The 18th Century

The evolution of landscape painting in the 18th century was greatly influenced by the Dutch and Flemish painters who had established themselves in England a century earlier. Artists such as Jan Wyck (1652-1700) and John Griffier the Elder (1646-1718) achieved popularity for the then recently imported "landschap" or landscape. Until that time landscaped elements had remained secondary in a composition. Under the Dutch, landscape became an independent category in its own right.

The art historian Eugene Fromentin later likened Dutch painting to a mirror held up to nature reflecting "its external image, faithful, exact, life-like, without any adornment". In conjunction with "Italianised" and imaginary landscapes, a more naturalistic approach was introduced by Jan Siberechts (1627-1703), the "father of British landscape". Siberechts arrived in England in the 1670s and became the most professional exponent of the "country house portrait". The mapping impulse of this cartographic nation soon informed the distinctive "bird's-eye" panoramas of contemporaries such as John Wootton (1682-1764), Peter Tillemans and Knyff.

Leonard Knyff also came to England in the 1670s from his native Haarlem. In 1709, in collaboration with Johannes Kip (1655-1764), he published the monumental Britannia Illustrata, which depicted 80 country houses in their landscaped settings. These prints are now invaluable pictorial records of the development of architectural and garden history.

The Terrace and View from Richmond Hill. Artist: Leonard Knyff. Landscape.

The Terrace and View from Richmond Hill is one of the earliest paintings of this celebrated and frequently depicted view, and only one of a handful of works firmly attributed to Knyff. In the foreground, opposite the neatly topiarised avenue of trees, stand the three mansions which comprised The Terrace and next to them the Roebuck Inn. Beyond these are Bishop Duppa's Almshouses which were rebuilt in the Vineyard in 1852. Above the Almshouses, in the middle distance across the river, is Syon House.

On the Surrey bank, facing the islands, stands Trumpeter's House. Below the islands, only one of which survives today, passengers crossed to the Middlesex bank via the horse ferry. The ferry oat, shown mid-stream, is carrying a coach. The Middlesex bank is dominated by the mansions then owned by the Ashe family, later known as Cambridge House. Above it, surrounded by trees, stands Twickenham Park House, former home of Francis Bacon and then occupied by Sir Thomas Vernon. Right of this, over looking the river, stands Moses Hart's house, later Gordon House.

A second view upstream from Richmond Hill, which covers the area later dominated by Marble Hill and View from Richmond Hill is currently on loan to the Museum of Richmond.

In 1708 Tillemans left his native Antwerp for London. Primarily a topographical artist specialising in landscapes enlivened with people and animals, Tillemans also painted portraits, sporting scenes and seascpaes. Soon after his arrival he was commissioned to paint Queen Anne in the House of Lords and Queen Anne in the House of Commons. He rapidly rose to fame, counting the Duke of Devonshire, the 4th Lord of Byron, the Revd Dr Cox Macro (later chaplain to George II) and the Duke of Kingston among his patrons.

According to George Vertue, Tillemans, a chronic asthma sufferer, retired "to the country on account of his ill state of health", his "late place of residence for the air and his health being at Richmond". After Tillemans' death on 19 November 1734 Vertue added: "after many years indisposition that to all who knew him it was wonderful he lived so long, having a continual asthma".

A View of Richmond from Twickenham Park. Artist: Peter Tillemans.

This sweeping panoramic view is one of three local topographical scenes painted by Tillemans during the 1720s - A View of Richmond from Twickenham Park and a View from Richmond Hill are now in the Government Art Collection. The Thames at Twickenham, also known as A Prospect of Twickenham, is one of Tillemans' major late paintings. An invaluable record, it is the earliest complete topographical view of the river frontage in the 18th century.

The early provenance of the painting is unclear. There is a strong presumption that it was commissioned either by the poet Alexander Pope or John Robartes, later 4th Earl of Radnor, who owned works.

The collection is particularly rich in prints and engravings from the 18th and 19th centuries. Many of these are versions of the same print, which often vary in condition, colour and sometimes composition. Prior to the first Copyright Act in 1735, also known as the Hogarth Act after the artist who fought for its introduction, a number of engravings were pirated.

Johnston's estate. Artist: Heckel. Engraving.

This is the earliest known detailed view of Johnston's estate. It depicts the riverside frontage at Twickenham, including what was later known as Orleans House. At the time this work was painted the house was occupied by Governor Morton Pitt. On the far left can be seen the partially rebuilt St Mary's Church.

Heckel was born in Augsberg, Bavaria. After travelling throughout Germany and France, he settled in London in the early 1720s, where he practised goldsmithing and copper engraving. In 1746 he retired to Richmond, renting a house close to the park gates. During his retirement he turned to painting and creating sketches of the area, some of which engraved himself.

View from the Town Wharf, Richmond. Artist: Pieter Rysbrack

This view is from the Town Wharf situated to the right of the White Cross Inn. To the extreme left of the composition, at the end of Water Lane, stands Collins' Brewery. Further along are the riverside gardens of Dr Caleb Cotesworth and Herring (later Heron) House, built on the site of the former Richmond Palace Mews. In the distance Richmond Hill stretches round to Petersham and Twickenham. The foreground is dominated by the landing stage where good were unloaded and passengers alighted. It reportedly dated back to Elizabethan times. Until Richmond Bridge, designed by Kenton Couse and James Paine, was built between 1774 and 1777, the ferry was the only means of transport across this stretch of the River Thames.

The painter and engraver Pieter Andreas Rysbrack was born in Paris, the son of the Flemish painter Pieter Rysbrack (1655-1729). He studied in Amsterdam and Antwerp under his father and came to England in 1735, where he rose to prominence as a painter of classical landscapes. Rysbrack spent much of his time around the Thames, especially Richmond, dying of consumption in 1748.

Rysbrack's patrons included the Palladian architect Lord Burlington, who commissioned him to paint two series of topographical views of Chiswick House and its recently developed gardens. His brother was the sculptor John Michael Rysbrack (1693-1770), who carved the celebrated bust of Alexander Pope. Michael collaborated with the architect James Gibbs on a number of projects and possibly carved the putti in the Octagon Room at Orleans House.

Pope's villa and grotto. Illustration

Pope had originally acquired the lease for the property in 1718, but did not move from Chiswick until the following May. He lived here until his death in 1744, making a number of changes and additions to the villa. Pope's villa, innovative grotto and influential gardens achieved national acclaim, attracting visitors from far and wide. Visitors are seen here alighting by boat. This view, the only one to be published in Pope's lifetime, shows the portico added with the assistance of the Palladian architects William Kent and Lord Burlington. A later owner Baroness Howe (1762-1835) tired of the endless stream of tourists and in 1807 demolished the property. She was branded "Queen of the Goths" for her brutal act of destruction.

View from Twickenham Riverside. Artist: Samuel Scott.

Until the arrival of Canaletto (1697-1768) in London in 1746, Samuel Scott had primarily painted seascapes in the manner of the 17th century Dutch painters the Van de Veldes. Working with the Venetian painter, Scott adapted Canaletto's style to convey a distinctive English atmosphere.

Between 1748 and 1765 Scott stayed at Twickenham, first at Tan Yard Cottage in Cross Deep, then at the Manor House, Church Street, near the parish church, although he still kept on his London property and studio. Scott attracted several notable patrons in Twickenham, including the Earl of Radnor and Horace Walpole. Walpole owned 8 of Scott's paintings including an alternative version of this view, which was placed over the door of his Green Closet at Strawberry Hill.

The villa is shown after its later owner Sir William Stanhope had extended the property by adding new wings between 1756 and 1760. The boathouse on the left belonged to the portrait painter Thomas Hudson (1701-79), a pupil of Jonathan Richardson and longstanding friend of Scott's. Further up from Pope's Villa can be seen Countess Ferrers' Summerhouse, and in the distance Cross Deep House and Dr Battie's Poulett Lodge.

Strawberry Hill. Illustration.

Horace Walpole (1717-97), son of England's first Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole (1676-1745), was one of the leading cultural figures of the 18th century. Architect, arbiter of taste, collector, publisher, writer - Walpole was also a pioneer in a number of areas. The publication of the Castle of Otranto in 1765 gave birth to the Gothic novel. Anecdotes of Painting in England (1762-1771) was the first art-historical study of English artists and The History of the Modern Taste in Gardening, written between 1750 and 1770, was a pioneering venture in garden history.

A chronicler of his age, Walpole's prolific correspondence and memoirs mix historical fact with court gossip, bringing the age of George II and III vividly to life. According the essayist and biographer Sir Lesley Stephen, Walpole's letters are amongst the finest examples of English literature and epitomise the 18th century.

In May 1747 Walpole leased a "little plaything house" in Twickenham which he named Strawberry Hill. By the time of his death 50 years later this "rural bijoux" had been transformed into a "gothic castle". One of the most influential examples of the English "Gothick" revival, this wilfully irregular, organic structure, built over a period of years, was the antithesis of the "methodised" Palladian architecture typified by Marble Hill House. Gothick was not a new idea, it was by then a popular style for garden pavilions, but Walpole more than his contemporaries used original sources for his interiors including elements from Westminster Abbey and Canterbury Cathedral. Walpole created Strawberry Hill assisted by his "Committee on Taste", comprising the amateur architect John Chute and the designer draughtsman Richard Bentley.

Highlights include the Library and Grand Parlour constructed in 1753-54, the Round Tower and Cloister, which followed in 1760-61, and the Chapel in 1763. The stunning interior set off his collection of curiosities, a "museum" for "everything that is singular", which included Anne Boleyn's clock and Cardinal Wolsey's hat. Walpole was "ready to oblige any curious persons with the Sight of his House and Collections". The publication of A Description of the Villa of Horace Walpole in 1774 and 1784 acted as prototype guidebooks, and disseminated knowledge of Strawberry Hill to a wider audience.

The house was stripped and contents sold in 1842 by a later owner, Lady Frances Waldegrave, wife of the 7th Earl Waldegrave. Contemporaries viewed the collection as "the most distinguished gem that has ever adorned the annals at auction". From 1856 the house was restored and expanded.

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Updated: 20 August 2008