In this latest of our Hidden Gems series The Lie of the Land looks at the varied ways in which artists in the 20th century have been inspired by the age-old genre of landscape painting.
Eric Ravilious (1903-1942) Cottage in Sussex, (c. 1928) which was gifted to Douglas Percy Bliss (1900-1984) probably resulted from one of the cycling trips that Ravilious took with Bawden and Bliss around the Essex countryside. Ravilious admired the work of Cotman, Towne and Palmer, which at the time were being re-discovered; his own watercolours have been described as distilled out of the ordinary experience. Winifred Knights (1899-1947) made extensive landscape studies during her stay in Italy, most frequently of the countryside around Lazio, Umbria and the Abruzzi. She often worked in triplicate, creating a drawing, then an outline on tracing paper and lastly a colour study such as with Landscape, Piediluco, 1924. Other artists took a more imaginative approach such as David Evans (1924-1988), an ardent campaigner and environmentalist, who depicted the countryside often unpopulated and filled with abstract and overflowing greenery. Ithell Colquhoun (1906-1988) takes a very surrealist approach with La Cathédrale Engloutie (c. 1950): perhaps the daily immersion of this temple, dedicated to the powers of both sea and earth was intended by its builders. (Cornish Banner, June 1978). The title is a reference to the Prelude for piano by Claude Debussy. The piece is a musical depiction of a legendary cathedral, submerged and in ruins beneath the water, which mysteriously rises from the waves and into the sparkling light of day, then sinks again into the depths. Finally, we are able to see the artist directly at work ‘en plein-air with Bliss depiction of Van-Gogh who left Paris for the luscious Provence countryside and of which paintings are numerous such as in Field with Irises near Arles (1888).