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Britain’s ancient landscape as painter’s muse at Salisbury Museum

a painting of Stonehenge standningstones enveloped in golden clouds

Stonehenge, c.1827-8, J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851). The Salisbury Museum

The role of the ancient landscape in painting is celebrated in a glittering exhibition at Wiltshire Museum

With paintings like Charles Marhsall’s spicily titled Druid’s Sacrifice and artworks by the likes of John Piper, Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore and Paul Nash Salisbury Museum’s exploration of our ancient landscape through art combines an appealing subject with some of our most popular artists.

The Marshall panting depicts a chaotic hoard of bearded druids rushing towards Stonehenge beneath a broiling sky, rent by explosions, lightning and celestial foreboding and it seems that skies and Stonehenge are an essential part of any depiction of our ritual landscape.

The famous stone circle features prominently in this exhibition, which has been curated by Professor Sam Smiles, Emeritus Professor of Art History at the University of Plymouth.

Smiles brings together a life-long passion for the history of art and a deep fascination for archaeology, and he has selected some stunning paintings.

an etching showing a mass of cloaked figures millimg around beneath the standing stones of Stonehenge

The Druid’s Sacrifice, 1832 William Overend Geller (1804-1881) Mezzotint with etching. The Salisbury Museum

an etching of Stonehenge at Night

Stonehenge, 1833, Charles Marshall (1806-1890), engraved by George H. Every (fl. 1825-45) Mezzotint. The Salisbury Museum

a watercolour painitng of a male hill figure holding two sticks seen across fields

Eric Ravilious The Long Man of Wilmington,1939. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

a linocut of a group of standing stones

Stonehenge, 1919, Horace Brodzky (1885-1969). Linocut.

JMW Turner’s Stonehenge sees the Salisbury megaliths almost dissolve into an all-enveloping glow of sunlit clouds while William Giles’ sketch takes the pastoralism of Samuel Palmer and tinges it the gothic horror of Night of the Demon.

And then there’s the great Japanese woodcutter Yoshijiro Urushibara who imagines Stonehenge as a stop along Basho’s Road to the Interior, with tranquil, zen-like views at sunset and sunrise.

But it’s not wholly about Stonehenge and its surrounding ritual landscape, and the show travels across the British landscape to bring us artistic views of prehistory by artists from the 18th century to the present day.

Eric Ravilious strides across the East Sussex Downs towards Wilmington to capture the mysterious hill figure carved there by hands unknown, and the presence of Richard Long, Derek Jarman and Jeremy Deller lead to conversations that reveal how the landscape has been re-imagined by successive generations.

a woodcut print of stonehenge with a moonlit sky above

Stonehenge (Moonlight), 1925-1927
Yoshijiro Urushibara (1888-1953) Colour woodcut on white laid paper. The Salisbury Museum

a woodcut print of stomehenge with the red glow of morning beyond the stones

Stonehenge at Dawn, 1925-1927. Yoshijiro Urushibara (1888-1953)
Colour woodcut on white laid paper. The Salisbury Museum

a black and white print of stoneheng seen from along a pathway across the fields

Stonehenge, 1843, John Constable (1776-1837), engraved by David Lucas (1802-1881) Mezzotint (posthumously printed)

a watercolour showing Stonehenge intact with all the stones upright, in a cricle with stones resting across their tops

Alan Sorrell’s waterclour of a restored Stonehenge. c.1956-7. The Salisbury Museum

an etching of Stonehneg at night under a brooding sky with a flock of sheep in the foreground

Stonehenge, c. 1910, William Giles (1872-1939). Etching and aquatint. The Salisbury Museum

an abstract painting

Brian Graham Winter Menhirs Imbolc, 2003 Acrylic on Fabriano Paper. Courtesy of Bournemouth University

an oval tint of a man with a beard beneath a tree with standing stones in the background

Title page from The Antiquities of England and Wales by Francis Grose, 1776. Samuel Sparrow (fl.1773-1810) Vignette engraving.

British Art: Ancient Landscapes opens at The Salisbury Museum on April 8 and runs until September 3 2017. No booking required Normal admission charges apply* £7.50 Adults, £3.60 Children

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The Salisbury Museum

Salisbury, Wiltshire

A friendly museum in a Grade 1 listed building. Winner of six major awards including a Museum of the Year award and the English Tourist Board England for Excellence. The archaeology collections are Designated Collections of national importance. Home of the Stonehenge gallery, Warminster Jewel and famous Monkton Deverill gold…