Masters of Water-Colour Painting

Peter De Wint, a descendant of an old merchant family of Amsterdam, like Glover, painted in oils and water colours, but his work was far superior. He selected broad and open country for his scenes, which were executed in a rich tone with a tendency to heavy uniform green. The neighbourhood of Lincoln, where his wife, a sister of W. Hilton, R.A., was born, had special attractions to him. St. Albans (Plate XVI) shows the abbey in the ruinous state it had become from the time of the Reformation. Its restoration was not commenced until 1856, under the direction of Sir Gilbert Scott, and completed later by Lord Grimthorpe. Anthony Vandyke Copley Fielding belonged to an artistic family. His father was a painter and three of his brothers all practised art with success. He was one of the most fashionable drawing-masters of his day, and a strong supporter of the “Old” Society. After being treasurer and next secretary, he was appointed president in 1831, which post he retained during his life. He was a most prolific worker and contributed about seventeen hundred drawings to the Society’s exhibitions, besides showing at the Royal Academy and Royal Institution. At first his favourite subjects were lake and mountain scenery (see Plate XVII). After he took up his residence at Brighton he turned his attention to marine painting and depicted many storms at sea. It has been exaggeratedly said that Copley Fielding was "perhaps the greatest artist after Turner for representations of breadth and atmosphere." Ruskin also praised his work. Owing, however, to his very rapid method of execution there was a considerable sameness in his work.

The drawings by David Cox, although executed in an apparently careless manner, give a greater rendering of atmospheric qualities and of irradiation of light with a feeling of more movement than can be found in the works of Fielding. Cox’s early drawings were executed in a somewhat stiff and restrained manner, with a delicate finish, but afterwards his style became broad and he produced those breezy effects which are almost unrivalled. Boys Fishing (Plate XVIII) is an excellent example of his later work. When Cox returned to his native town, Birmingham, he devoted his attention to working in oils, and the City Art Gallery possesses a superb collection of his paintings in this medium. He was for the greater part of his life a teacher of drawing, and he published a “Treatise on Landscape Painting and Effect in Water Colours,” in which his views are clearly stated.*

Samuel Prout, one of the numerous Devonshire painters, also derived a great part of his income by giving instruction in drawing and painting. Numerous drawing copies for students were produced by him by means of soft-ground etching. He was at first employed by John Britton, the author of “The Beauties of England and Wales,” in making topographical drawings for this work. In 1819 he went to Normandy for the benefit of his health. There he turned his attention to producing those paintings of cathedrals and picturesque buildings for which he is noted. Later he travelled through Germany and Switzerland to Italy, and visited Rome and Venice (see Plate XIX). Afterwards he published facsimiles of many of the drawings executed during these tours on the Continent. They were produced in lithography by himself on the stone, an art in which he greatly excelled. The architectural drawings by Prout are remarkable for their picturesque treatment, rather than for correctness of construction. Details are sparsely indicated by the use of a reed pen. Bright effects of light and shade are, however, given, and the introduction of groups of figures add brilliancy to these paintings.

James Duffield Harding, like Prout, from whom he received some lessons, also excelled in lithography. Many of his paintings were reproduced by him in a publication entitled “Sketches at Home and Abroad.” He visited Italy on two occasions. Vico, in the Bay of Naples, between Castellamare and Sorrento (Plate XX), is an example of his free manner of painting. An engraving of it appeared in the “Landscape Annual” in 1832. He was a member of the “Old” Society, and also painted in oils. William Henry Hunt, familiarly called “Old” or “Billy” Hunt in his latter years by his fellow artists, to distinguish him from William Holman Hunt, was an artist with a style peculiar to himself. He painted figures, especially young rustics, with a sense of humour, but he is chiefly noted for his exquisite fruit and flower pieces, which were executed with great delicacy and with a remarkable power of rendering the effects of light and shade on the surface of the objects. To obtain these he would roughly pencil out, say, a group of plums, and thickly coat each one with Chinese white, which would be left to harden. On this ground he afterwards painted his colours with a sure hand. By this means he would obtain a brilliant effect. Further, to enhance it, he would make free use of the knife on the various surroundings to give a contrast, and at the same time to produce a feeling of texture on the various surfaces, so as not to have a monotonous and flat appearance. This method of scraping up portions of the surface of the paper is clearly shown in Plucking the Fowl (Plate XXI).