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The Idea of the English Landscape Painter - Kriz, Kay Dian - Yale University Press
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The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art

Published for the Paul Mellon Center for Studies in British Art  
 

The Idea of the English Landscape Painter

Genius as Alibi in the Early Nineteenth Century

  • Kay Dian Kriz
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English landscape painting changed dramatically during the time of Turner and Girtin—the new style of painting was seen as more natural and expressive of the imagination and character of the artist himself. The new artistic "geniuses" were hailed by critics as shining stars of a truly English school of landscape painting. In this book Dian Kriz critically examines the emergence of the Romantic concept of the landscape genius, arguing that it was a category produced by critics, painters, and the public, in opposition to other ways of thinking about the artist in the period around 1800. She places the artistic genius of the (male) landscape painter in relation to the (female) amateur, the connoisseur, the decadent Frenchman, and the entrepreneur.

Kriz studies the way in which the application of paint was thought to represent the character of the artist and particular forms of Englishness. Examining a wide range of contemporary paintings, prints, and written texts, she determines how a "visual rhetoric" that relied heavily on brilliant surface effects was understood to participate in discourses on art, politics, commerce, and morality during the decades in which England was at war, militarily and culturally, with Napoleonic France. Kriz shows that the power of the landscape genius lay in his ability to negotiate the seemingly contradictory demands of a market in luxury commodities and a social ideal of a virile and virtuous Englishness. The genius's encounter with external nature provided him with an alibi that served to obscure his activities as an economic producer in a competitive market society.

Kay Dian Kriz is an assistant professor in the department of history of art and architecture at Brown University.

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