Richard Wilson and the Transformation of European Landscape Painting

Thursday, March 6, 2014
Sunday, June 1, 2014

This was the first major exhibition devoted to Richard Wilson (1714–1782) in thirty years. It explored Wilson’s work in its broader European contexts, focusing on his transformative experience in Rome, where he spent nearly seven years in the 1750s. The exhibition confronted fundamental questions about changes in taste in the middle years of the eighteenth century, which saw “the rise of landscape” as an independent genre that challenged accepted academic hierarchies. It also explored how Wilson, as the “father of British landscape painting,” marketed his landscape art upon his return to England and how his work was understood after his death, influencing a generation of artists including John Constable and J. M. W. Turner. Many of Wilson’s greatest paintings and drawings were featured, along with key paintings by the earlier masters Claude Lorrain and Gaspard Dughet, as well as by Wilson’s contemporaries such as Pompeo Batoni, Anton Raphael Mengs, Francesco Zuccarelli, Charles Joseph Natoire, Joseph Vernet, Louis Gabriel Blanchet, and other artists associated with the Académie de France. Finally, the exhibition revealed how Wilson’s international pupils in Rome went on to become influential figures in their native countries.

Richard Wilson and the Transformation of European Landscape Painting was co-organized by the Center and Amgueddfa Cymru–National Museum Wales. It was on view at National Museum Cardiff from July 5 to October 26, 2014. The exhibition was co-curated by Robin Simon, Honorary Professor of English, University College London, and Editor, the British Art Journal, and Martin Postle, Deputy Director of Studies, the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, London. The organizing curator at the Center was Scott Wilcox, Chief Curator of Art Collections and Senior Curator of Prints and Drawings; and, at Amgueddfa Cymru–National Museum Wales, Oliver Fairclough, Keeper of Art. The exhibition was accompanied by a book of the same title, published by the Center and Amgueddfa Cymru–National Museum Wales, in association with Yale University Press.

Richard Wilson, Rome from the Villa Madama (detail), 1753, oil on canvas, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection


Learn more about Richard Wilson and his contemporaries and discover the locations of these landscape paintings through interactive maps and photographs, visit Wilson and his Contemporaries in Italy and Wilson in Wales.

Richard Wilson Catalogue Raisonné

Richard Wilson Online is the outcome of ongoing intensive research undertaken since October 2009 with a view to re-establishing Wilson’s true status and redefining his authentic oeuvre. The launch of the project was timed to coincide with this exhibition, shown at the Center and National Museum Cardiff, in celebration of the tercentenary of Wilson’s birth. The project is funded by the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, London.

For additional information, visit Richard Wilson online.