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The shepherd on the hill: comparative notes on English and German romantic landscape painting 1810-1831

By Ian Waites


The solitary figure in the landscape can be understood in relation to certain, fundamentally Romantic traits – solitude, contemplation, oneness with nature – and is most notably found in the work of Caspar David Friedrich. Less recognised however is the fact that the solitary figure can also be found in the landscape paintings of many English artists of the early nineteenth century, particularly within depictions of commonly held pastoral landscapes. Within the traditional terms of English art history, the landscape genre of this period has also been closely associated with the concept of Romanticism. \ud \ud This paper will study the use of the solitary figure in paintings of open, common field landscape, and will compare two paintings: Caspar David Friedrich’s ‘Landscape with Rainbow (The Shepherd’s Complaint)’ of 1810, and John Sell Cotman’s ‘The Shepherd on the Hill’ of 1831. It will examine the more conventional Romantic resonances of Friedrich’s painting in order to question whether Cotman’s shepherd is a comparative example of Romantic solitude and contemplation, or whether it was more of a prosaic image of a typically English ‘rustic type’ at a time when a particular sense of national identity was emerging that was closely associated with the countryside and country life. From there, it is hoped that we can begin to reconsider the conventional Romantic image of English landscape painting in the first three decades of the nineteenth century

Topics: V144 Modern History 1800-1899, V210 British History, V222 German History
Year: 2009
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