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Romantics -Tate Britain

I have decided that Friday is my main day off, given that I'm writing in some library most Saturdays. So this afternoon, craving the art fix that I didn't get around to giving myself whilst in Paris last week, I have taken myself off to Tate Britain for it's Romantics exhibition, in the Clore Gallery.

I don't make much of William Etty's 'Youth on the prow, and Pleasure at the helm'. It offers me no real story, although I am told that it was influenced, like many other Romantics, by Thomas Gray's poem, The Bard, published in 1757. Etty described the work ad an allegory of human life, but given there is no distress, I fail to see it. Edwin Landseer's ' A Scene at Abbotsford', the home of novelist Walter Scott, depicts his dying deerhound, Maida, who is dutifully watched over by a younger dog.

A more familiar image, to me at least, is Henry Wallis's Chatterton 1856. Chatterton, a poet and 'forger of Gothic tales' was dead by the age of 17: suicide by arsenic. It is a scene of tragedy - the poor artist in the garret - which later became a familiar term of mockery.

This exhibition is not just about the late 18th and early 19th century artworks, however. In several ante-rooms there are exhibits of the contemporary, works from Keith Arnott whose series ANOB (areas of outstanding natural beauty) 'revises traditions of the pastoral picturesque by portraying the Wye Valley as a rural environment that has been husbanded and managed'.
I love 'Kensington Gravel Pits' by John Linnell, below.

Surprisingly Linnell was still in his teens when he began this work on what was yet to become Kensington as the elegant suburb.
Many of Constable's art features, ad can only be expected, but I am not going to refer to any as they bore me, I'm afraid. Turner's enormous 'England: Richmond Hill, on the Prince Regent's birthday (1819) interests me for a couple of reasons, the first being the view - it is a familiar one to me now, having walked and cycled by this view since April of last year; the blue(ish) snake of the Thames as it wends its way through Petersham, Ham and Kingston. There is also the decadence of the scene, which when realised in context is somewhat sickening. 1819 was the year in which the working classes were finding their collective voice, along with those radicals, culminating in the gathering in Manchester in August of that year, which ended in tragedy when magistrates ordeed cavalry to charge the peaceful gathering. The event came to be known as the Peterloo Massacre and inspired Shelley to write The Mask of Anarchy.

Of course, The Romantics, as individuals and a collective, were non-conformists, embracing the tumultuous weather within and expressing its truths. Francis Danby's small woodland scene, portraying a groundedness, with a girl or young mother and her infant. The Romantics would have much to rail against in our times - given that this government are going to sell these same publicly owned forests and woodland that these artists so venerated, to private businesses.

Location:Tate Britain, London

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