The Romantic Landscape Print: “The Chiaroscuro of Nature”

Printmaking flourished in Britain during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, providing an ideal vehicle for Romantic artists who were constantly exploring new means of personal expression. Many painters turned to graphic media, either working independently or collaborating closely with professional engravers, to create some of the most compelling and immediate visual statements of the period. This fascinating subject was explored in successive exhibitions, The Romantic Landscape Print and The Romantic Print in the Age of Revolutions, selected from the Center’s rich print and rare book collections to complement two major exhibitions taking place at the Center that year: Romantic Watercolor: The Hickman Bacon Collection and Romantics & Revolutionaries.

The Romantic period was marked by a passionate aesthetic and spiritual engagement with the natural world. The Romantic Landscape Print charted this preoccupation from its origins in the late eighteenth century to its blossoming in the nineteenth century. It featured the work of artists such as J. M. W. Turner, John Constable (who coined the resonant phrase, “The chiaroscuro of Nature”), Thomas Girtin, William Blake, Samuel Palmer, and Norwich School members John Sell Cotman and John Crome. The final section, entitled “Modern Romanticism,” explored the movement’s enduring legacy in twentieth and twenty-first century landscape art, and included works by Richard Long, Hamish Fulton, and Peter Doig, whose spectacular 2001 etching Country Rock was exhibited for the first time in the United States. Special emphasis was placed on technical issues.

View works from the collection included in this exhibition here.


The exhibition was curated by Gillian Forrester, Associate Curator of Prints and Drawings at the Center, and Eric Stryker, doctoral candidate in the History of Art, Yale University.

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Print made by John Horsburgh after J. M. W. Turner, Folkstone Harbour and Coast to Dover (detail), ca. 1829–31, etching and line-engraving (First Published State), Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection