A herder on horseback drives two cows and a group of sheep along a country lane. Beyond him is a picturesque scene of a river with a waterfall, a castle and distant hills.
This view of an imaginary landscape demonstrates the influence of Italian classical landscape painting. Works of this genre often featured ruins and rivers, evoking the Italian countryside or campagna. The vogue for such paintings started with the introduction of landscapes by artists such as, the French painter active in Italy, Claude Lorrain to England in the 17th and 18th centuries. Landscape paintings were purchased in Rome by wealthy Englishmen visiting as part of their Grand Tour and brought back as souvenirs. Abraham Pether was one of numerous British artists who sought to emulate this style of painting for middle class collectors without the means to buy works by Lorrain, but who aspired to his style of art.
This is one of numerous imaginary views by Pether showing an invented castle within a waterside setting (although most other examples are lit by moonlight). Despite the many variations on this theme by Pether in existence, he is not known to have painted any of his imaginary compositions more than once.
Abraham Pether, a cousin of the painter William Pether, was born at Chichester and as a child showed a talent for music. However, he later became a pupil of the painter George Smith. His works mainly depict river and mountain scenery, often with classical buildings, although it was his popular moonlit views that inspired the nickname ‘Moonlight Pether’. He exhibited frequently at the Royal Academy and Free Society of Artists. Despite some success Pether was never able to do more than provide for the basic needs of his wife and children. Towards the end of his life he was incapacitated by disease. The Artist’s Benevolent Fund faced severe criticism for not supporting his family after the artist’s death, despite their acute poverty.
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