Tercentenary Exhibition: Richard Wilson and the Transformation of European Landscape Painting

The exhibition, Richard Wilson and the Transformation of European Landscape Painting was held at the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, Connecticut, USA from 6 March to 1 June and at Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales, Cardiff from 5 July to 26 October 2014 in celebration of the 300th anniversary of Wilson’s birth. It was the first major exhibition devoted to Richard Wilson in 30 years. It explored the artist’s work in broad European contexts, focusing on his transformative experience in Rome, where he spent almost seven years during the 1750s. The exhibition confronted fundamental questions about changes of taste in the middle decades of the 18th century, which saw the ‘rise of landscape’ as an independent genre that challenged accepted academic hierarchies of painting. It also investigated how Wilson, the ‘father of British landscape painting’ marketed his landscape art upon his return to England and how his work was understood after his death, influencing a generation of artists including John Constable and J.M.W. Turner.

Richard Wilson, Rome from the Villa Madama, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

Many of Wilson’s greatest paintings and drawings were featured in this exhibition, along with key works by earlier masters such as Claude Lorrain and Gaspard Dughet, as well as by Wilson’s contemporaries such as Pompeo Batoni, Anton Raphael Mengs, Francesco Zuccarelli, Charles-Joseph Natoire, Claude-Joseph Vernet, Louis Gabriel Blanchet, and others associated with the Académie de France in Rome. Finally the exhibition revealed how Wilson’s international pupils went on to become influential figures in their native countries.


Richard Wilson and the Transformation of European Landscape Painting was co-organised by the Yale Center for British Art and Amgueddfa Cymru National Museum Wales. It was co-curated by Robin Simon, Editor of The British Art Journal, and Martin Postle, Deputy Director of Studies at the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art. The organising curator at the Yale Center for British Art was Scott Wilcox, Chief Curator of Art Collections and Senior Curator of Prints and Drawings. At Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales, the organising curator was Oliver Fairclough, Keeper of Art. The exhibition was accompanied by a book of the same title, published by the Yale Center for British Art and Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales, in association with Yale University Press. This contained much new material on the artist, included within twelve contextual essays and individual catalogue entries on each of the works exhibited.


Click here for a full list of Wilson works exhibited