Romanticism: John Piper and Graham Sutherland

Not essential to Romanticism, but so widespread as to be normative, was a strong belief and interest in the importance of nature. However, this is particularly in the effect of nature upon the artist when he is surrounded by it, preferably alone. Romantics were distrustful of the human world, and tended to believe that a close connection with nature was mentally and morally healthy. Romantic art addressed its audiences with what was intended to be felt as the personal voice of the artist.

John Piper

Piper adapted more traditional forms of Landscape painting and wanted to capture an experience of being in a particular surrounding, the personalities of the natural objects and a connection with place and nature. These ideas link to my work but also he captures welsh mountains in his work which I am going to be working with in the form of the Brecon Beacons as I have a connection with this area from living there through most of my life.

In British Romantic Artists (London: William Cox, 1942) John Piper wrote: ‘Romantic art is the result of a vision that can see in things something significant beyond ordinary significance: something that for a moment seems to contain the whole world; and, when the moment is past, carries over some comment on life or experience beside the comment on appearances.’

‘”I felt then that I was seeing the mountains for the first time and seeing them as nobody had seen them before. This was due partly to the feeling of release after the confining of the war, partly to a “spurt” in my capacity to observe more clearly at this particular time. Each rock lying in the grass, had a positive personality: for the first time I saw the bones and structure and the lie of the mountains, living with them and climbing them as I was, lying on them in the sun and getting soaked with rain in their cloud cover and enclosed in their improbable, private rock-world in fog.” Pipers Places, p.105

Graham Sutherland

Graham Sutherland wrote that his landscape paintings expressed the ‘intellectual and emotional’ essence of a place. Again, a connection to nature and place and experience were key themes of his work.

However, Sutherland’s work can be linked to the eco-art and environmental issues of today as even back then he was depicted changing landscapes and the affects that humans had on the natural world. “They depict landscape environments changing constantly, carved by the elements and wrecked by the greed of humankind and by war”.

Romantic Artists like John Piper and Graham Sutherland wanted to capture an experience of being in the surrounding of the place or image they were depicting, connected to place and nature. This is something I would like to capture in my work and I will be exploring different ways of connecting my work to place and the natural world throughout my project I am sure. When the romantics were painting, the world wasn’t as urbanised and technological and so I think now their ethos is even more important as people are disconnecting from nature and so reconnecting them with it and portraying its importance is highly relevant to today’s society.

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