Archive for the ‘Topographical pictures’ Category

Carl Laubin at work

May 25, 2011

The initial sketch for Vanbrugh's Castles. ©Carl Laubin/Plus One Gallery

Last week I posted about Carl Laubin’s forthcoming exhibition at the Plus One Gallery. Today I want to show some images that allow us to look over the artist’s shoulder as he was painting Vanbrugh’s Castles.

The composition scaled up and transferred onto canvas. ©Carl Laubin/Plus One Gallery

The idea for this painting evolved out of Laubin’s previous work, Vanbrugh Fields. The artist now wanted to give the Blenheim Bridge a more central role. Instead of using a Claudean tree to balance the composition he created a steeply rising bank of buildings on the right side of the painting.

Blenheim Bridge emerges. ©Carl Laubin/Plus One Gallery

An initial sketch was developed into a working drawing, which was then scaled up and transferred onto canvas.

As the compsition is filled out, the Temple of the Four Winds appears too dominant. ©Carl Laubin/Plus One Gallery

As the painting developed, certain problems of composition and scale became apparent. For instance, Laubin felt that the Temple of the Four Winds in the right foreground (in reality at Castle Howard, North Yorkshire), didn’t feel quite right there.

The Temple of the Four Winds is removed. ©Carl Laubin/Plus One Gallery

It was removed to the middle ground and replaced by the demolished Bagnio from Eastbury.

More detail is added, but something still seems to be lacking. ©Carl Laubin/Plus One Gallery

But this in turn seemed to reduce the depth of the composition.

Trying out a reduced version of the Temple. ©Carl Laubin/Plus One Gallery

Experimenting with a less prominent version of the Temple of the Four Winds sketched onto an acetate overlay, Laubin found a better place for it further down in the lower right corner. This also gave the Blenheim Bridge more breathing space.

The final version of Vanbrugh's Castles. ©Carl Laubin/Plus One Gallery

How amazed Vanbrugh would have been to see his oeuvre laid out like this, as a kind of palatial hill town. I am very grateful to Carl Laubin for allowing us this glimpse into his studio – indeed, into his imagination.

Carl Laubin, capriccio painter

May 18, 2011

Carl Laubin, Vanbrugh Fields ©Carl Laubin/Plus One Gallery

Carl Laubin is an artist who is passionate about architecture. Many of his works are in the tradition of the capriccio, or imaginary landscape. Laubin combines an element of fantasy with a meticulous attention to detail, using historical sources to document the buildings he is painting.

Laubin will be having an exhibition at the Plus One Gallery in London from 8 June until 2 July 2011. Among the works on show will be Vanbrugh Fields, a painting celebrating the buildings of Sir John Vanbrugh. The capriccio format allows Laubin to depict the architecture as it was designed rather than as it was eventually built (or not built), in its ideal state.

Carl Laubin, National Trust capriccio. ©NTPL/John Hammond

Castle Howard (top right, on the hill), for instance, is shown with its now demolished entrance gate. The bridge at Blenheim (lower right) has its intended grand superstructure, which was never completed after the Duchess of Marlborough fell out with the architect.

As a tribute to Vanburgh’s conservation efforts at Blenheim, Laubin shows a whisp of smoke coming out one of the chimneys at Woodstock Manor (far right, just below the brow of the hill) – Vanburgh admired the picturesque building, lived in it for a while and wanted to preserve it, but the Duchess had it swept away. And can you spot Seaton Delaval Hall, which the National Trust acquired last year?

Carl Laubin, Fallen beech with prospect of Cliveden. ©NTPL

The National Trust commissioned a few paintings from Laubin some years ago, including National Trust capriccio, showing the buildings of architectural significance owned by the NT. Fallen beech with prospect of Cliveden commemorates the damage done by the great storm of 1987.

I will follow this up next week with a post showing the successive stages of development of another recent painting by Laubin, Vanbrugh’s castles.

The fictional life of Lyme Park

November 8, 2010

View of the north front Lyme Park, c. 1700. Acquired with the help of the Art Fund in 1999. ©NTPL/John Hammond

This view of Lyme Park was purchased by the National Trust in 1999 with support from the Art Fund. It shows the north front of the house in about 1700.

These topographical paintings were usually at least partly fictional, an expression of the owners’ pride, their ideals and hopes.

©NTPL/Matthew Antrobus

This is the north front photographed fairly recently.

Although the image is obviously a truthful record of a moment in time, the photographer has also incorporated certain conventions from the tradition of landscape painting, such as the curve of the drive in the the foreground and the mass of the tree on the right. It is a composition just as artfully contrived as the earlier painting.

The south front of Lyme. ©NTPL/Arnhel de Serra

The other, grander front of the house will, for most of us, be associated with the 1995 television adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. In that series Lyme stands in for Darcy’s country house, Pemberley.

It is below the south front of Lyme/Pemberley that Darcy, having just taken a dip in the lake after a strenuous journey on horseback, encounters the mortified Lizzie Bennet, and they have their famously stilted conversation. In this case the reality of Lyme is augmented by both literature and film.

Can we ever see a place without all these associations? Perhaps that is only possible when we are three or four years old.

It’s Grimm down south

August 27, 2010

©Burstow & Hewett

Breaking news: we have just managed to purchase this little pen and ink sketch of Scotney Castle, Kent, dated 1783, by Samuel Hieronymous Grimm (1733-1794). We bought it at auction at Burstow & Hewett in Battle, East Sussex.

Emma Slocombe, the curator for Scotney, notes that it is probably a preparatory sketch for the watercolours of Scotney by Grimm which are in the British Library. We are always potentially interested in acquiring pictures that show what our historic properties used to look like.

The only remaining tower of the old castle at Scotney, with the ruins of the other parts of the building. ©NTPL/Stephen Robson

The sketch shows quite a lot of detail, including various buildings which have since disappeared or fallen into ruin. Originally Scotney was a castle with four corner towers, but the building was domesticated through successive alterations in about 1580, 1640 and 1720.

The old castle seen from the new house. ©NTPL/John Miller

In the early nineteenth century the house was abandoned as being too damp and unhealthy. In the 1830s Edward Hussey built a new house on the hill above, while incorporating the ruined castle into his picturesque garden. Other posts on Scotney can be found here.

The hermitage at Selbourne, Hampshire, with Henry White as the hermit, 1777, by Samuel Hieronymus Grimm, at Dunham Massey, Cheshire. Note the 'picturesque' seat made of untreated branches. ©NTPL

There are a few other works by Samuel Hiernonymous Grimm at other National Trust properties. Apart from topographical pictures, he also produced mythological and picturesque scenes.