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 Loutherbourg, Philip James de (French painter and scenographer, 1740-1812, active in Britain) , Belle Isle, Windermere in a Calm

Core Record

Title Belle Isle, Windermere in a Calm
Collection Abbot Hall Gallery, Kendal
Artist Loutherbourg, Philip James de (French painter and scenographer, 1740-1812, active in Britain)
Date 1786
Description

Born in Basel, Switzerland, de Loutherbourg was trained entirely in France, studying under Carle van Loo and Casanova. He was a master of dramatic effects with a penchant for ‘Salvatorian' horror and for Nature at her most Sublime and Romantic. The ship wreck owes much to de Loutherbourg's liking for the work of Claude Joseph Vernet and to local folk memory of 'The Fatall Nuptial or the Mournefull Marriage' when on 19 October 1635, a wedding party was drowned after a sudden storm sank the ferry.

De Loutherbourg's mastery of dramatic effects was probably informed by his previous career as a theatrical scene painter. In 1781, he invented the 'Eidophusikon' ('image of nature'), a small-scale animated stage-set incorporating sound and lighting effects to present literary stories and Sublime landscape phenomena which intrigued Reynolds and Gainsborough.

De Loutherbourg and his fellow scene painter Robert Carver, set out on a tour of Westmorland and Cumberland in 1783 as did so many other artists of the time. He was very interested in the activity of travel, taking many drawings of coaches, carriages and sailing craft on their journey. His travels obviously stimulated him, as he later exhibited a number of paintings at the Royal Academy inspired by his Lake District tour.

This painting and its partner were acquired by John Christian Curwen. The paintings show Belle Isle with its distinctive round house which was built in 1774 to take advantage of the best views - the first mansion in the Lake District to be built for Picturesque reasons. Originally known as Long Holm, the island was renamed as Belle Isle in honour of the heiress Isabella Curwen, whose Trustees had acquired the property for her in 1779. Isabella's husband John Christian Curwen also purchased the two paintings to hang at his family seat, Workington Hall, as a permanent tribute to their summer residence on Windermere.

As a pair, the paintings are probably the most important full-blown Romantic depictions of the Lake District. Painted at the height of the Picturesque movement, they represent a shift in how the landscape was perceived in the late eigteenth century, showing it as mysterious, unpredictable and uncontrollable.

The second painting provides a complete contrast to the earlier scene. The softly rolling, wooded fells surround the calm and idyllic lake. Nature is no longer destructive and terrifying, but benevolent and caring. A group of local farming folk embark on the ferry with their horse and dog. Across the lake, an elegant two-masted yacht carries a party of fashionable tourists, who are being shown the Picturesque landscape before them.

Current Accession Number None
Subject landscape (Windermere)
Measurements 209.5 x 136 cm.0 cm (estimate)
Material oil on canvas
Acquisition Details Purchased in 1988 with grant aid from the MGC V&A Purchase Grant Fund, the NHMF, the NACF and the Friends of Abbot Hall.
Rights Owner Lakeland Arts Trust
 

 

 

 

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