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BRITISH LANDSCAPE TRADITION: FROM GAINSBOROUGH TO NASH

A new exhibition at the Pallant House Gallery will showcase the gallery's extensive but rarely seen collection of historic works on paper from the 18th to 20th century.

The exhibition comprises depictions of the British landscape, from early watercolours and drawings by Thomas Gainsborough and Alexander Cozens, to watercolours by 20th century 'Neo-Romanticism' artists such as Paul Nash and Graham Sutherland.

The exhibition will be on display in the De'Longhi Print Room at Pallant House Gallery from 11 May until 26 June 2016.

The majority of the historic works have been donated by Walter Hussey, Dean of Chichester Cathedral from 1956 to 1978.  Hussey is best known for commissioning and collecting works by modern artists such as Moore, Piper and Sutherland.  It is this that formed the Gallery's founding collection in 1982.

Thomas Gainsborough often travelled the English countryside, sketching scenes he found particularly picturesque, such as his drawing 'A Suffolk Lane' (c. 1750-60).  In landscapes, Gainsborough found relief from painting grand portraits, wishing "to take my viola da gamba and walk off to some sweet village where I can paint landskips and enjoy the fag end of life in quietness and ease".

Russian born Alexander Cozens is thought to have been the first English artist to work entirely with landscape subjects.  In the 1750's, he famously invented the 'blot' technique of painting, which he used as a teaching aid to liberate his students' creative minds, which he felt were being stifled in their attempts to copy the work of other artists.  His son, John Robert Cozens was described by fellow artist John Constable as 'the greatest genius that ever touched landscape'.  Cozens worked extensively in Italy, but focused on English subjects in the last decade of his life.

John Robert Cozens, View Over Greenwich, 1791, watercolour on paper

John Robert Cozens, View Over Greenwich, 1791, watercolour on paper

Norwich-born watercolour artist John Sell Cotman was one of the leading members of the Norwich School of Artists in the early 19th century.  He lived in London and toured widely in England and Wales before settling once again in Norwich.  His painting of 'Capel Curig' (c. 1802) was probably created during his second tour of Wales.

Artists such as Cotman were an important point of reference for the early 20th century artists such as Paul Nash.  In 1957, art historian John Rothenstein noted that Nash 'was too personal an artist to imitate an old master, but what he did was to assimilate something of the spirit of Girtin, Cotman and others, and to evolve a free contemporary version of traditional idioms'.

Paul Nash, Wittenham, 1935, watercolour on paper.

Paul Nash, Wittenham, 1935, watercolour on paper.

At the outbreak of the Second World War, Graham Sutherland produced a number of paintings based on the view of Sandy Lane in Pembrokeshire.  The preliminary studies in the Gallery's collection for Sutherland's oil painting 'Entrance to a Lane' in the Tate collection, reveal Sutherland's process of 'paraphrasing nature', drawing on continental abstraction as a way of representing the Welsh landscape in a poetic and modern way.

The exhibition in the De'Longhi Print Room at Pallant House Gallery is free to enter and runs from 11 May until 26 June 2016.