Joseph Mallord William Turner
Joseph Mallord William Turner
Dazio Grande, 1842
Watercolor applied with a brush, and graphite
Sheet: 24.1 x 29.7 cm (9 1/2 x 11 11/16 inches)
Gift of Mr. Richard Brown Baker in memory of his parents, Harvey and Marion Baker 84.080
(September 23, 2011 – January 8, 2012)
Made in the UK offers an exceptional look at developments in British art—from the abstract painting of the 1950s to the hyperrealist images of the 1970s to the varied approaches of contemporary work. Throughout this period British art has been integral to international developments in contemporary art, but many of the artists included in this exhibition are less well known in America today than they once were. The RISD Museum’s extraordinary collection of postwar British art—uniquely strong in the United States—was made possible by the foresight and generosity of renowned collector Richard Brown Baker (American, 1912–2002). The show celebrates his extraordinary gift of British art as well as the works purchased with the substantial bequest he provided to continue building the collection.
Baker, a Providence native, moved to New York in 1952, living just blocks from the 57th Street art galleries. As the city evolved into the new center of the art world, Baker was compelled to collect. Although he did not have large funds at his disposal, he became one of the most prescient collectors of American and European contemporary art in the late 20th century, acquiring more than 1,600 works, many before the artists had established their reputations. Baker never intended to build a collection of British art; his British holdings developed naturally in the context of his international outlook. He gave most of his collection to the Yale University Art Gallery, his alma mater, but gifted the RISD Museum more than 300 works, of which 136 are British. This gift was given in recognition of several exhibitions on other aspects of his collection organized by the RISD Museum, as well as to honor his time spent in England as a Rhodes scholar. He noted in his journal, “As I obtained my Rhodes Scholarship from Rhode Island, I feel that I am making a kind of gesture to England and to my native city by this gift.”
Made in the UK is the first presentation of Baker’s British collection as well as the first opportunity to see many of the works acquired with his bequest. Many of the newer purchases made with Baker’s funds are presented in this gallery. The larger, adjacent gallery brings us back in time toward the early purchases that Baker made himself.
Most of Baker’s British purchases were by artists associated with St. Ives, a coastal town in Cornwall.
Made in the UK: Contemporary Art from the Richard Brown Baker Collection and the publication of its accompanying catalogue are made possible by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.(May 27 –August 14, 2005)
The watercolor medium and landscape subject were auspiciously linked in Britain during the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and the dynamism generated led to a significant artistic achievement. The RISD Museum has a particularly fine collection of this work, primarily due to the remarkable generosity of an anonymous donor. The first gifts were made in 1969 and have continued to the present. The Museum’s holdings in this area now number over 800 sheets, illustrating nearly all of the practitioners. The innovations of these artists elevated both the landscape subject and the watercolor medium from their former lowly ranking in British Royal Academy’s hierarchy of genres to one of international recognition. Early 18th-century British landscapes were of two types: topographical views, which were recognizable depictions of specific places, and imaginary or idealized views inspired by 17th-century Continental artists in oil such as Claude Lorrain and Nicolas Poussin. Over the next century, as artists took an increasing interest in the observation of nature, these traditions expanded in new directions. Topographic watercolors from the mid-18th century were typically drawn in graphite or pen and ink and tinted with color washes, such as those by Thomas Jones and Jonathan Skelton. Others, among them Francis Towne and John”Warwick” Smith, began to experiment with more painterly effects. John Robert Cozens took the expressive possibilities of the medium furthest at this time. His sublime views conveyed his emotional response to nature’s drama and were extremely influential for British landscape artists of the next generation. The early 19th-century Romantics took a close look at nature increasingly included being attentive to the fleeting effects of weather. Watercolor’s luminescence and speed of application allowed artists to capture atmospheric conditions as never before. Working outdoors and quickly to capture changing light effects encouraged spontaneity and invention. With minimal underdrawing, watercolor was directly applied in veils of color washes and loose brushwork, evident in the paintings of David Cox, Peter De Wint, and Richard Parks Bonington. J.M.W. Turner’s late watercolor sketches, with their energetic brushwork, radiant color, and dissolving form, his subjects are barely recognizable.Always on SundayAugust 14, 2:30-3:30 pmAre you interested in learning about British watercolors? Join K. Dian Kriz, Associate Professor, History of Art and Architecture, Brown University, for a gallery talk in the exhibition Luminous Landscapes.
Howard, Jan and Judith Tannenbaum. Made in the UK: Contemporary Art from the Richard Brown Baker Collection. Providence: Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, 2011.
Farrell, Jennifer. Get There First, Decide Promptly: The Richard Brown Baker Collection of Postwar Art. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2011.