Art in Focus: Wales

Friday, April 4, 2014
Sunday, August 10, 2014

In 1737, Thomas Herring, bishop of Bangor, made what has been described as the first tour of Snowdonia, in North Wales, and observed of its wild and mountainous scenery that “[t]he face of it is grand, and bespeaks the magnificence of nature, and enlarged my mind so much … that it was some time before I could be reconciled again to the level countries.” Although much of Wales had been considered remote and inaccessible to English travelers, in the 1750s a burgeoning interest in the remnants of ancient Britain led antiquarians in search of ruins. Later in the eighteenth century, particularly during periods when war with European powers restricted travel to the Continent, the mountains of North Wales offered experiences of the sublime to rival those of the Alps. By the beginning of the nineteenth century, the region had become part of the standard itinerary of British landscape artists.

This Art in Focus exhibition explored the history of interest in Welsh landscape, ruins, and the bardic tradition through oil paintings, finished watercolors, and plein-air sketches in the Center’s collections by artists such as Richard Wilson, Thomas Rowlandson, James Ward, J. M. W. Turner, David Cox, Thomas Girtin, John Martin, John Linnell, William Blake, and Samuel Palmer. The display was augmented by key publications of the period that encouraged the aesthetic appreciation of Welsh landscape.

Samuel Palmer, 1805-1881, Harlech Castle (detail), undated, watercolor, gouache and varnish over graphite on paper, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

Art in Focus is an annual initiative for members of the Center’s Student Guide program, providing curatorial experience and an introduction to all aspects of exhibition practice. The student guide curators for this exhibition were Emily Feldstein, PC ’16; Kathryn Kaelin, SY ’15; Olga Karnas, SM ’16; Rebecca Levinsky, MC ’15; Anna Meixler, ES ’16; Daniel Roza, SM ’15; Katharine Spooner, TD ’16; and Lynnli Wang, TD ’15. In researching and presenting the exhibition, the students were guided by Eleanor Hughes, Associate Director of Exhibitions and Publications, and Associate Curator; Linda Friedlaender, Curator of Education; and Jaime Ursic, Assistant Curator of Education.

Interactive Site

Explore the geography of works and a timeline in Art in Focus: Wales online.