Saturday, 26 January 2013

Italian landscape painting in the 18th century

In the 18th century Rome and Italy was the centre of the Art World. The wealthy did the Grand Tour which involved as one of many destinations on this grand tour, Italy and Rome of course was a highlight, a must see, as we say today.  On this tour Greece was also a highlight but for different reasons. Rome and Naples was a centre for music, opera, painting, sculpture and all other forms of art.
Greece was the repository of  ethics, philosophy, democracy, ancient myths, learning and classical theatre.

Rome has always had in Western history a surreal, magical place, the child of Greece who grew up to out shine Greece.  Athens became the client of Rome, then had a long period of dormancy, Constantinople became the centre until its conquest by the Ottoman Turks but remained as Istanbul an Imperial Capital. Rome did go into a demise for about 1000 years until 1450 when with the returns of the Papacy from Avignon, the city is resurrected, re-assuming its Imperial grandeur.

Painters all flocked to Rome to study the techniques of the Italian masters like Tintoretto, Caravaggio, Titian, Veronese, Tiepolo. Most if not all French painters and painters of other countries like the Dutch, Germans and others flocked to Italy.

Playing with light and the clear/obscure shades of many Italian painters inspired them. The paintings are a romantic play on classical themes or on landscapes to inspire Europeans who travelled on the grand tour.

What I like about those paintings is that today some 250 years later you can still see these same scenes with little or no change at all. How often can you visit a place today and see the same undisturbed area
centuries later.

Paul Flandrin, View of the Villa Torlonia at Frascati.

Charles Rémond, View of the Basilica of Constantine from the Palatine Hill, Rome
This view of the Forum and the Ancient Basilica of Constantine is far more bucolic than today.
This majestic monument to Emperor Constantine as been stabilized by archeologists and the area behind it is built up now with the Via dei Fori Imperiali.

Hubert Robert painted this fabricated view of the Port of Ripetta. He was very clever at creating
pictures by putting famous buildings into his paintings inventing a scenery. His view on Paris is interesting he puts all the famous buildings in one frame as if they all look at each other on a piazza.
Here in this painting you have on the right the Senators Palace from the Campidoglio, the Pantheon which is not at all located on Via di Ripetta and look the two columns on each side of the Pantheon are taken from the formal entrance of Villa Borghese on Piazzale Flaminio. The Port of Ripetta no longer exist it disappeared in 1860 when Garibaldi had the embankment walls built in the Tiber River to prevent the annual winter floods of Rome. Via di Ripetta starts in Piazza Del Popolo, the port was located by the Ponte Cavour and Via Tomacelli. But it is nonetheless a beautifully romantic painting.

Finally this view of the Temple of the Sybil at Tivoli near Rome. This is probably a morning view because in the afternoon the sun sets behind these buildings to the right and they appear in a very different light then, more dark golden. Claude Vernet painted this scene in 1740 while in Rome and today it is the same nothing has changed. It is just as magical as ever.

All these painters made Italy famous and encouraged people to visit to this day.

1 comment:

  1. My favourite, much the quirkiest, is Thomas Jones, most famous for his paintings of Neapolitan walls and buildings. There was a wonderful little exhibition about him at the National Gallery a couple of years ago.