The BADA fair is in full swing. Only a few days left so please come and see the show . Samuel Prout (1783-1852) 'A Grand Tour in Watercolour'
Samuel Prout was an artist who, in his day, was considered to be amongst the greatest of the English Watercolour School. Ruskin became a champion, praising Prout's drawings for "their magnificent certainty and ease and their firmness of line." Ruskin was referring to the drawings on which, in Victorian times, Prout's fame depended - his rendering of Continental Gothic architecture, gabled buildings, town squares and, above all, cathedrals, enlivened by numerous figures. Such drawings, reaching a wider audience through Prout's publication of books of lithographs, also enhanced and informed the travels of Prout's wealthier fellow-countrymen as they journeyed throughout a Europe that was once again open, after Napoleon's defeat, to the successors of the eighteenth century Grand Tour, in search of the Picturesque.
Prout's origins were provincial and humble. He was lucky in his schooling in Plymouth, for his artist headmaster, the Rev Dr Bidlake, encouraged him, and Benjamin Robert Haydon was a fellow pupil. Through Haydon's father, Prout met John Britton and was commissioned to provide drawings for Britton and Brayley's "The Beauties of England and Wales". Later, staying with Britton in London, Prout studied perspective and architecture, inspired by his host's extensive knowledge and ownership of drawings by Turner, Girtin and Cozens. The artist of Continental Gothic emerged from the experience of these years, which in his Plymouth days encompassed the depiction of bridges, water-mills and rock-built cottages, as well as shipping and coastal scenery, and from there moved on to the precision required for the drawing of antiquities and country seats. Prout's characteristic crinkled and intricate broken line, so effective on the Continent, depended on his absorption of a long tradition extending back to Canaletto, and on the artist's sheer determination to succeed, backed up by a profound belief in his own destiny.
The exhibition and the fully illustrated book that will accompany it will be concerned with Prout's artistic journey from earlier years to his output of Continental scenes, which began in 1819 and continued to the end of his life. The drawings on show, gathered from sources across Europe, will present an array of the best of Prout's work, never before seen together in a single venue, including Venetian views, which, at the time, secured Prout's reputation, and were largely responsible for initiating the British love-affair with Venice. Indeed, Prout's pioneering skill and dedication set in train a process and a tradition, inspiring other artists from Bonington, Callow,Holland and Turner to later artists, without which we would all be much the poorer.
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