The summer equinox arrived this past weekend, which always puts me in a very travel frame of mind. Long days, glorious golden light, balmy nights—they seem to sing a siren’s song, beckoning one to set out and experience new sights, new settings.
Now, those of us traveling today just whip out our i-phones and snap away merrily, recording our peregrinations with the mere flick of a finger. Regency travelers required far more skill to capture the essence of a place—and so in homage to the art of travel, thought I’d share a small sketch of one of my favorite artists of the era.
“Had Bonington lived, I would have starved.” —JMW Turner
Despite his short life—he died of tuberculosis at age 26—Richard Parkes Bonington is recognized as master of the Romantic era. His brilliant rendering of light and his ability to capture the magic of a seemingly mundane moment earned him the highest accolades from his contemporaries—including Turner and Eugene Delacroix, with whom he shared a studio for a short time.
Bonington was born in England, and showed a remarkable aptitude for art from early childhood—at age 11, his paintings were exhibited at the Liverpool Academy. His family moved to Calais, France in 1817, where his father set up a lace factory. In 1820, he began studying at the Ecole des Beaux-Artes in Paris. It was at this time that he began traveling the countryside and sketching everyday life. His work was rooted in the traditions of the Old Masters that he copied at Louvre, but he brought a very modern sensibility to his work that captivated both the public and his peers.
In 1825, he made trip back to England, and spent time roaming the countryside with Delacroix as a sketching partner. In 1826, two years before his untimely death, he visited Italy and spent a month painting in Venice. I could wax poetic on his technical virtuosity and artistic eye, but instead I think I’ll simply let his art speak for itself.