The Discovery of Paris: Watercolours by Early Nineteenth-Century British Artists – until 15 September 2013
Seeing a 1739 large scale map of Paris (lot 82) in the Out of the Ordinary Sale at Christie’s South Kensington* made me feel I should bring this very enjoyable exhibition to your attention.
Paris had been a destination for the wealthy on the Grand Tour before the French Revolution in 1789 and the following years of war. However the Peace of Amiens (1802-03) and the final defeat of Napoleon in 1815 meant that Paris once more became the place to visit for the British with an increasing number of middle-class travellers. Artists too were drawn to it as this show of sixty watercolours, some preparatory drawings and associated prints bears witness. It concentrates on the period c1802-1840.
They painted scenes such as Notre Dame, the Boulevard des Italiens, the Pont Neuf and the Ile de la Cité and others which still remain popular with contemporary artists today. Among the lesser and very well-known artists in this exhibition are John Gendall, William Callow, Girtin, Bonington and Turner. Works vary from simple pencil views to highly accomplished watercolours as they were either created for sale or as engraving sources for contemporary guides and publications.
While the Wallace Collection has examples of watercolours by many of the artists in this exhibition it does not have any views of Paris because, like many other collectors, the 4th Marquess of Hertford and his son Richard Wallace did not buy views of the city in which they lived. The works on show, some rarely exhibited, have come from institutions such as the British Museum, the Fitzwilliam Museum, the Tate and the V&A, as well as some private collections.
This exhibition amply proves why these artists are part of the Golden Age of Watercolour and why the allure of Paris endures.
The Wallace Collection, Hertford House, Manchester Square, LondonW1U 3BN,
+ 44 (0)20 7563 9500
*See my blog 19 August 2013 for more info.