings in his studio in Giverny, refusing to send any of them to his dealer until he was satisfied with them as an ensemble. (Art Institute Chicago, 2017)

Another of Monets London paintings was this one, currently held in the National Gallery, done when he lived here for a year during the Franco-Prussian War.

Claude Monet, 1840 – 1926
The Thames below Westminster
about 1871
Oil on canvas, 47 x 73 cm
Bequeathed by Lord Astor of Hever, 1971


I find it interesting that I like this one much better than the previous, is it because apart from the steam boats, Claudes impression of this sceen is much the same as I’ve seen in my lifetime on a foggy London afternoon?

Charles-François Daubigny (1817-1878) also loved to London to escape the war, Daubigny’s 1873 painting, ‘St Paul’s from the Surrey Side’, conveys a similar impression of the Thames, but puts more emphasis on the industrial nature of the river.

Charles-François Daubigny, 1817 – 1878
St Paul’s from the Surrey Side
Oil on canvas, 44.5 x 81 cm
Presented by friends of Mr. J.C.J. Drucker, 1912


An early work of the post impressionist artist Paul Signac also took inspriartion from the urban, industrial landscape. His painting The Road to Gennevilliers (below), shows the industrial town of Asnières (where he lived with his mother) is pushed right back onto the horizon with a bleak, blank forground taking up much of the picture. This area was awaiting future development into factores and houses. All of this all describes a landscape entirely shaped by human activity.

Paul Signac Route de Gennevilliers en 1883 huile sur toile H. 0.735 ; L. 0.92 musée d’Orsay, Paris, France ©photo musée d’Orsay / rmn



Art Institute Chicago. (2017) Claude Monet, Waterloo Bridge, Gray Weather, 1900 At: http://www.artic.edu/aic/collections/artwork/103139?search_no=7&index=45
(Accessed on 5 Apr 17)

Berger, J. (2001) Selected Essays. New York: Vintage

Honour, H & Fleming, J. (2009) A World History of Art. (7th Ed), London, Laurence King Publishing

Lourve. (2017) Pilgrimage to Cythera At: http://www.louvre.fr/en/oeuvre-notices/pilgrimage-cythera
(Accessed on 4 Apr 17)
Musée d’Orsay . (2006) Paul Signac, The Road to Gennevilliers At: http://www.musee-orsay.fr/en/collections/works-in-focus/painting/commentaire_id/the-road-to-gennevilliers-20038.html?tx_commentaire_pi1%5BpidLi%5D=509&tx_commentaire_pi1%5Bfrom%5D=841&cHash=4243ff00bf
(Accessed on 5 Apr 17)

National Gallery of Art. (2017) Heroine of Trafalgar: The Fighting Temeraire At: http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/learn-about-art/paintings-in-depth/heroine-of-trafalgar-the-fighting-temeraire?viewPage=2
(Accessed on 4 Apr 17)

Royal Academy of Arts Collections. (2011) John Constable, RA (1776-1837) At: http://www.racollection.org.uk/ixbin/indexplus?record=ART3891
(Accessed on 4 Apr 17)

Tate Glossary. (2017) picturesque At: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/p/picturesque
(Accessed on 4 Apr 17)
The Weavers’ Triangle, Burnley. (2016) The Weavers’ Triangle, picture gallery At: http://www.weaverstriangle.co.uk/about.htm
(Accessed on 4 Apr 17)

Painting review : The Raft of the Medusa

In preparation for assignment 4 annotations I have decided to research The Raft of the Medusa by Géricault

Théodore GÉRICAULT (Rouen, 1791 – Paris, 1824)
Le Radeau de la Méduse
Salon de 1819
H. : 4,91 m. ; L. : 7,16 m.
Acquis à la vente posthume de l’artiste par l’intermédiaire de Pierre-JosephDedreux-Dorcy, ami de Géricault, 1824 , 1824
INV. 4884
© Musées du Louve


The picture of it on the Lourve website is pretty small and dark but I was able to see a larger one here where I could zoom in and out of it.

I’ve tried again to apply the techniques I learned in reading about the OU study diamond to this painting review.

Effects & techniques:

  1. What initially catches your eye? Where do you go next? And after that? The man on the horizon looking left with his arm outstretched to the right. Then the darker skinned person waving the red cloth, then the rest of the people on the raft.
  2. Where do you end up? Do your eyes stray away from the work altogether? the sails and the wave behind.
  3. Is there anything that you didn’t notice at first but saw later in your reading? There’s a tiny little ship in the distance (presumably what they are all waving at).
  4. Did your eyes keep coming back to a particular part of the art work? The dead at the front of the raft and the waving man at the back.
  5. Is there anything that you didn’t look at or thought wasn’t important? no.


    1. Has a wide or narrow palette of colours been used? A narrow colour palate with lots of warm colours in it makes it feel realistic but its not at all photographic
    2. Have contrasting colours been placed next to each other? The warm colours of the raft, the sky and the live people contrast with the cold sea and the deatlhy pallor of the dead.
    3. Are there more warm colours than cool colours or vice versa? The palate is mostly warm in the middle where the drama is and cooler around the edges where there is only sea and death.
    4. Would you describe the colours as being bright or dull? Are there more bright colours than dull colours (or vice versa)? Like the Goya 3rd May, here we see again most of the colours are quite dull but the bright red, accents are fresh, dramatic.
    5. In what way is dark and light colour used?

I. How wide is the range of colour values featuring in the art work? As with the 3rd May, there is a wide range of colour values, the mood is tense. Very tense.

II. Are contrasting colour values present in the art work? Use of contrasting colour values pick out areas of interest, the people on the top of the raft are dark against the bright horizon, the pale dead bodies in the bottom of the frame are quite braight agains the gloom. the lighting is very dramatic.

III. Are contrasting colour values used to model three-dimensional forms? Contrasting colour values are also used to model three-dimensional forms of the bodies, the dramatic lighting and treatment of the people is reminincent of Caravaggio.

IV. In what way are the colour values distributed throughout the art work? The distribution of the colour values helps pull your eye around the composition.


  1. Does the medium impose any limitations on the way the artist works, or allow any particular effects? Unlike the 3rd May, the oil paint has been carefully applied and blended to be almost classical in style.
  2. Is the medium used unconventionally or is the medium itself unconventional and, if so, does this contribute to the expressive effect of the art work? It is the  beautifully blended realism of a history painting despite the subject matter.
  3. Does the medium used suggest a particular mood? Yes, the heroic history painting, which of course this is not.
  4. Does the medium used prompt the spectator to read the work in a particular way? Yes, it is painted on a grand scale in a classical way which is at odds with the subject matter, elevating it.


need this large gap because the table runs into the side of the blog



Representation of depth Technique: 3rd of May Effect: 3rd of May Technique: raft of medusa Effect: raft of medusa
(a) overlapping Y The scene feels 3 dimentional because of the many overlapping layers, the pile of bodies, the people overlapping the man in white on the left, on the right the soldiers overlapping eachother so closely they look to be touching, the overlap the lantern and the crowd and the background hill overlaps the front of the church looming mist in the background Y The bodies in the painting overlap each other so much that you don’t really know where one finishes and the next starts, like a multi-limbed beast of fleshy parts. They overlap the parts of the raft such as the man with his hand draped over the woodern bean in the forground and the people sat in front of the base of the mast. This gives the illusion of depth.
(b) diminishing scale Y the figures of the crowd look smaller than the soldiers and the church is smaller because its further away Y The focus of the painting is concentrated on the small area of the raft so there is not much scope for diminishing scale, until you see the spec of the ship in the disnatnce of the horizon
(c) atmospheric perspective Y The chuch is very misty in the background Y The tiny ship on the horizon is very misty in the distance
(d) vertical placement Y the ground they all stand on is nearer than the church in the background Y The illusion of depth is added too by the forshortned human forms, stacked vertically in the frame so you see the completely cover the raft all the way to the ‘back’ of it where the mast is.
(e) linear perspective Y the soldiers line up as a diagonal going out and back into the frame Y The edge of the raft and the slats in the rafts construction fool your eye with linear perspective.
(f) modelling Y the modelling of the various textures in the scene especially clothes make the illsuion realistic even through when you look closer you can see its not really Y Unlike the 3rd May, the modelling is very detailed in every aspect of the painting from the frothy waves, to the textures of the dead peoples skin, clothes and clouds in the sky, othing is roughed out.

Use of lines:

Directional lines (horizontal, vertical, and diagonal):  there are strong diagonal lines in the composition. The lines of the raft form a base as an implied diamond shape on which the drama unfolds. This is countered by the mast and rigging. The diagonal sweep of people and limbs stretching from the dead man on the left bottom corner to the waving people in the top right leads your eye across the raft and onto the ship in the distance (which is hard to see at first but then you cannot stop looking at once you see it). This is countered by the lul of the waves next to the raft. The vertical is created by the shear number of people and the forshortening of the people, two main verticals are the mast and the waving people. The horizontals are all formed by nature, the curl of the wave on the left, the horizon and the stormy clouds above.

Contour lines – can also be used to outline forms; such contour lines can be described in terms of their thickness and sharpness.  the strong lighting creates deep showy contrasting lines to model the forms, from the soft contours on the muscles and hair of the people to the strong contours in the man made materials such as the barrel and the planks of the raft. The forms are much more realistic that those in the 3rd May, making it much more grusesome to look at the details.

Meaning – initial thoughts from the observed ‘evidence’

Again, I’ve the WHA details a little of this painting so I already know a little of the background context. La Méduse (The Medusa) was a French government frigate which wrecked in 1816, there were not enough lifeboats so the 150 passengers were put onto a hastily constructed raft to and left to drift for 13 days while the captain and crew made off with the lifeboats, only 15 of them survived.  This horrifying incident was famous from the papers, the audience of the Saloon where it was first exhibited would have known the story well. These people were truly victims of incompetence of the royalist captain, suffering for no noble cause. So the piece is about corruption of the newly restored monachy (for appointing the captain a newly returned royalist emigre). It stuck in people’s minds too, later, when once again revolution was building it was regarded as political allegory when historian Jules Michelet in 1847 said of it ‘France herself, our whole sociality, is on that raft‘. He did well though, he got a gold medal and a commissions from it, the composition was of the academy approved pyrimid format and the people were painted with the healthy physique of Greek athletes (WHA, p647), rather than emaciated, bearded and covered in sores which is actually how they appeared when rescued.

On the face of it though, the focus of the work is on suffering and hope. Even if you didnt know the story, this is clearly a picture of a raft of shipwrecked people, many whom have not survived, all piled into the small space on the raft to take their chances again nature with huge waves bearing down on them. The emotions of the people on the raft range from the bleak despair of the man who is clutching the dead body of another (presumably his son) on the bottom left, behind him in the shadows a man clutches at his head in madness, through to all the faces turning towards the boat on the horizon on the right in the distance. The man pointing at it and turning back looks a bit unsure, like he cant quite believe what he’s seen in the distance. You assume that the people waving with their backs to you are wearing expressions of hopeful desperation. Its powerfully upsetting enough just from the picture on my screen, i cannot even imagine the impact of this on such a giant scale, I’d probably cry.

Comparison with Goya’s 3rd May

In this, at least they have hope. In Goya’s work the expressions are that of pure hopelessness. Both works are both gruesome and physically imposing. They are both political. Both early Romanticism, both not quite history paintings in that they are painted on a grand scale but elevate & depict contemporay events. Both of the paintings are breaking with the traditions of a history painting. Both depict senseless loss of life by ordinary people, not heroes especially, innocent people. Both have been picked up as political allogory and inspired modern interpreatation by later artists. Goya had a patron for his work, and was already an established artist, conversely Géricault expressly picked this subject to launch his career (because he was comforatably middle class enough to be able to afford to work without commissions).

Context & Meaning:

The louvre information differs a little from the WHA write up. It’s based on Géricault, catalogue d’exposition, by Laveissiere written in 1991. It reports that the ship was Royal Navy and the 150 were soldiers, the frigate set sail in 1816 to colonize Senegal was captained by an “officer of the Ancien Régime who had not sailed for over twenty years and who ran the ship aground on a sandbank” (Lourve, 2017). Géricault spent a long time preparing the composition of this painting, he made numerous sketches, amassing documentation, questioning the survivors, working with models and wax figurines, severed cadavers, etc. It mentions two such preparatory sketches but I couldn’t find them in the Louvre catalogue as indicated. Interestingly it draws parallel between some of the figures from the raft and some of the figures from Napoleon Bonaparte Visiting the Plague-Stricken in Jaffa by Gros which I was going to annotate instead of this against the Goya work. Géricault apparently greatly admired Gros.

Géricault’s Raft was the star at the Salon of 1819: “It strikes and attracts all eyes” (Le Journal de Paris). Critics were divided: the horror and “terribilità” of the subject exercised fascination, but devotees of classicism expressed their distaste for what they described as a “pile of corpses,” whose realism they considered a far cry from the “ideal beauty” incarnated by Girodet’s Pygmalion and Galatea (which triumphed the same year). Géricault’s work expressed a paradox: how could a hideous subject be translated into a powerful painting, how could the painter reconcile art and reality? Coupin was categorical: “Monsieur Géricault seems mistaken. The goal of painting is to speak to the soul and the eyes, not to repel.” (Lourve, 2017).

There is some conflicting information whether it was 15 or 10 that survived, i think this is because 15 survived by 5 died shortly afterwards so they didnt really survive long. Two of the survivers wrote a book on their experience. Géricault worked closely with them, skteching and interviewing them, he also attended the indictment trial of the ship’s captain, Viscount Hugues Duroy de Chaumareys who hadnt been to sea for 20years and was wildly inexperienced for such a commission, the king came under fire for allowing his appointment. Dispite all this he tried to play down the political nature of the work by exhibiting it under the name Scene of a Shipwreck.

Like Caravaggio, he was young, Géricault painting the work when he was just 28. He employed the original maker of the raft to make him a replica from which work work. Wouldnt it be interesting if he’d used the same techniques with the Camera Obscura? The dimentions of the painting are such that this wouldnt be beyond the realm of possibilty. I did check Hockneys book but this painting isnt mentioned.

Obviously inspriartion for the painting came dirctly from the story and Géricault did meticulous research into dead bodies etc but there is clearly artist license being taken with the figures and the composition. I’ve already mentioned the influence of Carravaggio, but we also see influence of Michelangelo’s Last Judgment. Géricault himself stated of Michelangelo’s Last Judgment that “Michelangelo sent shivers up my spine, these lost souls destroying each other inevitably conjure up the tragic grandeur of the Sistine Chapel.” (Artble, 2017).

Its possible that some inspiration came from this painting by American artist John Singleton Copley which caused a stir in Londons Royal Academy in 1778. It depicts the story of 14–year–old Brook Watson, who in 1749, had been attacked by a shark while swimming in Havana Harbor. I’m not sure if Géricault visited London but it would have been well known while he was doing his research.

John Singleton Copley (American, 1738 – 1815 ), Watson and the Shark, 1778, oil on canvas, Ferdinand Lammot Belin Fund

According to Eitner, the composition when through several iterations as the artist progressed, he first had the raft much further back in the scene. By bringing it foward, filling the frame, the viewer then feels part of the action, this creates a great sense of tension and urgency to see what everyone is waving at.

“The effect of the scene now hinges on the juxtaposition of near and far elements” (Eitner, L, 1972)

The effect of the greatly forshorterend bodies also has an illusionisc effect on the depth of the painting, having the people on the raft so close, and the ship, the Argus, in the background so tiny, that tiny strip of ocean between the top of the raft and the horizon is interpretaed by the eye as miles and miles.

Eitner also points out that Géricault violated certain expectations that the audience would have. He radically broke with contemporary art when he created a major public image without traditional religious or political meanings, on such a large scale which was usually reserved for such. Additionally, Géricault omitted from the Raft all devices for placing human suffering in an ideological context.

Its drama has no heros and no message. No God, saint, or monarch presides over the disaster; no common cause is in evidence; no faith, no victory justifies the suffering of the men on the Raft: their martyrdom is one without palm or flag. It is as if Géricault had taken the foreground of human misery from one of the Gros’ pictures and omitted the apotheosis above. (Eitner, L, 1972)

The resulting image is of human isolation and helplessness without the  usual explanations.

One polarizing element was the inclusion of a black man holding the flag that could bring about their salvation. This was Géricault’s personal statement on the abolitionist movement. Political digs like these were what kept the public talking. (Artble, 2017)



Artble. (2017) The Raft of the Medusa At: http://www.artble.com/artists/theodore_gericault/paintings/the_raft_of_the_medusa
(Accessed on 21 Mar 17)

Eitner, L. (1972) Gericault’s “Raft of the Medusa”. Phaidon Press Ltd

Honour, H & Fleming, J. (2009) A World History of Art. (7th Ed), London, Laurence King Publishing

Lourve. (2017) The Raft of the Medusa At: http://www.louvre.fr/en/oeuvre-notices/raft-medusa
(Accessed on 21 Mar 17)

LAVEISSIERE S., MICHEL R., CHENIQUE B., Géricault, catalogue d’exposition,  Grand Palais 1991-1992, Editions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, Paris, 1991 (Via Lourve, 2017)
National Gallery of Art. (2017) Watson and the Shark At: http://www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/Collection/art-object-page.46471.html
(Accessed on 21 Mar 17)