Category Archives: Landscape paintings of England

The landscapes of Eric Ravilious

Eric Ravilious  (1903-42) is known for his watercolour landscapes of southern England, particularly those featuring the chalk figures of the South Downs.   He painted the stark figure of the Long Man of Wilmington, which we can see in its other-worldly dimensions through a barbed wire fence.  There is something idealistic about the painting, like an illustration from a children’s book, but this is undermined by the wire and overcast sky.  The English landscape is tamed and parcelled but not completely.  The figure, whose mystery is unsolved, remains unperturbed on the billowing downs, a connection with the past, reaching back through time.

Theories about the Long Man of Wilmington range from pre-historic fertility symbol to early 18th century folly.  Ravilious viewed it as a female figure opening the doors of death.

Kurt Jackson’s landscapes

I love the landscapes of Kurt Jackson. Of the above painting he notes “Evening and two choughs fly over the sea squeaking excitedly – my first Cornish choughs” from his exhibition The Cornish Crows. populated with jackdaws, magpies, choughs, ravens and crows.

More on Wikipedia on Kurt Jackson.

Constable and the English countryside: The Hay Wain

. . . Constable paints nature at a point in history when its total destruction by the hand of man had not yet become conceivable.  But only just . . .   Wessel Krul in Green and pleasant land: English culture and the Romantic countryside

“Quintessentially English” is how Constable’s landscapes are frequently described. It’s a source of quiet satisfaction to the painter’s most nationalistic fan base that he was happy to live his life entirely in England, never crossing the Channel, even though his work was much more enthusiastically received by French critics.

Born in East Bergholt, Suffolk, Constable even found the dramatic landscapes of the Lake and Peak Districts too foreign.  Rather than mountains, he was inspired by the vast skies of the East Anglian flatlands where he grew up.

Popular opinion was never bothered by intellectual sneering and by 1880 the countryside of The Hay Wain (finished in 1821) was already being promoted as “Constable Country”.  Visitors ever since have been drawn to the banks of the River Stour, where Willy Lott’s cottage still stands (Grade 1 listed), so they can compare the view with the painting.  It’s reassuringly similar, though the river runs deeper these days, as East Anglia sinks. Continue reading Constable and the English countryside: The Hay Wain

On the origin of the Lake District

The area we now call the Lakes was once much wilder. Continue reading On the origin of the Lake District

Wildlife and Sex on Hampstead Heath

John Constable, Hampstead Heath, c.1820
John Constable, Hampstead Heath, c.1820

The management of London’s biggest park (790 acres/ 320 hectares) involves balancing recreational activities with nature conservation. Stressed out city dwellers can relax in a rural landscape, composed of a rich variety of habitats, including meadows, where grass is allowed to grow long to favour butterflies, and woodlands, where all three of Britain’s woodpeckers nest.  Outdoor swimming is a popular activity on the Heath, while by one of the 25 ponds a bank has been constructed to encourage kingfishers to breed.  Up on Parliament Hill kite-fliers enjoy spectacular views of London and might also see Kestrels and Sparrowhawks hunting.

Encouraging respectful attitudes from the wide range of visitors is an important part of looking after the Heath.  There is a particular problem with the amount of rubbish left behind by night-time pleasure-seekers in West Heath, for example, famed as a safe cruising zone. The “Heath & Hampstead Society” proposes the following:

“The Society is . . . working with the City to come up with new ways to manage the problem, for example, putting solar lamps in trees to power flashing beacons on litter bins during the night.”

Landscapes of Yorkshire by David Hockney

Is it possible to do anything new in the twenty-first century in landscape painting? Although most of the art world has given up painting hills, fields and trees, David Hockney doesn’t agree and returned to his native Yorkshire to paint a series of works of the countryside he knew as a child and teenager.

In Europe, the idea grew that painting was finished, not needed. This is because it had been replaced by something – the photograph – the pencil of nature, the truth itself. This assumes photography is modern; at least it’s only 180 years old. If one rejects the “immaculate conception” theory of photography – it came from nowhere, about 1839 – one begins to see another history. David Hockney

  • See all the paintings here: David Hockney – The East Yorkshire Landscape
  • Tate | Press Releases | David Hockney: The East Yorkshire “East Yorkshire first engaged Hockney’s imagination as a teenager when he worked on the land during summer holidays, stooking corn. As an adult, Hockney has intermittently returned to this part of England when visiting his mother and sister at their home in the coastal town of Bridlington. However, he only became fully absorbed by the landscape over the past four years, making it the primary source of inspiration for his art.”
  • Pagel, David. “The view from the woods. David Hockney’s East Yorkshire landscapes make Cézanne look Pop” Los Angeles Times, Around the Galleries, 16 February, 2007.
    click to read the full article
  • Muchnic, Suzanne. “Landscape perspectives. David Hockney rediscovers the landscape of his youth and his celebrated countryman, John Constable.” Los Angeles Times, 11 February, 2007.
    click to read the full article