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.
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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.
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.
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
The Salisbury Museum
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…