Landscape painting and nature tourism: the Falls of Clyde

The landscape painters of the 18th century were among the first promoters of nature tourism in Britain. Their work inspired people to go on tours of wild places and admire the grandeur of nature.  One popular destination, much sketched, painted and written about, was the Falls of the Clyde in Scotland.

Jacob More’s work is a romanticised view of the highest and largest of the Falls, the Corra Linn. Viewers of the painting could identify with the group of tourists in the corner, awe-struck by this “rude slope of furious foam”, as 18th century travel writer Thomas Pennant described them. They might even be galvanized to do a trip to the wilds of Scotland themselves. With the growth in popularity of the Falls of Clyde as a tourist destination, the surrounding area was modified with new paths and viewpoints to enhance the experience.

More’s work was painted in 1771. Only 30 years later, appeared this:

Turner has broken free of classical constraints. Instead of looking at a picturesque scene, the viewer is submerged in the radiant spray of the falls, as water and light fuse. The painting captures the sublime kick the romantics were looking for.

The Falls of Clyde by Jacob More is exhibited in the National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh.  J.M.W.Turner’s take on the Falls is in the Lady Lever Art Gallery in Liverpool.

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