The Romantic painting of the early 1800s expressed the dynamic drama of human emotion in relation to nature.
Manchester Art Gallery
Saturday 12 July 2014–Sunday 12 July 2015
Nature can be both a threat and a consolation. It has the power to destroy as well as to revive and calm. It evokes powerful emotions from fear and terror, to joy and love. This display of Romantic painting of the early 1800s expressed the dynamic drama of human emotion in relation to nature.
During the period, a number of artists including Turner and Constable, rejected academic conventions that defined what was beautiful and appropriate in art. They injected new vision and vitality through a more direct response to what they saw and experienced on land and at sea. Employing greater freedom of expression in brushwork, colour and composition they were able to capture the fleeting effects of weather, the changing seasons and the fugitive qualities of light with moving intensity.
These artists focused on the physical power of nature to explore human emotions and a sense of mortality. Turner in particular recognised the potential of the sea to represent turmoil and human vulnerability, as did marine painter Clarkson Stanfield. Images of shipwrecks and storms had particular resonance in an age when seafaring was a vital part of everyday life for food, travel, trade and war.
History painters such as William Etty also enhanced the emotional intensity of their work through natural forces. The depiction of extreme weather heightened the drama of a real or imagined event and provoked empathy for the characters portrayed.
In a time of revolution, war, political reform and rapid industrialisation, natural forces were a metaphor for change, uncertainty and the joy and pain of human existence.
Curatorial Assistant Lori Symcox documented the preparations for the exhibition on the manchesterartgallery.tumblr.com blog.
Susan Hiller, Rough Times, 2010
John Constable, View from Hampstead Heath, looking towards Harrow, 1821 (detail)
Adolphe Yvon, Marshal Ney Supporting the Rear Guard During the Retreat from Moscow, 1856 (detail)