Monday, June 4, 2012


Richard Parkes Bonnington
Self Portrait
Photo Bridgeman Art Library, London

Born of English parents, Richard Parkes Bonnington (Arnold near Nottingham 1802-1828 London) spent much of his short life in France. He studied initially in Calais with Louis Francia before moving to Paris. In 1818 he first met Eugène Delacroix and enrolled in the atelier of Baron Antoine-Jean Gros, where he formed a lasting friendship with Paul Huet, a fellow pupil. He was one of the stars of the 1824 Paris Salon, where British art was so triumphant, and along with John Constable and Copley Fielding received a gold medal. Bonington was an inveterate traveler and spent much time exploring the north coast of France. In 1825 he visited London with several French artists, including Delacroix, and in 1826 he travelled through Switzerland to Venice. He was one of the most important artists of the early nineteenth century, vital to the understanding of French and British art of the Romantic period. His range included history and subject paintings, and landscapes, highly-finished works and sketches, all imbued with a brilliance and sureness of touch which was greatly admired both during and after his lifetime. (

The Rialto, Venice

The Giudecca in Venice

This extremely loose and sketchy view of Venice appears to have been painted from the water. ‘A gloriously sunny painting,’ as Frits Lugt described it in the inventory. The low horizon and the superb way the water and the sky merge are quite remarkable. Bonington was in Venice from 4 April to 20 June 1826 and in this time he made a group of similar studies, all on the same English board. It is typical of Bonington that in these studies he manages to bring out the grandeur of less frequently depicted locations.

A Boat Beached in a Port at Low Tide

‘Die normanische Küste’
Current Loc Musée du Louvre


‘La Ferté’

The site of this fresh and immediate sketch has been cautiously identified as that of La Ferté in the estuary of La Somme, on the Picardy coast. The north coast of France was frequently travelled by Bonington, and provided him with a wealth of subjects for his coast scenes. La Ferté and nearby St.Valèry-sur-Somme were among his favorite haunts and those of his painting companions, Paul Huet and Thomas Shotter Boys. This work is a study made on the spot. The whole is quickly and fluidly painted, with the stretches of sand, sea and sky painted with broad horizontal sweeps of the brush. On the horizon vertical sweeps indicate rain showers. Certain details, such as the boat on the left and the small boat to the right in the distance are painted wet-in-wet, but others, such as the boat on the right and the figure of the woman were likely to have been added in the studio. (

Sunset in the Pays De Caux
Current Loc Wallace Collection

On The Coast Of Picardy

On The Adriatic
Images from

Distant View of St-Omer
Current Loc Tate Britain

Bonington resided the greater part of his life in Paris. He made a few visits to England, and on the last occasion he was taken ill and died of consumption. He practiced at the Louvre and the Institut, and also received instruction from Baron Gros. His paintings, in oil and water colors, were almost entirely executed in France; he, however, made one visit to Italy. In Paris his works were chiefly architectural with street scenes, admirably executed, whilst his landscapes with fine atmospheric effects display great freedom in execution. It is somewhat remarkable that after Cotman and Bonington had, in the first part of the nineteenth century, developed a style so greatly appreciated at the present time, so many of the landscape painters in water colors in the early Victorian era should still have adhered to the old restricted methods. Constable exercised considerable influence on the French landscape painting in oil, whilst Bonington showed the French artists the capabilities of water colors, which they did not fail to appreciate.
(Project Gutenberg's Masters of Water-Colour Painting, by H. M. Cundall)

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