This idealised scene shows a warm, orange landscape behind a view of romantic ruins, which are reminiscent of Chepstow Castle on the River Wye, in Wales. Two figures are conversing in the foreground of the painting, while others are seen in small boats on the river.
Of the 31 pictures that landscape painter George Barret senior exhibited at the Royal Academy between 1769 and 1782, at least a third depicted mountainous, Romantic countryside, as seen in this work.
The location depicted almost certainly represents an imaginary landscape, inspired by the work of French painter Claude Lorrain (commonly known as Claude; 1604/5-1682). Active for much of his life in Italy, Claude continues to be celebrated for his ideal, pastoral landscapes, infused by the golden light of the Roman Campagna. As in this work, Claude’s landscapes usually included figures, which brought little or no narrative to the composition but, as art historian Fred Kleiner explained: ‘often appear to be added as mere excuses for the radiant landscape itself’.
George Barret senior was born in Dublin. He began his artistic career colouring engravings and taught drawing in Dublin while making his own studies of the landscape around the city. By the time Barret moved to London in around 1763, he had established a successful career. Barret became a founder member of the Royal Academy in 1768, exhibiting there until 1782. His landscapes, influenced by Dutch and Italian art, are predominantly views of the wilder areas of Britain, including part of Wales and the Lake District, but also include views of the country estates owned by his various patrons. He was appointed Official Painter to the Chelsea Hospital in 1782, but did not live to complete any work for the hospital.
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